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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love (1994): The Not So Fantastic IV

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome one and all to the final installment to “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review,” the exclusive Scene Before series where Jack Drees reviews all four “Revenge of the Nerds” movies, including the two that were made for television. So far, I have called “Revenge of the Nerds” “a somewhat positive anthem for a community I consider myself to be a part of.” I have followed that up with my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” which I considered to be “a genuinely forgettable, underwhelming, and disappointing time.” As for “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation,” I thought it was a “a barely watchable feature.” So far, even though I reference this franchise for the positive things it has done for me, it has had more misses than hits so far when it comes to making quality movies. Once in the theater, once on television. Apparently, “The Next Generation” is not the only foray into television for this franchise as the film we are going to be talking about, “Nerds in Love,” was also made for the small screen. Let’s dive into my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love!”

“Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” is directed by Steve Zacharias, who has also written this film in addition to the three previous “Revenge of the Nerds” installments. This film stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead, Risky Business), Julia Montgomery (One Life to Live, The Kindred), Corrine Bohrer (Free Spirit, Man of the People), Jessica Tuck (One Life to Live, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), and Robert Picardo (The Wonder Years, China Beach). This is the fourth installment in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise and this time the film is centered around the character of Dudley “Booger” Dawson (Curtis Armstrong). Booger is about to marry a girl by the name of Jeanie. Only thing is, when Booger is introduced to Jeanie’s family for the first time, he does not let off the finest first impression. As Booger and Jeanie intend to marry in a matter of days, the latter’s father does everything he can to end the marriage before it begins.

As much as I have wanted to talk about the “Revenge of the Nerds” films for a long time, one thing that must have slipped out of the back of my mind is how bad the sequels are. Now I’ve seen worse films compared to both “Revenge of the Nerds II” and “Revenge of the Nerds III,” but occasionally, watching them felt like work. Narratively, these sequels are flat and barely scratch any surfaces. The second film had some okay storytelling in parts, but the third one felt like we were revisiting the original film but the vibe that the original film presents is watered down. The first “Revenge of the Nerds” movie is the only one that is rated R and I wish we got more movies in the franchise like that despite some controversies that have risen from said movie today. But in 1994, I guess an executive at Fox was out of new ideas and wanted to revisit this franchise again on television, like last time.

I will say one thing about the two television films. When I saw “Revenge of the Nerds III” for the first time, I thought it was actually okay for what it was. Maybe I was in a certain mood at the time while watching it, I don’t know. But I cannot say the same for the fourth film. When I first watched “Revenge of the Nerds IV” in 2017, the tone was set from the beginning. It is probably as awkward as inviting Booger to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Now as you may have read in my review for “Revenge of the Nerds III,” I thought the film was worse the second time I watched it. With that being said, some of you may refer to insanity as repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Here’s the thing about “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” The results are different compared to “Revenge of the Nerds III.” They’re worse.

Like “Revenge of the Nerds III,” I cannot hold this movie to as high of a standard compared to the first two films as it was made for television. But also like “Revenge of the Nerds III,” this fourth entry lacks any of the charm and luster that the first film maintained throughout its runtime. What made the first film fun was that it was raw, raunchy, sexy, while also being an enjoyable anthem for the nerd community by the end. When you make these sequels for a format that relies on a smaller screen and more restrictions, that hurts a film like this. Because one of the first film’s fundamental elements, one so fundamental that I’ll remind you that fundamental has the word “fun” in it for a reason, the naughty nature within it all is downgraded within the guidelines of television. There are still raunchy moments to be had, but compared to some of the stuff that goes down in the first film, it feels kind of tame.

Given the lack of Anthony Edwards over the years in these films, most of the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies have been about Lewis so far. And while this film once again stars Robert Carradine as said character in a prominent role, it’s not necessarily about him. The real star of the show this time is Booger, which is an… Interesting choice.

Look, I *love* Curtis Armstrong. Objectively, I think it can be stated that I like him more as a performer than a lot of people in my generation. But even with him being the star of the show, who plays the role of Booger to the best of his ability, his character just feels weird as a star. Maybe it is because I’m a creature of habit and am used to seeing him a bit further in the background, but despite how this story revolves around Booger, it presents the reasons why watching a story with a character like this kind of feels… just plain awkward. The more I think about it, Booger could be good as maybe the star of a television series. Perhaps an animated one if we really wanted to go there, but as the star of “Revenge of the Nerds IV,” he feels kind of tacky and off-putting. And my thoughts on this movie were perhaps solidified from the start, because the first lines out of Booger’s mouth are just… Eugh. So, he’s over at his fiancée’s parents’ home and the first words out of Booger’s mouth, right in front his fiancée and her family, is…

“Buns. Give me buns! Buns, may I have them please?! Give me buns! Moo! Moo!”

Oh GOD.

I love Curtis Armstrong. I REALLY DO. I’ve met him in person a few times for a reason. But I think this may be hands down one of the most cringeworthy lines he has been given as an actor. Granted, the more I think about it, it kind of fits with his character. A perverted, nose-picking goofball who looks like he has not showered since the Ice Age. At the same time though, regardless of my journey of watching this franchise from start to finish, my reaction to Booger in this moment feels like that of the parents of the bride. In the other movies, Booger has always been kind of a creep, but a lovable creep. I kind of use a similar analogy for a lot for characters with low IQs. Look at Homer Simpson, look at Patrick Star, look at Brick from “Anchorman!” Yes, they’re idiots, but they’re lovable idiots that you can also find charming or hilarious. Booger, at least in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is just… Well, a creep. Sure, the movie eventually tries to get you to feel bad for him and root for him, but the film’s plot and characters leave a bit to be desired, especially compared to the original. Again, it’s just weird because Booger is not a nerd in the sense that say Lewis is. Lewis, even though I have pointed out his dark side here and there, is a glasses-wearing, pocket protector-donning, high IQ, well-dressed enthusiast of anything computers. He’s not exactly like everyone, but he has likable or relatable qualities that people can find fascinating.

There’s movies that are like roller coasters. So exciting that you never want the unpredictable ride to stop. But this film just introduces one thing after the other and it feels really heavy! I could use a lot of words to describe “Revenge of the Nerds IV,” complicated is surprisingly one of them. The film itself is not confusing, but it’s one of those scenarios where I just don’t care about what happens in the film as we get closer to the end. You ever watch a movie and already think it’s bad enough, then something weird or crazy happens in the end and you just don’t give a single crap? That’s what I felt while watching “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” Feels odd saying that, but it’s true.

One of my dislikes of “Revenge of the Nerds III” was that the supporting cast was not as attractive as those in the original film. The new cast members that join the table in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” are not as fun to watch as Lamar or Takashi, but they honestly evoke a more joyful presence than a lot of people who made their first appearance in “Revenge of the Nerds III.” I think Corrine Bohrer does an okay job as Booger’s fiancee, Jeanie. Her character or performance was never boring, but unfortunately she was just a small segment of an underwhelming script.

I mentioned this in my previous review, but I will say it again, one thing I’ve noticed about these movies, specifically in the sequels is that the main objective of the antagonist is to get in the protagonist’s way simply because of their nerd status. While this is also a thing in the original film, there felt like there was a reason for the jocks and nerds to be rivals aside from them having different personalities and views of the world. The jocks create a catalyst for the nerds to fight back and it all starts by them invading the freshman dorm because the Alpha Beta house burned down. When the nerds already have the upper hand and the antagonist takes them on JUST because they’re nerds, I think it’s just lazy writing. In fact, you could almost argue that this movie was created in the end just to be a gimmick, because at the time it came out, Fox showcased the film in 3D and with aroma-vision. Sure, maybe it’s an okay ratings ploy, but it’s a gimmick nevertheless. I will say though, the motivation of the antagonist in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is slightly better in terms of development compared to the antagonistic side in “Revenge of the Nerds III” as we see Booger himself let out a poor impression to Jeanie’s parents, but it’s still pretty lazy compared to the first movie.

This film is directed by Steve Zacharias, who has not had much directing experience prior to “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” Zacharias is not a bad writer as he did get credit for writing the original “Revenge of the Nerds,” but as a director… I mean, the movie is competently filmed. But that’s the best thing I can say about it in regards to how it looks. If anything, Zacharias is basically Simon Kinberg before Simon Kinberg. He’s been involved in creating a number of the Fox “X-Men” films, but he waited until one of the more recent outings, “Dark Phoenix,” to take the director’s chair. Just because you’ve been involved on the creative side of a property for a long time does not mean you may end up having the knack to handle all production duties. Some people are writers, some people are directors. Some can be both. Zacharias is more of a writer. Granted I will also state that the screenplay for “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is a waste of time and space, but nevertheless.

In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is yet another bad sequel in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise. So far, in terms of positivity, the franchise is one for four. It’s really sad to say because that first film has meant something to me over the years. The sequels honestly failed to recapture the spirit and fun that the first movie successfully delivered. I love the original film perhaps a lot more compared to much of my generation, but I cannot recommend “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” I’m not saying Curtis Armstrong isn’t capable of being in a lead role, but his character started out as a supporting cast member, and knowing what I know about him, he’s better off that way. The characters overall honestly underwhelmed me. The subplot with Lewis and Betty was okay, but by the end of the film, it sort of added to the convoluted nature of everything at hand. If I had to pick a “least favorite” “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, this may have to be the one. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” a 4/10.

“Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” is available on DVD and VHS. The film is also available to rent or buy on various VOD services and as of writing this, you can also watch it on Cinemax.

Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks to all who tuned into the “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review” series! I had a fun time going back and watching all four of these films, gathering my thoughts, and sharing my verdicts with you all! I have wanted to do a series on these films for years, and now I can say I am glad to finally get one going! This is one of the few review projects being done in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, on top of other series including “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews,” “7 Days of Star Wars,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”

I just want to remind everyone that I have a couple more series to go for the fifth anniversary reviews and I want to make it known that this fall, I will be revealing my thoughts on “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II” in a series by the name of “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife!” This is part Halloween special, part buildup to the next “Ghostbusters” movie, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” I will have my review up for “Ghostbusters” on October 31st and my review up for “Ghostbusters II” on November 7th! Stay tuned, get excited! We’ll come, we’ll see, we’ll kick some ghost ass! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your ranking of the “Revenge of the Nerds” films? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation (1992): The Nerd Revolution Will Be Televised

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome back to Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review, the exclusive Scene Before review series of all the movies in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise! So far we have talked about the first movie, which was good, and the second movie, which was the opposite of good. Today we are going to talk about the third installment to the franchise, which compared to the first two entries, does not get as much attention. After all, this third film is the first of the bunch to be released straight to television. Does this small screen comedy pack in enough charm to match the original? Let’s find out!

“Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” is directed by Roland Mesa and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead, Risky Business), Ted McGinley (Married with Children, The Love Boat), Julia Montgomery (One Life to Live, The Kindred), Gregg Binkley, Richard Israel, and Morton Downey Jr. (The Morton Downey Jr. Show, Predator 2) in the third installment to the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise. Years after the Tri-Lambs brought nerd justice to Adams College, a new generation of nerds and jocks rival each other to reign supreme. This time around, one nerd in particular is Harold Skolnick, the nephew of Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine), who has been deemed the “George Washington of nerds.” Meanwhile, the Alpha Betas have a new plan to achieve superiority. Also, former Alpha Beta Stan Gable (Ted McGinley) has been placed as Dean of Students.

I said it before, I’ll say it again. “Revenge of the Nerds,” regardless of its quality, is a film franchise that I always wanted to talk about because of how much it has meant to me from a cultural perspective. This meant that I got to talk about the first installment, which has become one of my most rewatched comedies in recent years. In addition, this also meant I had to talk about “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” which deservedly stands at a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes as of writing this. The interesting thing about that film is despite the negative press it got, it actually did well at the box office, making thrice its budget. Was another sequel bound to come? Well, not right away.

Turns out this third movie went straight to television. Now, if I were an executive behind 20th Century Fox, I could see why this would be put on television. It’s been a few years since the last film, despite box office success the last film was not too great, and as we saw in the final product, some of the original cast did not return. But there seems to be a common consensus on a film that goes straight to television compared to one that releases theatrically. A film that has a television release has less value right out of the gate compared to one that has a cinema release. After all, television does not usually have as big of a screen, therefore the filmmakers do not have to go as big.

…And that’s what “Revenge of the Nerds III” feels like as a result. Watered down, uninteresting, and almost as if there was no plot.

The basic concept is similar to the first movie, where kids go to college, they hope to have a fine year ahead of them, and maybe win some girls along the way. Of course, there’s the jock and nerd rivalry. But I feel like the first film did a much better job at establishing that rivalry. The Alpha Betas invade the freshman dorm and take it for themselves. This affects our main characters and how the rest of the film plays out. In this third film, even though it does have its share of causes and effects, it starts off with the jocks discriminating nerds just *because* of their status. I like the first film better because in that film, when the jocks take over the freshman dorm, they at least had a reason to. Their house burned down and they needed a place to stay. As much as I do not stand by the jocks in the first film, you could at least feel bad for them in one moment of the runtime. The rivalry in this film is basically “Here’s jocks, here’s nerds, happy?”

No! I want dimension! This is a completely one-dimensional rivalry that really only exists because it technically plays off of what other movies built.

I’ll be honest, as much as I did not absolutely hate the new jocks and nerds in this film, they did not have the same personality or memorability as the jocks and nerds in the first film. I do like the jock dad, played by Morton Downey Jr., he’s got this weird swagger to him that feels like I’m watching a showoff bowler or golfer or something. The sunglasses really capture his persona well.

The main duo in the film are fairly likable, but they’re almost copypastes of Lewis and Gilbert from the first film. There does not feel like there’s much that is new about these two other than their names and slight personality differences. And honestly, the supporting nerds, while they are different from the ones in the first films, I think the stereotypes in this film if you want to put it that way, are not as well executed. This is most notable, personally, from John Pinette as Trevor Gulf, who in case you REALLY cannot tell, is British. I don’t mind the nerd being British, but I feel like this movie does way too much to embellish that this nerd is British. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being an ass, these supporting nerds for the most part do not have the staying power in my mind that nerds like Lamar and Wormser did. I do like the South Korean nerd, Steve Toyota. He’s got this suave outlook to him that actor Henry Cho did an excellent job at encapsulating.

Now some of the original nerds make a return in this movie too including Booger (Curtis Armstrong) and Lewis (Robert Carradine). In this film, Booger has apparently become a lawyer. Which… Okay. That’s an interesting outcome for such a character. Out of all the characters that could have become a lawyer, Booger did not seem like the one who would do that. Then again, out of everyone of the first film’s Tri-Lambs, I do see Booger as the least tech savvy of the bunch, so I could see this more than him being a computer programmer or someone of that sort, but still. I do think Armstrong gives the best performance in this film, because his character is written in such a way that harkens back to how his character behaved in the first two films. He was fun, but also a bit of a creep at the same time, and Armstrong continues to embrace these qualities of the character.

Speaking of returning nerds, Robert Carradine is back as Lewis, or as he’s known this time, Lew. He dons a ponytail, he’s got a different swagger to him, he’s married to Betty Childs, and there’s something’s missing about him. He’s ashamed of who he once was. For some reason, Lewis is ashamed of being a Tri-Lamb and a nerd. He even mentions that he wanted to once be an Alpha Beta. I like Lewis from the first movie despite that one controversial scene with him. He was at least a likable character. The same can be said for the second movie even though he cheated on his girlfriend. Watching Lewis in this film kind of reminded me of how some people reacted to seeing Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s almost like Lewis does not care about his origins. These are origins that made him who he is. He proved that losers are the true winners, and somehow he wants to forget about it. I know that the desire to cool can trump the desire to drool. However, this plot point, based on what we’ve seen from Lewis in the past couple films, feels tacked on and forced. It doesn’t feel like it matches him. Out of everyone in the Tri-Lambs, I would have expected something like this from Booger! Heck, I even think Wormser would want this more than Lewis!

Also, Stan Gable is back. This time around he is the Dean of Students at Adams College. I kind of like the dynamic between him and Lewis in this film. As much as I was not a fan of how they handled Lewis in this film in terms of him becoming a cool dude, I do like how Lewis looks at his years at Adams College with Stan and laughs. He just thinks of their nerd and jock rivalry as random college shenanigans at this point. Although at the same time, Gable is trying to win back Betty, who Lewis stole from him in those college years.

If there’s anything else I do like, it’s that Adams College has become a haven for nerdkind since the Tri-Lambs did what they did all those years ago. They had a gym, but since then it has become a computer science center for example. Lewis is the chair of the computer science department, while Betty is now an art professor on campus. A lot has changed in just a number of years. In that sort of way, I do like how the campus has evolved. It’s a good way to show that nerds have taken over in a way. Other than that, I think the only other positive I can come up with is that the courtroom segment has one or two fun moments in it. Not much else to suggest from here.

In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” is a hard film to judge, because on its surface, it truly is a barely watchable feature, but it was made for television, therefore it is not held to as high of a standard. So as far as a made for television “Revenge of the Nerds” film goes, this could be worse. There are some things I liked about it. But I think if they released this theatrically, this would not have done as well unless it was heavily marketed. A lot of the jokes are forgettable, it’s not as raunchy as the first film, the dialogue is not that great, and lot of the characters feel flat, nerds and jocks alike. I love the first “Revenge of the Nerds,” I just wish this third film had the same charm. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” a 4/10.

“Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” is available on VHS and DVD. You can also rent or buy it on various VOD services.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week we are going to tackle the fourth and most recent installment to the franchise, “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love.” As of writing this review, I remember this film honestly being the worst of the bunch. Will it stay that way? Find out on Monday, August 30th in the final installment of “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” Also be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Don’t Breathe 2,” the recent horror sequel starring Stephan Lang. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation?” What did you think about it? Or, if you went to college, tell me about your time there! Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Free Guy (2021): Grand Theft Awesome

“Free Guy” is directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel) and stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, The White Princess), Lil Rel Howrey (Uncle Drew, The Carmichael Show), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project, The Muppets), Joe Keery (Stranger Things, Chicago Fire), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit). This film is primarily set in Free City, a massive sandbox video game where players can control characters through a massive city and go on missions. Guy, an NPC (non-playable character), discovers the secrets of the game and breaks the rules of his own character. While he is typically a bank teller who often finds himself in the middle of a robbery, he gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again and decides to level up his life while also trying to win the girl of his dreams.

I love Ryan Reynolds. The word “movie star” does not have as big of an impact as it may have years ago with faces including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Will Smith dominating the big screen with their blockbuster titles. There are a few big “movie stars” that have risen to astronomical heights over the years including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and others who have maintained their fame for years including Tom Cruise. When it comes to the conversation of which actor is currently the biggest star in the world, Ryan Reynolds has to be in the conversation every single time. He is one of Canada’s finest exports and adds a flair to every movie he’s in. This even includes ones I don’t like such as “The Croods” or “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

The concept of “Free Guy” by itself, where a video game NPC increasingly gains a sense of consciousness and humanity, is already one that could be considered a recipe for greatness. But if you put Ryan Reynolds into the picture, you’ve taken a great movie and bumped up its power by five times. This is a film that had a bumpy road in terms of its marketing. In fact I think the best trailer we got of the film was in 2019 when it made fun of Disney for putting out its animated titles in live-action form. I thought it was genius because it sounded like humor that would associate with Ryan Reynolds, especially considering how he has dominated the meta humor concept with a film like “Deadpool” and its sequel. The trailers after weren’t bad, but they did not live up to the original for me. Although there was a great piece of marketing that had Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool sitting next to Korg (Taika Waititi) doing what could only be a parody of a YouTube trailer reaction video. I was excited for this film despite the mixed road to get to the official release. And I say that even without acknowledging the ongoing pandemic, not that it should be forgotten.

What did I think of “Free Guy?”

Simply put, I had a lot of fun with “Free Guy.” When it comes to movies set in a video game universe, I think “Ready Player One,” which “Free Guy” reminded me of at times and is coincidentally also written by Zak Penn, is a slightly better film. But “Free Guy” takes a cool concept and gives it a smooth execution in the end. And I should not be surprised that this film is as good as it is. Because director Shawn Levy, whose recent projects include Paramount’s “Arrival” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” is a master at creating a film for everyone. One of my favorite films from my childhood is “Night at the Museum.” It is a film that does not exactly feel like it is being targeted at kids, but when it comes to both titles, many children could watch the film, understand much of what is going on, and appreciate everything in front of them. At the same time, adults could watch this film and have a great time with it. The first two films in that particular franchise have been a cornerstone of movie nights in my family. To see Levy do a movie like this does not surprise me, and if anything else, it pleases me.

For starters, it is an original idea, which in terms of blockbusters, feel very few and far between. In fact, this is technically the first Disney original live action film in years (technically because 20th Century Fox made it). I just love seeing creative, never before seen ideas come to life and “Free Guy” is a fine example of that.

