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 Rhythm Section (2020): The Most Boring Record Breaker of All Time

“The Rhythm Section” is directed by Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale, Divorce) and stars Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Town), Jude Law (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) in a film… Zzzzzzzzz.

Sorry, what was that? I’m very sorry. This film is about a woman who seeks revenge after discovering the plane crash that killed her family was an act of terrorism.

This film is based on a book written by Mark Burnell. Interestingly, he also wrote the screenplay for this movie. I don’t know how the book is, I have personally never read it, but for all I know, it’s a masterpiece of a generation. Although I will say this movie took me back to my high school years when I was forced to read certain texts. I’m looking at you, “Pride & Prejudice!” You guys remember English class in high school? If you liked every single book, text, or piece of reading material you’ve gotten in high school, good for you. To me, this movie felt like a book I was forced to read in high school, ended up detesting from the first ten pages, and I would either drudge through it or leave it to the last minute.

Want to know something else? This movie is not that long. It’s not the shortest movie ever, but it has a total runtime of an hour and forty-nine minutes. I could totally see myself splitting some movie viewings into a couple of parts to take some things in. I did it with “Braveheart,” which is about 3 hours long. Heck, many movies have intermissions! I’ve even heard some countries apply intermissions to modern movies playing in theaters that don’t even come pre-packaged with them! A movie like “Braveheart,” even though was a little heavy at first, is exciting and exhilarating until the very end! “The Rhythm Section” is… BOORRRRING!

Now, it’s not “Gretel & Hansel” boring, it’s definitely not “Cats” boring, but “The Rhythm Section” is still pretty stinkin’ boring! The training scenes, which are… Okay, I guess, don’t feel like something I’ll remember two weeks from now. The action is fine, in fact there is a scene in this movie that is brilliantly shot, but that might be the best part of the movie even though it probably doesn’t say all that much, because it really doesn’t have anything to write home about.

Speaking of that awesome action scene, I do want to say something about it. I won’t go into much detail about the scene itself, partially to avoid spoilers, as usual, but much like some of those books I’ve read in high school, I’m forgetting about it as we speak. What did Virginia Woolf do again? I will say though, there is one action sequence where a car chase is going down, Blake Lively’s character is driving, and the camera is in the car pretty much the whole time. For like a minute or so, the frame doesn’t cut, break, or switch. It just stays put the entire time in the same shot. I’ve noticed a lot of movies have done something like this in recent years, or more specifically, they take a bunch of shots together and make it look like one shot. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” had an awesome throwdown scene in a church where Colin Firth beat, shot, and stabbed everyone to death. “Zombieland: Double Tap” had an insane scene like this go down in Elvis Presley’s house. “Atomic Blonde” had something like this too, where Charlize Theron spends eight minutes taking everyone down. While the first two examples feel fantastical, this shot felt more like something that had an “Atomic Blonde” vibe. Unfortunately, “Atomic Blonde” is a much better movie, a more engaging movie as well, but like these examples sort of relate to “The Rhythm Section” in terms of camerawork. There were some scenes, like that one cool action sequence, where the camera was well-utilized. Unfortunately, I can’t always say the same about the editing.

I rarely talk about edits in movies that I don’t like, although I still wonder why “Bohemian Rhapsody” won an Academy Award for it, so there is that. There was a scene in the beginning that caught my attention, everything is all quick cutty and fast. And I get it, people have slow attention spans, but this was honestly too fast for my liking. Speaking of which, remember that awesome action scene? Well forget about that for just a sec, because I remember a scene towards the end of the film that took place on a bus, and it reminded me of the typical jumpcutty bullcrap that’s been seen a lot in recent action flicks. One moment we’re here! One moment we’re there! One moment we’re flying everywhere! It’s like the world’s worst Dr. Seuss book!

And of course, I should not go without mentioning one other thing, this movie has the same curse some other films manage to have. It’s a January movie! Honestly, this crap feels like it belongs in that month, it is one of the few months that many general audiences are not focused on new movies, even though “Bad Boys for Life” grossed a ridiculous amount of money for a January flick this year, surpassing 2009’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” by over double its total worldwide. Note, “American Sniper” came out in January 2015 and earned more money than both movies, but it does not count, considering how the movie was screened in a limited run since December 2014. Speaking of box office achievements, “The Rhythm Section” has the *honor* of earning the worst weekend for a wide release movie playing on over 3,000 screens. In fact, in just a couple weeks, that screen count dropped to just double digits! The film also brought in just short of $6 million worldwide! When your film has a budget of $50 million, this is a definite failure. And I know 2020 sucks for everyone right now, unless you’re a higher-up at Amazon, you work for Charmin’, or if you are an introvert who likes staying home all day, but this sort of makes me wonder how Paramount’s 2020 has been going since the beginning.

