The Marksman (2021): First Film Review For the 2021 Cinematic Calendar!

“The Marksman” is directed by Robert Lorenz (Million Dollar Baby, Trouble with the Curve) and stars Liam Neeson (Honest Thief, Taken), Katheryn Winnick (Bones, Vikings), Juan Pablo Rada (Narcos, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Teresa Ruiz (The House of Flowers, Narcos: Mexico). This film centers around a former U.S. Marine by the name of Jim Hanson. Not Henson, not the Muppet guy, Hanson, with an “a.” He drives near the U.S./Mexico border and notices a mother and son crossing into the states. Turns out they are on the run from the cartel, at which point the refugees join Hanson in his truck for a ride. Unfortunately, in just a short amount of time, the mother dies, but conveniently notifies Hanson of a place where her son can be secure. So Hanson takes the son in his truck, and the two go on a journey to Chicago to ensure the boy’s safety.

First of all, here’s something to celebrate! “The Marksman” is the first 2021 film I am reviewing! Yes, I’ve already reviewed “News of the World,” but that came out in 2020, so that is not the point. The point is, “The Marksman” released in theaters this weekend, making this the first film on the 2021 cinematic calendar covered by the Movie Reviewing Moron. And the fact that I am talking about a movie like this is not that surprising. Liam Neeson usually has a movie out at this time of year. Last year was an exception, but in 2019 he had “Cold Pursuit.” In 2018 he had “The Commuter.” In 2015 he had “Taken 3.” In 2014 he had “Non-Stop.” I’ve personally seen all of these except “Non-Stop,” and let’s just say the results for each one were not spectacular. They were not world-ending, but they were mediocre at best, uneventful at worst. Although when it comes to “The Marksman,” I did not really set my expectations to any specific level. Part of it is because there is a pandemic where every other movie either gets cancelled, put onto streaming, or pushed back, so part of me is simply glad to see a movie in a theater regardless of what that may be. I have seen the trailer once, maybe a couple times, and I was never turned off by it, so maybe this could be a good time. Then again, it is January, the month where movies go to die.

Despite that previous sentence, this movie did not feel like a death sentence. In fact, I cannot recall a specific moment where I wanted to pull out my hair. “The Marksman” is a fine chase film. Granted, it follows a formula, when it comes to Liam Neeson, he is doing his typical Liam Neeson schtick. He sort of has this rugged, grandfatherly attitude, it is almost like he is repeating to himself in his head, “I’m too old for this s*it.” But I will say one thing about Liam Neeson, this is somewhat fine. Because there are certain actors out there, Liam Neeson is one of them, that can often get away with a repetitive formula if they can find a way to make it work. Neeson is not alone in this boat. Look at Kevin Hart, look at Tom Cruise, look at Samuel L. Jackson, look at Jason Statham. They all play fairly similar personalities with alternate identities from time to time, and they honestly do a good job with it.

Some of the best films of 2020 like “The Last Shift,” “News of the World,” and “Summerland” worked like a charm partially because of something they had in common. Specifically, the two main characters have an unlikely relationship, they stay together for the majority of the film, and somehow they make their time together flow. “The Marksman” is no exception to this idea. It is nowhere near as memorable or as emotionally investing, but nevertheless, “The Marksman” works because it takes a somewhat reclusive, older man, almost like a Clint Eastwood, get off my lawn type of person, but maybe with a little more assumed respect for others and pairs him with a younger boy who runs into him. Although as opposed to another recent film, “Half Brothers,” this film does a really good job at making you like both characters and have a connection with them. They are never annoying or unpleasant. They always have charisma and feel like they belong together to some degree.

This film also has some genuinely fun and entertaining action sequences. The final, big climactic sequence is worth the price of admission, but there are one or two others that make the film worth a watch if you like seeing things blow up or get shot. The film is not necessarily action-packed, especially when compared to Liam Neeson’s other recent outing, “Honest Thief,” which honestly may be a tad better in the action department. However, the little action that does exist is entertaining and deserves a thumbs up.

“The Marksman” is another one of those simple action flicks. You have your core characters, your not so complex storyline, they need to get from point A to point B, and certain obstacles or barriers are in their way. The film works enchantingly as a simple story where the objective is clear. Although despite this, there were maybe one or two moments where I was not what one would call bored, but if I had to use a proper adjective, I’d say I was drowsy. Maybe it is because everything feels so calm and the movie gives you plenty of time to breathe. I’ll bring up “Honest Thief” once again, which has more action, more excuses to have fight sequences. That was a bit faster in pace. “The Marksman” is kind of a road trip movie, and during a road trip, there is a good chance where you may want to take a break. Maybe stop for a bite to eat, stay at a motel in the middle of nowhere. This makes “The Marksman” feel more homey in terms of the vibe that is provided, even though there are life and death situations at hand.

I’m talking quite a bit about the main duo, but I don’t want to leave out the rest of the cast. Katheryn Winnick plays a cop who serves her purpose nicely. Teresa Ruiz is convincing as the refugee mother for the short amount of time she is in the movie. As for everyone in the cartel, they do a good job as well. They are brooding, intimidating, and they do not look like people you would always want to pick a fight with. This movie did a decent job at establishing the main threat and harkening back to them from time to time.

In the end, I do not think I will remember “The Marksman” as well as the other movies I will end up seeing in 2021, but it does not change the fact that it has put the year for movies off to a good start. “The Marksman” is yet another success for Liam Neeson. I have personally been impressed by his recent lineup of content including this film, “Honest Thief” and “Made in Italy.” Is “The Marksman” a classic for the ages? No. However, if a theater is open near you and you want some good action, “The Marksman” does serve its purpose and can give a couple hours of entertainment. I’m going to give “The Marksman” a 7/10.

“The Marksman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Get your tickets today.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is also the wide release of “One Night in Miami.” It is currently playing in several theaters, although it is also available on Prime Video for streaming. I might stay home and watch it, I need an excuse to use my Prime subscription, so I might get around to watching that film and reviewing it. Also, reminder to all, it is 2021! But if you want to be a daredevil and go back to 2020, feel free to check out my lists for my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook page to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Marksman?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Liam Neeson as an actor? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED Movies of 2021

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! So I did my top 10 best list of 2020, I did my top 10 worst list of 2020, and now that we’re in the new year, it is time to talk about my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2021. I have never done a most anticipated list before, but I figured since there are a lot of movies that are supposedly coming out in 2021, this marks a prime opportunity to discuss some potential hits for me. Couple rules before we get started. Just because these are the movies I am looking forward to, does not mean that you should too. I mean, if we have the same list, fantastic! But remember, this is completely subjective. Also, I am only going to be talking about movies that are releasing in cinemas at some point. If it is going straight to TV, straight to Netflix, straight to Disney+, it does not count. For now at least. I dunno, depending on how long the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, I may have to make 2021 an exception year as well where I count movies that were once going to release in theaters, but couldn’t for whatever reason. Movies like “Soul,” “The Witches,” and “Superintelligence.” By the way, don’t watch “Superintelligence.” I’m not gonna waste any time, I’m not doing any honorable mentions, I just want to dive into my main ten, so let’s do it! These are my top 10 MOST ANTICIPATED movies of 2021.

#10: Top Gun: Maverick

Starting off this list is “Top Gun: Maverick.” I am really excited for this film. The cinematography looks beautiful. The flight scenes look majestic. And I think Joseph Kosinski is a really good pick to helm a project like this. He’s done big scale blockbusters like “Tron: Legacy” and “Oblivion” in the past, so I think he’s a good fit. And of course, Tom Cruise is back as Maverick, who has been serving in the Navy for thirty years. I think “Top Gun” is a good film, but I think that “Top Gun: Maverick” has the potential to be better with the advances in technology, possibly a great emphasis on Maverick himself as a character and where he stands as a person. This film was supposed to be put out in 2019, but they pushed it back to manage complex flight sequences. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the film got delayed a couple more times, and now it is hopefully in its rightful place to potentially become one of the bigger summer hits of the year. Kelly McGillis, who was Tom Cruise’s love interest in the original film, will not be returning, but I personally don’t have the biggest problem with such a thing as I’ve heard the two did not always get along on set many years ago. Although Val Kilmer is back, so if you liked him in the original film, you have that to look forward to. And of course, Tom Cruise keeps with the cliché that he does his own stunts. He flies a jet, and I love that this film is going for practicality. Here’s hoping “Top Gun: Maverick” is a competitor for top dog of the year!

#9: Eternals

Up next, we have “Eternals.” This film was supposed to release in November 2020, but now it is coming out in November 2021. It has a star-studded cast consisting of Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. They’ve got some talented people in this film. But I should also mention that the director of this film is Chloe Zhao and if you don’t know anything about her, one movie she made that was supposed to hit theaters in 2020 has been killing it on the festival scene. I won’t say much about it, because spoiler, it is on the list. If she created a Best Picture frontrunner, I have faith she can make a great comic book movie. I have not read the source material, but the concept behind “Eternals” is nevertheless intriguing. Partially because it involves a story that kind of spans over thousands of years. I think that there is a ton of potential with this concept, and maybe it’ll be the next “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It takes a bunch of characters that mainstream audiences do not know much about, then makes them the talk of the town.

#8: The Last Duel

Speaking of films that were supposed to come out in 2020, we have “The Last Duel.” This film was going to have a limited release this Christmas with an expansion to more theaters on January 8th of the following year. “The Last Duel” is a film that has the potential to be one of the most beautiful-looking productions of the year. It is directed by Ridley Scott, who has made quite a name for himself over the years, and it is shot by Dariusz Wolski, who also shot one of my favorite 2020 films, “News of the World.” The film itself takes place in 14th century France and is about two best friends who have to fight to the death under the order of King Charles VI after one accuses the other of raping his wife. This sounds compelling, and I do not know what they’re ultimately going for with this film, but I would not be surprised if it is rated R. Adam Driver, who is building a terrific resume, is in this movie, but I should also mention that not only do Ben Affleck and Matt Damon star in the film, but they also wrote the screenplay together. The last time they wrote a screenplay, specifically “Good Will Hunting,” it won the duo an Oscar!

Who knows? Maybe this joke from “The Late Show with David Letterman” will come true! Go to 1:50, by the way. You’ll understand.

#7: No Time to Die

I have not seen many James Bond flicks, but it does not change the fact that I am super stoked for Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, “No Time to Die.” Again, we have another movie that was supposed to hit theaters in 2020, but got pushed back a couple times due to the pandemic. I will admit, and I don’t know if this will surprise anybody, even though Billie Eilish has put out her song for this film, I have not listened to it yet despite it being out for awhile. All I can say is that I want to be surprised. This film looks exciting, action-packed, some of the stunts look incredible, and that is exactly what a Bond movie should deliver. Plus, this movie also features Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out), who not only happens to admittedly be a celebrity crush, but someone who is becoming one of my favorite actresses. This is her second film with Daniel Craig, given how they were in “Knives Out” together, so I’m excited to see them return. Once again, this is Daniel Craig’s final movie as Bond, so I hope they pull out all the stops on this one. Did I mention they shot part of the movie in IMAX? Sign me up!

#6: Spider-Man 3

Coming in at #6 is “Spider-Man 3,” or as some are calling it, “Untitled Spider-Man Sequel.” I kind of hope this next “Spider-Man” film has the word home in the title somewhere. Even if it is just to reference a scene where Peter Parker goes see a Mets game or something. You can just call the movie “Spider-Man: Home Run.” Speaking of which, this movie sounds like a home run. You’ve got Tom Holland returning, Benedict Cumberbatch, otherwise known as Doctor Strange is set to make an appearance, and based on what I’m speculating, there’s a lot of news going around as to how many characters this movie is getting and multiple universes colliding. They’ve already confirmed Jamie Foxx’s Electro is returning, the same goes for Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus. I don’t think there’s any official word on Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield coming in as of yet, which I’ll be honest, is a concept that presents a double-edged sword. On one hand, the more webheads, the better! In fact, Tobey Maguire’s “Spider-Man” partially shaped my childhood and love for film. At the same time though, this almost sounds like fan service just for the sake of fan service. I don’t watch any of the CW superhero shows like “The Flash” or “Supergirl” or “Black Lightning,” but I know they have these crossovers at various points. This almost sounds like the buildup to Crisis on Infinite Earths in that universe. By that I mean it’s clunky, almost unreal, and maybe it has *too much* fan service. At the same time though, the real reason why I am anticipating this film is because of where “Spider-Man: Far From Home” left us off. I won’t spoil anything for those who have not seen the movie, but some serious s*it might be brewing up.

