BlackBerry (2023): A Perfect Cast and Thrilling Script Dial Up a Great Time

“BlackBerry” is directed by Matt Johnson (The Dirties, Nirvana the Band the Show), who also plays Doug in this film. Joining him are stars Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon, This Is the End), Glenn Howerton (A.P. Bio, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Rich Somner (Mad Men, The Devil Wears Prada), Michael Ironside (Highlander II: The Quickening, Superman: The Animated Series), Martin Donovan (Insomnia, Tenet), Michelle Giroux (Blood Pressure, Black Mirror), SungWon Cho (One Piece, Ranking of Kings), Mark Critch (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Grand Seduction), Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13, Frasier), and Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Man in Tights). This film is about the rise and fall of the once popular smartphone, BlackBerry.

Nostalgia has been a primary factor into the marketing and execution of many films over the years. Look at how many major franchises there are right now trying to cater to people’s long-held memories. In fact, just this month, we are seeing the tenth installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise and Disney’s live-action edition of “The Little Mermaid.” Whether we have a childhood connection with the franchise or we discovered it sometime back in the day, there is no doubt that both of these names are likely to thrive because of their recognition. Similarly, I have a bit of a childhood connection to BlackBerry. When I was in elementary and middle school, they were all the rage. Not in my demographic, but amongst adults. My mother had a couple BlackBerrys through her life, I knew teachers who had them, I came across ads for them, and I remember playing games and watching YouTube on my mom’s device when she did not need it. I remember the keyboard, some of the ringtones, the scrolly wheel. It was a nifty looking device, but looking back, it definitely feels bulky by today’s standards. I am still glad we have this film to take audiences back to a time that I almost forgot even existed. I am glad we have an excuse to start talking about this device once again and bring it back in a sense. If anything, this movie is doing for the titular phone what the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequels have been doing for Microsoft’s Zune, except that was practically a failure from the getgo.

“BlackBerry” was a film that came out of nowhere for me. I have seen some of the marketing, but it is one that has not kept my attention compared to say some of the bigger blockbusters, partially because of how much money must have been spent on the campaign. But now that I saw the movie, I think I am going to help cheapen those marketing costs a tad. Because “BlackBerry” gives “John Wick: Chapter 4” competition for the best movie of 2023. There are some easy comparisons to make between “BlackBerry” and films like “The Social Network” and “The Founder” because of its tech connections or the company’s story of humble beginnings. But to me, what makes “BlackBerry” so great is the same reason behind movies like “The Disaster Artist,” and even more recently, “The Phantom of the Open” working so well for me. Because movies like these manage to find inklings of success in one’s failure.

Of course, unlike “The Room,” which “The Disaster Artist” highlights, the BlackBerry phone and brand were a success to begin with. Granted they had a tough beginning, but they also had a meteoric rise. This movie showcases how they were the phone to define the 2000s, and I believe they arguably had more relevancy at that time than the iPhone when it was announced. It did not take long for the latter to thwart BlackBerry off its throne, but still.

This film has an excellent cast including Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis (left), one of the core people behind BlackBerry’s development. Joining him in a dynamic duo is Matt Johnson as Doug (center). More on him later. Michael Ironside kills a grit-filled supporting role as Purdy. Everyone in this movie is great. But if there is one individual that outshines them all, Glenn Howerton, who plays Jim Balsillie, not only gives the best performance in the movie, but one that has the potential to be my favorite of the year. Granted, it is only May.

If Glenn Howerton’s bone-chilling, jaw-dropping portrayal does not end up being my favorite of the year, I think it will end up being the most overlooked of the bunch. It is a marvel to the tenth degree. It is a fantastic blend of brilliant dialogue and hallowing physicality. Howerton’s presence alone is almost intimidating, and hearing him speak sometimes almost shivers me. To know that is possible with how down to earth this movie comes off, is incredible. The acting in this film is phenomenal, and Howerton is the cream of the crop of what is already a terrific ensemble.

The thing I enjoyed most about “BlackBerry” is that it not only shows the eventual lack of consumer interest BlackBerry earns because of competition, but also because of how the people making it were never on the same page. We see a group of people who disagree with how things should be done behind the scenes. One can call this a case of there being too many cooks in the kitchen, but it can also be said that it is a matter of those cooks not having the same values. Not only when it comes to how the product itself should be made, but the overall process of how the people making it should compose themselves. There is an obvious transition of the company’s doings throughout the film. Not only in terms of its growth, but how its people either grow or refuse to grow with it. It shows how one humble group can transform into a serious industry mainstay, and to do that might mean you have to take the fun out of your objective.

