Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021): The Lethal Protector and the Big Red One Slash Up a Great Time

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is directed by Andy Serkis (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Black Panther) and stars Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road), Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Zombieland), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, Blue Valentine), Naomie Harris (Spectre, Moonlight), Reid Scott (My Boys, Veep), Stephen Graham (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Boardwalk Empire), and Peggy Lu (Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Always Be My Maybe). This film is the second installment to the “Venom” franchise, based on the Marvel Comics character. This time around, Eddie Brock who has spent time with a venomous symbiote in his body, attempts to interview Cletus Kassady, a serial killer. Kassady soon becomes a problem as he morphs into the big symbiotic creature, Carnage. It is now up to Venom to stop Carnage from unleashing destruction to society.

Venom (2018) - IMDb

I hated the first “Venom.” I have avoided this film since the theater. While it was not my worst film experience of the year, I was weary of what this film stood for as far as the comic book movie genre goes. The violence felt generic, the acting came off as lackluster, even from Tom Hardy, and I felt that it was a step down for the comic book movie genre, especially in a year where they have proven to be a force with critics and the box office. The success of “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” were not enough, we needed some schlock in the mix I guess.

The first “Venom” made over $800 million at the worldwide box office. So naturally, when a sequel was announced, I was not surprised. After all, everyone likes money. I had little to no interest in a sequel based on the impression that the first film left me. I felt like that film made me dumber. It was one of those films that by the time we got to 2020, I didn’t really care as much if it got pushed back due to COVID-19. Granted, part of me is now in the mindset that if any movie does well, even if I don’t like it, I will root for its success as it is good for the industry. And that success has been solidified so far with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” as the new movie made over $90 million the weekend it opened in the United States.

But is all that success just money talking or will I give this film a personal green checkmark? To be frank, I had a lot of fun with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” There is a saying in film that sequels are often inferior to the originals. Unless you’re talking about “Terminator 2,” “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Fast Five,” “Furious 7,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Toy Story 2,” “Toy Story 3,” and “Shrek 2.” The reason why this film excels is because of the same reason that “Godzilla vs. Kong” succeeded for me. It was big, loud, and delightfully dumb. Granted, you could say that about the first “Venom,” but that film personally had inferior acting, borderline corporate, uninspired writing, and violence that could have pushed the bar, but felt kind of tame. Much like its predecessor, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is PG-13, meaning you can have violence, but not so much blood. But unlike the 2018 piece of crap, I would say “Let There Be Carnage” does a better job at, well, bringing on the f*cking carnage.

And speaking of Carnage, let’s talk about him. This film’s villain is obviously Carnage, an insane serial killer who becomes a red symbiotic monster. First off, big improvement over the last movie, as much as I like Riz Ahmed, who KILLED IT in “Sound of Metal” last year, his performance as Carlton Drake was not the highlight of the original “Venom.” Another improvement I’ll bring up, and this is one I think some would argue gets into nitpick territory, but still, I think the choice of using Carnage in this film gives this sequel an uptick over the previous film’s rivalry because there were times where I was watching Eddie and Carlton duke it out, but I cannot tell who is who because everything is dark and all the fighting is two guys in black symbiotic suits trying to wreck each other. The film is ultimately lit better, the color palette is more attractive, and the action is more fun to watch.

Cletus Kassidy is also a fine villain on his own. I think casting Woody Harrelson was a smart move because he did a good job at bringing a sense of insanity mixed in with a flair of viciousness to the table. Harrelson’s performance in this film reminded me of, as much as I did not like the film, Jared Leto’s performance as Albert Sparma in “The Little Things” because in that film he was subtle and quiet, but every time he spoke, it felt commanding and bigger than what I could actually see. The beauty in Harrelson’s performance was not only what he says, but how he says it. In addition, his physicality is individualistic and much like Tom Hardy as Eddie, I cannot see anyone else at this point playing Cletus Kassidy. As for his love interest, Frances Barrison, I liked seeing her in this movie too, because not only was she a fun character to watch who was decently cast with Naomie Harris in her shoes, but I like how her powers reveal the weaknesses of other core characters, including Cletus himself.

This movie, like the original, has a PG-13 rating. I critiqued the first “Venom” for having action that felt clean for its subject matter and not doing anything special with what was on screen. I wanted to see death and destruction, and there are times where the film looks like it is going to reach that point, but it can’t quite get there. “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” still has a slightly tame feel to it at times, but compared its predecessor, the violence in this film feels pretty close to an R even without all the blood. There’s a scene you may have noticed in the trailer where Carnage takes his tongue and swallows it down another person’s throat, a lot of the combat towards the end of the film is pretty intense, and I will say that as far as the PG-13 rating goes when it comes to language, they kind of nailed it. Because there is a rule in films that are PG-13 where you can only go so far with the f-bomb, and without spoilers, the point where they drop the f-bomb in this movie may have made for a possible spot in the top 10 best PG-13 f-bombs of all time. Might even be #1, it’s that effective and satisfying.

The best part of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is the mix of the runtime and the pacing. There are a lot of movies that have come out over the years that are over 2 hours, maybe 2 and a half hours that maybe I, or someone else, will walk out of saying, that was okay, or that was terrible, one thing they should have done is trimmed at least ten minutes off the runtime. I even did that recently with “Dear Evan Hansen.” So for this to be my next movie in the cinema was a nice change of pace. This movie is all murder, no filler. All carnage, no– Actually, I cannot come up with a good rhyme. If anyone can comment with a rhyme that would be great! This movie ends up with a runtime of 97 minutes, and I don’t think I want more or less. 97 minutes was the perfect runtime for this movie as it allowed the story to establish its points from the beginning, quickly drop the audience into the middle of the action, and offer a simple structure that would appeal to the target demographic. Quite a bit happens in that runtime, it’s almost like the movie was on cocaine.

I was a bit weary on Venom and Eddie’s relationship from the first movie, but it had potential, and I think “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” unleashes all the possible potential there is to be had. I went to see this movie with a friend and I think she described the chemistry between Venom and Eddie the way it should immediately be viewed. She saw the chemistry between the dynamic duo equal to that of an old, married couple. There are several scenes in “Let There Be Carnage” that cement that point. At one point they’re besties, at some other point they argue, one tries to make the other feel better about something. Despite their differences, Eddie and Venom at the end of the day are best pals even if this relationship was not something either of them wanted. In fact, after I watched the movie, I read an article where Andy Serkis and others were debating on calling the movie “Venom: Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As much as I like the current title, that is a fine alternative given what goes on in the movie. And also, I think Tom Hardy himself has done a great job evolving into the character. Even though I thought his previous performance as Eddie Brock was underwhelming, I would have to say that these past two movies have shown that Hardy is embracing his character as much as he can. As far as this film goes, I like Hardy’s performance as both Eddie and Venom. His voice for Venom is ridiculously heightened to the point where I cannot imagine many other people taking this role in the future. If someone else does take the role, I think some major reinvention will have to come into play.

Also, it’s great to see Peggy Lu back as Mrs. Chen, the owner of the convenience store who is in the know of Eddie’s secret identity. I liked seeing her in this film because like Eddie, who has grown to know Venom, Chen has an understanding of Venom that makes the two of them have a connection. Even though at one point, Venom wants to eat her. Pretty normal friendly relationship if you ask me, nothing out of the ordinary.

If I had any other complaints about “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” the obvious one, even though this is not TECHNICALLY a complaint, would be that this movie is not to be taken seriously. The only real Academy Award I could see this film being nominated for is Best Visual Effects. The script does not reinvent the wheel and spends a lot of time trying to be silly. This is not always a bad thing because the film knows its audience and is only doubling down on the success of the first movie. If anything, the more I think about it, this movie has a heir of the tone of “Batman & Robin,” but it uses that tone to show off something ten times as competent.

My one last complaint about the film is also something that I could place into a box that I would write “GUILTY PLEASURE” on in black Sharpie. You know how Sony is… Well, Sony? PRODUCT PLACEMENT! PRODUCT PLACEMENT! GET YOUR PRODUCT PLACEMENT! There is this crucial scene in the film where we see Eddie and Venom bickering with each other, and in this scene, we see that Eddie’s apartment is being ruined in the process, and of course, one thing that gets ruined is the television. In this moment, we see the television face its doom, but in one or two scenes later, we are back at the apartment, and viola! A brand new TV! I’m not suggesting Eddie didn’t have the time to buy a new television. Although I hope he’s wealthy enough to live in the San Francisco area. What I am saying is, right next to the televison is a giant Sony box in all its glory! Ah, the ways to promote your products! Money talks! Money walks! I call this a guilty pleasure because it involves a couple scenes that serve their purpose, one of which had me laughing my ass off like a maniac, but they used them for some easy promotion. It’s not “Transformers: Age of Extinction” levels of obvious, but still.

Also, stay for the credits. You won’t regret it.

In the end, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” brings on the carnage to gargantuan levels! I recommend this sequel over the original. I do plan to watch it again at some point. Tom Hardy has become married to this character in a sense. I hope to see more of him, maybe they’ll do a “Venom 3” someday, I would very much like to see that. This is by no means the best comic book movie of the year, especially not compared to “The Suicide Squad,” but “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” gets a thumbs up from me, and I hope to see more of the character in the future. I’m going give “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” a 7/10.

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is now playing exclusively in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see my review for the original “Venom,” click the link right here! It’ll take you back a couple years after I saw the movie on opening weekend, where the audience I was with seemed to have a much better time than me. Also, my next review is going to be for “Halloween Kills,” which hits theaters this weekend and will also be streaming on Peacock. I just went to the press screening the other night, and I cannot wait to talk about it. Spooky season is here! 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 “Venom: Let There Be Carnage?” What did you think about it? Or, which “Venom” movie do you prefer? The original or the sequel? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021): This Ring-Filled Story Had Me Engaged Until the End

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, The Glass Castle) and stars Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience, Taken), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians), Meng’er Zhang (Oliver Twist, Finding Destiny), Fala Chen (The Undoing, No Regrets), Florian Munteanu (Creed II, Bogat), Benedict Wong (Raya and the Last Dragon, Annihilation), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians), Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book, Gandhi), and Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs, In the Mood For Love). This film is the 25th feature-length project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is about a guy named Shaun, also known as Shang-Chi, who reunites with his family and faces his past as he encounters the ten rings organization.

The Marvel train can’t stop, the Marvel train won’t stop. And honestly, despite a couple duds over the years like “Thor: The Dark World,” I am glad this train has yet to grind itself to a halt. Even though they were not perfect, I enjoyed the few Marvel shows we’ve gotten over the past number of months. I will also say that I enjoyed “Black Widow.” But additionally, as I watched some of this content, part of me became a tad worried, because I had a feeling regarding Marvel that I last felt in 2017 when “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” came out. While both movies had their moments, I think both “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” brought some level of disappointment to the table. And honestly, this feels weird to say, I may have had mixed feelings on “Thor: Ragnarok” too, even though I did find joy in it. Much like 2017, the 2021 Marvel slate has given viewers a fair share of “good” but it has yet to deliver that one gem that is comparable to say “Thor” or “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Let me tell you something, I’m going to confirm straight out of the gate, “Shang-Chi” is not my favorite comic book movie of 2021. It’s got some tough competition with James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” which received my first perfect score of the year when I reviewed it, but I think that Marvel greatness is coming back with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” I would say that as a Marvel fan, I was excited for “Black Widow” when they first announced it, and they executed it in a way that could please a Marvel fan like myself. But with “Shang-Chi,” I think it is going to do a better job at getting a wider audience to appreciate it over time. This is not just your standard Marvel movie with all your heroics, big booms, and such. This is a story that I feel could appeal to almost anyone. I would be SHOCKED if anyone comes out of this movie giving it a 1/10. Why? Because at the end of the day, this movie has one fun scene after the next with dozens of cool ideas and likable characters along the way. While I would not call this movie the next “Back to the Future,” I would put it aside that film in terms of accessibility to all audiences. Because that film is sci-fi, romance, comedy, adventure, and action all in one. It has a little something for everyone and each “something” is done to perfection. “Shang-Chi” I would say is a fine mix of action, mythology, comedy, family drama, and adventure.

