Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): The Biggest Blast in the Galaxy

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! It is the final day in the epic Scene Before event, 7 Days of Star Wars! We finished the prequel trilogy! We finished the original trilogy! And now, it is time for the sequel trilogy! Now as you may or may not know, I already reviewed “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker” on this blog before. Therefore, I will not be diving into those movies here because doing so would be somewhat repetitive. And if you are unfamiliar with the “Star Wars” franchise by any means, this implies that today I would be talking about “The Force Awakens.” This film has been one of the most impactful I have ever seen in my life. It is the only movie I have watched four times in the theater. It is the first film that I bought on Blu-ray in Steelbook form. And like many people, it revitalized my interest in “Star Wars.” Not to say I wasn’t interested before, but it practically gave me “Star Wars” fever in the same way that the original movie did to people back in 1977. The question is… Does it hold up five and a half years later? It is time to find out in the final episode of a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) and stars Harrison Ford (The Fugitive, Air Force One), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Adam Driver (Lincoln, Girls), Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness, Casualty), John Boyega (Attack the Block, 24: Live Another Day), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Sucker Punch), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1), Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow (Minority Report, Flash Gordon). This film is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and follows a group of people trying to seek the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi. At the same time, an ex-stormtrooper, a desert scavenger, and a BB droid must unite with Han Solo and Chewbacca to search for said Jedi all the while dealing with the currently enormous threat to the galaxy, the First Order, which is in control of the Death Star planet hybrid, Starkiller Base.

Imagine this… You are a mega fan of “Star Wars.” You saw all the movies. It’s been ten years since the prequels came out, when it seemed as if this franchise was done for good. But since Disney bought Lucasfilm, they’ve had plans to expand it since. This is where “The Force Awakens” comes in. Maybe one thing comes to mind, and that one thing is hype. After all, the trailers seem to promise a sense of direction that relates more to what we’ve experienced in the original films as opposed to the prequels, which have seemed to divide fans over the years. I think the hype that has been built up going into “The Force Awakens” is almost unlike any movie I’ve seen in my life aside from “Avengers: Endgame.” For the record, I think only one “Star Wars” movie surpassed “The Force Awakens” in terms of all time hype, specifically “The Phantom Menace,” but I was not born yet. But in the time that I’ve been alive, I remember the feeling I had going into “The Force Awakens.” I bought tickets in advance for what would end up being my SECOND screening of the film, which was for Tuesday December 29th, when I went to see the movie with my father. My first screening was purchased around the weekend it came out, amazingly there were still tickets available. I went with a few people I know, including one of my close friends who was mainly a Trekkie, but she watched the original films in preparation for this event and she enjoyed them. The hype was F*CKING REAL. Was “The Force Awakens” worth all that hype? Or was it something that would let me down in the end?

You bet it was worth the hype. And having rewatched it in preparation for this review, if anything, it has gotten better since my first viewing. I will admit, part of it may be because I watched it for the first time in a while, whereas in a year like 2016 I would watch it almost every other night over the spring, so it almost maintains a feeling of freshness, but this is a film that evokes the feeling of excitement. If the prequels have style and the originals have substance, then “The Force Awakens” probably has both! When this film came out, it was by far one of the most presentable “Star Wars” films yet. Granted, a lot of it has to do with maybe a greater sense of detail that has been built up over the years and better effects. But I look back at the original “Star Wars” and also notice that in this film, they do a lot more movement with the camera and attempt to make this newer installment slightly more immersive. The flight sequences in “The Force Awakens” are probably the most dazzling in the franchise. We see the camera attached to the side of an X-Wing, maybe we’re inside an X-Wing, maybe we’re flying in the air and the camera goes through an explosion as we head into it. There is a lot to love in this film in terms of flight. And it’s not just the craft we fly like TIE Fighters and X-Wings, but the characters we meet along the way.

Poe Dameron : What’s your name?

Finn : FN-2187.

Poe Dameron : F… What?

Finn : That’s the only name they ever gave me.

Poe Dameron : Well, I ain’t usin’ it. FN, huh? Finn, I’m going to call you Finn. Is that alright?

Finn : Finn. Yeah. Finn. I like that. I like that.

Poe Dameron : I’m Poe. Poe Dameron!

Finn : Good to meet you, Poe!

Poe Dameron : Good to meet you too Finn!

The scene where Finn an Poe first meet is up there with one of my favorites in the franchise. Because after a series of three movies where we see semi-unrelatable Jedi who almost have no emotion whatsoever, we get these two individuals who let out any single sense of emotion they have within them. There’s this moment where Finn takes out a couple cannons on a Stardestroyer and the next thing we see is them cheering out of satisfaction. Finn just lets himself loose and Poe soon joins in. They’re having the time of their lives. While it is noticeable that Anakin and Obi-Wan have become good friends over the years, they honestly don’t feel like “buds” or actual people with things in common other than the Jedi way. These two in just a matter of moments let out more emotion than we’ve seen in a couple of entire prequel movies.

In fact, that is something I really want to talk about. This movie, much to my delight, goes into a direction that truly humanizes “Star Wars.” And it is not to say that the series has not done that already. “A New Hope” is about being a larger than life individual and the steps that a hero takes to get to that larger than life status. But here, they go as far as to humanize Stormtroopers, who we find out are actual people who can remove their helmets. To be fair, this should not be TOO surprising, as Darth Vader had a helmet that could be removed, but it is something that at least in the movies, has never been seen in “Star Wars” before. There is a scene Finn removes his helmet and we see his pain, his exasperation. He just finished his first battle and he is clearly not thrilled with what he has witnessed. I feel like writers J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt were in a room together and constantly asked each other what ways they could evoke more actual human emotion into the franchise, because they not only manage to do that with something as robotic as Stormtroopers, but with the brand new villain, who I would argue is my favorite of the Disney “Star Wars” characters, Kylo Ren.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

When it comes to “Star Wars,” Darth Vader is seen as the biggest of all baddies. That is written in stone. None of the prequel villains like Darth Maul ever surpassed Vader’s legacy in terms of how they were represented in the movies. There are days that I look at Kylo Ren however, and see something in him that makes him come off as more likable than Vader. And I’ll tell you why… He’s not exactly fearsome. He talks a good game. He wields a sparkly red lightsaber that almost looks like it’s on life support, but somehow it looks pretty badass. He stops blaster bolts with the force, which provides for one of my favorite shots of the film where we see Poe getting dragged to Kylo by a couple troopers. But he is so busy fanboying over Vader’s legacy, trying to be him or surpass him. After all, as people, we all look up to someone and hope their qualities that we may take from them will lead to a successful path in life. And Kylo kind of reminds me of myself a little because he sometimes will lose his temper and take his anger out on electronic devices. He kind of feels like an angry gamer playing “Cuphead” and he can’t make it past the one boss that will lead you to the next island. It’s HILARIOUS. I don’t know how this statement will be received… But aside from Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren may be the character in the “Star Wars” franchise that I relate to the most. Feels weird to say, but it is true. In fact, that is part of the humanization of this film that really stands out, the humor. “Star Wars” is one of those franchises that comes off as funny to me without the characters exactly being funny. That has stood true in films like “The Empire Strikes Back.” But this film takes the humor to another level.

Poe Dameron : Wha- why? Why are you helping me?

Finn : Because it’s the right thing to do.

Poe Dameron : You need a pilot.

Finn : [chagrined]  I need a pilot.

There is so much that goes on in this film in terms of attempts at comedy that honestly don’t feel forced. They feel like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie where every humorous quote blends naturally into the conversation or scene. Every shining character from Finn to Han to Chewbacca to Rey has at least funny moment in the film, even if it is minor or something that could be glossed over. And speaking of Rey, let’s talk about her.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

I went into “The Force Awakens” during my initial screening thinking I’d like Rey, but after multiple rewatches, I practically admired the character more and more. Kind of like Luke Skywalker was, she seemed somewhat hesitant to go on her journey, but also like Luke, it made the character somewhat relatable. She was emotional, sometimes giddy, observant of her surroundings, and she has great chemistry with Finn. I think the first three to five minutes with her are some of my favorite in recent “Star Wars” history because it comes without any dialogue, at least none out of her specifically, and in those moments, I have practically learned the base of what I need to know about her. She lives in a slightly ruined, but also civilized desert, she lives by herself and makes the most of what she has, but she’s looking for an escape at the same time. This is well established by her exiting her unusual home, sitting in the sand, and watching a spacecraft fly up. She clearly longs for a way out of her life and the movie did a great job at encapsulating that.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

But this film is not all about the new characters. Because these new characters get to journey alongside Han Solo and Chewbacca, and every time I watch this movie, I think Han Solo gives a good performance, but it is arguably his worst when it comes to this specific character. Maybe it’s because the character is not in their prime and seeing a grizzly Han admittedly takes a little getting used to, but it’s nice to know Harrison Ford is still going strong in these films. As for Chewbacca, he is played by two people. In some scenes, he is portrayed by Peter Mayhew, and in others he is played by Joonas Suotomo. It’s nice to see Han and Chewie back together because I think their relationship, and this was also highlighted in the “Solo” spinoff movie, has been one of the franchise’s biggest standouts. To see them both together feels natural and fun. There’s also a great gag where Han Solo tries out Chewbacca’s gun, and he seems to be quite impressed with it. Admittedly, as fun as it is in the movie, one SLIGHT nitpick I have with that, and it is a very small one, it does not take too much away from the film itself. It feels very weird to know that in the extended number of years that they’ve known each other, Han has supposedly never tried Chewbacca’s gun out. Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe it’s the typical instinct thing that Wookies have that kind of makes them go wild. I mean, if Chewbacca can tear off somebody’s limbs after losing a friendly match of a holographic game on the Millennium Falcon, or as LEGO Batman calls it, “Space Checkers,” you can only wonder what would happen if somebody touches his gun. Then again, he probably trusts Han after many years of standing by each other. Who knows? Just something I wanted to bring up.

We also have Leia, who as of this movie, has been deemed a “Disney Princess.” But in this movie, we see that she and Han, somewhat unsurprisingly, have stuck around over the years. And I will admit, when it comes to “The Force Awakens,” the first scene that we see of her and Han in the same frame is the one that arguably gets me the most nostalgic about the “Star Wars” franchise aside from Han admiring the Falcon cockpit and Han referring back to the old days where he remembers his skepticism about the Jedi and how his thoughts have changed since. And speaking of nostalgia, let’s dive a little further into it.

