‘Scream 6’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Scream franchise is possibly the greatest horror franchise of all time because it is consistent. Even though all the Scream films have the same structure, it has always been about the experience with Ghostface throughout the film rather than the final reveal. That being said, Scream 6 goes back to the roots of what made the Scream franchise so entertaining to watch in the first place. The journey we go on with the “Core 4”; Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is a wild ride from beginning to end. The gang moves from Woodsboro to New York City, where they think they will be safe so Tara can take her shot at a normal life. However, social media has painted Samantha Carpenter so badly that she can’t escape her past. 

Scream 6 captured the same essence as the original film because there was a strong balance between brutal kills and funny dialogue. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett presented the tough, gritty streets of New York City in Ghostface. They needed to show a darker side of Ghostface to parallel Sam Carpenter’s journey in this film. When we see our “Core 4” again, Sam is cycling through therapists to try and work through the thoughts in her head, Tara is in university making some poor choices, and the twins are trying to protect both of them. In a way, they created their own family just like Sidney, Gale, and Dewey did. The “Core 4” are new to this way of life and learned to lean on each other in this instalment. Co-writers James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick and Kevin Williamson focused more on Sam’s journey with Tara than having the pressure of writing something for the legacy characters.

The Scream franchise relies on references and tropes to shape the current instalment they’re working on. In Scream 6, they do just that by referencing previous Scream films in the franchise and the stepping stones to the grand reveal were perfect. It made for some very funny moments and great banter between returning characters like Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and the new characters in the franchise. The journey may have been suspenseful, well-written and cheeky, but the third act didn’t stick the landing. The reveal felt predictable, and the explanation overstayed its welcome. However, the strength lies in Barrera and Ortega’s performances as they’ve grown as sisters. The ending creates a strong arc for Sam Carpenter, which opens a door of possibilities for the writers to flip the script on the franchise. Even though it didn’t deliver on the reveal, the third act affects Sam and makes it all worth it. 

Scream 6 has inventive kills, hilarious dialogue, and a strong build-up. This is one of the most entertaining Scream films since the original. The opening sets the tone for the rest of the film as it establishes the nature of New York City and the present-day social climate. This franchise has always made fun of those serious about the horror genre and films in general. It’s a step in the right direction after the transitional film that was Scream 5 to introduce a new set of characters. This instalment proves that Sam and Tara can stand on their own without any legacy characters involved. Even though the ending doesn’t stick the landing, the takeaway is that the characters feel more like family. This story is geared more towards Sam and Tara Carpenter and the realization that they will never be able to live a normal life because their past will always come back to haunt them. 

‘Creed 3’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Rocky franchise has delivered on all fronts over the years. The franchise has always had a heart and changed the perspective of masculinity in sports. It turned boxing from what seemed like a violent act to a form of control and discipline in the ring. More importantly, to get into the ring, you must know what you’re fighting for, which has always been parallel to Rocky’s relationships throughout the franchise. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has had eight films to develop a legendary character and bring forth Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as a new heavyweight addition to the franchise. In Creed 3, Michael B. Jordan flies solo without Stallone by his side as his directorial debut explores Creed as a veteran and a seasoned fighter. 

After two films of Adonis trying to find his place in the boxing world with his father’s legacy tied to him, he finally breaks free from the past with Balboa to work through the skeletons in his closet. Before finding a loving home with his mother, Mary-Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Adonis grew up in a group home with an abusive environment. Luckily, he found an older brother Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), and they became dependent on each other. The one thing that fuelled them was their anger due to their mistreatment. Unfortunately, Adonis did move forward because of his mother, whereas Damian was stuck in his past. His anger and pain manifested into something worse. After Damian comes back into Adonis’ life, Adonis hides the truth from Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and the more he repressed his memories, the more his anger bubbles to the surface. 

Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut is nothing short of incredible. Not only did he guide Adonis through one of his most challenging journeys yet, but he also created a strong family dynamic between Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Adonis and their young daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). The family unit almost plays out like a team, and Adonis realizes that his decisions as a boxer cannot bleed into how he educates his daughter. The deaf representation in this film was integrated so beautifully that it created such emotional moments between them all. The performances in this film were great, but Majors stole the spotlight and commanded the screen. Jordan and Majors had such a perfect dynamic that they would feed off of each other. Lastly, Jordan went with an anime-inspired direction in the ring, which made this third instalment special. The cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau and the editing by Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson made those matches intense and fun to watch. 

