1917 (2019): Cinematographically Golden

“1917” is directed by Sam Mendes (Spectre, American Beauty) and stars George MacKay (The Boys Are Back, Captain Fantastic), Dean-Charles Chapman (Into the Badlands, Game of Thrones), Mark Strong (Shazam!, Kingsman: The Secret Service), Andrew Scott (Fleabag, Sherlock), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Bodyguard), Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth (Love, Actually, Mamma Mia!), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Star Trek: Into Darkness). This film takes place throughout, as the title suggests, 1917. Specifically, during events of World War I. The story follows two British soldiers, Schofield and Blake, as they are given a mission to deliver a message to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to call off an attack on the Germans. If this mission fails, this would mean there would be a loss of 1600 men, including Blake’s brother.

First off, let me just say to all of you that this is my first review of 2020, and what a better way to start off the year than to talk about movie that is literally a year. This film came out Christmas Day in select theaters, but much to my dismay, not one theater in the Boston area was going to show the film until 2020, so I had no chance to see it until then. This year is also the earliest time in which I was able to catch an advanced screening of the film. So I trekked to the theater this past Tuesday with high expectations.

When I say high expectations, I mean that literally. Knowing some of the technical aspects of the film, which I will dive into later on, it makes me giddy just thinking about it. Plus, this week was also the airing of the 77th Golden Globes, where this movie was nominated for 3 awards, and ended up taking home 2, including Best Picture – Drama. Granted, the more I think about the Golden Globes as a whole, the less meaningful I find them to be (after all, their voting board is not that big and they have genre-specific categories), but to have some notable recognition definitely helps. But in life, I live by the philosophy to form my own opinions on any matter at all times. Because life is just better when I’m in control. So what are my thoughts on “1917?”

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Let’s see… Oh! It’s better than “Cats!” But that doesn’t say much, now does it?

Let me try this again by asking you a question, because it sort of relates to my experience. How often has this happened to you? You go see a movie, and maybe you feel that what you just saw was wicked intense, and said intensity hits you to the point where your body just shuts down at a point. For me, that’s what “1917” felt like. I walked out of this movie nearly unable to feel my own legs. To help explain some of my thoughts on this film, I am going to remind you of another recent war film, specifically Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.”

While “Dunkirk” and “1917” have their differences, one thing I cannot deny is that they both stand out in terms of how effectively they convinced me that I could have been in danger. I will say, “Dunkirk” had a slight undeniable advantage during my first viewing because I did see it in IMAX and I saw “1917” on a standard cinema screen, but regardless, “Dunkirk” emphasizes on sound more than “1917” does, which believe it or not, isn’t exactly a sign of this film lacking proper sound whatsoever. In fact, the sound editing and mixing in “1917” is great. I have no problems with any of that. But while “Dunkirk” emphasizes sound, “1917” emphasizes sight. Again, I’ll state that “Dunkirk” did a good job on that side of things as well. In fact, the movie received a Best Cinematography nomination, which it deserves. The way it utilizes 70mm and IMAX technology is undoubtedly impressive.

When it comes to “1917,” the technology used for this film, specifically the camera, is smaller. In fact, it runs on digital. The entire movie is shot using an Arri ALEXA Mini LF, which, if you don’t know much about cameras, the Arri ALEXA in general is often regarded as a current industry standard in filmmaking. This does make sense given what the crew behind this movie set out to do, which is film the movie with long takes, involving lots of movement. It’s not like this is one of those movies where the camera always sits still on a tripod, pretty much the entire movie tries to put you into the frame and take you along for the ride, and I’d say this was a pretty successful task. Because pretty much the entire time, even though I barely knew the two main characters, I was rooting for them to get out of whatever dire situation they were in. The long takes made me feel like I was transported in the movie, it made me feel like I was going to get shot, maybe debris would be flying onto my head.

The stellar cinematography in this film, which in fact, is without any argument whatsoever to be the best cinematography of 2019, is done by Roger Deakins, who also took on the job for iconic films including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “No Country For Old Men.” He also did one of my favorite films of the past few years, “Blade Runner 2049,” which he won his first Oscar for. There are several shots in this film that I can imagine myself wanting to hang in my living room if I had enough money for a big house and if I can find a good 5 panel canvas. And what really shocks me is a particular technique that is utilized during the film. I mentioned that the film is designed to look like it is one shot. Let me just tell you right now, it’s not. Without spoiling anything. There is a scene where the footage cuts to black, allowing for a slight break from whatever’s happening on screen. However, according to certain sources I have read, the film does cut but I didn’t even notice it on screen. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the longest shot in the movie is eight and a half minutes. This instantly brings a sense of hypnotization and eventually, a desire to look back at the film and try to guess when exactly the cuts happened. Plus, this film was shot on location, which brings a lot of challenges for the filmmaking process including an analysis on set design and the fact that lighting shots is perhaps an impossibility. And somehow, all of this was pulled off. This to me, cinematography-wise, may be in the top 10, maybe even top 5, all-time greatest achievements related to its category. I wouldn’t say it’s #1 at this point given how I still need time to marinate, but it does come close as of now, and if Roger Deakins DOES NOT win Best Cinematography this year at the Oscars, that award in all likelihood will be nothing short of a snub.

Another reason to consider how this movie is not #1 in terms of being the greatest cinematography achievement of all time is that this has been done before. Yes, this is sort of an upping of the stakes compared to Sam Mendes’ own long take shot experience from “Spectre,” a movie in which the cinematographer was Hoyte Van Hoytema, but that’s not the point. If you have followed 2014 in film, you may be familiar that the Academy’s Best Picture that year was “Birdman,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, The Revenant). Having said that, I think the originality factor of that film helped me appreciate it. “1917” on the other hand is ultimately following in its footsteps. Story and concept-wise it stands on its own, but the intention when it comes to the visual aspects of the film is not completely different. Also, according to a quick Google search, the longest shot in “Birdman” goes on for fifteen minutes, compared to “1917,” which has a longest ongoing shot for eight and a half minutes.

In all seriousness though, this film, as a visual ride, is a tour de force, and I think this could be Roger Deakins’ best work just because of the daunting task at hand. And for that, I also have to give credit to Sam Mendes for helming this production. This is an experimental, ambitious film that I think will be looked back upon for years to come. In addition to all of the surroundings that make this film what it is, Thomas Newman’s score also does an effective job at adding something to the crazy experience on screen.

As for the characters, I wouldn’t say I didn’t care about them, but I am not gonna sit right here and tell you that they’re anything special. I did mention their names, but keep in mind that I glanced at them on Wikipedia as I write this review. In fact, I think the only name I recalled from the film is Colonel MacKenzie, maybe because I was paying enough attention. But at the same time, this movie is more about the journey, the effects throughout said journey, and this was one HELL of a journey. When I bring that up, part of me thinks that I almost don’t even need to know anybody’s name. In fact, I felt like *I* was a character experiencing this event alongside everyone else, therefore I am ultimately the one who should develop the most.

If I were a character in this movie, I’d say I’d start out curious, maybe a tad scared, but at the same time, I have to realize the consequences that can come from various actions. As the movie goes on, I would still be scared, perhaps even more so, but I would still tough out through whatever lies ahead. Eventually, I’d still be my terrified self, but I’ll have a feeling that I finally get to breathe. Seriously, whenever there is a moment of silence or calmness, it felt rewarding. I felt like I went through war with these characters simply because the camera’s eyes were almost like my eyes. Granted, it focuses a lot on these folks’ faces and I would probably never spend 2 hours almost continuously running backwards, but I think y’all get the point.

The film’s concept is simple, but it is also effective. Before I dive into the paragraph where I give my official rating, let me just say that this film, story-wise, is one I need to continue to think about. However, when it comes to various other aspects, it is one that I am pretty much set on. My rating could change, but anything is possible.

In the end, “1917” gave me pretty much everything I wanted. It is a beautifully shot, brilliantly directed, and solidly executed master work. It is just incredible to think about all the hard work and craftsmanship that went into this. There are a good number of war films out right now, but I’d say that this is 1,917 times as awesome as some others. I know some people who have seen a number of movies that will tell you that maybe whatever movie they saw at the theater is not worth the experience, maybe because there weren’t enough showman-esque elements in the movie or something. Let me tell you, and I’m not talking to everyone, because I understand that war films may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine, but if you don’t go see this film in a theater, it’s a crime. A bad crime. Go see this movie on the biggest screen you can, with the best sound available. It’s out right now in Dolby Cinema, so if you’re willing to pay a higher ticket price, go there. Just see it! It’s an experience! As for the story, I mentioned that I have no problems with it, but it is one where I feel like I won’t remember anybody’s name. Maybe this is a movie to me that gets better the more I watch it. But we’ll just have to see. Also, the cinematography is PERFECTION. I’m going to give “1917” a 9/10. I wanted to give the film a 1917/10, but then I’d break the scale, so 9 it is.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that this SATURDAY, JANUARY 11TH, will be the kickoff of my multi-part countdown event, “Top Movies of the 2010s!” I’m gathering all the entries, lining them up as we speak, and even though I am admittedly cramming at this point, I am hella excited to share my lists with y’all! If you want to see this and more content from Scene Before, give me a follow! If you have a proper account in place, feel free to leave a like and comment! Also, if you have a Facebook account, feel free to like my page to get notified about the latest goings on here at Scene Before through the place where you have friends, even those you probably haven’t talked to in five or so years. I want to know, did you see “1917?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think is the better achievement in cinematography, this movie or “Birdman?” Let me know, you have one shot to impress me with your opinions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top 10 WORST Movies of 2019

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! 2019 may be the first year in a while without a new “Sharknado” movie, but I still have ten other stinkers to talk about. That’s right! Now that I have talked about my top 10 favorite movies of 2019, I’m about to dive deep into my top 10 LEAST favorite movies of 2019. Much like in the best list, I do want to state a few rules, because without them, there’d be chaos. First things first, this is a subjective list. What do I mean? Everything you see here is strictly my opinion! I am in no way saying that these are the top 10 objectively horrible movies of the year, they are just the bunch that didn’t work for me compared to all the others. My list may be different than your list, that’s what makes us human. That’s why we have souls. Also, I have not seen every single movie that has come out in 2019. In some cases, I may have been busy, or I just put something far down on my priority list, or there may have been a movie that looked bad enough to the point where I thought, “F*ck it, I’m taking a day off.” There have been several bad movies that have come out this year, but there are some that others considered to be bad that I missed out on. Some include “The Curse of La Llorna,” “Rambo: Last Blood,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” and “47 Meters Down: Uncaged.” Those are the movies I didn’t see! But we’re not here to talk about those, we’re here to talk about those I did see! Before we dive into the main ten, let’s get a few dishonorable mentions out of the way.

Kicking off the dishonorable mentions, we have “Cold Pursuit.” For awhile, I had no idea that this film was actually a remake. Goes to show that remakes don’t always work. I will say, this film had a couple scenes that were worth paying attention to, but it’s not really enough. This film is truthfully forgettable, but it did not bore me or make me blow a gasket as much as some of the other entries on here.

Continuing the dishonorable mentions, let’s talk about “Last Christmas.” This perhaps prompted me to want to start playing Whamageddon, you know that game where you have to blaze through much of December avoiding the song “Last Christmas?” Overall, “Last Christmas” is almost charming, but it has one or two unlikable characters that stand out, and in a time where we have iconic holiday films like “Home Alone,” “A Christmas Story,” “Die Hard” even, I’d rather watch those in December than this trash.

Concluding the dishonorable mention section, let’s dive into “Midsommar.” Out of all the movies that I have to talk about on here, maybe aside from one in the actual top 10, “Midsommar” is maybe the most disappointing one to see on here. For starters, it is directed by Ari Aster, who also directed “Hereditary,” which made my HONORABLE mentions last year. Speaking of which, the direction is visionary, solid, and pristine, but the script is what makes this film fall apart. Overall, “Midsommar” is underwhelming.

Now that we have briefly talked about some crap, let’s continue this post by flushing ourselves down the crapper! These are my top 10 WORST movies of 2019!

#10: Jexi

Starting off this list is “Jexi!” Following in the footsteps of say “The Emoji Movie,” “Jexi” officially continues the trend of bad movies heavily revolving around phones. I will admit, this film was almost charming at times and I could tell that there are maybe one or two moments that can probably get a laugh out of a number of first time viewers in the future, but this film honestly shattered itself to the ground for me. I guess you can make the argument that this is almost a satire, perhaps almost even an allegory, for how technology is practically taking over our lives, not to mention the world. But if that’s the case, this idea has been presented better in other films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Terminator.” Basically, the film revolves around a basic pasty white dude character played by Adam Devine who often relies on his phone for everything. If this were an adventure film, he’d probably be the least likable hero of all time, because he’d probably Google how to fulfill his quest! Early on, there’s a situation where he ends up getting a new phone. Only thing is that this new phone, or at least the AI inside it, is a psychotic, backstabbing, mind-blowingly corrupt bitch that needs to die. The movie starts out in a less than satisfying manner, kinda gets better as it goes along, and just ends up slitting its own throat by the end of it. Just goes to show, bad endings can ruin good movies. Not that this was anything great, it was itself up to be at least mediocre, but still.

#9: Yesterday

#9 is a movie that I probably want to not watch today, not tomorrow, not ever again! I’m talking about “Yesterday!” This film is directed by Danny Boyle! WHAT HAPPENED?! Seriously! This is the guy who directed “Slumdog Millionaire” for crying out loud! I guess if you really admire the Beatles, maybe you’ll like this film, the same way I can see someone really liking Elton John to find enjoyment in “Rocketman,” but this film just felt stupid. I like the Beatles a lot, but Jack Malik? Eh… Not so much. I get that this film is sort of supposed to present some sort of highly altered reality, but the process of getting there is rather tacky and it caused me to question the art of screenwriting. I cannot even talk about it without cringing! And if you ask me, my personal favorite Beatles song is “Let It Be.” Honestly, this movie sullies that song’s reputation and all it stands for. I get that the scene with “Let It Be” in it is trying to go for comedy, but it just felt RIDICULOUS. And speaking of bad endings, this movie has one as well. No spoilers, but this movie made me not want to live to see tomorrow.

