The Witches (2020): Witch Imperfect

“The Witches” is directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, The Walk) and stars Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Gifted), and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Transformers: Age of Extinction). This film is based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name and follows a young boy and his mother as they stay in a hotel together. One thing leads to another, and the boy finds out the witches’ plan to turn children into mice. From here, we have the main groundwork to let the rest of the movie unfold.

Not only is this movie based on a classic children’s book from Roald Dahl, but to my lack of knowledge, “The Witches” was made into a movie once before. I had no idea that this was true, but there was a 1990 adaptation of the film directed by Nicolas Roeg. I had no idea this movie existed, but here we are. But growing up with Roald Dahl, I cannot say that I am all that surprised. “The Witches” was never a book I was particularly interested in. I imagine I picked it up once or twice for a couple quick glances, but not once have I read it all the way through. Books like “The BFG” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were of higher interest to me when I was younger. Unlike when I watched the 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for the first time, where I had the original book and 1971 adaptation in my memory, I don’t really have anything to compare “The Witches” to. I cannot say the book’s better, because I have not read it. I cannot say the 1990 adaptation was better, because I have not seen it. But what can I say about the 2020 adaptation of “The Witches?”

It’s not great. Really not that great.

This movie, particularly in the United States, was supposed to hit theaters, but due to a change of plans, it became a direct to HBO Max exclusive. Other than a few scenes that are visually wild, I can see why this went straight to streaming. Because the reality is that the script for this film is kind of bland. At times it’s a little stiff. I know that one major audience for “The Witches” happens to be children, and I will say that in this movie’s favor, there are some scenes that would give me heebie-jeebies at a younger age. That’s not the problem, because this movie is occasionally suspenseful and haunting. The problem is that this movie feels like it occasionally talks down to them. I’ve seen it done worse in a few other movies, but nevertheless. I don’t know who to blame here. Again, I have not read the book. Maybe this script was incredibly faithful to the source material, which can work as a compliment in many instances, but books are books, and movies are movies. They’re different mediums and sometimes everything in a book does not always translate to film.

One of my other big complaints about this film regards its pacing. I often talk about pacing as a complaint because when a movie moves too slow, it occasionally bores me. Thankfully, this movie is not as boring as some others I have seen. Boredom was not achieved. My problem, and this may be seen as a compliment by some people, is that this movie moves very fast. This film wastes no time whatsoever in getting from point A to point B, but I really would have preferred one or two moments where I could breathe. But that’s also probably because of the earlier complaint where this film overembellishes everything for the audience. There’s a whole elongated scene where Anne Hathaway’s character is exposes her plan to turn children into mice and squash them. It takes forever, but somehow it feels like by the end of the scene, only a few moments have passed. It almost feels like that if the movie did not extend itself unnecessarily, it could have been five to ten minutes shorter, maybe even fifteen. I could be wrong. This is arguably the weirdest complaint I’ve had for a film all year, but it stands. Runtime does not always matter, it’s what you do with it. And here, I think they’ve just wasted some of my time.

This is not to say the film’s all bad. I will say that one of the advantages of this film, especially compared to almost everything else in 2020’s slate, is that it looks quite attractive to the eye. The production design is quirky, and much like some other Dahl adaptations, this movie occasionally felt larger than life. For the record, this movie did release in theaters internationally, so they get the benefit of the theatrical experience. If you live in the United States, watch on the biggest home screen you can. For a movie aimed at families and children, this does look like something that would fit in that realm. This is live-action, but it’s colorful and poppy at the same time. Some of the effects, specifically where we see one of the witches sniffing like a maniac, is a little over the top, but other than that, they fit the movie in terms of tone.

One area where I am continuously conflicted is Anne Hathaway. Now, I adore Anne Hathaway. She’s in some of my favorite movies, she has talent, and I will point out that I can tell she gave it her all here. But the way her character is presented is very hit and miss. Again, this is part of the overembellishing problem with this film. I get she’s a witch, I get she’s evil. But at times, she reminded me of a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from 1997’s “Batman & Robin.”

“What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!”

I will say that per usual, Octavia Spencer is quite charming. She was a good fit for her role, and while I will probably not remember the movie all that much, her chemistry with her son was decent. Not the best I have seen, but decent. Speaking of which, the son character is played by Jahzir Bruno. The cast lists his character’s name as “Hero Boy.” What a name… Is this… A long lost relative of “Protagonist” from “Tenet?”

By the way, watch “Tenet.” Just my recommendation.

I will say, when it comes to Jahzir Bruno, he probably has a bright future ahead. Who knows what’ll happen in regard to his acting career? But his character, while likable, is just a small increment of why this movie is poorly written. One of the things I HATED about this movie, is how far-fetched it is at times.

Now, you might be thinking, that’s what it is supposed to be! It’s a movie where witches can turn humans into mice with a magic potion! You’re not wrong. I don’t mind that at all. What I do mind is that the movie has a scene that throws everything you know about hearing out the window. I do not know how good the witches can hear in this universe, maybe the book explains it more, but there is a scene where Hero Boy lays under a stage where Anne Hathaway’s character gives a speech. From what I can tell, he’s trying to hide, be secretive. When he takes in a certain piece of information, he speaks to himself almost like he’s having a casual conversation. I do not know if that is his fault, or the director’s fault. I hope not, because Robert Zemeckis has been in the business for years. And evidence sometimes shows that it is not always easy to work with child actors. I do not know if Bruno was following a specific order from the script, a last minute adjustment from Zemeckis, or what. I do have faith that Bruno will be in more palatable movies as time goes on, and he is still young, so he can improve his craft a just a hair. I just wish this project was better.

One of the big advantages though of watching this on HBO Max is that other than the subscription, this is practically a free movie. It was not like I was robbed of $12 at the theater, or in the case of the pandemic, $19.99 on Prime Video or Google Play. Even so, I can see why this was dumped to a streaming service. As cool as it would have looked in a theater, it does not have the writing and excitement to back it up.

In the end, “The Witches” could not quite deliver the cheese. I will point out. I’ve seen a lot of movies directed by Robert Zemeckis. All the “Back to the Future” films, “Allied,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “The Polar Express.” I’ve enjoyed most of the films I’ve seen from him. Even ones I did not enjoy like “Flight” and “Cast Way” still had elements which I was able to appreciate. “The Witches” fits in the same category as those previously mentioned films, it is one of Zemeckis’s inferior days at the office. And as far as Roald Dahl adaptations go, this one is probably my least favorite. Much like’s Zemeckis’s cinematic library, I can not pinpoint one particular Roald Dahl adaptation I’ve seen that I legitimately hated. But this one was not a golden ticket. I’m going to give “The Witches” a 5/10.

If anything else, one of the best parts of this movie is the score. Unsurprisingly, considering how this movie is directed by Robert Zemeckis, Alan Silvestri did all the composition work. Time will tell, but it is hard to say whether “The Witches” will become a popular Halloween tradition for some. It wouldn’t for me, but who knows? This movie just felt rushed, but by being rushed, it did so by elongating, talking down to its audience. It does a lot by doing very little, if that makes any sense. This is the “Ludicrous Speed” of movies.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is one of the bigger ones in regard to movies this year. “The Witches” just hit HBO Max, Prime Video now has “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Empty Man,” even though it looks terrible, just hit theaters, and one of my favorite movies of the year BY STORM just hit Netflix and is still playing in some theaters. That movie by the way is the new animated musical “Over the Moon,” which centers around a young girl who longs to find an ancient Moon Goddess. I cannot recommend this movie enough, even though I know a few people who may want to skip certain parts of it. By the way, if you want to read my review for “Over the Moon,” click right here! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Witches?” What did you think about it? Have you read the book? Have you seen the 1990 film? Which version of the story do you like best? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words on Bathroom Walls (2020): Inside Adam’s Head

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“Words on Bathroom Walls” is directed by Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) and stars Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete, Looking for Alaska), Andy Garcia (The Godfather Part III, Ocean’s Eleven), Taylor Russell (Lost in Space, Escape Room), AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Because of Winn-Dixie), Beth Grant (The Mindy Project, The Artist), Molly Parker (Deadwood, House of Cards), and Walton Goggins (Django Unchained, The Shield). This film revolves a boy named Adam. He’s in his teens and he has schizophrenia. Throughout the movie we see him adapt to a new drug, a new “father figure,” and a new school. Quite a few major aspects of his life change here. We get to experience what Adam’s life is like as he deals with voices inside his head, and potential effects of everything surrounding him internally and externally.

This is one of the films playing on a major weekend for cinema. Theaters in many territories, including my own, around the United States are reopening for business. Keep in mind, this pertains to a lot of theaters, but most notably to chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark. On this special weekend, this is one of the films available for customers in addition to other new releases like “Unhinged” and a selection of throwback titles including “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Inception,” “Black Panther,” and more.

