“Top Gun: Maverick” is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) and stars Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible, Risky Business), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk), Miles Teller (Whiplash, Fantastic Four), Jon Hamm (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Baby Driver), Glen Powell (Scream Queens, Hidden Figures), Lewis Pullman (The Strangers: Prey at Night, Bad Times at the El Royale), Ed Harris (Dumb and Dumber, Apollo 13), and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). This film is a sequel over three and a half decades in the making, and follows Pete Mitchell once again as he finds himself in a situation where he teaches younger fighter pilots at Top Gun, including the son of someone he previously flew alongside, making matters personal.
“Top Gun” is a weird movie. I imagine that some people consider it to either be their favorite Tom Cruise movie or maybe even their favorite movie in general. To me, it’s neither. It’s a solid film, but in terms of Cruise’s filmography, it ranks down the middle for me. For all I know, part of why people like it so much could be for nostalgic reasons. I did not grow up in the 1980s, and if you want me to be real, looking back at “Top Gun,” despite the film’s evident advancements in capturing cinematic dogfighting, it feels like a product of its time. It has some cheesy dialogue here and there, the songs feel very much out of the 1980s time period, and the stakes for me did not feel as high as other movies. Then again, it is hard to have stakes when you have fighter pilots that are not actually going up against other fighter pilots, for the most part. But I will also give “Top Gun” credit because for a film where there is almost no threat to begin with, the film still has plenty of intrigue and gives us enough reasons to care for the characters, and not just because they are spiking volleyballs without shirts on.
The best thing about this sequel is that it successfully builds off of a key point of the original. Despite what I said about the stakes being low, there is a moment in the original movie where the main character of Pete Mitchell has to face an event with potentially dire consequences. Thankfully for him, the consequences are not as bad as they could have been. That is, until the events of “Top Gun: Maverick,” where they come back to haunt him, in addition to haunting one of his students.
I am glad that this movie has as good of a story as it does, because without those things, the movie would still be watchable for what it is, but I am satisfied to say that “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a movie that mainly relies on big, loud spectacle, and instead, blends such a thing perfectly into the material written for its respective pages.
On that note, however, my biggest positive for “Top Gun: Maverick” is the spectacle. Through my six years on Scene Before, I have always forwarded a singular thought. Movies are ALWAYS better in the theater. Even a movie as terrible as 2019’s “Cats” is better in a theater because of the weird spectacle. That said, if there is any movie that I recommend you go see in a theater right now, I not only recommend “Top Gun: Maverick,” but this movie commands your attention and it is one you need to see on the biggest screen you can. I had the privilege of going to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at a true IMAX cinema ten minutes from where I live. It was their first weekend open since the beginning of the pandemic, and walking out of the theater, I could barely even move because of how boisterous this movie was. And this movie was not boisterous because it looked like yet another cranked out Hollywood production with tons of digitzed effects, but because a lot of it was actually done for real.
Many of the film’s actors ended up using and flying real planes throughout the film. In an age where more and more movies are relying on green screen, or more recently, StageCraft, it is thrilling to see a film that pushes the boundaries of human limitations while also putting a pinch of reality in our fantasies. Tom Cruise, unsurprisingly, pilots a plane in this film. There are restrictions to his piloting, but knowing and seeing that only enhances the final product. I have had conversations with people where they said Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perhaps the manliest person alive. Sure, he’s got the LOOKS of a man with his big strong arms and attractive bald head. But let me know when he pilots a real military jet for audiences around the world to witness, as they bite their nails thinking, “this is the part where he crashes, isn’t it?”. No, seriously. I have watched a lot of movies. Between the previous “Mission: Impossible” and this movie, Tom Cruise is on a trend where he continues to captivate me harder into a scene than most actors, including ones that are perhaps more likely to be nominated for Oscars. And it is not because of how he goes through a scene delivering his dialogue, managing his physicality, and keeping his fellow actors in check. It is because of how much of a daredevil he has become over the years. Even in movies that were not well received like “The Mummy,” you could still look at Tom Cruise’s stuntwork and recognize the effort put into it. I am not saying “Top Gun: Maverick” is my favorite movie of the year. But it is a contender for the movie I will thinking about this year the most in terms of how it has projected me into an environment where I may has well been so close to falling to my death. For that reason alone, you should see “Top Gun: Maverick” on the biggest screen you can find.
However, “Top Gun: Maverick” also faces a problem depending on how you look at things. The movie, even though I believe modern audiences will enjoy it, gets too caught up in the good old days. The opening scene, while an amazing welcoming back to the “Top Gun” universe, only works because of how much it rips off the original movie. The midpoint of the film features an incredible scene between two characters. I will not say much more, but let’s just say that I, an aspiring writer, could not have written a better, more engaging scene between these two characters. You will know it when you see it.
However, there is another moment where everyone starts singing a particular song that did not feel authentic. It felt like nostalgia bait for the sake of nostalgia bait. There are movies that tend to rely on fan service and nostalgia that do such things well. I think “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did it well when that movie came out. “Top Gun: Maverick” on the other hand, was a little on the nose and it did not land as well as it could have. Some might enjoy it, some might not. Although I thought it was great to hear “Danger Zone” once again. But that also goes to show how one can be emotionally attached to something and therefore perceive something as good. I liked the original “Top Gun,” but I never thought it was my favorite movie. The original “Star Wars” trilogy was something I watched incessantly as a kid, enjoyed immensely, and therefore it is part of why I felt a spark of joy when certain things happened in “The Force Awakens.”
That’s a minor nitpick, but I want to point out a couple things in regard to this film’s depth. First off, I think at times, the relationship between the characters of Pete Mitchell and Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) felt a tad forced at times. They had chemistry, but it was overall very off and on. I personally think Cruise had better chemistry with Kelly McGillis’s character of Charlie back in the 1986 predecessor. In my review for the original “Top Gun,” I said that I learned of Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, the actors, not getting along on set. Having searched more information on that as of recently, I would not know if that is actually true because the only source I have telling me that as of recently is the “Top Gun” IMDb page, which may not be the most reliable place to base one’s information. I will note that McGillis spoke out regarding this love interest shift not long ago, saying she is happy for Jennifer Connelly, so I am glad to see there are no hard feelings.
Speaking of depth, let’s talk about the enemy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” There are multiple references to “the enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” We do not know who they are. Apparently this is also the case in the original movie where the Top Gun pilots have to go into actual combat against another force. In today’s age, I kind of get why they never specifically identify an “enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” The film business is about money, and if Paramount makes a “Top Gun” movie where they identify Germany as the enemy, then chances are they are never going to release the film in Germany as it would tick some people off. If the movie identifies Japan as the enemy, then they can kiss a Japanese release goodbye as some viewers would probably dislike seeing their country as the antagonist. Maybe this is to suggest that the pilots could go up against multiple enemies at the same time, but nevertheless. At a certain point of the movie, there is one specific enemy force that comes into play, but again, we do not know who they are. This movie is fiction, it is not based on actual war. It is not like we are watching “Dunkirk” or “The Patriot” where the sides are specific of an actual time and place, even if they involve fictional characters to further the story along. That said, even though I prefer the story of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the original, it is not free from nitpicks. Even so, you should see this movie. I give it a thumbs up, and I think it is a film that almost anyone can have a good time watching.
In the end, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a blockbuster you should see this summer on the biggest screen possible. I do recommend watching the original first as it does help you appreciate the story of this sequel more, there are many ways to watch “Top Gun” from home, but I do not recommend skipping out on “Top Gun: Maverick” during its theatrical run. Do not wait for Paramount+, do not wait for VOD, do not wait for the Blu-ray. If you are going to watch this movie, find the biggest screen with the loudest sound you can. Buy some popcorn, grab a soda, have a good time. Take your friends, take your family, this is certainly a crowd-pleasing movie that delivers the thrills. As of writing this review, I have tickets to go see this movie a second time with someone close to me. I am going to give “Top Gun: Maverick,” despite my nitpicks, a really high 7/10.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including large formats like IMAX and Dolby. Tickets are available now!
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for “Top Gun: Maverick” and want to see more of my thoughts on the franchise, check out my review that I did in 2020 for the original “Top Gun” as part of my special Tom Cruise Month! Fun fact, I did this special partially because “Top Gun: Maverick” was not able to come out in 2020! Also coming up on Scene Before, I have two reviews on deck. Pretty soon you will see my thoughts on the new Netflix film “Hustle,” starring Adam Sandler as a basketball scout. My next review after that will be for one my most anticipated movies of the year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I waited forever to see this film, I finally got to watch it with my dad last night, and I promise you I have plenty to say about it. 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 “Top Gun: Maverick?” What did you think about it? Or, which is the better movie? “Top Gun” or “Top Gun: Maverick?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Throughout my time writing for Scene Before, I have done several reviews that I feel proud of. This even includes earlier years when I continued to develop a writing style and focused maybe more than I should have on immersing the viewer into the review like I am on a camera. Although there are certain movies that I watched for Scene Before, looking back, where I probably should have reconsidered at least a portion of my opinion after writing over a thousand words about them. Some of these include “Suicide Squad,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If I were to rewrite my reviews for all of these films, I would add in certain points, redo points that I feel have changed, and perhaps alter the final score. But I am not going to talk about any of these films today. Instead, I am going to be reflecting on a movie I reviewed over the winter that has sort of met the same fate. While my opinions for “Blade Runner 2049” have only changed slightly, this post is about a movie I would claim has gone through a seismic shift kind of like “Suicide Squad.”
