Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022): And Then There Was Fun

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and once again stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Logan Lucky) as Benoit Blanc. This time around he is surrounded by castmates like Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk, Fight Club), Janelle Monae (Antebellum, Hidden Figures), Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision, Bad Moms), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami, The Murder on the Orient Express), Jessica Henwick (The Matrix Resurrections, Game of Thrones), Madelyn Cline (Outer Banks, Stranger Things), with Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, Fool’s Gold), and Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049, My Spy). This film centers around a group of friends who gather together at the Glass Onion, owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron. Joining them is detective Benoit Blanc, a man who Bron admires.

I loved the first “Knives Out.” When I did my top 10 of 2019, the film ended up making the best list and eventually got a Best Picture nom during the 2nd Jackoff Awards. It appears I am not alone because the film ended up making over $300 million worldwide, which is nothing to sneeze at given how the film cost $40 million to make. Naturally, a sequel was inevitable. Lionsgate even greenlit a sequel in 2020.

The following year however, they sold the rights to two upcoming sequels to Netflix.

Now, I get it. Money talks. $469 million for the rights to make two sequels is great if you are a producer asking for such a price and such a demand is met. However, what worried me about this shift is that the films, since they are now in the hands of a streaming-first company, is that they will not be put in theaters, and the overall quality of the content is going to decrease. I am glad to report that I have underestimated my happiness with the verdicts on both matters. First off, this film did get a theatrical release. Albeit a limited engagement There is a good chance that if you did not see this film in theaters already, then that chance might be gone because it was scheduled to be in theaters for a week only. Second, I am happy to announce that “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a solid addition to the franchise.

Rian Johnson is a talented director. I was not a fan of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” But his direction was never the problem. From that film, to the previous “Knives Out,” and even this one, I have always been an admirer of Johnson’s filmmaking style from the intricate shot choices to the showcasing of vast environments. His movies always have a clean look to them, even if it revolves around murder like this one. This movie was shot in Greece. The location choices, one after the next, showcased hypnotic glimmers of beauty. And like any solid director, Johnson tells this story in such a fashion that could not be more entertaining.

To showcase how well-crafted this film is, I want to talk about a specific cliché in movies. The use of guns. I have seen a lot of movies in my life, and therefore, I have seen a lot of movies with guns. Whether they are used by the protagonist, antagonist, or a side character. This is the first time in ages that I watched a film in a theater and I jolted because a gun went off. As someone who has practically seen lots of jumpy moments, with some better than others, this satisfied me like you would not believe. You know how many movies have guns? They are practically a dime a dozen. I have not heard a gunshot utilized this effectively in a film in perhaps the longest time. Part of it is probably because of the gun’s limited use and how well written the characters were. I cared about each one. All of them have their moment and I did not leave feeling the need to diss on a single character or the actors who played them. They all did a great job.

Daniel Craig is back as Benoit Blanc. I have seen all the Daniel Craig “James Bond” movies from “Casino Royale” to “No Time to Die.” All due respect to Craig, and I know he has no plans to play Bond again. But if I had to choose who I would rather see Daniel Craig play for the rest of his life, I think Benoit Blanc would be my pick between those two. He’s quirky, he’s fun, and if Rian Johnson kept writing him, I think he would have me right where he wants me. Right in front of the screen.

Much like the previous “Knives Out,” the characters here often have an over the top vibe but in such a way that they still feel like real people. One such performance where this shows is Dave Bautista, who I will not unveil all the details about, but he comes off as someone who will do anything to protect his masculinity whether it means keeping his girl or his gun by his side. I thought Bautista was perfectly cast in this film and I am glad to see he is improving his acting abilities. I am glad to see he has more range than just Drax the Destroyer in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Other standouts in the movie include Madelyn Cline as Whiskey, Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel Toussaint, and Kathryn Hahn as Claire Debella, who in this universe is the governor of Connecticut.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is stacked with comedy. Thankfully, a lot of it lands. At times, it is almost funnier than the original. The crowd, myself included, gave plenty of audible laughter throughout the runtime. If you ask me, this is a film that is both great to watch at the theater and at home. Netflix, if you read this, I am sorry, the theatrical experience, is, AND WILL ALWAYS BE, superior to anything you can get on your television. However I was watching this movie and there were several shots where certain things that were either plot-specific, character driven, or important to the film in some way, but I occasionally found myself distracted by looking at the background. This movie has its fair share of background jokes, blink you’ll miss it jokes, and other various attempts at humor. Either way, there were a lot of laughs.

