Made in Italy (2020): Taken to the Gallery

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“Made in Italy” is directed by James D’Arcy (Dunkirk, Cloud Atlas) and stars Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Cold Pursuit), Micheál Richardson (Cold Pursuit, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), Valeria Bilello (Sense8, Curon), and Lindsay Duncan (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Birdman). This film mainly revolves around a father and son duo. They travel to Tuscany to sell a house inherited from the late wife of Neeson’s character. Only thing is, the house is run-down and pretty much a mess, so the two have to fix the place up before it can be given to a new owner for the sake of profit. Meanwhile, the son character played by Richardson wants to buy a gallery.

Well, this is my second week in a row where I review a movie, specifically one I saw in the theater, that pretty much centralizes Italy or some sort of Italian vibe. Last week, I reviewed “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” which during my review, I had positive thoughts to spew all around. Admittedly, I’ll probably forget some things about that movie by the end of the year. However, I still need to process “Made in Italy” before such a notion can probably be finalized. Like “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” I really have not heard squat about “Made in Italy.” I read the description regarding the movie and what it’s about. I also saw the trailer for the film hours or so before I left the house to see this movie. That’s really just about all I was able to gather about the film before actually seeing it.

Now that I’ve seen the film, if I had to compare the two Italy-centric flicks of importance of the bat, I will say a positive here… I liked “Made in Italy” more than “The Burnt Orange Heresy.” I also think “Made in Italy” will end up being more memorable and reflected upon as a greater story when it comes to entertainment. At its heart, “Made in Italy” is really just a ride between a father and son who reveal their sense of unease towards each other when they’re together. They have their differences, but we see them together and despite those differences, it all adds up for some great chemistry.

One thing I will say though, this movie, even from a marketing perspective, was sort of a surprise for me because it stars Liam Neeson and the vibe doesn’t feel goofy in the slightest. Sure, you can get a sense of seriousness from movies like “Taken” if you think hard enough or put yourself in the right mood, but in recent years, it almost feels as if Liam Neeson, who I respect as an actor, just signs on to “latest formulaic action movie 101.” The most recent examples for this are “The Commuter” and “Cold Pursuit.” Granted, he’s done other things too including a small voice-role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and an uncredited role in Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville.” But when my mind diverts to thoughts of Liam Neeson, I might as well make a connection of sorts to some goofy, generic action movie that may not be remembered by the average viewer overtime. Heck, there was a scene from “Daddy’s Home 2” that basically parodies a stereotype regarding Liam Neeson’s career choices.

When it comes to “Made in Italy,” I think this is one of Liam Neeson’s standout performances, at least regarding the ones I’ve seen. I still have yet to see “Schindler’s List,” which he received an Oscar nomination for.

I am a bad movie fan. A bad bad movie fan. Apologies to Steven Spielberg.

Now, IMDb lists this movie as a “comedy,” with no other genres attached. But when I saw the trailer, I figured this would be on the drama side of things. Now that I used digital technology to get a little blip of info in my brain, I know better. Nevertheless, when I watched this movie, I was a bit surprised on how much I genuinely enjoyed the comedic moments. Maybe it’s because it’s 2020 and I almost feel like there is nothing to laugh about anymore, but still. Besides, laughter is the best medicine. It’s the perfect cure to realizing your brain has set itself on fire.

LAUGHTER: Try it today! 11 out of 10 doctors and one Movie Reviewing Moron approve!

Believe it or not, this is the third time I have seen Micheál Richardson in something on screen. I’ve already seen him in his earliest acting credit, specifically in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” but he also had a role in “Cold Pursuit.” To be completely honest, I don’t even remember this dude. Although to be fair, he’s mainly done small roles. For research purposes, I have been looking at the “Made in Italy” Wikipedia page, and even though Micheál Richardson’s name is listed on the page, he does not have a personally dedicated Wikipedia page of his own. Seeing him in a heavier role like the one he has in this movie is sort of fulfilling because he got to show off his true abilities as an actor. He and Liam Neeson make a great pair and I bought into both characters personalities and motivations. I should really not be that surprised, but I failed to realize until sometime during the writing of this review, that Richardson is actually Liam Neeson’s son! So their fine chemistry actually makes sense! It’s like they’ve ACTUALLY known each other for awhile, because guess what? They do!

This movie is directed by James D’Arcy, who to this day has 77 acting credits dating back to 1996. As for directing, the only thing he did before “Made in Italy” was a short by the name of “Chicken/Egg.” That movie is also the first screenplay he did. Coincidentally, “Made in Italy” happens to be his second writing credit. I think for a first time feature director, James D’Arcy shines. Granted, I’ve seen better, even from first time directorial efforts from people who have previously established themselves as actors including  Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” as the most prominent example I can think of. I think D’Arcy’s screenplay is coherent, it makes sense. All the points that need to be there have a reason for being there, but there are likely going to be some characters or moments that will leave my memory based on how forgettable they might end up being. There are also a couple shot choices, maybe just one or two, that come across as a little awkward and feel like they defy reality a little too far up the ladder, and this partially has to do with how one of the executions of Liam Neeson’s lines happens to be handled. Again, Liam Neeson gives a great performance in “Made in Italy,” but it doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its flaws. It’s a bit cliche, yet enjoyable, but also packed with a suitable amount of fun here and there.

One of the phrases that I’ve learned in middle school that has stuck with me to this point is “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and sure, maybe my first impression of this movie being somewhere in dramaville was debunked. But I’m focusing on the opposite of that phrase here. Because this movie’s title gave me one hope… To feel like I’m in Italy for one to two hours. This movie fulfilled my wish in several scenes. The cover gave me something to look forward to, and I can’t say I was disappointed. After all, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to an Italian trip pretty soon because Italy, along with a majority of the world’s countries, pretty much hates the United States right now. What a time to be alive!

In the end, “Made in Italy” is a surprisingly fun and attention-grabbing movie in several parts. I think if you want some good performances and stunning scenery, you’ll get those two things here. When it comes to James D’Arcy’s directing career, not to mention his screenwriting career, I am curious to see what he plans to whip up next. Is it a drama? Action? Fantasy? Horror? I think as far as first time directing features go, this is a solid jump in the water. Maybe the next movie will bigger splash. Who knows? Anything can happen. I’m going to give “Made in Italy” a 7/10.

I’ll also point out, I did see this movie in theaters, and it is playing in quite a few places right now. However, the film is also available on VOD through various services including iTunes, Google Play, and cable On Demand providers like Xfinity and Verizon Fios. So if you are still uncomfortable of going to a theater right now for whatever reason, you can watch this movie at home if necessary.

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Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, movie theater chains like AMC and Regal reopen in many markets next week. I know AMC is opening a bunch of theaters near me, as for Regal, I’m not so sure that they’re ready just yet, but I will hopefully be going to see “Unhinged” sometime soon, which is one of the first new releases that is going to be getting people back to the movies. And if the theaters are open long enough, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to see “The New Mutants,” maybe I’ll get to see “Tenet.” I am BEGGING for somebody, ANYBODY, near me to show the film in full frame IMAX. I’ll get a COVID test and hop on a plane somewhere if I have to at this point. I’ll do anything! Throw my phone out the window! Shine a flashlight in my eyes! Drink from a toilet bowl! Save Princess Peach! Build a Death Star by myself! Eat doorknobs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! ANYTHING! But hey, guess what? I’m already going to AMC twice next week, so this should be the start of something satisfying. What am I seeing? Thursday I’m seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” and Saturday I’m going to the “Inception” 10th Anniversary Event. I can’t wait, I’m excited to go back to AMC, even if I will admit they have been involved in some stupid remarks and decisions in recent months, and I do mean it when I say stupid. Granted, I also blame Universal Pictures, but still.

Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Made in Italy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Liam Neeson performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019): Portrait with Orange on Fire

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“The Burnt Orange Heresy” is directed by Giuseppe Capotondi (Berlin Station, The Double Hour) and stars Claes Bang (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Square), Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Everest), Mick Jagger (Being Mick, Running Out of Luck), and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, Pride & Prejudice). This film revolves around an eccentric, mysterious art critic by the name of James Figueras who is hired to steal a rare painting. As the movie moves along, he becomes greedier by the second. Simultaneously, he is romantically involved with a woman named Berenice Hollis.

