The Marksman (2021): First Film Review For the 2021 Cinematic Calendar!

“The Marksman” is directed by Robert Lorenz (Million Dollar Baby, Trouble with the Curve) and stars Liam Neeson (Honest Thief, Taken), Katheryn Winnick (Bones, Vikings), Juan Pablo Rada (Narcos, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Teresa Ruiz (The House of Flowers, Narcos: Mexico). This film centers around a former U.S. Marine by the name of Jim Hanson. Not Henson, not the Muppet guy, Hanson, with an “a.” He drives near the U.S./Mexico border and notices a mother and son crossing into the states. Turns out they are on the run from the cartel, at which point the refugees join Hanson in his truck for a ride. Unfortunately, in just a short amount of time, the mother dies, but conveniently notifies Hanson of a place where her son can be secure. So Hanson takes the son in his truck, and the two go on a journey to Chicago to ensure the boy’s safety.

First of all, here’s something to celebrate! “The Marksman” is the first 2021 film I am reviewing! Yes, I’ve already reviewed “News of the World,” but that came out in 2020, so that is not the point. The point is, “The Marksman” released in theaters this weekend, making this the first film on the 2021 cinematic calendar covered by the Movie Reviewing Moron. And the fact that I am talking about a movie like this is not that surprising. Liam Neeson usually has a movie out at this time of year. Last year was an exception, but in 2019 he had “Cold Pursuit.” In 2018 he had “The Commuter.” In 2015 he had “Taken 3.” In 2014 he had “Non-Stop.” I’ve personally seen all of these except “Non-Stop,” and let’s just say the results for each one were not spectacular. They were not world-ending, but they were mediocre at best, uneventful at worst. Although when it comes to “The Marksman,” I did not really set my expectations to any specific level. Part of it is because there is a pandemic where every other movie either gets cancelled, put onto streaming, or pushed back, so part of me is simply glad to see a movie in a theater regardless of what that may be. I have seen the trailer once, maybe a couple times, and I was never turned off by it, so maybe this could be a good time. Then again, it is January, the month where movies go to die.

Despite that previous sentence, this movie did not feel like a death sentence. In fact, I cannot recall a specific moment where I wanted to pull out my hair. “The Marksman” is a fine chase film. Granted, it follows a formula, when it comes to Liam Neeson, he is doing his typical Liam Neeson schtick. He sort of has this rugged, grandfatherly attitude, it is almost like he is repeating to himself in his head, “I’m too old for this s*it.” But I will say one thing about Liam Neeson, this is somewhat fine. Because there are certain actors out there, Liam Neeson is one of them, that can often get away with a repetitive formula if they can find a way to make it work. Neeson is not alone in this boat. Look at Kevin Hart, look at Tom Cruise, look at Samuel L. Jackson, look at Jason Statham. They all play fairly similar personalities with alternate identities from time to time, and they honestly do a good job with it.

Some of the best films of 2020 like “The Last Shift,” “News of the World,” and “Summerland” worked like a charm partially because of something they had in common. Specifically, the two main characters have an unlikely relationship, they stay together for the majority of the film, and somehow they make their time together flow. “The Marksman” is no exception to this idea. It is nowhere near as memorable or as emotionally investing, but nevertheless, “The Marksman” works because it takes a somewhat reclusive, older man, almost like a Clint Eastwood, get off my lawn type of person, but maybe with a little more assumed respect for others and pairs him with a younger boy who runs into him. Although as opposed to another recent film, “Half Brothers,” this film does a really good job at making you like both characters and have a connection with them. They are never annoying or unpleasant. They always have charisma and feel like they belong together to some degree.

This film also has some genuinely fun and entertaining action sequences. The final, big climactic sequence is worth the price of admission, but there are one or two others that make the film worth a watch if you like seeing things blow up or get shot. The film is not necessarily action-packed, especially when compared to Liam Neeson’s other recent outing, “Honest Thief,” which honestly may be a tad better in the action department. However, the little action that does exist is entertaining and deserves a thumbs up.

“The Marksman” is another one of those simple action flicks. You have your core characters, your not so complex storyline, they need to get from point A to point B, and certain obstacles or barriers are in their way. The film works enchantingly as a simple story where the objective is clear. Although despite this, there were maybe one or two moments where I was not what one would call bored, but if I had to use a proper adjective, I’d say I was drowsy. Maybe it is because everything feels so calm and the movie gives you plenty of time to breathe. I’ll bring up “Honest Thief” once again, which has more action, more excuses to have fight sequences. That was a bit faster in pace. “The Marksman” is kind of a road trip movie, and during a road trip, there is a good chance where you may want to take a break. Maybe stop for a bite to eat, stay at a motel in the middle of nowhere. This makes “The Marksman” feel more homey in terms of the vibe that is provided, even though there are life and death situations at hand.

I’m talking quite a bit about the main duo, but I don’t want to leave out the rest of the cast. Katheryn Winnick plays a cop who serves her purpose nicely. Teresa Ruiz is convincing as the refugee mother for the short amount of time she is in the movie. As for everyone in the cartel, they do a good job as well. They are brooding, intimidating, and they do not look like people you would always want to pick a fight with. This movie did a decent job at establishing the main threat and harkening back to them from time to time.

In the end, I do not think I will remember “The Marksman” as well as the other movies I will end up seeing in 2021, but it does not change the fact that it has put the year for movies off to a good start. “The Marksman” is yet another success for Liam Neeson. I have personally been impressed by his recent lineup of content including this film, “Honest Thief” and “Made in Italy.” Is “The Marksman” a classic for the ages? No. However, if a theater is open near you and you want some good action, “The Marksman” does serve its purpose and can give a couple hours of entertainment. I’m going to give “The Marksman” a 7/10.

“The Marksman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Get your tickets today.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is also the wide release of “One Night in Miami.” It is currently playing in several theaters, although it is also available on Prime Video for streaming. I might stay home and watch it, I need an excuse to use my Prime subscription, so I might get around to watching that film and reviewing it. Also, reminder to all, it is 2021! But if you want to be a daredevil and go back to 2020, feel free to check out my lists for my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and don’t forget to check out the Facebook page to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Marksman?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Liam Neeson as an actor? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

News of the World (2020): The Beauty of the Hanks News Media

“News of the World” is directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93), bases itself upon the 2016 Paulette Jiles western novel of the same name, and stars Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Toy Story) alongside Helena Zengel (Dark Blue Girl, System Crasher). This film is about a widowed Civil War veteran who goes around the world reading the news from various papers to those willing to listen for ten cents. In this film, he ventures with a young girl taken by the Kiowa people in an attempt to bring her to a place she can call home.

“News of the World” was one of the movies I was genuinely looking forward to over the Christmas season. Usually, when there is a movie that comes out near the end of the second half of the year that stars Tom Hanks, that’s usually a good sign. Last year we had “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which frankly did not deliver the goods I was anticipating, but there is no denying that Hanks was perfect casting as Fred Rogers. One film that I sometimes forget about, “Saving Mr. Banks,” which came out towards the end of 2013, features Hanks as a charismatic Walt Disney. Plus, Hanks is just a likable dude. People often claim him to be the nicest guy in Hollywood, and I often get that vibe just by looking at him. He kind of sounds like a fun dude to take on a cross-country road trip. Speaking of trips, “News of the World” centers around two characters who take a trip through the old west to find a home for a young girl, and I must say that the main duo makes for a delightful and charming heart of the story.

Speaking of delightful and charming, those are two words I can use to describe “News of the World.” I do not watch many westerns, but this film, despite taking place in the old west, did not always feel like a western. Yes, it has many of the staples between an excessive amount of horses and carriages, accents, tons of men with crazy amounts of hair, but it also sort of speaks to our world today. It speaks to the climate of our media and how people flock to what they “want” to hear as opposed to what they need to hear, and maybe how the things our media spit out can influence how people think, what people say. That is only a small portion of the film, but I sort of like how the film handled this subject matter because it speaks to our time. Maybe where you live and the people around you can also play a part in that. I live in the Boston area, and we have two big papers. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and while both are highly recognized, it is sometimes declared that each paper seems to cater to alternate demographics. If you read The Boston Globe, chances are you are reading something from a liberal mindset. If you read Boston Herald, you may be reading something from a conservative mindset. This subject matter makes for one of the more compelling moments of the movie. It does not handle it in complete relation to the example I just mentioned, but it did remind me of that.

In some of my recent posts, I have been talking about the Oscars and awards season, partially because we are approaching that time, and some of the recent films like “Promising Young Woman” and “Soul” may have a shot at making some rounds as we get closer to some big ceremonies. “News of the World” is another one of those films, and part of that is due to Tom Hanks as Captain Kidd. I’ve already mentioned he’s good in the movie, but I should point out that he should be a fairly presentable talking point when the Oscars come around. Not only does Tom Hanks look the part, kind of like he did for Fred Rogers last year, but he encapsulates the main character beautifully. For me, my top 3 candidates for Best Actor this awards season are, in no particular order, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Ben Affleck (The Way Back), and now, Tom Hanks (News of the World). I must also say, Hanks’s character in “News of the World” has a fascinating occupation. He goes around reading newspapers for an audience. Honestly, if I lived in the 19th century, that may be what I would do. Well, if I wasn’t writing for the papers myself. Either that or trying to invent videography if there were some way I could do that.

