The Mean One (2022): A Not So Jolly Green Giant Pile of Boredom

“The Mean One” is directed by Steven LaMorte and stars David Howard Thornton, Krystle Martin, Chase Mullins, John Bigham, Erik Baker, Flip Kobler, and Amy Schumacher in a violent, bloody adaptation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.” Cindy, who had her Christmas stolen by the Mean One during her childhood, attempts to stop the monster once and for all, even if it makes her look crazy.

If you put Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “The Mean One” side by side, if the latter were not clearly a parody, a copyright lawsuit would come as quick as a blue hedgehog. But if you look at the titular green monster on the film’s poster, tell me he does not look almost exactly like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch. Gosh golly! While a number of things have changed between one story to the next, the Grinch design is about as faithful as can be. But while there may be faithfulness, I can assure you the original story did not have anywhere near as much goriness. Sure, in some ways it might be less happy go lucky compared to other Christmas classics, but it is something that younger audiences can watch and enjoy. Between “The Mean One” and “Violent Night,” which I recently reviewed, if you wanted more dark, unhinged Christmas movies, then 2022 is your year.

Unfortunately, “The Mean One” is no “Violent Night.” Whereas “Violent Night,” despite some supposed originality, pays tribute to other films like “Die Hard” and “Home Alone,” “The Mean One” not only looks like an eyesore, it is written like an ear infection. Despite having numerous moments of satire or attempts at humor, the comedy in “The Mean One” is not funny. Whether it was trying to do a Seuss-style rhyme, or whether the mayor was promoting herself all the time. I did not like the comedy in any way, not yesterday, not tomorrow, and definitely not today.

Although to be fair, “The Mean One” is not primarily a comedy. It is above all, a horror movie. It makes sense after all given the levels of blood and violence this movie racks up by the end of it. Unfortunately, it is not scary. Not one bit. I watched this film in a movie theater and I barely recall jumping or even shuddering. I have said that horror is by far kicking every other genre’s butt this year with movies like “Smile” and “Barbarian.” I cannot say the same for “The Mean One,” where the greenest thing about this movie is its titular character, and definitely not the amount of money they spent on making it.

I want to be fair to “The Mean One” because the film does look like something made for a media production class with some last minute finishing details that were not quite up to par. While I have not found the budget for “The Mean One,” it definitely seems to be lower than say Illumination Entertainment’s recent adaptation, “The Grinch.” That film was made for $75 million whereas “The Mean One” was probably made for the combined cost of the frozen food items found in a single Dollar Tree. With that in mind, “The Mean One” nevertheless looks inexcusably bad. The color grading is the worst I have seen this year. There are moments of this film that are so blue that I thought the Smurfs were going to show up at some point. It is one thing if this film looked greener than the Matrix, that actually would have looked fine, or at the very least, had a “so bad it is good” effect to it. There are scenes that are so blue that it turned my movie theater recliner into a bed and made me want to fall asleep.

Despite labeling itself as a parody, it is difficult to confirm that this film actually is one. Because the film is a parody when taking the titular green monster into perspective. Anytime David Howard Thornton plays this creature, he delivers a whiff of goofiness while doing so. Few, if any of the other performances match David Howard Thornton’s intentions to blast the campiness of the film up to an 11. The good news is that I can say David Howard Thornton may be the best part of this movie, the bad news is that none of the other actors, as much as they try, match up to his caliber. Part of it may be the directing. Steven LaMorte may have told David Howard Thornton to be the fool and everyone else is comparatively down to earth. In “Star Wars” terminology, The Mean One is Jar Jar Binks and everyone else is probably living somewhere on Tatooine. Although this time around I actually had fun watching Jar Jar Binks…

In regards to other performances, The narration, which is not terribly written, sounds great. Christopher Sanders does a great job with the material given to him as the narrator. His voice is spooky and menacing, just the way I would want it to sound. The script for “The Mean One” is not going to be in the hall of fame, but what Sanders did here makes the narration at the least feel competent.

Once again, I know this film did not cost as much as a Marvel movie, but when you decide to release a film theatrically, I then decide to treat it like a film getting such a release. With that in mind, “The Mean One” looks like it belongs on basic cable. At times I would say that “Sharknado” almost looks better than this movie. Although I will give “The Mean One” credit, despite what I said about the comedy, I believe I laughed more while watching “The Mean One” than I did watching “Sharknado.” I cannot pinpoint the specifics as to why I laughed. This movie is as forgettable as expired coupons in a glovebox. However, despite this movie being a disaster in more ways than one, there were some shining glimmers within the filthy mess.

There are other positives in regards to “The Mean One.” The costumes and makeup do not look half-bad. Some of the sets are decent. But there are not many others that come to mind. As little fun as I had watching Illumination’s adaptation of “The Grinch” a few years ago, I will give credit to the film’s polish and tendency to look like it was at least going to entertain younger audiences. I think that film tries way too hard to entertain younger people while ignoring the parents and guardians who are going to be dragged in front of the screen. Sadly, as an adult, a demographic which “The Mean One” seems to cater to a lot more, I am not entertained. “The Grinch” may be fun for children, whereas “The Mean One” seems to be fun neither for children or adults. I do not drink, so I do not know if this film is going to be fun to watch while having a few beers with friends, but if a friend invites me over to watch this movie with them, I would politely decline.

In the end, “The Mean One” fails on a number of levels. Not only is it not funny, but it is not scary. Nothing is worse when you have a comedy that is not funny or a horror movie that is not scary. Except for when you combine comedy and horror together and it does neither aspect well. If you want a great movie to watch from this year that does both aspects brilliantly, go watch “The Menu.” It has better acting, better directing, better writing, and more pleasing production value. If you like campy horror, “The Mean One” might be serviceable, but I did not enjoy it myself so who knows if someone else reading this will. I am going to give “The Mean One” a 2/10.

“The Mean One” stole my holiday. I am in such a state of disarray. I do not want to see it in bed. I do not want to see it when I am dead. This movie is such a disappointment. I might need to make a doctor’s appointment. I do not want to watch this in an auditorium. It might cause me break out into pandemonium. This movie made me mad. Still talking about it makes me sad. I do not want to find this on streaming. I will end up shutting off the TV screaming. This is one of my least favorite movies of the year. When the end credits ultimately showed up I wanted to cheer. Those are my thoughts on “The Mean One.” Thank goodness, this review is finally done!

“The Mean One” is now playing in select theatres, supposedly for a limited time. If you really want a ticket to this movie, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want me to be serious, it is kind of sad to review movies like this because I imagine like a lot of movies, some serious passion was put into it. But if I had to be real, this makes even Illumination’s “The Grinch” look like “Home Alone,” a movie I adore on every level. I could never watch “The Mean One” again.

Stay tuned later this week because I will be sharing my thoughts on the brand new blockbuster sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Mean One?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a Christmas or holiday movie that you truly despise? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Empire of Light (2022): A Cinematic Projection of Why Community and Connections Matter

“Empire of Light” is directed by Sam Mendes (1917, Spectre) and stars Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown), Michael Ward (The A List, The Old Guard), Monica Dolan (A Very English Scandal, Appropriate Adult), Tom Brooke (Preacher, Game of Thrones), Tanya Moodie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, A Discovery of Witches), Hannah Onslow (This Is Going to Hurt, Ridley Road), Crystal Clarke (Sanditon, Ordeal by Innocence), Toby Jones (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Hunger Games), and Colin Firth (1917, Kingsman: The Secret Service). This film is about a group of people living in 1980s England who work together at a cinema. Two of these people, specifically Hilary, the manager, and Stephen, a recent hire, develop a bond and take their connection to the point of a committed relationship.

There is a saying that Hollywood loves itself. Movies like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” highlight such a point. But while those movies are their calendar year’s shining example of “movie about movies” storytelling, 2022 is not short on these kinds of stories. “The Fabelmans,” which is based on Steven Spielberg’s youth, highlights the power of making movies. “Clerks III” doubles as a homage to Kevin Smith’s previous creations while also paying tribute to people want to create a film. I think it also shows how difficult such a process can be, both in front of and behind the camera. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” which stars Nicholas Cage as himself, pays tribute to various movies he made (and some he did not) while also poking fun at the way certain cinematic stories are told. “See How They Run” features a storyline where people want to turn a play into a motion picture. Later this month, “Babylon,” which is set in old Hollywood, will hit theatres. Some may call it self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or self-obsessed. Based on how I liked all these movies, minus “Babylon,” which I have yet to see, I would call it “writing what you know.” One thing is for sure, Hollywood knows movies.

