In this episode of CINEOLOGY, Jack and Millie talk about the first few episodes of LOKI, movies filming in Worcester, MA, Disney making a TOWER OF TERROR movie, why F9 makes Jack furious, and Jack says a few words about the impact CONAN on TBS had on his life until its recent finale.
“F9: The Fast Saga,” otherwise known as the egotistical title of the ninth installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, is directed by Justin Lin, a veteran director of this ongoing franchise, and stars Vin Diesel (xXx, The Last Witch Hunter), Michelle Rodriguez (Smurfs: The Lost Village, Widows), Jordana Brewster (Dallas, Lethal Weapon), Tyrese Gibson (Transformers, Ride Along 2), Ludacris (Show Dogs, Crash), John Cena (Wipeout, Bumblebee), Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), Sung Kang (Better Luck Tomorrow, Motel), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither), Helen Mirren (RED, Hitchcock), Kurt Russell (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Thing), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell, Atomic Blonde). This film, as recently suggested, is the latest installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise. The film follows Dom Toretto and his car-obsessed “family” as they take on their latest mission of high-speed hijinks. This time, Dominic must face off against his younger brother Jakob (John Cena) as they reunite after years of separation.
Wow. We’re actually here. The Hollywood machine continues. It is time I update you with my status regarding the “Fast & Furious” franchise. I like all these movies except for maybe 2 and especially not “Tokyo Drift.” The first film is kind of like “Point Break” with cars, but I like it because I enjoy media where we see a ton of customized vehicles and people gathering to street race every now and then. I spent much of my childhood playing racing games so to see a movie like “The Fast and the Furious” out for public viewing is quite fascinating. I will also say, having seen every “Fast & Furious” installment, including “Hobbs & Shaw,” I’ve noticed every movie since the fourth one seems to obviously embrace shark-jumping to some degree. And usually it works. “Fast Five” and “Furious 7” are neck and neck to be my favorite films in this franchise. “The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth movie, was kind of on the brim of top tier crazy where the main characters have to outrun a submarine in ice, but it was still enjoyable, and I was nevertheless attached to the characters. I liked the story where Dom turned his back on his family and the consequences he had to face along the way. I also liked the end of the movie where they paid homage to Paul Walker’s character because the actor passed away before “Furious 7” came out and Dom decided to name his kid Brian. “Hobbs & Shaw” also had some absurd stuff going between Idris Elba being “black Superman” and the skyscraper freefall. But that movie showed great chemistry between the two leads and had some hilarious writing.
Now let’s move onto “F9.” If you know me, you’d know that I have been anxious to see this movie. I’m not saying it was my most anticipated of the year or anything. But when ticket sales were announced, I jumped the gun. I bought my tickets three months in advance to secure my seats (and possibly win a chance to go to the world premiere of the film in Los Angeles).
That was in 2020. But of course, the inevitable happened. The film was delayed, movie theaters shut down, and most big movies had to be put on hold. So even though I did not have “F9” as my top movie to see this year, I did recognize my pent-up desire to see it as the release date got closer. If “Godzilla vs. Kong,” a film with mostly action and little story, taught me anything, I could definitely use a big dumb movie every now and then.
But instead of a big dumb movie, I think I got a braindead one. There are things to like about “F9.” There are some occasional funny lines, although not as many as some previous films, the chemistry between Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris is not bad, and the same can be said for the chemistry between Dom and Letty. These characters have been with us for so many years that returning to a world like this can feel occasionally palatable. But this franchise has become so massively associated with absurdity that I left this movie talking with my dad and I told him, “This movie gave Sharknado ideas.”
There are no stakes in “F9,” at least none that stand out. Yes, there are things that go on in “F9” that could potentially mean life or death. The fast family is on a mission in Central America where they have to investigate a plane and avoid a ton of land mines. Dom reunites with his younger brother, and the two are now rivals. There are some occasional spur of the moment things that come up, but overall, I had no reason to think that any of these characters would not get out of any situation alive. I can think of particular situations where the movie tries to convince me otherwise, but I am watching the movie realizing, these characters are basically superheroes without costumes or actual powers. Are they lucky? Are they aided by gods? I don’t even know! These movies are becoming so ridiculous that they are boggling my mind!
I like Vin Diesel as much the next guy, but I am concerned that this franchise is really going from “Fast & Furious” to “Watch Vin Diesel Grow His Ego.” Dom Toretto is insanely overpowered in this film. There is a scene where he’s fighting at least twenty dudes at once and he beats them all without assistance from another human being. Why? Because he’s Dom Toretto. No other reason. If Vin Diesel has a production credit, you gotta let him have all the spotlight! That’s how things work, right?!
I also find it hilarious that “Fast & Furious” has always been, perhaps beyond a memeable degree, about family, and now apparently we find out Dom has a brother named Jakob. By the way, Jakob is played by John Cena, who quite frankly served his purpose within his role. John Cena has played a number of roles over the years. He is improving his craft, but I still think he’s got a ways to go before he is pristine. Although I do think he’s an okay comedy actor, so if you want my recommendation, dump “F9” in a fire and go watch “Blockers” starring John Cena! Please, it’s a much better movie.
Harkening back to why I found this movie so unwatchably absurd, I was watching a particular moment from the first twenty minutes of the film, where Dom needs to get from one piece of land to another, but he does so in a way that reeks of convenience. Watching certain portions of this movie reminds me of why I make fun of certain commercials. You ever see a car commercial for something like a Nissan and the driver is trying to escape an impending doom where debris is continuously falling behind them? They’re not screaming, they’re not happy, they literally have no emotion whatsoever. While there is definitely more on-screen emotion displayed in “F9,” I feel like I can read the inside of Dom’s mind, and as Dom drives in danger, his mind is almost likely stoic.
I’m not gonna spill every detail about this movie, but if you watched the trailers, you’d notice that “F9” takes some leaps that the franchise almost to my surprise has not taken before. Han, a fan favorite character, is back. The way they address it is like the rest of the movie, it left me confused. I know the “Fast & Furious” franchise is not always meant to be taken seriously, but at least in the past number of movies, they’ve left in some semblance of reality. Remember that scene in “Furious 7” where Dom and Brian are in a car near the top of a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi? They drive that car out of one tall building to another without getting anywhere towards the ground? And because there is apparently no better solution, the duo has to stay in the car driving out of that building and landing into another one? Then they escape the car, letting it fall out of that building to its inevitable crash? Remember that scene? That was the perfect mix of escapism, humor, absurdity, and stakes! Those last two things are important. Because the characters in “F9” have become so invincible that I can no longer take them seriously or root for them to get out of a sticky situation because I already have a preconceived thought that they will make it out even if it means breaking every law of physics in existence ten times in a minute! These movies are beyond reality at this point. They feel like they come from another planet! I don’t mean that in a good way!
Heck, there’s even a scene where we see Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson together and they’re even making fun of how in the past, they’ve been on all these crazy missions and they wondered how they are still alive today. They’ve brought up the same ideas I’ve been talking about. Are they just lucky or invincible? Who knows? Having seen their main sequences in the movie, part of me wants to go with the latter!