I’ll be honest with you, when it comes to “Words on Bathroom Walls,” it never really struck me fancy. I never had any real attachment to it prior to giving it a watch. The main reason why I watched this movie, is because an outlet gave me RSVP access to watch the film online before it came out. When it comes these teen movies, they’re usually not my thing. Romance is not my thing either. But I’ve enjoyed certain movies with one aspect, another, maybe both, plus it is nice to talk about new content. So here we are.

This film is based on a book written by Julia Walton. I’ve never read the book, and after seeing this movie. I can’t say I’m gonna read it. Again, this is not my genre. Also, movies are more fun! Sorry, books! Nevertheless, I enjoyed this film for what it was. A solid story about somebody dealing with many forced adaptations, both internal and external. I think the screenplay, when translated into a visual medium, was incredibly well-realized. There was a scene that made me feel like I was watching some superhero movie like “X-Men” or something as opposed to some typical teen drama. This was well-written, and when it comes to the directing done by Thor Freudenthal, I approve. At times it gets a little dark, but the snappy vibe never escapes. In fact, this guy, unknowingly, was a part of my childhood for a few years.

For those who don’t know, Thor Freudenthal directed the 2010 movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” I was ten years old when I saw that movie, and I will point out, unlike “Words on Bathroom Walls,” that film got me to read the books which it happened to be based upon, so I’ll give it credit where it’s due. I have not watched that movie in some time, I think my most recent viewing was in 2012. However, looking back, one of the standout aspects of that film, is how much it maintained a quick pace, while occasionally relying on aspects of imagination or narration. Some of that translates well to this movie while being a completely separate thing. But also keep in mind, the movies are made for completely different audiences, so it really is a good thing that one movie is not like the other.

Those positive thoughts I gave on the screenplay? Yeeeah… It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Keep in mind, this review is being written by a straight white male whose favorite movies are in the action genre or similar fields. Some of the dialogue is a cringefest. There are a couple cheesy lines that I thankfully don’t have implanted in my head at the moment, but they were nevertheless cheesy. I wonder if the teen girl crowd will not care as I think they may be one of the core demographics for this film. Who knows? I never read the book, and I may be unwarranted to ask such a question… But, maybe it worked in the book? I don’t know.

But most of the screenplay does make up for its faults. There are some really exciting, gripping moments that grabbed my attention. There feels like there is conflict in just about every single scene. Something could end up going wrong, changing the main character’s life, or maybe make my head spin upside down.

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I will say though, I have mixed thoughts on the main character of Adam. On one hand, I did feel bad for him. This movie does a good job at highlighting the misfortune of schizophrenia, in which case I was able to attach myself to him. But there are like one or two moments where this guy sort of gave a creeper or stalker vibe. I won’t go into detail, I will let you as viewers see this for yourselves. Although I will give props to Charlie Plummer, who plays this lead role admirably. There’s not much I have against Plummer as a performer and I would like to see more from him. This is sort of based on looks, but I would be interested to see him in maybe a Seth Rogen comedy of some sort, he looks like he could fit right in if given the proper script and role. Maybe “Neighbors 3: The Next Generation” if they ever decide to make that? Just an idea. I’m not claiming it, I don’t have an outline for it, I’m just spitting it out there.

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I also really dug Taylor Russell’s character. Not only was I able to buy the relationship between her alongside Charlie Plummer’s character. But as an actress, I think Taylor Russell has a solid future ahead of her. She did a really good job at portraying this brainiac student who cares a lot about which direction she’s headed in life. This becomes more likable later in the movie when we meet her family, which I won’t talk about because I would rather have you see the movie for yourself.

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Although I have to say, there’s one character who could arguably be my favorite in the movie, and that is a priest played by Andy Garcia. This character goes by the name Father Patrick and he’s just incredible in this movie. Garcia brings his A game here! Every other line out of his mouth is so dry yet charismatic! I could listen to this guy narrate an audiobook version of The Cheesecake Factory menu! He’s that likable!

In the end, I enjoyed “Words on Bathroom Walls.” I think it’ll get some attention at the theaters once they reopen. For all I know, maybe fans of the book will enjoy this film. But I don’t think I’ll ever watch this movie again. Once again, I’m not in the core demographic, so I may not be the best guy to trust when it comes to reviewing this movie. However, I did enjoy it. It was never boring, never completely insulting to my intelligence, and I did have fun, which most of the time, is something I think many of us want to experience after watching a movie. If you have fun, then bada bing bada boom. I’m going to give “Words on Bathroom Walls” a 7/10.

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Thanks for reading this review! Just want to want to announce that depending on where you live, tickets for “Tenet” are already on sale, or they are just about to go on sale. Over the past couple months, I’ve been holding onto a post that I think could help certain moviegoers when it comes to deciding where to go see “Tenet.” Given how tickets are about to go on sale here in the United States pretty soon, my post related to this will be up around the same time tickets drop. Stay tuned for that post and if you want to see more great content from Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Words on Bathroom Walls?” What did you think about it? Or, are you going back to the movies this weekend? Do you plan on going back soon? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Emma (2020): Such News! This Movie’s Solid!

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“Emma” is directed by Autumn de Wilde and this is her feature-length debut. This film stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Thoroughbreds), Johnny Flynn (Song One, Beast), Josh O’Connor (The Crown, Florence Foster Jenkins), Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Only Living Boy in New York), Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac, High Life), Miranda Hart (Spy, Miranda), and Bill Nighy (Norm of the North, Underworld). This film is based on a Jane Austen novel of the same name and follows its titular character as a selfish woman living in 1800s England. Throughout said time, she is revealed to be meddling in the love lives of the people she happens to know.

When I created Scene Before, my original intention for the blog was to give my honest thoughts on various matters. And to be completely truthful, this movie is not my cup of tea. In fact, the main reason why I went to see it is because there was a free screening at a local indie theater where Anya Taylor-Joy and director Autumn de Wilde happened to be appearing. I figured it would make for a fun night out. But when it comes to original material this movie is based on, I was never previously invested. In fact, I have a feeling this is going to piss off some bibliophiles reading this, Jane Austen wrote the book that I had the most miserable experience reading in high school, specifically “Pride and Prejudice.” I never found it that interesting, entertaining, or compelling. It was the complete opposite of a page-turner, but I was forced to read it, so I had no choice but move along. When it comes to “Emma,” I have never picked the book up. However, I was somewhat interested in this movie. In fact, if anything, this trailer right here PUMPED. ME. UP! Watch this trailer!

 

The music! The cuts! The fast-pace of it all! Whoever edited this deserves some toilet paper and hand sanitizer to get through this dire time!

However, that’s just a trailer. How was the movie itself? Pretty decent, actually. While “Emma” is undoubtedly nowhere near my cup of tea as far as stories go, I found myself chuckling, smiling, and overall having a fun time watching this movie. And a lot of it may have to do with the attention to detail of everything in it. The production design could eventually go down as some of my favorite of the year. The colors are vibrant and match the charm of this movie’s specific time frame. The performances, across the board, are well executed. The ensemble of “Emma” is well put-together. If this were a silent film, I don’t think I’d be able to remove my eyes away from the screen just from how hypnotizing everything feels. It’s easy to tell that Autumn de Wilde brought her vision to life, or depending on who you ask, Jane Austen’s vision to life. In fact, before she took on “Emma” she dived deep into photography, which may partially signify how a lot of the movie’s individual frames feel like a painting or something you’d find hanging in an art gallery. The cinematography in the film at various points is extremely pretty. I am not lying. As for costume design, that is another highlight. Granted, when it comes to movies that take place in a period or setting like this, it is not that surprising that costume design is a key factor into what could make the movie at least partially work.

This is not the first “Emma” adaptation brought to the screen, but given how I have not seen the other adaptations of this kind, I don’t really have much to compare it to. But I feel that if I were to read the original novel of “Emma,” I would at least be somewhat satisfied by the writing style of this adaptation, given how it is true to the period, and the vibe of the film has a rather witty feel to it. Jane Austen is an author who seems to bring an individual feel to her stories, and that seems to be translated well here. Granted, when I read “Pride and Prejudice,” the writing style made it one of the most infuriating experiences of my time on this planet. But a movie like this, brings life to said writing style and evokes a sense of imagination.

Fun fact about the Emma character, when she was being portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, the actress thought she kind of came off as an unlikable being. Granted, that is kind of the point. And knowing what the movie is about and what it exactly contains, I can understand why. But at the same time, Emma is a character who I consider to admirable despite how selfish or manipulative she happens to be. Part of it may go towards the way the movie presents her and how I cannot imagine anyone else in Emma’s shoes except Anya Taylor-Joy. The casting for Emma herself was very well done given how there happens to be some sort of individualistic flair attached to said character.

