Sisu (2022): A John Wick Wannabe Travels with Gold

“Sisu” is directed by Jalmari Helander (Big Game, Rare Experts) and stars Jorma Tomilla (The Christmas Party, Big Game), Aksel Hennie (Hercules, The Martian), Jack Doolan (The Boys, The Green Green Grass), and Mimosa Williamo (Headfirst, Lake Bodom). Set during the Lapland War, this film is about an ex-soldier who finds gold and must fend off Nazis on his journey into the city.

Some of the biggest studios today like Disney and Universal mostly rely on popular IP to keep their ships afloat. Lionsgate, while not being as big as those two, has done the same to respectable results. If you look at titles like “The Hunger Games,” “The Twilight Saga,” and “John Wick,” you would notice that these franchises have continued to receive sequels due to their popularity and recognition. Obviously with the first two, it helps when they are based on preexisting books. But “John Wick” is an interesting case where even a by the numbers movie with not the biggest, or smallest, of budgets can lead to a series of films that continues to receive praise from action junkies. While “The Hunger Games” is coming back and more of the “John Wick” universe is set to be unveiled in various stories, Lionsgate would benefit from a new franchise after “John Wick: Chapter 4.” After seeing one of the studio’s latest projects, “Sisu,” it has potential for expansion. That said, if I were not doing Scene Before, I would have mixed thoughts as to seeing another one of these movies if it were greenlit. I say this because I really enjoyed the movie, minus certain aspects that stuck out like a sore thumb.

This movie seems to be inspired by the “John Wick” formula. It centers around a man who happens to have a connection with a dog, and people attempt to get in his way. Therefore, he must stop them in perhaps the most diabolical, slickest way he can imagine. While it is a remix, I am not complaining because seeing Aatami do what he does best is satisfying to watch. There are some kills in this film that honestly rival a “Deadpool” movie or a Tarantino flick. While many action movies in recent years such as “Nobody,” “Wrath of Man,” or “Bullet Train” have a flair to them that reminds me of “John Wick” in some way, “Sisu” stands out because it is set long before those films. It is set during World War II, specifically through the Lapland War, where the rivals are Finland and Nazi Germany. If you are having trouble figuring out which side is represented as good and bad according to this movie, then you probably do not know where the title of this movie comes from.

That said, the title of this movie is quite fitting for the main protagonist of Aatami, because throughout the movie, his look comes off as someone who has seen everything that there is to see, and much of it was not good. And even in moments where he may look innocent, he will subvert expectations anyone had of him being a softie. We do not learn a textbook’s worth of information about Aatami, but we also learn enough to appreciate him. It hits the Goldilocks zone. All we learn is that he needs to get from point A to point B, with gold. Of course, since the opposition is Nazis, it makes it that much simpler to root for him.

“Sisu” is perfectly paced. Yes, there is a short runtime that may help some people, but that is not what I am necessarily pointing to. Within that short runtime, the film does very little, but it makes the most of its minimalistic nature. There are not too many characters, the plot is simple yet effective, and dialogue appears to be used sparingly. Speaking of small, the film cost €6 million (approx. $6.56 million) to make. This movie does a lot with that small budget, and despite the modest cost, it sometimes feels as big as some notable modern action blockbusters. The overall look, design, and feel of the film are perfect.

My biggest complaint with “Sisu” is that we get to a point in the movie, specifically during the third act, where I am having trouble believing anything that is happening. There are some good movies that exist that bend reality a bit such as some of the “Fast & Furious” sequels, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” There are things in those movies that I would never expect to happen in real life, but they convince me that within the rules of their respective universes that they could be pulled off in that setting. There is something towards the end of “Sisu” that feels so off that it almost ruined the movie for me. Granted, the movie has a brilliant first half so of course I am going to praise it. The reason is because even though this movie jumps the shark quite a bit, it felt like it had a limit. And I know that this is an original film, this is not a spinoff or sequel that builds off of rules that already exist. But the movie flicked like a lightswitch. It went from ridiculous fun to colossal stupidity in a split second. It makes Dom Toretto’s Tarzan swing in “F9: the Fast Saga” feel real. I am not even joking.

This may sound like I hate the movie. I do not. If you scrolled down to this or the last paragraph, you may have missed my recent praise for it. I just think if I were in charge of the script I would have changed this one scene dramatically. There are a lot of other moments that had me laughing, gagging, or dropping my jaw with excitement. Much like the “John Wick” franchise, there are some highlight kills in this film for me that I continue to think about to this day. I recommend going to see this movie with a couple friends, maybe make it a guys night out. “Sisu” may take inspiration from other action flicks, but it does enough to make it its own thing. That said, if you do not like heavy violence or gore, you might want to sit this one out. Just a warning.

In the end, despite my one big complaint regarding “Sisu,” I have zero regrets having seen it. If Lionsgate or the other companies behind this movie wanted to recreate one of their most popular ideas but put it in World War II, they did so with excellence. It is a film that starts rather quiet, but its obnoxiousness increases with time. Sometimes for good, other times for bad. The film also supports the notion that if you make Nazis the villain, it is all the more satisfying to see a protagonist like Aatami potentially triumph. If I have any other recommendations, avoid the trailer. Don’t get me wrong. I watched the trailer for “Sisu” before going to see it. I think it is a good trailer. But I think this is one of those movies that is probably best viewed with a clean slate. It might increase some shock value. It is up to you, but if you want my two cents, that is what I have to give. Speaking of my two cents, I am going to give “Sisu” a 7/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3!” And if you want even more upcoming content, I will also soon be talking about the new horror comedy “Renfield.” I waited a bit to watch this movie, but as to whether it is worth the wait, is a question that will be answered soon. 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 “Sisu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie you like that has an ending that almost ruins it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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Suzume (2022): Makoto Shinkai Goes Full Pixar with His Latest Anime

“Suzume,” otherwise known as “Suzume no Tojimari,” is directed by Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, Weathering with You) and stars Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu, Shota Sometani, Sairi Ito, Kotone Hanase, Kana Hanazawa, and Matsumoto Hakuō II. This film is about a teenage girl who finds out she must save Japan from various threats by locking a set of doors.

If there is one door that has opened for me in 2022, it is the one that unveils the vast world of anime. When the year started, I did my first anime review, “Belle,” which has now become one of my favorite films of all time regardless of the genre or medium. Since then I have watched other titles such as those from the Studio Ghibli collection, “Akira,” “In This Corner of the World,” and “Inu-Oh,” the last of which I have reviewed. I have not touched much in the television realm, such as the “Dragon Ball” franchise, but that is partially because I am usually more committed to film than television regardless of the genre. Anime has also introduced me to some notable filmmakers such as Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and the one of focus in this review, Makoto Shinkai.

In just a short amount of time, a couple of anime titles have risen to the top of my all time favorite films list. The recently mentioned “Belle” is an example, but when it comes to Makoto Shinkai, “Your Name” is another. The chemistry between the two main characters, which is unlike many other films in history, is executed with utter brilliance. It is beautifully animated, fantastically written, and ends on the perfect note. It shows the power of animation at its finest. It is easy to see why the film has become one of the most successful anime titles of all time, making $382 million worldwide. “Suzume” is having similar success. The film has raked in $221 million worldwide and has already passed his last film, “Weathering with You,” even this early into the official U.S. release.

But just because something is successful, does not always make it great. Look at “Jurassic World: Dominion” for example. Is “Suzume” for starters, worth the hype? And also, worth showering with tons of box office revenue?

To answer both of those questions, that is a paramount certainty.

After seeing “John Wick: Chapter 4” and now “Suzume,” I can declare spring 2023 is a great time to go the movies.

“Suzume” is just about everything I wanted and more. It is a beautifully animated triumph of a picture that does everything a movie is supposed to do. The last movie I reviewed, also an animation, specifically “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” could arguably have placed itself in the same boat. But when I say that, I mean it did the bare minimum to “not suck.” If this were a classroom, “Suzume” is the one student that studies hard, earns extra credit, always raises their hand, and dresses exquisitely as a bonus.

Now that we are in 2023, good animation has basically become a requirement. Thankfully, “Suzume” has unbelievably superb animation. Much like Shinkai’s other films, “Suzume” has this gloss to it that I can only find in one of his features. The colors are out of this world and the palette is both lifelike and imaginative at the same time. This is a film that having seen it, I could never see working in live-action without a couple significant changes.

