“Beast” is directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest) and stars Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, The Suicide Squad), Iyana Halley (Abbott Elementary, This is Us), Leah Jeffries (Rel, Empire), and Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District 9). This film follows a father his two teenage daughters who spend time together in the Savanna. Unfortunately, their explorative adventure becomes a survival mission when they come to face with a killer lion who will stop at nothing to hunt them down.
I have seen the trailer for “Beast” numerous times in the theater, part of which is due to Comcast’s outright domination in the theatrical market right now. After all, their primary film distribution outlet, Universal, is responsible for some of the more attractive films of the summer like “The Black Phone” and “Nope.” Despite seeing the trailer, I cannot claim that I was particularly stoked for the film. Granted I was not dreading it, I would say I was just indifferent. For the record, I like Idris Elba. He has evidently been on fire recently. Elba starred in my favorite live-action film of the last year, “The Suicide Squad.” He also recently voiced Knuckles in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” which is not quite as good as its predecessor. Despite what I just said, Elba was the highlight of that film to me. His voice was perfect for the character. Elba is full of charisma in almost anything he does, so while “Beast” was never at the top my list of films to see, I went in with some positive curiosity.
What did I think of “Beast?” Well, I would not say it has replay value, but it is also certainly not the worst man vs. nature film of the year. “Beast” is the kind of film I would probably watch in a hotel room when I have trouble deciding what to watch and need to put something on so I can fall asleep at night. It is entertaining, but it comes with its flaws, most notably the characters.
There are worse characters in other movies, and the ones in “Beast” are not exactly insufferable. But the roster of characters in this film feel like a roster conceived by Michael Bay in some summer blockbuster that has forced corny humor. I imagine on paper, these characters were well written, if I read their dialogue or motivations on a page, I would buy into them and appreciate what I see. But when it comes to the screen, not everything translated properly.
While this movie does not shine in terms of characterization, the same cannot be said for the way this film looks and sounds. Some of the shots of the Savanna landscape do look presentable. And every time the lion roars in the film, it does feel rather terrifying. It is weird to think, but as far as creature-based films go, this movie is perhaps scarier than the last couple “Jurassic World” installments. I think this is because “Beast,” while its primary focus is on a lion, not dinosaurs, has more in common with the “Jurassic Park” movies at the franchise’s inception, when it was more about making the creatures a specialty. They were a threat, and like other threats, they showed their true colors, but they were not overexposed. Unlike most of the “Jurassic Park” movies, “Beast” focuses on one lion the entire time and lets its human characters, who are unfortunately not that interesting, but still more interesting than Owen and Claire in “Jurassic World,” take as much of the spotlight as they can muster.
It is crazy to think that this movie is from Universal Pictures, because they also released the “Jurassic Park” movies. And based on “Beast” being better than the most recent “Jurassic Park” installment, I would not mind seeing a “Beast” simulator ride at Universal Studios in the future.
There really is not much to this movie other than the fact that the main family has to find a way to survive to the end. That’s really it. If you are coming into “Beast” and expect a Shakespearean drama where a family deals with conflict amongst themselves that will resonate for the ages, then look elsewhere. If anything, “Beast” reminded me of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I admittedly enjoyed to a greater capacity and would actually watch a couple more times, but still.
The reason “Beast” reminded me of “Godzilla vs. Kong” is because if you are looking for epic creatures doing epic creature stuff, then that is an A+ movie. The characters, while not horribly offensive, are kind of dumb, unmemorable, and despite their quirks, they do not steal the spotlight from the from the monsters themselves. Yes, the star power of Idris Elba was definitely evident. Kind of like the star power of Millie Bobby Brown in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but Elba’s star power did not erase the attention I had for the lion. Partially because despite the limited characterization, Elba was competently directed and he played his part well. He is not going to win an Oscar for this movie, and as far as summer movies go, he churned out a better performance in “Pacific Rim,” but he gave a good encapsulation.
I have a strong feeling that if Idris Elba were not the star of this film, “Beast” would have probably never gone to theaters. Maybe it could play for a limited run in Los Angeles or something, but on paper, “Beast” comes off as a movie I would find on television. It feels weird to say because Baltasar Kormákur is not a name I would think of when it comes to that comparison, as he previously directed “Everest,” which despite its disposability, looked pristine in almost every shot.
Going back to my hotel room comparison, I would probably watch this film, in the background that is, if I randomly found it while flipping through channels. If I had to write a review like this and I needed background noise, there are worse options out there in terms of finding something to help me concentrate on my work. But in all seriousness, if Idris Elba were not the star, I could see this movie having gone straight to Syfy or even direct to DVD. Remember that? It’s still a thing! Have you ever been to a Walmart and seen all these crappy looking, ripoff movies? Yeah, this would randomly blend in with the three thousand direct to DVD shark movies that have come out over the past few years. No offense to Amber Midthunder, but I assume if “Prey,” the new “Predator” movie, starred someone who has evidently been a box office draw, that movie would have went theatrical instead of straight to Hulu. I have not seen the movie, so I cannot comment on how good it is. But I can say that if they had Margot Robbie or Jennifer Garner for example, 20th Century Studios would have probably leant towards putting the movie in theaters. Before I saw “Beast,” I asked my friend if he wanted to go, and when I described the movie, before I even said the title, I mentioned Idris Elba’s name. That goes to show how much of a selling point he is. Even a movie with this low brow of a plot could be sellable with a star like Elba attached. I was sold at the door. Too bad I probably will not watch the movie again anytime soon.
In the end, “Beast” is a movie with a straight to DVD vibe that went theatrical due to its polish and bankable lead. As of writing, “Beast” barely past its budget of $36 million at the box office, so Idris Elba-wise, this could wind up being less of a “Pacific Rim” and more of a “Cats.” Only time will tell, but the latter seems likely at this point. “Beast” is arguably the most positively middle of the road film of the year so far. It is not good enough for an instant rewatch, but it is also not terrible enough to say that my time was wasted. It is only 93 minutes long, and the runtime is suitable enough for the limited story at hand. I am going to give “Beast” a 6/10.
“Beast” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now!
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones. Just recently I shared my thoughts on the Jordan Peele-directed blockbuster “Nope,” which yes, I think you should read. Also, if you want more star power, check out my review for “DC League of Super-Pets,” the all new animated movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Speaking of Beasts, I think it is time to once again promote a recent post I did that I am unbelievably proud of, my extended thoughts as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” which has now become not only one of my favorite movies, but my gateway drug into anime. Also stay tuned for more reviews coming soon because I will be sharing my thoughts on the musical biopic “Elvis” and the brand new anime film “Inu-Oh.” 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 “Beast?” What did you think about it? Or, out of curiosity, for those of who have seen both movies… Did you enjoy “Beast” or “Jurassic World: Dominion” more? I am genuinely curious and given how both films are from the same distribution company, I figured this would be an appropriate question to ask. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is directed by Halina Reijn, an industry insider mostly known for acting, but one who also took on previous directorial work such as the dramatic thriller “Instinct.” This film stars Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give, The Darkest Minds), Maria Bakalova (The Bubble, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Myha’la Herrold (Plan B, Industry), Chase Sui Wonders (Generation, On the Rocks), Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby, Call Your Mother), Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), and Pete Davidson (The King of Staten Island, Big Time Adolescence). This film is set at a giant house during a violent hurricane. A group of twenty-somethings come together to have a “hurricane party” despite the dangers the storm might bring. As the party goes along, various shenanigans ensue ranging from being overly honest about friendship to actual death.
Ah yes, another A24 film! A24 is one of my favorite distributors in the market right now thanks to a series of great films like “Room” “Eighth Grade,” and “Minari.” All of these films are watchable and attractive in their own way. And the studio is killing it so far with its undoubtedly epic 2022 slate. One of their most recent films, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” might just be the cutest flick I have seen in years. It is also the first time I can remember, at least in a long time, laughing so hard in a theater that I drooled. And I cannot go on without recognizing the cinematic achievement that is “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Of the few multiverse stories that audiences have been treated to in recent history, this is the most heartfelt and an absolute treat of a movie. The film of focus for this review, “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” is one that I was looking forward to even without the A24 label being shown. That was just a bonus. The marketing has revealed some likable talent like Pete Davidson, who I enjoyed through his work on “Saturday Night Live” and even through his short appearance in James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad.” The movie looked dark but fun, and I was hoping for nothing more than maybe a scary good time.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” advertises itself as a mix of slasher horror with a little bit of comedy. I thought both of those elements were well presented. Speaking of presentation, I am surprised to say that “Bodies Bodies Bodies” features some of my favorite shots of the year. The color palette leaps off the screen sometimes in the best possible way. The cinematographer of “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” Jasper Wolf, previously worked on “Instinct,” which as mentioned before, was also directed by Halina Reijn. I hope these two continue their business relationship on an upcoming project because this film looked better than I could have ever expected.
