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!

The Irishman (2019): Jack Does a Short Review of Martin’s Long Film

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“The Irishman” is directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence) and stars Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, The Godfather: Part II), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Raging Bull), and Al Pacino (Heat, Insomnia). This is a return to form for critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, who is well-known for his gangster movies including “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Mean Streets.” In this film inspired by Charles Brandt’s book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Robert De Niro’s character, Frank Sheeren recalls events of his past as he gets involved with Russell Bufalino and dissects into his involvement with Jimmy Hoffa.

I will be completely honest with you. There was a time, going back two or three years ago that I did not think I was going to check out this movie as all. After all, I don’t personally pay for Netflix, which I heard this movie was going to be on. I did not realize at the time that they were getting a bit more serious with their theatrical releases. To this day, my family uses Netflix, but I just never jumped on the train. I’m just not a streamer, it’s not my style. The only services I use today happen to be Prime and Crackle. When I heard this was getting a theatrical release, my curiosity levels shot into the air and almost splattered like glittery fireworks. Even though I am rather late to the party, I did make a trip to one of my local theaters to go see “The Irishman.” I’d say it was worth the trip. To be honest with you, even though some of the most well-regarded movies ever made are gangster flicks, that type of film has never been my style. With that being said, my experience of witnessing this film was still a good use of my time.

Speaking of time, “The Irishman” is three and a half hours long, making it my most extended watch of the year. This is both a blessing and a curse. I say that because the movie for the most part is entertaining and rather investing. The downside is that perhaps both the first thirty minutes and last thirty minutes happen to be the points where the film manages to fizzle. I may be exaggerating on the first thirty minutes because for one thing, the film was just beginning, therefore it was nearly impossible for me to divert my eyes away from the screen. But, for the last thirty minutes or so, I felt like I was watching something that was four hours as opposed to three and a half.

I did something I don’t normally do when I work on my reviews, but I jotted down some short notes after watching the film. I was in the middle of a double feature, because I watched both this and “Marriage Story” in the same day. Before my second movie started, I stated that “I enjoyed the little things.” There are a few scenes in this movie that sort of add something to the film, but almost feel like they belong on an extended cut. There is a scene towards the end of the movie, that I won’t entirely go into that involves a conversation about the delivery of a fish. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, and in the moment, it kind of put a smile on my face, but the more I think about it, it almost does not really add anything to the film overall aside from some random laughs. It just feels like wasted time. I mean, it sort of reminded me of “Pulp Fiction,” which has random conversations about uncomfortable silences and foot massages. These are two random topics that somehow got in the script in the first place, but most amazing of all, worked. However, “Pulp Fiction” feels like it uses every minute wisely whereas “The Irishman” almost overstays its welcome. The pacing drags at a point, which considering the runtime, is not that surprising.

While this movie may suffer in terms of pacing, I think it is nevertheless one of the best directed and acted films I have seen all year. Martin Scorsese manages to deliver a technically competent film on all levels ranging from camerawork, lighting, and delivering the best performances possible. This movie also contains what may be my favorite child performance of the year, given by Lucy Gallina. Her performance is very subtle, and any scene involving her was either entertaining or simply charming.

Speaking of surprise performances, I want to talk about Ray Romano. Do not get me wrong, I liked Ray Romano long before he signed onto this movie, but I never thought Romano had the acting range he does today. After all, he was the lead role on one of my favorite sitcoms, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where he basically plays an exaggerated, alternate version of himself. In this movie he plays a lawyer by the name of Bill Bufalino, and honestly, it’s the best performance of his career. Looking at his past work, it might not say too much, but it’s still worth pointing out.

However, Romano is not part of the big three. Specifically, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. And while I do admire the portrayals given by the entire trio, Pacino, personally, cannot be beat. Pacino was perfectly cast as Jimmy Hoffa. This is a role that I honestly do not see anybody else playing, except maybe John Tuturro, not specifically because of his acting ability or anything, but at one point, I thought Pacino looked like Tuturro during the film. Out of all the characters, Hoffa was by the far the most charismatic and interesting of all. He’s bombastic, wacky, and quirky. He’s basically what you need out of a proper Pacino role.

