The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019): Portrait with Orange on Fire

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“The Burnt Orange Heresy” is directed by Giuseppe Capotondi (Berlin Station, The Double Hour) and stars Claes Bang (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Square), Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Everest), Mick Jagger (Being Mick, Running Out of Luck), and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, Pride & Prejudice). This film revolves around an eccentric, mysterious art critic by the name of James Figueras who is hired to steal a rare painting. As the movie moves along, he becomes greedier by the second. Simultaneously, he is romantically involved with a woman named Berenice Hollis.

Oh yay! Another movie that we can see in theaters! 2020 is turning around!

…Sort of. Not really. It’s still a crapfest all around and we just have to live with that! Boohoo.

“The Burnt Orange Heresy,” much like a lot of other movies I have seen so far this year, is a film that I really did not know much about going into it. All I really knew about the film is what I’ve read regarding it on IMDb and one or two other sites. I knew it got some attention already through festivals. Apparently, based on how IMDb lists the film as being released on March 6th, 2020 in the U.S., this thing has been theatrically released already. In fact, its distributor, Sony Pictures Classics decided that they’d hold onto the film and avoid putting it on VOD despite how many other films at the time such as “The Hunt,” “Bloodshot,” and “Onward” were going in such a direction. As of today, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a film that can ONLY be watched in theaters. As for when it will hit stores and digital services remains a mystery to me.

Walking out of “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” I cannot say I’m disappointed. Partially because as mentioned, I did not know much about the film going into it. All I really gathered regarding it was the basic gist and concept. “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a sensual, mysterious flick, which kind of makes sense as it does take place in Italy, which from my experience is an often romanticized country. In fact, let me just say, I am not dating anybody. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic where everyone is supposed to socially distance from each other, I don’t really think I should be dating anybody, but I thought that if you are in the right mood, this could be an alright pick for a date movie. Granted, this movie is also not for everyone, as it does feel fairly artsy. Almost in the high-brow category if you will. Then again, this is a movie heavily involving art and someone trying to steal a rare painting, so it kind of adds up.

I really think the best part of the movie is the chemistry between the main romantic couple, specifically played by Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki. Their chemistry is some of the best I have seen in recent memory in regards to a relationship. Every one of their actions, even if it goes to a point of slight exaggeration, felt kind of raw. Again, this is kind of a sensual movie during a few bits and pieces, even if that is not what it is trying to present itself as in the long run.

Also, gotta admit, Elizabeth Debicki may be a new celebrity crush of mine, and based on her acting chops, I cannot wait to see her smash the role she’s got in “Tenet!”

*teary-eyed* PLEASE COME OUT ALREADY.

I also liked the main character himself, again, played by Claes Bang, an actor who I am admittedly not familiar with at all. This movie starts off with a pretty sharply edited opening scene where Claes Bang’s character, James Figueras, is on his exercise bike in his private quarters, but simultaneously, he’s lecturing to an audience about a painting. To save some of the mystery from you, the people reading this… I will not go into much detail about the scene itself, but it is a great way to not only start the film, but get a sense of our main character’s personality. What’s he like? What does he do? What are his mannerisms? Just in the first five to ten minutes of this film, I felt like I’ve already gathered a terrific sense of who exactly this character could be, or who he is trying to be. He’s mysterious, he’s quirky, I kind of wanted to know more about him. Sure, maybe on the surface he kind of looks like the dad from “Modern Family,” but as far as his traits and personality go, that is something that I wanted to be somewhat unraveled as we go along.

As I watched “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” it reminded me of one thing more than anything else. That my friends, is “Life Lessons,” the short film directed by Martin Scorcese as part of the “New York Stories” set. For those of you who don’t know what that is, “Life Lessons” is a film about an eccentric painter, who lives with his assistant as their relationship begins to spiral down the drain. Granted, the relationship seems to be working a lot better for both sides in “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” but I would not be lying if I told you that I did not make such a connection with these two films. Both of these films feel fairly dramatic, romantic, and occasionally a little bumpy. I will say, and this is somewhat forgiven as “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a feature and “Life Lessons” is a short, but “The Burnt Orange Heresy” feels a bit on the slower side compared to “Life Lessons.” Without spoilers, the way certain events play out in both these films feels like they are a couple with their differences, but nevertheless happy to be together.

I said this once, I’ll say it again, this film is not for everyone. This film is almost on the verge of being kind of eccentric, and some will find it pretentious or high brow. But for me, I enjoyed myself. It is a film that I probably will not end up watching every day, but if I were to have it on, I would most likely not use it just as background noise. I also think that when it comes to how this film is edited overall, it is one of the finer editing jobs I have seen this year. A lot of the scenes are interwoven nicely and nothing really feels out of place. I’d give this film a thumbs up.

In the end, “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” despite what I just said about probably not wanting to watch it every day, is a film that I’d probably check out a second time because it has a vibe that feels cleansing and smooth to the brain. Plus, despite being an hour and thirty-nine minutes, there may be one or two things that I missed on the first viewing that I may want to pick up again. Maybe the dialogue went over my head or something, I don’t know. Nevertheless, this is good enough for a repeat viewing. I’m going to give “The Burnt Orange Heresy” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I have a few new Blu-rays lying around for possible reviews, but HBO Max has just released an original film starring Seth Rogen by the name of “An American Pickle.” If I get the chance, I might just talk about that for an upcoming review, but who knows? Anything can happen in 2020. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Burnt Orange Heresy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie set in Italy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Capone (2020): Josh Trank Chronicles the Gangster

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“Capone” is directed by Josh Trank (Fantastic Four, Chronicle) and stars Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Dunkirk) as the title character alongside Linda Cardellini (Daddy’s Home, Gravity Falls), Jack Lowden (Dunkirk, Fighting with My Family), Noel Fisher (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shameless), Kyle MacLachlan (Inside Out, Carol’s Second Act), Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary, Crash), and Al Sapienza (The Sopranos, Person of Interest). This film is about the famous American gangster, Al Capone, and is set during the last year of his life as he suffers from dementia.

This movie originally released on VOD this past May, and I have waited a little bit to talk about it for several reasons. For one, I took a break for the most part when it comes to movie reviewing during the spring. Also, “Scoob!” was a priority for me. It is an animated film, and I usually tend to review at least five a year now, so I wanted to get one under my belt. I should note that both movies released around the same time.

However, I was shopping inside Best Buy the other day and I came across “Capone,” which had a copy available on Blu-ray. I snatched it when I had the chance, and I popped it in a couple weeks later. For a price of $12.99, I felt that I was getting my money’s worth. After all, when this thing came out, I believe it was $19.99 to rent on VOD, which is still ridiculous to me. By the way, Disney, you’re crazy, and I say that as someone who may want to work with 20th Century in the future. “Mulan” deserves better and so do your customers!

Before I go any further, I should note that “Capone” has a 4.7/10 on IMDb. Given how a lot of the stuff on IMDb happens to be somewhere in the 6 to 8 range, that’s a pretty low score. I will say though, what kind of shocks me here is that this rating does not come from mostly 1s and 2s. Not even 3s. The most common rating for “Capone” is a 5 on IMDb. I’m not gonna give my score just yet. Per usual, we save that for the end. But I can see why 5 would be a common verdict here. This movie really isn’t anything special.

