“Missing” is directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, both of whom edited the 2018 film “Searching.” This film stars Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time, 12 Years a Slave), Joaquim de Almeida (Good Morning, Babylon, 24), Ken Leung (Old, Lost), Amy Landecker (Transparent, Project Almanac), Daniel Henney (My Lovely Sam Soon, The Wheel of Time), and Nia Long (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Boyz in the Hood). This film centers around a young girl named June whose mom goes on a getaway. When June goes to the airport to pick her mom up at a time she was scheduled to arrive back from said getaway, she is nowhere to be seen. This leads June down a spiral of questions, searches, and wonders as to what happened to her mom and what she could be up to via the internet.
This film is from the editors of “Searching,” which I missed during its original release. In fact, despite having a pass to a press screening for this film, I took it almost neglecting the fact that I still have not seen “Searching.” I felt guilty. I heard good things about it and the concept itself sounded unique. Having watched the film the week of said screening, I can confirm the execution is exactly that. A good movie with a unique concept. Naturally, this made me more excited for “Missing.” I was also glad to know that this was from people who were involved with “Searching.” Part of what made that original film so watchable is its ability to multitask. “Searching” has the ability to juggle a quick pace, a wonderfully twisty narrative, and great characterization without the use of full-fledged cameras. I thought this was shockingly well done. In my best movies of 2022 list, I said “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stood out to me because of how much of a one of a kind concept it turned out to be. “Searching,” while not as great of a movie, sits in the same boat.
One of the greatest things about “Searching” was its ability to keep me interested in the story from start to finish despite the unique, perhaps gimmicky filmmaking style. “Missing” nails the start, but as we get closer to the finish, my interest levels waned. Part of it is because this film missed (no pun intended) something that “Searching” had through its full runtime. Each moment in “Searching” felt like something that could actually happen. Each conversation, every action. All of it felt real. Despite some occasionally juicy material, everything that happened came off within the definition of verisimilitude. That said, the first half sold me before we get into some shark jumping moments that ultimately reduced my enjoyment. I did not hate this movie. To say I hated “Missing” would be a hyperbole. But it is also a movie where the flaws stand out just as much as its wins.
The wins for “Missing” would be the performances. Every actor does a good job in this movie. Storm Reid carries this film from start to finish, but it does not mean the supporting roles filled by actors like Joaquim de Almeida and Nia Long were not worthy of my praise. Giving some specification on the latter, I bought the chemistry both between Nia Long and Storm Reid, in addition to Long and Ken Leung, who plays her love interest. The love Long’s character gives to both individuals, even if there is some tension between them and the protagonist, feels genuine.
If there are any other wins, I did find the film surprisingly humorous. Although between both movies, I laughed more during “Searching.” That said, like “Searching,” there were a couple moments that showcase jokes that poke fun at some of the ways we use technology or some of the things we use technology for. There were a couple laughs from me and the rest of my audience.
I loved the use of the screen technology in “Searching.” Not only because of its uniqueness, but how it was used. While “Missing” definitely does not have as many visual effects as “Avatar: The Way of Water,” there are moments where this film has a larger than life feel to it. But this is a rare case where I am using that as a negative. This is especially true in the climax. Larger than life can have numerous meanings. In this case, the meaning applies to how far-fetched the climax felt at times. While there is a moment where my crowd erupted in applause, I on the other hand remained silent because I did not believe what was happening on screen felt like it belonged in a picture like this. I have watched movies where I was able to suspend my disbelief because while I knew what was happening is not realistic in our universe, the movie’s rules made me think it could happen there.
In fact one of my negatives regarding “Missing” is how the movie attempts to connect to “Searching.” This movie just came out, therefore I am going to be as spoiler free as I possibly can, but there is a television program in the film. Not a real program, but one that exists within this film’s universe, that starts off as something that sounds legitimate within the lore. But by the end of the film, it comes off as a cheap joke. I mean that in more ways than one. The end of this film, while it has glimmers of entertainment, feels loosely strung together like a last minute project for a high school class I deemed less important than the others. It did not have the satisfying oomph the filmmakers seemed to be going for. If anything it felt out of place, abrupt, and maybe even a bit lazy. I am not asking for every aspect of “Missing” to be just like its original counterpart, but my hope was for this movie to take what was great about “Searching” and have a story that kind of stands on its own. “Missing” does both those things, but it does not make the story interesting. Before my screening started, they had a promo suggesting that this movie is full of twists and turns. That should be a good thing, right? It could have been. But it did not help that the twists and turns ranged from out of the blue to highly illogical. What do I think about “Missing?” Well, to put it short, something was missing.
In the end, while I did not despise “Missing,” it is definitely no “Searching.” I would much rather watch “Searching” a second time than pop this movie on again. I thought Storm Reid did a great job leading this movie. Her performance and character stood out. The cast is great. The concept, while a reversal of the original, lends itself to some decent ideas. I just wish they belonged in a better narrative. I am going to give “Missing” a 5/10.
“Missing” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! I know I am in the minority when it comes to this movie. The reviews for this film so far have been mostly positive from both critics and audiences. For some reason it did not work for me. But that is the beauty of film. Speaking of films, next weekend I will be watching “80 for Brady.” The brand new movie about four elderly women who will do anything to see a Tom Brady-led New England Patriots play in the Super Bowl. 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 “Missing?” What did you think about it? Also, did you see “Searching?” Tell me your thoughts on that film as well! Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“M3GAN” is directed by Gerard Johnstone (The New Legends of Monkey, Terry Teo) and stars Allison Williams (Get Out, Girls), Jenna Davis (Maggie, Raven’s Home), and Violet McGraw (The Haunting of Hill House, Jett). This film centers around a young girl named Cady who loses her parents, is put under the custody of her aunt, but despite finding herself under said guardianship, she does not feel the same as she once did. Not to mention, said aunt is having trouble filling the shoes of her new, unexpected role. That is where M3GAN, an advanced toy doll prototype designed to practically be a child’s best friend, comes in.
When I think about the movie “M3GAN,” it would not be surprising for me to easily jump to conclusions and suggest that this is a gender-swapped version of “Child’s Play.” In some ways, it is. Although as I have said many times on Scene Before, horror is not my strongest genre, therefore I am not entirely familiar with “Child’s Play” and am purely going off of things I have heard. This time, the Chucky doll is a girl, and the child this movie revolves around is a girl as well. The trailer emitted these vibes from the moment I first witnessed it. Sure, there is that one dance routine that M3GAN does that makes her stand out, but I was not sure how a horror movie released in January could not only make its presence known, but worth appreciating. Sure, statistically, horror has been on a roll in recent months, at least for me. But now that we are in January, we are in the time where without exaggeration, movies go to die. If you are not going back to see “Avatar: The Way of Water” or “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” for the first, second, or third time, you are probably going to be watching something that is either deemed less favorable, or something that is still pulling in people for an Oscar nod that came out during the fall.
Thankfully for “M3GAN,” this movie is a delightful surprise. Yes, the trailers make it look like January trash, but it does have some genuine charm throughout that makes it worth the watch. I was shocked and delighted to find out how layered this movie ended up being. From scene one, I ended up caring about the young Cady. I felt terrible for both Cady and her aunt, Gemma, as the two tried to get better acquainted. I have not lost my parents at a young age. I know people who have, and it must be a pain I could never fathom. Nevertheless, this movie manages to capture such a pain with excellence. As for Gemma, a lot of pressure was put on her in a split second. She does not have much experience with children, despite working at a toy company. I not only sympathized with the main character, but the supporting character who is supposed to look after said main character.
As mentioned before, regarding “M3GAN,” an obvious similarity would be “Child’s Play.” But I would also say that another film prominently featuring a technologically advanced toy, “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” would also make for a good comparison. These films have their vast differences. For example, I would not outright recommend “M3GAN” for children, but I think “M3GAN” does a good job at doing something “Ron’s Gone Wrong” tried to do, but in the case of “M3GAN,” the results were more pleasing. To be specific, this film dives into commentary about technology, the toy industry, and how these things can affect one’s social behavior. Children often form attachments to various possessions, and sometimes that can define their life around a certain age. I played a lot of video games when I was younger, so I had an attachment to my various consoles. I would go on vacations and literally take my Xbox 360 with me. This movie reminded me that children will inevitably have obsessions. Heck, every other time I am in a store like GameStop or Target, I will see a child and parent together, and every other time I would hear the child calling out for a toy or something of a similar nature and beg their parent to buy it for them. M3GAN comes off as a toy that could make such a thing happen if it were on display.
In addition to attachment, this movie does a great job at showing how technology tends to replace guardians in many cases. Technology is often used as an escape no matter what age somebody is. However, there comes a point where this movie is a reminder to monitor how often your child is in front of a screen. In M3GAN’s case, it is perhaps a bit more daunting than say my recent Xbox 360 example. Because an Xbox 360 is replaceable. Whether we are talking about more advanced consoles like the Xbox One, or whichever other Xbox 360 already in existence has yet to crap out because of the red ring of death. This movie advertises M3GAN as the one toy a child could ever want for the rest of their life. As a result, it is the one friend they could want too. M3GAN is equipped to do what other people Cady’s age can do and possibly more. Whereas the option is always there to play video games with my friends, M3GAN has the ability to take the actual social component out of anything.
To call “M3GAN” the scariest movie of all time would be a hyperbole beyond hyperboles. I should note, the movie is PG-13, but nevertheless, rather effective. However, I would say the scariest thing about “M3GAN” is something that happens in the movie, and what it made me think about upon leaving it. The most haunting thing about movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” from 1968, “The Terminator” from 1984, or even more recent films like “Wall-E” from 2008 is that those stories are representative of realities where we could lead ourselves if we are not careful. “M3GAN” is not the scariest horror movie within the past year. The actual scares in the movie are kind of tame compared to say “Smile,” where I was shivering on a regular basis.
That said, the scariest thing about “M3GAN” is that the movie is perhaps representative of not our future, but where we are today. This movie starts off with an advertisement about a toy that is wholly reminiscent of the typical formula of almost any ad found during the daytime on Nickelodeon. If anything, M3GAN is what happens when you put Siri or Alexa inside of an American Girl doll. Heck, the doll even has singing capabilities. What if there is a point where this becomes a franchise and these dolls sell out concerts at Madison Square Garden? M3GAN is literally a smartphone with legs. It presents information in full detail when the moment seems most convenient. It is customized to cater to its primary user. And Cady is endlessly attached to it. Who is not attached to their phone these days?
To give an example of how “M3GAN” is not necessarily representative of our future, but today, let me give you a picture of my screening. This was nowhere near a full house. But the film brought in plenty of people into its small auditorium of ages varying from somewhere in the teens, possibly tweens, to that of a fully grown adult. Almost everyone had their phone out. Some had it out for a second. Some longer. There were moments where people were using their phone while losing focus on the movie. There were also moments where I saw a sea of four, five phones on at a time. In fact, since I do not carry a watch, I checked my phone, which I left in my pocket while doing so, to see the time after the trailers ended because AMC loves advertising everything under the sun. First off, if you are going to go the movies, the only screen that matters is the one the largest one in the room. Be respectful. Second, there is a scene in “M3GAN” that does not specifically target the people doing what they were doing in this theater, but the more I think about my experience, the more I connect it to Cady’s connection to M3GAN in that moment. She loves M3GAN so much that she is unwilling to give it up for even a couple hours for any other activity presented in front of her.
M3GAN is probably not going to end up in my favorite movies of the year list once we arrive at the end, but it probably is going to be one I will think about regularly because of how many connections I can make between the story and my life experiences. I went into M3GAN to see some silly robot take over the lives of a household. I definitely acquired more than that, and for such a reason, this movie was worth the watch.
In the end, “M3GAN” is honestly better than I expected going in. It is a fine mix of drama, comedy, horror, and social commentary. It does a bunch of things at once, and manages to do them well. In addition, it reaffirmed not only why I should be worrisome in regards to the future and how technology could affect it, but also how technology can affect people right now. I left this film worried, and honestly, that is what makes “M3GAN” as effective as it is. I am going to give “M3GAN” a 7/10.
