Strange World (2022): No Awe, No Wonder, Just Boredom.

“Strange World” is directed by Don Hall and co-directed by Qui Nguyen. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Spider-Man: Far from Home), Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story), Jaboukie Young-White (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Only Murders in the Building), Gabrielle Union (America’s Got Talent, Think Like a Man), and Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu Panda). This film follows the Clades, a family who must overcome each other’s differences in order to successfully navigate themselves in a space off the map.

Thus far, animation has not been perfect this year. The only real highlight in regard to 2022 animation for me would have to be “Turning Red,” which I watched back in March and enjoyed immensely. In fact, my favorite animation I watched that came out this year is one that technically came out last year, specifically “Belle,” as it released in Japan in July 2021. That movie was so nice that I had to post about it twice. Therefore, I was hoping that “Strange World” could join the ranks of “Turning Red,” or surpass it, and give the genre a boost. “The Bad Guys” was okay. “Lightyear” was fun but it is no “Toy Story.” “Luck” was not perfect. Let’s not even talk about “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.” I wanted something that could potentially be a medium-defining movie. We had a couple of those last year with “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” the recently mentioned “Belle,” and Disney’s own “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The good news for those movies, depending on how you slice it, is if they wanted to remain superior, then this is a good day for them. “Strange World” is a movie that should have dazzled me. Unfortunately, I was bored.

Now let me be clear, for the people who ask why I do not like this movie, please note that this has nothing to do with a certain character having feelings for another specific character. If you are looking for another review where the writer disses on the movie because it is “woke,” go someplace else, arrogant scumbags. Scene Before is not the place for that. That said, it is time to talk about why “Strange World” is one of the most underwhelming and snore-inducing animations of the decade.

However, before we get there, I do want to drop some positives. Because the movie does have its moments. The first act, while not flawless, introduces the characters at a quick pace and provides some fascinating setup for what is to come. There is a particular event towards the end of the movie that caught me off guard, but in a good way. The opening song, while short, is kind of a banger. Oddly enough, this does not go for that traditional Disney movie soundtrack extravaganza where every other scene becomes a musical all of a sudden. There is no equivalent to Let It Go in “Strange World.” If you are seeking a musical, look elsewhere. If you are instead seeking a mediocre adventure in unfamiliar territory, look no further.

When your movie is called “Strange World,” that should be code to make a world that looked kooky and fun. However, I had my arms crossed for a good portion of the runtime. “Strange World” had scenes that looked like an escape from reality, but it is not just a matter of how the movie looks, but how it feels. Despite being taken on an adventure to somewhere unfamiliar, I never felt immersed into this world. Part of the reason is because this movie feels like it spends more time building its vast environments as opposed to the characters who are surrounded by said environments. Sure, we get moments where we get to know the characters, but it sometimes comes off as the bare minimum. In addition, the characters themselves are annoying.

Now the characters, for the most part, are well voiced. Dennis Quaid and Lucy Liu are particular standouts as Jaeger Clade (top right) and Callisto Mal (top left) respectively. The voice performances serve their purpose and are in no way problematic. However, I was annoyed by a character that should have been a lovable sidekick, Splat.

I found out that nobody voices Splat (right), so the voice actors are safe in this instance. However, the sounds that Splat makes, while somewhat appropriate, are honestly more headache-inducing than trying to find a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. I can say this is based on true events. Both as someone who just wanted cheap Blu-rays the other day, and as someone who wanted to have a good time watching “Strange World,” but failed miserably.

Like most animated fare, there is a lesson intertwined that the crew perhaps aspire to deliver towards the children watching the movie. As an adult, I took away a particular lesson that sounded halfway decent. But at the same time, the lesson made for an atrocious story. It is predictable, dull, and worst of all, the three main characters all made me roll my eyes. Whether it was cheap dialogue, selfish motives, or overembellishing what could easily be shown instead of told. There are scenes where the main characters argue, and it had dialogue that should have been compelling, it should have gotten me invested in the scene and where things could go from here. All it did was made me put my hand on my head, begging for the movie to move along.

I watched “Strange World” in a theater that had some people. It was nowhere near its total capacity, but there were some families and kids. Despite the various attempts at comedy in “Strange World,” no one uttered a sound. I could barely hear children chuckling. For all I knew, the children at this screening had a good time. But when your family movie fails to get the family to emote, that is a problem. Although when the movie was over, people did clap. So there is that.

Watching and/or reviewing a Disney movie sometimes has its complexities. Because Disney is not just movies. That is just a small aspect of how they entertain the masses. What goes into their movies often factors into their merchandising, their parks, and so on. While “Strange World” is not a good movie, it was the kind of movie that despite its failed attempts to immerse me, made me think there could be a chance that this would make for a decent theme park ride. I can imagine this universe as a motion simulator in Disney World because it is so otherworldly. Kind of like some of Disney’s other rides such as Star Tours or Pirates of the Caribbean, it feels like going somewhere else. It does not feel like Florida. It does not feel like California. You’re either in space or some vast environment far from home. Unfortunately, I am not reviewing a theme park ride. I am reviewing a story. And despite one or two okay scenes, there was not enough to make me root for the characters or care about what was going on. As a story, this is dull. This is forgettable. This is uninteresting. I wanted it to end. Thankfully the movie not that long, but despite time flying by, I was not having fun.

In the end, “Strange World” is a bit of a letdown. I did not think this movie looked like the next big thing, but it also looked fun. Disney movies, even ones that are lower tier, seem to have glimmers of fun on a consistent basis. When I fail to walk out of a Disney movie, or any movie for that matter, with a smile on my face, that is not a good sign. Let me just put it this way. I had more fun with another Disney film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and that is despite the film saying goodbye to a major character (in addition to the actor who plays him) and having a few downer scenes. “Strange World” occasionally made me angry because it looked fun, but it did not feel fun. There is a difference between designing something pretty, and doing something with it that is interesting. This movie felt like a first date with the most attractive woman alive, only to find out she has zero personality whatsoever. “Strange World” is a waste of time and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Strange World” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, check out some of my other ones! If you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out the review I did for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.” If you want to see more family movie reviews, check out my thoughts on the brand new Netflix film, “Slumberland.” I am planning on seeing a movie this weekend, I am not sure which one specifically, so as to whether “Violent Night” or “Spoiler Alert” is going to be my next review is a total mystery. You will have to find out for yourselves. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Strange World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an animation that you saw recently that disappointed you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022): And Then There Was Fun

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and once again stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Logan Lucky) as Benoit Blanc. This time around he is surrounded by castmates like Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk, Fight Club), Janelle Monae (Antebellum, Hidden Figures), Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision, Bad Moms), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami, The Murder on the Orient Express), Jessica Henwick (The Matrix Resurrections, Game of Thrones), Madelyn Cline (Outer Banks, Stranger Things), with Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, Fool’s Gold), and Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049, My Spy). This film centers around a group of friends who gather together at the Glass Onion, owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron. Joining them is detective Benoit Blanc, a man who Bron admires.

I loved the first “Knives Out.” When I did my top 10 of 2019, the film ended up making the best list and eventually got a Best Picture nom during the 2nd Jackoff Awards. It appears I am not alone because the film ended up making over $300 million worldwide, which is nothing to sneeze at given how the film cost $40 million to make. Naturally, a sequel was inevitable. Lionsgate even greenlit a sequel in 2020.

