Smile (2022): A Grin-Inducing, Good Old Fashioned Horror Flick

“Smile” is written and directed by Parker Finn and is based on “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” a 2020 short film he previously made. This film stars Sosie Bacon (Scream, 13 Reasons Why), Jessie T. Usher (Survivor’s Remorse, The Boys), Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars, Smallville), Caitlin Stasey (The Sleepover Club, Neighbours), Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Designated Survivor), and Rob Morgan (Daredevil, Stranger Things). This film follows Dr. Rose Cotter, a psychiatrist, who witnesses a patient commit suicide during an appointment. Before her death, said patient says she is being chased by a smiling entity that tells her she is going to die. When Rose starts seeing strange happenings after said incident, she must find a way to survive and confront this reality.

Paramount is having a heck of year so far with its theatrical content. Between “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and the latest member to join the billion dollar club, “Top Gun: Maverick,” the studio is maintaining a solid track record with its tentpoles. Early on in the year, “Jackass Forever,” which was made for $10 million, ended up making over eight times that while in the cinemas. By the looks of things, “Smile” is following in the footsteps of all these projects. This movie came out at the tail end of September, and it is clearly having some notable success. After all, it has currently raked in more than $130 million at the box office so far. When considering the film is based on a short, a feature-length debut, and was produced on a $17 million budget, that is incredible. With Halloween just around the corner, I predict this film will continue to having staying power. After all, not only is it a financial success, but people are liking the movie itself. As for my thoughts, the hype is real. “Smile” is my favorite horror movie of the year.

Now, I have not seen every horror flick that has come out in 2022. I skipped “Scream,” and I still have not gotten around to watching “X.” Part of me wants to wait to maybe do an “X” and “Pearl” double feature. But of the ones I have seen, “Smile” might be the most… Grin-inducing. Almost every time I went to the movies, I saw a trailer for “Smile,” and it kind of had a campy vibe to it at times. Not all of what I saw was camp, but a trailer where an overly expressive dude repeatedly screams “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” does not promise Shakespeare. If anything, I was nevertheless in for the ride. Little did I know how much I would enjoy said ride.

The star of the show, both literally and figuratively, is Sosie Bacon as Rose Cotter. Bacon is perhaps perhaps responsible for my favorite lead performance in a horror film since Toni Collette in “Hereditary.” As Rose, Bacon delivers a performance where she comes off as increasingly twisted to those around her. The way this is executed from the giving and receiving end only makes me continue to root for her. The beauty of this performance also highlights the stellar direction of Parker Finn, who does a great job at putting you in everyone’s shoes, but eloquently brings you straight back to Rose’s.

Seeing “imaginary” things is nothing new in horror. In fact, I recently watched “It Follows” for the first time where such a concept was also handled well. Although the best thing about “Smile” is the altering perspectives between Sosie and the people she knows. It is how Sosie is seeing all these things and it causes people to have all these different emotions. None of which are remotely positive. While some of the happenings of this regard may lead to some predictable moments, the execution is solid enough for these things to work.

Once again, if you are not familiar with me as a movie watcher, horror might be my weakest genre. It is the one I seem to watch the least, and when it comes to my favorite movies, not many of them are actually within the horror realm. Sure, there’s “Jaws,” but by today’s standards, that is not a horror fest. That said, “Smile,” while not being as good as “Jaws,” is one of the scariest movies I have seen in my life. I watched a good chunk of horror over the past few years for Scene Before, and I cannot recall the last time, maybe other than “A Quiet Place,” where I jittered so much because something spooky may have been bound to happen. If you are looking for the spooks this season, this movie has them. Even the jumpscares are great. They are used sparingly, and therefore, perhaps used effectively.

“Smile” is a movie that makes something seemingly innocent look like the scariest thing on the planet. Smiles are not scary, they release serotonin. It is a fact. Although let’s be real, the smiles in “Smile” are definitely unsettling. This is a notion that I would also apply to what could be the best scene in the movie. Going back to the idea of Rose’s close friends and loved ones having different feelings than her, one of the highlights of “Smile” is during a child’s birthday party. Without giving away much, there is a singular instance that I did not see coming that shook me to the core. There was a cue for what was coming, but what the cue specified is a different story.

The film is not perfect. It uses some elements that have been used in horror films before, although it is somewhat forgivable given how brilliantly said elements are used here. The climax does become maybe a tad convoluted and is not as much of a highlight as the first two acts, but it still delivers enough creeps and entertainment to make the whole experience worthwhile. When I say this is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time, I mean it. My sister evidently enjoys horror more than me. We talked the other day. She wanted me to recommend a scary movie to her. “Smile” was the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it is recency bias, but I am still thinking about “Smile” after I saw it, so the movie more or less did its job.

In the end, “Smile” is the best horror film of 2022. If you ask me, this year has not been too great for movies, but this is one of the few highlights of the year so far. Simply put, I left the theater smiling. If you are looking for a fun movie to watch on Halloween and you do not want to stay home, I give “Smile” the highest of recommendations. Sosie Bacon is a standout as Rose Cotter. The love interest, Trevor, played by Jessie T. Usher, also does a great job. Based on the trailer, this could have been campy as could be. Although from my experience, I was delightfully surprised to find myself not laughing, but instead, quivering. I am going to give “Smile” an 8/10.

Before I go on, I need to talk about this film’s theatrical release, and how monumental of a success this has been for Paramount. This movie was going to go straight to Paramount+, but after positive test screenings, it was upgraded to a theatrical run. This film, which was made for $17 million, has already made over eight times its budget and is one of this year’s highest-grossing movies. I want to thank Paramount for providing one of the scariest times at the movies I had in ages, and for not putting “Smile” on streaming right away, because I do not think this film would have gotten the traction it needed to be as successful as it is.

“Smile” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of horror movies, stay tuned for my review for the all new “Halloween Ends!” This film just released last weekend, and let it be known that I have some things to say. Also, this Friday, October 21st, I will be continuing Steven Spielberg Month, which has already produced a couple reviews including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” My next review in the series is going to be for the 2017 film “The Post.” 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 “Smile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the scariest horror film you have seen this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (2022): A Catastrophically Legendary Failure That Will Make You Hate Cats and Dogs

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, The Lion King), Mark Koetsier (Kung Fu Panda, Big Hero 6), and Chris Bailey (X2: X-Men United, Kim Possible) and stars Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The LEGO Batman Movie), Ricky Gervais (Night at the Museum, The Office), Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs), George Takei (Star Trek, Kubo and the Two Strings), Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show, The Brink), Gabriel Iglesias (Magic Mike, Space Jam: A New Legacy), Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Shazam!), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction). This film centers around Hank, a dog who aspires to become a samurai. Once given the first glimmer of this goal, Hank is taken under the wing of Jimbo, a once great samurai, as he aspires to fulfill his destiny.

I am going to start off this review by stating something that may piss off some of my readers. I have never seen “Blazing Saddles.” I just have not had the time. In fact, as I started doing this review and refreshed myself through the cast on Wikipedia, I found out that this film is a loose adaptation of Mel Brooks’s well-known western comedy. To add to the similiarities, Mel Brooks even has a role in this film as The Shogun. I cannot confirm how many similarities and differences there are between this film and “Blazing Saddles.” Sure, there are some obvious ones I could make without having seen both films.

“Paws of Fury” is animated while “Blazing Saddles” is live-action. That’s the obvious difference. “Paws of Fury” is more focused on samurai whereas “Blazing Saddles” takes a more wild west approach with its story. In a way, this is almost a reversal of what “The Magnificent Seven” did as a redo of “Seven Samurai.” Because there is a solid chance that “The Magnificent Seven” would not be what it is if it were not for Akira Kurosawa’s creation. There is also a consensus that “Blazing Saddles” would not be made today due to the current climate and there being a greater strive to be politically correct in comedy. Obviously, this movie is mostly meant for families and children.

But children, mostly.

God help us all.

Some make the claim that “Blazing Saddles” is a movie that can not, and maybe should not be made today. They’re right. That is, if you are going to make it into something like this. “Paws of Fury” is the worst animation of the year.

I should not be too surprised that this movie is lacking in any and all luster. Because in my animation reviews, I often talk about Pixar as the gold standard on how you make an animated movie. Literally, this year, they released “Turning Red,” which slaps. And they followed that up with “Lightyear,” which is inferior by Pixar standards, but better than many movies could ever hope to be. They are a tough act to follow, but one thing that often separates Pixar from the competition is the studio’s ability to tell mature stories that do not rely heavily on cheap comedy gags that appear as if they were written for infants.

