BlackBerry (2023): A Perfect Cast and Thrilling Script Dial Up a Great Time

“BlackBerry” is directed by Matt Johnson (The Dirties, Nirvana the Band the Show), who also plays Doug in this film. Joining him are stars Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon, This Is the End), Glenn Howerton (A.P. Bio, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Rich Somner (Mad Men, The Devil Wears Prada), Michael Ironside (Highlander II: The Quickening, Superman: The Animated Series), Martin Donovan (Insomnia, Tenet), Michelle Giroux (Blood Pressure, Black Mirror), SungWon Cho (One Piece, Ranking of Kings), Mark Critch (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Grand Seduction), Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13, Frasier), and Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Man in Tights). This film is about the rise and fall of the once popular smartphone, BlackBerry.

Nostalgia has been a primary factor into the marketing and execution of many films over the years. Look at how many major franchises there are right now trying to cater to people’s long-held memories. In fact, just this month, we are seeing the tenth installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise and Disney’s live-action edition of “The Little Mermaid.” Whether we have a childhood connection with the franchise or we discovered it sometime back in the day, there is no doubt that both of these names are likely to thrive because of their recognition. Similarly, I have a bit of a childhood connection to BlackBerry. When I was in elementary and middle school, they were all the rage. Not in my demographic, but amongst adults. My mother had a couple BlackBerrys through her life, I knew teachers who had them, I came across ads for them, and I remember playing games and watching YouTube on my mom’s device when she did not need it. I remember the keyboard, some of the ringtones, the scrolly wheel. It was a nifty looking device, but looking back, it definitely feels bulky by today’s standards. I am still glad we have this film to take audiences back to a time that I almost forgot even existed. I am glad we have an excuse to start talking about this device once again and bring it back in a sense. If anything, this movie is doing for the titular phone what the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequels have been doing for Microsoft’s Zune, except that was practically a failure from the getgo.

“BlackBerry” was a film that came out of nowhere for me. I have seen some of the marketing, but it is one that has not kept my attention compared to say some of the bigger blockbusters, partially because of how much money must have been spent on the campaign. But now that I saw the movie, I think I am going to help cheapen those marketing costs a tad. Because “BlackBerry” gives “John Wick: Chapter 4” competition for the best movie of 2023. There are some easy comparisons to make between “BlackBerry” and films like “The Social Network” and “The Founder” because of its tech connections or the company’s story of humble beginnings. But to me, what makes “BlackBerry” so great is the same reason behind movies like “The Disaster Artist,” and even more recently, “The Phantom of the Open” working so well for me. Because movies like these manage to find inklings of success in one’s failure.

Of course, unlike “The Room,” which “The Disaster Artist” highlights, the BlackBerry phone and brand were a success to begin with. Granted they had a tough beginning, but they also had a meteoric rise. This movie showcases how they were the phone to define the 2000s, and I believe they arguably had more relevancy at that time than the iPhone when it was announced. It did not take long for the latter to thwart BlackBerry off its throne, but still.

This film has an excellent cast including Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis (left), one of the core people behind BlackBerry’s development. Joining him in a dynamic duo is Matt Johnson as Doug (center). More on him later. Michael Ironside kills a grit-filled supporting role as Purdy. Everyone in this movie is great. But if there is one individual that outshines them all, Glenn Howerton, who plays Jim Balsillie, not only gives the best performance in the movie, but one that has the potential to be my favorite of the year. Granted, it is only May.

If Glenn Howerton’s bone-chilling, jaw-dropping portrayal does not end up being my favorite of the year, I think it will end up being the most overlooked of the bunch. It is a marvel to the tenth degree. It is a fantastic blend of brilliant dialogue and hallowing physicality. Howerton’s presence alone is almost intimidating, and hearing him speak sometimes almost shivers me. To know that is possible with how down to earth this movie comes off, is incredible. The acting in this film is phenomenal, and Howerton is the cream of the crop of what is already a terrific ensemble.

The thing I enjoyed most about “BlackBerry” is that it not only shows the eventual lack of consumer interest BlackBerry earns because of competition, but also because of how the people making it were never on the same page. We see a group of people who disagree with how things should be done behind the scenes. One can call this a case of there being too many cooks in the kitchen, but it can also be said that it is a matter of those cooks not having the same values. Not only when it comes to how the product itself should be made, but the overall process of how the people making it should compose themselves. There is an obvious transition of the company’s doings throughout the film. Not only in terms of its growth, but how its people either grow or refuse to grow with it. It shows how one humble group can transform into a serious industry mainstay, and to do that might mean you have to take the fun out of your objective.

If I have one complaint about the film, I think the cinematography and the color palette are occasionally off-putting. The movie is kind of shaky and all over the place. One may argue that could add an induction of anxiety, which is a good way to describe this movie at times. But I also think the movie slightly lacks a cinematic feel because of this choice. This is likely a subjective preference, because when I think of certain TV shows I do not like, “The Office” often comes to mind because the camerawork, while definitely well-intentioned, is not my cup of tea. Maybe the overall look will work for some people, but for me, it is one of the weaker elements in an otherwise outstanding film.

“BlackBerry” is the cinematic lovechild of Matt Johnson. He co-wrote the film, he directed the film, and he even starred in it as Doug. By the way, he may be the most charismatic, endearing bundle of joy this film has. Johnson has some experience as someone who has worn multiple hats in this industry. But I think “BlackBerry” could be his big break depending on the box office and how well this film does at home. Much like I said about Ari Aster after seeing “Hereditary” a few years ago, I think if Matt Johnson announces his next project, I am there. While he may not have the style of Aster, he certainly has the substance and personality to back things up. I cannot wait to find out what Johnson does from here.

This is a film about sacrifice, greed, determination, and how one’s best efforts can unfortunately lead to one’s greatest failure. I love this movie, I think you should see this movie. And hopefully unlike the BlackBerry phone, it will never go out of style.

In the end, “BlackBerry” has achieved nerdvana. Of the past five months of movies, this one stands out. It is one of my favorite screenplays of the year. It is one of my favorite casts of the year. It is one of my favorite movies of the year. It is a surprisingly thrilling story with compelling characters that I had all sorts of feelings for. This movie works because it not only got me to side with the main characters, but it made me sympathize or occasionally side with anyone in the movie who would perhaps antagonize the main characters too. I know “The Little Mermaid” is going to clobber all the other movies at the box office this weekend. But if “The Little Mermaid” is sold out and you want to see something else, or if you want to drop your kids off at “The Little Mermaid” and see something else while you wait for their movie to finish, this may be your best option if it is playing in a theater near you. I am going to give “BlackBerry” a 9/10.

“BlackBerry” is now playing in theatres. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, check out some of my other ones! Recently I did reviews for films like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” just to name a few. 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 “BlackBerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever use a BlackBerry phone back in the day? Which model did you use? What are your thoughts on the product? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!


Renfield (2023): Certainly Does Not Suck

“Renfield” is directed by Chris McKay (The LEGO Batman Movie, Robot Chicken) and stars Nicholas Hoult (The Menu, Tolkien), Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Raya and the Last Dragon), Ben Schwartz (Sonic the Hedgehog, Parks and Recreation), Adrian Martinez (Stumptown, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse, 24), and Nicolas Cage (The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Croods). This film centers around Dracula’s servant, Renfield, who puts up with the former’s demands, no matter how outlandish or terrifying. After all this time, he has had enough and will do anything to end their working relationship.

The Universal monsters are not my forte. I am well aware that Count Dracula is not a Universal concept and instead originated by author Bram Stoker, but I also know that he among other monsters like the Invisible Man and the Mummy have had staying power through several Universal films, including the original black and white picture from 1931 and more modern tales like Francis Ford Coppola’s picture from 1990 and “Dracula: Untold” from 2014. That said, I have not watched a lot of Universal monster movies. But I also recognize how unique this feature is. Because instead of giving the audiences another tale about a monster they’ve already heard about, they put a cool spin on it and make the iconic monster you normally see in the spotlight earn the supporting role. In fact, if you watch the first trailer, Dracula is not the centerpiece. Sure, he makes an appearance at the end, but it is not his movie. And of course, how could one not get excited seeing Nicolas Cage himself play the bloodthirsty demon? The moment I saw his face, my jaw dropped, and my eyes lit up.

I was excited to see this movie and hoped I could watch it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I ended up waiting a month after it came out. But was it worth the wait? Definitely. “Renfield” is a good time.

“Renfield” blends perhaps the two most subjective film genres imaginable, comedy and horror. Thankfully, both blend perfectly from start to finish. I enjoyed the relationship between Renfield and Dracula that can be compared to a relationship a deprived employee may have with an abusive boss. In fact, much of the movie is about Renfield trying to get away from his abusive environment, and to do so, he ends up going to support group meetings. We see him unleash his honest thoughts and listen to the thoughts of others. Is it the funniest movie I have ever seen? No. Is it the scariest movie I have ever seen? No. But it still manages to have its highlights of humor and creeps. Although there is one haunting moment past the halfway point that continues to stick with me. And these elements are well realized thanks to the talent of this film’s cast.