That movie by the way, is “Belle” directed by Mamoru Hosoda.
To sum up what has been going on in my life recently, this movie has taken up over ten hours of my screen time alone. Why? Because since its official Blu-ray release, I watched it for five nights in a row. I did watch other movies in addition to this one during the week, specifically “The Graduate,” which was utterly fantastic. Highly recommended. “Rampage,” which is… Well, it is what it is. And I also watched “Friends with Benefits” for the first time, which I thought was humorous and delightful. I watched “Belle” every night for five nights since I bought it on Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th. Why did I not watch it for six nights in a row? Because I was going on a short getaway on what could have been the sixth night, and I did not pack the movie to watch in my hotel room. I was more focused on possibly giving my money to Connecticut casinos more than anything else. Since getting back, I watched it two more nights in a row. That said, I cannot recall the last time I have bought a film on Blu-ray and watched it at this constant of a level. Naturally, I have no choice but to talk about it.
I want to make something clear, to say I have a working knowledge of Japanese anime would be like saying that since I am from Boston, I therefore consider the New York Yankees to be my favorite baseball team. “Belle” is one of the couple movies within the Japanese anime medium that I have fully watched. The other one that comes to mind is “Ghost in the Shell.” I believe I also remember seeing “Howl’s Moving Castle” somewhere around a decade ago. That was before I knew what anime happened to be by definition. And I will be real with you, even though I did not mind “Ghost in the Shell,” which I first watched at the age of 17, it did not emit a spark inside me to explore more of what anime has to offer. “Belle” on the other hand, did so dramatically. Although after I watched “Belle” for the first time, I did start watching Adult Swim’s “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” which technically is an anime series. So since I watched “Belle,” I have gone a tad deeper into the genre, but after many countless revisits to the film “Belle,” I want more anime in my life. With that said, I want to talk about why “Belle” means so much to me as someone who has spent over half of their life on the Internet, including a portion where social media has practically taken over my life in more ways than one. I will let you know, while this is not a full spoiler discussion, I am going to do my best to not ruin the whole the movie, there will be points where I do dive deep into key characters or plot points. So if that is a problem, leave this post now, go watch “Belle,” and come back when you are done. I will be waiting. That said, let’s dive into the many reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle.”
A MATURE REINVENTION
When I originally reviewed “Belle” for this blog, I compared it to “Beauty and the Beast” because first off, the title character is literally named Belle, well, kind of. Also, much of the movie revolves around her connection to someone who is literally referred to as a Beast. If that is not enough, there is a scene in the film that is not a complete ripoff, but heavily pays homage to Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” which Hosoda himself claims to adore, as the two recently mentioned characters come together in a scene where they slow dance and embrace each other in a large castle. My other claim I made during my review is that this film could potentially become less of a timeless piece than others because of how reminiscent it is of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Knowing what I know about “Belle,” the story threads are not quite one in the same. There are some similarities, especially in the one scene where Belle and the Beast dance together, but “Belle” is its own thing. “Beauty and the Beast,” at its core, is more of a love tale than anything else. “Belle” is a mix of cyberpunk, drama, and adventure.
I often talk about the animation genre and how much I appreciate when it understands what I consider to be the assignment. Because a lot of animations are made for kids, and obviously there is content out there that you can tell is specifically made for children, not for adults at all. There is content that is obviously made with the intention of educating kids. This has been revealed with television content like “Dora the Explorer.” But at the same time, there have been multiple instances where we get movies that are meant to give families an excuse to entertain their kids, but not the adults bringing the kids. This is what Pixar has evidently understood with every one of their movies. They do not treat them as children’s fare. There’s a difference between a film that kids can enjoy, and a film that families can enjoy. Even with a more ridiculous script like “Cars 2” or an occasional fart joke from movies like “Incredibles 2,” those movies are ones I continue to watch as an adult because it understands that if the movie is purely made to entertain kids, then it does not have staying power. “Inside Out” is a movie that I think could entertain children if you sat them in front of the television, but as an adult, I am watching the movie and feeling an appreciation for how it handles emotions and growth during adolescence. These are themes and ideas that can connect to anyone from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and life stories.
“Belle,” much like the many Pixar movies I have watched over the years, refuses to treat its audience like they are idiots. In fact, I think in some cases, it tries even harder to avoid doing so. There’s no corny humor, you have incredibly humanized and relatable storylines, and there are also scenes that feel more like they are out of a live-action script than an animated script. There is one moment in a train station where a few characters meet and there are these long pauses between lines that give the audience a moment to breathe, while also letting the characters think for themselves. I occasionally watch Animation Domination cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” and often notice that in their scripts, everything is mile a minute, which can work by keeping the audience on their toes, but it also destroys hints of realism. Granted, it is an animation, which by definition, should be less realistic than live-action, but I also think that sometimes even in animations, you should have some degree of verisimilitude to remind your audience that your world has rules. Not everything has to be within the confines of Murphy’s Law.
A HILARLIOUSLY ACCURATE LOOK AT THE INTERNET, CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS, AND FAN CULTURE
I honestly think “Belle” could not have come out at a better time when it did. The Internet and social media are still young, so who knows how things will turn out in a hundred years, but “Belle” seems to paint an attractive picture of what those two things could look like, while also inserting satire on our modern Internet behavior. Granted, this movie is on the family friendly side, therefore it never dives into concepts like pornography or the darker sides of dating sites like Tinder, although romance is prominent in the film, coincidentally. But I found much of “Belle’s” script unapologetically reflective of how the Internet tends to work. If anything, it is a bang on the money encapsulation of what could equate to cancel culture. Case and point, Peggie Sue.
The role Peggie Sue plays in “Belle” is minimal, but effective and important in every single way. We get our first glimpse of her when the main protagonist, Suzu, has a hesitancy to sing at a party, despite being pressured by her peers. The party space is accompanied with a flat screen television complete with Peggie Sue singing a pop song, perhaps in the form of an expensive music video or a concert. This happens before Suzu enters U and to her surprise, belts out a song with fluency and power. When Suzu, or in this case, her avatar, becomes increasingly noticed by U’s userbase, Peggie Sue herself acknowledges this and does not see anything special in the rising star. At one point, she lashes out against Belle’s popularity on a giant screen, which instantly receives tons of backlash and practically gets her cancelled. There are definitely more dangerous things she could have said. She could have mocked a disability. She could have announced she was giving money to a hate group. She could have said the n-word. But even so, this movie presents an example of the classic “think before you post” scenario, which I think many users, including myself, have probably run into at one point or another through our times on the Internet. Whether we did it ourselves, we observed such an action through someone we know, or some celebrity. But at the same time, this movie tells its audience that even if you say stupid things, it does not mean you cannot be redeemed. You can still be a decent person. There is a scene at the end of the film involving said character where we reveal more about her that brings her down to Earth where such a thing comes into play. It reminds us that we are human and we can take our mistakes and turn them around, learn from them essentially. And if you learn more about someone, sometimes it will get you to understand them, possibly admire them.
Peggie Sue is not the only prominent voice speaking out against Suzu as she rises, because when she starts singing and getting all these followers, we see that she makes a splash. It looks like Suzu, or her avatar, Bell, which is what Suzu means in English, has all the support and fans she could want. But as soon as we are done hearing all the positive feedback, Sue lets her negative thoughts out to the world, therefore spawning even more negative thoughts from ordinary people. They either do not like her voice, they think the songs are lackluster, or she is simply performing for the likes. In a case like this, it takes one higher power to build a following.
FORESEEABLE LOOK AT THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT
Speaking of Suzu, the main journey of “Belle” is Suzu’s dive into U, which I claim is a sexier version of what Meta is trying to achieve. If anything, it’s like the OASIS from “Ready Player One,” but without extreme emphasis on currency and less reliance on preexisting properties from “Batman” to “Halo.” The world of U is much different from our reality given how it is more colorful, physics are almost ignored altogether, and as the movie reveals, the platform’s trademark is that it reveals a hidden strength of each user. In the beginning of the film, we see that despite Suzu having a history with music, she sometimes struggles when it comes to singing. So of course, when we see Belle enter U, the first thing she does is, to her shock, utter the lyrics of “Gales of Song,” one of the film’s few enchanting originals. We will dive more into those in a second. Suzu’s U debut, as previously mentioned, is met with mixed reception upon first glance, half of the people passing by like her. Half do not. But this is also reflective of several music artists of today where their haters are just as prominent as their fans. You may notice this with artists like Justin Bieber or Kanye West. This also brings up a positive message when Suzu notices she has an influx of followers. When Suzu’s friend, Hiroka Betsuyaku, or Hiro for short, the one who suggested that she should join U in the first place, reminds Suzu that a good portion of the millions of people who have seen her through the platform admire her, she should not forget that. She should not let the hate, trolling, and doubt get to her.
