Insidious: Chapter 2 review

Insidious_Chapter_2_PosterIn film, few genres give me as much joy as horror.  Even the bad movies have this odd charm to them that makes them just a joy to watch.  They fail so hard at being scary that the resulting entertainment is just unintended glee.  When they succeed at tension building and suspense, though, there’s a whole new experience to be had.  “Entertainment” isn’t really the best word to describe a good horror movie because it’s more a roller coaster than a joy ride.  It’s a combination of physical responses and unrelenting dread.  A successful horror movie is an entirely different experience than any other film.  Sadly, successful horror movies are few and far between.  Thankfully James Wan and Leigh Whannell are around to breathe new life into the horror genre.

The two got their start with what birthed the most successful horror franchise of all time, Saw.  While not all the films in the series are winners, it’s undeniable that the first film helped to reshape an entire genre of film while providing one of the most ingenious plot twists of all time.  Since their little torture porn, the horror duo have worked on Dead Silence (while not the best horror film, a fun throwback to campy 80’s killer doll flicks that I still enjoy) and the more recent Insidious.

The first Insidious raised the bar for me in what to expect from a horror film.  The film relied on tension building in tandem with jump scares and completely forwent any gore – being released with only a PG-13 rating.  Something not terribly common in horror films.  Most horror films up to that point had been R-rated murder romps that featured an overabundance of jump scares and creative kills to draw in audiences.  Insidious delivered something different:  a truly terrifying experience.  It was smart, fast, fun, and intense.  This isn’t to say that it didn’t rely on jump scares, but it was able to have lasting moments of constant tension buildup beyond those loud music cues and closets flying open.  Insidious set a new standard for me and its sequel had a lot to live up to.

Insidious

I had high expectations for the film but, with James Wan having directed another 2013 horror film (the well-received The Conjuring which also starred Insidious’ Patrick Wilson), there was a bit of concern in whether or not this film would feel like the lovingly crafted sequel I wanted or a quick cash in to a super successful modern horror classic.  I’m pleased to say that Insidious met my expectations – even exceeded them at times.

insidious-philip-friedman1Insidious: Chapter 2 begins with a bit of back story highlighting story elements that are hinted at in the first film but never delved into.  Josh Lambert had some experiences with astral projection as a child and this back story is more fleshed out in this sequel and plays heavily into the history of both films.  It’s an excellent preface to the subsequent events and really helps to broaden the scope of the film.  After the title card, which is pulled from the first film and “Chapter 2” fades in behind it, we’re taken to an interrogation room.  Picking up almost immediately after the events of Insidious, Chapter 2 reminds us that there’s a dead medium in the Lambert house and Josh is more than likely the murderer – though with the complicated alibi of being stuck in The Further.

The next 100 minutes are filled with answers, more questions, and plenty of scares.  Insidious: Chapter 2 avoids playing it safe by messing with the foundation laid in the first film.  Everything that happened in the first film has some new meaning in the sequel and it’s crazy how well it works.  Repurposed footage is given new life in mindblowing sequences where you’re left thinking, “If this wasn’t planned in the first film, this is damn brilliant.”

Jump scares and exposition play a much bigger role in Chapter 2 than they did in the first.  We’ve already been introduced to the idea of astral projection and The Further, so this time around we’re looking to get some resolution following the cliffhanger finish of the first film.  There’s still that building tension and I had chills running down my arm more than a few times during the course of Chapter 2, but lore building and fast moving thrills are a big part of the experience, too.  It works, too.

The way Insidious ended could have been the end of it all and I would have been okay with it.  It felt like a wonderfully fitting close to a horror film.  With that, it’s nice to know that the events that followed Elise’s death don’t feel shoehorned in.  There’s actually a lot of interesting happenings and the foundation they’ve built for the lore is left vacant at the end of the experience for even more adventures – though maybe absent the Lambert family.

EliseThe film also brings back Specs and Tucker, favorites of mine in the first film, and it brings them to the forefront.  They’re great characters and breaths of fresh air amidst all the tension and jumps.  It’s not always easy to have a balance between horror and comedy in a film, and these characters show that a balance isn’t entirely necessary.  When you’re dealing with absurd and bizarre matters, absurd and bizarre characters can fit right in.  Let’s face it, even when you’re facing a haunted family surrounded by horrors of unspeakable nature, you’d be glad to have a couple of oafish nerds hanging around to make light of the situation.  It was nice to see them back for round two and they were as enjoyable as ever.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is more than a sequel.  It’s a film so tightly knit with its predecessor that it’s almost impossible to think of the two films standing on their own anymore.  With one, you cannot have the other.  This sequel serves as a prequel, and interquel, and a sequel with content so heavily embedded in the first movie that it’s more like the sequel influenced its predecessor than vice versa.  As a continuation of a saga, this film is damn near perfect.  If the ideas presented in Insidious and Chapter 2 do spawn another chapter, I sincerely hope it stays in the hands of the masters of modern horror James Wan and Leigh Whannell.

