Tom & Jerry (2021): Who Shamed Roger Rabbit?

“Tom & Jerry” is directed by Tim Story and stars Chloë Grace Moretz (If I Stay, The Fifth Wave), Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Jexi), Colin Jost (Saturday Night Live, How to be Single), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe, Deadpool 2), and Ken Jeong (The Hangover, The Masked Singer). This film places the iconic cartoon cat and mouse duo in a live-action environment, specifically in New York City. Simultaneously, we follow the character of Kayla, who acquires a job at a fancy hotel, occasionally runs into the two cartoons, and needs to accompany guests for a balls out wedding.

I have never watched the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons as a kid, except maybe once or twice. Therefore, like some other things that have been adapted into live-action like “The Smurfs,” I had little to no connection to it as a child. I know the titular duo always find themselves trying to take each other down, and conceptually, it sounds entertaining. If I were six years old, I could find it to be a solid time-waster. But there’s no real story or plot to it that I can come up with other than the fact that the two creatures do not like each other, as cats and mice probably shouldn’t and they always end up in shambles against one another. This leads me to my first positive of the film, there are a couple entertaining fight sequences. They’re not all memorable or fascinating, but they have glimmers of entertainment throughout. Unfortunately, that is where all the positivity stops.

After all, even though this movie is about two animated rascals trying to beat each other up, that’s not even the whole story. Instead, it is another lame, copypaste, live-action snoozefest that has no substance. I just want to say to everyone reading this who has kids, if you are planning on taking your kid to the theater this weekend, do not watch “Tom & Jerry.” Save yourself from going inside. The kids might have fun, although I will admit, since seeing the movie, I talked with someone I know who has kids and they were apparently bored instantly by the film upon first watching it. Go watch “Raya and the Last Dragon” instead! That film has substance, great characters, laughs, and even though one of the core elements of “Tom & Jerry” are the action sequences, that film manages to have better action! Both in terms of style and story! I have not seen many movies in 2021 so far, but this is currently the worst one of the year for me.

Now, let’s talk about some characters. That’s always a great place to start in a review, right? Well, the movie’s called “Tom & Jerry” so it would only be appropriate to talk about Tom & Jerry first, right?

Nope! This is not their movie! They’re on the title because you know, franchises make money!

Instead, let’s talk about Kayla for a second. How is she a positive role model for children? Sure, maybe throughout the movie she’s taming a cat and mouse, which might translate to some kids being good with pets, but as a person, she is not exactly fine and dandy. She starts off the film by quitting her job, going to a hotel where she runs into a woman trying to apply for another job, manipulates her into not applying, and tries to acquire the job for herself. How is this a teaching moment for children? How do you get to the top? Lying! Unfortunately, Moretz is not the only hairball in this mess. This movie comes with a sadly obnoxious Michael Peña, who very much reminded me of his character in the piece of crap people call “Jexi.” Colin Jost and Pallati Sharva play a rather entitled celebrity couple I almost did not even come close to caring about. Ken Jeong is a chef who is weirdly dynamic and I don’t really remember anything else about him or almost anyone in this movie. Granted, it has been a few weeks since I saw “Tom & Jerry,” but it really goes to show how disposable it is.

Let me just be clear. The cast of this movie has talent. I admittedly have not watched a lot of Chloe Grace Moretz’s work, but I can tell she always commits to her craft. And given the little substance this movie offers, she does her best. Michael Peña unfortunately has followed a trend lately where some of the movies he’s been in that I’ve personally seen are not some of his best, and this is one of them. Colin Jost is consistently funny on “Saturday Night Live,” keeping up with the genius of Weekend Update from one episode to the next. Rob Delaney is an actor whose work I need to follow more often, but he was one of the highlights for me in “Deadpool 2” as the powerless Peter. Ken Jeong is a dynamic personality that will take any project that he is in and improve it by just a sliver, even if it is already great! In fact he was in “Over the Moon,” one of the best animations I have ever seen and my favorite film of last year. While these actors have had better days in terms of performances, much of it has to do with bad writing and perhaps just as awful directing. This movie consistently feels like it is doing the bare minimum to keep kids entertained, but not enough for grown-ups to keep themselves from cringing.

Also I want to address a problem with this film that has been bugging me. I say this as someone who has never had a childhood attachment to “Tom & Jerry.” But this film is not about “Tom & Jerry.” If you take “Tom & Jerry” out, you have a slightly different film with more realistic drama and it is completely centered around the human characters, many of whom I did not give a s*it about. My point is, “Tom & Jerry” comes packed in with a couple of the same problems viewers had with the live-action “Transformers” movies, all of which, and this maybe even includes “The Last Knight,” are more entertaining than whatever this piece of crap happens to be! The film centers around “Tom & Jerry,” the iconic duo known from your childhood days watching cartoons, but they shove in all these forced human storylines just for the sake of going, “Bippity boppity boo! Here’s a movie! It’s not completely in shambles!” And those are not the only flaws this movie comes with, because remember, this is a live-action adaptation of a cartoon. Remember “The Smurfs?” This is basically the exact same thing, only it does not go into multiverse bulls*it and transport Tom & Jerry to earth! Now to be fair, unlike the Smurfs, who hail from their own fantastical village, Tom & Jerry come from more realistic environments, so you can say that they’ve always been on earth. But given how the older material usually strays away from complete realism, the comparison is close enough. You have these two imbeciles, they have their life of brawling each other, and to be fair, that part of the source material seems faithful enough. But they are not the center of the story, it’s f*cking Kayla! Whenever Tom & Jerry show up, they cause trouble, create shenanigans, and show that they really don’t like each other, which given things going on in the movie, is kind of a problem. However, they are not the main characters. Sure, their actions occasionally link to one’s successes or downfalls, but the direction they decided to take this movie in not only feels boring, but also repetitive. We’ve seen this weird creature/human interaction thing done before, but not always to positive results. Although I will admit, last year’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” is one of the delightfully positive exceptions.

Movies like this show that not everything translates to film. “Tom & Jerry” works as a series of animated shorts, not as a big blockbuster epic. And I will admit one of the positives of this film is that it actually is somewhat faithful to its source material. The duo come off like their hand-drawn counterparts, and unlike the live-action “Smurfs” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies, they are in 2D and not CGIed to another dimension. And while this is faithful, Tom and Jerry do not talk. I bet this is part of why they put all of these human characters in the film as an attempt to relate to its audience. While there may have been good intentions, they proceeded to bad results. I bring up Tom & Jerry not being able to talk because in a lot of these family movies, you have these characters that are expressive and excited or upbeat. At least communication was not a problem in those other movies. Here, the solution makes for something that lessens a problem, but it still creates another one by making me want to rip my ears and throw them into a trash compactor! Just because this movie comes off looking like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” does not mean it is the next “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.”

In the end, this movie feels like a lazy cash grab, and based on the box office, they certainly happen to be grabbing that cash! “Tom & Jerry” opened to over $14 million domestically, which would be a disappointment by pre-coronavirus standards. But with the current pandemic and Warner Bros. simultaneously releasing new films on HBO Max, that is actually not a bad result. I’m glad the studio is making money, I’m glad the theatres are making money. But I felt like I wasted my money watching this. I felt like I was in a giant mousetrap for the entire runtime! This is a ridiculous, lazy, and uninspired film with some of the worst writing and direction I have seen in recent memory. Some of the fight scenes were entertaining though and I will also leave you with this, there are a couple genuinely funny lines in the film, but sadly I do not even remember them. Save your money, go see “Raya” instead, or find something else to watch on HBO Max. I’m going to give “Tom & Jerry” a 3/10.

I said this to myself before going into “Tom & Jerry,” and that thought has not changed since. I’ve been looking forward a big event featuring two classic characters in the ultimate fight for society. And that fight will be settled… IN “GODZILLA VS. KONG!”

