Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes Part 3

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 3 of the all new Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The spread continues! The United States is still the most affected country by this virus and one can only wonder when collective optimism will set in. What is happening? Masks weren’t safe then but they’re safe now? The New England Patriots sent protective equipment to New York? Speaking of New York, apparently it is just recently reported that the state has suffered its highest death toll yet. Although at the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo feels that the decrease in hospitalizations could bring hope. Speaking of hope, the death toll in Italy and Spain seem to be falling.

There’s also continuous talk about about a drug. President Trump is suggesting to use hydroxychloroquine in order to stop the virus. For the record, this is a drug that is used to cure malaria and mosquito bites. Trump has a financial interest in Sanofi, which is a French drugmaker that makes a brand-name edition of the drug. He also suggested that if the drug is combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic, it could be “a game-changer.” However, not everyone is onboard, including expert Anthony Fauci, who has stood alongside Trump from day to day during this crisis. Fauci suggests that there is only “anecdotal evidence” of the drug helping people.

Also, Easter is this Sunday, and given how there are strong recommendations for people to stay home nowadays, there is a high likelihood that family gatherings will be avoided. I often visit relatives out of town on Easter Sunday, but given the current situation, that does not seem to be happening. But, if you live in New Zealand and you have kids that are feeling down, feel free to cheer them up by letting them know that the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, considers the Easter Bunny an essential worker.

As stated in the video, it may be tough for the bunny to get everywhere, but if you want to spread some positivity to your children, here you go. Also, remind them that the Tooth Fairy is essential as well. Although if that Tooth Fairy shows up as The Rock, then reconsider what I just said.

Once again, this has been a rather uneventful weekend for the box office, and one of the biggest concerns as far as box office goes has to do with AMC Theatres, which I’ll get to eventually. But as a continual substitute to the theater, many movies are constantly being dropped onto VOD services early. Some recent highlights include “Bad Boys For Life,” the highest grossing January film of all time, and “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” which appropriately dropped on April Fools Day. But with physical life in abandonment for the time being, there may be some concerns about big festivals. San Diego Comic-Con, arguably the most important comic convention in relation to film, is still on. However, weeks ago, Cannes, the annual festival held in France, has been postponed from May to sometime in June or July. And it was just announced from festival director Thierry Fremaux that there are no plans to digitally transform the event, suggesting that “it’s a model that won’t work.” And this doesn’t even cover all of the festival news that is relevant for this post. Here’s more!

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST IS BACK ON (Sort of)

SXSW Conference & Festivals | March 13-22, 2020

One of the benefits of a large gathering like South by Southwest is the ability to mix the intention of interacting with other people, networking, while also putting the idea of entertainment into the mix. In fact, I was going to go to South by Southwest this year, but unfortunately, it got canceled the week I was supposed to depart. I also highly detest the recent actions of South by Southwest, because even though they are allowing people to move their purchased tickets to an alternate date in an upcoming year (which my mother did do for 2021), there is no option for a refund. While I am all for making money, SXSW is the kind of organization to me that purely resembles greed. In fact, they didn’t even cancel their event, the city of Austin did!  However, they do seem to be somewhat sympathetic to their vendors. According to various sources, Amazon Prime Video is going to be digitally showcasing various projects that were supposed to play at the festival last month. All the people behind the projects need to present a fee in order to let their work shine. Keep in mind that the revealing of work that was supposed to be presented in person in front of the masses on Prime is optional, so if you were expecting to see something in particular at the festival, maybe it won’t make it to Amazon’s service. Also keep in mind, if you are planning seeing on these pieces of work, you do not need to pay for Amazon Prime, but you do need an Amazon account. As long as you have that, you’re good to go.

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL DENIES GOING DIGITAL

Last year, the Venice Film Festival honored Todd Phillips’ “Joker” with the Golden Lion, which is the festival’s highest honor. This year, there is perhaps some wonder if it would be a joke to keep the festival running in September. Keep in mind that Italy has the second highest count of COVID-19 cases to date and who knows about a second wave and if that’s a possibility? However, according to Variety, a Venice spokesperson reported “The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event.” This is in response to a recent interview between festival director Alberto Barbera and Italian news agency ANSA who said he is not weighing digital options. That by the way, is in response to what is happening with the Toronto International Film Festival, where there is consideration for both physical and digital aspects. At this point, it may be too early to tell given how the festival is about five months into the future. We’ll have to see if Italy is stable by then, and if there is enough reason to keep the festival on in person.

DELAYED MOVIES AND NEW RELEASE DATES

Well, it appears that COVID-19 is doing its own stunts now. “Top Gun: Maverick” has officially been delayed, which honestly disappoints me because it was one of my most anticipated films of the summer. It looked like another one of those films, kind of like the recent “Mission: Impossible” movies, where Tom Cruise does everything he can to nearly kill himself. Instead, the film is now coming out in December, which really has me scared, because this puts my most anticipated film of the year, “Dune” in a tough position. While I have no real idea how much money “Dune” will make, this is giving me the creeps because while I cannot exactly anticipate how well of a marketing campaign “Dune” is going to have, if it weren’t for a nostalgic, somewhat recognizable property stepping in, I figured “Dune” would have a massive chance at succeeding. Plus, I recall early reports of one person suggesting that the footage that has already been seen of “Dune” is on the level that matches “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Can the praise get any better than that?! The 2020 adaptation of “Dune” could arguably be the greatest story ever told if the movie matches this previous word of mouth! Although at the same time, I’ll mention it again, as far as this summer goes, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of my most anticipated films. Don’t think I’m trying to take it out behind the barn and shoot it. If anything, I want the movie to succeed, but I also want “Dune” to succeed. Maybe this could be a case where “Dune” heavily succeeds, thus leaving “Top Gun: Maverick” in the dust, which would also be disappointing. It feels like there’s no winning in this case. Speaking of Paramount films, they are also delaying “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the third “SpongeBob SquarePants” idea that will ultimately be brought to the big screen. The movie will follow the titular sponge as he goes on a quest with Patrick Star to find his missing snail, Gary. Also in Paramount movie news, “A Quiet Place Part II” has a new release date, specifically September 4th, giving it a Labor Day weekend slot. For the record, the movie has already been delayed as of March 12th from its original release date, March 20th, but has not received a new date until now. I am beyond thankful that “A Quiet Place Part II” is not considering the streaming route, because having seen the original installment, it is one of those movies that you have to be in the theater to truly feel its impact. At least that’s what I got with the first one. When I saw “A Quiet Place” a couple years back, it was a highlight in my movie experience journey because it was one of the few movies that FORCED me to be quiet to fully enjoy the product. I could barely chew my popcorn, I almost couldn’t even take as big of sips of my drink as I usually would, it was a one of a kind time at the movies. I’m willing to bet that John Krasinski made “A Quiet Place Part II” with the same thoughts in mind that he had for the first one. SILENCE THE AUDITORIUM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I’m looking forward to September, let’s just hope that there are enough reasons to go to the movies by then.

