The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022): A National Treasure of Comedy and Action

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is directed by Tom Gormican (Ghosted, That Awkward Moment) and stars Nicolas Cage (Con Air, The Croods) as himself, kind of. Joining the Academy Award-winning thespian are stars including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984), Sharon Horgan (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Game Night) Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Uncle Drew), Ike Barinholtz (Snatched, Blockers), Alessandra Mastronardi (To Rome with Love, Master of None), Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life, Without Remorse), and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, The Smurfs). This film follows Nicolas Cage, or Nick Cage if you want to be more technical, as he hits a bit of a rough patch career-wise. When a high-paying opportunity arrives to meet with a superfan, Nick Cage is in for the role of a lifetime, working for the CIA.

When it comes to actors, Nicolas Cage is the definition of an enigma. He won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas” and received another nomination for his work in “Adaptation” years later, so he is not short on talent, nor is he short on resume-worthy credits. But he also has a history of being an Internet meme. For example, one of my favorite YouTube movie critics, Chris Stuckmann, does a series of reviews by the name of “Hilariocities,” and the intro to each episode is centered around Nicolas Cage because of his tendency to take certain roles that make him look over the top and zany, sometimes not in the right ways. Cage has a history of choosing movies that are not remembered, movies that have gone straight to DVD, movies that occasionally make me wonder if he even reads the script before he signs on. One of my first positives of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is its tendency to be effectively tongue and chic regarding Nicolas Cage. Or in some cases, the way society, especially on the Internet, paints a picture of him.

I think putting Cage in the center of this film was a brilliant idea, because while I know Cage has done some prolific work in recent years like “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse” and “The Croods 2,” he is an actor I would think of these days when it comes to, “X actor needs to pay bills, therefore X actor stars in Y movie without hesitation.” But even with that in mind, Cage commits every time, no matter how unrealistic the script. And for this movie, a lack of realism is perhaps no exception. If I invited Nicolas Cage to my birthday bash this year, he would likely tell me to screw off. At least this is what my head tells me, because actors are not always in the business of entertaining for parties or other related events. But the moments that arguably lack verisimilitude make “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” worth watching.

The bond between Cage and Pascal is a highlight of the film. I like both actors by themselves, but if you put them together, that is a recipe for greatness. Much of the movie involves Nicolas Cage being tasked by a couple people affiliated with the CIA to stay and keep an eye on Javi, who to his surprise, becomes his newfound companion. This takes a toll on Cage as he came into this situation with partial hesitancy and now that he is here, he now has a sense of trust with his new pal. The duo literally bonded over “Paddington 2!” I have never seen “Paddington 2,” mainly because I have not seen “Paddington 1” from the mid-2010s, but I will give this film credit where it is due, it has made me want to check out “Paddington 2.” But this movie is not just about Cage finding out he likes “Paddington 2,” or trying to get people he knows to watch “The Cabinet of Caligari,” this film can also qualify as a tribute to Cage’s career and legacy. Fans of his previous movies will probably rejoice as to how one particular aspect of this movie unfolds, as it is one gigantic callback to his cinematic library.

This film also knocks its portrayal of celebrity culture out of the park. Obviously, given how this is a Nicolas Cage film, it would be wise to realize how his fans see him on screen. But there is a great moment in the film that reminds me of how ballsy it is as a fan to stop a celebrity in the street. Because the reality is, celebrities have lives. They have places to be. That is a good reason you should not stop them in the street. But at the same time, getting to meet them presents itself as a once in a lifetime opportunity, making it that much more palatable to stop them and ask for a picture. This is why events like comic con exist. That way the celebrity guests are in one place and possibly there almost solely to make the fan’s day while also making a profit. But I will be real, if someone stopped me in the street to compliment that one review I did, I would be thankful and happy enough to take a second out of my day to talk to them. But the way this movie presents a case like that shows how unexpected such a moment can be. Nicolas Cage came off as the kind of guy who would not mind taking a selfie with a fan, but I also noticed how quick this scene was handled, showing that one person or the other had things to do. Entertainers are amongst an interesting profession because they are perhaps more likely than others to be stopped. Imagine if you were working in a landscaping company and someone came up to you and screamed, “Wow! I love what you did with my neighbor’s yard! All my friends are talking about it!” You don’t usually see that as much with people in such a profession.

This film, genre-wise, is part buddy comedy, part crime investigation, part action adventure. All in all, I have to say it is one of the most delightfully charming, exciting movies I have watched in the past few months. Cage and Pascal are ridiculously funny together, and I totally buy their out of nowhere friendship. I think their chemistry is more prominent to me at this point however compared to the CIA plot, which is not a bad entry to the script by any means. I enjoyed what I saw. But Cage and Pascal’s scenes together grabbed my attention so much that it made a good portion of the film feel rather forgettable, and I think that is its biggest weakness. Although at the same time, one thing I did not forget is how the film seemingly takes jabs at today’s somewhat cookie cutter approach to storytelling, where you have basic ideas regurgitated over and over and fewer adult-centric tales out there for people to consume. The way “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” handles such an idea is not only entertaining, but also increasingly relevant in a studio system that is often dominated by blockbusters and franchises of “things people remember.” And as much as I love movies like “Free Guy,” I can see why people find them uninteresting or out of line with what they find watchable.

In the end, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” will leave you laughing, it will leave you smiling, it will make you want to befriend Nicolas Cage yourself. Not to take away from Nicolas Cage, but the supporting cast is also likable and charismatic. You have some great actors like Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris. All of them have an attractive screen presence. When it comes to movies about stars playing themselves, I prefer “The Big Sick,” starring the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani, but “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is still worth watching. I recommend it. I am going to give “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” a 7/10.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for one of the biggest movies of 2022, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” Expect that review sometime soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where an actor plays themselves? Don’t you dare say “Space Jam…” Or the sequel, for that matter. Both are atrocities. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Moonfall (2022): A Small, Lifeless Step for All

“Moonfall” is directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla) and stars Halle Berry (Catwoman, Extant), Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, Watchmen), John Bradley (Game of Thrones, The Brothers Grimsby), Michael Peña (Tower Heist, Ant-Man), Charlie Plummer (Looking for Alaska, Words on Bathroom Walls), Kelly Yu Wenwen (Young Pea, Lost Promise), and Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, The Undoing). This film is exactly as the title sounds. The moon is falling.

And it sucks. *Ends review*

Okay, okay, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the backbone here. Basically, for some established reason, the moon, which has been circling alongside the Earth for years, goes out of orbit, and decides one day, “Screw everything, I’m gonna kiss the planet goodbye!” So it is up to a few scientists to figure out how to save the earth before the moon destroys all life and civilization as we know it.

Director Roland Emmerich on the set of Columbia Pictures’ 2012. The action film will be released November 13, 2009.

They say that certain filmmakers who have been around in the industry for awhile get attached to their genres or consistencies. For Martin Scorsese, that would be mob movies. For Michael Bay, that would be explosive action movies. For Roland Emmerich, that would be disaster movies. When it comes to this genre, he is no stranger. He’s done movies such as “White House Down,” “2012,” and “Indepndence Day” along with its sequel. I have not seen every single one of these films, but I nevertheless have an expectation when it comes to Roland Emmerich. None of these films are Shakespearean, nor are they a Best Picture contender. When it comes to my expectations for “Moonfall,” I did not walk in the door asking for a whole lot. I just wanted to have fun while the moon crashes the Earth. Sure, you have your humanized storyline, but if you make the characters relatable enough, it will be worthwhile in the end.

“Moonfall” is something I’d rather witness through fiction as opposed to reality. But it does not change the fact that “Moonfall” is one of the worst science fiction films I have seen in a long time.

Although, slight digression, I think getting crushed by a moon would be a cool way to die. And after seeing this movie, I hope one falls sooner than later.

“Moonfall” is what happens when you write a script for Syfy channel original movie and somehow get in touch with someone who promises they’ll put a little more money into it. This movie has big stars, big effects, but a small plot. That is if there even is one. If you go to the Wikipedia page for “Moonfall,” there’s a whole section that is titled “Plot,” which explains everything that happens in the movie. Honestly, I think Wikipedia is being generous. When it comes to “Moonfall,” Roland Emmerich partially financed the film himself. This makes sense, given how he’s probably done well financially due to the success of some of his previous films, and the fact that the script for this movie is probably not as memorable as one or two of his previous films. I’ve seen “Independence Day.” It knew what it was, it did not take itself too seriously, and it was fun for what it was. “Moonfall” is actually so bad that I would have been okay if they killed off all the main characters. Almost none of them are interesting. Some of them are flat out annoyingly written, and whenever I watched JC Bradley’s character, I almost felt bad that he had to take on this role. There were a couple okay lines out of him, but around the halfway point of the movie, I felt like I was watching a high school play written by the robots from “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.” Forced jokes! Lazy lines! It’s cringe all the way to the moon! The screenplay is one small step for man, and one giant leap for the moon to waltz through the stars to end civilization as we know it. Both literally and figuratively.