As for problems, while this film is well-paced, it still has one or two moments where it is kind of a drag compared to others. Regarding the movie itself, it is somewhat forgettable. I may be cheating with this given how I am reviewing this almost a full month after seeing it in the theater, but this is a story that I do not think I’ll want to tune into again while it is still fresh in my memory. Granted, Comcast-owned studios, including Focus Features, the distributor of “Emma,” just so happen to be putting their movies that were supposed to be in theaters onto VOD, so I could watch it again at home if I really wanted to, but “Emma” is not a movie that I felt an instant connection to. I just thought to myself, “Eh, that was a fun couple of hours.” Maybe the novel is better. Because, you know, apparently every book is SUPPOSED to be better than the movie. The “Emma” movie is witty, charming, and marvelous to gaze upon, but it’s missing something. It has the vision, it has the individualistic style, but it doesn’t have the oomph factor I want in movies nowadays.

In the end, I found myself rather satisfied with “Emma.” I don’t think this satisfaction will ever encourage me to read the book, but at the same time, the experience I had while watching the movie in a pretty full theater could have been a contributing factor to making it feel somewhat communal. By the way, remember when we went to movie theaters? It was a long time ago! “Emma” is not my cup of tea, and I think this review kind of shows it. However, I will not deny that I indeed had a good time. I’m going to give “Emma” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let you all know that my next review is going to be for Pixar’s new movie “Onward.” By the way, if you want to watch the movie before I review it, it is coming to digital tonight due to all the theaters shutting down. So if you want to rent it and read my review if you want to see where we stand in terms of our thoughts on the film, feel free to chill out on your couch, go to a preferred digital service whether it be Prime Video, Fandango Now, Google Play, or Vudu, and you’ll have access for the movie, that way you can watch it and determine your thoughts on it before reading my review. That is unless I somehow list my thoughts for “Onward” before the movie drops everywhere, but we shall see. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can tuned for more great content! Also, since you clearly have all the time in the world, be sure to check out the Scene Before Facebook page to get the latest updates of the goings on for the Movie Reviewing Moron. Hey, that rhymes! I want to know, did you see “Emma?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see any of the other adaptations of “Emma?” What are your thoughts on those? Did you read the book? Give me your thoughts on that! Leave your thoughts and opinions down below, and stay safe everyone! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Little Women (2019): Call Me “March” Like You Said You Would

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“Little Women” is directed by Greta Gerwig (Isle of Dogs, Lady Bird) and stars Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, The Circle), Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with my Family), Eliza Scanlen (Home and Away, Sharp Objects), Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy, Interstellar), Meryl Streep (The Post, Sophie’s Choice), Tracy Letts (The Lovers, The Post), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Incredibles 2), James Norton (Happy Valley, Flatliners), Louis Garrel (The Dreamers, Redoubtable), and Chris Cooper (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). This film is based on the book of the same name conceived by Louisa May Alcott, which has been adapted and brought to other mediums in the past, and this is another attempt to make a film out of it. The story of “Little Women” follows the lives of the March sisters, four women who are determined to live life on their own terms.

Apparently, this is one of multiple adaptations of “Little Women.” However, just a fair warning, I have never read the book, and I never witnessed any other adaptation of the IP. So this film took my “Little Women” virginity. I probably would have gone to see this film earlier, but due to time constraints, other films getting in the way, not to mention missing out on an opportunity to go to an advance screening, I just couldn’t get around to “Little Women” until now. In fact, the reason why I am watching “Little Women” at this point is to get caught up on this year’s Academy Award nominations, specifically Best Picture. Upon hearing which films were announced for the category, I have seen each one except “Little Women,” so I took today,  perhaps my least busy day of the week, and took the subway to a non-profit theater that way I could go watch the movie in 35mm film. I figured if I wanted to watch a Best Picture nominee, I might as well commit.

Sadly, I don’t feel like that commitment has worked out. I will be honest, I was kind of disappointed with “Little Women.” I would like to just point out, I admire Greta Gerwig as a filmmaker. I think she knocked it out of the park with her 2017 feature-length directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” Although if I had to compare “Little Women” to “Lady Bird” and my desire to go back and watch them again, it would be like comparing odds of finding a Chick-fil-A in a casino or a slot machine in a casino. Even though I have seen “Lady Bird” once, it would probably associate more with the slot machine. It’s a jackpot! As for “Little Women,” I might chicken out after a little while.

Now… Don’t think I am nagging on “Little Women” calling it a disaster. It is by no means the worst movie of all time, it just has problems is all. In fact, “Little Women,” in terms of direction, shines. I feel like in terms of a director wanting to get THEIR vision out to the public, “Little Women’s” Greta Gerwig succeeded at such a task more so than a good number of other filmmakers this year. A lot of the cinematography done by Yorick Le Saux is beautiful and totally stands out through the 35mm print shown at my screening. Alexandre Desplat’s score is great and fits the vibe! I also like the idea of not only shooting the film on location, but shooting it around the area where Louisa May Alcott wrote the “Little Women” book, Concord, Massachusetts. It provided for some of the most gorgeous scenery of 2019’s cinematic year and some of the better production design for said cinematic year. A lot of the scenes in the film are wonderfully realized and jump off the screen. Too bad the movie’s kind of boring.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie starts out fine. In fact, the first two thirds are somewhat interesting. The characters, not to mention the actors who play them, are not half bad. I felt the chemistry between pretty much every single character, which may have been the most necessary requirement for this film, because if I did not believe in the chemistry between the sisters, then why should I care? Amazingly, I got to a point where I did not care. I say that because even though this film is one of the better technical pieces of the year, I think pacing-wise, it suffers. I like the idea of these women dealing with their separate and collective issues, and there are some scenes that were in a word, capital! I will not go into detail, because despite having seen a trailer, I am not sure how much this film revealed beforehand. But I think one of this film’s bigger challenges, from a screenplay and directing perspective is meshing together all of these characters’ individual journeys and having a viewer like me care about all of it without it feeling a tad like a mess. Unfortunately, the film dives into the messy territory. “Little Women” honestly feels ten, twenty, maybe even thirty minutes longer than its runtime, specifically 2 hours and 15 minutes. For reference, I watched “Marriage Story” in the theater at the end of the previous December, which was 2 hours and 17 minutes. “Marriage Story” honestly somehow feels shorter than “Little Women.” To add onto this, I remember staying throughout the entire credits during “Marriage Story.” On the other hand, I left part of the way through “Little Women’s” credits.

I almost wonder if “Little Women” is one of those films that could get better through a rewatch, that way I can just concentrate closely on each character and maybe care about them with an all new point of view, but after watching this film for the first time, I don’t see much else of a reason to watch it once more. I have never been interested in the book, I have never sought out any other adaptation of this material, and in case you must know, and maybe this is affecting my thoughts on the film a little bit, I am not really in the target audience for “Little Women.” As far as I know, “Little Women” was never originally written for me, so I may not have the perspective that many of its targets would. I think actors like Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet do a fine job with their roles and suit their characters well, pretty much to the point where I don’t imagine anybody else portraying them. I also think the costumes in the movie are some of the finest and most sophisticated costumes in a 2019 film. “Little Women” has a lot of good qualities to it, but several things keep me from wanting to go back and watch it again. I am honestly shocked to say all of this, because I didn’t hate the trailer that I saw for this film, and I had faith in Greta Gerwig. To be clear, she did a good job with the direction, but had a few things been handled better, I think this could have been a damn fine vision, not to mention a better movie.

Plus, another thing to consider is this… I already mentioned that I am not the target audience. So I have to ask everyone reading a question and this may be important. First off, if you have seen 2019’s “Little Women,” what are your thoughts on it? Also, if you have seen any other material related to the “Little Women” IP, what are your experiences in relation to that? Was what you saw pretty good? Bad? Middle of the road? I’ll even ask this classic question, was this movie better than the book? Let me know!

In the end, “Little Women” is one of the bigger disappointments of a film that I have witnessed in recent memory. If you have followed this blog recently, you may know that I reviewed “Cats” because I apparently have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD to watch “Cats.” When I reviewed “Cats,” I called it the most competent borefest of a film released in its particular year. “Little Women” was released in the same year as “Cats,” specifically 2019, and there is an argument that I could make from my end that “Little Women” may dethrone “Cats” to earn such a title. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, not to mention vibrant. As a production, it is a feast for the eyes. But the eyes need to do more than stare at pretty things for a couple of hours. Had the movie maintained the promising pacing and kept me as interested as I was during the first couple of acts, I would still recommend “Little Women” to a lot more people. Of the movies the Academy nominated for Best Picture this year, “Little Women” is honestly my least preferred. But to be honest, based on the positives outweighing the negatives for this film FOR NOW, I am going to give “Little Women” a 6/10. This film is no “Lady Bird,” and I’ll be honest, for everyone who is upset about Greta Gerwig not getting nominated for Best Director, I get it. But personally, gender is not a topic I am associating with how I view nominations, but that’s just me, I think a display of talent regardless of gender, should come first, doesn’t mean I want to start an online war about it. Although I will be honest, all the chosen nominees, to me, were better in terms of vision fulfillment, technical choices, not to mention creating an overall better movie, at least for the most part on some of these direction-related requirements. And if you want my two cents, I do have a recommendation for a great 2019 film directed by a woman. If you haven’t already, go watch “Honey Boy,” it’s gonna be on Prime soon and I highly recommend it!

