Call Jane (2022): Elizabeth Banks Delivers a Stellar Performance in This Progressive-Centric Story

DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further in this review, I want to make an announcement. In all of my content that I have done on Scene Before, I have often tried to stray away from politics, especially in recent years. But “Call Jane” is a film that requires me to talk about certain issues that some would deem “political.” This is a movie about abortion after all, which can be defined as a human issue. But given the current climate, it is also political, not to mention religious. Therefore, if you decide to read on, you will hear certain thoughts I have on such an issue. I try to keep politics and entertainment separate, even during my yearly awards shows, but this is a case where I have little to no choice in this matter. With that said, enjoy my review of “Call Jane.”

“Call Jane” is directed by Phyllis Nagy, who also wrote “Carol,” in addition to scribing and directing a 2005 HBO film titled “Mrs. Harris.” This film stars Elizabeth Banks (The LEGO Movie, Pitch Perfect), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters), Chris Messina (Birds of Prey, The Mindy Project), Kate Mara (Fantastic Four, The Martian), Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country, Loki), Cory Michael Smith (Camp X-Ray, Gotham), Grace Edwards (Schooled, Modern Love), and John Magaro (Orange Is the New Black, The Good Wife). This film follows a housewife in the 1960s who becomes pregnant and finds out said pregnancy could threaten her life. With few options available, she finds herself amongst the Janes, who despite certain laws being in place, perform abortion procedures. After finding out more about their efforts, she joins the Janes in their mission.

I did not hear much about this movie until a week or two before it came out. Although I was sold immediately upon seeing Elizabeth Banks’s name attached. She is easily one of my favorite actors, no, people working in Hollywood. She is easily the best game show host on television with her run on ABC’s “Press Your Luck.” I love her voiceover work in both of the “LEGO Movies.” Some of her physical roles like “Slither,” “Zack and Miri,” or even her supporting character in “Brightburn” stand out to me. The last movie I reviewed, specifically “Black Adam,” is no stranger to star power with box office behemoth Dwayne Johnson at the top of the cast. While Johnson may be a star, Banks is a thespian. Her talent knows no bounds. Even though I was not fan of her directorial effort in 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels,” I still have respect for her. In fact, she is directing another film set to come out soon, “Cocaine Bear,” a movie with a concept that is awesome as it sounds.

As for the film itself, this did not look like my type of movie, and to be frank, if I were not reviewing movies, I would have probably waited to watch this film when it came out for home viewing. That said, I went to go see this film in the theater a couple weekends ago. Was it worth the impromptu trip?

I guess you can say so.

If I have noticed anything about filmmakers and stars over the years, it is that they do projects that often align to certain values. Paul Feig, who once wrote an article suggesting “Why Men Aren’t Funny,” went on to direct a woman-centered “Ghostbusters” remake. Seth MacFarlane, who has often been vocal about his liberal opinions, has done a series of “Family Guy” episodes making fun of famous conservatives like Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump. Regardless of whether how often people do projects aligning with what they think, I would say Elizabeth Banks, who happens to be the chair for the Center for Reproductive Rights Creative Council, was a solid choice to play the main character. Her experience with such matters in real life seem to translate with how effectively she plays Joy. To my lack of surprise, she is the highlight of the film.

While “Call Jane” does not have my favorite cast of the year, it does come with some great actors including the legendary Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mara, and Wunmi Mosaku. All of whom play their part very well. Each one feels representative of the time, and the dialogue occasionally did them favors.

Phyllis Nagy does not have a lot of directorial credits on her resume. Her only other one is a straight to premium cable film, therefore this is her first theatrically released directorial feature. “Call Jane” has one of my favorite early shots of any 2022 feature. I always enjoy when movies have extended takes and this movie is no stranger to that. It does such a thing beautifully. There are better directorial visions that came out this year, but this one stands out to me.