#5: Free Guy

What’s the next movie? It’s Ryan Reynolds trapped in a video game! AWESOME! I’m talking about “Free Guy.” Not only does “Free Guy” come with a cool concept, but it stars Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller. Reynolds has been on a solid track record as an actor. Even in some movies where I don’t think the material is something to write home about, Reynolds is a highlight. I imagine this film is going to have that traditional Ryan Reynolds humor and schtick that you may have seen in “Deadpool” or “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” but it has yet to get old for me, so I happily welcome it. Ryan Reynolds is like Kevin Hart, he can play the same guy to some degree in every film he’s in, but it works every time. This film is also being directed by Shawn Levy who produced “Arrival,” one of my favorite sci-fi films of the past ten years. He’s also directed the “Night at the Museum” trilogy, which maybe except the third movie, are goldmines when it comes to comedy. I am curious to see what he can do with this video game-esque film. Also, I should mention that this film may be emotional for me, because I saw in one of the trailers that Alex Trebek makes an appearance. Granted, it just appears to be a cameo, but the moment he shows up on the screen could induce a tear depending on how long he’s up there. I love my game shows, what can I say? RIP Alex.

#4: Nomadland

Some might say this is a 2020 film, but I’m currently calling it a 2021 film as it has not been publicly released yet except for some festivals. Going back to Chloe Zhao, my next entry to this list is “Nomadland.” The reason why this is so high on this list is partially because of all the buzz I’ve been hearing. I barely know about this film. Yes, I know it is about a woman who lives through the Great Recession and she journeys through the American west. I’ve seen the trailer, I know some of the people involved. But this film has been winning award after award after award. At this point, some speculate it may be a frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars. Going back to the concept, we are living through the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have a feeling that this film is going to highlight struggles that we as a society could translate to modern times. And depending on where we go in regards to the economy, maybe we’ll see some similarities there too when it comes to themes and storylines. I first heard about this film back in September when the Venice Film Festival was going on, where it won the Golden Lion, and since then, I would hear about it every other day. The film was originally supposed to release in December of last year, but got pushed back to February of this year. I can’t wait to see what this is all about!

#3: Mission: Impossible 7

In 2018 I declared that my favorite film of the year is “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” Admitedly, that kind of goes back and forth between that and “Avengers: Infinity War” from time to time, but it does not change the fact that it is one of my favorite action films ever. And I’m not gonna lie, the sequel, “Mission: Impossible 7” is shaping up to be something special. The last couple of “Mission: Impossible” films, which have been directed by Christopher McQuarrie, have been the best the franchise has to offer. So I am especially glad he is coming back for a third movie, which is supposedly going to be followed by an eighth installment with the same cast and crew. My brain tells me that maybe the eighth one will be the last one, but money talks. So, who knows? At this point, that’s my guess. Also coming back is Lorne Balfe, who did the score on “Fallout.” It is a great score and it admittedly helped me get through a cavity filling at the dentist one time, so I’d say Balfe did his job. Also, let’s not forget about Tom Cruise. Say what you want about Tom Cruise. He’s crazy. He’s in a cult. He’s a weirdo. Maybe. But he is one of my favorite actors working today and if these few months have shown anything, he loves this industry and will do anything to keep it going. I seriously wonder how they are going to top the helicopter scene in the climax of “Fallout,” but I think with enough determination, it can be done. Plus you have some other cast members including Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Vanessa Kirby. All these people have done a great job in the other “M:I” movies they are in. Also joining them is Mantis herself, Pom Klementieff. She seems charismatic enough to join the franchise, so I hope the crew can execute the best “Mission” yet.

#2: Babylon

I often talk about how my favorite director working today is Christopher Nolan. Those of you who know me realize that’s not a secret. But if I had to pick a runner-up, Damien Chazelle is an arguable contender, and that is just part of why I am super excited for “Babylon.” There are not many details disclosed yet about “Babylon,” but what I do know about “Babylon” is that it is a period piece set in Hollywood. And if you have been following the awards circuit, notably in recent years, Hollywood loves movies about itself. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” was a huge hit critically and won Best Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes, and let’s not forget, Chazelle himself has experience making a hit film about Hollywood, “La La Land.” That film had 14 Oscar nominations, won 6 of them, swept the Golden Globes, and earned Best Film at the BAFTAs. While that is not my favorite Damien Chazelle outing, there is no doubt that he can create something special. Speaking of which, Margot Robbie will be starring in the film as Clara Bow, a famous actress who was featured in both silent film and talkies. Also joining the cast is Tobey Maguire, Li Jun Li, and Robbie’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” co-star, Brad Pitt. They’ve got some serious talent for this film, and for a few of these people, this almost feels like a trip down a somewhat recent memory lane. Not only is Chazelle directing this film, but he’s also writing the screenplay, and I’m happy about this because he’s a solid writer! Before “Whiplash” came out and became the talk of the town, Chazelle wrote “Grand Piano” starring Elijah Wood. The film itself gets a little far-fetched at times, but if you like suspense and killer music, that film may be for you. “Babylon” takes place during the transition from when Hollywood was going from silent film to talkies, I love this premise, and I think Chazelle is going to kill it with “Babylon.”

# 1: Dune

At one point, this was my most anticipated film of 2020, as it was supposed to come out last December. But it got delayed to October 2021, so I can now confirm that “Dune” is my most anticipated film of 2021! If you know me, you know I am all about the theatrical experience. I have a seemingly unhealthy obsession with it. Let’s just start off with the obvious. Having seen the first trailer, both at home and in cinemas, “Dune” looks like it was made for the big screen. There are a few action scenes that look intricate and awe-inspiring to the naked eye. The sand environments are beautiful and are magnificently captured by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, who returns alongside Denis Villeneuve, another one of my favorite directors working today. I’ll admit, I’m a bit behind on his films. I have not seen “Prisoners,” I have not seen “Sicario,” but having seen “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049,” I can only imagine the sheer scale and glory that “Dune” will encapsulate. Villeneuve has proven that he can bring great sci-fi to the big screen, and I am hoping he continues that with “Dune.” I have not read the book, although I do have the book and I plan to read it. I’m very excited to get on that. I also have not seen the David Lynch adaptation. Who knows if I’ll have time for it? But speaking of not acknowledging source material, this film is being scored by one of my favorite Hollywood composers, Hans Zimmer (Interstellar, Man of Steel). Not only is the legend himself gearing up to make some hopefully great music for “Dune,” but he has pointed out in 2019 that he has not seen the David Lynch version of the story. I like this, because for all I know, this maybe allows for a fresh take, unless somehow the movie ends up unintentionally coming off as David Lynch’s story 2.0. The cast is incredible! Timothee Chalamet (Interstellar, Call Me by Your Name), Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Aquaman), Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Doctor Sleep), Josh Brolin (The Goonies, Avengers: Infinity War), Oscar Isaac (Annihilation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). It’s like they pulled out the whole cavalry on this film! The screenwriters, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth had some great outings in recent years with “Doctor Strange” and “A Star is Born” respectively. And of course, you have Denis Villeneuve himself. This is the first thing he’s written in a while, but I have faith in him because he seems to have an enormous reverence to the source material that I think he can pull this film off. We’ll just have to see. And that is why “Dune” is my most anticipated film of 2021!

Thanks for reading this countdown! There is definitely a lot to look forward to as we head into 2021 and all it has to offer, but I am not going to say that we’re actually going to get all of it. For all I know, six of these films might not even come out until 2022. If 2020 has taught us anything, never underestimate the power of a fiendish year. If you like this sort of material but want to go back to 2020 for whatever reason… Wait, nobody wants to do that. But still! If you like this post, you may also want to check out my countdowns titled Top 10 BEST Movies of 2020 and Top 10 WORST Movies of 2020. Check those out, I think you might enjoy them! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the official Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, what are your most anticipated movies of 2021? And do you think we’re even going to see any big movies this year? I can tell you that “Nomadland” is practically a lock given all the festival buzz, but as for everything else, you can put a question mark on all of them to some degree. But hey, the vaccine’s coming! Here’s hoping for some good news! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top 10 WORST Movies of 2020

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Not only did 2020 suck, but we also had a fair share of movies this year that sucked as well. Now that I’m done talking about my top 10 favorite movies of 2020, we’re going to move onto the part that I sort of view as the therapy session when it comes to these countdowns. The top 10 worst movies of 2020! Keep in mind, even though 2020 is perhaps a bit more limited in its cinematic offerings than other years, I will confirm that I have not seen every single movie that came out this year. So, if you are wondering, “Where’s this crappy movie?” Make your own list, you’ll find it there! You just won’t find it here. Although I will say, I have more movies to pick from this year than I did during any other time I ranked my best and worst of the year. As of publishing this list, I saw 77 films released during the 2020 timeline. Little reminder, this list is based on subjectivity and doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’ll dislike the movies I picked or that you HAVE to dislike them. This list just identifies my personal thoughts and feelings. We don’t have to agree, we just have to respect each other, which is something I think the Internet in general needs to learn. Also, as mentioned in my top 10 best list, I am making an exception for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other years, where I would only count movies as long as they received a theatrical release, I am going to accept movies based on whether they once INTENDED to release theatrically. If they did release theatrically, great! If they were going to, but ended up somewhere else for whatever reason, I’ll include those films as well. However, if the intention for the film was to go to streaming or somewhere else like that from the get-go, those don’t count. Spoiler, a few films that were going to be in theaters at one point, but couldn’t for whatever reason, are on this list. Won’t say which ones, but you’ll find out. But with all this in mind, let’s dive into a few dishonorable mentions.

Dishonorable mention: Antebellum (available on VOD)

My first dishonorable mention is “Antebellum.” “Antebellum” has some good ideas, but it is somewhat unfortunate that these good ideas are tangled up in this mess of a film. Plus, there’s a point in the film that is supposed to come off as twisty, but almost feels out of place. Did I mention despite being a horror flick, it’s barely scary?

Dishonorable mention: The Jesus Rolls (available on Showtime)

“The Jesus Rolls” is a gutterball. This film takes place in the same universe as the iconic cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” although this time it completely centers around John Turturro’s character. He even directed this crap! “The Big Lebowski” has charisma, great chemistry amongst its cast, and iconic lines. This had none of that.

Dishonorable mention: Artemis Fowl (available on Disney+)

Finally for dishonorable mentions we have “Artemis Fowl.” I admittedly did not hate the film as much as other people. Maybe it is because I have never read the books, but it does not change the fact that the film feels sloppily edited and put together, and nearly uninspired perhaps. Not even big pretty things can change that! Also, Kenneth Branagh is lucky that he played Sator in “Tenet,” at least that’s something good for him this year.

Now, we’ve just had the worst year ever. Let’s talk about some of the worst pictures ever! These are my top 10 WORST movies of 2020.

#10: Wonder Woman 1984 (available for a limited time on HBO Max, in theaters)

Coming in at #10 is possibly my biggest disappointment of 2020. “Wonder Woman 1984!” I was rooting for you! You had the Christmas release date and everything! This film was originally supposed to come out a year ago, but it moved up a month originally due to avoiding competition with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and eventually moved back into 2020, then pushed itself back a couple more times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Was it worth the wait? Well, judging by its placement on this list, not really. The fact that I am putting this film on the worst list just saddens me because I LOVE the first “Wonder Woman.” It is one of the best DC films, cinematic universe or otherwise, I have seen. I also love Gal Gadot, I have a $125 autograph from her for crying out loud! I loved the directing job Patty Jenkins did on the first film! Plus you had some other talented people in the cast too! Chris Pine is back, and joining him you have Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal! These are well-known, respectable actors! This feels like “The Circle,” except it is a comic book movie! Does “Wonder Woman 1984” have cool action? Yes. But it is unfortunately surrounded by a lackluster script, characters I occasionally do not give a flying crap about, and one of the most disappointingly underwhelming first hours I have seen in a film. The opening scene in the Amazon games was spectacular! The mall scene that follows ain’t half bad either for popcorn action. Sadly, the film technically has two opening scenes, and those are oddly enough the most redeemable parts of it. Everything else is a far cry in comparison. I will admit the one improvement between this film and the original is Gal Gadot’s performance. I liked her in the original film, but here it almost seems like Gadot has done a better job at being more than just a goddess with a pretty face. Her execution feels more raw, more natural. Other than that, this film is the biggest disappointment of 2020.

#9: You Should Have Left (available on Peacock)

I watched this film at home, but if I watched this film in a theater, I would have taken the title’s advice to heart. Up next is “You Should Have Left.” Say what you want about the actors in this movie, I have nothing against them. But the problem is not with them. It’s the script! My gosh! THE SCRIPT! When I saw this movie, it was just a few days before October, which is supposed to be the scariest month of the year. Turns out the horror show started rather early with this crap in the mix! This has the worst of the horror genre, period! Dream sequences! Cheap scares! Overused scares! I will admit that horror is a weaker genre for me as a film fan, but this is also a weak film, so it comes full circle! There are a couple good things I can say about this film! The house in it looks nice… It was the first movie I watched on Peacock… So, it’s a historic movie for me??? Worst of all, this movie is written and directed by David Koepp, who wrote some notable blockbusters over the years, and directed one of my favorite films of 2012, “Premium Rush!” What a disappointment this was!

