The Fabelmans (2022): Why I Do What I Do

“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.

I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.

“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.

Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.

Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.

Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.

Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.

For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.

Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.

In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.

Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.

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

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. 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 Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

West Side Story (2021): Steven Spielberg Reinvents the Musical Genre Through This Compelling Adaptation

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the final installment of Steven Spielberg Month! You know what that means? It is time for shameless self-promotion! If you are interested in checking out more of my Steven Spielberg-related reviews for the month, this is your opportunity to read up on my thoughts regarding “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” and “The Post.” With that out of the way, it is time to introduce the last review of the themed event. It is one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “West Side Story.” I would have reviewed this film last year if I had the time to. Unfortunately, I could not make it happen. Although I am glad to finally be able to give myself an opportunity to release my thoughts on it, and for you to finally find them out. Ladies and gentlemen, here is my review of “West Side Story.”

“West Side Story” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, Ready Player One) and is based on a 1957 play by Jerome Robbins. The film stars Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, and Rachel Zegler as Maria, a young Puerto Rican girl who falls in love with New York native Tony (Elgort). These two are caught in the middle of rivaling gangs, conflicting sides, and altering identities. While these two may be star-crossed, the turmoil beyond their relationship heats up.

I saw this movie on December 6th, 2021 during a free IMAX fan event screening in Boston. The screening took place days before the film’s wide release. This was my first time seeing anything related to “West Side Story.” Prior to rewatching this film for review purposes, not to mention after, I still have not watched the 1961 “West Side Story” adaptation, despite its acclaim. The film won ten Oscars, including Best Picture. In recent months, Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” sort of followed in its footsteps. The 2021 remake won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in addition to earning other categorical nominations. One such nomination was Best Picture, which the film lost to “CODA,” which I have no problem with as that film was brilliant.

Having rewatched “West Side Story,” it honestly was more fun than it was the first time around. And that says something because that first viewing was a great time. Did I mention that my most recent watch of the film is not my second, but my third time? I went to go see the film in theaters twice, and both times it knocked my socks off. Therefore, it should be no surprise that I am handing the film this much praise.

I am so glad to finally get to talk about “West Side Story” after being busy during the tail end of 2021, partially because it is my favorite musical movie of that year. I had fun with “In the Heights” and I admired “Tick, Tick… BOOM!”, but “West Side Story” takes the cake as the most serotonin-emitting of these films. When I first heard about a remake for “West Side Story,” I had mixed thoughts, and slight indifference as I had not seen the original film. When you announce that you are about to remake something iconic or highly acclaimed as this, it begs the question as to how you can make something that is on par with what the prior material provided. Again, I did not see the 1961 movie, so I cannot compare and contrast these two films together. Although as a standalone movie, “West Side Story” 2021 is one of the most finely crafted creations of the decade thus far. The decade has only started, but if things continue to go in a certain direction, “West Side Story” could end up in my top 50, maybe even top 25 films of the 2020s by the time the ten year span ends.

The cast of “West Side Story” could not be better. Every actor is perfectly placed in their role, they feel at home, and they play their part to the best of their ability. Rachel Zegler is a goldmine of adorableness as Maria. Not only is Zegler a ridiculously talented singer, which is an ability that is somewhat expected in a film like this, but she is also unspeakably beautiful. Every time I glance at Zegler in this movie, I can sense that not only is Zegler happy to be in the movie, I can sense her character is always in the moment. Even during an occasional sense of hardship, every time I look at Rachel, I am, assumingly, as happy as her. She is always either upbeat or expressive, which for a musical, is an appropriate set of emotions. Part of the recently mentioned adorableness not only has to do with Rachel Zegler herself, her character, or her acting ability, but also the costume design.

The costumes in this film are designed by Paul Tazewell, who also designed costumes for the musical “Hamilton.” Tazewell’s designs feel straight out of the 1950s. To go along with the extravagant, larger than life feel of a story like this, some of the costumes feel attractively glitzy. Again, Zegler’s costumes, such as her white dress from the first act, are standouts. All the costumes from the dance in the gym are easy on the eyes. Another one of my favorites is Anita’s yellow outfit that she wears during the “America” scene. It goes well with the atmosphere and the time of day. Everything feels intricately planned.

Speaking of Ariana DeBose, she and Zegler pretty much tie for the greatest performance in the film. DeBose won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Anita, which is undoubtedly deserved. Everything from her physicality to her line delivery to her overall charisma makes for one of the best performances I have ever seen in musical film. The past couple times I watched “West Side Story,” every line out of DeBose’s mouth, even minor ones, made me smile. There is a saying about movies providing escapes for audiences. Anita in “West Side Story” is synonymous with such a philosophy. Every time she spoke, I instantly transported to another world. I am going to continuously debate as to whether Zegler or DeBose gave my favorite performance in the film, but as far as non-lead roles go, DeBose may have given the greatest of them all in 2021.

Despite having story in its name, the story of “West Side Story” is not the most original when you break it down. Not just because it is remaking a 1961 movie based on a 1957 play. If anything it is a spin on the “Romeo and Juliet” formula with different characters and dance fighting. If anything, this latest iteration of the musical is a fantastic spin, and even saying that is arguably an understatement. As I have said before, you can always supply a cliché story, or a story that has been done in the past. What matters is the execution. If you deliver something great with familiar elements, then job well done. This is exactly what Steven Spielberg did, I was on the edge of my seat during scenes that could have potentially come off as goofy. Dance fighting is a concept that to my surprise, successfully highlighted much of the tension between characters. Not only that, but the music used as a backdrop sounded great. It kept my attention.

This movie is shot by Janusz Kaminski, a brilliant cinematographer who has worked with Spielberg for years. The wides in this film are beautiful. The opening sequence is one of the most intriguing of the year based on the camera movements alone. The scope of the film would not be as massive if it were not for some of Kaminski’s long takes. One of my favorite shots of the film is when we get into the gymnasium and see everyone dancing. The camera swoops around the entire place non-stop until we arrive on our core characters like Anita, Bernardo, and Rachel. Looking back on it and what that one moment was able to capture, is jaw-dropping to say the least. Also, if you ever watch the scene, note the use of color. There is a sense of consistency between the colors of various outfits throughout the shot. It almost comes off like a painting. Again, credit goes to Paul Tazewell for how well he handled the film’s costume design.

Musicals, including this one, often thrive based on the spectacle. “West Side Story” has a ton of poppy moments where the cinematography and musical numbers keep my eyes on the screen. That is despite there being a sense of danger throughout the movie. “West Side Story,” at its core, centers around two star-crossed lovers. Although this film effectively encapsulates how their connection affects the people around them. The rivalry between the Jets and Sharks was already heading for trouble, but as soon as we see Rachel and Tony together for the first time, we also begin to see how various supporting characters handle this matter. Even though it should barely affect them on paper, it ends up resulting in increased calamity. As for said calamity, it made for a great movie.

If you ask me, based on everything I presented so far from the costumes to the shot selection to the editing to the acting, this is a sign that Steven Spielberg has brought together one of the greatest directorial efforts of his career. Or, as some might call it, just another Tuesday. “West Side Story” is apparently a part of Spielberg’s childhood, and it shows. The numbers are handled with grace, the characters are well realized, and the aesthetic of the film has a perfect blend between lighter and darker moments in addition to tones. There is no surprise that a sense of passion was present in every scene.

Aside from the cliché elements and familiar story treads, there are not many noticeable flaws with “West Side Story.” This might not be my favorite Steven Spielberg movie, but I cannot help but recognize how massively bonkers and fun this movie is. At the same time, it also successfully hits emotional beats. Performances from Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose highlight this. One of my favorite elements of the film, as someone who watched it perhaps the way Spielberg intended, is that when the characters speak in Spanish, they do not provide subtitles to aid in regard to what they are saying. I have taken a screenwriting class in college, and one thing my professor noted is that dialogue does not always matter. Sure, movies can have great lines that enhance the experience. Whether they are funny, dramatic, or emotionally charging. Although what makes “West Side Story” great is its tendency to use Spanish, a language which I do not understand, without subtitles, and nevertheless compel me into the scenes in which such a language is spoken. Given select moments and the supposed attitudes of various audiences, this sounds like a big risk. As someone who dropped out of Spanish class in high school for Sociology, I have been moved by this choice and its execution.

Big risk, big reward.

One might as well make the conclusion that this is what the whole movie sounded like from the beginning. A big risk. Sure, when you have Steven Spielberg in the chair, he makes everything look easy. Sure, name recognition is definitely a selling point in modern media. The film did not do well at the box office for various reasons. COVID-19, competition with other movies, and controversy with Ansel Elgort are contributing factors. However, this film is now available to watch at home and if you ask me what movie in the musical genre you should watch nowadays, this is one of the first I can think at the top of my head. It is that good. I do not know if Spielberg will make another musical, but if he does, I wonder how the heck he could top this one.

