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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No pun intended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elvis (2022): A Movie So Bad That Not Only Was Tom Hanks Unable To Save It, He Sullied It

“Elvis” is directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby) and stars Austin Butler (Life Unexpected, Switched at Birth), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit, The Society), Helen Thomson (Bad Mothers, Stupid, Stupid Man), and Richard Roxborough (Moulin Rouge!, Mission: Impossible II). This film is a biopic on the iconic musician Elvis Presley. The movie providers glimmers of his childhood in addition to his life in music and movies. There is also a shining of light on Presley’s relationship with his manager, Tom Parker.

I was looking forward to “Elvis” ever since I saw the trailer. It looked electric, zazzy, and colorful. I also will admit that I enjoy listening to Elvis Presley every once in a while as “Suspicious Minds” is sometimes a notable song choice of mine when I am writing. I am not a hardcore Elvis fanatic, but I was quite curious to get to know more about the iconic musician’s life and perhaps see a killer performance from Austin Butler. While Butler has had plenty of acting experience, this is undoubtedly the role that will make him a star, and not just because he’s playing a star. This leads me to my most prominent positive of the film, which is that Austin Butler does not waste a second on the screen.

Similar to how Rami Malek practically transformed into Freddie Mercury in 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Austin Butler gives a performance for the ages. In fact one thing that I think Butler does better in his performance as Presley compared to Malek as Mercury is that we actually hear Butler sing. There are snippets of the movie where Presley’s actual voice can be heard, but unlike Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the singing sequences in “Elvis” were not completely lip synced. Butler also looks like a king in this film. Speaking of which, one notable element of Elvis Presley that I often think of is like some modern musicians like Megan Thee Stallion or Cardi B, there is some definite sex appeal that had been accurately reflected in the movie. Sometimes this comes with the idea that the sexualization goes too far. Young people, especially women, are seen in this movie losing their minds the moment they see Presley himself. I liked this aspect of the film, I thought it was perfectly showcased.

Butler gives a transformative, otherworldly portrayal of a musician who has not been alive since the 1970s, but somehow has risen from the dead just to stand in front me as I eat popcorn for two and a half hours. It is undoubtedly one of the best performances of the year. I think they made a good choice on casting Butler, not only because he’s a great actor, but unlike say Harry Styles, who was in the running to play the character, Butler is way less recognizable, which I think comes off as less of a distraction. This adds, again, more of a transformation factor than anything else. Although I was delighted to know that before “Elvis,” Butler’s most recent outing was in the insanely good “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” where he slays as Tex Watson. There is no denying it, Austin Butler was perfect in “Elvis.”

Too bad almost every other aspect of the movie pales in comparison.

Speaking of performances, let’s talk about Tom Hanks. Unlike Austin Butler, it is almost certain that most moviegoers would watch a movie just because Tom Hanks is in it. He is great in everything he does, except for “Elvis.” Tom Hanks plays Elvis Presley’s sleazy, gambling addict manager by the name of Tom Parker. Judging this performance is incredibly difficult. Because on one hand, Tom Hanks plays a much different role than I am used to seeing him in. This is a rare instance where Hanks actually plays an antagonist, so I appreciate that Hanks is trying to drift away from always being typecast as Mr. Nice Guy. But this is not only not Hanks’s bread and butter, he delivers a performance that feels weirdly over the top and stereotypical. Granted, it kind of matches the tone of the film, which almost feels animated at times. When I think of Elvis Presley, the artist, I think of lively, vibrant music that often lights up a room. Tom Hanks definitely feels animated. As for lively and vibrant, not so much. And that accent got on my nerves real fast…

Let’s put it this way, Tom Hanks has had a long and prestigious career as an actor to the point where he has done many great films like “Toy Story,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” and fairly recently, the somewhat overlooked “News of the World.” Of course he has had bad days at the office. Just look at “The Circle,” a movie that almost ruins the reputations of several iconic names in Hollywood like Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt. Even in a bad or fairly mediocre Tom Hanks movie like “Sully,” Hanks is never the problem. He gives it his all. “Elvis” is a rare instance that not only is the movie atrocious, but Tom Hanks gives one of the worst performances I have seen from him. I do not completely blame Hanks. I think in terms of makeup and costume design, his character looked transformative. Hanks himself, once again, sort of diverged from being a “nice guy” that not only audiences are used to seeing, but people claim him to actually be in real life. The directing and script are the real problem here. Tom Parker comes off as one of the most stereotypical and cliche characters of his kind in cinematic history.

It also feels weird knowing that this movie is called “Elvis” and yet it almost feels more like “The Tom Parker Chronicles” in disguise. I mean, sure, in a way, Parker was a monumental part of Elvis Presley’s legacy. But when I go into “Elvis,” I want, well, Elvis, taking up as much spotlight as he can. The movie IS about Elvis, but it almost does not feel that way at times. I am almost surprised we did not see Tom Parker in a mid-credits scene suddenly walk out on stage, bedazzled, singing a snippet of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Here is a fun fact for you all, so far, the only movie in history to have not just been nominated, but win both an Oscar and a Razzie is the 1987 film “Wall Street.” Michael Douglas won an Oscar for Best Actor and Daryl Hannah won a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. This is a shot in the dark prediction, because awards season is technically still on the rise. Although I think there is a solid chance that “Elvis” could categorize itself as one of two films to win both the Oscar and the Razzie. I can see Austin Butler winning Best Actor, and I can see Tom Hanks winning Worst Supporting Actor. It goes to show how much of a mish mash “Elvis” feels like. This film comes off as a Saturday morning cartoon, a grounded drama, and unfortunately, a confused narrative. I think the confusion is best summed up in one of the first lines, where Tom Parker introduces himself.

“For those of you who are wondering who this fella here is, I am the legendary Colonel Tom Parker. I am the man who gave the world Elvis Presley. Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet, there are some who’d make me out to be the villain of this here story.” -Tom Parker

Yes, there are movies I like where the villain technically becomes the hero of the story. “Avengers: Infinity War,” despite having “Avengers” in the title, starts and ends with Thanos, the man who wants to rid of half the universe’s population. But not only did he feel fleshed out, I bought into the character. Similarly, there are movies about self-absorbed, entitled morons that make themselves out to be the hero, like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and if it is written and directed in a certain way, it can work. “Elvis” honestly feels inconsistent, and part of it is because Parker needlessly steals the spotlight in every other scene. There are scene stealers, and then there are scene hijackers, like Tom Parker. Tom Parker comes off as a paper thin cartoon within a grounded story. It is kind of like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” if Roger Rabbit had actual human flesh.

