Missing (2023): This Kinda Sorta Sequel Spinoff to Searching Cannot Compete with the Novelty of Its Counterpart

“Missing” is directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, both of whom edited the 2018 film “Searching.” This film stars Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time, 12 Years a Slave), Joaquim de Almeida (Good Morning, Babylon, 24), Ken Leung (Old, Lost), Amy Landecker (Transparent, Project Almanac), Daniel Henney (My Lovely Sam Soon, The Wheel of Time), and Nia Long (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Boyz in the Hood). This film centers around a young girl named June whose mom goes on a getaway. When June goes to the airport to pick her mom up at a time she was scheduled to arrive back from said getaway, she is nowhere to be seen. This leads June down a spiral of questions, searches, and wonders as to what happened to her mom and what she could be up to via the internet.

This film is from the editors of “Searching,” which I missed during its original release. In fact, despite having a pass to a press screening for this film, I took it almost neglecting the fact that I still have not seen “Searching.” I felt guilty. I heard good things about it and the concept itself sounded unique. Having watched the film the week of said screening, I can confirm the execution is exactly that. A good movie with a unique concept. Naturally, this made me more excited for “Missing.” I was also glad to know that this was from people who were involved with “Searching.” Part of what made that original film so watchable is its ability to multitask. “Searching” has the ability to juggle a quick pace, a wonderfully twisty narrative, and great characterization without the use of full-fledged cameras. I thought this was shockingly well done. In my best movies of 2022 list, I said “Everything Everywhere All at Once” stood out to me because of how much of a one of a kind concept it turned out to be. “Searching,” while not as great of a movie, sits in the same boat.

One of the greatest things about “Searching” was its ability to keep me interested in the story from start to finish despite the unique, perhaps gimmicky filmmaking style. “Missing” nails the start, but as we get closer to the finish, my interest levels waned. Part of it is because this film missed (no pun intended) something that “Searching” had through its full runtime. Each moment in “Searching” felt like something that could actually happen. Each conversation, every action. All of it felt real. Despite some occasionally juicy material, everything that happened came off within the definition of verisimilitude. That said, the first half sold me before we get into some shark jumping moments that ultimately reduced my enjoyment. I did not hate this movie. To say I hated “Missing” would be a hyperbole. But it is also a movie where the flaws stand out just as much as its wins.

The wins for “Missing” would be the performances. Every actor does a good job in this movie. Storm Reid carries this film from start to finish, but it does not mean the supporting roles filled by actors like Joaquim de Almeida and Nia Long were not worthy of my praise. Giving some specification on the latter, I bought the chemistry both between Nia Long and Storm Reid, in addition to Long and Ken Leung, who plays her love interest. The love Long’s character gives to both individuals, even if there is some tension between them and the protagonist, feels genuine.

If there are any other wins, I did find the film surprisingly humorous. Although between both movies, I laughed more during “Searching.” That said, like “Searching,” there were a couple moments that showcase jokes that poke fun at some of the ways we use technology or some of the things we use technology for. There were a couple laughs from me and the rest of my audience.

I loved the use of the screen technology in “Searching.” Not only because of its uniqueness, but how it was used. While “Missing” definitely does not have as many visual effects as “Avatar: The Way of Water,” there are moments where this film has a larger than life feel to it. But this is a rare case where I am using that as a negative. This is especially true in the climax. Larger than life can have numerous meanings. In this case, the meaning applies to how far-fetched the climax felt at times. While there is a moment where my crowd erupted in applause, I on the other hand remained silent because I did not believe what was happening on screen felt like it belonged in a picture like this. I have watched movies where I was able to suspend my disbelief because while I knew what was happening is not realistic in our universe, the movie’s rules made me think it could happen there.

In fact one of my negatives regarding “Missing” is how the movie attempts to connect to “Searching.” This movie just came out, therefore I am going to be as spoiler free as I possibly can, but there is a television program in the film. Not a real program, but one that exists within this film’s universe, that starts off as something that sounds legitimate within the lore. But by the end of the film, it comes off as a cheap joke. I mean that in more ways than one. The end of this film, while it has glimmers of entertainment, feels loosely strung together like a last minute project for a high school class I deemed less important than the others. It did not have the satisfying oomph the filmmakers seemed to be going for. If anything it felt out of place, abrupt, and maybe even a bit lazy. I am not asking for every aspect of “Missing” to be just like its original counterpart, but my hope was for this movie to take what was great about “Searching” and have a story that kind of stands on its own. “Missing” does both those things, but it does not make the story interesting. Before my screening started, they had a promo suggesting that this movie is full of twists and turns. That should be a good thing, right? It could have been. But it did not help that the twists and turns ranged from out of the blue to highly illogical. What do I think about “Missing?” Well, to put it short, something was missing.

In the end, while I did not despise “Missing,” it is definitely no “Searching.” I would much rather watch “Searching” a second time than pop this movie on again. I thought Storm Reid did a great job leading this movie. Her performance and character stood out. The cast is great. The concept, while a reversal of the original, lends itself to some decent ideas. I just wish they belonged in a better narrative. I am going to give “Missing” a 5/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! I know I am in the minority when it comes to this movie. The reviews for this film so far have been mostly positive from both critics and audiences. For some reason it did not work for me. But that is the beauty of film. Speaking of films, next weekend I will be watching “80 for Brady.” The brand new movie about four elderly women who will do anything to see a Tom Brady-led New England Patriots play in the Super Bowl. 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 “Missing?” What did you think about it? Also, did you see “Searching?” Tell me your thoughts on that film as well! Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Babylon (2022): Damien Chazelle Delivers Another Art-Celebrating, Captivating Ride

“Babylon” is directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, First Man) and stars Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Bullet Train), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), Diego Calva (Narcos: Mexico, Unstoppable), Jean Smart (Frasier, Hacks), Jovan Adepo (Fences, The Leftovers), and Li Jun Li (The Exorcist, Wu Assassins). This film is set in Hollywood during the transition from silent films to talkies. Throughout, the story showcases the chaotic rise and fall of multiple personalities living during said time.