“Suzume” reminds me of some of the better Pixar movies, because Pixar has a tendency to make films, many of which are phenomenal, where it begs to ask what would happen if certain objects or concepts had emotions. Sure, giving emotions to or personifying things in animation is not unusual. But when it comes to Pixar, it stands out because of the way they go about it. They gave toys emotions. They gave cars emotions. They gave preexisting souls emotions. They gave robots emotions. They gave literal emotions emotions. And this idea has worked every time. I am amazed on how Pixar was able to make a movie centering around a couple of robots and give them more emotional attachment than many films putting PEOPLE in the spotlight that have come out during the past decade. Similarly, the power of “Suzume” was unveiled as soon as I found out how much I cared about a chair. Granted, the chair is also human, but still. The movie made me care about a chair and got me attached to a cat who happens to be a statue. Despite the chair being human, it begs the question. What if chairs had emotions? This movie is the result.

As for the characters, I liked all of them. Sota, who becomes the chair, served well as a prominent sidekick. Daijin, the cat, is utilized perfectly. His lack of dimension, which is usually a deterrent for many characters, actually serves as a benefit with how his lines are delivered. Every moment he was on screen stood out to me. Suzume’s aunt, Tamaki, is perfectly written and executed. I believed every line out of this woman.

As for Suzume herself, I thought she was a great centerpiece to the story. When it comes to her as a main protagonist, she definitely served her purpose. I have no real complaints about the character that had to do with her charm or screen presence. If anything, I loved her ability to stay motivated throughout the film’s progression. Overall, I thought she was a joy to watch. But if I have anything negative to say, it would be this. Despite Suzume’s backstory being fleshed out, my one complaint is that I do not know a ton about her interests or what she does. Yes, she goes to school and has friends, but there is not much about her that separates her in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to Suzume’s depth, we get perhaps somewhere above the bare minimum. Although the movie managed to make a compelling aspect within the story out of the notion that she lost her mom and is raised by her aunt. Therefore, given the film’s significant fleshing out of that aspect, I can forgive the slight lack of personality even though it is an issue the more I think about it.

Despite what I said about Suzume not being fleshed out, one thing I thought was finely detailed throughout the film was Sota and his job, if you will, of being a closer. This film is about closing doors to prevent disasters. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that Sota calls himself a “closer.” It does not pay the bills, but the movie implies it is important. I like how they gave the occupation of sorts a backstory, it brought some intriguing depth to the table.

When I say I can forgive this movie for its flaws, I mean it. It is perfectly paced. The film clocks in just over 2 hours and not once was I bored. I was smiling the whole time. The first ten minutes of this movie are some of the best I have seen in animation. While this film may not be as good as “Your Name,” the titles rival each other from a technical perspective. The animation style is almost comes off as a lifelike video game. The sound design is hypnotizing. The score is outstanding. Kazuma Jinnouchi and RADWIMPS did such a banger job with all of the music. I can personally claim I have listened to some of it during the making of this review. This movie is such a technical behemoth that the minor story flaws honestly take a bit of a backseat. “Suzume” is a must see for Shinkai loyalists and newcomers alike.

In the end, Makoto Shinkai continues his hot streak. Between “Your Name,” “Weathering with You,” and now this banger of a film, “Suzume” is every bit as awe-inspiring and excellent as I hoped it would be. With this film now in the can, this affirms Shinkai’s status as one of my favorite directors working today. I cannot wait to see what he does next. “Suzume” is beautiful, original, and occasionally jaw-dropping. The characters are great. The animation is some of the best in recent memory alongside “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” If it is playing in theaters near you, see it on the biggest screen you can. I saw it in IMAX and it was worth it. I left “Suzume” feeling satisfied. That is how I would want to feel after every movie I end up seeing. Again, it is no “Your Name,” but it comes close. Therefore, I would have to give “Suzume” a 9/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! This week I will be watching the brand new movie “Air,” starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Also stay tuned for my review for “Super Mario Bros.,” the 1993 film, coming sometime soon. 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 “Suzume?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch any of Makoto Shinkai’s other films? If you have a favorite, list it! I already mentioned this film, “Your Name,” “Weathering with You,” but if I must throw something out, I also saw “The Place Promised in Our Early Days,” which I would recommend. Check it out. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023): A Solid Roll of the D20

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Game Night, Vacation) and stars Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Star Trek), Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Widows), Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, The Gray Man), Justice Smith (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Sophia Lillis (It, Gretel & Hansel), and Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary). This is film is inspired by the popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and follows four individuals who join forces and embark on a quest to find a lost relic.

I have never played Dungeons & Dragons. I know relatives who have previously partaken in the game in their youth, I have friends who enjoy the game, and I am well aware of certain aspects of it in our current culture. That said, I have never sat down to play it. Despite this notion, I nevertheless had some excitement for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.” Chris Pine is a charming actor, the trailers looked promising, and I thought this could be an enjoyable, lighthearted time. Now that I have seen the movie, I can confirm that is exactly what I got. No more, no less.

This movie does not reinvent the cinematic wheel, nor does it flatten any cinematic tires. It is just a plain good time that feels reminiscent of a modern Marvel movie if it had a baby with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Game Night.” This comparison should not surprise me, nor some other people for that matter. After all, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who in addition to directing this movie, also wrote the screenplay. If you seen “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” you have these two to partially thank. After all, they wrote that screenplay too, which had its fair share of wit and charm. Like “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” this film is a quickly-paced quest through outlandish, attractive environments with four main cast members. As for the “Game Night” comparison, this film, albeit in a much different manner, revolves around a game played amongst friends. For “Game Night” it is a murder mystery, while “Dungeons & Dragons” takes inspiration from source material of the same name. Additionally, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein directed both films.

This movie is led by Chris Pine (center left), who in addition to having an advantage as to being one of the chosen few talented, hunky, lightly-colored-haired dudes named Chris in Hollywood, is exactly the kind of star a movie like this needed. Sure, on the surface, there is the name recognition, but beyond that, Pine masterfully executes some of the movie’s standout humor. He has a presence to him, much like Chris Hemsworth, where he simply induces charm just by letting himself be in front of the camera and utter a few magic words. If “Wonder Woman” has shown anything, Chris Pine can be funny. If “Dungeons & Dragons” has shown anything, Chris Pine can be very funny. There are some great lines out of Pine in this film. One of my particular favorite moments involving his character is, believe it or not, in the trailer. He is talking about one of his strengths, specifically making plans. And if the plan fails, he comes up with a new one, and the same thing would happen there if that backup plan does not work out. Therefore, Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling druid, pipes in and says, “So you make plans that fail?”. Nothing like savagery to lighten the mood.

My favorite scene in “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” takes place about a third of the way in, where we have already established our main cast, and they have started their quest. One of their stops is a cemetery. Courtesy of wizard Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), the ensemble takes the moments they have to speak to the dead to help them find out what they need to know. Not only is it an effective way to deliver exposition, but some of the lines are hilarious. Every inkling of this scene is gold. I found myself occasionally laughing like a maniac during this portion of the film.

That said, this film, as mentioned before, is not the most revolutionary addition to the halls of cinematic history. Although given the track record of adapting D&D, this is actually a pleasant surprise of a win given how the IP was adapted before in 2000 and that movie currently has a 9% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Although despite this film being a victory for those who made it and the audience, it is probably not going to be nominated for any Oscars. The look of the film is passable, but I have seen better. There are also some predictable moments, but at the same time, the script, based on what was brought to screen, never had any real significant flaws that stood out, so I can forgive some predictability here and there.

Although what I did not predict is for some of the camerawork to stand out as much as it does. This should not have been a huge surprise given this is the duo who did “Game Night,” but there are one or two, extended takes that took my breath away. Much like “Game Night’s” egg-throwing extended take, there is a scene early on where we see Doric’s abilities in the spotlight that had my attention. If I were to watch some behind the scenes on the movie, that is one of the things I would like to see how they did.