I should not be surprised, but as I watched this movie, I failed to realize perhaps the greatest source of my pain, the director, Baz Luhrmann. Baz Luhrmann directed and co-wrote “Elvis.” This film definitely has a style, but despite its occasional ease on the eyes and ears, the movie travels at the speed of a rocket. Only thing is, I am not in the rocket, I am hanging right by the engine. It feels like I was watching “Run Lola Run” but if the runtime were doubled. This is probably the closest I have come to having a headache while watching a movie in a theater. Now, Baz Luhrmann did not direct “Run Lola Run.” He did direct other glitzy, glossy films like “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby.” I have not seen those movies. But I did see another film from Luhrmann, the 1997 “Romeo + Juliet.” I understand what the movie was going for by trying to modernize the classic Shakespearean play. Perhaps give it more of an oomph for people who tend to nap during class readings and discussions of William Shakespeare. But I genuinely thought it was one of the most annoying and mind-numbing movies I have ever watched. “Elvis” is more entertaining, but compared to “Romeo + Juliet,” it suffers from a longer runtime and pacing issues. “Elvis” is 2 hours and 39 minutes long, and yet it feels like an eternity at times.

Speaking of negativity and hate, let’s dive into another positive. Trust me, this makes sense. Like other modern musicians such as Kanye West, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber, Elvis definitely had his haters. While I was not a fan of the Tom Parker character and his portrayal from Tom Hanks, one thing I did like is how all out this movie went to showcasing the merchandising for Presley. They even sold “hate” merchandise which upon one’s purchase, the money from said purchase goes directly to Parker and Presley themselves. This is genius and I think if we lived in a non-Internet age, we could have seen more of this from other high profile names, including politicians. Unfortunately for the movie “Elvis,” the negatives outweigh the positives. Therefore, if I had to buy a button symbolizing my thoughts in regard to the movie, it would probably lean toward the “hater” route. Baz Luhrmann is a director who knows his style, but leaves much to be desired when it comes to delivering an entertaining narrative.

In the end, “The Tom Parker Chron–” sorry, got confused for a sec… In the end, “Elvis” is a long, overblown, glitz and glamour fest that melted my brain. It is sad to say that perhaps the most positive thing I can say about “Elvis” is that it is at least more watchable than “Romeo + Juliet.” But much like “Romeo + Juliet,” I cannot see myself ever watching “Elvis” again even if I were promised a million bucks. This is the movie that is going to be remembered as both Austin Butler’s big break, and yet, one of the worst days at the office for acting legend Tom Hanks. I am going to give “Elvis” a 3/10.

“Elvis” in now playing in theatres and is also available on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of music-based films, my next review is going to be for the brand new Japanese animation “Inu-Oh.” The film follows a dancer and a musician who develop a friendship and perform for crowds across the land. 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 “Elvis?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen any other Baz Luhrmann films? Tell me your thoughts on the ones you like or dislike. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Belfast (2021): Kenneth Branagh’s Personal, Moving, Coming of Age Tale Slices Life Into Wonderfully Linked Pieces

“Belfast” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Murder on the Orient Express) and stars Caitríona Balfe (Outlander, Ford v Ferrari), Judi Dench (Cats, Skyfall), Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall), Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin), and Jude Hill. This film is a semi-real tale that encapsulates a portion of Kenneth Branagh’s life. Throughout the film we see a mix of Buddy’s somewhat carefree life as a child, a tale of growing up, while times are tough in the titular city.

One of the questions of the pandemic is what kinds of movies we are going to get in the future. After all, like the pre-pandemic days, we have seen that comic book movies, with a couple exceptions like “The New Mutants” and “The Suicide Squad,” have been financially successful, as much as the latter deserved a much better result. One of the movies I felt could be in danger with the increasingly common blockbuster dominating from one month to the next is those films that tell a slice of life tale. Films like “Roma” or “Chef,” which I watched for the first time recently and thought was phenomenal. Easily Jon Favreau’s best work.

So after watching blockbusters like “The Matrix Resurrections,” which I rolled my eyes over, and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which I adored, it felt somewhat refreshing to see something as small as “Belfast,” even though I ended up watching it in Dolby Cinema. I remember watching the trailer for this film a couple months back and it looked like a film that would make you want to explore the world. That’s an exaggeration if there was one, but between the black and white presentation, Kenneth Branagh’s name being attached, and some of the written dialogue that I have already heard, the film at minimum looked like a recipe for something special.

As far as my first impressions go, I would have to say that even though you cannot have a story without conflict, I will say that I am surprised that “Belfast” managed to immerse me in such conflict as well as it did. Granted, part of it is due to the Dolby Cinema experience being off the charts obnoxious and insane, but I would have to say that it also has to do with Kenneth Branagh’s impressive directorial skills that put you right in the center of whatever action is in the film, even though this really isn’t an action movie. Whenever there is a quickly paced scene, I felt like I was in the moment with these characters. There’s a rather explosive moment in the beginning of the film that stuck with me due to how both poignant it is and how effectively it establishes the timeframe, the atmosphere, the struggles our characters have to go through from day to day.

For the record, I am in my twenties, but there are days where I feel like a child, and that’s probably one of the few reasons why I think it is why to have Jude Hill’s character of Buddy be the center of this story. Seriously, there are times where I felt like I was looking at an eleven year old version of myself. Although probably less awkward, more confident, and more likely to get into trouble. You know how when you really like someone as a child, you think that’s going to be the person you want to marry later in life? The writing for “Belfast” feel weirdly nostalgic for my time just before I was a teenager. I did not do all the things the lead kid did at his age, I think I was a bit more of a “model child,” and arguably more than I should have been. I think at that time, I was way too concerned about following rules than trying to object to authority, but there are nevertheless things about my life as a child that applied to Buddy that I remember from that age.

Also, people often talk about hard it is to direct children, I think there is an argument to make that Kenneth Branagh makes it look easy. A lot of professional actors can give a great performance. In fact I would say that some of the adults in this film like Jamie Dornan do just that, but I will contend that Jude Hill (left) gives one of my all time favorite child performances in a film.

