Remembering James Horner Blogathon: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

As always, hitting the brink of the deadline, here is my entry for the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central. Last year, I took a look at Once Upon a Forest for this blogathon and it was a great one to revisit. You can check out the review here. This year, I decided to check out another family fantasy film adapted from a children’s book series that I haven’t read called The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’m a huge fan of Freddie Highmore as a child star, even now in Bates Motel. I think he’s fantastic and for a while, I did take the time to catch up a lot of his movies a few years back and this was one of them. I’m excited to have a reason to revisit it and hope that the magic is still as charming as I remember.

Let’s check it out!

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

spiderwick chronicles

Director: Mark Waters

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, David Strathairn, Seth Rogen, Martin Short

Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures. – IMDB

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun little fantasy adventure children’s movie featuring a double dose of Freddie Highmore as both Jared and Simon Grace who along with their sister, Mallory (played by Sarah Bolger) are taken to a home that their mother inherited from their great aunt while she goes through a separation. Jared takes this the hardest and after a fight realized that there is something in the walls. As he chases it down, he finds a secret room accessible by a dumbwaiter and there he finds a book that warns him to not open it. Being a child, of course, he does. Whether it was an act of rebellion or thoughtlessness or curiosity, this opens up a realm of fairies and other more dangerous creatures that have been seeking this field guide of the magical creatures to use it as a way to control the world. This one dangerous individual is a giant ogre, Mulgarath (voiced by Nick Nolte). Some of the gentler creatures who create quite the comedic relief is Hogsqueal who looks like a hog and is obsessed with birds (voiced by Seth Rogen) and the protector of the book, Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short). Its fun adventure with some pretty cool CGI effects and an all around entertaining story. While the start might show some over acting in Freddie Highmore, he soon settles quickly as they put away the family and sibling rivalry and jump fairly quickly into the meat of the fantasy world and its just a quick ride to the end.

Spiderwick Chronicles

As this is a blogathon for James Horner, its important to discuss the score. James Horner makes some of the best orchestral scores that help build the atmosphere. Here he carries mystery and suspense when the world is first discovered, then takes us on a musical journey that aids as the adventure picks up where these siblings bond together and truly find their courage as they plot their protection for their home. The score compliments and accentuates the adventure particularly. Adding onto a well-executed film to begin with, this makes it even more engaging to watch. Its hard to ignore the seamless score that James Horner puts together for Spiderwick Chronicles.

Sarah Bolger is a familiar face now. While I have yet to check out Into the Badlands, I’ve seen her as Princes Aurora in Once Upon a Time and especially in Emilie, a psychological thriller released last year that was very well put together. I can’t remember if I had actually written a review but its a great movie that truly showcases her acting skills and the potential she has. Her sister role as Mallory brings a sense of balance, not because she’s a girl but also because she’s very tough as she wield her fencing sword in all her fights. Its an impressive character.

Spiderwick Chronicles

In terms of the double Freddie Highmore, Jared and Simon have relatively different personalities and it gives them a more unique character and lets us see the difference other than how they dress. Freddie Highmore wasn’t great in the Jared role when he starts but it might just have to do with his difficult child act and once it was dropped, it was really fun to watch, even though Jared is more of the central character here.


In terms of voice actors, we have Nick Nolte as the baddie. For a children’s movie, it worked really well. I was pretty invested into the movie and the villain even if he didn’t really show up that much and there was one part where he was human and the transformation was pretty cool. Other than that, Thimbletack (Martin Short) and Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen) are really fun to watch in a silly way. Their creatures themselves are rather creative and in a somewhat adorable way, they are pretty appealing. I have to say that Hogsqueal could have had more screen time although as a non-Seth Rogen fan, I actually thought this was a great performance but it had to do with this silly character that added a lot of entertainment value.

Spiderwick Chronicles

Overall, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun and fast-paced fantasy adventure movie. It has great performances all around and a good balance of comedy and adventure, making it incredibly entertaining and engaging to watch. The CGI is done very well and not to mention, a well-executed story that is accentuated by a great score.

