Over the Moon (2020): FINALLY.

This review is specifically dedicated to Audrey Wells. For the record, I have no personal connection with Audrey Wells, but she wrote the screenplay for this film, only to pass away in late 2018, two years before this film officially released to the public. This may end up being one of the few times I do a dedication to somebody during a review, but this is incredibly deserved. You’ll see why. On with the review!

“Over the Moon” is directed by Glen Keane and John Kahrs and stars Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo (Hamilton, The Broken Hearts Gallery), Ken Jeong (The Masked Singer, The Hangover), John Cho (Star Trek, Total Recall), Ruthie Ann Miles (All Rise, The Americans), Margaret Cho (All-American Girl, 30 Rock), and Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve). This film centers around a young girl named Fei Fei, who is forced to adapt to the alterations of her life following the death of her mother. The young girl aspires to go to the moon to find the ancient goddess, Chang’e.

Now if you know me in person, you know I love the theatrical experience, and part of the reason why I refuse to buy a subscription to certain streaming services like Netflix is because they do not really have a presence in the theatrical light. I feel that it is an art that must be preserved for years to come, and streaming is something that is getting in the way of that. It’s not that I do not stream at all, in fact I’ve been using the hell out of Peacock recently, but I have my preferences. And when you basically annihilate Blockbuster, that’s another gripe to add to the equation.

Thankfully, “Over the Moon” has been slated to come out theatrically in select locations, so I took the opportunity to support it. The trailer looked… okay… It kind of looked like a typical 3D animated feature that took place in space. Maybe it’ll be more fun for kids than anyone else. But of course, I love space movies, and I will admit, I somewhat obligate myself to seeing at least 5 animated movies a year now. I figured “Over the Moon” would join the list.

You want to know something? This might shock some of you, after watching this movie, I almost considered buying a Netflix subscription. It’s… THAT GOOD! I did not expect this movie to pack as satisfyingly brutal of a punch as it has. Remember a few days ago when I said “Yellow Rose” may be the best movie of the year? Yeah, I think we have a new sheriff in town! “Over the Moon” is one of the best animated films I have seen in a theater. It’s powerful from start to finish. Not just in terms of being a feast for the eyes, but going full Pixar and letting you experience a story that represents the best of the human condition! I’m not gonna lie, towards the end of this movie, man tears. I will admit it.

Speaking of Pixar and movies that make you cry, remember “Coco?” Remember the movie that came out a few Novembers ago? I’ll be honest, even though I know quite a few people who lost their grandparents and saw this movie, I consider myself lucky. At the time I watched this movie, and this stands true today, because I watched it again a week ago when it was on ABC, all my grandparents on both sides were still alive. But I feel like when it comes to “Over the Moon,” it sort of spoke to me. I felt like I was in Fei Fei’s shoes, even though I am a twenty-year-old pasty white dude who does not engage in traditions like the Moon Festival.

Now I do not mean that literally, because one of the major plot points in this film is that we see Fei Fei with her family, and they’re clearly happy together. This is not a spoiler, but the mother dies. So much of the movie takes place in times where the effects of the death take place. We see Fei Fei’s struggle to accept the reality, her father meets someone new and she has to deal with their child who according to her, is quite annoying. When the father lets Fei Fei know that he plans to marry this new woman in his life, Fei Fei does not know what to think of it. …I’ve been through this.

You may be wondering, how is this possible? Hey, Jackass! You just said your mother is still alive! What about your father?

He’s still alive! Both parents, thankfully, are still living today, and I am glad to have both in my life. But I went down a similar path in life, and like Fei Fei, the decision to go down this path was not one of my own, it was beyond my control. During the 2010s, my parents separated. At this time, my mother started seeing new people. At first it didn’t seem like anything, but as more people came in, I became incredibly uneasy. Because, not to sound like a manipulative moron, but I really wanted my dad back. My mother remains single to this day. And you know what? I have learned to live my reality, but it does not mean I don’t want him back anymore. If anything, I want him back in a heartbeat. I still see him often, but as someone who still lives with a parent, I would love it if he were still around because I spent years growing without a father figure.

This probably comes down to a basic, repetitive thought process I have. I hate change. There are exceptions, for example, I don’t always want to eat at the same restaurant every week, but I am one of those people who does not see the need to have something shift every so often, or have a bunch of things shift at once. This is part of why 2020 has literally been the Michael Bay dumpster fire explosion that it is for me. And this is also something that the movie dives into, and it explores that idea beautifully. This is why I love Fei Fei as a character, and admittedly, this is why I liked the antagonist. Honestly, some of my favorite movies like “Point Break,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Ready or Not,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” stand where they happen to be because I am not only rooting for the hero, but the antagonistic side is fleshed out, and presents themselves as likable. I do not always have to agree with them, but I at least understand them. The antagonist here works because they are written with the intention to make you feel bad for them. They present an issue that feels down to earth and They are not perfect, they’re just like us.

…I… Have I made it clear as to how much I adore this masterpiece? This was supposed to be a time waster at best! I LOVE THIS MOVIE.

I have read some other reviews for this movie, and according to Metacritic, this film is getting mixed or average reviews so far. I’ll be honest, this film is beyond average. For all I know, maybe I am overhyping the film a little, but you also have to consider, I have been through remarkably familiar situations that this movie presents in regard to the main character’s journey. And I will say that is probably why this got tears out of me, similar to how “Coco” managed to get tears out of others.

“Over the Moon” is a Netflix original, but it feels very much like a Disney classic. In fact, this film is helmed by two people who do not have many directing credits, but they are veterans in the animation genre, tackling revered films like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Incredibles,” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” Now I cannot claim I have watched many of Disney’s older animated films, but having watched “Over the Moon,” this is what it felt like all the way. A brilliant score, beautiful images, hyperactive and likable characters, touching moments, and EPIC numbers. There is one that I have been playing on a loop not only during this review, but as I wrote my review for Liam Neeson’s “Honest Thief.” Remember how “Frozen” became that movie where you have songs from it play on loop? “Let It Go?” More like “Let It Stop!” Honestly, those songs are annoying as hell. I could barely even get past that first movie. “Over the Moon” trounces “Frozen” in every way. And I do sort of apologize to John Kahrs, one of the directors for this film, as he was an animator for “Frozen,” but I am just being honest.

I mentioned that score, and I’ll say that Steven Price composed said score. Price already has an Oscar under his belt for his score that he did for “Gravity.” This score is just as epic. Time will tell as to whether I’ll end up listening to the musical score for this film repeatedly, but it was boisterous in the theater. It really fit the adventure feel this film was going for.

The vibe for this movie is perfect. It fits the wondrous animation style, where everything looks like it’s a wacky world in “Tron” if it were on acid. I have a feeling that part of the space world in this film, where much of it takes place, looks like what a child would imagine Disney World looks like in a crazy dream before they set foot there. Little sidenote, if you’re of age and want to drop acid during this movie, I won’t stop you. This looks like a TRIP. “Over the Moon” is fast paced to the point where many kids will watch it and enjoy it, and I think some adults will get a kick out of it too. There are a couple kiddy jokes here and there, but they did work every once in a while and felt more charming than annoying for the most part. And again, this movie does what Pixar has often set out to do. Take an adult issue, put it in a kids movie, and make you cry about it. I cried more during this movie than I did during “Up,” and I think a little more than I did during “Inside Out,” and THAT says something. “Over the Moon’s” third act is probably my favorite this year, maybe aside from “Tenet,” as it is probably the most satisfying. It is the one that made me let out the most emotion. I walked out of the auditorium once the movie ended and started asking myself what it was I just saw. I could barely even concentrate driving home because I was in such disbelief. Usually when I use that word, disbelief, it is about something atrocious. This time the opposite is true. I cannot believe how exceptional “Over the Moon” is, and I feel like I am one of the few people who even knows what this movie is. I do not know how well it will do once it stays on Netflix for awhile, but I really hope for those families who have the service, it becomes part of their family movie night, because this movie took this twenty-year-old, and made him feel like he was five. If the spectacular images and music did not do that already, the emotional writing certainly did.

With that said, I know Netflix is more about the home viewing business, but I really hope Netflix considers leaving this film in whatever theaters it can for a while, because it is such a spectacle on the big screen that is better than almost any other movie I watched this year. Again, “Tenet” is the only other the competes with it in terms of visuals. I have a feeling this will inspire young children not only to reach for the stars, but maybe some will want to become animators. This feels carefully crafted, and I’m gonna use that analogy again. This reminds me of a better Pixar film. Honestly, this film is better than most of the content that we’ve gotten from Pixar in the past 4 or 5 years.

I do not know if this film will be remembered in the same way that many other animated films are, but I will not forget it. That is for sure.

In the end, “Over the Moon” accomplished every goal it set out to do. Create likable characters, fulfill each character’s arch, write and unleash epic songs and music, show off marvelous animation, and create something that both kids and adults will adore. This movie made me feel like a kid again. Sometimes like a baby. The cast from Cathy Ang to Phillipa Soo to Ken Jeong are all incredible. This is a movie that I thought would be watchable, but SO GOOD that I would consider subscribing to Netflix? That’s another level! “Roma” and “Marriage Story” were great movies. Masterpieces in fact! But I do not remember saying that I would want to subscribe to Netflix to watch them again afterwards. I am already paying for a few services, but I might actually subscribe to Netflix JUST to watch this again. “Stranger Things?” “House of Cards?” “The Witcher?” Who cares? I just want to cue that “Over the Moon” movie again! I do not know if I will let out man tears during another movie this year like I did for this one.

Throughout the year 2020, I watched movies like “The Vast of Night,” “Tenet,” “The Last Shift,” and “Yellow Rose,” all of them are great. But as I reviewed each one, I can’t say that they’ve earned what I’m going to give “Over the Moon.” For the first time in 2020, I’m going to give “Over the Moon” a 10/10!

FINALLY. That’s all I can say. FINALLY. I cannot even believe that it took me 10 months to find a movie that I would consider to be within my top grade. Let me just say, 10/10 does not always mean perfect, because no movie is perfect. But when your movie is this imaginative, marvelously put together, and as big of a surprise as it is, it prompts you to grade it with a 10. This started off feeling like a generic kids movie, with a little something else added to it, by the end it is one of the greatest stories I’ve had the pleasure to experience myself.

Once again, this review is dedicated to Aubrey Wells, who previously had credits for films including “The Game Plan,” “The Hate U Give,” and “A Dog’s Purpose.” I will say that I have not seen all those films. But “Over the Moon” honestly moved me to a point where I was shook. I was glued to my chair. It made me want to dream bigger, aim higher, and as someone who had to face new people come into a parent’s love life, I related to this movie 100%. Audrey Wells, if you read this from above, other people finished your masterpiece, and I also want to throw in some praise for Jennifer Yee McDevitt for her work on the screenplay as well, but you deserve all the credit from the moon and back. To everyone who reads this. Dream. Dream young, dream old, dream on your deathbed, and dream even in the afterlife. Wells, your movie is here, and people are going to love it. Mark my words.

Rest in peace.