Unlike other films coming out this time of year, this movie is not going to win any notable awards. Partially because of its lack of marketing and the fact that there are supposedly better movies coming. That said, “Call Jane” is a movie that if it had a bigger budget and played in more cinemas, it would probably be in a larger conversation for Oscar contention. It is also a movie that makes its message clear, and knowing the Hollywood stereotype, there is often a tendency for the progressive voices to be heard or recognized when it comes to Hollywood filmmaking. Why do you think some of the more notable jokes during the Oscars in recent years were about Donald Trump or his colleagues?

“We don’t make films like ‘Call Me by Your Name’ for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.” -Jimmy Kimmel (The Oscars, 2018)

There is a saying that not every movie is for everyone. That statement is often used to describe personal tastes. Even though I hated Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” because of its ridiculously fast-paced editing, I can see why people like it. Maybe that style appeals to people. My mom and I often have different tastes in movies. She often likes disposable comedies, I am more of an action junkie. Not everyone is going to like the same things. With “Call Jane,” this movie’s biggest weakness is that its viewers may automatically be turned off by its concept. I will iterate, I am pro choice, therefore I watched this movie with no opposition to some of the things happening on screen. But if you are pro life, there is a good chance that you might turn this movie off 20 minutes into it, possibly even before that.

Although at the same time, given the current political climate and the way things are, I think that this is a relevant story that was perfect to release this year, coincidental or not. “Call Jane” is a movie that I assume is going to resonate with individuals who have some sort of experience with unwanted pregnancy or abortion. But I do not know how many people this could convince to become more open-minded towards abortion whether it is for religious reasons, political reasons, or something else. This is a movie that to me, does not feel like propaganda, but could easily be interpreted as such depending on who you talk to. As for whether this movie does something to sway people in one direction or another in regards to abortion, that could take years to be answered. But unless this film becomes a big hit on streaming for some reason, the message of this film will likely not have as big of an impact some of its crew would probably want to achieve.

In the end, “Call Jane” is a difficult movie to judge because I think it ultimately depends on where one stands on abortion. That said, as a story, this was compelling and engaging. Therefore, I liked it. Elizabeth Banks is great as the lead, the supporting cast also shows their talent, including Chris Messina. He and Banks have one particular scene towards the end of the film that has not left my mind. This is a film that I would recommend, but only to certain people. This is the kind of movie that if you hear the concept, you might know right away whether or not it is worth your time. For me, it was. Maybe it will be for you, maybe it will not. We shall see. Despite my mixed recommendation, I do want to see what would happen if someone who is pro life watches this to the end. It could make for a fun experiment. Will the viewer see it as propaganda? Will they see it as just plain wrong? Could it change minds? Great movies have the power to offer new perspectives that people take with them and change who they are. I simply do not know if “Call Jane” is able to do that despite being a decent story. Given its decency, I am going to give “Call Jane” a 7/10.

“Call Jane” is seemingly finishing up its theatrical run. It is available for preorder on streaming platforms like Vudu.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe installment “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” While this may not be the movie I am not putting at the top of my hype list this year, it is the one releasing this year that I am mostly curious as to how it could possibly be pulled off. Between Chadwick Boseman’s death, rewriting the future of a cinematic universe, and the return of Ryan Coogler in the director’s chair, this could be something special. I will unveil my official verdict soon. I am seeing the movie tonight in IMAX 3D. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Call Jane?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Elizabeth Banks movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Post (2017): Streep and Hanks Spread the News and Define History in This Spielberg Flick

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the third installment of this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month, where I will be reviewing four of the many movies Spielberg has created over the span of his career. Spielberg has created films with action like “Raiders of the Ark” and “Minority Report,” but today, we are doing a reverse Elvis Presley. A little less action, a little more conversation. That is because we are tackling one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “The Post.” Nominated for two Oscars, this film was met with acclaim. Let us hope that the Movie Reviewing Moron will have something to say to add to this film’s endless stream of positivity. Here we go.

“The Post” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The BFG) and stars Meryl Streep (The Giver, The Iron Lady), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, Game Change), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, Wiener-Dog), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, The Handmaid’s Tale), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Young Justice), and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans). This film is about the first woman newspaper publisher and her editor as they uncover a history changing revelation that had been hidden for four presidencies.