Much like the previous “Knives Out,” this sequel came out at a perfect time. The film is appropriate for Thanksgiving because people are gathering with friends and family they have not seen in forever. Similar to what these two films have shown themselves. And when the film hits Netflix on December 23rd, it gives friends and family the opportunity to watch another group of friends and family hang out. The film also happens to be reflective of the times and reminds me of what being in some social groups must be like. For context, this film acknowledges the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic. We see people wearing masks, there’s uncertainty of whether or not people can be in such close contact, and we even see Kathryn Hahn’s character, Claire Debella, talking on the news as to how she plans to navigate her state through the current situation.

The movie is great, although I think the laughs were slightly less ache-inducing than the original, despite there being plenty. If I had any other problems with the film, the third act gets incredibly unhinged. I do not mind unhinged storytelling, but for most of the movie, like the original, the characters feel like slightly heightened versions of people that could exist in everyday life. As soon as we get to the third act, we see things that feel less down to earth and it takes the realism out of the movie that previously existed. The movie ended up being a fun time, but if I had to pick a movie to watch again between this film and the original, I would go with the original. I have heard from others that this film is as good, possibly better, than the original, and I can see why. Both are good movies, but if I had to choose one, the 2019 film is the one I would choose. That said, “Glass Onion” is a killer time and if you need something to watch this holiday season either by yourself or with family, you might not be underwhelmed.

In the end, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a hilarious follow-up to the original with some of the best direction of the year, terrific writing, and an admirable ensemble cast. Much like the first film, I had the privilege of watching “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” in a crowded theater, and I love that I got to see the movie firsthand with a community. I laughed, I jittered, I locked my eyes with the screen like I was trying to win a staring contest. This is what movies are about. As much as I would have loved for this movie to receive a full fledged theatrical release, I am thankful Netflix put this in theaters at all. There are problems, including one that almost threw me off, but the positives outweighed the negatives. Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig have delivered a nicely done sequel. I am going to give “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” a 7/10.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is finishing up its advertised theatrical run. Who knows? Maybe it will be playing at a festival somewhere in the future, maybe Landmark might do a special screening. I am just holding out hope that people get to see this in the best way possible. But for those who want to wait for the home viewing experience, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” will be available on Netflix on December 23rd.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new Disney animated feature “Strange World.” The film just hit theaters last week, and I managed to catch a screening of the film over the weekend. I will share my thoughts soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either wtih an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery?” What did you think about it? Or, which film did you like better? The original “Knives Out” or “Glass Onion?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

See How They Run (2022): An Admirably Staged Whodunnit with a Lesser Known, But Solid Cast

“See How They Run” is directed by Tom George (Defending the Guilty, This Country) and stars Sam Rockwell (Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Little Women), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong), Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, The Affair), Reece Shearsmith (Spaced, The World’s End), Harris Dickinson (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, The King’s Man), and David Oyelowo (Selma, Gringo). This film is set in 1950s London, where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which has become a popular play in the West End, is set to become a film. Unfortunately, when one crucial member of the film’s eventual production has been murdered, plans halt and it is now up to Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker to find out more about what happened.

While I have not watched a good amount of them, I do love a good murder mystery. In fact, my favorite television episode of all time, specifically And Then There Were Fewer from “Family Guy,” is a murder mystery.

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

Simply put, iconic.

In fact, one of my favorite movies of the past few years happens to be “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson. All the actors play their part well, especially Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, and it was one of the funniest movies of its year. In fact, while both movies have notable differences, I got “Knives Out” vibes from watching “See How They Run,” partially because both have some association with Agatha Christie works. For “Knives Out,” Rian Johnson once went on to reference several of Agatha Christie’s tales as inspiration for his film. As far as “See How They Run” goes, the movie literally uses an Agatha Christie work as a significant part of its story. “The Mousetrap,” which started off as a play, and as this movie reveals, is going to be turned into a film adaptation. As far as play to movie adaptations go, this definitely sounds better than “Cats.”