Ever.

Hill packs a punch in every scene he’s in. Whether it’s a lighter moment or a heavier, world-crushing segment that would be hard for a child to go through. I will not get into details that spoil the film, but I would put Hill’s performance amongst one of the greats. He’s up there with people like Mackenzie Foy in “Interstellar,” Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone,” and Jacob Tremblay in “Room.”

I do not have a ton of problems with “Belfast,” other than maybe the fact that Jude Hill gives a better performance as a child that make the grown-up actors look inexperienced, but I feel like this film will lack the rewatchability factor for me. This is a film that I probably will pick up and watch again at some point, but similar to “The Last Duel,” which is a fantastic piece of art, it is hard for me to determine when I am going to sit down and watch “Belfast” from start to finish for my own amusement. I feel like it could get a rewatch one night when I have nothing better to do, but it’s hard to tell. As for other remarks, I do think the accents were a little hard to follow, but that’s probably more on me as a citizen of the United States being somewhat accustomed to my culture than anything else. That’s not something that really should affect the score of the film, but if you are not from the area this film is referencing, or if you live where I live in the world, I would recommend maybe putting on subtitles if you choose to watch this film at home.

I don’t often say this about a movie, you may notice that in some movies they’ll have a quick statement about someone who passed away once it ends, which is a great thing to do. But one of the best things about “Belfast” in general is its personal touch from Kenneth Branagh, this very much feels like a harkening back to his youth. Even if it is not about his youth specifically. And if I wanted to, I could make a film about my community from when I was young, but Branagh did such a great job at making his childhood, or at least some variant of it, feel, as weird as it is to say, universal and singular at the same time. The point is, when the film makes its dedication at the end, I won’t get into detail, but when it does this, I felt the words in front of me. I felt like I walked out having taken something from someone else’s life, which made me appreciate “Belfast” more.

In the end, “Belfast” is a home run for Kenneth Branagh. I have respect for the man as a professional and I think that has only increased after watching this film. This is a proper tale of sides not getting along, struggles of being in an environment where times are tough, and weirdly enough, as timely as this phrase is, feels like a film we need right now. Because this has every single emotion from joy to sadness to laughter, it’s everything you could want in a story. This is not my favorite movie of the year, but I will recommend it to just about anyone. I think this movie could do some damage at the Oscars this year. I’m going to give “Belfast” an 8/10.

“Belfast” is now playing in theaters and is also available to rent on premium VOD.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the first 2022 film I’m going to tackle on Scene Before, “Jackass Forever.” This is honestly one of the more impromptu reviews I’ve done in this blog’s history, but I am looking forward to doing it nevertheless. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Moonfall,” so that’s two dumb fun movies in a row. Be sure to do a crossword in between or something so you can feel smart. 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 “Belfast?” What did you think about it? Or, have you been to Belfast? What’s it like there? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Tick, Tick…Boom! (2021): Andrew Garfield Booms the Roof Off in This Marvelous Netflix Original

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” is directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Mary Poppins Returns) and stars Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, Hacksaw Ridge), Alexandra Shipp (Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, Straight Outta Compton), Robin de Jesús (The Boys in the Band, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Joshua Henry, Judith Light (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Dallas), and Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical, Powerless). This film is about Jonathan Larson, a young musical composer who lives in New York and is trying to make it big. When trying to assemble and sell his play, Larson must simultaneously balance work, friendships, and trying to create the art he wants people to see.

I feel like such an idiot because I have spent much of the 2010s hearing about “Hamilton,” while everyone talks about it, makes such a big deal about it. “Go watch ‘Hamilton!'” “Go listen to ‘Hamilton!'” “I cannot stop talking about ‘Hamilton!'” I have never bothered with it. I am sure that if I put on a song from “Hamilton,” I’ll find some fun in it. Heck, they even have the recorded version of it on Disney+ right now so it is at my fingertips. But I know that “Hamilton” is part of the reason why everyone knows Lin-Manuel Miranda as one of this generation’s most iconic entertainers. I am all for any story that makes history fun. I just haven’t gotten around to it.

I did however watch this year’s “In the Heights” film which I left feeling very mixed about. On one hand, there are some occasional catchy tunes and some of my favorite shots of the year. There’s one scene towards the end of the film that left me marveled to the floor. At the same time though, the film is rather dense for a somewhat fun musical and goes on for way too long. I did not mind any of the serious matters in it, I just don’t think it is a film that is worth watching more than once.

Either way, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an entertainer that I have known about for years, but for some reason, I have never gotten around to his work. To be fair, I watch a ton of movies. I don’t always seek out plays or Broadway musicals. Those just aren’t my thing. That seems to be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s forte. But this film is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature length debut. Could he take his talents which he used elsewhere and translate them to a project like this? After seeing this film, I can confirm he did.

Miranda develops a movie that sort of made me forget that I was watching a true story. Granted, I did not see a ton of marketing and did not hear much about the film going into it, so I didn’t really know I was watching a film based on actual events. But after realizing that this film was based on real events and watching the film itself, it nevertheless kind of felt like a fantasy. Almost like “Rocketman” in a way, but better. Miranda takes the script of “Tick, Tick…Boom!,” which is very much set in reality, and makes it feel like it set in some blend between that and some fantasy world. “Tick, Tick…Boom!” naturally delivers a compelling narrative that bridges the gap between true events and sequences that maybe one would wish could be true.

Part of this is due to the amazing performance by Andrew Garfield, who carries the movie on his two shoulders. I mean, casting-wise, I think they did a good job on picking Garfield because I don’t want to sound stereotypical, he looks like an artist. He’s down to earth, but also a little crazy. If anything, his interpretation of Jonathan Larson made him come off as a more artistic Steve Jobs, because Jobs was kind of eccentric, a little quirky, and I got that sense from Larson as well. I got the sense that he genuinely loves what he does and Garfield had solid chemistry with everyone on screen including his love interest, Alexandra Shipp as Susan. This film kind of reminded me of “La La Land” because that film’s about dreams and the effects that one can have from said dream taking up much of their lives. Will they be able to achieve it? That’s the eternal question. But there’s also the idea that relationships and connections you have in your life can separate you from having a life in which you desire. Same thing with money. There’s the struggle of being able to make it from day to day, and sometimes you think this may not be the best path. This film wonderfully complicates the struggles of one person achieving their dreams. In a world where “follow your dreams” is often the message of the story or the heartbeat that keeps the story alive, it’s nice to see a movie like this handle this main character desire so well.