Well, at least “Mission: Impossible 7” is back in production.

Nevertheless, this feels like it deserves a January spot on the calendar, not only in terms of quality, but in terms of content. A lot of it either feels cliche, cold, or something that could easily be tuned out. This may also not be the easiest movie to market either. I’m not sure how popular the book is, so I guess the easiest way to tell is to find out how many people in the world have read the source material.

The actors are alright in this movie, and I will say, whoever the makeup and hairstyling crew for this movie happens to be, they deserve a thumbs up because Blake Lively looks the part. She comes off as a woman who really has seen some s*it in her life, and her hairstyle projects that idea to me. Unfortunately, some halfway decent acting could not contribute to a halfway decent movie. I don’t feel like I’ll remember most of the characters, the happenings, the movie as a whole. It’ll probably be a blur at some point. Technically speaking, it’s very hit or miss. I don’t see myself watching this movie in the near future even as background noise.

I don’t want to end this review too harshly, after all, even though I’ve been bogging the screenplay, because it is admittedly boring and nowhere near satisfying, it is also Mark Burnell’s debut, so I’ll cut him some slack here. In fact, he’s got another project lined up, so maybe he’ll knock it out of the park next time, maybe even learn from some flaws here. Unfortunately it’s based on another one of his books so… We’ll see. Burnell, if you are reading this and want my recommendation, get another guy who is well versed in screenwriting to collaborate with you. Maybe you can still go with your vision, but I think a voice of experience would be helpful in a case like this. The movie’s still in pre-production… Maybe there’s time for another draft? I don’t know.

In the end, “The Rhythm Section” unfortunately did not make its money back at the box office, but nevertheless robbed me of $12.99 that I ended up paying for the Blu-ray. Granted, that’s a cheap price for a fairly new release, but nevertheless. This movie feels like alcohol. Only I didn’t drink it to forget something, instead the alcohol leaped off the screen and slowly poured itself down my throat. I do not feel like I’ll remember this movie that well. If you want a good revenge movie, just go watch “Taken,” go watch “John Wick,” they’re much more worth your time. Even the “John Wick” sequels are better than this! I’m going to give “The Rhythm Section” a 4/10.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see a review for a much better movie, be sure to check out my review for “Tenet!” Big movies are back, baby! This is what I’m talking about! I wanted to watch “Bill & Ted Face the Music” this past weekend, as it was playing in some theaters (although it was available on VOD too), but unfortunately I just couldn’t find time to do it. So, if I have the motivation for either format this upcoming weekend, I will probably check that movie out. What else am I gonna watch this weekend? “The Broken Hearts Gallery?” I like one of the actresses in it… But, what else does it have to offer? Maybe I’ll get a last minute A-List screening or something, I dunno. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Rhythm Section?” Or did you contribute to its unfortunate records? What did you think about the movie if you saw it? Or, what is your favorite movie with Blake Lively in it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Unhinged (2020): Why I Take Trains

“Unhinged” is directed by Derrick Borte (American Dream, London Town) and stars Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Cinderella Man), Caren Pistorius (Slow West, Mortal Engines), Gabriel Bateman (Child’s Play, Lights Out), Jimmi Simpson (Date Night, Westworld), and Austin P. McKenzie (When We Rise, Speech & Debate). This film mainly follows the actions of two characters. A mother happens to be down on her luck and is not having the best of starts to her day. Eventually, she comes across a truck sitting at a green light. She’s sitting behind it, she honks her horn, but passes the truck in anger. The guy inside the truck, played by Russell Crowe, starts following this woman and makes her life a misery, all because she refuses to give a “proper apology” to this man.

When it comes to theatrical releases in the United States, “Unhinged” came out during the first big weekend when major theaters reopened. This movie released on Friday August 21st, the weekend that many of AMC and Regal’s locations welcomed back customers. But I waited until Saturday August 29th to see this movie because I had priorities that other weekend. Plus, on an unrelated note, I just got AMC Stubs A-List, so this was a “free” movie for me. “Unhinged” comes with a rather simple, but intriguing concept, especially as someone who is able to drive a car in the United States. Many people look at driving as a privilege, and they are not wrong per se, but it is also a reason behind why society is freaking crazy. I feel like many of us are hyper-entitled whenever we get behind the wheel. We think that just because we spend five figures or something on a ride, it means we can do whatever we want. I still think the car horn is one of the most overrated inventions ever. Does it inform? Sure. But it’s also anxiety-inducing and incredibly startling. I cannot say that my local transportation system is as fine as I would want it, but at least I get the assumption that the people on transit vehicles are more willing to put up with everyone else. A little acceptance goes a long way, I’m just saying. Everyone has a bad day. Rant over!

