Minari (2020): Seed This As Soon As You Can

“Minari” is written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung (Abigail Harm, Lucky Life) and stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton in a film about a Korean family trying to live the American dream. The movie mainly centers around a father who wants to build a better life for his spouse and children. In hopes of achieving all he could wish for, David moves with his family to Arkansas to start a farm. While Jacob is happy and ready to see his dreams potentially rise to reality, not everyone is onboard. Throughout, we are presented with a slice of life about a group of people adapting to a new situation and all its successes and failures.

I’ve waited a couple weeks to talk about “Minari.” Why? For starters, I wanted to get my Valentine’s Day special out to the public. Top 10 Movie Crushes, check it out! But I also have been busy with school and life to the point where I just could barely find time to work on this review. So I apologize in advance if anything that comes out of my mouth sounds odd, it has been a couple weeks. I went into “Minari” sort of with the same expectations that I had for “Nomadland,” which I had high hopes for, I thought Chloe Zhao was going to knock the film out of the park, and what did I think of it? Well, I gave it a 7/10. Now that is not a bad grade by any means, but I kind of expected at least an 8 given how the film has won so many festivals and awards thus far and it may continue its dominance at the Golden Globes this weekend if things go right. I will say though, Chloe Zhao may be *the* director all film fans should have their eyes on right now. Not only does she have a critically acclaimed film with “Nomadland,” but she also has “Eternals” and a “Dracula” project coming up. Could be exciting!

As for Lee Isaac Chung, the director of “Minari,” he is not a name I am completely aware of. I have not watched, nor am I familiar with any of his work. I know of Steven Yeun, the star of this film, but this film comes packed with a bunch of folks whose names I could have never stated prior to either watching the movie or making this review. It’s kind of like every day in high school. It’s a lot of folks around at once! Who are these people? What are their names? Come on, help me!

Either way, let me just give you my simple thoughts on “Minari.” To say I went in with low expectations would be a total lie. I was expecting an Oscar contender. I can assure you I was not disappointed. Granted, it is a little forgettable in parts but overall, I had a great time watching “Minari.” Everything from the acting to the directing to the writing is top-notch and well worth a trip to the theater or a rental whenever it is available on VOD.

“Minari” is one of those films that makes you feel… Well, everything. You laugh. You smile. You wince. You go “wow.” You may even get to the point where you’re a little emotional. I am not saying “Minari” is a tearjerker, but it is certainly a movie where the characters continue to grow on you.

“Minari” comes off as a small, intimate story with giant, magnificent craft. And a part of that has to do with the relationship between the cast and the directing effort. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri do an excellent job encapsulating the mix of tension and togetherness between their characters, Jacob and Monica. They have their differences, but they are in a way willing to stick together for something glorious that may lie ahead. Jacob is clearly happy and cannot wait for his dreams to come true, but Monica is noticeably pessimistic and that sort of affects how they are trying project reality onto their family.

One of my favorite parts of the film would have to be the relationship between the young boy, David, and the grandma, Soon-ja. Thinking about it now, when I was a child, I would spend many days with my grandmother. Granted, for different reasons than this film presents. This relationship to an extent reminded me of the one I had with my grandmother as a child. She would come by my house, hang out with me, watch television, play her handheld solitaire. Although one thing that out stood to me during the film is that the boy refuses to call his grandma “real.” By his definition, that means a grandma who “bakes cookies” for example. Now, I’ve done that sort of thing with my grandma, that I will not deny, but it sort of reminded me of a conversation I would have with her every once in a while. So I am from the Boston area, where people like their coffee from Dunkin’ and their football teams winning championships. One of my earliest memories of hearing the distinctive “Boston accent” came out of my grandmother’s mouth, where instead of saying “careful,” she would say “cahful.” I would occasionally “correct” her and then we move on with our lives. While I never called either of my grandmothers “fake,” I can assure that this relationship between a young boy and his grandmother is somewhat similar to one I’ve experienced myself.

One of the recent films I watched in terms of my Scene Before reviews was the Amazon Studios film “Herself,” which I thought was quite a good watch. Not as stellar as “Minari,” but it is worth your time. It is currently free for all Prime subscribers, give it a chance. The recent why I bring that film up is because like “Minari” it has one of the better endings of 2020. Both films have respective endings that are sort of subversive, but also lines up and connects with a theme that may have been brought up earlier in the film. I will not spoil either ending, but the way they do it in “Minari” makes the ticket price worth paying. Plus, without any further clarification, it allows the cinematographer to go to town and deliver a couple of the standout shots of 2020 cinema. I do not think the Academy will recognize “Minari” for cinematography, but I am sure they will recognize them more so than the Golden Globes.

Antiquated rules, my ass.

In the end, “Minari” is a great film that I will recommend to everyone reading this. Now if you are one of the few people who passed on “Parasite” because you cannot stand subtitles, I will still recommend “Minari” because it probably will still connect with you in some way, but I cannot control your lives and manipulate your way of thinking entirely, that might be cruel. The film has a couple problems. And I will sort of attribute it to the same things I said about “Soul” when I reviewed that film. The film checks a lot of boxes, humor, heart, good characters, but there are certain films that take many of these elements, which are “good” and takes them up a level. But that is just me. “Minari” is nevertheless worth a watch, maybe two, and I am going to give it an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This Sunday I am proud to announce the Jackoffs is about to get in gear. For the past number of months, I have been working on comedy bits, an intro, previews, a poster, and now… A key moment has arrived. It’s nomination time! This Sunday I will be announcing the nominations for the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! What do you hope to see nominated? Leave your comments below! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Minari?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever lived in Arkansas? As a Bay Stater, I have literally no idea what is like. Is it fun? Is it boring? Please let me know! I’m genuinely curious! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Nomadland (2020): Chloe Zhao May Be the Next Big Director to Watch

“Nomadland” is directed by Chloe Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brothers Taught Me) and stars Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), David Strathairn, Linda May, and Charlene Swankie in a film where a woman journeys through the American west and lives her life as a van-dwelling nomad after losing everything during the Great Recession. It is also based on the book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” written by Jessica Bruder.

“Nomadland” is a film that I have been looking forward to for a long time. My first memory of the film, or more specifically its title, is during the 2020 Venice Film Festival, one of the few things that actually happened that year when it comes to movies, because the film won multiple awards there, including the Golden Lion, which is basically that festival’s equivalent to Best Picture. But that’s not all the praise the film got. The film won the honors of Best Picture through the National Society of Film Critics, the Gotham Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics Association, and it seems “Nomadland” is only going to continue its hot streak. “Nomadland” was recently nominated for 4 Golden Globes, including Best Picture- Drama. And Frances McDormand was even nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Actress.

Statistically speaking, “Nomadland” is impressive, and I think that is part of why it is getting an exclusive IMAX run. Having seen the film myself, “Nomadland” is not the traditional style of film that one would expect to get an IMAX run. The film was made for somewhere around $4 to $6 million, way less than the traditional blockbuster that would usually meet the criteria. I feel like if it were not for the endless critical acclaim before the film came out, it would not have gotten this release in the first place. In fact, as of writing this review, that is all where it is playing. “Nomadland” is out everywhere on February 19th, plus Hulu, but as of right now, you can only see it in certain IMAX theaters. So as a fan of the brand and as one who wanted to see “Nomadland” as soon as possible, I took advantage of the opportunity.

Having walked out of the theater, I must address the hype surrounding the film. If I had to make a guess, I think most people would say that “Nomadland” has the highest chance of winning Best Picture at the Oscars this year as of now. Granted, this is coming from someone who was not the biggest fan of “Mank,” so I may be biased.

Oh my lord, “Mank” could have been ten times better.