While “Empire of Light” does not entirely highlight people making movies, it does highlight another important aspect of the filmmaking process, selling the movies. Most of this film takes place at a movie theatre. Not a modern day multiplex like AMC or Regal, but a small venue with a couple screens. The building itself looked beautiful. Similar to how “The Fabelmans” emits a certain magical feeling in regard to filmmaking itself, the cinema here emits an alike feeling to the point where just being inside it feels like an escape from your problems.

Despite being in a digital age where everything is at our fingertips, I am glad we still have movie theaters. In fact, I had the chance to watch “Empire of Light” at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, which if you are not from the Boston area, is a cinema in Brookline, Massachusetts that has some killer Art Deco vibes and a lot of history. It is a great place to see a movie. Watching a movie like this in a theater of that nature, the kind where they open and close the curtains before and after the movie, felt beautifully trippy. The best movies are those that take you to another world, and despite being in an older movie auditorium, I felt like I escaped into another auditorium somewhere else.

Joined by other casting standouts like Michael Ward, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth, “Empire of Light” is led by Olivia Colman, a talented actress who can do no wrong here. Unsurprisingly, she breaks both of her legs in this movie and maybe even a shoulder. I would not be surprised if she receives some chatter this awards season. She portrays Hilary, a cinema manager. From a written perspective, I would say Hilary is a kind of manager I would love to work for. She is competent, occasionally tough, but also fair. In short, she appears to want the best for everyone. Above all, she seems to be in her mojo whenever she happens to be at the cinema. I am kind of jealous of everyone who got to work at the cinema before the 21st century, partially because of what they seemed to provide. Cinemas nowadays still provide a wonderful experience. Also, large formats like Dolby Cinema and IMAX are great ways to enhance blockbuster presentations for example. But there is something about the cinema now, as magical as it is, and yet it seems that some of the magic might have been more evident in a time before Nicole Kidman tried to tell me that heartbreak feels good in a place like this. If I could transport myself to the cinema in this film, I would take the opportunity if it were presented to me.

This leads me to my next ounce of praise, the locations and overall look of the film. Again, the movie theater itself is lovely. It felt massive and at the same time, intimate. The rooftop, especially at night, is ingrained in my memory. There are also some beach scenes that looked crispy. Why should I be surprised? This is from the same director/cinematographer duo who also worked on “1917,” which looked gorgeous in its own right. Now, comparing the two films on a technical level seems unfair as “1917” was designed to look like most of it was done in a single take. But I would say “Empire of Light” is a solid follow-up.

Before I address my problems with the film, another compliment I must give to “Empire of Light” is the sound mix. Following what I said about the magic of the movies, the sound in this movie, is best heard in a theater. The levels could not be better or more immersive. That said, there is one sound I found particularly annoying. Partially because I heard it so many times in other content, but it makes at least seven appearances in this one movie. Do not take my word for it, but gosh does it feel like seven… I do not mind hearing seagulls, but hearing the same seagull sound effect after the fifth time took me out of the film, which is unfortunate considering how immersive the rest of the movie is. I will also address the story. It is not a bad story by any means, but it feels like all sparkle with very little shine. The performances are great, but the writing to support said performances lacks flair at times. I cared for the characters, but I cannot say I was as invested in them as other movies I saw recently.

I often make the assessment that every movie, even unforgivable garbage such as “Morbius,” will always be better in a theater. I will also note there are moments, like certain portions of the score, or one particular repeated sound effect during a scene three quarters of the way through the runtime, that are marvelously hard on the ears and build tension just by becoming the elephant in the room. This film is not as complicated as “Top Gun: Maverick,” but whoever did the sound mixing should be happy with how it came out. If you look at the box office nowadays, you may notice that films that partially rely on spectacle like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Jurassic World: Dominion” are usually the box office kings. Films that are of a tinier caliber like “Vengeance” or “The Fabelmans,” even though they might have have notable people in front of or behind the camera, do not do as well. I am part of the audience who goes to see spectacle fare like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” because the odds are that the big screen experience will be the ultimate way to experience those movies. If you are thinking of waiting to watch “Empire of Light” at home, there is no one stopping you. However, few movies have sounded or looked as good this year given the scale for which this movie aims. There is a reason why Roger Deakins, this film’s director of photography, has 15 Academy Award nominations attached to his name. I would not be surprised, depending on how well this movie does, if he gets nomination 16.

In the end, “Empire of Light” is not my favorite tribute to movies this year, but it is one of the more palatable ones. This has a look to it as attractive as “The Fabelmans,” and as weird as this may be to clarify, not as heartwarming or emotionally charging as “Clerks III.” Despite my slight negatives, I recommend this film. If you have a chance to see “Empire of Light” this weekend, take it. Go out and support this film. Sam Mendes gets a thumbs up from me on his first film after “1917.” I am going to give “Empire of Light” a very high 7/10.

“Empire of Light” is now playing in select theaters. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for the upcoming week, because “Avatar: The Way of Water,” finally hits theaters after 13 years of waiting. I already have my tickets for Thursday and I will share my thoughts on the film as soon as possible. These are words part of me never thought I’d say, but here we are. Here is hoping the film is worth the wait, and that it actually has a decent, memorable script this time around. Speaking of “films…” My next review is going to be for a film called “The Mean One.” For those who are not in the know, this is basically a gorier version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.” Is this film going to pack in all tons of Christmas spirit? Or did it make me green and icky? Find out in the next review! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Empire of Light?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your movie theater of choice? I am an AMC A-List member, so there are a few AMC locations I usually go to, but one of my favorite places to see a movie is the Sunbrella IMAX at Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts. It is THE place for a big-budget film, and it is also where I will be watching “Avatar: The Way of Water” this Thursday. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Violent Night (2022): A Movie So Naughty It Deserves to be On This Season’s Nice List

“Violent Night” is directed by Tommy Wirkola (What Happened to Monday, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and stars David Harbour (Black Widow, Hellboy), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, The Menu), Alex Hassell (The Boys, Cowboy Bebop), Alexis Louder (Copshop, The Tomorrow War), Edi Patterson (Plan B, Vice Principals), Cam Gigandet (The O.C., Reckless), Leah Brady (The Umbrella Academy, Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls), and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation, American History X). This film is set during Christmastime, and when a family gets together at a large house to celebrate the holiday, a group of mercenaries attempt to infiltrate the property. With the family in trouble, it is up to Santa Claus to save this family from harm by stopping the infiltrators in their tracks.

Ah… The holidays… The most wonderful time of the year. Full of joy, happiness, and all the pretty things. Plus, you know, materialism. It is the that time of the year to beat up some bad guys!!! In this season where everyone is inevitably going to be rewatching a bunch of comforting holiday classics like “Elf” or “The Polar Express,” “Violent Night” presents itself as an antithesis to the familiar “Christmas movie.” Yes, it is Christmastime. Yes, there is Santa Claus. Yes, there are Christmas songs playing in the background. But instead of watching the next “Fred Claus,” there is a chance that with “Violent Night,” I have just tuned into the next “Die Hard.”

For those of you who have seen “Die Hard” and defend it as part of the many Christmas movies out there, you might say that it is not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. Similarly, I think Christmas came early this year when Santa bashed a bunch of mercenaries and put them in their place. Now am I going to put “Violent Night” on in front of my family while opening Christmas presents? Maybe not. However, once all the unwrapping is done and I find some privacy, I might put it on because this film is beautifully gory and as the name suggests, violent. It knows how to have fun from scene one to the climax.

David Harbour is excellent as Santa Claus, and part of it is because of the script. When I usually think of Santa I usually think of a jolly old man who can do no wrong. This film showcases a Santa who has grown tired of his job, he is sick of delivering the same trendy gifts to children, but he also seems to have a soft spot for the children that stand out on his nice list. Now, if I had one minor complaint, it is that the film occasionally resorts to kids’ animation humor where Santa calls out one of his reindeer for taking a dump on a roof, but that would be a small script flaw in an otherwise entertaining flick. Harbour carries this film as Santa Claus and I would not mind seeing more of him as the character.