I have never said this about any Marvel movie. Maybe with the exception of “Guardians of the Galaxy…” I would show this to my mother someday. For the record, she is *not* in the target audience for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know the MCU can appeal to a wide number of people (Look at “Endgame’s” box office!), but these movies were not ever something that would appeal to my mother specifically. Maybe if I was 8, dad was busy, I could not go to the movies by myself, or if we had some sort of family outing, she would have gone to see one of these Marvel films with me, but I would be surprised if she went to one of these films because she wanted to or if she had any excitement to check one out. I would not be surprised if I had to maybe bribe my mother to watch this film on one occasion or another, but if my mother asked me, “Would I like ‘Shang-Chi?'” My answer would be a “Yes.” And part of that is because of the heart of the film. The heart being, Simu Liu and Awkwafina as Shaun and Katy. These are two people who have been best friends for years and to me they are arguably the most fun pair in recent cinematic history. While I will say that “The Suicide Squad” is still my favorite comic book movie, not to mention favorite movie in general of 2021, I think “Shang-Chi” is going to arguably end up being this year’s biggest crowd-pleaser.

Speaking of, shoutout to Simu Liu for giving a great performance as the character of Shaun. I have not seen much of Liu’s work. I know he is one of the starring roles in “Kim’s Convenience,” which I hear is a really good show, but I have not seen much of it. Frankly, Liu’s performance as Shang-Chi, which to me, evoked a vibe between fun and brooding, made me excited to see what else he could do in the MCU. As for “Kim’s Convenience,” who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to it. But I have way too many things on my plate when it comes to content and life, so we shall see. Also, the man is quite the action star! In the first half of the film, there’s some choreography that comes off as butter smooth. It feels natural, exciting, and fast. I love it! There’s not much evidence in the film that Liu ever needed a double while doing the action scenes, which if anything, pleases me to no end. One of my favorite action stars today is Tom Cruise because he will take any opportunity, practically to meme-worthy points, to do his own stunts. I’m glad that Simu Liu is taking an opportunity to do the same.

You want action? This movie’s got it! This movie does what Marvel does best and delivers one of its finest examples of quality. “Shang-Chi” does a great job at mixing epic action with gutbusting humor, and this is heavily exemplified in the bus scene. The scene is simple. Shaun and Katy are on a bus together, a guy comes up to Shaun, wants his pendant, and he just starts busting everybody in this magnificently fast series of punches and kicks. I won’t go into what makes the scene funny, as I had no idea what was going to happen going in so I’ll let everyone else do the same. However, what makes this scene so awesome is that it sort of grounds the movie despite being in something as fantastical as the MCU. There’s not really any superhuman crap going on here. Well, kind of… There’s some suspension of disbelief that could be brought to the table. It’s just martial arts and trying to survive. Not only is this a breathtaking scene from the heavy duty stunts and eye-popping camerawork, but it also does a good job at progressing the story of the film and establishing a key point of Shaun and Katy’s relationship. Katy’s reactions to this incident could not have been written any better.

Now, you may have seen in the trailer that Wong of “Doctor Strange” fame was going to make an appearance in “Shang-Chi.” If you wanted to know, Wong is in the movie for a number of minutes, but he does not have too much of an impact on the plot from start to finish. He’s in the fight club, he’s in the movie a little later, won’t say when, but if you are a fan of Wong, which I am, I’m sure that his appearance in this film won’t disappoint. Honestly, this movie made me like Wong more, because it did a good job at making him show off a fun personality. Here it is shown that Wong seems to be the kind of guy that you would not mind going out and a having a few drinks with.

As far as origin stories go, “Shang-Chi” excels. In fact, it is up there with “Thor” as one of my favorite origin stories of the MCU. When it comes to the story of this film, much like “Thor,” one of the core aspects of the film is the family drama a good number of the characters experience for themselves. Much of “Thor” was a battle between two brothers trying to impress their father, and in “Shang-Chi,” it’s a situation where the main protagonist is doing whatever he can to disassociate himself with his father. The family drama in “Shang-Chi” had my attention all the way through because I cared about the characters and there comes a point where Shang-Chi’s past catches up to him and he seems to regret everything that happened in his childhood. This is what makes him a broken hero, not so squeaky clean, and much of the backstory and flashbacks regarding what made Shang-Chi who he is happened to be incredibly compelling.

Oh yeah, Awkwafina is a goldmine in this movie. I already mentioned that the relationship between Simu Liu and Awkwafina in “Shang-Chi” is one of my favorite relationships in recent cinema, but part of what makes that relationship blossom is Awkwafina’s performance in the film as Katy. She feels so hyperactive, fun, and the real life version of caffeine! I already admire Awkwafina as a performer, just look at what she did in “The Farewell,” one of my favorite movies of 2019. But “Shang-Chi” proves that one of her strengths is comedy. And honestly, she’s having one heck of a year as far as her resume is concerned, because I already loved her in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which turned out to be at one point, what I would consider to be the year’s best film. While I will say I like “Raya and the Last Dragon” a bit better than “Shang-Chi,” I think “Shang-Chi” will be a better reference to Awkwafina’s talent as a performer as it gives her a space to be dynamic and all over the place. I went through this entire movie wanting her to be my best friend, I think that is the best thing I can say about her. Honestly, if there is one thing I want after seeing “Shang-Chi,” it’s not just more of Katy, it’s more of Awkwafina in general. After seeing her in this film, I went from liking her, to legit wanting to treat her to lunch.

The flaws present in “Shang-Chi” are minimal. Again, I go back to my “Back to the Future” comparison, this is a film that I think just about anyone could enjoy, but it does not mean it is perfect. Before posting this review, I saw this film twice, and both times, I walked out saying the same thing, which is weird to say as a Marvel fan. This film becomes way too extravagant towards the end. You know how a lot of Marvel movies by the end like “The Avengers” or “Iron Man 3” will end in this big climactic battle? Everything is balls to the wall and flying in your face! CGI is everywhere! You can feel the production budget right in between your eyes! “Shang-Chi,” much like those movies, has that. But in the case of “Shang-Chi,” even though the film is by no means small, it feels weird seeing this big climactic sequence when the first half of the film feels natural and clean in terms of its action scenes. I will not do a deep dive into the second half of the film, but a lot happens and sometimes it can be overwhelming. It’s good stuff. Sometimes it’s great stuff, But when you take the fight choreography in the beginning of the film and compare it with everything towards the end, I find it to be a weird change of pace, even though it does at times match the opening scene, which by the way is an incredible opening scene, one of the best in the MCU. My question to myself is, if the story and characters were unlikable, how much would my opinion differ? It’s just something I want to keep on the backburner.

If you read my review for “Black Widow,” one of my complaints about that film, even though I liked it, is that at times, it felt like it was trying too hard to set up other MCU content. And this also brings in a growing complaint, or concern depending on how you look at it, that I have with the Marvel Disney+ shows like “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” My worry for the future of the MCU is that I will either have to watch a movie to understand what goes on in a television show, or the other way around. I am accustomed to seeing all of the MCU’s content on one specific medium, specifically feature films. As much as I like some things about the MCU shows, watching the MCU is starting to feel like homework. That’s not the case with “Shang-Chi,” and I say that for a couple reasons. First, the movie in general kicks ass. Second, the film feels like a contained story. Sure, it has Abomination in it. Sure, it has Wong in it. But “Shang-Chi” focuses best on being a great movie first as opposed to being a commercial for other MCU content. If you are not an MCU fan and want a place to start, I would not stop you from watching this first. It’s fun, action-packed, hilarious, and it has a little something for every viewer.

Also, I want to just say two words… Hotel. California.

In the end, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is one of the best movies of the year, and also one of the easiest to recommend to people. Going back to what I said about “The Suicide Squad,” which to be clear, is currently my favorite movie of the year, perhaps by a long shot. That is a film that I immensely enjoyed, arguably because it was made for someone like me. When it comes to “Shang-Chi,” there’s obviously a target audience, but I would not mind showing this movie to someone outside of that target audience and seeing what they think of it because I think they would get a kick out of it. The action is big, the pacing is fast, and I am looking forward to seeing more of Shang-Chi in the MCU. As for his pal Katy, I would like to call her my new best friend. I’m going to give “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” an 8/10.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available in 3D and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Malignant” which has been out for over a week. Take this statement however you want, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts on this movie. Let’s just leave it at that. Also, just recently I went to a local theater to check out “Copshop,” so I will have a review on that coming your way as well. 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 “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?” What did you think about it? Or, what upcoming Marvel project, I’ll even include television shows, are you looking forward to the most? For me, it’s “Eternals.” The concept sounds engaging, the cast is incredible, a lot of it is done on location, and Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao is the director. THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Free Guy (2021): Grand Theft Awesome

“Free Guy” is directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel) and stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, The White Princess), Lil Rel Howrey (Uncle Drew, The Carmichael Show), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project, The Muppets), Joe Keery (Stranger Things, Chicago Fire), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit). This film is primarily set in Free City, a massive sandbox video game where players can control characters through a massive city and go on missions. Guy, an NPC (non-playable character), discovers the secrets of the game and breaks the rules of his own character. While he is typically a bank teller who often finds himself in the middle of a robbery, he gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again and decides to level up his life while also trying to win the girl of his dreams.

I love Ryan Reynolds. The word “movie star” does not have as big of an impact as it may have years ago with faces including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Will Smith dominating the big screen with their blockbuster titles. There are a few big “movie stars” that have risen to astronomical heights over the years including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and others who have maintained their fame for years including Tom Cruise. When it comes to the conversation of which actor is currently the biggest star in the world, Ryan Reynolds has to be in the conversation every single time. He is one of Canada’s finest exports and adds a flair to every movie he’s in. This even includes ones I don’t like such as “The Croods” or “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

The concept of “Free Guy” by itself, where a video game NPC increasingly gains a sense of consciousness and humanity, is already one that could be considered a recipe for greatness. But if you put Ryan Reynolds into the picture, you’ve taken a great movie and bumped up its power by five times. This is a film that had a bumpy road in terms of its marketing. In fact I think the best trailer we got of the film was in 2019 when it made fun of Disney for putting out its animated titles in live-action form. I thought it was genius because it sounded like humor that would associate with Ryan Reynolds, especially considering how he has dominated the meta humor concept with a film like “Deadpool” and its sequel. The trailers after weren’t bad, but they did not live up to the original for me. Although there was a great piece of marketing that had Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool sitting next to Korg (Taika Waititi) doing what could only be a parody of a YouTube trailer reaction video. I was excited for this film despite the mixed road to get to the official release. And I say that even without acknowledging the ongoing pandemic, not that it should be forgotten.