Now, I went to “Unhinged” after spending a couple hours or so in a car. And I knew some things about this movie before going into it. I knew it was about road rage. I also knew that cars seem to have some heavy involvement in the script.

With that being said, “Unhinged” is probably the most uncomfortable movie experience I’ve had all year. And you should see it for that reason alone. This is a movie that reminds me of why I hate driving sometimes. Not only are you operating a vehicle that society is putting over its own environment, but sometimes the people inside other cars can lose their mind from time to time. Granted, I haven’t many bad experiences as a driver, but sometimes it scares me to know how much my own country is attached to personal vehicles. I will also point out that when it comes to performances so far this year, Russell Crowe might have given my favorite thus far. He plays a guy who seems pretty chill, but kind of has a sinister side to him. I really like his portrayal of the character of “The Man.” Wow, no wonder I didn’t know his character’s name! That’s his credit according to what I saw on IMDb.

In… Actuality… Russell Crowe plays a character named Tom Cooper. Nevertheless!

This movie goes on for an hour and a half, and I think this happened to be the perfect runtime for a movie like this. The concept is to the point and doesn’t require any expansion. The movie also does a really good job at not wasting any time and completely focusing on the main subject matter at hand. I don’t think there is one scene that should be taken out for reasons having to do with coherence. Nothing feels too self-indulgent or unnecessary. I will say though, and this may have part to do with what I saw from the movie’s marketing and not just the movie itself. Even though the supporting characters properly serve the plot at all times, I don’t think I will remember all of them that well. They were competently performed by their individual actors, but still, when I look back at this movie, it’s almost like they’re pawns or really JUST there to make one of the two characters behave a certain way. Granted, that is a proper definition of a “supporting character,” they’re not supposed to have all the spotlight. I just wish they were more memorable or had a bigger pinch of personality.

One thing I will say though about the main story of the film, I agree with both the protagonist and antagonist. I even disagree with both characters at times. I enjoy movies like this and it’s why I view “Avengers: Infinity War” to be the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the case of “Unhinged,” our main protagonist, Rachel, needs to get where she needs to go, but she has Russell Crowe standing, or more appropriately, driving in her way. When she gets angry, I understand her, I get what she’s going through, but it also brings me back to the wish that people would be more patient with others behind the wheel. Everyone’s got a story, you just haven’t heard them all yet. Soon thereafter, Russell Crowe, who seems nice, recognizes that a lot of people are impatient and they lose control in today’s society. So he wants an apology, which again, is understandable. I want what’s best for Rachel, but I do feel that she needs to be careful when talking to other people. She’s a flawed protagonist, and I was admittedly a bit skeptical as to whether or not I’d end up liking her, but I felt Rachel had a good presence by the end of the film. And of course, Russell Crowe turns into the biggest dick in the world, so of course I rooted for Rachel.

“Unhinged” is one of the first movies to release in an effort to welcome customers back to the theater. And let me just say, I would probably have a good time watching “Unhinged” at home. It would probably be a delight to put on my TV, but I welcome it as a major theatrical release because I imagine that this is one of those movies, kind of similar to a lot of Marvel or “Star Wars” projects, that gives a certain feeling in the theater that cannot be replicated at home. I was on the edge of my seat, and I thought this movie made me a bit more unsettled than any other experience I had this year. Maybe if I watched this movie at home I would have felt rather similar to the way I felt after watching it in the theater, but that is hard to tell at this point. Point is, if a theater is open near you and “Unhinged” is playing, see it if you feel safe!

In the end, “Unhinged” packs a wallop! I really enjoyed watching this movie as a theatrical experience. The plot is very simple, but I understood the motivations behind each character. I was able to relate to them. Again, I think some of the supporting characters will end up fading from my memory, but it does not take away from the swell time I had watching this movie. It’s fast-paced, dark, and occasionally heart-racing. Go watch it! I’m going to give “Unhinged” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This Tuesday, I’m going to see “Tenet,” in a theater, the way it was meant to be seen! I still wish I could have a closer spot playing it in 70mm, but I will happily support the theater industry at this time. Early access screenings begin tonight in the U.S., but I decided to go tomorrow for a couple reasons. So with that being said, I hope that the movie is fantastic! I will say, I’m also seeing it again Thursday in IMAX, so if I don’t have the review up by Thursday, it may be because I need to pick up some things I missed, or because I want to judge the IMAX-shot scenes in this movie. If you want to see my review for “Tenet,” be sure to follow Scene Before, that way you’ll be notified when the review goes up, and you can stick around for more content as well! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Unhinged?” What did you think about it? Or, have you been to the movies recently? Describe your experience! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Made in Italy (2020): Taken to the Gallery

