Dolittle (2020): Why, Downey? Why?

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“Dolittle” is directed by Stephen Gaghan (Gold, Syriana) and stars Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Chaplin), Antonio Banderas (Interview with the Vampire, Shrek 2), Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Masters of Sex), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Late Night), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Night at the Museum), John Cena (Trainwreck, Playing with Fire), Kumail Nanjiani (Men in Black: International, Silicon Valley), Octavia Spencer (Gifted, Hidden Figures), Tom Holland (Spies in Disguise, Captain America: Civil War), Craig Robinson (Last Comic Standing, Knocked Up), Ralph Fiennes (The LEGO Batman Movie, Skyfall), Selena Gomez (Monte Carlo, Wizards of Waverly Place), and Marion Cotillard (Allied, Inception).

This film is the latest reboot to the “Doctor Dolittle” intellectual property. This time around, Robert Downey Jr. plays the man who can talk to animals and it follows him in a story where a Queen is dying and the only way to save her is to go on a journey to find a healing tree. On said journey, he is joined by his fellow animal friends and a new human apprentice (Harry Collett).

I have no memory of watching any previous material from the “Doctor Dolittle” franchise from beginning to end, so this was sort of my introduction to this world on film. Granted, I knew about about the character, I knew the whole thing about how the character can talk to animals and said animals do not spend too little time making a presence for themselves. I had the basics down, but for this movie, I was getting a new experience, one I never really had before.

But just because my experience was new, does not mean it was enjoyable. If “Cats” made me never want to ever interact with a feline ever again, then “Dolittle” has officially destroyed any chance I previously had of wanting to so much as think about any animal in existence. Thankfully, unlike “Cats,” which I praised for the CGI *at times*, the effects in “Dolittle” are a lot less unsettling, and a bit more satisfying to look at. But if Robert Downey Jr. is going to continue doing films like this after throwing in the towel with the MCU, movie audiences everywhere are in for a world of pain.

Granted, I will say, one of the interesting things about this film is that Robert Downey Jr.’s wife, Susan Downey, is a producer on the film. Plus, the two have kids, and it was just revealed on a clip of “Today” that this was the first premiere that they were taken to. After all, unlike most of the movies that Downey Jr. has done recently, which have been PG-13, “Dolittle” is PG. If “Dolittle” was a chance for two related people to work together, it may sound sweet, but quality should ALWAYS come first. This is why I get worried whenever Melissa McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, are doing a project together, because statistically speaking, they are not usually that well-received. Granted, maybe I am getting a little bit more apprehensive than I really should because the Downey team are also working on a film together to be directed by Richard Linklater, who also directed “Boyhood,” which even though I have not seen the film itself, I know enough about it to realize how innovative and groundbreaking of a film it really is.

As for Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, I could tell that maybe there was some effort put into it, but holy mackerel, that accent sounds like crap! It almost sounds as if Downey was doing a really bad impression of Bilbo Baggins from “The Hobbit!” It’s overemphasizing in how bold it is supposed to come off and unfortunately, it makes me think Robert Downey Jr. at one point must have gotten acting lessons from a ship-sailing pirate.

Speaking of Robert Downey Jr., there is a point in this movie where he says a line where he basically invaded my mind and snatched an idea out of it. Now I know this is a kids movie, I know it is a family movie, some people will tend to say that these types of movies can get away with a few things here and there, cause ya know, kids just want to be entertained. I think that is a cop out of an excuse for a least a good portion of how many times such a thought is uttered. But what I find hilarious about this movie’s script is that there is a point where a bunch of characters are in a room together and Dolittle is basically providing a blueprint of his plan to save the Queen, and there is a point where he has to point out how preposterous his plan sounds.

Shut up, movie. Shut up.

The CGI in this film is not half bad, but that’s something I’d come to expect at this point, I’m willing to bet that maybe if this came out in the past decade or maybe sometime prior to say 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” this could be like another “Avatar.” Granted, if it came out in 2009, which is when “Avatar” came out, it probably would be just another movie, but this feels like a movie that would have probably worked as an experiential technological achievement from the 2000s, but since it came out in 2020, it needed something more.

I do not want to provide too many spoilers for this film, for one thing it just came out, and I imagine there are some people, not everybody, but some, who may have sort of a nostalgic attachment to the “Doctor Dolittle” IP. Out of respect for those people, this review is as spoiler-free as I could possibly make it. With that being said, the climax of this movie delivers one of the most infuriatingly off-putting gags ever put in a kids movie. There is a scene that I imagine young kids will probably get a kick out of, but I thought was the dumbest thing on the face of the earth. It involves farting. That is all I will say. Oh, and speaking of which, the humor in this film is as stale as whatever the latest pop song that always plays radio happens to be! Not all the jokes stood out, but when a joke did, it made me hate my life and everything in it. I am a bit young to have kids, but if I ever did have kids, this movie would probably be banned from movie night. If a find a DVD copy of this thing in the house, chances are I’m going to throw it through the window and break the glass. Any movie that has a scene containing a barely understandable human being playing chess with a gorilla who shows his ass as a way of insulting his opponent is officially on my eradication list.

Ironically, there is a song at the end of the film by Sia. I do not have all that much to say about the song itself, but apparently, in this attempt to recreate “Doctor Dolittle,” the song that plays is called “Original.” This world is becoming increasingly dumber, and there needs to be a cure for this combined dumbassery.

In the end, “Dolittle” just… did little to leave me happy. Will kids like it? Probably if they’re under maybe 10 years old. But I don’t think that this will be a film that families will go to and endlessly remember and quote for the rest of their lives. If anything, this is going to be a film that kids will watch, enjoy, and either move onto the next thing or continue watching until they grow out of it. “Dolittle” as a whole is just boring, formulaic, and none of the iconic names in the cast can save this mess! Robert Downey Jr. in this movie may not be a people person, but now after coming out of “Dolittle,” I have reevaluate my respect for the art of film and ask myself whether or not I am a movie person at this point. I am going to give “Dolittle” a 2/10. Now while I don’t see Universal Pictures dying a horrible death these next few months or anything, this is not the best of times for them. They just did “Cats,” which was awful, and apparently this is one of their next big releases! As one who enjoys Universal’s movies, I wish them luck during this dire time.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want everyone to know that my next review is going to be for Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I just saw at an advance screening aaaaaaannnnnd… There’s too much to talk about. I’ll save my thoughts for the review. That’s all I’ll say. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you want to leave a like or comment, make sure you have the proper account credentials, and speaking of liking, why not hop over to my Facebook page and give that a like too? I don’t see any reason not to! I want to know, did you see “Dolittle?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Doctor Dolittle” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson (2019): Worse Than The Haunting of Sharon Tate?

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“The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is directed by Daniel Farrands, who also directed the gosh-awful piece of crap that some would call a movie, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.”  This film stars Mena Suvari (American Pie, American Beauty), Nick Stahl (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Sin City), Agnes Bruckner (The Bold and the Beautiful, Once Upon a Time), Drew Roy (Falling Skies, Hannah Montana), and Taryn Manning (Orange Is the New Black, Crossroads) in a film that dives into the final days of OJ Simpson’s wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, as shown from her point of view.

If you have been following my blog, you’d already know that I have talked about a couple films this year and reviewed them. However, this is ultimately the first film released this particular decade that I have to tackle. And to be honest, I wish I could have chosen a better one.

To call what I’m reviewing a “January movie” is perhaps generous. Because for those of you who must know, the month of January is usually a dumping ground for films. Maybe the film is not that good, not that profitable, and maybe studios don’t know what to do with it. But when I think of other bad January movies, a lot of them contain some sort of charm when compared to “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.”

This film is from director Daniel Farrands, who also directed a movie I mentioned earlier, which happens to be the worst movie I sat through in 2019, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” I don’t, THANKFULLY, remember all that I saw. But what I do remember is that I witnessed one of the most distasteful, incompetent, not to mention insulting films I have ever sat through. IT WAS EVEN RELEASED IN THEATERS! F*CKING THEATERS!

And guess what? This one is no different! Not only did it get a small release in theaters, but just like “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” this piece of s*it can just go to Hell! I rented this film on Prime Video with absolute curiosity as to what I was going to witness. But honestly, this movie feels like a tarnation even if it is free. As I watched this film, based on the vibe and characters, this felt like one of those films that could easily go straight to Lifetime, but for some reason, I have no full idea why, this got approved for a theatrical release.

Technically speaking, it’s barely watchable. The music is fitting, but also kind of a waste of time and space. The camerawork… well, is full of properly framed material… But there’s not really much of anything special about it. But speaking of things on camera, this director must really love horror movies. Because I saw a review before checking this movie out, but having witnessed that review, I have been informed that there is a clip that might as well be out of “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Now, I have not seen “Nightmare on Elm Street” but I have seen the clip that this film CLEARLY rips off.

Actually, you know what? Saying that this film rips off “Nightmare on Elm Street” is honestly too generous. If anything it almost tries to… pay respects, I guess? BUT IT DOES SO TO ABOMINABLE LEVELS! If anything it just does a horribly shot and blasphemously edited sequence that pretty much can only be compared to something out of a really bad Michael Bay movie. The scene has so many massively off-putting jumpcuts and mind-numbingly annoying flickers that I am almost surprised I did not exit my viewing experience with a headache! IT’S SO BAD!

Speaking of Lifetime movies, the characters and acting levels represented in this film are very fitting for such an environment.

There’s this whole subplot about Nicole trying to find someone, the dialogue in the earliest scene regarding this is still in my head, specifically where one of her friends is trying to encourage her to go to town on a waiter. Cringe! Period! I can’t even form complete sentences at this point! GAH! Even if Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed to me that it’s not a tumor, I’d probably feel like a tumor is destroying me as we speak.

I will give credit though to the lead actress, Mena Suvari, because I feel like even though this movie fell apart through screenwriting, music, and the lack of ability to helm a project, this is still a competent performance. I felt like this was the performance needed out of a character like this. She’s shy, not incredibly outspoken, and a bit reserved. It might be the best part of the movie. Although given how much this mess shatters itself like a newer model iPhone when tossed to the ground, it doesn’t really say much!

For all of you writing a book on the history of film reviews, mark this day, because I am about to use “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” a film that broke me to no end that it wound up being my #3 worst film of the past decade, AS THE POSITIVE in a comparison. We have officially reached worldwide insanity.

Whereas “The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” did one thing, and I repeat ONE THING that could have been interesting regarding its screenplay, this film has nothing that feels fresh or emotionally investing, even though the main character is about to get bloody murdered! “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” AT THE VERY LEAST had one interesting point within its screenplay… Are our lives written from beginning to end? Is everything in our lives pre-planned? Can we write our own scripts? That reminds me, THIS MOVIE HAS A F*CKING DREADFUL SCRIPT! Am I being a little harsh? It’s possible. After all, this is the first feature-length script from Michael Arter, who also had a credit for “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” as a production coordinator. Still, I gotta be truthful, I have to point out what irked me, because honesty is the best policy.

In fact, get this. Whenever Simpson says something regarding how she thinks she is going to brutally murdered one day or something else along those lines, it felt like an utter joke. And speaking of jokes, there is a scene where Simpson and another character are sitting in the kitchen as they drink… WAIT FOR IT. WHAT COULD IT EVER BE? Oh, I know! ORANGE JUICE! Is it just me or is this movie a punishment for someone? Possibly a punishment for me?

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I should also point out, when it comes to Simpsons’ friends, specifically Kris Kardashian (Agnes Bruckner) and Faye Resnick (Tayrn Manning), their characters at times feature some of the most painful to watch overacting I sat through in recent memory. If this film was a parody, this probably would have worked. Admittedly, this is what the film feels like at times, but without any intention whatsoever.

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Also, Faye Resnick’s wig is one of the worst I have seen on film. It almost looks like a wig someone would wear if they made a poorly realized stage play for an episode of “Friends” and they needed someone to play Rachel.

“The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is just short of an hour and a half, making it barely feature-length. Luckily, it does not feel longer than it needs to be, but this almost makes the movie feel disappointingly cheap, especially when considering that not all of the footage is shot specifically for it! Daniel Farrands is a director who I will be honest, needs to avoid going down the rabbit hole he seems to have fallen into. Is he a nice guy in person? Probably. Maybe he’s a charming fellow. This isn’t the only type of film Farrands has helmed. After all he has done documentaries before he dove into feature-length movies. Documentaries which by the way, also focus on the realm of horror. But I really think stories based on famous murders is not going to be something I would look forward to from now on if Farrands is behind the camera. If Farrands is really passionate about horror, then maybe he has some potential to create something magical within its genre, but these past couple of films I have seen from him have been dull, unsatisfying, and a waste of my time. Speaking of unsatisfying, this film contains a sex scene that isn’t exactly gross, but it feels poorly put together. The music in this scene feels incredibly out of place! It makes the belly-button sex in “The Room” look like “Pulp Fiction!”

In the end, this film is MURDER. It is nothing short of one of the worst experiences of film-viewing that I have ever dredged through. This is the first 2020 film, (some say it’s a 2019 film, but it’s a 2020 film as far as the United States is concerned) that I have witnessed. If this is not the worst film we are getting this year, not to mention for the remainder of this entire decade, then chances are this is God’s way of punishing us. “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is perhaps acted as competently as possible, at least as far as Mena Suvari is concerned. Although the film is also shrouded in a piss-poor script, catastrophic scenes, and terrible directing. Is this film worse than “The Haunting of Sharon Tate?” Honestly, yes. As boring as “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” is, the film, from what I remember is collectively acted better, and I’ll also reiterate that the conversations about fate were at least somewhat intriguing even if they were almost tacked on. Story-wise, this film honestly has nothing. I’m going to give “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” a 1/10. This is honestly one of the worst films I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them, especially over these past number of years. I’d honestly rather watch “Cats” again! I’m not kidding! It’s that bad! Daniel Farrands, get your act together, and make better films! Get crackin’!

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I just saw “Dolittle,” the latest movie, not to mention reboot in the “Dr. Dolittle” franchise and the first film featuring Robert Downey Jr. outside of Marvel Studios since 2014’s “The Judge.” I just went to see it in Dolby Cinema and I hope to have my thoughts on it as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to stay up to date on my latest content, you can do so by using an email or WordPress account! As for social media, check out my Facebook page if you want to not only receive access to my content as early as possible, but also random thoughts from the Movie Reviewing Moron. I want to know, did you see “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson?” What did you think about it? Or, now that 2020 is here, what films have you seen so far? I know it’s early, but just for fun, give me your best and worst. Just to make it easier, feel free to insert films from past years! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Little Women (2019): Call Me “March” Like You Said You Would

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“Little Women” is directed by Greta Gerwig (Isle of Dogs, Lady Bird) and stars Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Mary Queen of Scots), Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, The Circle), Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Fighting with my Family), Eliza Scanlen (Home and Away, Sharp Objects), Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy, Interstellar), Meryl Streep (The Post, Sophie’s Choice), Tracy Letts (The Lovers, The Post), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Incredibles 2), James Norton (Happy Valley, Flatliners), Louis Garrel (The Dreamers, Redoubtable), and Chris Cooper (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). This film is based on the book of the same name conceived by Louisa May Alcott, which has been adapted and brought to other mediums in the past, and this is another attempt to make a film out of it. The story of “Little Women” follows the lives of the March sisters, four women who are determined to live life on their own terms.

Apparently, this is one of multiple adaptations of “Little Women.” However, just a fair warning, I have never read the book, and I never witnessed any other adaptation of the IP. So this film took my “Little Women” virginity. I probably would have gone to see this film earlier, but due to time constraints, other films getting in the way, not to mention missing out on an opportunity to go to an advance screening, I just couldn’t get around to “Little Women” until now. In fact, the reason why I am watching “Little Women” at this point is to get caught up on this year’s Academy Award nominations, specifically Best Picture. Upon hearing which films were announced for the category, I have seen each one except “Little Women,” so I took today,  perhaps my least busy day of the week, and took the subway to a non-profit theater that way I could go watch the movie in 35mm film. I figured if I wanted to watch a Best Picture nominee, I might as well commit.

Sadly, I don’t feel like that commitment has worked out. I will be honest, I was kind of disappointed with “Little Women.” I would like to just point out, I admire Greta Gerwig as a filmmaker. I think she knocked it out of the park with her 2017 feature-length directorial debut, “Lady Bird.” Although if I had to compare “Little Women” to “Lady Bird” and my desire to go back and watch them again, it would be like comparing odds of finding a Chick-fil-A in a casino or a slot machine in a casino. Even though I have seen “Lady Bird” once, it would probably associate more with the slot machine. It’s a jackpot! As for “Little Women,” I might chicken out after a little while.