In the end, “West Side Story” is one of the best musical films of this century. Why should I be surprised that this movie is as solid as it is? Steven Spielberg is at the helm. Then again, maybe I should be surprised. After his many previous monumental successes, Spielberg has yet to create a film in the musical genre. He has done a variety of genres prior to “West Side Story” like science fiction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), period pieces (Lincoln), adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark), war (Saving Private Ryan), drama (The Post), and you could even argue that “Jaws” would be considered a horror film. By today’s standards, it is not the most terrifying option on the table, but it has its eerie moments. The man has done everything, and yet he continues to pump out gold. For some filmmakers, this would be an achievement. But I cannot call it that for Spielberg after watching “West Side Story.” As far as Spielberg is concerned, his efforts have amounted to another day at the office. That is how effective of a filmmaker he continues to be. Spielberg could have ended his career at say “Jurassic Park” and have an endlessly celebrated library of films. But that is not the case. His adaptations of songs like “Somewhere,” “Cool,” and “America” have stayed in my memory for a long time, and will likely continue to do so. The look of the film is stunning, the shots are beautiful, and the cast is incredible. Again, I have yet to see the 1961 film, so I cannot confirm if this is better or worse, but I can hardly think of a single problem I have with Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” So much so, that the film is worthy of a 10/10.

Musicals are not my genre, but this is a film that I liked the first time, adored the second time, and found myself eating up by the third time. I am floored by this film’s craft and how extravagantly immersive it is, even when watching it at home. I feel bad for skipping this review last year, but I am more than happy to have gotten my thoughts out by now. Although some of you reading this might not be that surprised that I liked the movie so much, because I ended up nominating it in a few categories during the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards. If you want to see what the film did or did not win, check out the post!

“West Side Story” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy on VOD. For those who have the services, it is also available to watch on Disney+ and HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! This is officially the end of Steven Spielberg Month! But this November, we will be seeing the latest addition to Spielberg’s neverending library. That my friends, is “The Fabelmans.” The film is loosely based on Spielberg’s childhood, and the trailer looks phenomenal. Between this and Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon,” this awards season is likely going to have lots of talk about Hollywood’s self-indulgence. Whether such self-indulgence will be successfully utilized, is a question waiting to be answered.

Also, my next review is going to be for the all DC film “Black Adam.” Be sure to stay tuned for the nine-millionth superhero movie I will be reviewing in my blogging journey. 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 “West Side Story?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see the 1961 “West Side Story?” What did you think of that? How would you compare the two movies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Post (2017): Streep and Hanks Spread the News and Define History in This Spielberg Flick

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the third installment of this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month, where I will be reviewing four of the many movies Spielberg has created over the span of his career. Spielberg has created films with action like “Raiders of the Ark” and “Minority Report,” but today, we are doing a reverse Elvis Presley. A little less action, a little more conversation. That is because we are tackling one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “The Post.” Nominated for two Oscars, this film was met with acclaim. Let us hope that the Movie Reviewing Moron will have something to say to add to this film’s endless stream of positivity. Here we go.

“The Post” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The BFG) and stars Meryl Streep (The Giver, The Iron Lady), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, Game Change), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, Wiener-Dog), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, The Handmaid’s Tale), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Young Justice), and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans). This film is about the first woman newspaper publisher and her editor as they uncover a history changing revelation that had been hidden for four presidencies.

I started Scene Before in 2016. Therefore, I have reviewed a lot of movies since then. Despite seeing previews, I have never gotten around to reviewing, or even watching, “The Post.” The film had a lot of potential from one of the most acclaimed actors and one of the most acclaimed actresses coming together to lead the picture. In addition, Steven Spielberg is behind the camera. Despite the potential, I skipped this film. I was excited to finally give it a watch at home since I had a used copy of the 4K Blu-ray on standby. Physical media forever.

Safe to say, the film is quite good. Streep and Hanks, unsurprisingly, make for a marvelous on-screen pair as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee respectively. Cast members who are not quite at the level of top billing like Jesse Plemons and Will Denton also have moments to shine as well. Steven Spielberg delivers another win for his career on top of his many others. The screenplay, which was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is undoubtedly compelling. I should not be surprised that the screenplay is as solid as it is, as Singer has previous experience in writing excellent journalism-centered storytelling. In addition to “The Post,” Singer also wrote “Spotlight,” for which he won two Academy Awards, specifically Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Having seen that film, I am not terribly shocked. I am also not terribly shocked that not long after those wins, Singer would once again utilize his creativity to effectively craft “The Post.”

Despite being a serious movie, it flies by. Honestly, despite being a couple hours, it felt like an hour and a half at times. It is that good. Pacing-wise, this is one of the better movies I have seen recently. Kind of like “The Post,” “Spotlight” came out as another one of these awards season darlings. I think both movies are equal in terms of entertainment value, a term I use lightly given both of these movies’ subject matters. Although as for which one I like better, I think it depends on where you look. “The Post” feels a bit more theatrical than “Spotlight.” Therefore, when it comes to technicality, that is one aspect where this movie dazzles. The costumes are rugged and transportive enough to make me feel like I am traveling back in time. A lot of the locations look extravagant and beautiful. To add to the antique touch, this movie was entirely shot on film, whereas “Spotlight” used the digital Arri Alexa XT.

Steven Spielberg is no stranger to starting off his movies with a compelling hook.

No pun intended.

In “Jaws,” you have the intro with the infamous music that continues to build whenever the shark is present. After that, you have that scene on the beach where the shark bites a girl in the water. Total intrigue. In “Jurassic Park,” the opening scene between the humans and the dinosaur shows off the menacing vibe these creatures can deliver. In “The Post,” we start off with soldiers fighting in Vietnam. I was not alive during the Vietnam War. In regards to history, I was still a baby when 9-11 happened. Although based on what I have learned in school, I know enough about the Vietnam War to recognize how significant and unfortunate it is from a U.S. perspective. I thought starting off here provided for an effective reminder of not only what the Vietnam War put a militaristic group through, but also what it did to the people of the country they were tasked with defending and honoring.

Now, this is not an action movie, it is not a war movie. War and politics are two defining traits within the story, but if you are looking for a war film in 2017, “Dunkirk” is probably your friend. That said, this one glimpse of action during the Vietnam War set the stage for what was to come. It took something so big to make something much smaller in scale appear more attractive.

This film dazzles from a technical perspective. Again, the costumes and locations look stunning. Speaking of stunning, the intricacies that go into how this movie was made are mind-boggling. The camerawork in this film occasionally felt so immersive that it highlighted some of the best direction of the year. The movie has a few long takes that felt perfectly planned and put me right in the room. There was a scene where I felt as if I was walking around the office of The Washington Post. It is like if Google Maps Street View theatrically transformed itself. Janusz Kaminski, a longtime collaborator with Steven Spielberg, worked on the cinematography for this film. While it was not nominated for an Academy Award, I think it is some of the finest of 2017 alongside Roger Deakins’s work in “Blade Runner 2049” and Hoyte van Hoytema’s craft in “Dunkirk.”

I often try to avoid politics on Scene Before. However, this is one of those cases where it must come into play. I say so because one of the notable aspects of “The Post” was its time of release. This film came out around the tail end of 2017, when Donald Trump was President of the United States. “The Post” almost comes as a tell as to whether history could repeat itself, because this movie reveals a lack of trust or full connection between the news and the government. At the same time, Donald Trump would consistently sideline or mock various news outlets and pick his favorites. This is an action he would continue to do even by the time he left office. If I saw this movie years ago, I would probably leave the theater thinking it is a relevant title and connect it to the importance of the 1st Amendment. This film has an ending that profiles such a thing beautifully.

Speaking of U.S. Presidents, Richard Nixon makes an appearance in this movie. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where we see a suited Nixon. We never see his face, it is almost like looking at The Banker from “Deal or No Deal” at times. Since this movie is based on true events, one touch that I thought was nice was the use of Nixon’s actual voice . The addition of Nixon’s real voice illustrated a specific scene’s point and perhaps delivered an emotional attachment that I would not have felt otherwise. Curzon Dobell is barely in the movie as Richard Nixon, but for the short time he is in it, he makes the performance a standout.

The story feels kind of Hollywoodized and some of the supporting characters do not stand out as much as others, but the film overall is worth a watch. The only other critique I can come up with is that this is one of John Williams’s lesser scores. The man is a genius, and his music during the movie works. But when it comes to his library, this is a score I am not going to remember as much as others.

In the end, “The Post” is a stellar look at how the United States changed journalism, and in turn, how journalism changed the United States. There is no surprise that a film like this could work. Coincidental or not, the timing of this story could not have been better. You have Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg working together. On paper, this sounds like an absolute win. In execution, it is an absolute win. In other news, water is wet. While “Spotlight” may be a slightly better journalism-centered story, “The Post” is another example of how well journalism can be used as the centerpiece of a cinematic experience when given the right tools and context. If Josh Singer wants to do another movie about journalism I am there on day one. I think he is one of the best screenwriters working today. His work on the film with then newbie Liz Hannah, who would go on to co-write the funny political comedy, “Long Shot,” is superb. I am going to give “The Post” an 8/10.