I want to do my best to not spoil anything when it comes to “Tick, Tick…Boom!” but I sort of related to this film on a personal level. It’s not my favorite film of the year. In fact, after seeing something else, it’s not even my favorite musical film of the year. But I feel like the screenwriter, or Steven Levenson, either took some advice from a screenwriting class, or acknowledged a common saying that starting writers have to hear. I took a screenwriting class and one of the common things I heard in that class is to “write about what you know.” In fact, if you saw the trailer, you’d know those words are used in this film. The way that the film uses said words arguably makes for one of, if not my favorite line, of any movie I’ve seen this year. I think people will look at a film like “Tick, Tick…Boom!” and be wowed by it. Between the acting, the direction, and the music. It is all combined to make something special. But for me, some sequences are enhanced because I have personally dabbled, or am willing to continuously dabble in the arts. I’m an aspiring screenwriter, and one lesson I will always take from my screenwriting class in sophomore year of college is the advice to write about what you know. I won’t say much about the context of those words being used, but the use of them hit me because of what I’ve gone through in my life and what I may end up going through in the future depending on my career path. A good movie can entertain you. A great movie can entertain you and remind you of your own life. “Tick, Tick…Boom!” definitely comes off as great.

In the end, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” delivers a big boom and is a pleasantly enjoyable musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda delivers one of the best directorial efforts I’ve seen all year, one of the best casts I’ve seen all year, and one of my personal most relatable screenplays I’ve seen all year. I have never followed Lin-Manuel Miranda, nor have I followed Jonathan Larson. “Tick, Tick…Boom!” made me appreciate both of them. I’m going to give “Tick, Tick…Boom!” an 8/10!

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” premiered in select theaters this November, but it is also available on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I have more content coming up, which coincidentally, also involves Lin-Manuel Miranda, that being my review for “Encanto!” Stay tuned! Also, I want to wish everyone a happy new year. 2022 is around the corner, which means I will also have my picks for the top 10 best and worst movies of 2021 coming soon. 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 “Tick…Tick…Boom!”? What did you think about it? Also, what is your favorite Netflix original of the year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

King Richard (2021): I See Venus. I See Serena. I See Will Smith in a Finely Crafted Tennis Flick

King Richard (2021) - IMDb

“King Richard” is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men, Top Boy) and stars Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Wild Wild West), Aunjanue Ellis (Girls Town, Lovecraft Country), Saniyya Sidney (The Passage, Hidden Figures), Demi Singleton (Godfather of Harlem, Goldie), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, Ghost), and Jon Bernthal (The Punisher, Ford v Ferrari) in a film where we see the childhood lives of Venus and Serena Williams, two people who have become tennis professionals, through the eyes of their father, Richard.

Erin Cummings

Before we go any further, I want to give a shoutout to actress Erin Cummings, who has a small role in the film. I watch her almost every other time she appears on the YouTube series “The John Campea Show,” so I want to spread my support. I enjoyed seeing her in this film. I have nothing positive or negative to say about her performance, after all, she’s only around for a minute, but I just wanted to say, “go Erin!” Anyway, on with the review.

King Richard (2021) - IMDb

I saw this film at a press screening back in November and I was not surprised to be able to get a seat looking back, after all, this is a Warner Brothers film, and all of the Warner Brothers films to hit theaters in 2021 also made a simultaneous debut on HBO Max. I guess some people just wanted to skip this film to watch it at home. I’m sitting here as a critic trying to give you a good reason to go see this film immediately. Given how it is now off HBO Max, I might as well suggest why you should watch it in theaters… And compared to some other films out this year, I cannot come up with many. This is not a bad film by any means, but there are certain aspects about it that stand out more than others.

This is a rather oddball way to tell the story of two tennis icons. You might be thinking, oh my god! Serena and Venus Williams! I cannot wait to see how they became who they were! Sure, you get that. But keep in mind, the movie is not called “Serena and Venus.” It’s called “King Richard,” therefore it is about these girls’s father and it in a way tells the story through his eyes.

Now, I like a good father figure. I think we’ve seen a number of them in films from Uncle Ben in “Spider-Man” to Cooper in “Interstellar.” I think if anything, “King Richard” showcases how much its title character loves his children, but as I am watching this film, there are times where I just want to look the other way and I feel like he is doing something that nearly falls out of line. This is based on real people, so for all I know, this film could be referencing a ton of Richard’s mannerisms, but sometimes watching him speak or do something on screen felt nearly headache-inducing. Although I will say one thing about Will Smith, even though there were slight times that maybe I did not always like his character, I think given the material, Smith excels in terms of his performance. I felt every line of dialogue and I think Smith did an okay effort at bringing Richard Williams to life.

One of the things I did like about his character is that said character, not to mention this film in general, sort of represents the struggle that people of his kind, specifically black people trying to make it big in a white-dominated United States face. And the way this story is told sort of encapsulates that. There’s this one scene in a particular neighborhood that solidified that. In fact, if you watch the movie, and this exchange is in the trailer, all he wants for his daughters is to grow up and not be “on these streets.” I get where he’s coming from, and performance-wise, this was properly emoted.

At the same time, even if you took the aspect of underrepresented communities and the dangers of certain areas out of the equation, at the end of the day, one could look at this film as the story of a father who truly loves his daughters. He would do anything for them, but I also look at him and I feel like even though he is their parent, he almost comes off as controlling. I think a second viewing would be much needed at this point because for all I know, maybe I was in a certain mood that day and maybe he actually was justified from start to finish, but I feel like Smith put on an extreme performance for what seemed to be an equally extreme character. I could also kind of look at this film as what happens when you have nepotism come into play. Of course, you’re going to automatically think your kids are the best. My mother thinks I’m the best. But I KNOW I’m not. She’ll say it a thousand times over and over, doesn’t make it true. Those may just be words of encouragement as some sort of dream may be achieved in the process.

Now don’t get me wrong, just because Smith’s character does some occasional oddball things in this film, doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. Conceptually, it sounds fine. Part of me really enjoys tennis, and this film is about two of the most popular players in the sport’s recent history. I knew who they were, but I never knew about their childhood, I never knew about how they became so great at the sport itself. This movie was occasionally a fine history lesson.

