Vengeance (2022): B.J. Novak Directs and Stars in A Texas-Sized Slice of Mediocrity

“Vengeance” is directed by and stars B.J. Novak (The Office, Saving Mr. Banks). Joining him is a cast consisting of Boyd Holbrook (Logan, The Predator), Dove Cameron (Descendants, Liv and Maddie), Issa Rae (Little, The Lovebirds), and Ashton Kutcher (That 70s Show, Two and Half Men). The film is about a writer who travels to rural Texas and attempts to figure out the happenings behind the murder of a girl he previously hooked up with.

I live in Massachusetts, and as someone who lives in Massachusetts, I often get excited to hear that particular people from my state like Elizabeth Banks or Ben Affleck get involved in a project or do a project of their own. I feel a sense of pride as a “wicked smaht” Bay Stater who occasionally stops by a Dunkin’. The U.S. version of “The Office,” despite being a sitcom I could never get into, has a few Bay Staters in the main cast including Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and the one we are going to focus on for this review, B.J. Novak.

Unfortunately for Novak, of the three stars of “The Office” I previously mentioned, he is the one I know the least about. I am more likely to acknowledge Carell or Krasinski. Steve Carell has terrific range from doing voiceovers in projects like the “Despicable Me” franchise, slapstick comedy through movies like “Anchorman,” and even drama flicks such as “Beautiful Boy.” John Krasinski is obviously known for his acting career, but I have grown fond of him for his directorial efforts in “A Quiet Place” and its sequel. But, this year, Novak is the new Krasinski. Not only is he directing a movie, he is starring in that same movie.

Although Krasinski has the upper hand if you ask me, because the concept of his movie felt more marketable. It felt more attractive. Novak’s new film, “Vengeance,” like any movie, could be good. But the trailer, if I had anything positive to say, barely sold me. Then I saw the movie… What did I think?

In theory, I like the messages this movie tries to convey. It dives into a number of a conversation-starting topics and ideas. Do we stereotype people too much or do stereotypes continue to have a place in our society? Is humanity, from a general perspective, too full of itself? Are we too attached to our electronics and is it heavily affecting what we could be experiencing in the real world? I like these concepts and questions. But it pains me to say that these are all presented in a script that could have been better.

Speaking of which, not only did Novak direct and star in the film, he wrote it too. This was undoubtedly a personal project, which only makes me feel worse that I have to describe why it did not work for me.

You want to know what sucks? Vacuums. You want to know what blows? Protagonists who you do not particularly like from the first scene. I wanted to relate to the character of Ben Manalowitz (right), and while I was able to find charm from the character here and there, I do not think the character was written in a way that sat well with me. The movie sells this character as a writer who has very much adapted to the northern city life. But in addition to that, he often came off as moody, or unlikable on the outside. I do not know what it is, but I feel like every scene he was in, he did not want to be doing what he was doing. I like the concept of his character, and he does his best to enforce the conceptual messages which I did enjoy, but the execution could have been better.

As I watched this movie, I got the sense that it was trying to present itself, maybe to an audience like mine, as a cultural shock. You know how you enter a country you’ve read a ton about but you have never been to? This is what I felt as a Bay Stater watching this movie about rural Texas. It is a movie that maybe is supposed to induce feelings of discomfort or unfamiliarity, and I think it did its job. But at the same time, I felt like some of the stuff that happens in Texas, at least in this movie, were a bit over the top. I was looking at the New York or more urban scenes and felt a contrast between that and the rural scenes. The rural scenes, or their centered characters, felt more exaggerated, more like cartoons at times. According to Wikipedia, B.J. Novak traveled to Texas to do research on the area and hoped that would translate into the movie’s concept or story. I do not know how over the top rural Texas is as I have never been, but I need to know how Novak came up with these specific Texan characters.

If I had to declare my favorite part of “Vengeance,” it would be one clip where Ben interviews the family and asks them some questions. In one scene, he asks what makes the family’s area so great. It only takes a second for the young boy, known by the nickname “El Stupido,” to shout “WHATABURGER!” Other than spending an hour or two at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to catch a connecting flight, I have never been to Texas. But even as someone from the north, the moment I heard the word “Whataburger,” I knew that this would be a somewhat accurate description of certain parts of Texas. We do not get Whataburger in Massachusetts, but it is everywhere in Texas. I know people who have been, and they say it is quite good. And besides, I go back to what I say in the beginning of the post and that random Dunkin’ comment. Like Whataburger, I can say that Dunkin’ is sort of a cornerstone to the lives of New Englanders. Obviously, Dunkin’ can be seen on the west coast. But there is a reason why Whataburger has such an association with Texas, and New England sports stars like David Ortiz and Rob Gronkowski have done commercialized material together for Dunkin’. So, good job on the inside humor.

Before we close off this review, I have to say the flaw that stuck with me the most is the way the film ended. I do not want to give any spoilers as this movie is only a few weeks old, but I will remind everyone reading this that the film is called “Vengeance” for a reason. Part of that reason is shown in the film’s climax. This allows us to see our protagonist do something, I will not say what, that felt completely out of character for them. Some may argue that this is “character development,” but as someone who saw the film, I would say that this was tacked on. Yes, in screenwriting, and therefore, in movies, there are “rules.” They do not always have to be followed, art and filmmaking are subjective after all, but nevertheless. One of the cliches of a protagonist is that they have to change throughout the film. And we see that here. Doesn’t mean the change is good. Once again, the concept is there, but the execution is not.

In the end, “Vengeance” could have been better. This is not the worst movie of the year, but if you are looking for something to watch at this point, there are better options out there. Unfortunately this August is a slow month for movies, especially more mainstream titles. But I would nevertheless recommend you even go see “Top Gun: Maverick” a third time at this point. I went into “Vengeance” not knowing what to expect and I left feeling unsatisfied. I wish B.J. Novak the best in his future works,. If he decides to direct more movies, I hope they are better than this forgettable outing. I am going to give “Vengeance” a 5/10.

“Vengeance” is now playing in theaters and is also available to watch on VOD platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Brad Pitt-starring action flick “Bullet Train.” I will not say much about it other than the fact that it literally lives up to its name. If you want to know my thoughts, stay tuned for the review. Also coming up, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and “Beast.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Vengeance?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite project involving B.J. Novak? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Brian and Charles (2022): A Delightfully Inventive, Robotic Comedy

“Brian and Charles” is directed by Jim Archer (Down in London, The Young Offenders) and stars the film’s writers, David Earl and Chris Hayward, as the titular man and robot duo. This film centers around an inventor named Brian. He has a history of inventing, building, crafting, and assembling whatever he can find either in his sights or his mind. It has practically become his life. One day, Brian decides to build a robot. Once the robot is built, the two develop an unlikely bond, allowing Brian to have someone close in his mostly isolated life.

First off, I want to apologize for not posting in awhile. This is the longest I have gone in years without making a new post after a previous one. I usually do at least one post every seven days, but that has been broken. I cannot promise whether or not this could happen again, but just know I am still invested in Scene Before. It has been a busy couple weeks, and I cannot say my non-blog related productivity will come to an end this week. Either way, I am finally glad to be able to talk about this movie because I love you, my viewers, the ones who stick around. And also, spoiler, this is a good movie. I am happy to give it some promotion.