Now… Don’t think I am nagging on “Little Women” calling it a disaster. It is by no means the worst movie of all time, it just has problems is all. In fact, “Little Women,” in terms of direction, shines. I feel like in terms of a director wanting to get THEIR vision out to the public, “Little Women’s” Greta Gerwig succeeded at such a task more so than a good number of other filmmakers this year. A lot of the cinematography done by Yorick Le Saux is beautiful and totally stands out through the 35mm print shown at my screening. Alexandre Desplat’s score is great and fits the vibe! I also like the idea of not only shooting the film on location, but shooting it around the area where Louisa May Alcott wrote the “Little Women” book, Concord, Massachusetts. It provided for some of the most gorgeous scenery of 2019’s cinematic year and some of the better production design for said cinematic year. A lot of the scenes in the film are wonderfully realized and jump off the screen. Too bad the movie’s kind of boring.

Don’t get me wrong, the movie starts out fine. In fact, the first two thirds are somewhat interesting. The characters, not to mention the actors who play them, are not half bad. I felt the chemistry between pretty much every single character, which may have been the most necessary requirement for this film, because if I did not believe in the chemistry between the sisters, then why should I care? Amazingly, I got to a point where I did not care. I say that because even though this film is one of the better technical pieces of the year, I think pacing-wise, it suffers. I like the idea of these women dealing with their separate and collective issues, and there are some scenes that were in a word, capital! I will not go into detail, because despite having seen a trailer, I am not sure how much this film revealed beforehand. But I think one of this film’s bigger challenges, from a screenplay and directing perspective is meshing together all of these characters’ individual journeys and having a viewer like me care about all of it without it feeling a tad like a mess. Unfortunately, the film dives into the messy territory. “Little Women” honestly feels ten, twenty, maybe even thirty minutes longer than its runtime, specifically 2 hours and 15 minutes. For reference, I watched “Marriage Story” in the theater at the end of the previous December, which was 2 hours and 17 minutes. “Marriage Story” honestly somehow feels shorter than “Little Women.” To add onto this, I remember staying throughout the entire credits during “Marriage Story.” On the other hand, I left part of the way through “Little Women’s” credits.

I almost wonder if “Little Women” is one of those films that could get better through a rewatch, that way I can just concentrate closely on each character and maybe care about them with an all new point of view, but after watching this film for the first time, I don’t see much else of a reason to watch it once more. I have never been interested in the book, I have never sought out any other adaptation of this material, and in case you must know, and maybe this is affecting my thoughts on the film a little bit, I am not really in the target audience for “Little Women.” As far as I know, “Little Women” was never originally written for me, so I may not have the perspective that many of its targets would. I think actors like Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, and Timothée Chalamet do a fine job with their roles and suit their characters well, pretty much to the point where I don’t imagine anybody else portraying them. I also think the costumes in the movie are some of the finest and most sophisticated costumes in a 2019 film. “Little Women” has a lot of good qualities to it, but several things keep me from wanting to go back and watch it again. I am honestly shocked to say all of this, because I didn’t hate the trailer that I saw for this film, and I had faith in Greta Gerwig. To be clear, she did a good job with the direction, but had a few things been handled better, I think this could have been a damn fine vision, not to mention a better movie.

Plus, another thing to consider is this… I already mentioned that I am not the target audience. So I have to ask everyone reading a question and this may be important. First off, if you have seen 2019’s “Little Women,” what are your thoughts on it? Also, if you have seen any other material related to the “Little Women” IP, what are your experiences in relation to that? Was what you saw pretty good? Bad? Middle of the road? I’ll even ask this classic question, was this movie better than the book? Let me know!

In the end, “Little Women” is one of the bigger disappointments of a film that I have witnessed in recent memory. If you have followed this blog recently, you may know that I reviewed “Cats” because I apparently have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD to watch “Cats.” When I reviewed “Cats,” I called it the most competent borefest of a film released in its particular year. “Little Women” was released in the same year as “Cats,” specifically 2019, and there is an argument that I could make from my end that “Little Women” may dethrone “Cats” to earn such a title. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, not to mention vibrant. As a production, it is a feast for the eyes. But the eyes need to do more than stare at pretty things for a couple of hours. Had the movie maintained the promising pacing and kept me as interested as I was during the first couple of acts, I would still recommend “Little Women” to a lot more people. Of the movies the Academy nominated for Best Picture this year, “Little Women” is honestly my least preferred. But to be honest, based on the positives outweighing the negatives for this film FOR NOW, I am going to give “Little Women” a 6/10. This film is no “Lady Bird,” and I’ll be honest, for everyone who is upset about Greta Gerwig not getting nominated for Best Director, I get it. But personally, gender is not a topic I am associating with how I view nominations, but that’s just me, I think a display of talent regardless of gender, should come first, doesn’t mean I want to start an online war about it. Although I will be honest, all the chosen nominees, to me, were better in terms of vision fulfillment, technical choices, not to mention creating an overall better movie, at least for the most part on some of these direction-related requirements. And if you want my two cents, I do have a recommendation for a great 2019 film directed by a woman. If you haven’t already, go watch “Honey Boy,” it’s gonna be on Prime soon and I highly recommend it!

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I am going to be heading back to college next week, and hopefully it does not affect my consistent content release schedule. But maybe before I go back, I am planning on watching one more movie. Maybe I’ll watch more than one, but I didn’t want to end this post without mentioning “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson,” directed by Daniel Farrands. As of right now, this film is not playing anywhere near me, although it did get a release in theaters. And if this sounds somewhat familiar, this film is from the director of the 2019 abomination, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” I just want to say… I MIGHT sacrifice my soul and watch this movie. For those of you who have seen my worst of the 2010s list know that “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” earned a spot pretty high on the list. I’m just curious to know if “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson” is somehow any worse. If I watch this movie, please wish me luck! I might need it! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you want to leave a like or comment (if your account is eligible), please do so! It really helps me out! Also, please check out my Facebook page and spread the word about Flicknerd and Scene Before on social! I want to know, did you see “Little Women?” What did you think about it? Or, of the 2020 Best Picture nominees from the Academy, which is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Top Movies of the 2010s (THE BEST 25)

Top Movies of the 2010s OFFICIAL POSTER

*WARNING: This post is over 11,000 words long…*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! This is it! We have arrived! Second upon second, minute upon minute, hour upon hour, week upon week, month upon month, year upon year, has led to this very moment. It is time to dive into the best and the worst movies of the 2010s! For this initial installment of the multi-part series, I will be diving into the best movies of the decade. If you have followed this blog for some time, there is a good chance that you know that I usually like to cap off my years by reflecting on the best and worst in film through short countdowns. This however, is going to be bigger. I’ll not only explain movies, what they’re about, why I did or did not like them, but I will also show clips of the movies as well, so you can get a taste of the cinematic flavor. Plus, instead of top 10, this countdown is going to be a top 25, more films, more fun! I am going to continue being as descriptive about these movies as I can without providing any spoilers about them. And per usual, rules apply. This is a completely subjective and personal countdown. All of these entries are strictly my opinion, and in no way factual. I am not being paid money to put a film in a certain place, I am not sponsoring any of these films, I have not even worked on a single one, I am just a viewer. Also, the 2010s is a span of ten years and thousands of movies, for all I know the final outcome could be much more because it is getting easier to make a film nowadays. People do it on iPhones for crying out loud! With that being said, I have not seen every single film this decade. I still haven’t gotten around to films like “Despicable Me” (2010), “The Artist” (2011), “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), “This is the End” (2013), “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” (2014), “Bridge of Spies” (2015), “The Nice Guys” (2016), “Logan” (2017) “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018), and “The Two Popes” (2019). Films like those will not be on the list. I will also point out, if the film does not have a theatrical release of any kind, it will not be allowed on here. That means all movies that have gone straight to DVD, TV, or streaming are not qualified and will be off the list unless the public was able to see it in a theater during its prime release schedule. So with that being said, let’s dive into a countdown to ultimately define the past ten years. This is the big one, let’s do this! These are my top 25 BEST movies of the 2010s!

#25: Honey Boy (2019)

Out of all the movies that I am putting on this list, this one is one of the most recent to have come out. Specifically, “Honey Boy.” This movie is written by, of all people, Shia LeBeouf (Transformers, The Peanut Butter Falcon). And I have to say, as an observer, I think LeBeouf might be a better writer than he is an actor! LeBeouf wrote this movie while he was in rehab and I think the turnout result on screen is nothing short of fantastic. This is the first feature-length script written for the screen by LeBeouf himself, and if he is ever up to the task, I would love to see more from him. Speaking of debuts, this film is also the feature-length debut of director Alma Har’el, who I think personally created one of the best directorial debuts of all-time. This is a film that hit me when I saw it in the theater. I was never able to fully relate to the situations at hand. But that’s because I never grew up with an abusive parent, I have very loving parents, but I cannot deny that I felt something for the movie’s lead kid character, Otis, who is played marvelously by Noah Jupe. Speaking of which, we also manage to see some rather unfortunate effects that have been eventually attached to this character as he ages into a 22-year-old. The only problem I have with this movie are a couple nitpicky comments I have with shot choices. Other than that, it’s perfection.

#24: Birdman (2014)

You ever watch a certain movie and ask yourself, “HOW THE F*CK DID THEY MAKE THAT?!” Admittedly, I knew one or two things going into “Birdman,” but having seen that movie, I have to reiterate that question to myself from time to time. Seriously! This is  a film that quite literally, never stops. It is one of the most innovative films of our time, specifically because the shots never cut. I just saw “1917” before concluding this list, which is a great movie. And that too has a non-stop, one shot take represented for an extended period of time. But this movie was a game-changer for me. This movie also could have sucked as a story, and still work for me in regards to how it represents itself visually. But guess what, it doesn’t suck as a story! The movie revolves around an actor who is well known for his role as a superhero in a film franchise. He’s sort of becoming increasingly irrelevant, and he is trying to revitalize his career on Broadway. The film gets surprisingly intense and delivers some of the best acting of the decade. This movie may represent Emma Stone’s best performance to date, which says a lot because I like her as an actress even in movies that I didn’t enjoy overall. Even though I didn’t entirely dig films like “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” she was a highlight. If Stone keeps kicking ass in Hollywood and taking names for years to come, maybe she’ll be the next Meryl Streep. That’s another thing, what really makes this film all the more intense as a production is the fact that the camera is literally never stopping. There’s a shot that goes on for fifteen minutes, suggesting that there is a clear sense of needing to remember literally everything you have to do. Somehow, everyone pulled this ambitious project off! To me, it’s one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. Good story, good cast, good cinematography, GREAT film.

#23: Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

One of my favorite DreamWorks franchises is “Kung Fu Panda,” so it should not be surprising that one of the films from the franchise end up on here. Well… except the first one, that came out in 2008, therefore it doesn’t count. Instead, why not put the second one on the list? “Kung Fu Panda 2” is too awesome for words. If you ask me, this is an animated sequel that is visually stunning, fun, and continues directly where the original left off and gives itself a reason to exist. It also, to my surprise, does a really good job with world-building and providing some decent backstory material as well. Much like many other sequels that come to mind, this references the original in clever ways, the most notable instance that comes to mind is the “stairs” scene, which continues to get a kick out of me conceptually. I will also say that much like the original “Kung Fu Panda” movie, the climax of this film is one of the best in animation history. It is compelling, it is attention-grabbing, it is flashy, it is epic, it’s everything I want out of a movie like this. The animation itself is pristine, clean, and overall very marvelous to glance upon. It’s easily one of DreamWorks’ best-looking films! If “Kung Fu Panda 2” ever comes out on 4K, I would not mind going to the store and picking it up! The original “Kung Fu Panda” will always have a place in my heart, both as a childhood film, and as one of my favorite films in general. But this sequel, along with the third installment in the trilogy, both bring smiles to my face. Spoiler by the way, the third installment, as much I adore it, is not on this list!

#22: Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Coming in at #22 is an entry that I feel is going to strike some controversy, but what is the Internet without a little disagreement? So, hear me out. Here’s the thing about “The Wizard of Oz,” many people seem to know it to be one of the most beloved, iconic films of all time, and I can see why. Having seen the film myself, I think it is definitely worthy of utter appreciation even eighty years after its release. However, if you ask me, one of the best films of my time, personally, comes from the same universe, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” This is one of those films that I am surprised I do not talk about more often. While the visuals at times may not look realistic and maybe like something out of a TV movie, that honestly adds to the charm of this film a little bit. I think James Franco does a pretty decent job with the lead Role. Mila Kunis adds her slice of charisma and comes off like she’s having fun with the movie. When I saw the marketing for this film originally, I was expecting something epic, fun, and flashy, and I got all three of those things. Did I mention Sam Raimi directed this film? I think he did a pretty swell job at not only giving us a solid story, but the way they utilized 3D in this film was honestly done to levels that I did not expect. Is it gimmicky? I guess you can definitely make an argument for it being gimmicky, but that sort of adds to the fantastical charm of it all. I also have to give a shoutout to Danny Elfman for creating the fantastic score. As soon as I was introduced to the film and I was going through the opening titles, I knew that this movie was going to be rad. There are times where, dare I say it… *whispering* think this could be more entertaining than “The Wizard of Oz…” Does that mean it’s technically better? Probably not, but still.

#21: Roma (2018):

I think this film is pretty unique in terms of where it stands. After all, it is the only black and white movie on this list. I give you all the movie that made me start taking Netflix just a tad more seriously as brand, “Roma!” This is one of those films that I went in blind for, and as I watched whatever was happening, it made for one of the best theater experiences of the past few years. Plus, getting to see this movie in 70mm was a treat. This film is directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who also made another enjoyable flick from this decade, “Gravity.” Now I liked “Gravity” when I saw it, and as a theater experience, it was better than “Roma,” which says something because “Roma” is great on its own. But having said that, “Roma” is ultimately the superior film. It’s a story revolving around a maid to a family in Mexico who becomes pregnant. Essentially, this is one of those “slice of life” films that is not always happy go lucky. There was a moment during the film, probably through shot composition, direction, and acting, where I almost let a tear go. The beach scene in this film is one of the most emotionally powerful moments I had the privilege of witnessing in a cinema. When it comes to this list, there is almost no other film that I can think of, except a few, that can rival this one in terms of cinematography. If you want to watch it right now it is free on Netflix, but it is also getting a physical release as part of the Criterion Collection which REALLY makes me happy. I will say though, I am not sure how audiences, specifically Americans, will continue to respond to it overtime. It is black and white and has subtitles. I don’t care about subtitles personally, but it is, as “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho suggests, a one-inch tall barrier that some viewers have yet to overcome. 

#20: The Disaster Artist (2017)

I did not make this list, it’s not true, it’s bulls*it! I did not make this list! I did nawt! Oh, hi viewers! This film is one of the best comedies I have seen, which is tremendous praise on my part because if you are making a comedy specifically for me, it is HARD to make a good one. What comedy am I talking about? That first pile of sentences should be a hint. “The Disaster Artist!” This is a film that is about a lot of things. Friendship, sticking up for one another when one is trying their hardest to make something special, and how MIND-NUMBINGLY DIFFICULT it is to make a good movie. This movie is basically a telling of how Tommy Wiseau and others went about making the early 2000s cult classic “The Room.” For those of you who haven’t seen “The Room,” this film basically tells you the behind the scenes mayhem and chaos that went into that movie. It’s one of those movies, kind of similar to films like “Batman & Robin” or last year’s “The Fanatic” starring John Travolta that is so incredibly hysterical that it would probably leave some viewers wondering how it even was conceived, made, and released! This film dives deep into all of that. James Franco also gives one of the best performances I have seen from him. Yes, he was definitely great in films like “127 Hours.” To me, that’s nothing compared to “The Disaster Artist,” and I can tell that it was rather simple for Franco to put a lot of passion into this performance considering how he not only starred in the film, but he also directed it. At the end of 2017, I told pals of mine that I was looking forward to watching this more than “The Last Jedi.” I cannot say I was disappointed walking out of it. In fact, the tail end of the film has that feel good vibe that I did not even think I would have needed. Do you have to watch “The Room” to understand “The Disaster Artist?” Not really, no. You can go watch this film, and once it ends, I think you may be able to fully understand everything. Does it help? Sure it does, because it goes into some of Tommy’s mannerisms, quirks, and even pays homage to certain choices and dialogue that had ultimately been put in “The Room” itself. Also, shoutout to Tommy Wiseau. I love you, man. You’re kinda crazy, but I love ya!

