Friday, March 10, 2023

Let's 'Scream' again like we did last winter; And hats off, 'Champions'

Naturally, "Scream VI" is as absurdly written as any of its five franchise predecessors, all often filled with as many plot holes as New Yok City streets have potholes.

Regardless, nobody really cares, anyway. Audiences just keep on coming back to see the endless supply of Ghostface masks, to perpetually guess who the killer might be and -- in this Big Apple incarnation -- maybe creepily to enjoy witnessing some of the most brutally violent screen slashings since the last couple of "Halloween" films.

Apparently blood always sells, and it will again in this history-happy, Oct. 31-set sequel that had a preview-screening crowd still laughing in all the wrong places the other night. I mean, speaking of awkward release dates in the middle of March, why else would "VI" come so quickly after last year's "Scream" requel if it had not given these not-so-daring movies such a renewed boost by combining its new, sassy young cast with a few popular leftovers from the past?

Without seriously giving much away, only one of the lasting veterans returns anew. That would be old friend Courteney Cox, as never-say-die TV reporter and, now, best-selling author Gale Weathers. Otherwise, Melissa Barrera ("In the Heights"), Jenna Ortega ("Wednesday"), Jasmin Savoy Brown ("Yellowjackets"), and Mason Gooding ("Booksmart") solidly return as "The Core Four," a tag which at least three members of this lead quartet find tacky. HA!

Mix in a couple silly if tense moments -- like the best ones set at a Midtown bodega or on a typically crowded subway -- with cameos from ever-dashing Samara Weaving ("Ready or Not") and a perfectly cast Tony Revolori ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") in a trademark opening bit that really has little to do with the rest of the film, and firmly faithful franchise fans should feel faithfully fulfilled.

Rated "R" by MPAA: strong bloody violence and language throughout, and brief drug use; 2:02; $ $ $ out of $5

The much more endearing "Champions," which features a lovably ragtag group of Special Olympics hopefuls and the undeniable chemistry between their coach (an exceptional Woody Harrelson) and one player's sister (the absolutely terrific Kaitlin Olson), suffers some screenplay problems of its own.

Then again, it's supposed to be a crowd-pleaser, folks, so simply sit back, enjoy, and thank me later for recommending a formulaic, sports-oriented remake of 2018's "Campeones." (That film allegedly broke all kinds of box-office records in Spain, with a story roughly based on a real basketball team from Valencia.)

And, by the way, if somehow you're expecting Shakespeare, please know that even the beloved Bard earns prominent mention as so uniquely included in such an unlikely concoction from Robert "Bobby" Farrelly, directing for a first time away from Oscar-winning brother, Peter Farrelly ("Green Book"). 

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: strong language with a few crude and sexual references; 2:03; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

(Also new today in some theaters: "65," "The Quiet Girl," "Righteous Thieves (also On Demand)," "The Ritual Killer," "Turn Every Page," and "Luther: The Falling Sun" (now streaming on Netflix).

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