If I have one complaint about the film, I think the cinematography and the color palette are occasionally off-putting. The movie is kind of shaky and all over the place. One may argue that could add an induction of anxiety, which is a good way to describe this movie at times. But I also think the movie slightly lacks a cinematic feel because of this choice. This is likely a subjective preference, because when I think of certain TV shows I do not like, “The Office” often comes to mind because the camerawork, while definitely well-intentioned, is not my cup of tea. Maybe the overall look will work for some people, but for me, it is one of the weaker elements in an otherwise outstanding film.

“BlackBerry” is the cinematic lovechild of Matt Johnson. He co-wrote the film, he directed the film, and he even starred in it as Doug. By the way, he may be the most charismatic, endearing bundle of joy this film has. Johnson has some experience as someone who has worn multiple hats in this industry. But I think “BlackBerry” could be his big break depending on the box office and how well this film does at home. Much like I said about Ari Aster after seeing “Hereditary” a few years ago, I think if Matt Johnson announces his next project, I am there. While he may not have the style of Aster, he certainly has the substance and personality to back things up. I cannot wait to find out what Johnson does from here.

This is a film about sacrifice, greed, determination, and how one’s best efforts can unfortunately lead to one’s greatest failure. I love this movie, I think you should see this movie. And hopefully unlike the BlackBerry phone, it will never go out of style.

In the end, “BlackBerry” has achieved nerdvana. Of the past five months of movies, this one stands out. It is one of my favorite screenplays of the year. It is one of my favorite casts of the year. It is one of my favorite movies of the year. It is a surprisingly thrilling story with compelling characters that I had all sorts of feelings for. This movie works because it not only got me to side with the main characters, but it made me sympathize or occasionally side with anyone in the movie who would perhaps antagonize the main characters too. I know “The Little Mermaid” is going to clobber all the other movies at the box office this weekend. But if “The Little Mermaid” is sold out and you want to see something else, or if you want to drop your kids off at “The Little Mermaid” and see something else while you wait for their movie to finish, this may be your best option if it is playing in a theater near you. I am going to give “BlackBerry” a 9/10.

“BlackBerry” is now playing in theatres. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, check out some of my other ones! Recently I did reviews for films like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” just to name a few. 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 “BlackBerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever use a BlackBerry phone back in the day? Which model did you use? What are your thoughts on the product? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!


Renfield (2023): Certainly Does Not Suck

“Renfield” is directed by Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie, Robot Chicken) and stars Nicholas Hoult (The Menu, Tolkien), Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Raya and the Last Dragon), Ben Schwartz (Sonic the Hedgehog, Parks and Recreation), Adrian Martinez (Stumptown, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse, 24), and Nicolas Cage (The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Croods). This film centers around Dracula’s servant, Renfield, who puts up with the former’s demands, no matter how outlandish or terrifying. After all this time, he has had enough and will do anything to end their working relationship.

The Universal monsters are not my forte. I am well aware that Count Dracula is not a Universal concept and instead originated by author Bram Stoker, but I also know that he among other monsters like the Invisible Man and the Mummy have had staying power through several Universal films, including the original black and white picture from 1931 and more modern tales like Francis Ford Coppola’s picture from 1990 and “Dracula: Untold” from 2014. That said, I have not watched a lot of Universal monster movies. But I also recognize how unique this feature is. Because instead of giving the audiences another tale about a monster they’ve already heard about, they put a cool spin on it and make the iconic monster you normally see in the spotlight earn the supporting role. In fact, if you watch the first trailer, Dracula is not the centerpiece. Sure, he makes an appearance at the end, but it is not his movie. And of course, how could one not get excited seeing Nicolas Cage himself play the bloodthirsty demon? The moment I saw his face, my jaw dropped, and my eyes lit up.

I was excited to see this movie and hoped I could watch it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I ended up waiting a month after it came out. But was it worth the wait? Definitely. “Renfield” is a good time.

“Renfield” blends perhaps the two most subjective film genres imaginable, comedy and horror. Thankfully, both blend perfectly from start to finish. I enjoyed the relationship between Renfield and Dracula that can be compared to a relationship a deprived employee may have with an abusive boss. In fact, much of the movie is about Renfield trying to get away from his abusive environment, and to do so, he ends up going to support group meetings. We see him unleash his honest thoughts and listen to the thoughts of others. Is it the funniest movie I have ever seen? No. Is it the scariest movie I have ever seen? No. But it still manages to have its highlights of humor and creeps. Although there is one haunting moment past the halfway point that continues to stick with me. And these elements are well realized thanks to the talent of this film’s cast.

Between “The Menu,” the runner-up for top movie of 2022 for me, and now this, Nicholas Hoult is on a roll. His career is on a smooth path, and I am eager to see where it goes from here. His interpretation of Renfield emits awkwardness. Although in a good way. He is simply a guy who is just doing the best he can to get by. He wants to make people happy, but because he is focusing on making someone else, specifically Dracula, happy, he has little time for himself to be happy. In addition to everything I said about Hoult’s character, he is also responsible for perhaps one of the better Old Navy ads I have seen, which having seen their on-air content, is not saying much, but still.

