Tag Archives: Max Minghella

Or Did the Case Solve Us?


by Hope Madden

It’s been five years since we’ve had a new episode in the Saw series.

I know! You thought it was longer, right? That’s because the last iteration, 2017’s Jigsaw, was so lackluster and forgettable that you forgot it.

Well, what if they go in a new direction? (Not really, but at least there are name actors.)

What if they bring in filmmakers from the series heyday? Not James Wan and Leigh Whannell. I mean, they have bigger fish to fry. But Darren Lynn Bousman, the guy who directed Saws 2, 3 & 4, is on board. Along with the scribes who penned Jigsaw, Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger.

To summarize, the guys who wrote the worst episode in the Saw franchise have returned with a middling director to take a borderline novel direction for the 9th chapter.

But Chris Rock!

He’s not enough. Neither is Samuel L. Jackson.

We open, as we must, on the first victim. We wander with him into what he doesn’t realize—although we surely do, unless you are very new to this franchise—is a trap, and one that will not end well.

So far so good, to be honest. If this is the kind of horror you enjoy and you aren’t sick beyond words of it just yet, the opening gag is serviceable.

Then we cut to Det. Zeke Banks (Rock), undercover and getting off a couple funny lines concerning the Forrest Gump universe. Nice. But don’t get comfortable because within minutes we’re dropped into Zeke’s precinct, where the coppiest of all the cops vie for most obviously borrowed cop cliché.

Undercover without backup?! You’re off the rails!

Do not team me with a rookie. You know I work alone!

You’re too close!

And so many more sentences articulated with need of an exclamation point. Zeke is, indeed, teamed with a rookie (Max Minghella), the only cop in the precinct who doesn’t hate him for what he did years ago…

Sam Jackson’s kind of fun, though. And it’s hard not to hope that the excruciating opening act exposition and cop grandstanding is all a way to quickly build the world in which these cleverly planned, torturous games are played.

It is not. It is the whole movie. And it isn’t clever, it isn’t fun, it isn’t gory, it isn’t scary.

It isn’t necessary.

Is That What I Smell?

Teen Spirit

by Hope Madden

Three years ago, Elle Fanning starred in The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn’s take on the soul devouring business of show. She played an innocent hoping her natural talent would be enough to carry her far away from her one-horse town.

It’s a threadbare storyline and Refn couldn’t find the same inspiration that drove his earlier efforts Drive and Bronson to such dizzying heights. And yet, for its faults, The Neon Demon is a bold, imaginative and bracingly fresh take on a familiar song.

Writer/director Max Minghella is no Nicolas Winding Refn.

Minghella’s Teen Spirit sees Fanning as Violent, raw singing talent wasting away on the Isle of Wight. When an American Idol-style singing competition hosts auditions on the island, Violet sees her opportunity.

Awash in daddy issues, blatantly judgmental of showmanship (God forbid a girl wear makeup or wigs) and too dependent on Fanning’s mediocre voice, Minghella’s look at the dark side of the entertainment industry can’t find its groove.

Teen Spirit is not a complete misstep. Fanning’s acting is characteristically spot on. Rather than casting Violet as the bashful townie, Fanning presents a sullen, unlikeable character whose aloneness has as much to do with her own adolescent misanthropy as anything.

Equally appealing in his unappealing way is Zlatko Buric playing Vlad, the unsightly mess of a drunk that an underaged Violet drafts into posing as her guardian so she can audition.

The crusty sympathy the two form creates a welcome change to the ordinary—which is what the rest of Teen Spirit bathes in. Catty divas, soulless and posh record execs, temptation, disloyalty, pop songs—all of it’s here in some neutered form or other.

Teen Spirit not only plays like a toothless version of Neon Demon, it also bears an eerie resemblance to Leap, the 2016 animated adventure in which Fanning plays an orphan who longs to dance in the Paris ballet.

She’s also an alien turned punk rocker—with far more interesting performance sequences—in John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties from 2016.

No wonder Teen Spirit feels so derivative. You haven’t just seen this movie before, you’ve seen Elle Fanning in this movie before.