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“Made in Italy” is directed by James D’Arcy (Dunkirk, Cloud Atlas) and stars Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Cold Pursuit), Micheál Richardson (Cold Pursuit, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), Valeria Bilello (Sense8, Curon), and Lindsay Duncan (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Birdman). This film mainly revolves around a father and son duo. They travel to Tuscany to sell a house inherited from the late wife of Neeson’s character. Only thing is, the house is run-down and pretty much a mess, so the two have to fix the place up before it can be given to a new owner for the sake of profit. Meanwhile, the son character played by Richardson wants to buy a gallery.

Well, this is my second week in a row where I review a movie, specifically one I saw in the theater, that pretty much centralizes Italy or some sort of Italian vibe. Last week, I reviewed “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” which during my review, I had positive thoughts to spew all around. Admittedly, I’ll probably forget some things about that movie by the end of the year. However, I still need to process “Made in Italy” before such a notion can probably be finalized. Like “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” I really have not heard squat about “Made in Italy.” I read the description regarding the movie and what it’s about. I also saw the trailer for the film hours or so before I left the house to see this movie. That’s really just about all I was able to gather about the film before actually seeing it.

Now that I’ve seen the film, if I had to compare the two Italy-centric flicks of importance of the bat, I will say a positive here… I liked “Made in Italy” more than “The Burnt Orange Heresy.” I also think “Made in Italy” will end up being more memorable and reflected upon as a greater story when it comes to entertainment. At its heart, “Made in Italy” is really just a ride between a father and son who reveal their sense of unease towards each other when they’re together. They have their differences, but we see them together and despite those differences, it all adds up for some great chemistry.

One thing I will say though, this movie, even from a marketing perspective, was sort of a surprise for me because it stars Liam Neeson and the vibe doesn’t feel goofy in the slightest. Sure, you can get a sense of seriousness from movies like “Taken” if you think hard enough or put yourself in the right mood, but in recent years, it almost feels as if Liam Neeson, who I respect as an actor, just signs on to “latest formulaic action movie 101.” The most recent examples for this are “The Commuter” and “Cold Pursuit.” Granted, he’s done other things too including a small voice-role in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and an uncredited role in Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville.” But when my mind diverts to thoughts of Liam Neeson, I might as well make a connection of sorts to some goofy, generic action movie that may not be remembered by the average viewer overtime. Heck, there was a scene from “Daddy’s Home 2” that basically parodies a stereotype regarding Liam Neeson’s career choices.

When it comes to “Made in Italy,” I think this is one of Liam Neeson’s standout performances, at least regarding the ones I’ve seen. I still have yet to see “Schindler’s List,” which he received an Oscar nomination for.

I am a bad movie fan. A bad bad movie fan. Apologies to Steven Spielberg.

Now, IMDb lists this movie as a “comedy,” with no other genres attached. But when I saw the trailer, I figured this would be on the drama side of things. Now that I used digital technology to get a little blip of info in my brain, I know better. Nevertheless, when I watched this movie, I was a bit surprised on how much I genuinely enjoyed the comedic moments. Maybe it’s because it’s 2020 and I almost feel like there is nothing to laugh about anymore, but still. Besides, laughter is the best medicine. It’s the perfect cure to realizing your brain has set itself on fire.

LAUGHTER: Try it today! 11 out of 10 doctors and one Movie Reviewing Moron approve!

Believe it or not, this is the third time I have seen Micheál Richardson in something on screen. I’ve already seen him in his earliest acting credit, specifically in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” but he also had a role in “Cold Pursuit.” To be completely honest, I don’t even remember this dude. Although to be fair, he’s mainly done small roles. For research purposes, I have been looking at the “Made in Italy” Wikipedia page, and even though Micheál Richardson’s name is listed on the page, he does not have a personally dedicated Wikipedia page of his own. Seeing him in a heavier role like the one he has in this movie is sort of fulfilling because he got to show off his true abilities as an actor. He and Liam Neeson make a great pair and I bought into both characters personalities and motivations. I should really not be that surprised, but I failed to realize until sometime during the writing of this review, that Richardson is actually Liam Neeson’s son! So their fine chemistry actually makes sense! It’s like they’ve ACTUALLY known each other for awhile, because guess what? They do!