“M3GAN” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “M3GAN.” Check out some of my other reviews for recent horror titles like “Halloween Ends,” “Barbarian,” and “The Mean One.” Also, stay tuned because I will be dropping my thoughts on “Missing,” which I saw before “M3GAN,” but due to being under embargo, I decided to review “M3GAN” first. Stay tuned for my thoughts coming soon! If you want to see all of 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 “M3GAN?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a toy or piece of technology you found yourself attached to at some point in your life? Are you still attached today? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time once again to reflect on the year’s cinematic calendar! It is time to list my top 10 BEST movies of 2022! If you have not read any of these countdowns before, the rules look a little something like this. First, I must have seen the movie for it to qualify for the list, obviously. There are certain titles I missed out on this year like “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” “Father Stu,” “RRR,” “Blonde,” and “Crimes of the Future.” I can only see so many things in one span of 365 days. Also, this is a subjective list. I am not saying these are the movies you should like, I am only giving my recommendations. Maybe you’ll like them, maybe not. I am not trying to force anyone to love these titles. Also, these movies must have had some theatrical release over the past year, even if it just played in one theater. If it is a straight to Disney+ or HBO Max title for example, the film does not qualify. Although on that note, I will be listing where you can find these movies as of writing this post. If you are reading this months from now, they might be somewhere else, but still. Also, if I reviewed the movie, which is the case for almost all of the entries on this list, I have attached links to my reviews of these projects. Check them out if you are interested in knowing more about my thoughts! With that out of the way, it is time to start counting down the movies, and we will start with these honorable mentions.
The first of six honorable mentions this year is “Top Gun: Maverick.” I saw “Top Gun: Maverick” three times this year, with two of those times being in a giant IMAX theater. It is probably the most immersive movie that has come out in 2022. Yes, even more than “Avatar: The Way of Water.” I like the first “Top Gun,” but I can easily claim this sequel is superior. This film is action-packed, funny, and ultimately has something for everyone.
Speaking of movies I saw three times this year, “Nope” is a Spielberg-like effort that offers stunning cinematography, a creepy UFO, and charismatic characters. What more could you want? While it is probably not in contention for any Oscars, Keke Palmer gives a performance that displays her talent and personality in full force. This is my least favorite film from Jordan Peele, but it also stands out for being his most fun. Give it a watch sometime.
“Clerks III” is one of my favorite comedies of the year. Like some of the other films on this list, this is a love letter to filmmaking. But what makes this one stand out from say the recently mentioned “Nope,” is that it feels less like a love letter to Hollywood, perhaps industrial filmmaking. And instead, more of a shoutout to those working in independent films or those who just want to make movies with their friends. “Clerks III” is not only funny, but utilizes a true event from Kevin Smith’s life to add plenty of emotion. It is the best “Clerks” movie of the trilogy.
“The Adam Project” is the latest collaboration from star Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy. This film has a clever concept, a talented cast, and some slick action sequences. Alongside Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell plays a younger version of his character and delivers plenty of palatable chemistry. It is also a great watch for younger viewers, because I think they can take something away from the film in addition to being entertained by it.
Similar to how “Nope” is my least favorite Jordan Peele directorial effort, I can say the same when it comes to “Babylon” directed by Damien Chazelle. Although despite that claim, I can nevertheless point out that “Babylon” is an absolute must see for lovers of film. The lead performances by stars like Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt are unspeakably grand. Some of the sets are among the most eye-popping of the year. For the most part, “Babylon” mixes comedy and drama to excellent results. It is another spectacular effort from Damien Chazelle.
Honorable Mention: Emergency (available on Prime Video)
Lastly for honorable mentions is “Emergency.” I watched “Emergency” late into the year, but I am glad I had the chance to check it out. This movie is responsible for some of 2022’s most gutbusting scenes, palatable chemistry between talent, and a simple concept done brilliantly. Like “Babylon,” there are certain moments that successfully blend comedy and drama, in addition to quite a few thrills.
With those out of the way, it is to talk about my favorite movies of the year one more time. These are my top 10 BEST movies of 2022!
Coming in at #10 is “Smile!” 2022 might be the best year for horror I have experienced while doing Scene Before, and this film is exhibit A as to why that is the case. This is a film that did not cost a ton of money to make, in fact it was intended to be a straight to Paramount+ release until they did test screenings. The test screenings had enormously positive results, the film was put in theaters, and people ate it up. Not to mention, Paramount must have been popping bottles over the humungous profit. This film has a terrific lead performance by Sosie Bacon, a captivating supporting cast, and a neat concept. Sosie Bacon is responsible for one of my favorite lead performances in a horror film since Toni Collete in “Hereditary.” The way she has to navigate the lead role through such terrifying, strange, and outlandish happenings is brilliantly realized and I bought into all of it. The horror genre has a history of delivering scares through repeated, expectedly horrifying concepts like clowns, ghosts, and monsters. “Smile” on the other hand effectively takes an everyday concept, specifically smiling, and makes it scary. Nevertheless, this movie was grin-inducing. “Smile” has elements of other horror movies, but uses those elements to create something delightfully fresh. This is the feature-length debut for Parker Finn, and I cannot wait to see what idea he comes up with next.
Speaking of top tier horror, #9 is “Barbarian.” This film is simple in its concept, but balls to the wall crazy good in its execution. Essentially, a woman rents a home while visiting a spot away from where she lives but she ends up finding another guest staying in the house when she arrives. Despite the confusion, the two end up staying together. Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård have great chemistry and had my attention from the first act and beyond. Justin Long has a significant role in the movie and he does an outstanding job playing one of the most fascinatingly written characters of any movie I have seen this year. In addition, this film is scary, gory, and tense. There is a sense of conflict even in the most miniscule of moments. While there are some expected horror elements in “Barbarian,” the film stands out for how well it uses the relationship between Tess (Campbell) and Keith (Skarsgård) to not only further the story, but further the sense of unease for the former. After all, Tess is a woman entering a home with which she is unfamiliar and there is a seemingly strange man inside. Classic stranger danger. The ending feels a tad abrupt, but that is forgiven with one of the year’s most well-written scripts and some genuinely creepy moments.
Up next on this list is “Turning Red!” Some of you might be thinking that this film goes against my theatrical only rule because it is a Disney+ release. Technically speaking, yes, it is primarily a Disney+ release. Although the film also released in select theaters at the same time. In fact, I had the privilege of getting to watch this film earlier this year at the El Capitan in Los Angeles. “Turning Red” is marvelously animated in addition to being ridiculously fun. The music in the film is occasionally catchy, the characters are likable, and I always rooted for the protagonist of Meilin Lee. “Turning Red” is my favorite Pixar film of the decade thus far because much like some of my other favorite Pixar movies like “Up,” it is a story that perfectly balances fun and emotion. It is a story that I adored because of how likable of a character Meilin is but also because of how it reminded me of how some people in my family, possibly including myself, may have had to adjust to me as I was growing up and becoming an adult. Granted, this film is a metaphor for puberty, and as a man, part of that metaphor involves something that I cannot experience firsthand. But that also goes to show how impactful this film is. It is a film that despite its subject matter, is accessible to a multitude of audiences and manages to keep me interested the whole way.
If you thought “Turning Red” was a cool animation, then guess what? “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is freaking spectacular. While I care about Pixar, the studio that made “Turning Red,” a bit more than DreamWorks, when the studio has a hit, I am not afraid to acknowledge it. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a movie that did not deserve to be this good. It is not just fun, but it is hilarious, fast-paced, and surprisingly dark. I enjoyed the first “Puss in Boots” for what it was, but “The Last Wish” makes the original “Puss in Boots” look like “Shrek the Third” when I compare it to the first “Shrek” installment. Not only is the concept brilliant despite its simplicity, but it also delivers a great lesson for children. Antonio Banderas kills it as Puss, the supporting cast from Florence Pugh to John Mulaney all bring their A-game, and the writing does them all favors. Aside from that, this is one of the prettiest looking films of the year with stunningly realized action sequences. If anything, I would say “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” to my delightful surprise, is this year’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Not only does the movie excellently bring forth such an epic journey with likable characters, memorable moments, and tons of laughs. It also manages to break new ground in terms of delivering an unconventional, but attractive animation style. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a movie I would recommend for all ages.
Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and he continues to prove it this year with his brand-new movie, “The Fabelmans.” This movie was practically made for me. It is about a young boy growing up in a kooky family who just wants to make movies. I was sold with the premise, but little did I know how much said premise would translate to a great story on its own. “The Fabelmans” is not just a solid story, but it reminded me of why I do what I do. Specifically anything and everything around film and video. Whether it means making it or reviewing it. I do it for myself, obviously, but like this post, or anything else deemed artistic, I do it for an audience. If the audience continues to come back, I will keep making this for them. “The Fabelmans” showcases the importance of family while also highlighting the spirit of one’s hopes and dreams. The film is funny, dramatic, and heartwarming. This is one of the most fun watches of 2022 for a plethora of reasons. One reason why this movie is not higher on the list is because the second act, while still good, slightly falters at a certain point and shifts the tone dramatically before getting back on the horse in the third act, but it does not change the fact that I left “The Fabelmans” a happy camper. If you have ever had a dream, you will adore this movie.
#5. Pearl (available on VOD)
Up next is a movie I did not get to review this year, and that is “Pearl!” This year, Ti West created “X,” which I thought was a solid horror flick. Then months later we got this prequel. I waited a bit to watch both films, I nailed em both in a day, and I cannot be happier that I did. What a great series of films so far. “Pearl” surprised me because of how quick it came after “X.” Speaking of surprises, I was amazed in regard to how much more “Pearl” stuck with me compared to “X” after watching it. While films like “Glass Onion” have a more recognizable cast, the ensemble in “Pearl” is by far the cream of the crop for 2022. Mia Goth is a freaking legend as Pearl. Emma Jenkins-Purro plays her friend, Mitsy, to perfection. Pearl’s mom, played by Tandi Wright, is incredible. There is a particular argument between Wright and Goth that sent chills down my spine. Most horror movies give me chills through action. Maybe someone gets beaten, bloodied, killed. But despite how actions often speak louder than words, this is a film where words, not to mention moments of silence, become the elephants in the room. There is a five-minute monologue that is perfectly executed in every way from Ti West and crew behind the camera, and Mia Goth in front of it. It is almost the greatest scene of the year, and possibly the best acting of the year. For those who read this post, I recommend “X.” Give it a shot if you have not seen it. But if you must know, its follow-up prequel, “Pearl,” is jaw-dropping, mind-boggling, and I could not stop thinking about it the moment it was over. Give “Pearl” a watch sometime.
What is the concept of “The Banshees of Inisherin?” Two friends break up. Sounds kind of boring, right? Well, it is not! In fact it is one of the most satisfying movies I have seen in recent memory! This movie had happiness, sadness, and everything in between. This is a simple concept that becomes more twisted by the second. The locations in this movie are easy on the eyes and some of the most attractive I have seen on screen this year. In an industry that is increasingly relying on green screens and new technologies like StageCraft, it is nice to see movies like “The Banshees of Inisherin” show the power of what shooting on location can do. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are brilliant together. Never have I wanted to spend so much time watching two characters who hate each other this much. This movie is directed by Martin McDonagh, who also helmed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” While I liked “Three Billboards,” I loved “Banshees” and I cannot wait to see it again.
Up next is one of the cutest movies I have seen in my entire life, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On!” I have not seen the “Marcel the Shell” web series that this movie bases itself on, but this does not change the fact that this movie offers the most adorable scenes and characters I have seen in recent film. I have seen a lot of movies, therefore I have witnessed plenty of comedic scenes, but “Marcel the Shell” offers a possible first for me through my moviegoing experiences. There was a segment in the film that had me laughing so hard that I drooled by an armrest. This is one of the few gems that audiences witnessed this year from A24, and it is undoubtedly one of my favorite movies from the studio. I think as far as family friendly movies go, there is almost no better option in regards to this year’s cinematic calendar. This is the kind of movie that will enlighten imaginations and entertain everyone. Despite being based on previously established materials, this is one of the most original and fresh stories of the year. On paper, this sounds ridiculous, but the execution is perfect. Give “Marcel the Shell” a shot, you might be surprised on how great it is!
Anya Taylor-Joy has been on a roll lately doing one interesting project after the next. Projects like “Emma.” and “Last Night in Soho.” While she made an okay movie with “The Northman,” I can declare that “The Menu” is a feast in every way. All the characters, even those as minor as can be, are charming. The editing is some of the cleanest and funniest of the year. The script is incredible. If I could relive one theatrical experience this year, my first experience of “The Menu” would be up there because of how hard I laughed. Very few movies have been this funny and haunting at the same time. I also loved John Leguizamo’s character. Hong Chau is excellent in her supporting role. Ralph Fiennes however practically steals the show as the eccentric chef Julian Slowik. I saw the trailer for this movie during almost every screening I went to for some time at the theater. It gladdens me to say despite how many times that trailer played, this movie still felt fresh and delivered plenty of moments to savor. Once again, this year has been chock full of great horror like the few films already mentioned on this list such as “Smile.” Although if I had to pick a favorite project within the horror genre, it would probably be “The Menu.” This movie delivers some of the best dark comedy in recent cinema. The laughs were neither short or quiet. Above all, “The Menu” is this year’s greatest encapsulation of what horror can be.