While “A Quiet Place Part II” is sticking to a theatrical release, one movie that I was kind of looking forward to seeing in theaters is no longer going to be there, and will end up heading straight to that tenth streaming service you guys have, Disney+. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about “Artemis Fowl.” For those of you who don’t know, “Artemis Fowl” is based on a book about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind who must find his father while facing underground fairies. I was kind of looking forward to seeing “Artemis Fowl” even though I have not read the book personally. The movie sort of looked like a visual trip, and if successful, could have spawned the next big fantasy franchise. I wonder if this is a sign that Disney may end up throwing in the towel on the franchise before it even starts. After all, the film was made on a $125 million budget, so I guess they were expecting a return of hundreds of millions. The real question is, could the film have broken even? Who knows? I have not heard much word of mouth about “Artemis Fowl” from anybody else, but the trailers do intrigue me. It at least had my attention.

Speaking of Disney+, one of the suggestions people happened to make is to release “Black Widow” early on the service. Quite honestly, I think that is a ridiculous idea that could cost Disney a lot of money, and it seems that we are sharing a thinking cap because Disney has officially pushed back the MCU timeline, and placed “Black Widow” on the November 6 release slot. When I say the MCU timeline, I mean it almost 100%. Every movie that is supposed to eventually come out in the MCU has been delayed except “Black Panther 2.” Even “Captain Marvel 2,” originally set to release in June 2022, is moving up a couple weeks for a new July 8th release during the year. For those who don’t know, “Eternals” was originally supposed to come out November of this year, but having two MCU films come out at once is a little extreme, so now it is coming out February 12th, 2021. At this point, November is looking like a respectable month for popular nerd culture. Between “Black Widow,” a movie that Marvel fans are FINALLY getting to see. “No Time to Die,” the 25th Bond film that is supposed to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as the character. Plus, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I am curious to hear more about. I think one of these is going to get bumped to a different release date to guarantee avoidance of being a box office bomb, because November is a pretty big month for movies, and even though there are blockbusters at the time, a lot of focus from those who are heavily invested is going to be leaning towards the Oscar bait films.

As far Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake goes, that is now coming out on July 24th. Should it get delayed again, I think that is another film that Disney is going to keep in theaters with all their might, because part of the marketing emphasizes the big battles of the film, and those could be stellar to see on the silver screen. The one thing that I think will be diminished though is its IMAX run. Because unless Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” gets delayed and “Mulan” still comes out, “Tenet” is going to have a long run in many IMAX theaters. It was shot on IMAX cameras after all! “Mulan” now takes the place of theme park ride-inspired “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, which has now been pushed back to July 30th, 2021. Another big pushback comes from the Lucasfilm side of things, specifically for “Indiana Jones 5,” which is kind of unfortunate because Harrison Ford ain’t getting any younger. At this point with a film like “Indiana Jones 5,” I will believe it when I see it.

Remember how Disney bought Fox? Guess what? Their slate is getting kicked in the ass too! Wes Anderson was supposed to come out with “The French Dispatch” on July 24th, but now it is being pushed back to October. This could be some good news for Wes Anderson as the director behind the film has a history of being acclaimed, and having a unique style to his films. This unique style can be reinserted into everyone’s heads and perhaps bring up a reason for this film to contend for awards. If this came out in the summer, maybe it would have as much of a chance, but keep in mind. Award season pretty much gets into full swing in the fall. Summer is mainly for blockbusters and popcorn movies. Those movies don’t usually rack up the Oscars.

Universal is also in the news, because they recently pushed back Illumination Entertainment’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” That film was supposed to come out July 3rd this year, but it has been pushed back to July 2nd of next year. In addition, “Sing 2,” which is a sequel to a well-liked film starring Matthew McConaughey as a mouse who runs a theater, is also getting pushed back. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is currently sitting where “Sing 2” was originally going to be, but much like the situation I mentioned earlier with Marvel, it could be weird to have two of the same types of movies releasing at once. Therefore, “Sing 2” will be coming out December 22nd, 2021. Keep in mind, the film was supposed to come out this year in December, but was delayed to its previous July spot. Honestly, this delay is not that bad, because the original “Sing” came out in December 2016, and ended up being a hit for Illumination. Maybe this sequel will do the same. Speaking of keeping things in mind, Universal was making a movie based on the popular play “Wicked,” which was set to release in the current spot where “Sing 2” resides. Due to “Sing 2’s” recent pushback, it could be possible that “Wicked” will be out in 2022. By the way, not steering away from animated features, this week is interesting for film, because remember “Trolls: World Tour?” It’s in the middle of its marketing campaign and if you are a parent who wants to torture yourself in order to please your kids, it comes out digitally this Friday, April 10th. Advertisements have suggested that the movie will also be playing in theaters. But the real question is, what theater in the United States is still open at this point? When you are increasingly going to get shamed for not wearing a mask outside, what theater is open?