Also, if the last couple decades have proven anything, people love video games, including me. Much of my childhood has been spent pushing the buttons on my Nintendo devices, so the idea of this film has a special place in my heart. I find it fascinating that this movie chooses to focus on someone who could be anyone and have them evolve. We look nowadays at video game NPCs as tools to let the player do their thing. But to have what is technically a tool sprout into something more is flat out fascinating. Yeah, it kind of feels like that cliche idea that “anyone’s special,” which as Dash from “The Incredibles,” would suggest, “which is another way of saying no one is.” It’s a cliche idea, but it is brought to life through something incredibly creative in addition to Ryan Reynolds’s terrific encapsulation of Guy.

One thing I’ve always noticed while I play a video game is that when you go by NPCs, they’ll often spew the same things out of their mouth over and over. A big part of that is because they’re portrayed by a certain actor, and actors will record a limited number of lines for a certain character, therefore they can only do so much. Therefore, NPCs are usually one-dimensional, do not have much personality, and are often in the background. In the case of Guy, I think Ryan Reynolds did a good job at making the character not feel flat or putting him in a sphere that makes his personality limited. In fact, Reynolds brings a sense of hyperactivity to his character despite him having a life that most would consider boring. Guy is a banker who drinks the same cup of coffee every day and says good morning to his goldfish by his bedside. This is an everyday routine for him, but he seems to accept it because he’s programmed that way.

Now I like Taika Waititi, but I think “Free Guy” has only increased the chances of me wanting to get together with the dude for lunch. You know how a lot of films directed towards young audiences will have an over the top villain? Taika Waititi’s character of Antwan almost seems to find himself within the confines of that description. Not that this movie is specifically for children, but nevertheless. In a lot of cases, this could be a turnoff because then the film could become a live-action cartoon, but not in “Free Guy!” If anything, Waititi’s performance is an utter enhancement in this film. The mixture of his lines and hyped up antics arguably makes him the best character of the movie. It kind of reminds me of another film Shawn Levy directed, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” because that film’s villain was Kahmunrah, and he was perhaps written and presented in such a way that could arguably make him cartoony, but it was presented in such a way where Levy and actor Hank Azaria seemed to embrace the silly that the script listed. As far as “Free Guy” is concerned, Taika Waititi plays a guy who might as well be jacked up on Red Bull all the time and does not seem to care much about others. As far as I’m concerned, I love the execution of this character, and I almost wonder if part of why it worked so well was because of the casting. I cannot imagine anyone other than Waititi playing Antwan at this point.

Without spoilers, the climax of “Free Guy” is a thing of beauty. The film just goes straight into becoming “Garry’s Mod” of all things. There’s some stuff in this climax that I had almost zero warning about going into it, and I think if you want to have the same reaction, do everything you can to avoid any online discussion about the end of the film. It is in a word, “epic.”

If I had any problems with “Free Guy” it would be that the film does get into some impractical nonsense by the end that comes off more or less as a plot convenience more than anything else. It is not a humungous turnoff as the rest of the film is nicely structured but there’s one moment towards the end that feels jumbled in terms of execution, and it’s a pretty important one. Maybe in the script, it sounds more coherent, but in the final product, it sounds kind of… pun intended, pixelated. It’s kind of sad considering the impact the moment was trying to deliver, but for some reason, they could not stick the landing.

This one moment does not take much away from the literal joy I achieved from watching “Free Guy.” “Free Guy” is a crazy, fun adventure. I love the setting, I love the idea, I love how it seems to have fun with our modern video game culture and how much of a cash cow it has become in addition to being heavy entertainment. I left this movie wanting more. I want to see more of Guy, Molotov Girl, Buddy, all the characters in this film were utter delights. I legit think that this is a movie that anyone could watch and enjoy. I sometimes go to see movies with my mom, and most of the movies I see with her are ones that usually are not action heavy or horror heavy. Despite the action heaviness of “Free Guy,” I legit think that this is a movie that my mother could put on and have a ball with despite some things being there that she may not usually tend to see on screen. If you like action, you’ll definitely like this movie, but the crew behind “Free Guy,” whether they intended to or not, did a really good job at creating something that a lot of people could find themselves attached to, even if it wasn’t specifically made for them. In that sort of way, I highly recommend “Free Guy” to anyone reading this and their friends.

In the end, “Free Guy” may solidify Ryan Reynolds as one of the finest Canadians to ever live and the film itself is easily one of my favorites of the year. Disney did not release this film on streaming. Granted, I do not know if they could have contractually, 20th Century Fox movies still go straight to HBO months after release. But from everything I’ve read, Disney practically had all the faith in the world given towards this movie. Based on what has been created, “Free Guy” has massive franchise potential. Heck, I could see this thing becoming a Disney ride at some point. The film is immersive, fun, bonkers, and just a straight up good time. “Free Guy” by the way is set in two different places. The real world and the game of “Free City.” to my surprise, the stuff that happens in the real world has the same level of intrigue as everything that happens in the world of “Free City.” To have the escape be as interesting as the world from which people are trying to escape is definitely pleasing. I’m going to give “Free Guy” an 8/10.

Also, if you need another reason to see this movie, you’ll get to see Alex Trebek one last time. Seeing him on screen brought a smile to my face and I am sure it will for many other viewers as well.

“Free Guy” is now playing exclusively in theaters and IMAX. Get your tickets now!

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that on Monday, August 23rd, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation.” The film is not as often talked about as the original, partially because it was made for television. But I am here to talk about it as we dive deeper into my ongoing review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review” as we celebrate Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. And speaking of reviews, be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Don’t Breathe 2.” I just saw the film last night and I intend to talk about it soon. If you want to read all this and more on Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Free Guy?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put yourself in the universe of any video game, which one would it be? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise (1987): Geek, Out

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second part of the ongoing Scene Before review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” In honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, we are looking back at a few notable movies that I have not had a chance to talk about, and the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise has been one of those properties that I would try to find an excuse to talk about because in a way it’s been a part of my life. With that being said, it is time to talk about the franchise’s second installment and most recent theatrical release, “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise!” Will this movie deliver paradise? Let’s find out!

“Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” is directed by Joe Roth (Streets of Gold) and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One) and Anthony Edwards (Top Gun, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) in the sequel to the 1984 sex comedy “Revenge of the Nerds” and follows the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity, who as seen in the first movie, gave a voice to outsiders against cool kids and jocks. In this film, they fly down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a national fraternity convention. All seems well until they are kicked out of their hotel, reunite with the Alpha Betas, and have to prove that they have a place in the convention.

The first “Revenge of the Nerds” is special to me, because as a nerd myself, as someone who has often found himself as an outsider in a number of situations, I related to the characters and I feel as if it is one of those films that made people like me cool. Sure, there’s that one scene with Robert Carradine and Julia Montgomery having sex that is a little controversial, but at the same time, there are a lot of positives when it comes to the film, and it inspired one of my favorite shows, “King of the Nerds,” a reality competition that lasted for three seasons on TBS. Simply put, if that first film did not exist, my life would be a lot different today in terms of my social circles and who I hang out with, so regardless of the first film’s quality, I owe a lot to that film for giving me the life I have today.

I really enjoyed this first film, which seemed to have a formula that was pleasing for what it was. So naturally a sequel had to be good, right?

Well…

Let’s start with the good. The film does genuinely have its moments. There are a couple funny lines here and there, especially from Booger. After all, as I mentioned in my previous review, Booger was one of the highlights of the first film because despite residing with the Tri-Lambs, he definitely had an aura of coolness to him. In this film, he’s perverted, crazy, and hyper. Not every line from him lands, but Curtis Armstrong gives one of the better performances in the film and he goes all the way with his character. Although at the same time, I was not a massive fan of the film’s subplot where apparently Booger spends some time with an older, more wrinkly version of himself named Snotty.

As for other positives, the song that plays as the nerds head to their hotel, 38 Special’s “Back to Paradise,” is a fitting song for the film in addition to being a genuinely catchy tune. I still have glimmers of the song in my head after watching this film. In fact, prior to my most recent viewing which I did specifically to have enough to talk about in this review, I would occasionally have this song pop into my head despite not watching the film since 2017. The film’s cast of characters is genuinely likable all around. Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end.

This film is a genuinely forgettable, underwhelming, and disappointing time that comes off more as a chance to capitalize on the “Revenge of the Nerds” name as opposed actually providing a quality product. The first “Revenge of the Nerds” film is a raunchy, naughty, R-rated sex comedy with adult aspects such as nudity, intercourse (even though it is implied), and a fair share of foul language. PG-13 was barely a concept in 1984. In fact it was first introduced the same month “Revenge of the Nerds” came out. But I feel like within the multi-year stretch that it took to get “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” there must have been a serious intention from someone to focus on getting as many extra dollars as possible by having a rating that would make teens more likely to come in. With a PG-13 rating, whether it may have been intentional or not, this means there is significantly less of the “fun” material that made the 1984 sex comedy what it is. The film is not Shakespeare, but it knows what it is. It’s over the top, it’s crazy, and inappropriate for children.

As of writing this, “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” has a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. And rightfully so. This film provides nowhere near the level of satisfaction that the first one can provide. I feel like some of the film’s plot points were forced just to move things along. There’s a whole thing where the manager of a hotel did not want the nerds staying there simply because they were nerds. I know that was a reason why the jocks had a rivalry in the first film, but the way they go about this just felt tacked on and unrealistic. In fact, speaking of unrealistic, there is a scene in this film where the nerds run into Ogre, a jock who also made an appearance in the first movie. Now I get that they are on opposite sides, but the way the nerds react in this exact moment felt like something out of a Disney channel original Halloween movie. I guess the scene could be worse, but it felt weird nevertheless.

I will also add that Anthony Edwards’s character of Gilbert, who was one of the two main guys in the first film, barely made an appearance in this sequel. Now, he is in it. But he cannot go to Fort Lauderdale because he’s got broken bones. It’s a weird change of pace seeing one of the characters who was arguably a large part of the original film’s heart and soul alongside Robert Carradine’s Lewis have a role as small as the one he has. In fact part of why we barely see Gilbert at all is because Anthony Edwards was not a fan of the script, and then they ended up writing a shorter role for him. It ended up resembling something he could film very quickly.

And he’s not alone, because Julia Montgomery, who played Betty Childs in the first film is also not in this one. The only time we see her is through a picture taken of her during the first few minutes when Lewis is packing for his trip. Much like Edwards, Montgomery was not a fan of the script either, therefore her character was written out entirely. The script had Childs, who by the end of the original film, was in love with Lewis, cheating on him with another guy. I actually would have been curious to see where this plot goes. Whether such a motivation actually falls in line with her character is a mystery, but given how Lewis is spending much of this movie trying to impress a woman in Florida, it would have been fascinating to see Lewis and Betty, two lovers, cheat on each other, how they would go about their separate situations, and if these situations were ever revealed to one another. Noting this, as much as I like Robert Carradine as an actor, and even though I can relate to Lewis in ways, these past two movies have select moments that kind of make him look like an asshole. In the first film, to get with Betty, he rapes her, technically speaking. As for this sequel, he decides to cheat on her, even though it is never embellished too much, while on his trip.