The following year however, they sold the rights to two upcoming sequels to Netflix.

Now, I get it. Money talks. $469 million for the rights to make two sequels is great if you are a producer asking for such a price and such a demand is met. However, what worried me about this shift is that the films, since they are now in the hands of a streaming-first company, is that they will not be put in theaters, and the overall quality of the content is going to decrease. I am glad to report that I have underestimated my happiness with the verdicts on both matters. First off, this film did get a theatrical release. Albeit a limited engagement There is a good chance that if you did not see this film in theaters already, then that chance might be gone because it was scheduled to be in theaters for a week only. Second, I am happy to announce that “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a solid addition to the franchise.

Rian Johnson is a talented director. I was not a fan of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” But his direction was never the problem. From that film, to the previous “Knives Out,” and even this one, I have always been an admirer of Johnson’s filmmaking style from the intricate shot choices to the showcasing of vast environments. His movies always have a clean look to them, even if it revolves around murder like this one. This movie was shot in Greece. The location choices, one after the next, showcased hypnotic glimmers of beauty. And like any solid director, Johnson tells this story in such a fashion that could not be more entertaining.

To showcase how well-crafted this film is, I want to talk about a specific cliché in movies. The use of guns. I have seen a lot of movies in my life, and therefore, I have seen a lot of movies with guns. Whether they are used by the protagonist, antagonist, or a side character. This is the first time in ages that I watched a film in a theater and I jolted because a gun went off. As someone who has practically seen lots of jumpy moments, with some better than others, this satisfied me like you would not believe. You know how many movies have guns? They are practically a dime a dozen. I have not heard a gunshot utilized this effectively in a film in perhaps the longest time. Part of it is probably because of the gun’s limited use and how well written the characters were. I cared about each one. All of them have their moment and I did not leave feeling the need to diss on a single character or the actors who played them. They all did a great job.

Daniel Craig is back as Benoit Blanc. I have seen all the Daniel Craig “James Bond” movies from “Casino Royale” to “No Time to Die.” All due respect to Craig, and I know he has no plans to play Bond again. But if I had to choose who I would rather see Daniel Craig play for the rest of his life, I think Benoit Blanc would be my pick between those two. He’s quirky, he’s fun, and if Rian Johnson kept writing him, I think he would have me right where he wants me. Right in front of the screen.

Much like the previous “Knives Out,” the characters here often have an over the top vibe but in such a way that they still feel like real people. One such performance where this shows is Dave Bautista, who I will not unveil all the details about, but he comes off as someone who will do anything to protect his masculinity whether it means keeping his girl or his gun by his side. I thought Bautista was perfectly cast in this film and I am glad to see he is improving his acting abilities. I am glad to see he has more range than just Drax the Destroyer in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Other standouts in the movie include Madelyn Cline as Whiskey, Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel Toussaint, and Kathryn Hahn as Claire Debella, who in this universe is the governor of Connecticut.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is stacked with comedy. Thankfully, a lot of it lands. At times, it is almost funnier than the original. The crowd, myself included, gave plenty of audible laughter throughout the runtime. If you ask me, this is a film that is both great to watch at the theater and at home. Netflix, if you read this, I am sorry, the theatrical experience, is, AND WILL ALWAYS BE, superior to anything you can get on your television. However I was watching this movie and there were several shots where certain things that were either plot-specific, character driven, or important to the film in some way, but I occasionally found myself distracted by looking at the background. This movie has its fair share of background jokes, blink you’ll miss it jokes, and other various attempts at humor. Either way, there were a lot of laughs.

Much like the previous “Knives Out,” this sequel came out at a perfect time. The film is appropriate for Thanksgiving because people are gathering with friends and family they have not seen in forever. Similar to what these two films have shown themselves. And when the film hits Netflix on December 23rd, it gives friends and family the opportunity to watch another group of friends and family hang out. The film also happens to be reflective of the times and reminds me of what being in some social groups must be like. For context, this film acknowledges the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. We see people wearing masks, there’s uncertainty of whether or not people can be in such close contact, and we even see Kathryn Hahn’s character, Claire Debella, talking on the news as to how she plans to navigate her state through the current situation.

The movie is great, although I think the laughs were slightly less ache-inducing than the original, despite there being plenty. If I had any other problems with the film, the third act gets incredibly unhinged. I do not mind unhinged storytelling, but for most of the movie, like the original, the characters feel like slightly heightened versions of people that could exist in everyday life. As soon as we get to the third act, we see things that feel less down to earth and it takes the realism out of the movie that previously existed. The movie ended up being a fun time, but if I had to pick a movie to watch again between this film and the original, I would go with the original. I have heard from others that this film is as good, possibly better, than the original, and I can see why. Both are good movies, but if I had to choose one, the 2019 film is the one I would choose. That said, “Glass Onion” is a killer time and if you need something to watch this holiday season either by yourself or with family, you might not be underwhelmed.

In the end, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a hilarious follow-up to the original with some of the best direction of the year, terrific writing, and an admirable ensemble cast. Much like the first film, I had the privilege of watching “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” in a crowded theater, and I love that I got to see the movie firsthand with a community. I laughed, I jittered, I locked my eyes with the screen like I was trying to win a staring contest. This is what movies are about. As much as I would have loved for this movie to receive a full fledged theatrical release, I am thankful Netflix put this in theaters at all. There are problems, including one that almost threw me off, but the positives outweighed the negatives. Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig have delivered a nicely done sequel. I am going to give “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” a 7/10.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is finishing up its advertised theatrical run. Who knows? Maybe it will be playing at a festival somewhere in the future, maybe Landmark might do a special screening. I am just holding out hope that people get to see this in the best way possible. But for those who want to wait for the home viewing experience, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” will be available on Netflix on December 23rd.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new Disney animated feature “Strange World.” The film just hit theaters last week, and I managed to catch a screening of the film over the weekend. I will share my thoughts soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either wtih an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery?” What did you think about it? Or, which film did you like better? The original “Knives Out” or “Glass Onion?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Fabelmans (2022): Why I Do What I Do

“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.

I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.

“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.

Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.

Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.

Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.

Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.

For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.

Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.

In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.

Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.

“The Fabelmans” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Menu (2022): Phenomenally Mouthwatering and Jaw-Dropping

“The Menu” is directed by Mark Mylod (Succession, Game of Thrones) and stars Ralph Fiennes (The LEGO Batman Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Mad Max: Fury Road), Hong Chau (Downsizing, Big Little Lies), Janet McTeer (Jessica Jones, Ozark), Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?, Dallas), and John Leguizamo (Super Mario Bros., Ice Age). This film follows a young couple, who are just two of the many people who partake in an expensive outing at Hawthorne, where food meets art. What is supposed to be an extravagant dining experience turns into a night of mayhem where the tension never ends.