#19: Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Some people say that Pixar may be the biggest force today that will allow the animation industry to thrive. I would not say they’re wrong, but if you ask me, I think the animation industry also has a place for another particular company, Laika, the creators of “Coraline.” Speaking of Laika, they also created my favorite animated film of 2016, “Kubo and the Two Strings.” When I went through 2016 as a year in film, there were plenty of good ones like “Captain America: Civil War,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and “Patriots Day.” However, if there happened to be one genre that dominated the year for me, it has to be animation. With the exception of maybe “Moana” and DEFINITELY “Ice Age: Collision Course,” I don’t think there is a single animated film from 2016 I did not enjoy. For the record, I missed out on “Norm of the North,” so I have no comments regarding that. “Finding Dory, “Zootopia,” “Sing,” “Kung Fu Panda 3,” and even the raunchy adult animation “Sausage Party” all were worthy of a thumbs up. However, “Kubo” came out on top. It is a film that is visually creative and stunning, colorful, and an amazing tribute to everyone who’s got a story to tell. The film’s cast also has some notable names including Charlize Theron (Hancock, A Million Ways to Die in the West), Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club), and even George Takei (Star Trek, Kim Possible). The film has various scenes that make me personally wish that I was the one responsible behind the screenplay or the overall production due to the brilliant ideas being presented. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is one of those films that is worth just about every second of my time. Out of all the films to come out in its particular year, it’s probably the one that most resembles a video game. I guess if you change some character names, maybe one or two pieces of the plot, and have a side gag dedicated to breaking pottery, this would make for one fine “Legend of Zelda” movie.

#18: Inside Out (2015)

I have only seen this movie once, but even so, it is still one of the most charming animated films out there today. I’m talking about “Inside Out!” The concept behind it is one that I personally wish I originated. Essentially, it dives into the “voices inside your head.” These voices include Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. One of the biggest surprises that I have with “Inside Out” is its expansive world. And I say it’s surprising because of where exactly the world takes place, specifically inside the head of a young girl going through puberty. Even though this movie is made for families and children, it deals with some heavy topics. Moving, adapting to a new lifestyle, growing up, and handling yourself emotionally regardless of the situation. This movie does a really good job at displaying the human condition by reminding you that there are times when your feelings take over and you lose a sense of control in a way. I liked all the characters in this film, some of the human characters are admittedly a little generic, but the movie is not about them, they are ultimately pawns in this story, it’s really about the main human character, Riley, and the voices in her head. Speaking of said voices, I also want to give massive props to Lewis Black for his terrific voiceover performance as Anger, and part of it has to do with the golden script that allows these emotions to shine. But out of all of them, Anger is by far the best of the bunch because of how raw he feels. Whenever he gets mad, he literally erupts like a volcano. It’s f*cking great. Much like some other Pixar films such as “Coco” or “Up,” this film is powerful in its impact. That’s probably the best part of it because you have these five core emotions and all of them make you feel emotions. This movie does its job well, and even though I have not watched it since my initial viewing in 2016 when it came to Starz, I cannot wait to watch it again.

#17: Room (2015)

HOOO-LY CRRRAAAAP. THIS MOVIE. I cannot even begin to describe what is like to watch this for the first time. For those of you who don’t know what I am referring to, just watch “Room.” Not, “THE ROOM,” “ROOM.” “Room” is a film that is based on a book that I have personally never read, but even so, the movie delivers. Between the remarkable performances between Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, the film packs a brutal punch in every possible method imaginable. It is emotional, it is heart-pumping, it is disturbing in the best way I can possibly describe the word. I read a review on IMDb for “Room” before watching it and somebody said that this movie made them a better person. Having seen “Room” myself, I can see why. This film is almost on the edge to where it drags in the middle of it, but it does not mean the movie has that many flaws whatsoever. This is not a horror movie, perhaps in any sense of the word. But after watching this film, there is an argument to make that “Room” could be scarier than a vast number of horror flicks out there. “Room” is a film that kind of ends up being cute, but to have it end up being cute, it cannot be cuddly. This is especially true when you take the brilliant screenplay and the way that actor Jacob Tremblay, who get this, WAS NOT EVEN TEN YEARS OLD during the production or release of the film, executes all of his beautiful lines. The story is told from his perspective, and that made the movie just slightly better, because the idea was to have a child who knew nothing about the outside world, and getting that perspective made me feel for the mother and son duo. Just watch this movie, you will not regret it. If I need to say anything else about it, A24 helped get this film out there. They are easily one of the best studios working today, so if you want to support independent, not to mention compelling filmmaking, go buy this movie.

#16: Toy Story 3 (2010)

This entry is one of the best Pixar films I have ever seen. Let’s just be clear, it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for something to top “The Incredibles” as far as my opinions are concerned. I’m talking about “Toy Story 3.” This is a film that I think hit every single level that not only an animated film need to hit, but also every level a trilogy capper needed to hit. Yes, “Toy Story 4” exists, but to me, that’s just additional DLC at this point. “Toy Story” was never one of my big franchises growing up, even though I do admire its technological achievements for the film industry as a whole. The reason why “Toy Story 3” is such a great movie overall is because despite how it does feel like something kids can enjoy, it can ultimately connect with anyone, no matter what age they just so happen to be. The whole trilogy seems to present a tiny little structure of Andy, the owner of a majority of the toys seen in the franchise, growing up, and now we have come to this third installment where he is now an adult and he’s off to college. If you know me in person, I tend to be extremely sentimental. I still have various items from when I was a kid that I imagine other people would get rid of if they had them at a particular age. I still have a stuffed duck, a ton of DVDs I possessed at a young age, all the game consoles that I have ever owned (that still at least partially work). I didn’t even get rid of my childhood twin bed until it broke at the age of nineteen! This movie basically reminded me to cherish the memories of childhood, and while not everything lasts forever, you can still cherish the legacy of something or pass it down to future generations. Also, the ending of this film may be the best Pixar has ever done. It has numerous emotions attached to it that make it all work. It is perhaps one of the saddest, yet happiest endings I have seen in a film. This is why I didn’t want a “Toy Story 4.” Granted, I will admit, I was utterly surprised with how good “Toy Story 4” was when I saw it, but compared to the original trilogy, it is just a bonus.

#15: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

You know that movie that might as well match up with where you are in life? One of those films that reminds you of an event you are currently tackling? Well at the beginning of 2019, I was in my second semester of college and to my surprise, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” spoke to me on every level that it could. This third installment to the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise is the perfect ending to its particular trilogy. It dives deep into the character of Toothless, goes through a major change in how the character thinks, not to mention feels. With the recent introduction of a “Light Fury,” Toothless finds love. This side of the story, along with various other elements reminded me of the man that I am trying to become. I still live with my mother, mainly because despite being in college, I do not want to lose the family connection I have right now. I still go to my grandparents every week. I still talk to my parents just about every chance I get. Even though I do plan to eventually develop my own path in life, move out, etc, I do not want to lose the connection of family quite just yet. But with that being said, this reminded me of how some parents want to protect their children, which means that the children perhaps have a helicopter over them at times. This movie highlights the connection between Hiccup and Toothless, and builds off the terrific chemistry the two had before. I will also say, of the numerous DreamWorks animated films that I’ve watched over the years, this is one of the more stunning ones. And it definitely shows when we get to The Hidden World. It’s flashy, colorful, vast, and if I imagined myself there in person, I’d be overwhelmed by the scope of everything around me. The only problem that comes to mind with this film might as well be the cliché villain, but even with that, everything else is A+ material. To this day, it is the only film I watched in the theater that made me cry. It is one hell of an experience overall.

#14: Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan is my favorite director of all time. He can take a comic book concept like “Batman” and deliver on it 110%. He can put you directly in a war zone like he did in “Dunkirk.” He can also take you back in time for an epic thrill in “Memento.” But one movie that is better than all of those is one of my personal favorite flicks of 2010. “Inception.” This movie has everything a sci-fi action flick is supposed to have! Great characters! A brilliant concept! Cool looking visual effects! A lovable story! AMAZING screenwriting! Epic music, kudos to Hans Zimmer by the way! Everything in this movie builds up to what I consider to be one of my favorite climaxes in film history. I’m not talking about the very end, but the final act itself is a true display of why I continue to watch movies to this day. It delivers on spectacle, stakes, and you care about the characters! At least I did. The relationship between Leo DiCaprio and Marion Cottillard? HOLY F*CK! Not only did I buy them the way they were together, the movie does everything it can to make you get emotional about them. Speaking of DiCaprio, his chemistry with Ellen Page was great, I thought they were terrific partners, and I almost cannot imagine anybody else in that duo. And again, the concept! The idea of someone going from dream to dream and trying to plant an idea in someone’s head?! Freaking rad! This movie is literally what dreams are made of.

#13: Ready Player One (2018)

Continuing down this list, we have, “Ready Player One.” I’m putting this on the list in reference to the great year that I personally believe 2018 has been for the film industry as a whole. There are more 2018 films on here, and this is just one of them. Before the movie came out, I read the book, and I’ll be honest, I love the book to death. It’s pretty much everything I would want out of a book of its kind. The author’s kind of a cool guy too, Google Ernest Cline, he’s awesome. But here’s the thing about books and movies, I don’t always WANT the book to be exactly the same as the movie. If they make the movie and book identical, great! Maybe it works out, but there are a few things in the book like the “Pac-Man” scene that I do think could have ended up being pretty cool to see, but it would make the film itself lose some of that theatricality factor. It’s one of those films that I love because of how much of a true adventure it is. It feels like that from start to finish, when we are introduced to the OASIS virtual reality system, I instantly wanted to be a part of that world. Even though the real world ended up kind of being in deep s*it in the film’s vision of 2045, I still wanted this VR system in front of me because of all the unlimited capabilities that come with it. Plus, despite how this movie is filled with all of these pop culture associations like a digitized version of “The Shining,” “Batman,” a “Minecraft” world, and even a ton of time spent with the DeLorean, I still cared about the main characters in front of me. As for the visual effects, they are quirky, they are different, they look like something out of a 3D anime, but that’s something that makes them work. After all, a good portion of this movie takes place in a virtual universe with Avatars, so it is kind of cool to see all the customized beings walking around with all their digitized swagger. And of course, I cannot end this without mentioning two things. One, the amazing score by Alan Silvestri. It’s epic in every way. It’s grand, it’s big, and it fits this nostalgic fantasy realm to the tenth degree! Also, the final chase between the main heroes and villain is one of the most creative scenes I have witnessed on film. Between all of this and being one of my most rewatched movies of 2018, I just had to put this somewhere on the list. 

#12: Ready or Not (2019)

I think I said what needs to be said about “Ready or Not” in my best movies of 2019 list, but let’s be real, I can’t stop talking about it! “Ready or Not” is one of those movies that may sound silly on paper, even though it had one of my favorite trailers of the year. The concept of “Ready or Not” is that a woman is getting married into a family that traditionally plays a game before someone new joins the family. Turns out they have to play hide and seek, which ultimately means that the family has to let the newcomer hide, before they have go on a quest to kill her. It’s f*cking nuts. This is one of those movies, according to many people, that has a trailer with more information to reveal than necessary. I wouldn’t say people are wrong to say that. But I will say that this movie gave me EXACTLY what I would have expected, not to mention wanted, after witnessing its trailer. I saw this at an advance screening in Boston, and the communal experience that was had during this movie was one to remember. Everybody gasped, applauded, and while I am not a fan of people talking during films, there was an older woman next to me who would provide some hilarious commentary on what’s happening. Also, everything from the production design to the writing to the pacing just works 100%. I will also mention, again, hiding spoilers, the ending. If 2019 has done anything for me in terms of films, it has given some of the best endings ever. From “Avengers: Endgame” to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and even the recently mentioned “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” the endings were all a collection of perfection. I am going to keep myself from talking about the ending, because it is something that you seriously have to see for yourself, but it’s pure movie Heaven. I rarely go see movies twice in the theater at this point, but if I had more time on my hands (and less movies to pick from in the cinema), I would have gone to see this a second time. I mean, HOLY CRAP.

#11: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Up next, is one of the best action movies I have witnessed in my life, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.” “Mission: Impossible” is a very interesting franchise as far as movies go because it has been going on since 1996, it has had no reboots since then, Tom Cruise is always a guaranteed badass, and with the exception of “Mission: Impossible II,” all the movies have been pretty good. In fact, if it weren’t for “Risky Business,” this would probably be my all-time favorite Tom Cruise film. I mean, seriously! I cared about everyone, every action sequence was done to perfection, and I will forever be in Tom Cruise’s debt just because he learned how to fly a helicopter for this movie. And remember how in “Justice League” Henry Cavill had his beard erased by digital effects? Like, to the point where certain people could notice certain particles on his face? After seeing this movie, it’s completely worth it! Between the cinematography, location choices, directing, score, editing, sound, and overall immersion factor, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is easily one of those action flicks that puts a smile on my face. There are certain movies that I have watched in the past like “Atomic Blonde” or “John Wick” that have one memorable action scene and I often sometimes perhaps equate that to how much I enjoy those movies. For “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” If they ever put this back in theaters, I will come for the movie, but STAY for the helicopter scene, because holy f*ck! Thank you, Tom Cruise, for nearly giving up your life making this masterpiece!

#10: Arrival (2016)

I’ve seen a lot of movies from 2016, including the one where Donald Trump becomes president. That movie by the way is called “Real Life” and is often getting mixed critical responses. Trump becoming president, to me at least, was practically a “holy f*ck” moment. I’m not gonna talk about politics, I’m not saying I like or dislike him, I’m just saying that this is something I would have never predicted to have happened ten years ago. Speaking of “holy f*ck” moments, that term can also apply to one of the last movies I saw in 2016, which by coincidence, came out the same week Trump was announced as President-Elect, specifically “Arrival.” This movie is about a group of people who are investigating the actions of alien life forms as they try to interpret their language and communicate with them. I like that concept, because the movie starts off as if it were an alien invasion summer blockbuster, but in reality, it fits right in with a thinker just in time for award season. I’ll remind you, this is a November movie, so it is technically just in time for award season. In fact, it won an Oscar, and happened to be nominated for Best Picture! Although it ended up losing to “Moonlight”–wait wait wait, was it “La La Land?” Which one was it? Could have been a tie for all I know. The plot overall was fascinating, I loved Denis Villeneuve’s direction, the sound work was some of the best of the year, and the score at times was awesome. In fact, when I watched the movie at home once, I nearly shed a tear! I never cry during movies, that’s personally an achievement on this film’s part!

#9: The LEGO Movie (2014)

This next spot is dedicated to one of the biggest surprises of the decade. I saw the trailer for this film long before it came out, and while I did not hate it, there might have been a part of me that thought that this film could not have possibly worked whatsoever, but it did! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you perhaps the funniest animated movie of the decade, “The LEGO Movie!” This is a film that gets better every time I watch it. Because I watched it when it came out, and I found it to be delightful, charming, and witty. Then as I continued watching it when it came to HBO and cable networks like TBS, I have observed the dialogue, which was already fantastic to begin with, and so many other lines popped up and busted my guts. This movie’s Batman is perfect for its own world! He’s an egotistical man who’s always about himself. He’s basically what would happen if you took Kevin O’Leary from “Shark Tank” and made him “Batman,” because both people seem to think that they are the best person alive. There’s no competing against them! Anything out of his mouth is pure gold. This is why I also thought 2017’s “The LEGO Batman Movie” was just as pleasing as this specific film. The movie has an advantage of playing off of iconic properties, because there’s a scene dedicated to how many characters from preexisting material they can fit into one area. They managed to get Gandalf, Dumbledore, more DC characters aside from Batman himself, NBA basketball players including the Shaq, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they have Abraham Lincoln in a flying space chair! Holy f*ck this movie is a trip! And speaking of trips, the climax in this movie introduces something that you do not really see in this genre of film. I cannot go into it because, well, spoilers, but it is the stuff of absolute genius! As for the other leads, they are funny, they are well-written, and provide some of the best comedic material of 2014. The movie does follow beats of other films, with there being a prophecy and all, but it does it so well that I just don’t care. And before we move on, can we just talk about Good Cop/Bad Cop? Yeah, it’s two characters in one, and it makes for one of the most hysterical questioning scenes I have ever witnessed. GENIUS! Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are powerhouse filmmakers and I would to love to see more from them! 

