Death on the Nile (2022): Kenneth Branagh Brings a River of Intrigue in This Engaging Murder Mystery

“Death on the Nile” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Belfast, Thor), who also stars in the film as Hercule Poirot. Joining him in this Agatha Christie novel adaptation is Tom Bateman (Demons, Murder on the Orient Express), Annette Bening (American Beauty, Captain Marvel), Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Arthur), Ali Fazal (Mirzapur, Furious 7), Dawn French (French and Saunders, Coraline), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Criminal), Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., On the Basis of Sex), Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones), Emma Mackey (Sex Education, Eiffel), Sophie Okonedo (After Earth, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), Jennifer Saunders (Sing, Shrek 2), and Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Panther). In this film, Hercule Poirot finds himself on a voyage, set on the Nile River, and ultimately has to investigate the behind the scenes shenanigans of a murder during said voyage.

I want to make a couple things clear. I have never read any Agatha Christie works, therefore I have nothing to compare this movie to as far as her material goes. I also will note that this could technically qualify as a sequel. “Death on the Nile” revolves around a group of people under the eye of Hercule Poirot, who was also portrayed by Kenneth Branagh in 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” He directed the film as well. I have never seen the film, so I cannot tell you anything in regards to Branagh’s previous efforts, whether they are in front of or behind the camera in said film. I was not particularly interested in it at the time, and my lack of interest unfortunately contributed to what I call a lack of knowledge in this circumstance. Nevertheless, the trailers intrigued me enough, Kenneth Branagh is on fire right now with “Belfast” having just come out, and the cast is stacked to the brim.

Well, there’s also Armie Hammer, I should also mention that.

With that being said, I kind of saw “Death on the Nile” on a whim, I bought a ticket less than an hour before the show because I was in the area, although I did intend to see it by the end of the weekend, and I have to say the movie in some ways pleased me in the ways I expected it to. Although it does have a double-edged sword.

One of the best things about “Death on the Nile” is the feud between the newlywed couple, the Doyles, and this one woman, Jackie, played marvelously by Emma Mackey, or as I call her, Samara Weaving’s lookalike. Prior to Simon Doyle’s connection with his new wife, Linnet, he used to be in love with Jackie, who just so happens to be following everyone else. I loved getting to know these characters and every scene Mackey is in is one that had my attention, partially because of how well she played the character. But this also brings me to my main con with the film, and it is that it takes a bit longer than I expected to actually see the murder shenanigans go down. Now don’t get me wrong, the film is entertaining from start to finish. I was invested in most of the scenes that were written, but that would have to be my big pacing issue of the film. For a film that calls itself “Death on the Nile,” the “death” is not exactly much of a standout until the film’s second half. Is the book the same way? Again, I do not know. I do not plan on reading it anytime soon, so frankly I do not care to know.

Although if I had to bring another positive to the table, it is that the film is easy on the eyes. The film is as exotic as it is suspenseful. The color palette throughout feels like an old-timey flick but with a modern twist. It is a film that feels like it simmers itself in tradition, but infuses some sugar and spice to make it more attractive.

The performers all do a great job at bringing their own flair to the mix in “Death on the Nile,” I cannot recall one performance that either underwhelmed or annoyed me. Well, kind of…

Going back to Emma Mackey’s character of Jackie, I want to focus on her for a bit because I admired Mackey’s performance, but I did so with the acknowledgement of how much I disliked her character. Let me just be clear, I watch a lot of movies, and usually when I watch one I like, I usually like all the characters because they make the movie fun and enjoyable to watch. This one is different. I can only recall a few movies I watched in my life where I hated a character who was in it, and used that hate to remind myself of how effective the movie was at doing its job. “Whiplash” and “The Lion King” are the first two titles that come to mind. Mackey’s behavior in the film made me feel like I was part of the film, and films are always better when they can immerse you into the frame. Mackey did so in a way that made me want to punch her in the face, and all respect to the actress. Emma Mackey, if you read this, I think you have an amazing future ahead of you. I would totally cast you in a film if I find the right role, but I will not lie when I say, your character should have been thrown into the Nile to sleep with the fishes.

I like you, I hate your character. And for that, the movie did its job.

I also want to talk about Gal Gadot. She is an actress I have admired ever since I saw her in “Batman v. Superman,” because while that film showed a weakness from her as a performer, specifically on some line delivery, I saw enormous potential in her, because she carried the action sequences like a champ. I probably said this a couple times in my life. In “Batman v. Superman,” the real winner is Wonder Woman. And I think in just about every movie that has come out since, she has at least improved in some way. In “Death on the Nile,” I think casting Gadot as Mrs. Doyle is appropriate, partially because Gadot looks like someone who can symbolize beauty and wealth at the same time (also, she statistically is very wealthy), but this film shows that she has improved as an actress. She is more able to carry a film now than she has ever been, and there are a couple of scenes where I was able to feel the weight of some of her lines.

And of course, I cannot ignore Kenneth Branagh, who not only makes this film look as pretty as it is, but he carries his weight to bring a lively performance to the table. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Kenneth Branagh rock a mustache? If they’re making a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” adaptation set in Northern Ireland, I think Branagh would slay as Willy Wonka, and it would be better if the mustache stays. I think Branagh flat out just looks like someone who would be a detective in his spare time, so the fact that he’s cast as Poirot is undeniable. It’s perfect. Again, I have not seen “Murder on the Orient Express,” so I have nothing to compare this performance to franchise-wise. Having said that, “Death on the Nile” is good enough to the point that I want to go back at some point and give “Murder on the Orient Express” a try. Maybe compare the two and see which one’s better.

In the end, “Death on the Nile” is intriguing from beginning to end and offers an ensemble that gives you all the feelings from grace to anger to sadness. This may not end up being the best film of 2022, after all, the year is only beginning, but as far as this year’s fare, I recommend “Death on the Nile.” It has one or two pacing issues, but I feel like that could be a fairly subjective notion on my part. I probably won’t remember every single character, but there are quite a few that stand out to make this film one of the more entertaining experiences of the past number of months. I’m going to give “Death on the Nile” a 7/10.

“Death on the Nile” is now playing in theaters everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! My next review is going to be for the movie “Uncharted,” which just hit the big screen over a week and a half ago. Also coming up, I will be tackling my thoughts on “The Batman,” which hits theaters everywhere this week. 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 “Death on the Nile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Agatha Christie book? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Last Night in Soho (2021): BEST NIGHT EVER!

“Last Night in Soho” is directed by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Baby Driver), and stars Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, Jojo Rabbit), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Matt Smith (Doctor Who, The Crown), Michael Ajao (Silent Witness, Attack the Block), Terence Stamp (Superman, Billy Budd), and Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Game of Thrones). This film is about a young girl named Eloise, or Ellie, who aspires to be a fashion designer. She decides that she’s gonna try to make it big and in doing so, she moves to London to study at the London College of Fashion. One night, Ellie finds herself magically transported to the 1960s, where she encounters a young singer named Sandie. Throughout we follow Ellie’s journey as she stalks the singer and finds out more about her, maybe more than one would prefer.

“Last Night in Soho” was a particularly interesting movie on the surface in terms of its marketing, because it is one of the few movies I’ve barely seen marketed either through movie trailers in the theater, social media, or television, but every time I saw it, I found myself intrigued. If anything, it’s because of colors. I think ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been enamored with neon. To this point, and I’ve probably mentioned this once or twice in Scene Before history, neon is probably my favorite chemical element. And when you are setting a film in a city and passage of times like the ones at hand, there are quite a few opportunities for dazzlingly colorful scenes, which spoiler, this film has plenty of. It feels weird to say that though, because this film often presents itself as a horror show.

From start to finish, if you look at the film from a certain point of view, it is the less than fortunate life of a rising star, that being Anya Taylor-Joy’s character of Sandie. The character has immense talent and confidence, but she also is in a way being controlled by men, which we see throughout the film. Although that is not the main story, and instead, just a fraction of it.

I’m gonna be real with you. This film f*cking slaps. I was gonna go see this at a press screening, but I ended up not going. But once I saw that one of my local venues was showing this movie in 35mm film, I jumped at the opportunity to watch it. Having seen it, the film is bloody magical, mystical, kind of in a realistic rainbow and unicorn kind of way, but somehow, it finds a way to be scary. I remember seeing the trailer for this film back in the spring, and I was slightly jarred by it, not because it didn’t look good, but I was not sure what they were trying to go for. Is it a horror movie? Is it about music? Something maybe more erotic? At the same time though, this is a good example of how trailers should be done. Give a basic taste and feel of how the movie could go, but don’t spoonfeed the audience. Granted, that was just a teaser trailer. I actually never saw the legit, full-length trailer they put out before the film hit theaters which gives more of an indication of how things go, but that may have made me kind of glad. I went in somewhat blind, but walked out happy. Very happy in fact.