What did I think of “Free Guy?”

Simply put, I had a lot of fun with “Free Guy.” When it comes to movies set in a video game universe, I think “Ready Player One,” which “Free Guy” reminded me of at times and is coincidentally also written by Zak Penn, is a slightly better film. But “Free Guy” takes a cool concept and gives it a smooth execution in the end. And I should not be surprised that this film is as good as it is. Because director Shawn Levy, whose recent projects include Paramount’s “Arrival” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” is a master at creating a film for everyone. One of my favorite films from my childhood is “Night at the Museum.” It is a film that does not exactly feel like it is being targeted at kids, but when it comes to both titles, many children could watch the film, understand much of what is going on, and appreciate everything in front of them. At the same time, adults could watch this film and have a great time with it. The first two films in that particular franchise have been a cornerstone of movie nights in my family. To see Levy do a movie like this does not surprise me, and if anything else, it pleases me.

For starters, it is an original idea, which in terms of blockbusters, feel very few and far between. In fact, this is technically the first Disney original live action film in years (technically because 20th Century Fox made it). I just love seeing creative, never before seen ideas come to life and “Free Guy” is a fine example of that.

Also, if the last couple decades have proven anything, people love video games, including me. Much of my childhood has been spent pushing the buttons on my Nintendo devices, so the idea of this film has a special place in my heart. I find it fascinating that this movie chooses to focus on someone who could be anyone and have them evolve. We look nowadays at video game NPCs as tools to let the player do their thing. But to have what is technically a tool sprout into something more is flat out fascinating. Yeah, it kind of feels like that cliche idea that “anyone’s special,” which as Dash from “The Incredibles,” would suggest, “which is another way of saying no one is.” It’s a cliche idea, but it is brought to life through something incredibly creative in addition to Ryan Reynolds’s terrific encapsulation of Guy.

One thing I’ve always noticed while I play a video game is that when you go by NPCs, they’ll often spew the same things out of their mouth over and over. A big part of that is because they’re portrayed by a certain actor, and actors will record a limited number of lines for a certain character, therefore they can only do so much. Therefore, NPCs are usually one-dimensional, do not have much personality, and are often in the background. In the case of Guy, I think Ryan Reynolds did a good job at making the character not feel flat or putting him in a sphere that makes his personality limited. In fact, Reynolds brings a sense of hyperactivity to his character despite him having a life that most would consider boring. Guy is a banker who drinks the same cup of coffee every day and says good morning to his goldfish by his bedside. This is an everyday routine for him, but he seems to accept it because he’s programmed that way.

Now I like Taika Waititi, but I think “Free Guy” has only increased the chances of me wanting to get together with the dude for lunch. You know how a lot of films directed towards young audiences will have an over the top villain? Taika Waititi’s character of Antwan almost seems to find himself within the confines of that description. Not that this movie is specifically for children, but nevertheless. In a lot of cases, this could be a turnoff because then the film could become a live-action cartoon, but not in “Free Guy!” If anything, Waititi’s performance is an utter enhancement in this film. The mixture of his lines and hyped up antics arguably makes him the best character of the movie. It kind of reminds me of another film Shawn Levy directed, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” because that film’s villain was Kahmunrah, and he was perhaps written and presented in such a way that could arguably make him cartoony, but it was presented in such a way where Levy and actor Hank Azaria seemed to embrace the silly that the script listed. As far as “Free Guy” is concerned, Taika Waititi plays a guy who might as well be jacked up on Red Bull all the time and does not seem to care much about others. As far as I’m concerned, I love the execution of this character, and I almost wonder if part of why it worked so well was because of the casting. I cannot imagine anyone other than Waititi playing Antwan at this point.

Without spoilers, the climax of “Free Guy” is a thing of beauty. The film just goes straight into becoming “Garry’s Mod” of all things. There’s some stuff in this climax that I had almost zero warning about going into it, and I think if you want to have the same reaction, do everything you can to avoid any online discussion about the end of the film. It is in a word, “epic.”

If I had any problems with “Free Guy” it would be that the film does get into some impractical nonsense by the end that comes off more or less as a plot convenience more than anything else. It is not a humungous turnoff as the rest of the film is nicely structured but there’s one moment towards the end that feels jumbled in terms of execution, and it’s a pretty important one. Maybe in the script, it sounds more coherent, but in the final product, it sounds kind of… pun intended, pixelated. It’s kind of sad considering the impact the moment was trying to deliver, but for some reason, they could not stick the landing.

This one moment does not take much away from the literal joy I achieved from watching “Free Guy.” “Free Guy” is a crazy, fun adventure. I love the setting, I love the idea, I love how it seems to have fun with our modern video game culture and how much of a cash cow it has become in addition to being heavy entertainment. I left this movie wanting more. I want to see more of Guy, Molotov Girl, Buddy, all the characters in this film were utter delights. I legit think that this is a movie that anyone could watch and enjoy. I sometimes go to see movies with my mom, and most of the movies I see with her are ones that usually are not action heavy or horror heavy. Despite the action heaviness of “Free Guy,” I legit think that this is a movie that my mother could put on and have a ball with despite some things being there that she may not usually tend to see on screen. If you like action, you’ll definitely like this movie, but the crew behind “Free Guy,” whether they intended to or not, did a really good job at creating something that a lot of people could find themselves attached to, even if it wasn’t specifically made for them. In that sort of way, I highly recommend “Free Guy” to anyone reading this and their friends.

In the end, “Free Guy” may solidify Ryan Reynolds as one of the finest Canadians to ever live and the film itself is easily one of my favorites of the year. Disney did not release this film on streaming. Granted, I do not know if they could have contractually, 20th Century Fox movies still go straight to HBO months after release. But from everything I’ve read, Disney practically had all the faith in the world given towards this movie. Based on what has been created, “Free Guy” has massive franchise potential. Heck, I could see this thing becoming a Disney ride at some point. The film is immersive, fun, bonkers, and just a straight up good time. “Free Guy” by the way is set in two different places. The real world and the game of “Free City.” to my surprise, the stuff that happens in the real world has the same level of intrigue as everything that happens in the world of “Free City.” To have the escape be as interesting as the world from which people are trying to escape is definitely pleasing. I’m going to give “Free Guy” an 8/10.

Also, if you need another reason to see this movie, you’ll get to see Alex Trebek one last time. Seeing him on screen brought a smile to my face and I am sure it will for many other viewers as well.

“Free Guy” is now playing exclusively in theaters and IMAX. Get your tickets now!

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that on Monday, August 23rd, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation.” The film is not as often talked about as the original, partially because it was made for television. But I am here to talk about it as we dive deeper into my ongoing review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review” as we celebrate Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. And speaking of reviews, be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Don’t Breathe 2.” I just saw the film last night and I intend to talk about it soon. If you want to read all this and more on Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Free Guy?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put yourself in the universe of any video game, which one would it be? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Suicide Squad (2021): The Best DC Movie Ever

“The Suicide Squad” is written and directed by James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) and stars Idris Elba (Thor, Pacific Rim), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), John Cena (Blockers, Wipeout), Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, For All Mankind), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Over the Top), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder, Fences), Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher, Divergent), Peter Capaldi (Paddington, Doctor Who), Daniela Melchior (The Black Book, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and David Dastmalchian (MacGyver, Ant-Man). This film is a sequel, well kind of, to 2016’s “Suicide Squad” and is the latest film set in the Detective Comics Extended Universe. The film is about a bunch of vigilantes, some of whom we’ve seen before like Harley Quinn and Rick Flag, in addition to newbies like Peacemaker and King Shark who are put on a mission to destroy all traces of Project Starfish.

When I saw “Suicide Squad” five years ago at the theater, I enjoyed it. Safe to say, my opinion quickly changed as soon as the home video release period came up because I got the movie as a Christmas gift, I popped it in, specifically the extended edition, and found myself displeased with what was in front of me. Harley Quinn was great, but the way they handled certain plot points and some of the editing was not up to my standards. Looking back, it looked like an effective ad campaign for Hot Topic without even mentioning the brand’s name once. Therefore, I was a tad weary going into “The Suicide Squad,” because prior to “Wonder Woman 1984” which came out last December, “Suicide Squad” has long stood as my least favorite DCEU film. So it has an offputting stain of displeasure. But there were also a few attractive factors brought to table that made me feel the need to see this film as soon as possible.

First, the film is rated R. While we have gotten some comic book movies over the past few years with said rating, including “Birds of Prey” which is also set in the DCEU, this did intrigue me as the previous “Suicide Squad” was PG-13 and I was curious to know how this film could be taken in a darker direction. Plus, if the “Deadpool” movies have proven anything, it’s that there is some REAL fun to be had with R rated comic book films.

Second, James Gunn. In case it matters, this guy is responsible for my senior quote in high school. This is a true story by the way, for my senior quote, I did some searching and came across one in particular from James Gunn’s IMDb page that stood out to me.

“I have a very strong imagination and have since I was a little kid. That is where a lot of my world comes from. It’s like I’m off somewhere else. And I can have a problem in life because of that, because I’m always off in some other world thinking about something else. It’s constant.” -James Gunn

I chose this quote because of how much I relate to it. I too consider myself to be imaginative, and in addition to that, I cannot say how much this ties to Gunn himself, but I have ADHD, therefore I am constantly wandering off from my own reality to somewhere else in my head. Here’s the thing, I graduated high school in 2018. That same summer, Gunn was fired by Disney due to old, offensive tweets being resurfaced. Gotta say, on the topic of my choice of senior quote, AWK-WAAAARRD. Keep in mind, Gunn notes that he is not the same man he was when he was younger. He has matured, he has evolved. But for those of you who know the story, he eventually was hired by Warner Bros. and DC. Of all the projects that Gunn could have chosen for DC, he ended up doing what we now know as “The Suicide Squad.” I have heard a number of stories on this film’s production. But one of the things that I have heard, at least on James Gunn’s part, is that the studio basically gave Gunn complete freedom to make whatever the hell he wanted.

Also, I’m not gonna lie, I really liked the trailers for this film. John Cena looked like he was gonna be a riot. Margot Robbie, per usual has a fine balance of mystery and humor within her Harley Quinn persona, and right off the bat, this actually did feel like a James Gunn film with the songs they chose for each trailer. In the end, this was easily my most anticipated film of the summer. And I thought that BEFORE the film had a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score for a period of time. But the past has proven that hype can kill a film. It’s happened to me with “Midsommar,” and in the case of James Gunn, I’ll even add that this happened with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which was my #2 most anticipated film of 2017, but I do not remember it fondly. I had a freight train of thoughts going into this film. What are my thoughts leaving the film?

It’s the best DC film ever.

Not just DCEU, I mean DC period. Like… Better than “The Dark Knight.” Better than “Wonder Woman.” Better than “V For Vendetta.” THIS FILM SLAPS!

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is what happens when you let a director make their movie! James Gunn is outright unhinged with this film. He’s the sole writer and director, and he has pretty much made every decision possible regarding the product. Not once did I feel like I was watching something that was done by a studio head at Warner Brothers. I think it is hilarious how in just less than a month, we get “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” arguably the most corporate, commercialized film Warner Bros. has put out to date, and then we get this masterpiece from James Gunn. Unbelievable!