I started Scene Before in 2016. Therefore, I have reviewed a lot of movies since then. Despite seeing previews, I have never gotten around to reviewing, or even watching, “The Post.” The film had a lot of potential from one of the most acclaimed actors and one of the most acclaimed actresses coming together to lead the picture. In addition, Steven Spielberg is behind the camera. Despite the potential, I skipped this film. I was excited to finally give it a watch at home since I had a used copy of the 4K Blu-ray on standby. Physical media forever.

Safe to say, the film is quite good. Streep and Hanks, unsurprisingly, make for a marvelous on-screen pair as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee respectively. Cast members who are not quite at the level of top billing like Jesse Plemons and Will Denton also have moments to shine as well. Steven Spielberg delivers another win for his career on top of his many others. The screenplay, which was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is undoubtedly compelling. I should not be surprised that the screenplay is as solid as it is, as Singer has previous experience in writing excellent journalism-centered storytelling. In addition to “The Post,” Singer also wrote “Spotlight,” for which he won two Academy Awards, specifically Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Having seen that film, I am not terribly shocked. I am also not terribly shocked that not long after those wins, Singer would once again utilize his creativity to effectively craft “The Post.”

Despite being a serious movie, it flies by. Honestly, despite being a couple hours, it felt like an hour and a half at times. It is that good. Pacing-wise, this is one of the better movies I have seen recently. Kind of like “The Post,” “Spotlight” came out as another one of these awards season darlings. I think both movies are equal in terms of entertainment value, a term I use lightly given both of these movies’ subject matters. Although as for which one I like better, I think it depends on where you look. “The Post” feels a bit more theatrical than “Spotlight.” Therefore, when it comes to technicality, that is one aspect where this movie dazzles. The costumes are rugged and transportive enough to make me feel like I am traveling back in time. A lot of the locations look extravagant and beautiful. To add to the antique touch, this movie was entirely shot on film, whereas “Spotlight” used the digital Arri Alexa XT.

Steven Spielberg is no stranger to starting off his movies with a compelling hook.

No pun intended.

In “Jaws,” you have the intro with the infamous music that continues to build whenever the shark is present. After that, you have that scene on the beach where the shark bites a girl in the water. Total intrigue. In “Jurassic Park,” the opening scene between the humans and the dinosaur shows off the menacing vibe these creatures can deliver. In “The Post,” we start off with soldiers fighting in Vietnam. I was not alive during the Vietnam War. In regards to history, I was still a baby when 9-11 happened. Although based on what I have learned in school, I know enough about the Vietnam War to recognize how significant and unfortunate it is from a U.S. perspective. I thought starting off here provided for an effective reminder of not only what the Vietnam War put a militaristic group through, but also what it did to the people of the country they were tasked with defending and honoring.

Now, this is not an action movie, it is not a war movie. War and politics are two defining traits within the story, but if you are looking for a war film in 2017, “Dunkirk” is probably your friend. That said, this one glimpse of action during the Vietnam War set the stage for what was to come. It took something so big to make something much smaller in scale appear more attractive.

This film dazzles from a technical perspective. Again, the costumes and locations look stunning. Speaking of stunning, the intricacies that go into how this movie was made are mind-boggling. The camerawork in this film occasionally felt so immersive that it highlighted some of the best direction of the year. The movie has a few long takes that felt perfectly planned and put me right in the room. There was a scene where I felt as if I was walking around the office of The Washington Post. It is like if Google Maps Street View theatrically transformed itself. Janusz Kaminski, a longtime collaborator with Steven Spielberg, worked on the cinematography for this film. While it was not nominated for an Academy Award, I think it is some of the finest of 2017 alongside Roger Deakins’s work in “Blade Runner 2049” and Hoyte van Hoytema’s craft in “Dunkirk.”

I often try to avoid politics on Scene Before. However, this is one of those cases where it must come into play. I say so because one of the notable aspects of “The Post” was its time of release. This film came out around the tail end of 2017, when Donald Trump was President of the United States. “The Post” almost comes as a tell as to whether history could repeat itself, because this movie reveals a lack of trust or full connection between the news and the government. At the same time, Donald Trump would consistently sideline or mock various news outlets and pick his favorites. This is an action he would continue to do even by the time he left office. If I saw this movie years ago, I would probably leave the theater thinking it is a relevant title and connect it to the importance of the 1st Amendment. This film has an ending that profiles such a thing beautifully.