I will admit, one thing I kind of sort of liked was seeing the magnet scenes play down. That was one cool idea they had for this movie, where everything in sight just flies around on the street, including cars, onto a moving vehicle. I kind of like the concept and it made for some okay action. I want to say, I have seen other movies where maybe I would throw out the critique, “this movie sounds like it was written by a nine-year old!” That phrase is often used as a negative because I think we as audiences can mostly agree that we want most of our movies to have a semblance of maturity and logic. Turns out, this idea of the film came from the Justin Lin’s son, Oqwe, who happened to be nine-years old. See? Some nine-year olds do have okay ideas! With that being said, I don’t think there’s a better opportunity to say this, “F9” literally sounds like it was written by a nine-year old!
“F9” in a way kind of reminds me of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” because if I have to address a single observation from that movie, it feels like that movie tries extra hard to cater to the fans based on things they address through the Internet. In that movie, we see Luke diss his past self for “disgracing” his own lightsaber, and at the end, we see Rey and Kylo kiss… for… what reason exactly? Here in “F9,” Han is back, and the whole meme about “Fast & Furious” going to space becomes a reality here. The two big wishes I have seen on the Internet regarding “Fast & Furious” have been brought to life in “F9” and it makes me ask, where do they go from here? This movie really put the “Fast” in “Fast & Furious” and ended up blowing its load way too quickly. The only way I can imagine this franchise becoming any dumber is if it crossed over with “Jurassic Park” or “Sharknado.” That’s about it. I do not know at this point if I will be excited for the inevitable “Fast & Furious 10.” This movie has a mid-credits scene that seems to promise something interesting, but until I actually see some material, I am just going to assume at this point that the next movie will be unwatchable. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be more grounded. Maybe the characters will get into some serious trouble. Maybe there will actually be stakes. But until I get a greater glimpse, I cannot do anything at this point but assume that the worst has yet to come.
In the end, unlike the characters who have shown themselves off on screens for years, “F9: The Fast Saga” is nowhere near invincible. “F9: The Fast Saga” is honestly the worst “Fast & Furious” movie since “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” That film bored me, felt somewhat out of place in the franchise, and I have not watched it since my first viewing. Much like “Tokyo Drift,” I cannot see myself watching “F9” again anytime soon. Just a reminder, this franchise started out as a “Point Break” wannabe with street racing and people stealing electronics. Now apparently Dominic Toretto is the world’s most badass spy. Just… Because. No other reason. I absolutely hated this movie. I think it is a massive disappointment and it goes way too far in terms of how campy and unrealistic it wants to be. As Hogarth says in “The Iron Giant,” “You are who you choose to be.” Looks like this entire cast chose “Superman.” And frankly, I’m furious. I’m going to give “F9: The Fast Saga” a 3/10.
“F9: The Fast Saga” is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is also available in large formats including Dolby Cinema and IMAX.
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that this week I will be beginning my brand new review series in honor of “Jungle Cruise,” the upcoming film based on the Disney theme park ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” In this series, I will be talking about all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, beginning in chronological order with “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on July 1st and ending with “Dead Men Tell No Tales” on July 29th. Stay tuned, mateys! If you want to see this and more, follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “F9: The Fast Saga?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some movies you personally enjoy despite acknowledging their stupidity? For me, I’d say “The Meg” and the “Bill & Ted” films come to mind. Let me know your dumb picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Luca” is directed by Enrico Casarosa (Up, Coco) and stars Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder), Jack Dylan Grazer (Shazam!, It), Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph (Life of the Party, Brides Maids), Marco Barricelli (The Book of Daniel, Holy Silence), Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show, Bob’s Burgers), Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University), Lorenzo Crinski, Marina Massironi (Bread and Tulips, Letters to Juliet), and Sandy Martin (Ray Donovan, Dumbo). This film is about a young sea monster named Luca disguised as a human who exits the water and enters land. In other words, he has reached “the surface,” much to the dismay of his overprotective parents. While he is there, he meets a new human friend, Alberto, who lives near the Italian Riveria. Together, they form an unlikely bond and attempt to experience “the best summer ever.”
I almost did not review this film. And I say this as someone who loves Pixar. But I think when it comes to Pixar, it’s almost like watching a sibling you love take a few punches. As you may have learned over the years on Scene Before, my primary goal is to tackle mostly theatrically released content. Unfortunately, “Luca” was often marketed as a Disney+ exclusive. The film was originally going to come out in theaters, but a few months ago, it was decided that the film would go straight to Disney+. This made me think a few things. Either Disney is treating Pixar movies like they are afterthoughts, because even though I particularly was not as enthused by “Soul” as much as other people, that movie did very well review-wise and maybe “Luca” would receive the same treatment. Or Disney does not have much faith in “Luca.” We’ve seen movies that were supposed to come out in theaters over the years get streaming releases and people would often speculate the reason why the movie went to streaming in the first place is because it was not good. In fact, Disney+ is part of this trend with “Artemis Fowl,” which was BAD. But, knowing Disney, money talks, so maybe they thought “Luca” could underperform at the box office so maybe this was a way to boost Disney+ subscriptions. The COVID-19 pandemic changes each and every day, right now it is changing for the better depending on where you live, but people still question if it is going to stick around longer so for all I know, Disney took a safe route with “Luca.” The bright side is, unlike “Black Widow,” which will release theatrically and on Disney+ for a $29.99 fee, “Luca” is free for all subscribers.
I have decided to review this film and count it towards my end of year events like The Jackoff Awards because “Luca” did end up coming out in one theater in the United States. Specifically the El Capitan in Los Angeles, a cinema dedicated to Disney productions. So what do I think of “Luca?”
It’s the worst Pixar movie yet. And I cannot believe I am saying this because “Soul” came out last December and I said the exact same thing about that.
Now to be clear, I have not seen every single Pixar film. I still have not watched “Brave,” “Monsters University,” and “The Good Dinosaur” from start to finish. Maybe one day I will catch up on those, but for now, they’re still on my to do list. For all I know, those movies may be worse than “Luca.” But I want to bring up something that I have gathered over the years. Pixar has one of the best batting averages of all the studios working today. Thus far, I do not think they have given us one bad feature film. They’ve all been at the very least, likable. This even includes “Soul,” which again, prior to “Luca” I thought was the worst Pixar movie. Speaking of lesser Pixar movies, I took a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college. My professor said he saw the movie “Onward,” which as of the conversation he had with the class, I happened to see as well. He thought that when it comes to Pixar, it is lower tier. But he also stated that bad Pixar is better than most movies. In a way he’s right. Because when it comes to Pixar, I think they do a better job at not specifically catering to a younger demographic and going after mature themes that can resonate with both kids and adults. “Luca” is no exception to this, because the story to “Luca” involves our main character being told that he must avoid a portion beyond the world they know, that portion being “the surface.” The way this plays out kind of reminded me of my relationship I have with my parents when they go into a “helicopter” mode essentially. Because Luca is the one kid who is brave enough to do something even though it is often discouraged by his parents, and he defends himself by referring to his carefulness. When it comes to certain aspects, Pixar not only excels at topping a lot of animations, but many other movies in general. It’s like Stephen King. Even some of his inferior work is supposedly better than a lot of books.
