Licorice Pizza (2021): Paul Thomas Anderson Delivers a Pizza Crap

“Licorice Pizza” is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread, The Master) and stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk), Tom Waits (The Old Man & the Gun, The Dead Don’t Die), Bradley Cooper (Guardians of the Galaxy, A Star is Born), and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems, Good Time). This film follows the connection between Alana Kane and Gary Valentine, not to be confused with the guy who plays Danny on “King of Queens,” as they spend time together in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 05: Director Paul Thomas Anderson attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Paul Thomas Anderson is a name I have not followed as much as other directors, and it is something I feel guilty of doing in regards to my film watching journey. Not only because he is an acclaimed name, but he also went to Emerson College, which I was probably going to attend had I gotten past the waitlist. So he has a bit of history in Boston, which as someone who lives near the Massachusetts state capital, is something I take a bit too seriously. I’ve seen “The Master” towards the end of the 2010s, but that’s all I have watched from him. I remember it being magnificently shot, but the story is not something that stuck with me to this day. I still need to watch “There Will Be Blood,” I own copies of “Inherent Vice” and “Phantom Thread” and still need to watch those. I still haven’t seen “Boogie Nights!” There are quite a few directors I have gotten around to over the years in terms of catching up on their filmography, but Paul Thomas Anderson fails to make the list.

When I saw the trailer for “Licorice Pizza,” I thought it sort of nailed the nostalgic aspect. The film takes place in the 1970s, and not only does it get a thumbs up for the production design that reminds me of walking into my grandparents’ house, but some of the music is okay as well. I think this film from a presentation point of view, checks a lot of boxes. It looks like it is from its focal decade, the acting, despite the leads having no evidential experience, is top-notch. For all I know, it could be on Anderson’s part. If I have learned anything from James Gunn over the years, he can take an actor with less experience like John Cena and make them pop. The best thing I can say about “Licorice Pizza” is that Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman give good performances regardless of the material that’s given to them.

I’m not using that last sentence lightly, because “Licorice Pizza” is probably the most uncomfortable I have felt watching a movie in some time. Okay, well, maybe not as uncomfortable as “Music,” that s*it was downright personal. I live in the age of social media and in my teens I would talk to people far from my age group and nothing weird happened. Although I believe it is commonly agreed upon that adults should not be dating teens that are ten years apart in age. Gary in this film is 15 years old and Alana is 25.

Do you see the problem?

Now, if Alana was 18, that would be one thing, because that’s also technically an adult, but she is also old enough to still be in high school, just like Gary. TWENTY-FIVE?! The film is kind of a back and forth sort of thing in terms of the romance, where Gary sometimes claims Alana’s his girlfriend, but then the two go back to calling each other “business partners” or something else, but I honestly could not justify myself liking the character of Gary. Because when I think of these sorts of relationships, maybe I’m thinking the adult is in the wrong of dating someone that is significantly younger than them. But with Gary, he’s a literal pervert, and he’s not afraid to hide it. And he’s not a cool pervert like Ron Burgundy who has some personality, granted the movie he’s in respectively has a different vibe, but every time I look at Gary and he says some other line, I want to put some tape over his mouth.

Look, I’m a guy, and it is scientifically evident that guys love anything that has to do with sex. We are revolting creatures. But oh my god. Gary is a downright creep who I occasionally wanted to punch in the face throughout this film’s poorly paced runtime. Seriously, it felt like it was 15 or 30 minutes longer than it actually was. If it’s not about getting to see Alana’s boobs, it’s about making money. Downright power. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Now, I’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort in that film has a semi-similar personality, but he’s also proven that he can be chill, he can be cool. Granted Belfort’s not a teenager, that’s one big difference. Even so, I never got that positive vibe from Gary. I felt like he was trying too hard to be cool when in reality, he felt disgusting.

Now, and I cannot believe I have to say this on a blogging platform that my family reads… I don’t think Paul Thomas Anderson is interested in showing his junk to young girls. I mean, if the genders were reversed, where Alana sees a 25 year old Gary’s junk, who knows? I am comfortable with a storyline about sexual exploration, it’s not something I wouldn’t expect out of some coming of age tales, but this was poorly executed in the worst way possible. I would not want Gary as my friend, and I would want out of any matters involving him if he ever tried to get into Alana’s pants.

One of the most important things about a romance film is that the two leads are likable. I don’t even like their characters by themselves all that much, and even less so together. Because despite what I’ve been saying about Gary coming off as a creep, movies have shown how characters can develop and change. Compared to some other films that I’ve seen, including another recent 1970s nostalgia fest, “The Tender Bar,” I could not really catch onto much character development, especially from Gary. I think Alana’s character has some moments where I could feel her emotion, her stress, the want to escape from reality and other people, but it’s barely enough to make this movie the slightest bit watchable.

If I had any other positives to give “Licorice Pizza,” it is that Bradley Cooper shines as Jon Peters. He honestly came off as a bit of a drugged-up Hugh Hefner type. I think his presence in the film allows the costume design to show its power. Cooper was well directed by Anderson and I would not have minded seeing more of him.

In the end, “Licorice Pizza” is a film that I was looking forward to, but as soon as they stated the age difference, that was an immediate turnoff. This harkens back to the saying that first impressions matter. And if you think this is my only problem with the movie, I’ll mention once again that this movie could have been fifteen to thirty minutes shorter. The movie occasionally dragged, it felt boring. Gary Valentine is by no means a likable character. In fact, he’s probably the character that I hate the most of any project I’ve watched in the past 12 months or so. If you think “West Side Story” was worth skipping because of the Ansel Elgort controversy, I will not stop you from doing that. But based on the fictional elements presented in “Licorice Pizza,” this is a film that part of me wishes I could have skipped. It’s barely any fun, it’s creepy, and I wish the script was good enough to match the amazing talents of some of the actors on screen. I’ll probably go back and watch some of Anderson’s work like “Phantom Thread,” but I hope his next project, whenever that comes out, won’t be as off-putting as this. If you want a 1970s nostalgia fest, just go watch “The Tender Bar.” It’s on Prime Video, and worth your time. I’m going to give “Licorice Pizza” a 4/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! This week I’m going to be watching the all new Japanese animated film, “Belle.” I have heard nothing but good things about this flick, and I am quite curious to see how it is. I will have a review coming soon, and if you want to see more content like this, 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 “Licorice Pizza?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film, one specifically that IS NOT in the horror genre, that genuinely makes you uncomfortable? For me, I’d say that would be “Music,” which I literally talked about in my worst of the year list a couple weeks ago! Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Tender Bar (2021): A Sweet, Sentimental, Long Island-ISH Coming of Age Story

“The Tender Bar” is directed by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Midnight Sky) and stars Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Accountant), Tye Sheridan (Voyagers, Ready Player One), Lily Rabe (Miss Stevens, No Reservations), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Nobody), and Daniel Ranieri. This film is based on a memoir of the same name and is set in 1970s Long Island and follows JR as he grows up, does some usual coming of age things during said process, while also trying to seek out a father figure after his dad disappeared.

If you know who I am and where I live, you’d know this film one of the most personal I’ve seen to date. “The Tender Bar” was not my most anticipated film at the start of the year, mainly because I barely knew it existed. I liked George Clooney’s recent outing with Netflix’s “The Midnight Sky.” I thought it was visually stunning and was able to balance two adventures and perspectives that seemed to differ in scale. So knowing Clooney had at least one success as a director definitely helps. Although I want to introduce a little potential bias into this review. One of my favorite memories as a moviegoer is going to see “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” for the first time. Why? I live 20 to 40 minutes from both malls where the movie was shot, and I saw the film at a theater across the street from one of those malls.