The way that “Revenge of the Nerds” seems to have progressed in just a couple of movies kind of feels like the “Fast & Furious” or “Kingsman” franchise. Why? Because earlier in these franchises, as I watched them, I enjoyed those movies for being a bit crazy, even when it causes me to suspend my disbelief. But as we get into this sequel, which by the end, dials its bonkers nature up to an 11, my suspension of disbelief could only go so high and this affected how much I could enjoy this film by the end of it. If you guys remember my review for “F9: The Fast Saga,” one of the big reasons why I gave that film such a low score is because of how over the top it gets, and I do not mean that in a good way. “Revenge of the Nerds II” kind of falls in the same boat. While the first film has its moments where things happen there that are less likely to happen in reality, this sequel goes bigger and ultimately becomes a tad dumber. And it’s really weird to say that because again, this is a PG-13 movie, which technically speaking, neuters the “Revenge of the Nerds” name.

The other negative I will bring to the table is this. I feel like this movie expects the viewer to watch the first movie and get attached to the characters from said movie, and therefore use that attachment to have them enjoy the second movie. Having watched “Revenge of the Nerds II,” I feel like we do not get to see the nerds be themselves. Sure, the point of these movies is kind of to suggest that nerds can do things that do not always involve staying in front of a computer. Sometimes they can party, sometimes they can be brave. But going back to what I said about certain plot points in this film feeling forced, one of my critiques of the film is that the nerds’ opposition with the manager at their hotel feels like it barely has a reason to exist. The opposition between these two feels surface level if anything, and I’ll also add, despite this movie being a “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, I feel like the “nerd” portion of a lot of these characters have disappeared for the most part. The movie places them in a nerdy box just because it can. I bought into the rivalry between the jocks and nerds in the first film, even when the jocks did things to flat out ruin the nerds’ time in college just based on their status partially because the jocks felt natural as characters and also because of John Goodman’s insanely iconic performance as Coach Harris as he gave some orders to the jocks.

If I had to give a positive note, I would say that this movie feels consistent with the first one in a way, because I said the first film felt like a parody on how society treats minorities. And when you consider ideas like the rivalry between the nerds and the hotel manager, there is a slight sense of consistency between movies. I just wish I were able to buy into whatever this movie’s selling me a little bit more.

In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” is an inferior sequel to the 1984 cult classic. If anything the film fails to understand what made the first movie so special. “Revenge of the Nerds II” sometimes feels rushed, like we’re just skimming through random plot points just to get somewhere else, and nothing more than an obvious cash grab. Yes, the film does feel a bit similar to the original, especially with the nerds trying to party, find girls, get laid, that sort of thing, but it does not have that same exact raunchiness that the original tried to deliver. And if anything, part of me cannot blame the actors. They were given a crappy script that some cast members refused in a way or another. Anthony Edwards was barely in the movie. Julia Montgomery was not in the movie at all. In fact, according to Curtis Armstrong, the man who plays Booger, 20th Century Fox did everything they could, almost in a way that imitates the rivalry between the jocks and nerds in the film, to hide the first “Revenge of the Nerds” when it came out. But it was a huge success. So what about this sequel, you might ask? How did it come about? Well, here’s a quote from Curtis Armstrong’s memoir, “Revenge of the Nerd.”

“Despite everything, by the time we finished filming that spring we’d felt like we’d accomplished something. But 20th Century Fox, now under a new regime far less accommodating to movies like Revenge of the Nerds, begged to disagree and did everything it could to bury the picture. Ultimately, it became a case of life imitating art, as the jocks at the studio tried to destroy the little underdog nerd movie and failed completely. It made money. Quite a lot of money. They instituted a studio-wide embargo against any sequels at 20th Century Fox, which was lifted under a different administration three years later. The first sequel to be green-lighted at that point was Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” –Curtis Armstrong, “Revenge of the Nerd,” pg. 183

As much as I am happy that the first movie was a huge success, the final result of “Revenge of the Nerds II” goes to show that not all sequels can work through name recognition alone. Then again, what do I know? The film ended up making over $30 million on a $10 million budget. I’m glad people are getting paid. People have to eat. I just wish we got a better movie. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” a 4/10.

“Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” is available wherever you buy movies digitally including Apple TV, Vudu, and Google Play. The film is also currently available to watch on Cinemax as of writing this. Physically, the film is available on DVD and VHS.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation.” The franchise’s first straight to television feature. I have watched the film a few years back, but I am curious to see how it holds up as of today. This upcoming review, along with my current review, is being done in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, in a little series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” I will also be reviewing “Free Guy” sometime this week, so stay tuned for that as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever been to Fort Lauderdale, Florida? Do you live there? Tell me about your time in the area! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Suicide Squad (2021): The Best DC Movie Ever

“The Suicide Squad” is written and directed by James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) and stars Idris Elba (Thor, Pacific Rim), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), John Cena (Blockers, Wipeout), Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, For All Mankind), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Over the Top), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder, Fences), Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher, Divergent), Peter Capaldi (Paddington, Doctor Who), Daniela Melchior (The Black Book, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and David Dastmalchian (MacGyver, Ant-Man). This film is a sequel, well kind of, to 2016’s “Suicide Squad” and is the latest film set in the Detective Comics Extended Universe. The film is about a bunch of vigilantes, some of whom we’ve seen before like Harley Quinn and Rick Flag, in addition to newbies like Peacemaker and King Shark who are put on a mission to destroy all traces of Project Starfish.

When I saw “Suicide Squad” five years ago at the theater, I enjoyed it. Safe to say, my opinion quickly changed as soon as the home video release period came up because I got the movie as a Christmas gift, I popped it in, specifically the extended edition, and found myself displeased with what was in front of me. Harley Quinn was great, but the way they handled certain plot points and some of the editing was not up to my standards. Looking back, it looked like an effective ad campaign for Hot Topic without even mentioning the brand’s name once. Therefore, I was a tad weary going into “The Suicide Squad,” because prior to “Wonder Woman 1984” which came out last December, “Suicide Squad” has long stood as my least favorite DCEU film. So it has an offputting stain of displeasure. But there were also a few attractive factors brought to table that made me feel the need to see this film as soon as possible.

First, the film is rated R. While we have gotten some comic book movies over the past few years with said rating, including “Birds of Prey” which is also set in the DCEU, this did intrigue me as the previous “Suicide Squad” was PG-13 and I was curious to know how this film could be taken in a darker direction. Plus, if the “Deadpool” movies have proven anything, it’s that there is some REAL fun to be had with R rated comic book films.

Second, James Gunn. In case it matters, this guy is responsible for my senior quote in high school. This is a true story by the way, for my senior quote, I did some searching and came across one in particular from James Gunn’s IMDb page that stood out to me.

“I have a very strong imagination and have since I was a little kid. That is where a lot of my world comes from. It’s like I’m off somewhere else. And I can have a problem in life because of that, because I’m always off in some other world thinking about something else. It’s constant.” -James Gunn

I chose this quote because of how much I relate to it. I too consider myself to be imaginative, and in addition to that, I cannot say how much this ties to Gunn himself, but I have ADHD, therefore I am constantly wandering off from my own reality to somewhere else in my head. Here’s the thing, I graduated high school in 2018. That same summer, Gunn was fired by Disney due to old, offensive tweets being resurfaced. Gotta say, on the topic of my choice of senior quote, AWK-WAAAARRD. Keep in mind, Gunn notes that he is not the same man he was when he was younger. He has matured, he has evolved. But for those of you who know the story, he eventually was hired by Warner Bros. and DC. Of all the projects that Gunn could have chosen for DC, he ended up doing what we now know as “The Suicide Squad.” I have heard a number of stories on this film’s production. But one of the things that I have heard, at least on James Gunn’s part, is that the studio basically gave Gunn complete freedom to make whatever the hell he wanted.

Also, I’m not gonna lie, I really liked the trailers for this film. John Cena looked like he was gonna be a riot. Margot Robbie, per usual has a fine balance of mystery and humor within her Harley Quinn persona, and right off the bat, this actually did feel like a James Gunn film with the songs they chose for each trailer. In the end, this was easily my most anticipated film of the summer. And I thought that BEFORE the film had a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score for a period of time. But the past has proven that hype can kill a film. It’s happened to me with “Midsommar,” and in the case of James Gunn, I’ll even add that this happened with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which was my #2 most anticipated film of 2017, but I do not remember it fondly. I had a freight train of thoughts going into this film. What are my thoughts leaving the film?

It’s the best DC film ever.

Not just DCEU, I mean DC period. Like… Better than “The Dark Knight.” Better than “Wonder Woman.” Better than “V For Vendetta.” THIS FILM SLAPS!

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is what happens when you let a director make their movie! James Gunn is outright unhinged with this film. He’s the sole writer and director, and he has pretty much made every decision possible regarding the product. Not once did I feel like I was watching something that was done by a studio head at Warner Brothers. I think it is hilarious how in just less than a month, we get “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” arguably the most corporate, commercialized film Warner Bros. has put out to date, and then we get this masterpiece from James Gunn. Unbelievable!

When 2016’s “Suicide Squad” came out, I said that it felt very much like another version of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” After all, you have all these criminals coming together for the same purpose, but despite them being bad, they join forces to save the world. Plus both films sort of relied on rock heavy soundtracks, which looking back, “Guardians” did A LOT better than “Suicide Squad.” “Suicide Squad” felt as if it was trying to copy the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” but the former attempted to in a way that was inferior to the latter. I am glad to note that we got the ACTUAL director of that “latter” to come in and make something great out of a franchise that provided one of the worst comic book films of the last five years. And much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” part of the success is achieved from taking lesser known, or less appreciated comic book characters and putting them into scenarios that can turn them into gold. In MCU speak, I bet a lot of people knew who The Incredible Hulk was before his movie came out. Same can be said for Thor. The same cannot be said for the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the DCEU, we’ve already had a movie with the Suicide Squad, but unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, it changes out a lot of the main characters in the first film like Deadshot and Killer Croc and replaces them with other characters in the second film. Yes, Harley Quinn is back. But I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that most people watching this movie amongst the general audience would care to know who Polka Dot Man is in the comics. I’ve heard of Polka Dot Man before, he made an appearance in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” But I cannot say I was all that familiar with his history as a character.

