Welcome back! We’re in the fall season now and hopefully that’s a good sign for cinema. I was very disappointed with the releases in August. September had quite a few releases as well, including The Predator and The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The Predator is a brutal sci-fi film with lots of action. It’s clearly targeting adult audiences. The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a fantasy kids movie with an emphasis on adventure. These films don’t have anything in common and that’s okay. Are either of these movies worth watching? I’ll tell you about it below.
Let’s start with The Predator. The titular Predator crash lands on earth while he’s fleeing from an unknown enemy. He survives the crash and begins his version of big game hunting, specifically killing humans who are trained in combat. The Predator is quickly captured and observed by a government agency. Everything becomes much worse when a hulking mega Predator and his alien dogs start attacking the facility. A team of soldiers and mercenaries prepare for battle against a powerful enemy and it results with massive amounts of bloodshed.
Overall, The Predator is a lousy movie. But it still has some decent elements. I’ll just throw the positive elements in one paragraph. The regular Predator is actually really cool. He has great creature effects and seems very similar to the Predators we’ve seen in earlier films. In a way, the Predator is an effective action antihero. The actions scenes are really good and entertaining. This film has a quick pace with endless action sequences and it works pretty well. It’s very exciting and fun, although not substantial. I’m sure a lot of action movie buffs will enjoy this film. Boyd Holbrook is fine as Quinn McKenna, a sniper and the main protagonist. He’s a pretty good action hero with a gritty and somewhat relatable personality. Henry Jackman composed the musical score and he brought back a lot of material from the original Predator movie. I really appreciate that part. This film has a nice length as well. The runtime is around an hour and forty minutes long, which is perfect.
Everything else is negative. The plot is a bunch of inconsistent nonsense. It’s simple yet a little hard to follow. The story doesn’t move from point A to point B. It’s just a montage of action scenes that are splattered on the screen. There doesn’t seem to be a particular reason why the Predators invaded earth again. The plot tries to add more elements to the Predator mythos and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s such a mess.
The humor is absolutely cringe worthy. Ironically, The Predator is almost a comedy. It has a lot of humor, but the one liners are really awkward. None of the humor is clever or appropriate for the setting. I can’t believe the screen writer and director thought audiences would find the dialogue funny.
Most of the characters are unimpressive. In fact, I noticed a lot of bad acting. Maybe it was just a paycheck for the most of the actors. Naturally, a lot of characters die in this movie and I didn’t care. Some of the characters are annoying and others were simply underdeveloped. It has a multitude of useless red shirts in the form of soldiers. The government’s best soldiers are incompetent buffoons who are only in the film to die gruesomely. I found the supporting cast pretty weak and the story doesn’t seem to have a central villain except for the mega Predator. Aside from McKenna, the characters aren’t believable.
Something seems kind of weird about the film editing too. I didn’t notice a lot of shaky cam, but the scenes cut around very quickly and awkwardly. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of material was taken out of the film. The remainder of the movie wasn’t put together in a fluid way. I don’t have a great understanding about film editing, but something didn’t seem right.
Furthermore, the visual effects are humdrum. This movie looks like a Syfy channel film with a bigger budget. The VFX don’t have a very good quality and it’s quite disappointing for this era. I expected much better VFX from a Predator film. I could be wrong, but it looks like the VFX team didn’t spend a lot of time on the CGI. Maybe they were in a rush.
You definitely don’t need to see this movie in theaters. It would be a waste of money for most people. I only recommend this film for diehard Predator fans and people who love violent actions flicks. The majority of viewers could skip this film entirely. However, you could try it on streaming or cable some time. You might find it mildly entertaining on a service like Netflix or HBO.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls opens with a recently orphaned boy named Lewis. He's a socially awkward and intelligent boy who moves in with his eccentric uncle named Jonathan Barnavelt. Pretty soon, Lewis realizes his uncle is a goofy warlock who lives in an enchanted house. They notice a strange ticking sound in the walls of the house and some deep research reveals an ominous truth about the estate's former owner. Expect plenty of magical hijinks and mania to occur in this film.
Honestly, I didn't think this movie was any better than The Predator. Regarding positive elements, I found Jack Black as Jonathan Barnavelt somewhat entertaining. Jack Black is actually becoming a pretty decent actor. He was very quirky with some charm that worked quite well for a kids movie. I also like Cate Blanchett as Florence Zimmerman. She’s a witch with a damaged past and Jonathan’s close friend. She’s amusing and fits into the fantasy elements very well. Black and Blanchett have good chemistry as an eccentric duo of magical friends.
This film has really nice production design, especially in regards to the enchanted house. It’s creepy and ornate with a lot of detail. The rooms and set pieces are creative with many interesting elements. It would probably take more than one viewing to notice every magical item in the house. Overall, the production design gave me vibes from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride. It’s definitely one of the best film’s best features.
So, I have quite a few complaints about this movie. First of all, it’s way too scary for children of a certain age. I think elementary school kids are the target audience, but this film has a ton of thrills and chills that will freak them out. It’s more suitable for kids in middle school, but they won’t like this movie very much. A lot of the thematic material, humor, and character elements will bore preteens. Most adults won’t care about this film either. Basically, I don’t believe this movie can successfully satisfy any particular age group.
I fail to see the humor in this film. It’s supposed to be a comedy. There’s a lot of cheesy name calling and the rest of the humor doesn’t work effectively. Lewis is supposed to be a funny kid, but I didn’t find him particularly entertaining or humorous. A lot of the comedy relies on lame tropes, such as poop jokes. Some people might find it amusing, but the humor didn’t work for me.
This film also has pretty bad VFX. The actual production design is good, but the visual effects are very outdated and cartoonish. Several of this year’s movies have underwhelming VFX, but this one is much worse. I’m really surprised these graphics got past the editing room. It’s more like the VFX that we saw in movies from a decade ago. Typically, Universal Studios has pretty good visual effects, so this was uncharacteristically disappointing.
There isn’t much of a villain either. You don’t really see the main antagonist until the third act. He has a back story, but it’s very thin and unoriginal. When you see him, the main villain is quite creepy, but again, he’s too scary for the target audience.
Ultimately, Eli Roth probably wasn’t an appropriate choice for a director. He made a lot of hardcore horror films that are difficult for many adults to watch. Roth directed the first Cabin Fever movie, both Hostel films, the remake of Death Wish, and a gruesome cannibal film called The Green Inferno. A director who has more experience with younger audiences would have toned down the horror elements to fit the age range. This movie is only PG, but it’s probably closer to a PG-13 rating in my opinion.
I’m not recommending The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Certainly don’t bother seeing it in theaters. You could probably skip it entirely, even on streaming services and cable. I thought it was going to be really good because the trailers showed a lot of potential, but it didn’t work out.
Hopefully, the rest of this year’s cinema will be more promising. I guess we’ll see what happens. Do you think movie studios are focusing on quantity instead of quality? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section. Watch out for my photo gallery of this year's Gaslight Expo. It was a lot of fun and I'll probably post my photos next weekend. That’s all for now and come back again soon.
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