I don’t have much more to say on “The Irishman,” but as I watched this film, one of the things I almost forgot about going in that I eventually reminded myself of is the de-aging processes that can be seen throughout this flick. De-aging through digital tech is a seemingly increasing trend. We’ve seen it so far in films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Tron: Legacy,” and “Gemini Man.” I think one of the best de-aging jobs that has been done recently is for Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel.” YES, I JUST BROUGHT UP A MARVEL MOVIE IN A REVIEW FOR A MARTIN SCORSESE FILM. REMIND HIM NOT TO READ THIS IN ORDER TO AVOID NIGHT TERRORS. As for this film, I could barely even notice the digital makeup applied to everybody. I’d probably have to watch the film again, and I have no plans to watch it again in the near future, but if I were to watch it again it would be for one reason only. Because the main actors are not that young, and I want to remind myself of how they move. They may look younger in the film than they do in real life, but do they move like younger people should? It’s a question that is still on my mind.

In the end, “The Irishman” is entertaining, but a tad too long. Although at the same time, this brings up a dilemma, because one of the most entertaining factors of “The Irishman” are some little additions that do not need to necessarily be in the final cut, but are entertaining nonetheless. This movie is a solid piece of work, and not exactly a waste of my time (maybe except for somewhere between ten and thirty minutes worth), so I’d still recommend it. I’d recommend it to a good number of people, unless you are an easily offended vegetarian. This film has a lot of steak consumption. I really liked Jimmy Hoffa’s story overall, and basically any scene involving him made the movie twice as swell as it already was. I’m going to give “The Irishman” a 7/10. One reminder to Martin Scorsese, there are two Marvel films I saw this year that I liked better than this. Just being real.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, as mentioned earlier, I went to see “Marriage Story.” I will have my review up for that as soon as possible, and stay tuned at the rise of the new year for my countdowns on the best and worst movies of 2019! If you want to see more great content like this, follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Irishman?” What did you think about it? Did you see it in theaters or at home? Tell me about your experience! Or, do you consider comic book movies like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “cinema?” Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know? Part yes part no? State your case, defend your opinion, the universe depends on it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Aeronauts (2019): The Theory of Ballooning

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“The Aeronauts” is directed by Tom Harper (The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, Peeky Blinders) and stars Eddie Redmayne (Jupiter Ascending, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Himesh Patel (EastEnders, Yesterday), and Tom Courtenay (Doctor Zhivago, The Dresser). This film is based on the 2013 book “Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air,” written by Richard Holmes. This is about a pilot (Jones) and a scientist (Redmayne) as they try to survive in a gas balloon as they attempt to break boundaries for all mankind.

“The Aeronauts” was one of my more anticipated films of the fall. When I did research on this film earlier this year, I figured this would be a fun ride, and I mean that literally. During the summer, I made a big post meant to recap the initial half of 2019 and how it links to my time on Scene Before. In said post, I made a statement about some of the plans I had for October. I wanted to check out “Zombieland: Double Tap,” which I did see. And I also wanted to take a gander at “Gemini Man,” which I didn’t see. Another film on the list of things that I wanted to see then was “The Aeronauts.” After all, it was supposed to release in October, but it didn’t even come out here in the United States until December 6th. This release period by the way is very limited. And I think Amazon thought that the movie would do better if it was released to Prime as soon as possible. By the way, I wanted to go see this in the theater. In fact, I had an opportunity to see it for free, because I reserved a pass for a screening at a theater in Boston, but I ended up not going because it was during a time of a big snowstorm and I was wondering if I would be able to get home easily.

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Also, when I reflect on the buildup period to this film’s release, I recall this being Amazon’s earliest planned attempt at an IMAX run. Having said that, it seems to be true. In the United Kingdom, this released in cinemas during November. This run seems to have included screenings in IMAX and 4DX. This movie was shown in various places in the US, including at AFI Fest this year, where according to Wikipedia, it would show at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. Unfortunately, as far as I know from research, the movie lost its IMAX run here in the US.

Having seen the movie, I must say, as an experience, Amazon honestly missed an opportunity. They could have marketed the film as the “must-see in cinema experience of the year” or something of that nature. This film is vibrant, lively, and just a joy to look at. The cinematography is nice at times, the visuals have this sense of lifelike magic, and it kind of made me want to go up in the sky. In fact, one thing that I noticed while watching this film, is that the aspect ratio changes overtime. When the balloon launches up in the air, the black bars diminish. This gives a grand sense of scope of the sky. I would have loved to have seen this in a cinema, especially in IMAX to be a part of the amusement park-like experience, which this movie really is. However, the movie does not shy away from building proper characters.