It’s been a couple weeks since I have seen “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” and I feel like I remember more about the movie’s spectacle and vibe more than its characters. The characters in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” are performed to the best of each actor’s ability. Honestly, this movie consistently elicits a feel that I am meeting a series of strangers in a club, so in a way it did its job. But if there is one thing that this film reminds me of, it is my inability to specifically remember everyone I just met. These characters, while they all have wild and dynamic personalities and are attractive at first glance, are not the most memorable. At times, the characters are slightly disposable despite the fact that I almost can imagine few specific actors filling a particular character’s role.
I was born in 1999, therefore I am amongst the Gen Z crowd. This film pokes fun at my generation and makes no apologies for it. The tagline is even fitting for the film, “THIS IS NOT A SAFE SPACE,” which uses a couple words that are often negatively associated with my generation. …And to be quite frank… Given the current social climate, almost every generation living today… Anybody ever heard of Fox News? As a satire, this film succeeds at what it sets out to do. Introduce a set of characters who are so twisted and out of left field that despite having traits that some might find down to earth, their flaws stick out like a sore thumb. This made the movie wildly entertaining, but if I must state a couple negatives, it is that this movie nearly travels like a bullet train, almost too fast. The other negative, is that the characters come off as idiots. That is the point, but it can get annoying. There are such things as lovable idiots, and this movie has its moments of lovable idiocy, but it also has an occasional over the top vibe that could be seen as a problem.
This movie’s title is “Bodies Bodies Bodies” because that is also the title of a game these twenty-somethings play with each other. Think of it as “Clue” but without the board. Now, I understood the movie just fine. I understood what it was trying to go for in regards to the message. But if I had come close to not understanding something in the movie, it would be the game itself. The rules and actions of the game, based on the way they are presented in the movie, come off as more convoluted than they have to be. Maybe it is because of the characters and the way they are written. These are all obnoxious partiers who risked their lives through a hurricane just to be in the same place. If I watch the game being played out, it is a somewhat simple premise, but through the exposition and explanation this movie gives, it feels more convoluted than it should. Although it does remind me of when my friends introduce me to a game I never played or I play Yahtzee with someone who is not that experienced with the game. We’re not going to get it right from square one.
When it comes to A24’s slate this year, “Marcel the Shell” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” are better movies. I would rather watch those again. Although, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has more in line with the latter. “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has dark comedy, it is kind of zany, and fast-paced. Although if I must note one thing “Marcel” and “Everything Everywhere” had that this film did not, it would be heart. Granted, this is not the first film that I would think of when it comes to heart. It is a satire where friends almost in a way become enemies. If you are looking for an intentionally heartless movie, this might be a solid choice. But I also think this is where the movie becomes a double edged sword. The movie is really good at delivering a story where the characters become more and more unhinged. Although this craziness nearly reaches a tipping point which depending on your mood, could become a problem. Despite this, I had a good time with the movie and it was another solid addition to A24’s lovely roster of films.
In the end, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” was an absurdly fun movie. Emphasis on the absurd. This is not going to be a movie for everyone. Some might be annoyed by the pacing, others might think the characters are too over the top, and maybe it will not work as a satire. I had problems with the movie, and I evidently dove deep into them. But the positives of the film outweigh the negatives. I did laugh at the film, I found it amusing, but if I wanted to watch a horror movie where a bunch of rich people play a game around a single house, I would rather watch “Ready or Not.” Even with its flaws, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a fun time. I recommend the movie and I will give it a 7/10.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! I have more reviews coming soon! Stay tuned for my thoughts on the new creature feature, “Beast!” Also, I will soon be sharing my honest opinions about “Elvis,” which I finally got the chance to see. Last but not least, look forward to my review of the all new anime film “Inu-Oh!” No joke, I had an AMC A-List reservation to go see this film, but I ended up skipping it due to a last minute conflict. So I ended up driving out of state just to go see the film before it left theaters for good. Was it worth the drive? You’ll find out soon! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Bodies Bodies Bodies?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you enjoy that has a ton of unlikable characters? I think “Jurassic World” is one that comes to mind given the main characters’ motives and lack of dimension, but it is quite a spectacle. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
DISCLAIMER: Before this review had been published, reports suggest Angelina Jolie had been revealed as a plantiff in recent assault allegations against her former partner, Brad Pitt. Scene Before (flicknerd.com) is a film review-centered website and will review “Bullet Train” in the same way it reviews any other movie regardless of who its crew happens to be and what their past actions are. Scene Before and its owner, Jack Drees, does not condone actions of assault.
“Bullet Train” is directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) and stars Brad Pitt (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, World War Z), Joey King (Ramona and Beezus, The Kissing Booth), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Eternals), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Snake Eyes), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, Mortal Kombat), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Bad Bunny, and Sandra Bullock (Gravity, The Lost City). This film centers around a former assassin, known by the name Ladybug, who is tasked with acquiring a briefcase on a bullet train, all the while encountering other deadly assassins.
Brad Pitt has been on fire in recent years with the success of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Not only did he receive critical acclaim for the role, but he went on to win the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the SAG, and the Oscar for his work. After adding all of these awards to his Tinder profile and wiping off his sweat from the forgettable “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt is back to work releasing another cornerstone of the summer. Albeit this one definitely fits the definition of “summer movie” compared to his outing with Tarantino.
Not only is Pitt the big star this time around in this movie, because joining him you have cast members including Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry, both of whom are likely the best part of the entire story. Their chemistry is undeniable. Some of the major awards ceremonies like the Oscars do not rank on-screen couples or duos, but one awards show that does is the Razzies. If the Razzies decided to give a Worst On-Screen Couple nomination to Tangerine and Lemon, then I think they are high. Their awards body would need to seek a medical professional.
But behind the camera, you have an action director who has been making the rounds in recent years in David Leitch. He is a legend in regards to stuntwork, which he has been credited for in films like “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Matrix Revolutions,” “300,” “TRON: Legacy,” and even though I do not look back at “Jupiter Ascending” as the best sci-fi film ever, its stunts were never the problem. As a director, his work on “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” are thrilling to say the least. Therefore, it is nice to see him have another go at an action flick. Overall, I had a ball with Leitch’s latest attempt at delivering some fast-paced glory.
The biggest positive I can give to “Bullet Train” is that the action, per usual, is ridiculously entertaining. While somewhat similar, this outing seems to have a different flair compared to say “Deadpool 2” in terms of how the action is delivered. Let’s imagine… You sat me down to watch this film, and I went in blind. If you told me that this film were directed by Guy Ritchie, I would believe you. It kind of had that same pace that films like “Snatch” and “The Gentlemen” delivered. If anything, “Bullet Train” comes off as what would happen if Guy Ritchie were given some of the tools to direct a “John Wick” movie. Now, “John Wick” is obviously in a different universe, but the action in this movie felt somewhat reminiscent of something I’d see in a more modern, stylized action film such as John Wick. There is a great sequence between Ladybug and Wolf (Bad Bunny) where the latter goes all Jason Voorhees on him and the former’s main defense is a briefcase. It’s ridiculous, but as the review’s title suggests, this ridiculousness lives up to the name. The movie is over two hours and not nearly a minute of the movie feels wasted.
This film is based on a book which I have never read. Therefore, I cannot tell you the differences between the two stories. But what I can tell you is that at times, “Bullet Train,” the movie, feels like a graphic novel or a comic book. There are several shots and sequences that leap off the screen and made me feel like I was in the moment, perhaps in a hyperactive way.
Going back to Tangerine and Lemon, one of my favorite moments in the movie is where we get into this flashback sequence where we reveal how many people they killed. That is the spice this movie needed to individualize itself. It kind of had a “Deadpool” flair, which should not be surprising considering the director’s previous work. And again, it also kind of had the pace of a Guy Ritchie movie. I would love to see more stories told in this style, from this universe. It does not even have to be on the same characters. But if we could get a similarly set story from David Leitch’s mind perhaps, I would want to check it out.