Through all the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and all that jazz, we have arrived to my favorite film that I saw for the first time in theaters this year, excluding “Belle,” which despite being on some of this year’s best lists, is technically a 2021 film. I would love to include it, but I cannot, because reasons.
That said, I can include the greatest multiverse story ever told, one so great that it is unfathomable as to how it can ever be beaten. My #1 best movie of 2022 is “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Between the recently mentioned “Marcel the Shell,” the “X” movies, and even movies like “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” A24 killed it with this year’s slate, and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the holy grail of this great slew of films. There is so much to love about “Everything Everywhere All at Once” that I am not sure I would have time to list all the reasons. To start, here is some talk about the film’s originality. For those of you who say original filmmaking is dead, let me just remind you that in recent times, there is an executive who thought a movie about a woman who tries to save all of reality while dealing with the IRS and her family was a good idea. This is one of the best concepts for a film I have ever heard, and it has led to one of the best films I have ever seen. I try to avoid seeing movies twice in theaters, but this is one where I made an exception. This is the kind of film that would make for an outstanding watch with friends who have no idea what it is. I would love to invite a friend or two over who have never seen the movie and see how they react to certain scenes because I am sure some of those reactions will either stand out, or vary across the board. Either way, despite following the recent multiverse trend Marvel has been doing lately, this movie is a one of a kind. I have never seen anything like it, and it is possible I will never see anything like it again.
Every single cast member had to take on perhaps one of the toughest, most complex roles they had to face in their lives. Because they are not just playing one character, they’re playing two, three, four, sometimes hundreds of different iterations of the same character. Each one is unique enough to pass as its own, but they are all a small part of this massive story. Michelle Yeoh plays the lead role of Evelyn, and said character is the perfect center to this movie as she is perhaps a representation of everyone who had a dream. This movie begs the question as to what our lives could have been if we made a certain choice, or if our lives are planned out to be super exciting or totally boring from the getgo. Joining Yeoh is Jamie Lee Curtis as a cranky IRS inspector, in addition to Stephanie Hsu as a massively layered character by the name of Joy, and you have Ke Huy Quan making a comeback as Waymond, Evelyn’s husband. All of these performances are terrific and each one of their characters maintain a great deal of pizzazz and personality.
This film has perhaps the most ridiculous, absurd, jaw-dropping use of quantity, and therefore, it all adds up to what can only be described as god tier quality. The amount of universes we visit, the varied characters we see, the concepts that feel new, fresh, and exciting, it all makes the film so thrilling, and yet, mind-numbing to describe. There are so many exciting things going on in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” that there has to be more than one definitive, perfect, sellable way to tell people what this movie actually is on the surface. Although the best thing about this film is that despite its convolution, despite so many different things going on all at once, it does not keep itself from neglecting the core of its story. Evelyn is easily the most likable protagonist of the year because while she does whatever she can to succeed in accomplishing her goals, we also see other versions of her who are practically superior, and while they may be happy, it makes me feel sympathetic toward the central Evelyn who is spending her days running a laundromat. We see hints of her other interests throughout the movie. Perhaps her other creative aspirations. There are others in this great multiverse who are living dreams that she failed to achieve, so in a way, I feel bad for this Evelyn most of all. This movie got me to care about rocks sitting next to each other. I cannot remember the the last time I said that. I sometimes think about and appreciate how animations can successfully turn inanimate things like toys into lively, emotional figures. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” on the other hand is live-action, and I found myself surprisingly captivated by rocks. This movie takes big swings, and every hit is a grand slam. While “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is not my favorite movie of all time, it is one that is so unique, so one of a kind in its nature, that I do not know how it could possibly be done as a sequel or how people could rip it off with pleasing results. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a representation of what people’s lives could have been, and yet, shows us what life is all about. That is why it is my favorite movie of 2022.
Thanks for reading this countdown! First off, I want to shoutout everyone who made a movie in 2022, good or bad. You kept this moron inside the cinema or in front of the television, and I call that an achievement. If you want me to be real, 2022 did not have a lot of exceptionally great movies compared to other years, same with the exceptionally bad. There were plenty of good movies though. Although some, like the recently mentioned “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” falls under the category of exceptional. It is that epic. That said, the time for 2022 movies is coming to a close, and it is time to move on to 2023! I want to announce some time this year, we will be doing the 5th Annual Jack Awards. For those who do not know, I do this thing every year called the Jackoff Awards, where I celebrate the year in film. It is like the poor man’s version of the Oscars. And yes, I said Jack Awards. I am changing the name. It is my show, I can do what I want! The other name is kind of getting old. It did win a Twitter poll, and that is why I stuck with it, but this year I decided, enough is enough. Stay tuned for the 5th Annual Jack Awards, coming later this winter! Some of the films mentioned here, possibly all of them, could contend for Best Picture when the awards arrive. Stay tuned! If you want to see more of my recent countdowns, check out my top 10 WORST movies of 2022, and speaking of leaping into the new year, also be sure to check out my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2023! 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, what are your favorite movies of 2022? Did I miss anything? Do you agree with my list? Disagree? List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Sometimes I am here to tell you which movies you should watch, but today I am here to tell you which movies you should avoid. It is time to tackle my top 10 WORST movies of 2022! For those of you who followed me for a long time, you may remember like some people, I have previously done my top 10 BEST list before my top 10 WORST list. This year we are doing the opposite, we are ripping the bad stuff off like a Band Aid. That said, I would say it is my duty to talk about these movies, because I cannot be all rainbows and unicorns all the time. Before we begin, here are some rules. First, I have not seen every movie that has come out this year. There are certain movies that I either did not have time to watch, they were not playing at a theater near me, or they just did not look like my cup of tea. I cannot get around to everything. Second, this list is based on my personal opinions of these movies. I am not saying you have to dislike these movies, I am only giving my perspective based on what happened when watching said movies. Also, these movies must have had a theatrical release of some kind, even if it is only playing in Los Angeles, New York, or MiddleofNowheresville, Connecticut. So, if you are expecting to see the Disney+ exclusive “Pinocchio” on this list, look elsewhere. It only released on streaming, and I have not watched it. Although speaking of which, I will also have a note as to where you could possibly find these movies, either at home or in theaters, at the time of writing this post, if you somehow think watching them is a good use of your time. Also, be sure to click the links next to those watching options to read my reviews for these films. That is if I reviewed them, there are a couple on the list I did not get to talk about earlier in the year. With all these rules out of the way, we shall start the countdown by listing a few dishonorable mentions.
Dishonorable mention: Amsterdam (available on HBO Max)
Starting off the dishonorable mentions is “Amsterdam.” There are a couple good moments in “Amsterdam.” But it does not change the fact that the script is messy, all over the place, and continues going in a downward spiral after the first ten minutes. The stacked cast may have been enough to get me in the door, but I felt like I was locked behind said door for a couple hours, just hoping for whatever was happening to end.
Up next for the dishonorable mentions is “Halloween Ends.” While there is some entertainment value to be found in “Halloween Ends,” this is a movie that fails to understand why “Halloween” has such a following amongst horror fans. Michael Myers is barely in this movie, which is kind of a reverse of “Halloween Kills” where he takes up a good amount of screentime and Jamie Lee Curtis barely has anything to do. The trailer seems to promise one thing and barely delivers on it whatsoever. In a year of great horror titles like “Smile,” “Barbarian,” and “The Black Phone,” this one did not join those ranks.
And closing off the dishonorable mentions we have “Don’t Worry Darling.” Not only was this movie a gigantic disappointment, especially considering how Olivia Wilde directed a decent comedy a few years ago, specifically “Booksmart.” But it also has arguably the most infuriatingly unsatisfying third act I have seen in this entire decade of cinema. When the juicy press tour and behind the scenes shenanigans happen to be more entertaining than your movie, that is a problem.
With those out of the way, it is time to count down my top 10 WORST movies of 2022!
#10. Easter Sunday (available on VOD)
Starting off this list is a pretty disposable, forgettable comedy. That my friends, is “Easter Sunday.” If I had to guess how much faith Universal had in this movie, it would probably be very little. Want a hint? This movie came out on August 5th. Last time I checked, Easter is usually in March or April. It is almost as if someone at Universal saw this movie and thought they should hide it as soon as possible. I have heard Jo Koy is a funny comedian, and there are humorous moments in “Easter Sunday,” but I found it hard to like the character he plays. There is also a particular line in this movie that I imagine the writers must have thought the audience would quote by the end because of how many times they inserted it. If I were in the room with them, I would tell them to tone it down because by the fourth time it is said, I nearly had a headache. Speaking of the script, some moments were predictable and if they were not that, they might have been too over the top. This film is lower on the list is because while it is not as funny as I would have hoped it to be, it is not as anger-inducing as some of the other movies on here. That said, this film is probably not even good enough to qualify as background noise on basic cable.
There is something strange in the neighborhood, and I am not calling the Ghostbusters. I am calling the movie theater to ask for my money back that I gave for seeing “Strange World.” I really wanted to like “Strange World” because first off, I am a fan of science fiction, which this film is to a certain degree. But also, the film looked really pretty, I was just hoping that there could be an entertaining story to back it up. Although I have the same complaints with “Strange World” that I did with “Avatar: The Way of Water.” It is pretty to glance upon, but there is very little substance. There were times where I should have stared with awe and wonder where I simply had my arms crossed. I like the lesson the film tries to convey to its audience, but it is surrounded by an utter bore of a waltz through this unfamiliar territory that I wanted to soon forget. People often claim that Marvel movies are theme park rides and not cinema. I not only disagree, but I also would say if you want a theme park ride, you should look no further than “Strange World,” and I do not mean that as a positive. I nearly tuned out at a particular point. Speaking of which, this film is distributed by Disney, and if you ask me, this could have worked as a theme park ride, but I think given how poorly this film did upon launch, there is zero chance of that happening. I liked the opening song, but like the dishonorable mention “Amsterdam,” this film had a great start followed by a lackluster progression.
Speaking of absolute bores of animation, here is a shoutout to “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank!” People often say that “Blazing Saddles” is a movie that would not be made today because of its politically incorrect nature. Guess what? Somebody did remake it on a technicality, but it is an animated film aimed at families. “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is the result. Boy it is a legend alright. A legend of complete and utter cringe. My friend and I went to see another movie earlier this year and saw the trailer, he thought this was a “Kung Fu Panda” wannabe. While there are elements of “Kung Fu Panda” in here, such as the classic hero’s journey where a young individual is taken under the wing of a more experienced, perhaps reclusive mentor, one thing this movie did not have, was joy. I did not leave the theater feeling satisfied. Very few jokes landed, and those that did land, were not all that memorable. I like a ton of the people behind the voices like Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson, and Ricky Gervais, I just wish they had better writing provided for them. There is a line in this movie that dives into meta humor, where the characters are kind of at a low point, and they’re trying to solve a problem. At said point, Hank is trying to keep everyone’s attention and digressively says, “And the movie is only 85 minutes long!” Short term, yes, it could get some laughs. But the more I think about that line, it feels like wasted time in a somewhat rushed story. Is it a good lesson for children? Perhaps. But just because the lesson is effective does not mean the same can be said for the movie.
I often think about my favorite directors in the industry. Some include Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and Damien Chazelle. I often think about the ones I like, but if I were ever forced to name a director on the opposite side of the spectrum, one of the first that comes to mind is Baz Luhrmann. Case and point, “Elvis.” I was looking forward to “Elvis,” partially because I forgot who was directing it. While the movie has a glitzy and glossy style that feels somewhat synonymous with Elvis Presley and his brand at times, the style is definitely more evident than the substance. This movie is too much at too quick of a pace. It is the most headache-inducing movie I have seen in years. The worst part of this movie is the fact that it at times doesn’t even feel like it is about Elvis. The spotlight is often stolen by Elvis’s manager, Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks. Austin Butler is great in the movie, but unfortunately, he is surrounded by a buttload of inexcusable garbage. If you polish a piece of crap, then guess what? It is still a piece of crap, but just shinier! It still looks and smells atrocious! I cannot personally recommend “Elvis,” but I think if you are a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s style, you might feel different about this film than me.
