Review: ‘Carmen’ (2023), starring Melissa Barrera, Paul Mescal, Rossy de Palma and Tracy ‘The D.O.C.’ Curry

April 29, 2023

by Carla Hay

Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal in “Carmen” (Photo courtesy of Goalpost Pictures/Sony Pictures Classics)

“Carmen” (2023)

Directed by Benjamin Millepied

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Mexico and in California, the dramatic film “Carmen” (very loosely based on the classic French opera “Carmen”) features a Latin and white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After her mother is murdered, a young woman illegally immigrates from Mexico to California to find her mother’s best friend, and she gets involved with an American border patrol agent who’s a fugitive for murder. 

Culture Audience: “Carmen” will appeal primarily to people who are curious to see what an unconventional re-imagining of the famous opera looks like as a movie told from the perspective of a Mexican immigrant.

Rossy de Palma and Melissa Barrera in “Carmen” (Photo courtesy of Goalpost Pictures/Sony Pictures Classics)

It’s a little too pretentious at times, but this dance-oriented version of the classic French opera “Carmen” at least took some bold risks and tried to do something different from what might be expected. Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal give very watchable performances. The movie is not going to appeal to people who think it’s going to be a traditional musical or a formulaic “outlaws on the run” action flick.

“Carmen” (which premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival) is the feature-film solo directorial debut of Benjamin Millepied, who has a background as a ballet dancer. He had a small acting role in 2010’s ballet drama “Black Swan” and married Natalie Portman, the Oscar-winning star of “Black Swan.” Millepied co-wrote the “Carmen” screenplay with Loïc Barrere and Alexander Dinelaris.

The passion for dance as a form of expression is shown throughout “Carmen.” However, people who want to see a version of “Carmen” where people sing while dancing will be disappointed. There is some singing in “Carmen,” but it’s mainly with Barrera doing a sultry performance on stage as the title character, not singing dialogue in a conventional musical format.

“Carmen” begins with a scene of in the Chihuahuan Desert, near the Mexico/U.S. border. A woman named Zilah Rosas (played by Marina Tamayo) is doing a flamenco tap dance by herself, on a flat wooden board outside of her modest home. Suddenly, a hat-wearing man (played by Nico Cortez) drives up in a car, points a gun at her, and asks, “Where is she?” Zilah says nothing and tap dances furiously in response. And then, the man shoots Zilah and drives off, just as the woman he is looking for runs near the house and hears the gunshot.

That woman is Carmen, who is Zilah’s daughter. Carmen sees her dead mother, mourns for her, and buries Zilah in the front yard of the home in a makeshift grave. In a voiceover from the dead, Zilah tells Carmen to go to the City of Angels (Los Angeles) to a nightclub called La Sombra Ponderosa, and find Masilda. Viewers later find out that Masilda and Zilah were best friends but haven’t not seen each other since Masilda moved to Los Angeles. Masilda has not seen Carmen since Carmen was a child.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Marines veteran named Aidan, who’s in his late 20s or early 30s (about the same age as Carmen), is attending a barbecue cookout in Texas with some working-class people he doesn’t know very well. He has recently been discharged from the military, after serving in combat duty in Afghanistan, and he is currently unemployed. Aidan’s concerned older sister Julieanne (played by Nicole da Silva) tells him he needs to get a job. “It’s been nine months,” Julieanne tells Aidan. “And there’s only one job in this town.”

That job is being hired as an independent contractor for the U.S. Border Patrol. Aidan reluctantly takes the job and is given a brief orientation by a supervisor named Phil (played by Justin Smith), who tells his new subordinates that their job is fairly simple: If they see people illegally crossing the border, apprehend the border crossers and call for officials to handle it from there. All of these border patrollers are white men who are armed with guns.

It doesn’t take long for Aidan to see how some of the men he’s working with are openly racist, because the act very eager to cause violence against the non-white, Spanish-speaking people they expect to catch at the border. One of the new hires asks if anyone in this group of border patrol agents knows how to speak Spanish. A racist named Mike (played by Benedict Hardie), who has been paired with Aidan as a border patrol partner, smirks as he says, “Why? Do you speak deer?” It’s Mike’s way of saying he wants to hunt these people down like animals.

It should come as no surprise that Carmen is one of the people who ends up getting caught illegally crossing the border at night. She is among a group of some other captured Mexicans who are strangers to her. A few of them are children whom Carmen tries to protect. Mike gets very aggressive and shoots some of the Mexicans who try to run away.

