Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022): An In Your Face, All Over the Place, Alternate Reality Craze with America Chavez and Doctor Strange *SPOILER-FREE*

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Power of the Dog), Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Wind River), Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Lion King, 2012), Benedict Wong (Annihilation, Raya and the Last Dragon), Xochitl Gomez (The Baby-Sitters Club, Gentefied), Michael Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water, Call Me by Your Name), and Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Mean Girls). This film is a sequel to the 2016 film “Doctor Strange,” it is the 28th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and follows the titular wizard as he joins forces with America Chavez on a reality-spanning journey to save the multiverse from impending doom, whilst also seeking the help from Wanda Maximoff and Wong.

The first “Doctor Strange” was a fun movie, and arguably the most visually stunning Marvel Cinematic Universe film at the time it came out. I went to see the film in IMAX 3D and had no regrets. Looking back, the climax was not that memorable, and neither was the film’s main antagonist. The latter is typical of these MCU films so why should I be surprised? I frankly feel the same way about “The Incredible Hulk,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” among a few other movies in this universe. The villains do not always work, but at the same time, the movie is not about them. The movie is about the hero. And when it comes to establishing a great hero, the original “Doctor Strange” does that. The character has also been a highlight in other MCU titles where he is not the main focus, most recently “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Coincidentally, given that movie’s success and how much it have could have possibly teased what is to come in later MCU installments, including this one, I had high expectations for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” to the point where it may have been my most anticipated movie of the year, if not in my top 3.

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 12: Director Sam Raimi speaks at the “Oz: The Great and Powerful” panel during Comic-Con International 2012 at San Diego Convention Center on July 12, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)

Plus, get this, Sam Raimi has returned to direct comic book movies again! I ADORE Sam Raimi’s work on the “Spider-Man” movies, even the third one. Yes, I liked it. I don’t care. If you are not going to respect my opinion then I will put some dirt in your eye. How much do I like those “Spider-Man” movies? In addition to liking “Spider-Man 3,” totally digging the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie, and literally claiming “Spider-Man 2” to be my favorite comic book movie ever, I could think of few people more capable of helming a movie like this than Sam Raimi. In addition, the film from the start was said to have horror elements. Raimi has experience in the genre with movies like “Evil Dead” and “Drag Me to Hell,” so this added up to be a movie fit for Raimi’s chops. Danny Elfman is also here doing the score! He and Raimi have been partners for years! This is not Elfman’s first MCU rodeo, because he also scored “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but I will say, having seen both films, his score for this movie is better than his 2015 counterpart.

What did I think of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” I think the film definitely lives up to its name, that being madness. But I also think that when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is one of its more inferior installments. For the record, I was not one of those people looking for the most obscure cameos imaginable. That is not why I wanted to go see this movie. Yes, we have some cool moments from heroes like Captain Carter, which was shown in a couple television spots, but at the heart, this is a “Doctor Strange” movie and it does not distract itself from that. Just about every factor and decision that goes into the film’s script revolves around or is affected by Strange himself. The movie does not teeter away from that. In the same way, I would say from a directorial standpoint, this is very much a Sam Raimi film. From a directorial point of view, this is better than some of the other recent Marvel movies if you ask me. Even though I liked each installment in the Jon Watts “Spider-Man” trilogy, I feel like Watts did not have a distinct style by the end of the third film. His tendencies felt basic and there were some choices by the end that I would have changed. In the same way, I feel like “Black Widow” came off as a basic blockbuster shot on green screen. Cate Shortland, despite her best efforts, did not exactly reveal an individualistic touch I could grasp. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” even though it obviously has Kevin Feige’s showrunner-like ideas brought to the table, is very much a Sam Raimi film. Between the action and scares, it definitely has that Sam Raimi touch. Heck, Bruce Campbell’s even in the movie! I won’t say where or how, but he’s in it!

This sequel is as much of a visual feast as its predecessor. In fact, why wouldn’t it be? It is a multiverse-spanning movie, allowing for infinite visual possibilities. There is this one scene where we see America and Stephen jumping from one multiverse to another and it is a literal acid trip. Let me say, I am not one who chooses to partake in any heavy drug-related activities, but if there were a movie out right now that I would call a perfect choice for such activities, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a contender.

Speaking of activities I would mainly recommend for adults, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” presents a possible first in the MCU. If it is not a first, it is something that definitely has not happened in a long time. Every MCU movie so far has been PG-13. The TV shows have always been TV-14. So if you are a teenager, chances are you can probably handle what is on screen. But that does not mean that select younger viewers cannot watch this content either. I know some families have gone to see MCU movies in the theater. Kids often like these movies. Having seen “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” this is the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would recommend parents consider leaving the kids at home for. I am not saying that kids cannot watch it. If they want to watch this movie, there is nothing wrong with that. But all I am saying is that parents should be prepared for what this movie has to offer, because this may be the least kid-friendly MCU movie yet. It is definitely more kid-friendly than the R rated DC action-adventure “The Suicide Squad,” which came out last year, but you have been warned.

What do I mean? There is tons of violence that rises above the levels of what the MCU has depicted thus far, including some gorey moments. Once again I go back to the notion that this is the first movie in this universe to truly have elements of horror. Sure, there are moments in the MCU that could be considered dark. We’ve seen Asgard fall in “Thor: Ragnarok.” We see Peter Parker fall to his lowest point in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and it is emotionally charging. The ending of “Avengers: Infinity War” is a potential setup for heartbreak. But “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the first truly scary MCU film. I am not saying it is the scariest movie ever, it is most certainly not. But there are elements in the movie that made me feel like I was watching something like “The Conjuring” instead of an action flick. This is not a bad thing, I really like the way this film went about it.

But I will say if you like massive, loud, and well-shot fantasy action, this film does not disappoint. The effects are amazing. There is not a lot of insane quick cutting. There are a variety of battles in this movie that give you a different flavor every time. These are probably some of the few action sequences I have watched in the MCU that had me feeling icky inside. Perhaps in a good way. But that ickiness did not take away from the excitement and joy I had in others.

I was surprised on how much I liked the chemistry between Doctor Strange and America Chavez. Their relationship is essentially the foundation on which this movie builds itself upon. Despite coming off as perhaps the most visionary of the Marvel superheroes, Strange is still humble, and it shows through his interactions with Chavez, whose knowledge of the multiverse is revealed to be greater than his. Because even though Strange has some knowledge, experience, and has made claims on how certain actions will be a benefit to the greater span of the multiverse, Chavez invites Strange along for a ride while also showcasing how multiversal jumping has practically become normal for her.

As for America Chavez herself, she is portrayed by Xochitl Gomez, who is only in her teens. I would like to see more from Chavez if possible, and I think Gomez did a good job portraying the character. I would like to discover what she does next in her career if she never comes back to Marvel.

But of course we need to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Not only do I continue to buy Cumberbatch as this character, but I have to give major credit to everyone behind the makeup for Cumberbatch, because this movie unveils different looks for the character, and not just to sell toys (that too), but when you have a movie where you have more than one Doctor Strange from more than one universe, you are going to have to get clever with how you handle one actor, should you choose to handle one actor, which this movie did. His character partially hinges on some off screen events that come into play with this film, where we reveal Rachel McAdams’s character of Christine Palmer no longer in love with Strange. She is marrying someone else, and while Strange is able to live with himself, this plays a heavy role in the plot as we span through the multiverses.

Although, I will not go into much detail, and this brings me into one of my most prominent complaints of the movie. When I reviewed “Black Panther” four years ago, I claimed that it contains arguably the most forced kiss in cinematic history. Similarly, I think “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” contains one of the most poorly conceived lines I have heard in the MCU, because it frankly feels out of character for Doctor Strange, even though it matches up with events that happen in the movie. It sounds more like something out of a cheesy romance novel than what this movie and its characters have to offer. It is one line, but it nevertheless bothers me.

I want to talk about my core worry for the MCU, and how it is only growing. I am not one of these people who claims they have comic book movie fatigue, but if there is one thing that has been on my mind these past couple years, it is not only how much content we are getting, but also how said content potentially affects the greater span of the universe. If you read my review for “Black Widow,” I touch on this by saying the movie contains a particular moment that sets up or teases a television show for Disney+. The reason why that was a concern for me was because for over a decade, the films have been organized and told through one medium, and now that we have television into the mix, it is only going to make things more convoluted, and as a viewer, I feel like I am starting to watch Marvel content for homework. In fact, I went to see this movie with my dad, who I invited to my living room to watch “WandaVision,” which is great television by the way, prior to seeing this film. I knew going into the film that “WandaVision” would be somewhat connected to how everything unfolds. After all, Wanda is in the movie, and we see some references to the show as well. Having seen this movie, I think if you do not watch “WandaVision,” you may be fine. The movie does its best to catch you up. But I think your experience will be heavily enhanced if you tend to seek it out. This is why I am somewhat concerned about the MCU’s future, because let’s say they decide to make a “Moon Knight” movie. How much of the TV show would I have to remember by then to fully enjoy it? In fact, the marketing kind of reveals that this movie is connected to “What If…?” of all things. The cartoon MCU show. We live in crazy times. And no, you do not have to watch “What If…?” to understand or appreciate this movie despite there being connections to the show.

