Why I Cannot Stop Watching BELLE (2021): An Article by an Anime-Know-It-Nothing

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Throughout my time writing for Scene Before, I have done several reviews that I feel proud of. This even includes earlier years when I continued to develop a writing style and focused maybe more than I should have on immersing the viewer into the review like I am on a camera. Although there are certain movies that I watched for Scene Before, looking back, where I probably should have reconsidered at least a portion of my opinion after writing over a thousand words about them. Some of these include “Suicide Squad,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If I were to rewrite my reviews for all of these films, I would add in certain points, redo points that I feel have changed, and perhaps alter the final score. But I am not going to talk about any of these films today. Instead, I am going to be reflecting on a movie I reviewed over the winter that has sort of met the same fate. While my opinions for “Blade Runner 2049” have only changed slightly, this post is about a movie I would claim has gone through a seismic shift kind of like “Suicide Squad.”

That movie by the way, is “Belle” directed by Mamoru Hosoda.

To sum up what has been going on in my life recently, this movie has taken up over ten hours of my screen time alone. Why? Because since its official Blu-ray release, I watched it for five nights in a row. I did watch other movies in addition to this one during the week, specifically “The Graduate,” which was utterly fantastic. Highly recommended. “Rampage,” which is… Well, it is what it is. And I also watched “Friends with Benefits” for the first time, which I thought was humorous and delightful. I watched “Belle” every night for five nights since I bought it on Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th. Why did I not watch it for six nights in a row? Because I was going on a short getaway on what could have been the sixth night, and I did not pack the movie to watch in my hotel room. I was more focused on possibly giving my money to Connecticut casinos more than anything else. Since getting back, I watched it two more nights in a row. That said, I cannot recall the last time I have bought a film on Blu-ray and watched it at this constant of a level. Naturally, I have no choice but to talk about it.

I want to make something clear, to say I have a working knowledge of Japanese anime would be like saying that since I am from Boston, I therefore consider the New York Yankees to be my favorite baseball team. “Belle” is one of the couple movies within the Japanese anime medium that I have fully watched. The other one that comes to mind is “Ghost in the Shell.” I believe I also remember seeing “Howl’s Moving Castle” somewhere around a decade ago. That was before I knew what anime happened to be by definition. And I will be real with you, even though I did not mind “Ghost in the Shell,” which I first watched at the age of 17, it did not emit a spark inside me to explore more of what anime has to offer. “Belle” on the other hand, did so dramatically. Although after I watched “Belle” for the first time, I did start watching Adult Swim’s “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” which technically is an anime series. So since I watched “Belle,” I have gone a tad deeper into the genre, but after many countless revisits to the film “Belle,” I want more anime in my life. With that said, I want to talk about why “Belle” means so much to me as someone who has spent over half of their life on the Internet, including a portion where social media has practically taken over my life in more ways than one. I will let you know, while this is not a full spoiler discussion, I am going to do my best to not ruin the whole the movie, there will be points where I do dive deep into key characters or plot points. So if that is a problem, leave this post now, go watch “Belle,” and come back when you are done. I will be waiting. That said, let’s dive into the many reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle.”

A MATURE REINVENTION

When I originally reviewed “Belle” for this blog, I compared it to “Beauty and the Beast” because first off, the title character is literally named Belle, well, kind of. Also, much of the movie revolves around her connection to someone who is literally referred to as a Beast. If that is not enough, there is a scene in the film that is not a complete ripoff, but heavily pays homage to Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” which Hosoda himself claims to adore, as the two recently mentioned characters come together in a scene where they slow dance and embrace each other in a large castle. My other claim I made during my review is that this film could potentially become less of a timeless piece than others because of how reminiscent it is of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Knowing what I know about “Belle,” the story threads are not quite one in the same. There are some similarities, especially in the one scene where Belle and the Beast dance together, but “Belle” is its own thing. “Beauty and the Beast,” at its core, is more of a love tale than anything else. “Belle” is a mix of cyberpunk, drama, and adventure.

I often talk about the animation genre and how much I appreciate when it understands what I consider to be the assignment. Because a lot of animations are made for kids, and obviously there is content out there that you can tell is specifically made for children, not for adults at all. There is content that is obviously made with the intention of educating kids. This has been revealed with television content like “Dora the Explorer.” But at the same time, there have been multiple instances where we get movies that are meant to give families an excuse to entertain their kids, but not the adults bringing the kids. This is what Pixar has evidently understood with every one of their movies. They do not treat them as children’s fare. There’s a difference between a film that kids can enjoy, and a film that families can enjoy. Even with a more ridiculous script like “Cars 2” or an occasional fart joke from movies like “Incredibles 2,” those movies are ones I continue to watch as an adult because it understands that if the movie is purely made to entertain kids, then it does not have staying power. “Inside Out” is a movie that I think could entertain children if you sat them in front of the television, but as an adult, I am watching the movie and feeling an appreciation for how it handles emotions and growth during adolescence. These are themes and ideas that can connect to anyone from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and life stories.

“Belle,” much like the many Pixar movies I have watched over the years, refuses to treat its audience like they are idiots. In fact, I think in some cases, it tries even harder to avoid doing so. There’s no corny humor, you have incredibly humanized and relatable storylines, and there are also scenes that feel more like they are out of a live-action script than an animated script. There is one moment in a train station where a few characters meet and there are these long pauses between lines that give the audience a moment to breathe, while also letting the characters think for themselves. I occasionally watch Animation Domination cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” and often notice that in their scripts, everything is mile a minute, which can work by keeping the audience on their toes, but it also destroys hints of realism. Granted, it is an animation, which by definition, should be less realistic than live-action, but I also think that sometimes even in animations, you should have some degree of verisimilitude to remind your audience that your world has rules. Not everything has to be within the confines of Murphy’s Law.

A HILARLIOUSLY ACCURATE LOOK AT THE INTERNET, CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS, AND FAN CULTURE

I honestly think “Belle” could not have come out at a better time when it did. The Internet and social media are still young, so who knows how things will turn out in a hundred years, but “Belle” seems to paint an attractive picture of what those two things could look like, while also inserting satire on our modern Internet behavior. Granted, this movie is on the family friendly side, therefore it never dives into concepts like pornography or the darker sides of dating sites like Tinder, although romance is prominent in the film, coincidentally. But I found much of “Belle’s” script unapologetically reflective of how the Internet tends to work. If anything, it is a bang on the money encapsulation of what could equate to cancel culture. Case and point, Peggie Sue.

The role Peggie Sue plays in “Belle” is minimal, but effective and important in every single way. We get our first glimpse of her when the main protagonist, Suzu, has a hesitancy to sing at a party, despite being pressured by her peers. The party space is accompanied with a flat screen television complete with Peggie Sue singing a pop song, perhaps in the form of an expensive music video or a concert. This happens before Suzu enters U and to her surprise, belts out a song with fluency and power. When Suzu, or in this case, her avatar, becomes increasingly noticed by U’s userbase, Peggie Sue herself acknowledges this and does not see anything special in the rising star. At one point, she lashes out against Belle’s popularity on a giant screen, which instantly receives tons of backlash and practically gets her cancelled. There are definitely more dangerous things she could have said. She could have mocked a disability. She could have announced she was giving money to a hate group. She could have said the n-word. But even so, this movie presents an example of the classic “think before you post” scenario, which I think many users, including myself, have probably run into at one point or another through our times on the Internet. Whether we did it ourselves, we observed such an action through someone we know, or some celebrity. But at the same time, this movie tells its audience that even if you say stupid things, it does not mean you cannot be redeemed. You can still be a decent person. There is a scene at the end of the film involving said character where we reveal more about her that brings her down to Earth where such a thing comes into play. It reminds us that we are human and we can take our mistakes and turn them around, learn from them essentially. And if you learn more about someone, sometimes it will get you to understand them, possibly admire them.

Peggie Sue is not the only prominent voice speaking out against Suzu as she rises, because when she starts singing and getting all these followers, we see that she makes a splash. It looks like Suzu, or her avatar, Bell, which is what Suzu means in English, has all the support and fans she could want. But as soon as we are done hearing all the positive feedback, Sue lets her negative thoughts out to the world, therefore spawning even more negative thoughts from ordinary people. They either do not like her voice, they think the songs are lackluster, or she is simply performing for the likes. In a case like this, it takes one higher power to build a following.

FORESEEABLE LOOK AT THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT

Speaking of Suzu, the main journey of “Belle” is Suzu’s dive into U, which I claim is a sexier version of what Meta is trying to achieve. If anything, it’s like the OASIS from “Ready Player One,” but without extreme emphasis on currency and less reliance on preexisting properties from “Batman” to “Halo.” The world of U is much different from our reality given how it is more colorful, physics are almost ignored altogether, and as the movie reveals, the platform’s trademark is that it reveals a hidden strength of each user. In the beginning of the film, we see that despite Suzu having a history with music, she sometimes struggles when it comes to singing. So of course, when we see Belle enter U, the first thing she does is, to her shock, utter the lyrics of “Gales of Song,” one of the film’s few enchanting originals. We will dive more into those in a second. Suzu’s U debut, as previously mentioned, is met with mixed reception upon first glance, half of the people passing by like her. Half do not. But this is also reflective of several music artists of today where their haters are just as prominent as their fans. You may notice this with artists like Justin Bieber or Kanye West. This also brings up a positive message when Suzu notices she has an influx of followers. When Suzu’s friend, Hiroka Betsuyaku, or Hiro for short, the one who suggested that she should join U in the first place, reminds Suzu that a good portion of the millions of people who have seen her through the platform admire her, she should not forget that. She should not let the hate, trolling, and doubt get to her.

What I love about this movie so much is that in today’s mixed Internet culture, “Belle” is a movie that reminds its audience that the Internet, despite its occasional thorns, can also be a rose of positivity. The Internet has helped me in various ways by letting me discover that I am not alone with some of my weird hobbies like riding elevators. Social media has spawned some of my best companionships. I even met a couple of friends I made on social media in real life, either through chance or by arrangement. I have gained valuable friendships through my time in high school, but I feel like my friendships through social media have helped me define who I am today more than almost any other friendship I have experienced.

Despite taking place in what I would assume happens to be present day, “Belle” also spawns a ton of questions about social media’s future, because it is revealed that in the world of U, you cannot have more than one avatar. You can alter your avatar as we notice Belle wears different outfits at various points of the story, but that avatar is the only one you have. I have gone on YouTube and noticed some people have more than one account, or sometimes on sites like Twitter, people will create different accounts for different aspects of their personality. Will we be seeing less of that if we get closer to U being a reality? That is a thought provoking question if you ask me. This film also reveals that there is still a culture of trolling on the Internet, with the Dragon and Peggie Sue being a couple of the film’s examples if you will. But one thing the film never dives into all that much is bots. The closest thing I can note that U has to bots is the Dragon’s AIs, but that’s about it. My question is, how “bot-proof” is U? Even when there are trolls in U, there is often a soul behind the one doing the trolling. Although there is probably a good reason why bots never appear in U, because the idea of U involves the user immersing themselves by activating a specific device that is meant to project themselves into U, and I am not just talking about their phone. Every U user attaches buds to their ears, bringing them into the digital landscape as their respective avatar. This is done through body-sharing technology, where the user’s biometric information is interlinked with their avatar. And while there are reflective physical traits that are represented in Suzu’s avatar, most specifically freckles, the U platform tends to provide an enhancement, a level up if you will, of one’s mentality, outlook, or experiences. In Suzu’s case, she lost her mom at a young age, which is a fraction of why she is a shadow amongst her peers. In addition, her singing skills are not up to the par she would prefer. This is why she has increased confidence and singing abilities upon entering U.

COMPELLING, POWERFUL ORIGINAL SONGS

And when you have a film like this that heavily revolves around music, chances are that the songs have to be good, otherwise the film would not be as convincing or effective. “Belle” has a few originals, all of which have their own style. The film’s main theme, U, has an incredibly poppy, upbeat, and sexy feel to it to the point where it belongs on a top 40 playlist, but feels different enough that it is not annoying. It is the kind of song you would want to hear when walking into a large nightclub. It is a perfect main theme for the film because it basically just says, “Come join U! We’re all happy here and everyone is having a good time!” It also shows how one platform can change your life in an instant. Much like how Suzu has gone from a nobody to a U diva, we have seen tons of unexpected personalities on platforms like YouTube or TikTok over the years.

“So, linе up, the party’s over here
Come one, come all, jump into the fire
Step up, we are whatever we wanna be
We are free, that’s all we desire
When you pass through the veil of fantasy
There’s a world with a rhythm for you and me.”

At the same time though, it is a perfect metaphor for the Internet itself. There is a lyric in the song, specifically “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know it all,” which is not only reflective of the developed mystery behind Belle’s identity, but it reminds me of many of my relationships on the Internet. I feel like through the Internet I get to know a certain version of a person, but I would secretly love to meet them in real life to get to know the real them.

When Suzu enters U, she first sings a piece titled Gales of Song, which compared to the film’s previously mentioned main theme, perhaps relies significantly less on lyrics. Gales of Song is perfectly executed when first introduced because it is simple enough, and has enough pauses to allow Suzu to adapt to her avatar. It is like when you get inside a car for the first time and you are learning how to drive. It takes Suzu a second to understand all the mechanics, but when she starts getting the hang of things, that is when she gets increased attention from U’s userbase, both positive and negative. Lend Me Your Voice is a song that could have gone wrong because of how the scene it links to sort of pays homage to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but the orchestral power of the song hits hard, and the lyrics are occasionally on the verge of heart-wrenching. And speaking of heart-wrenching, don’t even get me started on the film’s longest and perhaps most important song, A Million Miles Away, which I previously awarded the Jackoff for Best Original Song during this year’s ceremony. To this day, it is one of the only songs I have heard to make me wipe tears from my face because when you watch the movie, it is THAT powerful.

That last song goes to show this film’s power of silence, because some of its best moments are simply when there is little to no dialogue, we are just watching people doing things. When we first see Suzu and her mother early on in the film, there is this wonderfully edited montage of the two doing things together, which shows Suzu developing a knack for music. There is no spoken dialogue, just a soft variant of A Million Miles Away. I even go back to the moments where characters have specific pauses while talking, allowing for some genuine lifelike reactions. The scene in the train station with a few core characters, Suzu included, comes to mind. But even within these lifelike reactions, we see some heightened emotions or cues that allow animation to shine. I will not go into much detail, but this movie is not short on blushed cheeks or visible tears.

And I am constantly talking about the film’s lyrical songs for good reason, but I should also note that the official score for “Belle” contains one of the best utilizations of stringed instruments I have EVER heard.

STUNNING CINEMATOGRAPHY, ANIMATION

Technically speaking, “Belle” is literally what the name means, beautiful. Many of the film’s wides are ingrained in my memory. The world of U is a place I could imagine myself diving into in the future. Belle’s outfits in U are astoundingly eye-popping. As depressing as the real world may be in comparison, this film has some gorgeously drawn locations. It kind of makes me want to travel to rural Japan to see what it is actually like. My favorite shot in the film however, if not one of my favorite shots, is probably set in U, when we see a closeup of Suzu singing A Million Miles Away, staring into the distance when her surroundings turn dark. It is the simplest shot of all time, but for some reason, Suzu’s concentration on what lies ahead is evident. My reason for liking this shot is potentially because of a certain context, but as much as I may be revealing about this film, there are some things I would rather keep hidden, such as moments of the scene where said shot takes place.

RELATABLE PROTAGONIST

To me, one of the most visible reasons why I adore “Belle” so much is the same basis behind why I loved another recent film, “CODA,” from the moment I saw it. They are two completely different films by several means, and in various ways, their protagonists are significantly unalike. For example, Suzu doesn’t have any deaf family members or friends, as far as we know. And “CODA’s” protagonist, Ruby Rossi, still communicates with her parents on a regular basis. Her mother is still alive, and even though the movie shows some occasional resistance between her parental relationships, Ruby has a steady connection with her father. “Belle” is a movie that allows its main hero to show off what makes them ordinary, and therefore have that mundaneness make them extraordinary. This is especially true in the climax of the film when Suzu sings A Million Miles Away. We learn more about what this song is, and that added dose made the scene go from great to… not to continue the overuse of this word, cinema. Simultaneously, Suzu has millions of followers on U, she barely talks to her dad anymore, and she spends several scenes with a talking dragon. There are some definite differences between the two protagonists, but at the end of the day, Suzu’s normality, what makes her human, what makes Suzu, quite literally Suzu, allows her to persevere later in the film’s runtime. This also highlights a notable trait about the Internet. And this trait is especially true when it comes to the Beast, as many characters have questions about his identity. That trait being how not everyone really knows who you are on the Internet. We constantly build these images of people and what we think they are like. Maybe they are incredibly wealthy. Maybe they are a predator. Maybe they are younger than they advertise themselves to be. We do not know everything about everyone. This is why sometimes I may do research on certain people before talking to them, or if there is a public figure on social media, I make an effort to ensure that they are verified.

Some of my favorite movies in recent years have been animated, because despite their otherworldly nature, they have an attractive down to earth element that sometimes is not as effective in live-action. If we are not talking about “Belle,” the most effective example that comes to mind is “Over the Moon,” which is currently on Netflix. The reason why I found that movie down to earth despite mostly taking place in space is because it is a movie I think my 13, 14, 15-year-old self would have needed to watch at those specific ages. Because I was going through a tough time where my parents were no longer in love, and there were specific story elements or beats that reminded me of that time and felt completely relatable. In the same way, maybe not as much, but nevertheless, I think “Belle” is a movie I would have shown to my 15, 16-year-old self, because I was new to social media at the time. I had an idea of how it worked, but I did not realize how addicted I may have been to it. Sure, there were many positives to it like meeting new people, finding new friends, joining a community. But I also did not realize how much I cared about followers. I cared more than I should have. I thought I was cool when in reality I may have just been desperate for attention. And I am not saying that it is a bad thing to have tons of followers, but I feel like this movie could have been a reminder to myself that maybe I should not have tried as hard to worry about getting followers. It’s like the famous quote in “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” In the same way, Suzu started out as a nobody, and one unexpected turn of events turned her into a somebody, even if that somebody was an alternate version of her.

I think “Belle” is a film that paints a picture of the Internet and shows its strengths. Because by the end of the film, it allows people to come together in a way that delivers a positive impact. It shows how the Internet can change people’s lives and make them better despite some occasional toxicity on a number of sides.

