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!

Over the Moon (2020): FINALLY.

This review is specifically dedicated to Audrey Wells. For the record, I have no personal connection with Audrey Wells, but she wrote the screenplay for this film, only to pass away in late 2018, two years before this film officially released to the public. This may end up being one of the few times I do a dedication to somebody during a review, but this is incredibly deserved. You’ll see why. On with the review!

“Over the Moon” is directed by Glen Keane and John Kahrs and stars Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo (Hamilton, The Broken Hearts Gallery), Ken Jeong (The Masked Singer, The Hangover), John Cho (Star Trek, Total Recall), Ruthie Ann Miles (All Rise, The Americans), Margaret Cho (All-American Girl, 30 Rock), and Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy, Killing Eve). This film centers around a young girl named Fei Fei, who is forced to adapt to the alterations of her life following the death of her mother. The young girl aspires to go to the moon to find the ancient goddess, Chang’e.

Now if you know me in person, you know I love the theatrical experience, and part of the reason why I refuse to buy a subscription to certain streaming services like Netflix is because they do not really have a presence in the theatrical light. I feel that it is an art that must be preserved for years to come, and streaming is something that is getting in the way of that. It’s not that I do not stream at all, in fact I’ve been using the hell out of Peacock recently, but I have my preferences. And when you basically annihilate Blockbuster, that’s another gripe to add to the equation.

Thankfully, “Over the Moon” has been slated to come out theatrically in select locations, so I took the opportunity to support it. The trailer looked… okay… It kind of looked like a typical 3D animated feature that took place in space. Maybe it’ll be more fun for kids than anyone else. But of course, I love space movies, and I will admit, I somewhat obligate myself to seeing at least 5 animated movies a year now. I figured “Over the Moon” would join the list.

You want to know something? This might shock some of you, after watching this movie, I almost considered buying a Netflix subscription. It’s… THAT GOOD! I did not expect this movie to pack as satisfyingly brutal of a punch as it has. Remember a few days ago when I said “Yellow Rose” may be the best movie of the year? Yeah, I think we have a new sheriff in town! “Over the Moon” is one of the best animated films I have seen in a theater. It’s powerful from start to finish. Not just in terms of being a feast for the eyes, but going full Pixar and letting you experience a story that represents the best of the human condition! I’m not gonna lie, towards the end of this movie, man tears. I will admit it.

Speaking of Pixar and movies that make you cry, remember “Coco?” Remember the movie that came out a few Novembers ago? I’ll be honest, even though I know quite a few people who lost their grandparents and saw this movie, I consider myself lucky. At the time I watched this movie, and this stands true today, because I watched it again a week ago when it was on ABC, all my grandparents on both sides were still alive. But I feel like when it comes to “Over the Moon,” it sort of spoke to me. I felt like I was in Fei Fei’s shoes, even though I am a twenty-year-old pasty white dude who does not engage in traditions like the Moon Festival.

Now I do not mean that literally, because one of the major plot points in this film is that we see Fei Fei with her family, and they’re clearly happy together. This is not a spoiler, but the mother dies. So much of the movie takes place in times where the effects of the death take place. We see Fei Fei’s struggle to accept the reality, her father meets someone new and she has to deal with their child who according to her, is quite annoying. When the father lets Fei Fei know that he plans to marry this new woman in his life, Fei Fei does not know what to think of it. …I’ve been through this.

You may be wondering, how is this possible? Hey, Jackass! You just said your mother is still alive! What about your father?

He’s still alive! Both parents, thankfully, are still living today, and I am glad to have both in my life. But I went down a similar path in life, and like Fei Fei, the decision to go down this path was not one of my own, it was beyond my control. During the 2010s, my parents separated. At this time, my mother started seeing new people. At first it didn’t seem like anything, but as more people came in, I became incredibly uneasy. Because, not to sound like a manipulative moron, but I really wanted my dad back. My mother remains single to this day. And you know what? I have learned to live my reality, but it does not mean I don’t want him back anymore. If anything, I want him back in a heartbeat. I still see him often, but as someone who still lives with a parent, I would love it if he were still around because I spent years growing without a father figure.

This probably comes down to a basic, repetitive thought process I have. I hate change. There are exceptions, for example, I don’t always want to eat at the same restaurant every week, but I am one of those people who does not see the need to have something shift every so often, or have a bunch of things shift at once. This is part of why 2020 has literally been the Michael Bay dumpster fire explosion that it is for me. And this is also something that the movie dives into, and it explores that idea beautifully. This is why I love Fei Fei as a character, and admittedly, this is why I liked the antagonist. Honestly, some of my favorite movies like “Point Break,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Ready or Not,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” stand where they happen to be because I am not only rooting for the hero, but the antagonistic side is fleshed out, and presents themselves as likable. I do not always have to agree with them, but I at least understand them. The antagonist here works because they are written with the intention to make you feel bad for them. They present an issue that feels down to earth and They are not perfect, they’re just like us.

…I… Have I made it clear as to how much I adore this masterpiece? This was supposed to be a time waster at best! I LOVE THIS MOVIE.

I have read some other reviews for this movie, and according to Metacritic, this film is getting mixed or average reviews so far. I’ll be honest, this film is beyond average. For all I know, maybe I am overhyping the film a little, but you also have to consider, I have been through remarkably familiar situations that this movie presents in regard to the main character’s journey. And I will say that is probably why this got tears out of me, similar to how “Coco” managed to get tears out of others.

“Over the Moon” is a Netflix original, but it feels very much like a Disney classic. In fact, this film is helmed by two people who do not have many directing credits, but they are veterans in the animation genre, tackling revered films like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Incredibles,” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” Now I cannot claim I have watched many of Disney’s older animated films, but having watched “Over the Moon,” this is what it felt like all the way. A brilliant score, beautiful images, hyperactive and likable characters, touching moments, and EPIC numbers. There is one that I have been playing on a loop not only during this review, but as I wrote my review for Liam Neeson’s “Honest Thief.” Remember how “Frozen” became that movie where you have songs from it play on loop? “Let It Go?” More like “Let It Stop!” Honestly, those songs are annoying as hell. I could barely even get past that first movie. “Over the Moon” trounces “Frozen” in every way. And I do sort of apologize to John Kahrs, one of the directors for this film, as he was an animator for “Frozen,” but I am just being honest.

I mentioned that score, and I’ll say that Steven Price composed said score. Price already has an Oscar under his belt for his score that he did for “Gravity.” This score is just as epic. Time will tell as to whether I’ll end up listening to the musical score for this film repeatedly, but it was boisterous in the theater. It really fit the adventure feel this film was going for.

The vibe for this movie is perfect. It fits the wondrous animation style, where everything looks like it’s a wacky world in “Tron” if it were on acid. I have a feeling that part of the space world in this film, where much of it takes place, looks like what a child would imagine Disney World looks like in a crazy dream before they set foot there. Little sidenote, if you’re of age and want to drop acid during this movie, I won’t stop you. This looks like a TRIP. “Over the Moon” is fast paced to the point where many kids will watch it and enjoy it, and I think some adults will get a kick out of it too. There are a couple kiddy jokes here and there, but they did work every once in a while and felt more charming than annoying for the most part. And again, this movie does what Pixar has often set out to do. Take an adult issue, put it in a kids movie, and make you cry about it. I cried more during this movie than I did during “Up,” and I think a little more than I did during “Inside Out,” and THAT says something. “Over the Moon’s” third act is probably my favorite this year, maybe aside from “Tenet,” as it is probably the most satisfying. It is the one that made me let out the most emotion. I walked out of the auditorium once the movie ended and started asking myself what it was I just saw. I could barely even concentrate driving home because I was in such disbelief. Usually when I use that word, disbelief, it is about something atrocious. This time the opposite is true. I cannot believe how exceptional “Over the Moon” is, and I feel like I am one of the few people who even knows what this movie is. I do not know how well it will do once it stays on Netflix for awhile, but I really hope for those families who have the service, it becomes part of their family movie night, because this movie took this twenty-year-old, and made him feel like he was five. If the spectacular images and music did not do that already, the emotional writing certainly did.

With that said, I know Netflix is more about the home viewing business, but I really hope Netflix considers leaving this film in whatever theaters it can for a while, because it is such a spectacle on the big screen that is better than almost any other movie I watched this year. Again, “Tenet” is the only other the competes with it in terms of visuals. I have a feeling this will inspire young children not only to reach for the stars, but maybe some will want to become animators. This feels carefully crafted, and I’m gonna use that analogy again. This reminds me of a better Pixar film. Honestly, this film is better than most of the content that we’ve gotten from Pixar in the past 4 or 5 years.

I do not know if this film will be remembered in the same way that many other animated films are, but I will not forget it. That is for sure.

In the end, “Over the Moon” accomplished every goal it set out to do. Create likable characters, fulfill each character’s arch, write and unleash epic songs and music, show off marvelous animation, and create something that both kids and adults will adore. This movie made me feel like a kid again. Sometimes like a baby. The cast from Cathy Ang to Phillipa Soo to Ken Jeong are all incredible. This is a movie that I thought would be watchable, but SO GOOD that I would consider subscribing to Netflix? That’s another level! “Roma” and “Marriage Story” were great movies. Masterpieces in fact! But I do not remember saying that I would want to subscribe to Netflix to watch them again afterwards. I am already paying for a few services, but I might actually subscribe to Netflix JUST to watch this again. “Stranger Things?” “House of Cards?” “The Witcher?” Who cares? I just want to cue that “Over the Moon” movie again! I do not know if I will let out man tears during another movie this year like I did for this one.

Throughout the year 2020, I watched movies like “The Vast of Night,” “Tenet,” “The Last Shift,” and “Yellow Rose,” all of them are great. But as I reviewed each one, I can’t say that they’ve earned what I’m going to give “Over the Moon.” For the first time in 2020, I’m going to give “Over the Moon” a 10/10!