Thanks for reading this review! FINALLY a 10/10 movie in 2020! I never thought I would see that! I never thought we’d get movies period! But here we are! All I can say is that if everyone’s giving Pixar’s “Soul” high praise right now, I can only imagine how that movie would turn out in comparison to “Over the Moon” because this is by far my favorite movie of 2020. There have been a bunch of movies that I have debated would fit the top spot by the end of the year. That debate is over, “Over the Moon” trounces the other candidates. As far as my next review goes, that is likely still being decided, but I will make sure I can see something and write about it as quick as possible. Maybe I’ll watch “The Witches” on HBO Max, who knows? If you want to see more great content from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Be sure to check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Over the Moon?” What did you think about it? Also, what is your favorite movie of 2020 so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Honest Thief (2020): About a Man with a Wicked Set of Skills

“Honest Thief” is directed by Mark Williams and stars Liam Neeson (Taken, The Commuter), Kate Walsh (The Umbrella Academy, Grey’s Anatomy), Robert Patrick (Scorpion, True Blood), Anthony Ramos (Trolls World Tour, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Jeffrey Donovan (Sicario, Burn Notice), and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, Divergent). This film follows a bank robber who meets a girl, falls in love, and aspires to spend his life with her. Although, because he wants to live a clean life, he requests to turn himself in for a reduced sentence, only to have every moment of his be interfered by two FBI agents.

There is not much playing in theaters right now in regards to new content, but “Honest Thief” did just debut this past weekend, and I managed to see it on the first Thursday it was playing. So, I consider myself lucky in getting to review another movie during a year which nothing really has happened. “Honest Thief,” marketing-wise, comes off as another cliche action flick starring Liam Neeson, and as far as the final product goes, that is pretty much what it is. If you’ve seen other action flicks starring Liam Neeson, this will seem stylistically similar to those. This is not exactly a punch to the face as far as this movie is concerned, because I will admit, I did enjoy myself from start to finish. This is not Shakespeare, but it is a damn good time, and worth the price of admission if you choose to support the film during its theatrical run. I am one of those people who will state that every movie is better in a theater, but I think many people would agree that action flicks are pretty much essential viewing on the big screen.

This movie has it all! Combat, shootouts, chases, and so on! This movie is worth it all the way through if you want to see some fun action scenes. Neeson carries the film quite well and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing his character, even though this movie takes place in Massachusetts and almost embellishes that from start to finish. So if this is remade in 5 or 10 years, who knows? Maybe Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, or Matt Damon could step in. They’re competent actors from the area! Why not give them a shot? This is not a complaint against Liam Neeson. Again, he portrayed the lead role with excellence.

I will say once again, this movie is not Shakespeare, but it does not mean I failed to get attached to anyone on board. Liam Neeson’s character, Tom, is very likable. His love interest, played excellently by Kate Walsh, is also pleasing to watch. Their first scene together, is admittedly a little sappy, but that also brings me to one of my biggest compliments about the film. Despite how this film is a masculine adrenaline rush of an action flick, I was still able to feel some sense of emotion all the way through.

I also really liked the film’s antagonists. I will try not to spoil too much about the film, but I will point out that the antagonists are these two FBI agents who meet with Tom as he is trying to turn himself in. The police reveal that plenty of people have called them trying to claim they were the bank robber they were looking for, and when these two FBI agents find out this guy is for real, they try to take advantage of his earnings. I kind of like their motivation and the depth behind their backstories, especially when it comes to the character of Ramon Hall, played by Anthony Ramos. He’s got a kid, and it is brought up that when it comes to the amount of money at stake, one would probably want it all just to take care of a kid without a worry in the world. This movie is not going to be remembered as the greatest story ever told, but this side story from one of the villains did add something to the film itself.

I don’t know what it is about recent action films and dogs, I mean, “John Wick” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” if you can call it an action film, have become iconic because of their dogs and the scenes they’re in. Some of the best chemistry in this film comes from this tiny little dog, and Jeffrey Donovan. This comes from a guy who loathes dogs in real life, but even I will admit that every moment these two were on screen together amused me.

I will point out once again, “Honest Thief” is a pretty good action film, but that does not mean it does not come without flaws. For starters, despite how good it is, it really just covers the basics. Yes, you’ve got a kick-ass Liam Neeson who is not really phoning it in. You’ve got some slick-looking action. You’ve got a story that goes from point A to point B. But there’s nothing really that changes the game. It’s familiar content. Familiar is not always the worst adjective however, I enjoyed the familiarity of this movie. This movie is like that one cheap pizza place you may end up always ordering from. It may not be the best, but with the close location and inexpensive options, it makes itself pretty attractive. It’s a good pizza that gets the job done, nothing more. If you want to watch a good action movie, watch “Honest Thief,” but if you want to watch a great action movie, I don’t know, here’s another example with Liam Neeson, put on “Taken!” Skip the sequels, just watch the first one. Although parts of the third one are good. …Just, skip “Taken 2.” I’ve pretty much forgotten almost all of it by now.

If I had to state any other notable cons, it would probably just be one particular scene two thirds the way through the movie. I know that this movie does not have the biggest budget in the world, but given how it is 2020, the effects that a movie has should look at least somewhat real. To be completely honest, there’s this scene past the midway point of the movie with this really big explosion, the fire effects in that scene, especially towards the end, looked like they came from a middle of the road movie that came out in 2003.

Liam Neeson’s character of Tom, otherwise known as the In and Out Bandit, which… WHY DID THIS MOVIE NOT TAKE PLACE IN CALIFORNIA? What a missed opportunity! You know what? This guy’s from Massachusetts! He should be called the Dunkin and Dunkout Bandit! He’s on the run on Dunkin’! Anyway, this character took a lot of money from banks. Thankfully, this movie did not feel as if it was robbing me from start to finish. If you have a chance, give it a shot! I’d give it a thumbs up.

In the end, “Honest Thief” is a bit basic, somewhat familiar, but is entertaining enough to pass the time. Is it worth seeing in the theater? Well that depends. There’s not much playing at the cinema, and I know not everyone wants to go to the cinema. If you don’t want to see this in a cinema, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is out for home viewing by sometime next year. But if you choose to go to a theater and you want something big and loud, this is almost your best option unless “Unhinged” and “Tenet” are playing somewhere near you. If you are a fan of Liam Neeson, you like action, and you just want to see somebody kick some asses, this may be a good movie for you. Just because it has been done before, does not mean it is terrible. I am going to give “Honest Thief” a 7/10. So far I’ve seen two Liam Neeson movies this year. This one, and “Made in Italy.” I’ve stated positive thoughts on both films, so in my book, Neeson is 2 for 2 in 2020. Well done!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for an unusual film. That my friends is the brand new animated musical “Over the Moon,” which hits Netflix October 23rd. Right now it is playing at select theatres if you want to see it early. I played a song from the movie on a loop as I did my review for “Honest Thief.”

…Take that as a hint for how good this movie is. I cannot wait to talk about it!

Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Honest Thief?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on the “Taken” franchise? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Yellow Rose (2019): Bigger Than Texas, Bigger Than Gold

“Yellow Rose” is directed by Diane Paragas (NextWorld, Brooklyn Boheme) and stars Eva Noblezada, Dale Watson, Princess Punzalan, and Lea Salonga (Aladdin, Mulan). This film follows a 17-year-old Filipina, who also happens to be part of a family of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. When Rose Garcia’s mother gets picked up by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she runs off and attempts to adapt to a new life and new reality as she aspires to become a country singer in Austin, Texas.

This movie played at a plethora of film festivals in 2019. Not only did this film get to play at these film festivals, but it did something else. WIN. On IMDb, there is a list of the many festivals in which this movie played. At almost every single one, it took home whatever each festival’s equivalent to Best Picture happens to be. It’s that good. Simply from the awards potential and what it has racked up so far, I had high expectations for this film. At the same time, it’s 2020, the year where each day I wonder if the next one is going to be less intolerable than the one before. For those who must know, it’s not like we have not had any good films this year. “Tenet,” “Summerland,” and “The Last Shift” are incredible. I’ll also happily defend “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” until the day I die! It’s worth a watch, trust me! Check it out on HBO Max!

In all seriousness, I saw “Yellow Rose” in an empty theater, given how cinemas are the only way you can watch this movie. Over the past couple year, we’ve had quite a few music-based movies that became popular, including “A Star is Born,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Yesterday.” Honestly, I’d rather forget that last one, it’s terrible. Here’s some good news. “Yellow Rose” is not as bad as yesterday.

Here’s some GREAT news… “Yellow Rose” is one of the best movies of the year!

This year in general started off fine, became bad, it’s gotten worse, and it hasn’t stopped progressing down the rabbit hole in terms of how terrible it truly is. For movies, it’s kind of the opposite point of view. We started off with a couple duds, got some good movies here and there, but overall, this year has been nothing special. We were so spoiled in 2019 with movies like “Parasite,” “Knives Out,” “Marriage Story,” and “Ready or Not.” But I will say one thing about this year, that’s kind of like last year. The sweet stuff comes later. And trust me, “Yellow Rose” is, in the words of Peter Griffin, freakin’ sweet.

Now I don’t know if this movie will be for everyone, specifically because the main character and her mother are living in the United States illegally, so I imagine some people will look at this movie, witness the main character, and simply ignore it. Movies are not made for everybody, that is the subjectivity of film. But when it comes to how this film tells this story, you cannot deny its power. You cannot deny its impact. I honestly don’t care about the status of our main character, because overall she is incredibly likable. I am a legal citizen of the United States. That is something which I will admit I have not been proud to say in recent years, but that’s not the point. Nevertheless, I enjoyed how the film deals with its issues, themes, and overall conflict.

Not only is “Yellow Rose” a great film about an aspiring artist, but it is a fantastic film about being an illegal in the United States. You’re trying to get by, you may not have the best accommodations, although you’re managing, and when it comes to dealing with I.C.E., it’s a brutal game of hardball. At the same time, even WITHOUT that, this film is still a lively presentation of how someone aspires to be something bigger than themselves, which is a story I enjoy from time to time. Minus the legality factor, I related to the character Rose. From the first five or so minutes of the film, I was instantly hooked from just seeing her on screen. And I’ll tell ya why. Like her, I have enormous aspirations. I spend all my time in my room. I’m a creative type. And there’s even a scene where I got the sense that she hides her creative self from other people. My eyes lit up from that very moment, and I knew I was in for what could possibly be the best movie of the year. By the way, Rose is played by Eva Noblezada, this is her first role that is not on a stage, and it is PERFECT. I do not think she will win Best Actress, but for a first performance, I could not be happier.

Speaking of songs, there are a lot of them in this movie, and there is a good chance that I’ll listen to some of them again. I will say though, one of the few cons, and there are not that many, that I have with “Yellow Rose” is despite the fact that “Yellow Rose” heavily centers around music, I don’t remember many of the songs in the film or the lyrics of said songs. At the same time, this stands true for much of the music I enjoy, so I could debunk this. Nevertheless, no movie’s perfect. This is a philosophy that has stood true for years, and I am willing to abide by it. This is not to say the songs suck, and I will say that many of them are spectacular, but a flaw’s a flaw.