POSSIBLE IMPERFECTIONS WITHIN A FLAWED MASTERPIECE

I think if there are any flaws with “Belle,” it would be three things, but they do not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. There are such things as flawed masterpieces. “Risky Business” is one of my favorite films of all time, but I will tell you that the last scene feels incredibly out of place. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade, but even I will admit that the film owes its success to the original installment it tends to copy. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the most beautifully violent, outrageously balls to the wall movies I have ever watched, but you could quite literally remove Margot Robbie’s character from the script and have little to no effect on the overall plot. That said, let’s dive into my few issues with “Belle,” if you want to call them that. Because in some cases, I also claim they do not bother me that much.

The first issue I have is specifically with the English dub. I do not speak Japanese, but it sounded fine on the Japanese version. When I watched this film at home a few times in English, there was one key line from Justin, or Justian if you watched the Japanese version, it sounded incredibly important, but much of what he said was muffled over all of the music. It was GREAT music, but nevertheless. Who directed this scene? Christopher Nolan?! For all I know, it could be my television, but the sound on it has been pretty good by itself over the years without any external speakers or sound bars, so who knows? The second flaw, and this is perhaps a more important issue that could also be seen as a strength, I think the relationship between Suzu and her father was kind of surface level. Not much was shown to reveal their distance. I think it almost makes me forget sometimes that they are drift apart, mainly because it is such a small part of this two hour movie. But at the same time, you could make an argument that such a thing was kind of the point. The movie wants you to realize that these two individuals barely talk to each other despite living together. And in a way, the movie successfully did that. So that is a tossup. The other, flaw, if you will, is not something that bothered me specifically, but I could see it bothering other people. Not that I have seen anyone bringing it up. There is a character in the film by the name of Shinobu, and despite his best intentions, there are a couple scenes where his connection to Suzu could come off as maybe closer than it should. From his eyes, he kind of sees himself as someone who tries to protect Suzu. This is something he has done for her since her mom died. It’s a friendly gesture, but it could also be overprotective. In a way, since Suzu’s mom died, Shinobu filled said mother’s shoes from time to time. The movie does address this though, and it shows that Suzu realizes this and at one point refuses to let this get in her way. So I would not consider it a big deal, but having seen one or two moments in the film, I could see certain viewers having a particular perception of Shinobu’s character or his connection to Suzu that maybe I did not. The movie is bound to age well if you ask me despite its influence from “Beauty and the Beast,” but I will remind you, this film is not a ripoff of a classic tale, if anything it is a reinvention. It is not a love story, it is a cautionary human drama that warns its viewers to be careful in regard to what they see, do, and say on the Internet. Or in some cases, in real life.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I highly recommend “Belle” to almost anyone, and I kind of mean that because anime was never my genre. I have a history of enjoying animated content, but not much from Japan. Now that I have seen this movie, it has opened my eyes to more of what Japan has to offer, including Mamoru Hosoda’s library, which I hear is incredible. I want to go ahead and check out some of his other movies. This is one of the few animated movies I have seen that I feel like is specifically not made for children. I think kids should watch it if the chance comes around, I think it is an important movie that everyone should watch at least one point in their life, especially now with the Metaverse expanding more than ever. The songs are catchy, well-written, and obnoxiously powerful. I do not often cry during movies, but the scene with A Million Miles Away is a literal tearjerker, so if you cry during movies, prepare yourself. I said that this is not a redo of my review, but if it were, I would be giving the movie a 10/10, because each time I watch the film, the more I realize I like it. I have gotten completely attached to Suzu as a character even though we have our differences. She is a perfect protagonist for this world, and this movie took her in a direction that enhanced its lesson to the audience. Just because someone is popular, it does not mean that they are a narcissist. It does not mean that they are the kind of person some would make them out to be. Heck, I did not even talk about Ruka in this post and that is a whole other topic I could have gotten into. And instead of explaining everything about Ruka, I will let you see for yourself. Because “Belle” is now available on various home video formats including DVD and Blu-ray, if you have not gotten a chance to watch “Belle,” find a chance as soon as possible, because it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite animated movies, and with enough rewatches, it could potentially be in the conversation for one of my favorite movies period.

Thanks for reading this post! If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other ones, including several of my reviews. One of my reviews is for the new Nicolas Cage film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” or you could even read my most recent review, which is for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which is officially in theaters as of this weekend. If you want to see more non-review posts, please check out my response to movie theaters, and why I think they should play fewer trailers before the feature presentation. To find out my first impression of “Belle,” you can read my review that I posted in January! Hope you like it! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, also check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, like I asked in my review, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Also, I want to ask a question for the anime fans reading this, because I want to dive further into the genre. What anime products do you recommend? Let me know, because I am always looking for suggestions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CODA (2021): An Audibly Triumphant Story With Every Emotion Ever Conceived

“CODA” is directed by Sian Heder (Orange is the New Black, Little America) and stars Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Daniel Durant, and Marlee Matlin in a film about a young girl who is born into a deaf family. She is the only one in the family who has hearing, and finds herself struggling to balance school, her family fishing business, college admissions, and an interest in music.

Despite the notability of this film’s recent Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, not to mention seeing this film in the theater recently, the latter of which almost causes a case for an automatic film review every time, I nearly decided to not review this film at all. But that is until I saw it. And we’ll get to my thoughts in a sec, but I want to note that “CODA” was a film I have looked forward to ever since I first saw the advertising. The reviews looked insane, and it came off as a wonderfully intimate tale about someone who is special and I would not know personally. But for various reasons, I missed the film when it first came to theaters, and I never got around to watching it on Apple TV+. But due to the film’s recent success at the Academy Awards, Apple decided to release the film again with open captions. Given this film’s subject matter, that is a great idea. They released it in several theaters around me, so I decided instead of suffering through “Morbius” a second time, I would take my dad to go see something that won’t make you rip your hair out.

We agreed on “CODA.” Hopefully our choice would be wise.

But of course, there are several movies that exist that have a hype train, only to have said train lose a little steam once it comes out. This happened to me last year with “Soul,” which Peter Travers of ABC News called “the year’s peak achievement in animation,” Josh Wilding of ComicBookMovie.com referred to as “one of Pixar’s most beautiful, poignant films,” and Bob Chipman of Moviebob Central claimed was “among the year’s loveliest, most poignant and moving pieces of work animated or otherwise.” Those are ridiculously positive, star-shooting thoughts.

I mean, I LIKED “Soul,” but at the time it also became my least favorite Pixar movie, so there is that.

Now with “CODA,” we have another insanely praised movie revolving around music. Adam Graham of Detroit News says “CODA” is “a big hug of a movie.” Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood suggests “CODA is more than “a moving story of what it means to be in a family, but also one about becoming your own person and following a dream.” For the record, despite this film’s wider release in August, it originally played at Sundance, so I think this notion from Esther Zuckerman at Thrillist should not be ignored.

“‘CODA’ is the kind of movie that you can imagine getting a standing ovation at Sundance, if this were a year where people were allowed to gather in a stuffy Park City auditorium.”

It’s been over a year since this film’s Sundance premiere. It’s been only a little time since this film’s recent collecting of Academy Awards. Is this movie the greatest thing since sliced bread or the next “Soul?”

Neither. There’s sliced bread, there’s better than sliced bread, and then there’s sliced bread with mounds of butter!

If there is any reason that you should spend a few bucks for Apple TV+, “CODA” makes an absolutely compelling argument. My dad walked out of the auditorium saying that this was one of the best movies he has seen in years, and I could definitely see why. I have gathered that he is fairly easy to impress as a moviegoer, but when he REALLY likes a film, I have found it to be obvious. And it is not just him who is yelling out a car window to everyone on the streets to go see this movie, because I for one think that this is one of the best coming of age stories of our time. Does it have some familiar elements or clichés? Perhaps. But it doesn’t always matter if a movie has clichés as long as they are utilized well.

At the end of the day, this is a genius narrative about a girl whose normality makes her abnormal. I have taken a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college, and one of the things I have taken from that class is that when I write a character who is “ordinary,” that I understand that there still should be specific qualities about such an ordinary character that stand out. When it comes to this film’s character of Ruby Rossi, perfectly played by Emilia Jones, this is exactly what my professor would want me to shoot for. She is in a deaf family, but she is the only one who has hearing. Brilliant. And it is not just a great concept, it has stellar execution. Because this film is completely relatable to someone like me, who was at an age range she previously experienced. Now, unlike Ruby, I knew what I wanted to do the moment I got out of high school, but the problem for me was taking that next step and actually moving on with my life, and I am sort of experiencing the same thing with my soon to be post-undergrad years. That by itself made me connect to Ruby, but when Ruby finds something she is passionate about, it is, almost perhaps understandably, the biggest shock and disappointment she can give to her parents who are having trouble hearing. That passion being music, which you have to HEAR to fully understand. Not only is she passionate about it, she wants to study it, which in addition, requires money… Oh boy.

I grew up in a family of two adults who had their own occupations and ran their own company at some point in their lives. Despite this, I consider myself lucky to have never felt the pressure to attach myself to a family business had I failed to express any interest. I have been given the opportunity to attach myself if I choose, but my main priority right now is film, it’s media, it’s communications, it’s entertainment. I felt for the protagonist because they have to choose between family and herself, and this is really the time of her life when she should be thinking about herself, what she wants to do, and the parents should allow her to do such a thing. They may not like the choice, and again, understandably so, but this is not their life, it is Ruby’s. But we also get a look at the lives the parents have, and there comes a point where Ruby leaving could mean that they have to rethink how they live their lives, and as this movie shows, conduct their own business. Not to mention, when you have to look at your current financial status, that also brings up a question as to what life you can provide for yourself and those you care about. On that note, the main family is perfectly cast. They have phenomenal chemistry. The deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors. Sian Heder brings us a wonderfully conceived screenplay and brings her artistry to the table while telling a story about an aspiring artist. Heder has not done a ton of notable work yet in her career, but I think “CODA” is going to put her on the map as a filmmaker around this time, like “Lady Bird” put Greta Gerwig on the map when she directed that film.

I know a lot of people, and I’m close with quite a few of them. None of them are deaf. So I cannot speak to the accuracy or authenticity of certain aspects of this film, but as for the entertainment value with everyone on screen, regardless of their ability to hear or speak in sign language, that was not short whatsoever. Although on that note, if I think if there were any way to improve “CODA,” there are honestly few things I can think of to begin with. But if I had to come up with something, there is one story element in the movie that admittedly becomes a bit predictable. My dad and I were watching, and we both knew, “Okay, this is where the movie’s going.” Usually I am not a fan of predictable storytelling, partially because when you watch a lot of media, the more repetitive it is, the more likely I am to tune out, but I also think when it comes to how “CODA” handles such a predictable moment, it achieves its goal of making you relate to or feel bad for the protagonist.

“CODA” has such a way of playing with your heartstrings that feels larger than life despite it being one of the most intimate stories I have ever seen, and part of it is because it relies on a lack of sound and written words to carry everything through. It really is film as it was meant to be. Visual storytelling. It does not tell, it only shows. There is a sequence at the end of this film that almost made me cry, and that is not only because the subject matter is incredibly compelling and ties everything together in a nice little bow, but as an editor, I was watching this and admired its ability to tell everything in a fast-paced, eye-popping montage that gave a sweet moment for every second on screen. Very few movies nowadays connect me in such an emotional way, and “CODA” is one of the lucky gems that just happened to knock on my door.

And don’t just take all the sappy comments I stated and put them in a box with this film set next to it, because this film has just about every emotion I could think of. I was figuratively biting my nails. I was jumping for joy. I was getting tears in my eyes. I was occasionally even laughing crazily. The film is surprisingly comedic, and there are a few moments where my dad and I were audibly laughing. One reason why I recommend going to see this in the theater if it is near you is because depending on your level of hearing, even when you hear nothing on the screen, you can still bask in the laughter of an audience, which is one of the most uniquely satisfying feelings I have gathered in my recent film experiences.

In the end, “CODA” is one of the best movies I have seen in recent memory. It won a couple of the big Best Picture awards, including the one that matters the most, the Academy Award for Best Picture, and obviously that warranted Apple to put the film out in as many theaters as it can the next weekend to get some money. I went to go see it the Tuesday after, but I have had my occasional ounce of disappointment here and there when it comes to certain projects. I did not see “Moonlight” until the weekend following its kinda sorta Best Picture win at the Oscars, and I was underwhelmed. Although the following year, “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture. It took me awhile to watch that film, and it turned out to be a stunning and enchanting film with a great cast of characters, so anything can happen. “CODA” truly felt like it was made with the goal to win Best Picture, and it absolutely deserved it. I can barely think of any real problems in this film. Maybe if you don’t like tearjerkers, this may not be my first recommendation for you, but that is a claim leaning along the lines of subjectivity. Plus, even if you don’t like crying during movies I still recommend it, because I left the film feeling whole. I felt happy. It reminded me of my journey as an artist, but also immersed me into a world with people and situations that I do not come across in everyday life. Once again, Ruby Rossi is an ordinary protagonist, but this movie excels by reminding the audience of the extraordinary life she finds herself living every day. And this extraordinary life, made an extraordinary movie. I am going to give “CODA” a 10/10! If I had the chance to redo my top 10 list for 2021, this would easily belong in the top 3 or 4. I would not call it my favorite movie of the year, that honor still goes to “The Suicide Squad,” but it certainly comes close.

“CODA” is now playing in theatres and is available to watch on Apple TV+.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2!” I saw the film a couple weeks ago, and I have plenty to say about it. I liked the first film, so who knows how the sequel will pan out… Following that review, I will be sharing my thoughts on the new DreamWorks animated film, “The Bad Guys,” which is in theaters as of this weekend. Also, coming soon, I will have my review for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the all new A24 film starring Michelle Yeoh and directed by Daniels, the same minds who brought us “Swiss Army Man.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “CODA?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film that has won Best Picture at the Academy Awards? Not just nominated, but they also have to be the winner. This film is definitely a contender, I’ll say that much. Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top 10 WORST Movies of 2021

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Some of you may have finished reading my top 10 BEST movies of 2021, feel free to check that out if you have not already, but I am now here to present the exact opposite! The top 10 WORST movies of 2021! 2021 was admittedly a better year for movies than 2020 was. I mean, more movies actually came out, so… But it doesn’t mean there wasn’t crap! Now, I will say I have not seen all the crap that has come out this year. If you have seen a certain movie this year that is not on the list, who knows? Maybe it’s so bad I forgot about it. Or maybe I just didn’t see it. I didn’t see either of the sequels that came out this year to “The Boss Baby” or “Peter Rabbit,” so I sat pretty when it came to those. Granted I have not seen the originals either. With that being said, these are my ten picks, they’re all subjective. There is not really much of a grand scale as to how these movies made the list. They’re just on the list because I did not like them. Well, mostly… Maybe you did like these movies. More power to you if that’s the case. Also, I should state this, the films have to be theatrically released and this does include any day and date film like those released simultaneously on HBO Max for instance. Those do count. If they’re exclusively on streaming, I’m not including it. That’s technically television. Before I dive into my top 10, I am going to list three dishonorable mentions.

Dishonorable mention: The King’s Man

Kicking off the dishonorable mentions we have “The King’s Man!” This is a really disappointing movie to see on this list because I love the “Kingsman” franchise. I enjoyed both “The Secret Service” and “The Golden Circle,” so to see this prequel here kind of hurts. I mean, there are a couple fun action sequences, but it isn’t enough to make a good movie. I’ve only seen this a couple weeks ago and I have already forgotten a good number of the characters. Not the best of signs. Rhys Ifans was GREAT as Rasputin though, I’ll give the movie that.

Dishonorable mention: Reminiscence

The next dishonorable mention is “Reminiscence.” I feel like part of the reason why this movie saw an actual release date, aside from the cast involved, is because the director, Lisa Joy is married to Jonathan Nolan, who probably has, or perhaps at this point, had, alongside his brother Christopher Nolan, a great relationship with Warner Brothers. The concept of this film is intriguing, but this ended up being an amazing original concept that became one of my most easily forgotten films of the year.

Dishonorable mention: Space Jam: A New Legacy

Last, and certainly least for the dishonorable mentions, is “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” Why did we need this movie? The first one completely and totally sucked on every level! The one pro I will give this film is that some of the visual effects do look dazzling and Don Cheadle’s portrayal of Al-G Rhythm was honestly quite entertaining, but that’s were the positives end. As for the rest of the film, it’s basically a combination of cheap jokes, forced nostalgia, while also being a giant commercial for the Warner Brothers brand. If you want a Warner Brothers commercial that’s ten times better than this, go watch “The LEGO Movie,” skip “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”

Now let’s start off the list! Things could be a lot worse for these films, they could have come out in 2020. These are my top 10 WORST movies of 2021.

#10. Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

#10 is “Snake Eyes!” I have admittedly never watched anything related to the “G.I. Joe” franchise, but I thought I’d give this film a shot. Turns out, this film gave me a shot. …In between the eyes. You know people go to film school to learn how to make movies? Well, if it were opposite day and they had a class that taught people how not to make an action movie, this would be a proper example. Shaky cam came, shaky cam saw, but I thought filmmakers came to realize that it wouldn’t conquer. Apparently shaky cam is still a thing in the realm of “Snake Eyes.” Not only is there a ton of it during the action sequences, but even when someone is just walking in a room! There’s a scene where Samara Weaving’s character is just walking, she’s all business, and the camera’s basically simulating an earthquake! I wasn’t looking for anything on the level of “The Shawshank Redemption,” I just wanted to have fun seeing people kick ass. When I couldn’t even get that, that’s a problem.

#9. Malignant

Coming in at #9 is “Malignant.” As I’ve said on this blog before, horror movies are not my goto genre. But I did have some desire to check out “Malignant.” It looked rather compelling through whatever marketing I saw. Turns out it was the exact opposite! If anything it looks like a modern horror film that tries to take itself a bit seriously, but it ends up going full camp at certain points with dialogue that you could have gotten away with only if it were uttered in the 1980s. If I knew that’s what they were going for, okay. But it just didn’t work. The film is directed by James Wan, who has been known amongst modern horror fans for films like “The Conjuring.” That’s a film I’d rather watch on a Friday night over this piece of crap! At times, the film feels like it takes itself seriously, then the next moment it feels like I’m watching a Lifetime original with a monster in it. I’m excited to see what James Wan does with the next “Aquaman” movie, but this original was a bit of a misstep for him.