For “The Tender Bar,” I did something similar. I happened to see this film at The Cabot in Beverly, Massachusetts, where a majority of the film was shot. There are a few locations that people of that city would instantly recognize. But if I told you that was the icing on the cake, I’d be lying.

I live a few towns away from Beverly, Wakefield to be specific. It’s… Got good pizza delivery places. A few good places to get breakfast. And we have… What am I kidding? WHAT DO WE HAVE?! A lake?! It’s a polluted pool that gives you a nice view of the Reading Jordan’s Furniture every now and again! What else do we have? But playing into this bias marathon, this film has a scene that was shot at the Wakefield Bowladrome, which has candlepin bowling, or as New Englanders, or anyone else with common sense calls it, bowling. I was at this location while they were shooting. They did not let anyone inside, for good reason, but I had the chance to witness filmmaking history as it happened in my own town.

Despite this connection that makes me giddy, I will note that this is a logical flaw in the film because as I mentioned, candlepin bowling is a New England sport, along with Canada as well. There are other areas where it is found, but New England and Canada are the two mainstays. Candlepin bowling has never had a history on Long Island. Logically, it would have been better to find a place that does tenpin bowling, or regular bowling as most call it, or INFERIOR bowling as I call it. Apparently the crew shot around various communities in Massachusetts, and the state does have its fair share of tenpin alleys. A lot of them have glow lighting at certain times, but there’s also some that don’t. Although the automatic scoring systems could feel out of place. I’ll give some credit though. I’ve been in that alley numerous times, and it has rarely changed in terms of the decor and condition. It kind of feels like a time capsule, so if they were going for an old timey vibe, they’ve kinda nailed it. A lot of the candlepin alleys that exist in New England look as if they’ve barely changed in decades.

The film itself, is nostalgic in a sense that it makes you feel like you are instantly transported to a 1970s where one could see said time as “glory days,” and has a fun soundtrack to evoke such a feeling. Songs from artists including Paul Simon and the Isley Brothers liven up the movie from one scene to another.

Now Ben Affleck (left) is likely going to be the most recognizable star in this film. He plays his part well, but I honestly think he’s had better performances. Just look at his 2020 outing with Gavin O’Connor, “The Way Back.” While his performance here is charming as Uncle Charlie, I don’t think the biggest standout in the film, despite being likable. Although I will note one thing… Before this film came out, I thought Ben Affleck would be the character everything in this film centered around. Well, I never knew about the book… In fact, if you look at the casting list for this film on IMDb or Wikipedia or wherever you find it, Ben Affleck has top billing. Because… Of course he does. He’s not the main character.

But the story itself centers around Tye Sheridan’s (right) character of JR. JR makes quite a progression throughout his life. He’s a promising young man who goes to Yale, meets a woman, makes some choices that decide the course of where he ends up. I’ve seen Tye Sheridan on screen before in “Ready Player One.” I liked him in “Ready Player One.” I love him in “The Tender Bar.” As for his younger interpretation, that is played by Daniel Ranieri, who I discovered last year courtesy of the Internet. He was in a video referencing people going outside in the pandemic and he goes on and on, cursing them out. It is ridiculously funny. Despite some of the filthy things he says in that video, I think he was properly cast as a sweet young boy who wanted nothing more than a father. I believe the transition from him to Sheridan, and both play their parts well.

Upon leaving this film, I felt happier walking out of this than I did watching most of the films I’ve watched in recent memory. If I had a word to describe “The Tender Bar” it would be “sweet.” Now, this is a drama, meaning that not everything goes everyone’s way, but this movie honestly has one of my favorite endings of any film I’ve seen that came out in 2021. It’s the kind of ending that sort of reminds me of one of the supposedly essential aspects of the parent-child relationship. The acceptance and realization that someone is an adult while also recognizing a tradition that maybe they have both honored since childhood. When someone prominent in my family died, I had a particular object passed down to me, which I still have in my room today. The scene in the movie that I’m referring to, as a reminder of this real life occurrence, differs significantly, but it kind of reminded me of that.

If I had any other comments, it would be that my one other flaw would have to be Christopher Lloyd’s character. I’m not saying Lloyd does not do a good job in the movie. He’s a great actor, and he proves that in this movie, but this harkens back to the old saying that first impressions matter. One of the first scenes of the film where we see Lloyd in action, or lack thereof, is him sitting in a chair farting. This gag goes on for about a minute. What is this a kids movie? This freaking thing’s rated R! We’re resorting to cheap PG comedy gags now?

In the end, I liked “The Tender Bar.” Despite coming out during the holiday season, having high profile names, and not belonging in any extended cinematic universes, I don’t think “The Tender Bar” is going to win any awards. But similar to how “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” recently harkened back to the 1960s with success, “The Tender Bar” is a delightful throwback to the 1970s in Long Island, even if the entire movie was shot in the state of Massachusetts. I feel like I’m not judging this film fairly, because I think the average viewer of this movie who ends up seeing the film in say Los Angeles will barely notice a difference in a couple key aspects. Either way, the film is worth a watch if you want something sweet with some drama mixed in. I’m going to give “The Tender Bar” a 7/10.

“The Tender Bar” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Prime Video for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! This week is a big one for Scene Before, because on Tuesday, January 11th and Wednesday, January 12th, it is time to recap my BEST and WORST movies of the year. On January 11th I’ll be talking about the Top 10 BEST movies of 2021 and on January 12th I’ll be talking about the Top 10 WORST Movies of 2021. I cannot wait, I always enjoy doing these lists, and I equally hope you all enjoy reading them! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Tender Bar?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever gone candlepin bowling? And if so, WHY IS IT THE ONLY BOWLING?! Leave your comments down below, hopefully like all that dead wood you knocked down that’s still on the plate!

…Candlepin bowling joke. I do not apologize.

Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Herself (2020): A Woman Builds a Home, Clare Dunne Builds Her Career

“Herself” is directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, The Iron Lady) and stars Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Cherishing), who also happens to have a story and writing credit for the film. Also in the cast we have Harriet Walter (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rocketman) and Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones, Suits) in a film about a woman named Sandra who wants to escape an abusive relationship with her husband. In a revolt against a broken system, Sandra vies to build a house so she can ensure safety for herself while raising two daughters.

“Herself” is a film that I’ve heard about for over a month, but when it comes to movies on Prime, the one that has been getting all the buzz lately is “One Night in Miami,” which I tried. I really wanted to like it, but it did not sit well with me, and I say that as someone who saw it twice. It had some good performances though between Leslie Odom Jr. and Kingsley Ben-Adir, it just was not my favorite film that I have seen in recent memory. Although when it comes to “Herself,” that has been getting a lot less attention. Less people have seen it, and I say this as someone who lives in the U.S., there is a chance that a film like “Herself” is automatically going to get less attention as it is primarily produced by British and Irish companies, and the film itself takes place in an Irish background. I say this despite knowing that the director did “Mamma Mia!,” which is popular among a number of crowds, and the fact that she even directed Meryl Streep to win one of her Academy Awards. The film did however premiere at Sundance, and soon thereafter Amazon bought the rights to it. This is where we are today. The film is available for free on Prime, so I thought I would give it a go.

What did I think? Let me just start off by saying that if one studio has been consistently solid for me throughout the year, it would have to be Amazon. Granted, their business model for releasing films has increased in prominence given the current pandemic, but for the most part, they’ve been cranking out good movie after good movie.

Well, except “My Spy.” Can’t believe it took five months after a press screening and a studio exchange for me to talk about that crap!