With that being said, “Luca” does not really feel like a Pixar movie. It feels like an okay movie with a somewhat intimate story that occasionally has some nicely animated shots and sequences, but it feels cliché and very low in terms of stakes. I mean, yes, there are some occasionally high stakes, but compared to other Pixar movies, they are low. Plus it repeats the same motifs that you see in Pixar films like “Ratatoullie” and “Monsters Inc.,” specifically the idea that humans are dangerous. The depth to Luca’s character is also admittedly somewhat surface level, pun intended. Luca is by no means the worst character in the world, but we barely know anything about him other than the fact that he is a sea monster-human hybrid and his parents do not want him near the surface. Yes, we see him doing sea crap in the beginning of the film, but my question is, what does he do for fun? Is there… Anything? Maybe that’s the point, because maybe that’s a way to establish how much more interesting the human world is. Because it is a world where people actually do s*it. In the sea, we don’t see any of that. That could be intentional, but it also slices out a sense of dimensionality to Luca as a character. This technically stands as a flaw to me, but at the same time, I would love to know where the writers were coming from on this.
I will also say that when it comes to characters in this movie, the surface characters had some work that I feel would need to be done as well. I think the chemistry between Luca and Alberto is fine, although I feel like there are some things I would change about how their plot moved along because by the end of the movie, I honestly questioned how they were in the positions they found themselves in, but I want to point out the villain, Saverio Raimondo’s character of Ercole Visconti.
Now, I know that this is an animation, so in a way you can get away with making your characters more expressive for the sake of establishing who they are, but when I watched this movie, I could not help but think that Ercole was ridiculously over the top to the point where he almost had no dimension to his personality. He is a surprisingly wacky villain for a story that honestly feels as small as it is. He feels like he belongs in a different movie. Honestly, if I had to make a comparison, he kind of reminded me of the villain from “The Secret Life of Pets 2” who came off as if he were written with the intention of catering to people who needed everything established in front of them. Granted, if I had to prefer watching one character over the other I’d choose Ercole, but nevertheless.
This movie has some okay ideas, but the execution of everything at hand leaves a bit to be desired. I liked some of Luca’s fish out of water experiences, where he learns about stuff like space and Vespas, but the story weirdly feels rushed and as if some details were overlooked. I think the relationships Luca has with Alberto and Giulia are fine, but I do not think I will remember them compared to the relationships I have seen in other Pixar movies like Joy and Sadness in “Inside Out” or Fredrickson and Russell in “Up.” Simply put, this movie is good, but it could be better. Perhaps in more ways than one.
In the end, “Luca” is an okay film, but it is also currently my least favorite Pixar movie. It is perhaps the one that I am least likely to watch again. Even though I said “Soul” was my least favorite Pixar film before this one, I could see myself turning that one on again because it has a lot of deep elements that make you question the meaning of life. “Luca” is a simple movie, but at times it is a little too simple. I never really found anything in “Luca” that resembled an “oomph” factor. Some of it feels very “been there done that” while other portions feel less interesting compared to some of Pixar’s other work. I will say though, the film is nice to look at. I really like the designs they went for with the sea monsters, and the underwater scenes are eye-popping. In the technical department, Pixar once again does not disappoint. I just wish the movie were better. I’m going to give “Luca” a 6/10.
“Luca” is now available on Disney+ for free for as long as you are a subscriber.
Thanks for reading this review! Summer is here! And that means it is time to review some big movies! This summer we have “Black Widow,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” “The Suicide Squad,” and “Free Guy” just to name a few titles! But before we get to any of that, we will be diving into a long-awaited sequel. So long in fact that I bought tickets for this movie in February 2020, only to find out it would be delayed until the following year. That sequel, my friends, is “F9: The Fast Saga,” which is now playing everywhere. I will be reviewing the movie hopefully by the end of the month, so stay tuned for my thoughts!
Also coming soon, stay tuned for my brand new review series “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” My review for the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” will be available on July 1st. I will be reviewing all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies in preparation for “Jungle Cruise,” which like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” is inspired by a Disney theme park ride.
If you want to see all this great content and more, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Luca?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your favorite AND least favorite, Pixar movies? My favorite, it’s “The Incredibles,” also my most cherished animated film of all time. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is directed by Patrick Hughes, who also directed this film’s predecessor, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” This film once again stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Green Lantern), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction), Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Sausage Party), and alongside them are actors including Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Purge: Anarchy), Richard E. Grant (Logan, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Antonio Banderas (Shrek 2, The Laundromat), and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Dark Knight). This film follows Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), the bodyguard who helped protect Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) as he is told to take a break from bodyguarding. That break will have to wait however because Bryce and Kincaid are on another mission together where this time they have save Sonia (Salma Hayek), Darius’s wife, from danger.
I liked “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” when I first saw it. I missed it in the theaters, but I did get it on 4K Blu-ray for Christmas in 2017 and I did watch it a day or two afterwards. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is nothing too special, it’s really kind of disposable, but if you want a fun action flick that can entertain you for a couple of hours, you cannot go wrong. I also really like the film’s use of the song “Black Betty.” I think that was a really fun scene. The film also had an extended shot that kind of reminded me of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a little bit. Remember the scene from “Kingsman: The Secret Service” where Colin Firth basically annihilates an entire crowd of hate supporters in a church? Between story, music, and action, that scene was outright perfection. Now I am not saying the “one-shot” take in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is as good as the one in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” but it is still fun. But the biggest standout from “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Their characters clearly hate each other, but it never feels off-putting. It adds to the fun of the movie. It was a fun little action film that apparently did well enough at the box office. And of course as pointed out with “Star Wars,” “Fast & Furious,” “The Simpsons,” and “The Bachelor,” you gotta make more of it! No matter how good it is! This is where “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” comes in.
When I think of the “big” studios that stand out the most today, I usually think of Disney (Star Wars, Marvel), Warner Bros. (DC, Harry Potter), and Universal (Despicable Me, Jurassic Park). These studios have staying power and tons of properties they continue to utilize until the end of time. Lionsgate almost had that chance with “Knives Out,” but they sold it to Netflix. They used to be a force in the market with “The Hunger Games” and since the studio was affiliated with Summit, they also did “Divergent.” So they were big for awhile in the young adult adaptation game. They had “Now You See Me,” which paused. “Gods of Egypt” never did too well. “Twilight” is over. Just wait until they remake that eventually. I feel like the one big franchise that Lionsgate has that is the perfect mix of financial success, critical acclaim, and staying power, is “John Wick.” In fact they are coming out with a fourth movie pretty soon. I feel like “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” even though it is directed by Patrick Hughes once again, is Lionsgate making it known that they want this to be a serious franchise. And honestly, if it does become as big as say “Fast & Furious,” they need to do much better. This film was NOT good.
