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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Duel (2021): Ben Affleck and Matt Damon Finally Reunite to Pen a Brilliant Display of Alternate Perspectives

“The Last Duel” is directed by Ridley Scott (The Martian, Alien) and stars Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo, Good Will Hunting), Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Marriage Story), Jodie Comer (Free Guy, Killing Eve), and Ben Affleck (Justice League, The Way Back) in a film where two friends are divided over the claims Marguerite de Carrouges brings forth about her rape. The two friends agree to duke it out in a trial by combat where one lives, one dies, and the outcome of the battle will also determine the fate of Marguerite de Carrouges herself.

I have been excited for “The Last Duel” since 2020, which is when I believe I first heard about it. I may have been looking at the list of films coming out that year on Wikipedia, which at this point, almost looks like a shell of its former self with titles like “A Quiet Place Part II,” “No Time to Die,” and “Black Widow” moving dates. At that point, upon seeing some of the names attached, this had some potential. This looked like some Oscar caliber material. It kind of had this “Braveheart” feel to it that empowered the heart. I was genuinely curious of what was to come.

When the trailer came out this summer, confirming that this movie was finally coming, it honestly promised something beyond my prior expectations because as someone who did not know the full story, I did not know if this was going to be a film of slow or fast pace. But getting a peak of Jodie Comer’s performance, which ended up being one of the film’s highlights, was a symbol of how exciting this movie could potentially be. Everything about this movie going in looked great, Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography, the performances from one of the best ensembles of the year, the set design, the locations. All of it had promises.

And frankly, those promises were met. When it comes to big battle type of films that take place long before I was even born, this one stands out. Partially because of the amazing directing from Ridley Scott, whose legacy has not died yet, and after seeing this movie, I only want more from him. Of the three main performances from Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer, each one did a really good job at conveying rawness, pain, and fear amongst each self. No matter the situation each character finds themselves in, they each find themselves within their own pain and we get a sense of that. One is obviously the hero in this story, but that is also something that at various points, the movie sort of spins on its own head.

In most movies you see a linear path from start to finish with the main hero having a major screen presence. Or in other cases, the main villain. Look at “Avengers: Infinity War.” That whole movie started with Thanos going after the infinity stones and ended with him resting on a farm. Yes, the movie is called “Avengers,” is about the “Avengers,” and heavily features the “Avengers” during its runtime. But you could also argue that the film is technically Thanos’s story once it started and once it ended. “The Last Duel” has a somewhat typical act structure where it has your act 1, act 2, and act 3, but it doesn’t necessarily use those acts in a way where you see a progression of time, which in most cases would be from past to future. For the most part, the acts take place quite literally at the same exact time, but you see certain events play out whereas others are left behind. In some cases, the exact same event will play out but you get a greater emphasis on whichever character’s perspective is put into frame, and it’s not like they’re sitting in a room narrating the story in front of your eyes, you’re seeing it from a visual standpoint.. For some people, I imagine this sequencing procedure will seem repetitive or irritating, but for me, it made me understand the way in which this movie was trying to tell its story. In fact, I honestly think when it comes to the act structure, the movie placed the least compelling act, or as they call them, chapters, before the others, and there’s a reason for that. The other two chapters highlights a certain event in the first chapter that you’re only told about, but as you see more of it in the other two chapters, the bigger the impact it has by the end of the movie. The film shows how important all the perspectives are to create one big picture, thus highlighting the rivalry, the controversy, the infighting, the drama. This is a script that I would honestly put up against many others this year.

The movie does take a bit of time to get into, although it admittedly starts with some quick pace and a promise, there’s that word again, of what’s to come, but once it gets into the nitty gritty, it’s basically full throttle, non-stop, and as for me, the viewer, I’m completely engaged with what’s going on. This movie is called “The Last Duel” and of course, the duel, which is the literal climax of the film supposedly, I mean, you could almost argue that this film kind of has four acts, is incredibly exciting and gritty. But it does not mean the material prior to that going down is inferior in any way. If I have any other cons with the film that I could think of, I would say that the way Matt Damon’s character handles a serious matter in chapter 3 made me a bit uncomfortable. Granted, I think that was kind of the point, but it almost made him less relatable or less likable than maybe he was earlier in the film. May just be a personal reaction.

By the end of the film, when they get to that last battle, I was shaking. Because the film has done such a brilliant job at establishing the perspectives of the main trio that they all came together so well in the last moments. When we see the position of Jodie Comer’s character, the stakes she has to go through as the fight between a couple friends goes down, it only adds to the tension. This film is one of the best of the year and despite coming out the same weekend as “Halloween Kills,” “The Last Duel” felt ten times as disturbing.

In the end, “The Last Duel” is one of the best ways to retell a story in a two and a half hour runtime. This is a film that at times made me feel a pit in my stomach, but it did so in the best way possible. The technical aspects from the camerawork to the sound is all done to perfection. As for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck getting back together to write a script so long after “Good Will Hunting,” it was worth the wait. Granted, Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) also has a credit, but still, it was worth the wait. I love “The Last Duel” and I would personally give it an 8/10.

“The Last Duel” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that Halloween is coming up and we will be starting my brand new mini review series that day, on the 31st exactly, “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife.” Expect a review then, and I will be following that up the Sunday after, November 7th, with my thoughts on “Ghostbusters II,” which as of typing this, I have yet to watch once in my entire life. Be on the lookout for these reviews and also stay tuned for my reviews of “No Time to Die,” “Dune,” and if I get around to it on time, “Last Night in Soho.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Last Duel?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen “Good Will Hunting?” Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (2019): “Boo” Dylan

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“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” is directed by Daniel Roher (Ghosts of Our Forest, Brand Canada) and executive produced by renowned director Martin Scorsese. This is not the first time in which Scorsese is handling a project relating to The Band, as he previously directed the 1978 documentary “The Last Waltz.” This film is a documentary centering around Robbie Robertson and his musical group simply titled “The Band.” It goes into their story over the years, their ups, their downs, and mainly dives into the current perspective of Robertson himself as he is interviewed.

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Am I a music junkie? Well, not really. I will admit when I need to listen to some tunes, a lot of it is not from today. Classic rock, classical, heavy metal, and soundtracks are just some of the jams I prefer. I am not that trendy. Even so, I myself have waited until just fairly recently to find out about a quaint little music group titled “The Band,” as seen in this film. I had no idea who they were, or just about anything to which they could possibly associate. But here’s the truth. Movie theaters just reopened in Massachusetts. However, the number of the theaters that officially reopened their doors happened to be pretty minimal. And the one that I ended up going to had two other movies playing and I happened to already see both of them (Emma, Irresistible). So I shelled out some money to go see “Once Were Brothers,” I had a good time. Enough said.

