Amsterdam (2022): David O. Russell’s Latest Fast-Paced, Star-Filled, Forgettable Time

“Amsterdam” is directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) and stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Ford v. Ferrari), Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Tenet), Chris Rock (Madagascar, Grown Ups), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit, Last Night in Soho), Zoe Saldaña (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy), Mike Myers (Shrek, Bohemian Rhapsody), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Timothy Olyphant (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Mandalorian), Andrea Riseborough (Bloodline, Battle of the Sexes), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, Cats), Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Red Sparrow), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Selma), Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, The Little Things), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents). This film is mainly set in the 1930s, and centers around three people who are framed for murder. Together, this trio uncovers a plot that will change the course of history.

I have not seen all of David O. Russell’s films. I have seen “American Hustle,” which I was not a fan of. I have mostly forgotten it by now. I saw “Joy,” which I thought was cute. The acting was great, especially on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, but it was not my favorite movie of the year. I also saw “Silver Linings Playbook,” which, while not one of my favorite movies ever, is probably the best attempt at a feature Russell has ever given. I still have yet to see films like “Flirting with Disaster,” “Three Kings,” and “I Heart Huckabees.” I am mostly familiar with David O. Russell’s recent work. That said, he has built quite a name for himself as a filmmaker and it is no surprise that names like the ones listed happen to be working with him.

When you have this many Academy Award-nominated or winning actors and actresses in your film, it builds promise. It builds interest. It reminded me of when I saw “The Circle” back in 2017. You had all these culturally relevant or critically acclaimed performers like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Given their resumes, I was excited to see what they could do. Unfortunately, their collaborative efforts could not escape them from this misfire. “Amsterdam,” while definitely more satisfying than “The Circle,” is in the same boat.

The best way I can describe “Amsterdam” is to say that the film is all over the place. There is a lot that goes down in just a span of two hours that I felt like I had to take some notes. The film is not wholly incompetent by any means, but it begs me to keep up with its quick pacing. I like quick pacing, but at times, the movie goes too quick. There are a lot of characters and interwoven storylines that there is a good chance that I will have forgotten a couple of them by the next couple weeks. I think this is a film that could warrant a second viewing, but I am not sure yet if it has the replay value. At times, the pacing of this movie reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I know some people like, but for whatever reason I just could not get into. One moment we’re here, one moment we’re there, and in the next my brain, which has escaped from my body, might as well have traveled to the end of the universe.

If there is any saving grace in “Amsterdam,” it would have to be Margot Robbie as Valerie Voze. I thought she had the best moments in the movie. I thought the casting matched the character and the way she was written and directed. This performance solidifies Robbie as one of my favorite actors working today. Her chemistry with Christian Bale and John David Washington is solid, and as much effort as those two put into their performances, Robbie feels like the clear winner here.

Speaking of Christian Bale, if you want me to be completely honest, I think he had a more memorable performance in “Thor: Love and Thunder” of all things. I am not saying that Christian Bale gave a terrible performance in “Amsterdam.” If anything, it was stellar. But I think when combining acting with overall characterization, Bale’s attempt at playing Gorr the God Butcher was somehow more convincing and compelling despite a movie like “Amsterdam” appearing to be more along the lines of Bale’s forte.

It is crystal clear that the story of “Amsterdam” is not the highlight of the movie. If you ask me, it had its moments. There was a specific moment that intrigued me at the beginning where our main characters find themselves in an unspeakable situation. Unfortunately, as soon as we dive away from that, the quality of the movie lessens.

If I had to look in advance at 2022 in film and predict any Best Ensemble nominees at the SAG Awards, “Amsterdam” would have been a contender based on name recognition. However, much like Garry Marshall’s unwatchable holiday-based movies like “New Year’s Eve” and “Mother’s Day,” the movie’s cast is the one glimmer of hope within what can simply be referred to as a hot mess. At least on paper. I never thought I would see the day where we have Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Robert De Niro in the same movie. I just hope when that unpredictable day came along, there was good script for them all to bring to the screen.