I would say Awkwafina does an okay job as Rebecca. She has good chemistry with Hoult throughout the film.

Although if I have to say one thing though about Awkwafina, she is beginning to remind me of Kevin Hart or Vin Diesel. While I think she has significantly more acting talent than the latter, the problem I have with her, perhaps through no fault of her own, is that like these two individuals, she has been playing the same role from one film to the next. And maybe it is because, kind of like Kevin Hart, her voice, if you have heard it in recent years, has become instantly recognizable. And even while it may have been a proper fit for characters in animated movies she’s been in like “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “The Bad Guys,” it is difficult to find a role where I don’t see elements of her I have not seen prior. This is not to say she is a terrible actor. In fact, she is one of the reasons why “The Farewell” became one of my favorite films of 2019, but a lot of her recent material contain inklings that have become trademarks, making the transformation factor feel lost at times.

That said, what I see of Awkwafina in this film, happens to be a showcase of her strengths as a performer. She maintains a tough attitude as a traffic cop and knows how to balance that with a softer side in other moments. So while I may put this up as a warning for where her career could go, I will say I enjoyed what I saw in this moment.

But of course, Nicolas Cage steals the bloody show as Dracula. There is no way I can do this review and not highlight the power of the mighty Nicolas Cage as the iconic creature. He is all creepy, all kooky, and brings no mercy. Now he is not super terrifying, because this film takes a more comedic approach in its storytelling. Although as I said before, the comedy works and the scares work. It is no masterpiece, but it is a good time at the movies. That said, going back to what I said about Awkwafina becoming more recognizable in her performances, I may be a hypocrite because despite Nicolas Cage being recognizable, I think that element enhances his performance a bit. Seeing his face, which has become a meme by now, honestly makes the character that much funnier. His over the top voice helps too. Every scene he is in, I cannot help but smile. It is not just because it is Nic Cage as Dracula, although it is a small part of it the more I think about it. But he shows no hint of empathy throughout the film and it continues to highlight him as a threat. If there is any reason you should see “Renfield,” I think the most compelling argument you could make in a Times Roman Numeral 12-point font double spaced essay, or whatever other format you choose, is Nicolas Cage as Dracula. He certainly does not suck.

If I have anything else to add, the pacing is really good. The movie is short but manages to avoid overstuffing itself. The climax, while not my favorite of the year, is definitely entertaining. While the movie is not perfect, there are no flaws I can point out that ruined everything. Give “Renfield” a watch sometime, I recommend it.

In the end, “Renfield” is great! I think this film would make for a solid Friday movie night with friends, maybe with some food. The actors all fulfill their roles perfectly, especially Cage as Dracula. I think the film is a neat parody of the Dracula character while serving as a spotlight on abusive relationships. This film is directed by Chris McKay, whose parody experience is not only related to this effort. In addition to his experience behind the scenes on many “Robot Chicken” episodes, he also helmed “The LEGO Batman Movie,” which I think is one of the more underrated animated films of the previous decade. McKay definitely has a knack for comedy, not to mention parody. I cannot wait to see what he does next. I am going to give “Renfield” a 7/10.

“Renfield,” which has been out since April, is now playing in select theaters. The film is also now available on digital platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “BlackBerry,” the brand new film inspired by the true story of the once popular smartphone. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Blackening” and “Fast X.” All of these reviews are coming soon. 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 “Renfield?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Nicolas Cage film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023): James Gunn Fires On All Cylinders in This Marvel Trilogy Finale

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is directed by James Gunn (The Suicide Squad, Slither) and stars Chris Pratt (The Super Mario Bros. Movie, The LEGO Movie), Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), Dave Bautista (Stuber, My Spy), Karen Gillan (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Doctor Who), Pom Klementieff (Oldboy, Westworld), Vin Diesel (Bloodshot, The Fast and the Furious), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, Silver Linings Playbook), Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner), Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls, The Suicide Squad), Chukwudi Iwuji (Peacemaker, Designated Survivor), Linda Cardellini (ER, Freaks and Geeks), Nathan Fillion (The Rookie, Firefly), and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Cliffhanger). In this third installment to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy, the guardians must save the universe one last time, all the while protecting one of their own. Meanwhile, Peter continues to deal with the loss of Gamora, his love interest.

Of the Marvel Cinematic Universe titles out there, “Guardians of the Galaxy” may be the most distinct of the bunch. Sure, like all the others, it involves superheroes and saving the day. But it has a flavor to it that seperates it from “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” or “Ant-Man.” Part of it may be because of its off-world setting. Sure, a small part of the series is set on earth because Star Lord, the core member of the group, is an earthling. But he ends up becoming one with these faraway worlds. These films define escapism. Between the epic soundtracks, the heavy reliance on space, and the unique characters and surroundings, few Marvel films are as breathtakingly out of this world as these. That said, I am not going to pretend they do not have flaws.