Much like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle is one of my favorite directors working today. He has not built as much of a legacy as these three, but depending on how many more stellar projects he can crank out, he is well on his way to becoming one of the greats. In fact, I love him not only as a director, but as a writer. In addition to writing some of the projects he directed, “Babylon” being one example, he also wrote “Grand Piano,” an intense thriller starring Elijah Wood with edge of your seat pacing and incredible music. Speaking of which, part of what made me appreciate Chazelle as a filmmaker is how much his projects delightfully showcase a noticeable appreciation for the arts. “Whiplash” is a fantastic film about an aspiring jazz drummer who has to deal with an obnoxious teacher. His follow-up, “La La Land” is about an aspiring musician and actress who have their own passions they want to turn into careers, but within the magical oasis of Los Angeles, they spend time together and fall in love. His newest film, “Babylon,” takes similar themes and elements presented in “La La Land” but intensifies them with drugs, nudity, and excessive partying.

Either way, “Babylon” is yet another one of Chazelle’s forays into the arts. This time around, this movie seems to have more similarities to “La La Land” than “Grand Piano” and “Whiplash.” Whereas those movies were entirely music-based, this is entirely film-based, with some glimmers of music-centered material sprinkled in. Much like “La La Land,” “Babylon” appears to be an awards season darling. Right now it has five Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.

“Babylon” is one of my most anticipated movies for the longest time. The director got me in the door, the story and time period appear to be fascinating, and the trailers impressed me. Whoever edited the first trailer has mad skills. But the real question is, what did I think of the movie? For starters, “Babylon” is not my favorite film of the year. In fact it is not even my favorite movie about movies that came out in 2022. It is also my least favorite film directed by Damien Chazelle. I think “Whiplash” is a better movie. I think “La La Land” is a better movie. I think “First Man” is a better movie. Judging by my words, you would think I would want my time and money back. If so, you thought wrong. Calling this my least favorite directorial effort by Damien Chazelle would be like choosing a least favorite film from Christopher Nolan. For the record, I know what that film is if I were to choose, and it would be “Insomnia.” But I also know that if there were an opportunity that rose to watch it on a Friday night, I would nevertheless take it. “Babylon” is not as rewatchable as “Whiplash,” not as captivating as “La La Land,” nor as thrilling as “First Man.” But I would still watch it a second time. “Babylon” has problems, but the positives of the film are as massive as the hopes and dreams of some of the people in this specific narrative.

Speaking of problems, it is time to get some of them out of the way. First and foremost, this film is too long. The runtime of “Babylon” is 3 hours and 9 minutes. For context, that is a few minutes shy of current box office hit “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which is 3 hours and 12 minutes. If I had to choose which of these two films used their few hour runtimes to a greater success, the answer would easily be “Babylon,” but as we got towards the climax, there was a point where I kind of begged for the movie to just stop. The film made its point with what the scene was trying to convey and as much as I do not mind this trend of movies about Hollywood, this scene may be the closest I have gotten to wondering if a story has overindulged in its Hollywood glory. I love Hollywood. I have been to Hollywood. I have seen shows tape in Hollywood. I even got to talk to people over the years who have some connection to Hollywood. This scene was too much.

If I have anything else that comes to mind, “Babylon” feels like two different movies. At one point, it is a marvelous blend between “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Then suddenly, it becomes a straight up drama where all the fun that has been delivered in prior moments tends to go away. The transition between these two aspects are not as seamless as I would have hoped. Around the thirty, forty minute mark, my dad and I were laughing nonstop. I almost knocked my popcorn into the recliner next to mine because of said laughter. A couple hours later, both of us are nearly silent. This would be fine if I found the dramatic moments as palatable as the humorous moments. Although I think the humorous, wild, outlandish moments are what will stick in my head when I think about this movie sometime in the future. Going back to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” one of that film’s strengths is that it felt like it had a pure center, a real heart of the story. That heart being actor and stunt double duo Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. This film almost cannot decide who the main character is, and while that at times provides for more than one attention-grabbing element of the plot, it also made the film feel cluttered. At one moment, you could make an argument that Nellie LaRoy (Robbie) is the main character. During another, you could argue that Jack Conrad (Pitt) is the main character. Meanwhile, you could also say the same for Manny (Calva). These characters, in fairness, are charismatic and well portrayed by their respective actors, but nevertheless. If you have to ask me, there is a main character, a protagonist if you will, in “Babylon.” But the way the story plays out makes it feel like multiple characters are competing for such a crown.

One reason why I love Damien Chazelle, as if the introduction did not already go into enough detail, is his ambition. When I first saw “La La Land,” I was wowed with the various numbers, the choreography, and wondered how they did the neverending opening shot. In his follow-up, “First Man,” which was already immersive enough, he shot the lunar sequence in IMAX, which allowed for one of the most breathtaking sights I have witnessed in that year of cinema. This time around, the sets are grand, full of life, color, and splendor. The amount of people taking up frames at times is not small. Damien Chazelle and crew clearly spared no expense. The costumes range from attractive to finely detailed. The locations look beautiful, or at certain moments to the film’s benefit, haunting. Some claim “Avatar: The Way of Water” is the CGI big screen monstrosity to see this winter. I would similarly claim that “Babylon” is the practical big screen treat to watch around the same time. As far as practicality in 2022 cinema goes, it is hard to beat “Top Gun: Maverick” just because of what was done to make that movie what it is, but “Babylon” comes close.

I already mentioned the main cast, between Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Diego Calva, is an utter hoot. They are one of the paramount reasons why this movie should be seen. Although some of this film’s supporting roles are standouts as well. Tobey Maguire does a great job playing James McKay. Katherine Waterston is a delight as Estelle, a partner of Jack Conrad. And while her name is on the poster, Jean Smart’s smaller role packs a giant, glorious punch. This is a movie where I not only think about the main characters and their standout moments, but certain individuals who are almost in the shadows who have significantly fewer lines, but the few lines that they do have stick out like a sore thumb.

