Jumanji: The Next Level (2019): The Kinda Sorta Freaky Friday Holiday Special

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“Jumanji: The Next Level” is directed by Jake Kasdan, who also directed this film’s predecessor, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” This film stars Dwayne Johnson (Rampage, San Andreas), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer), Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda, Goosebumps), and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who). This film is the sequel to the recently mentioned “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and it continues following the characters we got to know from the last film, a group of young adults who get sucked into a video game and become the the avatars they chose. And in this followup, the main young adult, specifically Spencer, returns home from studying in New York around Christmastime. He eventually goes into his basement and decides to play the “Jumanji” video game once more. This leaves Spencer’s friends bewildered of where he’s gone and leads to their eventual return to the virtual world.

I have been on this blog since 2016, and I have reviewed a good number of movies every year since then, but one of them was not “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” For one thing, I had little time on my hands for it, there were other movies I was more focused on such as “The Disaster Artist,” I was trying to get started on 2018 in film, I had my end of year countdowns (by the way, stay tuned for my BEST & WORST movies lists of 2019 once the New Year arrives), and I will also add that I saw the trailer for “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and before that, I heard about the movie’s plot. I wasn’t particular fond with it. I grew up admiring the “Jumanji” film from the 1990s, the one with the horrific board game that brought havoc upon humanity, I loved that movie from a story and spectacle perspective. The ending still gives me chills just thinking about it. When it comes to “Welcome to the Jungle,” the 2017 reboot, I was scared for how it would turn out because it felt like there was going to be significantly less at stake compared to its 1990s counterpart. After all, the movie took place inside a video game as opposed to the real world, where ACTUAL things happen. But to my surprise, I had a rather fun time with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” The main cast has terrific chemistry, a lot of jokes inside the video game worked, Jack Black’s performance is up there with some of the finest I’ve seen in a popcorn movie, and here’s a shocker, it felt like there were stakes! Surprisingly, anything that took place in the real world was boring compared to the video game. Granted, when the movie kicks itself into gear and I start seeing lots of Sony product placement everywhere, I cannot help but get irritated.

Speaking of surprises, I honestly think “Jumanji: The Next Level” may be better than its predecessor. I think it has better writing, the ideas are just about as clever as they were in 2017, it’s crowd-pleasing, and I will say that a couple new characters bring a bit to the table as well. Most notably, Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, The Lorax).

In this movie, Danny DeVito plays Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, and I don’t know how many of you saw the trailers, but without giving much detail, he ends up getting sucked into the “Jumanji” video game, so he manages to become an avatar. To be as blind as possible, the avatar he happens to portray is why I found it hilarious when he asks “Are we in Florida?” Yes, the trailer reveals who he becomes, but I went into this movie fairly blind so I am just trying to go off of my experience.

Now I mentioned that in the last “Jumanji” movie, “Welcome to the Jungle,” I never really liked anything that happened in the real world, and I say this because anything that was spoken or acted out in the real world was never funny, somewhat generic, and it did not have much glamour to it if you wil. All I saw were four stereotypical teens not knowing they were going to escape their boring everyday lives and that’s about it. Granted, I grew to like them, but still. But what made the real world events interesting was catching up with our past characters, because they were reuniting, and even though I have known them for less than a week, I feel like I have grown up with them. After all, they were in high school in the first film, and now they are following their own paths in life. I have a feeling I will have some sort of reunion with somebody down the road that I have known from high school in the future, after all, the holidays are here, making this a good time for it. Plus, I’ll mention once again, speaking of reality, Danny DeVito’s real life character is honestly a highlight of the movie for me. I am honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed watching him, especially when he has a little reunion of his own. This movie goes into a little sideplot (if you can call it that), about a restaurant that he and someone else operated together. This is just a fraction of the interactions DeVito has with the character of Milo, who is wonderfully played by Danny Glover. Both of them have great chemistry and I honestly would not mind a spinoff mini-series on Crackle or something just listening to them have conversations.

But let’s be serious, real life is overrated, and sometimes it’s a video game, it’s just a fact. I do like how the video game manages to go in different directions with its characters and storyline, this time there is a new plot where the characters are after a different object. It’s sort of got similar beats to the previous installment, but it has enough to not feel like a ripoff. As for the villain, Jurgen the Brutal, I thought he was just going to be this cliche bad guy who wants to do bad guy things upon one or two early impressions of him, but even though he may resemble someone with cliches, the way the movie goes about executing his character, specifically towards the end, is a thing of beauty. There is an ongoing scene where our characters are interacting with him and his cronies, it’s not only intense, but also pretty funny. That’s the thing that I will say is amazing about this movie. I know it’s got comedic talent, but to have TWO “Jumanji” movies that aren’t exactly the within the realm of “Jumanji” I have come to know and have BOTH be funny and charming is one of the best surprises I have gotten during my recent moviewatching experiences.

But even though I will point out that this film is better than the original, it doesn’t mean it’s flawless. As much as I really like the climax, it does get a little off the rails towards the end. Granted, there is a bit of that off the rails factor that I like, but there’s also a tad that I found to be too insane. It is a video game though, which often distorts itself from reality so maybe I’ll retract this error eventually. I think some of the pacing could have been fixed, and once again, this is not that big of an issue, but there are some scenes that take place in the real world that feel like they are just inserted at a random point and it almost doesn’t flow. This movie is not that much longer than its predecessor, and even though I found certain portions dull, the pacing is a bit better in that film. The last film felt shorter than what it actually was, but this one just felt a tad longer. There’s also one scene with ostriches that is most certainly trying to get a laugh out of people, but feels like something out of a a horror movie where every character does not know the first thing about common sense. I get it, jokes bring smiles to people’s faces, but so do characters with brains. Nevertheless, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is funny and I would not mind watching it again on a rainy day at home.

In the end, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is exactly as the title suggests, “The Next Level.” The last movie was good, this one is a step up. I think I’ll end up having a little more replay value with this one, but we’ll have to see. The characters, both real and fake, are all a joy to watch. The movie itself is pretty mindless, but also works because it is so mindless. In fact, portions of its creativity perhaps comes from mindlessness. I know “The Rock” is not a GREAT actor, just a muscular man who has a somewhat engaging screen presence, but if I had to compare the performance he gave in “Jumanji: The Next Level” to pretty much anything else he’s done, this may be the best he’s been in terms of solid acting ability. I mean, when you are playing someone that is literally portraying somebody else in avatar form, it requires a little bit of extra effort to maybe be convincing. For that, props to Dwayne Johnson. I’m going to give “Jumanji: The Next Level” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is most likely going to be for “Uncut Gems,” which I saw before reviewing this movie, but I wanted to get this “Jumanji” review out first because it felt like a higher priority. Also stay tuned in about a week and a half, where I will have my review for the biggest movie event of the season, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account for greater access and posts brought directly to your personal feed! Please leave a like on this post, and if you like liking, like… a lot, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jumanji: The Next Level?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite video game of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): Why the World Needs Tom Hanks

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“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and stars Tom Hanks (Cast Away, Forrest Gump), Matthew Rhys (The Americans, The Post), Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us, The Blacklist), and Chris Cooper (American Beauty, Adaptation). This film is based on the on the article “Can You Say… Hero?” by Tom Junod, which was published in Esquire magazine. It focuses on the character of Lloyd Vogel, who is in a bit of rut when it comes to the current state of his job. Prior to this, he attended his sister’s wedding and got into a fistfight with his father. Now, he has to interview Fred Rogers on a segment his organization is doing on heroes, which is pretty much where the movie’s main subjects lie.

I think Fred Rogers may be one of the greatest people to ever walk this Earth, and this is coming from somebody who has never had him in my childhood, with one exception. That exception by the way is my grandmother constantly singing the opening theme to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” when I was in her presence. It’s a delightful little song, no matter what age you are, no matter what mood you’re in. In fact, one of the best parts about this movie is how they implement the show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” into it. Let me just be clear, for those of you who know nothing about this movie, and have not seen any marketing. This movie is not about Fred Rogers’ life. It goes over what could have been a nifty little portion of his life, but this is not a textbook of all the things Fred Rogers did from birth to death. Fred Rogers is practically a main character in this film, but it does not mean the film is about HIM per se. If you ask me, it is more about Lloyd Vogel, the reporter who has to interview Fred Rogers. And I honestly do feel the need to say that, because I feel like a good number of people, I don’t know how many for sure, but still, a decent amount of people are going to go into this movie, thinking of it purely as a Mr. Rogers story, which it kind of is, but not really.

