“Ticket to Paradise” is directed by Ol Parker (Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again, Now Is Good) and stars George Clooney (Money Monster, Gravity), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Wonder), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Dear Evan Hansen), Billie Lourd (Booksmart, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Maxime Bouttier, and Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris). This film follows a divorced couple who fly together to Bali to stop their daughter from marrying someone she just met.
I went to go see this movie last Friday with mom and grandma. If I had the chance to go see this movie alone, I probably would have passed on it. While I like comedies, “Ticket to Paradise” is not my type of movie. I like the people in it. George Clooney is a great actor, and in recent years he has developed a knack for directing through films like “The Midnight Sky” and “The Tender Bar.” I enjoyed both of those films. Clooney is a multitalented personality. Even the younger actors in this film are likable. Kaitlyn Dever has proven to be a force in the acting industry in recent years. I enjoyed her in “Booksmart” and she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her role in “Unbelievable.” Long story short, this film has talent of all ages. Although as I have shown in my recent review for “Amsterdam,” you can have all the talent in your movie that you could beg for and still fail to make something entertaining. So, how was “Ticket to Paradise?”
Well, for starters, staying slightly on topic, it is better than “Amsterdam.” I was not remotely bored. There were select moments where I was more entertained than others, but nevertheless.
“Ticket to Paradise” is a movie I am probably not going to watch a second time. In fact, there are moments during the movie, where I found my hand touching my face. Not because I was scared or shocked, but because I found various segments or lines in the film cringeworthy. Then again, given the type of film that this is, I should not be surprised. It is helmed by the “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” director after all.
When you go to watch a comedy, which “Ticket to Paradise” is to some degree, you would expect it to be funny. Nothing is worse than a comedy that does not make you laugh. I would rather die than watch “Jack and Jill” and the 2016 “Ghostbusters” a second time. As far as “Ticket to Paradise” goes, it is down the middle in terms of humor. It has its ups and downs. Some of it is ridiculously far-fetched and plays out like an episode of a network sitcom that is probably going to be canceled in three months. I remember laughing at select moments of this movie, but I think my experience overall highlights how disposable this movie will end up being. Despite my occasional laughter, I cannot exactly paint a picture of everything that made me laugh.
George Clooney and Julia Roberts, who have previously worked together on the “Ocean’s” franchise, make for a fine pair here. I bought into these two being married and having it not work out in the end. The two have decent chemistry. Unfortunately, some of the writing does not serve their characters justice. I get that this movie involves the obstacle of a divorced couple having to come back together to save their daughter from possibly living a life they previously had. However, I think the amount of “I hate you” or “I wish we were never together” or “marriage sucks” jokes this movie had were enough to fill the Chrysler Building. You can only do so many variations of the same joke and have a select few stick to the wall. Honestly, if I wanted to see a comedy where two people who are no longer married have to stick together to overcome an obstacle, I would rather watch the pilot episode of “The Orville.”
Now there are select comedy gags that are genuinely funny. There is a great hotel room layout bit that had me chuckling. Even though the “I hated our marriage” jokes are a dime a dozen, there is an occasional diamond in the rough. That said, there are funnier movies that you could watch that came out this year. If you want a better comedy with big stars, check out “The Lost City” with Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock. I watched that on a plane this year and had a great time. If you have the chance to check it out, do it. I recommend it over “Ticket to Paradise.”
Although going back to good chemistry, I thought the connection between Kaitlyn Dever and Maxime Bouttier was charming. While the connection between Clooney and Roberts may have overdone it on the comedy at times, I think the cuteness between these two was right in the goldilocks zone. Given the context of the story, I bought into Lily and Gede as a couple from the moment they were together.
Romcoms are not my genre. Although I have seen ones I liked. In fact, I recently watched the 2013 film “Enough Said” and I would recommend it. However, there is a problem I have with this romcom in particular. Based on the way everything is laid out, the movie is somewhat predictable. There is nothing wrong with a predictable storyline if you can make me like the characters or the way said storyline is done. I have said this with “Wonder Woman,” and I have recently said this with “CODA.” I do not think the writing or the characters in “Ticket to Paradise” are admirable enough to justify said predictability.
For certain audiences, I could see this maintaining a status as a comfort movie. I could see this being a movie certain individuals will find on television or a streaming service and watch on a rainy day when there is nothing else to do. As for me, I do not think it will be something I would end up watching again. Although if you want me to be real, when I left the movie, I said parts of it were good. Despite the talent in this film, “Ticket to Paradise” is not going to be nominated for any Oscars. However, I think everyone did their best with the material given to them and managed to make something that I found at the very least… Fine.
In the end, “Ticket to Paradise” is not quite the best comedy of the year, but the best way to describe this movie is to say that it is a halfway decent one time watch for me. If I bought this film on Blu-ray, I might watch it once, say it was okay, but I might end up trading it at whatever store still takes Blu-rays. Much like “Amsterdam,” the big stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts may have been a selling point for “Ticket to Paradise.” They are likable together despite the occasionally bad line here and there. Although if you ask me, “Ticket to Paradise” perhaps accomplished its goals to a greater degree than “Amsterdam” despite the latter being a movie I would watch if I knew nothing about either title. I did not think I would love this movie. And honestly, I do not love it. But I have to be real. There is some fun to be had, so I would have to give “Ticket to Paradise” a 6/10.
“Ticket to Paradise” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I will have a review for the all new DC film “Black Adam!” It has been years since this film has been announced. Is it worth the wait? We’ll see when the review drops.
Also, this Friday, October 28th, I will be concluding my official Steven Spielberg Month with my thoughts on his 2021 adaptation of “West Side Story.” I had the opportunity to rewatch the film last week so it is fresh in my memory, so I will be sharing my two cents soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ticket to Paradise?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite comedy of 2022 so far? For me, when it comes to pure comedy, it feels weird to say, but “Clerks III” might be my pick. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Throughout my time writing for Scene Before, I have done several reviews that I feel proud of. This even includes earlier years when I continued to develop a writing style and focused maybe more than I should have on immersing the viewer into the review like I am on a camera. Although there are certain movies that I watched for Scene Before, looking back, where I probably should have reconsidered at least a portion of my opinion after writing over a thousand words about them. Some of these include “Suicide Squad,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If I were to rewrite my reviews for all of these films, I would add in certain points, redo points that I feel have changed, and perhaps alter the final score. But I am not going to talk about any of these films today. Instead, I am going to be reflecting on a movie I reviewed over the winter that has sort of met the same fate. While my opinions for “Blade Runner 2049” have only changed slightly, this post is about a movie I would claim has gone through a seismic shift kind of like “Suicide Squad.”
That movie by the way, is “Belle” directed by Mamoru Hosoda.
To sum up what has been going on in my life recently, this movie has taken up over ten hours of my screen time alone. Why? Because since its official Blu-ray release, I watched it for five nights in a row. I did watch other movies in addition to this one during the week, specifically “The Graduate,” which was utterly fantastic. Highly recommended. “Rampage,” which is… Well, it is what it is. And I also watched “Friends with Benefits” for the first time, which I thought was humorous and delightful. I watched “Belle” every night for five nights since I bought it on Blu-ray on Tuesday, May 17th. Why did I not watch it for six nights in a row? Because I was going on a short getaway on what could have been the sixth night, and I did not pack the movie to watch in my hotel room. I was more focused on possibly giving my money to Connecticut casinos more than anything else. Since getting back, I watched it two more nights in a row. That said, I cannot recall the last time I have bought a film on Blu-ray and watched it at this constant of a level. Naturally, I have no choice but to talk about it.
I want to make something clear, to say I have a working knowledge of Japanese anime would be like saying that since I am from Boston, I therefore consider the New York Yankees to be my favorite baseball team. “Belle” is one of the couple movies within the Japanese anime medium that I have fully watched. The other one that comes to mind is “Ghost in the Shell.” I believe I also remember seeing “Howl’s Moving Castle” somewhere around a decade ago. That was before I knew what anime happened to be by definition. And I will be real with you, even though I did not mind “Ghost in the Shell,” which I first watched at the age of 17, it did not emit a spark inside me to explore more of what anime has to offer. “Belle” on the other hand, did so dramatically. Although after I watched “Belle” for the first time, I did start watching Adult Swim’s “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” which technically is an anime series. So since I watched “Belle,” I have gone a tad deeper into the genre, but after many countless revisits to the film “Belle,” I want more anime in my life. With that said, I want to talk about why “Belle” means so much to me as someone who has spent over half of their life on the Internet, including a portion where social media has practically taken over my life in more ways than one. I will let you know, while this is not a full spoiler discussion, I am going to do my best to not ruin the whole the movie, there will be points where I do dive deep into key characters or plot points. So if that is a problem, leave this post now, go watch “Belle,” and come back when you are done. I will be waiting. That said, let’s dive into the many reasons why I cannot stop watching “Belle.”
A MATURE REINVENTION
When I originally reviewed “Belle” for this blog, I compared it to “Beauty and the Beast” because first off, the title character is literally named Belle, well, kind of. Also, much of the movie revolves around her connection to someone who is literally referred to as a Beast. If that is not enough, there is a scene in the film that is not a complete ripoff, but heavily pays homage to Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast,” which Hosoda himself claims to adore, as the two recently mentioned characters come together in a scene where they slow dance and embrace each other in a large castle. My other claim I made during my review is that this film could potentially become less of a timeless piece than others because of how reminiscent it is of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Knowing what I know about “Belle,” the story threads are not quite one in the same. There are some similarities, especially in the one scene where Belle and the Beast dance together, but “Belle” is its own thing. “Beauty and the Beast,” at its core, is more of a love tale than anything else. “Belle” is a mix of cyberpunk, drama, and adventure.
I often talk about the animation genre and how much I appreciate when it understands what I consider to be the assignment. Because a lot of animations are made for kids, and obviously there is content out there that you can tell is specifically made for children, not for adults at all. There is content that is obviously made with the intention of educating kids. This has been revealed with television content like “Dora the Explorer.” But at the same time, there have been multiple instances where we get movies that are meant to give families an excuse to entertain their kids, but not the adults bringing the kids. This is what Pixar has evidently understood with every one of their movies. They do not treat them as children’s fare. There’s a difference between a film that kids can enjoy, and a film that families can enjoy. Even with a more ridiculous script like “Cars 2” or an occasional fart joke from movies like “Incredibles 2,” those movies are ones I continue to watch as an adult because it understands that if the movie is purely made to entertain kids, then it does not have staying power. “Inside Out” is a movie that I think could entertain children if you sat them in front of the television, but as an adult, I am watching the movie and feeling an appreciation for how it handles emotions and growth during adolescence. These are themes and ideas that can connect to anyone from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and life stories.
