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Movie Review Monday: Scream 4

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Mike Finkelstein was home watching an old episode of “Sex and the City” when he got a weird phone call from some guy with a cold.  He went downstairs to get a snack, and everything was covered with red jam.  With that, here is his review of “Scream 4”.

PLOT: When Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on a tour for her new self-help book, she once again finds herself face to face with the Ghostface Killer.  Now, after a decade of silence, she must reteam with Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courtney Cox) to stop this new copycat from going after her cousin, Jill (Emma Roberts) and her friends.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: SCREAM.  Drew Barrymore. “What’s your favorite scary movie?”  You say these things to any horror fan and they’ll smile as they remember the classic moments. SCREAM started a franchise and a brand new genre of 90s horror flicks.  So more than a decade after what was supposed to be the final entry of a trilogy (Randy is rolling in his fictional grave), and many very real script and production issues, could SCREAM 4 bring back such a franchise?

Out of all the sequels, SCREAM 4 is the truest you’re going to get to the original.  SCREAM 2 was a decent ride with more gruesome kills, but the killer’s reveal was out of left field.  And don’t even mention to me SCREAM 3.  For some reason, my 14-year-old self made that my second DVD purchase ever (still want to convince that idiot to put it back on the shelf).  Half-brother killer?!  What?!?

There is something to be said about going back to formula.  After ten years, you don’t need crazy deaths from exploding houses, ridiculous trap doors and ‘how’d he get there?’ moments.  The movie was stripped of all complexities and got back to what made the first so powerful: a human killer able to creep around without being seen.  Mix that simplicity with some gruesome deaths and the nostalgia and excitement felt when the Dimension logo popped up and the phone rang, and we’re in for the ride.

Speaking of nostalgia, it was great to see Sidney, Dewey and Gale on screen again.  Even after a decade, all three actors slid back into their shoes easily.  At the same time, we have a very talented and fun group of high schoolers joining in on the fun, with Rory Culkin, Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere being the highlights.  The only person I couldn’t stand was Nico Tortorella’s Trevor.  I haven’t seen the guy in anything else, but he was acting so obviously creepy, stalkerish and evil, I couldn’t believe anyone would ever date him.  I couldn’t blame him for the performance, though…I kept imagining Craven and Williamson making him act like that to force the “I’m the killer” vibe.  (Whether or not it’s true, you’ll find out in the end.)

I have to admit, there were some major flaws that destroyed the horror and made the film more of a comedy.  With SCREAM, Wes Craven created a movie where you could be horrified with some self-deprecating humor laced throughout.  Here, he brought back the same feel, so you knew you were in familiar territory, but there was so much humor and ridiculousness that at points, you couldn’t help but see this as the franchise’s BRIDE OF CHUCKY. Case in point: How can Dewey, after going through this three damn times, still be the worst damn sheriff in the world?  Oh wait…maybe it’s because he has the two worst deputies ever in the forms of Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody!  And Gale hasn’t learned by now not to go into hay lofts alone when there’s a killer on the loose?  Craven said in an interview that the script was so in flux that they’d often “literally get pages the night before, sometimes the day of,” and you could feel it.  With a film that constantly talks about the new rules and new stakes, it really took a step in the wrong direction with everyone being just as stupid.

And what happened with the opening sequence?  The joke was funny at first, but it was gutted quickly!  The whole fun of the opening sequences is to have someone we care about die!  Drew Barrymore!  Jada Pinkett Smith/Omar Epps!  Live Schreiber/Cotton Weary!  Not some two random girls!  Hell, the one girl looked so young that it just felt uncomfortable…

The one aspect that I did enjoy very much was the ending.  I can’t say much without revealing massive spoilers, but I will say this: the first three movies ended right after the killer was done.  This one had almost a sort of epilogue.  It was like peeking behind the curtain into the madness after the movie should be over.  And the way it was dealt with was very smart.  Granted, with this huge praise, there comes one of the biggest flaws of the movie…a situation that would never ever play out like that in real life, but it was so smart and different, I didn’t care.  I was having too much fun.

Overall, I did enjoy SCREAM 4 very much.  Yes, there were many flaws, but it was great to be back in Woodsboro and see those familiar faces on screen after so long.  You really didn’t know who was going to live or die (including the original three), and if the Weinstein’s really go through with making another trilogy, I can’t see how any SCREAM movie could be made without Sidney, Gale and Dewey, unless they want the franchise to become a joke, like HALLOWEEN.  Even with some major issues throughout, this isn’t the type of movie where you need to critique drama and complexity, so if you’re spending the money, just go along, have fun, and enjoy the ride!

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) NOSTALGIA: No matter what happened in the movie, whenever you have a chance to see your favorite characters back on the big screen after such a long period of time, it’s worth it.  If you’re a fan of SCREAM, then seeing Sid, Dewey and Gale one more time while sitting in a dark theater will be bliss in itself.

2) JOKING WITH ITSELF: You know how BRIDE OF CHUCKY was CHILD’S PLAY 4, but also more of a farce with kills?  SCREAM 4 isn’t at that level of ridiculousness, but it definitely mocks itself enough and is self aware enough that it’s more of a horror/comedy than just straight out horror.

3) A WHOLE NEW ANGLE: The film’s message and final act took the entire franchise to the next level.  I can’t say anything without giving something away, but it was original and different from the generic horror rules, and was actually really refreshing.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) DEWEY: Dumbest. Cop. Ever.  Seriously…if you ever wondered how the hell this stuff could keep happening in Woodsboro, it’s because the Woodsboro police are complete idiots.  I’d feel safer with a monkey holding a hammer than Anthony Anderson and Adam Brody in front of my house.  Too stupid to be believable.

2) TREVOR: Again, can’t give anything away, but really?  I understand that Craven probably told Nico Tortorella to act like a complete creep/tool/insert insult here, but it just went too far.  Even Billy Loomis seemed like he could have been nice at some points.  Trevor…not so much, and I just laughed every time he came on screen.

3) REALISM: I have never EVER seen a hospital that deserted.  If there were a Code Blue, that guy would have been screwed.  ‘Nuff  said.

4) COURTNEY COX’S PLASTIC SURGERY: I know it had nothing to do with the movie, but it’s so obvious that Cox had some major work done.  All I kept thinking about was how unnecessary it was because she was still so naturally beautiful.  Age gracefully, Hollywood.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Neve Campbell and Emma Roberts, two of the lead actresses in the film, both admitted to being terrified of horror films. Emma Roberts stated she was hid under the covers while watching the first 3 ‘Scream’ films. Also, Neve Campbell stated a while back that she can’t watch the films, because she doesn’t like being scared.

2) At a table read on June 25, 2010, the actors were told to stop reading at page 75 to prevent those already cast in the film from knowing the climax.

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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