Emma (2020): Such News! This Movie’s Solid!

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“Emma” is directed by Autumn de Wilde and this is her feature-length debut. This film stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Thoroughbreds), Johnny Flynn (Song One, Beast), Josh O’Connor (The Crown, Florence Foster Jenkins), Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Only Living Boy in New York), Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac, High Life), Miranda Hart (Spy, Miranda), and Bill Nighy (Norm of the North, Underworld). This film is based on a Jane Austen novel of the same name and follows its titular character as a selfish woman living in 1800s England. Throughout said time, she is revealed to be meddling in the love lives of the people she happens to know.

When I created Scene Before, my original intention for the blog was to give my honest thoughts on various matters. And to be completely truthful, this movie is not my cup of tea. In fact, the main reason why I went to see it is because there was a free screening at a local indie theater where Anya Taylor-Joy and director Autumn de Wilde happened to be appearing. I figured it would make for a fun night out. But when it comes to original material this movie is based on, I was never previously invested. In fact, I have a feeling this is going to piss off some bibliophiles reading this, Jane Austen wrote the book that I had the most miserable experience reading in high school, specifically “Pride and Prejudice.” I never found it that interesting, entertaining, or compelling. It was the complete opposite of a page-turner, but I was forced to read it, so I had no choice but move along. When it comes to “Emma,” I have never picked the book up. However, I was somewhat interested in this movie. In fact, if anything, this trailer right here PUMPED. ME. UP! Watch this trailer!

 

The music! The cuts! The fast-pace of it all! Whoever edited this deserves some toilet paper and hand sanitizer to get through this dire time!

However, that’s just a trailer. How was the movie itself? Pretty decent, actually. While “Emma” is undoubtedly nowhere near my cup of tea as far as stories go, I found myself chuckling, smiling, and overall having a fun time watching this movie. And a lot of it may have to do with the attention to detail of everything in it. The production design could eventually go down as some of my favorite of the year. The colors are vibrant and match the charm of this movie’s specific time frame. The performances, across the board, are well executed. The ensemble of “Emma” is well put-together. If this were a silent film, I don’t think I’d be able to remove my eyes away from the screen just from how hypnotizing everything feels. It’s easy to tell that Autumn de Wilde brought her vision to life, or depending on who you ask, Jane Austen’s vision to life. In fact, before she took on “Emma” she dived deep into photography, which may partially signify how a lot of the movie’s individual frames feel like a painting or something you’d find hanging in an art gallery. The cinematography in the film at various points is extremely pretty. I am not lying. As for costume design, that is another highlight. Granted, when it comes to movies that take place in a period or setting like this, it is not that surprising that costume design is a key factor into what could make the movie at least partially work.

This is not the first “Emma” adaptation brought to the screen, but given how I have not seen the other adaptations of this kind, I don’t really have much to compare it to. But I feel that if I were to read the original novel of “Emma,” I would at least be somewhat satisfied by the writing style of this adaptation, given how it is true to the period, and the vibe of the film has a rather witty feel to it. Jane Austen is an author who seems to bring an individual feel to her stories, and that seems to be translated well here. Granted, when I read “Pride and Prejudice,” the writing style made it one of the most infuriating experiences of my time on this planet. But a movie like this, brings life to said writing style and evokes a sense of imagination.

Fun fact about the Emma character, when she was being portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, the actress thought she kind of came off as an unlikable being. Granted, that is kind of the point. And knowing what the movie is about and what it exactly contains, I can understand why. But at the same time, Emma is a character who I consider to admirable despite how selfish or manipulative she happens to be. Part of it may go towards the way the movie presents her and how I cannot imagine anyone else in Emma’s shoes except Anya Taylor-Joy. The casting for Emma herself was very well done given how there happens to be some sort of individualistic flair attached to said character.

As for problems, while this film is well-paced, it still has one or two moments where it is kind of a drag compared to others. Regarding the movie itself, it is somewhat forgettable. I may be cheating with this given how I am reviewing this almost a full month after seeing it in the theater, but this is a story that I do not think I’ll want to tune into again while it is still fresh in my memory. Granted, Comcast-owned studios, including Focus Features, the distributor of “Emma,” just so happen to be putting their movies that were supposed to be in theaters onto VOD, so I could watch it again at home if I really wanted to, but “Emma” is not a movie that I felt an instant connection to. I just thought to myself, “Eh, that was a fun couple of hours.” Maybe the novel is better. Because, you know, apparently every book is SUPPOSED to be better than the movie. The “Emma” movie is witty, charming, and marvelous to gaze upon, but it’s missing something. It has the vision, it has the individualistic style, but it doesn’t have the oomph factor I want in movies nowadays.

In the end, I found myself rather satisfied with “Emma.” I don’t think this satisfaction will ever encourage me to read the book, but at the same time, the experience I had while watching the movie in a pretty full theater could have been a contributing factor to making it feel somewhat communal. By the way, remember when we went to movie theaters? It was a long time ago! “Emma” is not my cup of tea, and I think this review kind of shows it. However, I will not deny that I indeed had a good time. I’m going to give “Emma” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let you all know that my next review is going to be for Pixar’s new movie “Onward.” By the way, if you want to watch the movie before I review it, it is coming to digital tonight due to all the theaters shutting down. So if you want to rent it and read my review if you want to see where we stand in terms of our thoughts on the film, feel free to chill out on your couch, go to a preferred digital service whether it be Prime Video, Fandango Now, Google Play, or Vudu, and you’ll have access for the movie, that way you can watch it and determine your thoughts on it before reading my review. That is unless I somehow list my thoughts for “Onward” before the movie drops everywhere, but we shall see. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can tuned for more great content! Also, since you clearly have all the time in the world, be sure to check out the Scene Before Facebook page to get the latest updates of the goings on for the Movie Reviewing Moron. Hey, that rhymes! I want to know, did you see “Emma?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see any of the other adaptations of “Emma?” What are your thoughts on those? Did you read the book? Give me your thoughts on that! Leave your thoughts and opinions down below, and stay safe everyone! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Little Women (2019): Call Me “March” Like You Said You Would

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“Little Women” is directed by Greta Gerwig (Isle of Dogs, Lady Bird) and stars Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, The Circle), Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with my Family), Eliza Scanlen (Home and Away, Sharp Objects), Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy, Interstellar), Meryl Streep (The Post, Sophie’s Choice), Tracy Letts (The Lovers, The Post), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Incredibles 2), James Norton (Happy Valley, Flatliners), Louis Garrel (The Dreamers, Redoubtable), and Chris Cooper (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). This film is based on the book of the same name conceived by Louisa May Alcott, which has been adapted and brought to other mediums in the past, and this is another attempt to make a film out of it. The story of “Little Women” follows the lives of the March sisters, four women who are determined to live life on their own terms.

Apparently, this is one of multiple adaptations of “Little Women.” However, just a fair warning, I have never read the book, and I never witnessed any other adaptation of the IP. So this film took my “Little Women” virginity. I probably would have gone to see this film earlier, but due to time constraints, other films getting in the way, not to mention missing out on an opportunity to go to an advance screening, I just couldn’t get around to “Little Women” until now. In fact, the reason why I am watching “Little Women” at this point is to get caught up on this year’s Academy Award nominations, specifically Best Picture. Upon hearing which films were announced for the category, I have seen each one except “Little Women,” so I took today,  perhaps my least busy day of the week, and took the subway to a non-profit theater that way I could go watch the movie in 35mm film. I figured if I wanted to watch a Best Picture nominee, I might as well commit.

Sadly, I don’t feel like that commitment has worked out. I will be honest, I was kind of disappointed with “Little Women.” I would like to just point out, I admire Greta Gerwig as a filmmaker. I think she knocked it out of the park with her 2017 feature-length directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” Although if I had to compare “Little Women” to “Lady Bird” and my desire to go back and watch them again, it would be like comparing odds of finding a Chick-fil-A in a casino or a slot machine in a casino. Even though I have seen “Lady Bird” once, it would probably associate more with the slot machine. It’s a jackpot! As for “Little Women,” I might chicken out after a little while.

Now… Don’t think I am nagging on “Little Women” calling it a disaster. It is by no means the worst movie of all time, it just has problems is all. In fact, “Little Women,” in terms of direction, shines. I feel like in terms of a director wanting to get THEIR vision out to the public, “Little Women’s” Greta Gerwig succeeded at such a task more so than a good number of other filmmakers this year. A lot of the cinematography done by Yorick Le Saux is beautiful and totally stands out through the 35mm print shown at my screening. Alexandre Desplat’s score is great and fits the vibe! I also like the idea of not only shooting the film on location, but shooting it around the area where Louisa May Alcott wrote the “Little Women” book, Concord, Massachusetts. It provided for some of the most gorgeous scenery of 2019’s cinematic year and some of the better production design for said cinematic year. A lot of the scenes in the film are wonderfully realized and jump off the screen. Too bad the movie’s kind of boring.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie starts out fine. In fact, the first two thirds are somewhat interesting. The characters, not to mention the actors who play them, are not half bad. I felt the chemistry between pretty much every single character, which may have been the most necessary requirement for this film, because if I did not believe in the chemistry between the sisters, then why should I care? Amazingly, I got to a point where I did not care. I say that because even though this film is one of the better technical pieces of the year, I think pacing-wise, it suffers. I like the idea of these women dealing with their separate and collective issues, and there are some scenes that were in a word, capital! I will not go into detail, because despite having seen a trailer, I am not sure how much this film revealed beforehand. But I think one of this film’s bigger challenges, from a screenplay and directing perspective is meshing together all of these characters’ individual journeys and having a viewer like me care about all of it without it feeling a tad like a mess. Unfortunately, the film dives into the messy territory. “Little Women” honestly feels ten, twenty, maybe even thirty minutes longer than its runtime, specifically 2 hours and 15 minutes. For reference, I watched “Marriage Story” in the theater at the end of the previous December, which was 2 hours and 17 minutes. “Marriage Story” honestly somehow feels shorter than “Little Women.” To add onto this, I remember staying throughout the entire credits during “Marriage Story.” On the other hand, I left part of the way through “Little Women’s” credits.