“Belle,” much like the many Pixar movies I have watched over the years, refuses to treat its audience like they are idiots. In fact, I think in some cases, it tries even harder to avoid doing so. There’s no corny humor, you have incredibly humanized and relatable storylines, and there are also scenes that feel more like they are out of a live-action script than an animated script. There is one moment in a train station where a few characters meet and there are these long pauses between lines that give the audience a moment to breathe, while also letting the characters think for themselves. I occasionally watch Animation Domination cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” and often notice that in their scripts, everything is mile a minute, which can work by keeping the audience on their toes, but it also destroys hints of realism. Granted, it is an animation, which by definition, should be less realistic than live-action, but I also think that sometimes even in animations, you should have some degree of verisimilitude to remind your audience that your world has rules. Not everything has to be within the confines of Murphy’s Law.
A HILARLIOUSLY ACCURATE LOOK AT THE INTERNET, CELEBRITY INFLUENCERS, AND FAN CULTURE
I honestly think “Belle” could not have come out at a better time when it did. The Internet and social media are still young, so who knows how things will turn out in a hundred years, but “Belle” seems to paint an attractive picture of what those two things could look like, while also inserting satire on our modern Internet behavior. Granted, this movie is on the family friendly side, therefore it never dives into concepts like pornography or the darker sides of dating sites like Tinder, although romance is prominent in the film, coincidentally. But I found much of “Belle’s” script unapologetically reflective of how the Internet tends to work. If anything, it is a bang on the money encapsulation of what could equate to cancel culture. Case and point, Peggie Sue.
The role Peggie Sue plays in “Belle” is minimal, but effective and important in every single way. We get our first glimpse of her when the main protagonist, Suzu, has a hesitancy to sing at a party, despite being pressured by her peers. The party space is accompanied with a flat screen television complete with Peggie Sue singing a pop song, perhaps in the form of an expensive music video or a concert. This happens before Suzu enters U and to her surprise, belts out a song with fluency and power. When Suzu, or in this case, her avatar, becomes increasingly noticed by U’s userbase, Peggie Sue herself acknowledges this and does not see anything special in the rising star. At one point, she lashes out against Belle’s popularity on a giant screen, which instantly receives tons of backlash and practically gets her cancelled. There are definitely more dangerous things she could have said. She could have mocked a disability. She could have announced she was giving money to a hate group. She could have said the n-word. But even so, this movie presents an example of the classic “think before you post” scenario, which I think many users, including myself, have probably run into at one point or another through our times on the Internet. Whether we did it ourselves, we observed such an action through someone we know, or some celebrity. But at the same time, this movie tells its audience that even if you say stupid things, it does not mean you cannot be redeemed. You can still be a decent person. There is a scene at the end of the film involving said character where we reveal more about her that brings her down to Earth where such a thing comes into play. It reminds us that we are human and we can take our mistakes and turn them around, learn from them essentially. And if you learn more about someone, sometimes it will get you to understand them, possibly admire them.
Peggie Sue is not the only prominent voice speaking out against Suzu as she rises, because when she starts singing and getting all these followers, we see that she makes a splash. It looks like Suzu, or her avatar, Bell, which is what Suzu means in English, has all the support and fans she could want. But as soon as we are done hearing all the positive feedback, Sue lets her negative thoughts out to the world, therefore spawning even more negative thoughts from ordinary people. They either do not like her voice, they think the songs are lackluster, or she is simply performing for the likes. In a case like this, it takes one higher power to build a following.
FORESEEABLE LOOK AT THE FUTURE, WHILE ALSO FOCUSING ON THE PRESENT
Speaking of Suzu, the main journey of “Belle” is Suzu’s dive into U, which I claim is a sexier version of what Meta is trying to achieve. If anything, it’s like the OASIS from “Ready Player One,” but without extreme emphasis on currency and less reliance on preexisting properties from “Batman” to “Halo.” The world of U is much different from our reality given how it is more colorful, physics are almost ignored altogether, and as the movie reveals, the platform’s trademark is that it reveals a hidden strength of each user. In the beginning of the film, we see that despite Suzu having a history with music, she sometimes struggles when it comes to singing. So of course, when we see Belle enter U, the first thing she does is, to her shock, utter the lyrics of “Gales of Song,” one of the film’s few enchanting originals. We will dive more into those in a second. Suzu’s U debut, as previously mentioned, is met with mixed reception upon first glance, half of the people passing by like her. Half do not. But this is also reflective of several music artists of today where their haters are just as prominent as their fans. You may notice this with artists like Justin Bieber or Kanye West. This also brings up a positive message when Suzu notices she has an influx of followers. When Suzu’s friend, Hiroka Betsuyaku, or Hiro for short, the one who suggested that she should join U in the first place, reminds Suzu that a good portion of the millions of people who have seen her through the platform admire her, she should not forget that. She should not let the hate, trolling, and doubt get to her.
What I love about this movie so much is that in today’s mixed Internet culture, “Belle” is a movie that reminds its audience that the Internet, despite its occasional thorns, can also be a rose of positivity. The Internet has helped me in various ways by letting me discover that I am not alone with some of my weird hobbies like riding elevators. Social media has spawned some of my best companionships. I even met a couple of friends I made on social media in real life, either through chance or by arrangement. I have gained valuable friendships through my time in high school, but I feel like my friendships through social media have helped me define who I am today more than almost any other friendship I have experienced.
Despite taking place in what I would assume happens to be present day, “Belle” also spawns a ton of questions about social media’s future, because it is revealed that in the world of U, you cannot have more than one avatar. You can alter your avatar as we notice Belle wears different outfits at various points of the story, but that avatar is the only one you have. I have gone on YouTube and noticed some people have more than one account, or sometimes on sites like Twitter, people will create different accounts for different aspects of their personality. Will we be seeing less of that if we get closer to U being a reality? That is a thought provoking question if you ask me. This film also reveals that there is still a culture of trolling on the Internet, with the Dragon and Peggie Sue being a couple of the film’s examples if you will. But one thing the film never dives into all that much is bots. The closest thing I can note that U has to bots is the Dragon’s AIs, but that’s about it. My question is, how “bot-proof” is U? Even when there are trolls in U, there is often a soul behind the one doing the trolling. Although there is probably a good reason why bots never appear in U, because the idea of U involves the user immersing themselves by activating a specific device that is meant to project themselves into U, and I am not just talking about their phone. Every U user attaches buds to their ears, bringing them into the digital landscape as their respective avatar. This is done through body-sharing technology, where the user’s biometric information is interlinked with their avatar. And while there are reflective physical traits that are represented in Suzu’s avatar, most specifically freckles, the U platform tends to provide an enhancement, a level up if you will, of one’s mentality, outlook, or experiences. In Suzu’s case, she lost her mom at a young age, which is a fraction of why she is a shadow amongst her peers. In addition, her singing skills are not up to the par she would prefer. This is why she has increased confidence and singing abilities upon entering U.
COMPELLING, POWERFUL ORIGINAL SONGS
And when you have a film like this that heavily revolves around music, chances are that the songs have to be good, otherwise the film would not be as convincing or effective. “Belle” has a few originals, all of which have their own style. The film’s main theme, U, has an incredibly poppy, upbeat, and sexy feel to it to the point where it belongs on a top 40 playlist, but feels different enough that it is not annoying. It is the kind of song you would want to hear when walking into a large nightclub. It is a perfect main theme for the film because it basically just says, “Come join U! We’re all happy here and everyone is having a good time!” It also shows how one platform can change your life in an instant. Much like how Suzu has gone from a nobody to a U diva, we have seen tons of unexpected personalities on platforms like YouTube or TikTok over the years.
“So, linе up, the party’s over here Come one, come all, jump into the fire Step up, we are whatever we wanna be We are free, that’s all we desire When you pass through the veil of fantasy There’s a world with a rhythm for you and me.”
At the same time though, it is a perfect metaphor for the Internet itself. There is a lyric in the song, specifically “I wanna know who you are, I wanna know it all,” which is not only reflective of the developed mystery behind Belle’s identity, but it reminds me of many of my relationships on the Internet. I feel like through the Internet I get to know a certain version of a person, but I would secretly love to meet them in real life to get to know the real them.
When Suzu enters U, she first sings a piece titled Gales of Song, which compared to the film’s previously mentioned main theme, perhaps relies significantly less on lyrics. Gales of Song is perfectly executed when first introduced because it is simple enough, and has enough pauses to allow Suzu to adapt to her avatar. It is like when you get inside a car for the first time and you are learning how to drive. It takes Suzu a second to understand all the mechanics, but when she starts getting the hang of things, that is when she gets increased attention from U’s userbase, both positive and negative. Lend Me Your Voice is a song that could have gone wrong because of how the scene it links to sort of pays homage to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but the orchestral power of the song hits hard, and the lyrics are occasionally on the verge of heart-wrenching. And speaking of heart-wrenching, don’t even get me started on the film’s longest and perhaps most important song, A Million Miles Away, which I previously awarded the Jackoff for Best Original Song during this year’s ceremony. To this day, it is one of the only songs I have heard to make me wipe tears from my face because when you watch the movie, it is THAT powerful.
That last song goes to show this film’s power of silence, because some of its best moments are simply when there is little to no dialogue, we are just watching people doing things. When we first see Suzu and her mother early on in the film, there is this wonderfully edited montage of the two doing things together, which shows Suzu developing a knack for music. There is no spoken dialogue, just a soft variant of A Million Miles Away. I even go back to the moments where characters have specific pauses while talking, allowing for some genuine lifelike reactions. The scene in the train station with a few core characters, Suzu included, comes to mind. But even within these lifelike reactions, we see some heightened emotions or cues that allow animation to shine. I will not go into much detail, but this movie is not short on blushed cheeks or visible tears.
And I am constantly talking about the film’s lyrical songs for good reason, but I should also note that the official score for “Belle” contains one of the best utilizations of stringed instruments I have EVER heard.
STUNNING CINEMATOGRAPHY, ANIMATION
Technically speaking, “Belle” is literally what the name means, beautiful. Many of the film’s wides are ingrained in my memory. The world of U is a place I could imagine myself diving into in the future. Belle’s outfits in U are astoundingly eye-popping. As depressing as the real world may be in comparison, this film has some gorgeously drawn locations. It kind of makes me want to travel to rural Japan to see what it is actually like. My favorite shot in the film however, if not one of my favorite shots, is probably set in U, when we see a closeup of Suzu singing A Million Miles Away, staring into the distance when her surroundings turn dark. It is the simplest shot of all time, but for some reason, Suzu’s concentration on what lies ahead is evident. My reason for liking this shot is potentially because of a certain context, but as much as I may be revealing about this film, there are some things I would rather keep hidden, such as moments of the scene where said shot takes place.