This movie is from Nickelodeon Studios. I have some nostalgia for Nickelodeon as “SpongeBob SquarePants” was my goto cartoon when I was younger. As I look back on the series, the early seasons had great writing, gutbusting comedy that ages like a fine wine. However, as we get through seasons 4, 5, 6, and so on, all of that trickles down. Every other joke is disposable, some character motivations and feelings come off as over the top, and they sometimes rely on sight gags that go too far. Similarly, this movie is no stranger to toilet humor. You want to know how much this movie relies on toilet humor? The main villain’s motivation literally involves the use of a super-sized toilet. I wish I were making this up. I’ll remind you, there is literally an animated movie called “FLUSHED AWAY,” which literally involves the use of toilets to further the plot, that takes itself more seriously than this when it comes to humor and writing. I think that toilet humor can be funny in doses and depending on the execution. As an adult, it is a bit hard to take it seriously however. Part of it is because it feels like the cop out of comedy. Fart noises can get a laugh, but fart-related jokes are so easy to write. All it takes is one noise. There’s very little effort involved. This movie tries to get creative with fart jokes by the end, but it did not change the fact that the whole concept of the joke felt lazy and forced. As much flack as they get, I think puns have more thought put into them than fart jokes. You might as well say that fart jokes can sometimes be… A pain in the butt.

I’ll see myself out. I have two working eyes.

Overall, “Paws of Fury” is very much that typical hero’s journey structure we’ve seen many times before. The potential hero is an unlikely one, but for whatever reason, the hero will do whatever he can to achieve his goals. On the surface, “Paws of Fury” feels like “Kung Fu Panda” if it were more samurai-based as opposed to martial arts-based. Except that “Kung Fu Panda,” while I remember it having maybe one joke that felt kiddy, did not treat its audience like morons. I already talked about the fart jokes, but this movie also has meta humor infused at times, part of which includes the notion that the flick “is only 85 minutes long.” I noticed over the years that there is a tendency amongst some people, and I include myself in this on occasion, to watch a film on the shorter side. It’s a time-saver, it helps with the attention span, and if you have extra time on your hands, it means you can possibly bang out a couple movies in a single Friday night. Given the frequency in which it appears, I am assuming that meta humor was always the intention from the film’s writers. But when I heard the “85 minutes long” joke, it only made me assume that the writers wanted to rush the project to its end. Like, okay, here’s a throwaway line! Let’s get to that pristine runtime!

This film has a stacked cast ranging from Michael Cera to Samuel L. Jackson to Ricky Gervais to even Michelle Yeoh. This film is not short on big names, and it’s almost as if they prioritized these names to get butts in seats over the story. Don’t get me wrong, just about every cast member plays their part to the best of their ability. Samuel L. Jackson does his best not to get in trouble with the parents who will be dragged by their kids to see this movie. Michael Cera is convincing enough to play a lanky dog hero who kind of sounds like a dork. Ricky Gervais does his best channeling his inner annoyed Golden Globes host personality as Ika Chu, a feline who wants to rid of a nearby impoverished town. Overall, the cast does their best with the stiff and sometimes lazy writing. But it does not change the fact that they are in a movie whose characters are mostly given stiff and sometimes lazy writing. This movie is not offensive, but it is almost uninspired. It feels crazy to say because it has an awesome opening sequence that had joyful Saturday morning cartoon vibes. After that, it’s all downhill. It goes to show that even when you have the competent direction and animation, it is not enough to hide a terrible script.

The one positive I can give this film is that it somewhat reminded me of something I learned in school. It may as well be the film’s takeaway for its younger viewers. There are films out there that unveil unlikely heroes, and this one is no exception. It’s the whole expect the unexpected cliché, but there was a scene that reminded me of a picture where a bunch of animals are given an examination to “climb that tree.” Of course, the monkey is the only one in the group who seems enthused by this order. The penguin, the elephant, the fish, the seal, and the canine are noticeably more hesitant. This idea could be applied to the entire film because it is about a dog who is assigned to watch over a town of cats. The dog is also trained by a cat to become a samurai. This leads to a particular moment in the training montage where we literally see a climbing course. I won’t say much more, but this scene is executed in a way that reminded me of “climb that tree.” It goes to show that there is more than one way to teach or learn something. Although for everything else in the movie, it pales in comparison. The movie is not funny, some of the characters are occasionally annoying, and it is full of clichés that have been done better. Do not waste your time. I have seen other animated movies this year that are better than this one.

In the end, “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is certainly legendary. More specifically, a legendary failure. Will kids like this movie? Yes, they probably will. And fortunately, as far as kids movies go, this is better for them than “Tom & Jerry” given how the protagonist is probably a more positive influence on younger minds. But I found myself more annoyed by this movie than anything else. I do not have kids, just to be clear, but would I let my kid watch this movie? Maybe. But I might have to leave the room because I can only take so much. But at the same time, I would worry, because given the movie’s script, it might only dumb down my kid should they keep watching it. Maybe they will grow up with the film, but not watch it past say their teen years. I did not know going in that this was an adaptation of “Blazing Saddles,” but I do know that I am going to give “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” a 3/10.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have another one coming soon! Be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on “The Gray Man!” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Blazing Saddles?” What did you think about that? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Gun: Maverick (2022): Tom Cruise Pilots His Way Through a High Flying Sequel

“Top Gun: Maverick” is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) and stars Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible, Risky Business), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk), Miles Teller (Whiplash, Fantastic Four), Jon Hamm (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Baby Driver), Glen Powell (Scream Queens, Hidden Figures), Lewis Pullman (The Strangers: Prey at Night, Bad Times at the El Royale), Ed Harris (Dumb and Dumber, Apollo 13), and Val Kilmer (Batman Forever, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). This film is a sequel over three and a half decades in the making, and follows Pete Mitchell once again as he finds himself in a situation where he teaches younger fighter pilots at Top Gun, including the son of someone he previously flew alongside, making matters personal.

“Top Gun” is a weird movie. I imagine that some people consider it to either be their favorite Tom Cruise movie or maybe even their favorite movie in general. To me, it’s neither. It’s a solid film, but in terms of Cruise’s filmography, it ranks down the middle for me. For all I know, part of why people like it so much could be for nostalgic reasons. I did not grow up in the 1980s, and if you want me to be real, looking back at “Top Gun,” despite the film’s evident advancements in capturing cinematic dogfighting, it feels like a product of its time. It has some cheesy dialogue here and there, the songs feel very much out of the 1980s time period, and the stakes for me did not feel as high as other movies. Then again, it is hard to have stakes when you have fighter pilots that are not actually going up against other fighter pilots, for the most part. But I will also give “Top Gun” credit because for a film where there is almost no threat to begin with, the film still has plenty of intrigue and gives us enough reasons to care for the characters, and not just because they are spiking volleyballs without shirts on.

The best thing about this sequel is that it successfully builds off of a key point of the original. Despite what I said about the stakes being low, there is a moment in the original movie where the main character of Pete Mitchell has to face an event with potentially dire consequences. Thankfully for him, the consequences are not as bad as they could have been. That is, until the events of “Top Gun: Maverick,” where they come back to haunt him, in addition to haunting one of his students.

I am glad that this movie has as good of a story as it does, because without those things, the movie would still be watchable for what it is, but I am satisfied to say that “Top Gun: Maverick” is not a movie that mainly relies on big, loud spectacle, and instead, blends such a thing perfectly into the material written for its respective pages.

On that note, however, my biggest positive for “Top Gun: Maverick” is the spectacle. Through my six years on Scene Before, I have always forwarded a singular thought. Movies are ALWAYS better in the theater. Even a movie as terrible as 2019’s “Cats” is better in a theater because of the weird spectacle. That said, if there is any movie that I recommend you go see in a theater right now, I not only recommend “Top Gun: Maverick,” but this movie commands your attention and it is one you need to see on the biggest screen you can. I had the privilege of going to see “Top Gun: Maverick” at a true IMAX cinema ten minutes from where I live. It was their first weekend open since the beginning of the pandemic, and walking out of the theater, I could barely even move because of how boisterous this movie was. And this movie was not boisterous because it looked like yet another cranked out Hollywood production with tons of digitzed effects, but because a lot of it was actually done for real.

