Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

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Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Production Companies: Automatik Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions, Entertainment One, Sony Pictures International
Stars: Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, Michael Reid MacKay
Genre: Horror

What It’s About: Long before the Lamberts are haunted, Elise reluctantly decides to help a teenage girl who is being targeted by a paranormal entity.

How I Watched It: In the theater with a friend.

Thoughts: Well, you guys…this movie is a PREQUEL.
NOT A PREQUEL!
I, for one, don’t think prequels are all that bad most of the time. Sure–they might not be the most consistent sort of sequel, but I think they open open a whole new realm of potential. Especially when it comes to this film franchise. Imagine all the possibilities of awesome movies staring Elise that they could give us! Let’s hope.

This film is set several years before the haunting of the Lambert family from the first two chapters. A teenage girl named Quinn (Scott) makes a special trip to visit the psychic she’s heard so much about from friends. When she arrives, Elise (Shaye) is more than reluctant to speak to her. This isn’t the strong and powerful Elise that we’re familiar with from the first two films–something’s different. She’s seems scared. She refuses to help her, but when she realizes that she’s traveled so far…she invites Quinn in for a quick chat. Quinn wants to contact her mother who recently passed away. When Elise attempts to contact her mother, she senses something else entirely…and she knows that Quinn may be in danger.

So…there you have it. It’s a similar setup to the first two films. Some sort of malevolent spirit has its eyes on Quinn, and it’s not willing to back down without a fight. I don’t want to continue with a synopsis and ruin this one for you. Can’t ruin the surprises!  😉

Let’s talk about performances.
~Stephanie Scott as Quinn Brenner: I wasn’t familiar with her work prior to this film–which is always nice. I love seeing some fresh blood up on the screen, because you don’t really have any expectations based on the rest of their work. I thought she did an all-around solid performance. She had quite a few impediments in this role. Without spoiling too much, she gets injured and is bedridden for a bulk of the film. It takes some chops to make some things interested when you’re confined to one spot. I look forward to seeing more from her.

~Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier: Lin Shaye kicks so much ass. It’s always a pleasure to see her doing new things–and let me tell you, she gets more of a starring role in this film than any of the others in the franchise. As I mentioned earlier, we get to see some different sides to Elise’s character–lots of great development there. I just…I…gah. She’s my favorite. I will watch every single prequel/sequel/reboot that they come up with if she’s a part of it.

~Dermot Mulroney as Sean Brenner: I didn’t realize that Dermot Mulroney was starring in this film. To be honest, I kind of chuckled to myself because I had just recently watched this SNL skit. But I digress. I was sort of concerned at first. I mean, he’s got the whole handsome thing going for him, and that’s great…but his first few scenes were sort of bad. I don’t know if he was just having trouble connecting to his “movie children” or what, but it seemed very scripted and dull. To his credit, he did improve as the film went along. As tensions and emotions are on the rise, he managed to save his performance. So “meh”.

If you wanna talk about an awesome performance–let’s talk about Leigh Whannell. Not only has he been the writer on all three films in this franchise, but he also stars as Specs.
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He takes on an EVEN BIGGER role in this film as the Director! I didn’t realize that this was the case until the credits were rolling at the end…but holy moly. Oh, and let’s point out that this is his directorial debut. Talk about a big introduction…and what a great introduction it was. Major kudos to him.

Lots of great special effects and really cool makeup designs for the ghosts in this one. Creeeeeeeepy.

My Rating: Huzzah!!!
I’m gonna go ahead and throw it out there–I think this one may be the scariest one in the franchise so far. I lost count of the number of times that I jumped in my seat. We’re not talking cheap jump scares either. So creepy and so well done. A fresh addition to the franchise, and I only hope that they keep these coming.

Where Can I Watch It?: This one’s still on the theater circuit. Catch it if you can.

August: Osage County (2013)

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Director: John Wells
Writers: Tracy Letts (Screenplay and Stage Play)
Production Companies: Weinstein Company, Jean Doumanian Productions, Smokehouse Pictures, Battle Mountain Films, Yucaipa Films
Stars: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch
Genre: Drama

What It’s About: A family tragedy brings the Weston family back together at their old Oklahoma homestead.  Based on the play made for the stage by Tracy Letts.

How I Watched It: Alone in my apartment. Evening.

Thoughts: The Weston family is getting together again, and boy oh boy, is it entertaining to watch.  The patriarch of the family, Beverly (Sam Shepard), goes missing.  His wife Violet (Streep) calls her sister and all three of her daughters and tells them to congregate at the old homestead in Oklahoma. One thing leads to another and before too long we find out that good ol’ Papa is dead.  These grieving family members have to try and get along long enough to not kill each other–more difficult than you might imagine for some.

HOLY DRAMA, BATMAN!  The character dynamics in this movie are just…ridiculous.  But the characters are written so well, that it all just melds together and makes sense.  A few of the motifs that get touched on (not to spoil any specific details): pill addiction, suicide, incest, infidelity, divorce, drug usage, pedophilia, terminal illness, alcoholism, child abuse, mental illness, racism….I know there are more, but I’ll just stop there.  That list just looks ridiculous, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “You can’t lump all of that crap up into one script and have it work!”  Well, you’re wrong!  It works so seamlessly, that you don’t even take notice. I give that credit to great writing and wonderful acting.

Acting. I was a little concerned going into this movie because it had such a star-studded cast.  Sometimes a list of A-list actors can lend a hand to a film, but sometimes it can be detrimental.  The casting for this movie just nailed it on the head.

First of all: Meryl.  Her character is an old-fashioned hag of a lady who’s dealing with mouth cancer by popping as many prescription pills as she can get her hands on.  She. Is. Nasty.  There are so many moments where I find myself wondering if she’s being rude and awful to her children because she’s on too many drugs, or if she’s just cranky.  But they also touch on the fact that somewhere along the line, something went not-so-right in her upstairs department. She’s tormented…and sad…and lonely.  She’s just…incredibly complicated, but played so well by Mrs. Streep.  Always so many kudos to her.

Julia Roberts has never been my favorite actress.  It’s been a good while since I’ve seen something that I really enjoyed her in.  Well, this is probably the best role I’ve seen her in for some time….maybe ever. She plays Barbara, the eldest of the three sisters.  She’s having marital problems and dealing with a teenage daughter at home, and to top it all off, her precious father just died–and she isn’t her mother’s biggest fan.  She becomes the pseudo-matriarch while her mother is having a breakdown (so…forever). It’s so nice to see her grungier side–she’s not all dolled up and being her usual romantic-comedy self. There are so many fantastic scenes between her and Meryl.  They just play off of each other so well in this.  And believe you me, there are scenes when shit. hits. the. fan.

I could talk about how I loved each and every actor/character in this movie, but I won’t. Such a great ensemble cast.  Also, I’d like to point out that the three sisters are played by Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, and Juliette Lewis.  The casting director must have a thing for names that start with Juli-. Just a weird coincidence, I’m sure.

My Rating: Huzzah!!

If you think your family is screwed up, just watch this.  You’ll feel 10 times better about yours. Be prepared for a dramatic ride with this one.