“Star Wars” has become part of many people’s lives. And for lots of them, their first exposure was the original movie, which is phenomenal even by today’s standards. “The Force Awakens,” according to many people, feels like a ripoff of “A New Hope.” To me, I do not like to use that word. Because to call it a ripoff would mean that I did not like the movie. To me, this film took the plot lines of “A New Hope,” tinkered with them, and successfully made an extremely effective picture. To me, “The Force Awakens” is more like a homage and tribute to what makes the franchise great than anything else. “Star Wars” has always been revered mainly because of the success of the original trilogy. People like it for other things too, but mainly the original trilogy. So I have a feeling that J.J. Abrams or Lawrence Kasdan or Kathleen Kennedy wanted to consider the people who did not like the prequels, and give them something that they’re probably more likely to enjoy. And to do that, there was a sense of nostalgia every other step of the way between X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Death Stars, characters we already knew from prior films, and so on. In a way, this is basically a VERY WELL DONE “Star Wars” greatest hits album. It takes everything people like about “Star Wars” and puts them all into a beautiful package. And I’m surprised that people feel like this movie is too familiar. Yes, some of the story beats are similar to the original trilogy. There’s a big planet killer, a guy with a red lightsaber and helmet that wants to destroy the galaxy, there’s someone else with a blue lightsaber trying to save the galaxy, there’s a space battle towards the end, there’s a scene where the Millennium Falcon gets caught in a tractor beam. There’s a lot that this film takes from entries prior. But I’d say that it is, as people say, similar to the original “Star Wars,” and I’ll add, it comes with a hint of darkness from “The Empire Strikes Back” sprinkled in between. There’s even blood in this movie! I like that little detail they added in!

If anything, and I say this as a huge fan of “Revenge of the Sith,” this feels like a “Star Wars” reunion party that has been built up for years. One that in a way, semi-apologizes for the prequels. Disney is the host, the mass audiences are all invited in, we go to the theater, head to the auditorium, and once that opening crawl commences and we get to the nitty gritty of the film, the movie is basically screaming “WELCOME BACK!” to all of our faces. This film is most certainly nostalgic to the tenth degree, but manages to interweave that nostalgia with a brand new story and set of characters that I have grown to admire over a couple of hours.

One last thing before we get to the final verdict. I really need to know this. If John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or anyone else who worked on the film can confirm, I have a question about… This scene. Because I think I may have interpreted it much differently than a lot of other people who saw the movie.

In this moment, is BB-8 giving a thumbs up or is he flipping Finn off? I know the video title goes with the former, but still! When I saw this film at the theater, I always thought BB-8 was flipping Finn off. After all, when you present a light of fire at somebody, it almost signals a threat. Besides, BB-8 originally tried to electrocute Finn on Jakku. And yes, he’s kind of warmed up to him, but it’s almost like BB-8 smells a rat and is telling Finn, “I’m onto you.” At least that is what my interpretation is of what is going on. So if anyone involved with Lucasfilm or “The Force Awakens” could confirm this to me, please do.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

In the end, “The Force Awakens” puts the fun back in “Star Wars” after years of emotionless movies with somewhat dull characters. We now have humanized individuals, including the big bad villain who unlike Vader, is much more man than he is machine. If anything, this almost reminds me of an animated film because you know how in animated films like “The Lion King” or “A Bug’s Life” they’ll take creatures that are not human and personify them by giving them human voices? This reminds me of that because they took characters like Stormtroopers and others who are robotic and gave them all personalities. Every single character in this film feels like they have some understanding of the human condition and have at least a single ounce of relatability. The film looks amazing and one of my nerdy pieces of nostalgia I’ll bring to the table, this movie was shot in 35mm, although there is one sequence, specifically the escape from Jakku, that was shot on IMAX film, which was marvelous to watch on the IMAX screen the two times I saw it in that format. Plus there is also footage shot with an Arri Alexa XT. The film is funny, it’s happy, sad, everything in between. It has everything I could want in a “Star Wars” movie. Is it familiar? Sure, but again, familiarity in this case is not a weakness. For this movie in particular, it is used as a technique to get us to appreciate the joys of the past in “Star Wars” while also looking to the future. When I first reflected on the film, my one hope was that when Episode VIII comes out, it is not a copy-paste of “The Empire Strikes Back,” because this copy-paste technique worked in the favor of “The Force Awakens,” as it was trying to remind people what “Star Wars” *is*, but the next film also had to differentiate itself from what came before in the franchise.

Well… It was different alright. But it doesn’t mean it was great.

I walked out of “The Force Awakens” as a 16 year old geek in 2016 with a feeling that could only be described as orgasmic, and each time I watch the film, I enjoy it as much as the first. I’m going to give “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” a 10/10.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did everything it should have done and more. It made me feel like a kid again in the best possible way. This movie is so good, that I almost forgot to put in my obligatory statement where I appreciate John Williams’s score. And by the way, John Williams killed the score in this film, if you must know. I love his theme for the Resistance, Rey’s theme is soft and smooth, and Kylo Ren’s jingle has been catchy since early viewings of the film.

Much like the original trilogy, “The Force Awakens” has an insane replay value. I saw it four times in the theater, many more times on home video. In fact, I’d watch it almost every other night in April, May, and June of 2016, and I’d occasionally watch it on television. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a fantastic setup for what was to come. Unfortunately, what came after was not so fantastic, and I say that despite giving “The Last Jedi” a positive review. I was in a much different mindset when I saw the movie compared to long after it. That’s the power of thinking things over and watching a movie a second time.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes the 7 Days of “Star Wars” event! I want to thank everyone for reading this review, along with those who read my reviews for Episodes I through VI. If you want to read any of my other “Star Wars” movie reviews, I have links for them down below. I have always wanted to talk about these movies to an extensive length, and I finally got the chance to do it, so I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I enjoyed making them, even if it did take a lot of time for me to sit down and complete, but it was worth it. I do have plenty of reviews for new movies coming soon including “Wrath of Man,” “Army of the Dead,” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” I do apologize if I end up getting these out somewhat late, but I have mainly been focused on the 7 Days of Star Wars event in regard to my recent goings on here at Scene Before. Therefore, everything else has been put on the backburner. Although I am also excited to announce that I will soon be doing another Blu-ray collection update. In all likelihood, this will be done in June, but depending on my schedule and how things go in life, I may end up doing it in July.

I also will share with you that my next review series, which is being done in preparation for the Disney ride to film adaptation “Jungle Cruise.” This series is going to be focused on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I have admittedly not watched these movies in YEARS. I have also never seen even a minute of the fourth and fifth installments, and I don’t think I have any memory of watching the third one either. I could be wrong though. Find out my thoughts on all five sea adventures this July in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account or like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens?” What did you think about it? And I’ll end with three more questions… One, what is your favorite “Star Wars” film? Two, what film have you seen the most times in the theater? And three, what is your favorite franchise continuation or reboot? And I don’t just mean sequel, I mean a sequel that has been long-awaited like “Jurassic World” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Blade Runner 2049.” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

May the force be with you. Emphasis on the May.

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/27/the-empire-strikes-back-1980-i-love-you/

RETURN OF THE JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/28/return-of-the-jedi-1983-i-see-the-good/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019): The Final Word in the Story

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“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible: III, Star Trek), who also directed 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This film stars Daisy Ridley (Peter Rabbit, Murder on the Orient Express), John Boyega (Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Circle), Adam Driver (Paterson, Girls), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Operation Finale), Anthony Daniels (I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, The Lord of the Rings), Naomi Ackie (The End of the F***ing World, Lady MacBeth), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, American Made), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Logan), Lupita Nyong’o (Us, 12 Years a Slave), Keri Russell (Waitress, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Kelly Marie Tran (Adam Ruins Everything, XOXO), Ian McDiarmid (The Lost City of Z, Sleepy Hollow), and Billy Dee Williams (Batman, Dynasty). This film is the conclusion to the sequel trilogy of the “Star Wars” franchise, bringing an end to the now trendily-named “Skywalker Saga” and follows the heroes we have come to know so far as the Resistance is dwindled. Where do they go next? Wherever they can to face off against the First Order one last time.

Oh, and of course… There’s a REAL LIFE plot to this movie too! After the events of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” audiences are divided! Between playing it too safe in one movie and trying to find unlocked paths in another movie, there is no way to impress every single “Star Wars” fan out there! So now it is the job of J.J. Abrams to bring balance to the “Star Wars” fandom and take on the near impossible task of sticking the landing in terms of directing “Episode IX.”

Now, for those of you who have been following Scene Before for some time, I do have to say, I make an effort to provide as little spoilers as possible for every movie review I do. There may be a case where I either have to or want to put in spoilers for one reason or another, but most of the time, I make an effort to be as secretive as possible in regards to the film’s key points that could potentially alter how one would see the movie if it had been revealed to them beforehand. With that being said, this is a “Star Wars” movie. “Star Wars” is a franchise that I would be eternally heartbroken had spoilers for it come my way. I imagine most of my viewers would feel the same way. So let me just say, this is a SPOILER-FREE review. Knowing that I just saw the movie on one of the earliest showtimes the public can access, I am going to raise my shield to avoid all effects from blasters, lightsabers, pistols, force lightning, and if possible (and I’m not saying I am weak-minded), Jedi mind tricks. So without further ado, let’s talk some “Star Wars.”

The “Star Wars” sequel trilogy has been a mixed bag for me so far. I for one LOVE “The Force Awakens.” I’m not gonna lie, it is one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies for sure. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a movie I was looking forward to, saw in the theater on opening weekend, and walked out of it feeling like I saw the second coming of Christ on screen. Every now and then I’ll walk out of a movie feeling something inside me that made me feel like I leveled up. That was one of them. In fact, it might even be my favorite movie of 2015. Is it a copy paste of the original “Star Wars” movie? Sure, you can definitely bring up that point. But the thing is, the movie did exactly what a film of its kind needed to do. Deliver crowd-pleasing moments, provide stunning visuals, unleash great characters, start something special, and take you away from reality. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was able to do that. I will admit, I liked “Episode III,” in fact I personally admire it much more than most people, but as someone who looks back at the prequels as a slight step in the wrong direction, what Disney and J.J. Abrams did with “The Force Awakens” was exactly what I believe the “Star Wars” community and fanbase needed. Something familiar, but immensely entertaining.

Then we got “The Last Jedi” which was… Mediocre. Now if you have ever read my initial review for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” you’d know I dug it. The reason being is because as much as I enjoyed “The Force Awakens,” I saw it partially as a throwback. But it’s a good throwback, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind movies or media jumping on the nostalgia train, but I wanted something new out of this “Star Wars” trilogy that could separate them from the other two. As good as “The Empire Strikes Back” is, I was afraid that this movie, like “The Force Awakens” did with “A New Hope,” would be a rehash of “The Empire Strikes Back.” However, based on what the movie provided from a story perspective, that did not seem to be the case. The movie made some bold, expectation-subverting choices. While I admire director Rian Johnson for trying to take “Star Wars” in a new direction, it didn’t pay off. Originally, I gave the movie a 9/10 for the steps it took in finding new storytelling paths, but as I thought about the movie more, I dug it less and less. Mark Hamill is GREAT as Luke though, I’ll give the movie that. I will admit, the film is beautifully directed, it’s wonderfully shot, and the visuals are sometimes incredible. But the screenplay is almost the worst in “Star Wars” history. “The Last Jedi” felt like a passion project that ended up splattering in someone’s face. I will admit, as much as I don’t like Johnson’s vision for “The Last Jedi,” I do think he is a damn fine director with the right project. He made “Knives Out,” which is one of the best movies of the year, and I just saw “Looper,” another film he wrote and directed, and it’s nothing short of dope. I would be SOMEWHAT open to him directing another “Star Wars” project, but not writing one.