At its heart, I would not call “Last Night in Soho” a thriller nor a horror, I’d call it a coming of age story. I don’t mean that in a John Hughes kind of way where there’s comedy and shenanigans going on like in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” or “Weird Science,” but in the OTHER John Hughes kind of way where a young kid is trying to become an adult and they have to adapt to something unfamiliar or something they may prefer to avoid. In our main protagonist’s case, she’s been living in a rural environment all her life, but one day, she decides to make this enormous transition by going to college, and living in London. And of course, moving to the big city in a case like this can feel incredibly overwhelming. You almost don’t even know where to start. This would be a hard enough story for our main character to go through, but then you have a rabbit hole that develops in the 1960s from which she cannot stray away.

The other thing that ties this film together is the performances. Much of the film, specifically in the 1960s portion is about the chemistry, if you really want to call it that, between Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. I really like these two whenever they’re in the same scenes together because you have McKenzie who is young, curious, and wants to find her way in the world. Meanwhile, you have Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, who like McKenzie, is not that old either, but she has maybe had some experience that hindered with her ability to do things from one day to the next. The whole idea of Thomasin McKenzie going to London was to be something bigger than herself, follow her passion of fashion design. Anya Taylor-Joy is sort of going through the same thing as an entertainer, a singer. And we see McKenzie, prior to her time travel adventures, she is obsessed with the 1960s period from a fashion perspective, so to have her travel here would be somewhat appropriate while also providing an increasingly edge of your seat story.

Honestly, I don’t know if Anya Taylor-Joy will win an Oscar this year, but when it comes to showing the physical beauty of the 1960s, she shines, but there’s also another side to her character, Sandie, where she seemingly refuses to embrace such beauty. After all, even though she is kind of finding her passion right in front of her, she’s also being followed and affected by all these men surrounding her.

Now this is the part of the review where I am supposed to come in with some sort of random flaw that I experienced with the film. Something like pacing, which was great. Maybe the music was not that memorable. There actually was some decent music to be honest, maybe not my favorite score of the year, I’d have to listen to it separately to fully judge. Maybe there was one performance that didn’t line up with the others. Not true, everyone felt like they were in sync. I’m sure if I thought hard enough, I could come up with something, because no movie’s perfect. But at the top of my head, I cannot think of anything. This movie had a promising beginning with a likable character, and capped itself off with one of the most mind-blowing endings I have seen in some time. My jaw was on the floor in the last twenty minutes. There are definitely scarier horror flicks out there depending on what you’re looking for, but I don’t choose to see it in that light. If you look at this film, like I did, as a coming of age story, it is one of the most entertaining and thrilling that has ever been done. Edgar Wright directed the crap out of this. Technically, this has some of my favorite shots and lighting of the year. If I were getting a new television, this would be a phenomenal test movie.

In the end, “Last Night in Soho,” oh my god! I have not seen anything like this in a long time! As for whether it will end up as my favorite movie of 2021, I am not sure. I have another movie that could take that spot, but if you want to know how much I enjoyed “Last Night in Soho,” this movie took me much longer to review than the other potential favorite, and the fact that I am still thinking about it, perhaps more than the NEXT movies I’m going to review, says something. If you go into this movie expecting a horror or thriller, I will warn you, you won’t walk out disappointed, but I did not walk out of this film having enjoyed one of those types of films. I walked out having enjoyed one of the single greatest coming of age tales I have ever watched. Whether it is a horror, thriller, or a coming of age story like I suggested, it does not change the fact that I’m going to give “Last Night in Soho” a 10/10!

“Last Night in Soho” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is available to buy on a VOD service of your choice.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new MCU film, “Eternals.” FINALLY, I’m talking about this! There’s literally another MCU film around the corner! So for that reason, this review needs to be to done! I also have reviews coming for “Red Notice,” “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “King Richard,” “Encanto,” and “Sing 2.” Six reviews coming up! That’s quite a list! And I’m also planning to see “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” pretty soon, so yeah, I’ve got a lot on my plate. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Last Night in Soho?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite decade? Fabulous Fifties? Rad Eighties? Maybe we’re going really retro with somewhere in Medieval Times? Let me know what your favorite decade is down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Malignant (2021): Lifetime Movie: The Horror Show!

“Malignant” is directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Aquaman) and stars Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy, Annabelle), Maddie Hasson (The Finder, Impulse), George Young (Containment, Home), Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner, The 4400), and Michole Briana White (Reed Between the Lines, Muscle) in a film about a woman who goes through an abusive relationship, has a history of miscarriages, and in this… movie… I guess… She has visions of terrifying murders, only to realize these visions trace to her reality.

This film is directed by James Wan. I have seen a few of his films including “Aquaman,” which deservedly became the biggest DC movie at the box office. I’ve also watched “Furious 7” which may be my favorite “Fast & Furious” installment to date. But a lot of film fans know James Wan for his horror work. He’s done “Saw” and “Insidious,” two movies which despite being staples to modern horror, I have not seen. But he’s also done “The Conjuring,” which I did see. I thought it was a dark and fascinating attempt at showing off a couple paranormal investigators. I thought the film overall was decently scary. They clearly fictionalized my hometown of Wakefield, Massachusetts to make it something it is clearly not, but I don’t care. As for all the other “Conjuring” universe titles including the two mainline sequels, I have not seen any of them. I’ve heard good things about “The Conjuring 2,” I hear “Annabelle: Creation” is pretty good. I’ll check them out when I can, but for now, let’s focus on James Wan’s latest directorial effort, “Malignant.”

“Malignant” is a film that I’ve seen bits and pieces of when it comes to advertising. But it is not one that has caught my attention like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Although to be fair, I am fairly weak when it comes to horror and I am also somewhat predisposed to liking the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nevertheless, as I was briefly vacationing in Florida, I chose to visit a mall forty minutes away and at the last minute, I decided to go see a movie, there was a theater attached, and I purchased a ticket for “Malignant.” I love supporting theaters, but part of me regrets supporting “Malignant” because that film leaves a lot to be desired.

If James Wan were not directing this film, in fact, he even has a “story by” credit, I have a strong feeling that this film would have ended up on cable television. There’s a scene about ten minutes in that feels like it is straight out of a Lifetime movie between the horrendous acting and arguably even more cringeworthy writing. There is a line where my brain practically just took a 9mm pistol and shot itself in the prefrontal cortex just because of how obscene it came off. And the more I think about it, it literally sounds like a line you could only hear on a screen. If I saw that written on a page, I would have torn out my hair. I have heard from others that “Malignant” sort of falls into that throwback category of horror. Sometimes it would associate with some titles that have provided a lot of “camp” over the years. If you enjoy that kind of thing, good for you. I think you’re crazy, but good for you.

As for me, I do not think I could watch “Malignant” ever again. Let’s face it, there is a day that this film, like all others, is going to end up on cable television. Let’s say I find this film on TNT, and I had no knowledge of this film whatsoever, I would be confused. Because the film at times looks like one of the more artistic products in terms of visuals I’ve seen this year, but then we get back to the sometimes stiff acting and I wonder what the heck it is I’m watching.

You know how there are some movies that people look back on years to come because of their epic twist? Movies like “The Sixth Sense?” Well, if things shape up a certain way, “Malignant” may receive similar treatment. This movie is twisty, but part of that twistiness rubbed me the wrong way. Because I think there is a fine line between twists that are so unbelievable that they’re exciting and twists that are so impractical that you wonder how it even made it past the first draft. I don’t think every part of this movie’s twist is insane in the worst possible way, but there is one specific portion of it that made me question humanity. I should point out that this specific portion of the movie I’m referring to was in the trailer, so I wonder if one could call it part of the twist to begin with. But I should point out, I did not have much memory of the full trailer of this film before it came out. Nevertheless, this portion of the movie made me wonder if the main character once suffered from traumatic memory loss.

Amongst all the bad in “Malignant,” I would have to say that the best part of the film itself, aside from when it was over, is the decent camerawork and lighting. There are some shots in this movie, despite me criticizing it for its overly-campy feel that sort of takes away from scenes with serious drama, that had my eyes pleased. There’s one shot from the marketing, the one where the main character’s face is on the left side of the camera, lying on a pillow with some red light on it, which I consider to be one of my favorite shots of the year.