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Once again, it’s 2020, this is yet another example of a movie that I saw that happened to be quite enjoyable, but even in July, I have yet to find that one movie that really cracked the code, I haven’t found that one movie that really felt worthwhile when it comes to seeing it this year. If “Tenet” came out last weekend as it was previously expected to, maybe that would have been the case, but we don’t live in a happy little wonderland. Global warming is killing us. Bees may go extinct. Coronavirus is the talk of the town. To put it lightly, anything that could go wrong in 2020, would go wrong. “Once Were Brothers” is definitely one of the more entertaining and well put together films I have seen all year. Or… Is it last year? IMDb identifies it as a 2019 film given how it already premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, anyway…

One of the most relatable aspects of life represented in film is failure. Granted, sometimes when people fail on screen, I question every single person in the film (I’m looking at you “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). And one of my favorite parts of this film is seeing The Band collaborate with Bob Dylan because Dylan himself would perform at his own concert, be noted for his incredible charisma and success, but every time that The Band would come out, they would get booed. Now I was not living during the times of the group’s inception, and I have never attended a Bob Dylan concert, I can’t really say much about these folks’ live performances, but as someone who has personally dealt with failure of some kind in life, seeing this made me connect with them on a certain level. I do not go to many concerts, and the only times I’ve ever recalled booing somebody in a live environment to a serious level are during Major League Baseball games. Now I am a critic, but I often understand why performers try really hard to move on from booing audiences, just take them as they go, even though the impact of boos can be significant in a negative way.

This film also deals with a blend of dreams and reality, most notably when it comes to one of The Band’s members. So weird saying that… You figure that could be a sentence for anybody. One of my favorite elements of the film is the story of Levon, who supposedly carried much of the fun within the group itself. He clearly enjoyed his time as a member, but at the same time, there was a moment where he ended up needing to expand his identity, know more about himself. Much of the movie is told from the perspective of member Robbie Robertson, who based on the interview material, comes off as a pretty charming fellow. Hearing Robertson talk about someone who felt like one of the best friends he knew in his life and relating that thought to multiple scenarios felt rather passionate, it felt like a trip down his own personal “memory lane” if you will. And that’s what this documentary could end up feeling like for some people who enjoy music from say the late 20th century. It’s a sign that the documentary ended up doing its job.

The documentary ends with one of The Band’s key performances, and I will admit, if I were there, it could have been pretty fun to watch. I will say, even though it was not personally my biggest highlight of the entire film, it did look good on the screen while also managing to pack in a slight sense of finality to what has been built up previously.

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I will say though, one slight disappointment, and I may be a little biased as I love films, and even though this is a movie about music, I will always put movies before music in most cases. As mentioned, “Once Were Brothers” is executive produced by the legendary Martin Scorsese. A director who I will admit I am mostly unfamiliar with in terms of actually seeing his films, but I respect him nonetheless and what I have seen from him, such as “Goodfellas,” has impressed me. He’s barely in the movie. Now, this may seem like a weird complaint as the movie has almost nothing to do with Scorsese himself. But given how he was credited as an executive producer, I was somewhat disappointed that he only appears maybe twice. Just a small, odd complaint that doesn’t really affect my verdict of the film a ton, but it is something that I did want to get off my chest.

As for the film, it has a solid blend of interview footage, archive footage, and so on. I don’t know if I’d tune into it again right away, but if you are bored, “Once Were Brothers” is now available to rent. Or, if your theater reopened and happens to be playing the documentary (like one of mine did), check it out now!

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In the end, “Once Were Brothers” is lively, charming, and occasionally on a certain scale of compelling. If I had to use one word to describe “Once Were Brothers,” it would be “classy.” It’s a classy time. It’s a classy flick. It’s a classy series of happenings all put together. The movie just feels like it is full of… class. I don’t know how many other documentaries I will get around to watching this year, because evidence shows that is one of my weaker areas as a film fan, but if this is the only one, I will say that I have picked a good one. I am going to give “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Big news everybody! “Tenet” is delayed again! I talked about the first two delays, maybe I’ll talk about the third one… And by talk, I probably mean complain about it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on The Band themselves? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apollo 11 (2019): No Conspiracies, It’s Good

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“Apollo 11” is directed by Todd Douglas Miller and is a documentary on the moon landing mission of the same name. It features glances at the mission conducted by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, while also revealing unknown footage from the ambitious mission. And appropriately, this movie is just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the American event.

I don’t usually review documentaries, and honestly, the format that goes into reviewing a documentary is nearly foreign to me because basically everything about it could almost be a spoiler, because… SPOILER ALERT… the movie is based on true events. Well, that is if you don’t believe in conspiracy theories. Although when it comes to my experience to this film, I almost didn’t see this. The reason why I saw this movie is because a friend of mine wanted to hang out and I let them pick a certain film they had in mind. This is not to say that I disliked the film choice, because in reality, I think space is awesome and Apollo 11 is a true feat of an achievement. But due to this film being a month old and it not getting much traction, it nearly slipped out of my mind. The real question is however, was this film worth the trip? Was it worth seeing a month after its American debut? I’d say so. It’s worthy of providing a fine night at the movies. It’s not perfect, in fact, I am reviewing this documentary about a week after seeing it and I am already forgetting portions of it. But for what I do remember however, it certainly happened be worth the price of admission.

One thing I absolutely admire was the vibe of the documentary. As every civilized American would know, the moon landing happened in the late sixties, and this film managed to show off the sixties American culture in ways that almost put me inside the footage. It shows off all of the fads, fashions, hairstyles, and of course, NASA back in the space race. In fact, the tone for it is all set before that, as we see heavy-duty equipment being lifted by machinery at a launch center, all shot on glorious 70mm film.

For those of you who saw last year’s “First Man,” which at this point, I should be calling the Jackoff-winning “First Man.” If you’ve seen “First Man” I don’t know what exactly you expected from the film before checking it out. But if you have seen it, I can tell you that this film goes a lot more into the moon landing than that one does. After all, that film was more about Neil Armstrong as opposed to the mission. This movie focuses on the crew, and makes the mission its core aspect. “Apollo 11’s” biggest strength is its seemingly minimal effort to shoehorn dialogue from interviews and that sort of thing, and just allows us as an audience to witness the mission. It truly feels like you are part of an event while also technically watching a documentary on it. Although I did lose that immersion in one place.

Fun fact about this movie, I actually brought a mini notebook that I purchased at CVS about 9 months ago, and I thought it would be handy for notetaking purposes. It happened to be the first legit time where I would take notes during a film that doesn’t involve writing on my arms or hands and pretending to see what’s being written. I didn’t write much at all, in fact, when it comes to the movie, I only wrote down one thing, and it was the “name” “Gene Krantz.” For those of you who follow NASA’s history, you’d know that is improper spelling, but this movie actually introduced his name for an interview, and provided the recently stated spelling for said name. So instead of Kranz, we get Kranz. I know some people who are space buffs air their complaints when Hollywood screws up how space works, but I don’t work for NASA, I don’t really know everything about outer space. I know someone who works for NASA, shoutout to my good friend, Kayla, you rock! But that’s not the point, so since I’m not a scientist or a space buff or someone who works for NASA, I might as well be a Grammar Nazi. Just the way it is.

But overall, this documentary manages to do a couple of things right, have a pace that flows naturally, and have decent explanations for technical terms for general audiences. There are some visual demonstrations of the actions done during Apollo 11 that had my attention.

In terms of bringing something new to the table for me, that’s actually where this movie suffers, and I wouldn’t call it its own fault. I already know a lot about the moon landing (and its conspiracies), I even did a project on the space race in my freshman year of high school. Therefore when it comes to being quizzed on this film, I might have a slight advantage. Granted, I may be overestimating my abilities if were ever to go to the local bar for a trivia night because that was done at the last minute, it was grueling, and I was four years younger than I am today. Although if there were anything new or fresh to consider, I’d say the trip back home was a breath of fresh air, because during most successful space missions, it’s something I never think about. In fact, when I saw “First Man” back in 2018, I barely got a glance at the trip back home. It was nice to see a bunch of crucial extended moments put together to make this one picture. Overall, I was fascinated, but I would probably never watch this again. If you want to see a briefer glance at this mission, not to mention, a better documentary, and from a different perspective, I’d recommend you check out “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo,” which dives not only into Apollo 11, but other missions from said time frame. In fact, if you want my review for it from a couple years back, click the link below!