The sad thing is, this film starts off fine. It’s a little absurd, but it’s fine. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” starts off with of all things, an awards show for bodyguarding. The film continues as Michael Bryce goes to therapy as he is told to stop bodyguarding, and I’ll admit the scene ends with a couple lines that did get a laugh out of me. But as soon as the real action starts, where we see Ryan Reynolds and Salma Hayek in the middle of a fast-paced bike chase, the movie switches its goofiness into high gear. One of the first lines from Samuel L. Jackson’s character and how it is handled is something that I think could be taken in a couple manners. It’s either so goofy that it’s funny. Or, it is incredibly idiotic that the line was executed the way it was.
Apparently, Michael and Darius still hate each other, …I guess? So apparently they have not developed at all since the last movie. Just a reminder, Michael took a bullet for Darius in the last movie. And now apparently they still don’t like each other or barely show respect for each other. I don’t know! It feels forced! It feels like they’re just trying to copy the success of the first movie while lazily inserting something new. In fact there is a new subplot where apparently Darius and his wife, Sonia are trying to have a kid. Let’s just say that it barely adds anything to the movie until say the second half. There’s a point that feels as if Michael says something negative regarding this new reality almost forcibly just to keep said plot going along. It just feels so out of the blue. There are a lot of things that feel offish or out of the blue in this movie. I barely cared about the nearly one-dimensional characters who almost face no noticeable changes by the end. I barely cared about Antonio Banderas on the antagonistic side. I barely cared about anything! The action is not even as good as the original. The bike chase scene was good, there was one moment where Reynolds wielded a pool cue that was pretty funny, but that’s about it. The action overall just did not have the same flair that the original movie gave. This is not to say “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was a masterpiece, but compared to the sequel, it was a good time.
This movie honestly feels like it is on ADHD. One moment it is here, one moment it is there, the next moment it is everywhere! I am not fully against unpredictable movies that go in weird directions, that is what makes stories interesting, the fact that you don’t know where they’re going. This movie was fairly predictable, but the moments that occurred almost every other minute regardless of predictability just came flying in my face and it is was just too much to take in, especially the bad moments. At times, this movie feels like it could work better as an action-based Fox Animation Domination cartoon. It is so hyperactive and non-stop that it barely gives me a needed moment to breathe, even in parts that are supposedly meant to be slower.
I also really hate the ending, because they supposedly “resolve” an extended plot line in the film in the most off-putting way possible. It’s honestly just weird to think about. I almost want to say what exactly happens in this moment, but I can’t because it is literally the last moment of the movie and if I spoiled it, I might be a jerk. Unfortunately, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was a jerk to me in the process. You how I mentioned this movie can be predictable? Well, this was an out of left field, outlandish, unpredictable moment, but it is so unpredictable and batcrap crazy that thinking about it makes me want to throw up.
I’ll also add a positive before we go any further. The actors do a fine job with their performances. They are fine, but the sad thing is that the writing is just plain bad. It feels like they just whipped up this sequel in an hour! Apparently, this film was written by three people, including the sole writer of the original film, Tom O’Connor. I was not behind the scenes and I do not know any of these people personally, but if they do a third movie, I wonder if they should just let Tom O’Connor do the work himself because he could arguably be the butter that is woven so perfectly onto the bread that is the “Hitman’s Bodyguard” franchise. But seriously, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are good actors, they play their parts well here. Although I will give extra praise to Salma Hayek, because judging by the title, she has a greater presence in this movie compared to the original, and she solidifies her presence from start to finish. I’ll also add, she seems to swear as much as, if not more than Samuel L. Jackson which says a lot as he is supposedly the guy who “single-handly ruined the word motherf*cker.”
In the end, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” almost feels like it purely exists to make money. Now, just about every movie ever made exists for that reason, but I think that some do a better job at hiding that reason than others. This honestly just feels like a cash grab that exists to capitalize on something that quite honestly, even though the original movie was good, I did not think would become a franchise. Could “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” become say the next “Fast & Furious” or something close to it? Maybe. “Fast & Furious” had some off days too. I think “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is one of my least favorite movies to this day. That franchise is still kickin’! “F9” literally comes out this week! I honestly at this point do not want to see a third movie in this franchise. Maybe I’ll warm up to it over time, but this kind of left a toxic taste in my mouth that is hard to eliminate. You know that phrase “sequels are not as good as the original”? Well, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is exhibit A. I’m going to give “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” a 3/10.
This movie kind of reminded me of “Venom” because this was a movie that the audience I was with seemed to be fairly invested in for the most part, I felt like a good number of the people in the room enjoyed the movie more than me. I just couldn’t connect with them. More power to them, but for me, I think “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” feels better at this point as a one-off. This sequel should not have happened. I like the actors, I wish them well in their future roles, but this was a bad day at the office.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Later this week I will be sharing a brand new review for the Pixar animated movie “Luca.” Also, tomorrow I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga,” so look forward to my review for that as well. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and be sure to like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?” What did you think about it? Or, what movie is better? Do you prefer “The Hitman’s Bodyguard?” Or do you prefer “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“In the Heights” is directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2) and stars Anthony Ramos (Trolls World Tour, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island), Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (Vida, Tanto amor), Olga Merediz (Shades of Blue, Orange Is the New Black), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Katy Keene, Smash), Gregory Diaz IV (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, New Amsterdam), and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Son of Anarchy). This film is based on a stageplay by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Algeria Hudes and is set in the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights. The story follows said neighborhood as they imagine and desire a better life.
I saw this film early. And by early I mean the Sunday before it came out. There were a plethora of special screenings so I thought I’d take the opportunity to attend one of them with my grandma because who does not like free stuff? Part of me was hesitant towards paying to see this film because I am not a musical guy even though I have enjoyed stuff here and there like “La La Land.” Maybe I would have used my AMC A-List, but still. Sticking with the facts, I have been reviewing movies for a long time, I am completely focused on the movies that are coming out as audiences continue to return to the theater (even though apparently “In the Heights” could have done better at the box office) so for those reasons, I decided to check out “In the Heights” for myself. I do not know if I would have seen this film during its actual release (or even on HBO Max), so I figured I’d watch it now just to say “Hey! I saw this!” And I did see it, so let’s talk about it.
I just want to iterate a couple things. First, I have heard nothing but praise for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I have not seen any of his Broadway work. Yes, I have not seen “Hamilton.” I’m sorry. I know it is popular, I know there’s a filmed version on Disney+, but I still have not seen it. I’ve heard a few songs from the musical because my sister was with me in the same place and she was playing them, but I was not the one in control of these songs. With that being said, this movie is my first exposure to ANYTHING related to “In the Heights.” Did it give me a good first impression? Well, I certainly did not hate it. I will start off by saying that the film is fun. There are some good songs, although there are a few that are admittedly forgettable despite maybe some solid execution in the actual film. The opening number set the tone well, a lot of the ones that came later seemed to match that original tone and occasionally, its catchiness. The main jingle of the film still lingers in my head from time to time.