I must not forget, Hanks spends a great portion of the movie journeying with the young girl, played by Helena Zengel. Her name, or at least it’s the name that Captain Kidd calls her by, is Johanna. One thing I really like about their connection is that there is a language barrier between the two, but despite that, you could still get along, you can still have joyous times together, and as far as this story goes, it still feels like a universal story (and not just because Universal distributed this movie). One guy speaks English, the other person speaks Kiowan, but despite their differences, they can get along just fine. Then again, I am terrible at learning foreign languages, despite being good at doing a lot of other things and following several other subjects, so if I were in Captain Kidd’s shoes, who knows? Maybe I’d constantly throw a fit. Even so, “News of the World” presents a universal story, even though our two leads do not seem to have the ease of instantly understanding each other. One more thing to add, it is hard to tell where Zengel will end up in the long run, but I would watch her in a film again for sure, she did a great job here.

When it comes to my complaints for films, it usually involves pacing. I would not say that “News of the World” is an exception to this idea. Because in reality, the film is very well paced until the end. I say that because the heart of the story is between Hanks and Zengel, and once that concludes for the most part, the rest of the movie, while still slightly entertaining and compelling, not to mention slightly emotional, almost feels like borderline filler. Granted, if you know about the backstory of the main character, it truly is not. But that is almost what it feels like at times. At the same time however, one of the perks of “News of the World” is that in every other scene, there is a sense of conflict. There almost always feels like there is a sense of danger, and when a movie can do that, it makes it more watchable. This movie is kind of a slow burn, and as I have said prior on Scene Before, slow does not mean bad. Like a fast movie, slow only means bad if it feels like there’s no control. “News of the World” comes with a little more action than I thought there would be. I know this is technically a western, but it sort of surprised me that we would all of a sudden have this bloody intense shootout, it was really fun to watch and made for one of the more suspenseful and fun parts of the movie.

I went to see “News of the World” with a couple family members, and one in particular seemed a tad skeptical about the film, mainly because it is not their type of movie. They are not usually into period pieces. They walked out of the movie somewhat delighted. They would not consider the film an all time favorite, but they also were not against the film either. Maybe “News of the World” has the potential to reach a wide audience in the future. Sure, many theaters are closed right now, but this film will be heading to VOD soon, so for those who do not have a theater open in their area, this film may come on their radar rather quickly. Although if you do live near a theater, I’d recommend checking it out. Paul Greengrass directed this film, and he does so with what I imagine was a smile. It looks stunning and the cinematography from Dariusz Wolski is also a highlight that heightens Greengrass’s vision.

In the end, “News of the World” is a charmingly beautiful western. Tom Hanks excels as the film’s lead. Helena Zengel is solid in her role. I think the duo has great chemistry. If you take out the fact that this takes place in the old west, set it in modern times, it would still be a worthy allegory of how people view the media while also establishing two likable characters on a journey together. Granted, you’d probably have to change a lot, but this is a story from the 19th century that handles 21st century problems gorgeously. I’m going to give “News of the World” an 8/10.

“News of the World” is now playing in theaters across the United States wherever they are open. Due to a recent deal struck between AMC Theatres and Universal, the film will soon stream on video on demand. In several international territories, the film is now streaming on Netflix.

Thanks for reading this review! Guys, I am pleased to announce that it is officially 2021! Happy New Year! And oh, boooyyyyyyy do we need one. Is it just the passage of time? Technically, yes. But it is also, a new hope. And as for 2020, suck it! We don’t need you here anymore! But tomorrow and next day, we are acknowledging both the good and bad of the past year in my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 3) and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020 (dropping Jan 4). I am super excited to release these lists because yes, I enjoy doing them. For my best list, it is actually something positive about 2020, and with the worst list, I can burn this year to the ground where it belongs. In all seriousness, congrats to the filmmakers and studios who released a film this year. Your work has hopefully delighted, entertained, and amused audiences either in a theater, maybe on the subway, on a small screen on a plane, or at home. But most importantly, you provided an escape, which may be the most important thing about film right now. We all need a trip away from reality, and these films have helped me and many others take journeys to many magnificent places, real or fictional. I’m excited to reveal my top picks, they’ll be up next week, stay tuned! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, check out the Facebook page, and stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “News of the World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Tom Hanks film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

I’m Your Woman (2020): Gone with Baby, Gone

“I’m Your Woman” is directed by Julia Hart (Fast Colors, Stargirl) and stars Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards), Arinzé Kene (The Pass, Youngers), Marsha Stephanie Blake (When They See Us, Orange Is the New Black), Bill Heck (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Leftovers), Frankie Faison (Banshee, The Wire), Marceline Hugot (The Detour, United 93), and James McMenamin (Orange Is the New Black, Nurse Jackie). This film takes place in the 1970s, where a housewife is forced to go on the run with her baby after her husband betrays his partners. She has to deal with personal struggles, meeting unfamiliar people, endless questions amongst herself, and life or death situations.

“I’m Your Woman” has been out for almost a month, and it is currently free on Prime Video for all subscribers. I was going to watch this film early. In fact I remember obtaining a virtual link, but I decided to skip it as I have my Prime subscription handy. So I waited until now to watch the movie. Aside from exposure to this film through getting an advance screening email, I did watch one trailer when I saw “Mank” in the cinema. It kind of looked like a goldilocks thriller type film. What do I mean by that? Let’s take the three bears. It’s that basic analogy with the porridge. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. This was a thriller did not look like it was either too bombastic or too slow. This felt even tempered. Prior to putting on “I’m Your Woman,” I cannot say I knew too too much about the film, even though I did sit through that one trailer.

Was “I’m Your Woman” worth my time? I’d say it was. When it comes to thrillers this year, I do think there are better films. “Unhinged” is one such example, mainly because of its simple, relatable concept. It’s also got nothing on my favorite thriller of the year, “Tenet,” which admittedly will likely end up having more replay value than any other film of 2020 for me. I cannot compare it to “Run,” which a lot of people have seen recently, which I tried watching, but apparently Hulu was acting up and showing giant pixels and a large area of black instead of the film. Regardless of my comparisons and desire to have my movies work, “I’m Your Woman” is a hypnotizing couple of hours. It’s kind of slow at times, but there are also certain moments where the gears turn and everything speeds up. It’s a perfect blend, hence the recent goldilocks comparison.

This movie takes place in the 1970s, and I got that vibe right away. When the movie starts we see the main family in their home, they have this funky-looking wallpaper, everything is yellow, the kitchen looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss tale, and I think the art and production design department did a really good job at encapsulating the 1970s. Aside from that, you have all these older cars, there’s a crucial scene where our main hero uses a payphone booth as a hiding spot, and there are some key elements to the story that are well captured through our main character’s struggles and desires that define the time.

We live in an era today where women are all “You can do it,” and “Go get em’, girl!” People say that to women all the time now. And while the 1970s were not as restrictive to women as say earlier parts of the 20th century, the movie displays its specific time frame as a point when many women seem to typically be a housewife. They tend to stay home all the time, doing chores, cleaning, that sorts of stuff, and the man of the house tends to go out and bring home the bacon. And of course, the couple has a kid, so while the man is out, our main hero, Jean, is doing all she can for the child. Throughout the movie, while the couple is separated, Jean not only has to deal with the child that has been with her for a period of time, but now she is in the seemingly unfamiliar situation of being isolated, being alone. I felt for her. Having a kid is hard enough. Losing a partner who helped raise the kid is just another big blow. I do not think Rachel Brosnahan is going to win an Oscar for this film. For all I know, some awards outlet might recognize her, but she does a really good job at playing the main character.

Let’s talk about Arinzé Kene in this film. Kene plays a character named Cal who has a significant presence throughout. I’m very conflicted on this character. For the record, he’s written properly, every motivation and line regarding this character makes sense and does not feel illogical. At the same time, when I first saw him, I got an uneasy first impression. What do I mean? I did not agree with everything he did. But at the same time, everything about him falls into place and Kene’s performance is justifiably competent. If I had to compare this character and the actor’s performance to anything else, I’d have to use the Amazon movie, “Gringo.” For those of you who don’t remember Gringo, there’s this one character played by Charlize Theron. She’s a great actress, I like her in a lot of stuff she’s in, and the same can be said for “Gringo.” But what can also be said for “Gringo” is that Charlize Theron does a spectacular job playing a character I absolutely hated. It’s one of the few positives in that film. Maybe it’s because she’s good looking, who knows? Charlize Theron is an attractive woman, there is no doubt about that.

If there is anything else that stands out about “I’m Your Woman” it is the pacing. “I’m Your Woman” is a very… I don’t what other term I can use, uneventful kind of film. I don’t mean that literally, things do happen. But the buildup in each scene feels slow, it takes its time. And for the kind of thriller we’re dealing with here, it works. It kind of feels like “No Country for Old Men” meets “Blade Runner” if both those things took place in the 1970s. There are a couple cool action scenes that do not try to go over the top, but that is what makes them great. They’re not overstylized, but that grabbed my attention.

I also liked this one character named Evelyn. She’s played by Marceline Hugot and she’s kind of this charming, older woman. She almost sounds like a stereotypical cat lady. She’s got that Amy Sedaris type voice, the wrinkly hair, and she barely has a presence in the film, and while I won’t go into too much detail, there is one scene that was somewhat enhanced by her presence.

In the end, “I’m Your Woman” is worth watching and a fine slow burn through the 1970s. Vibe-wise, this movie kills. It is a great encapsulation of the time. Character-wise, I liked most of them, but there are a select few that I will end up discarding by the end of the year. I think this film did a great job at highlighting the struggles of our protagonist, and Rachel Brosnahan did excellent at enhancing said struggles. However, I do not think this is a film that I will watch again anytime soon. I will not rule it out. Maybe it could be one of those films that I could have on at 2AM if I have trouble falling asleep. This does have action, but it is also slow-paced enough to have some empty air. And thankfully, the empty air does not feel out of place. I am going to give “I’m Your Woman” a 7/10.