I never thought I’d say this. “The Suicide Squad” made me care about a superbeing who spews… POLKA DOTS! I mean, WHAT?! Who ever thought this could be possible? Again, this goes to show the master class of James Gunn. He got me to care about a talking tree in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” When you can get me to care about a costumed man who throws magical polka dots at people, he’s not just a good director, he’s a flat out genius. Seriously! You wanna know how much I cared about Polka Dot Man? I literally picked up his Funko Pop the day after my screening! I love this guy! They gave him the social awkwardness of a geek combined with the hyper mania fuel of a kid who just discovered Red Bull. I do not want to give much away about this movie, but by the end of “The Suicide Squad,” there is a visual that references a tactic Polka Dot Man often follows, and it may be one of the single funniest shots I have seen in a movie in years.

Speaking of characters, let’s talk about Harley Quinn. Right now I am personally having trouble deciding whether I prefer the Margot Robbie Harley Quinn or the Kaley Cuoco Harley Quinn in terms of their personality, but one thing I cannot deny is that Margot Robbie has aced her role in “The Suicide Squad,” providing her most insane portrayal of the character yet. I’ve always admired this iteration of Harley Quinn since 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” I always thought that she could take any scene she’s in and automatically become the star of the show. But the thing that I think makes Harley Quinn better in this movie compared to her last two outings is that Robbie channeled Harley’s inner madness to her full potential. There is a scene in the second act where she just spews tons of dialogue towards someone in particular, filling in all sorts of potential blanks. Quinn has gone from being a hilarious scene stealer to the psychotic lovable moron that she is now.

I also love King Shark. For a lot of people who turn on this movie, I think this portrayal of King Shark is going to be their first introduction to the character. I personally have been watching him through DC’s “Harley Quinn” show, so this is not my first rodeo with him. I like King Shark in “Harley Quinn,” but I LOOOOOVE him in “The Suicide Squad.” Basically, King Shark in this film is a funnier, raunchier version of Lennie from “Of Mice and Men,” a simple minded, CGI, walking, talking, briefs-wearing shark who will tear you to shreds if you so much as even get close to screwing around with him. At the same time though, James Gunn managed to write this character in such a way that effectively personifies him and makes him relatable. We see throughout the film that yes, he is a man-eating shark that can walk on land for some reason, but he has a rather subversively cute motivation that is nicely explored from start to finish. Also, Sylvester Stallone, you are a god. James Gunn picked you for a reason and you knocked this out of the park.

I also want to talk about John Cena as Peacemaker. I think out of all the characters in the movie, he was the one who I think Gunn did the best job at fleshing out in terms of complexity. Having seen Peacemaker’s costume in the marketing, I was a tad skeptical. Would Cena be too goofy? Would I take him seriously? Not gonna lie, as goofy as the costume looks, it really pops and I was able to take Cena seriously in the film. I sometimes talk about “Blockers” and how much I like that movie. Although one fair critique of that film is that John Cena, as funny and likable as he is, does not have the best range as an actor. I like him in the movie, but I think that is a fair critique. Here, I think James Gunn and John Cena are a perfect match for each other. I mean, look back at “Guardians of the Galaxy” and look at Dave Bautista. Sure, he gave a good performance in the film. It does not mean he’s the best actor. I feel like Bautista and Cena are the muscle of their movies. Their performances in their individual movies differ in ways, but that’s who their well-built characters are at their core. During the film, Cena delivered a lot of funny one liners, including some of the more memorable ones.

“It’s not a toilet seat, it’s a beacon of freedom!”

However, by the end of the film, without going into spoilers, there’s a moment where I could tell that John Cena has some legit acting skills. I felt the exact emotions his character was going through. What emotions exactly? I cannot say. But if you watch this film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

I will also note for all the parents who want to take their kiddies to the brand new superhero movie that some call “The Suicide Squad,” you may want to think twice, because your kids have probably seen flashy violence in movies like “Batman v. Superman,” painful moments in movies like “Avengers: Infinity War,” but I could only wonder what would prepare your kids for the ultra-gorey and visceral madness that “The Suicide Squad” has to offer. This film is not just violent, it goes over the top in more ways than one. Let me just put it this way. The first act had me laughing and slapping my knees at all the crazy violence going on. That’s the result of a great movie. But the REAL craziness doesn’t even stop there. There’s some real s*it that happens towards the end of the film that no PG-13 film could get away with. It’s basically “Mortal Kombat” in the DC universe!

In fact, one of my critiques for “Birds of Prey,” the DCEU’s first R-rated outing, is that the film, while serviceable, NOT GREAT, but serviceable, has an R-rating attached to it, but I feel like by the end of the film, it does not do much to satisfy its R-rating. “The Suicide Squad” is so mature that it might as well tear the audience to shreds when presented in 3D! So immersive!

Did I mention the soundtrack? Oh yeah, this movie has a good soundtrack! It’s probably just as good as John Murphy’s score! Seriously, by the end, there was a song that gave me goosebumps that I was not expecting from a movie like this! James Gunn chose some songs that not only fit the scenes they were in, but I even think I like this one better than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Granted, I still think the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” has a better soundtrack than “The Suicide Squad,” but my point stands. The music in this film may as well have been put together by a mastermind!

Supporting the notion that no movie is perfect, let’s talk about one thing that I could consider to be wrong in “The Suicide Squad,” and by wrong, I do not mean that in a huge way, it’s just a slight nitpick. I am not going to get into full details, as this would involve spoilers, but there is a shot in the movie that if you really know how shots and visual effects mix together, it would make *spoiler* feel a bit more predictable. That’s the one nitpick I can come up with aside from one more thing, and again, this is not something that is a turnoff, it’s just something that is noticeable and needs to be addressed.

In 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” which stars Will Smith as Deadshot, that character was a tall, rather hunky dude who wants to reunite with his kid. In 2021’s “The Suicide Squad,” which stars Idris Elba as Bloodsport, that character was a tall, rather hunky dude who wants to reunite with his kid. I know Will Smith was not in this movie for a reason, but still, it’s interesting how they barely changed certain traits about the main character. I mean if it ain’t broke don’t fi– Actually, I take that back, the 2016 “Suicide Squad” was pretty broke to begin with.

There’s not really anything else I can think of that turned me off in this film. Every joke landed. Every kill was satisfying. Every character was likable, and by the end of the film, I feel like everyone earned their destiny. James Gunn has a pure talent for making a film completely action packed and bonkers but also leaving enough room to have heart and soul in it. I started watching “The Suicide Squad” grinning ear to ear and laughing my ass off like a maniac, but by the end of it, I was simply in awe and I felt for all the characters. “Suicide Squad” from five years ago had me walking out saying I want to see more of Harley Quinn. “The Suicide Squad” had me walking out saying I want to see more of not just Harley Quinn, but King Shark, Ratcatcher, Peacemaker, EVEN POLKA DOT MAN… among other characters!

In the end, “The Suicide Squad,” I don’t want to sell it short. It’s the best freaking movie Warner Bros. has put out with a DC logo on it. Simply put, Marvel and Disney firing James Gunn is probably the best thing that ever happened to DC. And as a result, it may be one of the best things to happen in James Gunn’s career as “The Suicide Squad” has now become one of my favorite comic book movies of all time. Guys, I urge you to check this movie out. It is the literal definition of bonkers. It is something so violent, so funny, and yet so heartwarming. I almost wonder if we’ll get another DCEU movie like this again. I am looking forward to what’s coming up in the DCEU between “The Flash,” “Aquaman 2,” and “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods.” But they are following in the footsteps of something completely unique and mind-boggling that I almost wonder what it’s gonna take to top it. James Gunn, you have made a masterpiece, and I am glad to know that my senior quote that I mentioned earlier has been redeemed! I’m going to give “The Suicide Squad” a 10/10!

“The Suicide Squad” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including IMAX, and you can also watch it for free on top of your subscription on HBO Max until early September.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that at the moment I am currently trying to review all four “Revenge of the Nerds” movies in a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This Monday, August 16th, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” Stay tuned for that as we celebrate Scene Before’s fifth anniversary! Also, I want to remind you all that this weekend, “Free Guy” hits the big screen, but I will probably waiting until sometime next week, maybe even next weekend, perhaps later, to share my thoughts on it. Life’s been crazy and busy, it is what it is. But, I will see it, I will review it, I am looking forward to it. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Suicide Squad?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you prefer? 2016’s “Suicide Squad?” Or 2021’s “The Suicide Squad?” My answer is pretty obvious, but I’ll let you share your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Revenge of the Nerds (1984): This Tale of Losers is a Real Winner *SPOILERS*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time to talk about a movie that I have always wanted to touch upon, partially because I feel like when it comes to the people in my extended social circles, I feel like I am the only one who really has such an extended exposure to this film compared to everyone else. Well, maybe except people born before me. It is time to talk about the tale where the odd attempt to get even, the losers try to become winners. It is time to talk about the 1980s cult classic, “Revenge of the Nerds” in a brand new Scene Before review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!”

“Revenge of the Nerds” is directed by Jeff Kanew (Ordinary People, Natural Enemies) and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Anthony Edwards (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, It Takes Two), Ted McGinley (The Love Boat, Happy Days), and Bernie Casey (Never Say Never Again, Boxcar Bertha) in a film where Lewis (Carradine) and Gilbert (Edwards) head off to Adams College together in the hopes of pursuing an excellent education in addition to possibly meeting girls. Things do not go off to a great start as they, alongside other nerdy freshman are forced to live in the gym. When the jocks of the Alpha Beta fraternity keep getting on their tail in various ways, the nerds decide it is time to teach them a lesson.

I have wanted to talk about this film for a long time. Literally just saying that feels like a tremendous understatement. When it comes to comedy franchises, I am not going to call “Revenge of the Nerds” the masterpiece that every other franchise should try to be, but it is nevertheless one that I think shaped me more than others. As some of you know, I was a huge fan of the reality show “King of the Nerds” on TBS, which was partially inspired by this film. In fact, part of the reason why I went back to watch this film in the first place was because of my admiration for the reality show. I am not going to talk about the television show that much in this post, but I do want to talk about something that this film has in common with the television show. It takes the nerd demographic, in addition to one or two underrepresented groups, and makes an attempt at empowering them by the end. “King of the Nerds” did that gracefully when I watched it years ago. As for “Revenge of the Nerds,” I would say the same, but the more I watch it, the more I notice that someone could see it today and not find it as empowering.

Now, I am not going to call “Revenge of the Nerds” a film that should be taken seriously. It’s a maturely rated sex comedy for a reason. If anything, it’s really a combination of “Porky’s” and “Animal House,” at least in part, when you break down the concept. They were never making this movie for kids, and honestly, if I had kids, I’d wait until they reach somewhere in the double digit ages to show them this film. But even as an adult, there is a scene that I look at and think would not pass by the censors today in Hollywood. I’ll get to that later. But for now, let’s focus on characters.

