Mulan (2020): A Slight Dishonor

“Mulan” is directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zookeeper’s Wife) and stars Yiefi Liu (The Forbidden Kingdom, Tong que tai), Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Tzi Ma (The Man in the High Castle, 24), Jason Scott Lee (Hawaii Five-0, Lilo & Stitch), Yoson An (Mortal Engines, Dead Lucky), Ron Yuan (CSI: NY, Golden Boy), Gong Li (The Monkey King 2, Memoirs of a Geisha), and Jet Li (The Expendables, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor).

This film is another telling of the Mulan legend. This time around, Disney executes its live-action version of the tale. Their original attempt at creating a story on the character was in the studio’s 1998 animation, which has become a fan favorite.

For those who do not know the story, Mulan disguises herself as a boy and joins fellow warriors in battle.

Say what you want about this notion, but I have not dedicated much of my childhood to watching Disney films. Why is that? I’ve just had other priorities when it comes to media. Although prior to watching the 2020 version of “Mulan,” I popped in the 1998 edition to see if it is worth the hype. Having seen “Mulan,” it is a good movie, but I don’t find myself remembering as one of the most iconic animations of all time.

The Lion King (2019) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

I skipped on most of the Disney live-action remakes because I have either not seen the original counterpart, they did not interest me, or in the case of 2019’s “The Lion King,” I could literally watch the same film at home, but in animated form. Unless you count parts of “Alice in Wonderland,” the only one of these films that I have watched is 2016’s “The Jungle Book.” At the time, it was a visual work of art. And I will defend it for that. But as one who wants original stories, I had no desire to watch any others. One of the few reasons why I am watching 2020’s “Mulan” is because it is one of the few big movies we’re actually getting this year. But another reason is that the trailers at least made it look cool. Plus, unlike “The Lion King” for example, this seemed like a completely different take on the story, it actually felt like Disney took some semblance of a risk with this project. This had no songs, no Mushu, and a PG-13 rating! I understand that some people are upset that on the surface, this film is vastly different from the 1998 version. But this felt like a take that could stand on its own. This looked like a legit, “Lord of the Rings” style epic, not to mention a flick that would definitely be worth seeing in the theater!

Disney+ - D23

…Unnntil it hit Disney+. F*ck you and your $30 on top of a subscription. Not everyone is a family of four.

I skipped the Disney+ bulls*it, not only because I thought this was a greedy move, but because I didn’t have Disney+ to begin with. So I waited for physical media! Was it worth the wait?

Not really.

I will say though, going back to the whole “epic movie” thing, there are several shots in “Mulan” that look breathtaking. The movie occasionally manages to become a display of Asian beauty. I still have that first shot of the film in my head because it is that beautiful! It is going to be tough to tell because we still have some time left in this year, I would not be surprised if “Mulan” is a Best Cinematography contender. Although it is no “Tenet,” which coincidentally released the same day in the United States. Just about every shot in this film matches with the vibe they were going for. A serious epic, with a little spark of badass fun sprinkled in.

Now, if only that fun actually existed.

I did not want to go into this review comparing one movie to the other, but I have no choice here. One of the advantages of “Mulan” from 1998 is that aside from being a big adventure kind of like this new vision, is that the animation provided some genuinely fun touches. I knew that going into this new interpretation that it was going to be more serious, but that also meant, to my lack of expectations, that it would be more boring.

If there were one word I would have to give to describe “Mulan” as a film it would be “soulless.” This movie lacks any of the luster that I have seen from the 1998 effort, and it really shows in its characters. Mulan, while technically badass, is already shown to be who she is for the rest of the film from a young age. We see less of a struggle from her. Yes, she struggles to be an honor to her family, but she’s already proven to be a warrior. In fact, her father already acknowledges Mulan’s skills. Now, I know that part of why Mulan cannot fight in battle is because she is a girl, and girls cannot fight. However, looking back at the first few minutes of the film, this transition of the father feels a tad forced and out of character.

Stylistically, this take on “Mulan” sounds like something that can work, but when it comes to getting from point A to point B, the writing and motivations sometimes feel out of place.

If anything, this new take on “Mulan” reminds of “The Great Wall,” starring Matt Damon. Why does that movie exist? It takes a historical moment from Chinese culture, visually makes it interesting, but writes it as the most boring event in history.

There were times where I just wondered when exactly this film was going to end. This film just felt longer than it needed to be. You have these sort of fast-paced battle sequences but there are various segments of the film where everything drags on. While it does allow some further taking in of the amazing visuals, it almost feels like a distraction from what must truly be an uninteresting story. Except that this isn’t an uninteresting story. It’s been done before, and done better!

One last thing, this film starts off in a stale manner. Again, I’ll reference the scene where Mulan shows off her badass skills. To reiterate, she is a badass. But if you watch this movie, specifically the first few minutes, pay attention to every time the father says “no,” it doesn’t feel natural. It feels like the director just wanted to finish the scene and move on. I know film is a visual medium, and visually, “Mulan” looks pretty. But looks should not be the defining factor of all movies. Movies are not supermodels. They have to do more than please the eyes.

Disney’s MULAN Mulan (Yifei Liu) Photo: Stephen Tilley © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, “Mulan” is forgettable, dull, and dishonorable. Dishonor on Disney! Dishonor on your cash cow! And dishonor on 2020! While this is nowhere near as bad as say “Superintelligence,” this was not worth my time. I am curious as to what would have happened if I saw this in a theater. Would I have liked it better? Some might argue that it is the same movie either way, and they aren’t wrong. But they’re different experiences. Sometimes a bad movie can get a few points for the experiential factor. I did not like “Moana” but I will not deny that it is pleasing for my pupils. The animators did an excellent job with that film. I gave it a 5/10 after watching it at home, but who knows? Maybe I would have liked it better in a theatrical environment. Nevertheless, this vision of “Mulan” takes a classic tale and makes it boring. I didn’t even get into the controversies surrounding this film, that’s a subject I did not even have time for. But my head is already spinning enough that I cannot even touch upon that matter! Instead, I’m going to give “Mulan” a 4/10.

On another note, if you want a really good film that centers around Asian culture, which by the way, is animated. Go watch “Over the Moon!” It’s streaming right now on Netflix and I guarantee you, it is one of most magical experiences I had watching a film this year. In fact, while I was not of this mindset, I will say, if you are of the mindset that you want a film that is more reflective of what Disney is, what it stands for, and what they’ve done, this might be for you. Check that movie out, and skip the new “Mulan” adaptation! Your brain will thank you.

“Mulan” is now available physically on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available on premium VOD services such as Prime Video, VUDU, and Xfinity On Demand. The film is still available on Disney+ with premier access at an extra charge of $29.99, but starting on Friday, December 4th, it will be available on Disney+ for free as long as you’re a subscriber.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that December is just around the corner, and we are nearing the end of one of the most unprecedented years in history. In other years, December has occasionally been a month where I catch up on a lot of movies, and this month does not appear to be an exception. And if all goes according to plan, I will not be reviewing a lot of the movies I am “catching up” on. Although that depends on the release schedule panning out as expected and whether I am forced to go back into shutdown mode. Cases are going up in my area, but at the same time, we are also doing more testing. We’ll have to see what happens. I cannot promise anything this December, maybe except a review for “Wonder Woman 1984,” but other than that, my schedule is not to be disclosed. Only time will tell. 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 “Mulan” 2020? What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on the premier access deal on Disney+? Personally, I think it is ridiculous, and honestly, I could have gone to theater for a cheaper experience under some cases. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Superintelligence (2020): F*ck You, 2020. Just Die.

“Superintelligence” is directed by Ben Falcone (Life of the Party, Tammy) and stars Melissa McCarthy (Ghostbusters, The Kitchen), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Will & Grace), Brian Tyree Henry (Vice Principals, Atlanta), and James Corden (The Emoji Movie, The Late Late Show with James Corden). This film centers around a former corporate executive named Carol Peters, who is chosen to be studied by a Superintelligence. When this Superintelligence conflicts itself over whether it should enslave, destroy, or save humanity, Carol must convince the A.I. that people are worth saving.

“Superintelligence” comes from the same husband and wife team that brought us 2018’s s*itshow, “Life of the Party.” That ended up receiving a 1/10 from me, ended up being my #1 worst film of 2018, and officially earned the #10 spot on my Worst 25 list on my Top Movies of the 2010s countdown event. Safe to say, when I heard these two were going to collaborate on another movie, I think many of my brain cells began a civil battle to see which ones would survive by the time this movie comes out.