Now we’re here! “The Rise of Skywalker” is upon us. I will admit, I did not have the most pleasurable thoughts going into it. But nevertheless, I scored tickets for the first show of the film at one of my all-time favorite movie theatres, so the fan inside me felt ready for this experience. I will admit, some of the trailers were really good, and part of me was curious to see how this saga will end (until Disney needs more money and they make Episode X). What are my thoughts on the ultimate story of the “Skywalker Saga?” The top of Mount “Star Wars!” The height of the force! WHAT? DID? I? THINK OF IT?

Well… uhhhh…. It was better than “Cats.”

To be completely serious with you, I really enjoyed this movie A LOT MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD going into it. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is up there to me with “Toy Story 4” and “Alita: Battle Angel” as one of 2019’s most pleasant surprises. I could honestly end the review by pointing out that against each and every single odd, J.J. Abrams delivered something watchable. But, ending the review here would be boring, and y’all will probably feel cheated, so let’s move on.

Sticking with J.J. Abrams, he was the right choice to direct this film. I love what he did with “The Force Awakens” as mentioned earlier. And I think those who have complained in the past about “The Force Awakens,” specifically about it playing it too safe might dig this movie a little more than that. Granted, this movie relies HEAVILY on nostalgia. There are many iconic themes from John Williams that are brought back, nods to past “Star Wars” films and TV programs, the return of Lando, and Palpatine is even somehow in this movie. But even with that, this movie introduces quite a few new things. I am not exactly going to go into each and every one of them, but they are there nonetheless. In fact, as someone who doesn’t like “The Last Jedi,” I think the thing about it that I at least appreciate is its willingness to take risks. They didn’t pay off, but they are still risks. This movie was able to take me to my happy place, sort of back to my childhood, while also introducing some fresh ideas. Not all of them worked, kind of like in “The Last Jedi,” but there are some that played into how fun this movie ultimately is.

One thing you are going to hear me repeat often throughout this review is that I won’t spoil something, so bear with me here. But I want to mention that without going into much detail, C-3PO had a bit to do with the movie’s story, and I think this may be my favorite 3PO story yet. In fact, 3PO honestly feels like a necessary character for this movie to go on. And even though he has been in just about every “Star Wars” film so far, this may be the first story where I felt 3PO’s presence was required in order for certain events to take place since the original trilogy, or maybe “The Phantom Menace.” I mean, most of his stories since just involved him being in the movie to have a random character be a comic relief (which he was before, but still) or just give some random perspective of what’s going on. Well that, and he needs his red arm replaced. It’s nice seeing him in the prequels and the last couple of sequel films, but seeing him as a core part of the story here is an utter delight, knowing the legacy this character has overall.

As for our main characters, I think Rey, Finn, and Poe, the main human trio we have come to know so far throughout this trilogy are hypnotizing to watch. Seeing them on screen again was a blast, in fact there is a scene early on between Finn and Poe that might be one of the most ridiculously fast-paced and bonkers “Star Wars” moments ever. Without saying much, it involves the Millennium Falcon. Personally, the scenes involving Rey when she was separated from her friends were a bit more fun than those between her friends. Honestly, there are a few scenes between the main trio, not every scene, but there is one that stands out in particular, where I just began to question the chemistry between them. I know that one of the key differences between this and the other two trilogies is that it is the shortest of the timelines. The original trilogy spans about four or five years and the prequels last even longer. This entire trilogy lasts about a year. It’s kind of mind-boggling if you think about it. Even though you have less time to develop these characters off-screen, it still somewhat unfortunate that the movie’s quality suffered as a result.

Speaking of character flaws, let’s talk about some of the newer additions to the movie. I’m not gonna go too deep into the new characters, but what I can say about them is that they sort of make me reflect upon “The Last Jedi.” What I mean is that whenever a new character in that movie is introduced, it takes some amount of time for me to just want them to disappear. The only new character in that film that really brought something to the table for me was the one played by Benicio Del Toro because he seemed to have some hint of swagger to him. I didn’t like Holdo, I didn’t like Rose (who is much better in this movie better by the way), the force kids didn’t really seem to add much of anything. Kind of like that, the new characters introduced to this film were also kind of forgettable. Granted, they’re better than those introduced in “Episode VIII,” but nevertheless. Nobody made me roll my eyes and no one took away my dignity. Even if the new characters were not that great, you could still tell me that they were in the movie for a reason and I’d probably be on your side.

Case and point, Keri Russell’s character of Zorii Bliss. As the main adventurers are in the middle of their quest, they run into this woman, thus leading to an explanation of her past history with one of the film’s other characters. Again, I’m trying to be vague with this review, because knowing some people, they consider minute details spoilers, so I am going to fulfill those people’s wishes. I like her costume design, and I’ll reiterate, she serves her purpose when the movie needs her, but if she was taken out of the movie, I would probably not care all that much. But, movie’s gotta movie.

Speaking of new characters, I also, to my disappointment, didn’t like D-O, the new green droid that was introduced. I am not saying I was highly anticipating D-O to be the scene stealer of the film or anything, but if there was one character that was probably created SPECIFICALLY for this movie just to get somebody out of the house to go buy a toy, this would be the one. D-O is along for the ride, but it’s another one of those characters that could literally be removed from the script and bring no negative effect to the table. Well, maybe except Disney who won’t be making as much money from people who may go out and buy D-O merchandise in the meantime. It would be fine if D-O had more dimension as a character, but there’s barely anything that I could say about D-O that makes him resemble a character full of personality, and full of charisma. You can make the argument that a character like BB-8 was mainly created to sell toys, but the thing is, BB-8 is charming, serves the plot very well, and doesn’t necessarily feel tacked on. BB-8 has basically been a centerpiece to the films he’s appeared in so far, not to mention this entire trilogy. D-O could have been something special, but the somewhat lackluster writing says otherwise.

I also gotta be honest, and I don’t know if I should be entirely surprised, but General Hux has become more of a joke for each movie that he’s in. Here, it’s almost insulting. He starts out well in this film for the most part, and I was entertained when he was on screen, but as the movie gets a bit closer to finishing its first hour, his character does something that honestly got on my nerves. I am not gonna go into detail about what he does, but I don’t know if J.J. Abrams or Chris Terrio or even Colin Trevorrow years back, when he was scheduled to helm this movie, made this decision, but it come off HORRIBLY when delivered on screen. It felt like something ways off from Hux’s personality and it was rainbows and unicorns kinds of impractical. Some people I know have been somewhat displeased with Hux in “The Last Jedi,” a notion I kind of agree with by the way. However, in that movie, I still got a sense of Hux being himself. He still felt like the same character introduced in “The Force Awakens.” It felt like a sligthly natural progression. While Hux is still kind of himself in this film as well, there’s just a moment where I felt dumbfounded as a viewer watching him on screen.

I’ll say this again, Lando’s back! This is something I was personally rather excited for, because I think Lando is one of the many highlights of the original trilogy. It’s hard to list any bad characters from said trilogy, but if there are any, Lando ain’t one of them. How is he in this movie? Well, without spoiling much, he brings some fun to the table, but he isn’t really in the movie all that much. Is that a bad thing? Given the movie’s story structure, I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing at all, but if you were expecting a Lando extravaganza, you’re not gonna get that. He plays a somewhat minor role in the film, but all of his scenes are watchable and easy to enjoy.

Now let’s get to this one of the most odd yet interesting additions to this film’s cast of characters, Palpatine. Before we go any further, let me just address that people behind this film have stated that it was always the plan to bring back The Emperor. I honestly don’t know if I buy that. I think that’s just a protective statement to avoid turning audiences off. I would have NEVER envisioned The Emperor coming back for this movie, or the sequel trilogy in the first place. Remember that first trailer for the movie? The one they showed at Star Wars Celebration in April? Once I heard Palpatine’s infamous laugh for the first time, I was shivering to my core. It was something so out of left field at the time, that it made my interest meter for the movie go up a couple notches. At the same time however, the more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I say that because as much as I love the fact that we get to see Palpatine one more time, I was worried that his appearance here would undermine everything in previously established material. Most specifically, “Return of the Jedi,” which may be his most prominent film. Why? Becuase SPOILERS, it’s been 36 years since that movie came out, WHO CARES? He dies. And it’s not just the fact that he dies that I was worried about, I also felt apprehensive because of the way he died. The ending of “Return of the Jedi” is probably my favorite endings of the “Star Wars” franchise (aside from “Rogue One”), partially because the way The Emperor goes out is chill-inducing. Between the powerful score given by John Williams, Vader’s conflict, Luke’s near-death experience, and the massive stakes at hand, it makes The Emperor’s fate all the more meaningful and emotionally satisfying. Seeing the smoke rise from the pit is a feast for the eyes and ears, and I thought that was a fine bow tie for his character. But no, I guess for some reason he’s returned to the party. I was honestly worried for a number of reasons. Two of which I’ll give here. 1. Again, The Emperor died in a way that was satisfying and the way he went out feels like a way that would be difficult to recover from. 2. The marketing seemed to promise Palpatine, but I did not think it was clear as to how much of him we’d be getting. After all, his voice is heard a lot, but I only remember seeing him physically in probably just one TV spot. That and one of the early posters.

So how was Palpatine? Not bad, to be quite honest. There is no way, at least at this point that I could be convinced that Palpatine was supposed to be the endgame the whole time, but inserting him in this movie was surprisingly solid. I mean, you can make the argument that Palpatine’s character being a centerpiece of all three trilogies in some way bring something to the table, but I’m not sure I’d completely agree. Nevertheless, just about any character interaction with him was tense and had my full attention. Ian McDiarmid played him like Slash can play a guitar! I am not going to dive deep into his character because there is a good chance that any effective thing I can say about him would be somewhere in spoiler-territory. I’ll just say this… He doesn’t just feel like a bad guy who wants to do bad guy things. He legit feels like a threat, as he should, and a necessary part of the film’s overall story and conflict. Overall, I dug him being here.

Speaking of things I dug, one thing that stood out to me at the start of the movie happened to be Rey, and the reason for that is because she apparently is kind of the Jedi definition of a showoff. She has these abilities that I think almost no other person in history could ever achieve. I will admit, when I first saw this, I kind of liked it. This new trilogy has shown was in which the force has perhaps evolved so to have this all powerful being is not completely unbelievable. Again, I already said I dug it, such a comment about liking this might almost be irrelevant at this point. BUT… There are a couple moments where I legit thought I was watching a piece of fantastical and far-fetched fan-fiction come to life. There are some things done with the force in this movie that I do not remember seeing much in “Star Wars” prior to this movie. This movie has a point where it becomes seemingly convenient in terms of how the force works. Sometimes it might be cool, maybe even badass, sometimes it just doesn’t work. There’s a moment in particular between Rey and Kylo on a desert that I want to say I like, but the Movie Reviewing Moron part of me wants to question whatever it was I just saw.

