Tag Archives: Halsey

The Eyes of Maxine Minx


by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Mia Goth and Ti West had both existed successfully separately in moviedom for years, West having become an indie horror filmmaking darling with his third feature, 2009’s The House of the Devil. Goth’s unique beauty and malleable ennui made her a showstopper as early as her 2013 feature debut, Nymphomaniac: Vol. II.

But, appropriately enough, it was with their collaboration that they both became stars.

Their 2022 feature X delivered a magnificent mashup of Boogie Nights and A Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a late Seventies grindhouse ode with style for miles. Easily the best film of West’s career, it was followed quickly with a prequel, the absolute lunatic genius of 2023’s Pearl.

If X articulated just how much skill West brought to a feature, Pearl declared Goth a talent to be reckoned with. She deserved an Oscar nomination. She was breathtaking.

And so, obviously, horror fans have been giddy since the trailer for the third film in the trilogy, Maxxxine, dropped. We circle back to Goth’s X character some years since the incident in Texas. A popular porn star, Maxine Minx is about to make the leap to legit films with a starring turn in a horror sequel.

The popularity of West’s series means a boost in both budget and cast. Elizabeth Debicki, Kevin Bacon, Giancarlo Esposito, Halsey, Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale class up the ensemble this go-round in a film that feels more apiece with late 70s/early 80s urban thrillers a la Eyes Of Laura Mars.

As warnings about California’s “Night Stalker” plead with women to be careful, Maxine asserts her ability to take care of herself, even as it becomes clear that she is being stalked. Maxine’s director (Debicki) warns her to eliminate the distractions in life, and Maxine makes a promise to do just that.

Okay, then, here we go!

But though blood does flow around West’s pastiche of 80s pop and fashion, nothing here pops like the uniquely stylized timestamps that helped make the first two horrors so memorable. Much of the film begins to feel like a series of setups in search of that elusive, satisfying payoff.

There’s no doubt Goth still commands attention, but West’s foray into the 80s seems less edgy, less ambitious, and just less horrific. The comments on fame and excess become broadly generic, and somehow Maxine herself becomes a little less interesting.

On its own, the film fits nicely into the role of a competent urban thriller. But when cast as the final piece of a potentially iconic horror trilogy, MaXXXine ends up limping to the finish.

Rated R for gratuitous use of shoulder pads.

Hearing Voices

Sing 2

by Hope Madden

Are you ever absolutely slain by the voice talent in a cartoon? I find this especially true of a middling animation like Sing, or more to the point, writer/director Garth Jennings’s sequel, Sing 2.

Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Edgerton, Bono, Nick Kroll, Bobby Cannavale, Pharrell Williams, Halsey, Letitia Wright, Eric Andre and Chelsea Paretti round out the set of vocal stylists bringing this animated animal talent show to the big screen. Was there any budget left for animators?

Well, sure. This is an Illumination animation—the good people behind the Minions and all that—and its visual style is bright, colorful and well suited to the animal antics afoot.

What antics, you ask? Well, big dreamer Buster Moon (a koala voiced by McConaughey) wants to take his enormously popular smalltown song and dance troupe to the big time! But are they ready? Will the man in charge of their destiny (a nasty wolf named Jimmy Crystal voiced by Cannavale) choose to murder Buster? And can they find the famous singer Clay Calloway (Bono) in time for the big show?

Who’s to say? What they won’t do is sing originals. Unlike your typical Disney musical, Sing 2 puts recognizable pop songs into characters’ mouths, so it plays a bit like one of those TV talent shows, except less annoying.

Halsey is memorable as spoiled Porsha, and Jennings himself shines voicing the character of theater assistant Miss Crawly.

Still, there’s not a lot new to see here—I think we’re all familiar with “the show must go on” stories. There’s even less new to hear. Characters are likable enough (aside from that wolf), and very solid lessons are learned and themes encouraged.

Plus, some fun song choices keep scenes lively and it is very hard to go wrong with this talent pool.

Not one memorable thing happens. Not one. But Sing 2 is light-hearted, good-natured fun while it lasts.