“I’m Your Woman” is now available exclusively on Prime Video for all subscribers. The film also had a theatrical release at the start of the month, but I do not think it is playing in any cinemas right now, partially due to the pandemic leaving some venues closed, but also due to other movies taking up slots. Give this a watch!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Tom Hanks film “News of the World” which is exclusively in theaters right now, but will likely appear on VOD very soon. Also, I plan to make “News of the World” my final 2020 movie review before I unveil my picks for the top 10 BEST and WORST movies of the year! Those lists will be up in early January! 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 “I’m Your Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, what have you been watching on Prime this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fatale (2020): Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank Liven Up an Engaging (But Occasionally Predictable) Thriller

Fatale (2020) - IMDb

“Fatale” is directed by Deon Taylor (Meet the Blacks, Black and Blue) and stars Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry, Insomnia), Michael Ealy (Think Like a Man, About Last Night), Mike Colter (The Good Wife, Luke Cage), and Geoffrey Owens (The Cosby Show, Lucifer). This film is about a married man who has a one night stand in Las Vegas with a woman named Valerie (Swank), only to have an incident happen in his household upon returning, and he soon finds himself in the center of a police investigation, where Valerie just so happens to be part of the department.

Deon Taylor - IMDb

“Fatale” comes to us from Deon Taylor, the same filmmaker who brought us last year’s “Black and Blue,” which I saw at a press screening. I’ll start this review off simple, I thought that this was a more entertaining experience than “Black and Blue.” I am not going to deny that the movie has its audience, it just wasn’t what I wanted. I thought it occasionally got a little too over the top, the supporting characters where nowhere near as charismatic as I’d probably want them to be, and I think I have forgotten a good chunk of the movie by now. It might take some time to determine whether I will ultimately remember or forget “Fatale” but there is no denying that this film is fun, lively, and kind of sexy. I knew going in that this sort of centered around a one night stand, I did not expect it to be as erotic as it was, and I give the film props for that.

When it comes down to everything, the real core of the film is the newfound relationship between Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank. They’re both in Las Vegas for alternate reasons, but despite their differences, they find each other charming and decide to hook up. Also, talk about good casting. I really like Michael Ealy as his character, I think Hilary Swank did a good job as her character, and I must say, Hilary Swank’s got that vibe of that fantasy woman that all men kind of want to a degree. They think about her, they dream about her, and they’ll do anything to have her in their life. Hilary Swank kind of feels eternally young to a certain point, and I think whoever thought about casting her deserves kudos.

But in all seriousness, I really liked Swank’s character. Despite what I previously said, Hilary Swank does more in “Fatale” than just be a seductive, dreamy, pretty face. That’s not to say that she does not do that well. She actually does so brilliantly, but the movie goes in and gives a lot of depth to her. I cared about her story, and at times I felt for her, even though much of the movie presents her as an interference to our main hero. She’s separated, she has kids, and she can’t see them. I am not a parent, but I imagine for some parents, that sort of feeling is not the greatest. This separation has her uneasy, she’s hoping things change, and it overall plays a factor into the plot and where things go from one point to the next.

There are a lot of genuinely good, classy scenes in “Fatale.” The scene where our two leads first meet is kind of sensual and fun, and really lets in the vibe that sticks around for the rest of the film. I think the part where they are in the hotel room makes for a rather entertaining moment as well and goes to show that the casting department did their job. Pretty much almost any scene with these two together does not disappoint, whether it is strictly plot related or just something in between. However I will admit, the movie does get to a point where I could predict what happens next, and guess who has two thumbs and is always right?

*points* THIS GUY!

This movie does not have the worst screenplay in the world. In fact for the most part, it is pretty decent. I think it provided for a thumbs up-worthy movie. But there is one moment that I saw coming from a mile away, and I guess the movie wanted it to be this grand thing that is kind of a revelation. I just thought to myself, “Okay, whatever.” I like being right when I play “Wheel of Fortune,” but I also like being surprised when I watch a movie. I want my expectations subverted. I want the movie to go in a direction that I am not expecting. Granted, I have seen a lot of movies, and the art form has been around for a hundred years, so sometimes it is hard to come up with something new and innovative, but I would like to see people try doing such a thing.

“Fatale” also has some pretty solid action. At times, it is not just the action itself, not just the physicality that makes these sorts of scenes great, but it is also the dialogue, there is a scene towards the end of the movie that sort of had me oohing to myself. I mean, if this scene were a rap battle, you could argue that it is pretty fierce, pretty heavy-hitting. Although it does not take away from the excitement of the combat, the shootouts, but when a movie can interweave great dialogue into a fight, you know they are doing something right. And it may also reveal that the screenwriter, also known as David Loughery, has done his job to make a compelling story. Granted, it is also slightly predictable, as I have previously exposed, but it it is nevertheless compelling.

One last thing, speaking of action, I also really like the scene where Derrick and his wife Micaela are being robbed. You get a sense of mystery throughout, the lighting fits the moment, and the way they went about this scene kind of reminded me of a horror movie. You know how sometimes a horror movie might have a person or object coming out of nowhere? They did something of that nature here, and it kind of works. Not only is this movie white knuckle, not only is it erotic, but it is also a tad intimidating. It’s overall a good mix, even if the intimidation does not last that long.

In the end, “Fatale” was a good time. Usually this is the time of year where we are just getting into the awards season for film. The Golden Globes are around the corner. The Oscars are not too far away. The SAGs are also coming soon. The Critics Choice Awards are also on the list somewhere. Unfortunately, these sorts of shows are getting pushed back and as a result, this December seems lackluster for the kind of bait that these award shows eat up. Sadly, “Fatale” does not fit into the awards sphere, at least I would not say so. Maybe Hilary Swank has a small chance, but even that seems slim. At the same time, if you want pure entertainment, do not miss “Fatale.” This is not the next “Citizen Kane” or anything, but it can keep you occupied for less than a couple hours. I am going to give “Fatale” a 7/10.

“Fatale” is now playing wherever theaters are open. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! This Friday, I am going to see “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks. The film is getting tons of praise from critics and audiences, and Hanks usually impresses around this time of year, so I hope that he can continue delivering the goods with this movie. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the official Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Fatale?” What did you think about it? Or, since Hilary Swank was in two films in 2020, which one did you like better? “The Hunt” or “Fatale?” Personally, I could not stand “The Hunt,” so that makes this deliberation that much easier. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins Return to the Big (and Small) Screen

“Wonder Woman 1984” is directed by Patty Jenkins, who also directed the first “Wonder Woman” film starring Gal Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Fast Five) back in 2017. Gadot returns to play the iconic heroine alongside a cast including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones), Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), Robin Wright (House of Cards, Forrest Gump), and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo). This film takes place many years after the original, which was set in World War I. This time, we journey to 1984, where Wonder Woman has to take on two new foes, Max Lord and the Cheetah. Also, Steve Trevor, reprised by Chris Pine, comes along for the ride.

It has been three and a half years since I first watched “Wonder Woman,” which I originally gave a 10/10. By the way, that 10/10 still stands. The film is somewhat cliché. It contains things that have been done before, there is no denying that. But it does so with excellence and in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Plus, you can also add on that we have not had many successes with comic book movies specifically centered around characters portrayed by women. This felt like not just a proper, but a *massive* step in the right direction. It was also my favorite film in the DCEU at the time. In my review for the original film, I go onto mention that when it comes to “origin stories,” “Wonder Woman” may be my all time favorite in regards to movies. Part of it has to do with the singular and stellar vision provided by director Patty Jenkins and all the performances from cast members including Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The villians were… okay. However, each action sequence, even those that others say are heavy in CGI, are exciting and heart-pumping. I know some people find the final act to be clunky, I had a great time with it. Plus, Wonder Woman’s theme music, which was first introduced in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is arguably my favorite superhero theme of all time. Maybe except the one created for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man.

Going into “Wonder Woman 1984,” it was hard to imagine that such a movie could surpass the original. However, based on early reviews, it seemed as if such a thing would be possible. After all, we’ve already gotten the been there done that origin story out of the way, if you want to call it that. It was time for something new, innovative. Going in, I already had my expectations blown away. I did not expect Chris Pine to return. Like, literally. At all. Then again, this takes place in a comic book universe where anything is possible. There were also some new things in regards to tech. Not that they haven’t been done before, just not in the original “Wonder Woman,” because this new flick was partially shot on IMAX film. And if you have read a number of my posts, you know I rave about IMAX film. By the way, while the movie is shot in the heavy duty format, there is barely any footage that will expand the frame in IMAX. However, it may be worth the extra few bucks if those theaters are open near you.

But is “Wonder Woman 1984” worth the hype? Absolutely not.

Well! Well! Well! 2020 strikes again! “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a massive disappointment to one of the most anticipated films of the year. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a step down from the original 2017 film. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only the worst comic book movie of the year. Yes, more than “Bloodshot” for crying out loud! But it is also the worst entry to DCEU thus far.