But going back to what this film contains in regards to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” what this movie was able to do by using the show in one way or another was incredible. The movie kinda sorta plays out as if it were an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In fact, the first scene of the film has Tom Hanks doing the iconic intro to the show. A lot of you likely know what I’m talking about. Rogers, or this case, Hanks, walks through the door, starts singing, changes his sweater, adjusts his shoes, he does the whole nine yards. I was in a rather full cinema, and it honestly felt like we were watching an episode of the classic children’s show. And it honestly shows with Tom Hanks performance.

I think Hanks here gives one of the best performances of the year. He’s probably not going to end up being top dog for me, Joaquin Phoenix is a tough competitor. However, Hanks as Mr. Rogers was everything I wanted. In fact, I think this was perhaps the easiest casting decision anyone could make for a role like this, because in Hollywood right now, Tom Hanks is often seen as that “nice guy.” You talk to anyone in Hollywood, they’ll often refer to Tom Hanks as a pure gentleman, therefore it’s almost hard to avoid thinking of Tom Hanks as this generation’s stereotype that could easily match with Mr. Rogers. Is he as nice? It’s hard to tell. He does not have a children’s TV show that airs on a network every day, but how often do you look at the news and read the headline “Tom Hanks Is a Dick Who Shatters Glass In Your Eyes, Says Everyone”? I think a lot of what made Hanks’ performance stellar is not just how he goes about with certain mannerisms to turn himself into his character, but I think directing was a key component here as well. After all, if you watch the movie, you’d notice Tom Hanks taking advantage of time in front of him, and wasting some of it by either being quiet or pausing. For all I know, maybe Hanks cautiously studied Rogers prior to taking on his role, maybe he has a solid memory when it comes to Rogers himself, but long story short, Hanks aced his role and I’m going to give one of the best compliments I can give an actor, I cannot see anybody else playing this role at this point.

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Again, I’ll mention, despite how this movie is called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” it does not entirely have to do with Mr. Rogers. And I do not think that is the worst thing in the world. I say that because what the film manages to do with the character of Lloyd Vogel was just as worthy of my attention as were the scenes exclusively involving Mr. Rogers. I really enjoyed his arch in this film, which really fits in with the idea of a story about maybe what a child could have been going through at a particular point in their life. The whole idea of Mr. Rogers himself is to provide a space through the television to inform and educate young children, spread kindness, and let the children viewing the program know they’re special. The movie dives into the emotions, internal thoughts, and personal life of Vogel. He never seems like the happiest person in the room, and if you watch him in this movie, it shows. And the way this film goes about telling the story of Vogel, it really goes to show the impact Rogers himself had on the generations he had to serve through television. Speaking of Vogel and Rogers, I really like the chemistry between the duo. There are a couple scenes that still stand out to me, specifically where Rogers is talking to Vogel through one of his puppets and Vogel is clearly irritated by the current scenario. I imagine if they didn’t have the right actors for this scene, the movie, I don’t know for sure, but this is my personal assumption, would have ended up being awkward as HELL. But somehow their chemistry easily clicked and the scenes between them were worth my time.

I also will say, sticking with the notion that this movie is sort of played out like a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode, there are a couple little neat transitions in the film that pay homage to the low-budget yet somewhat colorful props and set design of the series. I can’t say this film brought me back to my childhood, in fact I was born in the very late nineties, I did not grow up with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” being a part of my life. If I could describe this film in one of many ways, one thing I should say is sort of similar to what I just said. This movie may not have made me travel back to a time of pure nostalgia, but it reminded me of something that may have been missing from my life, sort of similar to how I felt leaving “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” the documentary on Fred Rogers which just released last year. When I did my review for that film, I explained that my childhood, even though I think there are a lot of things that I wouldn’t change about it, may have been missing a program like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” being a part of it all. A program that is not too obnoxious, not too flashy, not too dumbed-down, but a series that manages to educate people about life, serious topics, and important lessons at a level that a young kid can comprehend. In fact, this movie even touches upon something that I kind of was surprised to hear, not to mention, appreciative because I heard it. I am not sure how often Fred Rogers said this in real life, but based on Tom Hanks’ portrayal, he did not view himself as perfect. Because when I think of Mister Rogers, I think of a guy who is calm, collected, understanding, and courteous to those around him. He loves people, especially children. Even if they are being rotten, he still has respect for them for being, well… them. I wish I could do that. But even he, like some of the kids who looked up to him in the past, has to deal with his own pain, his own troubles, and maybe it’s not always easy for him. The scene where the character of Fred Rogers manages to reveal such a thing, humanized him. I say humanized, because I almost would not be surprised if there were perhaps some unexposed religious text that maybe we will never see for the rest of time, and the text suggests Fred Rogers is perhaps the second coming of someone like Jesus. It felt nice to see that even the most heroic of people may need help at times.

However, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not entirely beautiful. It’s a good movie, but not entirely beautiful. I had high hopes for this film, and I wonder if I set them too high, kind of like I did with a film like “Avengers: Endgame.” There was no way it was going to be THAT good. It was very enjoyable, similar to “Endgame,” but much like “Endgame,” it has problems. I will say the film ends brilliantly, but the last minute, I won’t get into specifics, but there’s this final moment that feels sort of tacked on and unnecessary, if I were the editor, I would have removed it from the final cut. But that’s just me. I also think this film wouldn’t be one that I’d be watching again anytime soon, as much as I enjoyed it. I think the film is a fun time, but it’s also one that I don’t see any reason to go back to. It’s a good time at the theater. Will I buy the Blu-ray? Maybe. Will watch the Blu-ray anytime soon? Probably not. I have priorities. When I left “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” in 2018 it felt like a life-changing experience. This on the other hand, felt simply like a fine movie. I’m not complaining, but “life-changing” is definitely higher on the scale than “fine.”

In the end, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a delightful and charming little film that reminds me the power of being kind. I think it is a proper film for just about any audience member. I think it is also a really good family film. I should also point out, it’s PG. If you want to see Tom Hanks act his heart out, delivering a solid performance as a pure heroic icon, this movie is for you. Is it the best movie of the year? Not really. But it is also a fine time at the movies as far as I’m concerned. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic and even if the movie almost kinda sorta feels like two in one (one about Fred Rogers and another about Lloyd Vogel), it still manages to impress me. I’m going to give “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want you all to know that next week I’m going to be seeing a couple movies including “Jumanji: The Next Level,” which I will be going to see on Monday. But, on Sunday, I’m going to be going to see a film that has been apparently getting a lot of hype recently, “Uncut Gems.” This is an advance screening at Boston’s new Arclight theater, which I might do a post on eventually reviewing it (depending on how much time I have on my hands). The reason why I am going is because there are going to be several people involved with the film who are going to be present at the screening. Specifically, the directors, the composer, former Boston Celtics player Kevin Garnett, and the film’s star, Adam Sandler. I cannot wait for this screening, I hope the movie is as good as people are saying it is, and I hope this is yet another example of A24 delivering an excellent product. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to see more posts like this one! How? Use an email, or WordPress account for greater access! Do you like Facebook? Yeah? Well then, check out the Scene Before Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?” What did you think about it? Or, and I’m not sure how many people saw “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” or how many people saw that and the movie I am currently reviewing, but if you did see both movies, which was better? Do you prefer “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” or “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dark Waters (2019): WARNING: This Movie May Contain Man-Made Chemicals That Become Attached To You

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“Dark Waters” is directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) and stars Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, The Avengers), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Intern), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River), Bill Camp (Molly’s Game, Vice), Victor Garber (The Orville, The Flash), Mare Winningham (Grey’s Anatomy, Amber Waves), and Bill Pullman (Independence Day, The Equalizer). This film is based on true events, it’s inspired by particular news articles, most notably Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine piece, “The Man Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” and is about a case involving the chemical company DuPont, who has been called out in the past for putting various dangerous man-made chemicals into products. Due to this, many deaths have occurred, some people have facial deformities, this movie basically focuses on some negative effects of the corporation. The movie dives deep towards the perspective of Robert Bilott, an attorney investigating the situation and its effects.