The foundation of the film is not exactly one specific character, although the movie is mainly told from the perspective of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who did do a good job by the way. Instead, the foundation is this collection of people who belong to one region of New York City. We see all these people sing about the life they prefer to live over their own. And a couple of the songs in the film captured the emotions of these characters’ wishes. Granted, I cannot quote them. It has been a couple weeks and I do not think I’ll be watching “In the Heights” again anytime soon. But when it comes to pure fun, this film has the proper ingredients from time to time and part of it is because of the soundtrack. Will I remember the characters as some of my favorites by the end of the year? Not really. But the movie does an okay job at making Washington Heights itself feel like its own character per se.
I do want to bring up the pacing though. Now obviously, this is a lively, bombastic musical. So obviously, there will be some quick pace and non-stop music action. There is no doubt about that. I think at times the movie does a really good job at matching the songs to the emotions, thoughts, and actions of certain characters. There is one song towards the end mainly revolving around Olga Merediz’s character that I think was done particularly well and it continues to stick with me. Although there are not as many other songs in the movie, as well put together as they are, that have such staying power. Speaking of staying, I feel like I stayed at this movie a little longer than I had to. I felt like the stereotypical dad who goes to his daughter’s dance recital and constantly begs to himself to just stand up and leave because it is going on for such a long time. Although in my case, I think I am displaying less impatience, even though there was some to display, and more curiosity as to when the lights would turn back on. I say that because there is a lot that happens in “In the Heights” which is amazing to me because I talked to a friend who calls herself “that snob” because she liked the stage version much better than the film. I have not seen anything except the film, so more power to her. She told me they made some changes, and they took some things out. That last statement floored me because this film feels packed to the brim with material. Song after song. Character after character. By the end of the film, when it feels like it has hit its climax, there’s actually like ten, twenty minutes of main material left. And I say ten to twenty minutes because I apparently found out that there is an end credits scene in the film that I did not watch.
There are a lot of good things about “In the Heights.” The cast is likable and talented (although somewhat controversial), the film looks very pretty, the cinematography is some of the absolute best I have seen this year and could arguably receive a few nominations during awards season. No, seriously. There is a sequence by the end of this film that I would buy the Blu-ray just to see if they explain how it was done in the bonus features. Additionally, Jon M. Chu did a pretty good job at bringing his vision to reality. It feels lively, fun, spirited, hyperactive from beginning to end. So even though I was kind of begging for the movie to end as it hit what I was its second or third climax, I was still having fun. I’ll even say there are a couple chuckleworthy lines in it. Granted, it’s not like I’m watching Kevin Hart or something, but there are still some funny lines here and there.
In the end, “In the Heights” has good things in it, but I do not think this film will get any replay from me except for maybe once or twice. If I did not review movies, I would probably not go see this by myself. Once again I will say, I did see this with my grandma just for clarification, but if I were in a situation where I did not review movies and I saw the list of movies playing at the theater, I would probably skip “In the Heights” unless I was with someone who really wanted to see it or if I just wanted a spectacle, which this movie did provide from start to finish. When I talk to a friend who says they took some things out of a movie that I still think is too long… That is not a positive. Granted, I did have fun with “In the Heights” and I do recommend it. But the movie feels like “Return of the King” by the end of it. It feels like it could end, but it’s like a party and there’s that one guest that won’t leave no matter how hard you try to shove them out the door. “In the Heights,” I like you, but you can’t stay here. I’m going to give “In the Heights” a 6/10.
Technically speaking, I would give “In the Heights” a tad higher grade than a 6/10, maybe at least a 7, because it does look beautiful. But when you add in the fact that some of the songs did not stick with me, the characters themselves not all sticking with me either, and a runtime that feels like a turtle occasionally wrote this film despite everything feeling fast, that’s a problem. This is why the film gets positive marks from me, even though I would not consider it to be my favorite of the year. I think there will be an audience for it. It started off getting great reviews and I notice the ads seemed to highlight a bunch of celebrities promoting it because apparently some people trust them more than Variety and The New York Times, so I could see “In the Heights” maintaining a cult status. I do recommend if you are to see this film, maybe go with a couple friends to the theater because one of the big positives of the film that I will mention is that it is best viewed on a big screen. As much as I like HBO Max, this movie is bigger than a streaming service.
Speaking of which, “In the Heights” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is currently available for a limited time exclusively on HBO Max.
Thanks for reading this review! Coming soon, I will have my review for “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the brand new sequel starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek. That review will be up soon, that is if I survive long enough to actually post it. Also, this Thursday I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga.” It comes out in theaters that day, so I will attempt to have my review up for the film as soon as possible. I will also be reviewing the new Disney+ exclusive Pixar movie, “Luca,” which did come out in one theater in California, so without giving anything away, it will qualify towards my future yearly posts including The Jackoff Awards and my top 10 lists. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “In the Heights?” What did you about it? Did you see the stage version? What are your thoughts on that edition of “In the Heights?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to part 2 of Scene Before’s 500 Post Celebration! Yes, this is the 501st post technically speaking, but I don’t care! I decided to make this a two night event! The first night, I premiered and shared a YouTube video of me going over my Blu-ray collection. That is after all, tradition here on Scene Before. It has been since the 200th post, where I painstakingly wrote down each Blu-ray I have (hopefully not missing any), but I switched to the current video format since the 300th post. So for the hundredth-something specials, I have done a written post and I have also done one that specifically relies on video. Now, it is time for me to focus on audio.
Over the spring I was interning at Melrose Massachusetts Television and one of my duties was to come up with my own podcast. I spent the second half of my internship doing so, and I decided to focus on… Surprise, surprise, film and entertainment. And I appropriately decided to name the podcast Cineology, where cinema gets explained. I did one episode at the studio in a hybrid format with my friend, Mildred Halprin, who showed up through a phone call as my cohost.
I have posted the first episode here for you all to enjoy. I want to know what you think of it. Just a reminder that this is a CONCEPTUAL EPISODE, and I am calling it that because it was recorded in April 2021, two months ago from this date, and given the type of show it is, the topics are slightly outdated. I would have distributed this earlier if it were not for life, school, and trying to figure out the distribution model. I am admittedly still tinkering with that a little bit. I should point out, I intend to make this an ongoing series, so I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions. Until then, enjoy the podcast, which I have decided to post as a YouTube link and a separate MP3 depending on your preference, and Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! We have reached a crazy milestone that part of me is absolutely surprised to see! That’s right, this is, as of writing this, the 500th currently existing post I will make for the Scene Before blog! I want to thank everyone who tuned in along the way for supporting the Scene Before and Flicknerd name and to celebrate, I will be dropping TWO special posts this week! The first one is going to be my latest Blu-ray collection update and the second will be a CONCEPTUAL EPISODE of a brand new podcast I am dropping by the name of CINEOLOGY. I made an episode for this concept back in April, but due to time, scheduling, and other commitments, I have been unable to share it, so I’d figure I’d share the episode tomorrow night as a way to advertise what could become a brand new series. But tonight, we are going to focus on the Blu-ray collection specifically.