If I had to say anything else about this movie, this came out at the perfect time for me. I still live with a parent, but I can see myself starting my own life pretty soon. This girl, embodies me as someone who sees their future and even a little bit of their present, and it ain’t always pretty. I can’t always rely on the best transportation, I make things up as I go along, and the living conditions may not always be great. I am very thankful to have such an incredible life right now where I can get three meals a day, and maybe a little more. This movie made me appreciate what people, regardless of their legality, go through just to survive. This movie is not only relatable, but emotionally gripping. My eyes and ears were engaged from start to finish, and it never let me go. In this wreck of a year, we need more movies like “Yellow Rose.”

In the end, “Yellow Rose” is quite high on my must see list! The film is only available in theaters now, which I will say, as usual, I get it, not everyone wants to go to the movies. But, if you are one of those people who wants to go see a movie, “Yellow Rose” is mandatory viewing. If you don’t enjoy the movie, maybe you’ll enjoy the songs. Who knows? This movie deals with multiple stories and issues, with each one coming out to top notch perfection. “Tenet” is one of the big movies out right now, and it has gotten a lot of attention, but if you want to support something with a smaller budget, I implore you to watch “Yellow Rose.” Again, some of the songs are not that memorable, but that could change upon listening to the album or a second viewing. And you bet I will want to participate in a second viewing because I’m going to give “Yellow Rose” a 9/10!

Now, IMDb technically lists this as a 2019 movie, but it came out for a public theatrical release in 2020, so I am going to count this as a 2020 film. With that being said, this may be my favorite film of 2020. I’m a little torn between this and a couple other films, but I am glad that 2020 has picked up the pace movie-wise. I’m really hoping we can get a 10/10 movie by the end of the year, but I’m so happy. By the way, about that 10/10. THIS MOVIE CAME SO CLOSE that I almost gave it that score. Maybe things will change with a second viewing! We’ll have to see!

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “Honest Thief” starring Liam Neeson. I hope to publish my thoughts on that film by the end of next week. School may be keeping me a little busy during these times. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Yellow Rose?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite piece of music, either song or score, from a movie this year? For me, it has to be the “Tenet” score, Ludwig Göransson created a banger! Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards ANNOUNCEMENT TRAILER (Coming Winter 2021)

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! In a world where everything gets cancelled, I refuse to join in on that tradition! I want to remind my viewers, including the 50 plus followers who have dedicated their time toward this blog, that one of my big yearly traditions, which has occasionally been hanging in the balance, is still on. BY THE WAY, thanks for 50 followers, you all rock! I want to remind you all that the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards is happening. It won’t be cancelled, and it is going to likely going to take something completely catastrophic to keep the show from happening. Examples include but are not limited to: An asteroid plummeting the United States, a government-wide Internet or movie ban, or my eventual death and I don’t find a heir to take over Flicknerd.com.

For those who don’t know about the Jackoff Awards, this is an annual event where I reflect on the movies of the year and celebrate the achievements of the filmmakers behind said year. And trust me, 2020 could use some celebrations at this point. I reference all the movies I saw, regardless of how much I enjoyed them. I share some comedy bits, related videos to some portion of the entertainment industry, for the past couple years I’ve been doing Film Improvements, which I plan to have another edition of when winter rolls around. I’m planning on altering the rules to adjust for the pandemic. Mainly, I want to make sure that certain movies that were going to play in theaters that DIDN’T play in theaters, but still came out in some way, will get their fair share. For example, in the United States, “An American Pickle” came out on HBO Max as an exclusive, but before that release, it was scheduled to premiere in theaters. Therefore, that movie is eligible for a Jackoff nomination. I also want to point out that the way we do Best Picture will also depend on how people watch movies by the end of the year. Are there enough films getting attention? We’ll have to see what happens, but this may be a different kind of ceremony than usual.

The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards is officially set to come out sometime during Winter 2021. There is no official release date yet as it will depend on whether I hit a target number of movies I want to see, or if there is an important movie that I don’t want to miss out on. For those of you think I am not committed enough to pull off a Jackoffs show during a pandemic, here’s a trailer to suggest otherwise!

The War with Grandpa (2020): Boomer vs. Zoomer

“The War with Grandpa” is directed by Tim Hill (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever) and stars Robert De Niro (Joker, The Irishman), Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Batman & Robin), Rob Riggle (The Hangover, Holey Moley), Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon, The Goldfinch), Laura Marano (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Austin & Ally), Cheech Marin (The Lion King, Cars), Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die, East of Eden), and Christopher Walken (The Jungle Book, The Deer Hunter). This film centers around a young boy who is excited to see his grandfather move into his home. Although things go sideways when the boy finds out that his grandfather will be taking his room, and he has to move to the attic. Peter declares war against his grandfather, and does whatever he can to get his room back.

This movie is directed by Tim Hill, a name from my childhood, who quite frankly, I did not know was a name from my childhood. He directed “Hop,” which I did not see. He wrote “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” which I did see. In fact, when it comes to that franchise in particular, he was heavily involved. He also co-write and directed what could arguably be the worst television movie in history, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.” I didn’t want to watch it, my grandmother made me do it, so the fact that I was ever exposed to that hairball is most certainly not my fault. Although throughout his years as a creator, much of his work has been specifically for families. I can’t say he’s had the best track record, I mean when you have 2007’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” on your resume, it doesn’t exactly scream “masterpiece.” Then again, he’s been around for “SpongeBob SquarePants,” back when the show tried, so there is that. Had I known who was involved with this film behind the camera, I probably would have had a bad taste in my mouth. But I would have possibly seen the movie anyway because I need content. Or if I had no review blog to begin with, I would have ignored this film all together. Sure, it has Robert De Niro playing a grandpa, and De Niro is a solid actor. But didn’t he play a grandpa four years ago? Remember “Dirty Grandpa?” That sadistically awful travesty on a platter? Yeah, I would rather shove an iPhone up my butt than watch that again!

With that said, I did watch the trailer for “The War with Grandpa” a few times, and I was fairly amused from one time to the next. It did get a laugh out of me the first time I watched it, so I thought, “Okay, this could work.” And did it work? Sort of.

The concept of this movie is fantastic. It’s entertaining for adults, relatable for kids. In fact, this movie sort of reminded me of “Home Alone,” if they took one concept from the movie, mixed around with it, and had a field day with it. All the scenes where the main kid is at war with his grandfather makes the price of admission worth it. There are also a few unrelated scenes that manage to make me laugh as well. There’s one character played by Cheech Marin who’s trying to feel young in his old body, he plays the part well. Rob Riggle is pretty charming, although ever since I’ve seen him commentate for “Holey Moley” I don’t know if there is a way I cannot display unbiased appreciation for him. There’s also a pretty fun scene that takes place in a Sky Zone.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is relatively mediocre. You know how there are some people who obsess over Christmas like it is the meaning of life? Look, I get it. It’s a fun holiday. BUT CALM DOWN. There is a young girl in this movie who is utterly obsessed with Christmas, that she sings carols 24/7, wants to watch movies like “Frosty the Snowman,” and keep in mind, it’s not even that time of year yet as far as this movie is concerned! Also, I get this is a kids movie, but do they seriously make holiday themed bouncy houses? You’d figure with the cold weather that would not normally be feasible! This movie does not exactly insult your intelligence, but it most certainly makes you question your purpose on earth, as if 2020 hasn’t done that enough. I hate Christmas songs around the holidays because they all sound the same and they REPEAT ALL THE TIME, the fact that I have to hear a couple in October gets me a little antsy! It’s not even Halloween yet! This script feels like it’s written by an 11-year-old. I am all for a movie where a boy and his grandfather go to war over a bedroom. A BEDROOM. It’s a silly concept, but this movie has too much silly behind it to make it worthwhile!

And sure, the girl who was obsessed with Christmas got on my nerves, but you want to know who also got my nerves quite a bit? The mother in this freaking movie! For the record, I felt indifferent for the mother character for the most part, but whenever she’s dealing with her grown daughter, that’s when the wheels start to flail off the wagon. I say that because the grown daughter in this movie has a boyfriend, her mother doesn’t trust her, yada yada yada. It’s cliche, annoying, and an all-round eye-roller. Seriously, by the end of this movie, this plot line in particular becomes monstrously annoying!

This movie has a great cast, an interesting concept, some okay scenes, solid chemistry, but it will probably be deemed an unmemorable mess by yours truly. There is really nothing to write home about when it comes to this movie. A lot of it is ordinary, been there, done that. Maybe kids will watch it a second time, but they take this extraordinary cast and waste all of them! These are talented people! Critical acclaim! Academy Awards! BAFTAs! The whole nine yards! And they’re all wasted in this family film that will probably belong in the $4 DVD bin at Walmart one day! Robert De Niro! What happened?! You were in TWO Academy Award movies last year! Now we get this! I also heard this movie was originally supposed to come out in 2018, but it kept getting pushed back and now this is what we get. This movie was shot in May 2017. That was BEFORE “The New Mutants!” The “X-Men” spinoff that finally came out! Yeah, f*cking crazy! That other film, “The New Mutants,” shot from July to September of the same year! So is “The New Mutants” going to continue being the butt of the joke when it comes to delays? Because I think “The War with Grandpa” may be a worthy competitor!

In the end, “The War with Grandpa” has everything a middle of road, whimsical live-action family film has to offer. Adults acting goofy, entitled children, a quick pace, and extremely forced moderate laughter. This felt like “Daddy’s Home” if it didn’t take place during Christmas. Completely different storylines, but the vibe is pretty much the same! Unlike many other movies that I have seen and didn’t like, I did not hate myself upon finishing it. To be real, there are a couple vastly entertaining parts, but they’re bogged down by some ear-screeching, cringe-inducing characters and a lackluster script. I am going to give “The War with Grandpa” a 5/10. Thanks for reading this review! If you want to read more of Scene Before’s great content, be sure to check out my review for Amazon’s “Time.” Also, I might see another movie this weekend. I’ve heard some solid things about “Yellow Rose,” so I might check that out ASAP. If you want to see more content like this, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The War with Grandpa?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite memory with a grandparent? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Time (2020): Devastating 60 Year Sentence, Decent 1.5 Hour Movie

“Time” is directed by Garrett Bradley, stars Sibil Fox Richardson alongside Robert G. Richardson, and follows a couple’s slice of life, most specifically from Sibil’s point of view. This documentary follows Sibil as she raises her kids and fights for her husband’s release from Louisiana State Penitentiary for armed bank robbery. Sibil did her time for three and a half years, but her husband, Robert, is forced to serve 60.

For all the historians who read this in the future, I saw this movie in 2020, the year where literally nothing happened. With that said, I witnessed this film through an early online screening provided by Amazon. By the way, thanks guys! Going into the documentary, I had no knowledge as to what it would be about. It could cover anything really. Maybe I read one or two snippets about the film before going in, but still. So for all I know, I could have known the story, but I will point out that I avoided all trailers. Safe to say, regardless of the subject matter, I was ready for the movie. It’s nice to go in as blind as possible.

