Ticket to Paradise (2022): An Un-Bali-vably Okay Time

“Ticket to Paradise” is directed by Ol Parker (Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again, Now Is Good) and stars George Clooney (Money Monster, Gravity), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Wonder), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Dear Evan Hansen), Billie Lourd (Booksmart, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Maxime Bouttier, and Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris). This film follows a divorced couple who fly together to Bali to stop their daughter from marrying someone she just met.

I went to go see this movie last Friday with mom and grandma. If I had the chance to go see this movie alone, I probably would have passed on it. While I like comedies, “Ticket to Paradise” is not my type of movie. I like the people in it. George Clooney is a great actor, and in recent years he has developed a knack for directing through films like “The Midnight Sky” and “The Tender Bar.” I enjoyed both of those films. Clooney is a multitalented personality. Even the younger actors in this film are likable. Kaitlyn Dever has proven to be a force in the acting industry in recent years. I enjoyed her in “Booksmart” and she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her role in “Unbelievable.” Long story short, this film has talent of all ages. Although as I have shown in my recent review for “Amsterdam,” you can have all the talent in your movie that you could beg for and still fail to make something entertaining. So, how was “Ticket to Paradise?”

Well, for starters, staying slightly on topic, it is better than “Amsterdam.” I was not remotely bored. There were select moments where I was more entertained than others, but nevertheless.

“Ticket to Paradise” is a movie I am probably not going to watch a second time. In fact, there are moments during the movie, where I found my hand touching my face. Not because I was scared or shocked, but because I found various segments or lines in the film cringeworthy. Then again, given the type of film that this is, I should not be surprised. It is helmed by the “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” director after all.

When you go to watch a comedy, which “Ticket to Paradise” is to some degree, you would expect it to be funny. Nothing is worse than a comedy that does not make you laugh. I would rather die than watch “Jack and Jill” and the 2016 “Ghostbusters” a second time. As far as “Ticket to Paradise” goes, it is down the middle in terms of humor. It has its ups and downs. Some of it is ridiculously far-fetched and plays out like an episode of a network sitcom that is probably going to be canceled in three months. I remember laughing at select moments of this movie, but I think my experience overall highlights how disposable this movie will end up being. Despite my occasional laughter, I cannot exactly paint a picture of everything that made me laugh.

George Clooney and Julia Roberts, who have previously worked together on the “Ocean’s” franchise, make for a fine pair here. I bought into these two being married and having it not work out in the end. The two have decent chemistry. Unfortunately, some of the writing does not serve their characters justice. I get that this movie involves the obstacle of a divorced couple having to come back together to save their daughter from possibly living a life they previously had. However, I think the amount of “I hate you” or “I wish we were never together” or “marriage sucks” jokes this movie had were enough to fill the Chrysler Building. You can only do so many variations of the same joke and have a select few stick to the wall. Honestly, if I wanted to see a comedy where two people who are no longer married have to stick together to overcome an obstacle, I would rather watch the pilot episode of “The Orville.”

Now there are select comedy gags that are genuinely funny. There is a great hotel room layout bit that had me chuckling. Even though the “I hated our marriage” jokes are a dime a dozen, there is an occasional diamond in the rough. That said, there are funnier movies that you could watch that came out this year. If you want a better comedy with big stars, check out “The Lost City” with Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock. I watched that on a plane this year and had a great time. If you have the chance to check it out, do it. I recommend it over “Ticket to Paradise.”

Although going back to good chemistry, I thought the connection between Kaitlyn Dever and Maxime Bouttier was charming. While the connection between Clooney and Roberts may have overdone it on the comedy at times, I think the cuteness between these two was right in the goldilocks zone. Given the context of the story, I bought into Lily and Gede as a couple from the moment they were together.

Romcoms are not my genre. Although I have seen ones I liked. In fact, I recently watched the 2013 film “Enough Said” and I would recommend it. However, there is a problem I have with this romcom in particular. Based on the way everything is laid out, the movie is somewhat predictable. There is nothing wrong with a predictable storyline if you can make me like the characters or the way said storyline is done. I have said this with “Wonder Woman,” and I have recently said this with “CODA.” I do not think the writing or the characters in “Ticket to Paradise” are admirable enough to justify said predictability.

For certain audiences, I could see this maintaining a status as a comfort movie. I could see this being a movie certain individuals will find on television or a streaming service and watch on a rainy day when there is nothing else to do. As for me, I do not think it will be something I would end up watching again. Although if you want me to be real, when I left the movie, I said parts of it were good. Despite the talent in this film, “Ticket to Paradise” is not going to be nominated for any Oscars. However, I think everyone did their best with the material given to them and managed to make something that I found at the very least… Fine.

In the end, “Ticket to Paradise” is not quite the best comedy of the year, but the best way to describe this movie is to say that it is a halfway decent one time watch for me. If I bought this film on Blu-ray, I might watch it once, say it was okay, but I might end up trading it at whatever store still takes Blu-rays. Much like “Amsterdam,” the big stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts may have been a selling point for “Ticket to Paradise.” They are likable together despite the occasionally bad line here and there. Although if you ask me, “Ticket to Paradise” perhaps accomplished its goals to a greater degree than “Amsterdam” despite the latter being a movie I would watch if I knew nothing about either title. I did not think I would love this movie. And honestly, I do not love it. But I have to be real. There is some fun to be had, so I would have to give “Ticket to Paradise” a 6/10.

“Ticket to Paradise” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I will have a review for the all new DC film “Black Adam!” It has been years since this film has been announced. Is it worth the wait? We’ll see when the review drops.

Also, this Friday, October 28th, I will be concluding my official Steven Spielberg Month with my thoughts on his 2021 adaptation of “West Side Story.” I had the opportunity to rewatch the film last week so it is fresh in my memory, so I will be sharing my two cents soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ticket to Paradise?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite comedy of 2022 so far? For me, when it comes to pure comedy, it feels weird to say, but “Clerks III” might be my pick. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Barbarian (2022): The Best Horror Movie of 2022 So Far

“Barbarian” is directed by Zach Cregger, who you may know from playing Owen on the TBS comedy series “Wrecked.” This film stars Georgina Campbell (Murdered by My Boyfriend, Krypton), Bill Skarsgård (It, Deadpool 2), and Justin Long (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Live Free or Die Hard). This film follows a woman who books a stay at an Airbnb only to find another person already staying in the property. Despite the unexpected encounter, the two end up staying together only to discover the house is haunted.

I went into “Barbarian” doing something that I do not typically do when it comes to movies I see. Specifically, unless there was one playing at a screening and I do not remember, I went into “Barbarian” having seen no trailers. My earliest memory of this film was hearing about it from someone I follow on Twitter who saw the movie and had a good time. I checked out “Barbarian” for a couple reasons. First off, and least importantly, apparently there is going to be no physical media release, so I wanted to watch the film in a theater before it goes to streaming, and I inevitably forget about it. Streaming is temporary, physical media is forever. Second, I have heard nothing but good things about “Barbarian.” People I know who have seen it, liked it. The critics are eating it up too. “Barbarian” has a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I saw the movie, and the first thing I must say is that this is the best horror movie of 2022 so far. I am happy to say that because not only is this a great movie, but this shows how spectacular of a year the horror genre is having. I am happy for a lot of people working in horror right now. I hope everyone is proud of themselves. I just saw “Smile,” which was fantastic and I literally claimed a week or two ago to be my favorite horror film of the year. “The Black Phone” is really good and had plenty of creepy moments. Even though it is not pure horror, “Nope” was also quite entertaining. I also really liked “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” This movie surpasses all of them.

Before I continue my thoughts, I must state that this review is going to be vague. This is a movie that not only do I recommend, it is one that would recommend with providing as little detail as possible as to why it works so well. The trailer for this film, which I did see while doing this review, perfectly details my sentiments. Whoever worked on that trailer is a legend.