#8: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

What do you get when you build a story up for a decade, over tens of films across different IPs, with all of them making millions to billions of dollars? According to many, I’d say you’d get “the most ambitious crossover in history.” “Avengers: Infinity War!” You know those movies that are so good, so iconic, so life-changing, and so experiential that they define a generation? Yeah, this is one of them. Earlier on in the decade, “Star Wars” was seen to many as the important franchise to remember for a long time. Well guess what? Everyone at Marvel glanced at “Star Wars” saying, “Hold our beer!” The reason why I love this movie so much is because of how much it changed the game for movies of its kind. Sort of in the same manner that a film like “The Dark Knight” managed to do so. To be honest, before this movie came out, I was getting worried about what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. The Marvel movies in 2017 were not up to par with what I would want out of a flick in its particular genre, but when 2018 arrived, “Avengers: Infinity War” gave me EXACTLY what I wanted. A ton of visually stunning action scenes, a compelling story of good vs. evil, all the while putting much more emphasis on evil than usual. Honestly, Thanos may be the greatest movie villain ever written. His motivation to “balance” the universe is something I can buy into. His relationship with Gamora and Nebula during the film brought some attention-grabbing moments, including a scene that involves sacrifice in order to achieve what you desire. While I didn’t exactly root for Thanos, I understood why he did what he did, and in various ways, I almost feel bad for him. And let me just say, I won’t name names, but this is a film where A LOT of people die, including many on the good side. One of my complaints involving the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to do with the lack of deaths on the good side, and when they do happen, they mean nothing to me because the character either comes back or the death comes from a character who I happen to find irrelevant. This is part of why I felt an impact from various scenes in the film’s sequel, “Avengers: Endgame.” By the way, “Endgame’s” not on the list. Sorry guys!

#7: Whiplash (2014)

Coming in at #7, is “Whiplash!” “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.” This quote will forever stick with me, partially because “Whiplash” makes jazz look like the greatest art form ever created just from how brutal it appears. I have heard some comments from certain jazz enthusiasts and students saying that the idea behind this film is flawed because jazz doesn’t work the way it does here. I am in no way trying to invalidate their prior experiences, but I think the movie is all the better for what it does in regards to how jazz is being taught, being enforced among students. I say that because it makes the movie completely relatable to those who have taken on a class, it could be a subject of interest or one that you are forced into for some reason, and the person teaching the class is just the biggest dickface on the planet and now you have to put up with them. But I will say, JK Simmons plays this dickface very well. JK Simmons is one of my favorite actors working today and he deserved his Oscar upon finishing this film. His chemistry with Miles Teller is some of the best I have ever seen. This is also one of the earlier films directed by Damien Chazelle, who would go on to direct “La La Land” and “First Man,” both of which were also great movies. I can tell the guy really has a passion for the jazz genre of music, and it shows through several moments of the screenplay, which is why it is also no surprise that he made it a centerpiece of the story in “La La Land.” Damien Chazelle is still a young filmmaker and time will tell if his productions will continue to be worthy of conversation and preservation, but with films like this, he is off to a flying start if you ask me.

#6: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Out of everyone in my family, it goes without saying that I am probably the geekiest. So naturally, this next movie was almost made for a geek like me. I’m talking about the live-action resurrection of a popular saga! “Star Wars: The Force Awakens!” The things that really cement this movie’s presence on the list is my history with it. I already really enjoyed “Star Wars” before this movie came out, therefore, how I could I NOT be excited for this film? I went to see it four times in the theater and twice in IMAX! It’s the first steelbook I’ve ever owned! And I used to have a joke I would think about in my mind from time to time. Remember how George Lucas went back and changed the original trilogy and rereleased every installment from said trilogy as “Special Editions?” Well, people often point out this movie, Episode VII, being pretty similar to Episode IV. If that is truly the case, allow me to declare that Episode VII is without a doubt, the best special edition in the entire “Star Wars” saga! I will say, the trilogy that this belongs to itself is a bit of a mixed bag. I liked “The Rise of Skywalker,” I thought it just good old-fashioned “Star Wars” fun, but still a little messy. But “The Last Jedi” is what I think hurt this trilogy most, because a lot of things were set up in “The Force Awakens” and the payoff to all of those things happen to be either ignored or off-putting. However, it does not take away from how much I love this movie. It’s great seeing old faces like Han and Chewie again, 3PO and his red arm, the lightsaber battles are as fun and exciting as they’ve ever been. The film has possibly the most eye-candy-esque color palette in a “Star Wars” film yet. Then again, with newer tech, it probably helps. But keep in mind, this movie was also shot on film, and it looks great! I will also mention Adam Driver’s character of Kylo Ren being one of the best things that has EVER happened to the “Star Wars” franchise. I love him because he’s ultimately trying to carry on the legacy of Darth Vader and the Empire, but as this villain who is supposed to be evil, he is clearly conflicted and broken, which adds a lot to his character. There is an argument to make that stuff like this can make a villain look weak, but I feel that this is what this sequel trilogy needed. A different kind of villain who can kick ass, while also being able to release themselves and reveal how they feel emotionally. As for other lead characters, I think Rey and Finn have great chemistry, and seeing them together after they finish their first fight onboard the Millennium Falcon is like watching two kids discover they have unbelievable talent in a video game. Poe Dameron is also a fresh and exciting addition to the franchise. I’m just mad of the direction they took his character in “The Last Jedi.” As much as I am scared of a future where Disney rules the entire media universe, “The Force Awakens” is most certainly worth watching. And watching again. And again. No seriously, when this thing came out, the replay value for me was bonkers! 

#5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Up next, we have one of the best comic book movies of the decade. Is it in the DC universe? No. Is it in the Marvel universe? No. It’s a little film directed by Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World! THE FREAKING WORLD! This movie, to me, was perhaps everything I would have wanted it to be and more! FLASHY! OBNOXIOUS! CREATIVE! VISUALLY STUNNING! HILARIOUS! OH MY GOSH THIS MOVIE’S AWESOME! As far as comic book movies go, this has some of the best directing, not to mention, some of the best writing I have seen. It goes for that ridiculous, absurd fast pace that will allow you as a viewer to keep your eyes on the screen. In fact, you know what? You know that stereotype about video game movies? You know how a lot of people are perhaps still waiting for that “excellent” video game movie that they have yet to see in their life? If they perhaps changed a few things about the characters, a small number of visuals, things like that, then I might as well say that this would have made for an EPIC “Guitar Hero” movie or something. In fact, I’d compare this movie to something along the lines of “Ready Player One,” because there is a sign of at least one or two characters having an obsession with pop culture and both movies seem to have a unique visual style. Granted, “Scott Pilgrim” is a lot less reliant on preexisting IPs, but still. It talks about things like the history of “Pac-Man,” it has a scene that might as well take place in a “Seinfeld” episode, and the band’s name is “Sex Bob-Omb,” which is “sex bomb” mixed with the name of the bombs from “Super Mario.” Plus, both feel like cinematic video games if you truly break them down. They feel not only immersive, but like they have this visual aesthetic that has a larger than life aspect to them. And I must say, if this film was not already exciting enough, not only are the fights with the exes stunning to watch, each one is perhaps creative in its own way. There is a bass battle, a fight where an ex breaks out into song, there’s one where gigantic visual creatures are spawned out of nowhere! It’s the stuff of magic, really! So if you ask me, “Jack, what’s your favorite comic book movie of the 2010s? Is it “Infinity War?” “Endgame?” “Logan?” “Deadpool?” “The Winter Soldier?” “The Dark Knight Rises?” “Man of Steel?” Forget Marvel and DC! I direct you, to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

#4: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

When I was first introduced to “The Hobbit,” specifically the movies, I had no idea that it was attached the “Lord of the Rings” franchise (I haven’t read any of the books or seen any of the movies). But if you had to ask me right now, it feels weird to say, but “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is arguably my favorite “Lord of the Rings” film. “Fellowship” is up there, but still. I walked out of the theater LOVING this movie, and I still do. I think it is one of 2013’s best, and the villain, Smaug, may be one of the greatest given to my generation. MASSIVE KUDOS to Benedict Cumberbatch for his fantastic portrayal and voicework. As creepy as this may sound, I would not mind it if Smaug was the narrator of my life. That’s how much I love his voice. As for everyone else, I liked Martin Freeman and Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellan as Gandalf, per usual, is great. The visuals, as expected, are top notch. And that final chase between Bilbo, the dwarves, Smaug, was an adrenaline rush brought up to 9,000! Speaking of adrenaline rushes, I also really enjoyed the barrel scene, where they all fight in the forest river, which by the way, more props have to be given, Howard Shore, you are a musically gifted man. Go listen to The Forest River on the official soundtrack for the movie. You won’t be disappointed! And one of the best things I can say about this movie is that it feels like an improvement over its predecessor. I say that because the first “Hobbit” movie, even there are some coolish things in it, was overall kind of a mixed bag. Still good, watchable, but it’s the worst movie in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise for sure. This is especially true when it comes the pacing. This sequel is fast paced from start to finish, with a short little breather in the middle of it all. I also admittedly like the introduction of Tauriel, who was never in the books, but she honestly added something to the movie for me. This movie can be summed up in one word. Epic. That’s all you need. It is one of the best fantasy movies I have ever seen, and one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. One of the best prequels too if you want to get technical.

#3: Colossal (2016)

Monster movies can be fun, but have you ever heard of a film where a woman reunites with a childhood friend, occasionally get drunk together, whilst Seoul is being attacked by a kaiju, and that kaiju is the girl herself? No? Well, you have been missing out! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Colossal,” the greatest monster movie ever made. I did not hear much about “Colossal” before going into it. In fact, I never recalled watching any trailers. And I honestly feel bad for those who did, because I read reviews from people thinking this is was going to be heavy on comedy. Not really, it’s got comedy in it, in fact with an actor like Jason Sudeikis comedy almost feels like a guarantee, but it’s not trying to be a comedy. It’s more of a drama if you ask me. It’s a drama about a group of pals who live in a small town and while one girl is adjusting to her new social group, she is also a killer monster (under certain conditions). “Colossal,” starring Anne Hathaway, takes that killer monster concept and avoids making it the main part of the story, while still using it to develop every action our characters take. In fact, you know how some big blockbusters or monster movies tend to show the despair and downfall of a city as everyone is trying to save themselves from danger? Oh… WOW. I HAVE NEVER SEEN IT DONE THE WAY IT IS DONE IN “COLOSSAL.” Not only is it creative, imaginative, and original, but it’s also to my surprise, almost shell-shocking. Not to mention, some of you might not feel the same way as I do, but I don’t think I would spend much of my adult life drinking alcohol, and this movie reminds me of why I tend to avoid it. The film is pleasant, unique, and most of all, exciting! It’s a film, kind of like “Whiplash,” that feels very big by being very small. When I saw this movie in the theater, I walked out feeling like a changed man. I remember texting a friend about the film some time after seeing it and telling them I don’t recall the last time I felt the way did walking out of “Colossal” since perhaps “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” What a f*cking movie.

#2: Blade Runner 2049

#2, is one of the best science fiction and noir flicks of my generation. It is a long-awaited and ambitious sequel. It is yet another return to a franchise starring Harrison Ford, now accompanied by the Canadian boy toy, Ryan Gosling, “Blade Runner 2049.” I am a major advocate for the theatrical experience. I believe streaming services like Netflix have some sort of purpose in society. You can pop on a movie whenever you wish, you can watch a movie practically wherever you want, but if you ask me, films like this is why the movie theater has been established. It is big, loud, and it looks DOPE. If you had to ask me, if I had to choose which film has the best cinematography ever, “Blade Runner 2049” might be somewhere on that list. It is a film that I believe would be an inspiration to future filmmakers, fans of sci-fi, and maybe even film composers, because Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch made the score together and it is FANTASTIC. I remember my senior year of high school and one of the highlights of said time period is not particularly doing homework, but playing the soundtrack of “Blade Runner 2049” while I do my homework. It put me in the mood to get my work done, and made homework just a little more epic. In fact, I have immense respect to this sequel compared to a ton of others, because unlike a lot of sequels that come out today, this doesn’t try to force any setup of future installments or cinematic universes. It feels like its own story, sort of like the first “Blade Runner.” Would I love to see a third “Blade Runner?” Absolutely. I think a third “Blade Runner” could end up being one of the better films of its particular year depending on how they execute it. The question is, how much money would it make? Because despite how much I love “Blade Runner 2049,” I do have to acknowledge that not everyone went out to see it. Maybe it will gain a following in future years, but for now, I have to be knowledgeable about its past. As for how they handle the story of “Blade Runner 2049,” I loved everyone in the film. The returning characters, the new characters, and if I had to be honest, Harrison Ford gave the best performance I have seen from him in this particular film. I should also point out… Ana de Armas… Yeehaw. I had a crush on her after this movie for a number of reasons. But if I had to be honest, her character is quite honestly, spectacular, mainly because of how Armas herself handled the role. If a movie makes me, the viewer, fall in love with a holographic being, it has done its job, and more. “Blade Runner 2049” is one of those films that will end up defining the decade for me as a reflect on it further. And if you haven’t seen it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

#1: ??? (2014)
Here we are my friends, we have made it this far! This is #1! As far as this decade goes, if I were to use sports-related terms, when it comes to this countdown, 24 movies enter, one movie leaves. This is the one to leave. Speaking of leaving, this is the film that admittedly I do not think left that significant of an impact on me until one of my many rewatches. This is a film that I admired going into it, not to mention leaving it for what it was able to do from a technical perspective. As time went on, I found every single element of this movie worthy of two thumbs up. Just to let you all know, this is a 2014 film. Take a look at this clip from my #1 film of the 2010s.

Christopher Nolan is a god among men. My #1 movie of the 2010s is “Interstellar!” Everything about this film is done to unimaginable levels. In terms of important achievements in mankind, the pyramid goes something like this: Somewhere on the list, you have clay tablets, next on that list is medicine, then comes the wheel, maybe democracy gets one of those slots too, but at the top of that list, to me, is the movie “Interstellar.” When it comes to movie theater experiences, there is almost no competition when it comes to trying to rival the time I had watching this in IMAX 70mm. Even if I did not like the movie, I would probably still give it kudos for being a great time at the cinema. On that topic, it’s visually stunning, in fact it even won an Oscar for said visual effects. The cinematography is great no matter what, but if you watch it in a way that allows for the IMAX scenes to shine, it becomes ten times better than it already is, which says a lot. Seriously, if you are watching the film on DVD, do yourself a favor and upgrade to the Blu-ray, it’s GREAT. The film also has some of the best sound I have ever heard in a movie. I mean that in terms of volume, the specific sounds chosen, and even lack thereof (because ya know, space). Hans Zimmer also created what may be my personal favorite film score of all time. It’s one of those scores that I cannot stop listening to simply for motivation. If there’s ever a future event where they do “Interstellar” with a live orchestra playing the music, I don’t care where it is, I’ll travel out of the country for it if I have to, I’m game. And now you might be thinking, “Hey, Jackass! This may sound great and all, but how’s the story? How are the characters?”

Whoops! My bad! I forgot!

When it comes to the film’s story, it displays a future that is relevant and one that could happen very soon. It’s another one of those dire and somewhat depressing future films kind of like “Wall-E.” The film revolves around a bunch of characters who are currently dealing with the effects of a dying Earth. Every now and then they get dust storms, resources are dwindling, plants are going away. In fact, corn, which is almost extinct in this movie, is all humanity seems to rely on when it comes to fulfilling their hunger. Meanwhile, NASA, which is kind of a point of controversy because younger generations are being taught in school that the Apollo missions are fake, is trying to set up a mission to find another inhabitable planet for humanity. This is something that I think could happen in real life. Maybe not exactly the same as this film suggests, because let’s face it, I don’t think the moon landing conspiracy is going to get that many more supporters, but who knows? My point however, is that humanity is becoming more aware of their environmental impact on this planet, which may suggest a need to perhaps abandon it and find a new one. There are some films that mess around with time, and Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker is no stranger to this concept. After all, when you’re known for doing films like “Memento” and “Inception,” you obviously have some experience. “Interstellar” to me does a phenomenal job in terms of how it handles time and plays around with it. There’s a situation where they have to get things done very quickly because on one planet the span of an hour is seven years, we see the result of Cooper’s kids growing up and becoming adults and how that plays into the film’s impact, the film’s score, I’ll mention once more, FANTASTICALLY composed by Hans Zimmer, goes at 60 beats per minute to match with the “tick tock” that is often associated with time. After all, there are 60 seconds in a minute, so why not have 60 beats per minute? Plus, this is a film that gets better with every rewatch. There was a point where I kept rewatching it and maybe I’d discover something new or retain something amazing that maybe I’ve forgotten before. I will also point out that the performances, across the board, are stellar! No pun intended! You’ve got decently chosen actors including Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Rio), Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, The Help), Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Out of the Furnace), and unsurprisingly, Michael Caine (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Batman Begins). All of them give performances that embody the proper emotions of the situations at hand, and this is the film where I started to admire Chastain as an actress. There’s a chilling moment towards the end of the film, I will not go into it, but she does something that occasionally sends a tear down my cheek. There’s a line of spoken dialogue in that moment that is PERFECTION. That moment could not have been executed any better through a different vision or a rewrite. Even the child actors kill it in their roles! Timothée Chalamet as Tom is a more limited role in the film, but I feel like it is limited for a reason. He’s mainly there to suggest that he’s “fine” in whatever situation he’s in. He’s sort of a settler who never complains. He likes being a farmer, which does eventually play into the film’s script, and when Cooper leaves to go to space, Tom does not seem that upset or emotional over the situation. Obviously, he is rooting for his dad on his mission, but he is always fine, which makes sense in regards to his character development. As for young Murph, played wonderfully by Mackenzie Foy by the way, who might arguably give my favorite child actor performance to date. There was a very touching scene before (HEY! SEE WHAT I DID THERE? AREN’T I A SMART COOKIE?) Cooper left for his mission that highlights such an opinion for me.

