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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the best DC film ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Widow (2021): Natasha Romanoff’s Solo Marvel Movie Finally Arrives

“Black Widow” is directed Cate Shortland (Somersault, Lore) and stars Scarlett Johansson as the title character in her first solo movie after appearing in various MCU films since 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” Also joining Johansson is Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with My Family), David Harbour (Suicide Squad, Hellboy) O-T Fagbenie (Maxxx, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), William Hurt (Into the Wild, A History of Violence), Ray Winstone (Point Break, Beowulf), and Rachel Weisz (Denial, The Favourite). This film follows the Avenger Black Widow as she confronts a conspiracy tied to her past. The film follows her on the run not only for her life, but she’s also fleeing from her mistakes, and is set between the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Sorry to use the cliché phrase, but it’s finally arrived! I’ve wanted to see a “Black Widow” solo film ever since the early 2010s. Not only is she one of the standout characters of the MCU, but of all the characters that started in this universe as part of the supporting cast, I think Black Widow is arguably the one who I wanted to see more of compared to any other. Hawkeye? Who cares? Granted, I thought he was a shining star in “Avengers: Endgame,” but early on in the MCU, I thought he was the least compelling of all the hero characters. There are times in “Iron Man 2” where I honestly think Scarlett Johansson shines more as an action star than even Robert Downey Jr., the film’s lead. Naturally, when they first announced that a “Black Widow” movie was happening, I was incredibly giddy. I thought it was a solid way to get to know more about a character who has displayed some spotlight over the years, but never took all of it for herself.

I will admit, the first trailer, while good, left me a tad uneasy by the end because those who saw it may remember the big action sequence in the end where the laws of physics are those of Middle Earth times five. In fact, I will say, that sequence was fun and worth the ticket price for the big screen experience, but it is also something that comes off like a video game. Now, video games over the past number of years have become experiential to the tenth degree, and so have our movies, but this movie by the end of it throws a middle finger to reality just for the sake of looking cool. Granted, it’s the MCU, which has a lot of fantastical elements. But this is something I would expect more out of a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie as opposed to a movie like “Black Widow” where in comparison, it is a bit more grounded. However, this brings me to my next notion.

First off, I liked “Black Widow.” It was a fun time and I do recommend it to fans of the character, Marvel, and even general moviegoers who have not dipped their toes into the MCU all that much. If you cannot leave your house for whatever reason, by all means check the movie out on Disney+. It is worth $29.99 on top of your subscription fee, but I am sure if you watch it, you’ll have a decent time. If you want an experience, check this thing out in theaters! One of the big trends that has been going on in Hollywood and movie fandom is the desire or building up of anticipation for people to get back to the cinema. We’ve seen films like “A Quiet Place Part II,” which was good, alongside “F9: The Fast Saga,” which was bad, do that already. Both films have performed decently at the box office and evidence suggests that “Black Widow” has come out of the gate stronger than both of these films. Cinematically, “Black Widow” reminded me of the “Mission: Impossible” movies. Spies gone wild with crazy action sequences that for the most part are well choreographed.

The best part of the “Black Widow” movie is not even the action itself, which is one of the first things I think of when it comes to Marvel. Many of the universe’s films including “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Ant-Man,” and “Avengers: Infinity War” come packed with some of most memorable action scenes of the past decade. In the case of “Black Widow,” the best part is arguably the family dynamic between Romanoff and the people from whom she has distanced since her younger years. Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh have near perfect chemistry and they felt interlinked like little cogs in a clock in every other scene. I think Rachel Weisz was an interesting choice to play Natasha’s mother, and the execution pleased me. Although the best part of Natasha’s family has to be David Harbour as Alexei, also known as Red Guardian. Every other utterance from Harbour in this film is candy to the ears. Harbour is perfectly cast and as of right now, I do not think I can imagine anyone else taking this role from him.

I think we are at the point in the MCU where characters who have had less spotlight are getting their chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat. We’re obviously talking about Black Widow in her solo movie, but the Disney+ shows have revealed what happens when you let characters like Wanda Maximoff and Bucky Barnes take the wheel. I have no idea if there will be an end date for the MCU, but I would love to see a Red Guardian solo film at some point. Make it happen, Disney. He is probably my favorite supporting character of the film, and I love David Harbour’s portrayal of said character.

But let’s not take anything away from the star of the show, Scarlett Johansson. I have loved her iteration of Black Widow since I had a first glance in “Iron Man 2.” While we do get elements of Johansson’s past performances as the iconic character, this movie did a really good job at taking a character who I liked, but I also acknowledge has barely been humanized. Part of the reason why I liked Black Widow as a character is that there was a balance between badassery and sensuality provided within what was written for her. But in actuality, I barely knew anything about her. The movies didn’t really need to explain much at the time, but we’ve gotten to a certain point where we know so much about everyone else who had the lens enhanced on them so much, that it was time for Black Widow to take a turn. This movie is a perfect evolution for this character with a backstory that falls in line with her identity and it still has that MCU craziness that people tend to seek nowadays. I contend to this day that Natasha Romanoff as a character is someone who I would want to date. I mean, it’s Scarlett Johansson. Come on. But the point is, the character for a long while is someone who I did not know everything about, but I’ve seen enough of her that would make me ask her questions about… Well, her. Having learned about her now, I might think her family is a little crazy, but nevertheless. I’m glad we got this movie. This gave me the chance to learn more about Natasha herself, and thankfully, even though this movie could have arguably been nothing more than a cash grab, the story feels neither flimsy or slapped together. Everything from start to finish makes sense and has a purpose in the movie. Well, everything except physics.

The MCU over the years has become known for its humor. In a lot of cases it works, but I will also say that movies like “Thor: The Dark World” tries hard to be funnier than it actually is. When it comes to humor, “Black Widow” lands somewhere in the middle, which works for the character at hand because when it comes to the MCU and humor, I have more or less put those two ideas together and linked people like Tony Stark or Peter Parker or Nick Fury. Natasha Romanoff usually came off as stern or serious, and this has honestly been one of her more defining traits as a character. In fact I’d say most of the humor in this movie, as possibly implied, comes from David Harbour in addition to say Florence Pugh. There’s also this fun segment of the film dedicated to Natasha’s signature pose, which I liked partially because it mocks the traditional idea that superheroes don’t just kick-ass, but they have a tendency to show off while doing so. That and maybe it is something for the action figures to show off. Think of the “Deadpool” “superhero landing” scene but it is described for more than just ten seconds of screen time.

Unfortunately however, one of the biggest deterrents of “Black Widow” is a common complaint people have had over the years through a number of MCU films, the antagonistic side in this film is underwhelming. Taskmaster was beyond disappointing! Taskmaster is very much a character with all style and quite frankly, nearly no substance whatsoever. The film seemingly tries to give substance to the character, I could see where they may have been going with it. But I could not even come close to caring about the character to begin with so when the time arrives that the movie tries to persuade me to care, I just shake my head. Taskmaster kind of reminds me of Darth Maul if you sucked all the coolness out of him. Because remember how in the “The Phantom Menace,” Darth Maul had very little dialogue? He barely did anything except wield a kick-ass double lightsaber and some cool tricks? Taskmaster is basically Maul if you went out of your way to make me snooze while I laid my eyes upon the character. Sure, Taskmaster has the Red Room, which sounded like it could have been interesting, but I guess this is why we can’t have nice things. I will say, Maul is not the worst MCU villain. That honor likely goes to Malekith from “Thor: The Dark World,” but wow! Taskmaster was one of the highlights of the film’s marketing and they bricked it!

At the same time though, one of the strengths of the MCU, even when the villain is not exactly menacing or compelling, is that the script takes as much time as it can to make you effectively care about the hero. When it comes to Natasha Romanoff, that is no exception. Part of this is established in the first ten to fifteen minutes where we see Black Widow as a kid. I feel like Black Widow as an adult has had this way about her where she always hid what she was thinking and some of, but not all, of her emotions. Seeing her as a kid not only provided a thrilling start to the film, but made me care about the character when we got to see her as an adult.

Although I want to address something that has been bothering me. I love the MCU, but I’ve had a number of concerns regarding it over the past number of years. I feel like one of my biggest concerns culminated with the recent release of all the Disney+ shows. Without going into spoilers, “Black Widow” seems to be starting a trend that I did not exactly expect to see as early as we did, where we apparently have setup in one of the Marvel movies for one of the TV shows. At least that’s the impression I got. I know in the TV shows there also seems to be setup for the movies, but keeping this in mind, it kind of concerns me because it takes me, a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, and feel more like I am watching all of these films and TV shows as homework as opposed to reasons involving enjoyment. While I have no proof, my biggest concern for Marvel and Disney is that they will force me to watch the movies to understand the TV shows and watch the TV shows to understand the movies. “Black Widow” did not exactly support my concern 100%, but there is a scene in the film that enhanced it. I remember years ago I was talking about how Marvel would crank out two, three movies a year. I thought we would see a breaking point from that, but apparently the majority of them are at least good. Now I’m concerned between all the movies and TV shows we’re getting that we will see some sort of clog entering the MCU in terms of quality. Again, I could be underestimating Kevin Feige. I could be underestimating Marvel. I could be underestimating Disney. I could be underestimating all the directors. I could be underestimating all the writers. But at the same time, I believe I have a reason to be concerned. I will also state that this may be a “me problem.” I just like having one particular medium to follow in order to weave every story and moment together. This is why I like the fact that the DCEU movies have rarely crossed ties with any of DC’s TV shows. They’re two separate things with special identities that only they could associate with. Again, this may be a me problem, but if I were in charge of the MCU, part of me would want to come up with a “me solution.”

On that note, there is an end credit scene in “Black Widow.” This should not come as a surprise to MCU diehards. But nevertheless, if you’re watching this movie, stay for the credits.

In the end, “Black Widow” is a fine welcoming back to the realm of the MCU movies, but it comes with its flaws. Scarlett Johansson once again proves that she is a great pick to portray the Natasha Romanoff character. And speaking of which, I would say that her younger counterpart, Ever Anderson, may have a nice future of talent ahead of her. At the same time though, it feels like it covers many of the MCU’s basics but doesn’t do much of anything special with them. As much as I liked phase 2 in the MCU, it had quite a few villains that I did not fall in love with. Taskmaster feels like they are a villain that belongs in the phase 2 crowd. And again, I love the MCU, but part of me feels that it is becoming increasingly overwhelming and now that there seems to be an emphasis on tying the MCU movies and TV shows together, it is a cause for me to be concerned. Again, this is something that I cannot say is fully concerning me, it is something I’d have to wait and see as we move along. But nevertheless, I’m wondering if the MCU could potentially be hitting an unbreakable ceiling. I’m going to give “Black Widow” a 7/10.

“Black Widow” is now playing in theaters everywhere including IMAX and you can also catch the film on Disney+ with Premier Access for a $29.99 fee on top of your subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow, we venture to the weird waters of world’s end to fetch back witty Jack! Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” the third installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and the conclusion to Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. I just watched the film on Sunday and I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you in my latest installment of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.”

As for new releases, this Sunday I will be going to watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” so I will have a review up for the highly anticipated film next week as it releases in theaters and on HBO Max. I will admit, I was not a massive fan of the original “Space Jam.” I did not grow up with it, in fact I just watched it for the first time recently. Here’s hoping this sequel will be better. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Widow?” What did you think about it? Or, what movie are you looking forward to most in the MCU’s phase 4? For me, it’s gotta be “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The way things are looking, some serious s*it is probably about to go down. Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins Return to the Big (and Small) Screen

“Wonder Woman 1984” is directed by Patty Jenkins, who also directed the first “Wonder Woman” film starring Gal Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Fast Five) back in 2017. Gadot returns to play the iconic heroine alongside a cast including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones), Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), Robin Wright (House of Cards, Forrest Gump), and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo). This film takes place many years after the original, which was set in World War I. This time, we journey to 1984, where Wonder Woman has to take on two new foes, Max Lord and the Cheetah. Also, Steve Trevor, reprised by Chris Pine, comes along for the ride.

It has been three and a half years since I first watched “Wonder Woman,” which I originally gave a 10/10. By the way, that 10/10 still stands. The film is somewhat cliché. It contains things that have been done before, there is no denying that. But it does so with excellence and in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Plus, you can also add on that we have not had many successes with comic book movies specifically centered around characters portrayed by women. This felt like not just a proper, but a *massive* step in the right direction. It was also my favorite film in the DCEU at the time. In my review for the original film, I go onto mention that when it comes to “origin stories,” “Wonder Woman” may be my all time favorite in regards to movies. Part of it has to do with the singular and stellar vision provided by director Patty Jenkins and all the performances from cast members including Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The villians were… okay. However, each action sequence, even those that others say are heavy in CGI, are exciting and heart-pumping. I know some people find the final act to be clunky, I had a great time with it. Plus, Wonder Woman’s theme music, which was first introduced in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is arguably my favorite superhero theme of all time. Maybe except the one created for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man.