I almost wonder if “Little Women” is one of those films that could get better through a rewatch, that way I can just concentrate closely on each character and maybe care about them with an all new point of view, but after watching this film for the first time, I don’t see much else of a reason to watch it once more. I have never been interested in the book, I have never sought out any other adaptation of this material, and in case you must know, and maybe this is affecting my thoughts on the film a little bit, I am not really in the target audience for “Little Women.” As far as I know, “Little Women” was never originally written for me, so I may not have the perspective that many of its targets would. I think actors like Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet do a fine job with their roles and suit their characters well, pretty much to the point where I don’t imagine anybody else portraying them. I also think the costumes in the movie are some of the finest and most sophisticated costumes in a 2019 film. “Little Women” has a lot of good qualities to it, but several things keep me from wanting to go back and watch it again. I am honestly shocked to say all of this, because I didn’t hate the trailer that I saw for this film, and I had faith in Greta Gerwig. To be clear, she did a good job with the direction, but had a few things been handled better, I think this could have been a damn fine vision, not to mention a better movie.

Plus, another thing to consider is this… I already mentioned that I am not the target audience. So I have to ask everyone reading a question and this may be important. First off, if you have seen 2019’s “Little Women,” what are your thoughts on it? Also, if you have seen any other material related to the “Little Women” IP, what are your experiences in relation to that? Was what you saw pretty good? Bad? Middle of the road? I’ll even ask this classic question, was this movie better than the book? Let me know!

In the end, “Little Women” is one of the bigger disappointments of a film that I have witnessed in recent memory. If you have followed this blog recently, you may know that I reviewed “Cats” because I apparently have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD to watch “Cats.” When I reviewed “Cats,” I called it the most competent borefest of a film released in its particular year. “Little Women” was released in the same year as “Cats,” specifically 2019, and there is an argument that I could make from my end that “Little Women” may dethrone “Cats” to earn such a title. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, not to mention vibrant. As a production, it is a feast for the eyes. But the eyes need to do more than stare at pretty things for a couple of hours. Had the movie maintained the promising pacing and kept me as interested as I was during the first couple of acts, I would still recommend “Little Women” to a lot more people. Of the movies the Academy nominated for Best Picture this year, “Little Women” is honestly my least preferred. But to be honest, based on the positives outweighing the negatives for this film FOR NOW, I am going to give “Little Women” a 6/10. This film is no “Lady Bird,” and I’ll be honest, for everyone who is upset about Greta Gerwig not getting nominated for Best Director, I get it. But personally, gender is not a topic I am associating with how I view nominations, but that’s just me, I think a display of talent regardless of gender, should come first, doesn’t mean I want to start an online war about it. Although I will be honest, all the chosen nominees, to me, were better in terms of vision fulfillment, technical choices, not to mention creating an overall better movie, at least for the most part on some of these direction-related requirements. And if you want my two cents, I do have a recommendation for a great 2019 film directed by a woman. If you haven’t already, go watch “Honey Boy,” it’s gonna be on Prime soon and I highly recommend it!

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I am going to be heading back to college next week, and hopefully it does not affect my consistent content release schedule. But maybe before I go back, I am planning on watching one more movie. Maybe I’ll watch more than one, but I didn’t want to end this post without mentioning “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson,” directed by Daniel Farrands. As of right now, this film is not playing anywhere near me, although it did get a release in theaters. And if this sounds somewhat familiar, this film is from the director of the 2019 abomination, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” I just want to say… I MIGHT sacrifice my soul and watch this movie. For those of you who have seen my worst of the 2010s list know that “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” earned a spot pretty high on the list. I’m just curious to know if “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is somehow any worse. If I watch this movie, please wish me luck! I might need it! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you want to leave a like or comment (if your account is eligible), please do so! It really helps me out! Also, please check out my Facebook page and spread the word about Flicknerd and Scene Before on social! I want to know, did you see “Little Women?” What did you think about it? Or, of the 2020 Best Picture nominees from the Academy, which is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

1917 (2019): Cinematographically Golden

“1917” is directed by Sam Mendes (Spectre, American Beauty) and stars George MacKay (The Boys Are Back, Captain Fantastic), Dean-Charles Chapman (Into the Badlands, Game of Thrones), Mark Strong (Shazam!, Kingsman: The Secret Service), Andrew Scott (Fleabag, Sherlock), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Bodyguard), Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth (Love, Actually, Mamma Mia!), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Star Trek: Into Darkness). This film takes place throughout, as the title suggests, 1917. Specifically, during events of World War I. The story follows two British soldiers, Schofield and Blake, as they are given a mission to deliver a message to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to call off an attack on the Germans. If this mission fails, this would mean there would be a loss of 1600 men, including Blake’s brother.

First off, let me just say to all of you that this is my first review of 2020, and what a better way to start off the year than to talk about movie that is literally a year. This film came out Christmas Day in select theaters, but much to my dismay, not one theater in the Boston area was going to show the film until 2020, so I had no chance to see it until then. This year is also the earliest time in which I was able to catch an advanced screening of the film. So I trekked to the theater this past Tuesday with high expectations.

When I say high expectations, I mean that literally. Knowing some of the technical aspects of the film, which I will dive into later on, it makes me giddy just thinking about it. Plus, this week was also the airing of the 77th Golden Globes, where this movie was nominated for 3 awards, and ended up taking home 2, including Best Picture – Drama. Granted, the more I think about the Golden Globes as a whole, the less meaningful I find them to be (after all, their voting board is not that big and they have genre-specific categories), but to have some notable recognition definitely helps. But in life, I live by the philosophy to form my own opinions on any matter at all times. Because life is just better when I’m in control. So what are my thoughts on “1917?”

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Let’s see… Oh! It’s better than “Cats!” But that doesn’t say much, now does it?

Let me try this again by asking you a question, because it sort of relates to my experience. How often has this happened to you? You go see a movie, and maybe you feel that what you just saw was wicked intense, and said intensity hits you to the point where your body just shuts down at a point. For me, that’s what “1917” felt like. I walked out of this movie nearly unable to feel my own legs. To help explain some of my thoughts on this film, I am going to remind you of another recent war film, specifically Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.”

While “Dunkirk” and “1917” have their differences, one thing I cannot deny is that they both stand out in terms of how effectively they convinced me that I could have been in danger. I will say, “Dunkirk” had a slight undeniable advantage during my first viewing because I did see it in IMAX and I saw “1917” on a standard cinema screen, but regardless, “Dunkirk” emphasizes on sound more than “1917” does, which believe it or not, isn’t exactly a sign of this film lacking proper sound whatsoever. In fact, the sound editing and mixing in “1917” is great. I have no problems with any of that. But while “Dunkirk” emphasizes sound, “1917” emphasizes sight. Again, I’ll state that “Dunkirk” did a good job on that side of things as well. In fact, the movie received a Best Cinematography nomination, which it deserves. The way it utilizes 70mm and IMAX technology is undoubtedly impressive.

When it comes to “1917,” the technology used for this film, specifically the camera, is smaller. In fact, it runs on digital. The entire movie is shot using an Arri ALEXA Mini LF, which, if you don’t know much about cameras, the Arri ALEXA in general is often regarded as a current industry standard in filmmaking. This does make sense given what the crew behind this movie set out to do, which is film the movie with long takes, involving lots of movement. It’s not like this is one of those movies where the camera always sits still on a tripod, pretty much the entire movie tries to put you into the frame and take you along for the ride, and I’d say this was a pretty successful task. Because pretty much the entire time, even though I barely knew the two main characters, I was rooting for them to get out of whatever dire situation they were in. The long takes made me feel like I was transported in the movie, it made me feel like I was going to get shot, maybe debris would be flying onto my head.

The stellar cinematography in this film, which in fact, is without any argument whatsoever to be the best cinematography of 2019, is done by Roger Deakins, who also took on the job for iconic films including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “No Country For Old Men.” He also did one of my favorite films of the past few years, “Blade Runner 2049,” which he won his first Oscar for. There are several shots in this film that I can imagine myself wanting to hang in my living room if I had enough money for a big house and if I can find a good 5 panel canvas. And what really shocks me is a particular technique that is utilized during the film. I mentioned that the film is designed to look like it is one shot. Let me just tell you right now, it’s not. Without spoiling anything. There is a scene where the footage cuts to black, allowing for a slight break from whatever’s happening on screen. However, according to certain sources I have read, the film does cut but I didn’t even notice it on screen. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the longest shot in the movie is eight and a half minutes. This instantly brings a sense of hypnotization and eventually, a desire to look back at the film and try to guess when exactly the cuts happened. Plus, this film was shot on location, which brings a lot of challenges for the filmmaking process including an analysis on set design and the fact that lighting shots is perhaps an impossibility. And somehow, all of this was pulled off. This to me, cinematography-wise, may be in the top 10, maybe even top 5, all-time greatest achievements related to its category. I wouldn’t say it’s #1 at this point given how I still need time to marinate, but it does come close as of now, and if Roger Deakins DOES NOT win Best Cinematography this year at the Oscars, that award in all likelihood will be nothing short of a snub.

Another reason to consider how this movie is not #1 in terms of being the greatest cinematography achievement of all time is that this has been done before. Yes, this is sort of an upping of the stakes compared to Sam Mendes’ own long take shot experience from “Spectre,” a movie in which the cinematographer was Hoyte Van Hoytema, but that’s not the point. If you have followed 2014 in film, you may be familiar that the Academy’s Best Picture that year was “Birdman,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, The Revenant). Having said that, I think the originality factor of that film helped me appreciate it. “1917” on the other hand is ultimately following in its footsteps. Story and concept-wise it stands on its own, but the intention when it comes to the visual aspects of the film is not completely different. Also, according to a quick Google search, the longest shot in “Birdman” goes on for fifteen minutes, compared to “1917,” which has a longest ongoing shot for eight and a half minutes.

In all seriousness though, this film, as a visual ride, is a tour de force, and I think this could be Roger Deakins’ best work just because of the daunting task at hand. And for that, I also have to give credit to Sam Mendes for helming this production. This is an experimental, ambitious film that I think will be looked back upon for years to come. In addition to all of the surroundings that make this film what it is, Thomas Newman’s score also does an effective job at adding something to the crazy experience on screen.