#8. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Ryan Reynolds is just the best! “Free Guy” is one of my favorite movies of the year! I’ve seen it twice! Wait, this is the worst list? Sorry, wrong script. Ryan Reynolds? What are you doing, man? “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was a complete waste of time! I remember watching the original film, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” a few months after it came out and I had fun with it. It was not my favorite action film of the year, I thought “John Wick: Chapter 2” was better for instance, but I enjoyed myself. And that film made a lot of money, and like all pleasantly fine things that make money, of course they make a sequel. Just wish they made one that felt like it had more time and passion into it. This film has an ADHD-esque story and nearly unmemorable action. The only action scene I clearly recall is one towards the beginning when Ryan Reynolds is trying to relax and next thing we know he ends up on a bike with Salma Hayek. I’ll give credit to the performers. Despite the lazy writing, they played their characters to perfection, even if they felt like they were somewhat playing themselves. But seriously, if you want a good Ryan Reynolds flick to watch, check out “Free Guy.” Skip “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” if you can. 

#7. Dear Evan Hansen

I’ve never been a Broadway guy, but I had some interest in “Dear Evan Hansen” before it came out because the trailers looked good. Then I saw the movie and realized, what a waste of time. I don’t care that they got a guy in his 20s to play the lead role of a teenager, that’s been done before, but what I do care about is that they get a guy, regardless of age, who looks LIKE a teenager. I went through this entire film looking at the lead actor, Ben Platt, and thinking I was looking at Jerry Seinfeld. All he needed was a puffy shirt and he’d be a perfect ripoff. “But I don’t wanna read the emails!” With that aside, unlike some other musicals that came out this year, like “In the Heights,” which I wasn’t a HUGE fan of, and “West Side Story,” which I was a huge fan of, the numbers in this film were mostly unmemorable and for what I noticed, they did not even have that grand scale that I’m used to seeing in musicals. It felt very small, and it was not presented in a positive way. Now the message of the film could be interesting, but I spent much of the film rooting against the main hero because of how said message is utilized. I don’t know, I just did not always relate to him. And I will admit that like him, I’m somewhat awkward in social situations, but the execution here left me uneasy. If you want a decent musical to watch this year, go watch “West Side Story.”

#6. F9: The Fast Saga

Do me a favor, please. Starting from one, count to nine. I’m sure in that one attempt of summing up numbers, it will contain more logic and sanity than even a fraction of a second in “F9: The Fast Saga!” “F9: The Fast Saga” was a humungous disappointment. Not only is it another letdown in this ongoing franchise, which for me personally has only happened with “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Tokyo Drift,” but this letdown hurts because of how much anticipation I had behind it. Have any of you ever seen that Lifetime original film “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever?” Yeah, I wish I could forget it too. Much like that straight of TV piece of crap, “F9” spends more time than it needs to making fun of itself and trying to make the collective Internet roll on the floor! Hey, look! We’re invincible! Just another Tuesday for Dom Toretto and the family! LET’S GO TO SPACE BITCHES! Oh my god! Watching the space scene was honestly embarrassing. Space is special. You guys just ruined it for me. I no longer want to be an astronaut because of this movie. Well, that, and maybe rich people. 2021 is such a weird year. The first half is spent seeing the Fast family go to space and now all these rich people get to send their buddies up to space. I like the “Fast & Furious” franchise. In fact, I wanted to see this movie to a certain degree that I bought tickets for it in advance IN 2020! Of course, when the film rescheduled about a year later, I had to refund those tickets, but goddamnit, if I did not get to see this film opening night, I would have felt like an idiot. Well, this idiot suffered through an IMAX experience through Hell.

#5. Tom & Jerry

Some people hate cats. Some people hate mice. Some people hate… People. If you hate all these concepts, then I should warn you that “Tom & Jerry” will make you hate them even more! “Tom & Jerry” was never something I watched as a kid. The only reason why I went to see this movie is because I had a friend, who told me I’d “like” the movie, and he wanted me to go. Boy was he wrong. And I expected that going in, because the trailer did not look promising. This looked like a lot of those other cartoons that kind of got that live-actionish treatment like “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “The Smurfs.” And just like the latter, this whole thing’s set in New York where the focus is not on Tom & Jerry, the two characters whose names are in the freaking title. No! It’s instead about some scumbag named Kayla who thinks it’s okay to lie her way to getting a job at a hotel! What a great lesson for children! I did not know what to expect going into this film. I just wanted some okay action sequences. There may have been one or two moments that stood out, but it is surrounded by a lifeless plot, overacted performances, and some of the most cringeworthy scenes I have ever watched in a movie. Some people may defend this film saying it could entertain children. But I look at this film and I would not want my kid watching it. Kayla is a fraud who cheats her way to the top. “Die Hard” is a better movie for children to watch because that film at least enforces the notion that terrorists are bad! “Tom & Jerry” is the perfect family film if you really, truly, hate your family.

#4. Zola

We live in an era where they’ll truly make a movie about anything. They’ve done LEGO, Emojis, Trolls. It feels like they’ve done it all. But wait! There’s tweetstorms! Not many people have done that! And after seeing “Zola,” I really hope that this is a trend that is either improved or kept to a minimum. I’ll give this film credit. The reason why it is not in a more negative spot is because there are a number of scenes that do look dazzling. There’s one moment in the first two minutes that really stands out. But it is also surrounded by all this footage that looks like it is something out of a poorly done YouTube vlog. A24 is one of my favorite studios, but evidence suggests that they have also done some of my least favorite films of the last decade like “Midsommar” and “The Witch.” “Zola” has officially joined those ranks. In my life, I often keep my ringer off on my cell phone because I’m often busy and I don’t want to get distracted. Depending on the situation, I’m one of those people who gets easily distracted. I think after hearing the Twitter notification sound every minute in this film, I think I want to keep that ringer off for the rest of my life. And I don’t know about you, Riley Keough’s performance in this film was occasionally nauseating to watch. She could be a decent actress, but the way she handled her character here, whether it was through her or the director’s eyes, felt almost offensive and obnoxious. To top it off, the movie seemed to have a number of attempts at humor, but I didn’t really find the film all that funny. Simply put, if there were a way to block movies in the same manner you can block accounts on social media, I would do it with this one.

#3. Red Notice

Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot. Put these three good-looking actors together, and it sounds like a recipe for pure entertainment. Right? WRONG! If you said, yes, I’m willing to bet you have never watched “Red Notice,” and frankly I think you shouldn’t. I mean, come on! This movie has three of the biggest movie stars working today and it wastes all of them! I mean, they do their best with the material that’s given to them, but “Red Notice” is one of the most disposable and forgettable action films of all time. The only real compliment I can give to the movie is that some of the locations are kinda pretty and Gal Gadot has some really sexy outfits. This film is the definition of style over substance. Overall the story is predictable, the script is all over the place, the attempts at humor did not land no matter how many times the writers tried, and at the end of the day, the people behind this film basically relied on name recognition to get people to watch it. That’s really disappointing. I can name a few movies I’ve seen with a phenomenal cast, but they barely do anything to make that cast pop! Movies like “The Circle,” “Aloha,” and “Lucy.” Yeah! Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper, and Scarlett Johansson respectively can sell me at the door, but once I’m locked behind that door, all I see are empty promises. And may I add, this is the second film on this list starring Ryan Reynolds. What’s happening with you?! I liked you in “Free Guy!” Why are you resorting to this crap?!

#2. Cinderella

My next film on this list is “Cinderella.” My god, “Cinderella” was just awful. I knew it was gonna be bad from the beginning with the opening number. I think first impressions matter in film, and when the first number of a musical fails to impress me, that’s not really the sign of a memorable musical. “Cinderella” is directed by Kay Cannon, who wrote the “Pitch Perfect” films. I have not seen the sequels, but I cannot say the first is among my favorite comedies, although she has been attached to a few things I enjoy. Including the entertaining Fox show, “New Girl.” This film is a modern take on “Cinderella,” it kind of reminded me of the 1990s “Romeo + Juliet” film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which, you may punch me in the face for this, I wasn’t a huge fan of that film either. I say that because while these films are not the same, “Cinderella” takes a lot of elements that make the character iconic and remembered through the years and sprinkles them into a story with modernizations. Apparently there’s a drag feel to this film, there’s all these inside jokes to modern society, and it could add up to something unique, but it didn’t stick the landing. I like the idea of Cinderella having to live in a modern society where women are perhaps more independent, they can do more for themselves. And there’s even a whole thing about Cinderella being a dressmaker and if she marries someone in particular, that technically means she can forget about becoming a businesswoman, someone who can take her dressmaking and turn it into an opportunity to make some money. I like these ideas, they sound good in a pitch meeting. But they just didn’t translate well with what we got. Also, James Corden… My lord. Who’s your agent? You’re in this too?! I mean… This is a step up from “Superintelligence.” 

I just want to note something about “Cinderella.” I did not review this film. In fact, this is one of the few films that I saw in 2021 that I had no intention of reviewing because it was so late in the year when I watched it and it’s been out for months, but I did tweet my thoughts on the film because it stood out to me in such a negative way that I had to express my opinion. I could not let it sit in my head. After a few tweets, where I even mention the director Kay Cannon’s name, I did not tag her by the way, I just mentioned her, including her past film, not to mention her directorial debut, “Blockers,” which I ADORED. So much so it was one of my favorite comedies of the past few years. She responded with the following: 

“Sorry you didn’t like it. It’s a PG fairytale jukebox musical made for kids/families to enjoy. And millions upon millions of them did along with a bestselling soundtrack. Maybe rewatch Blockers to ease you from the torture you endured?” 

I mean, I’m a bit shocked she even chimed in because I figured she could look at these tweets, notice some idiot on the Internet, and move on. But I’m not here to judge anyone. In addition, I responded back saying… 

“I have respect for you, Kay. Glad to hear the movie’s successful. Glad other people can enjoy something. That’s the subjectivity of film. Looking forward to whatever you’re doing next.” 

First off, she’s right. “Cinderella” is not for me. I cannot think of myself belonging in a single demographic that I could fall under for the movie. Musicals are not always my thing. I was never attached to any of the other “Cinderella” stories like the ones that Disney did over the years, and of all the late-night hosts currently on network TV, I think James Corden is the one I’m least likely to watch. I was admittedly rather excited for “Cinderella” purely because of the filmmaker behind it. I mean, for me she’s had ups and downs, but she was hot off of “Blockers” and it made me more excited for her next project, whatever it was. I mean, it’s like getting excited for the next Quentin Tarantino film or the next Christopher Nolan film or the next Ari Aster film or the next Wes Anderson film. Sometimes I have to separate the content from the creator. The creator, I love her. I think Kay Cannon is talented and someone I want to keep an eye on in regard to upcoming projects. But I’ll also remember her as the woman who directed “Cinderella.” I did not choose this life. It chose me. Actually… I did choose to watch the movie, so maybe I did choose this life. Whatever.

#1. Music

The last couple years of doing these countdowns were interesting, yet sad, because the same director made the #1 film two years in a row. This year, that is thankfully not the case, but apparently this film is a feature-length debut. In a lot of cases, I could be disappointed in a feature-length debut, but nevertheless hopeful that the director behind that feature will go on to do great things. As for this feature, I think the director needs to keep her dayjob. My god, this movie was off the charts horrible! My #1 worst movie of 2021 is… “Music.” I mean, come on! What else could it be? I almost skipped this film this year because it barely had a theatrical release, but the film was nominated at 78th Golden Globes and had people talking, so by the end of the year, I had to dive into some untreaded waters. Having watched it, I can assume that I could write an entire double-spaced, Times Roman Numeral 12 point font essay on why this movie is not only bad enough as a project to begin with, but why it simply should have never been made. I watched this film for free on Prime Video, and even then, I felt robbed. “Music” is directed by Sia, an artist I have never really cared to follow, but after seeing this film, I don’t really care if she’s good at her dayjob, I don’t know if I want to support her. Some people in the film industry often object to the idea of doing a worst movies of the year list, and I can see why they would do that. Not everyone wants their movie bashed, or to see other movies get bashed. I get that. I can see why people advise others not to yuck on something people spent hours making. “Music,” however, is a movie I cannot use as a defense in this case. Not just because it is a bad movie that failed to entertain me. You want a bad movie that failed to entertain me? Look at “Life of the Party!” That film came out in 2018 and was my #1 worst movie then! I could at least see why people would enjoy that. It was never cruel or offensive, it was just a poorly made film that failed to appeal to me on any level. “Music” on the other hand is a completely DANGEROUS and ALARMING project.

The film centers around a girl who has to take care of her sister, who is on the autism spectrum, and given this sister’s abnormal behavior, it makes this situation all the more challenging. Maddie Ziegler plays the title character and yes, I have been around autistic people. I’m autistic myself, and yes, there are a few of us that do not often communicate with easy to understand words or sentences. That is a fact, I’m putting it out there. But the point is that when it comes to Maddie Ziegler as this character, she almost feels like she’s going over the top at certain points. She’s almost like a cartoon character. At times, her performance either felt cringe-inducing or even downright uncomfortable. And I don’t mean that last part in a compelling way. Apparently Sia and Maddie Ziegler have been good pals for years, so Sia felt it was natural to include Ziegler as the title character in this film. For the record, Ziegler does not have autism herself. And I think this movie would heavily enhanced if they stuck to getting someone on the spectrum to play the lead role. After all, they have experience, and it can help the film in terms of its overall credibility, which it evidently lacks. Apparently Sia TRIED doing this movie with someone on the spectrum, if that actually happened because it was also stated she wrote the character of Music with Maddie Ziegler in mind, but said actor was uncomfortable. So, instead of accommodating her, which some decent people would try to do, in fact they’ve done it with me throughout my life in school to a degree, they let her go. For all I know, maybe she or someone she knew genuinely had resistance to doing the role, but it does not change the fact that a good director would take into account someone’s disabilities and work around them. Or, if you let this person on the spectrum go, at least try finding another one! You know, there’s more than one autistic actor out there! And to be honest… I don’t think “Music” is a film where you get your best friend to tag along, just because… It’s weird. And it almost lacks decency. And apparently Ziegler herself had second thoughts about this role while filming as well! They should have just thrown in the towel to be honest! And also, this film is supposedly meant to show off that people on the autism spectrum are “different” but worthy of existing in this world just like everyone else. Honestly it didn’t feel that way. The only people I could see this movie relating to are the caregivers of those on the spectrum, but even then it’s dangerous, because said caregivers will get the wrong idea based on some of the things that happen in this film. I’m not saying make the character speak in complete sentences or anything, but the way they handled the character of Music as is felt nothing short of infuriating and borderline ableist. Although speaking of caregivers, Kate Hudson, who plays Music’s caregiver, did give an okay performance, but it’s not enough to make a good movie. There’s also flashy sequences in this film that I would imagine a good number of people on the autism spectrum would not be able to watch in the first place. Great job connecting with your subject matter! Apparently Sia did three years of research on autism while making this film… She honestly needs at least three more. There’s a scene in this film where one of the major characters restrains “Music” suggesting that he is “crushing her with his love.” You realize that this is an action, depending on how you go about it, that kills or traumatizes a lot of people? Yes, this is something that has been done to those on the autism spectrum, but this is being PROMOTED in the film despite a history of this very action endangering those on the receiving end, sometimes KILLING them. This is the kind of thing that is saved for last resort situations, and they treat it like it’s something done on every other Tuesday. There is an argument to make that no film in history NEEDS to be made. Well, I think I found one that really shouldn’t have. Someone in the future could watch this film, see that scene, and think it is a fine way to calm someone down on the spectrum, when in reality, it is likely only hurting them. Now can it be used to keep someone from harming another person? Perhaps. But the scenes in which the restraining happens do not occur as a result from that. They occur because Music is freaked out over multiple scenarios! I mean, yes, Music is flailing her arms, but she’s not doing anything to potentially warrant any real medical treatment for someone else or herself. I mean if she hits herself enough times, maybe, but she did not! She isn’t holding a gun, she isn’t carrying a knife, she isn’t raising her fists, she’s just going through a situation that is beyond her control. And apparently that warrants a restraint…

And going back to what I said about “Cinderella” and Kay Cannon responding to me on Twitter defending her film. She at least did so with some decency. She could have thought I was a freak. After all, it’s the Internet. It’s her right. But she AND I calmly handled this matter. There was no Twitter feud between us. Just a couple people with differing perspectives. Sia on the other hand got into Twitter feuds with people regarding this film before it came out, including autistic people, because THAT’S a GREAT way to promote your film. After all of this, she sent out tweets with promises that scenes with restraints would be removed and there would be a warning at the beginning of the film that restraining people with autism is something that won’t be encouraged. Granted, this info was sent about a week before the film came out and kind of felt half-baked, but nevertheless… A promise is a promise. BUT WHO AM I KIDDING?! The restraint scenes are still there and having watched the movie on Prime Video, and double checking before we move any further, THERE IS NO WARNING.

YOU. GODDAMN. CHEAP. MORONIC LIAR!

Sia, I have never meant these two words more, f*ck you. Now you can make an argument that removing those scenes would lessen the story of the movie and diminish an arc Kate Hudson’s character has, but this goes to show that what they really should have done with the movie, is cancelled it. Because yes, I watched the film. But now I never have any intentions of buying Sia’s albums, buying separate songs on iTunes, or buying any of her merch. Short term, maybe the movie makes money. Long term, I cannot support Sia on any of her future projects.

If you look at other movies on this list like “Red Notice” or “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” those movies are on this list almost solely because they failed to entertain me or provide me with a good time, which at the end of the day, a movie is supposed to do. Not only did “Music” provide me with a terrible time, it felt near, if not offensive, and gave me the idea that a movie could potentially harm someone or give someone the wrong idea about a serious subject matter. The only reason why I would support a future product from Sia is if I were tied to a chair and about to die, or I were forced to review it. I salute the hard work people put into movies, even if they’re bad. Sia may have spent years making the movie, in fact this was shot in 2017, but she spent years making a potentially harmful story that could send the wrong message. For all those reasons, “Music” is easily my #1 worst film of 2021.

Thanks for reading this countdown! I also want to thank everyone for making the trek with me through 2021 in film and here’s to 2022! Let’s hope we have a year of great movies, fun experiences, and hopefully less delays. Come on, “Top Gun: Maverick,” I’ve been waiting forever to see you! I’m looking forward to a lot of movies coming out this year including “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness,” “The Batman,” Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” and Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon.” A lot of potential movie magic is going to be cast over audiences this year, let’s hope it’s all properly executed! Until then, thanks for going through another year of movies with me! Also, if you want some positivity instead of this, be sure to check out my picks for the Top 10 BEST Movies of 2021. I do these two lists every year, and I am looking forward to doing them again for 2022. If you want to go through this year of movies and want to make a commitment to take that journey along with me on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, what are your least favorite movies of 2021? Leave your picks down below! Let out the stress, let out the anger. I hope you’ll find it therapeutic. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

In the Heights (2021): Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Latest Musical to Film Adaptation Heightens Its Way to the Big Screen

“In the Heights” is directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2) and stars Anthony Ramos (Trolls World Tour, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island), Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (Vida, Tanto amor), Olga Merediz (Shades of Blue, Orange Is the New Black), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Katy Keene, Smash), Gregory Diaz IV (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, New Amsterdam), and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Son of Anarchy). This film is based on a stageplay by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Algeria Hudes and is set in the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights. The story follows said neighborhood as they imagine and desire a better life.