One thing Chazelle has done well from one film to the next is providing some of the year’s best framing and cinematography. There are various long takes that astounded me, in addition to some creative angles. Again, considering the scope of “Babylon,” the film is not short on detail, such as the talent on screen. For this film, Chazelle once again teamed up with Linus Sandgren, whose shots range from screensaver-worthy to pupil-dilating. This could be a serious Best Cinematography contender based on lighting, camera tricks, and how much attractive detail is packed into each frame.

Speaking of reunions, Justin Hurwitz, another Chazelle mainstay, composed the score for “Babylon.” This score, while not my favorite from Hurwitz, is yet another banger. If there are two things that are clear about Damien Chazelle movies, is that they usually find some way to incorporate jazz, and Justin Hurwtiz will find a way to make that jazz as epic as possible. There is a tune that plays a few times in the film that had me nearly dance in my chair.

“Babylon” is also perhaps responsible for one of my favorite scenes of 2022. Before the halfway point of the film, we see Nellie LaRoy do a film where sound plays a key role. At the time, this was a fairly new concept. The execution of this scene was obnoxiously funny in all the right ways. Between the minor details like many people sweating like pigs on set, the attention to detail on the audio, the crew getting tired of having to be doing the same thing on repeat, and LaRoy just trying to keep herself together on something she was not used to doing, it maintained the film’s comedic spirit while also progressing the timeline. This scene, which prominently features Margot Robbie, highlights why “Babylon” could be a career-best performance for the talented star. Is she going to win an Oscar? Honestly, in a year where Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blanchett killed their roles in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Tár” respectively, I think Robbie has some fierce competition that could keep me from saying that. But it does not change the fact that it is not only the best performance of the movie in addition being a standout of Robbie’s resume.

Speaking of Robbie, one of the notable parts of the first “Babylon” trailer is when Robbie asks everyone if they want to see her fight a snake. Without going into detail, this scene went beyond my expectations of how engaging it could be. It is worth the price of admission. “Babylon” is a film that sets out to tell a big, grand story, sort of like the stories and stars the film itself showcases. In many ways, it succeeds. I would like to watch it again at some point.

In the end, “Babylon,” despite overstaying its welcome by the time it was in the climax, is a beautifully realized tale of old Hollywood that does not have a single bad frame, unlikable character, or real anger-inducing turnoff. There are problems with the film, as mentioned, but the positives of the film are also worth noting and make the problems feel nearly nonexistent. Damien Chazelle has done it again. Although if you want me to be honest, when it comes to Hollywood-based stories, “La La Land,” which Chazelle also wrote and directed, was the more watchable and satisfying production. Nevertheless, “Babylon” has a cast worth bragging about and humor that honestly surpasses some recent pure comedies that have been offered to moviegoers. I am going to give “Babylon” an 8/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next posts because we are doing my annual best and worst countdowns! My next post will be my top 10 WORST movies of 2022. If you have any interest in checking out a recent countdown I published, feel free to check out my picks for my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2023. 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 “Babylon?” What did you think about it? Or, do you have a favorite Damien Chazelle film? I like all of them, but “Whiplash” is easily my top pick. List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Devotion (2022): A Compelling, Soaring Journey with Fine Chemistry Between Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors

“Devotion” is directed by J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) and stars Jonathan Majors (Loki, Lovecraft Country), Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises, Hidden Figures), Christina Jackson (The Good Fight, Swaggers), Joe Jonas (Camp Rock, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian), Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, Life in Pieces), and Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Village). This film is based on a book by Adam Makos, and simultaneously inspired by true events during the Korean War. The story mainly centers around the bond between two naval pilots, Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown, as they navigate themselves through various periods during said war.

As a reviewer, it is hard not to compare one film to another. This is especially true considering how most of the movies I review are those that come out within the year of release, therefore I will sometimes say “x” film is similar to “y” flick, because “x” and “y” are at the movies at the same time or at similar times. It is a repetitive habit, but one I do not see myself quitting anytime soon because they involve movies that continue to be on people’s minds, including my own. “Devotion” is no exception to this rule because it released about a half a year after one of the most successful films in a long time, “Top Gun: Maverick.” I am not saying that “Devotion” is a carbon copy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” In fact, it is far from it. For one thing, “Devotion” is based on a true story whereas “Top Gun: Maverick” is a fictionalized sequel. “Devotion” is also comparatively dramatic to “Top Gun: Maverick” despite the latter having glimmers of emotion.

This leads me to my first positive of “Devotion,” which is that the narrative kept me compelled from start to finish. Due to my country’s supposedly mediocre educational system, I maybe do not think about U.S. history as much as I should. I was thrilled with the story of “Devotion” to the point where I felt somewhat sorry for myself that I did not think about these pilots all that much earlier. What really helps this movie is not just having a story as solid as this, but having a duo of actors who are clearly meant to be together. Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors are two fine actors on their own, but if you put them together in a movie like this, the formula is bound to deliver something special. While there are better lead and supporting performances I have seen this year, I cannot think of many acting duos that are as memorable or likable as this one.

And no, this does not mean that this film fails to do what a lot of other war-set films like “Dunkirk” and “1917” manage to do effectively, which is immerse me into the environment of the war itself. Now, unlike those films, this is more of a story where we get to know the characters themselves and less of a run to the finish line for survival. I would not call this a bad thing, but if you are looking for a certain type of film, now you know which one you are in for.

I would say when it comes to the immersion factor though, I would say “Dunkirk” and “1917” did it better because those films felt like technical experiments or feats whereas “Devotion,” again, is an extended tale perhaps putting story and characterization in the forefront. However, the sound mixing is quite good and the aerial shots are occasionally nice to see in action. The film does not appear reinvent the wheel with its technical aspects, but is also pretty looking enough to be worth checking out in whatever theater it is playing in near you. I should note, that this film has been out for a month and it is not playing in a ton of locations near me, but it was worth the 20 minute trek to a nearby town.