Speaking of U.S. Presidents, Richard Nixon makes an appearance in this movie. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where we see a suited Nixon. We never see his face, it is almost like looking at The Banker from “Deal or No Deal” at times. Since this movie is based on true events, one touch that I thought was nice was the use of Nixon’s actual voice . The addition of Nixon’s real voice illustrated a specific scene’s point and perhaps delivered an emotional attachment that I would not have felt otherwise. Curzon Dobell is barely in the movie as Richard Nixon, but for the short time he is in it, he makes the performance a standout.

The story feels kind of Hollywoodized and some of the supporting characters do not stand out as much as others, but the film overall is worth a watch. The only other critique I can come up with is that this is one of John Williams’s lesser scores. The man is a genius, and his music during the movie works. But when it comes to his library, this is a score I am not going to remember as much as others.

In the end, “The Post” is a stellar look at how the United States changed journalism, and in turn, how journalism changed the United States. There is no surprise that a film like this could work. Coincidental or not, the timing of this story could not have been better. You have Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg working together. On paper, this sounds like an absolute win. In execution, it is an absolute win. In other news, water is wet. While “Spotlight” may be a slightly better journalism-centered story, “The Post” is another example of how well journalism can be used as the centerpiece of a cinematic experience when given the right tools and context. If Josh Singer wants to do another movie about journalism I am there on day one. I think he is one of the best screenwriters working today. His work on the film with then newbie Liz Hannah, who would go on to co-write the funny political comedy, “Long Shot,” is superb. I am going to give “The Post” an 8/10.

Speaking of history, one thing I love about Steven Spielberg is his ability to successfully manage a couple feature-length directorial efforts in such short time. In 1993 he released both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” within months of each other. Before making “The Post,” Spielberg directed one of my favorite films from him, “Ready Player One,” and he ended up shooting “The Post” while “Ready Player One” was in post-production. “Ready Player One” ended up coming out after “The Post,” but it goes to show that Spielberg is committed to his craft. When one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes he opens the other door back up after a while. There is a reason why I am doing a Steven Spielberg Month, and this is one of them. He is one of the best minds in the film industry today.

“The Post” is now available to rent or buy on VOD and is also available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray.

Thanks for reading this review! My next and final installment to Steven Spielberg Month is coming next Friday, October 28th, and it will be a review for Spielberg’s latest movie to have a wide release, “West Side Story!” I have seen the film twice and will watch it once more for review purposes. I am excited to finally talk about this movie given how I did see it in December 2021, but due to time constraints, I never got around to reviewing it. If you want to see my other reviews through Steven Spielberg Month, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Post?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Spotlight?” Tell me your thoughts on that movie! Do you like “The Post” or “Spotlight” more? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Amsterdam (2022): David O. Russell’s Latest Fast-Paced, Star-Filled, Forgettable Time

“Amsterdam” is directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Ford v. Ferrari), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet), Chris Rock (Madagascar, Grown Ups), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), Zoe Saldaña (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mike Myers (Shrek, Bohemian Rhapsody), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Mandalorian), Andrea Riseborough (Bloodline, Battle of the Sexes), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, Cats), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Selma), Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, The Little Things), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents). This film is mainly set in the 1930s, and centers around three people who are framed for murder. Together, this trio uncovers a plot that will change the course of history.

I have not seen all of David O. Russell’s films. I have seen “American Hustle,” which I was not a fan of. I have mostly forgotten it by now. I saw “Joy,” which I thought was cute. The acting was great, especially on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, but it was not my favorite movie of the year. I also saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which, while not one of my favorite movies ever, is probably the best attempt at a feature Russell has ever given. I still have yet to see films like “Flirting with Disaster,” “Three Kings,” and “I Heart Huckabees.” I am mostly familiar with David O. Russell’s recent work. That said, he has built quite a name for himself as a filmmaker and it is no surprise that names like the ones listed happen to be working with him.