As for the characters, I wouldn’t say I didn’t care about them, but I am not gonna sit right here and tell you that they’re anything special. I did mention their names, but keep in mind that I glanced at them on Wikipedia as I write this review. In fact, I think the only name I recalled from the film is Colonel MacKenzie, maybe because I was paying enough attention. But at the same time, this movie is more about the journey, the effects throughout said journey, and this was one HELL of a journey. When I bring that up, part of me thinks that I almost don’t even need to know anybody’s name. In fact, I felt like *I* was a character experiencing this event alongside everyone else, therefore I am ultimately the one who should develop the most.

If I were a character in this movie, I’d say I’d start out curious, maybe a tad scared, but at the same time, I have to realize the consequences that can come from various actions. As the movie goes on, I would still be scared, perhaps even more so, but I would still tough out through whatever lies ahead. Eventually, I’d still be my terrified self, but I’ll have a feeling that I finally get to breathe. Seriously, whenever there is a moment of silence or calmness, it felt rewarding. I felt like I went through war with these characters simply because the camera’s eyes were almost like my eyes. Granted, it focuses a lot on these folks’ faces and I would probably never spend 2 hours almost continuously running backwards, but I think y’all get the point.

The film’s concept is simple, but it is also effective. Before I dive into the paragraph where I give my official rating, let me just say that this film, story-wise, is one I need to continue to think about. However, when it comes to various other aspects, it is one that I am pretty much set on. My rating could change, but anything is possible.

In the end, “1917” gave me pretty much everything I wanted. It is a beautifully shot, brilliantly directed, and solidly executed master work. It is just incredible to think about all the hard work and craftsmanship that went into this. There are a good number of war films out right now, but I’d say that this is 1,917 times as awesome as some others. I know some people who have seen a number of movies that will tell you that maybe whatever movie they saw at the theater is not worth the experience, maybe because there weren’t enough showman-esque elements in the movie or something. Let me tell you, and I’m not talking to everyone, because I understand that war films may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine, but if you don’t go see this film in a theater, it’s a crime. A bad crime. Go see this movie on the biggest screen you can, with the best sound available. It’s out right now in Dolby Cinema, so if you’re willing to pay a higher ticket price, go there. Just see it! It’s an experience! As for the story, I mentioned that I have no problems with it, but it is one where I feel like I won’t remember anybody’s name. Maybe this is a movie to me that gets better the more I watch it. But we’ll just have to see. Also, the cinematography is PERFECTION. I’m going to give “1917” a 9/10. I wanted to give the film a 1917/10, but then I’d break the scale, so 9 it is.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that this SATURDAY, JANUARY 11TH, will be the kickoff of my multi-part countdown event, “Top Movies of the 2010s!” I’m gathering all the entries, lining them up as we speak, and even though I am admittedly cramming at this point, I am hella excited to share my lists with y’all! If you want to see this and more content from Scene Before, give me a follow! If you have a proper account in place, feel free to leave a like and comment! Also, if you have a Facebook account, feel free to like my page to get notified about the latest goings on here at Scene Before through the place where you have friends, even those you probably haven’t talked to in five or so years. I want to know, did you see “1917?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think is the better achievement in cinematography, this movie or “Birdman?” Let me know, you have one shot to impress me with your opinions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Marriage Story (2019): A Child of Divorce Gives His Two Cents

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“Marriage Story” is directed by Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories, Francis Ha) and stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) and Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Lucy) as a couple who are going through a divorce. This film dives into the events that unfold as the once married couple try to move on with their lives, work, and whether or not they get to see their own kid again.

Earlier this week, I could have stayed home, turned on Netflix, and watched not one, but two films already on the service! But, I like the theatrical experience, so I went to see both “The Irishman,” which I enjoyed, and then that was followed by this film right here! I went into this film knowing little about the material itself. I know it involves heavy dialogue, and based on the plot, it’s a serious situation. I was also made aware of various positive verdicts beforehand, therefore I had rather high expectations. Plus, it’s got Adam Driver, a fine actor who may have ended up being the best part of the new “Star Wars” trilogy. Alongside Driver is Scarlett Johansson who I, unashamedly, consider to be a celebrity crush. I think both actors are great and to see them together is a dream I did not even realize I had.

I was not even sure if I was going to watch this movie, because as much as I am beginning to appreciate Netflix’s efforts to expand itself into the realm of cinema, even to the point where even Martin Scorsese has considered Netflix to be more cinematic than Marvel, I don’t pay for their streaming service and I am not that invested in the company. Again, when it comes to media consumption, I’m kind of a dinosaur, I can’t help myself. That, and this award season has kept me pretty busy with films like “Uncut Gems,” “Knives Out,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and more. Well that, and blockbusters like “The Rise of Skywalker.” I still haven’t even seen “Queen & Slim” yet! That’s how busy I have been with this blog!

I have waited a little while to talk about this movie, keeping in mind that it has been since Monday since I walked out of the theater. With that being said, I was focused on getting my review out for “The Irishman,” which does not necessarily mean I wanted to delay my review for this movie, but with Christmas and other projects getting in my way, I am getting my thoughts out later than I expected, so I do apologize. Again, I walked out of the theater after seeing this film this past Monday. How did I feel then?

One word. NUMB.

HOLY F*CKING F*CK I FELT NUMB.

This movie captured perhaps everything I wanted it to capture and more. “Marriage Story” is an emotional, enthralling, not to mention exciting piece of art that did pretty much everything it needed to do. I walked out of this film not exactly in tears, but I did walk out feeling like my skin had gone through a paper shredder. It can remind you of how unbearable the idea of divorce really is from all sides.

Now I think I have a somewhat interesting perspective regarding this film. Okay… Maybe not, depending on how you look at it. I’ll have to do more concrete research, but I often remind myself of the statistic that flies around regarding how over 50% of marriages end in divorce. That’s what happened to my parents when I was 13 years old, they announced their separation, and it took them quite awhile from that point for a full divorce to finally occur, but it happened. And I felt a part of my life had been destroyed. I am not joking. Look, have I adapted to a situation where I was able to live with one parent? You betcha. But behind the skin that conceals my mind, there was a part of me that wanted my mother and father living together. It just felt like the natural thing. Even at twenty years old, it is still something I beg for. I know it is a situation that is beyond my control, and if I were to interfere, I would probably be facing a head dunk in the toilet at best, or a fatality at worst. But this movie reminded me of everything in my life from my teen years to today.

I still live with my mother. So… Hit me up girls. You’ll find me very charming. For the record, I love my mother. I am eternally thankful that she is in my life. But not having a father figure in my life all the time is something that I feel has slightly diminished me as a person. I had no brothers, and even though some of you might think this is progressive or cool, most of the people I knew in my life, at least when this whole divorce thing first started, happened to be women. I felt like I could barely surround myself with anyone I knew. As if there were anyone in school that wanted to hang out with me. I still surrounded myself in activities that guys my age would typically enjoy. Video games, Internet surfing, and of course, film. But when it comes to people I could relate to who could take part in certain activities that others in my family or social circles wouldn’t really take part in, it would be dad. Did he want to do every single thing with me? I would not say yes, there’s a good chance that he had better things to do from time to time, but I felt there was a sense of brotherhood between us.

This is why I have forever feared “replacements.” I think some people at my age would have understood what I am talking about. When my parents separated, it seems that my mother did not usually have much trouble finding a date. I mean, she’s an amazing woman, why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t any guy want her? But whenever my mother got close with someone she dated, I was worried because that equated to certain transitions that I would have to adapt to whether I liked it or not. There also may have been a possibility that there was something about the person she dated that I felt would affect the way I grew up. Maybe I would have someone in my life that I am supposed to see as “my parent,” but a certain part of my brain would keep me from doing such a thing. There’s only one “mom” and “dad” for me, and I am thankful to have them both in my life, even if they are apart. But this movie sort of took me back to my childhood struggles. There is a certain event in this film that felt all too real for me.

Now I am going to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but I am going to dive a bit deep into this film as I talk about what happens during Halloween. This is not something that has happened to me personally. Partially because I never trick or treated when my parents got divorced, but with that in mind, there is a part of the movie that takes place during Halloween, where the parents decide at one point to have “two Halloweens.” The mother takes the kid out for a period of time, and then it’s dad’s turn. By the way, the kid’s name is Henry, and he is played by Azhy Robertson and he does a fine job in this movie.

I have never been in the situation where I had to have two Halloweens, but I imagine that I am not alone when I have to note that I celebrate “multiple Christmases” every year for now on. Now, prior to the divorce, I have celebrated Christmas at multiple venues for both sides of the family at different times. And as much as I continue to enjoy Christmas every year, including this past year, I found that it sort of deteriorates the specialty of the holiday. There are a lot of things in life that I would like to have more than one of during the year. Of course I’ll take multiple “Star Wars” related holidays! May the fourth be with you, and I shall have my revenge of the fifth! I would love to have more than one Marvel movie within a number of months! As long as they make them as good as they are at this point, I’d say they should keep crankin’ them out! But Christmas is that one day of the year that maybe in my childhood I looked forward to more than most others. Even though I still find Christmas to be unbelievably fun, I still long for the days of togetherness between the family I once knew. The very idea of this double Halloween alone brought such thoughts to my mind.

But I will say, the events of this divorce in this movie does not play out like it did in my life. In fact, why should it? If it did, then all divorces would supposedly be the same to me, making life very boring. One thing I will say that I sort of related to is the idea that maybe I would have a favorite parent. I think about that a lot less today, mainly because I am doing whatever I can to rely less on my parents and focus more on myself. But this movie does a really good job at highlighting the less than pleasant chemistry between Charlie, the father, and his kid Henry. There are some moments where the movie flat out reveals Henry’s love and affection for his mother, Nicole, that I clearly did not see between him and Charlie. Little things like that got me. Despite how they say divorce is hardest on the children, this movie is not exactly about how a child handles the situation of divorce, in fact, this child seems to be handling it in a way that I never could, especially at his age.

As for Nicole and Charlie, their screen presence together make for some of my favorite scenes of the year. There’s a scene at the beginning of the film where they seem to be seeking some counseling that give a basic idea of how high tensions are between them. Later on, past the halfway point, there is an extended argument that could be an Oscar reel clip for both of these people. I felt every moment of the dialogue and everything from their setup and onward was nothing short of fantastic. I think one of the best parts of both characters, at least to me, is that I could point out flaws from both sides and be able to realize that not only are these two demonstrating how they may not be right for each other, but I could equally argue that one person or the other is an asshole based on random actions that happen during the film. As nice as they may seem, they have their dark sides, and that’s what makes this marriage stor–sorry, DIVORCE story, so interesting. It’s not one side causing everything, it’s actions from both sides combining to form an eventual reaction.