When it comes to the two performers playing Venus and Serena, or Aunjanue Ellis and Demi Singleton, I think seeing these two together may have been the best part of the film. The duo felt like real sisters, and when their dad is in the mix, I think the best chops are executed out of all three of these guys. Seeing their relationship to me was one of the film’s major highlights.

Once again, I want to point out that this is based on true events, and as for the true events portion of this film towards the end, with this big tennis match, it’s some mighty intense stuff. If you enjoy tennis, or you don’t really know the stories of the Williams sisters, which I did not, I think you might get a kick out of the final act. Stay tuned.

King Richard (2021) - IMDb

In the end, “King Richard” is a film that I recommend to everyone who likes tennis, likes Will Smith, and wants an empowering story about two young girls. This is the kind of film I think some people will need for the most part. It’s about not giving up, not backing down, and giving it your all to be the very best. I think we all need that in some way. I’m going to give “King Richard” a 7/10.

“King Richard” has released in theaters this November. If it is playing near you, tickets are available.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that the end of the year is coming up so this January I will be sharing my picks for the top 10 BEST and WORST movies of 2021. I cannot wait to share those picks. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “King Richard?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your personal favorite Will Smith movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mank (2020): Yeah, Mank Almost Stank…

“Mank” is directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and stars Gary Oldman (The Darkest Hour, The Dark Knight), Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2, First Reformed), Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror, Abduction), Arliss Howard (Medium, True Blood), Tom Pelphrey (Guiding Light, Iron Fist), Sam Troughton (Alien vs. Predator, Chernobyl), Ferdinand Kingsley (Victoria, Dracula Untold), Tuppence Middleton (Jupiter Ascending, Sense8), Tom Burke (Only God Forgives, The Musketeers), Joseph Cross (Running with Scissors, Big Little Lies), Jamie McShane (Sons of Anarchy, Bloodline), Tony Leonard Moore (Daredevil, Billions), Monika Gossman (Maximum Impact, Iron Sky), and Charles Dance (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Game of Thrones). Holy CRAP that’s a lot of people! This film takes place in 1930s Hollywood as we see a manipulative and striking piece of history play out all the while screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz tries to finish the screenplay for “Citizen Kane.”

David Fincher - IMDb

I’m gonna let you guys in on a little truth I need to spit out. I have not seen any of David Fincher’s films. Not “Fight Club,” not “Gone Girl,” not even “Alien 3.” Therefore, “Mank” is officially taking my David Fincher virginity. I have seen a lot of the work from heavy hitters over the years. Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, and Guillermo Del Toro. David Fincher for whatever reason was just one of those names I continued to avoid. So, what are my thoughts on my first encounter with David Fincher’s work?

If you want the truth, “Mank” is marvelous to the naked eye. Granted, this is a less than traditional looking film for the modern age. It’s presented in black and white, there are several scenes that are presented back and forth in time, and to establish such time frames, the film gives you a screenplay perspective where it tells you whether the scene takes place inside or outside, where specifically the scene is located, and when. I think that is a nice quirk that I have not seen in any other film. The cinematography is breathtaking and if it were not for “Tenet,” it could arguably be top dog for the year. The film has this throwback feel and there’s some echo-like sounds you can hear from one moment to the next. Fincher directs the crap out of this thing and each scene feels like it could only be put together by a true craftsman. There are a diverse amount of appealing sets that enlightened me as a viewer and allowed me to keep my eyes on the screen.

If only the story were significantly more interesting. Because “Mank” is forgettable, kind of a blur at this point, and certainly… BORING!

Now, let me just say, I like the concept of this movie. For starters, I am a lover of film history, which “Mank” centers around. And there have been examples of movies about film history that have been done well. A few recent examples include Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” which dives into the production of “Mary Poppins,” and A24’s “The Disaster Artist,” which goes over the production and release of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” one of the most hilariously awful movies to ever exist. In the case of “Mank,” part of what this film is about is the making of “Citizen Kane,” which many consider to be the most important film ever made. Although unlike those previous two examples, which go over the production of the film, this film centers a lot around pre-production and little bit more. There is so much to tackle and analyze in a couple of hours.

If 2020 has taught us anything just with the release of HBO Max’s “Superintelligence,” created by husband and wife team Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy, it’s that family projects do not always work. “Mank” is directed by David Fincher and written by his father, Jack Fincher, who passed away in 2003. Said father wrote the script in the 1990s but it never came into fruition until today. As happy as I am to see a family dream fulfilled, my time was nevertheless wasted.

Much of this film involves an election, which sort of makes today the perfect time to release this film considering how we just had a presidential election in the United States. I will say that such a part of film intrigued me, and that is somewhat surprising because as a film buff, that is not really what I was going into “Mank” to see. Even so, it delves into the concept of fake news, which is a relevant term nowadays, and if you think Hollywood is political today, as some people claim it to be, this movie paints a picture of Hollywood perhaps slightly manipulating the minds of people to have an election go their way. I just wish the impact of this subject matter, along with the rest of the movie hit me a tad more. I did not really feel anything except for my reclined seat throughout the film.

Although, some of the performances in “Mank” makes the feature worth the watch. For example, Arliss Howard does a fantastic job playing Louis B. Mayer, and I would not mind seeing him receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination in the future for the role. Although my favorite performance in “Mank” is from Amanda Seyfried. Prior to watching “Mank,” I liked Amanda Seyfried. That’s the case even in movies that I did not necessarily enjoy like “You Should Have Left.” Regardless of how much I wanted that movie to end as I watched it, I still think Seyfried gives it her all each time she performs. When it comes to her performance in “Mank,” this is easily her best yet. Part of it may have to do with the efforts from the costuming and makeup department, because whenever I am looking at her character, I do not feel like I am looking at Seyfried herself. On that note, she, along with “Mank” itself, does an alright job at providing a sense of immersion. I wish I left this film with a sense of being able to remember everything within a few days, but still.

And of course, you have Gary Oldman, who gives another great performance here. Oldman is a fine actor, although he is not my favorite of all time. Even so, I respect the man because he traditionally commits to his craft. While I would not consider his performance as Mankiewicz to be his best, Oldman does a great job in “Mank,” he has solid chemistry with Lily Collins during scenes they’re in together, and I do think he will be in a number of conversations during the awards season.

