Trashed Movies, Batgirl, A Scoob! Spinoff, DC Restructuring, and Merging Streamers: My Thoughts on the Many Early Shifts at Warner Bros. Discovery

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to talk about! I mean, wow! Before we dive into what has been happening lately at Warner Bros. Discovery, let me give you a recap of some of the events that went down during AT&T’s possession of Warner Bros..

If you asked me what I thought about the state of Warner Bros. a year ago, I would have said I was nervous. Warnermedia’s decision to put all of their big movies on HBO Max hurt most of those movies that already happened to be finished. This ultimately hurt their box office, not to mention potential word of mouth and longevity. Sure, it definitely seemed like a good idea to combat COVID-19 and certain titles like “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune” had a halfway decent performance, but it does not change the fact that for the most part, the performance of most of these films were financially hindered. While some may argue that Warnermedia offered viewers a choice by putting their movies both in theaters and on streaming, they also had a long-term goal on prioritizing content for HBO Max, which was created through said ownership.

For the most part, HBO Max was not a bad idea. It contained a lot of the latest movies from studios like Universal, Fox, and Warner Brothers, the entire DC library, some of the shows from Turner networks like TBS and TNT. They had a good thing going. Then in 2020, it was announced that Warner Brothers’s entire slate of films for the next year would go to HBO Max in addition to theatres, as recently mentioned. This technically started with the 2020 film “Wonder Woman 1984.” The unexpected move led to the film’s star and director, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins respectively, receiving more than $10 million as a result. Alternate stars on the other hand were not favored.

“Representatives for major Warner Bros. stars like Denzel Washington, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman and Angelina Jolie wanted to know why their clients had been treated in a lesser manner than Ms. Gadot. Talk of a Warner Bros. boycott began circulating inside the Directors Guild of America. A partner at one talent agency spent part of the weekend meeting with litigators. Some people started to angrily refer to the studio as Former Bros.” –The New York Times

Legendary Pictures, the production company behind “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune,” noted that they, like others, were not given advance notice on the move. On a nearly dated “Saturday Night Live” episode, host and “Dune” star Timothee Chalamet ended the show by unveiling a Legendary sweatshirt, symbolizing his support for the company.

While one perk of HBO Max is the freedom for viewers to watch the new films as many times as they want for 30 days, the caveat for the studio is that the films are free as long as the viewers subscribe. In addition to hurting the movie theaters that work alongside the studios, movies like “In the Heights,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Reminiscence,” “King Richard,” and “The Matrix Resurrections” did not even make their budgets back.

You could make the argument that HBO Max benefited from this. Sure, they had some subscribers come aboard. In fact the service topped their projections (70 million) by the end of 2021 by earning 73 million paid subscribers. But that is not enough. Warner Bros. lost one of their key filmmakers, specifically Christopher Nolan, and has damaged their trust with others as they felt backstabbed by these recent events. Denis Villeneuve, while he ultimately finished and released “Dune” in October 2021, found out about his movie’s simultaneous HBO Max release on the news long before the film ultimately came out. It is the studio’s project at the end of the day, but it does not mean Warner Bros. and AT&T can ignore common sense and decency with their fellow creators. This was a multi-million dollar collaborative effort, and it is very much Denis Villeneuve’s movie as much as it is Warnermedia’s. When Villeneuve promises he will bring forth a franchise, his mouth cannot be kept shut in situations like this.

Now that David Zaslav is responsible for the position of CEO, a position previously held by Jason Kilar, many big changes have come about in such a short time. As of now, there are no more day and date Warner Bros. movies. “The Batman,” “Elvis,” and “DC League of Super-Pets” all released in theaters exclusively for a period of time. There are still movies that have been released on HBO Max exclusively, like the romantic comedy “Moonshot,” but without the day and date option. But for the most part, the new administration has allowed their few theatrical exclusive films to shine.

Now, as a fan of the moviegoing experience, this is great. I am glad to know these movies are being seen the way the filmmakers intended. I do not know if Warner Bros. is going to restore its relationship with Christopher Nolan, but that is probably going to depend on how well “Oppenheimer” does for Universal. Although as someone who has found streaming convenient and messy, this month has demonstrated the messier elements on the HBO Max side of things.

Recent events have shown my slight lack of trust from streaming providers. Last week, HBO Max removed six films. It is normal for a streamer to get rid of their film or television content. Maybe the deal has expired and a project needs to move somewhere else, or maybe a property is under new ownership. These are perfectly valid reasons to remove a film from a service, despite disappointing the fans of that movie. What is unusual however is that a set of “Max Originals,” meaning that these projects were exclusive to HBO Max, were removed from the service. I emphasize, not HBO the channel, HBO Max. Despite being intended and marketed as exclusives, they were removed. Although if you look around, they are not QUITE exclusive. This is probably why they were called “Max Originals” and not “Max Exclusives.” These films are available for purchase on platforms like Google Play and Vudu, therefore they are not unwatchable. Well, except “Superintelligence,” you should never ever watch that movie even in your sleep. And there is also good news for physical media collectors. These movies, like the recently mentioned “Superintelligence,” are also available on DVD. So while these films may be gone from HBO Max, you can pay to watch them in other ways.

Nevertheless, an event like this shocks me as the films are technically Warner Brothers movies, which HBO Max would perhaps most likely try to maintain as they are a part of the brand. It is the same reason why you never saw “The Irishman” leave Netflix. It is the same reason why you never saw “Manchester by the Sea” leave Prime Video. It is the same reason why you never saw “LEGO Star Wars: The Holiday Special” leave Disney+. With the exception of that last one, these titles are available elsewhere such as DVD and Blu-ray, but these are ultimately the studio’s and streamer’s projects to control and maintain on their respective services. Or so I thought. They can practically do anything now and it is kind of unreal to think about.

So HBO Max got rid of six “exclusive” films. Fine. They can do that. People can still watch them elsewhere? Okay, that’s wonderful. I think it is a bit weird to not at least leave them on the service for people to at least watch, although at the same time I do not think people subscribe to HBO Max nowadays to watch “The Witches.” These films, or more specifically, where they ended up, are partially the result of the previous administration. “Superintelligence” was once supposed to release theatrically, but it was eventually dropped exclusively on HBO Max through Ben Falcone’s pitch. “The Witches,” directed by Robert Zemeckis, was supposed to be released theatrically, but was ultimately moved to HBO Max. However, it was released theatrically in international markets. I can understand why a move like this was made. In addition to promoting HBO Max, COVID-19 was still somewhat new and prominent in late 2020. But if there is something I can say “The Witches” and “Superintelligence” have in common other than their release, it is their lack of longevity. When you release a movie in theaters, you ultimately do more than simply release it for the big screen. If the movie is successful on the big screen, there is a chance it could also succeed when it comes to VOD and physical media. It already has word of mouth, and if enough people are curious, it could have a second wind. This is a tried and true method that works almost every time.

Despite my confidence, and we will dive more into that, in regard to David Zaslav as CEO, this is perhaps the one big conundrum that has come up during his time as the head of the company. If there is an outside force that is making these movies disappear, I wish I knew about it. But for now, this makes no sense.

Speaking of movies you will not be seeing anymore, let’s talk about “Batgirl.” During Jason Kilar’s run as CEO, it was announced that we would be seeing an HBO Max exclusive “Batgirl” movie set in the DCEU. The film was previously in development, partially under the creative juices of Joss Whedon, but he left the project a year after its 2017 announcement. The film would star Leslie Grace (In the Heights) and similar to “The Flash,” which we will be talking about later, viewers would be treated to Michael Keaton as he returns to play Batman. Before Zaslav became CEO, another DC film once set to hit HBO Max, “Blue Beetle,” was officially no longer an HBO Max exclusive and would instead play in theaters. This is how every other DCEU film, including the day and date-specific “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Suicide Squad,” released.

“Batgirl,” both before and after Zaslav’s beginning as CEO, was never announced to receive the same treatment. In fact, one more announcement in this crazy week is that the release of “Batgirl” would be cancelled. Nobody in the viewing public would ever get to see the movie, no matter what. Not in theatres, not on HBO Max. No bat time, no bat channel.

Obviously this came as a shock given how the film finished shooting and happened to be in post-production. And not to ignore Leslie Grace’s titular character, who wouldn’t want to see Michael Keaton as Batman again? This could have been a good movie. But after seeing more information, I had my doubts as to whether it was actually good to begin with.

“Batgirl” was originally intended for HBO Max, and when you do not have to worry about the stakes of the big screen, there is, theoretically, less of a vision that encapsulates quality. I am not saying straight to streaming movies cannot work, but it comes with a major price tag from a viewer’s perspective as being “inferior.” “Batgirl” had a $90 million budget. In DC speak, this is about the same as 2019’s “Shazam!” although about half as much as Matt Reeves’s “The Batman.” While Leslie Grace may not have carried the star power of Robert Pattinson, the movie had plenty of big names alongside her including J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, and as mentioned before, Michael Keaton. The directing team behind the film, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah had experience with action films before, not to mention 2020’s biggest picture (not that there was much competition), “Bad Boys for Life.” The two even have experience at DC’s competitor, Marvel Studios. While they never made a Marvel film, the duo handled directing duties for two episodes of the Disney+ original series “Ms. Marvel.”

For all I know, these people gave 110% to every part of the production. Leslie Grace could have given the performance of the year. Michael Keaton could have given his best portrayal of Batman yet. And this would be a movie that could establish Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah as future in-house names at DC kind of like the Russo Brothers were to Marvel for some time. But given how “Batgirl,” is cancelled as a tax write-off as of last week, I, and the viewing public as a whole, will never know for sure.

There is a saying that actions speak louder than words, but given how I have never seen “Batgirl,” I unfortunately can only rely on words at this point. However, other people have seen the movie through test screenings, and the results are reportedly not great. While the movie is said to have scored similarly to “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” which is still set to release this December, one source says the consensus led to a verdict that indicated “Batgirl” is not big enough for theaters, nor appropriate enough for a platform like HBO Max, as revealed by Hollywood insider Matthew Belloni on an episode of his podcast, “The Town.”

“This is someone who was in the test screening a couple months ago where they were trying to figure out what to do with this movie and I called him and we chatted and he said that after the screening, the executives Walter Hamada of DC and some of the others there ask the audience, “Did this feel big?” and clearly they were trying to figure out whether it felt like it deserved a theatrical release and the consensus was absolutely not. He said it played like a TV pilot, the stakes were very small… He said it felt a little like Dark Phoenix.” -Matthew Belloni

Why are they releasing “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and not “Batgirl?” That is a great question. If you ask me, I think it is a somewhat marketable film that could do well around the holiday season, or in this case, well enough to compete with “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but nevertheless. Although “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” was planned as a theatrical release this whole time, and may have been executed as such during the production. And the first trailer of the film promises some neat treats for those looking for a big screen experience. I reiterate, I have not seen “Batgirl,” but I think there is a reason why I am seeing material for “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” and nothing for “Batgirl.” While I genuinely feel terrible for everyone behind the film, I stand by David Zaslav’s decision to cancel “Batgirl.” I would rather have a genuinely great movie that will win over audiences as opposed to a terrible movie that could cause people to compare it to “Batman & Robin.” People are going to literally have to say that the best Batgirl movie is somehow “The LEGO Batman Movie!” Who thought we’d be saying that in this day and age?! And Zaslav cancelled the film for this reason. During a recent conference call, Zaslav was asked about the cancelation of “Batgirl,” which he stated was part of a restructuring of DC through a 10-year plan. This plan would be similar to what Alan Horn and Bob Iger established with producer Kevin Feige over at Disney’s Marvel Studios. In addition to that, Zaslav wants to make sure that audiences are not only getting good movies, but happen to be getting their money’s worth at the cinema similar to the studio itself through the box office as it releases its newer content.

“We’ve seen luckily by having access now to all the data, how direct-to-streaming movies perform. And our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform, how often people go there or buy it or buy a service for it and how it gets nourished over time is no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the motion – in the theaters. And so this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it.” –David Zaslav

However, I am not saying the axing of “Batgirl” is not unfortunate for the audience. I was looking forward to potentially seeing the movie. This is also an unfortunate cancelation in terms of diversity. Because Leslie Grace is Afro-Latina, giving a fresh look to the DCEU’s main heroes. This means that most of the studio’s upcoming lineup, like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash” will continue to center around white male characters. While these films are likely to be successful, it avoids giving a particular audience a film they can call their own. While “Wonder Woman” and its vastly inferior sequel obviously happen to be anthems for women, it does not change the fact that there are still some audiences who probably have not seen themselves in the heroes DC is providing. Sure, the “Suicide Squad” movies feature two different African-American leads, but as far as non-team movies go, diversity has some ways to go. Superman is a white male. Shazam is a white male. The Flash, while played by an actor who currently identifies as non-binary, is as far as we know, a white male. Harley Quinn, while not a male, is more of an anti-hero as seen in projects like “Birds of Prey.” This could have been DC’s chance to give the audience a different kind of hero. And while this may be towards the villain or anti-hero route, DC is lucky that the Dwayne Johnson-starring “Black Adam” is set to come out as the iconic movie star happens to be Black and Samoan.