A horrified Aidan is nearby, and helps some of the Mexicans escape. An infuriated Mike points a gun at Aidan, who shoots Mike in the head. Mike is killed instantly. In the chaos, Carmen steals Aidan’s truck, which is parked nearby. Aidan runs after the truck and manages to get in the back.

Carmen steers the truck in a way to try to throw Aidan off the truck, but it doesn’t work, so she stops when she sees that Aidan isn’t going to hurt her. When the the truck runs out of gas on a deserted road, Carmen gets out and run away. However, Aidan has a spare can of gas in his truck.

Aidan re-fuels the truck and drives up to where Carmen (who can speak Spanish and English) is walking on the road and offers to give her a ride and help her. Knowing that they are both fugitives from the law, Carmen accepts Aidan’s offer. And so begins the outlaw journey of Aidan and Carmen, who convinces Aidan to go to Los Angeles with her.

“Carmen” doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, which might be frustrating to some viewers. And the dialogue is often very simplistic. However, the movie does have a way of maintaining viewers’ attention for people who are curious to see what will happen next.

As already revealed in the “Carmen” trailer, Carmen and Aidan make it to Los Angeles, where Carmen goes to see Masilda (played by Rossy de Palma), is the owner of La Sombra Ponderosa. Masilda, who is happy to see Carmen doesn’t know at first that Carmen is a fugitive, wants to mentor Carmen as a performer in the nightclub. Masilda is an unusual character who puts her passion for music and dance above everything else in her life. Elsa Pataky has a small role as Gabrielle, one of the nightclub’s employees.

The movie has scenes where, right in the middle of a suspenseful plot development, people suddenly start dancing, usually in open outdoor areas. The modern dance performances are well-choreographed and convey the obvious: These dance interludes represent the moments of freedom that Carmen wants to experience in her chaotic life. Nicholas Britell’s musical score is very absorbing and complement the tone of the film that is sometimes suspenseful, sometimes meandering.

“Carmen” gets a little stale in a sequence where Aidan gets involved in underground boxing to make some quick cash. However, these scenes are enlivened by rapper Tracy “The D.O.C.” Curry portraying a boxing referee. Curry performs some original raps in the movie during these boxing scenes. It’s eventually revealed that Aidan has post-traumatic stress disorder and a complicated sibling relationship with Julieanne.

Carmen and Aidan inevitably become lovers (also revealed in the movie’s trailer), but the movie does a very good job of showing the growing attraction and affection between these two characters. Aidan and Carmen are both lost souls who have a hard time trusting others. However, through their shared experience of looking out for each other while going into hiding, they learn to trust each other, to a certain extent. Barrera and Mescal have some sizzling chemistry, but viewers should not expect the Carmen/Aidan relationship to be a fairytale romance.

“Carmen” is by no means an award-worthy movie. It has some moments where the pacing is very sluggish. The movie’s dialogue could have been a lot more engaging. And the ending won’t be satisfying enough for viewers who want movies with unambiguous conclusions. However, “Carmen” shows very early on that it’s an experimental project where many of the emotions are expressed in the dance numbers. Viewers will know within the first 20 minutes of watching the 116-minute “Carmen” if they want to stay engaged in the story, or if they will lose interest in watching the rest of the movie.

Sony Pictures Classics released “Carmen” in select U.S. cinemas on April 21, 2023.

Review: ‘Scream VI,’ starring Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Courteney Cox, Hayden Panettiere and Dermot Mulroney

March 8, 2023

by Carla Hay

Mason Gooding, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Devyn Nekoda and Melissa Barrera in “Scream VI” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Scream VI”

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the horror film “Scream VI” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Latin, white African-American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: The four main survivors of the serial killings in the 2022 movie “Scream” have relocated from the fictional Woodsboro, California, to New York City, where they are plagued by a new set of Ghostface Killer murders. 

Culture Audience: “Scream VI” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Scream” franchise and horror movie sequels that make several references to its preceding movies.

Dermot Mulroney and Hayden Panettiere in “Scream VI” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Scream VI” has further cemented the “Scream” franchise as an intentionally comedic self-parody, but this entertaining movie doesn’t skimp on the horror thrills. The movie’s best scenes make up for the far-fetched revelations in the last 15 minutes. As the sixth movie in the “Scream” series, “Scream VI” is best appreciated by people who’ve seen all the previous “Scream ” movies, because there are many jokes and references to this predecessor films. However, if it’s not possible for someone to see all the previous “Scream” movies, then the 1996 “Scream” film (the one that started the series) and the 2022 “Scream” film are the two most essential moves to watch before seeing “Scream VI.”