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I am going to be heading back to college next week, and hopefully it does not affect my consistent content release schedule. But maybe before I go back, I am planning on watching one more movie. Maybe I’ll watch more than one, but I didn’t want to end this post without mentioning “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson,” directed by Daniel Farrands. As of right now, this film is not playing anywhere near me, although it did get a release in theaters. And if this sounds somewhat familiar, this film is from the director of the 2019 abomination, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” I just want to say… I MIGHT sacrifice my soul and watch this movie. For those of you who have seen my worst of the 2010s list know that “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” earned a spot pretty high on the list. I’m just curious to know if “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is somehow any worse. If I watch this movie, please wish me luck! I might need it! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you want to leave a like or comment (if your account is eligible), please do so! It really helps me out! Also, please check out my Facebook page and spread the word about Flicknerd and Scene Before on social! I want to know, did you see “Little Women?” What did you think about it? Or, of the 2020 Best Picture nominees from the Academy, which is your favorite? 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!

It: Chapter Two (2019): Hiya, Sequel!

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“It: Chapter Two” is directed by Andy Muschietti, director of the 2017 “It” installment. This film stars Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar), James McAvoy (Split, Wanted), Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Power Rangers), Isaiah Mustafa (Shadowhunters, Horrible Bosses), Jay Ryan (Go Girls, Sea Patrol), James Ransone (Sinister, The Wire), Andy Bean (Swamp Thing, Power), and Bill Skarsgård (Deadpool 2, Allegiant). “It: Chapter Two” takes place 27 years after its predecessor, specifically 2016. If you have not seen 2017’s “It,” it’s established in that film that the main antagonist, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, wreaks havoc amongst certain individuals every 27 years. In 1989, we were introduced to the Losers Club, a group of mocked teens who unite to conquer their fears and take down the clown. At the end of the movie, the group forms a pact that if Pennywise ever happens to be alive or makes a return, they will meet up to face him once more. After all this time, the adult versions of these characters join forces once again, discuss where they’ve ended up all these years, while Pennywise happens to be on the loose.

If you have followed Scene Before over the past couple of years, you’d know that I talk about a lot of big movies. However, due to a lack of interest or commitment on the subject matter, I never got around to reviewing the first chapter of “It.” I also never watched the version of “It” where Tim Curry plays Pennywise (although I did watch Doug Walker’s Nostalgia Critic review). And one more thing… What was it? Oh, right. I NEVER READ THE BOOK! To this day, I have yet to read a single page of “It.” Movies are more fun, sorry books! I almost avoided any commitment I could possibly have with this movie, but there were certain factors about it that eventually intrigued me. I went to Best Buy one day, picked up 2017’s “It” on Blu-ray, which came with a $8 off sticker for the sequel (which I must have thrown out, like an idiot). I then waited almost a month to watch the movie, and when I finally witnessed what I’ve been missing for the past couple of years, I lost my mind. The main characters are so relatable, so charming, and when you put them together, it’s the recipe for perfection. Ultimately, “It” was a scary horror movie, but above all, an excellent coming of age story.

This brings us to the opening weekend of “It: Chapter Two.” I’ve heard a lot about this movie before I went into the auditorium. I’ve heard it’s got scares, people seem to like it for the most part, the cast is great, especially Bill Hader as Richie. While seemingly liked, it is not perfect, it does have notable problems here and there. And these statements, for the most part, are pretty much on the money. “It: Chapter Two,” from my perspective, is a film that feels as if it is trying to be “Return of the King.” The runtime is nearly three hours, it covers the finale of the written material from the books, and much like “Lord of the Rings,” this movie significantly showcases the power of companionship. Did this movie really need to be three hours? Probably not. I wouldn’t have minded a extended runtime, but it didn’t need to as long as “Interstellar.” I say that because when it comes to the material presented in the three hours of “It: Chapter Two,” a lot of it almost feels tacked on.

Remember “Suicide Squad?” One of the big problems with that movie is that it couldn’t focus too much on the present and instead relied heavily upon various flashbacks that would constantly appear out of nowhere. This movie has a good amount of flashback footage that isn’t off-putting, but pretty exorbitant. It kind of gets to the point where the flashbacks are charming, I guess, but they overstay their welcome.

But when focusing on the present, the characters are in fact the some of the best parts of this movie. It’s nice getting to know these new versions of previously established losers, especially considering how they all turned out to be winners in the very end. Richie became a stand-up comedian, Beverly is a fashion designer, Bill writes mystery novels, etc. I really admire how everyone in the Losers Club, which is appropriately named as it consists of people who were picked on, comes out on top in the end. But it’s not like everyone’s lives turned out to be rainbows and unicorns upon becoming adults. Beverly starts out the movie in an abusive relationship with her husband. Bill, while he seems to be a fine writer, doesn’t seem to stick the landing on his endings. Richie even has a little mishap upon returning to Derry, because he apparently yelled at a fan because he forgot a line he said during one of his gigs. Not everything’s perfect.

And speaking of imperfections, let’s talk about Pennywise. I’m not saying he’s a flawed character or anything, just saying he’s a psychopath. Bill Skarsgård is a f*cking boss in this film! This shouldn’t be too surprising because Pennywise was a standout in the original film. Films like this also remind me of how much fun it is to play a villain. Who wouldn’t want to play a vicious, horrifying killer clown that eats people? Everything about Pennywise was what I wanted out of this movie. The voice, the dialogue, the makeup, the crazy antics, the exploration of lore, whatever was presented was as delicious as pizza! That even includes one or two moments that are a bit heavy on CGI to the point where it is easy to pick up if you look hard enough.

But I will say, I don’t know if this movie will end up having the same replay value that I think the first one will end up having. It’s a bit early to say since I just saw this film on Saturday, plus I waited until last Thursday to watch the original. But if I were alone on Halloween and needed something to watch in the living room while handing out candy to children, I currently much prefer the original. Both films are effectively scary, and in this film, there are a lot of gross, disturbing, and shocking moments to witness. Remember that trailer with Jessica Chastain visiting the old lady? Get ready. That scene where Pennywise is surrounded by black and utters “Hello?” F*cking nuts. And the climax, while a bit extended, is undoubtedly entertaining. But as a story, this film is a tad more convoluted and a bit more poorly paced compared to the original. The original has a bit of an advantage due to the shorter runtime, but I can live with films going past three hours (which this one almost does). With that being said however, everything in those three hours has to matter, or be something that I as an audience member can care about, and unfortunately, that’s not the case for everything presented in that time.

Also, speaking of time, the ending takes FOREVER to fully establish itself. There are like two, three, four, perhaps even five or six points during the climax where the movie could stop, and wrap itself in a bow that is satisfying. Unfortunately, it goes ahead and says “Look at me, I’m ‘It: Chapter Two!’ There’s no stopping me now! Ha ha! Yeah!” And it’s kind of unfortunate because 2019, in my view, has not been the all-time best year for movies, but if there is one thing that stands out this year compared to others, it’s the eternal positive impact many endings will have on me as a viewer. We’ve had “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Ready or Not,” and “Toy Story 4.” All of these movies have magnificent final moments that I will perhaps forever appreciate. The ending of “It: Chapter Two” tries as hard as it can to leave a big impact, and I imagine for a chunk of people, it will. However, for me, I was appreciative of what was happening, while also hoping to get out of my chair because I feel like I have seen more than enough. It wasn’t like Pennywise bit my arm or anything, but it was like I was in line in a crowded Burger King or something.

In the end, “It: Chapter Two” is dark and gorey, but part of the mess associated with this movie is the less than pleasant pacing. The characters are great, the transitions they seem to make from teens to adults make sense for the most part. I find it a tad interesting that Ben is much more physically fit as an adult compared to how he was as teen, but Tom Brady is still winning Super Bowls, so anything can happen if you put your mind to it. If the movie were at least ten or so minutes shorter, perhaps fifteen, I think the pacing would be fair and square. But just because the movie is a bit sloppy on pacing, doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. So with that being said, I’m going to give “It: Chapter Two” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I have no idea what my next review is going to be, at least for films out in theaters right now. I’m still trying to get my ass to a “Hobbs and Shaw” screening before it’s too late, maybe that’ll be the one I go to next. But I also heard a lot recently about this movie called “The Fanatic,” starring John Travolta. It’s not a big moneymaker, nor is it playing at too many cinemas, but I’m hearing a lot about this movie. It even got a Hilariocity Review from YouTuber Chris Stuckmann! And this film looks like it could be the next “The Room.” Perhaps even better than “The Room” in terms of how enjoyable yet horrible it really is. It’s available On Demand, maybe I’ll rent it, check it out, see what it’s all about, because as of recently, I’ve kind of been dying to see it in order to know what I’ve been missing. If you want to see that review or other great content, consider following Scene Before with an email or WordPress account, tell your friends about the blog, it really helps me out! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “It: Chapter Two?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever read the “It” book? Is it better than this movie? Is it better than the Tim Curry “It?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Grinch (2018): Two Sizes Too Small In Quality

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“The Grinch” is directed by Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Clerks). This movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock) as the title character who hates Christmas and everything associated with the holiday. There have been multiple on-screen adaptations of Dr. Seuss’ children’s book, and now Illumination (Despicable Me, Sing) has attempted to create their own version of the famous story.

