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Insidious: Chapter 3

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MV5BMTUwNDU4NjE1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTc0MzA5NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_Director: Leigh Whannell

Writers: Leigh Whannell, 

Starring:  Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell , Tate Berney

‘If you love someone, set them free’ as the saying goes – if only the protagonists of these horror flicks would take that saying to heart, instead of selfishly trying to continue to pester their loved ones beyond the grave. If they could just leave their relations to rest in peace, it would really make everyone’s life, or afterlife, so much easier.  Certainly Elise, Lyn Shale’s character in the Insidious movies, has found nothing but trouble having to trawl around ‘The Further’ for the relatives of the people who beseech her for help. Luckily for them, she’s a rather soft hearted and plucky type.

First-time director Leigh Whannell, who has written all three Insidious movies and is now taking the directorial reins from James Wan, has decided to go the prequel route, showing us how Elise Rainier, the psychic who aided the Lambert family in Insidious 1 and 2, enters the ghost-hunting business and teams up with sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell again, this time in an acting role – he really is all over this movie) and Tucker (Angus Sampson).

The two previous Insidious movies starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Lin Shaye, presented us with some appealing characters and generated some actual dread – a combination which translated into significant box office success in 2011 and 2013. Why did these fairly modest pictures, virtually devoid of explicit gore, nudity and bad language, prove so popular? I would suggest it may be because they learned some valuable lessons from the original Spielberg/Hooper ‘Poltergeist’ movie (lessons which the remake has unfortunately forgotten). These movies gave good actors some decent roles, had straightforward yet interesting, cohesive plots sprinkled with a touch of humour and some effective scary moments.

Instead of revisiting the Lamberts’ fraught history, Leigh Whannell constructs this latest movie around the psychic Elise, played by Lyn Shaye – a seasoned performer of range, experience and charm. We know that the Academy doesn’t really take performances in genre films seriously, but at least here, a female movie veteran of 40 years (Shale made her screen debut in Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street in 1975) gets the chance to carry a movie as the central character, and does a pretty good job of it. Shale gets the opportunity to exercise her abilities and play a variety of tones – grieving, vulnerable, compassionate, determined, and humorous and provides an unwavering moral compass.

The victim of Chapter 3’s nasty spirits who sneak over from ‘The Further’ is Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a high school senior who is sure she can still feel the presence of her mother, who died of cancer a year and a half ago. Convinced that her mother is trying to communicate with her from the other side and having failed to reach out to the spirit world on her own (never a good idea) Quinn turns to Elise for help.

Elise is not initially receptive to the Quinn’s predicament as she herself is in a depression, following the death of her beloved husband who committed suicide a year ago. Having many unanswered questions, Elise has tried to find him in ‘The Further’, but in the process she has attracted the attention of a murderous spirit who has scared her enough to dissuade her from using her psychic gifts. Her sympathetic nature, however, finally wins out (just as well, or we wouldn’t have a movie).

Whannell’s economical script provides a backstory for Elise and suggests her motivations for using her psychic gifts to aid the afflicted while providing a clear plotline avoiding digressions or indulgences.  References to horror classics remain, to entertain the aficionados, (in this case movies dealing with demonic possession).

Together with cinematographer Brian Pearson,  Whannell maintains the franchise’s neat production values (but eschews James Wan’s tendency to create frenetic big bangs) and manages to navigate a mix of practical and visual effects, gradually revealing the extent of the threat that faces Quinn and Elise before shifting into full-on scary mode. The soundtrack however, is less subtle and telegraphs its intentions pretty much from the opening credits.

Whannell also returns as Specs who, along with Angus Sampson as Tucker, provide some comic relief as the high-tech ghost-hunting team that Elise recruits as her assistants. I suspect it may be Dermot Mulroney’s first venture into the horror genre. He appears in a slightly underwritten role as the grieving widower and doting dad who has to take on the ghouls of the spirit world and become his daughter’s protector. There is also a dispensable role for a younger brother (Tate Berney), which underlines its total superfluity by disappearing from the narrative for much of the time.

It was a sensible decision not to allow Insidious 3 to just recycle its original premise. If it continues to branch out into other excursions there may be mileage yet in the Insidious franchise, as it trundles along into the haunted house attraction and the ghost-train ride we have come to know as ‘The Further’, all the further it is likely to go. After all, there should be as many stories to haunt us as there are ghosts.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

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Movie Reviews

Bad Times at the El Royale ★★★★

Bad Times at the El Royale feels like a throwback to Tarantino in all his 90’s pomp.

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Director: Drew Goddard

Stars: Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman

Released: 12th October 2018 (UK)

Bad Times at the El Royale has seemingly fallen foul of the particularly hectic October release schedule in the U.K. As Venom and A Star is Born dominate the box-office and with the London Film Festival in full swing, El Royale has not received the recognition it deserves.

Boasting an impressive cast, Bad Times at the El Royale follows seven strangers whose stories intertwine at the El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe. As each person’s agenda for being at the El Royale is revealed, tensions inevitably rises and the characters collide.

From the get-go, El Royale feels like a throwback to Tarantino in all his 90’s pomp. Director Drew Goddard, no stranger to managing madness following his debut A Cabin in the Woods, has crafted an immersive, intricately linked murder-mystery that feels like a grindhouse version of Cluedo. The violence is garish but necessary, the dialogue is short and snappy and the characters are most importantly, interesting. The hardest part of any film with so many moving parts, is making the audience actually bond with those involved. Goddard, who also wrote the screenplay, has nailed this – giving enough back-story for each, whilst holding enough back to keep us learning more.