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

In the end, “Apollo 11” was a good time at the movies, but it might be the only place where I would have a good time watching this film. I remember this film having an IMAX run at a point, and part of me is disappointed I missed it because this was a pretty hypnotizing theater experience for brief moments of time. Ultimately, this “Apollo 11” has similarities to how I view “Apollo 11” in life. It’s epic, it’s grand, it’s something that is completely unprecedented. I continue to admire Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and as for Mike Collins… yeah. Not to offend him, but nobody talks about him. Not his fault… Just saying. I’m going to give “Apollo 11” a 6/10. Thanks for reading this review. If you are looking for a movie to watch this weekend, I’m pretty sure that cannot possibly be true because chances are you’re going out to see “Avengers: Endgame.” But if you have not seen the movie yet and want an opinion from someone who did see it, be sure to check out my SPOILER-FREE review of this year’s biggest film (click red box). That way you can decide whether or not you want to get tickets to a 10PM show tonight or to a matinee on Sunday that very likely just has front seats remaining. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Apollo 11?” What do you think about it? Or, what is your favorite space-related achievement? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

First Man (2018): One Giant Spacegasm

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“First Man” is directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) and stars Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, The Notebook) as Neil Armstrong. This movie takes place during the events of Apollo 11, the most famous of the Apollo missions. Many people going to see this movie probably know the story, Neil Armstrong and some other astronauts attempt to land on the moon, but this movie explains a little bit more than that. It goes into the personal and family life of Neil Armstrong, and shows off all the preparation that went into executing such a daring mission.

I don’t know if many people reading this remember, or even knew when this movie was first announced, but my first time hearing about it was around January 2017 if I recall correctly. As if the concept alone of the moon landing was interesting enough, it was to be helmed by one of my favorite directors working today, Damien Chazelle.

Damien Chazelle is known for his work on “Whiplash,” but in my eyes, his popularity skyrocketed during the release of “La La Land.” That movie is a 2016 musical which went on to win 7 Golden Globes, which also happened to be the total number of awards the movie happened to be nominated for. Speaking of awards, the movie went on to receive 13 Oscar nominations, 6 wins, which doesn’t happen to include the rare instance of the kinda sorta maybe victory of Best Picture. So kids, if you are reading this and think that your dream will never come true, if you think you’ll never be able to colonize Mars one day, just remember this. Two films were labeled Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards!

When it comes to “First Man,” this is actually a really interesting movie though because out of all the feature-length films Damien Chazelle has done as a director, this is actually the first one he doesn’t have a screenplay credit for. Granted, this movie was actually written by Josh Singer, who also wrote the screenplay for 2015’s “Spotlight,” which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Even so, the fact that this was not written by Chazelle himself made me slightly worried. I was beginning to wonder if I didn’t like this movie, it might partially lead to me thinking Chazelle is another Brad Bird. He’s a fantastic director, but only fantastic when it comes to directing his own material. Having seen this movie, that worry is meaningless, because I’ll be honest with you, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. In fact, when putting Chazelle into the conversation, it’s my second favorite film of his directly behind “Whiplash.”

Just about everything in “First Man” worked. The acting, the directing, the score, the entertainment value, the sound work, the effects, everything just felt as if it was created by a god. I went to see “First Man” in IMAX, which I will get to, but I must say, regardless of whether or not you went to see “First Man” in IMAX, I must tell you, this is one of those films that you have to get off your ass and see in the theater. This joins some recent films like “Dunkirk,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Ready Player One,” and “A Quiet Place” on the list of films to watch on the big screen. What the crew did for this movie in terms of cinematography is genius.

In all honesty, part of me wonders how many people will notice or care to notice, some of the images in the movie, are incredibly fuzzy or grainy and it just feels like they were gathering dust before processing. Let me just have you know that this movie was shot on 16mm film. Most of the scenes early on in the films, that take place on Earth, looked somewhat old-timey. And I honestly thought that fit, because believe it or not, I don’t know how much you guys know about Neil Armstrong’s life, but when this movie started it was basically a soap opera. For some people, I imagine that will take them out of the movie, but to me, it fit because for one thing, you can’t alter history. It partially comes into play when developing Armstrong as a character. Also, it showcases the excellent acting ability of Ryan Gosling.

Ryan Gosling is the star of the movie and he seems to have a decent range as an actor. You can put him in a movie as a sex doll that girls will dream about. You can put him in a movie where he happens to be somewhat passionate and upbeat. And you can put him in a movie where maybe he happens to be intentionally robotic. To call Ryan Gosling my favorite actor of all time is a stretch, but he is a true force in the industry. And when it comes to his portrayal of Neil Armstrong, overall it is really good, but I have a couple minor complaints. For one thing, Neil in this movie is incredibly stoic at times. If he was as stoic in this movie as he was in real life, then whatever, then my complaint will be taken off. That’s not to say he doesn’t show any emotion at all. He’s actually seen in the beginning of the film shedding tears. It’s a great performance, but part of me wonders how much Neil Armstrong would say it’s “him” had he been alive to see this picture come to life. Ah well, where’s Buzz Aldrin when you need him? Another minor complaint I have is a bit nitpicky, but Neil Armstrong was born and raised American, and yet they cast the very idea of the “Sexy Canadian Boy” Halloween costume. Again, nitpicky. It does not however change the fact that the interpretation of Armstrong is still a top-notch performance. Plus, it’s still a pasty white dude, so it’s not like they’re trying to make Neil Armstrong a woman or black and erase history by doing so.

Speaking of minor casting issues, I also should point out that Claire Foy (Unsane, The Crown), who plays Neil’s wife, Janet, is British. Let me just point out that much like Neil Armstrong, Janet was born and raised American. It’s still a great performance and BY FAR the best one in the entire film. I really hope Foy receives a Best Actress nomination. Several scenes from her add tons of emotional weight to the film and I can imagine in a way, back in the 1960s, her character would not only encapsulate the thoughts of just herself, but those people who are out of Neil’s family who have to watch the crew go to the moon. Granted, it’s a lot worse for her, because she can lose her husband, but still.

All my complaints in this movie are legit complaints for sure, but in reality, they are easily forgivable because they fall under the classification of “minor” or “nitpicky.” One small complaint I have is something that occurs towards the end of the film that I wonder if it actually happened. Without going into spoilers, when Neil Armstrong gets to the moon, he has an object with him that happens to be very significant. As far as I’m aware, there is no concrete evidence to this happening. If it did happen, cool. But if it didn’t, maybe it added some emotion, but there would also be that part of me who thinks that shouldn’t even be in the movie.

