Tag Archives: **

Jason Bourne **|****

Matt Damon in Jason Bourne
Matt Damon in Jason Bourne

The summer of disappointing blockbusters plods along with this utterly unnecessary sequel that does very little to improve on the groundbreaking work of its predecessors. Jason Bourne is 9 years removed from The Bourne Ultimatum, the third film in what would have best remained a trilogy, and the time gap couldn’t be more evident in the final product here. When director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon chose to reunite for another Bourne film this late in the game, one could have only hoped that it was because they had something worthwhile still to say with this character but any seeds of a promising idea are obscured by clumsy execution.

The perfunctory plot brings back superspy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) as he once again tries to discover who he “really is”, this time by uncovering classified CIA documents with the help of computer hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). Their breach draws the attention of cyber ops director Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), who surveil and attempt to extract Bourne as he travels from Athens to Berlin to London. The pursuit comes to a head at a tech convention in Las Vegas, where social media mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) plans to unveil the new app Deep Dream that has been co-developed with the CIA for covert mass surveillance.

It should be the goal of any sequel to build upon the story that’s already been laid out in one way or another but this film feels like a regression in nearly every sense. It opens with the title character declaring “I remember everything” in voiceover and then we cut to grimy flashbacks from previous entries in the series, just in case the audience has a hard time remembering too. What’s problematic with this approach, beyond being painfully conventional, is that this introductory assertion is obviously false; if he really did remember “everything”, he wouldn’t have anything left to learn about his past and we wouldn’t have a new movie on our hands.

Even if you’re not interested in sophisticated storytelling and you just want to see some reliably rousing action sequences that rival those from the first three films, you’re still out of luck. Greengrass falls back on his trademark “shaky cam” cinematography and frantic editing to create scenes that feel more incoherent and less involving than they could have been with a better establishment of physical space. In the case of chase scenes and hand-to-hand combat in particular, how can we care about what characters want and where they’re going if we never get a good sense of where they are in the first place?

There’s not much care taken on the acting side of the equation either, although rising stars Vikander and Ahmed bring what they can to their limited roles. Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t even attempt to conceal his apathy for the material and Matt Damon turns in a borderline bad performance in his fourth outing as Bourne, giving further credence to the concept that this character has already been rung dry by this point. Jason Bourne is an action sequel so uninspired and forgettable that not even its title character would try hard to remember it.

Ghostbusters **|****

Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters
Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters

There’s been so much said and written about this Sony-backed remake prior to its release that’s it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. I should start by saying that Ghostbusters is not nearly as lame and unfunny as its first trailer (statistically the most “disliked” in YouTube’s history) would suggest. There are some worthwhile laughs here and there and the chemistry between the four female leads is often very strong but in a world congested with a seemingly endless barrage of soulless reboots and sequels, this movie ultimately doesn’t do enough on an action or comedy level to justify its own existence.

The film covers many of the same beats as the original but does divert a bit in its origin story, which finds physics professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) in search of tenure at Columbia University when an embarrassing book she co-write years ago about paranormal studies begins to resurface on Amazon. It turns out that her co-author and estranged friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) is the one responsible for its presence online and she, along with lab geek Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), have continued to study paranormal activity all these years. When malicious apparitions begin to pop up around the city, the three women team up with pseudo-historian Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) to put the ghosts back in their place.

Director Paul Feig has a specialty for female-led comedies, most recently with last year’s Spy and most successfully with 2011’s Bridesmaids, but he too frequently gets into a bad habit of letting the improvisational talents of actresses like Wiig and McCarthy run too far without being able to reel things in. Many of the exchanges here feel off-the-cuff and while there’s no doubt you can make a funny movie with plenty of improv in it, it’s nevertheless a very hit-or-miss proposition. This time around, the absence of prepared lines of dialogue is often replaced with tepid riffs that feel re-hashed from past characters in each actresses’ career.

It doesn’t help that Wiig and McCarthy get stuck with “straight man” roles that constrict their comedic prowess while Saturday Night Live players McKinnon and Jones steal the show with their more sharply written characters. McKinnon is my personal favorite among the four here, bringing a relentless goofiness and affability to the “mad professor” stereotype that usually made her presence the most magnetic in the frame. Even though Jones does have a couple moments that involve her screaming hysterically to obnoxious effect (one is covered in the aforementioned trailer), she’s oddly the most grounded and believable character in the ghost-hunting action scenes.