At the same time though, while this is unfortunate, I will reiterate, I agree with Zaslav’s decision to cancel the film. It is not a pleasant decision to make, but as a business move, it makes sense. I am not saying people are not interested in seeing a Latina superhero, but I think that if people want a character like Batgirl, such a character should receive better treatment than what she is getting at the moment. I have to remind everyone reading this that I am a straight white male, therefore it is my responsibility to acknowledge that a lot of the movies that have come out in the superhero genre revolves around people like me. Some are great like “Iron Man” while others are not so great like “Morbius.” This is the same thing I have said about “Ghostbusters” since I watched the 2016 Paul Feig-directed reboot. You cannot just remake the movie with women and call it a day. You have to have a good script, great chemistry amongst the cast, and solid humor. Now obviously every movie has its fans, but I saw the movie and felt that it failed on those recently mentioned objectives. Pitching and selling a “Batgirl” film to the audience is half the battle. The other half is delivering a great story or experience that will stand the test of time, and I can only assume that “Batgirl” did not meet certain standards to make that happen.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cancelation of “Batgirl” has more to do with the reset plan in regard to DC and not as much to do with the talent behind the film like Leslie Grace.

“Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of “Batgirl” and “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.” -WB Insider (The Hollywood Reporter)

On that note, I will remind you that “Batgirl” is not the only upcoming Warner Bros. film that was announced to be cancelled last week, as the quote suggests that “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” a Christmas-themed “Scooby-Doo” film, was also part of the chopping block. The film was set to come out on HBO Max this year, which does not surprise me as 2020’s “Scoob!” skipped theatres and went straight to VOD due to COVID-19. While I watched “Scoob!” a couple years ago and thought it was a trainwreck, I will note one thing that was not a problem was the look of the film or the animation style. Overall, it looked very polished. Once again, I can only use assumptions here, but I would not be surprised if this streaming-mindset affected production in terms of how polished the film could turn out. Once again, I feel bad for the crew, but I think that this is a proper business decision.

Although if I must be real, I find it shocking that “Batgirl” was cancelled at the time it was. I am less shocked after finding out that it probably was not that good. Although what I am saying is that there is another DC film that based on public outcry, probably should have been cancelled first. In fact, recent events further indicate the complications behind this film’s existence. That film being… “The Flash.”

The Flash is one of the more well-known DC superheroes, and the hero’s popularity has only jumped due to the success of CW’s original series that is soon to enter its final season. Although on the movie side, there has been extensive development in regard to bringing the red speedster to the big screen but for several reasons, they could not quite get it out before the end of the previous decade. Having seen both “Justice League” and its eventual “Snyder Cut” on HBO Max, I think Ezra Miller did a fine job bringing Barry Allen to life and I would not mind seeing more of the character. Unfortunately, if Miller continues to play the character, I may have second thoughts.

After seeing Ezra Miller’s shenanigans of choking a woman in a bar, assault, restraining orders, harrassing a woman in her own apartment, and most recently, burglary, this only makes Zaslav’s final decision on “The Flash” that much harder to make. You could say that releasing “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is also hard because Amber Heard is in it, but that’s a cakewalk compared to this. For one thing, the public is divided on whether Heard is innocent or guilty after her recent trial with Johnny Depp. And not to undermine the events prior to or of said trial, many of Ezra Miller’s crimes or arrests have happened after they finished shooting “The Flash.” As time has shown, I believe in redemption. Since joining Marvel, James Gunn held back on making inappropriate jokes over the Internet, and even after his firing and rehiring, he kept his cool. But at this point, when Ezra Miller has already been cast, the movie is shot, and it is set to release next year. This is a dilemma if there ever was one. As a viewer who is not in charge of a substantial company or its products, it is easy for me to say that they should cancel the movie or recast Ezra Miller and reshoot every scene with the character of Barry Allen. But the film already has a budget of $200 million, and this requires a massive return of the crew, the actors, everybody.

…But in my own little fantasyland, I also think it is worth it. …Kind of. It’s not my money, and if it were, for all I know, I might not have said this.

Similar to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” where there were three Spider-Men on the lineup, “The Flash” is a movie where we are seeing the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, making “Batgirl” one of the two films where the iconic actor dons his cowl. That, alongside another Batman appearance from Ben Affleck, will obviously get butts in seats. This is certainly a film that people will want to see in theaters before streaming, making HBO Max a concept that must be left out of the equation. But this involves potential delays, recasting, and so on. The other alternative I can get behind at this point is releasing the film as is and announcing Ezra Miller’s firing beforehand. I could almost see there being a disclaimer before the film starts stating the wrongdoings of Ezra Miller and a note that Warner Bros. does not condone or approve of his actions. While it may not be comfortable to provide in a public setting, it is better to condemn this consistently inappropriate or incorrect behavior rather than continue to enable it. There is a good chance Ezra Miller is already canned and such a thing has not been announced, but I think this is a message that should be announced before the public starts a trend claiming Warner Bros. “defends assaulters” or something along those lines. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this is exhibit A as to why that is not true. On the bright side, reports have surfaced that “The Flash” is apparently a good movie. Obviously, film is subjective, so if it comes out, we will see if that statement holds true. But it is nice to hear Warner Bros. Discovery has confidence in the film’s quality, unlike “Batgirl.” Some of the general audience more than likely will not care about what Ezra Miller has done in the past, but it does not change the fact that word gets around. Plus Miller is getting into trouble on a consistent basis. They have already been the subject of multiple negative events as of this year. My confidence in Miller or their image’s ability to change by next year, or even 2024, is quite low. What if they end up in prison for a year? What is Warner Bros. Discovery going to do then? Imagine if Ezra Miller shows up at the premiere and how awkward that could be given everything they have done. This is not exactly my idea, but one alternative is finding a way to remarket the film as a “Batman” movie. I do not know how much the script would warrant such a thing, but given the marketability of the “Batman” IP and the fact that there are two Batmen in the movie, it theoretically makes sense.

Until then, there is no easy answer to this ongoing problem. “Batgirl” may have had its reasons to be cancelled, but this only makes me wonder what is going to happen with “The Flash.” If the movie gets cancelled because of Ezra Miller, it is a solid publicity move in the short term, but this also ends up being a disservice to the rest of the people behind the film who had nothing to do with Ezra Miller other than working with them. But at the end of the day, filmmaking is a business. And if Ezra Miller keeps doing what they’re doing, or worse, the business of the film is only going to trickle bit by bit. “The Flash” is still set to come out, and I am glad to hear it is good. But is it worth it? Much like “Batgirl,” but for completely different reasons, “The Flash” at this stage is probably going to hit some landmines if the studio wants it to be released theatrically. But at the same time, the movie is too big, not to mention too expensive, for HBO Max.

Sticking with HBO Max, let’s ask a question… WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO HBO MAX?!

Remember how HBO Max was supposed to be Warnermedia’s big streaming service? It was the thing that was going to make HBO Now look like HBO Then. Some not so surprising news that came out of last week’s events was the merging of HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming service. Now, that has not happened yet. You will not find “Property Brothers” on HBO Max, nor will you find “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Discovery+.

This is not the first time in recent years that Warner had one of its streaming services fold into another one, as DC Universe gradually dissolved in 2020 and all of its film and television content like “Titans” and “Harley Quinn” ended up on HBO Max, with the latter now airing its third season.

Now if you ask me, I like the fact that all of this content is merging. I am probably not going to watch all of it. But it is nice to know that the options are there. For all I know, there could be a new show that I could put on in the background one day. I think one big problem consumers face is that there are too many streaming services out there. I do not have Discovery+, as it is one of the few services I do not consider a priority. Slimming two services into one is not necessarily a bad concept. My one concern is how much more I’d be paying, that is if there is a price hike. I will revisit this issue later, because I need to talk about one of the most poorly guided comparisons I have seen in this day and age.

Remember how I said actions speak louder than words? Well, words are pretty powerful. Some people tend to take them seriously.

I understand that this may be an exaggeration, but it still must be pointed out. When talking about the differences between HBO Max and Discovery+, this was done through a side-by-side chart indicating that HBO Max’s content was male-skew and Discovery+’s content was female-skew. Now to be fair, I am a man and I have never watched Discovery+ on my own time. I rarely turn on any of Discovery’s channels. But this is a loose and stereotypical assumption to make in this day and age. Because this declares that gendered content is put into boxes. HBO is one of the most sought-after cable networks of all time by all genders. “Game of Thrones” was a huge hit over recent years. Recent series like “Scenes From a Marriage” have been met with acclaim. And APPARENTLY, women don’t watch “EUPHORIA?!” If anything, they’re the target audience! Literally every woman on this planet wants to be Zendaya! She is good-looking, she has an Emmy, and she is dating Spider-Man! You think women do not watch “Euphoria?”

I am not saying that some of these classifications do not make sense. HBO has a lot of scripted content, and that is their forte. Although HBO Max has plenty of unscripted or reality content like the original show “Legendary,” truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” and the TBS reboot of “Wipeout.” It is very much a service for everyone in same way that Netflix or Prime Video is. Discovery+ is very much a comfort food network. Most of their content is within the reality genre like “90 Day Fiancé,” “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and “Chopped.” Again, I am a man, and I do not know of many men, but I know they are out there, who lean into Discovery’s content more than they do with the type of content HBO provides, so Zaslav and the infographic are technically onto something. But it does not mean that this is the best analogy to give to the public.

Also, you are telling me “The Bachelor” is a male-skewed show?! Again, I imagine there are some men who watch. Although if you want to talk about HBO Max strictly having male-skewed content, I raise you “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “The Bachelor: Winter Games” and “Bachelor Pad!” The only guys watching these shows are those who are trying to impress their significant other that this show specifically targets! Obviously, there are others, but you get my point! What man turns on the television, looks at that night’s lineup, and thinks, I’m gonna pour myself some wine, and watch young women fight over a guy?! The majority would flip the channel in a heartbeat.

There are also plenty of HBO or HBO Max scripted shows that do not mainly target men. In addition to the recently mentioned “Euphoria,” look at shows like “Big Little Lies,” “Gossip Girl,” “Insecure,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” “Love Life,” and let me just remind you that HBO has a show literally called “Girls.” HBO and HBO Max apparently suggests that women do not watch shows like “Succession,” “Silicon Valley,” “Divorce,” “The White Lotus,” or “Mare of Easttown.”

The men/women analogy would have probably worked in the 1920s. More so in the 1820s. But definitely not in the 2020s. This was probably delivered with the best intention in mind, but it does not change the fact that the delivery was terrible. The infographic itself is helpful and for the most part, an accurate representation of both streaming services. HBO Max is definitely more lean in and Discovery+ is certainly more lean back. Those are good comparisons. Plus, while I did address that HBO Max is not short on unscripted content, it is no doubt that scripted content is their bread and butter in the same way that unscripted content is to Discovery+.

Now let’s go back to the price concern. While it is nice to know that I would not be paying for two different streaming services at the same time, one of the nice things about HBO Max is that while it is not the cheapest service out there, it offers a lot of great, sometimes award-winning content, for a reasonable price. HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-included tier at $9.99 and an ad-free tier at $14.99. Discovery+ also offers two tiers. An ad-included tier at $4.99 and an ad-free tier at $6.99. These prices make some sense given how Discovery+ is more of a niche service in the same way that the horror-based Shudder would be to a certain degree. Should we see these two services combine, I think it is perhaps likely that the service to be offered will have an increased price from HBO Max’s current price. If it increases by $1, I do not see much of a problem. $2? Okay, whatever. $3? Now you are pushing it. I understand that adding more content can justify a price increase, but there comes a tipping point. If I find out that this new streaming service costs $19.99/month or more, which is the current price for Netflix’s top tier, I would have to debate on ignoring the service and worry about my other subscriptions for the time being. There is plenty of great content being offered through services like Hulu and Prime Video that I’d rather flock to for a better value. I especially worry for those who have Discovery+ and not HBO Max, because their increase could be worse.