Many of the film’s actors ended up using and flying real planes throughout the film. In an age where more and more movies are relying on green screen, or more recently, StageCraft, it is thrilling to see a film that pushes the boundaries of human limitations while also putting a pinch of reality in our fantasies. Tom Cruise, unsurprisingly, pilots a plane in this film. There are restrictions to his piloting, but knowing and seeing that only enhances the final product. I have had conversations with people where they said Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perhaps the manliest person alive. Sure, he’s got the LOOKS of a man with his big strong arms and attractive bald head. But let me know when he pilots a real military jet for audiences around the world to witness, as they bite their nails thinking, “this is the part where he crashes, isn’t it?”. No, seriously. I have watched a lot of movies. Between the previous “Mission: Impossible” and this movie, Tom Cruise is on a trend where he continues to captivate me harder into a scene than most actors, including ones that are perhaps more likely to be nominated for Oscars. And it is not because of how he goes through a scene delivering his dialogue, managing his physicality, and keeping his fellow actors in check. It is because of how much of a daredevil he has become over the years. Even in movies that were not well received like “The Mummy,” you could still look at Tom Cruise’s stuntwork and recognize the effort put into it. I am not saying “Top Gun: Maverick” is my favorite movie of the year. But it is a contender for the movie I will thinking about this year the most in terms of how it has projected me into an environment where I may has well been so close to falling to my death. For that reason alone, you should see “Top Gun: Maverick” on the biggest screen you can find.

However, “Top Gun: Maverick” also faces a problem depending on how you look at things. The movie, even though I believe modern audiences will enjoy it, gets too caught up in the good old days. The opening scene, while an amazing welcoming back to the “Top Gun” universe, only works because of how much it rips off the original movie. The midpoint of the film features an incredible scene between two characters. I will not say much more, but let’s just say that I, an aspiring writer, could not have written a better, more engaging scene between these two characters. You will know it when you see it.

However, there is another moment where everyone starts singing a particular song that did not feel authentic. It felt like nostalgia bait for the sake of nostalgia bait. There are movies that tend to rely on fan service and nostalgia that do such things well. I think “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did it well when that movie came out. “Top Gun: Maverick” on the other hand, was a little on the nose and it did not land as well as it could have. Some might enjoy it, some might not. Although I thought it was great to hear “Danger Zone” once again. But that also goes to show how one can be emotionally attached to something and therefore perceive something as good. I liked the original “Top Gun,” but I never thought it was my favorite movie. The original “Star Wars” trilogy was something I watched incessantly as a kid, enjoyed immensely, and therefore it is part of why I felt a spark of joy when certain things happened in “The Force Awakens.”

That’s a minor nitpick, but I want to point out a couple things in regard to this film’s depth. First off, I think at times, the relationship between the characters of Pete Mitchell and Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) felt a tad forced at times. They had chemistry, but it was overall very off and on. I personally think Cruise had better chemistry with Kelly McGillis’s character of Charlie back in the 1986 predecessor. In my review for the original “Top Gun,” I said that I learned of Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, the actors, not getting along on set. Having searched more information on that as of recently, I would not know if that is actually true because the only source I have telling me that as of recently is the “Top Gun” IMDb page, which may not be the most reliable place to base one’s information. I will note that McGillis spoke out regarding this love interest shift not long ago, saying she is happy for Jennifer Connelly, so I am glad to see there are no hard feelings.

Speaking of depth, let’s talk about the enemy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” There are multiple references to “the enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” We do not know who they are. Apparently this is also the case in the original movie where the Top Gun pilots have to go into actual combat against another force. In today’s age, I kind of get why they never specifically identify an “enemy” in “Top Gun: Maverick.” The film business is about money, and if Paramount makes a “Top Gun” movie where they identify Germany as the enemy, then chances are they are never going to release the film in Germany as it would tick some people off. If the movie identifies Japan as the enemy, then they can kiss a Japanese release goodbye as some viewers would probably dislike seeing their country as the antagonist. Maybe this is to suggest that the pilots could go up against multiple enemies at the same time, but nevertheless. At a certain point of the movie, there is one specific enemy force that comes into play, but again, we do not know who they are. This movie is fiction, it is not based on actual war. It is not like we are watching “Dunkirk” or “The Patriot” where the sides are specific of an actual time and place, even if they involve fictional characters to further the story along. That said, even though I prefer the story of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the original, it is not free from nitpicks. Even so, you should see this movie. I give it a thumbs up, and I think it is a film that almost anyone can have a good time watching.

In the end, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a blockbuster you should see this summer on the biggest screen possible. I do recommend watching the original first as it does help you appreciate the story of this sequel more, there are many ways to watch “Top Gun” from home, but I do not recommend skipping out on “Top Gun: Maverick” during its theatrical run. Do not wait for Paramount+, do not wait for VOD, do not wait for the Blu-ray. If you are going to watch this movie, find the biggest screen with the loudest sound you can. Buy some popcorn, grab a soda, have a good time. Take your friends, take your family, this is certainly a crowd-pleasing movie that delivers the thrills. As of writing this review, I have tickets to go see this movie a second time with someone close to me. I am going to give “Top Gun: Maverick,” despite my nitpicks, a really high 7/10.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including large formats like IMAX and Dolby. Tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for “Top Gun: Maverick” and want to see more of my thoughts on the franchise, check out my review that I did in 2020 for the original “Top Gun” as part of my special Tom Cruise Month! Fun fact, I did this special partially because “Top Gun: Maverick” was not able to come out in 2020! Also coming up on Scene Before, I have two reviews on deck. Pretty soon you will see my thoughts on the new Netflix film “Hustle,” starring Adam Sandler as a basketball scout. My next review after that will be for one my most anticipated movies of the year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” I waited forever to see this film, I finally got to watch it with my dad last night, and I promise you I have plenty to say about it. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun: Maverick?” What did you think about it? Or, which is the better movie? “Top Gun” or “Top Gun: Maverick?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): Full of Exciting Video Game-Like Action, and Minimal Video Game-Like Story

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is directed by Jeff Fowler, who also directed the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog” film. This film stars Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, BoJack Horseman), James Marsden (Westworld, Hop), Tika Sumpter (Ride Along, The Old Man and the Gun), Natasha Rothwell (The White Lotus, Insecure), Adam Pally (Dirty Grandpa, Iron Man 3), Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds), Colleen O’Shaughnessey (Danny Phantom, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes), Lee Majdoub (The 100, Supernatural), Idris Elba (The Suicide Squad, Pacific Rim), and Jim Carrey (Batman Forever, The Mask). This film follows Sonic, who as of the last movie has trapped Doctor Robotnik in a world filled with nothing except mushrooms. However, Robotnik escapes from “The Mushroom Planet” and attempts to possess the Master Emerald, which would allow him to control the world at his will. Now, it is up to Sonic, and his new sidekick Tails to defend civilization and stop Robotnik, who has joined forces with Knuckles the Echidna, from changing reality for the worse.

There was a saying not too long ago that “video game movies suck,” and I can attest to that. A couple of my least favorite films ever, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” and “Super Mario Bros.” are based on video games. They are poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly executed. But I must say that the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” maintains the throne for the best video game movie ever made, not that this is a high mountain to climb, but still, I liked the movie. When I wrote my review a couple of years ago, one of my immediate thoughts was, “I want a sequel,” because the movie ends in such a way that is satisfying, but also leaves enough open to make you want more. I frankly did not expect that with the first “Sonic,” but if that first movie were not good, I probably would not have been as excited for this movie as I was before I went in.

Part of me wonders if we would even have this movie if it were not for people on the Internet, perhaps justifiably, expressing their rage over the design of Sonic, because before the first movie came out, and before Paramount went back and spent money on redesigning the character, he did look butt ugly for an adaptation, but I also was conflicted as to whether they were going for a grittier, grounded story. Turns out they were not, the movie almost felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, but that is also why in the end, I am glad they went back to redesigning it. And as a result, I think we found a look that not just matches the first movie, but also its sequel, which also maintains this Saturday morning cartoon vibe from start to finish.

The heart of the first movie for me was the unexpected bond between Sonic and Tom Wachowski, which given cinematic history with movies like 2011’s “The Smurfs,” could have gone completely sideways. By the end of the movie, the two felt like genuine pals, and that is hard to do with a human and CGI hedgehog, so credit where it is due. In this movie, that is kind of replaced, because Tails ends up being Sonic’s sidekick for most of the picture. In fact, the formula the two seem to have together feels almost reminiscent of the first movie, even to the point where the film excuses itself to blast a once popular top 40 song that may have been slightly overplayed. Not Crush 40, no no no. Top 40. “Live and Learn” is not in the movie, sorry for spoiling in advance for those who really did not want to know.

