Judas and the Black Messiah (2021): A Fine Black Panther Film

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is directed by Shaka King (Newlyweeds, Mulignans) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Queen & Slim, Black Panther), LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You), Jesse Plemons (Game Night, The Irishman), Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, Project Power), Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Captive State), Darrell Britt-Gibson (20th Century Women, Barry), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Uncle Drew), Algee Smith (Detroit, Earth to Echo), and Martin Sheen (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Departed). This film centers around a time where the Black Panther Party increasingly rose to prominence. When Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) becomes chairman of the organization’s Illinois Chapter, criminal Bill O’Neal, who meets FBI Special Director Roy Mitchell, is assigned to infiltrate the group.

This film is based on true events that took place in the late 1960s. About thirty years before I was even born. Therefore, I have zero recollection on these events other than maybe hearing about them through school and perhaps the Internet. I’ve seen trailers for “Judas and the Black Messiah” multiple times, given how it is a Warner Bros. property and when I went to see films like “Tenet” and “The Little Things” in the theater, this film would be one that comes up. Each and every time I thought a couple things. The cast looked phenomenal, the performances might strike the heart, it might have a couple moments that sound great in a cinema, some of the camerawork looks really good, but as for whether the film would be for me, that was a big question. I say this because even do I do stand by events including the Black Lives Matter movement and many of the positive stories that have been spawned from Black History, I wondered if I, a straight white male, would connect with this film as much as someone who happened to be black. “BlacKkKlansman” was really good, I enjoyed that film quite a bit. And I am not saying I went in expecting to hate the film, because again, I had a relatively positive reaction to the trailers, I just went in wondering what exactly to expect, because not every film is made for the same individual. I mean, when it comes to expectations, I had ideas, but they were almost all over the place.

I walked out of “Judas and the Black Messiah” with some expectations met. The film looks and sounds like the revolutions themselves. Wide, loud, and clear. “Judas and the Black Messiah” has moments of excitement, intensity, and power. Experience-wise, I saw the film in Dolby Cinema, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend you go there, because I do not think it is playing in Dolby Cinema as of now with films like “Tom & Jerry” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” coming out after it. But there is a speech scene in this film, and I think those of you who have seen the film will know precisely what I am talking about, that pulled me into the scene and made me a part of the revolution. It was like I went back into the 1960s.

The absolute highlight of the film is the cast. Between Jesse Plemons, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominque Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah” does not fail to deliver the goods in terms of performances. In fact, the man who may be the highlight of the film, Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Fred Hampton, is wonderfully obnoxious and has one of the most powerful voices I have heard in recent cinema. In fact, in between me watching and reviewing this film, Kaluuya won a Golden Globe for his performance, which I’d say was deserved.

Despite seeing trailers for this film, a small part of me felt like I was going into “Judas and the Black Messiah” rather blind, and I would not say I was disappointed with the film from a story perspective. They took a mighty revolution, made it theatrical, while at the same time, taking a fascinating detective story associated with it and having both elements be executed to a satisfying watch.

By the end of the film, I was on the edge of my seat. Now, I have touched upon various points of Black History in school, but keep in mind, if you have not guessed by now, I have gone to a school with mostly white kids, lived in a town with mostly white people, and mostly learned about white history under the direction of a public education system. So part of me did not really know what was coming at times, and when the movie came to an end, I was rather invested in what was going on.

One problem I had with the film, and this problem has admittedly become a Jack Drees trademark over the past couple years, is the pacing. The pacing is not horrible, but there are certain moments that feel slower than others. Let me just be clear, when it comes to the simultaneous theatrical/HBO Max debuts that have been coming out recently, if you watched “The Little Things” about a month ago and nearly fell asleep, I do not blame you, although I think “Judas and the Black Messiah” is more likely to keep you awake. Let’s move onto my next trademark problem, replay value. One of the advantages for having “Judas and the Black Messiah” on HBO Max while it is also in theaters is that you do not just have the option to watch it from home, but if you watch it at home, you can do so as many times as you want as long as you pay a monthly subscription. I saw the film in the theater, but if I watched it at home, it would be one of those films that I would turn on once, perhaps enjoy while it is on, until the point where I move onto the next thing. Maybe I’ll turn off HBO Max until “Tom & Jerry” pops up.

Nevertheless, these negatives do not imply that “Judas and the Black Messiah” was a waste of time, it just means that there are perhaps other priorities I would make before turning it on again. The performances, the atmosphere, the technical aspects, the direction, all of it is done with precise skill, but I would not watch “Judas and the Black Messiah” strictly for entertainment. Granted, the film is based on a true story, which in itself was not adapted solely for the sake of entertaining people, but telling a relevant piece of history for those who may or may not know about the subject matter.

In the end, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is one of those weird movies that I am into as I’m watching it, but as soon as I leave, part of me forgets just a tad of it every single day. I am not saying it is bad, but there are other films that I would watch first. If I had to compare it to another recent film experience, I’d go with “Dark Waters.” Remember that film from 2019 on the DuPont Scandal? It’s a good film, but it is one I do not think I recall all the way through. “Judas and the Black Messiah” may be worth a second watch, but part of it is because I may want to refresh my memory on what might have faded from the first experience. Do I recommend the film? You betcha. Can I tell you every single thing about it? No. Partially because it has been almost a few weeks since I saw it, and it is one film that I saw and happened to forget about the longer it’s been since watching it. Great performances, stunning vision, I just wish I liked it a little better. I’m going to give “Judas and the Black Messiah” a 7/10.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, and for the next few days, keep in mind, it is going away soon, you can catch the film exclusively on HBO Max at no extra cost as long as you are subscribed.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the 3rd edition of the most important movie blogging awards ceremony in history, The Jackoff Awards! I am hard at work, making sure all the touches are finished, and much of that hard work will carry over into the next few days, but on Sunday March 14th, it is finally here! You’ll get an all new awards show with nominees, winners, a new edition of Film Improvements, a COVID-themed intro, a monologue, and a big announcement as to where Flicknerd.com will be headed in the future. Stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, keep up with my content by following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and liking the official Facebook page! Also, speaking of the Jackoffs, there is STILL TIME if you want to, that you can vote for Best Picture! I selected 10 films to be nominated, only one will win! CLICK RIGHT HERE to make your pick! I want to know, did you see “Judas and the Black Messiah?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the Golden Globes this past Sunday? Tell me your thoughts on those! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards (NOMINATIONS)

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! We have made it! It is time to kick off the proceedings of the 3rd iteration of the most important movie blogging awards ceremony in history! Also, one of the only ones I should note… The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! Today we will be announcing all the nominees that have earned their place amongst the greats. For those new to the concept of the Jackoff Awards, the Jackoff Awards takes place yearly on Scene Before to celebrate the best in film. Some categories include Best Sound Editing, Best Original Song, Best Director, Best Actor, all leading up to Best Picture. Practically, this is the Super Bowl of movies. Who decides the winners? ME! My name is literally in the title, who else do you think it is? Well… Not entirely. Except for Best Picture, but we’ll get to that later. This post is specifically meant for announcing this year’s nominees. Specifically, these are all movies I saw. Therefore we will not count movies such as “Pieces of a Woman,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Hillbilly Elegy,” or even though it was one the highest-grossing movies of the year, “Bad Boys for Life.”

There’s a few rule changes from the past couple years that I should get out of the way. For starters, I am opening the gates to allow more streaming options to participate. If a movie was supposed to come out in theaters in 2020, but couldn’t or wouldn’t, not just having to do with COVID-19, I will consider them eligible for the ceremony. If the film was always intended for a non-theatrical format, it will not count, however. I also want to give a shoutout to another awards body today, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because today, February 28th, is the 78th Annual Golden Globes, which airs tonight on NBC. Although I am going to implement one rule that is different from their set of rules. Award shows like the Golden Globes and the Oscars are spicing things up this year to allow films released in the first two months of 2021 to participate, films like “The Little Things” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Those films will not count. The 3rd Annual Jackoffs will recognize films released in 2020 only, and those two films, along with the others released during such a time period, will be recognized in the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards, should there be one next year.

Without further ado, it is my pleasure to announce the nominees of the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards!