We start off the film as we’re introduced to Lewis (right) and Gilbert (left). Two friends who become college roommates until they are suddenly kicked out of their dorm. Right off the bat I got a sense that these two were a likable pair. As we see them enter Adams College, they try to encourage each other to be the best they can and make it through a fun year of education and girls. I also really think they nailed the outfits for these two between the glasses, the pocket protectors, they fit the stereotype in the film’s title while also coming off as fun for the viewer.

One of the things I like about this film is the supporting cast of nerds, because they went out of their way to make everyone have their individualities and insert some slight diversity. They have their differences, but one thing they seem to have in common, perhaps like every guy on the face of the earth, they love sex. Well, almost everyone. Wormser’s not even in his teens. Going back to what I said about Lewis and Gilbert, I seriously think they nailed the look of all these characters.

Poindexter has some semi-decent looking outfits, he’s got big glasses, crazy hair. I love it. He’s also got this gag in the film where he’s constantly practicing the violin, which by the end of the film, it becomes a part of his arc in a satisfying way.

Moving onto Wormser, he is not even a teenager and yet here he is in college. Like a few of the other nerds, he’s got over the top glasses, and I love this kid from the moment he appears. Not only is he kind of cute, but looking back, he also reminds me of myself whenever I entered certain activities at a particular age. I had a particular resistance sometimes as I was not the same age as some other people.

Lamar (center) is hyperactive, he’s got crazy outfits, and he spends some of the movie in front of the television watching exercise videos that I would assume are directed at women. In fact, he is homosexual, which in a way, kind of makes me respect him a bit for going through this film’s plot with many of the other guys given what they try to do.

I mean, I said before when this movie was going for diversity, I think they nailed it on the nerds part. Between having someone who was young, someone who is black and gay, in addition to a guy who is of Japanese descent with Takashi, who is wonderfully played by Brian Toshi (right), they nailed having a diverse group of characters. But I also cannot forget Curtis Armstrong’s iconic portrayal of Booger.

I’m not just saying this because I am a fan of the actor, but Armstrong nails the role of Dudley “Booger” Dawson. I think if anything, he was perfectly cast. It’s really weird to say that because well, this is a guy whose defining trait is poor hygiene and nose picking, but I mean this as a compliment because Armstrong, even though in real life, he is honestly nowhere near as revolting, aces the portrayal of an outcast who has some coolness within him to the point where maybe he’s also kind of a jerk. I would say as far as all the supporting nerds go, I think his character is probably the most sex-obsessed of the bunch. In fact, there’s a point where the nerds are hosting a party and Booger has the most resistance to the guests being invited as they are not the “party type” in his eyes. As fun as Booger can be, he also kind of has particular tastes and poor manners.

I also love this shirt that he’s wearing in the picture above. It suits the character well and goddamnit is it cool. Of all the nerds in the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity. I have a strong feeling that if you were a regular guy, Booger is the one you’d want to hang out with the most, at least on the surface that’s how things seem. As for how that hangout will go, we’ll find out.

When I referenced the diversity factor amongst the group of nerds, one thing that I immediately thought about afterwards was the lack of diversity within the opposing jocks of the film. The jocks in “Revenge of the Nerds” are represented by the Alpha Beta fraternity, which has members who are on the school’s football team, and the Pi Delta Pi Sorority. One of the members of said sorority, Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery) is dating Stan Gable (Ted McGinley), quarterback of the Adams Atoms and president of the Greek Council. Here’s the thing about the Alpha Betas and Pi Delta Pis. Every member of both groups that I saw in this film happened to be caucasian. I do not recall seeing a single person who was black, Asian, or anyone else of a particular descent. While the Lambda Lambda Lamdba fraternity still has a few white people in it, the casting department did a good job at making this group have a sense of diversity by having a few people appear different from others. You have your white people, you have someone who’s black and gay, you have a young kid, you have someone who is Japanese. If anything, this movie is almost a parody on white privilege and how minorities and others are trying to make themselves relevant in a society that is dominated by the whites. It is in the same way how Adams College, at least from the perspective of this film, has a student body dominated by jocks. I do think this film, on its surface, is something that stands out as a whimsical sex comedy. But much like I said about 2018’s “Blockers” when I reviewed that film, it has layers and fantastic characters with likable individualities that I did not expect going in.

Oh yeah, did I mention the music? This movie has pretty kick-ass music. Much of the score is that 1980s blocky tune that sounds like something you would hear out of an 8 bit video game. It fits the movie well. But there are a couple original songs that define the film and make it a musical treat. The opening song, simply titled “Revenge of the Nerds” is a banger that truly feels like it belongs in its decade. It’s also a pretty good anthem for the nerd community once they get out of high school, because as this movie suggests in the beginning, Lewis and Gilbert did not have the best time in high school but they are looking at college as a point to redeem themselves.

As a nerd myself, I respect this film. Not only because it is funny, charming, and by the end, a somewhat positive anthem for a community I consider myself to be a part of. But it was kind of one of those early pieces of media that made nerds cool. People talk about “The Big Bang Theory,” which is a great show by the way, and how it makes nerds cool. “Revenge of the Nerds” walked so “The Big Bang Theory” could run.

But just because I appreciate this movie to no end, does not mean it is not problematic.

One of the problems of the film that did not really stand out to me during early viewings, but it is one that I thought about during my most recent viewing, is that the first of the Greek Games happen to be arguably flawed. Now I know this movie is set in the 1980s, but I would love to know what state this film was set in. I know it’s the midwest. But where specifically? What are the drinking laws? That’s my question. Minor complaint, but it kind of stands for now. I can live with this.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

However, the one big conflict of this movie for me is the scene during the charity fundraiser where we see Lewis go after Betty Childs at an attempt to have sex with her.

Just for context, the Alpha Betas set up a “kiss for charity booth.” After some time, Betty expresses to Stan that she’s getting horny from all the kissing and wants to do it. Stan does not follow Betty, allowing Lewis to get into Stan’s costume and find Betty waiting for him. The two do it on the moon, where Lewis remains masked. After intercourse, Lewis takes his mask off, shocking Betty. Now, after everything that happened in this movie, you’d probably expect Betty to slap Lewis and shove him aside. Nope! She accepts him because he is so great at sex! That’s a lesson for every generation! If you steal someone’s girl, the girl does not know the guy in front of her is not her own, and that guy is spectacular at f*cking, then hey! It’s okay! We can move on! In some cases, this would honestly be considered rape. While this certainly does fit the “revenge” theme of the film that has been implemented throughout the runtime, this may be too far. Now I do think Lewis and Betty have chemistry. But it does not change the fact that their love connection started with what could technically be defined as rape. There’s revenge, and then there’s being a maniac. Again, this is “Revenge of the Nerds,” which as mentioned before, I would put together in that same realm as “Porky’s” and “Animal House,” so I would not take the film as seriously as others. But this is still something to think about.

I love this movie. I really do. But every time I watch it now, part of me wonders if Lewis takes things too far. By the end of film, he and Betty are in love. Which, that’s great. I’m glad the two are in love, and they do have solid chemistry. Unfortunately though, it started with something that to this day would be unacceptable. One of the constants in this film is the excessive horniness of the guys. After all, they’re in college, there’s a bunch of girls, and I do not mind that side of them being explored. Lots of guys are this way, but the way they go about it with Lewis by the end of the film rubs me off the wrong way the more I think about it, even though the dialogue at the end of that moon scene is… Well, actually kind of well written. I’m not gonna lie.

Betty Childs: Are all nerds as good as you?

Lewis: Yes.

Betty Childs: How come?

Lewis: ‘Cause all jocks ever think about is sports, all we ever think about is sex.

Gotta admit, Robert Carradine gave a really convincing delivery on that line. I just wish it were in a less conflicting scene.

Despite this, I think “Revenge of the Nerds” stands as one of my favorite comedies. I’m not going to call it the pinnacle of all things funny. But a lot of the jokes hold up today, the film is well cast, and I almost forgot to mention John Goodman as Coach Harris, who is a BLOODY RIOT. He is ridiculously over the top, trying to empower his team, while also being on the opposing side of the nerds. The movie does a really good job at making this jock side look kind of hyperactively evil and Coach Harris is part of that. Have you ever seen a movie or show where the villain is in their quarters kind of frustrated with themselves or taking their anger out on other people due to a recent failure? There’s a great scene towards the end of the film where Harris is yelling at the jocks because of the nerds getting the upper-hand on them.

Oh yeah, and Ogre’s face is everything. “NEEEEEEERDS!”

In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds” is a great movie that probably would not be made today. Well I wouldn’t say that. Partially because Seth MacFarlane is supposedly working on a redo of the film at the moment, but also because I feel like the movie could be popular today with nerdy being cool. It will probably have a lot more pop culture influence in the script, maybe some gaming elements intact. But if they are going to try to make it as sex heavy as the original, I’d tell them to be careful because with the #MeToo movement having blossomed a few years back, if they made that original movie today, it would probably strike controversy. It would probably get some people thinking that nerds are not good people. Probably sex maniacs. But when the film ends with Lewis and Gilbert giving the speech about them being proud of their nerdy selves and the film’s rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” started playing, it delivered a message of positivity. It gave people who did not often have a voice to speak up. This is not only for the nerds, but for people who are black, people who are gay, anyone who has ever been left out. This speaks to me and I love this message of inclusion. In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds” is a fun movie with a rocky road in terms of what it is trying to suggest to the viewer. But I would say give it a watch, see what you think, and given how it is a comedy, I should warn you, it is hilarious. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds” a 7/10.

I said before that this is one of my favorite comedies. But is also an enigma. While the film itself comes as something that should not be taken too seriously. Part of me wonders what would happen if not younger viewers, let’s face it, seven year old kids should not be watching “Revenge of the Nerds,” but people of my generation and maybe a little younger put this on for the first time. While this movie is massively entertaining with some great layers and lovable characters, there’s that one big conflict in my head that sort of brings it down. I’ll still watch it again. In fact, in 2017 I got to meet most of the cast at Rhode Island Comic Con and they were all wonderful people. I literally have three autographs from Curtis Armstrong, the guy who plays Booger. This movie may be doing something right if I went to meet all those people. As Gilbert in the movie suggests, I’m a nerd, and I’m pretty proud of it.

“Revenge of the Nerds” is available on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. The film is not available anywhere to buy or rent digitally at the moment, but you can catch reruns of it on cable channels like IFC and AMC, and you can also watch it on AMC+.