I will admit, I’m an aspiring screenwriter, and I’m one of those people who doesn’t really have a whole concrete plan on how my scripts go from start to finish. Some of my ideas are made up as they go along, because I want to project the feeling I would have as an audience member who would want to be surprised and see something they haven’t seen before. First off, the concept of the moon falling is not new. I cannot recall it being done in a movie, but I think some of my viewers would know that it was once done in a “Legend of Zelda” game. And even though I never finished the game (which may play into my mediocre time management skills), I think that moon-falling story is better. The point is, the screenplay for “Moonfall” barely feels like it was planned. You can perhaps write a movie with little planning and have it be great, but Roland Emmerich took the film in a haywire, offish, and unexpectedly disastrous direction that left me with my jaw open and my hands over my head. There was a point during the second half of this film, where I simply stopped caring.

I could write something about the characters in this review. But in actuality I don’t feel like I can. There is not a single individual I care about enough to say they were worth watching, as much effort as some of the actors put into their performances. I wonder if any of the actors actually wanted to be in this movie for a single reason other than the paycheck.

You know a movie is bad when you try to think of anything positive to say about the characters, and not only is there almost nothing that comes to mind, but you can’t even remember their name! I don’t think it would be a surprise that I would have to go back to IMDb a couple times and look up a certain character’s name just to include them in the review. But “Moonfall” is a prime example of a movie where I’d have to do that for every character for all the wrong reasons. They’re lucky they’ve got a couple recognizable faces in this like Halle Berry and Michael Peña. If I were doing this review on video, Jeremy Jahns style, I would be in front my green screen yelling at the camera before the next jumpcut, freezing, then turning my head over to my phone to see what I’ve forgotten.

“Moonfall” proves that sometimes bigger isn’t always better. This movie has too many characters that it asks you to latch onto. The script doesn’t serve any of these characters properly. And they’re all directed like this movie was written with intentional 1990s cheese. Yes, “Independence Day” worked in the 1990s. I need “Moonfall” to work in the 2020s. I went into this movie simply wanting the moon to wreak havoc over the earth, and maybe they’ll come up something to make that concept work. Without spoiling anything, the film tries to give some reason as to why everything is happening, but that reason is arguably the biggest insult of the movie. Yes, the “characters” develop and alter, but they do so in a way that made me want to sucker punch my popcorn. This movie honestly would have been better had Roland Emmerich popped out of the screen and cut the off all the heads of everyone in my auditorium. At least in that reality, we’d probably never get to experience the space oddity, and that’s putting it lightly, that is “Moonfall.”

In the end, “Moonfall” is an insult to science fiction. The effects look okay at times, and that may be the one big plus of the film. It could work as a tech demo. There may be one or two lines in the movie that could get a laugh, but by the end of the film I was rolling my eyes way more than I was slapping my knees. It’s crazy to think that in the same weekend we get an epic sci-fi movie, which cost over $150 million, about the moon potentially destroying Earth, where people go up into space to see if they can solve the problem, “Jackass Forever” is the movie that looks like it was made for smart people. Gosh, that was so funny. Aren’t space movies supposedly taken a bit more seriously than guys destroying their balls? I’m not asking for all my space movies to be the same, but I just want them to be good. And clearly Roland Emmerich failed the assignment. I’m going to give “Moonfall” a 2/10.

“Moonfall” is now playing in theaters everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “Moonfall,” be sure to look out for more upcoming reviews including one I’ve got for “Death on the Nile” and another one for “Uncharted.” Also, I want to apologize to everyone who follows my personal account on Instagram. I share my latest posts on the platform, but I completely forgot to do so for one of my recent film reviews, and that is “Belfast.” So for those who have not read that review yet, feel free to do so! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Moonfall?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Roland Emmerich film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021): I Want a Bodyguard Divorce

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is directed by Patrick Hughes, who also directed this film’s predecessor, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” This film once again stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Green Lantern), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction), Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Sausage Party), and alongside them are actors including Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Purge: Anarchy), Richard E. Grant (Logan, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Antonio Banderas (Shrek 2, The Laundromat), and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Dark Knight). This film follows Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), the bodyguard who helped protect Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) as he is told to take a break from bodyguarding. That break will have to wait however because Bryce and Kincaid are on another mission together where this time they have save Sonia (Salma Hayek), Darius’s wife, from danger.

I liked “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” when I first saw it. I missed it in the theaters, but I did get it on 4K Blu-ray for Christmas in 2017 and I did watch it a day or two afterwards. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is nothing too special, it’s really kind of disposable, but if you want a fun action flick that can entertain you for a couple of hours, you cannot go wrong. I also really like the film’s use of the song “Black Betty.” I think that was a really fun scene. The film also had an extended shot that kind of reminded me of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” a little bit. Remember the scene from “Kingsman: The Secret Service” where Colin Firth basically annihilates an entire crowd of hate supporters in a church? Between story, music, and action, that scene was outright perfection. Now I am not saying the “one-shot” take in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is as good as the one in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” but it is still fun. But the biggest standout from “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Their characters clearly hate each other, but it never feels off-putting. It adds to the fun of the movie. It was a fun little action film that apparently did well enough at the box office. And of course as pointed out with “Star Wars,” “Fast & Furious,” “The Simpsons,” and “The Bachelor,” you gotta make more of it! No matter how good it is! This is where “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” comes in.

When I think of the “big” studios that stand out the most today, I usually think of Disney (Star Wars, Marvel), Warner Bros. (DC, Harry Potter), and Universal (Despicable Me, Jurassic Park). These studios have staying power and tons of properties they continue to utilize until the end of time. Lionsgate almost had that chance with “Knives Out,” but they sold it to Netflix. They used to be a force in the market with “The Hunger Games” and since the studio was affiliated with Summit, they also did “Divergent.” So they were big for awhile in the young adult adaptation game. They had “Now You See Me,” which paused. “Gods of Egypt” never did too well. “Twilight” is over. Just wait until they remake that eventually. I feel like the one big franchise that Lionsgate has that is the perfect mix of financial success, critical acclaim, and staying power, is “John Wick.” In fact they are coming out with a fourth movie pretty soon. I feel like “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” even though it is directed by Patrick Hughes once again, is Lionsgate making it known that they want this to be a serious franchise. And honestly, if it does become as big as say “Fast & Furious,” they need to do much better. This film was NOT good.

The sad thing is, this film starts off fine. It’s a little absurd, but it’s fine. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” starts off with of all things, an awards show for bodyguarding. The film continues as Michael Bryce goes to therapy as he is told to stop bodyguarding, and I’ll admit the scene ends with a couple lines that did get a laugh out of me. But as soon as the real action starts, where we see Ryan Reynolds and Salma Hayek in the middle of a fast-paced bike chase, the movie switches its goofiness into high gear. One of the first lines from Samuel L. Jackson’s character and how it is handled is something that I think could be taken in a couple manners. It’s either so goofy that it’s funny. Or, it is incredibly idiotic that the line was executed the way it was.

Apparently, Michael and Darius still hate each other, …I guess? So apparently they have not developed at all since the last movie. Just a reminder, Michael took a bullet for Darius in the last movie. And now apparently they still don’t like each other or barely show respect for each other. I don’t know! It feels forced! It feels like they’re just trying to copy the success of the first movie while lazily inserting something new. In fact there is a new subplot where apparently Darius and his wife, Sonia are trying to have a kid. Let’s just say that it barely adds anything to the movie until say the second half. There’s a point that feels as if Michael says something negative regarding this new reality almost forcibly just to keep said plot going along. It just feels so out of the blue. There are a lot of things that feel offish or out of the blue in this movie. I barely cared about the nearly one-dimensional characters who almost face no noticeable changes by the end. I barely cared about Antonio Banderas on the antagonistic side. I barely cared about anything! The action is not even as good as the original. The bike chase scene was good, there was one moment where Reynolds wielded a pool cue that was pretty funny, but that’s about it. The action overall just did not have the same flair that the original movie gave. This is not to say “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was a masterpiece, but compared to the sequel, it was a good time.

This movie honestly feels like it is on ADHD. One moment it is here, one moment it is there, the next moment it is everywhere! I am not fully against unpredictable movies that go in weird directions, that is what makes stories interesting, the fact that you don’t know where they’re going. This movie was fairly predictable, but the moments that occurred almost every other minute regardless of predictability just came flying in my face and it is was just too much to take in, especially the bad moments. At times, this movie feels like it could work better as an action-based Fox Animation Domination cartoon. It is so hyperactive and non-stop that it barely gives me a needed moment to breathe, even in parts that are supposedly meant to be slower.

I also really hate the ending, because they supposedly “resolve” an extended plot line in the film in the most off-putting way possible. It’s honestly just weird to think about. I almost want to say what exactly happens in this moment, but I can’t because it is literally the last moment of the movie and if I spoiled it, I might be a jerk. Unfortunately, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was a jerk to me in the process. You how I mentioned this movie can be predictable? Well, this was an out of left field, outlandish, unpredictable moment, but it is so unpredictable and batcrap crazy that thinking about it makes me want to throw up.