The 2000 movie “Scream 3” added a movie-within-a-movie storyline, by creating a fictional horror movie series called “Stab,” which was inspired by what happened in the first “Scream” movie. It’s helpful, but not essential, to watch “Scream 3” before seeing “Scream VI.” What’s most important for viewers of “Scream VI” to know is that “Scream VI” gives a summary of all the revealed identities of the Ghostface Killer (who wears a creepy ghostface mask and a black hooded robe), who is a different person or people in each “Scream” movie. If you didn’t know their identities before seeing “Scream VI,” then the movie spoils all that information.

“Scream VI” reunites directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett with screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, who had the same roles for the 2022 “Scream” movie. Most of the same producers from 2022’s “Scream” are also part of the “Scream VI” team. “Scream VI” picks up one year after the events of the 2022 “Scream” movie, which took place mainly in the fictional Woodsboro, California. Four of the survivors of the Ghostface Killer murders and mayhem that happened in 2022’s “Scream” are trying to put this trauma behind them, and have relocated to New York City. (“Scream VI” was actually filmed in Montreal.)

Samantha “Sam” Carpenter (played by Melissa Barrera), who is 25 or 26, is in therapy but finds it difficult to open up to her therapist Dr. Christopher Stone (played by Henry Czerny) until a pivotal scene that’s a helpful summary for anyone who didn’t see 2022’s “Scream.” When Sam isn’t busy with her two jobs, she’s being overprotective of her younger half-sister Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), who 18 years old and a first-year student at the fictional Blackmore University. Tara and Sam live in the same apartment building.

The other two people in this tight-knit foursome are twins Mindy Meeks-Martin (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad Meeks-Martin (played by Mason Gooding), who are also first-year students at Blackmore University. The uncle of Mindy and Chad was Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy), whose fate is shown in 1997’s “Scream 2.” Mindy is a “Stab” trivia fanatic, while Chad (who was a popular athlete in high school) has a not-so-secret crush on Tara. Chad has come up with a nickname for this quartet of survivors: The Core Four. It’s a name that the other three think is corny, and the movie shows whether or not they go along with Chad’s enthusiasm to give themselves this nickname.

Three of the new characters that are introduced in “Scream VI” have gotten close to the Core Four. Tara’s free-spirited roommate Quinn Bailey (played by Liana Liberato) is having fun dating various men, but her sex life sometimes gets in the way of Tara wanting some peace and quiet. Chad’s roommate is Ethan Landry (played by Jack Champion), a socially awkward misfit who wants to be accepted by Chad and his friends. Anika Kayoko (played by Devyn Nekoda) is dating openly queer Mindy, in a fairly new romance.

As several scenes in the movie show, Tara is resentful of Sam’s hovering presence, because Tara wants to be treated like an independent adult, not a helpless child. Tara and Sam also disagree about how to cope with what happened to them in Woodsboro. Tara refuses to go to therapy, she doesn’t like to talk about what happened in Woodsboro, and she thinks Sam is living too much in the past. Sam thinks it’s detrimental for Tara to avoid getting therapy. Meanwhile, Sam becomes the subject of untrue gossip spread on the Internet that she was really the Ghostface Killer in Woodsboro.

To its credit, “Scream VI” is less cluttered with characters than 2022’s “Scream.” The movie’s opening scene continues the “Scream” tradition of someone being murdered by the Ghostface Killer, who has called that victim on the phone. The person who gets slaughtered in the opening scene is Laura Crane (played by Samara Weaving), an associate professor of film studies at Blackmore University. She teaches horror movies as part of her curriculum.

On the night that Laura is murdered, it’s close to Halloween, and many people are dressed up in Halloween costumes for parties and other Halloween festivities. Laura is not in a Halloween costume when she is seen at a bar, talking on the phone with what she thinks is her blind date for the night. The date is really a Ghostface Killer.

The “date” pretends to be lost and asks Laura to step outside the bar into an alley where he says he is. While she’s on the phone, the caller’s tone turns menacing as he snarls, “You teach a class about slashers, and you still walk into a dark alley alone.” Needless to say, Laura doesn’t last long in this movie.

Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that it’s revealed early on in the movie that Sam and Tara are the main targets for the Ghostface Killers. It’s also revealed that whoever is behind the murders that happen also wants to finish the “Stab” tribute movie that was started by Richie Kirsch (played by Jack Quaid), who was Sam’s boyfriend in 2022’s “Scream,” but (spoiler alert for people who haven’t seen 2022’s “Scream”), Richie turned out to be the Ghostface Killer, and Sam killed him in self-defense.