“Tom & Jerry?” I’m sorry, what are you talking about? It was a pass from me before watching the movie, and it is still a pass from me after watching the movie. Although I did see the movie with a friend who admittedly enjoyed himself, so good for him.

“Tom & Jerry” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open and is currently available to watch if you are subscribed to HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.” I saw the film in IMAX a couple weeks ago, but I have not gotten around to review it, kind of like “Tom & Jerry” due to my commitments with the Jackoff Awards. Also coming soon, I will have my thoughts on “Chaos Walking” starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, so look forward to that!

One more thing, awards season is in full swing, and if you have not done so yet, check out the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards, where one moron awards a ton of movies! Be sure to follow Scene Before with email or WordPress account, also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Tom & Jerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons? What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Promising Young Woman (2020): I Promise, This Is Thrilling

“Promising Young Woman” is written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown, Call the Midwife), and this is her feature length directorial debut. This film stars Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade, The Big Sick), Alison Brie (The Disaster Artist, Glow), Clancy Brown (The Goldbergs, Billions), Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie, Joey), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black, TRANSform Me), and Connie Britton (Spin City, Nashville). This film follows a young woman, like the title suggests, as she tries to get revenge on people she finds herself coming across after reflecting on an event from her past.

This holiday has brought a couple big movies to the masses, “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul.” I’ve seen the latter, and it is good. Not great, but good. Although it is a disappointment by Pixar standards. I also saw “Wonder Woman 1984,” but I won’t share my thoughts yet as it is going to be my next review. These two big films are not specifically theatrical exclusives in the United States. “Wonder Woman 1984” is playing on the big screen wherever theaters are open and on HBO Max while “Soul” is exclusively on Disney+. On the other hand, “Promising Young Woman” is a film that is currently a theatrical exclusive (even though it should land on VOD soon). What did I think of “Promising Young Woman?”

I think “Promising Young Woman” is a damn good time. If anything, I was quite surprised with how it turned out. Partially because the way I interpreted the film, given how I knew there was a revenge plot in it, would happen to be sort of similar to John Wick, but with vastly different issues at hand. But it is not, the beauty of the film is not in the physicality, not in the things people do, not in the action. After all, if you go in expecting a “John Wick”-like action film, your expectations may be a little subverted. The beauty of “Promising Young Woman” lies within a couple aspects. The dialogue, most of which was good. And the editing, all of which was excellent. This film is edited marvelously and provides for a unique flair at times. They take a slight core aspect of the film and use it to separate key moments, and the execution for this feels bold and manages to be delivered with a commanding presence.

By the way, this film is edited by Frédéric Thoraval, who has experience with editing not only a revenge story, but one of the best revenge stories ever filmed, with 2008’s “Taken.” “Promising Young Woman” is another killer flick to add to his resume. Then again, he also edited 2018’s “Peppermint,” which basically is kinda sorta “Taken” except that Jennifer Garner is in the spotlight, not Liam Neeson. And as an overall revenge story, it leaves much to be desired. I’ll say, Thoraval did a fine editing job, however. With the editing in “Promising Young Woman,” a lot the highlights seem to spark from a personal touch from director Emerald Fennell. A touch that only she could have conceptualized. However, it does not take away from the fact that the editing seems to make for one of the best parts of the film.

Let’s talk about the main character of the film, Cassandra. First off, Carey Mulligan is going to be a talk of the town during awards season. She knocked her performance out of the park, and she also looked the part too. Her character lives at home with her parents despite being at a crucial point in her twenties, and she does not seem to have any desire to leave. Speaking of desires, we see early on in the film that Cassandra does not have a lust for anyone else. We see that when she goes out to a nightclub, and what happens afterwards that sort of plays a crucial part in the film. We also see this with her interactions with Ryan, played wonderfully by Bo Burnham. Although she does keep herself occupied by working in a coffee shop, so she has that going for her. At the same time however, Cassandra had a path for herself building up in medical school, but she dropped out. In fact, the film even establishes that Cassandra’s parents are worried for her, they want her out of their life, they want her to meet a guy, fall in love, move out. They even get her a gift that basically symbolizes this. She gets the message right away.

One of my favorite screenwriters is Quentin Tarantino, not only because of his personal touch with each script he does, but also because in a film like “Pulp Fiction,” it basically makes fun of not only how movie scenes play out, but maybe even taps into how reality plays out. There’s this scene where Uma Thurman and John Travolta are eating together at a diner and they talk about awkward silences. That’s a fun scene that pokes at the way we communicate. There are one or two moments early on that evoke the same vibe. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it lands, it lands.

Except for a few minor problems that I have with certain lines that maybe do not fit, “Promising Young Woman” delivers one of the better screenplays of the year, and part of why I love it so much is not only because it sort of taps into our reality where it dives into why some men are pigs, why women want to defend themselves, but also because of how subversive it is. Yes, I talked earlier about how I went into “Promising Young Woman” sort of expecting “John Wick” with different issues at hand, and that’s not entirely what I got. Now I should say, I view “John Wick” as a quintessential modern thriller, so that’s part of why I used that example. But that’s not what I’m talking about. This movie has twists and turns, none of them feel shoehorned, forced. or out of place. I feel like this is a story that Emerald Fennell took her time on. This feels like a passion project. I have no idea if Fennell plans to make her career behind the camera as prominent, or perhaps more prominent, than the one she has in front of the camera. But if she is up to make another film, I am there. This was a good time.

In the end, “Promising Young Woman,” I promise you, is quite excellent. This had an intriguing beginning, some fun buildup, and a satisfyingly subversive ending. The cast offer some good performances, but Carey Mulligan is the star of the show and may be a talking point during awards season. If you like thrillers, if you like twists, if you like fine writing, and solid directing, do not miss this movie. I am glad I took the opportunity to see it, and I have a feeling many of you reading this will too. I am going to give “Promising Young Woman” a 9/10.

“Promising Young Woman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. There is currently no announced date for when this film will hit video on demand, but given how this film is from Focus Features, which is owned by Comcast, which also owns Universal, the film should debut on video on demand very soon.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” which is now available in theaters and on HBO Max. I might also review one or two more films by the end of the year, possibly “Fatale” or “News of the World,” but we shall see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Promising Young Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, is there a movie that you’re looking forward to that could make some noise during awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Soul (2020): Pete Docter’s Latest Attempt at Making You Cry

“Soul” is directed by Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) alongside first timer for feature-length directing, Kemp Powers. This film stars Jamie Foxx (Ray, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live), Questlove (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show, Creed), Daveed Digs (Snowpiercer, Black-ish), and Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It, Black Panther). This film centers around a middle school jazz teacher who often tries to find music gigs. He gets transported out of his body and must find his way back with the assistance of an infant soul.

Like many movies this year including “Scoob!,” “Trolls: World Tour,” “Greenland,” and “Mulan,” “Soul” joins the list of films that were once slated to have a big theatrical debut, but due to COVID-19, that became an impossibility. Therefore, Disney decided to put the film on their own streaming service, much like the just recently mentioned “Mulan.” However, unlike “Mulan,” to watch “Soul,” you did not have to pay an extra fee. You had to be a subscriber, but the one time fee of $29.99 was nonexistent. Yay!

Regardless of “Soul’s” fate, this was on my list of films to anticipate. After all, Pete Docter has directed three Pixar features, all of which by the way have been really good. “Monsters Inc.” puts a clever spin on the way we think about creatures that invade our nightmares. “Up” is a fun adventure with arguably the greatest on-screen dog ever made. “Inside Out” is not only one of my favorite Pixar movies, but it is by far one of the best animated films I have ever watched, and really shows that the studio does not cater to kids, and respects its entire viewer base.

