As a director, Eli Roth is best known for his shock and gore pictures: “Inglourious Basterds,” “Hostel,” “Cabin Fever,” and so on. It’s kind of strange to see him at the helm of a family fantasy movie, but he nails it in a way that makes one curious to see him branch out further. “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is definitely a creepy-scary film, but it’s aimed at families, so it’s more gross-out rather than freak-out.
Directed by: Ava DuVernay Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris Pine Rated: PG for thematic elements and some peril. Since its first publication in 1962, Madeleine L’Engle’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time” has been continuously in print. It’s an enduring classic of science fantasy, a young-adult-ish novel that’s accessible to just about everyone. Adapting it for the big screen is a tall order, and director Ava DuVernay has thrown herself into her work with undeniable passion. DuVernay has said it’s meant to be viewed by children and those with a child’s wonder, and she’s right. Some folks will love it and some will be dismissive. It depends on the attitude you bring to the film. This is a coming-of-age story. Our heroine Meg (Storm Reid) sets out to save her father (Chris Pine), who’s been missing for four years. Along the way, she breaks through
Directed by: Roland Emmerich Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Jeff Goldblum, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language 1996’s “Independence Day” didn’t set itself up for a sequel. It’s getting one anyway – but the returning cast and crew make a lot of smart decisions. While it’s obviously an attempt at starting a franchise to squeeze more money out of an existing property, it’s also pretty successfully a fun summer blockbuster. This is the kind of movie that’s perfect for times when you just want to spend three hours in air conditioning, sipping a cold drink and watching things blow up. Surprisingly, “Independence Day: Resurgence” not only works the 20-year gap between films into the story well, it gives us a pretty well-thought-out portrayal of a post-alien-invasion Earth. The planet has kept the unity developed in the first film, with
Directed by: Brad Bird Starring: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy Rated: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language Remember when the future was hopeful? The original “Star Trek” series offered us a vision of a time when Americans and Russians could work together, where things were clean and orderly and all sorts of different people – non-humans, even! – came together to do great things. Somewhere along the line, though, the future became less “Jetsons” and more “The Matrix” – a cool-looking place, still, but all black leather and vinyl and dystopia. We no longer think of the future as a great place we’re heading to. Cynicism and pessimism are the order of the day. It’s not hard to see why – global climate change, the human tendency toward self-destruction, everything seems to be going down the tubes. “Tomorrowland” brings us Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who
Directed by: John Madden Starring: Dev Patel, Tina Desai, Shazad Latif, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle Rated: PG for some language and suggestive comments Back in 2011, moviegoers were introduced to Sonny (Dev Patel), the relentlessly optimistic Indian man with his heart set on making The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel the ultimate retirement community, and an unlikely group of British retirees who wind up as his customers. The obstacles were formidable, but of course Sonny and the retirees were able to make everything work, and the film ended with them happily settling into the city of Jaipur, India. Now we are presented with “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a sequel in which Sonny is determined to open a second hotel (since the first has only one remaining vacancy and is wildly successful). In many ways it’s more of the same, like any sequel, but it takes on
Directed by: Don Hall, Chris Williams Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr., T.J. Miller, Daniel Henney, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell Rated: PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements. There are a couple of primary themes in “Big Hero 6,” Disney’s latest CGI kids’ adventure movie, but it has a lot going on besides that. There’s action, adventure, a wonderfully diverse set of characters, and a handful of lessons kids and parents can take away with them to talk about later. Saying that a movie is for all ages is a little trite, but this one really is. Kids too young to deal with some cartoonish action and the idea of people dying are about the only ones who should sit this out. “Big Hero 6” focuses on young Hiro (Ryan Potter), a child prodigy with robotics who is failing to follow in his older brother
Making what is essentially a prequel to one of the most beloved films of all time is a risky business. “Oz, The Great and Powerful” gives us the story of how the titular wizard in “The Wizard of Oz” got to where he is when Dorothy meets him. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it has all the magic and charm we can expect from a Disney film.
Kids movies that take the time and trouble to be enjoyable by and accessible to grownups have a special place in my heart, especially when they’re fairly smart and creatively designed. “Rise of the Guardians” falls into this camp, and I enjoyed the first hour and twenty minutes enough to forgive the last ten for not living up to their promise.
Back in 1984, Tim Burton produced a stop-motion short film entitled “Frankenweenie,” in which a boy brings his dog back to life after the beloved pet is killed by a car. It’s a charming piece, and available in the extra content on DVDs of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Now, almost twenty years later, Burton has returned to that story and expanded it into a feature-length film of the same title.
Directed by: Chris Butler, Sam Fell Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman Rated: PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language Laika, the studio behind stop-motion hit “Coraline,” have done it again with “ParaNorman,” another tale of a child who doesn’t fit in. This time, the protagonist must use his unique abilities to save his town and end a centuries-old curse.