I saw this film early. And by early I mean the Sunday before it came out. There were a plethora of special screenings so I thought I’d take the opportunity to attend one of them with my grandma because who does not like free stuff? Part of me was hesitant towards paying to see this film because I am not a musical guy even though I have enjoyed stuff here and there like “La La Land.” Maybe I would have used my AMC A-List, but still. Sticking with the facts, I have been reviewing movies for a long time, I am completely focused on the movies that are coming out as audiences continue to return to the theater (even though apparently “In the Heights” could have done better at the box office) so for those reasons, I decided to check out “In the Heights” for myself. I do not know if I would have seen this film during its actual release (or even on HBO Max), so I figured I’d watch it now just to say “Hey! I saw this!” And I did see it, so let’s talk about it.

I just want to iterate a couple things. First, I have heard nothing but praise for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I have not seen any of his Broadway work. Yes, I have not seen “Hamilton.” I’m sorry. I know it is popular, I know there’s a filmed version on Disney+, but I still have not seen it. I’ve heard a few songs from the musical because my sister was with me in the same place and she was playing them, but I was not the one in control of these songs. With that being said, this movie is my first exposure to ANYTHING related to “In the Heights.” Did it give me a good first impression? Well, I certainly did not hate it. I will start off by saying that the film is fun. There are some good songs, although there are a few that are admittedly forgettable despite maybe some solid execution in the actual film. The opening number set the tone well, a lot of the ones that came later seemed to match that original tone and occasionally, its catchiness. The main jingle of the film still lingers in my head from time to time.

The foundation of the film is not exactly one specific character, although the movie is mainly told from the perspective of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who did do a good job by the way. Instead, the foundation is this collection of people who belong to one region of New York City. We see all these people sing about the life they prefer to live over their own. And a couple of the songs in the film captured the emotions of these characters’ wishes. Granted, I cannot quote them. It has been a couple weeks and I do not think I’ll be watching “In the Heights” again anytime soon. But when it comes to pure fun, this film has the proper ingredients from time to time and part of it is because of the soundtrack. Will I remember the characters as some of my favorites by the end of the year? Not really. But the movie does an okay job at making Washington Heights itself feel like its own character per se.

I do want to bring up the pacing though. Now obviously, this is a lively, bombastic musical. So obviously, there will be some quick pace and non-stop music action. There is no doubt about that. I think at times the movie does a really good job at matching the songs to the emotions, thoughts, and actions of certain characters. There is one song towards the end mainly revolving around Olga Merediz’s character that I think was done particularly well and it continues to stick with me. Although there are not as many other songs in the movie, as well put together as they are, that have such staying power. Speaking of staying, I feel like I stayed at this movie a little longer than I had to. I felt like the stereotypical dad who goes to his daughter’s dance recital and constantly begs to himself to just stand up and leave because it is going on for such a long time. Although in my case, I think I am displaying less impatience, even though there was some to display, and more curiosity as to when the lights would turn back on. I say that because there is a lot that happens in “In the Heights” which is amazing to me because I talked to a friend who calls herself “that snob” because she liked the stage version much better than the film. I have not seen anything except the film, so more power to her. She told me they made some changes, and they took some things out. That last statement floored me because this film feels packed to the brim with material. Song after song. Character after character. By the end of the film, when it feels like it has hit its climax, there’s actually like ten, twenty minutes of main material left. And I say ten to twenty minutes because I apparently found out that there is an end credits scene in the film that I did not watch.

There are a lot of good things about “In the Heights.” The cast is likable and talented (although somewhat controversial), the film looks very pretty, the cinematography is some of the absolute best I have seen this year and could arguably receive a few nominations during awards season. No, seriously. There is a sequence by the end of this film that I would buy the Blu-ray just to see if they explain how it was done in the bonus features. Additionally, Jon M. Chu did a pretty good job at bringing his vision to reality. It feels lively, fun, spirited, hyperactive from beginning to end. So even though I was kind of begging for the movie to end as it hit what I was its second or third climax, I was still having fun. I’ll even say there are a couple chuckleworthy lines in it. Granted, it’s not like I’m watching Kevin Hart or something, but there are still some funny lines here and there.

In the end, “In the Heights” has good things in it, but I do not think this film will get any replay from me except for maybe once or twice. If I did not review movies, I would probably not go see this by myself. Once again I will say, I did see this with my grandma just for clarification, but if I were in a situation where I did not review movies and I saw the list of movies playing at the theater, I would probably skip “In the Heights” unless I was with someone who really wanted to see it or if I just wanted a spectacle, which this movie did provide from start to finish. When I talk to a friend who says they took some things out of a movie that I still think is too long… That is not a positive. Granted, I did have fun with “In the Heights” and I do recommend it. But the movie feels like “Return of the King” by the end of it. It feels like it could end, but it’s like a party and there’s that one guest that won’t leave no matter how hard you try to shove them out the door. “In the Heights,” I like you, but you can’t stay here. I’m going to give “In the Heights” a 6/10.

Technically speaking, I would give “In the Heights” a tad higher grade than a 6/10, maybe at least a 7, because it does look beautiful. But when you add in the fact that some of the songs did not stick with me, the characters themselves not all sticking with me either, and a runtime that feels like a turtle occasionally wrote this film despite everything feeling fast, that’s a problem. This is why the film gets positive marks from me, even though I would not consider it to be my favorite of the year. I think there will be an audience for it. It started off getting great reviews and I notice the ads seemed to highlight a bunch of celebrities promoting it because apparently some people trust them more than Variety and The New York Times, so I could see “In the Heights” maintaining a cult status. I do recommend if you are to see this film, maybe go with a couple friends to the theater because one of the big positives of the film that I will mention is that it is best viewed on a big screen. As much as I like HBO Max, this movie is bigger than a streaming service.

Speaking of which, “In the Heights” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is currently available for a limited time exclusively on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Coming soon, I will have my review for “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the brand new sequel starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek. That review will be up soon, that is if I survive long enough to actually post it. Also, this Thursday I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga.” It comes out in theaters that day, so I will attempt to have my review up for the film as soon as possible. I will also be reviewing the new Disney+ exclusive Pixar movie, “Luca,” which did come out in one theater in California, so without giving anything away, it will qualify towards my future yearly posts including The Jackoff Awards and my top 10 lists. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “In the Heights?” What did you about it? Did you see the stage version? What are your thoughts on that edition of “In the Heights?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020): The Most Triumphant Review to Unite the World

The year is 2020, COVID-19 is the talk of the town. Political talk never ever ends. Toilet paper is a precious commodity. Hand sanitizer is the trendiest item for the past few months. The Internet is a war zone. Not with weapons, but with words, name-calling, and reminders that masks go over the nose. One man must unite the world, and that man is…

The Movie Reviewing Moron.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is directed by Dean Parisot (RED 2, Galaxy Quest) and stars Alex Winter (Grand Piano, Freaked), Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers, My Spy), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Brigette Lundy-Paine (Atypical, The Glass Castle), Anthony Carrigan (Gotham, Barry), Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait, Childrens Hospital), Jayma Mays (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, American Made), Holland Taylor (The Practice, Two and a Half Men), Kid Cudi (How to Make It in America, Need for Speed), William Sadler (Iron Man 3, The Shawshank Redemption), and Jillian Bell (Bless the Harts, Workaholics).

This film is the third installment to the “Bill & Ted” franchise, and the first one that has come out in almost thirty years. Years after their excellent adventure and bogus journey, Bill & Ted are happily married to their princess wives. They are also loving fathers to their daughters. Suddenly, the duo is alerted of a world-ending event in the future, and they must write a song that will unite everyone, as they were destined to.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of those films that I became more excited to watch as the year went on. Part of it is because the 2020 calendar happens to be losing more films by the day. Films like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Dune,” and so on. But “Bill & Ted Face the Music” was one of the early films to release when studios and exhibtors were collaborating to get moviegoing back on track this summer. Having a duel release in theaters and on demand, the film received mostly positive reviews.

But I didn’t watch it at first.

There are a few reasons why. Movies like “Unhinged,” “The New Mutants,” and “Tenet” were more important for me to tackle at the time. And more importantly, I still haven’t seen the first two “Bill & Ted” installments. Thankfully, now that I have, I can declare that both are wonderfully quirky, hilarious, and both times I ended up wanting Bill & Ted to be my best bros. Yeah, they are idiots, they do not really have brains, but they have enough charisma to make them some of the most lovable idiots on the face of the earth. I also have to say, I wish more people talked like the main duo did in real life. I would like to just have the occasional moment where I say something and do an air guitar solo, even if the moment does not call for it.

At the same time though, this is a sequel that is many years in the making. It has been a long while since Bill & Ted had their time, and it was hard for me to wonder if seeing these two grown men acting like their younger selves would work. This is especially true when I look at an actor like Keanu Reeves, who has evolved quite a bit since his portrayals of Ted. He has gone from playing hyperactive, maybe somewhat quirk-filled characters like Ted and Johnny Utah to the true badass grit that I managed to get out of John Wick.

If you want to know the truth, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is one of the most triumphant film experiences of the year. When it comes to pure fun, “Bill & Ted” has consistently been top notch. “Bill & Ted” is a franchise that has a universe that I quite honestly cannot take all that seriously. But makes the movies all the more enjoyable.

I know it is 2020, and partying is not allowed. But each time Bill & Ted happened to be on screen, it made me want to… PARTY ON DUDES! There is a sense of infectious joy to be had every time they do something. Bill & Ted could do something as simple as take a piss at a urinal while standing next to each other, and I would still be having fun with them. They could sit on a couch eating chips flipping channels on a television trying find something to watch, and I would still be having fun with them. They could wait in line at the DMV, sitting right next to some jackoff talking too loud on the phone, and I would still be having fun with them. Literally the best part of Bill & Ted as characters is the fact that they even exist to begin with. Now watch, they make a “Bill & Ted 4,” ruin everything about these two and perhaps I suddenly change my mind. But for now, everything is fine. I rest my case.

One of the biggest concerns I had for “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is whether Alex Winter’s and Keanu Reeves’s previous schtick would hold up even those the duo has aged. As somewhat suggested already, Bill & Ted’s schtick may be the absolute best part of this movie. Unless they are doing a full on remake where they erase everything about this current trilogy, I hope they never recast Winter and Reeves. They are the perfect fit for their characters, even if they are middle aged men acting like teenagers.

I also really like the daughters, played wonderfully by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine. But before I continue with the positives I do have to mention one problem. As it has been taught throughout our history, it takes two to reproduce. A man and a woman. Evidence suggests that these two daughters have a mother that is still alive. Now, for all I know the mothers are not role models or incredibly abusive off-screen. But it is a little hard to believe that the daughters do not really take after their mothers, even in a minimal sense. They’re basically copies of Bill & Ted except that they’re women. They call each other dude, act cartoony, and obsess over music. Again, “Bill & Ted” is a universe that I do not take seriously 100% of the time, but this almost leans into a territory where it breaks the suspense of disbelief bar. Despite that, I will say their characters are well cast, funny, and their story in the film was fun to watch. I would not mind seeing their own movie if possible. Maybe they could do a “Bill & Ted” adult animated TV show where these two have a new adventure every day. It could be like “Rick & Morty” but with greater use of the word “whoa.”

I will also bring up one more thing about the movie that kind of surprised me. Remember “Transformers: Dark of the Moon?” Remember “Kingsman: The Secret Service?” When those movies end, they basically conclude the big climactic event that defines all that came before it, but they don’t really do anything else from there. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” does something similar. This movie has a big climax, but they just have something completely abrupt happen, and the movie just ends. It did not make me angry, but it made the end feel so sudden, it’s like celebrating your birthday, having your cake, then 25 other people cut all the slices for themselves before you can get one piece of it and eat it.

I want to talk about death. Death sucks. Life is definitely better. Stick to life.

With that being said, I want to talk about Death. He’s spectacular! If there were any moment in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” that happened to be a highlight, it would have to be when the duo interacts with Death. Most notably, when they play Battleship. It takes an ordinary scenario, but makes it the most hilarious thing on earth. I’m glad they got William Sadler to come back, because he embraces the character and once again, allows him to shine. I will say that I will remember his material in “Bogus Journey” more than “Face the Music,” but it was a pleasure watching Death in his return to the franchise. His story was fascinating and Sadler gives the role his all. There’s not much more to say.

In the end, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is a spark of fun in a dumpster fire of a year. I wanted to see this movie when it came out, and I unfortunately avoided doing so at every opportunity. I can definitely say that “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is worth the wait. Not only is it worth my wait of avoiding it in theaters, avoiding it on PVOD, and holding out for physical media, but I can declare that for those who want a solid “Bill & Ted” sequel all these years later, you will most likely be pleased. I am going to give “Bill & Ted Face the Music” an 8/10.

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. You can also find it on premium streaming services such as Google Play, VUDU, and Prime Video for a rental fee or a purchase price.

Thanks for reading this review! We are slowly approaching Thanksgiving weekend, and I have a few movie reviews lined up including “The Croods: A New Age,” which hits theaters this week. “Superintelligence,” which hits HBO Max this week. And if I have time, I’ll be sure to talk about the 2020 edition of Disney’s “Mulan,” which I just bought on 4K Blu-ray. I did not watch it when it first came out partially because I did not have Disney+ and I was much more focused on “Tenet.” I just watched the original Disney animation, so I am eager to see how the live-action version compares to its counterpart. 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 “Bill & Ted Face the Music?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Bill & Ted” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sound of Metal (2019): Hearing is Precious, Here’s Proof

“Sound of Metal” is directed by Darius Marder (The Place Beyond the Pines, Loot) and stars Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler), Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Bates Motel), Paul Raci (Goliath, Switched at Birth), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead, Wonderstruck), and Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, The Grand Budapest Hotel). This film centers around a drummer named Ruben, who we find out early on is losing his hearing at an alarming rate. His sponsor, worried for him, makes him go to a deaf community and meet Joe, who runs said community. Ruben does this all the while struggling to live with his new situation.

I often poke fun at this company because its business practices usually prevents competition from getting their foot in the door. But if one company has been coming through during this pandemic when it comes to film, it would have be Amazon. They have consistently been releasing film after film, and while not all of them are great (I’m looking at you, “My Spy”), they have come out with some of the more watchable ones this year. “The Vast of Night” was my first 8/10 of the year, which unfortunately came in over the halfway point of the annual calendar. “Radioactive” had a great lead performance by Rosamund Pike and is a marvelous telling of Marie Curie’s life story. Amazon also put out a couple good, but not great, documentaries this year. If it were not for Hulu’s “I Am Greta,” “Time” would be my favorite documentary of 2020. I think Amazon has a solid track record this year. Not perfect, but solid.

“Sound of Metal” is Amazon’s best 2020 release yet.

People say that film is a visual medium, and they’re not wrong. When you have a character whose hearing is being taken away, it makes you appreciate the sights of whatever gets captured on camera. This is a film that at various points, has minimal dialogue, and relies on what you see, not hear. I have seen space movies where they drop the sound to mimic the endless vacuum of the starry sky, but “Sound of Metal” is that if it were brought down to earth. Even at points where the movie became somewhat difficult to watch, it had my attention simply because it was effective enough in its demanding of it. They say that audio is half your movie, and “Sound of Metal” does a really good job at suggesting that such a half may not always be a necessity. I have good hearing, and at times, it’s a curse due to my sensitivity to certain sounds. This movie occasionally made me feel deaf.

It is difficult to determine who will end up being this year’s Best Ensemble, but if I had to pick a perfect candidate right now, that would have to be the cast of “Sound of Metal.” Staying consistent with previous thoughts, many of the performances in this film are not what they are because of their lines, but through their physicality. This movie primarily focuses on two languages. English and sign language. All this leads to what ends up being some of the best writing and directing I have witnessed all year.

Riz Ahmed is a triumph in this film. I have witnessed Ahmed in previous projects, most notably “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and I thought in his previous roles that he served his purpose. Here however, it is difficult to deny that he was allowed to shine and reveal his true acting abilities. His portrayal of Ruben is raw, gritty, natural, and sort of mind-boggling at times. Ahmed is a true performer, and I liked him before “Sound of Metal” came out, but this is the first movie I’ve seen him in that puts his name on the map for me.

I also admire Ahmed’s chemistry with Olivia Cooke, who plays Lou in this film. For the record, Lou is Ruben’s sponsor, while also revealing to be romantically involved with the guy. Unlike Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke was a name that has circled around my head for sometime, and the reason for that is because “Ready Player One” ended up being one of my most rewatched movies of 2018. I like Olivia Cooke in “Ready Player One,” she was great in that movie. Much like Riz Ahmed, I sort of got to see more of Cooke’s true colors in this movie. This is a performance that absolutely dives into the emotions of the character at hand. I could feel the connection between her and Ahmed, and such a bond turned out to be one of the highlights of the film.

If this film has done one thing, that would be to make me realize the talent that can come from even people I do not know. I knew who Ahmed and Cooke were, but one man who I have not seen prior to this film is Paul Raci. I have no idea what his future holds, but with enough luck, it may end up being one with massive success. His portrayal of Joe really helped this film bring itself to an intimate level. Ruben is the rough, rugged, obnoxious main character who needs to realize what is ahead. Joe is calm, poised, and patient. If I were stuck in traffic with this guy, it would not be the worst car ride ever.

Continuing the subject of unknown, recently realized talent, this is the feature length directorial debut of Darius Marder, and if he keeps up his game, he could be a household name. This is his first feature film, and it is still a bit early to tell if his name will be big enough, or noteworthy enough to associate with the greats. Nevertheless, depending on how COVID-19 continues to unfold, we’ll have to see when Marder’s next film hits, but this is a fantastic debut. I would love to see more from Marder if possible, and maybe he’ll be the next big name in the industry.