Speaking of Pixar, they’ve yet to have a bad day at the office. Even a movie like “Cars 2,” which many people suggest lacks luster compared to many of Pixar’s other offerings, I would consider fun and thrilling all the way through. To be fair though, I have not seen all of Pixar’s work. I skipped “The Good Dinosaur” in the theater and I have yet to watch it at home. So who knows? Maybe that movie will disappoint me. So, does “Soul” keep up the positive streak Pixar has been hammering home by now?

Ehh… Kinda.

Let me say one thing about “Soul,” where there are positives, they are obvious. This film, much like all of Pixar’s recent work like “Incredibles 2” and “Toy Story 4” is beautifully animated. Even though I watched “Soul” on the small screen, New York looked as stunning as a snowfall on Christmas morning. I really like that Pete Docter decided to do another project where the main characters are not necessarily just humans, but little figments of ourselves. “Inside Out” is one of my favorite films of the past five to six years, and part of why I love that movie so much is because it takes emotions and utilizes them to make you feel emotions. Sort of in the same way, I kind of expected that going into “Soul.” In some ways, my expectations to such a matter were met. In others, not so much. The thing about “Inside Out” is that the movie managed to take characters, who in actuality are just parts of one humanized character, and turned them into something bigger, something bolder. In “Soul,” it kind of puts humans and souls in the same perspective and somewhat equalizes them despite their differences. This movie tries to do something with that, and there are a series of pros that come with the concept’s execution, but as the movie goes on, it becomes less interesting, especially towards the final few minutes.

“Soul” is by no means the worst movie of the year, however it may have the worst ending. I will not spoil anything, but this film does not exactly follow the structure of your traditional animation, and I think in some ways, that’s great. I love when films become experimental. But experiments are about trial and error. I think we’ve hit “error” territory with this vision. In a way, each character’s arch was fulfilled. All the actions lead to inevitable reactions. But I left the film feeling empty. I did not feel happy. I did not feel sad. I left not knowing what exactly to think. The usual thing about films is that they try to build up to an epic and satisfying climax. “Soul” has a climax, thankfully. However, as I watched the film, it did not feel climactic. It felt like we were somewhere in act two a little too long. I do not know why. When I watched “Inside Out,” it kind of felt like sex for your brain. You built up all this information, it’s all clogged in your mind, and when the big moments of the end come, I felt shook, it is a feeling that left me with a series of emotions. “Soul” left me with one question.

“Wait, that’s the movie?”

I felt like we’ve left the story unfinished, when in reality it wasn’t. Nothing really felt big or grand, and while I do not expect all my movies to feel like that, it feels weird to be saying that about a Pixar movie. The studio typically does a good job with scale and reminding you of the importance of its characters. “Soul” does that, but it couldn’t stick the landing.

However, speaking of characters, I admire the chemistry between our two leads. You have the main character, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who has to deal with his new normal after death. And you also have 22 (Tina Fey), who had a particular normal for centuries, and this movie presents the latest iteration of that normal. One of my favorite scenes of the film are the flashbacks of the past examples of what 22 is going through in the not the great beyond, but the great before, where souls remain before they journey to earth to live out their lives. I thought the duo were cast decently, and they had a couple funny lines here and there. Yes, “Soul” is funny, but I will not say it is as funny as other Pixar flicks including “Toy Story 2,” “Up,” and the incessantly mentioned “Inside Out.”

If anything, “Soul” is a movie that is probably going to be looked over by students. This is partially because it is a family friendly movie revolving around music, so this may be good for music classes of all ages. Also, the way it handles the afterlife (or the bare exposition to the afterlife) provides an intriguing peek at what may happen when we go bye bye. It is stunningly animated, and kind of creative. I wonder how other people are going to view “Soul” as far as the human condition message goes.

This movie is marketed to provide a message to remind people to follow their path, chase their dreams, achieve what they believe is their destiny. And the movie sort of dives into that, but it comes with a little more. And while “Soul” comes with a solid moral of the story, it almost feels inconsistent. Then again, the way this movie structures itself feels nearly inconsistent. At times it works, but if I had to give a percentage, it would not be 100%. Many movies have the neverending question, “What is human?” It is a great theme to dive into and can make for a terrific movie. “Soul,” much like how many of its characters are partial figments of ourselves in a way, has many of the positives of other Pixar films, but its positives do not stand out as much as other examples. The best phrase I can give to describe “Soul” is “partially positive.” “Soul” is emotional, but not “Toy Story 3” emotional. “Soul” is funny, but not “The Incredibles” funny. “Soul” is fun, but not “Ratatouille” fun. “Soul” is deep, but not “Inside Out” deep. Maybe it’s deeper, who knows? But regardless, “Soul” does not handle depth like “Inside Out” handles depth. “Soul” tries to encapsulate all these positive qualities, and it does to a degree, but it cannot do so all the way through. And that is really sad, because this film got me to subscribe to Disney+, and now I may be regretting my purchase. First impressions matter!

In the end, “Soul” may not be soulless, but it is also a far cry from what I expect from Pixar. Maybe my disappointment has to do with too much hype, because it’s the typical cycle. In addition to “Soul” having overwhelmingly positive reviews, with quite a few people I’ve come across suggesting it is a masterpiece, I went into the movie expecting one of the best things ever, only to be let down somewhat. That’s not the first time that’s happened to me with Pixar, because that happened to me with “Coco.” I was expecting an emotional thrill, but I left the film going “Okay, that happened. Next.” Again, this film looks great, even on a small screen where it was not originally meant to be seen, but as we progress through the second half of the film, it becomes progressively less fascinating, even with the whole links to what it means to be human. There’s good morals here, I just wish they were in a better movie. For those of you who have never seen a Siskel & Ebert review, their rating system is simple, thumbs up or thumbs down. If I had to give my thoughts on the animation and tech for this film, it is a definite thumbs up. The story, it depends on what we are talking about, but it is going to get the slightest of a thumbs up as I was entertained and hypnotized for a majority of the film. I’m going to give “Soul” a 7/10.

“Soul” is a positive movie, but as far as Pixar goes, it is not up to par with other films. It might even be my least favorite from the studio. When it comes to Pixar films from this year, I need time to marinate, but I might rather want to watch “Onward.” Just bein’ honest. And I will be fair to Pixar. To have a studio’s possibly worst movie get a 7/10 speaks volumes of its history. Just to be clear, Pixar has released feature films since the mid-1990s, and since then, they would put one or two out almost every year. I hope Pixar steps up from here, but I think they’ve created many great films and developed tons of memorable characters over the years. Here’s hoping they can conceptualize more.

“Soul” is exclusively available on Disney+ for all subscribers. And unlike one of the service’s other exclusives (for a limited time), “Mulan,” “Soul” is available at no extra cost.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is now in theaters wherever they are open. If your theaters are closed or you don’t feel safe going to a cinema right now, the film is also available on HBO Max to all subscribers for 31 days. I personally have my IMAX tickets ready for Sunday, and I cannot wait to watch the film! Also, at the start of 2021, I will be listing my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020! These countdowns have been a tradition of mine for years, and I am glad to keep it going! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! …If you wanna keep your soul. I want to know, did you see “Soul?” What did you think about it? And what is your LEAST FAVORITE Pixar movie? Worst, not best! Just want to make sure we’re clear! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mank (2020): Yeah, Mank Almost Stank…

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

David Fincher - IMDb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Brothers (2020): Jack Gives His Brotherly Hate

“Half Brothers” is directed by Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Let’s Be Cops) and stars Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio in a film where an aviation exec named Renato comes to find out he has an American half-brother named Asher. The two are forced on a road trip together from the United States to Mexico to learn more about their father as that just so happens to be his dying wish.