While Tails serves his part in the movie, the movie also finds a reason to implement Tom Wachowski into the mix, but this allows for a completely separate subplot to commence… (sigh) …The goddamn wedding.

I think “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” can easily be watched at any age. I think if you are five, you’re fine. And if you’re ninety, you’re nifty. But let’s be real, some could argue that “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is made for children to enjoy. This is not a bad thing, I do not mind children’s content, but I also prefer that children receive content that does not insult their intelligence. The first movie, while not quite as mature as what we have gotten from Pixar over the years, has a certain flair to it that makes you feel like a kid again. This sequel is consistent in that way. But one consistency that does not exist from one film to the next is the pacing. The first film is extremely tight in its 99 minute story, but this film is 23 minutes longer, and therefore, it suffers from an obnoxious and almost unnecessary subplot at a wedding. Granted, one story is means to an end where it lines up with another, but the journey to get from one place to another in the wedding was probably the most boring segment of the film. And I will add, the one moment where everything lines up makes absolutely no sense. Going back to what I said, I do not mind children’s content, but I want it to treat its audience as if they were smart. This does not. You know your “moment” is bad when you have the characters spinning their heads and then one person realizes that “the Olive Garden guy” from the first movie is here to spew out another advertisement for the company.

By the way, Olive Garden kinda sucks. I said it.

The first movie, while definitely not my favorite of the year, was fairly palatable because of a narrative that is as quick as its titular hedgehog. This movie relies way too much on over the top gags that feel tired by the end. That is not to say the movie does not have its occasional laugh, but let’s just say that the writing for Dr. Robotnik, who is marvelously portrayed by Jim Carrey, is not as much of a highlight as it was in the predecessor.

Now I do want to be clear, I liked Dr. Robotnik in this film, but the first film gave us a perfect blend of Jim Carrey’s zaniness mashed together with some of the best screenwriting I have witnessed for a villain in a children’s film. Robotnik is written similarly to how he is presented in the original film, but the original film takes the cake for perhaps a larger collection of memorable lines and moments. NOTHING beats the scene where Sonic sneaks up to Tom and Robotnik, exclaims to Robotnik not to hurt Tom, and Robotnik emits the most obnoxious, cartoon-like scream I have heard in a long time. I cannot remember a single line in this sequel that was “awful,” but I also cannot recall one line in the film that was on the level of the original. Not offensive, but also not as good.

In fact, I would like to go back to the compliment I gave this film about it making you feel like a kid again. I think that is a compliment I can give to certain comic book movies that have come out in recent years. Those films, while definitely mature, make me feel young, and I always love to maintain a youthful spirit. And there were moments during my theater experience where instead of a bunch of manchildren, including myself, admired everything on screen and uttered sounds of excitement, actual children got to be similarly wowed during key moments that trigger such immediate reactions. This is why THE CINEMA is the way to watch a movie. It’s a community.

Let me just remind you, the week before I saw “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I saw “Morbius” in a theater that wasn’t quite full, but had a decent crowd. No one uttered a sound for the entire runtime. There were points during “Sonic 2” where people gasped, they cheered, they clapped. This is one reason why I love going to the movies. I stand by the rule where no one should be talking during the movie, but I also think some experiences can qualify for a rock concert vibe. If you are excited, why not embrace it? The movie is certainly one that could get you excited by the end of it.

Now much like Robotnik, I would have to say that Sonic is once again, fabulously portrayed by Ben Schwartz, but the problem I have with this film when it comes to Sonic is that despite his personality being on point, especially when lining things up with the first movie, Sonic’s jokes, kind of like in the first film, come off as fairly cheap pop cultural references or forced quips. Those jokes could work, but they kind of fall flat here. Now, I will 100% contend with Sonic’s sentiments from the first movie about Keanu Reeves being a national treasure, but I think when it comes to referencing the pop cultural mojo, I think he needs to calm down just a tad. Although Ben Schwartz is a perfect interpretation for Sonic and his over the top pitch sells the character for me. I think the lesson this character has to face in this film is one of its saving graces, because even though this movie has quite a few notable flaws from the wedding scene to the disposable humor, I think if you are going to watch this movie at a certain age, I think it would be a positive influence. In a world where we have tons of movies with violence and explosions, it is nice to see one that occasionally gives slight objections to those ideas despite them being in it.

This film introduces a couple new CGI characters into the mix, Miles “Tails” Power and Knuckles. One of my big complaints about movies that have voiceover characters nowadays like the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie for example is that they tend to rely on big names to get people in the theater. Granted, I like Chris Pratt, I dig Charlie Day, and I adore Anya Taylor-Joy, so we’ll see what happens there. But I am glad that this movie tended to give an opportunity to not just an actual pro voice actor to voice Tails, but give that opportunity to a voice actor who has literally voiced the character in other creations. Colleen O’Shaughnessy is a delight in this film. But at the same time, this film is the best of both worlds, because they also allowed Idris Elba to voice Knuckles the Echidna, which I thought was a great choice. He’s a terrific actor, his voice is iconic, and it matches the grit such a character can promise. Elba’s interpretation of Knuckles allowed him to arguably become the most hysterical character of the entire film. Basically he has the personality of a fantasy narrator and a fantasy protagonist rolled into one person. It’s perfect. Unlike Sonic, Knuckles appears to have less of a hang of things when it comes to knowing about the rituals of mankind. Each joke related to his developing knowledge or lack of knowledge on the subject matter hits hard every time. I won’t spoil anything, but the moment you hear “Dot, dot, dot…” You’re in for a treat.

But if I had to be honest, this movie is not as solid as the original. Sure, it has fan service that lovers of the games will appreciate, the effects and sound are utterly amazing, and it is definitely one of the less offensive video game movies to exist compared to some others. But the first movie had a foundation that felt properly structured and put into place. It was a building that was functional and served its purpose. This movie took that same building and added way too many more floors to it. The wedding gag was utterly atrocious and ultimately sullies what could have been a fantastic movie. And if I were a kid watching “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” I probably would be saying the same thing. I liked the action, I liked the dynamic between Eggman and Knuckles, but the wedding scene made me want to break up with this film. I will also say that some of the supporting characters from the first film like Wade and Rachel make an appearance here, and they feel wasted by the end. They don’t do much to make their appearances feel worthwhile.

Also, can we talk about something? I want to remind you of the fact that Sonic, a hedgehog, not a human, but a HEDGEHOG. I know it speaks English, but still. This HEDGEHOG has technically been adopted as the Wachowski family’s son? I mean, literally, the movie makes references to Sonic calling Tom “dad.” It’s really weird! Look, I know they developed a relationship, but… That’s kinda freaky. I KNOW it’s a movie… But it is somewhat unsettling! It’s an odd taste in the mouth!

In the end, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” was fun when I saw it, and the positives do outweigh the negatives, but the more I think about the film, the less I like it. The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” felt like that next step for video game movies, maybe we’ll be getting some great ones soon. Unfortunately, this sequel cannot acquire the same luster as that first one. The voice-work is great, the effects are top-notch, and the sound is unbelievable. But if I learned something about video games it is that not everyone cares about the story, they care more about how the game looks, how it plays. The movie looks incredible, and had they gone with that original Sonic introduced in spring 2019, I do not think that would have been the case. But the story in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” feels like it is not as important as it was in its predecessor, and that is despite having a great lesson intertwined. I feel like children can learn something from this movie. But as an adult, I don’t know when I will be watching this movie again. I’ll probably go back to the original at some point, but this will probably have to wait. I’m going to give “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” a 6/10.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new DreamWorks Animation flick, “The Bad Guys!” Also coming soon, stay tuned for my review of “The Northman!” In addition, I am seeing “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” next week, so I will have a review coming for that movie too! Stay tuned! If you want to see 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 “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie did you like better? “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jackass Forever (2022): Launching 2022 Cinema with a Bang

“Jackass Forever” is directed by Jeff Tremaine, who has served as a director on several other “Jackass” projects, and stars Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Wee Man, Danger Ehren, and Preston Lacy in a fourth installment to the “Jackass” film variant. You’ve had three movies, a television series, it’s got a history. Basically, it’s about these guys who do all sorts of dumb, crazy, but also hypnotizing stunts for the entertainment of those watching. Johnny Knoxville is in his late forties, but that is not stopping him from getting together with his crew. We see returning faces like Steve-O and newbies like Sean “Poopies” McInerney. The formula has been done before, but it can always make for comedy that people enjoy, therefore we have another installment.