Oh yay! Another movie that we can see in theaters! 2020 is turning around!

…Sort of. Not really. It’s still a crapfest all around and we just have to live with that! Boohoo.

“The Burnt Orange Heresy,” much like a lot of other movies I have seen so far this year, is a film that I really did not know much about going into it. All I really knew about the film is what I’ve read regarding it on IMDb and one or two other sites. I knew it got some attention already through festivals. Apparently, based on how IMDb lists the film as being released on March 6th, 2020 in the U.S., this thing has been theatrically released already. In fact, its distributor, Sony Pictures Classics decided that they’d hold onto the film and avoid putting it on VOD despite how many other films at the time such as “The Hunt,” “Bloodshot,” and “Onward” were going in such a direction. As of today, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a film that can ONLY be watched in theaters. As for when it will hit stores and digital services remains a mystery to me.

Walking out of “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” I cannot say I’m disappointed. Partially because as mentioned, I did not know much about the film going into it. All I really gathered regarding it was the basic gist and concept. “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a sensual, mysterious flick, which kind of makes sense as it does take place in Italy, which from my experience is an often romanticized country. In fact, let me just say, I am not dating anybody. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic where everyone is supposed to socially distance from each other, I don’t really think I should be dating anybody, but I thought that if you are in the right mood, this could be an alright pick for a date movie. Granted, this movie is also not for everyone, as it does feel fairly artsy. Almost in the high-brow category if you will. Then again, this is a movie heavily involving art and someone trying to steal a rare painting, so it kind of adds up.

I really think the best part of the movie is the chemistry between the main romantic couple, specifically played by Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki. Their chemistry is some of the best I have seen in recent memory in regards to a relationship. Every one of their actions, even if it goes to a point of slight exaggeration, felt kind of raw. Again, this is kind of a sensual movie during a few bits and pieces, even if that is not what it is trying to present itself as in the long run.

Also, gotta admit, Elizabeth Debicki may be a new celebrity crush of mine, and based on her acting chops, I cannot wait to see her smash the role she’s got in “Tenet!”

*teary-eyed* PLEASE COME OUT ALREADY.

I also liked the main character himself, again, played by Claes Bang, an actor who I am admittedly not familiar with at all. This movie starts off with a pretty sharply edited opening scene where Claes Bang’s character, James Figueras, is on his exercise bike in his private quarters, but simultaneously, he’s lecturing to an audience about a painting. To save some of the mystery from you, the people reading this… I will not go into much detail about the scene itself, but it is a great way to not only start the film, but get a sense of our main character’s personality. What’s he like? What does he do? What are his mannerisms? Just in the first five to ten minutes of this film, I felt like I’ve already gathered a terrific sense of who exactly this character could be, or who he is trying to be. He’s mysterious, he’s quirky, I kind of wanted to know more about him. Sure, maybe on the surface he kind of looks like the dad from “Modern Family,” but as far as his traits and personality go, that is something that I wanted to be somewhat unraveled as we go along.

As I watched “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” it reminded me of one thing more than anything else. That my friends, is “Life Lessons,” the short film directed by Martin Scorcese as part of the “New York Stories” set. For those of you who don’t know what that is, “Life Lessons” is a film about an eccentric painter, who lives with his assistant as their relationship begins to spiral down the drain. Granted, the relationship seems to be working a lot better for both sides in “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” but I would not be lying if I told you that I did not make such a connection with these two films. Both of these films feel fairly dramatic, romantic, and occasionally a little bumpy. I will say, and this is somewhat forgiven as “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a feature and “Life Lessons” is a short, but “The Burnt Orange Heresy” feels a bit on the slower side compared to “Life Lessons.” Without spoilers, the way certain events play out in both these films feels like they are a couple with their differences, but nevertheless happy to be together.

I said this once, I’ll say it again, this film is not for everyone. This film is almost on the verge of being kind of eccentric, and some will find it pretentious or high brow. But for me, I enjoyed myself. It is a film that I probably will not end up watching every day, but if I were to have it on, I would most likely not use it just as background noise. I also think that when it comes to how this film is edited overall, it is one of the finer editing jobs I have seen this year. A lot of the scenes are interwoven nicely and nothing really feels out of place. I’d give this film a thumbs up.

In the end, “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” despite what I just said about probably not wanting to watch it every day, is a film that I’d probably check out a second time because it has a vibe that feels cleansing and smooth to the brain. Plus, despite being an hour and thirty-nine minutes, there may be one or two things that I missed on the first viewing that I may want to pick up again. Maybe the dialogue went over my head or something, I don’t know. Nevertheless, this is good enough for a repeat viewing. I’m going to give “The Burnt Orange Heresy” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I have a few new Blu-rays lying around for possible reviews, but HBO Max has just released an original film starring Seth Rogen by the name of “An American Pickle.” If I get the chance, I might just talk about that for an upcoming review, but who knows? Anything can happen in 2020. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Burnt Orange Heresy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie set in Italy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Capone (2020): Josh Trank Chronicles the Gangster

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“Capone” is directed by Josh Trank (Fantastic Four, Chronicle) and stars Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Dunkirk) as the title character alongside Linda Cardellini (Daddy’s Home, Gravity Falls), Jack Lowden (Dunkirk, Fighting with My Family), Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shameless), Kyle MacLachlan (Inside Out, Carol’s Second Act), Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary, Crash), and Al Sapienza (The Sopranos, Person of Interest). This film is about the famous American gangster, Al Capone, and is set during the last year of his life as he suffers from dementia.

This movie originally released on VOD this past May, and I have waited a little bit to talk about it for several reasons. For one, I took a break for the most part when it comes to movie reviewing during the spring. Also, “Scoob!” was a priority for me. It is an animated film, and I usually tend to review at least five a year now, so I wanted to get one under my belt. I should note that both movies released around the same time.

However, I was shopping inside Best Buy the other day and I came across “Capone,” which had a copy available on Blu-ray. I snatched it when I had the chance, and I popped it in a couple weeks later. For a price of $12.99, I felt that I was getting my money’s worth. After all, when this thing came out, I believe it was $19.99 to rent on VOD, which is still ridiculous to me. By the way, Disney, you’re crazy, and I say that as someone who may want to work with 20th Century in the future. “Mulan” deserves better and so do your customers!

Before I go any further, I should note that “Capone” has a 4.7/10 on IMDb. Given how a lot of the stuff on IMDb happens to be somewhere in the 6 to 8 range, that’s a pretty low score. I will say though, what kind of shocks me here is that this rating does not come from mostly 1s and 2s. Not even 3s. The most common rating for “Capone” is a 5 on IMDb. I’m not gonna give my score just yet. Per usual, we save that for the end. But I can see why 5 would be a common verdict here. This movie really isn’t anything special.

Now, this movie is directed by Josh Trank, who as far as my opinions are concerned has a fairly mixed resume. His movie “Chronicle” released back in 2012, was a fun found footage flick with a neat concept. I think it was pretty well done overall. But in 2015 he directed “Fantastic 4,” which ironically wasn’t even close to fantastic. When I was seeing it at the theater. I missed part of the climax as I was more concerned about getting more popcorn than I was about catching the rest of this movie. When it comes to “Fantastic 4” in particular, I don’t put all the blame on Josh Trank, given how that film was basically made as a quick money grab so Fox could keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel. So even though “Fantastic 4” was not entirely great, it wasn’t exactly earth-shatteringly devastating to watch. As for “Capone,” the same can be said for that movie. It’s by no means the best movie in the world, it’s not a masterpiece, not worth massive attention. It just… exists.

I will say though, and this should not be completely surprising as this movie does come from a smaller studio, this project feels just a tad more personalized coming from a guy like Josh Trank. Maybe there’s some hints of a story formula that become obvious here and there, but if this movie were say, the next “Parasite,” I would be all over Josh Trank right now and completely excited to see whatever he does next. Although I should point out, unlike “Fantastic Four,” Josh Trank actually wrote the screenplay for “Capone” by himself. During the writing process for “Fantastic Four,” he was involved with the screenplay enough to receive a credit. But so were Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg.