Although on the note of possibly having to watch “WandaVision” before seeing this movie, I do want to talk about Wanda herself. Previously, she has been in multiple MCU movie installments thus far as a heroic figure, and of course in “WandaVision” she finally became the center of attention, allowing actress Elizabeth Olsen to unleash her almighty chops. There are few characters in the MCU that I feel as bad for as Wanda. She watched her partner die twice, succumbed to the Blip, and felt so bad for herself and her former love interest to the point where she wanted to take control of an entire town and make life revolve entirely around her. That said, as this film’s main antagonist, the Scarlet Witch, she pulls no punches. While I did feel bad for Wanda some time ago, my emotional connection has lessened now that she continuously uses power for what she sees fit, but at the expense of someone who does not deserve a certain fate. I do not think Wanda is my favorite antagonist of the MCU, but she is definitely up there.

In the end, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is not the best MCU film, nor is it the worst. But if you want my thoughts on this film compared to the first “Doctor Strange,” I think I like the original better. I will definitely be going back to watch this film again when I have time. I think it could at times be a proper tech demo for a new television. This film also has one of the best uses of music in a Marvel film to date. And I am not just talking about the score itself, but there is a scene where music heavily comes into play, and it is hypnotizing. Danny Elfman for life! This feels weird to say, but this may be in contention for my least favorite Sam Raimi comic book movie. I know what everyone says about “Spider-Man 3,” but I frankly had fun with it. I have to think about whether I like this film more or less than “Spider-Man 3.” That is not to say “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a bad movie. I liked it. I am also not saying Raimi did not put enough effort into the directorial vision of this film. The on-screen story was well executed. But I am also noticing that Raimi’s worst comic book movies are the ones that are likely heavily influenced by higher powers. Sam Raimi did not want to put Venom in “Spider-Man 3” despite Avi Arad’s wishes. Similarly, the MCU has its own stories and threads from other content that have been interweaved into this film. Even though I mentioned that this movie feels like a Sam Raimi film, it also has the Kevin Feige effect where Raimi appears to have less creative freedom (to be fair though, he did not write the film, “Loki” writer Michael Waldron did) than he did in other works of his. I am still onboard with the MCU, but I am noticing more and more that as stories continue to come up and as threads constantly tie together, convolution and possible oversaturation feel inevitable. I cannot wait for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but I also think as we get more content, it is starting to feel like too much is happening at once. That said, I enjoyed “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and I am going to give it a 7/10.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see me talk about a movie perhaps way more incompetently than I do today, feel free to check out my review for the 2016 “Doctor Strange.” This was one of my earlier reviews and I made it when I was still developing a style, but if you want to read it, go ahead. Also, speaking of “Doctor Strange,” if you want to read a more competent review of a movie where he appears, feel free to check out my thoughts on “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” And it is spoiler-free for the ten people reading this who have neither seen or heard of the film. Next week, I am seeing “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” so stay tuned for my thoughts on that! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?” What did you think about it? Or, which “Doctor Strange” movie is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021): Sony and Marvel’s Thrilling, Emotional Love Letter to Three Generations of the Webhead *SPOILER-FREE*

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) - IMDb

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is directed by Jon Watts, who also directed the previous two MCU-set “Spider-Man” installments, which also have home in the title. I’m assuming if they make a fourth movie, it’s gonna be called “Grand Slam?” You know, instead of home run? Four?

Anybody?

Who cares?

Anyway, this film stars Tom Holland (Cherry, Onward), Zendaya (Space Jam: A New Legacy, Dune), Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock), Jacob Batalon (Blood Fest, Let it Snow) Jon Favreau (Chef, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Jamie Foxx (Soul, Ray), Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Aquaman), Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time), Benedict Wong (Annihilation, Raya and the Last Dragon), Tony Revolori (Dope, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, Anger Management). This film revolves around Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, who has to deal with the newfound dangers that lie ahead now that his identity has been revealed, in addition to being connected to the recent event of Mysterio’s drone swarm in London, which has been interpreted differently by the general public. When Peter seeks Dr. Strange’s help to make everyone forget he was Spider-Man, the spell to make such a thing happen goes wrong, villains from other universes arrive, and it is up to Peter to do the right thing before the dangers of one universe then become the dangers of another.

Alright guys, it is that time again. A big movie in December. Although this time around, it’s not in the “Star Wars” franchise. Still huge. That being said, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the biggest movie of the year. I should note the box office suggests that this film is enormous, but there are still people who have not seen the film. I know at least a couple. With that being said, I will note that this review is spoiler-free. I am going to talk about certain points in the film that stand out, but I’m not going to go into deeper plot points. If you have not seen this movie and plan to see it, I can tell you that this review is safe to read.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is a follow-up to “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” I have to say that when it comes to the first film, it is slightly more enjoyable than I remember it being. But given Spider-Man’s excellent writing in “Captain America: Civil War,” the writing for that film felt like a step down. I really liked Vulture. Peter’s chemistry with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) was charming. I even liked Liz in that film. I still think the film has logic issues when it comes to how Peter’s suit works and how Tony Stark would want it to work, but the film is still decent enough to pass the time. When it comes to “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” that film felt like a step up. Jake Gyllenhaal did a great job as Mysterio. I liked Ned a bit better this time around compared to the original. Plus it was nice to see Spider-Man somewhere other than New York for a change. Plus, the end of the film promised a fantastic setup for what would ultimately become “No Way Home.”

When it comes to “No Way Home,” is it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

I think neither. I’d say TWO thumbs up.

Now, like almost everyone else, I should note that my anticipation and my excitement for “No Way Home” was high. Not as much as “Dune,” but still high. But I was also nervous. Because the film promised massive multiversal shenanigans, which sounds great. I should note… It SOUNDS great. During the fall as we built up to this film’s release, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in my mind sounded like it could be one of two things. It’s either going to be the best movie ever, or the worst movie ever, and nowhere in between. In crossover-speak, is it going to be the next “Infinity War?” Or is it going to be the next “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” God that movie was awful. Thankfully, upon leaving the theater, I can confirm that I felt excited to go see the movie again in less than 24 hours, and my mind literally melted on the way home from how exciting this movie was to watch.

This film has a ton of villains ranging from Doc Ock to Electro, but it’s not like they’re just there for nostalgia purposes. Granted, at the end of the day, this film is sort of a tribute to the Spider-Man character and all the stories that came before this one. Anyone can put in a ton of cool characters and have them fight against Spider-Man. Heck, this movie could be Spider-Man vs. Godzilla vs. Agent Smith vs. Ron Burgundy, but it does not guarantee a good movie. It’s a basic case of concept vs. reality. The concept is great, but the reality could suck. But here’s the truth about all these villains…

Jamie Foxx’s Electro was written ten times better than he was written in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Now, I will admit, they did kind of highlight a specific aspect about him from that film, specifically how Max was a nobody, which I thought had some okay setup before he was affected by a bunch of eels. But as we see him enter this universe, I could really tell that he was confused, he was concerned, and had no idea what was going on. They’ve even given him a new costume, which may be for story purposes, sure, but of course, who doesn’t want to sell more toys? Why do you think they gave 3PO a red arm in “The Force Awakens?”

My favorite villain of Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films was always Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. I feel like even though his character was truly at the end of the day, an evil mastermind, he also had a heart. He went through tragedy the same way Peter did in those movies when he lost Uncle Ben. Only in the case of Doc Ock, he used his tragedy for evil, partially for a reason beyond his control. Even though he terrorized New York City, I feel bad for him, looking back. Plus, his arms are among some of the best practical effects ever. As for how he’s handled in this movie, I like the way they went about exploring his character’s newfound questions. After all, when you enter another universe, everything feels completely strange. Although when they first introduced him, they had a potential plot hole that could have affected how I viewed the entire movie that was corrected about ten to twenty minutes later. Glad they touched up on that. In this film, instead of his arms being practical, they were CGI, and I honestly could barely tell the difference. They did a really good job at making Doc Ock fit into a universe like this, even though it’s really the same character as another one.

But if you’re going to ask me who I think gives the single greatest performance out of all the film’s villains, I think that would have to be Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Now I always sensed that Dafoe enjoyed playing the character of Norman Osborn and being a part of the “Spider-Man” franchise. Even after his character died in “Spider-Man” (2002) he came back for the sequels, and there’s also a bonus feature where Alfred Molina is pranked by Dafoe, wearing the Doc Ock tentacles, trying to motivate Molina to give the greatest performance possible. Part of this movie centers around Osborn struggling with his inner self, which is not new for him, and I feel like we get so many layers to his character. We see his bewilderment of the world around him. We see him conflict over power and normalcy, and I think his dark side is more evident than ever. Whenever he does something truly horrific in this film, not only is it well written, I think it may deliver the best performance I have seen out of a Spider-Man villain in a long. Long. Long. Long time. I really liked the Green Goblin in the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” arguably made him even better.