Speaking of history, one thing I love about Steven Spielberg is his ability to successfully manage a couple feature-length directorial efforts in such short time. In 1993 he released both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” within months of each other. Before making “The Post,” Spielberg directed one of my favorite films from him, “Ready Player One,” and he ended up shooting “The Post” while “Ready Player One” was in post-production. “Ready Player One” ended up coming out after “The Post,” but it goes to show that Spielberg is committed to his craft. When one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes he opens the other door back up after a while. There is a reason why I am doing a Steven Spielberg Month, and this is one of them. He is one of the best minds in the film industry today.

“The Post” is now available to rent or buy on VOD and is also available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray.

Thanks for reading this review! My next and final installment to Steven Spielberg Month is coming next Friday, October 28th, and it will be a review for Spielberg’s latest movie to have a wide release, “West Side Story!” I have seen the film twice and will watch it once more for review purposes. I am excited to finally talk about this movie given how I did see it in December 2021, but due to time constraints, I never got around to reviewing it. If you want to see my other reviews through Steven Spielberg Month, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Post?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Spotlight?” Tell me your thoughts on that movie! Do you like “The Post” or “Spotlight” more? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): An Emotionally Thrilling, High-Flying, Down to Earth Tale

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last September, I made a promise to those who follow me on social media that I would do a Steven Spielberg Month! And with that promise comes a review of one of his most famous works, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” I mean, how can I not review this movie? Look at my last minute Photoshopped poster! I am committing to this movie no matter what! That said, “E.T.” is one of the films most people think of when they hear the words Steven Spielberg. It might shock you to know that despite this film coming out before I was born and having such longevity, this is my second time in my entire life watching this film. Is the rewatch worth it? Let’s find out.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and stars Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, and Drew Barrymore. This film centers around a young boy who finds an alien life form. Despite the foreign nature of this being, the boy befriends and communicates with the alien all the while trying to send him back to his planet of origin.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s most influential works, there’s often a debate as to what that film might actually be. “Jaws” essentially invented the modern blockbuster. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” spawned an iconic franchise that other exploration and adventure stories often get compared to. “Jurassic Park” is not only often considered to be the best dinosaur movie, but paved the way for CGI heavy cinema as we know it. However, “E.T.” should also be in the conversation. Even though “E.T.” is a story that brings our world together with foreign territory, it is a film that works because of how tiny it feels. And that is despite the occasional scene where things happen away from home. That is despite an iconic moment where we see our heroes fly by the moon. That is despite the punch-packing score by John Williams. This movie is like being promised a small, delicious pizza, but getting a large at no extra charge.

Safe to say, I had a ridiculously fun time watching “E.T.,” and it is easy to see why people are still celebrating it forty years later.

Even if its video game adaptation is cringe.

I only saw “E.T.” once when I was younger, and while I remember various things about it, this viewing truly felt like an initial watch. Like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” I had the chance to watch “E.T.” at home on 4K Blu-ray. Speaking of similarities to “Close Encounters,” “E.T.” looks surprisingly practical, and that practicality adds a hint of charm to the film itself. If E.T. himself were CGIed, part of me would wonder how off-putting or pixelated that could come off. Thankfully, such an idea remains a mystery.

Speaking of practical, one of the most believable things in the movie is how they handled the connection between Eliott and E.T.. Whether you believe a kid like Eliott would actually take an alien into his home is one thing. As for how they handled the taking of an alien into Eliott’s home makes the journey worthwhile. Seeing their differences in communication provided for glimmers of entertainment. This also goes to show the magic of minimal dialogue, notably on E.T.’s part. E.T. has very few lines in the movie, but each one emits a particular positive emotion that stands out. This is perhaps the film’s biggest strength. The story is simple, but the way it is executed allowed for a great balance of happiness, sadness, and everything in between.

When I look back on my experience of watching “E.T.,” I anticipate to remember select moments where my eyes lit up, and others where my eyes almost watered. And this movie is not short on these. While “Blade Runner” may still be my favorite movie from 1982, I can confirm that “E.T.” is more effective when it comes to inducing character attachments and emotions for everything that is happening.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s science fiction slate, I think this is a better movie overall than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The biggest strength of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is not the main character of Roy Neary, as likable as he is. Instead, that honor belongs to the curiosity of Barry, a three-year-old boy. Spielberg is consistent from one film to another in suggesting that children are likely to take steps to determine what strange happenings are going on outside. This consistency is effective because naturally, children are curious. Although for “E.T.,” the child of focus here, specifically Eliott, is the protagonist. His mother, Mary (Dee Wallace) plays a prominent role in the film. However, when it comes to “Close Encounters” comparisons, Mary emits more of the characteristics of Ronnie, who is noticeably less open-minded towards the ongoing alien plot.

If I had to give any problems to “E.T.,” it would have nothing to do with the story. In fact, it is as perfect as can be. I would barely change a single thing about it. That dishonor, instead, belongs to the technical aspects of the film. The film has its highlights from various night shots that look beautiful, a nicely edited action sequence towards the end, and of course, one of the best, not to mention catchiest, scores John Williams has ever done.

“E.T.” came out in 1982. Therefore, after the film’s release, many improvements have been made to how green screen is done. Although you cannot have the improvements seen in movies like “Avengers: Endgame” without the mistakes made in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” There are a couple flying sequences in this film. At times, they come off as beautiful. John Williams’s score accompanies both of these scenes and allow him to deliver the best music in the movie. However, the green screen, or blue screen in this case, looks obvious. It looks kind of fake. If anything, it makes the shark in “Jaws” look real. I was fully immersed in this flying sequence and nevertheless continue to reflect on it after the movie with positive thoughts. But seeing the landscape move around in the background the way it does is kind of distracting. That said, as far as I know, there is no such thing as a flying bike. Therefore I respect Spielberg and crew for trying to imagine how such a thing could look. The result, per my born in 1999 and viewing in 2022 eyes, is mostly positive.

If I had any other problems with the movie, it would be the first scene between Eliott and E.T. from either an editing or directorial perspective. When E.T. is revealed, we see Eliott react to the sight of the foreign creature. Obviously, he is terrified. I have no problem with the way this is written, but the way it was assembled was a bit jumpy. There are only so many cuts you can do of one person’s face screaming in fear. I think that was a bit overdone.

That said, these are small problems within a film of wonder. The cast is great, the characters are well-written, and the shots are some of the most gorgeous of 1980s cinema. As far as science fiction and alien-based films go, I think Spielberg stepped it up from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” As much as I enjoyed “Close Encounters,” I think I would rather watch “E.T.” again in the near future.

Also, I cannot go on without acknowledging this iconic moon shot. There are few instances in cinema that are as eye-popping as this. There is a reason why this became part of the Amblin logo.

In the end, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is some of the most fun I have had watching a movie recently. They say that moviemaking is a business, which comes with a double-edged sword. The studios always try to follow the money, and therefore quality is sometimes neglected. Not with “E.T.,” because the movie is the highest-grossing project of 1982 by a long shot. It is one thing to be successful, but to be successful and career-defining is another. This film was a win for Steven Spielberg back in the 1980s, and it is a still a winner today. This is a great film for all ages, and I would not mind putting it on again sometime. I am going to give “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.” an 8/10.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is now available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy digitally, and you can also stream it on Peacock.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see another review from this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month event, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!”

My next review in the Steven Spielberg Month series is a 35 year jump in time! This is a film I have not seen yet, I am watching it for the first time for this review, “The Post.” I have heard decent things about this movie. In fact it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Here is hoping it is good! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my reviews for “Amsterdam,” “Smile,” and “Halloween Ends.” 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 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial?” What did you think about it? Or, this might be a dumb question, but it is about something stupid so it comes full circle. Have you ever had the chance to play “E.T.” on the Atari 2600? If so, tell me about your experience. I want to know everything. Scene Before is your click to the flicks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minority Report (2002): Spielberg Conveys a Deadly 2054

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! We have reviewed four Tom Cruise movies so far this month, now let’s make it five! Before we go any further, if you do want to check out my reviews for “Oblivion,” “All the Right Moves,” “Days of Thunder,” and “Top Gun,” you’ll notice that the titles are highlighted, meaning that you’ll find the links right there! These are all other movies that I have previously reviewed for the purpose of Tom Cruise Month, but we’re not focusing on those right now. Instead, we are going to focus on the year 2054, which looks mighty pleasant compared to 2020. It is time to talk about “Minority Report” as we begin our final installment of…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Minority Report” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Jaws) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, Top Gun), Colin Farrell (Ballykissangel, American Outlaws), Samantha Morton (Band of Gold, Pandaemonium), and Max Von Sydow (Flash Gordon, The Seventh Seal). This film takes place during the year 2054 and is based on the material once created by author Philip K. Dick. In a future where Pre-Cogs can see upcoming murders and related criminal acts, a special police unit is supposed to stop murderers and arrest them before such crimes are committed. Interestingly, one of the police officers themselves is accused of a future murder.