I happened to flock to “Brian and Charles” on a whim. I already saw a couple movies earlier in the week, and I probably would not have gone to “Brian and Charles” if it were not for my AMC A-List membership. I was going to see this film at a press screening, but my plans to see “Lightyear” conflicted with that, so I passed on it. Speaking of passing, time passed long enough for me to watch the trailer for “Brian and Charles” on a Saturday afternoon. Next thing I knew, forty minutes later, I was in the cinema. Unlike “Lightyear,” which I eagerly awaited for months, “Brian and Charles” sort of came out of nowhere for me, but the little marketing I saw in advance intrigued me. It felt like an intimate spin on our relationship with technology.

Having walked out of “Brian and Charles,” there is definitely an intimate relationship. Although it is not necessarily with technology despite what the movie visualizes. The best way I can describe “Brian and Charles” is that it is a fun, entertaining parody on particular relationships between a parent and their child. Now, Brian never developed or adopted a human child in this movie. Sorry if this minute, irrelevant detail is a spoiler, there is nothing I can do about it. In a way, Charles, the robot Brian builds and attaches himself to, is heavily personified. It is not so much a robot as it is some sort of equivalent to Brian’s son. It is weird to think about, but the weirdness of this film is also what makes it work, it makes it charming.

To enhance a point in this review I would like to harken back to one of the films I reviewed last year. An animated feature by the name of “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” That film does something in its script that becomes a notable character trait. If you have seen that movie, you’d know that the defective B-bot played by Zach Galifinakis speaks in complete sentences, but as some robots tend to do, he says his words in a particularly similar pattern from start to finish and certain words are repeated throughout the film in the exact same tone. As much as I like Zach Galifinakis, his portrayal of the B-Bot became annoying throughout the film. But that also may have to do with the writing, the directing, and the post production so Galifankis is not necessarily the one to blame. My point is, this is a tactic that is similarly realized with Charles the robot in “Brian and Charles.” Although in this case, unlike Galifinakis’s human-like voice being featured in a defective piece of technology, this movie allows us to hear the voice of Chris Hayward, who from scene one emits Stephen Hawking vibes. Not only does the voice sound robotic, the way it shifts from word to word is incredible. Every pronunciation feels singular and I imagine much like “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” a lot of intensive editing, whether it was on camera or in post, went into making this voice believable.

Despite this accurately robotic voice, the human-like components within Charles are clear. This movie ended up subverting my expectations a bit because if you watch the trailer, I thought of the relationship between Brian and Charles to be that of close friends. At times, it does feel like that, but again, it also feels like Brian is Charles’s dad, allowing for some scenes where Brian is pictured as the bigger man and Charles as the one who has to listen to his master.

Despite being the bigger man, Brian is not the only character with a major goal throughout the film. There is a saying that kids grow up fast. And as I grow up, I realize more and more that I want to go out into the world, see some things I have never seen before. I want to tread my own path, whether it is through a career, education, or in the case that this movie presents, travel. This movie has an entertaining plot thread where Charles finds out about Honolulu, Hawaii. For the record, this movie is set in rural Wales, meaning that a trip to Hawaii is not only expensive, but far. These are two factors that many people would consider before traveling. Not Charles. Without going into much detail, this is not only entertaining and hilarious, but it enhances the movie’s metaphor about growing up, evolving as a child or parent for that matter. No matter who you are you have to sometimes take risks. They could be for one’s own good, they could build character. It also shows how little of a concept children have of time and money. When I went to on vacation in the White Mountains or Orlando when I was younger, money was not the first thing that came to mind. My initial thoughts were in regard to the attractions or a game plan. The moment Charles saw Honolulu on the television, he had an endless desire to go. It reminded me of a toddler who sees a store they know or a toy they recognize and they will do anything to either go in the store or have their parents buy said toy.

This story is a special case amongst movies featuring robots. There are a lot of movies out there like “The Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey” where they have the same clear lesson. Don’t trust technology, don’t trust A.I.. This movie does not have that lesson. And like a vast number of the movies I would put in the same category as those two, there really is not much action or futuristic elements involved. It was nice to see a movie with robots that felt more down to earth than others. Even “Interstellar,” or the recent animation “Lightyear” which have friendly A.I. characters, are galactic adventures. Those movies are not 100% down to earth. Aside from being a cute odd couple comedy, “Brian and Charles” excels by not always relying on all the cliches, even if the movie has predictable moments, which it does. Nevertheless, I do recommend the movie. It is different, but if you like different, you might like the film.

In the end, “Brian and Charles” is not my favorite movie of the year, but its unique charm is enough to make it one of 2022’s most delightful surprises. I am in my early twenties and for the past few years I have seen certain movies that reminded me of a certain time in my life, part of this movie did that in regard to my present. A good movie can entertain you, while a really good movie can enhance or remind you of who you are. This one did both of those things. Despite my recent recommendation, this is definitely not a movie for everyone, but it is a movie for me. Maybe it will be for you too. I am going to give “Brian and Charles” a 7/10.

“Brian and Charles” is now playing in theatres, that is if it is still in theatres, I cannot find any showtimes… That said, if it is not playing at a theatre near you, please check out the film when it hits streaming services and DVD shelves. It is worth a watch. It is quirky, fun, and an all round delight. Give it a go.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “The Black Phone” directed by Scott Derrickson. I just saw the movie a week and a half ago and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on it. I have some things to say. Also, this week is the release of “Thor: Love and Thunder!” I will be seeing the movie Thursday night, so I will be trying my best to get a review out as quick as I can. And per usual, like every other movie I review, including Marvel titles, I will do my best to avoid spoilers. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Brian and Charles?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a place you have been dying to see in your travels? Internationally, I think London, certain parts of New Zealand, and Tokyo are close to the top of my list. List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Northman (2022): A Hero’s Journey Collides with Robert Eggers’s Insane Personality

“The Northman” is directed by Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse, The Witch) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos, Bombshell), Claes Bang (The Burnt Orange Heresy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed), Björk, and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon). This film is about Prince Amleth, who loses his father and sees his mother get captured at a young age. Holding an infinite desire to avenge his father and save his mother, Amleth joins a band of Vikings, who raise him as a berserker.

PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 26: Director/writer Robert Eggers of “The Witch” poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald’s McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Robert Eggers is a filmmaker I do not traditionally think about all that much, but I have grown to respect him. If anything, I think my experience with Robert Eggers is equal to my experience with Ari Aster, who released “Hereditary” in 2018, and followed it up with “Midsommar” in 2019. Well, specifically, I mean this in reverse. Because the first movie I saw from Eggers was “The Witch,” which despite its quirky shots and angles, and non-traditional aspect ratio, left me feeling icky to the point where I hated myself for watching it. The next movie I saw from him, which if for some reason if you are still on the Robert Pattinson hate train, I recommend you watch, is “The Lighthouse.” That movie ended up being one of the most wonderfully weird films I have watched… Probably ever. Looking back, it kind of makes me want to invite a bro or two to my place, bring out some drinks, and dance to some old timey songs like maniacs.

Seriously, if “dope” had a current dictionary definition, they should literally implement this scene into it.

