Godzilla vs. Kong: Maximized Monsters, Minimized Story, Balls Out Time

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is directed by Adam Wingard and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things, Enola Holmes), Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Prestige), Brian Tyree Henry (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Joker), Shun Oguri, Eiza González (Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2, The Christmas Chronicles 2), Lance Reddick (John Wick, Oz), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, The Wolf of Wall Street), and Demián Bichir (The Midnight Sky, The Hateful Eight). Without going into much detail, “Godzilla vs. Kong” follows the two titular titans as they duke it out with humanity watching closely. Throughout we also get to see humanity attempt to understand why these two are fighting, their origin stories, all the while trying to live to fight another day themselves.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

So far in the current Warner Bros. MonsterVerse, we have had three movies: “Godzilla,” which I thought was average, but watchable. “Kong: Skull Island,” which is fun at times but somewhat disposable. But I should also not forget the last one, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” given how it is the only one I reviewed of the bunch. Let’s take a look back on my thoughts on that movie, specifically stated in my review titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): For Godzilla’s Sake, Please Stop!.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

“Upon watching ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters,’ I wanted to perhaps die. In fact, as I write this, I almost don’t have words that I could possibly put into a sentence to describe this movie.”

“I can imagine myself finding this movie on TV one day, perhaps on HBO or something, maybe watching it if I want to destroy my brain cells, clicking the info button and the description would be ‘Time to die.'”

“Somehow, these characters are more forgettable than most of Apple’s terms & services agreement!”

“Surprisingly, there’s not a moment where I can remember conceptualizing a personal need for Anger Management classes. But based on this movie’s script and my memory of said script, I almost can’t remember feeling any emotion whatsoever, which may almost be worse than getting angry about a movie or its characters.”

“Yes, there are positives, but again, they are heavily outweighed by tons of crap, and the fact that my brain literally could not function upon leaving the theater.”

That film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” ended up as my #2 worst film of 2019, my #12 worst film of the 2010s, and my #1 most disappointing film of the 2010s. Safe to say, I’d rather watch my future children, should I ever have them, play with knives. I ended my review saying that when it comes to the MonsterVerse, I practically lost any and all hope I could have had for “Godzilla vs. Kong” because I felt like they were going into a direction that I would not find pleasing. Three of the big problems I had with “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was putting too much attention on human characters, the clashing tones between seriousness and silliness, and not putting enough attention on the script. I know some people will come out and say that these monster movies don’t NEED good scripts, because big action and fight sequences matter more. I would go back and watch the 2014 “Godzilla” again. I would go back and watch “Kong: Skull Island” again. If I were in a situation where I had to watch “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” again, chances are I’d bang my head into whatever device is playing the movie.

Let’s mention those problems I had with “King of the Monsters” once again. Bad human characters who overstay their welcome, clashing tones, and a lazy script. Two of those three critiques have returned to “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The film, despite being a massively entertaining titan on titan showdown, is not too too much more than that. I will say one thing though, WITHOUT SPOILERS OR MUCH DETAIL, this script *is* an improvement over what “King of the Monsters” provided.

There are plenty of human characters in this movie, and there are a majority that you could perhaps take out and have the results of the film be no different, and there are some who sort of do matter that are barely interesting. Some of them feel like they were processed in a factory and just say words every now and then to have the movie trail along as smooth as it can. The film not only has Godzilla and King Kong fighting each other, but it has two different sides of human characters. You have the ones who observe Godzilla, and you have the ones who observe King Kong. And there are quite a few of the Godzilla-centric characters who make an appearance in this movie who also showed up earlier in the franchise. Millie Bobby Brown is back, her dad played by Kyle Chandler also makes a return, but that side for the most part had a script that would probably work more for a theme park ride as opposed to a movie. Again, you could remove a ton of the characters on that side and have the film feel like it has not changed much. Also, I feel like the Godzilla side also has more questionable absurdities in the movie compared to the Kong side.

For me, the difference between effort of putting together characters on one side as opposed to the other is night and day. I mean, look at the characters on Kong’s side! Some have distinct characteristics that individualize them, I think they did a better job at moving the plot and story along, and this is especially noticeable when you bring the young girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) into the equation. For the record, she is deaf, which is kind of refreshing for a film like this because throughout the three MonsterVerse films, the big expectation is loud, obnoxious noise, and you do get that here as well, but we get to occasionally see things from this character’s perspective and it makes the world feel quieter, smaller, more intimate despite having giant monsters in it. Her relationship with Kong and Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) were some personal highlights of the film for me. Another thing about this side, when it comes to Kong himself, seeing the humans journey with him to explore his world occasionally had me escaping from my chair into the screen. It felt like a pure fantasy at times, and I give the film props for that.

So far, the script is a mixed bag. It improves characterization, but it also stays pretty on laziness. The film is not going to win any screenplay awards. But the film did win me over on one thing. MONSTERS.

I said in my review for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” that the monsters look cool and there are some halfway decent fights, but there is too much going on in the movie that I could not fully appreciate them. I almost ended up with a headache leaving the theater. In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” some of the compliments I gave for the previous MonsterVerse entry stand once more. The monsters look visually appealing. They look polished and wonderfully textured. But also, having watched this film, I think the lighting is also significantly better. I did not think about this, but “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” almost felt like the MonsterVerse version of “Batman v. Superman” because almost every other fight that I could think of took place either in the dark or with at the very least, a semi-depressing color palette. One of the better things I can say about “Godzilla vs. Kong” compared to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is that my eyes can do a better job at interpreting what is going on. Maybe it is partially because Hong Kong in this movie is lit so brightly with neon at night, but nevertheless. This is not a diss on the Detective Comics Extended Universe, because there are movies in that universe that I genuinely enjoy, but the fights in “Godzilla vs. Kong” felt more like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie because it is brighter and easier to see what is going on. Looking back at the fight in Boston at the end of “King of the Monsters,” it felt like there was an endless parade of blue, and maybe some orange. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” even in its darker scenes such as the first appearance from Godzilla, felt ten times as vibrant.

As I said, the film won me over on monsters, so let me just say, THE MONSTER FIGHTS IN THIS MOVIE ARE EVERYTHING I WANTED TO SEE! They were gigantic! Epic! They felt like something mattered at every twist and turn! There was a fine mix of brains and brawn! The trailer for this film, when I first saw it, surprisingly sold me for the action that would be in this film, and it did not disappoint! If you want to watch any of these MonsterVerse films for action, this is the one! Yes, there are a ton of human characters as well that could bog your experience, but when the film is available for home viewing, this is where fast forward and rewind come into play. When it comes to monsters fighting in this film, I do not think I could name a single problem. And you know what? Let’s talk about tone. But before we do that, just remember, when discussing my problems for the previous MonsterVerse film, remember that one of them is the lack of a consistent tone. “King of the Monsters” went in two directions, serious and silly, without being able to decide on one that defines the movie. While there are moments of slight seriousness in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it almost had the tone of a “Fast & Furious” movie if the whole time it were a WrestleMania event. The opening titles for this movie delivered the most excitement I have gotten out of an opening title sequence I can think of in years. It is up there with the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies, Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Blade Runner 2049” as one of my all time favorite film opening credits sequences.

Why do I love the opening credits in this film so much? Because in addition to the other ones I mentioned, “Godzilla vs. Kong” teased something cool or epic and kept its promise. It promised a big blockbuster adventure from the very beginning and that is exactly what it delivered. The music, which was marvelously done by Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, was booming and dominant of my attention. The film is also, from what I gathered, not afraid to dive into shark-jumping. There are a lot of fantastical elements in this movie, which should not be a surprise as there happens to be a universe with giant titans that could appear at any moment. Some of the fantasy elements worked, most notably on the Kong side. We got to see Kong’s origins and history regarding his species in battle. Seeing that was not only an effective breather as an audience member, but it was also somewhat effective world-building. There are some fun fantasy elements in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but not every impractical situation stuck the landing. Without spoilers, Millie Bobby Brown’s character spends the climax of the film talking on the phone and there is something that she says that does not really have the impact to one character that I would have probably anticipated them to have. Again, no spoilers, the film is not out on DVD yet.

At the end of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” I lost much of my hope for this universe, I thought it would be short-lived. As of now, I do hope this universe continues. I would not mind seeing Kong and Godzilla do a round 2 or we see more of these monsters individually. Although I am hearing reports that Adam Wingard may return to direct another MonsterVerse movie, which does excite me. I am also hearing it may be a “Son of Kong” story, but no matter what it is, I will remain curious and excited. Bring on the titans!

In the end, I went from having little interest in “Godzilla vs. Kong” for two years leading up to it, seeing the trailer and watching it a bunch of times, to flat out recommending that you go watch it on the biggest screen you can. I saw the film twice in the theater, and aside from the obvious notions, specifically that there are not too many other big movies out and the giant monster situation, I went a second time because it is honestly a significant dose of pure entertainment. If the film is still playing near you and you have not watched it, give a chance, you may have fun. I sure did! Is it stupid entertainment? You could make that argument, but it simultaneously builds a fascinating history and I feel like there is a promise of an intriguing future. I want to see more of this world, and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe is great for how well it intertwines a bunch of different characters together at once, I think it would be refreshing to see a universe like this one take it self perhaps a little less seriously. With that being said, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a killer time at the movies and most certainly, big screen material. I am going to give “Godzilla vs. Kong” a 7/10.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is now playing in theaters, get your tickets today. The film is no longer on HBO Max as of writing this, considering how it has finished its 31 day run on the service.