If I had a dollar for how many times I ended up seeing a trailer for “The Menu” during a screening at the theater, I could probably at minimum, pay to see this movie at matinee price when it came out. Although I did not mind seeing this movie advertised a whole ton. Because it had a lot of things going for it. You have a stacked cast including Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. The concept, while it reminded me of other stories, came off as one of the more original ideas of 2022, and it looked like an okay mix of comedy and scares, kind of like one of my favorite movies of the past five years, “Ready or Not.” At the same time though, while the trailers do show a bit in regard to what the movie’s about, one of the first positives I can give to the movie, in addition to the marketing, is that despite being hammered with the trailers, there were plenty of surprises to be had. I had the privilege of getting to see this film with a big crowd the day before public release, and I had no regrets going.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can easily say “The Menu” is one of my favorite movies of the year. And in a year that has been chock full of fantastic horror, this may be my favorite film in its genre. More than “Smile.” More than “Barbarian.” I reviewed both of those movies about a month ago, and I said the exact same thing when talking about those. If there is any genre that I think is the clear winner this year in regards to film, horror takes the cake. Much like cake, “The Menu” is a deliciously attractive and satisfying time.

“The Menu” cements why I go to the movies. This movie is dark, twisted, yet fun. I had the time of my life laughing and gagging with a couple hundred other people.

Speaking of communal events, this movie showcases a group of people who are supposedly loaded with money. One of the best parts about this movie is that even though Hawthorne is full of… let’s just say snobby guests, the snobby characters never managed to once get on my nerves. In fact, seeing of some of these people on screen for whatever length of time they happened to be on provided for decent entertainment. Even though this movie has characters who went to an Ivy League school without financial troubles and business partners for example, all of them were fun to watch.

This movie jokes about the rich, the food service industry, and how artists endlessly strive to be perfect. With an endless spree of gags on these topics among others, this leads to brilliant exchanges and side-splitting moments. I cannot think of a movie this year, even in the pure comedy genre like “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” that is as funny as “The Menu.” I cannot remember the last time I have gone to a movie and laughed so hard that after seconds of chuckling, I felt a particular numbness running through my body for a split second. If I got any dizzier, I would have arguably needed a medical professional. This happened more than once during my experience.

All of the characters in “The Menu” serve their purpose and bring something to the table. While this movie’s batch of supporting characters are exactly what they are, minor, their respective actors all do a great job. Everyone from Judith Light as Anne, Janet McTeer as Lillian, and Rob Yang as Bryce delivered performances that arguably satisfied my cravings. One of my favorite members of the supporting cast however is John Leguizamo, who plays a Movie Star (Yes, that is the character’s credited name). Without giving much detail, we get some hints of his history as an actor that allow for some of the movie’s most entertaining and laugh-inducing moments.

Although I cannot forget about the two leads, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult. These characters, as we learn early on, are a couple. We see from the beginning that of the two, Tyler (Hoult) is the one who is clearly more invested in the dining experience whereas Margot (Taylor-Joy) is more or less just coming along for the ride. Many of Tyler’s lines are him either trying to get Margot to “blend in” or showcasing his worship for the establishment and its head chef. I thought having a character like one of Tyler’s personality made for added tension in a movie that already had plenty of thrills and chills. Margot, who was more than unfamiliar with Hawthorne, was likely in for some culture shock. And that was only the start of her journey.

Anya Taylor-Joy is not only great in “The Menu,” but it is the kind of great that makes me think she is easily in the conversation to become the next “it” actor of her generation. Not only is she mega-talented as she has shown from one role to the next, but she always manages to choose interesting projects. Even ones I do not particularly like such as Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” at least has some notable quirks. As much as the cast of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has me weary because of how many big stars are onboard instead of professional voiceover artists (although Jack Black seems to be perfectly cast), Anya Taylor-Joy’s presence gives me hope because of her current resume. “The Menu” is another solid addition to her ongoing list of wins. This movie involves a multitude of characters at once, but if this story belongs to anyone, it is Anya Taylor-Joy’s character of Margot. Therefore, I am delighted, although not surprised, that she killed it in this movie.

Again, the trailers for “The Menu” made it look like another “Ready or Not.” This makes sense given the film’s success and it also being under the Searchlight Pictures library. If I had to give a proper description to “The Menu” for those who have not seen it, I would describe “The Menu” as “Ready or Not” meets “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” You have an eccentric genius who is often the elephant in the room. There is a group of people who all gather to experience a literal food fantasy. And much like “Ready or Not,” the main character is a young woman who is different from everybody else despite attempts to fit in. Much like both movies, there is plenty of comedy (and horror if you count the tunnel scene in “Willy Wonka”) to take in. The film is a must see, especially with a big crowd in a theater. While this probably will not make “Wakanda Forever” bank, this film is worth watching and supporting. It is a definite must see.

In the end, “The Menu” is a phenomenal moviegoing experience and a hysterical ride from start to finish. The cast is great, the mix of horror and comedy is perfectly balanced, and overall, this is also well done from a technical standpoint. A lot of the food, even though it did not look like the first thing I would put in my mouth if I saw it in person, had an Insta-worthy feel to it. The shots and sets look as clean as can be. Some of the editing, without going into specifics, is perfectly timed with how the script plays out. I can only name one particular problem I have with this movie, but I am not going to go into it as it would dive into spoiler territory. This movie is only days old and I want the people reading this who have not seen this movie to go in as blind as they can. That said, “The Menu” is yet another win for Searchlight Pictures. You may remember I recently reviewed “The Banshees of Inisherin,” another Searchlight production. That is a movie I honored with high marks. I think “The Menu” is on the same level. Therefore, this is another win for Searchlight, and as far as I can see, moviegoing audiences. I am going to give “The Menu” a 9/10.

“The Menu” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, please check out some of my other ones! For example, if you want to see more comedy reviews, check out my thoughts on “Ticket to Paradise,” the recent romcom starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. If you are looking for more horror, go ahead and read my thoughts on “Halloween Ends,” the conclusion to the David Gordon Green series of “Halloween” flicks. Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Fabelmans.” That review should be posted later this week. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Menu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the hardest you laughed at a movie this year? For me, while “The Menu” comes close, the definitive answer might be “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The shocks I experienced during that movie are on another level. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Slumberland (2022): Willy Wonka Meets Inception In This Fun But Disposable Family Adventure

“Slumberland” is directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Red Sparrow) and stars Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Dune), Marlow Barkley (Spirited, Single Parents), Chris O’Dowd (Big Mouth, Bridesmaids), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), and Weruche Opia (Sliced, I May Destroy You) in a film where a young girl finds herself in the fantastical, larger than life dreamscape of Slumberland, where everyone’s dreams and nightmares are literally brought to life. With the help of Flip, a dazzlingly dressed outlaw, she attempts to navigate through a world beyond one’s wildest dreams with the hope to reunite with her recently deceased father.

This is one of the latest movies to come from the popular streaming service Netflix. Right now, the film is currently playing in California and I had the privilege of getting to see a screening of the film at a local theater for free. Despite the film mostly being targeted for streaming exclusivity, the budget is comparable to many theatrical features. “Slumberland” was made for $150 million. This is less than the studio’s recent feature, “The Gray Man,” which cost $200 million. Despite a scene stealing performance from Chris Evans, “The Gray Man” had a script that did not do it any favors. For the record, “Dune,” which Jason Momoa is also in, cost $165 million to make.

