Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021): Even the Most Hyper-Masculine Will Buy the Adorableness This Movie Shells

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, and this is his feature-length debut. This film stars Jenny Slate (Parks and Recreation, Bob’s Burgers), Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Alita: Battle Angel), Thomas Mann (Kong: Skull Island, Halloween Kills), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Crime of the Century), Dean Fleischer Camp, and Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes). The film is based on a short and book series of the same name. In this feature-length take on a preestablished character, the story centers around Marcel, who spends his days with his grandmother, Connie. Throughout the film Marcel is interviewed as he unveils everything about being an anthropomorphic shell in a big house.

I have seen the trailer for “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” during my couple ventures to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” After all, it only makes sense as both films are from A24. I know a bit about A24 as a distributor. They have marvelous originals like “Eighth Grade,” some wonderful adaptations like “Room,” and even when a film from them is bad, they still have my respect. Because I always get the sense that an A24 film is typically bad in a way that makes me think, “Maybe that was not for me.” This is especially true with a movie like “Midsommar.” I appreciated “Midsommar” from a visual standpoint, but felt genuinely annoyed whenever it attempted anything along the lines of horror.

“Marcel the Shell” is a complete drift from “Midsommar.” There were families at my screening for crying out loud. If I were given the option to pick out a movie without having seen it, kind of in the sense that I am doing a blind buy, and those were my options, I’d lean towards “Midsommar.” On the surface, it would seem like my kind of movie. I was sold on “Marcel the Shell” when seeing the trailer, but between Ari Aster’s name being attached in addition to the concept, “Midsommar” would have sold me harder.

Now that I have seen both movies, I can confirm that both tell oddball, offbeat stories. “Marcel the Shell” personally tells its story to a greater ability.

Between “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Marcel the Shell,” A24 is having a heck of a year, and I hope they continue to flourish.

“Marcel the Shell” has origins that go back some years ago. While Jenny Slate may also be known for her work on mainstream concepts like “Parks and Recreation,” she has dedicated her time, alongside other people, to creating “Marcel the Shell.” If her passion for the property has not been erased all these years later, Slate excels in revealing such a notion, because she gives it her all to deliver possibly the cutest voicework I have heard since maybe Young Dory in “Finding Dory.”

Although I cannot give Slate’s voice all the credit, because part of what makes “Marcel the Shell” so clever and palpable is how child-like the character is written. I do not mean immature. This movie has the maturity of a great Pixar story if you ask me. However, some of the lines in this film, not to mention the overall vibes, very much felt like watching a child grow up. I do not have kids, so this may not be the best analogy, but as someone who was a kid and as someone who knows parents, I imagine this is a good comparison.

One thing I remember from my childhood, either through growing up or seeing my sister grow up, is how often children mix up their words to say something that sounds similar to what they are trying to say. There is a great line in the film given by Marcel. He gives the famous quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” which traces back to the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky. But after acing this quote, Marcel is taking all the time in the world to come up with a ton of similar sounding names, but none of them are Wayne Gretzky.

The closest he comes to being right is Whale Jetski. …This is the most adorable movie ever created.

Not only is Whale Jetski a cute-sounding name, but it goes to show how hilarious the movie is. This film is presented in a mockumentary style, which was never my thing. While a lot of my friends tend to enjoy “The Office,” and as much as I think some of the people behind the show are talented, the show’s mockumentary format never sat well with me. That is not the case with “Marcel the Shell,” as the mockumentary format not only lends to some unique concepts, neat editing tricks, and kneeslap-worthy jokes, but some occasional great fourth wall breaks, if you can call them that, from the character of Dean. His main purpose is to videograph the goings on of Marcel, which fits into the mockumentary aspect of the film. After all, it is revealed that he is filming a documentary, which Marcel and his shell community happen to be in on.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” proves that the creative floodgates have a wider opening than some might think. In a world where we are inundated with sequels, reboots, comic book movies, or flashy action adventures, we still have a desire for telling and seeing stories like this. “Marcel the Shell” has the simplicity of a show like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the creativity of a movie like “Toy Story.” I have truly never seen anything like “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” It is not the first story with the character, but it feels new to me.

For a movie that truly is small, much like its titular character, it packs such a raw punch when delivering emotion at times. I already talked about the humor, but I can guarantee you that this movie will make New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick smile. Maybe he’ll shed a tear, who knows? I am not saying that everyone will walk out of this movie with a tear out of their eye, happy or sad. But I am saying that if you do not walk out of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” with a smile, I would argue that you hate all things awesome. Things like swimming pools, or French fries, or redwood trees, or space. How the hell can one hate SPACE?!

There is not much I find wrong with “Marcel the Shell.” I do think I became more invested in the shell community as opposed to the humans they expose through flashbacks, which is not a terrible thing, because the movie knows what it is about. Other than that, I think “Marcel the Shell” is one of the best films of the year, and if you miss it, then you are skipping possibly one of the most adorable films in cinematic history. I mean it.

In the end, “Marcel the Shell” lacks the grand scale many movies tend to have nowadays, but that is also what makes it a unique and entertaining production. This is a movie about a shell who spends his days with his grandma and happens to bond over things like “60 Minutes.” Yes, THAT “60 Minutes.” The one on CBS every Sunday. It sounds weird. And in ways, it is. But that is also why you should give it a chance. This is great for adults, this is great for kids, therefore it is great for everybody. I guarantee that you will grin at least once by the time those end credits show up. If you don’t, then color me shocked. I am going to give “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” a 9/10.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I want to apologize for not getting this out earlier. I have been somewhat busy recently and I am happy to announce that I am likely going to be taking on more movie-related writing outside of Scene Before. Those of you who have been here since the start would know that Scene Before, AKA Flicknerd.com, is independently operated by me, Jack Drees. But if all aligns properly, I will be writing for a particular outlet that some of you might know. I am not going to say which one as I am not officially onboard, but if I have more information, I will share it with you.