Now I will say that there are a couple other villains in this film, including Sandman and Lizard. Of the film’s villains, those two were the weakest, but they were still better than a lot of the villains we get in the MCU nowadays. I say that because a lot of the films in the MCU sometimes fail to heighten the villain and instead we get a cliche bad guy who just stands in the hero’s way. These are two are better than Ronan in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” And they’re especially better than Malekith in “Thor: The Dark World.” These two have some occasional funny lines, and I like Lizard’s reference to his master plan which Electro ended up making fun of. It’s not like they did not need to be in the movie, the movie is definitely cool with them and they do not end up doing anything offensive. But of all the villains in the film, Sandman and Lizard are the weakest links because they have the least depth. We get more time with Doc Ock and Goblin, therefore we have more opportunities to see depth for them, but for Sandman and Lizard, not so much.

But of course, this film belongs to the heroes. Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Ned, and MJ.

All of these actors who play the heroes are great and I think when it comes to Ned (center) in this movie, he’s kind of a bundle of joy. When I saw Ned for the first time in “Homecoming,” I thought he was annoying. I kind of grown to like him in that movie a little bit, because I kind of get the enthusiasm behind finding out your best friend is Spider-Man, but I think of these three movies, he had the worst writing because his questions can get excessive. To me, the writing in this film made the most sense of the three, although his storyline in “Far from Home” was hilarious. It’s one way to write teen love I guess. Although if I have one thing to say, it’s not a huge complaint, but it is something worth pointing out, something happens with Ned in this movie that is out of random chance. It was never something that was established that he could do, or something he learned. It just happened. I mean, if you watched the movie, they “teased” it a little, but kind of as a joke, nothing more. I guess foreshadowing is foreshadowing, even if it’s a throwaway joke.

Zendaya’s MJ is another character that to me evolved with time. In the first film, she felt overly snarky. In the second film, I got to know her a little better and I began to appreciate her as a character just a bit more. In this third film, we see her with Spider-Man from the start, and I think their chemistry has blossomed into something special. It is worth noting that all three live-action Spider-Men from Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield to Tom Holland all dated their character-based love interests at one point in real life. Maybe that’s why their chemistry all feels natural. There was a scene on a school rooftop, it’s in the trailer, that stood out to me as to why Holland and Zendaya work together. Although I was a bit surprised to see MJ reading a physical newspaper as opposed to some article on her phone. I dunno, just a stereotypical generational thing.

Doctor Strange is in this film as well, and judging by the trailers, his performance at first felt a little different from his previous outings in the MCU. Having seen the movie, and having remembered some of the other movies he’s been in, it actually feels somewhat consistent. Maybe it feels different because he’s communicating with teenagers, which may not be his forte. I may be making excuses, but I think if you’re an adult, you may have a way of communicating with teenagers in a slightly different tone than you would with your spouse or your boss. You know, unless your employer works at “LitDonald’s!” Keep it 100 with our Big Lit! Sauce me some of those yeet fries! Enjoy the LitRib for a limited time! Although when it comes to consistency, there is a one-liner out of Strange about birthday parties that feels wonderfully similar in tone to this exchange in “Infinity War.”

Dr. Stephen Strange: If we don’t do our jobs…

Tony Stark: What is your job, exactly, besides making balloon animals?

Dr. Stephen Strange: Protecting your reality, douchebag.

But of course, we need to talk about Tom Holland. Spider-Man stories have shown a balance between a hero struggling to maintain his friendships, his identity, while also trying to save the world. In the case of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” this balance is handled brilliantly. The film starts off right where the last one ended, and right off the bat we already see Spider-Man protecting what he has left of his identity, his love interest, and the people he knows. We already start off the movie with one of the worst possible things that could have happened to Peter Parker, and that’s just the beginning. We see him deal with controversy in school. Parker’s trying to find a lawyer. The people he loves are being hurt for reasons beyond their control. As we go through Spider-Man’s journey, the tragedy only builds up. And this is what makes Spider-Man a hero. When he goes to Doctor Strange to make everyone forget he’s Spider-Man, he’s not just looking out for himself, he’s looking out for the people around him. His friends, family, colleagues. There’s a subplot in the film where the trio are trying to get into college and that is only made harder through their connections to the battle in London.

I expected this film to be exciting. I expected this film to be fun. But part of me was not ready for how much emotion this movie packs. Now I figured there would be at least one emotional moment because it is the third film of a trilogy and that’s where certain ends are tied up for good and that sort of thing. This film has multiple powerful scenes and happenings that bring a balance between the expected excitement and the emotional weight. Tom Holland in this film honestly delivers one of the best performances of his career because of this. I don’t think he’ll be nominated for an Oscar, but by the end of the film, there’s a particular arc that is perfectly assembled and you don’t even need words for it. Just the expressions on his face alone make the scene perfect. You may know what I’m talking about when it comes around.

Although I do want to talk about one thing when it comes to the emotion. This is a spoiler-free review, so I will not go into detail. But the ending of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” despite its instant feeling of satisfaction, induction of a smile, and solid conclusiveness to certain characters, probably would have been made better if Peter did one thing to possibly prevent another thing from happening. If I did a spoiler review, I would expand on it. But again, I cannot. The point of me making this review is not to discuss every single plot point and detail. It is to convince my viewers as to whether they could make a formal decision on whether “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is worth seeing. I recommend you do, I think this is easily one of best “Spider-Man” films ever made. But I want my viewers to go into this film knowing as little as possible, but with enough details as to what I like, didn’t like, and maybe that will help them know whether or not this movie is for them. I would not instantly recommend this movie to my mom (although I would recommend Shang-Chi), but I do recommend a lot of you reading this should go check out “No Way Home” on the biggest screen you can.

I will also point out that this is Jon Watts’s third film in this trilogy, making him the first director to direct a complete trilogy in the MCU. Jon Favreau directed two installments for “Iron Man,” but Shane Black did the third. Joss Whedon did the first two “Avengers” films, but the next two ended up going to the Russo Brothers. When it comes to all three movies, they are solid. But the directing in these films do not really give him much of a chance to individualize himself. And as for this movie, I think Willem Dafoe’s face reveal, as exciting as it was, could have been handled slightly better. It was still exciting, but it was very quick. Although I think if you take into account the end of the film and the performances from just about everyone, this may be the best-directed film in the franchise. Everyone felt true to their characters and when came to Peter’s emotions, Watts likely knew exactly how to touch base with Tom Holland. I think after seeing this film, I am curious to see if there are any specific quirks Watts develops, but I nevertheless think he will do a good job with “Fantastic 4,” whenever that comes out.

One last thing before we move on, J.K. Simmons is back as J. Jonah Jameson. You saw the little snippet of him in the previous film, but now we have him here and the way they utilize him is perfect. For this modern era, his placement in the universe makes sense. He’s basically Alex Jones if he was trying to find a cure for his balding. After seeing this film, I am convinced that nobody else aside from J.K. Simmons can play J. Jonah Jameson. Debate over.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

In the end, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the best film in the Jon Watts trilogy. It’s a triumph for Tom Holland. It’s at the end of the day, a love letter to the character. My favorite “Spider-Man” movie is “Spider-Man 2,” and right below that would have to be this one. It’s that good. The movie has its flaws, but no movie’s perfect. I think the best part about “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is that it doesn’t just use all these previous characters and actors just for the sake of marketing. Granted, it definitely helps. But each villain had at minimum, the slightest of reason to be there. Even Sandman and Lizard. The first two “Spider-Man” films in the MCU happen to be about teenage Spider-Man dealing with teenage situations from crushes to school dances. This film, in my imagination, is literally Spider-Man attempting to push back a giant boulder of inconveniences and tragedies. And by the end of the film, I felt enough of its weight to make me care for everyone. If you like “Spider-Man,” you will love this movie. I don’t know if you will like it more depending on whether you have seen the other villains before, but that’s another debate for another time. Please check this film out, take your friends, take your family, take everyone. It’s best experienced with an audience, and there are some are some epic potential applause break moments depending on when and where you see this film. I’m going to give “Spider-Man: No Way Home” a 9/10.

To me, this kind of reminds me of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…” because despite the glaring issues that such a movie has, I ended up giving it a 9/10. The reason for that is because those issues barely get in the way of all the other crazy sequences and crowd-pleasers of this film. The fan part of me wants to give a perfect score, but again, there’s some issues that keep that from happening. There’s the fan side of me and the critic side of me. Today, I have to be the critic. The film is an experience that I want erased from my memory in order to go back and witness again. For those reasons alone, I highly recommend you go watch this film in a theater. But reserve your tickets in advance, you’re gonna want the best seats.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I want to let you guys know that I have more reviews coming up including one for “King Richard.” Stay tuned for that! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Spider-Man: No Way Home?” What did you think about it? Or, which Jon Watts-directed “Spider-Man” movie is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021): How to Find Your Dragon

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is directed by Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, alongside credited co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa. This film stars Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Adam Ruins Everything), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell), Izaac Wang (Good Boys, Think Like a Dog), Gemma Chan (Transformers: The Last Knight, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent, Lost), Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Annihilation), Sandra Oh (Over the Moon, Grey’s Anatomy), Thalia Tran (Council of Dads, Little), Lucille Soong (Fresh Off the Boat, Desperate Housewives), and Alan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Harley Quinn). This film takes place in the fantasy world of Kumandra, which has been divided into five tribes with alternating values. All of these tribes and their respective followers are after an orb that protects people from the Druun, a virus-like spirit that turns everyone in its path to stone. When the orb shatters into pieces, Raya, a warrior princess from Heart, goes on a quest to find Sisu, the last living dragon, who supposedly has a knowledge about the orb.