AMC MAY NOT SURVIVE

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Now I understand that there are more important things in life than film. There’s health, happiness, and safety. Unfortunately, the news makes me feel ill, unhappy, and like I’ll never ever be safe again. If you all know me, you’d be aware that my safe place in life is the movie theater, and one of my regular stops for my experiences happen to be AMC locations. It’s where I often go for my press screenings, as an excuse to use Stubs points, and on occasion, for Dolby and IMAX. Depending on where you live in the United States, there is a solid chance that you have at least one AMC location near you. In fact, I recently went to downtown Burbank, California and they have three locations within minutes of each other, and this is walking distance I’m talking about! Even though AMC technically is a large chain that owns a lot of theaters, they do a good job at giving a sense of prioritization on the moviegoing experience. In fact, in recent years, they’ve been expanding their fleet, renovating theaters, putting in new seats (which admittedly, sometimes underwhelmed me), implementing reserved seating options, and one of their most notable innovations to the American movie market was their Stubs A-List program, which is basically their response to MoviePass as it began to die down. They even have an On Demand service now! In fact, even though I am a physical media junkie, that is probably a place where I’ll consider renting a movie one night (as long as Sony Android TVs) can get it. AMC just recently used to be the biggest chain in North America, but has recently been dethroned since Europe’s Cineworld bought the Canadian chain Cineplex. Now that Cineworld owns both Cineplex and Regal Entertainment Group, they are now the largest theater chain in regards to the continent.

Having said that, AMC Theatres is a pretty big chain. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. AMC Theatres has spent a lot of money on changes in recent years, recently laid off a ton of employees, and is currently in debt. To make matters worse, S&P Global has recently downgraded AMC Theatres to a CCC-. The association to insert here is “Default imminent, with little prospect for recovery.” Keep in mind, that if you live in the United States, that means if AMC Theatres closes down for good, you are likely to lose a country-wide total of over six hundred cinemas. Just a couple weeks ago, I was reminding people that the smaller, indie theaters might be in a bit of trouble right now. They’re making AMC look like RadioShack! In fact, one of the cool ideas I have been seeing recently is that theaters are doing pop-up sales, where they are selling popcorn to paying customers even though there are no movies going on. This has happened at a couple locations near my house, specifically the Somerville Theatre and Capitol Theatre, both of which are in Massachusetts and owned by Frame One Theatres. I don’t know if a chain like AMC would do that, because I think they are more concerned about protecting what they have by letting people go than continuing operations and getting mocked. But, again, if any theater wants to take up my suggestion on a popcorn or candy delivery service, be my guest! I’ll probably order from it twice a day just to provide some support. That, and I love my movie theater popcorn. It could be through the organization itself, maybe through Uber Eats, maybe Grubhub could be a good idea. After all, pretty much the only thing I can do in life right now is stay inside and put on a movie. I need decent popcorn to go with it! But sticking with the main idea, the loss of AMC, can bring a tremendously dark impact to the industry. Because that means no more Prime Theatres, no more specifically branded Dolby Cinema, and no more A-List. But also, keep in mind the large theater count the chain has and how much of a reduction this truly can provide. There will be significantly less places to go to watch a movie. If you’re lucky enough to have somewhere like a Regal or Cinemark nearby, then you’re probably in luck. I’ve got Showcase Cinemas. Even though I’ve been to their theaters a number of times, I really think they are overhyped and their setup is occasionally bonkers (although their Providence location might have my favorite IMAX theater). And I don’t know if another chain is going to swoop in and take all the AMC locations that could die as a result of this. AMC is not the only chain hurting here. For all I know, maybe one of the big toilet paper companies can come in and start something new. Come on in to “Angel Soft Theater!” Your ass is safe on both our toilets and our auditorium chairs!

One YouTuber I regularly watch goes by the name of John Campea (Collider Movie Talk, The John Campea Show) and he suggested that studios should step in and help AMC financially during this dire time. If the studios have enough money, this is a swell idea. After all, there is a strong bond between movie theaters and studios. One cannot essentially exist without the other. And given how studios are perhaps likely to lose money should they rely on digital sales for their films, they are probably well off giving some of what they have to a chain that has given them tons of strength over the years. I often make fun of how much money Disney has, but wouldn’t it be a great story if Disney gave some money to AMC? I’d dig it. Time will tell when it comes determining the fate of AMC Theatres, but that is largely going to depend on when this crisis diminishes or ends, if people are not too scared to go out into the masses again, and if movies are even going to release by the time this ends. Again, if “Tenet” is not in theaters this July, I think I can officially call it quits on this year for film. Because that news will break me. Pixar’s “Soul” hasn’t been delayed yet. Maybe that will come out in June. Again, it’s hard to tell at this point given how confusing this virus really is.

NEW RELEASES GOING ON DEMAND

I did do this last week, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll continue this trend, but given how On Demand is becoming more of a core element to the movie-viewing experience given the current situation, I figured I’d share some new releases that are out On Demand this week. First off is “Ip Man 4: The Finale.” I have not seen any of these movies, but one things that intrigues me is that it stars Donnie Yen, who has been brought to my attention in recent years. The actor is probably one of the more badass men I have seen in an action film as far as newer material goes. While I will declare that “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is not exactly the “Citizen Kane” of action, Donnie Yen may have been the best part of the movie. Up next is “Like a Boss,” which came out in January. This does not look or feel like my type of movie, but I believe I almost went to a press screening for it. Not sure though. The film stars Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, alongside Salma Hayek and it is about friends who are trying to start a beauty company. The film clocks in with a total of an hour and twenty-three minutes. Did the editor want to finish their job as soon as possible or something? By the way, for those of you who prefer buying the physical copy, both films are scheduled to come out on DVD and Blu-ray on April 21st. If you have Disney+, there is heavy promotion going on right now to get people to watch Pixar’s “Onward,” and if you have the service, it is now watchable any time you want.