#8: Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Coming in at #8 is “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.” I saw the original trailer for this film and I thought it was one of the most unsatisfying and horrible pieces of media I have witnessed this year. Can’t say the movie is all that much better! I was born in 1999, so as some of you might expect, I grew up with a generation of people who had “Dora the Explorer” pop on their TV screens from time to time. At the time, it was a fairly reasonable time-waster, and I will say that one thing this film gets right is that it seems to pay as much respect to the source material while still somehow managing to be its own thing. But the thing about “Dora the Explorer” is that when I look back on it, I do have memories that I can cherish, but it’s also a cartoon that either does not completely hold up, or feels somewhat cringeworthy. Overall, this film is cliché, boring, and a little bit embarrassing to watch at times. I have never imagined myself in a situation where Dora would be singing a song about turds. Will the kids enjoy the movie if it is in front of them? Maybe. But as for me, I cannot say it was one of my more pleasant experiences this year. Also, I mentioned it in my review, and I’ll mention it again, Swiper was pretty badass. But it’s not enough!

#7: The Fanatic

“Moose didn’t just cross the line. He f*cking nuked it.” That is a line from the epic, bombastic disasterpiece of crap known as “The Fanatic” starring John Travolta. To this day, the only real reason why I watched this film is because of Chris Stuckmann’s Hilariocity video on YouTube. By the way, if you want to watch a video as amazing as that, click the link at the end of the paragraph! John Travolta is one of the most… “interesting” actors working today. Yes, he’s had praise over the years with films like “Grease” and “Pulp Fiction.” But he just did FREAKING “GOTTI” LAST YEAR! I REPEAT, “GOTTI!” That film was s*it! Unlike “The Fanatic,” I failed at getting around to doing a review for “Gotti,” but I did mention it on my 2018 worst movies list. In that countdown I mentioned that film has a sort of so bad it’s good element intact. “The Fanatic” is the same way, perhaps a bit more so. It feels like I’m watching something such as “Samurai Cop” or “The Room.” One of those cult movies that is mainly regarded as watchable because of how perhaps unintentionally funny it happens to be. But to be serious, this film partially fails as a story because I don’t really know who to root for. It’s almost an interesting allegory on the relationship (or perhaps a relationship that should not be formed) between a celebrity and one of their mega fans. However, it’s just not enough to make a good movie.

#6: The Secret Life of Pets 2

I saw “The Secret Life of Pets” when it first came out in theaters. It was… OK. Not great, but OK. But that film made WAAAAAAY more than its budget, so naturally a sequel had to happen. AND IT SUCKS! The secret’s out! “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is utter garbage! This movie had Harrison Ford in it for Pete’s sake! HE COULDN’T EVEN SAVE THIS HOT MESS! Fun fact, if you watch this movie and stay for the credits, you can hear Harrison Ford’s voice at the end of the credits just letting you know that the movie’s over. I know Harrsion Ford is never obnoxious or lively when it comes to how he traditionally expresses himself, but his delivery of that message was a symbol of how I felt while watching this movie. Lifeless and less than satisfied. This is not the worst animated film I have ever seen. It’s not like I just watched “The Emoji Movie” or something, but it’s just plain stupid! The characters are boring and badly written, the ending is so convoluted and insane that I couldn’t even buy it for a second, and there is a scene that I think you can ONLY appreciate if you were on acid. If you have seen the movie, you may know what I’m talking about. Get your grip together Illumination, you just had “The Grinch” last year, which was horrible. And now you have this dogs*it, which is two times worse!

#5: Replicas

In my best list of the year, I suggested that this is the year of Keanu Reeves. Everybody might as well have Keanu fever. After all, he did films like “John Wick 3” and “Toy Story 4,” both of which were met with enormous praise. But I shouldn’t be too sure on such a sentiment. After all, this is the guy who also decided to do “Replicas” of all movies! “Replicas” originally came out in January in my area. I waited until June to see it partially because it was eventually on sale at Best Buy. Turns out when I saw it, it eventually became one of the most forgettable movies I have seen all year. Everything about this movie is just terrible! The chemistry between the characters, the CGI, the writing! My gosh! I’m almost surprised that this movie is not a reason for which I have decided to seek therapy! Then again, writing on a blog is therapeutic enough. So, I think we’re good here. I think the only upside that can come from “Replicas” in any way, shape, or form, is that this movie came out in January, before “John Wick 3,” before “Toy Story 4,” before it was confirmed that Keanu Reeves was going to be in the video game “Cyberpunk 2077,” before it was revealed that he was gonna have a small role in the next “SpongeBob SquarePants” movie. Work first, play later.

#4: Isn’t It Romantic

Here’s a question for you all. “Isn’t It Romantic?” NO, IT’S NOT! And speaking of questions, who is Rebel Wilson’s agent? Because they need to find better opportunities for this woman. Granted, I may have an unpopular opinion in terms of REALLY disliking “Pitch Perfect,” but she always seems to get roles that are forgotten overtime or in movies or programs that just don’t do all that well. I mean… There’s “Jojo Rabbit,” but still! You want to know how bad “Isn’t It Romantic” is? Well guess what? Here in the United States, Argentina, and Canada, it is being released theatrically, but elsewhere, it went straight to Netflix! Based on certain Netflix releases here last year such as “The Cloverfield Paradox,” that’s not always the best sign! One of the worst parts about this movie, and maybe one of the best parts as well depending on how you look at it, is that it is 89 minutes long, just short of an hour and a half. While this movie did not end up feeling like two hours for me, it did end up feeling like an abomination. The dialogue is cringy, the plot, while straightforward, is as bonkers as letting a beer bottle compete on a game of “Wheel of Fortune,” and as a parody, it’s insulting. I may ask for a lot of things during my moviegoing experience, because I am ultimately an entitled f-hole, but don’t make me feel stupid. Romantic comedies are not my thing, so maybe I am not the target audience for this film, but to have a movie make fun of a genre that I tend to think is sort of too sappy for my taste and fail is a bit of a letdown. Overall, this is not romantic, and most importantly, not worth your time!

#3: Cats

I think Peter Travers from Rolling Stone said it best, “Cats” is a “disaster of a movie shouldn’t happen to a dog.” I mean what is this catastrophic hairball?! This is arguably, the worst collectively reviewed movie of the year, definitely one of the worst of the decade. I will say this. I was not alive back in 1977, so I never got to witness one of the first screenings of “Star Wars” including the premiere at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. But I got very lucky, I managed to RSVP for “Cats,” particularly for a screening in Boston on the Tuesday before it came out. I went in the snowy cold, and I can confirm that I am now a part of film history. I was one of the first to witness one of the most poorly received movies ever! This is honestly something that I would put on my resume, especially if I were applying to some outlet that needs a film critic. I’ll just insert “One of the first to sit through ‘Cats’ so nobody else had to.” I’d be their hero. As for the movie itself, I TRIED being generous in my review. I left the movie not liking it, but I thought one song was neat, and some of the visuals worked. But the editing, the casting, the nonsensical storytelling, the rest of the music, the dreadfully abysmal pacing, the cat puns, it’s all a clowder of deplorables! As soon as the Universal logo came up and I began watching this movie, a part of my brain wanted to puke. Then as I sat through this anger-inducer, it became increasingly boring. People laughed in the theater, but I am willing to bet that some of the laughs given were in regard to how truly awful this monstrosity really is. When the end credits hit, people somehow applauded either because it’s classy, maybe they had a good time, maybe a time so bad it’s good, or maybe because the movie was over at last. Speaking of that, I just let out an almighty “THANK GAAAAWWWSH!” because this was simply worse than watching other people watch paint dry. And I originally thought seeing Nick Fury get his eye removed by Goose the Cat to be the worst feline-related thing to happen in a movie this year. Not only does this entire production of utter blasphemy top that, but eradicates it with heat vision. For the record, I have not seen the new adaptation of “The Lion King,” I cannot talk much about that. I think one of my mistakes this year as a critic was being generous to this film, because as much as I think I made a solid review, I think everybody else who saw this movie and hated it, ripped it to shreds whenever the opportunity struck. Before we movie on, here are some AMAZING “Cats” review highlights.

“For the most part, “Cats” is both a horror and an endurance test, a dispatch from some neon-drenched netherworld where the ghastly is inextricable from the tedious.” -Justin Chang (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I truly believe our divided nation can be healed and brought together as one by “Cats” — the musical, the movie, the disaster. In other news, my eyes are burning. Oh God, my eyes.” -Ty Burr (The Boston Globe)

“I have been processing this movie for the last 24 hours trying to understand anything as terrifying and visceral a trainwreck as Cats. You have to see Cats.” -Alex Cranz (io9)

“There are a few moments of inadvertent entertainment to be found, but it turns out that in this case, leg warmers have more life than digital fur.” -Katie Walsh (Star Tribune)

First off, full disclosure – I am not a cat person. Second off – after watching this frankly mortifying film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, I’m not altogether sure I am a movie person anymore either. -Alan Corr (RTE Ireland)

#2: Godzilla: King of the Monsters

There was a point when I saw this movie that I thought it was going to be a lock for my worst movie of the year. Well, guess not! Goes to show how s*itty some of 2019’s movies truly are! I am here to remind you that “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is not only one of the worst movies of 2019, but one of the most disappointing film experiences I have ever witnessed. That is the thing that probably makes “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” as bottom of the barrel for me as it is, because unlike various other films on the list such as “Replicas,” I had this as one of my most anticipated films of the year. I remembered seeing 2014’s “Godzilla” and thinking it was “fine,” but just like that movie, the trailers were bloody fantastic. Plus, it introduced more monsters like King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra. The film had some potential. But guess what wastes it? The same thing that repeatedly wastes “Transformers” movie after “Transformers” movie: Underdeveloped, unlikable, undeniably forgettable human characters. And if they were played by no-name actors maybe I’d let it slide because they are building their career, so props to them. But they’re not! You have Millie Bobby Brown, okay, she may still be building a career, but she’s still famous. Nevertheless, this movie has Millie Bobby Brown who plays perhaps the most well-known character from “Stranger Things,” Vera Farmiga, who has been nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, and a few Primetime Emmys! They got Thomas Middleditch to be in this s*it! To do what? Waste time?! GAH! I said it once, I’ll say it again. Ken Watanabe’s back? Who f*cking cares? I’ll give the movie an ounce of credit because one of the criticisms everybody supposedly had with “Godzilla” 2014 is that there was not enough Godzilla in the movie. This movie seems to expand the creature’s runtime and focus more on monster business. However, if you ask me, as I look back on Godzilla’s presence in the last movie, it felt special when he showed up. There was never really a point where I wanted to roll my eyes when he appeared. Here, I didn’t care about almost anything. I know a lot of people have pointed out, including myself, in their reviews that the script didn’t not allow for a moment for me to care about the human characters. A lot of general moviegoers’ opinions I have come across have gone something along the lines of “It’s monsters fighting, whaddya expect?” First off, bad writing is bad writing. PERIOD. Second, I would love to say I immensely enjoyed all the monster fighting, but I almost don’t even remember any of the monster fighting from this film. In fact, part of that may be due to a supposed migraine I must have received upon leaving the theater. I mean, I remember they fight in various locations around the world, including Boston of all places. I must say, as a Bostonian, this movie is an insult to my intelligence, and just because you have a big fight in my city, it doesn’t make anything better. I’d say the destruction of my city is practically a symbol of how I view this movie. A monstrous mess, nothing more. The only things this movie has going for it are some neat visuals, some cool sounds, and one or two nice shots. Other than that, the writing is all over the place, the casting is embarrassing based on the well-known or high-profile actors who are reduced to speck of dust, and as much as I want to look forward to “Godzilla vs. Kong,” this movie has left an unfortunate hole in my heart that can be difficult to sew back together.

#1: The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Here we are guys! It’s rock bottom! It’s time to talk about #1! In my top 10 best list, one of the entries was Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which partially featured Sharon Tate. As much as I love that movie, the only standout problem with it involves various scenes with Sharon Tate as it almost seems like she has little to no effect on the final outcome. But this entry to the worst list makes that Sharon Tate look like the second coming of Jesus. Why? Because my #1 worst movie of 2019 is “The Haunting of Sharon Tate!” There is a small part of me that almost refrained from putting this film on the list to begin with as there was not much of a theatrical release. But it did have one overall so I’m counting it, I don’t care! I cannot describe to you the utter misery I felt as I went through several scenes of the movie. The cinematography looked like it lacked proper craftsmanship and skill. The color grading at times looks a tad odd. And don’t even get me started with the screenplay of death! I do not mind rewriting history some of the time. For this movie, they decided to put a supernatural twist on the Tate murders. Honestly, it sucks. It just sucks. It really just feels shameful and full of poor of taste simply to exist. All of it is honestly ridiculous! I will say, Hillary Duff, for the most part was okay as Sharon Tate, but there are times, and this may be due to writing, maybe directing, that she did not come off as an experienced actor. Keep in mind, this a star on “Younger” and “Lizzie Maguire,” she has to have developed some sort acting ability by now! There is one scene that was incredibly disturbing and gory that I almost was able to see what the folks behind this film may have been going for, but it ultimately just turned me off. That’s what this movie is. A turn off! It turned me off as a viewer, and it made me regret not shutting my TV off sooner to save myself from further idiocy! Some of the other movies on this list are competently made. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” has some nice-looking animation. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” has some cool visual effects! This movie on the other hand is the film equivalent to what it must be like to drink a dog’s urine! It’s both crappy in terms of presentation and substance! The interpretation of Sharon Tate herself almost felt mean-spirited and nonsensical from what I imagine the real Sharon Tate must have been. She was moody in a rather unsettling manner, not to mention often more depressed than Sheldon Cooper whenever someone sits in his spot! And even though Hillary Duff is not the worst actress in the world or anything, this movie probably would have been better if maybe they got somebody else to fill Tate’s shoes. Or, maybe it wouldn’t because everything else in it is just about as lifeless and catastrophic as a brick that fell stories from the sky from a wrecking ball. I am curious to know if there is an afterlife. If there really is an afterlife of some sort, I am also curious to know if Sharon Tate herself is capable of watching this film in some sort of way, perhaps through gazing upon someone else’s screen in real life without being seen. What would she think of it? If I were her, I’d be disappointed. Regardless, this is a film that never should have happened. It’s horribly told, poorly crafted, and feels cringeworthy to the tenth degree! And to know that we are getting a conceptually similar film from the guy who directed and wrote “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” specifically Daniel Farrands, it’s kind of intimidating. Yeah, coming soon to streaming services and theaters, be on the lookout for “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson!” Or don’t… Save your money. Maybe I’ll watch it out of curiosity, but we’ll see. But speaking of seeing, if you have not watched these films, be sure to avoid seeing my picks for the top 10 worst movies of 2019!

