February Film Reviews

Harry Moore

When a new maniac puts on the Ghostface mask and begins terrorizing the town of Woodsboro, it is up to the seemingly unkillable trio of Sidney Prescott, Gale Weathers and Dewey Riley (played by franchise veterans Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette) to team up with a new generation of would-be teenage victims in order to uncover the killer and put an end to the carnage. 

It’s been 25 years since the first Scream, directed by the late great director Wes Craven, slashed its way into movie theaters and syphoned together a level of witty self-awareness and old school horror thrills, dissecting the genre to take a look at the hallmarks and proceeding to skewer its clichés. 

Upon its release, Scream rocked the film industry and almost single handedly revived the horror genre, saving it from the glut of endless sequels in franchises such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. A quarter of a century later, Scream has become its own long running franchise with diminishing returns (the less said about Scream 3 and 4 maybe the better). And now, directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, behind 2019’s Ready or Not, helm the latest Ghostface installment, which tackles the latest trend of reboots currently dominating Hollywood.

Like the other Scream films, the latest directly addresses the current issues in cinema as its film-literate characters discuss the rules and circumstances for surviving a modern horror film. The nature of modern reboots is addressed directly, as legacy franchise characters are brought back to change the guard for a new generation—which is a trend seen in other series from Halloween and Star Wars, to, most recently, Ghostbusters and Spider-Man

As was the case with the fandom around those other reboots, the hardcore Scream fans will likely get major thrill out of the newest iteration, as the franchise’s past is utilized to push the story forward with much care and attention. The new cast of teens is a mixed bag: Melissa Barrera is capable as the object of the killer’s desire, while Jasmin Savoy Brown makes a strong impression as the group’s resident cinephile. The rest come across as a disposable group of meat bags waiting for Ghostface’s knife.

Those who are new to the series may be frustrated by the characters’ regular references to other horror films and possibly confused by the discussions of events from prior films. However, like its predecessors, the film’s central mystery surrounding the new identity of Ghostface will likely keep you guessing until the final revelation, and the nail biting climax almost matches Craven’s masterfully tense original. This reboot is one of the better ones to come out of this latest wave from Hollywood, giving fans a satisfying new sequel in the franchise.

West Side Story
In hindsight, it was obviously very foolish to be skeptical of Steven Spielberg. When it was announced the virtuoso director was tackling the famous musical, it was met with a widespread sense of doubt and questioning. It had been a while since Spielberg made a film that left a lasting impression on the movie-going public, and some doubted whether this new adaptation was even necessary, given the 1961 cinematic version won the Academy Award for Best Picture and is widely considered a classic in the musical film genre. 

However, Spielberg managed to vault over the doubt and expectations by delivering what may be his most vital film in decades. From the opening moments it is clear that, unlike some of his recent films such as Ready Player One and The Post, this story is near and dear to the director’s heart and is a project that he has been ruminating on for years. The choreography is of the highest order and camera work is so sumptuous, constantly but elegantly moving around the action that it becomes almost dreamlike. West Side Story is one of those shows that has fully seeped into the culture at large, where even if you’ve never seen a film or live version of the original 1957 Broadway show it’s based on, you have undoubtedly heard many of the songs and will inevitably be humming along to them on the car ride home. The cast is uniformly strong with Ariana DeBose, Rachel Zegler, David Alvarez and Mike Faist all putting in star-making performances. But the weakest note is, unfortunately, the lead Ansel Elgort as Tony, who isn’t terrible in the film by any means, but simply doesn’t live up to the extraordinary performances of the rest of the principal cast.

The King’s Man
Set in the shadows of World War I, The King’s Man follows the origin of the franchise’s eponymous Secret Service. The Kingsman series is thought to be a more carefree antidote to the grim and realistic approach to James Bond that pervaded Daniel Craig’s tenure of the character, but this prequel seems to have forgotten that mission statement, which, seeing as it uses one of humanity’s darkest moments as a backdrop, shouldn’t be much of a surprise. But director Matthew Vaughn appears to want to have his cake and eat it too, as he implements both the cartoonish hyper-violence seen in the series’ other films, while also showing the very real devastating destruction that the Great War brought upon a generation of people, most of whom were just boys. While the action sequences are mostly fun and well executed, particularly a knife fight set in no man’s land, the film is never able to reconcile its two halves of camp action and all too real tragedy. 

A question of the film’s necessity could also be begged, as it is unlikely that there are many (if any) audience members who were clamoring to learn why the Kingsman agency utilizes Arthurian-inspired codenames or how the agency began at all. Whereas a third modern day installment with Taron Egerton and Colin Firth returning would have likely been met with more enthusiasm, the prequel comes across as a disjointed misfire with an overly convoluted plot and no particularly memorable characters.