Thanks for reading the third part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” As long as this crisis is unfortunately still with us, this series is going to continue, and maybe even get me to delay my scheduled film reviews. Although, for all I know, my review of “My Spy” might not even come out until next year given how I would probably be shoved into an abyss by STX executives if I open my mouth about it right now. As for myself, I have not left my house in awhile, and I continue to remain healthy. If you want to use your time wisely, be sure to follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Since we’re all online right now, why not take a break from learning how to use Zoom for a quick second and check out the Scene Before Facebook page! You won’t regret it! I want to know, is there any COVID-19 movie news that happens to be significant that I missed? What have you been doing during this crazy time? Any movies you want to recommend? TV shows maybe? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes – Part 2

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 2 of the all new Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the United States, which is where my main demographic happens to be, we unfortunately have more cases of COVID-19 than anybody else. Records are meant to be broken, but if only they were not broken like this. Although at the same time, there has been a significant increase in testing here in the United States, so while it does not make the record necessarily less disheartening, it still adds in a piece of needed information.

Now I do not typically talk about politics that much on Scene Before, but this is one of the rare instances where I have no choice. President Donald Trump has said that he wants the United States back in operation by Easter. The reason for this mostly has to do with Trump’s personal admiration towards the holiday, suggesting that it would be wonderful if the United States had “packed churches.” However, experts are saying that this would not be the best idea and Trump should wait longer.

Personally, I am still optimistic that we can get through this pandemic in a matter of a couple of a months, maybe a few even. But Easter Sunday is a bit too quick based on how many people are seemingly continuing to avoid the act of social distancing. I can possibly see certain portions of the economy putting lights back on in a matter of weeks, but it would not equate to a full-fledged, well-oiled machine. Maybe restaurants will be open again to an extent where people can sit down, but with a limited capacity, and takeout will continue to be highly encouraged. I do not know for sure, but anything’s possible. I said it part 1, I’ll say it again in part 2, I am not a doctor.

These are some general goings on during the COVID-19 situation, but for movies, things have been interesting. In fact, if you look at Box Office Mojo right now and notice the weekend totals, it’s kind of creepy. There’s not even a section for the previous weekend in regards to how much money each movie made. Should this go on for a long time, I wonder if the box office is going to partially change its ways and measure intake by monitoring how much is made by tracking how many rentals are purchased on cinema-specific sections on streaming services. I doubt that’ll be the case since there currently seems to be eager anticipation for the opening of movie theaters by sometime in the summer, but who knows? For all I know, this summer in movies for the most part will be cancelled. I am about to present some evidence as to why.

MAJOR MOVIES DELAYED: WONDER WOMAN 1984, GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, MORBIUS, PETER RABBIT 2, ETC.

One of the biggest pieces of news in terms of movies getting delayed comes from Sony. The reason being is that when everybody found out about this, it didn’t involve just one movie. It involved Sony’s entire summer lineup. For those who don’t know, movies like “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Morbius” put out trailers in anticipation of a summer release date this year. Guess what? Both have been moved to March 2021! And if that’s not enough, forget about “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” because you won’t be seeing that movie either! For the record, that movie was supposed to come out this upcoming weekend as of writing this post. That was until it was delayed to August, but now it is going to be a January 2021 movie! You honestly can’t write this! I was looking forward to these films (minus “Peter Rabbit”) but now I have to wait even longer! In fact, Sony’s delays doesn’t just affect current films set to come out that are either finished or nearly finished, but it also affects a heavily cursed movie, specifically “Uncharted!” Can that movie catch a break? What’s it on, like it’s SEVENTH director right now?! The film that has practically been in development hell for a long time and was set to come out on March 5th, 2021, which is now where “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” will be releasing. Instead, it will be coming out on October 8th, 2021.

In addition to Sony, Warner Bros. has been in a bit of trouble too, but at least their situation feels more of a semblance of optimism. For those who don’t know by now, “Wonder Woman 1984” is getting delayed, which is one of the movies I really didn’t want to see get pushed back, because part of me predicted that theaters would be open by the time this film is supposed to come out. Turns out that’s not the case, because the film’s previous release date of June 4th is no more. “Wonder Woman 1984” is now coming out on August 14th, which does disappoint me, but it does me hope that we will still be seeing a summer movie season in 2020. This also reinforces the crew’s commitment to theatrical experience, which may bring a sigh of a relief to major chains, smaller theaters, and an organization like NATO (National Association of Theater Owners), especially after Universal abruptly announced “Trolls: World Tour” was going to go to streaming as soon as it hit the minimal amount of theaters that would be open this April. Speaking of theatrical commitments, Warner Bros. is also optimistic in regards to releasing Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which is scheduled to come out July 17th. First off, it’s a Christopher Nolan movie. If Warner Bros. announced that “Tenet” was going to go straight to streaming and skip theaters, there’s a good chance that Nolan would end his work relationship with Warner Bros. altogether. Second, if you want my personal thoughts on this matter, “Tenet” is my second most anticipated film of the year, right below “Dune” which is set to come out in December. If “Tenet” is not seen this summer, I am considering quitting movie watching altogether. Whether or not this situation goes away by July is still a mystery, but I would not be surprised if we reach the very beginning of July and hear that “Tenet” gets bumped to another release date. I think there’s an itty-bitty chance of that happening, but I am not too sure. Plus, the film cost $205 million to make. I do not think “Tenet” will join the billion dollar club, but if this is still around in July, part of me wonders if the film will break even.