#6. The Mean One (released in theaters, home viewing options unknown)
While “Elvis” was a well-stylized movie that was not for me, “The Mean One” on the other hand is an eye-burning picture that like “Elvis,” was definitely not my cup of tea. There are certain films that I liked this year that I would call “cinematic achievements” because of how excellently they executed a certain aspect of their project. These may include aspects such as storytelling, animation style, or sound. Similarly, I would call “The Mean One” a cinematic achievement in somehow making a worse “Grinch” movie than Illumination did four years ago. Yes, I know, technically speaking, the Grinch is not in this movie. It is an expression. One of the reasons why this film is not on one of the worse spots on the list is because this film did not have a humungous release. It hit some theaters, and I unfortunately drove out of state to attend one of those theaters, but still. The film looks like it could receive a fair grade as a high school film project, but it is not, so I am not treating it like one. The color grading is the worst I have seen all year. The special effects are obscene. The writing, whether the movie is trying be horrific or comedic, fails on both levels. David Howard Thornton gives it his all as the Mean One, but that has to be the one silver lining in this dumpster fire of a film that will definitely not go on my Christmas movie watchlist next year.
#5. Ambulance (available on Prime Video)
The plot may be simple, but the headache I had while watching this movie is as complex as the space time continuum. Coming in at #5 is Michael Bay’s latest film, “Ambulance.” Interesting enough, an ambulance just so happens to be a vehicle I could have probably used after finishing this travesty. This movie had an okay concept, despite not having many layers to it. Essentially, “Ambulance” follows bank robbers who carry a ton of money in an ambulance. This had the potential to be a really epic heist and chase flick. It did not even come close to being epic! A more entertaining chase than what this movie contains would probably be the chase for my refund from Best Buy for the absolute ripoff that this movie happened to be. Yes, I bought the film on disc. Physical media forever! The shots are repetitive and made my head spin. The drone shots made me want to rip my eyes out of my sockets. The editing is the worst I have seen this year. The editing is so bad, I would contend it is one of the most bottom of the barrel examples of an edit I have witnessed in the action genre. There is a point where this movie looked so technically off the rails in such a piss poor way that I stopped caring about what was going on. I cannot see myself watching this movie ever again unless I lost a dare. Michael Bay movies may be known for their explosions, but the thing that exploded the most when I watched “Ambulance” was my IQ. I feel ten times dumber for having watched whatever on earth this happens to be.
To paraphrase the original “Jurassic Park,” Universal became so preoccupied on whether or not they could make a ton of “Jurassic” sequels that they didn’t stop to think if they should. And that is arguably why we have the absolutely abysmal “Jurassic World: Dominion.” I knew a couple people who were looking forward to this film. But when I saw that first trailer, I was not exactly sold. It looked like an inferior “Fast & Furious” installment with dinosaurs. As for the movie itself, it flat out falsely advertises the plot to its audience. Remember all that dinosaur action in the drive-in? That was not in the theatrical cut! All of that was cut out! Apparently, this movie needed more time to establish the real villain of the story. Not dinosaurs, not dino-abusing humans, but locusts. Kids love locusts. Right? Last year, Sony and Marvel Studios gave the moviegoing public “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which successfully celebrated three different generations of Spider-Man. It was glorious to say the least. “Jurassic World: Dominion” attempts to celebrate the two “Jurassic” generations, but falls flat on its face in the process. The directing is stale, the dialogue is cheap, and the connections between the characters feel forced! The “Jurassic Park” franchise has had misfires before like “Jurassic Park III,” but “Dominion” honestly makes “Jurassic Park III” look like “The Shawshank Redemption!” What other movie in history made dinosaurs BORING?! Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Steven Spielberg struck magic back in the 1990s only to have this money-making machine release increasingly disposable content like “Jurassic World: Dominion.”
To this day, I can thankfully say that I have never fallen asleep to a movie in the theater. I find that incredibly hard to do. Although after seeing the absolute travesty that is “Medieval,” I certainly came close. How bad does your movie have to be for Michael Caine to come off as the human equivalent of melatonin? Some of the performances in “Medieval” barely have any life to them, especially when compared to another depressing epic from the year prior, “The Last Duel.” Except that movie was brutal and satisfying at the same time! The action sequences are barely enough to keep me awake. It is like if the director of “Taken 3” were given the tools to helm a period piece like this. Aside from one or two neat locations and one or two attention-grabbing deaths, this movie had nothing going for it. No presentable characterization. No reason to care for anybody. No emotion. The costumes and setting look okay. This movie barely has enough appeal in its looks, but it is only slightly better than what the story can provide. And that is if the story can provide anything. I was bored from scene one to scene done. Thanks a lot, “Medieval.”
Roland Emmerich is often seen as the master of fun disaster films with iconic titles like “Independence Day.” Speaking of disasters, let’s talk about “Moonfall,” one of most mind-numbingly painful movies I have watched in the past couple years. Am I surprised that “Moonfall” is as bad as it is? Yes and no. For one thing, I figured that this movie could at least be stupid fun with cheesy dialogue. We definitely got the latter, but without the inclusion of the former. Well, other than the stupidity, so that’s halfway there. Many of the characters are forgettable despite being played by some decent actors like Halle Berry and Michael Pena. In addition, some of the characters themselves feel like stereotypes. Any and all semblance of scientific accuracy that could have been in this movie is thrown out the window. As if things could not be more terrible, “Moonfall” has one of the worst third acts I have seen in all of science fiction. I should have known what was coming from a movie where the moon suddenly goes out of orbit and crashes into the earth for some reason. But what can I say? I am an optimist. I thought this could have been fun. The worst thing about “Moonfall” is that it somehow managed to make its competitor, “Jackass Forever,” which came out the same weekend, look smart. That is an accomplishment. The movie where Johnny Knoxville and his buddies destroy their bodies not only feels less painful for the brain, but it is comparatively more entertaining. This is a reality I did not think we would experience.
To call this next entry to the list a “movie” would be an absolute injustice. Up next is arguably the worst comic book movie in the history of mankind. My #1 worst movie of 2022 is “Morbius.” There is often a debate as to whether comic book movies are “cinema,” but if cinema happened to be equal to cliché dialogue, forgettable scenes, and flat-out boring, lifeless, uninteresting, stale characters, then this movie is a cinematic masterpiece! I feel terrible for Jared Leto, because he is a good actor. But now, he not only has suffered by playing an inferior Joker character in DC, it just so happens that Marvel is tarnishing his reputation too. When I did my top 10 worst movies of 2018, I put “Venom” on the list, yet another Sony “Spider-Man” villain-based comic book film. After watching “Morbius,” I can confirm that “Morbius” makes “Venom” look fun. Because at least “Venom” kind of had some cheesy dialogue and one or two funny moments. It was not what I wanted, I did not particularly enjoy what I saw, but there may as well have been slight hints of entertainment value from start to finish. Just to think, this movie was supposed to come out in July 2020. They had all this time to make this movie better until its eventual release in March/April 2022. And they did absolutely nothing.
To make matters worse, this movie contains the worst… No MCU movie can claim this, I swear on my life, the single worst credits scene in film history. It makes no sense whatsoever. There is a scene that shows what is wrong with Sony, what is wrong with some people’s thinking about comic book movies, what is wrong with the modern moviegoing market. I get that superheroes are hot right now. I get that people want to see certain things out of the market. But Sony’s thinking provides for a rushed motive that may as well fall flat on its face. If this movie did not come out after the MCU’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” there is a slight chance we may not be in this situation. Remember how I said “Halloween Ends” and “Jurassic World: Dominon” failed to deliver on what they advertised? Well, “Morbius” is not only terrible as a movie, but like those examples, it uses particular scenes in its marketing campaign to arguably dupe its own audience. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had misleading trailers, but those misdirects were done to the movie’s, and therefore the audience’s, benefit. This time around, the only people it may benefit are Sony executives who are snatching people’s wallets and slapping them across their faces.
The only positive outcome that “Morbius” may have brought to mankind are some of the memes. In fact, Sony must have seen these memes, because after they started clogging up my feed, they did a rerelease for the film, and it was a total flop! Newsflash, I am not interested in watching “Morbius” a second time because of the memes! The reason why I was at least somewhat curious about the memes is because of how bad this movie was from my first, and hopefully last, viewing. Yeah, I could also suggest that I might want to watch “The Room” because of the memes, but the difference is that those memes, intentional or not, literally define the movie. The memes for “Morbius” make it look more entertaining than it actually is. From experience, I have seen better characters, I have seen better origin stories, and most importantly, I have seen better movies. The ending of this movie is also so abrupt it is not even funny. It is as if the writers just gave up or something. Let me remind you that this movie has a smart scientist, Martine to be specific, who apparently does not know how to properly pronounce the “Nobel” in Nobel Prize. Inconceivable. How did this get made?! Better, how did this get released? The fact that it had been marketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 era only makes the result more infuriating. “Morbius” takes the cake as not just one of the worst comic book movies ever made, but also one of the worst movies period. It is by a long shot, my worst movie of 2022.
Thanks for reading this countdown! I hope everyone enjoyed finding out about my worst movies of 2022. Believe it or not, there actually have been a number of good movies to come out this year, but every once in the while there was a notable dud. I guess you cannot win them all. In the meantime, if you would like to observe another countdown I did recently, be sure to check out my picks for my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2023! Also, this week, it is time to turn this frown upside down, because I will be talking about my top 10 BEST movies of 2022! I am excited to share my picks with everyone, I always have fun doing these lists! 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, what are your least favorite movies of 2022? Do you have a top 10? 5? 15? List your picks down below! I would be happy to hear them! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Babylon” is directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, First Man) and stars Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Bullet Train), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), Diego Calva (Narcos: Mexico, Unstoppable), Jean Smart (Frasier, Hacks), Jovan Adepo (Fences, The Leftovers), and Li Jun Li (The Exorcist, Wu Assassins). This film is set in Hollywood during the transition from silent films to talkies. Throughout, the story showcases the chaotic rise and fall of multiple personalities living during said time.
Much like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle is one of my favorite directors working today. He has not built as much of a legacy as these three, but depending on how many more stellar projects he can crank out, he is well on his way to becoming one of the greats. In fact, I love him not only as a director, but as a writer. In addition to writing some of the projects he directed, “Babylon” being one example, he also wrote “Grand Piano,” an intense thriller starring Elijah Wood with edge of your seat pacing and incredible music. Speaking of which, part of what made me appreciate Chazelle as a filmmaker is how much his projects delightfully showcase a noticeable appreciation for the arts. “Whiplash” is a fantastic film about an aspiring jazz drummer who has to deal with an obnoxious teacher. His follow-up, “La La Land” is about an aspiring musician and actress who have their own passions they want to turn into careers, but within the magical oasis of Los Angeles, they spend time together and fall in love. His newest film, “Babylon,” takes similar themes and elements presented in “La La Land” but intensifies them with drugs, nudity, and excessive partying.
Either way, “Babylon” is yet another one of Chazelle’s forays into the arts. This time around, this movie seems to have more similarities to “La La Land” than “Grand Piano” and “Whiplash.” Whereas those movies were entirely music-based, this is entirely film-based, with some glimmers of music-centered material sprinkled in. Much like “La La Land,” “Babylon” appears to be an awards season darling. Right now it has five Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.
“Babylon” is one of my most anticipated movies for the longest time. The director got me in the door, the story and time period appear to be fascinating, and the trailers impressed me. Whoever edited the first trailer has mad skills. But the real question is, what did I think of the movie? For starters, “Babylon” is not my favorite film of the year. In fact it is not even my favorite movie about movies that came out in 2022. It is also my least favorite film directed by Damien Chazelle. I think “Whiplash” is a better movie. I think “La La Land” is a better movie. I think “First Man” is a better movie. Judging by my words, you would think I would want my time and money back. If so, you thought wrong. Calling this my least favorite directorial effort by Damien Chazelle would be like choosing a least favorite film from Christopher Nolan. For the record, I know what that film is if I were to choose, and it would be “Insomnia.” But I also know that if there were an opportunity that rose to watch it on a Friday night, I would nevertheless take it. “Babylon” is not as rewatchable as “Whiplash,” not as captivating as “La La Land,” nor as thrilling as “First Man.” But I would still watch it a second time. “Babylon” has problems, but the positives of the film are as massive as the hopes and dreams of some of the people in this specific narrative.