“Jackass Forever” is the first 2022 film I’m reviewing, and I am honored to tackle this one first, because I’ve basically skipped the month of January, where we get pure trash like “The 355,” and now I’m going straight into a fresh, new February smell. Ahhh! The smell of an overrated holiday that ruins all things love… I saw “Jackass Forever” last week in one of the more impromptu movie outings I’ve done in recent years. I was heading home from school, I had nothing better to do, and with AMC A-List being my best friend, I was able to get a free ticket to this film on opening night. I never watched the “Jackass” television show, I have not seen any of the movies, but I honestly want more after seeing this film.

I feel like “Jackass Forever” came out during the perfect time. Saying “this is the film we need right now,” feels a bit weird, and arguably degrading, but in the case of “Jackass Forever,” it is true. Audiences are looking for an escape from the terrors of serious everyday crap. Watching guys get shots to the balls is the perfect cure to this ongoing illness. Because we have gone through days where maybe we were in pain, and it has probably felt exhausting. Seeing a bunch of dudes put themselves in pain is both satisfying while also making for one of the best theater experiences I’ve had recently. I’ve watched a lot of comedies both in the theater and at home, so some of them have become predictable. “Jackass Forever” is predictable if you know what the film is going for, but it’s the effect of said predictability that packs a punch.

While I was never a huge fan of “Jackass,” I have been an avid watcher of “Impractical Jokers” over the past few years. I’ve met the guys, I’ve seen them in concert, I have autographs and merch from them. I have enjoyed the content they’ve provided over the years. When it comes to the one “Jackass” movie I saw, “Impractical Jokers” could take a serious lesson from this. The thing this movie gets right that “Impractical Jokers” does not is that it devotes itself to being one thing. “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” is a story from start to finish, but in between we get the challenges and punishments the show is famous for. Those pranks and acts of folly are easily the best moments of the film. “Jackass Forever” is all folly, all the time! Is it dumb? Yes. Is it ridiculous? Yes. Am I complaining? No. Because at the end of the day, all we need to bust a gut is to see Machine Gun Kelly do his best to avoid getting crushed by a giant hand.

I mean, even though there is no real “story” behind “Jackass Forever,” I still connected with the people on screen. Even though I wanted to see them get seriously hurt, I felt bad for them when they actually did. It’s established that Johnny Knoxville was 49 when this movie was shot. In fact, he’ll be 51 in March! It begs the question, should he and his idiot chums pack it up and go home? Maybe watch a ballgame? Play some golf? This movie proves that they should not. I will not go into much detail, but there was a stunt where I looked at Knoxville and thought, “ARE YOU MAD?! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!” I think at the end of the day, Knoxville does not care if he dies. I think the audience would, but the point is that Knoxville is an entertainer, and clearly a damn likable one. He puts the audience before his life and arguably even before the life of some of his colleagues, which I admire for the fact that we got an entertaining movie, but also makes me fearful if I ever choose to befriend this guy.

Okay… I mean, I think we all care about whether we die. Life is wonderful…

Stunt-wise, I have a few favorites. I will not say what happens, but if I had to tell you which ones I’d look forward to, my picks would be these, in no particular order. The Dum Dum Game, which is where Johnny asks fourth-grade level questions to the guys. If they’re right, yay! If not, they get hit in the nuts. There’s also a really funny encounter between Ehren and a bear who seems to be really attached to him. I looked forward to that moment since the trailer and it doesn’t disappoint. Another one I would recommend is this one moment where Rachel, one of the newcomers, has to lick a taser. It’s not something I would do on my own time, but it is something that I enjoyed watching as it happened.

If I had any problems with “Jackass Forever,” they would be rather minimal for the movie at hand. The only thing I could come up with is that even though comedies tend to be one of the more rewatchable genres for me because I want to go back and experience the funny parts another time, the big problem for me here would be that I would need to watch this in moderation because this film was funny the first time around, but if you watch something a number of times, the laughs will not be as present. Going back to “Impractical Jokers,” when I see the same episode a number of times, the comedy loses its effect just a bit. I don’t want this movie to do the same.

In the end, “Jackass Forever” is something I could watch forever. For the kind of movie it is, it does everything it needs to do. I really surprised myself with this one, because the reality is that this movie is stupid stunts on its surface. Little did I know how much I would end up laughing at them. This movie is so funny that it’s possible for the first time in my life, I was incredibly nervous to hold my drink out of the fear that I might end up spilling it. There was a moment I was chuckling, part of me was expecting something even funnier to happen and I thought, “Oh! Better put the drink down!” The best kind of movie experiences are the ones that are determined by what you do with your food. When “The Desolation of Smaug” got really good, I literally put down the popcorn and locked my eyes with the screen as I witnessed a sequence that made me a Middle Earth admirer. Remember “A Quiet Place?” Eating popcorn and drinking soda was hard because the movie encouraged you to be as silent as possible that I worried if I chewed popcorn, it would ruin the movie. It would take the immersion out of the experience. While “Jackass Forever” might not end up being this year’s best film, it is solid entry to the 2022 cinematic calendar as it unfolds, and I’m going to give it an 8/10.

“Jackass Forever” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my thoughts on “Jackass Forever,” be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Moonfall,” which like “Jackass Forever,” is ridiculous. But unlike “Jackass Forever,” it’s not exactly fun. I’ll have more details when the review arrives. If you want to see this and more great content, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jackass Forever?” What did you think about it? Or, what’s your favorite “Jackass” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Snake Eyes (2021): A G.I. Joe Spinoff with Dice, But No Spice

“Snake Eyes” is directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, R.I.P.D.) and stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Fast & Furious 6), Úrsula Corberó (The Secret Life of Pets, The Emoji Movie), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Bill & Ted Face the Music), and Iwa Uwais (The Raid, Stuber). This film is a spinoff set in the “G.I. Joe” franchise and follows the origin story of Snake Eyes, whose father was murdered during his youth. Since that tragic day, the character seeks to avenge his father as he grows into a full-blown martial arts fighter.

G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (TV Mini Series 1984) - IMDb

No lie here, I have never watched anything related to “G.I. Joe,” nor have I grown up with the franchise. I have never played with the toys, never bought any of the merch. This was my first “G.I. Joe” anything… Ever. I saw the marketing for this film and quite frankly it was never my in my top block of movies to see this summer. If anything, it may have been closer to somewhere in the middle. The trailers never looked awful, but I cannot say they looked great either. If anything I felt rather indifferent while watching them. That may be partially due to my lack of commitment to the “G.I. Joe” franchise in addition to just simply looking forward to other movies like “The Suicide Squad” more. The trailer that I usually saw over the past few weeks at the theater just felt like it lacked a flavor that could individualize this film from others. It felt kind of cookie cutter and surface level. But if a movie like “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has taught me anything, it is that even movies with not so great trailers can turn out to be watchable.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with “Snake Eyes” as I walked out of the film thinking it was one of the biggest bores of the year.

One of the movies I had the most fun with this year is the new edition of “Mortal Kombat.” It was definitely worth the theater experience and was a fun blend of fantasy, action, and gore. But the real draw for the movie was not that it was constructed perfectly, it was that the film was a product of entertainment before anything else. That film was, unsurprisingly, done by a writing/directing combo who had little experience. The action scenes, while fun, were also cut very quickly. It was just too much going on at once, therefore everything was not presented in maybe the most effective manner. For the case of “Snake Eyes,” the directing/writing team of this film unfortunately have been working for a long time. In fact, the director of “Snake Eyes,” Robert Schwentke, does not have the best track record according to critics in recent years. “R.I.P.D.,” which released in the summer of 2013, has a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes critically, and the audience score is not great either with a 37% total. He also directed the last two “Divergent” movies. I will admit, of the movies that came out in that franchise, I would have to say the first one he did, “Insurgent” is probably my favorite and one of the more visually stunning films of 2015. But I cannot say the same for its sequel, “Allegiant,” which was one of the most horribly paced action films of the last six years. The visuals in that film at times looked like something out of a Wii game!

While “Snake Eyes,” thankfully, is no “Allegiant,” it is also not good. In fact, I am having trouble remembering certain parts of it. But one thing that I do remember is that the main character, gosh the writers did try to make him likable, but it felt weird trying to root for him as he was technically working for the bad guys. Plus, by the end of the movie, there is another character who I think is more of a “hero” than he is.