Much like Sony, Warner Bros. is having notable production troubles regarding the ongoing crisis as well. “The Matrix 4” has officially shut down. Looks like that “Keanu Reeves Day” coming up in 2021 where “John Wick 4” and “The Matrix 4” release simultaneously will not be a thing anymore should these troubles keep up. Speaking of Warner Bros. productions, “The Batman” has shut down indefinitely. The film was scheduled to come in June 2021 and star Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse, Good Time) as the Caped Crusader.

Sticking with the recently mentioned productions of “The Matrix 4” and “Uncharted,” both were in production in Germany, specifically in Studio Babelsberg. Termination of production of many on such property left them without pay and there is a current threat of legal action. But speaking of “The Matrix,” if this news has you down and you need your fix of the franchise, the original trilogy will be on Netflix starting this April.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is still coming out in June. Let’s just hope that stays put.

ESPN GETS CREATIVE WITH THEIR LINEUP

I don’t usually talk about sports on this blog, but this is a rare case where it is necessary. For those of you who don’t know, Disney owns you. It’s a fact. Also, for those of you who don’t know, Disney-owned ESPN is going to doing movie nights on Fridays for now on, specifically on movies revolving around sports. Not surprisingly, the movies that will be aired will all be Disney productions. Part of this goes into how the network recently aired “The Rookie,” a baseball film from 2002. For those of you who want to know, this upcoming Friday’s lineup will feature “Glory Road,” the 2006 title revolving around the 1966 NCAA basketball National Championship and the story of the first all-black starting lineup in this situation. Other films in the lineup include “Miracle,” “Secretariat,” and “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Given how major sports like the regular seasons of NHL, NBA, and MLB have been affected by the outbreak, sports-related outlets have to get creative. 24 hours of SportsCenter on ESPN featuring the top 10 social distancing moments of the day is not going to cut it. I have no idea how long ESPN will be doing this, but just a reminder that Disney now owns Fox, and while I am not seeing any reports of them airing any Fox films, it doesn’t mean that there is no chance that Disney could allow ESPN to take Fox films and present them over the airwaves. This could allow the airing of films like “Rookie of the Year,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” “Battle of the Sexes,” or even my personal favorite sports film of all time, “The Sandlot.” Such a good movie.

Also, if you don’t want to wait to watch these films on ESPN, or if you don’t want as many ad interruptions, they are currently available on Disney+, but if you are bored on a Friday night and the Internet is down, you may want to take advantage of watching your favorite sports movies on ESPN.

COVID-19 GETS A MOVIE

One of the things both my mother and I have been saying recently is that this virus is kind of like a movie. In fact, if you talked to me at in the past couple weeks and asked me what I could possibly be thinking about, my answer would be the “five years later” transition in “Avengers: Endgame.” I would not want to be in New York right now, because I can only imagine what it would be like to look at Lady Liberty! Although according to The Hollywood Reporter, it seems we are living in a movie world right now. Kind of. The Hollywood Reporter is suggesting that we are getting the first COVID-19 movie of this specific era. And it is a Canadian thriller shot on a soundstage in Vancouver, where a bunch of people are in an elevator and they quickly suspect that one Chinese individual who joins the ride happens to have the virus. “Corona” is shot handheld in order to be realistic, it’s an interesting move, and it could provide some tension, maybe in a way that could make the viewer a part of the story. The movie does not necessarily revolve around the virus as much it focuses on fear and racism. Plus, those two things will be taken into consideration and apply to how a group of people, varying in terms of walks of life and personality, could potentially react to a virus like this. By the way, if there is a company or organization out there that wants this movie, it is looking for a buyer. I am not surprised that we are getting a movie on COVID-19, but I am surprised that we are getting one this early.

If you want to view the trailer, click the video below.

NEW RELEASES GOING ON DEMAND

Last week, I discussed one of the big stories going on in the movie world is that the current theatrical releases, or in some cases, movies that haven’t even hit the big screen yet, have gone straight to VOD, or on digital services. These mainly include various cable-based On Demand channels, or streaming services like Prime Video, Google Play, and FandangoNOW. But over the past week, more things have happened in relation to this, and some new movies that barely seen the light of day are now being inserted to these On Demand services. By the time you’re reading this, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” which released in select theaters on February 21st, then eventually expanding on February 28th, will be available for digital viewing. It’s supposed to release April Fools Day, which makes sense since the movie heavily involves pranking. As for DVD and Blu-ray, that is not known at this point, especially considering how it has not been close to the ninety-day mark of the film’s official release. For all I know, it might not get a DVD, which I hope does not happen. But keep in mind the possibility is there considering how the last DVD for the show itself was for season 5, which aired in 2016. From season 6 and on, there are no plans to put out DVDs. As of March 31st, “Bad Boys For Life” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” are both available for digital purchase with a pop of $20. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” which released in four theaters to make $16,825, will be hitting On Demand services starting April 3rd.

Thanks for reading the second part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” I can guarantee you that more is likely to come, especially when considering that the Massachusetts stay at home advisory has been extended to May 4th. I don’t know if this will be a weekly thing though, considering how I still have reviews to do, and I just started online classes for my university. Again, I am still committing to putting out a post a week, and it might be easy to do so given how much time this crisis is likely going to give me. And if you’re wondering about me personally, I am okay. I currently contain no symptoms or evidence of having COVID-19, and given how it has been fourteen days since I got back from the fantastically run state of Florida, I am most likely in the clear. I have not personally invited anyone into my home, and I rarely have gone outside for anything. In a way, my practice from when I was twelve years old and playing video games all day has paid off for this very moment. Outside is so overrated!

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But man, I do miss the movie theater.

