Fast X (2023): Xtremely Atrocious

“Fast X” is “directed” by Louis Leterrier. It was originally supposed to be helmed by Justin Lin, who has done a few of the franchise’s installments, including the recent “F9.” However, due to drama with star Vin Diesel (xXx, Guardians of the Galaxy), he left the directorial position. So that’s fun… Although he does have a screenplay credit. Speaking of Vin Diesel, joining him is a cast including Michelle Rodriguez (Dunegons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Widows), Tyrese Gibson (Morbius, Black and Blue), Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Karma’s World, Crash), John Cena (Peacemaker, Blockers), Nathalie Emmanuel (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Game of Thrones), Jordana Brewster (Dallas, Lethal Weapon), Sung Kang (Power, Obi-Wan Kenobi), Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad, The Longest Ride), Daniela Melchior (The Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), Alan Ritchson (Reacher, Titans), Helen Mirren (Skyfall, The Queen), Brie Larson (Captain Marvel, Room), Rita Moreno (West Side Story, 80 for Brady), Jason Statham (Crank, The Transporter), Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Slumberland), and Charlize Theron (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Bombshell). This series of moving images that technically qualifies as a blockbuster film once again centers around Dom Toretto and his “family” as they must stop Dante Reyes from ending their lives.

We did it folks! We have reached TEN of these films now. ELEVEN if you count that one “Hobbs & Shaw” spinoff that was quite entertaining. …Yay? To be honest, I could not have been less stoked about “Fast X.” I have seen plenty of bad movies, including some to major franchises like “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Transformers.” Few movies like “F9: The Fast Saga” have reeked of such an abominable aftertaste. Why did it not work? Because it treated me like an idiot.

The “Fast and Furious” franchise has evolved to such idiocy over the years. It has gone from being “Point Break” with street racing to taking on a shark-jumping identity that only gets bigger, not to mention dumber, with each installment. From “Fast & Furious,” the fourth movie, to “Furious 7,” everything that resembled such shark-jumping never took me out. “The Fate of the Furious” and “Hobbs & Shaw” came close, but I still enjoyed the movies for what they were. “F9: The Fast Saga” feels like a lowest common denominator tentpole. Between John Cena’s stiff acting, Dom Toretto’s lack of charisma, and the forced space scene had me chuckling at it for the wrong reason, I cannot see myself watching “F9: The Fast Saga” ever again.

But I am one who believes in second chances. Therefore, for that reason, in addition to the fact that I feel somewhat obligated to put out a review, I decided to check out “Fast X” on opening night a couple weeks ago. The trailers honestly did nothing to excite me. In fact, I felt like was spoiling the movie for myself through whatever the heck the marketing campaign was. But I tried to act mature and let the movie speak for itself.

Safe to say, there were enjoyable moments. Maybe, one, two, or three. Because there are many others that I would rather forget.

This is, unfortunately, just about as bad as “F9.” I left “F9” feeling appalled as to how this franchise got to where it was, but I thought it had a couple cool ideas. I left “Fast X” feeling like I got punched in the brain. By the end of the film, I had perhaps the quickest 180 degrees shift I have ever experienced as a movie watcher. I went from liking where things were going, to wanting to scream like an unsatisfied customer at Disney World. Because there are times where the film has inklings of fun in it. But they are never enough to justify me paying money to watch the movie in the first place, and even in a couple more entertaining moments, they include some of the dumbest ideas and realizations ever brought to the big screen. I think I figured out what the X in “Fast X” stands for. No, it does not mean the number ten. It stands for Xcrement.

There is so much nonsense that happens in “Fast X” that I need to split this review into two or three parts to definitively explain all of what I need to say. I am not going to, however, because I would be a jerk. So, let us widdle down some things.

For starters, I am convinced that “Fast X” does not know how cameras work. Not that the film is poorly shot, it is in a word, fine. That said, there is a scene at the beginning of the movie that serves as a reminder of who the Toretto family happens to be. Not only is this as expositional as can be with a couple core characters standing in a large room doing nothing, but the footage used to talk about the Toretto family, are movie shots. Not security camera footage, not raw video that could have been uploaded to social media, but carefully crafted shots that are used in past films. It reminds me of “Batman & Robin” where a particular shot of Poison Ivy is reused for plot purposes, but that shot came from the camera shooting the movie with no inserted gimmicks, tricks, or added context. So either the “Fast & Furious” franchise is secretly one of the world’s most ambitious documentaries or this scene is as lazily set up as public transit in almost every corner of the U.S.. It does not take long for me to be taken out of the film, which is unfortunate because the film does try to give some stakes in certain situations. But even when that happens, it is difficult for me to appreciate it because I am not convinced anything in this movie will matter.

This movie has a ton of characters. But size does not matter, it is what you do with it. Not much is done with it to be frank, because there is almost no charisma from any of the characters! This includes the lead!

Domenic Toretto is arguably the most overpowered, unlikably boring protagonist who continues to maintain some semblance of relevance in our cultural zeitgeist. I remember when these movies made the heroes feel superhuman, but they continued to have some degree of verisimilitude to their actions. Dom is God at this point. Vin Diesel may have chosen to be Superman in “The Iron Giant,” but as far as I am concerned, if Dom Toretto were forced to fight Superman, Toretto has a chance of clobbering him at this point. Other protagonists, even in movies I do not enjoy, will have me guessing if they are going to make it out of a sticky situation. If anything, Toretto practically is the sticky situation in every scene. He is not the villain, but he is a man without weakness. And while anything’s possible, this franchise proves it, I would rather see characters who have to deal with their troubles because the reality is that nobody’s perfect. Sure, there are some added stakes in this film with Dom having a kid, and Jason Momoa plays a compelling antagonist. But those two things are not enough to make a good movie. This is where the “Mission: Impossible” franchise often succeeds where “Fast & Furious” does not. Because while the movies are fictional spy adventures, they have fewer fantastical elements and more interesting characters that keep me engaged in the picture.

In fact, going back to Dom’s kid, Brian, he is nicely portrayed by Leo Abelo Perry. I am not convinced that he looks like the offspring Dom and Letty would have, but nevertheless. He is good in the film. What is not good in the film, is Dom’s parenting skills. I know this film defies logic, physics, and science, but is it the dumbest time for me to ask why the heck Brian is able to drive at eight years old? I mean, he can… But, are there like, laws… Against that? Ah, who am I kidding? The only law this movie knows is Murphy’s Law.

Although there is one good cameo in the middle of this film. I will not say who the individual of interest is, because I had no idea they were in the film going into it. But they are seen while the film is set in London. Additionally, this individual has some of the funniest lines in the film by a long shot.

Also, if any characters were improved, it would have to be John Cena’s Jakob. Unlike the last movie, he is actually charming, more than just a buff body, and kind of funny. One of Cena’s strengths as an actor is comedy. Since his last outing in the “Fast” universe, he has definitely improved himself as a performer, and I think the writers have similarly improved on his character and relied on some of what made John Cena’s performance in “The Suicide Squad” pop. The character himself is a bit of a diversion from what we have seen in “F9,” but it does not change the fact that Cena’s continued commitment to his craft is shown here.

I am going to do my best to talk about the end of this movie without giving a ton away. Inside I am vomiting just thinking about it. There is, an absurd, albeit the tiniest bit engaging moment where Dom flees from a couple oil trucks. Okay… At least no one is in space. Then we get an out of nowhere cliffhanger. While somewhat abrupt, that moment gave me hope. I thought the movie for the most part was mediocre at best, but that scene nearly redeemed everything else because it hinted that there could be at least one ounce of stakes in this universe. THEN we get to the ACTUAL ending. Where we find a couple other characters witnessing something, then another something happens. Once the other something happens, I think I witnessed an achievement in storytelling that could only be awarded with a Razzie. I said “F9” gave “Sharknado” ideas. That honestly feels like the tip of the iceberg at this point for how ridiculous things get in this franchise. What happened?!

One of the common things I hear about another popular series of films, specifically the MCU, is that those movies are more like theme parks than actual films. There are a few theme park-like elements in the MCU, but they are just a small part of what makes the films themselves exciting. They are still entertaining stories with likable characters. That said, if Martin Scorsese watches “Fast X” and walks out thinking that it is less theme park-esque than anything in the MCU, then he may as well be entitled to his wrong opinion. I would rather watch “Iron Man 2.” I’d rather watch “Black Widow.” Dude, I would rather watch “Thor: The Dark World” instead of not just “Fast X,” but both of this franchise’s most recent outings! How bad do you have to be to compared to a franchise of 32 movies, and I would watch all of those instead of these last two duds?! This movie has thrills, but little character growth. This movie has style, but no substance. This movie has action, but no stakes. And what we get is one of the worst movies of the year, not to mention one of the worst cinematic efforts of the decade.

