Godzilla vs. Kong: Maximized Monsters, Minimized Story, Balls Out Time

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is directed by Adam Wingard and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things, Enola Holmes), Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Prestige), Brian Tyree Henry (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Joker), Shun Oguri, Eiza González (Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2, The Christmas Chronicles 2), Lance Reddick (John Wick, Oz), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, The Wolf of Wall Street), and Demián Bichir (The Midnight Sky, The Hateful Eight). Without going into much detail, “Godzilla vs. Kong” follows the two titular titans as they duke it out with humanity watching closely. Throughout we also get to see humanity attempt to understand why these two are fighting, their origin stories, all the while trying to live to fight another day themselves.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

So far in the current Warner Bros. MonsterVerse, we have had three movies: “Godzilla,” which I thought was average, but watchable. “Kong: Skull Island,” which is fun at times but somewhat disposable. But I should also not forget the last one, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” given how it is the only one I reviewed of the bunch. Let’s take a look back on my thoughts on that movie, specifically stated in my review titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): For Godzilla’s Sake, Please Stop!.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

“Upon watching ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters,’ I wanted to perhaps die. In fact, as I write this, I almost don’t have words that I could possibly put into a sentence to describe this movie.”

“I can imagine myself finding this movie on TV one day, perhaps on HBO or something, maybe watching it if I want to destroy my brain cells, clicking the info button and the description would be ‘Time to die.'”

“Somehow, these characters are more forgettable than most of Apple’s terms & services agreement!”

“Surprisingly, there’s not a moment where I can remember conceptualizing a personal need for Anger Management classes. But based on this movie’s script and my memory of said script, I almost can’t remember feeling any emotion whatsoever, which may almost be worse than getting angry about a movie or its characters.”

“Yes, there are positives, but again, they are heavily outweighed by tons of crap, and the fact that my brain literally could not function upon leaving the theater.”

That film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” ended up as my #2 worst film of 2019, my #12 worst film of the 2010s, and my #1 most disappointing film of the 2010s. Safe to say, I’d rather watch my future children, should I ever have them, play with knives. I ended my review saying that when it comes to the MonsterVerse, I practically lost any and all hope I could have had for “Godzilla vs. Kong” because I felt like they were going into a direction that I would not find pleasing. Three of the big problems I had with “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was putting too much attention on human characters, the clashing tones between seriousness and silliness, and not putting enough attention on the script. I know some people will come out and say that these monster movies don’t NEED good scripts, because big action and fight sequences matter more. I would go back and watch the 2014 “Godzilla” again. I would go back and watch “Kong: Skull Island” again. If I were in a situation where I had to watch “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” again, chances are I’d bang my head into whatever device is playing the movie.

Let’s mention those problems I had with “King of the Monsters” once again. Bad human characters who overstay their welcome, clashing tones, and a lazy script. Two of those three critiques have returned to “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The film, despite being a massively entertaining titan on titan showdown, is not too too much more than that. I will say one thing though, WITHOUT SPOILERS OR MUCH DETAIL, this script *is* an improvement over what “King of the Monsters” provided.

There are plenty of human characters in this movie, and there are a majority that you could perhaps take out and have the results of the film be no different, and there are some who sort of do matter that are barely interesting. Some of them feel like they were processed in a factory and just say words every now and then to have the movie trail along as smooth as it can. The film not only has Godzilla and King Kong fighting each other, but it has two different sides of human characters. You have the ones who observe Godzilla, and you have the ones who observe King Kong. And there are quite a few of the Godzilla-centric characters who make an appearance in this movie who also showed up earlier in the franchise. Millie Bobby Brown is back, her dad played by Kyle Chandler also makes a return, but that side for the most part had a script that would probably work more for a theme park ride as opposed to a movie. Again, you could remove a ton of the characters on that side and have the film feel like it has not changed much. Also, I feel like the Godzilla side also has more questionable absurdities in the movie compared to the Kong side.

For me, the difference between effort of putting together characters on one side as opposed to the other is night and day. I mean, look at the characters on Kong’s side! Some have distinct characteristics that individualize them, I think they did a better job at moving the plot and story along, and this is especially noticeable when you bring the young girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) into the equation. For the record, she is deaf, which is kind of refreshing for a film like this because throughout the three MonsterVerse films, the big expectation is loud, obnoxious noise, and you do get that here as well, but we get to occasionally see things from this character’s perspective and it makes the world feel quieter, smaller, more intimate despite having giant monsters in it. Her relationship with Kong and Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) were some personal highlights of the film for me. Another thing about this side, when it comes to Kong himself, seeing the humans journey with him to explore his world occasionally had me escaping from my chair into the screen. It felt like a pure fantasy at times, and I give the film props for that.

So far, the script is a mixed bag. It improves characterization, but it also stays pretty on laziness. The film is not going to win any screenplay awards. But the film did win me over on one thing. MONSTERS.

I said in my review for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” that the monsters look cool and there are some halfway decent fights, but there is too much going on in the movie that I could not fully appreciate them. I almost ended up with a headache leaving the theater. In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” some of the compliments I gave for the previous MonsterVerse entry stand once more. The monsters look visually appealing. They look polished and wonderfully textured. But also, having watched this film, I think the lighting is also significantly better. I did not think about this, but “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” almost felt like the MonsterVerse version of “Batman v. Superman” because almost every other fight that I could think of took place either in the dark or with at the very least, a semi-depressing color palette. One of the better things I can say about “Godzilla vs. Kong” compared to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is that my eyes can do a better job at interpreting what is going on. Maybe it is partially because Hong Kong in this movie is lit so brightly with neon at night, but nevertheless. This is not a diss on the Detective Comics Extended Universe, because there are movies in that universe that I genuinely enjoy, but the fights in “Godzilla vs. Kong” felt more like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie because it is brighter and easier to see what is going on. Looking back at the fight in Boston at the end of “King of the Monsters,” it felt like there was an endless parade of blue, and maybe some orange. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” even in its darker scenes such as the first appearance from Godzilla, felt ten times as vibrant.

As I said, the film won me over on monsters, so let me just say, THE MONSTER FIGHTS IN THIS MOVIE ARE EVERYTHING I WANTED TO SEE! They were gigantic! Epic! They felt like something mattered at every twist and turn! There was a fine mix of brains and brawn! The trailer for this film, when I first saw it, surprisingly sold me for the action that would be in this film, and it did not disappoint! If you want to watch any of these MonsterVerse films for action, this is the one! Yes, there are a ton of human characters as well that could bog your experience, but when the film is available for home viewing, this is where fast forward and rewind come into play. When it comes to monsters fighting in this film, I do not think I could name a single problem. And you know what? Let’s talk about tone. But before we do that, just remember, when discussing my problems for the previous MonsterVerse film, remember that one of them is the lack of a consistent tone. “King of the Monsters” went in two directions, serious and silly, without being able to decide on one that defines the movie. While there are moments of slight seriousness in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it almost had the tone of a “Fast & Furious” movie if the whole time it were a WrestleMania event. The opening titles for this movie delivered the most excitement I have gotten out of an opening title sequence I can think of in years. It is up there with the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies, Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Blade Runner 2049” as one of my all time favorite film opening credits sequences.

Why do I love the opening credits in this film so much? Because in addition to the other ones I mentioned, “Godzilla vs. Kong” teased something cool or epic and kept its promise. It promised a big blockbuster adventure from the very beginning and that is exactly what it delivered. The music, which was marvelously done by Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, was booming and dominant of my attention. The film is also, from what I gathered, not afraid to dive into shark-jumping. There are a lot of fantastical elements in this movie, which should not be a surprise as there happens to be a universe with giant titans that could appear at any moment. Some of the fantasy elements worked, most notably on the Kong side. We got to see Kong’s origins and history regarding his species in battle. Seeing that was not only an effective breather as an audience member, but it was also somewhat effective world-building. There are some fun fantasy elements in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but not every impractical situation stuck the landing. Without spoilers, Millie Bobby Brown’s character spends the climax of the film talking on the phone and there is something that she says that does not really have the impact to one character that I would have probably anticipated them to have. Again, no spoilers, the film is not out on DVD yet.

At the end of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” I lost much of my hope for this universe, I thought it would be short-lived. As of now, I do hope this universe continues. I would not mind seeing Kong and Godzilla do a round 2 or we see more of these monsters individually. Although I am hearing reports that Adam Wingard may return to direct another MonsterVerse movie, which does excite me. I am also hearing it may be a “Son of Kong” story, but no matter what it is, I will remain curious and excited. Bring on the titans!

In the end, I went from having little interest in “Godzilla vs. Kong” for two years leading up to it, seeing the trailer and watching it a bunch of times, to flat out recommending that you go watch it on the biggest screen you can. I saw the film twice in the theater, and aside from the obvious notions, specifically that there are not too many other big movies out and the giant monster situation, I went a second time because it is honestly a significant dose of pure entertainment. If the film is still playing near you and you have not watched it, give a chance, you may have fun. I sure did! Is it stupid entertainment? You could make that argument, but it simultaneously builds a fascinating history and I feel like there is a promise of an intriguing future. I want to see more of this world, and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe is great for how well it intertwines a bunch of different characters together at once, I think it would be refreshing to see a universe like this one take it self perhaps a little less seriously. With that being said, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a killer time at the movies and most certainly, big screen material. I am going to give “Godzilla vs. Kong” a 7/10.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is now playing in theaters, get your tickets today. The film is no longer on HBO Max as of writing this, considering how it has finished its 31 day run on the service.

Mortal Kombat (2021) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Thanks for reading this review! Apologies for yet another late review, I have been preoccupied with other things. But I want to let everyone know that I will soon have a review for the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” remake. That will be released by sometime next week. Also, I want to remind everyone that this week is the week of Star Wars Day. This is the week that I originally intended to release my reviews for the first seven “Star Wars” episodes. I wanted to do a “7 Days of Star Wars” series, where I review a different “Star Wars” movie every day for an entire week, but I had so many other things going on that I pushed it back to the week of May 23rd to May 29th. No guarantees, but DO NOT BE SURPRISED if it gets pushed back another time. However, if you want to be prepared for the epic run of reviews, I should note that I plan to release another trailer advertising what will HOPEFULLY be a finalized release date. I do want to get these done before my “Pirates of the Caribbean” reviews which will be finished in July. So many things to do, but not much time to do them all. We shall see how things shape up in the future. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Godzilla vs. Kong?” What did you think about it? Or, who do you prefer? Godzilla or King Kong? Let the fight begin in the comments section! Civilly, of course. We don’t want anyone losing an eye. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997): Worst Video Game Movie Ever?

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second of two installments of my special review series, “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews!” In this review series we will be discussing the two live-action “Mortal Kombat” films from the 1990s. I also want to apologize for saying in my previous review that Paul W.S. Anderson directed both “Mortal Kombat” AND “Mortal Kombat: Annihilaiton.” Of the two, Anderson only directed the former. With that being said, it is time to go back to 1997 and review “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation!”