As for other positives, the movie is attractively colorful. Not quite as glitzy and glossy as say “Elvis,” which in some ways might happen to be a good thing if you ask me. However, the look of the film is sometimes easy on the eyes. In addition to having a stacked, recognizable cast, a lot of them are wearing stunning outfits, some look handsome or sexy. If this were a silent film, this might be okay depending on what you put for text. The sets at times look presentable, elaborate, and occasionally have a vintage feel to them.

There is a saying that looks are not everything, and this movie is exhibit A as to why that saying exists. Yes, some of my favorite actors are put in the forefront. Yes, some of the costumes and sets look dazzling. Yes, the movie has an occasional feeling of immersion. Although this cannot save the film itself from providing what could be one of the sloppiest stories of the decade, and that is despite this movie claiming “A LOT OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.” Just because a story is true, does not make it entertaining. You want to know a true story? I woke up today and wrote this review. Imagine if I tried to sell that as a movie. The distributor would probably go out of business!

Here is a fun fact. Christian Bale, who has worked with David O. Russell in the past, signed on to do “Amsterdam” before a script was written. I get the notion of wanting to work with a big name director. Especially one you supposedly have a decent relationship with. Heck, if I were an actor and I hear the name Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele I automatically think “business partnership.” I hope while these two high-profile industry insiders were thinking about how great it would be to work with each other, they took a moment to think of the quality of what they were going to make. Because despite the quantity of big names, quality seems to be sacrificed when it comes to the final product of “Amsterdam.”

In the end, “Amsterdam” has occasional glimmers of enjoyment, with some extreme emphasis on the word “occasional.” The film has an okay start, but the film itself never finds a way to be as compelling or entertaining as its first ten or fifteen minutes. I liked “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I cannot say the same for “Amsterdam.” I am going to give the forgettable and dull “Amsterdam” a 4/10.

“Amsterdam” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! I will soon unveil my thoughts on a couple of horror movies I watched recently, specifically “Smile” and “Halloween Ends.” Also, if you want to see more reviews from me, check out my thoughts on “See How They Run.” 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 “Amsterdam?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast whose script could not justify its star power? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Northman (2022): A Hero’s Journey Collides with Robert Eggers’s Insane Personality

“The Northman” is directed by Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse, The Witch) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos, Bombshell), Claes Bang (The Burnt Orange Heresy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed), Björk, and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon). This film is about Prince Amleth, who loses his father and sees his mother get captured at a young age. Holding an infinite desire to avenge his father and save his mother, Amleth joins a band of Vikings, who raise him as a berserker.

PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 26: Director/writer Robert Eggers of “The Witch” poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald’s McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 26, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Robert Eggers is a filmmaker I do not traditionally think about all that much, but I have grown to respect him. If anything, I think my experience with Robert Eggers is equal to my experience with Ari Aster, who released “Hereditary” in 2018, and followed it up with “Midsommar” in 2019. Well, specifically, I mean this in reverse. Because the first movie I saw from Eggers was “The Witch,” which despite its quirky shots and angles, and non-traditional aspect ratio, left me feeling icky to the point where I hated myself for watching it. The next movie I saw from him, which if for some reason if you are still on the Robert Pattinson hate train, I recommend you watch, is “The Lighthouse.” That movie ended up being one of the most wonderfully weird films I have watched… Probably ever. Looking back, it kind of makes me want to invite a bro or two to my place, bring out some drinks, and dance to some old timey songs like maniacs.

Seriously, if “dope” had a current dictionary definition, they should literally implement this scene into it.

But with that said, I think it is important to note that my feelings regarding “The Northman” going into it were rather positive. I was gonna go see “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” but due to a conflict regarding someone I planned to see it with, it did not look like such a thing would work out. So I decided to use what free time I had and go see this movie instead.

It was… Interesting.