I will say one thing about the character of Snake Eyes, I do think the guy who plays him is charming. Snake Eyes in this film is played by Henry Golding, who I have not seen a lot of on screen, but I have seen him in a couple things. I do think that after seeing him in “Snake Eyes,” he would be a great leading man in an original Bond-like spy film. By that I mean a spy film where Golding is the one who is front and center on the poster, he carries the movie. I think Golding has that potential. I just wish “Snake Eyes” as a film did the actor, along with others involved, a tad more justice.

This film, at times, just looks plain atrocious. No, seriously, if you want to talk about terribly crafted shots in cinema, look no further. Just watch a scene in the middle featuring Samara Weaving as Scarlet, and no, I’m not exactly talking about the picture above. To call that scene an eyesore would be an understatement. I mean, sorry for the digression, Samara Weaving being an eyesore would be a lie. First off, she is good-looking, on top of being an incredibly talented actress. Just watch “Ready or Not.” Although I do think her performance in this film was not one she’d want on her resume. I don’t think Weaving truly had a chance to showcase the best of her acting abilities.

One of the complaints I have about the action in “Snake Eyes” is that it dives into that trend that was made popular by films like those in the “Bourne” franchise, shaky cam to be specific. You know that thing where they move the camera so rapidly it’s almost like the camera is simulating the beginning of the end of the world? That happens in “Snake Eyes,” and at the worst possible times. Seriously! Sticking with what I said about shaky cam, there is literally a scene in the movie where Scarlet walks down a hall and the camera is moving all over the place! It’s so incomprehensible and deranged! Why does someone walking down a hall have to appear as action packed as Snake Eyes trying to slash people to death? Tell me!

This movie, obviously like all others, are made for the purpose of profit. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, the idea of profit is questionable. Either way, profit for a film like “Snake Eyes” could have meant more than just a success or a sequel. For me, it could have gotten me more into the “G.I. Joe” franchise. I’m not saying I will never watch another “G.I. Joe” movie, but “Snake Eyes” did not make me want a sequel, and I was just too uninterested to say that I will go back and dive deeper into this franchise’s source material or other spinoffs. I think “Snake Eyes” obviously would have done better without a pandemic, but I think even without one, the movie would still struggle to justify franchise expansion. My first thought when I saw the trailer for “Snake Eyes,” regardless of how well put together the trailer was, happened to be “Okay, whatever.” My first thought after seeing the movie “Snake Eyes” was, “Ehhh….” Yep, I don’t think I want to see a sequel at this point.

In the end, “Snake Eyes” is not an eye-roller, but it’s also not a high roller. Again, this is my first dive into the “G.I. Joe” franchise, so as a newbie, maybe I chose a poor place to start. At the same time though, first impressions matter. It’s like trying to get someone into “The Simpsons.” Because that series has evolved so much and has continued to remain a part of our popular culture that as newer pieces of it releases, the differences between the new and old content begin to become noticeable. Do we go with glitchy animation and classic humor? Do we go with hi-def episodes and the mocking of modern trends? Do we go with “The Simpsons Movie?” There’s a lot to pick from! But all things considered, “Snake Eyes” was not my cup of joe. I’m going to give “Snake Eyes” a 4/10.

“Snake Eyes” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I also want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for the all new Disney theme park ride-based film, “Jungle Cruise.” I just watched the movie last Thursday and I will have my thoughts hopefully shared by the end of the week. Speaking of the end of the week, I want to let everyone know that I will be seeing “The Suicide Squad” this Saturday and I will have my review for it up sometime next week!

Staying on the topic of next week, stay tuned for Monday, August 9th, because I will be starting the all new review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This is a series that I personally felt has been long overdue given my attachment to these movies, or more notably the first one, in addition to “King of the Nerds,” the reality competition series inspired by the film franchise given how it is hosted by two of the actors who appear in the movies, Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong. I cannot wait to share this series with you as we continue celebrating 5 years of Scene Before!

If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Snake Eyes?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite spinoff? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

A Quiet Place Part II (2020): A Solid Sequel, But Bigger and Louder Is Not Always Better

“A Quiet Place Part II” is directed by John Krasinski (The Office, Jack Ryan) who is also in the film once again with his wife Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Mary Poppins Returns) and joining them in the cast is Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders, Inception), Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck, This Close), Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, Wonder), and Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Aquaman). This film is a sequel to 2018’s hit horror flick “A Quiet Place” and follows the Abbott family as they face more sound-observant creatures and new threats.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is a special film because this was one of the last new films to screen before the COVID-19 pandemic went into lightspeed. Only thing is, the film never released to the public and instead screened to select critics in late winter 2020. At the time, it was announced that the people behind the film decided to shelve it and hold onto it for a later release date. Unfortunately, the film received multiple delays and its absence from the box office is only a tiny part of what may have made movie theaters themselves, a quiet place. Thankfully, the film has released, won its first weekend against Disney’s “Cruella,” which to be fair, the former film had the advantage of being released theatrically without a simultaneous streaming debut.

I want to make something clear. Many sequels are not as good as the original counterpart. There are various exceptions, but “A Quiet Place Part II” is not one of them. The reason for that is somewhat subjective, like many reasons for liking or disliking art, “A Quiet Place Part II” is one of the sequels that seems to follow the “bigger is better” initiative. In fact, one of the things that stood out to me while doing research for this review is the budget of the film. The original “A Quiet Place” had a $17 million budget. This sequel had a huge bump where the budget turned out to be $61 million. Just for comparison when it comes to horror, this is a bigger bump than “The Conjuring” franchise had from its first to second film. “The Conjuring” had a $20 million budget whereas “The Conjuring 2” had a $40 million budget. I’m not sure how much of the budget is implemented due to COVID-19, and having to restart the marketing campaign again, but either way, this is a significant boost. What I loved about the first movie is that they made a brilliant story that had nearly zero dialogue from start to finish. “A Quiet Place Part II” follows that same formula, but feels more like a “traditional” film compared to the first one, at least from my perspective. For those who do not know, I took a screenwriting class in my sophomore year of college. One thing I learned is that words do not always matter in a script. What matters more, specifically when you bring an actor playing a role in the script to the table, is how the character is handled through visual storytelling. 2018’s “A Quiet Place” did a superb job at that, and this movie has increments throughout that strike the same vibe that the first film did.

Just because this movie is worse, does not mean it is all bad. If it were bad, I’d be getting louder. One thing that makes “A Quiet Place Part II” interesting is that unlike the first movie, there is a smaller sense of safety throughout the entire picture. We get a sense that the sound creatures have made their presence known on earth, apocalypse has made itself present for an extended period of time, and the human population has dwindled significantly. There’s a lot of implied notions that can evoke a sense of danger. Plus in the first film, we see that the Abbott family has a place to reside, a place to hide, they can keep themselves guarded from the creatures roaming around trying to kill them. In “A Quiet Place Part II,” right after the prologue ends, we see the Abbott family on the run, they’re just trying to keep quiet and avoid being noticed. Speaking of the prologue, I have to admit, I think that may have been the best part of the movie.

Why is this prologue so great? Well, in short, it checks all the boxes it needs to check. It is scary, it feels as if there is a threat from start to finish, and the situation at hand goes from a happy cheery day to the worst moments of people’s lives. It also implied the notion that much of this movie would practically be a stealth mission, even if there are minor breaks in between.

Unfortunately, one of the highlights of the first film is gone for the sequel, the chemistry between John Krasinski and Emily Blunt’s characters. Because while Emily Blunt is in the movie, not to mention spectacular in it, arguably giving an even better performance than she did in the first, Krasinski is barely in the film. We see him in the opening sequence and that’s it. Unfortunately, Cillian Murphy, as good of an actor as he is, in fact he’s in some of my favorite movies like “Inception,” honestly does not have the same amount of charisma in this sequel as John Krasinski did in the original. This is not to say that his character is terrible, in fact he’s in quite a few good scenes. But I feel like when it comes to overall charisma and attachment, it was a bit harder for me to attach myself to Murphy in this movie than it was for me to attach myself to Krasinski in the first movie. I wonder if this is one of those sequels that is an acquired taste. I remember my mother talking about when she saw “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” she thought it was nowhere near the quality of the original, then she saw it a few more times and now it is up there with some of her most-liked comedies.

But I also want to address something else. For me, kind of like “A Quiet Place” was in 2018, “A Quiet Place Part II” may end up being one of the most well-directed films of the year. A lot of the shots are breathtaking, intimidating, or full of life (or lack thereof), and once again, even though I think this film did not do as good of a job at this as the original, Krasinski knows how to make a movie with as little dialogue as possible. So not only is this a win from a directorial perspective, but also the screenplay.