This is the best compliment I can give to “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.” As cool of a concept as I find Dungeons & Dragons to be, I have never played the game because I do not know what time I have, who to play with, and where to start. After seeing this movie, those concerns have not been resolved. That said, I was not expecting them to be. Although having never played the game, I found this movie quite entertaining. I never felt lost. And as a movie, it was worth my time. It is one thing for someone to say that they are a D&D aficionado and say they love this movie. This might not always be the case, but there is some potential predisposal in play. If you can take a D&D know-it-nothing and give them a great cinematic experience, that’s another thing. That is what this movie did. I recommend this movie for those who enjoy playing D&D and even those who have shied away from the game. D&D fans may be attracted by the preexisiting IP, but they might as well stay for the lighthearted and thumbs up-worthy adventure.

In the end, “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a magical, finely realized blast of an adventure. I had a great time with it, and I would definitely recommend seeing this by yourself or with friends and family. As I have said, there is a hint of a “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”-like flair in this film, so if you like that film or its sequel, “The Next Level,” this could be another fun film to add to your watchlist. The characters are likable. The story is simple but effective. The humor stands out. And as someone who has never played D&D, I never felt alienated. I had a great time with “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” and I have a feeling some of you reading this will do the same. I am going to give “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” a 7/10.

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! As much as I recommend “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” it is extremely likely going to get blue shelled at the box office this weekend by possibly the most prominent video game-based project in cinematic history, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” By the way, that is going to be my next review! Stay tuned! Speaking of “Super Mario Bros.,” I will also soon be reviewing the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” film, which is probably going to be more fun for you guys than it is for me… 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 “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played D&D? What did you do while playing the game? Or, if you are playing it, what are you doing now? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023): The Most Action-Packed, Exciting John Wick Yet

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is directed by Chad Stahelski, who has directorial credits on all of the previous installments in the franchise. This film stars Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ip Man), Bill Skarsgård (It, Barbarian), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat, Bullet Train), Shamier Anderson (Goliath, Invasion), Lance Reddick (The Wire, Bosch), Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins (Criminal, American Assassin), and Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). This film centers around John Wick as he tries to get revenge against the High Table and take down anyone who stands in his way.

I love the “John Wick” franchise. One thing that stands out about this franchise that separates itself from several others is that not only is the first movie good, but every sequel that comes out is a step up from its predecessor. I enjoyed “John Wick: Chapter 2” more than the original, and I found “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” more entertaining than “John Wick: Chapter 2.” The objective of a Hollywood sequel is to, perhaps stereotypically, go bigger, but it does not always mean it is better than what came before. “John Wick” has gone bigger in its two sequels to extremely pleasing results. From one film to the next, the action sequences are incredible, the cinematography is amazing, and the lore is fascinating. And it happens to be all the more so with each go. That said, after two successful sequels, I wondered if the franchise ran out of steam. I thought “John Wick: Chapter 4” was just going to be a cash grab that would make most of its money from name recognition. I wondered how they could possibly top the other films.

Now that I saw the film, I can confirm “John Wick: Chapter 4” not only tops its predecessors. It stabs them, shoots them, and sends them tumbling off a cliff. It makes those films inferior and asserts its dominance. “John Wick: Chapter 4” is easily my favorite film in the franchise, and I did not think I would come to that conclusion a year or two ago.

This film is the fourth installment of an ongoing franchise that has made a decent chunk of change. It stars a well-known actor who has continued to maintain his relevancy in an extended career. Some may say that making this film implies Lionsgate would be, understandably, playing things safe. I understand why they made it, but I was not sure if I wanted it, that is until I watched it. I thought when they were making this film, it was a sign that “Hollywood” happened to be running out of ideas. After seeing this masterpiece, and I mean that in every sense of the word, I can confirm that Hollywood is not running out of ideas. Because this movie came up with a buttload of fresh new ways to kill people.

This movie has a great list of characters between all of the returning faces like Keanu Reeves as John Wick, Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King, Ian McShane as Winston, and Lance Reddick as Charon (RIP). But the newcomers manage to steal some of the spotlight for themselves. Donnie Yen, who may be at risk for being typecast as a visually impaired, skilled fighter, is brilliant in this film. I loved every minute he was on screen. Scott Adkins does a great job with his limited screentime as Killa, who is only enhanced by some excellent makeup and costume design. Did I mention assassin dogs?! Bring on the assassin dogs!

Over the past few years, we have practically been in a Keanussance with the previous “John Wick” installments amongst other projects like “Toy Story 4,” “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” and even the “Cyberpunk 2077” video game. Of all of the projects Keanu Reeves has done in recent years, this is the best one. It is up there with “Point Break” and the original “Matrix” installment as one of the greatest Keanu Reeves projects of all time. But if I have to be real, I should not solely rely on encouraging my readers to take a shot every time I gloriously say the name Keanu Reeves, because the real stars of the show are the people behind the camera. From director Chad Stahelski, who has consistently delivered one good time after the next with this franchise. To writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, who have conceived my favorite screenplay in the “John Wick” franchise since the simple but effective original. To cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who has distributed some of the most palatable shots in an action movie to date. To production designer Kevin Kavanaugh, who has built a multitude of sets that do not deserve to look as good as they do in a movie where tons of people get killed by a guy who has successfully utilized a pencil as a weapon.

This is one of the most thrilling action flicks ever put to screen, and it is not only because Keanu Reeves takes names in corners that you did not know existed, but because so much care was put into each frame. If anything, the progression of the “John Wick” movies reminds me of “Mission: Impossible” in recent years. From the third movie and onward, each one felt like a step up from its predecessor. For “John Wick,” each movie feels like a step up from the original, which is already a decent time.

I have said that this is my favorite “John Wick” script since the original. Part of it is because, like all the other installments, it maintains a sense of atmosphere that makes a series like this something of its own. But also because it is the closest the franchise has come to making me relate to or feel strong emotions for the characters. While the first “John Wick” is my least favorite in the franchise, I will not deny what made that first movie work is its ability to make me root for “John Wick” over his loss. It is all the more significant when considering that I am probably the furthest thing from a dog person. The sequels are great, but I remember them more for what the characters did as opposed to why they did it. What makes the fourth movie the best one is that it takes the substance of the first movie and the style that has improved from one installment to the next and showcases what the full potential of what this franchise could be. This is the ultimate “John Wick” experience from scene one to the final frame.

If I had anything else of note to say, I would recommend maybe watching the other movies before this one. For starters, they’re good movies. But I also bring this up because there may be some lore to pick up on before this fourth film. If I had any problems… They are not coming to me. I was worried about the runtime. However, this movie flew by, because I was having fun. That is ultimately what “John Wick” is. And between Keanu Reeves’s trademarks, his dynamite chemistry with Laurence Fishburne, all of the action, this is the epitome of fun. These types of movies are not for everyone. My mom would not like this film. But if you are an action junkie and refuse to watch “John Wick: Chapter 4,” you are missing out on the pinnacle of what this genre is capable of. From a technical perspective, this movie checks every box and receives extra credit. The sound design might end up being the best of the year depending on what comes out after this. Every frame looks like a painting. Some of the music is quite good too. The lighting is balls out and spectacular. At times, the stunts made me wince. I have enjoyed all of the “John Wick” installments, but as far as this movie goes, I am bending over for it like it is my lord and savior.

In the end, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is a thing of beauty, a thing of splendor. It is something I will be thinking about for a long time. The track record for “John Wick” over the years has reminded me of the track record for “Mission: Impossible” over the years. It gets better every time. Keanu Reeves has personally earned a seat at my High Table. When it comes to movies, few things beat a surprise. Few things surpass the time when a movie comes out of nowhere, I am not looking forward to it, but I see it anyway, and it ends up being one of the best things I have watched in recent memory. I was technically looking forward to “John Wick: Chapter 4,” but not on the level that I was going into “Chapter 3.” That said, this is better than chapters 1, 2, 3, all of them. Everything has led to this, the ultimate “John Wick” experience. I do not know if “John Wick: Chapter 4” will be this year’s “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Avatar: The Way of Water” as a select big budget, popular film that shoehorns its way into the Best Picture slate at the Oscars, but we shall see. I am thinking this franchise is not only back, but better than ever! I am going to give “John Wick: Chapter 4” a 10/10!