Speaking of objects on the moon, let’s get controversial! One report that has been going around about “First Man” is that there is no scene showing the American flag being planted on the moon. As someone who witnessed this movie, let me confirm to you all, THIS IS TRUE. Many conservatives for what I know are upset about this and they’re hoping this movie fails. Based on the box office for the opening weekend, it lost big time to “A Star Is Born” and “Venom,” which retained its first place spot for the second week in a row. By the way, f*ck “Venom.” I will say though, this is kind of a spoiler, but it’s not really going to affect your viewing experience, at least I don’t think. If it’s any consolation, the American flag is shown on the moon during the film. I can understand why people would be upset about this, but honestly I don’t really care. I live in America, and this is an American achievement, but at the end of the day, “First Man” is supposed to be a film, not a propaganda piece. Also, if you like your flags so much, let me just remind you that the astronauts have American flags on their spacesuits, and there’s actually a scene where an American flag is being raised. Also, I’ll be honest, I’m glad that someone like Damien Chazelle directed this movie as opposed to someone like Michael Bay. I say that because there would be an American flag overload to the point where the planting scene would involve Neil Armstrong breaking the laws of physics, jumping into space bumping into one planet into the next like a pinball. Once that’s all done, he flies back to the moon striking the surface with the flag like Link did to Ganon in “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.” Also for fun, we cut to explosions happening in Russia therefore symbolizing their loss in the space race. There are reasons why I wouldn’t mind seeing the flag planted in the film, but the direction Damien Chazelle took with the movie worked very well and made me not care about seeing the planting of the American flag. The emotional journey mattered more in the end to me than seeing a country’s representation, even if I do happen to be a part of that country. Plus, you also have to consider international audiences. How will they respond to this? I don’t know. There’s always room for experimentation. Even so, I guess it is not wrong to assume that international audiences will be able to recognize the accomplishment that the US made with the moon landing, but at the same time, since it is not their accomplishment, they’d probably find the scene less relatable. I really think I should do a separate post someday on why it might be a good idea to have the planting of the American flag shown in the movie and why it might not be a good idea. Now let’s move onto…

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SPACE.

Before we actually dive into my thoughts on the space scenes, I gotta say that I saw this movie with my mother and sister. I can understand why some people would have certain complaints but one that really stuck out to me is that my mother said the movie spends too much time in space. I find this amusing because “First Man,” after all, is a space movie. I’m not saying it’s invalid, each to their own, but I thought the space time was fine. And trust me, it does spend a bit of time. Aside from focusing on Apollo 11, the movie spends some time focusing on Gemini 8. I’m willing to bet this is where my mother complained. Although I appreciated that the movie decided to include that, because this establishes not only the dangers for anyone who has to go to space, but as far as Neil Armstrong goes, he had to experience said dangers before moving onto another dangerous mission that is amazingly daring, to the point where he might never see his wife and kids again. One thing I also admire about this scene is the music, which is very reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey” when they play “The Blue Danube.” ALSO, THE SOUND WORK IS TOP-NOTCH! If this movie doesn’t win best director at the Academy Awards, it better get something in the sound categories because it is something worth hearing. While the movie is great overall when it comes to sound, in fact some of it reminded me of “Gravity,” one of the best scenes when it comes to sound comes after the lunar lander touches down on the moon.

In terms of sound, cinematography, and theatricality, the walking onto the moon is definitely one of the best scenes I’ve witnessed all year in a movie. And you even get an added bonus if you see this movie in IMAX. As you can see, the crew is getting ready, opening their hatch, as they are about to see the moon outside their craft. So you get to see the camera coming out, and BOOM! Silence. Scientifically accurate for sure, but that’s not the point. The effect that lack of sound has on the scene literally dropped my jaw. And as if that’s jaw dropping enough, the lunar sequences for this movie were shot on IMAX film. So once the camera comes out of the craft, we go from the aspect ratio we’ve been seeing for the entire movie so far to full fledged, screen-covering glory. WALL TO WALL. FLOOR TO CEILING. Looking at Neil Armstrong up close makes you feel like you are an ant compared to him. The screen dominated me in that moment. The way everything plays out in that from acting, directing, and camerawork just felt like I was in a museum looking at paintings instead of a movie. And another reason why I love this IMAX transition goes back to how this movie was shot on 16mm film. Everything looks fuzzy, it was somewhat of a more unsettling time back then. This takes all depression out of the equation and we have gone from a sad movie that felt like a soap opera, to the end of an epic. It’s one of the best movie transitions I’ve seen in recent memory, and some of the all time best use of an IMAX camera that I am aware of.

I will say that a number of movies shot with an IMAX camera happen to be ones I enjoy. Take the “Transformers” movies out of the equation however. On the subject of cinematography, something happens in this movie that made me realize how awesome this movie truly was. When it comes to filmmaking, one term I’ve always hated was “shaky cam.” But there are several scenes in this movie that actually use shaky cam, and it almost made me change my mind on it entirely! Shaky cam is probably a reason why some critics aren’t massive fans of certain action movies. Aside from hiding poor stuntwork, one reason why I imagine some people use shaky cam in their movies may be to heighten tension. I can’t really recall many moments where shaky cam increased tension for me. Here in “First Man,” there’s moments where shaky cam happens to be prominent and believe it or not, I am not bashing on it. A good movie can do things that people have seen before which have been done with care and everything works. A great movie can take something that might not be your thing and change your perspective on it. While I do enjoy space movies VERY MUCH, I don’t traditionally find myself bowing down to the gods of shaky cam. Shaky cam is a reason why I find shows like “Modern Family” somewhat off-putting. I honestly don’t know if I am overrecating, I wonder how other people would react to something like this, but this is just how I felt from my experience.

In the end, I wouldn’t call “First Man” an A+, but it sure comes close. This is by far one of my favorite movies of the year, and when it comes 2018’s new releases, “First Man” is up there with “Ready Player One” as one of my favorite theater experiences. It has the potential to shoot itself up to an A+ depending on replay value or depending on how I view this movie outside the theater, but in reality, from a critical point of view, while it has some minor things to complain about, there are really no glaring errors (then again, I don’t work for NASA, so science isn’t my biggest strong suit). What Damien Chazelle did with this movie is truly something to appreciate. The cast, while not technically completely matching with their counterparts were believable and added to the movie’s overall grit. The score is appropriate for the film and perhaps something maybe I’ll listen to for motivation. While there were not really any shots to pick out to say that they were really innovative for the most part, the cinematography in “First Man” is certainly something I hope not to forget sometime in the future. Also, if you can, please, go see “First Man” in IMAX. You’ll thank me later. I’m going to give “First Man” a 9/10.

Thanks for reading this review! For those of you who read my work often, you may be aware that I’ve gone to New York Comic Con. I went almost a couple of weeks ago, and don’t worry, a post on that is coming. I just need to put it together. I’m actually going to be in a hotel room in Connecticut this weekend because I’m going to see the Impractical Jokers live, so when I have some free time, or if I choose to be a madman and stay up all night (which would be appropriate because I’m in a casino), maybe I’ll work on this post then. As far as movie reviews go, I will say that my next pick is currently undecided, maybe I’ll go see “Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween,” maybe “Night School.” A good comedy is soothing every once in a while. Seriously though, I’m almost considering going to see “First Man” again sometime soon. It’s that good. Be sure to follow me on Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “First Man?” What did you think about it? Or, you know what? F*ck it. Was the moon landing faked? Please comment below, I would like your honest answers, I won’t judge (maybe). Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Apollo 13 (1995): Houston, We Have a Movie Review

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Apologies for the slight delay on this review. My goal of this space movie review series is to do one new post in the series every Thursday. Although work (and fun) have gotten in the way, so you’re getting this on a Friday and for that, I apologize. Right now, “First Man” is in theaters everywhere, and I do have plans to review it (as long as I can get my “A Star Is Born” review up first). For those of you who are curious to know what “First Man” is about, it revolves around the moon landing and how Neil Armstrong and his family cope with the enormous difficulties of the Apollo 11 mission. Funny enough, that is not the only movie involving the moon landing I’ll be talking about this year. Another one goes by the name “Apollo 13.” Without further ado, let’s dive into the review!