We are nearing the end of November, and with that in mind, it is perhaps without question that we as a moviegoing audience are being blessed with one god-like piece of material after another. Earlier this month I saw “Honey Boy,” an Amazon Original that made me argue whether or not Shia LeBeouf writes better than he acts. I soon saw “Ford v. Ferrari” which is one of the best racing movies I have ever seen. And the day before I saw this current movie that I’m talking about, I went to the cinema to go watch “Knives Out,” which is just pure fun. Enough said. It’s one of those movies that feels incredibly wild and it is all the better for it. Although unlike “Knives Out,” which I have been hearing about since some of the cast happened to be announced, I do not recall hearing much at all about “Dark Waters.” It’s one of those movies that just sneaked up on me. But I had a chance to go to a free screening on the day it opened in Boston, so I took advantage of that.

“Dark Waters,” on the surface, had a number of things going for it. It has a cool cast. Mark Ruffalo is pretty big right now, Anne Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses working today, and I should not go without mentioning Tim Robbins, who I did not know was in this movie until after I saw it, but he was in perhaps in 1994’s best film, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Let me just say something, this movie is no “Shawshank.” Not even close. I enjoyed it, but it’s no “Shawshank.” Part of why I feel this way is because of how much I tried to recall upon trying to write about this movie. Part of me almost forgot about a core element about the film and its screenplay in particular, which stood out to me when I saw it, but somehow it just slipped out of my mind almost as if this were a disposable comedy or something that I’ll watch once until I move onto the next thing.

But with that in mind, I still enjoyed what was in front of me. The story itself is one of those that I thought worked well for the big screen, even if it did take more than few moments to get me fully onboard. I think the performances given by multiple actors, leading and supporting, make this film watchable. I’d also say that it is an appropriate film for this time considering how it partially involves how big corporations are harming their consumers, plus to add onto that, the main message is about the environment and how we need to be aware of what we’re doing regarding it. Not only that, but we, the consumers, are not the only ones to blame for what’s being done. Will this film be forgotten over time? Hard to tell. It’s not the most popular film out right now, but at the moment, if a good number of people see it, it may reflect the current state of our environment to them.

I sort of mentioned this already, but the actors here do pretty well, and I think the two leads in particular, Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, have terrific chemistry and are extremely suitable for their roles. Mark Ruffalo plays an environmental lawyer who is trying to hold DuPont accountable and the movie managed to put me on his side, I also really enjoyed the moments where he was interacting with a farmer. That may have been one of the more hypnotizing scenes of the whole film.

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But if you ask me, the best performance in the film probably comes from Anne Hathaway, and this delights me to no end. Not just because I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, not just because she was in a few of my favorite movies ever, but also because she was just in a TERRIBLE movie this year called “Serenity,” which was a step down for her, and for a few others who were involved with that project as well. Now, Hathaway has bounced back with what I think may be one of my personal favorite performances from her. She plays the wife of the main character, and there are various scenes where she’s observing her husband doing things that might as well make him look bats*it crazy. Just about every execution of a line given by her was perfect.

I gotta say though, this movie has problems. It has been almost two weeks since I saw this in the theater, but even with that, this movie is a tad forgettable. I remember various portions of it, but it doesn’t feel like something that I’d salute for the rest of my life. I don’t know why, but this movie feels like a restaurant located in my town that I have only gone to once, liked, but because of competition, specifically in said town, there is a good chance I will not be returning anytime soon. The pacing was alright, but there is minor room for improvement. But I think the biggest flaw this movie has that I can think of is the ending. I say that because without going into spoiler territory, it feels incredibly abrupt. It’s not like the movie ends and it doesn’t make sense, but it ends leaving this weird taste in my mouth. I dunno… This is one of the weirdest movies I have seen this year. When I saw it, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but at the same time, I am having this weird spiral of memory loss when I try to think about it. For the record, I am twenty years old, not eighty. I think my memory itself is in rather good standing.

In the end, I do think “Dark Waters” is a really interesting, not to mention informative story. This movie I believe exists more to inform than to entertain, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know if they have ever done a documentary on this, but if not, I guess this is about the closest we’ll get to having a documentary. Hang on a sec… *Switches tab* WAIT! Just Googled it, there is a documentary. I take that statement back! I think the movie is well acted, well shot, the color grading kind of works for the film at hand, but I don’t think it’ll win best picture. Although this movie is from Participant, who made last year’s Best Picture, “Green Book,” so you never know. I should point out, it barely has a release whatsoever, so we’ll have to see how far this movie can expand before we make any further conclusions about box office, popularity, or overall potential to be recognized this award season. Until then, I’m going to give “Dark Waters” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood,” a movie which at one point, may have been one of my most anticipated of 2019. Will it live up to the hype? You’ll have to find out for yourself! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the site, and also check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dark Waters?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Anne Hathaway performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Movies of the 2010s TRAILER (Avengers: Endgame Trailer 2 Style)

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Feels like forever since I last said that. Anyway, I recently finished my latest trailer for my “Top Movies of the 2010s” countdown series. But first, a quick recap for those who haven’t been paying attention.

In April, I released my first trailer, it was incredibly fast paced and supposed to tease what I was going to be doing. I used a song from “Super Smash Bros. 4” to fit in with the pacing and footage. The second trailer, I released at the halfway point of the year, to symbolize that we are not only halfway through 2019, the final year of the 2010s, but we are also half a year away from when I’d release the specific countdowns. To provide a bold feel and to build up everything, I used a song from Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which is one of the movies that I won’t spoil whether it’ll make the cut or not for the 2010s countdowns, but it is one of the movies that has defined its particular year, not to mention the decade itself.

Now, we come to a slightly different approach that I am trying with this, and I think out of the trailers that I have done for this so far, it is definitely the most proper. It flows, it makes sense, and it almost feels like it has its own story. For those of you who have seen the main trailer for “Avengers: Endgame,” another movie that has certainly defined the decade, I use the music from that trailer in this trailer. I mimicked the style of that trailer, while also putting my own spin on it. I have no idea if this is going to be the final trailer, but if it is, I’m pretty proud of it. We’ll have to see. Anyway, here is the latest trailer for the Top Movies of the 2010s!

Knives Out (2019): 2019’s Pop Culture Murder Mystery Dinner

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“Knives Out” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and stars… well, pretty much everyone you know. To be completely serious though, “Knives Out” stars Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Exposed), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Daniel Craig (Skyfall, Logan Lucky), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Shape of Water), Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges), Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love, Simon), Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry), and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, The Sound of Music). Holy crap, that’s a lot of names.

“Knives Out” takes place in the middle of Massachusetts and it typically centers around the interactions of a family after the death of a patriarch. Everybody gathers around a large house, everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a motivation, but it is also up to a detective (Daniel Craig) to settle everyone down and find out the truth regarding what happened.

The murder mystery genre for me is kind of like horror, because I never take too many chances to dive into the genre itself. Granted, horror, at least to me, is a tad more predictable because it seems to have more of a staying power in today’s society, so I personally prefer the murder mystery genre. In fact, my favorite “Family Guy” episode ever, “And Then There Were Fewer,” is a murder mystery, so I do have some respect for the genre. And honestly, when it comes to Rian Johnson, I will admit that I have had a slight bad taste in my mouth because of the way he handled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s a film that just got significantly worse after I first saw it. In fact, when I watched it a second time, I was kind of turned off by the result. I say that because I wanted the movie to go in a different direction than say “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is a great movie. However, despite the everlasting love and affection I have for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” one minor flaw with that movie is the way they manage to basically rehash the earliest “Star Wars.” Granted, it’s a fantastic homage which had many repeat viewings for me. But as much as I originally appreciated it for going in a different direction, a lot of the choices they made to go in such a direction were sort of faulty and questionable.

