Review: “Scream” Season 1 (we kind of saw it coming)

As an MTV television show based on a movie series except with an original story, it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t great, but it did turn out better than you’d think.

Welcome to Lakewood, a small town enduring the legacy of the Brandon James murders even after twenty years…and they’re about to start again. After the body of high school student Nina Patterson (Bella Thorne) is discovered at her home and her boyfriend Tyler O’Neil (Max Lloyd-Jones) goes missing, local students begin speculating who could have done such a thing while others contend it was well-earned. But as the body count starts to rise, Emma Duval (Willa Fitzgerald) is contacted by the killer and told she has been singled out: it would all end with her, and she’ll never see it coming.

Following the invention and re-invention of the slasher genre by late director Wes Craven, the Scream movie series epitomized the self-aware horror genre, story worlds where everyone had seen too many movies about sociopathic serial killers and sometimes became them. Almost twenty years later and on the heels of their successful “Teen Wolf” re-imagining, MTV launched “Scream” the television series, a ten-episode who-done-it/who’s-gonna-get-it show. While missteps in casting and lower production values dragged the show down along with some mid-season pacing, the slayings were aptly horrific and creative as far as made-for-televison bloodfests go, and a few cast standouts made the show worth the watch.
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Review: ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ (Cruise Control Engaged)

While still spectacular, is too much self-awareness creeping into the franchise?

After a CIA honcho (Alex Baldwin) lobbies a congressional committee to dissolve the IMF due to perceived ineptitude, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes rogue to gather intelligence on a suspected international organization of agents believed killed or dead – an entity no one else thinks actually exists. With the help of a few trusted associates, Hunt manages to piece together clues to not only proof of their existence but also why no trace of them exists. Yes, that’s a bad thing.

From the original 1960s TV series, Writer’s Strike-inspired 1988 television reboot, and most recently the film franchise, Mission Impossible has seen many incarnations. The appearance of lone-star Cruise made the first two films (especially the second) feel more like Tom’s own personal James Bond franchise. This ended on the eventual third film in 2006 (ten years after Cruise’s first M:I film) when director J.J. Abrams brought Simon Pegg in as a techie yearning for field work and restored the team dynamic…not to mention injecting a bit of humor into the situation. The fourth film Ghost Protocol gave The Incredibles director Brad Bird the chance to shine and the chance for Rogue Nation to exist. About the worst thing you can say about the new film contains an inherit self-awareness that skirts dangerously close to spoof, but it still delivers the goods. Stunts, intrigue, spy stuff, all here; it’s really just a matter of whether or not you enjoy watching Tom Cruise do what he does.
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Review: ‘Fantastic Four’ 2015 (Again With the Origin Story)

“There’s nothing at the end,” said the cleaning crew as the credits rolled; how right they were.

Cribbing the look and feel of the movie Explorers, fifth-grader Reed Richards befriends Ben Grimm for the parts to build a teleportation device. Years later at a high school science fair, Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) impresses Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) with the solution to a problem they had been working on: how to bring something back again after being teleported. Dr. Storm recruits Reed to work alongside Sue and himself at New York’s Baxter Building to complete the project with its creator, Victor (Toby Kebbell), a brilliant competitive loner with a bad reputation. They finish the quantum gateway with the help of Dr. Franklin’s underachieving son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), but the financiers want to turn the project over to NASA following a successful test. Determined to be the first humans to cross dimensions using the technology they created, Reed calls Ben to go with him, Johnny and Victor into another world (cue theme music and a giant hourglass).

After the unreleased 1994 Roger Corman version and two previous movies with Julian McMahon pissing away the character of the Dr. Doom, 20th Century Fox has launched a new Fantastic Four film to desperately hold onto the Marvel franchise movie rights…and rushing it into ruination once more. The first act is actually solid with a few hiccups until the words “one year later” gut the momentum and kill any actual drama. Instead of seeing the heroes deal with their powers, we get a montage minus one: our villain. By the time everything comes full circle, the ending happens so quick that viewers should wear neck braces to prevent whiplash. Worse yet, the story could have been saved with a couple of tweaks and little more time spent with what the bad guy might be up to, but instead we get repeated cold shoulders and little if any meaningful interaction. By the time the credits roll, it feels like a cheat: “Meh, the Movie.”
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Review: ‘Trainwreck’ (a raunchy R-rated rom-com by one wily wanton woman)

What do you call a female philanderer? There really should be a word for that.

As children, little Amy and Nikki got an earful from their dad (Colin Quinn) about the horrors of monogamy, a lesson Amy (Amy Schumer) has held to as a grown up. While her sister Nikki (Brie Larson) has a kid, home, and husband, Amy drifts from guy to guy when not at work or enjoying her select collection of vices alone at home. After her publisher (Tilda Swinton) assigns her an interview with a charming sports doctor (Bill Hader), Amy begins to suspect that something might be missing in her life…and she intends to fight that feeling kicking and screaming all the way.