I do like Tom Hardy’s performance here as Al Capone. One thing for me to consider, based on the other projects where I’ve seen Tom Hardy, such as “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Venom,” it doesn’t really feel like my typical vision for Tom Hardy himself. It actually feels like he’s playing a character. Although ironically, this movie comes out during the COVID-19 pandemic and this is the one time Tom Hardy plays a character that doesn’t wear a mask. Given his resume, such as the recently mentioned “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Venom,” along with other films including “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Dunkirk,” it feels a little out of the ordinary. I’m not complaining, it’s just something I noticed.

I should note that I watched this movie on Monday, August 3rd. This gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts for a review. Unfortunately, the little that I do fully remember about this movie does not say enough for this movie to have a lasting impact. Yes, I did feel bad for Al Capone given how he was going through some health issues. There’s definitely a reason to get attached to such a character. Although, I’m gonna use this phrase once again, this movie doesn’t really have the oomph factor to push it over the edge. Do I care for Al Capone here? Sure. But will I care for him in a week when I move on to the next movie? That’s hard to say. This movie has some great dialogue exchanges between characters that make you somewhat emotionally attached, but I don’t feel like I’m going to remember anybody’s name in this film except maybe Al Capone because he’s on the flipping title of the movie for crying out loud!

For the most part, I do think Josh Trank’s “Capone,” kind of like the last movie I reviewed, “Gretel & Hansel,” is a competent production. I think the location choices were suitable, I like the casting, and getting Tom Hardy to play the lead role is a fine mix of name recognition and talent. I will say one thing though as a compliment compared to “Gretel & Hansel.” “Capone” was more entertaining in its span of a hundred and three minutes, compared to “Gretel & Hansel” in its span of eighty seven minutes. Sometimes, it goes to show… A movie is as long as the viewer makes it. “Gretel & Hansel” in this case, maybe took a million more years to get through. I was entertained by “Capone,” but I don’t think I’ll watch it again in the near future.

In the end, “Capone” is not… Terrible, but to call it next level material or even “good” would be a lie. It’s just some extended series of scenes that may or may not be a waste of time depending on your mood. I think there was some effort put into it, but again, there’s no lasting impact for me to remember this film forever. Maybe if I watched the film in a theater, who knows? It could be experiential, but I didn’t. I saw it at home… Where we are stuck for the rest of our lives… End this pandemic… I’m going to give “Capone” a 5/10. I will say, the rating could jump to a 6/10 as there were some entertaining parts. But when seeing a brief moment of “The Wizard of Oz” was the most fascinating part of “Capone,” that’s kind of a problem. It was a good scene, but still.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend I’m planning on seeing “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” a new movie that is only playing in theaters. Can’t believe I’m saying that! This film is about an art dealer trying to steal a painting and the mission suddenly goes out of control. Sounds like a work of art.

*Cricket noises*

Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Capone?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hardy performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Gretel & Hansel (2020): You’ve Heard the Story. Prepare to Fall Asleep to It.

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“Gretel & Hansel” is directed by Oz Perkins, AKA Osgood Perkins (Legally Blonde, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House) and stars Sophia Lillis (It, Sharp Objects), Samuel Leakey (MotherFatherSon), Charles Babalola (Bancroft, The Legend of Tarzan), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Dracula), and Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact, Chariots of Fire). This film is based on the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm. This has received adaptations in the past, but this is one of the latest attempts at adapting such material because well, originality is dead. So the best we can do now is take something in hopes of flipping it on its head hard enough to get something different, but also interesting.

Safe to say, this movie… Didn’t do that. I’ll get to that later.

Now, I will be fair to “Gretel & Hansel” here. Because the truth is, I am not that familiar with the material which this film happens to be based on. Have I heard the name thousands of times over the years? Sure. But you can say the same thing about my knowledge of other aspects regarding culture. Things like “Fortnite,” “Stranger Things,” “South Park,” Cracker Barrel, Red Lobster, Fanta, AKA a drink that wouldn’t exist if it were not for ties to Nazi Germany. It’s true by the way, look it up.

Let me just start off by stating some things I like about the movie. Oz Perkins does a really good job at providing an intimate feel to this picture. It made me wonder why I didn’t wait until say September or October to watch this. Granted, this film did come out in January, at least in U.S. cinemas that is, but if it came out in September and October, it would have provided a proper vibe for spooky season. After all, “Gretel & Hansel” is in the horror genre, it is genuinely creepy at times, not to mention kind of quirky, and the environment just screams “autumn.” In some ways, this film reminded me of the 2015 flick, “The Witch.” Now let me just say, I HATED “The Witch” upon my initial viewing, and I still haven’t watched it a second time. But I will admit, the style presented in “Gretel & Hansel” kind of reminded me of that movie. Things that stood out in this context include the slightly less than wide aspect ratio, the bold and nearly colorless grading, and the somewhat extended pace of the film. It all worked… At times.

In other times it was just… BOORRRRRRRRRING!

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Wow! I don’t think I’ve nearly come this close to tuning out a movie since maybe “Cats!” But let’s also be fair here, “Cats” is a disaster in every sense of the word that makes all other movies look like Shakespeare. Compared to “Cats,” which is an injection of infinite cyanide, “Gretel & Hansel” is one tiny little dart aimed at your leg. It hurts, maybe you’ll get to the point where you’ll pass out, but you’ll inevitably get back on the horse. Your chances of instant death are significantly reduced.

Nevertheless, I do want to point out, despite the fact that I do appreciate the art of filmmaking itself, not to mention an assortment of motion pictures that are perhaps, intentionally slow, take the “Blade Runner” films and “2001” as just a couple of core examples. I was just bored by whatever the heck was happening during “Gretel & Hansel.” I mean, I got the concept down willy nilly, but the in between of it all was just… tiresome. It’s really unfortunate that the movie just so happens to fall into a mess like this. Because there are several scenes that are visually stunning, not just from a practical perspective, but even some effects that are clearly fantastical manage to pop. There’s a nice blend between the grim–

Wait a minute, is that a pun? I think that’s a pun. Anyway…

There’s a nice blend between the grim reality and horrific fantasy here. Too bad I won’t remember a lot of it. In fact, as I write this review, I can only back track to what could be a very select few highlights of the film in terms of what I liked. Not the best of results if you ask me.

I will say though, when it comes to casting Gretel and Hansel for this film, I do think the department did a fine job when it comes to finding people who look the part and happen to provide fantastic chemistry. At this point, for an interpretation like 2020’s “Gretel & Hansel,” I almost cannot imagine anybody else filling in the shoes of these characters. They feel like two kids who try to work off each other despite having some differences. Given what time frame this movie takes place in and what this film in general has to offer, this feels like a legit brother and sister duo. Thumbs up to Claire Curry and Julie Harkin for their swell job on casting. In addition to that, thumbs up to both Sophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey for giving it their all in regards to their performances of their individual characters.

I don’t know what it really is about this movie… Why does it get a below average vibe from me? The production value is excellent and everyone involved does a top notch job. But the directing and screenplay doesn’t really seem to be that well executed when translated to screen. I can almost imagine the pitchroom meeting.

“We’re going to reinvent the German folktale for a new age! We do not need a lot of money to do it. The audience will take in the beauty and wonder of what will be a depressing world in which to live. It’s gonna be great.”

I like immersion and great production as much as the next guy. But if you have seen me review movies a lot over the past year or so, one of the big things I bring up is pacing. If you have a good movie, but it isn’t well paced. You’re not always gonna get a pass in that department. Did everything that happened in “Gretel & Hansel” need to happen? That’s a tough question to answer. Because guess what? This movie is ONLY EIGHTY-SEVEN MINUTES LONG! By today’s standards for feature films, that’s pretty freaking short! This is the Napoleon Bonaparte of feature films! If “Gretel & Hansel” cut out a lot of what made it slowly paced, I almost wonder if it would just perhaps barely be feature-length by technical standards. According to the Academy it would probably be a feature because by their standards, features are over forty minutes long. Same goes for the AFI (American Film Institute). But you might not get a pass from the Screen Actors’ Guild, which considers features to be seventy-five minutes at minimum. I wonder… Does that include credits? Just curious.