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • All In: The Fight For Democracy (Liz Garbuz, Lisa Cortés, Dan Cogan, Stacey Abrams)
  • Boys State (Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine)
  • I Am Greta (Nathan Grossman, Fredrik Heinig, Cecilia Nessen)
  • Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (Daniel Roher, Lana Belle Mauro, Andrew Munger, Stephen Paniccia, Sam Sutherland)
  • Time (Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • The Croods: A New Age (Joel Crawford, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan)
  • Onward (Dan Scanlon, Kori Rae)
  • Over the Moon (Glen Keane, John Kahrs, Gennie Rim, Peilin Chou)
  • Soul (Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Dana Murray)
  • Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Stéphan Roelants)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Color Out of Space
  • Greenland
  • The Midnight Sky
  • Tenet
  • Wonder Woman 1984

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Greenland
  • Over the Moon
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sound of Metal
  • Tenet

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • Greenland
  • Mank
  • Sound of Metal
  • Unhinged
  • The Way Back

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Michael Giacchino (An American Pickle)
  • Steven Price (Over the Moon)
  • Ludwig Göransson (Tenet)
  • Alan Silvestri (The Witches)
  • Hans Zimmer (Wonder Woman 1984)

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

  • Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Deborah La Mia Denaver)
  • Emma. (Marese Langan)
  • Mank (Gigi Williams, Michelle Audrina Kim)
  • Promising Young Woman (Angie Wells, Daniel Crest)
  • Summerland (Lisa Cavalli-Green, Liberty Haynes)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Kevin James (Becky)
  • Shane Paul McGhie (The Last Shift)
  • Arliss Howard (Mank)
  • Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)
  • Jim Carrey (Sonic the Hedgehog)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Elizabeth Debicki (The Burnt Orange Heresy)
  • Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
  • Helena Zengel (News of the World)
  • Olivia Cooke (Sound of Metal)
  • Princess Punzalan (Yellow Rose)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • The Burnt Orange Heresy (Totoi Santoro)
  • Emma. (Kave Quinn)
  • News of the World (David Crank, Elizabeth Keenan)
  • Tenet (Nathan Crowley)
  • The Witches (Gary Freeman)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Erin Benach, Helen Huang)
  • Emma. (Alexandra Byrne)
  • Mulan (Bina Daigeler)
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield (Suzie Harman, Robert Worley)
  • The Witches (Joanna Johnston)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Emma. (Eleanor Catton)
  • News of the World (Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies)
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield (Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucchi)
  • Nomadland (Chloe Zhao)
  • Radioactive (Jack Thorne)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • The Last Shift (Andrew Cohn)
  • Minari (Lee Isaac Chung)
  • Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
  • Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, Abraham Marder)
  • Yellow Rose (Diane Paragas, Annie Howell, Celena Cipriaso)

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Mank (Kirk Baxter)
  • Nomadland (Chloe Zhao)
  • Radioactive (Stéphane Roche)
  • Tenet (Jennifer Lame)
  • The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • News of the World (Dariusz Wolski)
  • Nomadland (Joshua James Richards)
  • Summerland (Laurie Rose)
  • Tenet (Hoyte von Hoytema)
  • The Vast of Night (M.I. Littin-Menz)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • Rocket to the Moon – Cathy Ang (Over the Moon)
  • Ultraluminary – Phillipa Soo (Over the Moon)
  • Speed Me Up – Wiz Khalifa (Sonic the Hedgehog)
  • The Plan – Travis Scott (Tenet)
  • Square Peg – Eva Noblezada (Yellow Rose)

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Paul Greengrass (News of the World)
  • Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)
  • Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
  • Darius Marder (Sound of Metal)
  • Christopher Nolan (Tenet)

BEST ACTOR

  • Steven Yeun (Minari)
  • Tom Hanks (News of the World)
  • Dev Patel (The Personal History of David Copperfield)
  • Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
  • Ben Affleck (The Way Back)

BEST ACTRESS

  • Kathryn Newton (Freaky)
  • Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)
  • Rosamund Pike (Radioactive)
  • Gemma Arterton (Summerland)
  • Eva Noblezada (Yellow Rose)

BEST PICTURE

  • The Last Shift (Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Sam Bisbee, Alex Lipschultz, Bert Kern)
  • News of the World (Gary Goetzman, Gail Mutrux, Gregory Goodman)
  • Over the Moon (Gennie Rim, Peilin Chou)
  • Promising Young Woman (Margot Robbie, Josey McNamara, Tom Ackerley, Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell)
  • Sound of Metal (Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Bill Benz, Kathy Benz)
  • Summerland (Guy Heely, Adrian Sturges)
  • Tenet (Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan)
  • The Vast of Night (James Montague, Melissa Kirkendall, Adam Dietrich)
  • The Way Back (Gordon Gray, Jennifer Todd, Gavin O’Connor, Ravi Mehta)
  • Yellow Rose (Cecilia R. Mejia, Rey Cuerdo, Diane Paragas, Orian Williams, Jeremiah Abraham)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a first in Jackoffs history. For the first time ever, all the movies that I previously announced to be my top 10 films of the year back in January are all represented in the Best Picture category. In previous years, I took off a film or two for one reason or another, mainly because I would usually end up seeing another movie that surpasses a lower one on the top 10 list, but for the first time ever, the Jackoffs remains committed to the top 10 list! As usual, the Best Picture category is the people’s choice, so if you want to vote for Best Picture, CLICK RIGHT HERE and you will be taken to a form where you will get to choose one of these films as the big winner at the Jackoffs this year. Reminder, this form will not be open eternally, the form closes on March 14th, the day of the Jackoffs at 12AM. At that moment, all the votes that have been counted will remain in the system and the movie that receives the highest vote count will be crowned 2020’s Best Picture. May the best movie win.

The 3rd Annual Jackoffs will premiere on Scene Before on March 14th, where I announce the winners, show off some things I’ve been working on, and even a glimpse into the future of Scene Before. Be there! Follow Scene Before through an email or WordPress and like the Facebook page for updates! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Also, here is a first look at the official intro of the Jackoffs this year! You may be happy, you may also be angry, but most importantly… you will be ready… for the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards, where winning IS NOT cancelled!

Minari (2020): Seed This As Soon As You Can

“Minari” is written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung (Abigail Harm, Lucky Life) and stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton in a film about a Korean family trying to live the American dream. The movie mainly centers around a father who wants to build a better life for his spouse and children. In hopes of achieving all he could wish for, David moves with his family to Arkansas to start a farm. While Jacob is happy and ready to see his dreams potentially rise to reality, not everyone is onboard. Throughout, we are presented with a slice of life about a group of people adapting to a new situation and all its successes and failures.

I’ve waited a couple weeks to talk about “Minari.” Why? For starters, I wanted to get my Valentine’s Day special out to the public. Top 10 Movie Crushes, check it out! But I also have been busy with school and life to the point where I just could barely find time to work on this review. So I apologize in advance if anything that comes out of my mouth sounds odd, it has been a couple weeks. I went into “Minari” sort of with the same expectations that I had for “Nomadland,” which I had high hopes for, I thought Chloe Zhao was going to knock the film out of the park, and what did I think of it? Well, I gave it a 7/10. Now that is not a bad grade by any means, but I kind of expected at least an 8 given how the film has won so many festivals and awards thus far and it may continue its dominance at the Golden Globes this weekend if things go right. I will say though, Chloe Zhao may be *the* director all film fans should have their eyes on right now. Not only does she have a critically acclaimed film with “Nomadland,” but she also has “Eternals” and a “Dracula” project coming up. Could be exciting!

As for Lee Isaac Chung, the director of “Minari,” he is not a name I am completely aware of. I have not watched, nor am I familiar with any of his work. I know of Steven Yeun, the star of this film, but this film comes packed with a bunch of folks whose names I could have never stated prior to either watching the movie or making this review. It’s kind of like every day in high school. It’s a lot of folks around at once! Who are these people? What are their names? Come on, help me!

Either way, let me just give you my simple thoughts on “Minari.” To say I went in with low expectations would be a total lie. I was expecting an Oscar contender. I can assure you I was not disappointed. Granted, it is a little forgettable in parts but overall, I had a great time watching “Minari.” Everything from the acting to the directing to the writing is top-notch and well worth a trip to the theater or a rental whenever it is available on VOD.

“Minari” is one of those films that makes you feel… Well, everything. You laugh. You smile. You wince. You go “wow.” You may even get to the point where you’re a little emotional. I am not saying “Minari” is a tearjerker, but it is certainly a movie where the characters continue to grow on you.

“Minari” comes off as a small, intimate story with giant, magnificent craft. And a part of that has to do with the relationship between the cast and the directing effort. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri do an excellent job encapsulating the mix of tension and togetherness between their characters, Jacob and Monica. They have their differences, but they are in a way willing to stick together for something glorious that may lie ahead. Jacob is clearly happy and cannot wait for his dreams to come true, but Monica is noticeably pessimistic and that sort of affects how they are trying project reality onto their family.

One of my favorite parts of the film would have to be the relationship between the young boy, David, and the grandma, Soon-ja. Thinking about it now, when I was a child, I would spend many days with my grandmother. Granted, for different reasons than this film presents. This relationship to an extent reminded me of the one I had with my grandmother as a child. She would come by my house, hang out with me, watch television, play her handheld solitaire. Although one thing that out stood to me during the film is that the boy refuses to call his grandma “real.” By his definition, that means a grandma who “bakes cookies” for example. Now, I’ve done that sort of thing with my grandma, that I will not deny, but it sort of reminded me of a conversation I would have with her every once in a while. So I am from the Boston area, where people like their coffee from Dunkin’ and their football teams winning championships. One of my earliest memories of hearing the distinctive “Boston accent” came out of my grandmother’s mouth, where instead of saying “careful,” she would say “cahful.” I would occasionally “correct” her and then we move on with our lives. While I never called either of my grandmothers “fake,” I can assure that this relationship between a young boy and his grandmother is somewhat similar to one I’ve experienced myself.

One of the recent films I watched in terms of my Scene Before reviews was the Amazon Studios film “Herself,” which I thought was quite a good watch. Not as stellar as “Minari,” but it is worth your time. It is currently free for all Prime subscribers, give it a chance. The recent why I bring that film up is because like “Minari” it has one of the better endings of 2020. Both films have respective endings that are sort of subversive, but also lines up and connects with a theme that may have been brought up earlier in the film. I will not spoil either ending, but the way they do it in “Minari” makes the ticket price worth paying. Plus, without any further clarification, it allows the cinematographer to go to town and deliver a couple of the standout shots of 2020 cinema. I do not think the Academy will recognize “Minari” for cinematography, but I am sure they will recognize them more so than the Golden Globes.

Antiquated rules, my ass.