Creed 3 is a powerful directorial debut for Michael B. Jordan because he used what he learned from previous instalments and reworked it to include aspects important to him. It was the right time for Jordan to tackle working behind the camera, and he took some big swings. The story is a bit weaker than the previous two films, but the performances make it stronger. The third instalment closes Adonis’ arc, and despite his past, he made such a beautiful life for himself and will continue to do that for his daughter. It explores the bond of brotherhood and how children mature faster during difficult times, which affects them later in life. This film shows that your past doesn’t define you, but your decisions will clear a path meant to work in your favour. Just like Jordan – who has tirelessly worked his way to the top – Adonis has made his legacy that his father, and Rocky, would be proud of. 

‘Cocaine Bear’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

It’s sad to say that we’re living at a time when a fun B movie doesn’t generate the same buzz as a blockbuster. There should be excitement surrounding a new original story with an off-the-wall concept. In Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear, we get exactly what we expect, and the humour among the cast of characters works extremely well. This is based on a true story, and it almost felt like a deranged nature documentary about a bear who accidentally does cocaine. Some subplots didn’t work because they scratched the surface and weren’t developed enough. But the story involving motherhood and the lengths women go to for their children is the strongest. 

Three roads lead to the forest where the bear resides. Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and David (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.)  are two drug dealers who have to retrieve cocaine so they don’t get killed. And they have a detective (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) on their tail. Then two children, Deidre (Brooklynn Prince) and Henry (Christian Convery) skip school to get to the waterfall in the middle of the trail to paint without their mother, Sari (Keri Russell) knowing. Lastly, Ranger Liz (Margo Martindale) and some delinquents get involved because it’s their territory. The strongest thread here is the story with the kids because we stay with them longer, and the mother’s journey to get them back is probably the more relatable story out of the rest. However, that doesn’t mean that the additional storylines don’t add much-needed humour with an out-of-control bear. 

Banks makes some great choices with the action in this film. There was good tension to build up to the reveal of the bear in certain scenes. There are subtle movements that make you feel that something is lurking, and then the bumping score would add to the surprise of the bear attack. The kills are the most important aspect of this film. Those kills were inventive, bonkers and hilarious. Limbs were flying off, and the bear brutally attacked people differently. The more cocaine the bear found, the more you began rooting for her. Once we find that the bear is a woman (thanks to Eddie saying it aloud when she collapses on top of him), the story about motherhood and protecting their young no matter what becomes even more prevalent as they near the end. 

Cocaine Bear is a high-octane, hilarious action-thriller that will put a big smile on your face. It’s just dumb fun because of how absurd the concept is. The cast all work together quite well, and the characters get to the forest early on for each group of people to have their moment to shine. Ehrenreich and Jackson, Jr had the best chemistry as they played best friends, Martindale as the Ranger was hilarious because she had no idea what she was doing. And the late-great Ray Liotta coming in as the head honcho drug dealer was so good that he was the reason you end up rooting for the bear. The ending shows how difficult parenting can be and that the connection with your parents can be strained. However, there can always be an appreciation for what parents can teach you, and it’s ultimately up to you to change the cycle or follow suit. 

‘We Have A Ghost’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When dealing with spirits, many people are afraid of the unknown. Instead of trying to understand the entity before them, they become hysterical and run away. In We Have A Ghost, the Presley family, specifically Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), embraces the ghost named Ernest (David Harbour) living in their attic and successfully capitalizes on social media views to bring in desperately needed money. It all comes down to a father’s connection with their kids and how two different men try to fix their past mistakes by working through their issues together. Since Kevin’s relationship with his father, Frank (Anthony Mackie), he gets closer to Ernest because he is vulnerable with him. They confide in each other, and he wants to help Ernest break free. 