In the end, “Gretel & Hansel” is making me sleepy-eyed just thinking about it. Seriously, as I type this, my face is tilting towards my shoulder. I do not think I will be watching this film again anytime soon, despite the excellent production factors put into it. I enjoyed “Gretel & Hansel” as something to look at for an hour and a half, and compared to other movies that I will not watch again, I did not exactly want to rip my face off afterwards. However, that is not enough for this borefest to qualify as a quality movie. I’m going to give “Gretel & Hansel” a 4/10.

This year, man. This year. Although this film came out in January so this is somewhat normal. In other news… Disney is getting greedier than Mr. Krabs by making “Mulan” a Disney+ exclusive that you have to pay $29.99 TO WATCH ON TOP OF YOUR MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION. I’ll pass! I’m already paying for Prime Video, HBO Max, and I just got Peacock the other day! I am not that much of a streamer, and I don’t need more! By the way, my YEARLY PRICE for Peacock is the exact price you have to pay for “Mulan” on Disney+. Buh-bye for now!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Capone,” starring Tom Hardy. I just bought the Blu-ray a couple weeks ago, and I popped it just this past week to gather some thoughts on it. Stay tuned for that review and other great content from Scene Before! Follow the blog through a WordPress account or an email to see the latest goings on! OR, if you want bonus content, like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Gretel & Hansel?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your preferred adaptation of the “Hansel & Gretel” material? Are you an oldtimer who doesn’t want anyone on their lawn? Say the original material for all I care. Either way, there’s a good chance I have not checked out any of your answers so any thought I give to it may be invalid. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Vivarium (2019): As Strange As 2020

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“Vivarium” is directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Foxes, Without Name) and stars Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Green Room) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Now You See Me) as a couple who want to purchase a house. An agent shows them a house located in a quiet, seemingly peaceful area. Oddly, just about every house is identical and every aspect of the neighborhood feels like something specifically crafted for a lower budget, artsy Tim Burton picture or something. …Maybe the 2018 film “A Wrinkle in Time.” That one in particular is done by a different director, but nevertheless. As the couple tour what’s marked as house #9, they eventually find themselves without the agent, trying to escape the neighborhood. They never manage to find their way out. After the endless search, they find an infant, and are given instructions… “Raise the child and be released.”

Oh parenting, the hardest task in the world. Here. We. Go.

2020 has been a strange year. There has been talk amongst film fans, including myself, on what Best Picture could end up being. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” should nothing else arrive, could end up being a big contender. “The Invisible Man” has received plenty of positive verdicts. Honestly, with all things considered, I wouldn’t sleep on “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” That is… if I controlled the Academy and had all the power. Love those guys. But one of the lesser talked about films of the year is this little flick called “Vivarium.” Prior to today, the film has a box office total of $123,044. I knew very little about the project, despite how it has some notable names attached. Although I did buy the Blu-ray, popped it in the player, and watched the movie later on. Do I regret watching it? Not really… But… Kinda.

Let me just say, as a movie from a technical standpoint, “Vivarium” is very pleasing. I like the production design and framing of the film. It very much reminded me of a Tim Burton project like “Edward Scissorhands” if it were set in a slightly more modern time. The movie has this blend of fantasy and touch of reality that gives it its own unique feel. I kinda dig it. I think all the actors including Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jonathan Aris did a really good job playing their respective roles. They were all believable and well cast. If I were to watch this in a theater, I’d probably do my best to stay quiet and admire all the detail as things go by on the big screen. Although, I cannot see myself watching this movie many more times in the future.

One of the most controversial movies of the past year is Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.” For the record, I liked Ari Aster’s directorial debut, “Hereditary,” so I figured “Midsommar” would be a worthy follow-up to what he has provided in the past. I was wrong. It turned out to be one of the most insufferable film experiences I have put myself through in recent memory. Like “Vivarium,” “Midsommar” looked pretty appealing and had fantastic design to keep me gazing on the screen. It even had a good cast, I think Florence Pugh is a likable actress. Although if you ask me, I’d recommend an alternate film of hers to watch, “Fighting with My Family,” directed by the very talented and hilarious Stephen Merchant. But the film annoyed me in the long run. It was a film that tried to be disturbing and haunting, but just ended up feeling overly grotesque and off-putting. And while “Vivarium” feels a lot more tame, it kind of has that “Midsommar” feel. Upon finishing “Vivarium,” a part of me felt a little icky. And that’s a bit odd to say because while “Vivarium” is technically a horror movie, there is not really much that kept me disturbed. Maybe there were some spooks intact, but it didn’t really feel like something horrific or life-ending in a sense. It comes off as one of those artsy films that really tries to go all out there and be as strange as possible. In all likelihood, that may have been what the crew was going for, and in some ways, it works. But there are some cases where flaws happen to stand out.

I mean, no movie’s perfect, but this is a movie that really could have been awesome, but if the script didn’t go a certain way, I probably would have felt a little more satisfied. What way would I have wanted it to go? Well… I can’t tell you. That would perhaps spoil a great portion of the movie. But let me just say one thing, it involves the “kid” character, who I honestly grew to hate by the end of this movie. That’s all I can spit out without getting arrested by the spoiler police.

I like the way that this movie tends to handle parenting because it does go to reveal the disconnect between parents and their kids sometimes. Maybe the parents have a certain thought on their mind which may have to do with “helping the kid” or “doing what’s best for the kid” to which the kid ultimately disagrees or throws a tantrum or something of that nature. This movie sort of reminds me of why I may not want to be a parent anytime soon.

This is partially shown through say the performance given by Jesse Eisenberg, and I think that this is one of his better performances that I can think of if you ask me. Because when I think of Jesse Eisenberg, I will point out, I often reflect upon him in a positive light. I’ve seen him do good things, but he always seems to have this dimension to him that he carries from one character he plays to another. He’s a fast talker, almost to the point of mumbling, and it feels like he often plays a live-action cartoon. It’s like he’s on caffeine for extended periods which makes him rather obsessive and hyperactive. Here, from what I can recall, Eisenberg is calmer compared to other times I’ve witnessed him. Granted, I have not witnessed everything from Eisenberg. I still need to watch “The Social Network,” and not just the first two or three minutes which I think I DVRed one time.

I will say though, I am writing this review at the end of July 2020, and in a way, this movie may get a little too close to home for some viewers. Why? Well, it basically dives into what happens when a couple isolates in a home. Like, you know, just like every single one of us has in 2020. So do I recommend “Vivarium?” I’d say yes, minus the final five to ten minutes which were kind of a letdown for me. But remember, if you stayed in your home for four months, this could be a little bit… I’ll say creepy. I’m just hoping none of you have kids, maybe then it’ll get super creepy.

In the end, “Vivarium” started out alright, became pretty good, but nearly crashed during the climax. I know for storytelling purposes, there’s not really much that could necessarily be changed about the “kid” character, but that kid was one of the single most annoying characters I have seen in a movie in a long time. I get it, but… still, it drives me mad. I’m going to give “Vivarium” a 7/10.

Come on, 2020! Give me something great! Yes! We have “The Way Back!” We have “The Vast of Night!” We have “Hope Gap!” Those are good movies. I want GREAT movies. I think the last great movie I saw that was new may have been “The Farewell,” which technically speaking is a 2019 film even though I watched it in 2020 as I was wrapping my cycle for the 2019 lineup. If “Tenet” doesn’t come out on the first weekend of September, there is no hope left for movies this year. I wish I wasn’t being this dramatic. I want to avoid going into a rant, so… Let’s just move on.