Now, this movie is directed by Josh Trank, who as far as my opinions are concerned has a fairly mixed resume. His movie “Chronicle” released back in 2012, was a fun found footage flick with a neat concept. I think it was pretty well done overall. But in 2015 he directed “Fantastic 4,” which ironically wasn’t even close to fantastic. When I was seeing it at the theater. I missed part of the climax as I was more concerned about getting more popcorn than I was about catching the rest of this movie. When it comes to “Fantastic 4” in particular, I don’t put all the blame on Josh Trank, given how that film was basically made as a quick money grab so Fox could keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel. So even though “Fantastic 4” was not entirely great, it wasn’t exactly earth-shatteringly devastating to watch. As for “Capone,” the same can be said for that movie. It’s by no means the best movie in the world, it’s not a masterpiece, not worth massive attention. It just… exists.

I will say though, and this should not be completely surprising as this movie does come from a smaller studio, this project feels just a tad more personalized coming from a guy like Josh Trank. Maybe there’s some hints of a story formula that become obvious here and there, but if this movie were say, the next “Parasite,” I would be all over Josh Trank right now and completely excited to see whatever he does next. Although I should point out, unlike “Fantastic Four,” Josh Trank actually wrote the screenplay for “Capone” by himself. During the writing process for “Fantastic Four,” he was involved with the screenplay enough to receive a credit. But so were Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg.

I do like Tom Hardy’s performance here as Al Capone. One thing for me to consider, based on the other projects where I’ve seen Tom Hardy, such as “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Venom,” it doesn’t really feel like my typical vision for Tom Hardy himself. It actually feels like he’s playing a character. Although ironically, this movie comes out during the COVID-19 pandemic and this is the one time Tom Hardy plays a character that doesn’t wear a mask. Given his resume, such as the recently mentioned “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Venom,” along with other films including “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Dunkirk,” it feels a little out of the ordinary. I’m not complaining, it’s just something I noticed.

I should note that I watched this movie on Monday, August 3rd. This gave me plenty of time to gather my thoughts for a review. Unfortunately, the little that I do fully remember about this movie does not say enough for this movie to have a lasting impact. Yes, I did feel bad for Al Capone given how he was going through some health issues. There’s definitely a reason to get attached to such a character. Although, I’m gonna use this phrase once again, this movie doesn’t really have the oomph factor to push it over the edge. Do I care for Al Capone here? Sure. But will I care for him in a week when I move on to the next movie? That’s hard to say. This movie has some great dialogue exchanges between characters that make you somewhat emotionally attached, but I don’t feel like I’m going to remember anybody’s name in this film except maybe Al Capone because he’s on the flipping title of the movie for crying out loud!

For the most part, I do think Josh Trank’s “Capone,” kind of like the last movie I reviewed, “Gretel & Hansel,” is a competent production. I think the location choices were suitable, I like the casting, and getting Tom Hardy to play the lead role is a fine mix of name recognition and talent. I will say one thing though as a compliment compared to “Gretel & Hansel.” “Capone” was more entertaining in its span of a hundred and three minutes, compared to “Gretel & Hansel” in its span of eighty seven minutes. Sometimes, it goes to show… A movie is as long as the viewer makes it. “Gretel & Hansel” in this case, maybe took a million more years to get through. I was entertained by “Capone,” but I don’t think I’ll watch it again in the near future.

In the end, “Capone” is not… Terrible, but to call it next level material or even “good” would be a lie. It’s just some extended series of scenes that may or may not be a waste of time depending on your mood. I think there was some effort put into it, but again, there’s no lasting impact for me to remember this film forever. Maybe if I watched the film in a theater, who knows? It could be experiential, but I didn’t. I saw it at home… Where we are stuck for the rest of our lives… End this pandemic… I’m going to give “Capone” a 5/10. I will say, the rating could jump to a 6/10 as there were some entertaining parts. But when seeing a brief moment of “The Wizard of Oz” was the most fascinating part of “Capone,” that’s kind of a problem. It was a good scene, but still.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend I’m planning on seeing “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” a new movie that is only playing in theaters. Can’t believe I’m saying that! This film is about an art dealer trying to steal a painting and the mission suddenly goes out of control. Sounds like a work of art.

*Cricket noises*

Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Capone?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hardy performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Radioactive (2019): Imagine Elements

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“Radioactive” is directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, The Simpsons) and stars Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Gone Girl), Sam Riley (Maleficent, Control), Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen, Dunkirk), and Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma, The Witch). This film is about the life and story of Marie Curie, a scientist who discovered radioactive elements on the periodic table, which eventually changed the world. The film also dives into her family life, and her love life.

I knew a bit about Marie Curie before I saw “Radioactive.” In fact, when it comes to women in science, I think her name has a bigger lock in my head compared to just about anybody else. After all, there was a point during my sophomore year in high school where I knew her name through various means, and I wanted to do a project on her for my chemistry class. Unfortunately, she was taken. But as a consolation prize, her husband, Paul Francis Curie was available. So I did have some history regarding the Curie name, even if I didn’t really know them or consider myself to be a part of their legacy. I just… reflected on them. That’s a good word to use at this point.

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Before we go any further, I just want to let everyone know that if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, this movie is free as it is an original production from Amazon Studios. Thankfully, Gofobo sent me a notice that Amazon was letting people see the movie early for free. For various reasons, I decided to wait a little to review it, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity. Having said that… This is one of the best movies of 2020!

BUT… Hold your horses! If you have been following my recent work, you’d know THIS DOESN’T SAY MUCH. 2020, as a whole, has been a wreck for movies. Not just because of the industry-wide impact productions and crews everywhere happen to be facing, but what we have gotten so far has been nowhere near worthy of high honors. At this point, I would not be surprised if “Sonic the Hedgehog” ends up getting nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. It’s that crazy of a year! I will say though, “Radioactive” is a movie that going into it, I really did not have much awareness towards, but walking out of it, I felt that I made a superb life choice to gaze my eyes upon it.

Of the movies that I have seen this year, this honestly feels like the most worthy contender of being a “well-rounded” production. It has an excellent cast who performs well in each particular role on the list, the script is attention-grabbing and very much follows the much-respected “show, don’t tell” route of filmmaking. It’s a win for visual storytelling. Directing-wise, this was a solid vision of the period and people in which it portrays. The production design in this film may be the finest of the year. There’s a lot to unpack here and appreciate. Speaking of the production design aspect, I know the competition is not that heavy, and it could increase as we get movies like “Tenet,” “The New Mutants,” and so on, I think if any movie were to contend for a production design award at this point, “Radioactive” could win. I felt like I was in a different period than my own. And this REALLY says something, because when I review new movies. Guess where I’m watching them? Either on the big screen in theaters, or at home on my 4K TV. I used neither of those for this movie. Instead, I used a laptop. Why? Because the link to the movie was provided to me so I could watch it on smaller devices. To say that I watched a movie on my laptop and felt immersed from a picture standpoint, is a tremendous compliment.

Amazon.com: Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and ...

This film is based on a graphic novel by Lauren Redniss, and that thought never popped into my head while watching the movie. I never really made any sort of connection. But as I reflect upon what I witnessed, it adds up. A lot of the images are packed with impeccable detail, the colors really resemble a dreariness that isn’t exactly depressing, but more or less brings a pop to the eyes.

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One of the best parts overall of “Radioactive” is the performance given by Rosamund Pike. I will admit, I need to see more of her work, but she breaks a leg here. So far, it is probably my favorite performance of the year. This film centers around Marie Curie, and Pike does a really good job at maintaining the sense of importance such a character in an environment like this can provoke. This is one of the most notable women in all of scientific history, not only was her story laid out in an organized manner that allowed me to gaze at the screen, but it’s nice to see Pike lay a dramatic effect to somebody whose name I recognized, but didn’t have a complete knowledge about. Also one of the highlights of the picture, there are various points where the script jumps through time, and it doesn’t really feel out of place. It’s a bunch of various extended cases of cause and effect. The story attributes Marie Curie’s accomplishments and also notes future achievements that occur, and perhaps mainly occurred because of Curie’s past work. It does a really good job at making you care about the main character without necessarily seeing the main character do much of anything or put herself into action. The editing here felt seamless and organized. I dug it all.