To me, one of the most visible reasons why I adore “Belle” so much is the same basis behind why I loved another recent film, “CODA,” from the moment I saw it. They are two completely different films by several means, and in various ways, their protagonists are significantly unalike. For example, Suzu doesn’t have any deaf family members or friends, as far as we know. And “CODA’s” protagonist, Ruby Rossi, still communicates with her parents on a regular basis. Her mother is still alive, and even though the movie shows some occasional resistance between her parental relationships, Ruby has a steady connection with her father. “Belle” is a movie that allows its main hero to show off what makes them ordinary, and therefore have that mundaneness make them extraordinary. This is especially true in the climax of the film when Suzu sings A Million Miles Away. We learn more about what this song is, and that added dose made the scene go from great to… not to continue the overuse of this word, cinema. Simultaneously, Suzu has millions of followers on U, she barely talks to her dad anymore, and she spends several scenes with a talking dragon. There are some definite differences between the two protagonists, but at the end of the day, Suzu’s normality, what makes her human, what makes Suzu, quite literally Suzu, allows her to persevere later in the film’s runtime. This also highlights a notable trait about the Internet. And this trait is especially true when it comes to the Beast, as many characters have questions about his identity. That trait being how not everyone really knows who you are on the Internet. We constantly build these images of people and what we think they are like. Maybe they are incredibly wealthy. Maybe they are a predator. Maybe they are younger than they advertise themselves to be. We do not know everything about everyone. This is why sometimes I may do research on certain people before talking to them, or if there is a public figure on social media, I make an effort to ensure that they are verified.
Some of my favorite movies in recent years have been animated, because despite their otherworldly nature, they have an attractive down to earth element that sometimes is not as effective in live-action. If we are not talking about “Belle,” the most effective example that comes to mind is “Over the Moon,” which is currently on Netflix. The reason why I found that movie down to earth despite mostly taking place in space is because it is a movie I think my 13, 14, 15-year-old self would have needed to watch at those specific ages. Because I was going through a tough time where my parents were no longer in love, and there were specific story elements or beats that reminded me of that time and felt completely relatable. In the same way, maybe not as much, but nevertheless, I think “Belle” is a movie I would have shown to my 15, 16-year-old self, because I was new to social media at the time. I had an idea of how it worked, but I did not realize how addicted I may have been to it. Sure, there were many positives to it like meeting new people, finding new friends, joining a community. But I also did not realize how much I cared about followers. I cared more than I should have. I thought I was cool when in reality I may have just been desperate for attention. And I am not saying that it is a bad thing to have tons of followers, but I feel like this movie could have been a reminder to myself that maybe I should not have tried as hard to worry about getting followers. It’s like the famous quote in “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.” In the same way, Suzu started out as a nobody, and one unexpected turn of events turned her into a somebody, even if that somebody was an alternate version of her.
I think “Belle” is a film that paints a picture of the Internet and shows its strengths. Because by the end of the film, it allows people to come together in a way that delivers a positive impact. It shows how the Internet can change people’s lives and make them better despite some occasional toxicity on a number of sides.
POSSIBLE IMPERFECTIONS WITHIN A FLAWED MASTERPIECE
I think if there are any flaws with “Belle,” it would be three things, but they do not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. There are such things as flawed masterpieces. “Risky Business” is one of my favorite films of all time, but I will tell you that the last scene feels incredibly out of place. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade, but even I will admit that the film owes its success to the original installment it tends to copy. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the most beautifully violent, outrageously balls to the wall movies I have ever watched, but you could quite literally remove Margot Robbie’s character from the script and have little to no effect on the overall plot. That said, let’s dive into my few issues with “Belle,” if you want to call them that. Because in some cases, I also claim they do not bother me that much.
The first issue I have is specifically with the English dub. I do not speak Japanese, but it sounded fine on the Japanese version. When I watched this film at home a few times in English, there was one key line from Justin, or Justian if you watched the Japanese version, it sounded incredibly important, but much of what he said was muffled over all of the music. It was GREAT music, but nevertheless. Who directed this scene? Christopher Nolan?! For all I know, it could be my television, but the sound on it has been pretty good by itself over the years without any external speakers or sound bars, so who knows? The second flaw, and this is perhaps a more important issue that could also be seen as a strength, I think the relationship between Suzu and her father was kind of surface level. Not much was shown to reveal their distance. I think it almost makes me forget sometimes that they are drift apart, mainly because it is such a small part of this two hour movie. But at the same time, you could make an argument that such a thing was kind of the point. The movie wants you to realize that these two individuals barely talk to each other despite living together. And in a way, the movie successfully did that. So that is a tossup. The other, flaw, if you will, is not something that bothered me specifically, but I could see it bothering other people. Not that I have seen anyone bringing it up. There is a character in the film by the name of Shinobu, and despite his best intentions, there are a couple scenes where his connection to Suzu could come off as maybe closer than it should. From his eyes, he kind of sees himself as someone who tries to protect Suzu. This is something he has done for her since her mom died. It’s a friendly gesture, but it could also be overprotective. In a way, since Suzu’s mom died, Shinobu filled said mother’s shoes from time to time. The movie does address this though, and it shows that Suzu realizes this and at one point refuses to let this get in her way. So I would not consider it a big deal, but having seen one or two moments in the film, I could see certain viewers having a particular perception of Shinobu’s character or his connection to Suzu that maybe I did not. The movie is bound to age well if you ask me despite its influence from “Beauty and the Beast,” but I will remind you, this film is not a ripoff of a classic tale, if anything it is a reinvention. It is not a love story, it is a cautionary human drama that warns its viewers to be careful in regard to what they see, do, and say on the Internet. Or in some cases, in real life.
I highly recommend “Belle” to almost anyone, and I kind of mean that because anime was never my genre. I have a history of enjoying animated content, but not much from Japan. Now that I have seen this movie, it has opened my eyes to more of what Japan has to offer, including Mamoru Hosoda’s library, which I hear is incredible. I want to go ahead and check out some of his other movies. This is one of the few animated movies I have seen that I feel like is specifically not made for children. I think kids should watch it if the chance comes around, I think it is an important movie that everyone should watch at least one point in their life, especially now with the Metaverse expanding more than ever. The songs are catchy, well-written, and obnoxiously powerful. I do not often cry during movies, but the scene with A Million Miles Away is a literal tearjerker, so if you cry during movies, prepare yourself. I said that this is not a redo of my review, but if it were, I would be giving the movie a 10/10, because each time I watch the film, the more I realize I like it. I have gotten completely attached to Suzu as a character even though we have our differences. She is a perfect protagonist for this world, and this movie took her in a direction that enhanced its lesson to the audience. Just because someone is popular, it does not mean that they are a narcissist. It does not mean that they are the kind of person some would make them out to be. Heck, I did not even talk about Ruka in this post and that is a whole other topic I could have gotten into. And instead of explaining everything about Ruka, I will let you see for yourself. Because “Belle” is now available on various home video formats including DVD and Blu-ray, if you have not gotten a chance to watch “Belle,” find a chance as soon as possible, because it is worth your time. It is one of my favorite animated movies, and with enough rewatches, it could potentially be in the conversation for one of my favorite movies period.
Thanks for reading this post! If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other ones, including several of my reviews. One of my reviews is for the new Nicolas Cage film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” or you could even read my most recent review, which is for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which is officially in theaters as of this weekend. If you want to see more non-review posts, please check out my response to movie theaters, and why I think they should play fewer trailers before the feature presentation. To find out my first impression of “Belle,” you can read my review that I posted in January! Hope you like it! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, also check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, like I asked in my review, did you see “Belle?” What did you think about it? Also, I want to ask a question for the anime fans reading this, because I want to dive further into the genre. What anime products do you recommend? Let me know, because I am always looking for suggestions! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Licorice Pizza” is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread, The Master) and stars Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk), Tom Waits (The Old Man & the Gun, The Dead Don’t Die), Bradley Cooper (Guardians of the Galaxy, A Star is Born), and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems, Good Time). This film follows the connection between Alana Kane and Gary Valentine, not to be confused with the guy who plays Danny on “King of Queens,” as they spend time together in the San Fernando Valley in 1973.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a name I have not followed as much as other directors, and it is something I feel guilty of doing in regards to my film watching journey. Not only because he is an acclaimed name, but he also went to Emerson College, which I was probably going to attend had I gotten past the waitlist. So he has a bit of history in Boston, which as someone who lives near the Massachusetts state capital, is something I take a bit too seriously. I’ve seen “The Master” towards the end of the 2010s, but that’s all I have watched from him. I remember it being magnificently shot, but the story is not something that stuck with me to this day. I still need to watch “There Will Be Blood,” I own copies of “Inherent Vice” and “Phantom Thread” and still need to watch those. I still haven’t seen “Boogie Nights!” There are quite a few directors I have gotten around to over the years in terms of catching up on their filmography, but Paul Thomas Anderson fails to make the list.
When I saw the trailer for “Licorice Pizza,” I thought it sort of nailed the nostalgic aspect. The film takes place in the 1970s, and not only does it get a thumbs up for the production design that reminds me of walking into my grandparents’ house, but some of the music is okay as well. I think this film from a presentation point of view, checks a lot of boxes. It looks like it is from its focal decade, the acting, despite the leads having no evidential experience, is top-notch. For all I know, it could be on Anderson’s part. If I have learned anything from James Gunn over the years, he can take an actor with less experience like John Cena and make them pop. The best thing I can say about “Licorice Pizza” is that Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman give good performances regardless of the material that’s given to them.
I’m not using that last sentence lightly, because “Licorice Pizza” is probably the most uncomfortable I have felt watching a movie in some time. Okay, well, maybe not as uncomfortable as “Music,” that s*it was downright personal. I live in the age of social media and in my teens I would talk to people far from my age group and nothing weird happened. Although I believe it is commonly agreed upon that adults should not be dating teens that are ten years apart in age. Gary in this film is 15 years old and Alana is 25.
Do you see the problem?
Now, if Alana was 18, that would be one thing, because that’s also technically an adult, but she is also old enough to still be in high school, just like Gary. TWENTY-FIVE?! The film is kind of a back and forth sort of thing in terms of the romance, where Gary sometimes claims Alana’s his girlfriend, but then the two go back to calling each other “business partners” or something else, but I honestly could not justify myself liking the character of Gary. Because when I think of these sorts of relationships, maybe I’m thinking the adult is in the wrong of dating someone that is significantly younger than them. But with Gary, he’s a literal pervert, and he’s not afraid to hide it. And he’s not a cool pervert like Ron Burgundy who has some personality, granted the movie he’s in respectively has a different vibe, but every time I look at Gary and he says some other line, I want to put some tape over his mouth.
