Thor: Love and Thunder (2022): Taika Waititi’s Second, and Slightly Less Worthy, Thor Outing

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is directed by Taika Waititi, who also directed the franchise’s previous installment, “Thor: Ragnarok.” This film stars Chris Hemsworth (Men in Black: International, Rush), Christian Bale (Ford v Ferrari, Batman Begins), Tessa Thompson (Men in Black: International, Annihilation), Jaimie Alexander (Nurse Jackie, Blindspot), Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Cinderella Man), and Natalie Portman (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, V For Vendetta). This is the fourth installment to the “Thor” franchise, the 29th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first instance where a character in said universe gets a fourth standalone movie. In this… THORth installment, Thor reunites with Jane Foster, who is now worthy. The two join forces with Valkyrie and Korg to defeat Gorr the God Butcher, a white being whose aspiration is literally in his namesake, the widespread elimination of all gods.

MCU phase 4 is like having a demanding girlfriend. You love her, but you also want to get away from her. Although when you think you are about to leave, you just keep coming back because you cannot see yourself attached to something else. I am not saying I hate the MCU right now. I thoroughly enjoy the MCU, but as I’ve said in my reviews for “Black Widow” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the whole universe, while still entertaining, is almost homework in disguise. When I was watching “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” I had fun, but I felt like I was being tested on how much I remembered “WandaVision.” You could almost make an argument that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” tests your memory on seven different “Spider-Man” movies at once across three different universes. To be fair though, I am not of this demographic, but I would imagine the general audience would not need to watch all of those other shows and movies in order to understand what comes after. However, their experience would only be enhanced if they did.

There is a notable audience that tends to enjoy “Thor: Ragnarok.” I consider myself a fan of the film after a couple watches. It is not up there with the original “Thor,” but anything is better than “Thor: The Dark World.” If you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” there is a solid chance you might find joy in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” This should not come as a surprise, as Taika Waititi helmed both pictures.

Waititi may be most responsible for Thor’s current success. If we did not have “Ragnarok,” his arc in followup “Avengers” titles “Infinity War” and “Endgame” may have slightly less meaning. But the best thing about his storytelling abilities is his tendency to perfectly balance light and darkness. I saw “Thor: Love and Thunder” with my dad. When we walked out of the theater, he affirmed, grinningly, that the movie had “something for everyone.” He may be right. After all, this film has comedy, action, drama, and even horror. Without going into specifics, Christian Bale is, on occasion, utterly terrifying as Gorr the God Butcher. The MCU is often criticized for its lackluster antagonists, and phase 4 is no exception to the rule with Taskmaster from “Black Widow” being a prime example of how movies are only as good as their villains. Gorr the God Butcher is not quite Thanos, and if we are judging “Thor” villains, I even think I have a softer spot for Hela in “Ragnarok.” But when you take a character like Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher and place him in a story where Zeus strips gods in public and threatens others by not allowing them to come to an orgy, it is an odd combination. But somehow they make it work.

Speaking of things that work, let’s talk about Chris Hemsworth as Thor. While it took awhile for me to warm up to Thor kind of being the butt of a joke sometimes, I have come to learn that Chris Hemsworth has tremendous comedic chops. Even when the script does him no favors like in “Ghostbusters” (2016), he still manages to give the performance his all. He will practically do anything to make the character of Thor come off as fun. It’s almost like what they are trying to do with Aquaman in the DCEU where he has a somewhat godly presence, but at the end of the day, you might want to flock to the bar with him. It is why I consider Party Thor to be one of the standout characters in the Disney+ series “What If…?”. At the same time though, this movie can be used as an example in regard to jokes going too far. And I do not mean offensive, I mean the joke tries too hard or it goes on longer than it should.

This movie has some weird, but also simultaneously hypnotizing comedy gags. Thor literally talks to his weapons. There’s even a love triangle between them. Not what I would have written but… Okay. Jane Foster spends a portion of the film trying to come up with an epic one-liner that was somewhat hit or miss. There are these goats in the film that feel less like an attempt at comedy and more so a homage to outdated Internet memes. Sure, when they were first introduced, I laughed. But as the movie went along, they became progressively less funny.

One of the biggest surprises in “Thor: Love and Thunder” prior to its release was the return of the recently mentioned Jane Foster. Natalie Portman is a great actress between her work in movies like “Black Swan” and “Annihilation.” Despite the shortcomings of the dialogue, she also did her best in the “Star Wars” prequels. Speaking of shortcomings, one of the flaws of the first two “Thor” films is that her character did not have a ton to do. I liked her better than Kat Dennings’s character, most specifically in “Thor: The Dark World,” but nevertheless. Mostly, she was almost just there to be the love interest, and that was the character’s biggest service to the story. This time, she is an equal to Thor, or Mighty Thor, as she calls herself. That is, if Thor really is the Thor he once was in say “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” because he has evolved, slowly but surely, into one of the MCU’s goto gags in recent years. When he was not fighting in “Avengers: Endgame,” the movie focuses on him in a dad bod, playing “Fortnite,” and drinking heavily. That movie’s humor adds substance to its story, much like some of the jokes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” It is weird to think how much this character has tonally evolved since 2011.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” has some good humor here and there, but I think of all the Marvel Studios films so far, this is the one I think feels the most kiddy out of them all. It is weird to say because the film has a butt shot of Chris Hemsworth and an ongoing orgy-related threat, but this was one of the first times I can remember watching an MCU film and having it feel this much like a Saturday morning cartoon. I am not saying I did not experience Saturday morning cartoon vibes in the MCU before. “Thor: Ragnarok,” the “Spider-Man” movies, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are all great examples of this vibe. But in the case of those films, the Saturday morning cartoon vibe, minus say “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” was presented more effectively, perhaps more maturely.

While this fourth “Thor” movie flashes back to its predecessors and revisits multiple characters across various stories, I can say that a notable positive I can give to “Thor: Love and Thunder” is that it does not require any prerequisites. You can go into this movie not having seen a single “Thor,” “Avengers,” or MCU installment and have a good time. Yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, but it is not like they are going to test you on the complexities of Groot’s language or something. This is a contained story from start to finish and while it may be referenced later in the MCU, it does not come off as a tale told by gatekeepers. Ultimately, “Thor: Love and Thunder” may be the most stupid fun movie the MCU has given us so far.

If have to be real though, despite this movie being stupid fun, it kind of comes with a caveat. Before “Thor: Ragnarok” came out, the “Thor” movies were comparatively serious. They had their jokey moments. The first film is a fish out of water story that lends itself to tons of humor, and it worked. The second movie had many comedy attempts, but I can only recall one or two that stuck the landing. With “Ragnarok” and now “Love and Thunder,” we have Taika Waititi’s zany touch. I was not particularly fond of the humor in “Ragnarok” when I first saw it, but after rewatching the film, I warmed up to it. Therefore, during this movie, I was looking forward to seeing what the attempts at humor could be. Compared to “Ragnarok,” they’re a bit flat. Once again, some work, but the ones that do not happen to stand out. The goats were funny the first time, but maybe not the fifth or sixth time.

When I think of “Ragnarok,” certain hysterical moments come to mind. “Get help” is one of the funniest gags in recent action movies. The chemistry between Thor and Banner, Hulked up or not, is worthy of my attention. Stan Lee’s cameo where he cuts Thor’s hair is not only crucial to the plot, but gutbusting. So, what does Taika have in mind for this movie? A rock n’ roll-infused opening action sequence where Thor, almost egomaniacally, saves the day. There’s literally a moment where he stops two vehicles from running into him by doing a split. The image is still in my mind. In the moment, I thought that split was hilarious. But it also makes me realize how dramatic of a shift these movies have taken over the years. The first two movies are mature, with the original almost successfully capturing Shakespearean drama vibes. “Thor: Ragnarok,” while still having maturity in it, contains many comedy gags that nearly conflict with some of the movie’s darker moments. The same can be said for “Love and Thunder,” but the comedy is a bigger star than before.

Note how I said bigger, not better. There’s a difference.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” reminds me of “The Fate of the Furious.” I say so because like “Love and Thunder,” I had fun with “The Fate of the Furious,” but there is a certain amount of absurdity in that film that feels more leveled up than say “Fast Five” which jumped the shark, but was comparatively believable. “Thor: Ragnarok” was a ridiculous fun time with great humor and some logic-defying, but still entertaining moments. As the saying in Hollywood goes, bigger is better. Or is it? Because if you liked “Thor: Ragnarok,” chances are that this movie has twice the silliness. While laughter is the best medicine, this movie shows that comedic overdoses may be possible.

Before we dive into the final verdict, I want to talk about the visual effects of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I am not going to dive into the recent news regarding visual effects employees struggling to work for Marvel. That is another issue, perhaps for another time. But on the surface, most of the visual effects in this film matches the recently mentioned Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Everything is bright, colorful, vivid, and sometimes gargantuan. I do want to note though that there have been some concerns about Marvel’s visual effects as of late in movies like “Black Widow.” I think if you are in the general audience, you might not care. I will admit, it has been awhile since I have seen “Black Widow” to give a detailed comment. However, I remember some of the effects in that film are surprisingly inferior to say “Captain America: Civil War,” which came out five years before. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” for the most part, looks great. But as far as “Thor” movies go, it might be the worst looking one yet if you pinpoint select shots.

While I said I will not dive too deep into the struggles of working in visual effects, I think we are seeing a sign that the MCU is becoming too crowded and overstuffed with content. I am enjoying phase 4 of the MCU. I have yet to see a completely terrible film. One or two series were hit or miss, but others were good. “WandaVision” was a fantastic debut for the MCU on Disney+, and “Ms. Marvel” was also really charming. The MCU has so many shows and movies now that it also has so many deadlines to consider. This year we have already seen two shows that ran for six-episodes and a couple movies. That is a lot of work, and it is not over yet because “She-Hulk” quickly approaching to Disney+ and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is scheduled to hit theaters this fall. I had fun with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but by the standards of the MCU, this is not as good as I would hope for. Although the MCU has its occasional off day with movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” I just hope this is a slight bump in the road. But the MCU also did not have this much content going on at once at those times. I know some would disagree, but I would happily sacrifice all the upcoming Disney+ shows if it meant we were going to get a few consistently great MCU movies. I am sure Marvel has a plan, but is it too big of a plan? I hope not. But my worry is that the further along we go down the MCU timeline, the more signs we will get that this whole conveyer belt will unveil itself. Let’s hope that this does not happen.

In the end, “Thor: Love and Thunder” was good, but it is also my least favorite film of MCU’s phase 4. While not the worst of the “Thor” films, “Love and Thunder” nevertheless fails on arguably the same mission in which “Ragnarok” succeeded. Sure, there were a couple laughs here and there, and as far as “summer blockbusters” go, you could do far worse. Just look at “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Although “Love and Thunder” has quite a few negatives that stand out significantly. Natalie Portman was badass enough that I might want to buy a Mighty Thor Hot Toy. But I just wish I could see more of her. I wish I could have seen more of Gorr the God Butcher. This is one of the shortest Marvel movies yet, which could be beneficial to your bladder, but that’s were the benefits stop. Overall, the film feels rushed. I heard they shot some extra footage that never made it into the film, and Taika Waititi does not want to make an alternate cut with said footage, but for all I know, that could give some much needed fleshing out to certain aspects of the story. I would never want to put pressure on a filmmaker into making something they do not want to make, but as a viewer, I would be intrigued to see some of what I originally couldn’t see in some fashion. Maybe as a Blu-ray bonus feature. I am going to give “Thor: Love and Thunder” a 6/10.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is now playing in theaters including large formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” then be on the lookout because I have more reviews coming soon! Stay tuned for my thoughts on “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” and “The Gray Man.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Thor: Love and Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of the “Thor” movies? I’m a purist, I would have to go with the 2011 “Thor” directed by Kenneth Branagh. Leave your opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005): My Favorite Star Wars Prequel Ever

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we begin, I just want to point out that today is May 25th, a very special day in “Star Wars” history. For those who are not in the loop, May 25th, 1977, is the premiere date of “Star Wars.” It was back in a time of cheaper movie tickets, film stock, and despecialized content. The rest is history. Happy 44th anniversary to the “Star Wars” franchise! We might as well celebrate the anniversary by honoring the “Star Wars” name and discussing a film in the franchise that has impacted me more and more as years pass. Yesterday I reviewed the first “Star Wars” movie I have watched in my life, now we review the second! Why did I watch “Episode III” before all the others? Well, I was at Blockbuster and they had a ton on the shelf, and I put it in a portable DVD set during a car ride on a family trip. Given my young age, I was unable to process what a good or bad movie is, so I just watched all the images wiz by and let it happen. But I did rent it over a couple more instances, eventually went to the Northshore Mall Sears to buy it on DVD, and I watched it quite a few more times over the years. And now it is time to talk about it today in my mini review series I’m calling… “7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!”

“Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is directed by George Lucas and stars Hayden Christensen (Goosebumps, Shattered Glass), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Natalie Portman (Leon the Professional, Mars Attacks!), Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable), Christopher Lee (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), and Frank Oz (The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal). This film is the second sequel of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy and takes place three years into the Clone Wars. As Obi-Wan faces off against the sinister General Grievous, Anakin, now a Jedi Knight with a pregnant wife, is lured into a sinister dark plan to rule the galaxy.

In my previous “Star Wars” prequel reviews, a couple common things I have discussed include the “style over substance” mentality and how the characters in the films overall feel like a near afterthought. If I had to guess, George Lucas spent a long time thinking about how he could do a “Star Wars” prequel series from start to finish, but I feel like as the 1990s came along and visual effects were on the rise with movies like “Jurassic Park,” it felt as if the main reason why “The Phantom Menace” was made was because new technology existed. Now, I am one who occasionally watches movies for technological reasons. I think the trend of movies being shot with IMAX cameras has been one of the best things to happen to blockbusters in recent years. I also recently saw “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” at AMC’s Dolby Cinema. TWICE! IT’S AMAZING!

With “Revenge of the Sith,” this film did not feel like an exception, as it is a continuation of “Star Wars” utilizing lots of digital effects. But unlike “The Phantom Menace,” which already looks kind of dated during scenes like the big climactic battle on Naboo, “Revenge of the Sith” has a vast selection of visuals that still look believable to this day. There is not really a single effect I can think of that looks odd or out of place. Granted, some effects look more believable than others, after all this is a fantasy film, but nevertheless. I will also add that this film, in addition to being the best Skywalker saga prequel in terms of effects, is BY FAR the best prequel in terms of characterization. Anakin and Obi-Wan have solid chemistry from the very first flight sequence to the dramatic climax of the film. Christensen and McGregor have improved their performances from the last film, although I will admit that Christensen is still slightly robotic, and I really dig Anakin’s hair. It works for him.

Speaking of Anakin, I do want to talk his balance between the light and dark sides. To me, this is the highlight of the film, because it shows a man having a ton of thoughts invade his head at a time. One of the things I hated the most about the transition from the original trilogy to the prequel trilogy is the greater emphasis on space politics. Apparently we went from a fantasy adventure where a bunch of people try to restore the galaxy by journeying through the stars to dealing with debates over trade routes. Here, it is a tad more interesting partially because the movie deals with such a dramatic shift and it introduces some concepts that made the original trilogy have an intimidating presence in it. It was fascinating to see the rise of the galactic empire and what it took to get there. With Anakin in the mix, you have this man who said as a boy he would come back to his home planet and free the slaves, to straight up wanting power every other second. We see traces of this in “Attack of the Clones” where Anakin often complains about Obi-Wan putting him in his place and his desire to stop people from dying, which by the way is expanded in this film with a subplot involving Anakin and Padme’s love life. And yes, we will get to Darth Plagueis. But not yet.

The romance between Anakin and Padme in “Attack of the Clones” felt unbelievably forced, as I mentioned in my review, but in “Revenge of the Sith” I bought into it a little bit more. Maybe it is because the two characters grew up, matured a bit more. To be perfectly honest, Anakin feels WAY less creepy in this film compared to how he did in “Attack of the Clones,” which is part of why I think “Revenge of the Sith” is the best of the prequels in terms of representing him and a bunch of other characters as well.

I’m just glad this movie BARELY has Jar Jar in it. Thank the space lords!

I will say though, the plot line that was introduced in “Attack of the Clones,” the one that forbids Anakin and Padme from being together, also makes an appearance in “Revenge of the Sith,” but it feels like it is just here to remind the audience of what happened in the last movie with little to no expansion from there whatsoever.

Speaking of “Attack of the Clones,” one of my grievances with the film, and “The Phantom Menace” for that matter, is that we learn a lot of seemingly important things from people standing around and doing nothing except for having obviously expositional conversations. They’re either walking or standing around in hallways. It doesn’t always feel that eventful or intriguing. It lacks any sort of oomph that could possibly be delivered. But I would have to assume this is one of the disadvantages that comes with blue screens and digital environments. All these additions of fake environments make conversations ultimately feel less authentic and more played out for the sake of giving the audience information. The more I look back, physical characters feel more like animated blobs, which is not exactly a good thing. This is not to say that the digital effects in “Revenge of the Sith” are all bad. In fact, it is by far the best-looking “Star Wars” film in the prequel trilogy. I love the new worlds including Mustafar and Kashyyyk.

On the topic of Kashyyyk, I really like any moment we get to see that world because first off, we get to see Chewbacca, and who doesn’t love Chewbacca? But we get to see this really big Wookie army fighting off Battle Droids, which by itself is pretty badass. It has the same scale and polish that the climactic battle at the end of “Attack of the Clones” had if you ask me. One highlight for me, and to my surprise, we actually got this in “Return of the Jedi” as well, but I never really paid much attention to it when it happened, is hearing a wookie yell like Tarzan. I don’t know what it is, but it is just satisfying to say the least.

In case you missed the subtitle, “Revenge of the Sith” is easily my favorite of the “Star Wars” prequels, and I am including “Rogue One” in this conversation, despite how great that film is by itself. Part of this is because of the way they go about the Jedi and Sith side of things. This film EASILY has the best lightsaber duels in the franchise, which really says something because the one between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon against Darth Maul was pretty sick to watch. I really enjoyed the duel where the Jedi try to arrest Palpatine, as goofy as it is to think about Palpatine being able to do a spinny thing and land carefully on the ground without breaking a leg. The music in that scene is great too, but I am very disappointed it is not on any of the official albums. The duel between Obi-Wan and Grievous is just plain great from seeing how Kenobi deals with a quad-lightsaber individual to Grievous being ridiculously over the top in the best possible way. And of all the “meme” scenes in this movie from “I have the high ground” to the youngling asking Anakin what is going to be done about all the Jedi being killed, this duel contains the one that I’ve been thinking about the most these days.

Perfection.

I want to have an exchange in real life like this. I just want to meet up with one of my friends and go “Hello there,” desperately hoping they respond with “General Kenobi!” There’s just something about this exchange and how soothing it is to the ears.

This “Hello there” line is literal perfection. Not only does Obi-Wan appear out of the blue making a grand entrance with a superhero landing, we get some dead air for a second, he could say anything, but sometimes the simplest exchange is always the best. “Hello there.” Now, McGregor saying that phrase alone is great, but the way he enunciates it is just spectacular. He sounds like he could be a tour guide on a safari or something. Maybe a receptionist. If I check into a hotel in London, I want someone with that voice to greet me. And of course, we get General Grievous being his over the top self. It’s just great. Almost cartoony, but in a likable way. What makes this even better, and I bet George Lucas wrote this specific line down on purpose, is that in the original “Star Wars,” the first line out of Kenobi ever is him saying “Hello there.” Only thing is instead of it coming out of Ewan McGregor’s mouth, it is being said by Alec Guinness. This is a little thing, but “Star Wars” has been ingrained in my mind for years that I have to point out the little things every now and then.

The first duel of the film where Anakin and Obi-Wan face off against Dooku is a crowd pleaser. Per usual, the music from John Williams is golden and the choreography is top notch. Plus, we get to see a hint of rising conflict amongst Anakin.