If I had any problems with “Sound of Metal,” they would honestly be quite hard to point out. While the casting is amazing, it is a little weird to have a relationship between the main characters if their respective actors are 11 years apart in age. At the same time though, age is just a number. I will also say, time will be the defining factor here, but it is hard to tell whether I will obligate myself to go on Prime Video and watch this movie again. It’s not that I did not like the movie, I enjoyed it very much. But there are a couple scenes that immediately deliver a lack of comfort. While the feeling did provoke a sense that my time watching the film was well spent, it was nevertheless brought through scenes that may have been harder to watch than others.

Upon reflection, I would have to say that I love the way that this film starts and ends. I say so because it is a perfect encapsulation of Ruben’s journey. I will not go into much detail, but it has to do with his profession, the effects of said profession, and the overall journey of the film. This forms a recipe for greatness, and ultimately, one of my favorite movies of the year.

In the end, “Sound of Metal” is a nearly flawless attempt to highlight what it is like to lose your hearing. It shows ups, it shows downs, it shows in-betweens, showcasing a hard journey for the main individual and people around him. We can all agree that 2020 is objectively the worst year to be a film fan, that even stands true with the notion that “Parasite” deservedly won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Theaters have been closed. A lot of the films that are in theaters right now are probably just getting dumped. Disney+ got absolutely greedy with their “Mulan” experiment. Not many movies have been extraordinary. Although there have been a few that have been extraordinary like “The Last Shift,” “Over the Moon,” and “Yellow Rose.” As of today, “Sound of Metal” joins those movies in said category. I am going to give “Sound of Metal” a 9/10.

“Sound of Metal” is in select theaters starting Friday, November 20th, and will then drop onto Amazon’s Prime Video as an exclusive two weeks later, December 4th.

Thanks for reading this review! I am not sure what I will be watching this weekend, if anything. But over Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be reviewing “Superintelligence,” the all new film hitting HBO Max starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. Two and a half years ago, I reviewed “Life of the Party,” which these two collaborated on. It ended up being my least favorite film of the year. This can only go so well. Will 2020 strike me down once more? Will we see a turnaround for the celebrity couple? Find out soon on Scene Before! If you want to see that post, and more posts like this one, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sound of Metal?” What did you think about it? Or, have you watched any Amazon movies this year? Which one is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Yellow Rose (2019): Bigger Than Texas, Bigger Than Gold

“Yellow Rose” is directed by Diane Paragas (NextWorld, Brooklyn Boheme) and stars Eva Noblezada, Dale Watson, Princess Punzalan, and Lea Salonga (Aladdin, Mulan). This film follows a 17-year-old Filipina, who also happens to be part of a family of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. When Rose Garcia’s mother gets picked up by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she runs off and attempts to adapt to a new life and new reality as she aspires to become a country singer in Austin, Texas.

This movie played at a plethora of film festivals in 2019. Not only did this film get to play at these film festivals, but it did something else. WIN. On IMDb, there is a list of the many festivals in which this movie played. At almost every single one, it took home whatever each festival’s equivalent to Best Picture happens to be. It’s that good. Simply from the awards potential and what it has racked up so far, I had high expectations for this film. At the same time, it’s 2020, the year where each day I wonder if the next one is going to be less intolerable than the one before. For those who must know, it’s not like we have not had any good films this year. “Tenet,” “Summerland,” and “The Last Shift” are incredible. I’ll also happily defend “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” until the day I die! It’s worth a watch, trust me! Check it out on HBO Max!

In all seriousness, I saw “Yellow Rose” in an empty theater, given how cinemas are the only way you can watch this movie. Over the past couple year, we’ve had quite a few music-based movies that became popular, including “A Star is Born,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Yesterday.” Honestly, I’d rather forget that last one, it’s terrible. Here’s some good news. “Yellow Rose” is not as bad as yesterday.

Here’s some GREAT news… “Yellow Rose” is one of the best movies of the year!

This year in general started off fine, became bad, it’s gotten worse, and it hasn’t stopped progressing down the rabbit hole in terms of how terrible it truly is. For movies, it’s kind of the opposite point of view. We started off with a couple duds, got some good movies here and there, but overall, this year has been nothing special. We were so spoiled in 2019 with movies like “Parasite,” “Knives Out,” “Marriage Story,” and “Ready or Not.” But I will say one thing about this year, that’s kind of like last year. The sweet stuff comes later. And trust me, “Yellow Rose” is, in the words of Peter Griffin, freakin’ sweet.

Now I don’t know if this movie will be for everyone, specifically because the main character and her mother are living in the United States illegally, so I imagine some people will look at this movie, witness the main character, and simply ignore it. Movies are not made for everybody, that is the subjectivity of film. But when it comes to how this film tells this story, you cannot deny its power. You cannot deny its impact. I honestly don’t care about the status of our main character, because overall she is incredibly likable. I am a legal citizen of the United States. That is something which I will admit I have not been proud to say in recent years, but that’s not the point. Nevertheless, I enjoyed how the film deals with its issues, themes, and overall conflict.

Not only is “Yellow Rose” a great film about an aspiring artist, but it is a fantastic film about being an illegal in the United States. You’re trying to get by, you may not have the best accommodations, although you’re managing, and when it comes to dealing with I.C.E., it’s a brutal game of hardball. At the same time, even WITHOUT that, this film is still a lively presentation of how someone aspires to be something bigger than themselves, which is a story I enjoy from time to time. Minus the legality factor, I related to the character Rose. From the first five or so minutes of the film, I was instantly hooked from just seeing her on screen. And I’ll tell ya why. Like her, I have enormous aspirations. I spend all my time in my room. I’m a creative type. And there’s even a scene where I got the sense that she hides her creative self from other people. My eyes lit up from that very moment, and I knew I was in for what could possibly be the best movie of the year. By the way, Rose is played by Eva Noblezada, this is her first role that is not on a stage, and it is PERFECT. I do not think she will win Best Actress, but for a first performance, I could not be happier.

Speaking of songs, there are a lot of them in this movie, and there is a good chance that I’ll listen to some of them again. I will say though, one of the few cons, and there are not that many, that I have with “Yellow Rose” is despite the fact that “Yellow Rose” heavily centers around music, I don’t remember many of the songs in the film or the lyrics of said songs. At the same time, this stands true for much of the music I enjoy, so I could debunk this. Nevertheless, no movie’s perfect. This is a philosophy that has stood true for years, and I am willing to abide by it. This is not to say the songs suck, and I will say that many of them are spectacular, but a flaw’s a flaw.

If I had to say anything else about this movie, this came out at the perfect time for me. I still live with a parent, but I can see myself starting my own life pretty soon. This girl, embodies me as someone who sees their future and even a little bit of their present, and it ain’t always pretty. I can’t always rely on the best transportation, I make things up as I go along, and the living conditions may not always be great. I am very thankful to have such an incredible life right now where I can get three meals a day, and maybe a little more. This movie made me appreciate what people, regardless of their legality, go through just to survive. This movie is not only relatable, but emotionally gripping. My eyes and ears were engaged from start to finish, and it never let me go. In this wreck of a year, we need more movies like “Yellow Rose.”

In the end, “Yellow Rose” is quite high on my must see list! The film is only available in theaters now, which I will say, as usual, I get it, not everyone wants to go to the movies. But, if you are one of those people who wants to go see a movie, “Yellow Rose” is mandatory viewing. If you don’t enjoy the movie, maybe you’ll enjoy the songs. Who knows? This movie deals with multiple stories and issues, with each one coming out to top notch perfection. “Tenet” is one of the big movies out right now, and it has gotten a lot of attention, but if you want to support something with a smaller budget, I implore you to watch “Yellow Rose.” Again, some of the songs are not that memorable, but that could change upon listening to the album or a second viewing. And you bet I will want to participate in a second viewing because I’m going to give “Yellow Rose” a 9/10!

Now, IMDb technically lists this as a 2019 movie, but it came out for a public theatrical release in 2020, so I am going to count this as a 2020 film. With that being said, this may be my favorite film of 2020. I’m a little torn between this and a couple other films, but I am glad that 2020 has picked up the pace movie-wise. I’m really hoping we can get a 10/10 movie by the end of the year, but I’m so happy. By the way, about that 10/10. THIS MOVIE CAME SO CLOSE that I almost gave it that score. Maybe things will change with a second viewing! We’ll have to see!

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “Honest Thief” starring Liam Neeson. I hope to publish my thoughts on that film by the end of next week. School may be keeping me a little busy during these times. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Yellow Rose?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite piece of music, either song or score, from a movie this year? For me, it has to be the “Tenet” score, Ludwig Göransson created a banger! Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Movies of the 2010s (THE BEST 25)

Top Movies of the 2010s OFFICIAL POSTER

*WARNING: This post is over 11,000 words long…*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! This is it! We have arrived! Second upon second, minute upon minute, hour upon hour, week upon week, month upon month, year upon year, has led to this very moment. It is time to dive into the best and the worst movies of the 2010s! For this initial installment of the multi-part series, I will be diving into the best movies of the decade. If you have followed this blog for some time, there is a good chance that you know that I usually like to cap off my years by reflecting on the best and worst in film through short countdowns. This however, is going to be bigger. I’ll not only explain movies, what they’re about, why I did or did not like them, but I will also show clips of the movies as well, so you can get a taste of the cinematic flavor. Plus, instead of top 10, this countdown is going to be a top 25, more films, more fun! I am going to continue being as descriptive about these movies as I can without providing any spoilers about them. And per usual, rules apply. This is a completely subjective and personal countdown. All of these entries are strictly my opinion, and in no way factual. I am not being paid money to put a film in a certain place, I am not sponsoring any of these films, I have not even worked on a single one, I am just a viewer. Also, the 2010s is a span of ten years and thousands of movies, for all I know the final outcome could be much more because it is getting easier to make a film nowadays. People do it on iPhones for crying out loud! With that being said, I have not seen every single film this decade. I still haven’t gotten around to films like “Despicable Me” (2010), “The Artist” (2011), “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), “This is the End” (2013), “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” (2014), “Bridge of Spies” (2015), “The Nice Guys” (2016), “Logan” (2017) “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018), and “The Two Popes” (2019). Films like those will not be on the list. I will also point out, if the film does not have a theatrical release of any kind, it will not be allowed on here. That means all movies that have gone straight to DVD, TV, or streaming are not qualified and will be off the list unless the public was able to see it in a theater during its prime release schedule. So with that being said, let’s dive into a countdown to ultimately define the past ten years. This is the big one, let’s do this! These are my top 25 BEST movies of the 2010s!

#25: Honey Boy (2019)

Out of all the movies that I am putting on this list, this one is one of the most recent to have come out. Specifically, “Honey Boy.” This movie is written by, of all people, Shia LeBeouf (Transformers, The Peanut Butter Falcon). And I have to say, as an observer, I think LeBeouf might be a better writer than he is an actor! LeBeouf wrote this movie while he was in rehab and I think the turnout result on screen is nothing short of fantastic. This is the first feature-length script written for the screen by LeBeouf himself, and if he is ever up to the task, I would love to see more from him. Speaking of debuts, this film is also the feature-length debut of director Alma Har’el, who I think personally created one of the best directorial debuts of all-time. This is a film that hit me when I saw it in the theater. I was never able to fully relate to the situations at hand. But that’s because I never grew up with an abusive parent, I have very loving parents, but I cannot deny that I felt something for the movie’s lead kid character, Otis, who is played marvelously by Noah Jupe. Speaking of which, we also manage to see some rather unfortunate effects that have been eventually attached to this character as he ages into a 22-year-old. The only problem I have with this movie are a couple nitpicky comments I have with shot choices. Other than that, it’s perfection.

#24: Birdman (2014)

You ever watch a certain movie and ask yourself, “HOW THE F*CK DID THEY MAKE THAT?!” Admittedly, I knew one or two things going into “Birdman,” but having seen that movie, I have to reiterate that question to myself from time to time. Seriously! This is  a film that quite literally, never stops. It is one of the most innovative films of our time, specifically because the shots never cut. I just saw “1917” before concluding this list, which is a great movie. And that too has a non-stop, one shot take represented for an extended period of time. But this movie was a game-changer for me. This movie also could have sucked as a story, and still work for me in regards to how it represents itself visually. But guess what, it doesn’t suck as a story! The movie revolves around an actor who is well known for his role as a superhero in a film franchise. He’s sort of becoming increasingly irrelevant, and he is trying to revitalize his career on Broadway. The film gets surprisingly intense and delivers some of the best acting of the decade. This movie may represent Emma Stone’s best performance to date, which says a lot because I like her as an actress even in movies that I didn’t enjoy overall. Even though I didn’t entirely dig films like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” she was a highlight. If Stone keeps kicking ass in Hollywood and taking names for years to come, maybe she’ll be the next Meryl Streep. That’s another thing, what really makes this film all the more intense as a production is the fact that the camera is literally never stopping. There’s a shot that goes on for fifteen minutes, suggesting that there is a clear sense of needing to remember literally everything you have to do. Somehow, everyone pulled this ambitious project off! To me, it’s one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. Good story, good cast, good cinematography, GREAT film.

#23: Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

One of my favorite DreamWorks franchises is “Kung Fu Panda,” so it should not be surprising that one of the films from the franchise end up on here. Well… except the first one, that came out in 2008, therefore it doesn’t count. Instead, why not put the second one on the list? “Kung Fu Panda 2” is too awesome for words. If you ask me, this is an animated sequel that is visually stunning, fun, and continues directly where the original left off and gives itself a reason to exist. It also, to my surprise, does a really good job with world-building and providing some decent backstory material as well. Much like many other sequels that come to mind, this references the original in clever ways, the most notable instance that comes to mind is the “stairs” scene, which continues to get a kick out of me conceptually. I will also say that much like the original “Kung Fu Panda” movie, the climax of this film is one of the best in animation history. It is compelling, it is attention-grabbing, it is flashy, it is epic, it’s everything I want out of a movie like this. The animation itself is pristine, clean, and overall very marvelous to glance upon. It’s easily one of DreamWorks’ best-looking films! If “Kung Fu Panda 2” ever comes out on 4K, I would not mind going to the store and picking it up! The original “Kung Fu Panda” will always have a place in my heart, both as a childhood film, and as one of my favorite films in general. But this sequel, along with the third installment in the trilogy, both bring smiles to my face. Spoiler by the way, the third installment, as much I adore it, is not on this list!

#22: Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Coming in at #22 is an entry that I feel is going to strike some controversy, but what is the Internet without a little disagreement? So, hear me out. Here’s the thing about “The Wizard of Oz,” many people seem to know it to be one of the most beloved, iconic films of all time, and I can see why. Having seen the film myself, I think it is definitely worthy of utter appreciation even eighty years after its release. However, if you ask me, one of the best films of my time, personally, comes from the same universe, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” This is one of those films that I am surprised I do not talk about more often. While the visuals at times may not look realistic and maybe like something out of a TV movie, that honestly adds to the charm of this film a little bit. I think James Franco does a pretty decent job with the lead Role. Mila Kunis adds her slice of charisma and comes off like she’s having fun with the movie. When I saw the marketing for this film originally, I was expecting something epic, fun, and flashy, and I got all three of those things. Did I mention Sam Raimi directed this film? I think he did a pretty swell job at not only giving us a solid story, but the way they utilized 3D in this film was honestly done to levels that I did not expect. Is it gimmicky? I guess you can definitely make an argument for it being gimmicky, but that sort of adds to the fantastical charm of it all. I also have to give a shoutout to Danny Elfman for creating the fantastic score. As soon as I was introduced to the film and I was going through the opening titles, I knew that this movie was going to be rad. There are times where, dare I say it… *whispering* think this could be more entertaining than “The Wizard of Oz…” Does that mean it’s technically better? Probably not, but still.

#21: Roma (2018):

I think this film is pretty unique in terms of where it stands. After all, it is the only black and white movie on this list. I give you all the movie that made me start taking Netflix just a tad more seriously as brand, “Roma!” This is one of those films that I went in blind for, and as I watched whatever was happening, it made for one of the best theater experiences of the past few years. Plus, getting to see this movie in 70mm was a treat. This film is directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also made another enjoyable flick from this decade, “Gravity.” Now I liked “Gravity” when I saw it, and as a theater experience, it was better than “Roma,” which says something because “Roma” is great on its own. But having said that, “Roma” is ultimately the superior film. It’s a story revolving around a maid to a family in Mexico who becomes pregnant. Essentially, this is one of those “slice of life” films that is not always happy go lucky. There was a moment during the film, probably through shot composition, direction, and acting, where I almost let a tear go. The beach scene in this film is one of the most emotionally powerful moments I had the privilege of witnessing in a cinema. When it comes to this list, there is almost no other film that I can think of, except a few, that can rival this one in terms of cinematography. If you want to watch it right now it is free on Netflix, but it is also getting a physical release as part of the Criterion Collection which REALLY makes me happy. I will say though, I am not sure how audiences, specifically Americans, will continue to respond to it overtime. It is black and white and has subtitles. I don’t care about subtitles personally, but it is, as “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho suggests, a one-inch tall barrier that some viewers have yet to overcome. 

#20: The Disaster Artist (2017)

I did not make this list, it’s not true, it’s bulls*it! I did not make this list! I did nawt! Oh, hi viewers! This film is one of the best comedies I have seen, which is tremendous praise on my part because if you are making a comedy specifically for me, it is HARD to make a good one. What comedy am I talking about? That first pile of sentences should be a hint. “The Disaster Artist!” This is a film that is about a lot of things. Friendship, sticking up for one another when one is trying their hardest to make something special, and how MIND-NUMBINGLY DIFFICULT it is to make a good movie. This movie is basically a telling of how Tommy Wiseau and others went about making the early 2000s cult classic “The Room.” For those of you who haven’t seen “The Room,” this film basically tells you the behind the scenes mayhem and chaos that went into that movie. It’s one of those movies, kind of similar to films like “Batman & Robin” or last year’s “The Fanatic” starring John Travolta that is so incredibly hysterical that it would probably leave some viewers wondering how it even was conceived, made, and released! This film dives deep into all of that. James Franco also gives one of the best performances I have seen from him. Yes, he was definitely great in films like “127 Hours.” To me, that’s nothing compared to “The Disaster Artist,” and I can tell that it was rather simple for Franco to put a lot of passion into this performance considering how he not only starred in the film, but he also directed it. At the end of 2017, I told pals of mine that I was looking forward to watching this more than “The Last Jedi.” I cannot say I was disappointed walking out of it. In fact, the tail end of the film has that feel good vibe that I did not even think I would have needed. Do you have to watch “The Room” to understand “The Disaster Artist?” Not really, no. You can go watch this film, and once it ends, I think you may be able to fully understand everything. Does it help? Sure it does, because it goes into some of Tommy’s mannerisms, quirks, and even pays homage to certain choices and dialogue that had ultimately been put in “The Room” itself. Also, shoutout to Tommy Wiseau. I love you, man. You’re kinda crazy, but I love ya!