Also, HELP me.

“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is directed by John R. Leonetti (Wish Upon, Annabelle) and stars Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn “Red” Williams, Irina Pantaeva, and James Remar. This film is the sequel to the 1995 film “Mortal Kombat,” inspired by the game of the same name, and this is yet another PG-13 action film that may as well have been created to entertain teenage boys who just want to watch sexy things and explosions on screen.

Wait, this film has a plot?! WHO KNEW?! “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” follows a group of martial arts warriors who have to save the world from Shao Khan’s wrath in a matter of six days.

Last week, I reviewed “Mortal Kombat,” which I ended up giving a 6/10 due to its rather pleasant execution of style over substance. To me, that was a film that could have arguably been directed by Michael Bay if he took a few drugs and changed his behavior. It was fine. It’s a video game movie, those are not usually perfect, but “Mortal Kombat” was not offensive. It is forgettable, it is almost bland at times, but not one portion of it felt offensive.

Just like in my review for the prior “Mortal Kombat” installment, this was my initial foray into “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” from start to finish. I’ve seen stuff online about it, pretty much all of which happened to be negative. So to say that I was looking forward to “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” upon my first viewing would have been generous. Once again, for those who missed the previous review. I have played “Mortal Kombat” only once or twice, but I am somewhat familiar with the franchise, what you do, how graphic it was for its time, and so on. While the first movie had a slight charm that made it feel like the game for a moment or two, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on the other hand just strips that charm away and cast out all my organs.

Prior to watching “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” my least favorite video game-based film of all time was “Super Mario Bros..” Ladies and gentlemen, that film has some fierce competition.

I want to talk about the video game film genre as a whole. In recent years, it is something that has noticeably been improving in minor trickles. While I will claim we have not seen a perfect video game-based film, we have gotten some recent hits like “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” which I thought was okay. But we also got “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which hit theaters in February 2020 and became my favorite entry to the genre. I saw it a couple times from start to finish, and I am quite excited for the sequel. I think that when it comes to the video game movie genre, it is something that either really needs some critical thinking from its crew or needs to take things slow and find its footing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems like it is going to last forever, but let’s say it does not. Let’s say comic book movies go the way of the dinosaur, I think video game movies could be the next box office juggernaut. Video games are a much bigger industry than film, which is also pretty enormous itself. And much like comic books, video games have some of the most immersive art that can draw inspiration for theatrical content. Even though I was not a fan of “Warcraft,” I will give the film kudos for its impressive renderings and effects that look incredibly fantastical. Even though time and time again has supported the basis of why video game movies should not be made, I do see potential for improvement in the future, especially in a time where movie theaters are trying to provide “experiences” in order for select people to return after a time ruled by COVID-19. Think about it, with minor exceptions like “Superman: The Movie,” before movies like “X-Men” in 2000, “Spider-Man” in 2002, and “Iron Man” in 2008, comic book movies were usually a joke. Look at films like “Batman & Robin” for example, which coincidentally came out the same year as “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.”

I want to apologize to every bad movie I reviewed. I’m sorry, “Mission: Impossible II.” I’m sorry, “Cats.” I’m sorry, crappy 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. You have nothing on this movie because “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is rife with problems ACROSS THE BOARD! The screenplay comes off like it is written by a backwardly wired 10 year old! The directing is incompetent to a level beyond my imagination! The acting is almost worse!

I want to talk about tone. It is a very important factor that can make or break a movie. I will say, going into the first “Mortal Kombat,” whenever I look at the cover, I expected something bold, action-packed, a little violent. And in that first movie, I got glimmers of that. It was not perfect, but it worked to a degree. This second movie sort of follows the tone of the original, but has sucked out any sort of intelligence that the original movie had, and that is saying something because when I think “intelligent movies,” my mind DOES NOT automatically dart to “Mortal Kombat.” If you want to talk about tone, here is an easy comment I can deliver. Here is one of the first exchanges of dialogue in this movie.

That’s the tone of this movie. Just a bunch of over the top bull that will make you want to die! The line is almost comical, but simultaneously unforgivable. What did we do to deserve this treachery? I can imagine there is a scenario where an exchange like this would work, but it certainly did not work in this one. I do not just blame the actors for this outlandish, off-putting execution of these two lines. I also blame director John R. Leonetti, who I will do my absolute best to be fair to in this case, because the film is his directorial debut, but this does not feel like a good film to put on one’s resume as their first feature. Then again, look at Tim Miller! “Deadpool” was his directorial debut and that was near perfect! But at the same time, they had terrific writing, exciting fight sequences, and Ryan Reynolds’s brilliant and I’ll add, Golden Globe-nominated, performance to back it up! “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” not only feels like it drifts far away from its video game counterpart, but unashamedly shows off a plethora of some of the most abysmal visual effects I’ve ever seen. There are creatures in this movie that make the monsters in the holographic Millennium Falcon game from “Star Wars” look like they are eye-popping and realistic!

I described this movie to a friend recently. For the record, this friend has not seen the movie. And I stand by this description. Here’s what I said over text…

“It basically feels like if Power Rangers went on an acid trip and somehow became horny. I can’t even describe how bad this is.”

I mean this to the tenth degree! This movie looks sexy, it’s got attractive people in it, there’s a selection of good-looking costumes. But it is overacted, overstylized, and at it certain points, it treated me like I was five years old! The dialogue is an enormous annoyance. The slo-mo in this film is not a saving grace, if anything, it was horrendous.

Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert

I watched “Power Rangers” as a kid, and while I watched it, I was wildly entertained. Because the show, even though it was stupid and insulting, knew exactly who it was made for. Young boys. For the record, the “Power Rangers” franchise, which from generation to generation, has had numerous consistencies, was first introduced in the early 1990s. I feel like somebody either on the writing team, director John R. Leonetti, or some s*itty studio executive who just got into crack started watching a ton of “Power Rangers,” eternally left it on in the background, and its overexposure led to one of the most unwatchable pieces of crap on the face of the earth! This film is so bad that I am not even going to get into the characters! Yes, this film has characters, but they’re not really characters, they’re just potential faces and bodies that may as well have been created to be action figures.

The special effects in “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation…” Oh my f*cking god. Well, they exist. They’re special alright. A special kind of special if you ask me. Maybe “The Star Wars Holiday Special” kind of special! They look like they skip frames, they are barely textured, and are a true resemblance of how far we as a society have advanced since the terror of the 1990s and the corny visuals that were offered to viewers then. I sometimes joke about some modern visual effects looking like a Nintendo game or something on the PlayStation, this movie made any pixelated image in an early “Mortal Kombat” arcade cabinet look more lifelike and attractive!

LOOK AT IT!

Given what I recently said about this film’s characters and them existing seemingly almost as if they were to become action figures, you might as well argue that the special effects in this film come off as large scale action figures.

I MEAN, LOOK AT THIS S*IT!

I cannot name one single freaking positive in this entire movie. The only positive I can come up with is that it ends, because it means I can get some s*it done. Some much more important s*it, that’s what I say. I think the only positive, if this even counts, is that it ended the series. I mean, there’s probably other places to go from “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” but no third movie was greenlit. For all I know, there could have been a third one and it may have ended up being the worst one in the franchise. This once again makes me excited for the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” movie that looks ten times better than what New Line pooped out in 1997.

Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert

I think the only way that this film can possibly get any worse is if it were longer. The runtime is 95 minutes, and I assure you when the film hit minute 95, I was in utter relief. Ending this film felt like a divorce. I just wanted to get out, go away, and f*ckin’ celebrate. I’m surprised I did not end up popping a few bottles to mark the occasion. I survived “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.” I’ve heard the horror stories, it sounded like a movie where I would laugh, but little did I realize how much I would want to vent, because this movie grabbed me, dragged me across the floor, and finished me with its mightiest fatality. But like in many video games, it pays to have an extra life, and I used my extra life to conquer this bloody nightmare.

In the end, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” killed me. It finished me. I’ve seen a lot of bad films. “The Emoji Movie,” “Battlefield Earth,” “Samurai Cop,” “Sharknado.” This might actually be worse than all of them! Of all the movies I have watched and talked about in the history of doing Scene Before, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” may just be the worst one I’ve ever watched. It’s barely like the video games, and at times, it makes the older video games look real! I almost see no scenario where I watch this movie ever again, unless I was bats*it drunk with a group of friends, we’re all at my place, I grab the Blu-ray, and we prepare to laugh our asses off. And then maybe I cry myself to sleep. I can imagine having nightmares about this movie. I can only imagine what they’d look like.

AH! TERRIBLE-LOOKING EXPLOSION! GO AWAY! SCRAM! YOU FREAKING ASS!

I cannot even believe I survived whatever the hell this movie actually is. Because it is not a movie, it is a pathetic excuse of a compilation of visual images that technically qualify as a 95 minute story.

To those who want to watch “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” “Too bad your brain… WILL DIE!”

I’m just done, this movie broke me. I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” a 1/10.

Worst screenplay ever.
Worst direction ever.
Worst effects ever.

Almost the worst movie ever if you ask me.

I will also add that on the poster for this atrocity, the slogan is “Destroy all expectations.” That would be true, if I even had them to begin with!

Movies like this make me glad that movies like “Sonic the Hedgehog” have followed. Maybe the video game movie realm will end up getting a lot better with time, but films like this one most certainly reveal some of the worst this subgroup has to offer. Avoid “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” at all costs, unless you like torture or bringing pain to your enemies, in which case, those are your exceptions. But DO NOT watch this movie. You’ll thank me later.

Thanks for reading this review! Thanks for reading part 2 of 2 of the “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series! I just want to remind everyone that I have upcoming reviews for “Boogie,” “Nobody,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” I will admit, it may take me some time to get out each one of these reviews because I am in the middle of my busiest college semester yet and I am currently working on a side project that I may end up sharing with you guys. More details may arrive soon.

Also, I want to address my next upcoming series, “7 Days of Star Wars,” where I will review the first seven main saga episodes in the “Star Wars” franchise. When planning this series, I hoped to release it from Sunday May 2nd to Saturday May 8th, which would coincide with Star Wars Day, May the 4th. Do not take this as an official confirmation, but I have considered postponing the dates for the upcoming review series. It’s not that I do not want to do it, it’s just that I’ve been incredibly busy and I would rather have a series I am proud of instead of a series that is rushed. I currently have no review series planned for June, so maybe I’ll push it back then at the latest. If you want to know about upcoming content on Scene Before and more shenanigans, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account. Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation?” What did you think about it? Or, and this is good time to ask this, what is the worst movie you have ever seen? “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” may arguably be mine, there are like one or two that may be worse. I would have to rewatch the other two if I even dare. Either way, let me know about your horror stories down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mortal Kombat (1995): Sadly, One of the Better Video Game Movies To This Day

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the first of two installments of my special review series, “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews!” In this review series we will be discussing the two live-action “Mortal Kombat” films directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, a major player in adapting video games into film. With that being said, it is time to go back to 1995 and review “Mortal Kombat!”