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“Apollo 13” is directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks (Big, Forrest Gump), Bill Paxton (Weird Science, Aliens), and Kevin Bacon (Footloose, Friday the 13th) as the trio of astronauts who go on a mission associated with the movie’s title. This is the seventh manned mission of Apollo and the third which involves an attempt to land on the moon. Based on true events, the three astronauts are onboard a ship which eventually faces damage, thus making the journey back home more difficult. It is up to NASA to help strategize a plan to get the trio back to Earth.

When it comes to the Apollo missions, the one that we mainly still talk about to this day is Apollo 11, which is getting covered in the upcoming movie, “First Man.” However another mission that got covered a while back, specifically 1995, in movie form was Apollo 13. As far as this movie goes for me. I first watched it in 2014 in a science class during eighth grade. I enjoyed the movie and thought it was a very compelling mission. I appreciated the space scenes, the music, and the launch sequence. Having watched it now, I’d probably say I MIGHT like it less than I did back then, but I still enjoyed it. In fact, now that I’m older, I feel like I paid a bit more attention to the dialogue, which probably felt a tad more compelling than it did when I was 14 years old.

When it comes to the music, this honestly feels like some of the most patriotic music I’ve ever heard in a movie. The main theme almost reminds me of a theme that used to be on CBS Evening News until getting rid of it in 2016. And I’ll be honest, that’s probably where this movie excels more than anywhere else. The music basically does the talking. It reminds you to pay attention. It sometimes give you a feeling that you need to silence yourself. At times it is almost eerie. When I watched this movie, one piece that can be heard almost reminded me of some of the last music you hear before the credits in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Looking at this movie now, I can totally see why they decided to put this music in, and it does symbolize how this mission is not just for the world to see, but just like the groundbreaking Apollo 11, it was for the United States to see.

Let’s talk about some of the performances in this film. I mean, you do have star power from folks like Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon, but in reality their individual performances do not really make the film what it is. As a matter of fact, it’s their chemistry. It’s how they get along as a team and how they cooperate with each other in space. These three look like they get along with each other, they look like buds, and they also look like they are actually trying to help each other in a time of need. But I’ll be honest, the performance I’ll probably forever credit is Ed Harris (The Abyss, Jacknife) as Gene Kranz.

Gene Kranz is a guy who I occasionally still hear about today. He was part of the documentary “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo,” which I have reviewed on here. I have a friend who works for NASA who has met this fine gentleman. And I will say that my friend has also brought up his name every once in a while. When it comes to his portrayal in “Apollo 13,” my gosh. I f*cking loved it. Ed Harris literally knocked it out of the park when it comes to not only talking, but believe it or not, remaining silent. One thing I often think about when it comes to talented actors who go on to get nominated for Oscars is how they have that one moment where they just talk. The talking seems to stick out to a point where it stays in your head. It’s very compelling. But as I’ve learned from another movie this year, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” silence is a great gift. There is a moment in this movie, specifically towards the end, where we see Ed Harris say no words. If you have not seen this movie and decide to check it out one day, be sure to look out for that. By the way, Ed Harris was nominated an Academy Award for this performance and lost to Kevin SPACEYYYYOW! Gross! Get that away! Get out! Get out!

Speaking of mission control, the set for mission control was very well done. It felt rugged, the colors seem to be accurate, and the computers just scream like they are from the time frame which this movie takes place. Also, as far as your NASA employees go, they seem to fit the time frame as well. Nerdy, white males who could have potentially gotten kick me signs on their backs or atomic wedgies when they were in school. And to add a little extra nerdiness to the mix, I even noticed pocket protectors. As I was watching the movie I was just saying to myself that everyone resembled Lewis or Gilbert from “Revenge of the Nerds.” And now that I think about it, maybe George McFly from “Back to the Future.” Costume design and casting was very well done here.

One thing I do find interesting about this movie though is the PG rating. If this movie came out today it would probably be PG-13. I find it really interesting to see that a movie  with as much smoking and language as it has actually managed to get a PG rating. Then again, according to Wikipedia, smoking wasn’t really as big of a problem until 2007. It almost reminds me of “Back to the Future” which got a PG even though it has multiple utterances of the word s*it and some other vulgar language that parents wouldn’t want their kids to hear. I’ll say though for “Back to the Future,” PG-13 was a new concept back when it came out. When “Apollo 13” arrived it actually was a thing for a decade.

One of my favorite scenes of the movie, despite how Apollo 13 was a mission where the astronauts attempted to go to the moon and never made it, involves being on the moon. We cut to a scene where Tom Hanks’s character, Jim Lovell, is actually getting off a craft and envisioning himself walking on the moon. It’s almost sad looking at that. In a lot of movies, I imagine some people saying that they care about historical accuracy, and I’m with those people. Here though, I don’t want to know if Jim Lovell actually envisioned that. If that vision was fabricated, I don’t give a flying f*ck. That actually enhances the movie in so many ways. And in a way, it almost shows how dreams can slip away from you. Many boys dream of being an astronaut. Sorry, kid, lower your expectations.

Also, one more thing.

SPACE.

That’s a tradition in this series, so I might as well keep it going!

In the end, I don’t really have much to say about “Apollo 13,” but what I do have to say is that it is a watchable, enjoyable space flick based on a great story. “Apollo 13” is directed by Ron Howard, who also directed “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which I suffered through this year. To those who must know, this movie truly showcases the talent of Ron Howard. Leave “Solo” in the dust! Overall, I think “Apollo 13” is a good movie, and I would say while it is the worst of the films I tackled in this review series, it is certainly worth watching. I’m going to give “Apollo 13” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I hope you enjoyed this space movie review series, apologies for the delay once again. But at least I was able to get this out. Stay tuned for my review of “First Man.” I don’t think that’ll be up right away, but given how I am seemingly seeing it on Sunday, I’ll have my thoughts on it probably sometime next week. Be sure to follow me on Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account that way you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Apollo 13?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a dream you had as a kid that never became a reality? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Will First Man Be Shown on IMAX 70mm Film? If So, Where?

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! If you know me personally, you’d probably be well aware of my fanaticism for IMAX. I freaking love IMAX. At times, they’re brutal liars (if you don’t trust me, ask Aziz Ansari), but at the same time I can’t help but love them. They’ve partially contributed towards my love of film. I would love to make several movies and release them in the IMAX format, and even on IMAX film. Speaking of that, I got to ask something today in this post.

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One movie I’m really looking forward to this year is “First Man.” This movie is being directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land), stars Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, Crazy Stupid Love) and Claire Foy (The Crown, Vampire Academy) and is based on the true story (depending on your knowledge or thoughts on various conspiracy theories) of the famous Apollo moon landing from 1969.

A new trailer just released for this movie and I’ll just say to you all right now that I have no intentions to do a review on it. However, there is one thing I caught at the very end of the trailer. One of the last pieces of text the trailer states is “Select Scenes Filmed with IMAX Cameras.” It doesn’t exactly specify what type of IMAX camera is specifically used to shoot the movie, but according to IMDb, the movie is partially being shot on what is referred to as an IMAX MSM 9802. This camera was used to shoot select scenes of various films including “The Dark Knight,” “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This is an IMAX camera that is capable of shooting in 2D and 70mm. Therefore, “First Man” is being shot in IMAX 70mm, which makes me ask, “Will you be able to watch this in the IMAX 70mm format?”