FINALLY. That’s all I can say. FINALLY. I cannot even believe that it took me 10 months to find a movie that I would consider to be within my top grade. Let me just say, 10/10 does not always mean perfect, because no movie is perfect. But when your movie is this imaginative, marvelously put together, and as big of a surprise as it is, it prompts you to grade it with a 10. This started off feeling like a generic kids movie, with a little something else added to it, by the end it is one of the greatest stories I’ve had the pleasure to experience myself.

Once again, this review is dedicated to Audrey Wells, who previously had credits for films including “The Game Plan,” “The Hate U Give,” and “A Dog’s Purpose.” I will say that I have not seen all those films. But “Over the Moon” honestly moved me to a point where I was shook. I was glued to my chair. It made me want to dream bigger, aim higher, and as someone who had to face new people come into a parent’s love life, I related to this movie 100%. Audrey Wells, if you read this from above, other people finished your masterpiece, and I also want to throw in some praise for Jennifer Yee McDevitt for her work on the screenplay as well, but you deserve all the credit from the moon and back. To everyone who reads this. Dream. Dream young, dream old, dream on your deathbed, and dream even in the afterlife. Wells, your movie is here, and people are going to love it. Mark my words.

Rest in peace.

Thanks for reading this review! FINALLY a 10/10 movie in 2020! I never thought I would see that! I never thought we’d get movies period! But here we are! All I can say is that if everyone’s giving Pixar’s “Soul” high praise right now, I can only imagine how that movie would turn out in comparison to “Over the Moon” because this is by far my favorite movie of 2020. There have been a bunch of movies that I have debated would fit the top spot by the end of the year. That debate is over, “Over the Moon” trounces the other candidates. As far as my next review goes, that is likely still being decided, but I will make sure I can see something and write about it as quick as possible. Maybe I’ll watch “The Witches” on HBO Max, who knows? If you want to see more great content from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Be sure to check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Over the Moon?” What did you think about it? Also, what is your favorite movie of 2020 so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Last Shift (2020): Green Book, But Better

“The Last Shift” is directed by Andrew Cohn, who has directed a bunch of documentaries, but this is his feature-length debut for a narrative film. This movie stars Richard Jenkins (Kajillionaire, The Shape of Water), Shane Paul McGhie (Unbelievable, What Men Want), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (People of Earth, Selfie), Birgundi Baker (Empire, Black Lightning), Allison Tolman (Fargo, Good Girls), and Ed O’Neill (Modern Family, Finding Dory). This film follows a fast food restaurant worker who has done the graveyard shift for 38 years. His last shift is coming up, he’s training his replacement, the two have nothing in common, but they’re brought together by circumstance. The film dives into a developing relationship between the two as they spend night hours together at Oscar’s Chicken and Fish.

Over recent years, I have learned how much humanity truly has evolved as a culture of eating. With the invention of GrubHub, it has occasionally allowed me to order a large ice cream sundae from a place 3 towns over and have it be delivered to my place at 9:45 at night if I want it. Even though there are many complaints I have about society in 2020, the vast number of eating options is not one of them. Well, unless you count the fact that Massachusetts hasn’t allowed people to eat in a movie theater even though it is literally how they make their money! Stupid.

This movie, in one way or another, reminds me of how much our country “relies” on restaurants, specifically fast food, to get us through an assortment of times. It’s usually inexpensive, and gets the job done. Keep in mind, this movie mainly involves the behind the scenes aspect of people working at a restaurant, but this movie, from the very beginning let me know about how relevant we have made this industry today. Big chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Wendy’s dominate, but it doesn’t mean regional chains can’t compete. Kind of like the chain represented in this film, Oscar’s Chicken and Fish. The vibe of this movie was partially infused from this reminder that sticks throughout the runtime. But that’s not all this film is.

You know what this film also is? FREAKING GREAT! That’s what it is! Honestly, this is one of my favorite films of 2020 so far! Granted, the only competitors for the #1 spot this year it really has in my opinion are “Summerland” and “Tenet.” Is this film better than those? I’ll address that notion later, until then, keep this in mind. The film is one of the closest things we as an audience will receive as a work of art this entire year.

In case you guys acknowledged the subtitle for this review, I should let you know that I saw the movie “Green Book” and enjoyed it. Keep in mind, this was during a time before any controversy related to said movie surfaced. If you ask me what I think about it today, I think as a film it is well done, charming, and delightful. It wouldn’t be my pick for best picture, I personally would have selected “Roma,” but still.

For those who live under a rock, the problem many have with “Green Book” is despite the film’s charm, or at least that’s what I got from it during my initial viewing. It revolves around people who actually exist, but tells a story that supposedly bends reality too much. Thankfully, “The Last Shift” is not based on anything. It’s an original script, no relation to true events, even though it takes place in present day. More specifically, present day where nobody wears masks. That way, there’s more that this movie can get away with in regard to how it tells it story.

I will say, the story in this movie is fascinating because it takes two people who are completely different, in fact they only have one, two, three things in common, and yet they play off each other perfectly. Their chemistry is spot on and they feel like real people living in a real world. In fact, I’ll say Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie give two of my favorite performances this year. If anything, I’d say they also have what technically qualifies as my favorite bromance of sorts this year. There are a couple scenes with these two together, the only way I can describe their interactions are by using words like “fun,” “joy,” and “charm.” But with it being a movie, of course there are bumps in the road. Because an unproblematic movie is futuristically speaking, problematic for how people view it.

This movie deals with a lot of issues from both characters. Marriage. Job stability. Getting by. This movie deals with issues that struggling men of different ages have to go through. Regardless of the specific issue, I ended up feeling for both of them.

I have never worked in the fast food industry. I haven’t worked with food period. But one of the things I love this movie for is that it addresses the entitlement of fast food customers. Guys, I get it. You want food the way you ask for it. BE NICE. RESPECT YOUR RESTAURANT. Look, I know the whole saying that “the customer’s always right,” therefore suggesting that they are the most important person in the room. I’m not denying that, but if you are that pissed over cheap food, just calm down a little bit. Mistakes happen. This is why every time I go to the movies, I try to put myself in the workers’ shoes. Are they having a good day? If not, what can I do to make it better? Maybe strike up an interesting conversation? I try to lighten the mood of everyone that I come across. If I go to a fast food restaurant, I expect good service. I expect good service everywhere I go! But fast food workers, like myself, are human! We all have feelings! I don’t want to call somebody a jerk without knowing their backstory! Now if there are times where somebody can cross a line like call me a nasty name or swear in my face, I will speak up and let them know that customer service should be taken as a priority. But still, what I’m saying is that fast food workers are people. Just like us. So let’s not try to tear them down.There’s a scene in this movie where a woman comes in suggesting her order was messed up, and she rages out against the two people working at the restaurant! I… Get that. I will be completely honest, I don’t work in customer service, in fact there has not been a point to this day where I have worked in customer service, but I understood the workers’ perspective here.

Although this movie excels in not just displaying the reality of having a low-paying job and trying to get by from not just one, but two individual perspectives, but it excels as a movie where an unlikely friendship develops. It’s about the bumps of life, all the hurdles that comes with it, and the desire to aim higher. You know that saying that no job is beneath you? I am not saying that statement is false, but this movie dives into the want for more. More money, a better job, a better life. At the same time it deals with the cons, and the sprinkled-in pros of the lives of our two main characters.

It’s still September as I write this, so for all I know things can change when movies like “Soul” and “Nomadland” come out, but “The Last Shift” is arguably the finest encapsulation of the human condition we have seen this year. Two Americans of different ages, of different backgrounds, of different identities, come together for a reason. Honestly, if you have ever worked part-time, you may relate to this movie. If you are of old age, you may relate to this movie. This movie dives into some serious issues, but at its heart, it’s just charming. It’s a good time, and that’s what movies are meant to be! Will it be my favorite of the year? Hard to tell at this point. We shall see.

In the end, “The Last Shift” is incredible. It’s an intimate tale of two vastly different people dealing with their own problems who despite some complications, still manage to get along. It’s a movie about a friendship that seems fine and charming, but the two have their separate views that collide. It’s sort of a broken friendship, which is cool. It goes to show that nobody is perfect! It’s about living in a suburban town where nothing goes on, the only thing that it has going for it is some local fast food restaurant that makes certain people happy. I get that. I come from the suburbs. I feel like one of those people who despite living there for 20 years, just wants to move away from it all and start a new life somewhere else, most likely Los Angeles. “The Last Shift” is one of the best movies of the year and I’m going to give it a 9/10! Do I like this movie better than “Tenet” and “Summerland?” I think as a story, it’s a little more compelling than “Tenet,” but “Summerland” has more of a surprise factor for me. I am not saying I was not looking forward to that movie, but I did not expect it to be as good as it turned out to be. Plus, “Tenet” has the benefit of practically being designed for the theatrical experience. This movie, even though it was great in the theater (and every movie is better in a theater), probably could have gotten away with a direct to On Demand release or something given what’s been going on with the pandemic. Even so, I’d put “The Last Shift” in my top 3 movies of 2020 at the very least because it is a really well done film. Check it out!

Remember how I said this is a better version of “Green Book?” Yeah, I’m not lying! I gave that movie an 8/10 during my original review. So regardless of controversy that has developed surrounding the movie, I am likely not lying about my statement. I have no idea how the rest of 2020 is going to play out. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, but this is certainly a contender for my favorite film of the year! This is a great narrative directorial debut and as for everyone else who collaborated on the movie, I’d say they did an outstanding job.