Chris Hemsworth also scores a few laughs as the team’s clueless assistant (a line of questioning about his dog names Michael Hat was hysterical) but his character is such a dimwit that he never becomes much more than the butt of jokes about his staggering lack of intelligence. For a movie that’s purported to be progressive in regards to gender politics, it has a disconcerting lack of development in its male characters that often places them on a broad spectrum of foolishness. It’s more likely that this disparity is the result of lazy writing rather than an “agenda” that was consciously conceived but either way, Ghostbusters remains a frivolous and largely lifeless enterprise.

X-Men: Apocalypse **|****

Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse
Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse

Just when 20th Century Fox seemed to be back on track with the humongous hit that was Deadpool, they take a sizable step back to mediocrity with the staggeringly paint-by-numbers affair that is X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s unthinkable that such an outstanding ensemble cast, including some of the most talented young actors around, should be pinned down with such clunky dialogue and middling special effects work. Throw in some scatterbrained storytelling with a world-class bore of a supervillain and you have a recipe for one of the more forgettable entries in the X-Men franchise (and yes, I include the Wolverine movies in that list).

In a Gods Of Egypt-esque opening, we are introduced to the all-powerful mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) as he is buried under an Egyptian pyramid thousands of years ago. After magical sunlight awakens him in 1983, he finds himself distraught with the current world order and seeks four mutants, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to help him regain the proper balance for a mutant hierarchy. It’s up to the X-Men team, led by Professor X (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), to save humanity as we know it and stop Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen from global decimation.

With a plot this rote, a compelling antagonist could have potentially salvaged things but even a great actor like Isaac just can’t bring any personality or liveliness to his monotonous character. Buried under modulated vocals and layers of makeup, he doesn’t get much of a fair shot to weave any kind of nuances into his performance and instead draws from the same bank of indignation and sullenness with each line reading. His character’s plan and overall motivation is murky throughout and despite his ability to do just about anything, he is oddly much less threatening than other villains that are comparatively more limited.

Elsewhere, it seems another paradox has developed wherein the more characters are introduced in the X-Men series, the more they all tend to become indistinguishable from one another. Outside of their varied superpowers, each mutant seems to be trending toward one unified emotional state of angst and brooding, even though there isn’t an especially good reason for that to be the case. It’s plausible that it’s the effect of similarly glum YA adaptions like the Hunger Games series, which wouldn’t be a stretch since Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is basically Katniss Everdeen in a different outfit when she gives a would-be empowering speech at this film’s conclusion.

It’s disappointing that director Bryan Singer, who led up three previous X-Men successes, just can’t seem to find the flavor and uniqueness to each of these characters beyond their main superpowers this time around. Some characters like Nightcrawler and Quicksilver (who has another humorous slow-motion scene that recalls the Days of Future Past sequence) break the mold sporadically but don’t get enough room to breathe with all of the existing clutter. X-Men: Apocalypse just has too many objects up in the air and unlike one of its hypothetical mutants, not enough arms to juggle them all successfully.

10 Cloverfield Lane **|****

John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane
John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane

When a teaser trailer was first released two months ago for a new JJ Abrams production, it was difficult to believe that such a promising movie could have been kept so thoroughly under the radar. Pitched as a “blood relative” and “spiritual successor” of the 2008 found footage monster movie Cloverfield, it was intentionally left unclear what this new film’s connection was to its “predecessor”. Now that 10 Cloverfield Lane has finally arrived, the relationship between the two still eludes me but what I can say with confidence is that I was ultimately let down by this entry in an apparently burgeoning franchise.

After surviving a severe car accident when driving through rural Louisiana, the newly engaged Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up chained to a pipe with a man named Howard (John Goodman) claiming to have saved her from the wreck. They, along with another man named Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), are in a doomsday bunker that Howard spent years building and his efforts seem to have paid off, as he also claims that a widespread attack has decimated the entire population of the world above. Fearing Howard’s questionable motives and deteriorating mental state, Michelle and Emmett plot to escape the bunker and discover the truth for themselves.