Between “The Menu,” the runner-up for top movie of 2022 for me, and now this, Nicholas Hoult is on a roll. His career is on a smooth path, and I am eager to see where it goes from here. His interpretation of Renfield emits awkwardness. Although in a good way. He is simply a guy who is just doing the best he can to get by. He wants to make people happy, but because he is focusing on making someone else, specifically Dracula, happy, he has little time for himself to be happy. In addition to everything I said about Hoult’s character, he is also responsible for perhaps one of the better Old Navy ads I have seen, which having seen their on-air content, is not saying much, but still.

I would say Awkwafina does an okay job as Rebecca. She has good chemistry with Hoult throughout the film.

Although if I have to say one thing though about Awkwafina, she is beginning to remind me of Kevin Hart or Vin Diesel. While I think she has significantly more acting talent than the latter, the problem I have with her, perhaps through no fault of her own, is that like these two individuals, she has been playing the same role from one film to the next. And maybe it is because, kind of like Kevin Hart, her voice, if you have heard it in recent years, has become instantly recognizable. And even while it may have been a proper fit for characters in animated movies she’s been in like “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “The Bad Guys,” it is difficult to find a role where I don’t see elements of her I have not seen prior. This is not to say she is a terrible actor. In fact, she is one of the reasons why “The Farewell” became one of my favorite films of 2019, but a lot of her recent material contain inklings that have become trademarks, making the transformation factor feel lost at times.

That said, what I see of Awkwafina in this film, happens to be a showcase of her strengths as a performer. She maintains a tough attitude as a traffic cop and knows how to balance that with a softer side in other moments. So while I may put this up as a warning for where her career could go, I will say I enjoyed what I saw in this moment.

But of course, Nicolas Cage steals the bloody show as Dracula. There is no way I can do this review and not highlight the power of the mighty Nicolas Cage as the iconic creature. He is all creepy, all kooky, and brings no mercy. Now he is not super terrifying, because this film takes a more comedic approach in its storytelling. Although as I said before, the comedy works and the scares work. It is no masterpiece, but it is a good time at the movies. That said, going back to what I said about Awkwafina becoming more recognizable in her performances, I may be a hypocrite because despite Nicolas Cage being recognizable, I think that element enhances his performance a bit. Seeing his face, which has become a meme by now, honestly makes the character that much funnier. His over the top voice helps too. Every scene he is in, I cannot help but smile. It is not just because it is Nic Cage as Dracula, although it is a small part of it the more I think about it. But he shows no hint of empathy throughout the film and it continues to highlight him as a threat. If there is any reason you should see “Renfield,” I think the most compelling argument you could make in a Times Roman Numeral 12-point font double spaced essay, or whatever other format you choose, is Nicolas Cage as Dracula. He certainly does not suck.

If I have anything else to add, the pacing is really good. The movie is short but manages to avoid overstuffing itself. The climax, while not my favorite of the year, is definitely entertaining. While the movie is not perfect, there are no flaws I can point out that ruined everything. Give “Renfield” a watch sometime, I recommend it.

In the end, “Renfield” is great! I think this film would make for a solid Friday movie night with friends, maybe with some food. The actors all fulfill their roles perfectly, especially Cage as Dracula. I think the film is a neat parody of the Dracula character while serving as a spotlight on abusive relationships. This film is directed by Chris McKay, whose parody experience is not only related to this effort. In addition to his experience behind the scenes on many “Robot Chicken” episodes, he also helmed “The LEGO Batman Movie,” which I think is one of the more underrated animated films of the previous decade. McKay definitely has a knack for comedy, not to mention parody. I cannot wait to see what he does next. I am going to give “Renfield” a 7/10.

“Renfield,” which has been out since April, is now playing in select theaters. The film is also now available on digital platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “BlackBerry,” the brand new film inspired by the true story of the once popular smartphone. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Blackening” and “Fast X.” All of these reviews are coming 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 “Renfield?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Nicolas Cage film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023): James Gunn Fires On All Cylinders in This Marvel Trilogy Finale

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is directed by James Gunn (The Suicide Squad, Slither) and stars Chris Pratt (The Super Mario Bros. Movie, The LEGO Movie), Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), Dave Bautista (Stuber, My Spy), Karen Gillan (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Doctor Who), Pom Klementieff (Oldboy, Westworld), Vin Diesel (Bloodshot, The Fast and the Furious), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, Silver Linings Playbook), Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner), Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls, The Suicide Squad), Chukwudi Iwuji (Peacemaker, Designated Survivor), Linda Cardellini (ER, Freaks and Geeks), Nathan Fillion (The Rookie, Firefly), and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Cliffhanger). In this third installment to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy, the guardians must save the universe one last time, all the while protecting one of their own. Meanwhile, Peter continues to deal with the loss of Gamora, his love interest.

Of the Marvel Cinematic Universe titles out there, “Guardians of the Galaxy” may be the most distinct of the bunch. Sure, like all the others, it involves superheroes and saving the day. But it has a flavor to it that seperates it from “Iron Man,” “Captain America,” or “Ant-Man.” Part of it may be because of its off-world setting. Sure, a small part of the series is set on earth because Star Lord, the core member of the group, is an earthling. But he ends up becoming one with these faraway worlds. These films define escapism. Between the epic soundtracks, the heavy reliance on space, and the unique characters and surroundings, few Marvel films are as breathtakingly out of this world as these. That said, I am not going to pretend they do not have flaws.

Like many others, I love the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Although similar to many of Marvel’s films, the villain is kind of weak. Ronan does not stand out significantly, and he is kind of cliché. That said he does have his moments. Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has a much more compelling antagonist in Ego. Unfortunately the movie did not stick the landing for me. It was not funny, overly cartoony, and I sometimes did not buy some of the things that were happening. Oh, and unpopular opinion, I am not a fan of Baby Groot. I did not find him charming, and the movie overuses him to the point where he becomes a bore. That said, I do like the addition of Mantis. As for “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” I was shocked with how much I ended up digging it. I thought the concept was brilliant, and the execution exceeded my expectations. As far as Disney+ MCU content goes, it is by far one of the better pieces of media on the platform. Even with the ups and downs of this franchise, there is a consistency that I often consider a highlight, and that is the touch of James Gunn.

James Gunn is one of my favorite people working in Hollywood. He makes great Marvel content, he makes great DC content, and I love his persona on Twitter. He will willingly call out horribly inaccurate or clickbaity journalism regarding his content. He strikes me, from his personality, as the right person to direct these movies, and it shows as I watched “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Many comic books have a stylized nature to them, and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie franchise, along with this particular installment, presents itself in a palatable style that comes off as comic booky. You have well-written quips, fast pacing, and charismatic characters. When it comes to that last aspect, it is through the roof. If there is any franchise within the MCU that has the most charisma from its characters, it is arguably this one. In fact, perhaps the most likable character of the titular team is getting some more spotlight this time around. How could I say no to that?

When I think of Rocket, I think of Bradley Cooper. In fact, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is typically the first movie I often visualize of when the thought of Bradley Cooper comes to mind. Either that or “A Star is Born.” However, what makes Rocket compelling this time around is not Bradley Cooper’s presence, if anything, it is his lack of it. Despite saying that, most of the movie centers around him. Specifically through transitions between his present adulthood and his past childhood. The younger Rocket is voiced by someone who I often forget probably does a lot of heavylifting in this franchise, Sean Gunn. Between playing Kraglin, being Rocket’s double, and now serving as the younger Rocket’s voice, Sean Gunn continues to show his range of skills in this franchise. What makes Rocket’s younger iteration absolutely compelling is not only seeing the ins and outs of his younger personality, but how much he transitions to the Rocket he is today based on everything he witnesses at that time. During these flashback scenes, we see Rocket befriend other tiny creatures, and they all have these dynamic, hyperactive, child-like airs about them.

While I complained about how Baby Groot, a younger character, was used in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” I think a highlight for this film is its younger character slate. Because even though this movie pulls a 2016 “Suicide Squad” and endlessly shows flashbacks, they managed to seamlessly connect them with the present while giving an entertaining narrative by itself. While I have become comfortable watching the wisecracking racoon from the past couple films, I found myself compelled by a much softer variant of the character, and his development is perfectly realized throughout. His relationship with supporting animal sidekicks Lylla, Teefs, and Floor made for a great ride in terms of the narrative and the roller coaster of emotions I ended up experiencing as a result of this film. James Gunn effectively plays with my emotions like a fiddle throughout the runtime, and I love him for that. Speaking of James Gunn, let’s dive into one of his trademarks.

One of James Gunn’s talents through his career, specifically in comic book movies, is giving CGI characters significantly more emotional attachment than I have seen some humans have in film. One of my favorite moments of the original “Guardians of the Galaxy” is from the third act, where we see Groot sacrifice himself and recognize the bond he has amongst his fellow teammates. It is a very simple moment, but because of his limited dialogue, both in terms of the number of times he speaks and his diction, the weight of that moment is paramount. The moment he says the words, “We are Groot,” I felt that. In the 2021 movie “The Suicide Squad,” we see King Shark’s story play out, where like Groot, he is kind of simple-minded. He has limited vocabulary, he speaks in fragments, and does not have the most thought-out ideas. But whenever the movie resorts to his arc regarding his desire for friendship, it clicked with me. This talent also transitions to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” based on Rocket’s arc and his connection with his younger pals. I know James Cameron often talks about his “Avatar” films being the pinnacle of CGI, and I will agree with the notion that the films look stunningly beautiful. But those films deliver plenty of gloss while neglecting personality. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the best of both worlds where the CGI characters not only look great and have a degree of verisimilitude, but their dialogue and interactions benefit the narrative.