This movie is directed by James D’Arcy, who to this day has 77 acting credits dating back to 1996. As for directing, the only thing he did before “Made in Italy” was a short by the name of “Chicken/Egg.” That movie is also the first screenplay he did. Coincidentally, “Made in Italy” happens to be his second writing credit. I think for a first time feature director, James D’Arcy shines. Granted, I’ve seen better, even from first time directorial efforts from people who have previously established themselves as actors including  Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” as the most prominent example I can think of. I think D’Arcy’s screenplay is coherent, it makes sense. All the points that need to be there have a reason for being there, but there are likely going to be some characters or moments that will leave my memory based on how forgettable they might end up being. There are also a couple shot choices, maybe just one or two, that come across as a little awkward and feel like they defy reality a little too far up the ladder, and this partially has to do with how one of the executions of Liam Neeson’s lines happens to be handled. Again, Liam Neeson gives a great performance in “Made in Italy,” but it doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have its flaws. It’s a bit cliche, yet enjoyable, but also packed with a suitable amount of fun here and there.

One of the phrases that I’ve learned in middle school that has stuck with me to this point is “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and sure, maybe my first impression of this movie being somewhere in dramaville was debunked. But I’m focusing on the opposite of that phrase here. Because this movie’s title gave me one hope… To feel like I’m in Italy for one to two hours. This movie fulfilled my wish in several scenes. The cover gave me something to look forward to, and I can’t say I was disappointed. After all, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to an Italian trip pretty soon because Italy, along with a majority of the world’s countries, pretty much hates the United States right now. What a time to be alive!

In the end, “Made in Italy” is a surprisingly fun and attention-grabbing movie in several parts. I think if you want some good performances and stunning scenery, you’ll get those two things here. When it comes to James D’Arcy’s directing career, not to mention his screenwriting career, I am curious to see what he plans to whip up next. Is it a drama? Action? Fantasy? Horror? I think as far as first time directing features go, this is a solid jump in the water. Maybe the next movie will bigger splash. Who knows? Anything can happen. I’m going to give “Made in Italy” a 7/10.

I’ll also point out, I did see this movie in theaters, and it is playing in quite a few places right now. However, the film is also available on VOD through various services including iTunes, Google Play, and cable On Demand providers like Xfinity and Verizon Fios. So if you are still uncomfortable of going to a theater right now for whatever reason, you can watch this movie at home if necessary.

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Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, movie theater chains like AMC and Regal reopen in many markets next week. I know AMC is opening a bunch of theaters near me, as for Regal, I’m not so sure that they’re ready just yet, but I will hopefully be going to see “Unhinged” sometime soon, which is one of the first new releases that is going to be getting people back to the movies. And if the theaters are open long enough, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to see “The New Mutants,” maybe I’ll get to see “Tenet.” I am BEGGING for somebody, ANYBODY, near me to show the film in full frame IMAX. I’ll get a COVID test and hop on a plane somewhere if I have to at this point. I’ll do anything! Throw my phone out the window! Shine a flashlight in my eyes! Drink from a toilet bowl! Save Princess Peach! Build a Death Star by myself! Eat doorknobs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! ANYTHING! But hey, guess what? I’m already going to AMC twice next week, so this should be the start of something satisfying. What am I seeing? Thursday I’m seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” and Saturday I’m going to the “Inception” 10th Anniversary Event. I can’t wait, I’m excited to go back to AMC, even if I will admit they have been involved in some stupid remarks and decisions in recent months, and I do mean it when I say stupid. Granted, I also blame Universal Pictures, but still.

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 “Made in Italy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Liam Neeson performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019): Portrait with Orange on Fire

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“The Burnt Orange Heresy” is directed by Giuseppe Capotondi (Berlin Station, The Double Hour) and stars Claes Bang (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Square), Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Everest), Mick Jagger (Being Mick, Running Out of Luck), and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, Pride & Prejudice). This film revolves around an eccentric, mysterious art critic by the name of James Figueras who is hired to steal a rare painting. As the movie moves along, he becomes greedier by the second. Simultaneously, he is romantically involved with a woman named Berenice Hollis.

Oh yay! Another movie that we can see in theaters! 2020 is turning around!

…Sort of. Not really. It’s still a crapfest all around and we just have to live with that! Boohoo.

“The Burnt Orange Heresy,” much like a lot of other movies I have seen so far this year, is a film that I really did not know much about going into it. All I really knew about the film is what I’ve read regarding it on IMDb and one or two other sites. I knew it got some attention already through festivals. Apparently, based on how IMDb lists the film as being released on March 6th, 2020 in the U.S., this thing has been theatrically released already. In fact, its distributor, Sony Pictures Classics decided that they’d hold onto the film and avoid putting it on VOD despite how many other films at the time such as “The Hunt,” “Bloodshot,” and “Onward” were going in such a direction. As of today, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a film that can ONLY be watched in theaters. As for when it will hit stores and digital services remains a mystery to me.