Although speaking of the script, it is not the most verisimilitude-filled story of the year. Although to be fair, when you have a Santa Claus that beats up bad guys Deadpool style, that does not exactly call for the most realistic story of all time. In fact, there are certain conveniences and happenings in the movie that occur and the excuse that gets brought up in those moments is that it is “Christmas magic.” As someone who has seen and reviewed a ton of movies, it has become notoriously difficult to “turn off my brain.” But sometimes, the best thing to do in a movie like this is to follow this saying uttered by Barbara from “Tenet,” specifically… “Don’t try to understand it, feel it.”

And I can tell you how I felt after watching this movie. In a word, incredible.

I also like the scenes when the family happen to all be together. For the record, this movie takes place in an extravagant household and the people inside are all wealthy or notable. A couple standouts include Alex Hassell as Jason Lightstone, the favorite son. Gertrude Lightstone, who leads the family corporation. Also, Alexander Elliot as Bert, a young man who will do anything to get attention on social media. For the most part, the main group sounds like a bunch of entitled people. And in some ways, that is as accurate of a description as I could give them. But much like “The Menu,” which I reviewed last month, it was difficult for me to find any of these privileged individuals annoying or obnoxious. Credit where credit is due.

Although when it comes to the mercenaries, they are equally as entertaining. Most notably, John Leguizamo as “Scrooge.” (center) While I think there are more memorable antagonists in other movies, few have made me go through such an immediate transition to make me literally despise them (in a good way) like the one in this flick did. There is a moment where the stakes transition from the fates of one household to every kid on earth, and it is because of this guy. Leguizamo sells the part like hotcakes and I certainly bought it.

Before going into “Violent Night,” I heard this movie is similar to “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” and in some ways, that is an accurate description of what this film is in essence. There are unused elements brought to the table. For instance a deadly Santa Claus, and the idea of Christmas itself being saved, but if you like “Home Alone” and “Die Hard,” there is a good chance you might enjoy “Violent Night.” This is likely a coincidence, and also not the most cinematic example, but I would say there is a pinch of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” sprinkled here too because the bad guys all have code names that are Christmassy.

As I have said, this film is violent, brutal, and not the most happy go lucky depiction of the holidays. It is cute, but not cuddly. But one thing this film gets right is that it does not simply resort to being a full-fledged slaughterhouse of a time and instead balances its brutality with some earned heart. Santa Claus and Trudy’s connection powers the film into the night sky and blasts it away full throttle. Seeing a somewhat broken Santa enjoy a conversation with a girl who evidently fulfills many qualifications on the nice list is heartwarming. “Violent Night” does for Christmas movies what “The Suicide Squad” did for comic book movies. It gave a satisfying journey that perfectly balances rambunctiousness with sweetness. It is not all rainbows and unicorns, but the rainbows and unicorns that do exist are not out of place.

“Violent Night” brings on the true meaning of Christmas. Watching Santa Claus give some old jolly saint nicks, red noses, and 12 days of pain. Watch it if you have a chance.

In the end, “Violent Night” does not sell itself short, it is beautifully naughty but to the point where it feels nice watching it. If you are looking for action, look no further. If you are looking for gore, look no further. You might not be looking for comfort and joy, but you may be delighted to find it here. David Harbour plays a great Santa Claus and I would not mind seeing another movie where he returns to play the character. Whether it means he deals with a different family or group of people like Benoit Blanc in “Knives Out” or we return to see another adventure with him and the Lightstones. I want more of this character, give it to me now. I am going to give “Violent Night” a 7/10.

“Violent Night” is now playing in theatres everywhere, including large formats like Dolby Cinema and Cinemark XD. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have another one coming soon! Tonight I will be seeing “Empire of Light,” directed by Sam Mendes. The film hits select theaters starting tomorrow night so I hope to have a review up by the middle of next week. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Violent Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite on-screen Santa Claus? I’ll even count the fake ones like the department store Santa from “A Christmas Story.” List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Strange World (2022): No Awe, No Wonder, Just Boredom.

“Strange World” is directed by Don Hall and co-directed by Qui Nguyen. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Spider-Man: Far from Home), Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story), Jaboukie Young-White (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Only Murders in the Building), Gabrielle Union (America’s Got Talent, Think Like a Man), and Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu Panda). This film follows the Clades, a family who must overcome each other’s differences in order to successfully navigate themselves in a space off the map.

Thus far, animation has not been perfect this year. The only real highlight in regard to 2022 animation for me would have to be “Turning Red,” which I watched back in March and enjoyed immensely. In fact, my favorite animation I watched that came out this year is one that technically came out last year, specifically “Belle,” as it released in Japan in July 2021. That movie was so nice that I had to post about it twice. Therefore, I was hoping that “Strange World” could join the ranks of “Turning Red,” or surpass it, and give the genre a boost. “The Bad Guys” was okay. “Lightyear” was fun but it is no “Toy Story.” “Luck” was not perfect. Let’s not even talk about “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.” I wanted something that could potentially be a medium-defining movie. We had a couple of those last year with “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” the recently mentioned “Belle,” and Disney’s own “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The good news for those movies, depending on how you slice it, is if they wanted to remain superior, then this is a good day for them. “Strange World” is a movie that should have dazzled me. Unfortunately, I was bored.

Now let me be clear, for the people who ask why I do not like this movie, please note that this has nothing to do with a certain character having feelings for another specific character. If you are looking for another review where the writer disses on the movie because it is “woke,” go someplace else, arrogant scumbags. Scene Before is not the place for that. That said, it is time to talk about why “Strange World” is one of the most underwhelming and snore-inducing animations of the decade.

However, before we get there, I do want to drop some positives. Because the movie does have its moments. The first act, while not flawless, introduces the characters at a quick pace and provides some fascinating setup for what is to come. There is a particular event towards the end of the movie that caught me off guard, but in a good way. The opening song, while short, is kind of a banger. Oddly enough, this does not go for that traditional Disney movie soundtrack extravaganza where every other scene becomes a musical all of a sudden. There is no equivalent to Let It Go in “Strange World.” If you are seeking a musical, look elsewhere. If you are instead seeking a mediocre adventure in unfamiliar territory, look no further.

When your movie is called “Strange World,” that should be code to make a world that looked kooky and fun. However, I had my arms crossed for a good portion of the runtime. “Strange World” had scenes that looked like an escape from reality, but it is not just a matter of how the movie looks, but how it feels. Despite being taken on an adventure to somewhere unfamiliar, I never felt immersed into this world. Part of the reason is because this movie feels like it spends more time building its vast environments as opposed to the characters who are surrounded by said environments. Sure, we get moments where we get to know the characters, but it sometimes comes off as the bare minimum. In addition, the characters themselves are annoying.

Now the characters, for the most part, are well voiced. Dennis Quaid and Lucy Liu are particular standouts as Jaeger Clade (top right) and Callisto Mal (top left) respectively. The voice performances serve their purpose and are in no way problematic. However, I was annoyed by a character that should have been a lovable sidekick, Splat.

I found out that nobody voices Splat (right), so the voice actors are safe in this instance. However, the sounds that Splat makes, while somewhat appropriate, are honestly more headache-inducing than trying to find a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. I can say this is based on true events. Both as someone who just wanted cheap Blu-rays the other day, and as someone who wanted to have a good time watching “Strange World,” but failed miserably.

Like most animated fare, there is a lesson intertwined that the crew perhaps aspire to deliver towards the children watching the movie. As an adult, I took away a particular lesson that sounded halfway decent. But at the same time, the lesson made for an atrocious story. It is predictable, dull, and worst of all, the three main characters all made me roll my eyes. Whether it was cheap dialogue, selfish motives, or overembellishing what could easily be shown instead of told. There are scenes where the main characters argue, and it had dialogue that should have been compelling, it should have gotten me invested in the scene and where things could go from here. All it did was made me put my hand on my head, begging for the movie to move along.