Thanks for reading this countdown! 2019 personally contained a bunch of good movies, some mediocre movies, and as much as it has been a fairly decent year for film, I think the bad movies truly stood out. As usual, I enjoy doing these countdowns whenever I get the opportunity, it’s a solid form of therapy, and it gives me a chance to remind you, the consumer, to maybe save your money every once in awhile. I don’t think every person behind every film is a bad egg. For all I know, all of these films are passion projects, which can make it somewhat challenging to talk about in a format like this. But I still enjoy it, I find this to be some of my finest work, and it allows me to get creative in terms of what I have to say. It’s really fun process overall. If you have not gotten your countdown fix yet, this is your reminder that on January 11th, I will begin revealing my picks for the Top Movies of the 2010s. If you want to get in the mood, I will once again share the trailer I made for it originally presented here around Christmastime. Feel free to sit back, watch the trailer, and enjoy!

*All copyrights belong to their respective owners*

Remember to keep your eyes open for the upcoming countdown series, I am super excited to share it with you all! Ten years will go by starting January 11th! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you want to support me further, if you have an applicable account, give this post a like, maybe leave a comment if you want, and go like my Facebook page! I want to know, what are your picks for the worst movies of 2019? You can state however many bad movies you want, 10, 15, 20, whatever. If you want to go smaller than that, be my guest, it’s up to you! You have the power! Leave your thoughts down below, and welcome to the new decade! Let’s get nuts, everybody! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top 10 BEST Movies of 2019

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! 2019 has officially concluded, Happy New Year! Happy New Decade, as well! We are now in the 2020s! And with new years, come new countdowns. It is time for me to count down my top 10 BEST movies of 2019. I just want to remind everyone, before I start this countdown, this is a subjective list. Therefore, each and every entry to this list is strictly my opinion, and in no way a fact. With that being said, listen to me! I’m important! The movies on this list may be slightly different, or maybe entirely different from the movies on your list. Maybe by some coincidence they are the same, I don’t know. I am not here to settle debates; I am just here to have some fun and spread some joy. Also, I have not seen every single movie that has come out in 2019. There have been quite a few Disney live action remakes that have come out like “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” Guess what? Haven’t seen them, so those are off the list. I even missed out on a couple comic book movies this year, I haven’t seen “Hellboy” and I also haven’t seen “X-Men: Dark Phoenix.” So many movies, so little time. With that out of the way, I do want to address a few honorable mentions before we dive into the main event.

Honorable Mention: Joker

My first honorable mention is “Joker.” This is a comic book film that I heard about a couple years back and I was a bit confused as to why we’re getting it. I felt general audience members would be a bit turned off by a villain-centered comic book film. It could work in a comic book, but still. Ultimately, this film is a beautifully shot, well-written, expertly crafted piece of work. If Joaquin Phoenix is not nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards, there will be riots.

Honorable Mention: Blinded by the Light

The next honorable mention is “Blinded by the Light,” a film that is lovely, charming, and all round just a good time. I was never that into Bruce Springsteen, I mean, I like him, but I am not a die hard fan or anything. But “Blinded by the Light” made me feel very fulfilled as a cinemagoer. It’s a film I did not expect to end up watching, but based on the pleasantly fun time I had, I do not regret going.

Honorable Mention: Spider-Man: Far from Home

Finally, for honorable mentions, is “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” Personally, “Spider-Man: Far from Home” is my favorite comic book film of the year. More than the previously stated honorable mention, “Joker,” not to mention more than “Avengers: Endgame.” It is a film that is honestly better than its predecessor, 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which continues piggybacking off of its preexisting film universe material with brilliance, and if you ask me, it has one of the better villain roles in its genre.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the goldmine! These are my top 10 BEST movies of 2019!

#10: Alita: Battle Angel

Coming in at #10 is a film that I did not think I’d particularly be fond of when the marketing started, became more worried for when it was delayed into the month of February of this year, but ended up being one of 2019’s biggest surprises, “Alita: Battle Angel.” I don’t know how many people ended up loving this movie, but I managed to find out that the community who happens to love this movie is perhaps bigger than I originally thought it would be. Either that, or they just do a really good job through social media tactics by making their voices heard. One or the other. One sign that this movie happened to be really good is that it makes me want to be a part of this futuristic world. After all, it does have some of the finest visuals I have seen all year. I am not that familiar with the original source material, and I have no real plans to go back and look upon said source material, but the filmmakers did a really good job at bringing a story like this one to life. And even though I enjoyed viewing this at home with the volume up high on my 4K TV, this is one of those movies that I honestly regret not seeing in the theater. Also, why isn’t Motorball a thing? I don’t care if it’s dangerous, it’s really f*cking cool! “Alita: Battle Angel” is ridiculously fast-paced, fun, and one of the prettiest movies of the year.

#9: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

They say 2019 truly is the year of Keanu Reeves, and one point of evidence that everyone seems to go to in their argument is “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.” I have been looking forward to this film ever since I saw the ending to the second installment of this franchise! My gosh! This film has the essentials for a proper modern action flick. It’s not afraid to be brutal, it’s got a variety of fight scenes that are all done well, and it has assassin dogs! I hate dogs in real life, but this movie made me root for dogs for at least one particular scene! A lot of people tend to say that in a lot of movies, the sequels usually don’t live up to its predecessors. Turns out, this is my favorite “John Wick” movie yet. I think each “John Wick” has improved upon the one that came before it. The first movie was a simple revenge story about a guy who lost his lover and dog, it was solid and had a pretty good action sequence in a nightclub. Chapter 2 was a little more upbeat, lively, and had some of the best cinematography of the decade (at least for an action movie). This third movie raises the stakes, puts you right in the action from scene one, and never backs down from being fun, yet gritty.

#8: Ford v Ferrari

Up next is “Ford v Ferrari,” one of the finest racing films ever made. Between James Mangold’s solid direction, the admirable chemistry between leads played wonderfully by Matt Damon and Christian Bale, this flick is just a damn good time. Out of the many theater experiences I have been a part of this year, “Ford v Ferrari” is by far one of the most spectacular, especially considering how I saw it in IMAX. While I don’t think this film will win Best Picture (although I do think it could potentially come close), it could end up dominating in the sound categories for sure. Just hearing the various vrooms and revs from this film alone provides an instant adrenaline rush. On top of that, this film is based on a true story that I did not really know much about, but it is one that I quickly grown to admire as soon as I saw its events play out on screen. I think the one problem is that the film comes close to overstaying its welcome when it comes to Coca-Cola product placement, but other than that, it is just about as good as a racing film can get. The movie itself is fast-paced, attention-grabbing, and intense. What more could you want? Go see this thing!

#7: Knives Out

I liked “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” when it came out, but the more I thought about it, the worse it got. At this point, it’s mediocre. Part of it mainly has to do with the screenplay delivered from Rian Johnson. However, this year, I saw “Knives Out” and it honestly blew my socks off! The cast is great, the direction is spectacular, the cinematography is some of the best of the year, and if I had to be honest, of the few movies that I have seen from Rian Johnson, this might be his best one yet! For the record, I still haven’t seen “Brick,” but I hear it’s good. Also, can we just talk about that title? Not that it has much to do with the film’s overall quality, but “Knives Out” honestly might be the sickest and most badass title of the year. As I write this, the film is still in theaters, and there’s a good chance that it might still be in theaters for some time considering how much buzz it’s getting. I was talking to a friend on social media recently and they made an interesting point. Chris Evans is in this movie, and he plays one of the major characters. If you have seen trailers or marketing for the movie, you might know that there is a moment where he points at a bunch of family members around him and tells them to “eat s*it.” This is Captain America! The embodiment of a proud, mighty, generous man who wants to do what he can to help those in need of saving. So… I guess he really IS America’s ass. Also, speaking of well-delivered and brilliantly executed performances, we need to talk about Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. Both actors give 110% and I feel that even if they were written badly, which they ARE NOT AT ALL, they’d still be worth praising. I love how Ana de Armas’ character cannot tell a lie or else she’d throw up. It’s a really solid character trait, especially for a murder mystery. I’d enjoy seeing more adventures of Daniel Craig’s character, should Rian Johnson or Lionsgate decide to make more of these movies. Overall, it’s a really fun time at the cinema and a great movie to see with a crowd. Rian Johnson, you are officially forgiven for “The Last Jedi.”

#6: Parasite

I walked into “Parasite” thinking it was going to be really good. I was wrong, it was really GREAT. There is just about no issue that I can come up with regarding this movie. Bong Joon Ho directs the ever living crap out of this thing and it shows! The actors, even children, ALL give tremendous performances! I know the Academy is mainly an American tradition, but this better be getting some Oscar nominations for more than just Foreign film. “Parasite” is one of the craziest movies I have seen in recent memory. It’s about a poor family that eventually becomes a centerpiece of a rich family’s collective lives because they start taking up jobs to help them out, and they are not exactly how they tend to present themselves. This is one of those movies where I was watching it, expecting it to go in one particular direction, I should have known a lot better! Especially when considering how this movie won a freaking Palme D’Or from the Cannes festival! I went to see this movie by myself, and to this day, I have no memory of watching foreign films, or films that are not mainly in the English language with my parents. But if it were movie night, they were in the room, and I were in control of the movie we watch, I’d ask them to give this film a chance. Because it is THAT good.

#5: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

2019 was the year that I finally went full depth into some of Tarantino’s work. And in July, I instantly felt hyped and prepared for one of the all-time greatest theater experiences I’ll have in my life. I’m talking about “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!” This movie is a celebration of Hollywood’s glory, an entertaining tale about an actor and his stunt double, and it has one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a movie. In fact, for a Tarantino film, at least from my perspective, this is kind of tame. There’s not much action or blood, but even when action ensues, the comedic vibe of this film seems to always be intact. Granted, that point can actually apply to multiple Tarantino films, but as a comedy, this may have arguably been the best of the year! Plus, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give performances that are not only worthy of award nominations, but ones that make me want to have excellent bromances with others.

#4: Marriage Story

At #4, we have a film that I felt connected with probably before even setting foot in the theater, “Marriage Story,” which… is really about divorce, not marriage, but… marketing. Anyway, I think this is a film that I still kind of have to marinate on as it is one of the last films that I saw this year, but “Marriage Story” is a movie that made me want to continue glancing at the screen, and after the two hour and seventeen minute runtime, I left the theater with my head and body feeling like a wreck. If you must know, I am a child of divorce. My parents separated when I was a teenager, and as a kid, I was honestly concerned with how I felt. You know that saying about how “divorce is hardest on the children?” This movie does not really dive into that, even though the couple did have a kid, but it does dive into the multiple struggles of the divorce process and how hard it is to leave someone you have known for some time and ultimately move on with your life. Plus, the best part, for me at least, is that I could personally view both people as either heroes or monsters. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give two of the finest performances of 2019. There is an argument in the middle of the film between them that’s shot and edited with quality, and the two leads just go at it with each other! It felt too real. Not in a bad way though. I am not sure what is going to happen at the Oscars this year, but Driver and Johansson deserve nominations for acting at the VERY least. It’s a different level of compelling that we’re talking about here.

#3: Honey Boy

I liked Shia LaBeouf before he did “Honey Boy.” But after seeing “Honey Boy,” I think he is a national treasure. I saw this film at a free screening at a Landmark Theatres location, and having seen the movie, it feels like one that I would have willingly paid a million dollars to see. Shia LaBeouf not only acts his heart out in this film, but he also shares some phenomenal chemistry with the lead child actor, Noah Jupe. He is someone that I believe we all have to look out for in future years, just keep an eye out. For the record, LeBeouf is not just one of the leads in this film, he wrote the damn thing, and he wrote it freaking well! In fact, I cannot say I have seen every single one of LeBeouf’s performances, but part of me is willing to bet that maybe he can write better than he can act. Also keep in mind, this is his first feature-length screenplay, and I’d say that this is beyond what I would expect for a first attempt at making one of these bad boys. Speaking of first attempts, this film is directed by Alma Har’el, making this film in particular, the first feature-length production she’s ever helmed. “Honey Boy” is one of the best, if not the best, coming of age story that I have seen in the 2010s. The cinematography and editing combine together to form a love child worth holding up into the horizon. “Honey Boy” is not just a great tale of a father and son relationship spiraling out of control, but it is also based on true events, which may make this movie just slightly better.