What I love about this movie so much is that in today’s mixed Internet culture, “Belle” is a movie that reminds its audience that the Internet, despite its occasional thorns, can also be a rose of positivity. The Internet has helped me in various ways by letting me discover that I am not alone with some of my weird hobbies like riding elevators. Social media has spawned some of my best companionships. I even met a couple of friends I made on social media in real life, either through chance or by arrangement. I have gained valuable friendships through my time in high school, but I feel like my friendships through social media have helped me define who I am today more than almost any other friendship I have experienced.
Despite taking place in what I would assume happens to be present day, “Belle” also spawns a ton of questions about social media’s future, because it is revealed that in the world of U, you cannot have more than one avatar. You can alter your avatar as we notice Belle wears different outfits at various points of the story, but that avatar is the only one you have. I have gone on YouTube and noticed some people have more than one account, or sometimes on sites like Twitter, people will create different accounts for different aspects of their personality. Will we be seeing less of that if we get closer to U being a reality? That is a thought provoking question if you ask me. This film also reveals that there is still a culture of trolling on the Internet, with the Dragon and Peggie Sue being a couple of the film’s examples if you will. But one thing the film never dives into all that much is bots. The closest thing I can note that U has to bots is the Dragon’s AIs, but that’s about it. My question is, how “bot-proof” is U? Even when there are trolls in U, there is often a soul behind the one doing the trolling. Although there is probably a good reason why bots never appear in U, because the idea of U involves the user immersing themselves by activating a specific device that is meant to project themselves into U, and I am not just talking about their phone. Every U user attaches buds to their ears, bringing them into the digital landscape as their respective avatar. This is done through body-sharing technology, where the user’s biometric information is interlinked with their avatar. And while there are reflective physical traits that are represented in Suzu’s avatar, most specifically freckles, the U platform tends to provide an enhancement, a level up if you will, of one’s mentality, outlook, or experiences. In Suzu’s case, she lost her mom at a young age, which is a fraction of why she is a shadow amongst her peers. In addition, her singing skills are not up to the par she would prefer. This is why she has increased confidence and singing abilities upon entering U.
COMPELLING, POWERFUL ORIGINAL SONGS
And when you have a film like this that heavily revolves around music, chances are that the songs have to be good, otherwise the film would not be as convincing or effective. “Belle” has a few originals, all of which have their own style. The film’s main theme, U, has an incredibly poppy, upbeat, and sexy feel to it to the point where it belongs on a top 40 playlist, but feels different enough that it is not annoying. It is the kind of song you would want to hear when walking into a large nightclub. It is a perfect main theme for the film because it basically just says, “Come join U! We’re all happy here and everyone is having a good time!” It also shows how one platform can change your life in an instant. Much like how Suzu has gone from a nobody to a U diva, we have seen tons of unexpected personalities on platforms like YouTube or TikTok over the years.
“So, linе up, the party’s over here Come one, come all, jump into the fire Step up, we are whatever we wanna be We are free, that’s all we desire When you pass through the veil of fantasy There’s a world with a rhythm for you and me.”
At the same time though, it is a perfect metaphor for the Internet itself. There is a lyric in the song, specifically “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know it all,” which is not only reflective of the developed mystery behind Belle’s identity, but it reminds me of many of my relationships on the Internet. I feel like through the Internet I get to know a certain version of a person, but I would secretly love to meet them in real life to get to know the real them.
When Suzu enters U, she first sings a piece titled Gales of Song, which compared to the film’s previously mentioned main theme, perhaps relies significantly less on lyrics. Gales of Song is perfectly executed when first introduced because it is simple enough, and has enough pauses to allow Suzu to adapt to her avatar. It is like when you get inside a car for the first time and you are learning how to drive. It takes Suzu a second to understand all the mechanics, but when she starts getting the hang of things, that is when she gets increased attention from U’s userbase, both positive and negative. Lend Me Your Voice is a song that could have gone wrong because of how the scene it links to sort of pays homage to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but the orchestral power of the song hits hard, and the lyrics are occasionally on the verge of heart-wrenching. And speaking of heart-wrenching, don’t even get me started on the film’s longest and perhaps most important song, A Million Miles Away, which I previously awarded the Jackoff for Best Original Song during this year’s ceremony. To this day, it is one of the only songs I have heard to make me wipe tears from my face because when you watch the movie, it is THAT powerful.
That last song goes to show this film’s power of silence, because some of its best moments are simply when there is little to no dialogue, we are just watching people doing things. When we first see Suzu and her mother early on in the film, there is this wonderfully edited montage of the two doing things together, which shows Suzu developing a knack for music. There is no spoken dialogue, just a soft variant of A Million Miles Away. I even go back to the moments where characters have specific pauses while talking, allowing for some genuine lifelike reactions. The scene in the train station with a few core characters, Suzu included, comes to mind. But even within these lifelike reactions, we see some heightened emotions or cues that allow animation to shine. I will not go into much detail, but this movie is not short on blushed cheeks or visible tears.
And I am constantly talking about the film’s lyrical songs for good reason, but I should also note that the official score for “Belle” contains one of the best utilizations of stringed instruments I have EVER heard.
STUNNING CINEMATOGRAPHY, ANIMATION
Technically speaking, “Belle” is literally what the name means, beautiful. Many of the film’s wides are ingrained in my memory. The world of U is a place I could imagine myself diving into in the future. Belle’s outfits in U are astoundingly eye-popping. As depressing as the real world may be in comparison, this film has some gorgeously drawn locations. It kind of makes me want to travel to rural Japan to see what it is actually like. My favorite shot in the film however, if not one of my favorite shots, is probably set in U, when we see a closeup of Suzu singing A Million Miles Away, staring into the distance when her surroundings turn dark. It is the simplest shot of all time, but for some reason, Suzu’s concentration on what lies ahead is evident. My reason for liking this shot is potentially because of a certain context, but as much as I may be revealing about this film, there are some things I would rather keep hidden, such as moments of the scene where said shot takes place.
To me, one of the most visible reasons why I adore “Belle” so much is the same basis behind why I loved another recent film, “CODA,” from the moment I saw it. They are two completely different films by several means, and in various ways, their protagonists are significantly unalike. For example, Suzu doesn’t have any deaf family members or friends, as far as we know. And “CODA’s” protagonist, Ruby Rossi, still communicates with her parents on a regular basis. Her mother is still alive, and even though the movie shows some occasional resistance between her parental relationships, Ruby has a steady connection with her father. “Belle” is a movie that allows its main hero to show off what makes them ordinary, and therefore have that mundaneness make them extraordinary. This is especially true in the climax of the film when Suzu sings A Million Miles Away. We learn more about what this song is, and that added dose made the scene go from great to… not to continue the overuse of this word, cinema. Simultaneously, Suzu has millions of followers on U, she barely talks to her dad anymore, and she spends several scenes with a talking dragon. There are some definite differences between the two protagonists, but at the end of the day, Suzu’s normality, what makes her human, what makes Suzu, quite literally Suzu, allows her to persevere later in the film’s runtime. This also highlights a notable trait about the Internet. And this trait is especially true when it comes to the Beast, as many characters have questions about his identity. That trait being how not everyone really knows who you are on the Internet. We constantly build these images of people and what we think they are like. Maybe they are incredibly wealthy. Maybe they are a predator. Maybe they are younger than they advertise themselves to be. We do not know everything about everyone. This is why sometimes I may do research on certain people before talking to them, or if there is a public figure on social media, I make an effort to ensure that they are verified.
Some of my favorite movies in recent years have been animated, because despite their otherworldly nature, they have an attractive down to earth element that sometimes is not as effective in live-action. If we are not talking about “Belle,” the most effective example that comes to mind is “Over the Moon,” which is currently on Netflix. The reason why I found that movie down to earth despite mostly taking place in space is because it is a movie I think my 13, 14, 15-year-old self would have needed to watch at those specific ages. Because I was going through a tough time where my parents were no longer in love, and there were specific story elements or beats that reminded me of that time and felt completely relatable. In the same way, maybe not as much, but nevertheless, I think “Belle” is a movie I would have shown to my 15, 16-year-old self, because I was new to social media at the time. I had an idea of how it worked, but I did not realize how addicted I may have been to it. Sure, there were many positives to it like meeting new people, finding new friends, joining a community. But I also did not realize how much I cared about followers. I cared more than I should have. I thought I was cool when in reality I may have just been desperate for attention. And I am not saying that it is a bad thing to have tons of followers, but I feel like this movie could have been a reminder to myself that maybe I should not have tried as hard to worry about getting followers. It’s like the famous quote in “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” In the same way, Suzu started out as a nobody, and one unexpected turn of events turned her into a somebody, even if that somebody was an alternate version of her.