#8: Half Brothers (available on VOD, in theaters)

Stereotypes! They’re everywhere! Sometimes they work, like they do in “The Simpsons!” Other times they don’t, like that little pile of malarkey some might call “Half Brothers.” This came out in theaters this year, although I did not see “Half Brothers” in the cinema. Instead, I saw it early online through a virtual link. Thankfully, I did not have to pay anything up for my experience. Unfortunately, my experience resulted in cringe, eye-rolling, sighs, and infuriation! So, there’s that! They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when the titular characters of the movie, the two half-brothers, are annoying as hell, why should I care? We have the annoying, unbelievably crazy American alongside the main brother who happens to be Mexican, both add up for a s*itty combo. I know that sometimes comedy is not supposed to make sense, maybe the level of impracticality trickles up when you’re dealing with a comedy, but there are some choices in this movie that no sane person would make! I said in my top 10 favorite movies list that “The Last Shift” is a really good movie because it takes an unlikely pair and makes them watchable when put together. Despite “Half Brothers” being about two people who have kind of a bond, the characters are just imbeciles when they’re in the same place! “Half Brothers” is annoying, anger-inducing, and whatever stereotypes they have in this film just make the movie worse. Don’t watch it.

#7: Death of Me (available on VOD)

Up next, we have “Death of Me.” This movie stars Luke Hemsworth, otherwise known as the least relevant of the Hemsworths. Don’t worry man! Your brothers have had some bad days at the office as well! Remember Chris’s outing in “Thor: The Dark World?” Remember when Liam did “Independence Day: Resurgence?” Exactly. Even so, it does not change the fact that “Death of Me” is a wreck of a film. This film is just all over the place! It is a boring, unlikable movie featuring a couple vacationing on an island who must discover the mystical behind the scenes shenanigans of a video they happen to be in. After all, the guy is a vlogger, he’s recording all the interesting things that happen on the getaway, but the two have a heck of a night, they forget things, so they need to know what happened. I’ll tell you what happened! THEY WERE IN A CRAPFEST OF A MOVIE! That’s what happened! There is a turning point of the film, a “twist” if you will, that is mind-bogglingly wrong and almost an insult. Maybe it sounds good on paper, but when put on screen it simply feels off! It is kind of incredible that this film even made it to screens! Other than that, “Death of Me” is one of 2020’s most forgettable films, which says a lot considering I watched it for the first time just a couple days ago!

#6: Scoob! (available on HBO, HBO Max)

During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, I did not watch many new movies. In fact, one of the few that I did watch was “Scoob!”. Wait a minute… Okay I’ve just remembered “Scoob!” is not a movie, it’s a nightmare. “Scoob!” is what happens when you take a classic intellectual property, try to update it for a trend-based crowd, and fail to realize what made this property what it happens to be. I like superhero movies; I like cinematic universes! The Marvel movies have been some of my favorites over the past decade. Basically, “Scoob!” tries to copy Marvel with Hanna-Barbera characters, but does so in the cheapest way possible. There’s even a joke where one of the characters is nicknamed “Hemsworth!” Now I would not mind this movie taking heavy inspiration from something else if it felt like it tried, but it didn’t! The only semblance of effort here is the animation, but keep in mind, I rented the movie in 4K! Of course it’s going to look detailed! The voice cast does the best they can with the material they have, although it is weird that they have the primary voice actor for Scooby-Doo, but they got somebody different for Shaggy. Whhhyyyyyyy? I barely grew up with “Scooby-Doo,” but regardless of my attachment to the franchise, this is a bland, slightly predictable, and badly written animated flick that was nowhere near worth a $19.99 rental. Wow, these quarantine prices SUCK, especially since I’m the only one watching a movie most of the time!

#5: Fantasy Island (available on Starz, Philo)

What’s your fantasy? Eternal riches? A smokin’ hot girl in your life? Maybe a Porsche? Well, here’s my fantasy. My fantasy is to never watch 2020’s “Fantasy Island” ever again. “Fantasy Island” is an adaptation of the older television series, and the one good thing about this movie is that I have not seen the source material, so I will not go around claiming that this new version tarnishes everything that the original idea stands for. It’s just a s*itty movie! This movie comes to us from Blumhouse, a fairly respectable studio in some ways, but in others, not so much. This falls under the moniker of “not so much.” Also, this comes from the same mind and lead actress that brought us 2018’s “Truth or Dare.” It’s a movie I skipped, but with a 16% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, it must feel like a dare to put the film on to begin with. Unfortunately, “Fantasy Island” may be even worse as it received a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 7%. The movie is rife with problems! Casting! Tone! Writing! I will say though, out of all the movies on this list, this was definitely the most fun to watch as I almost did not care about anything that was going on and I got to roast the crap out it. Although, if you want my advice, find something else to watch on Halloween. In fact, if you want an idea for a better Blumhouse movie, not to mention one that came out this year, watch “Freaky!” It’s scary, hilarious, and a fantastic combination of “Freaky Friday” and “Friday the 13th!” Your brain will thank you.

#4: The Hunt (available on Cinemax)

One movie I was kind of excited for in 2019 was “The Hunt.” I saw the trailer, and I was intrigued. Overall, the movie looked dark and kick-ass at the same time. Unfortunately, due to controversial events, the release was pushed back to March 2020. I skipped it in theaters, waited for the Blu-ray, and watched it around Halloween. It WAS NOT worth the wait. “The Hunt” killed my blood pressure! The film takes a lot of stereotypes from the modern world, many of which people would probably find to be negative, and hammer them down your throat. This sort of thing works in “Family Guy.” Here, it just sucks! I almost could not relate to a single individual on screen. Everyone in this movie made me roll my eyes incessantly! This film centers around twelve people who are captured, put in a field, and are just waiting to be potentially hunted for sport by elites. On the surface, this sounds like an intriguing concept, and if I had to relate it to anything right off the bat, it would be 2019’s best film, “Ready or Not,” because it’s another scenario of the rich killing the poor. If you are reading this right now, do yourself a favor. Watch “Ready or Not,” not this bulls*it. “The Hunt” can die!

#3: Dolittle (available on HBO, HBO Max)

Why Downey, why? Why would you do this? Why would you… Do little? Up next on this list is “Dolittle.” After the big, loud, popcorn extravaganza known as “Avengers: Endgame,” I think it has been made pretty clear that Robert Downey Jr. has kind of a clean slate ahead of him and he can do whatever he wants. As far as “Dolittle” is concerned, it turns out that one of the movie’s producers happens to be Robert Downey Jr.’s wife, Susan. And I imagine as a couple, their relationship is like bread and butter. And who knows? Maybe both of them believed in this project, but when it comes to how it turned out, it was overall just a mess. Sure, some of the casting is not really anything to complain about, and I mean that more in regard to the voiceover portion of the cast. Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Emma Thompson, they’ve got some good names. However, the story of the movie is far-fetched, even for fantasy standards if you ask me, Robert Downey Jr. gives a laughably bad performance as the title character. Michael Sheen is in this film, and if you want to see something good from 2020 with Michael Sheen in it, just go watch the miniseries “Quiz.” It’s about the “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” Charles Ingram scandal. He plays Chris Tarrant, and it’s freakin’ great. Much better than “Dolittle,” don’t waste your time with “Dolittle.” Fun fact about “Dolittle,” even though I saw other movies in the theater already, this was the first film I saw in the theater during the year of 2020 that technically came out in said year. At least I had a feeling that things could only go up from here!

#2: Superintelligence (available on HBO Max)

As we get towards the bottom of the list, we are going to enter a common theme. Familiar filmmakers. How so? Well, in this case, this next entry to the list is directed by the same person AND stars the same lead actress involved in the making of my least favorite film of 2018, “Life of the Party.” Turns out that they did not learn much since the making of that film, as evidenced by the crapfest that some might call “Superintelligence.” This film was originally going to hit theaters in 2019, but at the last minute, it was postponed and positioned as an HBO Max exclusive, and based on the results of the film, I can see why. OH MY GOD THIS WAS A NIGHTMARE! What is up with Melissa McCarthy?! This is the third yearly worst list of mine she’s been on! In 2016, she was in “Ghostbusters!” In 2018, she was in “Life of the Party!” In 2020, she’s in this s*it! And this is also the second movie in row that she has appeared in directed by Ben Falcone that made it to the worst list! Melissa, Ben, I hope you two are happy together. I mean that genuinely. But make better movies! Either that or just stop making movies as a couple! Melissa McCarthy was nominated for two Academy Awards! Neither of them were for movies directed by Ben Falcone! Speaking of actors who need to get their s*it together, let’s talk about James Corden! Why is he here? Why does he exist? Why does he have to ruin everything? I’ve seen the dude in a few movies now, but there is not one I can think of that I genuinely thought wasn’t a waste of time, or one where he even stood out positively as a performer. James Corden, if you’re reading this, pick better scripts! This is why I watch Conan O’Brien for crying out loud! “Superintelligence” has one of the most insufferable protagonists I have ever seen in the history of film. Sure, she could be more annoying, but my big problem with her is that she barely even does anything to determine her fate. Her fate is often determined by outside forces, mainly the superintelligence that the movie sort of centers around. Let’s talk about the comedy in this movie. Wait, sorry, what kind of question is that? There is no comedy! It took like forty something minutes for me to let out a genuine laugh regarding this film. So if you’re thinking of getting HBO Max for new content, all I can say is do not do so for this film. It is a waste of time; you will want to rip your eyes and ears out! It is not super intelligent; it is super dumb! That’s a fact!

#1: The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson (available on Showtime)

2020 was the worst year of everyone’s lives, so it’s only fair that I talk about the worst movie that I’ve seen in said year! This is #1! Continuing down the route of familiar filmmakers, 2019 brought us a terrible spin on a famous murder story, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” directed by Daniel Farrands. That movie earned my #1 spot on my worst of 2019 list. Guess what? 2020 is the SECOND YEAR IN A ROW that he has earned the bottom spot of my countdown! My #1 worst movie of 2020 is “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.” Fun fact for you all, this is not only the worst movie of the year, this is not only the second time Daniel Farrands made the worst list on Scene Before in a row, but “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is the first 2020 film I saw! We started this s*itty year off with an absolute bang! Thanks, guys! The United States didn’t even have COVID-19 yet, and we got this! Wonderful! Booyah! I don’t want to act too harsh though, because as I said in my review, I found out that the writer of this film, Michael Arter, has not written any other features. At the same time though, part of why this movie is absolutely abominable is because of him. There are many scenes in this film that are poorly realized, cringeworthy, and make you question humanity! If I were to blame anyone most of all, it would be the director, Daniel Farrands. He’s making terrible choices with these movies, and if I see another movie that is similarly titled to the last couple I saw from him, I am just going to assume right out of the gate that it is a disaster! Between “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” and “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson,” this is starting to almost feel like a “Sharknado” type of franchise, if that makes any sense. Except that here, it feels like more people are trying. These films are not going straight to Syfy. Granted, they are barely getting theatrical releases, but the production value looks less like television! It doesn’t look good, it really doesn’t! But it looks more like a movie than it does television! Mena Suvari plays her part well… at times… And maybe aside from Nick Stahl, she may have the most competent performance in the film. Although, the acting, across the board, is almost unforgivable! There are several edits that feel like they are first take, people sound like they barely know their lines, and the movie all round does not resemble anything close to a respectable ensemble! Mena Suvari is unfortunately surrounded by a cast of characters who are either forgettable or annoying! They even have someone playing Kris Kardashian in this movie, because apparently people can’t get enough of her! I mean, sure she was associated with the O.J. Simpson incident, but holy crap! Her presence in this movie is why I continue to avoid that f*cking television show that shall not be named at all costs! There’s even a point where two characters are just chatting and having a drink, and I almost feel like the director, maybe the writer had some input, wanted to jokingly have the characters drink orange juice. YOU SEE WHAT WE DID THERE? ARE WE CLEVER? ARE WE THE KINGS OF COMEDY?! 

No, if anything, you killed it. It don’t fit, and you must have quit a long time ago! 

I can’t even believe I’m saying this, because “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” was bad enough, I think “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” might actually be worse. The production value is cheap, the writing is stale, the directing might occasionally be worse, and it is barely even a feature! The runtime comes out to 82 minutes, and a good portion of that runtime is not even footage created specifically for the film! A lot of it happens to be newsreel footage! If I had to ask myself which movie is worse, and the choices were this film and “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” I would choose this one! Granted, I will admit, one slight improvement, if you can call it that, is that when it comes to the two films, “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is “less” disturbing and off-putting, but other than that, it is unbelievably incompetent! It feels rushed, tacky, somewhat offensive, and it almost seems as if the only reason it exists is because someone working on one s*itty movie, wanted to make another s*itty movie with people from the crew from the original s*itty movie. “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is an utter nuisance to humanity, and the fact that it is even here in society, feels like a crime. “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is my least favorite movie of 2020, you son of bitch.