Look, I’m a guy, and it is scientifically evident that guys love anything that has to do with sex. We are revolting creatures. But oh my god. Gary is a downright creep who I occasionally wanted to punch in the face throughout this film’s poorly paced runtime. Seriously, it felt like it was 15 or 30 minutes longer than it actually was. If it’s not about getting to see Alana’s boobs, it’s about making money. Downright power. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Now, I’ve seen “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort in that film has a semi-similar personality, but he’s also proven that he can be chill, he can be cool. Granted Belfort’s not a teenager, that’s one big difference. Even so, I never got that positive vibe from Gary. I felt like he was trying too hard to be cool when in reality, he felt disgusting.
Now, and I cannot believe I have to say this on a blogging platform that my family reads… I don’t think Paul Thomas Anderson is interested in showing his junk to young girls. I mean, if the genders were reversed, where Alana sees a 25 year old Gary’s junk, who knows? I am comfortable with a storyline about sexual exploration, it’s not something I wouldn’t expect out of some coming of age tales, but this was poorly executed in the worst way possible. I would not want Gary as my friend, and I would want out of any matters involving him if he ever tried to get into Alana’s pants.
One of the most important things about a romance film is that the two leads are likable. I don’t even like their characters by themselves all that much, and even less so together. Because despite what I’ve been saying about Gary coming off as a creep, movies have shown how characters can develop and change. Compared to some other films that I’ve seen, including another recent 1970s nostalgia fest, “The Tender Bar,” I could not really catch onto much character development, especially from Gary. I think Alana’s character has some moments where I could feel her emotion, her stress, the want to escape from reality and other people, but it’s barely enough to make this movie the slightest bit watchable.
If I had any other positives to give “Licorice Pizza,” it is that Bradley Cooper shines as Jon Peters. He honestly came off as a bit of a drugged-up Hugh Hefner type. I think his presence in the film allows the costume design to show its power. Cooper was well directed by Anderson and I would not have minded seeing more of him.
In the end, “Licorice Pizza” is a film that I was looking forward to, but as soon as they stated the age difference, that was an immediate turnoff. This harkens back to the saying that first impressions matter. And if you think this is my only problem with the movie, I’ll mention once again that this movie could have been fifteen to thirty minutes shorter. The movie occasionally dragged, it felt boring. Gary Valentine is by no means a likable character. In fact, he’s probably the character that I hate the most of any project I’ve watched in the past 12 months or so. If you think “West Side Story” was worth skipping because of the Ansel Elgort controversy, I will not stop you from doing that. But based on the fictional elements presented in “Licorice Pizza,” this is a film that part of me wishes I could have skipped. It’s barely any fun, it’s creepy, and I wish the script was good enough to match the amazing talents of some of the actors on screen. I’ll probably go back and watch some of Anderson’s work like “Phantom Thread,” but I hope his next project, whenever that comes out, won’t be as off-putting as this. If you want a 1970s nostalgia fest, just go watch “The Tender Bar.” It’s on Prime Video, and worth your time. I’m going to give “Licorice Pizza” a 4/10.
“Licorice Pizza” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! This week I’m going to be watching the all new Japanese animated film, “Belle.” I have heard nothing but good things about this flick, and I am quite curious to see how it is. I will have a review coming soon, and if you want to see more content like this, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Licorice Pizza?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film, one specifically that IS NOT in the horror genre, that genuinely makes you uncomfortable? For me, I’d say that would be “Music,” which I literally talked about in my worst of the year list a couple weeks ago! Let me know your pick down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The French Dispatch” is directed by Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore) and stars Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Usual Suspects), Adrien Brody (King Kong, Predators), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, The Deep End), Léa Seydoux (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Spectre), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Fargo), Timothee Chalamet (Interstellar, Little Women), Lyna Khoudri (Papicha, The Specials), Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, What If…?), Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, Sound of Metal), Steve Park (Do the Right Thing, Warrior), Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Stripes), and Owen Wilson (Loki, Cars). This film is a compilation of a few different written stories brought to life, all of which are told in The French Dispatch.
It’s been nearly a month since I watched this film, but before I went in, I’ve seen a number of Wes Anderson’s flicks. Much like Quentin Tarantino, Anderson has a distinct directorial style that I have not seen from anyone else. He shoots a number of his films with shots containing vibrant colors up the wazoo. One of his more recent pictures, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which I enjoyed, shows a mix of aspect ratios from 4:3 to traditional scope widescreen. He has a flair to his work that if I were a director I almost want to resist at the risk of being deemed a copycat. But just because his quirks are obviously present in his directorial style, does not mean that the story in his films are sacrificed. Months ago, I put on “Moonrise Kingdom” for the first time and safe to say, I really enjoyed the connection the two main kids had with one another. The writing had this feel to it that explained everything you needed to know, but felt satisfyingly minimalistic. I don’t really have another way to describe it.
I was rather excited for “The French Dispatch.” I thought the marketing was decent, and hopefully it would be worth the wait after COVID-19 pushed this film back, just like everything else. Having seen it, I honestly think it is on the lower tier of Wes Anderson’s library. This does not say much however, because much like Christopher Nolan and Pixar, an inferior movie from Wes Anderson is still a movie many would kill to make. “The French Dispatch” is interestingly told because it’s not exactly one story, it’s a story that influenced the display of other stories. It kind of reminded me of the “Treehouse of Horror” specials that “The Simpsons” do every Halloween, although in this case it’s not the same characters in each story. I say that because the film is essentially a few different stories all told in the same newspaper. Each one has its set of main subjects, and they’re all after different goals. I kind of like this style of storytelling because there are a lot of movies that I watch nowadays where you have one character and their goals, everything feels very important. This feels lighthearted and fun, but it’s also not over the top. At the end of the day, the movie’s goal is to make the viewer have fun, which I did. Although that also brings in a minor complaint, even though there are characters that sew all the stories together, “The French Dispatch” does not have a specific character that I can look back on and remember as the center of the story, at least one that is particularly interesting when it comes to those at the French Dispatch. And frankly, even though these characters have their quirks, some of which may be due to Wes Anderson’s directing style, there is not one I can say I loved more than any other. This movie has so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. It especially does not help when you’re reviewing the movie nearly a month after seeing it.
Although just because there are so many characters that it makes the cast for a “Lord of the Rings” movie look small, does not mean that I did not enjoy any of the three stories. All of them were in fact, very good. I was delighted by all of them. The Concrete Masterpiece, which is a pretty creative title, is an interesting look at an artist who has to do time while also focusing on his work. Although of the few main stories, it was probably my least favorite. Revision to a Manifesto was wonderfully quirky, very Wes Anderson-esque. I loved the idea of a chessboard revolution, I would have never thought of that. Then again, I never play chess. If you put me in front of a chess board and it was my turn, I’d just slap the opponent’s pieces off the board and shout “Yay! I win!”
I would never fare well in a chess tournament.
The Private Dining Room with the Police Commissioner, which was the final story told of the bunch, was also a ridiculously entertaining piece of writing brought to life (even if it is fiction). I also think they did a good job at segmenting these stories in a certain way, because if you watch the movie, the real thing that connects all these stories together is the fact that they are presented in the same news outlet and are set in similar spots. There is not one specific story that has a main character that is directly tied to another, so they could have played around with all of them in whatever order they choose, but I think in terms of giving this film a satisfying conclusion, this final story was the best one, because not only is it, for what I recall, probably the most action-packed of all the stories presented, but it ends in such a way that is fitting for a finale. Not the story itself, but the aftermath of it where the people are talking about it. I will not go into detail about it, because I would rather have you see the movie yourself and be entertained by it.
If I had anything else to say about the film, I do think it did a good job with both the costuming and makeup. For the record, this film came out in a limited number of theaters the same weekend “Dune” had its wide release, so I got to see Timothee Chalamet (right) in two films on the same weekend. I could tell who Timothee Chalamet was on screen, but at times, at least from my eyes, he did not look like his real self. He looked like he could actually age a bit. But at times he’d also revert back to someone younger. It’s hard to describe. His outfit felt distinguished and he looked like he had his hair done a bit. His outlook was striking, and maybe having “Dune” come out at the same time had something to do with it, but it caught my attention nevertheless.
In the end, “The French Dispatch” is a delightful film that even though it is not Wes Anderson’s best work, is one I am looking back on with a smile. To be frank, as I wrote this review, I thought it would be fun to maybe watch it a second time. Maybe not in a theater, unless nothing else was out and I wanted to use my A-List for a free film. Either way, Wes Anderson made a delightful movie. The cast is incredible, although I wish I remembered all the characters. Although maybe that’s the advantage of a repeat viewing in this case. There’s so many characters, that they can only be appreciated in multiple viewings. I’m going to give “The French Dispatch” a 7/10.
“The French Dispatch” is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to look forward to my reviews for “Last Night in Soho,” “Eternals,” “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” and “King Richard.” I cannot wait to get these reviews out for you all. I was gonna go see “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” this weekend, although I don’t know if I have the time. I was planning on seeing it with a couple other people, but it’s more or less a matter of what time works for them, as opposed to me. So a review may be coming, but I won’t be seeing it right now. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The French Dispatch?” What did you think about it? Or, since I brought it up… What is your favorite “Treehouse of Horror” segment from “The Simpsons?” My favorite would probably have to be “Citizen Kang,” the one that coincided with the 1996 U.S. Presidential Election. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Reminiscence” is written and directed by Lisa Joy (Westworld, Burn Notice) and stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Greatest Showman), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The White Queen), Thandiwe Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Cliff Curtis (Missing, Fear the Walking Dead), Marina de Tavira (Roma, Ana and Bruno), Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands, Tomb Raider) and this film is set in the future when climate change has severely affected Miami. During this time, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is part of a business responsible for a machine called the tank, which allows people to go back in time and see older memories. One day, a client named Mae comes in looking for her missing keys. Shortly after, Nick and Mae become romantically involved, although Nick’s co-worker, Emily “Watts” Sanders does not trust Mae and wants to do anything she can to keep Nick from seeing her. In addition, Nick spends time revisiting past memories in the tank involving his love interest, which could trap him forever.
Well, that took some time to explain now didn’t it… I’ve been looking forward to “Reminiscence” for a number of reasons. It’s from my favorite studio, Warner Brothers, despite how they’ve stabbed the backs of theater owners this year. It’s got a decent cast with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in starring roles. But I also really like the concept this movie tries to deliver. Sometimes going into this movie, it would remind me and a few other people of a Christopher Nolan flick. In fact on the surface, it really does feel like that. The color grading and sets feel like something out of “Inception” or “Tenet,” and much like those two movies, this film has a concept that mixes action, romance, and transportation to another reality. The trailer for this film was not too bad, although I have seen better. The way they edited it though made it feel like it was somewhere outside our world even though it really was in our not so far future, and the action did look pretty sick.