Annabelle Wallis is not an actress whose work I’ve seen much of. I’ve seen her in “Tag,” which is ridiculously funny by the way. But that was not a true reveal of her acting chops. She was in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which was forgettable, I don’t even remember her part in it. If I have never seen Wallis act before and I had to cast someone to nail the look of her character in this film, I think Wallis is an easy ticket. But as for the actual results in terms of how such a character is presented, they were disappointing, because Wallis is acting on a level that feels reflective of a lead star on a Lifetime movie! You ever see one of those Lifetime movies, not that I watch them, but I’ve heard them in background because my mother would watch them, where someone starts crying, and crying, and they keep crying? It doesn’t even feel like real crying, it feels like that awful episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” where SpongeBob literally cries over everything and it is up to Squidward to keep him from bawling his eyes out. Wallis’s performance at times felt like a cartoon. I don’t know if she had a lot of things in mind for the character that could line up with an artistic vision or if this was truly what James Wan was going for. Yes, she’s had a lot of pain, but this feels exaggerated. And I almost sometimes think the film does not know what it wants to be. Is it a soap opera? A horror show? A throwback? I literally don’t know! All I know is that I walked out of this movie happy to leave.

In the end, I thought up to this point that James Wan could become one of my favorite directors working today given his balance of artistry between big and small budgets, but “Malignant” makes me think otherwise. Here’s hoping “Malignant” is just his bad day at the office. I am always for the director carrying out their vision and seeing their film come to screen with as little studio interference as possible, but “Malignant” feels like a pretty sloppy vision in terms of tone and overall execution. This movie did not excite me, the twist did not help, and by the end, I was just unamused. “Malignant” is easily one of the worst movies I have seen all year and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Malignant” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available for a limited time on the ad-free tier of HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next review as I will be talking about “Copshop,” which I just saw over a week ago. I’ve got some thoughts on the movie and I cannot wait to share them. Also, in the near future, be sure to look forward to my review of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the all new movie based on the hit musical. If you want to see this and more on 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 “Malignant?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film directed by James Wan? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Reminiscence (2021): Inception for People Who Like Being Bored

“Reminiscence” is written and directed by Lisa Joy (Westworld, Burn Notice) and stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Greatest Showman), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The White Queen), Thandiwe Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Cliff Curtis (Missing, Fear the Walking Dead), Marina de Tavira (Roma, Ana and Bruno), Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands, Tomb Raider) and this film is set in the future when climate change has severely affected Miami. During this time, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is part of a business responsible for a machine called the tank, which allows people to go back in time and see older memories. One day, a client named Mae comes in looking for her missing keys. Shortly after, Nick and Mae become romantically involved, although Nick’s co-worker, Emily “Watts” Sanders does not trust Mae and wants to do anything she can to keep Nick from seeing her. In addition, Nick spends time revisiting past memories in the tank involving his love interest, which could trap him forever.

Well, that took some time to explain now didn’t it… I’ve been looking forward to “Reminiscence” for a number of reasons. It’s from my favorite studio, Warner Brothers, despite how they’ve stabbed the backs of theater owners this year. It’s got a decent cast with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in starring roles. But I also really like the concept this movie tries to deliver. Sometimes going into this movie, it would remind me and a few other people of a Christopher Nolan flick. In fact on the surface, it really does feel like that. The color grading and sets feel like something out of “Inception” or “Tenet,” and much like those two movies, this film has a concept that mixes action, romance, and transportation to another reality. The trailer for this film was not too bad, although I have seen better. The way they edited it though made it feel like it was somewhere outside our world even though it really was in our not so far future, and the action did look pretty sick.

Another reason why this looks like a Christopher Nolan movie… Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother, was one of the film’s producers. And this should not be surprising, after all, he is the director’s wife! Hollywood, everybody! It’s about WHO you know! Not always what ya know! Granted, Jonathan Nolan had no writing or directing credits by the end of the product, Lisa Joy wrote and directed this film on her own, but it would not surprise me if some of his touch made it into the final product.

But going back to what I said about “Inception” and “Tenet,” as much as I like both movies. And I do. …Very much. I would say that “Inception” is clearly the better film because at the end of “Tenet,” I’m left amazed, but also wondering how certain things came about in that film because it is one of the most beautifully confusing things I ever watched.

“Reminiscence,” to me, even though the concept was somewhat, well, reminiscent, of “Inception,” kind of felt like it belonged in the same category as “Tenet.” As a high-concept sci-fi film, it is nice to observe, but there were still some loose ends that needed tying.

That’s what I would say if “Reminiscence” weren’t so goddamn forgettable! I would have reviewed this earlier if I had the motivation and time, because I did watch this film days after it came out, but I waited until this point because this is just the way things lined up. And now that I’ve had as much time as I did to think about this film, I think I may have spent more time thinking about the film I watched before this one, “Don’t Breathe 2.”

I really like the concept of “Reminiscence.” To have people go back and revisit their favorite memories, especially in a future where it seems that there are no positive memories left to create, is fascinating. I honestly wish a machine like this existed because it does seem to be safer than time travel and there are fun memories that I would love to revisit for one reason or another. I would love to go back to my first visit to New York City or one of my flocks to Salisbury Beach. Those were fun times and I would love to relive those. In fact, the more I think about what this movie is trying to do, it kind of succeeds at communicating that people do not see rainbows and unicorns in the future and would do anything to revisit their past. I just wish the story involving all of these elements happened to be more attractive. You know, kind of like Rebecca Ferguson in this movie. Props to the costume design on this film, a couple of her looked legit.

“Reminiscence” does not have the best screenplay of the year. At least in terms of visual execution. But there is one line that is repeated throughout the film that I found intriguing.

“No such thing as a happy ending. All endings are sad. Especially if the story was happy.”

Believe it or not, there is some truth to that. This is perhaps a slightly more artistic way of saying “Nothing lasts forever,” or “We all die at some point,” or “There will come a day where you will hate something that ‘Star Wars’ puts out.” I think this is a great quote, even if the script leaves a bit to be desired.

Technically speaking, this is not a bad looking film. Some of the shots are majestic, and kind of have a feel that harkened back to not just the couple of Nolan films I mentioned, but I’d even bring up “Blade Runner” and “The Shape of Water” as goto comparisons.

If anything, “Reminiscence” was an idea that had wasted potential. Aside from the concept, which I mentioned earlier, the film comes in with a stacked cast from Hugh Jackman to Thandiwe Newton. These are all-stars, and they’re working on one of the most uninteresting sci-fi flicks of the past few years.. The one thing that I wonder is that even though Lisa Joy has been in the visual entertainment industry for some time, is if she was truly ready to take on a movie like this. Because most of her work has been through television. I’m not saying that Lisa Joy should be forbidden from directing, writing, or working on a film if she so desired, but I wondered how out of her comfort zone something like this could have been for her. What else has she directed? One episode of “Westworld?” Okay… I mean, I’ll say in her defense, HBO programming usually has a higher price tag, standard, and more cinematic feel compared to most television shows. I’ll give her that. But I think if you were to direct a film like this, which is not the most expensive thing in the world, but it is by no means cheap, I think you would want someone with more experience in the director’s chair to pull this off. I am glad that women are getting more opportunities to direct, but I wonder if Lisa Joy should have just stuck to the screenplay and let someone else bring her vision to life. Because despite my complaints about the screenplay, the original script for this film was on the 2013 Black List of most-liked unmade screenplays. This film had a lot going for it. I’m glad Lisa Joy could get her movie out there, but my god I wish it were better.

In the end, “Reminiscence” by no means the worst movie of the year. In fact, I think at this point I’d rather watch this again as opposed to some other recent Warner Brothers titles like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Tom & Jerry.” Then again, this may come with a bias towards sci-fi. I had very little connection to the other two projects going into them with the exception of liking one of the trailers for the former. As for “Reminiscence,” it had plenty going for it from the marketing (even though they did not spend much money on it), the people in it, and the concept. But in the end, it all feels like a waste. I’m going to give “Reminiscence” a 4/10.

“Reminiscence” is now playing in theaters and it is also on the ad-free tier of HBO Max for a limited time.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.” I wanted to get this out a bit earlier, but life has been busy, so I’ve been holding this review off for some time. I do want to let everyone know that I already did see the movie, AND I am seeing it again tonight, which unfortunately may spoil part of my thoughts regarding the film itself, but either way, look forward to my review when it drops! Also, be sure to check out my review for “Malignant,” whenever that drops as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Reminiscence?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film that you think has a great concept with terrible execution? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Profile (2018): The Power of the Internet Meets the Craziness of Infiltration

“Profile” is directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Ben-Hur) and stars Valene Kane (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Fall), Morgan Watkins (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Wild Bill), Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery, Penny Dreadful), Christine Adams (Batman Begins, Black Lightning), and Amir Rahimzadeh (The Heights, Our Girl). This film is based on a book written by Anna Erelle titled “In the Skin of a Jihadist” and follows a woman named Amy who has been doing research on younger girls who end up joining ISIS. As part of her research, she creates a Facebook profile and connects with a real ISIS fighter named Bilel. While doing so, the two develop a bond of sorts that may affect the future of her career and her life.