I ended up caring about most of the other characters as well. I think Chris Pratt does a good job once again as Star Lord, possibly giving the angriest performance I have seen out of the character yet. Gamora was well explored with her new self. What makes this interpretation of Gamora interesting is not necessarily her, but how others perceive her. I enjoyed seeing Star Lord have to deal with a Gamora that had no memory of who he was. I think that made for a compelling side plot. Dave Bautista gives a killer performance out of Drax. It combines the character’s strengths from the previous two movies and happily marries them.

As much as I like the effects in this film, I think Groot in this installment has the worst design I have seen of the character thus far. He looks too bulky and cartoony. As much as I did not like the Baby Groot character in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” I liked the way he looked. I cannot say the same about this interpretation. It is not awful, but compared to his predecessors, Groot in this film looks more like a Disney+ original CGI character.

The other character I thought was not utilized properly was Cosmo. Unlike Groot, I have no problem with the way this dog looks. But I do not think Maria Bakalova’s voice was a good fit. I remember Cosmo appeared in the holiday special and I did not have this complaint then. And when I mention this complaint, I am not referring to Bakalova herself. I blame the direction based on the uniqueness of the voice performance not paying off. Maybe if I watch the film a second time I will change my mind on this. Who knows? Plus, her arc almost feels insignificant compared to other characters. There is not much to it. When it was resolved, it was not as satisfying as some of the others.

Funny thing about “Guardians of the Galaxy,” as much as I adore the first film, I think its weakest element is the antagonist, specifically Ronan the Accuser. Meanwhile, I find “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” to be an inferior installment, but Ego is a fantastic antagonist. With this film coming between those two for me, I would say the antagonist of “Vol. 3” does the same. The High Evolutionary is fantastically performed by Chukwudi Iwuji. He is a little over the top at times, but even some of his more over the top moments, fit with what is going on. Plus, he was fairly intimidating in terms of his actions, motivations, and line delivery. I would not want to be the one responsible for ruining his day.

When I look back at at the previous “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, I would sum this franchise up to be the “Star Wars” of the MCU. Because aside from taking place in space, there is a lot of crazy action, futuristic weaponry, and a rag tag team of charismatic individuals. Some could also make the comparison to “Star Trek” if they wanted to, I could see a ton of similarities there as well. As for this third movie, I feel like the “Trek” vibes increase with this installment because it feels more allegorical than the previous two. It is not to say the previous two had bad stories, but I picked up on the message of the film a bit more quickly in regards to how it handles experimentation and animal cruelty. “Star Trek” over the years, and more recently, “The Orville,” has dealt with serious issues that affect our society despite being set somewhat outside of it. Not to pick a fight, I am more of a “Star Wars” fan than a “Star Trek” fan. But a strength of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is that it does what the “Star Trek” franchise does best, and that tendency is going to stick with me. You could argue that “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is an allegory for animal cruelty with the Canto Bight sequence, but that is a smaller chunk of the film. Plus, that sequence, not to mention that film, did not emotionally resonate with me as much.

One complaint I will bring up regarding movies I do not like is that sometimes they will feel like two movies in one. In fact, Marvel, despite me liking most of their movies recently, falls victim to this complaint as well. “Thor: Love and Thunder” mostly blends comedy and drama seamlessly at times, but there are times where the comedy is stretched too far. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is in the same boat. It is a massive adventure that tries to maintain the small-scale lightheartedness of its predecessors. When it comes to this installment, it is overly silly at one moment, but quickly transitions to being flat out dramatic in another. There is almost no between. For the record, both of those movies barely received positive scores from me. Although the tonal inconsistency happens to be the biggest flaw for both projects. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is another movie that could have fallen victim to this flaw. However, it does not despite having two major stories dominating the screen at every other moment. The reason is because of one story’s seamless connection to the other, without making one feel out of place. They had an equal partnership that delivered equally satisfying results.

And ultimately, that is the best adjective I can use to sum up “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” It is a satisfying finale. It takes the characters that people have come to know and love, and uses them in ways that triggers all sorts of emotions. Is this the best movie in the franchise? No. The first installment is still my favorite, but I find this latest sequel to be a significant step up from the second. James Gunn does not mess around with this film. It was said that this would be the finale for this group of characters, and as a finale, there are only a few ways it could have been executed better. But as far as this group of characters go, they end their arcs fantastically. No spoilers, but there was one line towards the end of the movie from one character that caught me off guard in the best possible way. I would not be surprised if we see some of these characters again in the future, say in an “Avengers” installment. But as far as the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise goes, I would be fine if we never get another one of these films as long as the MCU continues to exist. Maybe talk to me again in ten, fifteen years, we will see. But right now, I do not need to see any more knowing how things conclude. Plus, with James Gunn now at DC, all I can think about is what the process must be like to find a potential successor to him if this were to go on.

One last thing before we move on, if you have read many of my past Marvel reviews, my biggest fear regarding this universe is that with each movie, it feels like I, as an audience member, am being assigned homework. With the Disney+ shows now being a thing, the universe is starting to feel like overkill. Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” feels like less of a commercial for other Marvel content than say “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” or “Black Widow,” which utilize themselves to advertise upcoming content that is not in their specific medium. Personally, it feels a bit tacky. Now, there is something exposed in “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” that is addressed in this movie, but I do not think you would need to spend money on Disney+ to watch the special to find out what that something is. As for the theatrically released movies, I think the previous “Guardians” films and maybe the last two “Avengers” installments would be my recommended prerequisites. That said, you could probably have a good time watching this movie on its own without any prior material being fed to you. For a 32nd film in an ongoing universe, that is a huge compliment.

In the end, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is a thrill ride. Visually stunning, narratively pleasing, and massively satisfying. Another Marvel franchise now has a trilogy. It is amazing how far we have come. Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” my favorite of the Marvel trilogies? As much as liked this film in addition to the original, the second film keeps that from being a reality. It is a solid trilogy and despite my neverending flack for the second film, it does have its moments. But I think as far as a consistent run goes, I think “Iron Man,” “Spider-Man,” and “Captain America” reign supreme. I still think when I add up my scores for these films, the “Guardians” films outranks the first three “Thor” installments and the recently completed “Ant-Man” trilogy. But unlike the recent “Ant-Man” trilogy capper, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” was a ton of fun. I went in hoping to have a good time, and I ended up having a great time. It is not without its flaws. Before I forget, I must admit the climax, while entertaining, is occasionally bloated and goes on for a bit longer than I would have anticipated. Although that statement feels like less of a problem when I also remember that it is responsible for what is now my favorite action sequence in the franchise. With that said, I am going to give “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” an 8/10.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I have plenty of reviews coming soon including “Renfield,” “BlackBerry,” and “The Blackening,” the last of which does not widely release until June, but I got to see it last night through a free screening so I will have my thoughts on the film when possible. Tomorrow I will be going to see “Fast X,” which despite my appreciation for certain parts of the franchise, kind of feels like an obligation, but hey, it’s a movie. Either way, all of these reviews are coming 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 “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite MCU trilogy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sisu (2022): A John Wick Wannabe Travels with Gold

“Sisu” is directed by Jalmari Helander (Big Game, Rare Experts) and stars Jorma Tomilla (The Christmas Party, Big Game), Aksel Hennie (Hercules, The Martian), Jack Doolan (The Boys, The Green Green Grass), and Mimosa Williamo (Headfirst, Lake Bodom). Set during the Lapland War, this film is about an ex-soldier who finds gold and must fend off Nazis on his journey into the city.

Some of the biggest studios today like Disney and Universal mostly rely on popular IP to keep their ships afloat. Lionsgate, while not being as big as those two, has done the same to respectable results. If you look at titles like “The Hunger Games,” “The Twilight Saga,” and “John Wick,” you would notice that these franchises have continued to receive sequels due to their popularity and recognition. Obviously with the first two, it helps when they are based on preexisting books. But “John Wick” is an interesting case where even a by the numbers movie with not the biggest, or smallest, of budgets can lead to a series of films that continues to receive praise from action junkies. While “The Hunger Games” is coming back and more of the “John Wick” universe is set to be unveiled in various stories, Lionsgate would benefit from a new franchise after “John Wick: Chapter 4.” After seeing one of the studio’s latest projects, “Sisu,” it has potential for expansion. That said, if I were not doing Scene Before, I would have mixed thoughts as to seeing another one of these movies if it were greenlit. I say this because I really enjoyed the movie, minus certain aspects that stuck out like a sore thumb.

This movie seems to be inspired by the “John Wick” formula. It centers around a man who happens to have a connection with a dog, and people attempt to get in his way. Therefore, he must stop them in perhaps the most diabolical, slickest way he can imagine. While it is a remix, I am not complaining because seeing Aatami do what he does best is satisfying to watch. There are some kills in this film that honestly rival a “Deadpool” movie or a Tarantino flick. While many action movies in recent years such as “Nobody,” “Wrath of Man,” or “Bullet Train” have a flair to them that reminds me of “John Wick” in some way, “Sisu” stands out because it is set long before those films. It is set during World War II, specifically through the Lapland War, where the rivals are Finland and Nazi Germany. If you are having trouble figuring out which side is represented as good and bad according to this movie, then you probably do not know where the title of this movie comes from.