In another universe, there is a chance that this film has a nearly similar title to another one in the franchise that already exists. Specifically, “Return of the Jedi.” For those who are not in the know, “Return of the Jedi” was originally going to be called “Revenge of the Jedi,” but they changed the name at the last minute because Jedi do not typically seek revenge. After all, revenge is sometimes seen as a negative concept and one that may be deadly. As Mace Windu said in “Attack of the Clones,” Jedi are “keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” They are there to protect others, but killing is not the Jedi way. Now in “Revenge of the Sith,” we actually get to see a Jedi, Anakin specifically, let himself loose. One standout moment of the film for me is the moment where we see Anakin wield two lightsabers. Those two sabers being his own and Dooku’s, and he intricately places them near Dooku’s face. After being ordered by Palpatine to “kill him,” Anakin looks at Dooku with bewilderment, but he goes with it anyway. He instantly regrets his choice, but this is a great way to show that Anakin’s mind could easily be twisted. I think the buildup to these moments have been perfect because while Anakin swears on his life to protect others, he has also shown signs that he is 1: somewhat selfish, and 2: constantly lusting for power. He sometimes overreacts about how he is treated by Obi-Wan, he sliced Tusken Raiders out of rage after his mom died, and now this is just his latest release.

In fact, later on in the film, when we see Anakin’s appointment to the Jedi Council, I sort of felt his pain when being denied the rank of Master. Which by the way, that is amazing. I say so because this trilogy has been riddled with moments where I couldn’t give two craps about anything going on or the characters, so to see Anakin experience disappointment and have me gain a sense of sympathy for him is already an improvement over much of “The Phantom Menace.” This is all bad news for Anakin. But I’d argue there is great news for the viewers. Why? Because Anakin is forced to spy on Palpatine, which leads to the scene where we get to hear about Darth Plagueis the wise, arguably the only time I cared about midichlorians.

For those who have not seen this movie, this is not really a spoiler because it probably has less of an effect on the plot, although it does give an idea as to where things could be going. Anakin and Palpatine sit down next to each other, and at one point Palpatine asks Anakin if he’s heard of Darth Plagueis, to which Ani says no. Turns out, Darth Plagueis could use his power to influence midichlorians in order to create life. He could also simply put, save people from death. Now if you remember “Attack of the Clones,” when Anakin goes off on a rant in front of Padme, he mentions that he will learn how to stop people from dying. That was some great foreshadowing, because Anakin soon asks Palpatine, “Is it possible to learn this power?” Palpatine then responds, “Not from a Jedi.” This is perfect lore building. Not only does it expand on a foreshadowed comment, not only does it provide some cool backstory, but it even promises excitement in the future. Plus, Palpatine’s comment is kind of glorious to say the least because if anything, you would think the Jedi would be the ones to save people from death as that is kind of their purpose at times. But in a way, I could see why the dark side would use something like this. After all, part of the Jedi is selflessness, and there may be an argument to make that stopping people from dying could be personal, kind of like seeking revenge. This kind of makes the Anakin and Padme storyline very intriguing because from Anakin’s point of view, he hopes to save Padme’s life, but in reality, he may be going against his own morals. I will also add, this is one of the weird times where one of the better “Star Wars” moments throughout the franchise is just from two characters almost doing nothing except for sitting down and having a conversation. But if you like characters doing things, prepare for the climax.

The climax of “Revenge of the Sith” has my favorite action sequence in the entire franchise, not to mention one of my favorites in film history. The fight against Anakin and Obi-Wan is EASILY the most emotionally charging fight in the entire prequels. Everything has built up to this. Obi-Wan has a job to do where Anakin must be kept from causing any more havoc amongst the galaxy and even himself. I do not want to go into everything, but the choreography in this duel is legit. I feel like the Jedi at some point in their lives are trained to just show themselves off in front of everyone around them. Every lightsaber flick, move, and trick that is done in this duel is orgasmic to say the last. And speaking of epic, the music throughout the battle may be my favorite music in the entire franchise.

John Williams, as mentioned before, is a goddamn genius. I would not say so unless it were true. Towards the end of the battle, where Obi and Ani float on pieces of debris on the lava, there’s this gigantic chorus that lets themselves loose and they mean business. Everything about the music here, including the recently posted track, “Battle of the Heroes,” is perfect. It’s dark, brooding, massive, and much like “Duel of the Fates” in “The Phantom Menace,” “Battle of the Heroes” is perfect for many incidents of impending doom.

In the final moments of battle, there is a brief exchange between Ani and Obi that is honestly incredible as it shows how far their friendship has fallen.

Obi-Wan: I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.

Anakin Skywalker: I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over!

Obi-Wan: Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!

Anakin Skywalker: From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!

Obi-Wan: Well, then you are lost!

Anakin Skywalker: [raises his lightsaber] This is the end for you, my master.

They say that Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded, but it is just fascinating to see what happens when a Sith takes control of a Jedi’s mind. How they can brainwash them essentially. Granted the Jedi started this whole thing too by not letting Anakin be a Master, but nevertheless. You know what’s also great? Simultaneously, we have ANOTHER amazing duel between Yoda and Palpatine! The buildup and action all the way to the end is exciting and thrilling. It also reuses “Duel of the Fates,” which I personally approve.

“Revenge of the Sith” easily tries harder than any other prequel to tell a great story. In fact, part of me imagines that George Lucas almost reluctantly went through the first two episodes hoping to get to the third one as quick as possible! Heck! It is the beginning of the end of the Jedi! It is the freaking Clone Wars! It is the origin story of Darth Vader! There is so much to like on paper when it comes to this film, and thankfully, the execution of this film is not terrible. The order 66 scene becomes more chilling with each watch! The lightsaber duels are off the hook! The space politics are SOMEHOW not boring! If I had to name any other noticeable flaws, it would be that some of the dialogue is sometimes cliché or corny, but it is not as bad as “Attack of the Clones.” There’s not much else that stands out. “Revenge of the Sith” is a special “Star Wars” movie for me because it is my favorite prequel and has what I consider to be some of the personal bests for the franchise. It has the best score. It has the best lightsaber duel. It has arguably one of the top lore expansions with Darth Plagueis. This is a film that I enjoyed in my childhood, but have become increasingly in love with after repeat viewings.

In the end, “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is easily my favorite “Star Wars” prequel to date. I will be completely honest with you. I could easily take out Episodes I and II and be perfectly okay with keeping III. Story-wise, it is exciting. Visually, it is breathtaking. Musically, it is bonkers. Of all of Ewan McGregor’s performances as Obi-Wan, this is easily the best one. Although I want you to notice something. Occasionally I will call this film the best “Star Wars” prequel. But I should note, in my subtitle and earlier in this paragraph, note my choice of words. I use the word “favorite,” not best. Part of me would argue in terms of story and concept, “Rogue One” may be slightly better. Although I had to pick one to watch over and over due to replay value, the option would definitely be “Revenge of the Sith.” There is so much to love about it, and the fan in me wants to give it a 10/10, but given the numerous flaws I mentioned, I do not see myself doing that as a critic. So despite me loving this film SO MUCH, I will take a couple points off and give “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” an 8/10.

I think this is a somewhat fair grade. Of all the prequels, this is the only one where I did not feel even an inch of boredom, even in slower scenes that mainly just involve dialogue. The space politics, again, actually feel like they matter. Anakin’s balance between light and dark gets more hypnotizing by the minute. And unlike “The Phantom Menace” that occasionally looks like some of the effects come out of a cereal box nowadays, “Revenge of the Sith” still holds up in terms of presentation and CGI. Overall, I would EASILY recommend this movie, and despite not liking the other two Skywalker Saga prequels, this is something that I would recommend to people starting to get into “Star Wars.” The positives easily outweigh the negatives, which I have not been able to say for the prior two episodes. “Revenge of the Sith,” despite being a brooding movie about one man’s transition to darkness, is a bright spot in the “Star Wars” universe for me.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes my reviews for the “Star Wars” prequels and now it is time to unleash my thoughts on the original trilogy! Tomorrow I will post my review for “Star Wars,” or “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” depending on which generation you’re in. Stay tuned, get excited, get ready! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account and like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Star Wars” prequel? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002): A Revisit to My First Star Wars Movie

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today I want to talk about one film in the “Star Wars” franchise that has meant a lot to me. My first ever introduction to the name “Star Wars,” that is aside from hearing about it from other people when I was in kindergarten. This also excludes a time I was over my cousin’s house, and he would be playing “LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game” on his Xbox. I do not know what episode he dove into first, but nevertheless. I also do not to leave out my memories having to do with a Millennium Falcon memory game at my grandparents house. That was something I often played in my younger years, but little did I know it was actually “Star Wars.” It was not too terribly long after that LEGO video game experience that I would go to the Sears at the Northshore Mall, which sadly does not exist anymore, and buy a widescreen DVD copy of “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” I would watch the film every now and then, have almost no idea what was going on, but because there were grand things and lasersword fights going down, I was entertained. Granted, as time went on, I had a greater understanding of everything, but keep in mind, I was around the age of 6 and I was not the brightest bulb in the room. That DVD was one of the most replayed I’ve had through my childhood, and despite upgrading to the Blu-ray in 2014, I still own the DVD to this day.

Long story short, “Attack of the Clones” was my first “Star Wars” film. What do I think of the movie today? Find out in my second review in a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” is directed by George Lucas, who directed two “Star Wars” films prior to his 2002 outing. This film stars Hayden Christensen (Goosebumps, Higher Ground), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional, Mars Attacks!) Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Shaft), Christopher Lee (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), and Frank Oz (The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal). This film is the first sequel in the prequel trilogy. Try saying that three times fast. This sequel takes place ten years after “The Phantom Menace.” Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have grown to be well-connected partners, and speaking of partnership, Skywalker wants to be romantically involved with Senator Padme Amidala. Only problem, Jedi code suggests followers are forbidden to love. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts to discover more information regarding an assassination attempt on the recently mentioned senator. On his journey, he discovers a clone army.

Few franchises have defined not only my childhood, but pretty much my entire life like “Star Wars” has. It is a franchise that one can get attached to at any age for a variety of reasons. As I have said before, “Attack of the Clones” was my first “Star Wars” film and one of my initial forays into the franchise, so like the film or not, I admittedly owe much of my gratitude to “Attack of the Clones.” I grew up with the prequel trilogy, and as you may have seen in my review for “The Phantom Menace,” that does not necessarily mean that I am a fan or avid supporter of said trilogy. It just means that it sort of defined my life for a period of time. I am well aware that the prequels get a ton of hate from a multitude of fans, and I am not going to stop them from having an opinion, whether I agree with it or not. It is a situation like this that makes me wonder what life will be like in ten years. How will we remember Episodes VII through IX? Will they be looked at in the same way as the prequels? Maybe better? Worse? Who knows?

I just want to reiterate, as a kid, “Attack of the Clones” was one of my most rewatched “Star Wars” films. As an adult, it is an utter snoozefest. Boring. Dull. Uninteresting. You name it.

Fun fact, one of the reasons why I remember “Attack of the Clones” being one of my most rewatched “Star Wars” films as a child is because I went through a phase in fourth grade, or at least I think it was fourth grade, where I would fall asleep to it every night when I played it on the television. Out of all the “Star Wars” movies I could choose that could make me fall asleep, that was usually the one because there were a lot of slower parts, and at the time, it seemed to be one of the lighter installments in the franchise, specifically in the first hour. Why? Because maybe I should have realized this when I was younger, NOTHING HAPPENS!

My lord! I often complain about Jar Jar in “The Phantom Menace,” and thankfully he is toned down in “Attack of the Clones,” but at least there was enough insanity going on in that first prequel to suggest that stuff was actually going on. Every other scene in this film is people walking and talking with no conflict, exposition, or a boring ripoff of “Romeo & Juliet.” Look, if I were alive in the “Star Wars” universe, there is a chance I would want to take Padme out for dinner, even if it meant going against code, but it is nowhere near enough to make a good movie.

Much like “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” is yet another example of style over substance. Let me be fair, “Star Wars” is known for big pretty things. It has been since it first came out in 1977. But since George Lucas did “The Phantom Menace” in 1999, that’s pretty much been superior to characterization. It’s been put above good themes, good acting. Real human emotions. Now, do I think Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker is more likable than the one played by Jake Lloyd? Yes. But for the most part, when it comes to the performance, Skywalker feels like a robot. I know one of the complaints about Luke Skywalker’s character in the original trilogy according to some people is that he is kind of a downer, somewhat of a whiner if you will. But at the same time, Mark Hamill did a really good job at encapsulating any emotion that came his way. He was not just someone who could shoot a blaster or fly an X-wing like a boss. Hamill put a significant amount of effort into a genuinely fun and entertaining character.

I may talk about this film having tons of style and how much of an achievement this prequel trilogy has been for CGI, but this film proves once again, “Star Wars” on location will always have more depth than green screening. It allows for the film to feel more raw despite such a fantastical vibe. Although I must say one perk that did come from all the green screen filming is the fact that this film manages to have more otherworldly designs than in the original trilogy. As much as I prefer the rustic, dirty feel of the Tatooine sands in the original trilogy, I must say that Coruscant is pleasing to the eye. It has the look I would want out of a galactic city and getting to see more of it in this movie was one of the highlights.

Speaking of Coruscant, one of my favorite parts of the film, partially because it is one of the more action-packed sequences in what is actually a somewhat dull picture, is the chase between Obi-Wan and Anakin as they go after Zam, played by Leeana Walsman. The chase is not too long, not too short, it is just right. Plus there is so much that happens at once between Obi-Wan holding onto a drone ship for dear life, the two Jedi showing off in the air without a ship, Anakin being cocky in front of his master, and a solid mix of flying and running. Plus, there is a moment where Obi-Wan sits at a bar and let’s just say that it is one of the funnier moments of the prequel trilogy.

Elan Sleazebaggano: You wanna buy some death sticks?

Obi-Wan: [using a Jedi Mind Trick] You don’t want to sell me death sticks.

Elan Sleazebaggano: Uh, I don’t want to sell you death sticks.

Obi-Wan: You want to go home and rethink your life.

Elan Sleazebaggano: I want to go home and rethink my life.

Remember kids, hugs not drugs.

While this film’s “character moments” from what I gathered are relatively few and far between, one of the better parts of the movie is seeing Anakin lose his temper. Now this movie is from 2002, but I will try to be as secretive as possible because there are potentially people reading this who have not watched “Attack of the Clones.” Let’s just say that there are a few moments through dialogue and various actions where Anakin clearly needs a therapist. I won’t go into everything, but I feel like that these moments, regardless of how much they have helped or destroyed the movie quality-wise, because I will admit, watching this was slightly awkward at times, perhaps effectively showed Anakin’s darker traits. Take Yoda’s dialogue in “The Phantom Menace” where fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. There is one scene where this partially culminates through Anakin’s words when he is on Tatooine with Padme. He is clearly depressed, and perhaps rightly so, but it is beyond difficult for him to control his emotions.

And you want to know why these character moments from Anakin stand out? Because they’re shoehorned into a lifeless, wooden film that barely has any semblance of emotion attached to it from the start! Every other performance in this film feels questionable to say the least. These actors do have talent, but there are moments were the actors sort of feel like they are not saying lines and instead reading words off of a teleprompter. They say that actions speak louder than words, but in this film, there is sometimes little action, but too many words. The thing that works about the original, and I’ll also mention sequel trilogy is that every other conversation not only feels dramatic or real to a degree, but there seems to be a sense of conflict while each hint of dialogue is uttered. Something is happening, some impending doom or incident may be coming. But in the prequel trilogy, we have to settle for random casual talks in hallways or well put together rooms. It’s like walking into a nice Italian restaurant, ordering a presentable chicken parmesan, only to have it be delivered as a hologram. There’s something taken out of the experience of “Star Wars” through all of the blue screen work being done in the prequel trilogy and it is occasionally depressing to think about.

Although I must say, if “The Phantom Menace” did not showcase this already, the prequel trilogy does mean business when it comes to the lightsaber battles. The final fights of the film where the Jedi duke it out with Count Dooku are stylish and amazingly choreographed. Christopher Lee (RIP) shines as Dooku, trying to intimidate his foes by getting into their heads while his lightsaber tries to get into their skin. But the best part of Dooku, is not even Dooku himself, it’s Yoda.

“Attack of the Clones” came out theatrically when I was two years old, so I did not get to see it in the cinema, but boy oh boy, I would have KILLED to have been at one of the first shows when the duel from Yoda and Dooku happens, because DAMN that is some entertaining stuff! Seeing this fun-sized green creature who we previously knew as a wise figure turn into the tiniest badass in the galaxy is nothing short of glorious. It is a little awkward watching him jump around trying to keep up with Dooku, but he still manages to come off as perfection nevertheless.

One Jedi battle that was unfortunately, slightly more disappointing… Came prior to the final battle against Dooku, and that is the big Jedi fight in the arena where Anakin and Padme were supposed to die.

First off, I did not really feel that much emotion as these two were being dragged to their deaths, and their performances in these moments gave me no reason to feel anything whatsoever. But that’s not the main thing I wanted to discuss.

You know that conceptual saying about sequels regarding how “bigger is better?” Well, for this first sequel of the prequel trilogy, they did go pretty big. In the main saga, this movie contained the biggest Jedi battle yet. Yay! Was it cool to see so many people wielding lightsabers at a time? You betcha! But again, this just goes to show that this trilogy is more concerned about style than it is with substance. There are lots of Jedi! Lots of battle droids! Lots of creatures! But I do not care about nearly anybody in battle! I’m just watching it happen. It’s visually pleasing, but it does not mean I will remember it as one of the more iconic moments in “Star Wars” history. Yes, there are some cool moments like seeing C-3PO in a Battle Droid body and getting to see the connection between Boba and Jango Fett, but there is not much else to say except that the battle is big and it happens.

But seriously. C-3PO as a Battle Droid, the more I think about it, it is increasingly legit.

While that “death sticks” exchange was one of the best moments of the movie in terms of dialogue between characters, there are several contenders I would argue as qualifiers for the worst.

Padme: We used to come here for school retreat. We would swim to that island every day. I love the water. We used to lie out on the sand and let the sun dry us and try to guess the names of the birds singing.

Anakin: I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.

Padme: Ani? My goodness, you’ve grown.

Anakin: So have you, grown more beautiful… for a senator, I mean.

It’s almost like George Lucas got advice from the writers of “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation!” This is just bad!

But I think the worst part of the film as a concept… Remember midichlorians? Well, this may arguably be worse.

Jedi are not allowed to love.

So in a way, this film really is like “Romeo & Juliet,” except that “Romeo & Juliet” had a forbidden love that felt like it had a place in the narrative. This “Star Wars” prequel does bring a new concept to the universe, but it feels forced for the storyline and almost out of the blue! I would have liked to have known this in any of the prior episodes, because this is a storyline that feels as if it is dropped like a bomb. Not like the “I am your father” reveal where it was so amazingly shocking (maybe unless you knew what Vader meant), but more like the “midichlorians” reveal where it brings nothing but boring change.

You know how in my review for “The Phantom Menace,” I mentioned that despite an overwhelming amount of negatives, there actually are some positives sprinkled in between? One such positive I discussed during my review was John Williams’ score. Because for the most part, that is one thing that feels somewhat consistent between the original trilogy and the prequels that came before it. Although in the case of the prequels, Williams did not just go for a big nostalgia fest. He introduced a ton of new themes, and “Attack of the Clones” has a pretty amazing one, specifically the “love theme” known as “Across the Stars.”

One of my goals that I recently put on my imaginary bucket list is to see John Williams live in concert. The man is a goddamn genius and one of the reasons why I listen to more film scores when I’m alone compared to any other form of music. The music here solidifies my case because I consider “Attack of the Clones” to be one of the low caliber “Star Wars” installments. But I will not lie to you that I get chills listening to Across the Stars. But just like “The Phantom Menace,” I just want this movie to be actually as good as the music.