Prior to making this review, I had not once seen “Minority Report.” And at this point, getting to witness something new, even if it is almost a couple full decades old, is kind of a treat. I bought the Blu-ray when I was in Santa Monica, California, and I figured this Tom Cruise Month theme would give me a solid excuse to pop in the disc. Unknowingly, I was aware of this movie’s existence. I mean, sure, I guess I knew the title and everything, but what I did not know was that this movie was the picture featuring Pre-Cogs. Like every other person under the age of thirty, I achieved a great deal of knowledge, or at least a conglomeration of useless factoids, over the Internet. If it were not for YouTuber Jeremy Jahns referencing one specific scene…

“Murrrrder.”

…I would probably not know squat about this movie, or at least acknowledge squat about this movie. So I will say, this movie must have stood the test of time in terms of being recognized in pop culture. Then again, it is a Steven Spielberg flick, and he has a fairly recognizable, prolific, diverse, and masterful library.

By the way, before we go any further, one of the biggest compliments I’ll give to this movie is that the framing is very well done. The scope of “Minority Report” pulls you right in. It does not disappoint. It takes this 2054 type of environment and makes you embrace it. Speaking of which, one of the best shots of this movie, is the first full-on glimpse we get of a Pre-Cog, which is shown in the GIF I would assume you have scrolled through fairly recently. It’s just so clear and crisp. I don’t know why, but the more I look at the shot of that Pre-Cog, the more I want to go into a pool. Although, maybe not until next year, knowing how things are right now. I will say, on that note, even though I really like the way this film looks, it’s not pretty all the way through, because I think the color scheme of many of the shots are a little too somber. Granted, “Minority Report” is not a comedy, it was never supposed to represent the best of times, even though we do get some classy looking cars in the future, but there are some times where this movie doesn’t come off as a soap opera from the script, but the color palette begs to differ. It almost reminds me of the “Point Break” remake from 2015, only this movie is twice as good as that film and in my personal opinion, technically qualifies as a “movie.”

Since this is a Tom Cruise movie, and given how this is the final entry to Tom Cruise Month, let’s talk about Tom Cruise himself. When it comes to Tom Cruise in this film, this is honestly one of his better performances. I think casting was a job well done with this film, not just with Cruise, but with names including Max Von Sydow and Samantha Morton. I bought into all their performances and it helped enhance the movie. I will say though, not that it matters entirely, Tom Cruise with a haircut like the one he has here is probably one of his inferior looks for one of his roles. But that’s just me. Also, if you know me, when it comes to Tom Cruise, I don’t always point out my love and respect for him through his ability to convey a character, even though he’s a respectable actor in that regard, but his motivation to perhaps nearly kill himself. Like some of his other movies, he does his own stunts here. Granted, I never really noticed anything as scary or heart-racing as say his plane hang from “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” as an example, but is nice to know that like some of his other projects, Cruise himself put an effort into the stuntwork.

One of the best parts of “Minority Report” is the concept. You have a special police force trying to stop murderers who are predicted by Pre-Cogs. I think the way that this movie went around executing the concept was worthy of a thumbs up. The movie kind of had me in the beginning alone. I will say when it comes to pacing it does slow down overtime, but the climax is fairly entertaining as well. It ups the pace of the movie when said climax begins, and it makes the viewing experience worthwhile.

Another point of the movie that stood out to me for a reason I truly should have grasped from the very beginning was the score. For the record, the score for “Minority Report” was conducted by John Williams, and I don’t know why for the life of me I didn’t conceptualize that from the beginning. I knew John Williams automatically went hand in hand with the “Star Wars” franchise but for some reason I completely forgot his attachment to Steven Spielberg, the two go together in the same way that Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan tend to go together. They have worked on so many films to the point where their coupling has become nothing short of iconic. When it John Williams, I will say, even though there are fractions of the score that I happened to like, it is one of inferior scores. This movie came out the same year as “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” another score that John Williams did. And even though I, along with many others, would point out that “Attack of the Clones” is a lackluster installment to the “Star Wars” franchise, there’s a solid chance I would agree with someone that “Episode II,” per usual had a kick-ass John Williams score. When it comes to his 2002 work, “Attack of the Clones” kicks “Minority Report’s” ass. Although, if you want me to go further, even though I barely remember, I do recall not hating Williams’ score to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But I have to watch that movie again as it has been forever since I saw it. Sticking with “Minority Report’s” score, I will say I enjoyed it, but if I had to say one standout negative about it, I think it’s a little overbearing on drums. Just a little bit.

Little sidenote, this review is being written in 2020, the year that “Cops” was practically taken off the air for a list of reasons, so I will admit, I did get a slight chuckle seeing that apparently the TV show “Cops” was still relevant in 2054. Just thought I’d point that out.

In the end, “Minority Report” is a good movie, and a likable futuristic vision with a clever concept. However, when it comes to futuristic visions, specifically ones that come from the mind of Steven Spielberg, I much prefer his vision of 2045, which was represented through 2018’s “Ready Player One,” as opposed to his vision of 2054, represented here in “Minority Report.” Then again, “Ready Player One” is based on a book by Ernest Cline, and “Minority Report” is based on a short story from Philip K. Dick, so in reality, it’s not Spielberg’s vision. Nevertheless, I think when it comes to movies that are set in the future from Spielberg, I personally prefer “Ready Player One.” Although I will say, one thought that has been in my head for a little bit about this movie is the desire to check it out once more. Not just because I liked the movie the first time, which I did. But I feel like there are possibly one or two crucial points that I may have glossed over that are worth noticing in the future. If your movie can get me to have a urge to go back and see it one more time, no matter what the reason (unless maybe I want to torture myself), I’d say a job well done is in order. There are better Spielberg movies out there, I’d say there are better Tom Cruise movies out there. But this was worth my time, I didn’t really have any regrets. I’m going to give “Minority Report” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Thanks to all who showed any ounce of interest in Tom Cruise Month! I will point out that July is coming up, and while I have no real theme for the month, I will note that “Tenet” is scheduled to come out pretty soon, so maybe I’ll review some Christopher Nolan movies if I have the time. I will point out though, given how I have not really paid much attention to this year in film all that much, I do want to give this year’s movies a shot before it is too late. So there is a solid chance that a lot of July’s content is going to be of some 2020 movies that I missed. I’ve got a few on Blu-ray, I can probably check a few movies through streaming if I have the proper account setup. And even though I personally don’t have Apple TV+, there is a movie coming to that service that I might end up reviewing if possible, specifically “Greyhound” starring Tom Hanks. Because who doesn’t like Tom Hanks?! Be sure to follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! Speaking of checking things out, if you want to see some more of my Tom Cruise reviews that are not exactly affiliated with Tom Cruise Month, the links are listed down below. These reviews by the way go all the way back to 2017, my second year of film reviewing on Scene Before. I want to know, did you see “Minority Report?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite John Williams score of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Last Samurai

Risky Business

The Firm

American Made

Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible II

Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Cats (2019): Kitty Litter

EVERYBODY:
Go see “Richard Jewell!” Clint Eastwood has done it again!
Check out “1917!” It’s heart-stopping!
Watch “The Irishman” on Netflix! It’s worth the three and a half hour runtime! It’s REAL cinema!
Hey! “Queen & Slim” is getting positive reviews!
GO SEE “STAR WARS!”
“Bombshell’s” the movie we need right now!
“Frozen II” is a great Disney sequel!
“The Two Popes!” Check it out!
Hey Jack, have you seen Amazon’s “The Aeronauts?”
“MARRRRRRIAGE STOOOOOORRRRRY!”

ME:
Hey guys, I’m going to review “Cats!”

*Beat*

…Awkward. No matter what happens, this will unite us all. It’s time to review the NON-“Star Wars” movie coming out this weekend, because this is what I was able to see early on this week. Let’s get this s*itshow overwith.

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“Cats” is directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl) and stars James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Emoji Movie), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Philomena), Jason Derulo (Everybody Dance Now, Drop the Mic), Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor), Jennifer Hudson (The Voice, Dreamgirls), Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Good Liar), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, The Giver), Rebel Wilson (Jojo Rabbit, Pitch Perfect), and Francesca Hayward. The plot of “Cats,” if there is one in this damn thing, is that a bunch of cats that look and walk like humans compete against each other to be the one to earn another life… That’s the best way I can describe this movie without cringing. Because holy s*it. THIS IS PUTRID.