I also cannot talk about how much I dig “Interstellar” without discussing the ending. Don’t worry, I will not spoil a thing. But when it comes to endings, “Interstellar” may be my all-time favorite film in the category. Again, I mentioned that moment with Jessica Chastain, but that’s not all. It’s weird, I did not see it coming, and it’s incredibly emotional. It’s as rewarding as it is unfortunate. To add onto that, Hans Zimmer’s score continues to shine here as well. A movie like “Interstellar” sort of makes me consider whether or not the church organ is the greatest instrumental achievement ever. This is an ending that made me appreciate this film the more that I watched it. When I saw it in the theater, I did not have too many thoughts on it, but I liked it more with rewatch upon rewatch. But then one such rewatch, it struck me like a lightning bolt somehow. It became an ending I liked, and somehow turned into one of the greatest endings in film history. It’s charming and also leaves me to question who exactly came up with it. Was it Christopher Nolan’s brother, Jonathan? Maybe I should give him some credit here!

I think the big thing for “Interstellar” to me, both before and after watching it, is how much it made admire the filmmaking process. Keep in mind, I admired it before, but “Interstellar” helped me further appreciate it. Films like this and “The Dark Knight,” basically Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker in general, has given me a dream, a reason to want to pursue work in the film industry. While there was a point that I wanted to be a filmmaker, I now know which filmmaker I look up to the most. And I would love to do what he does. While I have my own scripts that I plan to do, I would love to shoot a movie in the IMAX format one day and present the movie on film stock. I think film is the best possible cinematic presentation and whenever there’s an opportunity to go watch a movie on film, I cannot help but take it.

Throughout my journey as a film viewer, there is no other film, at least over the past ten years, that gave me a remarkable impact like this one did. It involves an increasingly relevant concept that I think will continuously be developed over the years, it’s an original property, and technically, it’s a masterpiece. This film is very similar to another sci-fi classic, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and I imagine there are some people out there who would consider this movie too similar. To me, “Interstellar” stands on its own because “2001” does not make particular characters the centerpiece of the film. It takes a bunch of random elements and scenes and manages to develop a story out of all of it, whereas “Interstellar” comes off as an adventure story from beginning to end, with various fiddles with time connected along the way. This is nothing against “2001,” which is one of my favorite films of all time, but “Interstellar” does something to relate to “2001” while also being its own movie, at least to me. Nevertheless, “Interstellar” is a master work of art, one of the best sci-fi films ever made, and earns the crown as the best movie of the 2010s!

Thanks for reading this post! This is a list that was admittedly, very hard to make. Part of me wonders if I should have spent a year on this. There’s a very good chance that I will be changing this list in the next few days because unlike most of these lists, which spans over a year, this spans over a much longer period of time, so I don’t even think this list is going to be that definitive. There’s a good chance that “Interstellar” will remain at #1 for a very long time, but for everything else, who knows? But with that being said, it’s time to forget the good and move on to the bad! Maybe even the ugly! I say that because tomorrow I am going to be releasing my top 25 WORST movies of the 2010s. These are movies that are 2,010 times as horrible as anything else! JUST YOU WAIT! With that being said, be sure to look forward to that post tomorrow, and if you are reading this early and wanted to be notified about my worst list and other exciting content here on Scene Before, click the follow button! If you have a proper account up and running, be sure to like and comment if possible, it definitely helps me out! Speaking of helping me out, like my Facebook page, I want to get more people to follow me on that side of things, it would probably help spread the word a bit on social, so please, help a guy out! I want to know, what are your favorite movies of the 2010s? Do you have a favorite year this decade for film? For me, I’d say mine are 2014 and 2018. Do you think I missed a film? Seriously, there may have been a film that I liked that I completely forgot about, and I say this as someone who has worked on this countdown series for literally MONTHS. Nevertheless, leave your comments down below, and stay tuned for the worst list! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

1917 (2019): Cinematographically Golden

“1917” is directed by Sam Mendes (Spectre, American Beauty) and stars George MacKay (The Boys Are Back, Captain Fantastic), Dean-Charles Chapman (Into the Badlands, Game of Thrones), Mark Strong (Shazam!, Kingsman: The Secret Service), Andrew Scott (Fleabag, Sherlock), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Bodyguard), Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth (Love, Actually, Mamma Mia!), and Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Star Trek: Into Darkness). This film takes place throughout, as the title suggests, 1917. Specifically, during events of World War I. The story follows two British soldiers, Schofield and Blake, as they are given a mission to deliver a message to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to call off an attack on the Germans. If this mission fails, this would mean there would be a loss of 1600 men, including Blake’s brother.

First off, let me just say to all of you that this is my first review of 2020, and what a better way to start off the year than to talk about movie that is literally a year. This film came out Christmas Day in select theaters, but much to my dismay, not one theater in the Boston area was going to show the film until 2020, so I had no chance to see it until then. This year is also the earliest time in which I was able to catch an advanced screening of the film. So I trekked to the theater this past Tuesday with high expectations.

When I say high expectations, I mean that literally. Knowing some of the technical aspects of the film, which I will dive into later on, it makes me giddy just thinking about it. Plus, this week was also the airing of the 77th Golden Globes, where this movie was nominated for 3 awards, and ended up taking home 2, including Best Picture – Drama. Granted, the more I think about the Golden Globes as a whole, the less meaningful I find them to be (after all, their voting board is not that big and they have genre-specific categories), but to have some notable recognition definitely helps. But in life, I live by the philosophy to form my own opinions on any matter at all times. Because life is just better when I’m in control. So what are my thoughts on “1917?”

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Let’s see… Oh! It’s better than “Cats!” But that doesn’t say much, now does it?

Let me try this again by asking you a question, because it sort of relates to my experience. How often has this happened to you? You go see a movie, and maybe you feel that what you just saw was wicked intense, and said intensity hits you to the point where your body just shuts down at a point. For me, that’s what “1917” felt like. I walked out of this movie nearly unable to feel my own legs. To help explain some of my thoughts on this film, I am going to remind you of another recent war film, specifically Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.”

While “Dunkirk” and “1917” have their differences, one thing I cannot deny is that they both stand out in terms of how effectively they convinced me that I could have been in danger. I will say, “Dunkirk” had a slight undeniable advantage during my first viewing because I did see it in IMAX and I saw “1917” on a standard cinema screen, but regardless, “Dunkirk” emphasizes on sound more than “1917” does, which believe it or not, isn’t exactly a sign of this film lacking proper sound whatsoever. In fact, the sound editing and mixing in “1917” is great. I have no problems with any of that. But while “Dunkirk” emphasizes sound, “1917” emphasizes sight. Again, I’ll state that “Dunkirk” did a good job on that side of things as well. In fact, the movie received a Best Cinematography nomination, which it deserves. The way it utilizes 70mm and IMAX technology is undoubtedly impressive.

When it comes to “1917,” the technology used for this film, specifically the camera, is smaller. In fact, it runs on digital. The entire movie is shot using an Arri ALEXA Mini LF, which, if you don’t know much about cameras, the Arri ALEXA in general is often regarded as a current industry standard in filmmaking. This does make sense given what the crew behind this movie set out to do, which is film the movie with long takes, involving lots of movement. It’s not like this is one of those movies where the camera always sits still on a tripod, pretty much the entire movie tries to put you into the frame and take you along for the ride, and I’d say this was a pretty successful task. Because pretty much the entire time, even though I barely knew the two main characters, I was rooting for them to get out of whatever dire situation they were in. The long takes made me feel like I was transported in the movie, it made me feel like I was going to get shot, maybe debris would be flying onto my head.

The stellar cinematography in this film, which in fact, is without any argument whatsoever to be the best cinematography of 2019, is done by Roger Deakins, who also took on the job for iconic films including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “No Country For Old Men.” He also did one of my favorite films of the past few years, “Blade Runner 2049,” which he won his first Oscar for. There are several shots in this film that I can imagine myself wanting to hang in my living room if I had enough money for a big house and if I can find a good 5 panel canvas. And what really shocks me is a particular technique that is utilized during the film. I mentioned that the film is designed to look like it is one shot. Let me just tell you right now, it’s not. Without spoiling anything. There is a scene where the footage cuts to black, allowing for a slight break from whatever’s happening on screen. However, according to certain sources I have read, the film does cut but I didn’t even notice it on screen. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the longest shot in the movie is eight and a half minutes. This instantly brings a sense of hypnotization and eventually, a desire to look back at the film and try to guess when exactly the cuts happened. Plus, this film was shot on location, which brings a lot of challenges for the filmmaking process including an analysis on set design and the fact that lighting shots is perhaps an impossibility. And somehow, all of this was pulled off. This to me, cinematography-wise, may be in the top 10, maybe even top 5, all-time greatest achievements related to its category. I wouldn’t say it’s #1 at this point given how I still need time to marinate, but it does come close as of now, and if Roger Deakins DOES NOT win Best Cinematography this year at the Oscars, that award in all likelihood will be nothing short of a snub.

Another reason to consider how this movie is not #1 in terms of being the greatest cinematography achievement of all time is that this has been done before. Yes, this is sort of an upping of the stakes compared to Sam Mendes’ own long take shot experience from “Spectre,” a movie in which the cinematographer was Hoyte Van Hoytema, but that’s not the point. If you have followed 2014 in film, you may be familiar that the Academy’s Best Picture that year was “Birdman,” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, The Revenant). Having said that, I think the originality factor of that film helped me appreciate it. “1917” on the other hand is ultimately following in its footsteps. Story and concept-wise it stands on its own, but the intention when it comes to the visual aspects of the film is not completely different. Also, according to a quick Google search, the longest shot in “Birdman” goes on for fifteen minutes, compared to “1917,” which has a longest ongoing shot for eight and a half minutes.

In all seriousness though, this film, as a visual ride, is a tour de force, and I think this could be Roger Deakins’ best work just because of the daunting task at hand. And for that, I also have to give credit to Sam Mendes for helming this production. This is an experimental, ambitious film that I think will be looked back upon for years to come. In addition to all of the surroundings that make this film what it is, Thomas Newman’s score also does an effective job at adding something to the crazy experience on screen.

As for the characters, I wouldn’t say I didn’t care about them, but I am not gonna sit right here and tell you that they’re anything special. I did mention their names, but keep in mind that I glanced at them on Wikipedia as I write this review. In fact, I think the only name I recalled from the film is Colonel MacKenzie, maybe because I was paying enough attention. But at the same time, this movie is more about the journey, the effects throughout said journey, and this was one HELL of a journey. When I bring that up, part of me thinks that I almost don’t even need to know anybody’s name. In fact, I felt like *I* was a character experiencing this event alongside everyone else, therefore I am ultimately the one who should develop the most.

If I were a character in this movie, I’d say I’d start out curious, maybe a tad scared, but at the same time, I have to realize the consequences that can come from various actions. As the movie goes on, I would still be scared, perhaps even more so, but I would still tough out through whatever lies ahead. Eventually, I’d still be my terrified self, but I’ll have a feeling that I finally get to breathe. Seriously, whenever there is a moment of silence or calmness, it felt rewarding. I felt like I went through war with these characters simply because the camera’s eyes were almost like my eyes. Granted, it focuses a lot on these folks’ faces and I would probably never spend 2 hours almost continuously running backwards, but I think y’all get the point.

The film’s concept is simple, but it is also effective. Before I dive into the paragraph where I give my official rating, let me just say that this film, story-wise, is one I need to continue to think about. However, when it comes to various other aspects, it is one that I am pretty much set on. My rating could change, but anything is possible.

In the end, “1917” gave me pretty much everything I wanted. It is a beautifully shot, brilliantly directed, and solidly executed master work. It is just incredible to think about all the hard work and craftsmanship that went into this. There are a good number of war films out right now, but I’d say that this is 1,917 times as awesome as some others. I know some people who have seen a number of movies that will tell you that maybe whatever movie they saw at the theater is not worth the experience, maybe because there weren’t enough showman-esque elements in the movie or something. Let me tell you, and I’m not talking to everyone, because I understand that war films may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine, but if you don’t go see this film in a theater, it’s a crime. A bad crime. Go see this movie on the biggest screen you can, with the best sound available. It’s out right now in Dolby Cinema, so if you’re willing to pay a higher ticket price, go there. Just see it! It’s an experience! As for the story, I mentioned that I have no problems with it, but it is one where I feel like I won’t remember anybody’s name. Maybe this is a movie to me that gets better the more I watch it. But we’ll just have to see. Also, the cinematography is PERFECTION. I’m going to give “1917” a 9/10. I wanted to give the film a 1917/10, but then I’d break the scale, so 9 it is.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that this SATURDAY, JANUARY 11TH, will be the kickoff of my multi-part countdown event, “Top Movies of the 2010s!” I’m gathering all the entries, lining them up as we speak, and even though I am admittedly cramming at this point, I am hella excited to share my lists with y’all! If you want to see this and more content from Scene Before, give me a follow! If you have a proper account in place, feel free to leave a like and comment! Also, if you have a Facebook account, feel free to like my page to get notified about the latest goings on here at Scene Before through the place where you have friends, even those you probably haven’t talked to in five or so years. I want to know, did you see “1917?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you think is the better achievement in cinematography, this movie or “Birdman?” Let me know, you have one shot to impress me with your opinions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Spies In Disguise (2019): #TeamWeird

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“Spies In Disguise” is directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, stars Will Smith (Men in Black, Suicide Squad) alongside Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Lost City of Z), and this is the latest animated feature from Blue Sky, the creators of films including “Rio,” “Epic,” and “Ice Age.” This film follows the adventures of showoff spy Lance Sterling (Smith) as he eventually runs into the quirky and hyperactive Walter Beckett (Holland). When the two first meet, their chemistry does not quite match, causing a bit of a ruckus between them. Speaking of things that cause a ruckus, the film involves Sterling’s accidental transformation and adaptation to the life of a pigeon. Meanwhile, Sterling is also in a situation where he has been framed.

Before we go any further, I do want to remind you all that this is my final film review of 2019, and what a better way to end than by touching upon a movie where Agent Jay and Spider-Man collide, amirite? Now, while this was not a film I was planning on seeing instantaneously, I recall seeing a trailer or two for this film in the theater earlier this year. During that time, my curiosity meter increased. But as I went in, part of me was still skeptical as to how this could turn out. As much as I have enjoyed a good portion of Blue Sky’s work, I was worried that this movie could end up being a little more disposable than I’d like. And in some ways, I guess it is. It relies a bit on gross and toilet humor, there’s even a scene that I probably want removed from my memory as soon as possible.

I have to ask all of you, what is the most disturbing sight you’ve witnessed in a kids movie? Because while I cannot confirm what mine would be at this point. I would probably need to think about it, but there’s a scene that I am truthfully surprised this movie was somehow able to get away with. There is a brief clip where we get a look at this chubby naked dude and it shows pretty much the entire backside of his body, including his magnificent ass. Seriously, watch the movie, it’s actually pretty spectacular.

MOVE OVER, CAPTAIN AMERICA! THERE’S A NEW PLAYER IN TOWN!

And the film is kinda sorta what a parent would want when they need to waste an afternoon with their kid. It’s fun, but also kind of unmemorable. You’re not really getting the quality that you would come to expect from say your typical Pixar fare nowadays. It’s a film that is sort of cliche, sort of been there done that, not to mention done better, but it his a few elements here and there that still make it a fun time at the movies.

I also have to say, when it comes to Will Smith’s character, I’d say he was very well portrayed given the writing and overall style of the film. After all, it is an animated film, which does allow for, not to mention celebrate, enhanced hyperactivity. Lance Sterling is essentially the result of what would happen if Michael Bay were black and fought crime. He often tends to reveal personal enthusiasm or excitement towards explosions, violence, flying through helicopters in ways that don’t really make any logical sense, and whatever other way he can show himself off. The movie’s second scene does a really good job at showing Smith’s character in all of his glory. He’s basically what would happen if Po from “Kung Fu Panda” became a spy. I say that because Po often displays a sense of enthusiasm from his particular martial art, and while spying is not kung fu, Po would probably take various elements from his passion, which seems to be fighting for good, hold onto them, and continue to express himself as the “most awesome” fighter ever. In fact, to put two and two together, Lance Sterling is referred to as “the most awesome spy.”