When you have this many Academy Award-nominated or winning actors and actresses in your film, it builds promise. It builds interest. It reminded me of when I saw “The Circle” back in 2017. You had all these culturally relevant or critically acclaimed performers like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Given their resumes, I was excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts could not escape them from this misfire. “Amsterdam,” while definitely more satisfying than “The Circle,” is in the same boat.

The best way I can describe “Amsterdam” is to say that the film is all over the place. There is a lot that goes down in just a span of two hours that I felt like I had to take some notes. The film is not wholly incompetent by any means, but it begs me to keep up with its quick pacing. I like quick pacing, but at times, the movie goes too quick. There are a lot of characters and interwoven storylines that there is a good chance that I will have forgotten a couple of them by the next couple weeks. I think this is a film that could warrant a second viewing, but I am not sure yet if it has the replay value. At times, the pacing of this movie reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I know some people like, but for whatever reason I just could not get into. One moment we’re here, one moment we’re there, and in the next my brain, which has escaped from my body, might as well have traveled to the end of the universe.

If there is any saving grace in “Amsterdam,” it would have to be Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze. I thought she had the best moments in the movie. I thought the casting matched the character and the way she was written and directed. This performance solidifies Robbie as one of my favorite actors working today. Her chemistry with Christian Bale and John David Washington is solid, and as much effort as those two put into their performances, Robbie feels like the clear winner here.

Speaking of Christian Bale, if you want me to be completely honest, I think he had a more memorable performance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” of all things. I am not saying that Christian Bale gave a terrible performance in “Amsterdam.” If anything, it was stellar. But I think when combining acting with overall characterization, Bale’s attempt at playing Gorr the God Butcher was somehow more convincing and compelling despite a movie like “Amsterdam” appearing to be more along the lines of Bale’s forte.

It is crystal clear that the story of “Amsterdam” is not the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, it had its moments. There was a specific moment that intrigued me at the beginning where our main characters find themselves in an unspeakable situation. Unfortunately, as soon as we dive away from that, the quality of the movie lessens.

If I had to look in advance at 2022 in film and predict any Best Ensemble nominees at the SAG Awards, “Amsterdam” would have been a contender based on name recognition. However, much like Garry Marshall’s unwatchable holiday-based movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day,” the movie’s cast is the one glimmer of hope within what can simply be referred to as a hot mess. At least on paper. I never thought I would see the day where we have Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro in the same movie. I just hope when that unpredictable day came along, there was good script for them all to bring to the screen.

As for other positives, the movie is attractively colorful. Not quite as glitzy and glossy as say “Elvis,” which in some ways might happen to be a good thing if you ask me. However, the look of the film is sometimes easy on the eyes. In addition to having a stacked, recognizable cast, a lot of them are wearing stunning outfits, some look handsome or sexy. If this were a silent film, this might be okay depending on what you put for text. The sets at times look presentable, elaborate, and occasionally have a vintage feel to them.

There is a saying that looks are not everything, and this movie is exhibit A as to why that saying exists. Yes, some of my favorite actors are put in the forefront. Yes, some of the costumes and sets look dazzling. Yes, the movie has an occasional feeling of immersion. Although this cannot save the film itself from providing what could be one of the sloppiest stories of the decade, and that is despite this movie claiming “A LOT OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.” Just because a story is true, does not make it entertaining. You want to know a true story? I woke up today and wrote this review. Imagine if I tried to sell that as a movie. The distributor would probably go out of business!

Here is a fun fact. Christian Bale, who has worked with David O. Russell in the past, signed on to do “Amsterdam” before a script was written. I get the notion of wanting to work with a big name director. Especially one you supposedly have a decent relationship with. Heck, if I were an actor and I hear the name Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele I automatically think “business partnership.” I hope while these two high-profile industry insiders were thinking about how great it would be to work with each other, they took a moment to think of the quality of what they were going to make. Because despite the quantity of big names, quality seems to be sacrificed when it comes to the final product of “Amsterdam.”