“Mortal Kombat” is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, or Paul Anderson as he was credited back in the day. The film stars Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, and Christopher Lambert. This film is based on the video game franchise of the same name. It has been well-known as one of the more popular fighting games in the arcade and even today at home. The film centers around three people who are summoned to an island to participate in a fighting tournament where the outcome will decide the fate of the world.

If you know me personally, you’d be aware that I passionately collect Blu-rays. “Mortal Kombat,” and “Mortal Kombat: Annhilation” for that matter, just so happen to be two that I own. I bought the Blu-ray for “Mortal Kombat” back in 2015 after finding a used copy at Newbury Comics, a staple for pop culture items in New England. One of the habits I have developed over the years is waiting forever to watch certain movies after buying them. I bought “Spy” back during the 2016 holiday season and I have still yet to put it into the player. Not long after that period ended, I bought a copy of “Napoleon Dynamite,” and to this day I have not watched the movie. Then after that, I bought my first 4K Blu-ray ever, “The Lone Survivor.” Originally I wanted to wait out on watching it until I had a proper 4K Blu-ray player and not just one that upscales 1080p footage to look like it is in 4K. Despite owning a 4K Blu-ray player for a few years, I still have not watched the movie. But for “Mortal Kombat,” I waited over six years to finally watch this film. I bought this film prior to starting Scene Before! Although with the new movie coming out, the timing to not only watch, but talk about it, could not be better.

Now, let’s talk about video game movies in general. If you are versed in certain areas of film, you’d know that movies and video games typically do not mix. My least favorite film of all time is based on a video game, “Super Mario Bros.” from 1993. I love the “Super Mario” franchise as a gamer, but the magic of those games disappeared when translated to the big screen. There’s a scene where Mario refuses to jump! That’s literally his only purpose! Other than eating mushrooms, stomping on Goombas, and overshadowing his brother. Paul W.S. Anderson is one of the more famous directors when it comes to movies that are inspired by games, but that fame does not automatically equate to quality. While I have not seen the “Resident Evil” movies, those films have usually not been well received. “Monster Hunter” was… Alright. Visually it is not bad. But it does not feel like a movie that belongs in 2020. The music feels like it is from a 90s movie that is trying really hard to be an 80s movie. In some ways, “Mortal Kombat” and “Monster Hunter” come close in style, but unlike “Monster Hunter,” it feels advantageous for “Mortal Kombat” as it is a product of the 1990s.

Once again, keep in mind that I have not seen “Resident Evil,” but for all I know, Paul W.S. Anderson makes each of his movies in the same way as he has done since making “Mortal Kombat,” which I will say, was rather enjoyable to watch. There’s all this epic music that shimmies around a border to where I can AND cannot take it seriously. In fact, I do not work out much, I do not take much time to go to the gym, but if I were to start working out and take it seriously, the opening song of this movie is one that I would definitely consider adding to my playlist. The set design and effects all have this fantasy feel to it, and the entire time I felt like I was in another world. I will say that this is “Mortal Kombat’s” greatest strength. It does a really good job at transporting me as a viewer from the real world to the film world.

I’m just gonna say this though. If you told me that Michael Bay had a phase where he got totally into practical effects and directed this movie, I would believe you. I say so because this movie is excellent when it comes to style. As for substance, eh, not really. It has been a few weeks since I have seen this film, and I have only played traces of the games, although what I have played has been fun. I barely remember the characters. Yes, I know their names: Johnny Cage, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Scorpion just to list some. But I should know more than just their names. I will say that the best thing about a good number of these characters is the fights they were in, but that appreciation once again goes to show that “Mortal Kombat” is a film with mostly style but not as much substance.

But having said that, I often call myself a ten year old kid in an adult’s body. If I were watching this film at the age of ten, there is a good chance that I would have been wowed and considering it perfect because it checked various marks that a younger me would want to see. Grand action, extravagant environments, and some cool music. This film, even though it really leaves much to be desired as a story, would make for an excellent tech demo. I would not be surprised if they come out with a 4K Blu-ray for it in the near future because there is an argument to make that this would look rather polished if enough effort is put into it.

One of the minor disappointments about this “Mortal Kombat” film is that even though there are some ties to the video games that fit right in, there is a big one that is missing. For the record, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the earlier games that embraces graphic violence, much of which was done through “fatalities.” And yes, there are finishers in this movie to a degree, but this film is PG-13 and I feel like it would have been fun to see the crew take this movie in a more R-rated direction if possible. Although I must say I am glad we are getting the new “Mortal Kombat” film coming out this month because that is R-rated and it may right what I consider to be the wrongs of this film. It just goes to show, not all remakes are bad ideas. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was a remake and that film is celebrated today!

In the end, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the better video game movies, but then again, that does not say much given how there really are not too many great ones. I found this film delightfully entertaining but mainly as something to glance upon. Maybe it would be cool to watch in the theater one time, but I do not have all the time in the world so I may end up not doing that. If anything, it is a good effort, and surprisingly works despite having a few characters who do not necessarily belong in the world this movie represents, but it is not something I’d watch five to ten times in a matter of months. I would watch it on a Friday night, but only as a feast for the eyes and ears. I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat” a 6/10.

Thanks for reading the first of two reviews in this “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series! I will have my review up for “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on April 12th! Stay tuned and follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played the “Mortal Kombat” games? Tell me about your experiences! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins Return to the Big (and Small) Screen

“Wonder Woman 1984” is directed by Patty Jenkins, who also directed the first “Wonder Woman” film starring Gal Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Fast Five) back in 2017. Gadot returns to play the iconic heroine alongside a cast including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones), Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), Robin Wright (House of Cards, Forrest Gump), and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo). This film takes place many years after the original, which was set in World War I. This time, we journey to 1984, where Wonder Woman has to take on two new foes, Max Lord and the Cheetah. Also, Steve Trevor, reprised by Chris Pine, comes along for the ride.

It has been three and a half years since I first watched “Wonder Woman,” which I originally gave a 10/10. By the way, that 10/10 still stands. The film is somewhat cliché. It contains things that have been done before, there is no denying that. But it does so with excellence and in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Plus, you can also add on that we have not had many successes with comic book movies specifically centered around characters portrayed by women. This felt like not just a proper, but a *massive* step in the right direction. It was also my favorite film in the DCEU at the time. In my review for the original film, I go onto mention that when it comes to “origin stories,” “Wonder Woman” may be my all time favorite in regards to movies. Part of it has to do with the singular and stellar vision provided by director Patty Jenkins and all the performances from cast members including Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The villians were… okay. However, each action sequence, even those that others say are heavy in CGI, are exciting and heart-pumping. I know some people find the final act to be clunky, I had a great time with it. Plus, Wonder Woman’s theme music, which was first introduced in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is arguably my favorite superhero theme of all time. Maybe except the one created for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man.

Going into “Wonder Woman 1984,” it was hard to imagine that such a movie could surpass the original. However, based on early reviews, it seemed as if such a thing would be possible. After all, we’ve already gotten the been there done that origin story out of the way, if you want to call it that. It was time for something new, innovative. Going in, I already had my expectations blown away. I did not expect Chris Pine to return. Like, literally. At all. Then again, this takes place in a comic book universe where anything is possible. There were also some new things in regards to tech. Not that they haven’t been done before, just not in the original “Wonder Woman,” because this new flick was partially shot on IMAX film. And if you have read a number of my posts, you know I rave about IMAX film. By the way, while the movie is shot in the heavy duty format, there is barely any footage that will expand the frame in IMAX. However, it may be worth the extra few bucks if those theaters are open near you.

But is “Wonder Woman 1984” worth the hype? Absolutely not.

Well! Well! Well! 2020 strikes again! “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a massive disappointment to one of the most anticipated films of the year. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a step down from the original 2017 film. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only the worst comic book movie of the year. Yes, more than “Bloodshot” for crying out loud! But it is also the worst entry to DCEU thus far.

Now, let me just get one thing out of the way. I am a straight white male in his early twenties. I am not one of those people that is trying cancel Gal Gadot. After all, I met her in person, I have her autograph, and she is a decent actress. I am also not trying to cancel Patty Jenkins, which the Internet seems to be doing according to many people. If they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3” with these two at the front lines, I am there. Their work on the original film justifies such a thing, and Jenkins is a director that is completely capable of making something magical. In fact, most of the problems of the film do not have to do with how the movie is made. It instead has to do with the pacing, the editing, the way everything plays out, the characters, and the writing. Admittedly, Jenkins is responsible for that last mistake, given how she has a screenplay credit. I don’t know if I should blame her entirely given how she wrote the script with a couple other people, but I should also point out that she did not have a screenplay credit for the previous “Wonder Woman” installment. This time around, Jenkins collaborates with Dave Callaham, who wrote the script for one of last year’s best comedies, “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Also along for the ride is Geoff Johns who has plenty of experience of creating DC content. So, what went wrong? Was there not enough time to draft everything out? Were there so many ideas colliding from three different minds? I don’t know. Patty Jenkins seems very passionate about the Wonder Woman character. In fact, throughout the movie, Jenkins properly visualizes the character as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people, especially women.

This movie starts off pretty great. By the way, for those who want to see the film in IMAX, this is one of the two scenes that were actually filmed in the IMAX format. The scene not only looked articulate and felt immersive, but it may have ended up being the best part of the movie. It is action-packed, exciting, and lets you escape into the world Themyscira. Sadly, the movie kind of blows its load in the first ten minutes. Because it spends time showing you young Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell), progresses to a time where we see a matured Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and in these initial scenes, the action never stops whether Diana is trying to win an athletic event for herself, or she saves the lives of others. Even so, it does kind of feel like action that does belong in the beginning of a superhero sequel. The main character kicks ass while you get reintroduced to them, and the movie sets a footprint for where the story is going to go. “Wonder Woman 1984” sets up a vibe that fits the title. You see people walking around in eccentric clothing, there’s record stores, CRT television sets, and a multi-story colorful mall. When it comes to the first hour of “Wonder Woman 1984,” these scenes were fine. What wasn’t fine in the first hour is perhaps just about everything else.