Another stinger, and part of this is due to the pandemic, but I will address it anyway, is that “Superintelligence” is skipping theaters and going straight to HBO Max. Before COVID-19 hit, when a movie typically chooses to ditch theaters and go straight to streaming such as “The Cloverfield Paradox” and “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle,” the results have not always been positive. Thankfully, due to the pandemic, we have seen some distributors sell rights of their movies to streamers and it has occasionally worked out. Some are calling “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which was sold by Paramount to Prime Video, one of the funniest movies of the year. Sony sold “An American Pickle” to HBO Max, which ended up receiving positive reviews.

The unfortunate thing however when it comes to this HBO Max deal is that the distributor of the movie is owned by the same conglomerate who has their hands tied to HBO Max, AT&T, which owns Warnermedia, which oversees Warner Brothers. So far, Warner Brothers already has dumped one of their movies onto HBO Max, “The Witches,” which ended up being one of the worst films directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Now who knows what would have happened? If “Superintelligence” was in theaters, chances are it would have made nowhere near enough money to turn a profit. But I imagine part of why Warner Bros. is putting “Superintelligence” on HBO Max is because it is being dumped on there. While Melissa McCarthy is a big name, Ben Falcone has never made a critically positive film when he sat in the director’s chair.

All of this just so happens to be my thoughts before the movie. So, what are my thoughts after the movie?

I would have probably have gotten ten times the satisfaction out of eating paper instead of watching “Superintelligence!” I cannot even fathom how this movie came to be. In my imagination, I feel like the only reasons why this movie exists to begin with is because it allows Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone to spend more time together. Plus, Falcone has already directed a few movies for Warner Brothers, so why not let him whip up another piece of s*it?!

I almost have no words.

Every time I write a sentence to give a description on what I thought about this movie, my brain just switches off! I cannot remember the last time I was this infuriated about a film. This is honestly just as bad as any of the “Sharknado” movies. Who do I blame here? The director? The producers? Maybe 2020? This is honestly the movie equivalent to finding out your computer has been smashed, the enter key is broken, and all your data has been wiped! Oh, and top of that, your computer has a f*cking virus! Time to call tech support.

I think my previous analogy fits quite well here, specifically the one about my brain cells fighting a civil war. It’s almost as if throughout the runtime of the movie, my brain cells engaged in a fight to the death, all until one cell remained, and now my brain cannot do anything about it!

I don’t even know where to start with this thing! There are some movies that I have reviewed that are bad to the point where I cannot stand them. This is one that I would never be able to watch again even if James Corden popped through the screen, came out, reached into his pockets, and slapped me in the face with a ton of cash shouting, “Jack! I will give you $100 million! All you have to do is watch ‘Superintelligence’ from start to finish.”

Speaking of James Corden, I have to ask, WHO APPROVES OF HIS FILM CHOICES? Does he have an agent? Does he get to pick the roles himself? Because in recent years he’s been in “Norm of the North,” “The Emoji Movie,” “Yesterday,” and f*cking “Cats!” WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Was John Oliver unavailable? Was Conan O’Brien too expensive? Was Seth Meyers too busy hanging with writers coming up with creative ideas for Donald Trump jokes?

For the record, James Corden plays the Super Intelligence, the A.I. that chooses to study Carol of all people. Conceptually, his link with Carol brought some good ideas to the table. Unfortunately, they were brought into to shoddy-ass wreck of a time that I will never be able to get back. The A.I. manages to allow Carol to live her wildest dreams, and in a way, this movie sort of resembles that be careful what you wish for type of story. Except that instead of wishing, everything is just given to Carol. This may be the biggest weakness of the film, and that’s because it goes against the traditional storytelling idea that the protagonist is the center of the story.

Now I know that the film is called “Superintelligence,” and it is partially about an A.I.’s indecision on what to do with humanity. However, a good portion of the movie dedicates itself to our protagonist barely earning anything. If anything, Carol is forced to go through with protocol after protocol, whether she likes it or not. Of all the protagonists I have seen in 2020’s cinematic calendar, I could make a convincing argument that Carol Peters may be the worst of the bunch.

And this would be fine if the movie were funny, or at least convincing! But it’s neither of those things. It is anger-inducing and awkward! That is all! Oddly enough, even though Ben Falcone wrote the other Melissa McCarthy-centric films he directed, he did not write “Superintelligence.” Instead, that dishonor goes to Steve Mallory, who co-wrote “The Boss” with Falcone. “Superintelligence” is the first feature Mallory wrote without assistance, so I will do my best to acknowledge Mallory could have a bright future ahead. But this script belongs in one place. Inside the software waiting for further edits. That’s it.

Not all movies are created equal, but this movie really needed some preplanning. Maybe there was plenty of preplanning that did not work out, but this movie felt rushed while also being lazy. Carol is uninteresting, awkward, and unfortunately for the audience, not funny. In fact, part of what makes this a reality is that a good portion of the comedy is boring Melissa McCarthy schtick. She might get angry on one occasion or another, she’ll go on with something for a long time, and of course, she falls.

Over the history of storytelling, I cared about protagonists not only because of their desires, which Carol has plenty of, but their willingness to take steps to their goal. Romeo Montague immediately went up to Juliet Capulet to express how he feels about her. Charlie Bucket bought a chocolate bar for a chance at a golden ticket. Luke Skywalker joined Obi-Wan to learn the ways of the force. The problem with Carol Peters is that so much is handed to her in the early stages of the film. She gets a lot of money, a penthouse, a Tesla, and she does end up doing things here and there to move the plot along. But the film burns out as it progresses, kind of like my single-cell brain. AGH! WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BRAIN?!

Did I mention that almost every joke in this film failed to impress me? In fact, there were one or two moments where a character would do something, and someone else makes a remark signifying they find the moment funny. Guys! Your universe sucks! What do these people find to be the funniest show on television? Static? Because I can assure that the first genuine laugh of any kind that I had during “Superintelligence” came in around the 44 minute mark.

If I had to compare “Superintelligence” to any other movie, it would have to be “Jexi” starring Adam DeVine. For those of you who have not seen “Jexi,” it follows a man who works for a Buzzfeed-like company. He’s obsessed with his phone, and when he gets a new phone, it basically takes over all aspects of his life. Aside from being a journey through his life, love, and so on, the center of it all is a rivalry between the main character and his phone, or more specifically, the virtual assistant on his phone. Much like this movie, it has a script that makes me want to shove needles in my eyes! It’s an abomination! However, the romance in that movie is handled much better compared to “Superintelligence.”

If this movie tried harder to formulate a more likable protagonist, maybe center the story around what SHE does a little more than the supercomputer’s motives, if possible, this could be slightly more tolerable. For all I know, this movie also could have worked better as a drama, because one of the worst parts of the movie are the attempts at humor. They’re either forced, awkward, or both at once! I screamed at my television countless times whenever someone did something dumb, someone said something dumb, or the movie treated me like I was dumb. That’s what this movie should be called! Not “Superintelligence,” but “Super Dumb!”

Maybe if “Superintelligence” were written as a drama, it could be the next “Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Maybe even if it had a different director, or lead actor, maybe even a new writer. This is an idea that could work if it were massively revamped. Instead, we get whatever the f*ck “Jexi” is! I’m surprised I still remember that movie existed!

When I stop caring before the halfway point of the film, that is an enormously epic fail. I don’t know what else I can say except that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone need to get their s*it together. I have “Tammy” and “The Boss” on Blu-ray. I have not seen either of them. But after watching “Life of the Party” and “Superintelligence,” I think I might have to consider passing on those two movies.

There are several movies that I have watched over the years that are unashamedly goofy. Movies like “Anchorman,” “Elf,” or “Game Night.” But these movies are consistent with their vibe and translate to an instant good time. “Superintelligence” hurdles with world-ending events, serious government s*it, romance, and goofiness. Sadly, it cannot even get a single aspect down to a science.

In the end, “Superintelligence” is arguably in my top 10, maybe even top 5 worst comedies ever made. Throughout a great portion of this review, I had trouble formulating even a single sentence. Some movies are too good for words, others are so bad you do not have any words. This movie was so intolerable I lost my brain to process whether I could come up with words. Since I cannot come up with words, I’ll use numbers. If this movie were to associate with any number in the world, it would be the number 2. And speaking of numbers, I am going to give “Superintelligence” a 1/10.