There is no official word as to what the name of the combined service is, and this presents a problem if they come up with a new name. The beauty of HBO Max is that the name HBO is one of the most coveted television brands ever conceived. No offense to Discovery, but when most people think of “television,” HBO is often seen as the gold standard nowadays. They could come up with a new name, let’s just use Warner Discovery as an example, but this could result in brand confusion. This could be HBO’s most bewildering matter since trying to explain the difference between HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. What makes HBO Max different? I don’t know, it’s purple! This could be a short term confusion once the audience collectively realizes where their preferred content ended up, but nevertheless.

Phew. We made it to the end. Just to recap, I still use and enjoy HBO Max. The third season of “Harley Quinn” is great fun and I cannot wait to see the rest of it. I am excited to see where David Zaslav takes the Warner Bros. brand in the future. I am curious about movies like Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which looks like a trip if there ever was one. I just hope that Zaslav realizes within the mistakes that have been made recently, that this Warner Bros. Discovery ship remains as tight as possible. While I remain saddened for the crews behind the films, I think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” were the right moves. If the movies were not up to a certain standard, then why should they be put out to begin with? The main basis of the movie business is profit. This is part of why “Batgirl” was cancelled, but I am also glad to know that we will not potentially be seeing the next “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” or the next “Catwoman” or the next “Morbius.” It is still NOT Morbin’ time! I don’t care who says it! Why is “The Flash” not cancelled? Sure, I hear it is a good movie, but the closer we get to its release, the more I worry about the film itself in addition to its star’s ability to not cause chaos. Is there a weird move will we see next from Zaslav and crew? Who knows? Until then, all I can do is sit back and wait for movies like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and go back and watch the many hit movies and television shows on HBO Max like “Peacemaker,” “The Carbonaro Effect,” and “The Bachel–” Hahaha, never mind that last one.

Thanks for reading this post! If you liked this post and want to see more, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! If you are interested in more of my long-form content, check out my five-thousand word analysis as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the recent anime from Mamoru Hosoda. This is a movie which is by the way, as of this post’s debut, NOW STREAMING ON HBO MAX! Until then, I want to know your thoughts! What do you think about the recent events at Warner Bros. Discovery? Do you think the brand is in a good direction? Do you think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” was a wise decision? What do you think they should do with “The Flash” at this point? Also, about those six movies that were taken off HBO Max, did you watch any of them? Tell me your thoughts. If you ask me, I think “An American Pickle” is one of the most overlooked comedies in recent times and a hilarious parody on modern society. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Nope (2022): YEP.

“Nope” is directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), Keke Palmer (Lightyear, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Steven Yeun (Minari, The Walking Dead), Michael Wincott (The Crow, Alien: Resurrection), Brandon Perea (The OA, Doom Patrol), Wrenn Schmidt (Outcast, For All Mankind), Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria, Unpregnant), and Keith David (The Thing, Pitch Black). This film is about a brother and sister who live on a ranch and witness an unusual, shocking event that changes everything.

So far, when it comes to Jordan Peele’s filmography, he has proven himself as legit horror storyteller. “Get Out” is unsettling and perfectly paced from start to finish. “Us” has charismatic characters and is a fine balance between subtle and trippy. “Nope” contains some of the horror elements that audiences may have grown accustomed to over the past couple films Peele directed. There are jumpscares, strange happenings, and much like “Us,” there is an intentionally placed scene in the beginning that in most cases would almost feel kind of out of place.

However, the biggest difference between “Nope” and Peele’s previous work is the scope. It would be easy for me to say that “Nope” is the biggest film Peele’s made so far, but I can back that up by saying “Nope” cost $68 million to make. That is more than “Us,” which cost $20 million, and “Get Out,” which cost $4.5 million. But there are reasons beyond the numbers as to why it is so big. The film is entirely shot on 65mm film, including select sequences which were shot in IMAX. Yes, Peele went full Nolan on this movie. Although unlike Christopher Nolan with some of his recent fare like “Tenet,” I could actually hear what the actors were trying to say. You see what happens when booming music is used sparingly? Out of all the films Peele has done so far, this is the one that most closely resembles that summer blockbuster vibe.

This is probably the closest I think a director has come in some time to providing a Spielberg-like experience without the use of the actual Steven Spielberg. Now, Spielberg has done a lot of movies, but he is most well known for his blockbusters like “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” This leads me to my biggest praise for “Nope,” and that is that this movie does for UFOs what Steven Spielberg and crew did for the original “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” movies. What do I mean? There is a UFO in the movie, but much like the shark in “Jaws,” the UFO is used sparingly. Much like that iconic shark some call Bruce, the UFO felt special. And kind of like in “Jurassic Park,” which took its time to establish the gargantuan nature of its dinosaurs, the UFO is not only menacing when it appears, but it made me as a viewer feel small. I am very likely going to buy “Nope” on physical media as it is that good of a film. I am quite curious to know how that effect is going to come off on my television screen. But I can say as someone who has seen “Nope” twice in the theater, each scene where the UFO played a crucial role made it feel like the literal elephant in the room.

Speaking of elephants in the room, let’s talk about my favorite performance in the film. Keke Palmer gives it her all in “Nope.” Emerald Haywood (right) is exactly the type of character this movie needed. Compared to “Get Out,” which at times dives into the divide between class and race, “Nope” feels more like an escape. And Palmer does her absolute best to give an escape. Her dynamic voice and personality are that of an auctioneer on Adderall. If the character of Emerald Haywood were not in the horse-training business, she has the perfect skill set to sell cars. Her energy and physicality grabbed my attention from scene one. Keke Palmer is set to host the upcoming NBC reboot of “Password.” After seeing what she could do in this film, they made a great choice for the upcoming host.

Now on the other hand, the main character of the film, OJ Haywood (left), has less physicality, not to mention personality. And things seem to be that way on purpose. Daniel Kaluuya does a solid job playing a stoic character who seems to be going through the motions. I think that if the film had OJ be a ball of energy like Emerald, that could create for a problem. In a film as big as this, there needs to be at least one dose of reality or silence within all the noise. If “Nope” were an Amtrak train, OJ would be the quiet car. But this also leads me to say that I like the other main characters in “Nope” more than OJ because their energy therefore made me feel more energetic myself throughout the runtime. Not only did Keke Palmer succeed in this mission with Emerald, but Steven Yeun deserves some credit too for his upbeat portrayal of Ricky “Jupe” Park.

Although I should not say that the reality in this movie is a waste, because one of the characters in this film reminded me of my time when I worked at Staples in the tech department. That character is Angel Torres, who works at Fry’s Electronics, a now defunct electronics store chain. The first scene between him and the brother-sister duo felt reminiscent of my tactics when checking people out, not to mention some of the customer’s reactions when I would pop a certain question. While Angel may seem like an everyday electronics store employee, or at least he was, until Fry’s closed with the rest of their locations, he ended up being a delightfully charming part of the film.

If I had any negatives with the film, the biggest standout would be that given how Jordan Peele has leaned into this blockbuster route, this makes the film feel less substantial compared to his others. Do not get me wrong, it is a great movie. But what I mean is that compared to “Get Out,” I did not think as much about deeper meanings. “Nope” tries to play around with something of this nature involving a sitcom and a monkey, but I honestly do not think it did much other than give one character some backstory. You know that saying about how when you get to certain age in your life, presumably somewhere in your young adulthood, and you realize that maybe you are not as smart as you once thought you might be? If “Nope” were a real person, it would not have reached that stage just yet. The movie chooses to open a certain way and continue a certain way with this ideology that I will not spoil, but did not particularly sit with me the way I think Peele would have wanted it to. It felt like a move that was trying to be pretentious, but only ended up feeling meaningless. I wish I could give more detail.

One final positive before we move on. Over the years, many movies have used their title through the script in such a way that stands out. In “Back to the Future,” there is a scene where Doc exclaims he will send Marty back to the future. In “Better Off Dead,” there is a literally a song with the lyrics “better off dead” that plays a prominent role. I will also go back to “Jurassic Park” and the massive scale it provides. One scene where that tactic comes into play has the character of John Hammond magnificently say “Welcome to Jurassic Park.” I think “Nope” officially takes the crown for best use of a movie title in its own movie. I think that as long as I shall live, there will NEVER be a better use of this concept. The moment one particular character says “Nope,” the entire auditorium cackled like hyenas, and for good reason.

In the end, “Nope” gets a yep from me. This is not Jordan Peele’s best film. In fact, in some ways, it might be his worst, but it is also the most fun of the ones he has made. It is definitely one I would watch on a Friday night if I want to look at something massive. The cinematography, which is done by the great Hoyte van Hoytema, is some of the best of the year. The night shots look beautiful, the climax looks incredible, and there is one particular money shot I would love to have as a desktop photo if I were more willing to customize my setup. “Nope” is a good time and it is fun to look at. But unlike “Get Out,” this is perhaps less likely to be nominated for Best Picture. Although if the Academy Awards took place right now, Keke Palmer should get an acting nomination per my opinion. I am going to give “Nope” a 7/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my thoughts on “Nope,” be on the lookout for more reviews! Pretty soon I will share my thoughts on “DC League of Super-Pets” and “Vengeance.” 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 “Nope?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite summer blockbuster of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021): Even the Most Hyper-Masculine Will Buy the Adorableness This Movie Shells

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, and this is his feature-length debut. This film stars Jenny Slate (Parks and Recreation, Bob’s Burgers), Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Alita: Battle Angel), Thomas Mann (Kong: Skull Island, Halloween Kills), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Crime of the Century), Dean Fleischer Camp, and Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes). The film is based on a short and book series of the same name. In this feature-length take on a preestablished character, the story centers around Marcel, who spends his days with his grandmother, Connie. Throughout the film Marcel is interviewed as he unveils everything about being an anthropomorphic shell in a big house.

I have seen the trailer for “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” during my couple ventures to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” After all, it only makes sense as both films are from A24. I know a bit about A24 as a distributor. They have marvelous originals like “Eighth Grade,” some wonderful adaptations like “Room,” and even when a film from them is bad, they still have my respect. Because I always get the sense that an A24 film is typically bad in a way that makes me think, “Maybe that was not for me.” This is especially true with a movie like “Midsommar.” I appreciated “Midsommar” from a visual standpoint, but felt genuinely annoyed whenever it attempted anything along the lines of horror.

“Marcel the Shell” is a complete drift from “Midsommar.” There were families at my screening for crying out loud. If I were given the option to pick out a movie without having seen it, kind of in the sense that I am doing a blind buy, and those were my options, I’d lean towards “Midsommar.” On the surface, it would seem like my kind of movie. I was sold on “Marcel the Shell” when seeing the trailer, but between Ari Aster’s name being attached in addition to the concept, “Midsommar” would have sold me harder.

Now that I have seen both movies, I can confirm that both tell oddball, offbeat stories. “Marcel the Shell” personally tells its story to a greater ability.

Between “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Marcel the Shell,” A24 is having a heck of a year, and I hope they continue to flourish.

“Marcel the Shell” has origins that go back some years ago. While Jenny Slate may also be known for her work on mainstream concepts like “Parks and Recreation,” she has dedicated her time, alongside other people, to creating “Marcel the Shell.” If her passion for the property has not been erased all these years later, Slate excels in revealing such a notion, because she gives it her all to deliver possibly the cutest voicework I have heard since maybe Young Dory in “Finding Dory.”

Although I cannot give Slate’s voice all the credit, because part of what makes “Marcel the Shell” so clever and palpable is how child-like the character is written. I do not mean immature. This movie has the maturity of a great Pixar story if you ask me. However, some of the lines in this film, not to mention the overall vibes, very much felt like watching a child grow up. I do not have kids, so this may not be the best analogy, but as someone who was a kid and as someone who knows parents, I imagine this is a good comparison.

One thing I remember from my childhood, either through growing up or seeing my sister grow up, is how often children mix up their words to say something that sounds similar to what they are trying to say. There is a great line in the film given by Marcel. He gives the famous quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” which traces back to the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky. But after acing this quote, Marcel is taking all the time in the world to come up with a ton of similar sounding names, but none of them are Wayne Gretzky.

The closest he comes to being right is Whale Jetski. …This is the most adorable movie ever created.