#2: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

They say that the months of January and Februrary are full of garbage movies. This year is no exception with films like “Serenity” and “Isn’t It Romantic?,” but this past February also contained one of my favorite DreamWorks animations of all time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” I swear to you, I thought for a long time that this was going to be my #1. It has everything that I want out of a movie like this. Fun, wit, and rewatchability. That’s not all by the way, because this third installment to the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise completes the trilogy and does so magnificently. I will say, I don’t watch the other two “How to Train Your Dragon” films that often, but I found them to be very enjoyable films that I felt could be watched at practically any age. Even with a couple minor criticisms I have with the film, I find it to be the best of the trilogy simply because it did pretty much everything not only a movie of its kind needed to do, which is to entertain kids and adults alike, but everything a finale needed to do. Even with movies like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” who knew that the finale I’d be talking about most of the time would come from the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise? I sure didn’t see this coming! Plus, this movie felt special to me. As someone who is growing up and has started college back in September of 2018, this film reminded me of the importance of friends, not to mention family, while also reminding me the significance of one day realizing that I’d most likely separate myself from them. The ending scenes of this film is the only occurrence of yours truly CRYING in a cinema. I just want to remind everyone that this is coming from a guy who saw “Toy Story 3.” I still need some time to think, but I think “How to Train Your Dragon” made a slightly better ending to its trilogy than “Toy Story” did, and that says a lot considering how I consider that film to be one of the best animations of all time. I will never forget that first time watching this movie, it is an experience that I will likely continue to carry with me until the day I die. The reasons that keep this film from going slightly higher have to do with a couple jokes that did not always land, the cliché (but rather effective) villain, and the fact that unlike my #1 pick, I do not recall this movie getting that much better on the second or third watch. Although I will give the film credit for actually being good enough for three watches in a single year. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” based on its popularity, is a not so hidden gem. I do not want a fourth movie though, don’t force a sequel on us! But with “Toy Story 4” being good, anything’s possible at this point.

#1: Ready or Not

Viola! #1! Do you want to hear about my top pick of my year? The most perfect of all the films on the list? The pinnacle of 2019 in film for me? Well, I’m gonna tell you about regardless of whether you are… “Ready or Not!” No other movie this year made me enjoy myself as much as this one for sure! I will say, having seen the trailer before the film came out, I was instantly intrigued by whatever could have been afoot. As far as the final product goes, it starts out great, maintains a solid pace, and packs a punch of personal shock, laughter, and cheers by the end. One complaint I heard around the time “Ready or Not” happened to be coming out was that its trailer pretty much revealed the core elements of the film. Couple things: 1. This film still has plenty of moments that aren’t in the trailer that can catalyze a solid reaction. 2. As much as I understand this complaint, I will say that given how much I enjoyed the trailer and considered it to be one of the year’s best, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that the movie ended up giving me pretty much everything I asked and hoped for. It’s a film with a neat concept that sounds silly, but for some reason, it ends up working. Seriously! How many other films have a plot where a woman needs to play a game of hide and seek, thinking that the playing of this game will allow her to be part of a family she is marrying herself into, only to eventually realize that she may be killed by her newly established in-laws?! It’s a f*cking plot. A F*CKING PLOT! As far as endings go, this film has one of the best of the year. It’s satisfying, it’s silly, and BRILLIANTLY written. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back and pop in the Blu-ray for this film! I don’t watch many horror movies, and when it comes to “Ready or Not,” it is sort of a comedy, and sort of horror, and if enough people consider it horror, I will point out that this may be my favorite horror flick of the decade. I don’t really know many of the actors in this film by name, but “Ready or Not” introduced me to an admirable cast of actors who I would love to follow more down the road. Samara Weaving kills it in this film as the lead character of Grace and I could tell that everyone here was having fun. This film looks sick due to the awesome production design and the color palette that fits right in with everything, it is just plain fun, which in reality many of these films should come down to. Can I have fun watching it? If not, why am I watching this movie to begin with? I should also point out another thing. This is one of the first Fox titles to have come out since their merger with Disney. Keep in mind, when the film opens, the first logo to be seen is from Fox Searchlight. I do not know how things will go from here, but if we keep getting films like this, and as long as the art of a lower-budget feature does not die, I will be very happy. For those who are curious the budget for this film is $6 million. Honestly, to me, this is a billion dollar film. It is a goldmine of everything that cinema itself is all about, and “Ready or Not” is my favorite movie of 2019.

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Thanks for reading this countdown! 2019 has certainly blessed me with some movies to cherish and celebrate. Movies that are fun, emotional, gritty, or just plain solid. These films have shaped the year for me. But just a reminder to everyone, that you cannot have the good without the bad. That’s right, pretty soon, specifically tomorrow, I am gonna be diving into my top 10 WORST films of 2019. We will get through this dire time, I promise you that. But if you do want to remain on the positive side of the spectrum, I will have you know that on January 11th, I am going to be releasing the first installment to my Top Movies of the 2010s countdown series, where I will kick everything off by talking about my favorite movies of the decade. If you want to get in the mood, feel free to watch a trailer I released on Christmas Eve down below!

*All copyrights belong to their respective owners*

With that being said, I hope you eventually tune into the series, I’m really excited to release it. And also check out my top 10 WORST movies of 2019, coming January 2nd! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you are interested in supporting me further, if you have an applicable account, give this post a like and if you have Facebook, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, what are your favorite movies of 2019? What are your top 10? Top 15? Top 20? Maybe if you didn’t see that many you can make like a top 3 or 5 or something. What did you enjoy this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Spies In Disguise (2019): #TeamWeird

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“Spies In Disguise” is directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, stars Will Smith (Men in Black, Suicide Squad) alongside Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Lost City of Z), and this is the latest animated feature from Blue Sky, the creators of films including “Rio,” “Epic,” and “Ice Age.” This film follows the adventures of showoff spy Lance Sterling (Smith) as he eventually runs into the quirky and hyperactive Walter Beckett (Holland). When the two first meet, their chemistry does not quite match, causing a bit of a ruckus between them. Speaking of things that cause a ruckus, the film involves Sterling’s accidental transformation and adaptation to the life of a pigeon. Meanwhile, Sterling is also in a situation where he has been framed.

Before we go any further, I do want to remind you all that this is my final film review of 2019, and what a better way to end than by touching upon a movie where Agent Jay and Spider-Man collide, amirite? Now, while this was not a film I was planning on seeing instantaneously, I recall seeing a trailer or two for this film in the theater earlier this year. During that time, my curiosity meter increased. But as I went in, part of me was still skeptical as to how this could turn out. As much as I have enjoyed a good portion of Blue Sky’s work, I was worried that this movie could end up being a little more disposable than I’d like. And in some ways, I guess it is. It relies a bit on gross and toilet humor, there’s even a scene that I probably want removed from my memory as soon as possible.

I have to ask all of you, what is the most disturbing sight you’ve witnessed in a kids movie? Because while I cannot confirm what mine would be at this point. I would probably need to think about it, but there’s a scene that I am truthfully surprised this movie was somehow able to get away with. There is a brief clip where we get a look at this chubby naked dude and it shows pretty much the entire backside of his body, including his magnificent ass. Seriously, watch the movie, it’s actually pretty spectacular.

MOVE OVER, CAPTAIN AMERICA! THERE’S A NEW PLAYER IN TOWN!

And the film is kinda sorta what a parent would want when they need to waste an afternoon with their kid. It’s fun, but also kind of unmemorable. You’re not really getting the quality that you would come to expect from say your typical Pixar fare nowadays. It’s a film that is sort of cliche, sort of been there done that, not to mention done better, but it his a few elements here and there that still make it a fun time at the movies.

I also have to say, when it comes to Will Smith’s character, I’d say he was very well portrayed given the writing and overall style of the film. After all, it is an animated film, which does allow for, not to mention celebrate, enhanced hyperactivity. Lance Sterling is essentially the result of what would happen if Michael Bay were black and fought crime. He often tends to reveal personal enthusiasm or excitement towards explosions, violence, flying through helicopters in ways that don’t really make any logical sense, and whatever other way he can show himself off. The movie’s second scene does a really good job at showing Smith’s character in all of his glory. He’s basically what would happen if Po from “Kung Fu Panda” became a spy. I say that because Po often displays a sense of enthusiasm from his particular martial art, and while spying is not kung fu, Po would probably take various elements from his passion, which seems to be fighting for good, hold onto them, and continue to express himself as the “most awesome” fighter ever. In fact, to put two and two together, Lance Sterling is referred to as “the most awesome spy.”

To add onto this supposed awesomeness, Sterling in this film is displayed as kind of a narcissist. Even though he is often responsible for people’s lives and has to save the day, he thinks that he is a step above those around him just because he’s, well, him. We see a scene where he’s given a marathon of compliments in a giant lobby, and if he were invited to a party of spies, he’d be a hit based on what I can assume from that short moment. I will say though, and this is my opinion, this narcissism of Sterling’s, while definitely a defining character trait, also kind of made him somewhat of an asshole, most notably during the beginning portions of the picture.

As much as I like Will Smith, I also have a soft spot for Tom Holland, considering he has one of the best interpretations of a comic book-based character of all time. He stars in this film alongside Smith as a young, millennial, aspiring inventor and scientist who went to MIT in his younger teen years. In fact, when we first see him, in a scene that almost felt like it was ripped out of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” he shows off this invention that sort of reveals his personality. This makes him almost a polar opposite of Smith’s character once they team up, because Smith lives for violence, whereas Holland is almost kind of a pacifist. Much of his character’s traits revolve around him being happy or optimistic or peace-loving. I think the mismatched chemistry was a good idea and helps build a lesson for younger viewers, specifically the notion that sometimes problems can be solved without anger or destruction.

I mentioned one problem I had with the film early on in the review, specifically how it does something that I almost wonder how it got in the film in the first place. Maybe it’s not as graphic as I thought, it’s just something that I do not usually expect to see in an animation like this. However, this movie is not afraid to let in a swear. Seriously! There is a moment where Lance Sterling is in a sticky situation and the moment basically called for a joke where he drops a bomb. For those of you who are possibly parents who want to protect your kid, don’t worry, it’s censored! I’d also say the film is still predictable and kind of standard as far as modern animations go, but it still manages to handle itself quite well in the process.

In the end, if you have kids, I think this might be a fine afternoon outing of some sort. If you want to go see a movie for matinee price, I’d recommend this. Maybe if you have A-List, it would be a slightly higher recommendation. Maybe you should wait until it becomes available on DVD, maybe go see “Star Wars” for the second or third time. But just to remind you, Disney wins either way. After all, this is a Fox movie.

And we all know the fate of that company…

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll ever rewatch “Spies in Disguise,” at least not in the near future. It’s by no means a bad movie, but it is one that I am almost surprised I have not forgotten by now. I have a feeling if I were a general audience member, maybe I’d forget about it at this point, maybe fairly soon. But like most of the movies I have seen this year, the positives tend to outweigh the negatives. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s a good time. I’m going to give “Spies in Disguise” a 6/10.

Thanks for reading this review, 2019 is finally over and I have had one heck of a year. I will be kicking off 2020 in style, because tomorrow is the release of my top 10 BEST movies of 2019. Speaking of which, the day afterwards, I will be following this up by revealing my top 10 WORST movies of 2019. I’m not going to give much hints as to what will be on those lists, but I am excited to continue my annual countdown tradition, and I hope you enjoy the content! Speaking of content, if you want to receive the latest updates from Scene Before, follow the blog either with a WordPress account or email! And speaking of stalking my daily life, go on over to my Facebook page and give it a like! It really helps me out! I want to know, did you see “Spies in Disguise?” What did you think about it? Or, since this is my final review of the year, what is your favorite and/or least favorite movie of 2019? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Marriage Story (2019): A Child of Divorce Gives His Two Cents

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“Marriage Story” is directed by Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories, Francis Ha) and stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) and Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Lucy) as a couple who are going through a divorce. This film dives into the events that unfold as the once married couple try to move on with their lives, work, and whether or not they get to see their own kid again.

Earlier this week, I could have stayed home, turned on Netflix, and watched not one, but two films already on the service! But, I like the theatrical experience, so I went to see both “The Irishman,” which I enjoyed, and then that was followed by this film right here! I went into this film knowing little about the material itself. I know it involves heavy dialogue, and based on the plot, it’s a serious situation. I was also made aware of various positive verdicts beforehand, therefore I had rather high expectations. Plus, it’s got Adam Driver, a fine actor who may have ended up being the best part of the new “Star Wars” trilogy. Alongside Driver is Scarlett Johansson who I, unashamedly, consider to be a celebrity crush. I think both actors are great and to see them together is a dream I did not even realize I had.

I was not even sure if I was going to watch this movie, because as much as I am beginning to appreciate Netflix’s efforts to expand itself into the realm of cinema, even to the point where even Martin Scorsese has considered Netflix to be more cinematic than Marvel, I don’t pay for their streaming service and I am not that invested in the company. Again, when it comes to media consumption, I’m kind of a dinosaur, I can’t help myself. That, and this award season has kept me pretty busy with films like “Uncut Gems,” “Knives Out,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and more. Well that, and blockbusters like “The Rise of Skywalker.” I still haven’t even seen “Queen & Slim” yet! That’s how busy I have been with this blog!

I have waited a little while to talk about this movie, keeping in mind that it has been since Monday since I walked out of the theater. With that being said, I was focused on getting my review out for “The Irishman,” which does not necessarily mean I wanted to delay my review for this movie, but with Christmas and other projects getting in my way, I am getting my thoughts out later than I expected, so I do apologize. Again, I walked out of the theater after seeing this film this past Monday. How did I feel then?

One word. NUMB.

HOLY F*CKING F*CK I FELT NUMB.

This movie captured perhaps everything I wanted it to capture and more. “Marriage Story” is an emotional, enthralling, not to mention exciting piece of art that did pretty much everything it needed to do. I walked out of this film not exactly in tears, but I did walk out feeling like my skin had gone through a paper shredder. It can remind you of how unbearable the idea of divorce really is from all sides.

Now I think I have a somewhat interesting perspective regarding this film. Okay… Maybe not, depending on how you look at it. I’ll have to do more concrete research, but I often remind myself of the statistic that flies around regarding how over 50% of marriages end in divorce. That’s what happened to my parents when I was 13 years old, they announced their separation, and it took them quite awhile from that point for a full divorce to finally occur, but it happened. And I felt a part of my life had been destroyed. I am not joking. Look, have I adapted to a situation where I was able to live with one parent? You betcha. But behind the skin that conceals my mind, there was a part of me that wanted my mother and father living together. It just felt like the natural thing. Even at twenty years old, it is still something I beg for. I know it is a situation that is beyond my control, and if I were to interfere, I would probably be facing a head dunk in the toilet at best, or a fatality at worst. But this movie reminded me of everything in my life from my teen years to today.