There are not too many standout issues I have with “Radioactive.” When it comes to the 2020 library of movies, it is definitely one of those that I would consider watching again. Pacing-wise, “Radioactive” is not bad at all. I will say though, even though I like the overall way the script plays out, it is almost a little by the numbers. In fact for a period-based film about Marie Curie, it feels like the crew went with… let’s say a rather cliche or ordinary vibe for this type of film. Despite its flaws, I would recommend “Radioactive.” Again, if you have Prime Video and pay for it, you can get it for free. Check it out if you’re ever in the mood. But in all seriousness, if I had to give one description for this film, it is “well-rounded” if you ask me. All the elements (no pun intended) line up for a competent picture that is entertaining, yet honorable to Curie’s legacy.

In the end, I will remind you all… It’s 2020. If you just want a good movie at this point, “Radioactive” could end up being for you. “Radioactive” elegantly presented the story of Marie Curie and despite the few critiques I would give to this film, it was extremely well done, especially if you had to line this film up with whatever else came out this year. That is if this is even a year anymore. Nobody has a concept of time at this point.MV5BYjgwM2JhNjItNjFlYi00MjYwLTlhYWEtZjk2NzcwYmZmYTg0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU1NzU3MzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_ I’m going to give “Radioactive” an 8/10. In 2020, 8 really is the new 10. Sad to say, but if things actually come out in theaters on time or if we get better movies, that could change. Still mad about “Tenet…” Ugh.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Vivarium,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. I won’t say much about the movie… But… It’s weird. Won’t say if that’s a good or bad thing, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Or, you can get some alternate content from Scene Before through the official Facebook page! Give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Radioactive?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie about a woman in science? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Hope Gap (2019): Divorce is Hardest on Grown, Fully Developed Children

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“Hope Gap” is directed by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Misérables) and stars Annette Bening (American Beauty, 20th Century Women), Bill Nighy (Love, Actually, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country), Aiysha Hart (Line of Duty, Atlantis), Ryan McKen (Game of Thrones, Bancroft), Steven Pacey (Blake’s 7, Doctors), and Nicholas Burns (The Crown, Benidorm). This film is about a couple, whose son is returning home for some time. As we progress through the movie, we begin to notice that the couple cannot quite click. We notice that they have trouble communicating, and it is also revealed that the husband has plans to leave the wife, thus we have our movie.

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Looking at “Hope Gap” on the surface, it may not exactly be my type of movie. But just because something is not necessarily my “type” of film, does not mean I am going to count it out on my viewing list. It just means I may have priorities. Speaking of priorities, when the heck is “Tenet” going to hit theaters?! Anyway, “Hope Gap” was available to me as my mother rented it On Demand and I figured why not give it a watch. What have I got to lose? It’s 2020! It could be worse! It could be murder hornets!

Having said that, I watched the movie, and I will say… Is it just me… Or did movies just rise from the dead?! For the past few months, I felt like there has been nothing to talk about, nothing to get me excited, nothing to pump me up as a film fanatic, but now, back to back, I have seen TWO of my favorite films of the year. And what makes this film in particular a little extra special is how it’s not even in my wheelhouse of film genres. Yes, a lot of the actors in the film like Annette Bening and Bill Nighy have done acclaimed work in the past, in fact some of the movie’s cast have previously worked on another highlight of 2020 for me, “Emma.” The cast in this movie has a knack for talent and it shows here with some of the finest performances I have seen all year. But, I’ll mention, like the last film I saw which I reviewed… It’s not perfect, and once again, 2020 continues to be the worst year for film that I have witnessed, maybe ever.

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Much like last year’s “Marriage Story,” which is a remarkably well-made masterpiece by the way, “Hope Gap” centers around a married couple who evidently cannot click. The performances from Bening and Nighy reveal this with a ton of force. Not only is their acting and chemistry believable and satisfying, but they are also well-written. Going back to “Marriage Story,” as I look back on that movie, I can point out to several moments where either member of the marriage can be labeled as a jerk. Here, I picked up that a lot of the reasons why this movie unfolded was mainly having to do with the husband, who seemed to display one very notable quality as the movie went on. He seemed very passive, at least when his wife is in the room. There was this scene in the movie where the wife got a bit serious and wanted the husband to express himself or open up, but he always seemed rather silent, perhaps uninformative. He never really felt any need or reason to tell his wife what he wants or needs. I sort of felt bad for the man even if he was the main catalyst for the main couple’s relationship going down the drain.

Interesting thing though, I have been through the process of seeing my parents have a falling out, separate, get divorced, and throughout the process, I was distraught. Admittedly, I still am today, seven years later, which is why I do my best to cherish the family I have as much as possible and see them when needed. Now, I will say, one of the main characters of “Hope Gap” is the couple’s grown son, he comes back home to visit his parents, his room has barely been touched, it’s even got a twin bed in it. My parents divorced when was in my teens. This guy is rather grown up, and during the movie… He doesn’t really seem to care about anything that happens to his parents, it doesn’t matter. After all, he’s on his own, he’s got his own life. Why does he have to care about the people who raised him? He never really reveals much of his emotions towards these dramatic and life-altering situations. In fact, I find it really funny how in the IMDb description, it mentions that the visit takes “a dramatic turn when the father tells him (the son) he plans on leaving his mother.” The drama, even though it is there, feels more like drama, for us, the viewers, the people in the movie themselves barely experience it. We’re along for the ride, and we see a passive husband, a son who barely gets involved in any of this other than actively listening to his parents, and the only person who truly feels traumatized or highly affected by all this in such a negative way is the wife. Is that a bad thing? No. Because the script of the film flows properly, and that along with several performances makes you buy into everything that’s going on.

They say divorce is hardest on the children, but this movie made me think… If my parents stayed together, until I was… say 35. How would I feel about them getting divorced regardless of the situations/buildup that triggered them to go down this path? I mean, it is a life-altering situation, in fact of all the situations that I can think of in my life that I have personally been through, I think the divorce of my parents has altered me the most. Although, the COVID-19 pandemic might take that crown eventually if more s*it starts to go down. But hey, movie theaters are open in my state, so yay! If this divorce thing happened in my early twenties or my thirties or forties, would I try to get my parents back together? Plead them to stay? Or would I just stand by and let them go their separate ways? This movie in ways mixes drama with that “slice of life” feel and the vibes mix with excellence. I think it was a somewhat realistic portrayal of what could happen in a situation of this kind. There was even a moment where the wife got a dog, and I imagine it is being done sort of as a stress reliever or coping mechanism.

Did I mention this movie is shot beautifully? I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with the location choices more than anything, but this movie has some of the nicest shots of the year.