“Nomadland” is a good movie, but to call it the masterpiece of our time is a bit excessive, at least to me. What do I like about it? When it comes to recent film, I think “Nomadland” stands out as one of the best displays of one’s slice of life. I was around in the late 2000s, when the Great Recession started, but I was still a kid. I barely had a concept of money so I did not have a full understanding of everything that was going on at the time. Nevertheless, “Nomadland” presents Fern as one of 2020’s most relatable characters, even though I never knew anybody precisely like her. Yes, I know people who have vans, I know people go around the country in vans. But to my knowledge, I never knew anyone who spent a great portion of their time living in a van. This film presents a character with unique traits, but they utilize her uniqueness to harken towards concepts that relate to a lot of people. Fern is a likable woman. She is a hustler, she is patient, she is kind, but she is not afraid to go after what she wants.

One of the best things I can suggest about an actor is when they give a performance that makes me say “I cannot imagine anybody else playing that character.” In the case of “Nomadland,” that statement is true when it comes to Frances McDormand, who already has two Oscars under her belt, and it is difficult to determine whether “Nomadland” will earn her a third, but her performance is certainly a contender. Not only does McDormand have an ideal look for her specific character, but her mannerisms are perfect at times. Her performance feels raw, kind of like the rest of the movie. The way this movie is done kind of feels like a vlog if it were completed in a cinematic style and if it was highly enhanced in the editing process.

Not only does Frances McDormand nail the look of her character, but Chloe Zhao and her crew also nail the look of “Nomadland” itself. “Nomadland” shines with some of the best framing of the year, and a filmmaking style that feels cinematic, although nearly documentary-like. I mentioned just a moment ago that this feels like a vlog. And I mean that, because even though vlogs are completely different from movies, they do a really good job at showing a slice of one’s life. “Nomadland” is not my favorite film of the year, but when it comes to 2020’s slices of life, it stands out. And I would also say that they managed to release this film at the right time because we are in the middle of a pandemic where the future is uncertain, not only in terms of our social lives, but the economy as a whole.

If I had to point out the best part of “Nomadland,” it would have to be the locations. Whoever decided on the locations that went into the final cut has my eternal respect, as they are an integral part as to what makes the framing extremely likable. And as much as I would hate to make a COVID-19 comparison, I have to. The way I would describe “Nomadland” is this… Imagine that I test positive for COVID-19. I lose my sense of taste. But I can still walk, I can still breathe. I don’t have any problems internally. I just need to isolate for 14 days or until whenever it goes away. “Nomadland” is a somewhat unfortunate, nearly depressing film at times, but it also trails along in good spirits. There is nothing in this film that is excruciatingly painful to watch. Nothing tear-jerking, nothing over the top emotionally charging, almost nothing that comes off as an eyesore. There are one or two moments that help the movie earn its R rating, but other than that, nothing really disturbing. “Nomadland” is a film that I feel is core viewing during the current awards season for many reasons, and you should definitely check it out when it gets a wider release.

In the end, “Nomadland” is a film that takes you places. Aside from taking you to an Amazon Distribution Center, a desert, the inside of a van, etc., it takes you to a world full of likable, quirky characters. The film has some memorable dialogue, including one line towards the end of the film that will stick with me when it comes to the 2020 cinematic slate. Frances McDormand gives a solid performance as the main character of Fern, and I think she could be a contender at the Oscars. As for the director, Chloe Zhao, I cannot wait to see what she does with “Eternals,” and this movie gives me hope that she can crank out a killer blockbuster. I am going to give “Nomadland” a high 7/10.

“Nomadland” is playing in select IMAX theatres wherever they are open. If you are interested in watching the film somewhere else, it is getting a wider release on February 19th, where it opens up in more theaters with a simultaneous debut on Hulu.

Thanks for reading this review! Last night, I just saw “Minari” starring Steven Yeun, so I will be sure to have a review up for that as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Nomadland?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think is the biggest awards season contender this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Herself (2020): A Woman Builds a Home, Clare Dunne Builds Her Career

“Herself” is directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, The Iron Lady) and stars Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Cherishing), who also happens to have a story and writing credit for the film. Also in the cast we have Harriet Walter (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rocketman) and Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones, Suits) in a film about a woman named Sandra who wants to escape an abusive relationship with her husband. In a revolt against a broken system, Sandra vies to build a house so she can ensure safety for herself while raising two daughters.

“Herself” is a film that I’ve heard about for over a month, but when it comes to movies on Prime, the one that has been getting all the buzz lately is “One Night in Miami,” which I tried. I really wanted to like it, but it did not sit well with me, and I say that as someone who saw it twice. It had some good performances though between Leslie Odom Jr. and Kingsley Ben-Adir, it just was not my favorite film that I have seen in recent memory. Although when it comes to “Herself,” that has been getting a lot less attention. Less people have seen it, and I say this as someone who lives in the U.S., there is a chance that a film like “Herself” is automatically going to get less attention as it is primarily produced by British and Irish companies, and the film itself takes place in an Irish background. I say this despite knowing that the director did “Mamma Mia!,” which is popular among a number of crowds, and the fact that she even directed Meryl Streep to win one of her Academy Awards. The film did however premiere at Sundance, and soon thereafter Amazon bought the rights to it. This is where we are today. The film is available for free on Prime, so I thought I would give it a go.

What did I think? Let me just start off by saying that if one studio has been consistently solid for me throughout the year, it would have to be Amazon. Granted, their business model for releasing films has increased in prominence given the current pandemic, but for the most part, they’ve been cranking out good movie after good movie.

Well, except “My Spy.” Can’t believe it took five months after a press screening and a studio exchange for me to talk about that crap!

But let’s consider what Amazon has done this year. “The Vast of Night,” “Radioactive,” “Sound of Metal,” “I’m Your Woman.” All these films are worth watching. I’d say that “Herself” stands amongst these solid movies, although if I had to pick one to go back and watch again, I’d pick “Sound of Metal” before this one. “Herself” is a wonderful, charming, occasionally gritty, and somewhat motivating film. Before I saw this movie, I did not know much about it, therefore I had no idea that one of the writers of the film happens to be the star. I think that is why I’ll say Clare Dunne gives one of my favorite performances I have seen in recent memory.

When it comes to the brilliant performance from Clare Dunne, you can tell there is a bit of a personal touch to it. In fact, there actually is, because Dunne points out in an interview that when she was auditioning in New York during pilot season, a friend reached out to her saying she lost her home in Dublin. At that point, Dunne looked up Dominic Stevens, who self-built a home in Ireland for €25,000. At that point, Dunne thought she should make a movie about a single mother who goes through a similar situation. I think Dunne hit the mark hard on this film. I think her performance partially benefits from her having a writing credit, meaning that she probably had more time to envision her character and how it should be, and I would say that maybe aside from Ben Affleck’s performance as Jack Cunningham in “The Way Back,” Clare Dunne’s performance as Sandra may be the most personal portrayal of 2020. She has moments of happiness, delight, anger, despair, sadness, her role is diversified of emotions and Dunne gives herself plenty of things to do. Given how the Golden Globes were announced and Dunne did not appear on the list, I doubt Dunne is going to get the awards potential she deserves, but I think I will look back on this performance for a long time.

While the screenplay of the film may not end up being my #1 of the year, I cannot deny that it is fantastic at times. The film starts off and gets straight to the point. It does not waste much time, it introduces our characters, and goes licketdy split into our main conflict. Part of me was already on the edge of my seat and ready to see where this journey would go next. I knew who to root for, who to bash on, all of it. Everything was quickly set up in just a matter of one to two minutes. When it comes to set up, “Herself” is perfect.

I will say though, the film did nearly lose me at times. Granted, it is an intimate project with a smaller budget, but there are select moments where I nearly doze off. There are also moments where I got my head back in the game, but it does not make me forget the times where I almost snoozed. Pacing could have occasionally been better, but the film is still a good time.

Actually, you know what? It’s not a good time. It’s a great time. I say that because the film ends with a subversion of my expectations. I will not go into much detail, but it is a contender for the best ending of 2020. Not only because it comes out of nowhere and changes the entire pace of the movie, but because it balances a bunch of emotions at once. In a short description, it is kind of bittersweet. I will not say anything else because I want to leave all my readers as blind as possible, because that is practically how I went into “Herself.” Watch it, you might not regret it.