In the end, “Minari” is a great film that I will recommend to everyone reading this. Now if you are one of the few people who passed on “Parasite” because you cannot stand subtitles, I will still recommend “Minari” because it probably will still connect with you in some way, but I cannot control your lives and manipulate your way of thinking entirely, that might be cruel. The film has a couple problems. And I will sort of attribute it to the same things I said about “Soul” when I reviewed that film. The film checks a lot of boxes, humor, heart, good characters, but there are certain films that take many of these elements, which are “good” and takes them up a level. But that is just me. “Minari” is nevertheless worth a watch, maybe two, and I am going to give it an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This Sunday I am proud to announce the Jackoffs is about to get in gear. For the past number of months, I have been working on comedy bits, an intro, previews, a poster, and now… A key moment has arrived. It’s nomination time! This Sunday I will be announcing the nominations for the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! What do you hope to see nominated? Leave your comments below! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Minari?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever lived in Arkansas? As a Bay Stater, I have literally no idea what is like. Is it fun? Is it boring? Please let me know! I’m genuinely curious! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

My Top 10 Movie Crushes

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Earlier this week was Valentine’s Day, or as single people like me call it, February 14th. And that’s about it. When I watch movies, one of the main reasons why I glue myself to them is for all the well-developed and thought out characters. Sometimes, a movie can immerse me to the point where I feel like I am a part of their world. Sometimes the movie takes me from reality to fantasy, and in that fantasy, I sometimes see myself as a part of another character’s life. Maybe even to the point where I would want to hold hands with them. Perhaps even take things further. That is why I am taking this Valentine’s Day week to discuss my top 10 movie crushes. Now you may notice, unlike other top 10s, such as “Top 10 BEST Movies of 2020,” I am calling this “My Top 10 Movie Crushes.” There is a reason for that. Unlike my other countdowns, this is one where it is not only subjective, but perhaps one that could only be contained within my identity. I am a 21 year old straight white male, so do not interpret this as characters you should have a crush on as well. Even if you are a 21 year old straight white male, I am not saying you should agree with this. Your emotions and identity are your own and I am in no way trying to brainwash anyone.

Now let me just make one thing clear. These picks are on CHARACTERS specifically, not the ACTORS that play them, although as you’ll see, that may be a contributing factor. So instead of saying for example, #10 is Megan Fox, I would go with a character they play such as Mikayla from “Transformers.” Plus I should note that some of the actors who portray these characters are more distant from me in terms of age today, whereas a good portion of the characters are relatively close in one degree or another, so I hope this may end up making this list less awkward for some readers. Also, another rule, I need to have seen a movie the character is in from start to finish in order for their presence on this list to count. So, that eliminates a lot of “Bond” characters, Linda Barrett from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and Madison from “Splash.” Also, even though I am a guy, I am not here to confuse anyone. This is not a list of the “Top 10 Sexiest Movie Characters.” We are not diving into that stereotype, although as you’ll see, looks will play a factor. With that being said, let’s get this list going! These are my top 10 movie crushes!

#10: Lorraine Baines/McFly (Back to the Future)

There has been a period over the past year that reminded me of how batcrap insane “Back to the Future” really is. It is a film where the protagonist goes back in time in a car, has to get his parents to fall in love, so they can f*ck, therefore having him and his siblings. The problem is, the protagonist’s mother lusts after him after he is hit by what just so happens to be his grandparent’s car. Holy freaking crap. I’ll admit, since my early teens, I’ve always had some attachment to Lorraine in “Back to the Future.” She’s attractive, somewhat nervous but also someone who knows what she wants, and from a fashion standpoint. Every outfit she wears suits her well. If I saw her in a room, I would immediately introduce myself as Calvin Klein. Now keep in mind, this list comes from someone who is 21 years old, therefore I should emphasize that when it comes to the “Back to the Future” timeline, I am mainly talking about 1955 Loraine. Although apocalyptic 1985 Lorraine is kind of sexy too, even though part of the reason for that is because Biff Tannen is practically going all Jabba the Hutt on her and giving her the most self-angering outfit in the world. But if I had to pick one to have by my side, it would be 1955 Elaine. I would take her to a dance if I had the opportunity. Plus unlike apocalyptic 1985 Lorraine, who again, is hella attractive, is perhaps somewhat brainwashed into a rich man’s lifestyle. Although part of me would want to help her escape it (because part of her maybe wants out from time to time).

#9: Tauriel (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

I love “The Lord of the Rings.” Want proof?

I just bought this bad boy in January. Well worth the $150.

But I was one of those people who happened to stumble upon “The Hobbit” prior to watching “Lord of the Rings.” To be fair, I was in my early teens, the films were PG-13, so I missed out on the hype train back in the day. However, when the “Hobbit” trilogy came out, I saw them all in IMAX 3D. I did it for the first film. I did it twice for the second film. And I also did it twice for the third film. I was hooked to the fantastical wonderland of Middle Earth at the time. So of course, since I repeatedly watched the trilogy, I easily got attached to Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly. If I had to pick one person to fight alongside on this list, there are a few that I would go with, but I assure you that Tauriel would be one of the top contenders. I will say, despite vastly enjoying “The Hobbit” as a trilogy, one of its problems through all three movies is that the dwarves are nearly disposable. Yes, they have their personalities and stories behind them, but it is almost difficult to keep track of all of them and remember them. So that’s why I’d say Kili is one of more attachable individuals in the group, due to his love connection to Tauriel. I buy their chemistry, even if it is somewhat comparable to say “Romeo & Juliet” at times. But it is not to say that she cannot be great on her own. She can rock a bow and arrow, her combat is sleek as much as it kicks butt, and technically speaking, based on one scene from “The Desolation of Smaug,” she’s arguably qualified enough to be a medical professional! Oh, did I mention that Elvish is such a fun language? Even though I don’t exactly know a word of it, I stand by that statement. Yeah, I think many “Lord of the Rings” fans would agree that for the most part, if you want a partner by your side, try to convince one of the elves to have lunch with you and see where it goes.

#8: Vanessa (Deadpool)

Morena Baccarin has been a frequent player in geek culture. She was in “Firefly,” “Serenity,” CW’s “The Flash,” Fox’s “Gotham.” But the role I’ll probably remember her for the most is Vanessa in “Deadpool.” The film is one of the rare attempts in the comic book movie genre to take things into R-rated territory, and it goes for it. Excessive language, graphic violence, and as for Vanessa and the film’s lead, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), the two are quite a couple. The two are cute, charming, and of course, horny. One scene of the film that stood out to me every time I watched it is the sex montage. For starters, it was the first R-rated hardcore sex scene I saw in a theater, not to mention an eight story IMAX. While the whole movie is not a sexual extravaganza, you know, all it is just a little violent, just a little heavy on language, just a little rambunctious on action, that scene defined the romantic tone that partially intertwined with the rest of what the movie had to offer. Vanessa is not just a stud that lusts after one of the sexy Ryans from Canada, she is charismatic, knows how to have fun (I’d take her to an arcade, personally), and when she was in pain, I felt for her. I wanted her to live. And even when she is in distress, she is notably capable of defending herself. Also, while this may be more of a compliment to Baccarin than anybody else, I love Vanessa’s hair. Even since I was young, I think I’ve had a thing for brunettes. Vanessa, or Morena Baccarin depending on how slice it, is just part of why.

#7: Lisa (Weird Science)

When I think of a mind in film that defined the 1980s, that would have to be John Hughes. The man wrote and directed several movies that continue to come up in conversations today. Movies like “The Breakfast Club,” “Home Alone,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” When it comes to those last two, I cherish them to a high degree because of how much I can attach their personal concept to my life. I like privacy, even as a kid I enjoyed it. As for school, while education may be essential in some cases, I did not go because I wanted to, I went because that is how society works. But one film Hughes did that I thoroughly enjoyed was “Weird Science.” If you want a wacky 1980s comedy where life is whimsical and crazy, this has that vibe. And of course, there was Lisa. This pick is just the first in a recurring theme on this list. Women that do not have the same life experiences as a regular person. Look, I could start this description off with the obvious. Lisa wears slick outfits that can turn a guy on. But that’s only a sliver of why she is on the list. Yes, when she is introduced, she comes out wearing almost nothing, which as a result, gets our two main characters, Gary and Wyatt, rather excited. Then we move onto the next scene where they shower with her. I think every teenager to a degree has imagined something crazy like that at some point in their young lives. But all of what I just said revolves around looks, which if that were the case, Lisa would be either lower on the list, or off it entirely. So let’s talk about her personality. Well, this is almost everything a young boy would want in a girl. She is fun, not afraid to take risks, explorative, honest, although maybe a little too honest. Because there is a hilarious scene where Lisa lets herself loose and explains to Gary’s parents that he plans to party with a bunch of teenagers. She even goes into explicit detail about it!

You know, there’s going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll… chips, dips, chains, whips… You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I’m not talking candlewax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no. Just a couple of hundred kids running around in their underwear, acting like complete animals.

-Lisa

In this scene, Gary does everything he can to defend himself, say that he is not doing anything crazy, including trying to tell his parents that he does not masturbate in the bathroom, despite Lisa outright confirming it to their faces! The scene overall is just wild. I was not always like Gary. I was never the party type of person in high school, although I am proud to say I won “Best Dancer” in the yearbook. I was never invited, nor did I ever go. It was just never my thing. I felt like it would have people perceive me to be a type of person that I am not. Even though I just turned 21, I do not drink. I do not smoke. I do not do any drugs. But at the same time, this movie sort of makes me want to have someone in my life that could allow me to have some fun, let myself screw around, boost my popularity. I imagine this is sort of similar to the philosophy about “girls liking bad boys.” While I wouldn’t call Lisa dangerous, she is edgy. She has all the qualities of an admirable person if you ask me, but at the same time, she sort of pushes the envelope. Did I mention she’s attractive? Yeah, that too.