Physical media collecting has been a passion of mine for years. If you have known me at some point, you might know that as a certainty. My collection has changed quite a bit over the years. I’ve bought new movies. I’ve gotten rid of a few movies. And speaking of that, I should point out that this post is on official “movie” Blu-rays only. I do have one television movie in the pile, but I decided to count it as it was close enough to a movie.
I want to note to everyone who tunes into this Blu-ray collection video, this is 90 minutes long, so this is your warning if you do not like commitment or staring at the same screen for a long time. If you decide to tune in, enjoy the ride! If not, it’s okay. We’re still friends. I also want to know, what are some exciting Blu-rays you own? I want to see your list in the comments section! Enjoy the video and once again, I’ll remind everyone that I will be dropping a CONCEPTUAL episode of CINEOLOGY tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m.! Stay tuned! Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel, you’ll find that button by clicking the video and going to the YouTube website, and Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“A Quiet Place Part II” is directed by John Krasinski (The Office, Jack Ryan) who is also in the film once again with his wife Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Mary Poppins Returns) and joining them in the cast is Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders, Inception), Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck, This Close), Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, Wonder), and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Aquaman). This film is a sequel to 2018’s hit horror flick “A Quiet Place” and follows the Abbott family as they face more sound-observant creatures and new threats.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is a special film because this was one of the last new films to screen before the COVID-19 pandemic went into lightspeed. Only thing is, the film never released to the public and instead screened to select critics in late winter 2020. At the time, it was announced that the people behind the film decided to shelve it and hold onto it for a later release date. Unfortunately, the film received multiple delays and its absence from the box office is only a tiny part of what may have made movie theaters themselves, a quiet place. Thankfully, the film has released, won its first weekend against Disney’s “Cruella,” which to be fair, the former film had the advantage of being released theatrically without a simultaneous streaming debut.
I want to make something clear. Many sequels are not as good as the original counterpart. There are various exceptions, but “A Quiet Place Part II” is not one of them. The reason for that is somewhat subjective, like many reasons for liking or disliking art, “A Quiet Place Part II” is one of the sequels that seems to follow the “bigger is better” initiative. In fact, one of the things that stood out to me while doing research for this review is the budget of the film. The original “A Quiet Place” had a $17 million budget. This sequel had a huge bump where the budget turned out to be $61 million. Just for comparison when it comes to horror, this is a bigger bump than “The Conjuring” franchise had from its first to second film. “The Conjuring” had a $20 million budget whereas “The Conjuring 2” had a $40 million budget. I’m not sure how much of the budget is implemented due to COVID-19, and having to restart the marketing campaign again, but either way, this is a significant boost. What I loved about the first movie is that they made a brilliant story that had nearly zero dialogue from start to finish. “A Quiet Place Part II” follows that same formula, but feels more like a “traditional” film compared to the first one, at least from my perspective. For those who do not know, I took a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college. One thing I learned is that words do not always matter in a script. What matters more, specifically when you bring an actor playing a role in the script to the table, is how the character is handled through visual storytelling. 2018’s “A Quiet Place” did a superb job at that, and this movie has increments throughout that strike the same vibe that the first film did.
Just because this movie is worse, does not mean it is all bad. If it were bad, I’d be getting louder. One thing that makes “A Quiet Place Part II” interesting is that unlike the first movie, there is a smaller sense of safety throughout the entire picture. We get a sense that the sound creatures have made their presence known on earth, apocalypse has made itself present for an extended period of time, and the human population has dwindled significantly. There’s a lot of implied notions that can evoke a sense of danger. Plus in the first film, we see that the Abbott family has a place to reside, a place to hide, they can keep themselves guarded from the creatures roaming around trying to kill them. In “A Quiet Place Part II,” right after the prologue ends, we see the Abbott family on the run, they’re just trying to keep quiet and avoid being noticed. Speaking of the prologue, I have to admit, I think that may have been the best part of the movie.
Why is this prologue so great? Well, in short, it checks all the boxes it needs to check. It is scary, it feels as if there is a threat from start to finish, and the situation at hand goes from a happy cheery day to the worst moments of people’s lives. It also implied the notion that much of this movie would practically be a stealth mission, even if there are minor breaks in between.
Unfortunately, one of the highlights of the first film is gone for the sequel, the chemistry between John Krasinski and Emily Blunt’s characters. Because while Emily Blunt is in the movie, not to mention spectacular in it, arguably giving an even better performance than she did in the first, Krasinski is barely in the film. We see him in the opening sequence and that’s it. Unfortunately, Cillian Murphy, as good of an actor as he is, in fact he’s in some of my favorite movies like “Inception,” honestly does not have the same amount of charisma in this sequel as John Krasinski did in the original. This is not to say that his character is terrible, in fact he’s in quite a few good scenes. But I feel like when it comes to overall charisma and attachment, it was a bit harder for me to attach myself to Murphy in this movie than it was for me to attach myself to Krasinski in the first movie. I wonder if this is one of those sequels that is an acquired taste. I remember my mother talking about when she saw “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” she thought it was nowhere near the quality of the original, then she saw it a few more times and now it is up there with some of her most-liked comedies.
But I also want to address something else. For me, kind of like “A Quiet Place” was in 2018, “A Quiet Place Part II” may end up being one of the most well-directed films of the year. A lot of the shots are breathtaking, intimidating, or full of life (or lack thereof), and once again, even though I think this film did not do as good of a job at this as the original, Krasinski knows how to make a movie with as little dialogue as possible. So not only is this a win from a directorial perspective, but also the screenplay.
One last thing I will say… We are at a point in our society where people are continuously wondering when they can go see a movie in the theater again. Thankfully, more and more people are getting vaccinated by the day and certain areas of the world are becoming safer in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. I said this for “Tenet,” I said this for “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “A Quiet Place Part II” is a movie that requires big screen viewing. Much like the first movie, this film was practically made for the movie theater. This is weird to say because those other two movies are almost like loud, obnoxious theme park rides whereas “A Quiet Place Part II” is… well, quiet. But I remember watching the first movie in the theater and I would have my popcorn and drink by me. In that dark room, I would literally dissolve my popcorn on my tongue as I barely took bites of it, and I would quietly take tiny sips of my soda. “A Quiet Place Part II” provided me with the same experience and for that reason, I HIGHLY recommend you check out this movie on the biggest screen you can, especially if you enjoyed the first one.
