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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jexi (2019): Smartphony

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“Jexi” is directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also co-wrote the movie together. This film stars Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse, Love, Simon), Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Dora and the Lost City of Gold), and Rose Byrne (Damages, Neighbors) in a story about a guy who is too attached to his phone. The main character of Phil uses his phone which has this voice control service named Jexi, pretty similar to Siri, Google, Alexa, or Cortana if that’s still a thing. The film eventually arrives at a point where it is established that the phone is controlling Phil’s life, perhaps in an abusive manner. So, basically imagine if Siri became HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Going into “Jexi,” I honestly had little to no hopes for this movie whatsoever. I watched the trailer before going in and even though it put a slight smile on my face for one moment, I thought this movie was just going to plain suck. But at the same time, the plot can resonate with society today, so maybe it could be a fine allegory for how much we as people rely on our phones. Once they’re in our sights, or in our hands, we’re hooked. This point is emphasized at the very beginning of the film. The main character enjoys playing on his phone, he uses it as an alarm clock, he uses it as a calendar, and when it falls when accidentally bumping into someone, he tends to attach more value onto the device than other people. So when Phil’s phone breaks, I as an audience member got a sense that this incident sort of ruined his life.

Speaking of ruining lives, I think my life has officially been tossed to the ground, shattered, stepped on, and in need of repair at the Geek Squad. This movie… I don’t even know what to say except… WOW. This was one of my least anticipated films I have seen all year, and I honestly can’t say it’s the worst I’ve seen this year. But… To call this movie Shakespeare would be impractical to unimaginable degrees. F*ck! This! Movie! I mean… Seriously! I still don’t even know how to describe what just happened! My head is spinning as I write this! If I had to be honest, out of all the movies I have seen this year, aside from John Travolta’s “The Fanatic,” this is definitely the one that I will remember as that “so bad it’s good” type of film. Because a lot of elements are inserted to make something interesting, but it’s funny for the wrong reasons. Granted, this is a comedy, and the job of a comedy is to make me laugh. I cannot say I was happy with myself for laughing because I felt like what I was watching could have been written by Patrick Star from “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Without spoiling anything, here are my main thoughts on this movie’s BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END… In separate paragraphs.

BEGINNING:
The first act provides a fine sense of where this movie will eventually go. It establishes our society’s insatiable hankering for smartphones. The humor is a little bit mixed, but when it’s bad, it easily messes with my brain. Most of the standout moments and lines, kind of to my surprise, come from the AI. BUT THE MAIN CHARACTER IS STUPID.

MIDDLE:
Alright, this part is not too bad. I think the chemistry between the main character and his love interest is a tad off. Although wait a minute… DID THEIR CHEMISTRY JUST CLICK?! WHAT AM I WATCHING?! Also… That phone is starting to annoy me a bit.

END:
Never thought I’d say this, but “Jexi” has somehow built itself up pretty well. I’m somewhat irritated by the movie, but I do think it is funny at times, maybe for reasons I can’t live with, but things seemed to have moved in the right direc–wait wait wait! WHAT?! NO! F*ck this s*it! I’m done! I can’t! Why is this happening? This makes no sense!

As of this point, “Jexi” has tarnished my soul and made me feel somewhat insignificant.

As mentioned, THE MAIN CHARACTER IS STUPID. Granted, that is kind of the point of the movie. I guess Phil is supposed to represent the stereotype of a phone addict. Phil uses his phone to control pretty much every aspect of his life. He’s that kind of person who would work at a job for a good portion of time and still try to ask his phone what the fastest route to work is. Granted, he is in a major city so it’s not completely nonsensical, but it still feels weird! Also, when Phil first gets a phone with Jexi on it, he needs to agree to various terms and conditions. You know how a lot of people join something new without reading the obnoxiously long terms and conditions? There’s this joke where Phil just blindly accepts whatever is in front of him. It takes some time for him to want to switch to a new phone. He’s incredibly petrified given his recent situation and just takes whatever phone is given to him. There’s no process as to how he manages to get a phone, he just takes one and walks away. So he gets a new phone, which also has Jexi on it. He’s given the terms and conditions again. And just like last time, he doesn’t read through them! WHAT ARE YOU STUPID?! I’m pretty sure in a situation like this, that MIGHT have something to do with what’s happening here! It sounds absurd, but I think Captain Obvious whispered in my ear as this movie went on! As I expected, this leads to Jexi eventually activating herself and recognizing Phil. And then I had to suffer through the rest of this crap!

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I will give credit to Jexi though for being a proper definition of what a crazy AI on a phone could be. It follows you around, it’s with you forever, and it has all of your information to use against you. In fact, Jexi is voiced by Rose Byrne and she is PERFECT in her role. There is not a moment where this felt like I wasn’t listening to a phone robot. Well done!

Although one of the more interesting characters in the film, even though she is part of an off and on marathon of interactions is Cate. The reason why I find her so interesting is because she is not attached any electronic devices. She mentions at one point that she used to be about that sort of life, but she gave up and decided to focus more on reality. I for one went in the opposite direction, where I gave up on reality for a greater dive into social media. It does make me wonder though, is it worth talking to a bunch of people I don’t know? Because there’s a high chance that I won’t meet everyone I talk to online, so do we have real relationships? It is a question worth considering.