Like many others, I love the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Although similar to many of Marvel’s films, the villain is kind of weak. Ronan does not stand out significantly, and he is kind of cliché. That said he does have his moments. Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has a much more compelling antagonist in Ego. Unfortunately the movie did not stick the landing for me. It was not funny, overly cartoony, and I sometimes did not buy some of the things that were happening. Oh, and unpopular opinion, I am not a fan of Baby Groot. I did not find him charming, and the movie overuses him to the point where he becomes a bore. That said, I do like the addition of Mantis. As for “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” I was shocked with how much I ended up digging it. I thought the concept was brilliant, and the execution exceeded my expectations. As far as Disney+ MCU content goes, it is by far one of the better pieces of media on the platform. Even with the ups and downs of this franchise, there is a consistency that I often consider a highlight, and that is the touch of James Gunn.

James Gunn is one of my favorite people working in Hollywood. He makes great Marvel content, he makes great DC content, and I love his persona on Twitter. He will willingly call out horribly inaccurate or clickbaity journalism regarding his content. He strikes me, from his personality, as the right person to direct these movies, and it shows as I watched “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Many comic books have a stylized nature to them, and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie franchise, along with this particular installment, presents itself in a palatable style that comes off as comic booky. You have well-written quips, fast pacing, and charismatic characters. When it comes to that last aspect, it is through the roof. If there is any franchise within the MCU that has the most charisma from its characters, it is arguably this one. In fact, perhaps the most likable character of the titular team is getting some more spotlight this time around. How could I say no to that?

When I think of Rocket, I think of Bradley Cooper. In fact, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is typically the first movie I often visualize of when the thought of Bradley Cooper comes to mind. Either that or “A Star is Born.” However, what makes Rocket compelling this time around is not Bradley Cooper’s presence, if anything, it is his lack of it. Despite saying that, most of the movie centers around him. Specifically through transitions between his present adulthood and his past childhood. The younger Rocket is voiced by someone who I often forget probably does a lot of heavylifting in this franchise, Sean Gunn. Between playing Kraglin, being Rocket’s double, and now serving as the younger Rocket’s voice, Sean Gunn continues to show his range of skills in this franchise. What makes Rocket’s younger iteration absolutely compelling is not only seeing the ins and outs of his younger personality, but how much he transitions to the Rocket he is today based on everything he witnesses at that time. During these flashback scenes, we see Rocket befriend other tiny creatures, and they all have these dynamic, hyperactive, child-like airs about them.

While I complained about how Baby Groot, a younger character, was used in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” I think a highlight for this film is its younger character slate. Because even though this movie pulls a 2016 “Suicide Squad” and endlessly shows flashbacks, they managed to seamlessly connect them with the present while giving an entertaining narrative by itself. While I have become comfortable watching the wisecracking racoon from the past couple films, I found myself compelled by a much softer variant of the character, and his development is perfectly realized throughout. His relationship with supporting animal sidekicks Lylla, Teefs, and Floor made for a great ride in terms of the narrative and the roller coaster of emotions I ended up experiencing as a result of this film. James Gunn effectively plays with my emotions like a fiddle throughout the runtime, and I love him for that. Speaking of James Gunn, let’s dive into one of his trademarks.

One of James Gunn’s talents through his career, specifically in comic book movies, is giving CGI characters significantly more emotional attachment than I have seen some humans have in film. One of my favorite moments of the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” is from the third act, where we see Groot sacrifice himself and recognize the bond he has amongst his fellow teammates. It is a very simple moment, but because of his limited dialogue, both in terms of the number of times he speaks and his diction, the weight of that moment is paramount. The moment he says the words, “We are Groot,” I felt that. In the 2021 movie “The Suicide Squad,” we see King Shark’s story play out, where like Groot, he is kind of simple-minded. He has limited vocabulary, he speaks in fragments, and does not have the most thought-out ideas. But whenever the movie resorts to his arc regarding his desire for friendship, it clicked with me. This talent also transitions to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” based on Rocket’s arc and his connection with his younger pals. I know James Cameron often talks about his “Avatar” films being the pinnacle of CGI, and I will agree with the notion that the films look stunningly beautiful. But those films deliver plenty of gloss while neglecting personality. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the best of both worlds where the CGI characters not only look great and have a degree of verisimilitude, but their dialogue and interactions benefit the narrative.