There are many films like “Dunkirk,” “Blade Runner,” and “Tenet” that I have been willing to give more than one watch because for all I know maybe I missed something the first time, or maybe my appreciation for those films could grow with each watch. I do not think “Mank,” as attractive as it is to the pupil, will end up being one of those films. It feels like a one and done deal. That’s really sad because I feel like this is the film, more than any other, that Netflix is going to hype up for the awards season. And it is deserving of nominations in a number of regards. Unfortunately, story and characterization might not be one of them, at least for me.

In the end, “Mank” almost stank. It was halfway decent, but could not quite stick the landing. If you want my recommendation, I will say as someone who has watched “Citizen Kane,” I think that it would be a better idea to watch that film, which “Mank” sort of bases its story around, instead of David Fincher’s latest directorial effort. I hope to maybe watch some of Fincher’s other films in the future when I have the motivation, but I do not know if I will have the motivation to watch “Mank” anytime soon. I’m going to give “Mank” a 5/10.

“Mank” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for another Netflix original film, “The Midnight Sky,” directed by George Clooney. Before I saw this film, I was pretty excited to watch it as I am a sucker for space movies. As for my final thoughts, you’ll have to wait on those. Stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, if you want to stay tuned for more great content, follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mank?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite David Fincher movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

I Am Greta (2020): A Fine, Essential Panic Attack

“I Am Greta” is directed by Nathan Grossman, stars Greta Thunberg, and it follows the titular young, teenage girl who spends her days advocating for climate justice. It focuses on her life in Sweden, the expansion of her mission that now spans around the world, and the impact that her actions have on others.

If you are reading Scene Before for the first time, welcome! I happily allow just about anyone to read my blog, including my enemies. Because at the end of the day, my goal is to entertain everyone. But let me just be clear on one thing.

Climate change is real.

I rarely talk about societal issues, but this is one of those times that I have to. The fact that this is still a debate is agonizing to me. With that in mind, let’s move on.

Greta Thunberg is a somewhat recently popularized figure, and when it comes to the climate crisis, her name has in a way become synonymous. Sort of in the same way that Grubhub has with the ease of being lazy and ordering a large pizza for yourself at 9PM. I have a strong feeling that in years from now, Thunberg will continue to have a presence in these spheres of history as someone who pioneered her way through the climate epidemic. And based on what this movie has shown to me, her story has only begun. After all, Thunberg is still in her teens, and whether or not this crisis is solvable is a continuous question mark.

If you want my honest thoughts about “I Am Greta,” it is my favorite documentary of 2020 so far. I do not know how many more I plan to watch. “76 Days” admittedly looks pretty good, but of the ones that I have seen this year, this is probably going to be the one that I will look back on at the end of the year happy to have paid money for. I will say though, I have to bring back the old saying of 2020, this does not say much.

One of the things I read on Rotten Tomatoes before watching this documentary is that the movie is pretty good, but not that educational. This is what I found through the “Critics Consensus.”

“Audiences might not learn anything new from I Am Greta, but its stirring chronicle of the young activist’s efforts is inspiring.”

Honestly, I could end the review right here, because that is sort of dead on accurate, but I prefer not to.

I feel like this consensus stands true for a viewer like myself because I already knew Greta Thunberg, and this documentary reinforces that climate change is often seen as the big issue for my generation, as if our very survival depends on it. This movie does not always present something that I have not heard, seen, or thought already. It more or less goes into my brain, takes all the information out, and implants certain pieces into the final product of the documentary. So as I watched this movie, there are points where I go, “Hmm, I remember that,” because I’ve seen it already. After all, I have a strong feeling that if you were to watch this documentary for the first time, there is a strong chance that you will go in having heard Greta Thunberg’s name in some alternate context before. Thunberg was featured on late night talk shows such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she has been all over the news, she became Time’s Person of the Year, and she’s even been a subject of Donald Trump’s tweets, but not in a way that would make her smile.

Although one of my favorite parts of the movie specifically dives into Thunberg’s exposure to her place in hate culture on the Internet, and I was amused by how she was able to laugh it off. It sort of goes to show the maturity of her character and maybe she really is able to… Chill.

While I may not be as much in the forefront of the climate crisis as her, this movie did remind me of how I happened to relate to Greta Thunberg. Because we are both on the autism spectrum. Granted, our official classifications on said spectrum are slightly different, but they are defining characteristics of ourselves. There’s a point where someone chats with Thunberg, and they bring up how she “suffers” from Asperger’s. She then goes on to affirm that she has it, but from her view, she does not suffer from it. I have high function autism, and yes, it may partially factor into why I have “sensitive hearing,” but this movie also shows that people on the spectrum often find themselves interested in something only to become laser-focused on it. I have many interests in life. Movies, game shows, elevators, trains, and so on. But one thing that is true about me sometimes is that I can find myself in a rabbit hole from time to time.

This film takes place through much of 2019, and the message of the story stands true a year after much of this happened. And this is a little weird to say about a documentary, but I wouldn’t mind Nathan Grossman and the crew behind this film continuing the story through the lens. Not only is it about a defining issue of the times, but much of this movie incorporates an element that you cannot have today, and possibly our future depending on how society fills the pages of COVID-19. Crowds. The movie starts off with Greta Thunberg in her native country of Sweden, forming a small crowd of people to strike with her. We see that this evolves to the part where she speaks to officials and large crowds in various settings. With COVID-19 being a major issue, not to mention one that can affect a core element of Thunberg’s activism, I would be interested to see a sequel on how she deals with climate justice during the times of COVID-19.

This is one of those movies which could potentially have an impact nobody has realized yet. I say that because the film addresses the idea that even though there is a climate crisis, some would suggest there is a lot that is being done about it. Thunberg refuses to accept that notion and makes sure government officials and leaders not only lend their ears to her, but give in to her demands. Do we do something, or stand by? That is a question that we have to answer ourselves. But as we answer that question, there is a solid chance that many will look back at “I Am Greta” as an important film that asks such questions.