Another reason why this looks like a Christopher Nolan movie… Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother, was one of the film’s producers. And this should not be surprising, after all, he is the director’s wife! Hollywood, everybody! It’s about WHO you know! Not always what ya know! Granted, Jonathan Nolan had no writing or directing credits by the end of the product, Lisa Joy wrote and directed this film on her own, but it would not surprise me if some of his touch made it into the final product.
But going back to what I said about “Inception” and “Tenet,” as much as I like both movies. And I do. …Very much. I would say that “Inception” is clearly the better film because at the end of “Tenet,” I’m left amazed, but also wondering how certain things came about in that film because it is one of the most beautifully confusing things I ever watched.
“Reminiscence,” to me, even though the concept was somewhat, well, reminiscent, of “Inception,” kind of felt like it belonged in the same category as “Tenet.” As a high-concept sci-fi film, it is nice to observe, but there were still some loose ends that needed tying.
That’s what I would say if “Reminiscence” weren’t so goddamn forgettable! I would have reviewed this earlier if I had the motivation and time, because I did watch this film days after it came out, but I waited until this point because this is just the way things lined up. And now that I’ve had as much time as I did to think about this film, I think I may have spent more time thinking about the film I watched before this one, “Don’t Breathe 2.”
I really like the concept of “Reminiscence.” To have people go back and revisit their favorite memories, especially in a future where it seems that there are no positive memories left to create, is fascinating. I honestly wish a machine like this existed because it does seem to be safer than time travel and there are fun memories that I would love to revisit for one reason or another. I would love to go back to my first visit to New York City or one of my flocks to Salisbury Beach. Those were fun times and I would love to relive those. In fact, the more I think about what this movie is trying to do, it kind of succeeds at communicating that people do not see rainbows and unicorns in the future and would do anything to revisit their past. I just wish the story involving all of these elements happened to be more attractive. You know, kind of like Rebecca Ferguson in this movie. Props to the costume design on this film, a couple of her looked legit.
“Reminiscence” does not have the best screenplay of the year. At least in terms of visual execution. But there is one line that is repeated throughout the film that I found intriguing.
“No such thing as a happy ending. All endings are sad. Especially if the story was happy.”
Believe it or not, there is some truth to that. This is perhaps a slightly more artistic way of saying “Nothing lasts forever,” or “We all die at some point,” or “There will come a day where you will hate something that ‘Star Wars’ puts out.” I think this is a great quote, even if the script leaves a bit to be desired.
Technically speaking, this is not a bad looking film. Some of the shots are majestic, and kind of have a feel that harkened back to not just the couple of Nolan films I mentioned, but I’d even bring up “Blade Runner” and “The Shape of Water” as goto comparisons.
If anything, “Reminiscence” was an idea that had wasted potential. Aside from the concept, which I mentioned earlier, the film comes in with a stacked cast from Hugh Jackman to Thandiwe Newton. These are all-stars, and they’re working on one of the most uninteresting sci-fi flicks of the past few years.. The one thing that I wonder is that even though Lisa Joy has been in the visual entertainment industry for some time, is if she was truly ready to take on a movie like this. Because most of her work has been through television. I’m not saying that Lisa Joy should be forbidden from directing, writing, or working on a film if she so desired, but I wondered how out of her comfort zone something like this could have been for her. What else has she directed? One episode of “Westworld?” Okay… I mean, I’ll say in her defense, HBO programming usually has a higher price tag, standard, and more cinematic feel compared to most television shows. I’ll give her that. But I think if you were to direct a film like this, which is not the most expensive thing in the world, but it is by no means cheap, I think you would want someone with more experience in the director’s chair to pull this off. I am glad that women are getting more opportunities to direct, but I wonder if Lisa Joy should have just stuck to the screenplay and let someone else bring her vision to life. Because despite my complaints about the screenplay, the original script for this film was on the 2013 Black List of most-liked unmade screenplays. This film had a lot going for it. I’m glad Lisa Joy could get her movie out there, but my god I wish it were better.
In the end, “Reminiscence” by no means the worst movie of the year. In fact, I think at this point I’d rather watch this again as opposed to some other recent Warner Brothers titles like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Tom & Jerry.” Then again, this may come with a bias towards sci-fi. I had very little connection to the other two projects going into them with the exception of liking one of the trailers for the former. As for “Reminiscence,” it had plenty going for it from the marketing (even though they did not spend much money on it), the people in it, and the concept. But in the end, it all feels like a waste. I’m going to give “Reminiscence” a 4/10.
“Reminiscence” is now playing in theaters and it is also on the ad-free tier of HBO Max for a limited time.
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.” I wanted to get this out a bit earlier, but life has been busy, so I’ve been holding this review off for some time. I do want to let everyone know that I already did see the movie, AND I am seeing it again tonight, which unfortunately may spoil part of my thoughts regarding the film itself, but either way, look forward to my review when it drops! Also, be sure to check out my review for “Malignant,” whenever that drops as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Reminiscence?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film that you think has a great concept with terrible execution? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome one and all to the final installment to “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review,” the exclusive Scene Before series where Jack Drees reviews all four “Revenge of the Nerds” movies, including the two that were made for television. So far, I have called “Revenge of the Nerds” “a somewhat positive anthem for a community I consider myself to be a part of.” I have followed that up with my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” which I considered to be “a genuinely forgettable, underwhelming, and disappointing time.” As for “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation,” I thought it was a “a barely watchable feature.” So far, even though I reference this franchise for the positive things it has done for me, it has had more misses than hits so far when it comes to making quality movies. Once in the theater, once on television. Apparently, “The Next Generation” is not the only foray into television for this franchise as the film we are going to be talking about, “Nerds in Love,” was also made for the small screen. Let’s dive into my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love!”
“Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” is directed by Steve Zacharias, who has also written this film in addition to the three previous “Revenge of the Nerds” installments. This film stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead, Risky Business), Julia Montgomery (One Life to Live, The Kindred), Corrine Bohrer (Free Spirit, Man of the People), Jessica Tuck (One Life to Live, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), and Robert Picardo (The Wonder Years, China Beach). This is the fourth installment in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise and this time the film is centered around the character of Dudley “Booger” Dawson (Curtis Armstrong). Booger is about to marry a girl by the name of Jeanie. Only thing is, when Booger is introduced to Jeanie’s family for the first time, he does not let off the finest first impression. As Booger and Jeanie intend to marry in a matter of days, the latter’s father does everything he can to end the marriage before it begins.
As much as I have wanted to talk about the “Revenge of the Nerds” films for a long time, one thing that must have slipped out of the back of my mind is how bad the sequels are. Now I’ve seen worse films compared to both “Revenge of the Nerds II” and “Revenge of the Nerds III,” but occasionally, watching them felt like work. Narratively, these sequels are flat and barely scratch any surfaces. The second film had some okay storytelling in parts, but the third one felt like we were revisiting the original film but the vibe that the original film presents is watered down. The first “Revenge of the Nerds” movie is the only one that is rated R and I wish we got more movies in the franchise like that despite some controversies that have risen from said movie today. But in 1994, I guess an executive at Fox was out of new ideas and wanted to revisit this franchise again on television, like last time.
I will say one thing about the two television films. When I saw “Revenge of the Nerds III” for the first time, I thought it was actually okay for what it was. Maybe I was in a certain mood at the time while watching it, I don’t know. But I cannot say the same for the fourth film. When I first watched “Revenge of the Nerds IV” in 2017, the tone was set from the beginning. It is probably as awkward as inviting Booger to your Thanksgiving dinner.
Now as you may have read in my review for “Revenge of the Nerds III,” I thought the film was worse the second time I watched it. With that being said, some of you may refer to insanity as repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Here’s the thing about “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” The results are different compared to “Revenge of the Nerds III.” They’re worse.
Like “Revenge of the Nerds III,” I cannot hold this movie to as high of a standard compared to the first two films as it was made for television. But also like “Revenge of the Nerds III,” this fourth entry lacks any of the charm and luster that the first film maintained throughout its runtime. What made the first film fun was that it was raw, raunchy, sexy, while also being an enjoyable anthem for the nerd community by the end. When you make these sequels for a format that relies on a smaller screen and more restrictions, that hurts a film like this. Because one of the first film’s fundamental elements, one so fundamental that I’ll remind you that fundamental has the word “fun” in it for a reason, the naughty nature within it all is downgraded within the guidelines of television. There are still raunchy moments to be had, but compared to some of the stuff that goes down in the first film, it feels kind of tame.
Given the lack of Anthony Edwards over the years in these films, most of the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies have been about Lewis so far. And while this film once again stars Robert Carradine as said character in a prominent role, it’s not necessarily about him. The real star of the show this time is Booger, which is an… Interesting choice.
Look, I *love* Curtis Armstrong. Objectively, I think it can be stated that I like him more as a performer than a lot of people in my generation. But even with him being the star of the show, who plays the role of Booger to the best of his ability, his character just feels weird as a star. Maybe it is because I’m a creature of habit and am used to seeing him a bit further in the background, but despite how this story revolves around Booger, it presents the reasons why watching a story with a character like this kind of feels… just plain awkward. The more I think about it, Booger could be good as maybe the star of a television series. Perhaps an animated one if we really wanted to go there, but as the star of “Revenge of the Nerds IV,” he feels kind of tacky and off-putting. And my thoughts on this movie were perhaps solidified from the start, because the first lines out of Booger’s mouth are just… Eugh. So, he’s over at his fiancée’s parents’ home and the first words out of Booger’s mouth, right in front his fiancée and her family, is…
“Buns. Give me buns! Buns, may I have them please?! Give me buns! Moo! Moo!”
I love Curtis Armstrong. I REALLY DO. I’ve met him in person a few times for a reason. But I think this may be hands down one of the most cringeworthy lines he has been given as an actor. Granted, the more I think about it, it kind of fits with his character. A perverted, nose-picking goofball who looks like he has not showered since the Ice Age. At the same time though, regardless of my journey of watching this franchise from start to finish, my reaction to Booger in this moment feels like that of the parents of the bride. In the other movies, Booger has always been kind of a creep, but a lovable creep. I kind of use a similar analogy for a lot for characters with low IQs. Look at Homer Simpson, look at Patrick Star, look at Brick from “Anchorman!” Yes, they’re idiots, but they’re lovable idiots that you can also find charming or hilarious. Booger, at least in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is just… Well, a creep. Sure, the movie eventually tries to get you to feel bad for him and root for him, but the film’s plot and characters leave a bit to be desired, especially compared to the original. Again, it’s just weird because Booger is not a nerd in the sense that say Lewis is. Lewis, even though I have pointed out his dark side here and there, is a glasses-wearing, pocket protector-donning, high IQ, well-dressed enthusiast of anything computers. He’s not exactly like everyone, but he has likable or relatable qualities that people can find fascinating.