I still live with my mother. So… Hit me up girls. You’ll find me very charming. For the record, I love my mother. I am eternally thankful that she is in my life. But not having a father figure in my life all the time is something that I feel has slightly diminished me as a person. I had no brothers, and even though some of you might think this is progressive or cool, most of the people I knew in my life, at least when this whole divorce thing first started, happened to be women. I felt like I could barely surround myself with anyone I knew. As if there were anyone in school that wanted to hang out with me. I still surrounded myself in activities that guys my age would typically enjoy. Video games, Internet surfing, and of course, film. But when it comes to people I could relate to who could take part in certain activities that others in my family or social circles wouldn’t really take part in, it would be dad. Did he want to do every single thing with me? I would not say yes, there’s a good chance that he had better things to do from time to time, but I felt there was a sense of brotherhood between us.

This is why I have forever feared “replacements.” I think some people at my age would have understood what I am talking about. When my parents separated, it seems that my mother did not usually have much trouble finding a date. I mean, she’s an amazing woman, why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t any guy want her? But whenever my mother got close with someone she dated, I was worried because that equated to certain transitions that I would have to adapt to whether I liked it or not. There also may have been a possibility that there was something about the person she dated that I felt would affect the way I grew up. Maybe I would have someone in my life that I am supposed to see as “my parent,” but a certain part of my brain would keep me from doing such a thing. There’s only one “mom” and “dad” for me, and I am thankful to have them both in my life, even if they are apart. But this movie sort of took me back to my childhood struggles. There is a certain event in this film that felt all too real for me.

Now I am going to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but I am going to dive a bit deep into this film as I talk about what happens during Halloween. This is not something that has happened to me personally. Partially because I never trick or treated when my parents got divorced, but with that in mind, there is a part of the movie that takes place during Halloween, where the parents decide at one point to have “two Halloweens.” The mother takes the kid out for a period of time, and then it’s dad’s turn. By the way, the kid’s name is Henry, and he is played by Azhy Robertson and he does a fine job in this movie.

I have never been in the situation where I had to have two Halloweens, but I imagine that I am not alone when I have to note that I celebrate “multiple Christmases” every year for now on. Now, prior to the divorce, I have celebrated Christmas at multiple venues for both sides of the family at different times. And as much as I continue to enjoy Christmas every year, including this past year, I found that it sort of deteriorates the specialty of the holiday. There are a lot of things in life that I would like to have more than one of during the year. Of course I’ll take multiple “Star Wars” related holidays! May the fourth be with you, and I shall have my revenge of the fifth! I would love to have more than one Marvel movie within a number of months! As long as they make them as good as they are at this point, I’d say they should keep crankin’ them out! But Christmas is that one day of the year that maybe in my childhood I looked forward to more than most others. Even though I still find Christmas to be unbelievably fun, I still long for the days of togetherness between the family I once knew. The very idea of this double Halloween alone brought such thoughts to my mind.

But I will say, the events of this divorce in this movie does not play out like it did in my life. In fact, why should it? If it did, then all divorces would supposedly be the same to me, making life very boring. One thing I will say that I sort of related to is the idea that maybe I would have a favorite parent. I think about that a lot less today, mainly because I am doing whatever I can to rely less on my parents and focus more on myself. But this movie does a really good job at highlighting the less than pleasant chemistry between Charlie, the father, and his kid Henry. There are some moments where the movie flat out reveals Henry’s love and affection for his mother, Nicole, that I clearly did not see between him and Charlie. Little things like that got me. Despite how they say divorce is hardest on the children, this movie is not exactly about how a child handles the situation of divorce, in fact, this child seems to be handling it in a way that I never could, especially at his age.

As for Nicole and Charlie, their screen presence together make for some of my favorite scenes of the year. There’s a scene at the beginning of the film where they seem to be seeking some counseling that give a basic idea of how high tensions are between them. Later on, past the halfway point, there is an extended argument that could be an Oscar reel clip for both of these people. I felt every moment of the dialogue and everything from their setup and onward was nothing short of fantastic. I think one of the best parts of both characters, at least to me, is that I could point out flaws from both sides and be able to realize that not only are these two demonstrating how they may not be right for each other, but I could equally argue that one person or the other is an asshole based on random actions that happen during the film. As nice as they may seem, they have their dark sides, and that’s what makes this marriage stor–sorry, DIVORCE story, so interesting. It’s not one side causing everything, it’s actions from both sides combining to form an eventual reaction.

The movie also does a really good job at providing depth to its two leads. I really enjoyed the backstories to both of the main characters. Scarlett Johansson plays someone who aspired to be an actress. In fact, we see her early on in a fake film flashing herself, which does come up a couple times later in some interesting ways. But she gave up her life in Los Angeles to allow Adam Driver’s character to focus on his career in theater. This not only feels like a story where a couple fights because of lost love or random attacks, it feels like something that has been gradually built up, which is why much of the dialogue in this film between the leads feels, in a way, climactic, that’s probably the best word I can use to describe all of it. There is an argument in this film that might as well be the human resemblance of what happens when a house is on fire.

I think one of the best things about this movie is how it handles getting custody over the kid. For one thing, it delivers more out of the two main actors, who also show off their chops here. In addition to that, Laura Dern shows up and gives an excellent performance as well. From a story perspective, I was almost on the edge of my seat, and this is not even a flashy action movie. There have been some films that I have seen where I honestly don’t know who precisely I am supposed to be rooting for, because maybe the film goes in an unexpected direction, or it is just flat-out stupid. Here, I feel the same way, I don’t know who exactly to root for, but that’s because I feel it is almost hard to pick a side. On the one hand, the kid could end up getting full custody from his mother, who he clearly likes more. On the other hand, if such a thing happens, the father, who wants to see his own child grow up, won’t get that opportunity. This is one of those movies that knows how to set up stakes and tension within its overall story. As a story, it is relatable, somewhat charming, and yet at the same time, depressing. It’s everything I could want out of this movie.

If I had to slide in any complaints, it might be for one scene in particular. Now this involves a scene that I overall enjoyed, so I personally would consider this a nitpick more than anything else. But kind of like much of the movie “Parasite,” another amazing film from this year, there is one moment that is borderline convenient in terms of moving the plot along. Maybe if I watch the movie again, I’ll change my mind, but having watched it once, this is just how I feel at the moment. Even so, I cannot think of too many other flaws regarding “Marriage Story,” and even though Netflix does not usually consider releasing physical copies of their material, I would pay hundreds for a copy of “Marriage Story.” I mean, Criterion is releasing “Roma” next year, so anything’s possible!

In the end, “Marriage Story” is a movie that I really enjoyed as I saw it, one that destroyed me upon leaving it, and one that has honestly gotten better the more I thought about it over these past few days. If I had any other flaws, I probably would have forgotten about them by now because I feel I am delaying my review a little bit, but even so, this is a film that I will probably to continue to carry in my memory. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most relatable pieces of art I have witnessed in my entire life. I think in terms of chemistry, or lack thereof depending on how you look at it, I think Driver and Johansson might make for the best on-screen pair of the year. Laura Dern does a really good job with the film. The directing, cinematography, and editing are a terrific trio. As for the screenplay, I want to frame it. There is very little that I could consider to be problematic with this movie. “Marriage Story” might not end up being my favorite film of the year, although I do have a few days left to decide for sure, but it is one of the few to hit me where I live and remind me of the ups and downs my current or prior experiences. Especially now, because during the time of another “split Christmas,” which again, I did enjoy, this felt like a story that I could potentially be a part of. I am going to give “Marriage Story” a 10/10!

Thanks for reading this review! I will be completely honest with you, I am not gonna make any guarantees, but it is a possibility that this is my final review of 2019. I might go see one more movie, but I am not too sure. If that’s the case, I do hope to have a review up on New Year’s Eve, hopefully New Year’s Day at the latest. After all, I am getting closer to sharing my picks for my top 10 favorite and least favorite movies of 2019! If I do have one more review to do, I will hopefully separate it long enough before you are all able to read my countdowns, which may be hard because of the millions of other projects I have going on right now. At least that’s what my life feels like at this moment. Nevertheless, if you want to see upcoming content like my countdowns or more reviews, be sure to follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Marriage Story?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever been through divorce of any kind? As a kid? Partner? Tell me about it if you feel like it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Movies of the 2010s FINAL TRAILER (Star Wars: The Force Awakens Final Trailer Style)

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! There has been an awakening, have you seen it? In this season of giving, I want to give you all a trailer! We have reached the point where we are less than three weeks away from the release of my Top Movies of the 2010s countdowns! With that being said, today I am going to be releasing my final trailer for the event, presented in the style of the last trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

If you want to know more about this upcoming epic countdown event, I will be recapping my favorite AND least favorite movies of the past decade. I will dive into what I enjoyed about them, what I didn’t enjoy about them. And unlike my traditional countdowns that I usually do at the end of the year, this is going to be more extended. I’m planning on doing at least top 25 lists, perhaps including some honorable and dishonorable mentions.

I do not want to dilly dally much longer, so I am going to be sharing the trailer with you all right now for your viewing pleasure. Happy holidays to everyone, and I hope this is a heartwarming gift! THIS is the final trailer for Top Movies of the 2010s!

*All copyrights belong to their respective owners*

The Irishman (2019): Jack Does a Short Review of Martin’s Long Film

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“The Irishman” is directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence) and stars Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, The Godfather: Part II), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Raging Bull), and Al Pacino (Heat, Insomnia). This is a return to form for critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, who is well-known for his gangster movies including “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Mean Streets.” In this film inspired by Charles Brandt’s book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Robert De Niro’s character, Frank Sheeren recalls events of his past as he gets involved with Russell Bufalino and dissects into his involvement with Jimmy Hoffa.

I will be completely honest with you. There was a time, going back two or three years ago that I did not think I was going to check out this movie as all. After all, I don’t personally pay for Netflix, which I heard this movie was going to be on. I did not realize at the time that they were getting a bit more serious with their theatrical releases. To this day, my family uses Netflix, but I just never jumped on the train. I’m just not a streamer, it’s not my style. The only services I use today happen to be Prime and Crackle. When I heard this was getting a theatrical release, my curiosity levels shot into the air and almost splattered like glittery fireworks. Even though I am rather late to the party, I did make a trip to one of my local theaters to go see “The Irishman.” I’d say it was worth the trip. To be honest with you, even though some of the most well-regarded movies ever made are gangster flicks, that type of film has never been my style. With that being said, my experience of witnessing this film was still a good use of my time.

Speaking of time, “The Irishman” is three and a half hours long, making it my most extended watch of the year. This is both a blessing and a curse. I say that because the movie for the most part is entertaining and rather investing. The downside is that perhaps both the first thirty minutes and last thirty minutes happen to be the points where the film manages to fizzle. I may be exaggerating on the first thirty minutes because for one thing, the film was just beginning, therefore it was nearly impossible for me to divert my eyes away from the screen. But, for the last thirty minutes or so, I felt like I was watching something that was four hours as opposed to three and a half.

I did something I don’t normally do when I work on my reviews, but I jotted down some short notes after watching the film. I was in the middle of a double feature, because I watched both this and “Marriage Story” in the same day. Before my second movie started, I stated that “I enjoyed the little things.” There are a few scenes in this movie that sort of add something to the film, but almost feel like they belong on an extended cut. There is a scene towards the end of the movie, that I won’t entirely go into that involves a conversation about the delivery of a fish. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, and in the moment, it kind of put a smile on my face, but the more I think about it, it almost does not really add anything to the film overall aside from some random laughs. It just feels like wasted time. I mean, it sort of reminded me of “Pulp Fiction,” which has random conversations about uncomfortable silences and foot massages. These are two random topics that somehow got in the script in the first place, but most amazing of all, worked. However, “Pulp Fiction” feels like it uses every minute wisely whereas “The Irishman” almost overstays its welcome. The pacing drags at a point, which considering the runtime, is not that surprising.

While this movie may suffer in terms of pacing, I think it is nevertheless one of the best directed and acted films I have seen all year. Martin Scorsese manages to deliver a technically competent film on all levels ranging from camerawork, lighting, and delivering the best performances possible. This movie also contains what may be my favorite child performance of the year, given by Lucy Gallina. Her performance is very subtle, and any scene involving her was either entertaining or simply charming.

Speaking of surprise performances, I want to talk about Ray Romano. Do not get me wrong, I liked Ray Romano long before he signed onto this movie, but I never thought Romano had the acting range he does today. After all, he was the lead role on one of my favorite sitcoms, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where he basically plays an exaggerated, alternate version of himself. In this movie he plays a lawyer by the name of Bill Bufalino, and honestly, it’s the best performance of his career. Looking at his past work, it might not say too much, but it’s still worth pointing out.

However, Romano is not part of the big three. Specifically, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. And while I do admire the portrayals given by the entire trio, Pacino, personally, cannot be beat. Pacino was perfectly cast as Jimmy Hoffa. This is a role that I honestly do not see anybody else playing, except maybe John Tuturro, not specifically because of his acting ability or anything, but at one point, I thought Pacino looked like Tuturro during the film. Out of all the characters, Hoffa was by the far the most charismatic and interesting of all. He’s bombastic, wacky, and quirky. He’s basically what you need out of a proper Pacino role.

I don’t have much more to say on “The Irishman,” but as I watched this film, one of the things I almost forgot about going in that I eventually reminded myself of is the de-aging processes that can be seen throughout this flick. De-aging through digital tech is a seemingly increasing trend. We’ve seen it so far in films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Tron: Legacy,” and “Gemini Man.” I think one of the best de-aging jobs that has been done recently is for Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel.” YES, I JUST BROUGHT UP A MARVEL MOVIE IN A REVIEW FOR A MARTIN SCORSESE FILM. REMIND HIM NOT TO READ THIS IN ORDER TO AVOID NIGHT TERRORS. As for this film, I could barely even notice the digital makeup applied to everybody. I’d probably have to watch the film again, and I have no plans to watch it again in the near future, but if I were to watch it again it would be for one reason only. Because the main actors are not that young, and I want to remind myself of how they move. They may look younger in the film than they do in real life, but do they move like younger people should? It’s a question that is still on my mind.