One strange thing about my life is how I have no memory of seeing the Jim Carrey adaptation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”, despite how it released a year after I was born. However, I do recall watching the rather well known animated edition which took the drawing style of Seuss himself. That version was short, sweet, and very much got the point across. The Grinch is a dick and shall never be tolerated. In this new, slightly more lighthearted adaptation of the popular children’s story, The Grinch is a bit more relatable than his 1966 on-screen counterpart voiced by Boris Karloff. And to be honest, when it comes to tone, that’s where this movie sometimes fails. I know it’s a kids movie and kids movies are supposed to be less frightening than some made for adults, but I really wanted a darker tone here. I will say though, some of the music in this film, created by Danny Elfman (Spider-Man, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) actually matches that dark tone I want from a movie like this.

However, with 2018’s “The Grinch,” we get less of an emphasis of The Grinch as a monster and make him more like Squidward Tentacles from “Spongebob Squarepants.” He despises life, he lives without wanting company, and much like Squidward, hates Christmas. There’s some parts of this new Grinch that totally work. For example, Benedict Cumberbatch seems to make the Grinch his own character. If anybody can pull off The Grinch from a voice perspective, it might as well be Cumberbatch. After all, he did give one of my all time favorite voiceover performances as Smaug in “The Hobbit.” Cumberbatch comes off as depressed yet sinister, which I can tell is what the crew behind “The Grinch” was going for. Although despite mastering this Grinch, I gotta say that it didn’t equate to a quality movie. I know the formula for family movies nowadays is to inject as many silly gags as possible while still maintaining a lesson for children, and the movie does succeed at both things. However when it comes to the silly gags, some of these just felt off-putting, awkward, or just forgettable. I remember explicitly putting my hand on my head in disdain during certain parts of the film. I don’t recall which parts, but that brings two negatives to the table. Maybe a positive because now I don’t have to recall what moments made me dissatisfied. There’s this one moment during the first half of the film where The Grinch is in preparation mode, his dog notices him, and we get a shot with The Grinch’s butt going directly in our face. Keep in mind, I saw “The Grinch” in IMAX. The screen was eight stories high. So I got to see eight stories of The Grinch’s ass right in my face (including black bars, which reduces the size a ton in all technicality)! At least it wasn’t in 3D, that would be worse!

One side of the story that I honestly cannot stand involves a family in Whoville. This family has a heavy involvement with the film’s plot and even triggers in a couple of other Whos. The main thing I want to bring up is the relationship between a mother (Donna Who) and a daughter (Cindy-Loo Who). Both actresses behind these roles (Rashida Jones and Cameron Seely) did a fine job with their performances. My problem doesn’t involve their acting abilities. The big problem however is their chemistry. I know this is a kids movie. I know kids are a target audience. But keep in mind, adults are watching these films too. Who do you think happens to be taking the kids to these movies? As a technical adult at 19 years of age, I honestly felt like some of my intelligence was insulted. I can suspend my disbelief during movies. I enjoy the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and there’s a lot of other animations that wouldn’t work in the real world which I happen to admire. There are some things however, regardless of whether they are written to be animated or put into live-action, in this very movie, that I thought were an insult as soon as I saw them. The chemistry between the mother and daughter is one of those things. The mother came off as this individual who seems to know she has a daughter, but it’s like she’s viewing her as someone she doesn’t even need to protect. Keep in mind, based on her IMDb profile, I can definitely tell Cameron Seely, the voice of Cindy-Loo, is younger than me. Wouldn’t the mother be a little more worried about some of the things she does? That’s not the only suspension of disbelief I couldn’t achieve, I also couldn’t buy into the fact that one character in particular, without giving a name away, was able to find The Grinch’s house without really knowing a thing about him or where he lives. And if you think about it, it’s somewhat easy to find, but still, my complaint stands. Maybe I missed something earlier on in the movie, but when you’re in an auditorium with somebody who literally had their tablet on for pretty much the entire first half of the film, you can get distracted at times. And yes, I said TABLET. NOT A PHONE! A TABLET! And even worse, there was lots of time wasted when the kid using the device and not even doing a thing on it! It was just on the home screen! If it were being used as a closed captioning device then that’s a different story (not sure how the technology works entirely).

Let’s also talk about Kenan Thompson (Snakes On a Plane, Saturday Night Live) in this film.

What the f*ck?

His character might be the biggest stereotype for a black person I’ve seen in a film since Patty from the “Ghostbusters” remake. My f*cking gosh, I HATED this guy! One of the worst casting decisions I’ve seen in my entire life. Kenan Thompson is not a bad actor, I’ve seen him do some fine roles on “SNL.” He’s especially fantastic as Steve Harvey on all of the show’s “Family Feud” parodies. But I feel like the biggest problem with this role is that I could especially tell that Kenan Thompson’s voice is involved. Thompson has such a recognizable voice in my mind that out of every voice given in the movie, his was the most obvious. I knew Benedict Cumberbatch was playing The Grinch before going to see the movie, but had I not seen any stories or marketing related to this film, I could potentially think to myself, “Wait, that was Benedict Cumberbatch?” Kenan Thompson to my knowledge cannot alter his voice enough to make me think he’s playing someone other than himself. Part of me is willing to bet the people casting everyone into the movie wanted to cast Kenan Thompson just to say they’ve put a black guy in the film. And that is sad, because while it does bring diversity to the table, his performance just blows! The narrator for this film is black as well (Pharrell Williams). As a narrator, I felt like his voice didn’t work entirely, but it could have been worse. You know, it could have been Kenan Thompson. I’m guessing Morgan Freeman wasn’t available to narrate this bitch?

I’ll give some credit to the movie though on a few positives before I give my final verdict. This film is very well animated. It comes off as polished and some of the images from the film are some of the better ones I’ve witnessed from Illumination. Some of the voice acting worked, except for of course, Kenan Thompson. And this movie is short enough to avoid inducing a feeling of a snail’s pace. After all, it is only an hour and a half, which can be a good thing because of what I just mentioned, but to me it also makes this movie feel like even more of a cash grab than it already is. I don’t feel like I’m going to remember this “Grinch” adaptation all that much, and maybe it will be played a lot around Christmastime in years to come. Heck, “Christmas with the Kranks” is going to be on FX during the 24th of this month and the reviews of that movie certainly weren’t praising it. Anything’s possible.

In the end, “The Grinch” is certainly a mean one, and it made me feel like a Scrooge. If this movie does one thing well, it’s making The Grinch’s character relatable. Sure, he hates his life sometimes even though life for him is the complete opposite of pain and suffering. Yes, he might be out of shape. But thanks to this movie, it made me hate Christmas a little bit more than I once did! Because now we have another bad Christmas movie! Kids who watch “The Grinch” might enjoy it, but the film might end up making them dumber without said kids even realizing such a thing. Aside from some neat animation and decent voicework, there’s nothing that stands out or appears to be excellent regarding “The Grinch.” Parents, if your kids drag you this movie, do them a favor and put coal in their stocking on Christmas morning. Please? Also, tell them Santa isn’t real. I’m going to give “The Grinch” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow night I’m going to see “Second Act,” which comes out on December 21st, a little over a month from the time I’m finishing this post. I got passes for an early screening of the film, so therefore I’m gonna see “Second Act” a month early. My review will most likely be up sometime around December. Also, while I don’t really know my plans for the rest of the week or this upcoming weekend, I do have aspirations to see the new Julius Avery film “Overlord.” I heard “Overlord” flopped this weekend, so this might affect me even being able seeing it in the theater, but if it’s still there this next weekend, I should hopefully have an opportunity to check it out. Plus, I’m too behind on “Harry Potter” to see the new “Fantastic Beasts” movie. Be sure to follow me on Scene Before either with a WordPress account or an email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Grinch?” What did you think about it? Or, which on-screen adaptation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” is your personal favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): A Symphony in the Stars *SPOILERS*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! In just a few weeks, “First Man” will be hitting theaters, and in preparation for that, I’m going to be doing three reviews for movies that have some sort of relation to space. I will be posting these reviews weekly, so on the day this review is posted, expect another review in this series around the same time the week after. For this first review, we will be talking about “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which I feel is totally appropriate given how this year is the film’s 50th anniversary that way I have more than one excuse to do a post on it. Also, I must warn you that while this is technically a review of the movie, and my tradition is to leak as little important information as I can. This review is filled to the brim with spoilers. So if you have not seen “2001: A Space Odyssey,” proceed this review with caution. Without further ado, let’s open the pod bay doors!

Duuuuuuun. Daaaaaaan. Daaaaaaaawwn.

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DUN DUN!