Mortal Kombat (2021) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Thanks for reading this review! Apologies for yet another late review, I have been preoccupied with other things. But I want to let everyone know that I will soon have a review for the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” remake. That will be released by sometime next week. Also, I want to remind everyone that this week is the week of Star Wars Day. This is the week that I originally intended to release my reviews for the first seven “Star Wars” episodes. I wanted to do a “7 Days of Star Wars” series, where I review a different “Star Wars” movie every day for an entire week, but I had so many other things going on that I pushed it back to the week of May 23rd to May 29th. No guarantees, but DO NOT BE SURPRISED if it gets pushed back another time. However, if you want to be prepared for the epic run of reviews, I should note that I plan to release another trailer advertising what will HOPEFULLY be a finalized release date. I do want to get these done before my “Pirates of the Caribbean” reviews which will be finished in July. So many things to do, but not much time to do them all. We shall see how things shape up in the future. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Godzilla vs. Kong?” What did you think about it? Or, who do you prefer? Godzilla or King Kong? Let the fight begin in the comments section! Civilly, of course. We don’t want anyone losing an eye. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Boogie (2021): Keeps on Dribbling, But Misses Some Shots

“Boogie” is written and directed by Eddie Huang (Huang’s World, Fresh Off the Boat) and stars Taylor Takahashi, Taylour Paige (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, White Boy Rick), Bashar “Pop Smoke” Jackson, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Bumblebee). This film centers around an aspiring basketball player named Albert Chin, also known as “Boogie.” He lives in Queens, New York with his family who are of East Asian descent. In this movie, Chin must balance the pressure from his parents to get into a good college with a decent scholarship, his love life with his new girlfriend Eleanor, and his dreams of making it to the NBA.

When I review a movie, you may notice that I often point out some of the other projects that the crew behind the film has done. For example when I reviewed “News of the World,” I would point out the director, in this case it would be Paul Greengrass, and I would highlight his previous work, which included, as marked in the following parenthesis, (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93). Then I would go on to talk about the actors. For example, you have the star, Tom Hanks, then I followed his name with parenthesis as well, for him it was presented as (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Toy Story), given how those are two of his projects. For this film, “Boogie,” you may notice I included parenthesis for director Eddie Huang, who has produced one of the more talked about network comedies in recent years, “Fresh Off the Boat.” Although for Taylor Takahashi, who plays the film’s lead, he has no parenthesis. That is because, and part of me is somewhat surprised, that this is Takahashi’s acting debut. Not just for features, but for anything. Now to be clear, I got this information from IMDb. For all I know, before this movie Takahashi did something on the side that maybe was either less professional, not as well known, or maybe done in his years of being educated. I do not know the full story.

I should also point out that he is not the only actor with barely any documented experience here, because Pop Smoke is in this movie, and this is likely his first rodeo in feature filmmaking. He’s more known for music, not film.

Also, going back to the director, Eddie Huang, this is, also, his feature-length debut from the director’s chair and in terms of penning the script. Huang also wrote and directed a short titled “Bitch, Please!” alongside two other people, but “Boogie” is a whole different animal for him. He wrote the script himself and he directed the movie himself.

With all that being said, the good news is for the people who will look back at this movie as a debut, chances are they could potentially go up from here.

This is not to say that “Boogie” is a disaster. I will say right off the bat, I would much rather watch “Boogie” than the live-action “Tom & Jerry” movie. But there are other movies from this year I would go back to first including “The Marksman,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Those all happened to be fun or attention-grabbing experiences that may be harder to forget than others. As for “Boogie,” even though there are elements I like, piggybacking off my previous statement, this film belongs with the “others.”

I want to talk about Taylor Takahashi (left) in this film. Now I will start off by once again confirming that this is Taylor Takahashi’s first acting role, or least the first he is credited for. Maybe he has a bright future ahead, but unfortunately he got his career started in a forgettable movie. I think as far as a first performance goes, I was quite impressed. I would not mind seeing more of Takahashi in the future whether that means they make a sequel to this movie, which I doubt would happen, or if he ends up in some other movie or television show. However, his character kind of had this asshole personality at times. I am not saying Boogie was a complete moron, if I were in this movie’s universe and had the opportunity to grab a couple slices of pizza with him, I would not back myself out of the opportunity instantaneously. After all, who can deny pizza? But I felt like he came off as slightly less relatable than he could have from his personality. There are ways that I did relate to his character from having parents pressuring me to stay in school and having aspirations that go beyond Mars, but for some reason, I did not always click with his character. My impressions of him throughout the film were not the greatest. I just found him to be a goofball, and almost in a way that would make him look like a jerk. I wish I could be more descriptive, but I think part of why I am occasionally blanking during this review is because as you may have noticed recently, I have been less active on Scene Before because I’ve had priorities, which makes me determine which movies are easier to forget overtime and which ones are easier to remember as well. This is one is, as you may have observed, easier to forget.

Now I talked about the first timers from Taylor Takahashi to Eddie Huang. They put on a good show whenever possible, but I do not want to forget some of the other cast members like Pamelyn Chee and Perry Yung, who admirably play Boogie’s mother and father, but perhaps the most memorable performance of the film for me came from none other than Taylor Paige, who plays Boogie’s love interest, Eleanor. There is something about this casting choice that feels almost incomparable. Paige checks the marks of her character being fun, outgoing, and relatively casual at times. I really liked her in this movie, and some of my favorite parts are between her and Boogie because it is a fascinating look at how people manage love lives in this particular age and demographic. I was intrigued.

I will also say this… Once again, I have not watched this movie since March, so maybe I have this stored in my short term memory or something, even though this movie pretty much revolves around basketball and someone who really enjoys playing basketball, I barely even remember any of the basketball scenes in this movie. I think I might need a rewatch to actually remember any of those scenes. This is not a bad movie, but to call it an instant classic would be a straight up lie. And I don’t think I have any plans to watch it a second time.

In the end, “Boogie” kind of disappointed me. I saw the trailer for this film when I was at the theater getting ready to watch “Minari,” and “Boogie” looked pretty good, so I had some positive expectations. Unfortunately, those were not met. If you want a good recent basketball movie, although in this case, it would be more about the coach as opposed to an individual trying to become a standout player, I highly recommend “The Way Back.” Between Ben Affleck’s insane performance and the outstanding script, I cannot help but beg you all to watch that movie at least once. “Boogie” on the other hand, maybe don’t watch it. Maybe it could be okay background noise, but for me, I wanted more. I wanted something better. If Eddie Huang makes another feature-length movie, I will root for him, and the same goes for Taylor Takahashi in his acting career, but this was not the best start for either of those two. I’m going to give “Boogie” a 5/10.

“Boogie” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open and you can also buy it at home on VOD services such as Apple TV, Prime Video, and VUDU.

Thanks for reading this review! I’m pretty excited for the next couple of reviews I plan to get out to you guys, and those are a couple recent action type of films. I’m talking about “Nobody” starring Bob Odenkirk, and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” I cannot wait to talk about both of those.

Also, I have an announcement to make. For those of you who read this year’s Jackoff Awards, follow Scene Before on Facebook, or subscribe to the Jack Drees YouTube channel know that I announced “7 Days of Star Wars.” That series was scheduled to be released on various days on the week of May 2nd to May 8th, which would coincide with “Star Wars Day.” Unfortunately, due to being busy with school right now, wondering when I’ll get my vaccine, and an internship which is allowing me to do a side project that I will soon present to you all, those dates will not be met.

Here are the new dates for the upcoming “7 Days of Star Wars” reviews.

THE PHANTOM MENACE: May 23rd
ATTACK OF THE CLONES: May 24th
REVENGE OF THE SITH: May 25th
STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: May 26th
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: May 27th
RETURN OF THE JEDI: May 28th
THE FORCE AWAKENS: May 29th

These dates are subject to change, as last year has proven that even the impossible is possible. May the force be with you, emphasis on the May.

If you to see more cool upcoming content on Scene Before, give the blog a follow either with an email or WordPress account, and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Boogie?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever watch “Fresh Off the Boat?” Tell me your thoughts! Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997): Worst Video Game Movie Ever?

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second of two installments of my special review series, “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews!” In this review series we will be discussing the two live-action “Mortal Kombat” films from the 1990s. I also want to apologize for saying in my previous review that Paul W.S. Anderson directed both “Mortal Kombat” AND “Mortal Kombat: Annihilaiton.” Of the two, Anderson only directed the former. With that being said, it is time to go back to 1997 and review “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation!”

Also, HELP me.

“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is directed by John R. Leonetti (Wish Upon, Annabelle) and stars Robin Shou, Talisa Soto, Brian Thompson, Sandra Hess, Lynn “Red” Williams, Irina Pantaeva, and James Remar. This film is the sequel to the 1995 film “Mortal Kombat,” inspired by the game of the same name, and this is yet another PG-13 action film that may as well have been created to entertain teenage boys who just want to watch sexy things and explosions on screen.

Wait, this film has a plot?! WHO KNEW?! “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” follows a group of martial arts warriors who have to save the world from Shao Khan’s wrath in a matter of six days.