Thanks for reading this review! Be sure to check out my next post which will probably involve… Something. I don’t know. I really wish I could tell you. “Wonder Woman 1984” would have come out this weekend if it for weren’t a mix of disappointing box office results for “Tenet,” other movies, or people being stupid. Also, New York and Los Angeles are two key markets that still need to open if the movie is going to succeed. I’m hoping they open by sometime next month, because I REALLY don’t want “Soul” and “No Time to Die” to get bumped. This year has been a screwball! You don’t know where it’s going! You’re spinning along with it! And in the end, it tires you out! Let’s just get through these trying times together, and if you are going to see a movie at a theater this weekend, remember to be safe, wash your hands, and take care of those around you. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Speaking of great content, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Last Shift?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite place to get fast food? Chain-wise, I’m a Burger King guy. I always have been. But if you’re ever in my area, be sure to check out Billy’s Famous Roast Beef in Wakefield, Mass. They make a mean chicken finger plate. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Why “And Then There Were Fewer” is the Best Family Guy Episode *MAJOR SPOILERS*

PREVIOUSLY ON SCENE BEFORE:

“What happens here? You know what? I’m not even gonna specify, because spoiling this particular episode, while hard, isn’t worth it.”

“I could go on forever about this episode, but I’d be wasting precious time.”

SOURCE: Top 10 “Family Guy” Episodes *SPOILERS*

AND NOW…

FAMILY GUY: When the residents of Quahog are invited to a stately mansion for a weekend getaway, the retreat turns into a real murder mystery when guests end up dead and everyone scrambles to solve the crime on the one-hour season premiere episode of FAMILY GUY airing Sunday, Sept. 26 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. FAMILY GUY © and ª 2010 TTCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! I do not talk about TV that much here on Scene Before, but it has been over three and a half years since I talked about ten of my all time favorite “Family Guy” episodes. Some examples from the time include “PTV,” (S4E14) “Wasted Talent,” (S2E20) “The Simpsons Guy,” (S13E01), and “Blue Harvest” (S6E01). If you are wondering, no, I do not have any current plans to update the countdown anytime soon. Maybe in a couple years if I’m desperate, but who knows? Besides, even though “Family Guy” is still on the air today, many of the newer episodes are either unfunny, disposable, overly cruel, or downright unwatchable. But there have been some diamonds in the rough, most notably “Three Directors,” (S16E05) where it is one short story presented in the “visions” of Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Michael Bay, and “Trump Guy,” (S17E11) where Peter works for the Trump administration. But my favorite episode has aired during a time where “Family Guy” was just getting into the HD age.

Today, September 26th, 2020, is the tenth anniversary of my favorite “Family Guy” episode of all time, “And Then There Were Fewer.” Now I have a lot of respect for the “Family Guy” series. It is a show that I started watching at one point, and convinced my father to watch alongside me. I guess I got lucky, because at this point my father thinks Seth MacFarlane is a genius. In fact, I’m attempting to work on a bit of a “Family Guy” project myself. I can’t say much about it, but if Seth MacFarlane, Fox, or Disney reads this, I will be happy to talk with them about an idea or two I have!

When it comes to the adult animation genre, I think “Family Guy” reigns supreme in terms of humor and likable characters. From Peter to Stewie to Joe to Quagmire, the list goes on. Throughout the seasons, they all have their highlights in various episodes. And even if the episodes themselves are not that great, I still like the characters because at the end of the day, they have a likable presence or personality to keep the show afloat. Peter is a lovable idiot. While he is somewhat entitled and lazy, he plays the part great. I’m not a dog person, but Brian is probably one of my favorite dogs in media, mainly because of how well executed he is as a voice of wisdom. I occasionally enjoy myself realizing that Seth MacFarlane sometimes puts a bit of his own personality into Brian’s character. As for Stewie… He is probably in my top 10 most relatable characters of all time. Well, minus the desire to kill my own mother.

The supporting characters of “Family Guy” show themselves to be quite admirable too. From Tom Tucker, the charming newscaster who has a knack for dry commentary, to Mayor West, who is basically a college frat boy in a geezer’s body (RIP Adam West), and even though the actor himself is a controversial name as of today, James Woods had some of the greatest moments of screentime in the entire series.

This all adds up to something… That, kinda feels like a culmination.

The reason why I enjoy “And Then There Were Fewer” more than any other “Family Guy” episode is the same reason why I consider “Avengers: Infinity War” to be the best installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every other movie felt like they played a part in a series of buildup. These movies eventually let “Infinity War” take elements from them to give a big, grand story that stands on its own and recognizes what came before, and even builds the story further in the end.

Keep in mind, “And Then There Were Fewer” is the premiere episode of “Family Guy’s” ninth season, but at times, it feels more like a finale. People die. The vibe is incredibly grand and massive. Also keep in mind, even though I mentioned “Infinity War,” this is not exactly like an epic. After all, this episode is a quirky but somewhat serious murder mystery. This episode relies a ton on its own, heavy, unique atmosphere that quite frankly, I have not seen in too many other “Family Guy” episodes. Your typical “Family Guy” episode goes straight for humor. Maybe it’s dark humor, controversial humor, or some plethora of pop culture references. And those are not always bad. These are in the show’s collective wheelhouse. In “And Then There Were Fewer,” the humor is there, but I stay for the story and characterization.

Let’s go over how the episode goes down, and I’ll give some of my thoughts along the way. *MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

The episode begins with the Griffins finding out they were invited to a party at Rocky Point Manor, a massive location where the rest of the episode would take place. This episode is the first one in series to be presented in 16:9 widescreen and high definition. In fact, the intro that is not often shown on television due to time constraints (it can be found on the DVD version of the episode, however) tries to make the viewer aware that they are in for something new. Not just in regards to looks, but the overall vibe. The scope is massive, almost movie-like perhaps. Instead of the traditional intro where they show the main characters in the Griffin House and an alternate venue singing, they rely on scenery and atmosphere. When the main location of the episode is revealed, the music, which by the way is a full-blown orchestra, is kind of bombastic and triggers an emotional punch. The music does a solid job of reminding me as a viewer of the beauty regarding the massive mansion up ahead. The colors and animation in these opening scenes are vibrant and finely detailed.

Now, this is a cartoon, meaning that you can get away with more in a presentation of its kind compared to something in live-action. Thus, this episode handles a crossover sort of situation at hand. Turns out the Griffins were not the only ones to get the party invitation, but as Lois points out, “the whole town got invited.” Not only did they get invited, but they got invited “in their honor.”

This brings every single character imaginable into the episode. Your main tag team including Mayor West, Quagmire, and the Swansons. They’ve also got Mort and Muriel Goldman, the Channel 5 news team, Dr. Hartman, you name it. This episode seems to open with big promise, but does it deliver above and beyond the idea of bringing tons of people together? You betcha.

“Good evening, everyone.” -James Woods

I know a lot of people are currently divided over James Woods as a person, but regardless of his personal views of the world, I will say that he has appeared in some of the best “Family Guy” episodes, and this one is no exception. His role in here is perfect as it solidly relies on previous buildup. “Family Guy” has had a history of using James Woods as an antagonist against several characters, including Peter, when he tried to copy several aspects of his life. He ruined Brian’s TV pilot, changing the core aspects of the script and overall vibe of the production. Throughout the episode, there are a couple of other things that other characters briefly bring up that make Woods look like an undesirable monster. Quagmire reveals Woods stole Cheryl Tiegs from him, Tom Tucker mentions Woods kept him from being the star of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and Mayor Adam West says James Woods took the Twitter name @MayorWest, meaning he had to then use @Mayor_West. His presence in the episode is a reminder of how far this series has come and raises questions as to where it goes from there, and I admire that about Woods here.

Woods reveals he has recently become a born-again Christian thanks to his girlfriend, Priscilla (voiced by Ashley Tisdale). Because he’s just become a man of god, he felt it was necessary to invite all the people he wronged to make amends. The guests wonder why they should trust him, but James Woods begs for said guests to give him a chance.

When Woods exits the dining room where everybody happens to be sitting, waiting for dinner, Priscilla tags along. Quagmire’s annoying girlfriend, Stephanie, goes over to the Woods’ chair and sits down. Soon thereafter, blood pours out of her chest.

She dies. Head flat on the table.

To quote Agatha the Pre-Cog from “Minority Report…”

“Murrrrderrrrr.”

This is the perfect catalyst to bring darkness to this episode. “Family Guy” is usually known for being dark, but that’s usually just from a comedic perspective. From this moment, it might as well be gathered that some serious stuff is about to go down.

Everyone assumes James Woods killed Stephanie, thus leading them to flee to their cars. Upon beginning their drive, a tree collapses a bridge, the only way they can go in their escape.

Retrieved from TVGag

So it’s back to the mansion!

Unfortunately, nobody is getting reception on their cell phones, and even though there’s a landline, it’s dead. Everyone is in panic mode. until James Woods enters the room, where such panic is dialed up a couple notches. After a penis joke, scolding, and further realization that Stephanie is kind of a gag character. James and Priscilla are confused by everyone’s fear. James claims he’s unaware of what’s going on. So they go to the next room, where Stephanie’s body no longer remains. A power outage ensues, summoning a series of black frames, and “Family Guy” does what it does best.

“Oh my god! Is this what black people see all the time?” -Peter Griffin

James Woods dies with a knife in his back.

We don’t see who strikes Woods down, nor does anybody in the mansion. Joe Swanson catalyzes the rest of the episode.

JOE: What I’m saying is James Woods isn’t the murderer. The murderer… is one of us.”

*Collective gasps*

JOE: And someone ate the last goat cheese tartlet.

*Collective yammering*

PETER: Now I hope I die next!

Criss Cross GIF - Criss Cross Family - Discover & Share GIFs

We soon see that Stephanie died due to a timed gun, which went off as soon as Stephanie sat down in the chair that was supposed to be for James Woods. Nobody admits to wanting James Woods dead, so it’s time to play Clue!

Unfortunately for Joe, he’s soon knocked unconscious by Peter, who takes over the investigation. The characters remind us, the audience, that everyone at the dinner had a motive for wanting James Woods dead, but one was willing enough to get revenge. We see tons of finger-pointing. Diane Simmons points at Tom Tucker, who points at Seamus the pirate, who then points at Mayor Adam West. We get into a finger-pointing frenzy! No answers in sight!