One last thing I will say… We are at a point in our society where people are continuously wondering when they can go see a movie in the theater again. Thankfully, more and more people are getting vaccinated by the day and certain areas of the world are becoming safer in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. I said this for “Tenet,” I said this for “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “A Quiet Place Part II” is a movie that requires big screen viewing. Much like the first movie, this film was practically made for the movie theater. This is weird to say because those other two movies are almost like loud, obnoxious theme park rides whereas “A Quiet Place Part II” is… well, quiet. But I remember watching the first movie in the theater and I would have my popcorn and drink by me. In that dark room, I would literally dissolve my popcorn on my tongue as I barely took bites of it, and I would quietly take tiny sips of my soda. “A Quiet Place Part II” provided me with the same experience and for that reason, I HIGHLY recommend you check out this movie on the biggest screen you can, especially if you enjoyed the first one.

In the end, “A Quiet Place Part II” is a solid, although notably inferior sequel. I was never bored during this film, but there were a couple moments where I did almost tune out. It’s really weird to say that, because the first film is an interesting case where it had my eyes and ears the whole time despite there being little dialogue. Once again, it goes to show that not all sequels surpass the original. I’m glad to see most of the cast return to once again assert a front and center presence. Cillian Murphy, while by no means a bad addition to the franchise, does not have the charm of John Krasinski, who I will say once again, knocked it out of the park as a director. I hope Krasinski has more directorial projects up his sleeve. I think he has the talents to pull off more cool ideas, maybe receive an Oscar nomination if he tries hard enough, we shall see. I’m going to give “A Quiet Place Part II” a 7/10.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen as soon as you can. But if for some reason you can’t or if you just don’t feel safe at the moment, the film will be available for all subscribers on Paramount+ starting next month, specifically on July 12th.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new Warner Bros. film adaptation of “In the Heights.” I got to see this film on Sunday, it comes out this weekend to the general public, and I will have my thoughts listed soon. Although before that, I want to remind everyone that my next post will be my 500th on Scene Before, and like my other something-hundredth milestones, I will be giving you all my latest update on my current Blu-ray collection. I will be sharing hundreds of titles, all of them will be shown on video, which will also be uploaded to my YouTube channel, hopefully nothing goes wrong this time, but I cannot wait to share these with you once again. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and be sure to like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “A Quiet Place Part II?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie did you like better? “A Quiet Place” or “A Quiet Place Part II?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Gun (1986): Jack Feels the Need. The Need For Scene!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! The 1980s has brought us some of the most culturally important films of all time. “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” “Back to the Future,” “The Terminator,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Princess Bride,” “Predator,” “The Breakfast Club,” and much more! The 1980s is also the decade where Tom Cruise’s film career began. Some of his credits from the time include “Endless Love,” “The Outsiders,” and “Risky Business.” However, I’d be willing to make the argument that when it comes to all the films Tom Cruise did in the 1980s, the one that still reigns as the highest in terms of cultural importance is “Top Gun,” which was supposed to have a sequel come out this week, only to be delayed due to COVID-19. Whether or not that sequel will be worth the wait is a question we’ll have to answer in due time. However, let’s not completely focus on the future, because when it comes to 2020, anything can happen and some things may be better left unmentioned. Instead, let’s go back to a time where the biggest worry for some may have been getting a ticket to see the latest movie where men fly planes and play volleyball. Ladies and gentlemen, strap yourselves in. This is entry #4. Feel the need. The need for scene! This is…

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Top Gun” is directed by Tony Scott (Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Kelly McGillis (Witness, Made in Heaven), Val Kilmer (The Doors, Batman Forever), Anthony Edwards (Revenge of the Nerds, It Takes Two), and Tom Skerritt (Alien, The Turning Point). The film is about a young Lieutenant who gets a chance to train alongside a fellow Radar Intercept Officer at the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School in San Diego.

Prior to this review, I have only seen “Top Gun” one time. I bought a used Blu-ray Metalpak for the movie, mainly for the sake of having something cool on the collector’s shelf, but at the same time, I was intrigued enough to watch the movie a few weeks later when I had the time to waste. What I remember of that first experience is that I really enjoyed the soundtrack, the characters are well-performed by their respective actors, and there are a couple lines that stuck with me. I finally found out the meaning of “Talk to me Goose,” which I have heard in the past in a YouTube video, and the way it was delivered on screen felt satisfying. It also made the reference in 2018’s “Deadpool 2,” which I would end up watching and reviewing a year later, feel kinda classy.

On my second watch of the movie, the screen had my attention during just about every scene, likely suggesting that I was very intrigued by everything that was going on. All the characters are charming and likable, I think the main romance plot on the side was fun to watch as the two characters not only have great chemistry with each other, but where they stand outside of their connection plays a bit into the plot as well. Both Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis make for a great couple in this movie and I have come to appreciate them a little more the second time around. Although oddly enough, it does come as a bit of a shock as I have read on IMDb that the two seemingly did not get along during filming.

While this is not one of the movies well-known for Tom Cruise “doing his own stunts,” I was a bit impressed with some of the scenes in this movie that have a bit of wide open space, if that phrase even makes any sense. It’s a little more complicated way of saying that I enjoyed just about any scene that involved jet-flying. Funny enough, even though we know that Tom Cruise is practically the Buster Keaton of today, during his filming of “Top Gun,” the only actor who apparently did not vomit inside a plane was Anthony Edwards, who by the way does an excellent job playing Goose. Sticking with the topic of solid chemistry, Maverick and Goose make for a pretty fun pair. I rooted for both characters for each second they were on screen, and it is no wonder how this exchange became a noteworthy reference in popular culture.

MAVERICK: I feel the need…

MAVERICKGOOSE: …the need for speed!

Now, I want to dive into something that is kind of a problem, but also a blessing in disguise for this film in particular. There is no threat. Now, with any other movie I’d probably be wondering wherever the heck the stakes could be. But here, it somehow works, at least for the most part. You may be wondering why I am bringing this up. Because when it comes to the characters and how they deal with every situation at hand, it more or less just makes for pure fun more than anything else. I mean, this is a movie that starts off with a pilot flipping the bird at somebody else while his plane is rotated upside down! It’s fun! It’s a movie with a glamorous volleyball scene that makes you wanna go to the beach, and I say that as someone who is not even a beach person! It’s freaking fun! It’s a movie about bros doing… well, doing what bros do! IT’S F*CKING FUN! At times, this movie feels as if it does not necessarily need to take itself all that too seriously. And that’s fine, I’ve seen a few movies where this sort of thing works. Granted, if you know me, I much prefer a serious vibe of a film as opposed to one that goes over the top and exaggerates itself to the tenth degree. However, when it comes to “Top Gun,” it’s a movie that tells its audience that it is here to just have a fun couple of hours. Things are about to get nuts, strap yourselves in, have a lovely flight. Pun may absolutely be intended.

However, the climax of this film, is where the tone almost seemingly gets in the… DANGER ZONE! SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! Aren’t I an evil genius?! I am the king of the world! C’mon, guys! It’s comedy!

I will say, I had no real problem with the film’s climax itself. It makes sense in terms of how the story builds itself up. In terms of how it is presented, how it is handled, it is structurally sound and of course, fun. But… is it really fun? Because it almost, I say ALMOST, comes out of nowhere. But at the same time it makes sense because in these characters’ lives, it is a moment that has practically been building up for them, but for a viewer like myself, it sort of almost gets to the point of feeling tacked on just for the sake of inserting some sort of stakes. Now, stakes are fine, but I will say, as a viewer it surely felt weird to see something which could potentially equal some sort of deep impact happen in a movie where almost everything else felt like “another Tuesday,” as some would probably call it. I will say, I did enjoy the climax, and it was in a word, “exciting.” But at the same time, it feels weird having it in the movie where everything prior to said climax felt kind of fun. But that’s really the charm of “Top Gun” when it comes down to it. After over thirty years of being in our spheres, it is still a “fun” movie that is watched by lots of people. There’s been rereleases, drive-in screenings, the flying sequences, despite being from the 1980s, hold up very well today. In fact they just came out with a 4K Blu-ray for the film! Maybe I’ll have to pick it up sometime soon! There’s a lot to love about “Top Gun,” even though technically speaking, it is not a masterpiece. It really is at its core, just fun. It’s nice to look at, and when it comes to characterization, it does its job fairly well.