In the end, “A Quiet Place Part II” is a solid, although notably inferior sequel. I was never bored during this film, but there were a couple moments where I did almost tune out. It’s really weird to say that, because the first film is an interesting case where it had my eyes and ears the whole time despite there being little dialogue. Once again, it goes to show that not all sequels surpass the original. I’m glad to see most of the cast return to once again assert a front and center presence. Cillian Murphy, while by no means a bad addition to the franchise, does not have the charm of John Krasinski, who I will say once again, knocked it out of the park as a director. I hope Krasinski has more directorial projects up his sleeve. I think he has the talents to pull off more cool ideas, maybe receive an Oscar nomination if he tries hard enough, we shall see. I’m going to give “A Quiet Place Part II” a 7/10.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen as soon as you can. But if for some reason you can’t or if you just don’t feel safe at the moment, the film will be available for all subscribers on Paramount+ starting next month, specifically on July 12th.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new Warner Bros. film adaptation of “In the Heights.” I got to see this film on Sunday, it comes out this weekend to the general public, and I will have my thoughts listed soon. Although before that, I want to remind everyone that my next post will be my 500th on Scene Before, and like my other something-hundredth milestones, I will be giving you all my latest update on my current Blu-ray collection. I will be sharing hundreds of titles, all of them will be shown on video, which will also be uploaded to my YouTube channel, hopefully nothing goes wrong this time, but I cannot wait to share these with you once again. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and be sure to like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “A Quiet Place Part II?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie did you like better? “A Quiet Place” or “A Quiet Place Part II?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Army of the Dead” is directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300) and stars Dave Bautista (My Spy, Guardians of the Galaxy), Ella Purnell (Never Let Me Go, Sweetbitter), Omari Hardwick (Kick-Ass, Sorry to Bother You), Ana de la Reguera (Goliath, Narcos), Theo Rossi (Luke Cage, Sons of Anarchy), Matthias Schweighöfer (The Most Beautiful Day, You Are Wanted), Nora Arnezeder (Mozart in the Jungle, Safe House), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat, The Last Samurai), Tig Notaro (Transparent, Star Trek: Discovery), Raúl Castillo (Wrath of Man, Atypical), Huma Qureshi (Gangs of Wasseypur, Dedh Ishqiya), and Garret Dillahunt (The Mindy Project, Fear the Walking Dead). This film is about a group of people living in the future where Las Vegas has been taken over by zombies. These people unite together for one purpose, to get stinkin’ rich. To do that, they venture into Las Vegas, which is now a quarantine zone, to acquire a sinfully delicious amount of money.
I remember during the 2010s there was a huge zombie craze with shows like “The Walking Dead.” To be frank, as cool as zombies happen to be conceptually, I never fell into the rabbit hole of the craze. I mean I like “World War Z,” I like “Zombieland,” but I have not even gone back to watch many of the classic zombie stories. I still have not seen George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Admittedly, horror is one of my Achilles heels as a movie fan. I barely have any entries from that genre in my movie collection and of the genres that I imagine would “cater” to me, it is the one that I watch the least. I’m more of an action fan. I’m more of a comedy fan. I’m more of a sci-fi and fantasy fan. But there was something about “Army of the Dead” that sounded really intriguing. And I say this as someone who skipped the trailers. I just thought between the cast, Zack Snyder at the helm, and the environment, specifically a post-apocalyptic Vegas, it was a recipe for greatness. Now I did not think this would be a masterpiece, but it would at the very least be fun.
And fun it WAS.
I have not seen this movie since the theater last month. Yes, it released in theaters. But it’s also on Netflix if you want to watch it right now. Either way, I will just say, if you want something to watch where you can just shove tons of popcorn in your mouth, I think “Army of the Dead” is your answer. It is a film that, while well-crafted from start to finish, does not always take itself seriously, although I will admit it sometimes has an identity crisis that reminds me of the “Transformers” movies just a little. And for those reasons, it works like a charm.
If you want to know how not so serious this movie actually is, just watch the news segments during the film and listen to the quotes of the President of the United States. I do not want to spoil the film for those who have not watched it yet, but the President, who we do not necessarily see, does something that maybe in the world of this movie would make just a tiny tad of sense, but only to a certain demographic of people that would define themselves as uber-Patriotic perhaps. I don’t know, let’s just say that it is something that plays into the climax of the film and it is one of the highlights without giving anything away.
Going back to what I said about this film being like a “Transformers” movie, I am not necessarily lying. Because it is action-packed, there’s guns and explosions, and unfortunately, the characters, even though they have brief moments of charisma, leave a little to be desired. I did not think about this when watching the movie, but the main relationship between Dave Bautista and his daughter kind of gave me the same vibe of the relationship presented between the father and daughter in “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” In fact, walking out of the movie, and as I reflect on it, I barely even remember the names of the father and daughter when being forced to think about them without assistance from the Internet. The same can be said for all the other characters in the movie as well. I will say, the cast in the film is great, although there were quite a few characters I liked more than others. I was not necessarily a fan of Lily (Nora Arnezeder), as well portrayed as she was, but that has more to do with the plot and how things unfold than anything else.
Although if you want to know my favorite character in the film, I would say that honor goes to Tig Notaro’s character of Marianne Peters. If I have learned one thing in life, almost nothing matters more than a good first impression. And it when it comes to good first impressions, Peters’s first utterances in this film absolutely slap. On top of being one of the more wonderfully snarky characters in the entire film, Notaro did all of her footage on a green screen. For the record, her role was originally going to be played by Chris D’Elia but that changed in the middle of 2020 when sexual misconduct allegations surfaced regarding his name. From that point, Zack Snyder had to redo D’Elia’s scenes with someone new and that someone happened to be Notaro. I had no idea about this until after I watched the movie and I have to admit, having watched the film on the big screen, I did not notice any subtleties of an actor change.
In the previous film I reviewed, specifically “Wrath of Man,” I talked about the Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues” and how effectively used it was in that film. Since seeing the film, I have had little inklings of it in my head. I did not listen to that song much, but this film arguably has an even better use of a song that I do listen to from time to time. That song to be specific, is “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. I will not say too much other than the fact that this song plays in both the beginning and end of the film, but this once again goes to show the power of a film that can utilize a song to its fullest potential, because if executed right, it can ingrain itself into one’s head, kind of like it did with mine. I often point out the excellent use of film scores, but rarely do I point out written songs made prior to the movie that are then implemented later, and I figured now would be a good time.
In the end, “Army of the Dead” is not gonna win too many awards, it’s not gonna take Best Picture this year. I would be surprised if it is in my top 10 movies of the year in December, but it is a damn good time and one you certainly should check out. I often hear complaints from people who watch the movie that it is too long. Admittedly, I did not experience that fatigue. Maybe it is because I saw it in Cinemark XD and there were certain scenes that really popped that let me keep my chin up, but even though this film is almost two and a half hours, it felt like it was twenty to thirty minutes shorter than it actually was. The movie is just fun and that is all that I could ask for. I might be curious to watch it on Netflix one day, because I remember, speaking of Zack Snyder, when I watched the four hour “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on HBO Max I had one or two brief pauses in between. I want to know if I would make it through “Army of the Dead” in one sitting, if I would need to pause, or if I would tap out at a certain point. That would be an interesting experiment, but it is not one I plan to do at the moment. Nevertheless, I *really* enjoyed myself with “Army of the Dead,” which by the way, I would now say has one of the more memorable opening credits sequences in film history. It sets the tone, it’s hypnotic, and presents everything you need to know. It was just the start of a straight up good time. I’m going to give “Army of the Dead” a 7/10.