Not only is Whale Jetski a cute-sounding name, but it goes to show how hilarious the movie is. This film is presented in a mockumentary style, which was never my thing. While a lot of my friends tend to enjoy “The Office,” and as much as I think some of the people behind the show are talented, the show’s mockumentary format never sat well with me. That is not the case with “Marcel the Shell,” as the mockumentary format not only lends to some unique concepts, neat editing tricks, and kneeslap-worthy jokes, but some occasional great fourth wall breaks, if you can call them that, from the character of Dean. His main purpose is to videograph the goings on of Marcel, which fits into the mockumentary aspect of the film. After all, it is revealed that he is filming a documentary, which Marcel and his shell community happen to be in on.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” proves that the creative floodgates have a wider opening than some might think. In a world where we are inundated with sequels, reboots, comic book movies, or flashy action adventures, we still have a desire for telling and seeing stories like this. “Marcel the Shell” has the simplicity of a show like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the creativity of a movie like “Toy Story.” I have truly never seen anything like “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” It is not the first story with the character, but it feels new to me.

For a movie that truly is small, much like its titular character, it packs such a raw punch when delivering emotion at times. I already talked about the humor, but I can guarantee you that this movie will make New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick smile. Maybe he’ll shed a tear, who knows? I am not saying that everyone will walk out of this movie with a tear out of their eye, happy or sad. But I am saying that if you do not walk out of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” with a smile, I would argue that you hate all things awesome. Things like swimming pools, or French fries, or redwood trees, or space. How the hell can one hate SPACE?!

There is not much I find wrong with “Marcel the Shell.” I do think I became more invested in the shell community as opposed to the humans they expose through flashbacks, which is not a terrible thing, because the movie knows what it is about. Other than that, I think “Marcel the Shell” is one of the best films of the year, and if you miss it, then you are skipping possibly one of the most adorable films in cinematic history. I mean it.

In the end, “Marcel the Shell” lacks the grand scale many movies tend to have nowadays, but that is also what makes it a unique and entertaining production. This is a movie about a shell who spends his days with his grandma and happens to bond over things like “60 Minutes.” Yes, THAT “60 Minutes.” The one on CBS every Sunday. It sounds weird. And in ways, it is. But that is also why you should give it a chance. This is great for adults, this is great for kids, therefore it is great for everybody. I guarantee that you will grin at least once by the time those end credits show up. If you don’t, then color me shocked. I am going to give “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” a 9/10.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I want to apologize for not getting this out earlier. I have been somewhat busy recently and I am happy to announce that I am likely going to be taking on more movie-related writing outside of Scene Before. Those of you who have been here since the start would know that Scene Before, AKA Flicknerd.com, is independently operated by me, Jack Drees. But if all aligns properly, I will be writing for a particular outlet that some of you might know. I am not going to say which one as I am not officially onboard, but if I have more information, I will share it with you.

That said, if you like this review, be on the lookout for more coming soon! This week I will be sharing my thoughts on “Nope,” the new Jordan Peele film where a brother-sister duo confront a strange event around their horse ranch. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “DC League of Super Pets,” the new animated superhero film that focuses on Superman’s dog, Krypto, and a set of other superpowered animals. 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 “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could make a documentary on something, what it be about, and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Gray Man (2022): Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, and Chris Evans Team Up to Deliver Some Expensive Mediocrity

“The Gray Man” is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree, Avengers: Endgame) and stars Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, First Man), Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Knives Out) Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out), Jessica Henwick (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Matrix Resurrections), Regé-Jean Page (For the People, Bridgerton), Wagner Moura (Elysium, Narcos), Julia Butters (American Housewife, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Dhanush (3, Vada Chennai), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives, St. Elsewhere), and Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Goliath). Based on a 2009 Mark Greaney book of the same name, this film is about a man who goes by the name of Six. Years after Six is let out of prison under the condition that he works for the CIA, he uncovers dark secrets. This results in a former colleague putting a bounty on his head and an international manhunt.

“The Gray Man” is the latest film from the Russo Brothers, These two are in-house Marvel directors known for their work on the latest “Captain America” and “Avengers” titles. In addition to Joe Russo’s respective screenplay credit, the film also happens to be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. These two have handled writing duties for tons of Marvel fare including “Thor: The Dark World,” “Agent Carter,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and the “Captain America” trilogy. It is nice to see these two join forces to write one of the most expensive Netflix movies ever made. It feels weird to say that in a circumstance like this because when I think Netflix, I think of television, and I think of movies that are more likely to be seen on the smaller screen. But this film is not cheap, as it did cost $200 million to make. This is $50 million less than “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Disney and Marvel’s latest blockbuster movie to hit the big screen. This leads me to my first compliment. As weird as it is to confirm, I think “The Gray Man” looks better visually than “Thor: Love and Thunder” does at times.

But believe it or not, Netflix has put out a decent amount of big budget movies over recent years. Some have been good, like “The Irishman.” Some have been bad, like “Red Notice.” I’ll get straight to the point. “The Gray Man” is in between.

I went to go see “The Gray Man” in a movie theatre. The best thing I can say about “The Gray Man” is that it uses every bit of its big budget wisely to deliver one of the best-looking films of the year. There is a scene where people are ringing in the new year that totally popped. Despite having some occasional vivid and eye-dilating images, it is all given within a script that tends to rely on clichés.

“The Gray Man” is a marketable film for sure. Big action, big stars, and for some, it comes with the perk that you can pause and go to the bathroom without missing anything. I was sold with the campaign because the stars of the film are bankable. I dig Ryan Gosling, I love Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas may be on track to be one of the greatest thespians of her generation. It should not surprise me that this trio has solid chemistry all around. Because De Armas worked with both of these actors in the past. Therefore, not only are we getting a reunion behind the camera between the directors and writers, but in front of the camera as well with the leads.

Essentially, “The Gray Man” is this year’s “Red Notice,” because it is another action film that has notable clichés and a globe-trotting plot. Both even star a sexy Canadian Ryan! But the difference between “The Gray Man” and “Red Notice” is that I would rather watch “The Gray Man” a second time. …Barely. “The Gray Man” is “Red Notice,” except in this case, “The Gray Man” does more than get big names. They utilize those big names to greater potential.

Ryan Gosling is well-directed by the Russos and happens to be given plenty to do in the film to make it as watchable as it can be. But his character of Six does not have much dimension to him. He feels like a less suave, perhaps less emotional Ethan Hunt. Gosling is a great actor who has done a fantastic series of roles in recent years in movies like “La La Land” and “Blade Runner 2049.” He has a knack for picking well-developed, enchanting, defining scripts. What got him into this movie? Who knows? Everyone probably needs a paycheck every now and then. When it comes to Gosling’s library, this is probably on the same level of quality as the kind of forgettable “Gangster Squad.”

The scene stealer award in this case goes to Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. Chris Evans gives one of my favorite performances in a recent action film. He continues to demonstrate his range as a performer. He not only can vary up his performance style, but do it well. Whether it means being patriotic and kind-hearted as Steve Rogers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or a complete moron as Ransom Drysdale in “Knives Out.” Here, he unsurprisingly channels more of the latter’s traits. Out of everyone in the film, Evans brings an energy to his performance that every other actor can only hope to evoke out of their own.

Even though I say there are clichés, it does not mean that there is no entertainment to be had in the movie whatsoever. As I have said in the past, clichés can be good if they are done effectively. Why do you think the “hero’s journey” structure gets repeated time and time again? In this story of familiar happenings, there is a slight glimmer of fun or emotional weight here and there. One of the best story elements of the film is between Ryan Gosling’s character, Six, and a kid played by the young and talented Julia Butters, Claire. Not only do both actors play off each other brilliantly, but they are given some of the film’s best exchanges of dialogue. By the end of the film, Claire became one of my favorite characters and her story wrapped up satisfyingly.

Also, random fact I found out as I was doing this review. Apparently this film was in development hell for years. The earliest this project was announced happens to be 2011, with James Gray once set to direct. Between swapped actors, swapped studios, and so on, the project never found its footing until now. Was it worth the wait? Hard to tell. It’s a cliché film with familiar storylines, so it does not add much to the table. Although it could get some watches on both big and small screens for now. As for how well it will age, that is for the audience to decide.

In the end, “The Gray Man” is in a word, fine. The star-studded cast got me in the door. Not only are they capable of bringing charisma, but delivering on talent. They do their best with the ordinary writing. Ryan Gosling delivers the goods in the acting department, but I will not remember his character as much as say K in “Blade Runner 2049.” I would love to see Ana de Armas in more thrillers and action fare as I think she has done a good job not only in this film, but also “No Time to Die.” She is attractive, joy-inducing, and skilled at her craft. She is everything you can want in an actress. Chris Evans continues to show his range as a performer, but if I had to rank his filmography for the year, I would prefer “Lightyear.” It is a completely different movie for another audience perhaps, but if you want to know which movie does a better job at accomplishing its goals, “Lightyear” is that movie. “The Gray Man” is fun to look at, but does not deliver much that is new. I am going to give “The Gray Man” a 5/10.

“The Gray Man” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Netflix to all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, why not check out some of my other ones? If you are in the Netflix mood, check out my review for another recent Netflix movie, “Hustle!” Want something more recent? Feel free to take a glance at my thoughts on Scott Derrickson’s new horror film, “The Black Phone!” Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” and “Nope!” If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Gray Man?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put three actors in one action movie together, who would they be and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022): A Catastrophically Legendary Failure That Will Make You Hate Cats and Dogs

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, The Lion King), Mark Koetsier (Kung Fu Panda, Big Hero 6), and Chris Bailey (X2: X-Men United, Kim Possible) and stars Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The LEGO Batman Movie), Ricky Gervais (Night at the Museum, The Office), Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs), George Takei (Star Trek, Kubo and the Two Strings), Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show, The Brink), Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike, Space Jam: A New Legacy), Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Shazam!), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction). This film centers around Hank, a dog who aspires to become a samurai. Once given the first glimmer of this goal, Hank is taken under the wing of Jimbo, a once great samurai, as he aspires to fulfill his destiny.

I am going to start off this review by stating something that may piss off some of my readers. I have never seen “Blazing Saddles.” I just have not had the time. In fact, as I started doing this review and refreshed myself through the cast on Wikipedia, I found out that this film is a loose adaptation of Mel Brooks’s well-known western comedy. To add to the similiarities, Mel Brooks even has a role in this film as The Shogun. I cannot confirm how many similarities and differences there are between this film and “Blazing Saddles.” Sure, there are some obvious ones I could make without having seen both films.

“Paws of Fury” is animated while “Blazing Saddles” is live-action. That’s the obvious difference. “Paws of Fury” is more focused on samurai whereas “Blazing Saddles” takes a more wild west approach with its story. In a way, this is almost a reversal of what “The Magnificent Seven” did as a redo of “Seven Samurai.” Because there is a solid chance that “The Magnificent Seven” would not be what it is if it were not for Akira Kurosawa’s creation. There is also a consensus that “Blazing Saddles” would not be made today due to the current climate and there being a greater strive to be politically correct in comedy. Obviously, this movie is mostly meant for families and children.

But children, mostly.

God help us all.

Some make the claim that “Blazing Saddles” is a movie that can not, and maybe should not be made today. They’re right. That is, if you are going to make it into something like this. “Paws of Fury” is the worst animation of the year.

I should not be too surprised that this movie is lacking in any and all luster. Because in my animation reviews, I often talk about Pixar as the gold standard on how you make an animated movie. Literally, this year, they released “Turning Red,” which slaps. And they followed that up with “Lightyear,” which is inferior by Pixar standards, but better than many movies could ever hope to be. They are a tough act to follow, but one thing that often separates Pixar from the competition is the studio’s ability to tell mature stories that do not rely heavily on cheap comedy gags that appear as if they were written for infants.

This movie is from Nickelodeon Studios. I have some nostalgia for Nickelodeon as “SpongeBob SquarePants” was my goto cartoon when I was younger. As I look back on the series, the early seasons had great writing, gutbusting comedy that ages like a fine wine. However, as we get through seasons 4, 5, 6, and so on, all of that trickles down. Every other joke is disposable, some character motivations and feelings come off as over the top, and they sometimes rely on sight gags that go too far. Similarly, this movie is no stranger to toilet humor. You want to know how much this movie relies on toilet humor? The main villain’s motivation literally involves the use of a super-sized toilet. I wish I were making this up. I’ll remind you, there is literally an animated movie called “FLUSHED AWAY,” which literally involves the use of toilets to further the plot, that takes itself more seriously than this when it comes to humor and writing. I think that toilet humor can be funny in doses and depending on the execution. As an adult, it is a bit hard to take it seriously however. Part of it is because it feels like the cop out of comedy. Fart noises can get a laugh, but fart-related jokes are so easy to write. All it takes is one noise. There’s very little effort involved. This movie tries to get creative with fart jokes by the end, but it did not change the fact that the whole concept of the joke felt lazy and forced. As much flack as they get, I think puns have more thought put into them than fart jokes. You might as well say that fart jokes can sometimes be… A pain in the butt.