Walking out of “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” I cannot say I’m disappointed. Partially because as mentioned, I did not know much about the film going into it. All I really gathered regarding it was the basic gist and concept. “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a sensual, mysterious flick, which kind of makes sense as it does take place in Italy, which from my experience is an often romanticized country. In fact, let me just say, I am not dating anybody. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic where everyone is supposed to socially distance from each other, I don’t really think I should be dating anybody, but I thought that if you are in the right mood, this could be an alright pick for a date movie. Granted, this movie is also not for everyone, as it does feel fairly artsy. Almost in the high-brow category if you will. Then again, this is a movie heavily involving art and someone trying to steal a rare painting, so it kind of adds up.

I really think the best part of the movie is the chemistry between the main romantic couple, specifically played by Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki. Their chemistry is some of the best I have seen in recent memory in regards to a relationship. Every one of their actions, even if it goes to a point of slight exaggeration, felt kind of raw. Again, this is kind of a sensual movie during a few bits and pieces, even if that is not what it is trying to present itself as in the long run.

Also, gotta admit, Elizabeth Debicki may be a new celebrity crush of mine, and based on her acting chops, I cannot wait to see her smash the role she’s got in “Tenet!”

*teary-eyed* PLEASE COME OUT ALREADY.

I also liked the main character himself, again, played by Claes Bang, an actor who I am admittedly not familiar with at all. This movie starts off with a pretty sharply edited opening scene where Claes Bang’s character, James Figueras, is on his exercise bike in his private quarters, but simultaneously, he’s lecturing to an audience about a painting. To save some of the mystery from you, the people reading this… I will not go into much detail about the scene itself, but it is a great way to not only start the film, but get a sense of our main character’s personality. What’s he like? What does he do? What are his mannerisms? Just in the first five to ten minutes of this film, I felt like I’ve already gathered a terrific sense of who exactly this character could be, or who he is trying to be. He’s mysterious, he’s quirky, I kind of wanted to know more about him. Sure, maybe on the surface he kind of looks like the dad from “Modern Family,” but as far as his traits and personality go, that is something that I wanted to be somewhat unraveled as we go along.

As I watched “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” it reminded me of one thing more than anything else. That my friends, is “Life Lessons,” the short film directed by Martin Scorcese as part of the “New York Stories” set. For those of you who don’t know what that is, “Life Lessons” is a film about an eccentric painter, who lives with his assistant as their relationship begins to spiral down the drain. Granted, the relationship seems to be working a lot better for both sides in “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” but I would not be lying if I told you that I did not make such a connection with these two films. Both of these films feel fairly dramatic, romantic, and occasionally a little bumpy. I will say, and this is somewhat forgiven as “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is a feature and “Life Lessons” is a short, but “The Burnt Orange Heresy” feels a bit on the slower side compared to “Life Lessons.” Without spoilers, the way certain events play out in both these films feels like they are a couple with their differences, but nevertheless happy to be together.

I said this once, I’ll say it again, this film is not for everyone. This film is almost on the verge of being kind of eccentric, and some will find it pretentious or high brow. But for me, I enjoyed myself. It is a film that I probably will not end up watching every day, but if I were to have it on, I would most likely not use it just as background noise. I also think that when it comes to how this film is edited overall, it is one of the finer editing jobs I have seen this year. A lot of the scenes are interwoven nicely and nothing really feels out of place. I’d give this film a thumbs up.

In the end, “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” despite what I just said about probably not wanting to watch it every day, is a film that I’d probably check out a second time because it has a vibe that feels cleansing and smooth to the brain. Plus, despite being an hour and thirty-nine minutes, there may be one or two things that I missed on the first viewing that I may want to pick up again. Maybe the dialogue went over my head or something, I don’t know. Nevertheless, this is good enough for a repeat viewing. I’m going to give “The Burnt Orange Heresy” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I have a few new Blu-rays lying around for possible reviews, but HBO Max has just released an original film starring Seth Rogen by the name of “An American Pickle.” If I get the chance, I might just talk about that for an upcoming review, but who knows? Anything can happen in 2020. 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 “The Burnt Orange Heresy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie set in Italy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Adrift (2018): Weirdest Non-Linear Movie Ever?