The best part of “Barbarian” is its simplicity. You start off by seeing two characters who immediately develop an inciting incident over who can stay at a house they are renting. This simple bump in the road causes them to get to know each other and deliver some of my favorite chemistry between a duo I have seen this year. In the first ten minutes, I found myself buying into every single one of these two’s interactions. Campbell shines as Tess and Skarsgård is perfectly cast as Keith. The two are great together. I also like how this movie is told from Tess’s perspective instead of Keith because in addition to all the traditional horror elements, there is also another sense of danger I did not initially think about, specifically stranger danger.

Now, if I, a straight white male, showed up at the door of the rental house and I saw Keith staying inside, I would be confused. But if I had nowhere to go, it was raining, I were low on money, and a bunch of hotels were booked, I might walk it off if we agree to spend the night together. Perhaps if neither of us were forced to sleep on the floor. Meanwhile, there is a scene that stood out to me where Tess secretly takes a picture of Keith’s driver’s license. Little things like that reveal the creeps Tess is experiencing.

Some of this movie’s more tense moments are more or less linked to basic, everyday thoughts that runs through one’s mind if they are somewhere unfamiliar or far from home. I tried to get inside Tess’s head for a second. What is she thinking? She must have been asking questions such as… What if this guy drugs me? What if this guy is not what he says he is? How safe is this part of town? The key word here is tense, not scary. The scary shenanigans do not come until maybe a half hour into the movie. If you are looking for scares, they are there, and they are terrifying. You will get them eventually, and the wait is worth it.

This movie is 102 minutes long. As far as I am concerned, that is a perfect runtime. Pacing-wise, this movie could not be better. Despite the kind of short runtime, the pacing is not balls to the wall. It is not quite a slow burn either, at least to me, but everything that happens during the runtime feels either minimalistic or quiet. Even a simple conversation kept my attention, partially because of the conflict in every scene, even if it did not involve something horrifying.

Even when a movie of this sort is not good. I always enjoy a project that challenges its audience. “Barbarian” takes a big swing and it is undeniably a grand slam. I do think the climax is less entertaining than the first two acts. Not that I did not enjoy it, but if I had to name which part of the film I thought was the weakest, that would have to be the one. That said, everything that builds up to the climax from the relationship between Tess and Keith, to the scary shenanigans, to even simple interactions that could backfire, make the ride worth it.

I always make an effort when I show a movie to a family member or a friend to let them go in the way I often did. I want that individual to experience the movie firsthand as blind as a bat. Thankfully, this movie has a great trailer that I would not mind showing to someone who has not watched the movie. But this movie is a perfect encapsulation as to why I keep my mouth shut on all the details as to why I like certain movies when showing them to other people. Maybe if I show my friends “Barbarian” one day, they will disagree with me as to why I like this movie so much. But it does not change the fact in this solid year of horror, “Barbarian” is the genre’s biggest swing and mightiest payoff yet.

In the end, “Barbarian” is a fantastic movie that I would watch again some year on Halloween if given the chance. It is crazy, mind-boggling, yet simple. It is a movie that even though it belongs in the horror genre, can also qualify as a simple human drama. The cast is great, the script is phenomenal, and Zach Cregger’s direction is perfect. The movie’s final moments, while fun, are not as hypnotizing as its initial moments. Even so, this movie is, as I said, the best horror movie of 2022. I am going to give “Barbarian” an 8/10.

This movie is not coming to physical media and instead, only getting a Digital HD release for home viewing, which I think is a shame. This is a movie, if I bought it on Blu-ray, would probably go in my player every other October. Although if you have the chance to check out “Barbarian,” just do it.

“Barbarian” is now playing in theaters and will be available on Digital HD tomorrow, October 25th. The film will also soon be available to stream on HBO Max and Hulu.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new romcom “Ticket to Paradise.” The film just hit theaters this weekend, I had the chance to see it with my family, and I will have my thoughts very soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Barbarian?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite horror movie of the year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Post (2017): Streep and Hanks Spread the News and Define History in This Spielberg Flick

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the third installment of this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month, where I will be reviewing four of the many movies Spielberg has created over the span of his career. Spielberg has created films with action like “Raiders of the Ark” and “Minority Report,” but today, we are doing a reverse Elvis Presley. A little less action, a little more conversation. That is because we are tackling one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “The Post.” Nominated for two Oscars, this film was met with acclaim. Let us hope that the Movie Reviewing Moron will have something to say to add to this film’s endless stream of positivity. Here we go.

“The Post” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The BFG) and stars Meryl Streep (The Giver, The Iron Lady), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, Game Change), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, Wiener-Dog), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, The Handmaid’s Tale), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Young Justice), and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans). This film is about the first woman newspaper publisher and her editor as they uncover a history changing revelation that had been hidden for four presidencies.

I started Scene Before in 2016. Therefore, I have reviewed a lot of movies since then. Despite seeing previews, I have never gotten around to reviewing, or even watching, “The Post.” The film had a lot of potential from one of the most acclaimed actors and one of the most acclaimed actresses coming together to lead the picture. In addition, Steven Spielberg is behind the camera. Despite the potential, I skipped this film. I was excited to finally give it a watch at home since I had a used copy of the 4K Blu-ray on standby. Physical media forever.

Safe to say, the film is quite good. Streep and Hanks, unsurprisingly, make for a marvelous on-screen pair as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee respectively. Cast members who are not quite at the level of top billing like Jesse Plemons and Will Denton also have moments to shine as well. Steven Spielberg delivers another win for his career on top of his many others. The screenplay, which was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is undoubtedly compelling. I should not be surprised that the screenplay is as solid as it is, as Singer has previous experience in writing excellent journalism-centered storytelling. In addition to “The Post,” Singer also wrote “Spotlight,” for which he won two Academy Awards, specifically Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Having seen that film, I am not terribly shocked. I am also not terribly shocked that not long after those wins, Singer would once again utilize his creativity to effectively craft “The Post.”

Despite being a serious movie, it flies by. Honestly, despite being a couple hours, it felt like an hour and a half at times. It is that good. Pacing-wise, this is one of the better movies I have seen recently. Kind of like “The Post,” “Spotlight” came out as another one of these awards season darlings. I think both movies are equal in terms of entertainment value, a term I use lightly given both of these movies’ subject matters. Although as for which one I like better, I think it depends on where you look. “The Post” feels a bit more theatrical than “Spotlight.” Therefore, when it comes to technicality, that is one aspect where this movie dazzles. The costumes are rugged and transportive enough to make me feel like I am traveling back in time. A lot of the locations look extravagant and beautiful. To add to the antique touch, this movie was entirely shot on film, whereas “Spotlight” used the digital Arri Alexa XT.

Steven Spielberg is no stranger to starting off his movies with a compelling hook.

No pun intended.

In “Jaws,” you have the intro with the infamous music that continues to build whenever the shark is present. After that, you have that scene on the beach where the shark bites a girl in the water. Total intrigue. In “Jurassic Park,” the opening scene between the humans and the dinosaur shows off the menacing vibe these creatures can deliver. In “The Post,” we start off with soldiers fighting in Vietnam. I was not alive during the Vietnam War. In regards to history, I was still a baby when 9-11 happened. Although based on what I have learned in school, I know enough about the Vietnam War to recognize how significant and unfortunate it is from a U.S. perspective. I thought starting off here provided for an effective reminder of not only what the Vietnam War put a militaristic group through, but also what it did to the people of the country they were tasked with defending and honoring.

Now, this is not an action movie, it is not a war movie. War and politics are two defining traits within the story, but if you are looking for a war film in 2017, “Dunkirk” is probably your friend. That said, this one glimpse of action during the Vietnam War set the stage for what was to come. It took something so big to make something much smaller in scale appear more attractive.

This film dazzles from a technical perspective. Again, the costumes and locations look stunning. Speaking of stunning, the intricacies that go into how this movie was made are mind-boggling. The camerawork in this film occasionally felt so immersive that it highlighted some of the best direction of the year. The movie has a few long takes that felt perfectly planned and put me right in the room. There was a scene where I felt as if I was walking around the office of The Washington Post. It is like if Google Maps Street View theatrically transformed itself. Janusz Kaminski, a longtime collaborator with Steven Spielberg, worked on the cinematography for this film. While it was not nominated for an Academy Award, I think it is some of the finest of 2017 alongside Roger Deakins’s work in “Blade Runner 2049” and Hoyte van Hoytema’s craft in “Dunkirk.”