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! I have a couple more reviews coming up very soon including one for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” which I plan to see tonight. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which hits theaters next week. Speaking of which, I figured with the brand new “Mario” film coming out, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to go back and review 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” which I have to remind myself, unfortunately exists. I just rewatched the film earlier this week and I will be sharing my thoughts on it soon. 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 “John Wick: Chapter 4?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “John Wick” movies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

65 (2023): Jurassic Farce

“65” is written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the duo who also scripted “A Quiet Place” and “A Quiet Place Part II” alongside John Krasinski. This film stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Marriage Story) and Ariana Greenblatt (Avengers: Infinity War, Awake) in a story set 65 million years before modern times. In this science fiction adventure, Mills (Driver) crashes on prehistoric earth, which to him is an unfamiliar territory. He discovers within the surroundings of this land, there is intelligent life, specifically a young human girl, and dinosaurs.

“65” is easily one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Yes, it has an early release date. Although it has a lot of promise going into it. Adam Driver is a terrific actor who gives it his all in every project he does. The plot is simple but also engaging enough to not turn me off. Oh, and what was the other thing? A little something called DINOSAURS!

I was not just excited for “65” because dinosaurs were in it, but I happened to be eagerly awaiting to see what precisely “65” would do with these dinosaurs. Because I was hoping we would get a proper use of these creatures after a couple underwhelming “Jurassic World” movies. The last couple were not that great, especially “Dominion,” which I consider an achievement because it somehow managed to make dinosaurs boring. While the trailer for “65” showcased the dinosaurs to some degree, it never fleshed them out. That gave me the impression that the dinosaurs in this movie would be special, they are not going to emit a special kind of staleness. In addition, they will actually come off as scary.

But you know what is also scary? The fact that “65” might just be the worst movie I have seen so far this year.

I am truly disappointed to bring this thought to the table, because I was genuinely excited for this movie. It hurts to watch a movie that sucks. However, it breaks my heart to see a movie that I was rooting for from the beginning turn out as bad as it did. Although I should have seen the writing on the wall. Sony did not do a ton of marketing for this film. While I had no intentions to watch this, mainly because I am not caught up in the franchise, Sony made the decision to release this movie the same weekend as “Scream VI.” “65” is not a pure horror flick, but it has a ton of horror elements wrapped in whatever package it tends to bring forth. Therefore, I would not call it counterprogramming. Maybe Sony thought it could do well as a double feature with its competitor. I am not sure.

Once again, “65” is written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, whose experience with “A Quiet Place” speaks volumes. No pun intended. Much like “A Quiet Place,” “65” is a simple movie with a few characters who are simply trying to survive against dangerous monsters. Or in this case, dinosaurs. Although what made the screenplay for “A Quiet Place” so brilliant compared to a ton of other mainstream films is that it has almost no spoken dialogue. There are a few lines. There is also sign language. But it goes to show the power of film as a visual medium. While “65” does not have a script that insults your intelligence, the way certain lines came to life did not end up coming off in maybe the way I would have hoped. There is one particular exchange between Mills and Koe where the former emits a noise, and there is this awkward pause. Not only is the pause, again, awkward, but the noise sounds almost unnatural. For all I know, maybe Driver was poorly directed in that moment.

“65” is like if “Jurassic Park,” “A Quiet Place,” and “The Midnight Sky” got together to create a lovechild. You have dinosaurs, minimal lines, and an older man/younger girl relationship that moves things along. Except in the case of “65,” they forgot the part where they actually had to make a good movie.

This is not to say there are no positives in “65.” The film’s visual effects look clean and slick. They fit perfect within the film’s environment. The tech looks polished. The dinosaurs look real. I have no problem with the way this movie looks. I would also say some of the shots are screensaver-worthy. Not to beat a dead horse, even though this movie was not executed perfectly, the concept was at least intriguing. There was also some tension to be had in the movie regarding a particular element beyond the main characters’ control. Although I wish the writing happened to be better and the characters had more of a personality than what the movie gave me.

If I had to make a guess, “65” sounded like a great movie on paper, but was ultimately a project whose signs of doom appeared somewhere in the edit. If I pitched a movie to a studio about dinosaurs, I am sure the person on the receiving end would at least be curious. How could they not? Unless they are named Barney, dinosaurs equal instant, guaranteed entertainment. And the “Jurassic World” movies, including “Dominion,” which released two years after COVID-19 ruined everything, made tons of money despite what I and others have to say about them. “65” is not the same movie as “A Quiet Place,” but Beck and Woods evidently use similar techniques from one film to the other. There is not much dialogue, and therefore, there are moments where we are shown things instead of being told them. A basic rule of filmmaking is to show instead of tell, which is part of what makes “A Quiet Place” work like a charm. But what also made “A Quiet Place” work is that I bought into the relationships between its characters. I liked the dynamic between the family. The main duo in “65” barely has any chemistry whatsoever. Both Driver and Greenblatt do their best alongside each other with the material given to them. Although it does not change the fact these two are leads in an awkwardly designed story that I wanted to end as soon as possible.

Also, it says a lot when a movie that only goes for 93 minutes, just over an hour and a half, somehow feels too long, not to mention insufferably boring on occasion. This film is set 65 million years before our times, and yet that is how long this movie sometimes feels. Maybe this film would have made for a good video game. You could go around detailed portions of prehistoric earth. You could fight dinosaurs. You could have cool weaponry. But as a movie, this was a waste of time.

In the end, “65” is a roaring disappoint. What is it with dinosaur movies as of late? “Jurassic World: Dominion” is one of the worst blockbusters to have released in recent memory. And now “65,” which I thought could have given a boost to the dinosaur movie realm, only makes me think that these kinds of movies should be extinct. I am not going to remember “65.” In fact, I frankly think I may have tuned almost all of it out of my head by now. That is how bad this movie is. Go something else if you have the chance. I am going to give “65” a 2/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the latest DC movie, “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods.” I had a chance to watch the movie last Thursday, and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this sequel. 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 “65?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie you saw in recent memory, that you were looking forward to, only to have your hopes shattered? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

RRR (2022): Really Rad Ridiculousness

“RRR” is directed by S.S. Rajamouli (Baahubali: The Beginning, Eega) and stars N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Shriya Saran, Samuthirakani, Ray Stevenson, Alison Doody, and Olivia Morris. This film centers around two men living in 1920s India who form a bond during a revolution.

Despite how a vast majority of my reviews are for films made in the United States, this post feels long overdue. I have heard the hype regarding “RRR” for the longest time. Everybody is talking about it. But for some reason I never got around to it. Maybe it is the three hour runtime. Maybe it is because it came out as I was finishing my senior year of college. Maybe it is because I thought there were other movies that were more important at the time. I do not know why I did not talk about this film when it was in theaters last year. While the film is available on Netflix now, I thought I would take the chance to talk about it. After all, the Oscars are this weekend, and this film did receive a nomination, so it is only appropriate. Granted it is Best Original Song, but still. Plus, the film is back in select theaters for some time, so I thought I would take the opportunity to check it out with one of my available AMC A-List punches.

As noted with my “Brahmastra: Part One” review I did last year, my experience with Indian cinema is limited. Therefore, I do not have a lot of material I can compare “RRR” to. That said, “RRR” is an incredible theatrical experience. One of the most immersive and engaging I have had in my entire life. It felt like a Broadway musical put on a giant screen. I went to go see this film at a regular 2D auditorium at an AMC. If I had to be real though, the sound in the theater is comparable to what I have experienced with seeing some movies in Dolby Cinema. The sound mix in “RRR” is basically “Tenet,” if you could actually hear what everyone is saying. The action is big, the music is loud, the effects are commanding. But not only does this movie sound like a good time, it is, simply put, a good time.

“RRR” is a simple premise done to the best of the filmmaker’s ability. The film starts off with a girl getting captured, therefore setting the stage for someone to keep her in mind and rescue her. It is definitely an inciting incident that has been done before. For example, every other “Super Mario Bros.” title has done something like this. But much like how the “Super Mario” video game franchise always strives to make the gameplay and design fun despite its simple premises, “RRR” takes this simple premise and dials everything around it up to an 11. In addition to the sound mix, the visual effects are some of the most polished ever produced. In fact, if this movie looks expensive, that is because it is. This movie cost ₹550 crore to make. In U.S. currency, that translates to $72 million. While the U.S. film industry has made plenty of movies that cost more than $72 million, as far as India’s records go, this is their most expensive production ever. When it comes to 2022’s film slate, few films compare visually. The only real rival I can name for “RRR” in this year of film would have to be “Avatar: The Way of Water,” mainly because almost all of the movie relies on CGI and effects. To be frank, “RRR” looks more polished and attractive than all of the Marvel Studios fare that came out in 2022, even “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which I thought is one of the better-looking films the studio has done so far.