I think “Belle” is a film that paints a picture of the Internet and shows its strengths. Because by the end of the film, it allows people to come together in a way that delivers a positive impact. It shows how the Internet can change people’s lives and make them better despite some occasional toxicity on a number of sides.
POSSIBLE IMPERFECTIONS WITHIN A FLAWED MASTERPIECE
I think if there are any flaws with “Belle,” it would be three things, but they do not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. There are such things as flawed masterpieces. “Risky Business” is one of my favorite films of all time, but I will tell you that the last scene feels incredibly out of place. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade, but even I will admit that the film owes its success to the original installment it tends to copy. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the most beautifully violent, outrageously balls to the wall movies I have ever watched, but you could quite literally remove Margot Robbie’s character from the script and have little to no effect on the overall plot. That said, let’s dive into my few issues with “Belle,” if you want to call them that. Because in some cases, I also claim they do not bother me that much.
The first issue I have is specifically with the English dub. I do not speak Japanese, but it sounded fine on the Japanese version. When I watched this film at home a few times in English, there was one key line from Justin, or Justian if you watched the Japanese version, it sounded incredibly important, but much of what he said was muffled over all of the music. It was GREAT music, but nevertheless. Who directed this scene? Christopher Nolan?! For all I know, it could be my television, but the sound on it has been pretty good by itself over the years without any external speakers or sound bars, so who knows? The second flaw, and this is perhaps a more important issue that could also be seen as a strength, I think the relationship between Suzu and her father was kind of surface level. Not much was shown to reveal their distance. I think it almost makes me forget sometimes that they are drift apart, mainly because it is such a small part of this two hour movie. But at the same time, you could make an argument that such a thing was kind of the point. The movie wants you to realize that these two individuals barely talk to each other despite living together. And in a way, the movie successfully did that. So that is a tossup. The other, flaw, if you will, is not something that bothered me specifically, but I could see it bothering other people. Not that I have seen anyone bringing it up. There is a character in the film by the name of Shinobu, and despite his best intentions, there are a couple scenes where his connection to Suzu could come off as maybe closer than it should. From his eyes, he kind of sees himself as someone who tries to protect Suzu. This is something he has done for her since her mom died. It’s a friendly gesture, but it could also be overprotective. In a way, since Suzu’s mom died, Shinobu filled said mother’s shoes from time to time. The movie does address this though, and it shows that Suzu realizes this and at one point refuses to let this get in her way. So I would not consider it a big deal, but having seen one or two moments in the film, I could see certain viewers having a particular perception of Shinobu’s character or his connection to Suzu that maybe I did not. The movie is bound to age well if you ask me despite its influence from “Beauty and the Beast,” but I will remind you, this film is not a ripoff of a classic tale, if anything it is a reinvention. It is not a love story, it is a cautionary human drama that warns its viewers to be careful in regard to what they see, do, and say on the Internet. Or in some cases, in real life.
I highly recommend “Belle” to almost anyone, and I kind of mean that because anime was never my genre. I have a history of enjoying animated content, but not much from Japan. Now that I have seen this movie, it has opened my eyes to more of what Japan has to offer, including Mamoru Hosoda’s library, which I hear is incredible. I want to go ahead and check out some of his other movies. This is one of the few animated movies I have seen that I feel like is specifically not made for children. I think kids should watch it if the chance comes around, I think it is an important movie that everyone should watch at least one point in their life, especially now with the Metaverse expanding more than ever. The songs are catchy, well-written, and obnoxiously powerful. I do not often cry during movies, but the scene with A Million Miles Away is a literal tearjerker, so if you cry during movies, prepare yourself. I said that this is not a redo of my review, but if it were, I would be giving the movie a 10/10, because each time I watch the film, the more I realize I like it. I have gotten completely attached to Suzu as a character even though we have our differences. She is a perfect protagonist for this world, and this movie took her in a direction that enhanced its lesson to the audience. Just because someone is popular, it does not mean that they are a narcissist. It does not mean that they are the kind of person some would make them out to be. Heck, I did not even talk about Ruka in this post and that is a whole other topic I could have gotten into. And instead of explaining everything about Ruka, I will let you see for yourself. Because “Belle” is now available on various home video formats including DVD and Blu-ray, if you have not gotten a chance to watch “Belle,” find a chance as soon as possible, because it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite animated movies, and with enough rewatches, it could potentially be in the conversation for one of my favorite movies period.
Thanks for reading this post! If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other ones, including several of my reviews. One of my reviews is for the new Nicolas Cage film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” or you could even read my most recent review, which is for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which is officially in theaters as of this weekend. If you want to see more non-review posts, please check out my response to movie theaters, and why I think they should play fewer trailers before the feature presentation. To find out my first impression of “Belle,” you can read my review that I posted in January! Hope you like it! 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, like I asked in my review, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Also, I want to ask a question for the anime fans reading this, because I want to dive further into the genre. What anime products do you recommend? Let me know, because I am always looking for suggestions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“CODA” is directed by Sian Heder (Orange is the New Black, Little America) and stars Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin in a film about a young girl who is born into a deaf family. She is the only one in the family who has hearing, and finds herself struggling to balance school, her family fishing business, college admissions, and an interest in music.
Despite the notability of this film’s recent Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, not to mention seeing this film in the theater recently, the latter of which almost causes a case for an automatic film review every time, I nearly decided to not review this film at all. But that is until I saw it. And we’ll get to my thoughts in a sec, but I want to note that “CODA” was a film I have looked forward to ever since I first saw the advertising. The reviews looked insane, and it came off as a wonderfully intimate tale about someone who is special and I would not know personally. But for various reasons, I missed the film when it first came to theaters, and I never got around to watching it on Apple TV+. But due to the film’s recent success at the Academy Awards, Apple decided to release the film again with open captions. Given this film’s subject matter, that is a great idea. They released it in several theaters around me, so I decided instead of suffering through “Morbius” a second time, I would take my dad to go see something that won’t make you rip your hair out.
We agreed on “CODA.” Hopefully our choice would be wise.
But of course, there are several movies that exist that have a hype train, only to have said train lose a little steam once it comes out. This happened to me last year with “Soul,” which Peter Travers of ABC News called “the year’s peak achievement in animation,” Josh Wilding of ComicBookMovie.com referred to as “one of Pixar’s most beautiful, poignant films,” and Bob Chipman of Moviebob Central claimed was “among the year’s loveliest, most poignant and moving pieces of work animated or otherwise.” Those are ridiculously positive, star-shooting thoughts.
I mean, I LIKED “Soul,” but at the time it also became my least favorite Pixar movie, so there is that.
Now with “CODA,” we have another insanely praised movie revolving around music. Adam Graham of Detroit News says “CODA” is “a big hug of a movie.” Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood suggests “CODA is more than “a moving story of what it means to be in a family, but also one about becoming your own person and following a dream.” For the record, despite this film’s wider release in August, it originally played at Sundance, so I think this notion from Esther Zuckerman at Thrillist should not be ignored.
“‘CODA’ is the kind of movie that you can imagine getting a standing ovation at Sundance, if this were a year where people were allowed to gather in a stuffy Park City auditorium.”
It’s been over a year since this film’s Sundance premiere. It’s been only a little time since this film’s recent collecting of Academy Awards. Is this movie the greatest thing since sliced bread or the next “Soul?”
Neither. There’s sliced bread, there’s better than sliced bread, and then there’s sliced bread with mounds of butter!
If there is any reason that you should spend a few bucks for Apple TV+, “CODA” makes an absolutely compelling argument. My dad walked out of the auditorium saying that this was one of the best movies he has seen in years, and I could definitely see why. I have gathered that he is fairly easy to impress as a moviegoer, but when he REALLY likes a film, I have found it to be obvious. And it is not just him who is yelling out a car window to everyone on the streets to go see this movie, because I for one think that this is one of the best coming of age stories of our time. Does it have some familiar elements or clichés? Perhaps. But it doesn’t always matter if a movie has clichés as long as they are utilized well.
At the end of the day, this is a genius narrative about a girl whose normality makes her abnormal. I have taken a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college, and one of the things I have taken from that class is that when I write a character who is “ordinary,” that I understand that there still should be specific qualities about such an ordinary character that stand out. When it comes to this film’s character of Ruby Rossi, perfectly played by Emilia Jones, this is exactly what my professor would want me to shoot for. She is in a deaf family, but she is the only one who has hearing. Brilliant. And it is not just a great concept, it has stellar execution. Because this film is completely relatable to someone like me, who was at an age range she previously experienced. Now, unlike Ruby, I knew what I wanted to do the moment I got out of high school, but the problem for me was taking that next step and actually moving on with my life, and I am sort of experiencing the same thing with my soon to be post-undergrad years. That by itself made me connect to Ruby, but when Ruby finds something she is passionate about, it is, almost perhaps understandably, the biggest shock and disappointment she can give to her parents who are having trouble hearing. That passion being music, which you have to HEAR to fully understand. Not only is she passionate about it, she wants to study it, which in addition, requires money… Oh boy.
