New releases this week range from the safe and treacly to the daring and inflammatory.
1. The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Universal, 3,592 Theaters, 104 Minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 65% Fresh [101 Reviews]: Two things threw me off about this movie when I first saw this trailer. One, it’s Jack Black in a Goosebumps-esque type film but not the forthcoming Goosebumps sequel. And, two, he shares the screen with Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett. Black is a better actor than he is given credit for, but still seems odd to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Blanchett’s.
The film is adapted from the classic 1973 novel of the same name. It deals with a orphaned boy (Owen Vaccaro) who is sent to live with his eccentric uncle (Black) to his creepy old house in Michigan. However, his uncle isn’t just eccentric, he’s a warlock and his house’s previous owner was another warlock who turned his house into a doomsday device.
I’m all for scary kids fare, but it seems to me that this film is being released about a month early. This would be perfect Halloween fare.
2. Life Itself (Amazon Studios, 2,578 Theaters, 118 Minutes, Rated R for language including sexual references, some violent images and brief drug use, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 14% Fresh [74 Reviews]: So, this is being advertised as being by the person who brought you the run away hit TV series This Is Us. That is true, it is written and directed by Dan Fogelman, who is responsible for that series but also for writing Tangled and Crazy Stupid Love too.
Fogelman is a creator who adds sentiment to his stories the way a five-year-old adds maple syrup to their pancakes. A number of my friends on Facebook watch This Is Us and the consensus is that every episode makes them cry.
This is a generational saga that traces a number of people throughout history. There will be pain, there will be surprises and there will be crying. And, as it appears above, incredibly bad reviews.
3. Fahrenheit 11/9 (Briarcliff, 1,719 Theaters, 128 Minutes, Rated R for language and some disturbing material/images, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 80% Fresh [82 Reviews]: You just knew that Michael Moore would have something to say about America under Trump.
Yes, we have a new documentary from Moore, one that he obviously wants to connect to his seminal 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. He takes a look not only at Trump’s election, but also activism that has sprung up after many events in the country.
I have mixed feelings about Moore. His main point is to shock his audience, which he can easily due with the facts he presents in his work. What I don’t like is the guerilla tactics he uses to be even more shocking. This film supposedly has him sneaking into Mar-A-Lago. That kind of stunt does nothing to advance his story.
Reviews state that Moore is fairly bipartisan in his approach this time around. Not that it will matter. You’ll never see anyone on the right side of the aisle.
4. Assassination Nation (Neon, 1,403 Theaters,110 Minutes, Rated R for disturbing bloody violence, strong sexual material including menace, pervasive language, and for drug and alcohol use – all involving teens, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer at press time: 67% Fresh [42 Reviews]: I have a soft spot in my heart for grindhouse flicks and social satire that takes its message to absurdist extremes. This film looks like a combination of both.
A massive data breach has hit the town of Salem. Everyone’s dark secrets they thought were hidden–affairs being had, crimes being planned, hatred being spewed–is laid bare for the whole town to see. The town descends into anarchy as the townsfolk try to get revenge on who ever made the hack and on each other for the secrets revealed. It’s up to four teenage girls, all of whom are victims of the hack as well, to restore order–with assault weapons.
The film has a solid cast and is directed by Sam Levinson–son of Barry–so good films are in his DNA. This might be worth a visit.
Next week’s new releases bring us yetis, women who are little, Kevin Hart getting schooled and a hellish fest to cinemas. See you then.