Malignant (2021): Lifetime Movie: The Horror Show!

“Malignant” is directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Aquaman) and stars Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy, Annabelle), Maddie Hasson (The Finder, Impulse), George Young (Containment, Home), Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner, The 4400), and Michole Briana White (Reed Between the Lines, Muscle) in a film about a woman who goes through an abusive relationship, has a history of miscarriages, and in this… movie… I guess… She has visions of terrifying murders, only to realize these visions trace to her reality.

This film is directed by James Wan. I have seen a few of his films including “Aquaman,” which deservedly became the biggest DC movie at the box office. I’ve also watched “Furious 7” which may be my favorite “Fast & Furious” installment to date. But a lot of film fans know James Wan for his horror work. He’s done “Saw” and “Insidious,” two movies which despite being staples to modern horror, I have not seen. But he’s also done “The Conjuring,” which I did see. I thought it was a dark and fascinating attempt at showing off a couple paranormal investigators. I thought the film overall was decently scary. They clearly fictionalized my hometown of Wakefield, Massachusetts to make it something it is clearly not, but I don’t care. As for all the other “Conjuring” universe titles including the two mainline sequels, I have not seen any of them. I’ve heard good things about “The Conjuring 2,” I hear “Annabelle: Creation” is pretty good. I’ll check them out when I can, but for now, let’s focus on James Wan’s latest directorial effort, “Malignant.”

“Malignant” is a film that I’ve seen bits and pieces of when it comes to advertising. But it is not one that has caught my attention like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Although to be fair, I am fairly weak when it comes to horror and I am also somewhat predisposed to liking the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nevertheless, as I was briefly vacationing in Florida, I chose to visit a mall forty minutes away and at the last minute, I decided to go see a movie, there was a theater attached, and I purchased a ticket for “Malignant.” I love supporting theaters, but part of me regrets supporting “Malignant” because that film leaves a lot to be desired.

If James Wan were not directing this film, in fact, he even has a “story by” credit, I have a strong feeling that this film would have ended up on cable television. There’s a scene about ten minutes in that feels like it is straight out of a Lifetime movie between the horrendous acting and arguably even more cringeworthy writing. There is a line where my brain practically just took a 9mm pistol and shot itself in the prefrontal cortex just because of how obscene it came off. And the more I think about it, it literally sounds like a line you could only hear on a screen. If I saw that written on a page, I would have torn out my hair. I have heard from others that “Malignant” sort of falls into that throwback category of horror. Sometimes it would associate with some titles that have provided a lot of “camp” over the years. If you enjoy that kind of thing, good for you. I think you’re crazy, but good for you.

As for me, I do not think I could watch “Malignant” ever again. Let’s face it, there is a day that this film, like all others, is going to end up on cable television. Let’s say I find this film on TNT, and I had no knowledge of this film whatsoever, I would be confused. Because the film at times looks like one of the more artistic products in terms of visuals I’ve seen this year, but then we get back to the sometimes stiff acting and I wonder what the heck it is I’m watching.

You know how there are some movies that people look back on years to come because of their epic twist? Movies like “The Sixth Sense?” Well, if things shape up a certain way, “Malignant” may receive similar treatment. This movie is twisty, but part of that twistiness rubbed me the wrong way. Because I think there is a fine line between twists that are so unbelievable that they’re exciting and twists that are so impractical that you wonder how it even made it past the first draft. I don’t think every part of this movie’s twist is insane in the worst possible way, but there is one specific portion of it that made me question humanity. I should point out that this specific portion of the movie I’m referring to was in the trailer, so I wonder if one could call it part of the twist to begin with. But I should point out, I did not have much memory of the full trailer of this film before it came out. Nevertheless, this portion of the movie made me wonder if the main character once suffered from traumatic memory loss.

Amongst all the bad in “Malignant,” I would have to say that the best part of the film itself, aside from when it was over, is the decent camerawork and lighting. There are some shots in this movie, despite me criticizing it for its overly-campy feel that sort of takes away from scenes with serious drama, that had my eyes pleased. There’s one shot from the marketing, the one where the main character’s face is on the left side of the camera, lying on a pillow with some red light on it, which I consider to be one of my favorite shots of the year.

Annabelle Wallis is not an actress whose work I’ve seen much of. I’ve seen her in “Tag,” which is ridiculously funny by the way. But that was not a true reveal of her acting chops. She was in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which was forgettable, I don’t even remember her part in it. If I have never seen Wallis act before and I had to cast someone to nail the look of her character in this film, I think Wallis is an easy ticket. But as for the actual results in terms of how such a character is presented, they were disappointing, because Wallis is acting on a level that feels reflective of a lead star on a Lifetime movie! You ever see one of those Lifetime movies, not that I watch them, but I’ve heard them in background because my mother would watch them, where someone starts crying, and crying, and they keep crying? It doesn’t even feel like real crying, it feels like that awful episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” where SpongeBob literally cries over everything and it is up to Squidward to keep him from bawling his eyes out. Wallis’s performance at times felt like a cartoon. I don’t know if she had a lot of things in mind for the character that could line up with an artistic vision or if this was truly what James Wan was going for. Yes, she’s had a lot of pain, but this feels exaggerated. And I almost sometimes think the film does not know what it wants to be. Is it a soap opera? A horror show? A throwback? I literally don’t know! All I know is that I walked out of this movie happy to leave.

In the end, I thought up to this point that James Wan could become one of my favorite directors working today given his balance of artistry between big and small budgets, but “Malignant” makes me think otherwise. Here’s hoping “Malignant” is just his bad day at the office. I am always for the director carrying out their vision and seeing their film come to screen with as little studio interference as possible, but “Malignant” feels like a pretty sloppy vision in terms of tone and overall execution. This movie did not excite me, the twist did not help, and by the end, I was just unamused. “Malignant” is easily one of the worst movies I have seen all year and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Malignant” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available for a limited time on the ad-free tier of HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next review as I will be talking about “Copshop,” which I just saw over a week ago. I’ve got some thoughts on the movie and I cannot wait to share them. Also, in the near future, be sure to look forward to my review of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the all new movie based on the hit musical. If you want to see this and more on 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 “Malignant?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film directed by James Wan? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Reminiscence (2021): Inception for People Who Like Being Bored

“Reminiscence” is written and directed by Lisa Joy (Westworld, Burn Notice) and stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Greatest Showman), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The White Queen), Thandiwe Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Cliff Curtis (Missing, Fear the Walking Dead), Marina de Tavira (Roma, Ana and Bruno), Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands, Tomb Raider) and this film is set in the future when climate change has severely affected Miami. During this time, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is part of a business responsible for a machine called the tank, which allows people to go back in time and see older memories. One day, a client named Mae comes in looking for her missing keys. Shortly after, Nick and Mae become romantically involved, although Nick’s co-worker, Emily “Watts” Sanders does not trust Mae and wants to do anything she can to keep Nick from seeing her. In addition, Nick spends time revisiting past memories in the tank involving his love interest, which could trap him forever.

Well, that took some time to explain now didn’t it… I’ve been looking forward to “Reminiscence” for a number of reasons. It’s from my favorite studio, Warner Brothers, despite how they’ve stabbed the backs of theater owners this year. It’s got a decent cast with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in starring roles. But I also really like the concept this movie tries to deliver. Sometimes going into this movie, it would remind me and a few other people of a Christopher Nolan flick. In fact on the surface, it really does feel like that. The color grading and sets feel like something out of “Inception” or “Tenet,” and much like those two movies, this film has a concept that mixes action, romance, and transportation to another reality. The trailer for this film was not too bad, although I have seen better. The way they edited it though made it feel like it was somewhere outside our world even though it really was in our not so far future, and the action did look pretty sick.

Another reason why this looks like a Christopher Nolan movie… Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother, was one of the film’s producers. And this should not be surprising, after all, he is the director’s wife! Hollywood, everybody! It’s about WHO you know! Not always what ya know! Granted, Jonathan Nolan had no writing or directing credits by the end of the product, Lisa Joy wrote and directed this film on her own, but it would not surprise me if some of his touch made it into the final product.