Speaking of problems, it is time to get some of them out of the way. First and foremost, this film is too long. The runtime of “Babylon” is 3 hours and 9 minutes. For context, that is a few minutes shy of current box office hit “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which is 3 hours and 12 minutes. If I had to choose which of these two films used their few hour runtimes to a greater success, the answer would easily be “Babylon,” but as we got towards the climax, there was a point where I kind of begged for the movie to just stop. The film made its point with what the scene was trying to convey and as much as I do not mind this trend of movies about Hollywood, this scene may be the closest I have gotten to wondering if a story has overindulged in its Hollywood glory. I love Hollywood. I have been to Hollywood. I have seen shows tape in Hollywood. I even got to talk to people over the years who have some connection to Hollywood. This scene was too much.
If I have anything else that comes to mind, “Babylon” feels like two different movies. At one point, it is a marvelous blend between “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Then suddenly, it becomes a straight up drama where all the fun that has been delivered in prior moments tends to go away. The transition between these two aspects are not as seamless as I would have hoped. Around the thirty, forty minute mark, my dad and I were laughing nonstop. I almost knocked my popcorn into the recliner next to mine because of said laughter. A couple hours later, both of us are nearly silent. This would be fine if I found the dramatic moments as palatable as the humorous moments. Although I think the humorous, wild, outlandish moments are what will stick in my head when I think about this movie sometime in the future. Going back to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” one of that film’s strengths is that it felt like it had a pure center, a real heart of the story. That heart being actor and stunt double duo Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. This film almost cannot decide who the main character is, and while that at times provides for more than one attention-grabbing element of the plot, it also made the film feel cluttered. At one moment, you could make an argument that Nellie LaRoy (Robbie) is the main character. During another, you could argue that Jack Conrad (Pitt) is the main character. Meanwhile, you could also say the same for Manny (Calva). These characters, in fairness, are charismatic and well portrayed by their respective actors, but nevertheless. If you have to ask me, there is a main character, a protagonist if you will, in “Babylon.” But the way the story plays out makes it feel like multiple characters are competing for such a crown.
One reason why I love Damien Chazelle, as if the introduction did not already go into enough detail, is his ambition. When I first saw “La La Land,” I was wowed with the various numbers, the choreography, and wondered how they did the neverending opening shot. In his follow-up, “First Man,” which was already immersive enough, he shot the lunar sequence in IMAX, which allowed for one of the most breathtaking sights I have witnessed in that year of cinema. This time around, the sets are grand, full of life, color, and splendor. The amount of people taking up frames at times is not small. Damien Chazelle and crew clearly spared no expense. The costumes range from attractive to finely detailed. The locations look beautiful, or at certain moments to the film’s benefit, haunting. Some claim “Avatar: The Way of Water” is the CGI big screen monstrosity to see this winter. I would similarly claim that “Babylon” is the practical big screen treat to watch around the same time. As far as practicality in 2022 cinema goes, it is hard to beat “Top Gun: Maverick” just because of what was done to make that movie what it is, but “Babylon” comes close.
I already mentioned the main cast, between Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Diego Calva, is an utter hoot. They are one of the paramount reasons why this movie should be seen. Although some of this film’s supporting roles are standouts as well. Tobey Maguire does a great job playing James McKay. Katherine Waterston is a delight as Estelle, a partner of Jack Conrad. And while her name is on the poster, Jean Smart’s smaller role packs a giant, glorious punch. This is a movie where I not only think about the main characters and their standout moments, but certain individuals who are almost in the shadows who have significantly fewer lines, but the few lines that they do have stick out like a sore thumb.
One thing Chazelle has done well from one film to the next is providing some of the year’s best framing and cinematography. There are various long takes that astounded me, in addition to some creative angles. Again, considering the scope of “Babylon,” the film is not short on detail, such as the talent on screen. For this film, Chazelle once again teamed up with Linus Sandgren, whose shots range from screensaver-worthy to pupil-dilating. This could be a serious Best Cinematography contender based on lighting, camera tricks, and how much attractive detail is packed into each frame.
Speaking of reunions, Justin Hurwitz, another Chazelle mainstay, composed the score for “Babylon.” This score, while not my favorite from Hurwitz, is yet another banger. If there are two things that are clear about Damien Chazelle movies, is that they usually find some way to incorporate jazz, and Justin Hurwtiz will find a way to make that jazz as epic as possible. There is a tune that plays a few times in the film that had me nearly dance in my chair.
“Babylon” is also perhaps responsible for one of my favorite scenes of 2022. Before the halfway point of the film, we see Nellie LaRoy do a film where sound plays a key role. At the time, this was a fairly new concept. The execution of this scene was obnoxiously funny in all the right ways. Between the minor details like many people sweating like pigs on set, the attention to detail on the audio, the crew getting tired of having to be doing the same thing on repeat, and LaRoy just trying to keep herself together on something she was not used to doing, it maintained the film’s comedic spirit while also progressing the timeline. This scene, which prominently features Margot Robbie, highlights why “Babylon” could be a career-best performance for the talented star. Is she going to win an Oscar? Honestly, in a year where Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett killed their roles in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Tár” respectively, I think Robbie has some fierce competition that could keep me from saying that. But it does not change the fact that it is not only the best performance of the movie in addition being a standout of Robbie’s resume.
Speaking of Robbie, one of the notable parts of the first “Babylon” trailer is when Robbie asks everyone if they want to see her fight a snake. Without going into detail, this scene went beyond my expectations of how engaging it could be. It is worth the price of admission. “Babylon” is a film that sets out to tell a big, grand story, sort of like the stories and stars the film itself showcases. In many ways, it succeeds. I would like to watch it again at some point.
In the end, “Babylon,” despite overstaying its welcome by the time it was in the climax, is a beautifully realized tale of old Hollywood that does not have a single bad frame, unlikable character, or real anger-inducing turnoff. There are problems with the film, as mentioned, but the positives of the film are also worth noting and make the problems feel nearly nonexistent. Damien Chazelle has done it again. Although if you want me to be honest, when it comes to Hollywood-based stories, “La La Land,” which Chazelle also wrote and directed, was the more watchable and satisfying production. Nevertheless, “Babylon” has a cast worth bragging about and humor that honestly surpasses some recent pure comedies that have been offered to moviegoers. I am going to give “Babylon” an 8/10.
“Babylon” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next posts because we are doing my annual best and worst countdowns! My next post will be my top 10 WORST movies of 2022. If you have any interest in checking out a recent countdown I published, feel free to check out my picks for my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2023. 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 “Babylon?” What did you think about it? Or, do you have a favorite Damien Chazelle film? I like all of them, but “Whiplash” is easily my top pick. List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is that time of year again to do my annual countdown streak, and this year is going to be a little bit different. In 2021, I did a most anticipated movies list for that year’s slate. I did not do one last year, but as you can see, it has been brought back this year. We are starting off the countdowns with my top 10 most MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2023. Yes, the best and worst are coming, there will be more info on that later. Before we start, here are some ground rules. First off, much like my usual best and worst lists, these are completely subjective picks. I am not saying you have to agree with me on these picks, but these are recommendations for movies to check out this year, mostly as a to do list for myself. I do not know how these movies will turn out. In fact, many of you reading this probably are in the same boat. These are just my opinions, just a fair warning. Also, these movies have to be on the verge of a theatrical release. If a project will not be playing in theaters, I will not count it, as I technically call that television. With that said, I am going to list one honorable mention because I like the people behind the film, but I do not know much about it and I think if I knew more, I could potentially put it in my top 10.
Honorable Mention: True Love
While doing research for this list, one project I found is “True Love,” a science fiction film from Gareth Edwards (above). The track record for Gareth Edwards in regards to what I think about his resume is in a word “positive.” Although he directed “Rogue One,” which is one of the best things to have come out of the Disney “Star Wars” era. He knows how to make a film. Plus, not only his he directing “True Love,” he is also writing it. In addition, the cast includes notable names like John David Washington (Tenet, Amsterdam), Gemma Chan (Eternals, Crazy Rich Asians), and Allison Janney (I, Tonya, Mom). This movie has some promise, I just hope to know more about it soon. The film releases this October, so hopefully we get a trailer around the halfway point of the year.
With that out of the way, it is time to count down my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2023!
Starting off this list is a film that I almost forgot was coming out, “Wonka!” I love “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and say what you want about the 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” I genuinely think it is a great film. I cannot wait to return to the world of Willy Wonka. But this time around we are not seeing another redo of the classic story by Roald Dahl and instead, getting a prequel as to how Wonka got his start. I have no idea what vibe they are going to go for with this. Supposedly this story is about Wonka’s days before he creates his own chocolate factory, which we have seen on screen before, but perhaps not in this much detail. I imagine this will be a magical story for the whole family, but I also wonder if they could go in a darker direction with this story too. After all, if you remember the other stories in this property, children, who to be fair, are kind of rotten, face various near death experiences because of how Wonka sets up his factory. I know this sounds dark, but I want to know if Wonka is setting up certain aspects of his factory on purpose. Remember the boat from “Willy Wonka?” If Augustus did not get sucked in the tube, he and his mother would not have even had a seat on the boat for themselves, it would have exceeded full capacity. Maybe I am overthinking things, but I am sure that whatever kind of story they tell, it has the potential to have the same awe and wonder I had when I read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in elementary school. Also, Timothee Chalamet will be playing Willy Wonka this time around, and I do not know how his performance will be, but I have never seen him choose a questionable project, so this must be something special.
#9. John Wick: Chapter 4
Coming in at #9 is “John Wick: Chapter 4!” I have always loved the “John Wick” franchise. While I have not gone back to watch the films a whole ton over the years, I will say that this franchise manages to do something that people often say franchises fail to do, make a sequel that surpasses the original. I think it is fair to say I liked “John Wick: Chapter 2” more than its predecessor. Also, did I like “John Wick: Chapter 3” even more? Dang right, I like it more! Bring on the assassin dogs! I almost do not even care what the plot is at this point. I mean, maybe a little. This time around, John Wick has to trot the globe to defeat a new enemy. The concept does not seem to break new ground, but if you deliver action that is as killer and thriller as the previous installments, this could be worth watching. While I love “The Matrix,” I think Keanu Reeves is better suited to play John Wick than Neo, and I have always loved his portrayal of this character. I’m thinkin’ he is back and better than ever! I have no idea if this film is going to be good. For all I know it could suck. But if we are going by statistics, I think “John Wick: Chapter 4” could end up being a great time.
Speaking of statistics, Pixar has yet to make a bad movie. Even recent outings like “Luca” and “Lightyear,” while they are lower tier projects, I will still give them credit for entertaining me. That said, I am very curious about Pixar’s next project, “Elemental.” Pixar over the years has popped the question about what happens if certain things had emotions. What if toys had emotions? What if cars had emotions? What if emotions had emotions like in “Inside Out?” I do not know much about this movie so far. All I know is that the story is likely going to focus on a water being named Wade and fire being named Ember. The two meet unexpectedly and this seems to throttle the story going forward. But the thing is that given how these are different elements, Wade and Ember cannot touch each other. Given how there is an entire story between these two, something seismic is bound to happen. Perhaps a romance plot? That seems very likely. Plus, Peter Sohn, the director behind the project, notes that the movie traces elements of his experience growing up, and I imagine that could add some personality to the table. Here is hoping the movie is yet another win for Pixar.
On the note of actors who always appear in projects I like such as the recently mentioned Timothee Chalamet, let’s talk about a movie featuring the great Adam Driver, “65!” Sony recently released a trailer for this film almost out of nowhere, and I am curious as to what this movie could bring to the table. As much as I love “Jurassic Park,” the franchise has lost its magic it originally had in the 1990s when it made dinosaurs terrifying. This is especially true with the recent “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which is a roaring travesty. “65” looks like it is going to bring something fresh for dinosaur movies. The concept of this movie is that a couple people, including pilot Mills (Driver), crash land on a planet, which happens to be earth from 65 million years ago. The mission is to survive this unfamiliar territory, which includes, yes, dinosaurs. While he is not directing the movie, Sam Raimi is producing it, which seems promising. In fact, Raimi mainstay Danny Elfman is doing the score, and I always enjoy his work. The other thing to keep in mind is that the duo who wrote (and directed) this film also co-wrote “A Quiet Place,” which is an incredible horror movie with some of the scariest moments the genre has delivered in recent times. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods may be delivering one of the year’s highlights this March.