“2001: A F*cking Space Odyssey” is directed by Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove) and stars Keir Dullea (David & Lisa, The Good Sheppard), Gary Lockwood (Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man), William Sylvester (Gorgo, The Six Million Dollar Man) among some other people you may or may not have heard of. This film takes place, as the title suggests, in a depiction of 2001 before it even happened. Although that’s not necessarily all there is to it, because the movie starts in prehistoric times. This is why if I’m asked to explain the plot of “2001” to you, I’d almost say that the plot doesn’t necessarily stick in a particular direction. Keep in mind, I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s not like one of the “Transformers” movies where there’s either a very basic plot or a nonsensical plot to the point where it’s almost a compliment to even call those films “a movie with a plot.” Gosh I love this movie.

“2001” when it comes to ratings and reviews is one of the more interesting films I’ve encountered. You know how movies like “Fight Club” got terrible reviews by critics and yet we still manage to talk about them today? “2001” is “Fight Club” before “Fight Club.” Maybe not entirely because from what I hear about “Fight Club” when it first came out is how it got mostly bad reviews, “2001” on the other hand was simply polarizing. In fact, when it comes to 1968 releases, “2001” actually managed to become the biggest film at the box office of the year. But now fifty years later, not only are we still talking about it, most of the reception it still gets today is most likely to be positive. On IMDb, it has the #90 spot on its top 250 list. Many screenings are still being shown of this movie in theaters from one occasion to the next. In fact this year alone, MANY screenings have been going on in what this film was shot and projected in, 70mm film. I actually went to two of those screenings in two different theaters, and I might as well describe both of them as epic. There was even a week where “2001” happened to be presented in IMAX, which I also took advantage of. As far as this year goes, “Avengers: Infinity War” may be the biggest reason to see a movie in a theater according to many people. I personally beg to differ, “2001” might be THE movie you must see in a theater before you die no matter what year we’re talking about. There are so many sequences, which I’ll eventually dive into, that make a “2001” experience in a theater worth every penny. And that’s not to say that watching it at home is terrible. I own the movie on Blu-ray and it looks fantastic on my TV. “2001” to this day is one of the few movies I even watched with an overture, and when I hear it, it’s so freaking special. There was actually a point where it was on a plane, at the ready, just for me to watch on the itty-bitty TV they have. I avoided such a thing because they didn’t include the overture, and this film, while I would CERTAINLY watch it anywhere, was made to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

If I were to talk about this movie in detail, I’d like to divide it into three sections.

You’ve got the first section titled “The Dawn of Man,” which is the entirety of the ape scenes. The second section is in space where we see Dr. Heywood Floyd’s journey. And we have the ultimate section where we meet Dave, Frank, and HAL. This movie could probably work if the ten or so minutes of “The Dawn of Man” had been erased, but it is all the better for having it in there. I have a friend who watched this movie alongside their mother, who kept asking questions about what this movie was trying to do or be as she observed everything that was going on.

If you are very unfamiliar with this movie, there might be a chance that you might not be able to fully grasp the point of the apes in the beginning. Although with due time, it could enhance the movie’s entire message. Towards the end of this sequence, we see them create tools. We see a fight go down among the apes as they some take turns slashing with a bone. The bone is defined, as this movie pretty much suggests, as mankind’s earliest tool. There’s a point where we see the bone thrown up in the air, it goes back down, and we just cut to…

SPACE.

In fact, the first shot we get in space is of a satellite, which some people have said is a nuclear missile. If that’s the case, this movie is better than it needs to be. That means we go from mankind’s most primitive weapon to mankind’s most advanced weapon. We go from a bone that can take out a monkey, to a big fat hunk of junk that suggests that its user is NOT MONKEYING AROUND.

Let me just say though, all of the space scenes are BEAUTIFUL. This movie was made in 1968, and it looks so much better in terms of effects than a vast amount of content coming out today. You disagree? Well tell that to Stanley Kubrick who won an Oscar for the effects work done on this film!

Let’s talk about some of the characters in “2001,” starting with Dr. Heywood Floyd. His story is mostly covered through the movie’s second act. He has to maintain a cover story. He has to go after an artifact. Overall, this character indicates something that not only this movie’s characters indicate, but the movie itself indicates. Sometimes nothing can turn into something. This movie is on the slower side of the spectrum, but it’s all the better for it because you can inevitably focus on what is happening and not provide more information that we as an audience don’t really need.

Speaking of which, you want to know how much this movie can associate with the word “nothing?” The first line of spoken dialogue aside from whatever gibberish the apes are saying is given somewhere around the fifteen to twenty minute mark. The last line of the movie is given about twenty minutes or so before the end credits roll.

Two of the third act’s characters include Dave Bowman and Frank Poole. They are onboard the ship where HAL 9000 resides. These two don’t seem to have any sort of close relationship to each other that the movie dives into, but they are put on the mission together, which works for the plot. The duo happens to be heading to Jupiter on a ship by the name of Discovery One. As we meet Dave and Frank, we get an insight as to what their mission is along with their relationship with HAL.

Speaking of that, this is where we meet HAL. Our first lines of dialogue spoken by all of these individuals were all given during an interview. Dave and Frank aren’t necessarily complaining about anything, and HAL is the same way. His words of dialogue are especially worth holding onto because it is what we all want to be. And I say this regardless of whether we are human or technology. HAL goes on saying that he is “incapable of error” and he has a stable relationship with Frank and Dave. This is where we find out HAL was programmed to have emotional capabilities.

Soon thereafter, we see HAL wish Frank a happy birthday. More specifically, after he plays a message where Frank’s parents do the same. This shows how HAL has complete control over the entire ship and he has tons of responsibility. We also see a scene that if you didn’t realize how much this movie was about where we may have been heading with technology, this was hopefully your wake up call. We see Frank and HAL playing each other in a game of chess. HAL outsmarts Frank.

After we see that, we take a look at a scene where HAL alerts Dave of a part of the ship that was going to fail in 72 hours. What happens in terms of removing that part, forget it, we’re gonna jump over it. But an important thing that HAL says afterwards, is that this may be “attributable to human error.” HAL even affirms that incidents like these have always been due to human error and that the computer is never a problem related to this.

It’s scenes like these that make me think about where technology will go in the future, what it will do in the future, how we will stand with or against it in the future. And that is f*cking important, because this movie came out FIFTY YEARS AGO. Whoever these people who watched it back when this came out happen to be, they probably thought something along these lines, and now “their future” might have already arrived! I’m still in my teen years and yet this movie makes me wonder what technology is ultimately going to do! We are pretty much at the point where if you don’t have technology (for the most part) you’re basically a caveman. This movie makes me wonder when/if technology will take over to the point we as a human race are no more. Everyone is now attached to their smartphones, which like HAL, seems to be controlling all of our daily lives. We use it to make calls, receive messages, and depending on who you are, even buy newer phones!

When HAL kills Frank, the way that scene plays out is BRILLIANT. It shows you Frank flying in space, even hitting a pod, which has no sound whatsoever, which is how space works so I appreciate the accuracy. Most big deaths in movies have some sort of sound attached to it. Perhaps an explosion, some dramatic music, maybe even a headbutt. This death is different and honestly stands out from many other deaths we see in movies today. Not only does HAL kill Frank, but he kills some other individuals on the ship who happened to be in cryogenic sleep mode. None of them were awake for the whole movie, I didn’t know much about them, and yet those deaths are just tragic.

Of course, we can’t go without mentioning “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

After the recently mentioned deaths, not to mention Dave’s attempt to rescue Frank, Dave asks HAL to open the pod bay doors so he can reenter the ship. HAL denies Dave’s request, to which Dave asks what the problem happens to be. HAL says Dave knows the problem as well as HAL does. The computer knows what’s up. Dave says he’s gonna go in the emergency airlock, which leads to a lack of communication with HAL from then on. Once Dave is inside, we get one of my favorite rants that just scream “Oh s*it, I f*cked up, I need to defend myself,” in the history of film.

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”

“Dave, I really think I’m entitled an answer to that question.”

“I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me. But I can assure you now, very confidently, that it’s going to be alright again.”

“I feel much better now. I really do.”

“Look, Dave. I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think that you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and talk things over.”

Throughout this ramble, Dave isn’t even talking, he’s just going into HAL’s control room. Ready to end this tragedy. He begins disabling HAL, and we see HAL feeling very afraid, which eventually leads to things he must have said in the past, or things maybe he’s programmed to say once turned on. The whole death is really just something that I feel might be hard to replicate in a future film.

An interesting thing I found on “2001’s” Wikipedia page is that critic and poet Dan Schneider recalled HAL’s death being sad. And in all honesty, I can see why. This movie gives you time to see HAL go. The death is a process to go through, and I believe as I watched this scene certain times, I may have felt HAL’s pain. HAL, without a doubt, was an ungrateful son of a bitch as this movie went on. But when he starts defending himself through words, I think that one of two things are absolutely possible. He either is genuinely sorry for his actions, after all he has been programmed with genuine emotions. Or maybe he is trying to defend himself, lie, and attempt to please Dave in a time such as this. Given how HAL has been programmed with genuine emotions, it makes me wonder, does HAL have the ability to know when he’s lying? Does he know how to lie at all?

