Review: 'Scream VI' proves that this slasher franchise is losing its sharp edge
Here's what I liked about the new "Scream VI" movie: There were some very cool kills, some great set-pieces (the opening sequence, a scene set in a mini-mart and a scene spanning across two high-rise apartment windows were super-cool). I really like the main cast - the "Core Four" as they're referred to - of Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown. And there was something that felt "freeing" with this franchise deciding to head out of the confines of Woodsboro, California for the dark, murky, dangerous streets of New York City.
But the "Scream" films have always felt "risen above" the rest of the horror genre...mainly by how it mixes in sharp satire of the horror genre itself. The characters in these films have watched all the horror movies. They know all of the tropes of the genre. Like the savvy viewers sitting in the theater, these people are not going to fall for the usual tricks. This has always made "Scream" feel smart. They have acted as an ongoing subversion of the genre.
As a massive fan of the first four "Scream" chapters, I was not at all a fan of the last chapter, essentially called "Scream 5" (in fact, it was simply called "Scream" as it tried to relaunch itself as a franchise, but that's besides the point). "Scream VI" is a giant improvement over the previous installment, and for its first two-thirds, it felt like an inspired chapter in the ongoing "Scream" saga. But the last half-hour made it IMPOSSIBLE to be on board with, succumbing not only to the terrible tropes that the series often makes fun of, but leaning into them unknowingly.
Knock knock. Who's there? It's "Knock at the Cabin," a shallow, shoddy and condescending thriller that I can already tell you will stand as one of the worst offerings of 2023.
Don't answer the door...you've been warned!
If you liked 2019's "Knives Out," then there is no reason why you won't love "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery." If there was ever a movie worth checking out in theaters instead of at home on streaming, this is it ("Glass Onion" is in theaters only for one week before being made available to stream on Netflix on December 23rd).
Review: 'Don't Worry Darling' a bit of a mess, but organized chaos is the point
Perhaps you've heard of "Don't Worry Darling"? It's hard to have not heard about it, as it's been dominating headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past month. From "spit-gate" between Harry Styles and Chris Pine, to Florence Pugh not doing press for the film, to friction between director Olivia Wilde and allegedly "fired" actor Shia LaBeouf. It then debuted at the Venice Film Festival to mixed reviews, with many critics applauding the performance of Florence Pugh, but attacking the performance of Harry Styles, and the film as a whole.
Having now seen it, I can accept all sides of the argument. Yes, Florence Pugh is great. Yes, the film itself is a cluttered, unfocused mess at times. Yes, Olivia Wilde's direction seems a bit too artsy for her own good. I will push back though, on the performance of Styles, who I found to be better than just fine, heck, he was effective. Sure, he may not be on the same level as Pugh, but his role didn't demand that he needed to be.
At any rate, "Don't Worry Darling" is a movie that will polarize audiences. But that's also usually a good sign, that a movie was able to ignite some level of passion from its audience, for good or for bad.
But despite its many, many flaws, I found there to be a LOT going on under the hood. Themes of feminism, masculinity and control. Systemic issues that churn out desperate individuals, who will buy into almost anything that promises a better way. The idea of individualism, gender roles and boundaries. Even some deeply buried political messages.
"Don't Worry Darling" isn't a throw-away thriller. It has meaning and purpose, even if its execution is way off, sometimes jarringly so. And it's definitely a movie that should spark conversation on the car ride home, whether you loved it or loathed it.
"Deep Water" might be remembered - if at all - for being the movie that started an off-screen romance between its two stars, Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. There must have been real chemistry between the two, but you'd never know it by watching "Deep Water," a cold plunge into shallow erotic thriller territory, by a director who has been kept on ice for nearly two decades.
IF...and that's a big if...you can get over the inclusion of Armie Hammer, you may find "Death on the Nile" to be a fun, old-school diversion.
Hammer - who denies all allegations against him - has recently been accused of sexual assault, rape and even cannibalism (some weird shit to be sure), and his presence hangs over the film like a dark cloud.
Pre-text: I'm a big fan of the "Scream" franchise...heck, who isn't? The series, with all four previous installment having been directed by the late, legendary horror master, Wes Craven, began in 1996, and not only poked fun at the slasher-horror genre, but transcended it. It was fresh, new and different. Moreover, it was loads of fun.
The original film's success brought about a renaissance of sorts for horror movies, and was followed by "Scream 2" the following year, "Scream 3" in 2000 and "Scream 4" back in 2011. In my review of "Scream 4," I had wrote:
"11 years later for 'Scream 4' seems like the right timing for Scream to return with something worthy of shouting about. With the same sense of style and personality, I could see another Scream movie coming out maybe every 5 to 10 years, to give wry commentary on the state of the genre."
Well at least they got the timing right...then new film, called simply "Scream" and not "Scream 5" as it probably should be, lacks that familiar style and personality that made the others so sharp (pun intended). In a series where the killer is always a copycat, for the first time, this chapter is more "wanna-be" than it is "wants-to-be-good."
Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy will one day be Oscar-winning actresses...of this, I have no doubt. They are two of the most captivating and talented young actresses in Hollywood and of their generation, and to see them face-off in "Last Night in Soho" is truly a sight to behold.
Edgar Wright ("Baby Driver," "Shaun of the Dead") helms this luscious, intoxicating film with confidence, style and pizzazz. It nearly derails with an abrupt shift from psychological thriller to straight-up horror in its final act, but Wright sticks the landing thanks to his commanding leading ladies.
Review: 'Old' offers nothing new
M. Night Shyamalan has built a career on horror-mystery movies that don't always work, and that all seem to be chasing the lightning-in-a-bottle he found with his 1999 mega-hit, "The Sixth Sense." After a long string of clunkers, his 2016 "Split" got his fans excited that he was finally "back," but the follow-up, 2019's "Glass" all but shattered those high expectations.
With "Old," he effectively makes a feature-length Twilight Zone episode that isn't among his worst films (this is no "The Happening" or "After Earth"), but it is far from his best. And if "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable" is too high a bar to set, even on its own, "Old" doesn't exactly revel in anything that feels new.
Shot entirely in Detroit, "No Sudden Move" is a fun, throwback crime caper. And it's not a gimmick or arbitrary that the movie takes place in the Motor City...in fact, this is one story that really couldn't have taken place anywhere else.
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