That said, the title of this movie is quite fitting for the main protagonist of Aatami, because throughout the movie, his look comes off as someone who has seen everything that there is to see, and much of it was not good. And even in moments where he may look innocent, he will subvert expectations anyone had of him being a softie. We do not learn a textbook’s worth of information about Aatami, but we also learn enough to appreciate him. It hits the Goldilocks zone. All we learn is that he needs to get from point A to point B, with gold. Of course, since the opposition is Nazis, it makes it that much simpler to root for him.

“Sisu” is perfectly paced. Yes, there is a short runtime that may help some people, but that is not what I am necessarily pointing to. Within that short runtime, the film does very little, but it makes the most of its minimalistic nature. There are not too many characters, the plot is simple yet effective, and dialogue appears to be used sparingly. Speaking of small, the film cost €6 million (approx. $6.56 million) to make. This movie does a lot with that small budget, and despite the modest cost, it sometimes feels as big as some notable modern action blockbusters. The overall look, design, and feel of the film are perfect.

My biggest complaint with “Sisu” is that we get to a point in the movie, specifically during the third act, where I am having trouble believing anything that is happening. There are some good movies that exist that bend reality a bit such as some of the “Fast & Furious” sequels, “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” There are things in those movies that I would never expect to happen in real life, but they convince me that within the rules of their respective universes that they could be pulled off in that setting. There is something towards the end of “Sisu” that feels so off that it almost ruined the movie for me. Granted, the movie has a brilliant first half so of course I am going to praise it. The reason is because even though this movie jumps the shark quite a bit, it felt like it had a limit. And I know that this is an original film, this is not a spinoff or sequel that builds off of rules that already exist. But the movie flicked like a lightswitch. It went from ridiculous fun to colossal stupidity in a split second. It makes Dom Toretto’s Tarzan swing in “F9: the Fast Saga” feel real. I am not even joking.

This may sound like I hate the movie. I do not. If you scrolled down to this or the last paragraph, you may have missed my recent praise for it. I just think if I were in charge of the script I would have changed this one scene dramatically. There are a lot of other moments that had me laughing, gagging, or dropping my jaw with excitement. Much like the “John Wick” franchise, there are some highlight kills in this film for me that I continue to think about to this day. I recommend going to see this movie with a couple friends, maybe make it a guys night out. “Sisu” may take inspiration from other action flicks, but it does enough to make it its own thing. That said, if you do not like heavy violence or gore, you might want to sit this one out. Just a warning.

In the end, despite my one big complaint regarding “Sisu,” I have zero regrets having seen it. If Lionsgate or the other companies behind this movie wanted to recreate one of their most popular ideas but put it in World War II, they did so with excellence. It is a film that starts rather quiet, but its obnoxiousness increases with time. Sometimes for good, other times for bad. The film also supports the notion that if you make Nazis the villain, it is all the more satisfying to see a protagonist like Aatami potentially triumph. If I have any other recommendations, avoid the trailer. Don’t get me wrong. I watched the trailer for “Sisu” before going to see it. I think it is a good trailer. But I think this is one of those movies that is probably best viewed with a clean slate. It might increase some shock value. It is up to you, but if you want my two cents, that is what I have to give. Speaking of my two cents, I am going to give “Sisu” a 7/10.

“Sisu” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3!” And if you want even more upcoming content, I will also soon be talking about the new horror comedy “Renfield.” I waited a bit to watch this movie, but as to whether it is worth the wait, is a question that will be answered 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 “Sisu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie you like that has an ending that almost ruins it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022): A Young, Admirable Ensemble Carries This Environment-Centric Feature

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is directed by Daniel Goldhaber and stars Ariela Barer (Runaways, Atypical), Kristine Froseth (Looking for Alaska, The Society), Lukas Gage (The White Lotus, Euphoria), Forrest Goodluck (The Republic of Sarah, The Revenant), Sasha Lane (Utopia, Loki), Jayme Lawson (Farewell Amor, The Batman), Marcus Scribner (Black-ish, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power), Jake Weary (Animal Kingdom, Fred: The Movie), and Irene Bedard (Pocahontas, The Mist). This film centers around several environmental activists as they band together to, as the title suggests, blow up a pipeline.

Some of you reading this review may be hearing about this movie for the first time today. I ended up watching this movie for a few reasons. First, the trailer was really good. It had a certain flair to it that individualized the project. Second, to some degree, I care about the environment. I cannot pretend I am perfect, but I try to do my part when it comes to preserving it. Third, the release period seemed limited. It was playing at select theaters with minimal times available. In fact I did a search for showtimes in my area, and found out “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” currently is not playing anywhere near me. It is available to watch at home, but still. I am glad I saw this movie when I did. In a time where I recognize climate change, the world being on fire, and needing to take care of my surroundings more than ever, I thought this movie could be, at least, an important watch. Now that I have seen it, would I recommend it?

After some thought, I would say that question requires an extended debate.

It has been a couple weeks since I watched “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.” I wish I could have gotten this review out earlier but between other movie reviews being in the… You know, pipeline… And other things in life getting in the way, I have waited until now to talk about it. That said, I do not remember everything I saw in this movie. This is a simple movie. This is also on the shorter side. But if I were asked to give any of the characters’ names or their backstories, I would need to do a Google search. This also speaks to something that stood out to me in the movie as I watched it. The best thing about “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is the chemistry between everyone in the ensemble. While I do not think the individual characters are that memorable, they come off as a well-oiled machine (sorry) when they work together.

To all of the environmentalists out there, I would like to make it clear that I did not necessarily enjoy “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” because of what it says about how we treat our planet. Instead, if I were to give a surface level summary of my experience, I enjoyed the movie because of the characters and how this film’s story effectively highlights the characters’ issues. The shared motivation of the main characters made me ask some perhaps much needed questions. I will get to those later. Yes, the movie heavily involves an oil pipeline, which as a singular concept, is a controversial topic regarding the future of this planet. But as the movie goes on, we see how it affects ordinary people. Granted, this is a work of fiction. But as I watched the movie, it felt raw. I not only felt connected with the main ensemble that were trying to blow up the pipeline, but the supporting characters that have to deal with the pipeline’s effects.

If I did not make myself clear already, I am not a climate change denier. I try to recycle as much as possible. I want good public transportation and I try to utilize it as much as I can. I own a car, but when I bought it, I avoided leaning towards an SUV or truck because of their effects on the environment. Naturally, if this movie was designed to change my mind on the oil industry or my views on environmental preservation, it will not. If anything, one can argue that I might be predisposed to this movie because of my views. But I think this is an important film, even if it is not my favorite I have seen recently. I think as we transition ourselves and evolve, this is something I will think about on one occasion or another. I am glad this movie this movie was made, not just because I was entertained with the journey the characters go through, but why said journey was taking place.

I can see certain people watching this movie and not siding with these characters. That said, movies like this go to show that everyone believes they are the hero of their own story. I have seen movies where I think the protagonist is a buffoon, I do not know how I could ever side with them. Specifically, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” But part of that has to do with my values and when this character is presented to be as moronic as he is, not once did I get a sense that this moron was charismatic or the least bit justified for his behavior. “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is a hard sell based on its low budget and not exactly star-studded cast, although they have been in some popular television programs. Another season it is a hard sell is because it picks a side, not to mention a side that is likely to trigger some people. It did not trigger me, but I am not everyone else.

The movie begs to justify destroying things for the sake of sending a message. That is a tough question that I honestly do not know how to answer. Because history has shown that destruction of property or similar acts can be effective in sending a message and bringing change. Look at the Boston Tea Party. But is it worth the trouble? Is it worth the consequences? Not only do we see the oil pipeline destruction motivation play out, but this same message through destruction is being delivered from the very first scene. The first minute of the movie features one of the main characters slashing the tire of a gas guzzler car, while also posting a flyer as to why they did it. That is something that I also have mixed feelings on. It is definitely less harmful in more ways than one, but I do not know if the person on the receiving end is either going to change their mind or react fondly. Sure, destroying things can bring attention. But how far do you go to support a point? It is a question worth asking, but it is hard to say if it is worth answering.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is something I probably would not have watched unless I was doing Scene Before. That said, I do not have any regrets. As a character story, this is captivating. As a thriller, it is intriguing. As an overall movie, it was worth the watch. Is this movie going to open anyone’s minds? It is a possibility. Because even though it is a work of fiction, it tends to base itself within the confines of an issue that feels real. And it is an issue that is likely to only become heavier depending on where we go as a society. The film is not playing in many theaters right now, including the ones near me. And while I cannot give “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” a glowing recommendation, I can say it is superior to many of the movies I have reviewed in recent months, especially the more popular titles everyone is giving their money to.