There’s movies that are like roller coasters. So exciting that you never want the unpredictable ride to stop. But this film just introduces one thing after the other and it feels really heavy! I could use a lot of words to describe “Revenge of the Nerds IV,” complicated is surprisingly one of them. The film itself is not confusing, but it’s one of those scenarios where I just don’t care about what happens in the film as we get closer to the end. You ever watch a movie and already think it’s bad enough, then something weird or crazy happens in the end and you just don’t give a single crap? That’s what I felt while watching “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” Feels odd saying that, but it’s true.
One of my dislikes of “Revenge of the Nerds III” was that the supporting cast was not as attractive as those in the original film. The new cast members that join the table in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” are not as fun to watch as Lamar or Takashi, but they honestly evoke a more joyful presence than a lot of people who made their first appearance in “Revenge of the Nerds III.” I think Corrine Bohrer does an okay job as Booger’s fiancee, Jeanie. Her character or performance was never boring, but unfortunately she was just a small segment of an underwhelming script.
I mentioned this in my previous review, but I will say it again, one thing I’ve noticed about these movies, specifically in the sequels is that the main objective of the antagonist is to get in the protagonist’s way simply because of their nerd status. While this is also a thing in the original film, there felt like there was a reason for the jocks and nerds to be rivals aside from them having different personalities and views of the world. The jocks create a catalyst for the nerds to fight back and it all starts by them invading the freshman dorm because the Alpha Beta house burned down. When the nerds already have the upper hand and the antagonist takes them on JUST because they’re nerds, I think it’s just lazy writing. In fact, you could almost argue that this movie was created in the end just to be a gimmick, because at the time it came out, Fox showcased the film in 3D and with aroma-vision. Sure, maybe it’s an okay ratings ploy, but it’s a gimmick nevertheless. I will say though, the motivation of the antagonist in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is slightly better in terms of development compared to the antagonistic side in “Revenge of the Nerds III” as we see Booger himself let out a poor impression to Jeanie’s parents, but it’s still pretty lazy compared to the first movie.
This film is directed by Steve Zacharias, who has not had much directing experience prior to “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” Zacharias is not a bad writer as he did get credit for writing the original “Revenge of the Nerds,” but as a director… I mean, the movie is competently filmed. But that’s the best thing I can say about it in regards to how it looks. If anything, Zacharias is basically Simon Kinberg before Simon Kinberg. He’s been involved in creating a number of the Fox “X-Men” films, but he waited until one of the more recent outings, “Dark Phoenix,” to take the director’s chair. Just because you’ve been involved on the creative side of a property for a long time does not mean you may end up having the knack to handle all production duties. Some people are writers, some people are directors. Some can be both. Zacharias is more of a writer. Granted I will also state that the screenplay for “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is a waste of time and space, but nevertheless.
In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is yet another bad sequel in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise. So far, in terms of positivity, the franchise is one for four. It’s really sad to say because that first film has meant something to me over the years. The sequels honestly failed to recapture the spirit and fun that the first movie successfully delivered. I love the original film perhaps a lot more compared to much of my generation, but I cannot recommend “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” I’m not saying Curtis Armstrong isn’t capable of being in a lead role, but his character started out as a supporting cast member, and knowing what I know about him, he’s better off that way. The characters overall honestly underwhelmed me. The subplot with Lewis and Betty was okay, but by the end of the film, it sort of added to the convoluted nature of everything at hand. If I had to pick a “least favorite” “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, this may have to be the one. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” a 4/10.
“Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” is available on DVD and VHS. The film is also available to rent or buy on various VOD services and as of writing this, you can also watch it on Cinemax.
Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks to all who tuned into the “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review” series! I had a fun time going back and watching all four of these films, gathering my thoughts, and sharing my verdicts with you all! I have wanted to do a series on these films for years, and now I can say I am glad to finally get one going! This is one of the few review projects being done in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, on top of other series including “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews,” “7 Days of Star Wars,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”
I just want to remind everyone that I have a couple more series to go for the fifth anniversary reviews and I want to make it known that this fall, I will be revealing my thoughts on “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II” in a series by the name of “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife!” This is part Halloween special, part buildup to the next “Ghostbusters” movie, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” I will have my review up for “Ghostbusters” on October 31st and my review up for “Ghostbusters II” on November 7th! Stay tuned, get excited! We’ll come, we’ll see, we’ll kick some ghost ass! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your ranking of the “Revenge of the Nerds” films? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Words on Bathroom Walls” is directed by Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters) and stars Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete, Looking for Alaska), Andy Garcia (The Godfather Part III, Ocean’s Eleven), Taylor Russell (Lost in Space, Escape Room), AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Because of Winn-Dixie), Beth Grant (The Mindy Project, The Artist), Molly Parker (Deadwood, House of Cards), and Walton Goggins (Django Unchained, The Shield). This film revolves a boy named Adam. He’s in his teens and he has schizophrenia. Throughout the movie we see him adapt to a new drug, a new “father figure,” and a new school. Quite a few major aspects of his life change here. We get to experience what Adam’s life is like as he deals with voices inside his head, and potential effects of everything surrounding him internally and externally.
This is one of the films playing on a major weekend for cinema. Theaters in many territories, including my own, around the United States are reopening for business. Keep in mind, this pertains to a lot of theaters, but most notably to chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark. On this special weekend, this is one of the films available for customers in addition to other new releases like “Unhinged” and a selection of throwback titles including “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Inception,” “Black Panther,” and more.
I’ll be honest with you, when it comes to “Words on Bathroom Walls,” it never really struck me fancy. I never had any real attachment to it prior to giving it a watch. The main reason why I watched this movie, is because an outlet gave me RSVP access to watch the film online before it came out. When it comes these teen movies, they’re usually not my thing. Romance is not my thing either. But I’ve enjoyed certain movies with one aspect, another, maybe both, plus it is nice to talk about new content. So here we are.
This film is based on a book written by Julia Walton. I’ve never read the book, and after seeing this movie. I can’t say I’m gonna read it. Again, this is not my genre. Also, movies are more fun! Sorry, books! Nevertheless, I enjoyed this film for what it was. A solid story about somebody dealing with many forced adaptations, both internal and external. I think the screenplay, when translated into a visual medium, was incredibly well-realized. There was a scene that made me feel like I was watching some superhero movie like “X-Men” or something as opposed to some typical teen drama. This was well-written, and when it comes to the directing done by Thor Freudenthal, I approve. At times it gets a little dark, but the snappy vibe never escapes. In fact, this guy, unknowingly, was a part of my childhood for a few years.
For those who don’t know, Thor Freudenthal directed the 2010 movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” I was ten years old when I saw that movie, and I will point out, unlike “Words on Bathroom Walls,” that film got me to read the books which it happened to be based upon, so I’ll give it credit where it’s due. I have not watched that movie in some time, I think my most recent viewing was in 2012. However, looking back, one of the standout aspects of that film, is how much it maintained a quick pace, while occasionally relying on aspects of imagination or narration. Some of that translates well to this movie while being a completely separate thing. But also keep in mind, the movies are made for completely different audiences, so it really is a good thing that one movie is not like the other.
Those positive thoughts I gave on the screenplay? Yeeeah… It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Keep in mind, this review is being written by a straight white male whose favorite movies are in the action genre or similar fields. Some of the dialogue is a cringefest. There are a couple cheesy lines that I thankfully don’t have implanted in my head at the moment, but they were nevertheless cheesy. I wonder if the teen girl crowd will not care as I think they may be one of the core demographics for this film. Who knows? I never read the book, and I may be unwarranted to ask such a question… But, maybe it worked in the book? I don’t know.
But most of the screenplay does make up for its faults. There are some really exciting, gripping moments that grabbed my attention. There feels like there is conflict in just about every single scene. Something could end up going wrong, changing the main character’s life, or maybe make my head spin upside down.
I will say though, I have mixed thoughts on the main character of Adam. On one hand, I did feel bad for him. This movie does a good job at highlighting the misfortune of schizophrenia, in which case I was able to attach myself to him. But there are like one or two moments where this guy sort of gave a creeper or stalker vibe. I won’t go into detail, I will let you as viewers see this for yourselves. Although I will give props to Charlie Plummer, who plays this lead role admirably. There’s not much I have against Plummer as a performer and I would like to see more from him. This is sort of based on looks, but I would be interested to see him in maybe a Seth Rogen comedy of some sort, he looks like he could fit right in if given the proper script and role. Maybe “Neighbors 3: The Next Generation” if they ever decide to make that? Just an idea. I’m not claiming it, I don’t have an outline for it, I’m just spitting it out there.
I also really dug Taylor Russell’s character. Not only was I able to buy the relationship between her alongside Charlie Plummer’s character. But as an actress, I think Taylor Russell has a solid future ahead of her. She did a really good job at portraying this brainiac student who cares a lot about which direction she’s headed in life. This becomes more likable later in the movie when we meet her family, which I won’t talk about because I would rather have you see the movie for yourself.
Although I have to say, there’s one character who could arguably be my favorite in the movie, and that is a priest played by Andy Garcia. This character goes by the name Father Patrick and he’s just incredible in this movie. Garcia brings his A game here! Every other line out of his mouth is so dry yet charismatic! I could listen to this guy narrate an audiobook version of The Cheesecake Factory menu! He’s that likable!
In the end, I enjoyed “Words on Bathroom Walls.” I think it’ll get some attention at the theaters once they reopen. For all I know, maybe fans of the book will enjoy this film. But I don’t think I’ll ever watch this movie again. Once again, I’m not in the core demographic, so I may not be the best guy to trust when it comes to reviewing this movie. However, I did enjoy it. It was never boring, never completely insulting to my intelligence, and I did have fun, which most of the time, is something I think many of us want to experience after watching a movie. If you have fun, then bada bing bada boom. I’m going to give “Words on Bathroom Walls” a 7/10.