Between Jeff Bridge’s bad-ass priest, Dakota Johnson’s kill-happy hippy and Chris Hemsworth’s dancing cult-leader, the wider cast have somehow managed to create a credible on-screen dynamic, despite the stark character contrasts. Cynthia Erivo’s soulful singer Darlene is the obvious standout and her interactions with Bridge’s Father Flynn provide some of the most film’s most satisfying scenes. Lewis Pullman’s unassuming concierge Miles is another strong performance deserving of a mention.

The film swaggers along accompanied by its killer soundtrack, which plays a crucial part in the films tonal change from chapter to chapter. It’s dark and violent, yet at times it’s engaging and even emotional. The sharp edits that mash-up the timeline don’t over-complicate the plot, but accentuate the frenzied feeling that Goddard is creating as we head towards the plot’s crescendo.

As expected there are some areas where a film with so much going on inevitably suffers. Jon Hamm’s Seymour is arguably the biggest victim of this, with his character perhaps not utilised as much as it could have been. The film also feels a little too fleshed out in parts, lingering on some of the less necessary aspects and leaving one or two plotlines unexplored as a result.

Bad Times at the El Royale really does feel like a Tarantino movie and that’s no mean feat, Goddard has taken his own style and applied tried and tested techniques to create a compelling, genuinely exciting movie and one that deserves to be enjoyed by a wider audience.

 

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Arctic ★★★★

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Released: 5 December 2018

Directed by: Joe Penna

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Reviewed by: Lauren Tina Brady

An expanse of white as far as the eye can see, gently sloping mountains in the horizon, a polar bear pads silently across the snow, pausing briefly to gaze back at the watching man across the valley.

At first Arctic reads as a classic survival narrative; the basic man vs. nature conundrum. I’d recently seen The Mountain Between Us, which draws some very obvious similarities; plane crash, hostile snowy environment, a great expanse needing to be crossed for a chance of survival. However, unlike relying on the pairing of Kate Winslet and Idris Elba for context,  Arctic’s dialogue is bare. This is largely due to the fact that there is only the protagonist for the first third of the film, played by Mads Mikkelsen.

At first it appears to lull you into that false sense of security of knowing exactly how this works out; he sticks to a routine of catching fish, laying out black rocks spelling ‘help’ against the snow and signalling for nearby aircraft. However, crucially, we don’t know who he is. He speaks very little, in both Danish and English. He offers no information to help us piece together a backstory and remains an enigma throughout, which feels fresh. The character becomes more than a person; he becomes the flicker of hope for survival, the spectrum of emotions that occur in the darkest of hours.

There is plenty of drama to keep us on the edge of our seats; he has a chance of escape quite early on – a small helicopter has spotted him and attempts to make it’s way towards him in strong winds leading to a crash. There are two people on board; one is killed with the other, a woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), who survives but is badly hurt and must be cared for. Suddenly the odds of both surviving are halved; the danger is intensified.

Here is a tale of endurance over survival. This is where Mikkelsen excels; he digs deep to portray every possible emotion through a gruelling and ice-cold journey. He is silent but his face says everything. I laughed in delight, I wept quietly. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing this role.

It’s a feat for Joe Penna, directing his feature film debut. See it for Mikkelsen, stay for the sensitive direction and the stunning cinematography.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Museum ★★★★

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Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

Stars: Gael García Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro

Released: London Film Festival 2018

It’s Christmas Day, 1985. College dropouts Juan Nunez and Benjamin Wilson are ready to pull off an audacious heist that will have authorities searching for professional art thieves for years. Based on a true story, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ film sees the duo attempt to steal 140 priceless artefacts from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, Museum explores the mindsets of two would be criminals with nothing to lose.

The tale is narrated by Wilson, played with subtle compassion by Leonardo Ortizgris. Wilson’s role is much like Nick’s in The Great Gatsby, an opinionated and somewhat loyally biased eye through which Juan is diluted. Played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan is the film’s focus, a Mexican Cool Hand Luke drifting through his young adulthood. In the hands of another actor, Juan may have come off as entitled, lazy even, but Bernal’s performance layers the character with sympathetic naivety and relatable desire. A perennially youthful, multifaceted actor, Bernal paints buckets of emotion into every micro-expression.

The crime takes place after Christmas dinner, a lively family affair that sees Juan alienated and berated. At first, the silence is reminiscent of the hanging scene from Mission: Impossible; the tension equally palpable. But soon the action changes, pared back to a static style similar to the panels of a comic book. It is a technique repeated throughout the film, the continuity broken up into freeze frames that are not quite motionless, still alive with a touch of movement. Reducing these scenes to a childlike fantasy, Ruizpalacios succeeds in creating the ultimate sense of idyllic, youthful adventure.

Something often ignored in heist films is the aftermath, when the thieves must deal with the fallout of their decisions. Museum’s second act focuses on this aspect, allowing the introduction of an English art dealer, played by the superb Simon Russell Beale. Uncertainty builds from the start of their meeting, as the camera endlessly pans until Juan’s misguided perceptions come crashing down around him. In a script littered with intelligence and comedy, it is a pleasant surprise to see the characters’ raw emotion become the focal point.

Ruizpalacios seems content to pose questions that hang wispily in the air, unanswered: questions of cultural ownership, of morality and greed. He is more interested in the character study at the heart of this story, of a man who commits a crime out of boredom, a sense of nihilism or a desire for adventure, or perhaps a little of all three. It is a fresh idea in a crowded genre, making for a film that is impressive but never quite brilliant, a wonderful adventure that doesn’t aim to blow minds. But does that matter? As Juan says and Wilson relays: “Why let the truth ruin a good story?”, a sentiment Ruizpalacios takes quite literally. Luckily for him, Museum is without a doubt a good story.

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