In the end, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” was thought-provoking. It was a bit of a surprise because part of me did not know what to expect going in. This is not a project I would watch at home on a Friday night. But it is also a project that I am glad I saw this one time on a Friday night where I had nothing else going on. If you are looking to be entertained, you might get that out of this movie. But I left the film feeling more invested in questioning the deeper meaning behind the characters’ actions more than anything else. Despite the film not being my favorite of the year, I hope it is one that is brought up in conversations throughout the years to come. I am going to give “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” a 7/10.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is now playing in select theatres and is available to buy or rent on digital services.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to have reviews for “Sisu” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Stay tuned! Also, for those of you who have followed me for some time, I want to address the status of my “Super Mario Bros.” 1993 review. I am working on it. Unfortunately, due to other movies coming out and time constraints, I have no official date as to when the review will be released. Maybe when the 2023 adaptation releases physically. I do not know. If I have an update, I will give one. But for now, that review is being put on hold. Hope you understand. 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 “How to Blow Up a Pipeline?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with an ecocentric message that you enjoyed? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Air (2023): Dribbles of Nostalgia Meets Cheer-Worthy Excitement

“Air” is directed by Ben Affleck (Live by Night, The Town), who also appears as one of the films stars. Alongside him in this studded cast are names including Matt Damon (The Last Duel, The Martian), Jason Bateman (Game Night, Horrible Bosses), Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie, The Wayans Bros.) Chris Messina (Devil, Argo), Chris Tucker (Rush Hour, The Fifth Element), and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad, Fences). This film is about Sonny Vaccaro’s mission to put Nike on the map and track down rookie Michael Jordan to make the greatest shoe of all time.

I am not a sports nut. Granted, I live near Boston, so I have admittedly had some history of going to a Sox game or searching up certain highlights on YouTube or reluctantly watching the Super Bowl because my grandma’s favorite team, the New England Patriots are in it. While I am not a sports person, I am a movie person. And I have come to learn some sports are like movies. There are so many compelling tales to be told whether they are historic rivalries like Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, the legacy of Tiger Woods, or the miracle on ice during the 1980 Olympics. But those stories are about the players, which we have seen on screen before. What has not been shown on screen as often are the success stories of those who are supplementing sports and their respective athletes. Despite having an athlete like Michael Jordan in the movie, “Air” is not about an individual athlete or group of athletes accomplishing something bigger than themselves. Instead, it is about a company who is trying to reinvent the wheel. Only with a shoe.

For those of you who know your film history, you would know Michael Jordan himself has appeared in movies before. He was the star of the 1990s time capsule, “Space Jam,” which I unfortunately had the displeasure of watching. The sequel starring LeBron James is not much better. If you want any filmmaking advice, here is my suggestion. If you are going to make a movie featuring Michael Jordan, whether he is in it, or somebody plays him, leave Bugs Bunny out of it. And that is one reason why “Air” is a really good movie. As for other reasons why this is a really good movie, the screenplay may be the best I have witnessed so far this year. Not only is it based on a compelling true story, not only does it have great dialogue, but it is funny, dramatic, and on top of that, the characters are well-crafted and executed with care. Alex Convery should be proud of himself. This is not only a great screenplay, but this has brought him his first credits. Ever. According to IMDb, this is his first writing credit, in addition to being his first producing credit. As far as I am concerned, he started his career off with a bang.

Sonny Vaccaro is an admirable protagonist. He may look like an everyday dude, but he has a drive to him that I cannot help but respect. He has a goal in mind, he knows it is difficult to accomplish, but he will do just about anything to achieve it, even if others call him crazy. There have been many protagonists throughout history who aspire to conquer larger than life obstacles. All this guy wants in life is to sell people a shoe that can do it all. And this movie does a great job at making that obstacle feel bigger than it should be. Damon’s performance is a perfect balance between nuanced and heightened. It hits the Goldilocks Zone. Damon is perfectly cast as Vaccaro and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing this character.

Although if I had to note another performance that perhaps stands out more, it would be Viola Davis’s efforts as Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s mom. There is a certain flair to her performance that only she can provide. Davis is already an incredible actress by herself, but having a character as compelling as this one makes for a winning combo. While Damon is a fantastic lead, Davis, almost unfairly, steals every scene she is in.

Speaking of the Jordan family, this movie made an interesting choice regarding the Michael Jordan character. A Michael Jordan character does appear in the movie, but Jordan does not play himself. Michael Jordan is played by Damian Delano Young, which given his limited resume, this movie should end up being his big break. Throughout the select moments and scenes where Jordan can be seen in frame, we never see his face. His dialogue is also kept to a minimum. Granted, this is not Michael Jordan’s story per se. He is a supporting character, he is a crucial part of the story, but at the end of the day, it is Sonny Vaccaro’s story. It reminds me of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” where Richard Nixon, a crucial fixture of the film’s idea and setting, only makes an appearance in one scene with bare visibility. Michael Jordan is used sparingly and mostly towards the end of the movie. Do I think it is a tad odd we never see Jordan’s face? Maybe a little. I would like to see a reality where someone plays the character and shows his face, but I think the version we got allowed the character to feel special despite not doing much at all.

There is something about “Air” that left me… Well, up in the air. This movie is set in the 1980s and it is shoehorned with reference after reference after reference. On a positive note, I felt that when it comes to encapsulating the time period, the movie did an excellent job at capturing that magic. I think if you grew up during the 1980s, you might be taken back. If you admire culture based in the 1980s, you might be in for a treat. That said, I think the constant references and deep cuts become distracting after awhile. I only need to be reminded that we are in a certain time period so many times. Although if I had to note one deep cut that blew my mind once it came up, it is the use of Tangerine Dream’s score from “Risky Business.”

There are movies that I know are based on true stories, but I do not know all the ins and outs of what happens, therefore making the narrative more satisfying. “Air” is a movie containing events I could sometimes see coming, but they nevertheless have a gigantic oomph when they happen. However, giving my lack of knowledge on sports and shoes, it made the movie’s final moments all the more satisfying. When I left “Air,” I had a smile on my face. I am glad a story like this was told. It made me happy.

If I have any other comments to make on the film, it would be that the looks of the film are pristine. And I am not necessarily talking about the camerawork or cinematography, although that is not bad either. I am referring to the costumes, the makeup, and outlooks of all the characters. The costumes are not as intricate as say a period piece set centuries ago, but going back to what I said about this film’s nostalgia factor, these costumes feel like they belong in a time like the 1980s. “Air” is well written, well paced, and maybe I will watch it again sometime.

In the end, how could I not enjoy “Air?” In today’s society where we still have COVID-19, we still have division, we still have chaos, I always happen to be looking for stories that make me feel good, and “Air” is one of those stories. I think this movie is going to do very well with audiences over time. I do not know how much of a presence it will have at the next awards season given how early it has come out. But if Amazon Studios gives “Air” a big enough push, it can do some magic. With its already successful theatrical run, I hope it also does well when it drops on Prime Video. “Air” is not my favorite film I have seen so far this year, but it is one that I am going to think about on a consistent basis. Also, between “The Way Back” and now “Air,” Ben Affleck is the new king of basketball movies. I am going to give “Air” a very high 7/10.

“Air” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to have reviews for “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” and “Sisu,” both movies just recently came out, and I saw both of them. I will have my thoughts sometime soon. Also, I have my ticket to go see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” this week, so you can also expect a review for that movie coming soon as well. Stay tuned! 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 “Air?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite athlete? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Suzume (2022): Makoto Shinkai Goes Full Pixar with His Latest Anime

“Suzume,” otherwise known as “Suzume no Tojimari,” is directed by Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, Weathering with You) and stars Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu, Shota Sometani, Sairi Ito, Kotone Hanase, Kana Hanazawa, and Matsumoto Hakuō II. This film is about a teenage girl who finds out she must save Japan from various threats by locking a set of doors.

If there is one door that has opened for me in 2022, it is the one that unveils the vast world of anime. When the year started, I did my first anime review, “Belle,” which has now become one of my favorite films of all time regardless of the genre or medium. Since then I have watched other titles such as those from the Studio Ghibli collection, “Akira,” “In This Corner of the World,” and “Inu-Oh,” the last of which I have reviewed. I have not touched much in the television realm, such as the “Dragon Ball” franchise, but that is partially because I am usually more committed to film than television regardless of the genre. Anime has also introduced me to some notable filmmakers such as Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and the one of focus in this review, Makoto Shinkai.

In just a short amount of time, a couple of anime titles have risen to the top of my all time favorite films list. The recently mentioned “Belle” is an example, but when it comes to Makoto Shinkai, “Your Name” is another. The chemistry between the two main characters, which is unlike many other films in history, is executed with utter brilliance. It is beautifully animated, fantastically written, and ends on the perfect note. It shows the power of animation at its finest. It is easy to see why the film has become one of the most successful anime titles of all time, making $382 million worldwide. “Suzume” is having similar success. The film has raked in $221 million worldwide and has already passed his last film, “Weathering with You,” even this early into the official U.S. release.

But just because something is successful, does not always make it great. Look at “Jurassic World: Dominion” for example. Is “Suzume” for starters, worth the hype? And also, worth showering with tons of box office revenue?

To answer both of those questions, that is a paramount certainty.

After seeing “John Wick: Chapter 4” and now “Suzume,” I can declare spring 2023 is a great time to go the movies.