According to IMDb, if you look in the technical specifications page for “First Man,” it’ll say that some scenes will be shown in a 1.43:1 aspect ratio, which is the proper ratio for an IMAX theater with 70mm equipment that covers the entire screen. For those of you who are unfamiliar with IMAX technology, let me just inform you, if the year this movie happened to be coming out is a year such as 2014 and I found this info on IMDb, chances are I’d at most GUARANTEE you that this movie will be shown in the IMAX 70mm format. However, it’s not 2014, it’s 2018, so I can’t make any guarantees at this point. I say that because IMAX has a technology which has been steadily growing, which is their 4K laser projection system (picture up above). They’ve installed it on several screens around the world. Some of these screens include the TCL Chinese Theatre (Los Angeles, CA), Cineworld Leicester Square (London, UK), CGV Yongsan (Seoul, SK), Event Cinemas Queen Street (Auckland, NZ), Scotiabank Toronto (Toronto, Canada), Miramar IMAX (Taipei, Taiwan), and I even have one that’s about a ten minute drive from my house, the Sunbrella IMAX 3D Theater, located inside Jordan’s Furniture, in Reading, MA. I can pretty much guarantee that given today’s technological preferences that at least one laser theater will be showing the movie. I say that because IMAX, like most movie theater owners and operators, typically show their movies in some format related to digital projection. It’s simpler to operate, simpler to handle, and you don’t have to worry about any degradation of picture quality for one reason or another.

The IMAX laser system works on multiple types of IMAX screens, but one of its main purposes is to be a digital equal/replacement for IMAX’s 70mm film projectors. If you ask me, IMAX 70mm projectors are capable of showing clearer images than the company’s laser projectors, but that’s for another time. With that sort of idea in mind, that means if you put an IMAX laser projector in an older IMAX theater that contained a film projector prior to it, there’s a good chance that the laser projector was installed to play media and said media will be displayed in an aspect ratio that would have been shown the same way had IMAX kept their film projector. For those of you who do not know much about IMAX, the laser projection system IS NOT IMAX’s only digital projection system. They’ve had another one which they introduced in 2008, which is pretty much the reason why some people refer to the company as LIEMAX. IMAX has installed many of these all over the world, which started an enormous growth in IMAX theaters in multiplexes. However, the projector couldn’t show any images in the tradtional IMAX aspect ratio and when people watch something say, shot with IMAX cameras, it would be shown in a 1.90:1 aspect ratio. The IMAX laser system by the way, first began rolling six years after the first IMAX digital system was introduced, in December 2014.

In the year of 2018, we have yet to see one major Hollywood release be shown on IMAX film. Yes, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was shown in IMAX film this year, but that technically released in 2017. We have yet to get one big film release, I’m not talking about any of those IMAX documentaries, I’m talking about films that most of the public would see advertised on TV, shown in the IMAX 70mm format this year, and I believe there is no other film this year that is more qualified than “First Man.” This movie involves a rocket launch, takes place in space, looks very compelling, and was shot entirely on film, part of it with IMAX cameras.

One big question I have though is this. If this were to be shown on IMAX film, what would our options be for going somewhere to view the movie in that format? Because two major releases in IMAX theaters were shown in IMAX film last year, but one release was much wider than the other. The first release was “Dunkirk,” which was shown in 37 IMAX theaters with 70mm equipment. This included a variety of theaters from giant IMAXes in multiplexes, to museums, to standalone locations. The second release was “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which as I state in one of my posts I did in October of last year, the number of theaters this movie happened to be shown in which was playing it in the IMAX 70mm format is less than the number of seasons in “Criminal Minds,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Supernatural,” and “NCIS.” If you want to get more specific, the movie was said to be shown in 11 theaters in the IMAX 70mm format. Also, not many of the places which the movie was to be shown appeared to be what one would call a traditional movie theater. Most of these were in museums.

With the upcoming release of “First Man,” I honestly don’t know what will happen when it comes to releasing it. This movie doesn’t come out until October 12, so there is plenty of time for something to be announced when it comes to where this film will be shown. Although with a film like this, I would certainly like to see it shown in more than just a select few IMAX 70mm theaters. If it can’t be as wide as “Dunkirk,” I would at least like it to be close to as wide of a release as “Dunkirk.” Because just like “Dunkirk,” I feel like this is one of those films that is literally made for movie theaters, and in a case like this, IMAX. As an audience member, it is the responsibility of the filmmakers and in a case like this, IMAX, to immerse me into the movie. I’ve experienced a rocket launch in the IMAX format, and I’ll even state, the IMAX 70mm format! A rocket launch is by far one of the most powerful things a man could ever witness. Just a two minute video of a rocket launching would be a great test video for the IMAX experience. Now if that is accompanied by a great story and interesting characters, you have something more nifty on your hands. So IMAX, please give this a wide release in your 15/70mm format, and if you want my preference on where to see it, I want to see it at the Providence Place Cinemas IMAX in Providence, RI. Just… Get crackin’.

If this does not get a wide release in IMAX 70mm, the least I ask is that this gets an IMAX 70mm release in some notable areas having to do with NASA or space exploration. But seriously, if you ask me, the wider the release, the better! So why be good when you can be better? Chop chop, our lives only last so long!

“First Man” is in theaters and IMAX everywhere on October 12th, and it is by far one of my most anticipated movies of the year. If you guys ever think about seeing it, I imagine this would be one hell of a ride in IMAX. Thanks for reading this post! This week I’ll be releasing at least couple of new reviews. I’ve got my review for “Tag” which I pretty much already finished, it just needs to be released once I’m allowed to share it to the public. I will also soon have my review for “Incredibles 2” which comes out later during the week, and if I can manage my time well enough, I might be able to insert my review for “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” I just need to watch it from start to finish, gather my thoughts, and then unleash those thoughts to you all. If I don’t have it this week, I’ll probably have it next week because the week after I’ll be on vacation, and I’ll probably still be posting while I’m away if my creative juices are flowing, but there’s a good chance I’ll be watching the movie at home as opposed to a hotel. Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, if you had to guess how many theaters happened to be releasing “First Man” in IMAX 70mm, what would your guess be? Or, what are your thoughts on the trailer we just got for “First Man?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

 

The 15:17 to Paris (2018): Don’t Always Be Yourself

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“The 15:17 to Paris,” unfortunately, is directed by Clint Eastwood (American Sniper, A Fistful of Dollars) (sigh). This movie stars Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, and Spencer Stone as themselves. The film is based on a book known as “The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers,” which is based on a true story of three Americans who grew up together and find themselves discovering a terrorist plot while they’re aboard a train in France.

Now you may be wondering why you just read the word “sigh” in this post. Clint Eastwood is a beloved figure in Hollywood. I can’t say I’ve seen much of his work, but the man has proven himself to be talented as a director, as an actor, and as a producer. And in “The 15:17 to Paris,” the man comes off more like some American-loving guy than a filmmaker. I’m not trying to say that I hate America, I’m not trying to say that Eastwood can’t love America, but I’m saying that this film about three Americans who obviously were courageous, needs improvement.