I often try to avoid politics on Scene Before. However, this is one of those cases where it must come into play. I say so because one of the notable aspects of “The Post” was its time of release. This film came out around the tail end of 2017, when Donald Trump was President of the United States. “The Post” almost comes as a tell as to whether history could repeat itself, because this movie reveals a lack of trust or full connection between the news and the government. At the same time, Donald Trump would consistently sideline or mock various news outlets and pick his favorites. This is an action he would continue to do even by the time he left office. If I saw this movie years ago, I would probably leave the theater thinking it is a relevant title and connect it to the importance of the 1st Amendment. This film has an ending that profiles such a thing beautifully.

Speaking of U.S. Presidents, Richard Nixon makes an appearance in this movie. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where we see a suited Nixon. We never see his face, it is almost like looking at The Banker from “Deal or No Deal” at times. Since this movie is based on true events, one touch that I thought was nice was the use of Nixon’s actual voice . The addition of Nixon’s real voice illustrated a specific scene’s point and perhaps delivered an emotional attachment that I would not have felt otherwise. Curzon Dobell is barely in the movie as Richard Nixon, but for the short time he is in it, he makes the performance a standout.

The story feels kind of Hollywoodized and some of the supporting characters do not stand out as much as others, but the film overall is worth a watch. The only other critique I can come up with is that this is one of John Williams’s lesser scores. The man is a genius, and his music during the movie works. But when it comes to his library, this is a score I am not going to remember as much as others.

In the end, “The Post” is a stellar look at how the United States changed journalism, and in turn, how journalism changed the United States. There is no surprise that a film like this could work. Coincidental or not, the timing of this story could not have been better. You have Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg working together. On paper, this sounds like an absolute win. In execution, it is an absolute win. In other news, water is wet. While “Spotlight” may be a slightly better journalism-centered story, “The Post” is another example of how well journalism can be used as the centerpiece of a cinematic experience when given the right tools and context. If Josh Singer wants to do another movie about journalism I am there on day one. I think he is one of the best screenwriters working today. His work on the film with then newbie Liz Hannah, who would go on to co-write the funny political comedy, “Long Shot,” is superb. I am going to give “The Post” an 8/10.

Speaking of history, one thing I love about Steven Spielberg is his ability to successfully manage a couple feature-length directorial efforts in such short time. In 1993 he released both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” within months of each other. Before making “The Post,” Spielberg directed one of my favorite films from him, “Ready Player One,” and he ended up shooting “The Post” while “Ready Player One” was in post-production. “Ready Player One” ended up coming out after “The Post,” but it goes to show that Spielberg is committed to his craft. When one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes he opens the other door back up after a while. There is a reason why I am doing a Steven Spielberg Month, and this is one of them. He is one of the best minds in the film industry today.

“The Post” is now available to rent or buy on VOD and is also available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray.

Thanks for reading this review! My next and final installment to Steven Spielberg Month is coming next Friday, October 28th, and it will be a review for Spielberg’s latest movie to have a wide release, “West Side Story!” I have seen the film twice and will watch it once more for review purposes. I am excited to finally talk about this movie given how I did see it in December 2021, but due to time constraints, I never got around to reviewing it. If you want to see my other reviews through Steven Spielberg Month, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Post?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Spotlight?” Tell me your thoughts on that movie! Do you like “The Post” or “Spotlight” more? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Halloween Ends (2022): Film Dies Tonight

“Halloween Ends” is directed by David Gordon Green. This film is the conclusion to his “Halloween” legacy sequel/reboot/whatever you want to call it series. And yeah. We know it’s not over. It ain’t over until there’s no more money to be made. This movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Knives Out), Andi Matichak (Orange is the New Black, Blue Bloods), James Jude Courtney (Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Will Patton (Falling Skies, Swamp Thing), Rohan Campbell (Mech-X4, The Hardy Boys), and Kyle Richards (Little House on the Prairie, ER). “Halloween Ends” is set between the years 2019 and 2022. Simply put, the town of Haddonfield, Illinois is still not over the last attacking spree from Michael Myers. Laurie Strode, who is now enjoying a somewhat normal life, is set to do whatever she can to kill Michael Myers once and for all. Oh, and there is a subplot about her daughter and a child-killing babysitter.

Trailers are perhaps my favorite form of marketing. They can easily make something more epic than it has to be in just a span of a couple of minutes. The trailers for “Halloween Ends” promise one thing in particular, the showdown between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. The good news is, the promise is kept during the movie. But that is not the movie itself. One of my biggest critiques for trailers is that they often show the best parts of the movie or they flat out just spoil the entire movie from start to finish. I have seen both trailers for “Halloween Ends.” This is where I remain conflicted. They did a great job at not showing the entire movie, but they also show something that I never thought we’d see. In addition, the things that I imagine a majority of the people would come to the movie for, barely shows up in the movie at all.

Thus far, David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” trilogy has been all right. I liked the first movie he did, his follow-up, “Halloween Kills” had its moments of entertainment, but with this conclusion, it could not quite stick the landing.

Last year, when I reviewed “Halloween Kills,” my biggest problem with the movie was that Jamie Lee Curtis was barely in it. Also, for the moments where she happened to be present, there was little entertainment value through it all. It felt odd for a movie where she had top billing. In “Halloween Ends,” Curtis once again has top billing, and her presence in the movie is less of a problem. She is in the film for an adequate amount of time. Whenever she was on screen, she was charming to watch.

At the same time, one of the previous movie’s successes is its use of Michael Myers. I saw the movie in a crowded theater, and we all enjoyed the moments Myers happened to be on screen. It literally puts the “kills” in “Halloween Kills.” If you were to watch the movie to see Michael Myers do his thing, you came to the right place. Last time around Jamie Lee Curtis was barely in the movie, but for the case of “Halloween Ends,” Michael Myers ends up being shadowed amongst the cast. He barely does anything in the movie, and unfortunately, the little we get of Michael Myers did not make the price of admission feel like it was worth it. The final fight between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers is somewhat thrilling. But I do not know if it was worth an hour and a half of everything else the story provides. If anything, I do not see myself watching “Halloween Ends” again. Instead, what I see myself doing is if I need a fix, I am going to go on YouTube and search the end of the movie to just watch Laurie and Michael duke it out. The fight was fun, but it is surrounded by an average movie that does not feel like it belongs in the “Halloween” universe.

I like what the movie was going for. Some of the movie’s plot plays around with certain characters’ perceptions. I thought it was somewhat well utilized. Seeing Laurie have relations, of sorts, with someone who the world finds to be as crazy as her sounds great on paper. Although I cannot say the same for the execution. The story that built up to the Laurie vs. Michael finale that the trailers promise has glimmers of fun, but it also has cheesy dialogue and over the top moments that took away from some of the entertainment. I am not going into “Halloween Ends” expecting the next “Parasite,” but like every movie I go into, I am expecting something of quality. I want to watch something that feels like the crew is trying, and in this case I did not get that.

If anything, “Halloween Ends” reminds me of what people say about the Michael Bay “Transformers” movies. It is not about what’s in the title, because they spend all this time sneaking a forced human drama about characters that the audience has little reason to care about. To be fair, Laurie has established herself as a fixture in the franchise. Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson, has her moments. Andi Matichak does her best with the material given to her.