That said, if you like this review, be on the lookout for more coming soon! This week I will be sharing my thoughts on “Nope,” the new Jordan Peele film where a brother-sister duo confront a strange event around their horse ranch. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “DC League of Super Pets,” the new animated superhero film that focuses on Superman’s dog, Krypto, and a set of other superpowered animals. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could make a documentary on something, what it be about, and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Gray Man (2022): Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, and Chris Evans Team Up to Deliver Some Expensive Mediocrity

“The Gray Man” is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree, Avengers: Endgame) and stars Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, First Man), Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Knives Out) Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out), Jessica Henwick (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Matrix Resurrections), Regé-Jean Page (For the People, Bridgerton), Wagner Moura (Elysium, Narcos), Julia Butters (American Housewife, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Dhanush (3, Vada Chennai), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives, St. Elsewhere), and Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Goliath). Based on a 2009 Mark Greaney book of the same name, this film is about a man who goes by the name of Six. Years after Six is let out of prison under the condition that he works for the CIA, he uncovers dark secrets. This results in a former colleague putting a bounty on his head and an international manhunt.

“The Gray Man” is the latest film from the Russo Brothers, These two are in-house Marvel directors known for their work on the latest “Captain America” and “Avengers” titles. In addition to Joe Russo’s respective screenplay credit, the film also happens to be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. These two have handled writing duties for tons of Marvel fare including “Thor: The Dark World,” “Agent Carter,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and the “Captain America” trilogy. It is nice to see these two join forces to write one of the most expensive Netflix movies ever made. It feels weird to say that in a circumstance like this because when I think Netflix, I think of television, and I think of movies that are more likely to be seen on the smaller screen. But this film is not cheap, as it did cost $200 million to make. This is $50 million less than “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Disney and Marvel’s latest blockbuster movie to hit the big screen. This leads me to my first compliment. As weird as it is to confirm, I think “The Gray Man” looks better visually than “Thor: Love and Thunder” does at times.

But believe it or not, Netflix has put out a decent amount of big budget movies over recent years. Some have been good, like “The Irishman.” Some have been bad, like “Red Notice.” I’ll get straight to the point. “The Gray Man” is in between.

I went to go see “The Gray Man” in a movie theatre. The best thing I can say about “The Gray Man” is that it uses every bit of its big budget wisely to deliver one of the best-looking films of the year. There is a scene where people are ringing in the new year that totally popped. Despite having some occasional vivid and eye-dilating images, it is all given within a script that tends to rely on clichés.

“The Gray Man” is a marketable film for sure. Big action, big stars, and for some, it comes with the perk that you can pause and go to the bathroom without missing anything. I was sold with the campaign because the stars of the film are bankable. I dig Ryan Gosling, I love Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas may be on track to be one of the greatest thespians of her generation. It should not surprise me that this trio has solid chemistry all around. Because De Armas worked with both of these actors in the past. Therefore, not only are we getting a reunion behind the camera between the directors and writers, but in front of the camera as well with the leads.

Essentially, “The Gray Man” is this year’s “Red Notice,” because it is another action film that has notable clichés and a globe-trotting plot. Both even star a sexy Canadian Ryan! But the difference between “The Gray Man” and “Red Notice” is that I would rather watch “The Gray Man” a second time. …Barely. “The Gray Man” is “Red Notice,” except in this case, “The Gray Man” does more than get big names. They utilize those big names to greater potential.

Ryan Gosling is well-directed by the Russos and happens to be given plenty to do in the film to make it as watchable as it can be. But his character of Six does not have much dimension to him. He feels like a less suave, perhaps less emotional Ethan Hunt. Gosling is a great actor who has done a fantastic series of roles in recent years in movies like “La La Land” and “Blade Runner 2049.” He has a knack for picking well-developed, enchanting, defining scripts. What got him into this movie? Who knows? Everyone probably needs a paycheck every now and then. When it comes to Gosling’s library, this is probably on the same level of quality as the kind of forgettable “Gangster Squad.”

The scene stealer award in this case goes to Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. Chris Evans gives one of my favorite performances in a recent action film. He continues to demonstrate his range as a performer. He not only can vary up his performance style, but do it well. Whether it means being patriotic and kind-hearted as Steve Rogers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or a complete moron as Ransom Drysdale in “Knives Out.” Here, he unsurprisingly channels more of the latter’s traits. Out of everyone in the film, Evans brings an energy to his performance that every other actor can only hope to evoke out of their own.

Even though I say there are clichés, it does not mean that there is no entertainment to be had in the movie whatsoever. As I have said in the past, clichés can be good if they are done effectively. Why do you think the “hero’s journey” structure gets repeated time and time again? In this story of familiar happenings, there is a slight glimmer of fun or emotional weight here and there. One of the best story elements of the film is between Ryan Gosling’s character, Six, and a kid played by the young and talented Julia Butters, Claire. Not only do both actors play off each other brilliantly, but they are given some of the film’s best exchanges of dialogue. By the end of the film, Claire became one of my favorite characters and her story wrapped up satisfyingly.