If you are new to Scene Before, welcome! One thing you may discover about me is that I have a love/hate relationship with Disney. They are a brand that I personally cannot stand because they often hog all the attention in multiple markets and almost resemble a collective monopoly. At the same time, they own Lucasfilm, they own Marvel, and they own Pixar, three of my favorite studios working today. Therefore, when it comes to entertaining people, they are doing something right. This film is from Walt Disney Animation Studios, or Disney proper if you want to put it in other terms. In recent years, they have made some of my favorite animated films including “Zootopia” and “Wreck-it Ralph,” but they also made a couple films that irked me to no end like “Frozen” and “Moana.” Although one thing that has been consistent from one film to the next is that the animation style in each one looks beautiful. Everything looks detailed and despite being from a studio that has been around for years, it feels like they have entered a new era with some of their recent projects. At the same time though, this should not be a surprise given how much technology has advanced by 2021. If something doesn’t look halfway decent, maybe I’ll let that slide in 1998 or 2002. But in 2021, good animation is a requirement. Thankfully, and this leads me to my initial positive of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” the level of detail and vibrancy in this film is eye-popping. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a fascinating film that takes you through several environments that should vary in tone, but for some reason, they mesh together to form an action-packed adventure for everyone to enjoy. And I mean, EVERYONE.

This is how family movies should be done! Great characters, witty humor, balls to the wall pacing, and a fascinating story with exciting lore behind it! Upon reflection, this movie had the pacing of two 2008 animations. “Bolt,” which was also a Walt Disney Animation Studios film, and like “Raya,” there are a few action scenes that not only takes things up a notch with some quick pace to accompany it. The other animation is “Kung Fu Panda,” and I say that because the film bases itself around martial arts, Asian culture, and has built an exciting, perhaps myth-like world that has secrets that may await exploration. After all, “Kung Fu Panda” had two sequels. I do not know if “Raya and the Last Dragon” will end up having as big of a following as say “Big Hero 6,” but if anyone at Disney reads this, just know that if a “Raya and the Last Dragon” sequel is greenlit, I will happily flock to the theater to see it.

Let’s talk about Raya. She is a warrior who spends years trying to find the last dragon after an unfortunate event left many people dead. Her quest in general is quite the journey to watch. We see early on in the film that she travels alongside a merchandisable mix of an armadillo and pill bug, Tuk Tuk. While Tuk Tuk is not my standout character of the movie, not saying he sucks, but still… I like the work that was put into the character, specifically the voice because they did not just go out into the animal kingdom and get a bunch of different recordings for this character, they just got Alan Tudyk to make a bunch of noises and have the results be satisfying! And I assure you, I sometimes forget how much I truly appreciate Alan Tudyk as a performer. He has a style for voicework that is almost unmatched between King Candy in “Wreck-It Ralph,” K-2SO in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and The Joker in the animated “Harley Quinn” series! The dude is a true mastermind! Therefore it does not surprise me that he has a role that is simply just making animal sounds. He’s that effective of a performer! I have a friend, I won’t say his or her name, who will practically watch anything with Alan Tudyk in it. I can see why.

One of the big mixes of the film is something that Disney has usually been known for in earlier years but also something that it has seemingly lacked in recent years, a hefty villainous presence. Now, if Netflix’s “Over the Moon” has proven anything, it is that not every single animated antagonist needs to be wicked or evil. For most of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” the villain is just a bunch of particles that move around. Now, to be fair, these particles can be threatening at time, but when you have a company that has been built for years on imagination, it is somewhat weird to see them resort to lifeless blobs as the main villain.

Then again, this is the same company that copy-pasted “The Lion King” in 2019 and made a billion dollars off of it, so what do I know?

At the same time, there is a constant rivalry between Raya and Namaari, from the land of Fang. The movie shows these two early on getting along with each other until an unexpected turn happens in which case they are no longer on each other’s side. This rivalry is integral to the film and the events that play throughout. The constant drive that plays out due to each of these characters’ disconnect to one another is a highlight of the film and makes for one of the more interesting relationships I have seen in a recent movie.

Speaking of characters, this film also had quite a few compelling supporting members of the cast as well. You have Sisu the dragon, played by Awkwafina, who partially plays herself in a way. But in my book, I do not mean that as a diss. Awkwafina has an admirable personality so I like seeing that interjected into this dragon character. Aside from seeing her for a majority of the film, we have Boun, a sidekick boy who makes shrimp. Joining them is a baby named Little Noi who if you ask me, can probably slaughter the Boss Baby in a fight.

But before we go any further, I want to bring up the songs in this film. There’s not even one original, Disney-esque song in this entire thing, and having seen the movie, there never should have been! This movie pulls no punches and wastes no time. I was here to watch something that kicks some ass and I assure you that my ass may have been kicked. But this does not mean the music in this film is lame. In fact, it is composed by James Newton Howard, known for his work on “The Hunger Games” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Therefore, when it comes to both fantastical settings and films where groups of people are divided, this is not Howard’s first rodeo, AND IT SHOWS. I know we are only in March, but I think we already have a contender for the best film score of 2021. It is like a lighthearted mix of “Mad Max” and your traditional martial arts-centric or warrior movie. James Newton Howard collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the scores for “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” both of which are really good scores. Although this “Raya and the Last Dragon” score may almost be my favorite of his so far. Tonally speaking it is generally quick, nearly rambunctious, and some of the percussion really stands out.

In the end, “Raya and the Last Dragon” did not just rock my world, it rocked my Disney world. The film is just purely bold and rustic and fun! I needed this after “Tom & Jerry,” let me just say that much! Time will tell as for how often I’ll watch this film again, but for my first viewing, I was blown away. This film is technically stunning and as a story, it sort of opens doors for sequels, expansions, lore, and I am admittedly quite curious to the point where I want to see where things go from here with the “Raya” property. I do not know if it will end up happening due to the pandemic, but I see this film, much like many others, becoming a fan favorite. And if anything else, I mentioned once again, this film has a lack of original songs. So, note to everyone who made the live-action “Mulan,” this is probably what your movie should have been! I’m going to give “Raya and the Last Dragon” a 9/10.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, however due to Cinemark not confirming a deal with Disney, the film is not playing at any of their locations. The film is however also currently available on Disney+ with Premier Access for a one-time $29.99 fee on top of your subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know, if things on Scene Before seem slower than usual, I have admittedly been quite busy with school and other goings on in life, so I do apologize if I am supposedly lagging. Although if it makes you feel any better, I want to announce that on Monday, April 5th, I’ll be starting my “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series, so I will have my review up for the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie. I watched the film earlier this month, and I am looking forward to talking about it. I will also be discussing “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on April 12th. As for new movies, pretty soon I will hopefully have reviews up for “Chaos Walking,” “Boogie,” and “Nobody.” I am also seeing “Godzilla vs. Kong” this Wednesday, so I should hopefully have a review for that up soon as well. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Raya and the Last Dragon?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Alan Tudyk film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019): A Well-Adapted, Modern Take on a Dickens Story

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” is directed by Armando Iannucchi (The Death of Stalin, Veep) and stars Dev Petel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Anuerin Bernard (War & Peace, Dunkirk), Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, Paddington), Morfydd Clark (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Crawl), Daisy May Cooper (This Country, Avenue 5), Rosalind Eleazer (Howards End, Death in Paradise), Hugh Laurie (Stuart Little, Tomorrowland), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, We Need to Talk About Kevin), and Ben Whislaw (Skyfall, Paddington).

This film is based on the similarly titled book written by Charles Dickens and follows David Copperfield, an orphan who finds himself needing to get through a series of obstacles.

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” already released in several film festivals last year, which eventually led to the film being nominated for a Best Casting BAFTA. The movie has not hit the United States until this past March, specifically at a festival, and has gotten a full fledged release in August. In my view, that officially makes this a 2020 movie. IMDb says this is a 2019 film, but it has not had an official theatrical release until this year, so I rest my case for now. As of late August, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” has hit several theaters in the United States, and so far has earned over a million dollars. Now, that’s a great total if I went on NBC’s “The Wall,” but the film’s budget is $15.6 million. The collective total at the box office worldwide is $11.6 million. That’s not entirely pleasing so far, but given how movie theaters are coming back to life at this point, it should not be too surprising. Nevertheless, I used one of my A-List tickets to see this movie last Sunday, and having never once read the “David Copperfield” book, I did not really know what to expect. I will have you all know, when movie theaters were allowed to reopen in my state, the first screening I attended contained one trailer, which was for this exact movie. That’s all. I could tell you I really enjoyed the trailer, but the reality was that I was more focused on the notion that a movie theater was actually open.

Even so, this movie had an advantage, because it was *that first trailer* I’ve seen in a while, it stuck in my mind like a catchy tune. So was this movie worth my time when I finally saw it? I’d say so.