I’ll also add a positive before we go any further. The actors do a fine job with their performances. They are fine, but the sad thing is that the writing is just plain bad. It feels like they just whipped up this sequel in an hour! Apparently, this film was written by three people, including the sole writer of the original film, Tom O’Connor. I was not behind the scenes and I do not know any of these people personally, but if they do a third movie, I wonder if they should just let Tom O’Connor do the work himself because he could arguably be the butter that is woven so perfectly onto the bread that is the “Hitman’s Bodyguard” franchise. But seriously, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are good actors, they play their parts well here. Although I will give extra praise to Salma Hayek, because judging by the title, she has a greater presence in this movie compared to the original, and she solidifies her presence from start to finish. I’ll also add, she seems to swear as much as, if not more than Samuel L. Jackson which says a lot as he is supposedly the guy who “single-handly ruined the word motherf*cker.”

In the end, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” almost feels like it purely exists to make money. Now, just about every movie ever made exists for that reason, but I think that some do a better job at hiding that reason than others. This honestly just feels like a cash grab that exists to capitalize on something that quite honestly, even though the original movie was good, I did not think would become a franchise. Could “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” become say the next “Fast & Furious” or something close to it? Maybe. “Fast & Furious” had some off days too. I think “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is one of my least favorite movies to this day. That franchise is still kickin’! “F9” literally comes out this week! I honestly at this point do not want to see a third movie in this franchise. Maybe I’ll warm up to it over time, but this kind of left a toxic taste in my mouth that is hard to eliminate. You know that phrase “sequels are not as good as the original”? Well, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is exhibit A. I’m going to give “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” a 3/10.

This movie kind of reminded me of “Venom” because this was a movie that the audience I was with seemed to be fairly invested in for the most part, I felt like a good number of the people in the room enjoyed the movie more than me. I just couldn’t connect with them. More power to them, but for me, I think “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” feels better at this point as a one-off. This sequel should not have happened. I like the actors, I wish them well in their future roles, but this was a bad day at the office.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Later this week I will be sharing a brand new review for the Pixar animated movie “Luca.” Also, tomorrow I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga,” so look forward to my review for that as well. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and be sure to like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?” What did you think about it? Or, what movie is better? Do you prefer “The Hitman’s Bodyguard?” Or do you prefer “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Wrath of Man (2021): Jason Statham Protects Money and His Life from Getting Snatched

“Wrath of Man” is directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Gentlemen) and stars Jason Statham (Furious 7, Safe), Holt McCallany (Alien 3, Mindhunter), Jeffrey Donovan (J. Edgar, LBJ), Josh Hartnett (Penny Dreadful, 40 Days and 40 Nights), Chris Reilly (The Last Post, Game of Thrones), Laz Alonso (Battle of the Year, The Boys), Raúl Castillo (Looking, We the Animals), DeObia Oparei (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Dumbo), Eddie Marsan (V For Vendetta, Ray Donovan), and Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad, Snowden) in a film about a man who recently joined a cash truck company and is responsible for moving lots of money around Los Angeles on a frequent basis. After an unexpected incident, H wants revenge over his son’s death.

“Wrath of Man” is a movie that I nearly slept on. But with advertising for it picking up in recent times, I decided to go see it Mother’s Day weekend as it was one of the bigger films out at the time. To be quite frank, I REALLY did not know what to expect. I thought this film would be okay, but I have recently been reflecting back to a time in recent memory when my dad and I went to see “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The trailer for “Wrath of Man” came up and he said that he would probably wait until this comes out on television to watch it. I somewhat agreed as it seemed like a somewhat standard action film starring Jason Statham, but at the same time, I feel like as one who has devoted himself to the industry, I had to see this for myself as it did have Guy Ritchie’s name on it. At the same time though, even though I have not seen every Guy Ritchie film, the ones that I have seen have not specifically impressed me. “Snatch” is wonderfully paced, but I honestly don’t even remember it. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is nice to look at, but also forgettable. “The Gentlemen” was too fast and too boring. It’s amazing how many people complained about “Tenet” being the hardest 2020 movie to understand when everything is flying in your face and down your throat lickety split in “The Gentlemen.” God, that movie almost gives me a headache the more I think about it. But was “Wrath of Man” worth watching? Is it something that is worth waiting for?

Cinematically, it is marvelous. The cinematography is some of the best of the year so far, and the opening sequence of the film put me right in. But other than that, it is your basic action flick starring Jason Statham. I am not the biggest fan of Guy Ritchie films, but much like how I have noticed distinctive styles from directors like Quentin Tarantino, Zack Snyder, and Wes Anderson, I feel like one of the highlights of Guy Ritchie films like “Snatch,” specifically a flair that feels like something only Guy Ritchie could provide, is missing. This really just feels like a run of the mill action film that almost crosses the threshold for cable TV background noise.

In fact, just for context, it has been nearly a month since I went out to watch this film. I remember some of it, but the more I reflect on it, the more disposable it feels. I do like some things about “Wrath of Man.” The concept of the film, while definitely not the highlight, is intriguing. Because the main character works for a company that deals with carrying around significant amounts of money, and because money is something that we as human beings somehow equate to happiness, even though there are times where we shouldn’t, it packs a bit of stakes into the story from the getgo. The other thing I like in this film is the music, and I do not mean the score. I have nothing bad to say about it, but nothing really good either. It gets the job done. What I really like about the film is there is this one song that plays at a point, specifically Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash, and ever since I heard it not only in the trailers for this film, but in the actual movie, I have the tune from it nearly ingrained in my mind. It’s almost like second nature to me at times. This sort of reminds me of another film, specifically “Thor: Ragnarok,” which despite how I think it is overrated, I will say one of the positives is that the film managed to successfully ingrain Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” into my head from one moment to another.

When I say that this is a basic action flick starring Jason Statham, I am not lying. There are elements that encapsulate that notion, but I am not saying it is a bad movie, and I think part of it is because of how Jason Statham handles his performance. Statham is, based on what I have seen from him, not exactly the most Shakespearean of actors working today, but he has this range that makes him one of the more attractive individuals for action movies. He his this gritty tone from him, one he has also shown in movies like those in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, that he also brings into “Wrath of Man.” Is he arguably playing himself? That is difficult to say, but I think for Statham, I think this comparison is kind of like Kevin Hart. I say so because I love Kevin Hart, even though he plays some incarnation of himself in almost every movie he is in. At the same time though, in the case of Hart, it is not a bad thing, because Hart has a great personality and he does his best to sell that with each go. So if Statham continues down this road where he keeps playing an incarnation of himself, I would be worried for his range, but if he keeps entertaining audiences, I will not be completely disappointed.

Without spoilers, the other main thing I really like from “Wrath of Man” is the ending. This film has a way of splitting different chapters or acts, and I think they did a really good job at setting the tone for the last chapter with the name. Now I had no idea what any of it would mean or what context the name would provide, but when I saw it play out on screen, it felt rather satisfying. I think it was a well written climax overall and I would say that Guy Ritchie did an excellent job at helming it. While it is not my favorite climax in film history, it is definitely one of the better ones I have seen in recent memory.

In the end, “Wrath of Man” is pretty entertaining, but it does come with some basics that make the story and walkthrough of the film feel somewhat familiar. In fact, parts of it kind of reminded me of the recent film titled “Honest Thief” starring Liam Neeson. Although, I will admit, the way Jason Statham carries the film makes it all worthwhile. It almost feels like there are select scenes written with him specifically in mind, which is a good thing if you ask me. Would I watch “Wrath of Man” again? Not instantaneously, but I would not shy away from it either. If I do not buy the Blu-ray, I would at least give it a quick glimpse if it shows up on a cable network. For all I know, it may be worth your time as well. I’m going to give “Wrath of Man” a respectable 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! As you may have noticed, I have been outrageously busy creating a full week of “Star Wars” content through my 7 Days of Star Wars event. This has been a pleasure to work on, even though there may have been moments where I wanted to pull out my hair because of how painstaking it may have been to meet certain deadlines, but if you want to check out those reviews, the links are listed below. I hope you enjoy the reviews as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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/

THE FORCE AWAKENS: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/29/star-wars-the-force-awakens-2015-the-biggest-blast-in-the-galaxy/

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/

But speaking of reviews, I have plenty of reviews for new movies coming soon including “Profile,” “Army of the Dead,” “A Quiet Place Part II,” and I will also be seeing “In the Heights” tomorrow so I will have my thoughts on that too. I do not have any set days, but my next review should be up by Saturday at the latest, so stay tuned. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Wrath of Man?” What did you think about it? Or, of the four collaborations between Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham, which is your favorite? I’ve only seen this one and “Snatch,” so… I don’t know if I should participate. Either way, if you do want to participate, leave your thoughts in the comments section! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Chaos Walking (2021): The Noise Awakens

“Chaos Walking” is directed by Doug Liman and stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Onward), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Peter Rabbit), Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Hannibal), Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight, A Better Life), Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale, Harriet), Nick Jonas (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Midway), and David Oyelowo (Gringo, Selma). This film follows a guy named Todd who lives in a dystopian future. In 2257 A.D., the men of New World go about their daily lives after an unfortunate war. One thing our protagonist, Todd, has in common with everyone else is that he has this thing called “noise,” where his thoughts are outspoken despite not opening his mouth. However, one day, a ship crashes on the planet and it peaks Todd’s curiosity. Turns out, the rider inside the ship is a girl, which Todd has never seen before, given how all of them died in the recently mentioned war.