Last week, I reviewed “Mortal Kombat,” which I ended up giving a 6/10 due to its rather pleasant execution of style over substance. To me, that was a film that could have arguably been directed by Michael Bay if he took a few drugs and changed his behavior. It was fine. It’s a video game movie, those are not usually perfect, but “Mortal Kombat” was not offensive. It is forgettable, it is almost bland at times, but not one portion of it felt offensive.

Just like in my review for the prior “Mortal Kombat” installment, this was my initial foray into “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” from start to finish. I’ve seen stuff online about it, pretty much all of which happened to be negative. So to say that I was looking forward to “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” upon my first viewing would have been generous. Once again, for those who missed the previous review. I have played “Mortal Kombat” only once or twice, but I am somewhat familiar with the franchise, what you do, how graphic it was for its time, and so on. While the first movie had a slight charm that made it feel like the game for a moment or two, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on the other hand just strips that charm away and cast out all my organs.

Prior to watching “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” my least favorite video game-based film of all time was “Super Mario Bros..” Ladies and gentlemen, that film has some fierce competition.

I want to talk about the video game film genre as a whole. In recent years, it is something that has noticeably been improving in minor trickles. While I will claim we have not seen a perfect video game-based film, we have gotten some recent hits like “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” which I thought was okay. But we also got “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which hit theaters in February 2020 and became my favorite entry to the genre. I saw it a couple times from start to finish, and I am quite excited for the sequel. I think that when it comes to the video game movie genre, it is something that either really needs some critical thinking from its crew or needs to take things slow and find its footing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems like it is going to last forever, but let’s say it does not. Let’s say comic book movies go the way of the dinosaur, I think video game movies could be the next box office juggernaut. Video games are a much bigger industry than film, which is also pretty enormous itself. And much like comic books, video games have some of the most immersive art that can draw inspiration for theatrical content. Even though I was not a fan of “Warcraft,” I will give the film kudos for its impressive renderings and effects that look incredibly fantastical. Even though time and time again has supported the basis of why video game movies should not be made, I do see potential for improvement in the future, especially in a time where movie theaters are trying to provide “experiences” in order for select people to return after a time ruled by COVID-19. Think about it, with minor exceptions like “Superman: The Movie,” before movies like “X-Men” in 2000, “Spider-Man” in 2002, and “Iron Man” in 2008, comic book movies were usually a joke. Look at films like “Batman & Robin” for example, which coincidentally came out the same year as “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.”

I want to apologize to every bad movie I reviewed. I’m sorry, “Mission: Impossible II.” I’m sorry, “Cats.” I’m sorry, crappy 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. You have nothing on this movie because “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is rife with problems ACROSS THE BOARD! The screenplay comes off like it is written by a backwardly wired 10 year old! The directing is incompetent to a level beyond my imagination! The acting is almost worse!

I want to talk about tone. It is a very important factor that can make or break a movie. I will say, going into the first “Mortal Kombat,” whenever I look at the cover, I expected something bold, action-packed, a little violent. And in that first movie, I got glimmers of that. It was not perfect, but it worked to a degree. This second movie sort of follows the tone of the original, but has sucked out any sort of intelligence that the original movie had, and that is saying something because when I think “intelligent movies,” my mind DOES NOT automatically dart to “Mortal Kombat.” If you want to talk about tone, here is an easy comment I can deliver. Here is one of the first exchanges of dialogue in this movie.

That’s the tone of this movie. Just a bunch of over the top bull that will make you want to die! The line is almost comical, but simultaneously unforgivable. What did we do to deserve this treachery? I can imagine there is a scenario where an exchange like this would work, but it certainly did not work in this one. I do not just blame the actors for this outlandish, off-putting execution of these two lines. I also blame director John R. Leonetti, who I will do my absolute best to be fair to in this case, because the film is his directorial debut, but this does not feel like a good film to put on one’s resume as their first feature. Then again, look at Tim Miller! “Deadpool” was his directorial debut and that was near perfect! But at the same time, they had terrific writing, exciting fight sequences, and Ryan Reynolds’s brilliant and I’ll add, Golden Globe-nominated, performance to back it up! “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” not only feels like it drifts far away from its video game counterpart, but unashamedly shows off a plethora of some of the most abysmal visual effects I’ve ever seen. There are creatures in this movie that make the monsters in the holographic Millennium Falcon game from “Star Wars” look like they are eye-popping and realistic!

I described this movie to a friend recently. For the record, this friend has not seen the movie. And I stand by this description. Here’s what I said over text…

“It basically feels like if Power Rangers went on an acid trip and somehow became horny. I can’t even describe how bad this is.”

I mean this to the tenth degree! This movie looks sexy, it’s got attractive people in it, there’s a selection of good-looking costumes. But it is overacted, overstylized, and at it certain points, it treated me like I was five years old! The dialogue is an enormous annoyance. The slo-mo in this film is not a saving grace, if anything, it was horrendous.

Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert

I watched “Power Rangers” as a kid, and while I watched it, I was wildly entertained. Because the show, even though it was stupid and insulting, knew exactly who it was made for. Young boys. For the record, the “Power Rangers” franchise, which from generation to generation, has had numerous consistencies, was first introduced in the early 1990s. I feel like somebody either on the writing team, director John R. Leonetti, or some s*itty studio executive who just got into crack started watching a ton of “Power Rangers,” eternally left it on in the background, and its overexposure led to one of the most unwatchable pieces of crap on the face of the earth! This film is so bad that I am not even going to get into the characters! Yes, this film has characters, but they’re not really characters, they’re just potential faces and bodies that may as well have been created to be action figures.

The special effects in “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation…” Oh my f*cking god. Well, they exist. They’re special alright. A special kind of special if you ask me. Maybe “The Star Wars Holiday Special” kind of special! They look like they skip frames, they are barely textured, and are a true resemblance of how far we as a society have advanced since the terror of the 1990s and the corny visuals that were offered to viewers then. I sometimes joke about some modern visual effects looking like a Nintendo game or something on the PlayStation, this movie made any pixelated image in an early “Mortal Kombat” arcade cabinet look more lifelike and attractive!

LOOK AT IT!

Given what I recently said about this film’s characters and them existing seemingly almost as if they were to become action figures, you might as well argue that the special effects in this film come off as large scale action figures.

I MEAN, LOOK AT THIS S*IT!

I cannot name one single freaking positive in this entire movie. The only positive I can come up with is that it ends, because it means I can get some s*it done. Some much more important s*it, that’s what I say. I think the only positive, if this even counts, is that it ended the series. I mean, there’s probably other places to go from “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” but no third movie was greenlit. For all I know, there could have been a third one and it may have ended up being the worst one in the franchise. This once again makes me excited for the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” movie that looks ten times better than what New Line pooped out in 1997.

Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert

I think the only way that this film can possibly get any worse is if it were longer. The runtime is 95 minutes, and I assure you when the film hit minute 95, I was in utter relief. Ending this film felt like a divorce. I just wanted to get out, go away, and f*ckin’ celebrate. I’m surprised I did not end up popping a few bottles to mark the occasion. I survived “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.” I’ve heard the horror stories, it sounded like a movie where I would laugh, but little did I realize how much I would want to vent, because this movie grabbed me, dragged me across the floor, and finished me with its mightiest fatality. But like in many video games, it pays to have an extra life, and I used my extra life to conquer this bloody nightmare.

In the end, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” killed me. It finished me. I’ve seen a lot of bad films. “The Emoji Movie,” “Battlefield Earth,” “Samurai Cop,” “Sharknado.” This might actually be worse than all of them! Of all the movies I have watched and talked about in the history of doing Scene Before, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” may just be the worst one I’ve ever watched. It’s barely like the video games, and at times, it makes the older video games look real! I almost see no scenario where I watch this movie ever again, unless I was bats*it drunk with a group of friends, we’re all at my place, I grab the Blu-ray, and we prepare to laugh our asses off. And then maybe I cry myself to sleep. I can imagine having nightmares about this movie. I can only imagine what they’d look like.

AH! TERRIBLE-LOOKING EXPLOSION! GO AWAY! SCRAM! YOU FREAKING ASS!

I cannot even believe I survived whatever the hell this movie actually is. Because it is not a movie, it is a pathetic excuse of a compilation of visual images that technically qualify as a 95 minute story.

To those who want to watch “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” “Too bad your brain… WILL DIE!”

I’m just done, this movie broke me. I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” a 1/10.

Worst screenplay ever.
Worst direction ever.
Worst effects ever.

Almost the worst movie ever if you ask me.

I will also add that on the poster for this atrocity, the slogan is “Destroy all expectations.” That would be true, if I even had them to begin with!

Movies like this make me glad that movies like “Sonic the Hedgehog” have followed. Maybe the video game movie realm will end up getting a lot better with time, but films like this one most certainly reveal some of the worst this subgroup has to offer. Avoid “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” at all costs, unless you like torture or bringing pain to your enemies, in which case, those are your exceptions. But DO NOT watch this movie. You’ll thank me later.

Thanks for reading this review! Thanks for reading part 2 of 2 of the “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series! I just want to remind everyone that I have upcoming reviews for “Boogie,” “Nobody,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” I will admit, it may take me some time to get out each one of these reviews because I am in the middle of my busiest college semester yet and I am currently working on a side project that I may end up sharing with you guys. More details may arrive soon.