Thanks for reading this countdown! Once again, a big thank you to everybody, even if you are included on this list, for making a film that released this year. Even some of the bad movies, to some degree, managed to do something very important for me and a lot of other people this year. That my friends, is to provide an escape. We all needed one this year at one point or another, that is a guarantee. There have been some good things about 2020 amidst all the madness. I got to go back to LA, I had my first AMC Prime experience, I also got AMC A-List, and I really enjoyed doing my Top Movies of the 2010s series which I will admit I might want to get back to. But it is time to move on to 2021, with new movies, new plans, specifically plans that hopefully don’t get cancelled, and great ambitions for Scene Before. This March marks 5 full years since I have started Scene Before. And this year, I am going big. Tons of reviews for movies old and new, and more details about this will be revealed in the future, including one of my most ambitious review projects ever, which I plan to reveal at the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards, which are set to take place sometime this winter. I plan to reveal the release date in the near future, but trust me, that is coming! If you want a tentative release date, I’m thinking anywhere between the middle of February to the middle of March. Depends on whether I want to see more movies from 2020. There’s a good chance that I’m going to catch up on some things I have not seen yet. “Nomadland,” “Minari,” “The Father.” Admittedly, I am still deciding on whether I should count films coming out in early 2021, so we will have to see. Nevertheless, The 3rd Annual Jackoffs is coming, and stay tuned! Speaking of which, make sure you follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, maybe check out the Facebook page while you’re at it, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, what are your least favorite movies of 2020? The selection may be slimmer for some people this year, but I would be happy to hear what your least favorites are nevertheless. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top 10 BEST Movies of 2020

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! 2020 is over and I think we all agree that when it comes to 2020, the best part of the year is when it ended. Why? Because you can probably come up with any moment this year, perhaps in the middle of it, and it could arguably be one of the worst moments of your life. And as for the beginning of the year, remember when we were all going THIS IS GONNA BE OUR YEAR! IT’S GONNA KILL! Look where that all went! Thank you, 2020! FOR NOTHING! With that rage fit out of the way, let’s stay positive, because we have, thankfully, reached the end of the year, or more specifically the start of 2021, and we’re celebrating like we usually do, by counting down my top 10 BEST movies of the past year, this case it’s 2020. Couple rules before we go any further… First off, to have a movie qualify for the list it needs to have either played in theaters at least once OR, given the unusual circumstances of 2020, be made for a theatrical format, even if the movie ended up going somewhere else like DVD or Prime Video or HBO Max. This means movies like “An American Pickle,” which was made for theaters but ended up going to streaming instead, DO QUALIFY, but if your movie was specifically made for a format that is not theatrical, that means you’re off the list. Movies like “Bad Education” and “Troop Zero” are unfortunately off the list. Obviously, I must have seen the movies we’re talking about, otherwise I’d be talking nonsense. Also, reminder, like I say every year, this is a subjective list. It’s completely my opinion, and as a result, it may be different than your list purely based on personal thoughts. This list does completely not dive into what the DEFINITIVE BEST MOVIES are, these are just my faves! These are all the rules, hopefully I’m not complicating things too much. And with that being said, let’s start off like we usually do and point out some honorable mentions. Although, I should point out, 2020 was a rough year, so I want to spread some positivity going into 2021 by giving TEN honorable mentions, so this is going to be more like a top 20 list if anything. The main 10 movies will get the most recognition, but we will be going over 20.

Honorable mention: Ava (available on Netflix)

Kicking off our honorable mentions is “Ava,” starring Jessica Chastain as a badass assassin who must deal with her job and family issues on the side. Am I a little biased since I am a Bostonian? Maybe, but this was a damn fine action flick with some solid editing here and there.

Honorable mention: Unhinged (available on VOD)

“Unhinged” is one of the most disturbing films of the year, and that says something considering how it is not even a horror film. Not only is it adrenaline-filled, but it feels relatable. Watch it.

Honorable mention: Run (available on Hulu)

“Run” is a great addition to the Hulu library and the service’s best exclusive film of the year. If you want an unpredictable, twisty thriller, this film is for you.

Honorable mention: Impractical Jokers: The Movie (available on HBO Max)

I’ll admit, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a bit a biased pick for me, I’m a big fan of the show. But as a fan of the show, I must say that they did a really good job of taking what is great about the show and translating it to film. And as I mentioned in my review, I find “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” to be funnier than a lot of comedies. A couple of the big punishment scenes had me DYING. Joe, Q, Sal, and Murr for life!

Honorable mention: Sonic the Hedgehog (available on Epix, Philo)

“Sonic the Hedgehog” got a couple watches from me this year. Not only is it arguably the finest movie adaptation of a video game we’ve seen to date, but out of the movies on this list, it is one of the few that I’d probably pay millions of dollars just to see a sequel! Also, massive props to the everyone who worked on the visual effects! You used the hate of the Internet to make yourselves stronger and you came out on top! Well done!

Honorable mention: Radioactive (available on Prime Video)

“Radioactive” is one of the most beautiful-looking films of the year in terms of aesthetics and set design. Rosamund Pike also delivers one of the most compelling performances of the year as revered scientist Marie Curie.

Honorable mention: Wolfwalkers (available on Apple TV+)

“Wolfwalkers” is Apple TV+’s first exclusive animated feature, and when it comes to the animation genre, it is also one of 2020’s best. It features a distinct, rustic-looking design and admirable chemistry all around.

Honorable mention: Freaky (available on VOD, in theaters)

“Freaky” supplies a terrific mashup of “Freaky Friday” and “Friday the 13th.” Vince Vaughn is great as always and this movie supports that Kathryn Newton is easily becoming one of my favorite performers.

Honorable Mention: Bill & Ted Face the Music (available on VOD)

While we dudes cannot party on all the time in 2020, I can assure you that “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of this year’s most excellent films. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves return as their respective roles in a sequel that feels very similar, but much more mature compared to “Excellent Adventure” and “Bogus Journey.” I’m not dissing on the film, but I think that is a solid evolution point in the franchise if anything.

Honorable mention: Greenland (available on VOD)

And finally, we have “Greenland.” This is a fun, explosive disaster movie that had me on the edge of my seat with some likable characters in the center of it all. It also goes to show that humans will literally do anything for their own survival, even if it is costly for someone else.

With that out of the way, it is time to talk about the best films of the worst year! These are my top 10 BEST movies of 2020!

#10: The Way Back (available on HBO, HBO Max)

Starting off this list is one of the last films I saw before everything started shutting down due to COVID-19, and that is “The Way Back.” One of the best things about “The Way Back” is how personal it feels. The film stars Ben Affleck as a newly established basketball coach of a team he aided to victory back in high school. Only thing is, they suck now, and Affleck has to help them in getting a good footing towards the gold. But there is more to the story than just a basketball team that needs a bit of work. I say so because the film’s character, Jack Cunnigham, suffers from alcoholism, which Ben Affleck has been through in his life. You can truly tell based on the performance that Affleck cares about how this particular character is presented. I have not seen all of Affleck’s films, but “The Way Back” contains one of the best performances I have seen from him. While “The Way Back” may not be the big winner for cinematography this year, the film contains one of my top 10, maybe top 20 favorite final shots I have seen in cinematic history. It is a glorious representation of a subject matter the film partially focuses on while displaying a beautiful environment. I liked “The Way Back” when I saw it in the theater, but I began to appreciate it a little more during my rewatch at home. Dribble your way to the couch and check out “The Way Back!”

#9: News of the World (in theaters)

Coming in at #9 is the most recent film I reviewed on Scene Before, “News of the World.” This film stars Tom Hanks as a man who goes around reading newspapers for people willing to listen. While that is clearly an obsolete occupation, that is a cool job! The movie displays a story with said job to highlight how we consume media in modern times and how we manage to accept media through what we “want” to hear as opposed to what we “need” to hear. Although that is not all the film has to offer, because the center of the story is Tom Hanks’s character, Captain Kidd, alongside a young girl he has named Johanna (Helena Zengel). Their chemistry is charming and is a fine example of how some unlikely bonds lead to the best on-screen relationships. Also, this film just goes to show that Tom Hanks is not only a great actor, but he often feels like a dude you just want to hang out with for a day. Much of the movie is Tom Hanks and the young girl moving along in a carriage trying to get where they need to go. I felt like I was on a road trip with Hanks himself for some of the time, and if there were any celebrity I would want to take a road trip with, it might be him. There’s also a great shootout scene somewhere before the halfway point of the film. It was intense, somewhat slow, but steady. All of the pieces fell into place! Paul Greengrass directs one of the most exquisite looking films of the year, and it may be worth a rewatch at some point!

#8: The Vast of Night (available on Prime Video)

Coming in at #8 is the movie that made me excited to review movies again, “The Vast of Night.” For a while in 2020, I had seen a number of movies, but it took some time to actually get that one movie that made me feel something. It took months to get that one movie that sort of hit me where I live. Thanks to all who revived the spark for me! While I will admit, this movie sort of gets clunky towards the climax, this is a BRILLIANTLY made debut. Andrew Patterson is a director I may be looking forward to in the near future if he comes out with another project. “The Vast of Night” feels personal, innovative, while also having traces of nostalgia. Partially because this takes place during the 1950s, but I must also acknowledge that this has a very similar vibe to “The Twilight Zone.” Everything feels mysterious, occasionally spooky, and it was hard for me to dart my eyes anywhere that did not happen to be my television screen. I will also point out, if you are a fan of great cinematography and camerawork, this movie may be a fantastic watch for you. “The Vast of Night” is free on Prime Video, check it out!

#7: Promising Young Woman (in theaters)

#7 is “Promising Young Woman.” This film came out at the tail end of the year, and usually that is when all the good stuff comes out. Past years have proven this on Scene Before with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in 2016, “The Disaster Artist” in 2017, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” in 2018, “Marriage Story” in 2019, and now, “Promising Young Woman” in 2020. This is a revenge thriller this not afraid to get dark. Not afraid to get serious. And it seriously packs a punch! Carey Mulligan may be a frontrunner for Best Actress, Bo Burnham deserves a shoutout for his performance and chemistry with Mulligan as well, and it is very well directed by Emerald Fennell. “Promising Young Woman” is her feature-length directorial debut and she kills it! The cinematography and sets are both beautiful to look at and make for some of the finest images I have seen on a screen this year.

#6: The Last Shift (available on VOD)

You ever work in fast-food? Yeah, this movie is proof that I don’t want to get myself involved in that. “The Last Shift” is another level of excellence. This movie, despite having fast food take up much of the screentime, feels like a nice meal at a high-end restaurant. The two leads played by Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie are two vastly different people, but for some reason, they feel like best friends. I mentioned in my review that “The Last Shift” is basically “Green Book” but better. The plot is not exactly the same and there’s no road trip, but like that film, “The Last Shift” takes an unlikely bond and plays it out brilliantly. This movie dives into a lot of things at once. Having a low-paying job. Wanting more. Wishing you could do something with your life. At times it deals with death and old age. It handles all these issues very well. Also, I know there are times where this movie sort of hammers what’s wrong with the fast-food industry, but thinking about it kind of makes me want a cheeseburger. Yeah, that sounds good.

#5: Sound of Metal (available on Prime Video)

Get ready for the boldest statement of the countdown. “Sound of Metal” does for audio what “Birdman” and “1917” do for camerawork. Now, what they do is not exactly the same, but “Sound of Metal” revolves around a drummer who is rapidly losing his hearing, and one of the things I love about this movie is how it occasionally puts you in the eyes of its main character, almost as if you yourself were deaf. You know how movies like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Dunkirk” are often claimed to be so experiential that they can put you in a war zone? Well, sort of in the same way, “Sound of Metal” occasionally felt rather unsettling that it put me in the mind of someone who was deaf. Before watching “Sound of Metal,” I liked Riz Ahmed. Now I think he is a powerhouse who may have great days ahead of him. I seriously hope he is nominated for an Oscar, and whatever his next movie is, I hope to see it.

#4: Yellow Rose (available on VOD)

#4 is “Yellow Rose!” There is so much to like about “Yellow Rose,” I almost don’t even know where to start. “Yellow Rose” is a film that centers around a couple illegal immigrants living in the United States. It goes over their struggles, and just like those living in the U.S. legally, the film manages to emphasize the reason why these people stick around. It’s for a dream. It’s for a positive path. It’s for the hope that life will be good. Our main character is an aspiring country singer who based on the way this movie goes, presents themselves as quite the talented individual, and her journey makes for one of the most fascinating screenplays of the year. It also goes into the dark times of dealing with I.C.E. and what they can take away from you. Also, I must point out that “Square Peg” is a really good song, and our lead actress, Eva Noblezada, performs it beautifully. I cannot wait to see what else she does as an actress. As a music-based film, this is great. As a drama, it’s stellar. As a piece of art, it is defiant of our time.