When 2016’s “Suicide Squad” came out, I said that it felt very much like another version of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” After all, you have all these criminals coming together for the same purpose, but despite them being bad, they join forces to save the world. Plus both films sort of relied on rock heavy soundtracks, which looking back, “Guardians” did A LOT better than “Suicide Squad.” “Suicide Squad” felt as if it was trying to copy the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” but the former attempted to in a way that was inferior to the latter. I am glad to note that we got the ACTUAL director of that “latter” to come in and make something great out of a franchise that provided one of the worst comic book films of the last five years. And much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” part of the success is achieved from taking lesser known, or less appreciated comic book characters and putting them into scenarios that can turn them into gold. In MCU speak, I bet a lot of people knew who The Incredible Hulk was before his movie came out. Same can be said for Thor. The same cannot be said for the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the DCEU, we’ve already had a movie with the Suicide Squad, but unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, it changes out a lot of the main characters in the first film like Deadshot and Killer Croc and replaces them with other characters in the second film. Yes, Harley Quinn is back. But I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that most people watching this movie amongst the general audience would care to know who Polka Dot Man is in the comics. I’ve heard of Polka Dot Man before, he made an appearance in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” But I cannot say I was all that familiar with his history as a character.

I never thought I’d say this. “The Suicide Squad” made me care about a superbeing who spews… POLKA DOTS! I mean, WHAT?! Who ever thought this could be possible? Again, this goes to show the master class of James Gunn. He got me to care about a talking tree in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” When you can get me to care about a costumed man who throws magical polka dots at people, he’s not just a good director, he’s a flat out genius. Seriously! You wanna know how much I cared about Polka Dot Man? I literally picked up his Funko Pop the day after my screening! I love this guy! They gave him the social awkwardness of a geek combined with the hyper mania fuel of a kid who just discovered Red Bull. I do not want to give much away about this movie, but by the end of “The Suicide Squad,” there is a visual that references a tactic Polka Dot Man often follows, and it may be one of the single funniest shots I have seen in a movie in years.

Speaking of characters, let’s talk about Harley Quinn. Right now I am personally having trouble deciding whether I prefer the Margot Robbie Harley Quinn or the Kaley Cuoco Harley Quinn in terms of their personality, but one thing I cannot deny is that Margot Robbie has aced her role in “The Suicide Squad,” providing her most insane portrayal of the character yet. I’ve always admired this iteration of Harley Quinn since 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” I always thought that she could take any scene she’s in and automatically become the star of the show. But the thing that I think makes Harley Quinn better in this movie compared to her last two outings is that Robbie channeled Harley’s inner madness to her full potential. There is a scene in the second act where she just spews tons of dialogue towards someone in particular, filling in all sorts of potential blanks. Quinn has gone from being a hilarious scene stealer to the psychotic lovable moron that she is now.

I also love King Shark. For a lot of people who turn on this movie, I think this portrayal of King Shark is going to be their first introduction to the character. I personally have been watching him through DC’s “Harley Quinn” show, so this is not my first rodeo with him. I like King Shark in “Harley Quinn,” but I LOOOOOVE him in “The Suicide Squad.” Basically, King Shark in this film is a funnier, raunchier version of Lennie from “Of Mice and Men,” a simple minded, CGI, walking, talking, briefs-wearing shark who will tear you to shreds if you so much as even get close to screwing around with him. At the same time though, James Gunn managed to write this character in such a way that effectively personifies him and makes him relatable. We see throughout the film that yes, he is a man-eating shark that can walk on land for some reason, but he has a rather subversively cute motivation that is nicely explored from start to finish. Also, Sylvester Stallone, you are a god. James Gunn picked you for a reason and you knocked this out of the park.

I also want to talk about John Cena as Peacemaker. I think out of all the characters in the movie, he was the one who I think Gunn did the best job at fleshing out in terms of complexity. Having seen Peacemaker’s costume in the marketing, I was a tad skeptical. Would Cena be too goofy? Would I take him seriously? Not gonna lie, as goofy as the costume looks, it really pops and I was able to take Cena seriously in the film. I sometimes talk about “Blockers” and how much I like that movie. Although one fair critique of that film is that John Cena, as funny and likable as he is, does not have the best range as an actor. I like him in the movie, but I think that is a fair critique. Here, I think James Gunn and John Cena are a perfect match for each other. I mean, look back at “Guardians of the Galaxy” and look at Dave Bautista. Sure, he gave a good performance in the film. It does not mean he’s the best actor. I feel like Bautista and Cena are the muscle of their movies. Their performances in their individual movies differ in ways, but that’s who their well-built characters are at their core. During the film, Cena delivered a lot of funny one liners, including some of the more memorable ones.

“It’s not a toilet seat, it’s a beacon of freedom!”

However, by the end of the film, without going into spoilers, there’s a moment where I could tell that John Cena has some legit acting skills. I felt the exact emotions his character was going through. What emotions exactly? I cannot say. But if you watch this film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

I will also note for all the parents who want to take their kiddies to the brand new superhero movie that some call “The Suicide Squad,” you may want to think twice, because your kids have probably seen flashy violence in movies like “Batman v. Superman,” painful moments in movies like “Avengers: Infinity War,” but I could only wonder what would prepare your kids for the ultra-gorey and visceral madness that “The Suicide Squad” has to offer. This film is not just violent, it goes over the top in more ways than one. Let me just put it this way. The first act had me laughing and slapping my knees at all the crazy violence going on. That’s the result of a great movie. But the REAL craziness doesn’t even stop there. There’s some real s*it that happens towards the end of the film that no PG-13 film could get away with. It’s basically “Mortal Kombat” in the DC universe!

In fact, one of my critiques for “Birds of Prey,” the DCEU’s first R-rated outing, is that the film, while serviceable, NOT GREAT, but serviceable, has an R-rating attached to it, but I feel like by the end of the film, it does not do much to satisfy its R-rating. “The Suicide Squad” is so mature that it might as well tear the audience to shreds when presented in 3D! So immersive!

Did I mention the soundtrack? Oh yeah, this movie has a good soundtrack! It’s probably just as good as John Murphy’s score! Seriously, by the end, there was a song that gave me goosebumps that I was not expecting from a movie like this! James Gunn chose some songs that not only fit the scenes they were in, but I even think I like this one better than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Granted, I still think the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” has a better soundtrack than “The Suicide Squad,” but my point stands. The music in this film may as well have been put together by a mastermind!

Supporting the notion that no movie is perfect, let’s talk about one thing that I could consider to be wrong in “The Suicide Squad,” and by wrong, I do not mean that in a huge way, it’s just a slight nitpick. I am not going to get into full details, as this would involve spoilers, but there is a shot in the movie that if you really know how shots and visual effects mix together, it would make *spoiler* feel a bit more predictable. That’s the one nitpick I can come up with aside from one more thing, and again, this is not something that is a turnoff, it’s just something that is noticeable and needs to be addressed.

In 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” which stars Will Smith as Deadshot, that character was a tall, rather hunky dude who wants to reunite with his kid. In 2021’s “The Suicide Squad,” which stars Idris Elba as Bloodsport, that character was a tall, rather hunky dude who wants to reunite with his kid. I know Will Smith was not in this movie for a reason, but still, it’s interesting how they barely changed certain traits about the main character. I mean if it ain’t broke don’t fi– Actually, I take that back, the 2016 “Suicide Squad” was pretty broke to begin with.

There’s not really anything else I can think of that turned me off in this film. Every joke landed. Every kill was satisfying. Every character was likable, and by the end of the film, I feel like everyone earned their destiny. James Gunn has a pure talent for making a film completely action packed and bonkers but also leaving enough room to have heart and soul in it. I started watching “The Suicide Squad” grinning ear to ear and laughing my ass off like a maniac, but by the end of it, I was simply in awe and I felt for all the characters. “Suicide Squad” from five years ago had me walking out saying I want to see more of Harley Quinn. “The Suicide Squad” had me walking out saying I want to see more of not just Harley Quinn, but King Shark, Ratcatcher, Peacemaker, EVEN POLKA DOT MAN… among other characters!

In the end, “The Suicide Squad,” I don’t want to sell it short. It’s the best freaking movie Warner Bros. has put out with a DC logo on it. Simply put, Marvel and Disney firing James Gunn is probably the best thing that ever happened to DC. And as a result, it may be one of the best things to happen in James Gunn’s career as “The Suicide Squad” has now become one of my favorite comic book movies of all time. Guys, I urge you to check this movie out. It is the literal definition of bonkers. It is something so violent, so funny, and yet so heartwarming. I almost wonder if we’ll get another DCEU movie like this again. I am looking forward to what’s coming up in the DCEU between “The Flash,” “Aquaman 2,” and “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods.” But they are following in the footsteps of something completely unique and mind-boggling that I almost wonder what it’s gonna take to top it. James Gunn, you have made a masterpiece, and I am glad to know that my senior quote that I mentioned earlier has been redeemed! I’m going to give “The Suicide Squad” a 10/10!

“The Suicide Squad” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including IMAX, and you can also watch it for free on top of your subscription on HBO Max until early September.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that at the moment I am currently trying to review all four “Revenge of the Nerds” movies in a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This Monday, August 16th, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” Stay tuned for that as we celebrate Scene Before’s fifth anniversary! Also, I want to remind you all that this weekend, “Free Guy” hits the big screen, but I will probably waiting until sometime next week, maybe even next weekend, perhaps later, to share my thoughts on it. Life’s been crazy and busy, it is what it is. But, I will see it, I will review it, I am looking forward to it. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Suicide Squad?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you prefer? 2016’s “Suicide Squad?” Or 2021’s “The Suicide Squad?” My answer is pretty obvious, but I’ll let you share your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Snake Eyes (2021): A G.I. Joe Spinoff with Dice, But No Spice

“Snake Eyes” is directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, R.I.P.D.) and stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Fast & Furious 6), Úrsula Corberó (The Secret Life of Pets, The Emoji Movie), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Bill & Ted Face the Music), and Iwa Uwais (The Raid, Stuber). This film is a spinoff set in the “G.I. Joe” franchise and follows the origin story of Snake Eyes, whose father was murdered during his youth. Since that tragic day, the character seeks to avenge his father as he grows into a full-blown martial arts fighter.

G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (TV Mini Series 1984) - IMDb

No lie here, I have never watched anything related to “G.I. Joe,” nor have I grown up with the franchise. I have never played with the toys, never bought any of the merch. This was my first “G.I. Joe” anything… Ever. I saw the marketing for this film and quite frankly it was never my in my top block of movies to see this summer. If anything, it may have been closer to somewhere in the middle. The trailers never looked awful, but I cannot say they looked great either. If anything I felt rather indifferent while watching them. That may be partially due to my lack of commitment to the “G.I. Joe” franchise in addition to just simply looking forward to other movies like “The Suicide Squad” more. The trailer that I usually saw over the past few weeks at the theater just felt like it lacked a flavor that could individualize this film from others. It felt kind of cookie cutter and surface level. But if a movie like “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has taught me anything, it is that even movies with not so great trailers can turn out to be watchable.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with “Snake Eyes” as I walked out of the film thinking it was one of the biggest bores of the year.