I will recommend “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” for one reason above all else. If you really need sleep, this is about as effective as melatonin. Say you’re in the middle of a “Star Wars” marathon, you just finished watching “The Phantom Menace,” you need a nap, but you gotta be wise and finish the marathon by a deadline. Go to your bedroom if you are not there already, turn on “Attack of the Clones,” get under the covers of your bed, and shut your eyes! Just make sure your sleep is only a couple hours, because then you can put in the next movie. I assure you the early Anakin and Padme scenes will put ya right out.

In the end, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” is yet another attack on the “Star Wars” franchise. The “Star Wars” name is once again being destroyed by its own creator and I will also mention, it felt like George Lucas occasionally sleepwalked his way through this movie, because just like “The Phantom Menace,” there are signs that Lucas stood by his “poetry philosophy…”

I know people talk about “The Force Awakens” ripping off “A New Hope,” but at least it did so in an entertaining way. And yes, when I get to the “Episode VII” review, that is a topic I will be discussing. I’d almost argue that there are elements of “The Empire Strikes Back” that are translated into “Attack of the Clones” but it does not save the movie from being as boring as it is. Is there romance? Yes. Are we introduced to a “Fett” bounty hunter? Sure. Do hands get chopped off? Yeah. But poetry does not always equal art. Well executed ideas, which “Attack of the Clones” lacks throughout, are perhaps a greater measure of the word. To put it short, this was my first “Star Wars” movie, and now it is almost my worst “Star Wars” movie. It is sad, but true. I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” a 4/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow I will have my review up for “Episode III!” That’s right! Tomorrow I will be giving my thoughts on “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” I cannot wait to continue this special week that I am FINALLY getting around to, after all this time! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page if you want to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you watch “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever read “Romeo & Juliet?” What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): Worst For Chronologically First

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today is May 23rd! Here’s hoping you are feeling the force today and every day! Today we are going to begin an all-new miniseries, 7 Days of Star Wars. We are going to talk about a “Star Wars” film for each day that we progress through this week. I have reviewed most of the core “Star Wars” movies such as a couple of the sequel trilogy installments and Disney spinoffs like “Rogue One.” However, this is a project I have waited to do for years. Partially because of time constraints, trying to find the right days to pull something like this off, and the typical human issue we all have, hesitancy towards actually sitting down and doing something. Some say they are gonna write a novel, but never actually get to the point of starting to write a novel. I am not saying that me doing “Star Wars” reviews is like me writing a novel, but I have been pondering over this idea since maybe 2016, perhaps 2017. I had a friend or two request me to talk about these films. Although I don’t usually take requests and I wondered how I wanted to go about doing something like this. That is why during my 5th anniversary of Scene Before, we are going big. 7 “Star Wars” movies. One new review per day. All for your entertainment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the first entry of… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” is directed by George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138) and stars Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Michael Collins), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Jake Lloyd (Jingle All the Way, The Pretender), Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional, Mars Attacks!), Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), Pernilla August (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Serpent’s Way), and Frank Oz (The Dark Crystal, The Muppet Movie). This film tells the journey of two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi, as they escape a hostile blockade and find themselves with a young boy on Tatooine. This young boy, Anakin Skywalker, is prophesized to bring balance to the force. Although the Sith, arch rivals of the Jedi, are desperate for a return to glory.

Wow. Can’t believe it took me this long, but here we go. “Star Wars Episode I” is an interesting film from the surface because as a kid, it is the one that I watched the least. I say that as someone who grew up with the prequels and not the originals. And it is not because I did not like the movie. I had little to no concept of what a “good” or “bad” movie was as a kid. I borrowed my cousin’s DVD at one point, I MAY have rented it from Blockbuster, and I am pretty sure that is the most exposure I had of the film as a kid except for when it aired on Spike. I owned all the live-action “Star Wars” movies as a kid, except for “The Phantom Menace.” I even owned “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” on DVD as a kid and I still never owned “The Phantom Menace.” I did not own “The Phantom Menace” until buying a used Blu-ray copy of The Prequel Trilogy at the Northshore Mall Newbury Comics.

I will be completely real with you about the “Star Wars” prequels. There are some genuinely good things about these movies. They are marvelous to look at. Then again, which “Star Wars” movie is not? While they may not be the goto standard these days in regards to visuals, they have been a major influence to CGI and digital effects. And even though they kind of harm the lore that was previously established in the original trilogy, they also introduce some new ideas to the universe that we have not been exposed to yet. We’ll definitely be talking about Darth Plagueis the Wise when we get to Episode III, but unfortunately we are talking about Episode I which I would consider to not just be the worst prequel, but perhaps arguably the worst “Star Wars” movie ever.

I was not joking in the subtitle when I said that the worst comes chronologically first. Because OH MY GOD, there is so much that is wrong with this movie. I don’t even know where to start. The movie admittedly starts off fine because one of the things that separates this trilogy from the original is the fact that this takes place in a time where Jedi were more likely to be found. They were in their prime, they were badass, and the opening scene of the film were we see Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan slice heads off battle droids solidifies that. “The Phantom Menace” is like the Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse. Sure, having it is great, but if you think too much, it may ruin the experience of taking it all in.

The sad thing about “The Phantom Menace” is that when it comes to the characters, I can almost barely remember a single thing about them. Qui-Gon Jinn wields a green lightsaber, he does some cool stuff, he’s played by Liam Neeson, and that is about it. There is not much depth to his character that would really make me remember him or care about him. Say what you want about the recent sequel trilogy, one thing they did really well in those movies is build some semblance of backstory for Rey and Finn. The backstories for them may have been somewhat bumpy, but they’re backstories nevertheless. Here, George Lucas pretty much goes as far to say, “Well, they’re Jedi Knights. Watch them.” That ain’t enough, Georgie! Give me some backstory! I don’t care about Qui-Gon! I don’t care about Darth Maul! They do cool things in the movie, but it does not make them great characters. It just makes them eye candy! Heck! Jar Jar Binks, the literal joke of the film, has more of a backstory than Qui-Gon! At least a backstory that I can cite for someone who happens to be curious. Jar Jar is clumsy and is hated by his peers. Done.

Oh yeah, about Jar Jar being the joke of the film. All respect to Ahmed Best, I have no intention of harming him as a professional, but wow his character SUCKS. And I must admit, it takes the “Star Wars” name, which arguably is for kids and young adults, and instead makes it for toddlers. Jar Jar Binks is what happens when you let a toddler write a “Star Wars” movie with their dad. The father has all the civilized characters. Jedi, droids, hutts, royalty, and then you have the toddler come in with a character they thought of, and because the father has to be a good sport and avoid disappointing his son, he lets the newly established character into the script. It ultimately ruins the film and divides the tone from the point this character begins to appear. It’s like if you put Peter Griffin in the “Lord of the Rings” universe. Can you imagine how the secret meeting would go?

Aragorn: [to Frodo] If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword…

Legolas: And you have my bow.

Gimli: And *my* axe.

Peter: You know what really grinds my gears? Eagles! They’re stupid! They stop flying before you actually get to your destination! And they made the Patriots lose a Super Bowl!

Frodo: For Pete’s sake…

Gimli: Shut up, you dwarf-brained imbecile.

Peter: Oh, sorry sorry. You have my Road House kicks.

Despite living in a world where I happen to be extremely tolerant of everyone regardless of who they are, Jar Jar Binks represents that barrier of tolerance I have for some people, and by that I mean, he crosses it significantly. Binks cements himself as the most annoying nuisance to ever exist in the “Star Wars” universe. There are some characters that have failures or downfalls in the “Star Wars” universe, or in many other stories by the way, who I continue to root for because I want to see them succeed after their recent blunder. Jar Jar Binks, the half-assed comic relief of this “film” is not one of them because he makes one mistake too many. They say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Well they also say you cannot teach Jar Jar Binks any tricks whatsoever. Old or new. Everything he does represents embarrassment or failure. I do not want to go into much detail, but this goes into the lack of dimension this character happens to have. I think Qui-Gon Jinn did a really good job at putting Jar Jar in his place as best he could.

Qui-Gon Jinn: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here.

In fact, speaking of Qui-Gon, I want to go back to something I said earlier on. He’s a Jedi Knight, and we have gotten a sense of this throughout the entire film. Although we see throughout the film, Obi-Wan is considered to be Qui-Gon’s Padawan. Granted, he is rather skilled, but nevertheless. Here’s the problem, and it is a spoiler, so I do apologize in advance. At the end of the film, Obi-Wan is promoted from his role as a Padawan to a Jedi Knight.

Why is that a problem? Let’s look at the opening crawl of the movie.

“While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….”

Wait! Obi-Wan was a Jedi Knight this whole time? I think we have an imposter! Space security! Put this liar in jail!

This movie cannot even follow its own rules. I have tremendous respect for George Lucas as a filmmaker. He created one of the most iconic stories in not just film history, but the history of storytelling in general. I imagine he had a backstory planned for a number of elements in the franchise for years. But I feel like when it comes to bringing such a backstory to life, he could not take what was on paper and turn it into magic. And speaking of magic… That is LITERALLY gone in this movie and instead replaced with science.

F*cking. Science.

Now, I love science. Dinosaurs are awesome. Computers are amazing. Space is spectacular. But not all science is created equal. Some people consider “Star Wars” to be science fiction. And I would not say those people are wrong, but I’d also argue given how magical elements inserted into the franchise like the force and the fact that this film supposedly happened “a long time ago,” it is technically science fantasy. “The Phantom Menace” turns fantasy into a night terror with a simple question.

Anakin: “What are midichlorians?”

No seriously. WHAT THE EVER-LIVING CRAP ARE MIDICHLORIANS?! Well, according to Qui-Gon Jinn…

“Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells.”

So you mean to tell me… That one can become a Jedi from being born with something? I actually hate this. Like, literally hate this. Hate is a strong word. But I think that is the best word I could possibly use here. In the 1977 “Star Wars,” seeing Luke Skywalker train to become a Jedi did not come off as if a gifted individual, and only a gifted individual, could use the force. At the time, he was just an ordinary boy with ordinary problems. He chose the path of the force not because he was special, but because he wanted to fulfill a destiny and live a life. Sure, Anakin had his problems too. He was a slave after all, but this movie goes to show how far the franchise has fallen. It has gone from choice and magic to prophecy and science. Yes, Anakin chooses to go on to become a Jedi, but again, I had less of a reason to root for him. While Luke had his grievances with being on Tatooine, he was still a somewhat likable character that came off as relatable. He was a dreamer. Anakin is just an annoying brat, and unfortunately, Jake Lloyd failed to sell me on the role. I don’t even know if I can blame Lloyd however, because for one thing, Lloyd was a child when filming “The Phantom Menace,” and at his age, he likely had less experience than Mark Hamill did when he started playing Luke. Hamill was in his twenties whereas Lloyd was not even a teenager when this film was made. But you know, it’s “Star Wars!” One of the most iconic names in film of all time! And you also have George Lucas! One of the most visionary creators of all time! At least “The Phantom Menace” had some good writing. Right?

Not really.

Queen Amidala : You’re a slave?

Anakin : I’m a person and my name is Anakin.

WOW! Thank you! For a second I was really confused and thought you were an armadillo! Thank you *so much* for clearing that up for me! Anakin, you’re the best!

Anakin, as a character, was just never set up well. Sure, there are increments of his backstory that bring some intrigue to the table, but the execution of the character feels sloppy at times, especially at the end of the film, part of which feels like was written by the same toddlerish mind who came up with Jar Jar Binks! There are some similarities between “The Phantom Menace” and the original “Star Wars.” Both involve Skywalkers. Both have R2-D2 and C-3PO. Both have climactic sequences involving spaceflight. Now about that last thing. In the original “Star Wars,” that last sequence felt planned and as if everything associated with it had a place and purpose. The climactic spaceflight sequence in “The Phantom Menace,” where Anakin goes into space in a ship on autopilot and flies to the control ship, feels like everything in it happens by accident or coincidence. Nothing feels like it matters, even though it leads to something big towards the end of the film. This is practically the Murphy’s Law of “Star Wars!” Nothing matters! Anything that can happen will happen! Let’s try spinning! That’s a good trick! Let’s try pod racing! That’s a GREAT trick! Maybe this would work as a Disney ride, but I can say that it does not work as a sequence in a film.

I will admit though, the pod race sequence was pretty fun. It might even be the best part of the movie. Well, except for one. We’ll get to it momentarily.

But about the pod-racing. This was one of the best set up sequences in the entire film. For starters, we are introduced to it when first seeing Anakin, and we get to know that in a way, it is important to him. His friends see his pod and doubt him. Qui-Gon makes a bet against Watto for the boy and proposes to put his hyperdrive part at risk. And we are warned of some of the dangers that lie ahead in a race like this. In a way, these dangers were met. When the race is on, it is on. We see pods flying, crashing, and there’s a good mix of brains and skill that goes into maintaining the pod, both on and off the track. I would love to see a “Star Wars” movie or series specifically dedicated to pod-racing. I know we have a video game, but I would love to see more of this on screen if possible. Then again, I love the concept of racing in general, so I may be a little biased. Basically, the best way I could describe the pod race in “The Phantom Menace” is if “Star Wars” had a baby with “Death Race.” It is fun, fast-paced, and occasionally off the rails.

Now about that best part… I mentioned in the beginning of the review that this movie did a really good job at solidifying the Jedi as people you do not want to mess with. At the end of the movie, when you have Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon going up against Darth Maul, the movie also does an equally impressive job at making the Sith a worthy opponent. Between his dual-blade lightsaber and his tendency to keep up the pace while dealing with more than one opponent, Maul is a boss in this film. Unfortunately though, the character, similar to Qui-Gon, has very little depth to him other than existing on the dark side and being sent in to capture Amidala while also finishing off the Jedi. This film does such a terrible job at establishing the threat despite having them look cool. Darth Maul has a double lightsaber, but not much else.

In “A New Hope,” we had Grand Moff Tarkin of all people. Grand Moff Tarkin was not much more than a guy who wore a uniform, but he had a sense of intimidation. He had a commanding presence, the entire room could bow down to him at any moment. Even Darth Vader would listen to his demands. Remember that scene where everyone is in the board room talking about the Death Star being the ultimate power in the universe? Someone mocks Vader for following the force, to which he chokes the naysayer and utters, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Tarkin then says, “Vader, release him!” He gives in. They say actions speak louder than words. But when I remember the double lightsaber-wielding badass as LESS of a threat than the guy who walks around saying things like “You may fire when ready,” that says something about these two films. Maybe it is not the best comparison, because Tarkin did take control of a planet-killing machine whereas Darth Maul does a bunch of Sith tricks. But again, it goes to show that when it comes to “The Phantom Menace,” the villains just do not strike any fear. They do not make me feel afraid or like I’m going to see them in my nightmares. When it comes to the kickstarters of their respective trilogies, “The Phantom Menace” is eye candy, but “Star Wars” is candy you can eat.

But I’d argue that BOTH films are ear candy, partially because of the musical mastermind known as John Williams. When I saw the last few “Star Wars” movies for the first time at the theater, I would have a playlist set up to blast in the car or on the bus with my headphones on. When doing so, I would make it a priority to put Episode I’s “Duel of the Fates,” arguably in my top 3 or 5 “Star Wars” tracks ever, which SAYS something about the music in this franchise, on the list.

To call this track bonkers and exciting would be an understatement. If “The Phantom Menace” did one thing right, it is getting John Williams to add his musical touch to another portion of the “Star Wars” universe. Williams is just a small fraction of what made those original films so memorable from his opening crawl music that may be the most iconic intro music ever made, to his theme for Princess Leia, to the Imperial March. Again, if these films did something right, it is getting one of the best film composers to ever exist to return and unleash more of his creative juices. And if this film reveals anything, he did not run out of steam after “Return of the Jedi.” If anything, he dialed up his creative meter to an 11. You’ll get this idea as we go along, but even though I have an easily obtainable idea of what my favorite “Star Wars” film is, not to mention what my least favorite “Star Wars” film is, I have a ton of trouble deciding which score, at least in the Skywalker Saga, is my favorite, because Williams smashes it with each go. That is part of why I love the final lightsaber duel so much with the two Jedi against Darth Maul in addition to all the crazy choreography that comes with it. This music is a perfect encapsulation of the future hanging in the balance for almost any scenario imaginable. It can take even an event as boring as watching paint dry and make it exciting. This is the power of John Williams. This is why he has built such an amazing library of “Star Wars” music. The maestro just doesn’t shy away from giving it his all.

I just wish this movie were as good as the music.

“The Phantom Menace” kind of reminds me of “Justice League.” The 2017 version, not the Snyder Cut. Because in that film, the tone was all over the place. One moment it is as light as a feather. The next moment it is moody. It really doesn’t have an identity. In “The Phantom Menace,” we go from a space adventure with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to a live-action cartoon with Jar Jar to a political debate with Senator Palpatine and all the others that make this movie significantly dull at times (OH MY LORD THE POLITICS ARE A SNOOZE). The odd thing is, even though you could argue that “Star Wars” from 1977 had a target audience of 12 year olds, it was so enjoyable that anyone could watch it, pick up the message from the movie, and embrace it. “The Phantom Menace” almost doesn’t even have a singular tone that it could be defined by, therefore it almost cannot dedicate itself to a single audience. I just look back at this film and ask… Who is this for? It’s got explosions and sword fights! So maybe it’s for younger kids and teenagers! But it’s got space politics! So is it for adults, actually? But then it has Jar Jar Binks and him repeatedly saying “Meesa” to the point where it splits my head open so I wondered if the film was for infants. “The Phantom Menace” goes in a lot of directions at once, but it’s like computer RAM. If you put in too much information, it can get overwhelming. Georgie! Close some tabs, will ya please?

In the end, “The Phantom Menace” is just a film that evokes the phrase “style over substance.” We start off with Jedi being badasses and end with said Jedi fighting a double blade lightsaber guy. Yes, this movie has a story. It has a point A. It has a point B. Unfortunately, it comes with lore expansions that infuriate me the more I think about them. Midichlorians suck. End of story. The best comparison I can give about this movie is that I can imagine it as if it were a chicken nugget. “Star Wars: A New Hope” is like a good old chicken nugget that I get every now and then, I put it in my mouth, and it tastes delicious. I keep coming back for more. “The Phantom Menace” on the other hand, also represents that chicken nugget. But instead of enjoying its god-like taste, I just found out the revolting secret recipe. The force tastes savory, but seeing how it is conceived is best left to the imagination. “The Phantom Menace” adds one or two good things to the “Star Wars” franchise. But the negatives unfortunately outweigh the positives significantly. This film tarnishes the lore in the “Star Wars” universe that has been established in the original trilogy, adds new lore that is uninteresting, and focuses less on characterization and more on looking cool. And that says something because I honestly think there are quite a few digital effects in this film that aged rather poorly to this day. Will say though, if it means anything, Liam Neeson did his best with the material given to him, and Ewan McGregor did an alright job as Obi-Wan. Although he personally gets better in the next two films. Also, one last thing, Coruscant is a cool planet. That’s about it. That was a lot to talk about. I didn’t even talk about everything! I left out Mace Windu for crying out loud! I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” a 3/10.

This was a hard film to grade. The fan in me wants to give it a 1 because of how much it sullies the original trilogy. The part of my brain that likes looking at things on a screen wants the grade to be a little higher. Perhaps at least a 5 or 6. However there are one or two good things about the film that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, again, these positives are kept to a minimum. But hey, at least Yoda had the right idea all along.

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

This was not my first time watching “The Phantom Menace,” but having seen it and remembering my horror stories, because I did watch it more than once in some recent years for varying reasons, I went in fearing the results. Then I got angry because of Jar Jar, which made me hate myself for putting in this movie and sitting through it. And of course, I suffered through the rest of it because I had to put out this review.