I saw this film on the second weekend of March. Therefore, per usual, I am getting this review out late. That’s the bad news. The good news however that comes with it is that I likely have more time to process and think about what I saw, which I have done when it comes to this movie. With my previous review, “Raya and the Last Dragon” to be specific, I did not flip back and forth between much. The only thing I flipped around with was the score, which I was wondering whether I’d give it either a 8/10 or 9/10. I settled for the latter. I thought a little more about “Chaos Walking,” but not much more. Sure, I kind of flipped around on the score here as well, but that is not the only slice of this pie we have here. The big question I thought about was if I was actually going to see myself watching this movie again. The short answer would be… Maybe? But not now? I dunno… The thing is, when it comes to the young adult novel adaptation realm of filmmaking, I usually watch those movies once and I normally don’t have an urge to go back to them. Yes, I’ll buy the Blu-ray, but it ultimately may just end up sitting on my shelf. I like the “Divergent” movies, in fact I personally think it is better than “The Hunger Games” as a franchise, but I don’t usually watch those movies while sitting at home on a Friday night. I am somewhat mixed on “Chaos Walking” as a movie, because using the recent example, “Divergent,” I find “Chaos Walking” to be more entertaining at times than “Divergent,” specifically the first installment. I interestingly enough find “Insurgent” to be a better movie. If anything, I find “Chaos Walking” to be more entertaining than “Divergent” because “Chaos Walking,” whether it is intentional or not, comes off as somewhat funnier and maybe has a little more fun with its concept. In fact, I think the concept is slightly better, because I think it is a little more cliche to do the whole “divide people into groups” and boom, we have our movie idea. This movie eliminates an entire gender and as a viewer, I am somewhat intrigued to see how the survivors are going about their days.

At the same time though, similar to some other young adult novel adaptations, this film does get borderline cheesy. Sometimes it provides for a fun line, which is cool. But if you are looking for a Shakespearean, timeless flick with some of the best writing and directing imaginable, go elsewhere. Going back to the movie I recently mentioned, “Chaos Walking” came out the same weekend as “Raya and the Last Dragon.” That is a much better film in my opinion, so if I had to pick between two films to watch, the choice would easily be “Raya” by a long shot.

Moving onto characters, I want to talk about the chemistry between Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. On their own, these two are great actors. I loved Holland as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I adored Rey in “Star Wars,” so to see these two nerd icons come together in one movie is almost magical. As for their characters I bought into them as a pair as they sometimes found each other odd, sometimes they found each other likable, and so on. Going back to what I said about this movie having fun lines, there are a couple character establishment moments between these two that are personal highlights of the script. One other highlight of the script for me is that like every other young adult novel or every other young adult adaptation, the guy or girl has to crush on the other person or fall in love with them. I will not go into much detail on that, but this film almost felt like it was parodying that cliché at times, and I mean that in a positive way. There are moments where we see Tom Holland’s character specifically either thinking about kissing her, which was hysterical, and maybe there will be another scene in the film where we simply see that he finds her attractive. That may have been the best part of the movie because it takes a cliché, has fun with it, and makes it a kneeslapper.

I also want to talk about the driving gimmick of the film, “the noise.” When I saw the trailer for this film, I thought I was going to hate every single second that this, well, noise, was going to be emitted. It sounded awfully rugged, and it kind of goes against the screenwriting rule where you have to use as little words as possible to get points across because film is a visual medium. Yes, there is writing in it, but ultimately it is a matter of what you see. Seeing someone doing something is usually more entertaining and calming than hearing someone saying they are going to do something. And I will admit, when I heard this early on in the film, I was kind of pissed on how it played out. I figured if they were just going to utilize this thing for a poop joke, which more likely belongs in a disposable Illumination or DreamWorks project if anything, I figured this film was not going to be worth my time. But the gimmick was surprisingly well utilized to a certain degree. It does not change the fact that when it comes to most movies, less is more, but “Chaos Walking” is a weird animal where more is more when it comes to screenwriting.

In the end, “Chaos Walking” is just weird. I like the movie, but I cannot confirm that I’m ever going to watch it again. When comparing it to other young adult genre entries, I’d rather watch the first two “Divergent” films again. “Noise” is a terrible gimmick on paper, but an okay one when ultimately executed on screen. This film is cheesy, but weirdly attractive at the same time. This is a film that took years to make, and it honestly shows. A lot of the lines are borderline wooden and it almost feels like the only reason why this movie exists at this point is for the studio to poop it out in a pandemic where it is almost impossible for some people to go to the movies. “Chaos Walking” is a good movie, but not a great movie, so I’m going to give it a 6/10.

“Chaos Walking” is now available in theaters wherever they are open and the film is also now available to buy on video on demand services such as Fios, Xfinity, Google Play, and VUDU.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Mortal Kombat” as part of a review series I am calling “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews,” which I am doing as a lead-in to the all new R-rated “Mortal Kombat” movie which is out in theaters and on HBO Max on April 23rd. I will also have my review up for “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” available starting April 12th. I should also soon have reviews for “Boogie,” “Nobody,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” To stay tuned for these reviews, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Chaos Walking?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite 2021 film so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fatale (2020): Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank Liven Up an Engaging (But Occasionally Predictable) Thriller

Fatale (2020) - IMDb

“Fatale” is directed by Deon Taylor (Meet the Blacks, Black and Blue) and stars Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Insomnia), Michael Ealy (Think Like a Man, About Last Night), Mike Colter (The Good Wife, Luke Cage), and Geoffrey Owens (The Cosby Show, Lucifer). This film is about a married man who has a one night stand in Las Vegas with a woman named Valerie (Swank), only to have an incident happen in his household upon returning, and he soon finds himself in the center of a police investigation, where Valerie just so happens to be part of the department.

Deon Taylor - IMDb

“Fatale” comes to us from Deon Taylor, the same filmmaker who brought us last year’s “Black and Blue,” which I saw at a press screening. I’ll start this review off simple, I thought that this was a more entertaining experience than “Black and Blue.” I am not going to deny that the movie has its audience, it just wasn’t what I wanted. I thought it occasionally got a little too over the top, the supporting characters where nowhere near as charismatic as I’d probably want them to be, and I think I have forgotten a good chunk of the movie by now. It might take some time to determine whether I will ultimately remember or forget “Fatale” but there is no denying that this film is fun, lively, and kind of sexy. I knew going in that this sort of centered around a one night stand, I did not expect it to be as erotic as it was, and I give the film props for that.

When it comes down to everything, the real core of the film is the newfound relationship between Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank. They’re both in Las Vegas for alternate reasons, but despite their differences, they find each other charming and decide to hook up. Also, talk about good casting. I really like Michael Ealy as his character, I think Hilary Swank did a good job as her character, and I must say, Hilary Swank’s got that vibe of that fantasy woman that all men kind of want to a degree. They think about her, they dream about her, and they’ll do anything to have her in their life. Hilary Swank kind of feels eternally young to a certain point, and I think whoever thought about casting her deserves kudos.

But in all seriousness, I really liked Swank’s character. Despite what I previously said, Hilary Swank does more in “Fatale” than just be a seductive, dreamy, pretty face. That’s not to say that she does not do that well. She actually does so brilliantly, but the movie goes in and gives a lot of depth to her. I cared about her story, and at times I felt for her, even though much of the movie presents her as an interference to our main hero. She’s separated, she has kids, and she can’t see them. I am not a parent, but I imagine for some parents, that sort of feeling is not the greatest. This separation has her uneasy, she’s hoping things change, and it overall plays a factor into the plot and where things go from one point to the next.

There are a lot of genuinely good, classy scenes in “Fatale.” The scene where our two leads first meet is kind of sensual and fun, and really lets in the vibe that sticks around for the rest of the film. I think the part where they are in the hotel room makes for a rather entertaining moment as well and goes to show that the casting department did their job. Pretty much almost any scene with these two together does not disappoint, whether it is strictly plot related or just something in between. However I will admit, the movie does get to a point where I could predict what happens next, and guess who has two thumbs and is always right?

*points* THIS GUY!

This movie does not have the worst screenplay in the world. In fact for the most part, it is pretty decent. I think it provided for a thumbs up-worthy movie. But there is one moment that I saw coming from a mile away, and I guess the movie wanted it to be this grand thing that is kind of a revelation. I just thought to myself, “Okay, whatever.” I like being right when I play “Wheel of Fortune,” but I also like being surprised when I watch a movie. I want my expectations subverted. I want the movie to go in a direction that I am not expecting. Granted, I have seen a lot of movies, and the art form has been around for a hundred years, so sometimes it is hard to come up with something new and innovative, but I would like to see people try doing such a thing.

“Fatale” also has some pretty solid action. At times, it is not just the action itself, not just the physicality that makes these sorts of scenes great, but it is also the dialogue, there is a scene towards the end of the movie that sort of had me oohing to myself. I mean, if this scene were a rap battle, you could argue that it is pretty fierce, pretty heavy-hitting. Although it does not take away from the excitement of the combat, the shootouts, but when a movie can interweave great dialogue into a fight, you know they are doing something right. And it may also reveal that the screenwriter, also known as David Loughery, has done his job to make a compelling story. Granted, it is also slightly predictable, as I have previously exposed, but it it is nevertheless compelling.