Unfortunately, this begs a question. Why does this film look occasionally off-putting? I know that one defense that could be made is that since the film is a streaming-centric release, it is inevitably not going to look as polished as a film that primarily releases in theaters. But as I was watching this movie, some of the green screen looked rather unfinished. Certain areas of the dreamscape feel dazzingly fantastical, but there are also moments that lacked verisimilitude even for something imaginary. It is as if this movie were helmed by Robert Zemeckis, he had limited tools, but still managed to create something with his trademarks. There is a segment in the movie with a ton of vending machines that is perhaps manufactured simply to advertise Twinkies, it kind of turned me off. Not only because it is forced product placement, but because of how artificial it looked. I know this is a movie about dreams, but I can tell you that in my dreams, even if what I am imagining has sparks of fantasy, the backdrop often delivers a hint of realism. It still feels lifelike when I am in it. Then again, what do I know? I am not in other people’s dreams. What can I say? Maybe Francis Lawrence dreams differently than me. Maybe he dreams about people taking 15 minutes to save 15 percent or more on their car insurance.

“Slumberland” is based on the comic strip series “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Except in this case, the title is changed to match the dream fantasyland, and the main character is a girl. I am not familiar with the comic series, therefore I will not be comparing two and two together. That said, I do like the idea this movie is going for. When I saw the trailer for “Slumberland,” I thought, “Oh, so it is ‘Inception,’ but for kids.” It kind of is that, but there is a little more to it. I am not saying “Slumberland” is as complex or thought-provoking as “Inception” but much like “Inception,” I was intrigued by how “Slumberland” managed to imagine what happens when we dream. One of the things I remember most from “Inception” is when Cobb shows Ariadne the inner workings of dreams and reminds her to never imagine things exactly as they are in real life and instead imagine new places. It reminded me of dreams I remember from my childhood where I visualized going through a local mall. Much of the structure was the same except for the floor tiles, the elevators, and there was a weird-looking McDonald’s nearby. Similar to that, “Slumberland” plays around with dreams that are quite literally what they are. Imaginative. There is an entertaining sequence in the middle of the movie where we see a young woman dreaming she is dancing around all these people with leaves around them. I would never expect that to happen in real life, but when it comes to wild, crazy dreams, this checks some boxes.

I keep going on about the aesthetic of the film, which is sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss. But what about the story? Is that any good? Again, I like the concept. While it does blend some familiar hero’s journey elements, it does manage to at the very least, emit a vibe that could technically qualify as entertainment. Despite my gripes with the design of the movie, it is fun. I think if you have children, this might be an okay watch with them. There are other family friendly stories that came out this year I would flock to first. For example, “Lightyear,” which if we are doing Christopher Nolan comparisons, where in this case “Slumberland” is “Inception” for younger audiences, then “Lightyear” is “Interstellar” for younger audiences.

The highlight in “Slumberland” is the chemistry between the two stars. While this is not my favorite movie or performance from Jason Momoa, I must admit he looks like he a had a ton of fun on set and this gave him a chance to let loose. While “Aquaman” is a film that could easily be described as crazy stupid fun, his character never goes too off the rails. Here, Momoa is occasionally a lovable goofball to the point where I am surprised Dave Bautista or John Cena did not end up taking this role. Meanwhile Marlow Barkley shines as Nemo. She is charismatic, dynamic, and every scene between her and Momoa, and even Chris O’Dowd, had my attention partially because of how she played off of Francis Lawrence’s direction.

“Slumberland” is like a Roald Dahl story, or more specifically, a 99 cent Roald Dahl story. Momoa plays a Willy Wonka-esque character, both in terms of appearance and emotional delivery. Seeing how Nemo found herself in Slumberland and the journey she took throughout the world reminded me of “The BFG,” because you have this young girl discovering this strange place and her new best friend appears just as otherworldly but there is more than meets the eye. Unfortunately, unlike “The BFG” and some of Dahl’s other work, I do not know if “Slumberland” will be worthy enough to have staying power in children’s imaginations. This might be a movie that will remain relevant on Netflix for a short time. Although much like the many dreams we have during sleeps of our own, “Slumberland” will assumingly be forgotten as children and families move onto the next thing. Whether that next thing is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Strange World,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” or their holiday movie traditions this year. Maybe this will be the year the kids finally get to watch “Die Hard.”

In the end, “Slumberland” is not offensive, but not a masterpiece either. But if you want me to be real, despite its flaws, I had some fun. There are a lot of cool concepts in the movie, but with slight flimsiness in terms of execution. If I had to compare to this film to any other I saw this year, it reminded of Apple TV+’s recent animation “Luck,” which also follows a girl traveling through an unfamiliar world alongside someone she does not know. When it comes to these kinds of films, “Slumberland” is the better iteration of the two, but it is not saying much. Although when it comes to fantasylands, I would much rather immerse myself in the universe of “Slumberland” as opposed to the universe of “Luck.” The manufacturing of dreams is more palatable than the manufacturing of luck. The actors are serviceable in the movie, with Momoa being the standout. There are some occasionally neat sequences, but given that this movie is made for streaming, there are also sequences that highlight its lessened polish. Would I recommend the movie? Barely. I think if you go in with the right mindset, you could have some fun. This movie is not playing in many theaters, but if I were paying above matinee price to watch the movie, it would not be worth it. At the discount price, it might make for an okay experience with some popcorn by your side. I am going to give “Slumberland” a 6/10.

“Slumberland” is now playing in one theater in California, but if you are not in California or would prefer another option, the film is available on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for another brand new movie, “The Menu!” I got the chance to watch “The Menu” at a press event the other day, and I cannot stop thinking about it. I will reveal my thoughts on the film in the next couple days. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Slumberland? What did you think about it? Or, tell me about the craziest dream you remember having. Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Two Thumbs Up, with All Fingers Intact

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and stars Colin Farrell (The Batman, Voyagers), Brendan Gleeson (The Tragedy of MacBeth, Assassin’s Creed), Kerry Condon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Better Call Saul), and Barry Keoghan (Eternals, Dunkirk) in a film where Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty, two men connected through lifelong friendship, face individual consequences through ending said bond.

I did not see a ton of marketing for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but I have been interested in the film since last month, when I started hearing about its many positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is currently holding a 98% critic score. Thus far, this is higher than McDonagh’s previous outings like “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” both of which also starred Colin Farrell. It is not surprising to see the actor come back to work alongside a director he has become close with. But it would help if the script he was given is strong. Thankfully, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a script that belongs on the cover of a health magazine. This is one of my favorite movies of the year and another win for Colin Farrell just after he killed it in this year’s “The Batman.”

The concept of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” specifically the dissolving of a lifelong friendship, is intriguing. This is especially true considering that it is the backbone of its story. The ending of a relationship comes off more like side consequence a protagonist goes through somewhere past the halfway point in numerous stories. It is the classic case of taking a protagonist and having them fall to their lowest point. Only that is not the case with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” because as we see, the protagonist, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) in this case, makes such a big deal out of it that the point practically flies over his head. It is like going to a restaurant, ordering a small pizza, being told that they do not have the ingredients to make pizza, but then going ahead and asking for a large pizza.

Despite this movie being a tale of loss in more ways than one, it is surprisingly funny. There are a number of great lines from multiple characters. Early on in the movie we get one of Colm’s few reasons why he does not find his friendship with Pádraic stable and he references the time Pádraic was talking about what he found in his donkey’s fecal matter. Colm may be onto something, except Pádraic was not talking about that. Pádraic says he was talking about his pony’s fecal matter, which as he puts it, shows how little Colm was listening. One particular confession scene past the halfway mark is also comedic gold. Little things like those make this movie worth the price of admission.