Going into “Wonder Woman 1984,” it was hard to imagine that such a movie could surpass the original. However, based on early reviews, it seemed as if such a thing would be possible. After all, we’ve already gotten the been there done that origin story out of the way, if you want to call it that. It was time for something new, innovative. Going in, I already had my expectations blown away. I did not expect Chris Pine to return. Like, literally. At all. Then again, this takes place in a comic book universe where anything is possible. There were also some new things in regards to tech. Not that they haven’t been done before, just not in the original “Wonder Woman,” because this new flick was partially shot on IMAX film. And if you have read a number of my posts, you know I rave about IMAX film. By the way, while the movie is shot in the heavy duty format, there is barely any footage that will expand the frame in IMAX. However, it may be worth the extra few bucks if those theaters are open near you.

But is “Wonder Woman 1984” worth the hype? Absolutely not.

Well! Well! Well! 2020 strikes again! “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a massive disappointment to one of the most anticipated films of the year. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a step down from the original 2017 film. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only the worst comic book movie of the year. Yes, more than “Bloodshot” for crying out loud! But it is also the worst entry to DCEU thus far.

Now, let me just get one thing out of the way. I am a straight white male in his early twenties. I am not one of those people that is trying cancel Gal Gadot. After all, I met her in person, I have her autograph, and she is a decent actress. I am also not trying to cancel Patty Jenkins, which the Internet seems to be doing according to many people. If they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3” with these two at the front lines, I am there. Their work on the original film justifies such a thing, and Jenkins is a director that is completely capable of making something magical. In fact, most of the problems of the film do not have to do with how the movie is made. It instead has to do with the pacing, the editing, the way everything plays out, the characters, and the writing. Admittedly, Jenkins is responsible for that last mistake, given how she has a screenplay credit. I don’t know if I should blame her entirely given how she wrote the script with a couple other people, but I should also point out that she did not have a screenplay credit for the previous “Wonder Woman” installment. This time around, Jenkins collaborates with Dave Callaham, who wrote the script for one of last year’s best comedies, “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Also along for the ride is Geoff Johns who has plenty of experience of creating DC content. So, what went wrong? Was there not enough time to draft everything out? Were there so many ideas colliding from three different minds? I don’t know. Patty Jenkins seems very passionate about the Wonder Woman character. In fact, throughout the movie, Jenkins properly visualizes the character as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people, especially women.

This movie starts off pretty great. By the way, for those who want to see the film in IMAX, this is one of the two scenes that were actually filmed in the IMAX format. The scene not only looked articulate and felt immersive, but it may have ended up being the best part of the movie. It is action-packed, exciting, and lets you escape into the world Themyscira. Sadly, the movie kind of blows its load in the first ten minutes. Because it spends time showing you young Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell), progresses to a time where we see a matured Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and in these initial scenes, the action never stops whether Diana is trying to win an athletic event for herself, or she saves the lives of others. Even so, it does kind of feel like action that does belong in the beginning of a superhero sequel. The main character kicks ass while you get reintroduced to them, and the movie sets a footprint for where the story is going to go. “Wonder Woman 1984” sets up a vibe that fits the title. You see people walking around in eccentric clothing, there’s record stores, CRT television sets, and a multi-story colorful mall. When it comes to the first hour of “Wonder Woman 1984,” these scenes were fine. What wasn’t fine in the first hour is perhaps just about everything else.

What do I mean? Let’s take a moment to talk about the worst “Lord of the Rings” film. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” I’ll be fair. I did have fun with the movie, but one of the worst things about “An Unexpected Journey” was the pacing. This may partially be due to the need to adapt one book into three parts, but the evidence comes in towards the beginning where we see the 13 dwarves coming into Bilbo Baggins’s home. A lot of the screentime almost feels extended and nearly tiresome. There are some decent moments, but it does not always make for a good time. It takes like 45 minutes to an hour to actually get the movie going. With “Wonder Woman 1984,” I got the same feeling. It just took forever to actually get into gear. Mainly because this film feels like a stockpile of exposition. “Batman v. Superman” sort of felt the same way, but I think I had more fun watching that, exposition included, than I did sitting through whatever the hell “Wonder Woman 1984” turned out to be. To add onto that, you have some cringe-worthy lines, less than stellar characters, and a surprisingly boring storyline, part of which includes a role reversal.

Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor in this movie. I will not go into detail of his return, but this was heavily marketed, so if you’re considering this a spoiler, I’m sorry. In the 2017 “Wonder Woman” film, Gal Gadot’s character has to deal with the new sights of earth and learn the normalcies within. To do so, she had the assistance of Steve Trevor along the way. Diana Prince came off occasionally as eccentric, she said certain things that maybe would be better left unsaid, and there’s a montage where she’s trying on unfamiliar apparel. This time around, Diana assists Steve in 1984, because now he’s the fish out of water. Much like the last movie, there is a reversal where Steve is trying on different clothes that defined the 1980s. He occasionally had a fanny pack, “parachute pants,” and so on. That scene kind of entertained me. However, the rest of this storyline was mostly either boring or impractical. There is a scene where Diana and Steve are flying through the sky looking at fireworks. And sure, fireworks are a sight to be seen. There is reason why Disney World charges you your entire blood supply to see them up close. But this movie made me ask if Steve has never actually seen fireworks in his life. The way I viewed the scene made me wonder why he was actually as amazed as he was in those exact moments. Fireworks have been around for a long time. Many years, centuries even! Why is Chris Pine acting like he’s never seen fireworks before?

This movie features a couple respectable actors, you have Pedro Pascal who I liked in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” he’s also in hit TV shows including “Game of Thrones” and “The Mandalorian.” The guy has been certain cores of nerd culture over the years. You also have Kristen Wiig, who I have rather mixed feelings on. I was not a fan of her in the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. I don’t think I find her as funny as other people do. But I also am a fan her in other regards. I think she did a fine job in “The Martian” and her voiceover work in projects like “Sausage Party” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise are highlights in her career. Sadly, their performances are very on and off here. I would not ease myself into saying that the actors themselves are specifically at fault, but these two portray their characters to a degree that feels cartoony and off-putting. “Wonder Woman 1984” gets into the problem that people have criticized movies like “Batman & Robin,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for realizing. MULTIPLE MAJOR THREATS.

I am not saying you cannot make a movie with more than one villain. It has been done before with “Return of the Jedi,” “The Dark Knight,” and if you really think this counts, “Back to the Future Part II.” But the beauty of having one major threat in your movie is that you get to make them the source of everyone’s struggle. Time is taken to specifically focus on that one character and why they must stopped. We somewhat get that in “Wonder Woman 1984” with Max Lord (Pascal), but when it comes to Barbara Minerva (Wiig), the way she is handled is sort of similar to how they handled Eddie Brock in “Spider-Man 3.” Only thing is, I was actually entertained whenever Eddie Brock had a scene in “Spider-Man 3.” Topher Grace played the part well, even during lines that were not up to par. Wiig tries, but the problem is that some of the writing in “Wonder Woman 1984” makes some of the writing in “Spider-Man 3” look like Shakespeare. Maybe that’s not the best comparison, mainly because I am one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed “Spider-Man 3.” However, there are a few lines and storytelling methods in that film that do not fall into place.

But if you want me to compare “Wonder Woman 1984” to another film I did not enjoy, let’s use “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” In that film, you have Electro and the Green Goblin. There’s also the Rhino, but we’re gonna leave him out for this. The two major threats in “Wonder Woman 1984” are basically just like Electro and the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but instead of being exact carbon copies, they take various qualities of each character, but they are switched around to make something new. Like Electro, Barbara is eccentric, kind of shy, almost a nobody. But kind of like the Green Goblin, she barely has any screentime as Cheetah. And whatever screentime there is almost feels forced or nearly unmemorable. As for Max Lord, he’s got funky hair like Harry Osborn, he’s affiliated with a big company. And like Electro, he has a more significant screen presence when it comes to dealing with our main hero. This all adds up to an underwhelming evil duo in an underwhelming movie. But I do have to say one thing about Max Lord, and it kind of turned me off. He’s basically Donald Trump.

Think about it! This movie is painting a picture of an obsessive, failed businessman and kinda sorta television personality who has little time for their kids. In fact, my first impression of his son was that he was sort of a spoiled brat, which does not always seem to stick for the rest of the movie. Again, the hairstyle feels like something out of a meme. There is even a scene, and you saw this in the main trailer for this film, where he stands in front of a background representing the White House Press Room! Granted, having compared Pedro Pascal to his comic book counterpart, the casting and makeup departments did a good job at being faithful to the source material. But knowing that this was made in the late 2010s, and originally supposed to release in 2019, I could not help but make this comparison. And part of why I did not like this is because, and this may be a personal thing, it slightly ruined the escapism factor of the film. I’m not going to say whether I like Donald Trump, whether I dislike him. I am not here to get into politics. But Max Lord in “Wonder Woman 1984” feels like a Trump parody. The makeup department could have easily sprayed orange spray paint onto Pascal’s face and boom! Donald Trump impersonation!

I will say, there is one thing about “Wonder Woman 1984” that could be an improvement over the first one, and that is Gal Gadot’s performance. Gal Gadot, as much as I adore her as a person, as good-looking as she is, is not Meryl Streep. When it comes to “Wonder Woman,” she’s always looked the part, and she’s had good moments since her inception. Even though her character was the best part of “Batman v. Superman” for me, her acting ability was a far cry from what I saw out of Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill or Laurence Fishburne. When she shows up alongside the two titular characters in “Batman v. Superman,” she comes off as a badass, but there’s a line that she releases out of her mouth that feels like a first take. In “Wonder Woman 1984,” Gal Gadot has a commanding presence, she is charismatic, she is emotional, and occasionally witty. I liked Gadot’s performance in the original “Wonder Woman” because she did a good job at interpreting a goddess who has to adapt to a new normal, embracing the ups and downs along the way. But there were also signs that Gadot needed to work more on her craft and do a little more than be a pretty face in armor who can say words here and there. I will admit, her acting towards the end of “Wonder Woman” occasionally gave me chills, but I could tell that there was still work that needed to be done. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a sign that Gal Gadot is getting better, she deals with dialogue better than she used to, and her range is improving. I am looking forward to seeing Gal Gadot in “Death on the Nile” and if they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3,” count me in.

Gal Gadot’s performance is not the only positive here, because I will admit, even though I think Patty Jenkins and the other writers could have done a better job with the screenplay, she did alright with crafting the film. When it comes to her vision, I do not think it was as well represented as the original, but a crappy script can make that happen. Some of the cinematography is marvelous to look at. The visuals are just as good as the original film. Many scenes felt big and grand, and while I imagine some people will stick to watching “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max for now, if you feel safe going to a theater right now, do not rule that option out. There are some cool scenes that look great on the big screen. Speaking of things that feel grand, they got Hans Zimmer to do the score, which I was onboard with from the beginning. I saw the first few minutes of “Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, and from that moment, I was excited to hear the rest of the score, and it is really good. There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has one of the best themes for an on-screen superhero, and I am glad that Zimmer got to work his magic to carry out his singular vision regarding it. I will likely listen to the soundtrack sometime in the future. The film had a passable ending. Granted there was some cringe surrounding it, but it good parts.

Too bad the movie’s boring, forgettable, and another big blow in 2020. F*ck. This. Year.

In the end, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a visually grand mess. Am I looking forward to what Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have in store in the future? Yes. But does my anticipation take away from my thoughts on “Wonder Woman 1984?” No. I think “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic misstep of a film. And the worst part is that it was not worth all the waits from the delays. I’ll be honest, and some of you may find this surprising, I would rather watch the live-action version of Disney’s “Mulan” again! Just to paint a picture of how much I did not like this film, let me just boil it down to a simple sentence. I did not have fun. Ironically, 2017’s “Wonder Woman” took place in World War I, where people are fighting, people are dying, times are desperate, but I managed to have fun. This sequel takes place in 1984. In real life, that year was much more lighthearted, at least from the perspective of the United States. Yes, there was the War on Drugs. AIDS broke out. Indira Gandhi was murdered. But there were plenty of big songs and movies that came out like “Jump” by Van Halen or “Ghostbusters.” People were having fun! “Wonder Woman 1984” manages to take a time that is significantly more fun than World War I, and makes it the most boring thing imaginable. The action sequences don’t save this movie. Gal Gadot’s improved performance doesn’t save this movie. A couple new and talented faces do not even save this travesty. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic disappointment, the worst film in the Detective Comics Extended Universe, and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Due to the lockdown in the United Kingdom, the movie will debut on January 13th, 2021 on PVOD. If you live in the United States, you can also watch the film right now on HBO Max if you are a subscriber and it is available at no extra cost until the near end of January 2021, where it will finish it’s theatrical release, go to PVOD for a price, likely hit store shelves through DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually return to HBO and HBO Max sometime next year.