Speaking of immersion, I was also kind of impressed with some of the production design. Part of the movie takes place in a French casino and it was all sandy yet rugged. The interior of Brown’s home is also a standout. Many of the locations in this film are impressive to say the least.

My favorite aspect of the narrative behind “Devotion” is probably not even anything having to do with war itself, which is prominently featured in the film. However my favorite parts of the film simply come through the training, all the preparation that went into the events that followed. To be specific, there are scenes where we see the pilots trying to land their plane. Usually when it comes to these war stories and films, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to the protagonist is how they deal with being on the battlefield. I love how effectively “Devotion” has not only brought stakes in terms of the fight itself, but all the work that leads up to it. We see Jesse Brown nervous not because he anticipates he is going to get killed by the opposition, but because he fears he cannot land his own plane. Going back to “Top Gun: Maverick,” much of that movie, like its predecessor, is about training to fight an enemy and less about fighting the enemy itself. What makes “Devotion” work is how effectively the training, which reminded me of “Top Gun: Maverick” at times but with a more serious vibe, was executed in terms of the story and how that made everything in terms of the actual conflict that lied ahead more exciting.

There are not many major problems I have with “Devotion,” although I do think a few of the supporting characters are somewhat unmemorable. The real highlights of the character lineup in “Devotion” are the two leads. Although I must also say Christina Jackson shines as Daisy Brown. Although on the military side, unless I went to IMDb to find out, I could not tell you anybody’s name or real descriptive aspects of their personality. Then again, the story is not about them, so this is somewhat forgivable. Although “Devotion” is a thrilling, entertaining story nevertheless, and it is one that if given the opportunity, you should check out.

In the end, when it comes to movies about the navy, “Devotion” is no “Top Gun: Maverick,” but if you are looking for a more serious take on the subject matter, this is a a story that is worth your time. I did not know what to expect with “Devotion,” but I left the film having had a fine experience. Glen Powell is solid, Jonathan Majors is excellent, and the story is one that kept me interested to the very last second. I am going to give “Devotion” a 7/10.

“Devotion” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Within a matter of days, I will be going to see one of my most anticipated movies in history. For the record, when I did my most anticipated movies of 2021 list, this made the #2 spot. Did I say 2021? Yes I did. It was supposed to come out then, but it got delayed to the following year. That film my friends, is “Babylon.” I know the film is not making a lot of money right now, but it is the kind of film that can get me in the door. I just have to find the right day to enter that door.

Also, I want to remind everyone that the end of the year is almost here, and pretty soon I will be counting down my best and worst films of 2022! I want to give a little housekeeping in advance and note that this year’s set of lists is going to be a little different, and it is inspired by a tactic from one of my favorite YouTube personalities, John Campea. This year, instead of doing my top 10 best list first, which I have always done in the past, I am going to start with the worst list. The reason for that is because I often share my best list first, leave it up for a day, and then the next, I am onto the worst, which has sometimes left me a break in regard to posting new material. Within that break, I have the worst list linked to my Instagram (realscenebefore) because Instagram hates links for some reason, and that means my Instagram followers might end up seeing my worst list for a longer period of time than my best. And on Scene Before I want people to remember me for what I love and not what I hate. I love doing the worst lists, and I will still do them, but I do not want to be a monster. That said, if you want to see these lists 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 “Devotion?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an acting duo from a movie this year that you enjoyed seeing? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Whale (2022): A Win for Acting, But a Loss For My Sanity

“The Whale” is directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Mother!) and stars Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, Crash), Sadie Sink (Stranger Things, The Glass Castle), Hong Chau (Downsizing, The Menu), Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3, Jurassic World), and Samantha Morton (John Carter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). “The Whale” is based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. This adaptation is about Charlie, an educator who teaches college courses online. As a result of losing his boyfriend, he has become reclusive and unhealthy to a point of great concern. Meanwhile, he attempts to reconnect with his daughter. Said daughter happens to be an individual he has not seen in person in years.

If I have seen a trailer for the “The Whale,” I would confirm it. But unless I missed it at a screening or I saw it once and could not retain it, I have yet to watch any marketing for “The Whale.” All I have heard about “The Whale” is that Brendan Fraser is great and he should be in the conversation for an Oscar. I may not be adding anything fresh by saying this, but he absolutely should be in said conversation.

That said, it should come as no surprise that my first positive with “The Whale” is that Branden Fraser’s performance is fantastic. I believed just about every second of what Fraser did on screen. In fact, if you want me to be frank, all the performances in the film are great. There are not many characters in this film, therefore everyone in the cast gets a chance to shine. Everyone from Brendan Fraser as Charlie to Sadie Sink as Ellie, Charlie’s daughter who had lived alone with her mom for years. Hong Chau is also great as Liz, a nurse who is the closest thing Charlie has to a friend. Every performance either floored me, compelled me, or at times, made my skin crawl.

Sadly, that last part of my statement, which in this case, is used as a positive, is something I would also use as a negative. This film emits a particular level of discomfort to the point where I do not see myself watching it a second time. The actors all do a great job in this film, and I mean everyone. Even a backseat character like Dan the Pizza Man, played by Sathya Sridharan, had my attention. The problem is the screenplay. The dialogue at times is cheesy, almost anger-inducing. The story itself has its ups and downs, but if there was not a part that felt oddly unhinged, there was one that came off as surprisingly predictable. Some of the characters themselves, despite being performed well, are not likable.

Despite what I said about Sadie Sink being a highlight of the film in terms of her performance, her character, Ellie, felt mean-spirited to the point of resembling a cartoon. If she gave off any particular vibe, she reminded me of Lil (Ariel Winter) from “The Last Movie Star,” another A24 movie I cannot recommend. From the first scene, Ellie starts off as an emotional wreck and this barely changes. There is a moment in this film where Charlie is struggling to move and Ellie just storms out the door. Sure, if you watch the scene, it is an early moment in the film where the two characters are not on the best terms, but regardless of how one feels about another personally, I do not see how Ellie could just leave. In this moment, Ellie just stands at the door, watching her father struggling to get off the couch, all the while knocking down a table. I am sorry, you lost me. What did she think, her father was putting on an act or something? Either way, in regard to Ellie, it gave me a terrible first impression.