What do I mean? Let’s take a moment to talk about the worst “Lord of the Rings” film. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” I’ll be fair. I did have fun with the movie, but one of the worst things about “An Unexpected Journey” was the pacing. This may partially be due to the need to adapt one book into three parts, but the evidence comes in towards the beginning where we see the 13 dwarves coming into Bilbo Baggins’s home. A lot of the screentime almost feels extended and nearly tiresome. There are some decent moments, but it does not always make for a good time. It takes like 45 minutes to an hour to actually get the movie going. With “Wonder Woman 1984,” I got the same feeling. It just took forever to actually get into gear. Mainly because this film feels like a stockpile of exposition. “Batman v. Superman” sort of felt the same way, but I think I had more fun watching that, exposition included, than I did sitting through whatever the hell “Wonder Woman 1984” turned out to be. To add onto that, you have some cringe-worthy lines, less than stellar characters, and a surprisingly boring storyline, part of which includes a role reversal.

Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor in this movie. I will not go into detail of his return, but this was heavily marketed, so if you’re considering this a spoiler, I’m sorry. In the 2017 “Wonder Woman” film, Gal Gadot’s character has to deal with the new sights of earth and learn the normalcies within. To do so, she had the assistance of Steve Trevor along the way. Diana Prince came off occasionally as eccentric, she said certain things that maybe would be better left unsaid, and there’s a montage where she’s trying on unfamiliar apparel. This time around, Diana assists Steve in 1984, because now he’s the fish out of water. Much like the last movie, there is a reversal where Steve is trying on different clothes that defined the 1980s. He occasionally had a fanny pack, “parachute pants,” and so on. That scene kind of entertained me. However, the rest of this storyline was mostly either boring or impractical. There is a scene where Diana and Steve are flying through the sky looking at fireworks. And sure, fireworks are a sight to be seen. There is reason why Disney World charges you your entire blood supply to see them up close. But this movie made me ask if Steve has never actually seen fireworks in his life. The way I viewed the scene made me wonder why he was actually as amazed as he was in those exact moments. Fireworks have been around for a long time. Many years, centuries even! Why is Chris Pine acting like he’s never seen fireworks before?

This movie features a couple respectable actors, you have Pedro Pascal who I liked in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” he’s also in hit TV shows including “Game of Thrones” and “The Mandalorian.” The guy has been certain cores of nerd culture over the years. You also have Kristen Wiig, who I have rather mixed feelings on. I was not a fan of her in the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. I don’t think I find her as funny as other people do. But I also am a fan her in other regards. I think she did a fine job in “The Martian” and her voiceover work in projects like “Sausage Party” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise are highlights in her career. Sadly, their performances are very on and off here. I would not ease myself into saying that the actors themselves are specifically at fault, but these two portray their characters to a degree that feels cartoony and off-putting. “Wonder Woman 1984” gets into the problem that people have criticized movies like “Batman & Robin,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for realizing. MULTIPLE MAJOR THREATS.

I am not saying you cannot make a movie with more than one villain. It has been done before with “Return of the Jedi,” “The Dark Knight,” and if you really think this counts, “Back to the Future Part II.” But the beauty of having one major threat in your movie is that you get to make them the source of everyone’s struggle. Time is taken to specifically focus on that one character and why they must stopped. We somewhat get that in “Wonder Woman 1984” with Max Lord (Pascal), but when it comes to Barbara Minerva (Wiig), the way she is handled is sort of similar to how they handled Eddie Brock in “Spider-Man 3.” Only thing is, I was actually entertained whenever Eddie Brock had a scene in “Spider-Man 3.” Topher Grace played the part well, even during lines that were not up to par. Wiig tries, but the problem is that some of the writing in “Wonder Woman 1984” makes some of the writing in “Spider-Man 3” look like Shakespeare. Maybe that’s not the best comparison, mainly because I am one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed “Spider-Man 3.” However, there are a few lines and storytelling methods in that film that do not fall into place.

But if you want me to compare “Wonder Woman 1984” to another film I did not enjoy, let’s use “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” In that film, you have Electro and the Green Goblin. There’s also the Rhino, but we’re gonna leave him out for this. The two major threats in “Wonder Woman 1984” are basically just like Electro and the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but instead of being exact carbon copies, they take various qualities of each character, but they are switched around to make something new. Like Electro, Barbara is eccentric, kind of shy, almost a nobody. But kind of like the Green Goblin, she barely has any screentime as Cheetah. And whatever screentime there is almost feels forced or nearly unmemorable. As for Max Lord, he’s got funky hair like Harry Osborn, he’s affiliated with a big company. And like Electro, he has a more significant screen presence when it comes to dealing with our main hero. This all adds up to an underwhelming evil duo in an underwhelming movie. But I do have to say one thing about Max Lord, and it kind of turned me off. He’s basically Donald Trump.

Think about it! This movie is painting a picture of an obsessive, failed businessman and kinda sorta television personality who has little time for their kids. In fact, my first impression of his son was that he was sort of a spoiled brat, which does not always seem to stick for the rest of the movie. Again, the hairstyle feels like something out of a meme. There is even a scene, and you saw this in the main trailer for this film, where he stands in front of a background representing the White House Press Room! Granted, having compared Pedro Pascal to his comic book counterpart, the casting and makeup departments did a good job at being faithful to the source material. But knowing that this was made in the late 2010s, and originally supposed to release in 2019, I could not help but make this comparison. And part of why I did not like this is because, and this may be a personal thing, it slightly ruined the escapism factor of the film. I’m not going to say whether I like Donald Trump, whether I dislike him. I am not here to get into politics. But Max Lord in “Wonder Woman 1984” feels like a Trump parody. The makeup department could have easily sprayed orange spray paint onto Pascal’s face and boom! Donald Trump impersonation!

I will say, there is one thing about “Wonder Woman 1984” that could be an improvement over the first one, and that is Gal Gadot’s performance. Gal Gadot, as much as I adore her as a person, as good-looking as she is, is not Meryl Streep. When it comes to “Wonder Woman,” she’s always looked the part, and she’s had good moments since her inception. Even though her character was the best part of “Batman v. Superman” for me, her acting ability was a far cry from what I saw out of Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill or Laurence Fishburne. When she shows up alongside the two titular characters in “Batman v. Superman,” she comes off as a badass, but there’s a line that she releases out of her mouth that feels like a first take. In “Wonder Woman 1984,” Gal Gadot has a commanding presence, she is charismatic, she is emotional, and occasionally witty. I liked Gadot’s performance in the original “Wonder Woman” because she did a good job at interpreting a goddess who has to adapt to a new normal, embracing the ups and downs along the way. But there were also signs that Gadot needed to work more on her craft and do a little more than be a pretty face in armor who can say words here and there. I will admit, her acting towards the end of “Wonder Woman” occasionally gave me chills, but I could tell that there was still work that needed to be done. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a sign that Gal Gadot is getting better, she deals with dialogue better than she used to, and her range is improving. I am looking forward to seeing Gal Gadot in “Death on the Nile” and if they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3,” count me in.

Gal Gadot’s performance is not the only positive here, because I will admit, even though I think Patty Jenkins and the other writers could have done a better job with the screenplay, she did alright with crafting the film. When it comes to her vision, I do not think it was as well represented as the original, but a crappy script can make that happen. Some of the cinematography is marvelous to look at. The visuals are just as good as the original film. Many scenes felt big and grand, and while I imagine some people will stick to watching “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max for now, if you feel safe going to a theater right now, do not rule that option out. There are some cool scenes that look great on the big screen. Speaking of things that feel grand, they got Hans Zimmer to do the score, which I was onboard with from the beginning. I saw the first few minutes of “Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, and from that moment, I was excited to hear the rest of the score, and it is really good. There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has one of the best themes for an on-screen superhero, and I am glad that Zimmer got to work his magic to carry out his singular vision regarding it. I will likely listen to the soundtrack sometime in the future. The film had a passable ending. Granted there was some cringe surrounding it, but it good parts.

Too bad the movie’s boring, forgettable, and another big blow in 2020. F*ck. This. Year.

In the end, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a visually grand mess. Am I looking forward to what Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have in store in the future? Yes. But does my anticipation take away from my thoughts on “Wonder Woman 1984?” No. I think “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic misstep of a film. And the worst part is that it was not worth all the waits from the delays. I’ll be honest, and some of you may find this surprising, I would rather watch the live-action version of Disney’s “Mulan” again! Just to paint a picture of how much I did not like this film, let me just boil it down to a simple sentence. I did not have fun. Ironically, 2017’s “Wonder Woman” took place in World War I, where people are fighting, people are dying, times are desperate, but I managed to have fun. This sequel takes place in 1984. In real life, that year was much more lighthearted, at least from the perspective of the United States. Yes, there was the War on Drugs. AIDS broke out. Indira Gandhi was murdered. But there were plenty of big songs and movies that came out like “Jump” by Van Halen or “Ghostbusters.” People were having fun! “Wonder Woman 1984” manages to take a time that is significantly more fun than World War I, and makes it the most boring thing imaginable. The action sequences don’t save this movie. Gal Gadot’s improved performance doesn’t save this movie. A couple new and talented faces do not even save this travesty. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic disappointment, the worst film in the Detective Comics Extended Universe, and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Due to the lockdown in the United Kingdom, the movie will debut on January 13th, 2021 on PVOD. If you live in the United States, you can also watch the film right now on HBO Max if you are a subscriber and it is available at no extra cost until the near end of January 2021, where it will finish it’s theatrical release, go to PVOD for a price, likely hit store shelves through DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually return to HBO and HBO Max sometime next year.

Thanks for reading this review! Who knew that in the SAME WEEKEND, we would get my least favorite Pixar film, and now, and perhaps on a more significant scale, my least favorite DCEU film! This year has kicked my ass, called me names, and made me eat dirt. We are approaching the end of 2020, THANK HEAVENS. So it is almost time for me to post my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. That will be up sometime early next year and I may have one or two more reviews coming your way if I can fit them in. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Wonder Woman 1984?” What did you think about it? Also, did you watch the movie in the theater? At home? Or both? Tell me about your experience! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CORRECTION: When I said, “There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer,” I was wrong. Turns out the music in that scene was Adagio in D Minor, originally composed by John Murphy for the film “Sunshine,” which has been used in several marketing pieces for “Ready Player One,” the “2010 Winter Olympics,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” I will not spoil where it plays for those who have not seen the movie.

Monster Hunter (2020): Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich’s Latest Attempt at Alternating Video Game History

“Monster Hunter” is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat) and stars Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, The Fourth Kind), Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Tip “T.I.” Harris (Ant-Man, Get Hard), Meagan Good (Think Like a Man, Shazam!), Diego Boneta (Terminator: Dark Fate, Scream Queens), John Helman (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mad Max: Fury Road), Jin Au-Yeung (The Man with the Iron Fists, 2 Fast 2 Furious), and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy). This film is based on the Capcom video game franchise of the same name, where you go on quests to slay or capture monsters. In this 2020 film adaptation, Lt. Artemis and her fellow soldiers transport themselves to an unfamiliar world where they meet The Hunter (Tony Jaa). Together, the crew must survive against giant monsters in an attempt to return home.