But at the same time, if you ask me, I would rather go back and watch one of David Leitch’s previously mentioned movies. This is not a complete diss on “Bullet Train” because I had a GREAT time with “Bullet Train,” I just think “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Hobbs & Shaw” offer a smidge more of entertainment than “Bullet Train.” Just a smidge. The one thing I can say is that the competition for which David Leitch movie I randomly put on the TV on a Friday night just got a lot harder, because these are all entertaining flicks in their own way. “Atomic Blonde” feels grounded yet fun. “Deadpool 2” is silly yet gory. “Hobbs & Shaw” is absurd yet delightful. “Bullet Train,” if you ask me, is obnoxious yet hilarious. It has the right amount of ridiculous, but it does not go too over the top in an annoying way. Kind of like “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It is a movie that knows what it is from starts to finish. It starts as a nonsensical spy movie, and ends as an even more nonsensical, but also satisfying spy movie.
Also, I must say, that as someone who grew up with “Thomas the Tank Engine,” this movie is a wonderful tribute to my childhood. You would have to see the movie to understand.
If I had any other comments in regard to “Bullet Train,” the main one that comes to mind, sticking with the ridiculousness, is that the ending is probably some of the most stupid fun I have ever had during any of my recent moviegoing experiences. “Bullet Train” is willing to embrace its ridiculous nature and the ending is just the cherry on top. If you like big, loud action movies, this could be for you. I’d rather watch “John Wick,” but when it comes to being a supposed “John Wick” wannabe, this is a fun ride that you might want to buckle up for.
In the end, “Bullet Train” is probably some of the most fun I have had at the movies this summer. All the actors do their best with the material. And while Brad Pitt does a good job in the movie as Ladybug, the whole story eventually becomes the Tangerine and Lemon show. I would love to see another story with these two as the leads. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry play their parts with excellence. This is a slow month for movies, but if you are looking for something to watch, I would buy a ticket to ride what I would call a fast-paced thrill. I am going to give “Bullet Train” a 7/10.
“Bullet Train” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new A24 film “Bodies Bodies Bodies!” Stay tuned! Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Beast!” 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 “Bullet Train?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of David Leitch’s films? For me, I gotta say of the ones he’s directed, “Deadpool 2” stands out the most. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Vengeance” is directed by and stars B.J. Novak (The Office, Saving Mr. Banks). Joining him is a cast consisting of Boyd Holbrook (Logan, The Predator), Dove Cameron (Descendants, Liv and Maddie), Issa Rae (Little, The Lovebirds), and Ashton Kutcher (That 70s Show, Two and Half Men). The film is about a writer who travels to rural Texas and attempts to figure out the happenings behind the murder of a girl he previously hooked up with.
I live in Massachusetts, and as someone who lives in Massachusetts, I often get excited to hear that particular people from my state like Elizabeth Banks or Ben Affleck get involved in a project or do a project of their own. I feel a sense of pride as a “wicked smaht” Bay Stater who occasionally stops by a Dunkin’. The U.S. version of “The Office,” despite being a sitcom I could never get into, has a few Bay Staters in the main cast including Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and the one we are going to focus on for this review, B.J. Novak.
Unfortunately for Novak, of the three stars of “The Office” I previously mentioned, he is the one I know the least about. I am more likely to acknowledge Carell or Krasinski. Steve Carell has terrific range from doing voiceovers in projects like the “Despicable Me” franchise, slapstick comedy through movies like “Anchorman,” and even drama flicks such as “Beautiful Boy.” John Krasinski is obviously known for his acting career, but I have grown fond of him for his directorial efforts in “A Quiet Place” and its sequel. But, this year, Novak is the new Krasinski. Not only is he directing a movie, he is starring in that same movie.
Although Krasinski has the upper hand if you ask me, because the concept of his movie felt more marketable. It felt more attractive. Novak’s new film, “Vengeance,” like any movie, could be good. But the trailer, if I had anything positive to say, barely sold me. Then I saw the movie… What did I think?
In theory, I like the messages this movie tries to convey. It dives into a number of a conversation-starting topics and ideas. Do we stereotype people too much or do stereotypes continue to have a place in our society? Is humanity, from a general perspective, too full of itself? Are we too attached to our electronics and is it heavily affecting what we could be experiencing in the real world? I like these concepts and questions. But it pains me to say that these are all presented in a script that could have been better.
Speaking of which, not only did Novak direct and star in the film, he wrote it too. This was undoubtedly a personal project, which only makes me feel worse that I have to describe why it did not work for me.
You want to know what sucks? Vacuums. You want to know what blows? Protagonists who you do not particularly like from the first scene. I wanted to relate to the character of Ben Manalowitz (right), and while I was able to find charm from the character here and there, I do not think the character was written in a way that sat well with me. The movie sells this character as a writer who has very much adapted to the northern city life. But in addition to that, he often came off as moody, or unlikable on the outside. I do not know what it is, but I feel like every scene he was in, he did not want to be doing what he was doing. I like the concept of his character, and he does his best to enforce the conceptual messages which I did enjoy, but the execution could have been better.
As I watched this movie, I got the sense that it was trying to present itself, maybe to an audience like mine, as a cultural shock. You know how you enter a country you’ve read a ton about but you have never been to? This is what I felt as a Bay Stater watching this movie about rural Texas. It is a movie that maybe is supposed to induce feelings of discomfort or unfamiliarity, and I think it did its job. But at the same time, I felt like some of the stuff that happens in Texas, at least in this movie, were a bit over the top. I was looking at the New York or more urban scenes and felt a contrast between that and the rural scenes. The rural scenes, or their centered characters, felt more exaggerated, more like cartoons at times. According to Wikipedia, B.J. Novak traveled to Texas to do research on the area and hoped that would translate into the movie’s concept or story. I do not know how over the top rural Texas is as I have never been, but I need to know how Novak came up with these specific Texan characters.
If I had to declare my favorite part of “Vengeance,” it would be one clip where Ben interviews the family and asks them some questions. In one scene, he asks what makes the family’s area so great. It only takes a second for the young boy, known by the nickname “El Stupido,” to shout “WHATABURGER!” Other than spending an hour or two at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to catch a connecting flight, I have never been to Texas. But even as someone from the north, the moment I heard the word “Whataburger,” I knew that this would be a somewhat accurate description of certain parts of Texas. We do not get Whataburger in Massachusetts, but it is everywhere in Texas. I know people who have been, and they say it is quite good. And besides, I go back to what I say in the beginning of the post and that random Dunkin’ comment. Like Whataburger, I can say that Dunkin’ is sort of a cornerstone to the lives of New Englanders. Obviously, Dunkin’ can be seen on the west coast. But there is a reason why Whataburger has such an association with Texas, and New England sports stars like David Ortiz and Rob Gronkowski have done commercialized material together for Dunkin’. So, good job on the inside humor.
Before we close off this review, I have to say the flaw that stuck with me the most is the way the film ended. I do not want to give any spoilers as this movie is only a few weeks old, but I will remind everyone reading this that the film is called “Vengeance” for a reason. Part of that reason is shown in the film’s climax. This allows us to see our protagonist do something, I will not say what, that felt completely out of character for them. Some may argue that this is “character development,” but as someone who saw the film, I would say that this was tacked on. Yes, in screenwriting, and therefore, in movies, there are “rules.” They do not always have to be followed, art and filmmaking are subjective after all, but nevertheless. One of the cliches of a protagonist is that they have to change throughout the film. And we see that here. Doesn’t mean the change is good. Once again, the concept is there, but the execution is not.
In the end, “Vengeance” could have been better. This is not the worst movie of the year, but if you are looking for something to watch at this point, there are better options out there. Unfortunately this August is a slow month for movies, especially more mainstream titles. But I would nevertheless recommend you even go see “Top Gun: Maverick” a third time at this point. I went into “Vengeance” not knowing what to expect and I left feeling unsatisfied. I wish B.J. Novak the best in his future works,. If he decides to direct more movies, I hope they are better than this forgettable outing. I am going to give “Vengeance” a 5/10.
“Vengeance” is now playing in theaters and is also available to watch on VOD platforms.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Brad Pitt-starring action flick “Bullet Train.” I will not say much about it other than the fact that it literally lives up to its name. If you want to know my thoughts, stay tuned for the review. Also coming up, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and “Beast.” 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 “Vengeance?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite project involving B.J. Novak? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“DC League of Super-Pets” is directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine, and stars Dwayne Johnson (Doom, Skyscraper), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Night School), Kate McKinnon (Yesterday, Saturday Night Live), John Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office), Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, Big Mouth), Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Narcos: Mexico), Marc Maron (Maron, GLOW), Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, Sonic the Hedgehog), and Thomas Middleditch (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Silicon Valley). This film follows Krypto the Super-Dog, as he must figure out how to rescue his owner, Superman.