With any kind of mysterious setup for a psychological thriller like this, the payoff not only has to match the quality of the preceding story but it should ideally exceed it. To say that 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t stick the landing would be a vast understatement, as it veers wildly in a direction that feels incredibly tacked on and frankly betrays the mostly well-earned tension of its narrative. Rarely is a producer’s influence so obvious on a film but it’s not difficult to spot the exact moment when Abrams forcefully grabs the reins from first-time director Dan Trachtenberg and gleefully sneers “I’ll take it from here.”

Though I can’t say that I was fully on board with the film before that point anyway, at least there was reason to believe that things were headed in the right direction. The foundation of solid acting, particularly by Winstead and Goodman, and the slow-burning character moments build nicely on the initial disorientation of the situation that the main character finds herself in. The film’s most effective scene, likely to inspire bouts of nervous laughter throughout the theater, revolves around the surprising prompts in a quietly revealing game of Taboo that rides a perfect median between frightening and funny.

As a whole, though, the movie just didn’t work for me but I do sincerely hope that it finds an audience and that it’s rewarded handsomely at the box office. With a “modest” $15 million budget and a killer ad campaign behind it, this could prove to be an overwhelming surprise hit like Deadpool was last month. It’s important for Hollywood to learn that pays to invest wisely in smaller scale features rather than to throw $200 million at tent-pole movies that seem destined to under-perform. Even if the experiment of 10 Cloverfield Lane came up short in the end, I hope its production principles go on to inspire other like-minded projects in the future.

The Hateful Eight **|****

Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight
Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, appropriately titled The Hateful Eight, is the director’s most self-indulgent project yet and he’s not a man known particularly for his modesty to begin with. Presented to select theaters in 70mm projection complete with a roadshow program and a 12 minute Ennio Morricone-scored overture at its start (with an intermission halfway through), this is his attempt to bring the high art prestige of a classy theater play back into modern movie theaters. It’s a noble effort, one that generated plenty of buzz, so it’s a shame that the film at the center of it all is simply not worthy of the spectacle.

Set during a harsh winter in post-Civil War Wyoming, we’re introduced to bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his outlaw prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as they travel in stagecoach bound for Red Rock. Along the way, they also pick up former Union Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and former Confederate fighter Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims that he’s on his way to Red Rock to be sworn in as the town’s next sheriff. To stave off the impending blizzard, the four shack up at a secluded lodge but when they start to converse with the other four characters who reside there, suspicions about their motivations and identities begin to grow.

Due to its dedication to a single location and focus on solving a central mystery, the film has drawn comparisons to Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs but that film benefited greatly from a tighter structure and comparatively brisk pace. The intentionally slumberous pacing in the first hour of The Hateful Eight is meant to build up excitement for when Ruth and his passengers finally arrive at the lodge but it comes across more as a storyteller spinning his wheels while we wait for the movie to start. While the dialogue between Mannix and Warren is likely the sharpest in the film, it doesn’t come close to matching the poetry and poignancy of passages from films like Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction.

Unlike those movies, The Hateful Eight is severely lacking when it comes to compelling characters. Tarantino clearly went for the quantity over quality method here with eight loathsome characters who hardly possess any distinguishable traits beyond boorishness and sadistic self-interest. It’s possible to write an interesting story about eight “bad guys” sharing a room for the night but it’s an especially bad idea to paint their personalities in broad strokes and then ask us to care about anything that happens to them as individuals.

Most disappointing, however, is the depiction of violence in the film’s second half. This is an area that I’ve noticed Tarantino begin to slip since the conclusion of his last film Django Unchained. There used to be an artfulness and craft to his action sequences that now feels like it’s been superseded by laziness and sensationalism. A primary example is the extended flashback that comprises the film’s fifth chapter, which adds very little context to the main narrative and whose only purpose seems to be to raise the overall body count. Tarantino has always seemed steadfast on topping his previous effort but The Hateful Eight is a sign that it may be time for him to reign things in.