For those of you who know about my thoughts on 1996’s “Mission: Impossible,” you may know I enjoyed the movie, but I had a greater appreciation for it once I saw some information on what went down behind the scenes. “Time” is sort of in the same boat. I genuinely enjoyed what I saw. But as I did this review, I brushed up on the film’s Wikipedia page, and I came across this.

“She (Garrett Bradley) originally set out to make a short documentary about Rich, but after shooting wrapped, Rich gave Bradley a bag of mini-DV tapes containing some 100 hours of home videos that she had recorded over the past 18 years. At that point, Bradley transitioned the short into a feature.” –Wikipedia

This movie became a feature by a miracle, and it shows. The runtime of the film clocks in at an hour and twenty-one minutes. That’s shorter than most theatrical features today. You can argue that this is barely a feature, but I’d say that the sudden transition made the movie feel like it is one of a kind. Part of me would have liked to see how the short turned out, and not because I think the short would have been better. In fact, I think if this were a short, it wouldn’t have as lasting of an impact. It quite frankly would have been informative, but after seeing the beginning footage presented in a full screen aspect ratio, I could not imagine this movie in any other way.

Regardless of what footage they used, this documentary does what many movies, including those specifically in the documentary genre should do. It encapsulates the meaning of life, and a specific moment in time that may be important to someone. I got the sense that everything that went down on screen was of supreme importance to Sibil. We got a sense of who she was, the people she knew, her personality, and it’s like the movie opened up its arms to allow her into our lives.

Garrett Bradley has done other work in the documentary genre, some of which includes shorts. I have no idea when I will watch any of her other content, even though 2020 has proven that we have plenty of time in this world. However, there are various aspects of “Time” in particular that really show how committed Bradley is to carrying out a singular vision. The movie is done in black and white, it is cleanly edited, the music matches all the edits as well. Honestly, in terms of the final edit, this is probably my favorite documentary of the year. I don’t think any of the documentaries I have seen this year are perfect, but in terms of how “Time” edits and lays out its story from beginning to end, it is easily the most satisfying to watch. It has a major reliance on showing, not telling, one of the most proper principles of visual arts, and it does such a thing very well.

Does this mean I will watch the movie a second time? Probably not. Although it is free with my Prime Video subscription so such thoughts could change. Compared to other movies that came out this year, “Time…” may not stand the test of time. Although I don’t regret seeing it at the same time, because it was an informative, compelling, and engaging story. I cannot believe I’m saying this in 2020, there are other movies that I’d rather watch before this one. I think when it comes to documentaries, it may deserve another shot, because that genre has not really provided anything perfect this year. No, I have not seen Netflix’s “The Social Experiment,” and I don’t plan on watching it.

If I had any real cons against this movie, I’d say that there are some times that maybe I was a little disengaged with specific content. For all I know, maybe it is because I was watching the movie at home on my laptop, where it is a little harder for me to pay attention to what’s going on with all sorts of distractions nearby. There are also a couple scenes that I think go on a little too long. There’s one snippet of archive footage, or b-roll, that could have ended and the impact would have either been slightly better or not made too much of a difference. I won’t go into it, because I went into this movie blind, and I am willing to bet that if I let you do the same, maybe you’ll have an enchanting experience. I don’t know, this is an experiment! I have a degree in Master Film Reviewing! I made that up, and I don’t care! I stand by it!

I will say though, going back to positives, one of my favorite parts about this movie is the way it ends. Not only is the subject matter of the end fulfilling, but it goes to show how well edited and put together this movie is. If the emotions of the ending could not be achieved through visuals, I will guarantee that the audio and music do such an excellent job that MAYBE, you don’t even need to rely on visuals to strike such feelings. Granted, this is a movie, and visuals are perhaps necessary at all times, but it goes to show how much can be achieved through audio. It’s perhaps the most satisfying part of the movie, and made the whole experience worth my time. That’s what every good ending is supposed to do. Well done!

In the end, “Time” is not maybe as timeless as I would expect, but it does not mean the movie blows. In fact, when it comes to documentaries, it is probably my favorite of the year. It encapsulates its story effectively, it pulls you in, and does not let you go. I admired Sibil, her journey, and everything she does throughout this film. She is without any doubt, the heart of the story, and I am glad that her story has been told. I am going to give “Time” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is the release of “The War with Grandpa,” I might end up seeing that by Monday, and I’ll have my thoughts on that soon. I’m looking forward to it, the film looks like it has some laughs. I might go see another movie this weekend, I’m not sure what it will be, but it will likely be something. After all, Massachusetts is now allowing theaters to serve food again, so I’m pretty excited just to get popcorn. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Time?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite documentary of 2020 so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

What Movie Theaters Have Been Doing Right (and Wrong) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! During the second half of 2020, I have been to the movies 13 times so far. In a normal year, this would be a pretty decent number, especially when the second half is only halfway through. During a pandemic like the one we are going through today, some might question why I go to the movies. SPOILER: It’s not just for fun, although that is part of it, but I need to make content, and much of it is brought to you courtesy of the theatrical experience. Now, as one of the first penguins to dive into the water, I wanted to take this moment to go over some of the things I like about what the theaters have been doing during the pandemic, and some things they should improve on. And I think a lot of people who read my stuff and know me in real life think I’m some evangelical for movie theatres, which… I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. But I consider myself a brainy evangelical as I am willing to recognize their flaws. So let’s dive in, here are my pros and cons regarding cinemas during the COVID-19 pandemic!

PRO #1: Cheaper tickets

You may have noticed that there are not many new movies coming out. So with that in mind, theaters have to get creative. They started showing throwback movies like “Back to the Future,” “The Goonies,” and “The Dark Knight.” For shows like these, tickets are often discounted, usually around the $5 range. Now you can watch an old film at home on a service such as HBO Max, Prime Video, or Disney+ for free on top of your subscription. But if you went to throw a few bucks out the window, you can see these movies with surround sound and a bucket of fresh popcorn. Sure, those costs can add up depending on where you go, but movie theaters provide one thing that streamers and “at home” methods of viewing content cannot, an experience. When I saw “Back to the Future” in a cinema, I felt things there that I am not able to feel while watching it in my room. I think I even laughed harder too. Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to AMC for their reopening deal, where they sold tickets for fifteen cents! This was done in honor of the chain’s 100th anniversary, but it is nevertheless a grand way to welcome patrons back to the theater. I also noticed that for regular shows, AMC’s afternoon prices were also a little cheaper than usual. Pre-pandemic, there was one theater near me that had tickets for a price a little over $10 until 4PM, now, the prices are under that mark until 5PM! Good job, AMC! Now don’t be jerk about those prices down the road… I’M WATCHING YOU.

Pro #2: Cleanliness

Keep in mind, this could change depending on how things go from here on out, in fact in the state of Massachusetts, the governor required that ALL indoor gatherings must have a maximum of 25 people. However, that has recently been altered, and the indoor max capacity for places such the cinema has since been increased. I should also note for a period of time, said state did not allow food in theaters. But every time I went to a theater during the pandemic, everything is spotless! Who’s running this place, Howie Mandel? Everything is very well kept, and I feel incredibly safe. The major chains like AMC and Cinemark have implemented new cleaning protocols, part of which includes new electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, HEPA filter vacuums, and proper air filters. Theaters also give a longer break between each showtime, which can allow for a greater cleaning process. They even encourage guests to stay clean themselves by providing hand sanitizing stations! Bravo! Personally, I’m more of a wash your hands guy, but I like the commitment!

Pro #3: Mask requirement

Now, this next part is going to be agreed upon by half of my readers, and probably get hammered by the other half. But I don’t care! Many theaters require masks in their policies. They must be worn in the auditorium, the lobby, the restroom, pretty much anywhere you can imagine. The only time you can take it off is when you are enjoying food or drinks. Kind of like when you’re at a restaurant, you have to wear a mask once you walk in, but you’re all good when you get to your table. Although, difference is, in a theater, if you’re not having food, you must keep it on. Given how masks are required everywhere else, it makes sense that theaters would jump on the train. I should also note that I’ve been to AMC a lot and they’ve added a new video to their preshow stating that masks are required at all times. So I hope that other theaters are focusing their efforts on reminding their customers to obey safety precautions not only enforced by the theaters themselves, but the areas in which they reside. Also, Regal Cinemas posted something that I honestly admire, because it speaks to much of the American audience on both sides of the mask debate.

Do I like wearing a mask? Of course not! I barely know one person who does! But we might as well suffer together! I do want to say one thing though, even though I am often focused on a film at the cinema, I sometimes get a little concerned that someone fails to abide by the mask policy. Of course, that’s not what I want to focus on, as I have no desire to confront anybody. I don’t want to be one of those people… But this brings me to my next point…

Con #1: More in-person monitoring needed

I will be completely honest with you. I don’t like being watched. It gets me a little anxious. But in a theater, it may be necessary at this time. One thing I think theaters need to do right now is have someone either monitor an auditorium for an entire screening, or occasionally check in on screenings to see what’s going on. Honestly, there are times I wish they had this BEFORE the pandemic, given how the big concern back then was about whoever would be the butthead fiddling with their phone. I get it, we’re attached to our phones. But we paid for AN ESCAPE. I went to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood one time and they have a great warning for using your cell phone. There’s a guy who comes out, introduces the show, reminds you not to use your cell phone, and he adds on that the images up on the big IMAX screen are going to be much more magnificent than what’s on the phone. Thankfully, I have not noticed as much cell phone use in a cinema, allowing for quieter experiences. However, it is still something to be concerned about, and with masks being enforced due to a health crisis, it gives an even greater reason to make sure everyone is following the rules. Such monitoring could also prevent people bringing in outside food and drinks, and piracy, which is of greater concern now in areas where theaters remain closed.

Con #2: Minimal Marketing

This is partially a con for the theaters, but also a con for the flicks. And honestly, I think it is part of why “Tenet” could not make as much money as Warner Brothers would have wanted. It did fine given the circumstances, but still. I’m noticing that a lot of the advertising for theaters coming back and “Tenet” comes my way through the Internet. Granted, a lot of people use the Internet nowadays, but I also think television would be a very effective tool. As for movie theaters themselves, this topic could be somewhat debatable, but when a company like Lord & Taylor has recently decided to promote their going out of business campaign on television, I think theaters and “Tenet” need to step up. I’ve seen more TV ads for “Bill and Ted Face the Music” than “Tenet” for crying out loud! The only TV ads I remember seeing for “Tenet” since its theatrical debut were during a golf tournament and during the recent “Saturday Night Live” premiere. If “Tenet” wanted to save theaters, they should have advertised on television, which many people resorted to in some way during the pandemic as it was the go to option for watchable new entertainment. If “Tenet” ads got more airtime on television than I’m pointing out, let me know, but I’ve watched a lot of television during the pandemic, and I can’t say “Tenet” was in my circles that much. If you want customers back, get their attention. Sure, it might cost some money, but if you spend enough money, you’ll make some money!