But going back to what I said about “Inception” and “Tenet,” as much as I like both movies. And I do. …Very much. I would say that “Inception” is clearly the better film because at the end of “Tenet,” I’m left amazed, but also wondering how certain things came about in that film because it is one of the most beautifully confusing things I ever watched.

“Reminiscence,” to me, even though the concept was somewhat, well, reminiscent, of “Inception,” kind of felt like it belonged in the same category as “Tenet.” As a high-concept sci-fi film, it is nice to observe, but there were still some loose ends that needed tying.

That’s what I would say if “Reminiscence” weren’t so goddamn forgettable! I would have reviewed this earlier if I had the motivation and time, because I did watch this film days after it came out, but I waited until this point because this is just the way things lined up. And now that I’ve had as much time as I did to think about this film, I think I may have spent more time thinking about the film I watched before this one, “Don’t Breathe 2.”

I really like the concept of “Reminiscence.” To have people go back and revisit their favorite memories, especially in a future where it seems that there are no positive memories left to create, is fascinating. I honestly wish a machine like this existed because it does seem to be safer than time travel and there are fun memories that I would love to revisit for one reason or another. I would love to go back to my first visit to New York City or one of my flocks to Salisbury Beach. Those were fun times and I would love to relive those. In fact, the more I think about what this movie is trying to do, it kind of succeeds at communicating that people do not see rainbows and unicorns in the future and would do anything to revisit their past. I just wish the story involving all of these elements happened to be more attractive. You know, kind of like Rebecca Ferguson in this movie. Props to the costume design on this film, a couple of her looked legit.

“Reminiscence” does not have the best screenplay of the year. At least in terms of visual execution. But there is one line that is repeated throughout the film that I found intriguing.

“No such thing as a happy ending. All endings are sad. Especially if the story was happy.”

Believe it or not, there is some truth to that. This is perhaps a slightly more artistic way of saying “Nothing lasts forever,” or “We all die at some point,” or “There will come a day where you will hate something that ‘Star Wars’ puts out.” I think this is a great quote, even if the script leaves a bit to be desired.

Technically speaking, this is not a bad looking film. Some of the shots are majestic, and kind of have a feel that harkened back to not just the couple of Nolan films I mentioned, but I’d even bring up “Blade Runner” and “The Shape of Water” as goto comparisons.

If anything, “Reminiscence” was an idea that had wasted potential. Aside from the concept, which I mentioned earlier, the film comes in with a stacked cast from Hugh Jackman to Thandiwe Newton. These are all-stars, and they’re working on one of the most uninteresting sci-fi flicks of the past few years.. The one thing that I wonder is that even though Lisa Joy has been in the visual entertainment industry for some time, is if she was truly ready to take on a movie like this. Because most of her work has been through television. I’m not saying that Lisa Joy should be forbidden from directing, writing, or working on a film if she so desired, but I wondered how out of her comfort zone something like this could have been for her. What else has she directed? One episode of “Westworld?” Okay… I mean, I’ll say in her defense, HBO programming usually has a higher price tag, standard, and more cinematic feel compared to most television shows. I’ll give her that. But I think if you were to direct a film like this, which is not the most expensive thing in the world, but it is by no means cheap, I think you would want someone with more experience in the director’s chair to pull this off. I am glad that women are getting more opportunities to direct, but I wonder if Lisa Joy should have just stuck to the screenplay and let someone else bring her vision to life. Because despite my complaints about the screenplay, the original script for this film was on the 2013 Black List of most-liked unmade screenplays. This film had a lot going for it. I’m glad Lisa Joy could get her movie out there, but my god I wish it were better.

In the end, “Reminiscence” by no means the worst movie of the year. In fact, I think at this point I’d rather watch this again as opposed to some other recent Warner Brothers titles like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Tom & Jerry.” Then again, this may come with a bias towards sci-fi. I had very little connection to the other two projects going into them with the exception of liking one of the trailers for the former. As for “Reminiscence,” it had plenty going for it from the marketing (even though they did not spend much money on it), the people in it, and the concept. But in the end, it all feels like a waste. I’m going to give “Reminiscence” a 4/10.

“Reminiscence” is now playing in theaters and it is also on the ad-free tier of HBO Max for a limited time.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.” I wanted to get this out a bit earlier, but life has been busy, so I’ve been holding this review off for some time. I do want to let everyone know that I already did see the movie, AND I am seeing it again tonight, which unfortunately may spoil part of my thoughts regarding the film itself, but either way, look forward to my review when it drops! Also, be sure to check out my review for “Malignant,” whenever that drops as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, 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 “Reminiscence?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film that you think has a great concept with terrible execution? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

In the Heights (2021): Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Latest Musical to Film Adaptation Heightens Its Way to the Big Screen

“In the Heights” is directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2) and stars Anthony Ramos (Trolls World Tour, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island), Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (Vida, Tanto amor), Olga Merediz (Shades of Blue, Orange Is the New Black), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Katy Keene, Smash), Gregory Diaz IV (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, New Amsterdam), and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Son of Anarchy). This film is based on a stageplay by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Algeria Hudes and is set in the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights. The story follows said neighborhood as they imagine and desire a better life.

I saw this film early. And by early I mean the Sunday before it came out. There were a plethora of special screenings so I thought I’d take the opportunity to attend one of them with my grandma because who does not like free stuff? Part of me was hesitant towards paying to see this film because I am not a musical guy even though I have enjoyed stuff here and there like “La La Land.” Maybe I would have used my AMC A-List, but still. Sticking with the facts, I have been reviewing movies for a long time, I am completely focused on the movies that are coming out as audiences continue to return to the theater (even though apparently “In the Heights” could have done better at the box office) so for those reasons, I decided to check out “In the Heights” for myself. I do not know if I would have seen this film during its actual release (or even on HBO Max), so I figured I’d watch it now just to say “Hey! I saw this!” And I did see it, so let’s talk about it.

I just want to iterate a couple things. First, I have heard nothing but praise for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I have not seen any of his Broadway work. Yes, I have not seen “Hamilton.” I’m sorry. I know it is popular, I know there’s a filmed version on Disney+, but I still have not seen it. I’ve heard a few songs from the musical because my sister was with me in the same place and she was playing them, but I was not the one in control of these songs. With that being said, this movie is my first exposure to ANYTHING related to “In the Heights.” Did it give me a good first impression? Well, I certainly did not hate it. I will start off by saying that the film is fun. There are some good songs, although there are a few that are admittedly forgettable despite maybe some solid execution in the actual film. The opening number set the tone well, a lot of the ones that came later seemed to match that original tone and occasionally, its catchiness. The main jingle of the film still lingers in my head from time to time.

The foundation of the film is not exactly one specific character, although the movie is mainly told from the perspective of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who did do a good job by the way. Instead, the foundation is this collection of people who belong to one region of New York City. We see all these people sing about the life they prefer to live over their own. And a couple of the songs in the film captured the emotions of these characters’ wishes. Granted, I cannot quote them. It has been a couple weeks and I do not think I’ll be watching “In the Heights” again anytime soon. But when it comes to pure fun, this film has the proper ingredients from time to time and part of it is because of the soundtrack. Will I remember the characters as some of my favorites by the end of the year? Not really. But the movie does an okay job at making Washington Heights itself feel like its own character per se.

I do want to bring up the pacing though. Now obviously, this is a lively, bombastic musical. So obviously, there will be some quick pace and non-stop music action. There is no doubt about that. I think at times the movie does a really good job at matching the songs to the emotions, thoughts, and actions of certain characters. There is one song towards the end mainly revolving around Olga Merediz’s character that I think was done particularly well and it continues to stick with me. Although there are not as many other songs in the movie, as well put together as they are, that have such staying power. Speaking of staying, I feel like I stayed at this movie a little longer than I had to. I felt like the stereotypical dad who goes to his daughter’s dance recital and constantly begs to himself to just stand up and leave because it is going on for such a long time. Although in my case, I think I am displaying less impatience, even though there was some to display, and more curiosity as to when the lights would turn back on. I say that because there is a lot that happens in “In the Heights” which is amazing to me because I talked to a friend who calls herself “that snob” because she liked the stage version much better than the film. I have not seen anything except the film, so more power to her. She told me they made some changes, and they took some things out. That last statement floored me because this film feels packed to the brim with material. Song after song. Character after character. By the end of the film, when it feels like it has hit its climax, there’s actually like ten, twenty minutes of main material left. And I say ten to twenty minutes because I apparently found out that there is an end credits scene in the film that I did not watch.