The movie at the very least, looks and sounds competent on a $20 million budget. I had no problems with the way the movie was shot. The action sequences, for the most part, looked good. The score, which emits the classic “Halloween” tunes horror fans have come to know over the years, is booming. I watched this film in the theater, specifically in IMAX, and was worried that I was going to go deaf by the end. It might have been the loudest score I heard in a movie since Ludwig Goransson’s series of music from “Tenet.” Sadly though, despite being a horror movie, it is not that scary. Despite being a slasher film, the slasher elements did not add any highlights. Nothing stood out. Again, when Michael Myers is sidelined in a film franchise that made the character famous, that can be problematic. The movie has some occasional jumpscares, and they were not that terrifying. Honestly, if you are reading this and need a movie to watch this spooky season in the theater, just go watch “Smile.” Or, if you browsing around Peacock, where this movie debuted simultaneously, just turn on “The Black Phone!” If you are looking for scares, there are better options than “Halloween Ends.” This movie is a stab in the back if there ever was one.

In the end, “Halloween Ends” is the worst installment to David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” sequel trilogy. I have not seen too many of the “Halloween” movies. Other than David Gordon Green’s films, I have seen the original “Halloween” and “Halloween II.” I enjoyed both of those films for what they were. Of the “Halloween” films I have watched, this is my least favorite. The kills are not entertaining. Michael Myers is barely in the movie. As for the movie’s screenplay, it has an identity crisis. The marketing makes this look like a “Halloween” movie, but as for the product itself, it felt like a straight to Lifetime drama with better framing and more recognizable actors. I am going to give “Halloween Ends” a 4/10.

“Halloween Ends” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is also available to stream on Peacock.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of horror, I just saw “Barbarian” at the movies recently. Therefore, I will have a review for the flick coming soon. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Ticket to Paradise,” the brand new comedy starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Following that, I will be unveiling my feelings about the latest entry to the DCEU, “Black Adam.” Is the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe really about to change? That question will be answered soon. If you want to see more of my reviews, check out my thoughts on “Medieval” and “See How They Run.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Barbarian?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite installment in David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” trilogy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Smile (2022): A Grin-Inducing, Good Old Fashioned Horror Flick

“Smile” is written and directed by Parker Finn and is based on “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” a 2020 short film he previously made. This film stars Sosie Bacon (Scream, 13 Reasons Why), Jessie T. Usher (Survivor’s Remorse, The Boys), Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars, Smallville), Caitlin Stasey (The Sleepover Club, Neighbours), Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Designated Survivor), and Rob Morgan (Daredevil, Stranger Things). This film follows Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist, who witnesses a patient commit suicide during an appointment. Before her death, said patient says she is being chased by a smiling entity that tells her she is going to die. When Rose starts seeing strange happenings after said incident, she must find a way to survive and confront this reality.

Paramount is having a heck of year so far with its theatrical content. Between “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and the latest member to join the billion dollar club, “Top Gun: Maverick,” the studio is maintaining a solid track record with its tentpoles. Early on in the year, “Jackass Forever,” which was made for $10 million, ended up making over eight times that while in the cinemas. By the looks of things, “Smile” is following in the footsteps of all these projects. This movie came out at the tail end of September, and it is clearly having some notable success. After all, it has currently raked in more than $130 million at the box office so far. When considering the film is based on a short, a feature-length debut, and was produced on a $17 million budget, that is incredible. With Halloween just around the corner, I predict this film will continue to having staying power. After all, not only is it a financial success, but people are liking the movie itself. As for my thoughts, the hype is real. “Smile” is my favorite horror movie of the year.

Now, I have not seen every horror flick that has come out in 2022. I skipped “Scream,” and I still have not gotten around to watching “X.” Part of me wants to wait to maybe do an “X” and “Pearl” double feature. But of the ones I have seen, “Smile” might be the most… Grin-inducing. Almost every time I went to the movies, I saw a trailer for “Smile,” and it kind of had a campy vibe to it at times. Not all of what I saw was camp, but a trailer where an overly expressive dude repeatedly screams “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” does not promise Shakespeare. If anything, I was nevertheless in for the ride. Little did I know how much I would enjoy said ride.

The star of the show, both literally and figuratively, is Sosie Bacon as Rose Cotter. Bacon is perhaps perhaps responsible for my favorite lead performance in a horror film since Toni Collette in “Hereditary.” As Rose, Bacon delivers a performance where she comes off as increasingly twisted to those around her. The way this is executed from the giving and receiving end only makes me continue to root for her. The beauty of this performance also highlights the stellar direction of Parker Finn, who does a great job at putting you in everyone’s shoes, but eloquently brings you straight back to Rose’s.

Seeing “imaginary” things is nothing new in horror. In fact, I recently watched “It Follows” for the first time where such a concept was also handled well. Although the best thing about “Smile” is the altering perspectives between Sosie and the people she knows. It is how Sosie is seeing all these things and it causes people to have all these different emotions. None of which are remotely positive. While some of the happenings of this regard may lead to some predictable moments, the execution is solid enough for these things to work.

Once again, if you are not familiar with me as a movie watcher, horror might be my weakest genre. It is the one I seem to watch the least, and when it comes to my favorite movies, not many of them are actually within the horror realm. Sure, there’s “Jaws,” but by today’s standards, that is not a horror fest. That said, “Smile,” while not being as good as “Jaws,” is one of the scariest movies I have seen in my life. I watched a good chunk of horror over the past few years for Scene Before, and I cannot recall the last time, maybe other than “A Quiet Place,” where I jittered so much because something spooky may have been bound to happen. If you are looking for the spooks this season, this movie has them. Even the jumpscares are great. They are used sparingly, and therefore, perhaps used effectively.

“Smile” is a movie that makes something seemingly innocent look like the scariest thing on the planet. Smiles are not scary, they release serotonin. It is a fact. Although let’s be real, the smiles in “Smile” are definitely unsettling. This is a notion that I would also apply to what could be the best scene in the movie. Going back to the idea of Rose’s close friends and loved ones having different feelings than her, one of the highlights of “Smile” is during a child’s birthday party. Without giving away much, there is a singular instance that I did not see coming that shook me to the core. There was a cue for what was coming, but what the cue specified is a different story.

The film is not perfect. It uses some elements that have been used in horror films before, although it is somewhat forgivable given how brilliantly said elements are used here. The climax does become maybe a tad convoluted and is not as much of a highlight as the first two acts, but it still delivers enough creeps and entertainment to make the whole experience worthwhile. When I say this is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time, I mean it. My sister evidently enjoys horror more than me. We talked the other day. She wanted me to recommend a scary movie to her. “Smile” was the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it is recency bias, but I am still thinking about “Smile” after I saw it, so the movie more or less did its job.

In the end, “Smile” is the best horror film of 2022. If you ask me, this year has not been too great for movies, but this is one of the few highlights of the year so far. Simply put, I left the theater smiling. If you are looking for a fun movie to watch on Halloween and you do not want to stay home, I give “Smile” the highest of recommendations. Sosie Bacon is a standout as Rose Cotter. The love interest, Trevor, played by Jessie T. Usher, also does a great job. Based on the trailer, this could have been campy as could be. Although from my experience, I was delightfully surprised to find myself not laughing, but instead, quivering. I am going to give “Smile” an 8/10.

Before I go on, I need to talk about this film’s theatrical release, and how monumental of a success this has been for Paramount. This movie was going to go straight to Paramount+, but after positive test screenings, it was upgraded to a theatrical run. This film, which was made for $17 million, has already made over eight times its budget and is one of this year’s highest-grossing movies. I want to thank Paramount for providing one of the scariest times at the movies I had in ages, and for not putting “Smile” on streaming right away, because I do not think this film would have gotten the traction it needed to be as successful as it is.

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

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of horror movies, stay tuned for my review for the all new “Halloween Ends!” This film just released last weekend, and let it be known that I have some things to say. Also, this Friday, October 21st, I will be continuing Steven Spielberg Month, which has already produced a couple reviews including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” My next review in the series is going to be for the 2017 film “The Post.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Smile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the scariest horror film you have seen this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Amsterdam (2022): David O. Russell’s Latest Fast-Paced, Star-Filled, Forgettable Time

“Amsterdam” is directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Ford v. Ferrari), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet), Chris Rock (Madagascar, Grown Ups), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), Zoe Saldaña (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mike Myers (Shrek, Bohemian Rhapsody), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Mandalorian), Andrea Riseborough (Bloodline, Battle of the Sexes), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, Cats), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Selma), Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, The Little Things), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents). This film is mainly set in the 1930s, and centers around three people who are framed for murder. Together, this trio uncovers a plot that will change the course of history.