One of the movies I had the most fun with this year is the new edition of “Mortal Kombat.” It was definitely worth the theater experience and was a fun blend of fantasy, action, and gore. But the real draw for the movie was not that it was constructed perfectly, it was that the film was a product of entertainment before anything else. That film was, unsurprisingly, done by a writing/directing combo who had little experience. The action scenes, while fun, were also cut very quickly. It was just too much going on at once, therefore everything was not presented in maybe the most effective manner. For the case of “Snake Eyes,” the directing/writing team of this film unfortunately have been working for a long time. In fact, the director of “Snake Eyes,” Robert Schwentke, does not have the best track record according to critics in recent years. “R.I.P.D.,” which released in the summer of 2013, has a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes critically, and the audience score is not great either with a 37% total. He also directed the last two “Divergent” movies. I will admit, of the movies that came out in that franchise, I would have to say the first one he did, “Insurgent” is probably my favorite and one of the more visually stunning films of 2015. But I cannot say the same for its sequel, “Allegiant,” which was one of the most horribly paced action films of the last six years. The visuals in that film at times looked like something out of a Wii game!

While “Snake Eyes,” thankfully, is no “Allegiant,” it is also not good. In fact, I am having trouble remembering certain parts of it. But one thing that I do remember is that the main character, gosh the writers did try to make him likable, but it felt weird trying to root for him as he was technically working for the bad guys. Plus, by the end of the movie, there is another character who I think is more of a “hero” than he is.

I will say one thing about the character of Snake Eyes, I do think the guy who plays him is charming. Snake Eyes in this film is played by Henry Golding, who I have not seen a lot of on screen, but I have seen him in a couple things. I do think that after seeing him in “Snake Eyes,” he would be a great leading man in an original Bond-like spy film. By that I mean a spy film where Golding is the one who is front and center on the poster, he carries the movie. I think Golding has that potential. I just wish “Snake Eyes” as a film did the actor, along with others involved, a tad more justice.

This film, at times, just looks plain atrocious. No, seriously, if you want to talk about terribly crafted shots in cinema, look no further. Just watch a scene in the middle featuring Samara Weaving as Scarlet, and no, I’m not exactly talking about the picture above. To call that scene an eyesore would be an understatement. I mean, sorry for the digression, Samara Weaving being an eyesore would be a lie. First off, she is good-looking, on top of being an incredibly talented actress. Just watch “Ready or Not.” Although I do think her performance in this film was not one she’d want on her resume. I don’t think Weaving truly had a chance to showcase the best of her acting abilities.

One of the complaints I have about the action in “Snake Eyes” is that it dives into that trend that was made popular by films like those in the “Bourne” franchise, shaky cam to be specific. You know that thing where they move the camera so rapidly it’s almost like the camera is simulating the beginning of the end of the world? That happens in “Snake Eyes,” and at the worst possible times. Seriously! Sticking with what I said about shaky cam, there is literally a scene in the movie where Scarlet walks down a hall and the camera is moving all over the place! It’s so incomprehensible and deranged! Why does someone walking down a hall have to appear as action packed as Snake Eyes trying to slash people to death? Tell me!

This movie, obviously like all others, are made for the purpose of profit. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, the idea of profit is questionable. Either way, profit for a film like “Snake Eyes” could have meant more than just a success or a sequel. For me, it could have gotten me more into the “G.I. Joe” franchise. I’m not saying I will never watch another “G.I. Joe” movie, but “Snake Eyes” did not make me want a sequel, and I was just too uninterested to say that I will go back and dive deeper into this franchise’s source material or other spinoffs. I think “Snake Eyes” obviously would have done better without a pandemic, but I think even without one, the movie would still struggle to justify franchise expansion. My first thought when I saw the trailer for “Snake Eyes,” regardless of how well put together the trailer was, happened to be “Okay, whatever.” My first thought after seeing the movie “Snake Eyes” was, “Ehhh….” Yep, I don’t think I want to see a sequel at this point.

In the end, “Snake Eyes” is not an eye-roller, but it’s also not a high roller. Again, this is my first dive into the “G.I. Joe” franchise, so as a newbie, maybe I chose a poor place to start. At the same time though, first impressions matter. It’s like trying to get someone into “The Simpsons.” Because that series has evolved so much and has continued to remain a part of our popular culture that as newer pieces of it releases, the differences between the new and old content begin to become noticeable. Do we go with glitchy animation and classic humor? Do we go with hi-def episodes and the mocking of modern trends? Do we go with “The Simpsons Movie?” There’s a lot to pick from! But all things considered, “Snake Eyes” was not my cup of joe. I’m going to give “Snake Eyes” a 4/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! I also want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for the all new Disney theme park ride-based film, “Jungle Cruise.” I just watched the movie last Thursday and I will have my thoughts hopefully shared by the end of the week. Speaking of the end of the week, I want to let everyone know that I will be seeing “The Suicide Squad” this Saturday and I will have my review for it up sometime next week!

Staying on the topic of next week, stay tuned for Monday, August 9th, because I will be starting the all new review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This is a series that I personally felt has been long overdue given my attachment to these movies, or more notably the first one, in addition to “King of the Nerds,” the reality competition series inspired by the film franchise given how it is hosted by two of the actors who appear in the movies, Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong. I cannot wait to share this series with you as we continue celebrating 5 years of Scene Before!

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 “Snake Eyes?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite spinoff? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): Jack Sparrow’s Least Memorable Quest Yet

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the fifth and final installment in the ongoing review series “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” So far, each film I have talked about has impressed me in one way or another. I cannot say any of them were totally perfect, but I do recommend them for various reasons. If you want to find out more about why I recommend these movies, read my reviews for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and “On Stranger Tides.” Now with that out of the way, it is time to talk about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, two directors known for their work on 2012’s “Kon Tiki.” This film stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, No Country For Old Men) Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo) Brenton Thwaites (The Giver, Gods of Egypt), Kaya Scodelario (Skins, The Maze Runner), and Kevin McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy). “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth installment to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow as he is pursued by a notable, ongoing threat, Captain Salazar, who was killed some time ago by Sparrow but now he returns to end Jack Sparrow’s life.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So far, the “Pirates” films have all been at the very least… “competent.” Even “Dead Man’s Chest,” which I ended up giving a 6/10, still had its moments of joy and fun. I think Gore Verbinski did a wonderful job at finding a fascinating balance between goofiness and seriousness with the first three films, even though as the trilogy progressed, the darkness kept creeping up. Although given my personal tastes, I would not call that a huge negative. As mentioned in my review for “On Stranger Tides,” Rob Marshall took on directing duties for that particular installment, which ended up providing mixed results. I enjoyed the movie. It’s a serviceable “Pirates” adventure, but I feel like Marshall, the writers, and Disney spent more time trying to think about how the film could look good in 3D as opposed to crafting a story, which is kind of unfortunate because I was rather interested in the Fountain of Youth concept.

On that note, I will address that my first positive regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” despite it ultimately being released in 3D, the directors of the film did a better job at not going over the top in terms of making the film feel more like a gimmick. At the same time though I will jump to my first negative, this film is arguably my least favorite film in the “Pirates” franchise in terms of story.

On paper, I feel like this fifth film was made more or less to get people paid rather than provide an entertaining experience. I mean, come on! Was everyone so desperate for a fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? But as I have learned with “The LEGO Movie,” any movie can work if you execute it properly. Did they properly execute “Dead Men Tell No Tales?”

Well, kinda. Like all the other “Pirates” films, this is an enjoyable watch. But it may also arguably be the one of the bunch that has the least potential in terms of replay value. Or at least replay value mixed with excitement. I do like how they go down the Turner lineage in this film. In the original movies we obviously see Orlando Bloom play Will Turner, a character who I have grown to admire throughout the franchise. Unfortunately, he did not have a presence in the fourth movie. In this fifth installment, we mainly focus on his son, Henry Turner. We see him early on, he’s ordered by Captain Salazar to deliver a message to Sparrow. Then we eventually see him alongside Sparrow throughout the film. I think Thwaites is one of those actors who definitely has the physique, or lack thereof in this case mixed in with some hints of charisma, to play the type of character a script like this one needs. I did not like “Gods of Egypt.” I think it is one of the worst films to have come out in 2016. But the main problem was not Brenton Thwaites as a performer. I think of the direction given to him and some of the other cast members is a hindrance on the film itself, but Thwaites is not the problem. In the same way, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is probably my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. But there are also things to like about it, Brenton Thwaites’s performance is in fact one of those things. Although when it comes to Turners, Henry is no Will. I feel like Orlando Bloom was born to play Will Turner. As much of a match Thwaites is as his son, Will’s just a slightly more likable character. I bought Orlando Bloom as a brave apprentice in “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and ever since he has grown on me. If they make a “Pirates 6,” which seems less likely by the day given what’s going on with Johnny Depp, who does a good job in the movie, I would be curious to see Henry Turner again, I just don’t know if he’ll maintain the charisma that his father had.

If you want to get a simple perspective of my thoughts on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” I will just sum it up like this. Even though “Dead Man’s Chest” earned a lower grade than the other four films I reviewed before this one, I at least remember a good portion of that film. I am increasingly forgetting “Dead Men Tell No Tales” by the second. It’s not that I want to forget it. It’s just not as great of a film as maybe I would have hoped to have gotten. In fact one of my complaints regarding “Dead Man’s Chest” that is also one of my complaints regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is that Jack Sparrow goes through this event where he almost arguably should die. Now, it’s probably not as absurd as the one in “Dead Man’s Chest,” where we see Jack falling from such an enormous height and being completely okay. But if I put myself in another mindset, it also kind of is more absurd. It’s hard to compare these two unrealistic events in terms of which one ticks me off more. I’m not gonna say exactly what happens, but if you’ve seen “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” you probably know what I am referring to as soon as I say the word “guillotine.”

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I think if there’s one thing that I like about “Dead Men Tell No Tales” it’s that there is a sense of maintained consistency between this film and all the other ones that have been done so far. A lot of the familiar music returns in this installment. Some characters like Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Gibbs return as their charismatic selves. Per usual, the movie does make me want to immerse myself in a high-seas adventure. Although I feel like the fun that I had in this film is a far cry from the fun I had with say “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” The supporting characters in this film, and I will also admit that the first movie had this problem to a degree, were not as fascinating as the script was trying to make them out to be. Although I do think Kaya Scodelario and once again, Brenton Thwaites, gave competent performances.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, I have already forgotten a good portion of “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and I did not want to say that. This is easily my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. I do want to watch it again at some point. Maybe it’s better the second time, but based on the collective consensus, I think most people would agree with my statement. The film looks good, sounds good, is performed decently, but they just couldn’t stick the landing. It seems as if the directors did everything they could to recapture the magic of the original movie, but as they tried to do it, they just ended up making something that would make me tune out every now and then. The vibe is okay, I just wish that it were in a better movie. Do I want to see a “Pirates 6?” I wouldn’t say no. But if we do get one, I just hope it’s better than this. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” a 5/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. You can also subscribe to Disney+ and watch the movie there at your convenience.

Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks for tuning in to my “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews! Speaking of Disney theme park rides, be sure to stay tuned for my eventual review of “Jungle Cruise.” It won’t be my next post, I still have to review “Snake Eyes.” But it is coming!