Thanks, Master Yoda! You really are wise!

One last thing. I think I did a pretty good job with my review for “The Phantom Menace,” but I’m gonna be real. There is someone out there in the land of YouTube that has arguably created a near perfect “Episode I” review. It is one of the most hilarious video reviews I have ever seen. If you want something fun to watch, take a gander RedLetterMedia’s review of “The Phantom Menace.” Part 1 of the video is posted below! Check it out!

Thanks for reading this review! That is one day of “Star Wars” down and we have six to go. TOMORROW, I will be sharing my review for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” The second “Star Wars” prequel and it is one that a few of my friends probably consider to actually be worse than “The Phantom Menace.” I won’t give my thoughts just yet. You’ll have to find out tomorrow on Scene Before! If you want to find out, make sure you are following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account. Also be sure to check out the Facebook page and may the force be with you! I want to know, did you see “The Phantom Menace?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Star Wars” world, planet, or moon? For me, I’d have to pick Coruscant. I’m an urban guy so that pick is a goto for me. Although I do like the idea of Starkiller Base if that counts as a planet. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Marvel Cinematic Universe PHASE 4 Plans Announced

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Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! You thought we were in the endgame? Think again, because, to my lack of surprise, as well as others perhaps, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not going anywhere, and as part of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin Feige and crew have officially announced their gameplan going forward in regards to movies and television. While I could not make it to San Diego this year (just like every other year), I had the pleasure of receiving a number of these announcements through social media, which is something Captain Marvel should have brushed up on by now.

This first announcement, doesn’t relate to what some would call “phase 4,” but it happens around that certain timeline and takes place in the same universe, so why not leave it in? Anyway, as you may or may not know, Marvel is finishing up their series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..” It’s a series that I tried watching when it first started, but for one reason or another, I just couldn’t latch onto it. It just didn’t work for me. The show will begin its seventh season during the 2019-20 television season, and will air for 13 episodes. However, if you are caught up with the series, you’d know that season 6 is still in progress, so the show still has time left before ABC dusts it away from its current lineup.

Speaking of television, Marvel in general is seemingly changing the norm of how they release their television programming. Before now, they would release various MCU-related content on ABC such as the recently mentioned “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Agent Carter,” and the short-lived “Inhumans.” Netflix also had a fair share of content, all of which was recently cancelled such as “Iron Fist,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and to what I believe is to a lot of people’s surprise, “Daredevil.” These platforms, for all I know, could lose the ability to air new Marvel content for awhile whereas the TV channel Freeform, and streaming services Hulu and the yet to be released Disney+ are going to be the big three for some time. Speaking of Disney+, Marvel announced a plethora of shows to be exclusively released on the upcoming service.

For the record, Disney+ is expected to be released during the fall. So just a reminder, none of these shows will be available on day one.

The first show to premiere on Disney+ is going to be “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” As you can tell by the title, the series revolves around the known characters played by actors Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan. It is expected to start filming October 2019 and premiere in August 2020. While there are not many details about the series just yet, Mackie and Stan have previously wanted to do their own spinoff film at some point, particularly in the style of a buddy cop story. So who knows? Maybe this series could have some sort of comedic buddy vibe. But only time will tell.

Moving onto 2021 programming, up next we have “WandaVision,” which is short for the characters Wanda Maximoff and Vision meshed together. This series is going to star actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as the characters we have previously come to know throughout the Infinity Saga. Although I must point out. This takes place after “Avengers: Endgame,” and Vision died in “Infinity War” only to never come back to life. So my question is… How will they allow him to return? Let me guess, time travel. Because now if the Marvel universe has a problem. Boop! You got a time machine! Want to save Nick Fury from losing an eye? Boom! You got a a time machine! Want to stop Tony Stark’s home from being destroyed like it was in “Iron Man 3?” Boom! You got a time machine! Want to give Captain America the most advanced pop culture lessons of his life? Boom! You got a time machine! Granted, there’s probably more to it, but a time travel element would not be surprising. The show will hit Disney+ in Spring 2021.

Also coming in Spring 2021 is a “Loki” series. Without going into much detail, because this does involve a spoiler for “Avengers: Endgame,” which as of writing this, is still in theaters, it will involve a Loki of the past. That’s all I’ll say. The series will of course star Tom Hiddleston. I don’t know if I am going to watch any of these series, but I think out of all the series on this list, I feel like this is the one I’d be least likely to watch. It almost seems like an idea from a think tank meeting (even though a number of these shows feel the same way). “Remember that mysterious guy from ‘Thor’ who keeps dying and coming back to life? Nobody knows if he’s good or evil? Let’s not deal with any new characters, let’s use this guy some more! Yay!” The way I wrote that sounds generous, but when I imagine it, it sounds like a business meeting all involving out of shape guys in suits smoking cigars.

OK… I take my last statement back, this is a series I’d probably watch. Granted, I don’t want to pay for Disney+, I don’t see any reason to. Plus, as someone who wants to avoid witnessing Disney’s plan for world domination put into action, I want to spend as little money towards them as possible. Although I kinda do want to go to Disneyland to see Galaxy’s Edge the more I think about it. Nevertheless, the next series is “What If…?” For those of you who don’t know, “What If…?” is a franchise that creates and realizes perhaps unlikely or alternate scenarios related to Marvel characters. Some examples from comics include: “What if the Fantastic Four all had the same power?,” “What if Captain America had been elected president?,” and “What if Jane Foster had found the hammer of Thor?.” While I’m not getting Disney+, if they are ever to release any of these shows on DVD or Blu-ray I am very likely to pick up “What If…?” simply for the concept. The stories presented in the show will not affect the MCU’s timeline, but merely exist just to answer questions through the power of imagination. It is simply something that just provides a unique take of some sort.

Hawkeye in the MCU is an “interesting” character to say the least, because just about every time he appeared in an MCU movie when he first started, I did not care about him as much as the other characters. Then I saw “Endgame” and thought he was one of the best characters of the whole thing. Coincidentally, of the upcoming shows on Disney+, “Hawkeye” is one of them. Also, according to what I have gathered, this series will introduce Kate Bishop, who in the comics is the first woman to earn the Hawkeye title. She’s also a member of the Young Avengers. Here, this show will seemingly spend some time on allowing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye to pass the torch to this younger character. The question is… Will I care about her? Or will she just be another boring bow and arrow fetishist?

That’s it for TV shows. I’ll probably watch NONE of them. Mainly because I feel that the way that everyone is trying to push streaming service upon streaming service towards the consumers is going to eventually make streaming as a whole a significantly worse deal than cable. My family and I have not cut the cord, and honestly, I’m happy. Especially considering how I still have my game shows (streaming IS NOT a good alternative if you are a game show fan for the most part), plus it’s nice to watch a new episode of a show and have it feel like an event, whereas an episode or two of a show, or a whole season, drops on Amazon or Hulu and it’s almost like you unintentionally DVRed something. Plus, I enjoy my livetweeting. It makes me feel like I am part of a community. Another reason why I’ll probably miss out on all these shows is because I REVIEW MOVIES DAMMIT! Movies are a top priority of mine and because I watch and review them excessively, I barely have time for TV. And speaking of movies, let’s reveal what Marvel has planned for that realm of entertainment in phase 4.

First up for movies is a project that I think a good number of people know has been in full swing, “Black Widow.” The plot and details are mostly unknown at this time, but Scarlett Johansson, the woman that I have a crush on who says she should be allowed to play trees, well then, if that’s the case… Vin Diesel? Watch out, you might be fired soon! She is returning as the title character who we have seen in several parts of the MCU such as the “Iron Man,” “Avengers,” and “Captain America” franchises. From speculation, I would imagine this would take place long before the main events of the MCU, kind of like in “Captain Marvel.” I am also willing to bet this will be a grittier film in the franchise (even though they aren’t going for an R rating), while also trying to be fun. After all, Black Widow isn’t really a superhero, kind of like Iron Man, she just plays with toys. And based on what we have seen from her character in comics and movies, this is very likely to be a spy flick. If you ask me, this is not my most anticipated spy-related film of next year, I’d reserve that spot to “Tenet,” directed by Christopher Nolan, but I’ve been eager to see a “Black Widow” solo film for quite some time, so I’m excited!

Plus, ScarJo is a dream girl. Just saying. The film will be released on May 1st, 2020.

Up next is a newcomer to the MCU, specifically, “Eternals.” Some big name actors in the film include Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Desparado), Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber, Silicon Valley), Angelina Jolie (Kung Fu Panda, Mr. and Mrs. Smith), Richard Madden (Rocketman, Game of Thrones), among others. It is going to be about a bunch of eternally living beings who have spent infinite portions of their lives fighting a force of evil referred to as The Deviants. One character, Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff is going to be the MCU’s first deaf hero. The film will be released on November 6th, 2020.

The third movie is one that I personally think will be a mega hit at the box office. It’s not to say the others won’t be, but if “Black Panther” from phase 3 has proven anything, it’s that if you put a “visually different” person at the forefront of a superhero project, people will see it. That’s because this movie we’re talking about is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” I don’t know if the final product will have a title this long, but only time will tell. Then again, it’s not as much of a mouthful as say “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” The main reason why I’d say this film has a bonkers chance of success is because Shang-Chi is Chinese, and in this film, he is going to be played by Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu. Not to mention, based on comic-related images I have seen, this movie could be a visual treat. Another thing to consider is the Chinese movie market. If this movie is as visually impressive as I think it will be, not to mention as honorable to the Chinese culture as I think some would want it to be, I think a lot of people will go see this in the theater. China, at least to my knowledge, seems to go to a lot of spectacle type films. Some historical examples that come to mind include “Transformers; Age of Extinction,” which to be fair, was partially shot in China, and “Warcraft.” While “Transformers” is popular in the United States, “Warcraft’s” domestic returns led to its underwhelming final box office total despite making more than twice its budget. But it couldn’t reach the total $450 million needed to completely break even. But if anything has been proven, Marvel is an automatic success in the United States. In the US and Canada, “Black Panther,” a culturally significant film for the African community, managed to make over $700 million, which for those countries specifically, is actually more than “Infinity War.” But with the massive potential for winning over China and perhaps other somewhat related Asian communities, plus Marvel’s domestic success, it has a chance of being possibly a bigger success than “Black Panther.” The movie is scheduled for a February 12th, 2021 release.

Another film I saw coming was “Doctor Strange 2,” and we got it! But it technically has a more specific title, “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” Based on what I’ve heard, Scott Derrickson could be coming back to direct this sequel. It is also suggested that Benedict Cumberbatch and Benedict Wong, or in this case, just for fun, I’ll call them Team Benedict, will be returning to reprise their roles. One thing that I found interesting though is that Wanda Maximoff will be in the be in the movie as well, and it will be tied directly to the Disney+ series “WandaVision.”

OK… You gotta be kidding me. I know people give flak to DC for how they do their movies, but at least you don’t have to watch a freaking TV show to perhaps understand or comprehend what is happening in one of the DCEU’s films! Guess I’ll just read the Wikipedia entries for the WandaVision episodes, because I ain’t paying for Disney+. But one thing that does intrigue me, is the notion that this is going to be a more horror-esque movie compared to a lot of the other MCU installments. So who knows? Maybe this could have a wacky funhouse vibe, or maybe be the MCU’s version of “The New Mutants.” Although now that I think about it, “The New Mutants” could possibly end up being another version of this movie depending on how many more times it gets pushed back. Man, that movie premiere is gonna be one big realistic version of a FaceApp demo. This is definitely a movie I would want to see on an IMAX screen, maybe in 3D. Because I saw the original “Doctor Strange” in IMAX 3D, which made for one of the best visual trips of 2016. This film is expected to drop into theaters May 7th, 2021.

But my one request for this movie. JUST GIVE A MORE MEMORABLE VILLAIN. Then again, it’s Marvel, it’s not their strong suit.

When 2015 first started, the YouTube channel RedLetterMedia made a video where they jokingly predicted that we’d eventually get a fourth “Thor” movie called “Thor 4: More Thor.” Believe it or not, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” used that title in their show. Unfortunately, we’re not getting “Thor 4: More Thor.” But we are getting a fourth “Thor” movie titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” I have mixed thoughts on this movie, because I REALLY enjoy 2011’s “Thor,” probably more than I should. I know some people don’t like it, but I enjoyed Thor’s character arch and Loki was a solid villain. Granted, the followup in 2013, “Thor: The Dark World,” is in the conversation to be my least favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. And even though “Thor: Ragnarok” was… “better,” it’s not what I wanted. I thought it was too comedic, and some of the jokes didn’t land. While it is visually stunning, somewhat appealing from a story perspective, the tone just didn’t work. Basically, Asgard is in a state beyond repair in this film. It could have been dark, gritty, maybe a little funny, but not like it was “Deadpool” for kids. I don’t think Taika Waititi is a bad director, in fact, I thought he would be a better suit for something like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but he did a “Thor” film instead. It just didn’t stick the landing for me. I’m hoping “Thor: Love and Lightning” will be better, but from what I can imagine, it could be tonally similar to the previous “Thor” installment, which if that’s the case, I’m just hoping that the story actually fits the tone.

One thing that could be interesting is that Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is making a comeback. And similar to a comics storyline, Foster is going to be taking on the mantle of Thor. And based on visuals presented from San Diego Comic-Con, it looks like her character will be holding Mjölnir at some point during the film. As long as Kat Dennings doesn’t show up to play her character from “2 Broke Girls” everything should be rather fine and dandy. The film is predicted to be out November 5th, 2021, so I demand there should be at least one reference to “V For Vendetta,” ESPECIALLY since Natalie Portman is returning!

Now let me just say, I have no idea when these next films are going to be released, part of me is willing to bet that one or two of them, are not even in phase 4, but Marvel Studios chairman Kevin Feige has confirmed that these movies are in development, therefore we are going to cover them. So let’s continue!

Remember the 1998 film “Blade?” Guess what? Marvel is getting to do another project with the character. I personally can’t say I have seen “Blade,” but part of me is willing to imagine that this will be a somewhat different take on the character because the original trilogy was rated R, whereas all the MCU films so far have gotten a PG-13. If you ask me, I would not mind seeing an R version of the character in the MCU, kind of like with Black Widow, but you cannot have everything. One thing that does intrigue me though is that Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Green Book) is attached to playing the lead role. He’s a fantastic actor who has a ton of range, and he actually pitched this sort of idea to Marvel Studios through a call. Coincidentally, Ali has been attached to a couple of alternate recent comic book-based products including Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Netflix’s own MCU show, “Luke Cage.”

There’s not much to say on this next film, but I KNEW this was gonna be made at some point, perhaps soon. Why? Because again, it made SO MUCH money. I guess this is what happens when Disney remakes “The Lion King” for a new generation. Wait… I’m talking about “Black Panther 2.” There’s not much to say about this movie yet, but Ryan Coogler suggested that he’d write and direct this film, which does intrigue me because I thought he did a rather decent job with the first one despite its flaws. So… what Disney movie are they gonna retread next? Are they gonna do “Dumbo” because Black Panther is learning to fly for some reason? Are they gonna do a film in the style of “Wreck-It Ralph” where it is revealed that Wakanda is in an arcade cabinet? Are they gonna do one like “Frozen” where Shuri or Okoye just breaks out into an annoying catchy tune? By the way, screw “Frozen,” that movie can rot in hell!

Up next is a film that was supposed to come out in 2020, but based on recent controversy, that’s not happening anymore. Specifically, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” This is a film that I am honestly curious to see, because while I imagine this could potentially be a capper for a trilogy, director James Gunn has previously exposed that this installment is not meant to be a powerhouse of emotion. It is still going to be fun and lively. But if you have been following the news in terms of film recently, you’d know that Gunn was fired by Disney/Marvel over the resurfacing of less than family friendly tweets. Tweets that even he admits, he’s not proud of. If you ask me, I believe James Gunn is a competent director, who may have deserved the criticism that he received, but I’m not sure if Disney should have gone as far as firing him, especially when you consider how much he has changed over the years in terms of his outlook. Nevertheless, I am quite curious to see how this upcoming “Guardians” film turns out, and I do have a shortlist of soundtrack ideas, but I think I should save that for another time. The movie is not expected to begin filming until 2020, but that’s because James Gunn is currently doing a DC movie, specifically “The Suicide Squad.”

Here’s another no-brainer, “Captain Marvel 2.” When your film has the sixth biggest opening of all time, you know you have to make a followup. I’ll be honest, the first “Captain Marvel” did not work for me. I thought the chemistry between Fury and Danvers was kind of hit and miss. The scene where “Just a Girl” plays honestly, while I guess it was trying to be empowering, felt really off for an action scene that was most likely trying to be kick-ass. The final fight, which I imagine was trying to be funny, just ended up being questionable to me. And don’t even get me started on Goose the Cat! But, we are getting another movie, and I’m honestly hoping it is better than this one, but only time will tell. I like Brie Larson as an actress, but when she plays Captain Marvel, she honestly sounds like she’s only been in straight to DVD content. Come on, Brie! You won an Oscar for “Room!” Show me the magic! She did alright in “Endgame,” but she was not in the movie that much so there is that to consider. Then again, I’m a straight white male. So is my opinion even valid to begin with?

Another film on the list of “in development” is a third “Spider-Man” movie. By the way, by the time you finish reading this post, five more “Spider-Man” movies will be released, because they keep cranking them out! I finally saw “Spider-Man: Far From Home” the other day, and honestly, after seeing that film, I’d say a third one HAS to be made. And without going into detail, Kevin Feige suggested that the mid-credits scene from that film implies the third film will involve “a Peter Parker story that has never been done before on film.” And it does not surprise me that this is happening. I believe Sony is already satisfied with making their own “Spider-Man” movies in their universe and still enjoys the success they can get from spinning their webs in the MCU. Nevertheless, can’t wait. But if I had any requests, make sure the word “home” is in the title. That way I don’t have to end up confusing “Spider-Man” trilogies and can refer to this as the “Home” trilogy. Seriously! Even if it simply means that there is a minute of the two of the film where we find Peter Parker watching a Mets game, and for that reason it is called “Home Run,” it would still work because the other two movies have the word “home” in their titles too!

The next two films are a couple of projects that I think a lot of people have been asking for. Why? Because Disney just acquired 21st Century Fox recently, meaning they have retained the rights to a couple of big name franchises. One example is “X-Men.” I have no idea how the film will present itself. If anything, it is definitely going to be a complete reboot, staying away from the timeline Fox originally showcased to audiences since the early 2000s. After all, while I didn’t go see “Dark Phoenix,” probably just like everyone else in the world, maybe that movie tarnished the franchise enough to say, “Screw it, it’s over.” But some movie franchises or IPs are like Jenga, you can end the game by collapsing the tower, but you can always start a new one by rebuilding it. Maybe “X-Men” has a place in the MCU. And honestly, if a couple of the phase 1 heroes are going away, I think this is the perfect time to add in new heroes, because if they were still there, I’d honestly worry about clutter in the MCU. Granted, even with them showing up now, that is still a worry. But I also have a slight intrigue as to what this mega franchise can bring to the cinematic universe.

Speaking of Fox, one other franchise they once had, not to mention wasted, is “Fantastic Four.” Since Marvel has the rights to them, they can now possibly… NOT screw it up this time… Hopefully? I imagine it’ll be good, but I’m keeping experience in my back pocket. It’s in different hands, but for all I know, despite its popularity in the comic book world, maybe “Fantastic Four” is simply cursed as a movie franchise. But I am curious about this film and how it’ll turn out, and perhaps a little more excited about this than “X-Men.” Will Dr. Doom be the main villain again? Will the movie have the four in the middle of its title? Or… How about this? How about we get Chris Evans to play Johnny Storm again? Do it just to get some other character in the movie for a second. Maybe the group will be going around New York City grabbing lunch or something and they run into Peter Parker walking with Ned, which leads to Peter pointing at Johnny saying, “Hey! You look like someone I know!” I highly doubt that will happen, but it certainly would make for a proper more realistic “What If…?” scenario. Plus, with Stan Lee gone we’re gonna need new cameo ideas.