Have you seen The Spiderwick Chronicles? 

Netflix A-Z: Return to Sender (2015)

Last night, I faced the reality that there is no way I’m going to wrap up this round of Netflix A-Z  without bombarding everyone with posts during the holiday season and that wouldn’t make a difference because all of you will be busy with whatever. However, seeing as it is a personal goal, I’m still going to try my hardest to do as much as I can while getting the blog updated. Funny enough, the struggle is watching the movies and not exactly the writing part.

Next up is R selection! I’ve been eyeing this movie for a while especially since it came out after Gone Girl, I believe. Return to Sender didn’t get a whole lot of praise but I’m willing to give it a go either way. For the record, my Q selection was a movie I had started with Shiloh Fernandez and didn’t end up finishing because I just wasn’t in the mood for it. I didn’t know he is this one but you know what, he was decent in Evil Dead so I’m going to be objective and watch this.

Let’s check it out!

Return to Sender (2015)

Return to Sender

Director: Fouad Mikati

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte, Camryn Manheim, Alexi Wasser, Rumer Willis

A nurse living in small town goes on a blind date with a man who is not the person he says he is.-IMDB

Can I just say that this movie poster is about the worst because it takes away what the movie wanted to show as a twist finale. Not to mention the tagline there reveals it all also. Based on this, I wonder if we were supposed to know all along that Rosamund Pike’s character, Miranda is not to be messed with. If thats the case, then it wasn’t really apparent. While Return to Sender was trying to show an odd attraction of Miranda to her rapist, William while he is in jail, and it was in some moments apparent of what she might have been plotting, it just seemed like a lacking script or direction to achieve it rather than it being the message. With that said, I can’t say that I enjoyed Return to Sender a lot unfortunately. I believe mostly, the flow of the plot had me not so intrigued because it was not subtle enough as a thriller.

Return to Sender

While the story was hard to really get immersed in, it is hard to fault Rosamund Pike’s performance as Miranda. Miranda is a nurse with a lot of aspirations and heart. Right off the bat, we know that she is really proper in an OCD sort of way. That isn’t a problem although she is a little extreme. Right from the start, it is devastating that Miranda is raped by a stranger that she assumes was a blind date. Cue in the hazards of blind dates perhaps and letting strangers into your home. One of the best performances does go to Rosamund Pike because she emotes really well and probably it is because of that, she shows off who her character can be before the twist even happens.

Return to Sender

On that note, Shiloh Fernandez is pretty good as well in the role of the rapist, William, who gets caught and ends up conversing a good bit of the movie with Miranda. He is incredibly fond of her but also has a twisted personality. With Miranda, he genuinely seems to like her a lot but he lets his impulses take hold of his actions and that is how the rape happened according to his version but as the movie goes along, you can somewhat see that while his personality not with Miranda is rather intense and immensely different, there is a attraction going on between them at least on his part where he is starting to feel like his is being forgiven for his actions and that seems to mean a lot to him. Obviously, from the poster, you already know that Miranda probably doesn’t have the same feeling because she lost a lot with the trauma that happened to her.

Return to Sender

There aren’t a lot of characters in this movie and the last one is Nick Nolte who plays as Miranda’s protective father. He seems oblivious to the true nature of her daughter and is confused with her choices like befriending William who hurt her physically and mentally. Nick Nolte’s character doesn’t play a huge part and somehow I fail to see the purpose of his part other than one event that somehow casts suspicion to Miranda’s darker side. Perhaps, I’m just not catching on to the character study that is going on here for this thriller.

Overall, Return to Sender is slightly lackluster. While the performances are great, the plot itself seems to lack subtlety and just like its poster, reveals the twist before it was meant to be. There is a lot of potential for this to be much more than what was delivered and honestly, I think it might just be that the plot execution got a little lost.