In the end, “Herself” is a charming story that highlights abuse, how one wants to get past it, and ways in which one can build a better life. Clare Dunne is a performer that I now have my eyes on. I think in the future, we will be hearing her name a lot more. I think she has the potential to build her career similar to the way her character attempted to build a house. Would I watch this film again? Not right away, but give it some time, and I may come back. Phyllida Lloyd crafted a fine film, and I am happy to have seen it. I am going to give “Herself” a 7/10.

“Herself” is available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! Today I just saw “Nomadland,” which is going to be out on Hulu February 19th, and it will simultaneously debut in theaters wherever they are open. Although for the next week or two, you can catch the film in select IMAX theatres. I saw it in IMAX today and cannot wait to talk about it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the Facebook page to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Herself?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever built a house? Tell me what that was like. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Little Things (2021): Jared Leto Steals the Show and Warner Bros. Almost Steals My Money

“The Little Things” is directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Rookie) and stars Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Night at the Museum), Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049, Suicide Squad), and Natalie Morales (The Grinder, Dead to Me). This film is about two cops who try to track down a serial killer.

“The Little Things” is the latest film from Warner Bros., the studio that was supposedly set to save theatrical exhibition this summer with “Tenet,” only to have it underperform in various markets and have them simultaneously release a ton of movies, including this one on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. What do I think about that? Well, if things went right, which I will tell you as one who often backs filmmakers, things did not go right, I think this is not only a blow to the movie theater industry, which has already suffered enough over the past year, but also shows that an entire studio can kind of get away with avoiding contractual obligations (like the fact that “Dune” was supposed to be a theatrical exclusive) and go behind clients’ backs. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins get a ton of money for this deal? What about all those other people responsible? I am not going to deny that there are perks in case you live in a state where theaters are closed, in which case, I am happy you can have the opportunity to watch these movies, but this is one giant double edged sword as an avid supporter of theatrical exhibition.

To avoid making a tangent longer than it needs to be, I will say off the bat, having seen “The Little Things,” this does feel like a film that would have gotten away with being a streaming premiere. Whether it ends up in some theaters or not, it kind of has that “watch at home” feel. This is not an enormous mockery on the film by any means. It’s sort of a mockery, but it is not to say it is entirely terrible, but there are times where it kind of has a television feel. In fact, one of the film’s actors, Jared Leto, happens to agree.

“They think they can just make so much more money with the bigger event movies. They found that for television, if they can do something that’s episodic, then people still enjoy those kinds of stories. I’m not saying they should stop making movies like ‘The Little Things,’ but I do think if you talk about like ‘The Undoing,’ people like to spend more time with those characters. And there’s less stigma going back and forth from television to film.”

While I cannot say I have seen “The Undoing,” Leto seems to have a point.

Although if you want me to be real, “The Little Things” is not that great. Let me start off with the positives however. “The Little Things” is a well-directed and well-cast film. The feel is borderline expansive yet intimate, and it flows all the way through. In fact, all the lead cast members portray their roles with proficiency. However, this film has problems and they too need to be addressed.

People say that art is subjective, therefore film is subjective. Those people are not wrong. My subjective opinion, “The Little Things” is a little boring. I was able to keep my chin up all the way through, but for all I know it may just be my luck. “The Little Things” is one of those films that starts off slow and stays that way for the entire movie. I feel as if I am starting to say this more often than I should but it bears repeating. Slow does not equal bad. Slow is great if it is executed well. Anything can be great if it is executed well. Whoever thought “The LEGO Movie” would work? Not everyone, that is for sure. Guess what? It is my favorite animated film of the 2010s. Anything can work if you know how to deliver on the concept. Sadly for “The Little Things,” the almost snooze-worthy first half allows the movie to fizzle. It does pick up however, and the second half is worth the price of admission. Without going into detail, my favorite parts of the movie is when situations get heavy and we see characters interact with each other in scenarios that could become more tense by the second. The film also kind of gets twisty, and I dig it.

I will state once again, one thing that truly sells “The Little Things” are the performances. Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto are all likable in this film. Denzel Washington has this sort of mellow feel to him. Rami Malek plays a suave-looking detective and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. Malek’s performance here allows him to continue to define himself as an admirable actor. He already has an Academy Award on his shelf for his role in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and while I do not think he will get as much recognition for this performance, Malek’s portrayal tends to reveal that he will continue to commit to his craft.

As much as I like Washington and Malek, who are both talented and reveal themselves as competent in their own rights, the star of the show is Jared Leto. Jared Leto has honestly been a controversial name for me over the past few years, and not necessarily because I hate him, but because his roles have gone from somewhat underwhelming to unbelievably great. He basically went from playing the worst live-action Joker in “Suicide Squad” to encapsulating something beautiful with Niander Wallace in “Blade Runner 2049.” Keeping the latter in mind, I liked Jared Leto in “Blade Runner 2049.” In “The Little Things,” he is another animal. Because this movie presents itself as an opportunity where he can just let himself loose. And it is not like a live-action cartoon or another Jim Carrey or anything, although I do think Carrey would have done the role properly if it were in his hands, it’s just a crazy guy who occasionally says some kooky lines and has these oddball mannerisms. Some of the stuff he says just flies off the tongue and it intrigues me every time. If you plan to watch “The Little Things” this weekend, I will say that if you watch for Rami Malek or Denzel Washington, you might not be disappointed with either of those two, but I think you may want to *stay* for Jared Leto. After seeing his performance here, I am now more curious about “Morbius.” I did not think I would say that. Well done, movie!

In the end, “The Little Things” is solid in some parts, but noticeably dull. There are probably more positives than negatives, and I would not refrain from watching it a second time, but if I had to predict which movie I would be talking about in the most positive light by the end of the year, it would not be this one. There are still reasons to watch it, and it is from a likable director, specifically John Lee Hancock. Have you seen “Saving Mr. Banks?” Watch it! Now! Although it does have a plethora of personal issues to keep me from calling it the next big thing. Just because this is entertaining, does not mean it cannot make you nearly want to fall asleep. I am going to give “The Little Things” a 6/10.

Minor sidenote, the movie also comes with a brand new Warner Bros. logo. We’ve kind of seen teases of it during films like “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” but if I am not wrong, “The Little Things” is the first film where we get to see the new standard edition of the revamped logo, and it does not seem to disappoint.

“The Little Things” is available now in theaters and on HBO Max for all subscribers at no extra cost. Get your tickets or subscribe to HBO Max now to enjoy your experience.

Thanks for reading this review! If you are a movie fan like me, you may follow the awards circuit. And now as the Movie Reviewing Moron, I am here to remind you that the circuit is not complete without me throwing my hat into the ring. This March I will be doing my 3rd edition of the Jackoff Awards, this time focusing on 2020 in film. If you want to watch the trailer promoting it, scroll to the end of this post. Speaking of 2020 in film, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, “Nomadland,” is FINALLY coming to theaters. It was supposed to be in theaters this December, only to get pushed back due to COVID-19, and while it is not going to be fully released until its simultaneous theatrical and Hulu debut on February 19th, “Nomadland” is now playing in select IMAX theaters. And next weekend, one of my local spots is going to be getting this movie. I already got my tickets, and I cannot be more excited. Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account, and check out the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Little Things?” What did you think about it? Or, are you planning to watch the movie in the theater or on HBO Max? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

One Night in Miami (2020): Four Icons, One Average Story

“One Night in Miami” is directed by Regina King (Ray, If Beale Street Could Talk) and stars Kingsley Ben-Adir (Vera, The OA), Eli Goree (The 100, Race), Aldis Hodge (Brian Banks, City on a Hill), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express, Central Park). This film is also written by Kemp Powers, who wrote the play of the same name. The story revolves around four black men, Muhammed Ali, Malcom X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown as they meet in a hotel room and discuss their places in the Civil Rights Movement.