This film is an hour and thirty-four minutes long, which is actually just a couple minutes shorter than “Sully,” another film directed by Clint Eastwood which is based on a true story. “Sully,” much like this movie, wasn’t as good as it would have, could have, and should have been. Although it was barely passable unlike this one. What worked in “Sully” is that the film is centered around the event people now refer to as the Miracle on the Hudson and the entire film focused on it in some way. The main event that really should be the nucleus of the movie this review is directed toward, which is the train fight, doesn’t feel like a major part of the picture. One of the other differences between this and “Sully” is that “Sully” has actors playing the lead roles and this movie doesn’t. I will be fair in saying that the three guys also written a book on this information, which eventually lead to this movie. The book even has mostly five-star ratings on Amazon. Although they had no involvement in the screenplay. Maybe if they wrote the screenplay and gave their own insight, maybe the movie will be better. Although that’s hard to say too because these guys are not professional screenwriters. This movie honestly becomes more and more of an enigma the more I think about it.

As mentioned, “Sully” mainly focused on an event that the lead character had major involvement in. This movie doesn’t. Not only that, but I didn’t even care about most of what happened in this film at all. The film starts off telling about how long the three major characters have been friends. They were troublemakers, they went to a Christian school, they didn’t have girlfriends, they enjoyed taking out some guns and playing War. That was somewhat intriguing. Then they all get older, the movie’s starting to lose some steam, but it’s still competent, and then we get to Europe and I ask myself, “What is happening?” This movie made me ask the same question I asked myself as I was forced to read “Pride and Prejudice” in school! Nothing happened! I will give the movie credit, at least it was technically more entertaining to me than “Pride and Prejudice,” but keep in mind, I’m not some girl who lived in 19th century Britain. Although this is a film DIRECTED BY CLINT EASTWOOD! I expect greatness from a movie like this! Once again, competently shot and entertaining in ways, BUT NOTHING EVEN HAPPENED!

I will also be fair and mention the hour and a half runtime again. Even if Clint Eastwood didn’t direct “The 15:17 to Paris” and it instead happened to be directed by Michael Bay, I’d probably have somewhat similar thoughts on both final products. Also, for the record, Eastwood didn’t do the screenplay. I’d have similar thoughts on both products because they’d still be barely long enough to qualify as a feature length film. Down below I have a description regarding feature length films taken from Wikipedia.

“According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute, and the British Film Institute, a feature film runs for at least 40 minutes, while the Screen Actors Guild states that it is 80 minutes or longer.

The majority of feature films are between 70 and 210 minutes long.”

I have never really watched too many films that are forty minutes long, but this a film that could easily be a lot shorter, although in the end, a number of viewers who went to see this film would probably skip on it because it’s too short to be a “movie.” Heck, I think a large number of theaters wouldn’t even accept the film if it were forty minutes! Although it has Clint Eastwood’s name on it so…

In my reviews it’s traditional that I provide a section I where I go into the major characters and some characters that perhaps stood out to me, but I’m not gonna do that here. Instead, I’m gonna introduce each character, and I’ll provide some actors that could potentially play the role these folks have played themselves.

Here are the three heroes from this movie. The first one we’re going to “talk about” is Alek Skarlatos (left). This guy could have been played by a number of people in my book. The first person that comes to mind is Matt Damon. They look somewhat similar physically, granted Damon’s twenty-two years older than Skarlatos, but I think a role like this can be pulled off. Another person I bet could pull this role off is Alden Enrenheich, and if this name doesn’t sound familiar to you, let me have you know he’s been in films such as “Beautiful Creatures,” “Blue Jasmine,” and “Hail, Caesar!.” He’s also going to be playing Han Solo in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which at this point is more like “A Star Wars Product” given material I’ve seen thus far. Another possible candidate to me is gonna be somewhat surprising and that is New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski. I know, weird, right? I will say though that he, just like some other notable sports stars such as Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy), Dwayne Johnson (Central Intelligence, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), and John Cena (Daddy’s Home 2, Trainwreck) had some acting gigs and it’s now a regular thing for them. Although I wonder if this kind of thing would have worked out because this movie went into production over the summer and certain announcements concerning it came in around preseason time. Also since I just mentioned John Cena, he probably would have done fine as this character given his physique.

Onto the guy in the middle, Anthony Sadler, his character is a–wait a minute, I don’t want to lose my sense of focus… The guy could have been played by Chadwick Boseman, who is playing Black Panther in, well, “Black Panther.” Sadler could have been played by Winston Duke, who will be playing M’Baku, another character in “Black Panther.” He could have also been played by John Boyega, who you may know as Finn in the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy. Yes, he’s British and this is an American character, but if you have seen John Boyega, he can do one hell of an American accent. Maybe Eastwood could have gotten J. Lee, who you may know for playing John LaMarr in Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville.” Maybe Lakeith Stanfield would be a good pick. He was in movies such as “Selma” and “Get Out.” I can’t say I’ve seen much of his work, but he has proper looks for the role.

Moving onto Spencer Stone, he is the guy on the right of the photo which is located a couple paragraphs above where you are now. I’m not saying that this guy should play Spencer, but given one thing that happens in this movie, I wouldn’t mind seeing Russel Crowe taking on the role. I say this because there’s a meme-worthy “Gladiator” reference in this film. Remember how I said Rob Gronkowski would be a good pick for Skarlatos? If he had a buzz haircut, then he would probably be suitable for this role as well. Channing Tatum might be a good pick if he ever does a buzz to his hair too. Perhaps if Andrew Garfield did some shaving too his placement in this role could have been rather effective.

This movie is not exactly the end of the world, but it is lacking professionalism. Yes, you have a very experienced director helming it all, but you have a multiple actors who are playing themselves. Sure, this movie has its fair share of big names such as Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer, but this also has a screenwriter that hasn’t really done much of anything. Sure, experience doesn’t always equal skill, although it doesn’t change the fact that the level of skill put into this film wasn’t completely visible. Maybe the main trio wanted to play themselves for authenticity, but you have to consider, how skilled are they? They weren’t terrible in this movie, but their acting ability happened to be at a low level of some sort.

Some of you might be thinking, “Hey! Jackass! You’re forgetting about such instances like when Kumail Nanjiani played himself in ‘The Big Sick!'”

I didn’t. You’re missing the point.

You see, Kumail’s a f*cking actor.

In the end, this movie happened to be underwhelming as s*iiiiiit. If this movie lacked a tad more professionalism than what was already there, I might be a little more understanding and give a higher verdict, but this movie just got worse the more I thought about it. It’s difficult to care about the heroes, the filler is all over the place, and pretty much the only positives include the well directed action and the proper cinematography. Clint Eastwood, I’m sorry, I didn’t feel lucky, and this movie is a punk. A punk which stole my friend’s hard earned money! I’m going to give “The 15:17 to Paris” a 3/10. This is a hard movie to rate. I didn’t really know what to expect before going in since I haven’t really seen much in terms of marketing compared to some other films I know, but a movie with Clint Eastwood’s name attached to it should have been miles better than how this turned out to be. And sadly, this MIGHT POSSIBLY be the best movie, at least the best one that a number of people actually give a s*it about, to come out this weekend! What else is coming out this weekend you ask? The climactic (in more ways than you’d imagine) “Fifty Shades Freed,” and from Sony Pictures Animation, the absolute gods that brought you “The Emoji Movie,” live-action “Peter Rabbit!” Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon “Black Panther” will be out in theaters, and given my ambitions, I have plans to see that as soon as possible. I’m also working on another post which will be out soon, which includes my personal thoughts on the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” film. Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The 15:17 to Paris?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your least favorite Clint Eastwood film? He can do anything in it. He could act, he could direct, anything. Leave your comments below and maybe they might have more quality than “The 15:17 to Paris!” Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Last Samurai (2003): Not a Perfect Blossom, But Not a Bad One Either