If you have time, which you do, let’s admit it, go ahead and follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! And since you’re wasting time staying six feet away from others while only being trapped in your personal space, go ahead and follow the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, what is your biggest piece of recently seen news regarding films and COVID-19? I covered a number of topics today, but for all I know, maybe I missed something important. It happens. Let me know down below, and let’s get through this together! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Impractical Jokers: The Movie (2020): All Other Movies Can Suck It

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WARNING: The following blog post contains paragraphs of graphic fanaticism among a Movie Reviewing Moron who writes to avoid embarrassing himself.

Da-na-du-dun!

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“Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is directed by Chris Henchy, a name behind the scenes on various Will Ferrell titles and co-creator of the website, Funny or Die, one of the production companies behind this movie. The film stars Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn, and Sal Vulcano as the four Jokers that pull pranks on unsuspecting people all the while trying to embarrass each other. Joining them is Paula Abdul, who is throwing a party in Miami. She invites the Jokers to come down to the party, but due to how they are missing an extra ticket, the four lifelong friends compete against each other to see who will and who won’t go to the party. Given how there’s four people, the one big loser sits out.

If you know me, it would not be that much of a secret that I adore the “Impractical Jokers” TV show. It is probably the best thing on TV right now that is not a game show. I’ve watched the show, I’ve been to their live comedy gigs, I’ve bought their merch, and I have personally talked to one of them up close. These humble gentlemen honestly deserve every solitary speck of success they can get. They may play cruel boys on TV, but trust me, they are some of the finest men I have seen in my life.

With this in mind, this brings up a problem that I will continue to highlight in this review. Not with the movie specifically, but with me reviewing the movie. Although my review process could admittedly, end up translating to what I think of the film. I am an “Impractical Jokers” fan. As a fan, there are certain expectations that I am waiting to have fulfilled. I want fun challenges that are purely hilarious. I want the four guys interacting with each other, maybe having a good time, or getting angry at one another. But I was honestly curious not only how an “Impractical Jokers” movie could work, but if it will work. After all, the equipment they use for television works for what it is, but I wondered if that is what they’d use for the movie. I have no idea what the movie is shot with, but they did a good job in terms of differentiating this film in terms of appearance from the TV show. It looks bolder, the color grading looks really good, and it still maintains a similar feel to the show itself. After all, the aspect ratio looks similar and the on-screen graphics are within the same barrier, while having some differences.

Speaking of similarities, I think like the TV show, the movie is really good. Now, there are several episodes of the show I’d probably rather watch again before this movie, but “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a fun trip from start to finish. “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a film that knows exactly what the fans want. Great challenges, a fine display of chemistry between the four Jokers, and “in the moment” stakes. Honestly, it’s funnier than a good portion of the recent comedies to have come out. Why? Because like the show, this movie tries its best to be raw. During the challenges, I felt a connection to the guys. The reason why “Impractical Jokers” as a concept works so well is because these guys are not pranking because they want to be jerks. Scour them in real life, they’re wonderful! but they highlight how scary pranking unsuspecting people really is.

However, this also brings a flaw into play. I will admit, even though I did enjoy the road trip bits, that is the inferior portion of the film. The reason being is because “Impractical Jokers” becomes reliant on a written script. “Impractical Jokers” is at its best when it is spontaneous, because I cannot see exactly what is coming. The best thing about the real lives of Joe, Q, Sal, and Murr is that you cannot write what happens next, making you willing to go along with what is happening as if everything was improv. When I was watching “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” I noticed a few scenes that took place in hotels, and they specifically focused on Murr. The movie basically could have left out those scenes and barely affect the final product perhaps.

I will probably end up remembering this movie for how far it goes with its challenges. I am not going to go into all of them, because you know, spoilers. But they teased one scene online involving a tiger. INSANELY AWESOME. I cannot go into specific detail about it, but it is one of those things you kind of have to see to believe.

Speaking of things you have to see to believe, Murr faces a challenge that he called the most embarrassing moment of his life. All I can say is that it takes place in a club. That scene alone is worth the price of admission, because I lost my ability to breathe from laughing so hard at such a scene.

And of course, the guys are charismatic and relatable. They are legit best friends and this movie made me feel like the fifth Joker joining the ride alongside them. Each Joker has their moment, especially considering how this movie takes the time to insert multiple dedicated punishments. Each one of these is as great as the next and some of these I cannot even talk about because I need to guarantee that everyone going into the theater will laugh as uncontrollably as I did while watching it.

I will also mention once again, I am an “Impractical Jokers” fan, and as a fan, I have been impressed by what I saw. I enjoyed myself from beginning to end. But that brings a question… How much would this movie appeal to people who have never seen the show?

One of the things about “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” that I personally enjoyed is its tendency to deliver on inside jokes. There are cameos from people who are heavily affiliated with the show, there’s a “Where’s Larry?” joke, and even a mention of “Up your ass, and to the left,” one of the show’s commonly used phrases.

But this movie, based on what I have heard, was mainly made for the “Impractical Jokers” fanbase, which I believe is quite honestly an underestimated fanbase. One of the issues that can come from that is the fact that there seems to be an inserted sense of exclusivity. As a fan, I had fun with this tribute of sorts, but I still wondered what the average Joe (whose last name is not Gatto) would think of it. I think if you are not familiar with the “Impractical Jokers” show, you can have a good time with this movie. The guys are likable, but the road trip elements could be a little bit iffy. Plus, Paula Abdul is someone in this film that I am surprised I am not talking about more. It is at its core, FUN. And of course, pranks are not for everybody. I have grandparents who probably won’t watch stuff like this. I get it, no biggie. I think if you go into this movie expecting to chill with four friends on screen who maybe you’ll want to befriend yourself, this could be a movie for you. If you have never seen the show, some things could fly over your head, but the movie does stick to a story that many can enjoy. Maybe this movie will end up being swell enough for you to want to check out the show on television. It’s on literally all the time on truTV, so if this film is good enough in the theater, it could translate to how much you’d like the show on television.