I love comic book movies. And I know I am not alone. If the box office for most of the films within this classification have shown anything, it is that films of this type are hotter than they have ever been. Marvel Studios is on fire right now with the release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in addition to the massively successful “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” both of which ended up in my top 10 best of last year. DC is also doing well for themselves. I enjoyed “The Batman” despite some pacing issues I had with the film, and I thought last year’s “The Suicide Squad” might just be the best movie to ever have the DC logo attached. And in the midst of all of these movies that I either looked forward to or saw and really enjoyed, I never thought “DC League of Super-Pets” would live up to the quality standards that we have seen in other comic book-based works. If anything, I thought it would probably be on the same level as “Morbius,” only slightly more comedic and family-friendly.
I will be real. I cannot remember the last time I asked for a movie about Superman’s dog, but here we are. Why did I see it? Because I have reviews to get done and AMC A-List is a dynamite investment. I love not paying for movies that I feel the need to see to stay in the loop. Although at the same time, if you have names as big as Kevin Hart or Keanu Reeves, that should bring something promising to the table. And this brings me to my first positive, which I will dive more into later, Keanu Reeves was the highlight of the film.
What did I think of “DC League of “Super-Pets?” It’s predictable, mediocre, and I do not think the comedy landed that much. I have heard some differing opinions, but if you ask me, even some of the more clever jokes in this movie did not garner much of a reaction out of me. Some of the comedy attempts either felt tired, forced, or obvious. There is a “Paw Patrol”-related joke that probably would have been funnier if I did not make a “Paw Patrol” comparison before the film came out. Speaking of “Paw Patrol,” one thing about that show is that it is specifically made for kids. That’s the vibes I got from “DC League of Super-Pets’s” marketing campaign. All kiddy, no maturity. Turns out there is some adult humor in this film, but even that did not land. I can only hear the censor bar so many times before the gag becomes tiresome. This is honestly unfortunate considering the film is written by Jared Stern and John Whittington, who previously wrote another animated DC flick, “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Regardless of its comic-based origins and spinoff placement, it is one of the funniest animation scripts done in recent years. That movie had five writers! I hope for the sake of Stern and Whittington that they came up with at least one of the clever jokes that script contained, because “DC League of Super-Pets” feels like a far cry to the 2017 “LEGO Batman” spinoff.
The story of “DC League of Super-Pets” does not reinvent the wheel. I never asked for this movie to begin with, and therefore I never asked it to reinvent the wheel, therefore I did not know what to expect. But the movie itself sort of reminded me of a longer episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, but not necessarily a great one. I also think the script of “DC League of Super-Pets” is probably going to land better with those who are dog or cat people. People who have pets and consider them part of their family. I live in a space where there are pets, but they are not necessarily my pets, so this script did not connect with me maybe in the way the writers hoped it would.
I want to talk about the biggest problem in this movie, and this is the problem that the movie has built up ever since its first teaser. Going back to the big names. Having big names like Dwayne Johnson in your movie always builds intrigue and promise. It’s like when a printer gets endorsed by Shaquille O’Neal, or Mark Cuban becomes a quasi-mascot of a new, innovative product, or when Howie Mandel fist bumps everything in your store for some reason. When this film’s first teaser released, the primary focus was on the stacked cast this movie managed to acquire from Dwayne Johnson to Kevin Hart to Kate McKinnon to John Krasinski and so on. I want to talk about those first two names. Dwayne Johnson is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, and Kevin Hart, in addition to being a relevant comedian, has worked with The Rock in the past on “Central Intelligence” and the “Jumanji” movies. This is their third property together, and I do not mind actors or crew joining forces more than once. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have worked together numerous times in “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Gangster Squad,” and “La La Land.” Their chemistry is undeniable.
I have no idea if this is coincidental or not, but the Gosling/Stone pairing is a match every time. The difference between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone compared to Johnson and Hart is the ability of the former pair to show range. Ryan Gosling can be the sexy boy toy, he can sing, he can be stoic. Emma Stone can be a quirky young woman, she can be an aspiring actress, she can be someone from a couple centuries ago. The two are “actors,” not stars. Johnson and Hart, despite having personality, are not the greatest thespians, and it shows in “DC League of Super-Pets.” When I look at Krypto, I see The Rock. When I look at Ace, I see Kevin Hart. In my imagination, they are just playing versions of themselves in animated dog form. This is why part of me is often worried when I think about the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie because like “DC League of Super-Pets,” I am just worried that Chris Pratt is going to do another version of Emmet from “The LEGO Movie” or something. Chris Pratt, like The Rock, while he is definitely a better actor, is not the greatest of the performers working today. Pratt’s voice is recognizable, and that is part of why it felt weird hearing said voice in Pixar’s “Onward.” I am not saying live-action movie stars should not voice animated characters. Some have as much talent as those who primarily do voice-acting. But these roles show Johnson and Hart’s lack of range as actors. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart always do the same schtick or some variation of it in their movies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Not having a live-action environment hinders that and makes this film the weakest of their collaborations. And the fact that I am looking at these dogs’ faces and seeing nothing but Johnson and Hart makes their performances creepier than they should be.
I said I will get back to Keanu Reeves. A promise is a promise. Reeves is easily this film’s best part. Not just because of his voice, but the character he plays, that being Batman. Much like “The LEGO Batman Movie,” this interpretation of Batman or Bruce Wayne is on the more parodic side, and rightfully so. I said earlier that I was slightly concerned that Jared Stern and John Whittington possibly never came up with any solid jokes in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Although after reminiscing on Batman in this film, part of me has second thoughts. I was not a huge fan of the film’s comedy, but the parts where I was almost rolling on the floor were the scenes where Batman shows up. His screen time in this film is minimal. Think of it as a funny Stan Lee cameo where he plays himself except it happens ten times. Despite this movie’s lighthearted tone, it also pokes fun at the darkness of the Caped Crusader. Everything from his lone wolf mentality to his lack of parents. It’s hilarious, and I might every once in a while look on YouTube for the scenes in this movie containing Batman just to get a laugh.
In the end, “DC League of Super-Pets” is, to my surprise, not the worst comic book movie of the year. Again, “Morbius” exists. You’re welcome, Warner Brothers! You are going to have to settle for the dishonorable mention. Some of the voice acting is hit or miss. When I watch an animated movie, part of me wants to forget that I am watching something that has The Rock in it. I think as far as voice performances go, Johnson’s performance in “Moana,” while not my favorite in history, is slightly better than the one he gives to Krypto. But I also do not know if I can blame it on his ability, because his voice is recognizable. When it comes to Kevin Hart playing a house pet, I’d rather listen to his performance as Snowball the terrier in “The Secret Life of Pets.” I often watch films for an escape. If I want an escape with The Rock and Kevin Hart, I would rather watch “Central Intelligence.” This is not a film that is going to stand the test of time. As far as DC goes, it is surprisingly better than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but unlike “DC League of Super-Pets,” I had higher expectations for that film. I am going to give “DC League of Super-Pets” a 5/10.
“DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the film “Vengeance,” directed by B.J. Novak. Also be on the lookout for my review for “Bullet Train,” the new action flick starring Brad Pitt as he and assassins crowd up a speeding train in Japan. 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 “DC League of Super-Pets?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast that disappointed you? For me, that big disappointment was 2017’s “The Circle,” starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega, among others. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to talk about! I mean, wow! Before we dive into what has been happening lately at Warner Bros. Discovery, let me give you a recap of some of the events that went down during AT&T’s possession of Warner Bros..
If you asked me what I thought about the state of Warner Bros. a year ago, I would have said I was nervous. Warnermedia’s decision to put all of their big movies on HBO Max hurt most of those movies that already happened to be finished. This ultimately hurt their box office, not to mention potential word of mouth and longevity. Sure, it definitely seemed like a good idea to combat COVID-19 and certain titles like “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune” had a halfway decent performance, but it does not change the fact that for the most part, the performance of most of these films were financially hindered. While some may argue that Warnermedia offered viewers a choice by putting their movies both in theaters and on streaming, they also had a long-term goal on prioritizing content for HBO Max, which was created through said ownership.