However, having seen that movie, I now know that Johnson might as well be one to subvert expectations. Here’s the thing. Murder mysteries are supposed to keep you guessing. If this movie could keep me on the edge of my seat and questioning everything, then I’d walk out satisfied.

Honestly, I went into this movie with an idea of what is going to be. It turns out, I got something better than what I thought I would get. And that says a lot because the hype behind this movie felt real for me. The production design is some of the best I have seen all year. The acting, not to mention casting in general, is perfect. Everyone from Daniel Craig to Ana De Armas to Toni Collette, everyone served their roles properly and put a smile on my face.

I’ll just say though, I think the two most popular award ceremonies that have to with movies are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. I have had a history of talking about both ceremonies on here, especially the Academy. But I never usually talk about another popular ceremony, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. One of the biggest awards they present on the night of the ceremony is one given to the entire ensemble of actors. We still have about a month left before 2019 is over, and a little longer than that until the ceremony takes place, but I’d argue that at this point, “Knives Out” has an extremely solid chance at winning such an award. I think purely based on how Rian Johnson has to handle so many actors at once, many of whom happened to already establish their name in the industry, including a couple who are a bit lesser known, there is a chance “Knives Out” could walk away with the biggest award from that ceremony.

One of the more solid examples that could let that case be true is Daniel Craig, who plays Benoit Blanc in the film. His performance, was part of what set the tone for the entire movie for me. Daniel Craig, while taking his performance seriously, realizes that this movie is sort of supposed to be fun. His introduction scene almost made me think I was watching something from Wes Anderson, because it is charming, quirky, and based on the way it was directed, I was perhaps hypnotized to leave the film, regardless of whether or not I liked it, admiring Craig in all his glory.

Another standout performer to me is one of the leads, Chris Evans. I think most of what I love about this performance has mainly to do with the screenplay and how the character is written. I say that because the movie is full of tense dialogue between characters, which allows serious vibes to kick in, but Evans manages to play a character who is incredibly laid back and sort of a smartass. Do I think other people could have played his character? Personally, yes, I think I could have played it if I tried, because if I were in this situation, this is probably how I would act. I’d try to have fun with the seriousness at hand, while also trying to deal with the current situation.

As for smaller roles, I think there are a number of them that stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jaeden Martell, but the one I want to talk about is the one given by Toni Collette. I think Collette is not only a great performer here, but brought such life to her character that I cannot imagine anyone else bringing at all, or at least without being cringeworthy. Collette’s character sort of reminds me of a crazy aunt who likes to party. Maybe another good example is the mother from ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” minus the toxic affection she has for offspring. In a way, she’s almost like Chris Evans’ character, because as much as everyone else may be moody or depressed, which she kind of is at times, but still, she has a somewhat happy outlook on current happenings. Either that or she may just have some sort of God-given charisma that nobody else can have.

But if you ask me, I think the best performance in the film is given by Ana de Armas, an actress who I personally happened to have liked before this film came out, and someone who may been the main reason why this film was originally put on my radar. For the record, Ana de Armas was one of the supporting roles in my 2nd favorite film of 2017, and one of my favorite sci-fi films of the decade, “Blade Runner 2049.” She has this ability to take a challenging role and own it. Because in that movie she played a holographic woman that was supposed to have a connection to whoever owned them. The complexity of that role involved being someone who is robotic enough to serve their master, while also being human enough to understand emotion, because in that movie she was someone who happened to be in love with the main character. At the same time, it was almost as if she was a product of the main character’s desires.

As for this movie, we get more of a glance at a character where Ana de Armas has a personality where she is more worried about saving herself. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Daniel Craig presented himself as this quirky, out of nowhere detective. If you ask me, I think the biggest quirk in the movie didn’t necessarily come from him, and instead, came from Ana de Armas. Because she plays a character who practically cannot lie. If all other people were like her, she’d make the lie detector test obsolete. I say that because her character cannot tell a lie, otherwise she throws up. This makes every scene where Armas is forced to tell a truth or where she is being questioned all the more intriguing because not only was I, as an audience member, hypnotized to follow the mystery as it was unraveled, but I was also somewhat concerned for the character’s sanity, health, and sense of self.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography in the film is amazing. The various dutch angles fit a number of the scenes and sort of had an old Hollywood vibe. The music is outstanding. By the way, such music is composed by Rian Johnson’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also worked with him in films like “Brick” and “Looper.” I think Rian Johnson could have a chance for being nominated in the Best Director category, I think his vision helped this movie immensely. This honestly feels like a movie that only he could have done. Maybe one or two other people could do this, but this feels like a personal project. And as much as I despise “The Last Jedi,” I could see what Rian Johnson was trying to do with that movie, because he not only directed that film, but he wrote it as well. “Star Wars” to me, must be a more collaborative piece of media to work on at this point, and with “The Force Awakens” pointing in a certain direction, it admittedly feels odd looking back to see one man with perhaps a sole vision take over for a big film that could expand on previous lore and build up to the next one which happens to conclude a trilogy. These are the kinds of films that I would prefer to see Johnson tackle. Could he do another big franchise in the future? Maybe, but I want to see more of his original work. Media that feels like something only he could own.

I honestly don’t even know what problems come to mind with “Knives Out.” The camerawork is some of the best I have seen all year. The characters are all charismatic. The screenplay is nothing short of outstanding. The ending, as well done as it is, is little choppy in buildup. As for other problems, if there are any, they are a bit hard to point out. Overall, this movie kicks ass!

In the end, “Knives Out,” the movie with perhaps the most badass title of all time, packs a brutal punch of bloody goodness. It is easily one of the best movies of the year, and a step in the right direction for Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have not checked out his earlier work, but I really want to check out “Looper.” Films like these are the ones I’ll be excited for when it comes to Rian Johnson’s filmography. Films that are original, exhilarating, and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I have to say one more thing, I will suggest that you’d go see this movie with the biggest crowd you can. If you have one of those theaters with reserved seating near you, buy your tickets online and see how many people have already reserved seats. If there many seats reserved already, I implore you, PLEASE buy a ticket to that show because this is a movie where crowd reactions enhance the experience to the tenth degree. I’m going to give “Knives Out” a 9/10.

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Thanks for reading this review! Just want to announce to everyone reading that during this Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be showing off my newest trailer for “Top Movies of the 2010s,” a project I plan to release this January, it is going to be the most ambitious countdown series I have done yet, and I cannot wait to share it with you all! If you want to be notified about this trailer, here’s what you can do. Follow Scene Before with an email, or if you want greater access, use a WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, check out MY PAGE and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Knives Out?” What did you think about it? Or, who happens to be your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? It can be from anything, books, movies, TV, you name it! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ford v Ferrari (2019): Damon and Bale Blaze to The Finish

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“Ford v Ferrari” is directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan) and stars Matt Damon (The Martian, Good Will Hunting) as a car designer and Christian Bale (Batman Begins, Vice) as a driver. This film takes place in the 1960s, during a time where Ford Motor Co. was seemingly in a bit of a sticky situation. To get out of it, it is proposed that the company tries to develop a car that could win Le Mans, the 24 hour racing competition in France. Throughout, we get interactions between the two leads as they try to complete the ambitious project handed to them.

“Ford v Ferrari” is one of those movies that just sounds like it would be worth seeing just from hearing what it’s about. The film is based on a true story from over fifty years ago and describes Ford’s efforts to rise to superiority in a realm they don’t traditionally associate with. Plus, racing on the big screen always packs a punch. Now let me tell you about my history of going to the cinema.