Fun fact, there is only one other movie that I have seen this year that I have officially given a 1/10 to, and that is “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.” That film is directed by Daniel Farrands, who also directed “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” That ended up being my worst film of 2019. In 2018, I saw “Life of the Party,” which became the worst film of that year. Guess who directed that film? Ben Falcone! So far, the only 1/10 movies in 2020 are from directors who held projects that went on to be the worst movies of their particular year on Scene Before. That is honestly heartbreaking! Not just for the crew who made those movies, but as a viewer, I do my best to have even the slightest of optimism for a movie. So what should I expect? Are these two going to improve their craft anytime soon?

I am almost curious to watch “Tammy” and “The Boss” to see what else Falcone has up his sleeve. But at the same time, 2020 has taken so much of my sanity that I do not know how much more I am willing to sacrifice. This has easily been the worst year for movies. While there have been plenty of decent titles, the bad ones TRULY stood out. I cannot wait for this year to be over, and last but not least, avoid “Superintelligence” at all costs!

“Superintelligence” is now available on HBO Max. Watch it if you dare, but if you want my recommendation for something to watch on HBO Max, just watch “Harley Quinn” instead. That show kicks butt!

Thanks for reading this review! I would love to tell you what my next review is, but this current review has hurt my head so much that I cannot even think about what I will have for dinner tonight. So my next post is… Something. We’ll just have to find out what exactly that something is. I… Can’t even believe I survived to watch this movie. F*ck 2020, f*ck it to Hell and back! 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 “Superintelligence?” What did you think about it? Or, of the Ben Falcone-directed movies starring Melissa McCarthy, which is your favorite? Given the track record between these two, I doubt this question is a reflection of quality. But I figured I’d ask it anyway. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Croods: A New Age (2020): A Wild Ride (Unfortunately, It NEVER Ends)

“The Croods: A New Age” is directed by Joel Crawford, who has been involved as a story artist for several DreamWorks films including “Kung Fu Panda,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Rise of the Guardians.” This film is his feature-length debut and stars Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man, La La Land), Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Peter Dinklage (Avengers: Infinity War, Game of Thrones), Leslie Mann (Blockers, Welcome to Marwen), and Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Adam Ruins Everything).

The long-awaited sequel to 2013’s “The Croods” centers around a family living in pre-historic times. They may have left the cave, but their journey is not over yet. In this movie, the Croods meet the Bettermans, a family who claims to be more evolved than those of the titular name.

I liked “The Croods” when I first saw it, but much like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Suicide Squad” it is one of those movies that I had fun watching in the theater, but quickly began to like less upon thinking about it more, not to mention a rewatch. To this day, other than maybe “Shrek Forever After,” “The Croods” may be my least favorite DreamWorks animation. Granted, I have missed some of the recent ones like “Trolls,” “Trolls: World Tour,” “The Boss Baby,” and “Abominable.” But I figured since there is very little to talk about in the movie world right now, I am willing to go see “The Croods: A New Age,” even if it wrecks my brain.

I will also be fair to the first movie, because even though the story and characters do not serve much for my memory, I do remember the movie looking stunning at times. It is one of the more attractive-looking DreamWorks films I’ve seen, and when it comes to color, it pops. But contrary to what Deadpool says, looks are not everything.

So how does “The Croods: A New Age” compare to its 2013 counterpart? Admittedly I cannot give a full confirmation as it has been awhile since I have seen that 2013 counterpart, but there are elements of this sequel that I think fare slightly better than the original, but not by much. The first “Croods” tries to be grand, and it succeeds at times, but there are also moments of that film where looking back I kind of roll my eyes. “A New Age” does an alright job with moving everything along in terms of characterization, but focuses much more of its time to cracking jokes that don’t always land or having big action just for the sake of keeping our eyes on the screen. Keeping our eyes on the screen is not a bad thing, but as I kept my eyes on the screen, I felt like I was witnessing another example of the style over substance problem. It’s a common thing I have seen out of a recent “Transformers” or Zack Snyder movie for example. The story could be interesting, but it occasionally takes a backseat for visuals. This is not always a negative, as “The Croods: A New Age” provides plenty of pretty visuals. However, when it comes to family animations, this is not one I would watch for plot or characters. I would probably put it on my TV as a test movie. I will say though, if you and your family need an excuse to get out of the house for Thanksgiving, maybe avoid some crazy in-laws who won’t shut up about politics, I will say that this movie, in terms of visuals, may be worth the IMAX price. I saw “The Croods: A New Age” in IMAX, and the presentation was better compared to a lot of movies I’ve seen this year.

I will say, one of the standouts of this movie is the dad, otherwise known as Grug. Much like in the first movie, Grug is voiced by Nicolas Cage, and I have to say, when it comes to how Grug is written occasionally, it feels like the voiceover role Cage was born to do. There’s a lot of over the top expression, zaniness, and hyperactive speech patterns that associate with the actor quite well. He also had a rather hypnotizing portion of his screentime dedicated to wanting bananas. The movie goes balls out with that story and executes it better than I would have imagined.

I also think when it comes to Eep and Guy, they have really good chemistry. Once again, it has been forever since I’ve watched the first movie, but I do remember their relationship being a highlight in that project as well. I think Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds are fine casting choices for their roles and it’s nice to see Stone continuing her tradition, not only in “The Croods,” but in “Gangster Squad” and “La La Land” of getting it on with boy toy Canadians named Ryan.

“The Croods: A New Age” introduces some previously unseen characters along the way. Specifically, much of this revolves around the Bettermans, a more evolved family living over a wall that separates the Croods’ land and what they view as the place of “Tomorrow.” I will say, first off, could they have chosen any other last name? One of the first lines out of Leslie Mann’s character is “emphasis on the ‘Better,'” in reference to her last name. I get the point, but this honestly makes the movie feel like it is talking down to its viewers. And yes, young children are watching this movie. And if I were a kid watching this movie, I’d end up having a good time. But I don’t need facts like this shoved in my face when I could use my head like an intellectual.

With that rant over, let’s talk about the Bettermans. I think the Bettermans are a fairly fascinating depiction of how humans have evolved. They show off their “better” ways of doing things, such as their versions of elevators, toilets, sleep, and so on. Sometimes it made for fun parts of the movie.

Oh yeah, apparently they have a merchandisable sloth too.

I’m not gonna lie, I do not think the sloth from the first movie is as funny as they’re trying to make it out to be. It’s kind of like the Chicken from “Moana,” one of the most overhyped animations I’ve seen in recent years.

I do not have much more to say about “The Croods: A New Age,” but I have extremely conflicting feelings about the climax. I say so because the climax has many of the essentials needed. It is exciting, action-packed, visually stunning, and intense. But it kept going on forever. Although I might be exaggerating because it just so turns out that it didn’t. “The Croods: A New Age” is 95 minutes long. That is four minutes shorter than the original film. Looking back, it feels as if the first two acts were short pieces of buildup, but they just wanted to inject as much action and adventure as possible by the halfway point that the movie felt like it could end at one moment, but it instead goes on. This feels like “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” except that instead of not knowing when to conclude, it didn’t know when to get to the actual conclusive point to begin with. I love fast-paced, balls to the wall thrill rides, but “The Croods: A New Age” comes with the unfortunate disadvantage that it does not really give me much time to breathe.

I was never bored by “The Croods: A New Age,” and that is an absolute positive, but this film was like an overpowered roller-coaster. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, but sometimes discombobulating. You’re in the moment, but you also want it to end. If cinemas are open near you, and you plan to see “The Croods: A New Age” in theaters, go for the most immersive experience possible. But sometimes it gets a little TOO exciting, at least for me.

In the end, “The Croods: A New Age” is not the worst animated movie of 2020, but it is by no means the best. It is definitely fun if you have a family. Kids might end up enjoying it. If you were satisfied with the first film, chances are you might end up digging this one. I think the Betterman family was a fine addition character-wise, but I do not see myself popping on this movie again in the near future. I am going to give “The Croods: A New Age” a 6/10.

I will also say that I stayed for the end credits, because I wanted to know if there is an after credits scene. By the way, there is not. But I noticed the special thanks section and they thanked the entire crew that pulled the film off, despite the challenges of 2020. I thought that was a nice sentiment and I would not be surprised if I see that statement in more movies going forward. Statements that reflect on the tough time to get a movie going, but they managed to pull it off in the end.