I have not seen all of David O. Russell’s films. I have seen “American Hustle,” which I was not a fan of. I have mostly forgotten it by now. I saw “Joy,” which I thought was cute. The acting was great, especially on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, but it was not my favorite movie of the year. I also saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which, while not one of my favorite movies ever, is probably the best attempt at a feature Russell has ever given. I still have yet to see films like “Flirting with Disaster,” “Three Kings,” and “I Heart Huckabees.” I am mostly familiar with David O. Russell’s recent work. That said, he has built quite a name for himself as a filmmaker and it is no surprise that names like the ones listed happen to be working with him.

When you have this many Academy Award-nominated or winning actors and actresses in your film, it builds promise. It builds interest. It reminded me of when I saw “The Circle” back in 2017. You had all these culturally relevant or critically acclaimed performers like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Given their resumes, I was excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts could not escape them from this misfire. “Amsterdam,” while definitely more satisfying than “The Circle,” is in the same boat.

The best way I can describe “Amsterdam” is to say that the film is all over the place. There is a lot that goes down in just a span of two hours that I felt like I had to take some notes. The film is not wholly incompetent by any means, but it begs me to keep up with its quick pacing. I like quick pacing, but at times, the movie goes too quick. There are a lot of characters and interwoven storylines that there is a good chance that I will have forgotten a couple of them by the next couple weeks. I think this is a film that could warrant a second viewing, but I am not sure yet if it has the replay value. At times, the pacing of this movie reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I know some people like, but for whatever reason I just could not get into. One moment we’re here, one moment we’re there, and in the next my brain, which has escaped from my body, might as well have traveled to the end of the universe.

If there is any saving grace in “Amsterdam,” it would have to be Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze. I thought she had the best moments in the movie. I thought the casting matched the character and the way she was written and directed. This performance solidifies Robbie as one of my favorite actors working today. Her chemistry with Christian Bale and John David Washington is solid, and as much effort as those two put into their performances, Robbie feels like the clear winner here.

Speaking of Christian Bale, if you want me to be completely honest, I think he had a more memorable performance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” of all things. I am not saying that Christian Bale gave a terrible performance in “Amsterdam.” If anything, it was stellar. But I think when combining acting with overall characterization, Bale’s attempt at playing Gorr the God Butcher was somehow more convincing and compelling despite a movie like “Amsterdam” appearing to be more along the lines of Bale’s forte.

It is crystal clear that the story of “Amsterdam” is not the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, it had its moments. There was a specific moment that intrigued me at the beginning where our main characters find themselves in an unspeakable situation. Unfortunately, as soon as we dive away from that, the quality of the movie lessens.

If I had to look in advance at 2022 in film and predict any Best Ensemble nominees at the SAG Awards, “Amsterdam” would have been a contender based on name recognition. However, much like Garry Marshall’s unwatchable holiday-based movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day,” the movie’s cast is the one glimmer of hope within what can simply be referred to as a hot mess. At least on paper. I never thought I would see the day where we have Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro in the same movie. I just hope when that unpredictable day came along, there was good script for them all to bring to the screen.

As for other positives, the movie is attractively colorful. Not quite as glitzy and glossy as say “Elvis,” which in some ways might happen to be a good thing if you ask me. However, the look of the film is sometimes easy on the eyes. In addition to having a stacked, recognizable cast, a lot of them are wearing stunning outfits, some look handsome or sexy. If this were a silent film, this might be okay depending on what you put for text. The sets at times look presentable, elaborate, and occasionally have a vintage feel to them.

There is a saying that looks are not everything, and this movie is exhibit A as to why that saying exists. Yes, some of my favorite actors are put in the forefront. Yes, some of the costumes and sets look dazzling. Yes, the movie has an occasional feeling of immersion. Although this cannot save the film itself from providing what could be one of the sloppiest stories of the decade, and that is despite this movie claiming “A LOT OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.” Just because a story is true, does not make it entertaining. You want to know a true story? I woke up today and wrote this review. Imagine if I tried to sell that as a movie. The distributor would probably go out of business!

Here is a fun fact. Christian Bale, who has worked with David O. Russell in the past, signed on to do “Amsterdam” before a script was written. I get the notion of wanting to work with a big name director. Especially one you supposedly have a decent relationship with. Heck, if I were an actor and I hear the name Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele I automatically think “business partnership.” I hope while these two high-profile industry insiders were thinking about how great it would be to work with each other, they took a moment to think of the quality of what they were going to make. Because despite the quantity of big names, quality seems to be sacrificed when it comes to the final product of “Amsterdam.”

In the end, “Amsterdam” has occasional glimmers of enjoyment, with some extreme emphasis on the word “occasional.” The film has an okay start, but the film itself never finds a way to be as compelling or entertaining as its first ten or fifteen minutes. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I cannot say the same for “Amsterdam.” I am going to give the forgettable and dull “Amsterdam” a 4/10.

“Amsterdam” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! I will soon unveil my thoughts on a couple of horror movies I watched recently, specifically “Smile” and “Halloween Ends.” Also, if you want to see more reviews from me, check out my thoughts on “See How They Run.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Amsterdam?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast whose script could not justify its star power? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): An Emotionally Thrilling, High-Flying, Down to Earth Tale

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last September, I made a promise to those who follow me on social media that I would do a Steven Spielberg Month! And with that promise comes a review of one of his most famous works, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” I mean, how can I not review this movie? Look at my last minute Photoshopped poster! I am committing to this movie no matter what! That said, “E.T.” is one of the films most people think of when they hear the words Steven Spielberg. It might shock you to know that despite this film coming out before I was born and having such longevity, this is my second time in my entire life watching this film. Is the rewatch worth it? Let’s find out.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and stars Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, and Drew Barrymore. This film centers around a young boy who finds an alien life form. Despite the foreign nature of this being, the boy befriends and communicates with the alien all the while trying to send him back to his planet of origin.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s most influential works, there’s often a debate as to what that film might actually be. “Jaws” essentially invented the modern blockbuster. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” spawned an iconic franchise that other exploration and adventure stories often get compared to. “Jurassic Park” is not only often considered to be the best dinosaur movie, but paved the way for CGI heavy cinema as we know it. However, “E.T.” should also be in the conversation. Even though “E.T.” is a story that brings our world together with foreign territory, it is a film that works because of how tiny it feels. And that is despite the occasional scene where things happen away from home. That is despite an iconic moment where we see our heroes fly by the moon. That is despite the punch-packing score by John Williams. This movie is like being promised a small, delicious pizza, but getting a large at no extra charge.

Safe to say, I had a ridiculously fun time watching “E.T.,” and it is easy to see why people are still celebrating it forty years later.

Even if its video game adaptation is cringe.

I only saw “E.T.” once when I was younger, and while I remember various things about it, this viewing truly felt like an initial watch. Like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” I had the chance to watch “E.T.” at home on 4K Blu-ray. Speaking of similarities to “Close Encounters,” “E.T.” looks surprisingly practical, and that practicality adds a hint of charm to the film itself. If E.T. himself were CGIed, part of me would wonder how off-putting or pixelated that could come off. Thankfully, such an idea remains a mystery.

Speaking of practical, one of the most believable things in the movie is how they handled the connection between Eliott and E.T.. Whether you believe a kid like Eliott would actually take an alien into his home is one thing. As for how they handled the taking of an alien into Eliott’s home makes the journey worthwhile. Seeing their differences in communication provided for glimmers of entertainment. This also goes to show the magic of minimal dialogue, notably on E.T.’s part. E.T. has very few lines in the movie, but each one emits a particular positive emotion that stands out. This is perhaps the film’s biggest strength. The story is simple, but the way it is executed allowed for a great balance of happiness, sadness, and everything in between.