Sticking with Rey and Kylo, they have a number of scenes together in the movie, and there are some neat moments between them. Specifically fights, conversations, and more. Although if I had to list a complaint in the movie that might be my biggest of all, it would have to be this one scene between the two of them at the very end. It’s something that starts off as charming and sweet, and then becomes something that continues to piss me off. I have a feeling that if you are under a certain mindset going into the film you might enjoy whatever it is I won’t talk about whatsoever, but it just didn’t work for me.

Continuing off of what I just said, the final half hour to forty five minutes of this movie is full of fan service. Almost in the same way such a fraction of “Avengers: Endgame” was for the MCU. I won’t go into details about the fan service specifically. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Listen, that thing that I mentioned pissed me off in the last paragraph, I AM NOT GONNA SPOIL A THING, but if you pay attention, the thing that pissed me off personally is part of said fan service. And having said that, I almost wonder what the people behind this movie were thinking while making it. Keep in mind, while a good number of people seemed to enjoy “The Last Jedi,” I and many others was not really satisfied with it. This movie, in a way, seems to try to give something to everyone. Whether they liked “The Last Jedi,” hated it. Or whether they liked the other “Star Wars” movies, maybe hated those as well, it seems that a lot of time writing the screenplay went into focusing on elements that made other “Star Wars” screenplays what they are, but also what made “The Last Jedi” liked by certain people. This movie, even though it acknowledges the existence of “The Last Jedi,” sort of feels like an apology letter to viewers for “The Last Jedi.” Having disliked “The Last Jedi” myself, I can’t complain too much, but it feels like a script that is supposed to cater to anybody who ever watched “Star Wars” and admired a piece of it. This brings a complication into the mix. There will be things that will inevitably piss off some people, but there will also be things that will floor those same people in a positive way. For all I know, there could be someone out there that loves all things “Star Wars” that might end up liking EVERYTHING in this movie. I’m sure they’re out there.

I do not have all that much more to say about “The Rise of Skywalker,” but I gotta say as an ending to a nine film saga, this is surprisingly satisfying. I was worried that J.J. Abrams wouldn’t stick the landing, I was worried that I would feel unfulfilled for some reason, or the direction in this film will highlight a completely rushed ending. I gotta say one thing though. As much I enjoy having gotten my own opportunity to see an entire “Star Wars” trilogy with both previously established and newly established characters in theaters, I do not know if this film in particular is as fulfilling overall compared to the ending of “Return of the Jedi.” Again, I’m not going to spoil anything, but that film ended on such a note where the characters many of us have come to love got just about everything that they have come to earn. Admittedly, having seen this new ending, I WON’T GO INTO detail, but one character “acquires” something new that hasn’t been acquired yet that combines fan service and pure emotion. It also solves a complaint. What complaint? Not gonna tell ya. If I ever do a spoiler talk, I’ll be sure to bring this up.

Overall, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is entertaining, visually impressive (which shouldn’t be surprising, it’s “Star Wars”), and one more thing I will mention is this, because I feel I should not leave you all hanging without a mention of John Williams kicking ass with his score. I mentioned earlier that his score is heavily reliant on nostalgic themes, but whenever there is a scene that is heavy on said nostalgia or one that really needs a certain mood, Williams is there to bring the goods. I need time to see where I’ll rank this score, but as of now, this is one of the absolute best “Star Wars” scores I have ever heard. Having witnessed comments about this being the last “Star Wars” score from John Williams, I think he went out with an absolute bang. Williams, this world, nor does a galaxy far far away, deserve you. You are a god, enough said.

In the end, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a flawed, but simultaneously charming finale to a nine film saga that has been going on for over forty years. Once more, I’ll bring up “The Last Jedi,” and I will say even though that film has glimmers of entertainment, it does not feel like a story worthy of the “Star Wars” name. This sequel is a bombastic roller coaster that is worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise because I can probably guarantee that even if you end up not liking the movie overall, there will ultimately be SOMETHING to enjoy. But I must say one thing, and this is probably going to piss off some people.

So I have the unpopular opinion, although over the years I have found this unpopular opinion to be a bit more popular than I anticipated, of “Revenge of the Sith,” the finale to the prequel trilogy, being one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies. Another movie which I consider to be just as great is “Return of the Jedi,” the finale of the original trilogy. If I had to be honest, my thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker” are not that positive compared to my thoughts on the other two movies I mentioned. I liked it, quite a bit in fact. But if I had to give the honest truth, “The Rise of Skywalker” is my least favorite of the three trilogy finales the saga has had so far. Even with that in mind, it’s still good. At the same time though, this does bring up one positive regarding the “Star Wars” saga as a whole, and a negative as well, depending on how you look at it. The finales of all the trilogies make up the one portion of the saga that is entirely positive in one way or another. Keep in mind, I love all the films in the original trilogy, so the beginning, middle, and end all work there. But “The Phantom Menace” was a fail to start off the prequel trilogy, and speaking of prequel failures, I also wasn’t a fan of the middle act of the trio of films, “Attack of the Clones.” Similarly, this most recent sequel trilogy had the disappointing middle entry “The Last Jedi.” The finales all worked, even this one, to my complete surprise. With that being said, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is worth a watch, especially in a big, obnoxious movie theater with fantastic sound, and I’m going to give it a rather high 6/10. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I think a 6 is a fair grade. Would I watch it again? Oh, you betcha. And technically, this film has some of the best sound and visual effects of the year, which isn’t new for a “Star Wars” film. But story-wise, there is an argument to make that even though I love how quick this movie progresses, it almost gets to that point where it becomes rushed. If the newer characters were better and if MAYBE it tried to focus going down one particular path as opposed to catering to a bunch of different demographics, the score could potentially be higher.

With all of what I just said in mind, this movie honestly has notable flaws, not to mention things that piss me off. But this movie is also satisfying overall, and the many positives of the movie tend to outweigh the negatives. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, and most importantly, it’s better than both “The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” both movies which by the way, I felt disappointed by. I want to thank everyone for giving a great saga of films to remember. I hope various future “Star Wars” projects work out and I am looking forward to the future of the franchise should I continue to tune in. Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the limited release of the all new war film “1917.” It is going to be hitting theaters everywhere this January, but honestly this is a movie that I need to see as soon as possible because I have a feeling that it is going to be one of the best directed and well-shot movies of this particular release year. It comes out Christmas Day, which I’m busy on, but hopefully I can get my butt in a seat as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or if you want greater access to the blog, use a WordPress account. Be sure to like this post and share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?” What did you think about it? Or, now that the three main “Star Wars” trilogies are concluded, which is your favorite? The prequels? The originals? Or the sequels? You know what, here’s another question. How would you personally rank the three trilogies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Scene Before 2019 HALFTIME REPORT (And Glance Into the Future)

WARNING: The following post is over 8,000 words long. Disappointingly, it’s not over 9,000.

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! 2019 is midway through and this year is going by fast! As far as my personal life goes, I’m in between my first and second year of college, I am enjoying my time off, and I’m the same movie reviewing moron as usual. Things have changed, but at the same time, I’m still the same flick nerd I have always been. And I mean that literally, but we’ll get to that later. However, I wanted to try something I haven’t done before on this blog. At the end of the year, I tend to do some reflective work, most notably countdowns. And while I am not going to do that at this current midway point, I would at least like to sit myself down and go over some recent highlights related to Scene Before. At the same time, I’d like to also look into the future. Admittedly, some of this is still in planning stages, but still.

I’d like to start off with something I’d like to call “TERRIFIC 3” and “TERRIBLE 3.” I am going to list 3 movies that I have watched this year that I would recommend to people and 3 other movies that I would tell people to avoid. Now, of course, these picks are subjective, if you think differently about these films than I, it might be slightly harder to talk to each other, but you are nevertheless entitled to your different thoughts. In fact, these are not supposed to be my top 3 best or worst of the year so far. If I like a film, I’ll list it, if I don’t like a film, I’ll also list it. These are not meant to be in any particular order. Anyway, let’s begin!

TERRIFIC 3!

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Starting off the Terrific 3 is “John Wick: Chapter 3!” I went to see this film in Dolby Cinema alongside my dad, who might be a bigger “John Wick” fan than anyone else I know. He and I walked out agreeing that the action in the film is absolutely top-notch. The action in “John Wick” films is certainly the aspect that would grab my attention more than any other. Long takes, innovative setpieces, gritty violence, all of it adds up to make some of my favorite action scenes of all time. When it comes to current action franchises, I am having some slight trouble deciding whether I prefer this or “Mission: Impossible.” It’s that good!

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Up next is a stellar DreamWorks animation whose franchise I never watched religiously, but always liked, “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” If you have ever seen the game show “Deal or No Deal,” the show always highlights the phrase “timing is everything,” and when it comes to “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” that phrase becomes more relevant than ever. This movie came out in the middle of my second semester of college, and I could not help but feel like the people behind the movie were trying to consider me in its target audience. After all, while “How To Train Your Dragon” may be a franchise directed towards families and children, this growing adult could not help but feel like a kid again. In fact, to add more to this true masterpiece of an animated film, I became more emotional during this movie than I did during perhaps more than any other. Even more than “Toy Story 3.”

Last but not least for the Terrific 3 is a movie that I decided to list because it’s on a slightly different end of the spectrum. Because let’s face it, I’m kind of recommending movies to you, and why recommend “Avengers: Endgame” when almost everyone went to see it? So let’s recommend a smaller movie, such as Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.” Now some would argue that this is a 2018 flick, but in the United States, which is where I live, this didn’t come out until 2019. For those of you who don’t know this movie, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” took decades to make, and it’s about a guy who reunites with someone he worked with during a production. This person he meets with is convinced that he is Don Quixote. This did not get that big of a release in theaters, but it is worth seeing just because of its history, because despite going through “development hell,” it managed to turn out quite well! The movie is now available on home video including various VOD options.

Now let’s move onto something that probably doesn’t deserve any attention, but because I believe in equality, we’re talking about it anyway, the Terrible 3!

TERRIBLE 3!

First up is a movie that I want to put on here because what’s the harm with having an unpopular opinion? Oh wait, everything. Who cares? One of the most successful movies of the year, “Captain Marvel,” just didn’t stick the landing for me. This had a lot of hype building up to it, but I personally just couldn’t relate. And when I saw the final product, I felt like… Wait, why’s everybody laughing and cheering? Yes, there are a couple of cool moments in the movie. For example, I dug the 90’s references such as Blockbuster Video and Dial-Up Internet. Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson have some good chemistry, but when it comes to Larson in general, her performance was kind of mediocre. Granted, I know grade-A acting isn’t the biggest component of a comic book movie, but Brie Larson, an Academy Award winner, felt more like she was in a couple straight to DVD films and that’s it. Granted, I think she did a slightly better job in “Avengers: Endgame,” but her performance here simply underwhelmed me. Plus, there’s a moment in this movie that references a significant part of the MCU lore (having to do with Samuel L. Jackson) and quite honestly, the way they go about it just killed my brain.