“See How They Run” is neither the biggest, nor most recognizable movie out right now. Heck, even “Avatar,” a thirteen year old film, beat it at the box office over the past few weekends. But to be fair, “See How They Run” did not release in 3D. Although unlike some of the alternatives out right now such as “Don’t Worry Darling,” “See How They Run” is definitely worth watching.

When I say this movie is not the most recognizable, I mean it. I live in the United States, and there are few big stars in this movie I can pinpoint like Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, David Oyelowo, and Adrien Brody. And that’s if you can actually call some of these people “stars.” That said, much like the recently mentioned “Knives Out,” every actor in this movie fits their part and feels like they belong in their environment. I have no problem with the casting whatsoever. The same goes with the characters. Everyone brought their A-game and while it may not have as star-studded of an ensemble as say the recent Kenneth Branagh-directed “Death on the Nile,” I would argue that the performances in “See How They Run” are just as, if not more compelling when combined together.

My favorite performances in the film come from the two most prominent characters, Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker, played by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan respectively. Rockwell transforms into this experienced, determined detective who has some noticeable quirks. I cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. The same assessment would have to be given to Saoirse Ronan, who is not only great in the movie, but based on her resume in recent years, this is a different performance than I am used to seeing from her.

Obviously, Sam Rockwell has been acting for years, therefore he has had the opportunity here and there to diversify his performances. From the little that I have seen from Saoirse Ronan, specifically through her work with Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” she has a knack for playing outspoken characters, and the character of Constable Stalker feels comparatively quiet. She is never shy, not necessarily nervous, but compared to her work as say Jo March in “Little Women,” Ronan plays a character who, based on what the story provides, is not the elephant in the room. Granted, Constable Stalker is not the main character of the film, therefore that also comes into play. Although she had some of my favorite moments in the movie. She had this recurring gag where she would often jump to conclusions that got an occasional laugh out of me.

My other hint of enormous praise of the film is the look of everything in it. Everything from the locations to the cinematography by Jamie Ramsay to the costumes by previous Jackoffs winner Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Last Night in Soho, Chernobyl). I felt like I was in the 1950s the entire time. I wanted to leave my world and enter this one. Kind of like last year’s “Last Night in Soho,” this movie sets up a spookily enchanting environment that is as beautiful as it is rugged. Being set in London is a wonderful coincidence if there ever was one.

This film packs a lot in its fairly short runtime. Unfortunately, I feel like I am not going to remember many of the supporting characters within the next month. I will likely remember Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker for their fabulous chemistry, but there are a good number of people that we meet by the film’s climax that I think I will disregard in comparison when talking about the movie to other people.

“See How They Run” may not be as smart or fun as say “Knives Out,” but it is worth a watch. The best way I can describe “See How They Run” to someone who hasn’t watched it is by referring to it as a Wes Anderson-style film if had some of the tones of “Knives Out.” I think both of those aspects could provide for a promising time. But this is no “Knives Out,” and if you want me to go by Wes Anderson terms, this is no “Rushmore.” Although if you are looking for something fun, something that could be an escape from reality, this is a quick, easy option. And I can honestly see myself watching it a second time if it ever comes around.

In the end, “See How They Run” is not my favorite movie of year, it is not the best murder mystery, but it is a quirky, delightful time. I do mean it when I say quirky. The movie even takes time to make fun of particular storytelling methods. A specific instance of this in particular had me dying. One character noted how cliché or predictable some murder mysteries are to some people, which I thought added for a nice touch for a story like this. I like the two main characters, they were played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. The overall aesthetic of the film is pleasing. My flaws with “See How They Run” do not detract from the delight this film is. I think you should see it if given the chance. I am going to give “See How They Run” a 7/10.