The Big Short **|****

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short
Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a number of notable films have been released with the intent of showcasing the collapse from varying perspectives. J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call depicted the final days of an unnamed Wall Street bank through the eyes of its financial analysts, while Curtis Hanson’s Too Big To Fail showed the meltdown through the US government officials and bank executives who were forced to come together to save the economy. Based on Michael Lewis’ 2010 bestseller, The Big Short focuses on a different group entirely: a select band of Wall Street “outsiders” who saw the credit bubble develop before anyone else did.

It starts with hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who notices a massive spike in subprime mortgage loans and decides that it would be profitable to effectively bet against the housing market through credit default swaps. This catches the attention of hotshot investor Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and after a misplaced phone call from his secretary, day trader Mark Baum (Steve Carell) runs with the idea as well. When Baum and his team dig deeper into how these overrated packaged loans were perpetrated, they uncover a staggering level of fraud that threatens to take down not only the US housing market but the entire world economy as well.

The primary reason that this film flounders comes down to one simple fact: director Adam McKay simply does not know how to handle this material. He has the unenviable task of having to explain macroeconomic theory and terminology while also attempting to get us invested in the motivations of a host of unlikable characters, all while adding a supposed layer of zany self-aware humor into the mix. McKay has proven in the past that he can make us laugh (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) but when he’s tasked to take a complex narrative like this and try to make it funny, he comes across as a woefully incompetent storyteller.

It doesn’t help matters that The Big Short has a surprisingly unpleasant look to it too. From scattershot editing to distracting camera zooms to baffling black-and-white freeze frames, there are off-putting visual choices in just about every scene. Other bizarre touches like the distracting, fake-looking hair on the main actors or the stock footage montages of pop cultural milestones (with the indulgent inclusion of McKay’s own short “The Landlord”) crop up without warning and don’t seem to do much but deter from the main story at hand.

For those interested in learning more about the factors that led to the 2008 financial crisis in a more straight-forward approach, I can’t recommend the 2010 documentary Inside Job highly enough. That film lays out many of the same concepts that are also explored here but does so in a way that values the intelligence of the viewer instead of relying on condescending cameos for clarification. The Big Short had a chance to put a humorous spin on sobering true events but the lack of vision behind it makes it a frustrating miscalculation.

Spectre **|****

Monica Bellucci and Daniel Craig in Spectre
Monica Bellucci and Daniel Craig in Spectre

Quality-wise, the Daniel Craig era of the James Bond franchise has been a fascinating game of tug-of-war for the past nine years. First we had Casino Royale, a fantastic revitalization of the Bond character that ranks among the very best films in the series. Then came Quantum of Solace, a befuddling and bombastic misfire that may be my least favorite Bond movie ever. Skyfall, which continued to build upon the winning themes of Casino Royale, opened four years later to overwhelming critical and financial success. Now we have Spectre, which is certainly not as poor as Quantum but nevertheless feels like a step backwards for Bond.

We begin in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead parade, where Bond is on unofficial assignment to take out two terrorists plotting to bomb a local football stadium. Upon traveling to Rome to attend the funereal of one of his victims, he also sneaks into a meeting for the shadowy organization SPECTRE, whose leader (played by Christoph Waltz) seems to have a close personal history with Bond. After a rendezvous in Austria to protect the daughter of a fellow assassin (played by Léa Seydoux), the two track down the organization’s covert headquarters and plan to shut down their nefarious plot to utilize mass surveillance for global domination.

What’s troubling about Spectre is just how hollow and obligatory the whole thing feels. There is evidence of some worthwhile ideas that were likely hatched early in the planning stages but instead of seeing these through, we’re instead given an almost insultingly rote series of action setpieces and dramatic “reveals”. On paper, this has all of the elements of a solid Bond movie but director Sam Mendes can’t seem to make things congeal the way that he did so effectively in Skyfall. Even the same screenwriting crew has been held over from that film (with the addition of one Jez Butterworth, whose name itself is too good not to mention) but it’s clear that something got lost in the mix.

Basic story elements like character motivation and relative realism remain stubbornly murky throughout most of the film but all of that seems to stem from the filmmakers’ modern conceptualization of Bond. It’s clear to me that they’ve lost their way in trying to figure out what this character is all about and more importantly, where they want him to go from here. He seems to be on “dark and brooding” auto-pilot since Quantum of Solace and this lack of depth in characterization is starting cast a dour shadow on the kinds of stories that can be written around him.