Also, random fact I found out as I was doing this review. Apparently this film was in development hell for years. The earliest this project was announced happens to be 2011, with James Gray once set to direct. Between swapped actors, swapped studios, and so on, the project never found its footing until now. Was it worth the wait? Hard to tell. It’s a cliché film with familiar storylines, so it does not add much to the table. Although it could get some watches on both big and small screens for now. As for how well it will age, that is for the audience to decide.

In the end, “The Gray Man” is in a word, fine. The star-studded cast got me in the door. Not only are they capable of bringing charisma, but delivering on talent. They do their best with the ordinary writing. Ryan Gosling delivers the goods in the acting department, but I will not remember his character as much as say K in “Blade Runner 2049.” I would love to see Ana de Armas in more thrillers and action fare as I think she has done a good job not only in this film, but also “No Time to Die.” She is attractive, joy-inducing, and skilled at her craft. She is everything you can want in an actress. Chris Evans continues to show his range as a performer, but if I had to rank his filmography for the year, I would prefer “Lightyear.” It is a completely different movie for another audience perhaps, but if you want to know which movie does a better job at accomplishing its goals, “Lightyear” is that movie. “The Gray Man” is fun to look at, but does not deliver much that is new. I am going to give “The Gray Man” a 5/10.

“The Gray Man” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Netflix to all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, why not check out some of my other ones? If you are in the Netflix mood, check out my review for another recent Netflix movie, “Hustle!” Want something more recent? Feel free to take a glance at my thoughts on Scott Derrickson’s new horror film, “The Black Phone!” Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” and “Nope!” If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Gray Man?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put three actors in one action movie together, who would they be and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022): A Catastrophically Legendary Failure That Will Make You Hate Cats and Dogs

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, The Lion King), Mark Koetsier (Kung Fu Panda, Big Hero 6), and Chris Bailey (X2: X-Men United, Kim Possible) and stars Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The LEGO Batman Movie), Ricky Gervais (Night at the Museum, The Office), Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs), George Takei (Star Trek, Kubo and the Two Strings), Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show, The Brink), Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike, Space Jam: A New Legacy), Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Shazam!), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction). This film centers around Hank, a dog who aspires to become a samurai. Once given the first glimmer of this goal, Hank is taken under the wing of Jimbo, a once great samurai, as he aspires to fulfill his destiny.

I am going to start off this review by stating something that may piss off some of my readers. I have never seen “Blazing Saddles.” I just have not had the time. In fact, as I started doing this review and refreshed myself through the cast on Wikipedia, I found out that this film is a loose adaptation of Mel Brooks’s well-known western comedy. To add to the similiarities, Mel Brooks even has a role in this film as The Shogun. I cannot confirm how many similarities and differences there are between this film and “Blazing Saddles.” Sure, there are some obvious ones I could make without having seen both films.

“Paws of Fury” is animated while “Blazing Saddles” is live-action. That’s the obvious difference. “Paws of Fury” is more focused on samurai whereas “Blazing Saddles” takes a more wild west approach with its story. In a way, this is almost a reversal of what “The Magnificent Seven” did as a redo of “Seven Samurai.” Because there is a solid chance that “The Magnificent Seven” would not be what it is if it were not for Akira Kurosawa’s creation. There is also a consensus that “Blazing Saddles” would not be made today due to the current climate and there being a greater strive to be politically correct in comedy. Obviously, this movie is mostly meant for families and children.

But children, mostly.

God help us all.

Some make the claim that “Blazing Saddles” is a movie that can not, and maybe should not be made today. They’re right. That is, if you are going to make it into something like this. “Paws of Fury” is the worst animation of the year.

I should not be too surprised that this movie is lacking in any and all luster. Because in my animation reviews, I often talk about Pixar as the gold standard on how you make an animated movie. Literally, this year, they released “Turning Red,” which slaps. And they followed that up with “Lightyear,” which is inferior by Pixar standards, but better than many movies could ever hope to be. They are a tough act to follow, but one thing that often separates Pixar from the competition is the studio’s ability to tell mature stories that do not rely heavily on cheap comedy gags that appear as if they were written for infants.

This movie is from Nickelodeon Studios. I have some nostalgia for Nickelodeon as “SpongeBob SquarePants” was my goto cartoon when I was younger. As I look back on the series, the early seasons had great writing, gutbusting comedy that ages like a fine wine. However, as we get through seasons 4, 5, 6, and so on, all of that trickles down. Every other joke is disposable, some character motivations and feelings come off as over the top, and they sometimes rely on sight gags that go too far. Similarly, this movie is no stranger to toilet humor. You want to know how much this movie relies on toilet humor? The main villain’s motivation literally involves the use of a super-sized toilet. I wish I were making this up. I’ll remind you, there is literally an animated movie called “FLUSHED AWAY,” which literally involves the use of toilets to further the plot, that takes itself more seriously than this when it comes to humor and writing. I think that toilet humor can be funny in doses and depending on the execution. As an adult, it is a bit hard to take it seriously however. Part of it is because it feels like the cop out of comedy. Fart noises can get a laugh, but fart-related jokes are so easy to write. All it takes is one noise. There’s very little effort involved. This movie tries to get creative with fart jokes by the end, but it did not change the fact that the whole concept of the joke felt lazy and forced. As much flack as they get, I think puns have more thought put into them than fart jokes. You might as well say that fart jokes can sometimes be… A pain in the butt.

I’ll see myself out. I have two working eyes.