 

Insidious: Chapter 2:  4 out of 5

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Apologies for the lacking posts

I’ve been working some odd hours lately and haven’t had the time I’d like to dedicate to writing new posts.  It’s a lot of work keeping this blog up and I know I’m falling far behind with maintaining my other real-life obligations.  It’s disappointing that I can’t invest as much time in this as I would like, but it’s a necessary evil as a man’s gotta eat.

With that said, my whole having a hard time keeping up with blogs, I’d love to have help in maintaining PowerUp.  If you’re a film, gaming, comic, or technology enthusiast with a love of writing, I’d love to have you on board providing content.  If you’re interested, shoot me an email at atsbedgood@poweruponline.com.  Include in the body of the text a little bit about yourself, what your area of expertise is, and a writing sample.  Please, no attachments or images.  I’ll get back with you when I look over your stuff and let you know either way.

Thanks,

Andrew T.S. Bedgood

300: Rise of an Empire trailer

It’s still a long way out, but this trailer for the upcoming sequel to Zack Snyder’s adaptation of 300 is looking every bit as entertaining as the first film.  300: Rise of an Empire is coming to cinemas March 7th next year.

Prometheus 2 in the works

Prometheus

It’s not really a surprise that a sequel to Prometheus is in pre-production given that Prometheus was intended as the first installment of a trilogy.  Still, it’s nice to see that the story will continue.  Ridley Scott will be returning as director with the script being penned by Jack Paglen.  Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are expected to reprise their roles.

While I’ve seen and heard a lot of negative comments about the film, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to what’s coming next.  Most complaints I’ve heard were centered on all the loose ends and unanswered questions that Prometheus left viewers with; I didn’t really understand the validity of these complaints since Prometheus wasn’t intended as a one-off.  Hopefully unsatisfied viewers will find what they’re looking for with the upcoming sequel.

 

Source:  IGN

Video Games: The Movie offers insider views on videogame violence

For several years, videogames have been the subject of heated debates on whether they cause or influence people to perform criminal or violent acts.  Every time, it seems, that there is a tragedy, the finger pointing begins with the gaming industry often on the other end of those blame-casting fingers.  Now, it seems, veterans of the gaming industry are ready to take on these misconceptions in a film of their own:  Video Games: The Movie.

Featuring several high-profile developers, Video Games: The Movie will give viewers some solid information about violence and videogames and the effect it can have on people without rampant speculation and finger pointing.  It’ll be nice to see the people who put together the games we all enjoy defend the medium.

Video Games: The Movie is scheduled for release this September.

 

Source:  IGN

Grumpy Cat getting a movie

Because giving movies and shows to Fred and The Annoying Orange were terrific ideas, someone saw an opportunity to further cash in on some internet success.  It’s been confirmed that a movie based on the one and only Grumpy Cat is in the works; it’s said to be a Garfield-like feature.  It’s not really surprising given the cat’s popularity and the fact that movies based on other questionable sources of inspiration for films (like Angry Birds) are in the works.  No word on whether this will be live action or CG or whether or not the grumpy feline will be playing herself in the film.  But a film is in the works.  Be excited, I guess.

 

Source:  IGN

Super Mario Bros. Movie gets a webcomic sequel

It’s been twenty years since the critically panned and commercial bomb Super Mario Bros. hit cinemas, and it’s been twenty years since that cliffhanger ending has gone unresolved.  Now, after the film’s twentieth anniversary celebration, comes the exciting news that the story continues in a webcomic with a story by Parker Bennet, one of the writers responsible for the film.

While it might not have been the best movie ever, with many fans of the game complaining about, amongst other things, its radical departure from the source material.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve watched the movie but, as dumb as it is, I’ve always found some enjoyment out of it.  I’ll not defend it in any way, but I do like it when an adaptation takes creative liberties with a property because I usually don’t want to experience a rehash of something that already exists.  With that said, if you enjoyed the reptilian cyberpunk take on the Marioverse, check out the webcomic sequel.

 

Source:  Destructoid

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review

IntoDarknessBanner

A new Star Trek for a new audience may be the best way to describe this sequel to the 2009 alternate timeline reboot.  We’ve got the same characters, the same Starfleet, and the same (kinda) NCC-1701 USS Enterprise and, as a fan of the series, it’s great to see all of these on the big screen.  But, despite the familiarities, it’s apparent that this Trek is a new and exciting journey that is trying to sever the ties, while making clever references, and carve its own identity.