But let’s consider what Amazon has done this year. “The Vast of Night,” “Radioactive,” “Sound of Metal,” “I’m Your Woman.” All these films are worth watching. I’d say that “Herself” stands amongst these solid movies, although if I had to pick one to go back and watch again, I’d pick “Sound of Metal” before this one. “Herself” is a wonderful, charming, occasionally gritty, and somewhat motivating film. Before I saw this movie, I did not know much about it, therefore I had no idea that one of the writers of the film happens to be the star. I think that is why I’ll say Clare Dunne gives one of my favorite performances I have seen in recent memory.

When it comes to the brilliant performance from Clare Dunne, you can tell there is a bit of a personal touch to it. In fact, there actually is, because Dunne points out in an interview that when she was auditioning in New York during pilot season, a friend reached out to her saying she lost her home in Dublin. At that point, Dunne looked up Dominic Stevens, who self-built a home in Ireland for €25,000. At that point, Dunne thought she should make a movie about a single mother who goes through a similar situation. I think Dunne hit the mark hard on this film. I think her performance partially benefits from her having a writing credit, meaning that she probably had more time to envision her character and how it should be, and I would say that maybe aside from Ben Affleck’s performance as Jack Cunningham in “The Way Back,” Clare Dunne’s performance as Sandra may be the most personal portrayal of 2020. She has moments of happiness, delight, anger, despair, sadness, her role is diversified of emotions and Dunne gives herself plenty of things to do. Given how the Golden Globes were announced and Dunne did not appear on the list, I doubt Dunne is going to get the awards potential she deserves, but I think I will look back on this performance for a long time.

While the screenplay of the film may not end up being my #1 of the year, I cannot deny that it is fantastic at times. The film starts off and gets straight to the point. It does not waste much time, it introduces our characters, and goes licketdy split into our main conflict. Part of me was already on the edge of my seat and ready to see where this journey would go next. I knew who to root for, who to bash on, all of it. Everything was quickly set up in just a matter of one to two minutes. When it comes to set up, “Herself” is perfect.

I will say though, the film did nearly lose me at times. Granted, it is an intimate project with a smaller budget, but there are select moments where I nearly doze off. There are also moments where I got my head back in the game, but it does not make me forget the times where I almost snoozed. Pacing could have occasionally been better, but the film is still a good time.

Actually, you know what? It’s not a good time. It’s a great time. I say that because the film ends with a subversion of my expectations. I will not go into much detail, but it is a contender for the best ending of 2020. Not only because it comes out of nowhere and changes the entire pace of the movie, but because it balances a bunch of emotions at once. In a short description, it is kind of bittersweet. I will not say anything else because I want to leave all my readers as blind as possible, because that is practically how I went into “Herself.” Watch it, you might not regret it.

In the end, “Herself” is a charming story that highlights abuse, how one wants to get past it, and ways in which one can build a better life. Clare Dunne is a performer that I now have my eyes on. I think in the future, we will be hearing her name a lot more. I think she has the potential to build her career similar to the way her character attempted to build a house. Would I watch this film again? Not right away, but give it some time, and I may come back. Phyllida Lloyd crafted a fine film, and I am happy to have seen it. I am going to give “Herself” a 7/10.

“Herself” is available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! Today I just saw “Nomadland,” which is going to be out on Hulu February 19th, and it will simultaneously debut in theaters wherever they are open. Although for the next week or two, you can catch the film in select IMAX theatres. I saw it in IMAX today and cannot wait to talk about it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the Facebook page to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Herself?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever built a house? Tell me what that was like. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

One Night in Miami (2020): Four Icons, One Average Story

“One Night in Miami” is directed by Regina King (Ray, If Beale Street Could Talk) and stars Kingsley Ben-Adir (Vera, The OA), Eli Goree (The 100, Race), Aldis Hodge (Brian Banks, City on a Hill), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express, Central Park). This film is also written by Kemp Powers, who wrote the play of the same name. The story revolves around four black men, Muhammed Ali, Malcom X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown as they meet in a hotel room and discuss their places in the Civil Rights Movement.

This film premiered last year in one cinema, appropriately in Miami, Florida. But of course, since I don’t live in Florida, and I don’t plan on setting foot there for some time, I did not see the film when it came out. However, the film has expanded to other territories, including my very own Massachusetts, and put itself on Prime Video for all subscribers. I decided to watch the film at home considering my supposed need to use my Prime subscription at one point or another.

You’re welcome, Jeff Bezos… Gosh I miss Sears.

Either way, going into “One Night in Miami” I did not watch any trailers (that I recall), and I do not think I read any synopsis or description about the film. Other than the facts that the film is on Amazon, directed by Regina King, and set in Miami, I knew nothing about this film. To me, it was almost like “Summerland” before I saw that film. Also, please watch “Summerland.”

With this in mind, I want to bring up something that movie viewers occasionally bring up. The power of marketing. Part of this is due to my lack of knowledge of the film, but going into “One Night in Miami,” based on the title, it almost seemed to be set in modern times, and it sort of had this “Entourage” feel to it. Everything felt kind of sexy.

This is the kind of confusion that comes about from not watching trailers. The film is vastly different from what I expected to be, both in terms of overall vibe and the storyline. I guess you can say part of this is my fault for perhaps being a lazy critic and not doing my homework, but at the same time, there are points where going in blind for a film has enhanced the experience. Perhaps doing so makes it worthwhile, because it gives you a fresh perspective and allows you to watch everything as if (or perhaps in a more literal sense) you were about to watch it for the first time.

With that being said, I wish “One Night in Miami” were a better movie. There have been some good movies over recent years involving the Civil Rights Movement and African American history. Movies like “Selma” and “Hidden Figures.” Both were entertaining and a great reflection of their respective times. Now, I wanted to like “One Night in Miami” and going back to what I just said. Knowing what a movie is about sort of improves the experience. When it starts, you have this boxing match. So I think to myself, “Is this a boxing movie?” Then I see a concert. I ask, “Is this about music?” Not really. It’s one of those movies where things sort of come together, but it took awhile for my brain to click and put all these elements into a puzzle. So, maybe it is my fault for being a brick, but nevertheless. During that time, it sort of shows that the movie needs better pacing. I sat on my bed wondering if this movie was going to go anywhere, and it felt like we spent an eternity trying to answer that question. I like when movies make the viewer ask questions. That can be engaging. That can be exciting. But for whatever reason, this movie took longer than an Amtrak ride from Boston to Washington DC to get me going.

I will spit out some positives though. For those who do not know, this is Regina King’s first feature theatrical release under her direction. King reveals that she has chops to be a competent director in the future if she decides to take on more projects. I would not mind seeing another drama from her. Maybe if she keeps that up, she could helm a blockbuster. I have faith she can continue to visualize solid content. As for how good that content will end up being, that is another question. Because I was not fully impressed with this outing.

With that in mind, getting invested in the main four characters almost felt difficult because I spent almost an hour just wondering whenever things were going to pick up. At the same though, it was fascinating to hear the four main characters interact, mainly because they all had a natural sense of chemistry. There is not one moment or slice of dialogue that did not feel wasted or unrealistic. All of it was raw, and occasionally compelling. I thought it was fascinating to see a transformation of Cassius Clay as he goes from one identity to another. But the man who’s story intrigued me the most has to be Sam Cooke.

The movie does a fine job at highlighting that despite the color of his skin, despite his heritage, despite coming across a supposed success, Cooke is perhaps partially aiding in the contributions of white people to a degree, including the Rolling Stones. Hearing him speak with Malcom X and listening to him reveal his personal history is probably the highlight of the movie for me. Malcom X confronts Cooke’s feel good music and notes Bob Dylan perhaps being a more popular reflector of social commentary. I think from start to finish, his story is partially reflective of what this movie is about, what it stands for, and the overall message it tries to convey. In the United States, black people may succeed, but sometimes it is with the assistance per se of white people. And in some ways, they help white people achieve their own success. The performances from scene one are all worthy of attention. I just wish it aided in a slightly better film.