I will say though, as much as I enjoyed how “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” differentiates itself from the show instead of just simply being an extended episode of the property, although ultimately brought to the big screen, it’s also a detractor. If I were to make another movie in this franchise, which I do want to see, I wish there was a tremendous focus that goes to what makes the show great, and if they were to have a subplot again that steers away from challenges, I wish it just had a little more dimension. Granted, the concept is intriguing. Having the jokers resolve an incident from high school was a pretty good idea, but for some reason, based on the sudden steer from reality at certain times, it just didn’t pay off every once in a while. I don’t know why. Again, when I think “Impractical Jokers,” I think of “in the moment” challenges, I don’t think of extended plots. Speaking of which, I get that this movie does have to make money, and I’m not suggesting “Don’t support it,” but there was one scene that felt like it was made for television. Why? Because it censors nudity. “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is PG-13, and has some language to back it up. But there is a scene shown in the marketing where Murr is getting on a boat and his butt is revealed. Only thing is, it is censored by a graphic of Murr’s face. Should “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” have been rated R? I’m not so sure, but it would make some parts of this movie somewhat juicier. But again, gotta make that money! Besides, the show itself is TV-14, so by the movie being PG-13, it sort of does attract a similar audience. Maybe they ultimately made the right move. Does this take away from the buttload of fun I had with the movie? HELL NO! I dug this film! That my friends, is no joke!

In the end, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a fun film. In fact as of this review, I saw it twice! Is the road trip plot a little lackluster? Sort of, but the guys make up for the lackluster plot by being themselves. Four breathtaking dudes who have a connection. The movie does a good job at adapting the source material for the big screen, allowing it to feel like a separate entity from truTV’s long-running program. The challenges are gutbustingly funny, there is a sense of replay value that could be achieved with this film over time (again, I saw it twice), and there seems to be a lot of passion put into the final product. Now, the movie would definitely be better if they heightened the situations a A LITTLE LESS, and if I cared more about the recently mentioned road trip stuff, but I can probably confirm that when I look back at 2020 in film, this will be one of the year’s funniest flicks. I’m going to give “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Just want to let you all know that my next review is going to be for “Emma,” directed by Autumn de Wilde and starring Anya Taylor-Joy. The film is based on a Jane Austen novel and is being marketed as a new vision of the classic tale. What do I think of it? Find out in my next review by following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Another way to find out is by liking my Facebook page, and supporting Mark Zuckerberg’s quest for world domination of all mankind. I want to know, did you see “Impractical Jokers: The Movie?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite Joker? You know, what the hell? I’ll even count Batman Jokers! Who is your favorite Impractical Joker? Or who is your favorite on-screen interpretation of the Joker character from DC’s Batman? Let me know down below, or you’ll be tonight’s big loser! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Damned! (1998): An Impractical Joke

AND NOW… A special 45 second preview of The 2nd Annual Jackoff Awards!

*All copyrights belong to their respective owners*

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about movie that even its director knows might stray away from award territory!

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“Damned!” is directed by James Murray, who also has a role in the film as Judas. This film has a cast including Ronney Ascher, Marti Cooney (The Thing About My Folks, Lie Down with Dogs), Matthew Glass (Blood Done Sign My Name, SK8 Magic), Hank Poje (Guilty Pleasures), David Hubbell (Rockabilly Vampire, Sleepy Heads) and Jeremy Guskin (Henry Danger, Just Add Magic) and the story follows Jesus in his teen years in an alternate telling of biblical tales.

I want to get some information out of the way before diving into this review. “Damned!” is one of the earliest pieces of media with some sort of relation to James S. Murray, now famous for his presence on truTV’s hit series “Impractical Jokers.”

This is also a film that according to said show, Murray himself tried to hide from existence. Such a fact was stated when the film was screened to a small audience as part of one of the show’s trademarked “punishments.” Some would suggest that “Damned!” is nearly feature-length, clocking in just over the fifty minute mark, which is slightly longer than a typical episode for certain network TV shows.

With that being said, I figured since “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is coming out pretty soon, I figured I’d get in the mood and watch Murr’s supposed disasterpiece. Having seen it, it’s not a disasterpiece. I don’t even know what exactly this is.

True story about this film, it was revealed from Murray himself that since he recently graduated college at the time, his parents were going to buy him a Ford Taurus. Instead, this movie was made for about $25,000 to $30,000. This must be driving this guy nuts.

In all seriousness, this movie is not even close to being good, nor is it close to being competent. I am not sure how much training Murr has had to become a filmmaker prior to the late 1990s, but I feel like some of the basic rules of filmmaking are ignored here. There are a lot of shots in this film, most notably in the first ten minutes, that feature human subjects in center-frame, which is kind of awkward. I do not exactly feel like I am immersed into the interactions between characters because of this. Yes, as a viewer I understand the differences between characters, what they look like, that sort of thing, but there are times where shots feel like I see one person and there is a sudden morph in the next one when I see somebody else. Speaking of the opening scene, there is an action sequence that takes place that may be the weirdest in history. Between the handheld, in-your face punching shots, the overacting, and one cartoony special effect, it all adds up to make you wonder if Tommy Wiseau secretly directed this!

Oh hai Jesus!

I should point out that the one of first lines of this film is a forced utterance of the phrase “Jesus Christ!” Congratulations, “Damned!” You have joined Fred Durst’s “The Fanatic” in the ranks of the oddest opening film lines ever!