“See How They Run” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this, you might want to stay tuned for another review I have coming up. Specifically, for the new movie “Amsterdam.” I had a chance to see it, perhaps unfortunately. Therefore, I will be talking about it soon! Also, stay tuned for tomorrow, because I will be unveiling my thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s classic film, “E.T. the Extra-terrestrial.” I am reviewing the film as part of an ongoing Steven Spielberg Month and in honor of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “The Fabelmans,” which is set to release November 11th. Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you watch “See How They Run?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite murder mystery? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Don’t Worry Darling (2022): Olivia Wilde Delivers a Dose of Harry Styles Over Any and All Substance

“Don’t Worry Darling” is directed by Olivia Wilde (Booksmart, Tron: Legacy), who also stars in the film as Bunny. This film also stars Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Black Widow), Harry Styles (Dunkirk, Eternals), Gemma Chan (Eternals, Raya and the Last Dragon), KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, The Old Guard), Nick Kroll (Big Mouth, Sausage Party), and Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Star Trek). “Don’t Worry Darling” follows a 1950s housewife who becomes worried about her loving husband, or more specifically, his company, that could hiding disturbing secrets.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is Olivia Wilde’s sophomore outing as a feature director. Wilde previously directed “Booksmart,” which in addition to receiving positive feedback from moviegoers and critics, did a fine job at the box office with a $25 million return against a $6 million budget. Wilde showcased her ability to make a laugh-inducing comedy while not breaking the bank. As for my thoughts on the movie, I liked it. I do not think it is the funniest movie of its respective year, but it gave me some decent laughs. Based on her experience of making a funny movie, it made me curious as to what she could do next.

Now that the next thing is here, I cannot stop thinking about it. It bogs my mind like I would not believe!

No, not the movie! The press for the movie! Why is everyone so hyped up about it? Well, everyone likes drama. If reality television and gossip has continued to prove it over the years, people like drama. And the buildup to “Don’t Worry Darling” has provided plenty of it. Between Shia LeBeouf once being attached to the movie, Florence Pugh not promoting the film, and a whole charade between Harry Styles and Chris Pine over spit, “Don’t Worry Darling” was shaping up to be this year’s most entertaining story. Except it was not the story written for the screen. Regardless, I planned on seeing this movie. The marketing was creepy yet interesting enough to keep my attention. The cinematography looked really good. And for the most part, the cast was good. Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll. There are some good names in here.

As for my thoughts on “Don’t Worry Darling,” the first two acts are delightfully charming and kept me intrigued throughout. Harry Styles has a ways to go as an actor, but it is a great setup for this movie’s world.

Then the turd– Sorry, THIRD act happened.

I cannot fully go into why I despise the third act and how this movie concludes because I would ultimately be spoiling the movie. That said, how these things go down are ridiculous to say the least. Does it involve something that could potentially be out of left field? You could say that. Was that the point? Perhaps. Does it change the fact that what happened felt ridiculous? Absolutely not. I do not mind out of left field scenarios if said scenario is executed well. This one is the exact opposite. Around the 60 to 90 minute mark, this movie went in one direction, and that is down.

This movie is like ordering a pizza that you will never eat. The first act is like opening up Uber Eats and getting excited over the pizza you want for dinner. Solid setup, this may be going somewhere swell… The second act is the equivalent of placing your order. You’re intrigued, you’re excited, what could go wrong? Except for absolutely everything! Because we get to the third act, where something completely unexpected happens! The restaurant blew up, and now you have no pizza! Only disappointment and frustration.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is certainly one of the better looking films of the year. The color palette of the 1950s suburban setting is poppy and felt like a pure escape. I thought the cinematography would look good based on the trailer and I would say I was not disappointed. Matthew Libatique deserves a pat on the back at the least. Everything from the costumes to the sets to the overall aesthetic of the film is top notch. It felt like another world at times. While this movie nails its looks, its story leaves much to be desired.

The cast of “Don’t Worry Darling” all deliver solid performances. This should not come as a surprise as the movie contains a fair number of big name actors, and Olivia Wilde even does a good job as her respective character. The only actor who I think struggled in terms of how seriously I could take him is Harry Styles (left). Maybe it is because of his recognizability in pop culture, regardless of how little I care for his music. Styles is not the worst actor of all time. If last year’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases anything, he is better than LeBron James. Plus he once had a supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” that served its purpose. Although every scene he is in, I would hear a line out of someone like Florence Pugh or Chris Pine, I feel like they are in the moment, whereas Styles is trying to keep up but he does not quite have it. When it comes to recognizable actors giving corny performances, Styles is thankfully less infuriating than say Tom Hanks as Tom Parker in “Elvis,” a laughable, yet terrifyingly annoying performance I have still yet to get out of my head. Speaking of “Elvis,” “Don’t Worry Darling” feels like another version of that film. Both are from Warner Bros., both are released in 2022, and both have a lead actor that could almost be considered the saving grace.