First off, I just want to say, just because this is being published on the week of Christmas, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Second, “Monster Hunter” is the latest film put out theatrically from Sony. From my experience, Sony has been one of the studios that has been rather reserved during the pandemic. They have yet to put many of their films straight to streaming, although “Greyhound” and “An American Pickle” stand out as a couple exceptions. Although, when “Tenet” came out to somewhat underwhelming statistics, most notably in the United States, which is usually a key market for film, they said they “won’t make the mistake” of releasing a film of that size during the pandemic.

For the record, “Tenet” cost $205 million to make. Box office-wise, the film did well financially given the circumstances of the pandemic, but in normal times, it would not have been considered a success. “Monster Hunter,” to Sony’s benefit, is much less expensive. That film in particular cost $60 million to make. While that is not necessarily the biggest budget in the world, especially compared to the latest Marvel and “Star Wars” fare we have been getting, it is still not exactly cheap. However, it is more expensive than what Sony has been putting out, “The Broken Hearts Gallery” as one such example, since most theatres have been allowed to reopen. This made me wonder… “Why?”

After all, even though I never saw Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Resident Evil,” I am familiar with many of the franchise’s entries being dishonored by critics and even fans of the games. Part of me wondered if Sony just wanted to dump this film into theaters just to get it off its back, and if “Monster Hunter” was just another video game adaptation that felt nothing like the game itself.

Having now seen the film, my expectations were kind of met. Although at the same time, it is still better than I anticipated. Unlike myself, my dad has seen the “Resident Evil” movies, so I figured for this circumstance, I’d invite him to this screening considering it is from the same people. According to him, this movie has a very similar vibe and structure to the “Resident Evil” films. They are not Shakespeare in the least, but they most certainly fall into the guilty pleasure category. It’s not all bad, but holy hell it is not good. Simultaneously, particular points of the film felt like a blast.

I am going to get some negative points out of the way. This movie is definitely not going to win an editing Oscar. Of all the films to have come out this year, this is by far the LEAST qualified to possibly win Best Film Editing. The film manages to revisit a lot of the common problems we face in action films today. Specifically, quick cutting, not being able to tell who is who, and there also seems to be a little more slow-mo than I’d prefer. It’s almost like watching “The Matrix” if they couldn’t tell a story. There is a scene in the film where two people are fighting, and while they do kind of look alike, there was a point where I wondered who was who. If we learned anything from… I dunno, “Taken 3,” it’s that quick cutting is headache-inducing and should be avoided at all costs!

Liam Neeson deserves better!

Another big problem, and I was kind of expecting this from the get go, characterization is not really put at the forefront. Not only do we have a bunch of military soldiers who have nothing to do with the source material at the center of the story, but nearly every character in this film felt disposable. I did not care about anyone, they could get massacred, lose everything and everyone they know, and I still wouldn’t give a crap. That may partially be because the movie does not give us time to get to know anyone. We have these generic soldiers on a mission together, but nobody has a personality, nobody has any special quirks. They all sing together from time to time, but they do not really do anything else that stands out. They’re just these generic soldiers with their generic dialogue in a movie with a world that really should not feel generic! This is a movie with a world where someone fights gigantic monsters as part of a quest! Or… At least that’s what should be happening according to the video games. I do not need all film adaptations to follow the source material 100%, but this almost goes too far away from the original material at times.

This film is 1 hour and 39 minutes long. Thankfully, I never once felt bored throughout that time. I will say though, one surprising critique I will give the film is that I wish it were a minute longer in the runtime. Maybe two or three, but still. I know it does not seem like much, but again, the film failed to impress me character-wise, but if it took just a few more minutes just to have us get to know something about some of the others in the film, “Monster Hunter” might just garner my interest more as it progressed.

Although, thankfully, there is one relationship that defined the film and made it worth my time, and that is the relationship between Lt. Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and the Hunter (Tony Jaa). What made their relationship intriguing is the foreign aspect that came with each side. For Lt. Artemis, she spends much of the film in a world she has never once thought would be possible. When she tries to adapt to this unusual reality, she comes across the Hunter, and she tries to befriend him. Granted, it is through blatantly obvious Hershey’s product placement, but it is true that chocolate wins people over, even if they have never seen or heard of it. Why do you think “The Big Bang Theory” made an entire episode revolving around chocolate being used as positive reinforcement?

If you are a fan of the “Monster Hunter” games, I cannot guarantee that you will walk out of this movie saying it is just like the games. This sort of feels like a Michael Bay “Transformers” movie, where it is less about Transformers and more about the military and the government and how they deal with Transformers. Granted, this has a significantly tinier budget, a smaller cast, and I would even say that the military emphasis in this film is greater, because it never cuts away from the military to average civilians to Transformers doing their own s*it. One positive about the film, even though the story and characterization is lackluster, is that the film does not convolute itself with too many things going on. There is a certain beauty in the simplicity, albeit small, but it is there. If anything, this feels like “Predator” meets “Pacific Rim.” You have two worlds, one side enters the other one, and you have these soldiers trying to survive against giant creatures. Granted, both of those movies are much more watchable, but I rest my case.

In the end, “Monster Hunter” just reinforces what we have learned from “Superintelligence,” directed by Ben Falcone and starring Melissa McCarthy. If a husband and wife team direct and star in a film. Maybe it is not worth watching. I have not seen this duo’s bunch of “Resident Evil” films they did together, but I have heard from my dad that “Monster Hunter” falls in the same realm. If you want big action that falls into the guilty pleasure category, “Monster Hunter” may be for you. If you like the games and expect this film to be a solid “adaptation” of the source material, I am not sure if you will be satisfied. Yes, the effects look nice. There is some cool action. But is not enough to make a good movie. If you want to have a good time at the movies, just wait for “Wonder Woman 1984.” I have not seen it, so I cannot confirm if it is good, but it sure looks it! I’m going to give “Monster Hunter” a 4/10.

“Monster Hunter” is now playing in theaters in 2D, and is also available in premium large formats including Dolby Cinema, Cinemark XD, and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will have my review up for “Wonder Woman 1984,” which will be in theatres and on HBO Max this Christmas. I also plan to watch and review “Soul” on Disney+, but I also do not plan to leave out “I’m Your Woman” on Prime Video, and “Wolfwalkers” on Apple TV+. There are also films exclusively in theaters I want to tackle such as “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks. There is a lot to watch through the holiday season so I cannot guarantee I will get to everything. But we shall see! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Monster Hunter?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen any of the other video game to movie adaptations directed by Paul W.S. Anderson? Tell me your thoughts on those! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Midnight Sky (2020): George Clooney Helms a Visually Stunning Journey Through Space and Ground

“The Midnight Sky” is directed by George Clooney (Gravity, Batman & Robin) and he also stars in the film as Augustine Lofthouse. Clooney is surrounded by a cast of characters played by Felicity Jones (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), David Oyelowo (Gringo, Selma), Tiffany Boone (The Chi, Hunters), Demián Bichir (Grand Hotel, The Hateful Eight), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), and Caoilinn Springall in her film debut. This film is based on the novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” by Lily Brooks-Dalton and takes place in post-apocalyptic times as Augustine, a scientist, attempts to bring a group of astronauts home while also avoiding unfortunate events.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 29: Actor George Clooney arrives at The 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards broadcast on TNT/TBS at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/WireImage) 22005_012_JS2_0735.JPG

George Clooney has directed a few films so far including “The Ides of March,” which I have not seen. “The Monuments Men,” which I have also not seen despite owning it on Blu-ray. And let’s not forget “Suburbicon,” which seems to have a cool concept, but having seen poor verdicts from others, I wonder if it is even worth checking out at this point. Nevertheless, George Clooney’s latest directorial effort is the first one I’ve had the opportunity to check out. Before I went to the theater to see this film, I saw a trailer for it somewhere else, and I was immediately in just from knowing this was a space film, and those have been some of my favorites over the years. This was also my first Cinemark XD experience, so I was getting a unique flavor alongside the film. Without going into much detail, this movie was worth the extra few bucks on the ticket, and I will probably be back for that specific auditorium soon. But how was the movie itself?

First and foremost, “The Midnight Sky” is a visually stunning adventure. This movie is distributed by Netflix, which as many of you may know, traditionally releases their content for the small screen. However, in recent years with movies like “Mudbound,” “Roma,” and “The Irishman,” they have been stepping up their theatrical efforts, perhaps mainly to outline themselves as a major force during the Oscars. If I were a voting member of the Academy and I had the opportunity to nominate a film for the Best Visual Effects category, “The Midnight Sky” would be a contender. Although at the same time, there are some points in the film where the effects look obviously artificial and less than realistic. Even with that in mind, it did not take away from the film’s flair. “The Midnight Sky” is easy on the eyes, and at various times, it’s the same on the ears. Like many other space films, the sound in this movie is magic. Although I will say compared to movies like “Gravity,” “First Man,” and even ones I did not enjoy such as “Ad Astra,” it is not as memorable in the sound department as those.

Story-wise, “The Midnight Sky” kicks off rather slow. I do not mind slow movies. Some of my favorite movies are slow. However, “The Midnight Sky” sort of failed to keep me at a proper pace during certain points. I have no idea why, but for whatever reason, this movie did not click with me instantaneously. As for later points, those were the definite highlights.

This film takes place both on earth and in outer space, and we see the two alternate perspectives and the people within them as they go about their ways and goals. The story on earth shows a bearded George Clooney trekking through the ice and bonding with a young girl. In space, there is a crew attempting to make their way home from Jupiter and we see these two stories play out and how they connect with one another. I liked certain fragments of both stories, but if you told me before I saw this movie that I’d end up digging the story on earth a little more, I’d be surprised.

My favorite parts of the movie are between George Clooney’s character, Augustine Lofthouse, and a young girl he meets by the name of Iris, played by first time actress Caoilinn Springall. First off, sticking on the topic of Caolinn Springall, I think she is going to have a very bright future ahead of her. This first role of hers has minimal dialogue, which makes it a good pick for a first time actress, but what sold this role more than anything else is the physicality aspect. Films are all about visual storytelling, and when you can use the visual movements of a person as much as possible to heighten the story, your film is guaranteed to work. Springall gives one of the most visually competent performances of the year, regardless of age. Plus, the journey between her and Clooney make for some of the grittier moments of the movie. The duo’s trek through the stormy snow makes for a definite highlight.

I will say, if there is a flaw that I have picked up, it’s that the side characters of the film do not really leave me with much to write home about. While there are only a couple of characters on earth, there are a few more in space. Some highlights include Sully Rembshire (Felicity Jones) and Commander Gordon Adewole (David Oyelowo). However, when it comes to these characters in space, it was a little bit harder for me to get attached to them compared to those remaining on earth. Maybe it is because of a matter of quantity and quality. There are more characters in space, but fewer on earth, so the time spent with those on earth maybe feels more intimate and special. Although I will say, kind of like the story on earth, the story in space got better with time. The pacing went faster, the stakes went higher, and the Movie Reviewing Moron ended up being happier!