In the end, “The Irishman” is entertaining, but a tad too long. Although at the same time, this brings up a dilemma, because one of the most entertaining factors of “The Irishman” are some little additions that do not need to necessarily be in the final cut, but are entertaining nonetheless. This movie is a solid piece of work, and not exactly a waste of my time (maybe except for somewhere between ten and thirty minutes worth), so I’d still recommend it. I’d recommend it to a good number of people, unless you are an easily offended vegetarian. This film has a lot of steak consumption. I really liked Jimmy Hoffa’s story overall, and basically any scene involving him made the movie twice as swell as it already was. I’m going to give “The Irishman” a 7/10. One reminder to Martin Scorsese, there are two Marvel films I saw this year that I liked better than this. Just being real.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, as mentioned earlier, I went to see “Marriage Story.” I will have my review up for that as soon as possible, and stay tuned at the rise of the new year for my countdowns on the best and worst movies of 2019! If you want to see more great content like this, follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Irishman?” What did you think about it? Did you see it in theaters or at home? Tell me about your experience! Or, do you consider comic book movies like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “cinema?” Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know? Part yes part no? State your case, defend your opinion, the universe depends on it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Aeronauts (2019): The Theory of Ballooning

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“The Aeronauts” is directed by Tom Harper (The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, Peeky Blinders) and stars Eddie Redmayne (Jupiter Ascending, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Himesh Patel (EastEnders, Yesterday), and Tom Courtenay (Doctor Zhivago, The Dresser). This film is based on the 2013 book “Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air,” written by Richard Holmes. This is about a pilot (Jones) and a scientist (Redmayne) as they try to survive in a gas balloon as they attempt to break boundaries for all mankind.

“The Aeronauts” was one of my more anticipated films of the fall. When I did research on this film earlier this year, I figured this would be a fun ride, and I mean that literally. During the summer, I made a big post meant to recap the initial half of 2019 and how it links to my time on Scene Before. In said post, I made a statement about some of the plans I had for October. I wanted to check out “Zombieland: Double Tap,” which I did see. And I also wanted to take a gander at “Gemini Man,” which I didn’t see. Another film on the list of things that I wanted to see then was “The Aeronauts.” After all, it was supposed to release in October, but it didn’t even come out here in the United States until December 6th. This release period by the way is very limited. And I think Amazon thought that the movie would do better if it was released to Prime as soon as possible. By the way, I wanted to go see this in the theater. In fact, I had an opportunity to see it for free, because I reserved a pass for a screening at a theater in Boston, but I ended up not going because it was during a time of a big snowstorm and I was wondering if I would be able to get home easily.

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Also, when I reflect on the buildup period to this film’s release, I recall this being Amazon’s earliest planned attempt at an IMAX run. Having said that, it seems to be true. In the United Kingdom, this released in cinemas during November. This run seems to have included screenings in IMAX and 4DX. This movie was shown in various places in the US, including at AFI Fest this year, where according to Wikipedia, it would show at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. Unfortunately, as far as I know from research, the movie lost its IMAX run here in the US.

Having seen the movie, I must say, as an experience, Amazon honestly missed an opportunity. They could have marketed the film as the “must-see in cinema experience of the year” or something of that nature. This film is vibrant, lively, and just a joy to look at. The cinematography is nice at times, the visuals have this sense of lifelike magic, and it kind of made me want to go up in the sky. In fact, one thing that I noticed while watching this film, is that the aspect ratio changes overtime. When the balloon launches up in the air, the black bars diminish. This gives a grand sense of scope of the sky. I would have loved to have seen this in a cinema, especially in IMAX to be a part of the amusement park-like experience, which this movie really is. However, the movie does not shy away from building proper characters.

I do not know much about the real life events this movie happens to be based on, but the movie managed make the event feel important yet entertaining. Part of the entertainment has to do with the likable chemistry between Amelia Wren and James Glaisher, played wonderfully by Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. I think the characters feel like a legit pair for the time and pretty much every scene with them on the balloon was a bundle of joy. This should not be too surprising though because Redmayne and Jones have collaborated in a project before. Even though I haven’t seen this movie in particular, I know they both appear in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything,” which received mostly positive reviews.

Again, every scene with these two in the balloon was hypnotizing and I almost didn’t want them to stop. But how’s the rest of the movie off the balloon? Aside from the opening scene, it’s almost a snoozefest. Not gonna lie, I’m kinda disappointed. This movie is perhaps one of the more badly edited products we’ve gotten all year. Okay, the editing itself is fine, but the structure is what the real problem happens to be.

If I had to compare “The Aeronauts” to anything, it would have be “Suicide Squad” and “IT: Chapter Two.” I say that because one of the core elements of both movies is that they rely heavily on flashbacks. I often joke about this, and I made this joke over three years ago when I originally reviewed “Suicide Squad,” specifically calling it “Flashbacks: The Movie.” Granted, the flashbacks here are not as prominent as “Suicide Squad,” but I think that’s what makes this movie suffer. Even though a movie like “Suicide Squad” is perhaps strangled by its past, I was still able to keep myself awake to whatever past events are being shown on screen. Maybe it’s because of the previously established grand scope, but the events of reality deterred the pacing of the film for me. I was expecting this film to mainly focus on the main event at hand, simply based on the opening. While this may not be the most accurate of comparisons, it sort of reminded me of “Dunkirk,” which was not really about anything except one particular event. Unlike “Dunkirk,” “The Aeronauts” tries to focus on two main characters. Ultimately, this just feels, to me, like it focuses more on the journey overall than anything else.

I enjoyed “The Aeronauts,” don’t get me wrong. But at the same time, it’s seemingly forgettable. The flashbacks almost feel like filler, but there is one that sort of leaves an impact on the film, and sort of foreshadows the danger that lies ahead. Judging by what I said, it might as well be easy to point out that this is the first flashback of the movie. And speaking of films directed by Christopher Nolan, because I just mentioned “Dunkirk,” the very beginning sort of reminds me of the opening scene of “Interstellar.” I won’t go into much detail, but both seem to highlight significant danger, and both do so very well. Speaking of the beginning, the launch scene very much reminded me of a rocket launch that plays out in a space film. It really does come off as something special and extremely important. Given how space travel was not even a thing back when this movie takes place, it is nice to see some sort of equivalent for the time.

But if there is one thing I need to say… Why did they have to alter history and make a gender swap? OK, let me just say, I am for writing history when it is done right. I don’t always watch films for the sake of a history lesson, but when a film is focusing on history, I do expect a certain level of realism and accuracy. Unfortunately, this film fails with that. For the record, Amelia Wren is essentially a replacement for Henry Coxwell, who was part of this real life event the movie tends to go over. I think it’s a bit far for me to say that I felt ripped off, but considering the fact that I didn’t even know this until I was doing my final revisions for this review, I would not lying to you if I told you this lowered my grade for this film. I’m serious. As I was writing this, I already had a paragraph with my score set. Guess what? Just for this, it’s going to be altered!

In the end, I don’t have all that much more to say about “The Aeronauts,” partially because it is rather simple to explain, and to be honest, it’s unfortunately forgettable. Let me just say, it’s better than “Cats.” Definitely better than “Cats.” ANYTHING at this point is better than “Cats!” As gorgeous as this film looks, as stunning as it truly presents itself, it suffers slightly in terms of substance. It’s not a disaster by any means, in fact I had a fun time with it, but if it were paced better and structured differently, I think it could have lead to something that would float higher on the scale. And honestly, I could end up watching this again, but the lack of focus on history was a slight downfall for me, so I’m going to give “The Aeronauts” a 5/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone of a couple updates here on the blog. On Christmas Eve, I am going to be dropping my final trailer (I promise) of my upcoming two part countdown series “Top Movies of the 2010s.” Speaking of countdowns, I want to remind you all that at the beginning of January, I am going to be releasing my top BEST & WORST movies of 2019 lists. Per usual, I am planning on doing top 10 lists, perhaps with honorable mentions, and I will recap some of my thoughts on some of the films I have seen this year. That is unless I reference a film that I have not reviewed, but we’ll have to see how everything pans out in the future. If you want to see upcoming content like this and more, be sure to follow Scene Before! Want to help me out even more? Give this post a like and share with your friends! Speaking of places you can find friends, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Aeronauts?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most visually impressive movie you have seen in 2019? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019): The Final Word in the Story

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“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible: III, Star Trek), who also directed 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This film stars Daisy Ridley (Peter Rabbit, Murder on the Orient Express), John Boyega (Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Circle), Adam Driver (Paterson, Girls), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Operation Finale), Anthony Daniels (I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, The Lord of the Rings), Naomi Ackie (The End of the F***ing World, Lady MacBeth), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, American Made), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Logan), Lupita Nyong’o (Us, 12 Years a Slave), Keri Russell (Waitress, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Kelly Marie Tran (Adam Ruins Everything, XOXO), Ian McDiarmid (The Lost City of Z, Sleepy Hollow), and Billy Dee Williams (Batman, Dynasty). This film is the conclusion to the sequel trilogy of the “Star Wars” franchise, bringing an end to the now trendily-named “Skywalker Saga” and follows the heroes we have come to know so far as the Resistance is dwindled. Where do they go next? Wherever they can to face off against the First Order one last time.

Oh, and of course… There’s a REAL LIFE plot to this movie too! After the events of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” audiences are divided! Between playing it too safe in one movie and trying to find unlocked paths in another movie, there is no way to impress every single “Star Wars” fan out there! So now it is the job of J.J. Abrams to bring balance to the “Star Wars” fandom and take on the near impossible task of sticking the landing in terms of directing “Episode IX.”

Now, for those of you who have been following Scene Before for some time, I do have to say, I make an effort to provide as little spoilers as possible for every movie review I do. There may be a case where I either have to or want to put in spoilers for one reason or another, but most of the time, I make an effort to be as secretive as possible in regards to the film’s key points that could potentially alter how one would see the movie if it had been revealed to them beforehand. With that being said, this is a “Star Wars” movie. “Star Wars” is a franchise that I would be eternally heartbroken had spoilers for it come my way. I imagine most of my viewers would feel the same way. So let me just say, this is a SPOILER-FREE review. Knowing that I just saw the movie on one of the earliest showtimes the public can access, I am going to raise my shield to avoid all effects from blasters, lightsabers, pistols, force lightning, and if possible (and I’m not saying I am weak-minded), Jedi mind tricks. So without further ado, let’s talk some “Star Wars.”

The “Star Wars” sequel trilogy has been a mixed bag for me so far. I for one LOVE “The Force Awakens.” I’m not gonna lie, it is one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies for sure. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a movie I was looking forward to, saw in the theater on opening weekend, and walked out of it feeling like I saw the second coming of Christ on screen. Every now and then I’ll walk out of a movie feeling something inside me that made me feel like I leveled up. That was one of them. In fact, it might even be my favorite movie of 2015. Is it a copy paste of the original “Star Wars” movie? Sure, you can definitely bring up that point. But the thing is, the movie did exactly what a film of its kind needed to do. Deliver crowd-pleasing moments, provide stunning visuals, unleash great characters, start something special, and take you away from reality. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was able to do that. I will admit, I liked “Episode III,” in fact I personally admire it much more than most people, but as someone who looks back at the prequels as a slight step in the wrong direction, what Disney and J.J. Abrams did with “The Force Awakens” was exactly what I believe the “Star Wars” community and fanbase needed. Something familiar, but immensely entertaining.

Then we got “The Last Jedi” which was… Mediocre. Now if you have ever read my initial review for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” you’d know I dug it. The reason being is because as much as I enjoyed “The Force Awakens,” I saw it partially as a throwback. But it’s a good throwback, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind movies or media jumping on the nostalgia train, but I wanted something new out of this “Star Wars” trilogy that could separate them from the other two. As good as “The Empire Strikes Back” is, I was afraid that this movie, like “The Force Awakens” did with “A New Hope,” would be a rehash of “The Empire Strikes Back.” However, based on what the movie provided from a story perspective, that did not seem to be the case. The movie made some bold, expectation-subverting choices. While I admire director Rian Johnson for trying to take “Star Wars” in a new direction, it didn’t pay off. Originally, I gave the movie a 9/10 for the steps it took in finding new storytelling paths, but as I thought about the movie more, I dug it less and less. Mark Hamill is GREAT as Luke though, I’ll give the movie that. I will admit, the film is beautifully directed, it’s wonderfully shot, and the visuals are sometimes incredible. But the screenplay is almost the worst in “Star Wars” history. “The Last Jedi” felt like a passion project that ended up splattering in someone’s face. I will admit, as much as I don’t like Johnson’s vision for “The Last Jedi,” I do think he is a damn fine director with the right project. He made “Knives Out,” which is one of the best movies of the year, and I just saw “Looper,” another film he wrote and directed, and it’s nothing short of dope. I would be SOMEWHAT open to him directing another “Star Wars” project, but not writing one.

Now we’re here! “The Rise of Skywalker” is upon us. I will admit, I did not have the most pleasurable thoughts going into it. But nevertheless, I scored tickets for the first show of the film at one of my all-time favorite movie theatres, so the fan inside me felt ready for this experience. I will admit, some of the trailers were really good, and part of me was curious to see how this saga will end (until Disney needs more money and they make Episode X). What are my thoughts on the ultimate story of the “Skywalker Saga?” The top of Mount “Star Wars!” The height of the force! WHAT? DID? I? THINK OF IT?

Well… uhhhh…. It was better than “Cats.”