Up next is a movie that could have been great but was simply wasted. From the creators of NOT “Firefly” comes “Serenity.” “Serenity” could be somewhat fun, not to mention a great “thinker” movie, but it manages to become more boring the more I think about it. I love the movie “Interstellar,” so I was somewhat excited to see Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway unite once again for another project. Both have talent as actors and they’ve proven they have great chemistry. Honestly, I’d just go back to watching “Interstellar” if this is the movie we’re getting. Although this movie came out in January so it should not be surprising that we would get a movie of this quality.

And finally, we have what may be my worst movie of the year should nothing surpass it, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” The sad thing about “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is that I was actually desperately anticipating this movie. When I went to see it, I was ready for what was about to happen. Or was I? Seeing movies in IMAX may be great because it feels so big, but when they’re a big mess, what is the point? Maybe the monster fights could be fun, but if I wanted to watch this movie again, I’d probably have to be heavily drugged. Because let’s face it, as cool as big monsters are, the unforgivable part of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” are the one-dimensional human characters. This could be slightly less intolerable if the human characters were less of a focal point during the movie, but they made me want to go back and check out some of the “Transformers” movies again! They’re THAT horrible!

I just showed you all my terrific and terrible picks, now let’s go over a few recent highlights from my blogging journey.

As usual, I kicked off my 2019 with my traditional countdowns to reflect on the year of 2018 in film. I went over the best of the year along with the worst of the year. Some of my top picks included “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Eighth Grade,” and “Mission: Impossible: Fallout.” Some of my bottom picks included “The 15:17 To Paris,” “Uncle Drew,” and “Life of the Party.” I enjoy doing these countdowns every year and this is the first year that I started writing what I would put in the countdowns as early as August. I did not do this for every single movie, but I visualized the lists a long time prior to actually releasing them. This does not suggest that I avoided considering movies released past August, as evidenced by some of my picks.

After I did my lists, I saw my first 2019 release, which according to IMDb, is actually a 2017 release. Based on my experience and research, I’d call it a 2019 release, but still. That film by the way is “The Upside,” which is a remake of 2011’s “The Intouchables.” I personally have not seen “The Intouchables,” and while “The Upside” from my perspective is not really anything special when it comes to cinema, it is still a fun time. I went to see it at a press screening, and there were tons of laughs to be heard.

A couple weeks later I went to one of my local arthouse theatres to see a flick that I almost ended up passing on. Specifically, “Roma.” Why? Because when it comes to today’s media, Netflix is a company that I traditionally tend to avoid. But one of my local theaters managed to get access to a 70mm film print of “Roma,” which would be presented for a limited time. I took advantage of the opportunity and purchased a few tickets for a matinee show. Not only was the experience breathtaking, but the movie was one of the best of the past year. If I had to redo my top 10 lists of 2018, this would be on the best list, but I saw “Roma” after completing said lists.

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I also decided to try out a new concept this year which I have decided to make an annual tradition, the Jackoff Awards. For awhile, over the past year, I have grown to admire the Oscars based on how much respect they tend to pay towards the film industry. Granted, they’re not perfect, but what they’ve done over the years is absolutely intriguing. I thought to myself, why not do a big awards related post? Present similar categories to other major shows, I do my own comedy bits, and it was perhaps the most ambitious post I have ever done. As for Best Picture, I decided to present what was then my top 10 of 2018, which DID include “Roma,” and instead of having me choose Best Picture, I would allow my audience to choose the winner. I figured it would allow for diversity in terms of opinions, and I managed to get a surprisingly diverse number of votes. I got some votes for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “First Man,” “Ready Player One,” but the winner turned out to be last year’s biggest comic book movie, “Avengers: Infinity War.” Honestly, if there were any movie to put in my Blu-ray player on a Friday night at this point, it would most certainly be that one.

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I then continued my journey in March by going to the place that I would associate with film more than any other, Los Angeles. My family and I stayed right near Hollywood Boulevard and I got to visit a few media-related sights including Warner Brothers Studios, the TCL Chinese Theatre (where I saw “Captain Marvel”), and Universal Studios Hollywood. I also got the chance to witness a live taping of “Conan.” While I didn’t make a big post related to this, I managed to briefly discuss some of my highlights here and there.

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For those of you who are curious about my “Conan” taping experience, I managed to witness almost two full shows. Why? Conan O’Brien had to be somewhere when his Thursday show would air, so naturally, he had a demand, he wanted us, Thursday’s audience, to “make Tuesday’s audience look like s*it.” We got see all of Tuesday’s show, which had a couple comedy bits and an interview with Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard, Santa Clarita Diet) and a good fraction of a Thursday night show which featured comedian Moses Storm, who joked about cell phone users, “Shark Tank,” and revealed a story where he would tape episodes of Conan O’Brien’s older talk show episodes over his religion-related educational programming. By the way, Conan in person looks like a real life action figure. Maybe it’s the makeup. Maybe it’s the lighting in the studio, but my gosh.

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I also got to visit an RPX venue for the first time. For those who don’t know about RPX, they are a premium format that can be found exclusively in cinemas under Regal Entertainment Group ownership. I didn’t plan on attending RPX when I did, but I managed to get something off my list of movie-related things to do before I died. After all, “Us” just came out, and I was in the Boston area. I figured just to save time, I’d go for the earlier, but more expensive show that Regal Cinemas Fenway was providing, as opposed to another show which would be starting a half hour later. For your information, I was aware that I was going into an RPX screen. I didn’t mind my decision, I figured if I wanted to see “Us,” I’d go see it in full scale glory because I was really anticipating it. While I have still yet to see “Get Out” to this day, I have heard about its overwhelmingly positive reception and I was expecting that Jordan Peele would deliver another sick movie. While “Us” was not perfect, it was definitely worth seeing, and I wouldn’t mind watching it again. As for the RPX experience itself, I thought the seats were not too bad. The capacity was through the roof, the screen, while not entirely wall to wall, was huge. As for the sound… It is undeniably better than a standard theater, but I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe I went to see the wrong movie, maybe the employees turned the speakers down, but when I compare the sound to something like IMAX or Dolby Cinema at AMC, I would go back to both of those places first.

Moving onto April, I managed to survive the whole “Avengers: Endgame” ticket buying craze. For those not fully immersed into what I just stated, I must point out that “Avengers: Endgame” tickets went on sale April 2nd, and the Internet went balls to the wall nuts when it came to snagging tickets. I had to wait in Fandango’s line, AMC was having problems, and it got to the point where I had to buy tickets from a somewhat local cinema chain, on their own, slightly buggy website, just to make sure I could get into school on time. I almost took the train to one of my local AMCs because I could stop by there on the way to school. If I did that, I am willing to bet I would have missed out on opening night of “Endgame,” which was the day I was shooting for. After all I did want to get my review out as soon as possible, and I did manage to score a couple tickets on remaining good seats for a 9PM show. Not at an AMC, but at a Showcase Cinemas. While it was not my first choice, I don’t regret going there, because an hour before going into the cinema, I got a glimpse at everyone leaving the 22 MCU movie marathon the theater was showing over a few days. Everyone was being applauded, and they left with some merch. I recorded this aftermath on Facebook Live, and despite my camera’s focusing problems and poor cellular service, I managed to get some respectable footage. Also as a Bostonian, I was proud of myself to catch a reporter from one of my local news channels, WBZ, or CBS Channel 4. To be specific, Tashanea Whitlow. As for the premiere itself, the movie was fun, and the three hour runtime was rather justified given what we as an audience received. I didn’t think it was perfect, I’d much rather watch “Infinity War,” but it was a great finale to over ten years of films. I will also say, this may be due to where I went to see the movie, seeing “Infinity War” was also a better experience. Because I went to see it at a 7PM show on opening Thursday on an eight story IMAX screen. If you have ever gone to see an event-type film in India, that is one of the most solid comparisons I could make to my experience. It was like going to a Stanley Cup game or something. “Endgame,” which was in a sold out theater in regular 2D, had barely any applause (although some reactions here and there), and out of everyone in the theater, I may have been the most obnoxious. If I had to make a sports comparison, I’d probably say it was like going to a slightly more competitive golf tournament. It was lively at times, but not like the roof was being blown off the place. I know some people are not particularly fans of going to theaters where everyone is reacting to the film’s key moments, but as a fan of the MCU, it’s something that I considered to be a privilege during my “Infinity War” experience.

May was an interesting month for me, because I just finished my first year of college, so I got a little more active on the Scene Before side of things. I’m now trying to earn revenue with the blog, I saw more movies than I did in months such as March or February, and I even changed my domain name. Unfortunately, scenebefore.com was taken, so I wanted to make sure I can fit something that would associate with me, but also be precise. I thought something like moviereviewingmoron.com, while definitely appropriate, is a tad too long. Luckily, after some searching, I found out that flicknerd.com was available. Did I ever call myself “flick nerd” on this blog? No, but I figured it would be a cool name to have because its simplicity will probably gain enough traction overtime. It’s hard to tell though, because this advanced blogging journey, at least from my point of view, is just getting started. I’m looking for sponsors, more potential viewers, but I’m also trying to be the same movie reviewing moron that everyone has come to know.

One of my highlight posts of the month is titled “What THE BIG BANG THEORY Has Meant To Me: A Nerd’s Perspective.” For those who are unaware, CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” just finished it’s twelfth and final season on the air, so I figured I’d take some time to remind the world of what the show has meant to me as a fan, as someone who would constantly tune in to new episodes, and most of all, as a nerd on the autism spectrum. I probably won’t have time to give a detailed description of everything I said, so if you want to read the post, click this link!

I also saw another one of my favorite films so far this year, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum!” Not only that, but like I mentioned earlier, I managed to catch a Dolby Cinema presentation of it, which surprisingly, didn’t make me feel like I was getting shot in the head, which may be a good thing. Seriously though, “John Wick: Chapter 3” is probably the best installment of the franchise yet, and Keanu Reeves might now just have a better trilogy than “The Matrix!”

But I cannot say the end of the month was great, because “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” happened. Sad day. Even though I went to see the film in full scale IMAX glory, it didn’t feel like something worth my time.

Moving onto June, I managed to do something pretty cool with my dad. He and I go to the movies together a lot because for the most part we have similar tastes. We match together when it comes to sci-fi, action, comic book-based material, comedy, etc. However he has never been to an advance press screening, so I thought just for fun he and I could do so for the new movie, “Men In Black: International.” It’s a movie that I probably would have checked out had I waited for it to release everywhere. After all, “Men In Black 3” is my favorite movie of 2012. However, since this was free, not to mention, early, I thought dad and I could trek to the theater and see what this movie had in store. I personally enjoyed it. I know some people were scared of how this movie would turn out based on the marketing (Then again, it’s a Sony film, whaddya expect these days?). I thought the first trailer was alright, but not great. The second trailer was an improvement and actually got me more interested in the film. As for the film itself, it is not Shakespeare, but it’s a fun time at the movies. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have great chemistry together and I think Kumail Nanjiani’s character is a fantastic comic relief.