Overall, “Paws of Fury” is very much that typical hero’s journey structure we’ve seen many times before. The potential hero is an unlikely one, but for whatever reason, the hero will do whatever he can to achieve his goals. On the surface, “Paws of Fury” feels like “Kung Fu Panda” if it were more samurai-based as opposed to martial arts-based. Except that “Kung Fu Panda,” while I remember it having maybe one joke that felt kiddy, did not treat its audience like morons. I already talked about the fart jokes, but this movie also has meta humor infused at times, part of which includes the notion that the flick “is only 85 minutes long.” I noticed over the years that there is a tendency amongst some people, and I include myself in this on occasion, to watch a film on the shorter side. It’s a time-saver, it helps with the attention span, and if you have extra time on your hands, it means you can possibly bang out a couple movies in a single Friday night. Given the frequency in which it appears, I am assuming that meta humor was always the intention from the film’s writers. But when I heard the “85 minutes long” joke, it only made me assume that the writers wanted to rush the project to its end. Like, okay, here’s a throwaway line! Let’s get to that pristine runtime!

This film has a stacked cast ranging from Michael Cera to Samuel L. Jackson to Ricky Gervais to even Michelle Yeoh. This film is not short on big names, and it’s almost as if they prioritized these names to get butts in seats over the story. Don’t get me wrong, just about every cast member plays their part to the best of their ability. Samuel L. Jackson does his best not to get in trouble with the parents who will be dragged by their kids to see this movie. Michael Cera is convincing enough to play a lanky dog hero who kind of sounds like a dork. Ricky Gervais does his best channeling his inner annoyed Golden Globes host personality as Ika Chu, a feline who wants to rid of a nearby impoverished town. Overall, the cast does their best with the stiff and sometimes lazy writing. But it does not change the fact that they are in a movie whose characters are mostly given stiff and sometimes lazy writing. This movie is not offensive, but it is almost uninspired. It feels crazy to say because it has an awesome opening sequence that had joyful Saturday morning cartoon vibes. After that, it’s all downhill. It goes to show that even when you have the competent direction and animation, it is not enough to hide a terrible script.

The one positive I can give this film is that it somewhat reminded me of something I learned in school. It may as well be the film’s takeaway for its younger viewers. There are films out there that unveil unlikely heroes, and this one is no exception. It’s the whole expect the unexpected cliché, but there was a scene that reminded me of a picture where a bunch of animals are given an examination to “climb that tree.” Of course, the monkey is the only one in the group who seems enthused by this order. The penguin, the elephant, the fish, the seal, and the canine are noticeably more hesitant. This idea could be applied to the entire film because it is about a dog who is assigned to watch over a town of cats. The dog is also trained by a cat to become a samurai. This leads to a particular moment in the training montage where we literally see a climbing course. I won’t say much more, but this scene is executed in a way that reminded me of “climb that tree.” It goes to show that there is more than one way to teach or learn something. Although for everything else in the movie, it pales in comparison. The movie is not funny, some of the characters are occasionally annoying, and it is full of clichés that have been done better. Do not waste your time. I have seen other animated movies this year that are better than this one.

In the end, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is certainly legendary. More specifically, a legendary failure. Will kids like this movie? Yes, they probably will. And fortunately, as far as kids movies go, this is better for them than “Tom & Jerry” given how the protagonist is probably a more positive influence on younger minds. But I found myself more annoyed by this movie than anything else. I do not have kids, just to be clear, but would I let my kid watch this movie? Maybe. But I might have to leave the room because I can only take so much. But at the same time, I would worry, because given the movie’s script, it might only dumb down my kid should they keep watching it. Maybe they will grow up with the film, but not watch it past say their teen years. I did not know going in that this was an adaptation of “Blazing Saddles,” but I do know that I am going to give “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” a 3/10.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have another one coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Gray Man!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Blazing Saddles?” What did you think about that? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022): Taika Waititi’s Second, and Slightly Less Worthy, Thor Outing

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed the franchise’s previous installment, “Thor: Ragnarok.” This film stars Chris Hemsworth (Men in Black: International, Rush), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari, Batman Begins), Tessa Thompson (Men in Black: International, Annihilation), Jaimie Alexander (Nurse Jackie, Blindspot), Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Cinderella Man), and Natalie Portman (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, V For Vendetta). This is the fourth installment to the “Thor” franchise, the 29th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first instance where a character in said universe gets a fourth standalone movie. In this… THORth installment, Thor reunites with Jane Foster, who is now worthy. The two join forces with Valkyrie and Korg to defeat Gorr the God Butcher, a white being whose aspiration is literally in his namesake, the widespread elimination of all gods.

MCU phase 4 is like having a demanding girlfriend. You love her, but you also want to get away from her. Although when you think you are about to leave, you just keep coming back because you cannot see yourself attached to something else. I am not saying I hate the MCU right now. I thoroughly enjoy the MCU, but as I’ve said in my reviews for “Black Widow” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the whole universe, while still entertaining, is almost homework in disguise. When I was watching “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I had fun, but I felt like I was being tested on how much I remembered “WandaVision.” You could almost make an argument that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” tests your memory on seven different “Spider-Man” movies at once across three different universes. To be fair though, I am not of this demographic, but I would imagine the general audience would not need to watch all of those other shows and movies in order to understand what comes after. However, their experience would only be enhanced if they did.

There is a notable audience that tends to enjoy “Thor: Ragnarok.” I consider myself a fan of the film after a couple watches. It is not up there with the original “Thor,” but anything is better than “Thor: The Dark World.” If you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” there is a solid chance you might find joy in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” This should not come as a surprise, as Taika Waititi helmed both pictures.