Right off the bat, I just want to note that “Profile” is quite a fascinating film because it is done entirely through screens. By this I mean the screens of computers and other similar electronic devices like phones. I find it intriguing because kind of like “The Blair Witch Project” exposed back when it came out, it shows that not all movies need to be done on advanced cameras. Now whether that is a positive thing or not, that is up to the viewer. It is all subjective. But I will admit, I was somewhat skeptical on this idea because we’ve had projects like this before, and they did not sound like they were for me. One of the more notable ones I could think of is “Unfriended,” which involves a supernatural force using the account of a dead person. At the time, I just did not have any interest. And as much as some of you will *hate* me for saying this, “Paul Blart Mall Cop 2” was the much more attractive option at the box office the weekend “Unfriended” came out. I saw it theatrically for two days in a row for crying out loud! “Unfriended” got a sequel, specifically titled “Unfriended: Dark Web.” Much like the original, I never saw it. Although one film I was interested in seeing in 2018 happened to go by the name of “Searching.” The film received incredibly positive reviews from critics and average moviegoers. I saw a lot of movies in 2018, but unfortunately “Searching” was not one of them, and I cannot say I have tuned into it since. But “Profile” takes elements of those recently mentioned films because it is almost completely showcased through a screen capture. At times, this film felt more like a fast-paced and unusual Twitch or YouTube stream than an actual flick. Despite not having much detail to work with other than what is on a computer screen, the film nevertheless manages to keep an insane pace from start to finish. I was never bored or uninterested with what was going on. To be completely honest, “Profile” is almost the most intense film I have watched this year.

Not only does it deal with somewhat relevant true events, not only does it take a successfully creative approach to the art of filmmaking, but it is a film that makes the most of what it has. This is my first foray into the endless computer screen camera movie approach, or screenlife is some might call it, and I think I may want to see more, specifically if they are as good as this. Now I am not going to say I will remember every bit of “Profile” by the end of 2021, but it is a marvelously crafted picture from start to finish that sounds offish when you hear the technical aspects, but works completely when you implement the story and narrative into it. When war and movies are put together in the same sentence, you would usually expect something big and cinematic like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Dunkirk.” “Profile” does a really good job at showcasing war in cinema from an alternate point of view. I remember when I first heard about ISIS in 2014 and I would see real life footage of the action in history class. Seeing ISIS in this film sort of took me back to that time in one way or another and at times it reminded me of how a lot of modern history is told. If you have seen shootings, protests, or other serious events in recent years, you’d notice that they would often be shot on a phone, either through a pre-recording or live video on a service like Facebook Live or Periscope (RIP). And sometimes they would be shot in a vertical aspect ratio, or as some people call it, “the wrong way” to take pictures or video. “Profile” is successful in its attempts to show grit or danger by utilizing modern technology that may seem odd for a cinematic picture, but somehow ends up being executed brilliantly.

I have talked quite a bit about the film’s technology, but it is one of the biggest standouts from start to finish. Nevertheless, it does not take much away from the characters. To be specific, Amy, the journalist and main protagonist of the film, and Bilel, the ISIS fighter whom she constantly talks to over video. This film does a really good job at showcasing the stress on Amy’s side and a mix of classiness and terror on Bilel’s side that makes the movie stick the landing and blend some delicious flavors together for an exciting outcome. I do not want to spoil much, but this movie’s hesitancy to go big on the technology does not mean it automatically suffers when it comes to delivering a story. The film’s plot does get a little ludicrous, but maybe not on the level of “Sharknado.” That may be one minor problem of the film, but it is also a blessing because it is also what makes the film attention-grabbing. Nevertheless, giant leaps are giant leaps, and by the end, it almost jumps the shark and the jaws continue to drop. Is it exciting? Yes. But does the movie feel as real in the end as it does in the beginning? Not really.

In the end, “Profile” is a tiny yet captivating little thriller. I do not see the screenlife genre being my new favorite trend in filmmaking, but it is one that I simultaneously welcome because of how good “Profile” turned out. I think the cast is really good, the way they went about filming this movie in just a short amount of time is rather impressive, and despite some absurdity at particular points, the film is still worth watching. It is not playing in many theaters right now, but if you have the time, I would say give it a shot. I’m going to give “Profile” a 7/10.

One other thing I want to point out, and I cannot say this will totally affect my viewpoints on “Profile,” is that this film was first shown to the public in 2018. Although it never got a big public theatrical run until May of this year. I do not know why that is, but this kind of reminds me of the end of 2020 where Disney/Fox dumped some of its long-finished films like “The New Mutants” or “The Empty Man” into theaters. Part of me feels like they just decided to release it now as an excuse to say they put it in theaters because it has been in the can for so long that it needs to go. It was already competing against “Spiral,” “Army of the Dead,” and “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” This film was not too expensive to make, but I feel like Focus Features had little faith in it. I barely saw any marketing, and I did not even pay to see the movie. I was given a free screening online. It just felt like the studio said, “Hey, here’s a movie!” 2021 looks like it’ll be a fine year for movies. There are a lot of big ones coming out, but I feel like “Profile” is another victim of the COVID-19 crisis where the film was just dumped into theaters just for the sake of it. Heck! The film has not even made its budget back yet! I wish everyone involved in this movie well in their careers, but from a distribution standpoint, this was not a victory. Again, this does not affect my score, but in the supposedly changing landscape of film, this is one of the trends that unfortunately continues.

“Profile” did release theatrically on May 14th, but it is highly unlikely you will find a theater near you playing the movie. If that is the case, it is also available to rent on VOD right now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for Zack Snyder’s new film “Army of the Dead.” I saw this movie at a Cinemark the weekend it came out, and I cannot wait to talk about it. I will also have upcoming reviews for “A Quiet Place Part II,” “In the Heights,” and my commitment to seeing this right away is not guaranteed, but I should be seeing “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” this week depending on my schedule. Also coming soon, I will be doing another update on my complete Blu-ray collection. I’ve done it in recent years, and I think it is time, now that I am reaching 500 posts, to give you my latest status update. Hope you are excited, because I cannot wait to share the latest details with you. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Profile?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think about the screenlife genre? Is it cool? Too small? Gimmicky? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

You Should Have Left (2020): Not Exactly False Advertising

“You Should Have Left” is directed by David Koepp (Ghost Town, Premium Rush) and stars Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, Footloose) alongside Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed, Ted 2) as a couple who book a vacation at a home in the Welsh countryside. I won’t say much, but strange things happen as we get to know our characters, their personalities, and their backstories.

How to get Peacock streaming: Details on NBC Universal's new service

“You Should Have Left” is the first film I watched on Peacock. For the record, I’ve had the service for a couple months now, but for the price, I’m digging it. It’s got a good selection of content, but one of my favorite things about it is the novel “channels” feature where programming is logged into a particular non-stop lineup. Nevertheless, as I stepped away from familiar territory to watch this movie, I was not sure what to expect. 2020 has been a roller-coaster of year. Not just for everything that’s been going on, but for film as well. The year started off horrible, stayed horrible, got slightly better. And unfortunately, I still don’t even have a 10/10 movie yet! I will say, I gave “Tenet” an 8, and upon repeat viewings, that score may have bumped up to a 9. Although that’s been pretty consistent with Christopher Nolan’s library.

As for “You Should Have Left,” it’s got a 5.3 on IMDb, mostly poor reviews from both critics AND audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 46 on Metacritic. Not the best verdicts if you ask me. But I watched the movie anyway, because it’s 2020, who cares anymore. I gotta tell you. I sat through this movie, waiting for something to happen. And yes, things were happening on screen. But nothing of value showed up for a long time. It got to a point where I really didn’t care about our two leads.

I’ve said this before this year, I’ll say it now for “You Should have Left.” This movie is BOOOOORRING!

Now, it didn’t make me want to shove ten knives in my eyelids, which is a positive sign. But I had nothing that I felt I would remember all that well by the end of the year. The house where most of the movie takes place looks nice. It’s a proper location for a movie like this. But welcome to my house! Welcome to the Jack Cave! You’re under my authority now, and as an authoritative figure. I command that “You Should Have Left” pays attention to my demands. My demand being, listen to my negative review!