I should note, this is my *first impression*. I did something for “One Night in Miami” that I don’t usually do. I noticed that the film has universal acclaim. There are positive reviews being handed over left and right. People are really enjoying this film. So I thought, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I like this movie? Granted, I was watching at home, where it is easy for me to get distracted. So I turned on the film again to see if anything has changed.

I will say that this film is better the second time around, and maybe it is because I understand the concept now. I think as a story, “One Night in Miami” is uniquely laid out and one of the more original tellings I have witnessed in recent memory, despite being somewhat based on true events and containing real historical figures.

As mentioned earlier, Sam Cooke is my favorite character in the film, and he is nicely performed by Leslie Odom Jr.. However, one performance that I also began to appreciate more the second time around is Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X. I think his mannerisms are superb and he admittedly kind of looks suave. I would not mind seeing Kingsley Ben-Adir in a spy movie sometime. I will also say that the first hour is most definitely better. Not only does it do a fine job at introducing the core characters, but some of the hour is quite entertaining between the boxing match, the early concert, and Jim Brown visiting the plantation.

But having said all this, when it comes to 2020 in film, this one will not likely be remembered as much as others. Who knows? Maybe with my recent experiment it gets better with each watch, and it was better the second time, so maybe that is a step in the right direction.

In the end, “One Night in Miami” may speak to some people, in fact it may speak to a lot of people, but for whatever reason, it was just not the right movie for me. Was it entertaining? Yes. But not entertaining enough. Was it compelling? Yes. But not compelling enough. Was it worth a rewatch? Sure. But part of me only did so to see if would actually improve the experience. And while it did so slightly, it did not sparkle and shine as much as I would want it to. I am going to give “One Night in Miami” a 6/10.

To me “One Night in Miami” is sort of like “Mank.” It is a movie that a lot of people saw, a lot of people like, and maybe it will end up getting some attention during awards season. Although for whatever reason, I could not fully connect with it. It is a passable film and there are good things about it. But I just wanted more, what else could I say?

“One Night in Miami” is now available in select theaters and on Prime Video for all subscribers. Get your tickets if a theater is open near you, or subscribe to Prime if you are not subscribed already.

Thanks for reading this review! I will say, I am not quite sure what my next review is going to be, but I will say as the crazy guy who always promotes IMAX, I have a special treat for those who are not in the loop. One of 2020’s most acclaimed films, “Nomadland,” is coming to select IMAX screens starting January 29th. Unfortunately, I might not be able to see it. I say so because as of writing this, the closest place showing the film is located in Paramus, New Jersey, which is about a three to four hour hike from where I live. But if anyone at IMAX reads this and wants to put more screenings in the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island areas, I will make an effort to watch the movie and have my review up for it as soon as possible. We’ll have to see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “One Night in Miami?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Regina King as an entertainer? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

I’m Your Woman (2020): Gone with Baby, Gone

“I’m Your Woman” is directed by Julia Hart (Fast Colors, Stargirl) and stars Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards), Arinzé Kene (The Pass, Youngers), Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us, Orange Is the New Black), Bill Heck (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Leftovers), Frankie Faison (Banshee, The Wire), Marceline Hugot (The Detour, United 93), and James McMenamin (Orange Is the New Black, Nurse Jackie). This film takes place in the 1970s, where a housewife is forced to go on the run with her baby after her husband betrays his partners. She has to deal with personal struggles, meeting unfamiliar people, endless questions amongst herself, and life or death situations.

“I’m Your Woman” has been out for almost a month, and it is currently free on Prime Video for all subscribers. I was going to watch this film early. In fact I remember obtaining a virtual link, but I decided to skip it as I have my Prime subscription handy. So I waited until now to watch the movie. Aside from exposure to this film through getting an advance screening email, I did watch one trailer when I saw “Mank” in the cinema. It kind of looked like a goldilocks thriller type film. What do I mean by that? Let’s take the three bears. It’s that basic analogy with the porridge. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. This was a thriller did not look like it was either too bombastic or too slow. This felt even tempered. Prior to putting on “I’m Your Woman,” I cannot say I knew too too much about the film, even though I did sit through that one trailer.

Was “I’m Your Woman” worth my time? I’d say it was. When it comes to thrillers this year, I do think there are better films. “Unhinged” is one such example, mainly because of its simple, relatable concept. It’s also got nothing on my favorite thriller of the year, “Tenet,” which admittedly will likely end up having more replay value than any other film of 2020 for me. I cannot compare it to “Run,” which a lot of people have seen recently, which I tried watching, but apparently Hulu was acting up and showing giant pixels and a large area of black instead of the film. Regardless of my comparisons and desire to have my movies work, “I’m Your Woman” is a hypnotizing couple of hours. It’s kind of slow at times, but there are also certain moments where the gears turn and everything speeds up. It’s a perfect blend, hence the recent goldilocks comparison.

This movie takes place in the 1970s, and I got that vibe right away. When the movie starts we see the main family in their home, they have this funky-looking wallpaper, everything is yellow, the kitchen looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss tale, and I think the art and production design department did a really good job at encapsulating the 1970s. Aside from that, you have all these older cars, there’s a crucial scene where our main hero uses a payphone booth as a hiding spot, and there are some key elements to the story that are well captured through our main character’s struggles and desires that define the time.

We live in an era today where women are all “You can do it,” and “Go get em’, girl!” People say that to women all the time now. And while the 1970s were not as restrictive to women as say earlier parts of the 20th century, the movie displays its specific time frame as a point when many women seem to typically be a housewife. They tend to stay home all the time, doing chores, cleaning, that sorts of stuff, and the man of the house tends to go out and bring home the bacon. And of course, the couple has a kid, so while the man is out, our main hero, Jean, is doing all she can for the child. Throughout the movie, while the couple is separated, Jean not only has to deal with the child that has been with her for a period of time, but now she is in the seemingly unfamiliar situation of being isolated, being alone. I felt for her. Having a kid is hard enough. Losing a partner who helped raise the kid is just another big blow. I do not think Rachel Brosnahan is going to win an Oscar for this film. For all I know, some awards outlet might recognize her, but she does a really good job at playing the main character.

Let’s talk about Arinzé Kene in this film. Kene plays a character named Cal who has a significant presence throughout. I’m very conflicted on this character. For the record, he’s written properly, every motivation and line regarding this character makes sense and does not feel illogical. At the same time, when I first saw him, I got an uneasy first impression. What do I mean? I did not agree with everything he did. But at the same time, everything about him falls into place and Kene’s performance is justifiably competent. If I had to compare this character and the actor’s performance to anything else, I’d have to use the Amazon movie, “Gringo.” For those of you who don’t remember Gringo, there’s this one character played by Charlize Theron. She’s a great actress, I like her in a lot of stuff she’s in, and the same can be said for “Gringo.” But what can also be said for “Gringo” is that Charlize Theron does a spectacular job playing a character I absolutely hated. It’s one of the few positives in that film. Maybe it’s because she’s good looking, who knows? Charlize Theron is an attractive woman, there is no doubt about that.

If there is anything else that stands out about “I’m Your Woman” it is the pacing. “I’m Your Woman” is a very… I don’t what other term I can use, uneventful kind of film. I don’t mean that literally, things do happen. But the buildup in each scene feels slow, it takes its time. And for the kind of thriller we’re dealing with here, it works. It kind of feels like “No Country for Old Men” meets “Blade Runner” if both those things took place in the 1970s. There are a couple cool action scenes that do not try to go over the top, but that is what makes them great. They’re not overstylized, but that grabbed my attention.