Also, stay tuned for August because I will be diving into a cult classic series that I often look back on, “Revenge of the Nerds.” That’s right! On August 9th, we will be doing a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” This means on Monday, August 9th, I will be talking about the first “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, which has become one of my more rewatched comedies in recent years. On August 16th, I’ll be discussing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” AND YES, I’ll even discuss the TV films. Look forward to my reviews of “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” on August 23rd and “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” on August 30th. I’m doing this review series, in addition to a bunch of others in honor Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. I have always wanted to do a “Revenge of the Nerds” themed month, so I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this long-awaited series. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales?” What did you think about it? Or, give me your ranking of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films from best to worst. Which swashbuckling adventure is following its compass into the right direction? Which high-seas escape sinks into the ocean? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011): A Time of Battle, Piracy, and Three Dimensions

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today we continue sailing the high seas and venturing forth on our quest to complete the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Just want to remind you, if you have not already, check out my reviews for the “Pirates” films I have covered so far including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” and “At World’s End.” Just a reminder for the “At World’s End” review, it does contain spoilers. This week, we will be discussing “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment in the franchise and the first one without Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, or Gore Verbinski, otherwise known as the director of the past three films. Can director Rob Marshall craft a fine “Pirates” adventure? Find out in my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland), Penélope Cruz (Volver, Vanilla Sky), Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Deadwood), Kevin R. McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy), and Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo). This film is the fourth installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow and Barbossa as they go on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Meanwhile, franchise newcomers Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penélope Cruz) are after the fountain too. The film was also interestingly enough inspired by the book, “On Stranger Tides.”

After watching three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films that are not only done by one man with a singular vision, but crafted almost as if there was a whole story that could have arguably been told in three movies of buildup. Now as we get into this fourth film, it feels like we are in a clean slate. We’re starting fresh with a new director and a ton of money. No, seriously. This film is the most expensive ever made at a grand total of $379 million (before gross). Part of it has to do with Johnny Depp, but still, if you watch the film, you’ll know that it ain’t cheap. In fact, this is also the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film released in 3D in addition to IMAX 3D. We’ll get into that aspect of the film for sure.

One of the reasons why I was somewhat nervous going into “On Stranger Tides” is that Gore Verbinski’s name was not attached. After all, his touch was complete, at least from what I would expect. However, the writers of the original films, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio returned to do this project. To know that these two returned pleased me to say the least. In a world of unneeded sequels, was “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” worth watching?

I’d say it was.

While I won’t say this film is as rewatchable as “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End,” the film is nevertheless a fun addition to a franchise that has become perhaps the definition of a modern pirate movie. Seriously, what else comes to mind nowadays? It was fun to see the franchise utilize one of the most famous pirates in history, Blackbeard, played wonderfully by Ian McShane. One of the things that I often note that “Pirates” does spectacularly is a balance between seriousness and goofiness. There are multiple scenes where we see Sparrow and Blackbeard together and I often note that Sparrow has the goofier traits at hand and Blackbeard is more grounded. I like that this franchise is keeping the balance together and not letting this see-saw collapse.

The best parts of this movie are not necessarily the story or anything of extended concept. The reality is that this film’s best parts come from concepts that resemble obstacles. There’s a scene where we some pirates on a boat facing a ton of mermaids, which was spooky and somewhat action-packed. There was a clip of the film where Jack and Barbossa are on a boat and they could barely move a muscle and the boat would nearly fall in such a dramatic fashion. The film also started off with a really entertaining sequence in Britain. We see Jack trying to rescue Joshamee Gibbs, he’s interacting with King George II while still maintaining his goofy stride. There’s a chaotic yet decently choreographed action sequence towards the end, it’s a fun welcoming back to the “Pirates” franchise. Meanwhile, not long afterwards, we are introduced Penélope Cruz as Angelica. I think she brought the same swift, swashbuckling swagger that say Orlando Bloom did in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. This also brings me to my next compliment. I am pleased to know that this film manages to craft an interesting story despite not having Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, who play two of my favorite characters in the franchise. Do I prefer those two over Penélope Cruz? Absolutely. They are incredible actors who play characters who I have grown to appreciate. But to know that this film, not to mention franchise, can work without them, goes to show that maybe even the most unnecessary movies can work. Did we need a fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? Not really. Then again, what movie is necessary to begin with? But the point is, this movie managed to entertain me without relying on everything that made “Pirates” great to begin with. It goes to show that the franchise is capable of evolving.

Once again, I cannot go on without noting Johnny Depp, that expensive son of a gun. For the record, Depp was paid $55 million. Was his performance truly worth $55 million? As far as big fantasy style movies go, it is arguable. I am not going to address anything regarding the current controversy regarding him and Amber Heard, but I will address that Depp has practically aced his Jack Sparrow character every single time. While I think his performance in “At World’s End” may honestly be my favorite from him, his dive into the character “On Stranger Tides” does not disappoint. I’d also say that this may be, and it feels weird to say this, the most relatable that Jack Sparrow has been in the franchise. Yes, he continues revealing unusual quirks that only he could possess, but still.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” Blackbeard (Ian McShane) Photo: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Although I do want to address something. I missed this movie in the theater, and part of me regrets not going. Because this film came out during a time where 3D basically dominated the big screen. Every other movie that came out at this point in time was either shot in 3D like “Avatar” or converted to 3D like “Clash of the Titans.” In the case of “Pirates 4,” this film was shot with the Fusion Camera System, so it was filmed in 3D off the bat and did not need any conversion in post-production. First off, I wish in a world where 3D still has slight relevancy that we get more films that are actually shot for the 3D experience instead of being post-converted. Second, I feel like the 3D in “On Stranger Tides,” while somewhat pleasing to the eye, occasionally felt forced. There are a few scenes in the film where there’s swords pointing at the lens and it’s basically an invitation for viewers to take their hand out and touch it. Once again, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is the most expensive film of all time. If they spent all this money on making the film 3D for nothing more than a cheap gimmick, then what’s the point? I want to watch the film in 3D at some point. I do have the 3D Blu-ray disc, but I do not have a 3D TV. Part of me is curious as to how much the 3D could enhance the movie for me. However, the gimmick does not take much away from the fun I had watching the movie, and believe when I say that the film itself is a lot of fun. The action’s great, it’s clever, Johnny Depp is really good in it, and the cinematography is eye-popping. In fact, Dariusz Wolski, who did the cinematography for all the other “Pirates” films returned to do this one, so to say that this film looks nice is not a surprise.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is a fun, expensive thrill ride. Some of the original cast has returned and gave it their best. Penélope Cruz is a welcome addition to the franchise. Rob Marshall did an okay job helming the film between balancing the light and dark vibes together, crafting magnificent sequences, and delivering another great performance out of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. Is it as memorable as some of the other films? I would not say so, but in its own way, it is a fun time, and I personally think it is better than “Dead Man’s Chest.” Was the 3D necessary? I don’t think so. But it did not take away from the enjoyment I had watching this film. I will also add, unsurprisingly, Hans Zimmer delivered a great score and I love his theme for Blackbeard. I think it is one of the best tunes in this entire franchise. I am going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray. The film is also available on Disney+ and as of writing this, it is also available on Starz.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes week 4 of 5 in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. Next Thursday, July 29th, I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the most recent installment in the franchise. This is the last “Pirates” movie I will be discussing in preparation for another film inspired by a Disney theme park ride, “Jungle Cruise,” which will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30th. Expect a review for that movie soon. I might plan on seeing it opening Thursday depending on how my schedule unfolds. 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 “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you thought was made better by seeing it in 3D? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021): The Most 2021 Movie Ever

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is directed by Malcom D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School) and stars LeBron James (The Wall, Smallfoot), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Crash), Khris Davis (The Blacklist, Judas and the Black Messiah), Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery, The Walking Dead), Jeff Bergman (The Looney Tunes Show, Teen Titans Go!), Eric Bauza (DuckTales, Ben 10: Omniverse), and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman). This film is the sequel to the 1996… Cult classic? I don’t know what else to call it. I really didn’t like the film. Just gonna say it. Either this film is the sequel to the 1996 film “Space Jam,” a movie where Michael Jordan joins forces with the Looney Tunes to fulfill both their destinies through a game of basketball. In this 2021 sequel, LeBron James’s son is trapped in the Warner 3000 server and to save his son, James must compete in a basketball game with the Looney Tunes against Al-G Rhythm and the Goon Squad. If LeBron and his team win, he gets his son back. If Al-G and his team win, LeBron will lose his son and the Looney Tunes will be erased.

I did not grow up in the 1990s. In fact I was born a few years after “Space Jam” came out. So it was never a part of my childhood in a way that it may have been for some people. I would hear the name come up every now and then and part of me wanted to know what I was missing. The whole idea behind it sounded like something from another universe. I for one do not usually put two and two together, but as peculiar as it sounded, it also came off as intriguing. I for one wanted to keep my eyes peeled as to how such a crazy idea that sounds like it could have been designed by an eight year old would rise to fruition. Well… it definitely sounded like something an eight year old would come up with, that’s for sure. Between Michael Jordan’s below par acting, the usually unfunny and campy writing, and occasionally lackluster camerawork, the film just didn’t click with me. And much like “Uncle Drew” in 2018, which I ended up claiming that it “didn’t do much of anything except chop my head off,” “Space Jam” is not even an original idea! They took the idea from an ad campaign!

As much as I would love to one day see the GEICO cinematic universe, where 90 minutes at the AMC won’t exactly save you 15% or more on concessions, “Space Jam” to me, was not quite a commercial failure, but it had a ton of flaws. Although I will say that it truly is a product of its time and embraces the 1990s cheese.

Now we have this part live-action, part animation, part heavy modern CGI animation “Space Jam” sequel. Is it better than the original?

Kinda? I don’t know. Let’s just put it this way, the original “Space Jam” was a product of its time and does not really hold up as much today as it did when it came out. I feel like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is going to suffer the same fate overtime. Between the pricy yet somewhat unrealistic visuals, the cinematic universe element, and a heavy reliance on computers and sci-fi, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is probably the most 2021 movie to ever 2021.

Going back to the recently mentioned “Uncle Drew,” one of the things I hated about that movie is how much they seemed to shoehorn Pepsi product placement into every other scene. The plot of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a bit more in your face with product placement because it relies on LeBron James teaming up with the Looney Tunes to find a bunch of a different characters from the Warner Brothers library. The whole movie is basically a promotion for Warner Brothers. This begs the question… Is “Space Jam: A New Legacy” even a movie in the first place? In fact, one of the big things people have been talking about at the end of the movie is that a majority of the audience in the big game happen to be Warner Bros. characters or characters from a variety of properties. People even brought up characters from “A Clockwork Orange” and asked why they’re in a family-friendly movie. I don’t really have that complaint because “The LEGO Batman Movie” had characters from “The Matrix” which is also rated R. So that’s just me. Either way, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it is trying harder to get people to attach themselves to other Warner Brothers properties more than they are to Looney Tunes or LeBron James. I understand that the Looney Tunes has had a history of pop culture references. Heck, one of the moments I recall often from the original “Space Jam” is a reference to “Pulp Fiction.” But this movie barely feels like it has a clear identity at times and uses alternate properties in your face to move the story along.