This film premiered last year in one cinema, appropriately in Miami, Florida. But of course, since I don’t live in Florida, and I don’t plan on setting foot there for some time, I did not see the film when it came out. However, the film has expanded to other territories, including my very own Massachusetts, and put itself on Prime Video for all subscribers. I decided to watch the film at home considering my supposed need to use my Prime subscription at one point or another.

You’re welcome, Jeff Bezos… Gosh I miss Sears.

Either way, going into “One Night in Miami” I did not watch any trailers (that I recall), and I do not think I read any synopsis or description about the film. Other than the facts that the film is on Amazon, directed by Regina King, and set in Miami, I knew nothing about this film. To me, it was almost like “Summerland” before I saw that film. Also, please watch “Summerland.”

With this in mind, I want to bring up something that movie viewers occasionally bring up. The power of marketing. Part of this is due to my lack of knowledge of the film, but going into “One Night in Miami,” based on the title, it almost seemed to be set in modern times, and it sort of had this “Entourage” feel to it. Everything felt kind of sexy.

This is the kind of confusion that comes about from not watching trailers. The film is vastly different from what I expected to be, both in terms of overall vibe and the storyline. I guess you can say part of this is my fault for perhaps being a lazy critic and not doing my homework, but at the same time, there are points where going in blind for a film has enhanced the experience. Perhaps doing so makes it worthwhile, because it gives you a fresh perspective and allows you to watch everything as if (or perhaps in a more literal sense) you were about to watch it for the first time.

With that being said, I wish “One Night in Miami” were a better movie. There have been some good movies over recent years involving the Civil Rights Movement and African American history. Movies like “Selma” and “Hidden Figures.” Both were entertaining and a great reflection of their respective times. Now, I wanted to like “One Night in Miami” and going back to what I just said. Knowing what a movie is about sort of improves the experience. When it starts, you have this boxing match. So I think to myself, “Is this a boxing movie?” Then I see a concert. I ask, “Is this about music?” Not really. It’s one of those movies where things sort of come together, but it took awhile for my brain to click and put all these elements into a puzzle. So, maybe it is my fault for being a brick, but nevertheless. During that time, it sort of shows that the movie needs better pacing. I sat on my bed wondering if this movie was going to go anywhere, and it felt like we spent an eternity trying to answer that question. I like when movies make the viewer ask questions. That can be engaging. That can be exciting. But for whatever reason, this movie took longer than an Amtrak ride from Boston to Washington DC to get me going.

I will spit out some positives though. For those who do not know, this is Regina King’s first feature theatrical release under her direction. King reveals that she has chops to be a competent director in the future if she decides to take on more projects. I would not mind seeing another drama from her. Maybe if she keeps that up, she could helm a blockbuster. I have faith she can continue to visualize solid content. As for how good that content will end up being, that is another question. Because I was not fully impressed with this outing.

With that in mind, getting invested in the main four characters almost felt difficult because I spent almost an hour just wondering whenever things were going to pick up. At the same though, it was fascinating to hear the four main characters interact, mainly because they all had a natural sense of chemistry. There is not one moment or slice of dialogue that did not feel wasted or unrealistic. All of it was raw, and occasionally compelling. I thought it was fascinating to see a transformation of Cassius Clay as he goes from one identity to another. But the man who’s story intrigued me the most has to be Sam Cooke.

The movie does a fine job at highlighting that despite the color of his skin, despite his heritage, despite coming across a supposed success, Cooke is perhaps partially aiding in the contributions of white people to a degree, including the Rolling Stones. Hearing him speak with Malcom X and listening to him reveal his personal history is probably the highlight of the movie for me. Malcom X confronts Cooke’s feel good music and notes Bob Dylan perhaps being a more popular reflector of social commentary. I think from start to finish, his story is partially reflective of what this movie is about, what it stands for, and the overall message it tries to convey. In the United States, black people may succeed, but sometimes it is with the assistance per se of white people. And in some ways, they help white people achieve their own success. The performances from scene one are all worthy of attention. I just wish it aided in a slightly better film.

I should note, this is my *first impression*. I did something for “One Night in Miami” that I don’t usually do. I noticed that the film has universal acclaim. There are positive reviews being handed over left and right. People are really enjoying this film. So I thought, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I like this movie? Granted, I was watching at home, where it is easy for me to get distracted. So I turned on the film again to see if anything has changed.

I will say that this film is better the second time around, and maybe it is because I understand the concept now. I think as a story, “One Night in Miami” is uniquely laid out and one of the more original tellings I have witnessed in recent memory, despite being somewhat based on true events and containing real historical figures.

As mentioned earlier, Sam Cooke is my favorite character in the film, and he is nicely performed by Leslie Odom Jr.. However, one performance that I also began to appreciate more the second time around is Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X. I think his mannerisms are superb and he admittedly kind of looks suave. I would not mind seeing Kingsley Ben-Adir in a spy movie sometime. I will also say that the first hour is most definitely better. Not only does it do a fine job at introducing the core characters, but some of the hour is quite entertaining between the boxing match, the early concert, and Jim Brown visiting the plantation.

But having said all this, when it comes to 2020 in film, this one will not likely be remembered as much as others. Who knows? Maybe with my recent experiment it gets better with each watch, and it was better the second time, so maybe that is a step in the right direction.

In the end, “One Night in Miami” may speak to some people, in fact it may speak to a lot of people, but for whatever reason, it was just not the right movie for me. Was it entertaining? Yes. But not entertaining enough. Was it compelling? Yes. But not compelling enough. Was it worth a rewatch? Sure. But part of me only did so to see if would actually improve the experience. And while it did so slightly, it did not sparkle and shine as much as I would want it to. I am going to give “One Night in Miami” a 6/10.

To me “One Night in Miami” is sort of like “Mank.” It is a movie that a lot of people saw, a lot of people like, and maybe it will end up getting some attention during awards season. Although for whatever reason, I could not fully connect with it. It is a passable film and there are good things about it. But I just wanted more, what else could I say?

“One Night in Miami” is now available in select theaters and on Prime Video for all subscribers. Get your tickets if a theater is open near you, or subscribe to Prime if you are not subscribed already.

Thanks for reading this review! I will say, I am not quite sure what my next review is going to be, but I will say as the crazy guy who always promotes IMAX, I have a special treat for those who are not in the loop. One of 2020’s most acclaimed films, “Nomadland,” is coming to select IMAX screens starting January 29th. Unfortunately, I might not be able to see it. I say so because as of writing this, the closest place showing the film is located in Paramus, New Jersey, which is about a three to four hour hike from where I live. But if anyone at IMAX reads this and wants to put more screenings in the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island areas, I will make an effort to watch the movie and have my review up for it as soon as possible. We’ll have to see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “One Night in Miami?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Regina King as an entertainer? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

News of the World (2020): The Beauty of the Hanks News Media

“News of the World” is directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93), bases itself upon the 2016 Paulette Jiles western novel of the same name, and stars Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Toy Story) alongside Helena Zengel (Dark Blue Girl, System Crasher). This film is about a widowed Civil War veteran who goes around the world reading the news from various papers to those willing to listen for ten cents. In this film, he ventures with a young girl taken by the Kiowa people in an attempt to bring her to a place she can call home.

“News of the World” was one of the movies I was genuinely looking forward to over the Christmas season. Usually, when there is a movie that comes out near the end of the second half of the year that stars Tom Hanks, that’s usually a good sign. Last year we had “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which frankly did not deliver the goods I was anticipating, but there is no denying that Hanks was perfect casting as Fred Rogers. One film that I sometimes forget about, “Saving Mr. Banks,” which came out towards the end of 2013, features Hanks as a charismatic Walt Disney. Plus, Hanks is just a likable dude. People often claim him to be the nicest guy in Hollywood, and I often get that vibe just by looking at him. He kind of sounds like a fun dude to take on a cross-country road trip. Speaking of trips, “News of the World” centers around two characters who take a trip through the old west to find a home for a young girl, and I must say that the main duo makes for a delightful and charming heart of the story.