I also liked this one character named Evelyn. She’s played by Marceline Hugot and she’s kind of this charming, older woman. She almost sounds like a stereotypical cat lady. She’s got that Amy Sedaris type voice, the wrinkly hair, and she barely has a presence in the film, and while I won’t go into too much detail, there is one scene that was somewhat enhanced by her presence.

In the end, “I’m Your Woman” is worth watching and a fine slow burn through the 1970s. Vibe-wise, this movie kills. It is a great encapsulation of the time. Character-wise, I liked most of them, but there are a select few that I will end up discarding by the end of the year. I think this film did a great job at highlighting the struggles of our protagonist, and Rachel Brosnahan did excellent at enhancing said struggles. However, I do not think this is a film that I will watch again anytime soon. I will not rule it out. Maybe it could be one of those films that I could have on at 2AM if I have trouble falling asleep. This does have action, but it is also slow-paced enough to have some empty air. And thankfully, the empty air does not feel out of place. I am going to give “I’m Your Woman” a 7/10.

“I’m Your Woman” is now available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers. The film also had a theatrical release at the start of the month, but I do not think it is playing in any cinemas right now, partially due to the pandemic leaving some venues closed, but also due to other movies taking up slots. Give this a watch!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Tom Hanks film “News of the World” which is exclusively in theaters right now, but will likely appear on VOD very soon. Also, I plan to make “News of the World” my final 2020 movie review before I unveil my picks for the top 10 BEST and WORST movies of the year! Those lists will be up in early January! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “I’m Your Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, what have you been watching on Prime this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sound of Metal (2019): Hearing is Precious, Here’s Proof

“Sound of Metal” is directed by Darius Marder (The Place Beyond the Pines, Loot) and stars Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler), Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Bates Motel), Paul Raci (Goliath, Switched at Birth), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead, Wonderstruck), and Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, The Grand Budapest Hotel). This film centers around a drummer named Ruben, who we find out early on is losing his hearing at an alarming rate. His sponsor, worried for him, makes him go to a deaf community and meet Joe, who runs said community. Ruben does this all the while struggling to live with his new situation.

I often poke fun at this company because its business practices usually prevents competition from getting their foot in the door. But if one company has been coming through during this pandemic when it comes to film, it would have be Amazon. They have consistently been releasing film after film, and while not all of them are great (I’m looking at you, “My Spy”), they have come out with some of the more watchable ones this year. “The Vast of Night” was my first 8/10 of the year, which unfortunately came in over the halfway point of the annual calendar. “Radioactive” had a great lead performance by Rosamund Pike and is a marvelous telling of Marie Curie’s life story. Amazon also put out a couple good, but not great, documentaries this year. If it were not for Hulu’s “I Am Greta,” “Time” would be my favorite documentary of 2020. I think Amazon has a solid track record this year. Not perfect, but solid.

“Sound of Metal” is Amazon’s best 2020 release yet.

People say that film is a visual medium, and they’re not wrong. When you have a character whose hearing is being taken away, it makes you appreciate the sights of whatever gets captured on camera. This is a film that at various points, has minimal dialogue, and relies on what you see, not hear. I have seen space movies where they drop the sound to mimic the endless vacuum of the starry sky, but “Sound of Metal” is that if it were brought down to earth. Even at points where the movie became somewhat difficult to watch, it had my attention simply because it was effective enough in its demanding of it. They say that audio is half your movie, and “Sound of Metal” does a really good job at suggesting that such a half may not always be a necessity. I have good hearing, and at times, it’s a curse due to my sensitivity to certain sounds. This movie occasionally made me feel deaf.

It is difficult to determine who will end up being this year’s Best Ensemble, but if I had to pick a perfect candidate right now, that would have to be the cast of “Sound of Metal.” Staying consistent with previous thoughts, many of the performances in this film are not what they are because of their lines, but through their physicality. This movie primarily focuses on two languages. English and sign language. All this leads to what ends up being some of the best writing and directing I have witnessed all year.

Riz Ahmed is a triumph in this film. I have witnessed Ahmed in previous projects, most notably “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and I thought in his previous roles that he served his purpose. Here however, it is difficult to deny that he was allowed to shine and reveal his true acting abilities. His portrayal of Ruben is raw, gritty, natural, and sort of mind-boggling at times. Ahmed is a true performer, and I liked him before “Sound of Metal” came out, but this is the first movie I’ve seen him in that puts his name on the map for me.

I also admire Ahmed’s chemistry with Olivia Cooke, who plays Lou in this film. For the record, Lou is Ruben’s sponsor, while also revealing to be romantically involved with the guy. Unlike Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke was a name that has circled around my head for sometime, and the reason for that is because “Ready Player One” ended up being one of my most rewatched movies of 2018. I like Olivia Cooke in “Ready Player One,” she was great in that movie. Much like Riz Ahmed, I sort of got to see more of Cooke’s true colors in this movie. This is a performance that absolutely dives into the emotions of the character at hand. I could feel the connection between her and Ahmed, and such a bond turned out to be one of the highlights of the film.

If this film has done one thing, that would be to make me realize the talent that can come from even people I do not know. I knew who Ahmed and Cooke were, but one man who I have not seen prior to this film is Paul Raci. I have no idea what his future holds, but with enough luck, it may end up being one with massive success. His portrayal of Joe really helped this film bring itself to an intimate level. Ruben is the rough, rugged, obnoxious main character who needs to realize what is ahead. Joe is calm, poised, and patient. If I were stuck in traffic with this guy, it would not be the worst car ride ever.

Continuing the subject of unknown, recently realized talent, this is the feature length directorial debut of Darius Marder, and if he keeps up his game, he could be a household name. This is his first feature film, and it is still a bit early to tell if his name will be big enough, or noteworthy enough to associate with the greats. Nevertheless, depending on how COVID-19 continues to unfold, we’ll have to see when Marder’s next film hits, but this is a fantastic debut. I would love to see more from Marder if possible, and maybe he’ll be the next big name in the industry.

If I had any problems with “Sound of Metal,” they would honestly be quite hard to point out. While the casting is amazing, it is a little weird to have a relationship between the main characters if their respective actors are 11 years apart in age. At the same time though, age is just a number. I will also say, time will be the defining factor here, but it is hard to tell whether I will obligate myself to go on Prime Video and watch this movie again. It’s not that I did not like the movie, I enjoyed it very much. But there are a couple scenes that immediately deliver a lack of comfort. While the feeling did provoke a sense that my time watching the film was well spent, it was nevertheless brought through scenes that may have been harder to watch than others.

Upon reflection, I would have to say that I love the way that this film starts and ends. I say so because it is a perfect encapsulation of Ruben’s journey. I will not go into much detail, but it has to do with his profession, the effects of said profession, and the overall journey of the film. This forms a recipe for greatness, and ultimately, one of my favorite movies of the year.

In the end, “Sound of Metal” is a nearly flawless attempt to highlight what it is like to lose your hearing. It shows ups, it shows downs, it shows in-betweens, showcasing a hard journey for the main individual and people around him. We can all agree that 2020 is objectively the worst year to be a film fan, that even stands true with the notion that “Parasite” deservedly won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Theaters have been closed. A lot of the films that are in theaters right now are probably just getting dumped. Disney+ got absolutely greedy with their “Mulan” experiment. Not many movies have been extraordinary. Although there have been a few that have been extraordinary like “The Last Shift,” “Over the Moon,” and “Yellow Rose.” As of today, “Sound of Metal” joins those movies in said category. I am going to give “Sound of Metal” a 9/10.

“Sound of Metal” is in select theaters starting Friday, November 20th, and will then drop onto Amazon’s Prime Video as an exclusive two weeks later, December 4th.