Con #3: AMC and Universal are crazy

This last con has less to do with theaters being open, and more to do with theaters existing, and what can happen to them in the future. Movie theaters and studios have maintained a 90 day theatrical window. Granted there are some smaller movies that have a shorter run before it hits streaming or DVD, some movies might even debut at home and theaters at the same time. But for a studio like Universal to come in and suggest that they can play some movies in theaters for a reduced theatrical window, it’s just a little preposterous to say the least, especially during a time where theaters are struggling as it is. In a recent deal negotiated by AMC and Universal, the studio is now allowed to release movies at home as early as 17 days after its theatrical release. I get it, studios have nothing to put out, and them putting movies on VOD early is a good way to get the film out there. However, 17 days is not a long time for a movie to be in theaters. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of movies would be lucky to play in a theater for one week! But Universal is one of the richest and most valuable movie studios out there. They’ve got tons of intellectual properties, a couple big animation studios, and they have a rich history when it comes to film. They’ve been around for over a hundred years and many of their films have been critically acclaimed throughout. I don’t just blame Universal here, but I also blame AMC for giving into this. Originally they were flat out against Universal’s shortening terms, thus leading them to ban their movies from playing at their locations. In fact, the day afterwards, Regal alleged themselves on the side of AMC by initiating their own Universal ban. Thankfully, studios like Warner Brothers, and filmmakers attached to them like Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins have expressed the importance of theaters. Sure, the option of the movie coming home early will be convenient for the consumer, but it’s lost money for the theaters. These are community businesses, and it’s hard to tell where things will go from here, but local jobs could be lost if this is taken to heart.

Universal, let me ask you this… Why would I want to watch the new “Fast & Furious” movie for the first time at home? I’d literally lose much of the excitement, exhilaration, and maybe even some laughter. Remember how “F9” was supposed to come out in MAY?! REMEMBER MOVIES COMING OUT?! THAT WAS AWESOME! I bought tickets for that film as early as February! I was outright convinced it would be the highest-grossing movie of the year. “Fast & Furious,” even though it is not my favorite movie franchise, is made for the same format that we get to experience a new “Spider-Man” movie every year. Not the same format where I can watch two old guys “debate” for U.S. presidency and hopefully not pass out. I don’t talk politics, but you cannot help but be concerned for both candidates while standing on stage.

Speaking of AMC being a little crazy, one of the big concerns many people had before AMC’s reopening was that they were not going to enforce masks. The company’s CEO Adam Aaron suggested that he did not want to get involved in a political debate. I can’t believe I have to say this. CORONAVIRUS IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE (unless you bring someone like Facui into this). CORONAVIRUS IS A HUMAN ISSUE. CORONAVIRUS IS A HEALTH ISSUE. MASKS ARE NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE. IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. And trust me, I would love it if I were told that masks are not allowed, because if you want my honest opinion, they are uncomfortable and they make me look like an out of shape “Mortal Kombat” character. But if everyone else has to deal with it, I do too. Thankfully, they reversed course on this. But even so, it reveals how the United States treats this pandemic. They say we’re all in this together, but our mask-wearing views may suggest otherwise.

In the end, I have enjoyed my ventures at the movies since times changed, and I think there’s a lot that they’ve gotten right. In fact, I’ll be honest, I had an easier time coming up with things I think they’ve gotten right than things I think they’ve gotten wrong. If I had to add a few more things, I think the seat distancing protocols are effective, I like how some theaters have been doing curbside popcorn, and speaking of popcorn, to celebrate Massachusetts bringing back theater concessions, Showcase Cinemas gave out popcorn for free on Monday, October 5th at all Massachusetts locations. I think that’s a sweet deal, and I’m somewhat sorry for myself for missing out on it. I think the theaters are getting things right, both in terms of value and safety. I would love to see more theaters open. But it’s 2020, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. WHERE ARE THE MURDER HORNETS?!

Thanks for reading this post! Just this past Tuesday, I watched the new Amazon documentary “Time,” which is about a woman whose husband was sent to prison for a 60 year sentence. The film hits theaters October 9th, and will stream on Prime Video the following week, starting October 16th. I will have my review up as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, have you been back to the movies yet during these times? If you have, tell me about your experience! If not, what have you been doing instead? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Last Shift (2020): Green Book, But Better

“The Last Shift” is directed by Andrew Cohn, who has directed a bunch of documentaries, but this is his feature-length debut for a narrative film. This movie stars Richard Jenkins (Kajillionaire, The Shape of Water), Shane Paul McGhie (Unbelievable, What Men Want), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (People of Earth, Selfie), Birgundi Baker (Empire, Black Lightning), Allison Tolman (Fargo, Good Girls), and Ed O’Neill (Modern Family, Finding Dory). This film follows a fast food restaurant worker who has done the graveyard shift for 38 years. His last shift is coming up, he’s training his replacement, the two have nothing in common, but they’re brought together by circumstance. The film dives into a developing relationship between the two as they spend night hours together at Oscar’s Chicken and Fish.

Over recent years, I have learned how much humanity truly has evolved as a culture of eating. With the invention of GrubHub, it has occasionally allowed me to order a large ice cream sundae from a place 3 towns over and have it be delivered to my place at 9:45 at night if I want it. Even though there are many complaints I have about society in 2020, the vast number of eating options is not one of them. Well, unless you count the fact that Massachusetts hasn’t allowed people to eat in a movie theater even though it is literally how they make their money! Stupid.

This movie, in one way or another, reminds me of how much our country “relies” on restaurants, specifically fast food, to get us through an assortment of times. It’s usually inexpensive, and gets the job done. Keep in mind, this movie mainly involves the behind the scenes aspect of people working at a restaurant, but this movie, from the very beginning let me know about how relevant we have made this industry today. Big chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Wendy’s dominate, but it doesn’t mean regional chains can’t compete. Kind of like the chain represented in this film, Oscar’s Chicken and Fish. The vibe of this movie was partially infused from this reminder that sticks throughout the runtime. But that’s not all this film is.

You know what this film also is? FREAKING GREAT! That’s what it is! Honestly, this is one of my favorite films of 2020 so far! Granted, the only competitors for the #1 spot this year it really has in my opinion are “Summerland” and “Tenet.” Is this film better than those? I’ll address that notion later, until then, keep this in mind. The film is one of the closest things we as an audience will receive as a work of art this entire year.

In case you guys acknowledged the subtitle for this review, I should let you know that I saw the movie “Green Book” and enjoyed it. Keep in mind, this was during a time before any controversy related to said movie surfaced. If you ask me what I think about it today, I think as a film it is well done, charming, and delightful. It wouldn’t be my pick for best picture, I personally would have selected “Roma,” but still.

For those who live under a rock, the problem many have with “Green Book” is despite the film’s charm, or at least that’s what I got from it during my initial viewing. It revolves around people who actually exist, but tells a story that supposedly bends reality too much. Thankfully, “The Last Shift” is not based on anything. It’s an original script, no relation to true events, even though it takes place in present day. More specifically, present day where nobody wears masks. That way, there’s more that this movie can get away with in regard to how it tells it story.

I will say, the story in this movie is fascinating because it takes two people who are completely different, in fact they only have one, two, three things in common, and yet they play off each other perfectly. Their chemistry is spot on and they feel like real people living in a real world. In fact, I’ll say Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie give two of my favorite performances this year. If anything, I’d say they also have what technically qualifies as my favorite bromance of sorts this year. There are a couple scenes with these two together, the only way I can describe their interactions are by using words like “fun,” “joy,” and “charm.” But with it being a movie, of course there are bumps in the road. Because an unproblematic movie is futuristically speaking, problematic for how people view it.

This movie deals with a lot of issues from both characters. Marriage. Job stability. Getting by. This movie deals with issues that struggling men of different ages have to go through. Regardless of the specific issue, I ended up feeling for both of them.

I have never worked in the fast food industry. I haven’t worked with food period. But one of the things I love this movie for is that it addresses the entitlement of fast food customers. Guys, I get it. You want food the way you ask for it. BE NICE. RESPECT YOUR RESTAURANT. Look, I know the whole saying that “the customer’s always right,” therefore suggesting that they are the most important person in the room. I’m not denying that, but if you are that pissed over cheap food, just calm down a little bit. Mistakes happen. This is why every time I go to the movies, I try to put myself in the workers’ shoes. Are they having a good day? If not, what can I do to make it better? Maybe strike up an interesting conversation? I try to lighten the mood of everyone that I come across. If I go to a fast food restaurant, I expect good service. I expect good service everywhere I go! But fast food workers, like myself, are human! We all have feelings! I don’t want to call somebody a jerk without knowing their backstory! Now if there are times where somebody can cross a line like call me a nasty name or swear in my face, I will speak up and let them know that customer service should be taken as a priority. But still, what I’m saying is that fast food workers are people. Just like us. So let’s not try to tear them down.There’s a scene in this movie where a woman comes in suggesting her order was messed up, and she rages out against the two people working at the restaurant! I… Get that. I will be completely honest, I don’t work in customer service, in fact there has not been a point to this day where I have worked in customer service, but I understood the workers’ perspective here.

Although this movie excels in not just displaying the reality of having a low-paying job and trying to get by from not just one, but two individual perspectives, but it excels as a movie where an unlikely friendship develops. It’s about the bumps of life, all the hurdles that comes with it, and the desire to aim higher. You know that saying that no job is beneath you? I am not saying that statement is false, but this movie dives into the want for more. More money, a better job, a better life. At the same time it deals with the cons, and the sprinkled-in pros of the lives of our two main characters.

It’s still September as I write this, so for all I know things can change when movies like “Soul” and “Nomadland” come out, but “The Last Shift” is arguably the finest encapsulation of the human condition we have seen this year. Two Americans of different ages, of different backgrounds, of different identities, come together for a reason. Honestly, if you have ever worked part-time, you may relate to this movie. If you are of old age, you may relate to this movie. This movie dives into some serious issues, but at its heart, it’s just charming. It’s a good time, and that’s what movies are meant to be! Will it be my favorite of the year? Hard to tell at this point. We shall see.

In the end, “The Last Shift” is incredible. It’s an intimate tale of two vastly different people dealing with their own problems who despite some complications, still manage to get along. It’s a movie about a friendship that seems fine and charming, but the two have their separate views that collide. It’s sort of a broken friendship, which is cool. It goes to show that nobody is perfect! It’s about living in a suburban town where nothing goes on, the only thing that it has going for it is some local fast food restaurant that makes certain people happy. I get that. I come from the suburbs. I feel like one of those people who despite living there for 20 years, just wants to move away from it all and start a new life somewhere else, most likely Los Angeles. “The Last Shift” is one of the best movies of the year and I’m going to give it a 9/10! Do I like this movie better than “Tenet” and “Summerland?” I think as a story, it’s a little more compelling than “Tenet,” but “Summerland” has more of a surprise factor for me. I am not saying I was not looking forward to that movie, but I did not expect it to be as good as it turned out to be. Plus, “Tenet” has the benefit of practically being designed for the theatrical experience. This movie, even though it was great in the theater (and every movie is better in a theater), probably could have gotten away with a direct to On Demand release or something given what’s been going on with the pandemic. Even so, I’d put “The Last Shift” in my top 3 movies of 2020 at the very least because it is a really well done film. Check it out!