Whereas Harry Styles may not be the hot ticket this awards season, Florence Pugh is certainly a contender for the upcoming mounds of gold. Given this movie’s controversy, who knows what will happen? But if the Oscars were tomorrow, I would debatably cast a vote for Pugh. I liked her previously in movies like “Black Widow,” “Little Women,” and the significantly underappreciated “Fighting with My Family,” but “Don’t Worry Darling” may be the best performance of Pugh’s career so far. Pugh is still young, so there is a good chance she could eventually deliver an even better performance than this one, but to have this great of a performance now is incredible, especially when I am thinking about it more than almost any other one I have seen this year.

“Don’t Worry Darling” comes with a fairly unique setting and cast of characters, and its concept is certainly one of the quirkier I have seen in a movie this year. Although as I watched this movie and heard certain lines and witnessed particular happenings, it weirdly, of all things, reminded me of Disney+’s “WandaVision.” This feels weird to say, but when it comes to this type of plot, a Marvel miniseries somehow did this better. It had its flaws, but unlike “Don’t Worry Darling,” the positives outweighed the negatives.

Much like “Morbius,” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” if you go on the Rotten Tomatoes page for “Don’t Worry Darling,” you will notice a humungous divide between the critic and audience scores. Also much like “Morbius” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” as I watched “Don’t Worry Darling,” I felt myself leaning towards the side of the critics. But unlike those other two films, I felt like there was a recipe for something grand when the movie started. Again, if Harry Styles were not in this movie, I would have taken it a tad more seriously. Although when the movie started, I reminisced over the low Rotten Tomatoes score I recall this movie having, and I thought, “Are these critics on drugs?!”. Despite everything I said about Harry Styles, I should not underestimate his fanbase, because my theater had plenty of young women inside. Unfortunately though, this movie is not that great, and by the third act, it is ultimately a case of Harry Styles over substance.

In the end, “Don’t Worry Darling” is quite worrisome. For those of you who have not seen “Booksmart,” I do recommend you give it a watch at some point. It is funny, raunchy, but also heartfelt. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play a likable duo. If you want a showcase of what Olivia Wilde could bring to the table as a filmmaker, “Booksmart” is a better case of her talent. I do not have plans to watch “Don’t Worry Darling” a second time. This movie is like a slot machine. Two reels spin and land on the bonus symbol, there’s a big tease for the third reel to land a bonus, only to land on a 7. Florence Pugh gives an Oscar-worthy performance that made me look forward to her future roles as an actress. The film looks pretty and there clever concepts in it, but they were not well executed. For these reasons, in addition to having the one of the most jaw-droppingly bewildering and unsatisfying endings of the year, I am going to give “Don’t Worry Darling” a 4/10.

Although before we move on, the public drama behind “Don’t Worry Darling” and its crew seems to work in the film’s favor, whether Warner Bros. or Olivia Wilde chooses to admit it or not. Because at my screening, I sat next to two older women. When the movie ended, the woman next to me said she came to this movie with someone else because of the drama surrounding it. The drama had her curiosity, and now the movie had her attention. So, for Warner Bros., this could be a happy accident. It is unfortunate that this movie, at least when it first releases, will likely be associated with said drama regardless of its quality. The question is, how will it be viewed years from now? That remains a mystery.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, stay tuned because I have more coming! Pretty soon I will be sharing my thoughts on the brand new murder mystery, “See How They Run!” Stay tuned for that, and also stay tuned for the movies I will be reviewing for my official Steven Spielberg Month! This week we will be talking about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!” 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 “Don’t Worry Darling?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Booksmart?” Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Vengeance (2022): B.J. Novak Directs and Stars in A Texas-Sized Slice of Mediocrity

“Vengeance” is directed by and stars B.J. Novak (The Office, Saving Mr. Banks). Joining him is a cast consisting of Boyd Holbrook (Logan, The Predator), Dove Cameron (Descendants, Liv and Maddie), Issa Rae (Little, The Lovebirds), and Ashton Kutcher (That 70s Show, Two and Half Men). The film is about a writer who travels to rural Texas and attempts to figure out the happenings behind the murder of a girl he previously hooked up with.