#3: Tenet (available on VOD, in theaters)

Before this film finally came out, there was a point or two where I thought this movie could have been my #1 pick on this countdown. Turns out, it’s not, but it’s still pretty amazing. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Tenet.” In regards to exhibition and movie theaters, “Tenet” is arguably one of the most important movies put out in years. This was a movie that was originally supposed to be an event film, according to director Christopher Nolan, only thing is, turns out the big event was not the movie itself, it’s that all events imaginable happened to be canceled or postponed. But this movie was ultimately put out as a reminder of why movie theaters are built. Why they are a part of society, art, and culture. This is easily one of the best experiences that I’ve had in a cinema in the past couple of years. “Tenet” also contains my favorite score of the year, composed by Ludwig Göransson, also known for his work on “Black Panther,” another film with a tremendous score. I also saw this film three times in the theater, and I will say that each time was as exciting as the next. I was stoked for “Tenet” ever since I saw the prologue in IMAX. Each time a new trailer came out, that excitement meter trickled up even more. I cannot say I was all that disappointed. The only tremendous thing I will say that is wrong with the movie is the sound mix, and part of why this is not #1 is because of that. Audio is one of the most important parts of a film, and when I can’t make out important dialogue, that’s kind of a problem. Although during my third screening, I went to a theater that provided subtitles, which certainly helped a lot. At times the movie is so obnoxious that it shakes the auditorium, which provides for an experience that is beyond incredible. But overall, the sound was just a little too loud at times. I will say though, despite “Tenet” not being #1 on this list, “Tenet” did one thing for me that no other movie managed to do. I had more excitement going into “Tenet,” balanced by alike excitement during and upon leaving the movie compared to any other film that came out this year. Kudos, seriously! Everyone involved in the marketing for this film and making it, they should be proud. It’s rare that I go see a movie in a theater three times!

#2: Summerland (available on VOD)

I said earlier in the year that “The Vast of Night” made me legitimately excited to review movies once again. But if anything, this is the movie that made me have faith that I will have something to remember by the time we hit 2021. Up next on this list is “Summerland!” For a couple of months, I assumed that this would be the #1 movie of the year for me, which would have brought a first to Scene Before history, a movie with a 9/10 score taking the top spot on the countdown. This film was a surprise for me, partially because all I knew about the movie was the poster, a description the theater provided, and that’s it. Gemma Arterton and Lucas Bond are incredible together. Kind of like “The Last Shift,” this takes a rather unlikely pair and meshes them together with precision. Out of the many experiences I’ve had watching new movies this year, this was by far one of the most unique, especially considering the end result. If you asked me where I thought I would put this film in my rankings for the year after watching the first ten minutes, I would have said it belongs somewhere on the worst list, because when I was first introduced to Gemma Arterton’s character, I was extremely turned off. She was closed-minded, and she did not have the greatest attitude. Thankfully, that does improve quite a bit as the movie continues. If 2020 has proven one thing, even though “Tenet” sort of lived up to the hype, a lot of the best movies to have come out are those that really come out of nowhere. “The Vast of Night” played at a selection of festivals, but I have not heard much about it until it dropped onto Prime Video around the midpoint of the year. Other movies like “The Last Shift” or “Yellow Rose” are really just titles I’ve heard almost nothing about, but they turned out to be some of the best movies of the year! If anything, this movie is also just so sweet! 2020 has been such a cruel year from start to finish that it is ridiculously hard to get through it all. The best way to kill 2020? Honestly, don’t kill it with fire! Kill it with kindness! One way to do that, watch “Summerland!” Give it a rental! Buy the DVD! Buy the Blu-ray! Do what you can to support it because it is a movie that is truly worth your time! Because as the movie suggests, stories have to come from somewhere!

#1: Over the Moon (available on Netflix)

Oh my gosh! We’re finally here! Something positive in 2020! This is #1! This next movie not only redeemed 2020 for me, as if I thought other movies did that already, it achieved a level of greatness I never thought I’d get to see again. I thought 2019 would be the end of great movies. Nope! I never thought I’d say this.

THANK YOU NETFLIX!

This movie took me far beyond the moon and back! My #1 movie of 2020 is… “Over the Moon!” Where do I even start? Remember the live-action “Mulan” remake that was supposed to come out in March but somehow ended up on Disney+ with a $30 price tag on top of everyone’s subscription? Yeah, not only was “Over the Moon” a better movie, but it ended up in theaters, on Netflix for free as long as you’re a subscriber, and I would argue this does more for Chinese heritage than that movie did! I am not of Chinese descent, nor am I of any nearby Asian descent, so I cannot say much, but it does not change the fact that “Over the Moon” managed to accomplish every goal it set out to do! Tell a relatable story that hinges around an entire demographic, create catchy and iconic original songs, unveil a protagonist whose pain you can feel throughout, and most of all, have some fun with everything that’s going on, all the while making you cry! Seriously! I walked out this movie needing to ask myself whether what I just saw actually happened! Well guess what? It’s 2020! If this year has gone on to show anything, it’s that even the unimaginable can happen! Hang on, let my pinch myself! *YOW!* Yep! Still here! I’m not dreaming! Just so you know, I am a straight white male born in Massachusetts. Even if you were born on Neptune, you will relate to this movie. The movie has an all-Asian cast which includes notable names such as Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, and John Cho. Each one of these people play their characters well and I love them for being part of what I am proud to call a new animated classic. But the heart of this film is Phillipa Soo as Chang’e and Hollywood newcomer Cathy Ang as Fei Fei, who I learned is in her twenties right now, but I’ll say this. I can only predict Ang will have an ultra-luminary future. There is a song in this movie that Ang sang which I eventually learned was only done in one take. Bravo, girl! Her chops as a voiceover artist and a singer are enormous. This movie is like a Disney throwback. Epic songs, beautiful animation, and they even have the dead parent cliché, which in the case of “Over the Moon” was handled BRILLIANTLY. Both of my parents are alive, but this movie used the dead parent storyline, and somehow managed to interweave it into a defining portion of my life. I say this because the movie partially handles a situation that I lived through, and it sort of took me back. That may be part of why I cried at the end. This movie was more emotional than “Toy Story 3!” And that says something! And it really goes to show how unpredictable this year truly is! We got two movies from arguably the most talented and revered animation studio, Pixar. I honestly thought neither was up to the standards the studio usually provides. I have avoided the Netflix brand for years simply because as someone who goes to the theater, and as someone who buys physical media, Netflix is a company that does not often affiliate with what I invest in. But this movie made me consider getting a Netflix subscription, probably just to watch it again. And as much as I liked “Roma,” it never got me to think that.

This film, like quite a few other Netflix movies, barely had a presence in theaters, but I’m noticing a lot of theaters now are doing private screenings, so if I have enough money to give to a theater to rent an auditorium for a couple hours, where I could pick whatever movie I want, I would go just to watch “Over the Moon” in a theatrical environment again. I have not watched this film since the theater, I should note I rarely watch Netflix in general. But I can guarantee that when it comes to animated films, this was an utter trip and was worth the $12 I paid to see it. I think if Netflix can work out an agreement with the IMAX brand, I think they could possibly get a very limited engagement of “Over the Moon” in IMAX, that sort of thing would win me over!

Seriously! How cool were the songs? Ultraluminary! Rocket to the Moon! Hey Boy! Even the Mooncakes song, which from a storytelling perspective, not just as a jam, is probably one of the most effective numbers I’ve heard in a film. Not only are the songs great, but they made for some stunning sequences! The colors in this film are transcendently glossy and beautiful! I could go on forever talking about this movie, but I have to stop at some point, although I must add that I hope more people give it a chance. IT’S ON NETFLIX! WATCH IT! “Over the Moon” is a gift. It’s one of the biggest surprises, perhaps THE biggest surprise I’ve had this year in terms of movies. It is an epic adventure, a fun thrill ride, a technical beast, it’s got a killer soundtrack and score, and it is one of the few movies that made this man cry. Netflix, thank you. Glen Keane, John Kahrs. Thank you! Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong! The rest of the cast! Thank you! And I shall not forget, an individual we lost too soon. Audrey Wells. Without your ideas, we would have never seen this new animated classic. Rest not only in peace, but in perfection. Rest in perfection, Audrey Wells. Your masterpiece is here, and it is my #1 film of 2020.

Thanks for reading this countdown! First off, I want to give a huge thank you to the entertainers, producers, and filmmakers who all gave us an escape in 2020. I think this year, more than any other, we needed an escape. An escape from reality. An escape from COVID-19. An escape from everything. There is no doubt that 2020 was one of the most stressful years that people today have gone through. Before COVID-19 shut down movie theaters for the most part, movies happened to be something I cared about. And I still care about them today, and as a mortal, 2020 sort of taught me to be thankful for what I have, and I for one am quite thankful for movies. I cannot thank everyone enough for simply working on a film production, not to mention releasing it. Even if I didn’t like the film, guess what? It just shows what’s great about humanity. What we can do. What we can accomplish. Bravo! Speaking of films that I don’t like, tomorrow I will be releasing the virus-infused list! Oh dear, here we go. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. Trust me, we had plenty of bad ones this year. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and please like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, what are your favorite movies of 2020? I know the selection may be tighter for some people this year, but I still want to know, what are some of the movies you liked this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

News of the World (2020): The Beauty of the Hanks News Media

“News of the World” is directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93), bases itself upon the 2016 Paulette Jiles western novel of the same name, and stars Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Toy Story) alongside Helena Zengel (Dark Blue Girl, System Crasher). This film is about a widowed Civil War veteran who goes around the world reading the news from various papers to those willing to listen for ten cents. In this film, he ventures with a young girl taken by the Kiowa people in an attempt to bring her to a place she can call home.

“News of the World” was one of the movies I was genuinely looking forward to over the Christmas season. Usually, when there is a movie that comes out near the end of the second half of the year that stars Tom Hanks, that’s usually a good sign. Last year we had “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which frankly did not deliver the goods I was anticipating, but there is no denying that Hanks was perfect casting as Fred Rogers. One film that I sometimes forget about, “Saving Mr. Banks,” which came out towards the end of 2013, features Hanks as a charismatic Walt Disney. Plus, Hanks is just a likable dude. People often claim him to be the nicest guy in Hollywood, and I often get that vibe just by looking at him. He kind of sounds like a fun dude to take on a cross-country road trip. Speaking of trips, “News of the World” centers around two characters who take a trip through the old west to find a home for a young girl, and I must say that the main duo makes for a delightful and charming heart of the story.

Speaking of delightful and charming, those are two words I can use to describe “News of the World.” I do not watch many westerns, but this film, despite taking place in the old west, did not always feel like a western. Yes, it has many of the staples between an excessive amount of horses and carriages, accents, tons of men with crazy amounts of hair, but it also sort of speaks to our world today. It speaks to the climate of our media and how people flock to what they “want” to hear as opposed to what they need to hear, and maybe how the things our media spit out can influence how people think, what people say. That is only a small portion of the film, but I sort of like how the film handled this subject matter because it speaks to our time. Maybe where you live and the people around you can also play a part in that. I live in the Boston area, and we have two big papers. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and while both are highly recognized, it is sometimes declared that each paper seems to cater to alternate demographics. If you read The Boston Globe, chances are you are reading something from a liberal mindset. If you read Boston Herald, you may be reading something from a conservative mindset. This subject matter makes for one of the more compelling moments of the movie. It does not handle it in complete relation to the example I just mentioned, but it did remind me of that.

In some of my recent posts, I have been talking about the Oscars and awards season, partially because we are approaching that time, and some of the recent films like “Promising Young Woman” and “Soul” may have a shot at making some rounds as we get closer to some big ceremonies. “News of the World” is another one of those films, and part of that is due to Tom Hanks as Captain Kidd. I’ve already mentioned he’s good in the movie, but I should point out that he should be a fairly presentable talking point when the Oscars come around. Not only does Tom Hanks look the part, kind of like he did for Fred Rogers last year, but he encapsulates the main character beautifully. For me, my top 3 candidates for Best Actor this awards season are, in no particular order, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Ben Affleck (The Way Back), and now, Tom Hanks (News of the World). I must also say, Hanks’s character in “News of the World” has a fascinating occupation. He goes around reading newspapers for an audience. Honestly, if I lived in the 19th century, that may be what I would do. Well, if I wasn’t writing for the papers myself. Either that or trying to invent videography if there were some way I could do that.

I must not forget, Hanks spends a great portion of the movie journeying with the young girl, played by Helena Zengel. Her name, or at least it’s the name that Captain Kidd calls her by, is Johanna. One thing I really like about their connection is that there is a language barrier between the two, but despite that, you could still get along, you can still have joyous times together, and as far as this story goes, it still feels like a universal story (and not just because Universal distributed this movie). One guy speaks English, the other person speaks Kiowan, but despite their differences, they can get along just fine. Then again, I am terrible at learning foreign languages, despite being good at doing a lot of other things and following several other subjects, so if I were in Captain Kidd’s shoes, who knows? Maybe I’d constantly throw a fit. Even so, “News of the World” presents a universal story, even though our two leads do not seem to have the ease of instantly understanding each other. One more thing to add, it is hard to tell where Zengel will end up in the long run, but I would watch her in a film again for sure, she did a great job here.