Thanks for reading this review! I’m not sure what my next review is gonna be. I wanted to watch Greyhound on Apple TV+, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to watch it on my TV. After all, my smart platform, which is included with the television set, is Android TV, which of course, is from Google, one of Apple’s biggest competitors. This may be why there is no deal between the companies to have Apple TV+ on the Android TV platform. Nevertheless, if you want to see more great content from Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the blog’s official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Vivarium?” What did you think about it? Or, how is isolation going for you? Are you still in the house? Are you out and about? As one who lives in the United States, I HATE MY LIFE. That’s all I can say. Leave your comments down below, and hopefully my next blog post will come sometime soon! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Radioactive (2019): Imagine Elements

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“Radioactive” is directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, The Simpsons) and stars Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Gone Girl), Sam Riley (Maleficent, Control), Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen, Dunkirk), and Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma, The Witch). This film is about the life and story of Marie Curie, a scientist who discovered radioactive elements on the periodic table, which eventually changed the world. The film also dives into her family life, and her love life.

I knew a bit about Marie Curie before I saw “Radioactive.” In fact, when it comes to women in science, I think her name has a bigger lock in my head compared to just about anybody else. After all, there was a point during my sophomore year in high school where I knew her name through various means, and I wanted to do a project on her for my chemistry class. Unfortunately, she was taken. But as a consolation prize, her husband, Paul Francis Curie was available. So I did have some history regarding the Curie name, even if I didn’t really know them or consider myself to be a part of their legacy. I just… reflected on them. That’s a good word to use at this point.

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Before we go any further, I just want to let everyone know that if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, this movie is free as it is an original production from Amazon Studios. Thankfully, Gofobo sent me a notice that Amazon was letting people see the movie early for free. For various reasons, I decided to wait a little to review it, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity. Having said that… This is one of the best movies of 2020!

BUT… Hold your horses! If you have been following my recent work, you’d know THIS DOESN’T SAY MUCH. 2020, as a whole, has been a wreck for movies. Not just because of the industry-wide impact productions and crews everywhere happen to be facing, but what we have gotten so far has been nowhere near worthy of high honors. At this point, I would not be surprised if “Sonic the Hedgehog” ends up getting nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. It’s that crazy of a year! I will say though, “Radioactive” is a movie that going into it, I really did not have much awareness towards, but walking out of it, I felt that I made a superb life choice to gaze my eyes upon it.

Of the movies that I have seen this year, this honestly feels like the most worthy contender of being a “well-rounded” production. It has an excellent cast who performs well in each particular role on the list, the script is attention-grabbing and very much follows the much-respected “show, don’t tell” route of filmmaking. It’s a win for visual storytelling. Directing-wise, this was a solid vision of the period and people in which it portrays. The production design in this film may be the finest of the year. There’s a lot to unpack here and appreciate. Speaking of the production design aspect, I know the competition is not that heavy, and it could increase as we get movies like “Tenet,” “The New Mutants,” and so on, I think if any movie were to contend for a production design award at this point, “Radioactive” could win. I felt like I was in a different period than my own. And this REALLY says something, because when I review new movies. Guess where I’m watching them? Either on the big screen in theaters, or at home on my 4K TV. I used neither of those for this movie. Instead, I used a laptop. Why? Because the link to the movie was provided to me so I could watch it on smaller devices. To say that I watched a movie on my laptop and felt immersed from a picture standpoint, is a tremendous compliment.

Amazon.com: Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and ...

This film is based on a graphic novel by Lauren Redniss, and that thought never popped into my head while watching the movie. I never really made any sort of connection. But as I reflect upon what I witnessed, it adds up. A lot of the images are packed with impeccable detail, the colors really resemble a dreariness that isn’t exactly depressing, but more or less brings a pop to the eyes.

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One of the best parts overall of “Radioactive” is the performance given by Rosamund Pike. I will admit, I need to see more of her work, but she breaks a leg here. So far, it is probably my favorite performance of the year. This film centers around Marie Curie, and Pike does a really good job at maintaining the sense of importance such a character in an environment like this can provoke. This is one of the most notable women in all of scientific history, not only was her story laid out in an organized manner that allowed me to gaze at the screen, but it’s nice to see Pike lay a dramatic effect to somebody whose name I recognized, but didn’t have a complete knowledge about. Also one of the highlights of the picture, there are various points where the script jumps through time, and it doesn’t really feel out of place. It’s a bunch of various extended cases of cause and effect. The story attributes Marie Curie’s accomplishments and also notes future achievements that occur, and perhaps mainly occurred because of Curie’s past work. It does a really good job at making you care about the main character without necessarily seeing the main character do much of anything or put herself into action. The editing here felt seamless and organized. I dug it all.

There are not too many standout issues I have with “Radioactive.” When it comes to the 2020 library of movies, it is definitely one of those that I would consider watching again. Pacing-wise, “Radioactive” is not bad at all. I will say though, even though I like the overall way the script plays out, it is almost a little by the numbers. In fact for a period-based film about Marie Curie, it feels like the crew went with… let’s say a rather cliche or ordinary vibe for this type of film. Despite its flaws, I would recommend “Radioactive.” Again, if you have Prime Video and pay for it, you can get it for free. Check it out if you’re ever in the mood. But in all seriousness, if I had to give one description for this film, it is “well-rounded” if you ask me. All the elements (no pun intended) line up for a competent picture that is entertaining, yet honorable to Curie’s legacy.

In the end, I will remind you all… It’s 2020. If you just want a good movie at this point, “Radioactive” could end up being for you. “Radioactive” elegantly presented the story of Marie Curie and despite the few critiques I would give to this film, it was extremely well done, especially if you had to line this film up with whatever else came out this year. That is if this is even a year anymore. Nobody has a concept of time at this point.MV5BYjgwM2JhNjItNjFlYi00MjYwLTlhYWEtZjk2NzcwYmZmYTg0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU1NzU3MzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_ I’m going to give “Radioactive” an 8/10. In 2020, 8 really is the new 10. Sad to say, but if things actually come out in theaters on time or if we get better movies, that could change. Still mad about “Tenet…” Ugh.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Vivarium,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. I won’t say much about the movie… But… It’s weird. Won’t say if that’s a good or bad thing, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Or, you can get some alternate content from Scene Before through the official Facebook page! Give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Radioactive?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie about a woman in science? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (2019): “Boo” Dylan

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“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” is directed by Daniel Roher (Ghosts of Our Forest, Brand Canada) and executive produced by renowned director Martin Scorsese. This is not the first time in which Scorsese is handling a project relating to The Band, as he previously directed the 1978 documentary “The Last Waltz.” This film is a documentary centering around Robbie Robertson and his musical group simply titled “The Band.” It goes into their story over the years, their ups, their downs, and mainly dives into the current perspective of Robertson himself as he is interviewed.

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Am I a music junkie? Well, not really. I will admit when I need to listen to some tunes, a lot of it is not from today. Classic rock, classical, heavy metal, and soundtracks are just some of the jams I prefer. I am not that trendy. Even so, I myself have waited until just fairly recently to find out about a quaint little music group titled “The Band,” as seen in this film. I had no idea who they were, or just about anything to which they could possibly associate. But here’s the truth. Movie theaters just reopened in Massachusetts. However, the number of the theaters that officially reopened their doors happened to be pretty minimal. And the one that I ended up going to had two other movies playing and I happened to already see both of them (Emma, Irresistible). So I shelled out some money to go see “Once Were Brothers,” I had a good time. Enough said.

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Once again, it’s 2020, this is yet another example of a movie that I saw that happened to be quite enjoyable, but even in July, I have yet to find that one movie that really cracked the code, I haven’t found that one movie that really felt worthwhile when it comes to seeing it this year. If “Tenet” came out last weekend as it was previously expected to, maybe that would have been the case, but we don’t live in a happy little wonderland. Global warming is killing us. Bees may go extinct. Coronavirus is the talk of the town. To put it lightly, anything that could go wrong in 2020, would go wrong. “Once Were Brothers” is definitely one of the more entertaining and well put together films I have seen all year. Or… Is it last year? IMDb identifies it as a 2019 film given how it already premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, anyway…

One of the most relatable aspects of life represented in film is failure. Granted, sometimes when people fail on screen, I question every single person in the film (I’m looking at you “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). And one of my favorite parts of this film is seeing The Band collaborate with Bob Dylan because Dylan himself would perform at his own concert, be noted for his incredible charisma and success, but every time that The Band would come out, they would get booed. Now I was not living during the times of the group’s inception, and I have never attended a Bob Dylan concert, I can’t really say much about these folks’ live performances, but as someone who has personally dealt with failure of some kind in life, seeing this made me connect with them on a certain level. I do not go to many concerts, and the only times I’ve ever recalled booing somebody in a live environment to a serious level are during Major League Baseball games. Now I am a critic, but I often understand why performers try really hard to move on from booing audiences, just take them as they go, even though the impact of boos can be significant in a negative way.