When I look back on my experience of watching “E.T.,” I anticipate to remember select moments where my eyes lit up, and others where my eyes almost watered. And this movie is not short on these. While “Blade Runner” may still be my favorite movie from 1982, I can confirm that “E.T.” is more effective when it comes to inducing character attachments and emotions for everything that is happening.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s science fiction slate, I think this is a better movie overall than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The biggest strength of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is not the main character of Roy Neary, as likable as he is. Instead, that honor belongs to the curiosity of Barry, a three-year-old boy. Spielberg is consistent from one film to another in suggesting that children are likely to take steps to determine what strange happenings are going on outside. This consistency is effective because naturally, children are curious. Although for “E.T.,” the child of focus here, specifically Eliott, is the protagonist. His mother, Mary (Dee Wallace) plays a prominent role in the film. However, when it comes to “Close Encounters” comparisons, Mary emits more of the characteristics of Ronnie, who is noticeably less open-minded towards the ongoing alien plot.

If I had to give any problems to “E.T.,” it would have nothing to do with the story. In fact, it is as perfect as can be. I would barely change a single thing about it. That dishonor, instead, belongs to the technical aspects of the film. The film has its highlights from various night shots that look beautiful, a nicely edited action sequence towards the end, and of course, one of the best, not to mention catchiest, scores John Williams has ever done.

“E.T.” came out in 1982. Therefore, after the film’s release, many improvements have been made to how green screen is done. Although you cannot have the improvements seen in movies like “Avengers: Endgame” without the mistakes made in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” There are a couple flying sequences in this film. At times, they come off as beautiful. John Williams’s score accompanies both of these scenes and allow him to deliver the best music in the movie. However, the green screen, or blue screen in this case, looks obvious. It looks kind of fake. If anything, it makes the shark in “Jaws” look real. I was fully immersed in this flying sequence and nevertheless continue to reflect on it after the movie with positive thoughts. But seeing the landscape move around in the background the way it does is kind of distracting. That said, as far as I know, there is no such thing as a flying bike. Therefore I respect Spielberg and crew for trying to imagine how such a thing could look. The result, per my born in 1999 and viewing in 2022 eyes, is mostly positive.

If I had any other problems with the movie, it would be the first scene between Eliott and E.T. from either an editing or directorial perspective. When E.T. is revealed, we see Eliott react to the sight of the foreign creature. Obviously, he is terrified. I have no problem with the way this is written, but the way it was assembled was a bit jumpy. There are only so many cuts you can do of one person’s face screaming in fear. I think that was a bit overdone.

That said, these are small problems within a film of wonder. The cast is great, the characters are well-written, and the shots are some of the most gorgeous of 1980s cinema. As far as science fiction and alien-based films go, I think Spielberg stepped it up from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” As much as I enjoyed “Close Encounters,” I think I would rather watch “E.T.” again in the near future.

Also, I cannot go on without acknowledging this iconic moon shot. There are few instances in cinema that are as eye-popping as this. There is a reason why this became part of the Amblin logo.

In the end, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is some of the most fun I have had watching a movie recently. They say that moviemaking is a business, which comes with a double-edged sword. The studios always try to follow the money, and therefore quality is sometimes neglected. Not with “E.T.,” because the movie is the highest-grossing project of 1982 by a long shot. It is one thing to be successful, but to be successful and career-defining is another. This film was a win for Steven Spielberg back in the 1980s, and it is a still a winner today. This is a great film for all ages, and I would not mind putting it on again sometime. I am going to give “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.” an 8/10.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is now available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy digitally, and you can also stream it on Peacock.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see another review from this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month event, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!”

My next review in the Steven Spielberg Month series is a 35 year jump in time! This is a film I have not seen yet, I am watching it for the first time for this review, “The Post.” I have heard decent things about this movie. In fact it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Here is hoping it is good! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my reviews for “Amsterdam,” “Smile,” and “Halloween Ends.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial?” What did you think about it? Or, this might be a dumb question, but it is about something stupid so it comes full circle. Have you ever had the chance to play “E.T.” on the Atari 2600? If so, tell me about your experience. I want to know everything. Scene Before is your click to the flicks.

See How They Run (2022): An Admirably Staged Whodunnit with a Lesser Known, But Solid Cast

“See How They Run” is directed by Tom George (Defending the Guilty, This Country) and stars Sam Rockwell (Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Little Women), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong), Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, The Affair), Reece Shearsmith (Spaced, The World’s End), Harris Dickinson (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, The King’s Man), and David Oyelowo (Selma, Gringo). This film is set in 1950s London, where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which has become a popular play in the West End, is set to become a film. Unfortunately, when one crucial member of the film’s eventual production has been murdered, plans halt and it is now up to Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker to find out more about what happened.

While I have not watched a good amount of them, I do love a good murder mystery. In fact, my favorite television episode of all time, specifically And Then There Were Fewer from “Family Guy,” is a murder mystery.

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

Simply put, iconic.

In fact, one of my favorite movies of the past few years happens to be “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson. All the actors play their part well, especially Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, and it was one of the funniest movies of its year. In fact, while both movies have notable differences, I got “Knives Out” vibes from watching “See How They Run,” partially because both have some association with Agatha Christie works. For “Knives Out,” Rian Johnson once went on to reference several of Agatha Christie’s tales as inspiration for his film. As far as “See How They Run” goes, the movie literally uses an Agatha Christie work as a significant part of its story. “The Mousetrap,” which started off as a play, and as this movie reveals, is going to be turned into a film adaptation. As far as play to movie adaptations go, this definitely sounds better than “Cats.”

“See How They Run” is neither the biggest, nor most recognizable movie out right now. Heck, even “Avatar,” a thirteen year old film, beat it at the box office over the past few weekends. But to be fair, “See How They Run” did not release in 3D. Although unlike some of the alternatives out right now such as “Don’t Worry Darling,” “See How They Run” is definitely worth watching.

When I say this movie is not the most recognizable, I mean it. I live in the United States, and there are few big stars in this movie I can pinpoint like Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, David Oyelowo, and Adrien Brody. And that’s if you can actually call some of these people “stars.” That said, much like the recently mentioned “Knives Out,” every actor in this movie fits their part and feels like they belong in their environment. I have no problem with the casting whatsoever. The same goes with the characters. Everyone brought their A-game and while it may not have as star-studded of an ensemble as say the recent Kenneth Branagh-directed “Death on the Nile,” I would argue that the performances in “See How They Run” are just as, if not more compelling when combined together.

My favorite performances in the film come from the two most prominent characters, Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker, played by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan respectively. Rockwell transforms into this experienced, determined detective who has some noticeable quirks. I cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. The same assessment would have to be given to Saoirse Ronan, who is not only great in the movie, but based on her resume in recent years, this is a different performance than I am used to seeing from her.

Obviously, Sam Rockwell has been acting for years, therefore he has had the opportunity here and there to diversify his performances. From the little that I have seen from Saoirse Ronan, specifically through her work with Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” she has a knack for playing outspoken characters, and the character of Constable Stalker feels comparatively quiet. She is never shy, not necessarily nervous, but compared to her work as say Jo March in “Little Women,” Ronan plays a character who, based on what the story provides, is not the elephant in the room. Granted, Constable Stalker is not the main character of the film, therefore that also comes into play. Although she had some of my favorite moments in the movie. She had this recurring gag where she would often jump to conclusions that got an occasional laugh out of me.

My other hint of enormous praise of the film is the look of everything in it. Everything from the locations to the cinematography by Jamie Ramsay to the costumes by previous Jackoffs winner Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Last Night in Soho, Chernobyl). I felt like I was in the 1950s the entire time. I wanted to leave my world and enter this one. Kind of like last year’s “Last Night in Soho,” this movie sets up a spookily enchanting environment that is as beautiful as it is rugged. Being set in London is a wonderful coincidence if there ever was one.

This film packs a lot in its fairly short runtime. Unfortunately, I feel like I am not going to remember many of the supporting characters within the next month. I will likely remember Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker for their fabulous chemistry, but there are a good number of people that we meet by the film’s climax that I think I will disregard in comparison when talking about the movie to other people.