“Army of the Dead” released in theaters on May 14th, although it is unlikely to be playing anywhere near you at the moment. So if you want to watch the film right now, it is available exclusively on Netflix.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for John Krasinski’s brand new sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II.” Just crazy to think, that film was supposed to come out LAST YEAR. I will tell you if it is worth the wait very soon, just stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Army of the Dead?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some movies that you think are too long? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Profile” is directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Ben-Hur) and stars Valene Kane (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Fall), Morgan Watkins (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Wild Bill), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery, Penny Dreadful), Christine Adams (Batman Begins, Black Lightning), and Amir Rahimzadeh (The Heights, Our Girl). This film is based on a book written by Anna Erelle titled “In the Skin of a Jihadist” and follows a woman named Amy who has been doing research on younger girls who end up joining ISIS. As part of her research, she creates a Facebook profile and connects with a real ISIS fighter named Bilel. While doing so, the two develop a bond of sorts that may affect the future of her career and her life.
Right off the bat, I just want to note that “Profile” is quite a fascinating film because it is done entirely through screens. By this I mean the screens of computers and other similar electronic devices like phones. I find it intriguing because kind of like “The Blair Witch Project” exposed back when it came out, it shows that not all movies need to be done on advanced cameras. Now whether that is a positive thing or not, that is up to the viewer. It is all subjective. But I will admit, I was somewhat skeptical on this idea because we’ve had projects like this before, and they did not sound like they were for me. One of the more notable ones I could think of is “Unfriended,” which involves a supernatural force using the account of a dead person. At the time, I just did not have any interest. And as much as some of you will *hate* me for saying this, “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2” was the much more attractive option at the box office the weekend “Unfriended” came out. I saw it theatrically for two days in a row for crying out loud! “Unfriended” got a sequel, specifically titled “Unfriended: Dark Web.” Much like the original, I never saw it. Although one film I was interested in seeing in 2018 happened to go by the name of “Searching.” The film received incredibly positive reviews from critics and average moviegoers. I saw a lot of movies in 2018, but unfortunately “Searching” was not one of them, and I cannot say I have tuned into it since. But “Profile” takes elements of those recently mentioned films because it is almost completely showcased through a screen capture. At times, this film felt more like a fast-paced and unusual Twitch or YouTube stream than an actual flick. Despite not having much detail to work with other than what is on a computer screen, the film nevertheless manages to keep an insane pace from start to finish. I was never bored or uninterested with what was going on. To be completely honest, “Profile” is almost the most intense film I have watched this year.
Not only does it deal with somewhat relevant true events, not only does it take a successfully creative approach to the art of filmmaking, but it is a film that makes the most of what it has. This is my first foray into the endless computer screen camera movie approach, or screenlife is some might call it, and I think I may want to see more, specifically if they are as good as this. Now I am not going to say I will remember every bit of “Profile” by the end of 2021, but it is a marvelously crafted picture from start to finish that sounds offish when you hear the technical aspects, but works completely when you implement the story and narrative into it. When war and movies are put together in the same sentence, you would usually expect something big and cinematic like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Dunkirk.” “Profile” does a really good job at showcasing war in cinema from an alternate point of view. I remember when I first heard about ISIS in 2014 and I would see real life footage of the action in history class. Seeing ISIS in this film sort of took me back to that time in one way or another and at times it reminded me of how a lot of modern history is told. If you have seen shootings, protests, or other serious events in recent years, you’d notice that they would often be shot on a phone, either through a pre-recording or live video on a service like Facebook Live or Periscope (RIP). And sometimes they would be shot in a vertical aspect ratio, or as some people call it, “the wrong way” to take pictures or video. “Profile” is successful in its attempts to show grit or danger by utilizing modern technology that may seem odd for a cinematic picture, but somehow ends up being executed brilliantly.
I have talked quite a bit about the film’s technology, but it is one of the biggest standouts from start to finish. Nevertheless, it does not take much away from the characters. To be specific, Amy, the journalist and main protagonist of the film, and Bilel, the ISIS fighter whom she constantly talks to over video. This film does a really good job at showcasing the stress on Amy’s side and a mix of classiness and terror on Bilel’s side that makes the movie stick the landing and blend some delicious flavors together for an exciting outcome. I do not want to spoil much, but this movie’s hesitancy to go big on the technology does not mean it automatically suffers when it comes to delivering a story. The film’s plot does get a little ludicrous, but maybe not on the level of “Sharknado.” That may be one minor problem of the film, but it is also a blessing because it is also what makes the film attention-grabbing. Nevertheless, giant leaps are giant leaps, and by the end, it almost jumps the shark and the jaws continue to drop. Is it exciting? Yes. But does the movie feel as real in the end as it does in the beginning? Not really.
In the end, “Profile” is a tiny yet captivating little thriller. I do not see the screenlife genre being my new favorite trend in filmmaking, but it is one that I simultaneously welcome because of how good “Profile” turned out. I think the cast is really good, the way they went about filming this movie in just a short amount of time is rather impressive, and despite some absurdity at particular points, the film is still worth watching. It is not playing in many theaters right now, but if you have the time, I would say give it a shot. I’m going to give “Profile” a 7/10.
One other thing I want to point out, and I cannot say this will totally affect my viewpoints on “Profile,” is that this film was first shown to the public in 2018. Although it never got a big public theatrical run until May of this year. I do not know why that is, but this kind of reminds me of the end of 2020 where Disney/Fox dumped some of its long-finished films like “The New Mutants” or “The Empty Man” into theaters. Part of me feels like they just decided to release it now as an excuse to say they put it in theaters because it has been in the can for so long that it needs to go. It was already competing against “Spiral,” “Army of the Dead,” and “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” This film was not too expensive to make, but I feel like Focus Features had little faith in it. I barely saw any marketing, and I did not even pay to see the movie. I was given a free screening online. It just felt like the studio said, “Hey, here’s a movie!” 2021 looks like it’ll be a fine year for movies. There are a lot of big ones coming out, but I feel like “Profile” is another victim of the COVID-19 crisis where the film was just dumped into theaters just for the sake of it. Heck! The film has not even made its budget back yet! I wish everyone involved in this movie well in their careers, but from a distribution standpoint, this was not a victory. Again, this does not affect my score, but in the supposedly changing landscape of film, this is one of the trends that unfortunately continues.
“Profile” did release theatrically on May 14th, but it is highly unlikely you will find a theater near you playing the movie. If that is the case, it is also available to rent on VOD right now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for Zack Snyder’s new film “Army of the Dead.” I saw this movie at a Cinemark the weekend it came out, and I cannot wait to talk about it. I will also have upcoming reviews for “A Quiet Place Part II,” “In the Heights,” and my commitment to seeing this right away is not guaranteed, but I should be seeing “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” this week depending on my schedule. Also coming soon, I will be doing another update on my complete Blu-ray collection. I’ve done it in recent years, and I think it is time, now that I am reaching 500 posts, to give you my latest status update. Hope you are excited, because I cannot wait to share the latest details with you. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Profile?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think about the screenlife genre? Is it cool? Too small? Gimmicky? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!