I ended up caring about most of the other characters as well. I think Chris Pratt does a good job once again as Star Lord, possibly giving the angriest performance I have seen out of the character yet. Gamora was well explored with her new self. What makes this interpretation of Gamora interesting is not necessarily her, but how others perceive her. I enjoyed seeing Star Lord have to deal with a Gamora that had no memory of who he was. I think that made for a compelling side plot. Dave Bautista gives a killer performance out of Drax. It combines the character’s strengths from the previous two movies and happily marries them.

As much as I like the effects in this film, I think Groot in this installment has the worst design I have seen of the character thus far. He looks too bulky and cartoony. As much as I did not like the Baby Groot character in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” I liked the way he looked. I cannot say the same about this interpretation. It is not awful, but compared to his predecessors, Groot in this film looks more like a Disney+ original CGI character.

The other character I thought was not utilized properly was Cosmo. Unlike Groot, I have no problem with the way this dog looks. But I do not think Maria Bakalova’s voice was a good fit. I remember Cosmo appeared in the holiday special and I did not have this complaint then. And when I mention this complaint, I am not referring to Bakalova herself. I blame the direction based on the uniqueness of the voice performance not paying off. Maybe if I watch the film a second time I will change my mind on this. Who knows? Plus, her arc almost feels insignificant compared to other characters. There is not much to it. When it was resolved, it was not as satisfying as some of the others.

Funny thing about “Guardians of the Galaxy,” as much as I adore the first film, I think its weakest element is the antagonist, specifically Ronan the Accuser. Meanwhile, I find “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” to be an inferior installment, but Ego is a fantastic antagonist. With this film coming between those two for me, I would say the antagonist of “Vol. 3” does the same. The High Evolutionary is fantastically performed by Chukwudi Iwuji. He is a little over the top at times, but even some of his more over the top moments, fit with what is going on. Plus, he was fairly intimidating in terms of his actions, motivations, and line delivery. I would not want to be the one responsible for ruining his day.

When I look back at at the previous “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, I would sum this franchise up to be the “Star Wars” of the MCU. Because aside from taking place in space, there is a lot of crazy action, futuristic weaponry, and a rag tag team of charismatic individuals. Some could also make the comparison to “Star Trek” if they wanted to, I could see a ton of similarities there as well. As for this third movie, I feel like the “Trek” vibes increase with this installment because it feels more allegorical than the previous two. It is not to say the previous two had bad stories, but I picked up on the message of the film a bit more quickly in regards to how it handles experimentation and animal cruelty. “Star Trek” over the years, and more recently, “The Orville,” has dealt with serious issues that affect our society despite being set somewhat outside of it. Not to pick a fight, I am more of a “Star Wars” fan than a “Star Trek” fan. But a strength of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is that it does what the “Star Trek” franchise does best, and that tendency is going to stick with me. You could argue that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is an allegory for animal cruelty with the Canto Bight sequence, but that is a smaller chunk of the film. Plus, that sequence, not to mention that film, did not emotionally resonate with me as much.

One complaint I will bring up regarding movies I do not like is that sometimes they will feel like two movies in one. In fact, Marvel, despite me liking most of their movies recently, falls victim to this complaint as well. “Thor: Love and Thunder” mostly blends comedy and drama seamlessly at times, but there are times where the comedy is stretched too far. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is in the same boat. It is a massive adventure that tries to maintain the small-scale lightheartedness of its predecessors. When it comes to this installment, it is overly silly at one moment, but quickly transitions to being flat out dramatic in another. There is almost no between. For the record, both of those movies barely received positive scores from me. Although the tonal inconsistency happens to be the biggest flaw for both projects. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is another movie that could have fallen victim to this flaw. However, it does not despite having two major stories dominating the screen at every other moment. The reason is because of one story’s seamless connection to the other, without making one feel out of place. They had an equal partnership that delivered equally satisfying results.

And ultimately, that is the best adjective I can use to sum up “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” It is a satisfying finale. It takes the characters that people have come to know and love, and uses them in ways that triggers all sorts of emotions. Is this the best movie in the franchise? No. The first installment is still my favorite, but I find this latest sequel to be a significant step up from the second. James Gunn does not mess around with this film. It was said that this would be the finale for this group of characters, and as a finale, there are only a few ways it could have been executed better. But as far as this group of characters go, they end their arcs fantastically. No spoilers, but there was one line towards the end of the movie from one character that caught me off guard in the best possible way. I would not be surprised if we see some of these characters again in the future, say in an “Avengers” installment. But as far as the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise goes, I would be fine if we never get another one of these films as long as the MCU continues to exist. Maybe talk to me again in ten, fifteen years, we will see. But right now, I do not need to see any more knowing how things conclude. Plus, with James Gunn now at DC, all I can think about is what the process must be like to find a potential successor to him if this were to go on.

