‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ review: Hilariously good comeback

Director Jake Kasdan brings us back to a whole new exciting world of the classic ‘Jumanji’ game as we know it.

Jumanji: Next Level is one of the most anticipated sequels this year. Following the success of the previous installment, Next Level brings us to a whole new world of Jumanji with new challenges, additional characters, and a whole lot of surprises. In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to rescue one of their own, the players will have to brave parts unknown from arid deserts to snowy mountains, to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

The film brings back all the players who have lived their respective lives a year after the first film. Spencer who is now on his college year had a realization that being in a new and different situation loses his image as the better guy, giving him the idea to go back and revisit Jumanji. When his friends Martha, Bethany, and Fridge came to know that he went back into the game, they decided to rescue him. This time they were accidentally accompanied by Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie (Danny DeVito), and his friend, Milo (Danny Glover). With the game being busted from the first film, everything now seems so different because some characters’ avatars got swapped: making things chaotic and funnier at the same time.

This is a film that should not be missed this year. Next Level is an energetic and hilarious sequel made mode wonderful by its cast members, most especially Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson who channel their inner Danny Glover and Danny DeVito within the game. You can tell that the old folks made a lot of fun in filming. Also adding to the gang is a new character, Ming, played by Akwafina, who gives a tingy touch of color to the gang.

Jumanji: Next Level feels like a new world—one we haven’t seen before despite its predecessors. What seems to have been busted is now an open avenue for more adventures—new challenges, new characters, and a new story to tell. The film expanded from merely staying within the jungle. There are new places in which our characters have never been to.

Overall, the film is so good because it does not just stick to being funny and all, but also provides plenty heartwarming life lessons about friendship and self-assurance. Also, there is this scene that connects or even sets us up to a new story that will be a connection to the very first and classic Jumanji which starred Robin Williams. It’s just worth hyping about!

Furthermore, Jumanji: The Next Level is your all-time funny and entertaining film that you and your friends would enjoy. This is the sequel that modernizes the classic game one would want to see more often.


Directed by Jake Kasdan starring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Madison Iseman, Ashley Scott, Alex Wolff, Danny Glover and Danny DeVito.

‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ review: Spooky gateway horror film for children

Eli Roth’s ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls’ comes a little late in the game, but it’s a perfect double feature with Jack Black’s other dark fantasy film, ‘Goosebumps.’

The words ‘family-friendly’ and ‘Eli Roth’ feels jarring to be seen together. You see, filmmaker Roth is one of the propagators of the term “torture porn” in cinema – as seen in his gore-centric films like Hostel and Cabin Fever. (I haven’t seen any of his films, as a matter of fact, I stayed away from it). So to see him direct a John Bellairs children classic makes me stroke my chin in contemplation.

Much to my relief, he kept The House with a Clock in Its Walls on a PG level – in exchange of spilling blood and guts, he used pumpkin goos. There are some jump scares peppered throughout, but they’re still cartoonish enough not to be traumatic. Visually, his horror sensibilities translate well into a gateway, mild-horror film for children. This is a film with dire consequences but Roth engages on a light flow to be age-appropriate.

There’s an attempt to world-building here. The eponymous Victorian-themed house is adorned with several ticking clocks and animate objects – there’s a reclining chair that behaves like a dog, a topiary griffin that poops dried leaves and plenty of creepy automatons that come into life. New to the setting is a geeky orphan Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who’s sent to live in this house owned by his estranged uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black). Lewis soon gets to be an apprentice for Jonathan who happens to be a warlock and his neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) who’s a witch. Together, the trio go search for a hidden clock that’s been hexed by an evil warlock (Kyle MacLachlan), somewhere in the house. It’s counting down to something sinister.

Jack Black is a warlock and Cate Blanchett is a witch in “The House With A Clock in Its Walls.”

Roth tries to adopt a Burton-esque tone and the film boasts a grandiose production design but surprisingly, the house lacks depth and personality into it. It’s quite ironic for a film that’s about magic. If you’re accustomed to Spielberg’s children films or Harry Potter, you can immediately feel what The House lacks. The magic is not introduced with much fanfare – there’s little sense of wonder considering that we are seeing it through the eyes of a boy who has never been exposed to real magic before.

With a familiar plot served, you can almost list down every film or franchise that comes through your head while watching it. Yet, you can’t accuse the film as purely derivative since this story is first published in 1973. Chances are, it’s one of the inspirations for the 20th century literature. As a movie, however, this adaptation of The House has nothing new offer. At best, it pays homage to a long cinematic history of dark fantasy films. Most of the time, its a bland adaptation that comes a little too late in the game.

Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) is a warlock searching for the location of nefarious ticking sound in his home in “The House With A Clock in Its Walls.”

The main pull here has to be the dynamic chemistry of Black and Blanchett. Black is an oddball who plays a saxophone and occasionally wears a kimono while Blanchett dons a Mary Poppins inspired outfit with a magical umbrella to zap some monsters. While both are stuck in playing quirky caricatures, they are able to bring a genuine layer to a story that’s otherwise been laden by expositions for backstories. The warm familiar face of Black is enough assurance for kids that this mild horror flick won’t get too dark and bloody for their tastes. His signature quips are there and overtime the actor masters subtlety in his performance. On the other hand, Blanchett looks luminous and regal.

Child lead star Vaccaro makes a strong impression with his impassioned outbursts and shrieks. What the film lacks for the wide-eyed wonder, it compensates with the heart. The kid wins you over with his fascination for fancy vocabulary and magic 8-balls alone. He’s an accessible model of individuality and self-acceptance for kids.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls doesn’t have a sweet spot to appeal to an entire generation – the kids will be enthralled, but the adults may find this drab and unmemorable. Still, this film is a tame pre-Halloween treat for kids that will give them the emotional maturity how to handle scary situations, without leaving them nightmares. As for Roth, it’s nice to see him take a stab in the lighter side of horror and I for one, prefer him to stay on that lane.


3 out of 5 stars


Directed by Eli Roth from a screenplay written by Eric Kripke. Based on the novel ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ by John Bellairs.
Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Colleen Camp, Lorenza Izzo, Vanessa Anne Williams.
Run time: 105 minutes

Jack Black plays fun uncle who teaches magic in ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’

For the role of Jonathan Barnavelt in Universal Pictures’ fantasy-adventure The House with a Clock in Its Walls, it was important to the filmmakers to find someone who would serve as the initially frightening relative to live with…who then becomes the really fun uncle to join you on an adventure.

For director Eli Roth, the role can be done justice only by comedy superstar Jack Black.

“Jack just encapsulates all of it,” says Roth. “It’s hard for me to think of anyone else in the role other than him. I’d seen him perform live in Tenacious D; I’ve seen all of his movies. You think of Jack, and you just laugh; he has so much personality, so much charm, and he’s so funny. But he also has such heart. In his films like School of Rock or Bernie, he’s an incredible dramatic actor. He has such humor, life, and such a soulful quality to him. It’s a dream come true to watch him create this role.”

The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Black) in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) is a warlock searching for the location of nefarious ticking sound in his home in “The House With A Clock in Its Walls,” the spine-tingling, magical adventure of a boy who goes to live with his eccentric uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. Based on the first volume in the beloved children’s series of books, the film is directed by master frightener Eli Roth.

Black has long thought of himself as a kid at heart, and like his collaborators, he appreciated the fact that Jack Kripke’s script brought the spirit of John Bellairs, author of the book from which the film was based. Despite its dark themes of loss and tragedy, the story offers lessons, excitement and pure joy. “This is a movie that kids of all ages can enjoy,” reflects Black, “but we want to give them a thrill. Sometimes you have to go dark to give them that.” He particularly appreciates the secret at the story’s core: “They’re living in a house that has a living clock of doom, and they have to disengage the clock to save the world.”

One of the core themes to The House with a Clock in Its Walls is honoring one’s individuality. In the film, Jonathan plays certain notes on his saxophone, and it will open up his magic…unique to him. Black reveals that element is one of his favorites about the story: “Tapping into our unique weirdness is the key to a person’s individual magic. Let the individuality out.”

Black was duly excited about Cate Blanchett’s casting as powerful witch Florence Zimmerman, and he remains appreciative of their time on set together. “The idea of working with Cate was exciting and daunting,” he states. “I told everyone I knew I was working on a Cate Blanchett movie; I think she’s the best actor in the world. Blue Jasmine is one of the best performances of all time.”

The chemistry between Black and Blanchett is unexpectedly whimsical, and Blanchett and Black had a ball delivering Kripke’s zingers at one another. “Jonathan and Florence have been long connected through their love of magic,” adds Blanchett, “but also a mutual respect. They bicker and fight like George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. But they have a deep love of one another, and they understand each other’s foibles—as well as the pain that they’ve both experienced. There’s a great love between them, as much as they tussle with one another.”

Now playing in Philippine cinemas, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Find your magic in ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Goosebumps) and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Thor: Ragnarok) star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment.

The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro of Daddy’s Home) who goes to live with his eccentric uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

Based on the first volume in the beloved children’s series of books written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural).