I watched “Strange World” in a theater that had some people. It was nowhere near its total capacity, but there were some families and kids. Despite the various attempts at comedy in “Strange World,” no one uttered a sound. I could barely hear children chuckling. For all I knew, the children at this screening had a good time. But when your family movie fails to get the family to emote, that is a problem. Although when the movie was over, people did clap. So there is that.

Watching and/or reviewing a Disney movie sometimes has its complexities. Because Disney is not just movies. That is just a small aspect of how they entertain the masses. What goes into their movies often factors into their merchandising, their parks, and so on. While “Strange World” is not a good movie, it was the kind of movie that despite its failed attempts to immerse me, made me think there could be a chance that this would make for a decent theme park ride. I can imagine this universe as a motion simulator in Disney World because it is so otherworldly. Kind of like some of Disney’s other rides such as Star Tours or Pirates of the Caribbean, it feels like going somewhere else. It does not feel like Florida. It does not feel like California. You’re either in space or some vast environment far from home. Unfortunately, I am not reviewing a theme park ride. I am reviewing a story. And despite one or two okay scenes, there was not enough to make me root for the characters or care about what was going on. As a story, this is dull. This is forgettable. This is uninteresting. I wanted it to end. Thankfully the movie not that long, but despite time flying by, I was not having fun.

In the end, “Strange World” is a bit of a letdown. I did not think this movie looked like the next big thing, but it also looked fun. Disney movies, even ones that are lower tier, seem to have glimmers of fun on a consistent basis. When I fail to walk out of a Disney movie, or any movie for that matter, with a smile on my face, that is not a good sign. Let me just put it this way. I had more fun with another Disney film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and that is despite the film saying goodbye to a major character (in addition to the actor who plays him) and having a few downer scenes. “Strange World” occasionally made me angry because it looked fun, but it did not feel fun. There is a difference between designing something pretty, and doing something with it that is interesting. This movie felt like a first date with the most attractive woman alive, only to find out she has zero personality whatsoever. “Strange World” is a waste of time and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Strange World” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, check out some of my other ones! If you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out the review I did for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.” If you want to see more family movie reviews, check out my thoughts on the brand new Netflix film, “Slumberland.” I am planning on seeing a movie this weekend, I am not sure which one specifically, so as to whether “Violent Night” or “Spoiler Alert” is going to be my next review is a total mystery. You will have to find out for yourselves. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Strange World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an animation that you saw recently that disappointed you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022): And Then There Was Fun

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and once again stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Logan Lucky) as Benoit Blanc. This time around he is surrounded by castmates like Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk, Fight Club), Janelle Monae (Antebellum, Hidden Figures), Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision, Bad Moms), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami, The Murder on the Orient Express), Jessica Henwick (The Matrix Resurrections, Game of Thrones), Madelyn Cline (Outer Banks, Stranger Things), with Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, Fool’s Gold), and Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049, My Spy). This film centers around a group of friends who gather together at the Glass Onion, owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron. Joining them is detective Benoit Blanc, a man who Bron admires.

I loved the first “Knives Out.” When I did my top 10 of 2019, the film ended up making the best list and eventually got a Best Picture nom during the 2nd Jackoff Awards. It appears I am not alone because the film ended up making over $300 million worldwide, which is nothing to sneeze at given how the film cost $40 million to make. Naturally, a sequel was inevitable. Lionsgate even greenlit a sequel in 2020.

The following year however, they sold the rights to two upcoming sequels to Netflix.

Now, I get it. Money talks. $469 million for the rights to make two sequels is great if you are a producer asking for such a price and such a demand is met. However, what worried me about this shift is that the films, since they are now in the hands of a streaming-first company, is that they will not be put in theaters, and the overall quality of the content is going to decrease. I am glad to report that I have underestimated my happiness with the verdicts on both matters. First off, this film did get a theatrical release. Albeit a limited engagement There is a good chance that if you did not see this film in theaters already, then that chance might be gone because it was scheduled to be in theaters for a week only. Second, I am happy to announce that “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a solid addition to the franchise.

Rian Johnson is a talented director. I was not a fan of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” But his direction was never the problem. From that film, to the previous “Knives Out,” and even this one, I have always been an admirer of Johnson’s filmmaking style from the intricate shot choices to the showcasing of vast environments. His movies always have a clean look to them, even if it revolves around murder like this one. This movie was shot in Greece. The location choices, one after the next, showcased hypnotic glimmers of beauty. And like any solid director, Johnson tells this story in such a fashion that could not be more entertaining.

To showcase how well-crafted this film is, I want to talk about a specific cliché in movies. The use of guns. I have seen a lot of movies in my life, and therefore, I have seen a lot of movies with guns. Whether they are used by the protagonist, antagonist, or a side character. This is the first time in ages that I watched a film in a theater and I jolted because a gun went off. As someone who has practically seen lots of jumpy moments, with some better than others, this satisfied me like you would not believe. You know how many movies have guns? They are practically a dime a dozen. I have not heard a gunshot utilized this effectively in a film in perhaps the longest time. Part of it is probably because of the gun’s limited use and how well written the characters were. I cared about each one. All of them have their moment and I did not leave feeling the need to diss on a single character or the actors who played them. They all did a great job.

Daniel Craig is back as Benoit Blanc. I have seen all the Daniel Craig “James Bond” movies from “Casino Royale” to “No Time to Die.” All due respect to Craig, and I know he has no plans to play Bond again. But if I had to choose who I would rather see Daniel Craig play for the rest of his life, I think Benoit Blanc would be my pick between those two. He’s quirky, he’s fun, and if Rian Johnson kept writing him, I think he would have me right where he wants me. Right in front of the screen.

Much like the previous “Knives Out,” the characters here often have an over the top vibe but in such a way that they still feel like real people. One such performance where this shows is Dave Bautista, who I will not unveil all the details about, but he comes off as someone who will do anything to protect his masculinity whether it means keeping his girl or his gun by his side. I thought Bautista was perfectly cast in this film and I am glad to see he is improving his acting abilities. I am glad to see he has more range than just Drax the Destroyer in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Other standouts in the movie include Madelyn Cline as Whiskey, Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel Toussaint, and Kathryn Hahn as Claire Debella, who in this universe is the governor of Connecticut.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is stacked with comedy. Thankfully, a lot of it lands. At times, it is almost funnier than the original. The crowd, myself included, gave plenty of audible laughter throughout the runtime. If you ask me, this is a film that is both great to watch at the theater and at home. Netflix, if you read this, I am sorry, the theatrical experience, is, AND WILL ALWAYS BE, superior to anything you can get on your television. However I was watching this movie and there were several shots where certain things that were either plot-specific, character driven, or important to the film in some way, but I occasionally found myself distracted by looking at the background. This movie has its fair share of background jokes, blink you’ll miss it jokes, and other various attempts at humor. Either way, there were a lot of laughs.

Much like the previous “Knives Out,” this sequel came out at a perfect time. The film is appropriate for Thanksgiving because people are gathering with friends and family they have not seen in forever. Similar to what these two films have shown themselves. And when the film hits Netflix on December 23rd, it gives friends and family the opportunity to watch another group of friends and family hang out. The film also happens to be reflective of the times and reminds me of what being in some social groups must be like. For context, this film acknowledges the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. We see people wearing masks, there’s uncertainty of whether or not people can be in such close contact, and we even see Kathryn Hahn’s character, Claire Debella, talking on the news as to how she plans to navigate her state through the current situation.

The movie is great, although I think the laughs were slightly less ache-inducing than the original, despite there being plenty. If I had any other problems with the film, the third act gets incredibly unhinged. I do not mind unhinged storytelling, but for most of the movie, like the original, the characters feel like slightly heightened versions of people that could exist in everyday life. As soon as we get to the third act, we see things that feel less down to earth and it takes the realism out of the movie that previously existed. The movie ended up being a fun time, but if I had to pick a movie to watch again between this film and the original, I would go with the original. I have heard from others that this film is as good, possibly better, than the original, and I can see why. Both are good movies, but if I had to choose one, the 2019 film is the one I would choose. That said, “Glass Onion” is a killer time and if you need something to watch this holiday season either by yourself or with family, you might not be underwhelmed.