The first movie I have seen in a theater is Pixar’s “Cars,” the film where a rookie racecar tries to win a big event and make history, ends up in a three way tie, eventually gets stuck in a town in the middle of nowhere, and must adapt to the current situation and deal with whatever consequences get in his way. I remember when I first watched “Cars” in the theater, one of the things that stood out to me the most that day was the sound. Let’s face it, racing movies are always better in the theater. Not that I have anything against watching them at home, but to hear cars blaze at hundreds of miles per hour through an advanced audio system is orgasmic to say the least. Such a notion can also be applied to “Ford v Ferrari,” whether it was intentional or not. I saw this film at my local IMAX Laser cinema at Jordan’s Furniture, where the sound is perhaps better than any theater I have been to. Although Dolby Cinema at AMC comes pretty close. If “Ford v Ferrari” does not at least get consideration in the sound categories during awards season, then the voters must be smoking something. That’s the only conclusion I can come up with at this point.

Speaking of praise, I have to say the performances in this movie, pretty much all over, are worth saluting. Matt Damon plays car designer Carroll Shelby, who has this swagger to him that kind of makes you like him even before he speaks. Maybe it’s because Matt Damon is, well… Matt Damon. The guy in general just manages to have this charm to him that makes him so damn admirable. Maybe it’s because I’m a Bostonian, I dunno. But Damon plays a character that fits directly within the specific time period. He feels like a guy I would want to have lunch with, kind of like Cliff Booth from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” or Joel Goodsen from “Risky Business.”

Christian Bale, if you ask me, personally does a better acting job in this film than Damon. And part of it honestly has to do with his physique. Because for starters, Bale lost weight for this film. While Matt Damon is definitely giving a solid portrayal of his characters, looks sometimes matter. Bale’s last role was Dick Cheney, and to hear Bale trimmed himself down for this already gives me a proper first impression. I also really enjoyed seeing his character’s arch as well. One of the main ideas behind Bale’s character is that he does not represent the idea of a team player. Without going into much detail, such an idea made the movie eventually feel charming and to my surprise, heartwarming.

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But if you ask me, neither of the main two actors in this film hold a candle to the performance given by Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, Divorce) who plays Henry Ford II. From the first scene he’s in, I automatically got the sense of who his character truly is, a no nonsense type of boss that will do anything to make sure s*it gets done. Pretty much every moment of his presence was pure joy. There is a scene that takes place where he is discussing what Ford can do to have a place in society, you know that part of the trailer where Carroll is told to “go to war?” Yeah, that one. I imagine that directing had a lot to do with how delivery of his dialogue came out, but seeing Henry Ford II attached to his chair, almost as if his wife happened to be present and he was giving her the silent treatment, was gritty as hell.

I will also say that this film does one thing very well, and I already talked about how immersive the sound is, and that is definitely a win for this film. However, that is not the only way this film ultimately immersed me. As mentioned, “Ford v Ferrari” took place in the 1960s, based on my experience of watching this film, I felt like I was a part of that environment. It almost felt like everyone was into cars, and in a way that is sort of a representation of our history, specifically in the United States. Plus, the fashion styles popped for me, seeing various environments happened to be pleasant, and it almost made me want to be a part of this time period. Because, you know, there is no reality like fantasy. Only… this was reality over fifty years ago.

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Now I know that I’m probably raving about this movie right now, and it is definitely worth seeing in the theater, but I gotta be honest, if there is one thing that I think could be a bit of a turnoff for me personally, it’s the product placement. I get it, some people gotta eat. I understand the purpose of product placement, and bits of it, kind of work. But there are various moments in the film where it gets annoying. I remember one shot just pans over to some advertisement on a building. It feels rather tacked on if you asked me. It’s NOWHERE near as bad as “Uncle Drew,” but that movie was partially responsible because of Pepsi, so there you go.

Speaking of complaints, I’ll have you know that I happened to be at this movie with my mom. She went to the restroom afterwards, and I was waiting outside for a short time. While she was in there, she just overheard somebody else going “That ending sucked.” My mother and I pretty much agreed that such an opinion is perhaps surprising. Partially because, based on recent research, the ending I’m referring to actually happened and is not completely inaccurate. I do want to know if there is something I am missing here, because I thought the ending was awesome. If anybody here did not like the ending to “Ford v Ferrari,” please leave a comment as to why you don’t like it. I seriously want to know. Maybe you’ll bring a new perspective to the table that could change my ways, or maybe I’ll never want to hang out with you. We’ll have to see.

In the end, “Ford v Ferrari” is a fast-paced, epic thrill ride to the finish. The characters are a mix of fun, charming, and gritty. The theatrical experience of going to see this movie is one you don’t want to miss. Yes, “Star Wars” is coming, but if you want a cinema experience that packs a punch and dials the immersion levels up to a 10, “Ford v Ferrari” is for you. I do think the product placement, while it definitely sometimes fits in and makes sense, is on the brink of being forced. Nevertheless, “Ford v Ferrari” is a delight of a movie and should get some attention during the awards season. I do not think it will win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but do not be surprised if it at least gets nominated. I’m going to give “Ford v Ferrari” a 9/10. Thanks for reading this review! Just this past week, I saw two more movies, specifically “Knives Out” and “Dark Waters.” We are in a fine time to go to the movies, folks! Stay tuned for these reviews, and more great content by following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page!

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I also have one more announcement to make. This week I’m planning on dropping my possible final trailer for the Top Movies of the 2010s countdowns I’m planning on doing. That’s countdowns, with an s. I’m going to be doing a best list, followed by a worst list the day after. I already started working on them, and here’s hoping that the end of 2019 will not change that list significantly because I’m working really hard on them. The trailer should drop by the 30th of November, but if you want to know my ideal motives, I’m planning on either releasing it on the 28th, which is Thanksgiving, because then your family can talk about something less controversial than politics, or on Black Friday, the 29th, that way you can watch something to relieve yourself of the crowds at the mall. Also, with that in mind, stay tuned for my Top Movies of the 2010s countdowns, coming this January.

I want to know, did you see “Ford v Ferrari?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite racing movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Honey Boy (2019): Shia LaBeouf Has Transformed Into a Brilliant Writer

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“Honey Boy” is the directorial debut of Alma Har’el and is written by Shia LaBeouf, who also stars in the film as an abusive father. This film also stars Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), Noah Jupe (Wonder, The Night Manager), and FKA Twigs in a film partially based on Shia LaBeouf’s own life. The film centers around the relationship of a father and son, the father is on drugs, he’s often irritated, and the son is moving himself up in his acting career. Based on the inner workings of the duo’s relationship, it’s not all that pretty. At the same time, we also get a look at the child’s early adult years, which tends to allow some significance to be inserted regarding events earlier in life.

I go into several movies at least having seen a trailer, a little bit of ad marketing, maybe a description as to what it is about. I knew some things about “Honey Boy.” But if I told you that I went into this film knowing lots about it, I’d be lying to you. I was notified of a nearby free screening, I wouldn’t call it an advance screening since certain sources suggest the film had been released in the US about a week before I saw it. Although maybe it technically is, because in my area specifically, which is Boston, there are almost no showtimes for this movie whatsoever. I recently Googled showtimes for “Honey Boy” and only found it to be available for two different times at one theater this upcoming Thursday. Nothing before, nothing after.

Safe to say, this movie is probably not going to get too much attention at this point. I almost wonder if Amazon, the distributor behind this film, is going to try to get this film more attention when it comes to streaming. After all, Amazon has their own streaming service, Prime Video, and they usually make their original movies free for Prime members. Let me just tell you something though. I saw this film, by myself, knowing almost nothing about it. I walked out of this film, just simply wanting to talk about it with others. “Honey Boy” is a surprise. This is the first feature-length screenplay from Shia LeBeouf. It is EASILY one of the best of the year. I’ll also mention once again that this is being helmed by a first time feature director, specifically Alma Har’el. I should point out that she has also helmed various shorts and documentaries prior to directing “Honey Boy,” but as a feature-length debut, this is beyond where you’d want to go as a director. There are several scenes that I would love to screenshot and maybe frame in a museum, use them perhaps as a desktop photo on my computer. There is a clip of the movie where pie is being thrown in the lead kid’s face and it is still in my head. There is a lot to like in “Honey Boy” if you are into technical aspects. I think the only small nitpick that I can come up with, and this honestly takes NOTHING away the movie and all its absolute brilliance is that there are scenes where the camerawork is handheld and at times it almost feels like I’m watching a family vlog or a YouTube video as opposed to a film. If I had to compare it to another film, I’d say it reminded me a little bit of “The Disaster Artist,” another REALLY GOOD movie. Possibly the best comedy of the decade. But this tiny little nitpick does not mean the cinematography is bad, it is competent. It’s not like I’m watching “Transformers: The Last Knight” or something. I’m just saying that if it were me in the director’s chair or behind the camera, I would have done things perhaps slightly different.