As mentioned, this movie stars Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried. Two competent actors. Both of them played their part well, I have nothing against their performances for the most part. I don’t think I would give them Oscar buzz or anything, but both actors serve their purpose in this movie and play their parts as best they can. But the problem is that I haven’t reached the opportunity to get fully attached to either of their characters. I don’t mind either of these actors, just the characters they’re playing. They try to give some depth to Kevin Bacon’s character, and said depth does play a sizable part in the film. However, for whatever reason, I never found myself 100% in love with either of the leads. I never had a chance to care. This movie goes for an hour and a half, but unfortunately, this movie spends much of its time making it feel like nothing’s happening.

Now I don’t mind slow burn type movies where not everything happens lickety split. I like challenges for the attention span every now and then. But this movie… I– wow! I can’t even describe it coherently! Nothing happens!

I will be positive here with my next statement, not just because I’m trying to lighten the mood, but because I like being honest. This movie also features Avery Tiiu Essex (Modern Family) and this is her second role… Ever. Her first documented role, at least according to IMDb, is Young Claire from “Modern Family.” I have not seen the episode where she appears. Admittedly, I quit watching the show during the middle of the series because I don’t see the humor other people see in it, but having seen her in this movie, I think she did a good job, and for a second documented performance. This ain’t half bad. I think Avery Tiiu Essex has a bright future ahead of her, but I simultaneously wish she just has better movies to back her up. At the same time though, this is perhaps the life of an actor. You do something to get your name out there, maybe the movie will suck, but you nevertheless put yourself before an audience. If I were a casting director, I’d consider her for a role depending on the project.

But honestly, just because this movie was competently performed throughout, does not excuse the lackluster writing. This movie has some cool traits behind it. The beginning is well-written and somewhat intriguing. It’s kind of spooky as well, and given how this movie’s in the horror genre, it works! But there are so many times where I just wanted to look at my phone. Keep in mind, I was watching this at home, not at a theater.

There were a couple times where the movie slowed down enough to give me the urge to rewind. And one line in particular caught my attention. And by that I mean, it sent an electrical shock into my brain.

This movie is based on a book by Daniel Kehlmann. For all I know, the book is better than the movie, I have not read it myself. But there’s a line where the family looks around the house to see what’s what. They come across what would become the daughter’s bedroom, and the mother suggests that her bed “is the size of Connecticut.” I know this is nitpicking… Connecticut is not that big of a state! CONNECTICUT IS THE 3RD SMALLEST OF THE UNITED STATES! There are so many other states you can choose from! Texas! Alaska! California! New York! Florida! BUT CONNECTICUT?! I know… This is admittedly, possibly the stupidest thing I could ever complain about, but it nevertheless irks me! Word choice matters! I’m sorry, but that line caught me off guard! I don’t know where it came from! The book, the movie! I don’t know! Maybe there’s something I don’t know about the character that could make the line better. What is their relationship with Connecticut? Did they go there? Did they live there? Do they hate that state with a burning passion? Which, if you do… Try Frank Pepe’s pizza! I It’s a place that started in New Haven and it now has become a chain in the northeast! This is not sponsored, I’m just a fan!

I gotta say though, before I watched this movie, I don’t recall watching the trailers. Although I did watch a bunch of On Demand previews because they showed up on my TV from time to time. This movie is not only less spooky than I would want it to be, but it feels very confused in its identity. I know sometimes there are movies where you don’t know what box to put them in because they are one genre or another, but if that were the case with “You Should Have Left,” it didn’t work. Is it a family drama? Is it a horror flick? I don’t know. It kind of tries being both, but in doing so, it can’t do either successfully. So if you get Peacock, kind of like I did, I’d look for another movie before turning this one on.

To add on even further disappointment, I should point out that this movie is written and directed by David Koepp. While I don’t talk about David Koepp too often, his resume is solid! Especially when it comes to his writing credits. “Jurassic Park,” “Spider-Man,” “Mission: Impossible.” He has screenplay credits for all three of these great blockbusters! I’ll even say that one film in particular he wrote and directed, specifically 2012’s “Premium Rush” is a film that I wish more people talk about. To see a guy with an admirable history in the film industry do something like this is profoundly disappointing, and it kind of makes the movie a little worse than it should be. Although I would imagine some would be willing to acknowledge his blunders as well. While I have not seen the film myself, many have pointed out that “Mortdecai” is one of the inferior additions to Johnny Depp’s cinematic library. Even so, Koepp’s a man who has brought some positive additions to Hollywood’s history! If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten to hear Willem DaFoe sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Just, make better movies. That’s all I ask.

In the end, “You Should Have Left” is the best possible title they could have given this movie. Because it was basically telling me, the viewer, that I should have left. This movie is dull, confused as to what it wants to be, and even though it has some scares, a lot of them are forced, cheap, and shoehorned! I think the young girl in this movie has a bright future ahead, but this movie will not shine on my best list at the end of 2020. I’m going to give “You Should Have Left” a 3/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new movie “The Last Shift.” This is exclusively out in theaters now, so per usual, I won’t force anyone who doesn’t feel safe going to a theater to go see this movie, but without saying anything else, I highly recommend “The Last Shift.” I will explain more about why I recommend it in my review, which should be up later this week. 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 “You Should Have Left?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Peacock? Did you get the service? Do you have a certain plan for it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Rhythm Section (2020): The Most Boring Record Breaker of All Time

“The Rhythm Section” is directed by Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale, Divorce) and stars Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Town), Jude Law (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) in a film… Zzzzzzzzz.

Sorry, what was that? I’m very sorry. This film is about a woman who seeks revenge after discovering the plane crash that killed her family was an act of terrorism.

This film is based on a book written by Mark Burnell. Interestingly, he also wrote the screenplay for this movie. I don’t know how the book is, I have personally never read it, but for all I know, it’s a masterpiece of a generation. Although I will say this movie took me back to my high school years when I was forced to read certain texts. I’m looking at you, “Pride & Prejudice!” You guys remember English class in high school? If you liked every single book, text, or piece of reading material you’ve gotten in high school, good for you. To me, this movie felt like a book I was forced to read in high school, ended up detesting from the first ten pages, and I would either drudge through it or leave it to the last minute.

Want to know something else? This movie is not that long. It’s not the shortest movie ever, but it has a total runtime of an hour and forty-nine minutes. I could totally see myself splitting some movie viewings into a couple of parts to take some things in. I did it with “Braveheart,” which is about 3 hours long. Heck, many movies have intermissions! I’ve even heard some countries apply intermissions to modern movies playing in theaters that don’t even come pre-packaged with them! A movie like “Braveheart,” even though was a little heavy at first, is exciting and exhilarating until the very end! “The Rhythm Section” is… BOORRRRING!

Now, it’s not “Gretel & Hansel” boring, it’s definitely not “Cats” boring, but “The Rhythm Section” is still pretty stinkin’ boring! The training scenes, which are… Okay, I guess, don’t feel like something I’ll remember two weeks from now. The action is fine, in fact there is a scene in this movie that is brilliantly shot, but that might be the best part of the movie even though it probably doesn’t say all that much, because it really doesn’t have anything to write home about.

Speaking of that awesome action scene, I do want to say something about it. I won’t go into much detail about the scene itself, partially to avoid spoilers, as usual, but much like some of those books I’ve read in high school, I’m forgetting about it as we speak. What did Virginia Woolf do again? I will say though, there is one action sequence where a car chase is going down, Blake Lively’s character is driving, and the camera is in the car pretty much the whole time. For like a minute or so, the frame doesn’t cut, break, or switch. It just stays put the entire time in the same shot. I’ve noticed a lot of movies have done something like this in recent years, or more specifically, they take a bunch of shots together and make it look like one shot. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” had an awesome throwdown scene in a church where Colin Firth beat, shot, and stabbed everyone to death. “Zombieland: Double Tap” had an insane scene like this go down in Elvis Presley’s house. “Atomic Blonde” had something like this too, where Charlize Theron spends eight minutes taking everyone down. While the first two examples feel fantastical, this shot felt more like something that had an “Atomic Blonde” vibe. Unfortunately, “Atomic Blonde” is a much better movie, a more engaging movie as well, but like these examples sort of relate to “The Rhythm Section” in terms of camerawork. There were some scenes, like that one cool action sequence, where the camera was well-utilized. Unfortunately, I can’t always say the same about the editing.

I rarely talk about edits in movies that I don’t like, although I still wonder why “Bohemian Rhapsody” won an Academy Award for it, so there is that. There was a scene in the beginning that caught my attention, everything is all quick cutty and fast. And I get it, people have slow attention spans, but this was honestly too fast for my liking. Speaking of which, remember that awesome action scene? Well forget about that for just a sec, because I remember a scene towards the end of the film that took place on a bus, and it reminded me of the typical jumpcutty bullcrap that’s been seen a lot in recent action flicks. One moment we’re here! One moment we’re there! One moment we’re flying everywhere! It’s like the world’s worst Dr. Seuss book!