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In the end, “Hope Gap,” kind of like the last movie I reviewed, “The Vast of Night,” is one of 2020’s finer entries to the cinematic calendar. BUT, it’s not perfect. I will say, the movie does keep its pace for the most part, but there are a few moments where the movie does slow down just a bit. Also, even though the movie is pretty good, I don’t think it had the full on dramatic impact it was hoping to deliver. It made me feel something watching the movie, and it did touch upon a life-changing subject I can relate to. It did make me think, but not in a way that really made me reevaluate my life for as long as time shall march on. However, do not sit out on “Hope Gap.” If you find it and decide to watch it, I don’t think you’ll be completely disappointed. With that being said, “Hope Gap” is a high note for 2020, and I’m going to give it an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know, phase 3 has officially begun in Massachusetts, which means that movie theaters have been given the green light to open as long as they follow along with government-based restrictions and guidelines. Not many theaters are opening in Massachusetts, but I do know of a fairly close one set to open its doors on this Friday, July 10th. If I have the time, I’m gonna make the trip to the theater to see a movie, get a review for you guys, and see what they’re doing to get through the pandemic. I cannot wait to see a movie in a dark room again where I do not have any reason to look at my phone. You don’t know how much I miss this experience… Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Feel free to leave this post a like if you have a proper account setup, share it with friends, and like my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Hope Gap?” What did you think about it? Or, are movie theaters open where you are right now? If they are, what are doing in terms of safety precautions? If not, is there any word on what your local cinemas will be doing upon the reopening process? And yes, I know chains like Regal and AMC are currently set to open on July 31st, but also if you have any local theaters that are within smaller chains or independent names, I want to know about those as well. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Vast of Night (2020): Makes For Good Radio, Or a Good Movie

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“The Vast of Night” is directed by Andrew Patterson, AKA James Montague or Junius Tully. Look up this guy on IMDb, the man has three names! This film stars Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz in a film set during the 1950s. Two people, a switch operator and a DJ behind a radio station uncover the mystery of a strange audio frequency that could end up changing the nature of their town.

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First off, if you’re reading this, happy second half of 2020! I cannot believe we actually made it this far as a society! Yippee! Second, this film came out at a bunch of festivals including Fantastic Fest, Chicago International, TIFF, and Slamdance (not to be confused with Sundance). Although it did not really grant much access to the viewing public until 2020. Given how there’s a big pandemic, it didn’t have all that much of a theatrical release. However, it did have a limited run at drive-ins so it managed to have some of that theatrical flavor. Having seen this movie, I think it’s a perfect fit for a drive-in given its vibe, how it’s set in the 1950s, and the color grading has a hint of that old-time feel. But I didn’t see “The Vast of Night” at a drive-in, I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, considering how the movie is marketed as an Amazon Original. Who can turn down a free movie?

Here’s the truth about 2020. It’s the f*cking WORST! I cannot believe that a year could have ever been this tragic and infuriating! You ever had a dream that you wanted to achieve in 2020? Guess what? Go home! Time to find a new dream! I could make a whole post about this, but instead, let’s stick with movies. Because otherwise I would have eradicated all of humanity through brutal anger. Actually, you know what? Let’s mix the two topics up. Not a bad idea! This is honestly what could arguably the single least satisfying and anger-inducing year for film that I have witnessed not just while doing Scene Before, but also my life. I am not watching as much new material as I have in the past. All the theaters are closed, and of the new movies I have seen, nothing stands out. The highest grade I gave this year for a new film was a 7/10. Let me just say something about “The Vast of Night…”

It might be my favorite movie of 2020 so far.

2020, this is what movies are! Screw “My Spy!” Forget “Scoob!” F*ck “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” to hell and back! “The Vast of Night” is a fun, engaging, and somewhat satisfying flick… That isn’t perfect, let me just be clear here.

Because it is 2020, the year of complaining, I’m gonna start off with some negatives. This is a 91 minute film. And surprisingly, it gets a little slow at times. When I look at the runtime of a film, I sometimes think “Oh wow! Ninety minutes? I can watch this in a breeze!” While “The Vast of Night” is not necessarily an exception to this belief, there are one or two scenes that I won’t specifically dive into, but they go on for a little longer than I would anticipate. There’s a lot of explanation to expose the happenings of the film and I get that exposition is a necessary part of storytelling, but it sort of felt like watching the 2019 Super Bowl, something that tried to have a fast pace but was missing something. This pacing problem did not ruin the movie, and I imagine if I saw this film at a drive-in like some people did, there’s a good chance that this complaint could be irrelevant, but it felt like there was one specific scene where a character drones on for a little too long.

The Vast of Night (2019) - IMDb

One of the standout things about this movie in general is that it comes from people I don’t know at all. The two stars, AKA Sierra McCormack and Jake Horowitz are people who I don’t really recognize from a lot of projects. The director, what do you call him? James Montague? Junius Tully? Andrew Patterson? Turd Ferguson? I looked this guy up on IMDb, this is currently his ONLY credit. This is his debut for directing, writing, producing, and if Andrew is ALSO known as Junius Tully and does not appear to be somebody else I should know, his debut for editing and being in the editorial department. Basically, it’s five debuts in one! A lot of times when I look at the credits of the film, maybe someone will write the film, they’ll also direct and produce the film, maybe play a role in it. It’s not every day that I see filmmakers do all these things at once though. Granted, if you look at acclaimed masters of the industry like Kevin Smith, Alfonso Cuarón, and the Coen Brothers, yeah they edit their own films. But it’s nice to have this mix, while also getting to see work from someone you haven’t really been exposed to yet.

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And I would imagine that prior to making this film, Andrew Patterson has had some proper training within the art. When it comes to editing and camerawork, it is some of the best I have seen all year. The color grading in this film is fantastic. As for the movie itself, it is genuinely mysterious and spooky. This movie kind of comes off like it is some ninety minute episode of “The Twilight Zone.” In fact the first shot of the movie is of an old television set that is playing the intro to a show that pretty much takes almost every single element from the intro of “The Twilight Zone.” Everything from the music to the suspenseful buildup and even the captivating voice. There are some notable differences, but nevertheless.

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I will also give credit to the actors in this film, who I might admittedly end up not necessarily remembering at the end of the year for their ability to convey their characters, but their ability to stay sane during a nine minute shot. There is one scene where much of the focus is on the main girl switch operator and we see everything going on from her perspective. I was amazed at how the crew pulled this off without much error. That’s one of the big compliments I can give this film from a cinematography and camerawork perspective, they do so much to make this film look so crisp while also doing these long, extended, neverending takes. It kept my eyes on the screen for a long, long time. Speaking of shots, there’s numerous scenes that take place on a basketball court, and it adds up to bring in some of the most insane filmmaking of the year. This may be the first time of 2020, that I legit had a mind-blowing moment while watching a film. The other one might have been “Sonic the Hedgehog” because if you know anything about video game movies, there’s an often-shared stigma that they’re lackluster and some of worst products put to screen. But unlike that movie, which at times felt like a product that was heavily commercialized, “The Vast of Night” comes off as a passion project made by a group of people who were really excited to show off their skills and experience, even if not everyone was that experienced to begin with.

I stand by and understand the notion that all movies, in some way, are made for the sake of profit or raking in money. “The Vast of Night” kind of reminded me of an advanced student film, and I mean that in a positive way. It felt like a movie that I would want to make, to the point where I go beyond my imagination with the production value, the cinematography, finding the right people, and every other technical aspect you can think of. There felt like there was just a little more than the idea of getting rich when it comes to the aspirations behind “The Vast of Night,” and other than “The Way Back,” starring Ben Affleck, which I saw in March and have not reviewed yet, I don’t think I have seen as personal of a film this year. For those who are curious, this was shot in 17 days during September 2016 on a Red Epic camera. The result, satisfying.

