A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS  (Rated PG) An interesting situation is at hand with director Eli Roth, a master with horror films, as the one at the helm of delivering a presumable kid’s movie with “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.” Don’t be surprised then if “The House,” with elements of Harry Potter sorcery but scarier, might be a little too forbidding for really young children too easily frightened by creepily animated dummies and menacing jack-o’-lanterns. Recently orphaned ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is a focal character sent to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old mansion that holds a secret revealed by the film’s title. The stage is set when Lewis arrives one night and Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) is wearing a kimono and holding forth with such eccentricity that one wouldn’t blame Lewis for taking the next bus back to wherever he came from.

The weirdness of the gothic mansion is that, while every room seems to be overwhelmed with ticking clocks and creepy artifacts, hidden within the walls somewhere is a ticking doomsday clock ready to be triggered by a supernatural power. Enrolling at a new school, Lewis is ostracized for being a geeky misfit so lacking in athletic ability that no one chooses him for their intramural basketball team until he later comes into his own with some magic power. As a naturally curious child, Lewis unearths some of the mansion’s secrets.  The discovery explains why his uncle spends so much time verbally sparring and bantering with next door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett).

The mansion’s previous owner is the evil wizard Isaac (Kyle MacLachlan), whose remains in the local cemetery is set free by sorcery only to wreak havoc that propels the elements of true horror. At this point, we learn that Lewis’ uncle is a warlock and Mrs. Zimmerman, his cohort, is a witch, albeit they seem benevolent as their desire is to stop Isaac from setting off the doomsday clock. Lewis begins to master the dark arts and finds this might be a good way to handle school bullies when he’s not busy using supernatural powers on the home front.

In the end, the inevitable Armageddon is staged inside the mansion with Lewis, his uncle and Mrs. Zimmerman fighting with vigor to repel the evil force of Isaac. The fun of “The House” may hinge on the enjoyment of the odd combination of fantasy, horror and oddball humor.


The long-running “Magnum, P.I.,” starring Tom Selleck in the titular role, made its mark in the Eighties as one of the most popular private investigator series on the CBS television network. Now after several decades have passed, CBS is rebooting the series appropriately enough with a younger cast of the same primary characters, with a sense of familiarity delivered in a fresh milieu. The new “Magnum P.I.” stars Jay Hernandez as Thomas Sullivan Magnum, a former Navy intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan.  Now living in Hawaii, Magnum is joined by war buddies Rick (Zachary Knighton) and chopper pilot TC (Stephen Hill) in a series of adventures. Similar to the original series, Magnum, wearing Hawaiian shirts and a Detroit Tigers cap, lives at the estate of unseen millionaire Robin Masters as a security consultant while dabbling in private eye work on the side.

It may be hard to master the charm of Tom Selleck but Hernandez is off to a good start in the first episode made available for preview.  Even though the role of Higgins now goes to a female (Patricia Weeks), the new Magnum’s charisma may hit a few snags with her. Juliet Higgins, an attractive former British MI 6 agent, referred to as the “majordomo,” will clash with Magnum on everything from his use of the estate’s red Ferrari to his freewheeling ways. The first episode begins with a preposterous rescue mission in North Korea but quickly settles into the venue of Oahu where Magnum and his buddies try to solve the mystery of another friend from the war who is kidnapped and viciously tortured and beaten to death.

A familiar detective series trope is trotted out when Honolulu police detective Katsumoto (Tim Kang) threatens Magnum with obstruction if he meddles in a homicide investigation.  You can guess how this will play out. Magnum’s ethnicity hardly warrants a mention until during an ocean dive when Magnum banters with Rick and tells him that Rick should worry because sharks prefer white meat. “Magnum P.I.” has great Hawaiian scenery, plenty of action and casual sense of humor that serves Magnum and his buddies well.  It could follow in the successful footsteps of the updated version of the “Hawaii Five-O” series. During the summer press tour, executive producer Peter Lenkov reported that talks were engaged with Tom Selleck and that “we went to him first to get his blessing.”  I’ll take that as an endorsement for a new series that is worth a look.

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