This film is led by N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. These two are dynamite together. I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing this duo in their respective roles. They are likable, charming, and every scene with these two is nothing more than a joy. I could watch these two actors together in a buddy cop movie if there were ever an excuse to make one with them in it. I did not know a whole ton about this movie going into it, but one thing I always saw through the marketing is this one shot where these two gravitate, and they are holding hands together. I knew from that moment that this connection would be something special, and I was proven correct. Also, having seen that handholding scene play out in the movie, I can declare it is one of the most satisfying shots, not to mention scenes, of 2022 cinema.

A lot of people might hesitate to watch this film because of the three hour runtime. Trust me, I understand how you feel. When I saw that “RRR” is three hours long, I was a bit weary. Although I have reviewed a couple three hour movies over the past few months. As far as their individual runtimes go, they led to mixed results. One ended up feeling like a snoozefest at some point, while another took me on a time traveling journey I never wanted to end. Although if you ask me, I do not care how long a movie is as long they use that runtime to tell an entertaining narrative. “RRR” did not feel like three hours. If anything, at times, it felt shorter.

There were times where I did not want this movie to end. For those of you reading this, specifically those who question why you should watch a film made from someplace that is not Hollywood, not belonging to any preexisting IP, and comes with a runtime that surpasses three hours, I hope that everything I said so far, especially the fact that it feels shorter than it actually is, helps. “RRR” is a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, earth-shattering spectacle in every sense of the word. Is it kind of cliché? Occasionally. Is it predictable? There are times where it is. But oh my gosh, I had a supersized batch of fun with it. When I say this film has a few clichés sprinkled in, I am being honest. But I will also be honest that those cliches are done brilliantly and supplemented by other things that I would have struggled to imagine until I saw them in this project. It is hard to determine if there will be any replay value with this film given the long runtime. The runtime is not a problem, but it is a commitment nevertheless.

I do not want to give a ton away about “RRR” in this review, partially because despite the movie being a year old, I still sort of went in blind as a bat. I did not know everything about the premise, the characters, how everything plays out. But I can guarantee you that if you want an experience you will never forget, this movie is of utmost importance. Put it at the top of your must see list. If you cannot go see this film in theaters, which you can in certain markets as of this writing, sit in front of your biggest television or crank up the dials in your home theater just to let your pixels go nuts. The film is a lively, obnoxiously immersive, and pleasing story. In addition, it has a style and look to it that pops for its entire runtime. What more could you ask for?

In the end, “RRR” is an incredible three hour extravaganza of insanity. There are films out there that I have called out for relying on style over substance like the “Star Wars” prequels. There are films that have bad looking effects in certain moments, like part of the climax in “Black Panther,” but are nevertheless able to capture my imagination. “RRR” is what happens when you take style and substance and create something special out of both of them. If anything, it is like that scene in “Ratatouille” where Remy bites two different substances and finds the tastiest, most satisfying result out of biting both at the same time. When it comes to style and substance, it is not an and/or. It is an and/and. In this case, the result is “RRR.” I am going to give “RRR” an 8/10.

“RRR” is now playing in select theaters and is available to watch on Netflix and ZEE5 for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new movie, “65,” starring Adam Driver as an astronaut who finds himself on prehistoric Earth. Be sure to check out that review when it drops! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “RRR?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most visually stunning movie you have ever seen? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023): Huge in Scope, Tiny in Believability, But Serviceable in Enjoyment

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is directed by Peyton Reed, who also directed the prior two “Ant-Man” films. This film stars Paul Rudd (Dinner for Schmucks, Ghostbusters: Afterlife), Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lost), Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country, Devotion), Kathryn Newton (Blockers, Freaky), Bill Murray (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day), Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, Batman Returns), and Michael Douglas (Fatal Attraction, Wall Street). This is the third installment to the “Ant-Man” franchise, in addition to being the 31st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In this latest adventure, Scott, Hope, Cassie, Hank, and Janet are taken into the Quantum Realm via a signal device. When they find themselves in this larger than life environment, they must familiarize themselves with its surroundings and survive. One such obstacle is Kang the Conqueror (Majors), who claims he can allow Scott to make up for lost time with his daughter.

“Ant-Man” is not my favorite franchise within the MCU, although I have always found it to be one that has been continuously distinct. For one thing, these films have always come out a couple months after “Avengers” titles. Specifically “Age of Ultron” and “Infinity War.” I have a feeling these films were placed around these release schedules on purpose. Not just for how it fits in the main story, but because of the vibe these movies try to shoot for. In these stories, Ant-Man is not only small in size, but so are the stakes. It is not say there are not any stakes at all, but compared to “Avengers” titles, where practically the whole world is in peril, the main objective is to save a neighborhood, save a community. After “Avengers: Infinity War,” it felt nice to have a more happy go lucky adventure with these characters in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” I cannot say the movie was great, but there were glimmers of joy to be had. Overall, these movies are not packed with as much doom and gloom as other adventures the MCU has to offer. This time around, it is a little different.

This film, in addition to starting phase 5 and setting the stage what is to come, prominently features Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors. This is not Majors’ first outing in the MCU, as he played the “He Who Remains” variant of this character in the Disney+ series “Loki.” Majors did not have a ton to do in the series, as he was only around for the season finale, but he had a particular, non-glorious purpose in the series as he does in this movie. While I cannot say He Who Remains was the major highlight for me in “Loki,” one compliment I can give to Jonathan Majors in “Ant-Man in the Wasp: Quantumania” is that he steals every scene he is in. There was a lot of hype going in regarding his character and I can confirm it is real. Is it the best MCU villain since Thanos? That depends. I will be real with you, the franchise has actually had some decent villains since his appearance, and I may be cheating a bit since it is a progression of a character that was done in another fashion, but I believe “Spider-Man: No Way Home’s” take on Green Goblin was incredible. Possibly the best use of the character on screen. I would say for me, Kang comes close to that level.

Speaking of the film’s stars, let’s talk about Paul Rudd. Paul Rudd has always maintained a certain down to earth feel within his Scott Lang character with each appearance despite going around in tights. I have always liked that. This time around, while still emitting a similar vibe to his previous appearances, Lang starts off this film a bit differently than before. For one thing, the character has evolved with each go, becoming more and more well known. He is a hero, an Avenger, an icon on the streets. In fact, he starts the movie by promoting his new book, “Look Out for the Little Guy.” I like this concept. I think if there is one thing recent Marvel movies have been doing on a consistent basis that fits into the timeline, it is referencing the progression of the universal canon and its characters. It makes sense that Scott Lang, who has probably burnt himself out a little from being a hero, would resort to writing a book about himself and selling it to an audience. It would make for a page turning story and a chance to continue his fame. If there is one thing that is noticeable about the Scott Lang character, and the movie in general, is that it feels like a tale of two stories, or vibes. One vibe is the consistent “so small it feels big” nature of the previous two installments. The other is this “Avengers-level” feel that kicks in somewhere around the Quantum Realm. There is a point in this movie, and Scott Lang as a character is evident of this, where the lighthearted nature I was previously used to seeing kind of takes a backseat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

This time around, there is a new performer in the shoes of Cassie Lang, specifically Kathryn Newton. This makes sense. In the MCU timeline, there was a time jump for five years, therefore it makes it a tad harder to believe that Abby Ryder Fortson, who played Cassie in the prior “Ant-Man” installments, is the age this movie suggests she is. I was excited to hear Kathryn Newton, an actress who I adored since “Blockers,” would be playing Cassie this time around. She does a fine job here. She is not the standout of the movie, but I thought she brought her own sense of joy to this role even though this is a more mature version of this character. I adored Fortson’s performance as Cassie in the previous works because she matched the happy go lucky nature of the film. Newton, while definitely another animal, maintains some of those consistencies. This is not the first time a teen Cassie has been in the MCU, Emma Fuhrmann made an appearance as the character in “Avengers: Endgame.” But I nevertheless think Newton did a swell job with this film in particular.