Hong Chau gives a multi-dimensional performance as Liz. At one moment, she is frustrated at Charlie for refusing to go to the hospital, but in a split-second, her mood, believably, changes to that of someone with a warm heart. Chau’s sudden transitions feel seamless and do not interrupt the flow of the film whatsoever. Unlike Ellie, Liz is a somewhat respectable character and I felt attached to her, partially because she was a properly utilized voice of reason. Although if you want me to be real with you, if you want another Hong Chau film from this year to watch that is ten times better, do yourself a favor and skip “The Whale” and go watch “The Menu.” You will thank me later.

I do not mind depressing movies. Films like “Manchester by the Sea” stands out for how effectively its cast encapsulates a sense of unease throughout most of the runtime. “The Whale,” much like “Manchester by the Sea,” has a fantastic cast who play their characters to the best of their abilities. But in “Manchester by the Sea,” there are better characters and glimmers of entertainment that make the movie worth watching. “The Whale” is a film that tries to come off as depressing, but from my perspective, I see it as more frustrating than depressing. Because while the characters are depressed in “Manchester by the Sea,” I found myself enthused with the context of various scenes. As sadistic as this may sound, I enjoyed watching these characters going through their pain. I did not think it was a perfect movie, but it is certainly a watchable one. Unlike “The Whale,” I could see myself watching “Manchester by the Sea” another time. I have not done so since theaters, but even so, I could see myself putting it on the television in the future.

I have not seen the play which this film bases itself upon, but I could honestly imagine that is probably the better format for a story like this. Again, the performances carry the film, and I imagine that in a play version, they could be just as riveting. In addition, it is also set in one location, with most of it being set in Charlie’s living room. Sure, there are some moments that take place outside, but they are nevertheless within the confines of Charlie’s apartment. It is not like movies have not done the “one location” thing before, but even so, it provides an intimacy that would probably work best on a stage. Besides, you would might not have to change stuff around from one scene to another. Although I do like how the film was set in a 4:3 aspect ratio, as that adds to an intimate vibe in which the movie will occasionally nail.

In the end, “The Whale” is a lackluster story with annoying characters that feels somewhat surface level in regards to how it handles its serious subject matter. I could definitely see this film being a subject in acting classes, but that is one of the few notable things I can say about it. If it were not for Brendan Fraser and others in front of the camera carrying this film, it would probably not even be worth talking about. The acting is easily the best thing about “The Whale.” But just because you have great performances does not always mean you have a great narrative. My least favorite film of 2021, by a long shot, “Music,” has a pretty solid performance by Kate Hudson. But it is also a film that I would also consider terrible in addition to being downright offensive. While I would not consider “The Whale” to be as horrible as “Music,” it is not as good enough to give a second watch anytime soon. I should have left the theater crying out of sympathy for Charlie, but instead I left angry over the film’s final moments and how the writing nearly gave me a headache. I am going to give “The Whale” a 4/10.

“The Whale” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! To be frank, I do not know how many people are going to see “The Whale” by the end of the year. Although I am aware of another movie that has already earned a couple hundred million buck at the box office that a lot of people did see instead. And yes, I saw it too. For those who want to check it out, I have linked my review for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which coincidentally is another “whale” movie. 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 “The Whale?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Brendan Fraser movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Empire of Light (2022): A Cinematic Projection of Why Community and Connections Matter

“Empire of Light” is directed by Sam Mendes (1917, Spectre) and stars Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown), Michael Ward (The A List, The Old Guard), Monica Dolan (A Very English Scandal, Appropriate Adult), Tom Brooke (Preacher, Game of Thrones), Tanya Moodie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, A Discovery of Witches), Hannah Onslow (This Is Going to Hurt, Ridley Road), Crystal Clarke (Sanditon, Ordeal by Innocence), Toby Jones (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Hunger Games), and Colin Firth (1917, Kingsman: The Secret Service). This film is about a group of people living in 1980s England who work together at a cinema. Two of these people, specifically Hilary, the manager, and Stephen, a recent hire, develop a bond and take their connection to the point of a committed relationship.

There is a saying that Hollywood loves itself. Movies like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” highlight such a point. But while those movies are their calendar year’s shining example of “movie about movies” storytelling, 2022 is not short on these kinds of stories. “The Fabelmans,” which is based on Steven Spielberg’s youth, highlights the power of making movies. “Clerks III” doubles as a homage to Kevin Smith’s previous creations while also paying tribute to people want to create a film. I think it also shows how difficult such a process can be, both in front of and behind the camera. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” which stars Nicholas Cage as himself, pays tribute to various movies he made (and some he did not) while also poking fun at the way certain cinematic stories are told. “See How They Run” features a storyline where people want to turn a play into a motion picture. Later this month, “Babylon,” which is set in old Hollywood, will hit theatres. Some may call it self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or self-obsessed. Based on how I liked all these movies, minus “Babylon,” which I have yet to see, I would call it “writing what you know.” One thing is for sure, Hollywood knows movies.

While “Empire of Light” does not entirely highlight people making movies, it does highlight another important aspect of the filmmaking process, selling the movies. Most of this film takes place at a movie theatre. Not a modern day multiplex like AMC or Regal, but a small venue with a couple screens. The building itself looked beautiful. Similar to how “The Fabelmans” emits a certain magical feeling in regard to filmmaking itself, the cinema here emits an alike feeling to the point where just being inside it feels like an escape from your problems.

Despite being in a digital age where everything is at our fingertips, I am glad we still have movie theaters. In fact, I had the chance to watch “Empire of Light” at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, which if you are not from the Boston area, is a cinema in Brookline, Massachusetts that has some killer Art Deco vibes and a lot of history. It is a great place to see a movie. Watching a movie like this in a theater of that nature, the kind where they open and close the curtains before and after the movie, felt beautifully trippy. The best movies are those that take you to another world, and despite being in an older movie auditorium, I felt like I escaped into another auditorium somewhere else.