Waititi may be most responsible for Thor’s current success. If we did not have “Ragnarok,” his arc in followup “Avengers” titles “Infinity War” and “Endgame” may have slightly less meaning. But the best thing about his storytelling abilities is his tendency to perfectly balance light and darkness. I saw “Thor: Love and Thunder” with my dad. When we walked out of the theater, he affirmed, grinningly, that the movie had “something for everyone.” He may be right. After all, this film has comedy, action, drama, and even horror. Without going into specifics, Christian Bale is, on occasion, utterly terrifying as Gorr the God Butcher. The MCU is often criticized for its lackluster antagonists, and phase 4 is no exception to the rule with Taskmaster from “Black Widow” being a prime example of how movies are only as good as their villains. Gorr the God Butcher is not quite Thanos, and if we are judging “Thor” villains, I even think I have a softer spot for Hela in “Ragnarok.” But when you take a character like Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher and place him in a story where Zeus strips gods in public and threatens others by not allowing them to come to an orgy, it is an odd combination. But somehow they make it work.

Speaking of things that work, let’s talk about Chris Hemsworth as Thor. While it took awhile for me to warm up to Thor kind of being the butt of a joke sometimes, I have come to learn that Chris Hemsworth has tremendous comedic chops. Even when the script does him no favors like in “Ghostbusters” (2016), he still manages to give the performance his all. He will practically do anything to make the character of Thor come off as fun. It’s almost like what they are trying to do with Aquaman in the DCEU where he has a somewhat godly presence, but at the end of the day, you might want to flock to the bar with him. It is why I consider Party Thor to be one of the standout characters in the Disney+ series “What If…?”. At the same time though, this movie can be used as an example in regard to jokes going too far. And I do not mean offensive, I mean the joke tries too hard or it goes on longer than it should.

This movie has some weird, but also simultaneously hypnotizing comedy gags. Thor literally talks to his weapons. There’s even a love triangle between them. Not what I would have written but… Okay. Jane Foster spends a portion of the film trying to come up with an epic one-liner that was somewhat hit or miss. There are these goats in the film that feel less like an attempt at comedy and more so a homage to outdated Internet memes. Sure, when they were first introduced, I laughed. But as the movie went along, they became progressively less funny.

One of the biggest surprises in “Thor: Love and Thunder” prior to its release was the return of the recently mentioned Jane Foster. Natalie Portman is a great actress between her work in movies like “Black Swan” and “Annihilation.” Despite the shortcomings of the dialogue, she also did her best in the “Star Wars” prequels. Speaking of shortcomings, one of the flaws of the first two “Thor” films is that her character did not have a ton to do. I liked her better than Kat Dennings’s character, most specifically in “Thor: The Dark World,” but nevertheless. Mostly, she was almost just there to be the love interest, and that was the character’s biggest service to the story. This time, she is an equal to Thor, or Mighty Thor, as she calls herself. That is, if Thor really is the Thor he once was in say “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” because he has evolved, slowly but surely, into one of the MCU’s goto gags in recent years. When he was not fighting in “Avengers: Endgame,” the movie focuses on him in a dad bod, playing “Fortnite,” and drinking heavily. That movie’s humor adds substance to its story, much like some of the jokes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” It is weird to think how much this character has tonally evolved since 2011.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” has some good humor here and there, but I think of all the Marvel Studios films so far, this is the one I think feels the most kiddy out of them all. It is weird to say because the film has a butt shot of Chris Hemsworth and an ongoing orgy-related threat, but this was one of the first times I can remember watching an MCU film and having it feel this much like a Saturday morning cartoon. I am not saying I did not experience Saturday morning cartoon vibes in the MCU before. “Thor: Ragnarok,” the “Spider-Man” movies, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are all great examples of this vibe. But in the case of those films, the Saturday morning cartoon vibe, minus say “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” was presented more effectively, perhaps more maturely.

While this fourth “Thor” movie flashes back to its predecessors and revisits multiple characters across various stories, I can say that a notable positive I can give to “Thor: Love and Thunder” is that it does not require any prerequisites. You can go into this movie not having seen a single “Thor,” “Avengers,” or MCU installment and have a good time. Yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, but it is not like they are going to test you on the complexities of Groot’s language or something. This is a contained story from start to finish and while it may be referenced later in the MCU, it does not come off as a tale told by gatekeepers. Ultimately, “Thor: Love and Thunder” may be the most stupid fun movie the MCU has given us so far.

If have to be real though, despite this movie being stupid fun, it kind of comes with a caveat. Before “Thor: Ragnarok” came out, the “Thor” movies were comparatively serious. They had their jokey moments. The first film is a fish out of water story that lends itself to tons of humor, and it worked. The second movie had many comedy attempts, but I can only recall one or two that stuck the landing. With “Ragnarok” and now “Love and Thunder,” we have Taika Waititi’s zany touch. I was not particularly fond of the humor in “Ragnarok” when I first saw it, but after rewatching the film, I warmed up to it. Therefore, during this movie, I was looking forward to seeing what the attempts at humor could be. Compared to “Ragnarok,” they’re a bit flat. Once again, some work, but the ones that do not happen to stand out. The goats were funny the first time, but maybe not the fifth or sixth time.

When I think of “Ragnarok,” certain hysterical moments come to mind. “Get help” is one of the funniest gags in recent action movies. The chemistry between Thor and Banner, Hulked up or not, is worthy of my attention. Stan Lee’s cameo where he cuts Thor’s hair is not only crucial to the plot, but gutbusting. So, what does Taika have in mind for this movie? A rock n’ roll-infused opening action sequence where Thor, almost egomaniacally, saves the day. There’s literally a moment where he stops two vehicles from running into him by doing a split. The image is still in my mind. In the moment, I thought that split was hilarious. But it also makes me realize how dramatic of a shift these movies have taken over the years. The first two movies are mature, with the original almost successfully capturing Shakespearean drama vibes. “Thor: Ragnarok,” while still having maturity in it, contains many comedy gags that nearly conflict with some of the movie’s darker moments. The same can be said for “Love and Thunder,” but the comedy is a bigger star than before.