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here and welcome to an all new series of reviews! Today we are going to be starting my Tom Cruise series. Why? On September 29th, “American Made” comes out in the United States, so before that film releases, I’m going to talk about three of Cruise’s prior films. Now before we dive into the first review of the series, let’s talk a little about Tom Cruise. If you ask me, I think Tom Cruise is a fine actor. You may know him nowadays from big action flicks like “Mission Impossible,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” and “Jack Reacher.” You may know him from a bunch of other films like “Collateral,” “The Outsiders,” and “Cocktail.” The man’s been nominated for three Oscars, he’s also been nominated for seven Golden Globes and ended up winning three of those seven. Today we’re gonna talk about a movie starring Cruise which gave him one of his Golden Globe nominations, he hasn’t won that one, but he was nominated. What film am I talking about? I’m talking about “The Last Samurai.” This movie came out in 2003 and it has been nominated for four Oscars, three Golden Globes, and it was AFI’s Movie of the Year. So what did I think of this? Read to find out!

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“The Last Samurai” is directed by Edward Zwick, director of “Glory” and “Legends of the Fall” and stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe (Inception, Batman Begins), Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints, Timeline), Timothy Spall (Chicken Run, Secrets & Lies), Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, Tarzan), and Hiroyuki Sanada Koyuki (The Wolverine, 47 Ronin). This film is about the birth of modern Japan, an American military advisor is in Japan, while he’s there, he embraces the Samurai culture.

Now I’ve watched other movies involving Samurai before, well sort of, have you guys ever heard of “Samurai Cop?” That so-called movie from 1991 that went straight to VHS? If you haven’t, it’s a movie about two cops who think they’re in “Lethal Weapon,” by that I mean they resemble Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and they have to stop a bunch of drug dealers. What’s my problem with “Samurai Cop?” Well, pretty much everything to be honest, but one big problem is despite being called “Samurai Cop,” there’s almost nothing Samurai-esque in the movie, it’s more your traditional chases you’d see in modern-day movies, only these chases are the movie equivalent to vomit. Luckily for the “The Last Samurai,” this movie is nothing like that at all. This movie takes place in the late 19th century, and the Samurai culture itself was vanishing. I’m gonna give you some of my positives concerning this movie.

The first positive I’ll give to you is that the action in this movie was awesome. During the moments which we see massive battles it never feels bloated, it is pretty engaging, and I’ll even say the action that technically isn’t action was pretty cool to watch as well. What do I mean? Two people are swordfighting and it’s more like practice than an actual battle. I will say though, watching the big battle which you see at the end of the movie, kind of reminded me of “Braveheart,” not to say that was something that degrades the movie, it’s actually a compliment. This movie did feel like “Braveheart” at times as a whole. By that I mean it’s a good movie, but I felt I needed to pause at times. Then again, the weekend I watched this was the first weekend I had since going back to school, so whaddya know?

Another positive at times was the score. If you weren’t already aware, this movie was scored by Hans Zimmer. Before this movie, he scored “The Lion King,” “Mission: Impossible II,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” After this movie, he did “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “Sherlock Holmes,” and my favorite movie score of all time, “Interstellar.” Here in this movie, his score suits the atmosphere of Japan and the movie itself. It displays the right moods at the right times, and I’d definitely listen to it sometime if I have nothing better to listen to. Also, I’ll remind you this guy went on to compose the “Kung Fu Panda” trilogy, so this isn’t the only Asian type movie he’s composed for. By the way, the music in those movies is pretty great too.

Now let’s talk about Tom Cruise. He plays a character named Nathan Algren. When comparing this to other Tom Cruise performances I’ve seen, this one is rather unique. This is because when I watch other Tom Cruise movies like “Mission: Impossible” or “Edge of Tomorrow,” I think what I see from Tom Cruise delivered in those movies happens to be pretty good, but I might also think to myself, that’s Tom Cruise. Here, he was a completely different character. Sure, he wasn’t Japanese, but he played someone who doesn’t always make you think, “Oh, that’s Tom Cruise.” Granted at times, I did actually think that, but I already knew beforehand that Tom Cruise was in this movie.

One of my biggest problems with the movie is that the supporting characters are rather unmemorable, I don’t recall who they are, I don’t remember any of their names, anything like that. I remember some of them being in engaging scenes, but chances are I won’t remember a majority of them soon. I will say though, this is my first time watching “The Last Samurai,” maybe if I watch it again, I’ll become more invested in the supporting characters and get to know them a little more.

One of my personal favorite parts of the entire film was the scene when Tom Cruise gets in front of a target and forces a Japanese soldier to fire at him. This isn’t a battle, it’s more like an exercise. He’s telling the Japanese soldier to shoot him, and he’s also telling him to quickly load his weapon, he’s yelling strictly, and it’s really compelling to watch. If you want to watch it, the clip is displayed above. Overall, in terms of acting and writing, this is one of my favorite scenes in a Tom Cruise movie.

As I was researching this movie on IMDb, I came across some information worth sharing. This movie was directed by Edward Zwick and I gotta give some credit where its due. Why? The movie takes place in Japan, and it was generally well received over there. One viewer, Tomomi Katsuta, of “The Mainichi Shimbun,” a major Japanese newspaper, said that Zwick did his research, cast well-known Japanese actors, and consulted dialogue coaches in order to avoid confusion between casual and formal Japanese speech. The only problem he had with the movie is the storybook feel it had. Japanese viewers such as the one suggested here, thought of the Samurai as more corrupt. Despite flaws being picked up overtime, it’s nice to see this sort of reception for a movie like this. In a world where we got a movie called “Gods of Egypt” years later, a movie that has pretty much not one Egyptian actor in the entire runtime, it’s nice to see a movie like this.

In the end, “The Last Samurai” wasn’t as good as I was kind of expecting it to be, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. A lot of people praise this movie, in fact there’s a significance with this movie when it comes to the day May 26. If you didn’t know, the movie’s final battle takes place on May 26, which is a reason why people watch the movie on May 26. Think of it as “Star Wars Day,” only you have less content to choose from, and instead of being on the fourth of May, it’s on the twenty-sixth of May. Overall there were many aspects I was able to appreciate and while I don’t think I’ll be popping the disc in again anytime soon, I’m glad I watched it. I’m gonna give “The Last Samurai” a 7/10. Oh yeah, just a fun fact. I actually bought this movie used on Blu-Ray and its original cost was $3.99 (before taxes), but the store had everything 25% off since it was moving, so ultimately I got this for just a little over $3. That’s a good deal considering how revered this movie is by many people. Thanks for reading this review, I should let you know in at least a couple of weeks from now I’m planning on reviewing “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” and just to let you know I’m not gonna review “Kingsman: The Secret Service” beforehand, so get that out of your mind now if you’re thinking that.

Next up in my Tom Cruise review series I’m gonna be talking about the movie “Risky Business,” I actually already started my review on that, I’m not finished, I still have to rewatch it in order to get everything I need out of it. That review will be up on Monday, September 18th so keep your eyes peeled. Stay tuned for that review, along with more reviews! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!