There are a lot of good things about “In the Heights.” The cast is likable and talented (although somewhat controversial), the film looks very pretty, the cinematography is some of the absolute best I have seen this year and could arguably receive a few nominations during awards season. No, seriously. There is a sequence by the end of this film that I would buy the Blu-ray just to see if they explain how it was done in the bonus features. Additionally, Jon M. Chu did a pretty good job at bringing his vision to reality. It feels lively, fun, spirited, hyperactive from beginning to end. So even though I was kind of begging for the movie to end as it hit what I was its second or third climax, I was still having fun. I’ll even say there are a couple chuckleworthy lines in it. Granted, it’s not like I’m watching Kevin Hart or something, but there are still some funny lines here and there.

In the end, “In the Heights” has good things in it, but I do not think this film will get any replay from me except for maybe once or twice. If I did not review movies, I would probably not go see this by myself. Once again I will say, I did see this with my grandma just for clarification, but if I were in a situation where I did not review movies and I saw the list of movies playing at the theater, I would probably skip “In the Heights” unless I was with someone who really wanted to see it or if I just wanted a spectacle, which this movie did provide from start to finish. When I talk to a friend who says they took some things out of a movie that I still think is too long… That is not a positive. Granted, I did have fun with “In the Heights” and I do recommend it. But the movie feels like “Return of the King” by the end of it. It feels like it could end, but it’s like a party and there’s that one guest that won’t leave no matter how hard you try to shove them out the door. “In the Heights,” I like you, but you can’t stay here. I’m going to give “In the Heights” a 6/10.

Technically speaking, I would give “In the Heights” a tad higher grade than a 6/10, maybe at least a 7, because it does look beautiful. But when you add in the fact that some of the songs did not stick with me, the characters themselves not all sticking with me either, and a runtime that feels like a turtle occasionally wrote this film despite everything feeling fast, that’s a problem. This is why the film gets positive marks from me, even though I would not consider it to be my favorite of the year. I think there will be an audience for it. It started off getting great reviews and I notice the ads seemed to highlight a bunch of celebrities promoting it because apparently some people trust them more than Variety and The New York Times, so I could see “In the Heights” maintaining a cult status. I do recommend if you are to see this film, maybe go with a couple friends to the theater because one of the big positives of the film that I will mention is that it is best viewed on a big screen. As much as I like HBO Max, this movie is bigger than a streaming service.

Speaking of which, “In the Heights” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is currently available for a limited time exclusively on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Coming soon, I will have my review for “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the brand new sequel starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek. That review will be up soon, that is if I survive long enough to actually post it. Also, this Thursday I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga.” It comes out in theaters that day, so I will attempt to have my review up for the film as soon as possible. I will also be reviewing the new Disney+ exclusive Pixar movie, “Luca,” which did come out in one theater in California, so without giving anything away, it will qualify towards my future yearly posts including The Jackoff Awards and my top 10 lists. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “In the Heights?” What did you about it? Did you see the stage version? What are your thoughts on that edition of “In the Heights?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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!

Tom & Jerry (2021): Who Shamed Roger Rabbit?

“Tom & Jerry” is directed by Tim Story and stars Chloë Grace Moretz (If I Stay, The Fifth Wave), Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Jexi), Colin Jost (Saturday Night Live, How to be Single), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe, Deadpool 2), and Ken Jeong (The Hangover, The Masked Singer). This film places the iconic cartoon cat and mouse duo in a live-action environment, specifically in New York City. Simultaneously, we follow the character of Kayla, who acquires a job at a fancy hotel, occasionally runs into the two cartoons, and needs to accompany guests for a balls out wedding.

I have never watched the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons as a kid, except maybe once or twice. Therefore, like some other things that have been adapted into live-action like “The Smurfs,” I had little to no connection to it as a child. I know the titular duo always find themselves trying to take each other down, and conceptually, it sounds entertaining. If I were six years old, I could find it to be a solid time-waster. But there’s no real story or plot to it that I can come up with other than the fact that the two creatures do not like each other, as cats and mice probably shouldn’t and they always end up in shambles against one another. This leads me to my first positive of the film, there are a couple entertaining fight sequences. They’re not all memorable or fascinating, but they have glimmers of entertainment throughout. Unfortunately, that is where all the positivity stops.

After all, even though this movie is about two animated rascals trying to beat each other up, that’s not even the whole story. Instead, it is another lame, copypaste, live-action snoozefest that has no substance. I just want to say to everyone reading this who has kids, if you are planning on taking your kid to the theater this weekend, do not watch “Tom & Jerry.” Save yourself from going inside. The kids might have fun, although I will admit, since seeing the movie, I talked with someone I know who has kids and they were apparently bored instantly by the film upon first watching it. Go watch “Raya and the Last Dragon” instead! That film has substance, great characters, laughs, and even though one of the core elements of “Tom & Jerry” are the action sequences, that film manages to have better action! Both in terms of style and story! I have not seen many movies in 2021 so far, but this is currently the worst one of the year for me.

Now, let’s talk about some characters. That’s always a great place to start in a review, right? Well, the movie’s called “Tom & Jerry” so it would only be appropriate to talk about Tom & Jerry first, right?

Nope! This is not their movie! They’re on the title because you know, franchises make money!

Instead, let’s talk about Kayla for a second. How is she a positive role model for children? Sure, maybe throughout the movie she’s taming a cat and mouse, which might translate to some kids being good with pets, but as a person, she is not exactly fine and dandy. She starts off the film by quitting her job, going to a hotel where she runs into a woman trying to apply for another job, manipulates her into not applying, and tries to acquire the job for herself. How is this a teaching moment for children? How do you get to the top? Lying! Unfortunately, Moretz is not the only hairball in this mess. This movie comes with a sadly obnoxious Michael Peña, who very much reminded me of his character in the piece of crap people call “Jexi.” Colin Jost and Pallati Sharva play a rather entitled celebrity couple I almost did not even come close to caring about. Ken Jeong is a chef who is weirdly dynamic and I don’t really remember anything else about him or almost anyone in this movie. Granted, it has been a few weeks since I saw “Tom & Jerry,” but it really goes to show how disposable it is.

Let me just be clear. The cast of this movie has talent. I admittedly have not watched a lot of Chloe Grace Moretz’s work, but I can tell she always commits to her craft. And given the little substance this movie offers, she does her best. Michael Peña unfortunately has followed a trend lately where some of the movies he’s been in that I’ve personally seen are not some of his best, and this is one of them. Colin Jost is consistently funny on “Saturday Night Live,” keeping up with the genius of Weekend Update from one episode to the next. Rob Delaney is an actor whose work I need to follow more often, but he was one of the highlights for me in “Deadpool 2” as the powerless Peter. Ken Jeong is a dynamic personality that will take any project that he is in and improve it by just a sliver, even if it is already great! In fact he was in “Over the Moon,” one of the best animations I have ever seen and my favorite film of last year. While these actors have had better days in terms of performances, much of it has to do with bad writing and perhaps just as awful directing. This movie consistently feels like it is doing the bare minimum to keep kids entertained, but not enough for grown-ups to keep themselves from cringing.