Speaking of delightful and charming, those are two words I can use to describe “News of the World.” I do not watch many westerns, but this film, despite taking place in the old west, did not always feel like a western. Yes, it has many of the staples between an excessive amount of horses and carriages, accents, tons of men with crazy amounts of hair, but it also sort of speaks to our world today. It speaks to the climate of our media and how people flock to what they “want” to hear as opposed to what they need to hear, and maybe how the things our media spit out can influence how people think, what people say. That is only a small portion of the film, but I sort of like how the film handled this subject matter because it speaks to our time. Maybe where you live and the people around you can also play a part in that. I live in the Boston area, and we have two big papers. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and while both are highly recognized, it is sometimes declared that each paper seems to cater to alternate demographics. If you read The Boston Globe, chances are you are reading something from a liberal mindset. If you read Boston Herald, you may be reading something from a conservative mindset. This subject matter makes for one of the more compelling moments of the movie. It does not handle it in complete relation to the example I just mentioned, but it did remind me of that.

In some of my recent posts, I have been talking about the Oscars and awards season, partially because we are approaching that time, and some of the recent films like “Promising Young Woman” and “Soul” may have a shot at making some rounds as we get closer to some big ceremonies. “News of the World” is another one of those films, and part of that is due to Tom Hanks as Captain Kidd. I’ve already mentioned he’s good in the movie, but I should point out that he should be a fairly presentable talking point when the Oscars come around. Not only does Tom Hanks look the part, kind of like he did for Fred Rogers last year, but he encapsulates the main character beautifully. For me, my top 3 candidates for Best Actor this awards season are, in no particular order, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Ben Affleck (The Way Back), and now, Tom Hanks (News of the World). I must also say, Hanks’s character in “News of the World” has a fascinating occupation. He goes around reading newspapers for an audience. Honestly, if I lived in the 19th century, that may be what I would do. Well, if I wasn’t writing for the papers myself. Either that or trying to invent videography if there were some way I could do that.

I must not forget, Hanks spends a great portion of the movie journeying with the young girl, played by Helena Zengel. Her name, or at least it’s the name that Captain Kidd calls her by, is Johanna. One thing I really like about their connection is that there is a language barrier between the two, but despite that, you could still get along, you can still have joyous times together, and as far as this story goes, it still feels like a universal story (and not just because Universal distributed this movie). One guy speaks English, the other person speaks Kiowan, but despite their differences, they can get along just fine. Then again, I am terrible at learning foreign languages, despite being good at doing a lot of other things and following several other subjects, so if I were in Captain Kidd’s shoes, who knows? Maybe I’d constantly throw a fit. Even so, “News of the World” presents a universal story, even though our two leads do not seem to have the ease of instantly understanding each other. One more thing to add, it is hard to tell where Zengel will end up in the long run, but I would watch her in a film again for sure, she did a great job here.

When it comes to my complaints for films, it usually involves pacing. I would not say that “News of the World” is an exception to this idea. Because in reality, the film is very well paced until the end. I say that because the heart of the story is between Hanks and Zengel, and once that concludes for the most part, the rest of the movie, while still slightly entertaining and compelling, not to mention slightly emotional, almost feels like borderline filler. Granted, if you know about the backstory of the main character, it truly is not. But that is almost what it feels like at times. At the same time however, one of the perks of “News of the World” is that in every other scene, there is a sense of conflict. There almost always feels like there is a sense of danger, and when a movie can do that, it makes it more watchable. This movie is kind of a slow burn, and as I have said prior on Scene Before, slow does not mean bad. Like a fast movie, slow only means bad if it feels like there’s no control. “News of the World” comes with a little more action than I thought there would be. I know this is technically a western, but it sort of surprised me that we would all of a sudden have this bloody intense shootout, it was really fun to watch and made for one of the more suspenseful and fun parts of the movie.

I went to see “News of the World” with a couple family members, and one in particular seemed a tad skeptical about the film, mainly because it is not their type of movie. They are not usually into period pieces. They walked out of the movie somewhat delighted. They would not consider the film an all time favorite, but they also were not against the film either. Maybe “News of the World” has the potential to reach a wide audience in the future. Sure, many theaters are closed right now, but this film will be heading to VOD soon, so for those who do not have a theater open in their area, this film may come on their radar rather quickly. Although if you do live near a theater, I’d recommend checking it out. Paul Greengrass directed this film, and he does so with what I imagine was a smile. It looks stunning and the cinematography from Dariusz Wolski is also a highlight that heightens Greengrass’s vision.

In the end, “News of the World” is a charmingly beautiful western. Tom Hanks excels as the film’s lead. Helena Zengel is solid in her role. I think the duo has great chemistry. If you take out the fact that this takes place in the old west, set it in modern times, it would still be a worthy allegory of how people view the media while also establishing two likable characters on a journey together. Granted, you’d probably have to change a lot, but this is a story from the 19th century that handles 21st century problems gorgeously. I’m going to give “News of the World” an 8/10.

“News of the World” is now playing in theaters across the United States wherever they are open. Due to a recent deal struck between AMC Theatres and Universal, the film will soon stream on video on demand. In several international territories, the film is now streaming on Netflix.

Thanks for reading this review! Guys, I am pleased to announce that it is officially 2021! Happy New Year! And oh, boooyyyyyyy do we need one. Is it just the passage of time? Technically, yes. But it is also, a new hope. And as for 2020, suck it! We don’t need you here anymore! But tomorrow and next day, we are acknowledging both the good and bad of the past year in my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 3) and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 4). I am super excited to release these lists because yes, I enjoy doing them. For my best list, it is actually something positive about 2020, and with the worst list, I can burn this year to the ground where it belongs. In all seriousness, congrats to the filmmakers and studios who released a film this year. Your work has hopefully delighted, entertained, and amused audiences either in a theater, maybe on the subway, on a small screen on a plane, or at home. But most importantly, you provided an escape, which may be the most important thing about film right now. We all need a trip away from reality, and these films have helped me and many others take journeys to many magnificent places, real or fictional. I’m excited to reveal my top picks, they’ll be up next week, stay tuned! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, check out the Facebook page, and stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “News of the World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hanks film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

I’m Your Woman (2020): Gone with Baby, Gone

“I’m Your Woman” is directed by Julia Hart (Fast Colors, Stargirl) and stars Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards), Arinzé Kene (The Pass, Youngers), Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us, Orange Is the New Black), Bill Heck (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Leftovers), Frankie Faison (Banshee, The Wire), Marceline Hugot (The Detour, United 93), and James McMenamin (Orange Is the New Black, Nurse Jackie). This film takes place in the 1970s, where a housewife is forced to go on the run with her baby after her husband betrays his partners. She has to deal with personal struggles, meeting unfamiliar people, endless questions amongst herself, and life or death situations.

“I’m Your Woman” has been out for almost a month, and it is currently free on Prime Video for all subscribers. I was going to watch this film early. In fact I remember obtaining a virtual link, but I decided to skip it as I have my Prime subscription handy. So I waited until now to watch the movie. Aside from exposure to this film through getting an advance screening email, I did watch one trailer when I saw “Mank” in the cinema. It kind of looked like a goldilocks thriller type film. What do I mean by that? Let’s take the three bears. It’s that basic analogy with the porridge. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. This was a thriller did not look like it was either too bombastic or too slow. This felt even tempered. Prior to putting on “I’m Your Woman,” I cannot say I knew too too much about the film, even though I did sit through that one trailer.