“The Croods: A New Age” is now playing in CinemaSafe theatres. It is available in 2D, 3D, IMAX, and other large formats such as Dolby Cinema and Cinemark XD. The film will hit premium VOD services including Google Play, VUDU, and cable options like Xfinity On Demand on December 25th as Universal is observing a shortened theatrical window.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend I am going to be watching and reviewing the all new HBO Max film “Superintelligence” starring Melissa McCarthy. “Superintelligence” may be in my top 3 least anticipated films of the year, but I have a job to do. So here we go! It is my obligation to risk brain damage this weekend! Yeehaw! 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 “The Croods: A New Age?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite animation of 2020? For me, that’s an easy choice. “Over the Moon.” I cannot stop listening to the soundtrack right now! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020): The Most Triumphant Review to Unite the World

The year is 2020, COVID-19 is the talk of the town. Political talk never ever ends. Toilet paper is a precious commodity. Hand sanitizer is the trendiest item for the past few months. The Internet is a war zone. Not with weapons, but with words, name-calling, and reminders that masks go over the nose. One man must unite the world, and that man is…

The Movie Reviewing Moron.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is directed by Dean Parisot (RED 2, Galaxy Quest) and stars Alex Winter (Grand Piano, Freaked), Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers, My Spy), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Brigette Lundy-Paine (Atypical, The Glass Castle), Anthony Carrigan (Gotham, Barry), Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait, Childrens Hospital), Jayma Mays (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, American Made), Holland Taylor (The Practice, Two and a Half Men), Kid Cudi (How to Make It in America, Need for Speed), William Sadler (Iron Man 3, The Shawshank Redemption), and Jillian Bell (Bless the Harts, Workaholics).

This film is the third installment to the “Bill & Ted” franchise, and the first one that has come out in almost thirty years. Years after their excellent adventure and bogus journey, Bill & Ted are happily married to their princess wives. They are also loving fathers to their daughters. Suddenly, the duo is alerted of a world-ending event in the future, and they must write a song that will unite everyone, as they were destined to.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of those films that I became more excited to watch as the year went on. Part of it is because the 2020 calendar happens to be losing more films by the day. Films like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Dune,” and so on. But “Bill & Ted Face the Music” was one of the early films to release when studios and exhibtors were collaborating to get moviegoing back on track this summer. Having a duel release in theaters and on demand, the film received mostly positive reviews.

But I didn’t watch it at first.

There are a few reasons why. Movies like “Unhinged,” “The New Mutants,” and “Tenet” were more important for me to tackle at the time. And more importantly, I still haven’t seen the first two “Bill & Ted” installments. Thankfully, now that I have, I can declare that both are wonderfully quirky, hilarious, and both times I ended up wanting Bill & Ted to be my best bros. Yeah, they are idiots, they do not really have brains, but they have enough charisma to make them some of the most lovable idiots on the face of the earth. I also have to say, I wish more people talked like the main duo did in real life. I would like to just have the occasional moment where I say something and do an air guitar solo, even if the moment does not call for it.

At the same time though, this is a sequel that is many years in the making. It has been a long while since Bill & Ted had their time, and it was hard for me to wonder if seeing these two grown men acting like their younger selves would work. This is especially true when I look at an actor like Keanu Reeves, who has evolved quite a bit since his portrayals of Ted. He has gone from playing hyperactive, maybe somewhat quirk-filled characters like Ted and Johnny Utah to the true badass grit that I managed to get out of John Wick.

If you want to know the truth, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of the most triumphant film experiences of the year. When it comes to pure fun, “Bill & Ted” has consistently been top notch. “Bill & Ted” is a franchise that has a universe that I quite honestly cannot take all that seriously. But makes the movies all the more enjoyable.

I know it is 2020, and partying is not allowed. But each time Bill & Ted happened to be on screen, it made me want to… PARTY ON DUDES! There is a sense of infectious joy to be had every time they do something. Bill & Ted could do something as simple as take a piss at a urinal while standing next to each other, and I would still be having fun with them. They could sit on a couch eating chips flipping channels on a television trying find something to watch, and I would still be having fun with them. They could wait in line at the DMV, sitting right next to some jackoff talking too loud on the phone, and I would still be having fun with them. Literally the best part of Bill & Ted as characters is the fact that they even exist to begin with. Now watch, they make a “Bill & Ted 4,” ruin everything about these two and perhaps I suddenly change my mind. But for now, everything is fine. I rest my case.

One of the biggest concerns I had for “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is whether Alex Winter’s and Keanu Reeves’s previous schtick would hold up even those the duo has aged. As somewhat suggested already, Bill & Ted’s schtick may be the absolute best part of this movie. Unless they are doing a full on remake where they erase everything about this current trilogy, I hope they never recast Winter and Reeves. They are the perfect fit for their characters, even if they are middle aged men acting like teenagers.

I also really like the daughters, played wonderfully by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine. But before I continue with the positives I do have to mention one problem. As it has been taught throughout our history, it takes two to reproduce. A man and a woman. Evidence suggests that these two daughters have a mother that is still alive. Now, for all I know the mothers are not role models or incredibly abusive off-screen. But it is a little hard to believe that the daughters do not really take after their mothers, even in a minimal sense. They’re basically copies of Bill & Ted except that they’re women. They call each other dude, act cartoony, and obsess over music. Again, “Bill & Ted” is a universe that I do not take seriously 100% of the time, but this almost leans into a territory where it breaks the suspense of disbelief bar. Despite that, I will say their characters are well cast, funny, and their story in the film was fun to watch. I would not mind seeing their own movie if possible. Maybe they could do a “Bill & Ted” adult animated TV show where these two have a new adventure every day. It could be like “Rick & Morty” but with greater use of the word “whoa.”

I will also bring up one more thing about the movie that kind of surprised me. Remember “Transformers: Dark of the Moon?” Remember “Kingsman: The Secret Service?” When those movies end, they basically conclude the big climactic event that defines all that came before it, but they don’t really do anything else from there. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” does something similar. This movie has a big climax, but they just have something completely abrupt happen, and the movie just ends. It did not make me angry, but it made the end feel so sudden, it’s like celebrating your birthday, having your cake, then 25 other people cut all the slices for themselves before you can get one piece of it and eat it.

I want to talk about death. Death sucks. Life is definitely better. Stick to life.

With that being said, I want to talk about Death. He’s spectacular! If there were any moment in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” that happened to be a highlight, it would have to be when the duo interacts with Death. Most notably, when they play Battleship. It takes an ordinary scenario, but makes it the most hilarious thing on earth. I’m glad they got William Sadler to come back, because he embraces the character and once again, allows him to shine. I will say that I will remember his material in “Bogus Journey” more than “Face the Music,” but it was a pleasure watching Death in his return to the franchise. His story was fascinating and Sadler gives the role his all. There’s not much more to say.

In the end, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is a spark of fun in a dumpster fire of a year. I wanted to see this movie when it came out, and I unfortunately avoided doing so at every opportunity. I can definitely say that “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is worth the wait. Not only is it worth my wait of avoiding it in theaters, avoiding it on PVOD, and holding out for physical media, but I can declare that for those who want a solid “Bill & Ted” sequel all these years later, you will most likely be pleased. I am going to give “Bill & Ted Face the Music” an 8/10.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also find it on premium streaming services such as Google Play, VUDU, and Prime Video for a rental fee or a purchase price.

Thanks for reading this review! We are slowly approaching Thanksgiving weekend, and I have a few movie reviews lined up including “The Croods: A New Age,” which hits theaters this week. “Superintelligence,” which hits HBO Max this week. And if I have time, I’ll be sure to talk about the 2020 edition of Disney’s “Mulan,” which I just bought on 4K Blu-ray. I did not watch it when it first came out partially because I did not have Disney+ and I was much more focused on “Tenet.” I just watched the original Disney animation, so I am eager to see how the live-action version compares to its counterpart. 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 “Bill & Ted Face the Music?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Bill & Ted” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sound of Metal (2019): Hearing is Precious, Here’s Proof

“Sound of Metal” is directed by Darius Marder (The Place Beyond the Pines, Loot) and stars Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler), Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Bates Motel), Paul Raci (Goliath, Switched at Birth), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead, Wonderstruck), and Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, The Grand Budapest Hotel). This film centers around a drummer named Ruben, who we find out early on is losing his hearing at an alarming rate. His sponsor, worried for him, makes him go to a deaf community and meet Joe, who runs said community. Ruben does this all the while struggling to live with his new situation.