In the end, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a hilarious follow-up to the original with some of the best direction of the year, terrific writing, and an admirable ensemble cast. Much like the first film, I had the privilege of watching “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” in a crowded theater, and I love that I got to see the movie firsthand with a community. I laughed, I jittered, I locked my eyes with the screen like I was trying to win a staring contest. This is what movies are about. As much as I would have loved for this movie to receive a full fledged theatrical release, I am thankful Netflix put this in theaters at all. There are problems, including one that almost threw me off, but the positives outweighed the negatives. Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig have delivered a nicely done sequel. I am going to give “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” a 7/10.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is finishing up its advertised theatrical run. Who knows? Maybe it will be playing at a festival somewhere in the future, maybe Landmark might do a special screening. I am just holding out hope that people get to see this in the best way possible. But for those who want to wait for the home viewing experience, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” will be available on Netflix on December 23rd.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new Disney animated feature “Strange World.” The film just hit theaters last week, and I managed to catch a screening of the film over the weekend. I will share my thoughts soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either wtih an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery?” What did you think about it? Or, which film did you like better? The original “Knives Out” or “Glass Onion?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Fabelmans (2022): Why I Do What I Do

“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.

I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.

“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.

Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.

Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.

Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.

Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.

For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.

Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.

In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.

Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.

“The Fabelmans” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Menu (2022): Phenomenally Mouthwatering and Jaw-Dropping

“The Menu” is directed by Mark Mylod (Succession, Game of Thrones) and stars Ralph Fiennes (The LEGO Batman Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Mad Max: Fury Road), Hong Chau (Downsizing, Big Little Lies), Janet McTeer (Jessica Jones, Ozark), Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?, Dallas), and John Leguizamo (Super Mario Bros., Ice Age). This film follows a young couple, who are just two of the many people who partake in an expensive outing at Hawthorne, where food meets art. What is supposed to be an extravagant dining experience turns into a night of mayhem where the tension never ends.

If I had a dollar for how many times I ended up seeing a trailer for “The Menu” during a screening at the theater, I could probably at minimum, pay to see this movie at matinee price when it came out. Although I did not mind seeing this movie advertised a whole ton. Because it had a lot of things going for it. You have a stacked cast including Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. The concept, while it reminded me of other stories, came off as one of the more original ideas of 2022, and it looked like an okay mix of comedy and scares, kind of like one of my favorite movies of the past five years, “Ready or Not.” At the same time though, while the trailers do show a bit in regard to what the movie’s about, one of the first positives I can give to the movie, in addition to the marketing, is that despite being hammered with the trailers, there were plenty of surprises to be had. I had the privilege of getting to see this film with a big crowd the day before public release, and I had no regrets going.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can easily say “The Menu” is one of my favorite movies of the year. And in a year that has been chock full of fantastic horror, this may be my favorite film in its genre. More than “Smile.” More than “Barbarian.” I reviewed both of those movies about a month ago, and I said the exact same thing when talking about those. If there is any genre that I think is the clear winner this year in regards to film, horror takes the cake. Much like cake, “The Menu” is a deliciously attractive and satisfying time.

“The Menu” cements why I go to the movies. This movie is dark, twisted, yet fun. I had the time of my life laughing and gagging with a couple hundred other people.

Speaking of communal events, this movie showcases a group of people who are supposedly loaded with money. One of the best parts about this movie is that even though Hawthorne is full of… let’s just say snobby guests, the snobby characters never managed to once get on my nerves. In fact, seeing of some of these people on screen for whatever length of time they happened to be on provided for decent entertainment. Even though this movie has characters who went to an Ivy League school without financial troubles and business partners for example, all of them were fun to watch.

This movie jokes about the rich, the food service industry, and how artists endlessly strive to be perfect. With an endless spree of gags on these topics among others, this leads to brilliant exchanges and side-splitting moments. I cannot think of a movie this year, even in the pure comedy genre like “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” that is as funny as “The Menu.” I cannot remember the last time I have gone to a movie and laughed so hard that after seconds of chuckling, I felt a particular numbness running through my body for a split second. If I got any dizzier, I would have arguably needed a medical professional. This happened more than once during my experience.

All of the characters in “The Menu” serve their purpose and bring something to the table. While this movie’s batch of supporting characters are exactly what they are, minor, their respective actors all do a great job. Everyone from Judith Light as Anne, Janet McTeer as Lillian, and Rob Yang as Bryce delivered performances that arguably satisfied my cravings. One of my favorite members of the supporting cast however is John Leguizamo, who plays a Movie Star (Yes, that is the character’s credited name). Without giving much detail, we get some hints of his history as an actor that allow for some of the movie’s most entertaining and laugh-inducing moments.

Although I cannot forget about the two leads, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult. These characters, as we learn early on, are a couple. We see from the beginning that of the two, Tyler (Hoult) is the one who is clearly more invested in the dining experience whereas Margot (Taylor-Joy) is more or less just coming along for the ride. Many of Tyler’s lines are him either trying to get Margot to “blend in” or showcasing his worship for the establishment and its head chef. I thought having a character like one of Tyler’s personality made for added tension in a movie that already had plenty of thrills and chills. Margot, who was more than unfamiliar with Hawthorne, was likely in for some culture shock. And that was only the start of her journey.

Anya Taylor-Joy is not only great in “The Menu,” but it is the kind of great that makes me think she is easily in the conversation to become the next “it” actor of her generation. Not only is she mega-talented as she has shown from one role to the next, but she always manages to choose interesting projects. Even ones I do not particularly like such as Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” at least has some notable quirks. As much as the cast of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has me weary because of how many big stars are onboard instead of professional voiceover artists (although Jack Black seems to be perfectly cast), Anya Taylor-Joy’s presence gives me hope because of her current resume. “The Menu” is another solid addition to her ongoing list of wins. This movie involves a multitude of characters at once, but if this story belongs to anyone, it is Anya Taylor-Joy’s character of Margot. Therefore, I am delighted, although not surprised, that she killed it in this movie.

Again, the trailers for “The Menu” made it look like another “Ready or Not.” This makes sense given the film’s success and it also being under the Searchlight Pictures library. If I had to give a proper description to “The Menu” for those who have not seen it, I would describe “The Menu” as “Ready or Not” meets “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” You have an eccentric genius who is often the elephant in the room. There is a group of people who all gather to experience a literal food fantasy. And much like “Ready or Not,” the main character is a young woman who is different from everybody else despite attempts to fit in. Much like both movies, there is plenty of comedy (and horror if you count the tunnel scene in “Willy Wonka”) to take in. The film is a must see, especially with a big crowd in a theater. While this probably will not make “Wakanda Forever” bank, this film is worth watching and supporting. It is a definite must see.

In the end, “The Menu” is a phenomenal moviegoing experience and a hysterical ride from start to finish. The cast is great, the mix of horror and comedy is perfectly balanced, and overall, this is also well done from a technical standpoint. A lot of the food, even though it did not look like the first thing I would put in my mouth if I saw it in person, had an Insta-worthy feel to it. The shots and sets look as clean as can be. Some of the editing, without going into specifics, is perfectly timed with how the script plays out. I can only name one particular problem I have with this movie, but I am not going to go into it as it would dive into spoiler territory. This movie is only days old and I want the people reading this who have not seen this movie to go in as blind as they can. That said, “The Menu” is yet another win for Searchlight Pictures. You may remember I recently reviewed “The Banshees of Inisherin,” another Searchlight production. That is a movie I honored with high marks. I think “The Menu” is on the same level. Therefore, this is another win for Searchlight, and as far as I can see, moviegoing audiences. I am going to give “The Menu” a 9/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, please check out some of my other ones! For example, if you want to see more comedy reviews, check out my thoughts on “Ticket to Paradise,” the recent romcom starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. If you are looking for more horror, go ahead and read my thoughts on “Halloween Ends,” the conclusion to the David Gordon Green series of “Halloween” flicks. Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Fabelmans.” That review should be posted later this week. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Menu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the hardest you laughed at a movie this year? For me, while “The Menu” comes close, the definitive answer might be “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The shocks I experienced during that movie are on another level. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Slumberland (2022): Willy Wonka Meets Inception In This Fun But Disposable Family Adventure

“Slumberland” is directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Red Sparrow) and stars Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Dune), Marlow Barkley (Spirited, Single Parents), Chris O’Dowd (Big Mouth, Bridesmaids), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), and Weruche Opia (Sliced, I May Destroy You) in a film where a young girl finds herself in the fantastical, larger than life dreamscape of Slumberland, where everyone’s dreams and nightmares are literally brought to life. With the help of Flip, a dazzlingly dressed outlaw, she attempts to navigate through a world beyond one’s wildest dreams with the hope to reunite with her recently deceased father.