Some other characters who are part of the “Scream VI” are Blackmore University student Jason Carvey (played by Tony Revolori); Quinn’s father Detective Bailey (played by Dermot Mulroney), who is a police officer who investigates homicides; and David Brackett (played by Josh Segarra), an attractive neighbor who lives in the apartment building directly across from the apartment building where Sam, Tara and Quinn live. Sam and Tara (who has given David the nickname Hot Boy) can see directly into David’s apartment and vice versa.

“Scream VI” also has the return of ambitious and arrogant TV news journalist Gale Weathers (played by Courteney Cox), who has written a book about the events that happened in 2022’s “Scream.” Tara and Sam are furious about this book not only because Gale had broken her promise not to write a book about what happened but also because the book at unflattering descriptions of Tara and Sam.

Also making her return to “Scream VI” is Kirby Reed (played by Hayden Panettiere), who was the “final girl” in 2011’s “Scream 4.” Kirby, who is now 30 years old and an agent for the FBI, arrives in New York City to investigate this new set of Ghostface Killer murders. Kirby was a senior at Woodsboro High School when Sam was a freshman at the school. As for other familiar characters from the “Scream” franchise, Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), the original target of the Ghostface Killer, is not in “Scream VI” but is briefly mentioned as being in hiding in a safe place. Campbell went public about declining an offer to be in “Scream VI” because she felt that the offered salary was too low for her.

“Scream VI” delves more than 2022’s “Scream” did into the psychological fallout of all of these killings. “Scream VI” does a fairly good job at contrasting the ways that Sam and Tara feel about therapy, without passing judgment on either character. As already revealed in 2022’s “Scream,” Sam and Tara are the children of the late Billy Loomis (played by Skeet Ulrich), who was one of killers in the first “Scream” movie. As shown in 2022’s “Scream” and “Scream VI,” there are big indications that Sam is worried that she could have inherited a desire to become a murderer. “Scream VI” has more exploration of how Sam’s suspected “dark side” is affecting her.

The movie’s scenes with Ghostface Killer on a rampage are among the best of the “Scream” franchise. A standout scene is one that involves a ladder between buildings. Another scene that’s suspenseful is when Ghostface Killer goes after Tara and Sam in a convenience store. Meanwhile, there is plenty of sarcastic wisecracking (especially from Libby) about horror movie clichés, who the likely suspects are, and who’s most likely to be killed next. All of these self-referential jokes in “Scream VI” are sometimes to the detriment of the story. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it expects viewers to know a lot about the “Scream” movies, in order to get most of the jokes.

Barrera and Ortega, who are very believable as sisters with a love/hate relationship, are excellent additions to the “Scream” franchise. Mulroney really hams it up and delivers some of his lines in ways that are pure camp. Panettiere also gives a good performance as “all grown up now” Kirby. Cox doesn’t really do anything new with the Gale character, but she performs well in her action scenes. Savoy Brown is a sassy scene stealer with the Libby character, who has much better character development and funnier lines of dialogue than in 2022’s “Scream.”

There’s no doubt that “Scream VI” is an unapolgetic “fan service” movie that isn’t particularly accommodating to newcomers to the “Scream” movie franchise. And there isn’t anything innovative about the plot reveals, which might remind “Scream” fans of a certain previous “Scream” movie. “Scream VI” is not the best movie in the “Scream” franchise, but “Scream VI” delivers exactly what it intends: horror entertainment that serves up plenty of gore with self-deprecating laughs.

Paramount Pictures will release “Scream VI” in U.S. cinemas on March 10, 2023.

Review: ‘Scream’ (2022), starring Melissa Barrera, Jack Quaid, Jenna Ortega, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Marley Shelton

January 14, 2022

by Carla Hay

Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox in “Scream” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Scream” (2022)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Culture Representation: Taking place mainly in the fictional California city of Woodsboro, the horror film “Scream” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: Ghostface Killer murders start again in Woodsboro, with new characters and familiar franchise characters in a race against time to find out who’s responsible for this killing spree.

Culture Audience: Aside from fans of the “Scream” horror series, “Scream” will appeal mainly to people who like horror movies that combine graphic gore with sarcastic comedy.

Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Melissa Barrera and David Arquette in “Scream” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The 2022 version of “Scream” proves that the series is running out of fresh new ideas, but the movie’s self-aware snarkiness and effective nods to “Scream” franchise nostalgia make the film mostly watchable. Viewers don’t have to see the previous “Scream” movies to understand or be entertained by 2022’s “Scream,” which is the fifth movie in the series. Because it shares the same title as 1996’s “Scream” (the first movie in the series) the 2022 “Scream” movie’s title does it a disservice because it’s more of a sequel than a reboot.