I live in Massachusetts, and as someone who lives in Massachusetts, I often get excited to hear that particular people from my state like Elizabeth Banks or Ben Affleck get involved in a project or do a project of their own. I feel a sense of pride as a “wicked smaht” Bay Stater who occasionally stops by a Dunkin’. The U.S. version of “The Office,” despite being a sitcom I could never get into, has a few Bay Staters in the main cast including Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and the one we are going to focus on for this review, B.J. Novak.

Unfortunately for Novak, of the three stars of “The Office” I previously mentioned, he is the one I know the least about. I am more likely to acknowledge Carell or Krasinski. Steve Carell has terrific range from doing voiceovers in projects like the “Despicable Me” franchise, slapstick comedy through movies like “Anchorman,” and even drama flicks such as “Beautiful Boy.” John Krasinski is obviously known for his acting career, but I have grown fond of him for his directorial efforts in “A Quiet Place” and its sequel. But, this year, Novak is the new Krasinski. Not only is he directing a movie, he is starring in that same movie.

Although Krasinski has the upper hand if you ask me, because the concept of his movie felt more marketable. It felt more attractive. Novak’s new film, “Vengeance,” like any movie, could be good. But the trailer, if I had anything positive to say, barely sold me. Then I saw the movie… What did I think?

In theory, I like the messages this movie tries to convey. It dives into a number of a conversation-starting topics and ideas. Do we stereotype people too much or do stereotypes continue to have a place in our society? Is humanity, from a general perspective, too full of itself? Are we too attached to our electronics and is it heavily affecting what we could be experiencing in the real world? I like these concepts and questions. But it pains me to say that these are all presented in a script that could have been better.

Speaking of which, not only did Novak direct and star in the film, he wrote it too. This was undoubtedly a personal project, which only makes me feel worse that I have to describe why it did not work for me.

You want to know what sucks? Vacuums. You want to know what blows? Protagonists who you do not particularly like from the first scene. I wanted to relate to the character of Ben Manalowitz (right), and while I was able to find charm from the character here and there, I do not think the character was written in a way that sat well with me. The movie sells this character as a writer who has very much adapted to the northern city life. But in addition to that, he often came off as moody, or unlikable on the outside. I do not know what it is, but I feel like every scene he was in, he did not want to be doing what he was doing. I like the concept of his character, and he does his best to enforce the conceptual messages which I did enjoy, but the execution could have been better.

As I watched this movie, I got the sense that it was trying to present itself, maybe to an audience like mine, as a cultural shock. You know how you enter a country you’ve read a ton about but you have never been to? This is what I felt as a Bay Stater watching this movie about rural Texas. It is a movie that maybe is supposed to induce feelings of discomfort or unfamiliarity, and I think it did its job. But at the same time, I felt like some of the stuff that happens in Texas, at least in this movie, were a bit over the top. I was looking at the New York or more urban scenes and felt a contrast between that and the rural scenes. The rural scenes, or their centered characters, felt more exaggerated, more like cartoons at times. According to Wikipedia, B.J. Novak traveled to Texas to do research on the area and hoped that would translate into the movie’s concept or story. I do not know how over the top rural Texas is as I have never been, but I need to know how Novak came up with these specific Texan characters.

If I had to declare my favorite part of “Vengeance,” it would be one clip where Ben interviews the family and asks them some questions. In one scene, he asks what makes the family’s area so great. It only takes a second for the young boy, known by the nickname “El Stupido,” to shout “WHATABURGER!” Other than spending an hour or two at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to catch a connecting flight, I have never been to Texas. But even as someone from the north, the moment I heard the word “Whataburger,” I knew that this would be a somewhat accurate description of certain parts of Texas. We do not get Whataburger in Massachusetts, but it is everywhere in Texas. I know people who have been, and they say it is quite good. And besides, I go back to what I say in the beginning of the post and that random Dunkin’ comment. Like Whataburger, I can say that Dunkin’ is sort of a cornerstone to the lives of New Englanders. Obviously, Dunkin’ can be seen on the west coast. But there is a reason why Whataburger has such an association with Texas, and New England sports stars like David Ortiz and Rob Gronkowski have done commercialized material together for Dunkin’. So, good job on the inside humor.