Was “I’m Your Woman” worth my time? I’d say it was. When it comes to thrillers this year, I do think there are better films. “Unhinged” is one such example, mainly because of its simple, relatable concept. It’s also got nothing on my favorite thriller of the year, “Tenet,” which admittedly will likely end up having more replay value than any other film of 2020 for me. I cannot compare it to “Run,” which a lot of people have seen recently, which I tried watching, but apparently Hulu was acting up and showing giant pixels and a large area of black instead of the film. Regardless of my comparisons and desire to have my movies work, “I’m Your Woman” is a hypnotizing couple of hours. It’s kind of slow at times, but there are also certain moments where the gears turn and everything speeds up. It’s a perfect blend, hence the recent goldilocks comparison.

This movie takes place in the 1970s, and I got that vibe right away. When the movie starts we see the main family in their home, they have this funky-looking wallpaper, everything is yellow, the kitchen looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss tale, and I think the art and production design department did a really good job at encapsulating the 1970s. Aside from that, you have all these older cars, there’s a crucial scene where our main hero uses a payphone booth as a hiding spot, and there are some key elements to the story that are well captured through our main character’s struggles and desires that define the time.

We live in an era today where women are all “You can do it,” and “Go get em’, girl!” People say that to women all the time now. And while the 1970s were not as restrictive to women as say earlier parts of the 20th century, the movie displays its specific time frame as a point when many women seem to typically be a housewife. They tend to stay home all the time, doing chores, cleaning, that sorts of stuff, and the man of the house tends to go out and bring home the bacon. And of course, the couple has a kid, so while the man is out, our main hero, Jean, is doing all she can for the child. Throughout the movie, while the couple is separated, Jean not only has to deal with the child that has been with her for a period of time, but now she is in the seemingly unfamiliar situation of being isolated, being alone. I felt for her. Having a kid is hard enough. Losing a partner who helped raise the kid is just another big blow. I do not think Rachel Brosnahan is going to win an Oscar for this film. For all I know, some awards outlet might recognize her, but she does a really good job at playing the main character.

Let’s talk about Arinzé Kene in this film. Kene plays a character named Cal who has a significant presence throughout. I’m very conflicted on this character. For the record, he’s written properly, every motivation and line regarding this character makes sense and does not feel illogical. At the same time, when I first saw him, I got an uneasy first impression. What do I mean? I did not agree with everything he did. But at the same time, everything about him falls into place and Kene’s performance is justifiably competent. If I had to compare this character and the actor’s performance to anything else, I’d have to use the Amazon movie, “Gringo.” For those of you who don’t remember Gringo, there’s this one character played by Charlize Theron. She’s a great actress, I like her in a lot of stuff she’s in, and the same can be said for “Gringo.” But what can also be said for “Gringo” is that Charlize Theron does a spectacular job playing a character I absolutely hated. It’s one of the few positives in that film. Maybe it’s because she’s good looking, who knows? Charlize Theron is an attractive woman, there is no doubt about that.

If there is anything else that stands out about “I’m Your Woman” it is the pacing. “I’m Your Woman” is a very… I don’t what other term I can use, uneventful kind of film. I don’t mean that literally, things do happen. But the buildup in each scene feels slow, it takes its time. And for the kind of thriller we’re dealing with here, it works. It kind of feels like “No Country for Old Men” meets “Blade Runner” if both those things took place in the 1970s. There are a couple cool action scenes that do not try to go over the top, but that is what makes them great. They’re not overstylized, but that grabbed my attention.

I also liked this one character named Evelyn. She’s played by Marceline Hugot and she’s kind of this charming, older woman. She almost sounds like a stereotypical cat lady. She’s got that Amy Sedaris type voice, the wrinkly hair, and she barely has a presence in the film, and while I won’t go into too much detail, there is one scene that was somewhat enhanced by her presence.

In the end, “I’m Your Woman” is worth watching and a fine slow burn through the 1970s. Vibe-wise, this movie kills. It is a great encapsulation of the time. Character-wise, I liked most of them, but there are a select few that I will end up discarding by the end of the year. I think this film did a great job at highlighting the struggles of our protagonist, and Rachel Brosnahan did excellent at enhancing said struggles. However, I do not think this is a film that I will watch again anytime soon. I will not rule it out. Maybe it could be one of those films that I could have on at 2AM if I have trouble falling asleep. This does have action, but it is also slow-paced enough to have some empty air. And thankfully, the empty air does not feel out of place. I am going to give “I’m Your Woman” a 7/10.

“I’m Your Woman” is now available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers. The film also had a theatrical release at the start of the month, but I do not think it is playing in any cinemas right now, partially due to the pandemic leaving some venues closed, but also due to other movies taking up slots. Give this a watch!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Tom Hanks film “News of the World” which is exclusively in theaters right now, but will likely appear on VOD very soon. Also, I plan to make “News of the World” my final 2020 movie review before I unveil my picks for the top 10 BEST and WORST movies of the year! Those lists will be up in early January! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “I’m Your Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, what have you been watching on Prime this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fatale (2020): Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank Liven Up an Engaging (But Occasionally Predictable) Thriller

Fatale (2020) - IMDb

“Fatale” is directed by Deon Taylor (Meet the Blacks, Black and Blue) and stars Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Insomnia), Michael Ealy (Think Like a Man, About Last Night), Mike Colter (The Good Wife, Luke Cage), and Geoffrey Owens (The Cosby Show, Lucifer). This film is about a married man who has a one night stand in Las Vegas with a woman named Valerie (Swank), only to have an incident happen in his household upon returning, and he soon finds himself in the center of a police investigation, where Valerie just so happens to be part of the department.

Deon Taylor - IMDb

“Fatale” comes to us from Deon Taylor, the same filmmaker who brought us last year’s “Black and Blue,” which I saw at a press screening. I’ll start this review off simple, I thought that this was a more entertaining experience than “Black and Blue.” I am not going to deny that the movie has its audience, it just wasn’t what I wanted. I thought it occasionally got a little too over the top, the supporting characters where nowhere near as charismatic as I’d probably want them to be, and I think I have forgotten a good chunk of the movie by now. It might take some time to determine whether I will ultimately remember or forget “Fatale” but there is no denying that this film is fun, lively, and kind of sexy. I knew going in that this sort of centered around a one night stand, I did not expect it to be as erotic as it was, and I give the film props for that.

When it comes down to everything, the real core of the film is the newfound relationship between Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank. They’re both in Las Vegas for alternate reasons, but despite their differences, they find each other charming and decide to hook up. Also, talk about good casting. I really like Michael Ealy as his character, I think Hilary Swank did a good job as her character, and I must say, Hilary Swank’s got that vibe of that fantasy woman that all men kind of want to a degree. They think about her, they dream about her, and they’ll do anything to have her in their life. Hilary Swank kind of feels eternally young to a certain point, and I think whoever thought about casting her deserves kudos.

But in all seriousness, I really liked Swank’s character. Despite what I previously said, Hilary Swank does more in “Fatale” than just be a seductive, dreamy, pretty face. That’s not to say that she does not do that well. She actually does so brilliantly, but the movie goes in and gives a lot of depth to her. I cared about her story, and at times I felt for her, even though much of the movie presents her as an interference to our main hero. She’s separated, she has kids, and she can’t see them. I am not a parent, but I imagine for some parents, that sort of feeling is not the greatest. This separation has her uneasy, she’s hoping things change, and it overall plays a factor into the plot and where things go from one point to the next.

There are a lot of genuinely good, classy scenes in “Fatale.” The scene where our two leads first meet is kind of sensual and fun, and really lets in the vibe that sticks around for the rest of the film. I think the part where they are in the hotel room makes for a rather entertaining moment as well and goes to show that the casting department did their job. Pretty much almost any scene with these two together does not disappoint, whether it is strictly plot related or just something in between. However I will admit, the movie does get to a point where I could predict what happens next, and guess who has two thumbs and is always right?

*points* THIS GUY!