Also I want to address a problem with this film that has been bugging me. I say this as someone who has never had a childhood attachment to “Tom & Jerry.” But this film is not about “Tom & Jerry.” If you take “Tom & Jerry” out, you have a slightly different film with more realistic drama and it is completely centered around the human characters, many of whom I did not give a s*it about. My point is, “Tom & Jerry” comes packed in with a couple of the same problems viewers had with the live-action “Transformers” movies, all of which, and this maybe even includes “The Last Knight,” are more entertaining than whatever this piece of crap happens to be! The film centers around “Tom & Jerry,” the iconic duo known from your childhood days watching cartoons, but they shove in all these forced human storylines just for the sake of going, “Bippity boppity boo! Here’s a movie! It’s not completely in shambles!” And those are not the only flaws this movie comes with, because remember, this is a live-action adaptation of a cartoon. Remember “The Smurfs?” This is basically the exact same thing, only it does not go into multiverse bulls*it and transport Tom & Jerry to earth! Now to be fair, unlike the Smurfs, who hail from their own fantastical village, Tom & Jerry come from more realistic environments, so you can say that they’ve always been on earth. But given how the older material usually strays away from complete realism, the comparison is close enough. You have these two imbeciles, they have their life of brawling each other, and to be fair, that part of the source material seems faithful enough. But they are not the center of the story, it’s f*cking Kayla! Whenever Tom & Jerry show up, they cause trouble, create shenanigans, and show that they really don’t like each other, which given things going on in the movie, is kind of a problem. However, they are not the main characters. Sure, their actions occasionally link to one’s successes or downfalls, but the direction they decided to take this movie in not only feels boring, but also repetitive. We’ve seen this weird creature/human interaction thing done before, but not always to positive results. Although I will admit, last year’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” is one of the delightfully positive exceptions.

Movies like this show that not everything translates to film. “Tom & Jerry” works as a series of animated shorts, not as a big blockbuster epic. And I will admit one of the positives of this film is that it actually is somewhat faithful to its source material. The duo come off like their hand-drawn counterparts, and unlike the live-action “Smurfs” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies, they are in 2D and not CGIed to another dimension. And while this is faithful, Tom and Jerry do not talk. I bet this is part of why they put all of these human characters in the film as an attempt to relate to its audience. While there may have been good intentions, they proceeded to bad results. I bring up Tom & Jerry not being able to talk because in a lot of these family movies, you have these characters that are expressive and excited or upbeat. At least communication was not a problem in those other movies. Here, the solution makes for something that lessens a problem, but it still creates another one by making me want to rip my ears and throw them into a trash compactor! Just because this movie comes off looking like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” does not mean it is the next “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.”

In the end, this movie feels like a lazy cash grab, and based on the box office, they certainly happen to be grabbing that cash! “Tom & Jerry” opened to over $14 million domestically, which would be a disappointment by pre-coronavirus standards. But with the current pandemic and Warner Bros. simultaneously releasing new films on HBO Max, that is actually not a bad result. I’m glad the studio is making money, I’m glad the theatres are making money. But I felt like I wasted my money watching this. I felt like I was in a giant mousetrap for the entire runtime! This is a ridiculous, lazy, and uninspired film with some of the worst writing and direction I have seen in recent memory. Some of the fight scenes were entertaining though and I will also leave you with this, there are a couple genuinely funny lines in the film, but sadly I do not even remember them. Save your money, go see “Raya” instead, or find something else to watch on HBO Max. I’m going to give “Tom & Jerry” a 3/10.

I said this to myself before going into “Tom & Jerry,” and that thought has not changed since. I’ve been looking forward a big event featuring two classic characters in the ultimate fight for society. And that fight will be settled… IN “GODZILLA VS. KONG!”

“Tom & Jerry?” I’m sorry, what are you talking about? It was a pass from me before watching the movie, and it is still a pass from me after watching the movie. Although I did see the movie with a friend who admittedly enjoyed himself, so good for him.

“Tom & Jerry” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open and is currently available to watch if you are subscribed to HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.” I saw the film in IMAX a couple weeks ago, but I have not gotten around to review it, kind of like “Tom & Jerry” due to my commitments with the Jackoff Awards. Also coming soon, I will have my thoughts on “Chaos Walking” starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, so look forward to that!

One more thing, awards season is in full swing, and if you have not done so yet, check out the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards, where one moron awards a ton of movies! Be sure to follow Scene Before with email or WordPress account, also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Tom & Jerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons? What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021): A Fine Black Panther Film

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is directed by Shaka King (Newlyweeds, Mulignans) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Queen & Slim, Black Panther), LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You), Jesse Plemons (Game Night, The Irishman), Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, Project Power), Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Captive State), Darrell Britt-Gibson (20th Century Women, Barry), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Uncle Drew), Algee Smith (Detroit, Earth to Echo), and Martin Sheen (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Departed). This film centers around a time where the Black Panther Party increasingly rose to prominence. When Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) becomes chairman of the organization’s Illinois Chapter, criminal Bill O’Neal, who meets FBI Special Director Roy Mitchell, is assigned to infiltrate the group.

This film is based on true events that took place in the late 1960s. About thirty years before I was even born. Therefore, I have zero recollection on these events other than maybe hearing about them through school and perhaps the Internet. I’ve seen trailers for “Judas and the Black Messiah” multiple times, given how it is a Warner Bros. property and when I went to see films like “Tenet” and “The Little Things” in the theater, this film would be one that comes up. Each and every time I thought a couple things. The cast looked phenomenal, the performances might strike the heart, it might have a couple moments that sound great in a cinema, some of the camerawork looks really good, but as for whether the film would be for me, that was a big question. I say this because even do I do stand by events including the Black Lives Matter movement and many of the positive stories that have been spawned from Black History, I wondered if I, a straight white male, would connect with this film as much as someone who happened to be black. “BlacKkKlansman” was really good, I enjoyed that film quite a bit. And I am not saying I went in expecting to hate the film, because again, I had a relatively positive reaction to the trailers, I just went in wondering what exactly to expect, because not every film is made for the same individual. I mean, when it comes to expectations, I had ideas, but they were almost all over the place.

I walked out of “Judas and the Black Messiah” with some expectations met. The film looks and sounds like the revolutions themselves. Wide, loud, and clear. “Judas and the Black Messiah” has moments of excitement, intensity, and power. Experience-wise, I saw the film in Dolby Cinema, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend you go there, because I do not think it is playing in Dolby Cinema as of now with films like “Tom & Jerry” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” coming out after it. But there is a speech scene in this film, and I think those of you who have seen the film will know precisely what I am talking about, that pulled me into the scene and made me a part of the revolution. It was like I went back into the 1960s.

The absolute highlight of the film is the cast. Between Jesse Plemons, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominque Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah” does not fail to deliver the goods in terms of performances. In fact, the man who may be the highlight of the film, Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Fred Hampton, is wonderfully obnoxious and has one of the most powerful voices I have heard in recent cinema. In fact, in between me watching and reviewing this film, Kaluuya won a Golden Globe for his performance, which I’d say was deserved.

Despite seeing trailers for this film, a small part of me felt like I was going into “Judas and the Black Messiah” rather blind, and I would not say I was disappointed with the film from a story perspective. They took a mighty revolution, made it theatrical, while at the same time, taking a fascinating detective story associated with it and having both elements be executed to a satisfying watch.

By the end of the film, I was on the edge of my seat. Now, I have touched upon various points of Black History in school, but keep in mind, if you have not guessed by now, I have gone to a school with mostly white kids, lived in a town with mostly white people, and mostly learned about white history under the direction of a public education system. So part of me did not really know what was coming at times, and when the movie came to an end, I was rather invested in what was going on.

One problem I had with the film, and this problem has admittedly become a Jack Drees trademark over the past couple years, is the pacing. The pacing is not horrible, but there are certain moments that feel slower than others. Let me just be clear, when it comes to the simultaneous theatrical/HBO Max debuts that have been coming out recently, if you watched “The Little Things” about a month ago and nearly fell asleep, I do not blame you, although I think “Judas and the Black Messiah” is more likely to keep you awake. Let’s move onto my next trademark problem, replay value. One of the advantages for having “Judas and the Black Messiah” on HBO Max while it is also in theaters is that you do not just have the option to watch it from home, but if you watch it at home, you can do so as many times as you want as long as you pay a monthly subscription. I saw the film in the theater, but if I watched it at home, it would be one of those films that I would turn on once, perhaps enjoy while it is on, until the point where I move onto the next thing. Maybe I’ll turn off HBO Max until “Tom & Jerry” pops up.

