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Movie review: This 'House' doesn't tick

Movie review: This 'House' doesn't tick

“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” (Comedy/Fantasy: 1 hour, 45 minutes)

Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Owen Vaccaro

Director: Eli Roth

Rated: PG (Violence, thematic elements including sorcery, scary images, rude humor and language)

Movie Review: Think of this movie as a light-weight Harry Potter. It is directed by horror guru Eli Roth, who usually directs movies such as “Cabin Fever” (2002), “Hostel” (2005) and “The Green Inferno” (2013). These are all adult horror movies involving ample moments of gore and violence.

“House with a Clock in Its Walls” has more of a family aim, but the moments are not prevailing cinema despite the talents of Cate Blanchett and Jack Black.

After losing his parents, a young Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro) moves to Zebedee, Mich., to live with his uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt (Black). Lewis discovers his uncle is a warlock and his next-door neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett), is a sorcerer, too. Soon, Lewis learns that Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), an evil wizard, is determined to create an apocalyptic planet with his doomsday clock.

John Bellairs’ novel is the basis for this fantasy. It is mostly visual effects and some mild comical scenes. It entertains but it ultimately becomes a typically imagined production.

Grade: C+ (Ticktock, take your time to see this house.)

“Fahrenheit 11/9” (Documentary: 2 hours, 7 minutes)

Director: Michael Moore

Rated: R (Profanity and disturbing material/images)

Movie Review: Filmmaker Michael Moore movies are attractive because he targets Democratic and Republican political parties, liberals and conservatives. He tackles the ills of the United States via revealing how both parties have failed citizens. That is good. However, this movie could use some focus.

Moore starts his movie by detailing how Trump became president. He does this by detailing the misconceptions of Secretary Hilary Clinton’s campaign and the mistreatment of Bernie Sanders by the Clinton political machine.

Moore continues, indicating the woes of America because of Trump. He takes some cheap shots at President Trump before detailing how Trump's presidency has become a tool for big business.

The director does not stop there. He also targets then-President Obama for how he handled the 2014 water crisis of Flint, Mich., and former presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Of course, he exhibits Congress as ineffective, too.

No politician or bureaucrat escapes Moore’s wrath. The filmmaker reserves the greatest criticism for Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan. Moore, who was born in Flint, Mich., believes Snyder and his administration's crony capitalism cause countless citizens to suffer bodily damage and about a dozen deaths because of Snyder's attempt to place money over constituents.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” was a masterfully exploit in 2004. “Fahrenheit 11/9” is not as entertaining. It is more serious and it takes on more topics from gun violence to campaign financing to big pharmaceutical companies.

Moore attempts to exhibit the current state of American politics, particularly the Donald J. Trump presidency. He brings many needed thoughts to the forefront, but his shout out involves too much. Although he positively indicates the power of grassroots movements, Moore’s incorporation of th e woes of government officials could use some organizing for smoother transitions.

Grade: B- (Moore offers more with this call to action, but it needs some focus.)

“Assassination Nation” (Drama/Suspense: 1 hour, 48 minutes)

Starring: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Gabrielle ‘Abra’ Mirville, and Joel McHale

Director: Sam Levinson

Rated: R (Disturbing violence, gore, sexual material, pervasive language, and drug and alcohol use involving teens)

Movie Review: “Assassination Nation” marks the second movie for writer-director Sam Levinson, following “Another Happy Day” (2011). He creates a wayward, but intriguing ‘Me-too’ movement movie.

It is over the top until it almost becomes a women’s empowerment parody, a seeming mix of the Salem witch trials and “The Scarlet Letter” (Director Roland Joffé, 1995), which is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel.

Four high school teens, Lily (Young), Bex (Nef), Sarah (Waterhouse) and Em (Mirville), explore their freedoms in innocent and risqué manners. After a hacker leaks information from cellular phones and computers about the personal lives of several citizens in Salem, Mass., pandemonium breaks loose. The four young women find their exploration of adulthood and their lives threatened by the sexist views of those around them.

This movie is a "Me Too" feature. It involves four young women who people chastised for doing occasionally what their male counterparts do often. “Assassination Nation” is a noir, adult movie with a message about the mistreatment of its female protagonists.

An eclectic mix of sub-stories are a surplus at times, but the screenplay works. Sexist and anti-sexist views transform into fascinating points of entertainment. The cast is dynamic, and the story keeps evolving in ways that keep audiences continually puzzled about the future of the protagonist’s attempt to survive a wild few days.< /p>

Grade: B (An emboldened nation amuses.)

“Life Itself” (Drama: 1 hour, 58 minutes)

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas

Director: Dan Fogelman

Rated: R (Profanity, sexual references, violence, disturbing imagery and brief drug use)

Movie Review: If you have a life, you may want to avoid seeing the fictional lives of those in “Life Itself.”

It follows several generations of families that eventually become one when two adults who are products of the families wed. The plot consists of several juxtaposed chapters that move from one genre to the next.

A New York couple, Will Dempsey (Isaac) meets Abby (Wilde) in college. They become a loving couple and marry. Just a short time before the birth of their first child, a tragic accident happens that changes the lives of several other family members. The changes resonate over generations.

Dan Fogelman directs and writes this less than par movie. As its writer, Fogelman never really has an aim as what he wants this movie to be. The genres or themes of the movie change often and drastically.

The photoplay starts as a comedy, but it quickly becomes hardcore drama, then a romance and back to a coming-of-age drama. Individually, the chapters are fascinating facets because of some good performances, yet even the chapters themselves suffer from an attention deficit syndrome.

The entire runtime of this movie is something becoming. However, Fogelman never allows his movie to get to some profound apex because each chapter is a mismatched scheme that uninvitingly subverts reality.

Grade: C- (Do not waste your life on this.)

“Lizzie” (Biography/Crime/Drama: 1 hour, 45 minutes)

Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart and Jamey Sheridan

Director: Craig William Macneill

Rated: R (Violence, gore, nudity, sexuality and strong language)

Movie Review: “Lizzie” is an ada ptation of a true story about a horrific murder. This biographical drama has good performances by Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, but the suspense for which they are part never really reaches a pivotal point of superior moviemaking, even if the story is intriguing.

In 1892, Lizzie Borden (Sevigny) needs a distraction. She gets her wish when the Borden Family hires a new Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan (Stewart). Lizzie and Bridget become friends, lovers and allies, as both are physical and sexual victims of Lizzie’s father, Andrew Borden (Sheridan).

History records Lizzie Borden as the main suspect of the Aug. 4, 1892, axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Mass. Writer Bryce Kass’ screenplay captures the period well but not in a manner that movingly convincing. Kass never allows audiences enough chances to see the motives for the killings.

Instead, the movie relies on the talents of Sevigny and Stewart. They offer fine performances.

Additionally, the intriguing aspects of the events make observable. The story, directed by Craig William Macneill (“The Afterlight, 2009), offers an insight into a crime. The gruesome details of the murders are thought-provoking, eerie material. The elements and good performances by Sevigny and Stewart carry the movie.

Grade: B- (Lizzie is creepily fascinating.)

*Playing in larger cities

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