#19: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Some people say that Pixar may be the biggest force today that will allow the animation industry to thrive. I would not say they’re wrong, but if you ask me, I think the animation industry also has a place for another particular company, Laika, the creators of “Coraline.” Speaking of Laika, they also created my favorite animated film of 2016, “Kubo and the Two Strings.” When I went through 2016 as a year in film, there were plenty of good ones like “Captain America: Civil War,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and “Patriots Day.” However, if there happened to be one genre that dominated the year for me, it has to be animation. With the exception of maybe “Moana” and DEFINITELY “Ice Age: Collision Course,” I don’t think there is a single animated film from 2016 I did not enjoy. For the record, I missed out on “Norm of the North,” so I have no comments regarding that. “Finding Dory, “Zootopia,” “Sing,” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” and even the raunchy adult animation “Sausage Party” all were worthy of a thumbs up. However, “Kubo” came out on top. It is a film that is visually creative and stunning, colorful, and an amazing tribute to everyone who’s got a story to tell. The film’s cast also has some notable names including Charlize Theron (Hancock, A Million Ways to Die in the West), Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club), and even George Takei (Star Trek, Kim Possible). The film has various scenes that make me personally wish that I was the one responsible behind the screenplay or the overall production due to the brilliant ideas being presented. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one of those films that is worth just about every second of my time. Out of all the films to come out in its particular year, it’s probably the one that most resembles a video game. I guess if you change some character names, maybe one or two pieces of the plot, and have a side gag dedicated to breaking pottery, this would make for one fine “Legend of Zelda” movie.

#18: Inside Out (2015)

I have only seen this movie once, but even so, it is still one of the most charming animated films out there today. I’m talking about “Inside Out!” The concept behind it is one that I personally wish I originated. Essentially, it dives into the “voices inside your head.” These voices include Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. One of the biggest surprises that I have with “Inside Out” is its expansive world. And I say it’s surprising because of where exactly the world takes place, specifically inside the head of a young girl going through puberty. Even though this movie is made for families and children, it deals with some heavy topics. Moving, adapting to a new lifestyle, growing up, and handling yourself emotionally regardless of the situation. This movie does a really good job at displaying the human condition by reminding you that there are times when your feelings take over and you lose a sense of control in a way. I liked all the characters in this film, some of the human characters are admittedly a little generic, but the movie is not about them, they are ultimately pawns in this story, it’s really about the main human character, Riley, and the voices in her head. Speaking of said voices, I also want to give massive props to Lewis Black for his terrific voiceover performance as Anger, and part of it has to do with the golden script that allows these emotions to shine. But out of all of them, Anger is by far the best of the bunch because of how raw he feels. Whenever he gets mad, he literally erupts like a volcano. It’s f*cking great. Much like some other Pixar films such as “Coco” or “Up,” this film is powerful in its impact. That’s probably the best part of it because you have these five core emotions and all of them make you feel emotions. This movie does its job well, and even though I have not watched it since my initial viewing in 2016 when it came to Starz, I cannot wait to watch it again.

#17: Room (2015)

HOOO-LY CRRRAAAAP. THIS MOVIE. I cannot even begin to describe what is like to watch this for the first time. For those of you who don’t know what I am referring to, just watch “Room.” Not, “THE ROOM,” “ROOM.” “Room” is a film that is based on a book that I have personally never read, but even so, the movie delivers. Between the remarkable performances between Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, the film packs a brutal punch in every possible method imaginable. It is emotional, it is heart-pumping, it is disturbing in the best way I can possibly describe the word. I read a review on IMDb for “Room” before watching it and somebody said that this movie made them a better person. Having seen “Room” myself, I can see why. This film is almost on the edge to where it drags in the middle of it, but it does not mean the movie has that many flaws whatsoever. This is not a horror movie, perhaps in any sense of the word. But after watching this film, there is an argument to make that “Room” could be scarier than a vast number of horror flicks out there. “Room” is a film that kind of ends up being cute, but to have it end up being cute, it cannot be cuddly. This is especially true when you take the brilliant screenplay and the way that actor Jacob Tremblay, who get this, WAS NOT EVEN TEN YEARS OLD during the production or release of the film, executes all of his beautiful lines. The story is told from his perspective, and that made the movie just slightly better, because the idea was to have a child who knew nothing about the outside world, and getting that perspective made me feel for the mother and son duo. Just watch this movie, you will not regret it. If I need to say anything else about it, A24 helped get this film out there. They are easily one of the best studios working today, so if you want to support independent, not to mention compelling filmmaking, go buy this movie.

#16: Toy Story 3 (2010)

This entry is one of the best Pixar films I have ever seen. Let’s just be clear, it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for something to top “The Incredibles” as far as my opinions are concerned. I’m talking about “Toy Story 3.” This is a film that I think hit every single level that not only an animated film need to hit, but also every level a trilogy capper needed to hit. Yes, “Toy Story 4” exists, but to me, that’s just additional DLC at this point. “Toy Story” was never one of my big franchises growing up, even though I do admire its technological achievements for the film industry as a whole. The reason why “Toy Story 3” is such a great movie overall is because despite how it does feel like something kids can enjoy, it can ultimately connect with anyone, no matter what age they just so happen to be. The whole trilogy seems to present a tiny little structure of Andy, the owner of a majority of the toys seen in the franchise, growing up, and now we have come to this third installment where he is now an adult and he’s off to college. If you know me in person, I tend to be extremely sentimental. I still have various items from when I was a kid that I imagine other people would get rid of if they had them at a particular age. I still have a stuffed duck, a ton of DVDs I possessed at a young age, all the game consoles that I have ever owned (that still at least partially work). I didn’t even get rid of my childhood twin bed until it broke at the age of nineteen! This movie basically reminded me to cherish the memories of childhood, and while not everything lasts forever, you can still cherish the legacy of something or pass it down to future generations. Also, the ending of this film may be the best Pixar has ever done. It has numerous emotions attached to it that make it all work. It is perhaps one of the saddest, yet happiest endings I have seen in a film. This is why I didn’t want a “Toy Story 4.” Granted, I will admit, I was utterly surprised with how good “Toy Story 4” was when I saw it, but compared to the original trilogy, it is just a bonus.

#15: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

You know that movie that might as well match up with where you are in life? One of those films that reminds you of an event you are currently tackling? Well at the beginning of 2019, I was in my second semester of college and to my surprise, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” spoke to me on every level that it could. This third installment to the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise is the perfect ending to its particular trilogy. It dives deep into the character of Toothless, goes through a major change in how the character thinks, not to mention feels. With the recent introduction of a “Light Fury,” Toothless finds love. This side of the story, along with various other elements reminded me of the man that I am trying to become. I still live with my mother, mainly because despite being in college, I do not want to lose the family connection I have right now. I still go to my grandparents every week. I still talk to my parents just about every chance I get. Even though I do plan to eventually develop my own path in life, move out, etc, I do not want to lose the connection of family quite just yet. But with that being said, this reminded me of how some parents want to protect their children, which means that the children perhaps have a helicopter over them at times. This movie highlights the connection between Hiccup and Toothless, and builds off the terrific chemistry the two had before. I will also say, of the numerous DreamWorks animated films that I’ve watched over the years, this is one of the more stunning ones. And it definitely shows when we get to The Hidden World. It’s flashy, colorful, vast, and if I imagined myself there in person, I’d be overwhelmed by the scope of everything around me. The only problem that comes to mind with this film might as well be the cliché villain, but even with that, everything else is A+ material. To this day, it is the only film I watched in the theater that made me cry. It is one hell of an experience overall.

#14: Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan is my favorite director of all time. He can take a comic book concept like “Batman” and deliver on it 110%. He can put you directly in a war zone like he did in “Dunkirk.” He can also take you back in time for an epic thrill in “Memento.” But one movie that is better than all of those is one of my personal favorite flicks of 2010. “Inception.” This movie has everything a sci-fi action flick is supposed to have! Great characters! A brilliant concept! Cool looking visual effects! A lovable story! AMAZING screenwriting! Epic music, kudos to Hans Zimmer by the way! Everything in this movie builds up to what I consider to be one of my favorite climaxes in film history. I’m not talking about the very end, but the final act itself is a true display of why I continue to watch movies to this day. It delivers on spectacle, stakes, and you care about the characters! At least I did. The relationship between Leo DiCaprio and Marion Cottillard? HOLY F*CK! Not only did I buy them the way they were together, the movie does everything it can to make you get emotional about them. Speaking of DiCaprio, his chemistry with Ellen Page was great, I thought they were terrific partners, and I almost cannot imagine anybody else in that duo. And again, the concept! The idea of someone going from dream to dream and trying to plant an idea in someone’s head?! Freaking rad! This movie is literally what dreams are made of.

#13: Ready Player One (2018)

Continuing down this list, we have, “Ready Player One.” I’m putting this on the list in reference to the great year that I personally believe 2018 has been for the film industry as a whole. There are more 2018 films on here, and this is just one of them. Before the movie came out, I read the book, and I’ll be honest, I love the book to death. It’s pretty much everything I would want out of a book of its kind. The author’s kind of a cool guy too, Google Ernest Cline, he’s awesome. But here’s the thing about books and movies, I don’t always WANT the book to be exactly the same as the movie. If they make the movie and book identical, great! Maybe it works out, but there are a few things in the book like the “Pac-Man” scene that I do think could have ended up being pretty cool to see, but it would make the film itself lose some of that theatricality factor. It’s one of those films that I love because of how much of a true adventure it is. It feels like that from start to finish, when we are introduced to the OASIS virtual reality system, I instantly wanted to be a part of that world. Even though the real world ended up kind of being in deep s*it in the film’s vision of 2045, I still wanted this VR system in front of me because of all the unlimited capabilities that come with it. Plus, despite how this movie is filled with all of these pop culture associations like a digitized version of “The Shining,” “Batman,” a “Minecraft” world, and even a ton of time spent with the DeLorean, I still cared about the main characters in front of me. As for the visual effects, they are quirky, they are different, they look like something out of a 3D anime, but that’s something that makes them work. After all, a good portion of this movie takes place in a virtual universe with Avatars, so it is kind of cool to see all the customized beings walking around with all their digitized swagger. And of course, I cannot end this without mentioning two things. One, the amazing score by Alan Silvestri. It’s epic in every way. It’s grand, it’s big, and it fits this nostalgic fantasy realm to the tenth degree! Also, the final chase between the main heroes and villain is one of the most creative scenes I have witnessed on film. Between all of this and being one of my most rewatched movies of 2018, I just had to put this somewhere on the list. 

#12: Ready or Not (2019)

I think I said what needs to be said about “Ready or Not” in my best movies of 2019 list, but let’s be real, I can’t stop talking about it! “Ready or Not” is one of those movies that may sound silly on paper, even though it had one of my favorite trailers of the year. The concept of “Ready or Not” is that a woman is getting married into a family that traditionally plays a game before someone new joins the family. Turns out they have to play hide and seek, which ultimately means that the family has to let the newcomer hide, before they have go on a quest to kill her. It’s f*cking nuts. This is one of those movies, according to many people, that has a trailer with more information to reveal than necessary. I wouldn’t say people are wrong to say that. But I will say that this movie gave me EXACTLY what I would have expected, not to mention wanted, after witnessing its trailer. I saw this at an advance screening in Boston, and the communal experience that was had during this movie was one to remember. Everybody gasped, applauded, and while I am not a fan of people talking during films, there was an older woman next to me who would provide some hilarious commentary on what’s happening. Also, everything from the production design to the writing to the pacing just works 100%. I will also mention, again, hiding spoilers, the ending. If 2019 has done anything for me in terms of films, it has given some of the best endings ever. From “Avengers: Endgame” to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and even the recently mentioned “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” the endings were all a collection of perfection. I am going to keep myself from talking about the ending, because it is something that you seriously have to see for yourself, but it’s pure movie Heaven. I rarely go see movies twice in the theater at this point, but if I had more time on my hands (and less movies to pick from in the cinema), I would have gone to see this a second time. I mean, HOLY CRAP.

#11: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Up next, is one of the best action movies I have witnessed in my life, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” “Mission: Impossible” is a very interesting franchise as far as movies go because it has been going on since 1996, it has had no reboots since then, Tom Cruise is always a guaranteed badass, and with the exception of “Mission: Impossible II,” all the movies have been pretty good. In fact, if it weren’t for “Risky Business,” this would probably be my all-time favorite Tom Cruise film. I mean, seriously! I cared about everyone, every action sequence was done to perfection, and I will forever be in Tom Cruise’s debt just because he learned how to fly a helicopter for this movie. And remember how in “Justice League” Henry Cavill had his beard erased by digital effects? Like, to the point where certain people could notice certain particles on his face? After seeing this movie, it’s completely worth it! Between the cinematography, location choices, directing, score, editing, sound, and overall immersion factor, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is easily one of those action flicks that puts a smile on my face. There are certain movies that I have watched in the past like “Atomic Blonde” or “John Wick” that have one memorable action scene and I often sometimes perhaps equate that to how much I enjoy those movies. For “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” If they ever put this back in theaters, I will come for the movie, but STAY for the helicopter scene, because holy f*ck! Thank you, Tom Cruise, for nearly giving up your life making this masterpiece!

#10: Arrival (2016)

I’ve seen a lot of movies from 2016, including the one where Donald Trump becomes president. That movie by the way is called “Real Life” and is often getting mixed critical responses. Trump becoming president, to me at least, was practically a “holy f*ck” moment. I’m not gonna talk about politics, I’m not saying I like or dislike him, I’m just saying that this is something I would have never predicted to have happened ten years ago. Speaking of “holy f*ck” moments, that term can also apply to one of the last movies I saw in 2016, which by coincidence, came out the same week Trump was announced as President-Elect, specifically “Arrival.” This movie is about a group of people who are investigating the actions of alien life forms as they try to interpret their language and communicate with them. I like that concept, because the movie starts off as if it were an alien invasion summer blockbuster, but in reality, it fits right in with a thinker just in time for award season. I’ll remind you, this is a November movie, so it is technically just in time for award season. In fact, it won an Oscar, and happened to be nominated for Best Picture! Although it ended up losing to “Moonlight”–wait wait wait, was it “La La Land?” Which one was it? Could have been a tie for all I know. The plot overall was fascinating, I loved Denis Villeneuve’s direction, the sound work was some of the best of the year, and the score at times was awesome. In fact, when I watched the movie at home once, I nearly shed a tear! I never cry during movies, that’s personally an achievement on this film’s part!

#9: The LEGO Movie (2014)

This next spot is dedicated to one of the biggest surprises of the decade. I saw the trailer for this film long before it came out, and while I did not hate it, there might have been a part of me that thought that this film could not have possibly worked whatsoever, but it did! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you perhaps the funniest animated movie of the decade, “The LEGO Movie!” This is a film that gets better every time I watch it. Because I watched it when it came out, and I found it to be delightful, charming, and witty. Then as I continued watching it when it came to HBO and cable networks like TBS, I have observed the dialogue, which was already fantastic to begin with, and so many other lines popped up and busted my guts. This movie’s Batman is perfect for its own world! He’s an egotistical man who’s always about himself. He’s basically what would happen if you took Kevin O’Leary from “Shark Tank” and made him “Batman,” because both people seem to think that they are the best person alive. There’s no competing against them! Anything out of his mouth is pure gold. This is why I also thought 2017’s “The LEGO Batman Movie” was just as pleasing as this specific film. The movie has an advantage of playing off of iconic properties, because there’s a scene dedicated to how many characters from preexisting material they can fit into one area. They managed to get Gandalf, Dumbledore, more DC characters aside from Batman himself, NBA basketball players including the Shaq, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they have Abraham Lincoln in a flying space chair! Holy f*ck this movie is a trip! And speaking of trips, the climax in this movie introduces something that you do not really see in this genre of film. I cannot go into it because, well, spoilers, but it is the stuff of absolute genius! As for the other leads, they are funny, they are well-written, and provide some of the best comedic material of 2014. The movie does follow beats of other films, with there being a prophecy and all, but it does it so well that I just don’t care. And before we move on, can we just talk about Good Cop/Bad Cop? Yeah, it’s two characters in one, and it makes for one of the most hysterical questioning scenes I have ever witnessed. GENIUS! Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are powerhouse filmmakers and I would to love to see more from them! 

#8: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

What do you get when you build a story up for a decade, over tens of films across different IPs, with all of them making millions to billions of dollars? According to many, I’d say you’d get “the most ambitious crossover in history.” “Avengers: Infinity War!” You know those movies that are so good, so iconic, so life-changing, and so experiential that they define a generation? Yeah, this is one of them. Earlier on in the decade, “Star Wars” was seen to many as the important franchise to remember for a long time. Well guess what? Everyone at Marvel glanced at “Star Wars” saying, “Hold our beer!” The reason why I love this movie so much is because of how much it changed the game for movies of its kind. Sort of in the same manner that a film like “The Dark Knight” managed to do so. To be honest, before this movie came out, I was getting worried about what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. The Marvel movies in 2017 were not up to par with what I would want out of a flick in its particular genre, but when 2018 arrived, “Avengers: Infinity War” gave me EXACTLY what I wanted. A ton of visually stunning action scenes, a compelling story of good vs. evil, all the while putting much more emphasis on evil than usual. Honestly, Thanos may be the greatest movie villain ever written. His motivation to “balance” the universe is something I can buy into. His relationship with Gamora and Nebula during the film brought some attention-grabbing moments, including a scene that involves sacrifice in order to achieve what you desire. While I didn’t exactly root for Thanos, I understood why he did what he did, and in various ways, I almost feel bad for him. And let me just say, I won’t name names, but this is a film where A LOT of people die, including many on the good side. One of my complaints involving the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to do with the lack of deaths on the good side, and when they do happen, they mean nothing to me because the character either comes back or the death comes from a character who I happen to find irrelevant. This is part of why I felt an impact from various scenes in the film’s sequel, “Avengers: Endgame.” By the way, “Endgame’s” not on the list. Sorry guys!