One last thing before we move on, if you have read many of my past Marvel reviews, my biggest fear regarding this universe is that with each movie, it feels like I, as an audience member, am being assigned homework. With the Disney+ shows now being a thing, the universe is starting to feel like overkill. Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” feels like less of a commercial for other Marvel content than say “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” or “Black Widow,” which utilize themselves to advertise upcoming content that is not in their specific medium. Personally, it feels a bit tacky. Now, there is something exposed in “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” that is addressed in this movie, but I do not think you would need to spend money on Disney+ to watch the special to find out what that something is. As for the theatrically released movies, I think the previous “Guardians” films and maybe the last two “Avengers” installments would be my recommended prerequisites. That said, you could probably have a good time watching this movie on its own without any prior material being fed to you. For a 32nd film in an ongoing universe, that is a huge compliment.

In the end, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is a thrill ride. Visually stunning, narratively pleasing, and massively satisfying. Another Marvel franchise now has a trilogy. It is amazing how far we have come. Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” my favorite of the Marvel trilogies? As much as liked this film in addition to the original, the second film keeps that from being a reality. It is a solid trilogy and despite my neverending flack for the second film, it does have its moments. But I think as far as a consistent run goes, I think “Iron Man,” “Spider-Man,” and “Captain America” reign supreme. I still think when I add up my scores for these films, the “Guardians” films outranks the first three “Thor” installments and the recently completed “Ant-Man” trilogy. But unlike the recent “Ant-Man” trilogy capper, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” was a ton of fun. I went in hoping to have a good time, and I ended up having a great time. It is not without its flaws. Before I forget, I must admit the climax, while entertaining, is occasionally bloated and goes on for a bit longer than I would have anticipated. Although that statement feels like less of a problem when I also remember that it is responsible for what is now my favorite action sequence in the franchise. With that said, I am going to give “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” an 8/10.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I have plenty of reviews coming soon including “Renfield,” “BlackBerry,” and “The Blackening,” the last of which does not widely release until June, but I got to see it last night through a free screening so I will have my thoughts on the film when possible. Tomorrow I will be going to see “Fast X,” which despite my appreciation for certain parts of the franchise, kind of feels like an obligation, but hey, it’s a movie. Either way, all of these reviews are coming soon! 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 “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite MCU trilogy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sisu (2022): A John Wick Wannabe Travels with Gold

“Sisu” is directed by Jalmari Helander (Big Game, Rare Experts) and stars Jorma Tomilla (The Christmas Party, Big Game), Aksel Hennie (Hercules, The Martian), Jack Doolan (The Boys, The Green Green Grass), and Mimosa Williamo (Headfirst, Lake Bodom). Set during the Lapland War, this film is about an ex-soldier who finds gold and must fend off Nazis on his journey into the city.

Some of the biggest studios today like Disney and Universal mostly rely on popular IP to keep their ships afloat. Lionsgate, while not being as big as those two, has done the same to respectable results. If you look at titles like “The Hunger Games,” “The Twilight Saga,” and “John Wick,” you would notice that these franchises have continued to receive sequels due to their popularity and recognition. Obviously with the first two, it helps when they are based on preexisting books. But “John Wick” is an interesting case where even a by the numbers movie with not the biggest, or smallest, of budgets can lead to a series of films that continues to receive praise from action junkies. While “The Hunger Games” is coming back and more of the “John Wick” universe is set to be unveiled in various stories, Lionsgate would benefit from a new franchise after “John Wick: Chapter 4.” After seeing one of the studio’s latest projects, “Sisu,” it has potential for expansion. That said, if I were not doing Scene Before, I would have mixed thoughts as to seeing another one of these movies if it were greenlit. I say this because I really enjoyed the movie, minus certain aspects that stuck out like a sore thumb.

This movie seems to be inspired by the “John Wick” formula. It centers around a man who happens to have a connection with a dog, and people attempt to get in his way. Therefore, he must stop them in perhaps the most diabolical, slickest way he can imagine. While it is a remix, I am not complaining because seeing Aatami do what he does best is satisfying to watch. There are some kills in this film that honestly rival a “Deadpool” movie or a Tarantino flick. While many action movies in recent years such as “Nobody,” “Wrath of Man,” or “Bullet Train” have a flair to them that reminds me of “John Wick” in some way, “Sisu” stands out because it is set long before those films. It is set during World War II, specifically through the Lapland War, where the rivals are Finland and Nazi Germany. If you are having trouble figuring out which side is represented as good and bad according to this movie, then you probably do not know where the title of this movie comes from.

That said, the title of this movie is quite fitting for the main protagonist of Aatami, because throughout the movie, his look comes off as someone who has seen everything that there is to see, and much of it was not good. And even in moments where he may look innocent, he will subvert expectations anyone had of him being a softie. We do not learn a textbook’s worth of information about Aatami, but we also learn enough to appreciate him. It hits the Goldilocks zone. All we learn is that he needs to get from point A to point B, with gold. Of course, since the opposition is Nazis, it makes it that much simpler to root for him.

