Editor’s Notes: Insidious: Chapter 3, Road Hard, and My Own Private Idaho are out on their respective formats October 8th.
Insidious: Chapter 3
Insidious: Chapter 3 (Sony Home Entertainment) is a prequel that takes place before the haunting of the Lambert family. Paranormal investigators Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell) team up with the psychic Elise (Lin Shaye) to help Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a teenage girl who believes that her late mother is trying to make contact. Initially, Elise’s horrific past makes her reluctant to use her ability, but when Quinn’s desperate father begs for assistance, she agrees to venture into the astral plane known as The Further. There, she finds a ruthless supernatural entity with a voracious craving for the souls of the living.
Screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who created the Saw franchise with director James Wan, makes his own directorial debut with this third installment of the Insidious franchise. To qualify for a PG-13 rating, the movie isn’t especially scary, and much of it is predictable. There are nice touches, such as unexpected sounds, grasping hands, grotesque faces emerging from the darkness, and oily footprints, but they don’t result in any big scares. We’ve seen similar bits in many other horror films. Suspense is seriously muted because we know where the story is heading. The climactic sequence with the creepy Breathing Man is far superior to the rest of the picture, which unfolds tepid scenes at a sluggish pace.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes and the featurettes “Origin Story: Making Chapter 3,” “Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks,” ”Stunts: The Car Crash,” and “Macabre Creations.” A digital HD copy is included.
Road Hard (Anchor Bay), written, directed by, and starring Adam Carolla, concerns a down-at-heels stand-up comic. Facing 50, with his movie and television career run dry, Bruce Madsen (Carolla) is forced back on the road to pay his bills.
Once famous for a TV program called The Bro Show, Bruce has foundered in B movies and has-been celebrity reality shows while his co-host on the show, Jack (Jay Mohr), has gone on to a successful late night TV show. Now Bruce plays to spotty audiences in one dingy comedy club after another in places like Omaha and Winnipeg, spending endless nights in budget hotel rooms and always flying coach. Attempting to revitalize his career, rekindle his dormant love life, and put his daughter through college, Bruce knows he has to get off the road. He begs his often hard-to-reach agent (Larry Miller) to find him something lucrative enough so he can stay put in Los Angeles.
Oddly, the standup routines we see are a major problem. Various characters in the film comment on how funny Bruce is, but what we see isn’t exactly sparkling wit and the material is overly familiar. The film works best as a behind-the-scenes look at how tough comedy can be.
Made on a small budget, Road Hard is an entertaining satire about low- echelon show biz performers. There’s little glamor, lots of traveling, unpredictable income, and no shortage of competition. Carolla hosted a couple of Comedy Central shows, The Man Show and Crank Yankers, and much of Road Hard is semi-autobiographical.
There are no bonus features on the Blu-ray release.
My Own Private Idaho
My Own Private Idaho (The Criterion Collection) is Gus Van Sant’s tale of two young street hustlers: Mike Waters (River Phoenix), a sensitive narcoleptic who dreams of the mother who abandoned him, and Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), the wayward son of the mayor of Portland, Oregon and the object of Mike’s desire. Scott has taken to hanging out with the street boys, his mentor the self-dramatizing Bob (William Richert), with a British accent and cape. As they navigate a volatile world of junkies, thieves, and johns, Mike takes Scott on a quest along the gritty streets and highways of the Pacific Northwest in search of an elusive place called home.
For those who know their Shakespeare, similarities between this film and “Henry IV, Part I: will be apparent, but it’s the exploration of the tender, twisted relationship between Scott and a far more vulnerable kid named Mike that resonates. Mike is one of life’s misfits — the result of a broken, incoherent upbringing in Idaho. At key moments, he simply collapses into a languorous dream state. Scott is not really a homosexual; he’s testing himself at the furthest limits of degradation, rebelling against his affluent background in order to enrage his father. Mike is just seeking warmth and shelter, but falls in love with Scott, who cannot truly return his love. The road picture takes the boys from Oregon to Idaho and then to Italy, as each one restlessly longs for his notion of “home.”
Director Van Sant uses hallucinatory dream sequences, dark humor, cinema verite confessions with male hustlers, artful sexual posing, and impressionistic effects to emphasize the troubled state of Mike’s mind. The film showcases both actors in a way they had never been seen on screen before. Even though the characters are complex and not typically heroic, both Phoenix and Reeves infuse them with humanity and pathos. Phoenix, in particular, is simply amazing.
Bonus extras on the newly restored Blu-ray edition include a 2005 audio conversation between Van Sant and filmmaker Todd Haynes; the 2005 documentary The Making of ‘My Own Private Idaho;’ deleted scenes; “Kings of the Road,” a 2005 interview with film scholar Paul Arthur on Van Sant’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” and Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight;” reprinted interviews with Van Sant, River Phoenix, and Keanu Reeves; and a booklet containing critical essays.