This film also deals with a blend of dreams and reality, most notably when it comes to one of The Band’s members. So weird saying that… You figure that could be a sentence for anybody. One of my favorite elements of the film is the story of Levon, who supposedly carried much of the fun within the group itself. He clearly enjoyed his time as a member, but at the same time, there was a moment where he ended up needing to expand his identity, know more about himself. Much of the movie is told from the perspective of member Robbie Robertson, who based on the interview material, comes off as a pretty charming fellow. Hearing Robertson talk about someone who felt like one of the best friends he knew in his life and relating that thought to multiple scenarios felt rather passionate, it felt like a trip down his own personal “memory lane” if you will. And that’s what this documentary could end up feeling like for some people who enjoy music from say the late 20th century. It’s a sign that the documentary ended up doing its job.

The documentary ends with one of The Band’s key performances, and I will admit, if I were there, it could have been pretty fun to watch. I will say, even though it was not personally my biggest highlight of the entire film, it did look good on the screen while also managing to pack in a slight sense of finality to what has been built up previously.

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I will say though, one slight disappointment, and I may be a little biased as I love films, and even though this is a movie about music, I will always put movies before music in most cases. As mentioned, “Once Were Brothers” is executive produced by the legendary Martin Scorsese. A director who I will admit I am mostly unfamiliar with in terms of actually seeing his films, but I respect him nonetheless and what I have seen from him, such as “Goodfellas,” has impressed me. He’s barely in the movie. Now, this may seem like a weird complaint as the movie has almost nothing to do with Scorsese himself. But given how he was credited as an executive producer, I was somewhat disappointed that he only appears maybe twice. Just a small, odd complaint that doesn’t really affect my verdict of the film a ton, but it is something that I did want to get off my chest.

As for the film, it has a solid blend of interview footage, archive footage, and so on. I don’t know if I’d tune into it again right away, but if you are bored, “Once Were Brothers” is now available to rent. Or, if your theater reopened and happens to be playing the documentary (like one of mine did), check it out now!

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In the end, “Once Were Brothers” is lively, charming, and occasionally on a certain scale of compelling. If I had to use one word to describe “Once Were Brothers,” it would be “classy.” It’s a classy time. It’s a classy flick. It’s a classy series of happenings all put together. The movie just feels like it is full of… class. I don’t know how many other documentaries I will get around to watching this year, because evidence shows that is one of my weaker areas as a film fan, but if this is the only one, I will say that I have picked a good one. I am going to give “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Big news everybody! “Tenet” is delayed again! I talked about the first two delays, maybe I’ll talk about the third one… And by talk, I probably mean complain about it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on The Band themselves? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Way Back (2020): Batman Coaches a Basketball Team

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“The Way Back” is directed by Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant, Jane Got a Gun) and stars Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Town), Al Madrigal (Night School, About a Boy), Michaela Watkins (Big Mouth, The Unicorn), and Janina Gavankar (Arrow, True Blood). This film is about Jack Cunningham, a man who grew up to reign as one of the finest players on the basketball team within the high school he went to. However, he did not really associate much with the game from that point forward. Now, he is given an opportunity to coach a younger generation of players, which could lead to redemption. Only thing is, the combined skills or legacy of the team was never as prominent as it was since Jack played.

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Well, if I had a couple words to give right now, it would be a phrase that begins with “holy” and ends with “crap.” For context, I originally saw “The Way Back” in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take a massive effect here in the United States. However, if you want me to be quite honest with you, even though I do my best to give a boisterous commitment to Scene Before, I saw no real rhyme or reason to review the film at the time. For the record, I saw the movie when I was staying in Los Angeles, so I was sort of in vacation mode. I was busy at Universal, trying new restaurants, checking out the scene in Burbank and Santa Monica, I was having too much of a blast to have anything else interfere. But… Another factor to consider is that when it comes to content on my blog, movie reviews didn’t really matter much for a long time. I felt that I needed to make a temporary shift to discuss the goings on of the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to stay relevant while also preserving the content I already have. I had to get a little conservative. So let me just start off by saying, this movie was good the first time I watched it in the theater. Remember the theater? Such a fun place. But, for all I know, things could change, so I bought the film on Blu-ray to see what I would think of it now.

To be completely truthful, it might be slightly better the second time. But you also have to consider something, I was in a MUCH BETTER mood. The day of my initial viewing had a ton of conflict. Everything started closing.  The audience for the “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” taping I was set to go ended up getting cancelled. I had to deal with the fact that a relatively new virus could possibly kill me at any instant. If you’re wondering, I’m fine, I have never experienced any full-on symptoms of the virus as of yet. And now, with a great mood, comes a great responsibility. “The Way Back” is one of my favorite films of the year. To finish this familiar phrase, I’m gonna remind you that this year is 2020 and that REALLY does not say much.

This film is directed by Gavin O’Connor, who also directed “The Accountant” back in 2016, a superb action film that I related to at the time, and I still look back on today. Mainly because of its gritty and admirable portrayal of a man who happens to be on the autism spectrum. The film also has some cool action scenes and I really liked Anna Kendrick in the film as well, she was very charming. TheWrap's Awards Season Screening Series Presents "Warrior" - Q&AHere, this film is a little less action packed, but given how much of the film revolves around basketball, they did make the atmosphere around that sport feel like it could pack a punch or two here and there. The games were relatively fun to watch regardless of the scenario or matchup and the tone felt simple, but pure. That’s what the film as a whole kind of feels like. The movie, throughout, feels kind of gloomy, but I don’t mind that, it works. If you look at some of the marketing or the IMDb description of the film, you might think for a second that it is about a basketball team or a guy trying to coach the team to victory. It’s not, really.

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The film centers around Ben Affleck’s character of Jack Cunningham, and the movie does dive deep into his contributions to the high school’s legacy, his heavy relation to the sport of basketball, and how much of an impact he made in terms of those two things. But this movie also feels like an allegory on why you shouldn’t drink.

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Here’s the thing about men… They like their alcohol… But, here in “The Way Back” it is a case as to why you should be cautious with alcohol. “The Way Back” handles this sideplot very well. So well in fact that “The Way Back” really feels like two really good movies in one package. One of which is about the basketball side of things and the attempt to make a struggling team as relevant as it once was, and the other being the alcoholism allegory. When it comes to Ben Affleck in this film, I cannot imagine him taking his particular role in the film just so happening to be a coincidence. The movie represents a side of Ben Affleck that believe it or not appears to exist in real life. For those of you have followed Ben Affleck in recent years, you’d know that he plays the DCEU’s Batman, or more accurately, he used to. He quit the role due to fear that he’d drink himself to death. Knowing this prior to going into “The Way Back,” it makes Ben Affleck a stellar casting choice and therefore a seemingly personal film on his part. It doesn’t feel like a guy losing control over his life because of a drinking problem. It feels like Ben Affleck reenacting events from his life or providing a look into what he feels his future could have been or could end up being depending on the way time flows.

This movie is shot, graded, and compiled beautifully. As if the audio for the film made me feel like I was a part of it already based on the basketball scenes, the camerawork and other technical aspects made me want to jump in further. It matches well with the movie’s vibe, even though there are probably other movies I will go back to for their technical aspects first. However, I do need to say one thing, and I will need to revisit this topic at some point to see where I officially rank it, but “The Way Back” may have one of my single favorite final shots from a movie I have ever seen. The only other movies that may compete with this for me are “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Third Man,” “Roma,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Inception,” and “The Dark Knight.” “Spider-Man 2” might be somewhere up there too… Without going into much detail, the final shot not only looks crisp and beautiful, but when combined with the dramatic score, it seemed to symbolize everything that this movie was all about and gave a sense of satisfaction. I could not take my eyes off it!