“Sisu” is perfectly paced. Yes, there is a short runtime that may help some people, but that is not what I am necessarily pointing to. Within that short runtime, the film does very little, but it makes the most of its minimalistic nature. There are not too many characters, the plot is simple yet effective, and dialogue appears to be used sparingly. Speaking of small, the film cost €6 million (approx. $6.56 million) to make. This movie does a lot with that small budget, and despite the modest cost, it sometimes feels as big as some notable modern action blockbusters. The overall look, design, and feel of the film are perfect.

My biggest complaint with “Sisu” is that we get to a point in the movie, specifically during the third act, where I am having trouble believing anything that is happening. There are some good movies that exist that bend reality a bit such as some of the “Fast & Furious” sequels, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” There are things in those movies that I would never expect to happen in real life, but they convince me that within the rules of their respective universes that they could be pulled off in that setting. There is something towards the end of “Sisu” that feels so off that it almost ruined the movie for me. Granted, the movie has a brilliant first half so of course I am going to praise it. The reason is because even though this movie jumps the shark quite a bit, it felt like it had a limit. And I know that this is an original film, this is not a spinoff or sequel that builds off of rules that already exist. But the movie flicked like a lightswitch. It went from ridiculous fun to colossal stupidity in a split second. It makes Dom Toretto’s Tarzan swing in “F9: the Fast Saga” feel real. I am not even joking.

This may sound like I hate the movie. I do not. If you scrolled down to this or the last paragraph, you may have missed my recent praise for it. I just think if I were in charge of the script I would have changed this one scene dramatically. There are a lot of other moments that had me laughing, gagging, or dropping my jaw with excitement. Much like the “John Wick” franchise, there are some highlight kills in this film for me that I continue to think about to this day. I recommend going to see this movie with a couple friends, maybe make it a guys night out. “Sisu” may take inspiration from other action flicks, but it does enough to make it its own thing. That said, if you do not like heavy violence or gore, you might want to sit this one out. Just a warning.

In the end, despite my one big complaint regarding “Sisu,” I have zero regrets having seen it. If Lionsgate or the other companies behind this movie wanted to recreate one of their most popular ideas but put it in World War II, they did so with excellence. It is a film that starts rather quiet, but its obnoxiousness increases with time. Sometimes for good, other times for bad. The film also supports the notion that if you make Nazis the villain, it is all the more satisfying to see a protagonist like Aatami potentially triumph. If I have any other recommendations, avoid the trailer. Don’t get me wrong. I watched the trailer for “Sisu” before going to see it. I think it is a good trailer. But I think this is one of those movies that is probably best viewed with a clean slate. It might increase some shock value. It is up to you, but if you want my two cents, that is what I have to give. Speaking of my two cents, I am going to give “Sisu” a 7/10.

“Sisu” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3!” And if you want even more upcoming content, I will also soon be talking about the new horror comedy “Renfield.” I waited a bit to watch this movie, but as to whether it is worth the wait, is a question that will be answered soon. 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 “Sisu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie you like that has an ending that almost ruins it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022): A Young, Admirable Ensemble Carries This Environment-Centric Feature

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is directed by Daniel Goldhaber and stars Ariela Barer (Runaways, Atypical), Kristine Froseth (Looking for Alaska, The Society), Lukas Gage (The White Lotus, Euphoria), Forrest Goodluck (The Republic of Sarah, The Revenant), Sasha Lane (Utopia, Loki), Jayme Lawson (Farewell Amor, The Batman), Marcus Scribner (Black-ish, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power), Jake Weary (Animal Kingdom, Fred: The Movie), and Irene Bedard (Pocahontas, The Mist). This film centers around several environmental activists as they band together to, as the title suggests, blow up a pipeline.

Some of you reading this review may be hearing about this movie for the first time today. I ended up watching this movie for a few reasons. First, the trailer was really good. It had a certain flair to it that individualized the project. Second, to some degree, I care about the environment. I cannot pretend I am perfect, but I try to do my part when it comes to preserving it. Third, the release period seemed limited. It was playing at select theaters with minimal times available. In fact I did a search for showtimes in my area, and found out “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” currently is not playing anywhere near me. It is available to watch at home, but still. I am glad I saw this movie when I did. In a time where I recognize climate change, the world being on fire, and needing to take care of my surroundings more than ever, I thought this movie could be, at least, an important watch. Now that I have seen it, would I recommend it?

After some thought, I would say that question requires an extended debate.