One last thing, speaking of action, I also really like the scene where Derrick and his wife Micaela are being robbed. You get a sense of mystery throughout, the lighting fits the moment, and the way they went about this scene kind of reminded me of a horror movie. You know how sometimes a horror movie might have a person or object coming out of nowhere? They did something of that nature here, and it kind of works. Not only is this movie white knuckle, not only is it erotic, but it is also a tad intimidating. It’s overall a good mix, even if the intimidation does not last that long.

In the end, “Fatale” was a good time. Usually this is the time of year where we are just getting into the awards season for film. The Golden Globes are around the corner. The Oscars are not too far away. The SAGs are also coming soon. The Critics Choice Awards are also on the list somewhere. Unfortunately, these sorts of shows are getting pushed back and as a result, this December seems lackluster for the kind of bait that these award shows eat up. Sadly, “Fatale” does not fit into the awards sphere, at least I would not say so. Maybe Hilary Swank has a small chance, but even that seems slim. At the same time, if you want pure entertainment, do not miss “Fatale.” This is not the next “Citizen Kane” or anything, but it can keep you occupied for less than a couple hours. I am going to give “Fatale” a 7/10.

“Fatale” is now playing wherever theaters are open. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This Friday, I am going to see “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks. The film is getting tons of praise from critics and audiences, and Hanks usually impresses around this time of year, so I hope that he can continue delivering the goods with this movie. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the official Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Fatale?” What did you think about it? Or, since Hilary Swank was in two films in 2020, which one did you like better? “The Hunt” or “Fatale?” Personally, I could not stand “The Hunt,” so that makes this deliberation that much easier. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019): A Well-Adapted, Modern Take on a Dickens Story

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” is directed by Armando Iannucchi (The Death of Stalin, Veep) and stars Dev Petel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Anuerin Bernard (War & Peace, Dunkirk), Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, Paddington), Morfydd Clark (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Crawl), Daisy May Cooper (This Country, Avenue 5), Rosalind Eleazer (Howards End, Death in Paradise), Hugh Laurie (Stuart Little, Tomorrowland), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, We Need to Talk About Kevin), and Ben Whislaw (Skyfall, Paddington).

This film is based on the similarly titled book written by Charles Dickens and follows David Copperfield, an orphan who finds himself needing to get through a series of obstacles.

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” already released in several film festivals last year, which eventually led to the film being nominated for a Best Casting BAFTA. The movie has not hit the United States until this past March, specifically at a festival, and has gotten a full fledged release in August. In my view, that officially makes this a 2020 movie. IMDb says this is a 2019 film, but it has not had an official theatrical release until this year, so I rest my case for now. As of late August, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” has hit several theaters in the United States, and so far has earned over a million dollars. Now, that’s a great total if I went on NBC’s “The Wall,” but the film’s budget is $15.6 million. The collective total at the box office worldwide is $11.6 million. That’s not entirely pleasing so far, but given how movie theaters are coming back to life at this point, it should not be too surprising. Nevertheless, I used one of my A-List tickets to see this movie last Sunday, and having never once read the “David Copperfield” book, I did not really know what to expect. I will have you all know, when movie theaters were allowed to reopen in my state, the first screening I attended contained one trailer, which was for this exact movie. That’s all. I could tell you I really enjoyed the trailer, but the reality was that I was more focused on the notion that a movie theater was actually open.

Even so, this movie had an advantage, because it was *that first trailer* I’ve seen in a while, it stuck in my mind like a catchy tune. So was this movie worth my time when I finally saw it? I’d say so.

Going into “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” I did not entirely know what to expect. Keep in mind that this review is written by someone who never read the book. I walked out of the movie fairly delighted. There was a series of well-directed, marvelously written scenes. I could thank the writers for this film, but maybe I should thank Charles Dickens considering how he wrote the material. It also goes to show how timeless this movie feels, and how one can possibly connect to some guy living in the 19th century. All the factory scenes from this film are incredible. Not only are they atmospheric, but they allow for this movie’s writing to shine. I felt for Dev Patel’s character of David Copperfield several steps of the way.

This movie manages to maintain its own vision from beginning to end, and I was massively entertained by said vision. While “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is not my favorite movie of the year, I will not deny that this movie manages to maintain its own flair every step of the way. I do not feel like I will end up remembering every character’s name, although I do imagine if I read the book maybe I will. Speaking of which, this brings up another point.

A lot of people tend a read a book, watch a movie, compare the two side by side. Personally, I see books and movies as two separate entities and I don’t always think they should be compared just to be one thing since they are two different mediums. However, let’s reverse what I just brought up for a moment. I watch a ton more movies than I read books, but if I were to take this movie, “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” I would definitely read the book that inspired it because I enjoyed the end product of the film. I don’t know when I’ll dedicate time to it, but it is a thought that I am intrigued by.

In terms of performances, I think everyone across the board did a great job from Dev Patel to Hugh Laurie to Peter Capaldi and Benedict Wong. Their performances help provide a refreshing take on what must be a classic. One of my favorite performances in this movie however comes from Darren Boyd, who plays Mr. Murdstone, who marries Copperfield’s once widowed mother. In addition to that, Copperfield has to work for Murdstone in his factory, which as previously suggested, makes for some of the finest scenes in the movie. This movie is PG, so according to the MPAA, kids can watch this and feel fine. There are some notable scenes where that PG rating shows, but at the same time, as I watched those scenes, I got the feeling I was watching somebody who was pushing the barrier a little higher. They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and “The Personal History of David Copperfield” utilizes that saying to full potential.

There are few other antagonists from movies this year that I can think of that I will remember for years to come. Maybe Dr. Robotnik from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” perhaps Sator from “Tenet,” and this might shock you, Paula Abdul from “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” Just being honest. Murdstone is up there with the greats for me. I really hope we get a couple more comic book movies this year, because I am curious to see Taskmaster in “Black Widow” and see how he ranks against the rest of the Marvel villain crew. IF “BLACK WIDOW” MOVES AGAIN OR GOES STRAIGHT TO DISNEY+ I MIGHT BE DONE WITH MOVIES. Nevertheless, Murdstone is one of my favorite characters in this movie and his attitude says a lot about who he is.

If I have anything else to say, I also enjoyed the score in this film. I don’t know if I’ll end up listening to it during free time later, but hearing it in the theater was most certainly atmospheric and occasionally gave a larger than life vibe. The score is done by Christopher Willis, who has also done work for a couple Disney television shows and HBO’s “Veep.”

In the end, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is a fine adaptation of the well-known Charles Dickens novel. I have never read the book, but after seeing this movie, who knows? Maybe I’ll give it a shot. I imagine it is better than the movie, given how Dickens is a household name. Even so, I found myself delighted with “The Personal History of David Copperfield” and I am going to give it a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Becky,” which stars Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, and Kevin James. I just got the Blu-ray recently, watched it, and I want to say some things about it. I’m not sure what my next review after that is going to be. I’m thinking either “Bill & Ted Face the Music” or there is also this one movie that has supposedly been out for a month called “Tesla.” I saw trailers for it at one theater, it never showed up, but it is also available On Demand for a cheap price. Maybe I’ll watch that. Although one of my local theaters, the Lexington Venue, just recently opened once more, so maybe I’ll check something out there if I have time. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Personal History of David Copperfield?” What did you think about it? Or, did you read the original “David Copperfield” book? Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Summerland (2020): My Faith in 2020 Is Officially Restored

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“Summerland” is directed by Jessica Swale and this is her feature-length directorial debut. Swale’s other credits include shorts and a TV movie. This film stars Gemma Arterton (The Girl with All the Gifts, Clash of the Titans), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, The Morning Show), Lucas Bond (The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, Slumber), Dixie Egerickx (The Secret Garden, The Little Stranger), Siân Phillips (I, Claudius, Dune), Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Downton Abbey), and Tom Courtenay (The Aeronauts, The Dresser). This film follows a woman named Alice, she’s a writer, she’s a hermit, she’s bullied by local children, and she’s sometimes called a witch. Keep in mind, the movie is set during World War II, so when an evacuee is sent to her doorstep, her world turns upside down. However, their relationship develops as we get to know more about the backstory of both characters while also seeing how they engage with one another in the present.

I’m gonna be straight up with ya. 2020 is s*it. It’s f*cking stupid. So far, this entire year has been a waste. My spring break trip was ruined by the beginning of a pandemic. Movie theaters shut down for some time. Every comic con beyond March got cancelled. The only positive is that I don’t need to wear pants right now. As far as movies go… Screw that noise! Nothing is memorable! This year, like many, started off with some duds, but that’s expected. What I didn’t expect is for this entire first half of a year to just amount to absolutely nothing!

I got to see Joe Gatto in person… There’s something.

I saw “Emma” in February, the star and director happened to be there to promote the film. There’s something else.

I got to go to Universal Hollywood before they closed down… That’s pretty much it.

Things have been turning around however. Cases and hospitalizations have been going down in my area, I finally shaved my facial hair for the first time in months, and movies have been getting SLIGHTLY more watchable.

Note: I said slightly. “Vivarium,” “An American Pickle,” “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” they’ve all been fun to watch. But it’s hard to tell if I will remember them by the end of the year.