R-rated films for adults over the last decade have been hit and miss, creating images of pointless toilet humor, ultraviolence, or graphic horror. Awards season seems to be filled with quirky “real” characters but rarely in a believable way; too often, they seem like either a trailer-trash reality show or “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Movies like This is 40 have managed to break these conventions but still haven’t quite embraced the full potential of an R-rating without spilling over into This is The End territory. Enter Amy Schumer on the high heels of her successful television show with a pitch that must have sounded like “How to REALLY Lose a Guy in Ten Weeks or Whatever.”
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Review: ‘Minions’ (the prequel no one demanded that’s still sort of cool)

Ever wonder where those goggle-eyed Twinkies dressed in coveralls came from? Too bad; you’re finding out anyway.

Since the beginning of the world, Minions have existed. The male-ish creatures are driven to serve the biggest, baddest villain they can find (although no actual explanation of this is ever given). After accidentally killing every bad guy they’ve ever served, the Minions try settling down but find themselves aimless without a great evil to abide. Three Minions set out to find new a boss, settling for a dark mistress named Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) at Orlando’s VillainCon (this really should exist). Unfortunately, Minions will be Minions and end up on Scarlett’s bad side; mandatory hilarity ensues.

The original Despicable Me sneaked up on everyone, but even with Steve Carell voicing supervillain Gru, it was the secondary cast of characters who often stole the show…particularly his lovable oddball Minions. The sequel was okay but mostly deferred to zany sight gags, somehow giving rise to a prequel solo adventure making even less sense. There is some evidence the original idea may have been nixed at the last-minute by the eleventh-hour inclusion a familiar character; happily, it gives some degree of continuity to the film rather than just a stand-alone absurdity, but it also hints at what might have been the film we really wanted to see.
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Review: ‘Ant-Man’ (because Shrinkage-Man sounds worse)

You will believe that a man can ant.

Fresh out of prison after serving a sentence for a modern-day Robin Hood re-distribution of digital wealth, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) tries to make a clean break from crime to earn visitation rights to his daughter from her mother (Judy Greer). When his possibilities for a legal job fall short of his income requirements, Scott breaks into the house of an eccentric millionaire (Michael Douglas) on a tip to crack a hidden vault…only finding an unusual suit and helmet inside. Learning that the suit’s wearer has the ability to shrink down to the size of an ant, Scott willingly becomes the pawn in a plan to stop a meglomaniac from selling similar technology to the highest bidder…but he’s also keenly aware of the truth: his best job qualification is being expendable.

Fans of the Ant-Man comic will find plenty of winks and nods in his history, details slowly unveiled throughout the film; many of the revelations won’t be surprises for True Believers, but their order and their place in the Marvel Universe mixes in well with the current alternative MCU continuity. The biggest treat is the imaginative training and combat scenes, shifting from large to small-scale while incorporating memorable and hilarious product placements (sneaky Marvel!) It has been revealed that this isn’t the beginning of Phase 3 but rather the end of Phase 2; you’ll see once again just how far in advance Marvel must be planning these things for all of these plot points to fall so well into place (something that may have contributed to original director Edgar Wright exiting the project with only a writing credit).
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Review: ‘The Gallows’ (Respect Mah Thea-tah!)

All the shaky cam and low battery signals you could want in yet another found-footage film.

In 1993, a Nebraska high school put on a stage play involving a hanging…so, of course, one of the students is actually killed by (wait for it) hanging. Two decades later, a group of fools…sorry, STUDENTS revive the deadly play for “reasons.” Even worse, Theatre is a required class, providing the perfect opportunity for stereotypical jocks to screw everything up…also because “reasons.” To make matters worse, one of the jocks has fallen for one of the drama students; what terrible tragedy could possibly befall them? Spoiler: rope is involved…around necks.

A high school theater at night? Sounds like a great location for a horror film: hidden rooms, secret passageways, places to fall from and disappear into, audio-visual equipment, trap doors, and costume closets. Sure, it’s all a little meta, like those award-nominated movies about Hollywood has-beens trying to become relevant again (Birdman, anyone?) but is this the best we can come up with? The lighting looks okay and the acting is good enough, but wow…the excuses for using found footage has officially hit a new low; last I checked, you didn’t have to turn on your phone’s camera to use the flashlight feature. Also, are teens so narcissistic today that they film themselves crying into their phones waiting to be killed off? Yeah, not buying that either. Oh wait: most of the cast is actually named after themselves. Really? Maybe they should have called this “The Shallows.”
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