The best movie I saw this month was “Toy Story 4,” which I must point out, I probably was not even looking forward to back when it was announced. Boy, times do change! Unfortunately, I had to witness brain cell erasers such as “Replicas,” which I bought on Blu-ray since I had some Best Buy rewards to waste. I also saw “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” which is worse than getting scratched in the eye by a cat. Yes, Harrison Ford is in it. Yes, he is the best part of the movie. But I might as well be at the point where I would rather have a dog sniff my butt then go so that film again!

Now that I have recapped my highlights, I just want to remind everyone of what’s being planned for the future. Here is my unofficial schedule for the second half of 2019!

JULY:

Throughout the month of July, there are not that many movies coming out compared to other months in the year (at least according to Wikipedia), but I am planning on catching a few blockbuster highlights such as “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” despite how little anticipation I have for it. I also really want to catch Disney’s live-action remake of “The Lion King.” I am not a fan of the Disney live-action remake trend, but I feel that this movie will be a great theater experience and also rather compelling. I don’t know how much it is going to be a carbon copy of the original or how much it’ll go in its own direction, but I am somewhat curious as to what will come of it. I know it is longer than the original, which slightly worries me, because it could add something that perhaps the 1990s film didn’t even need, therefore ruining my experience. Plus, it’s being directed by Jon Faverau, who also worked on 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” another Disney live-action remake, which was one of my favorite movies of said year. I also really want to check out “Crawl.” The trailer didn’t have me fully onboard, but I am still curious as to how this film will turn out. Plus, it’s being produced by Sam Raimi, who is known for his work in the horror industry, and one of my favorite comic book movie directors.

This does not mean that I want to ignore independent work, because on the same weekend as “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” A24 is releasing one of my most anticipated movies of the summer. Specifically, “Midsommar.” When your movie is A: Directed by Ari Aster, who had a phenomenal feature-length directorial debut last year with “Hereditary,” another A24 film, and B: Described by Aster as “a Wizard of Oz for perverts,” I am instantly intrigued. “Midsommar” takes place in rural Sweden as a young couple takes a vacation and settles in the area. Alongside their friends, they eventually discover that this area has a festival that takes place once every ninety years, which creeps them all out. I want to see Ari Aster succeed, so hopefully this film does well.

Speaking of successful filmmakers, another well-known director in the industry, specifically Quentin Tarantino, is going to be releasing his ninth film, “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.” And to be honest, as anticipated as I am to see this film, I have to let something out. I have not seen much of Tarantino’s work. I will most likely be going to see “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” when it comes out, maybe in 35mm, but before I do that, I am going to be doing a small series of reviews for Quentin Tarantino movies. In fact, I already have a few lined up. Specifically, “Pulp Fiction,” “Django Unchained,” and “The Hateful Eight.” Those reviews will be done as weekly projects and they should all be up before the official release date of “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood,” July 26th.

 

AUGUST:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRemember how I would occasionally announce I am going to cons from time to time? For some reason I have failed to do that this year. It’s not like I am not going anywhere, but I have just failed to put myself in front of my keyboard and try to say, “Hey guys, here’s where I’m going, stalk me!” Not that don’t mind the attention, I’m just saying. But if you really want to know about my next con, I do have it booked, and I will be going to Terrificon, which for those of you who have been following me for some time, you’d know that is also the first con I ever documented on this blog. And I am thinking of doing something a little different this time, just to spice things up. I’m trying to push more video content into my posts, maybe I’ll insert a compilation of the con’s highlights. I’ll record it on my camera, maybe my phone, whichever has more memory at the time. Maybe I’ll post it on YouTube and link it here. Who knows? But here on Scene Before I am trying find ways to innovate, and maybe this could be one of them.

Speaking of cons, this is NO GUARANTEE, partially because I have not even bought tickets, but there is one convention that is about a half hour away from my house that I kind of want to go to. Whether or not I am going, that’s a different story, but should things go in a certain direction, I may end up going to Fan Expo Boston, which is a con I have surprisingly never been to. And the guest list this year, aside from a couple big cancellations, is solid so far. You’ve got Zachary Levi (Shazam!, Tangled), who I will say, even if you are not into his work, he is a fun guy to meet, he is upbeat and has a massive sense of charm. Part of the cast of “Blade Runner” is going to be there including Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, and Edward James Olmos. I have a feeling there are more guest announcements coming our way, and if there are, I cannot wait to hear them, because there have been a lot of cool names who were there over the years to the point where I almost have slight regrets on missing out. If I were to get tickets to Fan Expo, I’d probably just go for one day. After all, Terrificon is the week prior, and I am staying overnight during that weekend, so my budget might be slightly higher at that event compared to Fan Expo.

Moving away from cons, I will say that my biggest film catches for August right now have to be “Hobbs & Shaw,” “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” “Good Boys,” “Where’d You Go Bernadette?,” and “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” There is not much from August that I am truly anticipating, but I will inevitably go see a few things here and there. And if you want to know something, I only put down “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” because let’s face it, “Dora the Explorer” was a part of my childhood, and nostalgia equals money nowadays. Granted, this movie looks a tad more adult-friendly than the cartoon. But am I looking forward to it? Hell no. In fact, I am thinking it is only going to ruin my childhood, but I might as well give it a chance just because I am a nice guy. I saw the recent “Power Rangers” film partially out of nostalgia and that worked for me, might as well do it with “Dora” and see if that works.

 

SEPTEMBER:
If I had to predict my least active month for the rest of the year, I have to call it right now, September is certainly a contender. For one thing, I’m going back to college, so I need to adjust to a new routine. I’m still going to keep my promise of doing at least one post within every 7 days or so, that way you can keep witnessing my constant dedication to this blog. I’m probably not gonna go see “IT: Chapter Two” mainly because I still have not seen the first one. Although the cast is pretty nifty from what I have experienced. But I am interested in “The Goldfinch,” I have some slight intrigue towards “The Report,” and maybe I’ll check out “Abominable.” I saw one of the trailers for it, and it looks like it might not be a new animated classic or anything, but I am somewhat curious to check it out, partially because even as an adult, I still have a slight need to check out animations from time to time. Plus, it is from DreamWorks, and I’m currently trying to seek out their next big thing. “Kung Fu Panda” is done, “How to Train Your Dragon” seems to be done, maybe this, or something else, can be their next kickstarter to a solid franchise. Then again, apparently they’re making sequels to “The Boss Baby,” “The Croods,” and “Trolls,” so why should I expect absolute quality? Nevertheless, it’s worth a shot.

Although if you had to ask me what my most anticipated movie would be for the month of September, it’s a no brainer, “Ad Astra.” I love space, I love compelling, dramatic stories involving space travel, even if it is close to Earth. Plus, the second half of the year for numerous ages of my life have typically contained at least one epic space movie. Maybe “Ad Astra” will be the next to join the ranks with other movies from this decade like “The Martian” and “Interstellar.”

 

OCTOBER:

This October is pretty interesting to me, because there will be a weekend where my mother and sister are out of the house and I will quite honestly, need something to do. I can’t just stay trapped behind walls! I have to see the world! Nevertheless, that particular weekend is the release of “Joker,” which I am inevitably going to check out no matter what, but for the sake of having an early review, I’m going to check it out as soon as possible. I have Fridays off from school this upcoming semester, maybe I’ll do it then. The following week is the release of Will Smith’s “Gemini Man,” directed by Ang Lee, so I might see that. And the week after is slightly bigger because Taika Waititi is coming out with his latest directorial feature, “Jojo Rabbit,” where believe it or not, Waititi himself plays Hitler. I never pictured that, but this film certainly has my attention. That same week is also the release of “Zombieland: Double Tap.” I had fun with the first “Zombieland.” I enjoyed the chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, and it has, at least to me, a pure highlight from Bill Murray’s acting career. And to my surprise, he’s coming back for this movie! I also want to check out “The Aeronauts” which is being released by Amazon, and the reason why I want to check it out is because it is Amazon’s first attempt at an IMAX run and it is also being released a week early in that format. The film will technically be in standard theaters in November after it’s week-long IMAX run. And if this is the case, this reminds me of the excitement I had for Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk,” because that released a week early in IMAX and that was quite an experience.

Speaking of lesser known films, one other thing I want to check out is the South Korean flick “Parasite.” It’s getting tons of buzz at film festivals, having earned Palme d’Or at Cannes, winning the Sydney Film Festival, and already making tons of money in Korea. The film’s US release is this October, which would put it in a reasonable spot to be remembered by Academy and Golden Globe voters.

 

NOVEMBER:
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This November is particularly interesting. Because November 1st is the day I’m heading off to Providence for Rhode Island Comic Con, and that’s the day after Halloween! I’m not cosplaying (at least I have no plans to right now) at this con, but I just want to walk around the convention floor for hours and stumble upon every costumed individual and wish them a Happy Halloween. Nevertheless, I am staying true to my annual tradition of going to Rhode Island Comic Con. The guest list is usually filled to the brim, so I cannot wait to hear more announcements over these upcoming months. Even so, the convention has had some huge announcements for guests thus far. Some guests include Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049), William Shatner (Star Trek: The Original Series, Boston Legal), George Takei (Star Trek: The Original Series, Kim Possible), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Final Space), and to my utter surprise, and possible delight, Chevy Chase. By the way, Chase made an announcement about his upcoming appearance online and the video he made for it is very funny.

Sticking to the announcement wishlist concept, I recently made a submission on the con’s website suggesting names of five possible guests that I want to see. They include: James Murray, Curtis Armstrong, Kunal Nayyar, Doug Walker, and James Holzhauer. I could be mistaking Doug Walker for somebody else, but even if I am, he would be fun to see at the con. Of all these names, the one that really stands out to me is James Holzhauer. Out of all the people on this list, he is the least “celebrity-like” of all of them. James Murray comes close, but barely misses the mark. For those who are unaware, Holzhauer is the name of the recent “Jeopardy!” contestant who wouldn’t stop taking the show’s money. He has nearly broken Ken Jennings’ regular winnings record, only to be stopped by an opponent who beat him by more than double his final total for the game he lost. I think Holzhauer appearing at Rhode Island Comic Con would not just be unique, but also entirely appropriate. After all, it would probably bring in a new audience of people who would otherwise skip out on cons. Plus, as a game show enthusiast, I cannot help but keep talking about Holzhauer like he’s my own child. It’s almost as if being able to catch the latest “Jeopardy!” episode or at least reading up on the latest stats was the ultimate bragging right. Also, this year I’m going with a VIP ticket, which comes with various perks.

VIP Ticket Perks:

  • 3 day admission
  • Early bird admission (9AM Sat & Sun)
  • Private VIP Entrance
  • Private VIP Lounge
  • 3 Exclusive RI Comic Con Show Prints
  • Rhode Island Comic Con Swag Bag
  • 20% off RICC Branded Merchandise
  • Exclusive VIP 2019 RI Comic Con Badge
  • Exclusive RICC AR Comics-Comic Book
  • Exclusive RICC Comic Book
  • VIP Autograph Fast Pass Line
  • VIP Photo Op Fast Pass Line
  • Chance to Win 2020 VIP Pass
  • One Exclusive Mystery Item

I am personally excited for the con, and believe it or not, it is not the first time I’m getting a VIP badge, because the first time I went, which was in 2015, I managed to get said badge as well.

