Movie Review – The House With A Clock In Its Walls

I wish this film was better. It started out lively, with some nice funky humor for a while. There were good production values throughout. Unfortunately, the story went downhill fast at the middle mark, and became a dreadful muddle by the end. I watched the children in the theater to make sure it wasn’t just me, and yup…the kids were bouncing around, completely bored, even during the climax. Bummer.

Here’s my thinking: it’s not Harry Potter, folks. Don’t toss your money away to see this in the theater. The kid is decent enough (he gives the erratic script a real go), but he’s hampered by the adult actors at every turn, and sadly, the work of the other children as well. The “Turby” stuff went nowhere — a pity.

Jack Black has a few good moments in the beginning, but this isn’t his best work (although there’s few movies he’s impressed me in, granted — Jumanji 2 being the exception). Why is this man getting work? His comedic timing is just strange. That works, somewhat, in the early stages of this wacky, kiddie horror house movie. Then the plot gets…well…”stupid” (that’s the only word that fits), as the story ineffectually tries to escalate the jeopardy. The “stupid ball” is passed around a lot in the finale.

Between the increasingly weird script and missed narrative opportunities, I can only say, “WTF were the writers thinking? Who greenlit this garbage? And why was a chair the best character?”

Even Cate Blanchett couldn’t elevate the lackluster material presented. How did she decide to throw her lot in with this? Did she hope to become the next Professor McGonagle? (Harry Potter reference, again, but Blanchett must’ve badly misjudged this.)

I really, really don’t know what happened here. It’s ultimately a movie mess that started out quite nicely. I’m grading it in the (low) C range and not worse, because it looked pretty, and had early potential with the surreal atmosphere,  incessant ticking clocks, and creepy toys. There was enough goodwill to carry the audience for part of the show. But by the time the pumpkins started puking,  I had to give up. Give this film a firm pass. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Movie Grade: C-

About the Peetimes: Here are 3 good, long Peetimes, spaced well thru the film. This was easy to get Peetimes for, since a lot of the exposition is either repeated, or provides plot points that kind of peter out, storywise. 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Sorry YA movies that never finished their franchises

Where fighting becomes foreplay!

I’m the member of the RunPee family who LOVES the YA (young adult) Dystopian/Fantasy genre. Harry Potter is still an obsession for me (and I’m 50). I re-read The Hunger Games every year, and watch the franchise even more. I even think Twilight was decent, although The Host was better.

So, what’s the deal with this post-millennial spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to YA series? Do the studios really think every dystopian and fantasy series is worthy of the full big screen treatment? And if they do put out an origin story on spec, do they care about following through with the series? And what happens when the young actors age out of their roles?

Am I just barking down a well, here? Woof, woof — does anyone care ?

I ask right now because I just watched The Darkest Minds (2018). It was…okay. Was it good enough to follow through to the end of the franchise? I’d probably say no. I’ve been burned a lot recently.

Here’s a list of YA series that will probably never see completion, for better or worse:

A Wrinkle In Time (2018) — This was just awful; totally incomprehensible. The company spent some money on it, but somewhere along the way it devolved into a hot mess. I don’t expect any of the sequels will be forthcoming.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) — There are so many childish books in this series that kind of sucked — I lost interest early on while reading them. How many of these books came out? I can’t say. I couldn’t be interested enough to watch any of them onscreen. Remarkably juvenile writing, IMO. (Looking it up, three movies of the 13 books actually made it to the theaters.)

Maze Runner (2014-2018) — I recently rewatched Maze Runner, and I have my opinion — it’s an okay version of an actually quite decent book. The sequel was middling, and the third film was frankly awful. Is there more to come? Do I care? This is ridiculous. Nothing made any sense in the 3rd film, and my Peetimes probably reflected this.

Divergent (2014-16) — I’m not sure how many books made it through to the screen. Three? Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant? All I have to say is that the first movie hewed close enough to the book to be worthwhile, and things fell apart quickly after that. I think I turned off Insurgent halfway through, and certainly didn’t bother with the third. Is there more? Do I care? (Note: Ascendant is supposed to follow soon as a TV series, but Shailene Woodley isn’t bothering to appear.)

The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-10) — This one hurts. As a child, waaaay before I picked up The Lord of the Rings (best book ever penned), this was my absolute favorite novel series in the world. In the universe! I believed if I had enough faith, when I died that I’d go to Narnia. I even had a special role — I was a forest nymph. My best friend and I made up stories about our lives in a magical meadow in Narnia…and as grownups, we re-met to hold our hands and hold our breath, trembling with excitement, and watch The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the big screen. And you know what? It was kind of lame. Prince Caspian was about the same, while my favorite book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was only a little bit better. Not better enough to save the series. If they ever do The Silver Chair, they’re going to have to hire newer, younger actors in a sort of soft reboot. Oh, well. I’ll always have The Lord of the Rings to rewatch.