Before we close off this review, I have to say the flaw that stuck with me the most is the way the film ended. I do not want to give any spoilers as this movie is only a few weeks old, but I will remind everyone reading this that the film is called “Vengeance” for a reason. Part of that reason is shown in the film’s climax. This allows us to see our protagonist do something, I will not say what, that felt completely out of character for them. Some may argue that this is “character development,” but as someone who saw the film, I would say that this was tacked on. Yes, in screenwriting, and therefore, in movies, there are “rules.” They do not always have to be followed, art and filmmaking are subjective after all, but nevertheless. One of the cliches of a protagonist is that they have to change throughout the film. And we see that here. Doesn’t mean the change is good. Once again, the concept is there, but the execution is not.

In the end, “Vengeance” could have been better. This is not the worst movie of the year, but if you are looking for something to watch at this point, there are better options out there. Unfortunately this August is a slow month for movies, especially more mainstream titles. But I would nevertheless recommend you even go see “Top Gun: Maverick” a third time at this point. I went into “Vengeance” not knowing what to expect and I left feeling unsatisfied. I wish B.J. Novak the best in his future works,. If he decides to direct more movies, I hope they are better than this forgettable outing. I am going to give “Vengeance” a 5/10.

“Vengeance” is now playing in theaters and is also available to watch on VOD platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Brad Pitt-starring action flick “Bullet Train.” I will not say much about it other than the fact that it literally lives up to its name. If you want to know my thoughts, stay tuned for the review. Also coming up, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and “Beast.” 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 “Vengeance?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite project involving B.J. Novak? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Nope (2022): YEP.

“Nope” is directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), Keke Palmer (Lightyear, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Steven Yeun (Minari, The Walking Dead), Michael Wincott (The Crow, Alien: Resurrection), Brandon Perea (The OA, Doom Patrol), Wrenn Schmidt (Outcast, For All Mankind), Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria, Unpregnant), and Keith David (The Thing, Pitch Black). This film is about a brother and sister who live on a ranch and witness an unusual, shocking event that changes everything.

So far, when it comes to Jordan Peele’s filmography, he has proven himself as legit horror storyteller. “Get Out” is unsettling and perfectly paced from start to finish. “Us” has charismatic characters and is a fine balance between subtle and trippy. “Nope” contains some of the horror elements that audiences may have grown accustomed to over the past couple films Peele directed. There are jumpscares, strange happenings, and much like “Us,” there is an intentionally placed scene in the beginning that in most cases would almost feel kind of out of place.

However, the biggest difference between “Nope” and Peele’s previous work is the scope. It would be easy for me to say that “Nope” is the biggest film Peele’s made so far, but I can back that up by saying “Nope” cost $68 million to make. That is more than “Us,” which cost $20 million, and “Get Out,” which cost $4.5 million. But there are reasons beyond the numbers as to why it is so big. The film is entirely shot on 65mm film, including select sequences which were shot in IMAX. Yes, Peele went full Nolan on this movie. Although unlike Christopher Nolan with some of his recent fare like “Tenet,” I could actually hear what the actors were trying to say. You see what happens when booming music is used sparingly? Out of all the films Peele has done so far, this is the one that most closely resembles that summer blockbuster vibe.

This is probably the closest I think a director has come in some time to providing a Spielberg-like experience without the use of the actual Steven Spielberg. Now, Spielberg has done a lot of movies, but he is most well known for his blockbusters like “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” This leads me to my biggest praise for “Nope,” and that is that this movie does for UFOs what Steven Spielberg and crew did for the original “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” movies. What do I mean? There is a UFO in the movie, but much like the shark in “Jaws,” the UFO is used sparingly. Much like that iconic shark some call Bruce, the UFO felt special. And kind of like in “Jurassic Park,” which took its time to establish the gargantuan nature of its dinosaurs, the UFO is not only menacing when it appears, but it made me as a viewer feel small. I am very likely going to buy “Nope” on physical media as it is that good of a film. I am quite curious to know how that effect is going to come off on my television screen. But I can say as someone who has seen “Nope” twice in the theater, each scene where the UFO played a crucial role made it feel like the literal elephant in the room.