I often poke fun at this company because its business practices usually prevents competition from getting their foot in the door. But if one company has been coming through during this pandemic when it comes to film, it would have be Amazon. They have consistently been releasing film after film, and while not all of them are great (I’m looking at you, “My Spy”), they have come out with some of the more watchable ones this year. “The Vast of Night” was my first 8/10 of the year, which unfortunately came in over the halfway point of the annual calendar. “Radioactive” had a great lead performance by Rosamund Pike and is a marvelous telling of Marie Curie’s life story. Amazon also put out a couple good, but not great, documentaries this year. If it were not for Hulu’s “I Am Greta,” “Time” would be my favorite documentary of 2020. I think Amazon has a solid track record this year. Not perfect, but solid.

“Sound of Metal” is Amazon’s best 2020 release yet.

People say that film is a visual medium, and they’re not wrong. When you have a character whose hearing is being taken away, it makes you appreciate the sights of whatever gets captured on camera. This is a film that at various points, has minimal dialogue, and relies on what you see, not hear. I have seen space movies where they drop the sound to mimic the endless vacuum of the starry sky, but “Sound of Metal” is that if it were brought down to earth. Even at points where the movie became somewhat difficult to watch, it had my attention simply because it was effective enough in its demanding of it. They say that audio is half your movie, and “Sound of Metal” does a really good job at suggesting that such a half may not always be a necessity. I have good hearing, and at times, it’s a curse due to my sensitivity to certain sounds. This movie occasionally made me feel deaf.

It is difficult to determine who will end up being this year’s Best Ensemble, but if I had to pick a perfect candidate right now, that would have to be the cast of “Sound of Metal.” Staying consistent with previous thoughts, many of the performances in this film are not what they are because of their lines, but through their physicality. This movie primarily focuses on two languages. English and sign language. All this leads to what ends up being some of the best writing and directing I have witnessed all year.

Riz Ahmed is a triumph in this film. I have witnessed Ahmed in previous projects, most notably “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and I thought in his previous roles that he served his purpose. Here however, it is difficult to deny that he was allowed to shine and reveal his true acting abilities. His portrayal of Ruben is raw, gritty, natural, and sort of mind-boggling at times. Ahmed is a true performer, and I liked him before “Sound of Metal” came out, but this is the first movie I’ve seen him in that puts his name on the map for me.

I also admire Ahmed’s chemistry with Olivia Cooke, who plays Lou in this film. For the record, Lou is Ruben’s sponsor, while also revealing to be romantically involved with the guy. Unlike Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke was a name that has circled around my head for sometime, and the reason for that is because “Ready Player One” ended up being one of my most rewatched movies of 2018. I like Olivia Cooke in “Ready Player One,” she was great in that movie. Much like Riz Ahmed, I sort of got to see more of Cooke’s true colors in this movie. This is a performance that absolutely dives into the emotions of the character at hand. I could feel the connection between her and Ahmed, and such a bond turned out to be one of the highlights of the film.

If this film has done one thing, that would be to make me realize the talent that can come from even people I do not know. I knew who Ahmed and Cooke were, but one man who I have not seen prior to this film is Paul Raci. I have no idea what his future holds, but with enough luck, it may end up being one with massive success. His portrayal of Joe really helped this film bring itself to an intimate level. Ruben is the rough, rugged, obnoxious main character who needs to realize what is ahead. Joe is calm, poised, and patient. If I were stuck in traffic with this guy, it would not be the worst car ride ever.

Continuing the subject of unknown, recently realized talent, this is the feature length directorial debut of Darius Marder, and if he keeps up his game, he could be a household name. This is his first feature film, and it is still a bit early to tell if his name will be big enough, or noteworthy enough to associate with the greats. Nevertheless, depending on how COVID-19 continues to unfold, we’ll have to see when Marder’s next film hits, but this is a fantastic debut. I would love to see more from Marder if possible, and maybe he’ll be the next big name in the industry.

If I had any problems with “Sound of Metal,” they would honestly be quite hard to point out. While the casting is amazing, it is a little weird to have a relationship between the main characters if their respective actors are 11 years apart in age. At the same time though, age is just a number. I will also say, time will be the defining factor here, but it is hard to tell whether I will obligate myself to go on Prime Video and watch this movie again. It’s not that I did not like the movie, I enjoyed it very much. But there are a couple scenes that immediately deliver a lack of comfort. While the feeling did provoke a sense that my time watching the film was well spent, it was nevertheless brought through scenes that may have been harder to watch than others.

Upon reflection, I would have to say that I love the way that this film starts and ends. I say so because it is a perfect encapsulation of Ruben’s journey. I will not go into much detail, but it has to do with his profession, the effects of said profession, and the overall journey of the film. This forms a recipe for greatness, and ultimately, one of my favorite movies of the year.

In the end, “Sound of Metal” is a nearly flawless attempt to highlight what it is like to lose your hearing. It shows ups, it shows downs, it shows in-betweens, showcasing a hard journey for the main individual and people around him. We can all agree that 2020 is objectively the worst year to be a film fan, that even stands true with the notion that “Parasite” deservedly won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Theaters have been closed. A lot of the films that are in theaters right now are probably just getting dumped. Disney+ got absolutely greedy with their “Mulan” experiment. Not many movies have been extraordinary. Although there have been a few that have been extraordinary like “The Last Shift,” “Over the Moon,” and “Yellow Rose.” As of today, “Sound of Metal” joins those movies in said category. I am going to give “Sound of Metal” a 9/10.

“Sound of Metal” is in select theaters starting Friday, November 20th, and will then drop onto Amazon’s Prime Video as an exclusive two weeks later, December 4th.

Thanks for reading this review! I am not sure what I will be watching this weekend, if anything. But over Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be reviewing “Superintelligence,” the all new film hitting HBO Max starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. Two and a half years ago, I reviewed “Life of the Party,” which these two collaborated on. It ended up being my least favorite film of the year. This can only go so well. Will 2020 strike me down once more? Will we see a turnaround for the celebrity couple? Find out soon on Scene Before! If you want to see that post, and more posts like this one, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sound of Metal?” What did you think about it? Or, have you watched any Amazon movies this year? Which one is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

I Am Greta (2020): A Fine, Essential Panic Attack

“I Am Greta” is directed by Nathan Grossman, stars Greta Thunberg, and it follows the titular young, teenage girl who spends her days advocating for climate justice. It focuses on her life in Sweden, the expansion of her mission that now spans around the world, and the impact that her actions have on others.

If you are reading Scene Before for the first time, welcome! I happily allow just about anyone to read my blog, including my enemies. Because at the end of the day, my goal is to entertain everyone. But let me just be clear on one thing.

Climate change is real.

I rarely talk about societal issues, but this is one of those times that I have to. The fact that this is still a debate is agonizing to me. With that in mind, let’s move on.

Greta Thunberg is a somewhat recently popularized figure, and when it comes to the climate crisis, her name has in a way become synonymous. Sort of in the same way that Grubhub has with the ease of being lazy and ordering a large pizza for yourself at 9PM. I have a strong feeling that in years from now, Thunberg will continue to have a presence in these spheres of history as someone who pioneered her way through the climate epidemic. And based on what this movie has shown to me, her story has only begun. After all, Thunberg is still in her teens, and whether or not this crisis is solvable is a continuous question mark.

If you want my honest thoughts about “I Am Greta,” it is my favorite documentary of 2020 so far. I do not know how many more I plan to watch. “76 Days” admittedly looks pretty good, but of the ones that I have seen this year, this is probably going to be the one that I will look back on at the end of the year happy to have paid money for. I will say though, I have to bring back the old saying of 2020, this does not say much.

One of the things I read on Rotten Tomatoes before watching this documentary is that the movie is pretty good, but not that educational. This is what I found through the “Critics Consensus.”

“Audiences might not learn anything new from I Am Greta, but its stirring chronicle of the young activist’s efforts is inspiring.”

Honestly, I could end the review right here, because that is sort of dead on accurate, but I prefer not to.