Let’s talk about LeBron James. I know he’s had a few acting credits. Frankly I have not seen any of them. I still have not seen “Trainwreck,” “Smallfoot,” or any other movie or show he’s been in. I’ve seen some of the TV shows he produces including “The Wall,” but I cannot recall ever seeing him act. And I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases more of a semblance of acting talent from LeBron James than the original “Space Jam” did from Michael Jordan. The difference at times feels night and day. The bad news is that the good news does not really say much because LeBron is not that great of an actor. In fact, at times he’s very flat, especially at the beginning of the movie. I’ll defend James in one area. I think he could have a reputable career in voiceovers if he chooses to go down that path. But he is nevertheless not the greatest actor. Nor is he the greatest character in this movie. In fact at times, LeBron James is kind of an asshole. Now, I know that movies are supposed to get you to like assholes as they progressively change into better people. But the way that LeBron treats his son in the movie kind of left a bad taste in my mouth as far as my first impression goes and sort of made James himself lack dimension.

Also, I know that this is a kids movie, and I’m trying my best to judge with the notion in mind that someone younger could end up watching this film and calling it the best thing ever. I think that scenario is entirely plausible. If you have kids, I think they will end up really liking the film. It’s got the Looney Tunes in it, it’s got a bunch of other Warner Brothers properties in it. But at the end of the day, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it could end up brainwashing kids to buy more Warner Brothers stuff just because they saw it in this movie. If anything, this reminded me of “The Emoji Movie” where the characters jump from one world to another and every other plot thread is utilized through existing properties or companies from Candy Crush Saga to YouTube! Thankfully, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is nowhere near as annoying. But if I left the movie saying to myself… Hmm, I wanna go watch “Wonder Woman.” I think it is ultimately a slight detractor on “Space Jam: A New Legacy” because well, unlike “Wonder Woman,” I do not want to go back and watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” again.

I also want to address the Lola Bunny controversy… I’m not talking about the way she looks. I don’t care if they desexualized her. Although weirdly enough, the Granny character feels borderline sexualized at times. Take that as you want. What I do want to talk about is Zendaya playing the character. I get it, Zendaya is becoming an increasingly iconic actor. In fact, she recently won a Primetime Emmy. So that proves that she has talent. As far as her being in this movie, her voice kinda fits the character, but I want to talk about a trend that is somewhat becoming a growing concern. Taking film actors who are not primarily voiceover artists, and giving them voiceover roles just for the sake of having big names. That would be fine if they could find anyone else, but between Zendaya not feeling like she has the spark I would have expected from a character like this (although I liked her in the beginning) and the fact that this takes a role away from a voiceover professional, it is kind of a turnoff. I’m not against big actors getting voiceover roles. I’ve seen a lot of big actors have voiceover talent and it pays off. But the more I see roles like this given to actors of Zendaya’s caliber with diminishing room for actual VO artists, the more it worries me.

I will also say that Don Cheadle is surprisingly okay in the film. He’s not great. I think part of it is due to the somewhat on the nose writing, but I think Cheadle did an okay job playing a cartoony villain that really is not a cartoon. I didn’t like the voice deepening they gave him, I think that at times was a bit of a turnoff, but he was decently cast and Cheadle brought some swagger to the role.

In the end, as far as Warner Brothers commercials go, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is inferior to any of the “LEGO” films and “Ready Player One.” At least in “Ready Player One,” they utilize all the Warner characters in a way that has them fascinatingly contributing to the story and they have some outside characters from other properties coming together to affect the way things go. In the end, that film felt like a pop culture celebration while also being a ridiculously fun movie, hence why it became one of my favorites of 2018. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” comes off as a bunch of studio executives trying to sound cool and connected with audiences but failing in the process. LeBron James as a character gets better in the movie despite leaving me with a poor taste at first. Although I found it somewhat funny how there’s a scene where he claims he does not have time to work with Warner Brothers because he’s hyper-focused on basketball, but at the same time, he’s had a history of production on the side. “The Wall” would not have had four seasons on NBC if were not for you! You literally were involved in the production and marketing of “Million Dollar Mile!” Heck, you had time to do this movie! Either way, I’m going to give “Space Jam: A New Legacy” a 4/10.

Will kids like this movie? Yes, they would. But as an adult, I can never watch this movie again, and part of me fears that this movie could have the same effect on children that maybe “The Emoji Movie” may or may not have been shooting for.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is now playing in theaters everywhere and now you can stream it exclusively on the ad-free version of HBO Max until 31 days after its theatrical release.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for Thursday, July 22nd because I will be spilling my thoughts on Jack Sparrow’s most expensive adventure yet, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in my ongoing “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” review series! Stay tuned for that and more on Scene Before, and you can do so by following the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie is better? “Space Jam” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” Frankly, I’m torn. But leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007): Gore Verbinski’s Swashbuckling Trilogy Comes to a Crazy End *SPOILERS*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the third installment of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that if you want to read my reviews for the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, you can click the highlighted links to read my thoughts on “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and “Dead Man’s Chest.” Also speaking of my reviews, click the following highlighted link to check out my review for “Black Widow.” But enough about the past. Let’s focus on the present! Well, by going back to 2007. It is time to talk about Gore Verbinski’s third, and depending on what his future career choices may be, final “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, “At World’s End!”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, King Arthur), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Chow Yun-fat (The Killer, Hard Boiled), Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo), Jack Davenport (This Life, Coupling) Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, Conspiracy), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film is the third installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann as they search for Jack Sparrow. After a long, hard search, Sparrow and others must unite and form alliances to save piracy in one last battle.

If you read my reviews for the previous two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, you’d know that I enjoyed both of them. I think the first is far better than the second, but it does not take away from some of the fun that the second does provide, especially in the second half with the kraken. One of the best parts of the second movie is the way it ended, because it left us on a cliffhanger that teased the third movie and managed to do so in an exciting way. Evidently, this was supposed to be the end of a planned trilogy given how Gore Verbinski helmed the first two films and came back to do this one. You may notice that he has not directed “On Stranger Tides” or “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” but we’ll probably talk about that more once we get to those films depending on whether or not it is truly worth addressing.

As for this third movie, a lot is riding on this between a couple films of build up, a popular IP, and a $300 million budget. Just for context, that budget is higher than all three “Lord of the Rings” films combined. This budget is higher than every “Star Wars” movie ever made. At the time this film came out, it was the most expensive movie ever made. The only movies that have ever had a higher budget are the three most recent “Avengers” movies and weirdly enough, this film’s sequel, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Granted, this big gamble paid off, partially because it became the highest-grossing film of 2007 with a worldwide total of $960.9 million at the box office. But also because unlike another $300 million film, “Justice League,” which at times looked rather fabricated and artificial, this film maximizes the use of its bloated budget into crafting an insane finale and one dazzling sequence after another.

Of the few films that we have seen so far in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, this perhaps has my favorite opening of all of them. This is because we get a sense of the dark times ahead and a reminder that in the case of this film’s story, there is a solid chance that no pirate is safe. The film did a really good job at establishing a potential threat and made me curious to see where things could potentially go from scene one.

Although one thing that has been consistent in all three films so far is that even though there are varying dark themes and moments, they have all been balanced in this weird, but also delightful vibe where the movie is nearly unashamedly goofy. I said this has worked in the first film, it’s worked less in the second film, but in this third film, Gore Verbinski and crew did a good job at making me believe that what I was seeing could actually happen in this universe. While Jack Sparrow as a character has obviously changed from one film to the next, there are glimmers of his personality that feel permanent and signature to his character. The film has this thing where we see multiple Jacks, where in reality this is an effect of Sparrow being consumed by Davy Jones, and it is almost the most “Jack Sparrow” thing to happen in this franchise yet.

Speaking of which, I may be beating a dead horse, but when it comes to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow, there is no denying his abilities to encapsulate a character like this. Despite being a live-action movie, Depp’s performances in this franchise have always had some feel of hyperactive animation within them. This is not a bad thing, nor is it too surprising considering how this comes from the Disney brand, where goofiness and lightheartedness has been known as one of their strengths, but I find it fascinating how we have this dark, intense, PG-13 film and one of the first things that comes to mind is a character as goofy as Jack Sparrow, and I mean that as a positive. If “The Princess Bride” were made today and turned into a trilogy, Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies would be quite the comparative.

But oh my gawd. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE CLIMAX. HOLY F*CKEROO ON A S*ITFACE CRACKER IS IT EVER EXCITING! As mentioned before, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” has a production budget of $300 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made, and it freaking delivered! The final hour of this movie, while not part of one of the best movies I have ever seen, has to be one of the most exciting things I can remember seeing in cinema. This is a big budget battle for the ages. So much is happening at once between people swinging in the air, Sparrow and Jones duking it out on a ledge with swords, character arcs coming full circle in satisfying ways, Calypso going crazy and intensifying things even further, and perhaps the craziest marriage proposal I have seen EVER.

SPOILER ALERT, although this movie is over a decade old, so who cares? Will Turner proposes to Elizabeth Swann. The two have been love interests since the first movie and there is a point where these two are fighting for their lives and could potentially die any second. Will Turner just pops the question and it is followed by Elizabeth Swann reasonably asking, “Do you think now is the best time?!” Guess what, in just a split second, Barbossa is right in front of them OFFICIATING A WEDDING! It may just be the most wonderfully insane, romantic, and flat out fantastical thing I have seen in cinematic history. I know some weddings can be crazy. Tell me the last time two people were wed like this! For the record, swords are flying in these two people’s faces, another ship is attacking the ship they’re on, and if that’s not enough, they’re in a freaking whirlpool! BEST. WEDDING. EVER.

If there is ever a film that I think my mind will positively dart to as wonderfully expensive, and not just going balls to the wall with the budget just because it can, this would probably be the one. Well, maybe this and “Avengers: Endgame.” Granted, it is not perfect. Like the other two films, it is long, but I also will say that the pacing for this film is arguably the best in the franchise given how little boredom I’ve had in a near 3 hour runtime. This film is everything a movie like this should be on the surface. Dark, silly, and fun! And by the end of it, the whole thing becomes a rollercoaster. Both literally and emotionally.

I also want to note this scene, which may just be this franchise’s greatest exchange yet.

This is accurate! This is spectacular!

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is an extended but thrilling conclusion to Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. If anything, the big question on my mind is which film am I more likely to watch again? “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End?” Because I really like both movies for different reasons. I feel like as a story I will go back to watch “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” It is finely tuned from start to finish with great characters. “At World’s End” has an okay story too, but by the end of it, it is more focused on spectacle than anything else, which is not a bad thing because the spectacle is bloody fantastic. I mean seriously! The budget for “At World’s End” is more than double what it cost to make “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and somehow it does not feel like a gimmick. Granted, I’m sure the actors like Johnny Depp had something to do with it, but still. The movie earns its budget, and by the end, it therefore earns my respect. Technically speaking, this film is wonderful from the effects to the framing to Hans Zimmer’s score, it is all worth my three hours. For that, I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray and you can also watch it on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Now that we’ve finished talking about Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, it is time to move onto a new director, Rob Marshall, as he takes on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which stands today as the most expensive film ever produced. Is it truly worth the money? Find out in my fourth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews,” coming Thursday, July 22nd.