Before we dive into the sea from our sailboats and talk about the total shipwreck that is “Adrift,” allow me to just introduce to two fish in said sea who once found love. Their names are Paul and Genevieve. The two knew each other for a long time, happened to be relaxing one day, and suddenly decided to have a kid. Unfortunately for the couple, they might as well have suffered some massive shark bites along the way, because as they say, “trying to have a baby is freakin’ hard, man!” This is all explained… in “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” is a new series on YouTube revolving around the recently mentioned couple as they attempt to have a baby. They eventually realize that having a baby isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and it is for them, possibly harder than RAISING the child. The couple stick and suffer together in tests, procedures, math, sexual activity, and of course, needles. You can find the latest content from the “WTIVF?” YouTube channel and also be sure to subscribe and ring the bell if you haven’t already. Their latest episode actually drifts away from the normal series because as Paul explains in the beginning, the bathroom inside his and Genevieve’s house is being renovated. Instead, they are showing the first movie Paul and Genevieve made together as they attended film school. Be sure to check that out if that’s your thing! Also, speaking of checking things out, be sure to check out the “WTIVF?” website, along with with the show’s social media profiles, including their recently mentioned YouTube channel, where all of their latest content is uploaded! Also be sure to tell them that Jack Drees sent ya over!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

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“Adrift” is directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest) and stars Shailene Woodley (Divergent, Big Little Lies) alongside Sam Clafin (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Me Before You) and is based on a true story, which has a book on it written by Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Susea McGearhart. This true story is about a couple who meet each other, fall in love, and soon find themselves adrift at sea.

I saw this movie yesterday, and for those of you who are reading this the day this post is up, that means you can tell I saw this on Monday, June 4th, 2018. I had some time on my hands, so I figured I’d catch a 12PM show at one of my local theaters. And you know what? It was a nice theater! It’s an AMC, and as far as my area is concerned (eastern Massachusetts) if you are a movie theater that happens to be under the AMC brand name, there’s a good chance I already like you. I like the AMC cinema chain, but I can’t say I like this movie. In all honestly, this is one of the weirdest movies I’ve watched in recent memory. And no, I don’t mean in a Wes Anderson-esque type of way where the movie is an enjoyable quirk-fest like “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” If the movie were enjoyable, I’d be in a somewhat happier state of mind.

Having heard about this movie, I am well aware this is based on both a true story and a book. Going into the movie, I didn’t have complete familiarity with either two parts to this material, so I was heading into the auditorium rather blind. And for those of you who don’t have the brain capacity or IQ to determine what I mean, I say that in a sense of not knowing anything. My sight was still intact. Although with this movie, at times I kind of wanted to not only be blind in a literal sense. But also deaf. Maybe dead too.

You might be asking based on what I’m uttering to you all, “Is this the worst movie of the year?” No. I won’t give my final verdict yet, but it’s not the worst movie of the year. It’s not even the worst movie of the decade. There are still some things I can truly appreciate about “Adrift” so let’s get some positives out of the way before I lose my sanity.

“Adrift,” to my lack of surprise, has extremely well thought out location choices. Most of the movie takes place at sea, so you can often gaze at the beauty of the blue water shown in the film if that’s your thing. Everything fit a rather exotic/sea-like vibe very well. Too bad the movie wasn’t worth SEAing.

Also, to help you at viewing the movie’s locations, there are cameras to assist in that sort of job. The cinematography in “Adrift” was certainly not bad for the most part. Everything was very well shot, not Oscar-worthy or anything, although in some cases I guess it can come close, but it’s very competent and can certainly make you feel like you’re at sea, getting shipwrecked, or jumping into water.

The biggest positive this movie has however is that Shailene Woodley is f*cking awesome. Her lead performance in this movie is everything that this movie needed if all anyone ever appreciated in Hollywood is acting. There were several scenes where Shailene Woodley would speak, yell, commit to some sort of action, and it would be believable. Her character is Tami Oldham, one of the two people who get shipwrecked in the story, and she is a combination of charming, curious, but also scared. This is especially when consider some of the movie’s scenes and one key trait she has that separates her from other people. Turns out she is a vegetarian, and if you’re at sea and you don’t have anything to eat, you’re kind of out of luck.

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Woodley’s co-star, Sam Clafin, plays Richard Sharp. And while Clafin doesn’t necessarily give the worst performance I’ve seen. There are a couple times in this movie that somewhat stick out to me where it almost seems that he’s unenthusiastic or he’s desperately begging for a paycheck, a break, or an opportunity to leave. To be fair though, I heard that shooting days were not the shortest for this movie, plus most of it is at sea. I don’t know for sure, so don’t take my word on this, but maybe Clafin gets seasick real easy. Although, there were just times where instead of feeling like I was watching a professional actor, I felt more like I was watching an employee at the DMV who never acted once in his life, who just wanted a step up from his job so he can get out of his rathole.