To add onto this supposed awesomeness, Sterling in this film is displayed as kind of a narcissist. Even though he is often responsible for people’s lives and has to save the day, he thinks that he is a step above those around him just because he’s, well, him. We see a scene where he’s given a marathon of compliments in a giant lobby, and if he were invited to a party of spies, he’d be a hit based on what I can assume from that short moment. I will say though, and this is my opinion, this narcissism of Sterling’s, while definitely a defining character trait, also kind of made him somewhat of an asshole, most notably during the beginning portions of the picture.

As much as I like Will Smith, I also have a soft spot for Tom Holland, considering he has one of the best interpretations of a comic book-based character of all time. He stars in this film alongside Smith as a young, millennial, aspiring inventor and scientist who went to MIT in his younger teen years. In fact, when we first see him, in a scene that almost felt like it was ripped out of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” he shows off this invention that sort of reveals his personality. This makes him almost a polar opposite of Smith’s character once they team up, because Smith lives for violence, whereas Holland is almost kind of a pacifist. Much of his character’s traits revolve around him being happy or optimistic or peace-loving. I think the mismatched chemistry was a good idea and helps build a lesson for younger viewers, specifically the notion that sometimes problems can be solved without anger or destruction.

I mentioned one problem I had with the film early on in the review, specifically how it does something that I almost wonder how it got in the film in the first place. Maybe it’s not as graphic as I thought, it’s just something that I do not usually expect to see in an animation like this. However, this movie is not afraid to let in a swear. Seriously! There is a moment where Lance Sterling is in a sticky situation and the moment basically called for a joke where he drops a bomb. For those of you who are possibly parents who want to protect your kid, don’t worry, it’s censored! I’d also say the film is still predictable and kind of standard as far as modern animations go, but it still manages to handle itself quite well in the process.

In the end, if you have kids, I think this might be a fine afternoon outing of some sort. If you want to go see a movie for matinee price, I’d recommend this. Maybe if you have A-List, it would be a slightly higher recommendation. Maybe you should wait until it becomes available on DVD, maybe go see “Star Wars” for the second or third time. But just to remind you, Disney wins either way. After all, this is a Fox movie.

And we all know the fate of that company…

Anyway, I don’t think I’ll ever rewatch “Spies in Disguise,” at least not in the near future. It’s by no means a bad movie, but it is one that I am almost surprised I have not forgotten by now. I have a feeling if I were a general audience member, maybe I’d forget about it at this point, maybe fairly soon. But like most of the movies I have seen this year, the positives tend to outweigh the negatives. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s a good time. I’m going to give “Spies in Disguise” a 6/10.

Thanks for reading this review, 2019 is finally over and I have had one heck of a year. I will be kicking off 2020 in style, because tomorrow is the release of my top 10 BEST movies of 2019. Speaking of which, the day afterwards, I will be following this up by revealing my top 10 WORST movies of 2019. I’m not going to give much hints as to what will be on those lists, but I am excited to continue my annual countdown tradition, and I hope you enjoy the content! Speaking of content, if you want to receive the latest updates from Scene Before, follow the blog either with a WordPress account or email! And speaking of stalking my daily life, go on over to my Facebook page and give it a like! It really helps me out! I want to know, did you see “Spies in Disguise?” What did you think about it? Or, since this is my final review of the year, what is your favorite and/or least favorite movie of 2019? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Marriage Story (2019): A Child of Divorce Gives His Two Cents

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“Marriage Story” is directed by Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories, Francis Ha) and stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) and Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Lucy) as a couple who are going through a divorce. This film dives into the events that unfold as the once married couple try to move on with their lives, work, and whether or not they get to see their own kid again.

Earlier this week, I could have stayed home, turned on Netflix, and watched not one, but two films already on the service! But, I like the theatrical experience, so I went to see both “The Irishman,” which I enjoyed, and then that was followed by this film right here! I went into this film knowing little about the material itself. I know it involves heavy dialogue, and based on the plot, it’s a serious situation. I was also made aware of various positive verdicts beforehand, therefore I had rather high expectations. Plus, it’s got Adam Driver, a fine actor who may have ended up being the best part of the new “Star Wars” trilogy. Alongside Driver is Scarlett Johansson who I, unashamedly, consider to be a celebrity crush. I think both actors are great and to see them together is a dream I did not even realize I had.

I was not even sure if I was going to watch this movie, because as much as I am beginning to appreciate Netflix’s efforts to expand itself into the realm of cinema, even to the point where even Martin Scorsese has considered Netflix to be more cinematic than Marvel, I don’t pay for their streaming service and I am not that invested in the company. Again, when it comes to media consumption, I’m kind of a dinosaur, I can’t help myself. That, and this award season has kept me pretty busy with films like “Uncut Gems,” “Knives Out,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and more. Well that, and blockbusters like “The Rise of Skywalker.” I still haven’t even seen “Queen & Slim” yet! That’s how busy I have been with this blog!

I have waited a little while to talk about this movie, keeping in mind that it has been since Monday since I walked out of the theater. With that being said, I was focused on getting my review out for “The Irishman,” which does not necessarily mean I wanted to delay my review for this movie, but with Christmas and other projects getting in my way, I am getting my thoughts out later than I expected, so I do apologize. Again, I walked out of the theater after seeing this film this past Monday. How did I feel then?

One word. NUMB.

HOLY F*CKING F*CK I FELT NUMB.

This movie captured perhaps everything I wanted it to capture and more. “Marriage Story” is an emotional, enthralling, not to mention exciting piece of art that did pretty much everything it needed to do. I walked out of this film not exactly in tears, but I did walk out feeling like my skin had gone through a paper shredder. It can remind you of how unbearable the idea of divorce really is from all sides.

Now I think I have a somewhat interesting perspective regarding this film. Okay… Maybe not, depending on how you look at it. I’ll have to do more concrete research, but I often remind myself of the statistic that flies around regarding how over 50% of marriages end in divorce. That’s what happened to my parents when I was 13 years old, they announced their separation, and it took them quite awhile from that point for a full divorce to finally occur, but it happened. And I felt a part of my life had been destroyed. I am not joking. Look, have I adapted to a situation where I was able to live with one parent? You betcha. But behind the skin that conceals my mind, there was a part of me that wanted my mother and father living together. It just felt like the natural thing. Even at twenty years old, it is still something I beg for. I know it is a situation that is beyond my control, and if I were to interfere, I would probably be facing a head dunk in the toilet at best, or a fatality at worst. But this movie reminded me of everything in my life from my teen years to today.

I still live with my mother. So… Hit me up girls. You’ll find me very charming. For the record, I love my mother. I am eternally thankful that she is in my life. But not having a father figure in my life all the time is something that I feel has slightly diminished me as a person. I had no brothers, and even though some of you might think this is progressive or cool, most of the people I knew in my life, at least when this whole divorce thing first started, happened to be women. I felt like I could barely surround myself with anyone I knew. As if there were anyone in school that wanted to hang out with me. I still surrounded myself in activities that guys my age would typically enjoy. Video games, Internet surfing, and of course, film. But when it comes to people I could relate to who could take part in certain activities that others in my family or social circles wouldn’t really take part in, it would be dad. Did he want to do every single thing with me? I would not say yes, there’s a good chance that he had better things to do from time to time, but I felt there was a sense of brotherhood between us.

This is why I have forever feared “replacements.” I think some people at my age would have understood what I am talking about. When my parents separated, it seems that my mother did not usually have much trouble finding a date. I mean, she’s an amazing woman, why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t any guy want her? But whenever my mother got close with someone she dated, I was worried because that equated to certain transitions that I would have to adapt to whether I liked it or not. There also may have been a possibility that there was something about the person she dated that I felt would affect the way I grew up. Maybe I would have someone in my life that I am supposed to see as “my parent,” but a certain part of my brain would keep me from doing such a thing. There’s only one “mom” and “dad” for me, and I am thankful to have them both in my life, even if they are apart. But this movie sort of took me back to my childhood struggles. There is a certain event in this film that felt all too real for me.

Now I am going to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but I am going to dive a bit deep into this film as I talk about what happens during Halloween. This is not something that has happened to me personally. Partially because I never trick or treated when my parents got divorced, but with that in mind, there is a part of the movie that takes place during Halloween, where the parents decide at one point to have “two Halloweens.” The mother takes the kid out for a period of time, and then it’s dad’s turn. By the way, the kid’s name is Henry, and he is played by Azhy Robertson and he does a fine job in this movie.

I have never been in the situation where I had to have two Halloweens, but I imagine that I am not alone when I have to note that I celebrate “multiple Christmases” every year for now on. Now, prior to the divorce, I have celebrated Christmas at multiple venues for both sides of the family at different times. And as much as I continue to enjoy Christmas every year, including this past year, I found that it sort of deteriorates the specialty of the holiday. There are a lot of things in life that I would like to have more than one of during the year. Of course I’ll take multiple “Star Wars” related holidays! May the fourth be with you, and I shall have my revenge of the fifth! I would love to have more than one Marvel movie within a number of months! As long as they make them as good as they are at this point, I’d say they should keep crankin’ them out! But Christmas is that one day of the year that maybe in my childhood I looked forward to more than most others. Even though I still find Christmas to be unbelievably fun, I still long for the days of togetherness between the family I once knew. The very idea of this double Halloween alone brought such thoughts to my mind.

But I will say, the events of this divorce in this movie does not play out like it did in my life. In fact, why should it? If it did, then all divorces would supposedly be the same to me, making life very boring. One thing I will say that I sort of related to is the idea that maybe I would have a favorite parent. I think about that a lot less today, mainly because I am doing whatever I can to rely less on my parents and focus more on myself. But this movie does a really good job at highlighting the less than pleasant chemistry between Charlie, the father, and his kid Henry. There are some moments where the movie flat out reveals Henry’s love and affection for his mother, Nicole, that I clearly did not see between him and Charlie. Little things like that got me. Despite how they say divorce is hardest on the children, this movie is not exactly about how a child handles the situation of divorce, in fact, this child seems to be handling it in a way that I never could, especially at his age.

As for Nicole and Charlie, their screen presence together make for some of my favorite scenes of the year. There’s a scene at the beginning of the film where they seem to be seeking some counseling that give a basic idea of how high tensions are between them. Later on, past the halfway point, there is an extended argument that could be an Oscar reel clip for both of these people. I felt every moment of the dialogue and everything from their setup and onward was nothing short of fantastic. I think one of the best parts of both characters, at least to me, is that I could point out flaws from both sides and be able to realize that not only are these two demonstrating how they may not be right for each other, but I could equally argue that one person or the other is an asshole based on random actions that happen during the film. As nice as they may seem, they have their dark sides, and that’s what makes this marriage stor–sorry, DIVORCE story, so interesting. It’s not one side causing everything, it’s actions from both sides combining to form an eventual reaction.

The movie also does a really good job at providing depth to its two leads. I really enjoyed the backstories to both of the main characters. Scarlett Johansson plays someone who aspired to be an actress. In fact, we see her early on in a fake film flashing herself, which does come up a couple times later in some interesting ways. But she gave up her life in Los Angeles to allow Adam Driver’s character to focus on his career in theater. This not only feels like a story where a couple fights because of lost love or random attacks, it feels like something that has been gradually built up, which is why much of the dialogue in this film between the leads feels, in a way, climactic, that’s probably the best word I can use to describe all of it. There is an argument in this film that might as well be the human resemblance of what happens when a house is on fire.

I think one of the best things about this movie is how it handles getting custody over the kid. For one thing, it delivers more out of the two main actors, who also show off their chops here. In addition to that, Laura Dern shows up and gives an excellent performance as well. From a story perspective, I was almost on the edge of my seat, and this is not even a flashy action movie. There have been some films that I have seen where I honestly don’t know who precisely I am supposed to be rooting for, because maybe the film goes in an unexpected direction, or it is just flat-out stupid. Here, I feel the same way, I don’t know who exactly to root for, but that’s because I feel it is almost hard to pick a side. On the one hand, the kid could end up getting full custody from his mother, who he clearly likes more. On the other hand, if such a thing happens, the father, who wants to see his own child grow up, won’t get that opportunity. This is one of those movies that knows how to set up stakes and tension within its overall story. As a story, it is relatable, somewhat charming, and yet at the same time, depressing. It’s everything I could want out of this movie.

If I had to slide in any complaints, it might be for one scene in particular. Now this involves a scene that I overall enjoyed, so I personally would consider this a nitpick more than anything else. But kind of like much of the movie “Parasite,” another amazing film from this year, there is one moment that is borderline convenient in terms of moving the plot along. Maybe if I watch the movie again, I’ll change my mind, but having watched it once, this is just how I feel at the moment. Even so, I cannot think of too many other flaws regarding “Marriage Story,” and even though Netflix does not usually consider releasing physical copies of their material, I would pay hundreds for a copy of “Marriage Story.” I mean, Criterion is releasing “Roma” next year, so anything’s possible!

In the end, “Marriage Story” is a movie that I really enjoyed as I saw it, one that destroyed me upon leaving it, and one that has honestly gotten better the more I thought about it over these past few days. If I had any other flaws, I probably would have forgotten about them by now because I feel I am delaying my review a little bit, but even so, this is a film that I will probably to continue to carry in my memory. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most relatable pieces of art I have witnessed in my entire life. I think in terms of chemistry, or lack thereof depending on how you look at it, I think Driver and Johansson might make for the best on-screen pair of the year. Laura Dern does a really good job with the film. The directing, cinematography, and editing are a terrific trio. As for the screenplay, I want to frame it. There is very little that I could consider to be problematic with this movie. “Marriage Story” might not end up being my favorite film of the year, although I do have a few days left to decide for sure, but it is one of the few to hit me where I live and remind me of the ups and downs my current or prior experiences. Especially now, because during the time of another “split Christmas,” which again, I did enjoy, this felt like a story that I could potentially be a part of. I am going to give “Marriage Story” a 10/10!

Thanks for reading this review! I will be completely honest with you, I am not gonna make any guarantees, but it is a possibility that this is my final review of 2019. I might go see one more movie, but I am not too sure. If that’s the case, I do hope to have a review up on New Year’s Eve, hopefully New Year’s Day at the latest. After all, I am getting closer to sharing my picks for my top 10 favorite and least favorite movies of 2019! If I do have one more review to do, I will hopefully separate it long enough before you are all able to read my countdowns, which may be hard because of the millions of other projects I have going on right now. At least that’s what my life feels like at this moment. Nevertheless, if you want to see upcoming content like my countdowns or more reviews, be sure to follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Marriage Story?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever been through divorce of any kind? As a kid? Partner? Tell me about it if you feel like it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Irishman (2019): Jack Does a Short Review of Martin’s Long Film

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“The Irishman” is directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence) and stars Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, The Godfather: Part II), Joe Pesci (Home Alone, Raging Bull), and Al Pacino (Heat, Insomnia). This is a return to form for critically acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, who is well-known for his gangster movies including “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Mean Streets.” In this film inspired by Charles Brandt’s book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Robert De Niro’s character, Frank Sheeren recalls events of his past as he gets involved with Russell Bufalino and dissects into his involvement with Jimmy Hoffa.

I will be completely honest with you. There was a time, going back two or three years ago that I did not think I was going to check out this movie as all. After all, I don’t personally pay for Netflix, which I heard this movie was going to be on. I did not realize at the time that they were getting a bit more serious with their theatrical releases. To this day, my family uses Netflix, but I just never jumped on the train. I’m just not a streamer, it’s not my style. The only services I use today happen to be Prime and Crackle. When I heard this was getting a theatrical release, my curiosity levels shot into the air and almost splattered like glittery fireworks. Even though I am rather late to the party, I did make a trip to one of my local theaters to go see “The Irishman.” I’d say it was worth the trip. To be honest with you, even though some of the most well-regarded movies ever made are gangster flicks, that type of film has never been my style. With that being said, my experience of witnessing this film was still a good use of my time.

Speaking of time, “The Irishman” is three and a half hours long, making it my most extended watch of the year. This is both a blessing and a curse. I say that because the movie for the most part is entertaining and rather investing. The downside is that perhaps both the first thirty minutes and last thirty minutes happen to be the points where the film manages to fizzle. I may be exaggerating on the first thirty minutes because for one thing, the film was just beginning, therefore it was nearly impossible for me to divert my eyes away from the screen. But, for the last thirty minutes or so, I felt like I was watching something that was four hours as opposed to three and a half.