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In the end, “The Vast of Night” is vastly entertaining. This is the movie that made me perhaps somewhat excited to watch and review new movies once again. It’s not perfect, as stated before, but given the limitations that this film had during production, to have it come out the way did is nothing short of incredible. At the same time though, maybe those extended scenes can also serve as a blessing in disguise, because even though I can tell that the story is relatively simple, maybe I’ll pick up on something in the future in regards to this movie should I watch it again. This year, I haven’t given any 10s, I haven’t given any 9s. Not because I’m trying to get a little more strict with my ratings, I just really have not seen much of anything worth talking about. And unfortunately, this year will continue to lack 9s and 10s, BUT I’m going to give “The Vast of Night” my first 8/10 of the 2020 calendar! Sometimes it does not take much to impress me, and in this case that is certainly true. This movie was produced for under $1 million, which in many circumstances is a lot of money, but for some cases within in the film industry, a million bucks is nothing. It’s chump change. “The Vast of Night” felt like a film that was crafted by someone who knew what they wanted to do and it felt just a tiny tad more expensive than maybe it turned out to be. The only thing that takes such a notion away are some of the extended shots, which are marvelous by the way.

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Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this post and have a WordPress account, consider leaving a like! Also, if you want to see more content, be sure to follow Scene Before for all the goings on here on Flicknerd.com. As for upcoming content, I was PLANNING on going to a Regal Cinemas location next week to see what they’re doing after all the shenanigans, but of course, they delayed their reopening because life sucks and nothing else matters anymore. In most cases, this comment sounds childish, but in the time of 2020, this is pretty tame. Just spreading the truth! However, there is some good news to share… I live in Massachusetts, and it was just announced by Governor Charlie Baker that phase 3 begins July 6th! That means movie theaters in the state of Massachusetts are permitted to reopen as long as they follow guidelines! I don’t know how many theaters would open, but to know that they are eligible excites me. So maybe I’ll do a post on how they are dealing with reopening and what it is like to go to a theater during this… (sigh) “new normal.” Hate saying that. There’s a good chance that I will review another movie within the next week should time allow such a thing to happen, but since I talk about “Tenet” a lot, maybe I’ll do something related to that, I dunno. But if you are bored and are tired of scrolling through my blog on WordPress, I have the solution for you. LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE! It’s like my blog, only different! More behind the scenes stuff and random s*it that you don’t get to see on here. I want to know, did you see “The Vast of Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is set in the 1950s that did not come out in the 1950s? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Irresistible (2020): Just in Time for a Pandemic, An Election, and More

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“Irresistible” is directed by Jon Stewart (The Daily Show, Rosewater) and stars Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Office), Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation), Mackenzie Davis (Blade Runner 2049, Terminator: Dark Fate), Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, Interstellar), Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Orange Is the New Black), and Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class, Neighbors). This film is about a Democratic strategist who is trying to get someone he meets up with to successfully run for town mayor. One of big catches here is that the person of importance is running as a Democrat, and the town, which is located in Wisconsin, has maintained its conservative traditions for years.

Ah… A new movie. It’s an experience I barely get to have today, so I’ll take it whenever possible. I did not pay for this movie. I tuned in during the first few minutes as my mother rented it On Demand and I was kind of intrigued by what was going on. Gotta say, I was pretty entertained by what I saw. However, as I watched, I was reminded of a common complaint some people have about modern movies.

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Hollywood is such a magical place, where dreams come true as long as you spend spare time waiting tables. But as of recent years, it has also become a place hated by certain people because of a supposed agenda. And I am not going to deny that when it comes to today’s Hollywood culture, a lot of it is on the left. If you ask me, I really don’t care. I would still be following it if it is still on the right, I enjoy the art form of film, I don’t usually often give a crap about one’s political views. That’s why when I do the Jackoff awards every year, I usually stray away from politics. Granted, I did subtly bring up global warming one year, but that’s a human issue turned political. So that’s why I let it slide.

If you watch this movie, I don’t really think you, or too many other people would need that keen of an eye to realize that this may be somewhat done with ideas of the left. After all, the story follows a political strategist trying to get a Democrat mayor to succeed during an election. The movie makes references to our political climate today and everything surrounding it. I will also point out that there are some big jabs towards the conservative-friendly outlet Fox News. Also, these jabs had me in stitches.

Also also, CNN gets some jabbing as well, which also stuck the landing for me in terms of comedy. This movie is not afraid to go after the cable news outlets and bang em’ over the head. Those honestly may have been the most entertaining parts of the movie for me.

I will point out that this movie is a mix of comedy and drama. Both genres blend perfectly to balance each other out and they don’t feel like two different movies. This movie knows what it is. It’s funny, charming, but it also wants to get a little serious every now and then. Maybe Steve Carell has something to do with it, because I will admit, even though he may be an actor I tend to overlook, I have seen him be funny in the past, while also being dramatic in the past, and he can do both very well. To see a mix of that here in “Irresistible” is a good mix for Carell.

Honestly, 2020 may just be the pinnacle for crappy movies. I have seen a few good ones, like “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” “Sonic the Hedgehog” (who knew I’d be saying that), and “Emma.” I have not had much time to watch movies in general, mainly because I’m not always willing to cough up a $19.99 rental for a movie that probably would be a better experience in the theater, but when I did have time, nothing really stood out this year. “Irresistible” is kind of in that camp, but if no Oscar-bait movies come out this year, this could have a shot at some awards. After all, we are in an election year here in the United States, which makes this movie incredibly topical. It has some good performances given by Steve Carell and Chris Cooper. As for Jon Stewart, this could have a shot at a screenplay nomination. Granted, I do not want to get ahead of myself as it is only June and a lot of the good movies come out in October, November, and December. However, if all those movies get delayed, I think “Irresistable” could have some potential during award season. Besides, you know how I mentioned Hollywood seems to be a bit on the left more than the right? That could be another factor in this movie’s favor! All it really needs from here is a montage making fun of Donald Trump and then it’s the perfect “Hollywood left story.” With that being said, this movie may not be for everyone, but even if you are on the right politically, there is a solid chance that you might be entertained by this from a story perspective. I mean, it is funny. Granted, a lot of the humor seems to be geared towards politics, but there is still some general humor sprinkled here and there. But given that this movie has dramatic elements to it, it does not feel overbearing.

One of the biggest compliments I would like to give to “Irresistible” is its pacing. When I get into negatives during my reviews, one of my gotos is pointing out that maybe one or two scenes feel a bit too drawn-out or too slow, maybe every once in a while the pacing is so fast that it destroys your brain. Here, the pacing is very well done. Will I remember this movie by the end of the year? Parts of it, yes. Some, maybe not. But regardless, this movie went by like a plane. Not too fast (if that makes any sense), not too slow, just right. I feel like there are going to be various scenes and characters from this movie that will probably be erased from my memory come 2021, but as of now, I enjoyed the movie enough that I don’t really care much about the future. Although… It’s 2020. I really should care about the future.

In the end, “Irresistible” is not my favorite movie this year, but a damn good time. If you really don’t like politics in your movies, you might want to sit this one out. After all, it is written and directed by Jon Stewart, who hosted “The Daily Show” until Trevor Noah took over. Before we go any further, I would like to give one last compliment towards the film, and I will say that any excuse to use “dial up Internet” within a joke is worth your time. It worked in “Captain Marvel,” which looking back, is almost the worst Marvel movie, but I liked the dial-up joke. Nice to see it here too! I’m going to give “Irresistible” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to post my review up for “Minority Report,” the final entry to June 2020’s event, Tom Cruise Month. I hope to get it up by the 30th, but if I don’t, it’s because I’m getting sidetracked with other things. Hopefully in July I get to talk about some newer movies, and I will also point out that Regal Cinemas are scheduled to reopen on July 10th, so I plan on visiting one soon. The same goes for AMC, which is currently scheduled for July 15th. I’m not sure what I’m going to see. If it is not a 2020 film, I’m probably not going to review it, but still. Speaking of 2020 films, be sure to check out my review for “My Spy.” 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 see more movie talk from Scene Before, go like my Facebook page! Otherwise if you want more politics, go like CNN or Fox News. I want to know, did you see “Irresistible?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that seems to have a hint of bias behind it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Gun (1986): Jack Feels the Need. The Need For Scene!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! The 1980s has brought us some of the most culturally important films of all time. “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” “Back to the Future,” “The Terminator,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Princess Bride,” “Predator,” “The Breakfast Club,” and much more! The 1980s is also the decade where Tom Cruise’s film career began. Some of his credits from the time include “Endless Love,” “The Outsiders,” and “Risky Business.” However, I’d be willing to make the argument that when it comes to all the films Tom Cruise did in the 1980s, the one that still reigns as the highest in terms of cultural importance is “Top Gun,” which was supposed to have a sequel come out this week, only to be delayed due to COVID-19. Whether or not that sequel will be worth the wait is a question we’ll have to answer in due time. However, let’s not completely focus on the future, because when it comes to 2020, anything can happen and some things may be better left unmentioned. Instead, let’s go back to a time where the biggest worry for some may have been getting a ticket to see the latest movie where men fly planes and play volleyball. Ladies and gentlemen, strap yourselves in. This is entry #4. Feel the need. The need for scene! This is…