I feel like one of the best and worst things about films made by directors like Robert Eggers is that you probably don’t know all of what you’re going to get. But it doesn’t mean that Eggers’s quirkiness can always potentially sacrifice good storytelling. In fact, my first notable positive of the film is that the first act has pretty much everything I could want out of a movie like this. It properly sets up the world, solidly introduces some of the characters, including our main protagonist, has surprisingly halfway decent toilet humor, and even a menacingly intriguing presence from Willem Dafoe. The more I think about Willem Dafoe, the more I admire him as a performer. He practically commits to just about anything he chooses to do. I would love to see a role of his where he’s just sitting on the couch, watching television, and I am sure he’d still have the potential to be recognized during awards season. His role in the movie is not a big one, but it is one that I am sure if you saw it, you definitely won’t forget it. Unfortunately, I probably have forgotten about some of this movie. Partially because it has been a few weeks since I have seen it, but if you take out all of the weirdness of the film, some of the traits that are taken from other, perhaps better stories become more noticeable. And it would be fine if the rest of the movie kept my interest, but I will be real with you, I was checking the time to find out when the heck this thing was going to end.

I did not hate this film as much as “The Witch,” but I certainly did not adore it as much as “The Lighthouse.”

This is the biggest feature Eggers has done yet. Between a full-scale adventure that spans from land to water to the large cast, this movie ain’t small. Like, take the cast of “The Lighthouse” and multiply it by 25 or something. And I think the cast overall did a really good job. Alexander Skarsgård is incredibly convincing is a brooding, gritty main hero who wants nothing more than to avenge his father’s death. And I should not be surprised considering how he played Tarzan in the past in, coincidentally, another movie I maybe do not plan to watch again anytime soon despite liking when I saw it.

Nicole Kidman also gives one of the best performances in the film, delivering convincing line after convincing line, she is a true chameleon. I will also point out her look for this film. It blends in perfectly with the time period this movie is going for.

I would also like to give a mention to Anya Taylor-Joy because in addition to her well-executed performance as Olga of the Birch Forest, this movie seems to show that Eggers is bringing in his favorite co-workers from the past, either that, or actors really like working with him. Perhaps both ideas click here. We’ve seen Eggers bring back Willem Dafoe for a small role, Anya Taylor-Joy was also directed by Eggers in “The Witch.” When I think of actor/director relationships, my mind instantly goes to Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan, or Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, or Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. I will likely be watching more of Eggers’s work if he decides to make more movies, so I will be curious if either of these actors will become a mainstay for Eggers and continue to work together for every movie they do. It’s show business, not show friends, but sometimes business can allow you to make friends along the way.

This movie had a great start, and frankly an intriguing visual outlook to it. One of the best things about a movie or a TV show is that it make you forget where you are. I did not feel like I was watching this movie somewhere in Burlington, Massachusetts, I instead felt like I was transported to the high seas. I think this movie manages to capture a better sense of escapism compared to some others I have seen. As much as I liked “The Tender Bar,” the escapism does not feel as authentic when you remember that Long Island does not have candlepin bowling. That said, I did not hate this movie, I just wish the story and characters brought me in as much as the quirks and visuals did.

In the end, “The Northman” is a movie that is DEFINITELY not for everyone, and I honestly do not know if it was for me. And it feels odd saying that, because I like a stylistic movie. I like a movie that is different. But I also like the classic hero’s journey. But I have seen weird done better. I have seen the hero’s journey done better. I’ve seen an uncle killing their nephew’s father in front of their own eyes done better in “The Lion King!” Well, the 1994 one, the new one is a waste of time. I probably will watch this movie again at some point, I don’t know when specifically, because I think it could warrant a second viewing. Although for now, I don’t hate the movie, but I do not particularly love it either. Let’s meet near the middle in terms of the verdict and confirm that I am giving “The Northman” a 6/10. It’s a positive grade because a lot of the movie’s strengths are evident and prominent from start to finish, but it also bored me, left me slightly uninterested at times, and when it comes to the Robert Eggers library, I prefer “The Lighthouse” by a long shot. For those of you who have not watched “The Lighthouse,” it may not be your cup of tea, but much like “The Northman,” it is a movie that I think you HAVE to see at least once to find out if it really is your cup of tea.