Also, I want to address my next upcoming series, “7 Days of Star Wars,” where I will review the first seven main saga episodes in the “Star Wars” franchise. When planning this series, I hoped to release it from Sunday May 2nd to Saturday May 8th, which would coincide with Star Wars Day, May the 4th. Do not take this as an official confirmation, but I have considered postponing the dates for the upcoming review series. It’s not that I do not want to do it, it’s just that I’ve been incredibly busy and I would rather have a series I am proud of instead of a series that is rushed. I currently have no review series planned for June, so maybe I’ll push it back then at the latest. If you want to know about upcoming content on Scene Before and more shenanigans, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account. Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation?” What did you think about it? Or, and this is good time to ask this, what is the worst movie you have ever seen? “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” may arguably be mine, there are like one or two that may be worse. I would have to rewatch the other two if I even dare. Either way, let me know about your horror stories down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mortal Kombat (1995): Sadly, One of the Better Video Game Movies To This Day

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the first of two installments of my special review series, “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews!” In this review series we will be discussing the two live-action “Mortal Kombat” films directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, a major player in adapting video games into film. With that being said, it is time to go back to 1995 and review “Mortal Kombat!”

“Mortal Kombat” is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, or Paul Anderson as he was credited back in the day. The film stars Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, and Christopher Lambert. This film is based on the video game franchise of the same name. It has been well-known as one of the more popular fighting games in the arcade and even today at home. The film centers around three people who are summoned to an island to participate in a fighting tournament where the outcome will decide the fate of the world.

If you know me personally, you’d be aware that I passionately collect Blu-rays. “Mortal Kombat,” and “Mortal Kombat: Annhilation” for that matter, just so happen to be two that I own. I bought the Blu-ray for “Mortal Kombat” back in 2015 after finding a used copy at Newbury Comics, a staple for pop culture items in New England. One of the habits I have developed over the years is waiting forever to watch certain movies after buying them. I bought “Spy” back during the 2016 holiday season and I have still yet to put it into the player. Not long after that period ended, I bought a copy of “Napoleon Dynamite,” and to this day I have not watched the movie. Then after that, I bought my first 4K Blu-ray ever, “The Lone Survivor.” Originally I wanted to wait out on watching it until I had a proper 4K Blu-ray player and not just one that upscales 1080p footage to look like it is in 4K. Despite owning a 4K Blu-ray player for a few years, I still have not watched the movie. But for “Mortal Kombat,” I waited over six years to finally watch this film. I bought this film prior to starting Scene Before! Although with the new movie coming out, the timing to not only watch, but talk about it, could not be better.

Now, let’s talk about video game movies in general. If you are versed in certain areas of film, you’d know that movies and video games typically do not mix. My least favorite film of all time is based on a video game, “Super Mario Bros.” from 1993. I love the “Super Mario” franchise as a gamer, but the magic of those games disappeared when translated to the big screen. There’s a scene where Mario refuses to jump! That’s literally his only purpose! Other than eating mushrooms, stomping on Goombas, and overshadowing his brother. Paul W.S. Anderson is one of the more famous directors when it comes to movies that are inspired by games, but that fame does not automatically equate to quality. While I have not seen the “Resident Evil” movies, those films have usually not been well received. “Monster Hunter” was… Alright. Visually it is not bad. But it does not feel like a movie that belongs in 2020. The music feels like it is from a 90s movie that is trying really hard to be an 80s movie. In some ways, “Mortal Kombat” and “Monster Hunter” come close in style, but unlike “Monster Hunter,” it feels advantageous for “Mortal Kombat” as it is a product of the 1990s.

Once again, keep in mind that I have not seen “Resident Evil,” but for all I know, Paul W.S. Anderson makes each of his movies in the same way as he has done since making “Mortal Kombat,” which I will say, was rather enjoyable to watch. There’s all this epic music that shimmies around a border to where I can AND cannot take it seriously. In fact, I do not work out much, I do not take much time to go to the gym, but if I were to start working out and take it seriously, the opening song of this movie is one that I would definitely consider adding to my playlist. The set design and effects all have this fantasy feel to it, and the entire time I felt like I was in another world. I will say that this is “Mortal Kombat’s” greatest strength. It does a really good job at transporting me as a viewer from the real world to the film world.

I’m just gonna say this though. If you told me that Michael Bay had a phase where he got totally into practical effects and directed this movie, I would believe you. I say so because this movie is excellent when it comes to style. As for substance, eh, not really. It has been a few weeks since I have seen this film, and I have only played traces of the games, although what I have played has been fun. I barely remember the characters. Yes, I know their names: Johnny Cage, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Scorpion just to list some. But I should know more than just their names. I will say that the best thing about a good number of these characters is the fights they were in, but that appreciation once again goes to show that “Mortal Kombat” is a film with mostly style but not as much substance.

But having said that, I often call myself a ten year old kid in an adult’s body. If I were watching this film at the age of ten, there is a good chance that I would have been wowed and considering it perfect because it checked various marks that a younger me would want to see. Grand action, extravagant environments, and some cool music. This film, even though it really leaves much to be desired as a story, would make for an excellent tech demo. I would not be surprised if they come out with a 4K Blu-ray for it in the near future because there is an argument to make that this would look rather polished if enough effort is put into it.

One of the minor disappointments about this “Mortal Kombat” film is that even though there are some ties to the video games that fit right in, there is a big one that is missing. For the record, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the earlier games that embraces graphic violence, much of which was done through “fatalities.” And yes, there are finishers in this movie to a degree, but this film is PG-13 and I feel like it would have been fun to see the crew take this movie in a more R-rated direction if possible. Although I must say I am glad we are getting the new “Mortal Kombat” film coming out this month because that is R-rated and it may right what I consider to be the wrongs of this film. It just goes to show, not all remakes are bad ideas. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was a remake and that film is celebrated today!

In the end, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the better video game movies, but then again, that does not say much given how there really are not too many great ones. I found this film delightfully entertaining but mainly as something to glance upon. Maybe it would be cool to watch in the theater one time, but I do not have all the time in the world so I may end up not doing that. If anything, it is a good effort, and surprisingly works despite having a few characters who do not necessarily belong in the world this movie represents, but it is not something I’d watch five to ten times in a matter of months. I would watch it on a Friday night, but only as a feast for the eyes and ears. I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat” a 6/10.

Thanks for reading the first of two reviews in this “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series! I will have my review up for “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on April 12th! Stay tuned and follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played the “Mortal Kombat” games? Tell me about your experiences! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Chaos Walking (2021): The Noise Awakens

“Chaos Walking” is directed by Doug Liman and stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Onward), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Peter Rabbit), Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Hannibal), Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight, A Better Life), Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale, Harriet), Nick Jonas (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Midway), and David Oyelowo (Gringo, Selma). This film follows a guy named Todd who lives in a dystopian future. In 2257 A.D., the men of New World go about their daily lives after an unfortunate war. One thing our protagonist, Todd, has in common with everyone else is that he has this thing called “noise,” where his thoughts are outspoken despite not opening his mouth. However, one day, a ship crashes on the planet and it peaks Todd’s curiosity. Turns out, the rider inside the ship is a girl, which Todd has never seen before, given how all of them died in the recently mentioned war.

I saw this film on the second weekend of March. Therefore, per usual, I am getting this review out late. That’s the bad news. The good news however that comes with it is that I likely have more time to process and think about what I saw, which I have done when it comes to this movie. With my previous review, “Raya and the Last Dragon” to be specific, I did not flip back and forth between much. The only thing I flipped around with was the score, which I was wondering whether I’d give it either a 8/10 or 9/10. I settled for the latter. I thought a little more about “Chaos Walking,” but not much more. Sure, I kind of flipped around on the score here as well, but that is not the only slice of this pie we have here. The big question I thought about was if I was actually going to see myself watching this movie again. The short answer would be… Maybe? But not now? I dunno… The thing is, when it comes to the young adult novel adaptation realm of filmmaking, I usually watch those movies once and I normally don’t have an urge to go back to them. Yes, I’ll buy the Blu-ray, but it ultimately may just end up sitting on my shelf. I like the “Divergent” movies, in fact I personally think it is better than “The Hunger Games” as a franchise, but I don’t usually watch those movies while sitting at home on a Friday night. I am somewhat mixed on “Chaos Walking” as a movie, because using the recent example, “Divergent,” I find “Chaos Walking” to be more entertaining at times than “Divergent,” specifically the first installment. I interestingly enough find “Insurgent” to be a better movie. If anything, I find “Chaos Walking” to be more entertaining than “Divergent” because “Chaos Walking,” whether it is intentional or not, comes off as somewhat funnier and maybe has a little more fun with its concept. In fact, I think the concept is slightly better, because I think it is a little more cliche to do the whole “divide people into groups” and boom, we have our movie idea. This movie eliminates an entire gender and as a viewer, I am somewhat intrigued to see how the survivors are going about their days.

At the same time though, similar to some other young adult novel adaptations, this film does get borderline cheesy. Sometimes it provides for a fun line, which is cool. But if you are looking for a Shakespearean, timeless flick with some of the best writing and directing imaginable, go elsewhere. Going back to the movie I recently mentioned, “Chaos Walking” came out the same weekend as “Raya and the Last Dragon.” That is a much better film in my opinion, so if I had to pick between two films to watch, the choice would easily be “Raya” by a long shot.