This is one of the latest movies to come from the popular streaming service Netflix. Right now, the film is currently playing in California and I had the privilege of getting to see a screening of the film at a local theater for free. Despite the film mostly being targeted for streaming exclusivity, the budget is comparable to many theatrical features. “Slumberland” was made for $150 million. This is less than the studio’s recent feature, “The Gray Man,” which cost $200 million. Despite a scene stealing performance from Chris Evans, “The Gray Man” had a script that did not do it any favors. For the record, “Dune,” which Jason Momoa is also in, cost $165 million to make.

Unfortunately, this begs a question. Why does this film look occasionally off-putting? I know that one defense that could be made is that since the film is a streaming-centric release, it is inevitably not going to look as polished as a film that primarily releases in theaters. But as I was watching this movie, some of the green screen looked rather unfinished. Certain areas of the dreamscape feel dazzingly fantastical, but there are also moments that lacked verisimilitude even for something imaginary. It is as if this movie were helmed by Robert Zemeckis, he had limited tools, but still managed to create something with his trademarks. There is a segment in the movie with a ton of vending machines that is perhaps manufactured simply to advertise Twinkies, it kind of turned me off. Not only because it is forced product placement, but because of how artificial it looked. I know this is a movie about dreams, but I can tell you that in my dreams, even if what I am imagining has sparks of fantasy, the backdrop often delivers a hint of realism. It still feels lifelike when I am in it. Then again, what do I know? I am not in other people’s dreams. What can I say? Maybe Francis Lawrence dreams differently than me. Maybe he dreams about people taking 15 minutes to save 15 percent or more on their car insurance.

“Slumberland” is based on the comic strip series “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Except in this case, the title is changed to match the dream fantasyland, and the main character is a girl. I am not familiar with the comic series, therefore I will not be comparing two and two together. That said, I do like the idea this movie is going for. When I saw the trailer for “Slumberland,” I thought, “Oh, so it is ‘Inception,’ but for kids.” It kind of is that, but there is a little more to it. I am not saying “Slumberland” is as complex or thought-provoking as “Inception” but much like “Inception,” I was intrigued by how “Slumberland” managed to imagine what happens when we dream. One of the things I remember most from “Inception” is when Cobb shows Ariadne the inner workings of dreams and reminds her to never imagine things exactly as they are in real life and instead imagine new places. It reminded me of dreams I remember from my childhood where I visualized going through a local mall. Much of the structure was the same except for the floor tiles, the elevators, and there was a weird-looking McDonald’s nearby. Similar to that, “Slumberland” plays around with dreams that are quite literally what they are. Imaginative. There is an entertaining sequence in the middle of the movie where we see a young woman dreaming she is dancing around all these people with leaves around them. I would never expect that to happen in real life, but when it comes to wild, crazy dreams, this checks some boxes.

I keep going on about the aesthetic of the film, which is sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss. But what about the story? Is that any good? Again, I like the concept. While it does blend some familiar hero’s journey elements, it does manage to at the very least, emit a vibe that could technically qualify as entertainment. Despite my gripes with the design of the movie, it is fun. I think if you have children, this might be an okay watch with them. There are other family friendly stories that came out this year I would flock to first. For example, “Lightyear,” which if we are doing Christopher Nolan comparisons, where in this case “Slumberland” is “Inception” for younger audiences, then “Lightyear” is “Interstellar” for younger audiences.

The highlight in “Slumberland” is the chemistry between the two stars. While this is not my favorite movie or performance from Jason Momoa, I must admit he looks like he a had a ton of fun on set and this gave him a chance to let loose. While “Aquaman” is a film that could easily be described as crazy stupid fun, his character never goes too off the rails. Here, Momoa is occasionally a lovable goofball to the point where I am surprised Dave Bautista or John Cena did not end up taking this role. Meanwhile Marlow Barkley shines as Nemo. She is charismatic, dynamic, and every scene between her and Momoa, and even Chris O’Dowd, had my attention partially because of how she played off of Francis Lawrence’s direction.

“Slumberland” is like a Roald Dahl story, or more specifically, a 99 cent Roald Dahl story. Momoa plays a Willy Wonka-esque character, both in terms of appearance and emotional delivery. Seeing how Nemo found herself in Slumberland and the journey she took throughout the world reminded me of “The BFG,” because you have this young girl discovering this strange place and her new best friend appears just as otherworldly but there is more than meets the eye. Unfortunately, unlike “The BFG” and some of Dahl’s other work, I do not know if “Slumberland” will be worthy enough to have staying power in children’s imaginations. This might be a movie that will remain relevant on Netflix for a short time. Although much like the many dreams we have during sleeps of our own, “Slumberland” will assumingly be forgotten as children and families move onto the next thing. Whether that next thing is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Strange World,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” or their holiday movie traditions this year. Maybe this will be the year the kids finally get to watch “Die Hard.”

In the end, “Slumberland” is not offensive, but not a masterpiece either. But if you want me to be real, despite its flaws, I had some fun. There are a lot of cool concepts in the movie, but with slight flimsiness in terms of execution. If I had to compare to this film to any other I saw this year, it reminded of Apple TV+’s recent animation “Luck,” which also follows a girl traveling through an unfamiliar world alongside someone she does not know. When it comes to these kinds of films, “Slumberland” is the better iteration of the two, but it is not saying much. Although when it comes to fantasylands, I would much rather immerse myself in the universe of “Slumberland” as opposed to the universe of “Luck.” The manufacturing of dreams is more palatable than the manufacturing of luck. The actors are serviceable in the movie, with Momoa being the standout. There are some occasionally neat sequences, but given that this movie is made for streaming, there are also sequences that highlight its lessened polish. Would I recommend the movie? Barely. I think if you go in with the right mindset, you could have some fun. This movie is not playing in many theaters, but if I were paying above matinee price to watch the movie, it would not be worth it. At the discount price, it might make for an okay experience with some popcorn by your side. I am going to give “Slumberland” a 6/10.

“Slumberland” is now playing in one theater in California, but if you are not in California or would prefer another option, the film is available on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for another brand new movie, “The Menu!” I got the chance to watch “The Menu” at a press event the other day, and I cannot stop thinking about it. I will reveal my thoughts on the film in the next couple days. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Slumberland? What did you think about it? Or, tell me about the craziest dream you remember having. Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Two Thumbs Up, with All Fingers Intact

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and stars Colin Farrell (The Batman, Voyagers), Brendan Gleeson (The Tragedy of MacBeth, Assassin’s Creed), Kerry Condon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Better Call Saul), and Barry Keoghan (Eternals, Dunkirk) in a film where Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty, two men connected through lifelong friendship, face individual consequences through ending said bond.

I did not see a ton of marketing for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but I have been interested in the film since last month, when I started hearing about its many positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is currently holding a 98% critic score. Thus far, this is higher than McDonagh’s previous outings like “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” both of which also starred Colin Farrell. It is not surprising to see the actor come back to work alongside a director he has become close with. But it would help if the script he was given is strong. Thankfully, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a script that belongs on the cover of a health magazine. This is one of my favorite movies of the year and another win for Colin Farrell just after he killed it in this year’s “The Batman.”

The concept of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” specifically the dissolving of a lifelong friendship, is intriguing. This is especially true considering that it is the backbone of its story. The ending of a relationship comes off more like side consequence a protagonist goes through somewhere past the halfway point in numerous stories. It is the classic case of taking a protagonist and having them fall to their lowest point. Only that is not the case with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” because as we see, the protagonist, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) in this case, makes such a big deal out of it that the point practically flies over his head. It is like going to a restaurant, ordering a small pizza, being told that they do not have the ingredients to make pizza, but then going ahead and asking for a large pizza.