But in all seriousness, “Honey Boy” is one hell of a movie. From start to finish. And honestly, it’s an experience that I don’t always tend to get. In recent years, I have discovered that replay value really matters when it comes to liking a movie. In 2018 I watched “Ready Player One” once in the theater, bought the Target exclusive 4K Blu-ray, watched it three more times on 4K before the year ended, and brought it over to my grandparents’ house to watch on their Blu-ray player to pass time with them and relatives over Thanksgiving. That movie ended up being #3 on my best of the year list for a reason. I have a feeling that I won’t go see “Honey Boy” in the theater again, partially because it has a very limited run and there are barely any showtimes available, but if I had the chance I would not mind taking it. I say that because this is a movie that I was able fully appreciate through various aspects on my initial watch. Despite that, I feel like I missed one or two things that could alter my perspective on how I look at the movie. That does not mean the movie had bad pacing, in fact, the pacing was really good. I just feel as a viewer, this movie is going to require multiple watches to have a complete grasp of everything. Interestingly though, despite how I said that, the movie is straightforward and overall not that complicated.

As a coming of age story, this is arguably my favorite in recent years. The 2010s has its fair share of likable coming of age stories. “Easy A,” “The Edge of Seventeen,” “Blockers.” I didn’t like “Honey Boy,” I LOVED IT. In fact, it sort of reminds me, maybe not entirely, but it has glimmers of elements that can be seen in another recent directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” Because while I did find the chemistry between the boy and his father in “Honey Boy” to be much more resemblant of an abusive relationship, the relationship between the two main characters in “Lady Bird,” specifically daughter Christine and mother Marion, is filled with tension for the entire runtime.

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Sticking with the topic of the leads having chemistry, I was able to buy into the chemistry between the main characters perhaps to the tenth degree. Even when there are moments or lines that clearly would never happen in real life, for some reason, perhaps based purely on spectacular direction I was able to just give a seal of approval. Just the other day, in fact, literally the same day I was going to see this movie, I was at a Best Buy and I bought “The Peanut Butter Falcon” because I have heard good things about it and I missed it in theaters, but unless Shia LaBeouf spends part of that movie literally breaking a leg, “Honey Boy” may contain his best performance yet. It overall makes sense though, because I could tell from the writing and the acting that this movie is incredibly personal and close to heart for LaBeouf. I don’t know how much attention this film will get this awards season, but if anything, unless the month of December KILLS this movie, I hope it gets a screenplay nom, because I personally think Shia LaBeouf has outdone himself, especially for someone who is often known to the public in a completely different fraction of filmmaking. But December is coming and for all I know, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” could focus less on getting people to buy toys and focus more on the chemistry between its characters. Maybe “Jumanji: The Next Level” will finally get people to see The Rock as more than just a goofy action star. Perhaps “Cats” will be the BEST MOVIE EVER. Tons of possibilities!

In the end, “Honey Boy” is a slice of cinema Heaven. When it comes to Marvel movies, debate on all you want about them being cinema. But with this, there is literally no debate. “Honey Boy” is not cinema, it’s practically God’s work. I have to do some minor thinking as to where I will eventually rank this on my films of the year, but one thing’s for sure, the ranking will be undeniably high. As far as theatrical releases go, this is the forty-ninth 2019 movie I have seen this year. Honestly, I wish I waited for fifty. Not because I wanted to wait a bit to see this movie. Had I known that I’d be writing a review like this I would have seen it sooner, but I would love to have called it the “fifty nifty” movie. Despite that, I. Love. “Honey Boy.” Again, the one complaint that I can state about the film is a couple shot choices. Does it affect my score? Hell no! I’m going to give “Honey Boy” a 10/10! Thanks for reading this review! I mentioned if I waited long enough, “Honey Boy” could have been a “fifty nifty” movie for me. Turns out, I found a movie that fits that criteria, because just this past weekend I went to my local IMAX and checked out “Ford v Ferrari.” I’ll hopefully have a review up for that sometime this week, so look forward to it! If you want to see more great content from Scene Before, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! If you like movie reviewing morons and Facebook, do yourself (and me) a favor and like the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Honey Boy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie written by someone who is primarily known for acting? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jojo Rabbit (2019): Hitler Can Be Fun

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“Jojo Rabbit” is directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, The Hunt For the Wilderpeople), who also plays the character of Adolf Hitler in this movie. Alongside Waititi, the film stars Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, and Sam Rockwell. This film is about a young boy living in Nazi Germany by the name of Jojo. We see him at the start of the movie, trying to become part of Hitler’s force. However, he is eventually revealed to be wimpy compared to those around him, which partially inspires the titular nickname “Jojo Rabbit.” The film also explores Jojo’s life at home, when he eventually finds himself in a situation where he is living with an enemy of many Nazi Germans, a Jew.

I have not seen much of Taika Waititi’s work. Admittedly, as much as it makes me look like a bad moviegoer, the only film of his (specifically, the ones he hasn’t had an acting role in) I managed to see happens to be “Thor: Ragnarok.” Judging from that, Waititi definitely has his own style when it comes to his movies. Granted, judging from the fact that “Thor: Ragnarok” is a Marvel movie, it follows a lot of the beats to fulfill the requirements of what makes one of those films possible. If you ask me, I think “Thor: Ragnarok” is almost the most overrated Marvel movie. It’s good, but I really think they should have toned down on the humor, and the vibe should have fit with a lot of the dark ideas the movie seemed to have going for it. I mean, THE CITY OF ASGARD IS IN DEEP S*IT! Now that “Ragnarok” is in the past, Waititi went on to direct this film, which if I had to be honest, is better than “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Now that I had a week to think about “Jojo Rabbit,” I just realized that this film and “Ragnarok” manage to have something kinda sorta in common that I could not quite grasp at first. Both of them feel like parodies. Granted, “Jojo Rabbit” IS a parody, but that’s not the point. When I watched “Thor: Ragnarok,” I was not able to appreciate the humor that they were trying to hammer inside my head. I thought it was quite unnecessary. But there are various parts of “Thor: Ragnarok,” and I won’t get into them, that might as well be part of a rather effective big budget “Saturday Night Live” sketch. I have not gone back into the past to view Waititi’s earlier work, but it does make me curious as to what he has up his sleeve in the future. How far will he go with the humor? If he goes on to direct “Thor: Love and Thunder,” is he going to make it a pure comedy? I don’t know, but it would at least be interesting to see.

And speaking of long, deep thoughts, this movie managed to do something quite extraordinary and rather unexpected. Once again, this is a parody film. Keep that in mind. But Nazism is one of the most serious subjects that one could talk about or put in a motion picture. As someone who knows the Nazis were objectively evil, I cannot help but point out that this film made Nazis look fun. Based on pure entertainment value, I wouldn’t say that’s an entirely bad thing. I don’t mean any offense when I say this, but between Hitler, a book burning scene, and a few funny moments here and there, “Jojo Rabbit” managed to surprise me immensely.

Keep in mind, for those of you who are thinking this movie is about Hitler, guess what? It’s not. Adolf Hitler in this movie plays an important role, but if you are expecting this to be a movie about Hitler, you MIGHT be disappointed. Personally, the real concept behind this movie is one that I would love to shout from the rooftops. As mentioned, this movie is about a young kid, who goes by the name Jojo. There are various scenes in the film where Hitler appears, but each time, it’s all a figment of Jojo’s imagination. Basically, Adolf Hitler in this film is Jojo’s imaginary friend.