The movie also does a really good job at providing depth to its two leads. I really enjoyed the backstories to both of the main characters. Scarlett Johansson plays someone who aspired to be an actress. In fact, we see her early on in a fake film flashing herself, which does come up a couple times later in some interesting ways. But she gave up her life in Los Angeles to allow Adam Driver’s character to focus on his career in theater. This not only feels like a story where a couple fights because of lost love or random attacks, it feels like something that has been gradually built up, which is why much of the dialogue in this film between the leads feels, in a way, climactic, that’s probably the best word I can use to describe all of it. There is an argument in this film that might as well be the human resemblance of what happens when a house is on fire.

I think one of the best things about this movie is how it handles getting custody over the kid. For one thing, it delivers more out of the two main actors, who also show off their chops here. In addition to that, Laura Dern shows up and gives an excellent performance as well. From a story perspective, I was almost on the edge of my seat, and this is not even a flashy action movie. There have been some films that I have seen where I honestly don’t know who precisely I am supposed to be rooting for, because maybe the film goes in an unexpected direction, or it is just flat-out stupid. Here, I feel the same way, I don’t know who exactly to root for, but that’s because I feel it is almost hard to pick a side. On the one hand, the kid could end up getting full custody from his mother, who he clearly likes more. On the other hand, if such a thing happens, the father, who wants to see his own child grow up, won’t get that opportunity. This is one of those movies that knows how to set up stakes and tension within its overall story. As a story, it is relatable, somewhat charming, and yet at the same time, depressing. It’s everything I could want out of this movie.

If I had to slide in any complaints, it might be for one scene in particular. Now this involves a scene that I overall enjoyed, so I personally would consider this a nitpick more than anything else. But kind of like much of the movie “Parasite,” another amazing film from this year, there is one moment that is borderline convenient in terms of moving the plot along. Maybe if I watch the movie again, I’ll change my mind, but having watched it once, this is just how I feel at the moment. Even so, I cannot think of too many other flaws regarding “Marriage Story,” and even though Netflix does not usually consider releasing physical copies of their material, I would pay hundreds for a copy of “Marriage Story.” I mean, Criterion is releasing “Roma” next year, so anything’s possible!

In the end, “Marriage Story” is a movie that I really enjoyed as I saw it, one that destroyed me upon leaving it, and one that has honestly gotten better the more I thought about it over these past few days. If I had any other flaws, I probably would have forgotten about them by now because I feel I am delaying my review a little bit, but even so, this is a film that I will probably to continue to carry in my memory. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most relatable pieces of art I have witnessed in my entire life. I think in terms of chemistry, or lack thereof depending on how you look at it, I think Driver and Johansson might make for the best on-screen pair of the year. Laura Dern does a really good job with the film. The directing, cinematography, and editing are a terrific trio. As for the screenplay, I want to frame it. There is very little that I could consider to be problematic with this movie. “Marriage Story” might not end up being my favorite film of the year, although I do have a few days left to decide for sure, but it is one of the few to hit me where I live and remind me of the ups and downs my current or prior experiences. Especially now, because during the time of another “split Christmas,” which again, I did enjoy, this felt like a story that I could potentially be a part of. I am going to give “Marriage Story” a 10/10!

Thanks for reading this review! I will be completely honest with you, I am not gonna make any guarantees, but it is a possibility that this is my final review of 2019. I might go see one more movie, but I am not too sure. If that’s the case, I do hope to have a review up on New Year’s Eve, hopefully New Year’s Day at the latest. After all, I am getting closer to sharing my picks for my top 10 favorite and least favorite movies of 2019! If I do have one more review to do, I will hopefully separate it long enough before you are all able to read my countdowns, which may be hard because of the millions of other projects I have going on right now. At least that’s what my life feels like at this moment. Nevertheless, if you want to see upcoming content like my countdowns or more reviews, be sure to follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Marriage Story?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever been through divorce of any kind? As a kid? Partner? Tell me about it if you feel like it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Irishman (2019): Jack Does a Short Review of Martin’s Long Film

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“The Irishman” is directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence) and stars Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, The Godfather: Part II), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Raging Bull), and Al Pacino (Heat, Insomnia). This is a return to form for critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, who is well-known for his gangster movies including “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Mean Streets.” In this film inspired by Charles Brandt’s book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Robert De Niro’s character, Frank Sheeren recalls events of his past as he gets involved with Russell Bufalino and dissects into his involvement with Jimmy Hoffa.

I will be completely honest with you. There was a time, going back two or three years ago that I did not think I was going to check out this movie as all. After all, I don’t personally pay for Netflix, which I heard this movie was going to be on. I did not realize at the time that they were getting a bit more serious with their theatrical releases. To this day, my family uses Netflix, but I just never jumped on the train. I’m just not a streamer, it’s not my style. The only services I use today happen to be Prime and Crackle. When I heard this was getting a theatrical release, my curiosity levels shot into the air and almost splattered like glittery fireworks. Even though I am rather late to the party, I did make a trip to one of my local theaters to go see “The Irishman.” I’d say it was worth the trip. To be honest with you, even though some of the most well-regarded movies ever made are gangster flicks, that type of film has never been my style. With that being said, my experience of witnessing this film was still a good use of my time.

Speaking of time, “The Irishman” is three and a half hours long, making it my most extended watch of the year. This is both a blessing and a curse. I say that because the movie for the most part is entertaining and rather investing. The downside is that perhaps both the first thirty minutes and last thirty minutes happen to be the points where the film manages to fizzle. I may be exaggerating on the first thirty minutes because for one thing, the film was just beginning, therefore it was nearly impossible for me to divert my eyes away from the screen. But, for the last thirty minutes or so, I felt like I was watching something that was four hours as opposed to three and a half.

I did something I don’t normally do when I work on my reviews, but I jotted down some short notes after watching the film. I was in the middle of a double feature, because I watched both this and “Marriage Story” in the same day. Before my second movie started, I stated that “I enjoyed the little things.” There are a few scenes in this movie that sort of add something to the film, but almost feel like they belong on an extended cut. There is a scene towards the end of the movie, that I won’t entirely go into that involves a conversation about the delivery of a fish. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, and in the moment, it kind of put a smile on my face, but the more I think about it, it almost does not really add anything to the film overall aside from some random laughs. It just feels like wasted time. I mean, it sort of reminded me of “Pulp Fiction,” which has random conversations about uncomfortable silences and foot massages. These are two random topics that somehow got in the script in the first place, but most amazing of all, worked. However, “Pulp Fiction” feels like it uses every minute wisely whereas “The Irishman” almost overstays its welcome. The pacing drags at a point, which considering the runtime, is not that surprising.

While this movie may suffer in terms of pacing, I think it is nevertheless one of the best directed and acted films I have seen all year. Martin Scorsese manages to deliver a technically competent film on all levels ranging from camerawork, lighting, and delivering the best performances possible. This movie also contains what may be my favorite child performance of the year, given by Lucy Gallina. Her performance is very subtle, and any scene involving her was either entertaining or simply charming.

Speaking of surprise performances, I want to talk about Ray Romano. Do not get me wrong, I liked Ray Romano long before he signed onto this movie, but I never thought Romano had the acting range he does today. After all, he was the lead role on one of my favorite sitcoms, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where he basically plays an exaggerated, alternate version of himself. In this movie he plays a lawyer by the name of Bill Bufalino, and honestly, it’s the best performance of his career. Looking at his past work, it might not say too much, but it’s still worth pointing out.

However, Romano is not part of the big three. Specifically, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. And while I do admire the portrayals given by the entire trio, Pacino, personally, cannot be beat. Pacino was perfectly cast as Jimmy Hoffa. This is a role that I honestly do not see anybody else playing, except maybe John Tuturro, not specifically because of his acting ability or anything, but at one point, I thought Pacino looked like Tuturro during the film. Out of all the characters, Hoffa was by the far the most charismatic and interesting of all. He’s bombastic, wacky, and quirky. He’s basically what you need out of a proper Pacino role.

I don’t have much more to say on “The Irishman,” but as I watched this film, one of the things I almost forgot about going in that I eventually reminded myself of is the de-aging processes that can be seen throughout this flick. De-aging through digital tech is a seemingly increasing trend. We’ve seen it so far in films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Tron: Legacy,” and “Gemini Man.” I think one of the best de-aging jobs that has been done recently is for Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel.” YES, I JUST BROUGHT UP A MARVEL MOVIE IN A REVIEW FOR A MARTIN SCORSESE FILM. REMIND HIM NOT TO READ THIS IN ORDER TO AVOID NIGHT TERRORS. As for this film, I could barely even notice the digital makeup applied to everybody. I’d probably have to watch the film again, and I have no plans to watch it again in the near future, but if I were to watch it again it would be for one reason only. Because the main actors are not that young, and I want to remind myself of how they move. They may look younger in the film than they do in real life, but do they move like younger people should? It’s a question that is still on my mind.

In the end, “The Irishman” is entertaining, but a tad too long. Although at the same time, this brings up a dilemma, because one of the most entertaining factors of “The Irishman” are some little additions that do not need to necessarily be in the final cut, but are entertaining nonetheless. This movie is a solid piece of work, and not exactly a waste of my time (maybe except for somewhere between ten and thirty minutes worth), so I’d still recommend it. I’d recommend it to a good number of people, unless you are an easily offended vegetarian. This film has a lot of steak consumption. I really liked Jimmy Hoffa’s story overall, and basically any scene involving him made the movie twice as swell as it already was. I’m going to give “The Irishman” a 7/10. One reminder to Martin Scorsese, there are two Marvel films I saw this year that I liked better than this. Just being real.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, as mentioned earlier, I went to see “Marriage Story.” I will have my review up for that as soon as possible, and stay tuned at the rise of the new year for my countdowns on the best and worst movies of 2019! If you want to see more great content like this, follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Irishman?” What did you think about it? Did you see it in theaters or at home? Tell me about your experience! Or, do you consider comic book movies like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “cinema?” Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know? Part yes part no? State your case, defend your opinion, the universe depends on it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Cats (2019): Kitty Litter

EVERYBODY:
Go see “Richard Jewell!” Clint Eastwood has done it again!
Check out “1917!” It’s heart-stopping!
Watch “The Irishman” on Netflix! It’s worth the three and a half hour runtime! It’s REAL cinema!
Hey! “Queen & Slim” is getting positive reviews!
GO SEE “STAR WARS!”
“Bombshell’s” the movie we need right now!
“Frozen II” is a great Disney sequel!
“The Two Popes!” Check it out!
Hey Jack, have you seen Amazon’s “The Aeronauts?”
“MARRRRRRIAGE STOOOOOORRRRRY!”