When it comes to my complaints for films, it usually involves pacing. I would not say that “News of the World” is an exception to this idea. Because in reality, the film is very well paced until the end. I say that because the heart of the story is between Hanks and Zengel, and once that concludes for the most part, the rest of the movie, while still slightly entertaining and compelling, not to mention slightly emotional, almost feels like borderline filler. Granted, if you know about the backstory of the main character, it truly is not. But that is almost what it feels like at times. At the same time however, one of the perks of “News of the World” is that in every other scene, there is a sense of conflict. There almost always feels like there is a sense of danger, and when a movie can do that, it makes it more watchable. This movie is kind of a slow burn, and as I have said prior on Scene Before, slow does not mean bad. Like a fast movie, slow only means bad if it feels like there’s no control. “News of the World” comes with a little more action than I thought there would be. I know this is technically a western, but it sort of surprised me that we would all of a sudden have this bloody intense shootout, it was really fun to watch and made for one of the more suspenseful and fun parts of the movie.

I went to see “News of the World” with a couple family members, and one in particular seemed a tad skeptical about the film, mainly because it is not their type of movie. They are not usually into period pieces. They walked out of the movie somewhat delighted. They would not consider the film an all time favorite, but they also were not against the film either. Maybe “News of the World” has the potential to reach a wide audience in the future. Sure, many theaters are closed right now, but this film will be heading to VOD soon, so for those who do not have a theater open in their area, this film may come on their radar rather quickly. Although if you do live near a theater, I’d recommend checking it out. Paul Greengrass directed this film, and he does so with what I imagine was a smile. It looks stunning and the cinematography from Dariusz Wolski is also a highlight that heightens Greengrass’s vision.

In the end, “News of the World” is a charmingly beautiful western. Tom Hanks excels as the film’s lead. Helena Zengel is solid in her role. I think the duo has great chemistry. If you take out the fact that this takes place in the old west, set it in modern times, it would still be a worthy allegory of how people view the media while also establishing two likable characters on a journey together. Granted, you’d probably have to change a lot, but this is a story from the 19th century that handles 21st century problems gorgeously. I’m going to give “News of the World” an 8/10.

“News of the World” is now playing in theaters across the United States wherever they are open. Due to a recent deal struck between AMC Theatres and Universal, the film will soon stream on video on demand. In several international territories, the film is now streaming on Netflix.

Thanks for reading this review! Guys, I am pleased to announce that it is officially 2021! Happy New Year! And oh, boooyyyyyyy do we need one. Is it just the passage of time? Technically, yes. But it is also, a new hope. And as for 2020, suck it! We don’t need you here anymore! But tomorrow and next day, we are acknowledging both the good and bad of the past year in my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 3) and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 4). I am super excited to release these lists because yes, I enjoy doing them. For my best list, it is actually something positive about 2020, and with the worst list, I can burn this year to the ground where it belongs. In all seriousness, congrats to the filmmakers and studios who released a film this year. Your work has hopefully delighted, entertained, and amused audiences either in a theater, maybe on the subway, on a small screen on a plane, or at home. But most importantly, you provided an escape, which may be the most important thing about film right now. We all need a trip away from reality, and these films have helped me and many others take journeys to many magnificent places, real or fictional. I’m excited to reveal my top picks, they’ll be up next week, stay tuned! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, check out the Facebook page, and stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “News of the World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hanks film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

I’m Your Woman (2020): Gone with Baby, Gone

“I’m Your Woman” is directed by Julia Hart (Fast Colors, Stargirl) and stars Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards), Arinzé Kene (The Pass, Youngers), Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us, Orange Is the New Black), Bill Heck (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Leftovers), Frankie Faison (Banshee, The Wire), Marceline Hugot (The Detour, United 93), and James McMenamin (Orange Is the New Black, Nurse Jackie). This film takes place in the 1970s, where a housewife is forced to go on the run with her baby after her husband betrays his partners. She has to deal with personal struggles, meeting unfamiliar people, endless questions amongst herself, and life or death situations.

“I’m Your Woman” has been out for almost a month, and it is currently free on Prime Video for all subscribers. I was going to watch this film early. In fact I remember obtaining a virtual link, but I decided to skip it as I have my Prime subscription handy. So I waited until now to watch the movie. Aside from exposure to this film through getting an advance screening email, I did watch one trailer when I saw “Mank” in the cinema. It kind of looked like a goldilocks thriller type film. What do I mean by that? Let’s take the three bears. It’s that basic analogy with the porridge. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. This was a thriller did not look like it was either too bombastic or too slow. This felt even tempered. Prior to putting on “I’m Your Woman,” I cannot say I knew too too much about the film, even though I did sit through that one trailer.

Was “I’m Your Woman” worth my time? I’d say it was. When it comes to thrillers this year, I do think there are better films. “Unhinged” is one such example, mainly because of its simple, relatable concept. It’s also got nothing on my favorite thriller of the year, “Tenet,” which admittedly will likely end up having more replay value than any other film of 2020 for me. I cannot compare it to “Run,” which a lot of people have seen recently, which I tried watching, but apparently Hulu was acting up and showing giant pixels and a large area of black instead of the film. Regardless of my comparisons and desire to have my movies work, “I’m Your Woman” is a hypnotizing couple of hours. It’s kind of slow at times, but there are also certain moments where the gears turn and everything speeds up. It’s a perfect blend, hence the recent goldilocks comparison.

This movie takes place in the 1970s, and I got that vibe right away. When the movie starts we see the main family in their home, they have this funky-looking wallpaper, everything is yellow, the kitchen looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss tale, and I think the art and production design department did a really good job at encapsulating the 1970s. Aside from that, you have all these older cars, there’s a crucial scene where our main hero uses a payphone booth as a hiding spot, and there are some key elements to the story that are well captured through our main character’s struggles and desires that define the time.

We live in an era today where women are all “You can do it,” and “Go get em’, girl!” People say that to women all the time now. And while the 1970s were not as restrictive to women as say earlier parts of the 20th century, the movie displays its specific time frame as a point when many women seem to typically be a housewife. They tend to stay home all the time, doing chores, cleaning, that sorts of stuff, and the man of the house tends to go out and bring home the bacon. And of course, the couple has a kid, so while the man is out, our main hero, Jean, is doing all she can for the child. Throughout the movie, while the couple is separated, Jean not only has to deal with the child that has been with her for a period of time, but now she is in the seemingly unfamiliar situation of being isolated, being alone. I felt for her. Having a kid is hard enough. Losing a partner who helped raise the kid is just another big blow. I do not think Rachel Brosnahan is going to win an Oscar for this film. For all I know, some awards outlet might recognize her, but she does a really good job at playing the main character.

Let’s talk about Arinzé Kene in this film. Kene plays a character named Cal who has a significant presence throughout. I’m very conflicted on this character. For the record, he’s written properly, every motivation and line regarding this character makes sense and does not feel illogical. At the same time, when I first saw him, I got an uneasy first impression. What do I mean? I did not agree with everything he did. But at the same time, everything about him falls into place and Kene’s performance is justifiably competent. If I had to compare this character and the actor’s performance to anything else, I’d have to use the Amazon movie, “Gringo.” For those of you who don’t remember Gringo, there’s this one character played by Charlize Theron. She’s a great actress, I like her in a lot of stuff she’s in, and the same can be said for “Gringo.” But what can also be said for “Gringo” is that Charlize Theron does a spectacular job playing a character I absolutely hated. It’s one of the few positives in that film. Maybe it’s because she’s good looking, who knows? Charlize Theron is an attractive woman, there is no doubt about that.

If there is anything else that stands out about “I’m Your Woman” it is the pacing. “I’m Your Woman” is a very… I don’t what other term I can use, uneventful kind of film. I don’t mean that literally, things do happen. But the buildup in each scene feels slow, it takes its time. And for the kind of thriller we’re dealing with here, it works. It kind of feels like “No Country for Old Men” meets “Blade Runner” if both those things took place in the 1970s. There are a couple cool action scenes that do not try to go over the top, but that is what makes them great. They’re not overstylized, but that grabbed my attention.

I also liked this one character named Evelyn. She’s played by Marceline Hugot and she’s kind of this charming, older woman. She almost sounds like a stereotypical cat lady. She’s got that Amy Sedaris type voice, the wrinkly hair, and she barely has a presence in the film, and while I won’t go into too much detail, there is one scene that was somewhat enhanced by her presence.

In the end, “I’m Your Woman” is worth watching and a fine slow burn through the 1970s. Vibe-wise, this movie kills. It is a great encapsulation of the time. Character-wise, I liked most of them, but there are a select few that I will end up discarding by the end of the year. I think this film did a great job at highlighting the struggles of our protagonist, and Rachel Brosnahan did excellent at enhancing said struggles. However, I do not think this is a film that I will watch again anytime soon. I will not rule it out. Maybe it could be one of those films that I could have on at 2AM if I have trouble falling asleep. This does have action, but it is also slow-paced enough to have some empty air. And thankfully, the empty air does not feel out of place. I am going to give “I’m Your Woman” a 7/10.

“I’m Your Woman” is now available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers. The film also had a theatrical release at the start of the month, but I do not think it is playing in any cinemas right now, partially due to the pandemic leaving some venues closed, but also due to other movies taking up slots. Give this a watch!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Tom Hanks film “News of the World” which is exclusively in theaters right now, but will likely appear on VOD very soon. Also, I plan to make “News of the World” my final 2020 movie review before I unveil my picks for the top 10 BEST and WORST movies of the year! Those lists will be up in early January! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “I’m Your Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, what have you been watching on Prime this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

Fatale (2020) - IMDb

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

Deon Taylor - IMDb

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

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

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

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

*points* THIS GUY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins Return to the Big (and Small) Screen

“Wonder Woman 1984” is directed by Patty Jenkins, who also directed the first “Wonder Woman” film starring Gal Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Fast Five) back in 2017. Gadot returns to play the iconic heroine alongside a cast including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones), Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), Robin Wright (House of Cards, Forrest Gump), and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo). This film takes place many years after the original, which was set in World War I. This time, we journey to 1984, where Wonder Woman has to take on two new foes, Max Lord and the Cheetah. Also, Steve Trevor, reprised by Chris Pine, comes along for the ride.

It has been three and a half years since I first watched “Wonder Woman,” which I originally gave a 10/10. By the way, that 10/10 still stands. The film is somewhat cliché. It contains things that have been done before, there is no denying that. But it does so with excellence and in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Plus, you can also add on that we have not had many successes with comic book movies specifically centered around characters portrayed by women. This felt like not just a proper, but a *massive* step in the right direction. It was also my favorite film in the DCEU at the time. In my review for the original film, I go onto mention that when it comes to “origin stories,” “Wonder Woman” may be my all time favorite in regards to movies. Part of it has to do with the singular and stellar vision provided by director Patty Jenkins and all the performances from cast members including Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The villians were… okay. However, each action sequence, even those that others say are heavy in CGI, are exciting and heart-pumping. I know some people find the final act to be clunky, I had a great time with it. Plus, Wonder Woman’s theme music, which was first introduced in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is arguably my favorite superhero theme of all time. Maybe except the one created for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man.

Going into “Wonder Woman 1984,” it was hard to imagine that such a movie could surpass the original. However, based on early reviews, it seemed as if such a thing would be possible. After all, we’ve already gotten the been there done that origin story out of the way, if you want to call it that. It was time for something new, innovative. Going in, I already had my expectations blown away. I did not expect Chris Pine to return. Like, literally. At all. Then again, this takes place in a comic book universe where anything is possible. There were also some new things in regards to tech. Not that they haven’t been done before, just not in the original “Wonder Woman,” because this new flick was partially shot on IMAX film. And if you have read a number of my posts, you know I rave about IMAX film. By the way, while the movie is shot in the heavy duty format, there is barely any footage that will expand the frame in IMAX. However, it may be worth the extra few bucks if those theaters are open near you.

But is “Wonder Woman 1984” worth the hype? Absolutely not.

Well! Well! Well! 2020 strikes again! “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a massive disappointment to one of the most anticipated films of the year. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a step down from the original 2017 film. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only the worst comic book movie of the year. Yes, more than “Bloodshot” for crying out loud! But it is also the worst entry to DCEU thus far.

Now, let me just get one thing out of the way. I am a straight white male in his early twenties. I am not one of those people that is trying cancel Gal Gadot. After all, I met her in person, I have her autograph, and she is a decent actress. I am also not trying to cancel Patty Jenkins, which the Internet seems to be doing according to many people. If they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3” with these two at the front lines, I am there. Their work on the original film justifies such a thing, and Jenkins is a director that is completely capable of making something magical. In fact, most of the problems of the film do not have to do with how the movie is made. It instead has to do with the pacing, the editing, the way everything plays out, the characters, and the writing. Admittedly, Jenkins is responsible for that last mistake, given how she has a screenplay credit. I don’t know if I should blame her entirely given how she wrote the script with a couple other people, but I should also point out that she did not have a screenplay credit for the previous “Wonder Woman” installment. This time around, Jenkins collaborates with Dave Callaham, who wrote the script for one of last year’s best comedies, “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Also along for the ride is Geoff Johns who has plenty of experience of creating DC content. So, what went wrong? Was there not enough time to draft everything out? Were there so many ideas colliding from three different minds? I don’t know. Patty Jenkins seems very passionate about the Wonder Woman character. In fact, throughout the movie, Jenkins properly visualizes the character as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people, especially women.