#6: Ava (Ex Machina)

“Ex Machina” is a fascinating film. Much like “2001: A Space Odyssey” was back when it came out, “Ex Machina” is an intriguing glance as to what could happen if we rely on computers and use them for purposes that practically make them our slaves. Except in this case, the movie specifies more as to what happens if we deeply humanized a computer to the point where it is almost a part of our kind. It has our emotions, our thoughts, our way of processing what is in front of us. In fact, we kind of achieved that in real life. In Saudi Arabia, they have a robot that has been given citizenship. While I am not at the point where I have yearned for a robot in real life, I can confirm that part of me would not mind getting to know Ava from “Ex Machina” on an intimate level. Now, while not all robots are capable of love, part of Ava’s many human-like traits is that she has an understanding of romance, the connection between one lover to another. She even ends up having feelings for the film’s lead, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson). I can see myself falling for her in the same situation. We do a bunch of tests together, get to know each other, interact, it’s almost like a date to some capacity. Plus, as I am doing each test, I particularly happen to view Ava more as a subject than a friend, so if I keep coming back to her, it is sort of in the same way I keep coming back to a passion project. Part of the beauty of a romantic relationship is getting to explore life with someone else, getting to explore the world with someone else. In the case with Ava, I would not just be exploring my life with her if we were together, Ava would arguably be exploring the concept of life in general. After all, in this film’s timeline, she was recently built. She has never even been outdoors. While relationships are 50/50, I would not mind having a major dash of credibility by taking Ava outside for the first time. I know I am a guy, which kind of suggests that looks play a major factor into a relationship, but do I care that she goes through the film with nearly no skin? Heck no! In fact, the Academy seems to agree with me, because the film won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects! Ava sounds like someone I would take out to dinner, then explore the city with for hours. Then I would teach her everything joyous about humanity, although maybe I should watch myself before she forms an army with a plot for world domination. I guess that’s a good reason to keep her lower on the list.

#5: Art3mis/Samantha (Ready Player One)

Not everyone agrees with me, but I think “Ready Player One” is one of the best films of the past few years. It is a visual effects-heavy thrill ride through a virtual reality world in 2045. If I lived in 2045, I would totally flock after Samantha, otherwise known by her username, Art3mis (pronounced similar to Artemis). Early on in the film, we see Wade Watts, also known as Parzival, racing for a key to aid his quest to own the OASIS, the virtual reality world where everything seems to matter. So much so that real life is meaningless. After all, there is nowhere to go. Nevertheless, during the race, he gazes upon a woman riding on a bike from “Akira.” Turns out, through his personal observations, this girl is not just anyone, it is Art3mis. He knows everything about her, not exactly in a stalkerish way, but it comes pretty close. Their first encounter in the film is near the end of the race where Parzival forces Art3mis to bail out to avoid getting slaughtered by King Kong. The two eventually get to know each other, even discussing what they know about the founder of the OASIS, James Halliday. The reason why I love Art3mis as a character so much is because of what she represents in the realm of the Internet. I mean this is not only from a crush perspective, but from a perspective where two people can simply be friends. It is that you may not always know who other people actually are. They could end up being your best friend, but in reality, unless you somehow have met them in person or maybe over Skype or something, there is a chance that the person you’re talking to is of a completely different identity, or not even a person at all. Art3mis represents that Internet fantasy that somewhat feels legit, but also feels faraway because you either live nowhere near the person or you barely know them in real life. As for the character herself, I like my nerds, she knows her references, so personality-wise, Samantha checks the boxes. Plus, I really like the design of her avatar in the OASIS. The movie does a really good job at making me fall for someone that does not feel like anyone else I’d meet. It would be someone I would dream about that maybe is not even human. It takes me to another world. Plus, the dress she wears in the Distracted Globe scene is utter fire. Art3mis is the quintessential encapsulation of your basic Internet friend. You may not KNOW them, even when you feel like you know everything about them. Or in some ways, you just want to get to know more and more about them by the second.

#4: Joi (Blade Runner 2049)

This is one of the more unique entries to the list, because this character is technically not a woman. Nor is it a human. It is a hologram. I give you Joi, the love interest to Ryan Gosling’s K in “Blade Runner 2049.” After I watched “Blade Runner 2049” a couple times, part of me began to fall for the actress playing Joi, Ana de Armas, and part of it is not only because she looks attractive, but because she encapsulates a person that knows very little about the world around her. I am not saying she is stupid, but keep in mind, again, she is a hologram. She is programmed. She is manufactured. The movie makes it clear that Joi is in fact a product and K is only a consumer of said product. In some ways, Joi is like Fox News. She rarely does something because she sees it as beneficial to her. The way I look at Joi as a character, she is there to serve her partner, perhaps her master. Tell them what they want to hear. She is not just someone in their life, they are a cheerleader, a motivational speaker. At the same time, it feels like this character wants to go through a journey of self-discovery. There is a scene where she is seemingly amused by rain, while also enjoying the moment with her partner. Also in some cases, she’s practically the 2049 version of Seri.

(referring to Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind”) “Did you know this song was released in 1966 on Reprise Records? It was number 1 on the charts…”

-Joi

Ana de Armas provides such an intimate, sensual, emotional, and all round cute performance that when she would fizzle, my jaw would drop a little. I have a couple concerns about her character, one long term concern being if I were in the “Blade Runner” universe, and if this product were successful, it would perhaps nearly antiquate the traditional human to human relationship, thus making the species die out overtime. Eh, we’re overpopulated now anyway. If there’s a balance between real and artificial, who knows? It might help. Although technically, the movie does show that one can make love with Joi while she syncs into someone else’s body, so reproduction may still be possible, as long as a third party is involved. My one question is this, are there male versions of Joi? Because thus far, Joi has mainly been marketed as an attractive, supportive woman, most likely for straight men. Can Joi transform into another gender? I kind of want to know more about this if we get another “Blade Runner” film in the future.

#3; Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Iron Man 2, Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Look, I’m a guy. And a lot of my picks partially base themselves around attractiveness. If you thought Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow would be an exception, then clearly you have never met the Movie Reviewing Moron. If there is one girl I would hang out with in a bar in the MCU, the answer would be Natasha Romanoff. I will admit, despite what I said about Vanessa and my potential thing for brunettes. Over the years, I think I have learned that I may also like redheads. Although I should note that even in “Avengers: Infinity War,” where she is blonde, Romanoff is a ticket. But my crush on Romanoff started pretty early when I saw her in “Iron Man 2.” I will admit, I watched 2012’s “The Avengers” before watching “Iron Man 2,” but my first actual attraction to her began in “Iron Man 2,” even though she probably looks her best in “The Avengers.” The fast-paced action scene in the white hallway towards the end of “Iron Man 2” is enough of a showstopper. Romanoff is incredibly kick-ass, sexy, and every outfit she wears suits her. Did I mention Scarlett Johansson’s voice? It is commanding and it makes you want to watch her do anything. Like… type a document. Or write in a diary. Or read a book out loud. If I were perhaps 13 and making this list, there is a solid chance that Romanoff could potentially be #1, because at that age, I am more about looks, whereas personality is just some added bonus points. I say this because even today, I cannot directly pinpoint much of her interests. She kicks people in the face and makes it look sexy. What else can I say? Plus her backstory is not really explored all that much until “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” meaning that it took 5 years and a phase in the cinematic universe to start exploring more about her character. And yeah, I know what she does for work. She’s with the Avengers, she’s a spy, but I also want to know more about what she does for fun. I mean, the MCU has 23 movies so far, with a 24th HOPEFULLY arriving in theaters this May, and that movie is a Black Widow-centered prequel. I got to know Black Widow over the years as an ass-kicking Avenger who looks like she’s way out of my league, can rock a bunch of different outfits, not to mention hairstyles. I want to know more about HER. Hopefully the upcoming “Black Widow” film can shine a light on the subject.

#2: Lana (Risky Business)

There are two movies starring Tom Cruise that I often debate as my favorites of all time, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” and “Risky Business.” While I will say Vanessa Kirby is quite good looking as The White Widow in the former, today we are going to be talking about the latter. We are going to be talking about Rebecca De Mornay’s character, Lana, from “Risky Business.” This film is one that gets better with every viewing, and as one who looks back at his high school years with mixed feelings, I sort of relate to this film. For those of you who have not seen the film, Joel Goodson, a teenager in his senior year of high school, is convinced that while his parents are away, he needs an excuse to let himself loose and have some fun. This gets to the point where he calls up Lana, a prostitute, who has sex with him all night. The next morning, after Joel fails to provide $300 for the services, she leaves before he can return to his house. Also missing, a Stueben glass egg. From the moment Joel tries to retrieve it, the moment he finds Lana and the two escape from Guido the Killer Pimp, they prove that they are a 5/5 in terms of chemistry. But also what makes Lana a fine entry to the list is De Mornay’s sensual performance. She always has this futuristic, other-worldly quality to her. She does a really good job at capturing the “girl out of my league” vibe that maybe Lana was supposed to represent. After all, when she is introduced, she is not just a girl, she is the listener to Joel’s demands. That is until he has to pay $300 and the two become friends and work together to overcome each other’s obstacles.