#6. Cocaine Bear
Some of you might beg to ask why I am putting this movie on the list. The reason is because I have been looking forward to it ever since I first heard about the crazy, unbelievable story that inspired this project back in 2021, That movie, my friends, is “Cocaine Bear.” The name alone is worth the curiosity, but the story is worth the attention. For those who do not know, this film, as crazy as it sounds, is based on true events. There are liberties taken in this case, but it is fun to know that this absurd concept is based on something that actually happened. Essentially, millions of dollars worth of cocaine happens to be separated from a plane and a bear ends up eating it. This movie sounds delightfully over the top, and it also looks hysterical. The bear itself looks like it could be the biggest riot of the year. The movie is probably not going to win any Oscars, but this looks like a contender for the year’s most kneeslap-inducing comedy. This film is directed by Elizabeth Banks, who previously directed the 2019 “Charlie’s Angels,” which I honestly was not a fan of. Although I genuinely like her and everything else she does. If you guys are not watching the ABC reboot of “Press Your Luck,” you should. Banks is honestly the best game show host on television right now. The one other caveat that comes to mind is that the movie comes out in February, and the first couple months of the year, with a few exceptions, are usually where movies go to die. I was looking forward to “Moonfall” last year, I thought it could be stupid fun. …It was one of those things, and if you read my thoughts on the movie itself, you could probably figure out which one. All I know is that this film looks ridiculous, it sounds like a strange concept, but as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. Therefore, for all I know we could have a gem on our hands.
Sometimes you have to really sell me on a movie to get me in the door, and in others, you just need to use the magic words. The magic words in this case… Christopher Nolan. Ladies and gentlemen, my #5 most anticipated film of the year is “Oppenheimer.” Christopher Nolan is my favorite director working today. With the exception of “Following,” I have seen all of his movies and enjoyed all of them. I even liked “Tenet!” I watched it twice this year when I found it playing on HBO for crying out loud! I have no idea how good “Oppenheimer” will end up being, but I know that it has the potential to be the movie of the summer. One that not only can bring in a big audience. One that not only ends up delivering a one of a kind cinematic experience. One that is not just as technically brilliant as it is solid of a story. But also one that could get people to think after they leave. After all, this movie is centered around Robert J. Oppenheimer and his involvement in developing the atomic bomb. This has the potential to be an emotional ride in more ways than one. Plus you have a stacked cast including Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and even Kenneth Branagh is making a return to the Nolan-verse. There is massive potential with this movie, and I hope it is executed well when it comes out.
#4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
James Gunn is a solid filmmaker, especially when it comes to comic book material. That is just one of the reasons why “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the MCU movie I am perhaps looking forward to more than any other this year. I am looking forward to “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” but I have my reservations. “The Marvels” could be good, but I need to know a little more. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” on the other hand looks like an encapsulation of why I adore these characters, these stories. This is said to be the last “Guardians of the Galaxy” installment with this crew, which could end up contributing to an emotional script and great character moments. This film looks fun, visually stunning, and hysterical. If there is one thing that Gunn does well in his movies, it is delivering a perfect balance between comedy and heart. Yes, it is strangely amusing to see a talking tree who emits one phrase walk amongst a team of heroes, but the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” also uses that tree to induce tears out of people’s eyes. I would not be surprised if we get one or two of those kinds of moments here, especially considering the conclusiveness of this particular chapter. I do want to be careful though because I had monumental expectations for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and that ended up being a disappointment for me. But Gunn’s resume also consists of the original “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which was hilarious and had a killer soundtrack. Additionally, he made “The Suicide Squad,” which is probably my favorite DC project of all time. Also, recently, he did “Peacemaker” on HBO Max, which in addition to having the greatest opening title sequence in history, is marvelously led by John Cena. Not to mention it is simply a fantastic series. Here is hoping “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is another win for James Gunn.
#3. Dune: Part Two
I really enjoyed the first “Dune” during my few watches. It has my favorite film score of 2021, the visual effects are outstanding, and it totally deserved its Best Picture nomination from the Academy. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I am looking forward to “Dune: Part Two.” I am not familiar with any of the other “Dune” stories or the source material. But I cannot help but look forward to what is to come. Denis Villeneuve, the director behind the first film, is coming back to helm this one. He is a master of sci-fi storytelling, and I will not be surprised if he ends up churning out a sequel that surpasses the original. Like I said in my description for “Wonka,” Timothee Chalamet is a great actor, and he chooses his films wisely. Good to see him back as Paul Atreides. Rebecca Ferguson is back, so is Stellan Skarsgard, and maybe we will get a bit more of Zendaya. At the same time, we also have newcomers like the gifted Austin Butler and the great Florence Pugh joining the cast, so here is hoping we have a movie as excellent as its talent. I am looking forward to seeing more of this journey, and if the first film showcased anything, this could be a contender for the most technically beautiful film of the year.
#2. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One
If you guys remember my 2021 most anticipated movies list, you may remember that I had “Mission: Impossible 7” on the #3 spot. Well, that movie has yet to come out, and it has been promoted to the #2 spot. This time, it has an official title, specifically “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One.” Much like “John Wick,” “Mission: Impossible,” for the most part, is a franchise that gets better with each movie. The first film was great, but I thought the second was a giant step down. The third one was better, but the quality also appeared to increase with the fourth, fifth, and sixth installments too. When I did my best movies of 2018 list, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” was my #1, and I often flip it back and forth these days with “Avengers: Infinity War,” which at the time was my #2. At the time, I did not know how Tom Cruise, arguably my favorite movie star in the business, could supposedly do a more daredevil-esque stunt than learning how to fly a helicopter just to pull off the film’s climax. Well, it appears Christopher McQuarrie, who is returning for his third “Mission: Impossible” outing, has an answer. I recently watched a behind the scenes video of how they pulled off a specific stunt where Cruise jumps off of a ramp while flying off of a motorcycle. I have no words. I cannot wait to see this on the big screen, this has the potential, like I said about “Oppenheimer,” to be the movie of the summer. “Top Gun: Maverick” made over a billion dollars at the box office last year. If this movie is masterclass material, I can honestly imagine this film outgrossing “Top Gun: Maverick.” I could change my mind, but everything that I have seen in regard to this film so far, looks incredible. This is certainly a mission I will choose to accept.
#1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
This is a film that not only has earned my spot as my most anticipated movie of the year, it has the potential to be the greatest animated movie of all time. That film is “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” I love “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” It is not my favorite comic book movie of 2018, but it is my favorite animated movie of that year. Miles Morales is a total delight. The film has stellar supporting characters from Peter B. Parker to Gwen Stacy to Jefferson Davis. I loved everyone in it. But that movie not only had great characters with phenomenal voice acting across the board, but some of the most unique, stunning animation in film history. I was not sold on it when I saw the marketing, but when I saw the movie, I wanted more of it. Not only are we getting more of it in this upcoming sequel, but it also appears that the film is going to have several different animation styles for various universes. How many are we talking? Two? Three? NO! TRY SIX! SIX ANIMATION STYLES! WHAT IS HAPPENING?! I was thrilled last year when “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” blended 2D and 3D animation together. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” feels like a different kind of technical ambition. Having Oscar Isaac return to play Miguel O’Hara, otherwise known as the 2099 Spider-Man, is something I did not think would happen, but I am delighted to see him return here. I thought he was just inserted in the last film’s post-credit scene as a one-off joke, guess not. I would not say it matters though, I am happy to see him come back. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the two directors behind “The LEGO Movie,” are writing this outing, and given how much I love their previous work, including their recently produced “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” it only ups the anticipation a bit more. I will remind everyone reading this that animation is a medium, not a genre. I admittedly have referred to it as a genre sometimes, and I feel guilty when I have. That said, this film looks it could not just define the superhero movie genre, but the animation medium. The trailer that just came out took my expectations to perhaps an unhealthy level. It is the best trailer I have seen in 2022, and for all I know we could get an even better one in 2023. Just for the record, “Spider-Man 2” from 2004 is my favorite comic book movie of all time. If “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” surpasses “Spider-Man 2,” it is a special kind of special movie. It is going to be challenging, but I love a good challenge. And if “Across the Spider-Verse” does surpass “Spider-Man 2,” I will be proud of everyone who worked on this movie for going above and beyond to deliver a great experience. It looks like we have something grand, here is hoping that this return to the Spider-Verse delivers the glory.
Thanks for reading this countdown! I hope you enjoyed reading my picks for my top 10 most anticipated movies of 2023. It is a bit unusual that I am doing this list, but I thought it could make for good material as I am waiting to see “Babylon,” which if I did not see before I did my best and worst of the year, I feel I would be doing a disservice to my audience. Speaking of the top 10 best and worst, we are going to dive into those soon, because my next countdown is going to be for my top 10 WORST movies of 2022. Yes, we are doing the worst before the best this year. The reason for that is because I want to get the bad stuff out of the way, that way I can save the best for last. And in a world where recent information is as snappy as ever, I want people to remember me for the things I love and not the things I hate. If you want to see these countdowns 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, what are the movies you are looking forward to the most in 2023? Do you think I missed anything? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Devotion” is directed by J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) and stars Jonathan Majors (Loki, Lovecraft Country), Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises, Hidden Figures), Christina Jackson (The Good Fight, Swaggers), Joe Jonas (Camp Rock, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian), Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, Life in Pieces), and Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Village). This film is based on a book by Adam Makos, and simultaneously inspired by true events during the Korean War. The story mainly centers around the bond between two naval pilots, Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown, as they navigate themselves through various periods during said war.
As a reviewer, it is hard not to compare one film to another. This is especially true considering how most of the movies I review are those that come out within the year of release, therefore I will sometimes say “x” film is similar to “y” flick, because “x” and “y” are at the movies at the same time or at similar times. It is a repetitive habit, but one I do not see myself quitting anytime soon because they involve movies that continue to be on people’s minds, including my own. “Devotion” is no exception to this rule because it released about a half a year after one of the most successful films in a long time, “Top Gun: Maverick.” I am not saying that “Devotion” is a carbon copy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” In fact, it is far from it. For one thing, “Devotion” is based on a true story whereas “Top Gun: Maverick” is a fictionalized sequel. “Devotion” is also comparatively dramatic to “Top Gun: Maverick” despite the latter having glimmers of emotion.
This leads me to my first positive of “Devotion,” which is that the narrative kept me compelled from start to finish. Due to my country’s supposedly mediocre educational system, I maybe do not think about U.S. history as much as I should. I was thrilled with the story of “Devotion” to the point where I felt somewhat sorry for myself that I did not think about these pilots all that much earlier. What really helps this movie is not just having a story as solid as this, but having a duo of actors who are clearly meant to be together. Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors are two fine actors on their own, but if you put them together in a movie like this, the formula is bound to deliver something special. While there are better lead and supporting performances I have seen this year, I cannot think of many acting duos that are as memorable or likable as this one.
And no, this does not mean that this film fails to do what a lot of other war-set films like “Dunkirk” and “1917” manage to do effectively, which is immerse me into the environment of the war itself. Now, unlike those films, this is more of a story where we get to know the characters themselves and less of a run to the finish line for survival. I would not call this a bad thing, but if you are looking for a certain type of film, now you know which one you are in for.
I would say when it comes to the immersion factor though, I would say “Dunkirk” and “1917” did it better because those films felt like technical experiments or feats whereas “Devotion,” again, is an extended tale perhaps putting story and characterization in the forefront. However, the sound mixing is quite good and the aerial shots are occasionally nice to see in action. The film does not appear reinvent the wheel with its technical aspects, but is also pretty looking enough to be worth checking out in whatever theater it is playing in near you. I should note, that this film has been out for a month and it is not playing in a ton of locations near me, but it was worth the 20 minute trek to a nearby town.
Speaking of immersion, I was also kind of impressed with some of the production design. Part of the movie takes place in a French casino and it was all sandy yet rugged. The interior of Brown’s home is also a standout. Many of the locations in this film are impressive to say the least.
My favorite aspect of the narrative behind “Devotion” is probably not even anything having to do with war itself, which is prominently featured in the film. However my favorite parts of the film simply come through the training, all the preparation that went into the events that followed. To be specific, there are scenes where we see the pilots trying to land their plane. Usually when it comes to these war stories and films, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to the protagonist is how they deal with being on the battlefield. I love how effectively “Devotion” has not only brought stakes in terms of the fight itself, but all the work that leads up to it. We see Jesse Brown nervous not because he anticipates he is going to get killed by the opposition, but because he fears he cannot land his own plane. Going back to “Top Gun: Maverick,” much of that movie, like its predecessor, is about training to fight an enemy and less about fighting the enemy itself. What makes “Devotion” work is how effectively the training, which reminded me of “Top Gun: Maverick” at times but with a more serious vibe, was executed in terms of the story and how that made everything in terms of the actual conflict that lied ahead more exciting.