There is more to this simple concept than meets the eye. Because if this movie were about two former friends with differing perspectives as to where their relationship should go, it is possible that the story could get boring fast. Instead, the movie adds a complexity to the breakup that only makes things harder for the individual who declared the friendship was over. For each time Pádraic bothers Colm, he cuts off one of his fingers. Because that is what normal human beings do. This brings stakes to a fairly minimalistic and intimate story that already happens to succeed as both a drama and a comedy. For one thing, nobody wants to lose their fingers. Another thing to consider, nobody wants to see a chopped finger. Therefore, this is a tough situation on both sides. How realistic is Colm’s finger-cutting situation? Hard to say. Plus if I had to give my biggest problem with this movie, why did Colm actually go through with this?

Let’s put it this way. One of the reasons why Colm cut Pádraic from his life is to focus on interests like playing the violin. Last time I checked, unless you live in that hot dog finger universe in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you might want your fingers for playing musical instruments such as the violin. Sure, this eventually brings a particularly compelling scene during the second half of the movie where Colm utilizes said instrument, but as far as getting the point across to Pádraic, I would imagine the point may have been just as clear had he cut off his toes. It would have been just as gross, and arguably less painful on Colm’s end depending on how you slice it.

..Ignore that last statement, no pun intended, let’s move on.

That said, the movie delivers a fantastic story with the use of chopped fingers so I can forgive this based on how well executed everything happens to be.

One of the great things about “The Banshees of Inisherin” is that even though the protagonist in this case is the one who is dumped, I see both sides in regards to the feelings of the dumper and the dumpee. Pádraic may consider Colm to be an important part of his life, but Colm equally as much shows reasons why he must cut Pádraic from his life. A good movie can get you to root for the protagonist to the end, but there is also a saying that a story is only as good as its villain. While Colm is not a villain, he definitely is not the hero. Given the story and circumstances, Colm is a fantastic antithesis to Pádraic. Yes, Colm has his various reasons why he does not want to be friends with Pádraic, but as the movie reveals, he wants to drift away to focus on certain interests. It reminds me of the scene in “Whiplash” where Andrew dumps his love interest to focus on drumming, except in this case that moment is expanded into a whole movie. It is one’s basic drive to follow their passion, and to do that, they have to trim out certain people from their life.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” reminded me of “The Lighthouse” if the main characters were SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward Tentacles. In this case, Pádraic is SpongeBob. He is a hyperactive, larger than life individual who always seems to be in the moment. Colm on the other hand, is Squidward. He seems to want more out of life than what he has, and much like Squidward, he is musically talented. While this film has a higher count of locations and characters than “The Lighthouse,” I cannot recall a time I have seen two men descend into madness like the main duo in that film. The chemistry between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is some of the finest I have watched in recent memory. This should not be surprising given how the two previously worked together as the stars of another Martin McDonagh movie, “In Bruges.” Never would I have expected to enjoy two people who have such a disconnect spending an abundance of screen time together. Safe to say, I can put a finger as to why “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a great movie.

In the end, while I have seen movies where the main story pulls itself forward by the two main characters not always bonding with each other, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of the best stories I have seen in regards to such endless disconnection. It made me happy, sad, and everything in between. “The Banshees of Inisherin” goes to show that sometimes the simplest stories are the most effective. The film is also beautifully shot and has some of the most gorgeous-looking locations of any movie to come out in 2022. Awards season, during which this movie may be a talking point, is getting into swing. And speaking of swings, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a home run, and a 9/10.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Netflix feature “Slumberland.” I went to a recent press screening for the all new movie which is playing in California, but also set to release on the Netflix platform on November 18th. Stay tuned for my thoughts. Also, once I am done with that review, I will be talking about another Searchlight Pictures production, “The Menu.” Almost every movie I have gone to recently, I saw the trailer for this film. Whether the spree of marketing paid off, is a question that will be answered in the review. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Banshees of Inisherin?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you are looking forward to that you think could be a talking point during the current awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ticket to Paradise (2022): An Un-Bali-vably Okay Time

“Ticket to Paradise” is directed by Ol Parker (Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again, Now Is Good) and stars George Clooney (Money Monster, Gravity), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Wonder), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Dear Evan Hansen), Billie Lourd (Booksmart, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Maxime Bouttier, and Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris). This film follows a divorced couple who fly together to Bali to stop their daughter from marrying someone she just met.

I went to go see this movie last Friday with mom and grandma. If I had the chance to go see this movie alone, I probably would have passed on it. While I like comedies, “Ticket to Paradise” is not my type of movie. I like the people in it. George Clooney is a great actor, and in recent years he has developed a knack for directing through films like “The Midnight Sky” and “The Tender Bar.” I enjoyed both of those films. Clooney is a multitalented personality. Even the younger actors in this film are likable. Kaitlyn Dever has proven to be a force in the acting industry in recent years. I enjoyed her in “Booksmart” and she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her role in “Unbelievable.” Long story short, this film has talent of all ages. Although as I have shown in my recent review for “Amsterdam,” you can have all the talent in your movie that you could beg for and still fail to make something entertaining. So, how was “Ticket to Paradise?”

Well, for starters, staying slightly on topic, it is better than “Amsterdam.” I was not remotely bored. There were select moments where I was more entertained than others, but nevertheless.

“Ticket to Paradise” is a movie I am probably not going to watch a second time. In fact, there are moments during the movie, where I found my hand touching my face. Not because I was scared or shocked, but because I found various segments or lines in the film cringeworthy. Then again, given the type of film that this is, I should not be surprised. It is helmed by the “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” director after all.

When you go to watch a comedy, which “Ticket to Paradise” is to some degree, you would expect it to be funny. Nothing is worse than a comedy that does not make you laugh. I would rather die than watch “Jack and Jill” and the 2016 “Ghostbusters” a second time. As far as “Ticket to Paradise” goes, it is down the middle in terms of humor. It has its ups and downs. Some of it is ridiculously far-fetched and plays out like an episode of a network sitcom that is probably going to be canceled in three months. I remember laughing at select moments of this movie, but I think my experience overall highlights how disposable this movie will end up being. Despite my occasional laughter, I cannot exactly paint a picture of everything that made me laugh.

George Clooney and Julia Roberts, who have previously worked together on the “Ocean’s” franchise, make for a fine pair here. I bought into these two being married and having it not work out in the end. The two have decent chemistry. Unfortunately, some of the writing does not serve their characters justice. I get that this movie involves the obstacle of a divorced couple having to come back together to save their daughter from possibly living a life they previously had. However, I think the amount of “I hate you” or “I wish we were never together” or “marriage sucks” jokes this movie had were enough to fill the Chrysler Building. You can only do so many variations of the same joke and have a select few stick to the wall. Honestly, if I wanted to see a comedy where two people who are no longer married have to stick together to overcome an obstacle, I would rather watch the pilot episode of “The Orville.”

Now there are select comedy gags that are genuinely funny. There is a great hotel room layout bit that had me chuckling. Even though the “I hated our marriage” jokes are a dime a dozen, there is an occasional diamond in the rough. That said, there are funnier movies that you could watch that came out this year. If you want a better comedy with big stars, check out “The Lost City” with Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock. I watched that on a plane this year and had a great time. If you have the chance to check it out, do it. I recommend it over “Ticket to Paradise.”