That’ll probably do it for all of the MCU-related announcements for phase 4, and again, a lot of these films and TV shows are in development. So who knows? One could get pushed back, maybe one gets cancelled. Perhaps it ends up being a part of an eventual phase 5. Nevertheless, I’m excited for a large number of these projects, and hopefully they will all end up being good! Also, James Gunn, I know it is a little late, but welcome back. I want to know, is there something I’m missing from this list? I think I’ve covered all the ground, after all I have 4,000 words inserted into this thing! Or, what is something that you want to see from the MCU as a TV series, as a movie, as a concept? It doesn’t even have to be for phase 4 if you want it someplace else. Let me know down below! Thanks for reading this post! Pretty soon I am going to be reviewing Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is out this upcoming weekend. I’m going to one of my local theaters for their first screening of the film in 35mm, can’t wait! Also, speaking of Tarantino, be sure to stay tuned for my final installment in my Quentin Tarantino review series, “The Hateful Eight.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, if you could do me a favor, like this post, share it around with those you know, it really helps me out. And speaking of that, like my Facebook Page! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Annihilation (2018): Yay! Alex Garland’s Second Film!

Before dive into my review for “Annihilation,” we have some promotional material to go over. Hey! Let me just remind you, this content is free! I’m doing this! Let me just have you know something. I’m a guy, and unfortunately, and somewhat understandably, my gender’s individuals usually can’t go at least a single second of each day without thinking about sex. Before you ask, no, I’m not promoting porn. Even though that does involve sex. What I’m promoting to you doesn’t involve that kind of sex. It instead involves what can be referred to as “BIBLICALLY *APPROVED* INTERCOURSE for the PURPOSES of PROCREATION.” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” is a new YouTube channel and series from a couple whose members include Genevieve and Paul. The two are currently expecting a child in upcoming months and unfortunately for both of them, their journey wasn’t as sweet as chocolate ice cream. Instead, it felt more like a rocky road. As suggested, sex plays a part in this series. Not just that, but don’t forget math, tests, costs, small wins, big losses, and all of those stinkin’ needles! The video up above specifically is their second episode, but if you are interested in seeing the other videos in this series, such as the first episode and the trailer, be sure to click the link down below to the YouTube channel for “WTIVF?.” And also be sure to subscribe or hit the notification bell to keep up on their content! Also be sure to check out their other social media pages, along with their website, also down below! Be sure to tell them that Jack Drees sent you!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

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“Annihilation” is directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later) and stars Natalie Portman (Black Swan, V For Vendetta), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed), Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin), Tuva Novotny (Eat Pray Love, Dag), and Oscar Isaac (X-Men Apocalypse, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). This movie is about a biologist who sets up a secret expedition where the laws of nature are thrown out the window. The film is also based on a book by Jeff VanderMeer which is one of the three books in the Southern Reach trilogy. On that topic, according to Alex Garland, he didn’t really think much about making a trilogy. His focus is mainly shifted towards the first book of the same name, so I don’t think we’ll be getting any sequels to this movie in the future.

Before we go any further and dissect “Annihilation,” I just want to bring up one of the banes of my existence. And no, for all of you who don’t know grammar entirely, this has nothing to do with “Batman.” This does however, have to do with Netflix. I recently did a post called “Why I Won’t Review The Cloverfield Paradox.” In it, I explain my prior anticipation to “The Cloverfield Paradox,” and how I won’t review or even watch the movie based on something I didn’t really expect to happen. That unexpected happening by the way is the fact that the movie wouldn’t be released in theaters and instead went straight to the Netflix streaming service. I explain how they basically killed Blockbuster, a nostalgic store I adore that I will surely miss. I go on to say that the way they’re changing movie and TV watching is making certain experiences dwindled from what they could be. Not to mention, they’re also killing movie theaters, which are basically “other homes” of mine, because they think it’s a good idea to have all of their movies go straight to the platform. So I never inserted this in the post, but I’ll say it here. You know the phrase “Netflix & chill?” People nowadays know it as either an invitation to watch Netflix with someone else, or just an excuse to have sex. So I hate to kill the mood, if you know what I mean, but I might as well describe some of the scenarios I recently mentioned as “Netflix & kill.”

Before going to see this movie, I found out apparently that Netflix is apparently distributing “Annihilation” internationally (except for China). I live in the United States, meaning Netflix isn’t distributing the movie to my people. Paramount is doing said job. Let me just say, this movie is very lucky to get its own review, because if it lacked any release in theaters, or if Netflix was doing total distribution, I would have saved some time. In fact, I’m willing to bet that Alex Garland, the director of “Annihilation” might also be somewhat disappointed in what happened to this film. Just read this quote spoken by him down below:

“We made the film for cinema. I’ve got no problem with the small screen at all. The best genre piece I’ve seen in a long time was “The Handmaid’s Tale,” so I think there’s incredible potential within that context, but if you’re doing that – you make it for that and you think of it in those terms. Look… it is what it is. The film is getting a theatrical release in the States, which I’m really pleased about. One of the big pluses of Netflix is that it goes out to a lot of people and you don’t have that strange opening weekend thing where you’re wondering if anyone is going to turn up and then if they don’t, it vanishes from cinema screens in two weeks. So it’s got pluses and minuses, but from my point of view and the collective of the people who made it – [it was made] to be seen on a big screen.”

I hate to sound like a propaganda machine, but I’ll say this anyway. Netflix may have chopped this movie’s head off, but it still has a beating heart. It didn’t totally “annihilate” the film. 😉 Getting back on track, let’s talk about “Annihilation!”

Going into “Annihilation,” I was excited. That’s because I’ve seen a film from Alex Garland which released in 2015 and it was one of the most beautiful looking films of the decade. That film by the way, is “Ex Machina.” While “Ex Machina” isn’t what I’d personally call a 10/10 movie, I have to give major props to the film from a production and directorial perspective because it made me want to be a part of the movie. Heck, it won Best Achievement in Visual Effects at the Oscars! I will also say, “Ex Machina” was Alex Garland’s directorial debut! Garland’s second movie, “Annihilation,” has arrived in various territories, I didn’t know too much about it. I’ve seen a trailer for it, I knew Natalie Portman would have the starring role, I knew it was based on a book, but not much else.

Oh wait, there was one more thing, kind of going off of something I just mentioned.

As suggested, “Annihilation” is based on a book, specifically a book of the same name. The book is part of what’s known as the Southern Reach trilogy, which is named due to a secret agency which plays an important part in the overall plot. All three books were written by Jeff VanderMeer, and were met with positive verdicts.

Funny enough, all of them start with the letter “A.” So I guess if you don’t like calling the series the Southern Ranch trilogy, you can instead call it the AAA trilogy. It’s the perfect series for going out to CVS in your car with three of your friends. Their names are Albert, Alec, and Alex (AAA). You decide to go inside the CVS store, where you end up buying AAA batteries, finding three guys at the register named Aaron, Adam, and Andy (AAA), going back to your car to realize the doors are locked, you left your keys inside, so now you have to call AAA to get this situation settled. Once that’s over, you get back in your car, you’re about the leave the shopping center where CVS is, a very small one at that. It contains other shops including AT&T, Avenue, and Applebee’s (AAA). You suddenly realize, you have some time to kill, so it leads you to pulling out one of the AAA books from the back seat, you start reading it, and you remain in the parking lot going nowhere for a period of time. Oh yeah, and your friends are just questioning why you aren’t driving.

Alright, rambling’s over, let’s get serious.

Since “Annihilation” has some of the stuff it has in it, it’s easy to imagine some people are looking forward to it if they haven’t seen it. I haven’t even read the books and I was kind of stoked! Although there were people who happen to be giving it some flak before it even came out. Why is this? Well apparently, this movie has miscast its characters, and the reason why they’re miscast is because they’re not the correct ethnicity.

Let me just say, I’ve never read the books, so what I’m gathering is from random research. And the research tells me that these complainers have justifiable reasons behind their thoughts. Do I agree with them? Sure I do. It doesn’t mean I don’t like the actors playing these characters or how they perform as these characters, but it doesn’t change the fact that these mistakes are still there. Although I will say, there are two characters when it comes to this complaint. Specifically Natalie Portman’s character of Lena and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character of Dr. Ventress. Of the two characters, Portman might be the bigger problem here. Again, I like her as an actress, so I don’t see Portman herself as a problem, but I do see this casting choice as a problem. For one thing, she’s the lead role. Also, her ethnicity was revealed in the first book of the trilogy whereas the other character had hers revealed in the second book of the trilogy. When it came to the overall adaptation of this book to film. Garland was more focused towards story than character looks. And while I look for more great stories than I do correct adaptations, this was something that could have easily been altered. While I REALLY enjoyed “Annihilation,” this will subtract its score.

Onto the movie itself, I actually went to see this over a week ago, so I apologize if some of my comments come off as weak. I usually review movies right after I see them depending on the case, but this wasn’t one of them. My Oscar recap was more important. This movie starts off in a small room with a conversation between Natalie Portman and Benedict Wong, and I knew that part of the movie was going to take place there. The overall setting there set the tone for what’s to come. We occasionally cut back and forth between that and some plot-unfolding events of the film. And with all that put together, the tone doesn’t really ever feel ruined. There’s a lot of cutting back and forth, but it doesn’t feel all jumbled together like a pizza with topping options so endless it has toppings like TNT, screws, and LEGO bricks. In other words, this movie’s edited competently and the tone doesn’t feel messed up.

I’ll mention once more, one of the biggest positives I can give to Alex Garland’s directorial debut, “Ex Machina,” is how beautiful-looking the movie is. The movie won Best Visual Effects at the Oscars and it’s easy to see why. Plus, all the scenery might make you feel like you’re on an exotic getaway and you’re on a nature walk. Oh yeah, and robots are there too! Much like “Ex Machina,” this movie has you feeling as if you’re entering a majestic new world. Once all the scientists are together on their journey, they enter an anomaly known as the shimmer. Inside, it can simply just be described as wondrously gorgeous. But not all of it is pretty.

“Annihilation,” at its core, is a sci-fi film. Although it has some elements of horror in there as well. This movie to my personal surprise, features one of the more terrifying scenes I’ve seen in a science fiction film. If you’ve seen the trailer, you may remember that wolf with the sharp teeth, holy s*it!

I also have to talk about the ending. And without spoiling anything, I’ll tell you all upfront. This is one of the best endings I’ve seen this decade. Why do I love sci-fi so much? Well, there’s many reasons that can qualify as an answer to that question for me, but one thing I’ve noticed is how many of those movies have endings that I just often look back on. This movie is no exception. I mentioned in my post titled “Annihilation (2018): NOT Now In Theaters Everywhere” that “Annihilation” originator Jeff VanderMeer gave praise towards this film’s ending and even said in some ways, the movie might actually be better than his own book. That’s a much better reaction than the one given by Paramount financier David Ellison, who thought the film was apparently too complicated for some minds! By the way, f*ck David Ellison. You can clearly tell I’m siding with VanderMeer in this circumstance. The ending overall felt like I was watching “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I can’t talk much about it, but given some of the situations that happen in this film and when you piece it all together. This film feels like “Arrival,” “Jurassic Park,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” all meshed together in one wonderful package. One more thing about the ending, the music in that moment can only be described as one word, and that’s orgasmic.

Moving onto characters, let’s talk about Natalie Portman’s character of Lena. While I did mention before that Lena is not entirely cast the way that a good number of people think she should be, I’ll add, Portman did a fine job here. I was able to buy her as a biologist. Every single frame I was convinced that she could possibly have a shot at becoming a professor at Princeton. Her husband, Kane, played by Oscar Isaac, also delivers an excellent performance.

All of the characters in this film overall seem to have no qualities that I hate about them, whether they’re in the category of annoying, off-putting, or so hatable because they killed someone you love so much that they must get similar treatment. They all seem to be redeemable and I really think they all did their role quite well. I will admit, some of this movie is kind of dwindling on me. And it’s not because I didn’t like the movie. I thought it was great! I’ll say once again, it’s been over a week since I saw this, and other things mattered more to me than this review. No offense to “Annihilation” and its crew.

One last thing I’ll mention is this. I said already that if you combine “Arrival,” “Jurassic Park,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” you might as well get this movie. You might also say that if you combine JUST A HINT of “Ghostbusters,” you get this film too. Just look at this shot and tell me otherwise!

In the end, “Annihilation” is certainly one of those films that I’m gonna have to watch again, and it’s also one of those films that I want to talk about with others for years to come. Is this movie perfect? I wouldn’t say so. I’ve already gone over some minor casting issues that are somewhat understandable after doing some research, but are still there regardless. I must say though, Alex Garland, you’ve done it again! I’m going to give “Annihilation” an 8/10! By the way, if you can’t get this in theaters in your area, chances are you may have this movie available to you now on Netflix. It actually released on the Netflix platform in several areas a day ago, so go watch it if you haven’t already! I don’t use Netflix, but I’ve talked enough about that. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’ll have a review up for “Mission: Impossible” starring Tom Cruise, which will kick off my “Mission: Impossible” review series in preparation for “Mission: Impossible: Fallout.” Also, for my next movie to see in theaters, I just realized how many options I have. I want to go see “Game Night,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” (can’t believe I’m saying that) “Gringo,” “Red Sparrow,” and you’ve even got “Tomb Raider” coming out next weekend. I don’t know if I’ll catch a movie this weekend, but only time will tell. If you need some more content to hold yourself over, be sure to check out my recap for the 90th Academy Awards, where I talk about “four men and Greta Gerwig,” a jet ski, and what could be regarded one of the of the most well deserved Academy Award wins of all time. If you want to check that out, click the box down below, and will take you to the post! Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, have you seen “Annihilation?” What are your thoughts? What did you think about the ending? Also, if you saw it, how did you see it? Leave that info down below as a way of annihilating some time! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

90th Academy Awards Recap

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we go any further, let me just say, I admittedly put this post out a little later than I once anticipated. I had my mind going around on three posts at once, part of me was begging to nap this week, some distractions have gotten in the way, and I also had this thing going on over on my Twitter where I’m giving shoutouts to women on International Women’s Day. With those things in mind, you might as well say that if this blog or my posts happened to be my kid(s), I might not be the best of fathers. I’ve been distracted, wanting to fall asleep, and just didn’t have enough of a focus on the things that matter. Speaking of parenting, let’s talk about Genevieve and Paul. Who are they? Well, they’re a couple who are currently expecting, but their journey to get there was like trying to find a way to defy gravity. Impossibly long and stressful. Ladies and gentlemen, this is all documented in “What The IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” focuses on the recently mentioned couple, Genevieve and Paul. The two are happy together and one day decide to have a baby. Turns out they realize, the process of having a baby isn’t all fun and games, and now they’ve got to deal with various problems. These problems range in areas including: Sex, math, exams, and those freakin’ needles!  The first episode of the series up right now, it’s actually the video listed above, it’s a few minutes long, so if you need to waste some time and you feel like you should watch something, this is a good deal for you. And I said to the couple that I’d promote the material, and I’m not just saying this to be nice or push their buttons or receive a fat paycheck in the mail, in fact at this point they’d probably need it for baby food or something, I actually watched the first episode, and I thought it was very well done. If you look at this video, you’re in for a well edited treat. Be sure to catch up on the latest regarding Genevieve and Paul and to help you do that, I’ll post links to various “WTIVF?” social media pages, and if you check this stuff out, be sure to tell them that Jack Drees sent you over!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

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Getting back on track, it’s official that the Academy Awards are now over, so now I can look back and say to myself, “What happened to the politics?” If you think I’m asking that negatively, think again. Because I know one thing for sure, politics and the Academy Awards associate with each other quite well, and at times, it’s not exactly annoying, but they seemed to tone it down this year. When it comes to the politics, it was basically a sigh of relief. There were barely any comments regarding our current administration and when the comments were uttered, they were actually quite funny!

“That’s not the point. We don’t make films like ‘Call Me by Your Name’ for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.” -Jimmy Kimmel

Then again, this isn’t the Golden Globes, where political and social issues, at least from my eyes and ears, seem to be more prominent and forced. At this Oscars, the insertion of all this commentary regarding politics and society didn’t feel that awkward because while they were there, there seemed to be more of a focus on awards and film.

Not every single person made it a big deal to wear black. People either did or they didn’t. The jokes weren’t as cringe-worthy. And let me just have you know, the stuff that’s being represented in terms of social issues happens to be stuff I personally support! Racial equality! Gender equality! I mean, Barbra Streisand and Natalie Portman didn’t get up on stage and come off as depression lords. Yes, time IS up, but there are more important issues than having male nominees and winners for Best Director. One of my favorite quotes regarding social issues comes from Kumail Nanjiani, who you may know as one of the writers and actors in last year’s “The Big Sick,” which is one of my favorite movies of 2017.

“Some of my favorite movies are movies by straight white dudes about straight white dudes. Now, straight white dudes can watch movies starring me, and you relate to that. It’s not that hard. I’ve done it my whole life.”

Well said, Kumail!

One of the other highlights of the night was something I didn’t actually expect. I came in for an award show, not a game show. Now when I say that, you may expect me to follow up with something negative, that is unless you realize my fanaticism for game shows. So as Jimmy Kimmel is finishing up his opening monologue, he reminds everyone that the Oscars is “a very long show.” Before those words are spoken, he states that the first Oscars show lasted for fifteen minutes from beginning to end, he adds in humor by saying “and people still complained.” So in order to spice things up, the show was going to give away a prize. So I start hearing “The Price is Right” music and suddenly, I see Helen Mirren standing right next to a new jet ski. The total value of the jet ski is $17,999, and whoever was to give the shortest speech, will go home with the prize. Kimmel adds, “Why waste precious time thanking your mother when you can give her the ride of her life on a new jet ski?” The man claimed that he was going to be timing everyone who wins an Academy Award with a stopwatch. Once they pick up their trophy, the clock begins ticking. Some of Kimmel’s conclusive words are “And in the unlikely event of a tie, I need to say the jet ski will be awarded to Christopher Plummer.”

By the way, Mark Bridges, the costume designer for “Phantom Thread,” was the winner of the jet ski. Also, for those of you who never heard of or seen “Phantom Thread,” the main character of Reynolds Woodcock, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, is a dressmaker. So of course, a movie about making clothes, won a category which involves making clothes.

Before I tuned into the Oscars, I made a hope/prediction post, which admittedly I rushed in some parts, but overall it was a somewhat effective list coming in over 4500 words. Although to be fair, it was crunch time, and I was just trying to get my major category predictions down. Much like in that post, I’m not gonna go through all the categories and stick to talking about anything from the categories that stand out to me. In my post I didn’t talk about anything such as Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary, stuff like that. I’m just gonna talk about a category if I have some sort of interest related to them or if there’s something to me in it that stands out compared to other categories. To start this off, I’m going to dive into a category that I didn’t discuss on my prediction post. Specifically, Best Animated Short Film.

Here are the results for Best Animated Short Film!

  • Dear Basketball (WINNER!)
  • Garden Party
  • Lou
  • Negative Space
  • Revolting Rhymes

Regardless of familiarity, this category interested me because of its winner, “Dear Basketball.” For those of you who haven’t seen or heard of “Dear Basketball,” I don’t imagine many people will blame you, including Lakers fans. It has less than 2,000 ratings on IMDb, but it appears the Academy liked it. I have no problem with them liking it. I haven’t seen the short, so I can’t judge all that much. Although the real shocker for me here is who happens to be behind this “Academy Award winner.” OK, well, John Williams composed the music, which may have partially contributed to the overall verdict. The animation was a different style than what I usually see, and while I don’t think that in itself is award-worthy, maybe the idea of being different contributed to it. The creative developer, Brian Hunt made this his first project as a creative developer, but he also had experience in the industry prior to this. Although when it comes to the entire world of diverse, differently-minded, and film-focused people, the Academy decides to give an award to…

Kobe Bryant.