Thanks for reading this review! Who knew that in the SAME WEEKEND, we would get my least favorite Pixar film, and now, and perhaps on a more significant scale, my least favorite DCEU film! This year has kicked my ass, called me names, and made me eat dirt. We are approaching the end of 2020, THANK HEAVENS. So it is almost time for me to post my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. That will be up sometime early next year and I may have one or two more reviews coming your way if I can fit them in. 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 “Wonder Woman 1984?” What did you think about it? Also, did you watch the movie in the theater? At home? Or both? Tell me about your experience! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CORRECTION: When I said, “There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer,” I was wrong. Turns out the music in that scene was Adagio in D Minor, originally composed by John Murphy for the film “Sunshine,” which has been used in several marketing pieces for “Ready Player One,” the “2010 Winter Olympics,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” I will not spoil where it plays for those who have not seen the movie.

The New Mutants (2020): This Review Has Been Delayed 2 and a Half Years

“The New Mutants” is directed by Josh Boone, who also directed the 2014 film “The Fault in Our Stars,” based on the hit book of the same name. This film stars Maisie Williams (Gen: Lock, Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma, Split), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things, Marrowbone), Alice Braga (City of God, Queen of the South), Blu Hunt (The Originals, Another Life), and Henry Zaga (Teen Wolf, 13 Reasons Why) in what could arguably be one of the bigger tragedies of 2018 and 2019, but such tragic outcomes helped this movie form some semblance of comedy by 2020. More on this in a second, but this film is about a group of mutant teenagers who all stay in a facility together. I won’t give too much away, but these teenagers meet someone new to the facility, Danielle Moonstar, who ends up making friends, enemies, and discovers more about mutant powers.

I saw “The New Mutants” in IMAX Laser this past Thursday. So at one point I thought in honor of this movie FINALLY coming out, after the merger, the delays, the pandemic getting into gear… I would make this review and not release it until early 2022. It’ll be just like creating the movie! But of course, I’d be insane! I’m not going to do that. So, let’s talk about “The New Mutants.” This movie is the latest installment to the “X-Men” universe, even though it really is a spinoff that has just about nothing to necessarily associate with the main franchise. I’ll be honest with you guys. I love comic book movies. I love superheroes. Give me a Marvel or DC movie any day!

…I have not seen one “X-Men” film from start to finish except “Deadpool” and “Deadpool 2.” I’ve seen part of 2013’s “The Wolverine,” but that’s about it!

Although I will point out, if you have not seen any “X-Men” films, it won’t really matter going into “The New Mutants,” which definitely helped someone like me who doesn’t want to waste a ton of time catching up on everything else. Granted, I was able to watch six “Fast & Furious” films in less than a week before watching “Furious 7” in the theater, but “X-Men” seems a little more daunting at this point.

Now, I’ve talked about the Disney Fox merger on here before. I’ve talked about how quite honestly I don’t happen to be a fan of the idea. But, I have no position in Hollywood, I have no power, and I can’t talk to mice. One of the things I respect Fox for is that when it comes to some of their recent work in the comic book movie genre, it has been fairly experimental. Yes, there have been R rated comic book movies before, “V For Vendetta” is one of my favorite films of the past fifteen years! but it doesn’t mean they’re common! “Deadpool” is basically “Family Guy” in comic book movie form. It makes fun of the genre, blockbusters, and takes comedy to another level. “Logan,” even though I have not seen it, is something that I recognize is not your traditional comic book movie. Not only do we get to see an R rated Wolverine, but there’s tons of added foul language, and one of my friends, and perhaps more accurately one of their friends, does not necessarily view “Logan” as a perfect comic book movie.

…They view it as a perfect “movie.”

As for “The New Mutants,” I respect the direction in which this movie was taken, because there’s no other comic book movie like it. The movie takes place in one location for the most part? There’s not really any bad guys?

…Horror? Sign me up!

I really like the vision for this movie as it is not only unique, but also because it barely has excuse to display bloated visual effects for a couple of hours. Now I like my big summer comic book action movies. This movie, like the typical fare, has action, but it’s not like we’re watching big, humongous fights like we’ve gotten in the MCU. I’d even say this movie is a bit more intimate than “Joker” because this film in particular takes place in one spot and has a fairly small cast. If anything, the best way I can describe “The New Mutants” is if “The Breakfast Club” took place in prison. You have these people who are placed together whether they like it or not, they have their individual personalities, and kind of like detention, you might as well wonder when time runs out.

I will say one thing about this movie, I like all the characters. I think Danielle is a well-written newcomer to the facility. I think the other teenagers in the building are also pleasing to watch. The woman in charge of the facility and everyone in it, AKA Dr. Reyes, was not only a likable character, but competently performed by Alice Braga.

I will say though, if there were one standout character in this movie, it would have to be Illyana Rasputin, played by the very talented Anya Taylor-Joy, an actress who I’d personally argue would happen to have 2020 be “her year” by the end of it if nothing else comes out. Then again, I may be somewhat biased… She showed up at a screening I attended. I liked her in “Emma.” “Radioactive,” which is now available on Prime Video, was pretty good. “The New Mutants” is another solid movie featuring said actress. I think overall Taylor-Joy had the best performance, and she played one of the more compelling characters in the movie. I really enjoyed seeing Rasputin and the puppet she carries around. Any scene with those two together is purely entertaining. I think Taylor-Joy does a really good voice transition with it too. I will say, the fact that I like her so much does feel really weird, because she has one of the more dynamic personalities of the group, but at the same time I’m supposed to hate her. Then again, take a movie like “Back to the Future.” Sure, I know Biff Tannen is a complete and total butthead, but he has a good personality that makes me as viewer simply like him. Sometimes movies have likable assholes. Maybe I don’t agree with them, maybe I don’t want to be them or emulate their behavior, but they’re likable nonetheless.

I will say though, even though I don’t have a ton of issues with “The New Mutants,” the biggest problem I will point out is probably the directing. Now, I like the vision of this film. If anything, it should not have been altered in any way. I think the horror elements of this film make it stand out amongst an overcrowded genre, and it’s nice to see a comic book movie that feels fairly intimate. However there was a scene in particular, where the teenagers are sitting around. I imagine all the actors are giving what they can to make sure they give the best performance possible, but I noticed they were having a conversation that quite honestly didn’t feel natural. It’s not the wording, phrasing, or anything like that, it’s more having to do with the way everybody talked. It didn’t feel like actual teenagers talking. There was just a second watching where one or two characters felt like robots, or maybe even exposition machines. Directors have a lot to do. One of the most essential duties of a director is to get solid performances out of their actors. And I think the cast, for the most part, do a good job with their performances. But there was just one scene that stood out to me where nobody felt natural, and I wouldn’t necessarily put any of the blame on the actors themselves.

If you were to ask me, “Jack, would you watch ‘The New Mutants’ a second time?” I’d probably respond with a “yes.” However, if you were to expand on that question and say “When is the second time you are watching ‘The New Mutants’?” I wouldn’t be able to answer to the best of my ability, but if I were to guess, I’d predict maybe when it hits HBO or FX or whatever cable network it happens to hit. I don’t see myself (for now) buying the Blu-ray for this film when it comes out. Talk to me again in a couple months, that could change, because I am an avid collector of comic book movies, and I am willing to expand my “X-Men” collection. But at the same time, even though a lot stood out to me, and I appreciated what made this movie differentiate itself from other entries to its genre, I don’t see myself going back to watch “The New Mutants” instantaneously. It’s rather unfortunate, as I did really like the movie. It was worth seeing in the theater, but it almost feels like a one and done type of deal.

Was this worth the two to three years of delays from April 2018 all the way to present day just to see this movie? I’d say so. It was worth my time. I had fun. If I had any other problems, looking back at this film, there are one or two borderline cheesy lines from one of the characters involving his/her reaction to another character using his/her power. But other than that, this is a pretty good movie, and for comic book movie fans who want to go back to the theater, I think that many of them will be relatively pleased with what “The New Mutants” has to offer.

In the end, “The New Mutants,” which really feels like “The Old Mutants” at this point based on how long it took to put this thing out, is fun, dark, and occasionally spooky. I will admit, horror is one of my weaker spots in my film palette. But I have often expressed my love for comic book movies, and to have one mix with horror and do so with excellence is certainly pleasing. I think the cast is admirable, both as individual performers and as parts of a group, and I hope even though Disney merged with Fox, which could end up equating to a slight loss in creativity if you ask me, we can still get some more experimental comic book films down the road if possible. Again, I enjoy movies like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can’t wait for “Black Widow” this November, and even though I’ve often gotten “Mission: Impossible” vibes from the trailers, it takes a lot of elements from familiar aspects of the genre. I’m just hoping for more originality at this point. I don’t know, it’s just the way I feel. One last thing before I give my official verdict, I was also pleased to know that I happen to live less than hour away from where this movie was shot. Maybe I’ll do a post on that sometime soon if I ever get to see the major shooting location. Just saying. I’m going to give “The New Mutants” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week, guess what? I’m going to see “Tenet” not once, but TWICE! I already have my ticket booked for an early access screening slated for Tuesday! And I’m going again Thursday for IMAX! I cannot wait, this is going to kill! I am almost questioning myself for booking tickets for two different showtimes, but I also don’t care as I am supporting the film industry, my favorite industry, during this trying times, and I get to experience one of my most anticipated films of the year in two vastly different ways. If you want to see more great content from Scene Before, give this blog a follow either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! It’s been around for over two years, kind of like the delays for this movie! I want to know, did you see “The New Mutants?” What did you think about it? Or, are theaters open near you? Have you gone to the theater recently? What did you see? Is everyone following the rules? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes – Part 5

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 5 of the Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Per usual, real world matters first! Because life sucks! The United Kingdom is currently in a bit of trouble as evidenced from actions taken this past Thursday. Britain has confirmed they have extended their countrywide lockdown for a total of three more weeks. This was announced by foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is taking on responsibilities in place of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was previously announced to have a positive case of COVID-19. With this extension, the country’s lockdown is likely going to last until the second week of May unless things change.

For the record, a good number of people in my country, specifically the United States, often point out that the economy is likely to collapse should we keep these restrictions going for any longer. One take that I found interesting mainly because I don’t hear it all that much, is the one given by the recently mentioned Dominic Raab. He suggests the opposite and thinks if we loosen these restrictions, the economy is going to go to hell. After all, since there’s always a chance of a second outbreak, there’s always a chance of a second economic downfall.

Although here in America, people clearly want the economy opened back up, including medical expert Anthony Fauci. The well-known director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was on the Snapchat show “Good Luck America,” which discusses the role young people have in spreading the virus. He explained on the show that he’s likely missing baseball season as he suggests, “I’m living in Washington, we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.” He also thinks that sporting events like baseball and football could happen should there be a lack of an audience in stadiums.

President Donald J. Trump, who Fauci has been seen alongside for much of this crisis through cameras, wants the economy opened back up by May 1st, as I mentioned in part 4. As of suggesting that notion, certain states have declared the idea of opening back up on said day like Trump is opting for. One notable state is Ohio, which much like much of America, is planning to follow phases as to what exactly will open at supposed times. Restaurants may be more essential than bars, and bars may be more essential than football stadiums.

Speaking of U.S. states, one of the most talked about states in general regarding this crisis, has been New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose brother is a CNN reporter who has been tested positive for COVID-19, has been a significant voice in not only trying to pull his state into the right direction, but for the rest of the country as everybody deals with this. Although another voice that New Yorkers heard last week was former presidential candidate and current New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who had some unfortunate news for the state. De Blasio suggested that all major gatherings for the month of May have been canceled except for certain events like farmers’ markets. So if you are expecting to attend a “Last Week Tonight” taping this May, sorry to say, you’re gonna have to continue staring at John Oliver in front of a white void.

Screenshot (59)

Well, at least he got the rat painting he’s been searching a month to find.

Fun fact, when this whole crisis initiated, I was in Florida, which may be one of the worst hit states when it comes to this mess. For the record, Florida does not have the most cases for the virus, in fact none of them hold a candle to New York. In fact, my state, Massachusetts, has more cases to my surprise! But when it comes to properly closing everything in the state, those ends have not been met. In fact, Governor Rick DeSantis just opened a crucial element to what makes Florida Florida, the beaches. I should note that not all beaches have been opened, and they are NOT open for the purposes of bringing blankets, chairs, and coolers. They are specifically open for exercise-related purposes, plus taking care of pets. Individuals are still supposed to keep their distance from others and avoid gatherings of 50 people. Many of south Florida’s beaches, such as those in Miami, continue to remain closed, but if you live in Duval County (Jacksonville), there’s a good chance that you can find an open beach near you.