Although going back to good chemistry, I thought the connection between Kaitlyn Dever and Maxime Bouttier was charming. While the connection between Clooney and Roberts may have overdone it on the comedy at times, I think the cuteness between these two was right in the goldilocks zone. Given the context of the story, I bought into Lily and Gede as a couple from the moment they were together.

Romcoms are not my genre. Although I have seen ones I liked. In fact, I recently watched the 2013 film “Enough Said” and I would recommend it. However, there is a problem I have with this romcom in particular. Based on the way everything is laid out, the movie is somewhat predictable. There is nothing wrong with a predictable storyline if you can make me like the characters or the way said storyline is done. I have said this with “Wonder Woman,” and I have recently said this with “CODA.” I do not think the writing or the characters in “Ticket to Paradise” are admirable enough to justify said predictability.

For certain audiences, I could see this maintaining a status as a comfort movie. I could see this being a movie certain individuals will find on television or a streaming service and watch on a rainy day when there is nothing else to do. As for me, I do not think it will be something I would end up watching again. Although if you want me to be real, when I left the movie, I said parts of it were good. Despite the talent in this film, “Ticket to Paradise” is not going to be nominated for any Oscars. However, I think everyone did their best with the material given to them and managed to make something that I found at the very least… Fine.

In the end, “Ticket to Paradise” is not quite the best comedy of the year, but the best way to describe this movie is to say that it is a halfway decent one time watch for me. If I bought this film on Blu-ray, I might watch it once, say it was okay, but I might end up trading it at whatever store still takes Blu-rays. Much like “Amsterdam,” the big stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts may have been a selling point for “Ticket to Paradise.” They are likable together despite the occasionally bad line here and there. Although if you ask me, “Ticket to Paradise” perhaps accomplished its goals to a greater degree than “Amsterdam” despite the latter being a movie I would watch if I knew nothing about either title. I did not think I would love this movie. And honestly, I do not love it. But I have to be real. There is some fun to be had, so I would have to give “Ticket to Paradise” a 6/10.

“Ticket to Paradise” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I will have a review for the all new DC film “Black Adam!” It has been years since this film has been announced. Is it worth the wait? We’ll see when the review drops.

Also, this Friday, October 28th, I will be concluding my official Steven Spielberg Month with my thoughts on his 2021 adaptation of “West Side Story.” I had the opportunity to rewatch the film last week so it is fresh in my memory, so I will be sharing my two cents soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ticket to Paradise?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite comedy of 2022 so far? For me, when it comes to pure comedy, it feels weird to say, but “Clerks III” might be my pick. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Amsterdam (2022): David O. Russell’s Latest Fast-Paced, Star-Filled, Forgettable Time

“Amsterdam” is directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Ford v. Ferrari), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet), Chris Rock (Madagascar, Grown Ups), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), Zoe Saldaña (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mike Myers (Shrek, Bohemian Rhapsody), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Mandalorian), Andrea Riseborough (Bloodline, Battle of the Sexes), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, Cats), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Selma), Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, The Little Things), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents). This film is mainly set in the 1930s, and centers around three people who are framed for murder. Together, this trio uncovers a plot that will change the course of history.

I have not seen all of David O. Russell’s films. I have seen “American Hustle,” which I was not a fan of. I have mostly forgotten it by now. I saw “Joy,” which I thought was cute. The acting was great, especially on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, but it was not my favorite movie of the year. I also saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which, while not one of my favorite movies ever, is probably the best attempt at a feature Russell has ever given. I still have yet to see films like “Flirting with Disaster,” “Three Kings,” and “I Heart Huckabees.” I am mostly familiar with David O. Russell’s recent work. That said, he has built quite a name for himself as a filmmaker and it is no surprise that names like the ones listed happen to be working with him.

When you have this many Academy Award-nominated or winning actors and actresses in your film, it builds promise. It builds interest. It reminded me of when I saw “The Circle” back in 2017. You had all these culturally relevant or critically acclaimed performers like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Given their resumes, I was excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts could not escape them from this misfire. “Amsterdam,” while definitely more satisfying than “The Circle,” is in the same boat.

The best way I can describe “Amsterdam” is to say that the film is all over the place. There is a lot that goes down in just a span of two hours that I felt like I had to take some notes. The film is not wholly incompetent by any means, but it begs me to keep up with its quick pacing. I like quick pacing, but at times, the movie goes too quick. There are a lot of characters and interwoven storylines that there is a good chance that I will have forgotten a couple of them by the next couple weeks. I think this is a film that could warrant a second viewing, but I am not sure yet if it has the replay value. At times, the pacing of this movie reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I know some people like, but for whatever reason I just could not get into. One moment we’re here, one moment we’re there, and in the next my brain, which has escaped from my body, might as well have traveled to the end of the universe.

If there is any saving grace in “Amsterdam,” it would have to be Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze. I thought she had the best moments in the movie. I thought the casting matched the character and the way she was written and directed. This performance solidifies Robbie as one of my favorite actors working today. Her chemistry with Christian Bale and John David Washington is solid, and as much effort as those two put into their performances, Robbie feels like the clear winner here.

Speaking of Christian Bale, if you want me to be completely honest, I think he had a more memorable performance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” of all things. I am not saying that Christian Bale gave a terrible performance in “Amsterdam.” If anything, it was stellar. But I think when combining acting with overall characterization, Bale’s attempt at playing Gorr the God Butcher was somehow more convincing and compelling despite a movie like “Amsterdam” appearing to be more along the lines of Bale’s forte.

It is crystal clear that the story of “Amsterdam” is not the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, it had its moments. There was a specific moment that intrigued me at the beginning where our main characters find themselves in an unspeakable situation. Unfortunately, as soon as we dive away from that, the quality of the movie lessens.

If I had to look in advance at 2022 in film and predict any Best Ensemble nominees at the SAG Awards, “Amsterdam” would have been a contender based on name recognition. However, much like Garry Marshall’s unwatchable holiday-based movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day,” the movie’s cast is the one glimmer of hope within what can simply be referred to as a hot mess. At least on paper. I never thought I would see the day where we have Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro in the same movie. I just hope when that unpredictable day came along, there was good script for them all to bring to the screen.

As for other positives, the movie is attractively colorful. Not quite as glitzy and glossy as say “Elvis,” which in some ways might happen to be a good thing if you ask me. However, the look of the film is sometimes easy on the eyes. In addition to having a stacked, recognizable cast, a lot of them are wearing stunning outfits, some look handsome or sexy. If this were a silent film, this might be okay depending on what you put for text. The sets at times look presentable, elaborate, and occasionally have a vintage feel to them.

There is a saying that looks are not everything, and this movie is exhibit A as to why that saying exists. Yes, some of my favorite actors are put in the forefront. Yes, some of the costumes and sets look dazzling. Yes, the movie has an occasional feeling of immersion. Although this cannot save the film itself from providing what could be one of the sloppiest stories of the decade, and that is despite this movie claiming “A LOT OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.” Just because a story is true, does not make it entertaining. You want to know a true story? I woke up today and wrote this review. Imagine if I tried to sell that as a movie. The distributor would probably go out of business!