AWESOME.

Staying on the topic of Hitler, Taika Waititi does a really good job at playing him. The movie also somehow did a good job at making him a charming, relatable character. One of the first scenes where I see him talking to Jojo, he talks about how people made fun of him in the past. He then advises Jojo to “Be the rabbit,” which is a suggestion to take a nickname that is seemingly derogatory, but use it to make yourself a better human being.

I will also say that the kid who plays Jojo, otherwise known as Roman Griffin Davis, did a pretty good job. For the record, as I write this review, I have looked at both his Wikipedia page and his IMDb page. According to both sources, “Jojo Rabbit” is the dude’s only acting credit. The only other piece of media, at least according to IMDb, featuring Roman Griffin Davis in some way, shape, or form is an episode of “Entertainment Tonight Canada.” I am not sure how much training or practice Jojo had before taking on this film, but for a first time performance, this was nothing short of a job well done. Personally, despite being a actor of his particular experience level and age range, this didn’t feel like a first time performance, which may be the best compliment I can give.

Overall, the cast of “Jojo Rabbit” completely stands out in the best possible way. Again, I mentioned that despite the evils of Nazism, certain elements of the film made it look like a party, which made the final product particularly interesting. This is why I liked the performance from Rebel Wilson’s character, which I’m glad to say because if you know me in real life, I am not that big of a fan of her. To be honest, her acting job in “Jojo Rabbit” may be the first likable performance I have seen from her. This may be the first movie I liked featuring her too. “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” comes close, but it just misses the mark.

I think one of the best parts of the movie, even though it ended up going in a direction I did not think it was going to go, is the screenplay. When I saw this film being marketed, I thought it was going to be a full-on satire. Imagine “Spaceballs” but with Nazis. And in a way, I kind of got that, the movie wasn’t as funny as I was originally anticipating it to be. That’s a small problem of mine, but the movie also has a serious plot to it that I can kind of get behind. There is a scene, about two thirds of the way through the movie, that has an enormous amount of tension that I really dug. When I walked into “Jojo Rabbit” I was expecting to laugh myself to death. I cannot say I did that. Instead, this movie managed to bring a surprising smile to my face. I felt utterly alive.

In the end, I had a good old time with “Jojo Rabbit.” It’s probably not the gutbuster I was expecting it to be, but it is still a damn good couple of hours. This is a movie that manages to make Nazis look fun, while also reminding me of their evils and what terrible things they have done. The movie kind of concludes on a surprisingly less than pleasant note. I say that because this film starts out with a clear humorous vibe. It’s kind of wacky and silly overall. Is it perfect? I wouldn’t say so, there are some minor issues. But I think there is enough in the film for me to think to myself that I’d want to watch it again. I’m going to give “Jojo Rabbit” an 8/10. Thanks for reading this review! My next review is gonna be up very soon, which is for the new Amazon movie “Honey Boy.” I was just recently at a free screening at a local arthouse theater for the film, so I will have my thoughts on that very soon. Also, I just saw a new movie this weekend at my local IMAX, specifically James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari.” A review for that will soon hit the interwebs, and I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it. If you want to see my thoughts on either of these movies, or other content from the Movie Reviewing Moron, be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, be sure to check out my page and give it a like, it really helps me out! I want to know, did you see “Jojo Rabbit?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you went to see, not to mention liked, that you were expecting to be funny, but turned out to be serious? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Last Christmas (2019): I Gave You My Wasted Time

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“Last Christmas” is directed by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters, Spy) and stars Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Henry Golding (A Simple Favor, Crazy Rich Asians), Michelle Yeoh (Mechanic: Resurrection, Star Trek: Discovery), and Emma Thompson (Saviing Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility). This film is about a girl named Kate who is not the most responsible person alive. Despite that, we see her working at a Christmas store under a rather quirky boss. Meanwhile, she encounters a fella named Tom, who she gets to know throughout the movie. As Kate keeps running into Tom, they develop a close relationship that defines a majority of the film.

Just… Out of every movie… I saw this one. THIS IS THE CRAP I PUT WITH FOR YOU GUYS! I saw “Last Christmas” a week and a half before it came out. I would have put this review out earlier, but due to going on a brief getaway to Rhode Island Comic Con, a couple of other reviews being more important, life, and maybe a slight lack of motivation, I delayed this review until after the movie came out. Having said that, I can simply say that this is one of the most forgettable movies I have seen all year. And the little that I do remember, is honestly not favorable.

Let me just remind you all that this movie is directed by Paul Feig. I have not seen all of his work, but what I have seen (aside from “Freaks and Geeks”) is not that great. In fact, he directed the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot, which quite honestly destroyed my brain. The impact I have then faced from that movie is one that I will probably never want to achieve ever again. For the record, I don’t hate women, I just want good movies. And having said that, I would have rather seen these women under a completely different brand name. Originality would have probably helped these ladies just a little bit. Compared to most bad movies that I have seen, this is probably one I can think of where I felt at least slightly offended watching it.

With that in mind, “Last Christmas” is a slightly better movie. It’s not good, but for starters, I wasn’t offended. It was a tad more charming overall. But much like 2016’s “Ghostbusters,” “Last Christmas” just ain’t that funny. A lot of the attempts at humor just didn’t land. Granted, I still remember my theatrical experience from seeing “Ghostbusters” and slightly chuckling at ONE joke. Now for the good news and bad news regarding “Last Christmas.” The good news is, I laughed more during “Last Christmas” than I did during “Ghostbusters.” The bad news, in two parts, is that the humor was barely even in place, and I don’t quite remember what exactly was funny. In fact, remember how I said I wasn’t offended by “Last Christmas?” That is completely true. BUT, I was in fact, annoyed.

I saw this coming, as if the title of the film didn’t already give enough away. But the song “Last Christmas” plays in this movie. For those of you who know me in real life, I do celebrate Christmas. I think it is a fun time of the year, even if it is ultimately an excuse to shove materialism up our butts. But the one thing I am a total Scrooge about when it comes to Christmas, is the overplay of various songs that associate with the particular time of the year. I hear enough of the same regular crap on the radio everyday! The solution IS NOT to play Christmas crap instead! This may sound like nothing, but hearing “Last Christmas” play twice in a few minutes is just as annoying as it is to find out that your friend runs an annual awards ceremony dedicated to showcasing the best pieces of gum that are stuck on surfaces.

Anyways, let’s focus on the not at all offensive, but also unfunny characters. I will say that despite how this movie is ultimately rather unmemorable and completely lacking in a full sense of joy, I can say that Emilia Clarke managed to make the character of Kate rather charming. Clarke has a likable presence in this film. She takes a character that could have lacked dimension, someone who could have been the most lifeless individual in film history, and it makes her stand out. I guess it helps that Clarke kind of has that “cute as button” quality attached to her when it comes to appearance. For the little that I can pinpoint to and remember regarding this movie, I recall Clarke being all cutesy, which worked for the final product.

As for Clarke’s love interest, he’s kind of resemblant of someone who is dorky, but also rather charismatic in life. There was a point in the film where I was able to buy the chemistry between him and Clarke. At the same time though, the chemistry did not help the movie from being as sigh-worthy as it is. I think I just invented a new worthy term! Cringeworthy can suck it! Overall, their romance feels cliche, but it when it works, it stands out. Despite the little charm that exists when they are together on one occasion or two, it doesn’t entirely make for a masterpiece. Let’s put the characters in a box like this: If I met one of these two in real life, I wouldn’t instantly want to have lunch with them.

Speaking of less than pleasant characters, this movie also has an obnoxious boss. I have to go back and probably watch about thirty or so other movies this year to come up with a conclusion like this and confirm it, but I’ll say… The chemistry between actresses Clarke and Yeoh in this film is probably the least realistic chemistry I have witnessed all year! WHAT?! DID?! I?! WATCH?! When it comes to the scenes between the duo, I originally got a sense that while Clarke was kind of a slacker, I thought Yeoh was just being a bitch to her at times. As the movie goes on… I dunno, I feel as if these first moments between them never happened.