My biggest problem with “Ant-Man and the Wasp” has been a consistent problem in the MCU lately. The effects. Now let me be fair, there are various aspects of the Quantum Realm, which is pretty much all CGI, that look breathtaking There are a lot of visuals in this film that pop. If anything, I would put “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in the same boat as “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which has plenty of visuals to enjoy, but there are also some noticeable duds. Despite what I said about the Quantum Realm looking nice, there are also particular shots where I thought I was looking at a green screen or a StageCraft setup. Despite how I did not end up loving “Avatar: The Way of Water,” my problems with the film never concerned its looks. What made that film so awe-inspiring is how real everything looked despite being almost entirely done through computers, motion capture, or digital effects. Even though I disagree with Martin Scorcese’s opinion that Marvel movies are nothing more than theme parks, I will say that “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is almost one of the more theme park-esque adventures in the MCU because it is mostly about spectacle, but it almost utilizes its gimmick too much to the point where nothing feels authentic.

In reality, as immersed as I felt at times into the whole Quantum Realm universe, which was definitely aided by the IMAX experience, the problem with the Quantum Realm that it occasionally felt like a universe that was created for a screen and not one that felt like I could go into it. The best comparison I could use in this case would be to say that the Quantum Realm universe is similar to the environment explored in “Strange World.” It tries to be bonkers, but it gets caught up in its bonkers nature that nothing feels real. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” despite being an indescribably weird movie that travels to many different universes, feels more real than “Quantumania” and “Strange World.”

Speaking of things that do not feel real, I want to talk about M.O.D.O.K.. Not for long though because there were certain things about the character I did not know going into this film. One thing I will say about M.O.D.O.K. is the same thing I will say about the CGI. At times it works, at other times, it is taken to such an extreme that it felt out of place. There is a certain reveal in this movie that kind of makes sense, but it also spawned a problem that constantly came up. The character’s design. There is a certain “design” if you will, to this character that is so off-putting that it makes Power Rangers costumes look more realistic. I will not say more. This is all I have to give on the character. It adds to the plate of this film’s occasionally lackluster visual outlook.

But at the same time, this is honestly disappointing to say because the MCU, which has continued to set a competitive bar for its visuals year after year despite having multiple movies come out, is starting to worsen its craft. Part of it is because this universe is focusing way more on quantity than it used to. With so many shows on Disney+ in addition to the movies coming out months apart, the MCU is starting to feel like school instead of a fun franchise. The movies are part of the core classroom curriculum, the television shows are homework, and the shorter form specials like “The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special” are extra credit. But when it was just a bunch of movies, it felt simple and easy to understand. Now having watched “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” for instance, one of the questions I have had before, during, and after watching said movie regards how many people needed to watch “WandaVision” to fully appreciate or understand everything that was going on. As much as I enjoyed certain shows like “WandaVision” and “Ms. Marvel,” if there were a way to get back to a time where the Marvel Cinematic Universe were only CINEMA specific, I would like to find out about it. The quality has suffered while the quantity has grown. If I had to give one solid mark to phase 4, it is that while no movie is perfect, I liked all of them. I am just waiting for the day when I can love each movie I see, or not quickly forget about one as much. I loved “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I loved “Shang-Chi.” But I would rather forget about a vast majority of the MCU shows. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is a sign that the MCU still has its wheels on the wagon, but if they continue to pump out as much content as they are making right now, they might need to realign those wheels a bit.

In fact, one of my bigger problems with this film and how it connects to the whole “see this to understand that” thing is one of the post-credits scenes. Which by the way, if you are planning to stay after the movie, there are two. For the record, the post-credit scenes are not awful. In fact, I liked both of them. But the second movie harkens back to my worry with the MCU feeling like school. Because one of the scenes were specific to an upcoming television program. My apprehension, which could go away, I reserve the right to change my mind, is that this teased television event might not be understood as well unless you saw “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” I am not saying this has happened with every recent Marvel project, and I am not saying it will. That said, this movie reinstates my fear that it will.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” seems to bridge the gap between where the previous saga, the Infinity Saga, culminates, and sets a stage as to where the Multiverse Saga could be going. This does not start the new saga. We are just starting phase 5 and the Multiverse Saga already kicked off in phase 4. Although one of the most poignant notions about “Avengers: Endgame” is the realization of how much people have missed for five years. When Thanos snapped in “Avengers: Infinity War,” he basically initiated a five-year, luck-based, societal imprisonment. Meanwhile, Lang spent a ton of that time stuck in the Quantum Realm. But the film manages to bridge a gap between lost time and the breaking of the multiverse. It is essentially saying we are moving on from one thing to the next. Unfortunately, it also means that a seemingly investing idea about recovering lost time occasionally takes a back seat in the film for more bonkers, seemingly brooding CGI mayhem. I could tell Peyton Reed was intentionally making a film that separates itself from its two predecessors. I am not saying “Ant-Man” is not allowed to be serious. But I am saying that “Ant-Man” works better when it is lighthearted, but still action-packed.

In the end, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ranks down the middle for me in terms of the “Ant-Man” trilogy. While this is not as good as the first movie, there are more redeeming elements for me in this third movie than the second. It honestly may come down to pure personal tastes. At its core, this is a film that is full of inconsistencies. In one moment, the story is lighthearted. In another, it is dark. In one moment, the effects are stunning. In another, they are crap. In one moment, there is tons of comedy. In another, the humor takes a backseat. The film is not abysmal, but to call it a masterpiece would be generous. If anything, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” reminds me of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Both films are wildly inconsistent, despite there being a series of moments that land on their feet with ease. In fact, another way both films are similar is their score, because I am going to give “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” a 6/10.

I was going to give “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” a 7/10 because I had a great time with it in the theater, but the more I thought about it. A lot of my negatives, in addition to the inconsistencies, stood out, and that muddied the waters a bit. It also seems to work more as setup for what is to come as opposed to a self-contained story. This is not to say the story is uninteresting, but its promises seem to stand out more than what is happening right now. Not a bad movie, but not a great movie either. Nevertheless, it might be a good time at the theater, so I would still, by a slight edge, recommend it.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, why not check out some of my other ones? I have reviewed a ton of superhero fare over the past year including “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Black Adam,” “DC League of Super-Pets,” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Check those reviews out at your convenience!

Also, be sure to stay tuned for March 5th, because I will be dropping the 5th Annual Jack Awards! This is the latest edition of my painstakingly prepared film awards show, hopefully to brilliant execution. In addition, there will be video content which will also be posted on my YouTube channel. If you would like to vote for Best Picture for this year’s show, you can do that by clicking the link right here! It will take you to a Google form where you can choose one of the ten movies I previously nominated. May the Best Picture win. To check out the official nominations, click here! 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 “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?” What did you think about it? Or, which “Ant-Man” movie is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Plane (2023): Gerard Butler and Crew Thrill by Air and Land

“Plane” is directed by Jean-François Richet (Assault on Precinct 13, Blood Father) and stars Gerard Butler (300, Gods of Egypt), Mike Colter (Evil, Luke Cage), Yoson An (Mortal Engines, Mulan), and Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, The Last Samurai). This film is about a pilot and a group of passengers who crash land together on a plane and find themselves in the middle of a war zone. Their goal, in addition to getting back in the air, is to survive to the very end.

I will not lie, “Plane” sounds like the most generic title that one could have come up with for a movie like this. However, as the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. Although when it comes to the cover, I cannot say it was that attractive because the trailer, while it sold me, never resembled anything more than camp. Between Gerard Butler playing the lead, the simple concept, and of course, the title, “Plane” did not necessarily look like a dumpster fire, but to call it the second coming of Jesus would be exaggerative. Oh yeah, this film also released in January. There is that too. Unfortunately, due to other movies being a priority, life events, and me doing my countdowns, I never got around to seeing “Plane” when it came out. I waited until this month, and I ended up going to go see the movie with my dad.

Once the movie ended, my dad and I both agreed on one thing, “Plane” was a good time.

When it comes to the camp factor mentioned earlier, that fails to make its presence known in this story. The film is not serious, but if there were a tone to describe “Plane,” the best word to use is “natural.” If there were a Goldilocks Zone for tone, “Plane” lands right there.

Perhaps the most desirable aspect that makes plane fly smoothly is the characters. All of them are likable, well-written, and well-realized. Gerard Butler pilots this craft of a film with ease and allows everyone else onboard to shine alongside him.