Thanks for reading this review! I am not sure what I will be watching this weekend, if anything. But over Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be reviewing “Superintelligence,” the all new film hitting HBO Max starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. Two and a half years ago, I reviewed “Life of the Party,” which these two collaborated on. It ended up being my least favorite film of the year. This can only go so well. Will 2020 strike me down once more? Will we see a turnaround for the celebrity couple? Find out soon on Scene Before! If you want to see that post, and more posts like this one, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sound of Metal?” What did you think about it? Or, have you watched any Amazon movies this year? Which one is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Time (2020): Devastating 60 Year Sentence, Decent 1.5 Hour Movie

“Time” is directed by Garrett Bradley, stars Sibil Fox Richardson alongside Robert G. Richardson, and follows a couple’s slice of life, most specifically from Sibil’s point of view. This documentary follows Sibil as she raises her kids and fights for her husband’s release from Louisiana State Penitentiary for armed bank robbery. Sibil did her time for three and a half years, but her husband, Robert, is forced to serve 60.

For all the historians who read this in the future, I saw this movie in 2020, the year where literally nothing happened. With that said, I witnessed this film through an early online screening provided by Amazon. By the way, thanks guys! Going into the documentary, I had no knowledge as to what it would be about. It could cover anything really. Maybe I read one or two snippets about the film before going in, but still. So for all I know, I could have known the story, but I will point out that I avoided all trailers. Safe to say, regardless of the subject matter, I was ready for the movie. It’s nice to go in as blind as possible.

For those of you who know about my thoughts on 1996’s “Mission: Impossible,” you may know I enjoyed the movie, but I had a greater appreciation for it once I saw some information on what went down behind the scenes. “Time” is sort of in the same boat. I genuinely enjoyed what I saw. But as I did this review, I brushed up on the film’s Wikipedia page, and I came across this.

“She (Garrett Bradley) originally set out to make a short documentary about Rich, but after shooting wrapped, Rich gave Bradley a bag of mini-DV tapes containing some 100 hours of home videos that she had recorded over the past 18 years. At that point, Bradley transitioned the short into a feature.” –Wikipedia

This movie became a feature by a miracle, and it shows. The runtime of the film clocks in at an hour and twenty-one minutes. That’s shorter than most theatrical features today. You can argue that this is barely a feature, but I’d say that the sudden transition made the movie feel like it is one of a kind. Part of me would have liked to see how the short turned out, and not because I think the short would have been better. In fact, I think if this were a short, it wouldn’t have as lasting of an impact. It quite frankly would have been informative, but after seeing the beginning footage presented in a full screen aspect ratio, I could not imagine this movie in any other way.

Regardless of what footage they used, this documentary does what many movies, including those specifically in the documentary genre should do. It encapsulates the meaning of life, and a specific moment in time that may be important to someone. I got the sense that everything that went down on screen was of supreme importance to Sibil. We got a sense of who she was, the people she knew, her personality, and it’s like the movie opened up its arms to allow her into our lives.

Garrett Bradley has done other work in the documentary genre, some of which includes shorts. I have no idea when I will watch any of her other content, even though 2020 has proven that we have plenty of time in this world. However, there are various aspects of “Time” in particular that really show how committed Bradley is to carrying out a singular vision. The movie is done in black and white, it is cleanly edited, the music matches all the edits as well. Honestly, in terms of the final edit, this is probably my favorite documentary of the year. I don’t think any of the documentaries I have seen this year are perfect, but in terms of how “Time” edits and lays out its story from beginning to end, it is easily the most satisfying to watch. It has a major reliance on showing, not telling, one of the most proper principles of visual arts, and it does such a thing very well.

Does this mean I will watch the movie a second time? Probably not. Although it is free with my Prime Video subscription so such thoughts could change. Compared to other movies that came out this year, “Time…” may not stand the test of time. Although I don’t regret seeing it at the same time, because it was an informative, compelling, and engaging story. I cannot believe I’m saying this in 2020, there are other movies that I’d rather watch before this one. I think when it comes to documentaries, it may deserve another shot, because that genre has not really provided anything perfect this year. No, I have not seen Netflix’s “The Social Experiment,” and I don’t plan on watching it.

If I had any real cons against this movie, I’d say that there are some times that maybe I was a little disengaged with specific content. For all I know, maybe it is because I was watching the movie at home on my laptop, where it is a little harder for me to pay attention to what’s going on with all sorts of distractions nearby. There are also a couple scenes that I think go on a little too long. There’s one snippet of archive footage, or b-roll, that could have ended and the impact would have either been slightly better or not made too much of a difference. I won’t go into it, because I went into this movie blind, and I am willing to bet that if I let you do the same, maybe you’ll have an enchanting experience. I don’t know, this is an experiment! I have a degree in Master Film Reviewing! I made that up, and I don’t care! I stand by it!

I will say though, going back to positives, one of my favorite parts about this movie is the way it ends. Not only is the subject matter of the end fulfilling, but it goes to show how well edited and put together this movie is. If the emotions of the ending could not be achieved through visuals, I will guarantee that the audio and music do such an excellent job that MAYBE, you don’t even need to rely on visuals to strike such feelings. Granted, this is a movie, and visuals are perhaps necessary at all times, but it goes to show how much can be achieved through audio. It’s perhaps the most satisfying part of the movie, and made the whole experience worth my time. That’s what every good ending is supposed to do. Well done!

In the end, “Time” is not maybe as timeless as I would expect, but it does not mean the movie blows. In fact, when it comes to documentaries, it is probably my favorite of the year. It encapsulates its story effectively, it pulls you in, and does not let you go. I admired Sibil, her journey, and everything she does throughout this film. She is without any doubt, the heart of the story, and I am glad that her story has been told. I am going to give “Time” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is the release of “The War with Grandpa,” I might end up seeing that by Monday, and I’ll have my thoughts on that soon. I’m looking forward to it, the film looks like it has some laughs. I might go see another movie this weekend, I’m not sure what it will be, but it will likely be something. After all, Massachusetts is now allowing theaters to serve food again, so I’m pretty excited just to get popcorn. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Time?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite documentary of 2020 so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

What Movie Theaters Have Been Doing Right (and Wrong) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! During the second half of 2020, I have been to the movies 13 times so far. In a normal year, this would be a pretty decent number, especially when the second half is only halfway through. During a pandemic like the one we are going through today, some might question why I go to the movies. SPOILER: It’s not just for fun, although that is part of it, but I need to make content, and much of it is brought to you courtesy of the theatrical experience. Now, as one of the first penguins to dive into the water, I wanted to take this moment to go over some of the things I like about what the theaters have been doing during the pandemic, and some things they should improve on. And I think a lot of people who read my stuff and know me in real life think I’m some evangelical for movie theatres, which… I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. But I consider myself a brainy evangelical as I am willing to recognize their flaws. So let’s dive in, here are my pros and cons regarding cinemas during the COVID-19 pandemic!

PRO #1: Cheaper tickets

You may have noticed that there are not many new movies coming out. So with that in mind, theaters have to get creative. They started showing throwback movies like “Back to the Future,” “The Goonies,” and “The Dark Knight.” For shows like these, tickets are often discounted, usually around the $5 range. Now you can watch an old film at home on a service such as HBO Max, Prime Video, or Disney+ for free on top of your subscription. But if you went to throw a few bucks out the window, you can see these movies with surround sound and a bucket of fresh popcorn. Sure, those costs can add up depending on where you go, but movie theaters provide one thing that streamers and “at home” methods of viewing content cannot, an experience. When I saw “Back to the Future” in a cinema, I felt things there that I am not able to feel while watching it in my room. I think I even laughed harder too. Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to AMC for their reopening deal, where they sold tickets for fifteen cents! This was done in honor of the chain’s 100th anniversary, but it is nevertheless a grand way to welcome patrons back to the theater. I also noticed that for regular shows, AMC’s afternoon prices were also a little cheaper than usual. Pre-pandemic, there was one theater near me that had tickets for a price a little over $10 until 4PM, now, the prices are under that mark until 5PM! Good job, AMC! Now don’t be jerk about those prices down the road… I’M WATCHING YOU.