Here is a fun fact. Christian Bale, who has worked with David O. Russell in the past, signed on to do “Amsterdam” before a script was written. I get the notion of wanting to work with a big name director. Especially one you supposedly have a decent relationship with. Heck, if I were an actor and I hear the name Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele I automatically think “business partnership.” I hope while these two high-profile industry insiders were thinking about how great it would be to work with each other, they took a moment to think of the quality of what they were going to make. Because despite the quantity of big names, quality seems to be sacrificed when it comes to the final product of “Amsterdam.”

In the end, “Amsterdam” has occasional glimmers of enjoyment, with some extreme emphasis on the word “occasional.” The film has an okay start, but the film itself never finds a way to be as compelling or entertaining as its first ten or fifteen minutes. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I cannot say the same for “Amsterdam.” I am going to give the forgettable and dull “Amsterdam” a 4/10.

“Amsterdam” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! I will soon unveil my thoughts on a couple of horror movies I watched recently, specifically “Smile” and “Halloween Ends.” Also, if you want to see more reviews from me, check out my thoughts on “See How They Run.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Amsterdam?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast whose script could not justify its star power? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

See How They Run (2022): An Admirably Staged Whodunnit with a Lesser Known, But Solid Cast

“See How They Run” is directed by Tom George (Defending the Guilty, This Country) and stars Sam Rockwell (Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Little Women), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong), Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, The Affair), Reece Shearsmith (Spaced, The World’s End), Harris Dickinson (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, The King’s Man), and David Oyelowo (Selma, Gringo). This film is set in 1950s London, where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which has become a popular play in the West End, is set to become a film. Unfortunately, when one crucial member of the film’s eventual production has been murdered, plans halt and it is now up to Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker to find out more about what happened.

While I have not watched a good amount of them, I do love a good murder mystery. In fact, my favorite television episode of all time, specifically And Then There Were Fewer from “Family Guy,” is a murder mystery.

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

Simply put, iconic.

In fact, one of my favorite movies of the past few years happens to be “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson. All the actors play their part well, especially Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, and it was one of the funniest movies of its year. In fact, while both movies have notable differences, I got “Knives Out” vibes from watching “See How They Run,” partially because both have some association with Agatha Christie works. For “Knives Out,” Rian Johnson once went on to reference several of Agatha Christie’s tales as inspiration for his film. As far as “See How They Run” goes, the movie literally uses an Agatha Christie work as a significant part of its story. “The Mousetrap,” which started off as a play, and as this movie reveals, is going to be turned into a film adaptation. As far as play to movie adaptations go, this definitely sounds better than “Cats.”

“See How They Run” is neither the biggest, nor most recognizable movie out right now. Heck, even “Avatar,” a thirteen year old film, beat it at the box office over the past few weekends. But to be fair, “See How They Run” did not release in 3D. Although unlike some of the alternatives out right now such as “Don’t Worry Darling,” “See How They Run” is definitely worth watching.

When I say this movie is not the most recognizable, I mean it. I live in the United States, and there are few big stars in this movie I can pinpoint like Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, David Oyelowo, and Adrien Brody. And that’s if you can actually call some of these people “stars.” That said, much like the recently mentioned “Knives Out,” every actor in this movie fits their part and feels like they belong in their environment. I have no problem with the casting whatsoever. The same goes with the characters. Everyone brought their A-game and while it may not have as star-studded of an ensemble as say the recent Kenneth Branagh-directed “Death on the Nile,” I would argue that the performances in “See How They Run” are just as, if not more compelling when combined together.

My favorite performances in the film come from the two most prominent characters, Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker, played by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan respectively. Rockwell transforms into this experienced, determined detective who has some noticeable quirks. I cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. The same assessment would have to be given to Saoirse Ronan, who is not only great in the movie, but based on her resume in recent years, this is a different performance than I am used to seeing from her.

Obviously, Sam Rockwell has been acting for years, therefore he has had the opportunity here and there to diversify his performances. From the little that I have seen from Saoirse Ronan, specifically through her work with Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” she has a knack for playing outspoken characters, and the character of Constable Stalker feels comparatively quiet. She is never shy, not necessarily nervous, but compared to her work as say Jo March in “Little Women,” Ronan plays a character who, based on what the story provides, is not the elephant in the room. Granted, Constable Stalker is not the main character of the film, therefore that also comes into play. Although she had some of my favorite moments in the movie. She had this recurring gag where she would often jump to conclusions that got an occasional laugh out of me.

My other hint of enormous praise of the film is the look of everything in it. Everything from the locations to the cinematography by Jamie Ramsay to the costumes by previous Jackoffs winner Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Last Night in Soho, Chernobyl). I felt like I was in the 1950s the entire time. I wanted to leave my world and enter this one. Kind of like last year’s “Last Night in Soho,” this movie sets up a spookily enchanting environment that is as beautiful as it is rugged. Being set in London is a wonderful coincidence if there ever was one.

This film packs a lot in its fairly short runtime. Unfortunately, I feel like I am not going to remember many of the supporting characters within the next month. I will likely remember Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker for their fabulous chemistry, but there are a good number of people that we meet by the film’s climax that I think I will disregard in comparison when talking about the movie to other people.

“See How They Run” may not be as smart or fun as say “Knives Out,” but it is worth a watch. The best way I can describe “See How They Run” to someone who hasn’t watched it is by referring to it as a Wes Anderson-style film if had some of the tones of “Knives Out.” I think both of those aspects could provide for a promising time. But this is no “Knives Out,” and if you want me to go by Wes Anderson terms, this is no “Rushmore.” Although if you are looking for something fun, something that could be an escape from reality, this is a quick, easy option. And I can honestly see myself watching it a second time if it ever comes around.

In the end, “See How They Run” is not my favorite movie of year, it is not the best murder mystery, but it is a quirky, delightful time. I do mean it when I say quirky. The movie even takes time to make fun of particular storytelling methods. A specific instance of this in particular had me dying. One character noted how cliché or predictable some murder mysteries are to some people, which I thought added for a nice touch for a story like this. I like the two main characters, they were played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. The overall aesthetic of the film is pleasing. My flaws with “See How They Run” do not detract from the delight this film is. I think you should see it if given the chance. I am going to give “See How They Run” a 7/10.

“See How They Run” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this, you might want to stay tuned for another review I have coming up. Specifically, for the new movie “Amsterdam.” I had a chance to see it, perhaps unfortunately. Therefore, I will be talking about it soon! Also, stay tuned for tomorrow, because I will be unveiling my thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s classic film, “E.T. the Extra-terrestrial.” I am reviewing the film as part of an ongoing Steven Spielberg Month and in honor of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “The Fabelmans,” which is set to release November 11th. Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you watch “See How They Run?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite murder mystery? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Clerks III (2022): The Most Personal Clerks Installment Yet

“Clerks III” is directed by Kevin Smith (Mallrats, Dogma) who also appears in the movie once again as Silent Bob. Joining Smith on his latest “Clerks” outing are stars including Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Austin Zajur, Jason Mewes, and Rosario Dawson. When Quick Stop employee Randall survives a heart attack, he decides he wants to do something with his life and make a movie. What’s the movie? Well, think of it as another version of “Clerks.” With the help of colleagues along with Jay and Silent Bob, they all come together to make a movie based on Randall’s life and experiences.