ME:
Hey guys, I’m going to review “Cats!”

*Beat*

…Awkward. No matter what happens, this will unite us all. It’s time to review the NON-“Star Wars” movie coming out this weekend, because this is what I was able to see early on this week. Let’s get this s*itshow overwith.

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“Cats” is directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl) and stars James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Emoji Movie), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Philomena), Jason Derulo (Everybody Dance Now, Drop the Mic), Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor), Jennifer Hudson (The Voice, Dreamgirls), Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Good Liar), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, The Giver), Rebel Wilson (Jojo Rabbit, Pitch Perfect), and Francesca Hayward. The plot of “Cats,” if there is one in this damn thing, is that a bunch of cats that look and walk like humans compete against each other to be the one to earn another life… That’s the best way I can describe this movie without cringing. Because holy s*it. THIS IS PUTRID.

Going into “Cats” on Tuesday night, I had two screenings to choose from. “Cats” being one of them, obviously. The other one happened to be “Bombshell,” which I said to you all that I would review. Well, expect a delay on that, when I finally got my RSVP for “Cats,” I could not pass it up, and by that I mean I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” with somebody else, because as far as I know, there is probably not one person that would want to see “Cats” with me. Did I have any plans to watch “Cats” originally? Absolutely not. In fact, if you follow the Scene Before Facebook page, and if you aren’t following it, CLICK THIS LINK and give it a like! Anyway, if you have kept track of recent happenings there, you may have noticed this recent post…

Well guess what? I ended up dragging myself on the underfunded transportation system in the Boston, Massachusetts area, put my ass in a cinema seat, and here we are. But let me just say, I did not go into “Cats” blind. I went in having seen bunches of the marketing, including the main trailers, which honestly just creeps me out the more I think about it! I had little to no real anticipation of this movie, even though I was expecting some decent numbers and neat visuals at times. Did I get those in the end? Kind of. The visuals were nifty, but the numbers are honestly forgettable. I have never seen any other related “Cats” material, not the play, nor any other adaptation. So this movie ultimately took my “Cats” virginity. As someone who has had their first “Cats” experience of any kind, I cannot imagine myself returning to this franchise in the near future. This movie BROKE me to no end. It’s honestly up there with some of the most anger-inducing content I have seen all year. In fact, I am honestly kind of glad I went to see the movie as early as I did. I love the moviegoing experience, and going to see a movie early, depending on the film is honestly kind of thrilling. I was in a theater containing some people who were enthusiastic. One person had cat ears on, some were Taylor Swift fans, and I think the best part about this movie is that the occasional reactions from people that were given with a hint of sarcasm. There was this one moment around the first act where this guy just belted out a snarky laugh and a bunch of us played along because I think a surprising number of attendees thought this movie was going to suck balls and we had almost no expectations for it. Maybe we collectively thought this movie was cheesy or a waste of time. Who knows? The point is, if I went to see this movie in perhaps January during a dead afternoon, it probably wouldn’t be as fun or lively. The only thing I probably would have felt at that time is pure anger. Being in the environment of a free screening before a movie opens definitely helps.

BUT IT DOES NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE CRAP I SUFFERED THROUGH!

I have been noticing something about our current moviegoing audience. We seem to enjoy two things nowadays. Granted, that’s an understatement, we seem to enjoy lots of things in reality, but the two of the commonalities I’m seeing from the general moviegoing audience is spectacle and nostalgia. There’s definitely an argument to make about “Cats” being one of the more nostalgic movies of the year. It’s based on a hit musical from the late 20th century, which was inspired by poetry from T.S. Eliot. I think a lot of older audiences will gravitate towards this film, plus younger theater admirers. And I will point out one thing that I think could have ended up being a positive about this film, specifically the prettiness that’s intact. From the marketing, there have been a lot of shots that looked nice, the neon signage everywhere kind of adds a nice touch, the film is visually appealing on the surface. And throughout, at times, I dug it for its visuals. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give.

Earlier this year, I reviewed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which is one of the worst blockbusters I have witnessed in recent memory, especially when considering how FANTASTIC the trailers were leading up to its release. To this day, the only compliments I can give the film are some of the shot choices and the appealing visual effects. That’s it. “Cats” is kind of like that. Granted, I did not like the “Cats” trailers, but you probably get my point. However, the good news is, and it honestly PAINS me in the ass to say this… I’d rather watch “Cats” again. As a movie, it is technically competent. Not to mention, competently… BOOOOORRRRRRRING!

This movie technically has a plot, but when it’s presented on screen, it’s an utter mess! It’s a nice looking mess, but a mess nevertheless! I guess we’ll call it a hot mess! The movie undoubtedly is trying to rely on the spectacle provided from each number. I didn’t expect this movie to lack singing, but the singing in this movie is ENDLESS. OH MY FREAKING LORD! A good portion of the numbers are… borderline OK? I guess? But I don’t feel like I will end up remembering them. The only numbers that truly stood out to me was the one where Taylor Swift’s character was introduced, most likely because there were a few people in the crowd who were ecstatic over seeing her on screen and one heavily revolving around Laurie Davidson’s character of Mr. Mistoffelees, which I won’t go into. Again, I went into the movie not knowing much about “Cats,” so I’m gonna be somewhat vague with the material.

I am not even in the mood to go into the characters, because for one thing, there are a lot of them. It’s overwhelming. I am willing to bet that if there were fewer characters, this movie could be a tad more interesting. I will say though, even though “Cats” itself is somewhat visually attrractive, it is simultaneously off-putting. I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t ask for a movie where Ian McKellan plays a live-action, human-like cat that is licking a plate. It’s something so unimportant, yet so horrifying. Much like the numbers, there is perhaps not even a single character that ended up standing out. Many of the characters feel like they have little to no layers, and the only thing that could end up being memorable is all of the “digital fur technology” that went into this pile of crap they call a movie.

I do not seek out musicals that often. I don’t usually watch all that many films that are heavy on musical numbers, but if I had to compare “Cats” to any other film, I’d say one of the closest examples I can give is Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” For the record, they are COMPLETELY different on almost every single level in terms of plot, genre, and character motivations. But one of the biggest compliments I can give to “Transformers” is the visuals. The effects are nothing short of amazing. I think even people who don’t like the newer “Transformers” movies can probably agree that the visual effects are nice to look at. Now, I personally enjoyed the first “Transformers.” It’s a fine action movie if you ask me, but I know the franchise is not always the most pleasing to everyone. The story is basic, repetitive from one film to the next, and some would say it almost doesn’t even matter when there are tons of explosions and American flags everywhere.

This movie doesn’t really shy away from comedy. I mean, what do you expect when there’s a seemingly sarcastic laugh during my screening? Only thing is, the comedy just doesn’t work. In fact, the jokes I remember are random cat puns. They might have been the only jokes in the movie, and they sully the experience entirely.

Why did I go see “Cats?” Well, I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” for one thing, but I thought this would be a fun film to review. It’s one of those one of a kind, crazy experiences that I will end up remembering, but not for the right reasons. Personally, I don’t ever see myself watching “Cats” again, and I had no plans to get a cat in the near future, but this movie has officially eliminated any possibility of me wanting a cat, because if I am ever presented with an opportunity to get a cat, part of me would not stop thinking of this piece of trash. And in other news, Taylor Swift is in this movie, that picture above is of her. And SPOILER, the movie DOES NOT go into how many cats she broke up with.

In fact, let me specify about my experience of watching this film. This was a film that felt embarrassing to say the least. It’s well-crafted, but embarrassing nonetheless. Whenever I go see a film, I usually order myself a popcorn and soda to keep myself up. I didn’t do that this time. I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it. Maybe it’s because I was busy talking to a friend I ran into, but that’s not the point. The overall experience of seeing “Cats” feels like a dream. Because I became increasingly sleepy, increasingly bored, and the movie itself became more irrelevant than the door close button on modern elevators! There is a part of me that wanted to laugh, but it felt really hard, because at the same time, what I really wanted to do was leave. This movie overstays its welcome, even giving itself an opportunity to hammer in one final number that is so bad that it’s good. And when those stinking credits FINALLY came on screen, I let out a bellowing “THANK GAAAWWSH!” Because again, the movie broke me to shreds. You know how I said I didn’t get any popcorn or soda for this movie? Upon the leaving the film I had one thought in mind. I need popcorn, because I felt like I dredged through this movie in the same way that Bart Simpson would dredge through homework. I felt like part of my well-being has been erased. This was a well-earned treat for myself. By the way, the popcorn was f*cking satisfying. It made my cat nips go hard.

In the end, “Cats” is perhaps the most competent borefest of the year, and that really says something because… “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a thing. And that’s the absolute worst thing about “Cats.” It looks charming, it looks presentable, it looks nifty. Some of the camerawork is nice. But between some of the questionable editing, lame-ass script, and nearly nonexistent plot, this movie made me angrier than that kid from “Looper” whenever something goes wrong for him. I would rather poke my own eyes out with my own two hands than go see this movie again. The ensemble has a lot of big names including Idris Elba, Ian McKellan, and James Corden, but not even that could save the movie. In a way, the more I think about it, it almost makes the movie worse. Remember that movie, “The Circle” that came out a couple years ago? It’s like that. It had a list of respectable actors including Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, TOM FREAKING HANKS! To know that these people took on this film specifically, makes my brain leak a little bit. Again, visually appealing, but it’s not enough. I’m going to give “Cats” a 2/10. Part of me wants to give this movie a 3/10, I really do. But now that I’ve had a little bit of time to marinate, this is up there with some of the most frustrating, not to mention forgettable, movies I have EVER seen during my time on this blog. Did the crowd reactions add something? Kind of. But not entirely. To me this was just a waste of time. The only ways that this movie could end up as a 1 is if it didn’t look pretty, if the acting was the worst I’ve ever seen, or it weren’t for a couple of halfway decent moments. Nevertheless, this was an insufferable experience, and I know “Star Wars” is not getting the best reviews right now, but this is actually making me excited for “Star Wars.” I think the only way I could have ended up enjoying “Cats” is if I was perhaps very young and this was one of the first movies I have watched. Maybe one of the first in the theater. Because as long as there are cats doing things on screen, why should I care about anything else? How am I still alive? I don’t know! It’s amazing! Even so, I’m done talking about this garbage, let’s move on!