For the most part, HBO Max was not a bad idea. It contained a lot of the latest movies from studios like Universal, Fox, and Warner Brothers, the entire DC library, some of the shows from Turner networks like TBS and TNT. They had a good thing going. Then in 2020, it was announced that Warner Brothers’s entire slate of films for the next year would go to HBO Max in addition to theatres, as recently mentioned. This technically started with the 2020 film “Wonder Woman 1984.” The unexpected move led to the film’s star and director, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins respectively, receiving more than $10 million as a result. Alternate stars on the other hand were not favored.
“Representatives for major Warner Bros. stars like Denzel Washington, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman and Angelina Jolie wanted to know why their clients had been treated in a lesser manner than Ms. Gadot. Talk of a Warner Bros. boycott began circulating inside the Directors Guild of America. A partner at one talent agency spent part of the weekend meeting with litigators. Some people started to angrily refer to the studio as Former Bros.” –The New York Times
Legendary Pictures, the production company behind “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune,” noted that they, like others, were not given advance notice on the move. On a nearly dated “Saturday Night Live” episode, host and “Dune” star Timothee Chalamet ended the show by unveiling a Legendary sweatshirt, symbolizing his support for the company.
While one perk of HBO Max is the freedom for viewers to watch the new films as many times as they want for 30 days, the caveat for the studio is that the films are free as long as the viewers subscribe. In addition to hurting the movie theaters that work alongside the studios, movies like “In the Heights,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Reminiscence,” “King Richard,” and “The Matrix Resurrections” did not even make their budgets back.
You could make the argument that HBO Max benefited from this. Sure, they had some subscribers come aboard. In fact the service topped their projections (70 million) by the end of 2021 by earning 73 million paid subscribers. But that is not enough. Warner Bros. lost one of their key filmmakers, specifically Christopher Nolan, and has damaged their trust with others as they felt backstabbed by these recent events. Denis Villeneuve, while he ultimately finished and released “Dune” in October 2021, found out about his movie’s simultaneous HBO Max release on the news long before the film ultimately came out. It is the studio’s project at the end of the day, but it does not mean Warner Bros. and AT&T can ignore common sense and decency with their fellow creators. This was a multi-million dollar collaborative effort, and it is very much Denis Villeneuve’s movie as much as it is Warnermedia’s. When Villeneuve promises he will bring forth a franchise, his mouth cannot be kept shut in situations like this.
Now that David Zaslav is responsible for the position of CEO, a position previously held by Jason Kilar, many big changes have come about in such a short time. As of now, there are no more day and date Warner Bros. movies. “The Batman,” “Elvis,” and “DC League of Super-Pets” all released in theaters exclusively for a period of time. There are still movies that have been released on HBO Max exclusively, like the romantic comedy “Moonshot,” but without the day and date option. But for the most part, the new administration has allowed their few theatrical exclusive films to shine.
Now, as a fan of the moviegoing experience, this is great. I am glad to know these movies are being seen the way the filmmakers intended. I do not know if Warner Bros. is going to restore its relationship with Christopher Nolan, but that is probably going to depend on how well “Oppenheimer” does for Universal. Although as someone who has found streaming convenient and messy, this month has demonstrated the messier elements on the HBO Max side of things.
Recent events have shown my slight lack of trust from streaming providers. Last week, HBO Max removed six films. It is normal for a streamer to get rid of their film or television content. Maybe the deal has expired and a project needs to move somewhere else, or maybe a property is under new ownership. These are perfectly valid reasons to remove a film from a service, despite disappointing the fans of that movie. What is unusual however is that a set of “Max Originals,” meaning that these projects were exclusive to HBO Max, were removed from the service. I emphasize, not HBO the channel, HBO Max. Despite being intended and marketed as exclusives, they were removed. Although if you look around, they are not QUITE exclusive. This is probably why they were called “Max Originals” and not “Max Exclusives.” These films are available for purchase on platforms like Google Play and Vudu, therefore they are not unwatchable. Well, except “Superintelligence,” you should never ever watch that movie even in your sleep. And there is also good news for physical media collectors. These movies, like the recently mentioned “Superintelligence,” are also available on DVD. So while these films may be gone from HBO Max, you can pay to watch them in other ways.
Nevertheless, an event like this shocks me as the films are technically Warner Brothers movies, which HBO Max would perhaps most likely try to maintain as they are a part of the brand. It is the same reason why you never saw “The Irishman” leave Netflix. It is the same reason why you never saw “Manchester by the Sea” leave Prime Video. It is the same reason why you never saw “LEGO Star Wars: The Holiday Special” leave Disney+. With the exception of that last one, these titles are available elsewhere such as DVD and Blu-ray, but these are ultimately the studio’s and streamer’s projects to control and maintain on their respective services. Or so I thought. They can practically do anything now and it is kind of unreal to think about.
So HBO Max got rid of six “exclusive” films. Fine. They can do that. People can still watch them elsewhere? Okay, that’s wonderful. I think it is a bit weird to not at least leave them on the service for people to at least watch, although at the same time I do not think people subscribe to HBO Max nowadays to watch “The Witches.” These films, or more specifically, where they ended up, are partially the result of the previous administration. “Superintelligence” was once supposed to release theatrically, but it was eventually dropped exclusively on HBO Max through Ben Falcone’s pitch. “The Witches,” directed by Robert Zemeckis, was supposed to be released theatrically, but was ultimately moved to HBO Max. However, it was released theatrically in international markets. I can understand why a move like this was made. In addition to promoting HBO Max, COVID-19 was still somewhat new and prominent in late 2020. But if there is something I can say “The Witches” and “Superintelligence” have in common other than their release, it is their lack of longevity. When you release a movie in theaters, you ultimately do more than simply release it for the big screen. If the movie is successful on the big screen, there is a chance it could also succeed when it comes to VOD and physical media. It already has word of mouth, and if enough people are curious, it could have a second wind. This is a tried and true method that works almost every time.
Despite my confidence, and we will dive more into that, in regard to David Zaslav as CEO, this is perhaps the one big conundrum that has come up during his time as the head of the company. If there is an outside force that is making these movies disappear, I wish I knew about it. But for now, this makes no sense.
Speaking of movies you will not be seeing anymore, let’s talk about “Batgirl.” During Jason Kilar’s run as CEO, it was announced that we would be seeing an HBO Max exclusive “Batgirl” movie set in the DCEU. The film was previously in development, partially under the creative juices of Joss Whedon, but he left the project a year after its 2017 announcement. The film would star Leslie Grace (In the Heights) and similar to “The Flash,” which we will be talking about later, viewers would be treated to Michael Keaton as he returns to play Batman. Before Zaslav became CEO, another DC film once set to hit HBO Max, “Blue Beetle,” was officially no longer an HBO Max exclusive and would instead play in theaters. This is how every other DCEU film, including the day and date-specific “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Suicide Squad,” released.
“Batgirl,” both before and after Zaslav’s beginning as CEO, was never announced to receive the same treatment. In fact, one more announcement in this crazy week is that the release of “Batgirl” would be cancelled. Nobody in the viewing public would ever get to see the movie, no matter what. Not in theatres, not on HBO Max. No bat time, no bat channel.
Obviously this came as a shock given how the film finished shooting and happened to be in post-production. And not to ignore Leslie Grace’s titular character, who wouldn’t want to see Michael Keaton as Batman again? This could have been a good movie. But after seeing more information, I had my doubts as to whether it was actually good to begin with.
“Batgirl” was originally intended for HBO Max, and when you do not have to worry about the stakes of the big screen, there is, theoretically, less of a vision that encapsulates quality. I am not saying straight to streaming movies cannot work, but it comes with a major price tag from a viewer’s perspective as being “inferior.” “Batgirl” had a $90 million budget. In DC speak, this is about the same as 2019’s “Shazam!” although about half as much as Matt Reeves’s “The Batman.” While Leslie Grace may not have carried the star power of Robert Pattinson, the movie had plenty of big names alongside her including J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, and as mentioned before, Michael Keaton. The directing team behind the film, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah had experience with action films before, not to mention 2020’s biggest picture (not that there was much competition), “Bad Boys for Life.” The two even have experience at DC’s competitor, Marvel Studios. While they never made a Marvel film, the duo handled directing duties for two episodes of the Disney+ original series “Ms. Marvel.”