For producer Bradley J. Fischer, it was important to assemble production partners and a director who could do justice to the delightfully weird—but oh-so-accessible—stories of Bellairs. They would be none other than legendary Amblin Entertainment and director Eli Roth, who knows a thing or two about scaring audiences. “Amblin brings this story to life in a natural envelope, and Eli was a natural choice to direct,” Fischer gives. “I always wanted to make one of these movies with a kid at the center who goes on an adventure. This was a perfect combination of enthusiasm, passion and talent.”

Roth, who has built a career based on much darker scares, was drawn to this PG story for myriad reasons. It wasn’t just a chance to make the type of movie he had always dreamed of making, it was the shot to partner with Amblin, whose films had arguably some of the biggest influence on him as a child and burgeoning filmmaker.

The director walks us through an introduction to this world: “There are certain things that give this story an Amblin feel, and I wanted to come out and make the next great Amblin movie. I want The House with a Clock in Its Walls to be side-by-side with Gremlins and Back to the Future.” He’s not worried about making younger audiences nervous about the things that go bump in the night. “I wanted this movie to be very scary, and I think that you can have funny and scary at the same time. Gremlins showed that, and E.T. did as well.”

For the director, his lifelong interest is in exploring the best and the worst of humanity…as well as the manner in which we handle crisis. Do we rise to the occasion, or do we crumble? For him, Lewis’ story of heartbreak and healing allows that. “How do you deal with and process tragedy?” Roth asks. “This is a story about terrible things happening, and some want to deal with it by moving forward while others want to turn back time so it never can happen.”

The filmmaker has long had a desire to shoot “a scary kids movie.” He reflects: “I wanted to do something that felt like Gremlins, E.T. or Time Bandits—something fantastic and Halloween-themed. This story had pumpkins; it had automatons. There were so many ingredients and elements in the book and script that I connected to. Especially Lewis, this misfit kid. I did not grow up an orphan, but I certainly grew up an outcast and an outsider.”

Roth shares that perhaps some of the best direction he’s ever received was from the head of Amblin himself, a man who knows a thing or two about genre blending. “I told Steven Spielberg what a seminal experience Poltergeist was for me as a kid, and I wanted to give a new generation of kids those same thrills. “He gave me amazing advice. He said: ‘Don’t design it so much that people can’t get into the story. And most important, make it scary. Kids love to be scared.’”

In Philippine cinemas September 19, 2018, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

WATCH: Trailer for ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment.

Check out its newly-launched trailer and teaser poster below and watch The House with a Clock in Its Walls in Philippine cinemas October 24.

The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural). Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams, Lorenza Izzo and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.

Executive produced by William Sherak, Tracey Nyberg, Laeta Kalogridis and Mark McNair, The House with a Clock in Its Walls will be released by Universal Pictures

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Monsters come alive in family adventure ‘Goosebumps’

Opposite Jack Black, the filmmakers of Columbia Pictures’ family comedy Goosebumps cast so many of author R.L. Stine’s famous monster creations. The film brings the Goosebumps book series to life on the big screen for the first time, starring Black as the famed writer.

Whenever possible, the filmmakers created a practical creature out of make-up and special effects. “Any monsters that we could do practically, we did,” says director Rob Letterman.

“There are a few that are CGI and some that are a hybrid of practical and CGI, but we knew that we wanted to get as much in camera as we could. I didn’t want the monsters to feel like a cartoon, or dumbed-down. I knew it would be great for the actors’ performance to have something real there, on the spot – and it really gives the movie this great feeling, as the magic of the books comes to life.”

Leading the way as the chief villain is Stine’s most lasting creation: Slappy the Dummy. In the film, Slappy is Stine’s alter ego and the mastermind behind the evil plot. The filmmakers reached out to Ironhead Studio to design and create a real, working ventriloquist’s dummy – one that resembles Jack Black in many ways. The dummy was entirely manual – no electronics at all – and puppeted by Avery Lee Jones, who got the job after a nationwide audition. Jones could move Slappy with his hand controls in many different ways: head turning side-to-side or all the way around, mouth control, eyes side-to-side, eyes blink, wide eyed, and eyebrow movement. Overseeing the working of the dummy itself, to make sure that everything remained in working order, was Ironhead Studio’s Jake McKinnon.

Joining Slappy in the film are many of Stine’s other creations: The Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, Snake Lady from Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Bog Monster from You Can’t Scare Me!, Egyptian Princess from Return of the Mummy, Cronby the cave troll from Deep in the Jungle of Doom, The Evil Clown from When the Ghost Dog Howls, Vampires from Vampire Breath, The Witch Doctor from Deep in the Jungle of Doom, Madam Doom from Help! We Have Strange Powers!, The Executioner from A Night in Terror Tower, The Pirate from Creep from the Deep, The Creeps from Calling All Creeps, and The Haunted Mask from The Girl with the Haunted Mask.