And of course, I should not go without mentioning one other thing, this movie has the same curse some other films manage to have. It’s a January movie! Honestly, this crap feels like it belongs in that month, it is one of the few months that many general audiences are not focused on new movies, even though “Bad Boys for Life” grossed a ridiculous amount of money for a January flick this year, surpassing 2009’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” by over double its total worldwide. Note, “American Sniper” came out in January 2015 and earned more money than both movies, but it does not count, considering how the movie was screened in a limited run since December 2014. Speaking of box office achievements, “The Rhythm Section” has the *honor* of earning the worst weekend for a wide release movie playing on over 3,000 screens. In fact, in just a couple weeks, that screen count dropped to just double digits! The film also brought in just short of $6 million worldwide! When your film has a budget of $50 million, this is a definite failure. And I know 2020 sucks for everyone right now, unless you’re a higher-up at Amazon, you work for Charmin’, or if you are an introvert who likes staying home all day, but this sort of makes me wonder how Paramount’s 2020 has been going since the beginning.

Well, at least “Mission: Impossible 7” is back in production.

Nevertheless, this feels like it deserves a January spot on the calendar, not only in terms of quality, but in terms of content. A lot of it either feels cliche, cold, or something that could easily be tuned out. This may also not be the easiest movie to market either. I’m not sure how popular the book is, so I guess the easiest way to tell is to find out how many people in the world have read the source material.

The actors are alright in this movie, and I will say, whoever the makeup and hairstyling crew for this movie happens to be, they deserve a thumbs up because Blake Lively looks the part. She comes off as a woman who really has seen some s*it in her life, and her hairstyle projects that idea to me. Unfortunately, some halfway decent acting could not contribute to a halfway decent movie. I don’t feel like I’ll remember most of the characters, the happenings, the movie as a whole. It’ll probably be a blur at some point. Technically speaking, it’s very hit or miss. I don’t see myself watching this movie in the near future even as background noise.

I don’t want to end this review too harshly, after all, even though I’ve been bogging the screenplay, because it is admittedly boring and nowhere near satisfying, it is also Mark Burnell’s debut, so I’ll cut him some slack here. In fact, he’s got another project lined up, so maybe he’ll knock it out of the park next time, maybe even learn from some flaws here. Unfortunately it’s based on another one of his books so… We’ll see. Burnell, if you are reading this and want my recommendation, get another guy who is well versed in screenwriting to collaborate with you. Maybe you can still go with your vision, but I think a voice of experience would be helpful in a case like this. The movie’s still in pre-production… Maybe there’s time for another draft? I don’t know.

In the end, “The Rhythm Section” unfortunately did not make its money back at the box office, but nevertheless robbed me of $12.99 that I ended up paying for the Blu-ray. Granted, that’s a cheap price for a fairly new release, but nevertheless. This movie feels like alcohol. Only I didn’t drink it to forget something, instead the alcohol leaped off the screen and slowly poured itself down my throat. I do not feel like I’ll remember this movie that well. If you want a good revenge movie, just go watch “Taken,” go watch “John Wick,” they’re much more worth your time. Even the “John Wick” sequels are better than this! I’m going to give “The Rhythm Section” a 4/10.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see a review for a much better movie, be sure to check out my review for “Tenet!” Big movies are back, baby! This is what I’m talking about! I wanted to watch “Bill & Ted Face the Music” this past weekend, as it was playing in some theaters (although it was available on VOD too), but unfortunately I just couldn’t find time to do it. So, if I have the motivation for either format this upcoming weekend, I will probably check that movie out. What else am I gonna watch this weekend? “The Broken Hearts Gallery?” I like one of the actresses in it… But, what else does it have to offer? Maybe I’ll get a last minute A-List screening or something, I dunno. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Rhythm Section?” Or did you contribute to its unfortunate records? What did you think about the movie if you saw it? Or, what is your favorite movie with Blake Lively in it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Gretel & Hansel (2020): You’ve Heard the Story. Prepare to Fall Asleep to It.

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“Gretel & Hansel” is directed by Oz Perkins, AKA Osgood Perkins (Legally Blonde, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House) and stars Sophia Lillis (It, Sharp Objects), Samuel Leakey (MotherFatherSon), Charles Babalola (Bancroft, The Legend of Tarzan), Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Dracula), and Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact, Chariots of Fire). This film is based on the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm. This has received adaptations in the past, but this is one of the latest attempts at adapting such material because well, originality is dead. So the best we can do now is take something in hopes of flipping it on its head hard enough to get something different, but also interesting.

Safe to say, this movie… Didn’t do that. I’ll get to that later.

Now, I will be fair to “Gretel & Hansel” here. Because the truth is, I am not that familiar with the material which this film happens to be based on. Have I heard the name thousands of times over the years? Sure. But you can say the same thing about my knowledge of other aspects regarding culture. Things like “Fortnite,” “Stranger Things,” “South Park,” Cracker Barrel, Red Lobster, Fanta, AKA a drink that wouldn’t exist if it were not for ties to Nazi Germany. It’s true by the way, look it up.

Let me just start off by stating some things I like about the movie. Oz Perkins does a really good job at providing an intimate feel to this picture. It made me wonder why I didn’t wait until say September or October to watch this. Granted, this film did come out in January, at least in U.S. cinemas that is, but if it came out in September and October, it would have provided a proper vibe for spooky season. After all, “Gretel & Hansel” is in the horror genre, it is genuinely creepy at times, not to mention kind of quirky, and the environment just screams “autumn.” In some ways, this film reminded me of the 2015 flick, “The Witch.” Now let me just say, I HATED “The Witch” upon my initial viewing, and I still haven’t watched it a second time. But I will admit, the style presented in “Gretel & Hansel” kind of reminded me of that movie. Things that stood out in this context include the slightly less than wide aspect ratio, the bold and nearly colorless grading, and the somewhat extended pace of the film. It all worked… At times.

In other times it was just… BOORRRRRRRRRING!

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Wow! I don’t think I’ve nearly come this close to tuning out a movie since maybe “Cats!” But let’s also be fair here, “Cats” is a disaster in every sense of the word that makes all other movies look like Shakespeare. Compared to “Cats,” which is an injection of infinite cyanide, “Gretel & Hansel” is one tiny little dart aimed at your leg. It hurts, maybe you’ll get to the point where you’ll pass out, but you’ll inevitably get back on the horse. Your chances of instant death are significantly reduced.

Nevertheless, I do want to point out, despite the fact that I do appreciate the art of filmmaking itself, not to mention an assortment of motion pictures that are perhaps, intentionally slow, take the “Blade Runner” films and “2001” as just a couple of core examples. I was just bored by whatever the heck was happening during “Gretel & Hansel.” I mean, I got the concept down willy nilly, but the in between of it all was just… tiresome. It’s really unfortunate that the movie just so happens to fall into a mess like this. Because there are several scenes that are visually stunning, not just from a practical perspective, but even some effects that are clearly fantastical manage to pop. There’s a nice blend between the grim–

Wait a minute, is that a pun? I think that’s a pun. Anyway…

There’s a nice blend between the grim reality and horrific fantasy here. Too bad I won’t remember a lot of it. In fact, as I write this review, I can only back track to what could be a very select few highlights of the film in terms of what I liked. Not the best of results if you ask me.

I will say though, when it comes to casting Gretel and Hansel for this film, I do think the department did a fine job when it comes to finding people who look the part and happen to provide fantastic chemistry. At this point, for an interpretation like 2020’s “Gretel & Hansel,” I almost cannot imagine anybody else filling in the shoes of these characters. They feel like two kids who try to work off each other despite having some differences. Given what time frame this movie takes place in and what this film in general has to offer, this feels like a legit brother and sister duo. Thumbs up to Claire Curry and Julie Harkin for their swell job on casting. In addition to that, thumbs up to both Sophia Lillis and Samuel Leakey for giving it their all in regards to their performances of their individual characters.

I don’t know what it really is about this movie… Why does it get a below average vibe from me? The production value is excellent and everyone involved does a top notch job. But the directing and screenplay doesn’t really seem to be that well executed when translated to screen. I can almost imagine the pitchroom meeting.

“We’re going to reinvent the German folktale for a new age! We do not need a lot of money to do it. The audience will take in the beauty and wonder of what will be a depressing world in which to live. It’s gonna be great.”