Despite this movie being a tale of loss in more ways than one, it is surprisingly funny. There are a number of great lines from multiple characters. Early on in the movie we get one of Colm’s few reasons why he does not find his friendship with Pádraic stable and he references the time Pádraic was talking about what he found in his donkey’s fecal matter. Colm may be onto something, except Pádraic was not talking about that. Pádraic says he was talking about his pony’s fecal matter, which as he puts it, shows how little Colm was listening. One particular confession scene past the halfway mark is also comedic gold. Little things like those make this movie worth the price of admission.

There is more to this simple concept than meets the eye. Because if this movie were about two former friends with differing perspectives as to where their relationship should go, it is possible that the story could get boring fast. Instead, the movie adds a complexity to the breakup that only makes things harder for the individual who declared the friendship was over. For each time Pádraic bothers Colm, he cuts off one of his fingers. Because that is what normal human beings do. This brings stakes to a fairly minimalistic and intimate story that already happens to succeed as both a drama and a comedy. For one thing, nobody wants to lose their fingers. Another thing to consider, nobody wants to see a chopped finger. Therefore, this is a tough situation on both sides. How realistic is Colm’s finger-cutting situation? Hard to say. Plus if I had to give my biggest problem with this movie, why did Colm actually go through with this?

Let’s put it this way. One of the reasons why Colm cut Pádraic from his life is to focus on interests like playing the violin. Last time I checked, unless you live in that hot dog finger universe in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you might want your fingers for playing musical instruments such as the violin. Sure, this eventually brings a particularly compelling scene during the second half of the movie where Colm utilizes said instrument, but as far as getting the point across to Pádraic, I would imagine the point may have been just as clear had he cut off his toes. It would have been just as gross, and arguably less painful on Colm’s end depending on how you slice it.

..Ignore that last statement, no pun intended, let’s move on.

That said, the movie delivers a fantastic story with the use of chopped fingers so I can forgive this based on how well executed everything happens to be.

One of the great things about “The Banshees of Inisherin” is that even though the protagonist in this case is the one who is dumped, I see both sides in regards to the feelings of the dumper and the dumpee. Pádraic may consider Colm to be an important part of his life, but Colm equally as much shows reasons why he must cut Pádraic from his life. A good movie can get you to root for the protagonist to the end, but there is also a saying that a story is only as good as its villain. While Colm is not a villain, he definitely is not the hero. Given the story and circumstances, Colm is a fantastic antithesis to Pádraic. Yes, Colm has his various reasons why he does not want to be friends with Pádraic, but as the movie reveals, he wants to drift away to focus on certain interests. It reminds me of the scene in “Whiplash” where Andrew dumps his love interest to focus on drumming, except in this case that moment is expanded into a whole movie. It is one’s basic drive to follow their passion, and to do that, they have to trim out certain people from their life.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” reminded me of “The Lighthouse” if the main characters were SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward Tentacles. In this case, Pádraic is SpongeBob. He is a hyperactive, larger than life individual who always seems to be in the moment. Colm on the other hand, is Squidward. He seems to want more out of life than what he has, and much like Squidward, he is musically talented. While this film has a higher count of locations and characters than “The Lighthouse,” I cannot recall a time I have seen two men descend into madness like the main duo in that film. The chemistry between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is some of the finest I have watched in recent memory. This should not be surprising given how the two previously worked together as the stars of another Martin McDonagh movie, “In Bruges.” Never would I have expected to enjoy two people who have such a disconnect spending an abundance of screen time together. Safe to say, I can put a finger as to why “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a great movie.

In the end, while I have seen movies where the main story pulls itself forward by the two main characters not always bonding with each other, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of the best stories I have seen in regards to such endless disconnection. It made me happy, sad, and everything in between. “The Banshees of Inisherin” goes to show that sometimes the simplest stories are the most effective. The film is also beautifully shot and has some of the most gorgeous-looking locations of any movie to come out in 2022. Awards season, during which this movie may be a talking point, is getting into swing. And speaking of swings, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a home run, and a 9/10.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Netflix feature “Slumberland.” I went to a recent press screening for the all new movie which is playing in California, but also set to release on the Netflix platform on November 18th. Stay tuned for my thoughts. Also, once I am done with that review, I will be talking about another Searchlight Pictures production, “The Menu.” Almost every movie I have gone to recently, I saw the trailer for this film. Whether the spree of marketing paid off, is a question that will be answered in the review. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Banshees of Inisherin?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you are looking forward to that you think could be a talking point during the current awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022): Marvel’s Phase 4 Ends with a Fine, But Not Perfect, Sequel

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is directed by Ryan Coogler, who also directed the previous “Black Panther” installment. This film stars Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Mirror), Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 12 Years a Slave), Danai Gurira (Treme, The Walking Dead), Winston Duke (Us, Person of Interest), Florence Kasumba (Wonder Woman, The Lion King) Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Judas and the Black Messiah), Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You, Chewing Gum), Tenoch Huerta (Mozart in the Jungle, Narcos: Mexico), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Sherlock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Onward), and Angela Basset (Akeelah and the Bee, Soul). This film is the sequel to “Black Panther” and follows Wakanda as its people attempt to defend their home from the king of Talokan, Namor.

I have always wondered what a “Black Panther” sequel could look like, especially given how successful the first film was. If you are Disney and/or Marvel Studios, there is no way you would just sit pretty after earning a billion dollars at the box office. Sure, you might pop a few bottles. But once you are done drinkin’, you must soon be back to grindin’. Although my wonder supposedly peaked towards the end of 2020. For one thing, the predecessor’s lead, Chadwick Boseman, passed away. This brought a gigantic question. What is going to happen to T’Challa?

On December 10, 2020, the world got its answer. During a Walt Disney Company Investor Day event, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that the character of T’Challa would not be recast and the sequel would explore other characters in Wakanda. While I am under the philosophy that actors can be replaced to a degree, I understand the tough decision that had to be made here. Boseman’s character was more than a guy who looked cool on screen, he was a symbol for the black community.

While there have been other black protagonists and superheroes on-screen, very few had the impact that Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther did over recent years. If you ask me, I liked the first “Black Panther,” but I did not love it. That said, I recognize there are plenty of people who do and I nevertheless celebrate how the film remains a symbol for a specific audience. I still remember where I was when Chadwick Boseman died, sitting in my room, browsing on my phone. While this may not be my first idea for a “Black Panther” installment, I like that the film went for an angle where art somewhat imitates life.

This movie dives into how the Wakandans live after the death of T’Challa. The execution of this is brilliantly realized and delivers certain segments of the movie that I consider to be phase 4 highlights. If I were to judge this movie simply as a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, I would give it two thumbs up. Unfortunately, there is also the rest of the movie. Some of which is solid, some of which is not.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is by no means a bad movie, but I think it comes down to the classic saying in regard to sequels. It goes bigger, but it does not make it better. It goes to new places, introduces new characters, but the execution is not as stellar as it could be. The first movie succeeded partially because of how it handled the character of T’Challa as a protagonist. As mentioned, he is not here for obvious reasons. Sadly, while the tribute to Chadwick Boseman delivered the feels, something was missing because T’Challa’s character was not replaced with another actor. What may have been missing is an escape. Because the first film at its core, even in its more dramatic moments, is fun. Kind of like the recent “Thor: Love and Thunder,” there are clashing tones that do not mix together all the time. This tries to be a traditional MCU movie with some of the flair of the original “Black Panther,” but falters because it unsuccessfully mixes this with a grieving process for T’Challa, and the actor who played him. This is not to say all of it did not work. Some happier moments worked. Some sadder moments worked. But I did not feel as happy or sad as this movie maybe wanted me to feel by the end of it.