Screenshot (159)

“Summerland,” before I saw it, was an interesting little movie. One of the positives of the second half of 2020 for me was the reopening of some movie theaters. Granted, not all of them have reopened, but some of them, including a local spot known by the name of Lexington Venue have welcomed back patrons. “Summerland” was one of the movies initially playing on their second reopening, but I decided to wait and see it on the second weekend I returned. It was my third time at that theater in a span of a little over a week.

When I started watching this movie, a lot a havoc began. The projector was having problems. We had to stop the movie more than once. The movie itself was not much better. Ten minutes in, I already hated the main character. She came off as an insufferable jerkface that I would never want to meet in person if she actually existed. There was perhaps no redeeming quality to this character other than the fact she was a writer.

Then… Something happened. The movie went along, the main relationship builds, characters develop, and I will tell you something, I almost shed a tear. This is my favorite film of the year. Period. Granted, given how “Tenet” comes out soon, I would bet that such a notion could change, but it’s true. “Summerland” is one of the most emotionally investing movies I have seen in recent memory. It sort of reminded me of “Jojo Rabbit,” minus all the satire. After all, both films take place during World War II, and in some way, involve a young boy at the center of everything. Granted, his name is not the biggest on the poster and he does not have top billing, but he seemingly has much of a prominence in this movie as Gemma Arterton’s character does, who I really need to talk about by the way.

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Gemma Arterton plays a character named Alice, and when I saw her in this movie for the first ten to thirty minutes, I thought to myself, “OK, time to watch the latest pile of crap I’ve seen this year. 2020’s full of them.” I say that because her character comes off as a bitch in the beginning. Then she kind of grows a heart, where she is a bit nicer. I understood what the movie was going for in the long run. But at the same time, it’s like they were writing lines for Sheldon Cooper, but they turned him into a woman. And I say that as someone who loves Sheldon Cooper, but at times, this seemed like a draft version of Sheldon Cooper where the whole time he’s just a complete ass to those around him. At the same time however, I’ve grown to realize something. This character is completely relatable. Before staying home and being alone was cool, I was always focused on a number of things: Avoiding people, writing, and perfection. This lady, seems to be all about that! Alice is practically an older, 1940s version of me! I may be a little more welcoming to visitors, but I was floored on how much she reminded me of myself.

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As for Frank, the young kid in the movie, seeing how he develops in this film is quite intriguing. Seeing him adapt to his new environment was worth my time. I also think Lucas Bond does a pretty good job playing this character, providing one of the more admirable child performances I’ve seen in recent memory. The same can be said for a friend he meets in the movie, Edie. She’s played by Dixie Egerickx, and their relationship not only feels natural, there was a point where it sort of felt like Simba and Nala in “The Lion King.” Granted, it’s not exactly the same, but there is one scene where they are hanging out together and I sort of made that connection for some reason.

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What I really enjoyed about the relationship between Frank and Alice is not only seeing how both characters developed as individuals, but how their differences are obviously present, even though they don’t get in the way of the two being together. The relationship doesn’t entirely feel 100% in wonderland while not being entirely toxic either. I wouldn’t call it a Goldilocks relationship if you will, but if you see the movie, you might get a sense of what I’m talking about.

Admittedly, this movie did start a little slow. Considering that, in addition to perhaps a nearly painful introduction to Gemma Arterton’s character, make up the most notable turnoffs of the film. There are also one or two directorial choices that I wouldn’t have made. Although I won’t knock this film’s director, Jessica Swale, too hard given how this is the first feature she’s handled. But there is so much to love about “Summerland” that I almost don’t care. I will not dive into spoiler territory, but I went into this movie, wondering what the heck the title of this film even means. Is it a place? A thing? An idea? The way the movie handles the subject matter presented in the title is incredibly enchanting and satisfying. The way this movie sort of goes kind of reminded me of “Onward,” the recent Pixar film that came out. It’s not exactly the same though for several reasons if you watch both movies, but I nevertheless made such a connection. Now, I like “Onward.” I had a really good time watching that movie and it continues to prove that Pixar can do no wrong. But I expected to go into “Onward” and leave a certain way. “Summerland” gave me the feelings and emotions that I couldn’t quite get from “Onward,” even though I expected that they were almost a guarantee. I don’t want to dive too much into either film, because I want to avoid spoilers, but holy smokes!

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I walked out of “Summerland” similar to the way I walked out of “Marriage Story.” When I left my screening for “Marriage Story,” I was so moved… and floored, that I stayed for the credits. I then walked out of the theater and I needed to sit down somewhere. During my “Marriage Story” experience I sat on a bench inside the cinema, but after seeing “Summerland,” I sat in my car, partially because I wanted to look at some local restaurants on Google Maps in private. But also because I needed a place to process what it was I just saw. When your movie has me feeling nearly motionless for around five minutes. You’ve made something special. Period.

In the end, “Summerland” is my favorite movie of 2020. During a year where a pandemic has gotten me down, this movie happens to have lifted my spirits up just a little bit. This film is playing in a few theaters, but I am not going to force everyone to attend a theater right now, given how some of my viewers might be a little nervous. Plus states including New York and California, which any other day of the year, would be part of the biggest markets for moviegoing, are not open at the moment. But fear not! This movie is available on VOD if you want to watch it at home! I think the casting for all the actors was well done, I like some of the scenery and locations in the film, the backstories for certain characters were incredible and added a bit to the movie in terms of overall likability. “Summerland” is one of the better written movies of 2020 in terms of its screenplay. As far as directing goes, that is an area that “works,” but there are a few things I would have done different if I were at the helm. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what Jessica Swale has next. Keep in mind, this movie is not perfect… But it is the first time I’m saying this all year for a new release, unless you count “1917” even though it technically came out last year. I’m going to give “Summerland” a 9/10.

Wow that feels good. I have still not given a 10 this year unfortunately. This film came close, there are a couple changes I’d make before calling it perfect. But that leaves a question for the rest of 2020. What will get a 10? “Unhinged?” “The New Mutants?” “Tenet?” “Wonder Woman 1984?” “Dune?” “Black Widow?” “Soul?” “No Time to Die?” Who knows at this point? For all I know, there might not end up being any 10/10s this year. Even so, I’m glad to actually have a reason to say 2020 has a glimmer of hope in it at this point. Because I have waited SO LONG to finally see something memorable. I was wondering at this point, is “The Vast of Night” the best thing this year’s got? Because I’d be quite unsatisfied if that’s the case. Nope! Thank you, “Summerland!” And also, thank you Britain! Hundreds of years ago, my country separated from you over our differences regarding things like tea, but I’m glad to unite on something as simple as the movie “Summerland!” Go watch this movie! I recommend this movie to just about anyone, and who knows? Maybe it’ll put a smile on your face!

Thanks for reading this review! Just want to let everyone know that I got an early access invitation to watch the new movie “Words on Bathroom Walls.” I’ll be blunt, this does not look like my type of movie. But, as a reviewer, I am glad to talk about new content, so I am likely going to watch the film and discuss it here on Scene Before. If you want to see more content like this, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Summerland?” What did you think about it? Or, how is your cinematic year for 2020 going? Are the movies good? Bad? Anything you want to see? Have the delays got you down? Personally, I have not seen a cinematic calendar more disappointing and underwhelming in quite some time. I am holding out hope for films like “Tenet” and “Dune” this point. And “Tenet” tickets go on sale soon! Let’s hope it actually opens! PLEASE. If it pushes back once more I’m running over my TV with an Amtrak train! Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Made in Italy (2020): Taken to the Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Made in Italy?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Liam Neeson performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes – Part 7

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 7 of the Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

As much as I want to continue to create informative content, I’m getting to the point where this series has become an annoyance. But I continue to do it anyway because historians can look back on this and remember it as a dire time for the film industry, which it really is. And those reviews I’ve been saving for months cannot go to waste. So Scene Before is STILL your place for the apocalypse! But who knows how much longer this will last? If I have to do more than twelve or thirteen, I might shove an aluminum soda can down my throat. In other news, I still know how to put on pants, I have not been going outside, and if I’m not back in the cinema by the end of July, I am going to throw all my DVDs and Blu-rays out the window like I’m a stubborn child!

And since we are still on a downward spiral, let’s get to the news of the world!

Starting in New York, we have news regarding what could be the United States’ most famous public transportation system, the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York state, made a major change to the system. The MTA is known for having a 24/7 schedule, so they never stop running. However, under Cuomo’s order, the system will be shutting down from 1 AM to 5 AM. This is likely a financially responsible decision, as nightlife in New York is nonexistent at this point. Plus, ridership is down 90% as far as the system goes. With less money, there’s more of a willingness to engage in the system’s preservation. This is also part of an effort to properly disinfect MTA property and machines, making a safer and cleaner ride for customers.

While some states are going to have to wait a bit longer to reopen, some like Georgia and Texas have begun easing on restrictions. Another state that has announced some easing on restrictions is the New England state of New Hampshire. The state plans to partially reopen starting May 11th. Certain pieces of economic industry including golf courses, campgrounds, and hair salons are permitted to reopen. Outdoor dining is also permitted to take place. Strict guidelines are still in place however as there is still a tendency to keep people 6 feet apart. New Hampshire currently has over twenty-five hundred confirmed COVID-19 cases so far. That is more than neighboring states Maine and Vermont, but is significantly less than its other neighboring state, Massachusetts, which has over seventy thousand cases.