Now, let me just get one thing out of the way. I am a straight white male in his early twenties. I am not one of those people that is trying cancel Gal Gadot. After all, I met her in person, I have her autograph, and she is a decent actress. I am also not trying to cancel Patty Jenkins, which the Internet seems to be doing according to many people. If they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3” with these two at the front lines, I am there. Their work on the original film justifies such a thing, and Jenkins is a director that is completely capable of making something magical. In fact, most of the problems of the film do not have to do with how the movie is made. It instead has to do with the pacing, the editing, the way everything plays out, the characters, and the writing. Admittedly, Jenkins is responsible for that last mistake, given how she has a screenplay credit. I don’t know if I should blame her entirely given how she wrote the script with a couple other people, but I should also point out that she did not have a screenplay credit for the previous “Wonder Woman” installment. This time around, Jenkins collaborates with Dave Callaham, who wrote the script for one of last year’s best comedies, “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Also along for the ride is Geoff Johns who has plenty of experience of creating DC content. So, what went wrong? Was there not enough time to draft everything out? Were there so many ideas colliding from three different minds? I don’t know. Patty Jenkins seems very passionate about the Wonder Woman character. In fact, throughout the movie, Jenkins properly visualizes the character as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people, especially women.

This movie starts off pretty great. By the way, for those who want to see the film in IMAX, this is one of the two scenes that were actually filmed in the IMAX format. The scene not only looked articulate and felt immersive, but it may have ended up being the best part of the movie. It is action-packed, exciting, and lets you escape into the world Themyscira. Sadly, the movie kind of blows its load in the first ten minutes. Because it spends time showing you young Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell), progresses to a time where we see a matured Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and in these initial scenes, the action never stops whether Diana is trying to win an athletic event for herself, or she saves the lives of others. Even so, it does kind of feel like action that does belong in the beginning of a superhero sequel. The main character kicks ass while you get reintroduced to them, and the movie sets a footprint for where the story is going to go. “Wonder Woman 1984” sets up a vibe that fits the title. You see people walking around in eccentric clothing, there’s record stores, CRT television sets, and a multi-story colorful mall. When it comes to the first hour of “Wonder Woman 1984,” these scenes were fine. What wasn’t fine in the first hour is perhaps just about everything else.

What do I mean? Let’s take a moment to talk about the worst “Lord of the Rings” film. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” I’ll be fair. I did have fun with the movie, but one of the worst things about “An Unexpected Journey” was the pacing. This may partially be due to the need to adapt one book into three parts, but the evidence comes in towards the beginning where we see the 13 dwarves coming into Bilbo Baggins’s home. A lot of the screentime almost feels extended and nearly tiresome. There are some decent moments, but it does not always make for a good time. It takes like 45 minutes to an hour to actually get the movie going. With “Wonder Woman 1984,” I got the same feeling. It just took forever to actually get into gear. Mainly because this film feels like a stockpile of exposition. “Batman v. Superman” sort of felt the same way, but I think I had more fun watching that, exposition included, than I did sitting through whatever the hell “Wonder Woman 1984” turned out to be. To add onto that, you have some cringe-worthy lines, less than stellar characters, and a surprisingly boring storyline, part of which includes a role reversal.

Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor in this movie. I will not go into detail of his return, but this was heavily marketed, so if you’re considering this a spoiler, I’m sorry. In the 2017 “Wonder Woman” film, Gal Gadot’s character has to deal with the new sights of earth and learn the normalcies within. To do so, she had the assistance of Steve Trevor along the way. Diana Prince came off occasionally as eccentric, she said certain things that maybe would be better left unsaid, and there’s a montage where she’s trying on unfamiliar apparel. This time around, Diana assists Steve in 1984, because now he’s the fish out of water. Much like the last movie, there is a reversal where Steve is trying on different clothes that defined the 1980s. He occasionally had a fanny pack, “parachute pants,” and so on. That scene kind of entertained me. However, the rest of this storyline was mostly either boring or impractical. There is a scene where Diana and Steve are flying through the sky looking at fireworks. And sure, fireworks are a sight to be seen. There is reason why Disney World charges you your entire blood supply to see them up close. But this movie made me ask if Steve has never actually seen fireworks in his life. The way I viewed the scene made me wonder why he was actually as amazed as he was in those exact moments. Fireworks have been around for a long time. Many years, centuries even! Why is Chris Pine acting like he’s never seen fireworks before?

This movie features a couple respectable actors, you have Pedro Pascal who I liked in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” he’s also in hit TV shows including “Game of Thrones” and “The Mandalorian.” The guy has been certain cores of nerd culture over the years. You also have Kristen Wiig, who I have rather mixed feelings on. I was not a fan of her in the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. I don’t think I find her as funny as other people do. But I also am a fan her in other regards. I think she did a fine job in “The Martian” and her voiceover work in projects like “Sausage Party” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise are highlights in her career. Sadly, their performances are very on and off here. I would not ease myself into saying that the actors themselves are specifically at fault, but these two portray their characters to a degree that feels cartoony and off-putting. “Wonder Woman 1984” gets into the problem that people have criticized movies like “Batman & Robin,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for realizing. MULTIPLE MAJOR THREATS.

I am not saying you cannot make a movie with more than one villain. It has been done before with “Return of the Jedi,” “The Dark Knight,” and if you really think this counts, “Back to the Future Part II.” But the beauty of having one major threat in your movie is that you get to make them the source of everyone’s struggle. Time is taken to specifically focus on that one character and why they must stopped. We somewhat get that in “Wonder Woman 1984” with Max Lord (Pascal), but when it comes to Barbara Minerva (Wiig), the way she is handled is sort of similar to how they handled Eddie Brock in “Spider-Man 3.” Only thing is, I was actually entertained whenever Eddie Brock had a scene in “Spider-Man 3.” Topher Grace played the part well, even during lines that were not up to par. Wiig tries, but the problem is that some of the writing in “Wonder Woman 1984” makes some of the writing in “Spider-Man 3” look like Shakespeare. Maybe that’s not the best comparison, mainly because I am one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed “Spider-Man 3.” However, there are a few lines and storytelling methods in that film that do not fall into place.

But if you want me to compare “Wonder Woman 1984” to another film I did not enjoy, let’s use “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” In that film, you have Electro and the Green Goblin. There’s also the Rhino, but we’re gonna leave him out for this. The two major threats in “Wonder Woman 1984” are basically just like Electro and the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but instead of being exact carbon copies, they take various qualities of each character, but they are switched around to make something new. Like Electro, Barbara is eccentric, kind of shy, almost a nobody. But kind of like the Green Goblin, she barely has any screentime as Cheetah. And whatever screentime there is almost feels forced or nearly unmemorable. As for Max Lord, he’s got funky hair like Harry Osborn, he’s affiliated with a big company. And like Electro, he has a more significant screen presence when it comes to dealing with our main hero. This all adds up to an underwhelming evil duo in an underwhelming movie. But I do have to say one thing about Max Lord, and it kind of turned me off. He’s basically Donald Trump.

Think about it! This movie is painting a picture of an obsessive, failed businessman and kinda sorta television personality who has little time for their kids. In fact, my first impression of his son was that he was sort of a spoiled brat, which does not always seem to stick for the rest of the movie. Again, the hairstyle feels like something out of a meme. There is even a scene, and you saw this in the main trailer for this film, where he stands in front of a background representing the White House Press Room! Granted, having compared Pedro Pascal to his comic book counterpart, the casting and makeup departments did a good job at being faithful to the source material. But knowing that this was made in the late 2010s, and originally supposed to release in 2019, I could not help but make this comparison. And part of why I did not like this is because, and this may be a personal thing, it slightly ruined the escapism factor of the film. I’m not going to say whether I like Donald Trump, whether I dislike him. I am not here to get into politics. But Max Lord in “Wonder Woman 1984” feels like a Trump parody. The makeup department could have easily sprayed orange spray paint onto Pascal’s face and boom! Donald Trump impersonation!

I will say, there is one thing about “Wonder Woman 1984” that could be an improvement over the first one, and that is Gal Gadot’s performance. Gal Gadot, as much as I adore her as a person, as good-looking as she is, is not Meryl Streep. When it comes to “Wonder Woman,” she’s always looked the part, and she’s had good moments since her inception. Even though her character was the best part of “Batman v. Superman” for me, her acting ability was a far cry from what I saw out of Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill or Laurence Fishburne. When she shows up alongside the two titular characters in “Batman v. Superman,” she comes off as a badass, but there’s a line that she releases out of her mouth that feels like a first take. In “Wonder Woman 1984,” Gal Gadot has a commanding presence, she is charismatic, she is emotional, and occasionally witty. I liked Gadot’s performance in the original “Wonder Woman” because she did a good job at interpreting a goddess who has to adapt to a new normal, embracing the ups and downs along the way. But there were also signs that Gadot needed to work more on her craft and do a little more than be a pretty face in armor who can say words here and there. I will admit, her acting towards the end of “Wonder Woman” occasionally gave me chills, but I could tell that there was still work that needed to be done. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a sign that Gal Gadot is getting better, she deals with dialogue better than she used to, and her range is improving. I am looking forward to seeing Gal Gadot in “Death on the Nile” and if they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3,” count me in.

Gal Gadot’s performance is not the only positive here, because I will admit, even though I think Patty Jenkins and the other writers could have done a better job with the screenplay, she did alright with crafting the film. When it comes to her vision, I do not think it was as well represented as the original, but a crappy script can make that happen. Some of the cinematography is marvelous to look at. The visuals are just as good as the original film. Many scenes felt big and grand, and while I imagine some people will stick to watching “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max for now, if you feel safe going to a theater right now, do not rule that option out. There are some cool scenes that look great on the big screen. Speaking of things that feel grand, they got Hans Zimmer to do the score, which I was onboard with from the beginning. I saw the first few minutes of “Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, and from that moment, I was excited to hear the rest of the score, and it is really good. There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has one of the best themes for an on-screen superhero, and I am glad that Zimmer got to work his magic to carry out his singular vision regarding it. I will likely listen to the soundtrack sometime in the future. The film had a passable ending. Granted there was some cringe surrounding it, but it good parts.

