Reviews: Scream 4 & Rio

Scream 4
Scream 4

Scream 4

4 stars

Directed by Wes Craven

Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Emma Roberts

The Scream franchise is an inherently difficult franchise to review. Beyond being horror films, they’re finely crafted satire with only the subtlest of winks to let you know they’re in on the joke. As a franchise, it knowingly exploits the rules and clichés of the genre, yet gleefully lives within those rules. Which is why the original is a classic, and this new installment lives up to the legacy.

It’s been 15 years since the original Woodsboro murders (Scream), and Sidney Prescott (Campbell) has become a self-help guru on a book tour that brings her back to Woodsboro. This also brings back Ghostface, now tormenting her teenage cousin, Jill (Roberts). Sidney teams up with Sheriff Dewey and his wife Gale (Arquette and Cox) to find the killer.

What became key in making this 4th installment work, 11 years after the 3rd, is the return of the principal players. Director Craven, writer Kevin Williamson and the 3 surviving cast members (not that Jamie Kennedy is dead, but Randy is).  They understood the true spirit of the franchise, and brought that into it, while guiding it through a whole new set of characters to be put through the ringer.

I had heard of the false starts to this film, and as the movie started, I got a little worried that they would detract from the film, and devolve it into standard horror schlock. But Craven, Williamson and the various cameo cast members deftly maneuver the trope minefield to bring us up-to-date on not only what’s happened in the past 10 years in the characters lives, but also the state of horror. But again, while they highlight the problems with horror, they execute everything with surgical precision, and lives up to the originals spirit, and is a near-perfect horror film.

The faults of the film are few, and actually add to the film. The characters tend to be annoying archetypes (as they are throughout the genre), but the biggest issue unfortunately can’t be overlooked. It’s the ending. Fret not, no spoilers will be contained on this page. But I felt they took it a step further than they really needed to. Not that it hindered or ruined the film. It just felt extraneous.

Otherwise, kudos. One of the first thoroughly enjoyable films of the year.

And if I were to rank the Scream films, it would go 1, 4, 2, 3.

Rio
Rio

Rio

3 stars

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Featuring the voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx and George Lopez.

I like what studios are doing with animated flicks, they’re making them fun and adventurous to keep adults entertained right along with the kids. But other aspects of the film are suffering for it.

The last known male blue macaw ends up in Minnesota after being smuggled from Brazil. Now fully domesticated, a bird specialist looks to return him to Rio de Janeiro so he can mate with the last known female blue macaw.

First of all, it’s a fun movie. One of the best things as a reviewer is to hear the response to the film of the target audience. There was a kid behind me who kept exclaiming that they loved this movie and they were having a lot of fun.  So there is that. But from a more… matured perspective, it’s more mindless fun.

Pixar is still the gold standard for animation, in my estimation. They create a perfect fusion of great plot, great story, great characters and mind-blowing animation. The other production houses seem content with having great animation, interesting enough characters and just a mindlessly fun flick. And that’s where Fox steps in with Rio.

I’m with them, it’s a fun adventure, but I don’t feel challenged by it. I’m not walking away from the movie with a feeling like anything was accomplished. Fox is also good at casting big names to pad the pedigree of the film. The weakest link in the film is Jesse Eisenberg as Blu. He needs to stick to real life acting, voice acting is not his specialty. Everyone else is passable, particularly the seasoned comedians, but there’s a lack of heart to their performances.

In the end, it’s a fun movie, the kids are going to love it, but it’s not a truly engaging film.

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