This movie does not have the worst screenplay in the world. In fact for the most part, it is pretty decent. I think it provided for a thumbs up-worthy movie. But there is one moment that I saw coming from a mile away, and I guess the movie wanted it to be this grand thing that is kind of a revelation. I just thought to myself, “Okay, whatever.” I like being right when I play “Wheel of Fortune,” but I also like being surprised when I watch a movie. I want my expectations subverted. I want the movie to go in a direction that I am not expecting. Granted, I have seen a lot of movies, and the art form has been around for a hundred years, so sometimes it is hard to come up with something new and innovative, but I would like to see people try doing such a thing.

“Fatale” also has some pretty solid action. At times, it is not just the action itself, not just the physicality that makes these sorts of scenes great, but it is also the dialogue, there is a scene towards the end of the movie that sort of had me oohing to myself. I mean, if this scene were a rap battle, you could argue that it is pretty fierce, pretty heavy-hitting. Although it does not take away from the excitement of the combat, the shootouts, but when a movie can interweave great dialogue into a fight, you know they are doing something right. And it may also reveal that the screenwriter, also known as David Loughery, has done his job to make a compelling story. Granted, it is also slightly predictable, as I have previously exposed, but it it is nevertheless compelling.

One last thing, speaking of action, I also really like the scene where Derrick and his wife Micaela are being robbed. You get a sense of mystery throughout, the lighting fits the moment, and the way they went about this scene kind of reminded me of a horror movie. You know how sometimes a horror movie might have a person or object coming out of nowhere? They did something of that nature here, and it kind of works. Not only is this movie white knuckle, not only is it erotic, but it is also a tad intimidating. It’s overall a good mix, even if the intimidation does not last that long.

In the end, “Fatale” was a good time. Usually this is the time of year where we are just getting into the awards season for film. The Golden Globes are around the corner. The Oscars are not too far away. The SAGs are also coming soon. The Critics Choice Awards are also on the list somewhere. Unfortunately, these sorts of shows are getting pushed back and as a result, this December seems lackluster for the kind of bait that these award shows eat up. Sadly, “Fatale” does not fit into the awards sphere, at least I would not say so. Maybe Hilary Swank has a small chance, but even that seems slim. At the same time, if you want pure entertainment, do not miss “Fatale.” This is not the next “Citizen Kane” or anything, but it can keep you occupied for less than a couple hours. I am going to give “Fatale” a 7/10.

“Fatale” is now playing wherever theaters are open. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This Friday, I am going to see “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks. The film is getting tons of praise from critics and audiences, and Hanks usually impresses around this time of year, so I hope that he can continue delivering the goods with this movie. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the official Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Fatale?” What did you think about it? Or, since Hilary Swank was in two films in 2020, which one did you like better? “The Hunt” or “Fatale?” Personally, I could not stand “The Hunt,” so that makes this deliberation that much easier. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Promising Young Woman (2020): I Promise, This Is Thrilling

“Promising Young Woman” is written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown, Call the Midwife), and this is her feature length directorial debut. This film stars Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade, The Big Sick), Alison Brie (The Disaster Artist, Glow), Clancy Brown (The Goldbergs, Billions), Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie, Joey), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black, TRANSform Me), and Connie Britton (Spin City, Nashville). This film follows a young woman, like the title suggests, as she tries to get revenge on people she finds herself coming across after reflecting on an event from her past.

This holiday has brought a couple big movies to the masses, “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul.” I’ve seen the latter, and it is good. Not great, but good. Although it is a disappointment by Pixar standards. I also saw “Wonder Woman 1984,” but I won’t share my thoughts yet as it is going to be my next review. These two big films are not specifically theatrical exclusives in the United States. “Wonder Woman 1984” is playing on the big screen wherever theaters are open and on HBO Max while “Soul” is exclusively on Disney+. On the other hand, “Promising Young Woman” is a film that is currently a theatrical exclusive (even though it should land on VOD soon). What did I think of “Promising Young Woman?”

I think “Promising Young Woman” is a damn good time. If anything, I was quite surprised with how it turned out. Partially because the way I interpreted the film, given how I knew there was a revenge plot in it, would happen to be sort of similar to John Wick, but with vastly different issues at hand. But it is not, the beauty of the film is not in the physicality, not in the things people do, not in the action. After all, if you go in expecting a “John Wick”-like action film, your expectations may be a little subverted. The beauty of “Promising Young Woman” lies within a couple aspects. The dialogue, most of which was good. And the editing, all of which was excellent. This film is edited marvelously and provides for a unique flair at times. They take a slight core aspect of the film and use it to separate key moments, and the execution for this feels bold and manages to be delivered with a commanding presence.

By the way, this film is edited by Frédéric Thoraval, who has experience with editing not only a revenge story, but one of the best revenge stories ever filmed, with 2008’s “Taken.” “Promising Young Woman” is another killer flick to add to his resume. Then again, he also edited 2018’s “Peppermint,” which basically is kinda sorta “Taken” except that Jennifer Garner is in the spotlight, not Liam Neeson. And as an overall revenge story, it leaves much to be desired. I’ll say, Thoraval did a fine editing job, however. With the editing in “Promising Young Woman,” a lot the highlights seem to spark from a personal touch from director Emerald Fennell. A touch that only she could have conceptualized. However, it does not take away from the fact that the editing seems to make for one of the best parts of the film.

Let’s talk about the main character of the film, Cassandra. First off, Carey Mulligan is going to be a talk of the town during awards season. She knocked her performance out of the park, and she also looked the part too. Her character lives at home with her parents despite being at a crucial point in her twenties, and she does not seem to have any desire to leave. Speaking of desires, we see early on in the film that Cassandra does not have a lust for anyone else. We see that when she goes out to a nightclub, and what happens afterwards that sort of plays a crucial part in the film. We also see this with her interactions with Ryan, played wonderfully by Bo Burnham. Although she does keep herself occupied by working in a coffee shop, so she has that going for her. At the same time however, Cassandra had a path for herself building up in medical school, but she dropped out. In fact, the film even establishes that Cassandra’s parents are worried for her, they want her out of their life, they want her to meet a guy, fall in love, move out. They even get her a gift that basically symbolizes this. She gets the message right away.

One of my favorite screenwriters is Quentin Tarantino, not only because of his personal touch with each script he does, but also because in a film like “Pulp Fiction,” it basically makes fun of not only how movie scenes play out, but maybe even taps into how reality plays out. There’s this scene where Uma Thurman and John Travolta are eating together at a diner and they talk about awkward silences. That’s a fun scene that pokes at the way we communicate. There are one or two moments early on that evoke the same vibe. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it lands, it lands.

Except for a few minor problems that I have with certain lines that maybe do not fit, “Promising Young Woman” delivers one of the better screenplays of the year, and part of why I love it so much is not only because it sort of taps into our reality where it dives into why some men are pigs, why women want to defend themselves, but also because of how subversive it is. Yes, I talked earlier about how I went into “Promising Young Woman” sort of expecting “John Wick” with different issues at hand, and that’s not entirely what I got. Now I should say, I view “John Wick” as a quintessential modern thriller, so that’s part of why I used that example. But that’s not what I’m talking about. This movie has twists and turns, none of them feel shoehorned, forced. or out of place. I feel like this is a story that Emerald Fennell took her time on. This feels like a passion project. I have no idea if Fennell plans to make her career behind the camera as prominent, or perhaps more prominent, than the one she has in front of the camera. But if she is up to make another film, I am there. This was a good time.

In the end, “Promising Young Woman,” I promise you, is quite excellent. This had an intriguing beginning, some fun buildup, and a satisfyingly subversive ending. The cast offer some good performances, but Carey Mulligan is the star of the show and may be a talking point during awards season. If you like thrillers, if you like twists, if you like fine writing, and solid directing, do not miss this movie. I am glad I took the opportunity to see it, and I have a feeling many of you reading this will too. I am going to give “Promising Young Woman” a 9/10.