Going into “Cats” on Tuesday night, I had two screenings to choose from. “Cats” being one of them, obviously. The other one happened to be “Bombshell,” which I said to you all that I would review. Well, expect a delay on that, when I finally got my RSVP for “Cats,” I could not pass it up, and by that I mean I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” with somebody else, because as far as I know, there is probably not one person that would want to see “Cats” with me. Did I have any plans to watch “Cats” originally? Absolutely not. In fact, if you follow the Scene Before Facebook page, and if you aren’t following it, CLICK THIS LINK and give it a like! Anyway, if you have kept track of recent happenings there, you may have noticed this recent post…

Well guess what? I ended up dragging myself on the underfunded transportation system in the Boston, Massachusetts area, put my ass in a cinema seat, and here we are. But let me just say, I did not go into “Cats” blind. I went in having seen bunches of the marketing, including the main trailers, which honestly just creeps me out the more I think about it! I had little to no real anticipation of this movie, even though I was expecting some decent numbers and neat visuals at times. Did I get those in the end? Kind of. The visuals were nifty, but the numbers are honestly forgettable. I have never seen any other related “Cats” material, not the play, nor any other adaptation. So this movie ultimately took my “Cats” virginity. As someone who has had their first “Cats” experience of any kind, I cannot imagine myself returning to this franchise in the near future. This movie BROKE me to no end. It’s honestly up there with some of the most anger-inducing content I have seen all year. In fact, I am honestly kind of glad I went to see the movie as early as I did. I love the moviegoing experience, and going to see a movie early, depending on the film is honestly kind of thrilling. I was in a theater containing some people who were enthusiastic. One person had cat ears on, some were Taylor Swift fans, and I think the best part about this movie is that the occasional reactions from people that were given with a hint of sarcasm. There was this one moment around the first act where this guy just belted out a snarky laugh and a bunch of us played along because I think a surprising number of attendees thought this movie was going to suck balls and we had almost no expectations for it. Maybe we collectively thought this movie was cheesy or a waste of time. Who knows? The point is, if I went to see this movie in perhaps January during a dead afternoon, it probably wouldn’t be as fun or lively. The only thing I probably would have felt at that time is pure anger. Being in the environment of a free screening before a movie opens definitely helps.

BUT IT DOES NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE CRAP I SUFFERED THROUGH!

I have been noticing something about our current moviegoing audience. We seem to enjoy two things nowadays. Granted, that’s an understatement, we seem to enjoy lots of things in reality, but the two of the commonalities I’m seeing from the general moviegoing audience is spectacle and nostalgia. There’s definitely an argument to make about “Cats” being one of the more nostalgic movies of the year. It’s based on a hit musical from the late 20th century, which was inspired by poetry from T.S. Eliot. I think a lot of older audiences will gravitate towards this film, plus younger theater admirers. And I will point out one thing that I think could have ended up being a positive about this film, specifically the prettiness that’s intact. From the marketing, there have been a lot of shots that looked nice, the neon signage everywhere kind of adds a nice touch, the film is visually appealing on the surface. And throughout, at times, I dug it for its visuals. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give.

Earlier this year, I reviewed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which is one of the worst blockbusters I have witnessed in recent memory, especially when considering how FANTASTIC the trailers were leading up to its release. To this day, the only compliments I can give the film are some of the shot choices and the appealing visual effects. That’s it. “Cats” is kind of like that. Granted, I did not like the “Cats” trailers, but you probably get my point. However, the good news is, and it honestly PAINS me in the ass to say this… I’d rather watch “Cats” again. As a movie, it is technically competent. Not to mention, competently… BOOOOORRRRRRRING!

This movie technically has a plot, but when it’s presented on screen, it’s an utter mess! It’s a nice looking mess, but a mess nevertheless! I guess we’ll call it a hot mess! The movie undoubtedly is trying to rely on the spectacle provided from each number. I didn’t expect this movie to lack singing, but the singing in this movie is ENDLESS. OH MY FREAKING LORD! A good portion of the numbers are… borderline OK? I guess? But I don’t feel like I will end up remembering them. The only numbers that truly stood out to me was the one where Taylor Swift’s character was introduced, most likely because there were a few people in the crowd who were ecstatic over seeing her on screen and one heavily revolving around Laurie Davidson’s character of Mr. Mistoffelees, which I won’t go into. Again, I went into the movie not knowing much about “Cats,” so I’m gonna be somewhat vague with the material.

I am not even in the mood to go into the characters, because for one thing, there are a lot of them. It’s overwhelming. I am willing to bet that if there were fewer characters, this movie could be a tad more interesting. I will say though, even though “Cats” itself is somewhat visually attrractive, it is simultaneously off-putting. I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t ask for a movie where Ian McKellan plays a live-action, human-like cat that is licking a plate. It’s something so unimportant, yet so horrifying. Much like the numbers, there is perhaps not even a single character that ended up standing out. Many of the characters feel like they have little to no layers, and the only thing that could end up being memorable is all of the “digital fur technology” that went into this pile of crap they call a movie.

I do not seek out musicals that often. I don’t usually watch all that many films that are heavy on musical numbers, but if I had to compare “Cats” to any other film, I’d say one of the closest examples I can give is Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” For the record, they are COMPLETELY different on almost every single level in terms of plot, genre, and character motivations. But one of the biggest compliments I can give to “Transformers” is the visuals. The effects are nothing short of amazing. I think even people who don’t like the newer “Transformers” movies can probably agree that the visual effects are nice to look at. Now, I personally enjoyed the first “Transformers.” It’s a fine action movie if you ask me, but I know the franchise is not always the most pleasing to everyone. The story is basic, repetitive from one film to the next, and some would say it almost doesn’t even matter when there are tons of explosions and American flags everywhere.

This movie doesn’t really shy away from comedy. I mean, what do you expect when there’s a seemingly sarcastic laugh during my screening? Only thing is, the comedy just doesn’t work. In fact, the jokes I remember are random cat puns. They might have been the only jokes in the movie, and they sully the experience entirely.

Why did I go see “Cats?” Well, I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” for one thing, but I thought this would be a fun film to review. It’s one of those one of a kind, crazy experiences that I will end up remembering, but not for the right reasons. Personally, I don’t ever see myself watching “Cats” again, and I had no plans to get a cat in the near future, but this movie has officially eliminated any possibility of me wanting a cat, because if I am ever presented with an opportunity to get a cat, part of me would not stop thinking of this piece of trash. And in other news, Taylor Swift is in this movie, that picture above is of her. And SPOILER, the movie DOES NOT go into how many cats she broke up with.

In fact, let me specify about my experience of watching this film. This was a film that felt embarrassing to say the least. It’s well-crafted, but embarrassing nonetheless. Whenever I go see a film, I usually order myself a popcorn and soda to keep myself up. I didn’t do that this time. I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it. Maybe it’s because I was busy talking to a friend I ran into, but that’s not the point. The overall experience of seeing “Cats” feels like a dream. Because I became increasingly sleepy, increasingly bored, and the movie itself became more irrelevant than the door close button on modern elevators! There is a part of me that wanted to laugh, but it felt really hard, because at the same time, what I really wanted to do was leave. This movie overstays its welcome, even giving itself an opportunity to hammer in one final number that is so bad that it’s good. And when those stinking credits FINALLY came on screen, I let out a bellowing “THANK GAAAWWSH!” Because again, the movie broke me to shreds. You know how I said I didn’t get any popcorn or soda for this movie? Upon the leaving the film I had one thought in mind. I need popcorn, because I felt like I dredged through this movie in the same way that Bart Simpson would dredge through homework. I felt like part of my well-being has been erased. This was a well-earned treat for myself. By the way, the popcorn was f*cking satisfying. It made my cat nips go hard.

In the end, “Cats” is perhaps the most competent borefest of the year, and that really says something because… “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a thing. And that’s the absolute worst thing about “Cats.” It looks charming, it looks presentable, it looks nifty. Some of the camerawork is nice. But between some of the questionable editing, lame-ass script, and nearly nonexistent plot, this movie made me angrier than that kid from “Looper” whenever something goes wrong for him. I would rather poke my own eyes out with my own two hands than go see this movie again. The ensemble has a lot of big names including Idris Elba, Ian McKellan, and James Corden, but not even that could save the movie. In a way, the more I think about it, it almost makes the movie worse. Remember that movie, “The Circle” that came out a couple years ago? It’s like that. It had a list of respectable actors including Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, TOM FREAKING HANKS! To know that these people took on this film specifically, makes my brain leak a little bit. Again, visually appealing, but it’s not enough. I’m going to give “Cats” a 2/10. Part of me wants to give this movie a 3/10, I really do. But now that I’ve had a little bit of time to marinate, this is up there with some of the most frustrating, not to mention forgettable, movies I have EVER seen during my time on this blog. Did the crowd reactions add something? Kind of. But not entirely. To me this was just a waste of time. The only ways that this movie could end up as a 1 is if it didn’t look pretty, if the acting was the worst I’ve ever seen, or it weren’t for a couple of halfway decent moments. Nevertheless, this was an insufferable experience, and I know “Star Wars” is not getting the best reviews right now, but this is actually making me excited for “Star Wars.” I think the only way I could have ended up enjoying “Cats” is if I was perhaps very young and this was one of the first movies I have watched. Maybe one of the first in the theater. Because as long as there are cats doing things on screen, why should I care about anything else? How am I still alive? I don’t know! It’s amazing! Even so, I’m done talking about this garbage, let’s move on!