#7: Whiplash (2014)

Coming in at #7, is “Whiplash!” “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.” This quote will forever stick with me, partially because “Whiplash” makes jazz look like the greatest art form ever created just from how brutal it appears. I have heard some comments from certain jazz enthusiasts and students saying that the idea behind this film is flawed because jazz doesn’t work the way it does here. I am in no way trying to invalidate their prior experiences, but I think the movie is all the better for what it does in regards to how jazz is being taught, being enforced among students. I say that because it makes the movie completely relatable to those who have taken on a class, it could be a subject of interest or one that you are forced into for some reason, and the person teaching the class is just the biggest dickface on the planet and now you have to put up with them. But I will say, JK Simmons plays this dickface very well. JK Simmons is one of my favorite actors working today and he deserved his Oscar upon finishing this film. His chemistry with Miles Teller is some of the best I have ever seen. This is also one of the earlier films directed by Damien Chazelle, who would go on to direct “La La Land” and “First Man,” both of which were also great movies. I can tell the guy really has a passion for the jazz genre of music, and it shows through several moments of the screenplay, which is why it is also no surprise that he made it a centerpiece of the story in “La La Land.” Damien Chazelle is still a young filmmaker and time will tell if his productions will continue to be worthy of conversation and preservation, but with films like this, he is off to a flying start if you ask me.

#6: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Out of everyone in my family, it goes without saying that I am probably the geekiest. So naturally, this next movie was almost made for a geek like me. I’m talking about the live-action resurrection of a popular saga! “Star Wars: The Force Awakens!” The things that really cement this movie’s presence on the list is my history with it. I already really enjoyed “Star Wars” before this movie came out, therefore, how I could I NOT be excited for this film? I went to see it four times in the theater and twice in IMAX! It’s the first steelbook I’ve ever owned! And I used to have a joke I would think about in my mind from time to time. Remember how George Lucas went back and changed the original trilogy and rereleased every installment from said trilogy as “Special Editions?” Well, people often point out this movie, Episode VII, being pretty similar to Episode IV. If that is truly the case, allow me to declare that Episode VII is without a doubt, the best special edition in the entire “Star Wars” saga! I will say, the trilogy that this belongs to itself is a bit of a mixed bag. I liked “The Rise of Skywalker,” I thought it just good old-fashioned “Star Wars” fun, but still a little messy. But “The Last Jedi” is what I think hurt this trilogy most, because a lot of things were set up in “The Force Awakens” and the payoff to all of those things happen to be either ignored or off-putting. However, it does not take away from how much I love this movie. It’s great seeing old faces like Han and Chewie again, 3PO and his red arm, the lightsaber battles are as fun and exciting as they’ve ever been. The film has possibly the most eye-candy-esque color palette in a “Star Wars” film yet. Then again, with newer tech, it probably helps. But keep in mind, this movie was also shot on film, and it looks great! I will also mention Adam Driver’s character of Kylo Ren being one of the best things that has EVER happened to the “Star Wars” franchise. I love him because he’s ultimately trying to carry on the legacy of Darth Vader and the Empire, but as this villain who is supposed to be evil, he is clearly conflicted and broken, which adds a lot to his character. There is an argument to make that stuff like this can make a villain look weak, but I feel that this is what this sequel trilogy needed. A different kind of villain who can kick ass, while also being able to release themselves and reveal how they feel emotionally. As for other lead characters, I think Rey and Finn have great chemistry, and seeing them together after they finish their first fight onboard the Millennium Falcon is like watching two kids discover they have unbelievable talent in a video game. Poe Dameron is also a fresh and exciting addition to the franchise. I’m just mad of the direction they took his character in “The Last Jedi.” As much as I am scared of a future where Disney rules the entire media universe, “The Force Awakens” is most certainly worth watching. And watching again. And again. No seriously, when this thing came out, the replay value for me was bonkers! 

#5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Up next, we have one of the best comic book movies of the decade. Is it in the DC universe? No. Is it in the Marvel universe? No. It’s a little film directed by Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World! THE FREAKING WORLD! This movie, to me, was perhaps everything I would have wanted it to be and more! FLASHY! OBNOXIOUS! CREATIVE! VISUALLY STUNNING! HILARIOUS! OH MY GOSH THIS MOVIE’S AWESOME! As far as comic book movies go, this has some of the best directing, not to mention, some of the best writing I have seen. It goes for that ridiculous, absurd fast pace that will allow you as a viewer to keep your eyes on the screen. In fact, you know what? You know that stereotype about video game movies? You know how a lot of people are perhaps still waiting for that “excellent” video game movie that they have yet to see in their life? If they perhaps changed a few things about the characters, a small number of visuals, things like that, then I might as well say that this would have made for an EPIC “Guitar Hero” movie or something. In fact, I’d compare this movie to something along the lines of “Ready Player One,” because there is a sign of at least one or two characters having an obsession with pop culture and both movies seem to have a unique visual style. Granted, “Scott Pilgrim” is a lot less reliant on preexisting IPs, but still. It talks about things like the history of “Pac-Man,” it has a scene that might as well take place in a “Seinfeld” episode, and the band’s name is “Sex Bob-Omb,” which is “sex bomb” mixed with the name of the bombs from “Super Mario.” Plus, both feel like cinematic video games if you truly break them down. They feel not only immersive, but like they have this visual aesthetic that has a larger than life aspect to them. And I must say, if this film was not already exciting enough, not only are the fights with the exes stunning to watch, each one is perhaps creative in its own way. There is a bass battle, a fight where an ex breaks out into song, there’s one where gigantic visual creatures are spawned out of nowhere! It’s the stuff of magic, really! So if you ask me, “Jack, what’s your favorite comic book movie of the 2010s? Is it “Infinity War?” “Endgame?” “Logan?” “Deadpool?” “The Winter Soldier?” “The Dark Knight Rises?” “Man of Steel?” Forget Marvel and DC! I direct you, to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

#4: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

When I was first introduced to “The Hobbit,” specifically the movies, I had no idea that it was attached the “Lord of the Rings” franchise (I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies). But if you had to ask me right now, it feels weird to say, but “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is arguably my favorite “Lord of the Rings” film. “Fellowship” is up there, but still. I walked out of the theater LOVING this movie, and I still do. I think it is one of 2013’s best, and the villain, Smaug, may be one of the greatest given to my generation. MASSIVE KUDOS to Benedict Cumberbatch for his fantastic portrayal and voicework. As creepy as this may sound, I would not mind it if Smaug was the narrator of my life. That’s how much I love his voice. As for everyone else, I liked Martin Freeman and Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellan as Gandalf, per usual, is great. The visuals, as expected, are top notch. And that final chase between Bilbo, the dwarves, Smaug, was an adrenaline rush brought up to 9,000! Speaking of adrenaline rushes, I also really enjoyed the barrel scene, where they all fight in the forest river, which by the way, more props have to be given, Howard Shore, you are a musically gifted man. Go listen to The Forest River on the official soundtrack for the movie. You won’t be disappointed! And one of the best things I can say about this movie is that it feels like an improvement over its predecessor. I say that because the first “Hobbit” movie, even there are some coolish things in it, was overall kind of a mixed bag. Still good, watchable, but it’s the worst movie in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise for sure. This is especially true when it comes the pacing. This sequel is fast paced from start to finish, with a short little breather in the middle of it all. I also admittedly like the introduction of Tauriel, who was never in the books, but she honestly added something to the movie for me. This movie can be summed up in one word. Epic. That’s all you need. It is one of the best fantasy movies I have ever seen, and one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. One of the best prequels too if you want to get technical.

#3: Colossal (2016)

Monster movies can be fun, but have you ever heard of a film where a woman reunites with a childhood friend, occasionally get drunk together, whilst Seoul is being attacked by a kaiju, and that kaiju is the girl herself? No? Well, you have been missing out! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Colossal,” the greatest monster movie ever made. I did not hear much about “Colossal” before going into it. In fact, I never recalled watching any trailers. And I honestly feel bad for those who did, because I read reviews from people thinking this is was going to be heavy on comedy. Not really, it’s got comedy in it, in fact with an actor like Jason Sudeikis comedy almost feels like a guarantee, but it’s not trying to be a comedy. It’s more of a drama if you ask me. It’s a drama about a group of pals who live in a small town and while one girl is adjusting to her new social group, she is also a killer monster (under certain conditions). “Colossal,” starring Anne Hathaway, takes that killer monster concept and avoids making it the main part of the story, while still using it to develop every action our characters take. In fact, you know how some big blockbusters or monster movies tend to show the despair and downfall of a city as everyone is trying to save themselves from danger? Oh… WOW. I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT DONE THE WAY IT IS DONE IN “COLOSSAL.” Not only is it creative, imaginative, and original, but it’s also to my surprise, almost shell-shocking. Not to mention, some of you might not feel the same way as I do, but I don’t think I would spend much of my adult life drinking alcohol, and this movie reminds me of why I tend to avoid it. The film is pleasant, unique, and most of all, exciting! It’s a film, kind of like “Whiplash,” that feels very big by being very small. When I saw this movie in the theater, I walked out feeling like a changed man. I remember texting a friend about the film some time after seeing it and telling them I don’t recall the last time I felt the way did walking out of “Colossal” since perhaps “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” What a f*cking movie.

#2: Blade Runner 2049

#2, is one of the best science fiction and noir flicks of my generation. It is a long-awaited and ambitious sequel. It is yet another return to a franchise starring Harrison Ford, now accompanied by the Canadian boy toy, Ryan Gosling, “Blade Runner 2049.” I am a major advocate for the theatrical experience. I believe streaming services like Netflix have some sort of purpose in society. You can pop on a movie whenever you wish, you can watch a movie practically wherever you want, but if you ask me, films like this is why the movie theater has been established. It is big, loud, and it looks DOPE. If you had to ask me, if I had to choose which film has the best cinematography ever, “Blade Runner 2049” might be somewhere on that list. It is a film that I believe would be an inspiration to future filmmakers, fans of sci-fi, and maybe even film composers, because Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch made the score together and it is FANTASTIC. I remember my senior year of high school and one of the highlights of said time period is not particularly doing homework, but playing the soundtrack of “Blade Runner 2049” while I do my homework. It put me in the mood to get my work done, and made homework just a little more epic. In fact, I have immense respect to this sequel compared to a ton of others, because unlike a lot of sequels that come out today, this doesn’t try to force any setup of future installments or cinematic universes. It feels like its own story, sort of like the first “Blade Runner.” Would I love to see a third “Blade Runner?” Absolutely. I think a third “Blade Runner” could end up being one of the better films of its particular year depending on how they execute it. The question is, how much money would it make? Because despite how much I love “Blade Runner 2049,” I do have to acknowledge that not everyone went out to see it. Maybe it will gain a following in future years, but for now, I have to be knowledgeable about its past. As for how they handle the story of “Blade Runner 2049,” I loved everyone in the film. The returning characters, the new characters, and if I had to be honest, Harrison Ford gave the best performance I have seen from him in this particular film. I should also point out… Ana de Armas… Yeehaw. I had a crush on her after this movie for a number of reasons. But if I had to be honest, her character is quite honestly, spectacular, mainly because of how Armas herself handled the role. If a movie makes me, the viewer, fall in love with a holographic being, it has done its job, and more. “Blade Runner 2049” is one of those films that will end up defining the decade for me as a reflect on it further. And if you haven’t seen it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

#1: ??? (2014)
Here we are my friends, we have made it this far! This is #1! As far as this decade goes, if I were to use sports-related terms, when it comes to this countdown, 24 movies enter, one movie leaves. This is the one to leave. Speaking of leaving, this is the film that admittedly I do not think left that significant of an impact on me until one of my many rewatches. This is a film that I admired going into it, not to mention leaving it for what it was able to do from a technical perspective. As time went on, I found every single element of this movie worthy of two thumbs up. Just to let you all know, this is a 2014 film. Take a look at this clip from my #1 film of the 2010s.

Christopher Nolan is a god among men. My #1 movie of the 2010s is “Interstellar!” Everything about this film is done to unimaginable levels. In terms of important achievements in mankind, the pyramid goes something like this: Somewhere on the list, you have clay tablets, next on that list is medicine, then comes the wheel, maybe democracy gets one of those slots too, but at the top of that list, to me, is the movie “Interstellar.” When it comes to movie theater experiences, there is almost no competition when it comes to trying to rival the time I had watching this in IMAX 70mm. Even if I did not like the movie, I would probably still give it kudos for being a great time at the cinema. On that topic, it’s visually stunning, in fact it even won an Oscar for said visual effects. The cinematography is great no matter what, but if you watch it in a way that allows for the IMAX scenes to shine, it becomes ten times better than it already is, which says a lot. Seriously, if you are watching the film on DVD, do yourself a favor and upgrade to the Blu-ray, it’s GREAT. The film also has some of the best sound I have ever heard in a movie. I mean that in terms of volume, the specific sounds chosen, and even lack thereof (because ya know, space). Hans Zimmer also created what may be my personal favorite film score of all time. It’s one of those scores that I cannot stop listening to simply for motivation. If there’s ever a future event where they do “Interstellar” with a live orchestra playing the music, I don’t care where it is, I’ll travel out of the country for it if I have to, I’m game. And now you might be thinking, “Hey, Jackass! This may sound great and all, but how’s the story? How are the characters?”

Whoops! My bad! I forgot!

When it comes to the film’s story, it displays a future that is relevant and one that could happen very soon. It’s another one of those dire and somewhat depressing future films kind of like “Wall-E.” The film revolves around a bunch of characters who are currently dealing with the effects of a dying Earth. Every now and then they get dust storms, resources are dwindling, plants are going away. In fact, corn, which is almost extinct in this movie, is all humanity seems to rely on when it comes to fulfilling their hunger. Meanwhile, NASA, which is kind of a point of controversy because younger generations are being taught in school that the Apollo missions are fake, is trying to set up a mission to find another inhabitable planet for humanity. This is something that I think could happen in real life. Maybe not exactly the same as this film suggests, because let’s face it, I don’t think the moon landing conspiracy is going to get that many more supporters, but who knows? My point however, is that humanity is becoming more aware of their environmental impact on this planet, which may suggest a need to perhaps abandon it and find a new one. There are some films that mess around with time, and Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker is no stranger to this concept. After all, when you’re known for doing films like “Memento” and “Inception,” you obviously have some experience. “Interstellar” to me does a phenomenal job in terms of how it handles time and plays around with it. There’s a situation where they have to get things done very quickly because on one planet the span of an hour is seven years, we see the result of Cooper’s kids growing up and becoming adults and how that plays into the film’s impact, the film’s score, I’ll mention once more, FANTASTICALLY composed by Hans Zimmer, goes at 60 beats per minute to match with the “tick tock” that is often associated with time. After all, there are 60 seconds in a minute, so why not have 60 beats per minute? Plus, this is a film that gets better with every rewatch. There was a point where I kept rewatching it and maybe I’d discover something new or retain something amazing that maybe I’ve forgotten before. I will also point out that the performances, across the board, are stellar! No pun intended! You’ve got decently chosen actors including Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Rio), Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, The Help), Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Out of the Furnace), and unsurprisingly, Michael Caine (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Batman Begins). All of them give performances that embody the proper emotions of the situations at hand, and this is the film where I started to admire Chastain as an actress. There’s a chilling moment towards the end of the film, I will not go into it, but she does something that occasionally sends a tear down my cheek. There’s a line of spoken dialogue in that moment that is PERFECTION. That moment could not have been executed any better through a different vision or a rewrite. Even the child actors kill it in their roles! Timothée Chalamet as Tom is a more limited role in the film, but I feel like it is limited for a reason. He’s mainly there to suggest that he’s “fine” in whatever situation he’s in. He’s sort of a settler who never complains. He likes being a farmer, which does eventually play into the film’s script, and when Cooper leaves to go to space, Tom does not seem that upset or emotional over the situation. Obviously, he is rooting for his dad on his mission, but he is always fine, which makes sense in regards to his character development. As for young Murph, played wonderfully by Mackenzie Foy by the way, who might arguably give my favorite child actor performance to date. There was a very touching scene before (HEY! SEE WHAT I DID THERE? AREN’T I A SMART COOKIE?) Cooper left for his mission that highlights such an opinion for me.

I also cannot talk about how much I dig “Interstellar” without discussing the ending. Don’t worry, I will not spoil a thing. But when it comes to endings, “Interstellar” may be my all-time favorite film in the category. Again, I mentioned that moment with Jessica Chastain, but that’s not all. It’s weird, I did not see it coming, and it’s incredibly emotional. It’s as rewarding as it is unfortunate. To add onto that, Hans Zimmer’s score continues to shine here as well. A movie like “Interstellar” sort of makes me consider whether or not the church organ is the greatest instrumental achievement ever. This is an ending that made me appreciate this film the more that I watched it. When I saw it in the theater, I did not have too many thoughts on it, but I liked it more with rewatch upon rewatch. But then one such rewatch, it struck me like a lightning bolt somehow. It became an ending I liked, and somehow turned into one of the greatest endings in film history. It’s charming and also leaves me to question who exactly came up with it. Was it Christopher Nolan’s brother, Jonathan? Maybe I should give him some credit here!

I think the big thing for “Interstellar” to me, both before and after watching it, is how much it made admire the filmmaking process. Keep in mind, I admired it before, but “Interstellar” helped me further appreciate it. Films like this and “The Dark Knight,” basically Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker in general, has given me a dream, a reason to want to pursue work in the film industry. While there was a point that I wanted to be a filmmaker, I now know which filmmaker I look up to the most. And I would love to do what he does. While I have my own scripts that I plan to do, I would love to shoot a movie in the IMAX format one day and present the movie on film stock. I think film is the best possible cinematic presentation and whenever there’s an opportunity to go watch a movie on film, I cannot help but take it.

Throughout my journey as a film viewer, there is no other film, at least over the past ten years, that gave me a remarkable impact like this one did. It involves an increasingly relevant concept that I think will continuously be developed over the years, it’s an original property, and technically, it’s a masterpiece. This film is very similar to another sci-fi classic, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and I imagine there are some people out there who would consider this movie too similar. To me, “Interstellar” stands on its own because “2001” does not make particular characters the centerpiece of the film. It takes a bunch of random elements and scenes and manages to develop a story out of all of it, whereas “Interstellar” comes off as an adventure story from beginning to end, with various fiddles with time connected along the way. This is nothing against “2001,” which is one of my favorite films of all time, but “Interstellar” does something to relate to “2001” while also being its own movie, at least to me. Nevertheless, “Interstellar” is a master work of art, one of the best sci-fi films ever made, and earns the crown as the best movie of the 2010s!