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the 2022 version of “Scream” is the first “Scream” movie that wasn’t directed by Wes Craven, the horror filmmaking master who died of a brain tumor in 2015, at the age of 76. The 2022 version of “Scream” also has screenwriters who are new to the “Scream” franchise: James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick. Kevin Williamson—who wrote 1996’s “Scream,” 1997’s “Scream 2” and 2011’s “Scream 4” movies—is an executive producer of 2022’s “Scream.”

The 2022 version of “Scream” follows almost the exact same formula as certain parts of previous “Scream” movies. A group of people in their late teens and early 20s are targeted and gruesomely murdered, one by one, by a serial killer dressed in a black robe, wearing a creepy ghost mask, and usually killing with a large knife. This murderer is named the Ghostface Killer. The end of each “Scream” movie reveals who’s been responsible for the murders.

Unlike most other horror movie series that keep the same villain for each movie in the series, the “Scream” movie series has a different culprit dressed up as the Ghostface Killer in each “Scream” movie. The first “Scream” movie is constantly referred to in the sequels because the Ghostface Killer murder sprees in the sequels are copycat crimes of the original Ghostface Killer murder spree, which took place in the fictional city of Woodsboro, California. The 2000 movie “Scream 3” added a movie-within-a-movie storyline, by creating a fictional horror movie series called “Stab,” which was inspired by what happened in the first “Scream” movie.

Those are some of the basic things that might be helpful to people who watch 2022’s “Scream” without knowing anything about the previous “Scream” films. The people who will enjoy this movie the most are those who’ve seen all of the previous “Scream” movies, although the 1996 “Scream” movie and “Scream 3” are the two most essential previous “Scream” films to watch to understand all of the jokes in 2022’s “Scream.”

The 2022 version of “Scream” begins with the same type of scene that began 1996’s “Scream”: A teenage girl from Woodsboro High School is home alone in Woodsboro when she gets a mysterious call from the Ghostface Killer, who breaks in the home and attacks her. Drew Barrymore’s Casey Becker character famously got killed in that opening scene in the 1996 “Scream” movie.

The outcome is different for the opening scene in 2022’s “Scream.” Tara Carpenter (played by Jenna Ortega), the teenager attacked in the opening scene, survives this attempted murder. Tara, who’s about 16 or 17, lives with her single mother Christine Carpenter, who is never seen in the movie. Tara’s father abandoned the family when Tara was 8 years old. If you consider some of the family secrets that are revealed, Christine’s absence is the “Scream” filmmakers’ lazily convenient way to not have Christine around, because she would have a lot of explaining to do.

The movie gives a vague explanation that Christine has mental-health issues where she frequently goes away for long stretches of time. When the Ghostface Killer calls Tara, he asks for Christine and says that he knows her from group therapy. Tara says that Christine isn’t home and begins to question how well the caller knows Christine. And that’s when the Ghostface Killer starts to taunt Tara by doing things such has force her answer trivia questions about the “Stab” movies.

Christine’s absence still doesn’t explain why the police or hospital officials don’t seem too concerned about finding Christine when her underage child is in a hospital after an attempted murder. It’s one of the sloppy aspects of this movie, which puts a lot more emphasis on making references to previous “Scream” films than filling any plot holes in the 2022 “Scream” story. There are some other preposterous aspects of the movie, but the absence of Christine is the one that’s the least adequately explained.

More characters eventually populate the movie until most of them are killed off by the end. Tara’s circle of friends consists entirely of other Woodsboro High School students. Because so many characters are murdered, it becomes a very easy process of elimination to find out who’s responsible for this killing spree.

And there’s a part of the movie where someone literally lists all the formulaic rules for “Scream”/”Stab” movies, so major clues are purposely dropped in the film. Therefore, this “Scream” movie, although it has plenty of jump scares, isn’t as suspenseful as previous “Scream’ movies when it comes to the solving the mystery of who’s responsible for the killings.