Oh yeah, and they make love on a subway. No big deal.

Will say though, the only turnoff I have about her is that even though she does feel somewhat sensually rebellious in various ways, is that she will occasionally smoke. If I were in the scene on the lake where all the characters get high, there’s a good chance I’d repeatedly tell everyone that I don’t smoke. It’s the same reason why I put Lorraine Baines lower on the list, because she does smoke in the scene where Marty is in the car with her. I don’t want to judge people for smoking, that is their choice after all, but for all I know, Lana could be a bad influence and get me to join in, and I do not want that. This is why I never had a chance with girls. I do not drink. I do not smoke. I do not party. Okay, enough with the self-deprecation, let’s move on.

#1: Wonder Woman/Diana Prince *Gal Gadot interpretation* (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Detective Comics Extended Universe)

Here’s a question. Who won the fight in “Batman v. Superman?”

The answer, Wonder Woman!

Yeah, Wonder Woman is probably my favorite of the heroes in the current Detective Comics Extended Universe. She has a fleshed out backstory that is magical as it is intriguing, she can wield a sword like a boss, and her battle cry is just glorious. Let me just put it this way, there has rarely ever been a moment that a character in any movie has commanded my attention like she has just from thrusting into battle with an epic yell. Sticking with a recurring theme on this list, one reason why Wonder Woman is on here is likely because of her other-worldliness. She starts off in the mythical island of Themiscyra, comes to Earth with Steve Trevor, where she is the fish out of water, and she learns the ways of mankind overtime. She encounters some friends and foes along the way, making her into the wonderous being she is today. I did not have many thoughts on Gal Gadot originally being cast as the iconic heroine, but the moment I witnessed her on screen when I saw “Batman v. Superman” in IMAX, I was in love. First off, can we just admit that by herself, Gal Gadot may be one of the most gorgeous actresses working today? I’ll admit, in some of her earlier roles, including her first go as Wonder Woman in 2016, I was a little worried because her line delivery was occasionally flat, but her physical presence that I think many performers would vie for sort of makes up for it in parts. Sometimes I glance at her and she looks like someone who watched us from space for years, but somehow she decided to join us in the end. However, Gadot has definitely improved as a performer over the years, and she has nailed the role of Diana Prince harder with each attempt. Even in “Wonder Woman 1984,” which I will admit, was not my favorite of the DCEU movies to have come out. Going back to the character herself, the reason why I admire her as a heroine is despite her superpowers, despite being the pinnacle of all things mighty for women, she is not afraid to show her emotions. She is a god, but she is also quite personable. Kind of like how Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has been portrayed in recent years. But this all harkens back to the point that when it comes to a character like this, one that has the qualities of a human, one that has the qualities of an earthling, but also one who I can teach in a way or another, that is why Diana Prince is the wonder of it all. Plus, unlike Ava from “Ex Machina,” I would personally like to know more about Prince’s world. I would love to see Themiscyra, what the people there do for fun, maybe stay there for awhile. I cannot just one-side the entire relationship to just my planet. I have to show interest in where Diana Prince came from, how she grew up, what she appreciated about life before earth. And having seen all of her story in the DCEU so far, I do care. I think Diana Prince and I would get along fine, maybe more so than Chris Pine. To quote Vitruvius from “The LEGO Movie,” “All this is true because it rhymes.”

For those who want to know my opinion, I think Marvel makes better movies than DC right now. DC seemed like they were getting on the right track with “Aquaman” and “Shazam,” but then “Birds of Prey” and “Wonder Woman 1984” came along. but let me tell you the truth, if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with a character from one of those universes, I’d pick Diana Prince before anyone in the MCU. Let’s look at it this way. Part of the reason why Black Widow is on this list, not to mention part of why she is so high on it, is because of my attachment to her since my early teens that has not really gone away. And as I mentioned, I really do not know her as a person, although it is something to maybe get to know eventually depending on where things go. If I had to make this analogy any simpler, Natasha Romanoff may be fun to hang out with in a bar, maybe for a one night stand. Diana Prince has looks, she has personality, she seems to take life one day at a time, and she sounds like an optimist. And I’d say that Natasha Romanoff shares those qualities as well, but if I had to choose one person, I’d choose Diana because I’d probably end up liking her more for, well… her, than maybe I would for Natasha.

The only thing that I could think of that would keep me away from Diana is if I develop a habit of lying. Either to her or other people, because her lasso would probably bash my brains in. Other than that, I love her.

Thanks for reading this countdown! I hope you enjoyed this, well, pretty late to be a Valentine’s Day special, but you gotta do what ya gotta do. The best posts take time, not a Sonic the Hedgehog style rush! Speaking of posts that take time, I want to let you all know that on February 28th, I will be announcing the nominees for the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! The ceremony will take place two weeks after, on March 14th. I am also currently working on reviews for “Minari” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.” I will hopefully have both of those up soon. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, are there any characters in film that you desire? Remember, the key word is characters, not actors, this may provide a slight difference at the very least. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Nomadland (2020): Chloe Zhao May Be the Next Big Director to Watch

“Nomadland” is directed by Chloe Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brothers Taught Me) and stars Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), David Strathairn, Linda May, and Charlene Swankie in a film where a woman journeys through the American west and lives her life as a van-dwelling nomad after losing everything during the Great Recession. It is also based on the book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” written by Jessica Bruder.

“Nomadland” is a film that I have been looking forward to for a long time. My first memory of the film, or more specifically its title, is during the 2020 Venice Film Festival, one of the few things that actually happened that year when it comes to movies, because the film won multiple awards there, including the Golden Lion, which is basically that festival’s equivalent to Best Picture. But that’s not all the praise the film got. The film won the honors of Best Picture through the National Society of Film Critics, the Gotham Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics Association, and it seems “Nomadland” is only going to continue its hot streak. “Nomadland” was recently nominated for 4 Golden Globes, including Best Picture- Drama. And Frances McDormand was even nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Actress.

Statistically speaking, “Nomadland” is impressive, and I think that is part of why it is getting an exclusive IMAX run. Having seen the film myself, “Nomadland” is not the traditional style of film that one would expect to get an IMAX run. The film was made for somewhere around $4 to $6 million, way less than the traditional blockbuster that would usually meet the criteria. I feel like if it were not for the endless critical acclaim before the film came out, it would not have gotten this release in the first place. In fact, as of writing this review, that is all where it is playing. “Nomadland” is out everywhere on February 19th, plus Hulu, but as of right now, you can only see it in certain IMAX theaters. So as a fan of the brand and as one who wanted to see “Nomadland” as soon as possible, I took advantage of the opportunity.

Having walked out of the theater, I must address the hype surrounding the film. If I had to make a guess, I think most people would say that “Nomadland” has the highest chance of winning Best Picture at the Oscars this year as of now. Granted, this is coming from someone who was not the biggest fan of “Mank,” so I may be biased.

Oh my lord, “Mank” could have been ten times better.

“Nomadland” is a good movie, but to call it the masterpiece of our time is a bit excessive, at least to me. What do I like about it? When it comes to recent film, I think “Nomadland” stands out as one of the best displays of one’s slice of life. I was around in the late 2000s, when the Great Recession started, but I was still a kid. I barely had a concept of money so I did not have a full understanding of everything that was going on at the time. Nevertheless, “Nomadland” presents Fern as one of 2020’s most relatable characters, even though I never knew anybody precisely like her. Yes, I know people who have vans, I know people go around the country in vans. But to my knowledge, I never knew anyone who spent a great portion of their time living in a van. This film presents a character with unique traits, but they utilize her uniqueness to harken towards concepts that relate to a lot of people. Fern is a likable woman. She is a hustler, she is patient, she is kind, but she is not afraid to go after what she wants.

One of the best things I can suggest about an actor is when they give a performance that makes me say “I cannot imagine anybody else playing that character.” In the case of “Nomadland,” that statement is true when it comes to Frances McDormand, who already has two Oscars under her belt, and it is difficult to determine whether “Nomadland” will earn her a third, but her performance is certainly a contender. Not only does McDormand have an ideal look for her specific character, but her mannerisms are perfect at times. Her performance feels raw, kind of like the rest of the movie. The way this movie is done kind of feels like a vlog if it were completed in a cinematic style and if it was highly enhanced in the editing process.

Not only does Frances McDormand nail the look of her character, but Chloe Zhao and her crew also nail the look of “Nomadland” itself. “Nomadland” shines with some of the best framing of the year, and a filmmaking style that feels cinematic, although nearly documentary-like. I mentioned just a moment ago that this feels like a vlog. And I mean that, because even though vlogs are completely different from movies, they do a really good job at showing a slice of one’s life. “Nomadland” is not my favorite film of the year, but when it comes to 2020’s slices of life, it stands out. And I would also say that they managed to release this film at the right time because we are in the middle of a pandemic where the future is uncertain, not only in terms of our social lives, but the economy as a whole.

If I had to point out the best part of “Nomadland,” it would have to be the locations. Whoever decided on the locations that went into the final cut has my eternal respect, as they are an integral part as to what makes the framing extremely likable. And as much as I would hate to make a COVID-19 comparison, I have to. The way I would describe “Nomadland” is this… Imagine that I test positive for COVID-19. I lose my sense of taste. But I can still walk, I can still breathe. I don’t have any problems internally. I just need to isolate for 14 days or until whenever it goes away. “Nomadland” is a somewhat unfortunate, nearly depressing film at times, but it also trails along in good spirits. There is nothing in this film that is excruciatingly painful to watch. Nothing tear-jerking, nothing over the top emotionally charging, almost nothing that comes off as an eyesore. There are one or two moments that help the movie earn its R rating, but other than that, nothing really disturbing. “Nomadland” is a film that I feel is core viewing during the current awards season for many reasons, and you should definitely check it out when it gets a wider release.