I feel like this consensus stands true for a viewer like myself because I already knew Greta Thunberg, and this documentary reinforces that climate change is often seen as the big issue for my generation, as if our very survival depends on it. This movie does not always present something that I have not heard, seen, or thought already. It more or less goes into my brain, takes all the information out, and implants certain pieces into the final product of the documentary. So as I watched this movie, there are points where I go, “Hmm, I remember that,” because I’ve seen it already. After all, I have a strong feeling that if you were to watch this documentary for the first time, there is a strong chance that you will go in having heard Greta Thunberg’s name in some alternate context before. Thunberg was featured on late night talk shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she has been all over the news, she became Time’s Person of the Year, and she’s even been a subject of Donald Trump’s tweets, but not in a way that would make her smile.

Although one of my favorite parts of the movie specifically dives into Thunberg’s exposure to her place in hate culture on the Internet, and I was amused by how she was able to laugh it off. It sort of goes to show the maturity of her character and maybe she really is able to… Chill.

While I may not be as much in the forefront of the climate crisis as her, this movie did remind me of how I happened to relate to Greta Thunberg. Because we are both on the autism spectrum. Granted, our official classifications on said spectrum are slightly different, but they are defining characteristics of ourselves. There’s a point where someone chats with Thunberg, and they bring up how she “suffers” from Asperger’s. She then goes on to affirm that she has it, but from her view, she does not suffer from it. I have high function autism, and yes, it may partially factor into why I have “sensitive hearing,” but this movie also shows that people on the spectrum often find themselves interested in something only to become laser-focused on it. I have many interests in life. Movies, game shows, elevators, trains, and so on. But one thing that is true about me sometimes is that I can find myself in a rabbit hole from time to time.

This film takes place through much of 2019, and the message of the story stands true a year after much of this happened. And this is a little weird to say about a documentary, but I wouldn’t mind Nathan Grossman and the crew behind this film continuing the story through the lens. Not only is it about a defining issue of the times, but much of this movie incorporates an element that you cannot have today, and possibly our future depending on how society fills the pages of COVID-19. Crowds. The movie starts off with Greta Thunberg in her native country of Sweden, forming a small crowd of people to strike with her. We see that this evolves to the part where she speaks to officials and large crowds in various settings. With COVID-19 being a major issue, not to mention one that can affect a core element of Thunberg’s activism, I would be interested to see a sequel on how she deals with climate justice during the times of COVID-19.

This is one of those movies which could potentially have an impact nobody has realized yet. I say that because the film addresses the idea that even though there is a climate crisis, some would suggest there is a lot that is being done about it. Thunberg refuses to accept that notion and makes sure government officials and leaders not only lend their ears to her, but give in to her demands. Do we do something, or stand by? That is a question that we have to answer ourselves. But as we answer that question, there is a solid chance that many will look back at “I Am Greta” as an important film that asks such questions.

In the end, “I Am Greta” is a film that does not really introduce me to anything new in regards to the climate crisis, although it does a really effective job at chronicling Thunberg’s recent life story. Greta Thunberg is a name that I have heard plenty of times before this documentary came out, and there is a solid chance, depending on how well this film does, I will being hearing the name many more times. If there was anything else to add, I think the film had a well-realized ending, and it is part of why I want a part 2 to this story. It highlights the work that needs to be done, while also emphasizing how far Thunberg has progressed in so little time. This movie sort of feels like a fraction of a superhero origin story, but I would like to see where it goes from here. I am going to give “I Am Greta” a 7/10.

I wonder if I should start doing this more, because the pandemic has many options for movie-watching now, but if you want to watch “I Am Greta,” it is now available on Hulu if you want to watch it at home. I watched it through docnyc.net, which links to a virtual edition of one of the largest documentary film festivals. I spotted them $12 to spread some support, and if you want to watch anything through the festival, the options for all the documentaries are available until November 19th. “I Am Greta” was also theatrically released, but I am honestly not sure if any theaters are carrying the film at this point.

Thanks for reading this review! This Tuesday, I am going to be watching the all new Amazon Studios movie, “Sound of Metal.” I just saw the trailer for this movie, I am pretty excited, and it hits theaters this Friday, so I may have a review done before the official release. 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 “I Am Greta?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite documentary of 2020? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Freaky (2020): A Big Slash of Freaky Fun

“Freaky” is directed by Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) and stars Kathryn Newton (Blockers, Supernatural), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), Katie Finneran (Night of the Living Dead, The Michael J. Fox Show), Celeste O’Conner (Selah and the Spades, Irreplaceable You), Misha Osherovich (The Goldfinch, NOS4A2), and Alan Ruck (Speed, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). This film is a slasher comedy spin on “Freaky Friday,” the 1972 book written by Mary Rodgers, which was adapted into two movies from Disney. This time around, a high schooler named Millie lives her life as an outcast, and as the trailer claims, if this were a horror movie, she would be one of the first to die. Appropriately, she gets killed by the Blissfield Butcher, a known serial killer. Instead of dying, she ends up in the killer’s body, and they must switch back in 24 hours otherwise their switch will become permeant.

When it comes to “Freaky Friday,” the source material which this movie takes much inspiration from, that is a concept that you can utilize to enormous success. I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the original Disney film (which sucked), and I can only say that body switching provides endless possibilities. So when I saw the trailer for “Freaky” and found out that a killer and its victim switch bodies, needless to say I was in. Plus, I love the two leads and to see them together is a match made in Heaven.

This movie is a mix of “Freaky Friday,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” specifically if it really emphasized the presence of Jack Black’s character, and it handles all those elements smoothly. The first five minutes of the film are pure horror clichés done well. It’s basically teens making poor decisions, kind of like in that GEICO commercial they now play every Halloween.

“If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. It’s what you do.”

“Freaky” is a slasher comedy, and I think overall that the movie does a spectacular job at not trying too hard to be one thing. It takes two genres, blends them together, and each element of the recipe matches up to deliver something excellent. And part of this is because I recognize that this is sort of goofy, while still being presentable enough for a theatrical environment. The film comes from Blumhouse, a studio known for making small budget horror movies, and the budget for “Freaky” is around $5 million. Now, if you went on a game show, that’s a good payday. Although when it comes to making movies in Hollywood, that’s basically chump change. This movie, for a $5 million feature, does not look half bad. In fact, I think much of the beauty is owed to director Christopher Landon, cinematographer Laurie Rose, and even editor Ben Baudhuin. There are several shots that line up incredibly well with what comes after it based on what exactly is featured in them. I can only imagine the storyboards for this movie! Everything feels intricate and planned out! Aside from “Tenet,” I don’t think I have seen better editing in a movie this year.

I said before that this movie is partially reminiscent of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” While it is nowhere near as expensive or bloated with visuals, it nevertheless feels that way. And if you ask me, I think “Freaky” is better than “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and a much more timeless story. It is hard to tell whether “Freaky” will actually stand the test of time, but I do see it becoming a cult classic over the years. This is especially supported by how 2020 is basically a wasteland for entertainment. Yes, we’re watching a lot of TV, but that’s because it’s where we aim our eyes most of the time nowadays! Movies are practically nonexistent! There is a solid chance that movie watchers could find this on cable or Netflix or something and it becomes a Halloween mainstay. “Freaky,” if you ask me, has that potential.

If you ask me, the best part of this movie is Vince Vaughn, not as his character, the Blissfield Butcher, but as Kathryn Newton’s character, Millie, after they switch bodies. Seeing the character’s self-revelation is wildly entertaining. There’s this minor segment of the film where we see Millie groovin’ in a beaver outfit because she’s dressed up as the school mascot. But then we see after the major incident of the film, in order to show that Vince Vaughn is Kathryn Newton’s character, he’s just busting a move like a moron. The icing on the cake to that is showing off whatever this movie’s version of a secret handshake is. Similar to that, when we see Vince Vaughn’s personality move to Kathryn Newton’s body, her reaction, while I would have done it a little differently if I were writing the screenplay, was entertaining to watch. And it also addresses something all guys, and yes, ALL GUYS, YOU KNOW THIS IS TRUE, would do if they were in a girl’s body. One of the first things we see teenage girl Vince Vaughn doing is playing with her boobs. Wait, her boobs? His boobs? What’s the proper identity here? At the same time, we see Kathryn Newton’s character in Vince Vaughn’s body, who claims that urinating while standing ain’t bad.