The beaches managed to receive a major turnout. However, not everyone is happy, as partially evidenced by the reaction that surfaced on social media. One of the top trending topics of the past weekend is #FloridaMorons. Here’s some of the tweets that surfaced.

Just because we talk about movies here…

Also, one man wanted to drop a public service announcement…

Thank you, sir! Very informative!

Now that we are done with our continuously depressing and ridiculous reality, let’s move onto movie topics. This first part is not a main topic since it may not have as much relevance as others, but I do feel it needs to be talked about. One of the topics I discussed last week is “Parasite’s” Hulu debut. Now Hulu has been a pretty popular streaming service that has been relevant for a few years. In fact, now that Disney oversees them, they are included in a bundle package with their other streaming services including Disney+ and ESPN+. But for a streaming service overseen by a company that does not make many independent features, “Parasite” has earned an ASTOUNDING success on the service so far. The movie dropped on Hulu Wednesday April 8th, where from then on, it was not long before the film immediately became the most streamed foreign or independent feature on the service in just a week. According to IndieWire, the film is also the second most watched film on the platform of all time. This beats the likes of mega-titles such as “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “A Quiet Place,” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Given the film’s Korean background, how Hulu does not even serve Korea, plus the necessity for non-Korean viewers to read subtitles, it should come as a surprise that “Parasite” is as popular as it is on Hulu. Although keep in mind, the film has already been a critical success in the states, not only having major buzz from reviews, but tons of award wins as well, including the Academy’s Best Picture, which no international feature has received prior to “Parasite.” The film has made over $50 million at the U.S. box office, indicating success. So either everybody wanted a chance to watch the film again, or there’s a possibility that a majority of Hulu users missed out on the theater experience but now have an opportunity to watch at home.

Speaking of theater experiences and watching something at home, Lionsgate is trying to recreate the communal theater atmosphere while keeping movie watchers on their couch. One of the best parts of going to the movies sometimes is the reactions people can blurt out during a presentation. If you have seen the last two “Avengers” movies, you’d understand. Lionsgate is attempting to get people together to react to their favorite movies without hearing anybody else and with the intention of keeping viewers behind closed doors.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIONSGATE MOVIES ON YOUTUBE

Throughout the series, I have often touched upon the goings on behind some of the bigger studios. Disney and Universal have shuttered theme parks, delayed films, and have decided to put some of their films like “Artemis Fowl” and “Trolls: World Tour” straight to a digital streaming service. Paramount delayed a ton of films, but some of their classics will be airing on CBS soon. Warner Bros. has stated in the past about its optimism to release “Tenet” in theaters on time, all the while delaying big films like “Wonder Woman 1984.” But one of the major studios I have not talked about all that much yet in this series is Lionsgate. While they don’t have the franchise power that a company like Disney has, they do possess the rights to iconic properties including “The Hunger Games” and “John Wick,” which are relevant to this topic.

Recently, specifically Friday April 17th, Lionsgate teamed up with Fandango, YouTube, and NATO (National Association of Theatre Owners) to get people to watch “The Hunger Games” on YouTube for free. This is part of an event called “Lionsgate Live! A Night at the Movies.” These are movie night events hosted by Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), will feature celebrity guests, special programming, and opportunities for fans to interact via YouTube live. While the odds of watching “The Hunger Games” on one of these Fridays will no longer be ever in your favor, there are still a few movies listed for this special occasion. These include…

  • DIRTY DANCING (APRIL 24)
  • LA LA LAND (MAY 1)
  • JOHN WICK (MAY 8)

Just a reminder, if you want to watch “John Wick” during this occasion on YouTube, there is an age restriction. For the record, “John Wick” is rated R whereas the other films listed are rated PG-13. So if you want to watch your fan favorites with OTHER PEOPLE, I never thought I’d say that ever again! go to the Movieclips YouTube channel, check to see if one of the movies is playing or will be playing, and enjoy! This event will benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, a foundation dedicated to helping workers within the motion picture industry. This even includes the many theater employees affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Even companies behind food are getting in on this, which does make sense as cinemas and food go together like bread and butt–, sorry. Popcorn and butter. I don’t always agree with that statement, my apologies to all popcorn eaters who butter on their popcorn at the movies, but still, it makes sense here. So feel free to amuse yourselves over my forced statement all damn day.

Popcornopolis, which judging by the name, you can probably tell makes popcorn, will be donating 10% of its sales to the cause. Meanwhile, SnackNation, typically known for being a healthy snack delivery service for offices and homes, will be giving away a specially priced box of goodies for these movie nights. The box will include fruity candy, chips, puffs, popcorn, and more. The box is priced at $9.95 and shipping is free. So if you are tired of going to Target to get some Sour Patch Kids while also buying tons of toilet paper, give this snack box a shot, and if you don’t use it for one of these movie nights, it could always work for something else you pop on at home. “Tiger King” is pretty hip right now, why not give that a shot? If you wanted to get some grub from SnackNation for “Dirty Dancing,” there is a solid chance that you might not get it on time. But if you wanted something for “La La Land” or “John Wick,” by all means place your order!

Also in on this are major movie theater chains including AMC Theatres (Please make it through this!), Regal Entertainment Group, and Cinemark Theatres.

SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON CANCELLED FOR FIRST TIME EVER

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Alright, my fellow nerds. Buckle up. This is possibly the most dissatisfying news any comic convention fanatic will ever hear. San Diego Comic-Con, known for pioneering the comic con name and blueprint has officially been cancelled for the first time ever. The event started out small and has grown ever since. It has achieved fame for its success at bringing together communities of nerds of all kinds from comic book collectors, sci-fi fanatics, movie buffs, fantasy lovers, and TV junkies. It’s even gotten so big that “Conan” on TBS has done shows in San Diego as the con goes on! It’s an event so lively that even if you don’t get to go, you are guaranteed to hear something from it that is extravagant in the nerd world, mainly because there is heavy self-promotion going on in the sacred “Hall H,” where celebrities talk to fans, crews behind projects promote trailers, and the effort to get in is just as hard as it is to get through waiting at the DMV. Sadly, this year, there won’t be any of that. Last year, SDCC brought some great news to the nerd sphere, especially within Marvel, because that is where they laid the groundwork for phase 4, advertising plans for each theatrical movie set to release, and even the shows they’re planning to drop onto Disney+. Unfortunately, this news is already outdated as we won’t be seeing one of those projects, specifically “Black Widow,” this May and instead wait until November, which is when “Eternals” was originally supposed to release.

Who knows what could have happened this year? Would we finally get another trailer to “Godzilla vs. Kong?” Would we get a look at footage for James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad?” Maybe we’d get word that Warner Bros. will release the Snyder Cut the same day that Universal plans on releasing the Butthole Cut for “Cats.” Who knows?

Not to get selfish here, but I go to a couple cons every year, and I don’t know if I’ll even get to go to one based on this information. San Diego Comic-Con is such a powerful name in this industry. So powerful in fact that they even felt it was necessary to call out another con for using their name, even when this has been a thing that has been done for years to the point where it has become commonplace. It’s a comic convention where people get together to be happy, not an international format of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire!” But with the first sentence of this paragraph in mind, with a name San-Diego cancelling, I have a feeling that others may eventually follow in the con’s footsteps because of name power. For all I know, that could be different because every area of this Earth is dealing with COVID-19 in its own way, but I figured that the U.S., or at least most of it, would be done with this virus in a couple months that way we can gain a sense of normalcy. But who knows at this point?

By the way, I could go for a massive bucket of overpriced movie theater popcorn right now.

MOVIES THEATERS ON REOPENING

AMC Shore 8 - Huntington, New York 11743 - AMC Theatres

Remember how in part 3 I was talking about the possibility of AMC falling into its grave? Well, turns out they have a plan! To specify, a $500 million plan. Has a nice ring to it. Keep in mind, AMC has MASSIVE debts, so while $500 million does not cover everything, it’s likely to help during this time. Wall Street has officially parsed AMC, giving them the thumbs up. This will give AMC some time to prevent themselves from heading into dreaded Chapter 11 bankruptcy territory. Stock-wise, AMC is now at $3.20, up 31% reaching their highest level in a couple of weeks. Similarly, Cinemark, a nationwide chain whose subsidiaries include Rave Cinemas and Century Theatres, is also up. While not as high as the 31% for AMC, it bounced up 16% to achieve $13.48 per share.

Speaking of AMC and Cinemark, movie theater operators such as these have planned for a hopeful summer reboot. After all, the kids are out of school, you can only go to the beach so many times before getting sunburned all over, so the cinema is a great outing. Cinemark themselves stated that they are planning for an opening on July 1st, suggesting that they plan on spending June rehiring employees and will screen some classic films during the summer. How classic? I don’t know. Could be black and white, color, old, new, across the board. But I would kill to see “Endgame” in a theater again. I would love to take someone who hasn’t seen the movie just to see how’d they react to it in a theatrical environment, because that movie, plus the Jackoff-winning Best Picture “Infinity War” were literally built for audiences to come together. And while it is disappointing for a film like “Black Widow” to not come out until November instead of May, I would much prefer that, when I can likely see it with a crowd, then curling up in my room watching it as it goes straight to streaming. In fact, I still have no plans to get Disney+. HBO Max might be on my radar though (I’ll get back to that).

While I did talk about reality before, I should bring it up again. The Governor of Georgia, otherwise known as Brian Kemp, has recently announced that he gave the green light to businesses to reopen their doors beginning April 27th. Regardless of whether or not this is stupid, which I personally think it is, movie theater chains will likely need longer than a week to rehire and retrain people before opening doors again, as insiders suggest. As for local theaters, I don’t know what the case will be, but chains are likely to follow a structured process. Maybe they will open all their theaters at once, maybe vary state by state, do a few at a time, but who knows?

THESE DELAY STORIES ARE GETTING TIRESOME!

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So… “Black Widow” has been delayed. “Eternals” has been delayed. “The New Mutants” has been delayed. “Top Gun: Maverick” has been delayed. “Infinite” has been delayed. “A Quiet Place Part II” has been delayed. Now the Caped Crusader has something he’d like to say to all of those movies.

That’s right guys! Unfortunately, Matt Reeves’ upcoming “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson (Twilight, The Lighthouse), has been pushed back from it’s original release date, June 25th, 2021, and will now hit theaters October 1st, 2021. If you had to ask me, here’s my response.

If you ask me, “The Batman” is a film that I am definitely looking forward to, and I am disappointed by the announcement. Despite the flack Pattinson sometimes gets for his past roles, most notably “Twilight,” he has generated an excellent acting method over the past number of years. Plus, it’s f*cking Batman, how could I not get excited over a movie with Batman in it?

Well, okay, maybe not all of them are that exciting. By the way, f*ck the convenient Bat Credit Card.

Although I will state, as disappointed as I am, it could still be worse. After all, movies like “Top Gun: Maverick,” which I’ve previously talked about had trailers and a marketing campaign all set up. “Batman” hasn’t even finished filming yet. In fact, production shut down earlier this year due to the virus. While I am underwhelmed and dissatisfied with the news, I cannot say I’m scarred for life. Although not having a “Batman” movie during summer blockbuster season does feel a little weird. Maybe this is a case, much like “Joker” where the delay to October can be favorable for “The Batman” as there COULD be an effort to get some awards buzz for the movie. There could be a possibility that “The Batman” is also intentionally made for mature audiences, perhaps the MPAA will give it an R rating, making the Dark Knight the DARKEST Knight. Even so, this is NOT the delay we deserve. NOR is it the one eager movie and comic book fans need right now.

“The Batman” is being put out by Warnermedia, which should not be surprising as DC Comics and Warner Bros. go together like peanut butter and jelly. Speaking of Warnermedia delays, a movie set in the universe of HBO’s hit series “The Sopranos,” originally set to release September 25th, 2020, is now coming out March 12th, 2021. The film is a prequel to the recently mentioned title and is currently going by the name of “The Many Saints of Newark.”

Also in DC Comics movie news, a couple more titles have been moved around. “Shazam 2,” which was supposed to release April 1st, 2022, is being pushed back seven months to a new November 4th release. I have no problem with this, because that just means I have probably already figured out what I might want to do on my 23rd birthday about 2.5 years before it even arrives.