Joined by other casting standouts like Michael Ward, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth, “Empire of Light” is led by Olivia Colman, a talented actress who can do no wrong here. Unsurprisingly, she breaks both of her legs in this movie and maybe even a shoulder. I would not be surprised if she receives some chatter this awards season. She portrays Hilary, a cinema manager. From a written perspective, I would say Hilary is a kind of manager I would love to work for. She is competent, occasionally tough, but also fair. In short, she appears to want the best for everyone. Above all, she seems to be in her mojo whenever she happens to be at the cinema. I am kind of jealous of everyone who got to work at the cinema before the 21st century, partially because of what they seemed to provide. Cinemas nowadays still provide a wonderful experience. Also, large formats like Dolby Cinema and IMAX are great ways to enhance blockbuster presentations for example. But there is something about the cinema now, as magical as it is, and yet it seems that some of the magic might have been more evident in a time before Nicole Kidman tried to tell me that heartbreak feels good in a place like this. If I could transport myself to the cinema in this film, I would take the opportunity if it were presented to me.

This leads me to my next ounce of praise, the locations and overall look of the film. Again, the movie theater itself is lovely. It felt massive and at the same time, intimate. The rooftop, especially at night, is ingrained in my memory. There are also some beach scenes that looked crispy. Why should I be surprised? This is from the same director/cinematographer duo who also worked on “1917,” which looked gorgeous in its own right. Now, comparing the two films on a technical level seems unfair as “1917” was designed to look like most of it was done in a single take. But I would say “Empire of Light” is a solid follow-up.

Before I address my problems with the film, another compliment I must give to “Empire of Light” is the sound mix. Following what I said about the magic of the movies, the sound in this movie, is best heard in a theater. The levels could not be better or more immersive. That said, there is one sound I found particularly annoying. Partially because I heard it so many times in other content, but it makes at least seven appearances in this one movie. Do not take my word for it, but gosh does it feel like seven… I do not mind hearing seagulls, but hearing the same seagull sound effect after the fifth time took me out of the film, which is unfortunate considering how immersive the rest of the movie is. I will also address the story. It is not a bad story by any means, but it feels like all sparkle with very little shine. The performances are great, but the writing to support said performances lacks flair at times. I cared for the characters, but I cannot say I was as invested in them as other movies I saw recently.

I often make the assessment that every movie, even unforgivable garbage such as “Morbius,” will always be better in a theater. I will also note there are moments, like certain portions of the score, or one particular repeated sound effect during a scene three quarters of the way through the runtime, that are marvelously hard on the ears and build tension just by becoming the elephant in the room. This film is not as complicated as “Top Gun: Maverick,” but whoever did the sound mixing should be happy with how it came out. If you look at the box office nowadays, you may notice that films that partially rely on spectacle like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Jurassic World: Dominion” are usually the box office kings. Films that are of a tinier caliber like “Vengeance” or “The Fabelmans,” even though they might have have notable people in front of or behind the camera, do not do as well. I am part of the audience who goes to see spectacle fare like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” because the odds are that the big screen experience will be the ultimate way to experience those movies. If you are thinking of waiting to watch “Empire of Light” at home, there is no one stopping you. However, few movies have sounded or looked as good this year given the scale for which this movie aims. There is a reason why Roger Deakins, this film’s director of photography, has 15 Academy Award nominations attached to his name. I would not be surprised, depending on how well this movie does, if he gets nomination 16.

In the end, “Empire of Light” is not my favorite tribute to movies this year, but it is one of the more palatable ones. This has a look to it as attractive as “The Fabelmans,” and as weird as this may be to clarify, not as heartwarming or emotionally charging as “Clerks III.” Despite my slight negatives, I recommend this film. If you have a chance to see “Empire of Light” this weekend, take it. Go out and support this film. Sam Mendes gets a thumbs up from me on his first film after “1917.” I am going to give “Empire of Light” a very high 7/10.

“Empire of Light” is now playing in select theaters. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for the upcoming week, because “Avatar: The Way of Water,” finally hits theaters after 13 years of waiting. I already have my tickets for Thursday and I will share my thoughts on the film as soon as possible. These are words part of me never thought I’d say, but here we are. Here is hoping the film is worth the wait, and that it actually has a decent, memorable script this time around. Speaking of “films…” My next review is going to be for a film called “The Mean One.” For those who are not in the know, this is basically a gorier version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.” Is this film going to pack in all tons of Christmas spirit? Or did it make me green and icky? Find out in the next review! 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 “Empire of Light?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your movie theater of choice? I am an AMC A-List member, so there are a few AMC locations I usually go to, but one of my favorite places to see a movie is the Sunbrella IMAX at Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts. It is THE place for a big-budget film, and it is also where I will be watching “Avatar: The Way of Water” this Thursday. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fabelmans (2022): Why I Do What I Do

“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.

I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.

“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.

Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.

Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.

Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.

Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.

For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.

Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.

In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.

Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.

“The Fabelmans” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. 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 Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Two Thumbs Up, with All Fingers Intact

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and stars Colin Farrell (The Batman, Voyagers), Brendan Gleeson (The Tragedy of MacBeth, Assassin’s Creed), Kerry Condon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Better Call Saul), and Barry Keoghan (Eternals, Dunkirk) in a film where Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty, two men connected through lifelong friendship, face individual consequences through ending said bond.

I did not see a ton of marketing for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but I have been interested in the film since last month, when I started hearing about its many positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is currently holding a 98% critic score. Thus far, this is higher than McDonagh’s previous outings like “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” both of which also starred Colin Farrell. It is not surprising to see the actor come back to work alongside a director he has become close with. But it would help if the script he was given is strong. Thankfully, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a script that belongs on the cover of a health magazine. This is one of my favorite movies of the year and another win for Colin Farrell just after he killed it in this year’s “The Batman.”