In the end, “I Am Greta” is a film that does not really introduce me to anything new in regards to the climate crisis, although it does a really effective job at chronicling Thunberg’s recent life story. Greta Thunberg is a name that I have heard plenty of times before this documentary came out, and there is a solid chance, depending on how well this film does, I will being hearing the name many more times. If there was anything else to add, I think the film had a well-realized ending, and it is part of why I want a part 2 to this story. It highlights the work that needs to be done, while also emphasizing how far Thunberg has progressed in so little time. This movie sort of feels like a fraction of a superhero origin story, but I would like to see where it goes from here. I am going to give “I Am Greta” a 7/10.

I wonder if I should start doing this more, because the pandemic has many options for movie-watching now, but if you want to watch “I Am Greta,” it is now available on Hulu if you want to watch it at home. I watched it through docnyc.net, which links to a virtual edition of one of the largest documentary film festivals. I spotted them $12 to spread some support, and if you want to watch anything through the festival, the options for all the documentaries are available until November 19th. “I Am Greta” was also theatrically released, but I am honestly not sure if any theaters are carrying the film at this point.

Thanks for reading this review! This Tuesday, I am going to be watching the all new Amazon Studios movie, “Sound of Metal.” I just saw the trailer for this movie, I am pretty excited, and it hits theaters this Friday, so I may have a review done before the official release. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “I Am Greta?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite documentary of 2020? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Capone (2020): Josh Trank Chronicles the Gangster

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“Capone” is directed by Josh Trank (Fantastic Four, Chronicle) and stars Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Dunkirk) as the title character alongside Linda Cardellini (Daddy’s Home, Gravity Falls), Jack Lowden (Dunkirk, Fighting with My Family), Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shameless), Kyle MacLachlan (Inside Out, Carol’s Second Act), Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary, Crash), and Al Sapienza (The Sopranos, Person of Interest). This film is about the famous American gangster, Al Capone, and is set during the last year of his life as he suffers from dementia.

This movie originally released on VOD this past May, and I have waited a little bit to talk about it for several reasons. For one, I took a break for the most part when it comes to movie reviewing during the spring. Also, “Scoob!” was a priority for me. It is an animated film, and I usually tend to review at least five a year now, so I wanted to get one under my belt. I should note that both movies released around the same time.

However, I was shopping inside Best Buy the other day and I came across “Capone,” which had a copy available on Blu-ray. I snatched it when I had the chance, and I popped it in a couple weeks later. For a price of $12.99, I felt that I was getting my money’s worth. After all, when this thing came out, I believe it was $19.99 to rent on VOD, which is still ridiculous to me. By the way, Disney, you’re crazy, and I say that as someone who may want to work with 20th Century in the future. “Mulan” deserves better and so do your customers!

Before I go any further, I should note that “Capone” has a 4.7/10 on IMDb. Given how a lot of the stuff on IMDb happens to be somewhere in the 6 to 8 range, that’s a pretty low score. I will say though, what kind of shocks me here is that this rating does not come from mostly 1s and 2s. Not even 3s. The most common rating for “Capone” is a 5 on IMDb. I’m not gonna give my score just yet. Per usual, we save that for the end. But I can see why 5 would be a common verdict here. This movie really isn’t anything special.

Now, this movie is directed by Josh Trank, who as far as my opinions are concerned has a fairly mixed resume. His movie “Chronicle” released back in 2012, was a fun found footage flick with a neat concept. I think it was pretty well done overall. But in 2015 he directed “Fantastic 4,” which ironically wasn’t even close to fantastic. When I was seeing it at the theater. I missed part of the climax as I was more concerned about getting more popcorn than I was about catching the rest of this movie. When it comes to “Fantastic 4” in particular, I don’t put all the blame on Josh Trank, given how that film was basically made as a quick money grab so Fox could keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel. So even though “Fantastic 4” was not entirely great, it wasn’t exactly earth-shatteringly devastating to watch. As for “Capone,” the same can be said for that movie. It’s by no means the best movie in the world, it’s not a masterpiece, not worth massive attention. It just… exists.

I will say though, and this should not be completely surprising as this movie does come from a smaller studio, this project feels just a tad more personalized coming from a guy like Josh Trank. Maybe there’s some hints of a story formula that become obvious here and there, but if this movie were say, the next “Parasite,” I would be all over Josh Trank right now and completely excited to see whatever he does next. Although I should point out, unlike “Fantastic Four,” Josh Trank actually wrote the screenplay for “Capone” by himself. During the writing process for “Fantastic Four,” he was involved with the screenplay enough to receive a credit. But so were Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg.

I do like Tom Hardy’s performance here as Al Capone. One thing for me to consider, based on the other projects where I’ve seen Tom Hardy, such as “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Venom,” it doesn’t really feel like my typical vision for Tom Hardy himself. It actually feels like he’s playing a character. Although ironically, this movie comes out during the COVID-19 pandemic and this is the one time Tom Hardy plays a character that doesn’t wear a mask. Given his resume, such as the recently mentioned “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Venom,” along with other films including “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Dunkirk,” it feels a little out of the ordinary. I’m not complaining, it’s just something I noticed.

I should note that I watched this movie on Monday, August 3rd. This gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts for a review. Unfortunately, the little that I do fully remember about this movie does not say enough for this movie to have a lasting impact. Yes, I did feel bad for Al Capone given how he was going through some health issues. There’s definitely a reason to get attached to such a character. Although, I’m gonna use this phrase once again, this movie doesn’t really have the oomph factor to push it over the edge. Do I care for Al Capone here? Sure. But will I care for him in a week when I move on to the next movie? That’s hard to say. This movie has some great dialogue exchanges between characters that make you somewhat emotionally attached, but I don’t feel like I’m going to remember anybody’s name in this film except maybe Al Capone because he’s on the flipping title of the movie for crying out loud!

For the most part, I do think Josh Trank’s “Capone,” kind of like the last movie I reviewed, “Gretel & Hansel,” is a competent production. I think the location choices were suitable, I like the casting, and getting Tom Hardy to play the lead role is a fine mix of name recognition and talent. I will say one thing though as a compliment compared to “Gretel & Hansel.” “Capone” was more entertaining in its span of a hundred and three minutes, compared to “Gretel & Hansel” in its span of eighty seven minutes. Sometimes, it goes to show… A movie is as long as the viewer makes it. “Gretel & Hansel” in this case, maybe took a million more years to get through. I was entertained by “Capone,” but I don’t think I’ll watch it again in the near future.