“The Northman” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy or rent through a VOD provider of your choice.

Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, I have more coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!” 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 “The Northman?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film from Robert Eggers? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): This Movie Will Rock You, and Occasionally Drop a Rock Over You

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“Bohemian Rhapsody” is directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Jack the Giant Slayer) and stars Rami Malek (Night at the Museum, BoJack Horseman) and is about the story of Queen and its singer, Freddie Mercury. We get glimpses into the formation of Queen itself, Mercury’s personal life, and how the band went on to become the huge success and inspiration powerhouse that it is.

If you ask me what my favorite genres of music are, chances are that one of my answers would be rock. Queen formed during a time of rock and roll bands being pretty much in their prime. As we look back on them today, they’ve helped shape the genre with iconic beats, lyrics, and how their music has blended into our pop culture. One of my all time favorite scenes from a comedy that’s not necessarily funny is the pep rally scene during “Revenge of the Nerds” where “We Are the Champions” is playing as the nerds achieve victory against the jocks. One of my favorite songs that I often don’t typically quote as being a favorite song happens to be the movie’s title, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There so many elements to that song that separates it as its own thing whereas all the other songs follow a certain formulaic rhythm. While some may consider songs not following a rhythm a giant flaw, “Bohemian Rhapsody” manages to make such an odd quality work extremely well. Speaking of which, the creation of this song basically highlights something I’ve noticed while watching this movie, and something that I often think about when it comes to the movie industry.

One of my favorite movies of all time is “Blade Runner 2049.” Much like its predecessor, it failed at the box office. As far as the domestic total goes, it didn’t make its budget back. One reason behind this is probably likely due to the movie’s runtime coming in around two hours and forty-three minutes. There’s a part of the movie where we see “Bohemian Rhapsody” coming to life, and the executive is basically denying permission to let the public hear the song. Queen’s band members think their song is nothing short of a masterpiece, but as we all know, corporations are about money. This is where the phrase “time equals money/money equals time” comes into play. The executive thinks the song is too long, six minutes to be specific, which leads to a fantastic sex joke by the way. When it comes to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I assume a lot of people can look at a song like that today and say that it was created with a purpose to stand out from other songs. This is why I think modern music sucks. Most of the modern music I hear, especially those songs that play on loop on the radio for all of eternity, all seem to have similar patterns or formulas. It’s almost as if every song is an obvious remix of each other. Oh yeah, and with most modern music, technology has basically ruined a lot of it. Moments like this shows that it is sometimes OK to take risks and throw money out the window for the chance of an everlasting success. In terms of scenes, this was most certainly the highlight of the movie for me. As far as characters go, it’s gotta be Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury is played by Rami Malek, but in reality, to say Malek “played” Freddie Mercury is a bit of understatement. In my book, Malek transformed into Mercury. In terms of singing, it is a slight disappointment that Malek is lip-syncing, but at the same time, I can’t help but praise him for everything else. Everything from the mannerisms, the moves, and while this may be more of a compliment towards costume design, I have enormous praise for the outfits he’s got on. As far as his performance goes, I don’t know if it will win him an Oscar, but he certainly comes close as far as this year is concerned. In fact, I will admit, funny enough, when it comes to my overall knowledge of Queen, the way I view Freddie Mercury’s performance in this film is somewhat similar to how I view Queen in general. I for one definitely know Freddie Mercury and who he is. The other band members, I don’t really know their names, so why should I give a f*ck? That’s not to say that they aren’t good in this movie. All of their actors have done a great job at delivering effective performances, but they don’t stand out that much compared to Malek’s. Then again, that could be because “Bohemian Rhapsody” is more of a Freddie Mercury movie than anything else. Sure, it has Queen. Yes, it has songs from Queen in it. Although it gets through the life of Freddie Mercury in terms of seemingly important plot points. And the more I think about it, it does make sense, the only original member of Queen to have passed away was Mercury himself. Not to mention, the marketing seems to make the movie a lot about Mercury. In the first trailer for this film, it explicity states in text form: “The only thing more extraordinary than their music is his story.” Boom, now you know it’s a Freddie Mercury movie. I will say though, this brings me to some slight confusion about the title. I know Freddie Mercury sings “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but in reality, it is a QUEEN song, executed by multiple members. If you really wanted to smack-dab a sticker on this movie saying “THIS IS UNARGUABLY A FREDDIE MERCURY STORY,” just call it “Mercury.” Sounds kind of epic if you ask me. The more I think about the “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie, the more I think about Freddie Mercury. The other members of Queen just aren’t sticking out to me. It would be like the 2004 movie “Ray.” What’s the movie about? Ray Charles. Granted when I think of Ray Charles, I don’t think of any particular band, but still, if you are going to have your movie revolve around maybe one character as opposed to a band, take my suggestion into consideration. I’m not saying “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a terrible name. It’s an awesome name no matter where you slap it. Not to mention, for a movie like this, it’s still more than marketable. As far as any other performances go, the only one to me that truly stands out is Mike Myers (Shrek, Austin Powers) as the executive I talked about earlier.