Pro #2: Cleanliness

Keep in mind, this could change depending on how things go from here on out, in fact in the state of Massachusetts, the governor required that ALL indoor gatherings must have a maximum of 25 people. However, that has recently been altered, and the indoor max capacity for places such the cinema has since been increased. I should also note for a period of time, said state did not allow food in theaters. But every time I went to a theater during the pandemic, everything is spotless! Who’s running this place, Howie Mandel? Everything is very well kept, and I feel incredibly safe. The major chains like AMC and Cinemark have implemented new cleaning protocols, part of which includes new electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, HEPA filter vacuums, and proper air filters. Theaters also give a longer break between each showtime, which can allow for a greater cleaning process. They even encourage guests to stay clean themselves by providing hand sanitizing stations! Bravo! Personally, I’m more of a wash your hands guy, but I like the commitment!

Pro #3: Mask requirement

Now, this next part is going to be agreed upon by half of my readers, and probably get hammered by the other half. But I don’t care! Many theaters require masks in their policies. They must be worn in the auditorium, the lobby, the restroom, pretty much anywhere you can imagine. The only time you can take it off is when you are enjoying food or drinks. Kind of like when you’re at a restaurant, you have to wear a mask once you walk in, but you’re all good when you get to your table. Although, difference is, in a theater, if you’re not having food, you must keep it on. Given how masks are required everywhere else, it makes sense that theaters would jump on the train. I should also note that I’ve been to AMC a lot and they’ve added a new video to their preshow stating that masks are required at all times. So I hope that other theaters are focusing their efforts on reminding their customers to obey safety precautions not only enforced by the theaters themselves, but the areas in which they reside. Also, Regal Cinemas posted something that I honestly admire, because it speaks to much of the American audience on both sides of the mask debate.

Do I like wearing a mask? Of course not! I barely know one person who does! But we might as well suffer together! I do want to say one thing though, even though I am often focused on a film at the cinema, I sometimes get a little concerned that someone fails to abide by the mask policy. Of course, that’s not what I want to focus on, as I have no desire to confront anybody. I don’t want to be one of those people… But this brings me to my next point…

Con #1: More in-person monitoring needed

I will be completely honest with you. I don’t like being watched. It gets me a little anxious. But in a theater, it may be necessary at this time. One thing I think theaters need to do right now is have someone either monitor an auditorium for an entire screening, or occasionally check in on screenings to see what’s going on. Honestly, there are times I wish they had this BEFORE the pandemic, given how the big concern back then was about whoever would be the butthead fiddling with their phone. I get it, we’re attached to our phones. But we paid for AN ESCAPE. I went to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood one time and they have a great warning for using your cell phone. There’s a guy who comes out, introduces the show, reminds you not to use your cell phone, and he adds on that the images up on the big IMAX screen are going to be much more magnificent than what’s on the phone. Thankfully, I have not noticed as much cell phone use in a cinema, allowing for quieter experiences. However, it is still something to be concerned about, and with masks being enforced due to a health crisis, it gives an even greater reason to make sure everyone is following the rules. Such monitoring could also prevent people bringing in outside food and drinks, and piracy, which is of greater concern now in areas where theaters remain closed.

Con #2: Minimal Marketing

This is partially a con for the theaters, but also a con for the flicks. And honestly, I think it is part of why “Tenet” could not make as much money as Warner Brothers would have wanted. It did fine given the circumstances, but still. I’m noticing that a lot of the advertising for theaters coming back and “Tenet” comes my way through the Internet. Granted, a lot of people use the Internet nowadays, but I also think television would be a very effective tool. As for movie theaters themselves, this topic could be somewhat debatable, but when a company like Lord & Taylor has recently decided to promote their going out of business campaign on television, I think theaters and “Tenet” need to step up. I’ve seen more TV ads for “Bill and Ted Face the Music” than “Tenet” for crying out loud! The only TV ads I remember seeing for “Tenet” since its theatrical debut were during a golf tournament and during the recent “Saturday Night Live” premiere. If “Tenet” wanted to save theaters, they should have advertised on television, which many people resorted to in some way during the pandemic as it was the go to option for watchable new entertainment. If “Tenet” ads got more airtime on television than I’m pointing out, let me know, but I’ve watched a lot of television during the pandemic, and I can’t say “Tenet” was in my circles that much. If you want customers back, get their attention. Sure, it might cost some money, but if you spend enough money, you’ll make some money!

Con #3: AMC and Universal are crazy

This last con has less to do with theaters being open, and more to do with theaters existing, and what can happen to them in the future. Movie theaters and studios have maintained a 90 day theatrical window. Granted there are some smaller movies that have a shorter run before it hits streaming or DVD, some movies might even debut at home and theaters at the same time. But for a studio like Universal to come in and suggest that they can play some movies in theaters for a reduced theatrical window, it’s just a little preposterous to say the least, especially during a time where theaters are struggling as it is. In a recent deal negotiated by AMC and Universal, the studio is now allowed to release movies at home as early as 17 days after its theatrical release. I get it, studios have nothing to put out, and them putting movies on VOD early is a good way to get the film out there. However, 17 days is not a long time for a movie to be in theaters. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of movies would be lucky to play in a theater for one week! But Universal is one of the richest and most valuable movie studios out there. They’ve got tons of intellectual properties, a couple big animation studios, and they have a rich history when it comes to film. They’ve been around for over a hundred years and many of their films have been critically acclaimed throughout. I don’t just blame Universal here, but I also blame AMC for giving into this. Originally they were flat out against Universal’s shortening terms, thus leading them to ban their movies from playing at their locations. In fact, the day afterwards, Regal alleged themselves on the side of AMC by initiating their own Universal ban. Thankfully, studios like Warner Brothers, and filmmakers attached to them like Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins have expressed the importance of theaters. Sure, the option of the movie coming home early will be convenient for the consumer, but it’s lost money for the theaters. These are community businesses, and it’s hard to tell where things will go from here, but local jobs could be lost if this is taken to heart.

Universal, let me ask you this… Why would I want to watch the new “Fast & Furious” movie for the first time at home? I’d literally lose much of the excitement, exhilaration, and maybe even some laughter. Remember how “F9” was supposed to come out in MAY?! REMEMBER MOVIES COMING OUT?! THAT WAS AWESOME! I bought tickets for that film as early as February! I was outright convinced it would be the highest-grossing movie of the year. “Fast & Furious,” even though it is not my favorite movie franchise, is made for the same format that we get to experience a new “Spider-Man” movie every year. Not the same format where I can watch two old guys “debate” for U.S. presidency and hopefully not pass out. I don’t talk politics, but you cannot help but be concerned for both candidates while standing on stage.

Speaking of AMC being a little crazy, one of the big concerns many people had before AMC’s reopening was that they were not going to enforce masks. The company’s CEO Adam Aaron suggested that he did not want to get involved in a political debate. I can’t believe I have to say this. CORONAVIRUS IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE (unless you bring someone like Facui into this). CORONAVIRUS IS A HUMAN ISSUE. CORONAVIRUS IS A HEALTH ISSUE. MASKS ARE NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE. IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. And trust me, I would love it if I were told that masks are not allowed, because if you want my honest opinion, they are uncomfortable and they make me look like an out of shape “Mortal Kombat” character. But if everyone else has to deal with it, I do too. Thankfully, they reversed course on this. But even so, it reveals how the United States treats this pandemic. They say we’re all in this together, but our mask-wearing views may suggest otherwise.