This movie starts off pretty great. By the way, for those who want to see the film in IMAX, this is one of the two scenes that were actually filmed in the IMAX format. The scene not only looked articulate and felt immersive, but it may have ended up being the best part of the movie. It is action-packed, exciting, and lets you escape into the world Themyscira. Sadly, the movie kind of blows its load in the first ten minutes. Because it spends time showing you young Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell), progresses to a time where we see a matured Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and in these initial scenes, the action never stops whether Diana is trying to win an athletic event for herself, or she saves the lives of others. Even so, it does kind of feel like action that does belong in the beginning of a superhero sequel. The main character kicks ass while you get reintroduced to them, and the movie sets a footprint for where the story is going to go. “Wonder Woman 1984” sets up a vibe that fits the title. You see people walking around in eccentric clothing, there’s record stores, CRT television sets, and a multi-story colorful mall. When it comes to the first hour of “Wonder Woman 1984,” these scenes were fine. What wasn’t fine in the first hour is perhaps just about everything else.

What do I mean? Let’s take a moment to talk about the worst “Lord of the Rings” film. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” I’ll be fair. I did have fun with the movie, but one of the worst things about “An Unexpected Journey” was the pacing. This may partially be due to the need to adapt one book into three parts, but the evidence comes in towards the beginning where we see the 13 dwarves coming into Bilbo Baggins’s home. A lot of the screentime almost feels extended and nearly tiresome. There are some decent moments, but it does not always make for a good time. It takes like 45 minutes to an hour to actually get the movie going. With “Wonder Woman 1984,” I got the same feeling. It just took forever to actually get into gear. Mainly because this film feels like a stockpile of exposition. “Batman v. Superman” sort of felt the same way, but I think I had more fun watching that, exposition included, than I did sitting through whatever the hell “Wonder Woman 1984” turned out to be. To add onto that, you have some cringe-worthy lines, less than stellar characters, and a surprisingly boring storyline, part of which includes a role reversal.

Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor in this movie. I will not go into detail of his return, but this was heavily marketed, so if you’re considering this a spoiler, I’m sorry. In the 2017 “Wonder Woman” film, Gal Gadot’s character has to deal with the new sights of earth and learn the normalcies within. To do so, she had the assistance of Steve Trevor along the way. Diana Prince came off occasionally as eccentric, she said certain things that maybe would be better left unsaid, and there’s a montage where she’s trying on unfamiliar apparel. This time around, Diana assists Steve in 1984, because now he’s the fish out of water. Much like the last movie, there is a reversal where Steve is trying on different clothes that defined the 1980s. He occasionally had a fanny pack, “parachute pants,” and so on. That scene kind of entertained me. However, the rest of this storyline was mostly either boring or impractical. There is a scene where Diana and Steve are flying through the sky looking at fireworks. And sure, fireworks are a sight to be seen. There is reason why Disney World charges you your entire blood supply to see them up close. But this movie made me ask if Steve has never actually seen fireworks in his life. The way I viewed the scene made me wonder why he was actually as amazed as he was in those exact moments. Fireworks have been around for a long time. Many years, centuries even! Why is Chris Pine acting like he’s never seen fireworks before?

This movie features a couple respectable actors, you have Pedro Pascal who I liked in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” he’s also in hit TV shows including “Game of Thrones” and “The Mandalorian.” The guy has been certain cores of nerd culture over the years. You also have Kristen Wiig, who I have rather mixed feelings on. I was not a fan of her in the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. I don’t think I find her as funny as other people do. But I also am a fan her in other regards. I think she did a fine job in “The Martian” and her voiceover work in projects like “Sausage Party” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise are highlights in her career. Sadly, their performances are very on and off here. I would not ease myself into saying that the actors themselves are specifically at fault, but these two portray their characters to a degree that feels cartoony and off-putting. “Wonder Woman 1984” gets into the problem that people have criticized movies like “Batman & Robin,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for realizing. MULTIPLE MAJOR THREATS.

I am not saying you cannot make a movie with more than one villain. It has been done before with “Return of the Jedi,” “The Dark Knight,” and if you really think this counts, “Back to the Future Part II.” But the beauty of having one major threat in your movie is that you get to make them the source of everyone’s struggle. Time is taken to specifically focus on that one character and why they must stopped. We somewhat get that in “Wonder Woman 1984” with Max Lord (Pascal), but when it comes to Barbara Minerva (Wiig), the way she is handled is sort of similar to how they handled Eddie Brock in “Spider-Man 3.” Only thing is, I was actually entertained whenever Eddie Brock had a scene in “Spider-Man 3.” Topher Grace played the part well, even during lines that were not up to par. Wiig tries, but the problem is that some of the writing in “Wonder Woman 1984” makes some of the writing in “Spider-Man 3” look like Shakespeare. Maybe that’s not the best comparison, mainly because I am one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed “Spider-Man 3.” However, there are a few lines and storytelling methods in that film that do not fall into place.

But if you want me to compare “Wonder Woman 1984” to another film I did not enjoy, let’s use “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” In that film, you have Electro and the Green Goblin. There’s also the Rhino, but we’re gonna leave him out for this. The two major threats in “Wonder Woman 1984” are basically just like Electro and the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but instead of being exact carbon copies, they take various qualities of each character, but they are switched around to make something new. Like Electro, Barbara is eccentric, kind of shy, almost a nobody. But kind of like the Green Goblin, she barely has any screentime as Cheetah. And whatever screentime there is almost feels forced or nearly unmemorable. As for Max Lord, he’s got funky hair like Harry Osborn, he’s affiliated with a big company. And like Electro, he has a more significant screen presence when it comes to dealing with our main hero. This all adds up to an underwhelming evil duo in an underwhelming movie. But I do have to say one thing about Max Lord, and it kind of turned me off. He’s basically Donald Trump.

Think about it! This movie is painting a picture of an obsessive, failed businessman and kinda sorta television personality who has little time for their kids. In fact, my first impression of his son was that he was sort of a spoiled brat, which does not always seem to stick for the rest of the movie. Again, the hairstyle feels like something out of a meme. There is even a scene, and you saw this in the main trailer for this film, where he stands in front of a background representing the White House Press Room! Granted, having compared Pedro Pascal to his comic book counterpart, the casting and makeup departments did a good job at being faithful to the source material. But knowing that this was made in the late 2010s, and originally supposed to release in 2019, I could not help but make this comparison. And part of why I did not like this is because, and this may be a personal thing, it slightly ruined the escapism factor of the film. I’m not going to say whether I like Donald Trump, whether I dislike him. I am not here to get into politics. But Max Lord in “Wonder Woman 1984” feels like a Trump parody. The makeup department could have easily sprayed orange spray paint onto Pascal’s face and boom! Donald Trump impersonation!

I will say, there is one thing about “Wonder Woman 1984” that could be an improvement over the first one, and that is Gal Gadot’s performance. Gal Gadot, as much as I adore her as a person, as good-looking as she is, is not Meryl Streep. When it comes to “Wonder Woman,” she’s always looked the part, and she’s had good moments since her inception. Even though her character was the best part of “Batman v. Superman” for me, her acting ability was a far cry from what I saw out of Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill or Laurence Fishburne. When she shows up alongside the two titular characters in “Batman v. Superman,” she comes off as a badass, but there’s a line that she releases out of her mouth that feels like a first take. In “Wonder Woman 1984,” Gal Gadot has a commanding presence, she is charismatic, she is emotional, and occasionally witty. I liked Gadot’s performance in the original “Wonder Woman” because she did a good job at interpreting a goddess who has to adapt to a new normal, embracing the ups and downs along the way. But there were also signs that Gadot needed to work more on her craft and do a little more than be a pretty face in armor who can say words here and there. I will admit, her acting towards the end of “Wonder Woman” occasionally gave me chills, but I could tell that there was still work that needed to be done. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a sign that Gal Gadot is getting better, she deals with dialogue better than she used to, and her range is improving. I am looking forward to seeing Gal Gadot in “Death on the Nile” and if they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3,” count me in.

Gal Gadot’s performance is not the only positive here, because I will admit, even though I think Patty Jenkins and the other writers could have done a better job with the screenplay, she did alright with crafting the film. When it comes to her vision, I do not think it was as well represented as the original, but a crappy script can make that happen. Some of the cinematography is marvelous to look at. The visuals are just as good as the original film. Many scenes felt big and grand, and while I imagine some people will stick to watching “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max for now, if you feel safe going to a theater right now, do not rule that option out. There are some cool scenes that look great on the big screen. Speaking of things that feel grand, they got Hans Zimmer to do the score, which I was onboard with from the beginning. I saw the first few minutes of “Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, and from that moment, I was excited to hear the rest of the score, and it is really good. There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has one of the best themes for an on-screen superhero, and I am glad that Zimmer got to work his magic to carry out his singular vision regarding it. I will likely listen to the soundtrack sometime in the future. The film had a passable ending. Granted there was some cringe surrounding it, but it good parts.

Too bad the movie’s boring, forgettable, and another big blow in 2020. F*ck. This. Year.

In the end, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a visually grand mess. Am I looking forward to what Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have in store in the future? Yes. But does my anticipation take away from my thoughts on “Wonder Woman 1984?” No. I think “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic misstep of a film. And the worst part is that it was not worth all the waits from the delays. I’ll be honest, and some of you may find this surprising, I would rather watch the live-action version of Disney’s “Mulan” again! Just to paint a picture of how much I did not like this film, let me just boil it down to a simple sentence. I did not have fun. Ironically, 2017’s “Wonder Woman” took place in World War I, where people are fighting, people are dying, times are desperate, but I managed to have fun. This sequel takes place in 1984. In real life, that year was much more lighthearted, at least from the perspective of the United States. Yes, there was the War on Drugs. AIDS broke out. Indira Gandhi was murdered. But there were plenty of big songs and movies that came out like “Jump” by Van Halen or “Ghostbusters.” People were having fun! “Wonder Woman 1984” manages to take a time that is significantly more fun than World War I, and makes it the most boring thing imaginable. The action sequences don’t save this movie. Gal Gadot’s improved performance doesn’t save this movie. A couple new and talented faces do not even save this travesty. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic disappointment, the worst film in the Detective Comics Extended Universe, and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Due to the lockdown in the United Kingdom, the movie will debut on January 13th, 2021 on PVOD. If you live in the United States, you can also watch the film right now on HBO Max if you are a subscriber and it is available at no extra cost until the near end of January 2021, where it will finish it’s theatrical release, go to PVOD for a price, likely hit store shelves through DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually return to HBO and HBO Max sometime next year.

Thanks for reading this review! Who knew that in the SAME WEEKEND, we would get my least favorite Pixar film, and now, and perhaps on a more significant scale, my least favorite DCEU film! This year has kicked my ass, called me names, and made me eat dirt. We are approaching the end of 2020, THANK HEAVENS. So it is almost time for me to post my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. That will be up sometime early next year and I may have one or two more reviews coming your way if I can fit them in. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Wonder Woman 1984?” What did you think about it? Also, did you watch the movie in the theater? At home? Or both? Tell me about your experience! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CORRECTION: When I said, “There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer,” I was wrong. Turns out the music in that scene was Adagio in D Minor, originally composed by John Murphy for the film “Sunshine,” which has been used in several marketing pieces for “Ready Player One,” the “2010 Winter Olympics,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” I will not spoil where it plays for those who have not seen the movie.

Promising Young Woman (2020): I Promise, This Is Thrilling

“Promising Young Woman” is written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown, Call the Midwife), and this is her feature length directorial debut. This film stars Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade, The Big Sick), Alison Brie (The Disaster Artist, Glow), Clancy Brown (The Goldbergs, Billions), Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie, Joey), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black, TRANSform Me), and Connie Britton (Spin City, Nashville). This film follows a young woman, like the title suggests, as she tries to get revenge on people she finds herself coming across after reflecting on an event from her past.

This holiday has brought a couple big movies to the masses, “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul.” I’ve seen the latter, and it is good. Not great, but good. Although it is a disappointment by Pixar standards. I also saw “Wonder Woman 1984,” but I won’t share my thoughts yet as it is going to be my next review. These two big films are not specifically theatrical exclusives in the United States. “Wonder Woman 1984” is playing on the big screen wherever theaters are open and on HBO Max while “Soul” is exclusively on Disney+. On the other hand, “Promising Young Woman” is a film that is currently a theatrical exclusive (even though it should land on VOD soon). What did I think of “Promising Young Woman?”