There’s also this subplot involving the boss that involves her and a separate love interest played by Peter Mygind. This has the potential to be funny and charming, but it really just feels like wasted time. And that’s what this movie is… Wasted time. If you are with friends and family this year during the holidays and if this movie’s still out in theaters, just go see “Star Wars.” Granted, that’s kind of irrelevant because I don’t even know how the new “Star Wars” is going to be, but still… just go see “Star Wars.” I command you! Either that, or go to Best Buy and purchase a copy of one of the “Star Wars” films, present it as a gift, and use that as an excuse to those around you to pop it in the DVD player.

In the end, as much as I would love to congratulate Paul Feig for directing a better comedy than “Ghostbusters,” it’s not enough for me. “Last Christmas” honestly feels like a film that could arguably go straight to Lifetime or Hallmark for the holiday season, but since it has a slightly higher production value and big names attached, it got a theatrical release. Emilia Clarke has some slight charm attached to her and there are a couple of chuckleworthy moments. But there’s nothing of real value that I feel I have received from this movie. “Last Christmas” is not something I’d watch when I’m home alone, and I would prefer that it dies hard. I’m going to give “Last Christmas” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have a couple more reviews for you all including my thoughts on “Jojo Rabbit!” I was very excited to check this out last weekend and I will have my review up by sometime next week! I also have passes for tonight to go to a screening of “Honey Boy” starring Shia Labeouf (Transformers, Fury). If I get around to seeing that, I’ll have my review up as soon as possible. If you want to see this, and other great content, follow Scene Before with email or WordPress account! If you want full access to comments and likes, I personally recommend using a WordPress account. And if you are on Facebook and need a movie reviewing moron in your life, check out my Facebook page for more moronic shenanigans! I want to know, did you see “Last Christmas?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie directed by Paul Feig? I gotta ask because I need a good one. I have “Spy” and “The Heat” on Blu-ray but I haven’t watched either of them yet. Asking for a friend, or even an enemy in this case! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Lighthouse (2019): Spill the Beans! This Film Shines as Bright as a Bulb!

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“The Lighthouse” is directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Tell-Tale Heart) and stars Robert Pattinson (Twilight, High Life) alongside Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Aquaman) in a film where two men make themselves at home on an island with a lighthouse on it. This is a tale where two men basically go about their everyday lives and eventually have to deal with various happenings, including an enormous incoming storm.

Just want to let everyone know, that I went into “The Lighthouse” having seen at least one piece of marketing, but in reality, I went into the film with my mind containing perhaps as little as I am probably supposed to know. So for the sake of perhaps providing all of you, the viewers who haven’t checked out this film yet, with a proper experience, I am going to be a bit vague in this review, so bear with me here.

OK… I think we are officially getting a taste of awards season by now. We’re starting to get films like “Parasite,” which is SO GOOD by the way. Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has been in theaters for a little while. We are coming closer to seeing films like “Ford v. Ferrari,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Knives Out,” it is legit a fine time to be a moviegoer. And keep in mind, all these movies could suck, I haven’t seen them yet, I don’t want everyone assuming that all these films are the definitions of greatness right now. But staying on this topic, let me just kick off my thoughts on “The Lighthouse” by saying it is one of the year’s most well made films. Keep in mind, this film probably won’t be for everyone, but it is competently shot, terrifically acted, finely directed, and I like the visual choice of presenting the film in both black and white, not to mention in a 4:3 aspect ratio. It sort of reminded me of last year’s “Cold War,” which I mainly admired more for its technical aspects rather than its competence as a product meant to entertain. “The Lighthouse” however, not only looks fine and dandy, but really makes me want to slap a high five to the screen in my theater’s auditorium. Is “The Lighthouse” the best movie of the year? Honestly, no. In fact, I can come up with at least 5 movies this year that I personally enjoyed more than this. In fact, I think this movie, kind of like “Joker” for some people, could end up suffering a little due to a lack of replay value. As I reflect on “The Lighthouse,” part of me is continuously thinking that once is enough. Maybe I’ll buy the Blu-ray, but it’s going to be hard to decide when to watch it again.

At the same time though, like “Joker,” the insanity this movie can provide, especially as it comes to a close, makes it worth sitting through and worth my time. It’s absolutely hypnotizing watching two men perhaps lose their s*it as they are together on an island. I also found the “tall tale” that the movie describes, about killing a seabird, rather compelling, especially considering that it leads to a brutal killing of said creature later on. In that sort of way, it makes me never want to kill a seagull. I mean, I don’t think I ever wanted to in the first place, but still… That’s even if I’m on the beach and it ends up taking all my fast food that I purchased at the snack bar. Maybe in that case I’ll give it a little slap, but I wouldn’t flat out annihilate a seagull the way that one of the movie’s characters goes about doing so. And I think one of the more interesting things about the film that I can point out is that before the seagull death moment, it’s not like the seagull is just an innocent little creature, it looks like a complete nuisance, at least to me. Perhaps an insult to seagulls everywhere. If there were a seagull version of the Donner Party incident, this one would probably be the easiest target because it is a complete jerk to everybody in sight.

Aside from “Joker,” another goto comparison I have regarding “The Lighthouse” would probably be the TV show “Seinfeld.” Maybe I didn’t think about it too much while watching the movie, and maybe some of you who have already watched the movie are looking at me and wondering if an acorn fell on my head. Yeah, “Seinfeld” would usually contain more characters in a single twenty minute episode than this movie does in its entire one hour and forty-nine minute runtime. But regardless of character count, the idea behind “Seinfeld” can easily correlate with “The Lighthouse.” I say so because “The Lighthouse” is definitely entertaining as a story. But it is also about, well, nothing.
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In that sort of way, it can be somewhat easy to tell that “The Lighthouse” is sort of a slow burn kind of picture. Again, it’s about two guys stuck on an island with a lighthouse on it in the middle of a storm. I mean, come on! And just because it is slow, does not mean it is terrible. In fact, I cannot imagine this film in terms of pacing being represented in any other way.

Robert Eggers at an event for The Lighthouse (2019)

I will also say that I am rather surprised to be appreciating this film as much as I am, because this film is directed by Robert Eggers, who also directed one of my least favorite horror flicks of the past few years.

Movie buffs, feel free to take my “Official League of Film Fanatics” card. That’s a thing I just made up, but bear with me here. But if that did exist, let me just tell you that “The Witch” may be one of the most overhyped films of the decade. I know I am not alone, but I really did not like that movie. It wasn’t scary, it was just boring and occasionally annoying. If I had to be honest, it has to be one of the worst films that A24 has ever been involved with. But one thing that is definitely true about that film, much like many others put out by A24, I was able to witness a crystal clear directorial vision. That truth manages to make itself visible in this film as well. “The Lighthouse” is interesting in terms of its vibe, because it is definitely a calm film. That’s how it appears on screen in terms of visuals (although it is interfered by crashing waves, a storm, and a black and white shots). But it is also occasionally bonkers. I could talk about some of the crazy s*it that goes down, but then I’d just be spoiling the experience for potential viewers.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse (2019)

In the end, “The Lighthouse” was definitely worth my time. I will say, if I sound like I am being more vague than usual in this review, it is because I feel that if you want to go see this movie, I think it is best to go in knowing as little as there is to know as possible. All I can say is, it’s good, it’s insane, and entertaining. That’s all she wrote. If any of you want to go check out “The Lighthouse” in the theater, give it a go. Not the best film of the year, but definitely worth checking out. Between the chemistry of the two leads and the atmosphere this film tends to provide, I’d say you are for something swell. I’m going to give “The Lighthouse” an 8/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that over a week ago I just saw the movie “Last Christmas.” I will have a review up for that very soon. And I am not sure what my schedule looks like, but as of now I have passes to the upcoming movie “The Good Liar.” If I get around to seeing it, I will have a review for it. But until then, we’ll just have to see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email to get notifications in your inbox, or for comment and like access, use a WordPress account! Stay tuned for more great content! If you also want notifications from Facebook, consider liking my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Lighthouse?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite pirate movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!