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Top Gun” is directed by Tony Scott (Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Kelly McGillis (Witness, Made in Heaven), Val Kilmer (The Doors, Batman Forever), Anthony Edwards (Revenge of the Nerds, It Takes Two), and Tom Skerritt (Alien, The Turning Point). The film is about a young Lieutenant who gets a chance to train alongside a fellow Radar Intercept Officer at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School in San Diego.

Prior to this review, I have only seen “Top Gun” one time. I bought a used Blu-ray Metalpak for the movie, mainly for the sake of having something cool on the collector’s shelf, but at the same time, I was intrigued enough to watch the movie a few weeks later when I had the time to waste. What I remember of that first experience is that I really enjoyed the soundtrack, the characters are well-performed by their respective actors, and there are a couple lines that stuck with me. I finally found out the meaning of “Talk to me Goose,” which I have heard in the past in a YouTube video, and the way it was delivered on screen felt satisfying. It also made the reference in 2018’s “Deadpool 2,” which I would end up watching and reviewing a year later, feel kinda classy.

On my second watch of the movie, the screen had my attention during just about every scene, likely suggesting that I was very intrigued by everything that was going on. All the characters are charming and likable, I think the main romance plot on the side was fun to watch as the two characters not only have great chemistry with each other, but where they stand outside of their connection plays a bit into the plot as well. Both Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis make for a great couple in this movie and I have come to appreciate them a little more the second time around. Although oddly enough, it does come as a bit of a shock as I have read on IMDb that the two seemingly did not get along during filming.

While this is not one of the movies well-known for Tom Cruise “doing his own stunts,” I was a bit impressed with some of the scenes in this movie that have a bit of wide open space, if that phrase even makes any sense. It’s a little more complicated way of saying that I enjoyed just about any scene that involved jet-flying. Funny enough, even though we know that Tom Cruise is practically the Buster Keaton of today, during his filming of “Top Gun,” the only actor who apparently did not vomit inside a plane was Anthony Edwards, who by the way does an excellent job playing Goose. Sticking with the topic of solid chemistry, Maverick and Goose make for a pretty fun pair. I rooted for both characters for each second they were on screen, and it is no wonder how this exchange became a noteworthy reference in popular culture.

MAVERICK: I feel the need…

MAVERICKGOOSE: …the need for speed!

Now, I want to dive into something that is kind of a problem, but also a blessing in disguise for this film in particular. There is no threat. Now, with any other movie I’d probably be wondering wherever the heck the stakes could be. But here, it somehow works, at least for the most part. You may be wondering why I am bringing this up. Because when it comes to the characters and how they deal with every situation at hand, it more or less just makes for pure fun more than anything else. I mean, this is a movie that starts off with a pilot flipping the bird at somebody else while his plane is rotated upside down! It’s fun! It’s a movie with a glamorous volleyball scene that makes you wanna go to the beach, and I say that as someone who is not even a beach person! It’s freaking fun! It’s a movie about bros doing… well, doing what bros do! IT’S F*CKING FUN! At times, this movie feels as if it does not necessarily need to take itself all that too seriously. And that’s fine, I’ve seen a few movies where this sort of thing works. Granted, if you know me, I much prefer a serious vibe of a film as opposed to one that goes over the top and exaggerates itself to the tenth degree. However, when it comes to “Top Gun,” it’s a movie that tells its audience that it is here to just have a fun couple of hours. Things are about to get nuts, strap yourselves in, have a lovely flight. Pun may absolutely be intended.

However, the climax of this film, is where the tone almost seemingly gets in the… DANGER ZONE! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! Aren’t I an evil genius?! I am the king of the world! C’mon, guys! It’s comedy!

I will say, I had no real problem with the film’s climax itself. It makes sense in terms of how the story builds itself up. In terms of how it is presented, how it is handled, it is structurally sound and of course, fun. But… is it really fun? Because it almost, I say ALMOST, comes out of nowhere. But at the same time it makes sense because in these characters’ lives, it is a moment that has practically been building up for them, but for a viewer like myself, it sort of almost gets to the point of feeling tacked on just for the sake of inserting some sort of stakes. Now, stakes are fine, but I will say, as a viewer it surely felt weird to see something which could potentially equal some sort of deep impact happen in a movie where almost everything else felt like “another Tuesday,” as some would probably call it. I will say, I did enjoy the climax, and it was in a word, “exciting.” But at the same time, it feels weird having it in the movie where everything prior to said climax felt kind of fun. But that’s really the charm of “Top Gun” when it comes down to it. After over thirty years of being in our spheres, it is still a “fun” movie that is watched by lots of people. There’s been rereleases, drive-in screenings, the flying sequences, despite being from the 1980s, hold up very well today. In fact they just came out with a 4K Blu-ray for the film! Maybe I’ll have to pick it up sometime soon! There’s a lot to love about “Top Gun,” even though technically speaking, it is not a masterpiece. It really is at its core, just fun. It’s nice to look at, and when it comes to characterization, it does its job fairly well.

Does this movie deserve a sequel that is coming out today? Well, it is the highest-grossing film of 1986, and as I mentioned, it is FUN! Why not? Although based on trailers that I am seeing for said sequel, I am wondering if they are going to take it in a slightly grittier direction. And if they do, I’m fine with that. Plus, Tom Cruise is probably one of the most admirable actors working today, so if I get to see him “do his own stunts” for sometime, it will give me something to witness for sure.

In the end, “Top Gun” holds up very well after over thirty years of its release. Technically speaking, it looks somewhat good for its time, maybe a bit ahead of its time as well. It is terrifically cast, even if everybody apparently did not get along. When it comes to the Scott brothers, I think Ridley Scott is overall the better filmmaker from what I have seen, but I really dig Tony Scott’s vision with this film. Granted, what he does with this film is almost a little Michael Bay-ish, and I think Michael Bay is a little too much of a style over substance type of director, but it works here because of how charming the film manages to come off. Don’t get me wrong, this film is not entirely Shakespeare, but I had fun with it. There’s that word again! I’m going to give “Top Gun” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! By the way, I have one more review coming up in this epic extravaganza I like to call Tom Cruise Month. It’s a movie from the early 2000s, and it is Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report.” Aside from “Oblivion,” it is the only film in this themed series that I have yet to watch. However, I am rather excited to watch what could potentially be a very enjoyable sci-fi story. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to be notified about this review when it is published, or check out my Facebook page and give it a like if you want to get such notifications through your Facebook account! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite dogfight in a movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Days of Thunder (1990): Tom Cruise? More Like Tom Rush!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is officially entry 3 to Tom Cruise Month! So far we have talked about a pretty good movie, along with a not so good movie. Today, we are going to talk about “Days of Thunder,” a film I have seen once in 2017 when it was available on Amazon Prime for free. Since then, I bought a Triple Feature Blu-ray set of Tom Cruise films which contains “The Firm,” which I have reviewed on this blog almost three years ago, “Collateral,” and “Days of Thunder,” which of course I watched once more to talk about today.