In the end, “Capone” is not… Terrible, but to call it next level material or even “good” would be a lie. It’s just some extended series of scenes that may or may not be a waste of time depending on your mood. I think there was some effort put into it, but again, there’s no lasting impact for me to remember this film forever. Maybe if I watched the film in a theater, who knows? It could be experiential, but I didn’t. I saw it at home… Where we are stuck for the rest of our lives… End this pandemic… I’m going to give “Capone” a 5/10. I will say, the rating could jump to a 6/10 as there were some entertaining parts. But when seeing a brief moment of “The Wizard of Oz” was the most fascinating part of “Capone,” that’s kind of a problem. It was a good scene, but still.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend I’m planning on seeing “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” a new movie that is only playing in theaters. Can’t believe I’m saying that! This film is about an art dealer trying to steal a painting and the mission suddenly goes out of control. Sounds like a work of art.

*Cricket noises*

Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Capone?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hardy performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Radioactive (2019): Imagine Elements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (2019): “Boo” Dylan

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“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” is directed by Daniel Roher (Ghosts of Our Forest, Brand Canada) and executive produced by renowned director Martin Scorsese. This is not the first time in which Scorsese is handling a project relating to The Band, as he previously directed the 1978 documentary “The Last Waltz.” This film is a documentary centering around Robbie Robertson and his musical group simply titled “The Band.” It goes into their story over the years, their ups, their downs, and mainly dives into the current perspective of Robertson himself as he is interviewed.

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Am I a music junkie? Well, not really. I will admit when I need to listen to some tunes, a lot of it is not from today. Classic rock, classical, heavy metal, and soundtracks are just some of the jams I prefer. I am not that trendy. Even so, I myself have waited until just fairly recently to find out about a quaint little music group titled “The Band,” as seen in this film. I had no idea who they were, or just about anything to which they could possibly associate. But here’s the truth. Movie theaters just reopened in Massachusetts. However, the number of the theaters that officially reopened their doors happened to be pretty minimal. And the one that I ended up going to had two other movies playing and I happened to already see both of them (Emma, Irresistible). So I shelled out some money to go see “Once Were Brothers,” I had a good time. Enough said.

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Once again, it’s 2020, this is yet another example of a movie that I saw that happened to be quite enjoyable, but even in July, I have yet to find that one movie that really cracked the code, I haven’t found that one movie that really felt worthwhile when it comes to seeing it this year. If “Tenet” came out last weekend as it was previously expected to, maybe that would have been the case, but we don’t live in a happy little wonderland. Global warming is killing us. Bees may go extinct. Coronavirus is the talk of the town. To put it lightly, anything that could go wrong in 2020, would go wrong. “Once Were Brothers” is definitely one of the more entertaining and well put together films I have seen all year. Or… Is it last year? IMDb identifies it as a 2019 film given how it already premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, anyway…

One of the most relatable aspects of life represented in film is failure. Granted, sometimes when people fail on screen, I question every single person in the film (I’m looking at you “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). And one of my favorite parts of this film is seeing The Band collaborate with Bob Dylan because Dylan himself would perform at his own concert, be noted for his incredible charisma and success, but every time that The Band would come out, they would get booed. Now I was not living during the times of the group’s inception, and I have never attended a Bob Dylan concert, I can’t really say much about these folks’ live performances, but as someone who has personally dealt with failure of some kind in life, seeing this made me connect with them on a certain level. I do not go to many concerts, and the only times I’ve ever recalled booing somebody in a live environment to a serious level are during Major League Baseball games. Now I am a critic, but I often understand why performers try really hard to move on from booing audiences, just take them as they go, even though the impact of boos can be significant in a negative way.

This film also deals with a blend of dreams and reality, most notably when it comes to one of The Band’s members. So weird saying that… You figure that could be a sentence for anybody. One of my favorite elements of the film is the story of Levon, who supposedly carried much of the fun within the group itself. He clearly enjoyed his time as a member, but at the same time, there was a moment where he ended up needing to expand his identity, know more about himself. Much of the movie is told from the perspective of member Robbie Robertson, who based on the interview material, comes off as a pretty charming fellow. Hearing Robertson talk about someone who felt like one of the best friends he knew in his life and relating that thought to multiple scenarios felt rather passionate, it felt like a trip down his own personal “memory lane” if you will. And that’s what this documentary could end up feeling like for some people who enjoy music from say the late 20th century. It’s a sign that the documentary ended up doing its job.

The documentary ends with one of The Band’s key performances, and I will admit, if I were there, it could have been pretty fun to watch. I will say, even though it was not personally my biggest highlight of the entire film, it did look good on the screen while also managing to pack in a slight sense of finality to what has been built up previously.

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I will say though, one slight disappointment, and I may be a little biased as I love films, and even though this is a movie about music, I will always put movies before music in most cases. As mentioned, “Once Were Brothers” is executive produced by the legendary Martin Scorsese. A director who I will admit I am mostly unfamiliar with in terms of actually seeing his films, but I respect him nonetheless and what I have seen from him, such as “Goodfellas,” has impressed me. He’s barely in the movie. Now, this may seem like a weird complaint as the movie has almost nothing to do with Scorsese himself. But given how he was credited as an executive producer, I was somewhat disappointed that he only appears maybe twice. Just a small, odd complaint that doesn’t really affect my verdict of the film a ton, but it is something that I did want to get off my chest.

As for the film, it has a solid blend of interview footage, archive footage, and so on. I don’t know if I’d tune into it again right away, but if you are bored, “Once Were Brothers” is now available to rent. Or, if your theater reopened and happens to be playing the documentary (like one of mine did), check it out now!

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In the end, “Once Were Brothers” is lively, charming, and occasionally on a certain scale of compelling. If I had to use one word to describe “Once Were Brothers,” it would be “classy.” It’s a classy time. It’s a classy flick. It’s a classy series of happenings all put together. The movie just feels like it is full of… class. I don’t know how many other documentaries I will get around to watching this year, because evidence shows that is one of my weaker areas as a film fan, but if this is the only one, I will say that I have picked a good one. I am going to give “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Big news everybody! “Tenet” is delayed again! I talked about the first two delays, maybe I’ll talk about the third one… And by talk, I probably mean complain about it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on The Band themselves? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!