Although one of my favorite scenes in this movie in terms of comedy is one moment in a discount store where we see Vince Vaughn talking to a key character we see through various portions of the film, I won’t dive too much further into it, but it goes to show that not only that “Freaky” has the scares, but tons of comedy chops. There are moments where I cringed, and I mean that in a good way. This movie, at certain points, is like experiencing life as Marty McFly in 1955 and finding out your mother wants to f*ck you. If you ask me, “Freaky” is no “Back to the Future,” but like “Back to the Future,” there are some truly hypnotizing character moments that rattled my brain like I switched on a vibrate function for it.

By the end of this movie, I just walked out having a good time. The young teens are genuinely funny. Kathryn Newton is killer, literally. Vince Vaughn continues to be legendary. And if there is one thing that I will remember this movie for the most, aside from how it executes its slick concept, it’s the chemistry between each character. I will also not lie when I say that it was sort of satisfying to see Kathryn Newton go from the school outcast to the sadistic “murder Barbie,” as Josh (Misha Osherovich) puts it. Newton is cute, but I can assure you she is not cuddly. Speaking of Josh… WOW. I want to see more from this guy.

I’ve already seen a few projects with Kathryn Newton, so I will not say this about her. Although if I wanted to point out anyone who has a bright future ahead as an actor, that designation would belong to Misha Osherovich. “Freaky” is admittedly the first full-length project I’ve seen him in, and I would certainly not mind seeing more of him. Part of my praise for him may have to do with the writing, as he does have some of my favorite lines in the movie, but I would love to see him as the star of a film one day maybe as someone really nerdy. He has that pitch to him that can align with that demographic. I think Osherovich can play such a character type very well. I would love to see more from this guy, no matter what it is. I think he has chops that we have yet to see. I want more!

In the end, “Freaky” is freakin’ fun. If you are looking for a stellar night out at the movies, this will serve you well. I will admit that horror is one of my weaker genres, therefore I barely dedicate any time to such movies. This was a fun horror flick that was hilarious yet scary. It’s part “Friday the 13th,” part “Jumanji,” part “Freaky Friday,” and all thumbs up! I came to this movie as I enjoy watching Kathryn Newton, but I stayed for Vince Vaughn. Both actors are incredible in this movie and make it worth the price of admission. I’m going to give “Freaky” a 7/10.

By the way, for those of you who remember earlier this year, Universal made a deal with AMC that would allow them to avoid utilizing the 90 day theatrical window. In other words, despite how “Freaky” is playing in theaters, it will not be long before it can be viewed at home. “Freaky” will be available on VOD to watch wherever you want on Tuesday, December 1st! If your local theaters are still closed, if you are not comfortable going to the theater, or if you are just not a fan of the movies, “Freaky” will arrive at home early as part of an observance towards the unusual 17 day theatrical window. I will say, for me, “Freaky” was a hell of a time at the movies, but I will leave the preferred experience up to the individual.

Thanks for reading this review! I don’t have any plans to go to the theater this weekend, although on Tuesday I will be watching Amazon’s new movie “Sound of Metal.” The film is set to hit theaters a few days later, specifically Friday, and will hit Prime Video two weeks after its theatrical debut. 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 my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Freaky?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch either of the “Freaky Friday” movies? Did you ever read the book? Tell me your thoughts! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Synchronic (2019): Time Travel in New Borleans

“Synchronic” is directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the same duo responsible for bringing us “The Endless.” This film stars Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, Once Upon a Time) and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as two New Orleans paramedics whose lives change once they encounter a series of deaths linked to a drug by the name of Synchronic.

I am one of those people who often judges whether or not they want to see a movie based on the trailer. Unfortunately, given how I consider Scene Before an outlet of informative entertainment for my viewers, I had to make some sacrifices. Movies like “I Feel Pretty” and “Life of the Party” had terrible marketing, but because I am a team player, I saw both anyway. The results of both experiences were not very positive. Every now and then I’ll get something like “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which kind of looked a cliché corporate money grab with no inspiration attached. Turns out I was wrong and I now want to see the sequel! Similar to that, “Over the Moon,” which one trailer in particular makes it look like a been there done that children’s adventure, ended up being my favorite movie this year.

In the case of “Synchronic,” I knew very little about this film before going into it. The earliest memory I have about the movie is this statement shared on social media.

This is a perfect statement. I love the theatrical experience, but this is a great way to encourage people to stay safe, without shaming those who choose to see the movie early. Now, let me just say, that if I didn’t have a full-line commitment to the movie theater or if I were not doing Scene Before, there may be a chance that I decide to put “Synchronic” on my waitlist of movies to watch due to the pandemic, I have not heard much in regards it, or what it is about. Then again, it is also nice to go into a movie blind. Plus, this is a sci fi film, and sci fi is by far my favorite genre, so I would probably have been willing to shell out money for this thing no matter how you slice it.

Having seen “Synchronic,” I walked out of it feeling to similar to how I felt walking out of “Ad Astra.” The film, despite its best intentions to impress me, could not feel more dull! Both films fit into the realm of high-concept sci fi, but unlike the ambitions this movie reaches for, its entertainment value feels relatively low. Looking back at “Ad Astra,” the only things I recall immensely enjoying are the cinematography and one particular chase scene. Other than that, the movie is pretty much a forgettable snoozefest. It looks pretty though! Honestly, I’d rather watch “Ad Astra” at this point compared to “Synchronic,” which based on what I have to say, won’t say much. “Synchronic” is a movie that I really wanted to like, because I usually happen to be fascinated by anything sci-fi. Unfortunately, I walked out of this movie immediately forgetting about it.

If you want me to be straight up, I will address the elephant in the room. This movie, from the get go, had some pretty poor pacing. I will admit, I watched this movie shortly after finding out the results of a controversial election in the United States, so I was bound to be distracted at one point or another, but if this movie cannot get me to lock eyes onto it for a decent amount of time, that’s a problem. I almost never cared about any of the characters, even though I do recognize that the ensemble did a fairly decent job with their roles.

At the same time however, despite me not having much of a damn to give about any characters in this movie, it is a well put together production. At times, this movie reminded me of a movie I did like, “Annihilation,” another sci fi film that feels relatively high-brow. While it is not my favorite film of all time, this movie has a similar sounding score, which is not always boisterous (except in the final act when it is EPIC), but it is easy on the ears from time to time. “Synchronic” at times also has a weird sounding score you’ll want to put on when you drop some acid or something. That’s what I got out of it at the very least.

However, I have to say, there is only one thing that I genuinely took from “Synchronic” as a moment to remember and that is where we see our lead character played by Anthony Mackie messing around with the drug and seeing what happens when he takes it. What does he do? Where does he go? What spot does he have to be in to go to a certain place? I do not want to reveal too much, but one of the things I really like about this movie is how it executes a way of unleashing certain consequences. I won’t say much, but it sort of adds to the learning experience of testing the drug if you will.

I will say though, this movie is written by Justin Benson, who co-directed the film with Aaron Moorhead. One of these two have to be a massive “Back to the Future” fan because this movie not only has time travel, but also a scene where they have an ad playing in a bar promoting “Back to the Future,” and one character even has a dog named Hawking, most likely after Stephen Hawking! In “Back to the Future,” you may remember Doc had a dog named Einstein, after Albert Einstein. In fact, I do not think this is coincidental at all, because both dogs almost look the same! Just watch both movies and tell me they don’t!

This movie did one thing right, even if it was not what it ultimately set out to do. It made me want to watch a much better time travel movie. Congratulations, “Synchronic!” You made me want to travel back to 1985! Good job! In reality, I do have respect for both filmmakers helming this project, even if I am not entirely familiar with their work, because I always enjoy getting a high-concept film like this. I just wish the end result was better.

This movie had a pretty cool ending. Unfortunately though, I had to suffer through a massively boring 90 minutes to get there. I do not think I’ll ever watch this film again unless I need something to fall asleep to, or if it is on cable and I need something in the background. At the same time, I do have faith in Benson and Moorhead, and maybe due to a hectic week, I was in a weird mood. Nevertheless, I stand by my points.