But with that said, I think it is important to note that my feelings regarding “The Northman” going into it were rather positive. I was gonna go see “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” but due to a conflict regarding someone I planned to see it with, it did not look like such a thing would work out. So I decided to use what free time I had and go see this movie instead.

It was… Interesting.

I feel like one of the best and worst things about films made by directors like Robert Eggers is that you probably don’t know all of what you’re going to get. But it doesn’t mean that Eggers’s quirkiness can always potentially sacrifice good storytelling. In fact, my first notable positive of the film is that the first act has pretty much everything I could want out of a movie like this. It properly sets up the world, solidly introduces some of the characters, including our main protagonist, has surprisingly halfway decent toilet humor, and even a menacingly intriguing presence from Willem Dafoe. The more I think about Willem Dafoe, the more I admire him as a performer. He practically commits to just about anything he chooses to do. I would love to see a role of his where he’s just sitting on the couch, watching television, and I am sure he’d still have the potential to be recognized during awards season. His role in the movie is not a big one, but it is one that I am sure if you saw it, you definitely won’t forget it. Unfortunately, I probably have forgotten about some of this movie. Partially because it has been a few weeks since I have seen it, but if you take out all of the weirdness of the film, some of the traits that are taken from other, perhaps better stories become more noticeable. And it would be fine if the rest of the movie kept my interest, but I will be real with you, I was checking the time to find out when the heck this thing was going to end.

I did not hate this film as much as “The Witch,” but I certainly did not adore it as much as “The Lighthouse.”

This is the biggest feature Eggers has done yet. Between a full-scale adventure that spans from land to water to the large cast, this movie ain’t small. Like, take the cast of “The Lighthouse” and multiply it by 25 or something. And I think the cast overall did a really good job. Alexander Skarsgård is incredibly convincing is a brooding, gritty main hero who wants nothing more than to avenge his father’s death. And I should not be surprised considering how he played Tarzan in the past in, coincidentally, another movie I maybe do not plan to watch again anytime soon despite liking when I saw it.

Nicole Kidman also gives one of the best performances in the film, delivering convincing line after convincing line, she is a true chameleon. I will also point out her look for this film. It blends in perfectly with the time period this movie is going for.

I would also like to give a mention to Anya Taylor-Joy because in addition to her well-executed performance as Olga of the Birch Forest, this movie seems to show that Eggers is bringing in his favorite co-workers from the past, either that, or actors really like working with him. Perhaps both ideas click here. We’ve seen Eggers bring back Willem Dafoe for a small role, Anya Taylor-Joy was also directed by Eggers in “The Witch.” When I think of actor/director relationships, my mind instantly goes to Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan, or Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, or Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. I will likely be watching more of Eggers’s work if he decides to make more movies, so I will be curious if either of these actors will become a mainstay for Eggers and continue to work together for every movie they do. It’s show business, not show friends, but sometimes business can allow you to make friends along the way.

This movie had a great start, and frankly an intriguing visual outlook to it. One of the best things about a movie or a TV show is that it make you forget where you are. I did not feel like I was watching this movie somewhere in Burlington, Massachusetts, I instead felt like I was transported to the high seas. I think this movie manages to capture a better sense of escapism compared to some others I have seen. As much as I liked “The Tender Bar,” the escapism does not feel as authentic when you remember that Long Island does not have candlepin bowling. That said, I did not hate this movie, I just wish the story and characters brought me in as much as the quirks and visuals did.

In the end, “The Northman” is a movie that is DEFINITELY not for everyone, and I honestly do not know if it was for me. And it feels odd saying that, because I like a stylistic movie. I like a movie that is different. But I also like the classic hero’s journey. But I have seen weird done better. I have seen the hero’s journey done better. I’ve seen an uncle killing their nephew’s father in front of their own eyes done better in “The Lion King!” Well, the 1994 one, the new one is a waste of time. I probably will watch this movie again at some point, I don’t know when specifically, because I think it could warrant a second viewing. Although for now, I don’t hate the movie, but I do not particularly love it either. Let’s meet near the middle in terms of the verdict and confirm that I am giving “The Northman” a 6/10. It’s a positive grade because a lot of the movie’s strengths are evident and prominent from start to finish, but it also bored me, left me slightly uninterested at times, and when it comes to the Robert Eggers library, I prefer “The Lighthouse” by a long shot. For those of you who have not watched “The Lighthouse,” it may not be your cup of tea, but much like “The Northman,” it is a movie that I think you HAVE to see at least once to find out if it really is your cup of tea.

“The Northman” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy or rent through a VOD provider of your choice.

Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, I have more coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Northman?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film from Robert Eggers? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Belfast (2021): Kenneth Branagh’s Personal, Moving, Coming of Age Tale Slices Life Into Wonderfully Linked Pieces

“Belfast” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Murder on the Orient Express) and stars Caitríona Balfe (Outlander, Ford v Ferrari), Judi Dench (Cats, Skyfall), Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall), Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin), and Jude Hill. This film is a semi-real tale that encapsulates a portion of Kenneth Branagh’s life. Throughout the film we see a mix of Buddy’s somewhat carefree life as a child, a tale of growing up, while times are tough in the titular city.

One of the questions of the pandemic is what kinds of movies we are going to get in the future. After all, like the pre-pandemic days, we have seen that comic book movies, with a couple exceptions like “The New Mutants” and “The Suicide Squad,” have been financially successful, as much as the latter deserved a much better result. One of the movies I felt could be in danger with the increasingly common blockbuster dominating from one month to the next is those films that tell a slice of life tale. Films like “Roma” or “Chef,” which I watched for the first time recently and thought was phenomenal. Easily Jon Favreau’s best work.

So after watching blockbusters like “The Matrix Resurrections,” which I rolled my eyes over, and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which I adored, it felt somewhat refreshing to see something as small as “Belfast,” even though I ended up watching it in Dolby Cinema. I remember watching the trailer for this film a couple months back and it looked like a film that would make you want to explore the world. That’s an exaggeration if there was one, but between the black and white presentation, Kenneth Branagh’s name being attached, and some of the written dialogue that I have already heard, the film at minimum looked like a recipe for something special.

As far as my first impressions go, I would have to say that even though you cannot have a story without conflict, I will say that I am surprised that “Belfast” managed to immerse me in such conflict as well as it did. Granted, part of it is due to the Dolby Cinema experience being off the charts obnoxious and insane, but I would have to say that it also has to do with Kenneth Branagh’s impressive directorial skills that put you right in the center of whatever action is in the film, even though this really isn’t an action movie. Whenever there is a quickly paced scene, I felt like I was in the moment with these characters. There’s a rather explosive moment in the beginning of the film that stuck with me due to how both poignant it is and how effectively it establishes the timeframe, the atmosphere, the struggles our characters have to go through from day to day.

For the record, I am in my twenties, but there are days where I feel like a child, and that’s probably one of the few reasons why I think it is why to have Jude Hill’s character of Buddy be the center of this story. Seriously, there are times where I felt like I was looking at an eleven year old version of myself. Although probably less awkward, more confident, and more likely to get into trouble. You know how when you really like someone as a child, you think that’s going to be the person you want to marry later in life? The writing for “Belfast” feel weirdly nostalgic for my time just before I was a teenager. I did not do all the things the lead kid did at his age, I think I was a bit more of a “model child,” and arguably more than I should have been. I think at that time, I was way too concerned about following rules than trying to object to authority, but there are nevertheless things about my life as a child that applied to Buddy that I remember from that age.

