‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ Review

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Dir: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannel and Angus Sampson

Synopsis: The haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world

 

*Reviewer Note: If you have not seen Insidious, which I recommend you do, then you maybe shouldn’t read this. There will be things from the first movie that will coincide with Insidious: Chapter 2. So if you don’t want to be spoiled by either movie then go watch them first and come back*

 

Picking up right where the first movie left off, Insidious Chapter 2 finds the Lambert family reunited after Josh (Wilson) ventured into the Further to retrieve his son Dalton (Simpkins). However, the hauntings continue to occur, and Josh doesn’t seem to be quite himself anymore. Josh’s wife Renai (Byrne) starts to be haunted again and Josh’s mother Lorraine (Hershey) enlist the help of paranormal investigator Carl (Coulter) and ghost hunters Tucker (Sampson) and Specs (Whannell)

In the first Insidious, Wan and Whannell’s story was mostly centered around the Lambert family, as Josh and Renai focused on getting their son back. With the sequel there’s more of a mystery element, and the cast is split into two core groups for most of the film. One is Josh, Renai and their kids and the other is Lorraine, Carl, Tucker and Specs, who try to figure out why the Lamberts are still being haunted and if there is something else going on.

The nice thing about the sequel is that it doesn’t hold anything back. We know the family, the story (to some extent), and who the characters are. So James Wan doesn’t wait until the half way point of the movie to crank up the scares and doesn’t build the tension or atmosphere because it pretty much starts off right away, and more importantly it works. But it’s also not necessarily a sequel either per se. The movie, with the exceptions of flashbacks, is told right after the first movie. So the “mythology” is in tact. We don’t have a “six months later” text which is nice. They make no apologies in trying to obscure any of the events from the first movie, they revel in them.

This is one of the reasons why Insidious 2 is different from your average horror sequel, because you actually have to know something about the first film before you watch the second. However, one of the things I keep hearing is that the movie is a bit tonally different from the first and in a way I have to agree.  Tucker and Specs’ roles are expanded in this and continue to provide the comic relief and some people feel it as a “campy.” I don’t know if I’d go that far since they really only showed up in the last thirty minutes of the first movie so they have obviously have more to do this time around with their Ghostbuster-y gimmick.

Meanwhile, Wilson does a fine job of portraying the inner struggle between Josh and the after effect of going into The Further in the last movie. Byrne does a good job as Renai again but it almost feels like her screen time is shorter here. While Insidious 2’s marketing would have you believe that Byrne is the leading lady, it’s kind of feels like its Hershey who has more screen time, which isn’t really that bad.

All in all, Insidious: Chapter 2 is once again a pretty good haunted house movie. It’s scary and intriguing and even puts a fun spin on what we’ve already seen. I wouldn’t say it’s as scary as the first movie, again with the exception of a few scenes, but still worth checking out to see the conclusion of the Lambert family mystery.

 

Insidious: Chapter 2

4 out of 5

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‘The Family’ Review

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Dir: Luc Besson

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’ Leo, and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.”

 

Based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel Malavita, The Family stars Robert De Niro as Fred Blake aka Giovanni Manzoni, a one-time mob boss now in Witness Protection after ratting out his pals. With a bounty on his head from an imprisoned former Mafia cohort, the authorities (led by Lee Jones) relocate Fred and his family — wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Agron), son Warren (D’Leo), and dog Malavita — to Normandy.

Fred and his family try to adapt to life in a boring small French village where the townsfolk don’t seem to be happy with Americans moving into their small town. This leads to altercations with neighbors, local officials, shop keepers, school, you name it. Meanwhile, the mob narrows their search for the family. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be a movie if the bad guys didn’t eventually catch up with the good guys (or in this case, the less bad guys) in a bullets-blazing finale and in a true Luc Besson fashion.