When I walked out of “F9,” I lost any excitement I had for “Fast X,” and the trailers lowered it even more. As for “Fast X,” I think the most positive thing I can say about this movie is that people got paid to make it. Just because you have all these big stars including Vin Diesel, Brie Larson, Charlize Theron, and Jason Momoa, does not mean the film can get away without delivering a good script to back them up. After the first act, everything in this film feels as haphazard as a carnival ride. Whereas MCU movies are debatably theme park rides instead of cinema, “Fast X” feels more like a carnival ride that was shipped in and set up at the last minute. It is wobbly, squeaky, and its roughness cannot match its acceptable appearance. The film looks okay. The cinematography is pedestrian, although the editing is a bit over the top. Maybe too much for its own good. There is no way I can convince myself that “Fast X” adds anything fresh or exciting to this franchise. Its old tricks, despite their remixes, are honestly tired at this point.

In fact, speaking of old tricks, if I have to be honest and state what I think could be the most enjoyable moments of the film, they may be the ones from the beginning. While that may seem vague, let me remind you that much of that is really just a flashback to “Fast Five.” Do not get me wrong, I like “Fast Five.” But after watching “Fast X,” I was not convinced that I should watch it again. Instead, I thought I would rather watch “Fast Five” again. While some may take this as a compliment regarding the franchise’s longevity, if the franchise wants to save itself in the future, it might as well craft something good to release in the present, and maybe not indulge a whole ton in its past.

Movie franchises are only as good as their last project. Granted, money also talks. “Fast & Furious” makes money. But sometimes the two go hand in hand. Look at “The Divergent Series.” The third movie comes out to less than stellar reviews, the box office is equally unsatisfying, and not only was it announced that the fourth film would go straight to television, the film never saw the light of day following said announcement. Or for a more recent example, Look at “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” The movie ended up receiving some of the worst verdicts in the MCU and ended up having significant drops during following weekends at the box office. Sure, the movie made quite a bit of money, but by current MCU standards and with the diminishing of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is below what it could have made.

Going back to “Fast Five,” this movie utilizes that predecessor to tell a story of its own. Because the villain, Dante, is the son of Hernan Reyes, the antagonist of “Fast Five.” If I have to give this movie one compliment, its villain is one of the more redeemable elements of the experience. I am not going to pretend that it saves the film from being a disaster, but Jason Momoa steals every scene he is in. Every one of his mannerisms reminded me of a more adult version of Jim Carrey’s Doctor Robotnik from the “Sonic” movies. In fact, I am not surprised Momoa pulls off his performance. Having seen one of his most recent projects, “Slumberland,” he has a bit of a fun side to him that I have not uncovered through his time as say “Aquaman.” Not to diss on his performance as Aquaman, but “Slumberland,” despite its flaws, showed perhaps a likably cartoony side to him. At times, this film feels like a cartoon that tries to ground itself too much. Jason Momoa feels like the one performer who showed up to do a different project than those around him. Everyone showed up to be an action star while he showed up to be a goofball with guns and an endless motive to kill. I do not recommend going to see “Fast X,” but if there is any reason I would argue you should, Jason Momoa is the first idea that comes to mind.

There is nothing wrong with a franchise evolving from its roots. But “Fast & Furious” shows what happens when evolution goes too far. Adding a little ridiculousness is fine. In fact, it is actually kind of cool. Although what does not work is seeing that ridiculousness turn into chaos. Sure, this movie harkens back to the street racing element that was utilized in prior installments. But it is overshadowed by the many negatives that result from the franchise’s evolution. I do not have as much emotional attachment for these characters as I once did, because I am convinced that they are going to make it out of any situation they find themselves in. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing multiple times and expecting different results. “Fast X” defies reality just as much, if not more, than “F9.” Therefore, this franchise fits the bill to where it could be called insane. It is just about as insane as I would be if I ever watch this movie again.

In the end, “Fast X” somehow managed to go below my already miniscule expectations. A bad “Fast & Furious” movie is one thing, but two in a row destroys my faith in the future of this franchise. I have a feeling this movie was designed with an ending to get me to ask “Where are they going with this?”. Only thing is I saw that ending and thought, there is almost no possible scenario where I tune into the next movie and it compels me from the first scene. I have seen some solid cliffhangers over the years in film. I have seen them in movies like “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Back to the Future Part II,” “Inception,” and the “Incredibles” installments. These are endings that either give me solid questions, make me beg for solid answers, or sometimes both. For “Inception,” it leaves my mind to wonder what could be happening. These are solid endings that build extended promise. “Fast X” might be promising something, but I can only assume it will be empty. But before that ending happens, things are not too great either. Between all the nonsense, the boring characters, and lackluster dialogue, this is easily one of the worst movies of the year. I am going to give “Fast X” a 2/10.

“Fast X” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to have reviews for films like “The Blackening,” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” and “Hypnotic.” Stay tuned! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Fast X?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most abysmal, rotten, downright awful travesty of a blockbuster film you have seen in recent years? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022): A Young, Admirable Ensemble Carries This Environment-Centric Feature

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is directed by Daniel Goldhaber and stars Ariela Barer (Runaways, Atypical), Kristine Froseth (Looking for Alaska, The Society), Lukas Gage (The White Lotus, Euphoria), Forrest Goodluck (The Republic of Sarah, The Revenant), Sasha Lane (Utopia, Loki), Jayme Lawson (Farewell Amor, The Batman), Marcus Scribner (Black-ish, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power), Jake Weary (Animal Kingdom, Fred: The Movie), and Irene Bedard (Pocahontas, The Mist). This film centers around several environmental activists as they band together to, as the title suggests, blow up a pipeline.

Some of you reading this review may be hearing about this movie for the first time today. I ended up watching this movie for a few reasons. First, the trailer was really good. It had a certain flair to it that individualized the project. Second, to some degree, I care about the environment. I cannot pretend I am perfect, but I try to do my part when it comes to preserving it. Third, the release period seemed limited. It was playing at select theaters with minimal times available. In fact I did a search for showtimes in my area, and found out “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” currently is not playing anywhere near me. It is available to watch at home, but still. I am glad I saw this movie when I did. In a time where I recognize climate change, the world being on fire, and needing to take care of my surroundings more than ever, I thought this movie could be, at least, an important watch. Now that I have seen it, would I recommend it?

After some thought, I would say that question requires an extended debate.

It has been a couple weeks since I watched “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.” I wish I could have gotten this review out earlier but between other movie reviews being in the… You know, pipeline… And other things in life getting in the way, I have waited until now to talk about it. That said, I do not remember everything I saw in this movie. This is a simple movie. This is also on the shorter side. But if I were asked to give any of the characters’ names or their backstories, I would need to do a Google search. This also speaks to something that stood out to me in the movie as I watched it. The best thing about “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is the chemistry between everyone in the ensemble. While I do not think the individual characters are that memorable, they come off as a well-oiled machine (sorry) when they work together.

To all of the environmentalists out there, I would like to make it clear that I did not necessarily enjoy “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” because of what it says about how we treat our planet. Instead, if I were to give a surface level summary of my experience, I enjoyed the movie because of the characters and how this film’s story effectively highlights the characters’ issues. The shared motivation of the main characters made me ask some perhaps much needed questions. I will get to those later. Yes, the movie heavily involves an oil pipeline, which as a singular concept, is a controversial topic regarding the future of this planet. But as the movie goes on, we see how it affects ordinary people. Granted, this is a work of fiction. But as I watched the movie, it felt raw. I not only felt connected with the main ensemble that were trying to blow up the pipeline, but the supporting characters that have to deal with the pipeline’s effects.

If I did not make myself clear already, I am not a climate change denier. I try to recycle as much as possible. I want good public transportation and I try to utilize it as much as I can. I own a car, but when I bought it, I avoided leaning towards an SUV or truck because of their effects on the environment. Naturally, if this movie was designed to change my mind on the oil industry or my views on environmental preservation, it will not. If anything, one can argue that I might be predisposed to this movie because of my views. But I think this is an important film, even if it is not my favorite I have seen recently. I think as we transition ourselves and evolve, this is something I will think about on one occasion or another. I am glad this movie this movie was made, not just because I was entertained with the journey the characters go through, but why said journey was taking place.

I can see certain people watching this movie and not siding with these characters. That said, movies like this go to show that everyone believes they are the hero of their own story. I have seen movies where I think the protagonist is a buffoon, I do not know how I could ever side with them. Specifically, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” But part of that has to do with my values and when this character is presented to be as moronic as he is, not once did I get a sense that this moron was charismatic or the least bit justified for his behavior. “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is a hard sell based on its low budget and not exactly star-studded cast, although they have been in some popular television programs. Another season it is a hard sell is because it picks a side, not to mention a side that is likely to trigger some people. It did not trigger me, but I am not everyone else.

The movie begs to justify destroying things for the sake of sending a message. That is a tough question that I honestly do not know how to answer. Because history has shown that destruction of property or similar acts can be effective in sending a message and bringing change. Look at the Boston Tea Party. But is it worth the trouble? Is it worth the consequences? Not only do we see the oil pipeline destruction motivation play out, but this same message through destruction is being delivered from the very first scene. The first minute of the movie features one of the main characters slashing the tire of a gas guzzler car, while also posting a flyer as to why they did it. That is something that I also have mixed feelings on. It is definitely less harmful in more ways than one, but I do not know if the person on the receiving end is either going to change their mind or react fondly. Sure, destroying things can bring attention. But how far do you go to support a point? It is a question worth asking, but it is hard to say if it is worth answering.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is something I probably would not have watched unless I was doing Scene Before. That said, I do not have any regrets. As a character story, this is captivating. As a thriller, it is intriguing. As an overall movie, it was worth the watch. Is this movie going to open anyone’s minds? It is a possibility. Because even though it is a work of fiction, it tends to base itself within the confines of an issue that feels real. And it is an issue that is likely to only become heavier depending on where we go as a society. The film is not playing in many theaters right now, including the ones near me. And while I cannot give “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” a glowing recommendation, I can say it is superior to many of the movies I have reviewed in recent months, especially the more popular titles everyone is giving their money to.

In the end, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” was thought-provoking. It was a bit of a surprise because part of me did not know what to expect going in. This is not a project I would watch at home on a Friday night. But it is also a project that I am glad I saw this one time on a Friday night where I had nothing else going on. If you are looking to be entertained, you might get that out of this movie. But I left the film feeling more invested in questioning the deeper meaning behind the characters’ actions more than anything else. Despite the film not being my favorite of the year, I hope it is one that is brought up in conversations throughout the years to come. I am going to give “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” a 7/10.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is now playing in select theatres and is available to buy or rent on digital services.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to have reviews for “Sisu” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Stay tuned! Also, for those of you who have followed me for some time, I want to address the status of my “Super Mario Bros.” 1993 review. I am working on it. Unfortunately, due to other movies coming out and time constraints, I have no official date as to when the review will be released. Maybe when the 2023 adaptation releases physically. I do not know. If I have an update, I will give one. But for now, that review is being put on hold. Hope you understand. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “How to Blow Up a Pipeline?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with an ecocentric message that you enjoyed? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023): The Most Action-Packed, Exciting John Wick Yet

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is directed by Chad Stahelski, who has directorial credits on all of the previous installments in the franchise. This film stars Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ip Man), Bill Skarsgård (It, Barbarian), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat, Bullet Train), Shamier Anderson (Goliath, Invasion), Lance Reddick (The Wire, Bosch), Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins (Criminal, American Assassin), and Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). This film centers around John Wick as he tries to get revenge against the High Table and take down anyone who stands in his way.

I love the “John Wick” franchise. One thing that stands out about this franchise that separates itself from several others is that not only is the first movie good, but every sequel that comes out is a step up from its predecessor. I enjoyed “John Wick: Chapter 2” more than the original, and I found “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” more entertaining than “John Wick: Chapter 2.” The objective of a Hollywood sequel is to, perhaps stereotypically, go bigger, but it does not always mean it is better than what came before. “John Wick” has gone bigger in its two sequels to extremely pleasing results. From one film to the next, the action sequences are incredible, the cinematography is amazing, and the lore is fascinating. And it happens to be all the more so with each go. That said, after two successful sequels, I wondered if the franchise ran out of steam. I thought “John Wick: Chapter 4” was just going to be a cash grab that would make most of its money from name recognition. I wondered how they could possibly top the other films.

Now that I saw the film, I can confirm “John Wick: Chapter 4” not only tops its predecessors. It stabs them, shoots them, and sends them tumbling off a cliff. It makes those films inferior and asserts its dominance. “John Wick: Chapter 4” is easily my favorite film in the franchise, and I did not think I would come to that conclusion a year or two ago.

This film is the fourth installment of an ongoing franchise that has made a decent chunk of change. It stars a well-known actor who has continued to maintain his relevancy in an extended career. Some may say that making this film implies Lionsgate would be, understandably, playing things safe. I understand why they made it, but I was not sure if I wanted it, that is until I watched it. I thought when they were making this film, it was a sign that “Hollywood” happened to be running out of ideas. After seeing this masterpiece, and I mean that in every sense of the word, I can confirm that Hollywood is not running out of ideas. Because this movie came up with a buttload of fresh new ways to kill people.

This movie has a great list of characters between all of the returning faces like Keanu Reeves as John Wick, Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King, Ian McShane as Winston, and Lance Reddick as Charon (RIP). But the newcomers manage to steal some of the spotlight for themselves. Donnie Yen, who may be at risk for being typecast as a visually impaired, skilled fighter, is brilliant in this film. I loved every minute he was on screen. Scott Adkins does a great job with his limited screentime as Killa, who is only enhanced by some excellent makeup and costume design. Did I mention assassin dogs?! Bring on the assassin dogs!

Over the past few years, we have practically been in a Keanussance with the previous “John Wick” installments amongst other projects like “Toy Story 4,” “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” and even the “Cyberpunk 2077” video game. Of all of the projects Keanu Reeves has done in recent years, this is the best one. It is up there with “Point Break” and the original “Matrix” installment as one of the greatest Keanu Reeves projects of all time. But if I have to be real, I should not solely rely on encouraging my readers to take a shot every time I gloriously say the name Keanu Reeves, because the real stars of the show are the people behind the camera. From director Chad Stahelski, who has consistently delivered one good time after the next with this franchise. To writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, who have conceived my favorite screenplay in the “John Wick” franchise since the simple but effective original. To cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who has distributed some of the most palatable shots in an action movie to date. To production designer Kevin Kavanaugh, who has built a multitude of sets that do not deserve to look as good as they do in a movie where tons of people get killed by a guy who has successfully utilized a pencil as a weapon.

This is one of the most thrilling action flicks ever put to screen, and it is not only because Keanu Reeves takes names in corners that you did not know existed, but because so much care was put into each frame. If anything, the progression of the “John Wick” movies reminds me of “Mission: Impossible” in recent years. From the third movie and onward, each one felt like a step up from its predecessor. For “John Wick,” each movie feels like a step up from the original, which is already a decent time.

I have said that this is my favorite “John Wick” script since the original. Part of it is because, like all the other installments, it maintains a sense of atmosphere that makes a series like this something of its own. But also because it is the closest the franchise has come to making me relate to or feel strong emotions for the characters. While the first “John Wick” is my least favorite in the franchise, I will not deny what made that first movie work is its ability to make me root for “John Wick” over his loss. It is all the more significant when considering that I am probably the furthest thing from a dog person. The sequels are great, but I remember them more for what the characters did as opposed to why they did it. What makes the fourth movie the best one is that it takes the substance of the first movie and the style that has improved from one installment to the next and showcases what the full potential of what this franchise could be. This is the ultimate “John Wick” experience from scene one to the final frame.

If I had anything else of note to say, I would recommend maybe watching the other movies before this one. For starters, they’re good movies. But I also bring this up because there may be some lore to pick up on before this fourth film. If I had any problems… They are not coming to me. I was worried about the runtime. However, this movie flew by, because I was having fun. That is ultimately what “John Wick” is. And between Keanu Reeves’s trademarks, his dynamite chemistry with Laurence Fishburne, all of the action, this is the epitome of fun. These types of movies are not for everyone. My mom would not like this film. But if you are an action junkie and refuse to watch “John Wick: Chapter 4,” you are missing out on the pinnacle of what this genre is capable of. From a technical perspective, this movie checks every box and receives extra credit. The sound design might end up being the best of the year depending on what comes out after this. Every frame looks like a painting. Some of the music is quite good too. The lighting is balls out and spectacular. At times, the stunts made me wince. I have enjoyed all of the “John Wick” installments, but as far as this movie goes, I am bending over for it like it is my lord and savior.

In the end, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is a thing of beauty, a thing of splendor. It is something I will be thinking about for a long time. The track record for “John Wick” over the years has reminded me of the track record for “Mission: Impossible” over the years. It gets better every time. Keanu Reeves has personally earned a seat at my High Table. When it comes to movies, few things beat a surprise. Few things surpass the time when a movie comes out of nowhere, I am not looking forward to it, but I see it anyway, and it ends up being one of the best things I have watched in recent memory. I was technically looking forward to “John Wick: Chapter 4,” but not on the level that I was going into “Chapter 3.” That said, this is better than chapters 1, 2, 3, all of them. Everything has led to this, the ultimate “John Wick” experience. I do not know if “John Wick: Chapter 4” will be this year’s “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Avatar: The Way of Water” as a select big budget, popular film that shoehorns its way into the Best Picture slate at the Oscars, but we shall see. I am thinking this franchise is not only back, but better than ever! I am going to give “John Wick: Chapter 4” a 10/10!

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! I have a couple more reviews coming up very soon including one for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” which I plan to see tonight. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which hits theaters next week. Speaking of which, I figured with the brand new “Mario” film coming out, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to go back and review 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” which I have to remind myself, unfortunately exists. I just rewatched the film earlier this week and I will be sharing my thoughts on it soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “John Wick: Chapter 4?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “John Wick” movies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Infinity Pool (2023): Don’t Do Drugs, Because We Will Get More Psychologically Mind-Numbing Bores Such As This

“Infinity Pool” is directed by Brandon Cronenberg (Possessor, Antiviral) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, The Northman), Mia Goth (X, A Cure for Wellness), and Cleopatra Coleman (In the Shadow of the Moon, The Last Man on Earth) in a film… that I honestly would not be able to describe in a single sentence if I were asked to do so on the street. It is something… Though in all seriousness, “Infinity Pool” centers around a couple, James and Em Foster, who travel to an island for a getaway. When the couple is involved in an accident, what is supposed to be a relaxing trip turns into a nightmarish and outlandish marathon of events.

I often describe January, and February for that matter, as the time where movies go to die. When I say that, I often refer to the movies being dead on arrival, uninteresting, or just plain lazy. “Infinity Pool,” which premiered at Sundance on January 21st and had a wide release on January 27th, does not meet those three January movie trademarks. While I was looking forward to other movies more, “Infinity Pool,” at the very least, had my interest. It looked meticulously crafted. I know even if a movie looks bad, there are people behind the scenes who aspire to make something significant out of it, and this definitely looked significant, not to mention unique. To be honest though, “Infinity Pool” did not sell me with the trailer. Although to be fair, it did not look like the easiest film to market, which may be another January trademark. Yes, Alexander Skarsgård is a great actor and an increasingly notable name. Yes, Mia Goth is hot right now, especially amongst horror junkies. Yes, the film is written and directed by the son of a man who has made his mark on the industry for years. But if I were a general audience member, I would probably slip past this film. Plus, as I have stated several times, if there were a genre I would consider to be my weakest, horror is a contender.

I saw “Infinity Pool” over a week and a half ago, and I cannot stop thinking about it.

Specifically, about how tiringly dull it is.

Now I will be fair to “Infinity Pool,” like I was saying about the trailer, this film is exquisitely crafted. The shots consistently shine, the locations are easy on the eyes, the set design fits in every frame, the costumes are top notch. When it comes to style, “Infinity Pool” succeeds.

I also like the performances. All of the main characters are well portrayed and nobody feels miscast. No one on screen feels out of place. In fact, if I had to pick one performer who definitely feels like they are in their place, it would be Mia Goth as Gabi Bauer, a fan of author James Foster, the film’s protagonist. Her performance is perhaps the most larger than life of all the ones in this film, especially compared to the main couple, but that is also what I love about it. This makes the performance stand out, even though I found certain moments with said character to be a nuisance. Although maybe that was the point. That said, the point did not land with me. If you know the saying that not every movie is for everyone, maybe that could apply to my reaction to “Infinity Pool.” It definitely was not for me.

I will give credit to “Infinity Pool” for having moments and concepts that fit within its narrative. There were times where the story had my attention. There are some occasionally disturbing moments. Although when it comes to this film’s sequence of events, there was a moment around or past the halfway point where I just tuned out. The runtime for “Infinity Pool” is less than two hours. If I had to be honest, this film feels like it goes for two and a half hours, possibly longer. Structurally, this film is not the simplest to follow and may warrant a second viewing. Although to be quite frank, this movie shows that first impressions matter because some of the things that happen in this movie did not interest me. If you cannot keep me entertained the first time, then why should I return for a second time?

If I had to pick a film “Infinity Pool” would remind me of, it would be “Midsommar.” Both films have their similarities and differences. Off the bat, a similarity that comes to mind is the fact that the main character travels to a foreign environment only to have things get out of hand. Said environments and happenings within them are different, but nevertheless. Although speaking of similarities, if I had to note a similarity between these two horror flicks, it is that they did not necessarily scare me. There are eerie moments and concepts, but as both movies progressed, there came a certain point where I was more annoyed than I was scared. For “Midsommar,” my annoyance grew and peaked in the middle of the climax. In “Infinity Pool,” I had glimmers of annoyance beforehand, but it increased around when the climax started. I respect “Infinity Pool” for never backing down on anything that happens in it, for the most part, I will address something about that in the next paragraph. But when I left “Infinity Pool” I left feeling less like I was going to have a nightmare and instead thinking to myself that I have seen movies that are scarier, not to mention better paced, despite some of the horrific moments this movie provides.

Fun fact about “Infinity Pool,” when this film premiered at Sundance, an unedited, NC-17 version of the film was played. When this film was widely released, an R-rated, edited version was shown. This film is rather disturbing as is, and I am not sure what this film cut out, maybe some nudity or something, but this film is unhinged to the tenth degree. Even though I lack the motivation to watch “Infinity Pool” a second time, I am curious to know how far Brandon Cronenberg was trying to go for this film, because depending on your personality, this might not be an easy film to watch. Again, I found it more headache-inducing than disturbing, but I respect Cronenberg for going as far as he could.

It is hard to come up with any other last minute pros regarding “Infinity Pool.” Although if I had to, I would say some of the dialogue is well-written. I was somewhat invested in the story, even in moments where I was tuned out, there were slight glimmers of my attention that were still intact. I just wish I found the story and script more compelling and less infuriating to sit through. For that reason, I cannot recommend “Infinity Pool,” though I am sure it will find its audience.

In the end, “Infinity Pool” is a bloody terrible time that I wish I could have gotten back. There are moments of this movie that I imagine would have been enhanced had I been drunk or high, but I do not partake in such activities, therefore I just settled for being sober and bored. I had a Diet Pepsi, which has caffeine in it. That is a drug. But I cannot say it kept me awake. While “Infinity Pool” comes off as a greater piece of art than the uninspired hour and a half-long NFL ad in disguise known as “80 for Brady,” it does not mean I want to watch the film again in the near future. I am going to give “Infinity Pool” a 4/10.

“Infinity Pool” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Plane,” the all new action flick starring Gerard Butler as an airline pilot. I just saw the film last week, and be sure to expect my review for it next week! Also, on Sunday, February 19th, I will be announcing the nominees for the 5th Annual Jack Awards! I will drop all the names you need to know and a form where you can vote for Best Picture! The ceremony drops on March 5th, only on Flicknerd.com. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Infinity Pool?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the slowest horror movie you have ever seen? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Violent Night (2022): A Movie So Naughty It Deserves to be On This Season’s Nice List

“Violent Night” is directed by Tommy Wirkola (What Happened to Monday, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and stars David Harbour (Black Widow, Hellboy), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, The Menu), Alex Hassell (The Boys, Cowboy Bebop), Alexis Louder (Copshop, The Tomorrow War), Edi Patterson (Plan B, Vice Principals), Cam Gigandet (The O.C., Reckless), Leah Brady (The Umbrella Academy, Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls), and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation, American History X). This film is set during Christmastime, and when a family gets together at a large house to celebrate the holiday, a group of mercenaries attempt to infiltrate the property. With the family in trouble, it is up to Santa Claus to save this family from harm by stopping the infiltrators in their tracks.

Ah… The holidays… The most wonderful time of the year. Full of joy, happiness, and all the pretty things. Plus, you know, materialism. It is the that time of the year to beat up some bad guys!!! In this season where everyone is inevitably going to be rewatching a bunch of comforting holiday classics like “Elf” or “The Polar Express,” “Violent Night” presents itself as an antithesis to the familiar “Christmas movie.” Yes, it is Christmastime. Yes, there is Santa Claus. Yes, there are Christmas songs playing in the background. But instead of watching the next “Fred Claus,” there is a chance that with “Violent Night,” I have just tuned into the next “Die Hard.”

For those of you who have seen “Die Hard” and defend it as part of the many Christmas movies out there, you might say that it is not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. Similarly, I think Christmas came early this year when Santa bashed a bunch of mercenaries and put them in their place. Now am I going to put “Violent Night” on in front of my family while opening Christmas presents? Maybe not. However, once all the unwrapping is done and I find some privacy, I might put it on because this film is beautifully gory and as the name suggests, violent. It knows how to have fun from scene one to the climax.

David Harbour is excellent as Santa Claus, and part of it is because of the script. When I usually think of Santa I usually think of a jolly old man who can do no wrong. This film showcases a Santa who has grown tired of his job, he is sick of delivering the same trendy gifts to children, but he also seems to have a soft spot for the children that stand out on his nice list. Now, if I had one minor complaint, it is that the film occasionally resorts to kids’ animation humor where Santa calls out one of his reindeer for taking a dump on a roof, but that would be a small script flaw in an otherwise entertaining flick. Harbour carries this film as Santa Claus and I would not mind seeing more of him as the character.

Although speaking of the script, it is not the most verisimilitude-filled story of the year. Although to be fair, when you have a Santa Claus that beats up bad guys Deadpool style, that does not exactly call for the most realistic story of all time. In fact, there are certain conveniences and happenings in the movie that occur and the excuse that gets brought up in those moments is that it is “Christmas magic.” As someone who has seen and reviewed a ton of movies, it has become notoriously difficult to “turn off my brain.” But sometimes, the best thing to do in a movie like this is to follow this saying uttered by Barbara from “Tenet,” specifically… “Don’t try to understand it, feel it.”

And I can tell you how I felt after watching this movie. In a word, incredible.

I also like the scenes when the family happen to all be together. For the record, this movie takes place in an extravagant household and the people inside are all wealthy or notable. A couple standouts include Alex Hassell as Jason Lightstone, the favorite son. Gertrude Lightstone, who leads the family corporation. Also, Alexander Elliot as Bert, a young man who will do anything to get attention on social media. For the most part, the main group sounds like a bunch of entitled people. And in some ways, that is as accurate of a description as I could give them. But much like “The Menu,” which I reviewed last month, it was difficult for me to find any of these privileged individuals annoying or obnoxious. Credit where credit is due.

Although when it comes to the mercenaries, they are equally as entertaining. Most notably, John Leguizamo as “Scrooge.” (center) While I think there are more memorable antagonists in other movies, few have made me go through such an immediate transition to make me literally despise them (in a good way) like the one in this flick did. There is a moment where the stakes transition from the fates of one household to every kid on earth, and it is because of this guy. Leguizamo sells the part like hotcakes and I certainly bought it.

Before going into “Violent Night,” I heard this movie is similar to “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” and in some ways, that is an accurate description of what this film is in essence. There are unused elements brought to the table. For instance a deadly Santa Claus, and the idea of Christmas itself being saved, but if you like “Home Alone” and “Die Hard,” there is a good chance you might enjoy “Violent Night.” This is likely a coincidence, and also not the most cinematic example, but I would say there is a pinch of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” sprinkled here too because the bad guys all have code names that are Christmassy.

As I have said, this film is violent, brutal, and not the most happy go lucky depiction of the holidays. It is cute, but not cuddly. But one thing this film gets right is that it does not simply resort to being a full-fledged slaughterhouse of a time and instead balances its brutality with some earned heart. Santa Claus and Trudy’s connection powers the film into the night sky and blasts it away full throttle. Seeing a somewhat broken Santa enjoy a conversation with a girl who evidently fulfills many qualifications on the nice list is heartwarming. “Violent Night” does for Christmas movies what “The Suicide Squad” did for comic book movies. It gave a satisfying journey that perfectly balances rambunctiousness with sweetness. It is not all rainbows and unicorns, but the rainbows and unicorns that do exist are not out of place.

“Violent Night” brings on the true meaning of Christmas. Watching Santa Claus give some old jolly saint nicks, red noses, and 12 days of pain. Watch it if you have a chance.

In the end, “Violent Night” does not sell itself short, it is beautifully naughty but to the point where it feels nice watching it. If you are looking for action, look no further. If you are looking for gore, look no further. You might not be looking for comfort and joy, but you may be delighted to find it here. David Harbour plays a great Santa Claus and I would not mind seeing another movie where he returns to play the character. Whether it means he deals with a different family or group of people like Benoit Blanc in “Knives Out” or we return to see another adventure with him and the Lightstones. I want more of this character, give it to me now. I am going to give “Violent Night” a 7/10.

“Violent Night” is now playing in theatres everywhere, including large formats like Dolby Cinema and Cinemark XD. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have another one coming soon! Tonight I will be seeing “Empire of Light,” directed by Sam Mendes. The film hits select theaters starting tomorrow night so I hope to have a review up by the middle of next week. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Violent Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite on-screen Santa Claus? I’ll even count the fake ones like the department store Santa from “A Christmas Story.” List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Side Story (2021): Steven Spielberg Reinvents the Musical Genre Through This Compelling Adaptation

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the final installment of Steven Spielberg Month! You know what that means? It is time for shameless self-promotion! If you are interested in checking out more of my Steven Spielberg-related reviews for the month, this is your opportunity to read up on my thoughts regarding “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” and “The Post.” With that out of the way, it is time to introduce the last review of the themed event. It is one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “West Side Story.” I would have reviewed this film last year if I had the time to. Unfortunately, I could not make it happen. Although I am glad to finally be able to give myself an opportunity to release my thoughts on it, and for you to finally find them out. Ladies and gentlemen, here is my review of “West Side Story.”

“West Side Story” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, Ready Player One) and is based on a 1957 play by Jerome Robbins. The film stars Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, and Rachel Zegler as Maria, a young Puerto Rican girl who falls in love with New York native Tony (Elgort). These two are caught in the middle of rivaling gangs, conflicting sides, and altering identities. While these two may be star-crossed, the turmoil beyond their relationship heats up.

I saw this movie on December 6th, 2021 during a free IMAX fan event screening in Boston. The screening took place days before the film’s wide release. This was my first time seeing anything related to “West Side Story.” Prior to rewatching this film for review purposes, not to mention after, I still have not watched the 1961 “West Side Story” adaptation, despite its acclaim. The film won ten Oscars, including Best Picture. In recent months, Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” sort of followed in its footsteps. The 2021 remake won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in addition to earning other categorical nominations. One such nomination was Best Picture, which the film lost to “CODA,” which I have no problem with as that film was brilliant.

Having rewatched “West Side Story,” it honestly was more fun than it was the first time around. And that says something because that first viewing was a great time. Did I mention that my most recent watch of the film is not my second, but my third time? I went to go see the film in theaters twice, and both times it knocked my socks off. Therefore, it should be no surprise that I am handing the film this much praise.

I am so glad to finally get to talk about “West Side Story” after being busy during the tail end of 2021, partially because it is my favorite musical movie of that year. I had fun with “In the Heights” and I admired “Tick, Tick… BOOM!”, but “West Side Story” takes the cake as the most serotonin-emitting of these films. When I first heard about a remake for “West Side Story,” I had mixed thoughts, and slight indifference as I had not seen the original film. When you announce that you are about to remake something iconic or highly acclaimed as this, it begs the question as to how you can make something that is on par with what the prior material provided. Again, I did not see the 1961 movie, so I cannot compare and contrast these two films together. Although as a standalone movie, “West Side Story” 2021 is one of the most finely crafted creations of the decade thus far. The decade has only started, but if things continue to go in a certain direction, “West Side Story” could end up in my top 50, maybe even top 25 films of the 2020s by the time the ten year span ends.

The cast of “West Side Story” could not be better. Every actor is perfectly placed in their role, they feel at home, and they play their part to the best of their ability. Rachel Zegler is a goldmine of adorableness as Maria. Not only is Zegler a ridiculously talented singer, which is an ability that is somewhat expected in a film like this, but she is also unspeakably beautiful. Every time I glance at Zegler in this movie, I can sense that not only is Zegler happy to be in the movie, I can sense her character is always in the moment. Even during an occasional sense of hardship, every time I look at Rachel, I am, assumingly, as happy as her. She is always either upbeat or expressive, which for a musical, is an appropriate set of emotions. Part of the recently mentioned adorableness not only has to do with Rachel Zegler herself, her character, or her acting ability, but also the costume design.

The costumes in this film are designed by Paul Tazewell, who also designed costumes for the musical “Hamilton.” Tazewell’s designs feel straight out of the 1950s. To go along with the extravagant, larger than life feel of a story like this, some of the costumes feel attractively glitzy. Again, Zegler’s costumes, such as her white dress from the first act, are standouts. All the costumes from the dance in the gym are easy on the eyes. Another one of my favorites is Anita’s yellow outfit that she wears during the “America” scene. It goes well with the atmosphere and the time of day. Everything feels intricately planned.

Speaking of Ariana DeBose, she and Zegler pretty much tie for the greatest performance in the film. DeBose won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Anita, which is undoubtedly deserved. Everything from her physicality to her line delivery to her overall charisma makes for one of the best performances I have ever seen in musical film. The past couple times I watched “West Side Story,” every line out of DeBose’s mouth, even minor ones, made me smile. There is a saying about movies providing escapes for audiences. Anita in “West Side Story” is synonymous with such a philosophy. Every time she spoke, I instantly transported to another world. I am going to continuously debate as to whether Zegler or DeBose gave my favorite performance in the film, but as far as non-lead roles go, DeBose may have given the greatest of them all in 2021.

Despite having story in its name, the story of “West Side Story” is not the most original when you break it down. Not just because it is remaking a 1961 movie based on a 1957 play. If anything it is a spin on the “Romeo and Juliet” formula with different characters and dance fighting. If anything, this latest iteration of the musical is a fantastic spin, and even saying that is arguably an understatement. As I have said before, you can always supply a cliché story, or a story that has been done in the past. What matters is the execution. If you deliver something great with familiar elements, then job well done. This is exactly what Steven Spielberg did, I was on the edge of my seat during scenes that could have potentially come off as goofy. Dance fighting is a concept that to my surprise, successfully highlighted much of the tension between characters. Not only that, but the music used as a backdrop sounded great. It kept my attention.

This movie is shot by Janusz Kaminski, a brilliant cinematographer who has worked with Spielberg for years. The wides in this film are beautiful. The opening sequence is one of the most intriguing of the year based on the camera movements alone. The scope of the film would not be as massive if it were not for some of Kaminski’s long takes. One of my favorite shots of the film is when we get into the gymnasium and see everyone dancing. The camera swoops around the entire place non-stop until we arrive on our core characters like Anita, Bernardo, and Rachel. Looking back on it and what that one moment was able to capture, is jaw-dropping to say the least. Also, if you ever watch the scene, note the use of color. There is a sense of consistency between the colors of various outfits throughout the shot. It almost comes off like a painting. Again, credit goes to Paul Tazewell for how well he handled the film’s costume design.

Musicals, including this one, often thrive based on the spectacle. “West Side Story” has a ton of poppy moments where the cinematography and musical numbers keep my eyes on the screen. That is despite there being a sense of danger throughout the movie. “West Side Story,” at its core, centers around two star-crossed lovers. Although this film effectively encapsulates how their connection affects the people around them. The rivalry between the Jets and Sharks was already heading for trouble, but as soon as we see Rachel and Tony together for the first time, we also begin to see how various supporting characters handle this matter. Even though it should barely affect them on paper, it ends up resulting in increased calamity. As for said calamity, it made for a great movie.

If you ask me, based on everything I presented so far from the costumes to the shot selection to the editing to the acting, this is a sign that Steven Spielberg has brought together one of the greatest directorial efforts of his career. Or, as some might call it, just another Tuesday. “West Side Story” is apparently a part of Spielberg’s childhood, and it shows. The numbers are handled with grace, the characters are well realized, and the aesthetic of the film has a perfect blend between lighter and darker moments in addition to tones. There is no surprise that a sense of passion was present in every scene.

Aside from the cliché elements and familiar story treads, there are not many noticeable flaws with “West Side Story.” This might not be my favorite Steven Spielberg movie, but I cannot help but recognize how massively bonkers and fun this movie is. At the same time, it also successfully hits emotional beats. Performances from Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose highlight this. One of my favorite elements of the film, as someone who watched it perhaps the way Spielberg intended, is that when the characters speak in Spanish, they do not provide subtitles to aid in regard to what they are saying. I have taken a screenwriting class in college, and one thing my professor noted is that dialogue does not always matter. Sure, movies can have great lines that enhance the experience. Whether they are funny, dramatic, or emotionally charging. Although what makes “West Side Story” great is its tendency to use Spanish, a language which I do not understand, without subtitles, and nevertheless compel me into the scenes in which such a language is spoken. Given select moments and the supposed attitudes of various audiences, this sounds like a big risk. As someone who dropped out of Spanish class in high school for Sociology, I have been moved by this choice and its execution.

Big risk, big reward.

One might as well make the conclusion that this is what the whole movie sounded like from the beginning. A big risk. Sure, when you have Steven Spielberg in the chair, he makes everything look easy. Sure, name recognition is definitely a selling point in modern media. The film did not do well at the box office for various reasons. COVID-19, competition with other movies, and controversy with Ansel Elgort are contributing factors. However, this film is now available to watch at home and if you ask me what movie in the musical genre you should watch nowadays, this is one of the first I can think at the top of my head. It is that good. I do not know if Spielberg will make another musical, but if he does, I wonder how the heck he could top this one.

In the end, “West Side Story” is one of the best musical films of this century. Why should I be surprised that this movie is as solid as it is? Steven Spielberg is at the helm. Then again, maybe I should be surprised. After his many previous monumental successes, Spielberg has yet to create a film in the musical genre. He has done a variety of genres prior to “West Side Story” like science fiction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), period pieces (Lincoln), adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark), war (Saving Private Ryan), drama (The Post), and you could even argue that “Jaws” would be considered a horror film. By today’s standards, it is not the most terrifying option on the table, but it has its eerie moments. The man has done everything, and yet he continues to pump out gold. For some filmmakers, this would be an achievement. But I cannot call it that for Spielberg after watching “West Side Story.” As far as Spielberg is concerned, his efforts have amounted to another day at the office. That is how effective of a filmmaker he continues to be. Spielberg could have ended his career at say “Jurassic Park” and have an endlessly celebrated library of films. But that is not the case. His adaptations of songs like “Somewhere,” “Cool,” and “America” have stayed in my memory for a long time, and will likely continue to do so. The look of the film is stunning, the shots are beautiful, and the cast is incredible. Again, I have yet to see the 1961 film, so I cannot confirm if this is better or worse, but I can hardly think of a single problem I have with Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” So much so, that the film is worthy of a 10/10.

Musicals are not my genre, but this is a film that I liked the first time, adored the second time, and found myself eating up by the third time. I am floored by this film’s craft and how extravagantly immersive it is, even when watching it at home. I feel bad for skipping this review last year, but I am more than happy to have gotten my thoughts out by now. Although some of you reading this might not be that surprised that I liked the movie so much, because I ended up nominating it in a few categories during the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards. If you want to see what the film did or did not win, check out the post!

“West Side Story” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy on VOD. For those who have the services, it is also available to watch on Disney+ and HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! This is officially the end of Steven Spielberg Month! But this November, we will be seeing the latest addition to Spielberg’s neverending library. That my friends, is “The Fabelmans.” The film is loosely based on Spielberg’s childhood, and the trailer looks phenomenal. Between this and Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon,” this awards season is likely going to have lots of talk about Hollywood’s self-indulgence. Whether such self-indulgence will be successfully utilized, is a question waiting to be answered.

Also, my next review is going to be for the all DC film “Black Adam.” Be sure to stay tuned for the nine-millionth superhero movie I will be reviewing in my blogging journey. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “West Side Story?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see the 1961 “West Side Story?” What did you think of that? How would you compare the two movies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022): A National Treasure of Comedy and Action

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is directed by Tom Gormican (Ghosted, That Awkward Moment) and stars Nicolas Cage (Con Air, The Croods) as himself, kind of. Joining the Academy Award-winning thespian are stars including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984), Sharon Horgan (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Game Night) Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Uncle Drew), Ike Barinholtz (Snatched, Blockers), Alessandra Mastronardi (To Rome with Love, Master of None), Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life, Without Remorse), and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, The Smurfs). This film follows Nicolas Cage, or Nick Cage if you want to be more technical, as he hits a bit of a rough patch career-wise. When a high-paying opportunity arrives to meet with a superfan, Nick Cage is in for the role of a lifetime, working for the CIA.

When it comes to actors, Nicolas Cage is the definition of an enigma. He won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” and received another nomination for his work in “Adaptation” years later, so he is not short on talent, nor is he short on resume-worthy credits. But he also has a history of being an Internet meme. For example, one of my favorite YouTube movie critics, Chris Stuckmann, does a series of reviews by the name of “Hilariocities,” and the intro to each episode is centered around Nicolas Cage because of his tendency to take certain roles that make him look over the top and zany, sometimes not in the right ways. Cage has a history of choosing movies that are not remembered, movies that have gone straight to DVD, movies that occasionally make me wonder if he even reads the script before he signs on. One of my first positives of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is its tendency to be effectively tongue and chic regarding Nicolas Cage. Or in some cases, the way society, especially on the Internet, paints a picture of him.

I think putting Cage in the center of this film was a brilliant idea, because while I know Cage has done some prolific work in recent years like “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse” and “The Croods 2,” he is an actor I would think of these days when it comes to, “X actor needs to pay bills, therefore X actor stars in Y movie without hesitation.” But even with that in mind, Cage commits every time, no matter how unrealistic the script. And for this movie, a lack of realism is perhaps no exception. If I invited Nicolas Cage to my birthday bash this year, he would likely tell me to screw off. At least this is what my head tells me, because actors are not always in the business of entertaining for parties or other related events. But the moments that arguably lack verisimilitude make “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” worth watching.

The bond between Cage and Pascal is a highlight of the film. I like both actors by themselves, but if you put them together, that is a recipe for greatness. Much of the movie involves Nicolas Cage being tasked by a couple people affiliated with the CIA to stay and keep an eye on Javi, who to his surprise, becomes his newfound companion. This takes a toll on Cage as he came into this situation with partial hesitancy and now that he is here, he now has a sense of trust with his new pal. The duo literally bonded over “Paddington 2!” I have never seen “Paddington 2,” mainly because I have not seen “Paddington 1” from the mid-2010s, but I will give this film credit where it is due, it has made me want to check out “Paddington 2.” But this movie is not just about Cage finding out he likes “Paddington 2,” or trying to get people he knows to watch “The Cabinet of Caligari,” this film can also qualify as a tribute to Cage’s career and legacy. Fans of his previous movies will probably rejoice as to how one particular aspect of this movie unfolds, as it is one gigantic callback to his cinematic library.

This film also knocks its portrayal of celebrity culture out of the park. Obviously, given how this is a Nicolas Cage film, it would be wise to realize how his fans see him on screen. But there is a great moment in the film that reminds me of how ballsy it is as a fan to stop a celebrity in the street. Because the reality is, celebrities have lives. They have places to be. That is a good reason you should not stop them in the street. But at the same time, getting to meet them presents itself as a once in a lifetime opportunity, making it that much more palatable to stop them and ask for a picture. This is why events like comic con exist. That way the celebrity guests are in one place and possibly there almost solely to make the fan’s day while also making a profit. But I will be real, if someone stopped me in the street to compliment that one review I did, I would be thankful and happy enough to take a second out of my day to talk to them. But the way this movie presents a case like that shows how unexpected such a moment can be. Nicolas Cage came off as the kind of guy who would not mind taking a selfie with a fan, but I also noticed how quick this scene was handled, showing that one person or the other had things to do. Entertainers are amongst an interesting profession because they are perhaps more likely than others to be stopped. Imagine if you were working in a landscaping company and someone came up to you and screamed, “Wow! I love what you did with my neighbor’s yard! All my friends are talking about it!” You don’t usually see that as much with people in such a profession.

This film, genre-wise, is part buddy comedy, part crime investigation, part action adventure. All in all, I have to say it is one of the most delightfully charming, exciting movies I have watched in the past few months. Cage and Pascal are ridiculously funny together, and I totally buy their out of nowhere friendship. I think their chemistry is more prominent to me at this point however compared to the CIA plot, which is not a bad entry to the script by any means. I enjoyed what I saw. But Cage and Pascal’s scenes together grabbed my attention so much that it made a good portion of the film feel rather forgettable, and I think that is its biggest weakness. Although at the same time, one thing I did not forget is how the film seemingly takes jabs at today’s somewhat cookie cutter approach to storytelling, where you have basic ideas regurgitated over and over and fewer adult-centric tales out there for people to consume. The way “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” handles such an idea is not only entertaining, but also increasingly relevant in a studio system that is often dominated by blockbusters and franchises of “things people remember.” And as much as I love movies like “Free Guy,” I can see why people find them uninteresting or out of line with what they find watchable.

In the end, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” will leave you laughing, it will leave you smiling, it will make you want to befriend Nicolas Cage yourself. Not to take away from Nicolas Cage, but the supporting cast is also likable and charismatic. You have some great actors like Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris. All of them have an attractive screen presence. When it comes to movies about stars playing themselves, I prefer “The Big Sick,” starring the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani, but “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is still worth watching. I recommend it. I am going to give “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” a 7/10.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for one of the biggest movies of 2022, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” Expect that review sometime soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where an actor plays themselves? Don’t you dare say “Space Jam…” Or the sequel, for that matter. Both are atrocities. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Batman (2022): The Longest Sight of the Darkest Knight

“The Batman” is directed by Matt Reeves (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) and stars Robert Pattinson (Twilight, The Lighthouse), Zoë Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood), Jeffrey Wright (The French Dispatch, Westworld), John Turturro (Transformers, The Big Lebowski), Peter Sarsgaard (Dopesick, Green Lantern), Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Colin Farrell (Total Recall, The Lobster). This film is the umpteenth reboot/remake/cash cow on a platter of the Caped Crusader. And I assume Warner Brothers already happens to have three more in development. This time around, Robert Pattinson plays Batman, or Vengeance, it can go either way at this point, who is forced to chase down the Riddler (Paul Dano) and follow himself down the rabbit hole to determine his family’s involvement in Gotham’s ongoing crime.

My excitement for “The Batman” was always something I kept in my head. And unlike other superhero stories in recent months like “The Suicide Squad” or “Eternals,” I had those expectations at a moderate level, but not at one that made me feel somewhat pessimistic. If you want a fair comparison, I would say it is almost equal to the excitement I had for “Shang-Chi” before all the reviews came out. I was immersed into the trailers we were given, and looking forward to seeing how Matt Reeves could potentially pull off a “Batman” movie that speaks to a 2022 audience.

While I will admit I think there are days where “The Dark Knight” may get a tad too much hype, I have always admired the film. I thought it was the definitive comic book film that delivered a little bit of fun, a little bit of dark, and a whole lot of epic. Christopher Nolan’s direction and Hans Zimmer’s score definitely add to the scope and vibe of the film. I would have been happy if “The Batman” were half as good as the “The Dark Knight” because even in that case, it would be a good movie.

Now “The Batman,” per my opinion, is no “The Dark Knight,” but it is a watchable film. And like “The Dark Knight,” the tone is incredibly set by the music, perhaps more effectively than the 2008 counterpart. Michael Giacchino’s score, even in its more subtle moments, feels prominent and difficult to ignore. Now unlike “The Dark Knight,” which I think has a really good opening scene, I think the opening scene of “The Batman” does a much better job at measuring the tone and stakes of everything at hand. This film’s introduction to the Riddler is chill-inducing, and almost horror-like. Granted, this movie does take place on Halloween, hence the Long Halloween inspiration.

Now, Batman and Spider-Man are often seen as two of the most popular heroes of all time. So much so that their characters reboot almost on the frequency of Tom Brady winning Super Bowls. Similar to seeing a couple movies where Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, loses his uncle, we also have seen a couple movies where Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman, loses his parents. “The Batman” takes the MCU or “Spider-Man: Homecoming” route and skips the deaths of Wayne’s parents. For a movie like this, I like this approach. Partially because it allows us to get straight into the character of Batman, whose first main scene in this movie provides one of the grittiest action sequences the character has gone through, and also because THIS MOVIE IS SO FREAKING LONG!

Maybe I should not have said that. This is not the longest Halloween–err I mean, longest comic book movie I have sat through. “Avengers: Endgame” was over three hours. But the reason why “Avengers: Endgame,” to me, gets away with its three hour runtime is because I have realized more and more over the years that it is not necessarily a matter of how long a movie is, but how long it feels when it comes to keeping me entertained. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched “Blade Runner 2049” from start to finish. That movie is two hours and forty-four minutes, which by today’s standards, is rather long. It flies by every single time I watch it. However, there were one or two moments when I watched “The Batman” and thought, “When’s the credits? Why aren’t they popping up yet?” I feel like this movie could have been better paced if they shaved off 5, 10, even 20 minutes. I do think the slow burn feel fits the narrative and characters at hand, but it also almost made me want to fall asleep.

But I’ll tell you what didn’t make me fall asleep…

ONE OF THE BEST CAR CHASES IN YEARS!

It’s been a few years since I have seen a truly exciting, immersive, compelling car chase. The last one that comes to mind is from 2018 during “Ready Player One,” where we keep transitioning from the real world to the virtual world where the people are driving and Wade is trying to get the key in the hole. The chase between Batman and the Penguin sent chills down my spine from frame one. For starters, the sound in this chase is some of the most heart-pumping I heard in a recent movie. I knew how amazing this chase would be ever since I saw the trailers, and I was not wrong. That moment where Colin Farrell, who looks almost unrecognizable as Penguin, shouts to himself, followed by the Batmobile’s reveal behind him, provides for pure satisfaction. Speaking of which, as soon as the Batmobile flicks on, I knew I was in for one of the boldest, almost self-transition into slow motion moments in recent film history. You know that feeling when you are out on the street and see someone so attractive that you’ve never seen before, it’s like time almost stops when you are taking every moment in.

And I think a lot of these slow, bold, yet exciting moments would not happen, or would be less likely to happen if this were not the first story we saw with Robert Pattinson’s interpretation of Batman. There’s a first time for everything, and we might as well let this first time last as long as possible. Speaking of Robert Pattinson, let’s talk about him.

Let me be clear on something. I have NEVER seen “Twlight” or its sequels. I also have never read the books. Some might say I am a better person for not partaking in these stories. I know Robert Pattinson, prior to suiting up for Batman, was perhaps a teenage heartthrob in those films, which gives him a bit of an image that some may think will hinder the film. Similar to One Direction’s Harry Styles in “Dunkirk,” put those thoughts aside because “The Batman” supports the notion that Pattinson is committed to what he does and that he is a genuinely great thespian. And if you do not believe me. Watch “Good Time,” where his performance partially adds up to a good time. Watch “Tenet,” he’s practically my favorite character in the film in terms of line delivery. And PLEASE. PLEASE. Watch “The Lighthouse.” SOOO GOOD. I was not one of these people, but I had maybe a friend or two who despite Robert Pattinson’s continuous career buildup, still felt skeptical of this film’s quality partially because of Pattinson’s past in the “Twilight” series. Either that or Bruce’s emo look, which admittedly works for me. Don’t worry. Pattinson IS Batman. Both literally and figuratively.

Unlike say Ben Affleck or Christian Bale where the difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman is often very clear, I feel like this interpretation of Batman leaves the character of Bruce Wayne, who technically still exists, almost in the background entirely. I don’t mean this in a bad way, because this shows how much Wayne himself has been consumed by the Bat. You know that theory that people have about children? The one where they apparently see something in a video game and decide it is okay to do in real life? While this is not exactly a complete replica of that, Pattinson’s interpretation reminds me of that because of how much Bruce and the Bat have basically become one with each other.

So please? Can we stop already? Can we stop making fun of Robert Pattinson? He’s a genuinely good actor, and he can show that. Matt Reeves accentuates that with his eye-popping and marvelous direction. So let’s get back to talking about the more important things…

Like THE SLAP AT THE OSCAR–Ooohh wait, wait, wait, never mind.

I will also add that Robert Pattinson is not the only standout here performance-wise, Zoe Kravitz makes a fine addition to the movie as Catwoman, and her presence is as commanding as can be. Her chemistry with Pattinson is spot on. Speaking of spot on, aside from maybe Pattinson, I’d say the best performance in the movie probably goes to none other than Paul Dano. I never thought much about Dano as an actor much before “The Batman” came out, but he’s been one of the few things I could not stop thinking about once this movie ended. And this goes back to what I said about the film’s opening scene where we first see the Riddler. They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and they also say that first impressions matter. The Riddler killed it in this film, and had my attention throughout because of that first scene. Every other moment, he kept that same maniacal vibe up. This interpretation of the Riddler is not my favorite Batman on-screen translation ever, but it is up there. And that is part of why this movie is worth watching. Not just for Batman himself, but the people he runs into along the way.

In the end, “The Batman” is the best comic book movie of the year! Why is that? Well, partially because “Morbius” exists. And that’s another story for another time. But I’ll be real with you. There are plenty of “Batman” movies out there, ranging from standalones to crossovers. Out of the many Batman stories that exist on screen, this is not the first one I would pick to watch on a Friday night. Replay value-wise, this movie is not high on my list. But I also think it is beautifully made. It encapsulates a dark vibe that feels modern, but also brings us a masked hero who maybe had much of his personality altered because of his transition. I like that idea brought to the table, and I would not mind seeing a sequel at some point. I am going to give “The Batman” a 7/10.

“The Batman” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now. The film will be available to stream on HBO Max starting April 19th.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for Pixar’s “Turning Red,” the brand new animated film that is now streaming on Disney+ for free as long as you are subscribed! Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “Morbius!” I gave a little tease, but we shall dive deeper at some point! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Batman?” What did you think about it? Or, who plays the best on-screen Batman? Is it Keaton? Bale? Kevin Conroy? Someone else? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Death on the Nile (2022): Kenneth Branagh Brings a River of Intrigue in This Engaging Murder Mystery

“Death on the Nile” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Belfast, Thor), who also stars in the film as Hercule Poirot. Joining him in this Agatha Christie novel adaptation is Tom Bateman (Demons, Murder on the Orient Express), Annette Bening (American Beauty, Captain Marvel), Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Arthur), Ali Fazal (Mirzapur, Furious 7), Dawn French (French and Saunders, Coraline), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Criminal), Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., On the Basis of Sex), Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones), Emma Mackey (Sex Education, Eiffel), Sophie Okonedo (After Earth, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), Jennifer Saunders (Sing, Shrek 2), and Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Panther). In this film, Hercule Poirot finds himself on a voyage, set on the Nile River, and ultimately has to investigate the behind the scenes shenanigans of a murder during said voyage.

I want to make a couple things clear. I have never read any Agatha Christie works, therefore I have nothing to compare this movie to as far as her material goes. I also will note that this could technically qualify as a sequel. “Death on the Nile” revolves around a group of people under the eye of Hercule Poirot, who was also portrayed by Kenneth Branagh in 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” He directed the film as well. I have never seen the film, so I cannot tell you anything in regards to Branagh’s previous efforts, whether they are in front of or behind the camera in said film. I was not particularly interested in it at the time, and my lack of interest unfortunately contributed to what I call a lack of knowledge in this circumstance. Nevertheless, the trailers intrigued me enough, Kenneth Branagh is on fire right now with “Belfast” having just come out, and the cast is stacked to the brim.

Well, there’s also Armie Hammer, I should also mention that.

With that being said, I kind of saw “Death on the Nile” on a whim, I bought a ticket less than an hour before the show because I was in the area, although I did intend to see it by the end of the weekend, and I have to say the movie in some ways pleased me in the ways I expected it to. Although it does have a double-edged sword.

One of the best things about “Death on the Nile” is the feud between the newlywed couple, the Doyles, and this one woman, Jackie, played marvelously by Emma Mackey, or as I call her, Samara Weaving’s lookalike. Prior to Simon Doyle’s connection with his new wife, Linnet, he used to be in love with Jackie, who just so happens to be following everyone else. I loved getting to know these characters and every scene Mackey is in is one that had my attention, partially because of how well she played the character. But this also brings me to my main con with the film, and it is that it takes a bit longer than I expected to actually see the murder shenanigans go down. Now don’t get me wrong, the film is entertaining from start to finish. I was invested in most of the scenes that were written, but that would have to be my big pacing issue of the film. For a film that calls itself “Death on the Nile,” the “death” is not exactly much of a standout until the film’s second half. Is the book the same way? Again, I do not know. I do not plan on reading it anytime soon, so frankly I do not care to know.

Although if I had to bring another positive to the table, it is that the film is easy on the eyes. The film is as exotic as it is suspenseful. The color palette throughout feels like an old-timey flick but with a modern twist. It is a film that feels like it simmers itself in tradition, but infuses some sugar and spice to make it more attractive.

The performers all do a great job at bringing their own flair to the mix in “Death on the Nile,” I cannot recall one performance that either underwhelmed or annoyed me. Well, kind of…

Going back to Emma Mackey’s character of Jackie, I want to focus on her for a bit because I admired Mackey’s performance, but I did so with the acknowledgement of how much I disliked her character. Let me just be clear, I watch a lot of movies, and usually when I watch one I like, I usually like all the characters because they make the movie fun and enjoyable to watch. This one is different. I can only recall a few movies I watched in my life where I hated a character who was in it, and used that hate to remind myself of how effective the movie was at doing its job. “Whiplash” and “The Lion King” are the first two titles that come to mind. Mackey’s behavior in the film made me feel like I was part of the film, and films are always better when they can immerse you into the frame. Mackey did so in a way that made me want to punch her in the face, and all respect to the actress. Emma Mackey, if you read this, I think you have an amazing future ahead of you. I would totally cast you in a film if I find the right role, but I will not lie when I say, your character should have been thrown into the Nile to sleep with the fishes.

I like you, I hate your character. And for that, the movie did its job.

I also want to talk about Gal Gadot. She is an actress I have admired ever since I saw her in “Batman v. Superman,” because while that film showed a weakness from her as a performer, specifically on some line delivery, I saw enormous potential in her, because she carried the action sequences like a champ. I probably said this a couple times in my life. In “Batman v. Superman,” the real winner is Wonder Woman. And I think in just about every movie that has come out since, she has at least improved in some way. In “Death on the Nile,” I think casting Gadot as Mrs. Doyle is appropriate, partially because Gadot looks like someone who can symbolize beauty and wealth at the same time (also, she statistically is very wealthy), but this film shows that she has improved as an actress. She is more able to carry a film now than she has ever been, and there are a couple of scenes where I was able to feel the weight of some of her lines.

And of course, I cannot ignore Kenneth Branagh, who not only makes this film look as pretty as it is, but he carries his weight to bring a lively performance to the table. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Kenneth Branagh rock a mustache? If they’re making a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” adaptation set in Northern Ireland, I think Branagh would slay as Willy Wonka, and it would be better if the mustache stays. I think Branagh flat out just looks like someone who would be a detective in his spare time, so the fact that he’s cast as Poirot is undeniable. It’s perfect. Again, I have not seen “Murder on the Orient Express,” so I have nothing to compare this performance to franchise-wise. Having said that, “Death on the Nile” is good enough to the point that I want to go back at some point and give “Murder on the Orient Express” a try. Maybe compare the two and see which one’s better.

In the end, “Death on the Nile” is intriguing from beginning to end and offers an ensemble that gives you all the feelings from grace to anger to sadness. This may not end up being the best film of 2022, after all, the year is only beginning, but as far as this year’s fare, I recommend “Death on the Nile.” It has one or two pacing issues, but I feel like that could be a fairly subjective notion on my part. I probably won’t remember every single character, but there are quite a few that stand out to make this film one of the more entertaining experiences of the past number of months. I’m going to give “Death on the Nile” a 7/10.

“Death on the Nile” is now playing in theaters everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! My next review is going to be for the movie “Uncharted,” which just hit the big screen over a week and a half ago. Also coming up, I will be tackling my thoughts on “The Batman,” which hits theaters everywhere this week. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Death on the Nile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Agatha Christie book? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!