In the end, I have enjoyed my ventures at the movies since times changed, and I think there’s a lot that they’ve gotten right. In fact, I’ll be honest, I had an easier time coming up with things I think they’ve gotten right than things I think they’ve gotten wrong. If I had to add a few more things, I think the seat distancing protocols are effective, I like how some theaters have been doing curbside popcorn, and speaking of popcorn, to celebrate Massachusetts bringing back theater concessions, Showcase Cinemas gave out popcorn for free on Monday, October 5th at all Massachusetts locations. I think that’s a sweet deal, and I’m somewhat sorry for myself for missing out on it. I think the theaters are getting things right, both in terms of value and safety. I would love to see more theaters open. But it’s 2020, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. WHERE ARE THE MURDER HORNETS?!

Thanks for reading this post! Just this past Tuesday, I watched the new Amazon documentary “Time,” which is about a woman whose husband was sent to prison for a 60 year sentence. The film hits theaters October 9th, and will stream on Prime Video the following week, starting October 16th. I will have my review up as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, have you been back to the movies yet during these times? If you have, tell me about your experience! If not, what have you been doing instead? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

All In: The Fight for Democracy (2020): Just in Time for My Inevitably Crazy 21st Birthday

“All In: The Fight for Democracy” is directed by Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus. This documentary mainly revolves around, not to mention stars Stacey Abrams, who ran for governorship in the state of Georgia and ended up losing to Republican Brian Kemp. The documentary in particular partially goes over the events of the election, but also dives into history behind voting. And despite the claims that everyone in the United States has a right to an equal vote, this movie plunges into why that may not always be the case.

Before the pandemic, I had an opportunity to watch several movies in theaters through early access screenings. But unfortunately, due to the way things are, I have not been invited to any, and I have not been reminded of any for months. Although I will say that Amazon Studios has been coming through because they recently showed “Radioactive” early online, which at the time, may have been the best movie of the year in terms of acting and production design. This is yet another time they have come through during the pandemic as they are showing the all new documentary, “All In: The Fight for Democracy.”

Little info about me. Yes, I have my preferred candidates. Yes, I sometimes observe the goings on regarding the United States government. But let me tell you, this is arguably the hardest review for a movie I have made in my four and a half years doing Scene Before. For one, I don’t traditionally review documentaries. I typically review like one per year. I also will point out that I don’t really like talking about politics. Maybe in 2016 when the whole election was… Hilarious, I would have been delighted to dive into some conversation. But no matter what happens, I am guaranteed to piss somebody off if I don’t say exactly what they want to hear. And I will say that this documentary in particular reminded me of that. This movie is one of those cases where footage plays during the credits. Specifically, you have everything rolling through, everyone’s name is showing up, and you see cameras in action. A lot of it is related to the subject matter of the film. That’s great and all, but when all these main statements came to a close, the movie ended with a phrase that kind of stood out to me.

“Tell everyone you know.”

I don’t know how I felt about that phrase, because I remember all these public figures a couple years ago, even if they were not involved in politics, basically just telling everyone to vote. And I get it, voting is a right, but all of these people suggesting to do such a thing at one time feels incredibly overwhelming. Plus I remember scrolling through social media and I saw one post that I kind of took to heart, and I will not give much away about my political views, but I don’t devote myself to parties. Overall, I think they’re kind of ridiculous. But I remember I saw a post that said something along the lines of “Please vote for whoever I say.” It’s definitely a much different phrasing than what I just suggested, but with that in mind, I feel like a lot of these people are trying to get you to vote for whoever THEY want you to. I don’t know why, and this shouldn’t take much away from the film as a whole, but that statement felt icky if you ask me. Because it felt like it just forced itself into your brain. It felt very propaganda-like. And yes, propaganda is everywhere. It is a tool that probably works on everyone. But as I grow and mature, I have a greater wish to think for myself than have someone else form my thoughts. This is why I don’t watch cable news!

Overall, as an American vote-based documentary, this is informative. It gives a great deal of information regarding our history on the good, the bad, and the ugly. It also deals with issues of today including gerrymandering, which is a word I often have in mind, but not one I always choose to reference or reflect upon. So this was a good reminder of a few things that maybe I don’t often always consider. It even goes into a fascinating experiment on trying to see who has already registered to vote, and as for those who aren’t registered, why that is the case. Let’s face it, Americans, including myself, happen to be lazy.

Yes, I type reviews that I traditionally like to produce with a thousand words at minimum. But you know why I’m lazy? For starters, I just used up my word count by telling you that I like to use a thousand words at minimum in my reviews, and this is helping me get there. But I often use the excuse, “I don’t have time.” Maybe there’s a number of cases when I say that and mean it because I take public transportation, and as much as I want to respect the environment, public transportation doesn’t always respect my time. But there’s always other cases where I might as well just suggest that because I have “more important things to do.” I have time to ride elevators for fun. I have time to go see “Tenet” again. I have time to sleep in. Do I have time to vote? More important question is, do I, and to add further translation, do other Americans have the willingness to vote? Between long lines, not knowing everything about every single candidate, and wondering if your vote actually counts, the act of voting perhaps raises a lot of questions. In fact, this upcoming Election Day is perhaps at the worst possible time. Most of my in-person classes at college are set for Tuesday right now. I have a rather extended commute. I wonder if the Post Office will even be a thing. And guess what? Guess how many people can say this?

I turn 21 the next day.

Therefore, on the same day that the next president is supposedly announced, there’s a good chance that depending on the result, I might want to drink so much alcohol that I forget every single U.S. president that has ever existed!

Now, a good documentary can change your perspective, yourself, the way you see the world, your thoughts on a subject matter, but I think that this documentary in particular has not changed my thoughts on voting. For one, I’m already registered, so maybe I’m not in the key demographic they’re really trying to aim for. I will admit, even though I don’t devote myself to a party, some of the stuff that is going on in the Republican Party right now is driving me nuts. This documentary, even though it seems to never avoid shying away from obviously leaning left, does a good job on objectifying some wrongs from the right. However, I can obviously see some people giving this documentary a low score because they don’t like anything liberal or left. But did this documentary alter my perspective on voting? Not really. It gave me a greater look at some of the reasons why not everyone’s vote may end up counting, but I often think about the electoral college. So even though we should go out and vote, someone else ultimately has the say for the United States. It’s just weird. I don’t usually talk politics this much, I don’t particularly like talking politics this much, and I hope that even though Election Day is coming up, I don’t have to dive too far into the subject matter again. It could be worse, it could be 2020–WAIT A MINUTE!

In the end, “All in: The Fight for Democracy” is watchable, but I don’t think I’ll recall it that much by the end of the year. Unlike some superior documentaries, it did not alter my perspective or add anything to it. I think Stacey Abrams makes a good case for herself here and her history was nice to see, and speaking of history, some of the backstory behind voting was intriguing. It wasn’t enough, however. This movie is playing in some theaters right now, but it’ll be free on Prime Video pretty soon, so if you have a Prime subscription, maybe you won’t be COMPLETELY robbed. I’m going to give “All in: The Fight for Democracy” a 6/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Just a reminder, “Tenet” is out in theaters right now! If you want to read my review for it, click right here! If you’ve already seen it, great! You didn’t have to like it, but good for you! If you haven’t seen it, I will just let you know that it definitely is worth the big screen treatment! Audio could use some work though. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “All in: The Fight for Democracy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite documentary of 2020? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Radioactive (2019): Imagine Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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