The Golden Compass (2007) — to be honest, I tried to read the book and stopped pretty early in. I would love to give this series the full shake, but it seemed so…well, dark. It’s called His Dark Materials, so I guess that is to be expected. From the photos and the trailer, it looks really pretty, but it flew so far under the radar that I kind of can’t be bothered. One case where riding a super cool polar bear just isn’t enough.

I am Number Four (2011) — I did like this movie. I like the science fantasy aspects, and the story was well supported by both cast and narrative. Not enough to save it, however. Next.

Eragon (2006) — I didn’t bother with this one, so I’d love to hear if anyone enjoyed it. Dragons and fantasy sounds right up my alley, but all reviews say this was the pits, and there’s no news for keeping the saga going.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2010 and 2013) — These were pretty good! So why the silence? Good novels, decent films…and crickets. I would have stayed with this one. Bummer.

The Black Cauldron (1985) — Well, hmph. The Chronicles of Prydain is an underrated classic, and I’d love for some studio to try this again. The seven-novel YA series was my second youthful favorite adventure tale after the The Chronicles of Narnia, and since this one kickstarted so long ago, a reboot might do well. I mean, they did this one in the 80s! I doubt anyone has anything to hold against this poor attempt to get Taran’s saga going. Disney owns it, and they might be ready to option it again. Please, somebody give this excellent series a fair chance.

Vampire Academy (2014) — This sounds great on paper, sort of like a Harry Potter/Buffy match up. I’d watch that. Except somehow this was so bad I’d never even heard of it. Someone must have really screwed the pooch to mangle a really cool premise like this.

Ender’s Game (2013) — This one is truly a bad deal for us all. The book is magnificent. It was only a middling movie. You could watch it, and even sort of enjoy it, but Orson Scott Card’s literary masterpiece didn’t manage to move people in the theater. Maybe they can reboot it sometime and get the entire series done right. Or better yet, leave it be. Just re-read the novels.

The Mortal Instruments (2013) — Another one that slipped under my radar. There’s six books in this one, and people say the novels are fine. That doesn’t mean it translated well to the cinema, since it slid quietly into dust.

There’s more. I can delve further into the failed classics and promising franchises, but it’s frankly too depressing to keep going. Feel free to discuss what I missed and what I’m wrong about in the comments.

As for me, I’ll still keep the flame burning. I’m a believer in the genre, and I know there’s some good ones yet to emerge. Besides, someone has to watch these films and get the Peetimes for RunPee. 🙂

Related: 

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds

Movie Review – A Wrinkle In Time

Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Movie Review – The Mockingjay, Part 2

Movie Review – Maze Runner, The Death Cure

Movie Review – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Movie Review – The Vampire Academy

Movie Review – Twilight Eclipse

Movie Review – Twilight New Moon

Movie Review – Twilight Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Rewatch Attempt – Jurassic Park III

Known and reviled by most as the “worst Jurassic movie,” I sit here and wait for a for Jurassic Park III rewatch at the most dinosaur-themed brewpub I’ve ever seen, The Bronto Meadery in San Diego. Bronto Meadery is hosting a  viewing all four Jurassic movies before Fallen Kingdom weekend hits the US, drinking handcrafted mead, and enjoying dinogeek fellowship. (I recommend the Pure Bronto, if you get a chance to sample the mead.)

JP III is the one with the Spinosaurus and the telephone, if you forgot which one this is.

What’s good: Dr. Alan Grant is back, and so is Dr. Ellie Sattler. They do a  decent job. Nothing great, but they show up and try to act a little, more (Grant) or less (Sattler). Also good: the Aviary Scene, which is a callback passage from the first Michael Critchon novel that didn’t make it into the first movie. Also, the kid in this one isn’t annoying — a definite plus.

What’s terrible: Tea Leone. Her character screams and squeals her way across Isla Nublar, attracting every predator in range, warm blooded or cold. I have a hard time getting past that. These guys should have died in the first ten minutes. And the director should have made the Grant character smack her upside the head.

What else it lacked? Any sense of magic, or wonder, or fun. This is the movie that killed the franchise for a long, long time.

The Bronto Brew didn’t manage to get the movie up and playing, so I had to write this short blurb based on some old memories. I downloaded the film and will watch it as soon as I can, and post a legit rewatch soon. In the meantime, tell me what you thought of the (now) 5 Jurassic films, and which ones stood out in a good or bad way.

Movie Grade: C-

 

More on RunPee.com: 

The Real, Complete Re-Watch Review for Jurassic Park III (with fun bonus videos)

Review of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Missed

Or click here to read everything we’ve written about the Jurassic movies. RunPee loves science. Even bad science, because it’s fun to pick those apart.