I did something I don’t normally do when I work on my reviews, but I jotted down some short notes after watching the film. I was in the middle of a double feature, because I watched both this and “Marriage Story” in the same day. Before my second movie started, I stated that “I enjoyed the little things.” There are a few scenes in this movie that sort of add something to the film, but almost feel like they belong on an extended cut. There is a scene towards the end of the movie, that I won’t entirely go into that involves a conversation about the delivery of a fish. It’s undoubtedly entertaining, and in the moment, it kind of put a smile on my face, but the more I think about it, it almost does not really add anything to the film overall aside from some random laughs. It just feels like wasted time. I mean, it sort of reminded me of “Pulp Fiction,” which has random conversations about uncomfortable silences and foot massages. These are two random topics that somehow got in the script in the first place, but most amazing of all, worked. However, “Pulp Fiction” feels like it uses every minute wisely whereas “The Irishman” almost overstays its welcome. The pacing drags at a point, which considering the runtime, is not that surprising.

While this movie may suffer in terms of pacing, I think it is nevertheless one of the best directed and acted films I have seen all year. Martin Scorsese manages to deliver a technically competent film on all levels ranging from camerawork, lighting, and delivering the best performances possible. This movie also contains what may be my favorite child performance of the year, given by Lucy Gallina. Her performance is very subtle, and any scene involving her was either entertaining or simply charming.

Speaking of surprise performances, I want to talk about Ray Romano. Do not get me wrong, I liked Ray Romano long before he signed onto this movie, but I never thought Romano had the acting range he does today. After all, he was the lead role on one of my favorite sitcoms, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where he basically plays an exaggerated, alternate version of himself. In this movie he plays a lawyer by the name of Bill Bufalino, and honestly, it’s the best performance of his career. Looking at his past work, it might not say too much, but it’s still worth pointing out.

However, Romano is not part of the big three. Specifically, De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. And while I do admire the portrayals given by the entire trio, Pacino, personally, cannot be beat. Pacino was perfectly cast as Jimmy Hoffa. This is a role that I honestly do not see anybody else playing, except maybe John Tuturro, not specifically because of his acting ability or anything, but at one point, I thought Pacino looked like Tuturro during the film. Out of all the characters, Hoffa was by the far the most charismatic and interesting of all. He’s bombastic, wacky, and quirky. He’s basically what you need out of a proper Pacino role.

I don’t have much more to say on “The Irishman,” but as I watched this film, one of the things I almost forgot about going in that I eventually reminded myself of is the de-aging processes that can be seen throughout this flick. De-aging through digital tech is a seemingly increasing trend. We’ve seen it so far in films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Tron: Legacy,” and “Gemini Man.” I think one of the best de-aging jobs that has been done recently is for Samuel L. Jackson in “Captain Marvel.” YES, I JUST BROUGHT UP A MARVEL MOVIE IN A REVIEW FOR A MARTIN SCORSESE FILM. REMIND HIM NOT TO READ THIS IN ORDER TO AVOID NIGHT TERRORS. As for this film, I could barely even notice the digital makeup applied to everybody. I’d probably have to watch the film again, and I have no plans to watch it again in the near future, but if I were to watch it again it would be for one reason only. Because the main actors are not that young, and I want to remind myself of how they move. They may look younger in the film than they do in real life, but do they move like younger people should? It’s a question that is still on my mind.

In the end, “The Irishman” is entertaining, but a tad too long. Although at the same time, this brings up a dilemma, because one of the most entertaining factors of “The Irishman” are some little additions that do not need to necessarily be in the final cut, but are entertaining nonetheless. This movie is a solid piece of work, and not exactly a waste of my time (maybe except for somewhere between ten and thirty minutes worth), so I’d still recommend it. I’d recommend it to a good number of people, unless you are an easily offended vegetarian. This film has a lot of steak consumption. I really liked Jimmy Hoffa’s story overall, and basically any scene involving him made the movie twice as swell as it already was. I’m going to give “The Irishman” a 7/10. One reminder to Martin Scorsese, there are two Marvel films I saw this year that I liked better than this. Just being real.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone, as mentioned earlier, I went to see “Marriage Story.” I will have my review up for that as soon as possible, and stay tuned at the rise of the new year for my countdowns on the best and worst movies of 2019! If you want to see more great content like this, follow Scene Before! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Irishman?” What did you think about it? Did you see it in theaters or at home? Tell me about your experience! Or, do you consider comic book movies like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe “cinema?” Yes? No? Maybe? I don’t know? Part yes part no? State your case, defend your opinion, the universe depends on it! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Aeronauts (2019): The Theory of Ballooning

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“The Aeronauts” is directed by Tom Harper (The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, Peeky Blinders) and stars Eddie Redmayne (Jupiter Ascending, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Himesh Patel (EastEnders, Yesterday), and Tom Courtenay (Doctor Zhivago, The Dresser). This film is based on the 2013 book “Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air,” written by Richard Holmes. This is about a pilot (Jones) and a scientist (Redmayne) as they try to survive in a gas balloon as they attempt to break boundaries for all mankind.

“The Aeronauts” was one of my more anticipated films of the fall. When I did research on this film earlier this year, I figured this would be a fun ride, and I mean that literally. During the summer, I made a big post meant to recap the initial half of 2019 and how it links to my time on Scene Before. In said post, I made a statement about some of the plans I had for October. I wanted to check out “Zombieland: Double Tap,” which I did see. And I also wanted to take a gander at “Gemini Man,” which I didn’t see. Another film on the list of things that I wanted to see then was “The Aeronauts.” After all, it was supposed to release in October, but it didn’t even come out here in the United States until December 6th. This release period by the way is very limited. And I think Amazon thought that the movie would do better if it was released to Prime as soon as possible. By the way, I wanted to go see this in the theater. In fact, I had an opportunity to see it for free, because I reserved a pass for a screening at a theater in Boston, but I ended up not going because it was during a time of a big snowstorm and I was wondering if I would be able to get home easily.

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Also, when I reflect on the buildup period to this film’s release, I recall this being Amazon’s earliest planned attempt at an IMAX run. Having said that, it seems to be true. In the United Kingdom, this released in cinemas during November. This run seems to have included screenings in IMAX and 4DX. This movie was shown in various places in the US, including at AFI Fest this year, where according to Wikipedia, it would show at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. Unfortunately, as far as I know from research, the movie lost its IMAX run here in the US.

Having seen the movie, I must say, as an experience, Amazon honestly missed an opportunity. They could have marketed the film as the “must-see in cinema experience of the year” or something of that nature. This film is vibrant, lively, and just a joy to look at. The cinematography is nice at times, the visuals have this sense of lifelike magic, and it kind of made me want to go up in the sky. In fact, one thing that I noticed while watching this film, is that the aspect ratio changes overtime. When the balloon launches up in the air, the black bars diminish. This gives a grand sense of scope of the sky. I would have loved to have seen this in a cinema, especially in IMAX to be a part of the amusement park-like experience, which this movie really is. However, the movie does not shy away from building proper characters.

I do not know much about the real life events this movie happens to be based on, but the movie managed make the event feel important yet entertaining. Part of the entertainment has to do with the likable chemistry between Amelia Wren and James Glaisher, played wonderfully by Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne. I think the characters feel like a legit pair for the time and pretty much every scene with them on the balloon was a bundle of joy. This should not be too surprising though because Redmayne and Jones have collaborated in a project before. Even though I haven’t seen this movie in particular, I know they both appear in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything,” which received mostly positive reviews.

Again, every scene with these two in the balloon was hypnotizing and I almost didn’t want them to stop. But how’s the rest of the movie off the balloon? Aside from the opening scene, it’s almost a snoozefest. Not gonna lie, I’m kinda disappointed. This movie is perhaps one of the more badly edited products we’ve gotten all year. Okay, the editing itself is fine, but the structure is what the real problem happens to be.

If I had to compare “The Aeronauts” to anything, it would have be “Suicide Squad” and “IT: Chapter Two.” I say that because one of the core elements of both movies is that they rely heavily on flashbacks. I often joke about this, and I made this joke over three years ago when I originally reviewed “Suicide Squad,” specifically calling it “Flashbacks: The Movie.” Granted, the flashbacks here are not as prominent as “Suicide Squad,” but I think that’s what makes this movie suffer. Even though a movie like “Suicide Squad” is perhaps strangled by its past, I was still able to keep myself awake to whatever past events are being shown on screen. Maybe it’s because of the previously established grand scope, but the events of reality deterred the pacing of the film for me. I was expecting this film to mainly focus on the main event at hand, simply based on the opening. While this may not be the most accurate of comparisons, it sort of reminded me of “Dunkirk,” which was not really about anything except one particular event. Unlike “Dunkirk,” “The Aeronauts” tries to focus on two main characters. Ultimately, this just feels, to me, like it focuses more on the journey overall than anything else.

I enjoyed “The Aeronauts,” don’t get me wrong. But at the same time, it’s seemingly forgettable. The flashbacks almost feel like filler, but there is one that sort of leaves an impact on the film, and sort of foreshadows the danger that lies ahead. Judging by what I said, it might as well be easy to point out that this is the first flashback of the movie. And speaking of films directed by Christopher Nolan, because I just mentioned “Dunkirk,” the very beginning sort of reminds me of the opening scene of “Interstellar.” I won’t go into much detail, but both seem to highlight significant danger, and both do so very well. Speaking of the beginning, the launch scene very much reminded me of a rocket launch that plays out in a space film. It really does come off as something special and extremely important. Given how space travel was not even a thing back when this movie takes place, it is nice to see some sort of equivalent for the time.

But if there is one thing I need to say… Why did they have to alter history and make a gender swap? OK, let me just say, I am for writing history when it is done right. I don’t always watch films for the sake of a history lesson, but when a film is focusing on history, I do expect a certain level of realism and accuracy. Unfortunately, this film fails with that. For the record, Amelia Wren is essentially a replacement for Henry Coxwell, who was part of this real life event the movie tends to go over. I think it’s a bit far for me to say that I felt ripped off, but considering the fact that I didn’t even know this until I was doing my final revisions for this review, I would not lying to you if I told you this lowered my grade for this film. I’m serious. As I was writing this, I already had a paragraph with my score set. Guess what? Just for this, it’s going to be altered!

In the end, I don’t have all that much more to say about “The Aeronauts,” partially because it is rather simple to explain, and to be honest, it’s unfortunately forgettable. Let me just say, it’s better than “Cats.” Definitely better than “Cats.” ANYTHING at this point is better than “Cats!” As gorgeous as this film looks, as stunning as it truly presents itself, it suffers slightly in terms of substance. It’s not a disaster by any means, in fact I had a fun time with it, but if it were paced better and structured differently, I think it could have lead to something that would float higher on the scale. And honestly, I could end up watching this again, but the lack of focus on history was a slight downfall for me, so I’m going to give “The Aeronauts” a 5/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone of a couple updates here on the blog. On Christmas Eve, I am going to be dropping my final trailer (I promise) of my upcoming two part countdown series “Top Movies of the 2010s.” Speaking of countdowns, I want to remind you all that at the beginning of January, I am going to be releasing my top BEST & WORST movies of 2019 lists. Per usual, I am planning on doing top 10 lists, perhaps with honorable mentions, and I will recap some of my thoughts on some of the films I have seen this year. That is unless I reference a film that I have not reviewed, but we’ll have to see how everything pans out in the future. If you want to see upcoming content like this and more, be sure to follow Scene Before! Want to help me out even more? Give this post a like and share with your friends! Speaking of places you can find friends, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Aeronauts?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most visually impressive movie you have seen in 2019? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019): The Final Word in the Story

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“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible: III, Star Trek), who also directed 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This film stars Daisy Ridley (Peter Rabbit, Murder on the Orient Express), John Boyega (Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Circle), Adam Driver (Paterson, Girls), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Operation Finale), Anthony Daniels (I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, The Lord of the Rings), Naomi Ackie (The End of the F***ing World, Lady MacBeth), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, American Made), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Logan), Lupita Nyong’o (Us, 12 Years a Slave), Keri Russell (Waitress, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Kelly Marie Tran (Adam Ruins Everything, XOXO), Ian McDiarmid (The Lost City of Z, Sleepy Hollow), and Billy Dee Williams (Batman, Dynasty). This film is the conclusion to the sequel trilogy of the “Star Wars” franchise, bringing an end to the now trendily-named “Skywalker Saga” and follows the heroes we have come to know so far as the Resistance is dwindled. Where do they go next? Wherever they can to face off against the First Order one last time.

Oh, and of course… There’s a REAL LIFE plot to this movie too! After the events of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” audiences are divided! Between playing it too safe in one movie and trying to find unlocked paths in another movie, there is no way to impress every single “Star Wars” fan out there! So now it is the job of J.J. Abrams to bring balance to the “Star Wars” fandom and take on the near impossible task of sticking the landing in terms of directing “Episode IX.”

Now, for those of you who have been following Scene Before for some time, I do have to say, I make an effort to provide as little spoilers as possible for every movie review I do. There may be a case where I either have to or want to put in spoilers for one reason or another, but most of the time, I make an effort to be as secretive as possible in regards to the film’s key points that could potentially alter how one would see the movie if it had been revealed to them beforehand. With that being said, this is a “Star Wars” movie. “Star Wars” is a franchise that I would be eternally heartbroken had spoilers for it come my way. I imagine most of my viewers would feel the same way. So let me just say, this is a SPOILER-FREE review. Knowing that I just saw the movie on one of the earliest showtimes the public can access, I am going to raise my shield to avoid all effects from blasters, lightsabers, pistols, force lightning, and if possible (and I’m not saying I am weak-minded), Jedi mind tricks. So without further ado, let’s talk some “Star Wars.”

The “Star Wars” sequel trilogy has been a mixed bag for me so far. I for one LOVE “The Force Awakens.” I’m not gonna lie, it is one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies for sure. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a movie I was looking forward to, saw in the theater on opening weekend, and walked out of it feeling like I saw the second coming of Christ on screen. Every now and then I’ll walk out of a movie feeling something inside me that made me feel like I leveled up. That was one of them. In fact, it might even be my favorite movie of 2015. Is it a copy paste of the original “Star Wars” movie? Sure, you can definitely bring up that point. But the thing is, the movie did exactly what a film of its kind needed to do. Deliver crowd-pleasing moments, provide stunning visuals, unleash great characters, start something special, and take you away from reality. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was able to do that. I will admit, I liked “Episode III,” in fact I personally admire it much more than most people, but as someone who looks back at the prequels as a slight step in the wrong direction, what Disney and J.J. Abrams did with “The Force Awakens” was exactly what I believe the “Star Wars” community and fanbase needed. Something familiar, but immensely entertaining.

Then we got “The Last Jedi” which was… Mediocre. Now if you have ever read my initial review for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” you’d know I dug it. The reason being is because as much as I enjoyed “The Force Awakens,” I saw it partially as a throwback. But it’s a good throwback, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind movies or media jumping on the nostalgia train, but I wanted something new out of this “Star Wars” trilogy that could separate them from the other two. As good as “The Empire Strikes Back” is, I was afraid that this movie, like “The Force Awakens” did with “A New Hope,” would be a rehash of “The Empire Strikes Back.” However, based on what the movie provided from a story perspective, that did not seem to be the case. The movie made some bold, expectation-subverting choices. While I admire director Rian Johnson for trying to take “Star Wars” in a new direction, it didn’t pay off. Originally, I gave the movie a 9/10 for the steps it took in finding new storytelling paths, but as I thought about the movie more, I dug it less and less. Mark Hamill is GREAT as Luke though, I’ll give the movie that. I will admit, the film is beautifully directed, it’s wonderfully shot, and the visuals are sometimes incredible. But the screenplay is almost the worst in “Star Wars” history. “The Last Jedi” felt like a passion project that ended up splattering in someone’s face. I will admit, as much as I don’t like Johnson’s vision for “The Last Jedi,” I do think he is a damn fine director with the right project. He made “Knives Out,” which is one of the best movies of the year, and I just saw “Looper,” another film he wrote and directed, and it’s nothing short of dope. I would be SOMEWHAT open to him directing another “Star Wars” project, but not writing one.

Now we’re here! “The Rise of Skywalker” is upon us. I will admit, I did not have the most pleasurable thoughts going into it. But nevertheless, I scored tickets for the first show of the film at one of my all-time favorite movie theatres, so the fan inside me felt ready for this experience. I will admit, some of the trailers were really good, and part of me was curious to see how this saga will end (until Disney needs more money and they make Episode X). What are my thoughts on the ultimate story of the “Skywalker Saga?” The top of Mount “Star Wars!” The height of the force! WHAT? DID? I? THINK OF IT?

Well… uhhhh…. It was better than “Cats.”