In the end, “Nomadland” is a film that takes you places. Aside from taking you to an Amazon Distribution Center, a desert, the inside of a van, etc., it takes you to a world full of likable, quirky characters. The film has some memorable dialogue, including one line towards the end of the film that will stick with me when it comes to the 2020 cinematic slate. Frances McDormand gives a solid performance as the main character of Fern, and I think she could be a contender at the Oscars. As for the director, Chloe Zhao, I cannot wait to see what she does with “Eternals,” and this movie gives me hope that she can crank out a killer blockbuster. I am going to give “Nomadland” a high 7/10.

“Nomadland” is playing in select IMAX theatres wherever they are open. If you are interested in watching the film somewhere else, it is getting a wider release on February 19th, where it opens up in more theaters with a simultaneous debut on Hulu.

Thanks for reading this review! Last night, I just saw “Minari” starring Steven Yeun, so I will be sure to have a review up for that as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Nomadland?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think is the biggest awards season contender this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Herself (2020): A Woman Builds a Home, Clare Dunne Builds Her Career

“Herself” is directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, The Iron Lady) and stars Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Cherishing), who also happens to have a story and writing credit for the film. Also in the cast we have Harriet Walter (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rocketman) and Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones, Suits) in a film about a woman named Sandra who wants to escape an abusive relationship with her husband. In a revolt against a broken system, Sandra vies to build a house so she can ensure safety for herself while raising two daughters.

“Herself” is a film that I’ve heard about for over a month, but when it comes to movies on Prime, the one that has been getting all the buzz lately is “One Night in Miami,” which I tried. I really wanted to like it, but it did not sit well with me, and I say that as someone who saw it twice. It had some good performances though between Leslie Odom Jr. and Kingsley Ben-Adir, it just was not my favorite film that I have seen in recent memory. Although when it comes to “Herself,” that has been getting a lot less attention. Less people have seen it, and I say this as someone who lives in the U.S., there is a chance that a film like “Herself” is automatically going to get less attention as it is primarily produced by British and Irish companies, and the film itself takes place in an Irish background. I say this despite knowing that the director did “Mamma Mia!,” which is popular among a number of crowds, and the fact that she even directed Meryl Streep to win one of her Academy Awards. The film did however premiere at Sundance, and soon thereafter Amazon bought the rights to it. This is where we are today. The film is available for free on Prime, so I thought I would give it a go.

What did I think? Let me just start off by saying that if one studio has been consistently solid for me throughout the year, it would have to be Amazon. Granted, their business model for releasing films has increased in prominence given the current pandemic, but for the most part, they’ve been cranking out good movie after good movie.

Well, except “My Spy.” Can’t believe it took five months after a press screening and a studio exchange for me to talk about that crap!

But let’s consider what Amazon has done this year. “The Vast of Night,” “Radioactive,” “Sound of Metal,” “I’m Your Woman.” All these films are worth watching. I’d say that “Herself” stands amongst these solid movies, although if I had to pick one to go back and watch again, I’d pick “Sound of Metal” before this one. “Herself” is a wonderful, charming, occasionally gritty, and somewhat motivating film. Before I saw this movie, I did not know much about it, therefore I had no idea that one of the writers of the film happens to be the star. I think that is why I’ll say Clare Dunne gives one of my favorite performances I have seen in recent memory.

When it comes to the brilliant performance from Clare Dunne, you can tell there is a bit of a personal touch to it. In fact, there actually is, because Dunne points out in an interview that when she was auditioning in New York during pilot season, a friend reached out to her saying she lost her home in Dublin. At that point, Dunne looked up Dominic Stevens, who self-built a home in Ireland for €25,000. At that point, Dunne thought she should make a movie about a single mother who goes through a similar situation. I think Dunne hit the mark hard on this film. I think her performance partially benefits from her having a writing credit, meaning that she probably had more time to envision her character and how it should be, and I would say that maybe aside from Ben Affleck’s performance as Jack Cunningham in “The Way Back,” Clare Dunne’s performance as Sandra may be the most personal portrayal of 2020. She has moments of happiness, delight, anger, despair, sadness, her role is diversified of emotions and Dunne gives herself plenty of things to do. Given how the Golden Globes were announced and Dunne did not appear on the list, I doubt Dunne is going to get the awards potential she deserves, but I think I will look back on this performance for a long time.

While the screenplay of the film may not end up being my #1 of the year, I cannot deny that it is fantastic at times. The film starts off and gets straight to the point. It does not waste much time, it introduces our characters, and goes licketdy split into our main conflict. Part of me was already on the edge of my seat and ready to see where this journey would go next. I knew who to root for, who to bash on, all of it. Everything was quickly set up in just a matter of one to two minutes. When it comes to set up, “Herself” is perfect.

I will say though, the film did nearly lose me at times. Granted, it is an intimate project with a smaller budget, but there are select moments where I nearly doze off. There are also moments where I got my head back in the game, but it does not make me forget the times where I almost snoozed. Pacing could have occasionally been better, but the film is still a good time.

Actually, you know what? It’s not a good time. It’s a great time. I say that because the film ends with a subversion of my expectations. I will not go into much detail, but it is a contender for the best ending of 2020. Not only because it comes out of nowhere and changes the entire pace of the movie, but because it balances a bunch of emotions at once. In a short description, it is kind of bittersweet. I will not say anything else because I want to leave all my readers as blind as possible, because that is practically how I went into “Herself.” Watch it, you might not regret it.

In the end, “Herself” is a charming story that highlights abuse, how one wants to get past it, and ways in which one can build a better life. Clare Dunne is a performer that I now have my eyes on. I think in the future, we will be hearing her name a lot more. I think she has the potential to build her career similar to the way her character attempted to build a house. Would I watch this film again? Not right away, but give it some time, and I may come back. Phyllida Lloyd crafted a fine film, and I am happy to have seen it. I am going to give “Herself” a 7/10.

“Herself” is available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! Today I just saw “Nomadland,” which is going to be out on Hulu February 19th, and it will simultaneously debut in theaters wherever they are open. Although for the next week or two, you can catch the film in select IMAX theatres. I saw it in IMAX today and cannot wait to talk about it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the Facebook page to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Herself?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever built a house? Tell me what that was like. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Little Things (2021): Jared Leto Steals the Show and Warner Bros. Almost Steals My Money

“The Little Things” is directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Rookie) and stars Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Night at the Museum), Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049, Suicide Squad), and Natalie Morales (The Grinder, Dead to Me). This film is about two cops who try to track down a serial killer.

“The Little Things” is the latest film from Warner Bros., the studio that was supposedly set to save theatrical exhibition this summer with “Tenet,” only to have it underperform in various markets and have them simultaneously release a ton of movies, including this one on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. What do I think about that? Well, if things went right, which I will tell you as one who often backs filmmakers, things did not go right, I think this is not only a blow to the movie theater industry, which has already suffered enough over the past year, but also shows that an entire studio can kind of get away with avoiding contractual obligations (like the fact that “Dune” was supposed to be a theatrical exclusive) and go behind clients’ backs. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins get a ton of money for this deal? What about all those other people responsible? I am not going to deny that there are perks in case you live in a state where theaters are closed, in which case, I am happy you can have the opportunity to watch these movies, but this is one giant double edged sword as an avid supporter of theatrical exhibition.

To avoid making a tangent longer than it needs to be, I will say off the bat, having seen “The Little Things,” this does feel like a film that would have gotten away with being a streaming premiere. Whether it ends up in some theaters or not, it kind of has that “watch at home” feel. This is not an enormous mockery on the film by any means. It’s sort of a mockery, but it is not to say it is entirely terrible, but there are times where it kind of has a television feel. In fact, one of the film’s actors, Jared Leto, happens to agree.

“They think they can just make so much more money with the bigger event movies. They found that for television, if they can do something that’s episodic, then people still enjoy those kinds of stories. I’m not saying they should stop making movies like ‘The Little Things,’ but I do think if you talk about like ‘The Undoing,’ people like to spend more time with those characters. And there’s less stigma going back and forth from television to film.”

While I cannot say I have seen “The Undoing,” Leto seems to have a point.

Although if you want me to be real, “The Little Things” is not that great. Let me start off with the positives however. “The Little Things” is a well-directed and well-cast film. The feel is borderline expansive yet intimate, and it flows all the way through. In fact, all the lead cast members portray their roles with proficiency. However, this film has problems and they too need to be addressed.

People say that art is subjective, therefore film is subjective. Those people are not wrong. My subjective opinion, “The Little Things” is a little boring. I was able to keep my chin up all the way through, but for all I know it may just be my luck. “The Little Things” is one of those films that starts off slow and stays that way for the entire movie. I feel as if I am starting to say this more often than I should but it bears repeating. Slow does not equal bad. Slow is great if it is executed well. Anything can be great if it is executed well. Whoever thought “The LEGO Movie” would work? Not everyone, that is for sure. Guess what? It is my favorite animated film of the 2010s. Anything can work if you know how to deliver on the concept. Sadly for “The Little Things,” the almost snooze-worthy first half allows the movie to fizzle. It does pick up however, and the second half is worth the price of admission. Without going into detail, my favorite parts of the movie is when situations get heavy and we see characters interact with each other in scenarios that could become more tense by the second. The film also kind of gets twisty, and I dig it.