Let’s go over to the United Kingdom and talk about Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Previously diagnosed with COVID-19, Johnson spent time in intensive care and was monitored health-wise. As he gets back into his routine, he stated that doctors were ready to announce his death in an event that he refers to as a “death of Stalin’-type scenario.” Johnson told UK newspaper The Sun that he required “liters and liters of oxygen.” During hospitalization, the Prime Minister kept asking himself: “How am I going to get out of this?” In other news, Johnson and his wife recently named their newborn son Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson. The “Nicholas” in this full name is chosen in honor of a doctor who helped aid Johnson.

Before we dive into our main topics, here’s a conglomerate of news that I ought to share because it can be packaged into a little box. While most theaters in the United States seem to have a plan on opening back up in the summer, because nothing’s out until then, some theaters are already opening their doors. For example, in Rhode Island, the Rustic Tri-View Drive-In, located in North Smithfield, is now part of the state’s reopen plan according to Governor Gina Raimondo. As for non-drive ins, Texas has three Santikos theaters reopening with a $5 ticket deal. For the record, this is a third of the company’s locations. Honestly, while it is good news for business that these theaters are reopening, I think it is also good news for health that they are taking it slow. The major chains like AMC and Cinemark still plan on a July reopening, which I think is fine, because it builds up anticipation and there’s nothing really new playing until then. Outside the U.S., Norway is reopening its theaters starting May 7th, capping the limit at 50 people per screening. The movie theater to me is a place beyond the imagination. It’s also a place where I occasionally get to see masterpieces. These masterpieces often get awards, such as Oscars. Speaking of the Oscars, let’s talk about them!

THE ACADEMY CHANGES RULES FOR THE 93RD ANNUAL OSCARS

One of my favorite days of the year is Oscar Sunday. When this crisis first started, I was a little worried that would not even be able to see an Academy Awards show next year, much less get more movies that could potentially be nominated. After all, when you are a studio or crew and cannot come out with your movie, it’s kind of a struggle. However, The Academy may have something planned next year. One indicator of this is them announcing changes to their rules and layout. Most notably, the Academy is putting its traditional rule of its nominees needing to have a theatrical release on hold. Specifically, the rule that a movie must play in Los Angeles county cinemas for at least a week with daily screenings taking place at least thrice. So if you play your movie in cities such as Los Angeles, Burbank, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Glendale, Pasadena, Culver City, or anywhere else in Los Angeles county that may have a movie theater under certain requirements, it could potentially be nominated for an Academy Award. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Academy is making an exception for this year. The following quote is taken from The Academy’s website, oscars.org.

“Until further notice, and for the 93rd Awards year only, films that had a previously planned theatrical release but are initially made available on a commercial streaming or VOD service may qualify in the Best Picture, general entry and specialty categories for the 93rd Academy Awards under these provisions:

  1. The film must be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release;
  2. The film must meet all other eligibility requirements.”

So this means that films like “Trolls: World Tour,” “Scoob!,” and “The King of Staten Island,” which are either already On Demand or will be dropping towards On Demand soon, are considered eligible for the Academy Awards. Films that barely even got a theatrical release like “Bloodshot” or “The Hunt” also qualify. I’m willing to imagine to some extent that this *may* count a film such as “The Lovebirds,” which was going to theatrically release this year and make a debut at South by Southwest. Although the festival was canceled and Paramount is no longer putting the film out in cinemas. But unlike films such as “Trolls: World Tour,” which is available on platforms including Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, FandangoNOW, AMC Theatres On-Demand, iTunes, and cable outlets such as Xfinity and Fios, “The Lovebirds” is going straight to Netflix. Given how Netflix has made a major presence at the Academy Awards in past years, films like “The Lovebirds” could be considered eligible, but is the Academy only considering certain platforms? Are exclusive platform deals going to tie in somehow? What about “Artemis Fowl” on Disney+? That movie was supposed to come out this month, but unfortunately that’s not happening.

Also keeping fine print in mind, these rules pertain to films that were once planning on theatrically releasing. So films like Netflix’s “Extraction,” which was intended for a streaming platform, or HBO’s “Bad Education,” which went straight to television, will not qualify. This policy is also not permanent, as the Academy intends to make this only apply for this year’s ceremony, and anticipates an end date in the future when there is a sense of normalcy, not to mention when theaters re-open. However, the Academy is also planning on expanding qualifying theaters to U.S. areas including New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Atlanta, Chicago, and Miami. As one who lives fairly close to Boston, I am disappointed, but we can’t have everything, even if sports prove otherwise. By the way, I hate football. I said it.

PHYSICAL MEDIA (and other electronic) SALES GO UP

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Now I imagine some people will flat out not care about this, but to me, physical media is the best way to watch a movie at home. Because when you buy a movie on Prime Video for example, you don’t own it. Yes, you possess the film digitally, but if the service goes down, crashes, or the company behind it closes its doors forever, you’ll probably never be able to watch it again. With physical media, it is all up to you. Now it is not a surprise that we have had more time on our hands to go on Netflix and watch “Extraction,” to flock over to Disney+ and watch “Star Wars,” to jump on over to FandangoNOW and give “Trolls: World Tour” a rent. But what KIND OF surprises me, and I say kind of, is how much of a presence physical media has in this pandemic. According to recent statistics, DVD and Blu-ray players went up 27% during the pandemic. Keep in mind, this is a market that Samsung recently abandoned.

Another thing to keep in mind is that DVD and Blu-ray players, which went up by 27% is not the only winner here, in fact, the increase is not as big as other categories such as TV mounts (41%), printers (61%), and streaming players (67%). So rather than just being a great boost for physical media, it is also a great boost for tech. TVs have been doing well, and so have computers. As for where the actual total of sales for DVD and Blu-ray DISCS stand, that’s another question. Although, based on this quote from NPD’s Tom Baker, that type of electronic may be doing just fine.

“Sales are up as consumers stay at home and look for multiple forms of entertainment. These include DVDs and Blu-ray discs to entertain children while their parents are working, backup access devices if Internet access is challenged by streaming, or simply the consumers’ realization that they may need a physical disc player as an alternative to streaming and either they didn’t already have one or the one they do have needs an upgrade.”

Honestly, in a time like this, I think some people are going to want physical media. Sure, it involves getting up and putting in a disc, but one of the reasons why I am such an advocate for it is the technical side of it. Outlets like YouTube and Netflix have lowered the default quality of content to standard definition. With Blu-ray, the default quality is 1080p, or if you have a smaller setup, it’ll work in 720p. Yes, standard definition is the quality of DVD, which is 480p, but again, I’ll bring up the fact that you have control over your content. Netflix, or more specifically, Warnermedia, is not going to snatch “Friends” away whenever the year ends like they did months ago. If you don’t want it, just sell it and get some money back! Plus, you get all the bonus features which can help you pass the time. I just got the “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” 4K Blu-ray last month, I still need to watch the bonus content! So I still have something to do! Also, what if the Internet goes down? You don’t need any Internet to watch a DVD! If I had to come up with any downsides, maybe it involves a little more activity, but since we refuse to go outside, it could be worth taking a couple steps to the collection and popping a disc in. Or, since places like Walmart sells them, there’s always a chance, given how grocery stores are becoming petri dishes right now, that other people touched the DVDs or Blu-rays and spread their germs, which may not be the most pleasant happening for a time like this. But of course, worst case scenario, you can always order these things online. Although I can also imagine that some people are buying these devices because they have smart capabilities as well, allowing them to contain apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Prime Video.

NO MORE KEANU DAY, BUT HERE’S MORE DELAYS!

One of the actors who arguably was the “winner” of 2019 is Keanu Reeves. His year in acting brought him success through films like “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” and “Toy Story 4.” He did films like “Replicas,” which honestly sucked, but he also became a heavy hitting piece of promotion for the upcoming game “Cyberpunk 2077,” by making a surprise appearance at E3 last year. And honestly, this might have spawned my favorite slice of all the content that went viral on the Internet last year.

In fact this year, the Keanussance is likely going to continue. After all, he is making an appearance in the third “SpongeBob SquarePants” movie in a minor role. The movie by the way for those who don’t know is titled “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.” Speaking of known properties, Reeves is also going to be reuniting with Alex Winter to star in “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” Although, if you are a fan of one of Keanu Reeves’ most popular franchises, specifically “John Wick,” prepare to be disappointed. “John Wick: Chapter 4,” once scheduled to come out May 21st, 2021, will now be releasing May 27th, 2022, a full year later. Taking the spot of “John Wick” is the “Saw” reboot titled “Spiral,” which was supposed to be out May 15th of this year. Speaking of Lionsgate films, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” which is a sequel to 2017’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” will be hitting theaters August 20th, 2021, as opposed to its prior date of August 28th, 2020. An upcoming horror drama, “Antebellum,” is set to release August 21st, 2020, as opposed to its original date which has already passed, April 24th, 2020.