Carl shoves Chris into a bookshelf, causing books to gravitate downward. One hits a particular floor tile that pushes down, making the bookshelf slide, thus revealing an opening to the basement.

Everyone goes downstairs, Peter opens a book revealing James’ misdeeds. He’s written each one down so he remembers who to make amends to. Upon some investigation, Brian comes across tons of Oxycontin bottles with James Woods’ name on it. All of it comes from Goldman’s Pharmacy, appropriately owned by Mort and Muriel Goldman. James Woods blackmailed Muriel specifically, as he was being supplied with free medicine. Everyone assumes Muriel is the killer, but she escapes before she can be captured.

Peter divides everyone into teams, and if you watch “Family Guy,” a couple of these combinations make complete sense.

“Chris, you check the basement with Herbert.”

*Herbert stretches over to Chris, emitting a twiggish sound*

Perfect.

Peter even points out Joe and Priscilla, who are currently passed out, therefore they’re labeled the “unconscious team.”

We see these teams in action. Derek and Jillian investigate an attic, where a black cat, voiced by Patrick Stewart, jumps out. There’s even an inside joke to “X-Men” where the cat reveals himself as a “professor.” Chris and Herbert collaborate, and Herbert makes a request to Chris to burn his house down if he dies. Diane Simmons and Tom Tucker enter an art gallery, where Tom clicks a button with his shoe, thus sliding a painting automatically. Tom goes inside, but he gets trapped! Diane raises some concern, but where did Tom go?!

Meg and Carl enter a billiard room, as if this wasn’t like “Clue” enough already. Meg bumps into the stuffed bear from “The Great Outdoors” written by John Hughes.

CARL: Oh, it’s okay. It’s just the stuffed bear from “The Great Outdoors.” Did you see “The Great Outdoors?”

MEG: No.

CARL: You suck.

FAMILY GUY: A swanky retreat turns into a real murder mystery when guests end up dead, and Meg scrambles to solve the crime on the one-hour season premiere episode of FAMILY GUY airing Sunday, Sept. 26 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. FAMILY GUY © and ™ 2010 TTCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Even though the duo are searching for Muriel, they decide to take a break and play some pool. Meg finds the pool cues, but she falls down a chute as soon as she grabs one of them.

We see Brian and Stewie humming TV themes to each other, when suddenly, a shriek is heard in the distance. The two run to the scene.

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

Muriel lies down with the knife inside her. Everyone else comes in as well.

And if you’re wondering, the thing I love about this death, not to mention a couple others in this episode, is that the people who died here have not been revived. In fact, the only person to die in this episode who has been revived is James Woods.

The clock ticks. The lightning strikes. The tension could not be higher. There is no other episode in the “Family Guy” series that I can think of that has given stakes like this.

Meg and Tom Tucker reveal their journey through an underground passageway to the rest of the crew, who are all standing together in the dining room. This is where we get one of the best jokes in the episode, and honestly, it has aged like a fine wine.

Derek reveals he’s getting reception on his cell phone. Peter speaks up.

PETER: Oh my god is that–…

*reveal Derek’s phone cover picture, him in front of the Hollywood sign

PETER: Are you holding up the whole Hollywood sign?

DEREK: No no no no, the sign was way in the background. I was standing in the foreground going like this (raises his arms) while Jillian took the picture. So, by forced perspective it looks like I’m holding up the whole sign.

PETER: I don’t believe you. I think you are a god. And I would die for you or kill others.

It’s stupid, but simultaneously brilliant, which to me is a core element of what makes “Family Guy” worthy of its cultural relevance.

Derek goes to the roof to call the police. Unfortunately, not everyone heard him say that. As evidenced by this next quote…

“Oh my god, Priscilla’s gone!” -Brian Griffin

We angle on the couch where Priscilla was laid to rest. We don’t know her fate, but she is nevertheless gone. But guess who isn’t gone? Joe! He’s back!

Some assume Priscilla’s the murderer. Some think there’s more data needed to confirm if that’s true. Then we get arguably the funniest outburst of the episode. Everyone’s arguing about the situation. Peter just jumps in being himself.

PETER: Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.

*Collective yammering*

PETER: He did too, I saw the picture!

Derek reaches a balcony, dials for the police, but he’s smacked off. Splat! He hits the ground. Dr. Hartman steps in, confirms he’s dead, also noting his head was hit by a blunt object.

Everyone flies back into the mansion, gathers together in a room. Lois assumes Priscilla’s up to this, then Consuela discovers James Woods’ Golden Globe is missing. Everyone gathers around Joe, who suggests that if anyone leaves the group, they’re assumed to be the killer. They investigate Glenn Quagmire’s room, which doesn’t have anything of note. Although Stephanie’s huge underpants get some screentime, which provides for some funny lines.

LOIS: Oh it’s got flowers! I mean, why bother? Who’s gonna see em?

CHRIS: Maybe someone in space!

*Collective laughter*

The gang moves onto Tom Tucker’s room. They search around, Meg gasps, slowly revealing a bloody Golden Globe in her hand.

Everyone turns on Tom Tucker, Joe wheels himself over prepared to possibly turn him in. Tucker brings up Priscilla, noting that nobody knows what she’s up to. Joe suggests that’s possible, then blood starts dripping from the ceiling.

Peter lifts Joe to the ceiling, Joe opens a vent, and a dead Priscilla is revealed, everyone screams. Tom Tucker flees the room as many of the men track him down. They capture him in the dining room, where he’s cuffed. The police take him in once the sun rises.

The music in all of these scenes, and the entire episode for that matter, is simply put, “ear porn.” That’s the best way I can describe it. I know “Family Guy” is often known for their numbers that they’ve sprinkled into various episodes, but this episode has my favorite musical score, or my favorite musical job without lyrics, particularly in the “Family Guy series.” It’s intense, grand, and it pulls you right in. It’s kind of like some movies such as “Star Wars” where the music practically plays a supporting role.

The episode’s not over. We’ve just witnessed the main course. Now it’s time for dessert.

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

Everyone’s about to leave, Peter and Lois are packing up. Peter checks his stuff and notices his Hot Wheels fire engine does not appear to be in his luggage. He asks Lois if they’re in the bathroom, but she suggests she put them all in his bag. Lois walks down the hall, enters Diane Simmons’ room. She asks if Diane’s okay, to which she responds saying she’s managing. Then comes… this quote.

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

“You sound like my mother, she actually bought me this blouse for my first solo broadcast. I guess that’s sweet, huh.” -Diane Simmons

Lois is confused, until she puts what Diane said together.

As Peter often says, “Holy crap!”

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

Lois backs away, suggesting she’s looking for Peter’s fire engine, but Diane points a gun at her. She’s the killer.

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, the backstory behind all of this is incredible. At times when I watch it, I feel like I am viewing this story from the point where Diane is the protagonist. It kind of gives a grand, emotional “John Wick” vibe. I even teared up a couple times by watching the last 5 to 10 minutes of the episode because it’s that good.

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Diane reveals that she and James Woods met at a press event, but their relationship was a secret from the media. Then she does something that NO CARTOONS EVER DO. Age. The footage reveals she turned 40, and around this time, James dumps her. Speaking of being left behind by straight, white men, Tom Tucker started promoting a younger blonde anchor, who we now know by the name Joyce Kinney. This anchor was set to take Diane’s place in a matter of weeks.

“I saw my career and my love life crumble, and I wasn’t gonna stand by and take it.” -Diane Simmons

From here, Diane reveals she has previously taken advantage of an intern named Priscilla. Sound familiar? At Diane’s discretion, Priscilla persuades James Woods to become a born-again Christian. This inspired the dinner where Woods invited everyone he wronged. Diane wanted everything to go as smooth as possible so she could kill James Woods and frame Tom Tucker.

“Oh my god. You’re 40?” -Lois Griffin

As for Diane killing everyone else, this was not part of the plan. Stephanie, as suggested earlier in the episode, was an accident. As soon as the power went out, Diane took advantage of the darkness and put a knife in James Woods’ back. From here, she reveals that due to Priscilla and Muriel realizing Diane’s true motivations, they had to die as well. For Priscilla specifically, Diane hid her in Tom Tucker’s room. Muriel was left on the ground as everyone gathered around, and Diane was lucky enough to be “part of the scene.”

When everyone gathers in the dining room, Diane notices Derek running to the balcony.

Remember this line?

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.”

Yeah, you want to know why that’s possibly the best line in the episode? Because even though it was delivered in a manner where Peter was pretty much being a smartass, Diane Simmons utilizes it and takes it seriously.

“When Peter was yelling at everybody about that picture of Derek holding up the Hollywood sign, I grabbed the Golden Globe and slipped out. I followed Derek outside and did what I had to do.” -Diane Simmons

She then reveals the rest of her plan was a success as everyone turned on Tom Tucker.

But what about Stephanie? She was the first to die! But Diane didn’t acknowledge what happened to her body and where she went!

Turns out, Quagmire had Stephanie’s body locked in his trunk. Because when your annoying girlfriend dies, you might as well keep their body as a memento! It’s a lesson for everyone!

But of course, Diane has one thing left to do. Kill Lois.

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

Peter comes in the room, asks Lois if she’s on her way, and adds the notion that he wants to listen to tapes, but he can’t do that without the car key. Diane says she and Lois are going to take a quick walk. So Peter just asks for the key.

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

Lois awkwardly hands the key, Peter runs out of the room, and Lois is forced to follow Diane’s orders. Realization sets in that these may be Lois’s final moments. She and Diane walk to the back of the property, they stumble upon a cliff. Diane is set for the kill.

LOIS: Diane, please! You don’t have to do this! I won’t tell anybody, I swear to god!

DIANE: That’s right, you won’t. Goodbye, Lois.

By the way, the music here is glorious.