Going into “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” I did not entirely know what to expect. Keep in mind that this review is written by someone who never read the book. I walked out of the movie fairly delighted. There was a series of well-directed, marvelously written scenes. I could thank the writers for this film, but maybe I should thank Charles Dickens considering how he wrote the material. It also goes to show how timeless this movie feels, and how one can possibly connect to some guy living in the 19th century. All the factory scenes from this film are incredible. Not only are they atmospheric, but they allow for this movie’s writing to shine. I felt for Dev Patel’s character of David Copperfield several steps of the way.

This movie manages to maintain its own vision from beginning to end, and I was massively entertained by said vision. While “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is not my favorite movie of the year, I will not deny that this movie manages to maintain its own flair every step of the way. I do not feel like I will end up remembering every character’s name, although I do imagine if I read the book maybe I will. Speaking of which, this brings up another point.

A lot of people tend a read a book, watch a movie, compare the two side by side. Personally, I see books and movies as two separate entities and I don’t always think they should be compared just to be one thing since they are two different mediums. However, let’s reverse what I just brought up for a moment. I watch a ton more movies than I read books, but if I were to take this movie, “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” I would definitely read the book that inspired it because I enjoyed the end product of the film. I don’t know when I’ll dedicate time to it, but it is a thought that I am intrigued by.

In terms of performances, I think everyone across the board did a great job from Dev Patel to Hugh Laurie to Peter Capaldi and Benedict Wong. Their performances help provide a refreshing take on what must be a classic. One of my favorite performances in this movie however comes from Darren Boyd, who plays Mr. Murdstone, who marries Copperfield’s once widowed mother. In addition to that, Copperfield has to work for Murdstone in his factory, which as previously suggested, makes for some of the finest scenes in the movie. This movie is PG, so according to the MPAA, kids can watch this and feel fine. There are some notable scenes where that PG rating shows, but at the same time, as I watched those scenes, I got the feeling I was watching somebody who was pushing the barrier a little higher. They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and “The Personal History of David Copperfield” utilizes that saying to full potential.

There are few other antagonists from movies this year that I can think of that I will remember for years to come. Maybe Dr. Robotnik from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” perhaps Sator from “Tenet,” and this might shock you, Paula Abdul from “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” Just being honest. Murdstone is up there with the greats for me. I really hope we get a couple more comic book movies this year, because I am curious to see Taskmaster in “Black Widow” and see how he ranks against the rest of the Marvel villain crew. IF “BLACK WIDOW” MOVES AGAIN OR GOES STRAIGHT TO DISNEY+ I MIGHT BE DONE WITH MOVIES. Nevertheless, Murdstone is one of my favorite characters in this movie and his attitude says a lot about who he is.

If I have anything else to say, I also enjoyed the score in this film. I don’t know if I’ll end up listening to it during free time later, but hearing it in the theater was most certainly atmospheric and occasionally gave a larger than life vibe. The score is done by Christopher Willis, who has also done work for a couple Disney television shows and HBO’s “Veep.”

In the end, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is a fine adaptation of the well-known Charles Dickens novel. I have never read the book, but after seeing this movie, who knows? Maybe I’ll give it a shot. I imagine it is better than the movie, given how Dickens is a household name. Even so, I found myself delighted with “The Personal History of David Copperfield” and I am going to give it a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Becky,” which stars Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, and Kevin James. I just got the Blu-ray recently, watched it, and I want to say some things about it. I’m not sure what my next review after that is going to be. I’m thinking either “Bill & Ted Face the Music” or there is also this one movie that has supposedly been out for a month called “Tesla.” I saw trailers for it at one theater, it never showed up, but it is also available On Demand for a cheap price. Maybe I’ll watch that. Although one of my local theaters, the Lexington Venue, just recently opened once more, so maybe I’ll check something out there if I have time. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Personal History of David Copperfield?” What did you think about it? Or, did you read the original “David Copperfield” book? Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Marvel Cinematic Universe PHASE 4 Plans Announced

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Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! You thought we were in the endgame? Think again, because, to my lack of surprise, as well as others perhaps, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not going anywhere, and as part of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin Feige and crew have officially announced their gameplan going forward in regards to movies and television. While I could not make it to San Diego this year (just like every other year), I had the pleasure of receiving a number of these announcements through social media, which is something Captain Marvel should have brushed up on by now.

This first announcement, doesn’t relate to what some would call “phase 4,” but it happens around that certain timeline and takes place in the same universe, so why not leave it in? Anyway, as you may or may not know, Marvel is finishing up their series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..” It’s a series that I tried watching when it first started, but for one reason or another, I just couldn’t latch onto it. It just didn’t work for me. The show will begin its seventh season during the 2019-20 television season, and will air for 13 episodes. However, if you are caught up with the series, you’d know that season 6 is still in progress, so the show still has time left before ABC dusts it away from its current lineup.

Speaking of television, Marvel in general is seemingly changing the norm of how they release their television programming. Before now, they would release various MCU-related content on ABC such as the recently mentioned “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Agent Carter,” and the short-lived “Inhumans.” Netflix also had a fair share of content, all of which was recently cancelled such as “Iron Fist,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and to what I believe is to a lot of people’s surprise, “Daredevil.” These platforms, for all I know, could lose the ability to air new Marvel content for awhile whereas the TV channel Freeform, and streaming services Hulu and the yet to be released Disney+ are going to be the big three for some time. Speaking of Disney+, Marvel announced a plethora of shows to be exclusively released on the upcoming service.

For the record, Disney+ is expected to be released during the fall. So just a reminder, none of these shows will be available on day one.

The first show to premiere on Disney+ is going to be “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” As you can tell by the title, the series revolves around the known characters played by actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. It is expected to start filming October 2019 and premiere in August 2020. While there are not many details about the series just yet, Mackie and Stan have previously wanted to do their own spinoff film at some point, particularly in the style of a buddy cop story. So who knows? Maybe this series could have some sort of comedic buddy vibe. But only time will tell.

Moving onto 2021 programming, up next we have “WandaVision,” which is short for the characters Wanda Maximoff and Vision meshed together. This series is going to star actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the characters we have previously come to know throughout the Infinity Saga. Although I must point out. This takes place after “Avengers: Endgame,” and Vision died in “Infinity War” only to never come back to life. So my question is… How will they allow him to return? Let me guess, time travel. Because now if the Marvel universe has a problem. Boop! You got a time machine! Want to save Nick Fury from losing an eye? Boom! You got a a time machine! Want to stop Tony Stark’s home from being destroyed like it was in “Iron Man 3?” Boom! You got a time machine! Want to give Captain America the most advanced pop culture lessons of his life? Boom! You got a time machine! Granted, there’s probably more to it, but a time travel element would not be surprising. The show will hit Disney+ in Spring 2021.

Also coming in Spring 2021 is a “Loki” series. Without going into much detail, because this does involve a spoiler for “Avengers: Endgame,” which as of writing this, is still in theaters, it will involve a Loki of the past. That’s all I’ll say. The series will of course star Tom Hiddleston. I don’t know if I am going to watch any of these series, but I think out of all the series on this list, I feel like this is the one I’d be least likely to watch. It almost seems like an idea from a think tank meeting (even though a number of these shows feel the same way). “Remember that mysterious guy from ‘Thor’ who keeps dying and coming back to life? Nobody knows if he’s good or evil? Let’s not deal with any new characters, let’s use this guy some more! Yay!” The way I wrote that sounds generous, but when I imagine it, it sounds like a business meeting all involving out of shape guys in suits smoking cigars.

OK… I take my last statement back, this is a series I’d probably watch. Granted, I don’t want to pay for Disney+, I don’t see any reason to. Plus, as someone who wants to avoid witnessing Disney’s plan for world domination put into action, I want to spend as little money towards them as possible. Although I kinda do want to go to Disneyland to see Galaxy’s Edge the more I think about it. Nevertheless, the next series is “What If…?” For those of you who don’t know, “What If…?” is a franchise that creates and realizes perhaps unlikely or alternate scenarios related to Marvel characters. Some examples from comics include: “What if the Fantastic Four all had the same power?,” “What if Captain America had been elected president?,” and “What if Jane Foster had found the hammer of Thor?.” While I’m not getting Disney+, if they are ever to release any of these shows on DVD or Blu-ray I am very likely to pick up “What If…?” simply for the concept. The stories presented in the show will not affect the MCU’s timeline, but merely exist just to answer questions through the power of imagination. It is simply something that just provides a unique take of some sort.

Hawkeye in the MCU is an “interesting” character to say the least, because just about every time he appeared in an MCU movie when he first started, I did not care about him as much as the other characters. Then I saw “Endgame” and thought he was one of the best characters of the whole thing. Coincidentally, of the upcoming shows on Disney+, “Hawkeye” is one of them. Also, according to what I have gathered, this series will introduce Kate Bishop, who in the comics is the first woman to earn the Hawkeye title. She’s also a member of the Young Avengers. Here, this show will seemingly spend some time on allowing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye to pass the torch to this younger character. The question is… Will I care about her? Or will she just be another boring bow and arrow fetishist?