That same weekend is also the release of the new “Terminator” film, “Terminator: Dark Fate.” It is a cliche title, but its first trailer, personally had me intrigued. I’m excited to see what Tim Miller has up his sleeve in terms of direction. I am somewhat excited to see James Cameron involved again, although I am slightly worried because we now have more disposable “Terminator” movies than memorable “Terminator” movies. Let’s just hope we can change that.

Some of my other most anticipated films of the month include “Ford v. Ferrari,” “Knives Out,” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” “Ford v. Ferrari” takes place during a race to determine which of the two recently specified car brands will dominate. “Knives Out” is an upcoming mystery crime film directed by Rian Johnson. I did not like his interpretation of the “Star Wars” universe, but it does not mean I am not willing to check out his future work. Plus, this movie has a number of big names that I imagine a lot of people would like to see. Some include Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Logan Lucky), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Lakeith Stanfield (Black Panther, Sorry To Bother You), Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, War Dogs), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), the world’s best Kevin Spacey impersonator, Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, A Beautiful Mind), and recent Jackoff winner Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense). As for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” it is in the current conversation to be my most anticipated film for the remainder of the year. For one thing, I saw “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” last year, which much like “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” is about Mister Rogers. That documentary not only compelled me, but reminded me of my personal flaws in my childhood, and maybe inspired me to be a better person. I still rage out on this blog a lot, but it’s something that I don’t really do for me, I do it for the entertainment of others, so that’s different. But it reminded me of how much it pays to respect those around you. Plus, TOM HANKS IS PLAYING THE STARRING ROLE?! Who else could do that?! He’s practically the nicest guy in Hollywood! SIGN ME UP! Believe it or not, that comes out the same weekend as “Frozen II,” but who cares about that?! Rogers for life!

 

DECEMBER:

The end of the year is always a crazy time for me, but just like last year, it’ll perhaps be less busy than it has been in other years. My fall semester will end during the month, and I’ll be in the cycle of watching previous movies from the year at home. This does not mean that I’ll be skipping theatrical releases, because award season is in full swing. This means I’ll be paying extra close attention to films that receive Golden Globe nominations, and as for reviewing movies I watch at home, the chances of that are very slim. But this does not mean that big blockbusters are entirely off the table. For one thing, they tend to sometimes do pretty well in certain technical categories, and we have another “Star Wars” film this year. I have intentions to go see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opening Thursday night, mainly because I want to buy tickets as early as possible. If I can’t do that, I am going to try extra hard to find an available press screening, because aside from “Endgame,” “The Rise of Skywalker” is perhaps the biggest movie of 2019. Aside from being titled “Star Wars,” it is supposed to end “The Skywalker Saga,” and J.J. Abrams is directing again. I was not a huge fan of “The Last Jedi,” but I love “The Force Awakens” like it is my own brother. I am honestly more excited for “The Rise of Skywalker” than I was for “The Last Jedi” before that came out because I was somewhat worried that “The Last Jedi” would be a carbon copy of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Turns out it wasn’t, despite similarities to older films in the saga. And I even say this knowing how some things in “The Last Jedi” turned out. Having seen the trailer back in April, knowing certain plot points that could play out, and realizing J.J. Abrams could save this sequel trilogy, I am rather giddy for this December. But despite my excitement, I gotta ask. HOW IS PALPATINE STILL ALIVE?! I am excited to possibly see him in this film, but really?! When he was thrown down the pit in “Return of the Jedi,” yeeaah, HE F*CKING DIED. There is no coming back from that. I’m intrigued, I just need to be convinced.

When it comes to smaller films, one such film I am very excited for is “Little Women.” The film is supposed to explore the lives of sisters as they live in 1860s Massachusetts. It may not be my type of movie on paper, but one reason why I am excited is because the film is being directed by Greta Gerwig, who also helmed one of the best coming of age stories I have seen in recent years, “Lady Bird.” In addition to that, the cast is killer! This movie’s got Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady), Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), Laura Dern (Big Little Lies, Jurassic Park), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Mary Queen of Scots), and Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar, Beautiful Boy)! I am also probably going to be looking into “1917,” which is a war film. Those tend to often go for awards, which is why I have my sights set on it. There are a couple films that I might check out that I would probably regret seeing, but the only real film that I’d struggle with reviewing is “Fair and Balanced.” Granted, this does not mean I am not looking forward to the film, nor am I expecting to be underwhelmed with it, in fact it sounds rather intriguing from a storytelling point of view. But the movie is about relationships between women and Fox News owner Roger Ailes, and I feel that it is going to be rather hard to keep my political opinions out of the review. I’m not saying I am a core conservative that keeps a closed mind, I try to see all sides and then form my own opinion. I have made various political jokes here and there on Scene Before, but politics is not my top priority, especially when you consider how divided we are as a country right now. Although I did manage to check out “Vice” last year, which was pretty good, but part of it had to do with the buzz it has been getting. Who knows? Maybe I’ll check out “Fair and Balanced,” for all I know it could be the best movie of the year, but I feel like it would be hard to review if I’m going to have to inject my experience with how the world operates in terms of politics. We’ll just have to see.

And of course, I’ll be finishing off the year, or perhaps more likely, kicking off next year, by recapping my top 10 BEST and WORST movies of 2019. I enjoy doing these countdowns every year, because I get to honor films one more time, and also give myself a minor stress release.

Although I must remind you, it is 2019, and here on Scene Before I am trying to constantly find new ways to deliver exciting content to you all. In 2017, I did a couple of cutaway style parodies, in 2018 I did a post talking about my Blu-ray collection, and just this year I introduced the world to the Jackoff Awards. The question is, where I do I go next? I’ve done tons of countdowns, reviews of the past, reviews of the present, what could be next? I know! ALL OF IT IN ONE. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have been following Scene Before and saw one of my posts in April, you’d know that I put out a trailer for something I once referred to as “Project 2020.” Although, based on statistics, I doubt many of you have even glanced at that post. But for those of you who know what I’m talking about, good for you. You get a “good job” sticker! But for those of you who don’t know, watch this trailer down below!

*ALL COPYRIGHTS BELONG TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS*

That’s right! I am going to be crafting a list of my highlight movies of the 2010’s, and I must have you know, I am setting this list up to be bigger than the lists I traditionally do at the end of the year. While this is still in planning stages, I will be intending to make this list perhaps a top 25, maybe a top 50. I was also debating on a top 100 as well. Depends on how much time I have. I am honestly MORE THAN EXCITED to work on this list, and release it to you all. I started Scene Before in 2016, which means I did not get too many chances to talk about films from years prior, so not only is this a personal reflection of various films I watched during my blogging journey, but a reflection of an entire ten year span that I lived through before becoming this active on the Internet. I’m not gonna say anything, but 2014 was a great year for film as far I’m concerned, so depending on how the rest of 2019 plays out, we might see a good number of films I’m passionate about from that year make the list. This is not to put down any other year from this decade, I’m just giddy of what’s to come…

And by the way, a worst list is in the works too.

At home I am making an effort to watch various films that have come out this decade just to catch up, and maybe add something to the best or worst list at the end of the year. I’m not gonna get into too much detail, because I do want to save some secrets for when the list comes out, but I am stoked just to be working on this.

Thanks for reading this post! If you like Scene Before and want to see more content, consider following me either with an email or WordPress account! As for upcoming content, I want to remind everyone, in case they forgot by now, I will soon be starting my Quentin Tarantino review series, which will eventually culminate with a review either at the end of July or beginning of August with my thoughts on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” I cannot wait to get started on this, Tarantino is a filmmaker I have often admired behind the scenes, but I have barely seen any of his material. Now is a good time to start! Also, be sure to check out my Facebook page! Get your latest updates from the movie reviewing moron by using Facebook, the home of some of the all-time laziest efforts at wishing someone a happy birthday. Be sure to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, is there something that you would like to see be done here on Scene Before, perhaps for this half of 2019? Or, what is your favorite Scene Before moment, post, anything that I have done so far this year? It can even be this one for all I care! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Will STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Be Shown On IMAX 70mm Film?

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last year, I created a post asking the following question. Will “First Man” be shown on IMAX 70mm film? The answer, no. This year, there is another movie that I have followed for some time that is making me ask the same question. Specifically, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Why? Because despite a majority of this decade’s “Star Wars” films getting 70mm IMAX releases, there are reasons to believe that “The Rise of Skywalker,” the final film in The Skywalker Saga, will miss the mark.

When J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” came out in December 2015, that released in a number of IMAX 70mm locations, along with standard 35mm and 70mm theaters. It also was projected on IMAX’s then new laser technology in other locations. While that’s not film based, it is a digital response to IMAX’s film projection. When it comes to being projected in IMAX 70mm, the following locations took action.

US/CANADA

Alabama
McWane Center IMAX Dome Theatre – Birmingham
IMAX, U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville

California
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum – San Jose

Canada
Kramer IMAX, Saskatchewan Science Centre – Regina

Florida
Museum of Discovery & Science AutoNation IMAX – Ft. Lauderdale
IMAX Dome, Museum of Science & Industry – Tampa

Indiana
IMAX, Indiana State Museum – Indianapolis

Iowa
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center of Iowa – Des Moines

Missouri
Branson’s IMAX, Entertainment Complex – Branson
St. Louis Science Center OMNIMAX Theatre – St. Louis

Pennsylvania
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute– Philadelphia

Washington, DC
Lockheed Martin IMAX, National Air & Space Museum

Texas
Omni, Fort Worth Museum of Science & History – Fort Worth

INTERNATIONAL
LG IMAX, Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia
The Science Museum – London, England

That’s 15 locations. That is less than the number of seasons of “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “NCIS,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Judge Judy,” “Dr. Phil,” “South Park,” “The Bachelor,” and the combined seasons for “Star Trek: The Original Series,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” also came out in certain IMAX 70mm locations, but the difference between that and “The Force Awakens,” aside from being a spinoff, is that the film was not shot specifically for 70mm IMAX projection. “The Force Awakens” was shot using IMAX branded cameras, and when a number of films were shot using that, IMAX presented the movie having those scenes fill the entire screen. This is true for many of their digital-based locations, as well as those running film. In fact, the film was shot completely in digital using an ARRI Alexa 65. Nevertheless, it still managed to hit 13 IMAX 70mm screens.

Alabama
IMAX, US Space & Rocket Center
IMAX Dome, McWane Center

California
AMC Universal CityWalk Stadium 19 & IMAX – Universal City
Esquire IMAX – Sacramento
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum

Canada
Kramer IMAX, Saskatchewan Science Centre

Florida
IMAX Dome, Museum of Science & Industry

Iowa
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center Iowa

Indiana
IMAX, Indiana Stare Museum

Minnesota
IMAX Theatre, Minnesota Zoo

Missouri
OMNIMAX, St. Louis Science Center

Pennsylvania
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute

Texas
Omni Theatre Fort Worth Museum of Science & History

Granted, this was a starting list. I say so because “Rogue One” was shown in more IMAX 70mm theaters after its initial release, including one in Connecticut’s Maritime Aquarium, which is one of the closest venues of its kind to where I live. When it comes to this specific theater, they managed to do the same for “The Force Awakens.”