Nevertheless, these negatives do not imply that “Judas and the Black Messiah” was a waste of time, it just means that there are perhaps other priorities I would make before turning it on again. The performances, the atmosphere, the technical aspects, the direction, all of it is done with precise skill, but I would not watch “Judas and the Black Messiah” strictly for entertainment. Granted, the film is based on a true story, which in itself was not adapted solely for the sake of entertaining people, but telling a relevant piece of history for those who may or may not know about the subject matter.

In the end, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is one of those weird movies that I am into as I’m watching it, but as soon as I leave, part of me forgets just a tad of it every single day. I am not saying it is bad, but there are other films that I would watch first. If I had to compare it to another recent film experience, I’d go with “Dark Waters.” Remember that film from 2019 on the DuPont Scandal? It’s a good film, but it is one I do not think I recall all the way through. “Judas and the Black Messiah” may be worth a second watch, but part of it is because I may want to refresh my memory on what might have faded from the first experience. Do I recommend the film? You betcha. Can I tell you every single thing about it? No. Partially because it has been almost a few weeks since I saw it, and it is one film that I saw and happened to forget about the longer it’s been since watching it. Great performances, stunning vision, I just wish I liked it a little better. I’m going to give “Judas and the Black Messiah” a 7/10.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, and for the next few days, keep in mind, it is going away soon, you can catch the film exclusively on HBO Max at no extra cost as long as you are subscribed.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the 3rd edition of the most important movie blogging awards ceremony in history, The Jackoff Awards! I am hard at work, making sure all the touches are finished, and much of that hard work will carry over into the next few days, but on Sunday March 14th, it is finally here! You’ll get an all new awards show with nominees, winners, a new edition of Film Improvements, a COVID-themed intro, a monologue, and a big announcement as to where Flicknerd.com will be headed in the future. Stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, keep up with my content by following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and liking the official Facebook page! Also, speaking of the Jackoffs, there is STILL TIME if you want to, that you can vote for Best Picture! I selected 10 films to be nominated, only one will win! CLICK RIGHT HERE to make your pick! I want to know, did you see “Judas and the Black Messiah?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the Golden Globes this past Sunday? Tell me your thoughts on those! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Little Things (2021): Jared Leto Steals the Show and Warner Bros. Almost Steals My Money

“The Little Things” is directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Rookie) and stars Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Night at the Museum), Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049, Suicide Squad), and Natalie Morales (The Grinder, Dead to Me). This film is about two cops who try to track down a serial killer.

“The Little Things” is the latest film from Warner Bros., the studio that was supposedly set to save theatrical exhibition this summer with “Tenet,” only to have it underperform in various markets and have them simultaneously release a ton of movies, including this one on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. What do I think about that? Well, if things went right, which I will tell you as one who often backs filmmakers, things did not go right, I think this is not only a blow to the movie theater industry, which has already suffered enough over the past year, but also shows that an entire studio can kind of get away with avoiding contractual obligations (like the fact that “Dune” was supposed to be a theatrical exclusive) and go behind clients’ backs. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins get a ton of money for this deal? What about all those other people responsible? I am not going to deny that there are perks in case you live in a state where theaters are closed, in which case, I am happy you can have the opportunity to watch these movies, but this is one giant double edged sword as an avid supporter of theatrical exhibition.

To avoid making a tangent longer than it needs to be, I will say off the bat, having seen “The Little Things,” this does feel like a film that would have gotten away with being a streaming premiere. Whether it ends up in some theaters or not, it kind of has that “watch at home” feel. This is not an enormous mockery on the film by any means. It’s sort of a mockery, but it is not to say it is entirely terrible, but there are times where it kind of has a television feel. In fact, one of the film’s actors, Jared Leto, happens to agree.

“They think they can just make so much more money with the bigger event movies. They found that for television, if they can do something that’s episodic, then people still enjoy those kinds of stories. I’m not saying they should stop making movies like ‘The Little Things,’ but I do think if you talk about like ‘The Undoing,’ people like to spend more time with those characters. And there’s less stigma going back and forth from television to film.”

While I cannot say I have seen “The Undoing,” Leto seems to have a point.

Although if you want me to be real, “The Little Things” is not that great. Let me start off with the positives however. “The Little Things” is a well-directed and well-cast film. The feel is borderline expansive yet intimate, and it flows all the way through. In fact, all the lead cast members portray their roles with proficiency. However, this film has problems and they too need to be addressed.

People say that art is subjective, therefore film is subjective. Those people are not wrong. My subjective opinion, “The Little Things” is a little boring. I was able to keep my chin up all the way through, but for all I know it may just be my luck. “The Little Things” is one of those films that starts off slow and stays that way for the entire movie. I feel as if I am starting to say this more often than I should but it bears repeating. Slow does not equal bad. Slow is great if it is executed well. Anything can be great if it is executed well. Whoever thought “The LEGO Movie” would work? Not everyone, that is for sure. Guess what? It is my favorite animated film of the 2010s. Anything can work if you know how to deliver on the concept. Sadly for “The Little Things,” the almost snooze-worthy first half allows the movie to fizzle. It does pick up however, and the second half is worth the price of admission. Without going into detail, my favorite parts of the movie is when situations get heavy and we see characters interact with each other in scenarios that could become more tense by the second. The film also kind of gets twisty, and I dig it.

I will state once again, one thing that truly sells “The Little Things” are the performances. Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto are all likable in this film. Denzel Washington has this sort of mellow feel to him. Rami Malek plays a suave-looking detective and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. Malek’s performance here allows him to continue to define himself as an admirable actor. He already has an Academy Award on his shelf for his role in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and while I do not think he will get as much recognition for this performance, Malek’s portrayal tends to reveal that he will continue to commit to his craft.

As much as I like Washington and Malek, who are both talented and reveal themselves as competent in their own rights, the star of the show is Jared Leto. Jared Leto has honestly been a controversial name for me over the past few years, and not necessarily because I hate him, but because his roles have gone from somewhat underwhelming to unbelievably great. He basically went from playing the worst live-action Joker in “Suicide Squad” to encapsulating something beautiful with Niander Wallace in “Blade Runner 2049.” Keeping the latter in mind, I liked Jared Leto in “Blade Runner 2049.” In “The Little Things,” he is another animal. Because this movie presents itself as an opportunity where he can just let himself loose. And it is not like a live-action cartoon or another Jim Carrey or anything, although I do think Carrey would have done the role properly if it were in his hands, it’s just a crazy guy who occasionally says some kooky lines and has these oddball mannerisms. Some of the stuff he says just flies off the tongue and it intrigues me every time. If you plan to watch “The Little Things” this weekend, I will say that if you watch for Rami Malek or Denzel Washington, you might not be disappointed with either of those two, but I think you may want to *stay* for Jared Leto. After seeing his performance here, I am now more curious about “Morbius.” I did not think I would say that. Well done, movie!

In the end, “The Little Things” is solid in some parts, but noticeably dull. There are probably more positives than negatives, and I would not refrain from watching it a second time, but if I had to predict which movie I would be talking about in the most positive light by the end of the year, it would not be this one. There are still reasons to watch it, and it is from a likable director, specifically John Lee Hancock. Have you seen “Saving Mr. Banks?” Watch it! Now! Although it does have a plethora of personal issues to keep me from calling it the next big thing. Just because this is entertaining, does not mean it cannot make you nearly want to fall asleep. I am going to give “The Little Things” a 6/10.

Minor sidenote, the movie also comes with a brand new Warner Bros. logo. We’ve kind of seen teases of it during films like “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” but if I am not wrong, “The Little Things” is the first film where we get to see the new standard edition of the revamped logo, and it does not seem to disappoint.

“The Little Things” is available now in theaters and on HBO Max for all subscribers at no extra cost. Get your tickets or subscribe to HBO Max now to enjoy your experience.