It has been a couple weeks since I watched “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.” I wish I could have gotten this review out earlier but between other movie reviews being in the… You know, pipeline… And other things in life getting in the way, I have waited until now to talk about it. That said, I do not remember everything I saw in this movie. This is a simple movie. This is also on the shorter side. But if I were asked to give any of the characters’ names or their backstories, I would need to do a Google search. This also speaks to something that stood out to me in the movie as I watched it. The best thing about “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is the chemistry between everyone in the ensemble. While I do not think the individual characters are that memorable, they come off as a well-oiled machine (sorry) when they work together.

To all of the environmentalists out there, I would like to make it clear that I did not necessarily enjoy “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” because of what it says about how we treat our planet. Instead, if I were to give a surface level summary of my experience, I enjoyed the movie because of the characters and how this film’s story effectively highlights the characters’ issues. The shared motivation of the main characters made me ask some perhaps much needed questions. I will get to those later. Yes, the movie heavily involves an oil pipeline, which as a singular concept, is a controversial topic regarding the future of this planet. But as the movie goes on, we see how it affects ordinary people. Granted, this is a work of fiction. But as I watched the movie, it felt raw. I not only felt connected with the main ensemble that were trying to blow up the pipeline, but the supporting characters that have to deal with the pipeline’s effects.

If I did not make myself clear already, I am not a climate change denier. I try to recycle as much as possible. I want good public transportation and I try to utilize it as much as I can. I own a car, but when I bought it, I avoided leaning towards an SUV or truck because of their effects on the environment. Naturally, if this movie was designed to change my mind on the oil industry or my views on environmental preservation, it will not. If anything, one can argue that I might be predisposed to this movie because of my views. But I think this is an important film, even if it is not my favorite I have seen recently. I think as we transition ourselves and evolve, this is something I will think about on one occasion or another. I am glad this movie this movie was made, not just because I was entertained with the journey the characters go through, but why said journey was taking place.

I can see certain people watching this movie and not siding with these characters. That said, movies like this go to show that everyone believes they are the hero of their own story. I have seen movies where I think the protagonist is a buffoon, I do not know how I could ever side with them. Specifically, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” But part of that has to do with my values and when this character is presented to be as moronic as he is, not once did I get a sense that this moron was charismatic or the least bit justified for his behavior. “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is a hard sell based on its low budget and not exactly star-studded cast, although they have been in some popular television programs. Another season it is a hard sell is because it picks a side, not to mention a side that is likely to trigger some people. It did not trigger me, but I am not everyone else.

The movie begs to justify destroying things for the sake of sending a message. That is a tough question that I honestly do not know how to answer. Because history has shown that destruction of property or similar acts can be effective in sending a message and bringing change. Look at the Boston Tea Party. But is it worth the trouble? Is it worth the consequences? Not only do we see the oil pipeline destruction motivation play out, but this same message through destruction is being delivered from the very first scene. The first minute of the movie features one of the main characters slashing the tire of a gas guzzler car, while also posting a flyer as to why they did it. That is something that I also have mixed feelings on. It is definitely less harmful in more ways than one, but I do not know if the person on the receiving end is either going to change their mind or react fondly. Sure, destroying things can bring attention. But how far do you go to support a point? It is a question worth asking, but it is hard to say if it is worth answering.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is something I probably would not have watched unless I was doing Scene Before. That said, I do not have any regrets. As a character story, this is captivating. As a thriller, it is intriguing. As an overall movie, it was worth the watch. Is this movie going to open anyone’s minds? It is a possibility. Because even though it is a work of fiction, it tends to base itself within the confines of an issue that feels real. And it is an issue that is likely to only become heavier depending on where we go as a society. The film is not playing in many theaters right now, including the ones near me. And while I cannot give “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” a glowing recommendation, I can say it is superior to many of the movies I have reviewed in recent months, especially the more popular titles everyone is giving their money to.

In the end, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” was thought-provoking. It was a bit of a surprise because part of me did not know what to expect going in. This is not a project I would watch at home on a Friday night. But it is also a project that I am glad I saw this one time on a Friday night where I had nothing else going on. If you are looking to be entertained, you might get that out of this movie. But I left the film feeling more invested in questioning the deeper meaning behind the characters’ actions more than anything else. Despite the film not being my favorite of the year, I hope it is one that is brought up in conversations throughout the years to come. I am going to give “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” a 7/10.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is now playing in select theatres and is available to buy or rent on digital services.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to have reviews for “Sisu” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Stay tuned! Also, for those of you who have followed me for some time, I want to address the status of my “Super Mario Bros.” 1993 review. I am working on it. Unfortunately, due to other movies coming out and time constraints, I have no official date as to when the review will be released. Maybe when the 2023 adaptation releases physically. I do not know. If I have an update, I will give one. But for now, that review is being put on hold. Hope you understand. 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 “How to Blow Up a Pipeline?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with an ecocentric message that you enjoyed? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!