“Suzume” is just about everything I wanted and more. It is a beautifully animated triumph of a picture that does everything a movie is supposed to do. The last movie I reviewed, also an animation, specifically “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” could arguably have placed itself in the same boat. But when I say that, I mean it did the bare minimum to “not suck.” If this were a classroom, “Suzume” is the one student that studies hard, earns extra credit, always raises their hand, and dresses exquisitely as a bonus.

Now that we are in 2023, good animation has basically become a requirement. Thankfully, “Suzume” has unbelievably superb animation. Much like Shinkai’s other films, “Suzume” has this gloss to it that I can only find in one of his features. The colors are out of this world and the palette is both lifelike and imaginative at the same time. This is a film that having seen it, I could never see working in live-action without a couple significant changes.

“Suzume” reminds me of some of the better Pixar movies, because Pixar has a tendency to make films, many of which are phenomenal, where it begs to ask what would happen if certain objects or concepts had emotions. Sure, giving emotions to or personifying things in animation is not unusual. But when it comes to Pixar, it stands out because of the way they go about it. They gave toys emotions. They gave cars emotions. They gave preexisting souls emotions. They gave robots emotions. They gave literal emotions emotions. And this idea has worked every time. I am amazed on how Pixar was able to make a movie centering around a couple of robots and give them more emotional attachment than many films putting PEOPLE in the spotlight that have come out during the past decade. Similarly, the power of “Suzume” was unveiled as soon as I found out how much I cared about a chair. Granted, the chair is also human, but still. The movie made me care about a chair and got me attached to a cat who happens to be a statue. Despite the chair being human, it begs the question. What if chairs had emotions? This movie is the result.

As for the characters, I liked all of them. Sota, who becomes the chair, served well as a prominent sidekick. Daijin, the cat, is utilized perfectly. His lack of dimension, which is usually a deterrent for many characters, actually serves as a benefit with how his lines are delivered. Every moment he was on screen stood out to me. Suzume’s aunt, Tamaki, is perfectly written and executed. I believed every line out of this woman.

As for Suzume herself, I thought she was a great centerpiece to the story. When it comes to her as a main protagonist, she definitely served her purpose. I have no real complaints about the character that had to do with her charm or screen presence. If anything, I loved her ability to stay motivated throughout the film’s progression. Overall, I thought she was a joy to watch. But if I have anything negative to say, it would be this. Despite Suzume’s backstory being fleshed out, my one complaint is that I do not know a ton about her interests or what she does. Yes, she goes to school and has friends, but there is not much about her that separates her in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to Suzume’s depth, we get perhaps somewhere above the bare minimum. Although the movie managed to make a compelling aspect within the story out of the notion that she lost her mom and is raised by her aunt. Therefore, given the film’s significant fleshing out of that aspect, I can forgive the slight lack of personality even though it is an issue the more I think about it.

Despite what I said about Suzume not being fleshed out, one thing I thought was finely detailed throughout the film was Sota and his job, if you will, of being a closer. This film is about closing doors to prevent disasters. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that Sota calls himself a “closer.” It does not pay the bills, but the movie implies it is important. I like how they gave the occupation of sorts a backstory, it brought some intriguing depth to the table.

When I say I can forgive this movie for its flaws, I mean it. It is perfectly paced. The film clocks in just over 2 hours and not once was I bored. I was smiling the whole time. The first ten minutes of this movie are some of the best I have seen in animation. While this film may not be as good as “Your Name,” the titles rival each other from a technical perspective. The animation style is almost comes off as a lifelike video game. The sound design is hypnotizing. The score is outstanding. Kazuma Jinnouchi and RADWIMPS did such a banger job with all of the music. I can personally claim I have listened to some of it during the making of this review. This movie is such a technical behemoth that the minor story flaws honestly take a bit of a backseat. “Suzume” is a must see for Shinkai loyalists and newcomers alike.

In the end, Makoto Shinkai continues his hot streak. Between “Your Name,” “Weathering with You,” and now this banger of a film, “Suzume” is every bit as awe-inspiring and excellent as I hoped it would be. With this film now in the can, this affirms Shinkai’s status as one of my favorite directors working today. I cannot wait to see what he does next. “Suzume” is beautiful, original, and occasionally jaw-dropping. The characters are great. The animation is some of the best in recent memory alongside “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” If it is playing in theaters near you, see it on the biggest screen you can. I saw it in IMAX and it was worth it. I left “Suzume” feeling satisfied. That is how I would want to feel after every movie I end up seeing. Again, it is no “Your Name,” but it comes close. Therefore, I would have to give “Suzume” a 9/10.

“Suzume” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This week I will be watching the brand new movie “Air,” starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Also stay tuned for my review for “Super Mario Bros.,” the 1993 film, coming 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 “Suzume?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch any of Makoto Shinkai’s other films? If you have a favorite, list it! I already mentioned this film, “Your Name,” “Weathering with You,” but if I must throw something out, I also saw “The Place Promised in Our Early Days,” which I would recommend. Check it out. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023): Illumination’s Shiny, Polished, Cliché-Riddled Take on the Mushroom Kingdom

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, both of whom have worked on Cartoon Network’s “Teen Titans GO!”. This film stars Chris Pratt (The LEGO Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., Last Night in Soho), Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fist Fight), Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Keegan-Michael Key (Let’s Be Cops, Keanu), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, Sausage Party), Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live, Final Space), Sebastian Maniscalco (Green Book, The Irishman), Charles Martinet, and Kevin Michael Richardson (Like Family, Lilo & Stitch). In this adaptation inspired by the popular video game franchise, Brooklyn-based plumber Mario must save his brother, Luigi, from the wrath of Bowser, a fiendish Koopa who has his sights set on ruling the world.

Few things in my life have had more nostalgic attachment than “Mario.” It is one of the few standout things from my childhood that I have taken with me into my adulthood. I still enjoy playing the “Super Mario Bros.” games, “Mario Kart,” “Super Smash Bros.,” and many of the other “Mario” spinoff titles that have come to fruition. So it might surprise you to know that when I heard Illumination would be developing a movie based on the popular IP, I had reservations, despite being curious about the film. I was worried that a studio like Illumination would make the film overly immature and resort to fart jokes every other second. And having seen some of Illumination’s work myself before and after said announcement, my excitement for the film did not grow. These are the same guys who made “The Grinch,” they have also made another one of my least favorite animated films, “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” which follows up an average first film. The only films from this studio I ended up caring about, which still scream lowest common denominator, are the “Sing” movies.

At the same time though, I also think one of the biggest offenses to cinema is the 1993 flick “Super Mario Bros.,” starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the main duo. Part of me also thought, if movies can be that bad, the IP can only go up. Having seen this new animated take on the “Super Mario Bros.” property, I would say it did. But even that is not saying a lot, because it is not Shakespeare. That said, if there is one thing that distinguishes this “Super Mario Bros.” outing compared to the 1993 predecessor, it is the film’s tendency to actually feel like it belongs in the same realm as the games.

The biggest compliment I can give “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is that even though it makes room, rightfully so, for adaptation, it is extremely faithful to its source material. Granted, it has an advantage that a lot of other material does not, it has plenty to pick from. Nevertheless, I think if you are a fan of the video games, or have played them at least once in your life, this movie could bring back memories. This movie’s animation style, while still being a product of its own nature, is reminiscent of the games themselves. It is colorful, bright, and full of life. The characters themselves even have a distinguished sparkle and shine that many other properties do not possess. Even Bowser, who is this movie’s epitome of evil, has some gloss to him. Illumination has clearly taken all the money they and Universal have earned on selling Minions merch and thrown it straight to the wall.

Some might say that the style of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is too safe. If this refers to the design of the film, I do not see the problem. It looks beautiful and unlike the 1993 film, a great counterpart to the games. There are some far-fetched elements in this film, sure, but as an audience member I can suspend my disbelief to a certain point. There is one point two-thirds in, which looked cool, that kind of ruined said suspension, but the sequence itself was still kind of fun nevertheless.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the voice acting. One of the most controversial aspects of this film for the past couple years were the voices of these characters. The burning question that has to be answered is this… How is Chris Pratt? To my surprise, he is fine. I am not going to say he stands out significantly, but he has developed a Mario that works for the universe at hand. Do I think they should have cast someone else? Maybe, but this could have been worse having seen the result. In my mind, I would prefer that maybe they found someone of Italian heritage to do the voice, but that is just me. But I think Pratt surprisingly fits as the Brooklyn plumber. Although Charlie Day is excellent as Luigi. I would say it is near perfect casting. It also makes sense because I have often imagined Charlie Day as a bit of a scrawny, timid type. While it is not the best movie, if you have ever seen “Fist Fight,” it is easy to see why Day could fit in as Luigi. I think when it comes to these two brothers, they have good chemistry, which is not only great because they are in the title, but much of the movie’s objective revolves around their bond.

I also like what they did with Peach in this film. I think Anya Taylor-Joy, who is an incredible actress, is a solid casting choice for the character. In real life, she has this aura to her, and I can say that having been to a Q&A where she was onstage. As for said aura, it is presented in this film from start to finish. Her voice is a perfect match for a highly respected princess. I like this film’s take on the character, also from a story perspective.