There are some worthy attempts at levity during this leaden story — a killer one-liner from Ralph Fiennes’ M in the third act being a highlight — but try as it might, this film will never have the kind of fun that the Mission Impossible series has been able to conjure up with its two most recent entries. Still, Bond has the opportunity to do what those films can’t do: to explore the psyche of a trained killer in a more serious and dramatically compelling way. That’s where Spectre should have had its focus but instead, it hedges its bets and leaves us with a mulligan of a movie.

The Tribe **|****

The Tribe
The Tribe
“This film is in sign language. There is no dialogue, subtitles, or voice-over.” The opening text of the new Ukrainian film The Tribe reads as more of an ominous word of warning than a friendly footnote. It also turns out to be completely accurate: not only are the ensuing two hours devoid of any spoken word but the only audio present in the film is diegetic, meaning that there is also no musical score (music of any kind, really) or sound effects. It’s a punishing conceit, one that made for one of the most challenging movie-going experiences that I’ve ever had.

My analysis of the plot is entirely conjecture but I feel confident enough to relay a few basic plot points. We meet a young man named Sergey (whose name I caught in the end credits) during his first day of admittance into a run down boarding school for the deaf. He is swiftly initiated into what seems to be a pervasive crime ring made up of young men and women in the area, who spend their time assaulting strangers and looting from nearby homes. Eventually Sergey’s loyalty to the organization is called into question when he falls in love with a girl who sees him as a ticket out from their mutual life of corruption.

Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s central thesis here is that film itself is a universal language and that by depriving the audience of characters that can speak openly, we are forced to desperately pick up any other visual cues in order to follow the narrative. Not only is that an exhausting proposition but it also presumes that the characters on-screen are compelling enough in their actions alone to warrant our attention. With no introduction, backstory or even names being offered, how much empathy can we really be expected to have for these kids?

It doesn’t even seem like Slaboshpytskiy has much concern for the characters or their disability either. With both the criminals and their victims being characterized as deaf, it’s hard to even read this as a metaphor for a power struggle between disadvantaged vs. advantaged parties. Devoid of context, their increasingly hostile behavior fails to justify itself and pushes the film’s already dark subject matter to intolerable bleakness.

All the more saddening is the cinematic skill that went into making such a dreary piece of work. The long takes helmed by cinematographer Valentyn Vasyanovych are frequently stunning in their composition and orchestration, while the acting from the cast of rookie actors is credible enough to carry an entire story that relies solely on their body language. It’s just not enough to make this depressing cinematic experiment much more than a sadistic curiosity.

Minions **|****


The new animated children’s movie Minions, a spinoff of the Despicable Me series, is the cinematic equivalent of a large bowl of Trix cereal: a colorful and sugar-filled offering that may have kids bouncing off the walls with excitement but will likely leave parents hungry for something more substantial. The antics of the small, yellow pill-shaped creatures work well in the confines of the previous films but when amplified to feature level, their charm begins to diminish considerably during the 90 minute runtime. It’s cute but seldom clever; innocuous but also not worthwhile enough to justify its existence.

The film’s high note comes during the opening montage, in which chipper voiceover narration introduces us to the Minions as creatures who have roamed the planet since the dawn of time in an attempt to serve the most maniacal evildoer that they can find. After candidates like the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Dracula meet their untimely ends, the Minion clan grows discouraged and exiles itself to Antarctica. After many years pass, one of the Minions named Kevin recruits other Minions Stuart and Bob to begin their search anew in 1960s New York.

For those unfamiliar, Minions do not speak English but rather Minionese, a made-up mishmash of a language that consists of silly sounding words from various languages (cucaracha, papaya, etc.) This is the crux of the movie’s humor, which can be good fun starting out (I still chuckle at their inflexions of “banana”) but following characters that essentially speak gibberish does present a very basic problem: none of their dialogue can advance the story. Instead, we have to rely on human characters to relay plot points very bluntly so that everyone can get on the same page.