*GUNSHOT*

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

We zoom out on Lois, looking as normal as ever. Then we cut to a close-up of Diane, who has a bullet through her chest. She falls off a high cliff into the water. This is the last we’ve seen of her since.

Now who killed Diane? Lois didn’t do it! Nobody else was at the scene! So who killed her? Tom Tucker? Joe? Peter? Nope!

Retrieved from CutawayGuyHD (YouTube)

The answer is all kinds of badass, none other than Stewie Griffin himself!

“If anybody’s gonna take that bitch down, it’s gonna be me.”

Not only does this support Stewie being one of the most kick-ass cartoon characters of all time, but from a story standpoint, I am curious to know exactly he did this. I’m not saying there’s a plot hole behind it or anything, but for years, one of the biggest storylines in “Family Guy” history is that Stewie continuously desires to kill his own mother. The series even dedicated a two-part special where Stewie and Lois try to kill each other! This is how far they’ve taken this concept! Now, Stewie subversively SAVES Lois from danger. Why does he do this? Does he love his mother? Does he realize he needs a mother figure in his life? Did Diane piss him off one time? Does he just hate the news? I’m probably asking more questions than I need to! This is a complete twist, but I love it!

Chevapravatdumrong at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2017

This episode is written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and she honestly went above and beyond with it. All the characters within this massive cast had a purpose of some kind. Each one a motive, something to do, and unfortunately this episode has quite a few clips that cannot be shown on most TV broadcasts due to timing purposes. So I will definitely recommend you check this episode out if it plays on TBS or Adult Swim or something, but if you have the motivation, buy the DVD. I know the series is on Hulu as well, but I am not sure how long the episode is on there.

And Then There Were Fewer also uses a classical orchestra to its fullest potential, providing for a soundtrack that I still wonder why is not on iTunes or something. The opening theme for this episode is also used in a “Family Guy” mobile game, subtitled “The Quest for Stuff.”

The animation in this episode is incredible. Not only do we get to see everything in high-definition, but they utilize flashy water, crisp skies, and I must say that the manor inside and out is wonderfully detailed. I must say, this being the first episode in widescreen must have really set the tone, because this episode goes long. Not only because it’s an hour, but because there’s so much that goes on. A vast of number of characters! Plot point after plot point! Stakes dialed up to an 11! The episode barely has any dead air.

But I think the best part about this episode is that it relies less on comedy than usual. “Family Guy” is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I will say part of the reason why is because it makes me laugh harder than perhaps any other show I can think of. But when the show can do something different, make me feel emotions, almost get me to tear up WHILE STILL BEING FUNNY, that is a sign of a masterpiece. This thing gives me chills, man! I felt for everyone during the episode. Everyone who wondered if they were the next to die. Those who were perhaps about to die. Maybe not Stephanie, but she was a gag character, so it’s not like I was supposed to get emotionally invested in her. I even felt bad for Diane by the end of it. I understood her motivation despite the reveal that she killed everybody, because I got a sense of her struggle. This is a character that has appeared every now and then on the show, and to see her at this point, where she defends herself for her deadly actions, is kind of hauntingly beautiful.

But just a reminder, the most important thing we all learned in this episode iiiiiissssss…

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

Don’t you forget it!

In the end, And Then There Were Fewer is incredibly rewatchable, insanely beautiful, and provides perhaps the greatest blend of comedy and emotion in the entire series. Characters develop, thus allowing the show to develop down the road. It’s something I kind of wish this show would do more. Yes, it said goodbye to a few characters, but with an ending like this, comes a new beginning. We say goodbye to Diane Simmons, but now we have Joyce Kinney. They say change is inevitable, but I think “Family Guy” handles such an inevitability brilliantly. And Then There Were Fewer to this day, officially ten years after it came out, is my favorite “Family Guy” episode, and may just be my favorite television episode of all time.

You want to know how good this episode is? Even Seth MacFarlane himself says that this is favorite episode!

“I think this is my favorite episode of the series. A classic format, great-looking direction, and, I hope, a genuinely surprising ending. It was also the first episode to air in HD. It was really cool to finally see Lois’ pores.” -Seth MacFarlane (Retrieved from: Seth MacFarlane Reveals His 20 Favorite ‘Family Guy’ Episodes)

If the creator says its the best, that says something! Also goes to show that great minds think alike!

Today, “Family Guy” is continuously losing steam despite a few great episodes here and there. Although I will give the show credit for being a pioneer in adult animation for going where say “The Simpsons” can’t, and essentially making the cutaway gag a trademark. Season 19, not to mention the show’s 350th episode, is set to premiere on Fox tomorrow. I will most likely be watching, but “And Then There Were Fewer” is an episode that reminds me of what makes this series so watchable. The characters, the storylines, the brilliant writing. It all comes together beautifully. I will be looking forward to season 19 of “Family Guy,” not to mention the recently announced seasons 20 and 21. But I long for the day where “Family Guy” makes an episode as good as this. Although, just remember one thing, and one thing only.

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

It’s in the picture!

Thanks for reading this post! It’s not every day that I decide to talk about television, but I figured since And Then There Were Fewer turns ten today, that would make for a good opportunity to do a post like this. But if you are interested in my movie content, feel free to check out my review for “Tenet!” Or, as some call it, the only movie in theaters right now! I’m not sure when I’ll get to talk about TV again. Maybe when another streaming service comes out or something, but we shall see. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! You know what grinds my gears? The fact that more people are not checking out my Facebook page! So do yourself a favor, and check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you ever watch the “Family Guy” episode titled And Then There Were Fewer? What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Family Guy” episode? As of today, you have 349 to choose from, which is quite a buttload! Leave your freakin’ comments 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!

An American Pickle (2020): More Seths, More Fun!

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“An American Pickle” is directed by Brandon Trost (The Disaster Artist, This Is the End) and stars Seth Rogen (Neighbors, Sausage Party) and Sarah Snook (Predestination, Steve Jobs) in a film that takes place over a span of a century. We start off by seeing a character by the name of Herschel Greenbaum. He’s immigrating to the United States, he’s got a wife, but when a factory gets condemned, Greenbaum falls into a vat of pickles and stays there for a hundred years. After escaping, he meets up with his only remaining descendant, Ben Greenbaum, also played by Seth Rogen. From here on out, the two get to know each other and slowly reveal their notable differences of how they go about daily life.

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This movie was originally supposed to come out in theaters. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sony, who produced the movie, gave the distribution rights to Warner Bros., which lead to the film going straight to HBO Max, the new streaming service that has been around since May. “An American Pickle” is the first original movie to hit the service, although the film has been theatrically released in countries outside the United States.

The concept of “An American Pickle” honestly intrigues me, partially because I admire Seth Rogen as an entertainer. Whether he’s doing voices, maybe working behind the camera or in front of it, Seth Rogen can do no wrong. So getting to see two characters played by Seth Rogen was an oddly charming idea to say the least. Granted, the world has seen two Adam Sandlers on screen before in 2011’s “Jack and Jill,” which ended up being one of the most critically panned films of the past decade. Let me just say, I have not seen “Jack and Jill,” although I’ve heard enough about it to know that I should never witness it. But I am glad I saw “An American Pickle.” From the very first scene, this movie has this weird charm to it. It’s almost as if Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, and the directors behind “The Wizard of Oz” had a lovechild of some sorts. Of course you get some of the modern comedy flair in “An American Pickle” as well, but as I watched the movie, I felt like I was watching something that I couldn’t really get anywhere else. There seems to be an odd, but interesting blend of satire, heart, and informative messages about the importance of family and modern culture.

I got to admit, for a film that has Seth Rogen involved in one way or another, this is surprisingly light and sweet. It has its moments of commentary and controversial humor here and there, but nevertheless. Having seen some of Seth Rogen’s other work (for the most part), there doesn’t really seem to be much that warms the heart if you will. Not really much that feels calming. “Long Shot” comes close to being in that category though. In fact, a lot of Seth’s films seem to have a quick and snappy pace to them. And this one is no exception. Maybe that’s a Seth Rogen trademark, and I kinda like it. Although when it comes to “An American Pickle” I should not have been too surprised given how the film clocks in at around 89 minutes.

They say that if you talk to yourself, that is perhaps a sign that you’re crazy, right? Well, if Seth Rogen happens to fall into a pit of craziness, I’d say it’s worth it because he gives not one, but two likable performances. The two characters he plays can easily be differentiated even though they come from the same bloodline. They also feel like they have easily detectable individual personalities. I will say, Seth Rogen’s voice that he does for Herschel, the older character he plays, is almost on the goofy side, but it works for what it is. It’s like the rest of the movie, simply charming. It’s not supposed to be real, it embraces the fantasy factor, even though it does involve some things that are happening in our world right now. Such as our attachment to technology, vlogging, political controversy, and so on.

This movie is directed by Brandon Trost, who is a name that I am sort of surprised I have not heard so much about. Trost has worked with Seth Rogen for some time because he is a cinematographer on a lot of his movies including “Neighbors,” “The Interview,” and one of my all time favorite comedies, “The Disaster Artist.” However, “An American Pickle” is Trost’s feature-length solo debut. For the record, he has a brother by the name of Jason Trost who co-directed 2011’s “The FP” alongside him. “An American Pickle” on the other hand is a solo project. I really like Trost’s vision of this film. It’s incredibly wacky, super fast-paced, and it almost feels like a live-action cartoon, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I say that because if turn on something like “Bob’s Burgers” or “Family Guy,” there’s a good chance that they don’t waste a second using dead air. This may be a huge exaggeration, but “An American Pickle” almost feels like it belongs in that category when it comes to how it is paced. Granted, given how this is live-action, there’s a lot of time spent where dead air or beats are perhaps used, but once the movie starts, it feels like it refuses to stop. In fact, there are various portions of the score, composed by the legendary Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) that accompany this movie’s quick pace.