Too bad the movie’s boring, forgettable, and another big blow in 2020. F*ck. This. Year.

In the end, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a visually grand mess. Am I looking forward to what Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have in store in the future? Yes. But does my anticipation take away from my thoughts on “Wonder Woman 1984?” No. I think “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic misstep of a film. And the worst part is that it was not worth all the waits from the delays. I’ll be honest, and some of you may find this surprising, I would rather watch the live-action version of Disney’s “Mulan” again! Just to paint a picture of how much I did not like this film, let me just boil it down to a simple sentence. I did not have fun. Ironically, 2017’s “Wonder Woman” took place in World War I, where people are fighting, people are dying, times are desperate, but I managed to have fun. This sequel takes place in 1984. In real life, that year was much more lighthearted, at least from the perspective of the United States. Yes, there was the War on Drugs. AIDS broke out. Indira Gandhi was murdered. But there were plenty of big songs and movies that came out like “Jump” by Van Halen or “Ghostbusters.” People were having fun! “Wonder Woman 1984” manages to take a time that is significantly more fun than World War I, and makes it the most boring thing imaginable. The action sequences don’t save this movie. Gal Gadot’s improved performance doesn’t save this movie. A couple new and talented faces do not even save this travesty. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic disappointment, the worst film in the Detective Comics Extended Universe, and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Due to the lockdown in the United Kingdom, the movie will debut on January 13th, 2021 on PVOD. If you live in the United States, you can also watch the film right now on HBO Max if you are a subscriber and it is available at no extra cost until the near end of January 2021, where it will finish it’s theatrical release, go to PVOD for a price, likely hit store shelves through DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually return to HBO and HBO Max sometime next year.

Thanks for reading this review! Who knew that in the SAME WEEKEND, we would get my least favorite Pixar film, and now, and perhaps on a more significant scale, my least favorite DCEU film! This year has kicked my ass, called me names, and made me eat dirt. We are approaching the end of 2020, THANK HEAVENS. So it is almost time for me to post my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. That will be up sometime early next year and I may have one or two more reviews coming your way if I can fit them in. 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 “Wonder Woman 1984?” What did you think about it? Also, did you watch the movie in the theater? At home? Or both? Tell me about your experience! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CORRECTION: When I said, “There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer,” I was wrong. Turns out the music in that scene was Adagio in D Minor, originally composed by John Murphy for the film “Sunshine,” which has been used in several marketing pieces for “Ready Player One,” the “2010 Winter Olympics,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” I will not spoil where it plays for those who have not seen the movie.

Promising Young Woman (2020): I Promise, This Is Thrilling

“Promising Young Woman” is written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown, Call the Midwife), and this is her feature length directorial debut. This film stars Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive), Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade, The Big Sick), Alison Brie (The Disaster Artist, Glow), Clancy Brown (The Goldbergs, Billions), Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie, Joey), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black, TRANSform Me), and Connie Britton (Spin City, Nashville). This film follows a young woman, like the title suggests, as she tries to get revenge on people she finds herself coming across after reflecting on an event from her past.

This holiday has brought a couple big movies to the masses, “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul.” I’ve seen the latter, and it is good. Not great, but good. Although it is a disappointment by Pixar standards. I also saw “Wonder Woman 1984,” but I won’t share my thoughts yet as it is going to be my next review. These two big films are not specifically theatrical exclusives in the United States. “Wonder Woman 1984” is playing on the big screen wherever theaters are open and on HBO Max while “Soul” is exclusively on Disney+. On the other hand, “Promising Young Woman” is a film that is currently a theatrical exclusive (even though it should land on VOD soon). What did I think of “Promising Young Woman?”

I think “Promising Young Woman” is a damn good time. If anything, I was quite surprised with how it turned out. Partially because the way I interpreted the film, given how I knew there was a revenge plot in it, would happen to be sort of similar to John Wick, but with vastly different issues at hand. But it is not, the beauty of the film is not in the physicality, not in the things people do, not in the action. After all, if you go in expecting a “John Wick”-like action film, your expectations may be a little subverted. The beauty of “Promising Young Woman” lies within a couple aspects. The dialogue, most of which was good. And the editing, all of which was excellent. This film is edited marvelously and provides for a unique flair at times. They take a slight core aspect of the film and use it to separate key moments, and the execution for this feels bold and manages to be delivered with a commanding presence.

By the way, this film is edited by Frédéric Thoraval, who has experience with editing not only a revenge story, but one of the best revenge stories ever filmed, with 2008’s “Taken.” “Promising Young Woman” is another killer flick to add to his resume. Then again, he also edited 2018’s “Peppermint,” which basically is kinda sorta “Taken” except that Jennifer Garner is in the spotlight, not Liam Neeson. And as an overall revenge story, it leaves much to be desired. I’ll say, Thoraval did a fine editing job, however. With the editing in “Promising Young Woman,” a lot the highlights seem to spark from a personal touch from director Emerald Fennell. A touch that only she could have conceptualized. However, it does not take away from the fact that the editing seems to make for one of the best parts of the film.

Let’s talk about the main character of the film, Cassandra. First off, Carey Mulligan is going to be a talk of the town during awards season. She knocked her performance out of the park, and she also looked the part too. Her character lives at home with her parents despite being at a crucial point in her twenties, and she does not seem to have any desire to leave. Speaking of desires, we see early on in the film that Cassandra does not have a lust for anyone else. We see that when she goes out to a nightclub, and what happens afterwards that sort of plays a crucial part in the film. We also see this with her interactions with Ryan, played wonderfully by Bo Burnham. Although she does keep herself occupied by working in a coffee shop, so she has that going for her. At the same time however, Cassandra had a path for herself building up in medical school, but she dropped out. In fact, the film even establishes that Cassandra’s parents are worried for her, they want her out of their life, they want her to meet a guy, fall in love, move out. They even get her a gift that basically symbolizes this. She gets the message right away.

One of my favorite screenwriters is Quentin Tarantino, not only because of his personal touch with each script he does, but also because in a film like “Pulp Fiction,” it basically makes fun of not only how movie scenes play out, but maybe even taps into how reality plays out. There’s this scene where Uma Thurman and John Travolta are eating together at a diner and they talk about awkward silences. That’s a fun scene that pokes at the way we communicate. There are one or two moments early on that evoke the same vibe. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it lands, it lands.

Except for a few minor problems that I have with certain lines that maybe do not fit, “Promising Young Woman” delivers one of the better screenplays of the year, and part of why I love it so much is not only because it sort of taps into our reality where it dives into why some men are pigs, why women want to defend themselves, but also because of how subversive it is. Yes, I talked earlier about how I went into “Promising Young Woman” sort of expecting “John Wick” with different issues at hand, and that’s not entirely what I got. Now I should say, I view “John Wick” as a quintessential modern thriller, so that’s part of why I used that example. But that’s not what I’m talking about. This movie has twists and turns, none of them feel shoehorned, forced. or out of place. I feel like this is a story that Emerald Fennell took her time on. This feels like a passion project. I have no idea if Fennell plans to make her career behind the camera as prominent, or perhaps more prominent, than the one she has in front of the camera. But if she is up to make another film, I am there. This was a good time.

In the end, “Promising Young Woman,” I promise you, is quite excellent. This had an intriguing beginning, some fun buildup, and a satisfyingly subversive ending. The cast offer some good performances, but Carey Mulligan is the star of the show and may be a talking point during awards season. If you like thrillers, if you like twists, if you like fine writing, and solid directing, do not miss this movie. I am glad I took the opportunity to see it, and I have a feeling many of you reading this will too. I am going to give “Promising Young Woman” a 9/10.

“Promising Young Woman” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. There is currently no announced date for when this film will hit video on demand, but given how this film is from Focus Features, which is owned by Comcast, which also owns Universal, the film should debut on video on demand very soon.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the highly anticipated sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” which is now available in theaters and on HBO Max. I might also review one or two more films by the end of the year, possibly “Fatale” or “News of the World,” but we shall see what happens. 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 “Promising Young Woman?” What did you think about it? Or, is there a movie that you’re looking forward to that could make some noise during awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Soul (2020): Pete Docter’s Latest Attempt at Making You Cry

“Soul” is directed by Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) alongside first timer for feature-length directing, Kemp Powers. This film stars Jamie Foxx (Ray, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live), Questlove (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show, Creed), Daveed Digs (Snowpiercer, Black-ish), and Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It, Black Panther). This film centers around a middle school jazz teacher who often tries to find music gigs. He gets transported out of his body and must find his way back with the assistance of an infant soul.

Like many movies this year including “Scoob!,” “Trolls: World Tour,” “Greenland,” and “Mulan,” “Soul” joins the list of films that were once slated to have a big theatrical debut, but due to COVID-19, that became an impossibility. Therefore, Disney decided to put the film on their own streaming service, much like the just recently mentioned “Mulan.” However, unlike “Mulan,” to watch “Soul,” you did not have to pay an extra fee. You had to be a subscriber, but the one time fee of $29.99 was nonexistent. Yay!

Regardless of “Soul’s” fate, this was on my list of films to anticipate. After all, Pete Docter has directed three Pixar features, all of which by the way have been really good. “Monsters Inc.” puts a clever spin on the way we think about creatures that invade our nightmares. “Up” is a fun adventure with arguably the greatest on-screen dog ever made. “Inside Out” is not only one of my favorite Pixar movies, but it is by far one of the best animated films I have ever watched, and really shows that the studio does not cater to kids, and respects its entire viewer base.