I’ll see myself out. I have two working eyes.

Overall, “Paws of Fury” is very much that typical hero’s journey structure we’ve seen many times before. The potential hero is an unlikely one, but for whatever reason, the hero will do whatever he can to achieve his goals. On the surface, “Paws of Fury” feels like “Kung Fu Panda” if it were more samurai-based as opposed to martial arts-based. Except that “Kung Fu Panda,” while I remember it having maybe one joke that felt kiddy, did not treat its audience like morons. I already talked about the fart jokes, but this movie also has meta humor infused at times, part of which includes the notion that the flick “is only 85 minutes long.” I noticed over the years that there is a tendency amongst some people, and I include myself in this on occasion, to watch a film on the shorter side. It’s a time-saver, it helps with the attention span, and if you have extra time on your hands, it means you can possibly bang out a couple movies in a single Friday night. Given the frequency in which it appears, I am assuming that meta humor was always the intention from the film’s writers. But when I heard the “85 minutes long” joke, it only made me assume that the writers wanted to rush the project to its end. Like, okay, here’s a throwaway line! Let’s get to that pristine runtime!

This film has a stacked cast ranging from Michael Cera to Samuel L. Jackson to Ricky Gervais to even Michelle Yeoh. This film is not short on big names, and it’s almost as if they prioritized these names to get butts in seats over the story. Don’t get me wrong, just about every cast member plays their part to the best of their ability. Samuel L. Jackson does his best not to get in trouble with the parents who will be dragged by their kids to see this movie. Michael Cera is convincing enough to play a lanky dog hero who kind of sounds like a dork. Ricky Gervais does his best channeling his inner annoyed Golden Globes host personality as Ika Chu, a feline who wants to rid of a nearby impoverished town. Overall, the cast does their best with the stiff and sometimes lazy writing. But it does not change the fact that they are in a movie whose characters are mostly given stiff and sometimes lazy writing. This movie is not offensive, but it is almost uninspired. It feels crazy to say because it has an awesome opening sequence that had joyful Saturday morning cartoon vibes. After that, it’s all downhill. It goes to show that even when you have the competent direction and animation, it is not enough to hide a terrible script.

The one positive I can give this film is that it somewhat reminded me of something I learned in school. It may as well be the film’s takeaway for its younger viewers. There are films out there that unveil unlikely heroes, and this one is no exception. It’s the whole expect the unexpected cliché, but there was a scene that reminded me of a picture where a bunch of animals are given an examination to “climb that tree.” Of course, the monkey is the only one in the group who seems enthused by this order. The penguin, the elephant, the fish, the seal, and the canine are noticeably more hesitant. This idea could be applied to the entire film because it is about a dog who is assigned to watch over a town of cats. The dog is also trained by a cat to become a samurai. This leads to a particular moment in the training montage where we literally see a climbing course. I won’t say much more, but this scene is executed in a way that reminded me of “climb that tree.” It goes to show that there is more than one way to teach or learn something. Although for everything else in the movie, it pales in comparison. The movie is not funny, some of the characters are occasionally annoying, and it is full of clichés that have been done better. Do not waste your time. I have seen other animated movies this year that are better than this one.

In the end, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is certainly legendary. More specifically, a legendary failure. Will kids like this movie? Yes, they probably will. And fortunately, as far as kids movies go, this is better for them than “Tom & Jerry” given how the protagonist is probably a more positive influence on younger minds. But I found myself more annoyed by this movie than anything else. I do not have kids, just to be clear, but would I let my kid watch this movie? Maybe. But I might have to leave the room because I can only take so much. But at the same time, I would worry, because given the movie’s script, it might only dumb down my kid should they keep watching it. Maybe they will grow up with the film, but not watch it past say their teen years. I did not know going in that this was an adaptation of “Blazing Saddles,” but I do know that I am going to give “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” a 3/10.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have another one coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Gray Man!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Blazing Saddles?” What did you think about that? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022): Taika Waititi’s Second, and Slightly Less Worthy, Thor Outing

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed the franchise’s previous installment, “Thor: Ragnarok.” This film stars Chris Hemsworth (Men in Black: International, Rush), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari, Batman Begins), Tessa Thompson (Men in Black: International, Annihilation), Jaimie Alexander (Nurse Jackie, Blindspot), Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Cinderella Man), and Natalie Portman (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, V For Vendetta). This is the fourth installment to the “Thor” franchise, the 29th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first instance where a character in said universe gets a fourth standalone movie. In this… THORth installment, Thor reunites with Jane Foster, who is now worthy. The two join forces with Valkyrie and Korg to defeat Gorr the God Butcher, a white being whose aspiration is literally in his namesake, the widespread elimination of all gods.

MCU phase 4 is like having a demanding girlfriend. You love her, but you also want to get away from her. Although when you think you are about to leave, you just keep coming back because you cannot see yourself attached to something else. I am not saying I hate the MCU right now. I thoroughly enjoy the MCU, but as I’ve said in my reviews for “Black Widow” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the whole universe, while still entertaining, is almost homework in disguise. When I was watching “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I had fun, but I felt like I was being tested on how much I remembered “WandaVision.” You could almost make an argument that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” tests your memory on seven different “Spider-Man” movies at once across three different universes. To be fair though, I am not of this demographic, but I would imagine the general audience would not need to watch all of those other shows and movies in order to understand what comes after. However, their experience would only be enhanced if they did.

There is a notable audience that tends to enjoy “Thor: Ragnarok.” I consider myself a fan of the film after a couple watches. It is not up there with the original “Thor,” but anything is better than “Thor: The Dark World.” If you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” there is a solid chance you might find joy in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” This should not come as a surprise, as Taika Waititi helmed both pictures.

Waititi may be most responsible for Thor’s current success. If we did not have “Ragnarok,” his arc in followup “Avengers” titles “Infinity War” and “Endgame” may have slightly less meaning. But the best thing about his storytelling abilities is his tendency to perfectly balance light and darkness. I saw “Thor: Love and Thunder” with my dad. When we walked out of the theater, he affirmed, grinningly, that the movie had “something for everyone.” He may be right. After all, this film has comedy, action, drama, and even horror. Without going into specifics, Christian Bale is, on occasion, utterly terrifying as Gorr the God Butcher. The MCU is often criticized for its lackluster antagonists, and phase 4 is no exception to the rule with Taskmaster from “Black Widow” being a prime example of how movies are only as good as their villains. Gorr the God Butcher is not quite Thanos, and if we are judging “Thor” villains, I even think I have a softer spot for Hela in “Ragnarok.” But when you take a character like Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher and place him in a story where Zeus strips gods in public and threatens others by not allowing them to come to an orgy, it is an odd combination. But somehow they make it work.

Speaking of things that work, let’s talk about Chris Hemsworth as Thor. While it took awhile for me to warm up to Thor kind of being the butt of a joke sometimes, I have come to learn that Chris Hemsworth has tremendous comedic chops. Even when the script does him no favors like in “Ghostbusters” (2016), he still manages to give the performance his all. He will practically do anything to make the character of Thor come off as fun. It’s almost like what they are trying to do with Aquaman in the DCEU where he has a somewhat godly presence, but at the end of the day, you might want to flock to the bar with him. It is why I consider Party Thor to be one of the standout characters in the Disney+ series “What If…?”. At the same time though, this movie can be used as an example in regard to jokes going too far. And I do not mean offensive, I mean the joke tries too hard or it goes on longer than it should.

This movie has some weird, but also simultaneously hypnotizing comedy gags. Thor literally talks to his weapons. There’s even a love triangle between them. Not what I would have written but… Okay. Jane Foster spends a portion of the film trying to come up with an epic one-liner that was somewhat hit or miss. There are these goats in the film that feel less like an attempt at comedy and more so a homage to outdated Internet memes. Sure, when they were first introduced, I laughed. But as the movie went along, they became progressively less funny.

One of the biggest surprises in “Thor: Love and Thunder” prior to its release was the return of the recently mentioned Jane Foster. Natalie Portman is a great actress between her work in movies like “Black Swan” and “Annihilation.” Despite the shortcomings of the dialogue, she also did her best in the “Star Wars” prequels. Speaking of shortcomings, one of the flaws of the first two “Thor” films is that her character did not have a ton to do. I liked her better than Kat Dennings’s character, most specifically in “Thor: The Dark World,” but nevertheless. Mostly, she was almost just there to be the love interest, and that was the character’s biggest service to the story. This time, she is an equal to Thor, or Mighty Thor, as she calls herself. That is, if Thor really is the Thor he once was in say “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” because he has evolved, slowly but surely, into one of the MCU’s goto gags in recent years. When he was not fighting in “Avengers: Endgame,” the movie focuses on him in a dad bod, playing “Fortnite,” and drinking heavily. That movie’s humor adds substance to its story, much like some of the jokes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” It is weird to think how much this character has tonally evolved since 2011.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” has some good humor here and there, but I think of all the Marvel Studios films so far, this is the one I think feels the most kiddy out of them all. It is weird to say because the film has a butt shot of Chris Hemsworth and an ongoing orgy-related threat, but this was one of the first times I can remember watching an MCU film and having it feel this much like a Saturday morning cartoon. I am not saying I did not experience Saturday morning cartoon vibes in the MCU before. “Thor: Ragnarok,” the “Spider-Man” movies, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are all great examples of this vibe. But in the case of those films, the Saturday morning cartoon vibe, minus say “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” was presented more effectively, perhaps more maturely.

While this fourth “Thor” movie flashes back to its predecessors and revisits multiple characters across various stories, I can say that a notable positive I can give to “Thor: Love and Thunder” is that it does not require any prerequisites. You can go into this movie not having seen a single “Thor,” “Avengers,” or MCU installment and have a good time. Yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, but it is not like they are going to test you on the complexities of Groot’s language or something. This is a contained story from start to finish and while it may be referenced later in the MCU, it does not come off as a tale told by gatekeepers. Ultimately, “Thor: Love and Thunder” may be the most stupid fun movie the MCU has given us so far.

If have to be real though, despite this movie being stupid fun, it kind of comes with a caveat. Before “Thor: Ragnarok” came out, the “Thor” movies were comparatively serious. They had their jokey moments. The first film is a fish out of water story that lends itself to tons of humor, and it worked. The second movie had many comedy attempts, but I can only recall one or two that stuck the landing. With “Ragnarok” and now “Love and Thunder,” we have Taika Waititi’s zany touch. I was not particularly fond of the humor in “Ragnarok” when I first saw it, but after rewatching the film, I warmed up to it. Therefore, during this movie, I was looking forward to seeing what the attempts at humor could be. Compared to “Ragnarok,” they’re a bit flat. Once again, some work, but the ones that do not happen to stand out. The goats were funny the first time, but maybe not the fifth or sixth time.

When I think of “Ragnarok,” certain hysterical moments come to mind. “Get help” is one of the funniest gags in recent action movies. The chemistry between Thor and Banner, Hulked up or not, is worthy of my attention. Stan Lee’s cameo where he cuts Thor’s hair is not only crucial to the plot, but gutbusting. So, what does Taika have in mind for this movie? A rock n’ roll-infused opening action sequence where Thor, almost egomaniacally, saves the day. There’s literally a moment where he stops two vehicles from running into him by doing a split. The image is still in my mind. In the moment, I thought that split was hilarious. But it also makes me realize how dramatic of a shift these movies have taken over the years. The first two movies are mature, with the original almost successfully capturing Shakespearean drama vibes. “Thor: Ragnarok,” while still having maturity in it, contains many comedy gags that nearly conflict with some of the movie’s darker moments. The same can be said for “Love and Thunder,” but the comedy is a bigger star than before.

Note how I said bigger, not better. There’s a difference.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” reminds me of “The Fate of the Furious.” I say so because like “Love and Thunder,” I had fun with “The Fate of the Furious,” but there is a certain amount of absurdity in that film that feels more leveled up than say “Fast Five” which jumped the shark, but was comparatively believable. “Thor: Ragnarok” was a ridiculous fun time with great humor and some logic-defying, but still entertaining moments. As the saying in Hollywood goes, bigger is better. Or is it? Because if you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” chances are that this movie has twice the silliness. While laughter is the best medicine, this movie shows that comedic overdoses may be possible.