There are not many major problems I have with “Devotion,” although I do think a few of the supporting characters are somewhat unmemorable. The real highlights of the character lineup in “Devotion” are the two leads. Although I must also say Christina Jackson shines as Daisy Brown. Although on the military side, unless I went to IMDb to find out, I could not tell you anybody’s name or real descriptive aspects of their personality. Then again, the story is not about them, so this is somewhat forgivable. Although “Devotion” is a thrilling, entertaining story nevertheless, and it is one that if given the opportunity, you should check out.
In the end, when it comes to movies about the navy, “Devotion” is no “Top Gun: Maverick,” but if you are looking for a more serious take on the subject matter, this is a a story that is worth your time. I did not know what to expect with “Devotion,” but I left the film having had a fine experience. Glen Powell is solid, Jonathan Majors is excellent, and the story is one that kept me interested to the very last second. I am going to give “Devotion” a 7/10.
“Devotion” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Within a matter of days, I will be going to see one of my most anticipated movies in history. For the record, when I did my most anticipated movies of 2021 list, this made the #2 spot. Did I say 2021? Yes I did. It was supposed to come out then, but it got delayed to the following year. That film my friends, is “Babylon.” I know the film is not making a lot of money right now, but it is the kind of film that can get me in the door. I just have to find the right day to enter that door.
Also, I want to remind everyone that the end of the year is almost here, and pretty soon I will be counting down my best and worst films of 2022! I want to give a little housekeeping in advance and note that this year’s set of lists is going to be a little different, and it is inspired by a tactic from one of my favorite YouTube personalities, John Campea. This year, instead of doing my top 10 best list first, which I have always done in the past, I am going to start with the worst list. The reason for that is because I often share my best list first, leave it up for a day, and then the next, I am onto the worst, which has sometimes left me a break in regard to posting new material. Within that break, I have the worst list linked to my Instagram (realscenebefore) because Instagram hates links for some reason, and that means my Instagram followers might end up seeing my worst list for a longer period of time than my best. And on Scene Before I want people to remember me for what I love and not what I hate. I love doing the worst lists, and I will still do them, but I do not want to be a monster. That said, if you want to see these lists 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 “Devotion?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an acting duo from a movie this year that you enjoyed seeing? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Whale” is directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Mother!) and stars Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, Crash), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things, The Glass Castle), Hong Chau (Downsizing, The Menu), Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3, Jurassic World), and Samantha Morton (John Carter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). “The Whale” is based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. This adaptation is about Charlie, an educator who teaches college courses online. As a result of losing his boyfriend, he has become reclusive and unhealthy to a point of great concern. Meanwhile, he attempts to reconnect with his daughter. Said daughter happens to be an individual he has not seen in person in years.
If I have seen a trailer for the “The Whale,” I would confirm it. But unless I missed it at a screening or I saw it once and could not retain it, I have yet to watch any marketing for “The Whale.” All I have heard about “The Whale” is that Brendan Fraser is great and he should be in the conversation for an Oscar. I may not be adding anything fresh by saying this, but he absolutely should be in said conversation.
That said, it should come as no surprise that my first positive with “The Whale” is that Branden Fraser’s performance is fantastic. I believed just about every second of what Fraser did on screen. In fact, if you want me to be frank, all the performances in the film are great. There are not many characters in this film, therefore everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine. Everyone from Brendan Fraser as Charlie to Sadie Sink as Ellie, Charlie’s daughter who had lived alone with her mom for years. Hong Chau is also great as Liz, a nurse who is the closest thing Charlie has to a friend. Every performance either floored me, compelled me, or at times, made my skin crawl.
Sadly, that last part of my statement, which in this case, is used as a positive, is something I would also use as a negative. This film emits a particular level of discomfort to the point where I do not see myself watching it a second time. The actors all do a great job in this film, and I mean everyone. Even a backseat character like Dan the Pizza Man, played by Sathya Sridharan, had my attention. The problem is the screenplay. The dialogue at times is cheesy, almost anger-inducing. The story itself has its ups and downs, but if there was not a part that felt oddly unhinged, there was one that came off as surprisingly predictable. Some of the characters themselves, despite being performed well, are not likable.
Despite what I said about Sadie Sink being a highlight of the film in terms of her performance, her character, Ellie, felt mean-spirited to the point of resembling a cartoon. If she gave off any particular vibe, she reminded me of Lil (Ariel Winter) from “The Last Movie Star,” another A24 movie I cannot recommend. From the first scene, Ellie starts off as an emotional wreck and this barely changes. There is a moment in this film where Charlie is struggling to move and Ellie just storms out the door. Sure, if you watch the scene, it is an early moment in the film where the two characters are not on the best terms, but regardless of how one feels about another personally, I do not see how Ellie could just leave. In this moment, Ellie just stands at the door, watching her father struggling to get off the couch, all the while knocking down a table. I am sorry, you lost me. What did she think, her father was putting on an act or something? Either way, in regard to Ellie, it gave me a terrible first impression.
Hong Chau gives a multi-dimensional performance as Liz. At one moment, she is frustrated at Charlie for refusing to go to the hospital, but in a split-second, her mood, believably, changes to that of someone with a warm heart. Chau’s sudden transitions feel seamless and do not interrupt the flow of the film whatsoever. Unlike Ellie, Liz is a somewhat respectable character and I felt attached to her, partially because she was a properly utilized voice of reason. Although if you want me to be real with you, if you want another Hong Chau film from this year to watch that is ten times better, do yourself a favor and skip “The Whale” and go watch “The Menu.” You will thank me later.
I do not mind depressing movies. Films like “Manchester by the Sea” stands out for how effectively its cast encapsulates a sense of unease throughout most of the runtime. “The Whale,” much like “Manchester by the Sea,” has a fantastic cast who play their characters to the best of their abilities. But in “Manchester by the Sea,” there are better characters and glimmers of entertainment that make the movie worth watching. “The Whale” is a film that tries to come off as depressing, but from my perspective, I see it as more frustrating than depressing. Because while the characters are depressed in “Manchester by the Sea,” I found myself enthused with the context of various scenes. As sadistic as this may sound, I enjoyed watching these characters going through their pain. I did not think it was a perfect movie, but it is certainly a watchable one. Unlike “The Whale,” I could see myself watching “Manchester by the Sea” another time. I have not done so since theaters, but even so, I could see myself putting it on the television in the future.
I have not seen the play which this film bases itself upon, but I could honestly imagine that is probably the better format for a story like this. Again, the performances carry the film, and I imagine that in a play version, they could be just as riveting. In addition, it is also set in one location, with most of it being set in Charlie’s living room. Sure, there are some moments that take place outside, but they are nevertheless within the confines of Charlie’s apartment. It is not like movies have not done the “one location” thing before, but even so, it provides an intimacy that would probably work best on a stage. Besides, you would might not have to change stuff around from one scene to another. Although I do like how the film was set in a 4:3 aspect ratio, as that adds to an intimate vibe in which the movie will occasionally nail.
In the end, “The Whale” is a lackluster story with annoying characters that feels somewhat surface level in regards to how it handles its serious subject matter. I could definitely see this film being a subject in acting classes, but that is one of the few notable things I can say about it. If it were not for Brendan Fraser and others in front of the camera carrying this film, it would probably not even be worth talking about. The acting is easily the best thing about “The Whale.” But just because you have great performances does not always mean you have a great narrative. My least favorite film of 2021, by a long shot, “Music,” has a pretty solid performance by Kate Hudson. But it is also a film that I would also consider terrible in addition to being downright offensive. While I would not consider “The Whale” to be as horrible as “Music,” it is not as good enough to give a second watch anytime soon. I should have left the theater crying out of sympathy for Charlie, but instead I left angry over the film’s final moments and how the writing nearly gave me a headache. I am going to give “The Whale” a 4/10.
“The Whale” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! To be frank, I do not know how many people are going to see “The Whale” by the end of the year. Although I am aware of another movie that has already earned a couple hundred million buck at the box office that a lot of people did see instead. And yes, I saw it too. For those who want to check it out, I have linked my review for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which coincidentally is another “whale” movie. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Whale?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Brendan Fraser movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by Januel Mercado. This film stars Antonio Banderas (The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Uncharted), Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Eternals), Harvey Guillén (What We Do in the Shadows, The Magicians), Florence Pugh (Black Widow, Don’t Worry Darling), Olivia Colman (The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Empire of Light), Ray Winstone (Point Break, Beowulf), Samson Kayo (Our Flag Means Death, Famalam), John Mulaney (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers), Wagner Moura (Brazil, Narcos), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Selfie, People of Earth), and Anthony Mendez (Jane the Virgin, Foodtastic). In this sequel to the 2011 spinoff film “Puss in Boots,” the title character is down to his ninth and last life. Carrying his hopes to recover his past lives, Puss sets out on a journey to find a Wishing Star.
2011’s “Puss in Boots” is a surprisingly good movie. I think it is a bit rushed, but it has its pros. The characters are likable. The voice performances are solid. The music is catchy as well. I did not think it was as memorable as say “Shrek” and “Shrek 2,” the latter of which introduced Puss to the iconic DreamWorks franchise. Nevertheless, the movie was solid despite being a quick ride. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a follow-up part of me never thought we would get. The spinoff seemed like a one-off. But, someone, somewhere wanted to make this sequel. After all, in an age where “Star Wars” is still relevant, it is evident that nostalgia sells. The last major “Shrek”-related project to release in theaters was in fact the 2011 “Puss in Boots” movie. As to whether this would be a great sequel or a cheap nostalgia bomb was a mystery. The trailers looked good, but so did the trailers to “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which did not mean much when I saw the movie.
Ladies and gentlemen, if there is any indication that you should see this movie, here are some bold statements. First off, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is better than the original. Not bold enough? Okay, let me take it a step further. Not only is it better than its 11-year-old predecessor, I would say it is superior to all of the “Shrek” installments. This includes the original, and my personal favorite, “Shrek 2.” Is this a case of recency bias? Possibly. It has been awhile since I have seen the “Shrek” films. But it does not change the fact that I was smiling the entire time this movie was playing. And when I was not smiling, I was either laughing or dropping my jaw.
The first ten minutes of this movie is some of the most bonkers, ridiculous, unhinged stuff I have witnessed on a screen this year. There is a moment where Puss is taking down a beast and goes towards it by catapulting himself into the air via a stringed instrument. How cool is that?! Meanwhile he has time to sing a song and brag about himself. This is not only a fitting introduction to this movie and the character, it is some of the most fun I had at the movies this year. I have not felt this giddy at the start of an animation since maybe “The LEGO Batman Movie.”
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” blends 2D and 3D animation elements to make a movie that is wonderfully stylized and perfectly realized. Few movies released in 2022 look as visually striking as this one. At times, this movie has the tone of previous material featuring the Puss character, including the “Shrek” installments, while also inserting a style that reminded me of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Select scenes felt like a graphic novel coming to life. To say I was struck with awe might be an understatement. And when I say awe, I am not just talking about big eyes. Although those do, coincidentally, make an appearance in the movie.
Puss in Boots is a role Antonio Banderas is practically born to play. His voice is absolutely perfect as the iconic feline and I was somewhat worried after all these years it might not be the same. Nope, he still has the goods! There is a certain hyperactivity Banderas commits to with the role that I think few actors would be able to encapsulate. There is a saying that actors are replaceable, and I would agree with this philosophy. However, I think if somebody else were to play the Puss in Boots role in the future, they have massive shoes, or boots in this case, to fill.
The film has multiple threats including Goldi and the Three Bears, Jack Horner, and a wolf bounty hunter. Having seen a couple “Spider-Man” films butcher themselves by poorly utilizing multiple threats at once, it might as well be easy to worry that this movie could lose control. Thankfully, it does not. Each antagonist has a purpose and place in the story. In addition to all of these antagonists opposing themselves to Puss and his crew, some want to use the Wishing Star to fulfill their own desires. This adds threats not only to Puss’s life, but his past lives as well. Without giving much away, one of these mentioned antagonists might be the creepiest DreamWorks animation villain ever put to screen. Both in terms of looks and motivation. If I were a young child watching this movie, I would quiver upon first sight of this fiend.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a quickly paced, action-packed thrill ride of a film that while I will say is okay for children to watch, impressed me because of its tendency to go full throttle with certain action elements. This movie even has blood in it, which I do not often see in PG films. The action sequences in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” are my favorite DreamWorks action scenes since “Kung Fu Panda 3.” There is little shortage of color, wacky effects, and pizazz. Again, it was like watching a graphic novel come to life. It almost felt like a flashy video game. I would go see this movie a second time for the action alone. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” has action that reminds me of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which this movie nearly rivals in terms of flashiness. Another movie the action reminds me of is “Bullet Train,” which has a series of creative sequences and fights with impressive choreography. Simply put, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” contains my favorite action sequences from any movie released this year.