To be completely serious with you, I really enjoyed this movie A LOT MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD going into it. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is up there to me with “Toy Story 4” and “Alita: Battle Angel” as one of 2019’s most pleasant surprises. I could honestly end the review by pointing out that against each and every single odd, J.J. Abrams delivered something watchable. But, ending the review here would be boring, and y’all will probably feel cheated, so let’s move on.

Sticking with J.J. Abrams, he was the right choice to direct this film. I love what he did with “The Force Awakens” as mentioned earlier. And I think those who have complained in the past about “The Force Awakens,” specifically about it playing it too safe might dig this movie a little more than that. Granted, this movie relies HEAVILY on nostalgia. There are many iconic themes from John Williams that are brought back, nods to past “Star Wars” films and TV programs, the return of Lando, and Palpatine is even somehow in this movie. But even with that, this movie introduces quite a few new things. I am not exactly going to go into each and every one of them, but they are there nonetheless. In fact, as someone who doesn’t like “The Last Jedi,” I think the thing about it that I at least appreciate is its willingness to take risks. They didn’t pay off, but they are still risks. This movie was able to take me to my happy place, sort of back to my childhood, while also introducing some fresh ideas. Not all of them worked, kind of like in “The Last Jedi,” but there are some that played into how fun this movie ultimately is.

One thing you are going to hear me repeat often throughout this review is that I won’t spoil something, so bear with me here. But I want to mention that without going into much detail, C-3PO had a bit to do with the movie’s story, and I think this may be my favorite 3PO story yet. In fact, 3PO honestly feels like a necessary character for this movie to go on. And even though he has been in just about every “Star Wars” film so far, this may be the first story where I felt 3PO’s presence was required in order for certain events to take place since the original trilogy, or maybe “The Phantom Menace.” I mean, most of his stories since just involved him being in the movie to have a random character be a comic relief (which he was before, but still) or just give some random perspective of what’s going on. Well that, and he needs his red arm replaced. It’s nice seeing him in the prequels and the last couple of sequel films, but seeing him as a core part of the story here is an utter delight, knowing the legacy this character has overall.

As for our main characters, I think Rey, Finn, and Poe, the main human trio we have come to know so far throughout this trilogy are hypnotizing to watch. Seeing them on screen again was a blast, in fact there is a scene early on between Finn and Poe that might be one of the most ridiculously fast-paced and bonkers “Star Wars” moments ever. Without saying much, it involves the Millennium Falcon. Personally, the scenes involving Rey when she was separated from her friends were a bit more fun than those between her friends. Honestly, there are a few scenes between the main trio, not every scene, but there is one that stands out in particular, where I just began to question the chemistry between them. I know that one of the key differences between this and the other two trilogies is that it is the shortest of the timelines. The original trilogy spans about four or five years and the prequels last even longer. This entire trilogy lasts about a year. It’s kind of mind-boggling if you think about it. Even though you have less time to develop these characters off-screen, it still somewhat unfortunate that the movie’s quality suffered as a result.

Speaking of character flaws, let’s talk about some of the newer additions to the movie. I’m not gonna go too deep into the new characters, but what I can say about them is that they sort of make me reflect upon “The Last Jedi.” What I mean is that whenever a new character in that movie is introduced, it takes some amount of time for me to just want them to disappear. The only new character in that film that really brought something to the table for me was the one played by Benicio Del Toro because he seemed to have some hint of swagger to him. I didn’t like Holdo, I didn’t like Rose (who is much better in this movie better by the way), the force kids didn’t really seem to add much of anything. Kind of like that, the new characters introduced to this film were also kind of forgettable. Granted, they’re better than those introduced in “Episode VIII,” but nevertheless. Nobody made me roll my eyes and no one took away my dignity. Even if the new characters were not that great, you could still tell me that they were in the movie for a reason and I’d probably be on your side.

Case and point, Keri Russell’s character of Zorii Bliss. As the main adventurers are in the middle of their quest, they run into this woman, thus leading to an explanation of her past history with one of the film’s other characters. Again, I’m trying to be vague with this review, because knowing some people, they consider minute details spoilers, so I am going to fulfill those people’s wishes. I like her costume design, and I’ll reiterate, she serves her purpose when the movie needs her, but if she was taken out of the movie, I would probably not care all that much. But, movie’s gotta movie.

Speaking of new characters, I also, to my disappointment, didn’t like D-O, the new green droid that was introduced. I am not saying I was highly anticipating D-O to be the scene stealer of the film or anything, but if there was one character that was probably created SPECIFICALLY for this movie just to get somebody out of the house to go buy a toy, this would be the one. D-O is along for the ride, but it’s another one of those characters that could literally be removed from the script and bring no negative effect to the table. Well, maybe except Disney who won’t be making as much money from people who may go out and buy D-O merchandise in the meantime. It would be fine if D-O had more dimension as a character, but there’s barely anything that I could say about D-O that makes him resemble a character full of personality, and full of charisma. You can make the argument that a character like BB-8 was mainly created to sell toys, but the thing is, BB-8 is charming, serves the plot very well, and doesn’t necessarily feel tacked on. BB-8 has basically been a centerpiece to the films he’s appeared in so far, not to mention this entire trilogy. D-O could have been something special, but the somewhat lackluster writing says otherwise.

I also gotta be honest, and I don’t know if I should be entirely surprised, but General Hux has become more of a joke for each movie that he’s in. Here, it’s almost insulting. He starts out well in this film for the most part, and I was entertained when he was on screen, but as the movie gets a bit closer to finishing its first hour, his character does something that honestly got on my nerves. I am not gonna go into detail about what he does, but I don’t know if J.J. Abrams or Chris Terrio or even Colin Trevorrow years back, when he was scheduled to helm this movie, made this decision, but it come off HORRIBLY when delivered on screen. It felt like something ways off from Hux’s personality and it was rainbows and unicorns kinds of impractical. Some people I know have been somewhat displeased with Hux in “The Last Jedi,” a notion I kind of agree with by the way. However, in that movie, I still got a sense of Hux being himself. He still felt like the same character introduced in “The Force Awakens.” It felt like a sligthly natural progression. While Hux is still kind of himself in this film as well, there’s just a moment where I felt dumbfounded as a viewer watching him on screen.

I’ll say this again, Lando’s back! This is something I was personally rather excited for, because I think Lando is one of the many highlights of the original trilogy. It’s hard to list any bad characters from said trilogy, but if there are any, Lando ain’t one of them. How is he in this movie? Well, without spoiling much, he brings some fun to the table, but he isn’t really in the movie all that much. Is that a bad thing? Given the movie’s story structure, I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing at all, but if you were expecting a Lando extravaganza, you’re not gonna get that. He plays a somewhat minor role in the film, but all of his scenes are watchable and easy to enjoy.

Now let’s get to this one of the most odd yet interesting additions to this film’s cast of characters, Palpatine. Before we go any further, let me just address that people behind this film have stated that it was always the plan to bring back The Emperor. I honestly don’t know if I buy that. I think that’s just a protective statement to avoid turning audiences off. I would have NEVER envisioned The Emperor coming back for this movie, or the sequel trilogy in the first place. Remember that first trailer for the movie? The one they showed at Star Wars Celebration in April? Once I heard Palpatine’s infamous laugh for the first time, I was shivering to my core. It was something so out of left field at the time, that it made my interest meter for the movie go up a couple notches. At the same time however, the more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I say that because as much as I love the fact that we get to see Palpatine one more time, I was worried that his appearance here would undermine everything in previously established material. Most specifically, “Return of the Jedi,” which may be his most prominent film. Why? Becuase SPOILERS, it’s been 36 years since that movie came out, WHO CARES? He dies. And it’s not just the fact that he dies that I was worried about, I also felt apprehensive because of the way he died. The ending of “Return of the Jedi” is probably my favorite endings of the “Star Wars” franchise (aside from “Rogue One”), partially because the way The Emperor goes out is chill-inducing. Between the powerful score given by John Williams, Vader’s conflict, Luke’s near-death experience, and the massive stakes at hand, it makes The Emperor’s fate all the more meaningful and emotionally satisfying. Seeing the smoke rise from the pit is a feast for the eyes and ears, and I thought that was a fine bow tie for his character. But no, I guess for some reason he’s returned to the party. I was honestly worried for a number of reasons. Two of which I’ll give here. 1. Again, The Emperor died in a way that was satisfying and the way he went out feels like a way that would be difficult to recover from. 2. The marketing seemed to promise Palpatine, but I did not think it was clear as to how much of him we’d be getting. After all, his voice is heard a lot, but I only remember seeing him physically in probably just one TV spot. That and one of the early posters.

So how was Palpatine? Not bad, to be quite honest. There is no way, at least at this point that I could be convinced that Palpatine was supposed to be the endgame the whole time, but inserting him in this movie was surprisingly solid. I mean, you can make the argument that Palpatine’s character being a centerpiece of all three trilogies in some way bring something to the table, but I’m not sure I’d completely agree. Nevertheless, just about any character interaction with him was tense and had my full attention. Ian McDiarmid played him like Slash can play a guitar! I am not going to dive deep into his character because there is a good chance that any effective thing I can say about him would be somewhere in spoiler-territory. I’ll just say this… He doesn’t just feel like a bad guy who wants to do bad guy things. He legit feels like a threat, as he should, and a necessary part of the film’s overall story and conflict. Overall, I dug him being here.

Speaking of things I dug, one thing that stood out to me at the start of the movie happened to be Rey, and the reason for that is because she apparently is kind of the Jedi definition of a showoff. She has these abilities that I think almost no other person in history could ever achieve. I will admit, when I first saw this, I kind of liked it. This new trilogy has shown was in which the force has perhaps evolved so to have this all powerful being is not completely unbelievable. Again, I already said I dug it, such a comment about liking this might almost be irrelevant at this point. BUT… There are a couple moments where I legit thought I was watching a piece of fantastical and far-fetched fan-fiction come to life. There are some things done with the force in this movie that I do not remember seeing much in “Star Wars” prior to this movie. This movie has a point where it becomes seemingly convenient in terms of how the force works. Sometimes it might be cool, maybe even badass, sometimes it just doesn’t work. There’s a moment in particular between Rey and Kylo on a desert that I want to say I like, but the Movie Reviewing Moron part of me wants to question whatever it was I just saw.

Sticking with Rey and Kylo, they have a number of scenes together in the movie, and there are some neat moments between them. Specifically fights, conversations, and more. Although if I had to list a complaint in the movie that might be my biggest of all, it would have to be this one scene between the two of them at the very end. It’s something that starts off as charming and sweet, and then becomes something that continues to piss me off. I have a feeling that if you are under a certain mindset going into the film you might enjoy whatever it is I won’t talk about whatsoever, but it just didn’t work for me.

Continuing off of what I just said, the final half hour to forty five minutes of this movie is full of fan service. Almost in the same way such a fraction of “Avengers: Endgame” was for the MCU. I won’t go into details about the fan service specifically. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Listen, that thing that I mentioned pissed me off in the last paragraph, I AM NOT GONNA SPOIL A THING, but if you pay attention, the thing that pissed me off personally is part of said fan service. And having said that, I almost wonder what the people behind this movie were thinking while making it. Keep in mind, while a good number of people seemed to enjoy “The Last Jedi,” I and many others was not really satisfied with it. This movie, in a way, seems to try to give something to everyone. Whether they liked “The Last Jedi,” hated it. Or whether they liked the other “Star Wars” movies, maybe hated those as well, it seems that a lot of time writing the screenplay went into focusing on elements that made other “Star Wars” screenplays what they are, but also what made “The Last Jedi” liked by certain people. This movie, even though it acknowledges the existence of “The Last Jedi,” sort of feels like an apology letter to viewers for “The Last Jedi.” Having disliked “The Last Jedi” myself, I can’t complain too much, but it feels like a script that is supposed to cater to anybody who ever watched “Star Wars” and admired a piece of it. This brings a complication into the mix. There will be things that will inevitably piss off some people, but there will also be things that will floor those same people in a positive way. For all I know, there could be someone out there that loves all things “Star Wars” that might end up liking EVERYTHING in this movie. I’m sure they’re out there.

I do not have all that much more to say about “The Rise of Skywalker,” but I gotta say as an ending to a nine film saga, this is surprisingly satisfying. I was worried that J.J. Abrams wouldn’t stick the landing, I was worried that I would feel unfulfilled for some reason, or the direction in this film will highlight a completely rushed ending. I gotta say one thing though. As much I enjoy having gotten my own opportunity to see an entire “Star Wars” trilogy with both previously established and newly established characters in theaters, I do not know if this film in particular is as fulfilling overall compared to the ending of “Return of the Jedi.” Again, I’m not going to spoil anything, but that film ended on such a note where the characters many of us have come to love got just about everything that they have come to earn. Admittedly, having seen this new ending, I WON’T GO INTO detail, but one character “acquires” something new that hasn’t been acquired yet that combines fan service and pure emotion. It also solves a complaint. What complaint? Not gonna tell ya. If I ever do a spoiler talk, I’ll be sure to bring this up.

Overall, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is entertaining, visually impressive (which shouldn’t be surprising, it’s “Star Wars”), and one more thing I will mention is this, because I feel I should not leave you all hanging without a mention of John Williams kicking ass with his score. I mentioned earlier that his score is heavily reliant on nostalgic themes, but whenever there is a scene that is heavy on said nostalgia or one that really needs a certain mood, Williams is there to bring the goods. I need time to see where I’ll rank this score, but as of now, this is one of the absolute best “Star Wars” scores I have ever heard. Having witnessed comments about this being the last “Star Wars” score from John Williams, I think he went out with an absolute bang. Williams, this world, nor does a galaxy far far away, deserve you. You are a god, enough said.

In the end, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a flawed, but simultaneously charming finale to a nine film saga that has been going on for over forty years. Once more, I’ll bring up “The Last Jedi,” and I will say even though that film has glimmers of entertainment, it does not feel like a story worthy of the “Star Wars” name. This sequel is a bombastic roller coaster that is worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise because I can probably guarantee that even if you end up not liking the movie overall, there will ultimately be SOMETHING to enjoy. But I must say one thing, and this is probably going to piss off some people.