Thanks for reading this review! Next Monday, August 16th, I will be reviewing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” the much less liked sequel and the last film in the franchise to receive a theatrical release. Stay tuned for my thoughts! Also, be sure to check out my review for “The Suicide Squad” coming this week! I cannot wait to talk about this movie. And I bet some of you cannot wait to hear my thoughts on it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, be sure to check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you saw that you love, but has that one thing about it that brings the score down for you? It could be something big, small, medium. As far as “Revenge of the Nerds” goes, the one thing that brought it down for me was pretty big. Just gonna say it. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jungle Cruise (2021): Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt Sail Through a Mediocre Run Through the Amazon

“Jungle Cruise” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, The Shallows) and stars Dwayne Johnson (The Fate of the Furious, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place), Jack Whitehall (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mother’s Day), Edgar Ramírez (Gold, Point Break), with Jesse Plemons (Game Night, Judas and the Black Messiah), and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave, Sideways). This film is based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name and is set during World War I. Throughout the film we see the mysterious ship captain Frank Wolff, who gives cheap tours through the Amazon River, join forces with Lily Houghton as they search for a tree that contains magical healing powers. While their intentions are to use it for good, Germany has other plans to utilize the power of the tree in order to win the war.

I saw “Jungle Cruise” on opening Thursday in the theater and safe to say, I had moderate expectations going in. I was not expecting Shakespeare, in fact most movies starring The Rock, regardless of his acting talent, are not usually taken as seriously as others. The trailers looked okay, they seemed to have promised a generic adventure that is somewhat family friendly despite being PG-13. In fact, the more I think about it, it kind of looked like a better version of “Dolittle,” as the plot of that film also involved finding a specific tree for healing purposes. There were plenty of people at my screening. It was not a sold out show, but it was good to see families returning to the theater. I went by myself, because I’m awesome, I’m important, and goddamnit, I’m the absolute best! But is “Jungle Cruise” worth the trip? In addition, is it worth $30 on Disney+?

“Jungle Cruise” certainly ain’t no “Indiana Jones.” Or “Pirates of the Caribbean” if you want to get into other theme park ride-based films. Well, the first one to be specific. If anything, “Jungle Cruise” is more in line with the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It’s a fun film to watch once and then forget about. I will admit, I had quite a few problems with this film as I sat down trying to take it all in. This is one of those rare times where I watch a film and think that Dwayne Johnson is not exactly likable. I mean, sure, I can probably find one or two other films where that is the case. “Tooth Fairy” is another one that comes to mind. But if I have learned one thing in recent years, it’s that regardless of his acting ability, Dwayne Johnson is one of the most charismatic movie stars out there today. He’s up there with Tom Hanks and Ryan Reynolds. Two actors who I think are more talented than The Rock, but there is no denying that they have delivered dumptrucks of likability over the years just from their personalities and how they present themselves on screen.

I’m not saying The Rock is a dick in this film or anything. I just find the way they wrote his character to be somewhat of a letdown. You know, one of the best things about movies like “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Memento,” and “Parasite,” without getting into detail, are the twists and turns these movies take along the way. “Jungle Cruise” is no stranger to this idea, but there was one subversion of my expectations that happened in the first twenty minutes of the film regarding The Rock’s character that made him go from a badass hunk of a man to… Somebody. I dunno. The point is, right off the bat, the character did not leave me with the best first impression. In fact, one of first scenes in the movie with this character, Frank Wolff, is him giving a tour through the Amazon River. The tour itself is notably cheap and lacks an oomph factor. That was the intention on the script’s part, therefore I am not calling this a critique. But the thing is, the whole scene is just The Rock trying to give a boring tour while delivering so many dad jokes. And that’s a thing throughout the movie. Dad jokes! Dad jokes everywhere! Who wrote this movie? 7 year olds? I have never ridden the ride this movie bases itself upon, but apparently, according to what I’ve heard about the Jungle Cruise ride itself, there’s a tour guide on the ride, and that tour guide will spew out dad jokes here and there. While I appreciate the nods to the source material, I’ll be blunt and say this doesn’t rock.

Goddamnit.

I will say that one of my regrets, despite seeing this in the theater, part of me wishes I saw it in 3D or some large premium format. I ended up seeing the film in regular 2D as that was the most convenient timeslot. But if you want a visual feast, this may be worth the trip. The same cannot be said for the story though, at least from my perspective. Because while it is unpredictable at times, it is surface level and the unpredictability is not precisely impressive.

Although I will say that one of my highlights of the film would be some of the supporting cast. Jesse Plemons has been great in everything I’ve seen him in so far, so naturally he is also great in “Jungle Cruise.” Here he plays Prince Joachim, an over the top German aristocrat who stands in the way of the heroes. Plemons does not even feel like himself in this movie. He feels like he’s playing someone from another world at times. Granted, it is a Disney film, where a little over the top sprinkles are encouraged. I will also note Jack Whitehall as Lily’s brother, MacGregor, who comes along for the cruise. Whitehall comes off as a likable coward who almost tries to be the voice of reason but does so almost poorly. I think he is easily one of the better parts of the film the more I think about it.

Disney has tried time and time again to recreate the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Whether “Jungle Cruise” gets a sequel or not is still somewhat questionable on the surface because of the pandemic. The movie did not do too great thus far theatrically or on Disney+. But when it comes to movies based on Disney’s theme park rides, this feels more focused on gimmicks and immersion compared to story. The story is okay, but it is most certainly not great. If you have a family and are looking for an excuse to leave the house, I’d say see this in the most immersive format you can afford. It may be fun for a couple of hours, but I cannot guarantee you will remember it much after.

In the end, “Jungle Cruise” is mediocrely paced, more focused on style over substance, and MY GOD the dad jokes never end! That’s a weird complaint coming from me, because if you know my family, specifically my father’s side, we get together a lot and we are no strangers to puns. In fact, for those of you who do not know, my last name is Drees, and on my father’s side of the family, we call puns and other related jokes “Drees humor” just because of how commonplace it has become when we are around each other. Either way, they did not work in “Jungle Cruise.” I think Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are a fair pair. Although I wish the script served the actors better, especially Johnson. The film does look nice, but looks are not everything. I want a good story too, but “Jungle Cruise” failed in that regard. I’m going to give “Jungle Cruise” a 5/10.

“Jungle Cruise” is now playing in theaters and it is also available through Disney+ with Premier Access for $29.99 on top of a subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for a film based on a Disney theme park ride, why not read five more?! Be sure to check out my reviews for all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” films including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” “On Stranger Tides,” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” I reviewed all of these films as part of recognizing Scene Before’s 5th anniversary in an exclusive series titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”

Continuing down the road of Scene Before’s 5th anniversary, this Monday I will be unveiling my thoughts on the 1984 sex comedy “Revenge of the Nerds” as a starting point of the upcoming review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” As I’ve said previously, my in-depth thoughts on this film, not to mention franchise, feels like it is long overdue.

Speaking of things we’ve all been waiting for, this weekend we are finally getting to watch “The Suicide Squad!” I have IMAX tickets for Saturday, I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you. James Gunn, I have faith in you, do not let me down. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jungle Cruise?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever go on the Jungle Cruise ride? What was that like? Leave your thoughts and opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021): The Most 2021 Movie Ever

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is directed by Malcom D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School) and stars LeBron James (The Wall, Smallfoot), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Crash), Khris Davis (The Blacklist, Judas and the Black Messiah), Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery, The Walking Dead), Jeff Bergman (The Looney Tunes Show, Teen Titans Go!), Eric Bauza (DuckTales, Ben 10: Omniverse), and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman). This film is the sequel to the 1996… Cult classic? I don’t know what else to call it. I really didn’t like the film. Just gonna say it. Either this film is the sequel to the 1996 film “Space Jam,” a movie where Michael Jordan joins forces with the Looney Tunes to fulfill both their destinies through a game of basketball. In this 2021 sequel, LeBron James’s son is trapped in the Warner 3000 server and to save his son, James must compete in a basketball game with the Looney Tunes against Al-G Rhythm and the Goon Squad. If LeBron and his team win, he gets his son back. If Al-G and his team win, LeBron will lose his son and the Looney Tunes will be erased.

I did not grow up in the 1990s. In fact I was born a few years after “Space Jam” came out. So it was never a part of my childhood in a way that it may have been for some people. I would hear the name come up every now and then and part of me wanted to know what I was missing. The whole idea behind it sounded like something from another universe. I for one do not usually put two and two together, but as peculiar as it sounded, it also came off as intriguing. I for one wanted to keep my eyes peeled as to how such a crazy idea that sounds like it could have been designed by an eight year old would rise to fruition. Well… it definitely sounded like something an eight year old would come up with, that’s for sure. Between Michael Jordan’s below par acting, the usually unfunny and campy writing, and occasionally lackluster camerawork, the film just didn’t click with me. And much like “Uncle Drew” in 2018, which I ended up claiming that it “didn’t do much of anything except chop my head off,” “Space Jam” is not even an original idea! They took the idea from an ad campaign!

As much as I would love to one day see the GEICO cinematic universe, where 90 minutes at the AMC won’t exactly save you 15% or more on concessions, “Space Jam” to me, was not quite a commercial failure, but it had a ton of flaws. Although I will say that it truly is a product of its time and embraces the 1990s cheese.

Now we have this part live-action, part animation, part heavy modern CGI animation “Space Jam” sequel. Is it better than the original?

Kinda? I don’t know. Let’s just put it this way, the original “Space Jam” was a product of its time and does not really hold up as much today as it did when it came out. I feel like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is going to suffer the same fate overtime. Between the pricy yet somewhat unrealistic visuals, the cinematic universe element, and a heavy reliance on computers and sci-fi, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is probably the most 2021 movie to ever 2021.

Going back to the recently mentioned “Uncle Drew,” one of the things I hated about that movie is how much they seemed to shoehorn Pepsi product placement into every other scene. The plot of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a bit more in your face with product placement because it relies on LeBron James teaming up with the Looney Tunes to find a bunch of a different characters from the Warner Brothers library. The whole movie is basically a promotion for Warner Brothers. This begs the question… Is “Space Jam: A New Legacy” even a movie in the first place? In fact, one of the big things people have been talking about at the end of the movie is that a majority of the audience in the big game happen to be Warner Bros. characters or characters from a variety of properties. People even brought up characters from “A Clockwork Orange” and asked why they’re in a family-friendly movie. I don’t really have that complaint because “The LEGO Batman Movie” had characters from “The Matrix” which is also rated R. So that’s just me. Either way, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it is trying harder to get people to attach themselves to other Warner Brothers properties more than they are to Looney Tunes or LeBron James. I understand that the Looney Tunes has had a history of pop culture references. Heck, one of the moments I recall often from the original “Space Jam” is a reference to “Pulp Fiction.” But this movie barely feels like it has a clear identity at times and uses alternate properties in your face to move the story along.