“Half Brothers” is amongst the group of films that studios just so have the balls to release in theaters during the pandemic. As far as new releases go, this is not the worst possible candidate for today’s times. The film is not that expensive to make, it is marketable, and to Focus Features’ advantage, they are owned by Comcast, which owns Universal. What I mean by that is Universal made an agreement specifically with the AMC theatre chain that’ll allow them to make their films accessible for home viewing after a minimum of 17 days. So this film will be available to watch at home soon through various premium VOD options. However, since I attended an advance virtual screening for the film, I got to watch “Half Brothers” a few days prior to release. Oddly, I decided to wait over a week after it came out to talk about it, but I have school and duty calls.

This movie starts off nicely. The film begins introducing this father son dynamic that sort of ties much of the journey together. I thought it was well done and sort of reminded me of the relationship I have with my own father, even though we never flown planes together. That was a genuinely fun to watch moment.

Now if only the rest of the film were as compelling, enjoyable, and not even the least bit annoying.

This movie stars Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio as our half-brother pair, and they make up for some of the most awkward and anger-inducing moments I have seen in a road trip movie. Remember “Thelma & Louise” and their great chemistry while blazing down concrete? Yeah, you’re not getting that here. Instead you get a Mexican smartass and an American dumbbell who don’t like each other, they have no chemistry, they feel almost randomly placed together (because well, they kinda sorta are), and they offer little to no entertainment value whatsoever. And sure, I guess both people happen to be expressive, but if I were placed on this trip as the third wheel, I would want to slit my throat in front of this duo. I’m getting off this ride! I’m nauseous! I’m angry! I’m mad! I’m irritated! I’m gonna throw up! No other offers are hopefully up on the table! And for those reasons, I’m out!

Sorry, this movie is so bad that I just want to think about “Shark Tank.” Sounds so much better.

Let’s talk about Renato. From scene one, I was somewhat connected by his story. But from scene two, three, four, whatever, I became increasingly disinterested. Now I know that it is traditional in a story for a protagonist to have something he or she wants, and maybe something holds them back, and maybe that is revealed emotionally. In “Half Brothers,” this stands true for Renato, but almost anytime he happens to be vocally against something, he makes it noticeable, maybe a little too much. He never feels upbeat, never excited, rarely calm. Now if our main characters eternally remained silent and calm, they might be boring, but in the case of “Half Brothers,” Renato is just agonizing to watch because he never feels happy. My early impressions managed to carry through to the point where I never really cared about him.

As for his Renato’s partner through the film, Asher, he is not much better. Oh my gosh, this guy even looks like an utter goofball. I mean, wow! I get that this is a comedy, therefore there will be some moments that are either out of this world or impractical, and over the years, I have come to accept that. I am not going to pretend that such a thing goes right all the time, but this is where I have to calmly step in, be rational, and DECLARE THAT THIS MOVIE IS KILLING MY BRAIN! One of the things that quickly got on my nerve as soon as it started was the massive stereotyping these characters happened to face. For Renato, he entered the United States, and as soon as he is picked up at the airport, he is greeted by a lady who emphasizes her English for the guy, even though he can clearly speak the language. She even throws in the notion of “not wanting to be in Mexico.” …Cause ya know… Bad things… Happen there.

Merica’.

Now what does this have to do with Asher? Because he too, despite being a white U.S. citizen, which in many people’s eyes would equate to guaranteed privilege, is not vulnerable to stereotypes, pretty much all of which are outspoken by Renato himself. As the writer of this post, I recognize the privilege that I have. I’m white, a male, straight, and I come from a U.S. state that has a good reputation in regards to higher education. We have Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Boston University, and so on. I am not going to deny what I have. But when it comes to how this movie handles the way Renato sees the typical white man of the United States, I could not help but roll my eyes. Here’s the thing about the way other countries see the United States. They see us as fat and stupid. And to some extent, they are not wrong. I am not a hunk, and I cannot speak a foreign language. I’ve tried learning a few over the years, but nothing stuck. Asher does not really embody that vision with his weight, but he sort of does with his personality and arguably his IQ. Look, there’s stupid, there’s being nowhere near as smart as a fifth grader, there’s Patrick Star, but Asher occasionally feels too dumb for words.

Now my griveances of the film could be forgiven if it was funny, but it is not! Sometimes it just feels incredibly frustrating! Maybe I had a few laughs every once in a while, but for the most part, this was nearly resemblant of a blood pressure examination. I did not watch this film in the theater, so I do not know how good or bad it is in a theatrical environment, but if you choose to go to the theater, I would say to go watch something else. Go watch “Freaky!” It’s scary, it’s violent, but most importantly, it’s FUNNY. Watch it!

In the end, “Half Brothers” is certainly not even halfway to being perfect. If you are looking for something to watch in order to escape the horrors of 2020, skip this movie. There are plenty of other options out there. There are better buddy movies, better road trip movies, and this film overall made me dumber. I almost do not even know how to conclude this review other than saying that this movie can go jump off a cliff. The guy who directed this film, Luke Greenfield, directed two episodes of the ABC sitcom “The Neighbors,” which I wish got more than a couple seasons, therefore I have some respect for him. Sadly, I wish that respect could have also been given to him here. I am going to give “Half Brothers” a 3/10. This is not the worst comedy of the year for me, but it is one that I highly recommend you avoid for your sanity. Do not watch this movie. Again, “Freaky” is out in theaters and at home. Go support it!

“Half Brothers” is in theaters now and will be available on premium VOD soon.

Thanks for reading this review! I have plenty more content coming including my review for the all new Netflix film “Mank,” directed by David Fincher. I will have my thoughts on that very soon, and stay tuned for my reviews on “The Midnight Sky” and “Greenland.” I’ll have my thoughts on all those movies hopefully by the end of next week. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Half Brothers?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your worst comedy of the year so far? For me, that would have to be “Superintelligence.” It’s exclusively on HBO Max, which… Yeah, it feels like it was literally dumped on there. Leave your thoughts and opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Superintelligence (2020): F*ck You, 2020. Just Die.

“Superintelligence” is directed by Ben Falcone (Life of the Party, Tammy) and stars Melissa McCarthy (Ghostbusters, The Kitchen), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Will & Grace), Brian Tyree Henry (Vice Principals, Atlanta), and James Corden (The Emoji Movie, The Late Late Show with James Corden). This film centers around a former corporate executive named Carol Peters, who is chosen to be studied by a Superintelligence. When this Superintelligence conflicts itself over whether it should enslave, destroy, or save humanity, Carol must convince the A.I. that people are worth saving.

“Superintelligence” comes from the same husband and wife team that brought us 2018’s s*itshow, “Life of the Party.” That ended up receiving a 1/10 from me, ended up being my #1 worst film of 2018, and officially earned the #10 spot on my Worst 25 list on my Top Movies of the 2010s countdown event. Safe to say, when I heard these two were going to collaborate on another movie, I think many of my brain cells began a civil battle to see which ones would survive by the time this movie comes out.

Another stinger, and part of this is due to the pandemic, but I will address it anyway, is that “Superintelligence” is skipping theaters and going straight to HBO Max. Before COVID-19 hit, when a movie typically chooses to ditch theaters and go straight to streaming such as “The Cloverfield Paradox” and “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle,” the results have not always been positive. Thankfully, due to the pandemic, we have seen some distributors sell rights of their movies to streamers and it has occasionally worked out. Some are calling “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which was sold by Paramount to Prime Video, one of the funniest movies of the year. Sony sold “An American Pickle” to HBO Max, which ended up receiving positive reviews.

The unfortunate thing however when it comes to this HBO Max deal is that the distributor of the movie is owned by the same conglomerate who has their hands tied to HBO Max, AT&T, which owns Warnermedia, which oversees Warner Brothers. So far, Warner Brothers already has dumped one of their movies onto HBO Max, “The Witches,” which ended up being one of the worst films directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Now who knows what would have happened? If “Superintelligence” was in theaters, chances are it would have made nowhere near enough money to turn a profit. But I imagine part of why Warner Bros. is putting “Superintelligence” on HBO Max is because it is being dumped on there. While Melissa McCarthy is a big name, Ben Falcone has never made a critically positive film when he sat in the director’s chair.