Yeah, Kobe Bryant. Kobe. Bryant. KOBE… BRRRRYANT. A former NBA Basketball player who has won the NBA Finals in the past, achieved an Oscar! I’m not saying that this is the end of the world, but seriously! If you told me a week ago, that Kobe Bryant, a guy who angrily swears at his own basketball team during practice, saying that his teammates are motherf*ckers who don’t do s*it for him, was going to win an Academy Award, I’d die laughing, get up, and tell you to get out of my sight because I’d think you’re incredibly dumb.

But he did.

Although one thing I really liked about this is how Mark Hamill was presenting the award. Because for one thing, he’s f*cking Mark Hamill. And another thing, the joke he made right before “Dear Basketball” was announced.

“Don’t say ‘La La Land.’ Don’t say La La Land.'”

Speaking of animations, let’s dive into Best Animated Feature Film.

  • Coco (WINNER!)
  • Ferdinand
  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Loving Vincent

“Coco” won. What a surprise.

“The Boss Baby” lost. Big fat shocker as well, not to mention a sign that Earth is still sane.

Enough said. Moving on.

Next up is Best Actor, and here are the results!

  • Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) (WINNER!)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
  • Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)
  • Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

In total honesty, it would have been nice to see Daniel Day-Lewis win. Not just because he’s a terrific actor, but because this is his last performance. I have not seen “Phantom Thread,” much like how I haven’t seen any of the other films listed above, but seeing Day-Lewis winning would have been a treat. I have nothing against Gary Oldman. I don’t have anything against him winning, I think he’s a fine actor, and he definitely has potential to take on some more great roles in the future. I didn’t think about this while I was doing my hope and prediction post, but I did find this out going into the show. If Timothée Chalamet ended up winning Best Actor, he would have been the youngest person to win that award. For the record, Chalamet could have possibly been a 22 year-old Oscar winner, beating out then 29 year-old Adrien Brody (The Pianist) who won an Academy Award for this specific category for the 2002 movie season.

Speaking of acting, let’s move onto Best Actress!

  • Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) (WINNER!)
  • Meryl Streep (The Post)
  • Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
  • Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)

Once again, a category filled with movies that I just haven’t gotten around to watching! OK, well except one, which was “Three Billboards.” Having seen it, I approve of McDormand’s win. Very well deserved! Part of me thought at one point that Margot Robbie was gonna win for “I, Tonya” based on a clip I saw for it, but I guess not. Meryl Streep… I have nothing against her. I still have to see “The Post.” But I seriously wonder if this nomination happened just because she’s Meryl and the Academy has a fetish for nominating her. Part of me is also surprised the Academy didn’t go with Saoirse Ronan for “Lady Bird.” Although at the same time, it surprises me how many people saw the movie and didn’t like it. I didn’t see it, but I’m trying to.

One of the next categories we’re gonna get into is Best Adapted Screenplay.

  • Call Me by Your Name (WINNER!)
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Logan
  • Molly’s Game
  • Mudbound

I’ll state something similar to what I said in my prediction and hope post. “Mudbound,” to me, doesn’t qualify as a movie that associates with the Oscars. To me, the Oscars is about celebrating cinema. While there are a number of people who clearly worship this movie for various reasons, I refuse to call it a technical “Oscar film.” To my knowledge, this movie has released in a couple theaters if that. And while I do think a movie with even the smallest theatrical release can qualify to win an Oscar, it’s mainly known to me as a straight to streaming film. Now don’t get me wrong, if Amazon or someone like that distributed this film, I would have possibly supported “Mudbound” more. But instead, Netflix did. And since Netflix doesn’t give movie theaters a chance (do some research on “The Cloverfield Paradox”), I refuse to watch it, review it, and call it a movie that others seem to call it. So unless Netflix starts releasing films in theaters as a tradition and not a special occasion, I refuse to review any of their films or consider them for awards like Oscars, or if you want to be more accurate on my end, my top 10 BEST movies of the year lists. Now “Call Me by Your Name” won. I didn’t see it, therefore I was in a somewhat of a shock when its, well, name was called. I was glad it wasn’t “Mudbound,” but I didn’t really expect this film to win, and I was actually rooting for a couple of other films. One film I saw earlier this year because I couldn’t get to it last year was “Molly’s Game.” The film itself? Barely passable. The screenplay though? If this were a film class and I were teaching, I’d give it somewhere around the A range just for the diction choices and the snappy tone it provided at times. I was especially disappointed that they didn’t pick “The Disaster Artist” because humor-wise, it was the funniest movie of 2017, maybe aside from “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Not to mention the way it was written was partially realistic and another part felt like a homage. And while this is based on a true event, I totally appreciate the callbacks to some things that happened that can be associated with “The Room.” A lot of people are kind of disappointed that “Logan” didn’t win this award. I haven’t seen “Logan,” I’ve heard phenomenal things, but I haven’t seen it. Part of me wonders if this is just coming from people who either have a bias towards comic book movies or just go see comic book movies and ignores everything else, or if it’s a bunch of people who appreciate the screenplay for its differences compared to other comic book movies. It’s darker, grittier, contains more violence and foul language, and it just contains things that makes anyone who works at Disney hide in the corner. I’m not gonna focus on Best Original Screenplay, I don’t really have much to say about it. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m gonna just dive into categories which can feel more like an essay as opposed to a couple of forced complete sentences. Either that or if I feel if it has some sort of relevance to me, that will play into this sort of thing as well.

Next up is a category containing something I often think about, Best Original Score.

  • Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water) (WINNER!)
  • Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk)
  • John Williams (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
  • Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread)
  • Carter Burwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Before we get into discussion concerning the winner, let’s talk about John Williams. John Williams, without a doubt, is a great composer, and there’s a reason why people love his work. Not only has he done some of the most iconic movie scores of all (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Home Alone, Jaws), but he’s proven to be talented for many many years. Although him being nominated for his work on “The Last Jedi” is just… Bogus. I have seen every single “Star Wars” film scored by John Williams, including the latest one in the franchise, “The Last Jedi.” The movie’s mediocre overall, I admittedly overhyped it when I first saw it, it was a whole thing. When it comes to John Williams, I honestly don’t see how he could have been nominated for an Oscar other than the fact that he’s the one doing the score. You remember the score for “Rogue One?” That one was the only score for a theatrically released “Star Wars” film that isn’t from John Williams. That score, while not recognized all that much for awards, was not only a delight to hear, but a different take on what could qualify as “Star Wars” music. I’ve given some sort of praise to “The Last Jedi” for being different, but one aspect that didn’t feel different was the score. It felt like it just took themes from “The Force Awakens” and other “Star Wars” films and shoved them right into this one. I still remember the climactic scenes and I’m hearing the “March of the Resistance” song and it just felt underwhelming unlike the first couple of times. I like John Williams, I think he’s skilled, but what the hell? There are other scores that weren’t even nominated that could have qualified! “Blade Runner 2049!” “Wonder Woman!” And even though this film wasn’t really that good, I’d be fine with live-action “Ghost in the Shell” because at least various aspects of the movie, such as the music, made it sound like it was trying. “Revenge of the Sith’s” score was never nominated for any Oscars, but if you actually think “The Last Jedi” had a better score than “Revenge of the Sith,” I’m gonna force-choke you. Now onto something that matters.

I wanted “Dunkirk” to win Best Original Score. Although in the end, it turned out to be “The Shape of Water.” And funny enough, the composer for the score in “The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat was originally going to compose the music for the recently mentioned “Rogue One” before that job ultimately went to Michael Giacchino! Desplat has also scored 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which I saw, enjoyed, but can’t say I liked as much other people. You know, kind of like its score. Seriously? It lost to “Interstellar?” You done goof, Academy. I’ll say this is one of those wins, much like a couple of others that really make me interested in checking out “The Shape of Water.” It would be interesting to hear what music related to a woman and fish who wanna f*ck sound like. I thought “Dunkirk” would win for its grand and fast-paced feel, but I guess not. But seriously though, no love for “Blade Runner 2049?”

Speaking of that, let’s talk about the nominees and winner for Best Visual Effects.

  • Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER!)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

From what you can tell, I love “Blade Runner.” I love both the original film and its sequel. An enormous part of me is beyond glad that it won Best Visual Effects. I will say though, I imagine some people have these every once in awhile. They have certain categories in award shows where they don’t care who wins because they think all of them are deserving of the prize. This to me, was one of them. I will say, part of me is shocked that “War for the Planet of the Apes” didn’t win because a lot of people were impressed by that film visually. Interestingly, that was the only film of the five nominees I didn’t watch at the very least in portions. I’ve seen part of “Kong: Skull Island,” and every other film including “Guardians,” “Star Wars,” and “Blade Runner,” were ones I watched from beginning to end. Part of me even wonders how many people are thinking right now that “War for the Planet of the Apes” got snubbed. Nevertheless, I’m happy “Blade Runner 2049” won. If you have not seen “Blade Runner 2049,” you might occasionally drop your jaw at the city of Los Angeles, the fact that they did a clear recreation of Sean Young who played Rachael in the original film, and how much you’ll be immersed that a part of you might end up wanting to jump in this world. If “War for the Planet of the Apes” won, I think it would have been a very much deserved win, but I’m incredibly happy that “Blade Runner 2049” took the cake.

One category that got a number of people talking was Best Film Editing. This is partially because of not only who DID win. But also because of who DIDN’T win. Here are the five films to have been recognized for their achievement here.

  • Dunkirk (WINNER!)
  • The Shape of Water
  • I, Tonya
  • Baby Driver
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

So “Dunkirk” came out on top as you can clearly see, and as someone who has watched the movie, I can understand why it won. It was told in a non-linear fashion, which only made the film a tad more interesting than it already was. Although it’s a Christopher Nolan movie, so this puzzle-like editing isn’t exactly a shocker. One movie that people were surprised didn’t win however was “Baby Driver.” I feel like part of why this didn’t win is because the Academy usually goes after dramatic movies like “Dunkirk” instead of movies that some people would refer to as “less serious” and “fun” like “Baby Driver.” Not only that, but I’m willing to bet part of it has to do with the whole Kevin Spacey scandal that’s been brought to the world’s attention months ago. Granted, this isn’t Kevin Spacey’s nomination specifically, but still. Am I disappointed “Baby Driver” lost to “Dunkirk?” Not really, I think both films are well edited in their own little way. “Dunkirk’s” non-linear fashion makes the movie more of a challenge to watch and ultimately more fun. Although with “Baby Driver,” the editing in that movie has given us some of the best action sequences of the decade. In my review, I praised “Baby Driver” for its thrilling action sequences and how it made me want more of them once one ends. I can see why “Dunkirk” won, but some love for “Baby Driver” would have also been appreciated.

If you remember the nominees for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, something in particular may have stood out to you.

They’re the same nominees.

Not only that…

THE SAME MOVIE TOOK BOTH AWARDS!

  • Dunkirk (WINNER!)
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Baby Driver
  • The Shape of Water
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

One thing I’d like to say about “The Last Jedi.” I actually beg to differ because I think it had 2017’s best LACK OF sound editing or sound mixing. Remember that scene where one ship goes into hyperspace and crashes through another ship in the process? HOLY. F*CKING. S*IT. As much as that movie could have been better, THAT. WAS. AMAZING. While I do think the general editing for “Baby Driver” was praise-worthy to the point where I can’t contain myself, the sound work is basically not a competition anymore when “Dunkirk” steps in the ring. The sound choices were authentic! The audibility was extreme! The immersion provided from all the noise was 100% pure! How can you go wrong with “Dunkirk” in these categories?! “Dunkirk” put me in a war zone, and if you tell me you missed out on seeing this movie in a theater, shame on you.

When it comes to Best Director, this was yet another one of those categories where I was left feeling a lack of a surprise.

  • Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) (WINNER!)
  • Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
  • Jordan Peele (Get Out)
  • Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
  • Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)

So… Del Toro won. Doesn’t shock me whatsoever. I don’t know what you may have thought as the one to come out on top, but this was rather predictable to me. And I feel like a big part of it has to do with his presence at other awards shows, how much del Toro’s name has been spoken recently, and also how many Best Director awards I’ve been aware of this film getting thus far. One that really stuck out to me was the Golden Globes, mainly because of Natalie Portman’s “all male nominees” comment, which honestly would have been better left unspoken due to its awkwardness. I wanted Nolan to win, partially because he’s my favorite director, and also because of the excellent job he did on “Dunkirk.” But yeah, you can’t have everything. Although, I will say, something in the same realm as Portman’s Golden Globes utterance occurred. Last year’s winner for Best Actress, Emma Stone (La La Land, Birdman), said this:

“It is the director whose indelible touch is reflected on every frame. It is the director who, shot by shot, scene by scene, day by day, works with every member of the crew to further the story. And it is the vision of the director that takes an ordinary movie and turns it into a work of art. These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces this year.”

This was so much better than seeing Natalie Portman onstage and having myself hear what she said. Don’t get me wrong, Portman’s a fine actress. Although let’s take a look at the situation at hand with her. She was standing next to RON HOWARD, someone who has directed a number of films. Films that by the way, are still remembered to this day! Howard even recently directed a film in the “Star Wars” franchise! A franchise which Portman was once a major part of as an actress! The two are talking, they’re about to present the award, and at one point, I hear Portman say…

“And here are the all male nominees.”

Yes, it is true that female directors aren’t usually getting as much attention as males. It is also true, that more males are directing movies as opposed to females. But to literally shame a director just because they have a penis, is just unbelievably ridiculous. How do you think del Toro felt taking that award home? I imagine he felt happy because he won, but seriously, he won after being accused of simply being a man. Emma Stone on the other hand, didn’t exactly make an awkward joke and instead quickly stated some words before moving on. It’s actually kinda funny. It was presented in a setting and manner that didn’t have a forced vibe, and I don’t have any feelings of cringe to describe to you. This comment, while it does point out the lack of women in the director’s chair when it comes to filmmaking, doesn’t feel like something that a man should be ashamed of hearing. Because for one thing, it mentions a woman got nominated. Also because it’s still technically a comment of praise. Literally pointing out that nominees are male the way Natalie Portman did almost feels like a comment meant to point out disdain towards the potential winners. Just look at the difference between the tone, delivery, and choice of words between the two people. Just look and see what I mean!

Speaking of women making achievements, one of them was involved in Best Cinematography… Although to me, that’s not even CLOSE to the best part of this category. The best part, is who finally f*cking won, after FOURTEEN nominations.

  • Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049) (WINNER!)
  • Hoyte Van Hoytema (Dunkirk)
  • Rachel Morrison (Mudbound)
  • Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour)
  • Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)

Best Cinematography. Sounds like a category that some people don’t care about. In reality, when it comes to filmmaking, I’m a writer. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a cinematographer. Although more than one name for me stood out on this list. You’ve got Hoyte Van Hoytema, who has to proven to be a great cinematographer with not just “Dunkirk” as a notable achievement, but also “Interstellar” and “Spectre.” I really admired “Dunkirk” when I saw it partially because of how well done the camerawork itself was presented from an immersion perspective, but also the fact that it was shot on mostly IMAX footage. If you didn’t go see this film in an IMAX theater, especially one with laser projection or 15/70mm projection, you may have just missed out on a one of a kind experience.

Another standout to me was “Mudbound,” and part of me thought the Academy was going to pick the cinematographer for that movie, Rachel Morrison. For the record, she was the first woman ever nominated for the award in all ninety of the Academy Awards shows. I’ll mention once again, I refuse to call “Mudbound” a movie. I have nothing against Rachel Morrison, I just have a problem with Netflix. I’d be rooting for Morrison more if she was given a movie that doesn’t associate with a company which will make me always say, as pervy as it may sound, “I’ll just take chill,” when asked the common meme-worthy question “Netflix and chill?.”

Then we have “Blade Runner 2049.” My runner-up for my favorite movies of 2017 list for a gigantic number of reasons. And speaking of gigantic numbers, let’s talk about the number 14. OK, in some realms it’s not really that huge, but you’ll see my point. Roger Deakins was the director of photography for “Blade Runner 2049.” And I imagine when some people heard his name, they got excited. Chances are, if these people have followed Deakins’ work, it might not be the first time they got excited about something like this. I can’t exactly relate, but having seen Deakins’ work in movies like “Skyfall,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Hail, Caesar!,” and “No Country For Old Men,” I agree with others when they say he’s one of the greats when it comes to cinematographers. Once again, the guy has been nominated for Best Cinematography by the Academy, FOURTEEN TIMES. Here is a list of all the times other than the one of focus when he’s been nominated. Note that the year listed is the year the film he shot came out and not the year he was nominated.

  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • Fargo (1996)
  • Kundun (1997)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
  • No Country For Old Men (2007)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
  • The Reader (2008) (shared with Chris Menges)
  • True Grit (2010)
  • Skyfall (2012)
  • Prisoners (2013)
  • Unbroken (2014)
  • Sicario (2015)

What happened to Deakins when he was nominated those thirteen times? Well, that can be explained in a video by TIFF Originals that starts off with the statement: “Roger Deakins is a loser.” The video is called “Roger Deakins’ 13 Oscar Losses.”

After watching this video if you have done so, you probably got a thought on your mind, and it may have been “Roger Deakins is a f*cking loser.” I’ll be fair and say some of the competition he had were deserving of their awards, take “Gravity” for example. Although this year with “Blade Runner 2049,” I only thought Roger was deserving of HIS Oscar. We get to the big moment. I see Sandra Bullock holding an envelope with “CINEMATOGRAPHY” labeled on it. She says some words before introducing the nominees, and when they are introduced. I just thought this was gonna be a year where the Academy doesn’t give him the award and just gives an award to Rachel Morrison just because she has a vagina. Again, I have nothing against Rachel Morrison. She actually did the cinematography for “Black Panther” which was such a treat. It came out really well! I imagine she’s a very nice lady, but I was rooting for Roger. I’ll admit, I’m not that religious. My main philosophy is to be a nice person, I am however not that religious. But as the nominees were introduced, I had my hands, containing all sorts of cells, interlinked. I WAS PRAYING. People were cheering for Morrison, and the others seemed to get some applause, but I heard more for Morrison than anyone else. So they’re introduced, and it’s time. Sandra Bullock still has the envelope in her hand, and she says this as she quickly opens it for the result:

“And the Oscar goes to, Roger A. Deakins (crowd erupts in a roar), “Blade Runner 2049.”

My reaction to that can be described in many ways. Part of me wished I had fireworks to set off after that win! Part of me wanted to go around the house doing cartwheels after the win! Part of me wanted to find some confetti to throw around after that win! My reaction, quite possibly woke up my mother and sister. I might as well have been a young teenage girl at her favorite boy band’s concert! I might as well have been at an event where I find out my kid in school won student of the year! I might as well have been a Chicago Cubs fan at the end of the 2016 World Series, where they finally had a victory after years and years trying to get it. People may say that Leonardo DiCaprio waited a bit to get his Oscar, which I’ll say, when he won it, I kind of wanted Matt Damon to take it, but that’s just me. Although for Leo, he won it on his FIFTH nomination. When you’re nominated THIRTEEN times, it’s almost like you’ll be that one person who gets a nomination, but that’s all. What if Meryl Streep never won a single Oscar? All of her wins, “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “The Iron Lady,” they never happened. Streep received her TWENTY-FIRST nomination for a role she did just last year in “The Post.” I can imagine the crowd roaring like a bunch of T-Rexes in an argument if that turned out to be her first win. Let’s take another example, because why the hell not? Imagine the New York Yankees. Some people don’t like the New York Yankees because they always win. But they’ve been in 40 World Series Championships. Imagine all their titles where they were victorious, all gone. The 40th appearance is the charm. That’s how I feel about Deakins here, the fourteenth time’s the charm. I can wholeheartedly approve of Deakins winning not just because it took forever and a half to happen, but just look at these shots and tell me they actually look terrible. I dare y’all!