Speaking of quick pace and high stakes, the way this film ends makes for one of my favorite climaxes of the year. It feels so somber yet so relaxing. With a film maintaining the tone it has, it is a perfect way for everything to go down. I do not think George Clooney is up there with the greats in regards to filmmakers, but “The Midnight Sky” proves itself to be a watchable space to ground drama with a series of heavy visual effects, despite a feeling of intimacy here and there. I will say, I do not watch Netflix, but I would not mind if I started to use Netflix to watch this film again, because it sort of does play out like a puzzle, and maybe a second watch will allow me to appreciate it more. I am curious to see if Clooney wants to continue his directing career, because if he keeps making movies like this, he could be well-rounded amongst his Hollywood peers.

In the end, “The Midnight Sky” is a wonderous trip through a post-apocalypse. George Clooney gives it his all as a performer and behind the scenes. I do need some time to process the film, but I would not mind it contending during awards season for the visual effects category. If anything else, I really like the way they do the credits. It is vastly different from many other films you see, and it kept me around for a few minutes. I recommend this film, give it a watch! I’m going to give “The Midnight Sky” a 7/10.

“The Midnight Sky” is now playing in theaters and will stream on Netflix for subscribers starting Wednesday December 23rd.

Thanks for reading this review! Just want to let you all know that my next review is going to be for the STX movie “Greenland,” which premieres on VOD services starting December 18th. Also, this Sunday, I’m going to see Sony’s latest attempt at a video game film… “Monster Hunter.”

Don’t cry Jack, don’t cry. You’re gonna get through this! Big monsters cannot hurt anyone! That review will be up next week. Stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned for more great content, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Midnight Sky?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen any of the other films George Clooney directed? Tell me your thoughts! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020): The Most Triumphant Review to Unite the World

The year is 2020, COVID-19 is the talk of the town. Political talk never ever ends. Toilet paper is a precious commodity. Hand sanitizer is the trendiest item for the past few months. The Internet is a war zone. Not with weapons, but with words, name-calling, and reminders that masks go over the nose. One man must unite the world, and that man is…

The Movie Reviewing Moron.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is directed by Dean Parisot (RED 2, Galaxy Quest) and stars Alex Winter (Grand Piano, Freaked), Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers, My Spy), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Brigette Lundy-Paine (Atypical, The Glass Castle), Anthony Carrigan (Gotham, Barry), Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait, Childrens Hospital), Jayma Mays (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, American Made), Holland Taylor (The Practice, Two and a Half Men), Kid Cudi (How to Make It in America, Need for Speed), William Sadler (Iron Man 3, The Shawshank Redemption), and Jillian Bell (Bless the Harts, Workaholics).

This film is the third installment to the “Bill & Ted” franchise, and the first one that has come out in almost thirty years. Years after their excellent adventure and bogus journey, Bill & Ted are happily married to their princess wives. They are also loving fathers to their daughters. Suddenly, the duo is alerted of a world-ending event in the future, and they must write a song that will unite everyone, as they were destined to.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of those films that I became more excited to watch as the year went on. Part of it is because the 2020 calendar happens to be losing more films by the day. Films like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Dune,” and so on. But “Bill & Ted Face the Music” was one of the early films to release when studios and exhibtors were collaborating to get moviegoing back on track this summer. Having a duel release in theaters and on demand, the film received mostly positive reviews.

But I didn’t watch it at first.

There are a few reasons why. Movies like “Unhinged,” “The New Mutants,” and “Tenet” were more important for me to tackle at the time. And more importantly, I still haven’t seen the first two “Bill & Ted” installments. Thankfully, now that I have, I can declare that both are wonderfully quirky, hilarious, and both times I ended up wanting Bill & Ted to be my best bros. Yeah, they are idiots, they do not really have brains, but they have enough charisma to make them some of the most lovable idiots on the face of the earth. I also have to say, I wish more people talked like the main duo did in real life. I would like to just have the occasional moment where I say something and do an air guitar solo, even if the moment does not call for it.

At the same time though, this is a sequel that is many years in the making. It has been a long while since Bill & Ted had their time, and it was hard for me to wonder if seeing these two grown men acting like their younger selves would work. This is especially true when I look at an actor like Keanu Reeves, who has evolved quite a bit since his portrayals of Ted. He has gone from playing hyperactive, maybe somewhat quirk-filled characters like Ted and Johnny Utah to the true badass grit that I managed to get out of John Wick.

If you want to know the truth, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of the most triumphant film experiences of the year. When it comes to pure fun, “Bill & Ted” has consistently been top notch. “Bill & Ted” is a franchise that has a universe that I quite honestly cannot take all that seriously. But makes the movies all the more enjoyable.

I know it is 2020, and partying is not allowed. But each time Bill & Ted happened to be on screen, it made me want to… PARTY ON DUDES! There is a sense of infectious joy to be had every time they do something. Bill & Ted could do something as simple as take a piss at a urinal while standing next to each other, and I would still be having fun with them. They could sit on a couch eating chips flipping channels on a television trying find something to watch, and I would still be having fun with them. They could wait in line at the DMV, sitting right next to some jackoff talking too loud on the phone, and I would still be having fun with them. Literally the best part of Bill & Ted as characters is the fact that they even exist to begin with. Now watch, they make a “Bill & Ted 4,” ruin everything about these two and perhaps I suddenly change my mind. But for now, everything is fine. I rest my case.

One of the biggest concerns I had for “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is whether Alex Winter’s and Keanu Reeves’s previous schtick would hold up even those the duo has aged. As somewhat suggested already, Bill & Ted’s schtick may be the absolute best part of this movie. Unless they are doing a full on remake where they erase everything about this current trilogy, I hope they never recast Winter and Reeves. They are the perfect fit for their characters, even if they are middle aged men acting like teenagers.

I also really like the daughters, played wonderfully by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine. But before I continue with the positives I do have to mention one problem. As it has been taught throughout our history, it takes two to reproduce. A man and a woman. Evidence suggests that these two daughters have a mother that is still alive. Now, for all I know the mothers are not role models or incredibly abusive off-screen. But it is a little hard to believe that the daughters do not really take after their mothers, even in a minimal sense. They’re basically copies of Bill & Ted except that they’re women. They call each other dude, act cartoony, and obsess over music. Again, “Bill & Ted” is a universe that I do not take seriously 100% of the time, but this almost leans into a territory where it breaks the suspense of disbelief bar. Despite that, I will say their characters are well cast, funny, and their story in the film was fun to watch. I would not mind seeing their own movie if possible. Maybe they could do a “Bill & Ted” adult animated TV show where these two have a new adventure every day. It could be like “Rick & Morty” but with greater use of the word “whoa.”

I will also bring up one more thing about the movie that kind of surprised me. Remember “Transformers: Dark of the Moon?” Remember “Kingsman: The Secret Service?” When those movies end, they basically conclude the big climactic event that defines all that came before it, but they don’t really do anything else from there. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” does something similar. This movie has a big climax, but they just have something completely abrupt happen, and the movie just ends. It did not make me angry, but it made the end feel so sudden, it’s like celebrating your birthday, having your cake, then 25 other people cut all the slices for themselves before you can get one piece of it and eat it.

I want to talk about death. Death sucks. Life is definitely better. Stick to life.

With that being said, I want to talk about Death. He’s spectacular! If there were any moment in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” that happened to be a highlight, it would have to be when the duo interacts with Death. Most notably, when they play Battleship. It takes an ordinary scenario, but makes it the most hilarious thing on earth. I’m glad they got William Sadler to come back, because he embraces the character and once again, allows him to shine. I will say that I will remember his material in “Bogus Journey” more than “Face the Music,” but it was a pleasure watching Death in his return to the franchise. His story was fascinating and Sadler gives the role his all. There’s not much more to say.

In the end, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is a spark of fun in a dumpster fire of a year. I wanted to see this movie when it came out, and I unfortunately avoided doing so at every opportunity. I can definitely say that “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is worth the wait. Not only is it worth my wait of avoiding it in theaters, avoiding it on PVOD, and holding out for physical media, but I can declare that for those who want a solid “Bill & Ted” sequel all these years later, you will most likely be pleased. I am going to give “Bill & Ted Face the Music” an 8/10.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also find it on premium streaming services such as Google Play, VUDU, and Prime Video for a rental fee or a purchase price.

Thanks for reading this review! We are slowly approaching Thanksgiving weekend, and I have a few movie reviews lined up including “The Croods: A New Age,” which hits theaters this week. “Superintelligence,” which hits HBO Max this week. And if I have time, I’ll be sure to talk about the 2020 edition of Disney’s “Mulan,” which I just bought on 4K Blu-ray. I did not watch it when it first came out partially because I did not have Disney+ and I was much more focused on “Tenet.” I just watched the original Disney animation, so I am eager to see how the live-action version compares to its counterpart. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Bill & Ted Face the Music?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Bill & Ted” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fantasy Island (2020): Fantasy F***ing Island

“Fantasy Island” is directed by Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2, Truth or Dare) and stars Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Dora and the Lost City of Gold), Maggie Q, Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars, Truth or Dare), Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies, Dolphin Tale), Portia Doubleday (Mr. Robot, Carrie), Jimmy O. Yang (Silicon Valley, Fresh Off the Boat), Ryan Hansen (Friday the 13th, Party Down), and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Days of Thunder). This film is based the television series of the same name, and takes place on an island where visitors see their fantasies come to life. However, as time passes, those fantasies lead to nightmares.

If you’re wondering how I spent my Halloween, I did not really do much. I watched “The Simpsons” on FXX, which was airing a Treehouse of Horror marathon, I had more food than usual, and my mother and I hunkered down to watch this disposable film in the living room. I have never been exposed to any previous material related to the “Fantasy Island” IP. I am aware that previous material exists, in fact my mother pointed out some details about the movie that harkens back to older material. Unfortunately, regardless of whatever faithfulness toward older material this film provides, it is not enough to make a good movie.

This film is tonally inconsistent, structurally discombobulated, and all around just forgettable. Without looking them up on IMDb, I cannot tell you almost a single character’s name from memory. This is how bad the movie is.

This movie is an hour and forty-nine minutes long, it did not need to be that long. Honestly, if this movie took out some of the over the top exposition, they could have trimmed the runtime down by like a few minutes, maybe ten. Short and sweet wins the race! “Fantasy Island” shows that there is a fantasy out there for everyone. If your fantasy is to be treated like an idiot while being overexposed, then this is the movie for you. There are barely any scenes where one can appreciate the sound of silence, embrace the visual art of filmmaking. It’s almost like words are being hammered over your head and you have no choice but to stand by and take it.