Note how I said bigger, not better. There’s a difference.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” reminds me of “The Fate of the Furious.” I say so because like “Love and Thunder,” I had fun with “The Fate of the Furious,” but there is a certain amount of absurdity in that film that feels more leveled up than say “Fast Five” which jumped the shark, but was comparatively believable. “Thor: Ragnarok” was a ridiculous fun time with great humor and some logic-defying, but still entertaining moments. As the saying in Hollywood goes, bigger is better. Or is it? Because if you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” chances are that this movie has twice the silliness. While laughter is the best medicine, this movie shows that comedic overdoses may be possible.

Before we dive into the final verdict, I want to talk about the visual effects of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I am not going to dive into the recent news regarding visual effects employees struggling to work for Marvel. That is another issue, perhaps for another time. But on the surface, most of the visual effects in this film matches the recently mentioned Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Everything is bright, colorful, vivid, and sometimes gargantuan. I do want to note though that there have been some concerns about Marvel’s visual effects as of late in movies like “Black Widow.” I think if you are in the general audience, you might not care. I will admit, it has been awhile since I have seen “Black Widow” to give a detailed comment. However, I remember some of the effects in that film are surprisingly inferior to say “Captain America: Civil War,” which came out five years before. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” for the most part, looks great. But as far as “Thor” movies go, it might be the worst looking one yet if you pinpoint select shots.

While I said I will not dive too deep into the struggles of working in visual effects, I think we are seeing a sign that the MCU is becoming too crowded and overstuffed with content. I am enjoying phase 4 of the MCU. I have yet to see a completely terrible film. One or two series were hit or miss, but others were good. “WandaVision” was a fantastic debut for the MCU on Disney+, and “Ms. Marvel” was also really charming. The MCU has so many shows and movies now that it also has so many deadlines to consider. This year we have already seen two shows that ran for six-episodes and a couple movies. That is a lot of work, and it is not over yet because “She-Hulk” quickly approaching to Disney+ and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is scheduled to hit theaters this fall. I had fun with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but by the standards of the MCU, this is not as good as I would hope for. Although the MCU has its occasional off day with movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” I just hope this is a slight bump in the road. But the MCU also did not have this much content going on at once at those times. I know some would disagree, but I would happily sacrifice all the upcoming Disney+ shows if it meant we were going to get a few consistently great MCU movies. I am sure Marvel has a plan, but is it too big of a plan? I hope not. But my worry is that the further along we go down the MCU timeline, the more signs we will get that this whole conveyer belt will unveil itself. Let’s hope that this does not happen.

In the end, “Thor: Love and Thunder” was good, but it is also my least favorite film of MCU’s phase 4. While not the worst of the “Thor” films, “Love and Thunder” nevertheless fails on arguably the same mission in which “Ragnarok” succeeded. Sure, there were a couple laughs here and there, and as far as “summer blockbusters” go, you could do far worse. Just look at “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Although “Love and Thunder” has quite a few negatives that stand out significantly. Natalie Portman was badass enough that I might want to buy a Mighty Thor Hot Toy. But I just wish I could see more of her. I wish I could have seen more of Gorr the God Butcher. This is one of the shortest Marvel movies yet, which could be beneficial to your bladder, but that’s were the benefits stop. Overall, the film feels rushed. I heard they shot some extra footage that never made it into the film, and Taika Waititi does not want to make an alternate cut with said footage, but for all I know, that could give some much needed fleshing out to certain aspects of the story. I would never want to put pressure on a filmmaker into making something they do not want to make, but as a viewer, I would be intrigued to see some of what I originally couldn’t see in some fashion. Maybe as a Blu-ray bonus feature. I am going to give “Thor: Love and Thunder” a 6/10.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is now playing in theaters including large formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” then be on the lookout because I have more reviews coming soon! Stay tuned for my thoughts on “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” and “The Gray Man.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Thor: Love and Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “Thor” movies? I’m a purist, I would have to go with the 2011 “Thor” directed by Kenneth Branagh. Leave your opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Black Phone (2022): Scott Derrickson Dials Up a Terrifying Ride

“The Black Phone” is directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange, Sinister) and stars Mason Thames (For All Mankind, Walker), Madeleine McGraw (Bones, American Sniper), Jeremy Davies (Lost, Justified), James Ransone (The Wire, Generation Kill), and Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed) in a film that follows a 13 year old boy who is trapped in a killer’s basement. While trying to escape, the boy receives calls from said killer’s victims.

Scott Derrickson is known for his work on multiple horror titles including “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “Deliver Us from Evil,” and “Sinister.” His most recent work however was through the lens of Marvel via “Doctor Strange,” which I found to be incredibly entertaining despite being out of Derrickson’s comfort zone. It also features what I contend to be some of the best 3D ever put to film. Much like the “Sinister” followup, Derrickson did not return to Marvel Studios to helm the recent “Doctor Strange” sequel, giving him more time to go a genre that defines him as a director.

Speaking of horror and “Doctor Strange,” Sam Raimi of “Evil Dead” fame ended up helming the new “Doctor Strange” film in Derrickson’s place. When Derrickson was asked about his thoughts on a trailer for the then upcoming “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” he said, in admiration of Raimi, that he was excited for the movie. But the trailer also affirms that “The Black Phone” was the right film for him to make at the time.