I will state once again, one thing that truly sells “The Little Things” are the performances. Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto are all likable in this film. Denzel Washington has this sort of mellow feel to him. Rami Malek plays a suave-looking detective and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. Malek’s performance here allows him to continue to define himself as an admirable actor. He already has an Academy Award on his shelf for his role in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and while I do not think he will get as much recognition for this performance, Malek’s portrayal tends to reveal that he will continue to commit to his craft.

As much as I like Washington and Malek, who are both talented and reveal themselves as competent in their own rights, the star of the show is Jared Leto. Jared Leto has honestly been a controversial name for me over the past few years, and not necessarily because I hate him, but because his roles have gone from somewhat underwhelming to unbelievably great. He basically went from playing the worst live-action Joker in “Suicide Squad” to encapsulating something beautiful with Niander Wallace in “Blade Runner 2049.” Keeping the latter in mind, I liked Jared Leto in “Blade Runner 2049.” In “The Little Things,” he is another animal. Because this movie presents itself as an opportunity where he can just let himself loose. And it is not like a live-action cartoon or another Jim Carrey or anything, although I do think Carrey would have done the role properly if it were in his hands, it’s just a crazy guy who occasionally says some kooky lines and has these oddball mannerisms. Some of the stuff he says just flies off the tongue and it intrigues me every time. If you plan to watch “The Little Things” this weekend, I will say that if you watch for Rami Malek or Denzel Washington, you might not be disappointed with either of those two, but I think you may want to *stay* for Jared Leto. After seeing his performance here, I am now more curious about “Morbius.” I did not think I would say that. Well done, movie!

In the end, “The Little Things” is solid in some parts, but noticeably dull. There are probably more positives than negatives, and I would not refrain from watching it a second time, but if I had to predict which movie I would be talking about in the most positive light by the end of the year, it would not be this one. There are still reasons to watch it, and it is from a likable director, specifically John Lee Hancock. Have you seen “Saving Mr. Banks?” Watch it! Now! Although it does have a plethora of personal issues to keep me from calling it the next big thing. Just because this is entertaining, does not mean it cannot make you nearly want to fall asleep. I am going to give “The Little Things” a 6/10.

Minor sidenote, the movie also comes with a brand new Warner Bros. logo. We’ve kind of seen teases of it during films like “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” but if I am not wrong, “The Little Things” is the first film where we get to see the new standard edition of the revamped logo, and it does not seem to disappoint.

“The Little Things” is available now in theaters and on HBO Max for all subscribers at no extra cost. Get your tickets or subscribe to HBO Max now to enjoy your experience.

Thanks for reading this review! If you are a movie fan like me, you may follow the awards circuit. And now as the Movie Reviewing Moron, I am here to remind you that the circuit is not complete without me throwing my hat into the ring. This March I will be doing my 3rd edition of the Jackoff Awards, this time focusing on 2020 in film. If you want to watch the trailer promoting it, scroll to the end of this post. Speaking of 2020 in film, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, “Nomadland,” is FINALLY coming to theaters. It was supposed to be in theaters this December, only to get pushed back due to COVID-19, and while it is not going to be fully released until its simultaneous theatrical and Hulu debut on February 19th, “Nomadland” is now playing in select IMAX theaters. And next weekend, one of my local spots is going to be getting this movie. I already got my tickets, and I cannot be more excited. Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account, and check out the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Little Things?” What did you think about it? Or, are you planning to watch the movie in the theater or on HBO Max? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards TRAILER (Tenet Final Trailer Style)

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today we are unveiling the all new trailer for The 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! As of now, the ceremony has an official release date! That by the way, depending on how things go, is March 14th. I said this ceremony would take place this winter and I choose to honor that timeframe. Promises made! Promises kept! I feel like a politician!

For those unfamiliar with the Jackoffs, or for those who need a refresher, the Jackoffs is a ceremony I do every year where I take a good portion of the year’s films and nominate them for the achievements they’ve reached. It’s basically the Scene Before version of the Oscars. We have categories like Best Animated Feature, Best Cinematography, Best Director, all of which are an appetizer for Best Picture, which to avoid predictability, is chosen by popular vote. This year could be tough because movies in general have not done as well in recent months, but I will do my best to decide whether a popular vote is worth keeping or worth discarding.

If you remember, the last trailer I did was basically a teaser just reminding you that the ceremony was happening, where I did a tribute to one of my favorite game shows on the air, NBC’s “The Wall.” However, for this trailer, I am sticking with the theme of 2020 cinema, because I have decided to do this trailer in the style of one of the year’s most talked about films, “Tenet.” Considering this, I am showing a bunch of clips related to the 2020 cinematic calendar with Travis Scott’s “The Plan” playing in the background.

I should remind you, this trailer will likely not reflect all the movies that will be nominated. There is a good chance that all these movies could be recognized, but as for whether they will get a nomination for the ceremony, that remains a mystery. I admittedly still have movies that I need to watch in advance to make a certain part of the ceremony possible. And unlike ceremonies such as the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards, which are bending their rules slightly this year to allow films like “The Little Things” or “Judas and the Black Messiah” to be nominated, I am only going to accept films that had a theatrical premiere or release from January to December 2020. Although films like “Minari” and “Nomadland,” which premiered virtually in 2020 and are going to be theatrically released later on will count should I get around to them.

The 3rd Annual Jackoffs hits Scene Before on March 14th, with nominations being announced on February 28th! Watch the brand new trailer and get ready for a ceremony that will remind you that winning is not cancelled!

One Night in Miami (2020): Four Icons, One Average Story

“One Night in Miami” is directed by Regina King (Ray, If Beale Street Could Talk) and stars Kingsley Ben-Adir (Vera, The OA), Eli Goree (The 100, Race), Aldis Hodge (Brian Banks, City on a Hill), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express, Central Park). This film is also written by Kemp Powers, who wrote the play of the same name. The story revolves around four black men, Muhammed Ali, Malcom X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown as they meet in a hotel room and discuss their places in the Civil Rights Movement.

This film premiered last year in one cinema, appropriately in Miami, Florida. But of course, since I don’t live in Florida, and I don’t plan on setting foot there for some time, I did not see the film when it came out. However, the film has expanded to other territories, including my very own Massachusetts, and put itself on Prime Video for all subscribers. I decided to watch the film at home considering my supposed need to use my Prime subscription at one point or another.

You’re welcome, Jeff Bezos… Gosh I miss Sears.

Either way, going into “One Night in Miami” I did not watch any trailers (that I recall), and I do not think I read any synopsis or description about the film. Other than the facts that the film is on Amazon, directed by Regina King, and set in Miami, I knew nothing about this film. To me, it was almost like “Summerland” before I saw that film. Also, please watch “Summerland.”

With this in mind, I want to bring up something that movie viewers occasionally bring up. The power of marketing. Part of this is due to my lack of knowledge of the film, but going into “One Night in Miami,” based on the title, it almost seemed to be set in modern times, and it sort of had this “Entourage” feel to it. Everything felt kind of sexy.

This is the kind of confusion that comes about from not watching trailers. The film is vastly different from what I expected to be, both in terms of overall vibe and the storyline. I guess you can say part of this is my fault for perhaps being a lazy critic and not doing my homework, but at the same time, there are points where going in blind for a film has enhanced the experience. Perhaps doing so makes it worthwhile, because it gives you a fresh perspective and allows you to watch everything as if (or perhaps in a more literal sense) you were about to watch it for the first time.

With that being said, I wish “One Night in Miami” were a better movie. There have been some good movies over recent years involving the Civil Rights Movement and African American history. Movies like “Selma” and “Hidden Figures.” Both were entertaining and a great reflection of their respective times. Now, I wanted to like “One Night in Miami” and going back to what I just said. Knowing what a movie is about sort of improves the experience. When it starts, you have this boxing match. So I think to myself, “Is this a boxing movie?” Then I see a concert. I ask, “Is this about music?” Not really. It’s one of those movies where things sort of come together, but it took awhile for my brain to click and put all these elements into a puzzle. So, maybe it is my fault for being a brick, but nevertheless. During that time, it sort of shows that the movie needs better pacing. I sat on my bed wondering if this movie was going to go anywhere, and it felt like we spent an eternity trying to answer that question. I like when movies make the viewer ask questions. That can be engaging. That can be exciting. But for whatever reason, this movie took longer than an Amtrak ride from Boston to Washington DC to get me going.

I will spit out some positives though. For those who do not know, this is Regina King’s first feature theatrical release under her direction. King reveals that she has chops to be a competent director in the future if she decides to take on more projects. I would not mind seeing another drama from her. Maybe if she keeps that up, she could helm a blockbuster. I have faith she can continue to visualize solid content. As for how good that content will end up being, that is another question. Because I was not fully impressed with this outing.

With that in mind, getting invested in the main four characters almost felt difficult because I spent almost an hour just wondering whenever things were going to pick up. At the same though, it was fascinating to hear the four main characters interact, mainly because they all had a natural sense of chemistry. There is not one moment or slice of dialogue that did not feel wasted or unrealistic. All of it was raw, and occasionally compelling. I thought it was fascinating to see a transformation of Cassius Clay as he goes from one identity to another. But the man who’s story intrigued me the most has to be Sam Cooke.

