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The Post

Insidious: The Last Key

January 11, 2018

The Post (***) PG-13

Steven Spielberg’s The Post is a solid, though not exceptional, retelling of the events leading up to the 1971 publishing of The Pentagon Papers, brought to prominence by notorious whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg. The focus here is on The Washington Post and their decision as to whether they should follow the story or not. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, its best described as a conundrum of whether to publish or not to publish.  

The film’s setting in the offices of The Washington Post is interesting in that it allows The Post to become almost a prequel of sorts to the much superior film from forty one years ago, All the President’s Men. This was the catalyst that would eventually lead to the Nixon administration’s decision to hire a crack team to break into the Watergate hotel, eventually toppling that presidency.  The Pentagon Papers would have lasting reverberations, the likes of which are still being felt today.

The central players here are Kathryn Graham (Meryl Streep) and Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). Graham has recently been installed as publisher and is feeling the burdens that come along with the job. Bradlee is the controlled editor who keeps a tight leash on his reporters and a close eye on his competitor, The New York Times. When he comes across information that the rival paper is going forth with the Pentagon Paper story it weighs mightily on him as to whether his own paper should do the same. Graham, of course, has her own problems as she weighs the multiple ramifications that go along with publishing such a potentially incendiary story such as the one at hand.

Hanks & Streep in The Post

There are several problems with the film. The first and most obvious one is that Spielberg and company can’t seem to decide on which story they’re going to tell. The two basic threads here are, chiefly, Kathryn Graham’s personal story and additionally, a look at the legal/moral/ethical ramifications that publishing a story like this might have on our society. These two halves never seem to coalesce and appear to be at odds with one another through most of the film, which gives The Post something of an identity crisis.

The secondary problem with the film is Spielberg’s tendency to want to go big with scenes that require more nuance and would be more effectively executed in a smaller manner. The direction is sure footed and, along with the superb technical contributions from all involved and the first rate acting, there’s a lot to admire. I just wish that The Post didn’t suffer from the inevitable comparison to that aforementioned film from the mid 70s which covers similar ground. Perhaps that something that couldn’t be avoided but it doesn’t do The Post any favors.

Insidious: The Last Key (**) PG-13

When the original Insidious was released nearly seven years ago I was giddy with delight. It was the kind of horror film I had been waiting for although I wouldn’t have guessed that prior to the experience of seeing it. It was full of disturbing imagery of the variety that lingers long after the film was over. Furthermore, the scares in the film were not scattered conservatively throughout its running time. The filmmakers began doling them out right away and never really let up until it was over and done. It may not have been award worthy but the original Insidious was a good time to be had at the movies.

And then the sequels came along, each one watering down what good memories I had of the original Insidious experience.

Which brings me to the latest in what has become a certified film franchise. It’s also become quite a profitable one at that. Frankly, I will admit that this was something I didn’t see coming and was actually quite surprised when the first sequel appeared, never dreaming that there would be four films and counting only a few years after the initial entry was unleashed upon the world.

Lin Shaye, left, in Insidious: The Last Key

The latest Insidious film is probably not the worst of the series but that’s not saying much since the last two were pretty rancid. The only good thing that can really be said about the latest entry is that it gives us a seventy plus year old female as its protagonist. Now that’s something you don’t see every day in a time when ageism is rarely, if ever, addressed in societal circles. Unfortunately, that’s about as close as this film comes to breaking new ground.

Elise, the paranormal investigator seen in theses films, is the character to which I’m referring. She’s played once again by veteran actress Lin Shaye, who was better known for her work in comedies made by the Farrelly brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin) before the Insidious franchise sent her career spinning in another direction. Here she continues her journey into the ‘further’ when she called upon to investigate a haunting in the home she resided in as a child.

Elise and her two assistants, Specs and Tucker, head out to the home where she attempts to get to the bottom of things, while also dealing with her own personal demons lingering from her childhood. There are flashbacks to the time when Elise was coming of age that really don’t offer much that you haven’t seen before, and this offers an excuse to introduce Elise’s estranged brother, Christian (Bruce Davison) into the proceedings.

The biggest problem with Insidious: The Last Key is that it just isn’t scary enough. When the tally of scares is less than a dozen at the seventy-five minute mark then you know you’re in trouble. The PG-13 rating certainly doesn’t help matters either. Lackluster is the word that comes to mind.

AMC Hickory’s website shows The Post and Insidious: The Last Key playing as of January 12.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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