I like immersion and great production as much as the next guy. But if you have seen me review movies a lot over the past year or so, one of the big things I bring up is pacing. If you have a good movie, but it isn’t well paced. You’re not always gonna get a pass in that department. Did everything that happened in “Gretel & Hansel” need to happen? That’s a tough question to answer. Because guess what? This movie is ONLY EIGHTY-SEVEN MINUTES LONG! By today’s standards for feature films, that’s pretty freaking short! This is the Napoleon Bonaparte of feature films! If “Gretel & Hansel” cut out a lot of what made it slowly paced, I almost wonder if it would just perhaps barely be feature-length by technical standards. According to the Academy it would probably be a feature because by their standards, features are over forty minutes long. Same goes for the AFI (American Film Institute). But you might not get a pass from the Screen Actors’ Guild, which considers features to be seventy-five minutes at minimum. I wonder… Does that include credits? Just curious.

In the end, “Gretel & Hansel” is making me sleepy-eyed just thinking about it. Seriously, as I type this, my face is tilting towards my shoulder. I do not think I will be watching this film again anytime soon, despite the excellent production factors put into it. I enjoyed “Gretel & Hansel” as something to look at for an hour and a half, and compared to other movies that I will not watch again, I did not exactly want to rip my face off afterwards. However, that is not enough for this borefest to qualify as a quality movie. I’m going to give “Gretel & Hansel” a 4/10.

This year, man. This year. Although this film came out in January so this is somewhat normal. In other news… Disney is getting greedier than Mr. Krabs by making “Mulan” a Disney+ exclusive that you have to pay $29.99 TO WATCH ON TOP OF YOUR MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION. I’ll pass! I’m already paying for Prime Video, HBO Max, and I just got Peacock the other day! I am not that much of a streamer, and I don’t need more! By the way, my YEARLY PRICE for Peacock is the exact price you have to pay for “Mulan” on Disney+. Buh-bye for now!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Capone,” starring Tom Hardy. I just bought the Blu-ray a couple weeks ago, and I popped it just this past week to gather some thoughts on it. Stay tuned for that review and other great content from Scene Before! Follow the blog through a WordPress account or an email to see the latest goings on! OR, if you want bonus content, like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Gretel & Hansel?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your preferred adaptation of the “Hansel & Gretel” material? Are you an oldtimer who doesn’t want anyone on their lawn? Say the original material for all I care. Either way, there’s a good chance I have not checked out any of your answers so any thought I give to it may be invalid. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Vivarium (2019): As Strange As 2020

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“Vivarium” is directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Foxes, Without Name) and stars Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, Green Room) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Now You See Me) as a couple who want to purchase a house. An agent shows them a house located in a quiet, seemingly peaceful area. Oddly, just about every house is identical and every aspect of the neighborhood feels like something specifically crafted for a lower budget, artsy Tim Burton picture or something. …Maybe the 2018 film “A Wrinkle in Time.” That one in particular is done by a different director, but nevertheless. As the couple tour what’s marked as house #9, they eventually find themselves without the agent, trying to escape the neighborhood. They never manage to find their way out. After the endless search, they find an infant, and are given instructions… “Raise the child and be released.”

Oh parenting, the hardest task in the world. Here. We. Go.

2020 has been a strange year. There has been talk amongst film fans, including myself, on what Best Picture could end up being. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” should nothing else arrive, could end up being a big contender. “The Invisible Man” has received plenty of positive verdicts. Honestly, with all things considered, I wouldn’t sleep on “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” That is… if I controlled the Academy and had all the power. Love those guys. But one of the lesser talked about films of the year is this little flick called “Vivarium.” Prior to today, the film has a box office total of $123,044. I knew very little about the project, despite how it has some notable names attached. Although I did buy the Blu-ray, popped it in the player, and watched the movie later on. Do I regret watching it? Not really… But… Kinda.

Let me just say, as a movie from a technical standpoint, “Vivarium” is very pleasing. I like the production design and framing of the film. It very much reminded me of a Tim Burton project like “Edward Scissorhands” if it were set in a slightly more modern time. The movie has this blend of fantasy and touch of reality that gives it its own unique feel. I kinda dig it. I think all the actors including Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jonathan Aris did a really good job playing their respective roles. They were all believable and well cast. If I were to watch this in a theater, I’d probably do my best to stay quiet and admire all the detail as things go by on the big screen. Although, I cannot see myself watching this movie many more times in the future.

One of the most controversial movies of the past year is Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.” For the record, I liked Ari Aster’s directorial debut, “Hereditary,” so I figured “Midsommar” would be a worthy follow-up to what he has provided in the past. I was wrong. It turned out to be one of the most insufferable film experiences I have put myself through in recent memory. Like “Vivarium,” “Midsommar” looked pretty appealing and had fantastic design to keep me gazing on the screen. It even had a good cast, I think Florence Pugh is a likable actress. Although if you ask me, I’d recommend an alternate film of hers to watch, “Fighting with My Family,” directed by the very talented and hilarious Stephen Merchant. But the film annoyed me in the long run. It was a film that tried to be disturbing and haunting, but just ended up feeling overly grotesque and off-putting. And while “Vivarium” feels a lot more tame, it kind of has that “Midsommar” feel. Upon finishing “Vivarium,” a part of me felt a little icky. And that’s a bit odd to say because while “Vivarium” is technically a horror movie, there is not really much that kept me disturbed. Maybe there were some spooks intact, but it didn’t really feel like something horrific or life-ending in a sense. It comes off as one of those artsy films that really tries to go all out there and be as strange as possible. In all likelihood, that may have been what the crew was going for, and in some ways, it works. But there are some cases where flaws happen to stand out.

I mean, no movie’s perfect, but this is a movie that really could have been awesome, but if the script didn’t go a certain way, I probably would have felt a little more satisfied. What way would I have wanted it to go? Well… I can’t tell you. That would perhaps spoil a great portion of the movie. But let me just say one thing, it involves the “kid” character, who I honestly grew to hate by the end of this movie. That’s all I can spit out without getting arrested by the spoiler police.

I like the way that this movie tends to handle parenting because it does go to reveal the disconnect between parents and their kids sometimes. Maybe the parents have a certain thought on their mind which may have to do with “helping the kid” or “doing what’s best for the kid” to which the kid ultimately disagrees or throws a tantrum or something of that nature. This movie sort of reminds me of why I may not want to be a parent anytime soon.

This is partially shown through say the performance given by Jesse Eisenberg, and I think that this is one of his better performances that I can think of if you ask me. Because when I think of Jesse Eisenberg, I will point out, I often reflect upon him in a positive light. I’ve seen him do good things, but he always seems to have this dimension to him that he carries from one character he plays to another. He’s a fast talker, almost to the point of mumbling, and it feels like he often plays a live-action cartoon. It’s like he’s on caffeine for extended periods which makes him rather obsessive and hyperactive. Here, from what I can recall, Eisenberg is calmer compared to other times I’ve witnessed him. Granted, I have not witnessed everything from Eisenberg. I still need to watch “The Social Network,” and not just the first two or three minutes which I think I DVRed one time.

I will say though, I am writing this review at the end of July 2020, and in a way, this movie may get a little too close to home for some viewers. Why? Well, it basically dives into what happens when a couple isolates in a home. Like, you know, just like every single one of us has in 2020. So do I recommend “Vivarium?” I’d say yes, minus the final five to ten minutes which were kind of a letdown for me. But remember, if you stayed in your home for four months, this could be a little bit… I’ll say creepy. I’m just hoping none of you have kids, maybe then it’ll get super creepy.

In the end, “Vivarium” started out alright, became pretty good, but nearly crashed during the climax. I know for storytelling purposes, there’s not really much that could necessarily be changed about the “kid” character, but that kid was one of the single most annoying characters I have seen in a movie in a long time. I get it, but… still, it drives me mad. I’m going to give “Vivarium” a 7/10.

Come on, 2020! Give me something great! Yes! We have “The Way Back!” We have “The Vast of Night!” We have “Hope Gap!” Those are good movies. I want GREAT movies. I think the last great movie I saw that was new may have been “The Farewell,” which technically speaking is a 2019 film even though I watched it in 2020 as I was wrapping my cycle for the 2019 lineup. If “Tenet” doesn’t come out on the first weekend of September, there is no hope left for movies this year. I wish I wasn’t being this dramatic. I want to avoid going into a rant, so… Let’s just move on.

Thanks for reading this review! I’m not sure what my next review is gonna be. I wanted to watch Greyhound on Apple TV+, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to watch it on my TV. After all, my smart platform, which is included with the television set, is Android TV, which of course, is from Google, one of Apple’s biggest competitors. This may be why there is no deal between the companies to have Apple TV+ on the Android TV platform. Nevertheless, if you want to see more great content from Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the blog’s official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Vivarium?” What did you think about it? Or, how is isolation going for you? Are you still in the house? Are you out and about? As one who lives in the United States, I HATE MY LIFE. That’s all I can say. Leave your comments down below, and hopefully my next blog post will come sometime soon! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Vast of Night (2020): Makes For Good Radio, Or a Good Movie

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“The Vast of Night” is directed by Andrew Patterson, AKA James Montague or Junius Tully. Look up this guy on IMDb, the man has three names! This film stars Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz in a film set during the 1950s. Two people, a switch operator and a DJ behind a radio station uncover the mystery of a strange audio frequency that could end up changing the nature of their town.