Alright, kids. Buckle up. This movie deserves its own paragraph, because while I am busy bitching about all of these movies that have been pushed back like a skinny dude in a wrestling match, there’s one movie that has believe it or not, been pushed FORWARD. I’m talking about another DC movie, “The Flash!” The film was supposed to release July 1st, 2022 but has recently been pushed forward to its new June 2nd release date, also in 2022. I have NO IDEA if this movie will be out by this time, and to be honest, it’s almost wishful thinking. This film was supposed to come out in 2018 as the DCEU’s sixth installment. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, famous for movies including “21 Jump Street” and TV shows including “The Last Man on Earth” were supposed to get the ground running. They sent a treatment, but they couldn’t direct the film because they were busy. Seth-Grahame Smith was hired to direct, but he dropped out in 2016 due to creative differences. Then, Rick Famuyiwa said he was directing as of June 2016, and production was going to start in January 2017. But by the looks of things, that did not seem to last, as Screen Junkies reported that Robert Zemeckis was on a shortlist of directors to take on “The Flash.” Also on the shortlist, Sam Raimi and Matthew Vaughn, two famous directors within the comic movie realm. This comes three months after a Variety report that Joby Harold (Edge of Tomorrow, Underground) was going to rewrite the script. FLASH (see what I did there?) forward to June 2017, look who’s back! Lord and Miller, that’s who! While things did not seem to go far, the Wrap reported that the dynamic duo were in talks to direct the film again. Then in February 2018, another duo popped up, this time it was John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. These two managed to create one of the best comedies of the past five years, “Game Night,” and they also acquired comic book movie experience through writing the Disney/Sony collaboration, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Then came July 2019, where the duo announced their departure from the project! As of now, the project is expected to be helmed by Andy Muschietti (It, Mama) and Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey, Bumblebee). Also joining the project as a producer is Barbara Muschietti, Andy’s sister. As for Ezra Miller, who plays The Flash in the DCEU, who knows what’ll happen to him after the recent controversial video of him released where he chokes a woman? This project is going GREAT so far!

Holy crap, that was a mouthful. You think “The New Mutants” is having trouble? At least that movie got f*cking shot! “The Flash” has not even reached “production” level! It’s insanity! I remain hopeful that this film comes out in June 2022, but this is one of those cases of where I’ll believe this movie when I see it.

Warnermedia has also delayed two movies to November 2021. One of which was the movie Tom Hanks was shooting in Australia when tested positive for COVID-19, an untitled Elvis film. The film was originally supposed to come out October of next year. However, one film got the “F9” treatment where it won’t even see the light of day this year. It was once set to come out this November, but that will not be happening.

Moving away from Warnermedia, let’s talk about Sony. Recently I discussed that the studio pretty much abandoned the summer of 2020, pushing back films including “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Morbius.” But it just so appears that they have delayed one of their Fall projects as well, specifically “Venom 2,” which is now titled “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” Based on the title, the film is likely to have the comic book villain Carnage as the main antagonist, information that has been teased since the first movie. I’ll be blunt here, I am not looking forward to “Venom 2.” This is a delay that I am not personally offended by. I will say, I do feel bad for the people behind the film, because the first one came out in an October as well and grossed over $800 million. Then again, that piece of crap people like to call “Venom” grossed over $800 million even though it is most likely the worst movie that I have seen which is related to “Spider-Man.” This sequel has one thing giving me mixed thoughts, and that is the director. I feel like the vision for the first “Venom” is entirely corporate and lacks soul. I still wonder why people even clapped at the end of the movie. Even though Ruben Fleischer did some decent stuff in the past, like “Zombieland,” this was an idea that felt rushed and underwhelming. And honestly, they should have gone for the R rating. But this time, it is being directed by Andy Serkis, who definitely has a knack for visual effects, both in terms of acting and behind the scenes. However, I’ve heard “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” was not the best work in the world. It has a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that a majority of critics liked it, but it’s also not the finest number of all time. I like Andy Serkis, but I have vivid memories of the first “Venom” and they’re not pretty. I still have a bad taste in my mouth. The “Venom” sequel hits theaters June 25, 2021, which was “The Batman’s” former release date, as opposed to when “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” was supposed to hit theaters, October 2nd, 2020.

HBO MAX LAUNCH DATE ANNOUNCED

Now I love physical media, and I will likely continue to buy it even in a time where I cannot leave my house. It is by far the best way to watch a movie. Although if I were to invest in a streaming service anytime soon, one of my options is likely going to be HBO Max, which, yes, it will have HBO content. This service will be launching May 27th, as announced in a trailer down below.

Doesn’t HBO have a couple fancy streaming services already? Sure, but this is one may be worth your time. Aside from including bunches of HBO content including “Game of Thrones,” “Westworld,” and “The Sopranos,” they will also be shipping in content from alternate channels such as TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, and truTV, all of which are owned by Warnermedia. So this means in addition to all of the HBO programming available at launch, viewers will have access to content including “Conan,” “Impractical Jokers,” “Rick and Morty,” and “Miracle Workers.” Also available for TV are all the seasons of “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” two of the longest running situation comedies of all-time. Another really long series that you can invest some time in is “South Park,” the long-running animated series that caters to an adult demographic. That series in particular will join the service this June. They’re even using content from a streaming service that I don’t know how many of you knew existed, DC Universe. From this, it can be confirmed that one of the starters for this service is “Doom Patrol,” based on a previously established superhero team. One show I am still wondering about is DC’s “Harley Quinn,” which recently dropped season 2 on DC Universe, but who knows what’ll happen in regards to coming to HBO Max? But don’t worry, there’s movies too! Some of the upcoming titles are “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Star is Born,” “The Dark Knight,” “Joker,” “The Matrix,” “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” the DCEU movies, and the Studio Ghibli library. The service is likely to serve around 10,000 hours of content at launch, which is more than Disney+ and Comcast’s Peacock, which is now available for Xfinity customers, but will be available for everybody else starting July 15th.

The downside however, is the price. At $14.99/month, which is more than what one would pay for Hulu, which has significantly more content, it is not the cheapest service out there. However, HBO has been known for their premium programming, therefore it is no surprise that a premium price would be placed for HBO Max. But if you are a Charter customer, it is free as long as you are currently paying for HBO. Certain AT&T customers, specifically those paying premium prices for AT&T’s services, will also be given HBO Max for free. Nevertheless, even though I don’t stream much, I think I would get some use out of HBO Max if I were to buy a subscription. Warner Bros. is my favorite movie studio, HBO is a notable channel with a lot of content known for quality, and TBS, plus truTV, have done some originals I like, plus some that I have missed out on that I want to check out like “Wrecked.” I just hope that said originals make it to the service in the first place.

Speaking of originals, there is some original content coming to HBO Max. Season 3 of “Search Party,” which originally aired on TBS, will debut on the service. Anna Kendrick will be starring in a new comedy, “Love Life,” which comes from Lionsgate Television. But if you have kids, there will also be content related to “Sesame Street” and “Looney Tunes.” HBO Max was going to have a “Friends” reunion at launch, but it has been delayed due to COVID-19 complications. Sorry, they will not be there for you.

Going back to my original point, HBO Max launches May 27th on smart devices, so if you cut the cord but miss many of the cable-based shows, or you just want some acclaimed TV and movies to watch, HBO Max may get your seal of approval.

HOME VIDEO RELEASES

Going back to my comment on physical media, it is fun to collect, but not everyone does it anymore. In fact, it’s getting hard to do in these times now that places like the mall have basically shut their doors down. Walmart’s still open, so there’s that. And if you do want to know what new releases are on DVD and Blu-ray, some notable titles include “Bad Boys For Life,” “Ip Man 4: The Finale,” “The Gentlemen,” and “Like a Boss,” which already released on digital, but needed some time to come out on physical formats. Out of these films, the only one I’ve seen is “The Gentlemen,” which honestly underwhelmed me. Hopefully that won’t be the same case should some of you give it a shot.

As for digital media, there is not much new content to pick from. However, “Wendy,” a movie that takes place on an island and follows a young girl in world that is increasingly facing destruction, has just dropped on services as of April 17th. So if you are expecting me to talk about any blockbuster titles dropping, think again.

Thanks for reading the fifth part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” This was a long one to make, so I’ll try to wrap things up quick. If you’re wondering where my reviews are, I want to make them, but the apocalypse is currently my priority. Plus, “My Spy” hasn’t dropped on Prime yet, so there’s that. But should things still be hectic next week, which they most likely will, there’s a good chance you’ll see a part 6 to this series. Because life sucks! I have not left my house for *anything,* even a walk, for almost a month now. How did the country, no, the WORLD even get here?! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can tuned for more great content! Speaking of great content, why not check out my Facebook page? Give it a like and keep up with the latest info through Mark Zuckerberg’s wonderland! I want to know, did I miss anything for this past week? What are some your big points as of late regarding film and COVID-19? It could even be something I already mentioned! Or, what are you looking forward to seeing on HBO Max? Is there something you want to see that has not been fully announced? If they drop TBS’s “King of the Nerds” on the service, I’m sucking all my money into it. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes – Part 4

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 4 of the all new Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

As usual, we deal with real world matters first. Since Easter was this past weekend, gatherings at churches and homes within one’s collective connections of a family that was commonplace in years past managed to take a backseat this year.

California has recently extended its stay at home order from April 19th to May 15th. Speaking of California, the state recently joined forces with other nearby states including Oregon and Washington in what they call the Western States Pact. The three announced a plan to put health first and deliver a more scientific-based focus compared to a political focus to stopping the coronavirus. The states are still building specific plans for their area, but they are nevertheless working together to stop the spread.

Speaking of which, the northeast portion of the United States is engaging in something similar. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania are joining forces in their own coalition. So, remember all those requests for Andrew Cuomo to run for President of the United States? That won’t be happening anytime soon, but when it comes to coronavirus matters, he is currently dealing with more than just New York. Speaking of Presidents of the United States…

President Donald J. Trump stated this Monday that he is the one that should have control on opening the country back up. He suggests, “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total.” Trump also stated he wants to open the United States back up by May 1st, which close medical expert Anthony Fauci declares is “a bit overly optimistic.”

Just today, Andrew Cuomo referred to Trump this morning on NBC’s “Today,” suggesting “We do not have a king, we have a president.” Cuomo is doing what he can to make sure that the state of New York opens back up at what he considers to be the right time for everyone’s health. While Trump is suggesting May 1st, Cuomo fears that this all-powerful decision made by Trump will lead to “a constitutional crisis like you haven’t seen in decades,” as he stated in MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Speaking of Andrew Cuomo, and somewhat transitioning to movie news a bit early here, he suggested the possibility of making drive-in theaters an exception to non-essential businesses that remain closed. Keep in mind, drive-ins have still been in operation during the ongoing crisis, but it does not mean that there are some that are not in operation, plus there are others that are just closed because it’s not the proper season for a drive-in to be open. Cuomo suggested, “Where is the public safety issue? It’s a drive-in theater. You’re in the car with the same people.” He is not wrong. Drive-ins make for a fun night out while also promoting social distancing. I would not mind drive-ins opening up, but the problem is… What movies are they going to play? Are just going to play “Trolls: World Tour” over and over? Maybe they’ll bring back some classics since there’s nothing else to do.

Going outside the United States, specifically in Wuhan, China, where early cases of the virus originated, the city opened back up after a lively lightshow and countdown declaring the disappearance of COVID-19. Despite the reopening, restrictions still appear to be in place including the closure of schools, shops, and sadly, cinemas. But one thing that has opened is the region’s wet markets. Outsiders are suggesting immediate closure of said wet markets as it serves live animals, including bats, which sources suggest is the reason why COVID-19 spread in the first place.

But of course, we have some movie news to talk about like usual. More delays, more new releases on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital, and some big news involving acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (don’t worry, that part is all good news). Also, there’s a big movie that tried something new this weekend, going straight to digital while also having a theatrical release. Before we dive into that, I do want to point out that despite there being a major pandemic, some movie theaters are still open. Keep in mind, many of these theaters are drive-ins. This is now old news, but according to Deadline, 14 movie theaters remained open on the first weekend of April. I also want to point out another article I saw from The Wrap, which suggests that “Trolls: World Tour” played in 21 drive-in theaters this weekend. Even in desperate times, theaters are still active. Speaking of optimistic news, here’s more!

JAMES GUNN SAYS GUARDIANS 3 AND THE SUICIDE SQUAD WON’T BE DELAYED

Usually when I dive into these main topics during the series, I have often emphasized the bad news at hand. A common example is when a major film gets delayed such as “F9,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” or “Top Gun: Maverick.” However, it’s about time we get some good news in here and talk about a couple of films that are not being affected by the outbreak, both of which are being directed by James Gunn. To specify, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which is a big movie, especially since it’s the third consecutive entry to the franchise being helmed by Gunn himself, but also “The Suicide Squad,” which has finished filming in February and is set to release August 6th, 2021. Gunn spent time on Twitter recently taking questions from fans and he had some notable things to say regarding these two films.