Looking back on this movie though, I will admit, I don’t know if all the commentary portions of the film will sit in my memory forever. I’m probably going to remember “An American Pickle” more for how good of a production it was despite being done by a first time director doing a movie without somebody else, and Seth Rogen doing two likable performances. Even though this movie does touch upon a lot of commentary that I liked in the moment, I don’t know if it will be something to be permanently implanted in my memory. I will also say though, even though the movie itself is fast-paced, and I kind of like that, there’s a lot that happens in a certain twenty minute period that feels like we’re getting to the end of the film’s second act lickety split. It’s almost as if the movie wants to end without diving into what could possibly be a moment to breathe. Although in all seriousness, I definitely recommend an “An American Pickle” and if you like Seth Rogen, you’ll like this movie. If you have a Roku or Amazon Fire player, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to get HBO Max, but it is available on other platforms including cable, Android TV, Samsung Smart TVs, Apple TV, and game consoles. There are ways to watch this movie, but because society is insane, we can’t have all of them.

In the end, “An American Pickle” is ridiculous fun, but it’s hard to tell at this point if I will remember it by the end of the year. Granted, it has the benefit of being the only original film on HBO Max right now, but still. I really liked Brandon Trost’s vision, and if he has any more solo projects he wants to tackle as a director, sign me up! Seth Rogen, per usual, is really good here. He’s a delight on screen as not just one, but two characters. Bravo! I’m going to give “An American Pickle” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I will be reviewing the movie “Summerland,” which I just saw in the theater. It is playing in some places, but it is also available on VOD if you want to give it a rent. I can’t say much about this movie, but something interesting might happen in my review. Just letting ya know… Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, if you are interested, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “An American Pickle?” What did you think about it? Or, did you get HBO Max? What are your thoughts on the service so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Made in Italy (2020): Taken to the Gallery

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“Made in Italy” is directed by James D’Arcy (Dunkirk, Cloud Atlas) and stars Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Cold Pursuit), Micheál Richardson (Cold Pursuit, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), Valeria Bilello (Sense8, Curon), and Lindsay Duncan (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Birdman). This film mainly revolves around a father and son duo. They travel to Tuscany to sell a house inherited from the late wife of Neeson’s character. Only thing is, the house is run-down and pretty much a mess, so the two have to fix the place up before it can be given to a new owner for the sake of profit. Meanwhile, the son character played by Richardson wants to buy a gallery.

Well, this is my second week in a row where I review a movie, specifically one I saw in the theater, that pretty much centralizes Italy or some sort of Italian vibe. Last week, I reviewed “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” which during my review, I had positive thoughts to spew all around. Admittedly, I’ll probably forget some things about that movie by the end of the year. However, I still need to process “Made in Italy” before such a notion can probably be finalized. Like “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” I really have not heard squat about “Made in Italy.” I read the description regarding the movie and what it’s about. I also saw the trailer for the film hours or so before I left the house to see this movie. That’s really just about all I was able to gather about the film before actually seeing it.

Now that I’ve seen the film, if I had to compare the two Italy-centric flicks of importance of the bat, I will say a positive here… I liked “Made in Italy” more than “The Burnt Orange Heresy.” I also think “Made in Italy” will end up being more memorable and reflected upon as a greater story when it comes to entertainment. At its heart, “Made in Italy” is really just a ride between a father and son who reveal their sense of unease towards each other when they’re together. They have their differences, but we see them together and despite those differences, it all adds up for some great chemistry.

One thing I will say though, this movie, even from a marketing perspective, was sort of a surprise for me because it stars Liam Neeson and the vibe doesn’t feel goofy in the slightest. Sure, you can get a sense of seriousness from movies like “Taken” if you think hard enough or put yourself in the right mood, but in recent years, it almost feels as if Liam Neeson, who I respect as an actor, just signs on to “latest formulaic action movie 101.” The most recent examples for this are “The Commuter” and “Cold Pursuit.” Granted, he’s done other things too including a small voice-role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and an uncredited role in Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville.” But when my mind diverts to thoughts of Liam Neeson, I might as well make a connection of sorts to some goofy, generic action movie that may not be remembered by the average viewer overtime. Heck, there was a scene from “Daddy’s Home 2” that basically parodies a stereotype regarding Liam Neeson’s career choices.

When it comes to “Made in Italy,” I think this is one of Liam Neeson’s standout performances, at least regarding the ones I’ve seen. I still have yet to see “Schindler’s List,” which he received an Oscar nomination for.

I am a bad movie fan. A bad bad movie fan. Apologies to Steven Spielberg.

Now, IMDb lists this movie as a “comedy,” with no other genres attached. But when I saw the trailer, I figured this would be on the drama side of things. Now that I used digital technology to get a little blip of info in my brain, I know better. Nevertheless, when I watched this movie, I was a bit surprised on how much I genuinely enjoyed the comedic moments. Maybe it’s because it’s 2020 and I almost feel like there is nothing to laugh about anymore, but still. Besides, laughter is the best medicine. It’s the perfect cure to realizing your brain has set itself on fire.

LAUGHTER: Try it today! 11 out of 10 doctors and one Movie Reviewing Moron approve!

Believe it or not, this is the third time I have seen Micheál Richardson in something on screen. I’ve already seen him in his earliest acting credit, specifically in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” but he also had a role in “Cold Pursuit.” To be completely honest, I don’t even remember this dude. Although to be fair, he’s mainly done small roles. For research purposes, I have been looking at the “Made in Italy” Wikipedia page, and even though Micheál Richardson’s name is listed on the page, he does not have a personally dedicated Wikipedia page of his own. Seeing him in a heavier role like the one he has in this movie is sort of fulfilling because he got to show off his true abilities as an actor. He and Liam Neeson make a great pair and I bought into both characters personalities and motivations. I should really not be that surprised, but I failed to realize until sometime during the writing of this review, that Richardson is actually Liam Neeson’s son! So their fine chemistry actually makes sense! It’s like they’ve ACTUALLY known each other for awhile, because guess what? They do!

This movie is directed by James D’Arcy, who to this day has 77 acting credits dating back to 1996. As for directing, the only thing he did before “Made in Italy” was a short by the name of “Chicken/Egg.” That movie is also the first screenplay he did. Coincidentally, “Made in Italy” happens to be his second writing credit. I think for a first time feature director, James D’Arcy shines. Granted, I’ve seen better, even from first time directorial efforts from people who have previously established themselves as actors including  Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” as the most prominent example I can think of. I think D’Arcy’s screenplay is coherent, it makes sense. All the points that need to be there have a reason for being there, but there are likely going to be some characters or moments that will leave my memory based on how forgettable they might end up being. There are also a couple shot choices, maybe just one or two, that come across as a little awkward and feel like they defy reality a little too far up the ladder, and this partially has to do with how one of the executions of Liam Neeson’s lines happens to be handled. Again, Liam Neeson gives a great performance in “Made in Italy,” but it doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its flaws. It’s a bit cliche, yet enjoyable, but also packed with a suitable amount of fun here and there.

One of the phrases that I’ve learned in middle school that has stuck with me to this point is “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and sure, maybe my first impression of this movie being somewhere in dramaville was debunked. But I’m focusing on the opposite of that phrase here. Because this movie’s title gave me one hope… To feel like I’m in Italy for one to two hours. This movie fulfilled my wish in several scenes. The cover gave me something to look forward to, and I can’t say I was disappointed. After all, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to an Italian trip pretty soon because Italy, along with a majority of the world’s countries, pretty much hates the United States right now. What a time to be alive!

In the end, “Made in Italy” is a surprisingly fun and attention-grabbing movie in several parts. I think if you want some good performances and stunning scenery, you’ll get those two things here. When it comes to James D’Arcy’s directing career, not to mention his screenwriting career, I am curious to see what he plans to whip up next. Is it a drama? Action? Fantasy? Horror? I think as far as first time directing features go, this is a solid jump in the water. Maybe the next movie will bigger splash. Who knows? Anything can happen. I’m going to give “Made in Italy” a 7/10.

I’ll also point out, I did see this movie in theaters, and it is playing in quite a few places right now. However, the film is also available on VOD through various services including iTunes, Google Play, and cable On Demand providers like Xfinity and Verizon Fios. So if you are still uncomfortable of going to a theater right now for whatever reason, you can watch this movie at home if necessary.

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Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, movie theater chains like AMC and Regal reopen in many markets next week. I know AMC is opening a bunch of theaters near me, as for Regal, I’m not so sure that they’re ready just yet, but I will hopefully be going to see “Unhinged” sometime soon, which is one of the first new releases that is going to be getting people back to the movies. And if the theaters are open long enough, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to see “The New Mutants,” maybe I’ll get to see “Tenet.” I am BEGGING for somebody, ANYBODY, near me to show the film in full frame IMAX. I’ll get a COVID test and hop on a plane somewhere if I have to at this point. I’ll do anything! Throw my phone out the window! Shine a flashlight in my eyes! Drink from a toilet bowl! Save Princess Peach! Build a Death Star by myself! Eat doorknobs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! ANYTHING! But hey, guess what? I’m already going to AMC twice next week, so this should be the start of something satisfying. What am I seeing? Thursday I’m seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” and Saturday I’m going to the “Inception” 10th Anniversary Event. I can’t wait, I’m excited to go back to AMC, even if I will admit they have been involved in some stupid remarks and decisions in recent months, and I do mean it when I say stupid. Granted, I also blame Universal Pictures, but still.

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

Vivarium (2019): As Strange As 2020

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“Vivarium” is directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Foxes, Without Name) and stars Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Green Room) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Now You See Me) as a couple who want to purchase a house. An agent shows them a house located in a quiet, seemingly peaceful area. Oddly, just about every house is identical and every aspect of the neighborhood feels like something specifically crafted for a lower budget, artsy Tim Burton picture or something. …Maybe the 2018 film “A Wrinkle in Time.” That one in particular is done by a different director, but nevertheless. As the couple tour what’s marked as house #9, they eventually find themselves without the agent, trying to escape the neighborhood. They never manage to find their way out. After the endless search, they find an infant, and are given instructions… “Raise the child and be released.”