Speaking of things people want to get out of, I wanted to get out of this movie! Part of it had to do with perhaps the biggest problem I’ve faced throughout the movie’s entire runtime. You know how some movies are told in a non-linear fashion? Some of my favorite movies do this because in one way or another, it adds to the overall greatness of the product. Here, they go back and forth between the wreck and whatever sort of happenings occur before the wreck. My question about all of this is: Why the f*ck would you do this s*it?

Unlike a number of movies I’ve seen, movies including “Memento,” “Arrival,” “Deadpool,” these are all told in such a fascinating non-linear way that is so brilliant and in ways, makes the movie more engaging. This however, LITERALLY DOES NOTHING FOR THE MOVIE. There’s another movie that’s somewhat similar to this, Disney’s “The Finest Hours,” which released in 2016. That movie, while not good, was told in a very conventional linear order and made the movie stable. If “Adrift” was done in a linear fashion, the movie would have been better! It would have a slightly higher purpose of even existing!

This is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it is quite possibly the biggest mish-mash of a movie I’ve ever seen. Have you seen the YouTube series “Will It Blend?” It’s a viral marketing campaign where a guy attempts to blend unusual things with a Blendtec blender and see how they turn out. I wonder if the writers had a mindset similar to the ideas of that show, but ultimately, this does not blend.

This almost makes this movie feel like there are just a bunch of random scenes put together. In fact, I actually once watched one review online before going to see the movie, by the way, the reviewer was YouTuber Chris Stuckmann. He talked about the non-linear storytelling and when I heard about this, my hopes for this movie dwindled a bit. But I saw it anyway. He makes a point that this makes you care less about the two leads of the film through the way the story is told. I’m not sure how much better this will be had they gone in linear order, but Stuckmann certainly makes a terrific point that I can side with. Let me ask you something about a different disaster movie/love story. Did “Titanic” need to be told in a non-linear perspective? LET THAT SINK IN. I mean, sure, it kind of was told in a non-linear order since it was all a flashback, but for the most part, you are seeing a story from beginning to end. You care about Jack and Rose in “Titanic” because you see them develop their journeys as characters from beginning to end. And you know what? It’s kind of sad that when it comes to the realm of film that I more care about two fictionalized characters in a real-life disaster shown on screen as opposed to two actual characters in a real-life disaster shown on screen. Just… LET THAT SINK IN.

In the end I gotta say that “Adrift” felt like an extended drift to get through, if you catch my drift. This is one of the most disappointingly odd movies I’ve watched in my entire life. I mean, it has some good things about it, but the negatives seriously outweigh the positives this movie has to offer. I wouldn’t say this is Shailene Woodley’s worst work yet, however, this is one of those movies I will not be coming back to, even if I was stranded at sea, had a working portable DVD player, and a DVD copy of the film. I’m going to give “Adrift” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “Tag” which is in theaters everywhere on Friday, June 15th. I’m going to see it tonight courtesy of Warner Brothers, and I kinda sorta just found out about the movie’s review embargo. While I don’t know the official date quite yet, I won’t be able to review it right after I see it, so there’s a good chance that I won’t be able to give a detailed review until say, sometime next week. I’ll definitely make the review this week, but I’m gonna probably schedule it to be up RIGHT when the embargo lifts.

Also, for those of you who follow or care to know about my personal Twitter (@JackDrees) I made a poll yesterday. I would like to thank the four people who responded to it. I asked you all what I should do for a new post given that that I’ve now seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the 70mm format. The top pick was the fourth option, “Combo/other.” So you know what? The majority spoke, and the majority will get what they want!

That’s what I would say if I didn’t know what sarcasm was.

Because out of the two people who said the fourth option was their preference, they both failed at following ONE SIMPLE RULE.

Since character limits are bitches, I stated in the choice “(comment plz),” because I wanted you people to specify what exactly it was that you wanted me to do. Neither of you did. And now for your brutal, deadly, lesson-filled punishment, I’m gonna make the decision myself! It’s my blog, I can do what I want! I have the creative freedom around here! And to add onto the punishment, I will state that I’m not even going to tell what exactly I plan to do! OK… I will say though… I’m kinda still deciding. Something’s coming. It’ll be a surprise. And you’ll find out soon. Be sure to look out for my mysterious “2001: A Space Odyssey” post! Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Adrift?” What did you think about it? Or what is the worst movie you’ve seen that has some form of non-linear storytelling? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!