Does this movie deserve a sequel that is coming out today? Well, it is the highest-grossing film of 1986, and as I mentioned, it is FUN! Why not? Although based on trailers that I am seeing for said sequel, I am wondering if they are going to take it in a slightly grittier direction. And if they do, I’m fine with that. Plus, Tom Cruise is probably one of the most admirable actors working today, so if I get to see him “do his own stunts” for sometime, it will give me something to witness for sure.

In the end, “Top Gun” holds up very well after over thirty years of its release. Technically speaking, it looks somewhat good for its time, maybe a bit ahead of its time as well. It is terrifically cast, even if everybody apparently did not get along. When it comes to the Scott brothers, I think Ridley Scott is overall the better filmmaker from what I have seen, but I really dig Tony Scott’s vision with this film. Granted, what he does with this film is almost a little Michael Bay-ish, and I think Michael Bay is a little too much of a style over substance type of director, but it works here because of how charming the film manages to come off. Don’t get me wrong, this film is not entirely Shakespeare, but I had fun with it. There’s that word again! I’m going to give “Top Gun” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! By the way, I have one more review coming up in this epic extravaganza I like to call Tom Cruise Month. It’s a movie from the early 2000s, and it is Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report.” Aside from “Oblivion,” it is the only film in this themed series that I have yet to watch. However, I am rather excited to watch what could potentially be a very enjoyable sci-fi story. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to be notified about this review when it is published, or check out my Facebook page and give it a like if you want to get such notifications through your Facebook account! I want to know, did you see “Top Gun?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite dogfight in a movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Days of Thunder (1990): Tom Cruise? More Like Tom Rush!

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is officially entry 3 to Tom Cruise Month! So far we have talked about a pretty good movie, along with a not so good movie. Today, we are going to talk about “Days of Thunder,” a film I have seen once in 2017 when it was available on Amazon Prime for free. Since then, I bought a Triple Feature Blu-ray set of Tom Cruise films which contains “The Firm,” which I have reviewed on this blog almost three years ago, “Collateral,” and “Days of Thunder,” which of course I watched once more to talk about today.

So without any further dilly-dallying, it is time for entry three! This is…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Days of Thunder” is directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, All the Right Moves), Robert Duvall (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather), Randy Quaid (Caddyshack II, National Lampoon’s Vacation), Nicole Kidman (Batman Forever, Moulin Rouge!), and Cary Elwes (Glory, The Princess Bride). The film is about a man who becomes a NASCAR driver, but even though he may talk a good game, Tom Cruise’s character of Cole Trickle is not exactly accustomed to being in a stock car. The story goes over his journey as a racer, as a part of a new team, while also allowing a certain rival to get in the way.

When it comes to my official ranking of Tom Cruise movies, I probably would have told you a few years back that “Days of Thunder” is somewhere in the middle of what I’ve seen. It’s not great, but it has one or two entertaining moments. I also kind of liked the music and I thought I heard some of the score somewhere else before watching this film (upon my watch for this review, that is not the case). It’s a little formulaic, but it doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had. Tom Cruise, per usual, is solid and gives a likable performance as a decent character.

Now, it is 2020, and it has been a week since I have officially last watched “Days of Thunder.” It’s still an alright hour and a half of material. However, upon my second watch, I felt that the first half of the movie, where all the buildup is happening, is definitely better than the second half. And I am not knocking on the second half, because it is still entertaining, but seeing Cole Trickle have to adapt to his team and the mechanics of NASCAR makes for delightful content. In fact, I also briefly mentioned his rivalry in the film, there’s a scene where the two rivals have to head to a dinner together, and in doing so they rent a couple cars and wreck the s*it out of them. I was amused with what was happening on screen in those moments. It was just plain fun. I think the chemistry between Tom Cruise’s Cole Trickle, alongside racing rival Rowdy Burns, played with excellence by Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, JFK) makes for some of the better scenes in the movie. Aside from all the action that goes on behind the wheels for these two, there’s another scene where the two happen to be in wheelchairs and they are racing around the hospital. Not only did it do a solid job on getting into the lack of fondness towards the duo, but it did so while keeping me interested in everything that was going on.

I mentioned earlier that I really liked the music in this film, and having watched this film a second time, this really should come as no surprise. Because not only was it something that I was kind of looking forward to hearing, but I was paying attention to the opening credits, and I saw a name that I was particularly delighted to see pop up on my screen.

HANS. F*CKING. ZIMMER.

If you all had to ask me who I think the greatest film composer of all time is, I’d give you three names. John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Hans Zimmer. Maybe Alan Silvestri would be an honorable mention. For those of you who don’t know me or are new around here, Zimmer composed my favorite film score of all time, which was appropriately presented in one of my favorite films of all time, “Interstellar.” His relationship during his recent points in his career with Christopher Nolan allowed him to do that movie, “Inception,” “Dunkirk,” and the “Dark Knight” films. He’s also collaborated with composer Benjamin Wallfisch to work on “Blade Runner 2049,” he’s done a number of DreamWorks animations, “The Lion King,” “The Last Samuai,” and even though I have a couple problems with his score for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” its high moments make up for its faults. “Days of Thunder” is one of Zimmer’s earliest scores that I have heard, and it does match up with the skill and talent that I’ve seen from him today.

Keeping with the theme of Tom Cruise Month, I want to reference the previous film I reviewed, specifically “All the Right Moves.” In my review for that film, I mentioned that one of the main reasons I disliked that film was because even though it focuses on the main character’s struggles and downfalls, I felt as if there was little reason to actually root for him. He’s kind of a dick, he just feels like a horny jock who wants nothing more than to get into Lea Thompson’s pants, and when it comes to the film’s conclusion and what it has to do with the main character, it almost feels as if, without spoilers, there is no reason for me to root for him and say that he earned his fate. Despite the effort put into his portrayal from Tom Cruise himself, the character just didn’t stick the landing for me. Cole Trickle on the other hand, aside from having a somewhat likable name, kind of like Luke Skywalker or Johnny Utah or Taserface or Turd Ferguson (it’s a funny name, ha ha), has this swagger to him that makes him feel like someone only Cruise could portray and make as likable as he is. And when it comes to, once again, struggles and downfalls, Cole Trickle doesn’t come off as a big enough dick to make me not care about him whenever he screws up. Plus, when it comes to how this movie concludes, the ending feels earned and deserved, it does more than simply exist to take up screen time. It is a fate that feels satisfying and worthy of a thumbs up. Not one where I want to throw my popcorn at my 4K TV.

Aside from the first half of “Days of Thunder” being better than the second half, my other complaints with the film are that there are one or two scenes that maybe were a little unnecessary (even if they did entertain), and that there are some predictable moments. Other than that, “Days of Thunder” is a solid film. I do recommend it.

Before I go any further, I also want to point out that I also really liked Robert Duvall’s performance. I liked the stern portrayal of his character, which added some grit to the film overall, and it just goes to show that you can really get an impact from a mentor-type figure on screen.

In the end, “Days of Thunder” once again comes into the middle rankings of my Tom Cruise library of films that I have seen with him as part of the cast. Would I watch it again? Honestly, not anytime soon. I’d rather watch “The Last Samurai,” I’d rather watch “Oblivion,” I’d rather watch “Edge of Tomorrow.” But that’s just me. Even so, this film has its moments. The racing scenes are fun, and some of the non-racing stuff can make for some pure entertainment too. But I don’t think it will give the movie all that much replay value in the future. I’m going to give “Days of Thunder” a 7/10. Before I watched this movie for my review, I had given it a 6, but in reality, the problems it has are not particularly world-ending or overwhelming, they’re just faults that maybe need to be pointed out to separate what’s good from bad. At the same time though, Cruise has done better in his career compared to this film. This may be on the lower spectrum of a 7, but as of this review, it stands where it is.

Thanks for reading this review! Up next in Tom Cruise Month is going to be my review for “Top Gun,” another Tony Scott film, which if you ask me, is the main reason why I am doing this series to begin with. After all, we were supposed to get the sequel, AKA “Top Gun: Maverick,” on June 24th. But unfortunately, it has been delayed to December, which sucks because personally if it were coming out this summer, it would have been in my top 5, maybe even 3, most anticipated films of the season. But I will be looking forward to the film, should I get to see it this winter. As a substitution, expect a review for the original sometime this week. If you want to see this review and other great content, make sure you follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account! If you want another place to get access to my content, go like my Facebook page, which provides links to the posts I create once they’re published, and some side banter you don’t really get to see here on Flicknerd.com. It’s a good time! I want to know, did you see “Days of Thunder?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite racing movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!