One of the core aspects of “Fantasy Island” is seeing these different personalities come together. They originate from alternate walks of life, they have separate fantasies, and it is cool to see some of them in action. But this is also where the movie suffers in a way. It is great to see these ideas and personalities mesh together. However, the movie also suffers because you have all these characters with different backgrounds and aspirations, that there is no one tone that defines the final product. Is it supposed to be lively? Depressing? Hardcore? Sensual? You could make an argument that it is all those things in one, but as a result, the movie sort of suffers from an identity problem. It’s just weird having to jump back and forth to see something vastly different every scene. There are even moments where we linger on one character for so long that I forget somebody else in this film even exists.

Let’s talk about the script of “Fantasy Island.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure this was written in crayon. This is an actual line from the movie.

“Oh, I feel just like Jodie Foster in that Jodie Foster movie.”

“Fantasy Island” is a classic for the ages!

The script for “Fantasy Island” comes off as a punishment for those who ever thought of paying money to see it. There is almost nothing noteworthy about this film. It is a sorry excuse of a script. Not one character will be remembered, not one line stands out as iconic, not one idea feels bold. All around, it feels lazy. It’s almost as if Sony wanted to make this movie so bad they didn’t care how many drafts the script took. It’s colossally terrible! The movie is from the horror-based studio, Blumhouse. And naturally, they took the iconic property of “Fantasy Island” with an intention of fitting in a horror twist. But it doesn’t come off that way. The film is not that scary! If anything, it’s more hilarious than it is terrifying!

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“Fantasy f*cking island.” -Brax Weaver

Me too brother. I feel the same way. How did we get here?

I saw a lot of movies in 2018, and one movie that came out that year is “Truth or Dare,” another Blumhouse production. I missed that film, and I still have not seen it to this day. In fact part of me is glad I still have not seen it as it has received mostly negative reviews and has garnered a 5.2/10 on IMDb. Turns out that “Fantasy Island” is from the same director, writer, producer, and has even brought back Lucy Hale as a cast member for this film. Have we learned nothing?

Wait… “Truth or Dare” almost made a $100 million on a small budget?

“Truth or Dare” is getting a sequel?

Take me to FANTASY. F*CKING. ISLAND.

Unlike some other bad movies I have seen this year though, “Fantasy Island” has one advantage compared to its competition. I watched this film alongside my mother, and we had no regrets. This is the kind of film that if you want to get flat out wasted while watching, I would not object, because it definitely has that vibe. So if you invite your friends to your fantasy island to watch the disaster known as “Fantasy Island,” I can guarantee you all will be on Fantasy f*cking Island.

I said earlier in this review that not one character will be remembered. While I still sort of stand by that, I will say one of my big wonders for this film, is how the casting for JD and Brax came to fruition. Because I watched this movie and I don’t know if this was coincidental, it’s like looking at Bill and Ted, except that Bill and Ted had genuine charisma and chemistry. I did not watch this in the theater so thankfully I got to shout as loud as I want, but every other scene I would say something like “Duuuude” or “Excellent!” They feel like carbon copies of a much more compelling duo! Some of their dialogue represents that too!

Speaking of casting, this movie originally offered the role of Mr. Roarke, which ultimately went to Michael Peña, to Nicolas Cage.

Have you seen his resume in recent years? Also, Cage! You made a mistake! If they got Nicolas Cage, I would argue that this could have been the greatest bad movie ever made. I could just imagine the zaniness all over! What a missed opportunity! Michael Peña does what he can here, and I could tell that he is giving it his all, but his performance does not hide some recent complaints. Overexplaining, too much reliance on dialogue, and horrible writing. I can also imagine the direction in this film.

“Quiet on set! Lucy Hale, explain everything to the audience like they don’t have brains! Take 57! Action!”

Did I mention one of the three guys who wrote this movie, Jeff Wadlow, also has a screenplay credit for “Bloodshot?” I did not review that film, mainly due to a lack of motivation, but I am getting concerned for Wadlow’s life choices.

I will also say, one thing that is different about this movie compared to a few other bad films this year is that when it comes to a recent bad movie I saw, specifically “The Hunt,” is that I felt more emotionally attached to the film upon leaving it. By that I mean I felt complete and total anger, but I still felt something. “Fantasy Island” did not really let me feel much of anything. Yes, I was shouting at the screen, laughing, maybe getting a little angry here and there. However, upon leaving the film I started to forget about it. All my emotions separated from my head and went to its own little island. That can be a good thing because “Fantasy Island” is not a good movie, and the sooner I can forget about it, the better. But it also shows that there is no lasting impact. “The Hunt” made me genuinely fill myself with rage, and that was kind of the point of the film at times. “Fantasy Island” tries to be entertaining and scary, but fails at every step of the way. As a result, we have a forgettable mess.

In the end, “Fantasy Island” is a major waste of valuable time. You can probably watch this movie if you’re drunk. But I would rather preserve my liver. The cast, while somewhat competent, are all wasted. Not one person in this schlock added anything of value. All that happened to added were endless streams of exposition. At one moment this movie is a poppy wonderland, the next moment we’re at war, the next moment we’re having date night, it’s just a lot happening at once. The movie has too many characters that all feel disposable. These tones would be fine if the characters were fine. However, that’s not the case. I’m going to give “Fantasy f*cking Island” a 2/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I am hoping to get back to the theater sometime soon to watch something new. The past couple films I reviewed were stuff I watched at home, but if I have time, maybe I’ll check something out like “The Empty Man,” “Come Play,” or “Synchronic.” I will say though, the film I am looking forward to this month more than any other is another Blumhouse production, and that is “Freaky” starring Kathryn Newton and Vince Vaughn. It’s a horror twist on “Freaky Friday.” They just had an early screening in my area, but I did not go as I was watching “Alita: Battle Angel” at the AMC that night. Such a good movie. I will be sure to buy a ticket, watch the movie, and share my thoughts with you all. I think this is going to be absolute fun. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Fantasy Island?” What did you think about it? Or, what did you do for Halloween 2020? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Gretel & Hansel (2020): You’ve Heard the Story. Prepare to Fall Asleep to It.

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“Gretel & Hansel” is directed by Oz Perkins, AKA Osgood Perkins (Legally Blonde, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House) and stars Sophia Lillis (It, Sharp Objects), Samuel Leakey (MotherFatherSon), Charles Babalola (Bancroft, The Legend of Tarzan), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Dracula), and Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact, Chariots of Fire). This film is based on the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm. This has received adaptations in the past, but this is one of the latest attempts at adapting such material because well, originality is dead. So the best we can do now is take something in hopes of flipping it on its head hard enough to get something different, but also interesting.

Safe to say, this movie… Didn’t do that. I’ll get to that later.

Now, I will be fair to “Gretel & Hansel” here. Because the truth is, I am not that familiar with the material which this film happens to be based on. Have I heard the name thousands of times over the years? Sure. But you can say the same thing about my knowledge of other aspects regarding culture. Things like “Fortnite,” “Stranger Things,” “South Park,” Cracker Barrel, Red Lobster, Fanta, AKA a drink that wouldn’t exist if it were not for ties to Nazi Germany. It’s true by the way, look it up.

Let me just start off by stating some things I like about the movie. Oz Perkins does a really good job at providing an intimate feel to this picture. It made me wonder why I didn’t wait until say September or October to watch this. Granted, this film did come out in January, at least in U.S. cinemas that is, but if it came out in September and October, it would have provided a proper vibe for spooky season. After all, “Gretel & Hansel” is in the horror genre, it is genuinely creepy at times, not to mention kind of quirky, and the environment just screams “autumn.” In some ways, this film reminded me of the 2015 flick, “The Witch.” Now let me just say, I HATED “The Witch” upon my initial viewing, and I still haven’t watched it a second time. But I will admit, the style presented in “Gretel & Hansel” kind of reminded me of that movie. Things that stood out in this context include the slightly less than wide aspect ratio, the bold and nearly colorless grading, and the somewhat extended pace of the film. It all worked… At times.

In other times it was just… BOORRRRRRRRRING!

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Wow! I don’t think I’ve nearly come this close to tuning out a movie since maybe “Cats!” But let’s also be fair here, “Cats” is a disaster in every sense of the word that makes all other movies look like Shakespeare. Compared to “Cats,” which is an injection of infinite cyanide, “Gretel & Hansel” is one tiny little dart aimed at your leg. It hurts, maybe you’ll get to the point where you’ll pass out, but you’ll inevitably get back on the horse. Your chances of instant death are significantly reduced.

Nevertheless, I do want to point out, despite the fact that I do appreciate the art of filmmaking itself, not to mention an assortment of motion pictures that are perhaps, intentionally slow, take the “Blade Runner” films and “2001” as just a couple of core examples. I was just bored by whatever the heck was happening during “Gretel & Hansel.” I mean, I got the concept down willy nilly, but the in between of it all was just… tiresome. It’s really unfortunate that the movie just so happens to fall into a mess like this. Because there are several scenes that are visually stunning, not just from a practical perspective, but even some effects that are clearly fantastical manage to pop. There’s a nice blend between the grim–

Wait a minute, is that a pun? I think that’s a pun. Anyway…

There’s a nice blend between the grim reality and horrific fantasy here. Too bad I won’t remember a lot of it. In fact, as I write this review, I can only back track to what could be a very select few highlights of the film in terms of what I liked. Not the best of results if you ask me.

I will say though, when it comes to casting Gretel and Hansel for this film, I do think the department did a fine job when it comes to finding people who look the part and happen to provide fantastic chemistry. At this point, for an interpretation like 2020’s “Gretel & Hansel,” I almost cannot imagine anybody else filling in the shoes of these characters. They feel like two kids who try to work off each other despite having some differences. Given what time frame this movie takes place in and what this film in general has to offer, this feels like a legit brother and sister duo. Thumbs up to Claire Curry and Julie Harkin for their swell job on casting. In addition to that, thumbs up to both Sophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey for giving it their all in regards to their performances of their individual characters.

I don’t know what it really is about this movie… Why does it get a below average vibe from me? The production value is excellent and everyone involved does a top notch job. But the directing and screenplay doesn’t really seem to be that well executed when translated to screen. I can almost imagine the pitchroom meeting.

“We’re going to reinvent the German folktale for a new age! We do not need a lot of money to do it. The audience will take in the beauty and wonder of what will be a depressing world in which to live. It’s gonna be great.”

I like immersion and great production as much as the next guy. But if you have seen me review movies a lot over the past year or so, one of the big things I bring up is pacing. If you have a good movie, but it isn’t well paced. You’re not always gonna get a pass in that department. Did everything that happened in “Gretel & Hansel” need to happen? That’s a tough question to answer. Because guess what? This movie is ONLY EIGHTY-SEVEN MINUTES LONG! By today’s standards for feature films, that’s pretty freaking short! This is the Napoleon Bonaparte of feature films! If “Gretel & Hansel” cut out a lot of what made it slowly paced, I almost wonder if it would just perhaps barely be feature-length by technical standards. According to the Academy it would probably be a feature because by their standards, features are over forty minutes long. Same goes for the AFI (American Film Institute). But you might not get a pass from the Screen Actors’ Guild, which considers features to be seventy-five minutes at minimum. I wonder… Does that include credits? Just curious.