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned guys, because I am going to have my review up for the next film that will inevitably make a billion dollars, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I’m going to my local IMAX theater on opening Thursday, I cannot wait! How will the film turn out? I do not know for sure, but I am endlessly curious, so let’s do this! May the force be with us! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the blog, and be sure to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Cats?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is cat-related? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Uncut Gems (2019): Anything’s Possible -Kevin Garnett

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“Uncut Gems” is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie and stars Adam Sandler (Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore), Kevin Garnett (Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault, NBA 2K19), Idina Menzel (Frozen, Glee), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Knives Out), Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian (Billions, Law & Order: Criminal Intent), and this film tends to revolve around a jeweler from New York, who is always looking for big bets. He’s a bit of a gambler, and if you watch this movie, there are times in which it resembles a tad of an obsession. The film follows one big bet story and dives into the actions of the jeweler as a character as he tries to balance work, family, and adversaries.

If you told me back in September that Adam Sandler was coming out with a new film, there is a good chance that I would have just responded to you saying “That’s cute,” and move on. However, to my surprise, “Uncut Gems” seems to have been met with high praise and many positive reviews. To me, this is an utter surprise, because as much as I like Adam Sandler, as funny as I think he is, his work in the realm of feature film is not always the best. “Grown Ups” is honestly one of the decade’s worst comedies. I haven’t even seen “Jack and Jill” so I think I am in a safe place at the moment. I liked “Pixels,” kind of… However, it does not take much away from what Adam Sandler did back in the day. I really liked “Happy Gilmore,” “Click,” and “Big Daddy.” In fact, “Big Daddy,” at least to me, is probably one of the most overlooked comedies that I have seen in my life. It’s a film that manages to balance being sweet, while also being incredibly immature, and somehow working. For that, everyone behind the movie has my respect.

I also had the privilege of seeing this movie early on December 8th, at the Boston premiere. The city just opened the new Arclight by TD Garden, which I may do a post on eventually if I feel like it. Me, alongside the rest of the audience, happened to be introduced to the movie by the Safdie brothers, the directors of the film, Kevin Garnett, who plays a supporting role, and Adam Sandler himself. They said hi, Sandler supported a nine or ten year old kid (and their parents) up front for coming to an R rated movie. The experience of seeing this movie was a fairly unique one, some might even call it awesome. Was the movie as awesome as the experience of going to see it? Yeah, I’d say so.

This is an interesting project given what’s entailed. It’s a rarity to see an actor like Adam Sandler taking on a serious role and project like he did here. He has my respect. The Safdie brothers do a really good job at directing this film. And one of the best parts of the film overall, and I really hope this does not get overlooked during awards season, is the musical score by Daniel Lopatin, who also did the music for “The Bling Ring” and “Good Time,” another film directed by the Safdie brothers. Just from early on in the film, it got in my head. It has this very mystical vibe that is kind of hard to describe. If they had to make an original song to describe part of the “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinte” sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” part of this score would be a good way to do so. If I had to compare this to other films, maybe I’d compare it to maybe “Blade Runner,” perhaps “The Neon Demon.”

But let’s be real, this is Adam Sandler’s movie. And I mean that 100%. I have not seen all of Adam Sandler’s work. Heck, to this day I haven’t even seen “The Wedding Singer” or “Billy Madison.” However, if I had to compare this movie, in terms of Sandler’s performance, to anything else that he’s done, this is EASILY my favorite performance that he has given. And I think a lot of it has to do with the writing, because this character is taken a lot more seriously than Adam’s previous roles, and the directing, because Adam feels like he is a little more subtle than usual. Granted, there are moments that resemble a typical Adam Sandler performance like over the top yelling and moving around like crazy. But the thing is, when it comes to these tendencies from Adam Sandler, it feels a lot more grounded and much less goofy. I know Sandler took on a role in “The Meyerowitz Stories” which earned him a Critics Choice nomination, but I have a feeling that this role is going to be remembered for a longer period of time. For the record, I have not seen “The Meyerowitz Stories,” but I am aware of its existence. When it comes to Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems,” I felt moved, I felt like I was there for the ride, and ultimately, Sandler manages to deliver an unbelievable amount of charisma to the table.

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And speaking of solid performances, I will also give kudos to one of the bigger surprises for me in the film and that is Kevin Garnett. Granted, his role is not all that complicated, because he does play himself. But based on his delivery in this film, I would not mind seeing more of him in other movies. Maybe he’ll be the next Dwayne Johnson or John Cena, one of those big sports stars who ends up going into the entertainment realm. In fact, much of the movie revolves around him and is based on events that took place during a big NBA playoff session. Speaking of celebrity appearances in this film, the Weeknd makes an appearance, and sort of dives into a fraction his life prior to today.

As for negatives, even though “Uncut Gems” is a really solid movie, a gritty, punch-packing, exciting thrill of a flick, I don’t see myself going back to theater to watch it again. If I ever find it on Blu-ray, I’ll definitely pick it up if I am ever in the mood. I think this movie contains bar none, the best performance ever given by Adam Sandler, but it’s not like one of those movies that I feel would require a second or third viewing because it is THAT good. Then again, there is another part of me, that thinks would need a second or third viewing to see if I missed anything subtle. This movie made me curious. It allowed me to wonder what was going to happen next. This feels like one of those movies that could end up being better on a second viewing, because this first viewing, while entertaining, feels like something I should process for a long period of time, but I am ultimately forced to in just a matter of a couple of hours. Technically, across the board, this film rocks. The music, the cinematography, the makeup, all of it works. I just don’t know if I’ll flock to it again. I love the screenplay, very much so in fact, but if it weren’t for very minor issues, it would almost be near perfect. “Uncut Gems” is a good movie, one of Adam Sandler’s finest in fact, so if that does not resemble a fine time at the cinema, I don’t know what does.

In the end, I think “Uncut Gems” is a damn fine film. It’s a GOOD TIME. Pun intended for those of you familiar with the Safdie brothers. I wouldn’t mind listening to the soundtrack at 2 in the morning while everyone else in my neighborhood is asleep as I write my screenplays like a madman. And even though Adam Sandler is often defined as a joke when it comes to actors today, I think this is a career-defining performance as far as he’s concerned. It’s honestly unlike anything I have seen from him. Now will he win an Oscar for it? It’s still hard to tell. I would not be surprised if he gets nominated. After all, despite not being nominated for the Golden Globes, he did win the Best Actor award from the National Board of Review, and he was just recently nominated for a Critics Choice Award. It’s still possible. Would Sandler be snubbed if he’s not nominated? From my perspective, I still need to think about that. We’ll just have to see. I’m going to give “Uncut Gems” an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! And if you are reading this review the week it has been released, you are in luck because I am about to remind you it is officially “STAR WARS” WEEK! This week is the official release of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” I am going opening night, and I will have my review up (hopefully) on Friday morning. If not, it’ll be up by the end of the day, or sometime later during the weekend. Speaking of reviews, I will be seeing another movie this week, “Bombshell.” This film is based on the scandal revolving around Fox News’ Roger Ailes. I will have my thoughts on that film up as soon as possible, hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday. Only time will tell. If you want to see more content like this, be sure to follow Scene Before, like this post, and if you want to help me out a little more, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Uncut Gems?” What did you think about it? Or, who is an actor you thought couldn’t be taken seriously, but eventually turned themselves around for you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019): Why the World Needs Tom Hanks

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“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and stars Tom Hanks (Cast Away, Forrest Gump), Matthew Rhys (The Americans, The Post), Susan Kelechi Watson (This Is Us, The Blacklist), and Chris Cooper (American Beauty, Adaptation). This film is based on the on the article “Can You Say… Hero?” by Tom Junod, which was published in Esquire magazine. It focuses on the character of Lloyd Vogel, who is in a bit of rut when it comes to the current state of his job. Prior to this, he attended his sister’s wedding and got into a fistfight with his father. Now, he has to interview Fred Rogers on a segment his organization is doing on heroes, which is pretty much where the movie’s main subjects lie.

I think Fred Rogers may be one of the greatest people to ever walk this Earth, and this is coming from somebody who has never had him in my childhood, with one exception. That exception by the way is my grandmother constantly singing the opening theme to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” when I was in her presence. It’s a delightful little song, no matter what age you are, no matter what mood you’re in. In fact, one of the best parts about this movie is how they implement the show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” into it. Let me just be clear, for those of you who know nothing about this movie, and have not seen any marketing. This movie is not about Fred Rogers’ life. It goes over what could have been a nifty little portion of his life, but this is not a textbook of all the things Fred Rogers did from birth to death. Fred Rogers is practically a main character in this film, but it does not mean the film is about HIM per se. If you ask me, it is more about Lloyd Vogel, the reporter who has to interview Fred Rogers. And I honestly do feel the need to say that, because I feel like a good number of people, I don’t know how many for sure, but still, a decent amount of people are going to go into this movie, thinking of it purely as a Mr. Rogers story, which it kind of is, but not really.

But going back to what this film contains in regards to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” what this movie was able to do by using the show in one way or another was incredible. The movie kinda sorta plays out as if it were an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In fact, the first scene of the film has Tom Hanks doing the iconic intro to the show. A lot of you likely know what I’m talking about. Rogers, or this case, Hanks, walks through the door, starts singing, changes his sweater, adjusts his shoes, he does the whole nine yards. I was in a rather full cinema, and it honestly felt like we were watching an episode of the classic children’s show. And it honestly shows with Tom Hanks performance.