In the end, “Synchronic” is simply one of those movies that looks like it could be masterful, in fact there were certain scenes that I enjoyed watching mainly from a presentation view, but this movie excels more with style than it does substance. There is something there substance-wise, but it just did not sit with me. I imagine this film will have an audience over the years, and who knows? Maybe this is another “Empire Strikes Back,” where a good number of people saw it originally, didn’t like it, but as it got a following and as years went by, it became synonymous with the “Star Wars” name. “Synchronic” could be one of those movies that I could watch again a year from now with a different perspective. And while that excites me, I have to be honest. To be quite honest, this had the pace of the 2020 election. I’m going to give “Synchronic” a 5/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This week I will be seeing the all new film “Freaky” starring Kathryn Newton (Supernatural, Blockers) and Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, The Internship) in this horror spin on “Freaky Friday.” I am quite excited, not only because we are getting more new movies in a year where movies have barely even come out, but this one looks pretty sick. It looks scary, hilarious, and fun. So I’m ready for a good time at the movies. Let’s do this! 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 “Synchronic?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the best movie to fall asleep to? It can also be a good movie! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fantasy Island (2020): Fantasy F***ing Island

“Fantasy Island” is directed by Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2, Truth or Dare) and stars Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Dora and the Lost City of Gold), Maggie Q, Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars, Truth or Dare), Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies, Dolphin Tale), Portia Doubleday (Mr. Robot, Carrie), Jimmy O. Yang (Silicon Valley, Fresh Off the Boat), Ryan Hansen (Friday the 13th, Party Down), and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Thunder). This film is based the television series of the same name, and takes place on an island where visitors see their fantasies come to life. However, as time passes, those fantasies lead to nightmares.

If you’re wondering how I spent my Halloween, I did not really do much. I watched “The Simpsons” on FXX, which was airing a Treehouse of Horror marathon, I had more food than usual, and my mother and I hunkered down to watch this disposable film in the living room. I have never been exposed to any previous material related to the “Fantasy Island” IP. I am aware that previous material exists, in fact my mother pointed out some details about the movie that harkens back to older material. Unfortunately, regardless of whatever faithfulness toward older material this film provides, it is not enough to make a good movie.

This film is tonally inconsistent, structurally discombobulated, and all around just forgettable. Without looking them up on IMDb, I cannot tell you almost a single character’s name from memory. This is how bad the movie is.

This movie is an hour and forty-nine minutes long, it did not need to be that long. Honestly, if this movie took out some of the over the top exposition, they could have trimmed the runtime down by like a few minutes, maybe ten. Short and sweet wins the race! “Fantasy Island” shows that there is a fantasy out there for everyone. If your fantasy is to be treated like an idiot while being overexposed, then this is the movie for you. There are barely any scenes where one can appreciate the sound of silence, embrace the visual art of filmmaking. It’s almost like words are being hammered over your head and you have no choice but to stand by and take it.

One of the core aspects of “Fantasy Island” is seeing these different personalities come together. They originate from alternate walks of life, they have separate fantasies, and it is cool to see some of them in action. But this is also where the movie suffers in a way. It is great to see these ideas and personalities mesh together. However, the movie also suffers because you have all these characters with different backgrounds and aspirations, that there is no one tone that defines the final product. Is it supposed to be lively? Depressing? Hardcore? Sensual? You could make an argument that it is all those things in one, but as a result, the movie sort of suffers from an identity problem. It’s just weird having to jump back and forth to see something vastly different every scene. There are even moments where we linger on one character for so long that I forget somebody else in this film even exists.

Let’s talk about the script of “Fantasy Island.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure this was written in crayon. This is an actual line from the movie.

“Oh, I feel just like Jodie Foster in that Jodie Foster movie.”

“Fantasy Island” is a classic for the ages!

The script for “Fantasy Island” comes off as a punishment for those who ever thought of paying money to see it. There is almost nothing noteworthy about this film. It is a sorry excuse of a script. Not one character will be remembered, not one line stands out as iconic, not one idea feels bold. All around, it feels lazy. It’s almost as if Sony wanted to make this movie so bad they didn’t care how many drafts the script took. It’s colossally terrible! The movie is from the horror-based studio, Blumhouse. And naturally, they took the iconic property of “Fantasy Island” with an intention of fitting in a horror twist. But it doesn’t come off that way. The film is not that scary! If anything, it’s more hilarious than it is terrifying!

Fantasy Fucking Island Jimmy OYang GIF - FantasyFuckingIsland JimmyOYang BraxWeaver GIFs

“Fantasy f*cking island.” -Brax Weaver

Me too brother. I feel the same way. How did we get here?

I saw a lot of movies in 2018, and one movie that came out that year is “Truth or Dare,” another Blumhouse production. I missed that film, and I still have not seen it to this day. In fact part of me is glad I still have not seen it as it has received mostly negative reviews and has garnered a 5.2/10 on IMDb. Turns out that “Fantasy Island” is from the same director, writer, producer, and has even brought back Lucy Hale as a cast member for this film. Have we learned nothing?

Wait… “Truth or Dare” almost made a $100 million on a small budget?

“Truth or Dare” is getting a sequel?

Take me to FANTASY. F*CKING. ISLAND.

Unlike some other bad movies I have seen this year though, “Fantasy Island” has one advantage compared to its competition. I watched this film alongside my mother, and we had no regrets. This is the kind of film that if you want to get flat out wasted while watching, I would not object, because it definitely has that vibe. So if you invite your friends to your fantasy island to watch the disaster known as “Fantasy Island,” I can guarantee you all will be on Fantasy f*cking Island.

I said earlier in this review that not one character will be remembered. While I still sort of stand by that, I will say one of my big wonders for this film, is how the casting for JD and Brax came to fruition. Because I watched this movie and I don’t know if this was coincidental, it’s like looking at Bill and Ted, except that Bill and Ted had genuine charisma and chemistry. I did not watch this in the theater so thankfully I got to shout as loud as I want, but every other scene I would say something like “Duuuude” or “Excellent!” They feel like carbon copies of a much more compelling duo! Some of their dialogue represents that too!

Speaking of casting, this movie originally offered the role of Mr. Roarke, which ultimately went to Michael Peña, to Nicolas Cage.

Have you seen his resume in recent years? Also, Cage! You made a mistake! If they got Nicolas Cage, I would argue that this could have been the greatest bad movie ever made. I could just imagine the zaniness all over! What a missed opportunity! Michael Peña does what he can here, and I could tell that he is giving it his all, but his performance does not hide some recent complaints. Overexplaining, too much reliance on dialogue, and horrible writing. I can also imagine the direction in this film.

“Quiet on set! Lucy Hale, explain everything to the audience like they don’t have brains! Take 57! Action!”

Did I mention one of the three guys who wrote this movie, Jeff Wadlow, also has a screenplay credit for “Bloodshot?” I did not review that film, mainly due to a lack of motivation, but I am getting concerned for Wadlow’s life choices.

I will also say, one thing that is different about this movie compared to a few other bad films this year is that when it comes to a recent bad movie I saw, specifically “The Hunt,” is that I felt more emotionally attached to the film upon leaving it. By that I mean I felt complete and total anger, but I still felt something. “Fantasy Island” did not really let me feel much of anything. Yes, I was shouting at the screen, laughing, maybe getting a little angry here and there. However, upon leaving the film I started to forget about it. All my emotions separated from my head and went to its own little island. That can be a good thing because “Fantasy Island” is not a good movie, and the sooner I can forget about it, the better. But it also shows that there is no lasting impact. “The Hunt” made me genuinely fill myself with rage, and that was kind of the point of the film at times. “Fantasy Island” tries to be entertaining and scary, but fails at every step of the way. As a result, we have a forgettable mess.

In the end, “Fantasy Island” is a major waste of valuable time. You can probably watch this movie if you’re drunk. But I would rather preserve my liver. The cast, while somewhat competent, are all wasted. Not one person in this schlock added anything of value. All that happened to added were endless streams of exposition. At one moment this movie is a poppy wonderland, the next moment we’re at war, the next moment we’re having date night, it’s just a lot happening at once. The movie has too many characters that all feel disposable. These tones would be fine if the characters were fine. However, that’s not the case. I’m going to give “Fantasy f*cking Island” a 2/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I am hoping to get back to the theater sometime soon to watch something new. The past couple films I reviewed were stuff I watched at home, but if I have time, maybe I’ll check something out like “The Empty Man,” “Come Play,” or “Synchronic.” I will say though, the film I am looking forward to this month more than any other is another Blumhouse production, and that is “Freaky” starring Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn. It’s a horror twist on “Freaky Friday.” They just had an early screening in my area, but I did not go as I was watching “Alita: Battle Angel” at the AMC that night. Such a good movie. I will be sure to buy a ticket, watch the movie, and share my thoughts with you all. I think this is going to be absolute fun. 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 “Fantasy Island?” What did you think about it? Or, what did you do for Halloween 2020? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!