Oh parenting, the hardest task in the world. Here. We. Go.

2020 has been a strange year. There has been talk amongst film fans, including myself, on what Best Picture could end up being. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” should nothing else arrive, could end up being a big contender. “The Invisible Man” has received plenty of positive verdicts. Honestly, with all things considered, I wouldn’t sleep on “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” That is… if I controlled the Academy and had all the power. Love those guys. But one of the lesser talked about films of the year is this little flick called “Vivarium.” Prior to today, the film has a box office total of $123,044. I knew very little about the project, despite how it has some notable names attached. Although I did buy the Blu-ray, popped it in the player, and watched the movie later on. Do I regret watching it? Not really… But… Kinda.

Let me just say, as a movie from a technical standpoint, “Vivarium” is very pleasing. I like the production design and framing of the film. It very much reminded me of a Tim Burton project like “Edward Scissorhands” if it were set in a slightly more modern time. The movie has this blend of fantasy and touch of reality that gives it its own unique feel. I kinda dig it. I think all the actors including Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jonathan Aris did a really good job playing their respective roles. They were all believable and well cast. If I were to watch this in a theater, I’d probably do my best to stay quiet and admire all the detail as things go by on the big screen. Although, I cannot see myself watching this movie many more times in the future.

One of the most controversial movies of the past year is Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.” For the record, I liked Ari Aster’s directorial debut, “Hereditary,” so I figured “Midsommar” would be a worthy follow-up to what he has provided in the past. I was wrong. It turned out to be one of the most insufferable film experiences I have put myself through in recent memory. Like “Vivarium,” “Midsommar” looked pretty appealing and had fantastic design to keep me gazing on the screen. It even had a good cast, I think Florence Pugh is a likable actress. Although if you ask me, I’d recommend an alternate film of hers to watch, “Fighting with My Family,” directed by the very talented and hilarious Stephen Merchant. But the film annoyed me in the long run. It was a film that tried to be disturbing and haunting, but just ended up feeling overly grotesque and off-putting. And while “Vivarium” feels a lot more tame, it kind of has that “Midsommar” feel. Upon finishing “Vivarium,” a part of me felt a little icky. And that’s a bit odd to say because while “Vivarium” is technically a horror movie, there is not really much that kept me disturbed. Maybe there were some spooks intact, but it didn’t really feel like something horrific or life-ending in a sense. It comes off as one of those artsy films that really tries to go all out there and be as strange as possible. In all likelihood, that may have been what the crew was going for, and in some ways, it works. But there are some cases where flaws happen to stand out.

I mean, no movie’s perfect, but this is a movie that really could have been awesome, but if the script didn’t go a certain way, I probably would have felt a little more satisfied. What way would I have wanted it to go? Well… I can’t tell you. That would perhaps spoil a great portion of the movie. But let me just say one thing, it involves the “kid” character, who I honestly grew to hate by the end of this movie. That’s all I can spit out without getting arrested by the spoiler police.

I like the way that this movie tends to handle parenting because it does go to reveal the disconnect between parents and their kids sometimes. Maybe the parents have a certain thought on their mind which may have to do with “helping the kid” or “doing what’s best for the kid” to which the kid ultimately disagrees or throws a tantrum or something of that nature. This movie sort of reminds me of why I may not want to be a parent anytime soon.

This is partially shown through say the performance given by Jesse Eisenberg, and I think that this is one of his better performances that I can think of if you ask me. Because when I think of Jesse Eisenberg, I will point out, I often reflect upon him in a positive light. I’ve seen him do good things, but he always seems to have this dimension to him that he carries from one character he plays to another. He’s a fast talker, almost to the point of mumbling, and it feels like he often plays a live-action cartoon. It’s like he’s on caffeine for extended periods which makes him rather obsessive and hyperactive. Here, from what I can recall, Eisenberg is calmer compared to other times I’ve witnessed him. Granted, I have not witnessed everything from Eisenberg. I still need to watch “The Social Network,” and not just the first two or three minutes which I think I DVRed one time.

I will say though, I am writing this review at the end of July 2020, and in a way, this movie may get a little too close to home for some viewers. Why? Well, it basically dives into what happens when a couple isolates in a home. Like, you know, just like every single one of us has in 2020. So do I recommend “Vivarium?” I’d say yes, minus the final five to ten minutes which were kind of a letdown for me. But remember, if you stayed in your home for four months, this could be a little bit… I’ll say creepy. I’m just hoping none of you have kids, maybe then it’ll get super creepy.

In the end, “Vivarium” started out alright, became pretty good, but nearly crashed during the climax. I know for storytelling purposes, there’s not really much that could necessarily be changed about the “kid” character, but that kid was one of the single most annoying characters I have seen in a movie in a long time. I get it, but… still, it drives me mad. I’m going to give “Vivarium” a 7/10.

Come on, 2020! Give me something great! Yes! We have “The Way Back!” We have “The Vast of Night!” We have “Hope Gap!” Those are good movies. I want GREAT movies. I think the last great movie I saw that was new may have been “The Farewell,” which technically speaking is a 2019 film even though I watched it in 2020 as I was wrapping my cycle for the 2019 lineup. If “Tenet” doesn’t come out on the first weekend of September, there is no hope left for movies this year. I wish I wasn’t being this dramatic. I want to avoid going into a rant, so… Let’s just move on.

Thanks for reading this review! I’m not sure what my next review is gonna be. I wanted to watch Greyhound on Apple TV+, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to watch it on my TV. After all, my smart platform, which is included with the television set, is Android TV, which of course, is from Google, one of Apple’s biggest competitors. This may be why there is no deal between the companies to have Apple TV+ on the Android TV platform. Nevertheless, if you want to see more great content from Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the blog’s official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Vivarium?” What did you think about it? Or, how is isolation going for you? Are you still in the house? Are you out and about? As one who lives in the United States, I HATE MY LIFE. That’s all I can say. Leave your comments down below, and hopefully my next blog post will come sometime soon! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Irresistible (2020): Just in Time for a Pandemic, An Election, and More

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“Irresistible” is directed by Jon Stewart (The Daily Show, Rosewater) and stars Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Office), Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation), Mackenzie Davis (Blade Runner 2049, Terminator: Dark Fate), Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, Interstellar), Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Orange Is the New Black), and Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class, Neighbors). This film is about a Democratic strategist who is trying to get someone he meets up with to successfully run for town mayor. One of big catches here is that the person of importance is running as a Democrat, and the town, which is located in Wisconsin, has maintained its conservative traditions for years.

Ah… A new movie. It’s an experience I barely get to have today, so I’ll take it whenever possible. I did not pay for this movie. I tuned in during the first few minutes as my mother rented it On Demand and I was kind of intrigued by what was going on. Gotta say, I was pretty entertained by what I saw. However, as I watched, I was reminded of a common complaint some people have about modern movies.

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Hollywood is such a magical place, where dreams come true as long as you spend spare time waiting tables. But as of recent years, it has also become a place hated by certain people because of a supposed agenda. And I am not going to deny that when it comes to today’s Hollywood culture, a lot of it is on the left. If you ask me, I really don’t care. I would still be following it if it is still on the right, I enjoy the art form of film, I don’t usually often give a crap about one’s political views. That’s why when I do the Jackoff awards every year, I usually stray away from politics. Granted, I did subtly bring up global warming one year, but that’s a human issue turned political. So that’s why I let it slide.

If you watch this movie, I don’t really think you, or too many other people would need that keen of an eye to realize that this may be somewhat done with ideas of the left. After all, the story follows a political strategist trying to get a Democrat mayor to succeed during an election. The movie makes references to our political climate today and everything surrounding it. I will also point out that there are some big jabs towards the conservative-friendly outlet Fox News. Also, these jabs had me in stitches.

Also also, CNN gets some jabbing as well, which also stuck the landing for me in terms of comedy. This movie is not afraid to go after the cable news outlets and bang em’ over the head. Those honestly may have been the most entertaining parts of the movie for me.

I will point out that this movie is a mix of comedy and drama. Both genres blend perfectly to balance each other out and they don’t feel like two different movies. This movie knows what it is. It’s funny, charming, but it also wants to get a little serious every now and then. Maybe Steve Carell has something to do with it, because I will admit, even though he may be an actor I tend to overlook, I have seen him be funny in the past, while also being dramatic in the past, and he can do both very well. To see a mix of that here in “Irresistible” is a good mix for Carell.

Honestly, 2020 may just be the pinnacle for crappy movies. I have seen a few good ones, like “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” “Sonic the Hedgehog” (who knew I’d be saying that), and “Emma.” I have not had much time to watch movies in general, mainly because I’m not always willing to cough up a $19.99 rental for a movie that probably would be a better experience in the theater, but when I did have time, nothing really stood out this year. “Irresistible” is kind of in that camp, but if no Oscar-bait movies come out this year, this could have a shot at some awards. After all, we are in an election year here in the United States, which makes this movie incredibly topical. It has some good performances given by Steve Carell and Chris Cooper. As for Jon Stewart, this could have a shot at a screenplay nomination. Granted, I do not want to get ahead of myself as it is only June and a lot of the good movies come out in October, November, and December. However, if all those movies get delayed, I think “Irresistable” could have some potential during award season. Besides, you know how I mentioned Hollywood seems to be a bit on the left more than the right? That could be another factor in this movie’s favor! All it really needs from here is a montage making fun of Donald Trump and then it’s the perfect “Hollywood left story.” With that being said, this movie may not be for everyone, but even if you are on the right politically, there is a solid chance that you might be entertained by this from a story perspective. I mean, it is funny. Granted, a lot of the humor seems to be geared towards politics, but there is still some general humor sprinkled here and there. But given that this movie has dramatic elements to it, it does not feel overbearing.