Before we dive into the final verdict, I want to talk about the visual effects of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I am not going to dive into the recent news regarding visual effects employees struggling to work for Marvel. That is another issue, perhaps for another time. But on the surface, most of the visual effects in this film matches the recently mentioned Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Everything is bright, colorful, vivid, and sometimes gargantuan. I do want to note though that there have been some concerns about Marvel’s visual effects as of late in movies like “Black Widow.” I think if you are in the general audience, you might not care. I will admit, it has been awhile since I have seen “Black Widow” to give a detailed comment. However, I remember some of the effects in that film are surprisingly inferior to say “Captain America: Civil War,” which came out five years before. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” for the most part, looks great. But as far as “Thor” movies go, it might be the worst looking one yet if you pinpoint select shots.

While I said I will not dive too deep into the struggles of working in visual effects, I think we are seeing a sign that the MCU is becoming too crowded and overstuffed with content. I am enjoying phase 4 of the MCU. I have yet to see a completely terrible film. One or two series were hit or miss, but others were good. “WandaVision” was a fantastic debut for the MCU on Disney+, and “Ms. Marvel” was also really charming. The MCU has so many shows and movies now that it also has so many deadlines to consider. This year we have already seen two shows that ran for six-episodes and a couple movies. That is a lot of work, and it is not over yet because “She-Hulk” quickly approaching to Disney+ and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is scheduled to hit theaters this fall. I had fun with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but by the standards of the MCU, this is not as good as I would hope for. Although the MCU has its occasional off day with movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” I just hope this is a slight bump in the road. But the MCU also did not have this much content going on at once at those times. I know some would disagree, but I would happily sacrifice all the upcoming Disney+ shows if it meant we were going to get a few consistently great MCU movies. I am sure Marvel has a plan, but is it too big of a plan? I hope not. But my worry is that the further along we go down the MCU timeline, the more signs we will get that this whole conveyer belt will unveil itself. Let’s hope that this does not happen.

In the end, “Thor: Love and Thunder” was good, but it is also my least favorite film of MCU’s phase 4. While not the worst of the “Thor” films, “Love and Thunder” nevertheless fails on arguably the same mission in which “Ragnarok” succeeded. Sure, there were a couple laughs here and there, and as far as “summer blockbusters” go, you could do far worse. Just look at “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Although “Love and Thunder” has quite a few negatives that stand out significantly. Natalie Portman was badass enough that I might want to buy a Mighty Thor Hot Toy. But I just wish I could see more of her. I wish I could have seen more of Gorr the God Butcher. This is one of the shortest Marvel movies yet, which could be beneficial to your bladder, but that’s were the benefits stop. Overall, the film feels rushed. I heard they shot some extra footage that never made it into the film, and Taika Waititi does not want to make an alternate cut with said footage, but for all I know, that could give some much needed fleshing out to certain aspects of the story. I would never want to put pressure on a filmmaker into making something they do not want to make, but as a viewer, I would be intrigued to see some of what I originally couldn’t see in some fashion. Maybe as a Blu-ray bonus feature. I am going to give “Thor: Love and Thunder” a 6/10.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is now playing in theaters including large formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” then be on the lookout because I have more reviews coming soon! Stay tuned for my thoughts on “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” and “The Gray Man.” 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 “Thor: Love and Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “Thor” movies? I’m a purist, I would have to go with the 2011 “Thor” directed by Kenneth Branagh. Leave your opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Black Phone (2022): Scott Derrickson Dials Up a Terrifying Ride

“The Black Phone” is directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange, Sinister) and stars Mason Thames (For All Mankind, Walker), Madeleine McGraw (Bones, American Sniper), Jeremy Davies (Lost, Justified), James Ransone (The Wire, Generation Kill), and Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed) in a film that follows a 13 year old boy who is trapped in a killer’s basement. While trying to escape, the boy receives calls from said killer’s victims.

Scott Derrickson is known for his work on multiple horror titles including “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “Deliver Us from Evil,” and “Sinister.” His most recent work however was through the lens of Marvel via “Doctor Strange,” which I found to be incredibly entertaining despite being out of Derrickson’s comfort zone. It also features what I contend to be some of the best 3D ever put to film. Much like the “Sinister” followup, Derrickson did not return to Marvel Studios to helm the recent “Doctor Strange” sequel, giving him more time to go a genre that defines him as a director.

Speaking of horror and “Doctor Strange,” Sam Raimi of “Evil Dead” fame ended up helming the new “Doctor Strange” film in Derrickson’s place. When Derrickson was asked about his thoughts on a trailer for the then upcoming “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” he said, in admiration of Raimi, that he was excited for the movie. But the trailer also affirms that “The Black Phone” was the right film for him to make at the time.

Having seen “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Derrickson is right. Sam Raimi was the right director for that film, as I did have a good time with it. He is also right about himself because Derrickson made an epic horror that is better than some of the other recent entries to the genre. I mean, personally, it is not hard to provide me with more entertainment than what I got with “Malignant.” I make no apologies.

Part of what makes “The Black Phone” so good could be mostly attributed to its youngest cast members. The two main siblings in this film, wonderfully portrayed by Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, have a connection that feels evident from scene one and sticks in your head the moment the lights come back on.

Mason Thames, who is not of adult age yet, is given a lot to do in a matter of just over an hour and a half, and he carries this film like a champ. His portrayal of Finney does not feel like a “child actor” performance. The same can be said to other actors of similar age who happen to be in the film. If anything, Mason Thames is perhaps almost on par with the character viewers will likely remember the most from this film, The Grabber, played by Ethan Hawke.

Ethan Hawke is having a heck of year so far between “Moon Knight,” “The Northman,” and now this movie. This is truly Hawke’s world and we are just living in it. Although while “Moon Knight” and “The Northman” have gotten plenty of attention, part of me is not too crazy about those two projects despite Hawke’s undoubtable commitment to them. This time, I recognized Hawke’s commitment to his craft while also admiring the story at hand. Hawke is genuinely terrifying at times as The Grabber. Major props have to be given to the costume design and makeup department because not only does Hawke emit serial killer vibes through his motions and voice, but also through his looks. If I were a studio executive working today, I could see The Grabber as the next Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers or Pennywise where he becomes this generation’s big horror mascot. He has the looks for it, I could almost see the collector’s toys for it, but the problem is figuring out another story to bring Ethan Hawke back.

On paper, “The Black Phone” keeps things simple and effective. It combines a crazy, Michael Myers wannabe killer, a story that is mostly spent in a creepy basement, and also one that centers around a singular kid. Although this does not mean that there is no depth to the film whatsoever because there is also an intriguing story on the side related to the lead kid’s connection to his father. If anything, this movie reminded me of “10 Cloverfield Lane” except that the star of the show is much younger, and we spend more time focusing on one particular space than anywhere else.

“The Black Phone” is not only scary, but also somewhat disturbing. If you are easily triggered by particular topics, this movie may not the first one I recommend. Why? Because this film has a subplot dedicated to Gwen, Finney’s sister, and her psychic dreams related to The Grabber. This unhinges a rivalry of sorts between her and her father (Jeremy Davies), who happens to be an alcoholic. “The Black Phone” manages to evoke fear in its own right in terms of developing a story where a kidnapper keeps someone in his basement, which streamlines itself more to fantasy than anything else. But it is also down to earth by supplementing that story with a triggering subplot that allows us to receive more depth about the film’s events. For me, this worked, but if you are looking for “an escape,” this movie could be a slight question mark compared to say “A Quiet Place.” Speaking of “A Quiet Place,” I want to bring up that movie for a second.

The biggest compliment I can give to “The Black Phone” is one that is perhaps as massive as what I gave to “A Quiet Place” when I saw that movie. My usual routine when I go to the movies is to get a large popcorn and soda. Normally, I will leave the theater having consumed most of my food and drink. But during “A Quiet Place,” I noticed that every moment I had popcorn in my mouth, I found myself dissolving it as opposed to chewing it. I left the theater with a lot of popcorn that day. While I cannot say I left with as much popcorn for “The Black Phone,” after all, I do not think I intentionally dissolved any of it, I did end up leaving the theater taking home more popcorn than usual. Based on that alone, this shows how scary good this movie is.

In the end, “The Black Phone” is worth watching, but if you get scared or triggered easily by realistic or fantastic concepts, I would recommend straying away from this film. Despite what I said about Ethan Hawke, I do not think a sequel to “The Black Phone” would be warranted, I think it would campify The Grabber if he were revisited in the near future. Although I do admire this film for having many genuine scares and minimal cheap tricks. I really enjoyed the mystery of the film, some of the characters stand out, and I would watch it again on a Friday night with the lights out. I am going to give “The Black Phone” a 7/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “The Black Phone,” I have another review coming soon, this time for a comic book movie! That’s right! My next review is for the brand new MCU installment “Thor: Love and Thunder!” Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Black Phone?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite horror villain? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Brian and Charles (2022): A Delightfully Inventive, Robotic Comedy

“Brian and Charles” is directed by Jim Archer (Down in London, The Young Offenders) and stars the film’s writers, David Earl and Chris Hayward, as the titular man and robot duo. This film centers around an inventor named Brian. He has a history of inventing, building, crafting, and assembling whatever he can find either in his sights or his mind. It has practically become his life. One day, Brian decides to build a robot. Once the robot is built, the two develop an unlikely bond, allowing Brian to have someone close in his mostly isolated life.

First off, I want to apologize for not posting in awhile. This is the longest I have gone in years without making a new post after a previous one. I usually do at least one post every seven days, but that has been broken. I cannot promise whether or not this could happen again, but just know I am still invested in Scene Before. It has been a busy couple weeks, and I cannot say my non-blog related productivity will come to an end this week. Either way, I am finally glad to be able to talk about this movie because I love you, my viewers, the ones who stick around. And also, spoiler, this is a good movie. I am happy to give it some promotion.

I happened to flock to “Brian and Charles” on a whim. I already saw a couple movies earlier in the week, and I probably would not have gone to “Brian and Charles” if it were not for my AMC A-List membership. I was going to see this film at a press screening, but my plans to see “Lightyear” conflicted with that, so I passed on it. Speaking of passing, time passed long enough for me to watch the trailer for “Brian and Charles” on a Saturday afternoon. Next thing I knew, forty minutes later, I was in the cinema. Unlike “Lightyear,” which I eagerly awaited for months, “Brian and Charles” sort of came out of nowhere for me, but the little marketing I saw in advance intrigued me. It felt like an intimate spin on our relationship with technology.

Having walked out of “Brian and Charles,” there is definitely an intimate relationship. Although it is not necessarily with technology despite what the movie visualizes. The best way I can describe “Brian and Charles” is that it is a fun, entertaining parody on particular relationships between a parent and their child. Now, Brian never developed or adopted a human child in this movie. Sorry if this minute, irrelevant detail is a spoiler, there is nothing I can do about it. In a way, Charles, the robot Brian builds and attaches himself to, is heavily personified. It is not so much a robot as it is some sort of equivalent to Brian’s son. It is weird to think about, but the weirdness of this film is also what makes it work, it makes it charming.

To enhance a point in this review I would like to harken back to one of the films I reviewed last year. An animated feature by the name of “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” That film does something in its script that becomes a notable character trait. If you have seen that movie, you’d know that the defective B-bot played by Zach Galifinakis speaks in complete sentences, but as some robots tend to do, he says his words in a particularly similar pattern from start to finish and certain words are repeated throughout the film in the exact same tone. As much as I like Zach Galifinakis, his portrayal of the B-Bot became annoying throughout the film. But that also may have to do with the writing, the directing, and the post production so Galifankis is not necessarily the one to blame. My point is, this is a tactic that is similarly realized with Charles the robot in “Brian and Charles.” Although in this case, unlike Galifinakis’s human-like voice being featured in a defective piece of technology, this movie allows us to hear the voice of Chris Hayward, who from scene one emits Stephen Hawking vibes. Not only does the voice sound robotic, the way it shifts from word to word is incredible. Every pronunciation feels singular and I imagine much like “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” a lot of intensive editing, whether it was on camera or in post, went into making this voice believable.

Despite this accurately robotic voice, the human-like components within Charles are clear. This movie ended up subverting my expectations a bit because if you watch the trailer, I thought of the relationship between Brian and Charles to be that of close friends. At times, it does feel like that, but again, it also feels like Brian is Charles’s dad, allowing for some scenes where Brian is pictured as the bigger man and Charles as the one who has to listen to his master.