Also, people often talk about hard it is to direct children, I think there is an argument to make that Kenneth Branagh makes it look easy. A lot of professional actors can give a great performance. In fact I would say that some of the adults in this film like Jamie Dornan do just that, but I will contend that Jude Hill (left) gives one of my all time favorite child performances in a film.

Ever.

Hill packs a punch in every scene he’s in. Whether it’s a lighter moment or a heavier, world-crushing segment that would be hard for a child to go through. I will not get into details that spoil the film, but I would put Hill’s performance amongst one of the greats. He’s up there with people like Mackenzie Foy in “Interstellar,” Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone,” and Jacob Tremblay in “Room.”

I do not have a ton of problems with “Belfast,” other than maybe the fact that Jude Hill gives a better performance as a child that make the grown-up actors look inexperienced, but I feel like this film will lack the rewatchability factor for me. This is a film that I probably will pick up and watch again at some point, but similar to “The Last Duel,” which is a fantastic piece of art, it is hard for me to determine when I am going to sit down and watch “Belfast” from start to finish for my own amusement. I feel like it could get a rewatch one night when I have nothing better to do, but it’s hard to tell. As for other remarks, I do think the accents were a little hard to follow, but that’s probably more on me as a citizen of the United States being somewhat accustomed to my culture than anything else. That’s not something that really should affect the score of the film, but if you are not from the area this film is referencing, or if you live where I live in the world, I would recommend maybe putting on subtitles if you choose to watch this film at home.

I don’t often say this about a movie, you may notice that in some movies they’ll have a quick statement about someone who passed away once it ends, which is a great thing to do. But one of the best things about “Belfast” in general is its personal touch from Kenneth Branagh, this very much feels like a harkening back to his youth. Even if it is not about his youth specifically. And if I wanted to, I could make a film about my community from when I was young, but Branagh did such a great job at making his childhood, or at least some variant of it, feel, as weird as it is to say, universal and singular at the same time. The point is, when the film makes its dedication at the end, I won’t get into detail, but when it does this, I felt the words in front of me. I felt like I walked out having taken something from someone else’s life, which made me appreciate “Belfast” more.

In the end, “Belfast” is a home run for Kenneth Branagh. I have respect for the man as a professional and I think that has only increased after watching this film. This is a proper tale of sides not getting along, struggles of being in an environment where times are tough, and weirdly enough, as timely as this phrase is, feels like a film we need right now. Because this has every single emotion from joy to sadness to laughter, it’s everything you could want in a story. This is not my favorite movie of the year, but I will recommend it to just about anyone. I think this movie could do some damage at the Oscars this year. I’m going to give “Belfast” an 8/10.

“Belfast” is now playing in theaters and is also available to rent on premium VOD.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the first 2022 film I’m going to tackle on Scene Before, “Jackass Forever.” This is honestly one of the more impromptu reviews I’ve done in this blog’s history, but I am looking forward to doing it nevertheless. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Moonfall,” so that’s two dumb fun movies in a row. Be sure to do a crossword in between or something so you can feel smart. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Belfast?” What did you think about it? Or, have you been to Belfast? What’s it like there? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Licorice Pizza (2021): Paul Thomas Anderson Delivers a Pizza Crap

“Licorice Pizza” is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread, The Master) and stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk), Tom Waits (The Old Man & the Gun, The Dead Don’t Die), Bradley Cooper (Guardians of the Galaxy, A Star is Born), and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems, Good Time). This film follows the connection between Alana Kane and Gary Valentine, not to be confused with the guy who plays Danny on “King of Queens,” as they spend time together in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 05: Director Paul Thomas Anderson attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Paul Thomas Anderson is a name I have not followed as much as other directors, and it is something I feel guilty of doing in regards to my film watching journey. Not only because he is an acclaimed name, but he also went to Emerson College, which I was probably going to attend had I gotten past the waitlist. So he has a bit of history in Boston, which as someone who lives near the Massachusetts state capital, is something I take a bit too seriously. I’ve seen “The Master” towards the end of the 2010s, but that’s all I have watched from him. I remember it being magnificently shot, but the story is not something that stuck with me to this day. I still need to watch “There Will Be Blood,” I own copies of “Inherent Vice” and “Phantom Thread” and still need to watch those. I still haven’t seen “Boogie Nights!” There are quite a few directors I have gotten around to over the years in terms of catching up on their filmography, but Paul Thomas Anderson fails to make the list.

When I saw the trailer for “Licorice Pizza,” I thought it sort of nailed the nostalgic aspect. The film takes place in the 1970s, and not only does it get a thumbs up for the production design that reminds me of walking into my grandparents’ house, but some of the music is okay as well. I think this film from a presentation point of view, checks a lot of boxes. It looks like it is from its focal decade, the acting, despite the leads having no evidential experience, is top-notch. For all I know, it could be on Anderson’s part. If I have learned anything from James Gunn over the years, he can take an actor with less experience like John Cena and make them pop. The best thing I can say about “Licorice Pizza” is that Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman give good performances regardless of the material that’s given to them.

I’m not using that last sentence lightly, because “Licorice Pizza” is probably the most uncomfortable I have felt watching a movie in some time. Okay, well, maybe not as uncomfortable as “Music,” that s*it was downright personal. I live in the age of social media and in my teens I would talk to people far from my age group and nothing weird happened. Although I believe it is commonly agreed upon that adults should not be dating teens that are ten years apart in age. Gary in this film is 15 years old and Alana is 25.

Do you see the problem?

Now, if Alana was 18, that would be one thing, because that’s also technically an adult, but she is also old enough to still be in high school, just like Gary. TWENTY-FIVE?! The film is kind of a back and forth sort of thing in terms of the romance, where Gary sometimes claims Alana’s his girlfriend, but then the two go back to calling each other “business partners” or something else, but I honestly could not justify myself liking the character of Gary. Because when I think of these sorts of relationships, maybe I’m thinking the adult is in the wrong of dating someone that is significantly younger than them. But with Gary, he’s a literal pervert, and he’s not afraid to hide it. And he’s not a cool pervert like Ron Burgundy who has some personality, granted the movie he’s in respectively has a different vibe, but every time I look at Gary and he says some other line, I want to put some tape over his mouth.

Look, I’m a guy, and it is scientifically evident that guys love anything that has to do with sex. We are revolting creatures. But oh my god. Gary is a downright creep who I occasionally wanted to punch in the face throughout this film’s poorly paced runtime. Seriously, it felt like it was 15 or 30 minutes longer than it actually was. If it’s not about getting to see Alana’s boobs, it’s about making money. Downright power. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Now, I’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort in that film has a semi-similar personality, but he’s also proven that he can be chill, he can be cool. Granted Belfort’s not a teenager, that’s one big difference. Even so, I never got that positive vibe from Gary. I felt like he was trying too hard to be cool when in reality, he felt disgusting.

Now, and I cannot believe I have to say this on a blogging platform that my family reads… I don’t think Paul Thomas Anderson is interested in showing his junk to young girls. I mean, if the genders were reversed, where Alana sees a 25 year old Gary’s junk, who knows? I am comfortable with a storyline about sexual exploration, it’s not something I wouldn’t expect out of some coming of age tales, but this was poorly executed in the worst way possible. I would not want Gary as my friend, and I would want out of any matters involving him if he ever tried to get into Alana’s pants.