HAL comes off as fairly certain that the HAL 9000 series is a perfect piece of machinery. Was that a total lie? Did he lie about the chess match against Frank being “a very enjoyable game?” Was the game considered “work” for HAL in order to please Frank? Did HAL enjoy the match, but feel that his win made the humans on the ship useless? There are so many relevant questions to be asked.

You know how I mentioned the last line of the movie comes about 20 minutes before the credits? That is given by Dr. Heywood Floyd, which makes him the only character to appear in multiple time periods of the entire film. Afterwards we are introduced to the ultimate segment, “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite.”

I need you to take the greatest horror movie of all time. Maybe it’s John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” perhaps “Psycho,” or maybe if you are a fan of Stanley Kubrick and you’re reading this you might say “The Shining.” Keep that movie in mind. The sequence that defines this final part of the movie to me, is the Stargate sequence. If you have followed this blog for a long time, you may know I’m a super-fan of IMAX. I know a bit about IMAX’s history, including one of their pre-shows. A lot of people today are exposed to IMAX’s epic countdown before they watch a movie in that format. This has also occasionally been mixed up during certain films including “Blade Runner: 2049,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “Suicide Squad.” Before that was a thing however, IMAX had a couple introductions where it’s basically a journey through this wormhole which I’d love to see brought back everywhere for a special occasion if possible. The stargate sequence is pretty much what I described except more hypnotizing, and more horrifying. One of the first questions on my mind after watching the stargate sequence for the first time was the wonder of how high Stanley Kubrick had to have been to include that in the movie.

I mean, I eventually found out that when some people watch “2001,” they’re on drugs or they drop acid, and I can totally see why. It’s not my thing. In fact having seen this sequence in theaters a few times now, the sounds of the stargate were so unbelievably boisterous that it kind of drowns out the music at times. You take the visuals which are eye candy to say the least. You take the music which is a mixture of excitement but a reminder that what you’re watching is simply put, f*cked up. You also take the shots of Dave himself, you can tell he’s scared and doesn’t know what the heck is going on. All of it makes a sequence that is nothing short of masterful.

The way they did this sequence was actually through slit-scan photography, which was done by Douglas Trumbull. You know what? I refuse to call the guy Douglas Trumbull. Instead, I’m calling the guy a genius. This process was also used in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and when it comes to “2001,” this actually required a customized machine. The sequence is haunting, it’s colorful, and it’s just strange. When I have “2001” on and this sequence playing, each time feels like my first time because it’s hard not to be hypnotized by a scene like this.

Now we get to the very ending, where Dave is in this room. He notices an alternate version of himself. The thing is, he’s older. The difference isn’t by much, but if you look closely, you can notice some grey hairs on the alternate Dave. There are also two more alternate versions of Dave himself. You have the one at a dining table and another lying down in bed. The one sitting at the table is not in a suit and instead, some sort of robe. It’s almost like he’s an old Jedi master that is trying to enjoy his last moments before he dies. Speaking of which, this alternate version glances over to another alternate version, whose skin is so worn to the point that he looks like a deranged grandfather. He’s practically on his deathbed. We notice him raising his hand up into the air very slowly. It’s slower than a shy kid in his history class. This hand raise is almost as if he is calling to God. In fact, if you watch the scene, you might notice the monolith, present before in the film, right in front of the bed. It’s as if the monolith is symbolizing Dave’s next stage, which is the star child. We notice this baby on the bed, which also happened to appear where old Dave was once lying down. Where does this baby end up?

SPACE.

Wikipedia suggests that Stanley Kubrick once said that this space baby is the next stage of human evolution. Now this baby has not cried once in this entire movie. If Kubrick is suggesting that we don’t have to go on a plane anymore and hear a crying baby. Spectacular, I hope this is futuristically accurate. Kubrick also said that this space baby, in his mind, is Dave as an elevated being, which is what evolution can suggest. But this film, as the old saying has been thrown around, is seemingly up to interpretation. I do agree on him being reborn, but part of me wonders if this makes Dave “a chosen being.” We always wonder what would happen to us after we die. Maybe the good go to heaven. Maybe the bad end up in hell. And if you kill a supercomputer with genuine emotions, you are reincarnated as a space baby. I can’t wait for the day when everyone forgets that Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter lost to a supercomputer on “Jeopardy!” all because they eventually destroy one with their bare hands and it sends a curse on society.

Another thing that can bring lots of interpretations to the table is the monolith. Our first glimpse of the monolith is during The Dawn of Man. The apes seem to have much curiosity towards the monolith upon first glance. They are all around it trying to decipher whatever the heck it is they are looking at. One thing I’ve noticed is that most of the moments where the monolith can be seen, we see the sun growing over it. When it comes to the first two scenes with the monolith, specifically the scene with the apes and the one on the moon, those are both moments of discovery. We have the apes curious to know what they’re looking at and the men curious to know what they’ve found. It shows how we as mankind are still curious even after we make discoveries years ago. The monolith may also be a way of symbolizing life itself. We see the birth of mankind in The Dawn of Man, where we create tools, and pieces of the puzzle are forming together. We see the moon discovery with the fact that the monolith knows the letter “e.” By the way, that “e” thing, I feel like those who have seen this movie might know what I’m talking about and might consider what I said to be some sort of joke based on actual events, but there’s this sound that can be heard towards the end of that scene and it’s basically the same sound that the fire alarm would make at the school I went to in grades 1-4. I had to cover my ears in the theater during that scene for good reason. We also see the monolith in the stargate signifying that maybe Dave is not going to be in as good of shape as he once was. The stargate, while majestic and beautiful to us as an audience, was not all fun and games for Dave. Then we see the rest of Dave’s life play out. The last thing Dave apparently sees is the monolith, therefore signifying death. Not the death of mankind, but the death of Dave. Although at the same time, maybe if Stanley Kubrick’s words of Dave evolving to the next, superior form of man can be applied here, maybe it can be the death of OUR mankind as we know it, and the birth of a new mankind.

Let’s also talk about the music in this movie. Before “2001” ultimately ended up with the music it has, it once was going to have a score by a composer known as Alex North. Before this film, he worked with Kubrick before on “Spartacus.” After he worked on the score however, his work was eventually discarded. Instead, Stanley Kubrick decided to insert pieces of music that already existed such as Richard Strauss’s “Also Spoke Zarathustra” and Johann Strauss’s “The Blue Danube.” By the way, those two have ZERO relation to each other. That first song I mentioned? That’s the one from that famous opening title sequence. That’s the song that has received parody after parody to the point where it’s almost not even a joke anymore. This song plays three times in this movie, and each time is just about as epic as the last. As for The Blue Danube, that plays three times, but none play the song in its entirety. There is not one original song here. In most movies, I’d ask myself why the f*ck that would be the case. Here, I wouldn’t blame others for asking such a question, but the biggest surprise to me is how much something like this works here. I mentioned I went to see this in the theater. When you listen to the music, it’s more like you’re taking a trip to an opera house as opposed to a movie theater. Much like the stargate sequence, it’s a trip. All of the music just feels grand, it matches with what the movie is trying to be, which is an ambitious epic.

This movie also shows something in space that I never really thought too much about until I saw this movie. I know that at NASA they have those zero gravity simulators and those can help you know what you’re in for regarding your future space travel. Although there are several scenes, and these are noticeable when the space scenes begin, where people are learning how to adapt to their spatial environment. There’s a scene where a stewardess is trying to walk and she’s having a tad of trouble doing so. You also have a scene that shows people needing to learn how to use the toilet in space. It gives us a look at humanity at a new stage in our cycle. We have now gotten to the point where space travel is pretty much a necessity and now we need to learn how to adapt to it.

Before this closes off, let’s dive into some detail about HAL. One recent notion I heard about this movie is that HAL, despite being a supercomputer, might be the most “human” character in the entire movie. Having heard that, such a thing makes every bit of possible sense. All of the humans in this movie for the most part, while they do appear human, barely have any sense of emotion. Even when they’re seemingly in danger, they don’t act like they are as much as HAL would. If you take HAL’s final words, you can tell that he made a mistake. You can tell he is trying to defend himself. Everyone else is trying to get work done. Sure, people do work, but each and every day we are letting the machines do all the work for us. It’s as if we are really the machines and HAL is the sole human in this entire film. In fact, as we become the machines, which we rely on to get work done, the machines have the ability to grow a consciousness, to the point where they can beat us in literally anything. After all, in terms of how animals operate, humans are pretty high in terms of superiority. The time when machines are as emotional as say a human is a point where one can assume that they can “win” the fight for survival. The whole message of the movie is that mankind created tools, allowing us to advance ourselves, to the point where we create a doomsday tool.

Gosh I love this movie. Oh, I forgot one more thing.

SPACE.