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned guys, because I am going to have my review up for the next film that will inevitably make a billion dollars, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I’m going to my local IMAX theater on opening Thursday, I cannot wait! How will the film turn out? I do not know for sure, but I am endlessly curious, so let’s do this! May the force be with us! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the blog, and be sure to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Cats?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is cat-related? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Men In Black: International (2019): Thor and Valkyrie Play with Toys

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“Men In Black: International” is directed by F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Friday) and stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Girl On the Train), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Silicon Valley), Rafe Spall (The Big Short, Life of Pi), Les Twins, Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Love Actually), Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, Cold Pursuit), and Tim Blaney (Muppets Tonight, Guild Wars 2). This film is a spinoff that takes place in the popular “Men In Black” franchise, which would traditionally star Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but this time, as you can assume by the recently mentioned word “spinoff,” the story is diverging away from its usual storytelling methods. Although Frank the Pug is back, which is awesome. This spinoff revolves around agents H and M (coincidence?) as they save the planet from alien-related attacks.

Going into this movie, I had my expectations set somewhere around the middle. I enjoy the “Men In Black” movies. I own the first one on DVD, and I have seen the second and third films as well. When it comes to the second film, I thought it was decent. Just another case of the sequel not surpassing the original, but still a good time. Surprisingly, probably not just for me, but this might surprise a lot of you, of Will Smith’s trilogy, my favorite of them all is “Men In Black 3.” There was one point where I would watch Starz all the time, and throughout the year of 2013, “Men In Black 3” was probably the thing I rewatched the most on that channel. I admired the film for its use of time travel, some of the dialogue, and the surprisingly emotional ending. When I first heard they were doing a “Men In Black” spinoff, I didn’t particularly know what to think. I also remember there once being an idea for a crossover between “21 Jump Street” and “Men In Black.” I have not seen “21 Jump Street,” so I can’t fully give my thoughts on how much sense this idea would make. However, despite my slight apprehensions, which I still had after witnessing the first trailer for “Men In Black: International,” I still went in with some hopes that this movie would be worthy of the franchise name. I will say though, the final trailer, is actually a pretty good piece of marketing. It got me a bit more interested in the movie than I was before.

So, how was the movie? It’s the best “Men In Black” spinoff ever!

It’s also the only one.

Seriously though, how was the movie? It was pretty good. If you ask me, I think “Men In Black: International” has all the ingredients for a cliche, but effective, summer blockbuster. Cool action, witty dialogue, charming characters, neat effects (for the most part), and some nifty concepts here and there. It’s good enough for you to go with a few friends and forget about reality for a couple hours, and then, I dunno, maybe catch on cable one day. And I say that with all seriousness, because it is probably the most “fun” I’ve had in a theater this year. It’s not the best movie of 2019. In fact, there are other “fun” movies that I saw that I would technically consider better than this, but if you if you ask me which movie made me grin like an idiot for most of the runtime in 2019, “Men In Black: International” is certainly a contender.

The “Men In Black” franchise has always seemed to have mastered the art of comedy, and “Men In Black: International” is no exception to this rule. Unfortunately, while Frank the Pug does make a brief appearance in this film, he’s not a critical character. But we do manage to get an equally as awesome comic relief character by the name of Pawny, played by the likable and talented Kumail Nanjiani. His backstory, which is explained during the film, made me care for him, and he had a number of gutbusting lines here and there. Speaking of gutbusters, Pawny’s charisma does suggest that all the other characters are less funny or less interesting, because Chris Hemsworth is the bomb.

My respect for Chris Hemsworth has grown so much over the past few years, even though I hated “Ghostbusters,” even though “Thor: Ragnarok” was not what I wanted it to be, I still had respect for Chris Hemsworth because in general, he makes the idea of being charming the exact opposite of a chore. And when it comes to “Men In Black: International,” I think Hemsworth was one word: charismatic. He had fantastic lines, he truly feels like an expert in his field, maybe a bit of a goofy smart-ass who simultaneously takes his job seriously, and a guy who I would not mind having lunch with. Also, I mentioned the excellence of this film’s comedic elements, and I will certainly link an inside joke involving Hemsworth’s character. If you have ever heard of Marvel or Thor, there is a shot that will have you dying. Prepare for it if you ever see this movie.

Speaking of Hemsworth, I’d say he also had great chemistry with the film’s other lead, Tessa Thompson, but then again, that should not be too surprising since they have worked together before in multiple Marvel films, most notably “Thor: Ragnarok.” In fact, if I had to be honest, I think the duo’s chemistry here in “Men In Black: International” is better than it was in “Thor: Ragnarok,” because I feel the actors’ personalities meshed together when it comes to collective line delivery and interactions. I was able to buy into their partnership, and they worked together quite well.

I also really liked the big gun the marketing revealed at one point. If you remember the final trailer where our main characters test a gun in a desert, that makes for a couple highlights in the film. The gun does not get heavy usage, but it is probably the most admirable weapon in the film, which is saying a lot.

However, like most movies, “Men In Black: International” comes with its imperfections. Like a number of films I have seen recently, this movie suffers from some minor pacing issues, which almost made me lose interest in the story. Also, compared to a couple other “Men In Black” films, this installment feels a tad disposable. I’d watch it again, but I would not call it the holy grail of summer blockbusters. And as mentioned earlier in the post, a lot of the effects worked, but it doesn’t mean all of them did. When the movie started, I got a glimpse at a creature who was in front of young Agent M. It looked like something out of a B-rate “Avatar” film or perhaps live-action “Sonic the Hedgehog,” although, probably much more competent than that. It didn’t look revolting, but absolutely artificial. There was also almost no real threat. While various baddies appear throughout the film, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the most threatening of them all, at least for a period of time, and it almost took me out of the movie. Another aspect I didn’t like is the Lexus product placement, but at the same time, compared to “Hitman: Agent 47” and that film’s relationship with Audi, I can tolerate Lexus in this film by MILES. Pun most certainly intended. Then again, this film had a decent amount of positives to which point, the negatives almost don’t even matter. I had enough fun with “Men In Black: International” that I felt in the zone. Do I want to see another story with Chris Hemsworth or Tessa Thompson? That’s still up for debate from my perspective, but I still managed to enjoy what I saw.

In the end, “Men In Black: International” had me smiling, laughing, and immersed. If there is one aspect of movies that I personally felt has improved since I first started Scene Before in 2016, it is comedy, and movies like “Men In Black: International” support that sentiment. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson make a good team, I enjoyed the humor, and it made me, surprisingly, appreciate a “Men In Black” story that didn’t have Will Smith in it. Although technically speaking, he does appear at one point, I won’t say how. Also, part of me may be wondering however if my positive, “smile on my face” thoughts related to this film, may be due to the collective atmosphere in the theater. Because just about everyone was laughing from one point to the next and the cinema was nearly full. Then again, I saw “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” in a full cinema where everyone was laughing and I hated that piece of crap. Part of me wonders if my thoughts as of now, are simply fueled by what the collective vibe must have been. Maybe if I watch the film again, said thoughts could end up changing. But I don’t care, because I’m going to give “Men In Black: International” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I just recently reached my 300 post mark on Scene Before, so if you want to check it out, click this link! The post involves me going over my complete Blu-ray collection, which features a video I uploaded to YouTube, partially because WordPress would not let me upload it directly. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Men In Black: International?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Men In Black” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018): I Believe in Magic 8-Balls

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“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is directed Eli Roth (Death Wish, Cabin Fever) and stars Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda, Goosebumps), Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnarok, How to Train Your Dragon 2), and Owen Vaccaro (Daddy’s Home, Mother’s Day) as a young orphan named Lewis meets up with his charismatic uncle Jonathan. This uncle happens to be a warlock who lives with an elderly witch by the name of Florence Zimmerman. Together, they are all living in the same house that is said to be haunted. Throughout the movie, Jonathan is trying to get rid of a clock through magic in order to preserve the world.

“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is one of those films I just didn’t know much about before going to see it. I remember seeing one trailer for it in the movie theater. And in all honesty, the first time I even heard about this was when the film was doing advance screenings. Then again, I live 30 minutes from Boston and Eli Roth, the director behind this film, actually was born around the area. So I don’t know what other areas happened to be doing regarding this film, but I remember getting some alerts for screenings going back as far late August. Although I must say, the screenings were far ahead of when I was alerted of them. The screenings actually happened to be on the week when the movie actually released. Guess Universal didn’t have too much faith in this film. Most of the marketing I saw came towards the time before the movie went into theaters.

I have to say though, despite some apprehension with the marketing, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is a fun time! I’d say it’s a decent flick for kids and adults alike. It doesn’t treat people like idiots (for the most part, because it is apparent these days that you can’t have a kids movie without poop jokes). The biggest praises I can give to this movie is the lovable chemistry between the characters. Some highlights include Jack Black and Cate Blanchett, who play off each other calling each other rude names. The gag increasingly dies down as the movie goes on, which is kind of unfortunate considering once I first witnessed this, it was one of the best parts of the movie.

