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: “In The Heights” (2021) Warner Bros.

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We all go to the movies for various reasons. Some love the fear and horror, some love thrillers or animation, and then there is the sheer joy of seeing a movie that just makes you smile and want to dance and “IN THE HEIGHTS” is that movie. With it’s joyful incredible large-scaled choreographed dancing and singing, Heights is a cinematic treat for your eyes and ears as well. There has never been a more perfect time to release this film until now in the Summer! baby! Summer! On the serious side, this is an important film for all and it is what we all need as well in our lives, a bit of music, dance, joy and a story about life and a dream.

Starting us off in the way up the A train line in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights lives twenty-something Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a dreamer whose pursuit of that dream is to go beyond the corner bodega store he owns and works at, and head back to the Dominican Republic to re-open the bar his dad once owned. The barrio portrayed here is chock full of colorful characters from all parts of life and the world. Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the always-wise, all-knowing, grandmotherly figure of the barrio; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), is a young, beautiful, vibrant and optimistic woman with a strong desire to become a fashion designer, along with nail salon owner and queen of neighborhood gossip circle Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Lastly is Usnavi’s younger cousin Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV), who has ambitions beyond his somewhat slacker style as behind it all, is a quick, highly intelligent young man. And of course there is Benny (Corey Hawkins), best friend to Usnavi, and dispatcher at the local neighborhood service run by the neighborhood’s oldest business owner, Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits). Benny meanwhile is thinking he might be promoted and is working towards opening his own business as well. Returning home on that one hot, sweltering July morning is Nina (Leslie Grace), who’s dropped out of Stanford despite the neighborhood’s awe of her being the only one to get away. Her father has been finagling the finances at the cab company to keep Nina at the college, though there are deeper underlying issues that soon surface.

The adaptation, as one would assume, had to alter from the stage production but that job is done by none other than Quiara Alegria Hudes, who penned the musical’s book. Three-time Emmy nominee Christopher Scott really brings the musical numbers to life through such exquisite choreography that you can get lost in. At one point realizing just the enormity of this production and how many people are involved in some of the larger dance scenes left me in awe. In the director’s chair is Jon M. Chu, and his skills shine in this enchanting tale of unity, community and following your dreams, wherever and however they might end up. The music supervisor here is none other than Steve Gizicki, an old personal friend of some 20+ years and he does a fantastic job here.

It’s the little things of ‘In The Heights’ as well. If you’ve ever had a true neighborhood Abuelas’ food then you understand how here, you can almost smell and taste her cooking straight from the film. Or the dancing ~ you feel as though you are there doing the cha cha salsa dancing with them, and trust me, it is no easy feat to dance like that, most especially the ladies part. And if you didn’t feel right at home in the nail salon, well then you my friends, are going to the wrong nail salon. While one or two musical numbers might have stretched and went a bit too long, and it’s also possible the second act feels like it drags a bit here and there in comparison to the first and third acts, these things are minor nit picking as all in all, it’s just truly a very entertaining watch. Lengthy as it is, it’s truly a 2 hour 24 minutes love story. But not just a love story in the traditional sense, but a love story about a city, a place, a time and about it’s people. The senses of it all you can taste, feel and smell – all through the music and dance.

The acting and dancing is out of this world, though I did NOT know Jimmy Smits was a singer! While everyone is shooing Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera and Gregory Diaz IV as the new faces to follow, to put Anthony Ramos as being in that category as well is just a bit on the incorrect side, as he has been putting in the good work since Monsters and Men in 2018, and can we say A Star Is Born co-star anyone? But enough with the young stars as they have wonderful careers ahead of them and were all sensational here. But a standout here that many seem to overlook is our Abuela herself, Olga Merediz, as she is simply wonderful here in her supporting role and I truly hope she is not forgotten about during supporting nomination time, just because she didn’t sing and dance up a storm, she held this group together like a true neighborhood Abuela.

No matter the tiny criticisms, there’s something truly radiating about the film’s vibrancy and joyful enthusiasm – which is, frankly, what we all need right now. And do yourself one last favour before you leave, stay for the post-credit scene.

B+

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Review Screening: Monday, January 7, 2021 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

IN THE HEIGHTS” OPENS IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE AND ON HBO MAX ON FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2021