If I have to give a favorite character in the entire cast, it would not even be someone who happens to be amongst the plane’s passengers or staff, it is someone a bit more behind the scenes. That individual would have to be Scarsdale, played by Tony Goldwyn. No disrespect to anyone else who worked on this movie, because there was not one performance I disliked amongst the cast, but when it comes to energy, Scarsdale defines the night and day difference between him and the rest of the characters. He steals almost every scene he is in. He is serious, all business, and comes off as someone who will do anything, no matter the cost, to accomplish his goals. I love his performance, and given what kind of movie this is, it is all the more fitting.

Yes, my friends, a pun is officially coming in for a landing. “Plane” flies by. This movie has a runtime of 107 minutes. Not the longest movie, not the shortest movie. Whether it is long or short is almost irrelevant because of its 107 minutes on screen, the movie refuses to waste a single one. I was never bored. I was never annoyed. I was never nauseated. My eyes were glued to the screen the whole time and I had a joyous experience with these characters. Whether that is referring to Brodie Torrance, the recently mentioned Scarsdale, and I will even include the main antagonist, Datu Junmar, portrayed Evan Dane Taylor, who dialed up my intimidation.

If you are looking for a movie that is simple, effective, and fun, there are few options currently in the theater that match this one. There is nothing deep to “Plane,” but the film’s minimalistic nature is perfect for it. In fact, speaking of minimalism, if you watch the movie, you would notice that the plane is nowhere near capacity. There are quite a few passengers onboard, but there are also enough to justify a story like this and make sure enough characters have one glimmer of the spotlight. Obviously, this is not the passengers’ movie. It is at the end of the day, Gerard Butler’s. But having this many passengers on the plane allows the story to be more personal for everyone involved. Yes, there is an argument to make that having a full plane would have made a large impact because of how many people crash, but I like the approach this movie makes because we spend more time on individual characters and I am not thinking that the movie refuses to tell someone’s story. The movie takes some time to show that the passengers have a reason to get to their destination or someone wants to lash out because of what is happening. Now do I remember select passengers more than others? Yes, but I nevertheless respect the film for trying to give everyone some attention.

I am also not going to pretend that “Plane” is a fresh idea. There are glimmers of other stories or even characters that one could pick out here. It can also be said that the structure has a by the numbers feel to it at times. But it does not change the fact that some of the structure is done well. You can call something cliché, but if you entertain with those clichés, they are not a problem.

This film has been out for a month, and if it is playing in a theater near you, I recommend checking it out there. Not only because it is a good movie, which I have already explained a ton in this review, but I think the experience has its moments too. This film is occasionally ridiculous, but it is the kind of ridiculous I would put “Fast Five” in. It still manages to maintain a sense of reality within its far-fetched nature. The plane crash scene is a definite thrill. The shots were tense, the audio was commanding, and at one point, the scene itself made my brain jitter. Again, the film is simple and effective. But it does not mean it forgets to check off a box that includes fun. “Plane” is an exciting ride that is well-directed by Jean-François Richet. Additionally, it contains a solid cast led by Gerard Butler. “Plane” is a throwback action extravaganza made for a modern age. Check it out.

In the end, “Plane” is… plain great. It is still early in the year, and there are probably many more excellent movies on the horizon, but “Plane” is a solid time at the theater. If you like tense action, this movie is for you. If you like simple premises done well, this movie is for you. Is it the next “Citizen Kane?” Absolutely not. But I say that knowing that “Plane” is a fun movie on its own and not just a big, dumb, Boeing 747-sized eyesore. I am going to give “Plane” a 7/10.

I am also delighted to know that a sequel to “Plane” has recently been announced. Personally, I approve. I cannot wait to see what’s next.

“Plane” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “A Man Called Otto,” the brand new movie starring Tom Hanks as a grumpy man who has had it all.

Also, this Sunday, February 19th, I will be revealing the nominees for the 5th Annual Jack Awards! Formerly known as the Jackoff Awards, the 5th Annual Jack Awards will honor the 2022 slate in movies with comedy bits, trips to movie-related locations, and my picks for the best designs, performances, and technical achievements throughout the year in film! Per usual, Best Picture will be chosen by the public, so stay tuned for the poll that will showcase the list of nominees. The ceremony will be available on Flicknerd.com on March 5th! 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 “Plane?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie involving air travel? Not outer space, but air. You know, like the sky. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Devotion (2022): A Compelling, Soaring Journey with Fine Chemistry Between Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors

“Devotion” is directed by J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) and stars Jonathan Majors (Loki, Lovecraft Country), Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises, Hidden Figures), Christina Jackson (The Good Fight, Swaggers), Joe Jonas (Camp Rock, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian), Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, Life in Pieces), and Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Village). This film is based on a book by Adam Makos, and simultaneously inspired by true events during the Korean War. The story mainly centers around the bond between two naval pilots, Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown, as they navigate themselves through various periods during said war.

As a reviewer, it is hard not to compare one film to another. This is especially true considering how most of the movies I review are those that come out within the year of release, therefore I will sometimes say “x” film is similar to “y” flick, because “x” and “y” are at the movies at the same time or at similar times. It is a repetitive habit, but one I do not see myself quitting anytime soon because they involve movies that continue to be on people’s minds, including my own. “Devotion” is no exception to this rule because it released about a half a year after one of the most successful films in a long time, “Top Gun: Maverick.” I am not saying that “Devotion” is a carbon copy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” In fact, it is far from it. For one thing, “Devotion” is based on a true story whereas “Top Gun: Maverick” is a fictionalized sequel. “Devotion” is also comparatively dramatic to “Top Gun: Maverick” despite the latter having glimmers of emotion.

This leads me to my first positive of “Devotion,” which is that the narrative kept me compelled from start to finish. Due to my country’s supposedly mediocre educational system, I maybe do not think about U.S. history as much as I should. I was thrilled with the story of “Devotion” to the point where I felt somewhat sorry for myself that I did not think about these pilots all that much earlier. What really helps this movie is not just having a story as solid as this, but having a duo of actors who are clearly meant to be together. Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors are two fine actors on their own, but if you put them together in a movie like this, the formula is bound to deliver something special. While there are better lead and supporting performances I have seen this year, I cannot think of many acting duos that are as memorable or likable as this one.

And no, this does not mean that this film fails to do what a lot of other war-set films like “Dunkirk” and “1917” manage to do effectively, which is immerse me into the environment of the war itself. Now, unlike those films, this is more of a story where we get to know the characters themselves and less of a run to the finish line for survival. I would not call this a bad thing, but if you are looking for a certain type of film, now you know which one you are in for.

I would say when it comes to the immersion factor though, I would say “Dunkirk” and “1917” did it better because those films felt like technical experiments or feats whereas “Devotion,” again, is an extended tale perhaps putting story and characterization in the forefront. However, the sound mixing is quite good and the aerial shots are occasionally nice to see in action. The film does not appear reinvent the wheel with its technical aspects, but is also pretty looking enough to be worth checking out in whatever theater it is playing in near you. I should note, that this film has been out for a month and it is not playing in a ton of locations near me, but it was worth the 20 minute trek to a nearby town.

Speaking of immersion, I was also kind of impressed with some of the production design. Part of the movie takes place in a French casino and it was all sandy yet rugged. The interior of Brown’s home is also a standout. Many of the locations in this film are impressive to say the least.

My favorite aspect of the narrative behind “Devotion” is probably not even anything having to do with war itself, which is prominently featured in the film. However my favorite parts of the film simply come through the training, all the preparation that went into the events that followed. To be specific, there are scenes where we see the pilots trying to land their plane. Usually when it comes to these war stories and films, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to the protagonist is how they deal with being on the battlefield. I love how effectively “Devotion” has not only brought stakes in terms of the fight itself, but all the work that leads up to it. We see Jesse Brown nervous not because he anticipates he is going to get killed by the opposition, but because he fears he cannot land his own plane. Going back to “Top Gun: Maverick,” much of that movie, like its predecessor, is about training to fight an enemy and less about fighting the enemy itself. What makes “Devotion” work is how effectively the training, which reminded me of “Top Gun: Maverick” at times but with a more serious vibe, was executed in terms of the story and how that made everything in terms of the actual conflict that lied ahead more exciting.

There are not many major problems I have with “Devotion,” although I do think a few of the supporting characters are somewhat unmemorable. The real highlights of the character lineup in “Devotion” are the two leads. Although I must also say Christina Jackson shines as Daisy Brown. Although on the military side, unless I went to IMDb to find out, I could not tell you anybody’s name or real descriptive aspects of their personality. Then again, the story is not about them, so this is somewhat forgivable. Although “Devotion” is a thrilling, entertaining story nevertheless, and it is one that if given the opportunity, you should check out.

In the end, when it comes to movies about the navy, “Devotion” is no “Top Gun: Maverick,” but if you are looking for a more serious take on the subject matter, this is a a story that is worth your time. I did not know what to expect with “Devotion,” but I left the film having had a fine experience. Glen Powell is solid, Jonathan Majors is excellent, and the story is one that kept me interested to the very last second. I am going to give “Devotion” a 7/10.

“Devotion” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Within a matter of days, I will be going to see one of my most anticipated movies in history. For the record, when I did my most anticipated movies of 2021 list, this made the #2 spot. Did I say 2021? Yes I did. It was supposed to come out then, but it got delayed to the following year. That film my friends, is “Babylon.” I know the film is not making a lot of money right now, but it is the kind of film that can get me in the door. I just have to find the right day to enter that door.

Also, I want to remind everyone that the end of the year is almost here, and pretty soon I will be counting down my best and worst films of 2022! I want to give a little housekeeping in advance and note that this year’s set of lists is going to be a little different, and it is inspired by a tactic from one of my favorite YouTube personalities, John Campea. This year, instead of doing my top 10 best list first, which I have always done in the past, I am going to start with the worst list. The reason for that is because I often share my best list first, leave it up for a day, and then the next, I am onto the worst, which has sometimes left me a break in regard to posting new material. Within that break, I have the worst list linked to my Instagram (realscenebefore) because Instagram hates links for some reason, and that means my Instagram followers might end up seeing my worst list for a longer period of time than my best. And on Scene Before I want people to remember me for what I love and not what I hate. I love doing the worst lists, and I will still do them, but I do not want to be a monster. That said, if you want to see these lists and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Devotion?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an acting duo from a movie this year that you enjoyed seeing? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022): Animated Purr-fection

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by Januel Mercado. This film stars Antonio Banderas (The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Uncharted), Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Eternals), Harvey Guillén (What We Do in the Shadows, The Magicians), Florence Pugh (Black Widow, Don’t Worry Darling), Olivia Colman (The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Empire of Light), Ray Winstone (Point Break, Beowulf), Samson Kayo (Our Flag Means Death, Famalam), John Mulaney (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers), Wagner Moura (Brazil, Narcos), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Selfie, People of Earth), and Anthony Mendez (Jane the Virgin, Foodtastic). In this sequel to the 2011 spinoff film “Puss in Boots,” the title character is down to his ninth and last life. Carrying his hopes to recover his past lives, Puss sets out on a journey to find a Wishing Star.

2011’s “Puss in Boots” is a surprisingly good movie. I think it is a bit rushed, but it has its pros. The characters are likable. The voice performances are solid. The music is catchy as well. I did not think it was as memorable as say “Shrek” and “Shrek 2,” the latter of which introduced Puss to the iconic DreamWorks franchise. Nevertheless, the movie was solid despite being a quick ride. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a follow-up part of me never thought we would get. The spinoff seemed like a one-off. But, someone, somewhere wanted to make this sequel. After all, in an age where “Star Wars” is still relevant, it is evident that nostalgia sells. The last major “Shrek”-related project to release in theaters was in fact the 2011 “Puss in Boots” movie. As to whether this would be a great sequel or a cheap nostalgia bomb was a mystery. The trailers looked good, but so did the trailers to “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which did not mean much when I saw the movie.

Ladies and gentlemen, if there is any indication that you should see this movie, here are some bold statements. First off, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is better than the original. Not bold enough? Okay, let me take it a step further. Not only is it better than its 11-year-old predecessor, I would say it is superior to all of the “Shrek” installments. This includes the original, and my personal favorite, “Shrek 2.” Is this a case of recency bias? Possibly. It has been awhile since I have seen the “Shrek” films. But it does not change the fact that I was smiling the entire time this movie was playing. And when I was not smiling, I was either laughing or dropping my jaw.

The first ten minutes of this movie is some of the most bonkers, ridiculous, unhinged stuff I have witnessed on a screen this year. There is a moment where Puss is taking down a beast and goes towards it by catapulting himself into the air via a stringed instrument. How cool is that?! Meanwhile he has time to sing a song and brag about himself. This is not only a fitting introduction to this movie and the character, it is some of the most fun I had at the movies this year. I have not felt this giddy at the start of an animation since maybe “The LEGO Batman Movie.”

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” blends 2D and 3D animation elements to make a movie that is wonderfully stylized and perfectly realized. Few movies released in 2022 look as visually striking as this one. At times, this movie has the tone of previous material featuring the Puss character, including the “Shrek” installments, while also inserting a style that reminded me of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Select scenes felt like a graphic novel coming to life. To say I was struck with awe might be an understatement. And when I say awe, I am not just talking about big eyes. Although those do, coincidentally, make an appearance in the movie.

Puss in Boots is a role Antonio Banderas is practically born to play. His voice is absolutely perfect as the iconic feline and I was somewhat worried after all these years it might not be the same. Nope, he still has the goods! There is a certain hyperactivity Banderas commits to with the role that I think few actors would be able to encapsulate. There is a saying that actors are replaceable, and I would agree with this philosophy. However, I think if somebody else were to play the Puss in Boots role in the future, they have massive shoes, or boots in this case, to fill.

The film has multiple threats including Goldi and the Three Bears, Jack Horner, and a wolf bounty hunter. Having seen a couple “Spider-Man” films butcher themselves by poorly utilizing multiple threats at once, it might as well be easy to worry that this movie could lose control. Thankfully, it does not. Each antagonist has a purpose and place in the story. In addition to all of these antagonists opposing themselves to Puss and his crew, some want to use the Wishing Star to fulfill their own desires. This adds threats not only to Puss’s life, but his past lives as well. Without giving much away, one of these mentioned antagonists might be the creepiest DreamWorks animation villain ever put to screen. Both in terms of looks and motivation. If I were a young child watching this movie, I would quiver upon first sight of this fiend.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a quickly paced, action-packed thrill ride of a film that while I will say is okay for children to watch, impressed me because of its tendency to go full throttle with certain action elements. This movie even has blood in it, which I do not often see in PG films. The action sequences in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” are my favorite DreamWorks action scenes since “Kung Fu Panda 3.” There is little shortage of color, wacky effects, and pizazz. Again, it was like watching a graphic novel come to life. It almost felt like a flashy video game. I would go see this movie a second time for the action alone. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” has action that reminds me of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which this movie nearly rivals in terms of flashiness. Another movie the action reminds me of is “Bullet Train,” which has a series of creative sequences and fights with impressive choreography. Simply put, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” contains my favorite action sequences from any movie released this year.

If I had any flaws with “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” they would be hard to come by. Although if I had to come up with one it would be that while the humor is solid for the most part, there are one or two jokes that fall flat, including one that was probably just inserted to get a laugh out of the younger audiences. This may be a personal thing, but for those who remember the 2011 “Puss in Boots,” there is an oohing cat that is constantly used as a gag during the film. I did not find it funny the first time, nor did I find it funny the third or fourth time. But for some reason the cat finds his way back to this sequel. Thankfully it was only in one scene, but still.

In the end, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a great spinoff, a stellar sequel, and a smile-inducing time at the movies. This movie was so good that I am surprised to say that I want a third installment. This movie is up there with “Turning Red” and “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” as one of the best animations of 2022. Packed with ridiculously enthralling action sequences, unbelievably eye-popping animation, and a shockingly emotional ending, this film is perfect for all audiences. Take it from someone who is not much of a cat person. Or even a pet person in general. I loved “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and I am going to give it a 9/10.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” releases in theaters everywhere Wednesday, December 21st. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming soon! The 2022 reviews are likely coming to an end, but I do plan to see another movie this week. My next review is likely going to either be for “Babylon” or “The Whale.” I have not decided yet. That said, if you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out my thoughts on “Strange World,” “DC League of Super-Pets,” and “Luck!” If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish?” What did you think about it? Or, now that we have four “Shrek” movies and a couple of “Puss in Boots” spinoff titles, which movie in the “Shrek” universe would you say is the best one? Honestly, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” might take the cake. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!