Remember how I said this is a better version of “Green Book?” Yeah, I’m not lying! I gave that movie an 8/10 during my original review. So regardless of controversy that has developed surrounding the movie, I am likely not lying about my statement. I have no idea how the rest of 2020 is going to play out. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, but this is certainly a contender for my favorite film of the year! This is a great narrative directorial debut and as for everyone else who collaborated on the movie, I’d say they did an outstanding job.

Thanks for reading this review! Be sure to check out my next post which will probably involve… Something. I don’t know. I really wish I could tell you. “Wonder Woman 1984” would have come out this weekend if it for weren’t a mix of disappointing box office results for “Tenet,” other movies, or people being stupid. Also, New York and Los Angeles are two key markets that still need to open if the movie is going to succeed. I’m hoping they open by sometime next month, because I REALLY don’t want “Soul” and “No Time to Die” to get bumped. This year has been a screwball! You don’t know where it’s going! You’re spinning along with it! And in the end, it tires you out! Let’s just get through these trying times together, and if you are going to see a movie at a theater this weekend, remember to be safe, wash your hands, and take care of those around you. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Speaking of great content, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Last Shift?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite place to get fast food? Chain-wise, I’m a Burger King guy. I always have been. But if you’re ever in my area, be sure to check out Billy’s Famous Roast Beef in Wakefield, Mass. They make a mean chicken finger plate. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

You Should Have Left (2020): Not Exactly False Advertising

“You Should Have Left” is directed by David Koepp (Ghost Town, Premium Rush) and stars Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, Footloose) alongside Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed, Ted 2) as a couple who book a vacation at a home in the Welsh countryside. I won’t say much, but strange things happen as we get to know our characters, their personalities, and their backstories.

How to get Peacock streaming: Details on NBC Universal's new service

“You Should Have Left” is the first film I watched on Peacock. For the record, I’ve had the service for a couple months now, but for the price, I’m digging it. It’s got a good selection of content, but one of my favorite things about it is the novel “channels” feature where programming is logged into a particular non-stop lineup. Nevertheless, as I stepped away from familiar territory to watch this movie, I was not sure what to expect. 2020 has been a roller-coaster of year. Not just for everything that’s been going on, but for film as well. The year started off horrible, stayed horrible, got slightly better. And unfortunately, I still don’t even have a 10/10 movie yet! I will say, I gave “Tenet” an 8, and upon repeat viewings, that score may have bumped up to a 9. Although that’s been pretty consistent with Christopher Nolan’s library.

As for “You Should Have Left,” it’s got a 5.3 on IMDb, mostly poor reviews from both critics AND audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 46 on Metacritic. Not the best verdicts if you ask me. But I watched the movie anyway, because it’s 2020, who cares anymore. I gotta tell you. I sat through this movie, waiting for something to happen. And yes, things were happening on screen. But nothing of value showed up for a long time. It got to a point where I really didn’t care about our two leads.

I’ve said this before this year, I’ll say it now for “You Should have Left.” This movie is BOOOOORRING!

Now, it didn’t make me want to shove ten knives in my eyelids, which is a positive sign. But I had nothing that I felt I would remember all that well by the end of the year. The house where most of the movie takes place looks nice. It’s a proper location for a movie like this. But welcome to my house! Welcome to the Jack Cave! You’re under my authority now, and as an authoritative figure. I command that “You Should Have Left” pays attention to my demands. My demand being, listen to my negative review!

As mentioned, this movie stars Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried. Two competent actors. Both of them played their part well, I have nothing against their performances for the most part. I don’t think I would give them Oscar buzz or anything, but both actors serve their purpose in this movie and play their parts as best they can. But the problem is that I haven’t reached the opportunity to get fully attached to either of their characters. I don’t mind either of these actors, just the characters they’re playing. They try to give some depth to Kevin Bacon’s character, and said depth does play a sizable part in the film. However, for whatever reason, I never found myself 100% in love with either of the leads. I never had a chance to care. This movie goes for an hour and a half, but unfortunately, this movie spends much of its time making it feel like nothing’s happening.

Now I don’t mind slow burn type movies where not everything happens lickety split. I like challenges for the attention span every now and then. But this movie… I– wow! I can’t even describe it coherently! Nothing happens!

I will be positive here with my next statement, not just because I’m trying to lighten the mood, but because I like being honest. This movie also features Avery Tiiu Essex (Modern Family) and this is her second role… Ever. Her first documented role, at least according to IMDb, is Young Claire from “Modern Family.” I have not seen the episode where she appears. Admittedly, I quit watching the show during the middle of the series because I don’t see the humor other people see in it, but having seen her in this movie, I think she did a good job, and for a second documented performance. This ain’t half bad. I think Avery Tiiu Essex has a bright future ahead of her, but I simultaneously wish she just has better movies to back her up. At the same time though, this is perhaps the life of an actor. You do something to get your name out there, maybe the movie will suck, but you nevertheless put yourself before an audience. If I were a casting director, I’d consider her for a role depending on the project.

But honestly, just because this movie was competently performed throughout, does not excuse the lackluster writing. This movie has some cool traits behind it. The beginning is well-written and somewhat intriguing. It’s kind of spooky as well, and given how this movie’s in the horror genre, it works! But there are so many times where I just wanted to look at my phone. Keep in mind, I was watching this at home, not at a theater.

There were a couple times where the movie slowed down enough to give me the urge to rewind. And one line in particular caught my attention. And by that I mean, it sent an electrical shock into my brain.

This movie is based on a book by Daniel Kehlmann. For all I know, the book is better than the movie, I have not read it myself. But there’s a line where the family looks around the house to see what’s what. They come across what would become the daughter’s bedroom, and the mother suggests that her bed “is the size of Connecticut.” I know this is nitpicking… Connecticut is not that big of a state! CONNECTICUT IS THE 3RD SMALLEST OF THE UNITED STATES! There are so many other states you can choose from! Texas! Alaska! California! New York! Florida! BUT CONNECTICUT?! I know… This is admittedly, possibly the stupidest thing I could ever complain about, but it nevertheless irks me! Word choice matters! I’m sorry, but that line caught me off guard! I don’t know where it came from! The book, the movie! I don’t know! Maybe there’s something I don’t know about the character that could make the line better. What is their relationship with Connecticut? Did they go there? Did they live there? Do they hate that state with a burning passion? Which, if you do… Try Frank Pepe’s pizza! I It’s a place that started in New Haven and it now has become a chain in the northeast! This is not sponsored, I’m just a fan!

I gotta say though, before I watched this movie, I don’t recall watching the trailers. Although I did watch a bunch of On Demand previews because they showed up on my TV from time to time. This movie is not only less spooky than I would want it to be, but it feels very confused in its identity. I know sometimes there are movies where you don’t know what box to put them in because they are one genre or another, but if that were the case with “You Should Have Left,” it didn’t work. Is it a family drama? Is it a horror flick? I don’t know. It kind of tries being both, but in doing so, it can’t do either successfully. So if you get Peacock, kind of like I did, I’d look for another movie before turning this one on.

To add on even further disappointment, I should point out that this movie is written and directed by David Koepp. While I don’t talk about David Koepp too often, his resume is solid! Especially when it comes to his writing credits. “Jurassic Park,” “Spider-Man,” “Mission: Impossible.” He has screenplay credits for all three of these great blockbusters! I’ll even say that one film in particular he wrote and directed, specifically 2012’s “Premium Rush” is a film that I wish more people talk about. To see a guy with an admirable history in the film industry do something like this is profoundly disappointing, and it kind of makes the movie a little worse than it should be. Although I would imagine some would be willing to acknowledge his blunders as well. While I have not seen the film myself, many have pointed out that “Mortdecai” is one of the inferior additions to Johnny Depp’s cinematic library. Even so, Koepp’s a man who has brought some positive additions to Hollywood’s history! If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten to hear Willem DaFoe sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Just, make better movies. That’s all I ask.

In the end, “You Should Have Left” is the best possible title they could have given this movie. Because it was basically telling me, the viewer, that I should have left. This movie is dull, confused as to what it wants to be, and even though it has some scares, a lot of them are forced, cheap, and shoehorned! I think the young girl in this movie has a bright future ahead, but this movie will not shine on my best list at the end of 2020. I’m going to give “You Should Have Left” a 3/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new movie “The Last Shift.” This is exclusively out in theaters now, so per usual, I won’t force anyone who doesn’t feel safe going to a theater to go see this movie, but without saying anything else, I highly recommend “The Last Shift.” I will explain more about why I recommend it in my review, which should be up later this week. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “You Should Have Left?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Peacock? Did you get the service? Do you have a certain plan for it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Why “And Then There Were Fewer” is the Best Family Guy Episode *MAJOR SPOILERS*

PREVIOUSLY ON SCENE BEFORE:

“What happens here? You know what? I’m not even gonna specify, because spoiling this particular episode, while hard, isn’t worth it.”

“I could go on forever about this episode, but I’d be wasting precious time.”

SOURCE: Top 10 “Family Guy” Episodes *SPOILERS*

AND NOW…

FAMILY GUY: When the residents of Quahog are invited to a stately mansion for a weekend getaway, the retreat turns into a real murder mystery when guests end up dead and everyone scrambles to solve the crime on the one-hour season premiere episode of FAMILY GUY airing Sunday, Sept. 26 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. FAMILY GUY © and ª 2010 TTCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! I do not talk about TV that much here on Scene Before, but it has been over three and a half years since I talked about ten of my all time favorite “Family Guy” episodes. Some examples from the time include “PTV,” (S4E14) “Wasted Talent,” (S2E20) “The Simpsons Guy,” (S13E01), and “Blue Harvest” (S6E01). If you are wondering, no, I do not have any current plans to update the countdown anytime soon. Maybe in a couple years if I’m desperate, but who knows? Besides, even though “Family Guy” is still on the air today, many of the newer episodes are either unfunny, disposable, overly cruel, or downright unwatchable. But there have been some diamonds in the rough, most notably “Three Directors,” (S16E05) where it is one short story presented in the “visions” of Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Michael Bay, and “Trump Guy,” (S17E11) where Peter works for the Trump administration. But my favorite episode has aired during a time where “Family Guy” was just getting into the HD age.

Today, September 26th, 2020, is the tenth anniversary of my favorite “Family Guy” episode of all time, “And Then There Were Fewer.” Now I have a lot of respect for the “Family Guy” series. It is a show that I started watching at one point, and convinced my father to watch alongside me. I guess I got lucky, because at this point my father thinks Seth MacFarlane is a genius. In fact, I’m attempting to work on a bit of a “Family Guy” project myself. I can’t say much about it, but if Seth MacFarlane, Fox, or Disney reads this, I will be happy to talk with them about an idea or two I have!