Thanks for reading this review! Just want to want to announce that depending on where you live, tickets for “Tenet” are already on sale, or they are just about to go on sale. Over the past couple months, I’ve been holding onto a post that I think could help certain moviegoers when it comes to deciding where to go see “Tenet.” Given how tickets are about to go on sale here in the United States pretty soon, my post related to this will be up around the same time tickets drop. Stay tuned for that post and if you want to see more great content from Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Words on Bathroom Walls?” What did you think about it? Or, are you going back to the movies this weekend? Do you plan on going back soon? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Summerland” is directed by Jessica Swale and this is her feature-length directorial debut. Swale’s other credits include shorts and a TV movie. This film stars Gemma Arterton (The Girl with All the Gifts, Clash of the Titans), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, The Morning Show), Lucas Bond (The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, Slumber), Dixie Egerickx (The Secret Garden, The Little Stranger), Siân Phillips (I, Claudius, Dune), Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Downton Abbey), and Tom Courtenay (The Aeronauts, The Dresser). This film follows a woman named Alice, she’s a writer, she’s a hermit, she’s bullied by local children, and she’s sometimes called a witch. Keep in mind, the movie is set during World War II, so when an evacuee is sent to her doorstep, her world turns upside down. However, their relationship develops as we get to know more about the backstory of both characters while also seeing how they engage with one another in the present.
I’m gonna be straight up with ya. 2020 is s*it. It’s f*cking stupid. So far, this entire year has been a waste. My spring break trip was ruined by the beginning of a pandemic. Movie theaters shut down for some time. Every comic con beyond March got cancelled. The only positive is that I don’t need to wear pants right now. As far as movies go… Screw that noise! Nothing is memorable! This year, like many, started off with some duds, but that’s expected. What I didn’t expect is for this entire first half of a year to just amount to absolutely nothing!
I got to see Joe Gatto in person… There’s something.
I saw “Emma” in February, the star and director happened to be there to promote the film. There’s something else.
I got to go to Universal Hollywood before they closed down… That’s pretty much it.
Things have been turning around however. Cases and hospitalizations have been going down in my area, I finally shaved my facial hair for the first time in months, and movies have been getting SLIGHTLY more watchable.
Note: I said slightly. “Vivarium,” “An American Pickle,” “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” they’ve all been fun to watch. But it’s hard to tell if I will remember them by the end of the year.
“Summerland,” before I saw it, was an interesting little movie. One of the positives of the second half of 2020 for me was the reopening of some movie theaters. Granted, not all of them have reopened, but some of them, including a local spot known by the name of Lexington Venue have welcomed back patrons. “Summerland” was one of the movies initially playing on their second reopening, but I decided to wait and see it on the second weekend I returned. It was my third time at that theater in a span of a little over a week.
When I started watching this movie, a lot a havoc began. The projector was having problems. We had to stop the movie more than once. The movie itself was not much better. Ten minutes in, I already hated the main character. She came off as an insufferable jerkface that I would never want to meet in person if she actually existed. There was perhaps no redeeming quality to this character other than the fact she was a writer.
Then… Something happened. The movie went along, the main relationship builds, characters develop, and I will tell you something, I almost shed a tear. This is my favorite film of the year. Period. Granted, given how “Tenet” comes out soon, I would bet that such a notion could change, but it’s true. “Summerland” is one of the most emotionally investing movies I have seen in recent memory. It sort of reminded me of “Jojo Rabbit,” minus all the satire. After all, both films take place during World War II, and in some way, involve a young boy at the center of everything. Granted, his name is not the biggest on the poster and he does not have top billing, but he seemingly has much of a prominence in this movie as Gemma Arterton’s character does, who I really need to talk about by the way.
Gemma Arterton plays a character named Alice, and when I saw her in this movie for the first ten to thirty minutes, I thought to myself, “OK, time to watch the latest pile of crap I’ve seen this year. 2020’s full of them.” I say that because her character comes off as a bitch in the beginning. Then she kind of grows a heart, where she is a bit nicer. I understood what the movie was going for in the long run. But at the same time, it’s like they were writing lines for Sheldon Cooper, but they turned him into a woman. And I say that as someone who loves Sheldon Cooper, but at times, this seemed like a draft version of Sheldon Cooper where the whole time he’s just a complete ass to those around him. At the same time however, I’ve grown to realize something. This character is completely relatable. Before staying home and being alone was cool, I was always focused on a number of things: Avoiding people, writing, and perfection. This lady, seems to be all about that! Alice is practically an older, 1940s version of me! I may be a little more welcoming to visitors, but I was floored on how much she reminded me of myself.
As for Frank, the young kid in the movie, seeing how he develops in this film is quite intriguing. Seeing him adapt to his new environment was worth my time. I also think Lucas Bond does a pretty good job playing this character, providing one of the more admirable child performances I’ve seen in recent memory. The same can be said for a friend he meets in the movie, Edie. She’s played by Dixie Egerickx, and their relationship not only feels natural, there was a point where it sort of felt like Simba and Nala in “The Lion King.” Granted, it’s not exactly the same, but there is one scene where they are hanging out together and I sort of made that connection for some reason.
What I really enjoyed about the relationship between Frank and Alice is not only seeing how both characters developed as individuals, but how their differences are obviously present, even though they don’t get in the way of the two being together. The relationship doesn’t entirely feel 100% in wonderland while not being entirely toxic either. I wouldn’t call it a Goldilocks relationship if you will, but if you see the movie, you might get a sense of what I’m talking about.
Admittedly, this movie did start a little slow. Considering that, in addition to perhaps a nearly painful introduction to Gemma Arterton’s character, make up the most notable turnoffs of the film. There are also one or two directorial choices that I wouldn’t have made. Although I won’t knock this film’s director, Jessica Swale, too hard given how this is the first feature she’s handled. But there is so much to love about “Summerland” that I almost don’t care. I will not dive into spoiler territory, but I went into this movie, wondering what the heck the title of this film even means. Is it a place? A thing? An idea? The way the movie handles the subject matter presented in the title is incredibly enchanting and satisfying. The way this movie sort of goes kind of reminded me of “Onward,” the recent Pixar film that came out. It’s not exactly the same though for several reasons if you watch both movies, but I nevertheless made such a connection. Now, I like “Onward.” I had a really good time watching that movie and it continues to prove that Pixar can do no wrong. But I expected to go into “Onward” and leave a certain way. “Summerland” gave me the feelings and emotions that I couldn’t quite get from “Onward,” even though I expected that they were almost a guarantee. I don’t want to dive too much into either film, because I want to avoid spoilers, but holy smokes!
I walked out of “Summerland” similar to the way I walked out of “Marriage Story.” When I left my screening for “Marriage Story,” I was so moved… and floored, that I stayed for the credits. I then walked out of the theater and I needed to sit down somewhere. During my “Marriage Story” experience I sat on a bench inside the cinema, but after seeing “Summerland,” I sat in my car, partially because I wanted to look at some local restaurants on Google Maps in private. But also because I needed a place to process what it was I just saw. When your movie has me feeling nearly motionless for around five minutes. You’ve made something special. Period.
In the end, “Summerland” is my favorite movie of 2020. During a year where a pandemic has gotten me down, this movie happens to have lifted my spirits up just a little bit. This film is playing in a few theaters, but I am not going to force everyone to attend a theater right now, given how some of my viewers might be a little nervous. Plus states including New York and California, which any other day of the year, would be part of the biggest markets for moviegoing, are not open at the moment. But fear not! This movie is available on VOD if you want to watch it at home! I think the casting for all the actors was well done, I like some of the scenery and locations in the film, the backstories for certain characters were incredible and added a bit to the movie in terms of overall likability. “Summerland” is one of the better written movies of 2020 in terms of its screenplay. As far as directing goes, that is an area that “works,” but there are a few things I would have done different if I were at the helm. Nevertheless, I am excited to see what Jessica Swale has next. Keep in mind, this movie is not perfect… But it is the first time I’m saying this all year for a new release, unless you count “1917” even though it technically came out last year. I’m going to give “Summerland” a 9/10.
Wow that feels good. I have still not given a 10 this year unfortunately. This film came close, there are a couple changes I’d make before calling it perfect. But that leaves a question for the rest of 2020. What will get a 10? “Unhinged?” “The New Mutants?” “Tenet?” “Wonder Woman 1984?” “Dune?” “Black Widow?” “Soul?” “No Time to Die?” Who knows at this point? For all I know, there might not end up being any 10/10s this year. Even so, I’m glad to actually have a reason to say 2020 has a glimmer of hope in it at this point. Because I have waited SO LONG to finally see something memorable. I was wondering at this point, is “The Vast of Night” the best thing this year’s got? Because I’d be quite unsatisfied if that’s the case. Nope! Thank you, “Summerland!” And also, thank you Britain! Hundreds of years ago, my country separated from you over our differences regarding things like tea, but I’m glad to unite on something as simple as the movie “Summerland!” Go watch this movie! I recommend this movie to just about anyone, and who knows? Maybe it’ll put a smile on your face!
Thanks for reading this review! Just want to let everyone know that I got an early access invitation to watch the new movie “Words on Bathroom Walls.” I’ll be blunt, this does not look like my type of movie. But, as a reviewer, I am glad to talk about new content, so I am likely going to watch the film and discuss it here on Scene Before. If you want to see more content like this, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Summerland?” What did you think about it? Or, how is your cinematic year for 2020 going? Are the movies good? Bad? Anything you want to see? Have the delays got you down? Personally, I have not seen a cinematic calendar more disappointing and underwhelming in quite some time. I am holding out hope for films like “Tenet” and “Dune” this point. And “Tenet” tickets go on sale soon! Let’s hope it actually opens! PLEASE. If it pushes back once more I’m running over my TV with an Amtrak train! Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Radioactive” is directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, The Simpsons) and stars Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, Gone Girl), Sam Riley (Maleficent, Control), Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen, Dunkirk), and Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma, The Witch). This film is about the life and story of Marie Curie, a scientist who discovered radioactive elements on the periodic table, which eventually changed the world. The film also dives into her family life, and her love life.
I knew a bit about Marie Curie before I saw “Radioactive.” In fact, when it comes to women in science, I think her name has a bigger lock in my head compared to just about anybody else. After all, there was a point during my sophomore year in high school where I knew her name through various means, and I wanted to do a project on her for my chemistry class. Unfortunately, she was taken. But as a consolation prize, her husband, Paul Francis Curie was available. So I did have some history regarding the Curie name, even if I didn’t really know them or consider myself to be a part of their legacy. I just… reflected on them. That’s a good word to use at this point.
Before we go any further, I just want to let everyone know that if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, this movie is free as it is an original production from Amazon Studios. Thankfully, Gofobo sent me a notice that Amazon was letting people see the movie early for free. For various reasons, I decided to wait a little to review it, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity. Having said that… This is one of the best movies of 2020!