The other characters in the movie include:

  • Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), Tara’s older sister, who lives in Modesto and goes to Woodsboro when she finds out about the attempted murder of Tara.
  • Richie Kirsch (played by Jack Quaid), Sam’s new boyfriend who works with her at a retail store. Sam and Richie, who have known each other for about six months, go to Woodsboro together during this family crisis.
  • Amber Freeman (played by Mikey Madison), Tara’s best friend who made plans to party with Tara at Tara’s house on the night that Tara was attacked.
  • Mindy Meeks-Martin (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown), a member of Tara’s social circle who’s a “Stab” trivia fanatic. Mindy is also the niece of original “Scream” character Randy Meeks (played by Jamie Kennedy), whose fate is shown in “Scream 2.”
  • Chad Meeks-Martin (played by Mason Gooding), Mindy’s twin brother, who is a popular athlete at school.
  • Liv McKenzie (played by Sonia Ammar), Chad’s girlfriend who’s a bit of a wild child. She had a fling with a creep in his 30s named Vince Schneider (played by Kyle Gallner), who later stalks her.
  • Wes Hicks (played by Dylan Minnette), a nice guy who’s often teased by his friends because his mother works in law enforcement.
  • Deputy Judy Hicks (played by Marley Shelton), Wes’ mother who is one of the lead investigators in the murder spree. Deputy Judy Hicks was also a character in “Scream 4.”

In addition to these characters, the 2022 “Scream” features the return of these original “Scream” franchise characters, who’ve been in other “Scream” movies:

  • Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell), the Ghostface Killer’s original target who has appeared in every “Scream” movie leading up this one.
  • Gale Weathers-Riley (played by Courteney Cox), an extremely ambitious TV reporter/book author, whose brash and pushy attitude rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
  • Dewey Riley (played by David Arquette), the goofy and easygoing cop who originally clashed with Gale, but then they fell in love and got married.

Sidney, Gale and Dewey all live far away from Woodsboro, but they are lured back to town when they hear that Ghostface Killer murders are happening again. Sidney, who was a Woodsboro High School student in the first “Scream” movie, is now married to someone named Mark (who’s never seen in the movie) and is the mother of infant twin daughters, who are also never seen in the movie.

Gale and Dewey are now divorced. According to conversations in the movie, their marriage fell apart soon after Gale took a prominent newscasting job in New York City. Dewey didn’t like living in New York, so he left Gale. It’s art somewhat imitating life, because in real life, Cox and Arquette met because of the “Scream” movie, they fell in love, got married, and eventually divorced.

While Gale’s career has been thriving, Dewey’s life and career have been on a downward spiral. When certain characters seek out Dewey to enlist his help in catching the Ghostface Killer, they find him living as an emotionally damaged recluse in a run-down trailer. Once a police sheriff, he eventually confesses that he was asked to leave the police department under circumstance he doesn’t full explain. Dewey has become a drunk, although it’s unclear if his drinking problem began before or after he lost his job.

Dewey is also heartbroken over his divorce from Gale. Meanwhile, Gale shows she has a heart because she’s been devastated by the divorce too. Dewey has a personal reason for investigating Ghostface Killer murders: His younger sister, Tatum Riley (played by Rose McGowan), who was Sidney’s best friend in high school, was killed in the original Ghostface Killer murder spree chronicled in the first “Scream” movie.

The 2022 “Scream” movie balances out a lot of the explicitly violent and bloody murder scenes with self-effacing jokes. There are many references to what sequels, reboots or “requels” (movies that are hybrids of reboots and sequels) should or should not do to please die-hard fans. At one point in the movie, when “Stab” trivia buff Mindy marvels at what has happened to Sam so far and how “Stab” fans would react, Sam asks Mindy sarcastically, “Are you telling me I’m part of fan fucking fiction?”

Mindy, just like her uncle Randy, is the self-appointed authority on clues and patterns in these serial killings. She lists three rules of finding out who’s the serial killer:

  • Never trust the love interest.
  • The killer’s motive is always connected to the past.
  • The main victim has a friend group that’s also targeted by the killer.

Because “Scream” spends so much time pointing out “rules” and “clichés” of horror movie franchises, it takes a little bit of the fun out of trying to guess who’s responsible for the serial killings in this movie. The movie literally tells the audience who the killer is, but even if it didn’t, enough people get killed in this relatively small cast of characters to figure out who’s behind the murder spree long before it’s officially revealed.

“Scream” should please fans who want a movie that’s heavy on nostalgia for beloved franchise characters, but something happens to one of these characters that might get very mixed reactions from fans. Because slasher flicks like “Scream” rely heavily on characters in their teens and 20s getting murdered, this “Scream” movie doesn’t do much with character development for the young characters who aren’t Sam and Tara. The two sisters were estranged for a number of years, for reasons that are explained in the movie. Predictably, Tara and Sam set aside their family friction to join forces to get the Ghostface Killer.