I grew up in a family of two adults who had their own occupations and ran their own company at some point in their lives. Despite this, I consider myself lucky to have never felt the pressure to attach myself to a family business had I failed to express any interest. I have been given the opportunity to attach myself if I choose, but my main priority right now is film, it’s media, it’s communications, it’s entertainment. I felt for the protagonist because they have to choose between family and herself, and this is really the time of her life when she should be thinking about herself, what she wants to do, and the parents should allow her to do such a thing. They may not like the choice, and again, understandably so, but this is not their life, it is Ruby’s. But we also get a look at the lives the parents have, and there comes a point where Ruby leaving could mean that they have to rethink how they live their lives, and as this movie shows, conduct their own business. Not to mention, when you have to look at your current financial status, that also brings up a question as to what life you can provide for yourself and those you care about. On that note, the main family is perfectly cast. They have phenomenal chemistry. The deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors. Sian Heder brings us a wonderfully conceived screenplay and brings her artistry to the table while telling a story about an aspiring artist. Heder has not done a ton of notable work yet in her career, but I think “CODA” is going to put her on the map as a filmmaker around this time, like “Lady Bird” put Greta Gerwig on the map when she directed that film.
I know a lot of people, and I’m close with quite a few of them. None of them are deaf. So I cannot speak to the accuracy or authenticity of certain aspects of this film, but as for the entertainment value with everyone on screen, regardless of their ability to hear or speak in sign language, that was not short whatsoever. Although on that note, if I think if there were any way to improve “CODA,” there are honestly few things I can think of to begin with. But if I had to come up with something, there is one story element in the movie that admittedly becomes a bit predictable. My dad and I were watching, and we both knew, “Okay, this is where the movie’s going.” Usually I am not a fan of predictable storytelling, partially because when you watch a lot of media, the more repetitive it is, the more likely I am to tune out, but I also think when it comes to how “CODA” handles such a predictable moment, it achieves its goal of making you relate to or feel bad for the protagonist.
“CODA” has such a way of playing with your heartstrings that feels larger than life despite it being one of the most intimate stories I have ever seen, and part of it is because it relies on a lack of sound and written words to carry everything through. It really is film as it was meant to be. Visual storytelling. It does not tell, it only shows. There is a sequence at the end of this film that almost made me cry, and that is not only because the subject matter is incredibly compelling and ties everything together in a nice little bow, but as an editor, I was watching this and admired its ability to tell everything in a fast-paced, eye-popping montage that gave a sweet moment for every second on screen. Very few movies nowadays connect me in such an emotional way, and “CODA” is one of the lucky gems that just happened to knock on my door.
And don’t just take all the sappy comments I stated and put them in a box with this film set next to it, because this film has just about every emotion I could think of. I was figuratively biting my nails. I was jumping for joy. I was getting tears in my eyes. I was occasionally even laughing crazily. The film is surprisingly comedic, and there are a few moments where my dad and I were audibly laughing. One reason why I recommend going to see this in the theater if it is near you is because depending on your level of hearing, even when you hear nothing on the screen, you can still bask in the laughter of an audience, which is one of the most uniquely satisfying feelings I have gathered in my recent film experiences.
In the end, “CODA” is one of the best movies I have seen in recent memory. It won a couple of the big Best Picture awards, including the one that matters the most, the Academy Award for Best Picture, and obviously that warranted Apple to put the film out in as many theaters as it can the next weekend to get some money. I went to go see it the Tuesday after, but I have had my occasional ounce of disappointment here and there when it comes to certain projects. I did not see “Moonlight” until the weekend following its kinda sorta Best Picture win at the Oscars, and I was underwhelmed. Although the following year, “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture. It took me awhile to watch that film, and it turned out to be a stunning and enchanting film with a great cast of characters, so anything can happen. “CODA” truly felt like it was made with the goal to win Best Picture, and it absolutely deserved it. I can barely think of any real problems in this film. Maybe if you don’t like tearjerkers, this may not be my first recommendation for you, but that is a claim leaning along the lines of subjectivity. Plus, even if you don’t like crying during movies I still recommend it, because I left the film feeling whole. I felt happy. It reminded me of my journey as an artist, but also immersed me into a world with people and situations that I do not come across in everyday life. Once again, Ruby Rossi is an ordinary protagonist, but this movie excels by reminding the audience of the extraordinary life she finds herself living every day. And this extraordinary life, made an extraordinary movie. I am going to give “CODA” a 10/10! If I had the chance to redo my top 10 list for 2021, this would easily belong in the top 3 or 4. I would not call it my favorite movie of the year, that honor still goes to “The Suicide Squad,” but it certainly comes close.
“CODA” is now playing in theatres and is available to watch on Apple TV+.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2!” I saw the film a couple weeks ago, and I have plenty to say about it. I liked the first film, so who knows how the sequel will pan out… Following that review, I will be sharing my thoughts on the new DreamWorks animated film, “The Bad Guys,” which is in theaters as of this weekend. Also, coming soon, I will have my review for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the all new A24 film starring Michelle Yeoh and directed by Daniels, the same minds who brought us “Swiss Army Man.” 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 “CODA?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film that has won Best Picture at the Academy Awards? Not just nominated, but they also have to be the winner. This film is definitely a contender, I’ll say that much. Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“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” 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!
“Belfast” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Murder on the Orient Express) and stars Caitríona Balfe (Outlander, Ford v Ferrari), Judi Dench (Cats, Skyfall), Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall), Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin), and Jude Hill. This film is a semi-real tale that encapsulates a portion of Kenneth Branagh’s life. Throughout the film we see a mix of Buddy’s somewhat carefree life as a child, a tale of growing up, while times are tough in the titular city.
One of the questions of the pandemic is what kinds of movies we are going to get in the future. After all, like the pre-pandemic days, we have seen that comic book movies, with a couple exceptions like “The New Mutants” and “The Suicide Squad,” have been financially successful, as much as the latter deserved a much better result. One of the movies I felt could be in danger with the increasingly common blockbuster dominating from one month to the next is those films that tell a slice of life tale. Films like “Roma” or “Chef,” which I watched for the first time recently and thought was phenomenal. Easily Jon Favreau’s best work.
So after watching blockbusters like “The Matrix Resurrections,” which I rolled my eyes over, and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which I adored, it felt somewhat refreshing to see something as small as “Belfast,” even though I ended up watching it in Dolby Cinema. I remember watching the trailer for this film a couple months back and it looked like a film that would make you want to explore the world. That’s an exaggeration if there was one, but between the black and white presentation, Kenneth Branagh’s name being attached, and some of the written dialogue that I have already heard, the film at minimum looked like a recipe for something special.
As far as my first impressions go, I would have to say that even though you cannot have a story without conflict, I will say that I am surprised that “Belfast” managed to immerse me in such conflict as well as it did. Granted, part of it is due to the Dolby Cinema experience being off the charts obnoxious and insane, but I would have to say that it also has to do with Kenneth Branagh’s impressive directorial skills that put you right in the center of whatever action is in the film, even though this really isn’t an action movie. Whenever there is a quickly paced scene, I felt like I was in the moment with these characters. There’s a rather explosive moment in the beginning of the film that stuck with me due to how both poignant it is and how effectively it establishes the timeframe, the atmosphere, the struggles our characters have to go through from day to day.
For the record, I am in my twenties, but there are days where I feel like a child, and that’s probably one of the few reasons why I think it is why to have Jude Hill’s character of Buddy be the center of this story. Seriously, there are times where I felt like I was looking at an eleven year old version of myself. Although probably less awkward, more confident, and more likely to get into trouble. You know how when you really like someone as a child, you think that’s going to be the person you want to marry later in life? The writing for “Belfast” feel weirdly nostalgic for my time just before I was a teenager. I did not do all the things the lead kid did at his age, I think I was a bit more of a “model child,” and arguably more than I should have been. I think at that time, I was way too concerned about following rules than trying to object to authority, but there are nevertheless things about my life as a child that applied to Buddy that I remember from that age.
Also, people often talk about hard it is to direct children, I think there is an argument to make that Kenneth Branagh makes it look easy. A lot of professional actors can give a great performance. In fact I would say that some of the adults in this film like Jamie Dornan do just that, but I will contend that Jude Hill (left) gives one of my all time favorite child performances in a film.
Hill packs a punch in every scene he’s in. Whether it’s a lighter moment or a heavier, world-crushing segment that would be hard for a child to go through. I will not get into details that spoil the film, but I would put Hill’s performance amongst one of the greats. He’s up there with people like Mackenzie Foy in “Interstellar,” Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone,” and Jacob Tremblay in “Room.”