One of the most important things about a romance film is that the two leads are likable. I don’t even like their characters by themselves all that much, and even less so together. Because despite what I’ve been saying about Gary coming off as a creep, movies have shown how characters can develop and change. Compared to some other films that I’ve seen, including another recent 1970s nostalgia fest, “The Tender Bar,” I could not really catch onto much character development, especially from Gary. I think Alana’s character has some moments where I could feel her emotion, her stress, the want to escape from reality and other people, but it’s barely enough to make this movie the slightest bit watchable.

If I had any other positives to give “Licorice Pizza,” it is that Bradley Cooper shines as Jon Peters. He honestly came off as a bit of a drugged-up Hugh Hefner type. I think his presence in the film allows the costume design to show its power. Cooper was well directed by Anderson and I would not have minded seeing more of him.

In the end, “Licorice Pizza” is a film that I was looking forward to, but as soon as they stated the age difference, that was an immediate turnoff. This harkens back to the saying that first impressions matter. And if you think this is my only problem with the movie, I’ll mention once again that this movie could have been fifteen to thirty minutes shorter. The movie occasionally dragged, it felt boring. Gary Valentine is by no means a likable character. In fact, he’s probably the character that I hate the most of any project I’ve watched in the past 12 months or so. If you think “West Side Story” was worth skipping because of the Ansel Elgort controversy, I will not stop you from doing that. But based on the fictional elements presented in “Licorice Pizza,” this is a film that part of me wishes I could have skipped. It’s barely any fun, it’s creepy, and I wish the script was good enough to match the amazing talents of some of the actors on screen. I’ll probably go back and watch some of Anderson’s work like “Phantom Thread,” but I hope his next project, whenever that comes out, won’t be as off-putting as this. If you want a 1970s nostalgia fest, just go watch “The Tender Bar.” It’s on Prime Video, and worth your time. I’m going to give “Licorice Pizza” a 4/10.

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

Thanks for reading this review! This week I’m going to be watching the all new Japanese animated film, “Belle.” I have heard nothing but good things about this flick, and I am quite curious to see how it is. I will have a review coming soon, and if you want to see more content like this, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Licorice Pizza?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film, one specifically that IS NOT in the horror genre, that genuinely makes you uncomfortable? For me, I’d say that would be “Music,” which I literally talked about in my worst of the year list a couple weeks ago! Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Last Night in Soho (2021): BEST NIGHT EVER!

“Last Night in Soho” is directed by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver), and stars Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, Jojo Rabbit), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown), Michael Ajao (Silent Witness, Attack the Block), Terence Stamp (Superman, Billy Budd), and Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Game of Thrones). This film is about a young girl named Eloise, or Ellie, who aspires to be a fashion designer. She decides that she’s gonna try to make it big and in doing so, she moves to London to study at the London College of Fashion. One night, Ellie finds herself magically transported to the 1960s, where she encounters a young singer named Sandie. Throughout we follow Ellie’s journey as she stalks the singer and finds out more about her, maybe more than one would prefer.

“Last Night in Soho” was a particularly interesting movie on the surface in terms of its marketing, because it is one of the few movies I’ve barely seen marketed either through movie trailers in the theater, social media, or television, but every time I saw it, I found myself intrigued. If anything, it’s because of colors. I think ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been enamored with neon. To this point, and I’ve probably mentioned this once or twice in Scene Before history, neon is probably my favorite chemical element. And when you are setting a film in a city and passage of times like the ones at hand, there are quite a few opportunities for dazzlingly colorful scenes, which spoiler, this film has plenty of. It feels weird to say that though, because this film often presents itself as a horror show.

From start to finish, if you look at the film from a certain point of view, it is the less than fortunate life of a rising star, that being Anya Taylor-Joy’s character of Sandie. The character has immense talent and confidence, but she also is in a way being controlled by men, which we see throughout the film. Although that is not the main story, and instead, just a fraction of it.

I’m gonna be real with you. This film f*cking slaps. I was gonna go see this at a press screening, but I ended up not going. But once I saw that one of my local venues was showing this movie in 35mm film, I jumped at the opportunity to watch it. Having seen it, the film is bloody magical, mystical, kind of in a realistic rainbow and unicorn kind of way, but somehow, it finds a way to be scary. I remember seeing the trailer for this film back in the spring, and I was slightly jarred by it, not because it didn’t look good, but I was not sure what they were trying to go for. Is it a horror movie? Is it about music? Something maybe more erotic? At the same time though, this is a good example of how trailers should be done. Give a basic taste and feel of how the movie could go, but don’t spoonfeed the audience. Granted, that was just a teaser trailer. I actually never saw the legit, full-length trailer they put out before the film hit theaters which gives more of an indication of how things go, but that may have made me kind of glad. I went in somewhat blind, but walked out happy. Very happy in fact.

At its heart, I would not call “Last Night in Soho” a thriller nor a horror, I’d call it a coming of age story. I don’t mean that in a John Hughes kind of way where there’s comedy and shenanigans going on like in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” or “Weird Science,” but in the OTHER John Hughes kind of way where a young kid is trying to become an adult and they have to adapt to something unfamiliar or something they may prefer to avoid. In our main protagonist’s case, she’s been living in a rural environment all her life, but one day, she decides to make this enormous transition by going to college, and living in London. And of course, moving to the big city in a case like this can feel incredibly overwhelming. You almost don’t even know where to start. This would be a hard enough story for our main character to go through, but then you have a rabbit hole that develops in the 1960s from which she cannot stray away.

The other thing that ties this film together is the performances. Much of the film, specifically in the 1960s portion is about the chemistry, if you really want to call it that, between Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. I really like these two whenever they’re in the same scenes together because you have McKenzie who is young, curious, and wants to find her way in the world. Meanwhile, you have Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, who like McKenzie, is not that old either, but she has maybe had some experience that hindered with her ability to do things from one day to the next. The whole idea of Thomasin McKenzie going to London was to be something bigger than herself, follow her passion of fashion design. Anya Taylor-Joy is sort of going through the same thing as an entertainer, a singer. And we see McKenzie, prior to her time travel adventures, she is obsessed with the 1960s period from a fashion perspective, so to have her travel here would be somewhat appropriate while also providing an increasingly edge of your seat story.

Honestly, I don’t know if Anya Taylor-Joy will win an Oscar this year, but when it comes to showing the physical beauty of the 1960s, she shines, but there’s also another side to her character, Sandie, where she seemingly refuses to embrace such beauty. After all, even though she is kind of finding her passion right in front of her, she’s also being followed and affected by all these men surrounding her.

Now this is the part of the review where I am supposed to come in with some sort of random flaw that I experienced with the film. Something like pacing, which was great. Maybe the music was not that memorable. There actually was some decent music to be honest, maybe not my favorite score of the year, I’d have to listen to it separately to fully judge. Maybe there was one performance that didn’t line up with the others. Not true, everyone felt like they were in sync. I’m sure if I thought hard enough, I could come up with something, because no movie’s perfect. But at the top of my head, I cannot think of anything. This movie had a promising beginning with a likable character, and capped itself off with one of the most mind-blowing endings I have seen in some time. My jaw was on the floor in the last twenty minutes. There are definitely scarier horror flicks out there depending on what you’re looking for, but I don’t choose to see it in that light. If you look at this film, like I did, as a coming of age story, it is one of the most entertaining and thrilling that has ever been done. Edgar Wright directed the crap out of this. Technically, this has some of my favorite shots and lighting of the year. If I were getting a new television, this would be a phenomenal test movie.