Let’s talk about LeBron James. I know he’s had a few acting credits. Frankly I have not seen any of them. I still have not seen “Trainwreck,” “Smallfoot,” or any other movie or show he’s been in. I’ve seen some of the TV shows he produces including “The Wall,” but I cannot recall ever seeing him act. And I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases more of a semblance of acting talent from LeBron James than the original “Space Jam” did from Michael Jordan. The difference at times feels night and day. The bad news is that the good news does not really say much because LeBron is not that great of an actor. In fact, at times he’s very flat, especially at the beginning of the movie. I’ll defend James in one area. I think he could have a reputable career in voiceovers if he chooses to go down that path. But he is nevertheless not the greatest actor. Nor is he the greatest character in this movie. In fact at times, LeBron James is kind of an asshole. Now, I know that movies are supposed to get you to like assholes as they progressively change into better people. But the way that LeBron treats his son in the movie kind of left a bad taste in my mouth as far as my first impression goes and sort of made James himself lack dimension.

Also, I know that this is a kids movie, and I’m trying my best to judge with the notion in mind that someone younger could end up watching this film and calling it the best thing ever. I think that scenario is entirely plausible. If you have kids, I think they will end up really liking the film. It’s got the Looney Tunes in it, it’s got a bunch of other Warner Brothers properties in it. But at the end of the day, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it could end up brainwashing kids to buy more Warner Brothers stuff just because they saw it in this movie. If anything, this reminded me of “The Emoji Movie” where the characters jump from one world to another and every other plot thread is utilized through existing properties or companies from Candy Crush Saga to YouTube! Thankfully, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is nowhere near as annoying. But if I left the movie saying to myself… Hmm, I wanna go watch “Wonder Woman.” I think it is ultimately a slight detractor on “Space Jam: A New Legacy” because well, unlike “Wonder Woman,” I do not want to go back and watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” again.

I also want to address the Lola Bunny controversy… I’m not talking about the way she looks. I don’t care if they desexualized her. Although weirdly enough, the Granny character feels borderline sexualized at times. Take that as you want. What I do want to talk about is Zendaya playing the character. I get it, Zendaya is becoming an increasingly iconic actor. In fact, she recently won a Primetime Emmy. So that proves that she has talent. As far as her being in this movie, her voice kinda fits the character, but I want to talk about a trend that is somewhat becoming a growing concern. Taking film actors who are not primarily voiceover artists, and giving them voiceover roles just for the sake of having big names. That would be fine if they could find anyone else, but between Zendaya not feeling like she has the spark I would have expected from a character like this (although I liked her in the beginning) and the fact that this takes a role away from a voiceover professional, it is kind of a turnoff. I’m not against big actors getting voiceover roles. I’ve seen a lot of big actors have voiceover talent and it pays off. But the more I see roles like this given to actors of Zendaya’s caliber with diminishing room for actual VO artists, the more it worries me.

I will also say that Don Cheadle is surprisingly okay in the film. He’s not great. I think part of it is due to the somewhat on the nose writing, but I think Cheadle did an okay job playing a cartoony villain that really is not a cartoon. I didn’t like the voice deepening they gave him, I think that at times was a bit of a turnoff, but he was decently cast and Cheadle brought some swagger to the role.

In the end, as far as Warner Brothers commercials go, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is inferior to any of the “LEGO” films and “Ready Player One.” At least in “Ready Player One,” they utilize all the Warner characters in a way that has them fascinatingly contributing to the story and they have some outside characters from other properties coming together to affect the way things go. In the end, that film felt like a pop culture celebration while also being a ridiculously fun movie, hence why it became one of my favorites of 2018. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” comes off as a bunch of studio executives trying to sound cool and connected with audiences but failing in the process. LeBron James as a character gets better in the movie despite leaving me with a poor taste at first. Although I found it somewhat funny how there’s a scene where he claims he does not have time to work with Warner Brothers because he’s hyper-focused on basketball, but at the same time, he’s had a history of production on the side. “The Wall” would not have had four seasons on NBC if were not for you! You literally were involved in the production and marketing of “Million Dollar Mile!” Heck, you had time to do this movie! Either way, I’m going to give “Space Jam: A New Legacy” a 4/10.

Will kids like this movie? Yes, they would. But as an adult, I can never watch this movie again, and part of me fears that this movie could have the same effect on children that maybe “The Emoji Movie” may or may not have been shooting for.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is now playing in theaters everywhere and now you can stream it exclusively on the ad-free version of HBO Max until 31 days after its theatrical release.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for Thursday, July 22nd because I will be spilling my thoughts on Jack Sparrow’s most expensive adventure yet, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in my ongoing “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” review series! Stay tuned for that and more on Scene Before, and you can do so by following the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie is better? “Space Jam” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” Frankly, I’m torn. But leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Zola (2020): You Wanna Hear A Story About a Negative Film Review?

“Zola” is directed by Janicza Bravo (Lemon, Gregory Go Boom) and stars Taylour Paige (Boogie, Hit the Floor), Riley Keough (The Lodge, The Devil All the Time), Nicholas Braun (Prom, How to Be Single), Ari’el Stachel (Blue Bloods, The Band’s Visit), and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead, Euphoria). This film is based on a story summed up in 148 tweets on a single account. These tweets were the foundation for where they ended up taking this film, which is about a girl who goes down to Florida with a stripper named Stefani only to find herself in a prostitution scheme with Stefani’s pimp, X.

I have a soft spot for A24. It is a studio that has made some of my favorite films of the 2010s including “Room,” “The Disaster Artist,” and “Lady Bird.” In a world of big, gigantic blockbusters, many of which I enjoy like those of the “Star Wars” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises, sometimes I need something simpler, something lower in budget and scale. Something more intimate. A24 usually hits the spot because they have a tendency to align themselves with talent that can tell a great story with a limited budget. Portions of “Zola” seem to reflect this lower budget. Certain shots go on for such a long time, there are shots that look like they fit more in a YouTube vlog compared to a typical movie. That previous statement by the way, is also one of my big critiques because despite this movie having some good framing here and there, the shot selection occasionally feels repetitive or, as I said, vlog-like. Looking like a vlog is not always a bad thing, but it sort of almost pulled me out of the movie. It lacked a slight sense of immersion if you will.

At the same time though, the movie has a number of shots that are beautifully lit. This movie gave me a fine first impression with the opening five minutes for providing one of the most vibrant scenes of the year. Technically speaking, this movie is a mixed bag. Unfortunately, it may be the best part of the movie because I progressed through “Zola” rolling my eyes, placing my hands over my head, and the desire to put a gun in my mouth. “Zola” is probably my least favorite movie of 2021. Yes, I know some would argue it is a 2020 film, but it just had a big release this year, so I’m counting it as a 2021 film. Either way, this movie has an intriguing first five minutes, but as for the rest of the hour and a half, the wheels fall off the wagon and it comes tumbling toward a cliff.

This film starts off with some catchy and magical music then tops off its candylicious intro off with some of the best lighting I have seen this year. Like many other A24 films, this one definitely has its quirks. These were some solid quirks, but examples of quirks I could give later in the runtime just get worse. Admittedly, there is this quirk that annoyed me, I don’t know if the rest of humanity would feel the same way, every time I would hear a notification noise during the movie, part of my brain wanted to check out. I know this is based off tweets, but come on!

One thing that kind of, and I repeat, KIND OF, holds this movie together is the acting. The chemistry between Zola and Stefani is not my favorite of the year, but the respective actors that play these characters, Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, are decently put together. Certain scenes made them feel like a natural pair for the story that was being told. I do want to give a shoutout to the supporting cast too. At the same time however, they honestly felt like they were occasionally overacting. This film is based on a tweetstorm and I feel like it occasionally gets overhyped for the sake of having a “big screen experience,” which is weird to say about something that is a small, independent picture. Actors like Nicholas Braun were sometimes a delight to watch and made me feel like I was not actually wasting my time. Seeing him and others made the movie feel like it was jacked up on caffeine, but it did not make for an excellent product in the end because I left feeling unsatisfied and having placed my hand on my head way too many times.

Also, I don’t know the actual story, and for all I know, some of the tweetstorm from Zola may have been fabricated, but I want to bring up Stefani’s voice. Throughout the movie, Stefani talks in this weirdly southern accent, and I don’t know why, but by the end of the movie, it felt like that voice transported me through a cheese grater. It was so annoying! I watched an interview of Riley Keough on “The Tonight Show,” so I know that her voice in “Zola” is not her actual voice. But her voice in the movie t feels over the top and similar to something out of a C-grade “Power Rangers” villain.

Honestly, what makes this movie even worse is that it has not even been a full week since I have seen “Zola” and I feel as if I have forgotten a majority of it. Thankfully, I remember some things about the movie. Both good and bad as evidenced by this review. But if I go through this review nearly blanking what to talk about and I have not even gone through a full week without seeing the movie, that’s a problem. I went through THREE weeks trying to get a review out for “Tom & Jerry” and that film was awful! I knew what to talk about in that review! “Zola” is one heck of a story, but as a movie, I just wish it stayed in my brain for just a bit longer. Is it funny? Occasionally. Is it sexy? Kinda. Is it quirky? DID YOU SEE THE A24 LOGO?! But if anything, this did not add up to ride that was compelling. It added up to something that feels sliced and diced and nearly discombobulated despite looking somewhat polished.

In the end, “Zola” is not only my worst movie of the year so far, but as of right now, it is probably also my least favorite film from A24. “Midsommar,” you’re saved. To say a film is bad is hard enough. To say a film from A24 is bad, that’s another level. Because A24 is one of my favorite studios working today. I’ve already gone on about how amazing some of their films have been over the past few years. “Zola” on the other hand, not only felt like a waste of time, but oddly forgettable too. At least I still remember why I was absolutely turned off by “Midsommar.” I still recall its ugliness to this day. Plus with “Midsommar,” you could make the argument that the film was supposed to give me the reaction that I ultimately gave it. I was supposed to be turned off by that film. With “Zola,” I was supposed to be thrilled, turned on, and maybe jumping out of my seat from time to time. The movie did not do its job and I wasted 90 minutes of my life. I’m going to give “Zola” a 2/10.

“Zola” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This week is a big one for movies because we are continuing summer blockbuster season with arguably the strongest competitor of the bunch, Marvel Studios’s first film in two years, “Black Widow!” I’ve already got my tickets for Thursday and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on the movie with you.

Also coming this Thursday, stay tuned for my review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” in the ongoing review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account and like the Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Zola?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your favorite AND least favorite films from A24? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!