Also appearing in the film are Scarecrows from The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Jack O’Lantern from Attack of the Jack O’Lanterns, The Mummy from Return of the Mummy, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, The Werewolf from Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Gnomes from Revenge of the Gnomes, The Blob from The Blob That Ate Everyone, Toy Robots from Toy-Terror: Batteries Included, Bug-Eyed Aliens from Invasion of the Body Squeezers, Vampire Poodle from Please Don’t Feed the Vampire!, and the Praying Mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street.

Among all of these choices, which is Black’s favorite? “Slappy the Dummy, of course,” he says – noting that the reason is probably because the dummy looks just like him. Besides Slappy? “The bug-eyed aliens, or the bog monster,” he says. “The bog monster is a swamp thing, but from the right angle, it looks just like a butt. Can we call it the butt monster?”

In “Goosebumps,” teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), upset about moving from a big city to a small town, finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door, and makes a quick friend in Champ (Ryan Lee). But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach’s comes when he learns that Hannah’s mysterious dad is in fact R.L. Stine, the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series.

As Zach starts learning about the strange family next door, he soon discovers that Stine holds a dangerous secret: the creatures that his stories made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Stine’s creations are unintentionally released from their manuscripts, Zach’s life takes a turn for the weird. In a crazy night of adventure, it’s up to Zach, Hannah, Champ, and Stine to team up and get all of these figments of Stine’s imagination – including Slappy the Dummy, the girl with the haunted mask, the gnomes and many more – back in the books where they belong to save the town.

Opening across the Philippines on October 21, 2015, Goosebumps is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Jack Black plays fictional version of real-life author in ‘Goosebumps’

At the center of Columbia Pictures’ new adventure comedy Goosebumps is top comic actor Jack Black (“Kung Fu Panda,” “King Kong”) in the role of R.L. Stine, real-life author of the hugely popular book series, Goosebumps.
The film brings the Goosebumps series to life on the big screen for the first time, combining dozens of author R.L. Stine’s famous creations into one hilariously spine-tingling movie.

Black says that he put in the work to make Stine a completely unique character. “When I read the script a few times, I felt like the character needed to look and sound different than me – it couldn’t be like the dude from `School of Rock’ is now the writer R.L. Stine,” he says. “No, it needed to be a character that I haven’t played before, someone with a little more gravitas, a respected writer. So, I worked on his voice, and I decided to give him a little bit of an Orson Wells-ian accent. Refined. I wanted him to be someone with a taste for the finer things.”

Naturally, Black’s character is nothing like the real R.L. Stine, who in real life is actually a jovial fellow. “I like to play characters, to get behind the façade,” says Black. “When I get into an accent, or a character who’s different from myself, it frees me up to do things I wouldn’t normally do – I get embarrassed saying certain lines or doing certain things if it feels like I’m doing it myself. Putting on a mask and a voice frees you up to express yourself better.”

As a result, it doesn’t matter that he’s nothing like the real-life Stine; Black’s character is hilarious and perfect for the movie. “The funniest parts of my character are his vanity and pride about his track record,” says Black. “There was ample opportunity for him to get on a high horse and remind the others that he’s better than they are.”

GB-ORush_JBlack_RLee_DMinnette

“This was my third time working with Jack, so we’ve gotten used to each other,” says director Rob Letterman. “It was very cool to see him sink his teeth into this, because I know he’s a classically trained actor and has amazing acting chops, but the rest of the world always thinks of him as Jack Black the comedian. So it was really nice for him to do both, and it was also incredibly helpful for the movie, because Jack helps navigate the tone – he lets people know that the movie is okay for kids, but at the same time, yes, we could get a little bit of edge in there.”

In “Goosebumps,” teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), upset about moving from a big city to a small town, finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door, and makes a quick friend in Champ (Ryan Lee). But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach’s comes when he learns that Hannah’s mysterious dad is in fact R.L. Stine (Jack Black), the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series.

GB-JBlack_02

As Zach starts learning about the strange family next door, he soon discovers that Stine holds a dangerous secret: the creatures that his stories made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Stine’s creations are unintentionally released from their manuscripts, Zach’s life takes a turn for the weird. In a crazy night of adventure, it’s up to Zach, Hannah, Champ, and Stine to team up and get all of these figments of Stine’s imagination – including Slappy the Dummy, the girl with the haunted mask, the gnomes and many more – back in the books where they belong to save the town.

Opening across the Philippines on October 21, 2015, Goosebumps is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.