For all I know, these people gave 110% to every part of the production. Leslie Grace could have given the performance of the year. Michael Keaton could have given his best portrayal of Batman yet. And this would be a movie that could establish Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah as future in-house names at DC kind of like the Russo Brothers were to Marvel for some time. But given how “Batgirl,” is cancelled as a tax write-off as of last week, I, and the viewing public as a whole, will never know for sure.
There is a saying that actions speak louder than words, but given how I have never seen “Batgirl,” I unfortunately can only rely on words at this point. However, other people have seen the movie through test screenings, and the results are reportedly not great. While the movie is said to have scored similarly to “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” which is still set to release this December, one source says the consensus led to a verdict that indicated “Batgirl” is not big enough for theaters, nor appropriate enough for a platform like HBO Max, as revealed by Hollywood insider Matthew Belloni on an episode of his podcast, “The Town.”
“This is someone who was in the test screening a couple months ago where they were trying to figure out what to do with this movie and I called him and we chatted and he said that after the screening, the executives Walter Hamada of DC and some of the others there ask the audience, “Did this feel big?” and clearly they were trying to figure out whether it felt like it deserved a theatrical release and the consensus was absolutely not. He said it played like a TV pilot, the stakes were very small… He said it felt a little like Dark Phoenix.” -Matthew Belloni
Why are they releasing “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and not “Batgirl?” That is a great question. If you ask me, I think it is a somewhat marketable film that could do well around the holiday season, or in this case, well enough to compete with “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but nevertheless. Although “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” was planned as a theatrical release this whole time, and may have been executed as such during the production. And the first trailer of the film promises some neat treats for those looking for a big screen experience. I reiterate, I have not seen “Batgirl,” but I think there is a reason why I am seeing material for “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” and nothing for “Batgirl.” While I genuinely feel terrible for everyone behind the film, I stand by David Zaslav’s decision to cancel “Batgirl.” I would rather have a genuinely great movie that will win over audiences as opposed to a terrible movie that could cause people to compare it to “Batman & Robin.” People are going to literally have to say that the best Batgirl movie is somehow “The LEGO Batman Movie!” Who thought we’d be saying that in this day and age?! And Zaslav cancelled the film for this reason. During a recent conference call, Zaslav was asked about the cancelation of “Batgirl,” which he stated was part of a restructuring of DC through a 10-year plan. This plan would be similar to what Alan Horn and Bob Iger established with producer Kevin Feige over at Disney’s Marvel Studios. In addition to that, Zaslav wants to make sure that audiences are not only getting good movies, but happen to be getting their money’s worth at the cinema similar to the studio itself through the box office as it releases its newer content.
“We’ve seen luckily by having access now to all the data, how direct-to-streaming movies perform. And our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform, how often people go there or buy it or buy a service for it and how it gets nourished over time is no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the motion – in the theaters. And so this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it.” –David Zaslav
However, I am not saying the axing of “Batgirl” is not unfortunate for the audience. I was looking forward to potentially seeing the movie. This is also an unfortunate cancelation in terms of diversity. Because Leslie Grace is Afro-Latina, giving a fresh look to the DCEU’s main heroes. This means that most of the studio’s upcoming lineup, like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash” will continue to center around white male characters. While these films are likely to be successful, it avoids giving a particular audience a film they can call their own. While “Wonder Woman” and its vastly inferior sequel obviously happen to be anthems for women, it does not change the fact that there are still some audiences who probably have not seen themselves in the heroes DC is providing. Sure, the “Suicide Squad” movies feature two different African-American leads, but as far as non-team movies go, diversity has some ways to go. Superman is a white male. Shazam is a white male. The Flash, while played by an actor who currently identifies as non-binary, is as far as we know, a white male. Harley Quinn, while not a male, is more of an anti-hero as seen in projects like “Birds of Prey.” This could have been DC’s chance to give the audience a different kind of hero. And while this may be towards the villain or anti-hero route, DC is lucky that the Dwayne Johnson-starring “Black Adam” is set to come out as the iconic movie star happens to be Black and Samoan.
At the same time though, while this is unfortunate, I will reiterate, I agree with Zaslav’s decision to cancel the film. It is not a pleasant decision to make, but as a business move, it makes sense. I am not saying people are not interested in seeing a Latina superhero, but I think that if people want a character like Batgirl, such a character should receive better treatment than what she is getting at the moment. I have to remind everyone reading this that I am a straight white male, therefore it is my responsibility to acknowledge that a lot of the movies that have come out in the superhero genre revolves around people like me. Some are great like “Iron Man” while others are not so great like “Morbius.” This is the same thing I have said about “Ghostbusters” since I watched the 2016 Paul Feig-directed reboot. You cannot just remake the movie with women and call it a day. You have to have a good script, great chemistry amongst the cast, and solid humor. Now obviously every movie has its fans, but I saw the movie and felt that it failed on those recently mentioned objectives. Pitching and selling a “Batgirl” film to the audience is half the battle. The other half is delivering a great story or experience that will stand the test of time, and I can only assume that “Batgirl” did not meet certain standards to make that happen.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cancelation of “Batgirl” has more to do with the reset plan in regard to DC and not as much to do with the talent behind the film like Leslie Grace.
“Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of “Batgirl” and “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.” -WB Insider (The Hollywood Reporter)
On that note, I will remind you that “Batgirl” is not the only upcoming Warner Bros. film that was announced to be cancelled last week, as the quote suggests that “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” a Christmas-themed “Scooby-Doo” film, was also part of the chopping block. The film was set to come out on HBO Max this year, which does not surprise me as 2020’s “Scoob!” skipped theatres and went straight to VOD due to COVID-19. While I watched “Scoob!” a couple years ago and thought it was a trainwreck, I will note one thing that was not a problem was the look of the film or the animation style. Overall, it looked very polished. Once again, I can only use assumptions here, but I would not be surprised if this streaming-mindset affected production in terms of how polished the film could turn out. Once again, I feel bad for the crew, but I think that this is a proper business decision.
Although if I must be real, I find it shocking that “Batgirl” was cancelled at the time it was. I am less shocked after finding out that it probably was not that good. Although what I am saying is that there is another DC film that based on public outcry, probably should have been cancelled first. In fact, recent events further indicate the complications behind this film’s existence. That film being… “The Flash.”
The Flash is one of the more well-known DC superheroes, and the hero’s popularity has only jumped due to the success of CW’s original series that is soon to enter its final season. Although on the movie side, there has been extensive development in regard to bringing the red speedster to the big screen but for several reasons, they could not quite get it out before the end of the previous decade. Having seen both “Justice League” and its eventual “Snyder Cut” on HBO Max, I think Ezra Miller did a fine job bringing Barry Allen to life and I would not mind seeing more of the character. Unfortunately, if Miller continues to play the character, I may have second thoughts.
After seeing Ezra Miller’s shenanigans of choking a woman in a bar, assault, restraining orders, harrassing a woman in her own apartment, and most recently, burglary, this only makes Zaslav’s final decision on “The Flash” that much harder to make. You could say that releasing “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is also hard because Amber Heard is in it, but that’s a cakewalk compared to this. For one thing, the public is divided on whether Heard is innocent or guilty after her recent trial with Johnny Depp. And not to undermine the events prior to or of said trial, many of Ezra Miller’s crimes or arrests have happened after they finished shooting “The Flash.” As time has shown, I believe in redemption. Since joining Marvel, James Gunn held back on making inappropriate jokes over the Internet, and even after his firing and rehiring, he kept his cool. But at this point, when Ezra Miller has already been cast, the movie is shot, and it is set to release next year. This is a dilemma if there ever was one. As a viewer who is not in charge of a substantial company or its products, it is easy for me to say that they should cancel the movie or recast Ezra Miller and reshoot every scene with the character of Barry Allen. But the film already has a budget of $200 million, and this requires a massive return of the crew, the actors, everybody.
…But in my own little fantasyland, I also think it is worth it. …Kind of. It’s not my money, and if it were, for all I know, I might not have said this.