The concept of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” specifically the dissolving of a lifelong friendship, is intriguing. This is especially true considering that it is the backbone of its story. The ending of a relationship comes off more like side consequence a protagonist goes through somewhere past the halfway point in numerous stories. It is the classic case of taking a protagonist and having them fall to their lowest point. Only that is not the case with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” because as we see, the protagonist, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) in this case, makes such a big deal out of it that the point practically flies over his head. It is like going to a restaurant, ordering a small pizza, being told that they do not have the ingredients to make pizza, but then going ahead and asking for a large pizza.

Despite this movie being a tale of loss in more ways than one, it is surprisingly funny. There are a number of great lines from multiple characters. Early on in the movie we get one of Colm’s few reasons why he does not find his friendship with Pádraic stable and he references the time Pádraic was talking about what he found in his donkey’s fecal matter. Colm may be onto something, except Pádraic was not talking about that. Pádraic says he was talking about his pony’s fecal matter, which as he puts it, shows how little Colm was listening. One particular confession scene past the halfway mark is also comedic gold. Little things like those make this movie worth the price of admission.

There is more to this simple concept than meets the eye. Because if this movie were about two former friends with differing perspectives as to where their relationship should go, it is possible that the story could get boring fast. Instead, the movie adds a complexity to the breakup that only makes things harder for the individual who declared the friendship was over. For each time Pádraic bothers Colm, he cuts off one of his fingers. Because that is what normal human beings do. This brings stakes to a fairly minimalistic and intimate story that already happens to succeed as both a drama and a comedy. For one thing, nobody wants to lose their fingers. Another thing to consider, nobody wants to see a chopped finger. Therefore, this is a tough situation on both sides. How realistic is Colm’s finger-cutting situation? Hard to say. Plus if I had to give my biggest problem with this movie, why did Colm actually go through with this?

Let’s put it this way. One of the reasons why Colm cut Pádraic from his life is to focus on interests like playing the violin. Last time I checked, unless you live in that hot dog finger universe in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you might want your fingers for playing musical instruments such as the violin. Sure, this eventually brings a particularly compelling scene during the second half of the movie where Colm utilizes said instrument, but as far as getting the point across to Pádraic, I would imagine the point may have been just as clear had he cut off his toes. It would have been just as gross, and arguably less painful on Colm’s end depending on how you slice it.

..Ignore that last statement, no pun intended, let’s move on.

That said, the movie delivers a fantastic story with the use of chopped fingers so I can forgive this based on how well executed everything happens to be.

One of the great things about “The Banshees of Inisherin” is that even though the protagonist in this case is the one who is dumped, I see both sides in regards to the feelings of the dumper and the dumpee. Pádraic may consider Colm to be an important part of his life, but Colm equally as much shows reasons why he must cut Pádraic from his life. A good movie can get you to root for the protagonist to the end, but there is also a saying that a story is only as good as its villain. While Colm is not a villain, he definitely is not the hero. Given the story and circumstances, Colm is a fantastic antithesis to Pádraic. Yes, Colm has his various reasons why he does not want to be friends with Pádraic, but as the movie reveals, he wants to drift away to focus on certain interests. It reminds me of the scene in “Whiplash” where Andrew dumps his love interest to focus on drumming, except in this case that moment is expanded into a whole movie. It is one’s basic drive to follow their passion, and to do that, they have to trim out certain people from their life.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” reminded me of “The Lighthouse” if the main characters were SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward Tentacles. In this case, Pádraic is SpongeBob. He is a hyperactive, larger than life individual who always seems to be in the moment. Colm on the other hand, is Squidward. He seems to want more out of life than what he has, and much like Squidward, he is musically talented. While this film has a higher count of locations and characters than “The Lighthouse,” I cannot recall a time I have seen two men descend into madness like the main duo in that film. The chemistry between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is some of the finest I have watched in recent memory. This should not be surprising given how the two previously worked together as the stars of another Martin McDonagh movie, “In Bruges.” Never would I have expected to enjoy two people who have such a disconnect spending an abundance of screen time together. Safe to say, I can put a finger as to why “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a great movie.

In the end, while I have seen movies where the main story pulls itself forward by the two main characters not always bonding with each other, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of the best stories I have seen in regards to such endless disconnection. It made me happy, sad, and everything in between. “The Banshees of Inisherin” goes to show that sometimes the simplest stories are the most effective. The film is also beautifully shot and has some of the most gorgeous-looking locations of any movie to come out in 2022. Awards season, during which this movie may be a talking point, is getting into swing. And speaking of swings, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a home run, and a 9/10.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Netflix feature “Slumberland.” I went to a recent press screening for the all new movie which is playing in California, but also set to release on the Netflix platform on November 18th. Stay tuned for my thoughts. Also, once I am done with that review, I will be talking about another Searchlight Pictures production, “The Menu.” Almost every movie I have gone to recently, I saw the trailer for this film. Whether the spree of marketing paid off, is a question that will be answered in the review. 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 Banshees of Inisherin?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you are looking forward to that you think could be a talking point during the current awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Call Jane (2022): Elizabeth Banks Delivers a Stellar Performance in This Progressive-Centric Story

DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further in this review, I want to make an announcement. In all of my content that I have done on Scene Before, I have often tried to stray away from politics, especially in recent years. But “Call Jane” is a film that requires me to talk about certain issues that some would deem “political.” This is a movie about abortion after all, which can be defined as a human issue. But given the current climate, it is also political, not to mention religious. Therefore, if you decide to read on, you will hear certain thoughts I have on such an issue. I try to keep politics and entertainment separate, even during my yearly awards shows, but this is a case where I have little to no choice in this matter. With that said, enjoy my review of “Call Jane.”

“Call Jane” is directed by Phyllis Nagy, who also wrote “Carol,” in addition to scribing and directing a 2005 HBO film titled “Mrs. Harris.” This film stars Elizabeth Banks (The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters), Chris Messina (Birds of Prey, The Mindy Project), Kate Mara (Fantastic Four, The Martian), Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country, Loki), Cory Michael Smith (Camp X-Ray, Gotham), Grace Edwards (Schooled, Modern Love), and John Magaro (Orange Is the New Black, The Good Wife). This film follows a housewife in the 1960s who becomes pregnant and finds out said pregnancy could threaten her life. With few options available, she finds herself amongst the Janes, who despite certain laws being in place, perform abortion procedures. After finding out more about their efforts, she joins the Janes in their mission.