In the end, “Amsterdam” has occasional glimmers of enjoyment, with some extreme emphasis on the word “occasional.” The film has an okay start, but the film itself never finds a way to be as compelling or entertaining as its first ten or fifteen minutes. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I cannot say the same for “Amsterdam.” I am going to give the forgettable and dull “Amsterdam” a 4/10.

“Amsterdam” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! I will soon unveil my thoughts on a couple of horror movies I watched recently, specifically “Smile” and “Halloween Ends.” Also, if you want to see more reviews from me, check out my thoughts on “See How They Run.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Amsterdam?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast whose script could not justify its star power? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Medieval (2022): A God-Tier Borefest with Gory, But Sloppy Action Scenes

“Medieval” is directed by Petr Jákl (Kajínek, Ghoul) and stars Ben Foster (Warcraft, Hell or High Water), Michael Caine (Interstellar, Batman Begins), Til Schweiger (New Year’s Eve, Inglourious Basterds), William Moseley (The Royals, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), Matthew Goode (The Good Wife, Chasing Liberty), and Sophie Lowe (Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Adore). This film is about Jan Zizka, a prominent figure in Czech history who fought for freedom against the Holy Roman Empire and the Teutonic Order.

Similar to my recent review for the expensive Bollywood film “Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva,” this is a Scene Before first. I did not know this going in, but “Medieval” is the first Czech film I am reviewing.

I was looking forward to “Medieval.” Some of you reading this may have never heard of this film, and I am not surprised. If I remember correctly, the earliest I have heard about “Medieval” may have been a month or two ago when the first trailer dropped. But I have always had an appreciation for large scale epics. “Medieval” is not the largest of its kind, but it certainly packs an immense feel at times. On the surface, if you want to associate a movie with large scale, “Medieval” makes a compelling argument as to why you should, mainly depending on which market you refer to. The film was produced in the Czech Republic for a budget of KČ500 million, which is $20.3 million in U.S. currency. While the U.S. has produced plenty of films this year for more than $20.3 million like “The Gray Man” and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” “Medieval” currently stands as the most expensive Czech film of all time.

While “The Woman King” may be the latest historical epic doing okay at the box office, its success has swept another historical epic under the rug, that being this one. Of course, having mostly positive reviews from critics definitely helps. I have not seen “The Woman King,” therefore I cannot give my thoughts on it, but statistics are statistics. On the other hand, “Medieval” is faring worse with critics with a 36%. Although audiences are clearly liking the film as they have given it a 72%.

Now that I have seen “Medieval,” I am appreciative of the fact that this much effort and money was supposedly put into a film. But it does not make the film good. If anything, “Morbius” has competition for the worst movie of the year.

“Medieval” is a film that tries to come off as dramatic, but only conveys itself as a dreary soap opera-like platter of occasional fight sequences and rivalries. In my history of doing this blog, I have never been so close to falling asleep during a movie. Not even the caffeine in my large Diet Coke could save me. Without research, I would barely be able to tell you anything that happened in this movie. I could tell you some people who are in it. But who does not love Michael Caine? That said, he was not even a highlight in this movie. How bad does your movie have to be for Michael Caine to come off as dull?

As I have mentioned, this film is a large scale epic. Both in terms of atmosphere and budget. Much of the film is shot on location. And there are one or two locations that stood out. I have no desire to travel to those locations after seeing this movie unlike the many New Zealand destinations in “Lord of the Rings,” but nevertheless. The other thing that is supposedly big in a movie like this is the action. When you have a movie where all these people are duking it out, rivaling, trying to defend themselves, you expect the action to be solid. To be honest, I have seen better. The action in “Medieval” barely kept me interested, and there is not much flair to it. Some of the sequences are flimsy and felt surprisingly lifeless as they went on. Although if I could give one notable positive in regard to the action, similar to the one or two neat locations, there are one or two neat deaths. This film is rated R, therefore some gore is expected. I think “Medieval” contained a couple deaths that felt reminiscent of the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” reboot if you were going for a more realistic story and approach.