Similar to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” where there were three Spider-Men on the lineup, “The Flash” is a movie where we are seeing the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, making “Batgirl” one of the two films where the iconic actor dons his cowl. That, alongside another Batman appearance from Ben Affleck, will obviously get butts in seats. This is certainly a film that people will want to see in theaters before streaming, making HBO Max a concept that must be left out of the equation. But this involves potential delays, recasting, and so on. The other alternative I can get behind at this point is releasing the film as is and announcing Ezra Miller’s firing beforehand. I could almost see there being a disclaimer before the film starts stating the wrongdoings of Ezra Miller and a note that Warner Bros. does not condone or approve of his actions. While it may not be comfortable to provide in a public setting, it is better to condemn this consistently inappropriate or incorrect behavior rather than continue to enable it. There is a good chance Ezra Miller is already canned and such a thing has not been announced, but I think this is a message that should be announced before the public starts a trend claiming Warner Bros. “defends assaulters” or something along those lines. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this is exhibit A as to why that is not true. On the bright side, reports have surfaced that “The Flash” is apparently a good movie. Obviously, film is subjective, so if it comes out, we will see if that statement holds true. But it is nice to hear Warner Bros. Discovery has confidence in the film’s quality, unlike “Batgirl.” Some of the general audience more than likely will not care about what Ezra Miller has done in the past, but it does not change the fact that word gets around. Plus Miller is getting into trouble on a consistent basis. They have already been the subject of multiple negative events as of this year. My confidence in Miller or their image’s ability to change by next year, or even 2024, is quite low. What if they end up in prison for a year? What is Warner Bros. Discovery going to do then? Imagine if Ezra Miller shows up at the premiere and how awkward that could be given everything they have done. This is not exactly my idea, but one alternative is finding a way to remarket the film as a “Batman” movie. I do not know how much the script would warrant such a thing, but given the marketability of the “Batman” IP and the fact that there are two Batmen in the movie, it theoretically makes sense.
Until then, there is no easy answer to this ongoing problem. “Batgirl” may have had its reasons to be cancelled, but this only makes me wonder what is going to happen with “The Flash.” If the movie gets cancelled because of Ezra Miller, it is a solid publicity move in the short term, but this also ends up being a disservice to the rest of the people behind the film who had nothing to do with Ezra Miller other than working with them. But at the end of the day, filmmaking is a business. And if Ezra Miller keeps doing what they’re doing, or worse, the business of the film is only going to trickle bit by bit. “The Flash” is still set to come out, and I am glad to hear it is good. But is it worth it? Much like “Batgirl,” but for completely different reasons, “The Flash” at this stage is probably going to hit some landmines if the studio wants it to be released theatrically. But at the same time, the movie is too big, not to mention too expensive, for HBO Max.
Sticking with HBO Max, let’s ask a question… WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO HBO MAX?!
Remember how HBO Max was supposed to be Warnermedia’s big streaming service? It was the thing that was going to make HBO Now look like HBO Then. Some not so surprising news that came out of last week’s events was the merging of HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming service. Now, that has not happened yet. You will not find “Property Brothers” on HBO Max, nor will you find “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Discovery+.
This is not the first time in recent years that Warner had one of its streaming services fold into another one, as DC Universe gradually dissolved in 2020 and all of its film and television content like “Titans” and “Harley Quinn” ended up on HBO Max, with the latter now airing its third season.
Now if you ask me, I like the fact that all of this content is merging. I am probably not going to watch all of it. But it is nice to know that the options are there. For all I know, there could be a new show that I could put on in the background one day. I think one big problem consumers face is that there are too many streaming services out there. I do not have Discovery+, as it is one of the few services I do not consider a priority. Slimming two services into one is not necessarily a bad concept. My one concern is how much more I’d be paying, that is if there is a price hike. I will revisit this issue later, because I need to talk about one of the most poorly guided comparisons I have seen in this day and age.
Remember how I said actions speak louder than words? Well, words are pretty powerful. Some people tend to take them seriously.
I understand that this may be an exaggeration, but it still must be pointed out. When talking about the differences between HBO Max and Discovery+, this was done through a side-by-side chart indicating that HBO Max’s content was male-skew and Discovery+’s content was female-skew. Now to be fair, I am a man and I have never watched Discovery+ on my own time. I rarely turn on any of Discovery’s channels. But this is a loose and stereotypical assumption to make in this day and age. Because this declares that gendered content is put into boxes. HBO is one of the most sought-after cable networks of all time by all genders. “Game of Thrones” was a huge hit over recent years. Recent series like “Scenes From a Marriage” have been met with acclaim. And APPARENTLY, women don’t watch “EUPHORIA?!” If anything, they’re the target audience! Literally every woman on this planet wants to be Zendaya! She is good-looking, she has an Emmy, and she is dating Spider-Man! You think women do not watch “Euphoria?”
I am not saying that some of these classifications do not make sense. HBO has a lot of scripted content, and that is their forte. Although HBO Max has plenty of unscripted or reality content like the original show “Legendary,” truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” and the TBS reboot of “Wipeout.” It is very much a service for everyone in same way that Netflix or Prime Video is. Discovery+ is very much a comfort food network. Most of their content is within the reality genre like “90 Day Fiancé,” “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and “Chopped.” Again, I am a man, and I do not know of many men, but I know they are out there, who lean into Discovery’s content more than they do with the type of content HBO provides, so Zaslav and the infographic are technically onto something. But it does not mean that this is the best analogy to give to the public.
Also, you are telling me “The Bachelor” is a male-skewed show?! Again, I imagine there are some men who watch. Although if you want to talk about HBO Max strictly having male-skewed content, I raise you “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “The Bachelor: Winter Games” and “Bachelor Pad!” The only guys watching these shows are those who are trying to impress their significant other that this show specifically targets! Obviously, there are others, but you get my point! What man turns on the television, looks at that night’s lineup, and thinks, I’m gonna pour myself some wine, and watch young women fight over a guy?! The majority would flip the channel in a heartbeat.
There are also plenty of HBO or HBO Max scripted shows that do not mainly target men. In addition to the recently mentioned “Euphoria,” look at shows like “Big Little Lies,” “Gossip Girl,” “Insecure,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” “Love Life,” and let me just remind you that HBO has a show literally called “Girls.” HBO and HBO Max apparently suggests that women do not watch shows like “Succession,” “Silicon Valley,” “Divorce,” “The White Lotus,” or “Mare of Easttown.”
The men/women analogy would have probably worked in the 1920s. More so in the 1820s. But definitely not in the 2020s. This was probably delivered with the best intention in mind, but it does not change the fact that the delivery was terrible. The infographic itself is helpful and for the most part, an accurate representation of both streaming services. HBO Max is definitely more lean in and Discovery+ is certainly more lean back. Those are good comparisons. Plus, while I did address that HBO Max is not short on unscripted content, it is no doubt that scripted content is their bread and butter in the same way that unscripted content is to Discovery+.
Now let’s go back to the price concern. While it is nice to know that I would not be paying for two different streaming services at the same time, one of the nice things about HBO Max is that while it is not the cheapest service out there, it offers a lot of great, sometimes award-winning content, for a reasonable price. HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-included tier at $9.99 and an ad-free tier at $14.99. Discovery+ also offers two tiers. An ad-included tier at $4.99 and an ad-free tier at $6.99. These prices make some sense given how Discovery+ is more of a niche service in the same way that the horror-based Shudder would be to a certain degree. Should we see these two services combine, I think it is perhaps likely that the service to be offered will have an increased price from HBO Max’s current price. If it increases by $1, I do not see much of a problem. $2? Okay, whatever. $3? Now you are pushing it. I understand that adding more content can justify a price increase, but there comes a tipping point. If I find out that this new streaming service costs $19.99/month or more, which is the current price for Netflix’s top tier, I would have to debate on ignoring the service and worry about my other subscriptions for the time being. There is plenty of great content being offered through services like Hulu and Prime Video that I’d rather flock to for a better value. I especially worry for those who have Discovery+ and not HBO Max, because their increase could be worse.
There is no official word as to what the name of the combined service is, and this presents a problem if they come up with a new name. The beauty of HBO Max is that the name HBO is one of the most coveted television brands ever conceived. No offense to Discovery, but when most people think of “television,” HBO is often seen as the gold standard nowadays. They could come up with a new name, let’s just use Warner Discovery as an example, but this could result in brand confusion. This could be HBO’s most bewildering matter since trying to explain the difference between HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. What makes HBO Max different? I don’t know, it’s purple! This could be a short term confusion once the audience collectively realizes where their preferred content ended up, but nevertheless.