However the real standout of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” in terms of voice casting is the one character I have been excited to witness ever since the first trailer, Jack Black as Bowser. Unlike Chris Pratt at times, who, again, does not do a bad job in this movie, it was difficult for me to see Jack Black through this rugged monster. Maybe part of it is because I am accustomed to seeing Jack Black in certain roles, to the point where it was difficult to picture him as a bad guy. While it may not be his best performance, after all “Jumanji” has proven how challenging it must have been for someone like Black to play someone who is technically a teenage girl, his work here stands out significantly. They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and while “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is not a masterpiece, Bowser’s presence makes the film worth the price of admission. He is intimidating, ruthless, and funny. While he is evil, I almost wanted to root for him at times because Black makes the character as compelling as he can with his performance.

As mentioned, this film is not a masterpiece, and part of it is because of the writing. I will give credit to Illumination for possibly creating one of their more mature scripts in their library so far. There was less toilet humor than I thought there would be in a “Mario” movie made by Illumination. That said, while I have sometimes complained about some movies being too slow, this movie is special because it is actually too fast. Sure, it is simple to understand. Nothing major flew over my head. But when it comes to the film’s scenes, some of them went by too quickly. In a movie that is about a journey, much of that journey feels trimmed. I have complained about certain movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” or even movies I enjoyed such as “The Irishman” for being, or feeling, longer than they should be. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” not only clocks in around 92 minutes, which is not the shortest runtime I have come across, but still. The movie also happens to gloss over moments that would make other events that happen in said movie feel more rewarding or satisfying. However, there are some humorous lines, the characters have finely tuned arcs, and for the most part, the voice actors execute these lines to the best of their ability.

If I have another critique, and this is something that is about as personal as it could get, it is the soundtrack. And I am not talking about Brian Tyler’s score. The score is quite good, there are some great songs, in addition to adaptations of prior material from the games. I am talking about the use of other songs like “Holding Out for Hero” or “Take On Me.” These are not bad songs, but not only are they overplayed in media, but when it comes to “Mario,” lyric-based songs like those are not the first things that come to mind. There is one song in the movie, specifically “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” that fits in its scene, but that is it. I think the problem I have with the soundtrack is that the movie spends time in the Mushroom Kingdom, which establishes itself as this fantastical environment. It is somewhat disconnected from our reality. With that in mind, I have never once thought in my life, playing “Mario” titles, that I should play 1980s pop songs whilst hitting question blocks. I always say there is room for adaptation, but this did not work. I would prefer if for the whole time, the music would just be score-based. Maybe insert another original or something. I do not know, this is a personal preference. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is very much a fantasy title, and when it comes to fantasy, I wish less of our stuff were placed into it. Granted, the people of the Mushroom Kingdom do not know these songs, but I rest my case.

I would say this is a fine “Mario” movie that would give a large group of “Mario” fans what they want. As established, it is faithful to the source material, it looks like the games with some slight differences, the music choices for the most part are like the games, and the sound design does not spark any major differences. That said, whether it is going to win over someone who has never played the games is another story. Would this make people want to play the “Mario” games for the first time? Well, obviously if they like the movie, it is always a possibility. But I feel like if you are not tuned into the “Mario” universe through the games, the same might be true through this movie. But if you like the “Mario” games, I would recommend this movie. I am not endorsing the film as a must-see cinematic event, but if you can find a cheap matinee show or if you want to wait for streaming, be my guest. But even with this statement in mind, I give this recommendation with a certain looseness. There are better movies out right now. If you have played the “Mario” games and they are not your thing, it would be harder to recommend this title. Although if you have children, this could be a decent time at the movies with family. It is not going to significantly insult anyone’s intelligence, but it is definitely not going to help it either. It is a perfectly acceptable, but not great, “Mario” adaptation. Did I want more out of this movie? Sure, but on the bright side, it is brilliant compared to the 1993 disaster.

One last thing, before you leave the movie, there are two scenes during the credits. One in the middle and one at the very end. If post-credits material is your thing, then do not get up when the movie ends. Consider this your public service announcement.

In the end, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is a bit misleading. Because despite the title, it is not that super. If anything, it is super average. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” does a lot of things in an okay manner. It is a little fun. It is a little humorous. But it is also a little paint by numbers. Is it cringe-inducing? No. But is it smile-inducing? Not necessarily. It is a middle of the road movie that takes one of the most popular IPs of all time and executes an ordinary script in its skin. Yes, many of the games are as simple as rescuing a princess from a monster. That said, these are not the games. I have fun playing various “Mario” titles because of how the gameplay is laid out. The main objective of the crew behind “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is not to make the gameplay fun. In something like this, there is not, nor should there be gameplay. When you take the gameplay away, you have to enhance something else. I am not bringing my Switch Pro Controller into the theater to control these characters, I am watching the characters themselves. Therefore, I wish the characters, in addition to the story surrounding them, were enhanced. But both of those aspects feel thin. They could have gone deeper. Everything feels rushed. The most notable standouts of the movie are some of song choices, Jack Black as Bowser, and the animation. Everything else for the most part is a far cry. I am going to give “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” a 6/10.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including formats like 3D, IMAX, and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of “Super Mario Bros.,” pretty soon I will be reviewing the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie, which I have already watched. I will be writing my thoughts on it soon. I do not have an official date as to when the review will be dropping, but you can expect a review very soon.

Also, if you have been following Scene Before or have known me in real life, you would know that I have started watching particular anime titles in the past and have been trying to make the medium a part of my ongoing content. One of my next reviews, supposedly the very next, is going to be for “Suzume,” which hits U.S. theaters this weekend. I am very excited for this film, as it is directed by Makoto Shinkai, who has previously directed “Weathering with You,” in addition one to of my new favorite movies ever, “Your Name.” I am curious to see what he does here, and I hope the movie ends up being great. I will have my thoughts 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 Super Mario Bros. Movie?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Mario” game? For me, I would say “Super Mario Galaxy.” I love the levels, the music, the style, everything. Plus, it is scientifically proven that the inclusion of outer space makes everything better. Let me know your picks down below! And I will include spinoff titles! “Paper Mario” is fair game. “Mario Party,” “Mario Kart,” “Luigi’s Mansion,” you name it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023): A Solid Roll of the D20

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Game Night, Vacation) and stars Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Star Trek), Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Widows), Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, The Gray Man), Justice Smith (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Sophia Lillis (It, Gretel & Hansel), and Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary). This is film is inspired by the popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and follows four individuals who join forces and embark on a quest to find a lost relic.

I have never played Dungeons & Dragons. I know relatives who have previously partaken in the game in their youth, I have friends who enjoy the game, and I am well aware of certain aspects of it in our current culture. That said, I have never sat down to play it. Despite this notion, I nevertheless had some excitement for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.” Chris Pine is a charming actor, the trailers looked promising, and I thought this could be an enjoyable, lighthearted time. Now that I have seen the movie, I can confirm that is exactly what I got. No more, no less.

This movie does not reinvent the cinematic wheel, nor does it flatten any cinematic tires. It is just a plain good time that feels reminiscent of a modern Marvel movie if it had a baby with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Game Night.” This comparison should not surprise me, nor some other people for that matter. After all, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who in addition to directing this movie, also wrote the screenplay. If you seen “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” you have these two to partially thank. After all, they wrote that screenplay too, which had its fair share of wit and charm. Like “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” this film is a quickly-paced quest through outlandish, attractive environments with four main cast members. As for the “Game Night” comparison, this film, albeit in a much different manner, revolves around a game played amongst friends. For “Game Night” it is a murder mystery, while “Dungeons & Dragons” takes inspiration from source material of the same name. Additionally, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein directed both films.

This movie is led by Chris Pine (center left), who in addition to having an advantage as to being one of the chosen few talented, hunky, lightly-colored-haired dudes named Chris in Hollywood, is exactly the kind of star a movie like this needed. Sure, on the surface, there is the name recognition, but beyond that, Pine masterfully executes some of the movie’s standout humor. He has a presence to him, much like Chris Hemsworth, where he simply induces charm just by letting himself be in front of the camera and utter a few magic words. If “Wonder Woman” has shown anything, Chris Pine can be funny. If “Dungeons & Dragons” has shown anything, Chris Pine can be very funny. There are some great lines out of Pine in this film. One of my particular favorite moments involving his character is, believe it or not, in the trailer. He is talking about one of his strengths, specifically making plans. And if the plan fails, he comes up with a new one, and the same thing would happen there if that backup plan does not work out. Therefore, Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling druid, pipes in and says, “So you make plans that fail?”. Nothing like savagery to lighten the mood.

My favorite scene in “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” takes place about a third of the way in, where we have already established our main cast, and they have started their quest. One of their stops is a cemetery. Courtesy of wizard Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), the ensemble takes the moments they have to speak to the dead to help them find out what they need to know. Not only is it an effective way to deliver exposition, but some of the lines are hilarious. Every inkling of this scene is gold. I found myself occasionally laughing like a maniac during this portion of the film.

That said, this film, as mentioned before, is not the most revolutionary addition to the halls of cinematic history. Although given the track record of adapting D&D, this is actually a pleasant surprise of a win given how the IP was adapted before in 2000 and that movie currently has a 9% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Although despite this film being a victory for those who made it and the audience, it is probably not going to be nominated for any Oscars. The look of the film is passable, but I have seen better. There are also some predictable moments, but at the same time, the script, based on what was brought to screen, never had any real significant flaws that stood out, so I can forgive some predictability here and there.