I do not have a ton of problems with “Belfast,” other than maybe the fact that Jude Hill gives a better performance as a child that make the grown-up actors look inexperienced, but I feel like this film will lack the rewatchability factor for me. This is a film that I probably will pick up and watch again at some point, but similar to “The Last Duel,” which is a fantastic piece of art, it is hard for me to determine when I am going to sit down and watch “Belfast” from start to finish for my own amusement. I feel like it could get a rewatch one night when I have nothing better to do, but it’s hard to tell. As for other remarks, I do think the accents were a little hard to follow, but that’s probably more on me as a citizen of the United States being somewhat accustomed to my culture than anything else. That’s not something that really should affect the score of the film, but if you are not from the area this film is referencing, or if you live where I live in the world, I would recommend maybe putting on subtitles if you choose to watch this film at home.
I don’t often say this about a movie, you may notice that in some movies they’ll have a quick statement about someone who passed away once it ends, which is a great thing to do. But one of the best things about “Belfast” in general is its personal touch from Kenneth Branagh, this very much feels like a harkening back to his youth. Even if it is not about his youth specifically. And if I wanted to, I could make a film about my community from when I was young, but Branagh did such a great job at making his childhood, or at least some variant of it, feel, as weird as it is to say, universal and singular at the same time. The point is, when the film makes its dedication at the end, I won’t get into detail, but when it does this, I felt the words in front of me. I felt like I walked out having taken something from someone else’s life, which made me appreciate “Belfast” more.
In the end, “Belfast” is a home run for Kenneth Branagh. I have respect for the man as a professional and I think that has only increased after watching this film. This is a proper tale of sides not getting along, struggles of being in an environment where times are tough, and weirdly enough, as timely as this phrase is, feels like a film we need right now. Because this has every single emotion from joy to sadness to laughter, it’s everything you could want in a story. This is not my favorite movie of the year, but I will recommend it to just about anyone. I think this movie could do some damage at the Oscars this year. I’m going to give “Belfast” an 8/10.
“Belfast” is now playing in theaters and is also available to rent on premium VOD.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the first 2022 film I’m going to tackle on Scene Before, “Jackass Forever.” This is honestly one of the more impromptu reviews I’ve done in this blog’s history, but I am looking forward to doing it nevertheless. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Moonfall,” so that’s two dumb fun movies in a row. Be sure to do a crossword in between or something so you can feel smart. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Belfast?” What did you think about it? Or, have you been to Belfast? What’s it like there? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Belle” is directed by Mamoru Hosada (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Mirai) and stars Kaho Nakamura, Ryō Narita, Shōta Sometani, Tina Tamashiro, Lilas Ikuta, Kōji Yakusho, and Takeru Satoh in a film about a girl who joins a popular social media platform called U, basically think of it as what Meta is trying to do, but sexier. While Suzu copes with everyday life in academics and living in a village, she often escapes to U, where she displays the persona of a singer.
Social media is one of the best and worst inventions of the past few decades. Think of it like “Saturday Night Live.” The cold open is usually okay, the monologue may still have you on your toes, but it just takes one sketch to topple it all apart. I like going on Facebook and feeling good about myself about the likes some photo gets that I actually put on Instagram and transported it over for my grandparents to see, but I can only go through so many comments sections on the news feeds. To see a film that shows the ups and downs of social media is quite lovely. Because it has become such an important part of our lives in such a short amount of time. I am not one who constantly watches anime, but I approve seeing a story like this regardless of the medium. There are a lot of lessons that can be provided and mistakes that can turn into tense moments.
Having seen “Belle” last week, I think it is a topical, charming, and euphoric piece of animation. As far as other pieces of anime go, I do not have much to compare this film to, I do not tend to dive into that medium partially because I don’t have time, and there are not as many opportunities to watch anime for review purposes compared to some other genres and mediums. I went to see Belle because I saw someone talk about it online as the best IMAX experience they’ve ever had. So I thought I’d make it a priority to go watch the film on the biggest screen I could. Unfortunately, I could not find any IMAX screenings for “Belle,” so regular 2D was the next best thing. I can confirm that the film is not my favorite theatrical experience, in fact there are certain animated films like “Over the Moon” that have been more immersive in the theater than this, although I was stuck to the screen like glue at times.
If anything this film is kind of like “The Matrix,” maybe even “Ready Player One.” while not a concrete remake, the films share numerous concepts. Both films have a digital world that is supposedly better than its real life counterpart, but inside this world, there is a threat both to the hero’s life and the lives of others who spend all their time in this world. And much like how the OASIS is crucial to everyone’s lives in “Ready Player One,” “Belle” does a great job at showing the marked necessity of its U platform. When everyone is not busy enjoying their everyday, mundane lives, it seems that they turn to U. This film nails the horrors of social media by tackling trolls, popularity, and in some cases, maybe living a significantly different life than the one you’re already going through. I mean, on Scene Before, I often call myself the Movie Reviewing Moron, but if I had to spend my time on Twitter with that exact persona, I’d probably getting a lot more hate messages. In this film, Suzu’s social media persona is Belle, which is not only appropriate because a lot of the movie is spent going through her journey as a digital singer, and of course, every other popular singer goes by one name. But this movie also spends its time as a partial redo of “Beauty and the Beast,” there is one character Belle finds, meets, and falls in love with, and they’re literally sometimes referred to as “The Beast.”
As much as it may be a retread in some ways of a tale some already know, it kind of added to the enchanting vibe this movie has at times. I highly praise “Belle” for being a mostly original and unique animated tale that captures all the emotions, but there are also times where it relies on something we already know to get its point across. As good as this movie is, it may make the film eventually feel not as ageless as it could be. And continuing my Disney story comparisons, this film takes a trademark of that company, but it is one I would rather leave unmentioned because it could be a spoiler. I watched a couple trailers and there is a clip of the film I did not see in either of them.
I feel like Suzu is a solid protagonist for this film, and if I watched this at a certain age, I probably would have related to her completely. After all, she’s not that popular, kind of dorky, arguably a bit of a wuss at times. While it is not everyone’s dream to be super popular online, especially if you live in Florida, the film tinkers with the fantasy of restarting your life and possibly building a better life than the one you’ve got. I joined Twitter when I was a teen to make friends in addition those I already had, and admittedly maybe care more about getting followers than I should have… And I stayed on because while I did have friends in real life, I have made some of my best friends over the years on that platform. And I owe it to Twitter for in some way improving my life. Conceptually, the U platform could evoke the same positive vibes for someone like Suzu, although the platforms are structurally different.
If I had to say anything else about “Belle,” I would have to point out that it has some really good music that fits the material that is written for the screen while also being decent enough to be played on its own. There is a song towards the end of the film that captures the spirit of the story, its characters, and the very idea of imagination. It’s quite a joy to hear with surround sound. I honestly felt more moved by the music in “Belle” than I did for anything in “Encanto,” which for a few of my readers, may be saying something. I should note that these two movies are completely different in terms of story and vibe, but I figured with how often people are talking about the film where we don’t talk about Bruno, this is something worth talking about.
In the end, “Belle” is an imaginative capturing of emotions, thrills, and wonderous music. The film is marvelously crafted and a perfect story for a 21st century audience. When I saw “Ron’s Gone Wrong” a few months back, which also occasionally comes off as a warning for those living in an age of popularity aspirations and social media, I was delighted by its premise, but not with its execution. “Belle” on the other hand, is not only a delight, but an escape that makes it one of the better animations of 2021. I’m going to give “Belle” an 8/10.
“Belle” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for last year’s critically acclaimed film “Belfast,” directed by Kenneth Branagh. That review will be up soon, hopefully it’s worth the hype. But if you want to see more of my content, be sure to check out my picks for the BEST and WORST movies of 2021! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite social media platform? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Licorice Pizza” is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread, The Master) and stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk), Tom Waits (The Old Man & the Gun, The Dead Don’t Die), Bradley Cooper (Guardians of the Galaxy, A Star is Born), and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems, Good Time). This film follows the connection between Alana Kane and Gary Valentine, not to be confused with the guy who plays Danny on “King of Queens,” as they spend time together in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a name I have not followed as much as other directors, and it is something I feel guilty of doing in regards to my film watching journey. Not only because he is an acclaimed name, but he also went to Emerson College, which I was probably going to attend had I gotten past the waitlist. So he has a bit of history in Boston, which as someone who lives near the Massachusetts state capital, is something I take a bit too seriously. I’ve seen “The Master” towards the end of the 2010s, but that’s all I have watched from him. I remember it being magnificently shot, but the story is not something that stuck with me to this day. I still need to watch “There Will Be Blood,” I own copies of “Inherent Vice” and “Phantom Thread” and still need to watch those. I still haven’t seen “Boogie Nights!” There are quite a few directors I have gotten around to over the years in terms of catching up on their filmography, but Paul Thomas Anderson fails to make the list.