“Promising Young Woman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. There is currently no announced date for when this film will hit video on demand, but given how this film is from Focus Features, which is owned by Comcast, which also owns Universal, the film should debut on video on demand very soon.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” which is now available in theaters and on HBO Max. I might also review one or two more films by the end of the year, possibly “Fatale” or “News of the World,” but we shall see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Promising Young Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, is there a movie that you’re looking forward to that could make some noise during awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Greenland (2020): A Perfect Distraction From a Virus-Infused Reality: The End of the World

“Greenland” is directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch, Angel Has Fallen) and stars Gerard Butler (300, How to Train Your Dragon), Morena Baccarin (Deadpool, Firefly), Roger Dale Floyd (Stargirl, Doctor Sleep), Scott Glenn (Daredevil, The Leftovers), David Denman (The Office, Parenthood), and Hope Davis (Captain America: Civil War, For the People). The film centers around a family who make up a fraction of the many observers of Clarke, a comet that enters the earth’s atmosphere, makes a rough landing, and all of a sudden we have a race against time to survive and get to safety.

I live in the state of Massachusetts, and our cinemas were allowed to reopen over the summer. Over the trips I took to the golden gates of film, one of the trailers that caught my attention, not to mention the attention of my dad, was “Greenland.” After all, we were sitting in a giant IMAX together waiting to watch “Tenet.” And on comes this constant outburst of CGI destruction and debris. The auditorium turned into a dying planet, essentially. We both agreed, this would be AWESOME in the theater. So I figured I would keep this film in mind for the day it finally arrives.

Well, it didn’t.

At the last minute, STX decided to release the film on VOD in the United States, where it is available right now for a $19.99 rental fee. I did not end up buying the film on VOD, mainly because I attended an early virtual screening of “Greenland” this past Tuesday. So I watched the film on my laptop, which was quite a downgrade from the theater, but I at the very least got to see it in the comfort of my bedroom.

As much as I would love to judge this film based on my experience of watching it in the theater, I can’t. So instead, allow me to declare that if you are watching “Greenland” on a phone, a laptop (like I did), or a tablet… What are you doing with yourself?! You’re wasting your time! Watch “Greenland” on the biggest screen you can! Get that 65″ 4K with HDR television set running! Hook up that mighty projector! Rent out a private screen somewhere where you can hook up your Roku! Just do it! This movie deserves the biggest screen and highest quality sound system possible, because it truly is an experience. While it is not the most Shakespearean film of the year in terms of concept, “Greenland” handles its simple story effectively, all the while delivering a technical blast from start to finish. There are a couple moments in this film that looked like “Blade Runner 2049” if Michael Bay stepped in and directed it.

Although, don’t take that Shakespearean comment too seriously, because speaking of not taking things too seriously, this movie went beyond my expectations. I was expecting “Greenland” to be your typical apocalyptic, end of the world disaster film where serious s*it goes down. The visual scope of the ruin and constant downturn of everything takes the front seat while story and characterization are pushed back to the bus. Nope! This movie is better than not only it deserves to be, it’s better than what we as a society deserve after this wreck of a year. I can tell you right now, this December could be a haven for film lovers. Between this, “Soul,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “News of the World,” and more, we could have a great end to the year for film.

I really admired the chemistry between the main family. You have John Garrity (Gerard Butler), a Scottish structural engineer. His estranged wife, Allison Garrity (Morena Baccarin), who happens to live with her kid Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). They’re all great as their respective characters and I liked them individually not to mention when they are all together. This film just came out, so I will not dive into spoilers, but one of the main continual conflicts that comes up between this trio feels like something that would happen during a disaster like the one presented in “Greenland.” Not to mention, the way they deal with said conflict feels natural, especially since the movie reveals that they are not the only ones dealing with said conflict. There is a moment when everything starts to unfold, just when these three begin to escape to safety, that sets the tone for what’s to come and it represents the everlasting desire to survive, to be safe. What exactly happens during this moment plays out during the movie multiple times, and is used to great effect. I will not say much, once again. But this is just part of why this movie is so well written, even if it may be marketed as a mindless, popcorn disaster film. It takes time to allow us to get to know our characters. It allows us be in the moment with them. It allows us to appreciate them. So every moment they are in peril, it sort of hits me.

While this movie has a terrific trio of protagonists, they say that stories are usually as good as its villains. Now, “Greenland” does not specifically contain one main antagonist or villain that our heroes must go up against. Instead, it’s more of a race against time. It’s a race against fragments of a comet. Although there are people along the way that do present themselves as a threat. And the way these people are handled within the script is marvelous. I say so because “Greenland” mainly focuses on these three people, but everyone else has the same motive. Specifically, to survive. They will literally do anything even if it means killing someone, harming someone else, affecting a certain portion of their lives. Every villain is the hero of their own story, and “Greenland” is a great encapsulation of such a statement.

This film cost $35 million to make, and I’d say that every penny was spent wisely. This movie did a great job at feeling like a bigger budget disaster flick that pulls no punches and unleashes mass destruction, but with a great emphasis on character development. The production value of the film is stunning and each frame does not disappoint. This should not surprise me as this film comes from STX Entertainment, and they do a lot of mid budget stuff. They have done “Hardcore Henry,” an immersive film that resembles a first person shooter. That cost $2 million to make, by the way! Admittedly, it could have been better, although I give it props for being unique. They did “Bad Moms,” a comedy starring Mila Kunis which… Yeah, that also could have been better. I also won’t leave out “Peppermint” starring Jennifer Garner, which… yes… That could have, just as well… been better. I think I’ve only seen a couple films from STX that I seriously admired, but that’s not the point. The point is, these movies typically utilize middle of the road or somewhat smaller budgets but still have plenty of production value intact. “Greenland,” given its subject matter, is no exception to this rule. At times it feels like it has the budget of a “John Wick” sequel, but in reality, it doesn’t. Although to be fair, this movie is from the same producer of the “John Wick” franchise, Basil Iwanyk. I’m glad that “Greenland” is willing to focus on its story instead of relying on constant special effects that slightly sacrifice characterization.

If I had any problems with “Greenland,” I will say that the best parts of the film are during the first and third acts. This is not a diss on the second act, which has some really solid moments, but there’s a point where we as an audience are perhaps allowed to breathe, and while that may have been the intention, I was a little bored at this point in the film. Other than that, “Greenland” is a great time. I’d say give it a watch. I know $19.99 is not the best price for renting a movie, but if you do ever get the chance to watch it, do so on the biggest screen you can.

In the end, “Greenland” is a welcome surprise that deserves the best picture and audio quality possible. It’s a disaster. People run. Things fall from the sky. Civilians die. That’s what I expected, and that’s what I got. However, this film amazingly offers more substance than I anticipated. STX is admittedly not my favorite studio working today, but this may be their best film. Either this or “The Edge of Seventeen,” I need some time to think. Gerard Butler and the rest of the cast sell their roles, the film makes a disaster look pretty, and if you are tired of your current reality where a virus is constantly spiraling. Why not watch the end of the world? Sounds like fun, right? I’m going to give “Greenland” an 8/10.

“Greenland” is now available on premium VOD services. Examples include Xfinity On Demand, Google Play, AMC Theatres On Demand, and Prime Video where you can rent it for $19.99.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “Monster Hunter.” That will be available next week, that is if I have any brain cells left. Only time will tell. I also want to remind you that I bought tickets to see “Wonder Woman 1984” in the theater on December 27th. I will not be reviewing the movie right away when it comes on HBO Max, because I want to see it with my dad and sister, and I want to go in with a fresh perspective. I also want to remind you that we are quickly approaching the end of the year, and I want to publicly announce that two of the first posts you’re getting next year are my annual countdowns for the best and worst films of the year! So on the first day, you’ll be getting my top 10 BEST movies of 2020. And on the second day, you’ll be getting my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. Yes, those are coming! The year is not over yet, I still have some films to watch. So the lists are not final. But I cannot wait to share those lists with you all, I enjoy doing them. If you want to see those lists and other great content, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Greenland?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Gerard Butler movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!