Thursday, June 11, 2015
Rapid Reviews: Love & Mercy and Insidious: Chapter 3
The Beach Boys have been a lifelong favorite of mine ever since I was a child singing along to "Kokomo" from their 1989 Still Cruisin' album. The band's song-writing visionary, Brian Wilson, is a master of orchestral arrangements and vocal harmonies who's repeatedly proclaimed that his brilliant ideas spawn from the music he hears in his head. Needless to say, Wilson's admitted history of audio-hallucinations and multi-year recluse lifestyle in the 1970s landed him on the doorstep of radical therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy, which sets the table for Bill Pohlad's newly released musical biography, Love & Mercy.
As a non-chronological examination of the songwriting icon, Brian Wilson (played by Paul Dano and John Cusack), Love & Mercy tackles one of the most bizarre real-life stories of manipulation. Wilson pushes musical boundaries when he produces Pet Sounds, what would become one of the greatest rock albums ever written, but the repercussions of his psychedelic drug use cripples his psyche and makes him extremely vulnerable. Years later, his most trusted confidant, Dr. Landy (Paul Giamatti), has brainwashed Wilson and taken complete control over every aspect of the musician's life. All until Brian meets a spirited woman, Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), who discovers Landy's unnatural stranglehold and tries desperately to open Brian's eyes to this unsettling reality.
Love & Mercy is a surprisingly artistic biopic that jumps back and forth between the rise of Wilson's creative emergence and his over-medicated, prison-like lifestyle during the 1980s. Despite the film's erratic maneuvering between timelines that never feels as fluid as it should, engrossing performances from both Paul Dano and John Cusack keep the audience entangled in this peculiar true story. Fans of The Beach Boys, and more particularly Pet Sounds, will find themselves completely enamored by the film's 1960s storyline, even though John Cusack's portion of the feature feels barren and incomplete. Perhaps the most interesting story lies somewhere in between these over a decade-spread chunks of Wilson's life. Either way, Love & Mercy is an unevenly paced, yet still still effective, piece of dramatic filmmaking.
Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Horror guru James Wan, director of Saw and The Conjuring, introduced us to the franchise's origin, Insidious, back in 2010. A handful of years and two films later, Wan has jumped ship while the original creator, writer Leigh Whannell, has taken a seat in the director's chair. And how did Whannell expect to re-brand this horror franchise? The new visionary takes audiences back to where it all began with the prequel, Insidious: Chapter 3.
Before the Lambert family was even in the picture, gifted paranormal psychic, Elise Rainier (played by Lin Shaye), is visited by a high school teenager named Quinn (Stefanie Scott) who recently lost her mother to cancer. Together they call out to the dead only to discover a dangerous spirit attempting to attach itself to the young girl. Despite Elise's most emphatic demands to put an end to trying to contact her mother, Quinn finds herself in the clutches of an evil demon.
As someone who was outspokenly against the original Insidious, I decided to give the franchise another shot at redemption. Unfortunately, we're given more of the same. While Chapter 3 plays very well during its more intense moments and offers a strong collection of solid scares, every aspect of the film that takes place in between these frightful scenes is absolute garbage. Venturing deeper into "The Further" does nothing but weaken the effectiveness of the story and culminates into a laughable finale. Co-star Dermot Mulroney can't be taken seriously in any role and moviegoers need to start avoiding this unflattering horror franchise all together.
Stars: 1 and a half stars out of 4