All of this just so happens to be my thoughts before the movie. So, what are my thoughts after the movie?

I would have probably have gotten ten times the satisfaction out of eating paper instead of watching “Superintelligence!” I cannot even fathom how this movie came to be. In my imagination, I feel like the only reasons why this movie exists to begin with is because it allows Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone to spend more time together. Plus, Falcone has already directed a few movies for Warner Brothers, so why not let him whip up another piece of s*it?!

I almost have no words.

Every time I write a sentence to give a description on what I thought about this movie, my brain just switches off! I cannot remember the last time I was this infuriated about a film. This is honestly just as bad as any of the “Sharknado” movies. Who do I blame here? The director? The producers? Maybe 2020? This is honestly the movie equivalent to finding out your computer has been smashed, the enter key is broken, and all your data has been wiped! Oh, and top of that, your computer has a f*cking virus! Time to call tech support.

I think my previous analogy fits quite well here, specifically the one about my brain cells fighting a civil war. It’s almost as if throughout the runtime of the movie, my brain cells engaged in a fight to the death, all until one cell remained, and now my brain cannot do anything about it!

I don’t even know where to start with this thing! There are some movies that I have reviewed that are bad to the point where I cannot stand them. This is one that I would never be able to watch again even if James Corden popped through the screen, came out, reached into his pockets, and slapped me in the face with a ton of cash shouting, “Jack! I will give you $100 million! All you have to do is watch ‘Superintelligence’ from start to finish.”

Speaking of James Corden, I have to ask, WHO APPROVES OF HIS FILM CHOICES? Does he have an agent? Does he get to pick the roles himself? Because in recent years he’s been in “Norm of the North,” “The Emoji Movie,” “Yesterday,” and f*cking “Cats!” WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Was John Oliver unavailable? Was Conan O’Brien too expensive? Was Seth Meyers too busy hanging with writers coming up with creative ideas for Donald Trump jokes?

For the record, James Corden plays the Super Intelligence, the A.I. that chooses to study Carol of all people. Conceptually, his link with Carol brought some good ideas to the table. Unfortunately, they were brought into to shoddy-ass wreck of a time that I will never be able to get back. The A.I. manages to allow Carol to live her wildest dreams, and in a way, this movie sort of resembles that be careful what you wish for type of story. Except that instead of wishing, everything is just given to Carol. This may be the biggest weakness of the film, and that’s because it goes against the traditional storytelling idea that the protagonist is the center of the story.

Now I know that the film is called “Superintelligence,” and it is partially about an A.I.’s indecision on what to do with humanity. However, a good portion of the movie dedicates itself to our protagonist barely earning anything. If anything, Carol is forced to go through with protocol after protocol, whether she likes it or not. Of all the protagonists I have seen in 2020’s cinematic calendar, I could make a convincing argument that Carol Peters may be the worst of the bunch.

And this would be fine if the movie were funny, or at least convincing! But it’s neither of those things. It is anger-inducing and awkward! That is all! Oddly enough, even though Ben Falcone wrote the other Melissa McCarthy-centric films he directed, he did not write “Superintelligence.” Instead, that dishonor goes to Steve Mallory, who co-wrote “The Boss” with Falcone. “Superintelligence” is the first feature Mallory wrote without assistance, so I will do my best to acknowledge Mallory could have a bright future ahead. But this script belongs in one place. Inside the software waiting for further edits. That’s it.

Not all movies are created equal, but this movie really needed some preplanning. Maybe there was plenty of preplanning that did not work out, but this movie felt rushed while also being lazy. Carol is uninteresting, awkward, and unfortunately for the audience, not funny. In fact, part of what makes this a reality is that a good portion of the comedy is boring Melissa McCarthy schtick. She might get angry on one occasion or another, she’ll go on with something for a long time, and of course, she falls.

Over the history of storytelling, I cared about protagonists not only because of their desires, which Carol has plenty of, but their willingness to take steps to their goal. Romeo Montague immediately went up to Juliet Capulet to express how he feels about her. Charlie Bucket bought a chocolate bar for a chance at a golden ticket. Luke Skywalker joined Obi-Wan to learn the ways of the force. The problem with Carol Peters is that so much is handed to her in the early stages of the film. She gets a lot of money, a penthouse, a Tesla, and she does end up doing things here and there to move the plot along. But the film burns out as it progresses, kind of like my single-cell brain. AGH! WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BRAIN?!

Did I mention that almost every joke in this film failed to impress me? In fact, there were one or two moments where a character would do something, and someone else makes a remark signifying they find the moment funny. Guys! Your universe sucks! What do these people find to be the funniest show on television? Static? Because I can assure that the first genuine laugh of any kind that I had during “Superintelligence” came in around the 44 minute mark.

If I had to compare “Superintelligence” to any other movie, it would have to be “Jexi” starring Adam DeVine. For those of you who have not seen “Jexi,” it follows a man who works for a Buzzfeed-like company. He’s obsessed with his phone, and when he gets a new phone, it basically takes over all aspects of his life. Aside from being a journey through his life, love, and so on, the center of it all is a rivalry between the main character and his phone, or more specifically, the virtual assistant on his phone. Much like this movie, it has a script that makes me want to shove needles in my eyes! It’s an abomination! However, the romance in that movie is handled much better compared to “Superintelligence.”

If this movie tried harder to formulate a more likable protagonist, maybe center the story around what SHE does a little more than the supercomputer’s motives, if possible, this could be slightly more tolerable. For all I know, this movie also could have worked better as a drama, because one of the worst parts of the movie are the attempts at humor. They’re either forced, awkward, or both at once! I screamed at my television countless times whenever someone did something dumb, someone said something dumb, or the movie treated me like I was dumb. That’s what this movie should be called! Not “Superintelligence,” but “Super Dumb!”

Maybe if “Superintelligence” were written as a drama, it could be the next “Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Maybe even if it had a different director, or lead actor, maybe even a new writer. This is an idea that could work if it were massively revamped. Instead, we get whatever the f*ck “Jexi” is! I’m surprised I still remember that movie existed!

When I stop caring before the halfway point of the film, that is an enormously epic fail. I don’t know what else I can say except that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone need to get their s*it together. I have “Tammy” and “The Boss” on Blu-ray. I have not seen either of them. But after watching “Life of the Party” and “Superintelligence,” I think I might have to consider passing on those two movies.

There are several movies that I have watched over the years that are unashamedly goofy. Movies like “Anchorman,” “Elf,” or “Game Night.” But these movies are consistent with their vibe and translate to an instant good time. “Superintelligence” hurdles with world-ending events, serious government s*it, romance, and goofiness. Sadly, it cannot even get a single aspect down to a science.

In the end, “Superintelligence” is arguably in my top 10, maybe even top 5 worst comedies ever made. Throughout a great portion of this review, I had trouble formulating even a single sentence. Some movies are too good for words, others are so bad you do not have any words. This movie was so intolerable I lost my brain to process whether I could come up with words. Since I cannot come up with words, I’ll use numbers. If this movie were to associate with any number in the world, it would be the number 2. And speaking of numbers, I am going to give “Superintelligence” a 1/10.

Fun fact, there is only one other movie that I have seen this year that I have officially given a 1/10 to, and that is “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.” That film is directed by Daniel Farrands, who also directed “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” That ended up being my worst film of 2019. In 2018, I saw “Life of the Party,” which became the worst film of that year. Guess who directed that film? Ben Falcone! So far, the only 1/10 movies in 2020 are from directors who held projects that went on to be the worst movies of their particular year on Scene Before. That is honestly heartbreaking! Not just for the crew who made those movies, but as a viewer, I do my best to have even the slightest of optimism for a movie. So what should I expect? Are these two going to improve their craft anytime soon?