Also, I want to remind everyone that next week I will have a review up for “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” starring LeBron James, the long-awaited sequel to the 1996 original starring Michael Jordan. 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 “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End?” What did you think about it? Or, of the three Gore Verbinski “Pirates” films, which is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Black Widow (2021): Natasha Romanoff’s Solo Marvel Movie Finally Arrives

“Black Widow” is directed Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore) and stars Scarlett Johansson as the title character in her first solo movie after appearing in various MCU films since 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” Also joining Johansson is Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with My Family), David Harbour (Suicide Squad, Hellboy) O-T Fagbenie (Maxxx, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), William Hurt (Into the Wild, A History of Violence), Ray Winstone (Point Break, Beowulf), and Rachel Weisz (Denial, The Favourite). This film follows the Avenger Black Widow as she confronts a conspiracy tied to her past. The film follows her on the run not only for her life, but she’s also fleeing from her mistakes, and is set between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Sorry to use the cliché phrase, but it’s finally arrived! I’ve wanted to see a “Black Widow” solo film ever since the early 2010s. Not only is she one of the standout characters of the MCU, but of all the characters that started in this universe as part of the supporting cast, I think Black Widow is arguably the one who I wanted to see more of compared to any other. Hawkeye? Who cares? Granted, I thought he was a shining star in “Avengers: Endgame,” but early on in the MCU, I thought he was the least compelling of all the hero characters. There are times in “Iron Man 2” where I honestly think Scarlett Johansson shines more as an action star than even Robert Downey Jr., the film’s lead. Naturally, when they first announced that a “Black Widow” movie was happening, I was incredibly giddy. I thought it was a solid way to get to know more about a character who has displayed some spotlight over the years, but never took all of it for herself.

I will admit, the first trailer, while good, left me a tad uneasy by the end because those who saw it may remember the big action sequence in the end where the laws of physics are those of Middle Earth times five. In fact, I will say, that sequence was fun and worth the ticket price for the big screen experience, but it is also something that comes off like a video game. Now, video games over the past number of years have become experiential to the tenth degree, and so have our movies, but this movie by the end of it throws a middle finger to reality just for the sake of looking cool. Granted, it’s the MCU, which has a lot of fantastical elements. But this is something I would expect more out of a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie as opposed to a movie like “Black Widow” where in comparison, it is a bit more grounded. However, this brings me to my next notion.

First off, I liked “Black Widow.” It was a fun time and I do recommend it to fans of the character, Marvel, and even general moviegoers who have not dipped their toes into the MCU all that much. If you cannot leave your house for whatever reason, by all means check the movie out on Disney+. It is worth $29.99 on top of your subscription fee, but I am sure if you watch it, you’ll have a decent time. If you want an experience, check this thing out in theaters! One of the big trends that has been going on in Hollywood and movie fandom is the desire or building up of anticipation for people to get back to the cinema. We’ve seen films like “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was good, alongside “F9: The Fast Saga,” which was bad, do that already. Both films have performed decently at the box office and evidence suggests that “Black Widow” has come out of the gate stronger than both of these films. Cinematically, “Black Widow” reminded me of the “Mission: Impossible” movies. Spies gone wild with crazy action sequences that for the most part are well choreographed.

The best part of the “Black Widow” movie is not even the action itself, which is one of the first things I think of when it comes to Marvel. Many of the universe’s films including “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Ant-Man,” and “Avengers: Infinity War” come packed with some of most memorable action scenes of the past decade. In the case of “Black Widow,” the best part is arguably the family dynamic between Romanoff and the people from whom she has distanced since her younger years. Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh have near perfect chemistry and they felt interlinked like little cogs in a clock in every other scene. I think Rachel Weisz was an interesting choice to play Natasha’s mother, and the execution pleased me. Although the best part of Natasha’s family has to be David Harbour as Alexei, also known as Red Guardian. Every other utterance from Harbour in this film is candy to the ears. Harbour is perfectly cast and as of right now, I do not think I can imagine anyone else taking this role from him.

I think we are at the point in the MCU where characters who have had less spotlight are getting their chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat. We’re obviously talking about Black Widow in her solo movie, but the Disney+ shows have revealed what happens when you let characters like Wanda Maximoff and Bucky Barnes take the wheel. I have no idea if there will be an end date for the MCU, but I would love to see a Red Guardian solo film at some point. Make it happen, Disney. He is probably my favorite supporting character of the film, and I love David Harbour’s portrayal of said character.

But let’s not take anything away from the star of the show, Scarlett Johansson. I have loved her iteration of Black Widow since I had a first glance in “Iron Man 2.” While we do get elements of Johansson’s past performances as the iconic character, this movie did a really good job at taking a character who I liked, but I also acknowledge has barely been humanized. Part of the reason why I liked Black Widow as a character is that there was a balance between badassery and sensuality provided within what was written for her. But in actuality, I barely knew anything about her. The movies didn’t really need to explain much at the time, but we’ve gotten to a certain point where we know so much about everyone else who had the lens enhanced on them so much, that it was time for Black Widow to take a turn. This movie is a perfect evolution for this character with a backstory that falls in line with her identity and it still has that MCU craziness that people tend to seek nowadays. I contend to this day that Natasha Romanoff as a character is someone who I would want to date. I mean, it’s Scarlett Johansson. Come on. But the point is, the character for a long while is someone who I did not know everything about, but I’ve seen enough of her that would make me ask her questions about… Well, her. Having learned about her now, I might think her family is a little crazy, but nevertheless. I’m glad we got this movie. This gave me the chance to learn more about Natasha herself, and thankfully, even though this movie could have arguably been nothing more than a cash grab, the story feels neither flimsy or slapped together. Everything from start to finish makes sense and has a purpose in the movie. Well, everything except physics.

The MCU over the years has become known for its humor. In a lot of cases it works, but I will also say that movies like “Thor: The Dark World” tries hard to be funnier than it actually is. When it comes to humor, “Black Widow” lands somewhere in the middle, which works for the character at hand because when it comes to the MCU and humor, I have more or less put those two ideas together and linked people like Tony Stark or Peter Parker or Nick Fury. Natasha Romanoff usually came off as stern or serious, and this has honestly been one of her more defining traits as a character. In fact I’d say most of the humor in this movie, as possibly implied, comes from David Harbour in addition to say Florence Pugh. There’s also this fun segment of the film dedicated to Natasha’s signature pose, which I liked partially because it mocks the traditional idea that superheroes don’t just kick-ass, but they have a tendency to show off while doing so. That and maybe it is something for the action figures to show off. Think of the “Deadpool” “superhero landing” scene but it is described for more than just ten seconds of screen time.

Unfortunately however, one of the biggest deterrents of “Black Widow” is a common complaint people have had over the years through a number of MCU films, the antagonistic side in this film is underwhelming. Taskmaster was beyond disappointing! Taskmaster is very much a character with all style and quite frankly, nearly no substance whatsoever. The film seemingly tries to give substance to the character, I could see where they may have been going with it. But I could not even come close to caring about the character to begin with so when the time arrives that the movie tries to persuade me to care, I just shake my head. Taskmaster kind of reminds me of Darth Maul if you sucked all the coolness out of him. Because remember how in the “The Phantom Menace,” Darth Maul had very little dialogue? He barely did anything except wield a kick-ass double lightsaber and some cool tricks? Taskmaster is basically Maul if you went out of your way to make me snooze while I laid my eyes upon the character. Sure, Taskmaster has the Red Room, which sounded like it could have been interesting, but I guess this is why we can’t have nice things. I will say, Maul is not the worst MCU villain. That honor likely goes to Malekith from “Thor: The Dark World,” but wow! Taskmaster was one of the highlights of the film’s marketing and they bricked it!

At the same time though, one of the strengths of the MCU, even when the villain is not exactly menacing or compelling, is that the script takes as much time as it can to make you effectively care about the hero. When it comes to Natasha Romanoff, that is no exception. Part of this is established in the first ten to fifteen minutes where we see Black Widow as a kid. I feel like Black Widow as an adult has had this way about her where she always hid what she was thinking and some of, but not all, of her emotions. Seeing her as a kid not only provided a thrilling start to the film, but made me care about the character when we got to see her as an adult.

Although I want to address something that has been bothering me. I love the MCU, but I’ve had a number of concerns regarding it over the past number of years. I feel like one of my biggest concerns culminated with the recent release of all the Disney+ shows. Without going into spoilers, “Black Widow” seems to be starting a trend that I did not exactly expect to see as early as we did, where we apparently have setup in one of the Marvel movies for one of the TV shows. At least that’s the impression I got. I know in the TV shows there also seems to be setup for the movies, but keeping this in mind, it kind of concerns me because it takes me, a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, and feel more like I am watching all of these films and TV shows as homework as opposed to reasons involving enjoyment. While I have no proof, my biggest concern for Marvel and Disney is that they will force me to watch the movies to understand the TV shows and watch the TV shows to understand the movies. “Black Widow” did not exactly support my concern 100%, but there is a scene in the film that enhanced it. I remember years ago I was talking about how Marvel would crank out two, three movies a year. I thought we would see a breaking point from that, but apparently the majority of them are at least good. Now I’m concerned between all the movies and TV shows we’re getting that we will see some sort of clog entering the MCU in terms of quality. Again, I could be underestimating Kevin Feige. I could be underestimating Marvel. I could be underestimating Disney. I could be underestimating all the directors. I could be underestimating all the writers. But at the same time, I believe I have a reason to be concerned. I will also state that this may be a “me problem.” I just like having one particular medium to follow in order to weave every story and moment together. This is why I like the fact that the DCEU movies have rarely crossed ties with any of DC’s TV shows. They’re two separate things with special identities that only they could associate with. Again, this may be a me problem, but if I were in charge of the MCU, part of me would want to come up with a “me solution.”

On that note, there is an end credit scene in “Black Widow.” This should not come as a surprise to MCU diehards. But nevertheless, if you’re watching this movie, stay for the credits.

In the end, “Black Widow” is a fine welcoming back to the realm of the MCU movies, but it comes with its flaws. Scarlett Johansson once again proves that she is a great pick to portray the Natasha Romanoff character. And speaking of which, I would say that her younger counterpart, Ever Anderson, may have a nice future of talent ahead of her. At the same time though, it feels like it covers many of the MCU’s basics but doesn’t do much of anything special with them. As much as I liked phase 2 in the MCU, it had quite a few villains that I did not fall in love with. Taskmaster feels like they are a villain that belongs in the phase 2 crowd. And again, I love the MCU, but part of me feels that it is becoming increasingly overwhelming and now that there seems to be an emphasis on tying the MCU movies and TV shows together, it is a cause for me to be concerned. Again, this is something that I cannot say is fully concerning me, it is something I’d have to wait and see as we move along. But nevertheless, I’m wondering if the MCU could potentially be hitting an unbreakable ceiling. I’m going to give “Black Widow” a 7/10.

“Black Widow” is now playing in theaters everywhere including IMAX and you can also catch the film on Disney+ with Premier Access for a $29.99 fee on top of your subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow, we venture to the weird waters of world’s end to fetch back witty Jack! Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” the third installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and the conclusion to Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. I just watched the film on Sunday and I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you in my latest installment of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.”

As for new releases, this Sunday I will be going to watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” so I will have a review up for the highly anticipated film next week as it releases in theaters and on HBO Max. I will admit, I was not a massive fan of the original “Space Jam.” I did not grow up with it, in fact I just watched it for the first time recently. Here’s hoping this sequel will be better. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Widow?” What did you think about it? Or, what movie are you looking forward to most in the MCU’s phase 4? For me, it’s gotta be “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The way things are looking, some serious s*it is probably about to go down. Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!