In the end, “Last Night in Soho,” oh my god! I have not seen anything like this in a long time! As for whether it will end up as my favorite movie of 2021, I am not sure. I have another movie that could take that spot, but if you want to know how much I enjoyed “Last Night in Soho,” this movie took me much longer to review than the other potential favorite, and the fact that I am still thinking about it, perhaps more than the NEXT movies I’m going to review, says something. If you go into this movie expecting a horror or thriller, I will warn you, you won’t walk out disappointed, but I did not walk out of this film having enjoyed one of those types of films. I walked out having enjoyed one of the single greatest coming of age tales I have ever watched. Whether it is a horror, thriller, or a coming of age story like I suggested, it does not change the fact that I’m going to give “Last Night in Soho” a 10/10!

“Last Night in Soho” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is available to buy on a VOD service of your choice.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new MCU film, “Eternals.” FINALLY, I’m talking about this! There’s literally another MCU film around the corner! So for that reason, this review needs to be to done! I also have reviews coming for “Red Notice,” “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “King Richard,” “Encanto,” and “Sing 2.” Six reviews coming up! That’s quite a list! And I’m also planning to see “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” pretty soon, so yeah, I’ve got a lot on my plate. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Last Night in Soho?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite decade? Fabulous Fifties? Rad Eighties? Maybe we’re going really retro with somewhere in Medieval Times? Let me know what your favorite decade is down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Profile (2018): The Power of the Internet Meets the Craziness of Infiltration

“Profile” is directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Ben-Hur) and stars Valene Kane (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Fall), Morgan Watkins (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Wild Bill), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery, Penny Dreadful), Christine Adams (Batman Begins, Black Lightning), and Amir Rahimzadeh (The Heights, Our Girl). This film is based on a book written by Anna Erelle titled “In the Skin of a Jihadist” and follows a woman named Amy who has been doing research on younger girls who end up joining ISIS. As part of her research, she creates a Facebook profile and connects with a real ISIS fighter named Bilel. While doing so, the two develop a bond of sorts that may affect the future of her career and her life.

Right off the bat, I just want to note that “Profile” is quite a fascinating film because it is done entirely through screens. By this I mean the screens of computers and other similar electronic devices like phones. I find it intriguing because kind of like “The Blair Witch Project” exposed back when it came out, it shows that not all movies need to be done on advanced cameras. Now whether that is a positive thing or not, that is up to the viewer. It is all subjective. But I will admit, I was somewhat skeptical on this idea because we’ve had projects like this before, and they did not sound like they were for me. One of the more notable ones I could think of is “Unfriended,” which involves a supernatural force using the account of a dead person. At the time, I just did not have any interest. And as much as some of you will *hate* me for saying this, “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2” was the much more attractive option at the box office the weekend “Unfriended” came out. I saw it theatrically for two days in a row for crying out loud! “Unfriended” got a sequel, specifically titled “Unfriended: Dark Web.” Much like the original, I never saw it. Although one film I was interested in seeing in 2018 happened to go by the name of “Searching.” The film received incredibly positive reviews from critics and average moviegoers. I saw a lot of movies in 2018, but unfortunately “Searching” was not one of them, and I cannot say I have tuned into it since. But “Profile” takes elements of those recently mentioned films because it is almost completely showcased through a screen capture. At times, this film felt more like a fast-paced and unusual Twitch or YouTube stream than an actual flick. Despite not having much detail to work with other than what is on a computer screen, the film nevertheless manages to keep an insane pace from start to finish. I was never bored or uninterested with what was going on. To be completely honest, “Profile” is almost the most intense film I have watched this year.

Not only does it deal with somewhat relevant true events, not only does it take a successfully creative approach to the art of filmmaking, but it is a film that makes the most of what it has. This is my first foray into the endless computer screen camera movie approach, or screenlife is some might call it, and I think I may want to see more, specifically if they are as good as this. Now I am not going to say I will remember every bit of “Profile” by the end of 2021, but it is a marvelously crafted picture from start to finish that sounds offish when you hear the technical aspects, but works completely when you implement the story and narrative into it. When war and movies are put together in the same sentence, you would usually expect something big and cinematic like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Dunkirk.” “Profile” does a really good job at showcasing war in cinema from an alternate point of view. I remember when I first heard about ISIS in 2014 and I would see real life footage of the action in history class. Seeing ISIS in this film sort of took me back to that time in one way or another and at times it reminded me of how a lot of modern history is told. If you have seen shootings, protests, or other serious events in recent years, you’d notice that they would often be shot on a phone, either through a pre-recording or live video on a service like Facebook Live or Periscope (RIP). And sometimes they would be shot in a vertical aspect ratio, or as some people call it, “the wrong way” to take pictures or video. “Profile” is successful in its attempts to show grit or danger by utilizing modern technology that may seem odd for a cinematic picture, but somehow ends up being executed brilliantly.

I have talked quite a bit about the film’s technology, but it is one of the biggest standouts from start to finish. Nevertheless, it does not take much away from the characters. To be specific, Amy, the journalist and main protagonist of the film, and Bilel, the ISIS fighter whom she constantly talks to over video. This film does a really good job at showcasing the stress on Amy’s side and a mix of classiness and terror on Bilel’s side that makes the movie stick the landing and blend some delicious flavors together for an exciting outcome. I do not want to spoil much, but this movie’s hesitancy to go big on the technology does not mean it automatically suffers when it comes to delivering a story. The film’s plot does get a little ludicrous, but maybe not on the level of “Sharknado.” That may be one minor problem of the film, but it is also a blessing because it is also what makes the film attention-grabbing. Nevertheless, giant leaps are giant leaps, and by the end, it almost jumps the shark and the jaws continue to drop. Is it exciting? Yes. But does the movie feel as real in the end as it does in the beginning? Not really.

In the end, “Profile” is a tiny yet captivating little thriller. I do not see the screenlife genre being my new favorite trend in filmmaking, but it is one that I simultaneously welcome because of how good “Profile” turned out. I think the cast is really good, the way they went about filming this movie in just a short amount of time is rather impressive, and despite some absurdity at particular points, the film is still worth watching. It is not playing in many theaters right now, but if you have the time, I would say give it a shot. I’m going to give “Profile” a 7/10.

One other thing I want to point out, and I cannot say this will totally affect my viewpoints on “Profile,” is that this film was first shown to the public in 2018. Although it never got a big public theatrical run until May of this year. I do not know why that is, but this kind of reminds me of the end of 2020 where Disney/Fox dumped some of its long-finished films like “The New Mutants” or “The Empty Man” into theaters. Part of me feels like they just decided to release it now as an excuse to say they put it in theaters because it has been in the can for so long that it needs to go. It was already competing against “Spiral,” “Army of the Dead,” and “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” This film was not too expensive to make, but I feel like Focus Features had little faith in it. I barely saw any marketing, and I did not even pay to see the movie. I was given a free screening online. It just felt like the studio said, “Hey, here’s a movie!” 2021 looks like it’ll be a fine year for movies. There are a lot of big ones coming out, but I feel like “Profile” is another victim of the COVID-19 crisis where the film was just dumped into theaters just for the sake of it. Heck! The film has not even made its budget back yet! I wish everyone involved in this movie well in their careers, but from a distribution standpoint, this was not a victory. Again, this does not affect my score, but in the supposedly changing landscape of film, this is one of the trends that unfortunately continues.