Thanks for reading this post! This is a list that was admittedly, very hard to make. Part of me wonders if I should have spent a year on this. There’s a very good chance that I will be changing this list in the next few days because unlike most of these lists, which spans over a year, this spans over a much longer period of time, so I don’t even think this list is going to be that definitive. There’s a good chance that “Interstellar” will remain at #1 for a very long time, but for everything else, who knows? But with that being said, it’s time to forget the good and move on to the bad! Maybe even the ugly! I say that because tomorrow I am going to be releasing my top 25 WORST movies of the 2010s. These are movies that are 2,010 times as horrible as anything else! JUST YOU WAIT! With that being said, be sure to look forward to that post tomorrow, and if you are reading this early and wanted to be notified about my worst list and other exciting content here on Scene Before, click the follow button! If you have a proper account up and running, be sure to like and comment if possible, it definitely helps me out! Speaking of helping me out, like my Facebook page, I want to get more people to follow me on that side of things, it would probably help spread the word a bit on social, so please, help a guy out! I want to know, what are your favorite movies of the 2010s? Do you have a favorite year this decade for film? For me, I’d say mine are 2014 and 2018. Do you think I missed a film? Seriously, there may have been a film that I liked that I completely forgot about, and I say this as someone who has worked on this countdown series for literally MONTHS. Nevertheless, leave your comments down below, and stay tuned for the worst list! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Cats (2019): Kitty Litter

EVERYBODY:
Go see “Richard Jewell!” Clint Eastwood has done it again!
Check out “1917!” It’s heart-stopping!
Watch “The Irishman” on Netflix! It’s worth the three and a half hour runtime! It’s REAL cinema!
Hey! “Queen & Slim” is getting positive reviews!
GO SEE “STAR WARS!”
“Bombshell’s” the movie we need right now!
“Frozen II” is a great Disney sequel!
“The Two Popes!” Check it out!
Hey Jack, have you seen Amazon’s “The Aeronauts?”
“MARRRRRRIAGE STOOOOOORRRRRY!”

ME:
Hey guys, I’m going to review “Cats!”

*Beat*

…Awkward. No matter what happens, this will unite us all. It’s time to review the NON-“Star Wars” movie coming out this weekend, because this is what I was able to see early on this week. Let’s get this s*itshow overwith.

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“Cats” is directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl) and stars James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Emoji Movie), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Philomena), Jason Derulo (Everybody Dance Now, Drop the Mic), Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor), Jennifer Hudson (The Voice, Dreamgirls), Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Good Liar), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, The Giver), Rebel Wilson (Jojo Rabbit, Pitch Perfect), and Francesca Hayward. The plot of “Cats,” if there is one in this damn thing, is that a bunch of cats that look and walk like humans compete against each other to be the one to earn another life… That’s the best way I can describe this movie without cringing. Because holy s*it. THIS IS PUTRID.

Going into “Cats” on Tuesday night, I had two screenings to choose from. “Cats” being one of them, obviously. The other one happened to be “Bombshell,” which I said to you all that I would review. Well, expect a delay on that, when I finally got my RSVP for “Cats,” I could not pass it up, and by that I mean I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” with somebody else, because as far as I know, there is probably not one person that would want to see “Cats” with me. Did I have any plans to watch “Cats” originally? Absolutely not. In fact, if you follow the Scene Before Facebook page, and if you aren’t following it, CLICK THIS LINK and give it a like! Anyway, if you have kept track of recent happenings there, you may have noticed this recent post…

Well guess what? I ended up dragging myself on the underfunded transportation system in the Boston, Massachusetts area, put my ass in a cinema seat, and here we are. But let me just say, I did not go into “Cats” blind. I went in having seen bunches of the marketing, including the main trailers, which honestly just creeps me out the more I think about it! I had little to no real anticipation of this movie, even though I was expecting some decent numbers and neat visuals at times. Did I get those in the end? Kind of. The visuals were nifty, but the numbers are honestly forgettable. I have never seen any other related “Cats” material, not the play, nor any other adaptation. So this movie ultimately took my “Cats” virginity. As someone who has had their first “Cats” experience of any kind, I cannot imagine myself returning to this franchise in the near future. This movie BROKE me to no end. It’s honestly up there with some of the most anger-inducing content I have seen all year. In fact, I am honestly kind of glad I went to see the movie as early as I did. I love the moviegoing experience, and going to see a movie early, depending on the film is honestly kind of thrilling. I was in a theater containing some people who were enthusiastic. One person had cat ears on, some were Taylor Swift fans, and I think the best part about this movie is that the occasional reactions from people that were given with a hint of sarcasm. There was this one moment around the first act where this guy just belted out a snarky laugh and a bunch of us played along because I think a surprising number of attendees thought this movie was going to suck balls and we had almost no expectations for it. Maybe we collectively thought this movie was cheesy or a waste of time. Who knows? The point is, if I went to see this movie in perhaps January during a dead afternoon, it probably wouldn’t be as fun or lively. The only thing I probably would have felt at that time is pure anger. Being in the environment of a free screening before a movie opens definitely helps.

BUT IT DOES NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE CRAP I SUFFERED THROUGH!

I have been noticing something about our current moviegoing audience. We seem to enjoy two things nowadays. Granted, that’s an understatement, we seem to enjoy lots of things in reality, but the two of the commonalities I’m seeing from the general moviegoing audience is spectacle and nostalgia. There’s definitely an argument to make about “Cats” being one of the more nostalgic movies of the year. It’s based on a hit musical from the late 20th century, which was inspired by poetry from T.S. Eliot. I think a lot of older audiences will gravitate towards this film, plus younger theater admirers. And I will point out one thing that I think could have ended up being a positive about this film, specifically the prettiness that’s intact. From the marketing, there have been a lot of shots that looked nice, the neon signage everywhere kind of adds a nice touch, the film is visually appealing on the surface. And throughout, at times, I dug it for its visuals. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give.

Earlier this year, I reviewed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which is one of the worst blockbusters I have witnessed in recent memory, especially when considering how FANTASTIC the trailers were leading up to its release. To this day, the only compliments I can give the film are some of the shot choices and the appealing visual effects. That’s it. “Cats” is kind of like that. Granted, I did not like the “Cats” trailers, but you probably get my point. However, the good news is, and it honestly PAINS me in the ass to say this… I’d rather watch “Cats” again. As a movie, it is technically competent. Not to mention, competently… BOOOOORRRRRRRING!

This movie technically has a plot, but when it’s presented on screen, it’s an utter mess! It’s a nice looking mess, but a mess nevertheless! I guess we’ll call it a hot mess! The movie undoubtedly is trying to rely on the spectacle provided from each number. I didn’t expect this movie to lack singing, but the singing in this movie is ENDLESS. OH MY FREAKING LORD! A good portion of the numbers are… borderline OK? I guess? But I don’t feel like I will end up remembering them. The only numbers that truly stood out to me was the one where Taylor Swift’s character was introduced, most likely because there were a few people in the crowd who were ecstatic over seeing her on screen and one heavily revolving around Laurie Davidson’s character of Mr. Mistoffelees, which I won’t go into. Again, I went into the movie not knowing much about “Cats,” so I’m gonna be somewhat vague with the material.

I am not even in the mood to go into the characters, because for one thing, there are a lot of them. It’s overwhelming. I am willing to bet that if there were fewer characters, this movie could be a tad more interesting. I will say though, even though “Cats” itself is somewhat visually attrractive, it is simultaneously off-putting. I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t ask for a movie where Ian McKellan plays a live-action, human-like cat that is licking a plate. It’s something so unimportant, yet so horrifying. Much like the numbers, there is perhaps not even a single character that ended up standing out. Many of the characters feel like they have little to no layers, and the only thing that could end up being memorable is all of the “digital fur technology” that went into this pile of crap they call a movie.

I do not seek out musicals that often. I don’t usually watch all that many films that are heavy on musical numbers, but if I had to compare “Cats” to any other film, I’d say one of the closest examples I can give is Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” For the record, they are COMPLETELY different on almost every single level in terms of plot, genre, and character motivations. But one of the biggest compliments I can give to “Transformers” is the visuals. The effects are nothing short of amazing. I think even people who don’t like the newer “Transformers” movies can probably agree that the visual effects are nice to look at. Now, I personally enjoyed the first “Transformers.” It’s a fine action movie if you ask me, but I know the franchise is not always the most pleasing to everyone. The story is basic, repetitive from one film to the next, and some would say it almost doesn’t even matter when there are tons of explosions and American flags everywhere.

This movie doesn’t really shy away from comedy. I mean, what do you expect when there’s a seemingly sarcastic laugh during my screening? Only thing is, the comedy just doesn’t work. In fact, the jokes I remember are random cat puns. They might have been the only jokes in the movie, and they sully the experience entirely.

Why did I go see “Cats?” Well, I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” for one thing, but I thought this would be a fun film to review. It’s one of those one of a kind, crazy experiences that I will end up remembering, but not for the right reasons. Personally, I don’t ever see myself watching “Cats” again, and I had no plans to get a cat in the near future, but this movie has officially eliminated any possibility of me wanting a cat, because if I am ever presented with an opportunity to get a cat, part of me would not stop thinking of this piece of trash. And in other news, Taylor Swift is in this movie, that picture above is of her. And SPOILER, the movie DOES NOT go into how many cats she broke up with.

In fact, let me specify about my experience of watching this film. This was a film that felt embarrassing to say the least. It’s well-crafted, but embarrassing nonetheless. Whenever I go see a film, I usually order myself a popcorn and soda to keep myself up. I didn’t do that this time. I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it. Maybe it’s because I was busy talking to a friend I ran into, but that’s not the point. The overall experience of seeing “Cats” feels like a dream. Because I became increasingly sleepy, increasingly bored, and the movie itself became more irrelevant than the door close button on modern elevators! There is a part of me that wanted to laugh, but it felt really hard, because at the same time, what I really wanted to do was leave. This movie overstays its welcome, even giving itself an opportunity to hammer in one final number that is so bad that it’s good. And when those stinking credits FINALLY came on screen, I let out a bellowing “THANK GAAAWWSH!” Because again, the movie broke me to shreds. You know how I said I didn’t get any popcorn or soda for this movie? Upon the leaving the film I had one thought in mind. I need popcorn, because I felt like I dredged through this movie in the same way that Bart Simpson would dredge through homework. I felt like part of my well-being has been erased. This was a well-earned treat for myself. By the way, the popcorn was f*cking satisfying. It made my cat nips go hard.

In the end, “Cats” is perhaps the most competent borefest of the year, and that really says something because… “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a thing. And that’s the absolute worst thing about “Cats.” It looks charming, it looks presentable, it looks nifty. Some of the camerawork is nice. But between some of the questionable editing, lame-ass script, and nearly nonexistent plot, this movie made me angrier than that kid from “Looper” whenever something goes wrong for him. I would rather poke my own eyes out with my own two hands than go see this movie again. The ensemble has a lot of big names including Idris Elba, Ian McKellan, and James Corden, but not even that could save the movie. In a way, the more I think about it, it almost makes the movie worse. Remember that movie, “The Circle” that came out a couple years ago? It’s like that. It had a list of respectable actors including Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, TOM FREAKING HANKS! To know that these people took on this film specifically, makes my brain leak a little bit. Again, visually appealing, but it’s not enough. I’m going to give “Cats” a 2/10. Part of me wants to give this movie a 3/10, I really do. But now that I’ve had a little bit of time to marinate, this is up there with some of the most frustrating, not to mention forgettable, movies I have EVER seen during my time on this blog. Did the crowd reactions add something? Kind of. But not entirely. To me this was just a waste of time. The only ways that this movie could end up as a 1 is if it didn’t look pretty, if the acting was the worst I’ve ever seen, or it weren’t for a couple of halfway decent moments. Nevertheless, this was an insufferable experience, and I know “Star Wars” is not getting the best reviews right now, but this is actually making me excited for “Star Wars.” I think the only way I could have ended up enjoying “Cats” is if I was perhaps very young and this was one of the first movies I have watched. Maybe one of the first in the theater. Because as long as there are cats doing things on screen, why should I care about anything else? How am I still alive? I don’t know! It’s amazing! Even so, I’m done talking about this garbage, let’s move on!

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned guys, because I am going to have my review up for the next film that will inevitably make a billion dollars, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I’m going to my local IMAX theater on opening Thursday, I cannot wait! How will the film turn out? I do not know for sure, but I am endlessly curious, so let’s do this! May the force be with us! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the blog, and be sure to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Cats?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is cat-related? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Blinded by the Light (2019): The Boss Shines in Luton

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“Blinded by the Light” is directed by Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice) and stars Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Guhr (Goodness Gracious Me, Howards’ Way), Meera Ganatra (PREMature, The Question), Nell Williams (Game of Thrones, London Town), Aaron Phugura (Doctor Who, Informer), and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones, Into the Badlands). This film is inspired by a true story and is about a Pakistani teenager named Javed who lives with his family in the United Kingdom. Said family usually leaves all control and decisions to their father, life is becoming increasingly tough, and this teenager, who has a passion for poetry and writing, is forced to study and follow a path his father is trying to set upon him because it is “safe,” “expected,” and “the way he likes it.” At the same time, he is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen, he connects the music to himself, his life, and his struggles.

I barely knew anything about the film “Blinded by the Light” before going into it. In fact, when I decided to go, it was very last minute. I was doing an impromptu train ride into the city, when all of a sudden, I saw a time for a movie on my phone that was most certainly calling my name. I was almost debating on doing something else entirely until this unexpected matter came into play. I saw ads for this film on TV and I was somewhat impressed by what I saw. Granted, I was not automatically hypnotized or compelled into buying a ticket, but if I were in a situation where I had to watch this film, I wouldn’t feel like I was being held against my will. However, I chose to buy a ticket with hard-earned money, so I strapped myself in for whatever was ahead. And one thing was for sure in the very end, I had a great time! In fact, after seeing the epic fail that is “Yesterday” over a month ago, this is just what I needed. I think The Beatles are probably better, and without argument, more culturally important than this film’s music-related subject, Bruce Springsteen (not saying I don’t like him, but still). Nevertheless, I feel as an audience member, this movie did more to honor the legacy and pay respect to Bruce Springsteen than “Yesterday” did to “The Beatles.” Interestingly though, similar to how “Yesterday” had tons of Beatles music and wasn’t mainly about The Beatles themselves, the movie is not specifically about Bruce Springsteen in general and instead focuses on someone who can qualify as a fan.

This fan’s story by the way was more fascinating than it needed to be. It focuses on how his family is close (which to his view, is too close), how he is being kept from living the life he anticipates to achieve, while also being a reminder to viewers to work in order to achieve dreams. Speaking of Javed, I think Viveik Kalra did a really good job with his portrayal and I would not mind seeing more from him.

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Speaking of excellent portrayals, I think the best acting job in the movie has to be from Kulvinder Ghir, who plays Javed’s dad, Malik. He was able to express himself as an overworked, tired, occasionally obnoxious, and pushy parent who wanted everything to go his way. As for relating to the character, I cannot really say that’s possible for me. For one thing, I am not a parent. But let’s say I was just to set an example. I would want the best for my children, I would want them to succeed, but I also would want them to be happy and follow a path that doesn’t feel forced upon them. Granted, I know there are certain customs set upon various families, but I would be understanding in a number of cases if one were to object to a certain custom. No turkey on thanksgiving? That’s one less turkey to kill! Skipping out on watching the Super Bowl? Football’s not for everyone! By the way, football is overrated and I am tired of talking about it at this point! Maybe I relate a lot more to Javed since I am in his age range, but I think there are reasons to understand where Malik is coming from. He wants the best for his son, not mention his family, while also perhaps keeping them safe.

Another great thing about “Blinded by the Light” is that while it does pay tribute to Bruce Springsteen, that doesn’t even feel like the main part of the movie. I think that’s a good thing because yes, his music can be fun to listen to, but it can take away from the story. It’s more about Javed and his relationship with the art of writing. It’s about how he wants to chase after his dreams and make himself happy. Although I will say one thing regarding The Boss and it is a slight problem. There are a couple moments that almost took me out of the movie, where it would almost turn into this Bruce Springsteen-related musical. The movie felt kind of grounded in reality for the most part, so seeing something like that almost threw me off. Having a musical vibe can work for a movie like “Rocketman” because the marketing kind of implied there would be fantasy elements in the film making the musical scenes seem kind of fitting, but not in “Blinded by the Light.”

And to be honest, that recent thing I mentioned may be my only problem with the entire film, or at least the only one that stands out front and center. Because if that was taken out, I would completely be focusing on this film’s well put together pacing (although one particular scene dragged a little), the collectively excellent chemistry, and the immense sense of joy that I have achieved while watching it. This is one of those movies where I walked out with a smile on my face. Also, I may be biased, but as a writer, this movie sort of made me want to appreciate all that I have done thus far in my life regarding the subject matter, and made me look forward to what I had in store. While I won’t go too far into it, there is this teacher in the film that if I had her for an English class or something, I would never want to get out of her sight. I’d show her my writing, come to her for advice, allow her to be honest about what I have done. She’d be honest about what I’d do, but it also seems as if she’d be appreciative. And having seen this movie, I would like to give a shoutout to everyone who has made a bad movie. Unless I am possibly talking about a film that you regret doing and probably never wanted to be part of in the first place, just remember, that film may be crap, but it is your crap. I give loads of flak to everyone who made “The Emoji Movie,” but you guys finished it, and gave it a release. It’s your movie, and you should be proud to have something be a part of your artistic history. It may not be good, but at least be proud of what you have done, even if I eventually called it the worst movie of 2017.

In the end, “Blinded by the Light” is a movie that I didn’t entirely ask for in the first place, but having seen it, it is probably the film I needed right now. It’s fun, it’s joyous, it’s attention-grabbing, and it is probably my favorite music-related movie that has come out over the past year. It’s better than “A Star is Born,” it’s better than “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it’s better than “Rocketman,” and it’s DEFINITELY better than “Yesterday.” “Blinded by the Light” shows who’s boss! I’m going to give “Blinded by the Light” an 8/10. Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is the release of “It: Chapter Two.” For those of you who have followed me on Scene Before, I have not reviewed “It” when that came out, in fact I still have not seen that movie as I write this. I don’t think I’ll get around to talking about that, but I am going to do my best to talk about “It: Chapter Two” as soon as possible. I might go see it this weekend, but if I don’t, I’ll definitely be seeing it the following weekend. After all, possibly other than “Joker,” “It: Chapter Two” could end up being the biggest R rated title of 2019. I have to stay in the know about these things, it’s my duty! If you want to look out for my “It: Chapter Two” review and other upcoming content, follow Scene Before via an email or WordPress account, and if you want to dedicate more time listening to the movie reviewing moron, click the link to my Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Blinded by the Light?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Bruce Springsteen? Do you have a favorite song of his? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!