There’s not many issues I have with “The Way Back.” I think if you are going to go into this movie expecting a coach trying to get through a basketball season and lead a team to victory, you’re going to get that. But it’s not necessarily that kind of movie when the puzzle is fully assembled. It’s about why drinking can be dangerous and what it can do to people. I enjoyed the basketball aspect, but I stayed for the drinking aspect.

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In the end, “The Way Back” is a really good movie and one of the finest of the year so far. Ben Affleck gives a stellar performance that, once again, feels personal. It feels like he really wanted to do this movie based on the effort he put in alone. I’m starting to like Gavin O’Connor as a director, and who knows? Maybe he and Affleck will continue to be a winning duo. Kind of like Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan. “The Way Back” was worth a rewatch specifically for this review, and will probably be worth more viewings in the future. I’m going to give “The Way Back” an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Just want to remind everyone that I recently went to the movie theater for the first time since March! For those of you who don’t know, phase 3 was put into place in Massachusetts as of July 6th. As a result, a very limited number of theaters opened, and I went to see “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band.” That movie will be the subject of a future review. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Way Back?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie involving basketball? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Hope Gap (2019): Divorce is Hardest on Grown, Fully Developed Children

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“Hope Gap” is directed by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Misérables) and stars Annette Bening (American Beauty, 20th Century Women), Bill Nighy (Love, Actually, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country), Aiysha Hart (Line of Duty, Atlantis), Ryan McKen (Game of Thrones, Bancroft), Steven Pacey (Blake’s 7, Doctors), and Nicholas Burns (The Crown, Benidorm). This film is about a couple, whose son is returning home for some time. As we progress through the movie, we begin to notice that the couple cannot quite click. We notice that they have trouble communicating, and it is also revealed that the husband has plans to leave the wife, thus we have our movie.

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Looking at “Hope Gap” on the surface, it may not exactly be my type of movie. But just because something is not necessarily my “type” of film, does not mean I am going to count it out on my viewing list. It just means I may have priorities. Speaking of priorities, when the heck is “Tenet” going to hit theaters?! Anyway, “Hope Gap” was available to me as my mother rented it On Demand and I figured why not give it a watch. What have I got to lose? It’s 2020! It could be worse! It could be murder hornets!

Having said that, I watched the movie, and I will say… Is it just me… Or did movies just rise from the dead?! For the past few months, I felt like there has been nothing to talk about, nothing to get me excited, nothing to pump me up as a film fanatic, but now, back to back, I have seen TWO of my favorite films of the year. And what makes this film in particular a little extra special is how it’s not even in my wheelhouse of film genres. Yes, a lot of the actors in the film like Annette Bening and Bill Nighy have done acclaimed work in the past, in fact some of the movie’s cast have previously worked on another highlight of 2020 for me, “Emma.” The cast in this movie has a knack for talent and it shows here with some of the finest performances I have seen all year. But, I’ll mention, like the last film I saw which I reviewed… It’s not perfect, and once again, 2020 continues to be the worst year for film that I have witnessed, maybe ever.

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Much like last year’s “Marriage Story,” which is a remarkably well-made masterpiece by the way, “Hope Gap” centers around a married couple who evidently cannot click. The performances from Bening and Nighy reveal this with a ton of force. Not only is their acting and chemistry believable and satisfying, but they are also well-written. Going back to “Marriage Story,” as I look back on that movie, I can point out to several moments where either member of the marriage can be labeled as a jerk. Here, I picked up that a lot of the reasons why this movie unfolded was mainly having to do with the husband, who seemed to display one very notable quality as the movie went on. He seemed very passive, at least when his wife is in the room. There was this scene in the movie where the wife got a bit serious and wanted the husband to express himself or open up, but he always seemed rather silent, perhaps uninformative. He never really felt any need or reason to tell his wife what he wants or needs. I sort of felt bad for the man even if he was the main catalyst for the main couple’s relationship going down the drain.

Interesting thing though, I have been through the process of seeing my parents have a falling out, separate, get divorced, and throughout the process, I was distraught. Admittedly, I still am today, seven years later, which is why I do my best to cherish the family I have as much as possible and see them when needed. Now, I will say, one of the main characters of “Hope Gap” is the couple’s grown son, he comes back home to visit his parents, his room has barely been touched, it’s even got a twin bed in it. My parents divorced when was in my teens. This guy is rather grown up, and during the movie… He doesn’t really seem to care about anything that happens to his parents, it doesn’t matter. After all, he’s on his own, he’s got his own life. Why does he have to care about the people who raised him? He never really reveals much of his emotions towards these dramatic and life-altering situations. In fact, I find it really funny how in the IMDb description, it mentions that the visit takes “a dramatic turn when the father tells him (the son) he plans on leaving his mother.” The drama, even though it is there, feels more like drama, for us, the viewers, the people in the movie themselves barely experience it. We’re along for the ride, and we see a passive husband, a son who barely gets involved in any of this other than actively listening to his parents, and the only person who truly feels traumatized or highly affected by all this in such a negative way is the wife. Is that a bad thing? No. Because the script of the film flows properly, and that along with several performances makes you buy into everything that’s going on.

They say divorce is hardest on the children, but this movie made me think… If my parents stayed together, until I was… say 35. How would I feel about them getting divorced regardless of the situations/buildup that triggered them to go down this path? I mean, it is a life-altering situation, in fact of all the situations that I can think of in my life that I have personally been through, I think the divorce of my parents has altered me the most. Although, the COVID-19 pandemic might take that crown eventually if more s*it starts to go down. But hey, movie theaters are open in my state, so yay! If this divorce thing happened in my early twenties or my thirties or forties, would I try to get my parents back together? Plead them to stay? Or would I just stand by and let them go their separate ways? This movie in ways mixes drama with that “slice of life” feel and the vibes mix with excellence. I think it was a somewhat realistic portrayal of what could happen in a situation of this kind. There was even a moment where the wife got a dog, and I imagine it is being done sort of as a stress reliever or coping mechanism.

Did I mention this movie is shot beautifully? I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with the location choices more than anything, but this movie has some of the nicest shots of the year.

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In the end, “Hope Gap,” kind of like the last movie I reviewed, “The Vast of Night,” is one of 2020’s finer entries to the cinematic calendar. BUT, it’s not perfect. I will say, the movie does keep its pace for the most part, but there are a few moments where the movie does slow down just a bit. Also, even though the movie is pretty good, I don’t think it had the full on dramatic impact it was hoping to deliver. It made me feel something watching the movie, and it did touch upon a life-changing subject I can relate to. It did make me think, but not in a way that really made me reevaluate my life for as long as time shall march on. However, do not sit out on “Hope Gap.” If you find it and decide to watch it, I don’t think you’ll be completely disappointed. With that being said, “Hope Gap” is a high note for 2020, and I’m going to give it an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know, phase 3 has officially begun in Massachusetts, which means that movie theaters have been given the green light to open as long as they follow along with government-based restrictions and guidelines. Not many theaters are opening in Massachusetts, but I do know of a fairly close one set to open its doors on this Friday, July 10th. If I have the time, I’m gonna make the trip to the theater to see a movie, get a review for you guys, and see what they’re doing to get through the pandemic. I cannot wait to see a movie in a dark room again where I do not have any reason to look at my phone. You don’t know how much I miss this experience… Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Feel free to leave this post a like if you have a proper account setup, share it with friends, and like my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Hope Gap?” What did you think about it? Or, are movie theaters open where you are right now? If they are, what are doing in terms of safety precautions? If not, is there any word on what your local cinemas will be doing upon the reopening process? And yes, I know chains like Regal and AMC are currently set to open on July 31st, but also if you have any local theaters that are within smaller chains or independent names, I want to know about those as well. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Vast of Night (2020): Makes For Good Radio, Or a Good Movie

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“The Vast of Night” is directed by Andrew Patterson, AKA James Montague or Junius Tully. Look up this guy on IMDb, the man has three names! This film stars Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz in a film set during the 1950s. Two people, a switch operator and a DJ behind a radio station uncover the mystery of a strange audio frequency that could end up changing the nature of their town.