“Profile” did release theatrically on May 14th, but it is highly unlikely you will find a theater near you playing the movie. If that is the case, it is also available to rent on VOD right now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for Zack Snyder’s new film “Army of the Dead.” I saw this movie at a Cinemark the weekend it came out, and I cannot wait to talk about it. I will also have upcoming reviews for “A Quiet Place Part II,” “In the Heights,” and my commitment to seeing this right away is not guaranteed, but I should be seeing “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” this week depending on my schedule. Also coming soon, I will be doing another update on my complete Blu-ray collection. I’ve done it in recent years, and I think it is time, now that I am reaching 500 posts, to give you my latest status update. Hope you are excited, because I cannot wait to share the latest details with you. 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 “Profile?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think about the screenlife genre? Is it cool? Too small? Gimmicky? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Boogie (2021): Keeps on Dribbling, But Misses Some Shots

“Boogie” is written and directed by Eddie Huang (Huang’s World, Fresh Off the Boat) and stars Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, White Boy Rick), Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Bumblebee). This film centers around an aspiring basketball player named Albert Chin, also known as “Boogie.” He lives in Queens, New York with his family who are of East Asian descent. In this movie, Chin must balance the pressure from his parents to get into a good college with a decent scholarship, his love life with his new girlfriend Eleanor, and his dreams of making it to the NBA.

When I review a movie, you may notice that I often point out some of the other projects that the crew behind the film has done. For example when I reviewed “News of the World,” I would point out the director, in this case it would be Paul Greengrass, and I would highlight his previous work, which included, as marked in the following parenthesis, (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93). Then I would go on to talk about the actors. For example, you have the star, Tom Hanks, then I followed his name with parenthesis as well, for him it was presented as (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Toy Story), given how those are two of his projects. For this film, “Boogie,” you may notice I included parenthesis for director Eddie Huang, who has produced one of the more talked about network comedies in recent years, “Fresh Off the Boat.” Although for Taylor Takahashi, who plays the film’s lead, he has no parenthesis. That is because, and part of me is somewhat surprised, that this is Takahashi’s acting debut. Not just for features, but for anything. Now to be clear, I got this information from IMDb. For all I know, before this movie Takahashi did something on the side that maybe was either less professional, not as well known, or maybe done in his years of being educated. I do not know the full story.

I should also point out that he is not the only actor with barely any documented experience here, because Pop Smoke is in this movie, and this is likely his first rodeo in feature filmmaking. He’s more known for music, not film.

Also, going back to the director, Eddie Huang, this is, also, his feature-length debut from the director’s chair and in terms of penning the script. Huang also wrote and directed a short titled “Bitch, Please!” alongside two other people, but “Boogie” is a whole different animal for him. He wrote the script himself and he directed the movie himself.

With all that being said, the good news is for the people who will look back at this movie as a debut, chances are they could potentially go up from here.

This is not to say that “Boogie” is a disaster. I will say right off the bat, I would much rather watch “Boogie” than the live-action “Tom & Jerry” movie. But there are other movies from this year I would go back to first including “The Marksman,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Those all happened to be fun or attention-grabbing experiences that may be harder to forget than others. As for “Boogie,” even though there are elements I like, piggybacking off my previous statement, this film belongs with the “others.”

I want to talk about Taylor Takahashi (left) in this film. Now I will start off by once again confirming that this is Taylor Takahashi’s first acting role, or least the first he is credited for. Maybe he has a bright future ahead, but unfortunately he got his career started in a forgettable movie. I think as far as a first performance goes, I was quite impressed. I would not mind seeing more of Takahashi in the future whether that means they make a sequel to this movie, which I doubt would happen, or if he ends up in some other movie or television show. However, his character kind of had this asshole personality at times. I am not saying Boogie was a complete moron, if I were in this movie’s universe and had the opportunity to grab a couple slices of pizza with him, I would not back myself out of the opportunity instantaneously. After all, who can deny pizza? But I felt like he came off as slightly less relatable than he could have from his personality. There are ways that I did relate to his character from having parents pressuring me to stay in school and having aspirations that go beyond Mars, but for some reason, I did not always click with his character. My impressions of him throughout the film were not the greatest. I just found him to be a goofball, and almost in a way that would make him look like a jerk. I wish I could be more descriptive, but I think part of why I am occasionally blanking during this review is because as you may have noticed recently, I have been less active on Scene Before because I’ve had priorities, which makes me determine which movies are easier to forget overtime and which ones are easier to remember as well. This is one is, as you may have observed, easier to forget.

Now I talked about the first timers from Taylor Takahashi to Eddie Huang. They put on a good show whenever possible, but I do not want to forget some of the other cast members like Pamelyn Chee and Perry Yung, who admirably play Boogie’s mother and father, but perhaps the most memorable performance of the film for me came from none other than Taylor Paige, who plays Boogie’s love interest, Eleanor. There is something about this casting choice that feels almost incomparable. Paige checks the marks of her character being fun, outgoing, and relatively casual at times. I really liked her in this movie, and some of my favorite parts are between her and Boogie because it is a fascinating look at how people manage love lives in this particular age and demographic. I was intrigued.

I will also say this… Once again, I have not watched this movie since March, so maybe I have this stored in my short term memory or something, even though this movie pretty much revolves around basketball and someone who really enjoys playing basketball, I barely even remember any of the basketball scenes in this movie. I think I might need a rewatch to actually remember any of those scenes. This is not a bad movie, but to call it an instant classic would be a straight up lie. And I don’t think I have any plans to watch it a second time.

In the end, “Boogie” kind of disappointed me. I saw the trailer for this film when I was at the theater getting ready to watch “Minari,” and “Boogie” looked pretty good, so I had some positive expectations. Unfortunately, those were not met. If you want a good recent basketball movie, although in this case, it would be more about the coach as opposed to an individual trying to become a standout player, I highly recommend “The Way Back.” Between Ben Affleck’s insane performance and the outstanding script, I cannot help but beg you all to watch that movie at least once. “Boogie” on the other hand, maybe don’t watch it. Maybe it could be okay background noise, but for me, I wanted more. I wanted something better. If Eddie Huang makes another feature-length movie, I will root for him, and the same goes for Taylor Takahashi in his acting career, but this was not the best start for either of those two. I’m going to give “Boogie” a 5/10.

“Boogie” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open and you can also buy it at home on VOD services such as Apple TV, Prime Video, and VUDU.

Thanks for reading this review! I’m pretty excited for the next couple of reviews I plan to get out to you guys, and those are a couple recent action type of films. I’m talking about “Nobody” starring Bob Odenkirk, and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” I cannot wait to talk about both of those.