Thanks for reading this review! If you are a movie fan like me, you may follow the awards circuit. And now as the Movie Reviewing Moron, I am here to remind you that the circuit is not complete without me throwing my hat into the ring. This March I will be doing my 3rd edition of the Jackoff Awards, this time focusing on 2020 in film. If you want to watch the trailer promoting it, scroll to the end of this post. Speaking of 2020 in film, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, “Nomadland,” is FINALLY coming to theaters. It was supposed to be in theaters this December, only to get pushed back due to COVID-19, and while it is not going to be fully released until its simultaneous theatrical and Hulu debut on February 19th, “Nomadland” is now playing in select IMAX theaters. And next weekend, one of my local spots is going to be getting this movie. I already got my tickets, and I cannot be more excited. Be sure to follow Scene Before 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 “The Little Things?” What did you think about it? Or, are you planning to watch the movie in the theater or on HBO Max? 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.

Warner Bros.’ Entire 2021 Lineup Going to HBO Max: My Thoughts

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! As of right now, I am working on a couple reviews for Scene Before, but I had to make this because it is too important of a topic to ignore. But before we get on with this, I have two new reviews coming soon. My first review will be for “The Last Vermeer,” starring Guy Pearce which is in theaters now. Also, I will be reviewing “Half Brothers,” which opens this weekend. I saw the film early, so look forward to my reviews on those two films.

One of the few streaming services I have chosen to invest time and money into is AT&T’s HBO Max. Said investment has been… okay. Despite a decent lineup, things did not get off to a great start. But when I saw one of the service’s first exclusive films, “An American Pickle,” I could tell that movie-wise, this service had potential.

…Then we got “The Witches.”

And “Superintelligence.” Oh, please die.

Although one hint of news that shocked the world back in November is that “Wonder Woman 1984” would come out this Christmas both in theaters and HBO Max at no additional cost to subscribers. While I would have loved for this film to get a traditional theatrical run, where it joins HBO Max a little less than a year after its release, I am personally glad we are getting the film to begin with, and that it is going to theaters at all. In a year where every other blockbuster aside from “Tenet” got delayed, it is nice to see a true experiential film come to the big screen wherever these screens are open. I was fine with this, because a lot of people are going to stay home for Christmas because they might think it is safe from bad weather and conditions, not to mention COVID-19, but you also have families and individuals who may want an excuse to leave the house. In fact, I’m a part of one of those families, because I already scored IMAX tickets to see “Wonder Woman 1984” with my father and sister on December 27th, two days after Christmas. There is no way that this new technique will stop me from going to the theater.

But now… We have an expansion of this idea.

What was going to be a one-time thing, is now going to be a repeated effort. Because throughout 2021, the entire Warner Brothers lineup will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. Now, keep in mind, if you plan to watch these movies on HBO Max, read the fine print.

These films, and this also includes “Wonder Woman 1984,” will stream on HBO Max for 31 days after its debut, at which point it disappears, finishes its run in theaters, goes to PVOD and physical media, and eventually returns to HBO Max and related channels. So just because these movies will come to HBO Max, does not automatically mean they will stay on HBO Max. Also, like “Wonder Woman 1984,” the Warner Bros. 2021 films will not supply an additional charge. If you are a subscriber, you do not have to pay extra.

Again, this is for the entire 2021 lineup, so this is a lot of films. Part of the list includes “Tom & Jerry,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Matrix 4,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune.”

A lot of people who follow the industry claim that this is the nail in the coffin for movie theaters. As one who unapologetically loves the movie theater industry, that is a sentiment I have never wanted to hear. It is still only hours after this news, it is not even a full day yet, but I have had some time to gather my thoughts on this.

There is a part of me that absolutely loves this idea, and there’s a part of me that absolutely hates this idea. But just like certain events in “Tenet,” this full love or hate has not happened yet. Right now, my mind is MOST LIKELY somewhere in the middle.

For starters, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Whether you believe it or not, it is the truth. Yes, I continue to go to the movie theater during a pandemic. Some people may question why I do that. That is a personal choice, and I will say that if I were not doing this blog, I may not stop going, but I’d probably go less. But for those people who want to stay home, they have likely been in front of their television for extended periods watching content like “Tiger King,” “The Boys,” “Raised by Wolves,” “The Mandalorian,” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” There have been several television programs watched throughout this pandemic, because people have been stuck at home in need of something to do. There has been plenty of television, but the same cannot be said for movies. Early on we got animations like “Trolls: World Tour” and “Scoob!” on premium video on demand services. These were serviceable options for families. And yes, we’ve gotten more options like “The Witches” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” but if you looked at the 2020 cinematic calendar pre-pandemic, you’d know that these two films probably would not crack the top 10 biggest films of 2020 list. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a perfect example of a big movie that will reach a wide audience. Comic book fans, families, women, and people who want to gaze at Gal Gadot for a couple hours. Admit it, come on.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 04: Gal Gadot attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

You know you love her.

It’s Christmastime, families are together, even if it is in smaller groups, and they might want something to do. This is a great idea for consumer choice. If you want to stay home, or if regulations require you to remain at home, HBO Max is a great idea. Otherwise, it would not be a bad idea to experience “Wonder Woman 1984” the way in which director Patty Jenkins likely intended.

One reality that is becoming increasingly likely is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding COVID-19. The answer as to when precisely the COVID-19 pandemic will end is a different story. We already have multiple vaccine candidates from outlets including Pfizer and Moderna. As to when they will be distributed to everyone, that is a mystery. Cases around the world are spiraling out of control, and humanity’s habits over the winter will likely determine whether we see a sharp increase or decrease in cases and deaths. So in a way, I understand Warner Brothers for wanting to cater to all markets at this time. But at this point, I think they are putting a lot of eggs into the HBO Max basket, and I honestly wonder if their investment will pay off. Having “Wonder Woman 1984” on the HBO Max service is a great way to get a bunch of new subscribers, and having new big movies every other week will only keep said subscriber base growing. However, this is only me theorizing at this point, because we have not seen how “Wonder Woman 1984” has done yet. Because I believe it is inevitable that “Wonder Woman 1984” will make less money at the box office than its predecessor. But how much less is another question. I do believe it will make at least $100 million worldwide. There are enough theaters open to warrant such returns, even with major areas such as Los Angeles county in California unlikely to fully reopen anytime soon. Despite how some will claim that “Tenet” is a movie *made for theaters*, which having seen it, it definitely is, “Wonder Woman 1984” is likely going to reach a wider demographic.

I should also point out, that even if the movie does not do well in the United States for whatever reason, not every country has HBO Max, so that might prompt more people to go the theater. But let’s talk about that. Because when this unprecedented release idea was announced solely for “Wonder Woman 1984,” chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark announced they were onboard. This is despite some outrage at a deal made earlier this year between AMC and Universal Pictures that allow their movies to play within a shortened theatrical window, at which point they make an early streaming debut.

Guess what? AMC does not approve. Here’s some words from the current CEO of AMC Theatres, Adam Aron.

“These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover. Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.

We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject. As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.

Just to remind you, this is the same company that less than half a year ago made an asinine deal allowing Universal to avoid following the 90 day theatrical window. And sure, this deal may work right now with everything going on, but if we are to return to normalcy, this may not be finest policy to put in place. At this point I applaud AMC because not only does this go against the terms of the deal they made, but this new deal could take away a lot of money that could potentially go towards ticket sales that benefit both the studio and the theater to a degree. This will take away sales on concessions like popcorn and soda, which is where cinemas typically make their profits. In a way, I am a bit infuriated that despite Warnermedia’s previously announced commitment to theaters, they are more concerned about getting numbers on HBO Max.

And I get it, HBO Max, while its launch was not a complete failure, said launch was not necessarily a success either. The service was a bit laggy, they could not get the “Friends” reunion going, in fact they still have not been able to. I’ll also mention that it started off without being available on two of the main platforms, Amazon Fire and Roku, which by the way, IT IS STILL NOT AVAILABLE ON ROKU! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! GET A DEAL STRAIGHTENED OUT! I do not use Roku that much, but a lot of people do! Do the deal for them!