Is “Medieval” competently filmed? You can say that. The film at least looks presentable. The problem is that I felt my soul was sucked out from scene one. You know how this film is based on historical events? I have read history textbooks with more life and intrigue than what “Medieval” brings to the table. Every time I looked at the screen, it made me tired. It made me drowsy. It made me think I lost my soul. How appropriate, considering the soullessness of the movie. The color grading in “Medieval” reminds me of the 2015 “Point Break” remake. It is washed out and lacks flair. Does it match the dreariness of the film? Sure. Although it also matches the fact that this film lacks flair.

If anything, “Medieval” reminds me of particular history lessons I learned in school, because they are spewed out on a whim, and sometimes delivered in an inconceivably boring manner. Despite having a decent memory, I do not remember much of everything I learned in history class. Similarly, I do not remember much of everything I watched in this movie. Let’s just say the director were to meet with me tomorrow and hand me a pop quiz, I would be begging for a word bank.

“Medieval” is not exactly a happy story. There is war, there is politics, there is gore. I do not mind having an occasional sad or depressing movie every once in a while. But with the case of “Medieval,” its dreariness failed to immerse me into its world. One of my favorite films of last year is Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” because despite it being a somewhat dark and depressing story, it had fascinating characters with decent performances to back everything up. Especially from Jodie Comer. “Medieval” did not have any of that. As far as specific period battle movies go, “Medieval” had the dreariness of “The Last Duel” and the lifelessness of “The Great Wall.” Remember that movie that Matt Damon starred in for some reason?

It is honestly saddening to judge a film this harshly under any circumstance, but when this much money is put into it, it is worse. Because the bigger the budget, the more likely it is that a bad movie is going to lose money. Again, I know Hollywood typically spends more, but bear with me. Speaking of making money, here is a fun fact before we move onto my final verdict…

If you want clarification for how well this film is doing, let me give you some background. I saw this film on Thursday, September 22nd. If I am not mistaken, I was literally at the last screening this movie ever did in Lowell, Massachusetts. The movie only came out on September 9th, less than a month ago. My specific metropolitan area, Boston, did not have any times listed for last week, nor do they have any times listed for this week. You might ask, is “Medieval” playing elsewhere? Like Los Angeles? Well, last week I found out it was playing in one location in Westminster, California. But after Googling the showtimes once again, there’s no screenings there whatsoever for this week. If you think you are going to get a chance to watch this film theatrically in the United States, if you actually are that desperate, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

I am sure that an entertaining, thrilling, emotionally investing, and life-changing story on Jan Zizka exists. Unfortunately, it was not in the screenplay for “Medieval.” Perhaps this could have grabbed my attention more as a documentary. Maybe a different crew could have handled this movie better. On the surface, it is intriguing to know that a military commander could have a history like the one presented here. I just wish it were written and directed better.

In the end, “Medieval” is one of the most boring, tiresome, sickeningly forgettable movies of 2022. I have seen a number of bad movies this year. Although if you look at a particular title like “Elvis,” I at least felt emotion while watching that movie. In addition to boredom, I felt frustrated while watching “Elvis.” While “Medieval” is an unspeakable chore to get through, kind of like some history classes, I wish I at least felt one emotion during the movie. I did not have any emotional attachment to the characters, even core ones. At the same time, I never had any specific feeling of happiness, sadness, or as I felt during “Elvis,” frustration. If you liked “Medieval,” I congratulate you for being able to sit through something like this. I could never watch this movie again even if you paid me a ridiculous amount of money. I am going to give “Medieval” a 2/10.

“Medieval” is now playing absolutely nowhere in the United States. If there are showtimes near you, you might as well be joking. However, it is available for preorder on streaming services like Prime Video and Vudu.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, why not check out some of my other ones? Check out my latest review for “Clerks III,” which given the reputation of Kevin Smith as a creator, I am surprised to say is more watchable than “Medieval.” Also, if you want to read a review for something else of large scale, check out my review for “Nope,” directed by Jordan Peele. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Medieval?” What did you think about it? Or, for those of you who have seen movies from the Czech Republic, which ones do you recommend? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!