One of the biggest compliments I would like to give to “Irresistible” is its pacing. When I get into negatives during my reviews, one of my gotos is pointing out that maybe one or two scenes feel a bit too drawn-out or too slow, maybe every once in a while the pacing is so fast that it destroys your brain. Here, the pacing is very well done. Will I remember this movie by the end of the year? Parts of it, yes. Some, maybe not. But regardless, this movie went by like a plane. Not too fast (if that makes any sense), not too slow, just right. I feel like there are going to be various scenes and characters from this movie that will probably be erased from my memory come 2021, but as of now, I enjoyed the movie enough that I don’t really care much about the future. Although… It’s 2020. I really should care about the future.

In the end, “Irresistible” is not my favorite movie this year, but a damn good time. If you really don’t like politics in your movies, you might want to sit this one out. After all, it is written and directed by Jon Stewart, who hosted “The Daily Show” until Trevor Noah took over. Before we go any further, I would like to give one last compliment towards the film, and I will say that any excuse to use “dial up Internet” within a joke is worth your time. It worked in “Captain Marvel,” which looking back, is almost the worst Marvel movie, but I liked the dial-up joke. Nice to see it here too! I’m going to give “Irresistible” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to post my review up for “Minority Report,” the final entry to June 2020’s event, Tom Cruise Month. I hope to get it up by the 30th, but if I don’t, it’s because I’m getting sidetracked with other things. Hopefully in July I get to talk about some newer movies, and I will also point out that Regal Cinemas are scheduled to reopen on July 10th, so I plan on visiting one soon. The same goes for AMC, which is currently scheduled for July 15th. I’m not sure what I’m going to see. If it is not a 2020 film, I’m probably not going to review it, but still. Speaking of 2020 films, be sure to check out my review for “My Spy.” 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 see more movie talk from Scene Before, go like my Facebook page! Otherwise if you want more politics, go like CNN or Fox News. I want to know, did you see “Irresistible?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that seems to have a hint of bias behind it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

My Spy (2020): Dumped Onto Amazon? No Kidding.

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“My Spy…” That is a name I have been waiting to say for the LONGEST TIME. Nevertheless, “My Spy” is directed by Peter Segal (Grudge Match, 50 First Dates) and stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Stuber), Chloe Coleman (Big Little Lies, Transparent), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers, Gravity Falls), Ken Jeong (The Masked Singer, The Hangover), and Parisa Fitz-Henley (Jessica Jones, Midnight, Texas). This film is about a CIA operative who is on a mission alongside a fanatic/newbie in Chicago, who is supposed watch over a particular family’s apartment, only to run into a nine year old girl who lives in said apartment. As this happens, the CIA operative is now at the mercy of this nine year old who can potentially affect the entire mission.

If you wonder why I started this review the way I just did, here’s some context. I have waited FOREVER to talk about “My Spy.” Not because I knew about it for a long time and was finally getting to see it. Not because I was looking forward to it. Hey, this is no “Star Wars.” Before the COVID-19 craze happened, prior to when it was announced that this film would be going straight to Amazon’s Prime Video after multiple delays in the United States, I was invited by STX Screenings, which is an outlet based on the studio responsible for this film, to see “My Spy” a couple towns away from me. So I got on a train. Remember trains? Those were so much fun. I headed on over, saw the movie, but I knew one thing was for sure. I could not talk about it. That is unless I turned Scene Before into an Australian outlet, because this film already released in Australia months ago. Without saying much about the film, I did not hate myself, but it didn’t feel buzzworthy.

By the way, THIS WAS IN JANUARY. And it’s not like I went to a big festival or something or a test screening. No! This was a finished product! This was a screening meant to promote the film, get people to think about it, and that sort of thing! It was a simple free screening that just so happened to take place on a Saturday in January at 10AM! They really wanted families for this thing, didn’t they?

But guess what? I’m a Prime member, so I took the opportunity to watch this film again. After all, a lot can change on a second viewing, and I did forgot a lot about this movie over the last five months.

Once again, I did not completely hate myself for watching “My Spy.” But to call it Shakespeare is laughable.

Oooh! Here’s a hashtag! #ThisAgedWell.

Now don’t think I’m nagging on Dave Bautista, I love his work and he often comes off as one of the most down to earth celebrities working today. He doesn’t let the attention and fame get to his head, and he seems like an all around fun guy. I also love his passion for the film industry, those involved in said industry, and unlike some people, he is not afraid to project his opinion beyond the stratosphere (even if sometimes it might not work out in his favor). And I’ve seen him do good work. I think Bautista was a good pick to play Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He had a solid screen presence during the beginning of “Blade Runner 2049” as Sapper. I even liked “Stuber!” It’s not a masterpiece, but… It has its moments. Well, Bautista’s performance in “Stuber” wasn’t his finest, but I liked the movie nevertheless. Here in “My Spy,” he looks the part from a physical standpoint, but the way the script translates onto the screen is weird at particular points where Bautista happens to speak.

Continuing on with what I just said, Dave Bautista DOES NOT give a career-damaging performance. At this point, I’m still excited to see him if there is a “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which is seemingly in development at this point, so I can’t wait to see where that goes. However, when it comes to how his character is written. It’s very hit or miss. And the same can be said for some other moments of the screenplay as well.

While I did end up buying the mother/daughter relationship between Parisa Fitz-Henley and Chloe Coleman, there are a couple utterances of their lines and interactions where they didn’t feel like real people. Yes, one of the core objectives of a film is to stretch the truth and reality to a certain point, but there are one or two moments where it breaks the barrier and goes a little too far. I bought into the characters, but this is nevertheless how I felt as I witnessed said characters on screen. I also think the chemistry between Dave Bautista and Chloe Coleman is admirable, which does kind of end up being the heart of the film, so I gotta give credit to the casting department where it is due. Although, it is not like I haven’t seen this type of chemistry done better in the past. This film kind of reminded me of “The Game Plan” starring Dwayne Johnson. You know, that movie where he unexpectedly meets his own daughter. Although, that movie handles something better that this seems confused with, its identity.

While I often criticize Disney for its unwillingness in regards to pushing boundaries, their movie, “The Game Plan,” at least feels consistent. It always feels family-friendly, it always comes off as somewhat warm yet exciting, it projects a sense of clean fun throughout. Here, it feels kind of weird. Did they make this movie for young teenagers who wanna hear people drop a couple bombs? Did they make this for kids? Families? The movie starts off with a strategically laid out action scene that almost glorifies violence, but later on we get this family drama that turns out to be the heart of the movie. It feels like a PG-13 action movie in one moment, but for almost the full remainder of the runtime, it feels PG at best. I am willing to bet, that if this movie was PG, it MAYBE could have gotten away with as much violence as there is. Maybe if it was just toned down or edited with slight differences, it would have gotten the PG rating. If they took out a few naughty words, it would have gotten a PG rating. Do I want this movie to be PG? No. If you ask me, I am always for the dark route whenever possible. But I want this movie to have a tone that works, but it almost fails when it comes to having its own identity. It feels like a conglomeration of ideas that are randomly placed together to waste a little more than an hour and a half.

“My Spy” is a technically competent film. When it comes to aspects like editing, camerawork, and music, “My Spy” works. It’s not the greatest movie ever made. Far from it in fact, but it is confusingly laid out and doesn’t feel like it really knows what it is. The movie also tries to be a comedy, and there are moments where the comedy does land, but it also comes off as a little traditional, like I’ve seen it before. Bautista has a couple well-executed comedic moments as the movie goes on, but if you have seen a lot of movies, it is probably not going to stick the landing as perfectly as one would hope.

For those of you who don’t watch a lot of animated movies, one of the cliches from that realm of film is that there is a dance sequence of some sort. Now, “My Spy” is not animated, but this does honestly nearly, not COMPLETELY, but nearly come off, as a movie meant for kids. Much like the typical animated fare, “My Spy” has a dance sequence, but I will say the way they handled it here was not exactly annoying. It wasn’t completely exciting or exhilarating, but it felt like it had a noticeable purpose compared to some other movies (I’m looking at YOU, “Uncle Drew”). For a movie like this, seeing a dance sequence that actually worked and didn’t make me want to rip my hair off was sort of delightful.

In all seriousness though, “My Spy” is probably going to end up being one of the more forgettable movies of 2020. How do I know that? Because as I mentioned, I already saw the film in January and a lot of it already faded. It feels disposable, slightly typical, and doesn’t really offer anything spicy to the table. I think Chloe Coleman, who plays the young girl in this film, has a bright future ahead of her, but if she becomes successful, I don’t think “My Spy” will be the film I will end up remembering her for most.

In the end, “My Spy” is probably going to be watched once and then quickly left in the dust. The only thing I can say at this point is that if you are bored and you pay for Amazon Prime, watching this movie won’t exactly kill you. If it’s a family movie night, you can do better, but you can also do a lot worse. Now I saw this movie twice, and that’s because I wanted to refresh my memory on what happened in the film and how it presents itself. Was it worth the second watch for those reasons? Sure. But if we’re talking about entertainment value, there are superior options out there. I like the people in the movie, but the movie itself, not as great. I’m going to give “My Spy” a 5/10.

Thanks for reading this review! It is almost the end of June, so that means that we are getting closer to the day I release my review for Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report.” This is the conclusion to Scene Before’s Tom Cruise Month, which has been fun for me personally, as I do enjoy Tom Cruise as a professional. I have not seen “Minority Report” yet, but I assure you that I do have even just the slightest anticipation to talk about it. If you want to see more great content like this from Scene Before, please give the blog a follow! If you have proper account credentials, give this post a like! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “My Spy?” What did you think about it? Or, since it’s relevant… Did you ever see the 2007 movie “The Game Plan?” Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CHECK OUT MY TOM CRUISE MONTH REVIEWS SO FAR:

OBLIVION (2013)

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES (1983)

DAYS OF THUNDER (1990)

TOP GUN (1986)