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review – Hotel Artemis

This is one stylish mess. It’s got the noir notes, the off-kilter sensibilities, and a big muddled stew of a plot. Let me mull on this review a bit.

Movie Grade: C+

Alrighty. After due thought, I still think Hotel Artemis is trying for something it just didn’t reach. But I’ve got a sense it might grow into a minor cult favorite with time. The acting is very good (Jodie Foster never disappoints), the idea of a secret hospital for criminals in the near-future is intriguing, and the water riot is a great framing element.  There’s a noir-ish Blade Runner sensibility to the endeavor. I liked seeing Dave Bautista in a new role, and he really did a bang up job, proving that his fun work in Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t a fluke. Jeff Goldblum plays the persona he’s marketed for himself with flair, but I wish he’d had more screentime.

Where this movie falls apart is in the sloppy narrative (there’s just not much story being told), and the relative lack of action in something being touted as as action film. Misleading trailers is a particular pet peeve with us at RunPee. (Rather than marketing something in a certain way just to get butts in the seats, wouldn’t it be nice to have the studios do service to their films by preparing audiences…ah, forget it. That’s probably never going to happen.)

Fine acting aside, the flashback scenes with Foster are unexpectedly weak. We saw the same sequence several times and didn’t get much payoff. Actually, most of the subplots didn’t work at all.  I’m not sure backstory is necessary to this kind of experimental film. It’s the concept that’s most interesting, encapsulated in Foster’s great line that it’s “Just another Wednesday” at the Hotel Artemis…where every night is a slice of life (and death) from the criminal underbelly of the City of Angels.

I think if people go into this with a sort of artsy mindset, the good things will be enough to carry the audience along.

One last note. Scriptwise, this would make a great play. It seems practically made for the theater, with one major set location, the small-scale jeopardy, and a very confined cast of characters who do a lot of talking (and not much else).

———-

New Movie Grade: B- (Taking away the expectation of an action/adventure flick definitely raises what’s compelling about about the concept of this kind of movie experience.)

———-

Runpee Meta: This movie moves along quickly and is somewhat confusing, making finding Peetimes a challenge. I’ve given you a long one and a short one. Both are before the mayhem to follow, so you won’t miss any action scenes when you step out. 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review – Overboard (2018)

I’m not sure why anyone felt a need to remake *Overboard*. The 1987 original has a sparkling and famous cast, led by Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russel. It was sweet, it was funny, and despite the kind of casual sexism often shown in that era of movies, was a small cult classic. I loved it. I still love it and watch it when I need cheering up. But, remember, as major hits from the past go, this is still minor-league. It would be like remaking *So I Married An Axe Murderer*. Both are cute, fun little romps, perfectly made — but not exactly in the realm of important films of the 80s.

I can see re-doing *Ghostbusters* , a major movie from that time, still on any complete must-see movie list. That remake was gender-flipped, and featured good natured cameos from almost everyone in the original. Which leads me back to *Overboard*.

Someone must have noted when the gender swapped *Ghostbusters* made enough of a splash to justify its existence, and thought the concept would work for other old properties. Cue *Overboard*.

Does it work? Yes and no. With the gender reversals and current climate of correctness, it’s a lot less sexist. It also features a large Latino cast to balance out all the blond girls. The good mom (Kate, by Anna Faris) finds love and  a father to her girls; the selfish alpha male (Leo, by Eugenio Derbezlearns to be warm, caring, and responsible…so the message is nice and the audience walks out happy. There are legitimate laughs along the way, mainly via Leo struggling to learn construction under the benevolent hazing of his co-workers. I smiled a lot. This should all be fresh and new for audiences not raised on the original.

What doesn’t work is how underwhelming this version is. It’s not as charming as it hoped to be, and the cast doesn’t have that ringing chemistry of the first. The family moments feel rushed and unearned. Kate’s “nurse” story lacks the cool cleverness of Kurt Russel’s “Wonders of the World Golf Course” scenario, and the children don’t have enough anything memorable to do. The side-plot with Leo’s rich family is simply dull. That’s way too bad; the antics of the crew on the “Immaculata” were wildly entertaining.

On all these levels, *Overboard 2018* doesn’t come close to adding anything interesting that a remake should. Only the character of Leo is consistently amusing, but with his role doubling for the formidable Ms. Hawn, the actor really doesn’t stand a chance in comparison.

If you’re a huge fan of the 1987 original, you might enjoy this reboot. It’s nowhere near as charming, but has its moments. There are many lines lifted exactly from the first, with expressions and tones carefully rendered the same way (ie: “Sometimes dads leave”). A lot of memorable shots are nicely echoed (as in the quiet, tension-crackling scene of the limousine driving toward Elk Cove ). It’s fun to find these elements honored and recreated.