However, sticking with “John Wick: Chapter 4,” this delay is a particularly interesting one. Not just because it involves a meme-worthy actor and a hit action franchise, but this film was originally supposed to come out the same day as another Keanu Reeves movie. And it’s not some indie film made by a studio like A24 or Neon. It’s not, THANKFULLY, a sequel to “Replicas,” a film Reeves starred in that turned out to be one of the worst films of 2019. It’s “The Matrix 4.” Now if you asked me five years ago about the possibility of a “Matrix 4,” I’d probably toss the idea behind my head. There didn’t seem to be much place else that the story could go. But hey, everything’s getting a reboot and a remake now, so why not “The Matrix?” I honestly don’t know what to expect from it, but the fact that this is a reboot and not a remake pleases me. Nevertheless, both films prior to the delay of “John Wick: Chapter 4” were scheduled to come out May 21st, 2021. The Internet has often called this “Keanu Day.” I will say that the delay of “John Wick: Chapter 4” is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because it avoids having the crew rush on making the film, but it’s also unfortunate because as a Keanu Reeves follower, I figured it would be fun to go to the theater and do a Keanu Reeves double feature. However, if more good news needs to be said, I should also point out it’s perhaps likely that these films, which by the way, are from different companies, will be marketed to similar groups of people, and maybe both could lose their respective studios money as a result. Both films debuting on their own release dates could not only benefit Lionsgate, who is delaying “John Wick: Chapter 4,” but also Warner Bros., who is responsible for “Matrix 4.” Not everyone has the money and time to go see two seemingly similar movies. While “John Wick” fans may have to wait, this could give Lionsgate a greater chance of creating a “John Wick: Chapter 5,” because what if “John Wick: Chapter 4” doesn’t warrant a sequel after losing lots of money to “Matrix 4?” At least the studio has a “Hunger Games” prequel and “Knives Out 2” potentially coming soon so it’s not like they’ll spend years losing money from here on out.

AMC THEATRES AND REGAL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP BAN UNIVERSAL FILMS

Can I get some popcorn?! Because I’d say it’s time to enjoy the greatest battle in cinematic history, and it’s not even in a movie! Tonight’s fighters are… movie theaters and Universal Pictures! Now, “Trolls: World Tour” is a one of a kind movie, mainly because Universal decided that it should be released directly onto VOD. Universal bragged about the film’s progress so far to the point where they thought it would be a good idea to release more of their films On Demand while also putting them into theaters.

Now, I’m going to have to be very careful here, because several different outlets have reported similar sounding items that might contextualize something different.

The story here begins by bringing the mega-chain AMC Theatres into the mix. AMC Theatres saw Universal’s plan to simultaneously release movies theatrically and at home and responded by saying that they will not play any of Universal’s movies if that’s the case. While a source like The Hollywood Reporter did a story on this and cited from AMC CEO Adam Aron that the company will no longer play any of Universal’s films in its theaters worldwide, one quote from Deadline’s article suggests, also from Adam Aron, that they will not do so “on these terms.” By that, it likely means that AMC will not release Universal’s films if they just follow a simultaneous home video rollout. Keep in mind, it is traditional for films to follow a strict theatrical window. While there have been cases of films like “Black Panther” that you can still see in some theaters while it becomes available at home, tradition has suggested that a movie released for theaters must be out for about ninty days before it comes home. Universal doing a release like this not only ignores the theatrical window, but it also makes the theater potentially lose money because people could just stay home and put the movie on their TV. In fact, movie theaters were against Universal since this pandemic started. While they did manage to have a rather solid idea of making “Trolls: World Tour” a straight to On Demand movie, other studios seemingly have concretely laid out their plans and avoided giving such a last minute notice like Universal appeared to. NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) head John Fithian was against this from day one.

“Only Universal, and only on ‘Trolls,’ did one studio skip the theatrical model and go straight to the home. Universal continues to advertise to consumers that ‘Trolls’ will be released simultaneously to theaters and the home on April 10. And they are lying to consumers. Universal knows that theaters will still be closed on April 10, so unlike every other distributor who must simply delay their releases in that time period, but still understand that theatrical release is essential to their business model, Universal on ‘Trolls’ didn’t make that decision. Exhibitors will not forget this.”

Fithian also shares his thoughts on the current matter of AMC abandoning Universal films with this quote…

“Universal does not have reason to use unusual circumstances in an unprecedented environment as a springboard to bypass true theatrical releases. Theaters provide a beloved immersive, shared experience that cannot be replicated — an experience that many of the VOD viewers of this film would have participated in had the world not been sequestered at home, desperate for something new to watch with their families. We are confident that when theaters reopen, studios will continue to benefit from the global theatrical box office, followed by traditional home release.”

Let me just say that if Universal is planning on releasing “F9” through VOD the same day as in theaters, that might be one of the worst decisions they’ve ever made. People go to those movies because they provide adrenaline rushes, the effect is not as great if watched on a TV, tablet, phone, or computer. This is why before this whole pandemic, I bought opening Thursday tickets. Luckily, I did get my money back. So if all Universal films are never coming to AMC again, it’s going to make it harder for me to review them as AMC locations are easy for me to access. The theater is a huge money-maker for Universal, to have hundreds of screens lost is not a great investment in the long run. People are inevitably going to get back into routines, and part of that routine is the movie theater. It might take awhile for some people, but if you’re someone like me who sees a difference in the experience from watching at home and in the theater, I’m going to choose the theater by a long mile. This is why I want to see “Tenet” in July. Heck, before this all happened, I probably had little to no intention of going to see the remake for “Mulan,” but I’ll show up because I want to support movie theaters.

But just you wait! There’s more! Universal, if you do nothing, cinema chains will double the offer! That’s two cinema chains not playing your movies, for a chance to lose more money! Cineworld, which currently owns the U.S. staple, Regal Entertainment Group, also said that they “will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows.” So, should Universal continue to release movies On Demand early, Regal, along with AMC, will not be playing those films in their venues. Alternate chains like Showcase Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse, and Arclight for example have not really said much about this matter. But remember, the theatrical window is a sacred bond of trust. If you’re putting a movie in theaters, chances are you have to follow it or face consequences.

Also, I wonder how much longer this will go on for, because guess what? If you go to Universal Studios Hollywood, you’ll notice on the CityWalk that there is a movie theater that currently goes by the name Universal Cinema. The theater has reserved seating, recliners, a Director’s Lounge, and an IMAX with Laser. By the way, that IMAX is also equipped with a 70mm projector, which if the theaters open back up in time for “Tenet,” will probably be used. Guess who owns that theater? AMC of all possible names! Who knows what is going to happen there?! As for Universal Orlando Resort, they’re safer in this circumstance as they currently have a Cinemark. They had an AMC at one point, but that has now closed. Gotta love drama.

NEW HOME VIDEO RELEASES

First off, it is Tuesday, May the 5th! Meaning it is the day after “Star Wars Day,” AKA May the 4th! For those who have not heard it already, May the 4th be with you and as for today, enjoy your Revenge of the Fifth! With that being said, there’s some new “Star Wars” content on Disney+, including a documentary on “The Mandalorian,” the series finale of “The Clone Wars,” and since we talk about movies on here, one of the new additions is “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the conclusion to “The Skywalker Saga.” As of now, the full “Skywalker Saga” is available on the service. The only theatrically released “Star Wars” movie not available on Disney+ at the moment is “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” However, the movie is currently on Netflix. If you are wondering when “Solo” will be coming to Disney+, it will be available starting July 9th, 2020. As for what’s coming On Demand, one example is “The Lodge,” which is about a soon-to-be-stepmom who is staying with her finace’s children at a holiday village, where strange events begin to occur. The film is available today, May 5th, on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital. Another film getting such a release on May 5th is “Arkansas” starring Liam Hemsworth and Vince Vaughn. It is the directorial debut of Clark Duke and was supposed to be shown at this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film is a thriller about two men who live under the orders of a kingpin whom they’ve never met. Unfortunately, a deal goes wrong, meaning they could end up facing harsh consequences. “Arkansas” was supposed to theatrically release on May 1st, the same day that “Black Widow” would have hit theaters had it not been delayed. However, it is now available physically and digitally starting today, May 5th. One more film to avoid skipping over is “I Still Believe,” which is now out on DVD and Blu-ray as of today. The film is based on the true story and journey of Christian music star Jeremy Camp.

Thanks for reading the seventh part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” Happy Revenge of the Fifth, hope all the “Star Wars” fanatics in the world are happily going about their lives and not getting into fights in comments sections, because that’s impossible, right? Also, Happy Cinco de Mayo, on a Taco Tuesday coincidentally! Two days that go together quite well! Also, if you want remind yourself of a simpler time when movie theaters were open, be sure to check out my latest YouTube video where I document my experience of going to see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” on opening night. Disney has already put copyright claims on it, but I really don’t care as I enjoyed making the video. Also, if you like the video, leave a like, if you want to subscribe, go ahead! Speaking of leaving likes, be sure to check out my Facebook page and immerse yourself to posts much shorter than these while also getting the latest updates from Scene Before! Since we’re still on the topic of likes, be sure to like this post if you’re enjoying the content, and as we’re continuing promotion, why not give this blog a follow either with a WordPress account or your email? I want to know, what is the biggest piece of movie news for you in regards to the COVID-19 crisis this past week or so? Did I miss anything? Also, how did you celebrate “Star Wars” day? Me personally, I started on May 3rd! TBS had a marathon and I watched for hours! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!