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First off, if you’re reading this, happy second half of 2020! I cannot believe we actually made it this far as a society! Yippee! Second, this film came out at a bunch of festivals including Fantastic Fest, Chicago International, TIFF, and Slamdance (not to be confused with Sundance). Although it did not really grant much access to the viewing public until 2020. Given how there’s a big pandemic, it didn’t have all that much of a theatrical release. However, it did have a limited run at drive-ins so it managed to have some of that theatrical flavor. Having seen this movie, I think it’s a perfect fit for a drive-in given its vibe, how it’s set in the 1950s, and the color grading has a hint of that old-time feel. But I didn’t see “The Vast of Night” at a drive-in, I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, considering how the movie is marketed as an Amazon Original. Who can turn down a free movie?

Here’s the truth about 2020. It’s the f*cking WORST! I cannot believe that a year could have ever been this tragic and infuriating! You ever had a dream that you wanted to achieve in 2020? Guess what? Go home! Time to find a new dream! I could make a whole post about this, but instead, let’s stick with movies. Because otherwise I would have eradicated all of humanity through brutal anger. Actually, you know what? Let’s mix the two topics up. Not a bad idea! This is honestly what could arguably the single least satisfying and anger-inducing year for film that I have witnessed not just while doing Scene Before, but also my life. I am not watching as much new material as I have in the past. All the theaters are closed, and of the new movies I have seen, nothing stands out. The highest grade I gave this year for a new film was a 7/10. Let me just say something about “The Vast of Night…”

It might be my favorite movie of 2020 so far.

2020, this is what movies are! Screw “My Spy!” Forget “Scoob!” F*ck “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” to hell and back! “The Vast of Night” is a fun, engaging, and somewhat satisfying flick… That isn’t perfect, let me just be clear here.

Because it is 2020, the year of complaining, I’m gonna start off with some negatives. This is a 91 minute film. And surprisingly, it gets a little slow at times. When I look at the runtime of a film, I sometimes think “Oh wow! Ninety minutes? I can watch this in a breeze!” While “The Vast of Night” is not necessarily an exception to this belief, there are one or two scenes that I won’t specifically dive into, but they go on for a little longer than I would anticipate. There’s a lot of explanation to expose the happenings of the film and I get that exposition is a necessary part of storytelling, but it sort of felt like watching the 2019 Super Bowl, something that tried to have a fast pace but was missing something. This pacing problem did not ruin the movie, and I imagine if I saw this film at a drive-in like some people did, there’s a good chance that this complaint could be irrelevant, but it felt like there was one specific scene where a character drones on for a little too long.

The Vast of Night (2019) - IMDb

One of the standout things about this movie in general is that it comes from people I don’t know at all. The two stars, AKA Sierra McCormack and Jake Horowitz are people who I don’t really recognize from a lot of projects. The director, what do you call him? James Montague? Junius Tully? Andrew Patterson? Turd Ferguson? I looked this guy up on IMDb, this is currently his ONLY credit. This is his debut for directing, writing, producing, and if Andrew is ALSO known as Junius Tully and does not appear to be somebody else I should know, his debut for editing and being in the editorial department. Basically, it’s five debuts in one! A lot of times when I look at the credits of the film, maybe someone will write the film, they’ll also direct and produce the film, maybe play a role in it. It’s not every day that I see filmmakers do all these things at once though. Granted, if you look at acclaimed masters of the industry like Kevin Smith, Alfonso Cuarón, and the Coen Brothers, yeah they edit their own films. But it’s nice to have this mix, while also getting to see work from someone you haven’t really been exposed to yet.

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And I would imagine that prior to making this film, Andrew Patterson has had some proper training within the art. When it comes to editing and camerawork, it is some of the best I have seen all year. The color grading in this film is fantastic. As for the movie itself, it is genuinely mysterious and spooky. This movie kind of comes off like it is some ninety minute episode of “The Twilight Zone.” In fact the first shot of the movie is of an old television set that is playing the intro to a show that pretty much takes almost every single element from the intro of “The Twilight Zone.” Everything from the music to the suspenseful buildup and even the captivating voice. There are some notable differences, but nevertheless.

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I will also give credit to the actors in this film, who I might admittedly end up not necessarily remembering at the end of the year for their ability to convey their characters, but their ability to stay sane during a nine minute shot. There is one scene where much of the focus is on the main girl switch operator and we see everything going on from her perspective. I was amazed at how the crew pulled this off without much error. That’s one of the big compliments I can give this film from a cinematography and camerawork perspective, they do so much to make this film look so crisp while also doing these long, extended, neverending takes. It kept my eyes on the screen for a long, long time. Speaking of shots, there’s numerous scenes that take place on a basketball court, and it adds up to bring in some of the most insane filmmaking of the year. This may be the first time of 2020, that I legit had a mind-blowing moment while watching a film. The other one might have been “Sonic the Hedgehog” because if you know anything about video game movies, there’s an often-shared stigma that they’re lackluster and some of worst products put to screen. But unlike that movie, which at times felt like a product that was heavily commercialized, “The Vast of Night” comes off as a passion project made by a group of people who were really excited to show off their skills and experience, even if not everyone was that experienced to begin with.

I stand by and understand the notion that all movies, in some way, are made for the sake of profit or raking in money. “The Vast of Night” kind of reminded me of an advanced student film, and I mean that in a positive way. It felt like a movie that I would want to make, to the point where I go beyond my imagination with the production value, the cinematography, finding the right people, and every other technical aspect you can think of. There felt like there was just a little more than the idea of getting rich when it comes to the aspirations behind “The Vast of Night,” and other than “The Way Back,” starring Ben Affleck, which I saw in March and have not reviewed yet, I don’t think I have seen as personal of a film this year. For those who are curious, this was shot in 17 days during September 2016 on a Red Epic camera. The result, satisfying.

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In the end, “The Vast of Night” is vastly entertaining. This is the movie that made me perhaps somewhat excited to watch and review new movies once again. It’s not perfect, as stated before, but given the limitations that this film had during production, to have it come out the way did is nothing short of incredible. At the same time though, maybe those extended scenes can also serve as a blessing in disguise, because even though I can tell that the story is relatively simple, maybe I’ll pick up on something in the future in regards to this movie should I watch it again. This year, I haven’t given any 10s, I haven’t given any 9s. Not because I’m trying to get a little more strict with my ratings, I just really have not seen much of anything worth talking about. And unfortunately, this year will continue to lack 9s and 10s, BUT I’m going to give “The Vast of Night” my first 8/10 of the 2020 calendar! Sometimes it does not take much to impress me, and in this case that is certainly true. This movie was produced for under $1 million, which in many circumstances is a lot of money, but for some cases within in the film industry, a million bucks is nothing. It’s chump change. “The Vast of Night” felt like a film that was crafted by someone who knew what they wanted to do and it felt just a tiny tad more expensive than maybe it turned out to be. The only thing that takes such a notion away are some of the extended shots, which are marvelous by the way.

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Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this post and have a WordPress account, consider leaving a like! Also, if you want to see more content, be sure to follow Scene Before for all the goings on here on Flicknerd.com. As for upcoming content, I was PLANNING on going to a Regal Cinemas location next week to see what they’re doing after all the shenanigans, but of course, they delayed their reopening because life sucks and nothing else matters anymore. In most cases, this comment sounds childish, but in the time of 2020, this is pretty tame. Just spreading the truth! However, there is some good news to share… I live in Massachusetts, and it was just announced by Governor Charlie Baker that phase 3 begins July 6th! That means movie theaters in the state of Massachusetts are permitted to reopen as long as they follow guidelines! I don’t know how many theaters would open, but to know that they are eligible excites me. So maybe I’ll do a post on how they are dealing with reopening and what it is like to go to a theater during this… (sigh) “new normal.” Hate saying that. There’s a good chance that I will review another movie within the next week should time allow such a thing to happen, but since I talk about “Tenet” a lot, maybe I’ll do something related to that, I dunno. But if you are bored and are tired of scrolling through my blog on WordPress, I have the solution for you. LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE! It’s like my blog, only different! More behind the scenes stuff and random s*it that you don’t get to see on here. I want to know, did you see “The Vast of Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is set in the 1950s that did not come out in the 1950s? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!