The bewildering and odd action continues to the film’s culmination, which for the select few who currently intend on watching “Damned!” in the future, I won’t spoil much related to it. I get that this film is lower in its budget compared to many others, but hearing the song that played in the opening titles also play in the final action sequence almost felt too repetitive. This may be a fortunate reality we’re dealing with here, and I think James Murray himself will be proud of me for saying this, I do not think I’ll remember the climactic action sequence all that well. Only time will tell though…

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Let’s talk about Christ himself. Obviously this is not the Christ many followers will look up to. Jesus in this film is sort of whiny, and occasionally so in a over the top manner. The first scene in this film where we meet Jesus involves him finding out he is adopted. Later on in the film, this brings in an important point to the story, where Jesus has a meeting with God, his real father. This movie barely has a concept of time. It describes events that happen through white text on black backgrounds. But it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes of runtime to get from the exposition of Jesus finding out he is adopted to personally meeting with God. I would imagine that not that much has happened in that time, at least that is what the movie makes it feel like, and Jesus may still be dealing with these newfound internal thoughts of his. I found myself bewildered as soon as I heard God say “Are we gonna start this again?,” once Jesus refuses to call him dad? Did the people of Earth suffer brain damage? Is God suffering from brain damage? AM I SUFFERING BRAIN DAMAGE?!

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One of the aspects that kinda sorta maybe ties this film together is that the main story often cuts away to this show about Bible Mysteries and how it tries to solve various myths. “Damned!” is the kind of movie that I would consider to be so bad that it is full of cheese, and part of it has to do with this quirky show that has this overacting host who tries to emphasize how bold he is, but it almost makes me wonder if seeing stuff like this takes away from the actual movie. Maybe it kind of ties everything together, but for some odd reason, it does not feel like it belongs in the final product. It feels slapped together and randomly inserted at various points, almost as if “Damned!” really was two different movies in one and it has multiple personality disorder.

I also want to point out one of the funnier aspects of the film, maybe not if you are some random viewer who tunes into this, but it could get a laugh out of you though. For those of you who watch “Impractical Jokers,” which as mentioned, Murray stars in, you may know that one of the four Jokers goes by the name Sal Vulcano. Guess what? He’s in this movie! Yeah, he plays a character by the name of “Lawnmower Boy,” who is basically a random third party observer of the main action. Just a little factoid for those who wanted to know. His role does not really stand out in the film, but it honestly makes the film slightly funnier than Murray probably intended that it should be in the beginning. What makes this even funnier is that the color scheme and background on Vulcano’s end feels a bit depressing and out of place compared to the slightly less depressing background on the other characters’ end.

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Speaking of interesting performances, one of the characters in this film goes by the name of Herbie and I don’t know what exactly James Murray happened to be thinking when drafting this character. I can honestly imagine him in front of a typewriter going “I’m going to write a guy who gets excited over breakfast being the most important meal of the day and random bowling balls!” To say that HE of all people happens to be the most cartoon-like of all this movie’s characters is actually kind of insane. It’s almost unbelievable!

Even though I have decided on my final thoughts on “Damned!,” there is a part of me that does not entirely know what to think of it. I say so because “Damned!” is different from some bad movies I have seen. Films like “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” made me feel gross. Films like “Batman & Robin” made me laugh for the wrong reasons. Films like “Cats” made me nearly fall asleep. Films like “The Emoji Movie” made me feel angry. Granted, all those films are more than an hour long, and this thing barely passes fifty minutes, but those films all made me feel something for however long they went on. “Damned!” on the other hand made me feel nothing. I just watched in awe of the sheer madness of whatever it was that was happening on screen, but rarely had I experienced any full emotional outburst or experiential feeling inside me. And the reason why I can sum that up to be the case is because the film does not lend itself to being one thing. Is it a Bible mystery movie? Is it a teen Jesus movie? Is it a comedy? Is it an action flick? I do not know! If James Murray has an answer to this, please tell me! IMDb defines it as a comedy, but was that Murr’s vision? I want to know!

In the end, “Damned!” is… Something. I don’t even know what! All I know is it’s not good! I almost wish I was a part of the screening Murray experienced against his will in the mid 2010s just to experience what the atmosphere must have been like. This is a film with some of the most mind-numbingly terrible acting I’ve seen, some of the worst framing I have seen, and some of the worst writing I have ever seen! And I will say I am glad that Murr himself realizes that this film is what is, a disaster. He even suggested that if he were to go back in time, he would have taken the Ford Taurus. In fact if you look at the poster I showed at the beginning of the post, the top says “A JAMES MURRAY MISTAKE.” For all I know, maybe this film was not a mistake. Because what would have James done with the car? Use it to move away from New York? If that were the case, maybe “Impractical Jokers” would have never happened. So for my sake, I think that is one of the biggest positives I can say about “Damned!” But still, this is f*cking horrendous. “Damned!” is a film that is like those easily viewed neighbors you go by every day on the train. You don’t know why you’re looking at them, but somehow you are. You don’t know what to feel afterwards, but mission accomplished. I’m going to give “Damned!” a 1/10!

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Thanks for reading this review! TOMORROW, FEBRUARY 16TH, IS A BIG DAY! That’s right! The 2nd Annual Jackoff awards are here! By the way, as of this post’s publication, VOTING FOR BEST PICTURE is open for less than SEVEN HOURS. Once the clock hits midnight on February 16th, voting is CLOSED! If you have yet to vote for Best Picture, this is your final chance!

BEST PICTURE VOTING FORM!

Also, if you are an “Impractical Jokers” fan, I should have you all know that this Thursday is the premiere of “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” in select theaters, and I am going to be at the first show in Dorchester, MA! With that in mind, I will have a review up very soon! Also, be on the lookout for my reviews for “Birds of Prey” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Be sure to follow Scene Before, otherwise known as flicknerd.com, if you want to see more great content! To do so, subscribe via an email or a WordPress account! I want to know, did you see “Damned!”? What did you think about it? Or, are you going to see “Impractical Jokers: The Movie?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!