Speaking of elephants in the room, let’s talk about my favorite performance in the film. Keke Palmer gives it her all in “Nope.” Emerald Haywood (right) is exactly the type of character this movie needed. Compared to “Get Out,” which at times dives into the divide between class and race, “Nope” feels more like an escape. And Palmer does her absolute best to give an escape. Her dynamic voice and personality are that of an auctioneer on Adderall. If the character of Emerald Haywood were not in the horse-training business, she has the perfect skill set to sell cars. Her energy and physicality grabbed my attention from scene one. Keke Palmer is set to host the upcoming NBC reboot of “Password.” After seeing what she could do in this film, they made a great choice for the upcoming host.

Now on the other hand, the main character of the film, OJ Haywood (left), has less physicality, not to mention personality. And things seem to be that way on purpose. Daniel Kaluuya does a solid job playing a stoic character who seems to be going through the motions. I think that if the film had OJ be a ball of energy like Emerald, that could create for a problem. In a film as big as this, there needs to be at least one dose of reality or silence within all the noise. If “Nope” were an Amtrak train, OJ would be the quiet car. But this also leads me to say that I like the other main characters in “Nope” more than OJ because their energy therefore made me feel more energetic myself throughout the runtime. Not only did Keke Palmer succeed in this mission with Emerald, but Steven Yeun deserves some credit too for his upbeat portrayal of Ricky “Jupe” Park.

Although I should not say that the reality in this movie is a waste, because one of the characters in this film reminded me of my time when I worked at Staples in the tech department. That character is Angel Torres, who works at Fry’s Electronics, a now defunct electronics store chain. The first scene between him and the brother-sister duo felt reminiscent of my tactics when checking people out, not to mention some of the customer’s reactions when I would pop a certain question. While Angel may seem like an everyday electronics store employee, or at least he was, until Fry’s closed with the rest of their locations, he ended up being a delightfully charming part of the film.

If I had any negatives with the film, the biggest standout would be that given how Jordan Peele has leaned into this blockbuster route, this makes the film feel less substantial compared to his others. Do not get me wrong, it is a great movie. But what I mean is that compared to “Get Out,” I did not think as much about deeper meanings. “Nope” tries to play around with something of this nature involving a sitcom and a monkey, but I honestly do not think it did much other than give one character some backstory. You know that saying about how when you get to certain age in your life, presumably somewhere in your young adulthood, and you realize that maybe you are not as smart as you once thought you might be? If “Nope” were a real person, it would not have reached that stage just yet. The movie chooses to open a certain way and continue a certain way with this ideology that I will not spoil, but did not particularly sit with me the way I think Peele would have wanted it to. It felt like a move that was trying to be pretentious, but only ended up feeling meaningless. I wish I could give more detail.

One final positive before we move on. Over the years, many movies have used their title through the script in such a way that stands out. In “Back to the Future,” there is a scene where Doc exclaims he will send Marty back to the future. In “Better Off Dead,” there is a literally a song with the lyrics “better off dead” that plays a prominent role. I will also go back to “Jurassic Park” and the massive scale it provides. One scene where that tactic comes into play has the character of John Hammond magnificently say “Welcome to Jurassic Park.” I think “Nope” officially takes the crown for best use of a movie title in its own movie. I think that as long as I shall live, there will NEVER be a better use of this concept. The moment one particular character says “Nope,” the entire auditorium cackled like hyenas, and for good reason.

In the end, “Nope” gets a yep from me. This is not Jordan Peele’s best film. In fact, in some ways, it might be his worst, but it is also the most fun of the ones he has made. It is definitely one I would watch on a Friday night if I want to look at something massive. The cinematography, which is done by the great Hoyte van Hoytema, is some of the best of the year. The night shots look beautiful, the climax looks incredible, and there is one particular money shot I would love to have as a desktop photo if I were more willing to customize my setup. “Nope” is a good time and it is fun to look at. But unlike “Get Out,” this is perhaps less likely to be nominated for Best Picture. Although if the Academy Awards took place right now, Keke Palmer should get an acting nomination per my opinion. I am going to give “Nope” a 7/10.

“Nope” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my thoughts on “Nope,” be on the lookout for more reviews! Pretty soon I will share my thoughts on “DC League of Super-Pets” and “Vengeance.” 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 “Nope?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite summer blockbuster of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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!