Although what I did not predict is for some of the camerawork to stand out as much as it does. This should not have been a huge surprise given this is the duo who did “Game Night,” but there are one or two, extended takes that took my breath away. Much like “Game Night’s” egg-throwing extended take, there is a scene early on where we see Doric’s abilities in the spotlight that had my attention. If I were to watch some behind the scenes on the movie, that is one of the things I would like to see how they did.

This is the best compliment I can give to “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.” As cool of a concept as I find Dungeons & Dragons to be, I have never played the game because I do not know what time I have, who to play with, and where to start. After seeing this movie, those concerns have not been resolved. That said, I was not expecting them to be. Although having never played the game, I found this movie quite entertaining. I never felt lost. And as a movie, it was worth my time. It is one thing for someone to say that they are a D&D aficionado and say they love this movie. This might not always be the case, but there is some potential predisposal in play. If you can take a D&D know-it-nothing and give them a great cinematic experience, that’s another thing. That is what this movie did. I recommend this movie for those who enjoy playing D&D and even those who have shied away from the game. D&D fans may be attracted by the preexisiting IP, but they might as well stay for the lighthearted and thumbs up-worthy adventure.

In the end, “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a magical, finely realized blast of an adventure. I had a great time with it, and I would definitely recommend seeing this by yourself or with friends and family. As I have said, there is a hint of a “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”-like flair in this film, so if you like that film or its sequel, “The Next Level,” this could be another fun film to add to your watchlist. The characters are likable. The story is simple but effective. The humor stands out. And as someone who has never played D&D, I never felt alienated. I had a great time with “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” and I have a feeling some of you reading this will do the same. I am going to give “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” a 7/10.

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! As much as I recommend “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” it is extremely likely going to get blue shelled at the box office this weekend by possibly the most prominent video game-based project in cinematic history, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” By the way, that is going to be my next review! Stay tuned! Speaking of “Super Mario Bros.,” I will also soon be reviewing the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” film, which is probably going to be more fun for you guys than it is for me… If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played D&D? What did you do while playing the game? Or, if you are playing it, what are you doing now? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023): The Most Action-Packed, Exciting John Wick Yet

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is directed by Chad Stahelski, who has directorial credits on all of the previous installments in the franchise. This film stars Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ip Man), Bill Skarsgård (It, Barbarian), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat, Bullet Train), Shamier Anderson (Goliath, Invasion), Lance Reddick (The Wire, Bosch), Rina Sawayama, Scott Adkins (Criminal, American Assassin), and Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). This film centers around John Wick as he tries to get revenge against the High Table and take down anyone who stands in his way.

I love the “John Wick” franchise. One thing that stands out about this franchise that separates itself from several others is that not only is the first movie good, but every sequel that comes out is a step up from its predecessor. I enjoyed “John Wick: Chapter 2” more than the original, and I found “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” more entertaining than “John Wick: Chapter 2.” The objective of a Hollywood sequel is to, perhaps stereotypically, go bigger, but it does not always mean it is better than what came before. “John Wick” has gone bigger in its two sequels to extremely pleasing results. From one film to the next, the action sequences are incredible, the cinematography is amazing, and the lore is fascinating. And it happens to be all the more so with each go. That said, after two successful sequels, I wondered if the franchise ran out of steam. I thought “John Wick: Chapter 4” was just going to be a cash grab that would make most of its money from name recognition. I wondered how they could possibly top the other films.

Now that I saw the film, I can confirm “John Wick: Chapter 4” not only tops its predecessors. It stabs them, shoots them, and sends them tumbling off a cliff. It makes those films inferior and asserts its dominance. “John Wick: Chapter 4” is easily my favorite film in the franchise, and I did not think I would come to that conclusion a year or two ago.

This film is the fourth installment of an ongoing franchise that has made a decent chunk of change. It stars a well-known actor who has continued to maintain his relevancy in an extended career. Some may say that making this film implies Lionsgate would be, understandably, playing things safe. I understand why they made it, but I was not sure if I wanted it, that is until I watched it. I thought when they were making this film, it was a sign that “Hollywood” happened to be running out of ideas. After seeing this masterpiece, and I mean that in every sense of the word, I can confirm that Hollywood is not running out of ideas. Because this movie came up with a buttload of fresh new ways to kill people.

This movie has a great list of characters between all of the returning faces like Keanu Reeves as John Wick, Laurence Fishburne as Bowery King, Ian McShane as Winston, and Lance Reddick as Charon (RIP). But the newcomers manage to steal some of the spotlight for themselves. Donnie Yen, who may be at risk for being typecast as a visually impaired, skilled fighter, is brilliant in this film. I loved every minute he was on screen. Scott Adkins does a great job with his limited screentime as Killa, who is only enhanced by some excellent makeup and costume design. Did I mention assassin dogs?! Bring on the assassin dogs!

Over the past few years, we have practically been in a Keanussance with the previous “John Wick” installments amongst other projects like “Toy Story 4,” “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” and even the “Cyberpunk 2077” video game. Of all of the projects Keanu Reeves has done in recent years, this is the best one. It is up there with “Point Break” and the original “Matrix” installment as one of the greatest Keanu Reeves projects of all time. But if I have to be real, I should not solely rely on encouraging my readers to take a shot every time I gloriously say the name Keanu Reeves, because the real stars of the show are the people behind the camera. From director Chad Stahelski, who has consistently delivered one good time after the next with this franchise. To writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch, who have conceived my favorite screenplay in the “John Wick” franchise since the simple but effective original. To cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who has distributed some of the most palatable shots in an action movie to date. To production designer Kevin Kavanaugh, who has built a multitude of sets that do not deserve to look as good as they do in a movie where tons of people get killed by a guy who has successfully utilized a pencil as a weapon.

This is one of the most thrilling action flicks ever put to screen, and it is not only because Keanu Reeves takes names in corners that you did not know existed, but because so much care was put into each frame. If anything, the progression of the “John Wick” movies reminds me of “Mission: Impossible” in recent years. From the third movie and onward, each one felt like a step up from its predecessor. For “John Wick,” each movie feels like a step up from the original, which is already a decent time.

I have said that this is my favorite “John Wick” script since the original. Part of it is because, like all the other installments, it maintains a sense of atmosphere that makes a series like this something of its own. But also because it is the closest the franchise has come to making me relate to or feel strong emotions for the characters. While the first “John Wick” is my least favorite in the franchise, I will not deny what made that first movie work is its ability to make me root for “John Wick” over his loss. It is all the more significant when considering that I am probably the furthest thing from a dog person. The sequels are great, but I remember them more for what the characters did as opposed to why they did it. What makes the fourth movie the best one is that it takes the substance of the first movie and the style that has improved from one installment to the next and showcases what the full potential of what this franchise could be. This is the ultimate “John Wick” experience from scene one to the final frame.

If I had anything else of note to say, I would recommend maybe watching the other movies before this one. For starters, they’re good movies. But I also bring this up because there may be some lore to pick up on before this fourth film. If I had any problems… They are not coming to me. I was worried about the runtime. However, this movie flew by, because I was having fun. That is ultimately what “John Wick” is. And between Keanu Reeves’s trademarks, his dynamite chemistry with Laurence Fishburne, all of the action, this is the epitome of fun. These types of movies are not for everyone. My mom would not like this film. But if you are an action junkie and refuse to watch “John Wick: Chapter 4,” you are missing out on the pinnacle of what this genre is capable of. From a technical perspective, this movie checks every box and receives extra credit. The sound design might end up being the best of the year depending on what comes out after this. Every frame looks like a painting. Some of the music is quite good too. The lighting is balls out and spectacular. At times, the stunts made me wince. I have enjoyed all of the “John Wick” installments, but as far as this movie goes, I am bending over for it like it is my lord and savior.

In the end, “John Wick: Chapter 4” is a thing of beauty, a thing of splendor. It is something I will be thinking about for a long time. The track record for “John Wick” over the years has reminded me of the track record for “Mission: Impossible” over the years. It gets better every time. Keanu Reeves has personally earned a seat at my High Table. When it comes to movies, few things beat a surprise. Few things surpass the time when a movie comes out of nowhere, I am not looking forward to it, but I see it anyway, and it ends up being one of the best things I have watched in recent memory. I was technically looking forward to “John Wick: Chapter 4,” but not on the level that I was going into “Chapter 3.” That said, this is better than chapters 1, 2, 3, all of them. Everything has led to this, the ultimate “John Wick” experience. I do not know if “John Wick: Chapter 4” will be this year’s “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Avatar: The Way of Water” as a select big budget, popular film that shoehorns its way into the Best Picture slate at the Oscars, but we shall see. I am thinking this franchise is not only back, but better than ever! I am going to give “John Wick: Chapter 4” a 10/10!

“John Wick: Chapter 4” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! I have a couple more reviews coming up very soon including one for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” which I plan to see tonight. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which hits theaters next week. Speaking of which, I figured with the brand new “Mario” film coming out, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to go back and review 1993’s “Super Mario Bros.,” which I have to remind myself, unfortunately exists. I just rewatched the film earlier this week and I will be sharing my thoughts on it 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 “John Wick: Chapter 4?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “John Wick” movies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!