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Review: The Draining Charm of ‘Insidious: The Last Key’

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When I last left Insidious with its third chapter, I noted how this horror series finally found its groove in Lin Shaye playing a kick-butt psychic Elise with her lovable ghost-hunting duo of Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell) in tow. But The Last Key seems to settle in almost too comfortable with its characters. For a story that details more of Elise’s past, it feels strangely casual with its dark origins, accented with the cute comradery of the paranormal-investigating trio. Don’t get me wrong; I still love this collection of characters, but something so personal as this felt like it should have been more than, as Elise describes her work, another day at the office.

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fun chemistry between Shaye, Sampson, and Whannell. Few horror films that go for the easy jumpscares and messy logic of investigating ghosts rarely give us such a likable group. Their antics are amusing with Shaye’s motherly leadership, Sampson’s big-lug nature, and Spec’s awkwardly chipper way of trying to wedge into the conversation. Even though they’re working with a script that’s requiring their charisma to be stretched as far as it can go, they become such a lovable pack that they could have their own series. This is why it’s a bit disheartening that this film feels like the sputtering end to their journey.

insidious the final keyTheir latest case involves the house where Elise grew up. The newest owner has been experiencing some hauntings in the house and is in need of some help. Elise is reluctant at first but realizes she can’t run from the past, only barrel towards it with Tucker and Specs in their new ghost-hunting RV. She arrives to discover the house is still housing a ghastly monster that brandishes keys on its fingertips, using each one to lock out a sense of your soul. It’s a pretty creepy creature in design, but, as with everything in The Last Key, feels underutilized for all its terror. The most frightening things you’ll see him do is shove keys in your flesh and smack you across a room. Paranormal demons apparently have wicked backhands.

The enjoyment of the story depends on how accepting you can be of the multitude of twists and revelations thrown at the screen. The more Elise delves into her past, the more crazy stuff she discovers. She grew up believing her powers made her mad, but maybe she wasn’t all that crazy. She thought she was the only one, but perhaps there is another. The current occupant of the house is a drunk, but maybe he’s more. The movie continues to spin these crazy surprises around every turn, just in case the many jump scares don’t make your eyes wide.

It’s sad that a film series such as this resorts to an onslaught of crazy plot additions without bothering to explore much of what it already has. There’s heaps of wasted potential that mounts almost as high as the twists. Elise grew up in a house close to a prison where the flickering electricity meant a death row inmate had passed on. She mentions some spirits, but we rarely see them. Sure, there’s a prison motif in The Further, the paranormal realm that Elise has the power to travel within, but it never showcases much past the smoke and cages. There’s a lot to unpack that nearly all the dialogue is reduced to simple exposition, robbing the film of its more remarkable moments where Elise reconnects with her brother and Tucker and Specs hopelessly try to woo two sisters they meet in town.

For as much as I smiled at the laughs brought on by the talented cast and the creative creepiness with Elise’s haunted house of her youth, I fear the Insidious films have reached their end for enjoyment unceremoniously. There are bursts of brilliance here and there, as when the audio crackles so we can hear Tucker’s fancy ghost microphone, but they’re few and far between in a story that could use more character and less gimmicks. The previous film left me hopeful the future of the franchise, but not this time. It’s such a shame considering the franchise had built up such a strong ensemble and can’t find them a robust script fitting of their characters. They deserve more than the standard rollercoaster horror vehicle that has run out of steam for them. Maybe an Insidious series isn’t such a bad idea after all. I’ll bet series writers could find more to do with that ghost-hunting RV then use it as a mere conveyance.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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