I think “Promising Young Woman” is a damn good time. If anything, I was quite surprised with how it turned out. Partially because the way I interpreted the film, given how I knew there was a revenge plot in it, would happen to be sort of similar to John Wick, but with vastly different issues at hand. But it is not, the beauty of the film is not in the physicality, not in the things people do, not in the action. After all, if you go in expecting a “John Wick”-like action film, your expectations may be a little subverted. The beauty of “Promising Young Woman” lies within a couple aspects. The dialogue, most of which was good. And the editing, all of which was excellent. This film is edited marvelously and provides for a unique flair at times. They take a slight core aspect of the film and use it to separate key moments, and the execution for this feels bold and manages to be delivered with a commanding presence.

By the way, this film is edited by Frédéric Thoraval, who has experience with editing not only a revenge story, but one of the best revenge stories ever filmed, with 2008’s “Taken.” “Promising Young Woman” is another killer flick to add to his resume. Then again, he also edited 2018’s “Peppermint,” which basically is kinda sorta “Taken” except that Jennifer Garner is in the spotlight, not Liam Neeson. And as an overall revenge story, it leaves much to be desired. I’ll say, Thoraval did a fine editing job, however. With the editing in “Promising Young Woman,” a lot the highlights seem to spark from a personal touch from director Emerald Fennell. A touch that only she could have conceptualized. However, it does not take away from the fact that the editing seems to make for one of the best parts of the film.

Let’s talk about the main character of the film, Cassandra. First off, Carey Mulligan is going to be a talk of the town during awards season. She knocked her performance out of the park, and she also looked the part too. Her character lives at home with her parents despite being at a crucial point in her twenties, and she does not seem to have any desire to leave. Speaking of desires, we see early on in the film that Cassandra does not have a lust for anyone else. We see that when she goes out to a nightclub, and what happens afterwards that sort of plays a crucial part in the film. We also see this with her interactions with Ryan, played wonderfully by Bo Burnham. Although she does keep herself occupied by working in a coffee shop, so she has that going for her. At the same time however, Cassandra had a path for herself building up in medical school, but she dropped out. In fact, the film even establishes that Cassandra’s parents are worried for her, they want her out of their life, they want her to meet a guy, fall in love, move out. They even get her a gift that basically symbolizes this. She gets the message right away.

One of my favorite screenwriters is Quentin Tarantino, not only because of his personal touch with each script he does, but also because in a film like “Pulp Fiction,” it basically makes fun of not only how movie scenes play out, but maybe even taps into how reality plays out. There’s this scene where Uma Thurman and John Travolta are eating together at a diner and they talk about awkward silences. That’s a fun scene that pokes at the way we communicate. There are one or two moments early on that evoke the same vibe. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it lands, it lands.

Except for a few minor problems that I have with certain lines that maybe do not fit, “Promising Young Woman” delivers one of the better screenplays of the year, and part of why I love it so much is not only because it sort of taps into our reality where it dives into why some men are pigs, why women want to defend themselves, but also because of how subversive it is. Yes, I talked earlier about how I went into “Promising Young Woman” sort of expecting “John Wick” with different issues at hand, and that’s not entirely what I got. Now I should say, I view “John Wick” as a quintessential modern thriller, so that’s part of why I used that example. But that’s not what I’m talking about. This movie has twists and turns, none of them feel shoehorned, forced. or out of place. I feel like this is a story that Emerald Fennell took her time on. This feels like a passion project. I have no idea if Fennell plans to make her career behind the camera as prominent, or perhaps more prominent, than the one she has in front of the camera. But if she is up to make another film, I am there. This was a good time.

In the end, “Promising Young Woman,” I promise you, is quite excellent. This had an intriguing beginning, some fun buildup, and a satisfyingly subversive ending. The cast offer some good performances, but Carey Mulligan is the star of the show and may be a talking point during awards season. If you like thrillers, if you like twists, if you like fine writing, and solid directing, do not miss this movie. I am glad I took the opportunity to see it, and I have a feeling many of you reading this will too. I am going to give “Promising Young Woman” a 9/10.

“Promising Young Woman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. There is currently no announced date for when this film will hit video on demand, but given how this film is from Focus Features, which is owned by Comcast, which also owns Universal, the film should debut on video on demand very soon.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” which is now available in theaters and on HBO Max. I might also review one or two more films by the end of the year, possibly “Fatale” or “News of the World,” but we shall see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Promising Young Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, is there a movie that you’re looking forward to that could make some noise during awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Soul (2020): Pete Docter’s Latest Attempt at Making You Cry

“Soul” is directed by Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) alongside first timer for feature-length directing, Kemp Powers. This film stars Jamie Foxx (Ray, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live), Questlove (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show, Creed), Daveed Digs (Snowpiercer, Black-ish), and Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It, Black Panther). This film centers around a middle school jazz teacher who often tries to find music gigs. He gets transported out of his body and must find his way back with the assistance of an infant soul.

Like many movies this year including “Scoob!,” “Trolls: World Tour,” “Greenland,” and “Mulan,” “Soul” joins the list of films that were once slated to have a big theatrical debut, but due to COVID-19, that became an impossibility. Therefore, Disney decided to put the film on their own streaming service, much like the just recently mentioned “Mulan.” However, unlike “Mulan,” to watch “Soul,” you did not have to pay an extra fee. You had to be a subscriber, but the one time fee of $29.99 was nonexistent. Yay!

Regardless of “Soul’s” fate, this was on my list of films to anticipate. After all, Pete Docter has directed three Pixar features, all of which by the way have been really good. “Monsters Inc.” puts a clever spin on the way we think about creatures that invade our nightmares. “Up” is a fun adventure with arguably the greatest on-screen dog ever made. “Inside Out” is not only one of my favorite Pixar movies, but it is by far one of the best animated films I have ever watched, and really shows that the studio does not cater to kids, and respects its entire viewer base.

Speaking of Pixar, they’ve yet to have a bad day at the office. Even a movie like “Cars 2,” which many people suggest lacks luster compared to many of Pixar’s other offerings, I would consider fun and thrilling all the way through. To be fair though, I have not seen all of Pixar’s work. I skipped “The Good Dinosaur” in the theater and I have yet to watch it at home. So who knows? Maybe that movie will disappoint me. So, does “Soul” keep up the positive streak Pixar has been hammering home by now?

Ehh… Kinda.

Let me say one thing about “Soul,” where there are positives, they are obvious. This film, much like all of Pixar’s recent work like “Incredibles 2” and “Toy Story 4” is beautifully animated. Even though I watched “Soul” on the small screen, New York looked as stunning as a snowfall on Christmas morning. I really like that Pete Docter decided to do another project where the main characters are not necessarily just humans, but little figments of ourselves. “Inside Out” is one of my favorite films of the past five to six years, and part of why I love that movie so much is because it takes emotions and utilizes them to make you feel emotions. Sort of in the same way, I kind of expected that going into “Soul.” In some ways, my expectations to such a matter were met. In others, not so much. The thing about “Inside Out” is that the movie managed to take characters, who in actuality are just parts of one humanized character, and turned them into something bigger, something bolder. In “Soul,” it kind of puts humans and souls in the same perspective and somewhat equalizes them despite their differences. This movie tries to do something with that, and there are a series of pros that come with the concept’s execution, but as the movie goes on, it becomes less interesting, especially towards the final few minutes.

“Soul” is by no means the worst movie of the year, however it may have the worst ending. I will not spoil anything, but this film does not exactly follow the structure of your traditional animation, and I think in some ways, that’s great. I love when films become experimental. But experiments are about trial and error. I think we’ve hit “error” territory with this vision. In a way, each character’s arch was fulfilled. All the actions lead to inevitable reactions. But I left the film feeling empty. I did not feel happy. I did not feel sad. I left not knowing what exactly to think. The usual thing about films is that they try to build up to an epic and satisfying climax. “Soul” has a climax, thankfully. However, as I watched the film, it did not feel climactic. It felt like we were somewhere in act two a little too long. I do not know why. When I watched “Inside Out,” it kind of felt like sex for your brain. You built up all this information, it’s all clogged in your mind, and when the big moments of the end come, I felt shook, it is a feeling that left me with a series of emotions. “Soul” left me with one question.

“Wait, that’s the movie?”

I felt like we’ve left the story unfinished, when in reality it wasn’t. Nothing really felt big or grand, and while I do not expect all my movies to feel like that, it feels weird to be saying that about a Pixar movie. The studio typically does a good job with scale and reminding you of the importance of its characters. “Soul” does that, but it couldn’t stick the landing.

However, speaking of characters, I admire the chemistry between our two leads. You have the main character, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who has to deal with his new normal after death. And you also have 22 (Tina Fey), who had a particular normal for centuries, and this movie presents the latest iteration of that normal. One of my favorite scenes of the film are the flashbacks of the past examples of what 22 is going through in the not the great beyond, but the great before, where souls remain before they journey to earth to live out their lives. I thought the duo were cast decently, and they had a couple funny lines here and there. Yes, “Soul” is funny, but I will not say it is as funny as other Pixar flicks including “Toy Story 2,” “Up,” and the incessantly mentioned “Inside Out.”

If anything, “Soul” is a movie that is probably going to be looked over by students. This is partially because it is a family friendly movie revolving around music, so this may be good for music classes of all ages. Also, the way it handles the afterlife (or the bare exposition to the afterlife) provides an intriguing peek at what may happen when we go bye bye. It is stunningly animated, and kind of creative. I wonder how other people are going to view “Soul” as far as the human condition message goes.

This movie is marketed to provide a message to remind people to follow their path, chase their dreams, achieve what they believe is their destiny. And the movie sort of dives into that, but it comes with a little more. And while “Soul” comes with a solid moral of the story, it almost feels inconsistent. Then again, the way this movie structures itself feels nearly inconsistent. At times it works, but if I had to give a percentage, it would not be 100%. Many movies have the neverending question, “What is human?” It is a great theme to dive into and can make for a terrific movie. “Soul,” much like how many of its characters are partial figments of ourselves in a way, has many of the positives of other Pixar films, but its positives do not stand out as much as other examples. The best phrase I can give to describe “Soul” is “partially positive.” “Soul” is emotional, but not “Toy Story 3” emotional. “Soul” is funny, but not “The Incredibles” funny. “Soul” is fun, but not “Ratatouille” fun. “Soul” is deep, but not “Inside Out” deep. Maybe it’s deeper, who knows? But regardless, “Soul” does not handle depth like “Inside Out” handles depth. “Soul” tries to encapsulate all these positive qualities, and it does to a degree, but it cannot do so all the way through. And that is really sad, because this film got me to subscribe to Disney+, and now I may be regretting my purchase. First impressions matter!

In the end, “Soul” may not be soulless, but it is also a far cry from what I expect from Pixar. Maybe my disappointment has to do with too much hype, because it’s the typical cycle. In addition to “Soul” having overwhelmingly positive reviews, with quite a few people I’ve come across suggesting it is a masterpiece, I went into the movie expecting one of the best things ever, only to be let down somewhat. That’s not the first time that’s happened to me with Pixar, because that happened to me with “Coco.” I was expecting an emotional thrill, but I left the film going “Okay, that happened. Next.” Again, this film looks great, even on a small screen where it was not originally meant to be seen, but as we progress through the second half of the film, it becomes progressively less fascinating, even with the whole links to what it means to be human. There’s good morals here, I just wish they were in a better movie. For those of you who have never seen a Siskel & Ebert review, their rating system is simple, thumbs up or thumbs down. If I had to give my thoughts on the animation and tech for this film, it is a definite thumbs up. The story, it depends on what we are talking about, but it is going to get the slightest of a thumbs up as I was entertained and hypnotized for a majority of the film. I’m going to give “Soul” a 7/10.

“Soul” is a positive movie, but as far as Pixar goes, it is not up to par with other films. It might even be my least favorite from the studio. When it comes to Pixar films from this year, I need time to marinate, but I might rather want to watch “Onward.” Just bein’ honest. And I will be fair to Pixar. To have a studio’s possibly worst movie get a 7/10 speaks volumes of its history. Just to be clear, Pixar has released feature films since the mid-1990s, and since then, they would put one or two out almost every year. I hope Pixar steps up from here, but I think they’ve created many great films and developed tons of memorable characters over the years. Here’s hoping they can conceptualize more.

“Soul” is exclusively available on Disney+ for all subscribers. And unlike one of the service’s other exclusives (for a limited time), “Mulan,” “Soul” is available at no extra cost.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is now in theaters wherever they are open. If your theaters are closed or you don’t feel safe going to a cinema right now, the film is also available on HBO Max to all subscribers for 31 days. I personally have my IMAX tickets ready for Sunday, and I cannot wait to watch the film! Also, at the start of 2021, I will be listing my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020! These countdowns have been a tradition of mine for years, and I am glad to keep it going! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! …If you wanna keep your soul. I want to know, did you see “Soul?” What did you think about it? And what is your LEAST FAVORITE Pixar movie? Worst, not best! Just want to make sure we’re clear! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!