The movie does a fine job at highlighting that despite the color of his skin, despite his heritage, despite coming across a supposed success, Cooke is perhaps partially aiding in the contributions of white people to a degree, including the Rolling Stones. Hearing him speak with Malcom X and listening to him reveal his personal history is probably the highlight of the movie for me. Malcom X confronts Cooke’s feel good music and notes Bob Dylan perhaps being a more popular reflector of social commentary. I think from start to finish, his story is partially reflective of what this movie is about, what it stands for, and the overall message it tries to convey. In the United States, black people may succeed, but sometimes it is with the assistance per se of white people. And in some ways, they help white people achieve their own success. The performances from scene one are all worthy of attention. I just wish it aided in a slightly better film.

I should note, this is my *first impression*. I did something for “One Night in Miami” that I don’t usually do. I noticed that the film has universal acclaim. There are positive reviews being handed over left and right. People are really enjoying this film. So I thought, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I like this movie? Granted, I was watching at home, where it is easy for me to get distracted. So I turned on the film again to see if anything has changed.

I will say that this film is better the second time around, and maybe it is because I understand the concept now. I think as a story, “One Night in Miami” is uniquely laid out and one of the more original tellings I have witnessed in recent memory, despite being somewhat based on true events and containing real historical figures.

As mentioned earlier, Sam Cooke is my favorite character in the film, and he is nicely performed by Leslie Odom Jr.. However, one performance that I also began to appreciate more the second time around is Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X. I think his mannerisms are superb and he admittedly kind of looks suave. I would not mind seeing Kingsley Ben-Adir in a spy movie sometime. I will also say that the first hour is most definitely better. Not only does it do a fine job at introducing the core characters, but some of the hour is quite entertaining between the boxing match, the early concert, and Jim Brown visiting the plantation.

But having said all this, when it comes to 2020 in film, this one will not likely be remembered as much as others. Who knows? Maybe with my recent experiment it gets better with each watch, and it was better the second time, so maybe that is a step in the right direction.

In the end, “One Night in Miami” may speak to some people, in fact it may speak to a lot of people, but for whatever reason, it was just not the right movie for me. Was it entertaining? Yes. But not entertaining enough. Was it compelling? Yes. But not compelling enough. Was it worth a rewatch? Sure. But part of me only did so to see if would actually improve the experience. And while it did so slightly, it did not sparkle and shine as much as I would want it to. I am going to give “One Night in Miami” a 6/10.

To me “One Night in Miami” is sort of like “Mank.” It is a movie that a lot of people saw, a lot of people like, and maybe it will end up getting some attention during awards season. Although for whatever reason, I could not fully connect with it. It is a passable film and there are good things about it. But I just wanted more, what else could I say?

“One Night in Miami” is now available in select theaters and on Prime Video for all subscribers. Get your tickets if a theater is open near you, or subscribe to Prime if you are not subscribed already.

Thanks for reading this review! I will say, I am not quite sure what my next review is going to be, but I will say as the crazy guy who always promotes IMAX, I have a special treat for those who are not in the loop. One of 2020’s most acclaimed films, “Nomadland,” is coming to select IMAX screens starting January 29th. Unfortunately, I might not be able to see it. I say so because as of writing this, the closest place showing the film is located in Paramus, New Jersey, which is about a three to four hour hike from where I live. But if anyone at IMAX reads this and wants to put more screenings in the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island areas, I will make an effort to watch the movie and have my review up for it as soon as possible. We’ll have to see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “One Night in Miami?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Regina King as an entertainer? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Marksman (2021): First Film Review For the 2021 Cinematic Calendar!

“The Marksman” is directed by Robert Lorenz (Million Dollar Baby, Trouble with the Curve) and stars Liam Neeson (Honest Thief, Taken), Katheryn Winnick (Bones, Vikings), Juan Pablo Rada (Narcos, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Teresa Ruiz (The House of Flowers, Narcos: Mexico). This film centers around a former U.S. Marine by the name of Jim Hanson. Not Henson, not the Muppet guy, Hanson, with an “a.” He drives near the U.S./Mexico border and notices a mother and son crossing into the states. Turns out they are on the run from the cartel, at which point the refugees join Hanson in his truck for a ride. Unfortunately, in just a short amount of time, the mother dies, but conveniently notifies Hanson of a place where her son can be secure. So Hanson takes the son in his truck, and the two go on a journey to Chicago to ensure the boy’s safety.

First of all, here’s something to celebrate! “The Marksman” is the first 2021 film I am reviewing! Yes, I’ve already reviewed “News of the World,” but that came out in 2020, so that is not the point. The point is, “The Marksman” released in theaters this weekend, making this the first film on the 2021 cinematic calendar covered by the Movie Reviewing Moron. And the fact that I am talking about a movie like this is not that surprising. Liam Neeson usually has a movie out at this time of year. Last year was an exception, but in 2019 he had “Cold Pursuit.” In 2018 he had “The Commuter.” In 2015 he had “Taken 3.” In 2014 he had “Non-Stop.” I’ve personally seen all of these except “Non-Stop,” and let’s just say the results for each one were not spectacular. They were not world-ending, but they were mediocre at best, uneventful at worst. Although when it comes to “The Marksman,” I did not really set my expectations to any specific level. Part of it is because there is a pandemic where every other movie either gets cancelled, put onto streaming, or pushed back, so part of me is simply glad to see a movie in a theater regardless of what that may be. I have seen the trailer once, maybe a couple times, and I was never turned off by it, so maybe this could be a good time. Then again, it is January, the month where movies go to die.

Despite that previous sentence, this movie did not feel like a death sentence. In fact, I cannot recall a specific moment where I wanted to pull out my hair. “The Marksman” is a fine chase film. Granted, it follows a formula, when it comes to Liam Neeson, he is doing his typical Liam Neeson schtick. He sort of has this rugged, grandfatherly attitude, it is almost like he is repeating to himself in his head, “I’m too old for this s*it.” But I will say one thing about Liam Neeson, this is somewhat fine. Because there are certain actors out there, Liam Neeson is one of them, that can often get away with a repetitive formula if they can find a way to make it work. Neeson is not alone in this boat. Look at Kevin Hart, look at Tom Cruise, look at Samuel L. Jackson, look at Jason Statham. They all play fairly similar personalities with alternate identities from time to time, and they honestly do a good job with it.

Some of the best films of 2020 like “The Last Shift,” “News of the World,” and “Summerland” worked like a charm partially because of something they had in common. Specifically, the two main characters have an unlikely relationship, they stay together for the majority of the film, and somehow they make their time together flow. “The Marksman” is no exception to this idea. It is nowhere near as memorable or as emotionally investing, but nevertheless, “The Marksman” works because it takes a somewhat reclusive, older man, almost like a Clint Eastwood, get off my lawn type of person, but maybe with a little more assumed respect for others and pairs him with a younger boy who runs into him. Although as opposed to another recent film, “Half Brothers,” this film does a really good job at making you like both characters and have a connection with them. They are never annoying or unpleasant. They always have charisma and feel like they belong together to some degree.

This film also has some genuinely fun and entertaining action sequences. The final, big climactic sequence is worth the price of admission, but there are one or two others that make the film worth a watch if you like seeing things blow up or get shot. The film is not necessarily action-packed, especially when compared to Liam Neeson’s other recent outing, “Honest Thief,” which honestly may be a tad better in the action department. However, the little action that does exist is entertaining and deserves a thumbs up.

“The Marksman” is another one of those simple action flicks. You have your core characters, your not so complex storyline, they need to get from point A to point B, and certain obstacles or barriers are in their way. The film works enchantingly as a simple story where the objective is clear. Although despite this, there were maybe one or two moments where I was not what one would call bored, but if I had to use a proper adjective, I’d say I was drowsy. Maybe it is because everything feels so calm and the movie gives you plenty of time to breathe. I’ll bring up “Honest Thief” once again, which has more action, more excuses to have fight sequences. That was a bit faster in pace. “The Marksman” is kind of a road trip movie, and during a road trip, there is a good chance where you may want to take a break. Maybe stop for a bite to eat, stay at a motel in the middle of nowhere. This makes “The Marksman” feel more homey in terms of the vibe that is provided, even though there are life and death situations at hand.

I’m talking quite a bit about the main duo, but I don’t want to leave out the rest of the cast. Katheryn Winnick plays a cop who serves her purpose nicely. Teresa Ruiz is convincing as the refugee mother for the short amount of time she is in the movie. As for everyone in the cartel, they do a good job as well. They are brooding, intimidating, and they do not look like people you would always want to pick a fight with. This movie did a decent job at establishing the main threat and harkening back to them from time to time.

In the end, I do not think I will remember “The Marksman” as well as the other movies I will end up seeing in 2021, but it does not change the fact that it has put the year for movies off to a good start. “The Marksman” is yet another success for Liam Neeson. I have personally been impressed by his recent lineup of content including this film, “Honest Thief” and “Made in Italy.” Is “The Marksman” a classic for the ages? No. However, if a theater is open near you and you want some good action, “The Marksman” does serve its purpose and can give a couple hours of entertainment. I’m going to give “The Marksman” a 7/10.

“The Marksman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Get your tickets today.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is also the wide release of “One Night in Miami.” It is currently playing in several theaters, although it is also available on Prime Video for streaming. I might stay home and watch it, I need an excuse to use my Prime subscription, so I might get around to watching that film and reviewing it. Also, reminder to all, it is 2021! But if you want to be a daredevil and go back to 2020, feel free to check out my lists for my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook page to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Marksman?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Liam Neeson as an actor? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!