When I saw the trailer for “Licorice Pizza,” I thought it sort of nailed the nostalgic aspect. The film takes place in the 1970s, and not only does it get a thumbs up for the production design that reminds me of walking into my grandparents’ house, but some of the music is okay as well. I think this film from a presentation point of view, checks a lot of boxes. It looks like it is from its focal decade, the acting, despite the leads having no evidential experience, is top-notch. For all I know, it could be on Anderson’s part. If I have learned anything from James Gunn over the years, he can take an actor with less experience like John Cena and make them pop. The best thing I can say about “Licorice Pizza” is that Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman give good performances regardless of the material that’s given to them.
I’m not using that last sentence lightly, because “Licorice Pizza” is probably the most uncomfortable I have felt watching a movie in some time. Okay, well, maybe not as uncomfortable as “Music,” that s*it was downright personal. I live in the age of social media and in my teens I would talk to people far from my age group and nothing weird happened. Although I believe it is commonly agreed upon that adults should not be dating teens that are ten years apart in age. Gary in this film is 15 years old and Alana is 25.
Do you see the problem?
Now, if Alana was 18, that would be one thing, because that’s also technically an adult, but she is also old enough to still be in high school, just like Gary. TWENTY-FIVE?! The film is kind of a back and forth sort of thing in terms of the romance, where Gary sometimes claims Alana’s his girlfriend, but then the two go back to calling each other “business partners” or something else, but I honestly could not justify myself liking the character of Gary. Because when I think of these sorts of relationships, maybe I’m thinking the adult is in the wrong of dating someone that is significantly younger than them. But with Gary, he’s a literal pervert, and he’s not afraid to hide it. And he’s not a cool pervert like Ron Burgundy who has some personality, granted the movie he’s in respectively has a different vibe, but every time I look at Gary and he says some other line, I want to put some tape over his mouth.
Look, I’m a guy, and it is scientifically evident that guys love anything that has to do with sex. We are revolting creatures. But oh my god. Gary is a downright creep who I occasionally wanted to punch in the face throughout this film’s poorly paced runtime. Seriously, it felt like it was 15 or 30 minutes longer than it actually was. If it’s not about getting to see Alana’s boobs, it’s about making money. Downright power. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Now, I’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort in that film has a semi-similar personality, but he’s also proven that he can be chill, he can be cool. Granted Belfort’s not a teenager, that’s one big difference. Even so, I never got that positive vibe from Gary. I felt like he was trying too hard to be cool when in reality, he felt disgusting.
Now, and I cannot believe I have to say this on a blogging platform that my family reads… I don’t think Paul Thomas Anderson is interested in showing his junk to young girls. I mean, if the genders were reversed, where Alana sees a 25 year old Gary’s junk, who knows? I am comfortable with a storyline about sexual exploration, it’s not something I wouldn’t expect out of some coming of age tales, but this was poorly executed in the worst way possible. I would not want Gary as my friend, and I would want out of any matters involving him if he ever tried to get into Alana’s pants.
One of the most important things about a romance film is that the two leads are likable. I don’t even like their characters by themselves all that much, and even less so together. Because despite what I’ve been saying about Gary coming off as a creep, movies have shown how characters can develop and change. Compared to some other films that I’ve seen, including another recent 1970s nostalgia fest, “The Tender Bar,” I could not really catch onto much character development, especially from Gary. I think Alana’s character has some moments where I could feel her emotion, her stress, the want to escape from reality and other people, but it’s barely enough to make this movie the slightest bit watchable.
If I had any other positives to give “Licorice Pizza,” it is that Bradley Cooper shines as Jon Peters. He honestly came off as a bit of a drugged-up Hugh Hefner type. I think his presence in the film allows the costume design to show its power. Cooper was well directed by Anderson and I would not have minded seeing more of him.
In the end, “Licorice Pizza” is a film that I was looking forward to, but as soon as they stated the age difference, that was an immediate turnoff. This harkens back to the saying that first impressions matter. And if you think this is my only problem with the movie, I’ll mention once again that this movie could have been fifteen to thirty minutes shorter. The movie occasionally dragged, it felt boring. Gary Valentine is by no means a likable character. In fact, he’s probably the character that I hate the most of any project I’ve watched in the past 12 months or so. If you think “West Side Story” was worth skipping because of the Ansel Elgort controversy, I will not stop you from doing that. But based on the fictional elements presented in “Licorice Pizza,” this is a film that part of me wishes I could have skipped. It’s barely any fun, it’s creepy, and I wish the script was good enough to match the amazing talents of some of the actors on screen. I’ll probably go back and watch some of Anderson’s work like “Phantom Thread,” but I hope his next project, whenever that comes out, won’t be as off-putting as this. If you want a 1970s nostalgia fest, just go watch “The Tender Bar.” It’s on Prime Video, and worth your time. I’m going to give “Licorice Pizza” a 4/10.
“Licorice Pizza” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! This week I’m going to be watching the all new Japanese animated film, “Belle.” I have heard nothing but good things about this flick, and I am quite curious to see how it is. I will have a review coming soon, and if you want to see more content like this, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Licorice Pizza?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film, one specifically that IS NOT in the horror genre, that genuinely makes you uncomfortable? For me, I’d say that would be “Music,” which I literally talked about in my worst of the year list a couple weeks ago! Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Tender Bar” is directed by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Midnight Sky) and stars Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Accountant), Tye Sheridan (Voyagers, Ready Player One), Lily Rabe (Miss Stevens, No Reservations), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Nobody), and Daniel Ranieri. This film is based on a memoir of the same name and is set in 1970s Long Island and follows JR as he grows up, does some usual coming of age things during said process, while also trying to seek out a father figure after his dad disappeared.
If you know who I am and where I live, you’d know this film one of the most personal I’ve seen to date. “The Tender Bar” was not my most anticipated film at the start of the year, mainly because I barely knew it existed. I liked George Clooney’s recent outing with Netflix’s “The Midnight Sky.” I thought it was visually stunning and was able to balance two adventures and perspectives that seemed to differ in scale. So knowing Clooney had at least one success as a director definitely helps. Although I want to introduce a little potential bias into this review. One of my favorite memories as a moviegoer is going to see “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” for the first time. Why? I live 20 to 40 minutes from both malls where the movie was shot, and I saw the film at a theater across the street from one of those malls.
For “The Tender Bar,” I did something similar. I happened to see this film at The Cabot in Beverly, Massachusetts, where a majority of the film was shot. There are a few locations that people of that city would instantly recognize. But if I told you that was the icing on the cake, I’d be lying.
I live a few towns away from Beverly, Wakefield to be specific. It’s… Got good pizza delivery places. A few good places to get breakfast. And we have… What am I kidding? WHAT DO WE HAVE?! A lake?! It’s a polluted pool that gives you a nice view of the Reading Jordan’s Furniture every now and again! What else do we have? But playing into this bias marathon, this film has a scene that was shot at the Wakefield Bowladrome, which has candlepin bowling, or as New Englanders, or anyone else with common sense calls it, bowling. I was at this location while they were shooting. They did not let anyone inside, for good reason, but I had the chance to witness filmmaking history as it happened in my own town.
Despite this connection that makes me giddy, I will note that this is a logical flaw in the film because as I mentioned, candlepin bowling is a New England sport, along with Canada as well. There are other areas where it is found, but New England and Canada are the two mainstays. Candlepin bowling has never had a history on Long Island. Logically, it would have been better to find a place that does tenpin bowling, or regular bowling as most call it, or INFERIOR bowling as I call it. Apparently the crew shot around various communities in Massachusetts, and the state does have its fair share of tenpin alleys. A lot of them have glow lighting at certain times, but there’s also some that don’t. Although the automatic scoring systems could feel out of place. I’ll give some credit though. I’ve been in that alley numerous times, and it has rarely changed in terms of the decor and condition. It kind of feels like a time capsule, so if they were going for an old timey vibe, they’ve kinda nailed it. A lot of the candlepin alleys that exist in New England look as if they’ve barely changed in decades.
The film itself, is nostalgic in a sense that it makes you feel like you are instantly transported to a 1970s where one could see said time as “glory days,” and has a fun soundtrack to evoke such a feeling. Songs from artists including Paul Simon and the Isley Brothers liven up the movie from one scene to another.
Now Ben Affleck (left) is likely going to be the most recognizable star in this film. He plays his part well, but I honestly think he’s had better performances. Just look at his 2020 outing with Gavin O’Connor, “The Way Back.” While his performance here is charming as Uncle Charlie, I don’t think the biggest standout in the film, despite being likable. Although I will note one thing… Before this film came out, I thought Ben Affleck would be the character everything in this film centered around. Well, I never knew about the book… In fact, if you look at the casting list for this film on IMDb or Wikipedia or wherever you find it, Ben Affleck has top billing. Because… Of course he does. He’s not the main character.