BUT… Hold your horses! If you have been following my recent work, you’d know THIS DOESN’T SAY MUCH. 2020, as a whole, has been a wreck for movies. Not just because of the industry-wide impact productions and crews everywhere happen to be facing, but what we have gotten so far has been nowhere near worthy of high honors. At this point, I would not be surprised if “Sonic the Hedgehog” ends up getting nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. It’s that crazy of a year! I will say though, “Radioactive” is a movie that going into it, I really did not have much awareness towards, but walking out of it, I felt that I made a superb life choice to gaze my eyes upon it.
Of the movies that I have seen this year, this honestly feels like the most worthy contender of being a “well-rounded” production. It has an excellent cast who performs well in each particular role on the list, the script is attention-grabbing and very much follows the much-respected “show, don’t tell” route of filmmaking. It’s a win for visual storytelling. Directing-wise, this was a solid vision of the period and people in which it portrays. The production design in this film may be the finest of the year. There’s a lot to unpack here and appreciate. Speaking of the production design aspect, I know the competition is not that heavy, and it could increase as we get movies like “Tenet,” “The New Mutants,” and so on, I think if any movie were to contend for a production design award at this point, “Radioactive” could win. I felt like I was in a different period than my own. And this REALLY says something, because when I review new movies. Guess where I’m watching them? Either on the big screen in theaters, or at home on my 4K TV. I used neither of those for this movie. Instead, I used a laptop. Why? Because the link to the movie was provided to me so I could watch it on smaller devices. To say that I watched a movie on my laptop and felt immersed from a picture standpoint, is a tremendous compliment.
This film is based on a graphic novel by Lauren Redniss, and that thought never popped into my head while watching the movie. I never really made any sort of connection. But as I reflect upon what I witnessed, it adds up. A lot of the images are packed with impeccable detail, the colors really resemble a dreariness that isn’t exactly depressing, but more or less brings a pop to the eyes.
One of the best parts overall of “Radioactive” is the performance given by Rosamund Pike. I will admit, I need to see more of her work, but she breaks a leg here. So far, it is probably my favorite performance of the year. This film centers around Marie Curie, and Pike does a really good job at maintaining the sense of importance such a character in an environment like this can provoke. This is one of the most notable women in all of scientific history, not only was her story laid out in an organized manner that allowed me to gaze at the screen, but it’s nice to see Pike lay a dramatic effect to somebody whose name I recognized, but didn’t have a complete knowledge about. Also one of the highlights of the picture, there are various points where the script jumps through time, and it doesn’t really feel out of place. It’s a bunch of various extended cases of cause and effect. The story attributes Marie Curie’s accomplishments and also notes future achievements that occur, and perhaps mainly occurred because of Curie’s past work. It does a really good job at making you care about the main character without necessarily seeing the main character do much of anything or put herself into action. The editing here felt seamless and organized. I dug it all.
There are not too many standout issues I have with “Radioactive.” When it comes to the 2020 library of movies, it is definitely one of those that I would consider watching again. Pacing-wise, “Radioactive” is not bad at all. I will say though, even though I like the overall way the script plays out, it is almost a little by the numbers. In fact for a period-based film about Marie Curie, it feels like the crew went with… let’s say a rather cliche or ordinary vibe for this type of film. Despite its flaws, I would recommend “Radioactive.” Again, if you have Prime Video and pay for it, you can get it for free. Check it out if you’re ever in the mood. But in all seriousness, if I had to give one description for this film, it is “well-rounded” if you ask me. All the elements (no pun intended) line up for a competent picture that is entertaining, yet honorable to Curie’s legacy.
In the end, I will remind you all… It’s 2020. If you just want a good movie at this point, “Radioactive” could end up being for you. “Radioactive” elegantly presented the story of Marie Curie and despite the few critiques I would give to this film, it was extremely well done, especially if you had to line this film up with whatever else came out this year. That is if this is even a year anymore. Nobody has a concept of time at this point. I’m going to give “Radioactive” an 8/10. In 2020, 8 really is the new 10. Sad to say, but if things actually come out in theaters on time or if we get better movies, that could change. Still mad about “Tenet…” Ugh.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Vivarium,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. I won’t say much about the movie… But… It’s weird. Won’t say if that’s a good or bad thing, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Or, you can get some alternate content from Scene Before through the official Facebook page! Give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Radioactive?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie about a woman in science? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Hope Gap” is directed by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Misérables) and stars Annette Bening (American Beauty, 20th Century Women), Bill Nighy (Love, Actually, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country), Aiysha Hart (Line of Duty, Atlantis), Ryan McKen (Game of Thrones, Bancroft), Steven Pacey (Blake’s 7, Doctors), and Nicholas Burns (The Crown, Benidorm). This film is about a couple, whose son is returning home for some time. As we progress through the movie, we begin to notice that the couple cannot quite click. We notice that they have trouble communicating, and it is also revealed that the husband has plans to leave the wife, thus we have our movie.
Looking at “Hope Gap” on the surface, it may not exactly be my type of movie. But just because something is not necessarily my “type” of film, does not mean I am going to count it out on my viewing list. It just means I may have priorities. Speaking of priorities, when the heck is “Tenet” going to hit theaters?! Anyway, “Hope Gap” was available to me as my mother rented it On Demand and I figured why not give it a watch. What have I got to lose? It’s 2020! It could be worse! It could be murder hornets!
Having said that, I watched the movie, and I will say… Is it just me… Or did movies just rise from the dead?! For the past few months, I felt like there has been nothing to talk about, nothing to get me excited, nothing to pump me up as a film fanatic, but now, back to back, I have seen TWO of my favorite films of the year. And what makes this film in particular a little extra special is how it’s not even in my wheelhouse of film genres. Yes, a lot of the actors in the film like Annette Bening and Bill Nighy have done acclaimed work in the past, in fact some of the movie’s cast have previously worked on another highlight of 2020 for me, “Emma.” The cast in this movie has a knack for talent and it shows here with some of the finest performances I have seen all year. But, I’ll mention, like the last film I saw which I reviewed… It’s not perfect, and once again, 2020 continues to be the worst year for film that I have witnessed, maybe ever.
Much like last year’s “Marriage Story,” which is a remarkably well-made masterpiece by the way, “Hope Gap” centers around a married couple who evidently cannot click. The performances from Bening and Nighy reveal this with a ton of force. Not only is their acting and chemistry believable and satisfying, but they are also well-written. Going back to “Marriage Story,” as I look back on that movie, I can point out to several moments where either member of the marriage can be labeled as a jerk. Here, I picked up that a lot of the reasons why this movie unfolded was mainly having to do with the husband, who seemed to display one very notable quality as the movie went on. He seemed very passive, at least when his wife is in the room. There was this scene in the movie where the wife got a bit serious and wanted the husband to express himself or open up, but he always seemed rather silent, perhaps uninformative. He never really felt any need or reason to tell his wife what he wants or needs. I sort of felt bad for the man even if he was the main catalyst for the main couple’s relationship going down the drain.
Interesting thing though, I have been through the process of seeing my parents have a falling out, separate, get divorced, and throughout the process, I was distraught. Admittedly, I still am today, seven years later, which is why I do my best to cherish the family I have as much as possible and see them when needed. Now, I will say, one of the main characters of “Hope Gap” is the couple’s grown son, he comes back home to visit his parents, his room has barely been touched, it’s even got a twin bed in it. My parents divorced when was in my teens. This guy is rather grown up, and during the movie… He doesn’t really seem to care about anything that happens to his parents, it doesn’t matter. After all, he’s on his own, he’s got his own life. Why does he have to care about the people who raised him? He never really reveals much of his emotions towards these dramatic and life-altering situations. In fact, I find it really funny how in the IMDb description, it mentions that the visit takes “a dramatic turn when the father tells him (the son) he plans on leaving his mother.” The drama, even though it is there, feels more like drama, for us, the viewers, the people in the movie themselves barely experience it. We’re along for the ride, and we see a passive husband, a son who barely gets involved in any of this other than actively listening to his parents, and the only person who truly feels traumatized or highly affected by all this in such a negative way is the wife. Is that a bad thing? No. Because the script of the film flows properly, and that along with several performances makes you buy into everything that’s going on.
They say divorce is hardest on the children, but this movie made me think… If my parents stayed together, until I was… say 35. How would I feel about them getting divorced regardless of the situations/buildup that triggered them to go down this path? I mean, it is a life-altering situation, in fact of all the situations that I can think of in my life that I have personally been through, I think the divorce of my parents has altered me the most. Although, the COVID-19 pandemic might take that crown eventually if more s*it starts to go down. But hey, movie theaters are open in my state, so yay! If this divorce thing happened in my early twenties or my thirties or forties, would I try to get my parents back together? Plead them to stay? Or would I just stand by and let them go their separate ways? This movie in ways mixes drama with that “slice of life” feel and the vibes mix with excellence. I think it was a somewhat realistic portrayal of what could happen in a situation of this kind. There was even a moment where the wife got a dog, and I imagine it is being done sort of as a stress reliever or coping mechanism.
Did I mention this movie is shot beautifully? I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with the location choices more than anything, but this movie has some of the nicest shots of the year.
In the end, “Hope Gap,” kind of like the last movie I reviewed, “The Vast of Night,” is one of 2020’s finer entries to the cinematic calendar. BUT, it’s not perfect. I will say, the movie does keep its pace for the most part, but there are a few moments where the movie does slow down just a bit. Also, even though the movie is pretty good, I don’t think it had the full on dramatic impact it was hoping to deliver. It made me feel something watching the movie, and it did touch upon a life-changing subject I can relate to. It did make me think, but not in a way that really made me reevaluate my life for as long as time shall march on. However, do not sit out on “Hope Gap.” If you find it and decide to watch it, I don’t think you’ll be completely disappointed. With that being said, “Hope Gap” is a high note for 2020, and I’m going to give it an 8/10.
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know, phase 3 has officially begun in Massachusetts, which means that movie theaters have been given the green light to open as long as they follow along with government-based restrictions and guidelines. Not many theaters are opening in Massachusetts, but I do know of a fairly close one set to open its doors on this Friday, July 10th. If I have the time, I’m gonna make the trip to the theater to see a movie, get a review for you guys, and see what they’re doing to get through the pandemic. I cannot wait to see a movie in a dark room again where I do not have any reason to look at my phone. You don’t know how much I miss this experience… Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Feel free to leave this post a like if you have a proper account setup, share it with friends, and like my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Hope Gap?” What did you think about it? Or, are movie theaters open where you are right now? If they are, what are doing in terms of safety precautions? If not, is there any word on what your local cinemas will be doing upon the reopening process? And yes, I know chains like Regal and AMC are currently set to open on July 31st, but also if you have any local theaters that are within smaller chains or independent names, I want to know about those as well. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!