When it comes to the adult animation genre, I think “Family Guy” reigns supreme in terms of humor and likable characters. From Peter to Stewie to Joe to Quagmire, the list goes on. Throughout the seasons, they all have their highlights in various episodes. And even if the episodes themselves are not that great, I still like the characters because at the end of the day, they have a likable presence or personality to keep the show afloat. Peter is a lovable idiot. While he is somewhat entitled and lazy, he plays the part great. I’m not a dog person, but Brian is probably one of my favorite dogs in media, mainly because of how well executed he is as a voice of wisdom. I occasionally enjoy myself realizing that Seth MacFarlane sometimes puts a bit of his own personality into Brian’s character. As for Stewie… He is probably in my top 10 most relatable characters of all time. Well, minus the desire to kill my own mother.

The supporting characters of “Family Guy” show themselves to be quite admirable too. From Tom Tucker, the charming newscaster who has a knack for dry commentary, to Mayor West, who is basically a college frat boy in a geezer’s body (RIP Adam West), and even though the actor himself is a controversial name as of today, James Woods had some of the greatest moments of screentime in the entire series.

This all adds up to something… That, kinda feels like a culmination.

The reason why I enjoy “And Then There Were Fewer” more than any other “Family Guy” episode is the same reason why I consider “Avengers: Infinity War” to be the best installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every other movie felt like they played a part in a series of buildup. These movies eventually let “Infinity War” take elements from them to give a big, grand story that stands on its own and recognizes what came before, and even builds the story further in the end.

Keep in mind, “And Then There Were Fewer” is the premiere episode of “Family Guy’s” ninth season, but at times, it feels more like a finale. People die. The vibe is incredibly grand and massive. Also keep in mind, even though I mentioned “Infinity War,” this is not exactly like an epic. After all, this episode is a quirky but somewhat serious murder mystery. This episode relies a ton on its own, heavy, unique atmosphere that quite frankly, I have not seen in too many other “Family Guy” episodes. Your typical “Family Guy” episode goes straight for humor. Maybe it’s dark humor, controversial humor, or some plethora of pop culture references. And those are not always bad. These are in the show’s collective wheelhouse. In “And Then There Were Fewer,” the humor is there, but I stay for the story and characterization.

Let’s go over how the episode goes down, and I’ll give some of my thoughts along the way. *MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

The episode begins with the Griffins finding out they were invited to a party at Rocky Point Manor, a massive location where the rest of the episode would take place. This episode is the first one in series to be presented in 16:9 widescreen and high definition. In fact, the intro that is not often shown on television due to time constraints (it can be found on the DVD version of the episode, however) tries to make the viewer aware that they are in for something new. Not just in regards to looks, but the overall vibe. The scope is massive, almost movie-like perhaps. Instead of the traditional intro where they show the main characters in the Griffin House and an alternate venue singing, they rely on scenery and atmosphere. When the main location of the episode is revealed, the music, which by the way is a full-blown orchestra, is kind of bombastic and triggers an emotional punch. The music does a solid job of reminding me as a viewer of the beauty regarding the massive mansion up ahead. The colors and animation in these opening scenes are vibrant and finely detailed.

Now, this is a cartoon, meaning that you can get away with more in a presentation of its kind compared to something in live-action. Thus, this episode handles a crossover sort of situation at hand. Turns out the Griffins were not the only ones to get the party invitation, but as Lois points out, “the whole town got invited.” Not only did they get invited, but they got invited “in their honor.”

This brings every single character imaginable into the episode. Your main tag team including Mayor West, Quagmire, and the Swansons. They’ve also got Mort and Muriel Goldman, the Channel 5 news team, Dr. Hartman, you name it. This episode seems to open with big promise, but does it deliver above and beyond the idea of bringing tons of people together? You betcha.

“Good evening, everyone.” -James Woods

I know a lot of people are currently divided over James Woods as a person, but regardless of his personal views of the world, I will say that he has appeared in some of the best “Family Guy” episodes, and this one is no exception. His role in here is perfect as it solidly relies on previous buildup. “Family Guy” has had a history of using James Woods as an antagonist against several characters, including Peter, when he tried to copy several aspects of his life. He ruined Brian’s TV pilot, changing the core aspects of the script and overall vibe of the production. Throughout the episode, there are a couple of other things that other characters briefly bring up that make Woods look like an undesirable monster. Quagmire reveals Woods stole Cheryl Tiegs from him, Tom Tucker mentions Woods kept him from being the star of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and Mayor Adam West says James Woods took the Twitter name @MayorWest, meaning he had to then use @Mayor_West. His presence in the episode is a reminder of how far this series has come and raises questions as to where it goes from there, and I admire that about Woods here.

Woods reveals he has recently become a born-again Christian thanks to his girlfriend, Priscilla (voiced by Ashley Tisdale). Because he’s just become a man of god, he felt it was necessary to invite all the people he wronged to make amends. The guests wonder why they should trust him, but James Woods begs for said guests to give him a chance.

When Woods exits the dining room where everybody happens to be sitting, waiting for dinner, Priscilla tags along. Quagmire’s annoying girlfriend, Stephanie, goes over to the Woods’ chair and sits down. Soon thereafter, blood pours out of her chest.

She dies. Head flat on the table.

To quote Agatha the Pre-Cog from “Minority Report…”

“Murrrrderrrrr.”

This is the perfect catalyst to bring darkness to this episode. “Family Guy” is usually known for being dark, but that’s usually just from a comedic perspective. From this moment, it might as well be gathered that some serious stuff is about to go down.

Everyone assumes James Woods killed Stephanie, thus leading them to flee to their cars. Upon beginning their drive, a tree collapses a bridge, the only way they can go in their escape.

Retrieved from TVGag

So it’s back to the mansion!

Unfortunately, nobody is getting reception on their cell phones, and even though there’s a landline, it’s dead. Everyone is in panic mode. until James Woods enters the room, where such panic is dialed up a couple notches. After a penis joke, scolding, and further realization that Stephanie is kind of a gag character. James and Priscilla are confused by everyone’s fear. James claims he’s unaware of what’s going on. So they go to the next room, where Stephanie’s body no longer remains. A power outage ensues, summoning a series of black frames, and “Family Guy” does what it does best.

“Oh my god! Is this what black people see all the time?” -Peter Griffin

James Woods dies with a knife in his back.

We don’t see who strikes Woods down, nor does anybody in the mansion. Joe Swanson catalyzes the rest of the episode.

JOE: What I’m saying is James Woods isn’t the murderer. The murderer… is one of us.”

*Collective gasps*

JOE: And someone ate the last goat cheese tartlet.

*Collective yammering*

PETER: Now I hope I die next!

Criss Cross GIF - Criss Cross Family - Discover & Share GIFs

We soon see that Stephanie died due to a timed gun, which went off as soon as Stephanie sat down in the chair that was supposed to be for James Woods. Nobody admits to wanting James Woods dead, so it’s time to play Clue!

Unfortunately for Joe, he’s soon knocked unconscious by Peter, who takes over the investigation. The characters remind us, the audience, that everyone at the dinner had a motive for wanting James Woods dead, but one was willing enough to get revenge. We see tons of finger-pointing. Diane Simmons points at Tom Tucker, who points at Seamus the pirate, who then points at Mayor Adam West. We get into a finger-pointing frenzy! No answers in sight!

Carl shoves Chris into a bookshelf, causing books to gravitate downward. One hits a particular floor tile that pushes down, making the bookshelf slide, thus revealing an opening to the basement.

Everyone goes downstairs, Peter opens a book revealing James’ misdeeds. He’s written each one down so he remembers who to make amends to. Upon some investigation, Brian comes across tons of Oxycontin bottles with James Woods’ name on it. All of it comes from Goldman’s Pharmacy, appropriately owned by Mort and Muriel Goldman. James Woods blackmailed Muriel specifically, as he was being supplied with free medicine. Everyone assumes Muriel is the killer, but she escapes before she can be captured.

Peter divides everyone into teams, and if you watch “Family Guy,” a couple of these combinations make complete sense.

“Chris, you check the basement with Herbert.”

*Herbert stretches over to Chris, emitting a twiggish sound*

Perfect.

Peter even points out Joe and Priscilla, who are currently passed out, therefore they’re labeled the “unconscious team.”

We see these teams in action. Derek and Jillian investigate an attic, where a black cat, voiced by Patrick Stewart, jumps out. There’s even an inside joke to “X-Men” where the cat reveals himself as a “professor.” Chris and Herbert collaborate, and Herbert makes a request to Chris to burn his house down if he dies. Diane Simmons and Tom Tucker enter an art gallery, where Tom clicks a button with his shoe, thus sliding a painting automatically. Tom goes inside, but he gets trapped! Diane raises some concern, but where did Tom go?!

Meg and Carl enter a billiard room, as if this wasn’t like “Clue” enough already. Meg bumps into the stuffed bear from “The Great Outdoors” written by John Hughes.

CARL: Oh, it’s okay. It’s just the stuffed bear from “The Great Outdoors.” Did you see “The Great Outdoors?”

MEG: No.

CARL: You suck.

FAMILY GUY: A swanky retreat turns into a real murder mystery when guests end up dead, and Meg scrambles to solve the crime on the one-hour season premiere episode of FAMILY GUY airing Sunday, Sept. 26 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. FAMILY GUY © and ™ 2010 TTCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Even though the duo are searching for Muriel, they decide to take a break and play some pool. Meg finds the pool cues, but she falls down a chute as soon as she grabs one of them.

We see Brian and Stewie humming TV themes to each other, when suddenly, a shriek is heard in the distance. The two run to the scene.

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

Muriel lies down with the knife inside her. Everyone else comes in as well.

And if you’re wondering, the thing I love about this death, not to mention a couple others in this episode, is that the people who died here have not been revived. In fact, the only person to die in this episode who has been revived is James Woods.

The clock ticks. The lightning strikes. The tension could not be higher. There is no other episode in the “Family Guy” series that I can think of that has given stakes like this.

Meg and Tom Tucker reveal their journey through an underground passageway to the rest of the crew, who are all standing together in the dining room. This is where we get one of the best jokes in the episode, and honestly, it has aged like a fine wine.

Derek reveals he’s getting reception on his cell phone. Peter speaks up.

PETER: Oh my god is that–…

*reveal Derek’s phone cover picture, him in front of the Hollywood sign

PETER: Are you holding up the whole Hollywood sign?

DEREK: No no no no, the sign was way in the background. I was standing in the foreground going like this (raises his arms) while Jillian took the picture. So, by forced perspective it looks like I’m holding up the whole sign.

PETER: I don’t believe you. I think you are a god. And I would die for you or kill others.

It’s stupid, but simultaneously brilliant, which to me is a core element of what makes “Family Guy” worthy of its cultural relevance.

Derek goes to the roof to call the police. Unfortunately, not everyone heard him say that. As evidenced by this next quote…

“Oh my god, Priscilla’s gone!” -Brian Griffin

We angle on the couch where Priscilla was laid to rest. We don’t know her fate, but she is nevertheless gone. But guess who isn’t gone? Joe! He’s back!

Some assume Priscilla’s the murderer. Some think there’s more data needed to confirm if that’s true. Then we get arguably the funniest outburst of the episode. Everyone’s arguing about the situation. Peter just jumps in being himself.

PETER: Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.

*Collective yammering*

PETER: He did too, I saw the picture!