I am almost curious to watch “Tammy” and “The Boss” to see what else Falcone has up his sleeve. But at the same time, 2020 has taken so much of my sanity that I do not know how much more I am willing to sacrifice. This has easily been the worst year for movies. While there have been plenty of decent titles, the bad ones TRULY stood out. I cannot wait for this year to be over, and last but not least, avoid “Superintelligence” at all costs!

“Superintelligence” is now available on HBO Max. Watch it if you dare, but if you want my recommendation for something to watch on HBO Max, just watch “Harley Quinn” instead. That show kicks butt!

Thanks for reading this review! I would love to tell you what my next review is, but this current review has hurt my head so much that I cannot even think about what I will have for dinner tonight. So my next post is… Something. We’ll just have to find out what exactly that something is. I… Can’t even believe I survived to watch this movie. F*ck 2020, f*ck it to Hell and back! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Superintelligence?” What did you think about it? Or, of the Ben Falcone-directed movies starring Melissa McCarthy, which is your favorite? Given the track record between these two, I doubt this question is a reflection of quality. But I figured I’d ask it anyway. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Croods: A New Age (2020): A Wild Ride (Unfortunately, It NEVER Ends)

“The Croods: A New Age” is directed by Joel Crawford, who has been involved as a story artist for several DreamWorks films including “Kung Fu Panda,” “Shrek Forever After,” and “Rise of the Guardians.” This film is his feature-length debut and stars Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man, La La Land), Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Hitman’s Bodyguard), Peter Dinklage (Avengers: Infinity War, Game of Thrones), Leslie Mann (Blockers, Welcome to Marwen), and Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Adam Ruins Everything).

The long-awaited sequel to 2013’s “The Croods” centers around a family living in pre-historic times. They may have left the cave, but their journey is not over yet. In this movie, the Croods meet the Bettermans, a family who claims to be more evolved than those of the titular name.

I liked “The Croods” when I first saw it, but much like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Suicide Squad” it is one of those movies that I had fun watching in the theater, but quickly began to like less upon thinking about it more, not to mention a rewatch. To this day, other than maybe “Shrek Forever After,” “The Croods” may be my least favorite DreamWorks animation. Granted, I have missed some of the recent ones like “Trolls,” “Trolls: World Tour,” “The Boss Baby,” and “Abominable.” But I figured since there is very little to talk about in the movie world right now, I am willing to go see “The Croods: A New Age,” even if it wrecks my brain.

I will also be fair to the first movie, because even though the story and characters do not serve much for my memory, I do remember the movie looking stunning at times. It is one of the more attractive-looking DreamWorks films I’ve seen, and when it comes to color, it pops. But contrary to what Deadpool says, looks are not everything.

So how does “The Croods: A New Age” compare to its 2013 counterpart? Admittedly I cannot give a full confirmation as it has been awhile since I have seen that 2013 counterpart, but there are elements of this sequel that I think fare slightly better than the original, but not by much. The first “Croods” tries to be grand, and it succeeds at times, but there are also moments of that film where looking back I kind of roll my eyes. “A New Age” does an alright job with moving everything along in terms of characterization, but focuses much more of its time to cracking jokes that don’t always land or having big action just for the sake of keeping our eyes on the screen. Keeping our eyes on the screen is not a bad thing, but as I kept my eyes on the screen, I felt like I was witnessing another example of the style over substance problem. It’s a common thing I have seen out of a recent “Transformers” or Zack Snyder movie for example. The story could be interesting, but it occasionally takes a backseat for visuals. This is not always a negative, as “The Croods: A New Age” provides plenty of pretty visuals. However, when it comes to family animations, this is not one I would watch for plot or characters. I would probably put it on my TV as a test movie. I will say though, if you and your family need an excuse to get out of the house for Thanksgiving, maybe avoid some crazy in-laws who won’t shut up about politics, I will say that this movie, in terms of visuals, may be worth the IMAX price. I saw “The Croods: A New Age” in IMAX, and the presentation was better compared to a lot of movies I’ve seen this year.

I will say, one of the standouts of this movie is the dad, otherwise known as Grug. Much like in the first movie, Grug is voiced by Nicolas Cage, and I have to say, when it comes to how Grug is written occasionally, it feels like the voiceover role Cage was born to do. There’s a lot of over the top expression, zaniness, and hyperactive speech patterns that associate with the actor quite well. He also had a rather hypnotizing portion of his screentime dedicated to wanting bananas. The movie goes balls out with that story and executes it better than I would have imagined.

I also think when it comes to Eep and Guy, they have really good chemistry. Once again, it has been forever since I’ve watched the first movie, but I do remember their relationship being a highlight in that project as well. I think Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds are fine casting choices for their roles and it’s nice to see Stone continuing her tradition, not only in “The Croods,” but in “Gangster Squad” and “La La Land” of getting it on with boy toy Canadians named Ryan.

“The Croods: A New Age” introduces some previously unseen characters along the way. Specifically, much of this revolves around the Bettermans, a more evolved family living over a wall that separates the Croods’ land and what they view as the place of “Tomorrow.” I will say, first off, could they have chosen any other last name? One of the first lines out of Leslie Mann’s character is “emphasis on the ‘Better,'” in reference to her last name. I get the point, but this honestly makes the movie feel like it is talking down to its viewers. And yes, young children are watching this movie. And if I were a kid watching this movie, I’d end up having a good time. But I don’t need facts like this shoved in my face when I could use my head like an intellectual.

With that rant over, let’s talk about the Bettermans. I think the Bettermans are a fairly fascinating depiction of how humans have evolved. They show off their “better” ways of doing things, such as their versions of elevators, toilets, sleep, and so on. Sometimes it made for fun parts of the movie.

Oh yeah, apparently they have a merchandisable sloth too.

I’m not gonna lie, I do not think the sloth from the first movie is as funny as they’re trying to make it out to be. It’s kind of like the Chicken from “Moana,” one of the most overhyped animations I’ve seen in recent years.

I do not have much more to say about “The Croods: A New Age,” but I have extremely conflicting feelings about the climax. I say so because the climax has many of the essentials needed. It is exciting, action-packed, visually stunning, and intense. But it kept going on forever. Although I might be exaggerating because it just so turns out that it didn’t. “The Croods: A New Age” is 95 minutes long. That is four minutes shorter than the original film. Looking back, it feels as if the first two acts were short pieces of buildup, but they just wanted to inject as much action and adventure as possible by the halfway point that the movie felt like it could end at one moment, but it instead goes on. This feels like “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” except that instead of not knowing when to conclude, it didn’t know when to get to the actual conclusive point to begin with. I love fast-paced, balls to the wall thrill rides, but “The Croods: A New Age” comes with the unfortunate disadvantage that it does not really give me much time to breathe.

I was never bored by “The Croods: A New Age,” and that is an absolute positive, but this film was like an overpowered roller-coaster. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, but sometimes discombobulating. You’re in the moment, but you also want it to end. If cinemas are open near you, and you plan to see “The Croods: A New Age” in theaters, go for the most immersive experience possible. But sometimes it gets a little TOO exciting, at least for me.

In the end, “The Croods: A New Age” is not the worst animated movie of 2020, but it is by no means the best. It is definitely fun if you have a family. Kids might end up enjoying it. If you were satisfied with the first film, chances are you might end up digging this one. I think the Betterman family was a fine addition character-wise, but I do not see myself popping on this movie again in the near future. I am going to give “The Croods: A New Age” a 6/10.

I will also say that I stayed for the end credits, because I wanted to know if there is an after credits scene. By the way, there is not. But I noticed the special thanks section and they thanked the entire crew that pulled the film off, despite the challenges of 2020. I thought that was a nice sentiment and I would not be surprised if I see that statement in more movies going forward. Statements that reflect on the tough time to get a movie going, but they managed to pull it off in the end.