Moving onto characters, I want to talk about the chemistry between Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. On their own, these two are great actors. I loved Holland as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I adored Rey in “Star Wars,” so to see these two nerd icons come together in one movie is almost magical. As for their characters I bought into them as a pair as they sometimes found each other odd, sometimes they found each other likable, and so on. Going back to what I said about this movie having fun lines, there are a couple character establishment moments between these two that are personal highlights of the script. One other highlight of the script for me is that like every other young adult novel or every other young adult adaptation, the guy or girl has to crush on the other person or fall in love with them. I will not go into much detail on that, but this film almost felt like it was parodying that cliché at times, and I mean that in a positive way. There are moments where we see Tom Holland’s character specifically either thinking about kissing her, which was hysterical, and maybe there will be another scene in the film where we simply see that he finds her attractive. That may have been the best part of the movie because it takes a cliché, has fun with it, and makes it a kneeslapper.

I also want to talk about the driving gimmick of the film, “the noise.” When I saw the trailer for this film, I thought I was going to hate every single second that this, well, noise, was going to be emitted. It sounded awfully rugged, and it kind of goes against the screenwriting rule where you have to use as little words as possible to get points across because film is a visual medium. Yes, there is writing in it, but ultimately it is a matter of what you see. Seeing someone doing something is usually more entertaining and calming than hearing someone saying they are going to do something. And I will admit, when I heard this early on in the film, I was kind of pissed on how it played out. I figured if they were just going to utilize this thing for a poop joke, which more likely belongs in a disposable Illumination or DreamWorks project if anything, I figured this film was not going to be worth my time. But the gimmick was surprisingly well utilized to a certain degree. It does not change the fact that when it comes to most movies, less is more, but “Chaos Walking” is a weird animal where more is more when it comes to screenwriting.

In the end, “Chaos Walking” is just weird. I like the movie, but I cannot confirm that I’m ever going to watch it again. When comparing it to other young adult genre entries, I’d rather watch the first two “Divergent” films again. “Noise” is a terrible gimmick on paper, but an okay one when ultimately executed on screen. This film is cheesy, but weirdly attractive at the same time. This is a film that took years to make, and it honestly shows. A lot of the lines are borderline wooden and it almost feels like the only reason why this movie exists at this point is for the studio to poop it out in a pandemic where it is almost impossible for some people to go to the movies. “Chaos Walking” is a good movie, but not a great movie, so I’m going to give it a 6/10.

“Chaos Walking” is now available in theaters wherever they are open and the film is also now available to buy on video on demand services such as Fios, Xfinity, Google Play, and VUDU.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Mortal Kombat” as part of a review series I am calling “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews,” which I am doing as a lead-in to the all new R-rated “Mortal Kombat” movie which is out in theaters and on HBO Max on April 23rd. I will also have my review up for “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” available starting April 12th. I should also soon have reviews for “Boogie,” “Nobody,” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” To stay tuned for these reviews, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Chaos Walking?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite 2021 film so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021): How to Find Your Dragon

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is directed by Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, alongside credited co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa. This film stars Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Adam Ruins Everything), Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell), Izaac Wang (Good Boys, Think Like a Dog), Gemma Chan (Transformers: The Last Knight, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent, Lost), Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Annihilation), Sandra Oh (Over the Moon, Grey’s Anatomy), Thalia Tran (Council of Dads, Little), Lucille Soong (Fresh Off the Boat, Desperate Housewives), and Alan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Harley Quinn). This film takes place in the fantasy world of Kumandra, which has been divided into five tribes with alternating values. All of these tribes and their respective followers are after an orb that protects people from the Druun, a virus-like spirit that turns everyone in its path to stone. When the orb shatters into pieces, Raya, a warrior princess from Heart, goes on a quest to find Sisu, the last living dragon, who supposedly has a knowledge about the orb.

If you are new to Scene Before, welcome! One thing you may discover about me is that I have a love/hate relationship with Disney. They are a brand that I personally cannot stand because they often hog all the attention in multiple markets and almost resemble a collective monopoly. At the same time, they own Lucasfilm, they own Marvel, and they own Pixar, three of my favorite studios working today. Therefore, when it comes to entertaining people, they are doing something right. This film is from Walt Disney Animation Studios, or Disney proper if you want to put it in other terms. In recent years, they have made some of my favorite animated films including “Zootopia” and “Wreck-it Ralph,” but they also made a couple films that irked me to no end like “Frozen” and “Moana.” Although one thing that has been consistent from one film to the next is that the animation style in each one looks beautiful. Everything looks detailed and despite being from a studio that has been around for years, it feels like they have entered a new era with some of their recent projects. At the same time though, this should not be a surprise given how much technology has advanced by 2021. If something doesn’t look halfway decent, maybe I’ll let that slide in 1998 or 2002. But in 2021, good animation is a requirement. Thankfully, and this leads me to my initial positive of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” the level of detail and vibrancy in this film is eye-popping. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a fascinating film that takes you through several environments that should vary in tone, but for some reason, they mesh together to form an action-packed adventure for everyone to enjoy. And I mean, EVERYONE.

This is how family movies should be done! Great characters, witty humor, balls to the wall pacing, and a fascinating story with exciting lore behind it! Upon reflection, this movie had the pacing of two 2008 animations. “Bolt,” which was also a Walt Disney Animation Studios film, and like “Raya,” there are a few action scenes that not only takes things up a notch with some quick pace to accompany it. The other animation is “Kung Fu Panda,” and I say that because the film bases itself around martial arts, Asian culture, and has built an exciting, perhaps myth-like world that has secrets that may await exploration. After all, “Kung Fu Panda” had two sequels. I do not know if “Raya and the Last Dragon” will end up having as big of a following as say “Big Hero 6,” but if anyone at Disney reads this, just know that if a “Raya and the Last Dragon” sequel is greenlit, I will happily flock to the theater to see it.

Let’s talk about Raya. She is a warrior who spends years trying to find the last dragon after an unfortunate event left many people dead. Her quest in general is quite the journey to watch. We see early on in the film that she travels alongside a merchandisable mix of an armadillo and pill bug, Tuk Tuk. While Tuk Tuk is not my standout character of the movie, not saying he sucks, but still… I like the work that was put into the character, specifically the voice because they did not just go out into the animal kingdom and get a bunch of different recordings for this character, they just got Alan Tudyk to make a bunch of noises and have the results be satisfying! And I assure you, I sometimes forget how much I truly appreciate Alan Tudyk as a performer. He has a style for voicework that is almost unmatched between King Candy in “Wreck-It Ralph,” K-2SO in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and The Joker in the animated “Harley Quinn” series! The dude is a true mastermind! Therefore it does not surprise me that he has a role that is simply just making animal sounds. He’s that effective of a performer! I have a friend, I won’t say his or her name, who will practically watch anything with Alan Tudyk in it. I can see why.

One of the big mixes of the film is something that Disney has usually been known for in earlier years but also something that it has seemingly lacked in recent years, a hefty villainous presence. Now, if Netflix’s “Over the Moon” has proven anything, it is that not every single animated antagonist needs to be wicked or evil. For most of “Raya and the Last Dragon,” the villain is just a bunch of particles that move around. Now, to be fair, these particles can be threatening at time, but when you have a company that has been built for years on imagination, it is somewhat weird to see them resort to lifeless blobs as the main villain.

Then again, this is the same company that copy-pasted “The Lion King” in 2019 and made a billion dollars off of it, so what do I know?

At the same time, there is a constant rivalry between Raya and Namaari, from the land of Fang. The movie shows these two early on getting along with each other until an unexpected turn happens in which case they are no longer on each other’s side. This rivalry is integral to the film and the events that play throughout. The constant drive that plays out due to each of these characters’ disconnect to one another is a highlight of the film and makes for one of the more interesting relationships I have seen in a recent movie.

Speaking of characters, this film also had quite a few compelling supporting members of the cast as well. You have Sisu the dragon, played by Awkwafina, who partially plays herself in a way. But in my book, I do not mean that as a diss. Awkwafina has an admirable personality so I like seeing that interjected into this dragon character. Aside from seeing her for a majority of the film, we have Boun, a sidekick boy who makes shrimp. Joining them is a baby named Little Noi who if you ask me, can probably slaughter the Boss Baby in a fight.

But before we go any further, I want to bring up the songs in this film. There’s not even one original, Disney-esque song in this entire thing, and having seen the movie, there never should have been! This movie pulls no punches and wastes no time. I was here to watch something that kicks some ass and I assure you that my ass may have been kicked. But this does not mean the music in this film is lame. In fact, it is composed by James Newton Howard, known for his work on “The Hunger Games” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Therefore, when it comes to both fantastical settings and films where groups of people are divided, this is not Howard’s first rodeo, AND IT SHOWS. I know we are only in March, but I think we already have a contender for the best film score of 2021. It is like a lighthearted mix of “Mad Max” and your traditional martial arts-centric or warrior movie. James Newton Howard collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the scores for “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” both of which are really good scores. Although this “Raya and the Last Dragon” score may almost be my favorite of his so far. Tonally speaking it is generally quick, nearly rambunctious, and some of the percussion really stands out.