Speaking of Pixar, they’ve yet to have a bad day at the office. Even a movie like “Cars 2,” which many people suggest lacks luster compared to many of Pixar’s other offerings, I would consider fun and thrilling all the way through. To be fair though, I have not seen all of Pixar’s work. I skipped “The Good Dinosaur” in the theater and I have yet to watch it at home. So who knows? Maybe that movie will disappoint me. So, does “Soul” keep up the positive streak Pixar has been hammering home by now?

Ehh… Kinda.

Let me say one thing about “Soul,” where there are positives, they are obvious. This film, much like all of Pixar’s recent work like “Incredibles 2” and “Toy Story 4” is beautifully animated. Even though I watched “Soul” on the small screen, New York looked as stunning as a snowfall on Christmas morning. I really like that Pete Docter decided to do another project where the main characters are not necessarily just humans, but little figments of ourselves. “Inside Out” is one of my favorite films of the past five to six years, and part of why I love that movie so much is because it takes emotions and utilizes them to make you feel emotions. Sort of in the same way, I kind of expected that going into “Soul.” In some ways, my expectations to such a matter were met. In others, not so much. The thing about “Inside Out” is that the movie managed to take characters, who in actuality are just parts of one humanized character, and turned them into something bigger, something bolder. In “Soul,” it kind of puts humans and souls in the same perspective and somewhat equalizes them despite their differences. This movie tries to do something with that, and there are a series of pros that come with the concept’s execution, but as the movie goes on, it becomes less interesting, especially towards the final few minutes.

“Soul” is by no means the worst movie of the year, however it may have the worst ending. I will not spoil anything, but this film does not exactly follow the structure of your traditional animation, and I think in some ways, that’s great. I love when films become experimental. But experiments are about trial and error. I think we’ve hit “error” territory with this vision. In a way, each character’s arch was fulfilled. All the actions lead to inevitable reactions. But I left the film feeling empty. I did not feel happy. I did not feel sad. I left not knowing what exactly to think. The usual thing about films is that they try to build up to an epic and satisfying climax. “Soul” has a climax, thankfully. However, as I watched the film, it did not feel climactic. It felt like we were somewhere in act two a little too long. I do not know why. When I watched “Inside Out,” it kind of felt like sex for your brain. You built up all this information, it’s all clogged in your mind, and when the big moments of the end come, I felt shook, it is a feeling that left me with a series of emotions. “Soul” left me with one question.

“Wait, that’s the movie?”

I felt like we’ve left the story unfinished, when in reality it wasn’t. Nothing really felt big or grand, and while I do not expect all my movies to feel like that, it feels weird to be saying that about a Pixar movie. The studio typically does a good job with scale and reminding you of the importance of its characters. “Soul” does that, but it couldn’t stick the landing.

However, speaking of characters, I admire the chemistry between our two leads. You have the main character, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who has to deal with his new normal after death. And you also have 22 (Tina Fey), who had a particular normal for centuries, and this movie presents the latest iteration of that normal. One of my favorite scenes of the film are the flashbacks of the past examples of what 22 is going through in the not the great beyond, but the great before, where souls remain before they journey to earth to live out their lives. I thought the duo were cast decently, and they had a couple funny lines here and there. Yes, “Soul” is funny, but I will not say it is as funny as other Pixar flicks including “Toy Story 2,” “Up,” and the incessantly mentioned “Inside Out.”

If anything, “Soul” is a movie that is probably going to be looked over by students. This is partially because it is a family friendly movie revolving around music, so this may be good for music classes of all ages. Also, the way it handles the afterlife (or the bare exposition to the afterlife) provides an intriguing peek at what may happen when we go bye bye. It is stunningly animated, and kind of creative. I wonder how other people are going to view “Soul” as far as the human condition message goes.

This movie is marketed to provide a message to remind people to follow their path, chase their dreams, achieve what they believe is their destiny. And the movie sort of dives into that, but it comes with a little more. And while “Soul” comes with a solid moral of the story, it almost feels inconsistent. Then again, the way this movie structures itself feels nearly inconsistent. At times it works, but if I had to give a percentage, it would not be 100%. Many movies have the neverending question, “What is human?” It is a great theme to dive into and can make for a terrific movie. “Soul,” much like how many of its characters are partial figments of ourselves in a way, has many of the positives of other Pixar films, but its positives do not stand out as much as other examples. The best phrase I can give to describe “Soul” is “partially positive.” “Soul” is emotional, but not “Toy Story 3” emotional. “Soul” is funny, but not “The Incredibles” funny. “Soul” is fun, but not “Ratatouille” fun. “Soul” is deep, but not “Inside Out” deep. Maybe it’s deeper, who knows? But regardless, “Soul” does not handle depth like “Inside Out” handles depth. “Soul” tries to encapsulate all these positive qualities, and it does to a degree, but it cannot do so all the way through. And that is really sad, because this film got me to subscribe to Disney+, and now I may be regretting my purchase. First impressions matter!

In the end, “Soul” may not be soulless, but it is also a far cry from what I expect from Pixar. Maybe my disappointment has to do with too much hype, because it’s the typical cycle. In addition to “Soul” having overwhelmingly positive reviews, with quite a few people I’ve come across suggesting it is a masterpiece, I went into the movie expecting one of the best things ever, only to be let down somewhat. That’s not the first time that’s happened to me with Pixar, because that happened to me with “Coco.” I was expecting an emotional thrill, but I left the film going “Okay, that happened. Next.” Again, this film looks great, even on a small screen where it was not originally meant to be seen, but as we progress through the second half of the film, it becomes progressively less fascinating, even with the whole links to what it means to be human. There’s good morals here, I just wish they were in a better movie. For those of you who have never seen a Siskel & Ebert review, their rating system is simple, thumbs up or thumbs down. If I had to give my thoughts on the animation and tech for this film, it is a definite thumbs up. The story, it depends on what we are talking about, but it is going to get the slightest of a thumbs up as I was entertained and hypnotized for a majority of the film. I’m going to give “Soul” a 7/10.

“Soul” is a positive movie, but as far as Pixar goes, it is not up to par with other films. It might even be my least favorite from the studio. When it comes to Pixar films from this year, I need time to marinate, but I might rather want to watch “Onward.” Just bein’ honest. And I will be fair to Pixar. To have a studio’s possibly worst movie get a 7/10 speaks volumes of its history. Just to be clear, Pixar has released feature films since the mid-1990s, and since then, they would put one or two out almost every year. I hope Pixar steps up from here, but I think they’ve created many great films and developed tons of memorable characters over the years. Here’s hoping they can conceptualize more.

“Soul” is exclusively available on Disney+ for all subscribers. And unlike one of the service’s other exclusives (for a limited time), “Mulan,” “Soul” is available at no extra cost.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is now in theaters wherever they are open. If your theaters are closed or you don’t feel safe going to a cinema right now, the film is also available on HBO Max to all subscribers for 31 days. I personally have my IMAX tickets ready for Sunday, and I cannot wait to watch the film! Also, at the start of 2021, I will be listing my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020! These countdowns have been a tradition of mine for years, and I am glad to keep it going! 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! …If you wanna keep your soul. I want to know, did you see “Soul?” What did you think about it? And what is your LEAST FAVORITE Pixar movie? Worst, not best! Just want to make sure we’re clear! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Wolfwalkers (2020): My Thoughts on Apple TV+’s First Animation

“Wolfwalkers” is directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, who worked together on 2014’s “Song of the Sea” and stars Honor Kneafsey (Our Zoo, A Christmas Prince), Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Martian), Simon McBurney (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Theory of Everything), Tommy Tiernan (Derry Girls, The Tommy Tiernan Show), Jon Kenny (Song of the Sea, Angela’s Ashes), John Morton (Lily’s Bad Day, Storyland), and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black, Jupiter Ascending). This film is about a young girl named Robyn Goodfellowe who journeys with her father to hunt down wolves in Ireland. However, things change when another young girl, Mebh Óg MacTíre who can transform into a wolf becomes friends with her.

I saw the trailer for “Wolfwalkers” in the theater when I was seeing Netflix’s “Over the Moon,” which by the way, you should check out if you have not already. I thought I would check out the film when it came out wherever it was playing. Although, I was also aware of its Apple TV+ release as well. “Wolfwalkers” was one of those movies that sort of came for a short time, stayed for short time, then suddenly disappeared. I wanted to see this in the theater, but due to time, money, and the fact that my AMC A-List subscription does not count towards Fathom Events screenings, I decided to skip the film. Only problem, I do not use any Apple products other than a 4th generation iPod Touch from time to time, and I don’t get Apple TV+ where I traditionally watch television. …Or so I thought. Thankfully, I recently found out that the service was released onto the PS4 last month, thus opening the door to me being able to see this movie. So, what did I think?

Out of all the animations that have come out this year, “Wolfwalkers” is by far the most unique. This has the least involvement from people associated with the United States of the animated flicks I’ve seen in 2020, and that sort of helped. At times it didn’t feel very… I don’t usually use this term, but “Hollywood.” This is not to say the film is bad. In fact, it is quite marvelous. Of the animations I have seen this year, “Wolfwalkers” may be my runner up. My #1 animation is the recently mentioned “Over the Moon,” by the way. However, in a world where animations are often glossy, uber-detailed 3D adventures, it is somewhat refreshing to see something that feels more rustic. This feels kind of like looking at a children’s book at times. It sort of has that homey feel. When I watched the film I sort of compared the animation style to “Where’s Waldo?” meets “Paper Mario.” I don’t know why, those are just the images that popped into my head. A lot of frames are magnificently crafted, and I can only imagine how difficult it may have been to storyboard some of them.