Derek reaches a balcony, dials for the police, but he’s smacked off. Splat! He hits the ground. Dr. Hartman steps in, confirms he’s dead, also noting his head was hit by a blunt object.

Everyone flies back into the mansion, gathers together in a room. Lois assumes Priscilla’s up to this, then Consuela discovers James Woods’ Golden Globe is missing. Everyone gathers around Joe, who suggests that if anyone leaves the group, they’re assumed to be the killer. They investigate Glenn Quagmire’s room, which doesn’t have anything of note. Although Stephanie’s huge underpants get some screentime, which provides for some funny lines.

LOIS: Oh it’s got flowers! I mean, why bother? Who’s gonna see em?

CHRIS: Maybe someone in space!

*Collective laughter*

The gang moves onto Tom Tucker’s room. They search around, Meg gasps, slowly revealing a bloody Golden Globe in her hand.

Everyone turns on Tom Tucker, Joe wheels himself over prepared to possibly turn him in. Tucker brings up Priscilla, noting that nobody knows what she’s up to. Joe suggests that’s possible, then blood starts dripping from the ceiling.

Peter lifts Joe to the ceiling, Joe opens a vent, and a dead Priscilla is revealed, everyone screams. Tom Tucker flees the room as many of the men track him down. They capture him in the dining room, where he’s cuffed. The police take him in once the sun rises.

The music in all of these scenes, and the entire episode for that matter, is simply put, “ear porn.” That’s the best way I can describe it. I know “Family Guy” is often known for their numbers that they’ve sprinkled into various episodes, but this episode has my favorite musical score, or my favorite musical job without lyrics, particularly in the “Family Guy series.” It’s intense, grand, and it pulls you right in. It’s kind of like some movies such as “Star Wars” where the music practically plays a supporting role.

The episode’s not over. We’ve just witnessed the main course. Now it’s time for dessert.

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Everyone’s about to leave, Peter and Lois are packing up. Peter checks his stuff and notices his Hot Wheels fire engine does not appear to be in his luggage. He asks Lois if they’re in the bathroom, but she suggests she put them all in his bag. Lois walks down the hall, enters Diane Simmons’ room. She asks if Diane’s okay, to which she responds saying she’s managing. Then comes… this quote.

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“You sound like my mother, she actually bought me this blouse for my first solo broadcast. I guess that’s sweet, huh.” -Diane Simmons

Lois is confused, until she puts what Diane said together.

As Peter often says, “Holy crap!”

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Lois backs away, suggesting she’s looking for Peter’s fire engine, but Diane points a gun at her. She’s the killer.

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, the backstory behind all of this is incredible. At times when I watch it, I feel like I am viewing this story from the point where Diane is the protagonist. It kind of gives a grand, emotional “John Wick” vibe. I even teared up a couple times by watching the last 5 to 10 minutes of the episode because it’s that good.

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Diane reveals that she and James Woods met at a press event, but their relationship was a secret from the media. Then she does something that NO CARTOONS EVER DO. Age. The footage reveals she turned 40, and around this time, James dumps her. Speaking of being left behind by straight, white men, Tom Tucker started promoting a younger blonde anchor, who we now know by the name Joyce Kinney. This anchor was set to take Diane’s place in a matter of weeks.

“I saw my career and my love life crumble, and I wasn’t gonna stand by and take it.” -Diane Simmons

From here, Diane reveals she has previously taken advantage of an intern named Priscilla. Sound familiar? At Diane’s discretion, Priscilla persuades James Woods to become a born-again Christian. This inspired the dinner where Woods invited everyone he wronged. Diane wanted everything to go as smooth as possible so she could kill James Woods and frame Tom Tucker.

“Oh my god. You’re 40?” -Lois Griffin

As for Diane killing everyone else, this was not part of the plan. Stephanie, as suggested earlier in the episode, was an accident. As soon as the power went out, Diane took advantage of the darkness and put a knife in James Woods’ back. From here, she reveals that due to Priscilla and Muriel realizing Diane’s true motivations, they had to die as well. For Priscilla specifically, Diane hid her in Tom Tucker’s room. Muriel was left on the ground as everyone gathered around, and Diane was lucky enough to be “part of the scene.”

When everyone gathers in the dining room, Diane notices Derek running to the balcony.

Remember this line?

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.”

Yeah, you want to know why that’s possibly the best line in the episode? Because even though it was delivered in a manner where Peter was pretty much being a smartass, Diane Simmons utilizes it and takes it seriously.

“When Peter was yelling at everybody about that picture of Derek holding up the Hollywood sign, I grabbed the Golden Globe and slipped out. I followed Derek outside and did what I had to do.” -Diane Simmons

She then reveals the rest of her plan was a success as everyone turned on Tom Tucker.

But what about Stephanie? She was the first to die! But Diane didn’t acknowledge what happened to her body and where she went!

Turns out, Quagmire had Stephanie’s body locked in his trunk. Because when your annoying girlfriend dies, you might as well keep their body as a memento! It’s a lesson for everyone!

But of course, Diane has one thing left to do. Kill Lois.

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Peter comes in the room, asks Lois if she’s on her way, and adds the notion that he wants to listen to tapes, but he can’t do that without the car key. Diane says she and Lois are going to take a quick walk. So Peter just asks for the key.

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Lois awkwardly hands the key, Peter runs out of the room, and Lois is forced to follow Diane’s orders. Realization sets in that these may be Lois’s final moments. She and Diane walk to the back of the property, they stumble upon a cliff. Diane is set for the kill.

LOIS: Diane, please! You don’t have to do this! I won’t tell anybody, I swear to god!

DIANE: That’s right, you won’t. Goodbye, Lois.

By the way, the music here is glorious.

*GUNSHOT*

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We zoom out on Lois, looking as normal as ever. Then we cut to a close-up of Diane, who has a bullet through her chest. She falls off a high cliff into the water. This is the last we’ve seen of her since.

Now who killed Diane? Lois didn’t do it! Nobody else was at the scene! So who killed her? Tom Tucker? Joe? Peter? Nope!

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The answer is all kinds of badass, none other than Stewie Griffin himself!

“If anybody’s gonna take that bitch down, it’s gonna be me.”

Not only does this support Stewie being one of the most kick-ass cartoon characters of all time, but from a story standpoint, I am curious to know exactly he did this. I’m not saying there’s a plot hole behind it or anything, but for years, one of the biggest storylines in “Family Guy” history is that Stewie continuously desires to kill his own mother. The series even dedicated a two-part special where Stewie and Lois try to kill each other! This is how far they’ve taken this concept! Now, Stewie subversively SAVES Lois from danger. Why does he do this? Does he love his mother? Does he realize he needs a mother figure in his life? Did Diane piss him off one time? Does he just hate the news? I’m probably asking more questions than I need to! This is a complete twist, but I love it!

Chevapravatdumrong at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2017

This episode is written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and she honestly went above and beyond with it. All the characters within this massive cast had a purpose of some kind. Each one a motive, something to do, and unfortunately this episode has quite a few clips that cannot be shown on most TV broadcasts due to timing purposes. So I will definitely recommend you check this episode out if it plays on TBS or Adult Swim or something, but if you have the motivation, buy the DVD. I know the series is on Hulu as well, but I am not sure how long the episode is on there.

And Then There Were Fewer also uses a classical orchestra to its fullest potential, providing for a soundtrack that I still wonder why is not on iTunes or something. The opening theme for this episode is also used in a “Family Guy” mobile game, subtitled “The Quest for Stuff.”

The animation in this episode is incredible. Not only do we get to see everything in high-definition, but they utilize flashy water, crisp skies, and I must say that the manor inside and out is wonderfully detailed. I must say, this being the first episode in widescreen must have really set the tone, because this episode goes long. Not only because it’s an hour, but because there’s so much that goes on. A vast of number of characters! Plot point after plot point! Stakes dialed up to an 11! The episode barely has any dead air.

But I think the best part about this episode is that it relies less on comedy than usual. “Family Guy” is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I will say part of the reason why is because it makes me laugh harder than perhaps any other show I can think of. But when the show can do something different, make me feel emotions, almost get me to tear up WHILE STILL BEING FUNNY, that is a sign of a masterpiece. This thing gives me chills, man! I felt for everyone during the episode. Everyone who wondered if they were the next to die. Those who were perhaps about to die. Maybe not Stephanie, but she was a gag character, so it’s not like I was supposed to get emotionally invested in her. I even felt bad for Diane by the end of it. I understood her motivation despite the reveal that she killed everybody, because I got a sense of her struggle. This is a character that has appeared every now and then on the show, and to see her at this point, where she defends herself for her deadly actions, is kind of hauntingly beautiful.

But just a reminder, the most important thing we all learned in this episode iiiiiissssss…

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

Don’t you forget it!

In the end, And Then There Were Fewer is incredibly rewatchable, insanely beautiful, and provides perhaps the greatest blend of comedy and emotion in the entire series. Characters develop, thus allowing the show to develop down the road. It’s something I kind of wish this show would do more. Yes, it said goodbye to a few characters, but with an ending like this, comes a new beginning. We say goodbye to Diane Simmons, but now we have Joyce Kinney. They say change is inevitable, but I think “Family Guy” handles such an inevitability brilliantly. And Then There Were Fewer to this day, officially ten years after it came out, is my favorite “Family Guy” episode, and may just be my favorite television episode of all time.

You want to know how good this episode is? Even Seth MacFarlane himself says that this is favorite episode!

“I think this is my favorite episode of the series. A classic format, great-looking direction, and, I hope, a genuinely surprising ending. It was also the first episode to air in HD. It was really cool to finally see Lois’ pores.” -Seth MacFarlane (Retrieved from: Seth MacFarlane Reveals His 20 Favorite ‘Family Guy’ Episodes)

If the creator says its the best, that says something! Also goes to show that great minds think alike!

Today, “Family Guy” is continuously losing steam despite a few great episodes here and there. Although I will give the show credit for being a pioneer in adult animation for going where say “The Simpsons” can’t, and essentially making the cutaway gag a trademark. Season 19, not to mention the show’s 350th episode, is set to premiere on Fox tomorrow. I will most likely be watching, but “And Then There Were Fewer” is an episode that reminds me of what makes this series so watchable. The characters, the storylines, the brilliant writing. It all comes together beautifully. I will be looking forward to season 19 of “Family Guy,” not to mention the recently announced seasons 20 and 21. But I long for the day where “Family Guy” makes an episode as good as this. Although, just remember one thing, and one thing only.

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

It’s in the picture!

Thanks for reading this post! It’s not every day that I decide to talk about television, but I figured since And Then There Were Fewer turns ten today, that would make for a good opportunity to do a post like this. But if you are interested in my movie content, feel free to check out my review for “Tenet!” Or, as some call it, the only movie in theaters right now! I’m not sure when I’ll get to talk about TV again. Maybe when another streaming service comes out or something, but we shall see. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! You know what grinds my gears? The fact that more people are not checking out my Facebook page! So do yourself a favor, and check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you ever watch the “Family Guy” episode titled And Then There Were Fewer? What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Family Guy” episode? As of today, you have 349 to choose from, which is quite a buttload! Leave your freakin’ comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!