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First off, if you’re reading this, happy second half of 2020! I cannot believe we actually made it this far as a society! Yippee! Second, this film came out at a bunch of festivals including Fantastic Fest, Chicago International, TIFF, and Slamdance (not to be confused with Sundance). Although it did not really grant much access to the viewing public until 2020. Given how there’s a big pandemic, it didn’t have all that much of a theatrical release. However, it did have a limited run at drive-ins so it managed to have some of that theatrical flavor. Having seen this movie, I think it’s a perfect fit for a drive-in given its vibe, how it’s set in the 1950s, and the color grading has a hint of that old-time feel. But I didn’t see “The Vast of Night” at a drive-in, I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, considering how the movie is marketed as an Amazon Original. Who can turn down a free movie?

Here’s the truth about 2020. It’s the f*cking WORST! I cannot believe that a year could have ever been this tragic and infuriating! You ever had a dream that you wanted to achieve in 2020? Guess what? Go home! Time to find a new dream! I could make a whole post about this, but instead, let’s stick with movies. Because otherwise I would have eradicated all of humanity through brutal anger. Actually, you know what? Let’s mix the two topics up. Not a bad idea! This is honestly what could arguably the single least satisfying and anger-inducing year for film that I have witnessed not just while doing Scene Before, but also my life. I am not watching as much new material as I have in the past. All the theaters are closed, and of the new movies I have seen, nothing stands out. The highest grade I gave this year for a new film was a 7/10. Let me just say something about “The Vast of Night…”

It might be my favorite movie of 2020 so far.

2020, this is what movies are! Screw “My Spy!” Forget “Scoob!” F*ck “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” to hell and back! “The Vast of Night” is a fun, engaging, and somewhat satisfying flick… That isn’t perfect, let me just be clear here.

Because it is 2020, the year of complaining, I’m gonna start off with some negatives. This is a 91 minute film. And surprisingly, it gets a little slow at times. When I look at the runtime of a film, I sometimes think “Oh wow! Ninety minutes? I can watch this in a breeze!” While “The Vast of Night” is not necessarily an exception to this belief, there are one or two scenes that I won’t specifically dive into, but they go on for a little longer than I would anticipate. There’s a lot of explanation to expose the happenings of the film and I get that exposition is a necessary part of storytelling, but it sort of felt like watching the 2019 Super Bowl, something that tried to have a fast pace but was missing something. This pacing problem did not ruin the movie, and I imagine if I saw this film at a drive-in like some people did, there’s a good chance that this complaint could be irrelevant, but it felt like there was one specific scene where a character drones on for a little too long.

The Vast of Night (2019) - IMDb

One of the standout things about this movie in general is that it comes from people I don’t know at all. The two stars, AKA Sierra McCormack and Jake Horowitz are people who I don’t really recognize from a lot of projects. The director, what do you call him? James Montague? Junius Tully? Andrew Patterson? Turd Ferguson? I looked this guy up on IMDb, this is currently his ONLY credit. This is his debut for directing, writing, producing, and if Andrew is ALSO known as Junius Tully and does not appear to be somebody else I should know, his debut for editing and being in the editorial department. Basically, it’s five debuts in one! A lot of times when I look at the credits of the film, maybe someone will write the film, they’ll also direct and produce the film, maybe play a role in it. It’s not every day that I see filmmakers do all these things at once though. Granted, if you look at acclaimed masters of the industry like Kevin Smith, Alfonso CuarĂ³n, and the Coen Brothers, yeah they edit their own films. But it’s nice to have this mix, while also getting to see work from someone you haven’t really been exposed to yet.

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And I would imagine that prior to making this film, Andrew Patterson has had some proper training within the art. When it comes to editing and camerawork, it is some of the best I have seen all year. The color grading in this film is fantastic. As for the movie itself, it is genuinely mysterious and spooky. This movie kind of comes off like it is some ninety minute episode of “The Twilight Zone.” In fact the first shot of the movie is of an old television set that is playing the intro to a show that pretty much takes almost every single element from the intro of “The Twilight Zone.” Everything from the music to the suspenseful buildup and even the captivating voice. There are some notable differences, but nevertheless.

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I will also give credit to the actors in this film, who I might admittedly end up not necessarily remembering at the end of the year for their ability to convey their characters, but their ability to stay sane during a nine minute shot. There is one scene where much of the focus is on the main girl switch operator and we see everything going on from her perspective. I was amazed at how the crew pulled this off without much error. That’s one of the big compliments I can give this film from a cinematography and camerawork perspective, they do so much to make this film look so crisp while also doing these long, extended, neverending takes. It kept my eyes on the screen for a long, long time. Speaking of shots, there’s numerous scenes that take place on a basketball court, and it adds up to bring in some of the most insane filmmaking of the year. This may be the first time of 2020, that I legit had a mind-blowing moment while watching a film. The other one might have been “Sonic the Hedgehog” because if you know anything about video game movies, there’s an often-shared stigma that they’re lackluster and some of worst products put to screen. But unlike that movie, which at times felt like a product that was heavily commercialized, “The Vast of Night” comes off as a passion project made by a group of people who were really excited to show off their skills and experience, even if not everyone was that experienced to begin with.

I stand by and understand the notion that all movies, in some way, are made for the sake of profit or raking in money. “The Vast of Night” kind of reminded me of an advanced student film, and I mean that in a positive way. It felt like a movie that I would want to make, to the point where I go beyond my imagination with the production value, the cinematography, finding the right people, and every other technical aspect you can think of. There felt like there was just a little more than the idea of getting rich when it comes to the aspirations behind “The Vast of Night,” and other than “The Way Back,” starring Ben Affleck, which I saw in March and have not reviewed yet, I don’t think I have seen as personal of a film this year. For those who are curious, this was shot in 17 days during September 2016 on a Red Epic camera. The result, satisfying.

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In the end, “The Vast of Night” is vastly entertaining. This is the movie that made me perhaps somewhat excited to watch and review new movies once again. It’s not perfect, as stated before, but given the limitations that this film had during production, to have it come out the way did is nothing short of incredible. At the same time though, maybe those extended scenes can also serve as a blessing in disguise, because even though I can tell that the story is relatively simple, maybe I’ll pick up on something in the future in regards to this movie should I watch it again. This year, I haven’t given any 10s, I haven’t given any 9s. Not because I’m trying to get a little more strict with my ratings, I just really have not seen much of anything worth talking about. And unfortunately, this year will continue to lack 9s and 10s, BUT I’m going to give “The Vast of Night” my first 8/10 of the 2020 calendar! Sometimes it does not take much to impress me, and in this case that is certainly true. This movie was produced for under $1 million, which in many circumstances is a lot of money, but for some cases within in the film industry, a million bucks is nothing. It’s chump change. “The Vast of Night” felt like a film that was crafted by someone who knew what they wanted to do and it felt just a tiny tad more expensive than maybe it turned out to be. The only thing that takes such a notion away are some of the extended shots, which are marvelous by the way.

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Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this post and have a WordPress account, consider leaving a like! Also, if you want to see more content, be sure to follow Scene Before for all the goings on here on Flicknerd.com. As for upcoming content, I was PLANNING on going to a Regal Cinemas location next week to see what they’re doing after all the shenanigans, but of course, they delayed their reopening because life sucks and nothing else matters anymore. In most cases, this comment sounds childish, but in the time of 2020, this is pretty tame. Just spreading the truth! However, there is some good news to share… I live in Massachusetts, and it was just announced by Governor Charlie Baker that phase 3 begins July 6th! That means movie theaters in the state of Massachusetts are permitted to reopen as long as they follow guidelines! I don’t know how many theaters would open, but to know that they are eligible excites me. So maybe I’ll do a post on how they are dealing with reopening and what it is like to go to a theater during this… (sigh) “new normal.” Hate saying that. There’s a good chance that I will review another movie within the next week should time allow such a thing to happen, but since I talk about “Tenet” a lot, maybe I’ll do something related to that, I dunno. But if you are bored and are tired of scrolling through my blog on WordPress, I have the solution for you. LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE! It’s like my blog, only different! More behind the scenes stuff and random s*it that you don’t get to see on here. I want to know, did you see “The Vast of Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is set in the 1950s that did not come out in the 1950s? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!