I think Hanks here gives one of the best performances of the year. He’s probably not going to end up being top dog for me, Joaquin Phoenix is a tough competitor. However, Hanks as Mr. Rogers was everything I wanted. In fact, I think this was perhaps the easiest casting decision anyone could make for a role like this, because in Hollywood right now, Tom Hanks is often seen as that “nice guy.” You talk to anyone in Hollywood, they’ll often refer to Tom Hanks as a pure gentleman, therefore it’s almost hard to avoid thinking of Tom Hanks as this generation’s stereotype that could easily match with Mr. Rogers. Is he as nice? It’s hard to tell. He does not have a children’s TV show that airs on a network every day, but how often do you look at the news and read the headline “Tom Hanks Is a Dick Who Shatters Glass In Your Eyes, Says Everyone”? I think a lot of what made Hanks’ performance stellar is not just how he goes about with certain mannerisms to turn himself into his character, but I think directing was a key component here as well. After all, if you watch the movie, you’d notice Tom Hanks taking advantage of time in front of him, and wasting some of it by either being quiet or pausing. For all I know, maybe Hanks cautiously studied Rogers prior to taking on his role, maybe he has a solid memory when it comes to Rogers himself, but long story short, Hanks aced his role and I’m going to give one of the best compliments I can give an actor, I cannot see anybody else playing this role at this point.

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Again, I’ll mention, despite how this movie is called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” it does not entirely have to do with Mr. Rogers. And I do not think that is the worst thing in the world. I say that because what the film manages to do with the character of Lloyd Vogel was just as worthy of my attention as were the scenes exclusively involving Mr. Rogers. I really enjoyed his arch in this film, which really fits in with the idea of a story about maybe what a child could have been going through at a particular point in their life. The whole idea of Mr. Rogers himself is to provide a space through the television to inform and educate young children, spread kindness, and let the children viewing the program know they’re special. The movie dives into the emotions, internal thoughts, and personal life of Vogel. He never seems like the happiest person in the room, and if you watch him in this movie, it shows. And the way this film goes about telling the story of Vogel, it really goes to show the impact Rogers himself had on the generations he had to serve through television. Speaking of Vogel and Rogers, I really like the chemistry between the duo. There are a couple scenes that still stand out to me, specifically where Rogers is talking to Vogel through one of his puppets and Vogel is clearly irritated by the current scenario. I imagine if they didn’t have the right actors for this scene, the movie, I don’t know for sure, but this is my personal assumption, would have ended up being awkward as HELL. But somehow their chemistry easily clicked and the scenes between them were worth my time.

I also will say, sticking with the notion that this movie is sort of played out like a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode, there are a couple little neat transitions in the film that pay homage to the low-budget yet somewhat colorful props and set design of the series. I can’t say this film brought me back to my childhood, in fact I was born in the very late nineties, I did not grow up with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” being a part of my life. If I could describe this film in one of many ways, one thing I should say is sort of similar to what I just said. This movie may not have made me travel back to a time of pure nostalgia, but it reminded me of something that may have been missing from my life, sort of similar to how I felt leaving “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” the documentary on Fred Rogers which just released last year. When I did my review for that film, I explained that my childhood, even though I think there are a lot of things that I wouldn’t change about it, may have been missing a program like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” being a part of it all. A program that is not too obnoxious, not too flashy, not too dumbed-down, but a series that manages to educate people about life, serious topics, and important lessons at a level that a young kid can comprehend. In fact, this movie even touches upon something that I kind of was surprised to hear, not to mention, appreciative because I heard it. I am not sure how often Fred Rogers said this in real life, but based on Tom Hanks’ portrayal, he did not view himself as perfect. Because when I think of Mister Rogers, I think of a guy who is calm, collected, understanding, and courteous to those around him. He loves people, especially children. Even if they are being rotten, he still has respect for them for being, well… them. I wish I could do that. But even he, like some of the kids who looked up to him in the past, has to deal with his own pain, his own troubles, and maybe it’s not always easy for him. The scene where the character of Fred Rogers manages to reveal such a thing, humanized him. I say humanized, because I almost would not be surprised if there were perhaps some unexposed religious text that maybe we will never see for the rest of time, and the text suggests Fred Rogers is perhaps the second coming of someone like Jesus. It felt nice to see that even the most heroic of people may need help at times.

However, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not entirely beautiful. It’s a good movie, but not entirely beautiful. I had high hopes for this film, and I wonder if I set them too high, kind of like I did with a film like “Avengers: Endgame.” There was no way it was going to be THAT good. It was very enjoyable, similar to “Endgame,” but much like “Endgame,” it has problems. I will say the film ends brilliantly, but the last minute, I won’t get into specifics, but there’s this final moment that feels sort of tacked on and unnecessary, if I were the editor, I would have removed it from the final cut. But that’s just me. I also think this film wouldn’t be one that I’d be watching again anytime soon, as much as I enjoyed it. I think the film is a fun time, but it’s also one that I don’t see any reason to go back to. It’s a good time at the theater. Will I buy the Blu-ray? Maybe. Will watch the Blu-ray anytime soon? Probably not. I have priorities. When I left “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” in 2018 it felt like a life-changing experience. This on the other hand, felt simply like a fine movie. I’m not complaining, but “life-changing” is definitely higher on the scale than “fine.”

In the end, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a delightful and charming little film that reminds me the power of being kind. I think it is a proper film for just about any audience member. I think it is also a really good family film. I should also point out, it’s PG. If you want to see Tom Hanks act his heart out, delivering a solid performance as a pure heroic icon, this movie is for you. Is it the best movie of the year? Not really. But it is also a fine time at the movies as far as I’m concerned. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic and even if the movie almost kinda sorta feels like two in one (one about Fred Rogers and another about Lloyd Vogel), it still manages to impress me. I’m going to give “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want you all to know that next week I’m going to be seeing a couple movies including “Jumanji: The Next Level,” which I will be going to see on Monday. But, on Sunday, I’m going to be going to see a film that has been apparently getting a lot of hype recently, “Uncut Gems.” This is an advance screening at Boston’s new Arclight theater, which I might do a post on eventually reviewing it (depending on how much time I have on my hands). The reason why I am going is because there are going to be several people involved with the film who are going to be present at the screening. Specifically, the directors, the composer, former Boston Celtics player Kevin Garnett, and the film’s star, Adam Sandler. I cannot wait for this screening, I hope the movie is as good as people are saying it is, and I hope this is yet another example of A24 delivering an excellent product. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to see more posts like this one! How? Use an email, or WordPress account for greater access! Do you like Facebook? Yeah? Well then, check out the Scene Before Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?” What did you think about it? Or, and I’m not sure how many people saw “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” or how many people saw that and the movie I am currently reviewing, but if you did see both movies, which was better? Do you prefer “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” or “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dark Waters (2019): WARNING: This Movie May Contain Man-Made Chemicals That Become Attached To You

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“Dark Waters” is directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) and stars Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, The Avengers), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Intern), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River), Bill Camp (Molly’s Game, Vice), Victor Garber (The Orville, The Flash), Mare Winningham (Grey’s Anatomy, Amber Waves), and Bill Pullman (Independence Day, The Equalizer). This film is based on true events, it’s inspired by particular news articles, most notably Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine piece, “The Man Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” and is about a case involving the chemical company DuPont, who has been called out in the past for putting various dangerous man-made chemicals into products. Due to this, many deaths have occurred, some people have facial deformities, this movie basically focuses on some negative effects of the corporation. The movie dives deep towards the perspective of Robert Bilott, an attorney investigating the situation and its effects.

We are nearing the end of November, and with that in mind, it is perhaps without question that we as a moviegoing audience are being blessed with one god-like piece of material after another. Earlier this month I saw “Honey Boy,” an Amazon Original that made me argue whether or not Shia LeBeouf writes better than he acts. I soon saw “Ford v. Ferrari” which is one of the best racing movies I have ever seen. And the day before I saw this current movie that I’m talking about, I went to the cinema to go watch “Knives Out,” which is just pure fun. Enough said. It’s one of those movies that feels incredibly wild and it is all the better for it. Although unlike “Knives Out,” which I have been hearing about since some of the cast happened to be announced, I do not recall hearing much at all about “Dark Waters.” It’s one of those movies that just sneaked up on me. But I had a chance to go to a free screening on the day it opened in Boston, so I took advantage of that.

“Dark Waters,” on the surface, had a number of things going for it. It has a cool cast. Mark Ruffalo is pretty big right now, Anne Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses working today, and I should not go without mentioning Tim Robbins, who I did not know was in this movie until after I saw it, but he was in perhaps in 1994’s best film, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Let me just say something, this movie is no “Shawshank.” Not even close. I enjoyed it, but it’s no “Shawshank.” Part of why I feel this way is because of how much I tried to recall upon trying to write about this movie. Part of me almost forgot about a core element about the film and its screenplay in particular, which stood out to me when I saw it, but somehow it just slipped out of my mind almost as if this were a disposable comedy or something that I’ll watch once until I move onto the next thing.

But with that in mind, I still enjoyed what was in front of me. The story itself is one of those that I thought worked well for the big screen, even if it did take more than few moments to get me fully onboard. I think the performances given by multiple actors, leading and supporting, make this film watchable. I’d also say that it is an appropriate film for this time considering how it partially involves how big corporations are harming their consumers, plus to add onto that, the main message is about the environment and how we need to be aware of what we’re doing regarding it. Not only that, but we, the consumers, are not the only ones to blame for what’s being done. Will this film be forgotten over time? Hard to tell. It’s not the most popular film out right now, but at the moment, if a good number of people see it, it may reflect the current state of our environment to them.

I sort of mentioned this already, but the actors here do pretty well, and I think the two leads in particular, Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, have terrific chemistry and are extremely suitable for their roles. Mark Ruffalo plays an environmental lawyer who is trying to hold DuPont accountable and the movie managed to put me on his side, I also really enjoyed the moments where he was interacting with a farmer. That may have been one of the more hypnotizing scenes of the whole film.