Except for one shocking death in “Scream,” the movie really does stick to the formula that it constantly lampoons. At times, this constant ironic self-referencing wears a little thin and comes across as a little too smug. Some of the violence might be a turnoff for people who are extremely sensitive, very squeamish or easily offended by scenes in movies where knife slashes and blood gushing are depicted to full gory effect. This “Scream” movie has no intention of being as original as the first “Scream” movie, but for horror fans, there’s enough in the 2022 “Scream” to be entertained by classic horror tropes, with the ending inevitably leaving open the probability of a sequel.

Paramount Pictures released “Scream” in U.S. cinemas on January 14, 2022.

Review: ‘In the Heights,’ starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Jimmy Smits

May 21, 2021

by Carla Hay

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera (center) in “In the Heights” (Photo by Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Pictures)

“In the Heights” 

Directed by Jon M. Chu

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, this movie version of the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” features a predominantly Hispanic group of characters (with some African Americans and white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young Dominican American man living in New York City’s Washington Heights is torn between staying in the neghborhood or moving to his family’s native Dominican Republic to re-open his late father’s tiki bar.

Culture Audience: “In the Heights” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in Broadway musicals with contemporary music and movies about Hispanic American culture.

Corey Hawkins and Melissa Grace in “In the Heights” (Photo by Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The movie adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” brings a cinematic vibrancy that makes it a joy to watch on screen and an instant crowd-pleaser. The movie keeps the main storyline and themes intact from the Broadway show but adds some memorable set designs, eye-popping choreography and impressive visual effects that couldn’t be done in a theater stage production. And this well-cast movie also has standout performances that will be sure to charm fans of the Broadway show as well as win over new fans. The “In the Heights” movie is set to have its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, “In the Heights” has an adapted screenplay written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book for Broadway’s “In the Heights,” which takes place in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The movie version of “In the Heights” keeps the same songs from the stage musical, whose music and lyrics were written by Miranda. The movie is updated to include more social-awareness themes related to Dreamers, the nickname for undocumented children of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The “In the Heights” movie, just like the stage musical, combines several character storylines in a tale that ultimately adds up to love in many different forms. There’s the love that 29-year-old protagonist/bodega owner Usnavi de la Vega (played by Anthony Ramos) has for his family, his Washington Heights neighborhood and his family’s native Dominican Republic. During the course of the story, he also falls in love with aspiring fashion designer Vanessa (played by Melissa Barrera), who also lives in Washington Heights. Usnavi is somewhat shy around assertive Vanessa, who plays hard to get, but eventually Vanessa falls for Usnavi too.

Romance is also in the air for car dispatch operator Benny (played by Corey Hawkins) and college student Nina Rosario (played by Leslie Grace), who has come home to Washington Heights while on a break from her studies at California’s Stanford University. Benny is easygoing and respectful, while Nina is intelligent and compassionate. Nina’s strong-willed and doting father also happens to be Benny’s boss: Rosario’s Car Service owner Kevin Rosario (played by Jimmy Smits), who is immensely proud that his daughter is a Stanford student, and he will do what it takes to pay her university tuition.

The beloved “grandmother” of the neighborhood is Abuela Claudia (played by Olga Merediz), who doesn’t have kids of her own, but she has a nuturing, maternal attitude toward many people in Washington Heights. Claudia is particularly close to Usnavi, whose parents are deceased. Usnavi, who is an only child, moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 8 years old. And since his parents’ death, Usnavi has become even closer to Claudia. Meanwhile, Usnavi has also known Nina for several years, and he treats Nina like she’s his younger sister.

Usnavi is a mentor to his smart and wisecracking teenage cousin Sonny (played by Gregory Diaz IV), who works part-time in Usnavi’s bodega. Sonny needs a mentor because he has an alcoholic father named Gapo (played by Marc Anthony), who is the brother of Usnavi’s father. A local attorney named Alejandro (played by Mateo Gomez) plays a key role in facilitating what becomes Usnavi’s dream: to move back to the Dominican Republic and re-open a beachfront tiki bar called El Suenito that used to be owned by Usnavi’s late father.

Rounding out the story’s main characters are “The Salon Ladies,” a trio of sassy and opinionated beauty salon workers: Daniela (played by Daphne Rubin-Vega), who is the salon’s owner; Carla (played by Stephanie Beatriz), who is Daniela’s much-younger live-in lover; and Cuca (played by Dascha Polanco), who is their loyal sidekick friend. Vanessa works in the salon too, but she’d rather be a fashion designer. A graffiti artist named Graffiti Pete (played by Noah Catala) is one of Usnavi’s friends. There’s also a character named Pike Phillips (played by Patrick Page), who owns a dry cleaning business next door to Rosario’s Car Service, and he plays a role that affects the fate of a few of the characters’ fortunes.