It is time to talk about the villain, which in regards to MCU movies, are often considered a weakness. Thankfully, for the case of “Wakanda Forever,” Namor is serviceable. Although not perfect. While Namor had his moments, I think if you were to compare “Black Panther” and “Wakanda Forever” side by side, the first film clearly has the superior villain with Killmonger. His fleshing out was better, Michael B. Jordan gives a compelling performance, and I had a bit of an emotional attachment to him by the end of the film. Namor is threatening and there are some highlights with him on screen, but his motivation did not feel as prominent as it could have been. The best thing about Namor is how our heroes deal with him. There is a particular scene past the halfway mark into the film where from the heroes’ perspective, I got a sense of what they must have been thinking, what they were feeling. While 2018’s “Black Panther” did a good job at handling both the perspectives from the protagonist and antagonist, I think the former’s perspective was done better here than the latter’s.

A lot of Marvel movies, including good ones, often fail to deliver on the villain. I was not a huge fan of Ronan in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but the movie nevertheless worked for me. But almost every time the film slips on the villain, I am still onboard when it comes to understanding and rooting for the hero. I feel like I am given enough justification to continue liking them, to keep cheering them on. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” while its villain is not a dumpster fire, is no exception to this rule. That said, when I say that I am siding with the protagonist in this case, the movie comes to a decision as to who “the protagonist” is, but much of it does not resemble a centered story. There are so many things going on in this movie that until the end, it almost feels like there is no main character. There is ultimately a main character, but at times, it feels like there is not. The movie feels overstuffed, which I hate to say, because I liked some of the concepts in it.

For me, the highlight of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is Angela Basset. I liked Angela Basset in the original “Black Panther,” but her portrayal of Ramonda in this sequel is an improvement over the original in every way. Part of it is because the script gives the character a reason to perhaps have a more prominent presence on screen, and when it comes to the Wakandan society grieving over the loss of their king, I often connected with her based on her position in said society, in addition to knowing that her child is gone. Going back to what I said about art imitating life, Basset’s performance, alongside others in this film, came off as more than the characters going through their own reality. At times, Basset seemed to channel herself in regard to her connection to Chadwick Boseman. I bought into Basset’s performance, and as sad as Boseman’s death is, it may have enhanced Basset’s ability to deliver an excellent screen presence, one that could potentially be a talking point this awards season.

This movie is 161 minutes. Just over two and a half hours. At moments, I felt the runtime. Some of the exposition, specifically in regards to Namor, went on for way too long and I almost tuned out. In addition to being a “Black Panther” film, “Wakanda Forever” also somewhat doubles as an ad for Disney+ with the addition of Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart. Other than that, another notable flaw, and maybe this is just the case of my theater, maybe not, the sound mix was not perfect. There were select lines of dialogue that were hard to make out. It is not “Tenet” bad, but as far as the MCU goes, this is probably the first time I can recall having a problem like this during one of the movies in this series. Then again, I just turned 23 a little more than a week ago, therefore this is a possibly a sign that my hearing could be slightly deteriorating. Do not grow up, it is a trap.

If I had to compare “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” to anything else right now, it would have to be, of all things, the television series “Impractical Jokers.” …Hear me out.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” much like the most recent iteration of “Impractical Jokers,” loses one of its core cast members, tries to reinvent itself while also keeping certain elements audiences are familiar with, and fails to recapture some of the magic of what made its previous material great, but through a situation that it cannot fault itself for. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a film that I would have been terrified to be a part of if I were a higher-up at Marvel. I know “Black Panther” is a popular IP and there is no question as to whether or not a sequel should be made. But my question from the beginning was how the heck the story could go on without the title character.

If you look back at films like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” you would notice in the posters and marketing that the subtitle is a tad bigger than the title itself. The same is true for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” One could argue this is coincidental, but I would contend there is a reason why “Black Panther” is tiny and “Wakanda Forever” is enormous. This film, while it is ultimately a “Black Panther” story, is ultimately about the Wakanda community. How they come together. How they deal with grief. How they engage in politics. There is no way this film would not have had “Black Panther” in its title. Because if it did not, it would probably lose money. Although at the end of the day, this is part of what I mean when I say the film is overstuffed. Again, there is almost barely a center character. If anything, Wakanda itself is debatably the central character.

Now that I have seen all of phase 4, one of the commonalities during some of phase 4’s stories is the concept of grief. If you ask me, despite being an example of art imitating life, I think “WandaVision” and weirdly enough, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had better execution when it comes to grief. Maybe it is because of my connection to one specific character either during the story itself or in previous installments and how they end up dealing with it. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” dealing with grief was perhaps unavoidable because of a real life event. There are moments, especially towards the film’s end, where grief comes into play that continue to stick with me. But part of what made “WandaVision” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” more fulfilling is that I knew who to root for. Wanda and Peter Parker. Of course, “Wakanda Forever,” a movie where, again, Wakanda itself may as well be considered the central character, presents a scenario where an entire society is mourning. But because the movie had an overabundance of characters and things going on at times, it becomes less powerful for me.

Although if there is one thing “Wakanda Forever” does well despite its flaws, it would be consistency. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the previous MCU film, was like a seesaw in terms of tone. At certain points, it is as goofy as can be. At others, it is wildly dramatic. There is almost no in between. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” again, like “Thor: Love and Thunder,” clashes in terms of tone, but it is probably the most somber MCU film to date while also having pinches of much needed fun in between. Much like many other Marvel movies, there are moments of levity, but the film itself is a consistent downer. From scene one, the movie does everything it can to remind its audience that not everything is happy go lucky in Wakanda. Much like “Wakanda Forever,” “Love and Thunder” made grief a paramount topic. The film however goes too extreme on both ends to the point where it fizzles the goldilocks zone. While “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is more depressing than the average MCU film, including other movies that have their downer moments like “Eternals” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” it is at least both steadily, not to mention believably, sad.

Although because this movie is sad, does not mean there are no ounces of joy to be had. In addition to the recently mentioned levity, which is noticeably not as prominent as say “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” I liked the chemistry between Shuri and Okoye. The action, during this film’s collection of sequences, is well-done and kept my attention throughout. There is even a segment where someone catapults into the air via fish. I do not remember if it was a dolphin or a whale. I would have to watch the movie again, but that caught me off guard. This has to be arguably the craziest cool sight I have witnessed in a comic book movie since that one scene in “Aquaman” where an octopus plays the drums.

With all this sadness though, some of you might ask, can you bring your family and children to this movie? After all, Marvel movies, in addition to being box office hits, are also traditionally fine options for large groups like families. Even for children despite the usual PG-13 rating. To answer the question, I would say yes. This may not be as fun as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Although there is nothing absolutely offensive, nothing overly gory, and despite the film’s serious nature, there is nothing in it that I would think would instantly turn off younger viewers or the parents trying to entertain said younger viewers.

Before we move on, without giving a ton of detail, there is a fantastic joke in the movie about MIT. You will know it when you hear it. It got a good laugh out of me, and I think many people reading this will react similarly.

In the end, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” while still a decent movie, is a step down from the original. It is the neither the best or worst film of phase 4. It is somewhere close to the middle. The film is ambitious, but cannot quite fill the massive void that Chadwick Boseman left. I admire that “Wakanda Forever” took the risk of killing off one of its core characters and making that a backbone as to where things go in the film. Unfortunately, it led to a movie of both hits and misses. Is the film worth watching? The answer would be yes. It has its flaws, but in a thumbs up/thumbs down world, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a thumbs up, not to mention a 7/10.

Well, that is the end of phase 4! If I have to be honest, while this is not my favorite phase in the MCU, I will give it credit. Unlike phases 1, 2, and 3, every movie that came out in phase 4, had some semblance of decency at minimum. In phase 1, I was not a fan of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” In phase 2, I did not like “Thor: The Dark World.” In phase 3, I disliked “Captain Marvel.” Phase 4’s movies, from “Black Widow” to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” were all entertaining, fun, and worth watching. They all had flaws, but they were also worth watching. I have no idea what phase 5 is going to be like, but I hope that like phase 4, the movies continue to be solid.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is now playing in theatres everywhere including premium formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Searchlight Pictures film “The Banshees of Inisherin.” I just watched the film this weekend, and while I look forward to reviewing just about every movie I see, I mean it with this one. I cannot wait to review “The Banshees of Inisherin,” I hope to drop it soon.

If you want to see more of my thoughts on phase 4 of the MCU, check out my reviews for “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Eternals,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Marvel’s phase 4? What is your favorite movie or television show from the timeline? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!