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But if you ask me, the best performance in the film probably comes from Anne Hathaway, and this delights me to no end. Not just because I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, not just because she was in a few of my favorite movies ever, but also because she was just in a TERRIBLE movie this year called “Serenity,” which was a step down for her, and for a few others who were involved with that project as well. Now, Hathaway has bounced back with what I think may be one of my personal favorite performances from her. She plays the wife of the main character, and there are various scenes where she’s observing her husband doing things that might as well make him look bats*it crazy. Just about every execution of a line given by her was perfect.

I gotta say though, this movie has problems. It has been almost two weeks since I saw this in the theater, but even with that, this movie is a tad forgettable. I remember various portions of it, but it doesn’t feel like something that I’d salute for the rest of my life. I don’t know why, but this movie feels like a restaurant located in my town that I have only gone to once, liked, but because of competition, specifically in said town, there is a good chance I will not be returning anytime soon. The pacing was alright, but there is minor room for improvement. But I think the biggest flaw this movie has that I can think of is the ending. I say that because without going into spoiler territory, it feels incredibly abrupt. It’s not like the movie ends and it doesn’t make sense, but it ends leaving this weird taste in my mouth. I dunno… This is one of the weirdest movies I have seen this year. When I saw it, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but at the same time, I am having this weird spiral of memory loss when I try to think about it. For the record, I am twenty years old, not eighty. I think my memory itself is in rather good standing.

In the end, I do think “Dark Waters” is a really interesting, not to mention informative story. This movie I believe exists more to inform than to entertain, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know if they have ever done a documentary on this, but if not, I guess this is about the closest we’ll get to having a documentary. Hang on a sec… *Switches tab* WAIT! Just Googled it, there is a documentary. I take that statement back! I think the movie is well acted, well shot, the color grading kind of works for the film at hand, but I don’t think it’ll win best picture. Although this movie is from Participant, who made last year’s Best Picture, “Green Book,” so you never know. I should point out, it barely has a release whatsoever, so we’ll have to see how far this movie can expand before we make any further conclusions about box office, popularity, or overall potential to be recognized this award season. Until then, I’m going to give “Dark Waters” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood,” a movie which at one point, may have been one of my most anticipated of 2019. Will it live up to the hype? You’ll have to find out for yourself! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the site, and also check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dark Waters?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Anne Hathaway performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Knives Out (2019): 2019’s Pop Culture Murder Mystery Dinner

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“Knives Out” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and stars… well, pretty much everyone you know. To be completely serious though, “Knives Out” stars Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Exposed), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Daniel Craig (Skyfall, Logan Lucky), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Shape of Water), Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges), Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love, Simon), Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry), and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, The Sound of Music). Holy crap, that’s a lot of names.

“Knives Out” takes place in the middle of Massachusetts and it typically centers around the interactions of a family after the death of a patriarch. Everybody gathers around a large house, everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a motivation, but it is also up to a detective (Daniel Craig) to settle everyone down and find out the truth regarding what happened.

The murder mystery genre for me is kind of like horror, because I never take too many chances to dive into the genre itself. Granted, horror, at least to me, is a tad more predictable because it seems to have more of a staying power in today’s society, so I personally prefer the murder mystery genre. In fact, my favorite “Family Guy” episode ever, “And Then There Were Fewer,” is a murder mystery, so I do have some respect for the genre. And honestly, when it comes to Rian Johnson, I will admit that I have had a slight bad taste in my mouth because of the way he handled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s a film that just got significantly worse after I first saw it. In fact, when I watched it a second time, I was kind of turned off by the result. I say that because I wanted the movie to go in a different direction than say “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is a great movie. However, despite the everlasting love and affection I have for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” one minor flaw with that movie is the way they manage to basically rehash the earliest “Star Wars.” Granted, it’s a fantastic homage which had many repeat viewings for me. But as much as I originally appreciated it for going in a different direction, a lot of the choices they made to go in such a direction were sort of faulty and questionable.

However, having seen that movie, I now know that Johnson might as well be one to subvert expectations. Here’s the thing. Murder mysteries are supposed to keep you guessing. If this movie could keep me on the edge of my seat and questioning everything, then I’d walk out satisfied.

Honestly, I went into this movie with an idea of what is going to be. It turns out, I got something better than what I thought I would get. And that says a lot because the hype behind this movie felt real for me. The production design is some of the best I have seen all year. The acting, not to mention casting in general, is perfect. Everyone from Daniel Craig to Ana De Armas to Toni Collette, everyone served their roles properly and put a smile on my face.

I’ll just say though, I think the two most popular award ceremonies that have to with movies are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. I have had a history of talking about both ceremonies on here, especially the Academy. But I never usually talk about another popular ceremony, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. One of the biggest awards they present on the night of the ceremony is one given to the entire ensemble of actors. We still have about a month left before 2019 is over, and a little longer than that until the ceremony takes place, but I’d argue that at this point, “Knives Out” has an extremely solid chance at winning such an award. I think purely based on how Rian Johnson has to handle so many actors at once, many of whom happened to already establish their name in the industry, including a couple who are a bit lesser known, there is a chance “Knives Out” could walk away with the biggest award from that ceremony.

One of the more solid examples that could let that case be true is Daniel Craig, who plays Benoit Blanc in the film. His performance, was part of what set the tone for the entire movie for me. Daniel Craig, while taking his performance seriously, realizes that this movie is sort of supposed to be fun. His introduction scene almost made me think I was watching something from Wes Anderson, because it is charming, quirky, and based on the way it was directed, I was perhaps hypnotized to leave the film, regardless of whether or not I liked it, admiring Craig in all his glory.

Another standout performer to me is one of the leads, Chris Evans. I think most of what I love about this performance has mainly to do with the screenplay and how the character is written. I say that because the movie is full of tense dialogue between characters, which allows serious vibes to kick in, but Evans manages to play a character who is incredibly laid back and sort of a smartass. Do I think other people could have played his character? Personally, yes, I think I could have played it if I tried, because if I were in this situation, this is probably how I would act. I’d try to have fun with the seriousness at hand, while also trying to deal with the current situation.

As for smaller roles, I think there are a number of them that stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jaeden Martell, but the one I want to talk about is the one given by Toni Collette. I think Collette is not only a great performer here, but brought such life to her character that I cannot imagine anyone else bringing at all, or at least without being cringeworthy. Collette’s character sort of reminds me of a crazy aunt who likes to party. Maybe another good example is the mother from ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” minus the toxic affection she has for offspring. In a way, she’s almost like Chris Evans’ character, because as much as everyone else may be moody or depressed, which she kind of is at times, but still, she has a somewhat happy outlook on current happenings. Either that or she may just have some sort of God-given charisma that nobody else can have.

But if you ask me, I think the best performance in the film is given by Ana de Armas, an actress who I personally happened to have liked before this film came out, and someone who may been the main reason why this film was originally put on my radar. For the record, Ana de Armas was one of the supporting roles in my 2nd favorite film of 2017, and one of my favorite sci-fi films of the decade, “Blade Runner 2049.” She has this ability to take a challenging role and own it. Because in that movie she played a holographic woman that was supposed to have a connection to whoever owned them. The complexity of that role involved being someone who is robotic enough to serve their master, while also being human enough to understand emotion, because in that movie she was someone who happened to be in love with the main character. At the same time, it was almost as if she was a product of the main character’s desires.

As for this movie, we get more of a glance at a character where Ana de Armas has a personality where she is more worried about saving herself. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Daniel Craig presented himself as this quirky, out of nowhere detective. If you ask me, I think the biggest quirk in the movie didn’t necessarily come from him, and instead, came from Ana de Armas. Because she plays a character who practically cannot lie. If all other people were like her, she’d make the lie detector test obsolete. I say that because her character cannot tell a lie, otherwise she throws up. This makes every scene where Armas is forced to tell a truth or where she is being questioned all the more intriguing because not only was I, as an audience member, hypnotized to follow the mystery as it was unraveled, but I was also somewhat concerned for the character’s sanity, health, and sense of self.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography in the film is amazing. The various dutch angles fit a number of the scenes and sort of had an old Hollywood vibe. The music is outstanding. By the way, such music is composed by Rian Johnson’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also worked with him in films like “Brick” and “Looper.” I think Rian Johnson could have a chance for being nominated in the Best Director category, I think his vision helped this movie immensely. This honestly feels like a movie that only he could have done. Maybe one or two other people could do this, but this feels like a personal project. And as much as I despise “The Last Jedi,” I could see what Rian Johnson was trying to do with that movie, because he not only directed that film, but he wrote it as well. “Star Wars” to me, must be a more collaborative piece of media to work on at this point, and with “The Force Awakens” pointing in a certain direction, it admittedly feels odd looking back to see one man with perhaps a sole vision take over for a big film that could expand on previous lore and build up to the next one which happens to conclude a trilogy. These are the kinds of films that I would prefer to see Johnson tackle. Could he do another big franchise in the future? Maybe, but I want to see more of his original work. Media that feels like something only he could own.

I honestly don’t even know what problems come to mind with “Knives Out.” The camerawork is some of the best I have seen all year. The characters are all charismatic. The screenplay is nothing short of outstanding. The ending, as well done as it is, is little choppy in buildup. As for other problems, if there are any, they are a bit hard to point out. Overall, this movie kicks ass!

In the end, “Knives Out,” the movie with perhaps the most badass title of all time, packs a brutal punch of bloody goodness. It is easily one of the best movies of the year, and a step in the right direction for Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have not checked out his earlier work, but I really want to check out “Looper.” Films like these are the ones I’ll be excited for when it comes to Rian Johnson’s filmography. Films that are original, exhilarating, and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I have to say one more thing, I will suggest that you’d go see this movie with the biggest crowd you can. If you have one of those theaters with reserved seating near you, buy your tickets online and see how many people have already reserved seats. If there many seats reserved already, I implore you, PLEASE buy a ticket to that show because this is a movie where crowd reactions enhance the experience to the tenth degree. I’m going to give “Knives Out” a 9/10.

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Thanks for reading this review! Just want to announce to everyone reading that during this Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be showing off my newest trailer for “Top Movies of the 2010s,” a project I plan to release this January, it is going to be the most ambitious countdown series I have done yet, and I cannot wait to share it with you all! If you want to be notified about this trailer, here’s what you can do. Follow Scene Before with an email, or if you want greater access, use a WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, check out MY PAGE and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Knives Out?” What did you think about it? Or, who happens to be your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? It can be from anything, books, movies, TV, you name it! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!