“See How They Run” may not be as smart or fun as say “Knives Out,” but it is worth a watch. The best way I can describe “See How They Run” to someone who hasn’t watched it is by referring to it as a Wes Anderson-style film if had some of the tones of “Knives Out.” I think both of those aspects could provide for a promising time. But this is no “Knives Out,” and if you want me to go by Wes Anderson terms, this is no “Rushmore.” Although if you are looking for something fun, something that could be an escape from reality, this is a quick, easy option. And I can honestly see myself watching it a second time if it ever comes around.

In the end, “See How They Run” is not my favorite movie of year, it is not the best murder mystery, but it is a quirky, delightful time. I do mean it when I say quirky. The movie even takes time to make fun of particular storytelling methods. A specific instance of this in particular had me dying. One character noted how cliché or predictable some murder mysteries are to some people, which I thought added for a nice touch for a story like this. I like the two main characters, they were played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. The overall aesthetic of the film is pleasing. My flaws with “See How They Run” do not detract from the delight this film is. I think you should see it if given the chance. I am going to give “See How They Run” a 7/10.

“See How They Run” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this, you might want to stay tuned for another review I have coming up. Specifically, for the new movie “Amsterdam.” I had a chance to see it, perhaps unfortunately. Therefore, I will be talking about it soon! Also, stay tuned for tomorrow, because I will be unveiling my thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s classic film, “E.T. the Extra-terrestrial.” I am reviewing the film as part of an ongoing Steven Spielberg Month and in honor of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “The Fabelmans,” which is set to release November 11th. Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you watch “See How They Run?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite murder mystery? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): My First Contact with Steven Spielberg’s Sci-fi Classic

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last year on Scene Before, in honor of the fifth anniversary, I promised everyone that I would spend months focusing on several themed review periods. This has lead to series including “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews,” where I reviewed the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” film and its sequel, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.” I also did “Revenge of the Nerds Month,” where I reviewed all the movies in its respective franchise. Starting with “Revenge of the Nerds,” to “Nerds in Paradise,” followed by “The Next Generation,” and finally, “Nerds in Love.” I capped this charade off with “The Matrix Reviewed,” where I talked about “The Matrix,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” and “The Matrix Revolutions.” That was last year.

This year however, I have yet to review any older movies, or do any particular theme. Well, that changes. On November 11th, Steven Spielberg will release his latest film, the highly anticipated loosely based on true events tale, “The Fabelmans.” In honor of his latest film and his significant career, I figured it would be time to do a “Steven Spielberg Month.” For this review, we will be starting with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” It was my first time watching the film, and here are my initial thoughts.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, and François Truffaut in a film about Roy Neary, an electric lineman who encounters a UFO. This incident enhances his curiosity as to the events this may lead to, which causes him to go cross-country to find out more.

For those who beg to ask, I am basing my review on the theatrical version of the film, which is the only cut I have seen. This review is based on my first contact, my initial close encounter, with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I am sort of surprised it took me 22 years to watch this film, as I am a bit of a science fiction nut. In fact, just this year, the moviegoing masses received the latest film from Jordan Peele, “Nope,” which speaking of Spielberg, I compared to “Jaws” based on my experience with both films. “Nope” is not as good as “Jaws,” but content-wise, the two feel similar. If I watched “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” before seeing “Nope,” which I did not, I probably would have used that film as a device to compare to as well. After all, both films prominently feature aliens and if you read my review for “Nope,” I referenced that film “as the closest I think a director has come in some time to providing a Spielberg-like experience without the use of the actual Steven Spielberg.”

When it comes to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” I was kind of expecting some variation of “Jaws” but with aliens, as if an alien were to be a primal focus of the screen time. After all, again, Steven Spielberg directed both films. What I got out of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” felt deeper, it felt more character-driven. This is not a diss on “Jaws” because that is a great film and the characters have likable personalities. But at the end of the day, when it comes to “Jaws,” I am mostly there to watch the shark do shark things while the humans deal with it. Obviously they have admirable backstories, but it goes to show how much I rooted for and related to the main character of Roy Neary. I am not an electric lineman, nor I do live in the midwest. That said, I found the character’s motivations aligning with mine and I felt for him throughout various occasions of the film, even if he is designed to look crazy.

After all, if I tweeted to the entire world, picture included or not, that I saw a UFO, it would generate a ton of reactions, at least one of which would involve someone calling me insane. I have watched stories where people faced alien life, the supernatural, or other similar concepts where the movie’s supporting cast to some degree might grow suspicious of the main character and think they are cuckoo. Only thing is, I know that as a third party observer, they are not. If anything this leads to this film’s biggest strength. Even though I am rooting for Roy Neary, there are one or two moments in this movie where he can come off as crazy. But much like a mad scientist potentially discovering the latest integration that could potentially be used for time travel, this craziness could also be marked as obsessiveness, which is why I find Roy Neary likable. He may come off as weird, but he is passionate about accomplishing his goal. I want the latter to be true for just about any protagonist.

For good reason, this movie is about Roy Neary, but one of my favorite aspects of how this story is told is how they use a three year old boy as a curiosity mine. This is a perfect utilization. Children, perhaps stereotypically, are more curious than adults. Therefore it makes sense to have as much of a focus on three year old Barry as much as a grown adult like Roy. While “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is more of a science fiction tale than a horror flick, Barry’s perspective brought hints of the latter genre to the table. There is a particular moment midway through the film that had me caught me slightly off guard not because of what I saw, but because of what I could not see. Film is a visual medium. Therefore, it is often expected for sight to be the most important and heightened sense within each edition of said medium. In today’s cinematic landscape where VFX-heavy films dominate, it is nice to see a film with an occasional sense of minimalism.

At the same time though, this should not take away from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as a visual spectacle. Partially because the film looks beautiful, even if there is another 1977 science fiction film that somehow surpasses it, specifically “Star Wars.” I watched this film on 4K Blu-ray, so therefore I also got to see the HDR transfer. Even though there are several scenes that take place at night, this film is not short on vibrant, visible color. The mothership in particular is one of the more awe-inspiring crafts in the entire science fiction genre. The variety of lit colors on the ship emit a poppy vibe even though it looks like the last thing you will ever see.

I should not be surprised that film looks as good as it does. The standard for shooting movies at this time was 35mm film, which has occasionally been used today for productions like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Northman.” Although I was delighted to know that this movie’s visual effects sequences were shot using 70mm film. The cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond is clear and wide enough to pick up all the fine details. “Close Encounters” has a specialty where it is one the more rugged-looking sci-fi movies, but that makes it all the more beautiful. The movie relies on practical effects instead of computers, which is a smart choice. Forty-five years later, the movie’s appearance has aged like a fine wine.

I do not know when I plan on watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” again. It is not a bad film by any means, but I did not find it as memorable as other films in the sci-fi genre. At the same time though, this film feels like an achievement for the genre in the same way that “Star Wars” was in the same year. Technically speaking, it is breathtaking. Characteristically speaking, I admired just about everyone on screen. I would say if you have never seen the film, give it a watch sometime.

In the end, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is a solid movie that feels like a semi-realistic interpretation of what could happen if mankind ever encountered alien life. Some of us would be curious. Some of us would run. Some of us would want to get authorities involved. It all sounds legit. Kind of like the shark in “Jaws,” I came to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to see how it uses aliens in its story. Although I stayed to see human characters like Roy deal with an unfamiliar situation. The stay was certainly worth it. I am going to give “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” a 7/10.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is now available in formats including VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. You can also rent or buy the film through Video On Demand or on various streaming services.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, why not check out some of my other ones? Like my review for the most expensive Czech film of all time, “Medieval!” Also, be sure to check out my review for the brand new comedy, “Clerks III!”