In the end, “Raya and the Last Dragon” did not just rock my world, it rocked my Disney world. The film is just purely bold and rustic and fun! I needed this after “Tom & Jerry,” let me just say that much! Time will tell as for how often I’ll watch this film again, but for my first viewing, I was blown away. This film is technically stunning and as a story, it sort of opens doors for sequels, expansions, lore, and I am admittedly quite curious to the point where I want to see where things go from here with the “Raya” property. I do not know if it will end up happening due to the pandemic, but I see this film, much like many others, becoming a fan favorite. And if anything else, I mentioned once again, this film has a lack of original songs. So, note to everyone who made the live-action “Mulan,” this is probably what your movie should have been! I’m going to give “Raya and the Last Dragon” a 9/10.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, however due to Cinemark not confirming a deal with Disney, the film is not playing at any of their locations. The film is however also currently available on Disney+ with Premier Access for a one-time $29.99 fee on top of your subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know, if things on Scene Before seem slower than usual, I have admittedly been quite busy with school and other goings on in life, so I do apologize if I am supposedly lagging. Although if it makes you feel any better, I want to announce that on Monday, April 5th, I’ll be starting my “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series, so I will have my review up for the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie. I watched the film earlier this month, and I am looking forward to talking about it. I will also be discussing “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on April 12th. As for new movies, pretty soon I will hopefully have reviews up for “Chaos Walking,” “Boogie,” and “Nobody.” I am also seeing “Godzilla vs. Kong” this Wednesday, so I should hopefully have a review for that up soon as well. 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 the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Raya and the Last Dragon?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Alan Tudyk film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Tom & Jerry (2021): Who Shamed Roger Rabbit?

“Tom & Jerry” is directed by Tim Story and stars Chloë Grace Moretz (If I Stay, The Fifth Wave), Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Jexi), Colin Jost (Saturday Night Live, How to be Single), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe, Deadpool 2), and Ken Jeong (The Hangover, The Masked Singer). This film places the iconic cartoon cat and mouse duo in a live-action environment, specifically in New York City. Simultaneously, we follow the character of Kayla, who acquires a job at a fancy hotel, occasionally runs into the two cartoons, and needs to accompany guests for a balls out wedding.

I have never watched the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons as a kid, except maybe once or twice. Therefore, like some other things that have been adapted into live-action like “The Smurfs,” I had little to no connection to it as a child. I know the titular duo always find themselves trying to take each other down, and conceptually, it sounds entertaining. If I were six years old, I could find it to be a solid time-waster. But there’s no real story or plot to it that I can come up with other than the fact that the two creatures do not like each other, as cats and mice probably shouldn’t and they always end up in shambles against one another. This leads me to my first positive of the film, there are a couple entertaining fight sequences. They’re not all memorable or fascinating, but they have glimmers of entertainment throughout. Unfortunately, that is where all the positivity stops.

After all, even though this movie is about two animated rascals trying to beat each other up, that’s not even the whole story. Instead, it is another lame, copypaste, live-action snoozefest that has no substance. I just want to say to everyone reading this who has kids, if you are planning on taking your kid to the theater this weekend, do not watch “Tom & Jerry.” Save yourself from going inside. The kids might have fun, although I will admit, since seeing the movie, I talked with someone I know who has kids and they were apparently bored instantly by the film upon first watching it. Go watch “Raya and the Last Dragon” instead! That film has substance, great characters, laughs, and even though one of the core elements of “Tom & Jerry” are the action sequences, that film manages to have better action! Both in terms of style and story! I have not seen many movies in 2021 so far, but this is currently the worst one of the year for me.

Now, let’s talk about some characters. That’s always a great place to start in a review, right? Well, the movie’s called “Tom & Jerry” so it would only be appropriate to talk about Tom & Jerry first, right?

Nope! This is not their movie! They’re on the title because you know, franchises make money!

Instead, let’s talk about Kayla for a second. How is she a positive role model for children? Sure, maybe throughout the movie she’s taming a cat and mouse, which might translate to some kids being good with pets, but as a person, she is not exactly fine and dandy. She starts off the film by quitting her job, going to a hotel where she runs into a woman trying to apply for another job, manipulates her into not applying, and tries to acquire the job for herself. How is this a teaching moment for children? How do you get to the top? Lying! Unfortunately, Moretz is not the only hairball in this mess. This movie comes with a sadly obnoxious Michael Peña, who very much reminded me of his character in the piece of crap people call “Jexi.” Colin Jost and Pallati Sharva play a rather entitled celebrity couple I almost did not even come close to caring about. Ken Jeong is a chef who is weirdly dynamic and I don’t really remember anything else about him or almost anyone in this movie. Granted, it has been a few weeks since I saw “Tom & Jerry,” but it really goes to show how disposable it is.

Let me just be clear. The cast of this movie has talent. I admittedly have not watched a lot of Chloe Grace Moretz’s work, but I can tell she always commits to her craft. And given the little substance this movie offers, she does her best. Michael Peña unfortunately has followed a trend lately where some of the movies he’s been in that I’ve personally seen are not some of his best, and this is one of them. Colin Jost is consistently funny on “Saturday Night Live,” keeping up with the genius of Weekend Update from one episode to the next. Rob Delaney is an actor whose work I need to follow more often, but he was one of the highlights for me in “Deadpool 2” as the powerless Peter. Ken Jeong is a dynamic personality that will take any project that he is in and improve it by just a sliver, even if it is already great! In fact he was in “Over the Moon,” one of the best animations I have ever seen and my favorite film of last year. While these actors have had better days in terms of performances, much of it has to do with bad writing and perhaps just as awful directing. This movie consistently feels like it is doing the bare minimum to keep kids entertained, but not enough for grown-ups to keep themselves from cringing.

Also I want to address a problem with this film that has been bugging me. I say this as someone who has never had a childhood attachment to “Tom & Jerry.” But this film is not about “Tom & Jerry.” If you take “Tom & Jerry” out, you have a slightly different film with more realistic drama and it is completely centered around the human characters, many of whom I did not give a s*it about. My point is, “Tom & Jerry” comes packed in with a couple of the same problems viewers had with the live-action “Transformers” movies, all of which, and this maybe even includes “The Last Knight,” are more entertaining than whatever this piece of crap happens to be! The film centers around “Tom & Jerry,” the iconic duo known from your childhood days watching cartoons, but they shove in all these forced human storylines just for the sake of going, “Bippity boppity boo! Here’s a movie! It’s not completely in shambles!” And those are not the only flaws this movie comes with, because remember, this is a live-action adaptation of a cartoon. Remember “The Smurfs?” This is basically the exact same thing, only it does not go into multiverse bulls*it and transport Tom & Jerry to earth! Now to be fair, unlike the Smurfs, who hail from their own fantastical village, Tom & Jerry come from more realistic environments, so you can say that they’ve always been on earth. But given how the older material usually strays away from complete realism, the comparison is close enough. You have these two imbeciles, they have their life of brawling each other, and to be fair, that part of the source material seems faithful enough. But they are not the center of the story, it’s f*cking Kayla! Whenever Tom & Jerry show up, they cause trouble, create shenanigans, and show that they really don’t like each other, which given things going on in the movie, is kind of a problem. However, they are not the main characters. Sure, their actions occasionally link to one’s successes or downfalls, but the direction they decided to take this movie in not only feels boring, but also repetitive. We’ve seen this weird creature/human interaction thing done before, but not always to positive results. Although I will admit, last year’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” is one of the delightfully positive exceptions.

Movies like this show that not everything translates to film. “Tom & Jerry” works as a series of animated shorts, not as a big blockbuster epic. And I will admit one of the positives of this film is that it actually is somewhat faithful to its source material. The duo come off like their hand-drawn counterparts, and unlike the live-action “Smurfs” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies, they are in 2D and not CGIed to another dimension. And while this is faithful, Tom and Jerry do not talk. I bet this is part of why they put all of these human characters in the film as an attempt to relate to its audience. While there may have been good intentions, they proceeded to bad results. I bring up Tom & Jerry not being able to talk because in a lot of these family movies, you have these characters that are expressive and excited or upbeat. At least communication was not a problem in those other movies. Here, the solution makes for something that lessens a problem, but it still creates another one by making me want to rip my ears and throw them into a trash compactor! Just because this movie comes off looking like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” does not mean it is the next “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.”

In the end, this movie feels like a lazy cash grab, and based on the box office, they certainly happen to be grabbing that cash! “Tom & Jerry” opened to over $14 million domestically, which would be a disappointment by pre-coronavirus standards. But with the current pandemic and Warner Bros. simultaneously releasing new films on HBO Max, that is actually not a bad result. I’m glad the studio is making money, I’m glad the theatres are making money. But I felt like I wasted my money watching this. I felt like I was in a giant mousetrap for the entire runtime! This is a ridiculous, lazy, and uninspired film with some of the worst writing and direction I have seen in recent memory. Some of the fight scenes were entertaining though and I will also leave you with this, there are a couple genuinely funny lines in the film, but sadly I do not even remember them. Save your money, go see “Raya” instead, or find something else to watch on HBO Max. I’m going to give “Tom & Jerry” a 3/10.

I said this to myself before going into “Tom & Jerry,” and that thought has not changed since. I’ve been looking forward a big event featuring two classic characters in the ultimate fight for society. And that fight will be settled… IN “GODZILLA VS. KONG!”