In the end, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is one of the best sci-fi movies ever made. Not only in terms of story, but also in how it was made, how it was directed, the effort put into every single set. This film has been influential on many more sci-fi films that have arrived after it. I can imagine it STILL being talked about even a thousand years from now. Not to mention, as a film it is different, imaginative, and also just something that can evoke lots of emotions. Either fear, sadness, inspiration, whatever. Stanley Kubrick, I love you, I want to watch more of your movies, you have outdone yourself here. I’m going to give “2001: A Space Odyssey” a 10/10. Thanks for reading this review! My next space movie review will be up on Thursday, October 4th, and I am not sure what I’m going to do next. But I would like to announce that one of the installments in my space movie review series is going to be “Gravity.” I will say, if I don’t have that review next week, I can guarantee that will be up the week after. As for the other movie, I’m actually still deciding. The mystery remains. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with your email or WordPress account so you can open the pod bay doors and find some more great content! I want to know, did you see “2001: A Space Odyssey?” Or, what is your favorite Stanley Kubrick movie? I’ll be honest, I need to see more of his work. But if you have a favorite, let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Meg (2018): Shut Up, Shark

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“The Meg” is directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Phenomenon) and stars Jason Statham (The Transporter, Furious 7), Bingbing Li (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Resident Evil: Retribution), Rainn Wilson (The Office, Juno), Ruby Rose (John Wick: Chapter 2, xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Winston Chao (The Wedding Banquet, 1911), and Cliff Curtis (The Last Airbender, Fear the Walking Dead). This movie is essentially about Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) who encounters a megalodon, a killer shark that is as large as Texas. It is up to him to save people from suffering while a submersible happens to be sinking.

“The Meg” was not really my most anticipated movie of the year, it was not really something I was thinking was going to be all that great, but at the same time, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. Kind of in the same way that geckos can’t keep their eyes off of how 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance. Maybe they don’t know what that means, but at the same time it’s just so hypnotizing and rings a bell in people’s heads. The first trailer of “The Meg,” at least to me, was a thing of beauty. I felt like this was not going to necessarily be the movie that kills all of the other summer movies in terms of likability. Having already seen “Mission: Impossible: Fallout,” this movie has some big shoes to fill. Based on the music and catch phrases that the marketing provided (CHOMP ON THIS), I knew what I was going in for, and I was f*cking ready for it. Let me just tell you all, this movie is what “Sharknado” should have been. OK, well, maybe not, the plots kind of differ, but even so, in a world where we have more “Sharknado” movies than we have “Jaws” movies, “The Meg” is here to chew on every last “Sharknado” possible!

I’ll remind everyone about “Sharknado,” and if you don’t know what “Sharknado” is, consider yourself safe from being trapped by shark Satan. There’s also a good chance you might not be aware that it is well known for being stupid, and in a way that I GUESS entertains people. For me, I just find it horrendous. And even the franchise itself understands what I’m talking about. The previous “Sharknado” installment claims to be the ultimate movie in its lineup. It’s literally called “The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time!” When it comes to “The Meg,” the plot, while still revolving around scope per se, utilizes it and uses it in a way that is technically smaller. “Sharknado” might as well be the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy…

“It’s so dense, every single frame has so many things going on.” -Rick McCallum

…whereas “The Meg” might as well be the “Star Wars” original trilogy, where there’s glory, with a proper purpose.

“The Meg” is a movie revolving around a really big shark, and this does feel like a big movie, and that’s exactly what this movie does very well. Speaking of things it excels at, it manages to have some scares. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing to write home about, but it all works. “The Meg” manages to have the same quality “Jaws” seems to have, which is to effectively combine summertime fun and horror and put it into a nice little package. Now this movie is no masterpiece, so to call it the next “Jaws” is a bit of a stretch, but it certainly does share a redeeming quality that kind of made “Jaws” what it is. Horrific summertime fun.

What “Jaws” has though compared to “The Meg” is compelling characters. The characters in “The Meg” aren’t exactly unlikable, they don’t do anything that makes you want to smash them to bits, but they just aren’t really worth talking about in a greatest characters of all time list. And I say that primarily because while they certainly serve their purpose and are somewhat intriguing, they don’t have enough depth to them. Although then again, some of them are deep underwater in the movie so what do I know?

Our main character in the movie is played by Jason Statham and he plays a guy named Jonas Taylor, but in all seriousness, I am probably not gonna remember the character’s name that well and just refer to him as Jason Statham. If he looks like Jason Statham, talks like Jason Statham, walks like Jason Statham, then he’s Jason Statham. I also gotta say though, seeing Jason Statham in this movie, I honestly think he was slightly miscast. I can imagine others playing this character aside from Statham. Sure, Statham kind of works, but there are better choices out there. Maybe John Cena (Blockers, The Wall), maybe Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina), maybe Terry Crews (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

And when it comes to the background we get related to Jason Statham’s character, there’s not really much I can report. All we really know about him is that apparently he’s crazy. In fact, what do we really know about anyone in this movie? Let’s just say you tied me to a chair and the only way I’d be able to live is if I can explain about at least one character in detail. Chances are that’d be impossible, because I feel like all of these characters lack detail. These are just people that all seem to be stuck in a situation who we as audience members could be getting to know, but in reality, are just scribbled on the script just to move the story along. These characters are seemingly interesting, they’re funny, they have good chemistry for the most part, acting is hit or miss, but they all seem to work well together.

Speaking of good acting, let’s talk about the portrayal of the young girl, Meiyang, played by Shuya Sophia Cai. Let me remind you, this is a child actress. She was born a decade ago, and the first trailer for this movie came out barely before she entered the double digit ages. Her acting level in this movie was probably better than a good number of adults present on the cast list. Either the director worked extra hard with this girl to make her execute the best performance possible, she has excellent mentors who know acting and can teach acting quite well, or maybe pleasing acting to her is something that just comes naturally. I don’t know, but the main point is, this girl can act! Well done to her!

As far as pacing in this movie goes, it almost makes the movie a puzzle in a sense. In the very beginning, it’s all exposition, it’s all introductions, it gets boring after a while, you just start begging for a megalodon to show up out of nowhere. I will admittedly say that maybe the first act of “Skyscraper” may have entertained me more than the first act of “The Meg.” Once you get into the megalodon stuff however, you don’t want to go back. It gets funnier, it gets wilder, it gets stupider in the best possible way. There was also some cringe comedy in there, and I’ll be honest, it flows rather well if you ask me.

One thing I gotta ask myself though is how GOOD this movie actually is. Because I’ll be honest with you, I REALLY enjoyed myself during “The Meg.” Let me just say this IS NOT a 10/10, but it’s also not a 1/10. What I’m trying to figure out on my mind if I like this movie because it’s so stupid it’s fantastic, or if it’s fun, or I’m just putting myself in a particular mindset for a couple of hours. And speaking of time, when I walked out of the theater, I noticed it was around 9:50PM, I went into the movie at 7:45PM, and the actual film started sometime past 7:50PM. When I walked out, this movie felt like it was 10 or 20 minutes shorter than it actually was, and I mean that in a good way. When you consider the boring first act, that almost sounds impractical. But from my perspective, this movie REALLY picks up at around the 30 or 40 minute mark.

Not only is pacing something that doesn’t stay consistent in this movie, but the tone is sometimes off for me. There were a couple times when someone was in danger where I didn’t really care if they got seriously hurt or if they died, whatever. I just didn’t really care for them because this didn’t feel like a character movie for one thing and once again, these people basically have no depth to them. And speaking of that, you know how I mentioned “The Meg” might as well be the superior version of “Sharknado?” With that statement in mind, “The Meg” contains a better story with more competent camerawork, special effects, and writing. I didn’t say everything in this movie was better by a landslide when it comes to “Sharknado.” Characterization needs some work if you ask me.

In the end, “The Meg” is the best kind of stupid movie you could ever ask for. It basically knows what it is, the fun never stops after a certain point, and while there happen to be some clashing tones interfering, this movie is still a good time. I honestly want to get the “The Meg” on Blu-ray when it comes out, because I think this will end up having a positive replay value on my part, so when that movie hits stores, I’ll be on my way. I don’t recommend this movie to everyone. If you are someone who is often called “Shirley” and is very serious, this movie might be one you’d want to avoid. For me, I just had plain fun, and I can’t wait to watch this movie again if I ever get a chance. I’m gonna give “The Meg” a 6/10. I’ll be honest with you. This grade might not even last. It could go up, it could go down, it could stay where it is. But based on everything I said, 6 seems to fit. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which will be the first entry in my space movie reviews in preparation for “First Man.” Speaking of upcoming content, I would like to warn everyone that New York Comic Con is coming up in a couple weeks, and I have tickets for Friday and Sunday so be sure to look out for my thoughts on the con whenever I can get around to posting them. Be sure to follow me here on Scene Before either with a WordPress account or email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Meg?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite shark movie? I bet all of you are gonna pick “Jaws” so I’ll ask another question. What are your thoughts on “Sharknado?” You can talk about individual movies or the franchise, your choice. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!