Nice shot now isn’t it?

Take a gander at this beauty.

Look at this bad boy and tell me it sucks. I’ll wait.

Is it just me or does this define the meaning of life?

This shot screams something that in some worlds, would qualify as one word. Fan-freakin’-tastic.

LOOK AT THIS SHOT!

LOOK AT THIS F*CKING SHOT!

LOOK AT THIS MOTHERF*CKING SHOT! NO! SERIOUSLY! THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF PERFECTION! THIS IS A F*CKING MASTERPIECE! I’M GOING F*CKING INSANE!

My point is made. Roger Deakins’ victory, to me, may be one of the most deserved Academy Award wins in history. THANK GOSH! So many people can sleep now and have less dreams and concerning nightmares!

And now, as mentioned, we won’t get through every single topic listed for the Academy Awards today, but here’s one that people look back on years and years from now, Best Picture. Before we get into that, you may remember the whole “La La Land” and “Moonlight” mishap from last year? Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway come up onstage to present the award, they state the nominees, they’re looking at the card, and somehow awkwardness ensues. Suddenly, Dunaway announces “La La Land” won Best Picture, but the two had the wrong card. Celebration ignites! Cheering be heard all over the Dolby Theatre, and a moment later, Jordan Horowitz, a producer behind “La La Land” is onstage and he states “Moonlight” won Best Picture. He even showed the card! Turns out Beatty and Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope. So… What happens now? What idea could be better than bringing Beatty and Dunaway back? Jimmy Kimmel had some fun before diving into the nominees. “We’re in the home stretch. Nothing could possibly go wrong from here. Here, on the 51st anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, are Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.” They come out, Beatty says, “We’re glad to see you all again.” Dunaway adds, “As they say, presenting is lovelier the second time around.” The two continue speaking, eventually arriving at the point where they announce the nominees and the winner. By the way, they had the correct envelope this time. Here are the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture!

  • The Shape of Water (WINNER!)
  • Dunkirk
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • The Post
  • Lady Bird
  • Get Out
  • Darkest Hour
  • Call Me by Your Name
  • Phantom Thread

In my prediction post leading up to the Oscars, I said this was gonna be a close race to the finish between “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” I will say however for “Lady Bird,” that kind of changed throughout the night because it was nominated for five awards during the show, but the four that were already presented were all losses on their end. For “Dunkirk,” I thought it had a solid chance. The Academy seemed to give a lot of praise towards this film and it already won a few Oscars throughout the night. For “Three Billboards,” I figured it could win solely because it won Best Motion Picture- Drama at the Golden Globes. It also made a sweep at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. And it was nominated for a ton of Oscars beforehand, and it ended up taking home two before getting as far as Best Picture. Although if there was one I “knew” was going to win, it was going to be a movie with thirteen nominations including Best Picture. It was going to be a movie that already took home a few awards. It was going to be a movie praised by many critics and average moviegoers alike. It was going to be… “The Shape of Water.”

…And it won.

I have nothing in particular against “The Shape of Water.” From what I’ve seen in promotional material, it’s very good from a visual perspective, but I haven’t watched the movie so I can’t really say much else. Funny enough, I take a film studies class in my school, and my teacher actually asked if anyone in our class has actually seen “The Shape of Water.” Once asked, the class pretty much unanimously declined to put our hands up. I wanted “Dunkirk” to win. But hey, it’s already got some well deserved awards, especially in the sound categories. Also, remember, Roger Deakins won. So I was beyond satisfied. Although if “Blade Runner 2049” were nominated for Best Picture, you’d know I’d choose it. Or “Colossal,” that was my #1 movie of last year. Although I can understand why it’s not exactly been nominated for anything. But seriously, check that movie out if you can! It’s on several streaming services as we speak! So congrats to “The Shape of Water” and its crew. That movie is actually going to be out on home video in a number of days, so maybe I’ll watch it very soon!

Guys, that’s all I have to say for the 90th Academy Awards! It was personally a great show on my end. All of the commentary for the most part, wasn’t all that awkward. I may be in the minority, but the monologue between Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, The Carmichael Show) and Maya Rudolph (Big Hero 6, Bridesmaids), despite how it’s on a topic regarding issues I can side with, just came off as something that would belong in a one of those “SNL” sketches that gets shoved in there when the writers have nothing else that they can come up with. It took a topic that I would, could, and should agree on, and it just sullies it. I imagine both Rudolph and Haddish are pleasant people, and I’M SORRY that Rudolph had to suffer through “The Emoji Movie,” but this just felt weird to watch. But other than that, it was one of the greatest nights ever. I’ve spent some time watching people react to their favorite team winning the Super Bowl on YouTube before, and when it comes to Best Cinematography, that’s legit how I felt. My team won the Oscars, which is MY Super Bowl. Congratulations to everyone who has been nominated and has won awards, I’m looking forward to seeing who will be in the 91st Academy Awards show, and finally. Finally. FINALLY! I can now call one of the world’s greatest cinematographers, Oscar-winning Roger Deakins. I’d like to thank the Academy for making that happen.

Thanks for reading this very long post! Pretty soon I’m gonna have my review for “Annihilation” up for you all to read, and if you are wondering, I don’t live in one of the countries where you have to use Netflix in order to watch it so if that were the case, I wouldn’t have seen the film. Also, stay tuned for my Tom Cruise “Mission: Impossible” review series which will have its first entry up this month. Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you watch the Academy Awards? What are your thoughts? Did your picks win? Did they lose? Is there someone you really wanted to win or lose? Did you make any bets? Have you decided to check out any movies after watching the show? Let me know all of that info for an unofficial possible nomination for Best Comment. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

“Hey thank you, thank you. I better say something or else they’ll give me a jet ski and I don’t see myself on a jet ski somehow. I want to share this with my wife of 27 years, James, whatever. I want to share it with Andrew, Broderick, and Denis Villeneuve. Y’know I really love my job, I’ve been doing it for a long time as you can see. But y’know one of the reasons I really love it is the people I work with. Both in front of the camera and behind the camera. Some of my crew on “Blade Runner,” I’ve been working with for over thirty years. And others-others I met for the first time in Budapest. And this is for every one of them. Every one of them. In fact, I gotta say, it’s for us, because it was a team. It was really team- a team effort. Thank you. Thank you very much.” –Roger A. Deakins

Annihilation (2018): NOT Now In Theaters Everywhere. Will I See/Review It?

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we go any further with this current post, I made a promise to someone recently. Her name is Genevieve. If you have followed my blog or know me in real life, you’d know that I’m a tremendous fan of “King of the Nerds.” I don’t watch much reality TV, but that show shaped my life. Genevieve was on that show as a contestant, and she even worked on it after she appeared on camera. Since she was a part of something that altered my life for the better, I’ll return the favor by… well… letting you know about her own life. Genevieve and her husband, Paul, are having a baby. The journey to get there, provided a level of irritation that you probably couldn’t imagine unless you were in their position… is all explained… in “What the IVF?.”

As mentioned, “What the IVF?” focuses on the recently stated couple, Genevieve and Paul, who make a two year journey through Painsylvania just to have a baby. This will be a series on YouTube where the couple document their way through various struggles, such as sex, tests, math (can’t wait to see what formulas there are when it comes to having a baby), costs, and ahh! The needles! Get them away! For those of you who are actually reading this post not long after it got published and want to know how you can watch it, I’ve got some news, you can’t. I’m sorry, there is positively no way you’re allowed to watch this, there’s no absolute way you can even hack the system to allow yourself to view this content. I’m sorry, this promotion is completely pointless, and I shouldn’t have done it.

*VOICE IN BACKGROUD*

Wait, what’s that?

*VOICE CONTINUES*

It’s not even out yet? What a revelation!

*VOICE SPEAKS*

Oops! I mean, what a thing that I previously knew that also happens to be a revelation!

“What the IVF?,” or if you’re a mega acronym enthusiast, “WTIVF?,” is gonna have its first episode uploaded on March 5th, be sure to stay tuned, so you can enjoy the unfortunate hardships and the wonderful successes between Paul and Genevieve. If you want to watch the trailer for this, the video’s located up above. Also be sure to click the links to their website, their YouTube, their Facebook, their Twitter, their Instagram, all those links are down below, make the couple happy, and if you want, tell em I sent ya over!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

If you have followed this blog recently, chances are that one of my recent posts may have caught your eye. That post goes by the name “Why I Won’t Review “The Cloverfield Paradox (2018).”” In that post I explain that I have seen “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Lane.” I enjoyed both movies and I even reviewed “10 Cloverfield Lane” since it was 2016 and I figured I’d talk about a recently released title (by that I mean a title released in what was then the current year). But the one thing holding “The Cloverfield Paradox” back for me, despite its clever marketing, the fact that it’s a another “Cloverfield” movie, and it being a film that looked good from the spots I saw on TV, is where it was placed. Specifically, Netflix. I said I refused to review the movie simply because of where it was placed. With some exceptions (mainly “Sharknado” films), I only review movies released in theaters. Not to mention, I despise Netflix mainly because of what they’re doing to video rental stores like Blockbuster, what they’re doing to physical media, and what they’re doing to movie theaters. Netflix is a streaming service, and while I do happen to use Amazon Video and Crackle from time to time, I much prefer watching movies on physical media. Also, for a company that’s known for making effective content that doesn’t belong on a time slot a “straight to TV” film could take, why aren’t they putting their movies in theaters? And apparently people aren’t even caring, because the movie’s right there in front of them. They don’t have to get off the couch and head to the theater. Heck, they might not even be watching the film on a TV, maybe a phone!

Weeks later, another movie comes out, named “Annihilation.” This has nothing to do with “Cloverfield.” If you watch this movie and think to yourself, “Wow! That was a good “Cloverfield” movie,” just do the world a favor. Either seek some help, or if you SOMEHOW manage to have a movie buff card, turn it in. This movie has recently been released all over the world and people are loving it, calling it a masterpiece, a tour de force, a movie that’s not a sibling to something such as “Batman & Robin.” How is it to me? I don’t know, I didn’t see it. My first memory of hearing about “Annihilation” was when I went to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on opening night. One of the trailers that played was for “Annihilation” and I was pretty freaking stoked simply because of one guy. And that guy… is Alex Garland.

If you don’t know who Alex Garland is, he’s the director of a film that despite how I have praise for it, I don’t really think I have as much praise for it as other people do, but I still think it’s amazing nonetheless. That film by the way is “Ex Machina,” a beautiful looking film about a guy (Domnhall Gleeson) who is flown into this man’s (Oscar Isaac) house. While he is there, he is observing the owner’s work, specifically his AI. From there, it’s a well written, well directed, visually appealing film. From seeing promotional material for “Annihilation,” I didn’t exactly know entirely what to expect, although I thought the movie was gonna be sick, and much like “Ex Machina,” it would be like walking through an art museum at times. Although once I found out something that shocked me harder than electricity, I questioned whether or not this movie was really worth seeing. That something, involved Netflix.

I can’t recall exactly when the first instance happened to be when I saw the name Netflix somewhere in association with “Annihilation,” but still, it doesn’t leave out the fact that a part of me panicked. I wondered whether or not I would need to rethink my decision to go see “Annihilation.” My thoughts on going to see “Annihilation” could have been, well, you know, annihilated. I even told everyone on this blog in the past that I had an “Annihilation” review planned sometime in the future so this would end up being a broken promise depending on the decision I had to make. And that decision was, should I watch the movie? Let me tell you the whole story.

This movie was being released by Paramount Pictures, and it still is, but a deal was struck with Netflix on December 7, 2017. Why? There was a test screening for “Annihilation” and a Paramount financier who goes by the name David Ellison, wanted changes made to the film because he was concerned that it was “too intellectual” and “too complicated.” Garland didn’t approve of any sort of alteration, and a Paramount producer known as Scott Rudin sided with him. The two clashed and this eventually resulted in what exactly cannot be called a total loss in distribution rights, but it’s more of a partial removal than anything else. While Paramount was still set to release the film theatrically in the US and China, those were to be the only two areas they were going to release the movie in that fashion. Netflix would handle the rest of the distribution in other areas and it would go out on their streaming service seventeen days after the film’s theatrical release by Paramount. Alex Garland represented his personal disappointment about this, as shown below.

“We made the film for cinema. I’ve got no problem with the small screen at all. The best genre piece I’ve seen in a long time was “The Handmaid’s Tale”, so I think there’s incredible potential within that context, but if you’re doing that – you make it for that and you think of it in those terms. Look… it is what it is. The film is getting a theatrical release in the States, which I’m really pleased about. One of the big pluses of Netflix is that it goes out to a lot of people and you don’t have that strange opening weekend thing where you’re wondering if anyone is going to turn up and then if they don’t, it vanishes from cinema screens in two weeks. So it’s got pluses and minuses, but from my point of view and the collective of the people who made it – [it was made] to be seen on a big screen.”

Personally, I side with Garland for a number of reasons.

As someone who is such an advocate for movie theaters, I know, sounds political, I don’t care, it rolls off the tongue. I can totally see this as a film that can come off as a success in the theater. I know various films based on books and other material have been released in mediums that aren’t theatrical. Although my view is this, if you want more money, release your film in the theater. Sure, I sound like a greedy moron, but in reality I’m just stating the truth. You’re paying a good amount of money for what perhaps could be an exhilarating experience. In some places, it’s cheaper than others, but it’s usually pricey. If you actually want to watch your movie on your phone instead of in the theater, you’re either a millennial or you don’t know what you’re missing. Also, if it adds anything, I’m a millennial.

Also, what I don’t understand is the request to change the movie to be simpler. Yes, I don’t mind simple movies. Anything, even Emojis, can make a great movie, no matter how simple or complex it is. It depends on how it’s written, directed, etc. With that being said, it’s obvious that Alex Garland had a vision of how this would turn out. Maybe it’s not just Garland, but since this movie’s based on a book written by Jeff VanderMeer, maybe he had a vision too. If the book was complex for a lot of people, I can’t say it is or isn’t, I never read it, I don’t know. It has occurred to me recently how much I appreciate it when studios don’t interfere with films. I mean, look what happened to “Risky Business!” While it’s a near-perfect film, if they kept the original ending, I would have given the film a minor boost in terms of likability. But no, Warner Brothers just had to get in the way! Also, another thing, experience has taught many people that movies that have complex layers, make people think, or take their time at telling a story are artistically well done pieces of work that turned out to be absolute masterpieces. Why do you think people are still talking about movies like “Inception” to this day?

While I didn’t fully form my opinion for “Annihilation” due to my lack of seeing the movie, I know a guy wo did. That guy, is freaking Jeff VanderMeer, who as mentioned, is the author of the book this movie’s based on! According to Collider, after VanderMeer witnessed “Annihilation,” around nine months prior to the film’s release, he said it was “extremely horrific” and “mind-blowing.” Here’s an actual quote from the author.

“It’s actually more surreal than the novel. There are a couple places where I was like, ‘I might need an anchor here.’ The ending is so mind-blowing and in some ways different from the book that it seems to be the kind of ending that, like “2001” or something like that, people will be talking about around the watercooler for years… Visually, it’s amazing. I must say that and that’s all I probably should say.”

Let me just say, I can understand a director getting mad or disappointed over having to change something that they might perhaps be proud of due to studio interference, but this is actually extremely horrific, and not the kind VanderMeer thought of. When the author of a book sees their own story on screen done by somebody else, praises it to the tenth degree, and even calls it better in various aspects, you better respect that author! Yes, it’s Alex Garland’s movie, but you got to remember, this was also Jeff VanderMeer’s book! Let the two have their way!

Although then again, Stephen King hated the movie adaptation of “The Shining” and there’s evidence of Rohld Dahl disapproving of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and yet those are considered absolute classics so what do I know really? It all comes down to personal taste, but when there is LITERAL CONCRETE EVIDENCE of an original storyteller adoring a piece of work which happens to be an adaptation of their story, other people BETTER KEEP THEIR STINKING PAWS OFF! You know, kind of like how I said Netflix should have kept their paws off “God Partic– err I mean “The Cloverfield Paradox.”

I said in “Why I Won’t Review The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)” that my reason behind what the title suggests has to do with Netflix and my personal disconnect with the company. I can’t imagine myself reviewing a Netflix movie. I can’t imagine myself passionately looking at trailers for Netflix movies. I can’t even imagine myself watching a Netflix movie. But here’s the thing about “Annihilation…”

I ALSO said in “Why I Won’t Review The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)” that Netflix doesn’t release movies in theaters. I might not be serious about this, but I said I’d probably get rid of my Netflix boycott if they start putting films in theaters And while Netflix is keeping this like their other films and keeping it away from theaters, Paramount isn’t. And as far as my country (USA) is concerned, we’re getting it theatrically released here. So, to answer the question, will I see the movie? Yes I will!

Well… Maybe… If I get the opportunity.

I’m really looking forward to “Annihilation.” I never read the book it’s based on, I don’t know if I will, but this movie looks like a great sci-fi film! I said before, I loved Alex Garland’s work on “Ex Machina,” and who knows? Maybe this movie will be even better. Yes, from what I heard from a racial perspective, the characters apparently aren’t accurately presented, but that’s a topic I might touch on a little more if I a post a review for this movie. So yes, “Annihilation,” you’re not on my enemy list. Thanks for reading this post, pretty soon I’ll hopefully have a review up for “Annihilation” as mentioned before, but I also might go see “Game Night” in the near future, and who knows, maybe I’ll go see “Red Sparrow” if the opportunity comes up.

Also I want to make an announcement, I’m not exactly sure when I’ll start this, but I can tell you it is happening at some point, I’ll be doing a series of “Mission: Impossible” reviews. I don’t have exact dates planned out for each one, because I’m not exactly what you call a schedule follower, I can tell you my plans are to do one “Mission: Impossible” film per month and these are going to be all the Tom Cruise installments. In March I’m gonna be doing “Mission: Impossible” from 1996. In April I’m gonna be doing “Mission: Impossible II.” I’m gonna follow up from that in May with “Mission: Impossible III.” I’ll then continue on in June with “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” And I’ll conclude the series in July with “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation.” This is all being done in preparation for “Mission: Impossible: Fallout,” which is due to come out in theaters July 27 of this year. Stay tuned for those reviews, should you choose to accept them. Also, stay tuned for other great content as well! I want to know, what are your thoughts on this Paramount/Netflix deal? Do you think it’s a good idea? Also, since it’s still somewhat relevant, what are your thoughts on “The Cloverfield Paradox?” Did you see it? I know some people weren’t exactly satisfied with it, but I want to know if you’re in that territory or somewhere else! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

75th Golden Globes and Gender Equality: What Does It Equal?

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! On January 7th, 2018 the “75th Golden Globes” was held. Seventy-five, undoubtedly, is a big number for any event, however this felt like other “Golden Globes” shows I watched with a 75 shoved in the title. Although based on my experience, it wasn’t as pleasant to watch. Nevertheless, it happened. Strange things occurred when it comes to the show. No, that’s not a “Stranger Things” pun, even though the show had a nomination. Apparently “The Boss Baby” was GOOD ENOUGH to be nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. As for one of the winners, specifically James Franco (The Disaster Artist), who won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, which in my opinion is incredibly deserved, he allowed Tommy Wiseau, the person who may be most responsible for his film, to come onstage as he was thanking him. As Wiseau came up, he tried to take the mic, but Franco pushed him out of the way. To be fair, Franco had limited time to speak so this was rather understandable. However it still comes off as either rude or weird. I don’t know, make your pick.