“The Croods: A New Age” is now playing in CinemaSafe theatres. It is available in 2D, 3D, IMAX, and other large formats such as Dolby Cinema and Cinemark XD. The film will hit premium VOD services including Google Play, VUDU, and cable options like Xfinity On Demand on December 25th as Universal is observing a shortened theatrical window.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend I am going to be watching and reviewing the all new HBO Max film “Superintelligence” starring Melissa McCarthy. “Superintelligence” may be in my top 3 least anticipated films of the year, but I have a job to do. So here we go! It is my obligation to risk brain damage this weekend! Yeehaw! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Croods: A New Age?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite animation of 2020? For me, that’s an easy choice. “Over the Moon.” I cannot stop listening to the soundtrack right now! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020): The Most Triumphant Review to Unite the World

The year is 2020, COVID-19 is the talk of the town. Political talk never ever ends. Toilet paper is a precious commodity. Hand sanitizer is the trendiest item for the past few months. The Internet is a war zone. Not with weapons, but with words, name-calling, and reminders that masks go over the nose. One man must unite the world, and that man is…

The Movie Reviewing Moron.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is directed by Dean Parisot (RED 2, Galaxy Quest) and stars Alex Winter (Grand Piano, Freaked), Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers, My Spy), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Brigette Lundy-Paine (Atypical, The Glass Castle), Anthony Carrigan (Gotham, Barry), Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait, Childrens Hospital), Jayma Mays (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, American Made), Holland Taylor (The Practice, Two and a Half Men), Kid Cudi (How to Make It in America, Need for Speed), William Sadler (Iron Man 3, The Shawshank Redemption), and Jillian Bell (Bless the Harts, Workaholics).

This film is the third installment to the “Bill & Ted” franchise, and the first one that has come out in almost thirty years. Years after their excellent adventure and bogus journey, Bill & Ted are happily married to their princess wives. They are also loving fathers to their daughters. Suddenly, the duo is alerted of a world-ending event in the future, and they must write a song that will unite everyone, as they were destined to.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of those films that I became more excited to watch as the year went on. Part of it is because the 2020 calendar happens to be losing more films by the day. Films like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Dune,” and so on. But “Bill & Ted Face the Music” was one of the early films to release when studios and exhibtors were collaborating to get moviegoing back on track this summer. Having a duel release in theaters and on demand, the film received mostly positive reviews.

But I didn’t watch it at first.

There are a few reasons why. Movies like “Unhinged,” “The New Mutants,” and “Tenet” were more important for me to tackle at the time. And more importantly, I still haven’t seen the first two “Bill & Ted” installments. Thankfully, now that I have, I can declare that both are wonderfully quirky, hilarious, and both times I ended up wanting Bill & Ted to be my best bros. Yeah, they are idiots, they do not really have brains, but they have enough charisma to make them some of the most lovable idiots on the face of the earth. I also have to say, I wish more people talked like the main duo did in real life. I would like to just have the occasional moment where I say something and do an air guitar solo, even if the moment does not call for it.

At the same time though, this is a sequel that is many years in the making. It has been a long while since Bill & Ted had their time, and it was hard for me to wonder if seeing these two grown men acting like their younger selves would work. This is especially true when I look at an actor like Keanu Reeves, who has evolved quite a bit since his portrayals of Ted. He has gone from playing hyperactive, maybe somewhat quirk-filled characters like Ted and Johnny Utah to the true badass grit that I managed to get out of John Wick.

If you want to know the truth, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of the most triumphant film experiences of the year. When it comes to pure fun, “Bill & Ted” has consistently been top notch. “Bill & Ted” is a franchise that has a universe that I quite honestly cannot take all that seriously. But makes the movies all the more enjoyable.

I know it is 2020, and partying is not allowed. But each time Bill & Ted happened to be on screen, it made me want to… PARTY ON DUDES! There is a sense of infectious joy to be had every time they do something. Bill & Ted could do something as simple as take a piss at a urinal while standing next to each other, and I would still be having fun with them. They could sit on a couch eating chips flipping channels on a television trying find something to watch, and I would still be having fun with them. They could wait in line at the DMV, sitting right next to some jackoff talking too loud on the phone, and I would still be having fun with them. Literally the best part of Bill & Ted as characters is the fact that they even exist to begin with. Now watch, they make a “Bill & Ted 4,” ruin everything about these two and perhaps I suddenly change my mind. But for now, everything is fine. I rest my case.

One of the biggest concerns I had for “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is whether Alex Winter’s and Keanu Reeves’s previous schtick would hold up even those the duo has aged. As somewhat suggested already, Bill & Ted’s schtick may be the absolute best part of this movie. Unless they are doing a full on remake where they erase everything about this current trilogy, I hope they never recast Winter and Reeves. They are the perfect fit for their characters, even if they are middle aged men acting like teenagers.

I also really like the daughters, played wonderfully by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine. But before I continue with the positives I do have to mention one problem. As it has been taught throughout our history, it takes two to reproduce. A man and a woman. Evidence suggests that these two daughters have a mother that is still alive. Now, for all I know the mothers are not role models or incredibly abusive off-screen. But it is a little hard to believe that the daughters do not really take after their mothers, even in a minimal sense. They’re basically copies of Bill & Ted except that they’re women. They call each other dude, act cartoony, and obsess over music. Again, “Bill & Ted” is a universe that I do not take seriously 100% of the time, but this almost leans into a territory where it breaks the suspense of disbelief bar. Despite that, I will say their characters are well cast, funny, and their story in the film was fun to watch. I would not mind seeing their own movie if possible. Maybe they could do a “Bill & Ted” adult animated TV show where these two have a new adventure every day. It could be like “Rick & Morty” but with greater use of the word “whoa.”

I will also bring up one more thing about the movie that kind of surprised me. Remember “Transformers: Dark of the Moon?” Remember “Kingsman: The Secret Service?” When those movies end, they basically conclude the big climactic event that defines all that came before it, but they don’t really do anything else from there. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” does something similar. This movie has a big climax, but they just have something completely abrupt happen, and the movie just ends. It did not make me angry, but it made the end feel so sudden, it’s like celebrating your birthday, having your cake, then 25 other people cut all the slices for themselves before you can get one piece of it and eat it.

I want to talk about death. Death sucks. Life is definitely better. Stick to life.

With that being said, I want to talk about Death. He’s spectacular! If there were any moment in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” that happened to be a highlight, it would have to be when the duo interacts with Death. Most notably, when they play Battleship. It takes an ordinary scenario, but makes it the most hilarious thing on earth. I’m glad they got William Sadler to come back, because he embraces the character and once again, allows him to shine. I will say that I will remember his material in “Bogus Journey” more than “Face the Music,” but it was a pleasure watching Death in his return to the franchise. His story was fascinating and Sadler gives the role his all. There’s not much more to say.

In the end, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is a spark of fun in a dumpster fire of a year. I wanted to see this movie when it came out, and I unfortunately avoided doing so at every opportunity. I can definitely say that “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is worth the wait. Not only is it worth my wait of avoiding it in theaters, avoiding it on PVOD, and holding out for physical media, but I can declare that for those who want a solid “Bill & Ted” sequel all these years later, you will most likely be pleased. I am going to give “Bill & Ted Face the Music” an 8/10.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also find it on premium streaming services such as Google Play, VUDU, and Prime Video for a rental fee or a purchase price.