Despite being the bigger man, Brian is not the only character with a major goal throughout the film. There is a saying that kids grow up fast. And as I grow up, I realize more and more that I want to go out into the world, see some things I have never seen before. I want to tread my own path, whether it is through a career, education, or in the case that this movie presents, travel. This movie has an entertaining plot thread where Charles finds out about Honolulu, Hawaii. For the record, this movie is set in rural Wales, meaning that a trip to Hawaii is not only expensive, but far. These are two factors that many people would consider before traveling. Not Charles. Without going into much detail, this is not only entertaining and hilarious, but it enhances the movie’s metaphor about growing up, evolving as a child or parent for that matter. No matter who you are you have to sometimes take risks. They could be for one’s own good, they could build character. It also shows how little of a concept children have of time and money. When I went to on vacation in the White Mountains or Orlando when I was younger, money was not the first thing that came to mind. My initial thoughts were in regard to the attractions or a game plan. The moment Charles saw Honolulu on the television, he had an endless desire to go. It reminded me of a toddler who sees a store they know or a toy they recognize and they will do anything to either go in the store or have their parents buy said toy.

This story is a special case amongst movies featuring robots. There are a lot of movies out there like “The Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” where they have the same clear lesson. Don’t trust technology, don’t trust A.I.. This movie does not have that lesson. And like a vast number of the movies I would put in the same category as those two, there really is not much action or futuristic elements involved. It was nice to see a movie with robots that felt more down to earth than others. Even “Interstellar,” or the recent animation “Lightyear” which have friendly A.I. characters, are galactic adventures. Those movies are not 100% down to earth. Aside from being a cute odd couple comedy, “Brian and Charles” excels by not always relying on all the cliches, even if the movie has predictable moments, which it does. Nevertheless, I do recommend the movie. It is different, but if you like different, you might like the film.

In the end, “Brian and Charles” is not my favorite movie of the year, but its unique charm is enough to make it one of 2022’s most delightful surprises. I am in my early twenties and for the past few years I have seen certain movies that reminded me of a certain time in my life, part of this movie did that in regard to my present. A good movie can entertain you, while a really good movie can enhance or remind you of who you are. This one did both of those things. Despite my recent recommendation, this is definitely not a movie for everyone, but it is a movie for me. Maybe it will be for you too. I am going to give “Brian and Charles” a 7/10.

“Brian and Charles” is now playing in theatres, that is if it is still in theatres, I cannot find any showtimes… That said, if it is not playing at a theatre near you, please check out the film when it hits streaming services and DVD shelves. It is worth a watch. It is quirky, fun, and an all round delight. Give it a go.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “The Black Phone” directed by Scott Derrickson. I just saw the movie a week and a half ago and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on it. I have some things to say. Also, this week is the release of “Thor: Love and Thunder!” I will be seeing the movie Thursday night, so I will be trying my best to get a review out as quick as I can. And per usual, like every other movie I review, including Marvel titles, I will do my best to avoid spoilers. 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 “Brian and Charles?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a place you have been dying to see in your travels? Internationally, I think London, certain parts of New Zealand, and Tokyo are close to the top of my list. List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Lightyear (2022): Star Wars Meets a Family Friendly Interstellar in This Beautifully Animated Pixar Spinoff

“Lightyear” is directed by Angus MacLane, a Pixar insider who has helmed multiple animated shorts and made his feature-length debut with 2016’s “Finding Dory.” That feature, by the way, is frankly better than its Nemo-centric predecessor. There is no changing my mind. “Lightyear” stars Chris Evans as the titular space ranger, providing for a fresh take on the iconic role once helmed by Tim Allen (Last Man Standing, Home Improvement). Joining Evans is a cast including Keke Palmer (Scream Queens, Hustlers), Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University), James Brolin (Westworld, The Amityville Horror), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black, The Messenger), Mary McDonald-Lewis (G.I. Joe, Archer), Efren Ramirez (Crank, Napoleon Dynamite), and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Your Honor, The Wire) in a spinoff to the “Toy Story” universe… Sort of.

“Lightyear” is a film that Andy, a character known in “Toy Story” lore, loved as a child. It was his favorite movie, and therefore, we find out the reason why he has a Buzz Lightyear toy is because of this movie. Andy’s favorite movie, which is what we, the audience, are treated to, is about a young Buzz Lightyear trying to find a way to get his crew home after being stranded on a planet for an extended period. Turns out time is not the only enemy in Buzz’s path as he must survive against an army of robots commanded by Zurg.

Pixar is the pinnacle of animation today. I genuinely look forward to just about everything they do, even though most of their marketing campaigns do not sit well with me. But in the end, it is about the movie. Similar to the cliché saying that it is not about the outside, but the inside, Pixar proves that it is not all about the trailers for their films, which usually are unmemorable or do not prompt enough reason for me to watch them, but instead the films that were previously advertised, which are sometimes masterpieces. “Inside Out” to this day is one of the few movies that made my eyes water. “The Incredibles” is an action-packed, thrilling adventure that is secretly the best on-screen adaptation of “Fantastic Four.” “Cars” is fun, colorful, exciting, and has a wonderful soundtrack. The Pixar library is one of the best in film history, animated or not. This is why I was worried, years ago, when I found out we would be getting a “Toy Story 4.”

Despite my apprehension, “Toy Story 4” turned out to be an entertaining, joyful movie that not only presents itself as a surprisingly welcome addition to the franchise, but shows that Pixar can present some of the most realistic-looking animation ever put to screen. There is a scene with a cat from “Toy Story 4” that I continue to ponder over to this day…

Now we have “Lightyear,” which is not exactly a “Toy Story 5,” but a fictional universe within another fictional universe. I will admit, as desperate of an idea as it may sound, I like the concept. Because in our world, we have our beloved stories. In the science fiction genre, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Back to the Future” are some of the first examples that come to mind. This movie begs the question, supposing that a movie such as “Star Wars” does not exist in the “Toy Story” universe, “What is Andy’s ‘Star Wars’?”

Like the opening text suggests, this is that movie.

But just because Andy likes this movie, does not mean I will. So, what did I think of “Lightyear?”

You know how I mentioned that Pixar often flubs its trailers or makes them less appealing than others? Here is a crazy coincidence, I thought the trailers for “Lightyear” are easily the best Pixar has ever done. I thought their goal with the movie was clear, the footage we got with SOX was charming, and the space scenes looked gritty and eye-popping. Unfortunately, for Pixar standards, this is towards the lower tier.

Now, this is not as bad as “Luca,” but I thought Pixar’s previous outing, “Turning Red,” was a bit better. I think part of it has to do with the unique, dynamic nature of the film that I have not seen in any other Pixar story before. “Lightyear” feels like it blends the vibes of “Wall-E” with “Star Wars” and “Interstellar.” Some of you reading this likely know who I am, and think I am going crazy. I adore “Wall-E,” I love “Star Wars,” and if I could legally marry a movie, “Interstellar” would probably be getting the ring.

I will say the same thing about “Lightyear” that I said in regard to “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” a movie that heavily relies on inserting crossovers and references to the Warner Bros. library. One difference between “A New Legacy” and “Lightyear” is that “Lightyear” is a completely watchable, entertaining film. Imagine that! But one thing I will note about “Lightyear,” even though it is nowhere near as obvious, is that it seemingly pays tribute to other stories, most notably “Star Wars.” The relationship between Buzz Lightyear and Zurg in this film is almost reminiscent of Luke and Vader in “Star Wars” at times. Although that does make sense because if you watch “Toy Story 2,” there is a scene in that film with the toy versions of the characters that is almost done in the same style as a key scene from “The Empire Strikes Back.” With that in mind, I would rather watch Luke and Vader duke it out in “Empire” than watch any of the scenes between Buzz and Zurg in “Lightyear.”

Let’s talk about Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear. I have mad respect for Evans as an actor, because in one moment he can carry a blockbuster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the other, he can come off as the most delightfully charming of morons in “Knives Out.” Evans has unbelievable range as an actor, so I was excited to see what he could do as the Buzz Lightyear character. Yes, I know that this technically means that Tim Allen is not voicing Buzz Lightyear, but let me remind you that this is not the Buzz Lightyear toy and instead, a man that inspired the toy. Evans’s raspy voice fits the character and is proper enough to make him come off as this universe’s Han Solo. Again, this is basically “Star Wars.” This movie pictures Buzz as a determined, manly, roguish individual who will not stop until he “finishes the mission.”

As suggested in the title, “Lightyear” is essentially a family friendlier take on Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” While not as complex, the science fiction angle tends to border between realistic and fantastical. It’s believable, but it also makes us wonder what undiscovered portions of our own universe could look like. Plus, the concept of “Interstellar” involves one man trying to find a new home for humanity. The reverse is happening in “Lightyear” where one man tries to get people back to where they personally call home. And much like “Interstellar,” this movie has a somewhat mixed cast of sidekicks, including robots.

Once we get into the meat of the film, we meet a set of sidekicks who may talk a good game but when it comes to action, that is lackluster in comparison. I like this concept, partially because it is relatable, but I also dislike it. I will start with the dislikes first, because they are not as in depth.

The sidekick characters of “Lightyear” are at times, some of the most annoying, disposable characters ever created in Pixar history. As much as I like Taika Waititi, the writing for his character of Mo Morrison (top left) ranges from stupid to cringeworthy. Sometimes both. I have nothing against Waititi himself, he took the words written on the page and portrayed them as accurately as he could, but his character was written in such a way that could have made him a lovable idiot, but given the context of certain things, I do not think “lovable” would be the right adjective to use here. The movie “Lightyear” convinced Andy in the “Toy Story” universe to own a Buzz Lightyear toy. I can see why he probably begged his mom to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy instead of Mo Morrison or one of the other supporting characters. I have heard worse dialogue in my life, but here, it either feels cheap or annoying. Sometimes it works, but the times it did not work stuck out to me like a sore thumb.

With the negatives out of the way, I do want to talk about this idea that the movie goes for. “Lightyear” is a fun film, like many Pixar movies. But also like some Pixar movies, it could occasionally tug the heartstrings. There is a well-executed montage in this film that some would compare to the famous few minutes in “Up” where we witness the life of Carl and Ellie. It is some of the best editing I have seen all year. That is this film’s earliest example of showcasing the inevitability of failure. Many of us, including myself, have been through a portion of our lives where we question whether what we are doing is worth it. Whether we are good enough. Sometimes we do not have access to an opportunity, and in others, we do not even know where to start. I have taken one or two classes during my college years where these thoughts have come up.

Despite their slightly offish writing at times, I like the concept behind the characters of Izzy Hawthrone (bottom left), Mo Morrison, and Darby Steel (top right). They are flawed, but that is also what makes them work. Hawthorne spends much of the movie worrying about her legacy. How is she going to live up to her grandmother’s expectations? Mo Morrison never spills the beans on this, but he almost felt like this movie’s representation of the phrase “fake it until you make it.” You may not know something, you may not be good at something, but you might as well do that something until you know you can call yourself a master. Darby Steel’s main goal of the movie is to shave some time off of her sentence, and to do so, she needs to go on the mission with the rest of the crew. I like the idea of having these significantly unconfident, arguably incompetent, characters play major roles like the ones they do in the film. I just wish they were written or portrayed in a slightly less annoying manner. Although there was one recurring gag involving Mo Morrison with a pen that had its moments.

If I had to be honest, the best sidekick in the entire film is SOX (right), a robotic feline whose goal is to assist Lightyear with his various needs. This assertion should not come as much of a surprise. My favorite Pixar supporting character that comes to mind is also a common household pet, specifically Dug, the comic relief dog from “Up.” While SOX is no Dug, he does have his moments to shine in the spotlight. His writing feels logical for a typical robot character, but in robot speak, he somewhat reminded me of TARS from, again, “Interstellar.” While SOX in this case does not come with “humor settings,” he has some occasional lines that are not necessarily jokes that got a laugh out of me. It is nice when robots know what makes humans tick. He is wonderfully voiced by Peter Sohn, a talented voiceover artist who previously lent his utterances to Emile in “Ratatouille.”

This almost seems unfair, because “Lightyear” from start to finish, between the concept, execution, and everything in between, is practically a different movie than any of the “Toy Story” installments we have gotten. While “Lightyear” is by no means a bad film, it is no “Toy Story.” If I had to be real, I think even “Toy Story 4,” a film that like this one, I probably never asked for, is a better movie. I think the adventures of Buzz Lightyear, the toy, are more entertaining and joy-filled than “Lightyear.” It pains me to say that because this film reminded me of a couple great science fiction stories here and there, it had a couple halfway decent characters, the animation is some of the most stunning I have EVER seen. I think the best thing about this movie is that if you have young children and you want to give them a proper gateway into science fiction, “Lightyear” is a solid option before showing them movies like “Interstellar” or “Gravity.” But much like what I said with “The Empire Strikes Back,” I think I would rather watch the “Toy Story” films again on a Friday night before “Lightyear.”