As far as the kid goes in this movie, his name is Owen Vaccaro. I wouldn’t go ahead and call Vaccaro the next great child actor, who is gonna go onto win Oscars one day. I mean, he could, but his name probably wouldn’t be as prominent. It’s not like I’m witnessing another Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) or Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone, My Girl). However, Vaccaro’s performance serves both the character and the movie very well. His character, known by the name of Lewis Barnavalt, is pretty much a wiz. He reminds me of a more humanized version of Mindy Kaling’s character from “A Wrinkle in Time.” I’m not saying he often quotes other people, particularly those who happen to be famous and have perhaps above average intelligence, but he does seem to have some abnormalities to him. He often looks in a dictionary, and I mean that in a way that technically qualifies as a hobby. In fact, what makes this kid weird, is kind of what this movie tries to teach people. It’s similar to other lessons that may have been provided in children’s films before, but it doesn’t mean the film fails on trying to emphasize such a lesson.

While the kid may be weird, the character played by Jack Black is just plain crazy. He almost reminds me of a mad scientist in some ways because he doesn’t seem to believe in the concept of sleep. So in a way, I guess you can say I can relate to this character. The character’s name is Jonathan Barnavalt and he is a warlock. Jack Black is probably my favorite character in the movie, and perhaps the one that kids might want to emulate the most. For one thing, his house has one rule (don’t open a particular cabinet), but other than that, there are literally no rules. He’s enthusiastic, hyperactive, and it adds up to make him rather charming.

As for Cate Blanchett, her character goes by the name of Florence Zimmerman. Out of everyone in the movie, she wasn’t my favorite character. She was pretty close, but Jack Black takes the cake. But the thing is, I literally had no idea I was even witnessing Cate Blanchett in this movie. So out of everyone in the movie, I’d say this character was the most well performed. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really know Cate Blanchett was going to be in this film and I knew Jack Black was. Plus the film reminded me of “Goosebumps,” which also had Jack Black as a character with some similarities to his character in this movie. I’ve seen Cate Blanchett in some films before like “Lord of the Rings,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” I’m somewhat surprised that I wasn’t really able to discern Cate Blanchett because to me she seems to have one of those voices you can easily pick out. But you also have to consider how Cate Blanchett looks in this movie compared to how she does off screen. Even so, I feel like Cate Blanchett embodied this character well and it just goes to show one actor can truly slip over your head sometimes. I am not saying Cate Blanchett’s performance is gonna get her an Oscar nomination, maybe at best she’ll be recognized for a Saturn Award, but I’m not sure.

But in all reality, what makes this film so interesting to me is the vibe and the spirit of the film itself. This film is in the fantasy genre, and it’s particularly aimed at families. I will have you know that when I was actually at the theater to watch this movie, I was the only customer in attendance. “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” manages to balance humor, story, and character development very effectively. In fact, in some ways, I guess you can also say this is a horror movie as well. One reviewer on YouTube by the name of Chris Stuckmann actually went to see this movie, and somebody told him that children walked out of the theater early because they were scared. When I saw his review, it reminded me of how I studied something scary from a childhood show I watched. I’m not sure what it was, but it was probably from a show on PBS or something. I could understand why some children would walk out. Comparing this film to “Goosebumps” once more, there are some light scares that almost seem like scares that fall into the “playing safe” category, but then there’s one scene that stood out to me as I watched it and almost reminded me of what I “must” have witnessed as a kid. If you like horror, I wouldn’t say to go out of your way and watch this movie. This isn’t like you’re watching “A Quiet Place” or something. But if you want to have fun and escape reality, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is for you.

In the end, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is a fine fantasy film that probably won’t be remembered throughout time, but it is certainly good for a watch. It’s intriguing, occasionally suspenseful, funny, and perhaps the most effective commercial for the Magic 8-Ball that I’ve seen since maybe “Angels in the Outfield.” Would I buy the movie on Blu-ray? Probably not. If it were used and available for a decent price maybe I’d put my hands on it. However I am proud to say that my recent viewing of this film was not a waste of time. I’m gonna give “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review. Be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Apollo 13,” which will be up on October 11th (hopefully). This will be my last space movie review before I make the trek to see “First Man,” so be sure to check that out. Also, be sure to check out my eventual reviews for “Venom” and “A Star Is Born.” One more thing, I just got back from New York Comic Con, and I’ve got a bit to talk about regarding that, so look forward to my review on that sometime soon! Be sure to follow Scene Before with a WordPress account or email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The House with a Clock in Its Walls?” What did you think about it? Or, given how this film is directed by Eli Roth, what is your favorite film Eli Roth was involved in? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ready Player One (2018): Pop Culture’s Ultimate Birthchild

*SPONSORSHIP ALERT* (although nobody’s payin’ me)

Before we dive into my review for one of my most anticipated movies of 2018, let me just have you know that this review is being called “Pop Culture’s Ultimate Birthchild.” If you watch “Ready Player One” and/or read the book, you’d know precisely what I’m talking about. And speaking of birthchildren, there’s one couple out there in California who are currently expecting a birthchild. The couple contains souls by the names of Genevieve and Paul, and they are going to giving birth to a child sometime in the future. You can find out the true story of this babymaking journey in “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” documents the seemingly endless but also effort-filled journey of having a child. What’s so hard about it? Watching over them? Finding a babysitter? Trying to get them to fall asleep? No, you fools! The hard part is making them! Watch as Genevieve and Paul do something that will change humanity. By, you know, trying to increase its overall population by 1. But the process of doing that isn’t easy! The couple suffer through troublesome situations in regards to sex, math, testing, costs, and because they TOTALLY asked for them, infinite needles! If you want to watch the fifth episode to this series, it’s listed up above. This time, Genevieve and Paul’s marriage might be going down the toilet! Not to mention, nothing seems all that pleasant at this point. Watch the episode, comment, subscribe, hit the notification bell, share with your friends, enemies, frenemies, whoever they may be. Also check out the “WTIVF” website, and their other forms of presence on social media, all of which is listed down below! Oh yeah, and tell them Jack Drees sent ya! I’m sure they’ll appreciate it!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

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“Ready Player One” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Lincoln) and stars Tye Sheridan (X-Men Apocalypse, Mud), Olivia Cooke (Ouija, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Dark Knight Rises) and is based on the pop culture extravaganza of a book written by Ernest Cline, who by the way, is one of the film’s screenwriters alongside Zak Penn (The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk).

Much like the book, this movie centers around the character of Wade Owen Watts, a teenage boy who is currently living in the 2040s. Oh yeah, and just like every other movie that takes place in the future that seems to have something depressing, Earth is dying, who’d a thunk it? Nowadays he basically spends his time on the virtual reality headset universe known as the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where you can literally live your reality meeting other avatars who go by nicknames. For example, Wade’s avatar name in the game is known as Parzival. Another example would be for a different character in the movie, Samantha, which is the name she goes by in real life, but in the OASIS, she’s known as Art3mis. There’s not just that, you can do just about anything you can think of! You want to drive a DeLorean? You’ve got yourself a DeLorean! You want an Iron Giant to hang out with? Of course you do, and you’ve got one! You want to ride the bike from “Akira?” Bingo! This is basically a future, where there’s nowhere left to go. And I’ve seen a lot of media will give this dystopian landscape where everything looks all depressing, but one thing I’ve never noticed is a hint of pop culture in there. And I feel this movie, the more I think about it, is kind of relevant. Not just for the environmental message that you’d find in films like “Wall-E” or “Interstellar,” but the fact that maybe we’re running out of ideas in terms of what could be the next big franchise or the next big movie or the next big TV show. The movie doesn’t really dive into that, but this is an unoriginal movie which centers around unoriginality and it’s all the better for it!

This was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Most of the promotional material had me nerdgasming! The visuals looked astounding! The music, like, oh my gosh! The teaser trailer for “Ready Player One” which was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, went on to become one of my favorite trailers of 2017, and the movie had a couple more trailers that went on to become instant favorites of mine for this current year. I went to see the movie in 70mm film! A lot of people see “Avengers: Infinity War” as their most anticipated movie of the year, and I totally get why, but when it comes to both movies, I can’t help but hype both up like the Soup Nazi when his place was in business on “Seinfeld.” I even did something that I never do before going to see a movie. I actually read the book. Let me just pull up a quote that I left in my review for “The Firm.”

“…movies are more fun! Sorry, books!”

Part of my reading of the book has to do with a challenge I gave to some friends, but still.

After reading the book and seeing the promotional material of the movie, I felt like this was a fictionalized “King of the Nerds.” If you have seen “King of the Nerds,” you’d probably know it as a part competition and part nerd culture extravaganza. This show is actually quite possibly my favorite of all time, making me even gladder to have read the book to capture the feeling of the show inside me once more after it was canceled by TBS in 2015. And speaking of “King of the Nerds,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” the movie which the show is sort of based on, is referenced in the book. In fact, there’s one part where the main character of Wade Watts goes searching for something important to the plot, and he tries going into a recreation of the house that the nerds rent and fix in the movie! If you know me in real life, if something receives a comparison to “King of the Nerds,” you know that I am jumping up and down.