Thanks for reading this review! We are slowly approaching Thanksgiving weekend, and I have a few movie reviews lined up including “The Croods: A New Age,” which hits theaters this week. “Superintelligence,” which hits HBO Max this week. And if I have time, I’ll be sure to talk about the 2020 edition of Disney’s “Mulan,” which I just bought on 4K Blu-ray. I did not watch it when it first came out partially because I did not have Disney+ and I was much more focused on “Tenet.” I just watched the original Disney animation, so I am eager to see how the live-action version compares to its counterpart. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Bill & Ted Face the Music?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Bill & Ted” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Freaky (2020): A Big Slash of Freaky Fun

“Freaky” is directed by Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) and stars Kathryn Newton (Blockers, Supernatural), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), Katie Finneran (Night of the Living Dead, The Michael J. Fox Show), Celeste O’Conner (Selah and the Spades, Irreplaceable You), Misha Osherovich (The Goldfinch, NOS4A2), and Alan Ruck (Speed, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). This film is a slasher comedy spin on “Freaky Friday,” the 1972 book written by Mary Rodgers, which was adapted into two movies from Disney. This time around, a high schooler named Millie lives her life as an outcast, and as the trailer claims, if this were a horror movie, she would be one of the first to die. Appropriately, she gets killed by the Blissfield Butcher, a known serial killer. Instead of dying, she ends up in the killer’s body, and they must switch back in 24 hours otherwise their switch will become permeant.

When it comes to “Freaky Friday,” the source material which this movie takes much inspiration from, that is a concept that you can utilize to enormous success. I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the original Disney film (which sucked), and I can only say that body switching provides endless possibilities. So when I saw the trailer for “Freaky” and found out that a killer and its victim switch bodies, needless to say I was in. Plus, I love the two leads and to see them together is a match made in Heaven.

This movie is a mix of “Freaky Friday,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” specifically if it really emphasized the presence of Jack Black’s character, and it handles all those elements smoothly. The first five minutes of the film are pure horror clichés done well. It’s basically teens making poor decisions, kind of like in that GEICO commercial they now play every Halloween.

“If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. It’s what you do.”

“Freaky” is a slasher comedy, and I think overall that the movie does a spectacular job at not trying too hard to be one thing. It takes two genres, blends them together, and each element of the recipe matches up to deliver something excellent. And part of this is because I recognize that this is sort of goofy, while still being presentable enough for a theatrical environment. The film comes from Blumhouse, a studio known for making small budget horror movies, and the budget for “Freaky” is around $5 million. Now, if you went on a game show, that’s a good payday. Although when it comes to making movies in Hollywood, that’s basically chump change. This movie, for a $5 million feature, does not look half bad. In fact, I think much of the beauty is owed to director Christopher Landon, cinematographer Laurie Rose, and even editor Ben Baudhuin. There are several shots that line up incredibly well with what comes after it based on what exactly is featured in them. I can only imagine the storyboards for this movie! Everything feels intricate and planned out! Aside from “Tenet,” I don’t think I have seen better editing in a movie this year.

I said before that this movie is partially reminiscent of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” While it is nowhere near as expensive or bloated with visuals, it nevertheless feels that way. And if you ask me, I think “Freaky” is better than “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and a much more timeless story. It is hard to tell whether “Freaky” will actually stand the test of time, but I do see it becoming a cult classic over the years. This is especially supported by how 2020 is basically a wasteland for entertainment. Yes, we’re watching a lot of TV, but that’s because it’s where we aim our eyes most of the time nowadays! Movies are practically nonexistent! There is a solid chance that movie watchers could find this on cable or Netflix or something and it becomes a Halloween mainstay. “Freaky,” if you ask me, has that potential.

If you ask me, the best part of this movie is Vince Vaughn, not as his character, the Blissfield Butcher, but as Kathryn Newton’s character, Millie, after they switch bodies. Seeing the character’s self-revelation is wildly entertaining. There’s this minor segment of the film where we see Millie groovin’ in a beaver outfit because she’s dressed up as the school mascot. But then we see after the major incident of the film, in order to show that Vince Vaughn is Kathryn Newton’s character, he’s just busting a move like a moron. The icing on the cake to that is showing off whatever this movie’s version of a secret handshake is. Similar to that, when we see Vince Vaughn’s personality move to Kathryn Newton’s body, her reaction, while I would have done it a little differently if I were writing the screenplay, was entertaining to watch. And it also addresses something all guys, and yes, ALL GUYS, YOU KNOW THIS IS TRUE, would do if they were in a girl’s body. One of the first things we see teenage girl Vince Vaughn doing is playing with her boobs. Wait, her boobs? His boobs? What’s the proper identity here? At the same time, we see Kathryn Newton’s character in Vince Vaughn’s body, who claims that urinating while standing ain’t bad.

Although one of my favorite scenes in this movie in terms of comedy is one moment in a discount store where we see Vince Vaughn talking to a key character we see through various portions of the film, I won’t dive too much further into it, but it goes to show that not only that “Freaky” has the scares, but tons of comedy chops. There are moments where I cringed, and I mean that in a good way. This movie, at certain points, is like experiencing life as Marty McFly in 1955 and finding out your mother wants to f*ck you. If you ask me, “Freaky” is no “Back to the Future,” but like “Back to the Future,” there are some truly hypnotizing character moments that rattled my brain like I switched on a vibrate function for it.

By the end of this movie, I just walked out having a good time. The young teens are genuinely funny. Kathryn Newton is killer, literally. Vince Vaughn continues to be legendary. And if there is one thing that I will remember this movie for the most, aside from how it executes its slick concept, it’s the chemistry between each character. I will also not lie when I say that it was sort of satisfying to see Kathryn Newton go from the school outcast to the sadistic “murder Barbie,” as Josh (Misha Osherovich) puts it. Newton is cute, but I can assure you she is not cuddly. Speaking of Josh… WOW. I want to see more from this guy.

I’ve already seen a few projects with Kathryn Newton, so I will not say this about her. Although if I wanted to point out anyone who has a bright future ahead as an actor, that designation would belong to Misha Osherovich. “Freaky” is admittedly the first full-length project I’ve seen him in, and I would certainly not mind seeing more of him. Part of my praise for him may have to do with the writing, as he does have some of my favorite lines in the movie, but I would love to see him as the star of a film one day maybe as someone really nerdy. He has that pitch to him that can align with that demographic. I think Osherovich can play such a character type very well. I would love to see more from this guy, no matter what it is. I think he has chops that we have yet to see. I want more!

In the end, “Freaky” is freakin’ fun. If you are looking for a stellar night out at the movies, this will serve you well. I will admit that horror is one of my weaker genres, therefore I barely dedicate any time to such movies. This was a fun horror flick that was hilarious yet scary. It’s part “Friday the 13th,” part “Jumanji,” part “Freaky Friday,” and all thumbs up! I came to this movie as I enjoy watching Kathryn Newton, but I stayed for Vince Vaughn. Both actors are incredible in this movie and make it worth the price of admission. I’m going to give “Freaky” a 7/10.

By the way, for those of you who remember earlier this year, Universal made a deal with AMC that would allow them to avoid utilizing the 90 day theatrical window. In other words, despite how “Freaky” is playing in theaters, it will not be long before it can be viewed at home. “Freaky” will be available on VOD to watch wherever you want on Tuesday, December 1st! If your local theaters are still closed, if you are not comfortable going to the theater, or if you are just not a fan of the movies, “Freaky” will arrive at home early as part of an observance towards the unusual 17 day theatrical window. I will say, for me, “Freaky” was a hell of a time at the movies, but I will leave the preferred experience up to the individual.

Thanks for reading this review! I don’t have any plans to go to the theater this weekend, although on Tuesday I will be watching Amazon’s new movie “Sound of Metal.” The film is set to hit theaters a few days later, specifically Friday, and will hit Prime Video two weeks after its theatrical debut. I will have my review up as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Freaky?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch either of the “Freaky Friday” movies? Did you ever read the book? Tell me your thoughts! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Witches (2020): Witch Imperfect

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

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

It’s not great. Really not that great.

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

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

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

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

“What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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