In the end, “Gretel & Hansel” is making me sleepy-eyed just thinking about it. Seriously, as I type this, my face is tilting towards my shoulder. I do not think I will be watching this film again anytime soon, despite the excellent production factors put into it. I enjoyed “Gretel & Hansel” as something to look at for an hour and a half, and compared to other movies that I will not watch again, I did not exactly want to rip my face off afterwards. However, that is not enough for this borefest to qualify as a quality movie. I’m going to give “Gretel & Hansel” a 4/10.

This year, man. This year. Although this film came out in January so this is somewhat normal. In other news… Disney is getting greedier than Mr. Krabs by making “Mulan” a Disney+ exclusive that you have to pay $29.99 TO WATCH ON TOP OF YOUR MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION. I’ll pass! I’m already paying for Prime Video, HBO Max, and I just got Peacock the other day! I am not that much of a streamer, and I don’t need more! By the way, my YEARLY PRICE for Peacock is the exact price you have to pay for “Mulan” on Disney+. Buh-bye for now!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Capone,” starring Tom Hardy. I just bought the Blu-ray a couple weeks ago, and I popped it just this past week to gather some thoughts on it. Stay tuned for that review and other great content from Scene Before! Follow the blog through a WordPress account or an email to see the latest goings on! OR, if you want bonus content, like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Gretel & Hansel?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your preferred adaptation of the “Hansel & Gretel” material? Are you an oldtimer who doesn’t want anyone on their lawn? Say the original material for all I care. Either way, there’s a good chance I have not checked out any of your answers so any thought I give to it may be invalid. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Onward (2020): Peter Parker and Peter Quill Cast Spells

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“Onward” is directed by Dan Scanlon and stars Tom Holland (Captain America: Civil War, Spies In Disguise) alongside Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as two brothers. These two brothers live together in a magical realm, or more specifically, a magical realm that has increasingly evolved over the years due to advances in convenience and technology. Now that both brothers are of appropriate age, they are able to execute a magical spell that can help them bring back their father for one day. When they are only able to bring part of their father back to reality, the two brothers go on a quest together to figure out how they can get the rest of him back.

First and foremost. It’s good to be back. While we are not back to normal yet, and yes, NORMAL, I’m tired of whatever the “new normal” is supposed to be! It is still nice to talk about a movie that has come out this year without as much distraction towards the greater pain of reality. “Onward” was one of the last movies I saw in a theater before everything ground to a halt. The film started off with a somewhat underwhelming box office performance, perhaps likely due to COVID-19 taking effect, but I did see it opening weekend, so I feel glad to be one of the chosen people. While there were other movies I was looking forward to this year more, many of which I won’t get to see for awhile, “Onward” was definitely one that had my attention. For starters, it’s a Pixar movie. And Pixar, kind of like Marvel Studios or A24, is one of those distributors that always delivers a midas touch. Heck, I even like all the “Cars” movies! I’ll go as far to say that I really enjoyed “Cars 2!” If you want action, that’s a Pixar movie I’d recommend. So even though “Onward” was not my most anticipated film of 2020, it was one that I thought would be at the very least, solid. And that’s what it was. A solid movie. As much as I make fun of Disney for their business practices, which work for them even though I don’t fully support them, I will forever love Pixar, which might be the mega-corporation’s greatest asset in terms of quality. Over the years, a lot of their films have been well-written, conceptually creative, and of course, beautifully animated. Especially over recent years, even if one of their films was never in my top 5 from them, I would not deny the amount of work that must have been put into those films to make them family-friendly, while also trying to keep not just kids, but adults interested. Even though I was, and I hate to say it, disappointed, with their late 2017 film, “Coco,” it is some of the studio’s finer work in terms of color and animation detail. Even though “Toy Story 4” is probably the worst movie in the series, there is a shot of a cat in that movie that looked like something out of real life. For the record, I saw “Cats” later in the year that “Toy Story 4” came out and none of the cats from “Cats” hold a candle to that digitally animated feline! That’s how much I appreciate Pixar as a studio.

Once again, Pixar does not let me down from an animation standpoint. Everything fits its respective environment, it’s crisp, and the attention to detail is spot on. I saw this film in IMAX and the animated shots of this movie shine on the big screen. I cannot say that it is Pixar’s best technical work, but it is absolutely superb nevertheless. The film is now on Disney+, and I imagine that the film does look pretty good on Disney+, but since movie theaters are starting to reopen, if “Onward” is playing near you, take the opportunity to see it! Because even if the movie is not that great for you story-wise I imagine it will still be fun to look at. It is a film, kind of like recent Pixar entries, that I see holding up for years if you want a tech demo.

As for the screenplay, I think it is at times predictable, but that is also what makes it work in certain moments to deliver a satisfying story. There is conflict in just about every single moment, there’s a good amount of setup and payoff that is done effectively. The playaround and mashup between this fantastical, dungeons and dragons-like sort of environment and our modern lives is undoubtedly entertaining and creative. It makes for some fun scenes and ideas. In a way, it almost reminded me of Disney’s “Zootopia” which came out four years ago. That’s a really good movie by the way! Because that movie took a bunch of talking animals, put them in a world like ours, and while that film more or less was a satire on modern society, it was cool to see a blend of fantasy and reality put together to deliver a fun time.

As for Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, I think both characters are well-written, but when it comes to casting. That is where things begin to become questionable. Now, I will say, Tom Holland as the younger brother is definitely worth keeping. But when it comes to Chris Pratt, I like him as an actor, but I feel like he’s more closer to a father figure than an older brother in this film. That’s just the first impression I got from him. After all in real life, Tom Holland is 23 right now. As for Chris Pratt, he’s 40! Now I know you can get away with a lot more in animation in terms of details, actions, voices, personalities, but hearing Chris Pratt’s voice attached to someone perhaps close to my age is a little bit weird. I’m not saying it’s off-putting, it’s just weird. Both characters are great, serve the movie well, and have likable chemistry, but I just don’t think Chris Pratt was the right choice for the character of Barley Lightfoot. Nothing against him, I respect Pratt as an actor, he’s got decent talent, but I think he was a little bit miscast.

As for Tom Holland, I think his casting was perfect. He plays a teenage boy, and I am willing to bet that due to his marvelous (no pun intended) performance as Peter Parker, that there may be some worries down the road that he may be typecast. Because Holland’s still in his early twenties, and he has tons of charisma that can convince somebody he’s likely able to play an older teen for a while. But nevertheless, when it comes to this animated role, his voice completely fits the character. It’s in this tone that is almost in what I would call a “downer” mood, I just made that up on the spot! I don’t even know what I’d call it! But Holland’s pitch matches his lanky character to a high degree. I will also give props to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Ma) who also stood out for their fine performances, plus the solid casting on someone else’s part.

Funny thing is, going back to Pixar’s quality, I will admit that I have not checked out all their films yet. I own “The Good Dinosaur,” but I have yet to watch it. I also still need sit through “Monsters University” and “Brave.” When I was at university this semester, I had a screenwriting professor who saw “Onward” and he pointed out that when it comes to Pixar, it’s one of their inferior movies. He also went on to suggest that bad Pixar is better than a lot of movies. He’s got a point. From an animation standpoint, “Onward” is pristine. Story-wise, everything adds up, makes sense from beginning to end. Compared to some other notable animations or family movies that completely rely on immature fart jokes, “Onward” just tries to tell a needed story from beginning to end, which is usually what I go to movies for. And yes, the occasional visual spectacle of “Onward” is a much-desired and satisfying cherry on top of the sundae, but story must come first, which Pixar typically succeeds with, even in cases like this when it is not their finest work. Pixar was supposed to come out with another movie in June, specifically by the name of “Soul,” but that unfortunately has been delayed. Much like “Onward,” “Soul” is an idea that has not been tested out before by the studio. Going into these movies, I am always looking forward to where Pixar takes their characters and its creative concepts. When “Soul” comes out later this year, I will continue to anticipate attention to detail, but at the center, a dang good story.

In the end, “Onward” is a fun ride from start to finish. It is a movie that you can watch with your kids without really feeling the need to tune much of anything out. Pixar’s always had that intention and plan of execution in mind. I remember the first time I saw “Up” in the theater, and years later, my dad and I still remember the movie, and if I’m not mistaken, he’d probably watch it again if it were in front of him. Would I watch “Onward” again? Probably. Maybe not right away, but I can see the effort put into this film and that is something I totally respect. I’m going to give “Onward” a 7/10. Fun fact, a 7/10 is honestly a low score for the Pixar brand given their resume. So even though this is one of, and as weird as it is to say, Pixar’s worst movies, I think it is still worth your time. I’d probably rather watch this again than “Coco,” which, was good! But I expected a lot more from it. Maybe one of the downsides of that film is waiting until 2019 to watch this, whereas I watched “Onward” right away. But I could be sticking my feet into hazardous mud here.

Thanks for reading this review! Once again, it’s finally nice to talk about something that is not specifically about COVID-19! I wish I could do this more often. I don’t know if I’ll be doing a part 8 next week to my Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes series, but I’ll have to find out what I’m doing, what kind of mood I’m in, and so on. But if I were to review a new movie, my next one is likely going to be for “The Way Back” starring Ben Affleck. I will say, given how it has been a couple months since I’ve seen that movie, I wonder how much of a challenge it’ll be for me to talk about the film in detail, but that question shall be answered as we cross that bridge. Maybe I’ll rent the movie if I need to watch it again, but I also don’t to waste $5 or $6 for the sake of wasting $5 or $6. These reviews typically regard my first impressions, and I had little intention on changing anything in regards to how I do my blog, but this pandemic did it for me. It took some control away from how I operate everything I do at Scene Before. Or, maybe I’ll soon do my review for “My Spy” which is about to debut on Prime Video. I am officially one of the few that has ever seen “My Spy” in a theater, which I feel pretty lucky for doing. But as of recently, the film changed plans, and instead of getting STX to release it in theaters, the plan is to get the film on Prime Video as an exclusive. Given how very few, if any, sources in the U.S. have even talked about or reviewed the film at this point, it might be necessary to hold that review off for a little bit longer. It’s a truth that is difficult to handle at this point, but what isn’t difficult to handle during a pandemic? If you want to see more great content from Scene Before, give the blog a follow either through an email or WordPress account! Like this post, share it with your friends, show some appreciation for the Movie Reviewing Moron! Also, instead of scrolling across some clickbait articles with misleading information about COVID-19, check out the Scene Before Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Onward?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your LEAST favorite Pixar movie? Why? Would you still consider it to be “enjoyable?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!