Alright, this resembles some decent progress on the film, and it shows that even in a time like this, people like Gunn in the entertainment industry are still working. But let’s see the next tweet.

Keep in mind, “The Suicide Squad” is not set to come out for a bit under a year and half, so there is plenty of time to edit the film, develop a marketing campaign, and lay out all the elements needed for the film’s post-production process. So the film is coming, and should this pandemic fizzle, there is a solid chance that “The Suicide Squad” will be in theaters during 2021. Now what about that other big comic book James Gunn has up his sleeve?

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is not currently listed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s fourth phase, but there have been previously established plans to make the film. Unfortunately, the film was supposed to come out this year, but due to James Gunn’s controversial tweets leaking, his business relationship with Disney was no more and he was no longer attached to direct the third installment to the franchise. Judging by this tweet right here, Gunn still seems to be working on the film, but an official release date seems rather uncertain at this point. IMDb lists it to come out in 2021, but given how Marvel has many other projects going on, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” might have to wait. But “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is nevertheless a film that I will see should I get the chance to witness it come out, so this information pleases me to say the least. I was not the biggest fan of “Vol. 2,” but I am curious to see what Gunn could deliver to this third installment.

MORE MOVIES GET DELAYED

But of course, with good news, comes bad news. In this case, the bad news is that yet another delay is happening. As if Pixar didn’t suffer enough already by having to put “Onward” on digital early, they just pushed back “Soul” to November. Nobody behind Pixar seems to be popping bottles at this point. “Soul” was originally supposed to come out June 19th, but now has been pushed back to November 20th. By the way, this is releasing the same day as “Godzilla vs. Kong.” I honestly have no idea how well that movie is going to do box-office wise, but given Pixar’s name recognition and since there already has been some anticipation towards this film, there could be a chance that “Soul” is the box office champ of the two when it comes to seeing how they play out on opening weekend. The film is directed by Pete Docter, who also directed 2015’s “Inside Out,” which this film honestly reminds me of. Kemp Powers will co-direct by the way. While conceptually different, “Soul” seems to present the vibe of “Inside Out,” not to mention a somewhat similar concept. The film follows a musician (Jamie Foxx) who loses his passion for music. After being transported out of his body, he interacts with an infant soul while trying to return to said body. The film definitely sounds like it could be emotional, which would not be much of a shocker for a film by Pixar. But now here’s a problem for not just this film, but a bunch of others coming out this year. I don’t know if it is just me, but it now feels like November is CRAMMED with popular titles. From “Soul” to “No Time to Die” to “Black Widow.” While I could look at this as a benefit because it likely means this November will be a pop culture haven, it’s also a negative because I imagine some films that could potentially be big will underperform because they are in such a congested schedule. Or to make matters more interesting, November is also a big month for award season, and now there is probably a bigger focus on pop culture titles that might not be awarded much of anything as opposed to what could be nominated for the Academy’s Best Picture in a couple months.

Also, remember how “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” got delayed to late July? Paramount’s “Infinite,” an upcoming sci-fi flick starring Mark Wahlberg (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Ted), which was originally come out July 31st, has officially been pushed back to Memorial Day weekend in 2021. The film follows a man whose hallucinations are visions of his past lives. I would like to go into some of my past lives at this point just to get away from whatever the hell is going on right now. Think I was done talking about “SpongeBob?” Well I’m not! I say so because the film has been delayed again, but this time only by a week. As of now, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” is coming out August 7th.

TROLLS: WORLD TOUR DEBUTS DIGITALLY

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I’ve talked about this news already, but given how this does document a rare incident, I might as well talk about it. Certain movies like “The Irishman” have a limited run in theaters before being put on Netflix, but for “Trolls: World Tour,” the sequel to DreamWorks’ successful 2016 flick, that’s a different story. You won’t be able to find it on Netflix, but you will be able to find it through services including Prime Video, FandangoNOW, and Vudu. The reason, Universal wanted to put “Trolls: World Tour” out on digital the same day they put it out in theaters. This is kind of an unprecedented situation as movies typically start in theaters and there is a waiting period until the movie comes out on digital and DVD. But nope, Universal thought it would be better to just digitally release the film. I have not seen the film, in fact, I have no plans on seeing the film given how I have not watched the original, but others did manage to show up for this new installment. The movie managed to make more through its digital run than “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” did when it debuted digitally. “Trolls: World Tour” managed to make around $30 million according to reports. This is compared to “Fallen Kingdom,” which managed to rack up $2-3 million. Keep in mind, these reports are exclusive to the United States. Also, another thing to keep in mind, that even though many of the purchases were through digital platforms, theaters were open during the initial days of “Trolls: World Tour,” many of which are drive-ins, so it is not like everybody had to be stuck in their house to watch it. Also, while $30 million may be considered successful in this circumstance, the movie cost $90 million to make, so there could be a chance that Universal will lose money over this. Even though a $19.99 rental for 48 hours can cost more than a single movie ticket, the target demographic for “Trolls: World Tour” is families, especially kids. You can take a family of four to the theater and pay double that price to see the movie, maybe even more. It’s also short of what the first movie raked in on its opening weekend back in 2016, which was over $46 million. If this sequel was in theaters, it probably could have surpassed that due to factors such as name recognition. My biggest wonder for “Trolls: World Tour” is how well it will do over these next few days, not to mention next weekend. I say that because, sure, the movie can have excellent debut to rave about. But if we are treating this as the closest thing to a theatrical release we can get, we have to consider how much of a drop it could make this following weekend. Will it make $15 million? $12 million? $10 million? Could it possibly make more this weekend than it did last weekend? Only time will tell. This straight to digital rollout is an experiment if there ever was one, and its chances towards success have recently shown that maybe theaters COULD have been much better for “Trolls: World Tour,” but this is a new way of doing things, and if we are still in this crisis, things could change.

MY SPY GOES STRAIGHT TO PRIME VIDEO

For those of you who don’t know, “My Spy,” the film where Dave Bautista goes undercover and makes a connection with a nine-year old girl, is a movie that has been promoted from time to time by STX here in the states has already released theatrically in select regions including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. But for the United States, it’s a different story. The film has already had free screenings before it was supposed to come out, one of which I went to in January by the way. But the film has had a rough history when it comes to getting a proper release. “My Spy” was supposed to release on August 23rd, 2019. The film had a trailer put out a year ago, so the promotion and marketing process was getting into gear. However, it was pulled from STX’s release schedule in July. The next release date that was announced for the film was March 13th, 2020. And of course, to get the ball rolling on word of mouth and that sort of thing, free screenings started popping up and I got to attend one of them. But, just in the snap of a finger, the release date changed from March 13th to April 17th. I would imagine that the COVID-19 crisis could be a contributing factor, but I also wonder if STX thought if it would be a better time for the film to release in terms of financial gain compared to competition. Nevertheless, it was just announced on April 8th that the film is now going to be distributed by Amazon Studios and instead of going to theaters, it is going directly to Prime Video. So if you are a Prime member, you are likely going to be able to watch “My Spy” for free on the service.

CBS SCHEDULES SUNDAY MOVIE NIGHTS

CBS is a leading name for television. Their standard channels air daytime staples like “The Price Is Right” and “The Young and the Restless” along with notable shows at night such as “Young Sheldon,” “MacGyver,” and “Mom.” Meanwhile, they have been building a name for themselves through streaming by providing material such as a couple of “Star Trek” original shows and a spinoff of “The Good Wife” known as “The Good Fight” through CBS All Access. But if you get access to the main CBS channel, which I’m sure a lot of you do, one thing you might want to keep an eye on is their schedule for May. Every Sunday, CBS is going to air movies under the Paramount label. This will begin with a movie that is very likely to garner attention, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In addition to that “Indiana Jones” film, the network is also airing “The Last Crusade.” Oddly enough, they are skipping over “Temple of Doom.” Other movies to be aired by CBS will include “Titanic,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Mission: Impossible.” This run will last for five Sundays from May 3rd to May 31st. By the way, all the movies are scheduled to begin at 8PM, except for “Titanic,” which will start at 7PM. Earlier on in the series, I discussed that ESPN was going to air movies on Friday nights, said movies are all Disney-owned and focus on sports. One thing that I think would help CBS in a case like this compared to ESPN just a little bit is its accessibility. CBS is a slightly more recognizable channel and unlike ESPN, you can get it on an antenna.

HULU ACHIEVES BEST PICTURE WINNER PARASITE

One of my favorite films of the past year is the Bong Joon Ho-directed masterpiece, “Parasite.” Lucky for me, I own the Blu-ray, therefore I have the ability to watch the film as much as I please through a physical disc. But if you have Hulu, you can consider yourself lucky because “Parasite” is now available on the service. For the record, the film is not the first of its kind to be on Hulu. To be clear, the film was distributed in the States by Neon, which also helped distribute titles including “I, Tonya,” “The Beach Bum,” and “Honeyland.” Films like these have also made it to Hulu. So if you wanted to watch “Parasite” without paying much, just make sure you have a Hulu subscription and you’re good to go. And remember, it won the Academy’s vote for Best Picture, so every film aficionado will tell you that it is bloody important. If you are a little skeptical on watching “Parasite” because it is in Korean, let me just remind you of this quote given by director Bong Joon Ho himself.

“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Speaking of Bong Joon Ho, his 2013 work “Snowpiercer,” which is being adapted into a series set to air on TNT, is coming out for the first time in the United Kingdom on DVD and Blu-ray. The film is set to release on May 25th. It’s one heck of a time to be Bong Joon Ho.

NEW HOME VIDEO RELEASES

Stuck at home? Jack’s here to help! This week for digital has got a few new movies coming your way. For starters, we have “Underwater,” one of the last films to display the 20th Century Fox label. For the record, Disney did complete their acquisition of Fox’s assets during March 2019, but for a little under a year, they kept putting out films like “Ford v Ferrari” that had the studio label that has achieved fame. Although, with the recent release of “The Call of the Wild,” they are now using 20th Century Studios instead. Sticking with “Underwater,” the film stars Kristen Stewart alongside a crew of researchers as their underwater facility is hit with an earthquake. The film is a box office bomb, making $37.2 million on a $50 million budget. It has a 47% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60% audience rating, so it’s hard to know what exactly you’ll think of it upon first glance. The film is also now available on DVD and Blu-ray if you prefer the physical copy.

“Fantasy Island,” which is based on a TV show of the same name, is now available for digital purchase. If you want to wait for a rental option, that is coming May 12th, the same day the film comes out on DVD and Blu-ray. Keep in mind, the film has a 4.6 on IMDb, which might not be the best of signs.

Also coming out, “The Rhythm Section.” This action flick stars Blake Lively and Jude Law, and is about a woman whose family dies in a plane crash. This woman joins the world of espionage as she seeks vengeance. The film is not out on DVD and Blu-ray until April 28th, but it is available for digital purchase today.

Thanks for reading the fourth part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” Even in the apocalypse, there is one thing I can promise, and that my friends, is content. Maybe not the content that I want to make, but content nevertheless. Last week I said that I’d probably get shoved into an abyss by STX executives if I talk about “My Spy” at this point. So with that in mind, now that it is owned by Amazon and has no official release date, I will probably be shoved into an abyss by Amazon executives, or maybe even Jeff Bezos himself, if I talk about “My Spy” at this point. So what is happening with the movie is clear, but when I will review it, is unclear. Only time will tell. 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, is there any big news I missed regarding COVID-19 and entertainment over the past week? Also, since it is appropriate, what are your thoughts on “Parasite?” Personally, I think it is one of the most twisted movies I have seen in recent memory and it is a blast from start to finish. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020): No Joke, Fun (But Forgettable) Time

*WARNING: This review contains TITLES.*

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“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” AKA “Birds of Prey,” AKA “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey,” AKA “Whatever F*cking Title You Desire,” is directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs, According to My Mother). This film stars Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 10 Cloverfield Lane), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (The Great Debaters, Gridiron Gang), Rosie Perez (The Road to El Dorado, Fearless), Christopher Messina (Argo, The Mindy Project), Ella Jay Basco (Grey’s Anatomy, Veep), Ali Wong (American Housewife, Are You There, Chelsea?), and Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Stay). This film revolves around the character of Harley Quinn, who was originally, as far as the Detective Comics Extended Universe goes, introduced in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” Quinn and The Joker (also introduced in “Suicide Squad”) broke up, and the film follows Harley’s adventures as she finds herself adapting to a new lifestyle while simultaneously developing reasons to become’s Gotham’s most hated citizen. Oh yeah, apparently there’s a team-up too, like it really matters. Because, you know, Harley Quinn is popular.