Being set some time after the first film, Into Darkness has characters settling into their more traditional roles.  Spock and Kirk aren’t at each other’s throats and it’s evident that Kirk has sincerely embraced his friendship with Spock.  It’s a nice change from the tense relationship between the two in the previous film and more in-line with the characters from The Original Series (TOS).  There’s witty banter between the two and the relationship between Spock and Uhura gets some worthwhile focus as well which leads to some well-done character interactions and hilarious dialogue between the Kirk, Spock, and Uhura.

The film’s primary plot has been the subject of speculation and rumors for some time with fans believing that Benedict Cumberbatch’s villainous character was Khan Noonien Singh from TOS’s “Space Seed” and the film The Wrath of Khan or Gary Mitchell from the season 1 TOS episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”  While it’s evident that there is a great deal of direct influence from TOS’s existing plots, Cumberbatch’s John Harrison is very much a product of this new Trek for a new audience.  Fans can sit back and pick out all the clever references and embrace this villain while new audiences are able to enjoy the struggles of the Enterprise and her crew against this fierce opponent unburdened by the necessity of having to know the series’ history.

Plot progression is done very well with location changes and new developments providing a wonderfully coherent but incredibly diverse experience.  The film forges its path like a composition of six mini-episodes where the climax is the penultimate episode leaving audiences with a “To Be Continued…” cliffhanger and the finale wrapping up the conflict, restoring order, and teasing what the next season holds for us.  Even with its distinct take on the property that often feels alien in the Star Trek universe, the film unfolds in the way you’d hope or expect a Star Trek film to and is the perfect model for what future entries in the series should strive for.

Characters differ from their TOS counterparts.  In some instances, this is understandable.  Shatner’s Kirk from the Star Trek of the past is brash and sometimes reckless, but in a responsible way.  He’s not going to forego protocol simply to forego protocol.  If he can find a way that won’t endanger his crew and disregard the Prime Directive, he’ll make the right call.  This isn’t to say that Shatner’s Kirk was the perfect model of a Starfleet commander, but he did still respect, to a certain extent, the rules even though he was willing to break them when necessary.

Chris Pine’s Kirk is much less refined.  He’s like a child given a set of responsibilities for which he is absolutely not ready.  He’s reckless with little or no thought about the consequences.  He doesn’t think of whether or not there is a better approach, he takes the quickest or the easiest one simply because he feels that the end will justify the means and that the success will outweigh the cost.  Given that this alternate timeline Kirk was given command of a ship in much less time than TOS’s Kirk and grew up without his father, it’s understandable that he’d be less mature or wise than Shatner’s rendition of the character.  However, it’s baffling that, after all of this, he managed to stay in command of the Enterprise during the events between Star Trek and Into Darkness.

Zachary Quinto’s Spock is excellent, in this reviewer’s humble opinion.  He nails the Vulcan demeanor and his delivery is mechanically organic.  At times I felt that his character lacks the human side that Spock Prime of TOS had with this Spock being almost too Vulcan at times, but that feeling is unfounded as Spock has some excellent dialogue that highlights his human nature and one incredibly powerful scene that brings forth the Spock I know and love.

The rest of the cast rounds out the experience nicely with Benedict Cumberbatch playing an excellent villain who is as brutal, powerful, and war-hungry as he is intelligent.  This isn’t just a villain who relies on brute strength, but cunning and an infallible strategy to ensure success.  Simon Pegg’s rendition of Scotty is also worthy of note as he fills the role perfectly.  This isn’t a surprise as I felt his performance was one of the best things of the 2009 film and it’s great to see him back aboard the Enterprise.

On its own, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a fantastic film.  It was everything I was hoping for from a sequel to the 2009 film.  It was, however, somewhat hollow.  The main emotional conflicts and the most rousing scenes are the ones that are modernized echoes of TOS.  For a film so heavily reliant on creating its own identity, it’s so heavily reliant on the premise of existing plots to succeed in the task it’s trying so hard to achieve.  It hurts the film, but not in such a way that you can’t sit back and enjoy the experience and love every second aboard the Enterprise.

The events from the first film, a Romulan (Nero) traveling back in time to kill James T. Kirk alters the course of the future and sets up a timeline drastically different from that of TOS.  While certain events from that film have had a huge impact on that fictional universe, a part of me was hoping that they would move this film franchise closer to merging with the original timeline, for some reason.  It’s apparent with Into Darkness that they’re content with straying far from making reparations to their fractured timeline while referencing the existing materials to keep the fans happy.  This isn’t a bad thing as it gives us fans some unexpected turns and ensures that the future isn’t predictable, but it’s still hard to not be protective of a property you’ve considered “yours” for years.  This modern take on the property has eschewed socio-political commentaries for high-adrenaline action featuring characters that fans are familiar with and non-fans can appreciate.  It’s nice to see the crew of the Enterprise back in action and the film is an absolute blast, but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed at times for the lack of traditional Trek feel.

Star Trek: Into Darkness:  4 out of 5