But the story itself centers around Tye Sheridan’s (right) character of JR. JR makes quite a progression throughout his life. He’s a promising young man who goes to Yale, meets a woman, makes some choices that decide the course of where he ends up. I’ve seen Tye Sheridan on screen before in “Ready Player One.” I liked him in “Ready Player One.” I love him in “The Tender Bar.” As for his younger interpretation, that is played by Daniel Ranieri, who I discovered last year courtesy of the Internet. He was in a video referencing people going outside in the pandemic and he goes on and on, cursing them out. It is ridiculously funny. Despite some of the filthy things he says in that video, I think he was properly cast as a sweet young boy who wanted nothing more than a father. I believe the transition from him to Sheridan, and both play their parts well.
Upon leaving this film, I felt happier walking out of this than I did watching most of the films I’ve watched in recent memory. If I had a word to describe “The Tender Bar” it would be “sweet.” Now, this is a drama, meaning that not everything goes everyone’s way, but this movie honestly has one of my favorite endings of any film I’ve seen that came out in 2021. It’s the kind of ending that sort of reminds me of one of the supposedly essential aspects of the parent-child relationship. The acceptance and realization that someone is an adult while also recognizing a tradition that maybe they have both honored since childhood. When someone prominent in my family died, I had a particular object passed down to me, which I still have in my room today. The scene in the movie that I’m referring to, as a reminder of this real life occurrence, differs significantly, but it kind of reminded me of that.
If I had any other comments, it would be that my one other flaw would have to be Christopher Lloyd’s character. I’m not saying Lloyd does not do a good job in the movie. He’s a great actor, and he proves that in this movie, but this harkens back to the old saying that first impressions matter. One of the first scenes of the film where we see Lloyd in action, or lack thereof, is him sitting in a chair farting. This gag goes on for about a minute. What is this a kids movie? This freaking thing’s rated R! We’re resorting to cheap PG comedy gags now?
In the end, I liked “The Tender Bar.” Despite coming out during the holiday season, having high profile names, and not belonging in any extended cinematic universes, I don’t think “The Tender Bar” is going to win any awards. But similar to how “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” recently harkened back to the 1960s with success, “The Tender Bar” is a delightful throwback to the 1970s in Long Island, even if the entire movie was shot in the state of Massachusetts. I feel like I’m not judging this film fairly, because I think the average viewer of this movie who ends up seeing the film in say Los Angeles will barely notice a difference in a couple key aspects. Either way, the film is worth a watch if you want something sweet with some drama mixed in. I’m going to give “The Tender Bar” a 7/10.
“The Tender Bar” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Prime Video for all subscribers.
Thanks for reading this review! This week is a big one for Scene Before, because on Tuesday, January 11th and Wednesday, January 12th, it is time to recap my BEST and WORST movies of the year. On January 11th I’ll be talking about the Top 10 BEST movies of 2021 and on January 12th I’ll be talking about the Top 10 WORST Movies of 2021. I cannot wait, I always enjoy doing these lists, and I equally hope you all enjoy reading them! 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 Tender Bar?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever gone candlepin bowling? And if so, WHY IS IT THE ONLY BOWLING?! Leave your comments down below, hopefully like all that dead wood you knocked down that’s still on the plate!
“Encanto” is directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith. It’s little weird for a movie to have three directors, but Disney also did this for “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which kicked butt, so what does a nobody like me know? This film stars Stephanie Beatriz (Modern Family, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Maria Cecilia Botero (Her Mother’s Killer, La Bruja), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, John Wick: Chapter 2), Mauro Castillo (El Joe: The Legend), Jessica Darrow (Grand Theft Auto V, Anomaly), Angie Cepeda (Pobre Diabla, The Seed of Silence), Carolina Gaitán (El Final del Paraiso, Narcos), Diane Guerrero (Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin), and Wilmer Valderrama (NCIS, That ’70s Show). This film follows a young girl named Mirabel who lives in a magical house with a magical family. Only problem, within this magical lifestyle, she is the only one who has never inherited a magical power. The rest of her family however, has that one ability that makes them special. However, Mirabel discovers that all this magic is disappearing. Once this is realized, she sets out on a quest to restore the magic and her family.
This film released in November. Due to life and school kind of making me want to take some time for myself, I will admit that some of my content has been evenly spread lately, and this is a film that I did happen to see during the month it released. There may be some movies that might not get talked about in the near future, depending on time constraints and business. “Encanto,” however, is not one of those films. This film is not from Pixar, but whenever I watch a trailer for a Pixar movie, I always look at it excited about the concept, but often worried about the execution. It looks fun, but it doesn’t come off as extravagant or unique. And when it comes to this theatrical-exclusive Disney feature, or at least when it came out, I felt the same way here as I do with some Pixar films. The concept of someone having no magical powers within a magic-heavy environment was intriguing, but I just wish the marketing did a little more to entice me. Thankfully, this movie, much like a few other animated titles I’ve seen throughout my life, managed to surprise me.
Magic has become synonymous with the branding of Macy’s–Wait? Macy’s? That can’t be right!
Magic has become synonymous with the branding of Disney. The company has had years of providing spins on fairy tales, doses of imagination, and spent lots of time and money developing its Magic Kingdom in Florida, which is a state that’s a bit of a Magic Kingdom unto itself. So to see a story like this where magic, a mysterious concept, become an ordinary element in one’s world, is not much of a surprise. At it’s surface, it’s yet another edition of the whole idea that “everyone’s special” and this even goes for the nobodies of the world, which in this case is Mirabel. This is not the best story done in that regard, but I think it has a special place in the Disney library as it successfully masters the idea of a family either coming together or having notable differences. I think it does a really good job at highlighting ups and downs of being in a family and in the case of Mirabel, wondering if you are “good enough.” Let’s face it… EVERY PARENT HAS A FAVORITE CHILD. If my future children read this, let’s just hope this theory is proven wrong. I’m not here to declare that Mirabel’s parents thinks she’s the worst child, cause, you know, “every parent has a favorite child,” whether they admit it or not… But I do think inside Mirabel’s mind, she’s thinking her parents see her as the least favorite child through what could be defined as no fault of her own.
One of the best things about this film is that there is no real villain getting in the hero’s way. Granted, there are obstacles, there are happenings, there are events, there are occurrences that our hero has to deal with, some of which provide for a fun movie. But one thing I like about this film is that despite coming from a studio that has created iconic villains like Scar, which has been known for haunting some children’s nightmares, it is kind of refreshing to see a film with no real antagonist. It kind of reminds me of a Netflix film I saw last year, which has given me tons of Disney vibes throughout, “Over the Moon,” because that film, which technically does have an antagonist, doesn’t really have anyone that happens to be truly vicious or evil depending on your point of view. Granted, the film’s antagonist comes close given some of the things they do, but nevertheless. To me, they felt good at heart.
Now this film came out in 2021, which if anything, should be a year where almost any major studio film should look good at minimum. Animations in general over the past number of years have always had a wow factor in terms of the renderings and computer generated scenes. Everything always looks grand and powerful. “Encanto” is no exception. Unlike the previous major Disney animated film that came out in 2021, “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Encanto” takes advantage of its rather lighthearted and whimsical vibes and often allows as much color as it can into certain scenes. This provides for stunning images that are likely to stay with some viewers.
The music in this film, when it comes to Disney fare, is frankly forgettable. I will admit, this is a case where it has been some time since I watched the movie, so a second viewing could refresh my memory, but in the context of this review, where I’m talking about a film that kind of partially on music-heavy segments and catchy tunes for entertainment value, forgetting a good portion of it can be a problem.
I do think that children are likely to be entertained by “Encanto.” Granted, having watched a lot of movies as a child, I was often entertained with whatever was in front of me. I do think it successfully captures the idea that even if you are unique or extraordinary, it does not mean you’re perfect. Things fade. Life is not kind. It also suggests that those who are not as unique on the surface still have a chance of potentially proving to be the best version of themselves.
In the end, “Encanto” is a charming animated flick that I recommend to a lot of people. This is not my favorite animated film of the year, but when it comes to this year’s slate, I think it will have more staying power than “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” which was… Interesting. I make fun of Disney all the time, but at the end of the day, they know what they’re doing because they can simply make movies for kids, which seems to be the intention with almost every animated project, but they always find a way to understand these are not KIDS movies. They’re family movies. They’re smarter. I’m going to give “Encanto” a 7/10.
“Encanto” is now playing in select theaters and is available to buy or rent through streaming. The film is also available on Disney+ to all subscribers.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, guess what? I have another animation to talk about soon, and that is the new Illumination film “Sing 2!” The first “Sing” film is my favorite Illumination project, and I say that as someone who has not really watched “Despicable Me,” so I might be providing somewhat invalid results. Is this sequel better than the original? You’ll find out soon enough! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my top 10 best and worst movies of 2021, coming soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Encanto?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite animated film of 2021? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!