Let me take you back to 2016. The election was in full swing, female Ghostbusters were a fad, “Star Wars” was back, and Marvel was SO much better than DC at the time! Remember “Captain America: Civil War?” So kick-ass. While I liked “Suicide Squad” in the theater, it is one of those movies that I watched one time, liked, but disliked when I watched it again. People often talk about movies that they like better the second time, maybe because there is a new perspective that opens up in their mind as they watch it. Well guess what? I got a f*cking new perspective when I watched “Suicide Squad” for the second time, and it is the perspective that it was an utter waste of brain cells.

But, if there is one thing about “Suicide Squad” that I would point out to be a highlight during not just the first, but also the massively unfortunate second time of watching it, I’d say it would be Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn. In this current DCEU, it’s up there to me with Zachary Levi’s Shazam and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman as one of my favorite portrayals of the characters this universe brings to the table. But I think part of that is because of how eccentric the character really is. She’s charismatic, goofy, and knows how to have fun. And that is a trait is easily carried over into the realm of “Birds of Prey.” Harley’s got a swagger to her, and seeing Margot Robbie’s live-action portrayal makes me want to avoid seeing anyone else take on this role in this format, at least for awhile.

But that’s also the problem with this movie, because the marketing is horrible. And usually I wouldn’t expect to use the marketing to hammer in something towards my final verdict, but in this case, I kind of have to. You ever hear people suggest that you should not judge a book by its cover? When it comes to “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulously Long Title,” that’s a big f*cking lie. While the movie’s title does focus on emancipation, while the Birds of Prey happen to be in this movie, it is, at its core, a Harley Quinn movie. The movie features narration from Quinn, it revolves entirely around her, and these little rascals who make up the Birds of Prey are barely in the movie for the most part. Characters like Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) don’t even show up for like an hour or so, maybe longer! Although, side note, when Huntress does show up, she’s introduced in pretty badass way. Even though I do think “Titles of Prey: And its Fantabulous Stretch” (for now) is better than “Suicide Squad,” it is also a bit more forgettable. As an audience member, I barely remember any of the names of those who make up the team. Keep in mind, I did see this movie two weeks ago, but it also goes to show how disposable of a movie it really is. It does not do much to make me carry it alongside me for the rest of my life. Granted, we do get some prime screen time to characters other than Harley, one of which was a highlight.

One of the best parts of “Birds of Whatever Title You Want” is the relationship between Harley Quinn and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). These two brought life into this movie and the scenes with them together were fun. I like the portion between them in the supermarket, which has been shown in the marketing. And one of the more pleasant parts of this film is where the two just sit down together watching cartoons on an old TV. I don’t know, it’s just soothing. I’d like to maybe see this duo in a comedy together, I think that could be fun.

Speaking of characters that could qualify for being the best in this movie, Ewan McGregor plays one of the better villain roles in the DCEU. Now, he’s not perfect, but this movie makes him work. Much like Marvel, DC kind of has a villain problem. While “Wonder Woman” had great battles, I do not remember the antagonist as much as I want to. “Suicide Squad” had Enchantress, who probably has the barest of substance. Lex Luthor, introduced in “Batman v. Superman” is quirky, but also a tad too cartoony to the point where I have officially entered a fun house. I don’t know where I’d officially rank Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis among the current villain lineup in the DCEU, but he’s portrayed brilliantly. He’s very charismatic to the point where he is kind of likable, but he also has a side to him where you probably want him to die a horrible death. Is he the best villain of all time? Absolutely not, but for this movie, it works!

Speaking of death and destruction, one thing that this movie has going for it that differentiates it from a lot of other films of its kind is that it is rated R. Comic book movies in recent years, specifically titles like “Deadpool,” “Logan,” and “Joker,” have gotten such a rating. While this is not a new concept, it was nice to know before going into “Birds of Prey: And the Name That Never Ends.” I also thought that this highlights what the DCEU is trying to go for at this point. Unlike Marvel, which seems to lock all of their movies within one box and has one or two connections to something else each and every movie, DC could continue letting their stories be their own thing. While this is technically in a cinematic universe, films like “Aquaman” and “Shazam!” have kept themselves within their own parts of the universe and barely connected to their universe except through brief references. “Long Names of Prey” is sort of the same way. In fact, aside from “Man of Steel,” I think “Titles of Forever” may be the most individualistic DCEU film yet. I do not remember much reference to the Suicide Squad team, even though a lot of the film is focused on the aftermath of Quinn and Joker’s breakup.

But keeping in mind that the film is rated R, I do not really think it did much to capitalize or emphasize its official rating, but nevertheless, it’s rated R. There are a couple violent scenes that probably barely go past PG-13, and they were a delight to watch when they were on screen. Because remember kids, kicking-ass is a good time! And yes, there’s the language, but if you’re expecting “Deadpool,” you MAY be disappointed. Did this film need to be rated R? Maybe to an extent, but it does not really seem like it goes for it. If they gave this a PG-13, there would almost be the slightest of differences. Maybe language has more to do with the R rating than violence does.

But I would be lying if I told you I was not at least entertained by the action scenes. I thought some of them were pretty creative, and there is one that sort of had a glossy “Terminator” vibe. Harley Quinn uses a glitter gun in this movie! Not gonna lie, if I were dealing with certain people, that would be my weapon of choice! Because while this movie admittedly does make this glitter shine, it really does suck! Anakin Skywalker thinks SAND gets everywhere? Tell him about glitter! Also, this movie probably has one of the coolest action moments involving a cell phone. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.

Speaking of R rated comic book movies, if I had to compare “Insert Title Here” to anything else, it would probably be “Deadpool 2,” because while there is a team-up in that film, ultimately forming the X-Force, Deadpool is the character that is focused on pretty much from beginning to end. That is a better-marketed movie than “Titles of Long” because unlike this movie, it knows, even before the film came out, that Deadpool would be the core character, everyone else is either background noise, or simply supporting him. When you have a movie like “The Avengers,” you could argue that the movie mostly revolves a character such as Iron Man, but the focal point is everyone’s journey to build a team and save the world. Arguments could be made about this matter, but on the surface, Thor is not more or less important than the Hulk in that movie. Captain America is not more or less important than Iron Man. These characters, to as much of an extent as possible, have THEIR MOMENT. Even though this movie calls itself “Birds of Prey” and puts that title at the forefront, the movie itself seems to put the *rest* of the title at the forefront, specifically “the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.” This movie really should have just been called “Harley Quinn.” And this is why I find it not so surprising that the film’s name *sort of* changed a couple times. Instead of this long title that goes on for all of eternity, the movie shortened its title to the simple name “Birds of Prey.” When the disappointing box office results came in, movie ticket websites started showing the title as “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey,” which makes sense given my previously established statements. Next thing I know, it’s gonna be called “Edge of Tomorrow” because why not? Maybe once the Blu-ray comes out it’s gonna be called “Live Die Repeat!”

In the end, “Birds of Prey: And the Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously Extended Title” is a step down for DC. I’d honestly rather watch “Aquaman” or “Batman v. Superman” again compared to this. Ever since “Wonder Woman,” I have been buying 4K steelbooks for the DCEU films, but I am not sure what I’ll be doing for this one. Will I go out and buy the steelbook for this one? I don’t know it’s worth it. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It’ll be sad to end a streak, but the overall quality of this movie may suggest the end. I know some people making this movie kind of a big deal given the female star and female director, and I do admire the direction it tried to go in, and there are things I like about it. I just thought it could have been better. But at the same time, if you want disposable action, and you are looking for something to do on a rainy afternoon, go see this movie. Margot Robbie shines, the supporting cast is mostly forgettable but does have its highlights, and there are some cool action scenes. So… Thumbs up? Maybe? I don’t know. This grade could change, but for now, because I’m generous and given how I am not ruling out the option of watching this movie again, I am going to give “Birds of La La La Title Title Title” a 6/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Up next is the review for one of the most controversial movies that was supposed to come out last year, but because of said controversy, it was moved to the point where it came out this year. And if you think I’m talking about “The Hunt,” that’s not even out yet. Just keep yourself waiting for that one. I’m talking about “Sonic the Hedgehog!” Also, stay tuned for my reviews of “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” “Emma,” and “My Spy.” That last one might be awhile because I don’t know when the embargo lifts, but it is coming. If you want to see these reviews, and other great content, consider following Scene Before either with an EMAIL or WORDPRESS account! While you’re at it, consider liking the blog’s Facebook page and follow me on Twitter at @JackDrees if you just like hearing me talk s*it about life! I want to know, did you see the movie with the long title? What did you think about it? Or, what comic book movie are you most excited for this year? Did you not see the one we’re talking about yet? That can count! Maybe it’s “Black Widow!” Maybe it’s “Eternals!” Maybe it’s “Wonder Woman 1984!” Do you want to go less mainstream? Perhaps you’re excited for “Bloodshot!” Let me know your response because let’s face it, based on how successful “Avengers: Endgame” was, you have seen a comic book movie. Just admit it. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Irishman (2019): Jack Does a Short Review of Martin’s Long Film

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“The Irishman” is directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence) and stars Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, The Godfather: Part II), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Raging Bull), and Al Pacino (Heat, Insomnia). This is a return to form for critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, who is well-known for his gangster movies including “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Mean Streets.” In this film inspired by Charles Brandt’s book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Robert De Niro’s character, Frank Sheeren recalls events of his past as he gets involved with Russell Bufalino and dissects into his involvement with Jimmy Hoffa.

I will be completely honest with you. There was a time, going back two or three years ago that I did not think I was going to check out this movie as all. After all, I don’t personally pay for Netflix, which I heard this movie was going to be on. I did not realize at the time that they were getting a bit more serious with their theatrical releases. To this day, my family uses Netflix, but I just never jumped on the train. I’m just not a streamer, it’s not my style. The only services I use today happen to be Prime and Crackle. When I heard this was getting a theatrical release, my curiosity levels shot into the air and almost splattered like glittery fireworks. Even though I am rather late to the party, I did make a trip to one of my local theaters to go see “The Irishman.” I’d say it was worth the trip. To be honest with you, even though some of the most well-regarded movies ever made are gangster flicks, that type of film has never been my style. With that being said, my experience of witnessing this film was still a good use of my time.

Speaking of time, “The Irishman” is three and a half hours long, making it my most extended watch of the year. This is both a blessing and a curse. I say that because the movie for the most part is entertaining and rather investing. The downside is that perhaps both the first thirty minutes and last thirty minutes happen to be the points where the film manages to fizzle. I may be exaggerating on the first thirty minutes because for one thing, the film was just beginning, therefore it was nearly impossible for me to divert my eyes away from the screen. But, for the last thirty minutes or so, I felt like I was watching something that was four hours as opposed to three and a half.

I did something I don’t normally do when I work on my reviews, but I jotted down some short notes after watching the film. I was in the middle of a double feature, because I watched both this and “Marriage Story” in the same day. Before my second movie started, I stated that “I enjoyed the little things.” There are a few scenes in this movie that sort of add something to the film, but almost feel like they belong on an extended cut. There is a scene towards the end of the movie, that I won’t entirely go into that involves a conversation about the delivery of a fish. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, and in the moment, it kind of put a smile on my face, but the more I think about it, it almost does not really add anything to the film overall aside from some random laughs. It just feels like wasted time. I mean, it sort of reminded me of “Pulp Fiction,” which has random conversations about uncomfortable silences and foot massages. These are two random topics that somehow got in the script in the first place, but most amazing of all, worked. However, “Pulp Fiction” feels like it uses every minute wisely whereas “The Irishman” almost overstays its welcome. The pacing drags at a point, which considering the runtime, is not that surprising.

While this movie may suffer in terms of pacing, I think it is nevertheless one of the best directed and acted films I have seen all year. Martin Scorsese manages to deliver a technically competent film on all levels ranging from camerawork, lighting, and delivering the best performances possible. This movie also contains what may be my favorite child performance of the year, given by Lucy Gallina. Her performance is very subtle, and any scene involving her was either entertaining or simply charming.

Speaking of surprise performances, I want to talk about Ray Romano. Do not get me wrong, I liked Ray Romano long before he signed onto this movie, but I never thought Romano had the acting range he does today. After all, he was the lead role on one of my favorite sitcoms, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where he basically plays an exaggerated, alternate version of himself. In this movie he plays a lawyer by the name of Bill Bufalino, and honestly, it’s the best performance of his career. Looking at his past work, it might not say too much, but it’s still worth pointing out.