That’s it for TV shows. I’ll probably watch NONE of them. Mainly because I feel that the way that everyone is trying to push streaming service upon streaming service towards the consumers is going to eventually make streaming as a whole a significantly worse deal than cable. My family and I have not cut the cord, and honestly, I’m happy. Especially considering how I still have my game shows (streaming IS NOT a good alternative if you are a game show fan for the most part), plus it’s nice to watch a new episode of a show and have it feel like an event, whereas an episode or two of a show, or a whole season, drops on Amazon or Hulu and it’s almost like you unintentionally DVRed something. Plus, I enjoy my livetweeting. It makes me feel like I am part of a community. Another reason why I’ll probably miss out on all these shows is because I REVIEW MOVIES DAMMIT! Movies are a top priority of mine and because I watch and review them excessively, I barely have time for TV. And speaking of movies, let’s reveal what Marvel has planned for that realm of entertainment in phase 4.

First up for movies is a project that I think a good number of people know has been in full swing, “Black Widow.” The plot and details are mostly unknown at this time, but Scarlett Johansson, the woman that I have a crush on who says she should be allowed to play trees, well then, if that’s the case… Vin Diesel? Watch out, you might be fired soon! She is returning as the title character who we have seen in several parts of the MCU such as the “Iron Man,” “Avengers,” and “Captain America” franchises. From speculation, I would imagine this would take place long before the main events of the MCU, kind of like in “Captain Marvel.” I am also willing to bet this will be a grittier film in the franchise (even though they aren’t going for an R rating), while also trying to be fun. After all, Black Widow isn’t really a superhero, kind of like Iron Man, she just plays with toys. And based on what we have seen from her character in comics and movies, this is very likely to be a spy flick. If you ask me, this is not my most anticipated spy-related film of next year, I’d reserve that spot to “Tenet,” directed by Christopher Nolan, but I’ve been eager to see a “Black Widow” solo film for quite some time, so I’m excited!

Plus, ScarJo is a dream girl. Just saying. The film will be released on May 1st, 2020.

Up next is a newcomer to the MCU, specifically, “Eternals.” Some big name actors in the film include Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Desparado), Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber, Silicon Valley), Angelina Jolie (Kung Fu Panda, Mr. and Mrs. Smith), Richard Madden (Rocketman, Game of Thrones), among others. It is going to be about a bunch of eternally living beings who have spent infinite portions of their lives fighting a force of evil referred to as The Deviants. One character, Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff is going to be the MCU’s first deaf hero. The film will be released on November 6th, 2020.

The third movie is one that I personally think will be a mega hit at the box office. It’s not to say the others won’t be, but if “Black Panther” from phase 3 has proven anything, it’s that if you put a “visually different” person at the forefront of a superhero project, people will see it. That’s because this movie we’re talking about is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” I don’t know if the final product will have a title this long, but only time will tell. Then again, it’s not as much of a mouthful as say “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” The main reason why I’d say this film has a bonkers chance of success is because Shang-Chi is Chinese, and in this film, he is going to be played by Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu. Not to mention, based on comic-related images I have seen, this movie could be a visual treat. Another thing to consider is the Chinese movie market. If this movie is as visually impressive as I think it will be, not to mention as honorable to the Chinese culture as I think some would want it to be, I think a lot of people will go see this in the theater. China, at least to my knowledge, seems to go to a lot of spectacle type films. Some historical examples that come to mind include “Transformers; Age of Extinction,” which to be fair, was partially shot in China, and “Warcraft.” While “Transformers” is popular in the United States, “Warcraft’s” domestic returns led to its underwhelming final box office total despite making more than twice its budget. But it couldn’t reach the total $450 million needed to completely break even. But if anything has been proven, Marvel is an automatic success in the United States. In the US and Canada, “Black Panther,” a culturally significant film for the African community, managed to make over $700 million, which for those countries specifically, is actually more than “Infinity War.” But with the massive potential for winning over China and perhaps other somewhat related Asian communities, plus Marvel’s domestic success, it has a chance of being possibly a bigger success than “Black Panther.” The movie is scheduled for a February 12th, 2021 release.

Another film I saw coming was “Doctor Strange 2,” and we got it! But it technically has a more specific title, “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” Based on what I’ve heard, Scott Derrickson could be coming back to direct this sequel. It is also suggested that Benedict Cumberbatch and Benedict Wong, or in this case, just for fun, I’ll call them Team Benedict, will be returning to reprise their roles. One thing that I found interesting though is that Wanda Maximoff will be in the be in the movie as well, and it will be tied directly to the Disney+ series “WandaVision.”

OK… You gotta be kidding me. I know people give flak to DC for how they do their movies, but at least you don’t have to watch a freaking TV show to perhaps understand or comprehend what is happening in one of the DCEU’s films! Guess I’ll just read the Wikipedia entries for the WandaVision episodes, because I ain’t paying for Disney+. But one thing that does intrigue me, is the notion that this is going to be a more horror-esque movie compared to a lot of the other MCU installments. So who knows? Maybe this could have a wacky funhouse vibe, or maybe be the MCU’s version of “The New Mutants.” Although now that I think about it, “The New Mutants” could possibly end up being another version of this movie depending on how many more times it gets pushed back. Man, that movie premiere is gonna be one big realistic version of a FaceApp demo. This is definitely a movie I would want to see on an IMAX screen, maybe in 3D. Because I saw the original “Doctor Strange” in IMAX 3D, which made for one of the best visual trips of 2016. This film is expected to drop into theaters May 7th, 2021.

But my one request for this movie. JUST GIVE A MORE MEMORABLE VILLAIN. Then again, it’s Marvel, it’s not their strong suit.

When 2015 first started, the YouTube channel RedLetterMedia made a video where they jokingly predicted that we’d eventually get a fourth “Thor” movie called “Thor 4: More Thor.” Believe it or not, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” used that title in their show. Unfortunately, we’re not getting “Thor 4: More Thor.” But we are getting a fourth “Thor” movie titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I have mixed thoughts on this movie, because I REALLY enjoy 2011’s “Thor,” probably more than I should. I know some people don’t like it, but I enjoyed Thor’s character arch and Loki was a solid villain. Granted, the followup in 2013, “Thor: The Dark World,” is in the conversation to be my least favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. And even though “Thor: Ragnarok” was… “better,” it’s not what I wanted. I thought it was too comedic, and some of the jokes didn’t land. While it is visually stunning, somewhat appealing from a story perspective, the tone just didn’t work. Basically, Asgard is in a state beyond repair in this film. It could have been dark, gritty, maybe a little funny, but not like it was “Deadpool” for kids. I don’t think Taika Waititi is a bad director, in fact, I thought he would be a better suit for something like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but he did a “Thor” film instead. It just didn’t stick the landing for me. I’m hoping “Thor: Love and Lightning” will be better, but from what I can imagine, it could be tonally similar to the previous “Thor” installment, which if that’s the case, I’m just hoping that the story actually fits the tone.

One thing that could be interesting is that Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is making a comeback. And similar to a comics storyline, Foster is going to be taking on the mantle of Thor. And based on visuals presented from San Diego Comic-Con, it looks like her character will be holding Mjölnir at some point during the film. As long as Kat Dennings doesn’t show up to play her character from “2 Broke Girls” everything should be rather fine and dandy. The film is predicted to be out November 5th, 2021, so I demand there should be at least one reference to “V For Vendetta,” ESPECIALLY since Natalie Portman is returning!

Now let me just say, I have no idea when these next films are going to be released, part of me is willing to bet that one or two of them, are not even in phase 4, but Marvel Studios chairman Kevin Feige has confirmed that these movies are in development, therefore we are going to cover them. So let’s continue!

Remember the 1998 film “Blade?” Guess what? Marvel is getting to do another project with the character. I personally can’t say I have seen “Blade,” but part of me is willing to imagine that this will be a somewhat different take on the character because the original trilogy was rated R, whereas all the MCU films so far have gotten a PG-13. If you ask me, I would not mind seeing an R version of the character in the MCU, kind of like with Black Widow, but you cannot have everything. One thing that does intrigue me though is that Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Green Book) is attached to playing the lead role. He’s a fantastic actor who has a ton of range, and he actually pitched this sort of idea to Marvel Studios through a call. Coincidentally, Ali has been attached to a couple of alternate recent comic book-based products including Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Netflix’s own MCU show, “Luke Cage.”

There’s not much to say on this next film, but I KNEW this was gonna be made at some point, perhaps soon. Why? Because again, it made SO MUCH money. I guess this is what happens when Disney remakes “The Lion King” for a new generation. Wait… I’m talking about “Black Panther 2.” There’s not much to say about this movie yet, but Ryan Coogler suggested that he’d write and direct this film, which does intrigue me because I thought he did a rather decent job with the first one despite its flaws. So… what Disney movie are they gonna retread next? Are they gonna do “Dumbo” because Black Panther is learning to fly for some reason? Are they gonna do a film in the style of “Wreck-It Ralph” where it is revealed that Wakanda is in an arcade cabinet? Are they gonna do one like “Frozen” where Shuri or Okoye just breaks out into an annoying catchy tune? By the way, screw “Frozen,” that movie can rot in hell!