If there was one big criticism I had with the movie however, it is some of the writing. This movie is obviously going for some Academy Awards, but I think screenplay is not one that will be achieved. While most of the writing is actually pretty decent, there are a couple of moments I just wasn’t able to believe. These moments just felt rather Hollywoodized. Granted, it’s a movie, and not everything has be crystal clear to reality, but these moments just felt like something I wouldn’t be able to believe. If this movie were pure fiction or a fantasy than maybe I’d buy into a couple of these moments I’m talking about, but I just don’t buy them here. Other than that, I’d say “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a fine movie and certainly worth watching in the theater. If you thought watching “A Star Is Born” is awesome in the theater, it might become somewhat obvious that watching “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the theater would have a similar effect.

Speaking of the theater, I want to go back to what I said earlier about the production of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” song. One of the complaints the executive had in the movie is that the song goes on forever. Let’s face it, a movie about Queen and Freddie Mercury is very likely something people would go out and see. And to prove it even more, IT BEAT A DISNEY MOVIE on its opening weekend. That same weekend by the way, it made less than a million dollars under its overall budget in the US alone! This film is two hours and fourteen minutes long. I wouldn’t consider this film to be a “long” movie, but once I walked out of the auditorium, I heard someone’s conversation calling the movie a bit long as far as they are concerned. I managed to find it hilarious, and maybe a little less than satisfying, to discover that the story to the “Bohemian Rhapsody” song would actually apply to the results of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie. To me, this movie reminded me of why I usually choose to enjoy every little moment of what I watch, as opposed to putting my head down waiting for the third hour to pass.

In the end, “Bohemian Rhapsody” had the exhilaration of a concert and at times, the joy of looking at a wax museum. Rami Malek shines as Freddie Mercury. The cinematography really immersed me into the story. The concert scenes were wild and fun. The costume design also deserves tremendous kudos. Is it a little over the top? At times, sure. But it doesn’t take away from the true spirit of Freddie Mercury and Queen itself. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is definitely worth your time, especially for a watch in the theater. I’m going to give “Bohemian Rhapsody” a 7/10. One last thing before I go, when I saw this movie, I witnessed it at an IMAX, and those theaters have given me some of my all time best experiences, but this time the trailers were playing and all of sudden the footage stopped and we were staring at a green frame for maybe five minutes. I have never had so much fun with a movie experience going wrong in my life. Thanks for reading this review! Please stay tuned for more content coming down the road because sometime soon I will be posting my thoughts on this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con! I’ve gone for the fourth year in a row, had a great time, and as someone who has gone for multiple years, I am excited to point out something that has probably been done differently than years before that counts as a complaint from the years prior that has now been somewhat resolved. Those of you who attend the con might know what I’m referring to. Without giving any hints, I’d just like to remind everyone to follow Scene Before either with a WordPress account or an email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Bohemian Rhapsody?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Queen song? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!