I did not hear much about this movie until a week or two before it came out. Although I was sold immediately upon seeing Elizabeth Banks’s name attached. She is easily one of my favorite actors, no, people working in Hollywood. She is easily the best game show host on television with her run on ABC’s “Press Your Luck.” I love her voiceover work in both of the “LEGO Movies.” Some of her physical roles like “Slither,” “Zack and Miri,” or even her supporting character in “Brightburn” stand out to me. The last movie I reviewed, specifically “Black Adam,” is no stranger to star power with box office behemoth Dwayne Johnson at the top of the cast. While Johnson may be a star, Banks is a thespian. Her talent knows no bounds. Even though I was not fan of her directorial effort in 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels,” I still have respect for her. In fact, she is directing another film set to come out soon, “Cocaine Bear,” a movie with a concept that is awesome as it sounds.

As for the film itself, this did not look like my type of movie, and to be frank, if I were not reviewing movies, I would have probably waited to watch this film when it came out for home viewing. That said, I went to go see this film in the theater a couple weekends ago. Was it worth the impromptu trip?

I guess you can say so.

If I have noticed anything about filmmakers and stars over the years, it is that they do projects that often align to certain values. Paul Feig, who once wrote an article suggesting “Why Men Aren’t Funny,” went on to direct a woman-centered “Ghostbusters” remake. Seth MacFarlane, who has often been vocal about his liberal opinions, has done a series of “Family Guy” episodes making fun of famous conservatives like Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump. Regardless of whether how often people do projects aligning with what they think, I would say Elizabeth Banks, who happens to be the chair for the Center for Reproductive Rights Creative Council, was a solid choice to play the main character. Her experience with such matters in real life seem to translate with how effectively she plays Joy. To my lack of surprise, she is the highlight of the film.

While “Call Jane” does not have my favorite cast of the year, it does come with some great actors including the legendary Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Wunmi Mosaku. All of whom play their part very well. Each one feels representative of the time, and the dialogue occasionally did them favors.

Phyllis Nagy does not have a lot of directorial credits on her resume. Her only other one is a straight to premium cable film, therefore this is her first theatrically released directorial feature. “Call Jane” has one of my favorite early shots of any 2022 feature. I always enjoy when movies have extended takes and this movie is no stranger to that. It does such a thing beautifully. There are better directorial visions that came out this year, but this one stands out to me.

Unlike other films coming out this time of year, this movie is not going to win any notable awards. Partially because of its lack of marketing and the fact that there are supposedly better movies coming. That said, “Call Jane” is a movie that if it had a bigger budget and played in more cinemas, it would probably be in a larger conversation for Oscar contention. It is also a movie that makes its message clear, and knowing the Hollywood stereotype, there is often a tendency for the progressive voices to be heard or recognized when it comes to Hollywood filmmaking. Why do you think some of the more notable jokes during the Oscars in recent years were about Donald Trump or his colleagues?

“We don’t make films like ‘Call Me by Your Name’ for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.” -Jimmy Kimmel (The Oscars, 2018)

There is a saying that not every movie is for everyone. That statement is often used to describe personal tastes. Even though I hated Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” because of its ridiculously fast-paced editing, I can see why people like it. Maybe that style appeals to people. My mom and I often have different tastes in movies. She often likes disposable comedies, I am more of an action junkie. Not everyone is going to like the same things. With “Call Jane,” this movie’s biggest weakness is that its viewers may automatically be turned off by its concept. I will iterate, I am pro choice, therefore I watched this movie with no opposition to some of the things happening on screen. But if you are pro life, there is a good chance that you might turn this movie off 20 minutes into it, possibly even before that.

Although at the same time, given the current political climate and the way things are, I think that this is a relevant story that was perfect to release this year, coincidental or not. “Call Jane” is a movie that I assume is going to resonate with individuals who have some sort of experience with unwanted pregnancy or abortion. But I do not know how many people this could convince to become more open-minded towards abortion whether it is for religious reasons, political reasons, or something else. This is a movie that to me, does not feel like propaganda, but could easily be interpreted as such depending on who you talk to. As for whether this movie does something to sway people in one direction or another in regards to abortion, that could take years to be answered. But unless this film becomes a big hit on streaming for some reason, the message of this film will likely not have as big of an impact some of its crew would probably want to achieve.

In the end, “Call Jane” is a difficult movie to judge because I think it ultimately depends on where one stands on abortion. That said, as a story, this was compelling and engaging. Therefore, I liked it. Elizabeth Banks is great as the lead, the supporting cast also shows their talent, including Chris Messina. He and Banks have one particular scene towards the end of the film that has not left my mind. This is a film that I would recommend, but only to certain people. This is the kind of movie that if you hear the concept, you might know right away whether or not it is worth your time. For me, it was. Maybe it will be for you, maybe it will not. We shall see. Despite my mixed recommendation, I do want to see what would happen if someone who is pro life watches this to the end. It could make for a fun experiment. Will the viewer see it as propaganda? Will they see it as just plain wrong? Could it change minds? Great movies have the power to offer new perspectives that people take with them and change who they are. I simply do not know if “Call Jane” is able to do that despite being a decent story. Given its decency, I am going to give “Call Jane” a 7/10.

“Call Jane” is seemingly finishing up its theatrical run. It is available for preorder on streaming platforms like Vudu.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe installment “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” While this may not be the movie I am not putting at the top of my hype list this year, it is the one releasing this year that I am mostly curious as to how it could possibly be pulled off. Between Chadwick Boseman’s death, rewriting the future of a cinematic universe, and the return of Ryan Coogler in the director’s chair, this could be something special. I will unveil my official verdict soon. I am seeing the movie tonight in IMAX 3D. 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 “Call Jane?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Elizabeth Banks movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big risk, big reward.

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

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

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

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

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

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