To be completely serious with you, I really enjoyed this movie A LOT MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD going into it. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is up there to me with “Toy Story 4” and “Alita: Battle Angel” as one of 2019’s most pleasant surprises. I could honestly end the review by pointing out that against each and every single odd, J.J. Abrams delivered something watchable. But, ending the review here would be boring, and y’all will probably feel cheated, so let’s move on.

Sticking with J.J. Abrams, he was the right choice to direct this film. I love what he did with “The Force Awakens” as mentioned earlier. And I think those who have complained in the past about “The Force Awakens,” specifically about it playing it too safe might dig this movie a little more than that. Granted, this movie relies HEAVILY on nostalgia. There are many iconic themes from John Williams that are brought back, nods to past “Star Wars” films and TV programs, the return of Lando, and Palpatine is even somehow in this movie. But even with that, this movie introduces quite a few new things. I am not exactly going to go into each and every one of them, but they are there nonetheless. In fact, as someone who doesn’t like “The Last Jedi,” I think the thing about it that I at least appreciate is its willingness to take risks. They didn’t pay off, but they are still risks. This movie was able to take me to my happy place, sort of back to my childhood, while also introducing some fresh ideas. Not all of them worked, kind of like in “The Last Jedi,” but there are some that played into how fun this movie ultimately is.

One thing you are going to hear me repeat often throughout this review is that I won’t spoil something, so bear with me here. But I want to mention that without going into much detail, C-3PO had a bit to do with the movie’s story, and I think this may be my favorite 3PO story yet. In fact, 3PO honestly feels like a necessary character for this movie to go on. And even though he has been in just about every “Star Wars” film so far, this may be the first story where I felt 3PO’s presence was required in order for certain events to take place since the original trilogy, or maybe “The Phantom Menace.” I mean, most of his stories since just involved him being in the movie to have a random character be a comic relief (which he was before, but still) or just give some random perspective of what’s going on. Well that, and he needs his red arm replaced. It’s nice seeing him in the prequels and the last couple of sequel films, but seeing him as a core part of the story here is an utter delight, knowing the legacy this character has overall.

As for our main characters, I think Rey, Finn, and Poe, the main human trio we have come to know so far throughout this trilogy are hypnotizing to watch. Seeing them on screen again was a blast, in fact there is a scene early on between Finn and Poe that might be one of the most ridiculously fast-paced and bonkers “Star Wars” moments ever. Without saying much, it involves the Millennium Falcon. Personally, the scenes involving Rey when she was separated from her friends were a bit more fun than those between her friends. Honestly, there are a few scenes between the main trio, not every scene, but there is one that stands out in particular, where I just began to question the chemistry between them. I know that one of the key differences between this and the other two trilogies is that it is the shortest of the timelines. The original trilogy spans about four or five years and the prequels last even longer. This entire trilogy lasts about a year. It’s kind of mind-boggling if you think about it. Even though you have less time to develop these characters off-screen, it still somewhat unfortunate that the movie’s quality suffered as a result.

Speaking of character flaws, let’s talk about some of the newer additions to the movie. I’m not gonna go too deep into the new characters, but what I can say about them is that they sort of make me reflect upon “The Last Jedi.” What I mean is that whenever a new character in that movie is introduced, it takes some amount of time for me to just want them to disappear. The only new character in that film that really brought something to the table for me was the one played by Benicio Del Toro because he seemed to have some hint of swagger to him. I didn’t like Holdo, I didn’t like Rose (who is much better in this movie better by the way), the force kids didn’t really seem to add much of anything. Kind of like that, the new characters introduced to this film were also kind of forgettable. Granted, they’re better than those introduced in “Episode VIII,” but nevertheless. Nobody made me roll my eyes and no one took away my dignity. Even if the new characters were not that great, you could still tell me that they were in the movie for a reason and I’d probably be on your side.

Case and point, Keri Russell’s character of Zorii Bliss. As the main adventurers are in the middle of their quest, they run into this woman, thus leading to an explanation of her past history with one of the film’s other characters. Again, I’m trying to be vague with this review, because knowing some people, they consider minute details spoilers, so I am going to fulfill those people’s wishes. I like her costume design, and I’ll reiterate, she serves her purpose when the movie needs her, but if she was taken out of the movie, I would probably not care all that much. But, movie’s gotta movie.

Speaking of new characters, I also, to my disappointment, didn’t like D-O, the new green droid that was introduced. I am not saying I was highly anticipating D-O to be the scene stealer of the film or anything, but if there was one character that was probably created SPECIFICALLY for this movie just to get somebody out of the house to go buy a toy, this would be the one. D-O is along for the ride, but it’s another one of those characters that could literally be removed from the script and bring no negative effect to the table. Well, maybe except Disney who won’t be making as much money from people who may go out and buy D-O merchandise in the meantime. It would be fine if D-O had more dimension as a character, but there’s barely anything that I could say about D-O that makes him resemble a character full of personality, and full of charisma. You can make the argument that a character like BB-8 was mainly created to sell toys, but the thing is, BB-8 is charming, serves the plot very well, and doesn’t necessarily feel tacked on. BB-8 has basically been a centerpiece to the films he’s appeared in so far, not to mention this entire trilogy. D-O could have been something special, but the somewhat lackluster writing says otherwise.

I also gotta be honest, and I don’t know if I should be entirely surprised, but General Hux has become more of a joke for each movie that he’s in. Here, it’s almost insulting. He starts out well in this film for the most part, and I was entertained when he was on screen, but as the movie gets a bit closer to finishing its first hour, his character does something that honestly got on my nerves. I am not gonna go into detail about what he does, but I don’t know if J.J. Abrams or Chris Terrio or even Colin Trevorrow years back, when he was scheduled to helm this movie, made this decision, but it come off HORRIBLY when delivered on screen. It felt like something ways off from Hux’s personality and it was rainbows and unicorns kinds of impractical. Some people I know have been somewhat displeased with Hux in “The Last Jedi,” a notion I kind of agree with by the way. However, in that movie, I still got a sense of Hux being himself. He still felt like the same character introduced in “The Force Awakens.” It felt like a sligthly natural progression. While Hux is still kind of himself in this film as well, there’s just a moment where I felt dumbfounded as a viewer watching him on screen.

I’ll say this again, Lando’s back! This is something I was personally rather excited for, because I think Lando is one of the many highlights of the original trilogy. It’s hard to list any bad characters from said trilogy, but if there are any, Lando ain’t one of them. How is he in this movie? Well, without spoiling much, he brings some fun to the table, but he isn’t really in the movie all that much. Is that a bad thing? Given the movie’s story structure, I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing at all, but if you were expecting a Lando extravaganza, you’re not gonna get that. He plays a somewhat minor role in the film, but all of his scenes are watchable and easy to enjoy.

Now let’s get to this one of the most odd yet interesting additions to this film’s cast of characters, Palpatine. Before we go any further, let me just address that people behind this film have stated that it was always the plan to bring back The Emperor. I honestly don’t know if I buy that. I think that’s just a protective statement to avoid turning audiences off. I would have NEVER envisioned The Emperor coming back for this movie, or the sequel trilogy in the first place. Remember that first trailer for the movie? The one they showed at Star Wars Celebration in April? Once I heard Palpatine’s infamous laugh for the first time, I was shivering to my core. It was something so out of left field at the time, that it made my interest meter for the movie go up a couple notches. At the same time however, the more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I say that because as much as I love the fact that we get to see Palpatine one more time, I was worried that his appearance here would undermine everything in previously established material. Most specifically, “Return of the Jedi,” which may be his most prominent film. Why? Becuase SPOILERS, it’s been 36 years since that movie came out, WHO CARES? He dies. And it’s not just the fact that he dies that I was worried about, I also felt apprehensive because of the way he died. The ending of “Return of the Jedi” is probably my favorite endings of the “Star Wars” franchise (aside from “Rogue One”), partially because the way The Emperor goes out is chill-inducing. Between the powerful score given by John Williams, Vader’s conflict, Luke’s near-death experience, and the massive stakes at hand, it makes The Emperor’s fate all the more meaningful and emotionally satisfying. Seeing the smoke rise from the pit is a feast for the eyes and ears, and I thought that was a fine bow tie for his character. But no, I guess for some reason he’s returned to the party. I was honestly worried for a number of reasons. Two of which I’ll give here. 1. Again, The Emperor died in a way that was satisfying and the way he went out feels like a way that would be difficult to recover from. 2. The marketing seemed to promise Palpatine, but I did not think it was clear as to how much of him we’d be getting. After all, his voice is heard a lot, but I only remember seeing him physically in probably just one TV spot. That and one of the early posters.

So how was Palpatine? Not bad, to be quite honest. There is no way, at least at this point that I could be convinced that Palpatine was supposed to be the endgame the whole time, but inserting him in this movie was surprisingly solid. I mean, you can make the argument that Palpatine’s character being a centerpiece of all three trilogies in some way bring something to the table, but I’m not sure I’d completely agree. Nevertheless, just about any character interaction with him was tense and had my full attention. Ian McDiarmid played him like Slash can play a guitar! I am not going to dive deep into his character because there is a good chance that any effective thing I can say about him would be somewhere in spoiler-territory. I’ll just say this… He doesn’t just feel like a bad guy who wants to do bad guy things. He legit feels like a threat, as he should, and a necessary part of the film’s overall story and conflict. Overall, I dug him being here.

Speaking of things I dug, one thing that stood out to me at the start of the movie happened to be Rey, and the reason for that is because she apparently is kind of the Jedi definition of a showoff. She has these abilities that I think almost no other person in history could ever achieve. I will admit, when I first saw this, I kind of liked it. This new trilogy has shown was in which the force has perhaps evolved so to have this all powerful being is not completely unbelievable. Again, I already said I dug it, such a comment about liking this might almost be irrelevant at this point. BUT… There are a couple moments where I legit thought I was watching a piece of fantastical and far-fetched fan-fiction come to life. There are some things done with the force in this movie that I do not remember seeing much in “Star Wars” prior to this movie. This movie has a point where it becomes seemingly convenient in terms of how the force works. Sometimes it might be cool, maybe even badass, sometimes it just doesn’t work. There’s a moment in particular between Rey and Kylo on a desert that I want to say I like, but the Movie Reviewing Moron part of me wants to question whatever it was I just saw.

Sticking with Rey and Kylo, they have a number of scenes together in the movie, and there are some neat moments between them. Specifically fights, conversations, and more. Although if I had to list a complaint in the movie that might be my biggest of all, it would have to be this one scene between the two of them at the very end. It’s something that starts off as charming and sweet, and then becomes something that continues to piss me off. I have a feeling that if you are under a certain mindset going into the film you might enjoy whatever it is I won’t talk about whatsoever, but it just didn’t work for me.

Continuing off of what I just said, the final half hour to forty five minutes of this movie is full of fan service. Almost in the same way such a fraction of “Avengers: Endgame” was for the MCU. I won’t go into details about the fan service specifically. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Listen, that thing that I mentioned pissed me off in the last paragraph, I AM NOT GONNA SPOIL A THING, but if you pay attention, the thing that pissed me off personally is part of said fan service. And having said that, I almost wonder what the people behind this movie were thinking while making it. Keep in mind, while a good number of people seemed to enjoy “The Last Jedi,” I and many others was not really satisfied with it. This movie, in a way, seems to try to give something to everyone. Whether they liked “The Last Jedi,” hated it. Or whether they liked the other “Star Wars” movies, maybe hated those as well, it seems that a lot of time writing the screenplay went into focusing on elements that made other “Star Wars” screenplays what they are, but also what made “The Last Jedi” liked by certain people. This movie, even though it acknowledges the existence of “The Last Jedi,” sort of feels like an apology letter to viewers for “The Last Jedi.” Having disliked “The Last Jedi” myself, I can’t complain too much, but it feels like a script that is supposed to cater to anybody who ever watched “Star Wars” and admired a piece of it. This brings a complication into the mix. There will be things that will inevitably piss off some people, but there will also be things that will floor those same people in a positive way. For all I know, there could be someone out there that loves all things “Star Wars” that might end up liking EVERYTHING in this movie. I’m sure they’re out there.

I do not have all that much more to say about “The Rise of Skywalker,” but I gotta say as an ending to a nine film saga, this is surprisingly satisfying. I was worried that J.J. Abrams wouldn’t stick the landing, I was worried that I would feel unfulfilled for some reason, or the direction in this film will highlight a completely rushed ending. I gotta say one thing though. As much I enjoy having gotten my own opportunity to see an entire “Star Wars” trilogy with both previously established and newly established characters in theaters, I do not know if this film in particular is as fulfilling overall compared to the ending of “Return of the Jedi.” Again, I’m not going to spoil anything, but that film ended on such a note where the characters many of us have come to love got just about everything that they have come to earn. Admittedly, having seen this new ending, I WON’T GO INTO detail, but one character “acquires” something new that hasn’t been acquired yet that combines fan service and pure emotion. It also solves a complaint. What complaint? Not gonna tell ya. If I ever do a spoiler talk, I’ll be sure to bring this up.

Overall, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is entertaining, visually impressive (which shouldn’t be surprising, it’s “Star Wars”), and one more thing I will mention is this, because I feel I should not leave you all hanging without a mention of John Williams kicking ass with his score. I mentioned earlier that his score is heavily reliant on nostalgic themes, but whenever there is a scene that is heavy on said nostalgia or one that really needs a certain mood, Williams is there to bring the goods. I need time to see where I’ll rank this score, but as of now, this is one of the absolute best “Star Wars” scores I have ever heard. Having witnessed comments about this being the last “Star Wars” score from John Williams, I think he went out with an absolute bang. Williams, this world, nor does a galaxy far far away, deserve you. You are a god, enough said.

In the end, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a flawed, but simultaneously charming finale to a nine film saga that has been going on for over forty years. Once more, I’ll bring up “The Last Jedi,” and I will say even though that film has glimmers of entertainment, it does not feel like a story worthy of the “Star Wars” name. This sequel is a bombastic roller coaster that is worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise because I can probably guarantee that even if you end up not liking the movie overall, there will ultimately be SOMETHING to enjoy. But I must say one thing, and this is probably going to piss off some people.

So I have the unpopular opinion, although over the years I have found this unpopular opinion to be a bit more popular than I anticipated, of “Revenge of the Sith,” the finale to the prequel trilogy, being one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies. Another movie which I consider to be just as great is “Return of the Jedi,” the finale of the original trilogy. If I had to be honest, my thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker” are not that positive compared to my thoughts on the other two movies I mentioned. I liked it, quite a bit in fact. But if I had to give the honest truth, “The Rise of Skywalker” is my least favorite of the three trilogy finales the saga has had so far. Even with that in mind, it’s still good. At the same time though, this does bring up one positive regarding the “Star Wars” saga as a whole, and a negative as well, depending on how you look at it. The finales of all the trilogies make up the one portion of the saga that is entirely positive in one way or another. Keep in mind, I love all the films in the original trilogy, so the beginning, middle, and end all work there. But “The Phantom Menace” was a fail to start off the prequel trilogy, and speaking of prequel failures, I also wasn’t a fan of the middle act of the trio of films, “Attack of the Clones.” Similarly, this most recent sequel trilogy had the disappointing middle entry “The Last Jedi.” The finales all worked, even this one, to my complete surprise. With that being said, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is worth a watch, especially in a big, obnoxious movie theater with fantastic sound, and I’m going to give it a rather high 6/10. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I think a 6 is a fair grade. Would I watch it again? Oh, you betcha. And technically, this film has some of the best sound and visual effects of the year, which isn’t new for a “Star Wars” film. But story-wise, there is an argument to make that even though I love how quick this movie progresses, it almost gets to that point where it becomes rushed. If the newer characters were better and if MAYBE it tried to focus going down one particular path as opposed to catering to a bunch of different demographics, the score could potentially be higher.

With all of what I just said in mind, this movie honestly has notable flaws, not to mention things that piss me off. But this movie is also satisfying overall, and the many positives of the movie tend to outweigh the negatives. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, and most importantly, it’s better than both “The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” both movies which by the way, I felt disappointed by. I want to thank everyone for giving a great saga of films to remember. I hope various future “Star Wars” projects work out and I am looking forward to the future of the franchise should I continue to tune in. Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the limited release of the all new war film “1917.” It is going to be hitting theaters everywhere this January, but honestly this is a movie that I need to see as soon as possible because I have a feeling that it is going to be one of the best directed and well-shot movies of this particular release year. It comes out Christmas Day, which I’m busy on, but hopefully I can get my butt in a seat as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or if you want greater access to the blog, use a WordPress account. Be sure to like this post and share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?” What did you think about it? Or, now that the three main “Star Wars” trilogies are concluded, which is your favorite? The prequels? The originals? Or the sequels? You know what, here’s another question. How would you personally rank the three trilogies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!