I do not know much about the real life events this movie happens to be based on, but the movie managed make the event feel important yet entertaining. Part of the entertainment has to do with the likable chemistry between Amelia Wren and James Glaisher, played wonderfully by Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. I think the characters feel like a legit pair for the time and pretty much every scene with them on the balloon was a bundle of joy. This should not be too surprising though because Redmayne and Jones have collaborated in a project before. Even though I haven’t seen this movie in particular, I know they both appear in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything,” which received mostly positive reviews.

Again, every scene with these two in the balloon was hypnotizing and I almost didn’t want them to stop. But how’s the rest of the movie off the balloon? Aside from the opening scene, it’s almost a snoozefest. Not gonna lie, I’m kinda disappointed. This movie is perhaps one of the more badly edited products we’ve gotten all year. Okay, the editing itself is fine, but the structure is what the real problem happens to be.

If I had to compare “The Aeronauts” to anything, it would have be “Suicide Squad” and “IT: Chapter Two.” I say that because one of the core elements of both movies is that they rely heavily on flashbacks. I often joke about this, and I made this joke over three years ago when I originally reviewed “Suicide Squad,” specifically calling it “Flashbacks: The Movie.” Granted, the flashbacks here are not as prominent as “Suicide Squad,” but I think that’s what makes this movie suffer. Even though a movie like “Suicide Squad” is perhaps strangled by its past, I was still able to keep myself awake to whatever past events are being shown on screen. Maybe it’s because of the previously established grand scope, but the events of reality deterred the pacing of the film for me. I was expecting this film to mainly focus on the main event at hand, simply based on the opening. While this may not be the most accurate of comparisons, it sort of reminded me of “Dunkirk,” which was not really about anything except one particular event. Unlike “Dunkirk,” “The Aeronauts” tries to focus on two main characters. Ultimately, this just feels, to me, like it focuses more on the journey overall than anything else.

I enjoyed “The Aeronauts,” don’t get me wrong. But at the same time, it’s seemingly forgettable. The flashbacks almost feel like filler, but there is one that sort of leaves an impact on the film, and sort of foreshadows the danger that lies ahead. Judging by what I said, it might as well be easy to point out that this is the first flashback of the movie. And speaking of films directed by Christopher Nolan, because I just mentioned “Dunkirk,” the very beginning sort of reminds me of the opening scene of “Interstellar.” I won’t go into much detail, but both seem to highlight significant danger, and both do so very well. Speaking of the beginning, the launch scene very much reminded me of a rocket launch that plays out in a space film. It really does come off as something special and extremely important. Given how space travel was not even a thing back when this movie takes place, it is nice to see some sort of equivalent for the time.

But if there is one thing I need to say… Why did they have to alter history and make a gender swap? OK, let me just say, I am for writing history when it is done right. I don’t always watch films for the sake of a history lesson, but when a film is focusing on history, I do expect a certain level of realism and accuracy. Unfortunately, this film fails with that. For the record, Amelia Wren is essentially a replacement for Henry Coxwell, who was part of this real life event the movie tends to go over. I think it’s a bit far for me to say that I felt ripped off, but considering the fact that I didn’t even know this until I was doing my final revisions for this review, I would not lying to you if I told you this lowered my grade for this film. I’m serious. As I was writing this, I already had a paragraph with my score set. Guess what? Just for this, it’s going to be altered!

In the end, I don’t have all that much more to say about “The Aeronauts,” partially because it is rather simple to explain, and to be honest, it’s unfortunately forgettable. Let me just say, it’s better than “Cats.” Definitely better than “Cats.” ANYTHING at this point is better than “Cats!” As gorgeous as this film looks, as stunning as it truly presents itself, it suffers slightly in terms of substance. It’s not a disaster by any means, in fact I had a fun time with it, but if it were paced better and structured differently, I think it could have lead to something that would float higher on the scale. And honestly, I could end up watching this again, but the lack of focus on history was a slight downfall for me, so I’m going to give “The Aeronauts” a 5/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone of a couple updates here on the blog. On Christmas Eve, I am going to be dropping my final trailer (I promise) of my upcoming two part countdown series “Top Movies of the 2010s.” Speaking of countdowns, I want to remind you all that at the beginning of January, I am going to be releasing my top BEST & WORST movies of 2019 lists. Per usual, I am planning on doing top 10 lists, perhaps with honorable mentions, and I will recap some of my thoughts on some of the films I have seen this year. That is unless I reference a film that I have not reviewed, but we’ll have to see how everything pans out in the future. If you want to see upcoming content like this and more, be sure to follow Scene Before! Want to help me out even more? Give this post a like and share with your friends! Speaking of places you can find friends, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Aeronauts?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most visually impressive movie you have seen in 2019? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!