So without any further dilly-dallying, it is time for entry three! This is…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Days of Thunder” is directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather), Randy Quaid (Caddyshack II, National Lampoon’s Vacation), Nicole Kidman (Batman Forever, Moulin Rouge!), and Cary Elwes (Glory, The Princess Bride). The film is about a man who becomes a NASCAR driver, but even though he may talk a good game, Tom Cruise’s character of Cole Trickle is not exactly accustomed to being in a stock car. The story goes over his journey as a racer, as a part of a new team, while also allowing a certain rival to get in the way.

When it comes to my official ranking of Tom Cruise movies, I probably would have told you a few years back that “Days of Thunder” is somewhere in the middle of what I’ve seen. It’s not great, but it has one or two entertaining moments. I also kind of liked the music and I thought I heard some of the score somewhere else before watching this film (upon my watch for this review, that is not the case). It’s a little formulaic, but it doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had. Tom Cruise, per usual, is solid and gives a likable performance as a decent character.

Now, it is 2020, and it has been a week since I have officially last watched “Days of Thunder.” It’s still an alright hour and a half of material. However, upon my second watch, I felt that the first half of the movie, where all the buildup is happening, is definitely better than the second half. And I am not knocking on the second half, because it is still entertaining, but seeing Cole Trickle have to adapt to his team and the mechanics of NASCAR makes for delightful content. In fact, I also briefly mentioned his rivalry in the film, there’s a scene where the two rivals have to head to a dinner together, and in doing so they rent a couple cars and wreck the s*it out of them. I was amused with what was happening on screen in those moments. It was just plain fun. I think the chemistry between Tom Cruise’s Cole Trickle, alongside racing rival Rowdy Burns, played with excellence by Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, JFK) makes for some of the better scenes in the movie. Aside from all the action that goes on behind the wheels for these two, there’s another scene where the two happen to be in wheelchairs and they are racing around the hospital. Not only did it do a solid job on getting into the lack of fondness towards the duo, but it did so while keeping me interested in everything that was going on.

I mentioned earlier that I really liked the music in this film, and having watched this film a second time, this really should come as no surprise. Because not only was it something that I was kind of looking forward to hearing, but I was paying attention to the opening credits, and I saw a name that I was particularly delighted to see pop up on my screen.

HANS. F*CKING. ZIMMER.

If you all had to ask me who I think the greatest film composer of all time is, I’d give you three names. John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer. Maybe Alan Silvestri would be an honorable mention. For those of you who don’t know me or are new around here, Zimmer composed my favorite film score of all time, which was appropriately presented in one of my favorite films of all time, “Interstellar.” His relationship during his recent points in his career with Christopher Nolan allowed him to do that movie, “Inception,” “Dunkirk,” and the “Dark Knight” films. He’s also collaborated with composer Benjamin Wallfisch to work on “Blade Runner 2049,” he’s done a number of DreamWorks animations, “The Lion King,” “The Last Samuai,” and even though I have a couple problems with his score for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” its high moments make up for its faults. “Days of Thunder” is one of Zimmer’s earliest scores that I have heard, and it does match up with the skill and talent that I’ve seen from him today.

Keeping with the theme of Tom Cruise Month, I want to reference the previous film I reviewed, specifically “All the Right Moves.” In my review for that film, I mentioned that one of the main reasons I disliked that film was because even though it focuses on the main character’s struggles and downfalls, I felt as if there was little reason to actually root for him. He’s kind of a dick, he just feels like a horny jock who wants nothing more than to get into Lea Thompson’s pants, and when it comes to the film’s conclusion and what it has to do with the main character, it almost feels as if, without spoilers, there is no reason for me to root for him and say that he earned his fate. Despite the effort put into his portrayal from Tom Cruise himself, the character just didn’t stick the landing for me. Cole Trickle on the other hand, aside from having a somewhat likable name, kind of like Luke Skywalker or Johnny Utah or Taserface or Turd Ferguson (it’s a funny name, ha ha), has this swagger to him that makes him feel like someone only Cruise could portray and make as likable as he is. And when it comes to, once again, struggles and downfalls, Cole Trickle doesn’t come off as a big enough dick to make me not care about him whenever he screws up. Plus, when it comes to how this movie concludes, the ending feels earned and deserved, it does more than simply exist to take up screen time. It is a fate that feels satisfying and worthy of a thumbs up. Not one where I want to throw my popcorn at my 4K TV.

Aside from the first half of “Days of Thunder” being better than the second half, my other complaints with the film are that there are one or two scenes that maybe were a little unnecessary (even if they did entertain), and that there are some predictable moments. Other than that, “Days of Thunder” is a solid film. I do recommend it.

Before I go any further, I also want to point out that I also really liked Robert Duvall’s performance. I liked the stern portrayal of his character, which added some grit to the film overall, and it just goes to show that you can really get an impact from a mentor-type figure on screen.

In the end, “Days of Thunder” once again comes into the middle rankings of my Tom Cruise library of films that I have seen with him as part of the cast. Would I watch it again? Honestly, not anytime soon. I’d rather watch “The Last Samurai,” I’d rather watch “Oblivion,” I’d rather watch “Edge of Tomorrow.” But that’s just me. Even so, this film has its moments. The racing scenes are fun, and some of the non-racing stuff can make for some pure entertainment too. But I don’t think it will give the movie all that much replay value in the future. I’m going to give “Days of Thunder” a 7/10. Before I watched this movie for my review, I had given it a 6, but in reality, the problems it has are not particularly world-ending or overwhelming, they’re just faults that maybe need to be pointed out to separate what’s good from bad. At the same time though, Cruise has done better in his career compared to this film. This may be on the lower spectrum of a 7, but as of this review, it stands where it is.

Thanks for reading this review! Up next in Tom Cruise Month is going to be my review for “Top Gun,” another Tony Scott film, which if you ask me, is the main reason why I am doing this series to begin with. After all, we were supposed to get the sequel, AKA “Top Gun: Maverick,” on June 24th. But unfortunately, it has been delayed to December, which sucks because personally if it were coming out this summer, it would have been in my top 5, maybe even 3, most anticipated films of the season. But I will be looking forward to the film, should I get to see it this winter. As a substitution, expect a review for the original sometime this week. If you want to see this review and other great content, make sure you follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account! If you want another place to get access to my content, go like my Facebook page, which provides links to the posts I create once they’re published, and some side banter you don’t really get to see here on Flicknerd.com. It’s a good time! I want to know, did you see “Days of Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite racing movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

All the Right Moves (1983): An Infinitely Wrong Movie

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the second entry to the official Scene Before event, Tom Cruise Month! It is week 2 in this limited run of reviews, or as I like to call it, a cure to boredom. I love Tom Cruise, I sometimes forget how much I appreciate him as an actor, not just as a performer trying to encapsulate the heart and soul of the individuals he portrays on screen, but also how much he is willing to learn, how much he is willing to risk his own life just to entertain a modern audience. He’s this generation’s Buster Keaton if you ask me.

