REVIEW: “SCREAM” (2022) Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

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Ring..Ring.. Ring..Ring.. Yes – someone still has a landline and yes, what would “SCREAM” be if they didn’t. I mean they have to follow some traditions and this one is a MUST to have as they can’t deny us, the audience this one major plot point now can they. Well thankfully co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett agree.

The plot is simple and while it’s good to it all keep vague to not spoil it, it’s also exactly what you think it will be with the exception of this time around they’ve brought along with them a new cast of characters. New girls Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), and her older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), as our female leads, essentially taking the spots of Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox), and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), they have the same chemistry of not really being close at the beginning. And then Ghostface returns to town proving he can still slash with the best of them, and turns everything upside down.

With her own set of suspects…errr… friends, Tara gets attacked by whomever Ghostface might actually be this time around and that list of new suspects is long. There is Sam’s boyfriend Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid), along with Tara’s group of school friends, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), the twins, Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy-Brown), Liv McKenzie (Sonia Ammar), and Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) – who is none other than Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) son. Combining this new cast along with our old favourites – Gale, Sidney and yes, the now “retired” Dewey Riley (David Arquette), makes this film an absolute blast, with a lot of crisp, smart, but alas also cliched writing, that combines the nostalgia of what has come before with the infusion of fresh talent present here. Now this is how you return to Woodsboro.

SCREAM is a fun, intelligent horror film and the fandom should be quite happy here with it as it draws some good laughs for how the writers nail every piece of the dialogue, along with the film’s ability to recognize not only where it came from, but to play with it along the way. You’re along for the jokes as an audience, while it juggles every one of your expectations when it comes to what is on the screen. And while of course it has cliché galore and some cheese is thrown in, but that is sorta what the DNA of the franchise is notorious for now isn’t it?! Truly, what would a ‘SCREAM’ movie be if your characters didn’t get slashed and still be able to get up and walk around like nothing has ever happened. And that’s also what brings the humour – the quick funny one liners about what people “should” be doing in a horror movie is what made the original well.. so original.

And while the new cast is good and pretty solid in their respective new roles with any one of them being able to be and/or suspected of at one time or another, of being Ghostface. Noting that they remind you of characters of old is to be expected as well, but it is Jenna Ortega who is truly amazing here. She brings the solid teen vibes making being stalked by Ghostface seem realistic. But for all that they bring, it’s hands down the old school cast that brings it hard here. Every one of them brings back not just the memories, but their characters are more solid at this point as well. One can’t help but be entertained by it all.

With tons of slasher kills, some are not for the faint of heart, as they try to outdo each other in this area and while fun, the finale seems almost like they were trying a bit too hard to come up with too many twists and turns that are fairly obvious. But again, it’s mostly just some fun with cliché thrown in adding to the good old time slash – all in all – it’s a ..SCREAM!

Grade: B+

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Review Screening: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment

“SCREAM” IS OUT IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 2022

REVIEW: “BOOKSMART” (2019) Annapurna Pictures

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Every decade comes with its own teen movies.  ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’, ‘Clueless’, ‘Superbad’ or any and all of John Hughes films can be par for the course of this genre.  Most are fun and years later you can give them a watch as a reminder of fun moments in life.

“BOOKSMART” might be another one that some will no doubt, add to their list.  Early word of mouth was mostly positive so going in early also and fully expecting to enjoy it, I was dismayed when the film was making “Funny, huh? Wasn’t that funny?!?” noises despite nothing particularly funny happening. Olivia Wilde gets points here though, for making a very colorful and energetic movie that might indeed convince a lot of people through sheer high spirits that it’s a great comedy. But instead it felt just strenuous to me, trying too hard to cover the fact that the funny, clever, witty material you found in all those John Hughes films, wasn’t actually there.

The premise is while some might find ridiculous, can actually happen. Two bookworm protagonists Molly (Beanie Feldstein) & Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), are horrified to discover that after all their sacrifices for the future, all the party-hearty types at their high school ALSO got into Ivy League schools. This would make sense if it took place in a wealthy community where everyone was a “legacy” student thanks for their family’s donations. But the movie makes a point of singling out two characters as the only “truly rich” ones here. Those two, Nick (Mason Gooding) & Gigi (Billie Lourd), like every character save the two lead girls, are complete “SNL”-style caricatures. What’s worse, they all also seem to be played by actors who are about a decade too old, once again apart from the two lead girls.  Add in the trying to be cool character Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis), who side-lines as a Uber driver role, the crazy girl Triple A (Molly Gordon), who actually is one of the few that brings along the laughs, the poor rich kid with no friends and has to buy them routine character Jared (Skyler Gisondo), and wrap it all up with the lonely oddball teacher Miss Fine (Jessica Williams), (who’s name can explain the entire character to you) that ends up at a school party and sleeps with the over-aged 19 yr old senior student Theo (Eduardo Franco) that really is just weird and oh-so-wrong!

Even so, the premise and the casting and everything might have worked if “Booksmart” were an outright farce. But it seems to be aiming to be sorta-kinda “real,” while the characters nonetheless behave like no teenagers past or present. Everything here is so over-amped and contrived for effect, yet the ingenious comedy situations and bright lines that approach might have served are nowhere to be found.

While it’s can be very lively and somewhat well-crafted movie, it nonetheless felt completely phony and unfunny for the most part.  It’s not boring, but I have no idea what people who like it are responding to, beyond the fact that its being lauded as the “‘Superbad’ for high school senior girls” which is probably good enough for many, though it should be aiming for more.  You could say it tries for a mix of “Superbad” and John Hughes, but those movies do a much better job turning recognizable teenage life into farce with some heart, and if Wilde intended something similar, on the whole she misses the mark.

‘A’ for effort, in the ‘C+’ average range for derivative/uninspired content and it’s no brilliantly put together film like last years brilliant ‘Eighth Grade’ .  It’s like a student paper with a very splashy cover but nothing original or thoughtful inside.

Grade: C+                                                                                                                                                      @pegsatthemovies

 

Review Screening: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Film group                  ‘BOOKSMART’ IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE//WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING