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!

Malignant (2021): Lifetime Movie: The Horror Show!

“Malignant” is directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Aquaman) and stars Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy, Annabelle), Maddie Hasson (The Finder, Impulse), George Young (Containment, Home), Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner, The 4400), and Michole Briana White (Reed Between the Lines, Muscle) in a film about a woman who goes through an abusive relationship, has a history of miscarriages, and in this… movie… I guess… She has visions of terrifying murders, only to realize these visions trace to her reality.

This film is directed by James Wan. I have seen a few of his films including “Aquaman,” which deservedly became the biggest DC movie at the box office. I’ve also watched “Furious 7” which may be my favorite “Fast & Furious” installment to date. But a lot of film fans know James Wan for his horror work. He’s done “Saw” and “Insidious,” two movies which despite being staples to modern horror, I have not seen. But he’s also done “The Conjuring,” which I did see. I thought it was a dark and fascinating attempt at showing off a couple paranormal investigators. I thought the film overall was decently scary. They clearly fictionalized my hometown of Wakefield, Massachusetts to make it something it is clearly not, but I don’t care. As for all the other “Conjuring” universe titles including the two mainline sequels, I have not seen any of them. I’ve heard good things about “The Conjuring 2,” I hear “Annabelle: Creation” is pretty good. I’ll check them out when I can, but for now, let’s focus on James Wan’s latest directorial effort, “Malignant.”

“Malignant” is a film that I’ve seen bits and pieces of when it comes to advertising. But it is not one that has caught my attention like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Although to be fair, I am fairly weak when it comes to horror and I am also somewhat predisposed to liking the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nevertheless, as I was briefly vacationing in Florida, I chose to visit a mall forty minutes away and at the last minute, I decided to go see a movie, there was a theater attached, and I purchased a ticket for “Malignant.” I love supporting theaters, but part of me regrets supporting “Malignant” because that film leaves a lot to be desired.

If James Wan were not directing this film, in fact, he even has a “story by” credit, I have a strong feeling that this film would have ended up on cable television. There’s a scene about ten minutes in that feels like it is straight out of a Lifetime movie between the horrendous acting and arguably even more cringeworthy writing. There is a line where my brain practically just took a 9mm pistol and shot itself in the prefrontal cortex just because of how obscene it came off. And the more I think about it, it literally sounds like a line you could only hear on a screen. If I saw that written on a page, I would have torn out my hair. I have heard from others that “Malignant” sort of falls into that throwback category of horror. Sometimes it would associate with some titles that have provided a lot of “camp” over the years. If you enjoy that kind of thing, good for you. I think you’re crazy, but good for you.

As for me, I do not think I could watch “Malignant” ever again. Let’s face it, there is a day that this film, like all others, is going to end up on cable television. Let’s say I find this film on TNT, and I had no knowledge of this film whatsoever, I would be confused. Because the film at times looks like one of the more artistic products in terms of visuals I’ve seen this year, but then we get back to the sometimes stiff acting and I wonder what the heck it is I’m watching.

You know how there are some movies that people look back on years to come because of their epic twist? Movies like “The Sixth Sense?” Well, if things shape up a certain way, “Malignant” may receive similar treatment. This movie is twisty, but part of that twistiness rubbed me the wrong way. Because I think there is a fine line between twists that are so unbelievable that they’re exciting and twists that are so impractical that you wonder how it even made it past the first draft. I don’t think every part of this movie’s twist is insane in the worst possible way, but there is one specific portion of it that made me question humanity. I should point out that this specific portion of the movie I’m referring to was in the trailer, so I wonder if one could call it part of the twist to begin with. But I should point out, I did not have much memory of the full trailer of this film before it came out. Nevertheless, this portion of the movie made me wonder if the main character once suffered from traumatic memory loss.

Amongst all the bad in “Malignant,” I would have to say that the best part of the film itself, aside from when it was over, is the decent camerawork and lighting. There are some shots in this movie, despite me criticizing it for its overly-campy feel that sort of takes away from scenes with serious drama, that had my eyes pleased. There’s one shot from the marketing, the one where the main character’s face is on the left side of the camera, lying on a pillow with some red light on it, which I consider to be one of my favorite shots of the year.

Annabelle Wallis is not an actress whose work I’ve seen much of. I’ve seen her in “Tag,” which is ridiculously funny by the way. But that was not a true reveal of her acting chops. She was in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which was forgettable, I don’t even remember her part in it. If I have never seen Wallis act before and I had to cast someone to nail the look of her character in this film, I think Wallis is an easy ticket. But as for the actual results in terms of how such a character is presented, they were disappointing, because Wallis is acting on a level that feels reflective of a lead star on a Lifetime movie! You ever see one of those Lifetime movies, not that I watch them, but I’ve heard them in background because my mother would watch them, where someone starts crying, and crying, and they keep crying? It doesn’t even feel like real crying, it feels like that awful episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” where SpongeBob literally cries over everything and it is up to Squidward to keep him from bawling his eyes out. Wallis’s performance at times felt like a cartoon. I don’t know if she had a lot of things in mind for the character that could line up with an artistic vision or if this was truly what James Wan was going for. Yes, she’s had a lot of pain, but this feels exaggerated. And I almost sometimes think the film does not know what it wants to be. Is it a soap opera? A horror show? A throwback? I literally don’t know! All I know is that I walked out of this movie happy to leave.

In the end, I thought up to this point that James Wan could become one of my favorite directors working today given his balance of artistry between big and small budgets, but “Malignant” makes me think otherwise. Here’s hoping “Malignant” is just his bad day at the office. I am always for the director carrying out their vision and seeing their film come to screen with as little studio interference as possible, but “Malignant” feels like a pretty sloppy vision in terms of tone and overall execution. This movie did not excite me, the twist did not help, and by the end, I was just unamused. “Malignant” is easily one of the worst movies I have seen all year and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Malignant” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available for a limited time on the ad-free tier of HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next review as I will be talking about “Copshop,” which I just saw over a week ago. I’ve got some thoughts on the movie and I cannot wait to share them. Also, in the near future, be sure to look forward to my review of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the all new movie based on the hit musical. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Malignant?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film directed by James Wan? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F9: The Fast Saga (2021): Go F9 Yourself

“F9: The Fast Saga,” otherwise known as the egotistical title of the ninth installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, is directed by Justin Lin, a veteran director of this ongoing franchise, and stars Vin Diesel (xXx, The Last Witch Hunter), Michelle Rodriguez (Smurfs: The Lost Village, Widows), Jordana Brewster (Dallas, Lethal Weapon), Tyrese Gibson (Transformers, Ride Along 2), Ludacris (Show Dogs, Crash), John Cena (Wipeout, Bumblebee), Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), Sung Kang (Better Luck Tomorrow, Motel), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither), Helen Mirren (RED, Hitchcock), Kurt Russell (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Thing), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell, Atomic Blonde). This film, as recently suggested, is the latest installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise. The film follows Dom Toretto and his car-obsessed “family” as they take on their latest mission of high-speed hijinks. This time, Dominic must face off against his younger brother Jakob (John Cena) as they reunite after years of separation.

Wow. We’re actually here. The Hollywood machine continues. It is time I update you with my status regarding the “Fast & Furious” franchise. I like all these movies except for maybe 2 and especially not “Tokyo Drift.” The first film is kind of like “Point Break” with cars, but I like it because I enjoy media where we see a ton of customized vehicles and people gathering to street race every now and then. I spent much of my childhood playing racing games so to see a movie like “The Fast and the Furious” out for public viewing is quite fascinating. I will also say, having seen every “Fast & Furious” installment, including “Hobbs & Shaw,” I’ve noticed every movie since the fourth one seems to obviously embrace shark-jumping to some degree. And usually it works. “Fast Five” and “Furious 7” are neck and neck to be my favorite films in this franchise. “The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth movie, was kind of on the brim of top tier crazy where the main characters have to outrun a submarine in ice, but it was still enjoyable, and I was nevertheless attached to the characters. I liked the story where Dom turned his back on his family and the consequences he had to face along the way. I also liked the end of the movie where they paid homage to Paul Walker’s character because the actor passed away before “Furious 7” came out and Dom decided to name his kid Brian. “Hobbs & Shaw” also had some absurd stuff going between Idris Elba being “black Superman” and the skyscraper freefall. But that movie showed great chemistry between the two leads and had some hilarious writing.

Now let’s move onto “F9.” If you know me, you’d know that I have been anxious to see this movie. I’m not saying it was my most anticipated of the year or anything. But when ticket sales were announced, I jumped the gun. I bought my tickets three months in advance to secure my seats (and possibly win a chance to go to the world premiere of the film in Los Angeles).

That was in 2020. But of course, the inevitable happened. The film was delayed, movie theaters shut down, and most big movies had to be put on hold. So even though I did not have “F9” as my top movie to see this year, I did recognize my pent-up desire to see it as the release date got closer. If “Godzilla vs. Kong,” a film with mostly action and little story, taught me anything, I could definitely use a big dumb movie every now and then.

But instead of a big dumb movie, I think I got a braindead one. There are things to like about “F9.” There are some occasional funny lines, although not as many as some previous films, the chemistry between Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris is not bad, and the same can be said for the chemistry between Dom and Letty. These characters have been with us for so many years that returning to a world like this can feel occasionally palatable. But this franchise has become so massively associated with absurdity that I left this movie talking with my dad and I told him, “This movie gave Sharknado ideas.”

There are no stakes in “F9,” at least none that stand out. Yes, there are things that go on in “F9” that could potentially mean life or death. The fast family is on a mission in Central America where they have to investigate a plane and avoid a ton of land mines. Dom reunites with his younger brother, and the two are now rivals. There are some occasional spur of the moment things that come up, but overall, I had no reason to think that any of these characters would not get out of any situation alive. I can think of particular situations where the movie tries to convince me otherwise, but I am watching the movie realizing, these characters are basically superheroes without costumes or actual powers. Are they lucky? Are they aided by gods? I don’t even know! These movies are becoming so ridiculous that they are boggling my mind!

I like Vin Diesel as much the next guy, but I am concerned that this franchise is really going from “Fast & Furious” to “Watch Vin Diesel Grow His Ego.” Dom Toretto is insanely overpowered in this film. There is a scene where he’s fighting at least twenty dudes at once and he beats them all without assistance from another human being. Why? Because he’s Dom Toretto. No other reason. If Vin Diesel has a production credit, you gotta let him have all the spotlight! That’s how things work, right?!

I also find it hilarious that “Fast & Furious” has always been, perhaps beyond a memeable degree, about family, and now apparently we find out Dom has a brother named Jakob. By the way, Jakob is played by John Cena, who quite frankly served his purpose within his role. John Cena has played a number of roles over the years. He is improving his craft, but I still think he’s got a ways to go before he is pristine. Although I do think he’s an okay comedy actor, so if you want my recommendation, dump “F9” in a fire and go watch “Blockers” starring John Cena! Please, it’s a much better movie.

Harkening back to why I found this movie so unwatchably absurd, I was watching a particular moment from the first twenty minutes of the film, where Dom needs to get from one piece of land to another, but he does so in a way that reeks of convenience. Watching certain portions of this movie reminds me of why I make fun of certain commercials. You ever see a car commercial for something like a Nissan and the driver is trying to escape an impending doom where debris is continuously falling behind them? They’re not screaming, they’re not happy, they literally have no emotion whatsoever. While there is definitely more on-screen emotion displayed in “F9,” I feel like I can read the inside of Dom’s mind, and as Dom drives in danger, his mind is almost likely stoic.

I’m not gonna spill every detail about this movie, but if you watched the trailers, you’d notice that “F9” takes some leaps that the franchise almost to my surprise has not taken before. Han, a fan favorite character, is back. The way they address it is like the rest of the movie, it left me confused. I know the “Fast & Furious” franchise is not always meant to be taken seriously, but at least in the past number of movies, they’ve left in some semblance of reality. Remember that scene in “Furious 7” where Dom and Brian are in a car near the top of a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi? They drive that car out of one tall building to another without getting anywhere towards the ground? And because there is apparently no better solution, the duo has to stay in the car driving out of that building and landing into another one? Then they escape the car, letting it fall out of that building to its inevitable crash? Remember that scene? That was the perfect mix of escapism, humor, absurdity, and stakes! Those last two things are important. Because the characters in “F9” have become so invincible that I can no longer take them seriously or root for them to get out of a sticky situation because I already have a preconceived thought that they will make it out even if it means breaking every law of physics in existence ten times in a minute! These movies are beyond reality at this point. They feel like they come from another planet! I don’t mean that in a good way!

Heck, there’s even a scene where we see Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson together and they’re even making fun of how in the past, they’ve been on all these crazy missions and they wondered how they are still alive today. They’ve brought up the same ideas I’ve been talking about. Are they just lucky or invincible? Who knows? Having seen their main sequences in the movie, part of me wants to go with the latter!

I will admit, one thing I kind of sort of liked was seeing the magnet scenes play down. That was one cool idea they had for this movie, where everything in sight just flies around on the street, including cars, onto a moving vehicle. I kind of like the concept and it made for some okay action. I want to say, I have seen other movies where maybe I would throw out the critique, “this movie sounds like it was written by a nine-year old!” That phrase is often used as a negative because I think we as audiences can mostly agree that we want most of our movies to have a semblance of maturity and logic. Turns out, this idea of the film came from the Justin Lin’s son, Oqwe, who happened to be nine-years old. See? Some nine-year olds do have okay ideas! With that being said, I don’t think there’s a better opportunity to say this, “F9” literally sounds like it was written by a nine-year old!

“F9” in a way kind of reminds me of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” because if I have to address a single observation from that movie, it feels like that movie tries extra hard to cater to the fans based on things they address through the Internet. In that movie, we see Luke diss his past self for “disgracing” his own lightsaber, and at the end, we see Rey and Kylo kiss… for… what reason exactly? Here in “F9,” Han is back, and the whole meme about “Fast & Furious” going to space becomes a reality here. The two big wishes I have seen on the Internet regarding “Fast & Furious” have been brought to life in “F9” and it makes me ask, where do they go from here? This movie really put the “Fast” in “Fast & Furious” and ended up blowing its load way too quickly. The only way I can imagine this franchise becoming any dumber is if it crossed over with “Jurassic Park” or “Sharknado.” That’s about it. I do not know at this point if I will be excited for the inevitable “Fast & Furious 10.” This movie has a mid-credits scene that seems to promise something interesting, but until I actually see some material, I am just going to assume at this point that the next movie will be unwatchable. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be more grounded. Maybe the characters will get into some serious trouble. Maybe there will actually be stakes. But until I get a greater glimpse, I cannot do anything at this point but assume that the worst has yet to come.

In the end, unlike the characters who have shown themselves off on screens for years, “F9: The Fast Saga” is nowhere near invincible. “F9: The Fast Saga” is honestly the worst “Fast & Furious” movie since “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” That film bored me, felt somewhat out of place in the franchise, and I have not watched it since my first viewing. Much like “Tokyo Drift,” I cannot see myself watching “F9” again anytime soon. Just a reminder, this franchise started out as a “Point Break” wannabe with street racing and people stealing electronics. Now apparently Dominic Toretto is the world’s most badass spy. Just… Because. No other reason. I absolutely hated this movie. I think it is a massive disappointment and it goes way too far in terms of how campy and unrealistic it wants to be. As Hogarth says in “The Iron Giant,” “You are who you choose to be.” Looks like this entire cast chose “Superman.” And frankly, I’m furious. I’m going to give “F9: The Fast Saga” a 3/10.

“F9: The Fast Saga” is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is also available in large formats including Dolby Cinema and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that this week I will be beginning my brand new review series in honor of “Jungle Cruise,” the upcoming film based on the Disney theme park ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” In this series, I will be talking about all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, beginning in chronological order with “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on July 1st and ending with “Dead Men Tell No Tales” on July 29th. Stay tuned, mateys! If you want to see this and more, follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “F9: The Fast Saga?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some movies you personally enjoy despite acknowledging their stupidity? For me, I’d say “The Meg” and the “Bill & Ted” films come to mind. Let me know your dumb picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021): I Want a Bodyguard Divorce

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is directed by Patrick Hughes, who also directed this film’s predecessor, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” This film once again stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Green Lantern), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction), Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Sausage Party), and alongside them are actors including Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Purge: Anarchy), Richard E. Grant (Logan, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Antonio Banderas (Shrek 2, The Laundromat), and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Dark Knight). This film follows Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), the bodyguard who helped protect Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) as he is told to take a break from bodyguarding. That break will have to wait however because Bryce and Kincaid are on another mission together where this time they have save Sonia (Salma Hayek), Darius’s wife, from danger.

I liked “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” when I first saw it. I missed it in the theaters, but I did get it on 4K Blu-ray for Christmas in 2017 and I did watch it a day or two afterwards. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is nothing too special, it’s really kind of disposable, but if you want a fun action flick that can entertain you for a couple of hours, you cannot go wrong. I also really like the film’s use of the song “Black Betty.” I think that was a really fun scene. The film also had an extended shot that kind of reminded me of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a little bit. Remember the scene from “Kingsman: The Secret Service” where Colin Firth basically annihilates an entire crowd of hate supporters in a church? Between story, music, and action, that scene was outright perfection. Now I am not saying the “one-shot” take in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is as good as the one in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” but it is still fun. But the biggest standout from “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Their characters clearly hate each other, but it never feels off-putting. It adds to the fun of the movie. It was a fun little action film that apparently did well enough at the box office. And of course as pointed out with “Star Wars,” “Fast & Furious,” “The Simpsons,” and “The Bachelor,” you gotta make more of it! No matter how good it is! This is where “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” comes in.

When I think of the “big” studios that stand out the most today, I usually think of Disney (Star Wars, Marvel), Warner Bros. (DC, Harry Potter), and Universal (Despicable Me, Jurassic Park). These studios have staying power and tons of properties they continue to utilize until the end of time. Lionsgate almost had that chance with “Knives Out,” but they sold it to Netflix. They used to be a force in the market with “The Hunger Games” and since the studio was affiliated with Summit, they also did “Divergent.” So they were big for awhile in the young adult adaptation game. They had “Now You See Me,” which paused. “Gods of Egypt” never did too well. “Twilight” is over. Just wait until they remake that eventually. I feel like the one big franchise that Lionsgate has that is the perfect mix of financial success, critical acclaim, and staying power, is “John Wick.” In fact they are coming out with a fourth movie pretty soon. I feel like “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” even though it is directed by Patrick Hughes once again, is Lionsgate making it known that they want this to be a serious franchise. And honestly, if it does become as big as say “Fast & Furious,” they need to do much better. This film was NOT good.

The sad thing is, this film starts off fine. It’s a little absurd, but it’s fine. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” starts off with of all things, an awards show for bodyguarding. The film continues as Michael Bryce goes to therapy as he is told to stop bodyguarding, and I’ll admit the scene ends with a couple lines that did get a laugh out of me. But as soon as the real action starts, where we see Ryan Reynolds and Salma Hayek in the middle of a fast-paced bike chase, the movie switches its goofiness into high gear. One of the first lines from Samuel L. Jackson’s character and how it is handled is something that I think could be taken in a couple manners. It’s either so goofy that it’s funny. Or, it is incredibly idiotic that the line was executed the way it was.

Apparently, Michael and Darius still hate each other, …I guess? So apparently they have not developed at all since the last movie. Just a reminder, Michael took a bullet for Darius in the last movie. And now apparently they still don’t like each other or barely show respect for each other. I don’t know! It feels forced! It feels like they’re just trying to copy the success of the first movie while lazily inserting something new. In fact there is a new subplot where apparently Darius and his wife, Sonia are trying to have a kid. Let’s just say that it barely adds anything to the movie until say the second half. There’s a point that feels as if Michael says something negative regarding this new reality almost forcibly just to keep said plot going along. It just feels so out of the blue. There are a lot of things that feel offish or out of the blue in this movie. I barely cared about the nearly one-dimensional characters who almost face no noticeable changes by the end. I barely cared about Antonio Banderas on the antagonistic side. I barely cared about anything! The action is not even as good as the original. The bike chase scene was good, there was one moment where Reynolds wielded a pool cue that was pretty funny, but that’s about it. The action overall just did not have the same flair that the original movie gave. This is not to say “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was a masterpiece, but compared to the sequel, it was a good time.

This movie honestly feels like it is on ADHD. One moment it is here, one moment it is there, the next moment it is everywhere! I am not fully against unpredictable movies that go in weird directions, that is what makes stories interesting, the fact that you don’t know where they’re going. This movie was fairly predictable, but the moments that occurred almost every other minute regardless of predictability just came flying in my face and it is was just too much to take in, especially the bad moments. At times, this movie feels like it could work better as an action-based Fox Animation Domination cartoon. It is so hyperactive and non-stop that it barely gives me a needed moment to breathe, even in parts that are supposedly meant to be slower.

I also really hate the ending, because they supposedly “resolve” an extended plot line in the film in the most off-putting way possible. It’s honestly just weird to think about. I almost want to say what exactly happens in this moment, but I can’t because it is literally the last moment of the movie and if I spoiled it, I might be a jerk. Unfortunately, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was a jerk to me in the process. You how I mentioned this movie can be predictable? Well, this was an out of left field, outlandish, unpredictable moment, but it is so unpredictable and batcrap crazy that thinking about it makes me want to throw up.

I’ll also add a positive before we go any further. The actors do a fine job with their performances. They are fine, but the sad thing is that the writing is just plain bad. It feels like they just whipped up this sequel in an hour! Apparently, this film was written by three people, including the sole writer of the original film, Tom O’Connor. I was not behind the scenes and I do not know any of these people personally, but if they do a third movie, I wonder if they should just let Tom O’Connor do the work himself because he could arguably be the butter that is woven so perfectly onto the bread that is the “Hitman’s Bodyguard” franchise. But seriously, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are good actors, they play their parts well here. Although I will give extra praise to Salma Hayek, because judging by the title, she has a greater presence in this movie compared to the original, and she solidifies her presence from start to finish. I’ll also add, she seems to swear as much as, if not more than Samuel L. Jackson which says a lot as he is supposedly the guy who “single-handly ruined the word motherf*cker.”

In the end, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” almost feels like it purely exists to make money. Now, just about every movie ever made exists for that reason, but I think that some do a better job at hiding that reason than others. This honestly just feels like a cash grab that exists to capitalize on something that quite honestly, even though the original movie was good, I did not think would become a franchise. Could “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” become say the next “Fast & Furious” or something close to it? Maybe. “Fast & Furious” had some off days too. I think “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is one of my least favorite movies to this day. That franchise is still kickin’! “F9” literally comes out this week! I honestly at this point do not want to see a third movie in this franchise. Maybe I’ll warm up to it over time, but this kind of left a toxic taste in my mouth that is hard to eliminate. You know that phrase “sequels are not as good as the original”? Well, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is exhibit A. I’m going to give “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” a 3/10.

This movie kind of reminded me of “Venom” because this was a movie that the audience I was with seemed to be fairly invested in for the most part, I felt like a good number of the people in the room enjoyed the movie more than me. I just couldn’t connect with them. More power to them, but for me, I think “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” feels better at this point as a one-off. This sequel should not have happened. I like the actors, I wish them well in their future roles, but this was a bad day at the office.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Later this week I will be sharing a brand new review for the Pixar animated movie “Luca.” Also, tomorrow I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga,” so look forward to my review for that as well. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and be sure to like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?” What did you think about it? Or, what movie is better? Do you prefer “The Hitman’s Bodyguard?” Or do you prefer “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Army of the Dead (2021): A Stellar Cast Risk Their Lives Against Zombies in Quarantined Vegas

“Army of the Dead” is directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, 300) and stars Dave Bautista (My Spy, Guardians of the Galaxy), Ella Purnell (Never Let Me Go, Sweetbitter), Omari Hardwick (Kick-Ass, Sorry to Bother You), Ana de la Reguera (Goliath, Narcos), Theo Rossi (Luke Cage, Sons of Anarchy), Matthias Schweighöfer (The Most Beautiful Day, You Are Wanted), Nora Arnezeder (Mozart in the Jungle, Safe House), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat, The Last Samurai), Tig Notaro (Transparent, Star Trek: Discovery), Raúl Castillo (Wrath of Man, Atypical), Huma Qureshi (Gangs of Wasseypur, Dedh Ishqiya), and Garret Dillahunt (The Mindy Project, Fear the Walking Dead). This film is about a group of people living in the future where Las Vegas has been taken over by zombies. These people unite together for one purpose, to get stinkin’ rich. To do that, they venture into Las Vegas, which is now a quarantine zone, to acquire a sinfully delicious amount of money.

I remember during the 2010s there was a huge zombie craze with shows like “The Walking Dead.” To be frank, as cool as zombies happen to be conceptually, I never fell into the rabbit hole of the craze. I mean I like “World War Z,” I like “Zombieland,” but I have not even gone back to watch many of the classic zombie stories. I still have not seen George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Admittedly, horror is one of my Achilles heels as a movie fan. I barely have any entries from that genre in my movie collection and of the genres that I imagine would “cater” to me, it is the one that I watch the least. I’m more of an action fan. I’m more of a comedy fan. I’m more of a sci-fi and fantasy fan. But there was something about “Army of the Dead” that sounded really intriguing. And I say this as someone who skipped the trailers. I just thought between the cast, Zack Snyder at the helm, and the environment, specifically a post-apocalyptic Vegas, it was a recipe for greatness. Now I did not think this would be a masterpiece, but it would at the very least be fun.

And fun it WAS.

I have not seen this movie since the theater last month. Yes, it released in theaters. But it’s also on Netflix if you want to watch it right now. Either way, I will just say, if you want something to watch where you can just shove tons of popcorn in your mouth, I think “Army of the Dead” is your answer. It is a film that, while well-crafted from start to finish, does not always take itself seriously, although I will admit it sometimes has an identity crisis that reminds me of the “Transformers” movies just a little. And for those reasons, it works like a charm.

If you want to know how not so serious this movie actually is, just watch the news segments during the film and listen to the quotes of the President of the United States. I do not want to spoil the film for those who have not watched it yet, but the President, who we do not necessarily see, does something that maybe in the world of this movie would make just a tiny tad of sense, but only to a certain demographic of people that would define themselves as uber-Patriotic perhaps. I don’t know, let’s just say that it is something that plays into the climax of the film and it is one of the highlights without giving anything away.

Going back to what I said about this film being like a “Transformers” movie, I am not necessarily lying. Because it is action-packed, there’s guns and explosions, and unfortunately, the characters, even though they have brief moments of charisma, leave a little to be desired. I did not think about this when watching the movie, but the main relationship between Dave Bautista and his daughter kind of gave me the same vibe of the relationship presented between the father and daughter in “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” In fact, walking out of the movie, and as I reflect on it, I barely even remember the names of the father and daughter when being forced to think about them without assistance from the Internet. The same can be said for all the other characters in the movie as well. I will say, the cast in the film is great, although there were quite a few characters I liked more than others. I was not necessarily a fan of Lily (Nora Arnezeder), as well portrayed as she was, but that has more to do with the plot and how things unfold than anything else.

Although if you want to know my favorite character in the film, I would say that honor goes to Tig Notaro’s character of Marianne Peters. If I have learned one thing in life, almost nothing matters more than a good first impression. And it when it comes to good first impressions, Peters’s first utterances in this film absolutely slap. On top of being one of the more wonderfully snarky characters in the entire film, Notaro did all of her footage on a green screen. For the record, her role was originally going to be played by Chris D’Elia but that changed in the middle of 2020 when sexual misconduct allegations surfaced regarding his name. From that point, Zack Snyder had to redo D’Elia’s scenes with someone new and that someone happened to be Notaro. I had no idea about this until after I watched the movie and I have to admit, having watched the film on the big screen, I did not notice any subtleties of an actor change.

After watching the movie, it is somewhat easier to pick up on this information, but it nevertheless looks nearly seamless. Well done.

In the previous film I reviewed, specifically “Wrath of Man,” I talked about the Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues” and how effectively used it was in that film. Since seeing the film, I have had little inklings of it in my head. I did not listen to that song much, but this film arguably has an even better use of a song that I do listen to from time to time. That song to be specific, is “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. I will not say too much other than the fact that this song plays in both the beginning and end of the film, but this once again goes to show the power of a film that can utilize a song to its fullest potential, because if executed right, it can ingrain itself into one’s head, kind of like it did with mine. I often point out the excellent use of film scores, but rarely do I point out written songs made prior to the movie that are then implemented later, and I figured now would be a good time.

In the end, “Army of the Dead” is not gonna win too many awards, it’s not gonna take Best Picture this year. I would be surprised if it is in my top 10 movies of the year in December, but it is a damn good time and one you certainly should check out. I often hear complaints from people who watch the movie that it is too long. Admittedly, I did not experience that fatigue. Maybe it is because I saw it in Cinemark XD and there were certain scenes that really popped that let me keep my chin up, but even though this film is almost two and a half hours, it felt like it was twenty to thirty minutes shorter than it actually was. The movie is just fun and that is all that I could ask for. I might be curious to watch it on Netflix one day, because I remember, speaking of Zack Snyder, when I watched the four hour “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on HBO Max I had one or two brief pauses in between. I want to know if I would make it through “Army of the Dead” in one sitting, if I would need to pause, or if I would tap out at a certain point. That would be an interesting experiment, but it is not one I plan to do at the moment. Nevertheless, I *really* enjoyed myself with “Army of the Dead,” which by the way, I would now say has one of the more memorable opening credits sequences in film history. It sets the tone, it’s hypnotic, and presents everything you need to know. It was just the start of a straight up good time. I’m going to give “Army of the Dead” a 7/10.

“Army of the Dead” released in theaters on May 14th, although it is unlikely to be playing anywhere near you at the moment. So if you want to watch the film right now, it is available exclusively on Netflix.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for John Krasinski’s brand new sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II.” Just crazy to think, that film was supposed to come out LAST YEAR. I will tell you if it is worth the wait very soon, just stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Army of the Dead?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some movies that you think are too long? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!