Phew. We made it to the end. Just to recap, I still use and enjoy HBO Max. The third season of “Harley Quinn” is great fun and I cannot wait to see the rest of it. I am excited to see where David Zaslav takes the Warner Bros. brand in the future. I am curious about movies like Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which looks like a trip if there ever was one. I just hope that Zaslav realizes within the mistakes that have been made recently, that this Warner Bros. Discovery ship remains as tight as possible. While I remain saddened for the crews behind the films, I think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” were the right moves. If the movies were not up to a certain standard, then why should they be put out to begin with? The main basis of the movie business is profit. This is part of why “Batgirl” was cancelled, but I am also glad to know that we will not potentially be seeing the next “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” or the next “Catwoman” or the next “Morbius.” It is still NOT Morbin’ time! I don’t care who says it! Why is “The Flash” not cancelled? Sure, I hear it is a good movie, but the closer we get to its release, the more I worry about the film itself in addition to its star’s ability to not cause chaos. Is there a weird move will we see next from Zaslav and crew? Who knows? Until then, all I can do is sit back and wait for movies like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and go back and watch the many hit movies and television shows on HBO Max like “Peacemaker,” “The Carbonaro Effect,” and “The Bachel–” Hahaha, never mind that last one.
Thanks for reading this post! If you liked this post and want to see more, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! If you are interested in more of my long-form content, check out my five-thousand word analysis as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the recent anime from Mamoru Hosoda. This is a movie which is by the way, as of this post’s debut, NOW STREAMING ON HBO MAX! Until then, I want to know your thoughts! What do you think about the recent events at Warner Bros. Discovery? Do you think the brand is in a good direction? Do you think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” was a wise decision? What do you think they should do with “The Flash” at this point? Also, about those six movies that were taken off HBO Max, did you watch any of them? Tell me your thoughts. If you ask me, I think “An American Pickle” is one of the most overlooked comedies in recent times and a hilarious parody on modern society. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Nope” is directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), Keke Palmer (Lightyear, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Steven Yeun (Minari, The Walking Dead), Michael Wincott (The Crow, Alien: Resurrection), Brandon Perea (The OA, Doom Patrol), Wrenn Schmidt (Outcast, For All Mankind), Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria, Unpregnant), and Keith David (The Thing, Pitch Black). This film is about a brother and sister who live on a ranch and witness an unusual, shocking event that changes everything.
So far, when it comes to Jordan Peele’s filmography, he has proven himself as legit horror storyteller. “Get Out” is unsettling and perfectly paced from start to finish. “Us” has charismatic characters and is a fine balance between subtle and trippy. “Nope” contains some of the horror elements that audiences may have grown accustomed to over the past couple films Peele directed. There are jumpscares, strange happenings, and much like “Us,” there is an intentionally placed scene in the beginning that in most cases would almost feel kind of out of place.
However, the biggest difference between “Nope” and Peele’s previous work is the scope. It would be easy for me to say that “Nope” is the biggest film Peele’s made so far, but I can back that up by saying “Nope” cost $68 million to make. That is more than “Us,” which cost $20 million, and “Get Out,” which cost $4.5 million. But there are reasons beyond the numbers as to why it is so big. The film is entirely shot on 65mm film, including select sequences which were shot in IMAX. Yes, Peele went full Nolan on this movie. Although unlike Christopher Nolan with some of his recent fare like “Tenet,” I could actually hear what the actors were trying to say. You see what happens when booming music is used sparingly? Out of all the films Peele has done so far, this is the one that most closely resembles that summer blockbuster vibe.
This is probably the closest I think a director has come in some time to providing a Spielberg-like experience without the use of the actual Steven Spielberg. Now, Spielberg has done a lot of movies, but he is most well known for his blockbusters like “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” This leads me to my biggest praise for “Nope,” and that is that this movie does for UFOs what Steven Spielberg and crew did for the original “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” movies. What do I mean? There is a UFO in the movie, but much like the shark in “Jaws,” the UFO is used sparingly. Much like that iconic shark some call Bruce, the UFO felt special. And kind of like in “Jurassic Park,” which took its time to establish the gargantuan nature of its dinosaurs, the UFO is not only menacing when it appears, but it made me as a viewer feel small. I am very likely going to buy “Nope” on physical media as it is that good of a film. I am quite curious to know how that effect is going to come off on my television screen. But I can say as someone who has seen “Nope” twice in the theater, each scene where the UFO played a crucial role made it feel like the literal elephant in the room.
Speaking of elephants in the room, let’s talk about my favorite performance in the film. Keke Palmer gives it her all in “Nope.” Emerald Haywood (right) is exactly the type of character this movie needed. Compared to “Get Out,” which at times dives into the divide between class and race, “Nope” feels more like an escape. And Palmer does her absolute best to give an escape. Her dynamic voice and personality are that of an auctioneer on Adderall. If the character of Emerald Haywood were not in the horse-training business, she has the perfect skill set to sell cars. Her energy and physicality grabbed my attention from scene one. Keke Palmer is set to host the upcoming NBC reboot of “Password.” After seeing what she could do in this film, they made a great choice for the upcoming host.
Now on the other hand, the main character of the film, OJ Haywood (left), has less physicality, not to mention personality. And things seem to be that way on purpose. Daniel Kaluuya does a solid job playing a stoic character who seems to be going through the motions. I think that if the film had OJ be a ball of energy like Emerald, that could create for a problem. In a film as big as this, there needs to be at least one dose of reality or silence within all the noise. If “Nope” were an Amtrak train, OJ would be the quiet car. But this also leads me to say that I like the other main characters in “Nope” more than OJ because their energy therefore made me feel more energetic myself throughout the runtime. Not only did Keke Palmer succeed in this mission with Emerald, but Steven Yeun deserves some credit too for his upbeat portrayal of Ricky “Jupe” Park.
Although I should not say that the reality in this movie is a waste, because one of the characters in this film reminded me of my time when I worked at Staples in the tech department. That character is Angel Torres, who works at Fry’s Electronics, a now defunct electronics store chain. The first scene between him and the brother-sister duo felt reminiscent of my tactics when checking people out, not to mention some of the customer’s reactions when I would pop a certain question. While Angel may seem like an everyday electronics store employee, or at least he was, until Fry’s closed with the rest of their locations, he ended up being a delightfully charming part of the film.
If I had any negatives with the film, the biggest standout would be that given how Jordan Peele has leaned into this blockbuster route, this makes the film feel less substantial compared to his others. Do not get me wrong, it is a great movie. But what I mean is that compared to “Get Out,” I did not think as much about deeper meanings. “Nope” tries to play around with something of this nature involving a sitcom and a monkey, but I honestly do not think it did much other than give one character some backstory. You know that saying about how when you get to certain age in your life, presumably somewhere in your young adulthood, and you realize that maybe you are not as smart as you once thought you might be? If “Nope” were a real person, it would not have reached that stage just yet. The movie chooses to open a certain way and continue a certain way with this ideology that I will not spoil, but did not particularly sit with me the way I think Peele would have wanted it to. It felt like a move that was trying to be pretentious, but only ended up feeling meaningless. I wish I could give more detail.
One final positive before we move on. Over the years, many movies have used their title through the script in such a way that stands out. In “Back to the Future,” there is a scene where Doc exclaims he will send Marty back to the future. In “Better Off Dead,” there is a literally a song with the lyrics “better off dead” that plays a prominent role. I will also go back to “Jurassic Park” and the massive scale it provides. One scene where that tactic comes into play has the character of John Hammond magnificently say “Welcome to Jurassic Park.” I think “Nope” officially takes the crown for best use of a movie title in its own movie. I think that as long as I shall live, there will NEVER be a better use of this concept. The moment one particular character says “Nope,” the entire auditorium cackled like hyenas, and for good reason.
In the end, “Nope” gets a yep from me. This is not Jordan Peele’s best film. In fact, in some ways, it might be his worst, but it is also the most fun of the ones he has made. It is definitely one I would watch on a Friday night if I want to look at something massive. The cinematography, which is done by the great Hoyte van Hoytema, is some of the best of the year. The night shots look beautiful, the climax looks incredible, and there is one particular money shot I would love to have as a desktop photo if I were more willing to customize my setup. “Nope” is a good time and it is fun to look at. But unlike “Get Out,” this is perhaps less likely to be nominated for Best Picture. Although if the Academy Awards took place right now, Keke Palmer should get an acting nomination per my opinion. I am going to give “Nope” a 7/10.
“Nope” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my thoughts on “Nope,” be on the lookout for more reviews! Pretty soon I will share my thoughts on “DC League of Super-Pets” and “Vengeance.” 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 “Nope?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite summer blockbuster of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!