“In the Heights” creator Miranda has a small role in the movie as a sarcastic street vendor named Piragüero, who sells piragua/shaved ice. Keep watching through the movie’s ending credits to see a comical scene of Miranda’s Piragüero getting into a spat with a Mr. Softee ice cream truck driver, played by Christopher Jackson, who is Miranda’s best friend and longtime Broadway co-star. It’s an example of the touches of humor in an otherwise dramatic story.

The movie begins with Usnavi in a tropical beach setting, telling four kids (about 4 to 6 years old) the story about his life in Washington Heights. The four children are Iris (played by Olivia Perez), Rosa (played by Analia Gomez), Sedo (played by Dean Vazquez) and Migo (played by Mason Vazquez). The kids are very attentive and adorable. But it’s clear that Iris is the most intelligent and inquisitive out of all of them.

Usnavi’s story is about the sweltering summer when he decided he was going to move back to the Dominican Republic and re-open El Suenito. What follows is an immersive, rollercoaster ride of a story, with plenty of joy, heartbreak, fear and love. It begins with various cast members performing “In the Heights,” in an epic sequence where viewers are introduced to Usnavi’s life in Washington Heights and all the people he’s close to in the neighborhood.

Other tunes performed by cast members in the movie are “Benny’s Dispatch,” “Breathe,” “You’ll Be Back” “No Me Diga,” “It Won’t Be Long Now,” “Cuando Llega el Tren,” “96,000,” “Piragua,” “Always,” “When You’re Home,” “The Club,” “Blackout,” “Paciencia Y Fe,” “Carnaval Del Barrio,” “Alabanza,” “Champagne,” “When the Sun Goes Down,” “Home All Summer” and “Finale.” Some of set designs for “In the Heights” are a visual treat and enhance these musical numbers. Two examples that are highlights are the massive synchronized swimming scene in a public swimming pool for “96,000,” and when Benny and Nina (with the help of visual effects) duet on “When You’re Home” with some gymnast-like moves on the side of an apartment building.

An electrical blackout happens in the middle of this summer heatwave. The movie has a timetable of events before and after the blackout. It’s a blackout that changes the lives of the characters, some more dramatically than others.

“In the Heights” is rich with Hispanic culture and doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Mexicans and people from Central and South America are celebrated in some way in the movie. And Usnavi’s desire to move back to the Dominican Republic is indicative of not only honoring his family but also reconnecting with his Dominican roots.

Nina represents the experience of people from Hispanic families who are the first to get a chance to graduate from a prestigious university in the United States. On the one hand, Nina is considered an exalted role model for the community and has all the pressures that come with it. On the other hand, Nina describes the pain of racism and not feeling like she fits in a privileged, predominantly white setting such as Stanford.

During a few of the movie’s more poignant scenes, Nina describes how her Stanford experience isn’t as glamorous as people in Washington Heights might think it is. Nina talks about how she was wrongfully accused of theft by her white Stanford roommate. And on another occasion, Nina attended a diversity dinner at Stanford, and someone wrongfully assumed that she was one of the servers.

All of the cast members are admirable in their roles, but the standouts are Ramos, Grace and Merediz, whose characters go through the biggest emotional arcs in the movie. Merediz’s performance of “Paciencia Y Fe” will simply give people chills. It’s the type of scene that will have audiences moved to applaud and cheer loudly. Grace is also a very talented singer/actress who can convincingly portray feelings without over-emoting like someone performing on a theater stage.

And as the story’s protagonist/narrator Usnavi, Ramos carries the movie with charm and vulnerability. He’s not super-confident when courting Vanessa, and he’s often teased about his insecurities by his observant cousin Sonny. For the two big romances in the movie (Usnavi and Vanessa; Benny and Nina), it isn’t about whether or not these two couples will get together. It’s more about if they can stay together, considering that they have long-distance issues that could wreck their relationships.

Whether or not people got a chance to see “In the Heights” on stage, the movie is a lively celebration in its own right. It’s a story with universal and relevant themes that can be understood by people of any generation. And the movie brings new dimensions and nuances to the story that will inspire people to see it multiple times, preferably on the biggest screen possible.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “In the Heights” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on June 10, 2021. The release date was moved up from June 11, 2021.

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