Right now, HBO Max has 38 million subscribers. While that is more than Hulu and Peacock, it is significantly less than Disney+, which honestly shocks me to no end. Because all Disney+ has done for main content since launch is “The Mandalorian” and almost nothing else! Right now, Disney+, which has turned a year old recently, has 73.7 million subscribers. One thing HBO Max has been doing right is delivering a bunch of new content both from the HBO channel and Max’s personal library. Apparently that might not be enough. Maybe bringing big movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” is going to help the service get a boost. Plus, unlike Disney’s previous effort with “Mulan,” HBO Max will not charge $29.99 to watch the film.

In the short term, increased subscriptions sound amazing. Bigger followings are always better. And while it is highly unlikely that “Wonder Woman 1984” will make $1 billion at the box office, imagine if this sticks around. Do you think we will ever see a billion dollar film ever again? I almost wonder if we’ll even see a film make half as much as that. This may start a slippery slope where movies are cheapened and less experiential. In a way, they become more like television. In this supposed future, movies are not made for theaters, they’re made for home. To me, movies are experiences. Some of my most iconic memories have been through watching movies at the theater, and even though I can have fun watching a movie at home, the experience of doing so will likely fail to have a lasting impact. I may have dreaded every moment of watching “The Emoji Movie” in a theater, but at least some of the other people’s reactions were something to remember it by. I now get to remember just how much I hated that movie. Another good example, “Ghostbusters” 2016. I despise that film. More than most films if I have to be quite honest. But the 3D was incredible and even though the film itself was terrible, I at least still have the memory of going. If we have a future where all Warner Bros. movies go to HBO Max, we may simultaneously have a future where we watch one movie, digest it, then forget about it until we move onto the next thing.

So now I ask the big question, does this equate to the death of movie theaters? I cannot say yes. But I also cannot say no. I’ll bring in the overused phrase, it’s 2020, anything can happen. But more importantly, I do not know whether Warner Bros. is going to stick to this plan. After all, when the biggest movie theater chain in the United States arrogantly refuses these terms, that may be a sign that Warner Bros. may want to reconsider their actions.

Also, let me just say on a personal note, that one of my biggest aspirations in my life is to make a film for everyone to see together on the big screen. Either as a writer, director, producer, or a combination of those things. With an uncertain future ahead, if more people continue to stay home, and there is a greater studio effort to do duel releases or skip theaters, my dream may be dead. This is a personal aspiration, but I thought I would let you all know. The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled a lot. But I outright refuse to let it cancel my dreams.

Homer At The Movies GIF - Movie MovieTheater Sexting - Discover & Share GIFs

But hey, if this new deal potentially means less people in theaters… That means less morons on their phones! There’s a silver lining to everything!

Let me be frank here, of all the studios operating today, Warner Brothers is arguably my favorite. When it comes to their older content, their library is enormous, while also maintaining a sense of quality. They have a steady relationship with some talented directors including Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, Zack Snyder, and Todd Phillips. They own some of my favorite properties such as the DC Comics library, the LEGO movies, the “Lord of the Rings” saga, and “The Matrix.” Another reason why I love them is because they have shown they are committed to the theatrical experience, and when this pandemic started, I got a sense that they wanted to keep things the way they were when we had a return to normal, or at least a semblance of that.

Just because I unapologetically adore Warner Brothers, does not mean I cannot be honest. This HBO Max move is kind of scary. Movie theaters have shown they have taken enough pain in the last number of months. I see a recovery in 2021, but there is also a chance that the results of this deal, if it continues, could be cataclysmic for the exhibition industry. This eliminates many jobs, ends livelihoods, and destroys the fabric of many communities. I would love to see a future where moviegoing returns and we can enjoy it the way we did in 2019, but I do not think we can get there if we put a bunch of big movies onto streaming, even if they are in theaters. Admittedly, this is better than what Disney+ is doing with “Soul,” which is making it an exclusive on their service and nowhere else, but it is still kind of frightening as one who hopes to make movies one day.

Movies are not dead, nor are cinemas. But we live in a world where people are itching to get back to concerts, comedy clubs, and sporting events. If we can get those back with enough positive progress, I hope we can do the same for the moviegoing experience. When I saw “Wonder Woman” at a local AMC cinema back on opening Thursday in 2017, I was floored by the fact that Gal Gadot was able to carry such a big, epic, and most importantly, theatrical adventure from start to finish. That memory will stay with me until the end of time, and as we approach “Wonder Woman 1984,” I hope I will have an experience similar to three years ago, and I hope other viewers will get a significant feeling out of their experience as well.

Thanks for reading this post! By the way, just a reminder that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be available on HBO Max for free as long as you’re subscribed starting Christmas Day. However, if you want to leave the house, the film will be available wherever theaters are open. 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, what are your thoughts on the HBO Max and theatrical duel release idea for the entirety of Warner Brothers’ 2021 lineup? Mine are quite mixed, but I am also curious to see how “Wonder Woman 1984” will do on HBO Max and the box office, as it may play a factor into making up my mind. Are you planning to watch “Wonder Woman 1984?” If so, where? At home? At the cinema? If you are watching at the cinema, which one are you going to? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Superintelligence (2020): F*ck You, 2020. Just Die.

“Superintelligence” is directed by Ben Falcone (Life of the Party, Tammy) and stars Melissa McCarthy (Ghostbusters, The Kitchen), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Will & Grace), Brian Tyree Henry (Vice Principals, Atlanta), and James Corden (The Emoji Movie, The Late Late Show with James Corden). This film centers around a former corporate executive named Carol Peters, who is chosen to be studied by a Superintelligence. When this Superintelligence conflicts itself over whether it should enslave, destroy, or save humanity, Carol must convince the A.I. that people are worth saving.

“Superintelligence” comes from the same husband and wife team that brought us 2018’s s*itshow, “Life of the Party.” That ended up receiving a 1/10 from me, ended up being my #1 worst film of 2018, and officially earned the #10 spot on my Worst 25 list on my Top Movies of the 2010s countdown event. Safe to say, when I heard these two were going to collaborate on another movie, I think many of my brain cells began a civil battle to see which ones would survive by the time this movie comes out.

Another stinger, and part of this is due to the pandemic, but I will address it anyway, is that “Superintelligence” is skipping theaters and going straight to HBO Max. Before COVID-19 hit, when a movie typically chooses to ditch theaters and go straight to streaming such as “The Cloverfield Paradox” and “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle,” the results have not always been positive. Thankfully, due to the pandemic, we have seen some distributors sell rights of their movies to streamers and it has occasionally worked out. Some are calling “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which was sold by Paramount to Prime Video, one of the funniest movies of the year. Sony sold “An American Pickle” to HBO Max, which ended up receiving positive reviews.

The unfortunate thing however when it comes to this HBO Max deal is that the distributor of the movie is owned by the same conglomerate who has their hands tied to HBO Max, AT&T, which owns Warnermedia, which oversees Warner Brothers. So far, Warner Brothers already has dumped one of their movies onto HBO Max, “The Witches,” which ended up being one of the worst films directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Now who knows what would have happened? If “Superintelligence” was in theaters, chances are it would have made nowhere near enough money to turn a profit. But I imagine part of why Warner Bros. is putting “Superintelligence” on HBO Max is because it is being dumped on there. While Melissa McCarthy is a big name, Ben Falcone has never made a critically positive film when he sat in the director’s chair.

All of this just so happens to be my thoughts before the movie. So, what are my thoughts after the movie?

I would have probably have gotten ten times the satisfaction out of eating paper instead of watching “Superintelligence!” I cannot even fathom how this movie came to be. In my imagination, I feel like the only reasons why this movie exists to begin with is because it allows Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone to spend more time together. Plus, Falcone has already directed a few movies for Warner Brothers, so why not let him whip up another piece of s*it?!

I almost have no words.

Every time I write a sentence to give a description on what I thought about this movie, my brain just switches off! I cannot remember the last time I was this infuriated about a film. This is honestly just as bad as any of the “Sharknado” movies. Who do I blame here? The director? The producers? Maybe 2020? This is honestly the movie equivalent to finding out your computer has been smashed, the enter key is broken, and all your data has been wiped! Oh, and top of that, your computer has a f*cking virus! Time to call tech support.