However, with all this gloss and hooplah on the tech, the drawings, and the overall look of the film, this sort of dives into a minor problem. While the story is incessantly marvelous and enchanting from start to finish, there are a couple moments, particularly towards the beginning that feel a tad slow and out of proper pace. This pacing issue most certainly improves with time, but it is nevertheless there. This is not to suggest that the film provides a terrible story. It absolutely does not. It is a fantastic story that maybe is not handled to perfection all the way through. Although some of the moments with the wolfwalkers and what they are capable of towards the beginning provides for some eye-catching exposition.

Character-wise, this movie has a couple great relationships. You have the constantly developing relationship between Robyn and Mebh, while at the same time we have a relationship between Robyn and her father, Bill, that starts out kind of strong, but gets rockier as we go. Robyn’s handling between these two relationships makes the movie worth watching, because we get a glimpse of her dealing with a world that seems quite fantastical but to her, it is a reality that she just happened to step upon. It’s almost like if Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” were able to visit Oz anytime she wants, but everyone in her normal life refuses to acknowledge such a fantastical world could exist. From this notion, the movie brings a witchcraft element into the mix, putting a heavy target on our protagonist’s back, and I liked the way such a storyline was handled.

If there is something that “Wolfwalkers” got right that does not have to do with tech, it would be the buildup of conflict. By the end of the film, everything felt like it was reaching a tipping point, and the climax did not lack a single ounce of excitement. There were one or two predictable points, but it did not irritate me.

Although if I had to come up with a single character problem it would be that there is a particular scene where the father and daughter are at home together, and Robyn tries to explain about the wolf realm. Each time, she is interrupted. I get that this is a cartoon, but when it comes to suspense of disbelief, that may have been a tad too much.

Little sidenote, when it comes to the music in “Wolfwalkers,” it is not my favorite of the year. There’s nothing terrible about it, it’s just not a standout candidate for Best Score. Nothing against Bruno Coulais, who composed the film’s music. By the way, Coulais also composed the score for the 2009 animation “Coraline,” which makes a lot of sense. While the scores, based on my memory, do not sound exactly the same, I often got “Coraline” vibes upon reflecting on “Wolfwalkers” given the link between worlds, one world being fantasy and one reality. Both films also have a young girl going on a journey, a massive transformation, and there are occasionally some dark moments in the film. Both literally and figuratively. However, if you do watch the movie, there is a really good rendition of the song “Running with the Wolves,” sung by Norwegian artist Aurora, who already made the song in 2014, but she redid it specifically for this film. As far as alternate songs for films go, it is very well done, but it has nothing on the redo of “Holding Out for a Hero” in “Shrek 2.”

In the end, “Wolfwalkers” is a solid animation debut for Apple TV+ as a distribution outlet. A lot of time and care went into each frame, the characters are fun and joyful, and the colors are rustic yet vibrant. …If that makes any sense. This is good film to watch if you are with younger children. I can guarantee you that their intelligence (and yours) will not be insulted. Keep in mind, this blog is being written by a citizen of the United States, and as a citizen of the United States, I do have to remind some of my viewers that there may be some jumbly moments in “Wolfwalkers” in terms of accents, but if you can get past that, this film may be a win for you, and possibly the family. I am going to give “Wolfwalkers” an 8/10.

“Wolfwalkers” is now available exclusively on Apple TV+ for all subscribers. The service is $4.99/month, but if you buy an Apple device in the future such as an iPhone, you may be able to use Apple TV+ for free through one year if you wish to have the service.

Thanks for reading this review! Sticking on the topic of animated films, I have plans to watch Pixar’s “Soul” which is set to stream exclusively on Disney+ at no extra cost to subscribers on December 25th. I will also be watching “Wonder Woman 1984.” I have tickets to see the film in IMAX on December 27th. So if I play my cards right, I should have my “Soul” review up first, then my review for “Wonder Woman 1984.” We are getting down to the wire in terms of how many films I have left to watch this year. But as we get down that wire, I just want to remind you that this January I will be revealing my picks for my Top 10 BEST Movies of 2020 and my Top 10 WORST Movies of 2020. Stay tuned everyone! 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 “Wolfwalkers?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie with wolves in it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Monster Hunter (2020): Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich’s Latest Attempt at Alternating Video Game History

“Monster Hunter” is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat) and stars Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, The Fourth Kind), Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Tip “T.I.” Harris (Ant-Man, Get Hard), Meagan Good (Think Like a Man, Shazam!), Diego Boneta (Terminator: Dark Fate, Scream Queens), John Helman (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mad Max: Fury Road), Jin Au-Yeung (The Man with the Iron Fists, 2 Fast 2 Furious), and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy). This film is based on the Capcom video game franchise of the same name, where you go on quests to slay or capture monsters. In this 2020 film adaptation, Lt. Artemis and her fellow soldiers transport themselves to an unfamiliar world where they meet The Hunter (Tony Jaa). Together, the crew must survive against giant monsters in an attempt to return home.

First off, I just want to say, just because this is being published on the week of Christmas, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Second, “Monster Hunter” is the latest film put out theatrically from Sony. From my experience, Sony has been one of the studios that has been rather reserved during the pandemic. They have yet to put many of their films straight to streaming, although “Greyhound” and “An American Pickle” stand out as a couple exceptions. Although, when “Tenet” came out to somewhat underwhelming statistics, most notably in the United States, which is usually a key market for film, they said they “won’t make the mistake” of releasing a film of that size during the pandemic.

For the record, “Tenet” cost $205 million to make. Box office-wise, the film did well financially given the circumstances of the pandemic, but in normal times, it would not have been considered a success. “Monster Hunter,” to Sony’s benefit, is much less expensive. That film in particular cost $60 million to make. While that is not necessarily the biggest budget in the world, especially compared to the latest Marvel and “Star Wars” fare we have been getting, it is still not exactly cheap. However, it is more expensive than what Sony has been putting out, “The Broken Hearts Gallery” as one such example, since most theatres have been allowed to reopen. This made me wonder… “Why?”

After all, even though I never saw Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Resident Evil,” I am familiar with many of the franchise’s entries being dishonored by critics and even fans of the games. Part of me wondered if Sony just wanted to dump this film into theaters just to get it off its back, and if “Monster Hunter” was just another video game adaptation that felt nothing like the game itself.

Having now seen the film, my expectations were kind of met. Although at the same time, it is still better than I anticipated. Unlike myself, my dad has seen the “Resident Evil” movies, so I figured for this circumstance, I’d invite him to this screening considering it is from the same people. According to him, this movie has a very similar vibe and structure to the “Resident Evil” films. They are not Shakespeare in the least, but they most certainly fall into the guilty pleasure category. It’s not all bad, but holy hell it is not good. Simultaneously, particular points of the film felt like a blast.

I am going to get some negative points out of the way. This movie is definitely not going to win an editing Oscar. Of all the films to have come out this year, this is by far the LEAST qualified to possibly win Best Film Editing. The film manages to revisit a lot of the common problems we face in action films today. Specifically, quick cutting, not being able to tell who is who, and there also seems to be a little more slow-mo than I’d prefer. It’s almost like watching “The Matrix” if they couldn’t tell a story. There is a scene in the film where two people are fighting, and while they do kind of look alike, there was a point where I wondered who was who. If we learned anything from… I dunno, “Taken 3,” it’s that quick cutting is headache-inducing and should be avoided at all costs!

Liam Neeson deserves better!

Another big problem, and I was kind of expecting this from the get go, characterization is not really put at the forefront. Not only do we have a bunch of military soldiers who have nothing to do with the source material at the center of the story, but nearly every character in this film felt disposable. I did not care about anyone, they could get massacred, lose everything and everyone they know, and I still wouldn’t give a crap. That may partially be because the movie does not give us time to get to know anyone. We have these generic soldiers on a mission together, but nobody has a personality, nobody has any special quirks. They all sing together from time to time, but they do not really do anything else that stands out. They’re just these generic soldiers with their generic dialogue in a movie with a world that really should not feel generic! This is a movie with a world where someone fights gigantic monsters as part of a quest! Or… At least that’s what should be happening according to the video games. I do not need all film adaptations to follow the source material 100%, but this almost goes too far away from the original material at times.

This film is 1 hour and 39 minutes long. Thankfully, I never once felt bored throughout that time. I will say though, one surprising critique I will give the film is that I wish it were a minute longer in the runtime. Maybe two or three, but still. I know it does not seem like much, but again, the film failed to impress me character-wise, but if it took just a few more minutes just to have us get to know something about some of the others in the film, “Monster Hunter” might just garner my interest more as it progressed.

Although, thankfully, there is one relationship that defined the film and made it worth my time, and that is the relationship between Lt. Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and the Hunter (Tony Jaa). What made their relationship intriguing is the foreign aspect that came with each side. For Lt. Artemis, she spends much of the film in a world she has never once thought would be possible. When she tries to adapt to this unusual reality, she comes across the Hunter, and she tries to befriend him. Granted, it is through blatantly obvious Hershey’s product placement, but it is true that chocolate wins people over, even if they have never seen or heard of it. Why do you think “The Big Bang Theory” made an entire episode revolving around chocolate being used as positive reinforcement?