My next review for the ongoing Steven Spielberg Month, which shall be posted on Friday, October 14th, is going to be for “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” I have not watched this film in many years, so I feel like I am going in with a fresh perspective. I hope I am not disappointed. Also, stay tuned for my reviews for “The Post” and the 2021 remake of “West Side Story!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Close Encounters of the Third Kind?” What did you think about it? Or, since it is related, did you see “Nope?” Tell me your thoughts! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Don’t Worry Darling (2022): Olivia Wilde Delivers a Dose of Harry Styles Over Any and All Substance

“Don’t Worry Darling” is directed by Olivia Wilde (Booksmart, Tron: Legacy), who also stars in the film as Bunny. This film also stars Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Black Widow), Harry Styles (Dunkirk, Eternals), Gemma Chan (Eternals, Raya and the Last Dragon), KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, The Old Guard), Nick Kroll (Big Mouth, Sausage Party), and Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Star Trek). “Don’t Worry Darling” follows a 1950s housewife who becomes worried about her loving husband, or more specifically, his company, that could hiding disturbing secrets.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is Olivia Wilde’s sophomore outing as a feature director. Wilde previously directed “Booksmart,” which in addition to receiving positive feedback from moviegoers and critics, did a fine job at the box office with a $25 million return against a $6 million budget. Wilde showcased her ability to make a laugh-inducing comedy while not breaking the bank. As for my thoughts on the movie, I liked it. I do not think it is the funniest movie of its respective year, but it gave me some decent laughs. Based on her experience of making a funny movie, it made me curious as to what she could do next.

Now that the next thing is here, I cannot stop thinking about it. It bogs my mind like I would not believe!

No, not the movie! The press for the movie! Why is everyone so hyped up about it? Well, everyone likes drama. If reality television and gossip has continued to prove it over the years, people like drama. And the buildup to “Don’t Worry Darling” has provided plenty of it. Between Shia LeBeouf once being attached to the movie, Florence Pugh not promoting the film, and a whole charade between Harry Styles and Chris Pine over spit, “Don’t Worry Darling” was shaping up to be this year’s most entertaining story. Except it was not the story written for the screen. Regardless, I planned on seeing this movie. The marketing was creepy yet interesting enough to keep my attention. The cinematography looked really good. And for the most part, the cast was good. Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll. There are some good names in here.

As for my thoughts on “Don’t Worry Darling,” the first two acts are delightfully charming and kept me intrigued throughout. Harry Styles has a ways to go as an actor, but it is a great setup for this movie’s world.

Then the turd– Sorry, THIRD act happened.

I cannot fully go into why I despise the third act and how this movie concludes because I would ultimately be spoiling the movie. That said, how these things go down are ridiculous to say the least. Does it involve something that could potentially be out of left field? You could say that. Was that the point? Perhaps. Does it change the fact that what happened felt ridiculous? Absolutely not. I do not mind out of left field scenarios if said scenario is executed well. This one is the exact opposite. Around the 60 to 90 minute mark, this movie went in one direction, and that is down.

This movie is like ordering a pizza that you will never eat. The first act is like opening up Uber Eats and getting excited over the pizza you want for dinner. Solid setup, this may be going somewhere swell… The second act is the equivalent of placing your order. You’re intrigued, you’re excited, what could go wrong? Except for absolutely everything! Because we get to the third act, where something completely unexpected happens! The restaurant blew up, and now you have no pizza! Only disappointment and frustration.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is certainly one of the better looking films of the year. The color palette of the 1950s suburban setting is poppy and felt like a pure escape. I thought the cinematography would look good based on the trailer and I would say I was not disappointed. Matthew Libatique deserves a pat on the back at the least. Everything from the costumes to the sets to the overall aesthetic of the film is top notch. It felt like another world at times. While this movie nails its looks, its story leaves much to be desired.

The cast of “Don’t Worry Darling” all deliver solid performances. This should not come as a surprise as the movie contains a fair number of big name actors, and Olivia Wilde even does a good job as her respective character. The only actor who I think struggled in terms of how seriously I could take him is Harry Styles (left). Maybe it is because of his recognizability in pop culture, regardless of how little I care for his music. Styles is not the worst actor of all time. If last year’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases anything, he is better than LeBron James. Plus he once had a supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” that served its purpose. Although every scene he is in, I would hear a line out of someone like Florence Pugh or Chris Pine, I feel like they are in the moment, whereas Styles is trying to keep up but he does not quite have it. When it comes to recognizable actors giving corny performances, Styles is thankfully less infuriating than say Tom Hanks as Tom Parker in “Elvis,” a laughable, yet terrifyingly annoying performance I have still yet to get out of my head. Speaking of “Elvis,” “Don’t Worry Darling” feels like another version of that film. Both are from Warner Bros., both are released in 2022, and both have a lead actor that could almost be considered the saving grace.

Whereas Harry Styles may not be the hot ticket this awards season, Florence Pugh is certainly a contender for the upcoming mounds of gold. Given this movie’s controversy, who knows what will happen? But if the Oscars were tomorrow, I would debatably cast a vote for Pugh. I liked her previously in movies like “Black Widow,” “Little Women,” and the significantly underappreciated “Fighting with My Family,” but “Don’t Worry Darling” may be the best performance of Pugh’s career so far. Pugh is still young, so there is a good chance she could eventually deliver an even better performance than this one, but to have this great of a performance now is incredible, especially when I am thinking about it more than almost any other one I have seen this year.

“Don’t Worry Darling” comes with a fairly unique setting and cast of characters, and its concept is certainly one of the quirkier I have seen in a movie this year. Although as I watched this movie and heard certain lines and witnessed particular happenings, it weirdly, of all things, reminded me of Disney+’s “WandaVision.” This feels weird to say, but when it comes to this type of plot, a Marvel miniseries somehow did this better. It had its flaws, but unlike “Don’t Worry Darling,” the positives outweighed the negatives.

Much like “Morbius,” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” if you go on the Rotten Tomatoes page for “Don’t Worry Darling,” you will notice a humungous divide between the critic and audience scores. Also much like “Morbius” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” as I watched “Don’t Worry Darling,” I felt myself leaning towards the side of the critics. But unlike those other two films, I felt like there was a recipe for something grand when the movie started. Again, if Harry Styles were not in this movie, I would have taken it a tad more seriously. Although when the movie started, I reminisced over the low Rotten Tomatoes score I recall this movie having, and I thought, “Are these critics on drugs?!”. Despite everything I said about Harry Styles, I should not underestimate his fanbase, because my theater had plenty of young women inside. Unfortunately though, this movie is not that great, and by the third act, it is ultimately a case of Harry Styles over substance.

In the end, “Don’t Worry Darling” is quite worrisome. For those of you who have not seen “Booksmart,” I do recommend you give it a watch at some point. It is funny, raunchy, but also heartfelt. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play a likable duo. If you want a showcase of what Olivia Wilde could bring to the table as a filmmaker, “Booksmart” is a better case of her talent. I do not have plans to watch “Don’t Worry Darling” a second time. This movie is like a slot machine. Two reels spin and land on the bonus symbol, there’s a big tease for the third reel to land a bonus, only to land on a 7. Florence Pugh gives an Oscar-worthy performance that made me look forward to her future roles as an actress. The film looks pretty and there clever concepts in it, but they were not well executed. For these reasons, in addition to having the one of the most jaw-droppingly bewildering and unsatisfying endings of the year, I am going to give “Don’t Worry Darling” a 4/10.

Although before we move on, the public drama behind “Don’t Worry Darling” and its crew seems to work in the film’s favor, whether Warner Bros. or Olivia Wilde chooses to admit it or not. Because at my screening, I sat next to two older women. When the movie ended, the woman next to me said she came to this movie with someone else because of the drama surrounding it. The drama had her curiosity, and now the movie had her attention. So, for Warner Bros., this could be a happy accident. It is unfortunate that this movie, at least when it first releases, will likely be associated with said drama regardless of its quality. The question is, how will it be viewed years from now? That remains a mystery.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, stay tuned because I have more coming! Pretty soon I will be sharing my thoughts on the brand new murder mystery, “See How They Run!” Stay tuned for that, and also stay tuned for the movies I will be reviewing for my official Steven Spielberg Month! This week we will be talking about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Don’t Worry Darling?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Booksmart?” Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!