We are still early into Tom Cruise Month, and speaking of early, we are going to travel back to the 1980s, when the actor was just getting started, taking on films like “Endless Love,” “The Outsiders,” and “Risky Business.” But we are not going to talk about those films. I didn’t watch those a few days ago. Although, the thought of going back to watch “Risky Business” does intrigue me. Instead, we are going to dive into the 1983 flick “All the Right Moves.”

So let’s dive right–Wait… Tom! I didn’t mean that way! Ah, whatever, let’s start the review. This is a series I like to call…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“All the Right Moves” is directed by Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) and stars Tom Cruise (The Outsiders, Risky Business), Craig T. Nelson, and Lea Thompson in a film about a teenage boy from a western Pennsylvania town looking for a football scholarship. The town is dominated by a steel manufacturing company, and it is kind of boring, but Cruise does have young Lea Thompson as a girlfriend, so that keeps life interesting. The movie follows Cruise as he has to deal with the pressure of a big football game, and the challenge of trying to get into a good school while living in a town that seems to be stuck in its own traditions that he may consider beneath him. Gotta be honest, and you’ll hear some explanation about this in the review. When it comes to the high school kid wanting a scholarship or a desire to get into a good school, this is a plot I think “Risky Business,” another Tom Cruise movie, did three times better than this piece of crap.

“All the Right Moves” came out in 1983, back when Tom Cruise was getting started, before Oprah Winfrey ever could have been concerned about getting her furniture ruined. I bought this movie in 2017, watched it once a little less than a year later, hated myself afterwards, and moved on with my life. I did not think I would watch it again, but I kept it in my collection because when it comes to what I’ve got in said collection, Tom Cruise is such a crucial part. I believe I have more Tom Cruise movies in my collection than I do for Criterions. That’s how much I am willing to embrace the dude. I don’t agree with his personal views in regards to Scientology. But I don’t let that get in the way from how much I respect him as a performer. Granted, a lot of his roles have gotten more complex and dangerous as time has passed, but even back in the 1980s, I can sense strong acting chops from Cruise himself.

So, I have the Blu-ray, so I took it from the collection, carefully inserted it into the player, it asked me if I wanted to resume from the last place I stopped because my 4K Blu-ray player apparently remembers s*it from 2018 and robots are taking over the world, said no, then I began watching the movie.

It still f*cking sucks. Plain and simple. I have not seen all of Tom Cruise’s work. Heavy hitters like “Vanilla Sky,” “Collateral,” and “Cocktail” are all titles I have not dived into as of yet. I fell asleep during the first few minutes of “Jerry Maguire,” but that was more or less because I was tired and not because the movie sucked. But if you ask me, if I had to pick a least favorite Tom Cruise movie of the ones I have seen, this would be it. Either this or “Mission: Impossible II,” which I have previously labeled in my review as “Impossible to Enjoy.”

I am being harsh on this movie, admittedly, so I will point out that I cannot overlook the things I liked about it. Tom Cruise is pretty good as the starring role, I like Craig T. Nelson as the coach, the performances all around are halfway decent. The cinematography and directing are both competent. But even though Tom Cruise plays the lead character well, I cannot say I related to him. Yes, I don’t play football. I don’t even like football! I think as a sport it is one of the most overrated concepts I have ever seen, even though I have watched the Super Bowl for the ads. Now, I understand that one of the big techniques when writing a likable main character is to have them be broken, they can’t be perfect. But there are certain times where Tom Cruise’s character of Stefen just comes off as a dick. I don’t know why. Just the way he talks, he feels more selfish than anything. And I understand that when it comes to storytelling, everything is typically supposed to come from the lead character’s perspective. But when your lead character is doing things that make them come off as a complete jackass, why should I care? I was able to defend him maybe once or twice, but there are so many other instances where a part of me died inside.

I mean, if you look at a similar movie starring Tom Cruise, specifically “Risky Business,” I felt for his character for just about every second of the movie. And whenever there was a fault that he made, it didn’t make me roll my eyes and wonder why I was rooting for him. His character, Joel, was relatable, and at times I kind of wanted to be him. I don’t think I’d want to be Stefen from “All the Right Moves,” even if I did get to date a young Lea Thompson in high school… If I were Joel I’d get Rebecca De Mornay so that’s a pretty fine alternative. By the way, the high school in this movie, at least from the perspective of young student characters we see inside, is unrealistically steamy. Maybe I’m saying this as someone who went in the 2010s, but still. It felt like something out of a stereotypical cheesy CW teen drama.

I don’t know, but the way this entire movie plays out feels incredibly stupid. Granted, it has some solid buildup and introduces you to the world in a well executed manner, but when it comes to building the characters, I don’t really like any of it. I understand want, but there’s want, then there’s a Veruca Salt impression. Maybe that’s a little too far, but without spoiling anything, some of the actions that Stefen takes in this movie almost feel unacceptable or inexcusable. If you want me to like you, don’t be a dick. Don’t go around doing s*it that makes you the scum of the earth, it’s that simple. I don’t care if you don’t like a person that much. JUST… Be polite. I get that girls… supposedly like bad boys, but holy s*it, if I dated this moron, I’d beat his ass before getting out of his sight.

Not even a gorgeous young Lea Thompson could save this mess! I mean, another compliment I could give is if you really want something sexy, this… is kinda serviceable. There’s one or two parts of the movie that at least could fulfill that. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it as a date night movie. I think date night movies should have a little more substance, at least if you’re asking me, but ya know. Although I wouldn’t stop you from watching this with your mom, even though there is nudity.

One of the worst things about this movie is the ending. I will not go into it, and even though it is coherent, it is nevertheless cringeworthy to watch as a viewer because I’m looking at the main character. Did he earn his fate? Honestly, he didn’t. It was just given to him. I don’t even know how it adds up.

Honestly guys, if you want a solid story where Tom Cruise plays a teenage boy going about his daily life that feels raw, packs a total punch, and feels fun all around, go watch “Risky Business!” It came out in the same year, has a slightly similar concept, but is just about better in every single way from directing to writing to camerawork to emotion to music, just about everything in that movie is better, and apparently it came out before “All the Right Moves” did. And even though I gave some flack for “Risky Business” not keeping their original ending, which can be seen in the bonus features from their 2008 DVD/Blu-ray release, I consider it a near perfect movie. If I had to choose a favorite Tom Cruise movie, I would have to flip a coin between “Risky Business” and “Mission: Impossible: Fallout.” At least this movie’s short, I didn’t suffer for too long.

In the end, “All the Right Moves” is all kinds of wrong. There are a couple things I like about the movie, there were one or two dramatic points that had me looking at the screen. Although when it comes to characters, they start out fine, but become flat or annoying as the movie goes on. I was not bored by this movie, even though it may drag at later points, I just found this movie rather unwatchable. Tom Cruise shows a decent acting ability even for an earlier role. Not enough to make a good movie. One or two scenes are kinda attention-grabbing. Not enough to make a good movie. Lea Thompson looks like a goddess! Not enough to make a good movie. I don’t know if I’ll be watching “All the Right Moves” ever again. That is even if I do keep the Blu-ray for the rest of my life. I’m going to give “All the Right Moves” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! Next week I’m going to be reviewing “Days of Thunder.” Another Tom Cruise movie I have not watched in a long time. I’m personally curious to see if any of my opinions change, but that will have to be revealed in the future. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, make the right move, and check out the Scene Before Facebook page! Give it a like too! I want to know, did you see “All the Right Moves?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Lea Thompson movie? SPECIAL RULE: If you say any of the “Back to the Future” movies, I want a second choice if you have seen one. Admittedly, this is probably me just looking for a recommendation or two. Leave those picks down below and I will have a “Days of Thunder” review next week! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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!