For those who were wondering what Tommy would have said, he went on KTLA 5, a local news network out of Los Angeles, CA. While he was on the program, he was promoting his disasterpiece, “The Room,” saying it’ll be back in cinemas for one night only, specifically Wednesday, January 10th. This technically means that “The Room” has a quality that associates with a lot of bad movies, despite how this is technically a rerelease, you can now say “The Room” released in January! During the promotion, the whole push incident was brought up. Tommy explained what he would have said if he actually had the mic. “If a lot of people love each other, the world would be a better place to live, and I’d say I’m making dream, it’s alive, it’s real, and again I’m very proud of “The Room,” etc. That’s it, that’s all I want to say. Nice thing. But somebody was like naaaaw, you cannot do that.” Out of all the things that were prominent at the Golden Globes this year, it was the message to not sexually harass and the promotion of the #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement was popularized in October 2017 when word was getting out that apparently a lot of men in Hollywood happened to be perverts. Such people included Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Ben Affleck, Danny Masterson, Brett Ratner, and Bryan Singer. I think this movement is a good way to say that you shouldn’t sexually abuse others against their will.

When it comes to a lot of award shows I watch, I notice that they always touch upon certain social issues. As this occurs, people give their thoughts on the issue and I have nothing against it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion on anything. Unless of course you actually enjoyed “The Emoji Movie.” This year, the Me Too movement was extremely prominent. Almost everyone was wearing black. Not just women, but men too. A lot of women mentioned something along the lines of sexual harassment and how awful it is in their acceptance speech, Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecil B. DeMille award, which lead to an extended speech about sexual harassment, how “time is up,” and letting women know that they shouldn’t have to worry about the concept as much in the future now that all of the #MeToo stuff is happening. The #MeToo movement from my personal point of view is a very positive movement. However, the question I have is, is it completely justified or executed in a proper manner?

On one hand, I’d say it’s absolutely justified, sexual harassment is a serious issue. I’m well aware it’s usually the men who give the harassment and the women who receive the harassment, and I’m proud of all these women coming out and telling the hidden secrets behind all of the perversion they’ve received over the years. There are times however during this Golden Globes event where I think the events surrounding it went a little too far.

As mentioned earlier, almost everyone who attended the Golden Globes wore black. When it comes to the people who didn’t, one standout is Blanca Blanco. Yes, that’s her real name. Blanca Blanco is an actress who appeared in movies such as “Teen Star Academy” and “Fake News.” So in other words, you probably don’t care about what she’s done career-wise. Blanco showed up to the event wearing a red dress, which eventually lead to loads of flak. She made an exclusive statement to Refinery29, an American digital media company whose target audience is young women, and she had this to say:

“I love red. Wearing red does not mean I’m against #timesup movement. I applaud and stand by the courageous actresses that continue to brake the circle of abuse through their actions and their style choice. It is one of many factors leading women to a safer place because of their status in the acting world. I am excited about the ‘Time’s UP’ movement because true change is long overdue.”

By the way, me spelling “brake” is not an error, that’s how Blanco wrote her statement.

Up above is a photo of Blanco in her red dress, and this is when the controversy first started. A number of people think the dress is fine example of stupidity that disgraces the #MeToo movement whereas others think its just a nice looking dress that stands out. I’m on the side that doesn’t exactly care about the dress color. It’s extremely elegant and presentable as a dress, and it doesn’t matter whether its red or black or violet! Although rainbow colors would be a little weird for it according to my imagination. Blanca Blanco is that one person who shows up at the photo studio for a family photo who didn’t wear the same outfit, and I don’t care! By the way, why do outfits always have to match for family photos? That’s so odd! If I ever shown up to an event such as the Golden Globes, I would try to look nice, but in the end, color isn’t something that should necessarily be non-optional for its attendees. You can do it to show your support for a movement, but just because someone doesn’t wear a certain color, it doesn’t mean they don’t support a movement. What was it that Blanca Blanco said in that statement?

“I love red.”

You go girl! Also, what amazes me about this is how women’s rights are still an issue today, and everyone is kind of saying that this woman doesn’t have the right to wear red. By the way, I’ll have Blanca Blanco remind you something.

No red-shaming!

Next up, we’re gonna talk about Natalie Portman, or as I like to call her, one of the two people in a romantic relationship that had no chemistry in “Star Wars Episode II.” She’s a fine actress, but from a script perspective her character just didn’t work. During hear appearance at the Golden Globes, she went onstage alongside Ron Howard, and before going any further. Look at Natalie’s smile! She looks like she went into an orphanage, stayed awhile, and had a nice meal. And by a nice meal, I mean she ate all of the children! While the two were onstage, they were presenting the nominees and winner for Best Director. Natalie had one thing to say before the nominees were presented. She said, “And here are the all male nominees.” Best Director had five nominees, all of which were male. They are Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Steven Spielberg (The Post), Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World), and Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water). Let me just say that all of these from what I heard were completely justifiable nominees, and I can somewhat understand people complaining that Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) or Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) didn’t get nominated. However, I don’t really find this joke funny. For one thing, it’s kind of forced and comes off as cringeworthy. Another thing I don’t like about it is that it’s basically shaming talented people, just because they’re men. Yes, you can technically say that the nominators are to blame here, but in reality, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re accusing them for nominating people and what they did was wrong because they have something that they can’t alter! Well, unless you get a procedure done. Not to mention, Portman was standing next to Ron Howard, a male director. Do I find the jab offensive? Not really. It’s just something that shouldn’t have been said. This may be a night to promote gender equality, but it’s also a night to celebrate achievement in film. And yes, more female directors would be nice, but it’s a female’s choice on whether or not she directs a movie just like how it’s a male’s choice. As much as I would love to see more great movies directed by women, I ultimately just want to see terrific movies directed by PEOPLE. Speaking of women and men, let’s talk about how the show opened.

Seth Meyers kicked the night off by walking onstage, and before he introduces himself with his full name, he says to everyone, “Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen.” Having heard that, not only is that clever, but also hilarious. The monologue continues and eventually arrives at a point where Seth does a bit that he does on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” called Jokes Seth Can’t Tell, but every single joke is coming from a Hollywood star in the Golden Globe audience. I can’t really say I laughed all that much, even though it was nice hearing Jessica Chastain’s voice. At one point, we get to Amy Poehler, who I can’t really say makes terrible decisions in the business given that she played Joy in “Inside Out,” but hearing her talk here made me think I was watching “Ghostbusters” 2016. I’m not against feminist values, but she’s just forcing this “mansplaining” joke, if you can call it a joke, down everyone’s throat. It just felt like an awkward comedy or a really horrible “SNL” sketch.

Also, I want to say, Barbra Streisand (Yentl, The Guilt Trip) showed up at the event, and when she went onstage, this happened to be towards the end of the show. This was some time after Oprah Winfrey accepted her Cecil B. DeMille award. I must say, out of everyone who appeared and spoke at the event, she probably had the speech that will be recalled most out of them all. When Oprah exclaimed “Their time is up,” that put my brain into remembrance mode. So when Streisand shows up onstage later, she reminds everyone that time’s up, she was the first and only female director to win Best Director at a Golden Globes event, and that we need more female directors, not to mention more nominated female directors. I’m gonna say the same thing I said about Natalie Portman. People should make great movies, not just women. And I’m also gonna say this, just let the people nominated have their night. Much like Natalie’s jab, I don’t find anything Streisand is saying offensive. In fact, she does make a good point, we do need more competent movies from female directors. Although in reality, movies are movies, and people are people. I don’t care who directed the movie, as long as it’s not Anthony Ferrante (Sharknado 1-5). In the end, I just think what she’s saying is somewhat disrespectful at this time and place. If all the Best Director nominees were objectively terrible, let’s just say the nominees were Michael Bay (Transformers: The Last Knight), Paul W.S Anderson (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter), Peter Chelsom (The Space Between Us), Tomas Alfredson (The Snowman), and Dean Devlin (Geostorm), then I’d understand. However, all the nominees probably deserved some respect based on how well received their films happened to be. I seriously want to know, when you watch “America’s Got Talent,” does the host, AKA the one who presents all the winners and people going through to the next round, say something like “We need more variety winners?” No they don’t! I’m not against Oprah Winfrey’s speech whatsoever because it was mainly about ending abuse. Not nominating many female directors isn’t abuse, it’s just not considering people in a certain category. Also, I must say, at least Natalie Portman’s comment, while perhaps forced, was an attempt to make people laugh. Streisand’s comment just felt like it was rushed and it literally had no impact other than simply existing. With the exception of a gender swap, there is probably no other way a man can change exactly who they are. They’re a man, they can’t control that, just as how women can’t control being a woman. I’m not against the idea of nominating more female directors and having them win, but I’m against the idea of women literally having to insult boys for being boys. PLEASE DON’T TAKE THOSE LAST FOUR WORDS THE WRONG WAY.

There are so many people who gave this Golden Globes event a 1 on IMDb, and I can see why. I wouldn’t say it’s a 1/10 show, there are some good moments, it’s just that a chunk of the stuff about Time’s Up came off as forced despite being a positive movement, much like the #MeToo movement. You can share ideas, but there’s a fine line between sharing ideas and forcing them. Sharing them was done with Seth’s introduction line, forcing them was done with Natalie Portman as she presented the Best Director nominees. Next year, let’s try sharing and see how that pans out. Thanks for reading this post, I just want everyone to know that next week I will have my review up for “Molly’s Game,” I’m going to see it next Monday, so I’ll either get the review up by the end of the day or on Tuesday. Also, on Thursday, January 18th, I’m going to be starting my review series for the “Maze Runner” movies, starting with the first installment, simply referred to as “The Maze Runner.” This is being done because the third movie in the series, “Maze Runner: Death Cure,” will be releasing January 26th, and I figured I’d review the first two “Maze Runner” films in preparation for the third installment. Stay tuned for those reviews, and look forward to more great content! Did you watch the 75th Golden Globes show? What did you think? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.” -Oprah Winfrey

Thor: The Dark World (2013): Why Is Kat Dennings In This Movie? *SPOILERS*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! This week is a pretty big week for movies as far as this year goes because “Thor: Ragnarok” comes out this Friday, November 3. If you have seen my reviews for the other films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be released this year, you may know I wasn’t a huge fan of those. Hopefully things will turn around with “Thor: Ragnarok,” but only time will tell. Although before I go see “Thor: Ragnarok,” I wanted to go back, watch the other “Thor” movies the MCU has to offer, and review them here. Last week, I reviewed the movie with Thor’s first MCU appearance, “Thor.” This week, we’ll be looking at the sequel, which is “Thor: The Dark World.” So let’s get going people!

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“Thor: The Dark World” is directed by Alan Taylor, who directed various episodes of TV shows including “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones.” The movie stars Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek, Rush), Natalie Portman (V For Vendetta, Black Swan), Tom Hiddleston (Midnight in Paris, War Horse), Anthony Hopkins (Beowulf, Hannibal), and Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra). When it comes to the story of the film, Dr. Jane Foster, who you may remember as the love interest to Thor if you’ve seen the first movie, has been cursed by an entity known as the Aether. Thor is also heralded by a cosmic event called the Convergence, which is simpler of way saying that nine realms will collide with each other.

As far as the movie leading up to this one goes, I think it’s probably the most underrated of the MCU movies. Like every movie in the MCU’s first phase, I don’t think it’s perfect, although at the same time I wouldn’t say it’s all that bad. In fact, it’s actually my personal favorite in the first phase. It contains a solid story, most of the characters are completely admirable, and the visual effects are stunning. As far as this sequel goes, do I think it’s as good as the first movie? No. This is a movie that has been doing what the MCU has usually been doing, but has grown tremendously in recent years, which is making several attempts at humor throughout the script. Now, are a lot of the MCU movies funny? Sure, but in recent films I think they’ve been trying way too hard with it, which is something I’m worrying about when it comes to “Thor: Ragnarok.” There are movies in the MCU that use humor as a signature part of the vibe, specifically “Guardians of the Galaxy.” This movie came out before that, and this is funny but also feels like it’s trying a little harder than it should. Although since we’re on the topic of humor, I have to say the one of most hysterical parts of the movie is probably the moment when Loki turns into Captain America for some time.

 

LOKI: (TURNS THOR INTO SIF) Mmm, brother, you look ravishing!

THOR: It will hurt no less when I kill you in this form.

LOKI: Very well. Perhaps you prefer one of your new companions, given that you seem to like them so much. (TURNS INTO CAPTAIN AMERICA) Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much… so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America…

 

The only thing I have to say about this, is… Why can’t we get more moments as funny as that?! Whenever a line that was uttered that was supposed to be funny I was as silent as I was during “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and the case I have here with “Thor: The Dark World” may have been worse than that movie because I laughed more while watching that! Not to mention, that movie even had more entertainment value, plus a better villain. Speaking of which…

The main villain of “Thor: The Dark World” goes by the name of Malekith the Accursed. What can I tell you about him? Not much. Upon rewatch of this movie, I’m starting to wonder if I was wrong when I said Ronan’s the absolute worst of the Marvel villains, because at least Ronan was a tad menacing. This guy here, he was kept mysterious in ways throughout the picture, but the mystery of the man was super uninteresting! He comes off as a very cliche “thing,” not the one from “Fantastic Four,” instead he comes off one that just wants to destroy the universe for the sake of destroying it. If you want to make a motivation like that work, make the villain worth appreciating! At least after watching “Guardians of the Galaxy,” I remember the name Ronan. I don’t think I’ll remember the name Malekith in t-minus a couple days.

Let’s talk about Thor in this movie. His character is a bit different than the previous movie now that he’s experienced Earth for awhile. He’s also currently in a relationship with Natalie Portman’s character who you may recall from the first movie. We’ll get to her in a few seconds. Thor is very charismatic in this movie, but based on how much I wasn’t really able to care about the movie as a whole, I can’t really remember much about Thor himself. He just had a job to do and he was supposed to do it. I’m sorry, but Thor from the last movie, was a thousand miles better than Thor in this movie.

Natalie Portman returns as Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster. Her character was, alright, I guess. If you recall my review for the first “Thor,” I said it basically forced the relationship between Thor and Jane. I don’t mind them being together, but it was ultimately forced. In fact, Thor left her alone for two years, which lead to a scene that I don’t think was as funny as it was trying to be. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it involves slapping. She was in a good portion of the movie, and she even goes with Thor to Asgard which took up a lot of the runtime. Regardless of whether Jane went to Asgard or not, there is one character I’m glad didn’t go with them, but am still disappointed that they put her in this movie.

Who am I talking about here? Well ladies and gentlemen, that would be Kat Dennings. Let me just say this first as a positive, if she wasn’t in the movie, it would have probably been different, so I wouldn’t call her character useless, but MY GOSH! She is annoying! If you don’t know who Kat Dennings plays she plays Darcy Lewis. She was also in the first movie and she displays a similar attitude here to how she displays herself in that movie, but come on, this is bulls*it! She’s basically the same annoying character that we saw in the last movie, except in that film, she was slightly annoying. Here, she is, if not almost, extremely annoying! This movie came out a couple years after the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls” premiered. That show began in 2011 months after the release of the original “Thor.” I say this considering the fact that Kat Dennings is one of the two stars on the show. The show was recently canceled after six seasons, but I once talked with my mother and she said this is probably the worst sitcom she’s ever watched. I honestly imagine that Kat Dennings might be funnier on “2 Broke Girls” because here the writing basically suggests she’s trying to do stuff in order to be hilarious, but it just comes off as ridiculous.

Loki returns in this movie, which makes this the third MCU movie which he appears. Although there’s something different about him here than the other times you see his character in these movies. Unlike “Thor” and “The Avengers,” he’s not the main antagonist. As mentioned recently, Malekith, AKA What’s His Name, is the antagonist of the film. But if you have seen the film’s marketing, you’d know going in, that Loki isn’t like that. He’s a character that is more than just that, and watching this movie, you’d realize that. That’s pretty much all I have to say. Also another character that returns here is Odin, but he’s not really worth talking about.

A big positive for this movie is one that to me, was also enormous for the last movie, and I’m talking about the visual effects. Everything just had a huge scope, it was bright, colorful, neat looking, whatever positive connotation you can put in for them. In fact, you might even say that the visual effects have improved for me since the last movie because I didn’t really notice any bad ones. Although at the same time, I will say my favorite visual effects from the “Thor” movies have to be in the first one, so deciding which movie is ultimately better from a visual perspective is kind of a challenge.

Now this movie is called “Thor: The Dark World,” and yes, there are moments in this movie which do live up to the name. There are Dark Elves for one thing, but that’s not the point. There’s one moment where something happens that is supposed to be this dark moment, but guess what? I DIDN’T CARE ABOUT IT! I’m gonna spoil this and I don’t freaking give a crap, Thor’s mother dies! She goes by the name of Frigga, and apparently she appeared in the original “Thor” but the main question I had about her when she died was this: WHAT THE F*CK DID SHE DO AND WHO THE FLYING S*IT IS HER CHARACTER?! We barely even seen this character, and I don’t even remember her from the first movie. If Odin died, I would have cared! He had a major role in “Thor!” He was the one that cast Thor out of Asgard! He told Thor and Loki that both are worthy to rule but one would rise to the Throne! What did Thor’s mother do?! Throughout her funeral, I just yelled at my screen saying “We get it! Thor’s mother died!”

Also, speaking of things that are forgettable, the scenes don’t really have much of anything to say that’s outstanding about them. Sure, they look nice, the ships shown on screen are rather unique, and seeing Thor flying around with his hammer can be considered a treat. Although there was nothing that kept me wanting more. I was just like, oh yeah, fight scenes, they’re here. The first movie shows Thor occasionally kicking some ass, but not as much as this. However the first movie played their cards right when it came to the fight scenes. The fight scenes were played out when it was needed for storytelling, here it was also necessary at times, but at least the first movie kept me glued to the screen. The first “Thor” was like the first “Star Wars” whereas “Thor: The Dark World” was like “The Phantom Menace.”

In the end, “Thor: The Dark World” is one of the MCU’s worst movies. When I first saw this movie, I gave it a 7/10. That’s not the case anymore. The comedy is shoved down your throat harder than pills inside an angry hospital patient, the action was well shot and fun at times, but ultimately rather bland and forgettable, and f*cking Kat Dennings. Just… WHY IS SHE HERE?! It’s really hard to decide whether or not this is the worst movie in the MCU, but this was a bad movie according to my recent watch. I’m gonna give “Thor: The Dark World” a 4/10. This is one of the hardest movies I ever had to rate in my life. I’m not even sure if the 4/10 will stick. It might increase as time goes on, but I’ll remind you, it’ll be a 6/10 at most, 4/10 at least. If you enjoy this blog but usually hate reading, I have a solution for you. Watching videos. No, I don’t post on YouTube, but I do post somewhere else, and that somewhere else is Stardust.

Stardust is an app where you can post short reaction videos to movies and TV shows. Let’s say you just went to the movies and went to see “Jigsaw” or just want to talk about other movies in the “Saw” franchise you watched in the past, you can post a video where you state some thoughts on the movie, what you liked or didn’t like about what you witnessed, all of that in a bag of chips. You can even do this with TV shows. Let’s say that a new episode of show such as “The Orville” comes out, you can sum up your thoughts on it, and it’ll then be shown to everyone on the app. You don’t even have to see the episode, because there is an option suggesting that you don’t have to see it, the same goes for movies too! There’s also a community of users on Stardust, so you can follow them to get updates on their latest reactions to movies and TV. If you want to follow me, my handle is JackDrees. Go download the app now on wherever its available and enjoy! Also, follow me!

Thanks for reading this review, I hope to have my review for “Thor: Ragnarok” as soon as possible, and if I see any other relevant movies, I’ll review those too. If you want to get more preparation for “Thor: Ragnarok” unleashed from your system, click the link below and that’ll take you to my review for the first “Thor” movie. Stay tuned for more reviews! Also, I want to ask, is Marvel trying to hard with comedy nowadays? or does it work? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

“THOR” REVIEW: https://scenebefore.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/thor-2011-you-wont-need-to-be-hammered-to-watch-this-spoilers-for-the-marvel-cinematic-universe-movies/