If you are a fan of the “Monster Hunter” games, I cannot guarantee that you will walk out of this movie saying it is just like the games. This sort of feels like a Michael Bay “Transformers” movie, where it is less about Transformers and more about the military and the government and how they deal with Transformers. Granted, this has a significantly tinier budget, a smaller cast, and I would even say that the military emphasis in this film is greater, because it never cuts away from the military to average civilians to Transformers doing their own s*it. One positive about the film, even though the story and characterization is lackluster, is that the film does not convolute itself with too many things going on. There is a certain beauty in the simplicity, albeit small, but it is there. If anything, this feels like “Predator” meets “Pacific Rim.” You have two worlds, one side enters the other one, and you have these soldiers trying to survive against giant creatures. Granted, both of those movies are much more watchable, but I rest my case.

In the end, “Monster Hunter” just reinforces what we have learned from “Superintelligence,” directed by Ben Falcone and starring Melissa McCarthy. If a husband and wife team direct and star in a film. Maybe it is not worth watching. I have not seen this duo’s bunch of “Resident Evil” films they did together, but I have heard from my dad that “Monster Hunter” falls in the same realm. If you want big action that falls into the guilty pleasure category, “Monster Hunter” may be for you. If you like the games and expect this film to be a solid “adaptation” of the source material, I am not sure if you will be satisfied. Yes, the effects look nice. There is some cool action. But is not enough to make a good movie. If you want to have a good time at the movies, just wait for “Wonder Woman 1984.” I have not seen it, so I cannot confirm if it is good, but it sure looks it! I’m going to give “Monster Hunter” a 4/10.

“Monster Hunter” is now playing in theaters in 2D, and is also available in premium large formats including Dolby Cinema, Cinemark XD, and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will have my review up for “Wonder Woman 1984,” which will be in theatres and on HBO Max this Christmas. I also plan to watch and review “Soul” on Disney+, but I also do not plan to leave out “I’m Your Woman” on Prime Video, and “Wolfwalkers” on Apple TV+. There are also films exclusively in theaters I want to tackle such as “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks. There is a lot to watch through the holiday season so I cannot guarantee I will get to everything. But we shall see! 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 “Monster Hunter?” What did you think about it? Or, have you seen any of the other video game to movie adaptations directed by Paul W.S. Anderson? Tell me your thoughts on those! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Greenland (2020): A Perfect Distraction From a Virus-Infused Reality: The End of the World

“Greenland” is directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch, Angel Has Fallen) and stars Gerard Butler (300, How to Train Your Dragon), Morena Baccarin (Deadpool, Firefly), Roger Dale Floyd (Stargirl, Doctor Sleep), Scott Glenn (Daredevil, The Leftovers), David Denman (The Office, Parenthood), and Hope Davis (Captain America: Civil War, For the People). The film centers around a family who make up a fraction of the many observers of Clarke, a comet that enters the earth’s atmosphere, makes a rough landing, and all of a sudden we have a race against time to survive and get to safety.

I live in the state of Massachusetts, and our cinemas were allowed to reopen over the summer. Over the trips I took to the golden gates of film, one of the trailers that caught my attention, not to mention the attention of my dad, was “Greenland.” After all, we were sitting in a giant IMAX together waiting to watch “Tenet.” And on comes this constant outburst of CGI destruction and debris. The auditorium turned into a dying planet, essentially. We both agreed, this would be AWESOME in the theater. So I figured I would keep this film in mind for the day it finally arrives.

Well, it didn’t.

At the last minute, STX decided to release the film on VOD in the United States, where it is available right now for a $19.99 rental fee. I did not end up buying the film on VOD, mainly because I attended an early virtual screening of “Greenland” this past Tuesday. So I watched the film on my laptop, which was quite a downgrade from the theater, but I at the very least got to see it in the comfort of my bedroom.

As much as I would love to judge this film based on my experience of watching it in the theater, I can’t. So instead, allow me to declare that if you are watching “Greenland” on a phone, a laptop (like I did), or a tablet… What are you doing with yourself?! You’re wasting your time! Watch “Greenland” on the biggest screen you can! Get that 65″ 4K with HDR television set running! Hook up that mighty projector! Rent out a private screen somewhere where you can hook up your Roku! Just do it! This movie deserves the biggest screen and highest quality sound system possible, because it truly is an experience. While it is not the most Shakespearean film of the year in terms of concept, “Greenland” handles its simple story effectively, all the while delivering a technical blast from start to finish. There are a couple moments in this film that looked like “Blade Runner 2049” if Michael Bay stepped in and directed it.

Although, don’t take that Shakespearean comment too seriously, because speaking of not taking things too seriously, this movie went beyond my expectations. I was expecting “Greenland” to be your typical apocalyptic, end of the world disaster film where serious s*it goes down. The visual scope of the ruin and constant downturn of everything takes the front seat while story and characterization are pushed back to the bus. Nope! This movie is better than not only it deserves to be, it’s better than what we as a society deserve after this wreck of a year. I can tell you right now, this December could be a haven for film lovers. Between this, “Soul,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “News of the World,” and more, we could have a great end to the year for film.

I really admired the chemistry between the main family. You have John Garrity (Gerard Butler), a Scottish structural engineer. His estranged wife, Allison Garrity (Morena Baccarin), who happens to live with her kid Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). They’re all great as their respective characters and I liked them individually not to mention when they are all together. This film just came out, so I will not dive into spoilers, but one of the main continual conflicts that comes up between this trio feels like something that would happen during a disaster like the one presented in “Greenland.” Not to mention, the way they deal with said conflict feels natural, especially since the movie reveals that they are not the only ones dealing with said conflict. There is a moment when everything starts to unfold, just when these three begin to escape to safety, that sets the tone for what’s to come and it represents the everlasting desire to survive, to be safe. What exactly happens during this moment plays out during the movie multiple times, and is used to great effect. I will not say much, once again. But this is just part of why this movie is so well written, even if it may be marketed as a mindless, popcorn disaster film. It takes time to allow us to get to know our characters. It allows us be in the moment with them. It allows us to appreciate them. So every moment they are in peril, it sort of hits me.

While this movie has a terrific trio of protagonists, they say that stories are usually as good as its villains. Now, “Greenland” does not specifically contain one main antagonist or villain that our heroes must go up against. Instead, it’s more of a race against time. It’s a race against fragments of a comet. Although there are people along the way that do present themselves as a threat. And the way these people are handled within the script is marvelous. I say so because “Greenland” mainly focuses on these three people, but everyone else has the same motive. Specifically, to survive. They will literally do anything even if it means killing someone, harming someone else, affecting a certain portion of their lives. Every villain is the hero of their own story, and “Greenland” is a great encapsulation of such a statement.

This film cost $35 million to make, and I’d say that every penny was spent wisely. This movie did a great job at feeling like a bigger budget disaster flick that pulls no punches and unleashes mass destruction, but with a great emphasis on character development. The production value of the film is stunning and each frame does not disappoint. This should not surprise me as this film comes from STX Entertainment, and they do a lot of mid budget stuff. They have done “Hardcore Henry,” an immersive film that resembles a first person shooter. That cost $2 million to make, by the way! Admittedly, it could have been better, although I give it props for being unique. They did “Bad Moms,” a comedy starring Mila Kunis which… Yeah, that also could have been better. I also won’t leave out “Peppermint” starring Jennifer Garner, which… yes… That could have, just as well… been better. I think I’ve only seen a couple films from STX that I seriously admired, but that’s not the point. The point is, these movies typically utilize middle of the road or somewhat smaller budgets but still have plenty of production value intact. “Greenland,” given its subject matter, is no exception to this rule. At times it feels like it has the budget of a “John Wick” sequel, but in reality, it doesn’t. Although to be fair, this movie is from the same producer of the “John Wick” franchise, Basil Iwanyk. I’m glad that “Greenland” is willing to focus on its story instead of relying on constant special effects that slightly sacrifice characterization.

If I had any problems with “Greenland,” I will say that the best parts of the film are during the first and third acts. This is not a diss on the second act, which has some really solid moments, but there’s a point where we as an audience are perhaps allowed to breathe, and while that may have been the intention, I was a little bored at this point in the film. Other than that, “Greenland” is a great time. I’d say give it a watch. I know $19.99 is not the best price for renting a movie, but if you do ever get the chance to watch it, do so on the biggest screen you can.

In the end, “Greenland” is a welcome surprise that deserves the best picture and audio quality possible. It’s a disaster. People run. Things fall from the sky. Civilians die. That’s what I expected, and that’s what I got. However, this film amazingly offers more substance than I anticipated. STX is admittedly not my favorite studio working today, but this may be their best film. Either this or “The Edge of Seventeen,” I need some time to think. Gerard Butler and the rest of the cast sell their roles, the film makes a disaster look pretty, and if you are tired of your current reality where a virus is constantly spiraling. Why not watch the end of the world? Sounds like fun, right? I’m going to give “Greenland” an 8/10.

“Greenland” is now available on premium VOD services. Examples include Xfinity On Demand, Google Play, AMC Theatres On Demand, and Prime Video where you can rent it for $19.99.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I’m going to have my review up for “Monster Hunter.” That will be available next week, that is if I have any brain cells left. Only time will tell. I also want to remind you that I bought tickets to see “Wonder Woman 1984” in the theater on December 27th. I will not be reviewing the movie right away when it comes on HBO Max, because I want to see it with my dad and sister, and I want to go in with a fresh perspective. I also want to remind you that we are quickly approaching the end of the year, and I want to publicly announce that two of the first posts you’re getting next year are my annual countdowns for the best and worst films of the year! So on the first day, you’ll be getting my top 10 BEST movies of 2020. And on the second day, you’ll be getting my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. Yes, those are coming! The year is not over yet, I still have some films to watch. So the lists are not final. But I cannot wait to share those lists with you all, I enjoy doing them. If you want to see those lists and other great content, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Greenland?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Gerard Butler movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!