So I have the unpopular opinion, although over the years I have found this unpopular opinion to be a bit more popular than I anticipated, of “Revenge of the Sith,” the finale to the prequel trilogy, being one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies. Another movie which I consider to be just as great is “Return of the Jedi,” the finale of the original trilogy. If I had to be honest, my thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker” are not that positive compared to my thoughts on the other two movies I mentioned. I liked it, quite a bit in fact. But if I had to give the honest truth, “The Rise of Skywalker” is my least favorite of the three trilogy finales the saga has had so far. Even with that in mind, it’s still good. At the same time though, this does bring up one positive regarding the “Star Wars” saga as a whole, and a negative as well, depending on how you look at it. The finales of all the trilogies make up the one portion of the saga that is entirely positive in one way or another. Keep in mind, I love all the films in the original trilogy, so the beginning, middle, and end all work there. But “The Phantom Menace” was a fail to start off the prequel trilogy, and speaking of prequel failures, I also wasn’t a fan of the middle act of the trio of films, “Attack of the Clones.” Similarly, this most recent sequel trilogy had the disappointing middle entry “The Last Jedi.” The finales all worked, even this one, to my complete surprise. With that being said, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is worth a watch, especially in a big, obnoxious movie theater with fantastic sound, and I’m going to give it a rather high 6/10. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I think a 6 is a fair grade. Would I watch it again? Oh, you betcha. And technically, this film has some of the best sound and visual effects of the year, which isn’t new for a “Star Wars” film. But story-wise, there is an argument to make that even though I love how quick this movie progresses, it almost gets to that point where it becomes rushed. If the newer characters were better and if MAYBE it tried to focus going down one particular path as opposed to catering to a bunch of different demographics, the score could potentially be higher.

With all of what I just said in mind, this movie honestly has notable flaws, not to mention things that piss me off. But this movie is also satisfying overall, and the many positives of the movie tend to outweigh the negatives. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, and most importantly, it’s better than both “The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” both movies which by the way, I felt disappointed by. I want to thank everyone for giving a great saga of films to remember. I hope various future “Star Wars” projects work out and I am looking forward to the future of the franchise should I continue to tune in. Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the limited release of the all new war film “1917.” It is going to be hitting theaters everywhere this January, but honestly this is a movie that I need to see as soon as possible because I have a feeling that it is going to be one of the best directed and well-shot movies of this particular release year. It comes out Christmas Day, which I’m busy on, but hopefully I can get my butt in a seat as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or if you want greater access to the blog, use a WordPress account. Be sure to like this post and share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?” What did you think about it? Or, now that the three main “Star Wars” trilogies are concluded, which is your favorite? The prequels? The originals? Or the sequels? You know what, here’s another question. How would you personally rank the three trilogies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Cats (2019): Kitty Litter

EVERYBODY:
Go see “Richard Jewell!” Clint Eastwood has done it again!
Check out “1917!” It’s heart-stopping!
Watch “The Irishman” on Netflix! It’s worth the three and a half hour runtime! It’s REAL cinema!
Hey! “Queen & Slim” is getting positive reviews!
GO SEE “STAR WARS!”
“Bombshell’s” the movie we need right now!
“Frozen II” is a great Disney sequel!
“The Two Popes!” Check it out!
Hey Jack, have you seen Amazon’s “The Aeronauts?”
“MARRRRRRIAGE STOOOOOORRRRRY!”

ME:
Hey guys, I’m going to review “Cats!”

*Beat*

…Awkward. No matter what happens, this will unite us all. It’s time to review the NON-“Star Wars” movie coming out this weekend, because this is what I was able to see early on this week. Let’s get this s*itshow overwith.

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“Cats” is directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl) and stars James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Emoji Movie), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Philomena), Jason Derulo (Everybody Dance Now, Drop the Mic), Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor), Jennifer Hudson (The Voice, Dreamgirls), Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Good Liar), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, The Giver), Rebel Wilson (Jojo Rabbit, Pitch Perfect), and Francesca Hayward. The plot of “Cats,” if there is one in this damn thing, is that a bunch of cats that look and walk like humans compete against each other to be the one to earn another life… That’s the best way I can describe this movie without cringing. Because holy s*it. THIS IS PUTRID.

Going into “Cats” on Tuesday night, I had two screenings to choose from. “Cats” being one of them, obviously. The other one happened to be “Bombshell,” which I said to you all that I would review. Well, expect a delay on that, when I finally got my RSVP for “Cats,” I could not pass it up, and by that I mean I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” with somebody else, because as far as I know, there is probably not one person that would want to see “Cats” with me. Did I have any plans to watch “Cats” originally? Absolutely not. In fact, if you follow the Scene Before Facebook page, and if you aren’t following it, CLICK THIS LINK and give it a like! Anyway, if you have kept track of recent happenings there, you may have noticed this recent post…

Well guess what? I ended up dragging myself on the underfunded transportation system in the Boston, Massachusetts area, put my ass in a cinema seat, and here we are. But let me just say, I did not go into “Cats” blind. I went in having seen bunches of the marketing, including the main trailers, which honestly just creeps me out the more I think about it! I had little to no real anticipation of this movie, even though I was expecting some decent numbers and neat visuals at times. Did I get those in the end? Kind of. The visuals were nifty, but the numbers are honestly forgettable. I have never seen any other related “Cats” material, not the play, nor any other adaptation. So this movie ultimately took my “Cats” virginity. As someone who has had their first “Cats” experience of any kind, I cannot imagine myself returning to this franchise in the near future. This movie BROKE me to no end. It’s honestly up there with some of the most anger-inducing content I have seen all year. In fact, I am honestly kind of glad I went to see the movie as early as I did. I love the moviegoing experience, and going to see a movie early, depending on the film is honestly kind of thrilling. I was in a theater containing some people who were enthusiastic. One person had cat ears on, some were Taylor Swift fans, and I think the best part about this movie is that the occasional reactions from people that were given with a hint of sarcasm. There was this one moment around the first act where this guy just belted out a snarky laugh and a bunch of us played along because I think a surprising number of attendees thought this movie was going to suck balls and we had almost no expectations for it. Maybe we collectively thought this movie was cheesy or a waste of time. Who knows? The point is, if I went to see this movie in perhaps January during a dead afternoon, it probably wouldn’t be as fun or lively. The only thing I probably would have felt at that time is pure anger. Being in the environment of a free screening before a movie opens definitely helps.

BUT IT DOES NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE CRAP I SUFFERED THROUGH!

I have been noticing something about our current moviegoing audience. We seem to enjoy two things nowadays. Granted, that’s an understatement, we seem to enjoy lots of things in reality, but the two of the commonalities I’m seeing from the general moviegoing audience is spectacle and nostalgia. There’s definitely an argument to make about “Cats” being one of the more nostalgic movies of the year. It’s based on a hit musical from the late 20th century, which was inspired by poetry from T.S. Eliot. I think a lot of older audiences will gravitate towards this film, plus younger theater admirers. And I will point out one thing that I think could have ended up being a positive about this film, specifically the prettiness that’s intact. From the marketing, there have been a lot of shots that looked nice, the neon signage everywhere kind of adds a nice touch, the film is visually appealing on the surface. And throughout, at times, I dug it for its visuals. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give.

Earlier this year, I reviewed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which is one of the worst blockbusters I have witnessed in recent memory, especially when considering how FANTASTIC the trailers were leading up to its release. To this day, the only compliments I can give the film are some of the shot choices and the appealing visual effects. That’s it. “Cats” is kind of like that. Granted, I did not like the “Cats” trailers, but you probably get my point. However, the good news is, and it honestly PAINS me in the ass to say this… I’d rather watch “Cats” again. As a movie, it is technically competent. Not to mention, competently… BOOOOORRRRRRRING!

This movie technically has a plot, but when it’s presented on screen, it’s an utter mess! It’s a nice looking mess, but a mess nevertheless! I guess we’ll call it a hot mess! The movie undoubtedly is trying to rely on the spectacle provided from each number. I didn’t expect this movie to lack singing, but the singing in this movie is ENDLESS. OH MY FREAKING LORD! A good portion of the numbers are… borderline OK? I guess? But I don’t feel like I will end up remembering them. The only numbers that truly stood out to me was the one where Taylor Swift’s character was introduced, most likely because there were a few people in the crowd who were ecstatic over seeing her on screen and one heavily revolving around Laurie Davidson’s character of Mr. Mistoffelees, which I won’t go into. Again, I went into the movie not knowing much about “Cats,” so I’m gonna be somewhat vague with the material.

I am not even in the mood to go into the characters, because for one thing, there are a lot of them. It’s overwhelming. I am willing to bet that if there were fewer characters, this movie could be a tad more interesting. I will say though, even though “Cats” itself is somewhat visually attrractive, it is simultaneously off-putting. I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t ask for a movie where Ian McKellan plays a live-action, human-like cat that is licking a plate. It’s something so unimportant, yet so horrifying. Much like the numbers, there is perhaps not even a single character that ended up standing out. Many of the characters feel like they have little to no layers, and the only thing that could end up being memorable is all of the “digital fur technology” that went into this pile of crap they call a movie.

I do not seek out musicals that often. I don’t usually watch all that many films that are heavy on musical numbers, but if I had to compare “Cats” to any other film, I’d say one of the closest examples I can give is Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” For the record, they are COMPLETELY different on almost every single level in terms of plot, genre, and character motivations. But one of the biggest compliments I can give to “Transformers” is the visuals. The effects are nothing short of amazing. I think even people who don’t like the newer “Transformers” movies can probably agree that the visual effects are nice to look at. Now, I personally enjoyed the first “Transformers.” It’s a fine action movie if you ask me, but I know the franchise is not always the most pleasing to everyone. The story is basic, repetitive from one film to the next, and some would say it almost doesn’t even matter when there are tons of explosions and American flags everywhere.

This movie doesn’t really shy away from comedy. I mean, what do you expect when there’s a seemingly sarcastic laugh during my screening? Only thing is, the comedy just doesn’t work. In fact, the jokes I remember are random cat puns. They might have been the only jokes in the movie, and they sully the experience entirely.

Why did I go see “Cats?” Well, I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” for one thing, but I thought this would be a fun film to review. It’s one of those one of a kind, crazy experiences that I will end up remembering, but not for the right reasons. Personally, I don’t ever see myself watching “Cats” again, and I had no plans to get a cat in the near future, but this movie has officially eliminated any possibility of me wanting a cat, because if I am ever presented with an opportunity to get a cat, part of me would not stop thinking of this piece of trash. And in other news, Taylor Swift is in this movie, that picture above is of her. And SPOILER, the movie DOES NOT go into how many cats she broke up with.

In fact, let me specify about my experience of watching this film. This was a film that felt embarrassing to say the least. It’s well-crafted, but embarrassing nonetheless. Whenever I go see a film, I usually order myself a popcorn and soda to keep myself up. I didn’t do that this time. I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it. Maybe it’s because I was busy talking to a friend I ran into, but that’s not the point. The overall experience of seeing “Cats” feels like a dream. Because I became increasingly sleepy, increasingly bored, and the movie itself became more irrelevant than the door close button on modern elevators! There is a part of me that wanted to laugh, but it felt really hard, because at the same time, what I really wanted to do was leave. This movie overstays its welcome, even giving itself an opportunity to hammer in one final number that is so bad that it’s good. And when those stinking credits FINALLY came on screen, I let out a bellowing “THANK GAAAWWSH!” Because again, the movie broke me to shreds. You know how I said I didn’t get any popcorn or soda for this movie? Upon the leaving the film I had one thought in mind. I need popcorn, because I felt like I dredged through this movie in the same way that Bart Simpson would dredge through homework. I felt like part of my well-being has been erased. This was a well-earned treat for myself. By the way, the popcorn was f*cking satisfying. It made my cat nips go hard.

In the end, “Cats” is perhaps the most competent borefest of the year, and that really says something because… “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a thing. And that’s the absolute worst thing about “Cats.” It looks charming, it looks presentable, it looks nifty. Some of the camerawork is nice. But between some of the questionable editing, lame-ass script, and nearly nonexistent plot, this movie made me angrier than that kid from “Looper” whenever something goes wrong for him. I would rather poke my own eyes out with my own two hands than go see this movie again. The ensemble has a lot of big names including Idris Elba, Ian McKellan, and James Corden, but not even that could save the movie. In a way, the more I think about it, it almost makes the movie worse. Remember that movie, “The Circle” that came out a couple years ago? It’s like that. It had a list of respectable actors including Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, TOM FREAKING HANKS! To know that these people took on this film specifically, makes my brain leak a little bit. Again, visually appealing, but it’s not enough. I’m going to give “Cats” a 2/10. Part of me wants to give this movie a 3/10, I really do. But now that I’ve had a little bit of time to marinate, this is up there with some of the most frustrating, not to mention forgettable, movies I have EVER seen during my time on this blog. Did the crowd reactions add something? Kind of. But not entirely. To me this was just a waste of time. The only ways that this movie could end up as a 1 is if it didn’t look pretty, if the acting was the worst I’ve ever seen, or it weren’t for a couple of halfway decent moments. Nevertheless, this was an insufferable experience, and I know “Star Wars” is not getting the best reviews right now, but this is actually making me excited for “Star Wars.” I think the only way I could have ended up enjoying “Cats” is if I was perhaps very young and this was one of the first movies I have watched. Maybe one of the first in the theater. Because as long as there are cats doing things on screen, why should I care about anything else? How am I still alive? I don’t know! It’s amazing! Even so, I’m done talking about this garbage, let’s move on!

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned guys, because I am going to have my review up for the next film that will inevitably make a billion dollars, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I’m going to my local IMAX theater on opening Thursday, I cannot wait! How will the film turn out? I do not know for sure, but I am endlessly curious, so let’s do this! May the force be with us! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the blog, and be sure to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Cats?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is cat-related? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!