Also, I have an announcement to make. For those of you who read this year’s Jackoff Awards, follow Scene Before on Facebook, or subscribe to the Jack Drees YouTube channel know that I announced “7 Days of Star Wars.” That series was scheduled to be released on various days on the week of May 2nd to May 8th, which would coincide with “Star Wars Day.” Unfortunately, due to being busy with school right now, wondering when I’ll get my vaccine, and an internship which is allowing me to do a side project that I will soon present to you all, those dates will not be met.

Here are the new dates for the upcoming “7 Days of Star Wars” reviews.

THE PHANTOM MENACE: May 23rd
ATTACK OF THE CLONES: May 24th
REVENGE OF THE SITH: May 25th
STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: May 26th
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: May 27th
RETURN OF THE JEDI: May 28th
THE FORCE AWAKENS: May 29th

These dates are subject to change, as last year has proven that even the impossible is possible. May the force be with you, emphasis on the May.

If you to see more cool upcoming content on Scene Before, give the blog a follow either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Boogie?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever watch “Fresh Off the Boat?” Tell me your thoughts! Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half Brothers (2020): Jack Gives His Brotherly Hate

“Half Brothers” is directed by Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door, Let’s Be Cops) and stars Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio in a film where an aviation exec named Renato comes to find out he has an American half-brother named Asher. The two are forced on a road trip together from the United States to Mexico to learn more about their father as that just so happens to be his dying wish.

“Half Brothers” is amongst the group of films that studios just so have the balls to release in theaters during the pandemic. As far as new releases go, this is not the worst possible candidate for today’s times. The film is not that expensive to make, it is marketable, and to Focus Features’ advantage, they are owned by Comcast, which owns Universal. What I mean by that is Universal made an agreement specifically with the AMC theatre chain that’ll allow them to make their films accessible for home viewing after a minimum of 17 days. So this film will be available to watch at home soon through various premium VOD options. However, since I attended an advance virtual screening for the film, I got to watch “Half Brothers” a few days prior to release. Oddly, I decided to wait over a week after it came out to talk about it, but I have school and duty calls.

This movie starts off nicely. The film begins introducing this father son dynamic that sort of ties much of the journey together. I thought it was well done and sort of reminded me of the relationship I have with my own father, even though we never flown planes together. That was a genuinely fun to watch moment.

Now if only the rest of the film were as compelling, enjoyable, and not even the least bit annoying.

This movie stars Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio as our half-brother pair, and they make up for some of the most awkward and anger-inducing moments I have seen in a road trip movie. Remember “Thelma & Louise” and their great chemistry while blazing down concrete? Yeah, you’re not getting that here. Instead you get a Mexican smartass and an American dumbbell who don’t like each other, they have no chemistry, they feel almost randomly placed together (because well, they kinda sorta are), and they offer little to no entertainment value whatsoever. And sure, I guess both people happen to be expressive, but if I were placed on this trip as the third wheel, I would want to slit my throat in front of this duo. I’m getting off this ride! I’m nauseous! I’m angry! I’m mad! I’m irritated! I’m gonna throw up! No other offers are hopefully up on the table! And for those reasons, I’m out!

Sorry, this movie is so bad that I just want to think about “Shark Tank.” Sounds so much better.

Let’s talk about Renato. From scene one, I was somewhat connected by his story. But from scene two, three, four, whatever, I became increasingly disinterested. Now I know that it is traditional in a story for a protagonist to have something he or she wants, and maybe something holds them back, and maybe that is revealed emotionally. In “Half Brothers,” this stands true for Renato, but almost anytime he happens to be vocally against something, he makes it noticeable, maybe a little too much. He never feels upbeat, never excited, rarely calm. Now if our main characters eternally remained silent and calm, they might be boring, but in the case of “Half Brothers,” Renato is just agonizing to watch because he never feels happy. My early impressions managed to carry through to the point where I never really cared about him.

As for his Renato’s partner through the film, Asher, he is not much better. Oh my gosh, this guy even looks like an utter goofball. I mean, wow! I get that this is a comedy, therefore there will be some moments that are either out of this world or impractical, and over the years, I have come to accept that. I am not going to pretend that such a thing goes right all the time, but this is where I have to calmly step in, be rational, and DECLARE THAT THIS MOVIE IS KILLING MY BRAIN! One of the things that quickly got on my nerve as soon as it started was the massive stereotyping these characters happened to face. For Renato, he entered the United States, and as soon as he is picked up at the airport, he is greeted by a lady who emphasizes her English for the guy, even though he can clearly speak the language. She even throws in the notion of “not wanting to be in Mexico.” …Cause ya know… Bad things… Happen there.

Merica’.

Now what does this have to do with Asher? Because he too, despite being a white U.S. citizen, which in many people’s eyes would equate to guaranteed privilege, is not vulnerable to stereotypes, pretty much all of which are outspoken by Renato himself. As the writer of this post, I recognize the privilege that I have. I’m white, a male, straight, and I come from a U.S. state that has a good reputation in regards to higher education. We have Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Boston University, and so on. I am not going to deny what I have. But when it comes to how this movie handles the way Renato sees the typical white man of the United States, I could not help but roll my eyes. Here’s the thing about the way other countries see the United States. They see us as fat and stupid. And to some extent, they are not wrong. I am not a hunk, and I cannot speak a foreign language. I’ve tried learning a few over the years, but nothing stuck. Asher does not really embody that vision with his weight, but he sort of does with his personality and arguably his IQ. Look, there’s stupid, there’s being nowhere near as smart as a fifth grader, there’s Patrick Star, but Asher occasionally feels too dumb for words.

Now my griveances of the film could be forgiven if it was funny, but it is not! Sometimes it just feels incredibly frustrating! Maybe I had a few laughs every once in a while, but for the most part, this was nearly resemblant of a blood pressure examination. I did not watch this film in the theater, so I do not know how good or bad it is in a theatrical environment, but if you choose to go to the theater, I would say to go watch something else. Go watch “Freaky!” It’s scary, it’s violent, but most importantly, it’s FUNNY. Watch it!

In the end, “Half Brothers” is certainly not even halfway to being perfect. If you are looking for something to watch in order to escape the horrors of 2020, skip this movie. There are plenty of other options out there. There are better buddy movies, better road trip movies, and this film overall made me dumber. I almost do not even know how to conclude this review other than saying that this movie can go jump off a cliff. The guy who directed this film, Luke Greenfield, directed two episodes of the ABC sitcom “The Neighbors,” which I wish got more than a couple seasons, therefore I have some respect for him. Sadly, I wish that respect could have also been given to him here. I am going to give “Half Brothers” a 3/10. This is not the worst comedy of the year for me, but it is one that I highly recommend you avoid for your sanity. Do not watch this movie. Again, “Freaky” is out in theaters and at home. Go support it!

“Half Brothers” is in theaters now and will be available on premium VOD soon.

Thanks for reading this review! I have plenty more content coming including my review for the all new Netflix film “Mank,” directed by David Fincher. I will have my thoughts on that very soon, and stay tuned for my reviews on “The Midnight Sky” and “Greenland.” I’ll have my thoughts on all those movies hopefully by the end of next week. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Half Brothers?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your worst comedy of the year so far? For me, that would have to be “Superintelligence.” It’s exclusively on HBO Max, which… Yeah, it feels like it was literally dumped on there. Leave your thoughts and opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!