Writer-director Christopher Landon did write a heartfelt story. It’s about fathers correcting their mistakes as a man first while trying to be good fathers to their children. It explores fatherhood and the hardships they face while mending their own heart for them to have a stronger connection with their children. Ernest and Frank have two different stories, but the meaning is there when resolving family issues. The opening quickly set up that there is a ghost in the house differently as the viewer is watching from the outside of the house. The family runs out of the house and into the car as they leave in the middle of the night. Usually, there would be flashbacks, but in this case, it’s short and simple to get to the point.

Kevin was the only one who went against his father because he could see that his father tried too many times to win them over. Frank made the same mistakes because he wanted to make money quickly and never thought about the long term. Kevin feels isolated and alone because he has to adjust to another environment and finds comfort with Ernest. Once social media became involved in this storyline, it felt jumbled because every social platform keeps growing. And they also integrated the Gen Z language to appeal to younger viewers who watch this film. On top of that, the CIA got involved with Tig Notaro, who plays a scientist, and Ernest became a threat to national security. Many aspects of this film are added to market to a demographic, and the sentimental nature of the film gets lost in excess. 

We Have A Ghost has a heartfelt story lost in the craziness of the supernatural elements surrounding the Presley family. Unfortunately, the jokes don’t always land. And there is very little chemistry between the family. Mackie’s charisma can’t hold this film together, and even David Harbour’s presence is wasted as the mute ghost. Some missteps don’t make this film as engaging to watch when it could have been a fun family movie with a mystery to solve. Christopher Landon had a sentimental story until the CIA involvement, and then it got away from him. The third act had to tie up all the loose ends. It then made the final moments with Ernest underwhelming because the story kept shifting focus. 

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

After being in the game for over a decade, the Marvel universe continues to expand. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens phase five, and there is a multiversal world to play with. Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfieffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) have studied the quantum realm with their very own technology, but it wasn’t until Janet got stuck there that she discovered a different way of living. She found out someone else was trapped with her, named Kang (Jonathan Majors), who wanted to return to where he came from. In this film, we learn that the quantum realm is the place outside of time and space where people are sent to or get trapped accidentally. Janet is the only one who knows the full extent of the quantum realm but doesn’t disclose this information to the rest of the family. 

This third instalment to the Ant-Man franchise has some strong elements, but it ultimately suffers from the same overused formula. The humour, family dynamics and the relationship between Cassie (Kathryn Newton) and Scott (Paul Rudd) are the things that hold this film together. These key things are what make the Ant-Man franchise so special. They are the only family unit in the MCU that many have grown with. Rudd’s humour is also the main thing that sets his character apart from the rest of the films because it’s so different. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the familiar for the film as a whole to work. For some reason, this felt like you were walking into the middle of a conversation, and no one was giving you enough information to make you understand why anything was happening. 

They spent the majority of the film in the quantum realm but prolonged Janet telling Hank and Hope what had happened to her until halfway through the film. Scott and Cassie met people who lived in the quantum realm. But even then, everything felt a bit empty. There was dead air, which is the result of poor editing. And even empty conversations that went nowhere. There wasn’t enough story for a two-hour film because all they did was set up Kang. At this point, it’s no longer fun to sit through two hours of set-up to only wait another couple of years for the conclusion to happen. The story needs to be stronger in the film being presented to audiences. This is phase five, and the formula is no longer a formula, just repetition. The film suffers from uneven pacing and trying to add too much to push the characters forward again. 

The film is at its strongest when it directly showcases Ant-Man’s talents through Scott and Hank. There are small scenes that go back to the roots of the character, and Peyton Reed knew how to ground him in the quantum realm. There are pieces of an Ant-Man film lost in the mix of this VFX fest in the quantum realm, and that’s why it can be considered a decent ending to his trilogy. The way the film ends makes it feel redundant because of what this means for the upcoming phase. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a film that shows audiences who Kang is, and that was the sole purpose of this film. And since the Young Avengers are slowly assembling, they needed to reintroduce Cassie Lang as Stature. Unfortunately, all the Ant-Man films have been used as either a palette cleanser or a starting point regarding the placement of the films. That has been the downfall of this trilogy, but I will always keep it close to my heart.