“Tom & Jerry?” I’m sorry, what are you talking about? It was a pass from me before watching the movie, and it is still a pass from me after watching the movie. Although I did see the movie with a friend who admittedly enjoyed himself, so good for him.

“Tom & Jerry” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open and is currently available to watch if you are subscribed to HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.” I saw the film in IMAX a couple weeks ago, but I have not gotten around to review it, kind of like “Tom & Jerry” due to my commitments with the Jackoff Awards. Also coming soon, I will have my thoughts on “Chaos Walking” starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, so look forward to that!

One more thing, awards season is in full swing, and if you have not done so yet, check out the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards, where one moron awards a ton of movies! Be sure to follow Scene Before with email or WordPress account, also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Tom & Jerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons? What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021): A Fine Black Panther Film

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is directed by Shaka King (Newlyweeds, Mulignans) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Queen & Slim, Black Panther), LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You), Jesse Plemons (Game Night, The Irishman), Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, Project Power), Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Captive State), Darrell Britt-Gibson (20th Century Women, Barry), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Uncle Drew), Algee Smith (Detroit, Earth to Echo), and Martin Sheen (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Departed). This film centers around a time where the Black Panther Party increasingly rose to prominence. When Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) becomes chairman of the organization’s Illinois Chapter, criminal Bill O’Neal, who meets FBI Special Director Roy Mitchell, is assigned to infiltrate the group.

This film is based on true events that took place in the late 1960s. About thirty years before I was even born. Therefore, I have zero recollection on these events other than maybe hearing about them through school and perhaps the Internet. I’ve seen trailers for “Judas and the Black Messiah” multiple times, given how it is a Warner Bros. property and when I went to see films like “Tenet” and “The Little Things” in the theater, this film would be one that comes up. Each and every time I thought a couple things. The cast looked phenomenal, the performances might strike the heart, it might have a couple moments that sound great in a cinema, some of the camerawork looks really good, but as for whether the film would be for me, that was a big question. I say this because even do I do stand by events including the Black Lives Matter movement and many of the positive stories that have been spawned from Black History, I wondered if I, a straight white male, would connect with this film as much as someone who happened to be black. “BlacKkKlansman” was really good, I enjoyed that film quite a bit. And I am not saying I went in expecting to hate the film, because again, I had a relatively positive reaction to the trailers, I just went in wondering what exactly to expect, because not every film is made for the same individual. I mean, when it comes to expectations, I had ideas, but they were almost all over the place.

I walked out of “Judas and the Black Messiah” with some expectations met. The film looks and sounds like the revolutions themselves. Wide, loud, and clear. “Judas and the Black Messiah” has moments of excitement, intensity, and power. Experience-wise, I saw the film in Dolby Cinema, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend you go there, because I do not think it is playing in Dolby Cinema as of now with films like “Tom & Jerry” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” coming out after it. But there is a speech scene in this film, and I think those of you who have seen the film will know precisely what I am talking about, that pulled me into the scene and made me a part of the revolution. It was like I went back into the 1960s.

The absolute highlight of the film is the cast. Between Jesse Plemons, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominque Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah” does not fail to deliver the goods in terms of performances. In fact, the man who may be the highlight of the film, Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Fred Hampton, is wonderfully obnoxious and has one of the most powerful voices I have heard in recent cinema. In fact, in between me watching and reviewing this film, Kaluuya won a Golden Globe for his performance, which I’d say was deserved.

Despite seeing trailers for this film, a small part of me felt like I was going into “Judas and the Black Messiah” rather blind, and I would not say I was disappointed with the film from a story perspective. They took a mighty revolution, made it theatrical, while at the same time, taking a fascinating detective story associated with it and having both elements be executed to a satisfying watch.

By the end of the film, I was on the edge of my seat. Now, I have touched upon various points of Black History in school, but keep in mind, if you have not guessed by now, I have gone to a school with mostly white kids, lived in a town with mostly white people, and mostly learned about white history under the direction of a public education system. So part of me did not really know what was coming at times, and when the movie came to an end, I was rather invested in what was going on.

One problem I had with the film, and this problem has admittedly become a Jack Drees trademark over the past couple years, is the pacing. The pacing is not horrible, but there are certain moments that feel slower than others. Let me just be clear, when it comes to the simultaneous theatrical/HBO Max debuts that have been coming out recently, if you watched “The Little Things” about a month ago and nearly fell asleep, I do not blame you, although I think “Judas and the Black Messiah” is more likely to keep you awake. Let’s move onto my next trademark problem, replay value. One of the advantages for having “Judas and the Black Messiah” on HBO Max while it is also in theaters is that you do not just have the option to watch it from home, but if you watch it at home, you can do so as many times as you want as long as you pay a monthly subscription. I saw the film in the theater, but if I watched it at home, it would be one of those films that I would turn on once, perhaps enjoy while it is on, until the point where I move onto the next thing. Maybe I’ll turn off HBO Max until “Tom & Jerry” pops up.

Nevertheless, these negatives do not imply that “Judas and the Black Messiah” was a waste of time, it just means that there are perhaps other priorities I would make before turning it on again. The performances, the atmosphere, the technical aspects, the direction, all of it is done with precise skill, but I would not watch “Judas and the Black Messiah” strictly for entertainment. Granted, the film is based on a true story, which in itself was not adapted solely for the sake of entertaining people, but telling a relevant piece of history for those who may or may not know about the subject matter.

In the end, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is one of those weird movies that I am into as I’m watching it, but as soon as I leave, part of me forgets just a tad of it every single day. I am not saying it is bad, but there are other films that I would watch first. If I had to compare it to another recent film experience, I’d go with “Dark Waters.” Remember that film from 2019 on the DuPont Scandal? It’s a good film, but it is one I do not think I recall all the way through. “Judas and the Black Messiah” may be worth a second watch, but part of it is because I may want to refresh my memory on what might have faded from the first experience. Do I recommend the film? You betcha. Can I tell you every single thing about it? No. Partially because it has been almost a few weeks since I saw it, and it is one film that I saw and happened to forget about the longer it’s been since watching it. Great performances, stunning vision, I just wish I liked it a little better. I’m going to give “Judas and the Black Messiah” a 7/10.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, and for the next few days, keep in mind, it is going away soon, you can catch the film exclusively on HBO Max at no extra cost as long as you are subscribed.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the 3rd edition of the most important movie blogging awards ceremony in history, The Jackoff Awards! I am hard at work, making sure all the touches are finished, and much of that hard work will carry over into the next few days, but on Sunday March 14th, it is finally here! You’ll get an all new awards show with nominees, winners, a new edition of Film Improvements, a COVID-themed intro, a monologue, and a big announcement as to where Flicknerd.com will be headed in the future. Stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, keep up with my content by following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and liking the official Facebook page! Also, speaking of the Jackoffs, there is STILL TIME if you want to, that you can vote for Best Picture! I selected 10 films to be nominated, only one will win! CLICK RIGHT HERE to make your pick! I want to know, did you see “Judas and the Black Messiah?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the Golden Globes this past Sunday? Tell me your thoughts on those! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Minari (2020): Seed This As Soon As You Can

“Minari” is written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung (Abigail Harm, Lucky Life) and stars Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, and Will Patton in a film about a Korean family trying to live the American dream. The movie mainly centers around a father who wants to build a better life for his spouse and children. In hopes of achieving all he could wish for, David moves with his family to Arkansas to start a farm. While Jacob is happy and ready to see his dreams potentially rise to reality, not everyone is onboard. Throughout, we are presented with a slice of life about a group of people adapting to a new situation and all its successes and failures.

I’ve waited a couple weeks to talk about “Minari.” Why? For starters, I wanted to get my Valentine’s Day special out to the public. Top 10 Movie Crushes, check it out! But I also have been busy with school and life to the point where I just could barely find time to work on this review. So I apologize in advance if anything that comes out of my mouth sounds odd, it has been a couple weeks. I went into “Minari” sort of with the same expectations that I had for “Nomadland,” which I had high hopes for, I thought Chloe Zhao was going to knock the film out of the park, and what did I think of it? Well, I gave it a 7/10. Now that is not a bad grade by any means, but I kind of expected at least an 8 given how the film has won so many festivals and awards thus far and it may continue its dominance at the Golden Globes this weekend if things go right. I will say though, Chloe Zhao may be *the* director all film fans should have their eyes on right now. Not only does she have a critically acclaimed film with “Nomadland,” but she also has “Eternals” and a “Dracula” project coming up. Could be exciting!

As for Lee Isaac Chung, the director of “Minari,” he is not a name I am completely aware of. I have not watched, nor am I familiar with any of his work. I know of Steven Yeun, the star of this film, but this film comes packed with a bunch of folks whose names I could have never stated prior to either watching the movie or making this review. It’s kind of like every day in high school. It’s a lot of folks around at once! Who are these people? What are their names? Come on, help me!

Either way, let me just give you my simple thoughts on “Minari.” To say I went in with low expectations would be a total lie. I was expecting an Oscar contender. I can assure you I was not disappointed. Granted, it is a little forgettable in parts but overall, I had a great time watching “Minari.” Everything from the acting to the directing to the writing is top-notch and well worth a trip to the theater or a rental whenever it is available on VOD.