I did see the film twice in the theater, but it was partially because I wanted to see how they handled the supersized 1.43:1 IMAX aspect ratio, which I can confirm made the film pop like few others. I liked the film enough to see it a second time for that, but maybe not a third time.

In the end, “Lightyear” is a decent science fiction movie, but for the standards of Pixar, I would put this with “Onward,” which is not a bad film. But for the standards of a studio as incredible as Pixar, that is not the best comparison to make. To shoot for “Onward” is not enough for them. Pixar genuinely makes some of the best animated movies, but this is not enough to join the greats. Although I will remind you, there are many studios out there, many filmmakers out there, that would kill to make a movie as good as a lower tier Pixar film. I still have yet to see a flat out awful movie from the studio. Hopefully that day never comes. I have faith. “Lightyear” is definitely worth seeing in the theater, especially in IMAX. The spectacle is insane. There are some truly colorful, vivid, detailed scenes that will definitely drop jaws. Although I left the film thinking to myself that I should probably rewatch a couple other films instead of this one. I am going to give “Lightyear” a 7/10.

“Lightyear” is now playing in theatres everywhere, and do yourself a favor, if there is a true IMAX theater near you, buy a ticket for “Lightyear” and go watch it in that theater. Major shoutout to the Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts and their amazing laser projection system for providing me with an epic movie experience. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones! This month I did reviews for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Hustle.” If you want to stick with the “Lightyear” theme, check out my thoughts for “Toy Story 4.” My thoughts have admittedly changed on the film a little since my review, but if you want to check out my first impression, here you go! If you are interested in long-form content, check out a recent five-thousand word post I did on why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the new anime directed by Mamoru Hosoda. 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 “Lightyear?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite science fiction movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022): What in the Jurassic World Did I Just Watch?

“Jurassic World: Dominion” is directed by Colin Trevorrow, who also directed the 2015 “Jurassic World” film, which I thought was slightly flawed despite its neat visuals, booming score, and somewhat clever concept. This film stars Chris Pratt (The LEGO Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3, The Help), Laura Dern (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Marriage Story), Jeff Goldblum (Thor: Ragnarok, The World According to Jeff Goldblum), Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders, Crusoe), DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It, Fatherhood), Mamoudou Athie (The Circle, The Front Runner), BD Wong (Kingdom Hearts II, Mr. Robot), Omar Sy (Transformers: The Last Knight, The Intouchables), and Campbell Scott (The Amazing Spider-Man, House of Cards). This film is set in a time where dinosaurs are roaming the earth, they’re unleashed, there is no stopping them.

Actually, no… That was the promise that was given in that one short film that was shown in IMAX and eventually put online… But no! We have to settle for a comparatively boring story where the same dull human characters we have seen waltz through two movies, fight against a genetics research giant whose main goal is to conduct research on dinosaurs.

You hear that? That stomping on the ground? That is not a dinosaur. That is me, walking out of the theater in ire.

If you want a hint on what I thought of “Jurassic World: Dominion,” here it goes… “Jurassic World: Dominion” can be summed up in one word. And if I were writing this review for an outlet like The New York Times or The Boston Globe, I would probably be fired. Want another hint? It is literally a word in the title. It is not “ur,” and it is definitely not “sic.” Why would it be?

It is in between those two words, even if they do not spell exactly what I am trying to say.

Summer blockbuster season is in full swing! This means I will be talking about films including “Lightyear,” which will be my next review, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which comes out in July, and “Bullet Train,” due in August for instance. But before we get to those films, we have to talk about “Jurassic World: Dominion,” exhibit A for what is wrong with Hollywood. I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but it is kind of true. “Jurassic World: Dominion” is continuing the trend where we see elder actors return to play their roles another time, giving either prominent screentime, fan service, or possibly both.

Sony, who to be clear, is not in any way responsible for the “Jurassic Park” franchise and its distribution, is no stranger to this given the recent release of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” where we see the original cast, minus Harold Ramis (RIP) return to bust ghosts. “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the biggest movie of the past year, saw a ton of older characters return with their respective actors portraying them one more time. But I actually liked those films. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” was as charming as it was nostalgic. It was kind of like “The Force Awakens” but more intimate. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a concept that could have made for a fun YouTube video, but they some how managed to turn into a wildly entertaining two and a half hour movie that honestly felt shorter than it really was at times. It was perfectly paced, relatable, and surprisingly dramatic. Although I do have mixed thoughts on the ending.

Whereas “Spider-Man: No Way Home” could have been taken as a concept that presents itself as a boardroom idea from out of touch executives, Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal, and director Jon Watts managed to make a movie that I will watch again and again for years. “Jurassic World: Dominion” on the other hand deserves to be struck by an asteroid. This is the worst “Jurassic” movie yet. “Dominion” is worse than “Jurassic Park III,” which despite its awfulness, can almost be perceived as something watchable under the influence of alcohol. And at least it is the shortest film in the franchise.

“Jurassic World: Dominion” is the opposite. In addition to being the longest film in its series, it tries to pack in so many ideas, some of which could be cool, but does not understand what to do with them. When I went to see “F9: The Fast Saga,” another Universal tentpole that made me want to gouge my eyes out, I was treated to an exclusive short film set in the world of the “Jurassic” franchise where we see dinosaurs roaming the planet, invading life as we know it. There is a fun scene at a drive-in that is also featured in the marketing of this movie, including a Progressive Insurance ad. NOTHING in this movie was as entertaining or watchable as that short. In fact, the whole unleashing of the dinosaurs plotline takes a backseat during the film because the kiddies do not want to see dinosaurs eating people! No. No. No. They want to see what Tim Cook would do if he had dinosaurs in his sights. That is what the kids like!

If you are new to Scene Before, hi, my name is Jack, and I like “Star Wars!” Time for yet another of one of my “Star Wars” comparisons! If anything, “Jurassic World: Dominion” is “Jurassic Park’s” answer to “The Rise of Skywalker,” one of the most poorly received “Star Wars” films of all time. Both films attempt to bring back older characters, conclude several movies that came before it, and I would like to add another rung to this ladder. If anything, “Jurassic World: Dominion” also feels like “The Last Jedi” because in “Jurassic” speak, “Fallen Kingdom” ends a certain way, only to have its follow-up barely do anything noteworthy with that film’s ending. The first act of “Dominion” feels like a giant “no” to particular elements to the film that came before it. That “no” supposedly came from Colin Trevorrow, who, get this, was once attached to direct what would become “The Rise of Skywalker.” At least “The Rise of Skywalker” was fun despite its flaws. At least “The Last Jedi” came off as a bold attempt to do something fresh in a historic franchise. Sure, this movie introduces an Apple-esque, genetics-based company, which we have not seen in other installments, but “The Last Jedi” actually got genuine reactions out of me, whether it meant laughing or cringing. “The Last Jedi” was a movie that swung for the fences in such a dramatic fashion only to fail. You can say “Jurassic World: Dominion” did that with its stacked cast, including franchise veterans Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. But that is all shrouded within a film that feels like it was crafted in a single corporate meeting.

I caught up on all of the “Jurassic Park” movies prior to seeing “Jurassic World: Dominion.” If you ever read my review for Marvel’s “Black Panther,” I claimed that the film has the most forced kiss in cinematic history. Given the film’s not so perfect chemistry between Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, 2015’s “Jurassic World” is an arguable competitor for such a throne. I have no idea how these two are still together. Their lines do not feel genuine, the only reason why they feel like they belong together is because the script has lines that indicate such a thing. Well that, and they are raising a child together at this point. Their relationship never feels earned, and I am not exactly fond of either of them. Sure, Chris Pratt has some occasional fun bits training and taming dinosaurs, and Bryce Dallas Howard has developed… Decency, I guess, since her 2015 debut. Compared to the 2015 “Jurassic World,” these two sequels have admittedly gone downhill in terms of story and character development in the same way that they have gone downhill with epic dinosaur action. While I was never a fan of Bryce Dallas Howard in the original “Jurassic World,” I at least thought her two nephews were well written for who they were. I barely remember anyone specific in this latest installment. Yes, I know of the characters in this movie, but I could barely tell you about any of their quirks or anything remotely positive about them. With each installment in the “Jurassic” saga, less and less soul is there. I am not as wowed or engaged as I once was with the ideas this franchise is known for.

That is not to say there is no tension or stakes in “Jurassic World” whatsoever. Speaking of Bryce Dallas Howard, there is one scene in the film that is exclusively between her and a dinosaur. It is one of the quietest moments of the entire picture. It goes on for a minute or two, but I thought it was easily the most engaging segment of the two and a half hours we got. In a film whose dinosaur action is comparatively lesser than its counterparts, this was a welcome highlight.

The original “Jurassic Park,” much like its sequels, was synonymous with epic dinosaur action, but it successfully interweaved a human story with excellence. The cast played their characters to the best of their abilities and the script did them favors. I often think of the 1993 film as a visual achievement before anything else, showcasing effects that continue to hold up to this day, but it does not mean the story is an afterthought. The idea is simple. People create dinosaurs, dinosaurs eat people, and the main characters try to survive to the very end. There is more to it, but the movie gives you enough reasons within a couple hours to make you invested in the story and characters. It makes you root for the characters running away from the dinosaurs. The characters in “Jurassic World: Dominion” lacked such charisma, and therefore, the movie suffers as a result.

Even when the film has an okay idea on how to give a proper motivation for its characters, such as Maisie Lockwood who spends the movie, wanting more, simply put, it does not result in a satisfying progression. Maisie’s respective performer, Isabella Sermon, does a fine job with the material given to her, but her lines and motivation seem surface level and do not add to the film’s entertainment value. That is if there even is any to begin with. This film had a couple okay concepts in addition to Maisie’s desires. There was a dinosaur black market. There was a chase scene between Chris Pratt and a dinosaur that had Tom Cruise “Mission: Impossible” vibes. Even bringing back the original cast could have worked! Although the script failed to bring these characters into a classy, compelling story. But you also have these comparatively boring concepts like a Tim Cook wannabe doing research on dinosaurs, not to mention locusts of all things antagonizing everyone it can find. Because when I think big, loud dinosaur movies… I think locusts… Come on.

“Jurassic Park” is one of the best major motion pictures of its time. What Steven Spielberg and crew were able to do with the aesthetical nature and effects in “Jurassic Park” influenced a multitude of content that came after. Sadly, the sequels, for the most part, fail to recapture the magic of the original, with “Dominion” being the latest example. If you want my two cents, if it is a Friday, you have nothing to do, “Jurassic Park” is a great option for your movie night. I also recommend “The Lost World” to a degree, and “Jurassic World,” despite its lackluster characterization, is pretty and thrilling enough to get you through two hours. It is not exactly insulting, but it is somewhat dumbed down compared to the 1993 original. “Jurassic World: Dominion” makes the original “Jurassic World” look like “The Shawshank Redemption” in comparison. Do not watch this movie, do not support this movie. If you want to watch a more entertaining summer popcorn movie, give your money to “Top Gun: Maverick.” As a legacy sequel, “Maverick” honors its original counterpart, while also effectively progressing the life of a core character that was introduced many years ago. “Jurassic World: Dominion” fails with its new characters, it fails with its old characters, and most of all, it fails with me, the one who paid $16, not including an online fee and a 3D surcharge, to see this unforgivable abomination.

In the end, “Jurassic World: Dominion” managed to do the impossible. It managed to make a feature-length, big budget story heavily revolving around dinosaurs, and have it come off as the most tiring concept ever realized. Even after watching “Fallen Kingdom” I did not feel as tired. Maybe it is because this is the sixth movie, but “Jurassic Park” does not feel special anymore. Its novelty has worn off. Sure, this is a huge moneymaker for Universal, and I would not be surprised if we saw more content with the “Jurassic” label attached in the coming years despite this movie being marketed as “the conclusion of the Jurassic era,” but my hope is that something is done to heavily revitalize this iconic brand. “Jurassic Park” is a literal innovation to cinema. Ever since, we have gotten uninteresting characters, cookie cutter dialogue, and despite some okay concepts, the execution ends up being a far cry from what such concepts can promise. I am going to give “Jurassic World: Dominion” a generous 3/10.

And I have a feeling that could change to a 2 at any point in time…

“Jurassic World: Dominion” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Pixar film, “Lightyear.” I went to go see this film twice, which should be a hint as to what I thought about it. Stay tuned for more thoughts as they come along! 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 “Jurassic World: Dominion?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a franchise you think has overstayed its welcome? I apologize to Universal, but unless “Fast X” delivers something fresh, “Fast & Furious” might be my answer… Either way, let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!