Having seen “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Derrickson is right. Sam Raimi was the right director for that film, as I did have a good time with it. He is also right about himself because Derrickson made an epic horror that is better than some of the other recent entries to the genre. I mean, personally, it is not hard to provide me with more entertainment than what I got with “Malignant.” I make no apologies.

Part of what makes “The Black Phone” so good could be mostly attributed to its youngest cast members. The two main siblings in this film, wonderfully portrayed by Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, have a connection that feels evident from scene one and sticks in your head the moment the lights come back on.

Mason Thames, who is not of adult age yet, is given a lot to do in a matter of just over an hour and a half, and he carries this film like a champ. His portrayal of Finney does not feel like a “child actor” performance. The same can be said to other actors of similar age who happen to be in the film. If anything, Mason Thames is perhaps almost on par with the character viewers will likely remember the most from this film, The Grabber, played by Ethan Hawke.

Ethan Hawke is having a heck of year so far between “Moon Knight,” “The Northman,” and now this movie. This is truly Hawke’s world and we are just living in it. Although while “Moon Knight” and “The Northman” have gotten plenty of attention, part of me is not too crazy about those two projects despite Hawke’s undoubtable commitment to them. This time, I recognized Hawke’s commitment to his craft while also admiring the story at hand. Hawke is genuinely terrifying at times as The Grabber. Major props have to be given to the costume design and makeup department because not only does Hawke emit serial killer vibes through his motions and voice, but also through his looks. If I were a studio executive working today, I could see The Grabber as the next Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers or Pennywise where he becomes this generation’s big horror mascot. He has the looks for it, I could almost see the collector’s toys for it, but the problem is figuring out another story to bring Ethan Hawke back.

On paper, “The Black Phone” keeps things simple and effective. It combines a crazy, Michael Myers wannabe killer, a story that is mostly spent in a creepy basement, and also one that centers around a singular kid. Although this does not mean that there is no depth to the film whatsoever because there is also an intriguing story on the side related to the lead kid’s connection to his father. If anything, this movie reminded me of “10 Cloverfield Lane” except that the star of the show is much younger, and we spend more time focusing on one particular space than anywhere else.

“The Black Phone” is not only scary, but also somewhat disturbing. If you are easily triggered by particular topics, this movie may not the first one I recommend. Why? Because this film has a subplot dedicated to Gwen, Finney’s sister, and her psychic dreams related to The Grabber. This unhinges a rivalry of sorts between her and her father (Jeremy Davies), who happens to be an alcoholic. “The Black Phone” manages to evoke fear in its own right in terms of developing a story where a kidnapper keeps someone in his basement, which streamlines itself more to fantasy than anything else. But it is also down to earth by supplementing that story with a triggering subplot that allows us to receive more depth about the film’s events. For me, this worked, but if you are looking for “an escape,” this movie could be a slight question mark compared to say “A Quiet Place.” Speaking of “A Quiet Place,” I want to bring up that movie for a second.

The biggest compliment I can give to “The Black Phone” is one that is perhaps as massive as what I gave to “A Quiet Place” when I saw that movie. My usual routine when I go to the movies is to get a large popcorn and soda. Normally, I will leave the theater having consumed most of my food and drink. But during “A Quiet Place,” I noticed that every moment I had popcorn in my mouth, I found myself dissolving it as opposed to chewing it. I left the theater with a lot of popcorn that day. While I cannot say I left with as much popcorn for “The Black Phone,” after all, I do not think I intentionally dissolved any of it, I did end up leaving the theater taking home more popcorn than usual. Based on that alone, this shows how scary good this movie is.

In the end, “The Black Phone” is worth watching, but if you get scared or triggered easily by realistic or fantastic concepts, I would recommend straying away from this film. Despite what I said about Ethan Hawke, I do not think a sequel to “The Black Phone” would be warranted, I think it would campify The Grabber if he were revisited in the near future. Although I do admire this film for having many genuine scares and minimal cheap tricks. I really enjoyed the mystery of the film, some of the characters stand out, and I would watch it again on a Friday night with the lights out. I am going to give “The Black Phone” a 7/10.

“The Black Phone” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “The Black Phone,” I have another review coming soon, this time for a comic book movie! That’s right! My next review is for the brand new MCU installment “Thor: Love and Thunder!” Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Black Phone?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite horror villain? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Brian and Charles (2022): A Delightfully Inventive, Robotic Comedy

“Brian and Charles” is directed by Jim Archer (Down in London, The Young Offenders) and stars the film’s writers, David Earl and Chris Hayward, as the titular man and robot duo. This film centers around an inventor named Brian. He has a history of inventing, building, crafting, and assembling whatever he can find either in his sights or his mind. It has practically become his life. One day, Brian decides to build a robot. Once the robot is built, the two develop an unlikely bond, allowing Brian to have someone close in his mostly isolated life.

First off, I want to apologize for not posting in awhile. This is the longest I have gone in years without making a new post after a previous one. I usually do at least one post every seven days, but that has been broken. I cannot promise whether or not this could happen again, but just know I am still invested in Scene Before. It has been a busy couple weeks, and I cannot say my non-blog related productivity will come to an end this week. Either way, I am finally glad to be able to talk about this movie because I love you, my viewers, the ones who stick around. And also, spoiler, this is a good movie. I am happy to give it some promotion.