“Minari” is one of those films that makes you feel… Well, everything. You laugh. You smile. You wince. You go “wow.” You may even get to the point where you’re a little emotional. I am not saying “Minari” is a tearjerker, but it is certainly a movie where the characters continue to grow on you.

“Minari” comes off as a small, intimate story with giant, magnificent craft. And a part of that has to do with the relationship between the cast and the directing effort. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri do an excellent job encapsulating the mix of tension and togetherness between their characters, Jacob and Monica. They have their differences, but they are in a way willing to stick together for something glorious that may lie ahead. Jacob is clearly happy and cannot wait for his dreams to come true, but Monica is noticeably pessimistic and that sort of affects how they are trying project reality onto their family.

One of my favorite parts of the film would have to be the relationship between the young boy, David, and the grandma, Soon-ja. Thinking about it now, when I was a child, I would spend many days with my grandmother. Granted, for different reasons than this film presents. This relationship to an extent reminded me of the one I had with my grandmother as a child. She would come by my house, hang out with me, watch television, play her handheld solitaire. Although one thing that out stood to me during the film is that the boy refuses to call his grandma “real.” By his definition, that means a grandma who “bakes cookies” for example. Now, I’ve done that sort of thing with my grandma, that I will not deny, but it sort of reminded me of a conversation I would have with her every once in a while. So I am from the Boston area, where people like their coffee from Dunkin’ and their football teams winning championships. One of my earliest memories of hearing the distinctive “Boston accent” came out of my grandmother’s mouth, where instead of saying “careful,” she would say “cahful.” I would occasionally “correct” her and then we move on with our lives. While I never called either of my grandmothers “fake,” I can assure that this relationship between a young boy and his grandmother is somewhat similar to one I’ve experienced myself.

One of the recent films I watched in terms of my Scene Before reviews was the Amazon Studios film “Herself,” which I thought was quite a good watch. Not as stellar as “Minari,” but it is worth your time. It is currently free for all Prime subscribers, give it a chance. The recent why I bring that film up is because like “Minari” it has one of the better endings of 2020. Both films have respective endings that are sort of subversive, but also lines up and connects with a theme that may have been brought up earlier in the film. I will not spoil either ending, but the way they do it in “Minari” makes the ticket price worth paying. Plus, without any further clarification, it allows the cinematographer to go to town and deliver a couple of the standout shots of 2020 cinema. I do not think the Academy will recognize “Minari” for cinematography, but I am sure they will recognize them more so than the Golden Globes.

Antiquated rules, my ass.

In the end, “Minari” is a great film that I will recommend to everyone reading this. Now if you are one of the few people who passed on “Parasite” because you cannot stand subtitles, I will still recommend “Minari” because it probably will still connect with you in some way, but I cannot control your lives and manipulate your way of thinking entirely, that might be cruel. The film has a couple problems. And I will sort of attribute it to the same things I said about “Soul” when I reviewed that film. The film checks a lot of boxes, humor, heart, good characters, but there are certain films that take many of these elements, which are “good” and takes them up a level. But that is just me. “Minari” is nevertheless worth a watch, maybe two, and I am going to give it an 8/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This Sunday I am proud to announce the Jackoffs is about to get in gear. For the past number of months, I have been working on comedy bits, an intro, previews, a poster, and now… A key moment has arrived. It’s nomination time! This Sunday I will be announcing the nominations for the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards! What do you hope to see nominated? Leave your comments below! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Minari?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever lived in Arkansas? As a Bay Stater, I have literally no idea what is like. Is it fun? Is it boring? Please let me know! I’m genuinely curious! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Nomadland (2020): Chloe Zhao May Be the Next Big Director to Watch

“Nomadland” is directed by Chloe Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brothers Taught Me) and stars Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), David Strathairn, Linda May, and Charlene Swankie in a film where a woman journeys through the American west and lives her life as a van-dwelling nomad after losing everything during the Great Recession. It is also based on the book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century,” written by Jessica Bruder.

“Nomadland” is a film that I have been looking forward to for a long time. My first memory of the film, or more specifically its title, is during the 2020 Venice Film Festival, one of the few things that actually happened that year when it comes to movies, because the film won multiple awards there, including the Golden Lion, which is basically that festival’s equivalent to Best Picture. But that’s not all the praise the film got. The film won the honors of Best Picture through the National Society of Film Critics, the Gotham Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics Association, and it seems “Nomadland” is only going to continue its hot streak. “Nomadland” was recently nominated for 4 Golden Globes, including Best Picture- Drama. And Frances McDormand was even nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Actress.

Statistically speaking, “Nomadland” is impressive, and I think that is part of why it is getting an exclusive IMAX run. Having seen the film myself, “Nomadland” is not the traditional style of film that one would expect to get an IMAX run. The film was made for somewhere around $4 to $6 million, way less than the traditional blockbuster that would usually meet the criteria. I feel like if it were not for the endless critical acclaim before the film came out, it would not have gotten this release in the first place. In fact, as of writing this review, that is all where it is playing. “Nomadland” is out everywhere on February 19th, plus Hulu, but as of right now, you can only see it in certain IMAX theaters. So as a fan of the brand and as one who wanted to see “Nomadland” as soon as possible, I took advantage of the opportunity.

Having walked out of the theater, I must address the hype surrounding the film. If I had to make a guess, I think most people would say that “Nomadland” has the highest chance of winning Best Picture at the Oscars this year as of now. Granted, this is coming from someone who was not the biggest fan of “Mank,” so I may be biased.

Oh my lord, “Mank” could have been ten times better.

“Nomadland” is a good movie, but to call it the masterpiece of our time is a bit excessive, at least to me. What do I like about it? When it comes to recent film, I think “Nomadland” stands out as one of the best displays of one’s slice of life. I was around in the late 2000s, when the Great Recession started, but I was still a kid. I barely had a concept of money so I did not have a full understanding of everything that was going on at the time. Nevertheless, “Nomadland” presents Fern as one of 2020’s most relatable characters, even though I never knew anybody precisely like her. Yes, I know people who have vans, I know people go around the country in vans. But to my knowledge, I never knew anyone who spent a great portion of their time living in a van. This film presents a character with unique traits, but they utilize her uniqueness to harken towards concepts that relate to a lot of people. Fern is a likable woman. She is a hustler, she is patient, she is kind, but she is not afraid to go after what she wants.

One of the best things I can suggest about an actor is when they give a performance that makes me say “I cannot imagine anybody else playing that character.” In the case of “Nomadland,” that statement is true when it comes to Frances McDormand, who already has two Oscars under her belt, and it is difficult to determine whether “Nomadland” will earn her a third, but her performance is certainly a contender. Not only does McDormand have an ideal look for her specific character, but her mannerisms are perfect at times. Her performance feels raw, kind of like the rest of the movie. The way this movie is done kind of feels like a vlog if it were completed in a cinematic style and if it was highly enhanced in the editing process.

Not only does Frances McDormand nail the look of her character, but Chloe Zhao and her crew also nail the look of “Nomadland” itself. “Nomadland” shines with some of the best framing of the year, and a filmmaking style that feels cinematic, although nearly documentary-like. I mentioned just a moment ago that this feels like a vlog. And I mean that, because even though vlogs are completely different from movies, they do a really good job at showing a slice of one’s life. “Nomadland” is not my favorite film of the year, but when it comes to 2020’s slices of life, it stands out. And I would also say that they managed to release this film at the right time because we are in the middle of a pandemic where the future is uncertain, not only in terms of our social lives, but the economy as a whole.

If I had to point out the best part of “Nomadland,” it would have to be the locations. Whoever decided on the locations that went into the final cut has my eternal respect, as they are an integral part as to what makes the framing extremely likable. And as much as I would hate to make a COVID-19 comparison, I have to. The way I would describe “Nomadland” is this… Imagine that I test positive for COVID-19. I lose my sense of taste. But I can still walk, I can still breathe. I don’t have any problems internally. I just need to isolate for 14 days or until whenever it goes away. “Nomadland” is a somewhat unfortunate, nearly depressing film at times, but it also trails along in good spirits. There is nothing in this film that is excruciatingly painful to watch. Nothing tear-jerking, nothing over the top emotionally charging, almost nothing that comes off as an eyesore. There are one or two moments that help the movie earn its R rating, but other than that, nothing really disturbing. “Nomadland” is a film that I feel is core viewing during the current awards season for many reasons, and you should definitely check it out when it gets a wider release.

In the end, “Nomadland” is a film that takes you places. Aside from taking you to an Amazon Distribution Center, a desert, the inside of a van, etc., it takes you to a world full of likable, quirky characters. The film has some memorable dialogue, including one line towards the end of the film that will stick with me when it comes to the 2020 cinematic slate. Frances McDormand gives a solid performance as the main character of Fern, and I think she could be a contender at the Oscars. As for the director, Chloe Zhao, I cannot wait to see what she does with “Eternals,” and this movie gives me hope that she can crank out a killer blockbuster. I am going to give “Nomadland” a high 7/10.

“Nomadland” is playing in select IMAX theatres wherever they are open. If you are interested in watching the film somewhere else, it is getting a wider release on February 19th, where it opens up in more theaters with a simultaneous debut on Hulu.

Thanks for reading this review! Last night, I just saw “Minari” starring Steven Yeun, so I will be sure to have a review up for that as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Nomadland?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think is the biggest awards season contender this year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!