I think my previous analogy fits quite well here, specifically the one about my brain cells fighting a civil war. It’s almost as if throughout the runtime of the movie, my brain cells engaged in a fight to the death, all until one cell remained, and now my brain cannot do anything about it!

I don’t even know where to start with this thing! There are some movies that I have reviewed that are bad to the point where I cannot stand them. This is one that I would never be able to watch again even if James Corden popped through the screen, came out, reached into his pockets, and slapped me in the face with a ton of cash shouting, “Jack! I will give you $100 million! All you have to do is watch ‘Superintelligence’ from start to finish.”

Speaking of James Corden, I have to ask, WHO APPROVES OF HIS FILM CHOICES? Does he have an agent? Does he get to pick the roles himself? Because in recent years he’s been in “Norm of the North,” “The Emoji Movie,” “Yesterday,” and f*cking “Cats!” WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Was John Oliver unavailable? Was Conan O’Brien too expensive? Was Seth Meyers too busy hanging with writers coming up with creative ideas for Donald Trump jokes?

For the record, James Corden plays the Super Intelligence, the A.I. that chooses to study Carol of all people. Conceptually, his link with Carol brought some good ideas to the table. Unfortunately, they were brought into to shoddy-ass wreck of a time that I will never be able to get back. The A.I. manages to allow Carol to live her wildest dreams, and in a way, this movie sort of resembles that be careful what you wish for type of story. Except that instead of wishing, everything is just given to Carol. This may be the biggest weakness of the film, and that’s because it goes against the traditional storytelling idea that the protagonist is the center of the story.

Now I know that the film is called “Superintelligence,” and it is partially about an A.I.’s indecision on what to do with humanity. However, a good portion of the movie dedicates itself to our protagonist barely earning anything. If anything, Carol is forced to go through with protocol after protocol, whether she likes it or not. Of all the protagonists I have seen in 2020’s cinematic calendar, I could make a convincing argument that Carol Peters may be the worst of the bunch.

And this would be fine if the movie were funny, or at least convincing! But it’s neither of those things. It is anger-inducing and awkward! That is all! Oddly enough, even though Ben Falcone wrote the other Melissa McCarthy-centric films he directed, he did not write “Superintelligence.” Instead, that dishonor goes to Steve Mallory, who co-wrote “The Boss” with Falcone. “Superintelligence” is the first feature Mallory wrote without assistance, so I will do my best to acknowledge Mallory could have a bright future ahead. But this script belongs in one place. Inside the software waiting for further edits. That’s it.

Not all movies are created equal, but this movie really needed some preplanning. Maybe there was plenty of preplanning that did not work out, but this movie felt rushed while also being lazy. Carol is uninteresting, awkward, and unfortunately for the audience, not funny. In fact, part of what makes this a reality is that a good portion of the comedy is boring Melissa McCarthy schtick. She might get angry on one occasion or another, she’ll go on with something for a long time, and of course, she falls.

Over the history of storytelling, I cared about protagonists not only because of their desires, which Carol has plenty of, but their willingness to take steps to their goal. Romeo Montague immediately went up to Juliet Capulet to express how he feels about her. Charlie Bucket bought a chocolate bar for a chance at a golden ticket. Luke Skywalker joined Obi-Wan to learn the ways of the force. The problem with Carol Peters is that so much is handed to her in the early stages of the film. She gets a lot of money, a penthouse, a Tesla, and she does end up doing things here and there to move the plot along. But the film burns out as it progresses, kind of like my single-cell brain. AGH! WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BRAIN?!

Did I mention that almost every joke in this film failed to impress me? In fact, there were one or two moments where a character would do something, and someone else makes a remark signifying they find the moment funny. Guys! Your universe sucks! What do these people find to be the funniest show on television? Static? Because I can assure that the first genuine laugh of any kind that I had during “Superintelligence” came in around the 44 minute mark.

If I had to compare “Superintelligence” to any other movie, it would have to be “Jexi” starring Adam DeVine. For those of you who have not seen “Jexi,” it follows a man who works for a Buzzfeed-like company. He’s obsessed with his phone, and when he gets a new phone, it basically takes over all aspects of his life. Aside from being a journey through his life, love, and so on, the center of it all is a rivalry between the main character and his phone, or more specifically, the virtual assistant on his phone. Much like this movie, it has a script that makes me want to shove needles in my eyes! It’s an abomination! However, the romance in that movie is handled much better compared to “Superintelligence.”

If this movie tried harder to formulate a more likable protagonist, maybe center the story around what SHE does a little more than the supercomputer’s motives, if possible, this could be slightly more tolerable. For all I know, this movie also could have worked better as a drama, because one of the worst parts of the movie are the attempts at humor. They’re either forced, awkward, or both at once! I screamed at my television countless times whenever someone did something dumb, someone said something dumb, or the movie treated me like I was dumb. That’s what this movie should be called! Not “Superintelligence,” but “Super Dumb!”

Maybe if “Superintelligence” were written as a drama, it could be the next “Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Maybe even if it had a different director, or lead actor, maybe even a new writer. This is an idea that could work if it were massively revamped. Instead, we get whatever the f*ck “Jexi” is! I’m surprised I still remember that movie existed!

When I stop caring before the halfway point of the film, that is an enormously epic fail. I don’t know what else I can say except that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone need to get their s*it together. I have “Tammy” and “The Boss” on Blu-ray. I have not seen either of them. But after watching “Life of the Party” and “Superintelligence,” I think I might have to consider passing on those two movies.

There are several movies that I have watched over the years that are unashamedly goofy. Movies like “Anchorman,” “Elf,” or “Game Night.” But these movies are consistent with their vibe and translate to an instant good time. “Superintelligence” hurdles with world-ending events, serious government s*it, romance, and goofiness. Sadly, it cannot even get a single aspect down to a science.

In the end, “Superintelligence” is arguably in my top 10, maybe even top 5 worst comedies ever made. Throughout a great portion of this review, I had trouble formulating even a single sentence. Some movies are too good for words, others are so bad you do not have any words. This movie was so intolerable I lost my brain to process whether I could come up with words. Since I cannot come up with words, I’ll use numbers. If this movie were to associate with any number in the world, it would be the number 2. And speaking of numbers, I am going to give “Superintelligence” a 1/10.

Fun fact, there is only one other movie that I have seen this year that I have officially given a 1/10 to, and that is “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.” That film is directed by Daniel Farrands, who also directed “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” That ended up being my worst film of 2019. In 2018, I saw “Life of the Party,” which became the worst film of that year. Guess who directed that film? Ben Falcone! So far, the only 1/10 movies in 2020 are from directors who held projects that went on to be the worst movies of their particular year on Scene Before. That is honestly heartbreaking! Not just for the crew who made those movies, but as a viewer, I do my best to have even the slightest of optimism for a movie. So what should I expect? Are these two going to improve their craft anytime soon?

I am almost curious to watch “Tammy” and “The Boss” to see what else Falcone has up his sleeve. But at the same time, 2020 has taken so much of my sanity that I do not know how much more I am willing to sacrifice. This has easily been the worst year for movies. While there have been plenty of decent titles, the bad ones TRULY stood out. I cannot wait for this year to be over, and last but not least, avoid “Superintelligence” at all costs!

“Superintelligence” is now available on HBO Max. Watch it if you dare, but if you want my recommendation for something to watch on HBO Max, just watch “Harley Quinn” instead. That show kicks butt!

Thanks for reading this review! I would love to tell you what my next review is, but this current review has hurt my head so much that I cannot even think about what I will have for dinner tonight. So my next post is… Something. We’ll just have to find out what exactly that something is. I… Can’t even believe I survived to watch this movie. F*ck 2020, f*ck it to Hell and back! 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 “Superintelligence?” What did you think about it? Or, of the Ben Falcone-directed movies starring Melissa McCarthy, which is your favorite? Given the track record between these two, I doubt this question is a reflection of quality. But I figured I’d ask it anyway. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!