Up next is a film that was supposed to come out in 2020, but based on recent controversy, that’s not happening anymore. Specifically, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” This is a film that I am honestly curious to see, because while I imagine this could potentially be a capper for a trilogy, director James Gunn has previously exposed that this installment is not meant to be a powerhouse of emotion. It is still going to be fun and lively. But if you have been following the news in terms of film recently, you’d know that Gunn was fired by Disney/Marvel over the resurfacing of less than family friendly tweets. Tweets that even he admits, he’s not proud of. If you ask me, I believe James Gunn is a competent director, who may have deserved the criticism that he received, but I’m not sure if Disney should have gone as far as firing him, especially when you consider how much he has changed over the years in terms of his outlook. Nevertheless, I am quite curious to see how this upcoming “Guardians” film turns out, and I do have a shortlist of soundtrack ideas, but I think I should save that for another time. The movie is not expected to begin filming until 2020, but that’s because James Gunn is currently doing a DC movie, specifically “The Suicide Squad.”

Here’s another no-brainer, “Captain Marvel 2.” When your film has the sixth biggest opening of all time, you know you have to make a followup. I’ll be honest, the first “Captain Marvel” did not work for me. I thought the chemistry between Fury and Danvers was kind of hit and miss. The scene where “Just a Girl” plays honestly, while I guess it was trying to be empowering, felt really off for an action scene that was most likely trying to be kick-ass. The final fight, which I imagine was trying to be funny, just ended up being questionable to me. And don’t even get me started on Goose the Cat! But, we are getting another movie, and I’m honestly hoping it is better than this one, but only time will tell. I like Brie Larson as an actress, but when she plays Captain Marvel, she honestly sounds like she’s only been in straight to DVD content. Come on, Brie! You won an Oscar for “Room!” Show me the magic! She did alright in “Endgame,” but she was not in the movie that much so there is that to consider. Then again, I’m a straight white male. So is my opinion even valid to begin with?

Another film on the list of “in development” is a third “Spider-Man” movie. By the way, by the time you finish reading this post, five more “Spider-Man” movies will be released, because they keep cranking them out! I finally saw “Spider-Man: Far From Home” the other day, and honestly, after seeing that film, I’d say a third one HAS to be made. And without going into detail, Kevin Feige suggested that the mid-credits scene from that film implies the third film will involve “a Peter Parker story that has never been done before on film.” And it does not surprise me that this is happening. I believe Sony is already satisfied with making their own “Spider-Man” movies in their universe and still enjoys the success they can get from spinning their webs in the MCU. Nevertheless, can’t wait. But if I had any requests, make sure the word “home” is in the title. That way I don’t have to end up confusing “Spider-Man” trilogies and can refer to this as the “Home” trilogy. Seriously! Even if it simply means that there is a minute of the two of the film where we find Peter Parker watching a Mets game, and for that reason it is called “Home Run,” it would still work because the other two movies have the word “home” in their titles too!

The next two films are a couple of projects that I think a lot of people have been asking for. Why? Because Disney just acquired 21st Century Fox recently, meaning they have retained the rights to a couple of big name franchises. One example is “X-Men.” I have no idea how the film will present itself. If anything, it is definitely going to be a complete reboot, staying away from the timeline Fox originally showcased to audiences since the early 2000s. After all, while I didn’t go see “Dark Phoenix,” probably just like everyone else in the world, maybe that movie tarnished the franchise enough to say, “Screw it, it’s over.” But some movie franchises or IPs are like Jenga, you can end the game by collapsing the tower, but you can always start a new one by rebuilding it. Maybe “X-Men” has a place in the MCU. And honestly, if a couple of the phase 1 heroes are going away, I think this is the perfect time to add in new heroes, because if they were still there, I’d honestly worry about clutter in the MCU. Granted, even with them showing up now, that is still a worry. But I also have a slight intrigue as to what this mega franchise can bring to the cinematic universe.

Speaking of Fox, one other franchise they once had, not to mention wasted, is “Fantastic Four.” Since Marvel has the rights to them, they can now possibly… NOT screw it up this time… Hopefully? I imagine it’ll be good, but I’m keeping experience in my back pocket. It’s in different hands, but for all I know, despite its popularity in the comic book world, maybe “Fantastic Four” is simply cursed as a movie franchise. But I am curious about this film and how it’ll turn out, and perhaps a little more excited about this than “X-Men.” Will Dr. Doom be the main villain again? Will the movie have the four in the middle of its title? Or… How about this? How about we get Chris Evans to play Johnny Storm again? Do it just to get some other character in the movie for a second. Maybe the group will be going around New York City grabbing lunch or something and they run into Peter Parker walking with Ned, which leads to Peter pointing at Johnny saying, “Hey! You look like someone I know!” I highly doubt that will happen, but it certainly would make for a proper more realistic “What If…?” scenario. Plus, with Stan Lee gone we’re gonna need new cameo ideas.

That’ll probably do it for all of the MCU-related announcements for phase 4, and again, a lot of these films and TV shows are in development. So who knows? One could get pushed back, maybe one gets cancelled. Perhaps it ends up being a part of an eventual phase 5. Nevertheless, I’m excited for a large number of these projects, and hopefully they will all end up being good! Also, James Gunn, I know it is a little late, but welcome back. I want to know, is there something I’m missing from this list? I think I’ve covered all the ground, after all I have 4,000 words inserted into this thing! Or, what is something that you want to see from the MCU as a TV series, as a movie, as a concept? It doesn’t even have to be for phase 4 if you want it someplace else. Let me know down below! Thanks for reading this post! Pretty soon I am going to be reviewing Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is out this upcoming weekend. I’m going to one of my local theaters for their first screening of the film in 35mm, can’t wait! Also, speaking of Tarantino, be sure to stay tuned for my final installment in my Quentin Tarantino review series, “The Hateful Eight.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, if you could do me a favor, like this post, share it around with those you know, it really helps me out. And speaking of that, like my Facebook Page! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Annihilation (2018): Yay! Alex Garland’s Second Film!

Before dive into my review for “Annihilation,” we have some promotional material to go over. Hey! Let me just remind you, this content is free! I’m doing this! Let me just have you know something. I’m a guy, and unfortunately, and somewhat understandably, my gender’s individuals usually can’t go at least a single second of each day without thinking about sex. Before you ask, no, I’m not promoting porn. Even though that does involve sex. What I’m promoting to you doesn’t involve that kind of sex. It instead involves what can be referred to as “BIBLICALLY *APPROVED* INTERCOURSE for the PURPOSES of PROCREATION.” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” is a new YouTube channel and series from a couple whose members include Genevieve and Paul. The two are currently expecting a child in upcoming months and unfortunately for both of them, their journey wasn’t as sweet as chocolate ice cream. Instead, it felt more like a rocky road. As suggested, sex plays a part in this series. Not just that, but don’t forget math, tests, costs, small wins, big losses, and all of those stinkin’ needles! The video up above specifically is their second episode, but if you are interested in seeing the other videos in this series, such as the first episode and the trailer, be sure to click the link down below to the YouTube channel for “WTIVF?.” And also be sure to subscribe or hit the notification bell to keep up on their content! Also be sure to check out their other social media pages, along with their website, also down below! Be sure to tell them that Jack Drees sent you!

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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“Annihilation” is directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later) and stars Natalie Portman (Black Swan, V For Vendetta), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed), Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin), Tuva Novotny (Eat Pray Love, Dag), and Oscar Isaac (X-Men Apocalypse, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). This movie is about a biologist who sets up a secret expedition where the laws of nature are thrown out the window. The film is also based on a book by Jeff VanderMeer which is one of the three books in the Southern Reach trilogy. On that topic, according to Alex Garland, he didn’t really think much about making a trilogy. His focus is mainly shifted towards the first book of the same name, so I don’t think we’ll be getting any sequels to this movie in the future.

Before we go any further and dissect “Annihilation,” I just want to bring up one of the banes of my existence. And no, for all of you who don’t know grammar entirely, this has nothing to do with “Batman.” This does however, have to do with Netflix. I recently did a post called “Why I Won’t Review The Cloverfield Paradox.” In it, I explain my prior anticipation to “The Cloverfield Paradox,” and how I won’t review or even watch the movie based on something I didn’t really expect to happen. That unexpected happening by the way is the fact that the movie wouldn’t be released in theaters and instead went straight to the Netflix streaming service. I explain how they basically killed Blockbuster, a nostalgic store I adore that I will surely miss. I go on to say that the way they’re changing movie and TV watching is making certain experiences dwindled from what they could be. Not to mention, they’re also killing movie theaters, which are basically “other homes” of mine, because they think it’s a good idea to have all of their movies go straight to the platform. So I never inserted this in the post, but I’ll say it here. You know the phrase “Netflix & chill?” People nowadays know it as either an invitation to watch Netflix with someone else, or just an excuse to have sex. So I hate to kill the mood, if you know what I mean, but I might as well describe some of the scenarios I recently mentioned as “Netflix & kill.”

Before going to see this movie, I found out apparently that Netflix is apparently distributing “Annihilation” internationally (except for China). I live in the United States, meaning Netflix isn’t distributing the movie to my people. Paramount is doing said job. Let me just say, this movie is very lucky to get its own review, because if it lacked any release in theaters, or if Netflix was doing total distribution, I would have saved some time. In fact, I’m willing to bet that Alex Garland, the director of “Annihilation” might also be somewhat disappointed in what happened to this film. Just read this quote spoken by him down below:

“We made the film for cinema. I’ve got no problem with the small screen at all. The best genre piece I’ve seen in a long time was “The Handmaid’s Tale,” so I think there’s incredible potential within that context, but if you’re doing that – you make it for that and you think of it in those terms. Look… it is what it is. The film is getting a theatrical release in the States, which I’m really pleased about. One of the big pluses of Netflix is that it goes out to a lot of people and you don’t have that strange opening weekend thing where you’re wondering if anyone is going to turn up and then if they don’t, it vanishes from cinema screens in two weeks. So it’s got pluses and minuses, but from my point of view and the collective of the people who made it – [it was made] to be seen on a big screen.”