It’s interesting to see De Niro, Lee Jones and Pfeiffer play up their somewhat “typecast” characters. De Niro has poked fun at his mobster film legacy for quite awhile now and he does it here again, but it still works. Pfeiffer, whose early mob wife roles include Scarface and Married to the Mob, puts on an Italian/NY accent that doesn’t sound out of place. Then there’s Tommy Lee Jones playing an unsmiling, no-nonsense lawman. But it all works because there good actors.

As solid as all three major stars are in the film, you may find yourself equally impressed with the two younger leads playing the Blake kids. Agron shows she can do more than simply be that girl from Glee, although at times her performance for me was a bit too much, while new comer D’Leo steals his scenes and proves he’s truly his father’s son.

Like I said this is a Luc Besson-directed movie so there’s plenty of violence (but not gory) and action. Besson throws in flashbacks to Fred’s past criminal life, which helps us get to known more of De Niro’s character. It also helps since the movie is told through Fred’s voice because he’s writing his memoirs. But through this, we see how Fred holds nothing back. He knows he’s done bad things in his past but we still root for him and his family in the end.

All in all, The Family has it all; action, drama, comedy, and a little romance. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and it leads to us having a good time too. Are there things that are a bit predictable? Sure, but it’s still fun to see.

The Family

4 out of 5

‘Riddick’ Review

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Dir: David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick)

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, and Dave Bautista

Synopsis: Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past

 

*Review Note:This is a non-spoiler review as always.”

 

Left for dead by the Necromongers (in really only cameo appearance) on the a hospitable planet, Riddick (Diesel) fights to survive against the wide variety of deadly beasts roaming this planet. His only way off is to actually call in the very people he would otherwise hope to avoid: bounty hunters.

Two different groups of bounty hunters soon arrive. The first is a down and dirty group led by Santana (Molla) and whose members include Bautista’s as Diaz, while the second team is a more paramilitary group led by Boss Johns (Nable) and Dahl (Sackhoff).

Riddick’s plan to get hold of one of their ships to escape doesn’t work out timing-wise. A massive storm arrives, bringing with it hordes of slithery, man-killing monsters. Of course, Riddick and the bounty hunters must work together in order to escape their deaths.

Riddick does go back to the old formula that started in Pitch Black, sci-fi horror with an R rating. I mean this movie holds nothing back when it comes to the death scenes, and they are good death scenes. But a good chunk of the movie is a one-man show as Riddick survives alone on the planet. Dealing the being double crossed and surviving the variety of monsters. Once the bounty hunters arrive Riddick disappears for a bit, which could be a risky for a title character, but that’s when we’re introduced to the bounty hunters.

Molla’s looks like he’s enjoying himself while playing the foul-mouthed leader of the “hot heads” group Santana. While Nable’s character,being more of the good-bad guy, has more a personal mission against Riddick and hides most of his emotion. Sackhoff, surprisingly doesn’t have much to do here except act gruff which is kind of a shame. He does have her moments to shine but it’s a shame that the only real female in the cast doesn’t have much to do. Bautista’s henchman Diaz has some scene-stealing moments. All the other bounty hunters are really just there to be victims, which really shouldn’t surprise you.

All in all, Riddick going back to the R rating probably helped the movie. The movie has the action and for the most part is a one man show bringing back Riddick to the character we all fell for in Pitch Black. With the blend of sci-fi horror, action, and humor, it is a passable sequel to the series

 

Riddick

4 out of 5

My Thoughts on Ben Affleck playing Batman/Bruce Wayne (Video Style)

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Like I promised on the show on Friday (yeah I have a radio show on Friday’s at 12-2pm Central time. Link to listen is radio.morton.edu just like that OR you can go to Tunein and search Morton College Radio) I will start posting a few tidbits from the show. Starting this trend is my rant/vent of Ben Affleck playing Batman/Bruce Wayne.

I wrote something about this last week but I’ve added a few things. I also forgot to mention that Christopher Nolan (director of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises) was not accepted by fans either (will make more sense when you hear the video). Anyway I hope you like it and what do you think?