This process creates an experience of being dragged through an already flimsy story that feels like bits and pieces left over from both of the Despicable Me movies. The directing comes off of purely arbitrary, as there’s never much of a good reason why anything is happening at any point in the movie. Jon Hamm and Sandra Bullock (both woefully miscast) try to bring some life to their villain characters but they clearly just don’t have enough material to work with here.

I get it: this is a kid’s movie and perhaps I shouldn’t have such high expectations. The fact is, any film genre can be done well and animated movies do not have to dumb themselves down this much to still appeal to their target audience. I understand that this movie has a slightly different demographic from something like Inside Out but it’s not terribly far off and that movie managed to be more poignant, memorable and much funnier than Minions. It may be impossible to deter kids from this franchise cash grab but it may not be too late to warn their parents.

Entourage/Spy/Insidious: Chapter 3

Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Dillon in Entourage
Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Dillon in Entourage

After a surprisingly successful eight season run on HBO, Entourage has finally hit the big screen for the first time. For the uninitiated, the series follows movie superstar Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his closest friends as they navigate through the ups and downs of a hyper-stylized, alternate version of Hollywood. In addition to the main players, the film also includes Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment as co-financiers for the newest Vinnie Chase vehicle titled Hyde, which he chooses to direct and star in. Beyond the production of his movie, Entourage also features various other subplots of little consequence and an overwhelming menagerie of underwhelming celebrity cameos.

I suspect director Doug Ellin’s intention was to make this feel like a “super-stuffed” version of a typical episode, which it does, but the results are largely disappointing. The show was a breezy and enjoyable enterprise in its first few years but it’s no secret that the quality dropped drastically in subsequent seasons. I had a difficult time overcoming the simple fact that these characters are getting too old and played out at this point to make a new outing with them feel fresh or fun. Those unfamiliar with the series may find enough new in Entourage to merit a watch but there’s not enough here to recommend for existing fans like myself.



Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law in Spy
Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law in Spy

Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig team up for a third time in the wildly uneven but often amusing espionage spoof Spy. McCarthy plays Susan Baker, a CIA analyst who is promoted from her desk job at Langley to become a full-time secret agent after a field mission goes wrong. Her primary target is Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and the rogue nuclear weapon that is in her possession, as she also receives help (perhaps “help” is more accurate) from another spy in the field (a hilariously self-aware Jason Statham). Together, they doggedly pursue Boyanov across Paris and Budapest as Baker proves to be more resourceful than expected by her colleagues.

It’s clear that McCarthy is giving it her all here and she does a great job of selling the movie’s funniest moments. My biggest obstacle was that her character became very muddled for me as the movie progressed. She’s characterized very well in the opening scene with Jude Law but this foundation seems to be forgotten around the halfway point when it turns into a contest of improv one-liners and insult humor. It still works on a certain level but it’s not as effective as it could have been if McCarthy had played a consistent character throughout. Factor in some ridiculously dubious action sequences, particularly one involving auto-pilot on a private jet, and Spy unfortunately comes up just short of hitting the mark.



Lin Shaye in Insidious: Chapter 3
Lin Shaye in Insidious: Chapter 3

Actor/director Leigh Whannell takes over the Insidious franchise with Chapter 3, which actually serves as a prequel to the original Insidious film. Newcomer Stefanie Scott stars as Quinn, a teenager who recently lost her mother to cancer and reaches out to a psychic named Elise (Lin Shaye) in an attempt to reconnect. After her meeting, she begins to see visions of a decrepit man waving at her, one such occurrence leading to her to be accidentally run over by a car in the middle of the street. With both of her legs broken, Quinn’s hallucinations grow more severe as she discovers that the man seems to be a demon that has somehow attached itself to her.

While this initially seems to be a new approach for this series, everything that follows is remarkably similar to events seen in the previous two movies, though not done with as much enthusiasm or creativity. The “Further” sequences here are particularly derivative, offering little to no scares in what should be the climax of the film. Of course, horror movies like this live or die on jump-scare factor and Whannell does his best to subvert expectations even within the rigid guidelines of the genre. Despite his efforts, Chapter 3 doesn’t offer enough new material for even die-hard fans to get excited about.