In The House with a Clock in Its Walls, poor man’s Jacob Tremblay, Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) moves into his Uncle Jonathan’s (Jack Black) house in Michigan following the untimely death of his parents. The house, decorated at the gate with year-round pumpkins, is filled with clocks. One of these clocks resides within the walls.
Jonathan is a bearded man who wears kimonos and top hats, aka a warlock. He eats enough cookies (and nothing else) that he is, optimistically, pre-diabetic. His platonic roommate Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is defined by her love of purple. And his nephew, Young Sheldon, is precocious beyond what is healthy for a child. He quotes dictionary entries for fun. That’s what we’re working with here.
A political nomination, triplets on the way, a terminal diagnosis, a constantly chiming cell phone, and a pistol. These are the nodes determining the tizzy that is The Party, a black-and-white dark comedy from Sally Potter.
Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just received a new position within the opposition party. To celebrate, she hosts a small get together with friends.
Imagine an intellectual property for children re-purposed for adults but written for the sensibilities of a child. In a nutshell, that is The Happytime Murders, the hard-R reskin of the Jim Henson muppet IP. The film is not created by children—it is directed by Henson’s son Brian and written by indie filmmaker Todd Berger—but you wouldn’t know it from the scripted jokes.
Gus Van Sant is a bold filmmaker. Hyper-restrained, brutal meditation on teenage violence in Elephant. Shakespearean adaptation populated by post-beatnik prostitutes and street rats in My Own Private Idaho. Prescient commentary on a dangerous media landscape in To Die For. Ill-advised and ultimately disastrous remake of a classic in Psycho. Even when they don’t work as intended, his films offer something unique and often refreshing.
Following what is arguably his biggest achievement in Milk, Van Sant fell into a slump with the flat, uninteresting Promised Land and the critically-panned, audience-ignored The Sea of Trees. Now he’s back with a return-to-form film, for better and worse.
Susanna Fogel’s The Spy Who Dumped Me reminds me of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, but it probably shouldn’t. Both are two-hander action comedies. Both feature comic characters journeying across European countries toward a singular goal. Both were released in August, the dying-end of the Summer movie season.
Otherwise, comparison doesn’t seem warranted. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is incompetently shot and flat. The Spy Who Dumped Me exhibits a level of competency in its action filmmaking that exceeds what is required for an action comedy. In most respects, the action is Continue reading The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) Movie Review→
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies begins with a reel of comic book panels flipping rapidly. It appears like a title card from a Marvel film. However, the camera pulls out to reveal a person flipping through a comic. After dispatching (sort of) a giant bubble supervillain, the Teen Titans—Robin (Scott Menville), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Raven (Tara Strong), and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes)—sneak into a movie premiere, where the film “Batman Again” is screening. The auditorium is jam-packed with DC comics superheros, some attending in order to watch themselves on screen.
Sorry to Bother You is the sort of film that wants to do so much, and delights so much in each thing that it attempts to do, that it is hard not to get caught up in the manic world and unique artistic voice. On the other hand, the further you go into unpacking the densely-packed funhouse of oddities in the film, the harder it is to wrap your head around why you enjoyed the viewing experience in the first place.
To be clear, it is difficult to explore this funhouse without delving into crucial plot details that are better experienced untarnished, as predictability is a word that holds no meaning in the final third of the film. But there is something that Continue reading Sorry to Bother You (2018) Movie Review→