If I had any flaws with “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” they would be hard to come by. Although if I had to come up with one it would be that while the humor is solid for the most part, there are one or two jokes that fall flat, including one that was probably just inserted to get a laugh out of the younger audiences. This may be a personal thing, but for those who remember the 2011 “Puss in Boots,” there is an oohing cat that is constantly used as a gag during the film. I did not find it funny the first time, nor did I find it funny the third or fourth time. But for some reason the cat finds his way back to this sequel. Thankfully it was only in one scene, but still.
In the end, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a great spinoff, a stellar sequel, and a smile-inducing time at the movies. This movie was so good that I am surprised to say that I want a third installment. This movie is up there with “Turning Red” and “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” as one of the best animations of 2022. Packed with ridiculously enthralling action sequences, unbelievably eye-popping animation, and a shockingly emotional ending, this film is perfect for all audiences. Take it from someone who is not much of a cat person. Or even a pet person in general. I loved “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and I am going to give it a 9/10.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” releases in theaters everywhere Wednesday, December 21st. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming soon! The 2022 reviews are likely coming to an end, but I do plan to see another movie this week. My next review is likely going to either be for “Babylon” or “The Whale.” I have not decided yet. That said, if you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out my thoughts on “Strange World,” “DC League of Super-Pets,” and “Luck!” If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish?” What did you think about it? Or, now that we have four “Shrek” movies and a couple of “Puss in Boots” spinoff titles, which movie in the “Shrek” universe would you say is the best one? Honestly, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” might take the cake. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is directed by James Cameron (The Terminator, True Lies) and stars Sam Worthington (Sabotage, Clash of the Titans), Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Adam Project), Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters, Alien), Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe, Tombstone), Kate Winslet (Titanic, Divergent), Cliff Curtis (Training Day, Three Kings), and Joel David Moore (Dodgeball, Bones). This film is the long-awaited sequel to the 2009 film “Avatar,” also directed by James Cameron. This time around, Jake and Neytiri, along with their children, move from the forest and adapt to life by the sea. Meanwhile, humanity strikes once again to kill Jake Sully.
I have not seen every film James Cameron has done. I still have not seen “Aliens.” I still have not seen “The Abyss.” That said, he can direct a movie. I loved “The Terminator.” Its follow-up, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” belongs amongst my favorite films of all time. “Titanic” is a massive spectacle with a thrilling climax. “True Lies” is a hilarious, fun action movie. Cameron also recently produced “Alita: Battle Angel,” directed by Robert Rodriguez. It has some of my favorite visual effects and action sequences in recent cinema. The man knows how to entertain.
The first “Avatar” is not my favorite movie James Cameron made. Kind of like “Titanic,” the beauty of the film does not always lie in its screenplay, and more so its looks. However, the film made over $2 billion and is the highest-grossing movie of all time. Naturally, whether Cameron wanted to or not, a sequel definitely had to be made. “Avatar: The Way of Water” is the result of thirteen years of Cameron’s transition from one movie to the next. Even I, someone who barely cares about the original “Avatar,” was curious about this film. The trailers looked decent, and whatever visuals they revealed looked stunning. I had a couple chances to see the trailers in 3D, and I was marveled by a couple sequences in said format.
This leads me to my biggest positive with “Avatar: The Way of Water.” This film is the single-greatest use of 3D I have ever seen. For the record, I got to see the original film in 3D last September, and this film surpasses it. It surpasses some other 3D standouts for me like “Gravity,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and “The Hobbit” trilogy. As far as blockbuster filmmaking goes, there is no movie I can think of that has done 3D this well to the point where it felt like more than a cheap gimmick. Speaking of unusual technical specifications, “Avatar: The Way of Water” was shot in 48 frames per second. This is an aspect which “The Hobbit” trilogy also utilized both in filming and during select screenings. For the most part, it works. At times, I felt like I was watching a series of video game cutscenes, which sounds like a detractor, but I kind of intend it as a compliment.
However, the unfortunate thing is that since these are my biggest positives, I imagine there are people out there who might never get to experience said positives if they watch this movie. For one thing, 3D at home is not as big of a thing as it may have been over a decade ago. And I am not sure what Disney/James Cameron plans to do in regards to the frame rate for this film’s home release. Although one positive that can be experienced regardless of the setup is the visual effects.
If I have to be honest, if there is any other film that is going to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects this year, I might start trying to defy gravity because nothing would make sense any more. Similar to what I said about the 3D, the visual effects were great in the original “Avatar,” but they are a step up in “The Way of Water.” The water sequences in this film are some of the best-looking of the year. For the most part, the visuals in this sequel are as perfect as can be. It really felt like everyone took their time with minute details to allow for the perfect color and polish. Some of the cinematography, done by previous Cameron collaborator Russell Carpenter, accompanies said visuals well. There is one shot of a sunset where my eyes lit up. The aesthetic of “Avatar: The Way of Water” does not disappoint.
What does disappoint instead is the story and characterization. You know, the essential things that make movies worth watching.
While I liked the trailers for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” what these trailers always lacked is depth into what the story is about. The film thankfully provides a story, but not a good one. It is less by the numbers than the first movie, but somehow it feels more boring. The visuals are pretty enough to distract me from that, but the characters are uninteresting. In one of my most recent reviews, specifically for “Strange World,” I said the movie is “like a first date with the most attractive woman alive, only to find out she has zero personality whatsoever.” “Avatar: The Way of Water” is kind of like “Strange World” in the sense that the environment feels more important than the characters, but to the point where the characters lack a certain prominence they would otherwise have in most halfway decent movies.
There have been movies where the characters do not stand out that nevertheless find a way to stick the landing. But not every movie can be “Dunkirk.”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” presents a fascinating concept. Specifically, now that Jake and Neytiri have offspring, how does this affect their behavior compared to the first film? In general, I dug the family dynamic, and there were moments in this film that felt relatable based on said dynamic. Although the characters themselves lack dimension and personality. I admire Sigourney Weaver for trying her best at playing an animated teenage girl, but I would not say it is my favorite performance of hers.
In fact, the family dynamic is not the only concept of fascination. The whole water land itself comes with some halfway decent ideas. Similar to the first movie where a particular tree plays a prominent role in societal beliefs and customs, the equivalent to that in this film is a group of whales. Although as fascinating as it is to see the bond between the bunches of blue characters with whales in this film, this leads to yet another story critique where this film feels like another version of the original, only less watchable.
This movie reintroduces familiar characters like Jake, Neytiri, and Quaritch. It also brings in new faces. Some of these include Jake and Neytiri’s kids: Kiri, Lo’ak, Neteyam, and Tuk. I bet some time after writing this review, I will not remember some of these names. At a point in the movie, the story revolves more about the children than it does their parents. I am not against this. In fact, despite my lack of interest with the story itself, some aspects of this were handled with competency. The film’s new characters have their moments. However, if I have to name a least favorite of the characters, it would be this one person named Spider.
Unlike Jake and the rest of the Sullys, who are half human, half Na’Vi, Spider, who Jake also raised, is entirely human. Although he tends to behave like one of the Na’Vi. While I am optimistic about Jack Champion’s future as an actor and wish him nothing but the best, his character was awfully written. At first sight, the character is presented with an intriguing backstory, but as the movie went on, he felt increasingly out of place, and by the end, I questioned his actions. There are few words that I could come up with to describe Spider as a character. “Conflicting” would certainly be one of them.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” takes a lot of what works in the original. Such things include the visuals, the exploration, the flying sequences. Ultimately, this sequel improves those things. At the same time, a lot of I found to be imperfect with the first film such as the story, the dialogue, and its lack of getting me to care for certain characters, make a return here as well. If you want me to be real with you, the climax of this film, at times, is more entertaining than the climax in the original “Avatar.” Should you pay to see this film in theatres, the climax alone makes the film worth the price of admission. I am clearly not a huge fan of the film, therefore I would not pay to see “Avatar: The Way of Water” a second time. That said, I imagine plenty of people will. I think if there is a reason to see this film, the climax would make for a compelling argument.
The theater experience for “Avatar: The Way of Water” rivals “Top Gun: Maverick” in terms of immersion, but if I had to choose a film between the two to watch again, I think “Maverick” is the superior option because despite the film occasionally coming off as another version of the original “Star Wars,” the characters are likable and serve the story. Do the characters serve the story in “Avatar: The Way of Water?” Sure. But I would say they do so with less charisma and personality than those in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
I have not ridden the “Avatar” theme park ride at Disney World. Maybe if I take a trip there in the future I would give it a whirl, but I just never had the opportunity to ride it. Although I must say that “Avatar: The Way of Water,” much like a ride at Disney World, is wildly immersive, but almost to the point of being a pretty gimmick. The 3D definitely stands out, and while I said earlier the 3D does not feel like a gimmick, it belongs in a film that nearly comes off as a gimmick itself. When I left the film, I thought more about how it took me into Pandora, which may sound like a compliment, until I thought about how little it took me into the lives of its characters. While last year’s big movie event, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” had some imperfections, I would rather watch that again to see the characters go through their individual journeys. Although one imperfection “No Way Home” has, like “The Way of Water,” was that I found the ending to be somewhat poor. Although the journey to get to the ending for “No Way Home” invested me emotionally while getting me to care for the core characters. I will give credit to “Avatar: The Way of Water” for having a more appealing visual aesthetic to it, but as the old saying goes, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is yet another example of style over substance.
I would even say that “Avatar: The Way of Water” has narration that at times that is either as tacked on or as bad as the original “Blade Runner.” When I say the original “Blade Runner,” I am talking the original. As in, the one where Harrison Ford sounds like he is half asleep when voicing what he learned about Roy. The one that I imagine a lot of young people experiencing the film for the first time will not even get to hear. I am sorry, but for a movie that carries itself so much on visuals, I am somewhat surprised in regard to how much narration this film has.
Through the ages, there have been several movies that have been able to tell a great story while also delivering eye candy. “Star Wars” took me to another galaxy while also presenting the relatable Luke Skywalker. “The Matrix” presents a fun tale of good vs. evil while also showcasing a one of a kind digital landscape. The Academy Award Best Picture winner, “The Shape of Water,” is a beautiful-looking film with an unusual, but still captivating romance. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” finds itself choosing to focus a lot on the film’s background and surroundings to the point where I do not care one bit about the characters in the foreground. Yeah, I know what happens in the movie. But I would flock to a multitude of other movies before this one again because they presented their stories more admirably. I would imagine there are people who are going to leave this movie, much like the original, who would claim they want to live in Pandora. I on the other hand, would not. I would rather live in Middle Earth, where the visuals are just as stunning, but the stories are ten times as interesting.
In the end, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is possibly the biggest disappointment of 2022. Not only because it is James Cameron, not only because the film looks amazing, but because this is a film that was thirteen years in the making. I cannot believe I am living in a year where I have gone back to the cinema to watch “Top Gun: Maverick,” which is a sequel I frankly think was not all that necessary until seeing footage. Meanwhile, I do not think I want to go back to watch “Avatar: The Way of Water” a second time. This is crazy because I have thought about seeing an “Avatar” sequel maybe since I was ten years old. I thought the potential was there. Sadly, the execution was lackluster. But who cares? Sequels are already scheduled, and there is a solid chance that this is going to make a billion, possibly a couple billion bucks at the box office. While the original “Avatar” is similar to titles like “Pocahontas” and “FernGully,” when it came out, it felt like a distinctive title. “Avatar: The Way of Water” not only feels like a slight retread of the original, but somehow comes off as more boring. Does it look pretty? Yes, but so did “Elvis.” If you read my review for that movie, you would know that movies should sometimes do more than just look shiny. That said, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is undoubtedly a technical beast. I applaud Cameron and crew for delivering a solid-looking film. I just wish I could say the same for the story. I am going to give “Avatar: The Way of Water” a 5/10.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is now playing in theatres everywhere, including formats such as Real-D 3D and IMAX 3D. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the brand new DreamWorks Animation “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” I am attending a press screening of the film this Monday, so I will share my thoughts on the film as soon as possible. Hopefully it has more substance than “Avatar: The Way of Water.” 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 “Avatar: The Way of Water?” What did you think about it? Or, which film do you think is better? “Avatar” or “Avatar: The Way of Water?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!