However, Romano is not part of the big three. Specifically, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. And while I do admire the portrayals given by the entire trio, Pacino, personally, cannot be beat. Pacino was perfectly cast as Jimmy Hoffa. This is a role that I honestly do not see anybody else playing, except maybe John Tuturro, not specifically because of his acting ability or anything, but at one point, I thought Pacino looked like Tuturro during the film. Out of all the characters, Hoffa was by the far the most charismatic and interesting of all. He’s bombastic, wacky, and quirky. He’s basically what you need out of a proper Pacino role.

I don’t have much more to say on “The Irishman,” but as I watched this film, one of the things I almost forgot about going in that I eventually reminded myself of is the de-aging processes that can be seen throughout this flick. De-aging through digital tech is a seemingly increasing trend. We’ve seen it so far in films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Tron: Legacy,” and “Gemini Man.” I think one of the best de-aging jobs that has been done recently is for Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel.” YES, I JUST BROUGHT UP A MARVEL MOVIE IN A REVIEW FOR A MARTIN SCORSESE FILM. REMIND HIM NOT TO READ THIS IN ORDER TO AVOID NIGHT TERRORS. As for this film, I could barely even notice the digital makeup applied to everybody. I’d probably have to watch the film again, and I have no plans to watch it again in the near future, but if I were to watch it again it would be for one reason only. Because the main actors are not that young, and I want to remind myself of how they move. They may look younger in the film than they do in real life, but do they move like younger people should? It’s a question that is still on my mind.

In the end, “The Irishman” is entertaining, but a tad too long. Although at the same time, this brings up a dilemma, because one of the most entertaining factors of “The Irishman” are some little additions that do not need to necessarily be in the final cut, but are entertaining nonetheless. This movie is a solid piece of work, and not exactly a waste of my time (maybe except for somewhere between ten and thirty minutes worth), so I’d still recommend it. I’d recommend it to a good number of people, unless you are an easily offended vegetarian. This film has a lot of steak consumption. I really liked Jimmy Hoffa’s story overall, and basically any scene involving him made the movie twice as swell as it already was. I’m going to give “The Irishman” a 7/10. One reminder to Martin Scorsese, there are two Marvel films I saw this year that I liked better than this. Just being real.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, as mentioned earlier, I went to see “Marriage Story.” I will have my review up for that as soon as possible, and stay tuned at the rise of the new year for my countdowns on the best and worst movies of 2019! If you want to see more great content like this, follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Irishman?” What did you think about it? Did you see it in theaters or at home? Tell me about your experience! Or, do you consider comic book movies like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “cinema?” Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know? Part yes part no? State your case, defend your opinion, the universe depends on it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Joker: No Laughing Matter (2019)

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Before we get into my review for “Joker,” I just want to iterate a quick thought. I am well aware of this movie constantly being compared to “Taxi Driver,” and I’ll have you all know, I have not seen “Taxi Driver,” so none of those comparisons will be coming from me. I would love to check it out one day, but my schedule is pretty stacked up at the moment so it might have to wait for a little bit. So without further ado, let’s dive into the latest controversial movie!

Man, this poster is badass!

“Joker” is directed by Todd Phillips (Due Date, The Hangover) and stars Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot) as the famous, psychotic killer clown originally created by DC Comics. This film is about the character of Arthur Fleck, who eventually becomes known as the Joker. Essentially, it is a character study of what would happen if the Joker were placed in a depressing environment, with depressed people, in what could perhaps also be a depressing time.

If you have missed out on a lot of comic book movies recently, there is a good chance you probably have no recollection of big, explosive, not to mention expensive, blockbusters that purely exist to be part of a collected universe and happen to be somewhat friendly for both kids and adults. Maybe there’s an occasional dark vibe here and there with movies “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” but nevertheless, comic book movies, over the past decade, have mainly been big budget films that get a lot of audiences, including families, in the theater. There’d also however be an occasion where a film would be rated R. Some examples include “Deadpool” and “Logan,” both of which have been successful. And when the MPAA would end up slapping an R on these movies, there would usually be a reason. Gorey violence, language, perhaps bloated sex scenes, and so on. “Joker” is the next to join the club, and honestly, I am very happy to say that.

Before going to see “Joker,” I had some thoughts in mind regarding comic book villain movies. I was very skeptical before we had one of these films come out, and some of you know this already, but last year, audiences witnessed “Venom.” This was one of the earliest examples of an origin story of a comic book character who is usually seen as the villain. Once I heard we were getting a “Venom” movie, I thought all hope was lost. Granted, this was at a time when I realized comic book movies were perhaps the biggest force in the industry, and it seemed like the only thing people would willingly go see. I wasn’t sure how people such as myself or other audience members would go into “Venom” and enjoy him as a character because it’s hard to relate to a villain. Plus, as a viewer, I traditionally aspire to be the hero. Why should I aspire to be a monster who eats people? And the last nail in the coffin… a PG-13. This made every action scene feel lifeless, it made the editing feel odd at times, and it honestly just showed that perhaps Sony or somebody else behind this movie wanted a quick, disposable money grab. However, oddly enough, as time passed, I did become curious about the “Joker” movie.

There was not enough evidence that “Joker” was going to be a masterpiece or even a halfway decent movie once I first heard about it. But it was hard to deny that I was not at least intrigued. The various details that stacked up in 2018 got me interested. Then the trailers dropped this year, and whoever edited them, you deserve a cookie! All the while, the movie played at events including TIFF and Venice Film Festival where it received the top prize, the Golden Lion. Keep in mind, everybody was saying that “Avengers: Endgame” was going to be the biggest and best movie of the year, but when it comes to chances at awards, “Joker” may have an answer. “Joker” may be tapping on the shoulder of “Endgame” saying “On your left.”

So… It’s time for answers! Is “Joker” worth the hype? Is it worth jumping up and down over? Is it worth every single penny? Did it deserve all the praise it received during snobby film festivals? In a word, yes. This is pretty much EXACTLY what I would want out of a movie like this. Serious, dark, sort of slow, and honestly, kind of poignant. Because I cannot even believe I’m saying this, I sort of felt for the Joker character. Granted, he spends a lot of the movie making stupid decisions and mistakes, and the Joker is a guy you don’t want to mess around with, but even his moments that would make a person in this particular movie turn against him may as well be all part of his charm. In fact, as I watched “Joker,” I thought to myself that the movie was not trying to approve of his actions, it was just showing a realistic view of what could happen if this guy existed in our society. And by our society, I mean how it was years ago. You know those controversies that happen to be surrounding this movie? Honestly, they’re pointless. Granted, there is an argument to be made that every single movie ever made contains the slightest of bias. But “Joker” is not a movie that is trying to hammer a message down your head. It’s trying to say, “Hey! Here’s this character, here’s his journey, it’s pretty twisted, we just want you to believe it.”

I should also not go without mentioning that Joaquin Phoenix acts his ass off in this movie! I’m honestly having trouble right now on whether I should declare him the best Joker or if I should stick to my opinion towards Heath Ledger being the best of them all. I know it’s only October, so there is an argument to be made that maybe Phoenix won’t get an Oscar for this movie, but he BETTER get nominated, or there will be riots!

OK… Not literally! Movies don’t promote violence! It’s just the truth!

Anyway, Phoenix manages to handle a role where he has to be the biggest laughing maniac possible. At the same time he has to be creepy, while also occasionally being sweet. There are a lot of, get this, JOKER cards that Phoenix himself has to flip over to showcase the core elements of his character.

I also really liked Robert De Niro’s character. He plays a late night host, and as I watched this movie and saw Arthur Fleck watching the show at home with his mother, I kind of felt immersed into the world, probably realizing that this was a pure form of escapism for most people in society. The two are talking and I remember it being mentioned by the mother that this late night host, AKA Murray Franklin, is relatable to them. Now this movie took place in 1981, so I got a good sense that this guy was a fine alternative to Johnny Carson. Not to mention, he’s charming and has a good presence, which is something all talk show hosts should possess.

The acting overall in this movie is pretty much off the charts, I think the only other movie where I have seen a group of cast members put so much effort into their roles this year might be “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Although “Us” comes relatively close as well. But other standouts of excellence in “Joker” come from the technical side of the spectrum.

I mean, my gosh! Let me just start off by saying, I had the special privilege of watching “Joker” on a 70mm print. Thanks to Warner Brothers and everyone else involved with this film for making such a thing happen! The color grading on this film is some of best I have seen this year. It’s pale, it’s depressing, and it’s almost off-putting in the best possible way. The cinematography is great too. This movie is directed by Todd Phillips and if you watch some of his movies like “The Hangover,” you’d notice they are shot by Lawrence Sher, and much like that film for example I have seen from the two of them together, the pair combine to deliver some delicious hot and spicy buffalo wing level shots! There’s a scene where Arthur is walking down an enormous staircase and between his motions of dancing on the steps and jumping in puddles, the camera manages to catch each one and make me want to have them all as a desktop photo. The editing’s pretty stellar in that scene too, it’s eye candy. I’m almost shocked that I’m saying that about a scene in a comic book movie that doesn’t have much glossy CGI.

And speaking of depression, this entire movie has nothing but people who are almost too upset to acknowledge existing, and almost nobody manages to care about another living soul. There’s a scene where Arthur is playing peek a boo on a bus with a kid, and the kid’s mother is just plain annoyed. The film also manages to go into certain problems regarding people with mental illnesses, and it features a deep struggle that Fleck himself has to face. There is a scene where he comes to the realization that he’s meeting with his therapist for the last time due to funding cuts. Even though I knew who the Joker character was, I still couldn’t help but sympathize with Fleck at times. It feels weird to say that, but I have been taught at a young age that is not nice to lie.

If you ask me, I think the absolute best part about “Joker” is the fact that it has the rare qualities that you wouldn’t manage to find in many other comic book movies. This film was given an R rating from the Motion Pictures Association of America, and once I heard that was going into effect, I felt like climbing a tree, pounding my chest, finding a banana, and tearing it open! Going gorilla style! It was one of the most glorious moments of my life! Having seen this movie, let me just give a message to all the parents and guardians who are planning on seeing this “comic book movie” with their kids.

Don’t. Just don’t.

I mean, you can… Maybe they are mature enough to comprehend everything that is going on in a movie like this, but this is NOT a film for kids in the slightest. It deals with real world issues, it’s bloody, kind of disturbing, and without going into much detail, I’d say there’d be a moment or two where I would not blame a kid if they cried out of pure fear.

Let’s look at it this way. Let’s take one of the most recent comic book movies that also had a couple heavy moments, “Avengers: Infinity War.” Without going into detail about the ending, if you have a kid who cried at the end of “Infinity War,” I think there’s a good chance that same kid, depending on their transition of age, will weep for sweet release of death during “Joker.”

Having said that, I realize simply having dark moments in a movie doesn’t automatically make it good, but these dark moments were an absolute highlight and a reason for me to keep my eyes glued to the screen.

In the end, “Joker” is one of the most unique comic book movies I have ever seen. I honestly would love more movies like this in its particular genre. I am a bit curious to see “Taxi Driver” now that I have seen “Joker,” but I’m just hoping it doesn’t ruin “Joker” for me in any way. Everything about this movie was done to A+ levels. The acting, the camerawork, the music choices, the screenplay. It’s all worthy of two thumbs up. If I had any issues with the movie, I’d say there’s a couple moments, as I put on my brain, that I could see coming a mile away. Also, there’s a moment or two where my head drifted off into space, signifying a slight issue with pacing. Granted, it’s not a big deal, but nevertheless. “Joker” is a movie that I personally think may be one of the most individualistic in its genre. I have almost seen nothing like it. Just for that alone, it gets a ton of praise from me. I’m going to give “Joker” an 8/10. One more thing. After walking out of this movie, I did have a question on my mind: How much replay value is this going to have down the line? It’s a really good movie, but is it going to get a ton of replays in the DVD player? I can see reasons for some people declaring “Joker” to be a movie that is good for a single watch, but because of how heavy it is, maybe a second watch would be impossible. Even so, I enjoyed “Joker.” I personally want to see it again because of the enjoyment factor. Hopefully when it comes out on Blu-ray, I can catch it another time.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I am going to an advance screening of the new film “Zombieland: Double Tap.” I saw the first “Zombieland” a few years ago for the first time. I’m personally intrigued as to how they are going to handle this sequel. I don’t know if it will be as good as the original, but Bill Murray’s back, so anything’s possible! If you want to see this review or other great content, consider following Scene Before either with an email, or if you want the ability to comment or like, use a WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Joker?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite R rated comic book movie? For me, the answer is simple, “V For Vendetta.” It also might be Natalie Portman’s best movie for all I know! Leave your opinions, or if you want to be a moron, completely objective and factual statements down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!