Friday Movie Roundup: Scream 4 Edition

We're already back to reality: One week after 10 films found their way into local movie houses we have only four new offerings, one of which is Scream 4.

It's been 15 years since the original Scream bewitched audiences who grew up with decades of B-movie horror films on late-night TV, at drive-ins and via the then-still-burgeoning home-video market. —-Director Wes Craven — who had made his name with uncommonly discerning horror flicks The Hills Have Eyes and Nightmare on Elm Street — teamed with hotshot screenwriter Kevin Williamson — who burst onto the mainstream scene via Dawson's Creek — to create a mini-phenomenon by way of a wordy, wit-infused scary movie about scary movies that also happened to be funny and self-reflexive in a way that would ultimately cannibalize itself too conveniently (aka lazily) by the series' lame third installment in 2000. For better or worse, the box-office success of the Scream films spawned a horror movie resurrection that is still being felt today (see the inexplicable success of the Saw movies, not to mention the creatively desperate spate of remakes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

The original Scream can legitimately be called a landmark movie. But what should we make of this fourth offering, which, more than a decade after the third installment, brings back the original's major players and which the Weinstein Co. has refused to screen in advance for critics (never a good sign)? Will it recapture the freshness of the original? Or is it just another nostalgia-driven, paycheck-cashing endeavor? We'll soon find out.

Opening films:

THE CONSPIRATOR — Robert Redford's first directorial effort since his 2007 anti-war polemic Lions for Lambs is a striking Civil War courtroom drama not far removed from a film like Bruce Beresford's Breaker Morant. James McAvoy, Robin Wright and Kevin Kline star. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-

DANNY GREENE: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE IRISHMAN — Screened as a complement to the recently released Kill the Irishman, Tommy Reid's 2009 documentary on the notorious true-life Cleveland gangster features interviews with Greene's Mafia associates, his family and city police and government officials, and includes rare photos and other unknown tidbits. (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Jason Gargano (Not rated.) Not screened for review.

RIO — The animated Rio looks back to the Wolfgang Reitherman era of old-school Disney filmmaking. And if you’re familiar with that era, you know that approach has its pluses and minuses. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide Friday.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated G.) Grade: B

SCREAM 4 — Fifteen years after the entertaining, genre-skewering original and 11 years since the lame third installment, Scream 4 reassembles many of the series' original players, including director Wes Craven, screenwriter Kevin Williamson and actors Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox (as well as newcomers Anna Paquin, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Aimee Teegarden, Kristen Bell, Lucy Hale and Alison Brie). The question is whether Scream 4 can channel the wit-infused original and move beyond existing as just another paycheck-cashing endeavor for everyone involved. (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.