Then came “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” directed by Rian Johsnon. Much like its chronological predecessor, “The Force Awakens,” this was partially shot using IMAX cameras. I will say though, personally, I missed out on the IMAX experience for this film when it came out. But based on research, I did not miss much. Why? Multiple sources suggest that the film never had any scenes projected from top to bottom on IMAX 70mm screens. The entire movie was projected in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, which is conventional in the movie industry. The original IMAX-specific aspect ratio is 1.43:1. “The Force Awakens” had 5 minutes of IMAX footage intact. All five minutes was blown up to fill the brand’s screens. But for those who went to see “The Last Jedi” in IMAX, they may have gotten crystal clear images, but black bars up the wazoo. Turns out, as a matter of fact, IMAX was the only film format in which this movie happened to be presented. No standard 35mm or standard 70mm was available. And if viewers did manage to check out these types of IMAX screenings, chances are they flocked to one of these places.

US/CANADA

Alabama
IMAX Dome, McWane Center – Birmingham
IMAX, U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville

California
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum – San Jose

Canada
Kramer IMAX, Saskatchewan Science Centre – Regina

Connecticut
IMAX, The Maritime Aquarium – Norwalk

Indiana
IMAX, Indiana State Museum – Indianapolis

Iowa
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center of Iowa – Des Moines

Missouri
OMNIMAX, St. Louis Science Center – St. Louis

North Carolina
The Charlotte Observer IMAX Dome, Discovery Place – Charlotte

Pennsylvania
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute– Philadelphia

Texas
Omnitheatre, Fort Worth Museum of Science & History – Fort Worth

UK
London Science Museum – London

That’s 11 locations. That is less than the number of seasons of “The Big Bang Theory,” “Supernatural,” “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” “Criminal Minds,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Ridiculousness,” “Bones,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Face Off,” “The Bachelorette,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Dallas,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Love Connection.”

As for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which released almost half a year after “The Last Jedi,” that was not filmed with any IMAX technology. It still released in the IMAX format however, going through a traditional DMR (Digital Media Remastering) process. Here are the theaters that presented “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in IMAX 70mm.

There aren’t any, the film was entirely released in digital formats.

That’s 0 locations. That is less than the number of seasons of “Freaks and Geeks,” “Firefly,” “Clone High,” “Swamp Thing,” “Whiskey Cavalier,” “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “Bam’s Bad Ass Game Show,” “Son of Zorn,” “Bordertown,” “Inhumans,” “Selfie,” “Heroes: Reborn,” “Ghosted,” “America’s Next Best Weatherman,” and “State of Georgia.” FYI, ALL OF THESE got cancelled after one season.

To be honest though, I can’t complain too much because the entire movie was shot digitally on ARRI Alexa cameras.

And when it comes to a good portion of the locations that have played a few of these recent “Star Wars” movies in 70mm, not only are they few and far between, but many of them rarely play Hollywood features. Many of these theaters simply show IMAX-distributed documentaries that are either new or cater to a theme that would associate with a venue. Not to mention, a glaring fraction of these are domes, and while I will say I rarely go to domed IMAX theaters, one thing to point out about them is the 180° style of the screen. With a number of cinema screens, it is sometimes easy to notice a slight curve they can provide, and traditional IMAX screens are no exception. Forget about a curve with an IMAX Dome, it’s practically a boulder sliced in half. Not only do they rarely show Hollywood features, but they also can have a quirky looking image when there are black bars involved. Granted, I have yet to see something like this for myself in person, but from what I’ve seen online, it’s almost weird looking. I almost wonder if it would turn off a good portion of general audience members.

History aside, let’s move onto the present and the future. Despite IMDb’s current claims that this film will be shot with IMAX cameras, no word of mouth from Disney, J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, etc., has said anything related to such a claim (except this one, based on brief research). After all, I don’t know for sure, it could have been inserted long before, or maybe just as soon as the film happened to be starting production. However, IMDb is also claiming that the movie will be presented in multiple film formats. These include 35mm, 70mm, and IMAX 70mm. By the way, they are also suggesting these were also formats used for shooting.

“Shot on 35mm, 70mm, and 70mm IMAX, this is the third Star Wars film to be shot in the IMAX format, the first film in the franchise to be shot on 70mm film, and the first Star Wars film since Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) to be shot entirely on celluloid.”

OK, I can buy this movie entirely being shot on film. After all, one of the things that J.J. Abrams wanted out of “Episode VII” was the nostalgia factor, which was partially brought to the table through filming the movie in celluloid, an action that the prequels neglected for the most part. But to be fair, “new technology” sometimes has a ring to it.

As for what technology was used specifically, I think we still need updated information on it. Because when it comes to technical specifications, that is still a mystery kept by those who made this film. Yes, there are articles suggesting a mixture of 35mm and 70mm cinematography in the movie, but many of them are from the end of 2016, a month before “Rogue One” came out. However, perhaps the most credible information I came across was this occasionally updated article as seen on fromthegrapevine.com. For those who are lazy, there is a suggestion via an image that this next “Star Wars” film will be shot in 70mm.

Granted, I highly doubt that this movie will be mostly shot in digital. The past two films in the trilogy have been shot using film for a good portion of the runtime, therefore to maintain a similar feel, Abrams must have said film was the way to go.

And with this information in mind, I will point out that IMAX has a vast history of showcasing movies that were not shot through their technology on their true projection format. The thing is however, that time happened back when the DMR process was starting to get into full swing. With IMAX’s jump into digital projection in 2008, it wasn’t too long before IMAX started getting picky with what films would be shown in their original format. “Rogue One” was a rare exception back when it came out in 2016.

In fact, let’s look at IMAX in 2018 and what they have done with this technology. Unfortunately, IMAX missed the opportunity to put “First Man,” their only new release that year shot with IMAX 70mm tech, in theaters catering to that format. They were shown in IMAX Laser theaters, which is a nice consolation, but having been in both venues for different movies, it’s not the same. The only “new” 70mm experience that came out was a limited 50th anniversary engagement of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Aside from that, there was a 10th anniversary limited engagement of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” which played around the same time period. There was another movie released in IMAX shot with their technology (Avengers: Infinity War), but that film was shot completely in digital. This allowed a complete fill of the screen in many, smaller, digital venues, but not for the venues IMAX was originally known for.

If you think I am pulling these facts out of my butt, let me just point out to you, I am not. There is a Wikipedia page that lists every single IMAX film that has gone through a DMR process. Yes, Wikipedia is not the most scholarly source of all time, but over the years, this has been pretty reliable for this subject matter.

List of IMAX DMR Films

In fact, if you scour the list, go to the section labeled “2019,” and scroll down to “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” you’ll notice it does not suggest there will be any IMAX 70mm screenings, nor does it say anything about the cinematic equipment. Granted, a lot of the information related to this does not exactly need to be displayed now, the movie does not even release until December. Even with that in mind however, it is slightly concerning. I can live with a lack of IMAX 70mm screenings if it wasn’t shot in that exact format, but if it was, I feel like we are gonna be in a “First Man” situation all over again. Although that movie flopped as far as I am aware so, who knows? It might have been for the best. I enjoyed the movie, in fact it was one of my favorites of the year, but regardless, it didn’t have proper financial legs.

It is perhaps slightly inevitable that “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be a financial success. I say SLIGHTLY inevitable, because while a number of recent Disney “Star Wars” flicks made over $1 billion at the box office, the most recent one, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” did not meet the financial standards of films that came prior to it, including the spinoff “Rogue One.” At the same time, it has things going for it. For one thing, it’s the conclusive chapter to The Skywalker Saga, it involves characters we have known for the past two films and even further into the past, Lando is back, and Palpatine seems to be making an appearance as well. It has the potential to win audiences and a portion of the fanbase overall. Well, that depends on how divided said fanbase is by the time this movie comes out, because it’s pretty ugly right now. And even though that ugliness is a thing, there are enough fans in the “Star Wars” community that could potentially show up for a new flick in the franchise.

If you ask me, I think Disney, Lucasfilm, Bob Iger, IMAX, among others would not have minded the idea of releasing the film in IMAX 70mm. Sure, “Solo” didn’t do as well as they would have hoped, but based on how that is a film that not many audiences asked for in the first place, added onto the prior success of films that came before it, they wouldn’t mind releasing the film in an IMAX 70mm format. They’re making more money with the Skywalker films compared to the spinoffs, and let’s face it, audiences care about Rey, they care about Kylo, they care about Chewie, they care about Lando, they care about BB-8. The praise is there, the studio just has to make a decision. Another factor to consider is the transition to go back to how Disney originally released these types of films. Specifically, by doing so in December. This is a good strategy because people are home for the holidays, kids are on break, and with a bunch of Oscar-bait films competing against each other, this blockbuster has a significant chance of standing out.

Do I want to see a reality where we get the opportunity to go check out “The Rise of Skywalker” in IMAX 70mm? I would, but I know it’s not certain. Given my clustered knowledge of how this movie is being shot, I don’t know if it is being shot in the IMAX format, but even if it isn’t, I would be willing to show up for an IMAX 70mm presentation simply because it is the clearest picture in existence. And… Disney, if you are planning on releasing this in IMAX 70mm… PLEASE… Consider releasing it at the Providence Place IMAX. It’s one of the closest true IMAX venues to my house, and one of the best theaters I have ever been to. I will flock there immediately if you release your film there in this specified format.

Am I being an obsessive nerd about this? Probably. Do I care? Hell no! In fact, with all statistics being considered, it makes me worried for the future of how IMAX movies are presented. Yes, we are likely getting Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” in IMAX 70mm next year, but are we simply doing so because it’s a Christopher Nolan film? Is it because of the director’s power in the industry? He’s my favorite director working today, but it’s still a question I can’t help but ask! “Star Wars” is a big franchise. And this latest film is seemingly shot in a big resolution. So why not let us as an audience look at the big picture?

YUP. PUN ABSOLUTELY INTENDED.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” hits theaters December 20th, 2019. I am looking forward (although I am also slightly apprehensive) to seeing how this sequel trilogy will conclude. I do have faith in J.J. Abrams, especially after the excellent job he did with “The Force Awakens.” It also seems inevitable that I am going to see the movie on opening night, even if I get access to a press screening before the movie hits theaters everywhere. As for IMAX, I don’t care what you do with this movie. If it is shot in your format, release it in 70mm. But based on the popularity of this franchise, consider that sort of release even if this movie was shot in a smaller format. What will happen? I don’t know, only time will tell! Thanks for reading this post! I just want to remind everyone that next week starts the second half of 2019, so I will be creating a mega-post containing a halftime report and a glimpse into the future of Scene Before. Be sure to look forward to that! Also, stay tuned for my second trailer of “Project 2020.” If you have seen one of my posts back in April, you know what I am talking about. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, do you have any thoughts on this “Rise of Skywalker” in IMAX 70mm matter? Or am I just batcrap crazy? Also, are you looking forward to “The Rise of Skywalker?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!