Hollywood has a tendency to celebrate itself from one movie to the next. This has been done through Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and the trend does not seem to be stopping anytime soon as we’re getting more movies of this sort like “Babylon.” That movie is, coincidentally, also directed by Damien Chazelle. Some of these movies have proven to be industry and award season darlings, which is why it is interesting to see that Kevin Smith is almost going for another approach with this. Kevin Smith has been part of “the industry” for years. As of a few years ago, he officially has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But compared to other individuals, he doesn’t feel like a part of the industry. He often wears a part of New Jersey on his sleeve, his ego is not over the top, and compared to say the recently mentioned Tarantino, his track record with critics is not the best.

In fact, when I did my list of the worst movies of the 2010s, “Copout,” which released early on in the decade, ended up making the list.

But it does not change the way I feel about Kevin Smith as a personality. I met him at a comic con, and I can genuinely say he is the nicest guy I have talked to in this industry. Smith is an avid pop culture geek, extremely humble, and even though critics say he cannot make a movie, he has shown to be appreciative of the art. When it comes to the first two “Clerks” movies, I enjoyed both of them. Both are relatable and funny. I still think about the “Lord of the Rings” storyline joke in the second movie on a regular basis. As an aspiring filmmaker, I look up to to people like Christopher Nolan for his auteur-like traits. But in the back of my mind, I want to maintain the same sense of humility and spirit that Kevin Smith has possessed all these years. I did not know what to expect going into “Clerks III,” but I paid $20 for a Fathom Events ticket because I wanted to support the movie.

Having seen this film, it is probably my favorite “Clerks” installment, partially because of its shift from the other two.

While this film serves a proper sequel to both “Clerks” and “Clerks II,” “Clerks III” shows how much the franchise has evolved with each outing. From the first to the second movie we go from shooting in black and white to shooting in color. What’s the big shift in the third movie? Things get comparatively serious.

Kevin Smith based “Clerks” on his time in New Jersey and working behind counters. That stays true in “Clerks III,” but Kevin Smith has grown up since making his first feature back in the 1990s, therefore it feels natural that the franchise grows up too. This story would have never happened if in addition to the two “Clerks” movies, Kevin Smith never had a serious heart attack in 2017. The attack nearly killed him, but he has since made adjustments to his life, and now he is using his life experience to make “Clerks III” happen. This is a surprisingly sentimental and personal story that tugs at the heartstrings as much as it busts the gut. When it comes to emotional, mature storytelling, I do not often put that thought alongside Kevin Smith. Sure, the movie still has its series of silly shenanigans like a goofy line out of Jay or an occasional joke about drugs or private parts. Although in between that, it is ultimately a story about friendship. It is about people who stick by each other even in the toughest of times.

“Clerks III” feels like a love letter to filmmaking in the same way that “The Disaster Artist” was. Because that movie chronicled a film that would have been doomed to fail if it were not for its insane cult following. While “The Disaster Artist” based its story on the making of a movie that actually happened, “Clerks III” pays tribute to what the franchise has already provided while offering an unfamiliar, but most certainly welcome, sentimentality.

“Clerks III” feels like this year’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” It is a sequel to two movies that despite their charm, are not exactly Oscar-worthy, but come loaded with entertainment value. Both of the franchise’s third installments keep that same entertainment value, but also come off as a slightly, and I do mean slightly, more mature variant of what came before.

If you are a fan of Kevin Smith’s work over the years, there are particular scenes that could resonate with you. My favorite part of the film is when Randall’s movie is in pre-production and they are trying to find the right people for the right roles. This brings out a great number of Kevin Smith’s colleagues, friends, and a few other celebrities who I am quite surprised managed to take time to be in a movie like this. I will not say any names, as I did not know any of these going in, but the audition montage alone was worth the $20 I paid to see this movie. If you are looking for cameos, Smith’s got em. And they are all here!

Although there is one big name in this movie that I would like to reveal, and that is Amy Sedaris (At Home with Amy Sedaris, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Amy Sedaris not only plays a cardiothorasic surgeon, she kills the part in every way. Every line out of Amy Sedaris is delivered with a sprinkle of flair and I cannot see anyone else playing this part except for her. Also, there is a particular exchange between her and Randall that caught my attention. For those of you who remember “The Martian,” there is a scene featuring Sean Bean of “Lord of the Rings” fame, and his character has to explain what Project Elrond is to a group of people. To those who do not know, Project Elrond is the secret meeting in “Lord of the Rings.” Attentive “Star Wars” fans, most notably those who are familiar with “The Mandalorian,” may be able to notice a reversal of this in “Clerks III.”

To spoil the ending of “Clerks III” would be like spoiling the ending to a lot of movies, it would ruin the grand effect of what’s to come. Although if I had to give my quick thoughts on the ending of “Clerks III,” I would say that it is one that I would not have predicted, but it is definitely earned. There is a particular moment between Randall and Dante that hit me. It feels weird to say because I am not that attached to these characters. From start to finish, I only saw both “Clerks” movies once. I liked both, but nevertheless. But these characters have a moment together that adds up and delivered the feels. There is more to the ending, and it nearly feels choppy, but it is a kind of choppiness that I was willing to appreciate.

If I had to give my biggest problem with the film, it weirdly enough has to do with one of my positives. The drama. There is a fundamental shift between the characters in the film in terms of how they view each other and their current situations. While I appreciate the fact that for the most part, this film goes for drama, and succeeds, this is the one blunder. This shift feels seismic to the point where I could not buy it. Maybe if it were written differently, it would have been executed better. Maybe less dialogue, maybe different words. But there is a hot second in the movie that has a moment of tension that almost feels forced.

Even so, “Clerks III” is a funny yet heartwarming conclusion to a trilogy that started nearly thirty years ago. There is a saying in that you should write what you know. And that is what Kevin Smith did. He took what may have been the worst situation of his entire life, and now he is telling what could be his most emotional story yet.

In the end, “Clerks III” is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy that mostly blends comedy and drama to an admirable degree. Kevin Smith movies always provide a likable vibe, even if it is not up to the caliber of say a Spielberg flick. The “Clerks” movies look cheap, but have occasional moments that feel like a million bucks. With “Clerks III,” Smith arguably hit the jackpot. When it comes to pure fun, there are few other movies this year that were able to deliver what this movie did for me. “Clerks III” is not my favorite movie of the year, but when it comes to genuine good times, there is are few rivals in terms of 2022’s cinematic calendar. I am going to give “Clerks III” a 7/10.

“Clerks III” is playing in theatres for a limited time and is going on tour across the United States and Canada! For those who live in certain areas, Kevin Smith will be bringing the movie to a city near you like Los Angeles, Chicago, or Montreal. For tickets and more info on “Clerks III: The Convenience Tour,” visit clerks3.movie/roadshow.

Thanks for reading this review! Guess what guys? My next post is going to be very special because I will be reaching 600 posts on Scene Before! Per usual, I will be doing a long-winded update on my Blu-ray collection. That video will also be available on my YouTube channel, but I will be sharing said video here as the 600th post for those who read my blog. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Clerks III?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see the other two “Clerks” films? Tell me your thoughts on those! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!