I hate to sound like a propaganda machine, but I’ll say this anyway. Netflix may have chopped this movie’s head off, but it still has a beating heart. It didn’t totally “annihilate” the film. 😉 Getting back on track, let’s talk about “Annihilation!”

Going into “Annihilation,” I was excited. That’s because I’ve seen a film from Alex Garland which released in 2015 and it was one of the most beautiful looking films of the decade. That film by the way, is “Ex Machina.” While “Ex Machina” isn’t what I’d personally call a 10/10 movie, I have to give major props to the film from a production and directorial perspective because it made me want to be a part of the movie. Heck, it won Best Achievement in Visual Effects at the Oscars! I will also say, “Ex Machina” was Alex Garland’s directorial debut! Garland’s second movie, “Annihilation,” has arrived in various territories, I didn’t know too much about it. I’ve seen a trailer for it, I knew Natalie Portman would have the starring role, I knew it was based on a book, but not much else.

Oh wait, there was one more thing, kind of going off of something I just mentioned.

As suggested, “Annihilation” is based on a book, specifically a book of the same name. The book is part of what’s known as the Southern Reach trilogy, which is named due to a secret agency which plays an important part in the overall plot. All three books were written by Jeff VanderMeer, and were met with positive verdicts.

Funny enough, all of them start with the letter “A.” So I guess if you don’t like calling the series the Southern Ranch trilogy, you can instead call it the AAA trilogy. It’s the perfect series for going out to CVS in your car with three of your friends. Their names are Albert, Alec, and Alex (AAA). You decide to go inside the CVS store, where you end up buying AAA batteries, finding three guys at the register named Aaron, Adam, and Andy (AAA), going back to your car to realize the doors are locked, you left your keys inside, so now you have to call AAA to get this situation settled. Once that’s over, you get back in your car, you’re about the leave the shopping center where CVS is, a very small one at that. It contains other shops including AT&T, Avenue, and Applebee’s (AAA). You suddenly realize, you have some time to kill, so it leads you to pulling out one of the AAA books from the back seat, you start reading it, and you remain in the parking lot going nowhere for a period of time. Oh yeah, and your friends are just questioning why you aren’t driving.

Alright, rambling’s over, let’s get serious.

Since “Annihilation” has some of the stuff it has in it, it’s easy to imagine some people are looking forward to it if they haven’t seen it. I haven’t even read the books and I was kind of stoked! Although there were people who happen to be giving it some flak before it even came out. Why is this? Well apparently, this movie has miscast its characters, and the reason why they’re miscast is because they’re not the correct ethnicity.

Let me just say, I’ve never read the books, so what I’m gathering is from random research. And the research tells me that these complainers have justifiable reasons behind their thoughts. Do I agree with them? Sure I do. It doesn’t mean I don’t like the actors playing these characters or how they perform as these characters, but it doesn’t change the fact that these mistakes are still there. Although I will say, there are two characters when it comes to this complaint. Specifically Natalie Portman’s character of Lena and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character of Dr. Ventress. Of the two characters, Portman might be the bigger problem here. Again, I like her as an actress, so I don’t see Portman herself as a problem, but I do see this casting choice as a problem. For one thing, she’s the lead role. Also, her ethnicity was revealed in the first book of the trilogy whereas the other character had hers revealed in the second book of the trilogy. When it came to the overall adaptation of this book to film. Garland was more focused towards story than character looks. And while I look for more great stories than I do correct adaptations, this was something that could have easily been altered. While I REALLY enjoyed “Annihilation,” this will subtract its score.

Onto the movie itself, I actually went to see this over a week ago, so I apologize if some of my comments come off as weak. I usually review movies right after I see them depending on the case, but this wasn’t one of them. My Oscar recap was more important. This movie starts off in a small room with a conversation between Natalie Portman and Benedict Wong, and I knew that part of the movie was going to take place there. The overall setting there set the tone for what’s to come. We occasionally cut back and forth between that and some plot-unfolding events of the film. And with all that put together, the tone doesn’t really ever feel ruined. There’s a lot of cutting back and forth, but it doesn’t feel all jumbled together like a pizza with topping options so endless it has toppings like TNT, screws, and LEGO bricks. In other words, this movie’s edited competently and the tone doesn’t feel messed up.

I’ll mention once more, one of the biggest positives I can give to Alex Garland’s directorial debut, “Ex Machina,” is how beautiful-looking the movie is. The movie won Best Visual Effects at the Oscars and it’s easy to see why. Plus, all the scenery might make you feel like you’re on an exotic getaway and you’re on a nature walk. Oh yeah, and robots are there too! Much like “Ex Machina,” this movie has you feeling as if you’re entering a majestic new world. Once all the scientists are together on their journey, they enter an anomaly known as the shimmer. Inside, it can simply just be described as wondrously gorgeous. But not all of it is pretty.

“Annihilation,” at its core, is a sci-fi film. Although it has some elements of horror in there as well. This movie to my personal surprise, features one of the more terrifying scenes I’ve seen in a science fiction film. If you’ve seen the trailer, you may remember that wolf with the sharp teeth, holy s*it!

I also have to talk about the ending. And without spoiling anything, I’ll tell you all upfront. This is one of the best endings I’ve seen this decade. Why do I love sci-fi so much? Well, there’s many reasons that can qualify as an answer to that question for me, but one thing I’ve noticed is how many of those movies have endings that I just often look back on. This movie is no exception. I mentioned in my post titled “Annihilation (2018): NOT Now In Theaters Everywhere” that “Annihilation” originator Jeff VanderMeer gave praise towards this film’s ending and even said in some ways, the movie might actually be better than his own book. That’s a much better reaction than the one given by Paramount financier David Ellison, who thought the film was apparently too complicated for some minds! By the way, f*ck David Ellison. You can clearly tell I’m siding with VanderMeer in this circumstance. The ending overall felt like I was watching “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I can’t talk much about it, but given some of the situations that happen in this film and when you piece it all together. This film feels like “Arrival,” “Jurassic Park,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” all meshed together in one wonderful package. One more thing about the ending, the music in that moment can only be described as one word, and that’s orgasmic.

Moving onto characters, let’s talk about Natalie Portman’s character of Lena. While I did mention before that Lena is not entirely cast the way that a good number of people think she should be, I’ll add, Portman did a fine job here. I was able to buy her as a biologist. Every single frame I was convinced that she could possibly have a shot at becoming a professor at Princeton. Her husband, Kane, played by Oscar Isaac, also delivers an excellent performance.

All of the characters in this film overall seem to have no qualities that I hate about them, whether they’re in the category of annoying, off-putting, or so hatable because they killed someone you love so much that they must get similar treatment. They all seem to be redeemable and I really think they all did their role quite well. I will admit, some of this movie is kind of dwindling on me. And it’s not because I didn’t like the movie. I thought it was great! I’ll say once again, it’s been over a week since I saw this, and other things mattered more to me than this review. No offense to “Annihilation” and its crew.

One last thing I’ll mention is this. I said already that if you combine “Arrival,” “Jurassic Park,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” you might as well get this movie. You might also say that if you combine JUST A HINT of “Ghostbusters,” you get this film too. Just look at this shot and tell me otherwise!

In the end, “Annihilation” is certainly one of those films that I’m gonna have to watch again, and it’s also one of those films that I want to talk about with others for years to come. Is this movie perfect? I wouldn’t say so. I’ve already gone over some minor casting issues that are somewhat understandable after doing some research, but are still there regardless. I must say though, Alex Garland, you’ve done it again! I’m going to give “Annihilation” an 8/10! By the way, if you can’t get this in theaters in your area, chances are you may have this movie available to you now on Netflix. It actually released on the Netflix platform in several areas a day ago, so go watch it if you haven’t already! I don’t use Netflix, but I’ve talked enough about that. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’ll have a review up for “Mission: Impossible” starring Tom Cruise, which will kick off my “Mission: Impossible” review series in preparation for “Mission: Impossible: Fallout.” Also, for my next movie to see in theaters, I just realized how many options I have. I want to go see “Game Night,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” (can’t believe I’m saying that) “Gringo,” “Red Sparrow,” and you’ve even got “Tomb Raider” coming out next weekend. I don’t know if I’ll catch a movie this weekend, but only time will tell. If you need some more content to hold yourself over, be sure to check out my recap for the 90th Academy Awards, where I talk about “four men and Greta Gerwig,” a jet ski, and what could be regarded one of the of the most well deserved Academy Award wins of all time. If you want to check that out, click the box down below, and will take you to the post! Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, have you seen “Annihilation?” What are your thoughts? What did you think about the ending? Also, if you saw it, how did you see it? Leave that info down below as a way of annihilating some time! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!