I happened to flock to “Brian and Charles” on a whim. I already saw a couple movies earlier in the week, and I probably would not have gone to “Brian and Charles” if it were not for my AMC A-List membership. I was going to see this film at a press screening, but my plans to see “Lightyear” conflicted with that, so I passed on it. Speaking of passing, time passed long enough for me to watch the trailer for “Brian and Charles” on a Saturday afternoon. Next thing I knew, forty minutes later, I was in the cinema. Unlike “Lightyear,” which I eagerly awaited for months, “Brian and Charles” sort of came out of nowhere for me, but the little marketing I saw in advance intrigued me. It felt like an intimate spin on our relationship with technology.

Having walked out of “Brian and Charles,” there is definitely an intimate relationship. Although it is not necessarily with technology despite what the movie visualizes. The best way I can describe “Brian and Charles” is that it is a fun, entertaining parody on particular relationships between a parent and their child. Now, Brian never developed or adopted a human child in this movie. Sorry if this minute, irrelevant detail is a spoiler, there is nothing I can do about it. In a way, Charles, the robot Brian builds and attaches himself to, is heavily personified. It is not so much a robot as it is some sort of equivalent to Brian’s son. It is weird to think about, but the weirdness of this film is also what makes it work, it makes it charming.

To enhance a point in this review I would like to harken back to one of the films I reviewed last year. An animated feature by the name of “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” That film does something in its script that becomes a notable character trait. If you have seen that movie, you’d know that the defective B-bot played by Zach Galifinakis speaks in complete sentences, but as some robots tend to do, he says his words in a particularly similar pattern from start to finish and certain words are repeated throughout the film in the exact same tone. As much as I like Zach Galifinakis, his portrayal of the B-Bot became annoying throughout the film. But that also may have to do with the writing, the directing, and the post production so Galifankis is not necessarily the one to blame. My point is, this is a tactic that is similarly realized with Charles the robot in “Brian and Charles.” Although in this case, unlike Galifinakis’s human-like voice being featured in a defective piece of technology, this movie allows us to hear the voice of Chris Hayward, who from scene one emits Stephen Hawking vibes. Not only does the voice sound robotic, the way it shifts from word to word is incredible. Every pronunciation feels singular and I imagine much like “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” a lot of intensive editing, whether it was on camera or in post, went into making this voice believable.

Despite this accurately robotic voice, the human-like components within Charles are clear. This movie ended up subverting my expectations a bit because if you watch the trailer, I thought of the relationship between Brian and Charles to be that of close friends. At times, it does feel like that, but again, it also feels like Brian is Charles’s dad, allowing for some scenes where Brian is pictured as the bigger man and Charles as the one who has to listen to his master.

Despite being the bigger man, Brian is not the only character with a major goal throughout the film. There is a saying that kids grow up fast. And as I grow up, I realize more and more that I want to go out into the world, see some things I have never seen before. I want to tread my own path, whether it is through a career, education, or in the case that this movie presents, travel. This movie has an entertaining plot thread where Charles finds out about Honolulu, Hawaii. For the record, this movie is set in rural Wales, meaning that a trip to Hawaii is not only expensive, but far. These are two factors that many people would consider before traveling. Not Charles. Without going into much detail, this is not only entertaining and hilarious, but it enhances the movie’s metaphor about growing up, evolving as a child or parent for that matter. No matter who you are you have to sometimes take risks. They could be for one’s own good, they could build character. It also shows how little of a concept children have of time and money. When I went to on vacation in the White Mountains or Orlando when I was younger, money was not the first thing that came to mind. My initial thoughts were in regard to the attractions or a game plan. The moment Charles saw Honolulu on the television, he had an endless desire to go. It reminded me of a toddler who sees a store they know or a toy they recognize and they will do anything to either go in the store or have their parents buy said toy.

This story is a special case amongst movies featuring robots. There are a lot of movies out there like “The Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” where they have the same clear lesson. Don’t trust technology, don’t trust A.I.. This movie does not have that lesson. And like a vast number of the movies I would put in the same category as those two, there really is not much action or futuristic elements involved. It was nice to see a movie with robots that felt more down to earth than others. Even “Interstellar,” or the recent animation “Lightyear” which have friendly A.I. characters, are galactic adventures. Those movies are not 100% down to earth. Aside from being a cute odd couple comedy, “Brian and Charles” excels by not always relying on all the cliches, even if the movie has predictable moments, which it does. Nevertheless, I do recommend the movie. It is different, but if you like different, you might like the film.

In the end, “Brian and Charles” is not my favorite movie of the year, but its unique charm is enough to make it one of 2022’s most delightful surprises. I am in my early twenties and for the past few years I have seen certain movies that reminded me of a certain time in my life, part of this movie did that in regard to my present. A good movie can entertain you, while a really good movie can enhance or remind you of who you are. This one did both of those things. Despite my recent recommendation, this is definitely not a movie for everyone, but it is a movie for me. Maybe it will be for you too. I am going to give “Brian and Charles” a 7/10.

“Brian and Charles” is now playing in theatres, that is if it is still in theatres, I cannot find any showtimes… That said, if it is not playing at a theatre near you, please check out the film when it hits streaming services and DVD shelves. It is worth a watch. It is quirky, fun, and an all round delight. Give it a go.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “The Black Phone” directed by Scott Derrickson. I just saw the movie a week and a half ago and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on it. I have some things to say. Also, this week is the release of “Thor: Love and Thunder!” I will be seeing the movie Thursday night, so I will be trying my best to get a review out as quick as I can. And per usual, like every other movie I review, including Marvel titles, I will do my best to avoid spoilers. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Brian and Charles?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a place you have been dying to see in your travels? Internationally, I think London, certain parts of New Zealand, and Tokyo are close to the top of my list. List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!