Unfortunately, there’s no “Revenge of the Nerds” references in the movie. However, when you take the rest of the movie for what it is, you might as well refer to it by one word: Amazing. Am I fanboying? Sort of. I’m only fanboying because this film met, and in ways, exceeded my expectations. I am not one of those people who says this:

“This is a great book! Terrific! Unbelievable! If you change an ounce of this book, I will find you studio freaks at your filthy houses and slaughter every last one of you!”

Yes, there are changes from the book, and personally, I can understand the changes, and based on what we’ve gotten out of this movie, I don’t care! This movie itself, was probably one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had in a theater. If the 70mm show wasn’t enough to please, some of the scenes which have now become new personal faves of mine certainly were!

Steven Spielberg directed this film, and when I first heard about him taking on this project, I was like, “cool.” As I read the book though, I thought to myself, there is NO OTHER MAN ON THIS EARTH that should direct this movie! Well, it was mainly because Spielberg was referenced in the book and it was done in a form of appreciation. Now that I’ve seen the film from start to finish, I can’t say anything else except, THERE’S STILL NO F*CKING WAY ANOTHER PERSON COULD HAVE DIRECTED THIS FILM! Steven Spielberg’s hayday was blockbusters galore, not to mention he’s a master of putting you into the action. Just watch “Saving Private Ryan” or “Jurassic Park!” The film’s opening contains this big and important race, and I guarantee you that at some point, you’ll feel like you’re in it.

Speaking of action, “Ready Player One” also contains one of the best mega-battles I’ve seen in a movie, and one of the best chases I’ve seen in a movie. There’s this big climactic battle that decides the future of both sides, and as I watched, I felt like I was back the early 2000s, going to the theater, and watching “Lord of the Rings.” I ate it up and I wanted more! Now I know that I talked about the race during the film’s starting point, and it’s sort of chase-like, but we cut to the real chase towards the end of the film. Literally. This final chase, may be one of the very best I’ve ever seen in a movie. The climactic chase of the movie almost feels like a mix of “Inception” and “The Lego Movie.” In other words, it was a mix of a heartfelt moment and the dropping of my jaw. I don’t even want to go into it, because I want you as a viewer to be surprised.

Now I mention that this movie, like the book, is really freaking good! But if there’s one thing that the book does better, it’s character development. I’m not saying that the characters in this movie sucked, in fact I really liked all of them. But in comparison to the book, the book did it better.

Let’s talk about the main character of Wade Watts, otherwise known as Parzival. In some ways, much like the book, I resemble this character. We both want to do something that will prevent our governments from harming us personally, we’re both uber nerds, and we both know a lot about a variety of popular culture. Although then again, that’s what pretty much a majority of the movie’s characters know about. In the book, Watts was actually fat in real life. I can kind of understand why they would cast a guy like Tye Sheridan for the role of Watts even though he’s not fat, but they could have paid homage to the book and done that. If they did cast someone fat, it would have increased the chance of seeing a key character moment from the book. I’m not saying I’m unsatisfied with what we got, but still, the book did it better.

Although one thing that may rival the book entirely in my opinion was the depiction of Samantha, or Art3mis. When I read the book, I always thought of the interactions in the OASIS between Parzival and Art3mis as cutesy, and as something that just developed over time. The movie feels faster, and it almost makes Samantha’s avatar look like someone a boy would usually be attracted to. Well, to me anyway, looks are subjective. Sure, in the book I can kind of buy Parzival’s infatuation towards Art3mis, but it didn’t have a raw feeling, like this movie did, and I personally thought it worked. Cooke as an actress pretty much nailed what this character needed, and I admired her performance.

Now let’s get into one of my favorite parts of the movie, and that is the character of Nolan Sorrento played by Ben Mendelsohn. Having seen him play Krennic in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” it should be proof at this point that Mendelsohn can play one awesome villain! Here, he does that too! He’s basically this corporate baddie that oversees all the operations of IOI (Innovative Online Industries) and he wants to change the OASIS to make it more like what can be translated as something like Net Neutrality or EA shoving micro-transactions down your throat. As if his representation of evil was good enough, his character has one of the major highlights of the movie for me. There’s a point where he’s talking with Wade and he’s trying to act consumer-friendly, attractive, and telling Wade what he would probably want to hear, and someone is on the other end, speaking into his ear without Wade’s knowledge. Trust me, it’s kind of funny.

Now let’s state another highlight performance of the movie, and that is the character of James Halliday, played by Mark Rylance. This is Rylance’s third performance with Steven Speilberg, and he was cast perfectly in regards to this character. Halliday was charming, somewhat funny, and a mix between Willy Wonka and Steve Jobs. You’ve got the one side that seems to scream charisma and wonder and you have another that represents brains and sometimes over-stressed. I will say though, I was doing research on this movie, and while I think Rylance’s performance is terrific, there is someone I would have loved to see bring their skills to the table.

Rylance’s character is once again, comparable to Willy Wonka, and thus it kind of makes sense where Steven Spielberg’s mind would be going at one point. One idea he had for the character of Halliday before Rylance ultimately took over is to get Gene Wilder back on screen. According to the movie’s trivia page on IMDb, “Wilder respectfully declined.” Mark Rylance was cast in 2016 some time before Gene Wilder’s death. But what if Wilder were in the movie? I imagine the movie would make a hell lot more money than it already did, it would have a stronger opening weekend, and based on recent events, it might actually bring something emotional to the movie. Although then again, I wonder if they still would have been filming the scenes for Halliday at the time of Wilder’s death, so it probably wouldn’t have even mattered. Nevertheless, Wilder as Halliday would have been PERFECT, A+, 10/10 casting. However, Rylance, based on his portrayal, is just as solid.

Moving onto one thing that I heard a number of people complain about, let’s talk about references. People were nervous about this movie because they figured the only thing that it stands for is to make references down your throat. Personally, I did not have that complaint going in. I thought the movie was gonna have a fine number of references that didn’t feel bloated. Besides, references are awesome! As far as this movie goes none of the references forced (for what I remember), they were charming, and they were even sometimes hysterical! One of the biggest standouts is a moment where the main characters are going into the world of a classic movie. No, seriously, they go in, and several events from that movie play out in this one! I didn’t have too too many people in my theater, so I can’t say much noise was made, but I heard there were some presentations that people attended where audience members collectively gasped. The most references come in during the commencement of the movie and the climax, and while the middle definitely has some, it seems to come off as more story-oriented. And that’s not to say that the beginning and end aren’t story oriented. I’d say the references used at the start and finish were properly utilized while still maintaining an interesting story, thus making the movie better. You know, unlike “The Emoji Movie,” which story-wise and reference wise, is nothing but trash buried beneath the ground after being lit on fire. That movie was nothing but a complete waste of the talent from minds like Patrick Stewart, Anna Faris, and TJ Miller.

Fortunately, TJ Miller’s talent is not wasted here! If you don’t already know, TJ Miller plays the character of I-R0k, and let’s just get serious for a moment. TJ Miller’s voice, IS ASTOUNDING. If Morgan Freeman is the king of narrating serious pieces of work, then TJ Miller is the king of narrating anything that sounds hilarious. Just watch “Silicon Valley,” “Deadpool,” heck, I’ll say “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” HELL! I’d say even watch “The Emoji Movie!” Even though the movie sucks, you still get to hear the killer voice of TJ f*cking Miller. TJ Miller was TOP-NOTCH CASTING for I-R0k, and after seeing Miller play him, I probably can’t imagine anyone else taking on the role! If the remake and reboot craze continues and “Ready Player One” is the next in line, I quadruple dog dare those behind the project to find a better I-R0k.

In the end, “Ready Player One,” was a f*cking blast! I had very high expectations for the movie, and I certainly was not let down. This is also personally, almost a #1 favorite of mine for Steven Spielberg. I saw this movie on a Tuesday night, and this review was finished on a Friday. On this day, I’m still thinking to myself, “I want to see this again.” Have I seen it again? No I have not, but I’d literally cut through traffic and smash cars to pieces just to go to the theater for a second time and catch the experience once more. So with that being said, “Ready Player One” is yet another win for Spielberg and I’m going to give it a 10/10!

Thanks for reading this review! Fun fact about my experience watching this in the theater, I mentioned I went to see this in 70mm, and it actually was in this quaint theater near Boston, and they played a trailer for “2001: A Space Odyssey” since the theater was bringing it back in the 70mm format for its 50th anniversary. Just… One of the best things I’ve witnessed in my entire life. I might do something soon for “2001” if possible, maybe a movie review, maybe dissect it, or something else along those lines. As far as other content goes, I have a few ideas lined up. Maybe I’ll go see “Blockers,” “A Quiet Place,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” or maybe I’ll wind up seeing “Ready Player One” again. Who knows? Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Ready Player One?” What did you think about it? Did you read the book? What did you think about that? I personally love it, and comparing both the movie and the book side by side, they both make themselves great in their own ways. Also, if you were going to make a book or movie full of references, what would the references be and how would the movie play out? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!