One thing I would have enjoyed: there should have been cameos from the original cast scattered around, as they did with the aforementioned ghost busting movie. If they didn’t want to be that self-referential, they could have slipped in cameos to the extra scene during the credits. I was mystified by the cameo absence. Evoking exact phrases and scenes from the ’87 version showed that they weren’t hiding their roots. And it would have lent a respectful sense of fun for actors and viewers alike.

Enough about comparisons. I’ll grade this movie a B- on its own merits: it’s likable and fun enough for an easy afternoon at the theater. If you want to see something much more touching, that’s rollicking and straight out funny, with far superior acting, rewatch the original.

Movie Grade: B-

Read more: 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review – Fifty Shades Freed

I’m not an old fan of the 50 Shades trilogy — in fact, this is the only movie in the series I watched. However, I can happily say I wasn’t lost at all, so first timers can pop in and enjoy it. It had a decent story, which I was not expecting, based on the big heavy “bondage” hype. By this, I mean there is a real plot, and good characters, and some actual jeopardy to move things along.

There was also a bit of humor and some personal growth, along with very luxurious “lifestyle” porn. Clearly, this is kind of a wish fulfillment fantasy film. It didn’t seem very realistic, but I understand that’s not important here. I’m just glad there was enough story between the sex scenes to make me care about the characters.

On another note, I think the entire cinema room was composed of women. There might have been one or two men, but the women were in full force, and clearly having a blast with their gal pals, giggling and chortling, getting into the spirit of things. Even during some sad/emotional scenes, they were laughing and cheering. I’m not sure I understood that, but at least they were having fun.

Movie Grade: B

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie review: Game Night

We have a twofer review for you for Game Night! RunPee Jilly has  her review first, and RunPee Niece has her review below. Enjoy!

*****
Game Night took a satirish version of the caper standby and presented something really different. The comedic ensemble lent a sense of stylish fun to the proceedings, and nothing was as predictable as the previews made it look. The movie poster undersold the picture too — maybe the producers were afraid their movie would be a bomb. It’s hard to hit this mixed genre just right. It’s a good little sleeper hit.

There are some good questions to figure out along the ride. Who are the the good guys? What exactly is going on? What do you do after mistakenly wiping your blood all over the neighbor’s white lapdog?

In any case, this was a fresh, snarky, fun take on the “spoofy crime mystery”. If I visited an Escape Room with this much screwball excitement, I’d gladly pay double for giving me such a good time. Now I want to start a weekly Game Night posse of my own.

I have to give a special shoutout to the wacky cop neighbor (Jesse Plemons, as Gary), and especially his adorbs peak into the “basement of clues” (during the credits – so don’t leave)..pay close attention to everything tacked up on his ‘clues’ board. I had to smile. If pressed, I’d say Plemons unashamedly steals his scenes. We the viewers have to cringe a little bit; many of us all kind of know someone like this, and feel badly about how we treat them. Here, all ends well, letting us off the hook in a sense. The moral: be excellent to each other. (Gold stars if you’re old enough to catch that 80s movie reference.)

Movie Grade – B+

*****

Game Night was a fun movie to watch. There were more than a couple of laugh out loud moments that the entire theater shared in.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams were wonderful, as they always are, together and apart. The rest of the cast did a great job, too.

If you like action/comedy movies, or even just the featured actors, then you’ll enjoy this fast-paced flick.

Movie Grade – B+

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie review: Sampson

It saddens me to have to give a movie about one of the greatest stories from the Bible such a poor grade, but Samson was so poorly made — I was compelled to give it a failing grade.

The direction was sub par, the pacing was tedious, and the acting was an insult to the actual characters. It really pains me to say that, because it was nice to see Lindsay Wagner and Rutger Hauer working again.

If you want to see Samson on the big screen you’d better hurry; this movie will not be in the theaters long.

Grade: D+

Movie review: Annihilation

This movie does a good job of creating an atmosphere of mystery. It feels like it’s going somewhere profound, but just ends up being bizarre and cliche.

This movie felt a lot like the movie Arrival. It builds mysteriously and there are lots of flashbacks. But where the ending of Arrival was, for me, completely unexpected, this one just felt like the ending to a low rent science fiction movie.

The unexpected meat of this movie is in the relationships and exploring why people choose to go on these missions. They should have explored that in greater depth, and just ignored the ending.

This movie is rated R for a good reason. There’s some very graphic scenes that will make anyone squirm in their seat. Note: if you don’t squirm in your seat you may want to consider taking a psychiatric evaluation. 🙂

I didn’t feel that Natalie Portman was the right choice for the lead role. I’m not saying she was bad, far from it, but something seemed to be lacking. Like she just wasn’t all that interested in the part.

Grade: B-

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.