Although aside from Phil, there are two characters in this movie I hate with a burning passion. One of them is Denice, who happens to be working at a phone store Phil makes multiple trips to during the movie. As I saw her in multiple scenes, I just had to ask. WHY is she here? She should be fired! For all I know she could be one of the higher-ups there, but wouldn’t somebody call, USING A PHONE THEY PROBABLY BOUGHT FROM THE STORE, to complain about their experience to the corporate office or something? I am just dumbfounded! How did she get a job working at a phone store, if she is making fun of a target demographic for the smartphone industry? Is it supposed to be played for laughs? I guess. But in reality, this does not make sense! It’s like if I applied for a job at Amazon and I made fun of everybody who chose the fastest shipping options. I would not be the prime pick for them!

Speaking of terrible work environments and people in them, let’s talk about Phil’s boss in this movie. Phil works at this company that may as well have been created because maybe the writers could not use the name BuzzFeed. Essentially, it is a bunch of people’s jobs, including Phil’s, to come up with random click-bait type lists that will go viral for like a day until they create a new one that also might last for a day in terms of popularity. Phil’s boss is played by Michael Peña, who isn’t really as much of a dick as say Kevin Spacey from “Horrible Bosses,” or… well, Kevin Spacey, but he’s just annoying. There’s this gag where people have to drop beats to let him move away from a certain area and it made me want to beat myself in the face.

But the absolute worst thing about this movie is the ending. I talked about it a little bit, but I need to dive a little deeper because… F*CK! A lot of what happens with Jexi in this film may be rather supernatural or unrealistic to a certain standard, but I was still able to let it slide because at times, it was funny. Then we get to the ending. The big… fat… ending, where all hell and its fiendish minions break loose. I will not go into much detail, but something truly significant happens during the ending, that would probably work if it were a nightmare heavily involving technology, but if it were put into reality, it would come off as insane. I’m still flabbergasted, I’m still a little hurt, and this was ultimately the biggest turnoff that I can point out in “Jexi” because the second act seemed to have sparked a slight sense of improvement in the movie, and all of a sudden, this s*it happens. It just goes to show, a bad ending can ruin a good movie. Granted, “Jexi” was average at best before this, but this was a huge downfall. At least it’s only 84 minutes! …Well, 84 minutes of doom.

“OK Google, set a reminder on my calendar for every day for the rest of civilization to never watch Jexi again.”

In the end, “Jexi” tries to be hilarious, but just manages to be a defect of a movie. I’d rather be stuck in the woods with no bars on my phone, holding a 5% charge, and have a high possibility of being eaten by a bear than watch “Jexi” again. Maybe if I’m 21 and happen to be drunk, I’d slap it on the TV and see what happens. Maybe I’d laugh my ass off, because this is not just a bad movie, it’s occasionally got that so bad it’s good vibe. It has a lot of aspects worth questioning, both for good and bad reasons. And with that notion in mind, it could make the movie watchable. But in all seriousness, I’m going to give “Jexi” a 3/10. One last thing, I know this movie was probably never supposed to be a standout for its technical aspects, but the cinematography was SO OFF-PUTTING at times. There are multiple scenes where the cinematographer or the director just had this fetish to zoom in or out on something. This almost reminded of why I don’t watch shows like “The Office.” The camera is always in motion, it feels kind of uncomfortable. Just… “Jexi” can suck it.

Thanks for reading my totally objective and not at all opinionated review. This movie somehow managed to turn out better than I originally thought it would, but that must not say much at all, because I thought this could have been the worst movie of the year. Turns out it’s just… another bad flick. And speaking of movies where phones happen to be possessed, I will have another review up this week, specifically for the new movie “Countdown.” I just got to see it at an advance screening last Thursday, and I have some things to say about it. Be sure to look out for that review, and if you want to be notified of said review, please follow Scene Before either with an email if you want to get news about my blog in your inbox, or with a WordPress account to like or comment and get informed about the latest at Scene Before through your very own WordPress feed! Stay tuned for more great content, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jexi?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite voice control AI? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Brightburn (2019): Superman: The Quest for Rest In Peace

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“Brightburn” is directed by David Yarovesky (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hive) and stars Jackson A. Dunn (Shameless, Legendary Dudas), Elizabeth Banks (The LEGO Movie, The Hunger Games), David Denman (The Office, Traffic Light), Matt Jones (Mom, Breaking Bad), and Meredith Hagner (Men at Work, Search Party). This film revolves around a family and its child, Brandon Breyer. Brandon is growing up fast, and at times seems to be a relatively normal child. But we soon discover that he has powers, he sometimes behaves poorly, and he has various elements of a psychopath. Basically, take Superman, but make him malevolent, wicked, and some sort of equivalent to a devil worshiper.

I originally saw the first trailer for “Brightburn” last year, and I was somewhat excited for this film upon seeing that trailer. It looked beautiful, bold, and a tad scary too. In a way, this film is a mix of horror and a traditional comic book style story. The movie is not based on any preexisting property by name, even though it does contain similarities to “Superman.” To add even more comic book and superhero elements into the mix, let me just point out that James Gunn, director of the two recent “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, has a producer credit on this movie. This film is also kind of a family project, because the two writers are related to Gunn. You’ve got Mark Gunn, a cousin of James. And Brian Gunn, who happens to one of James’ brothers. It’s clear that this movie was partially done with combined passion, and it’s nice to see a family come together to entertain audiences. Granted, I don’t like everything they’ve done. I think “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” may be one of the most overrated movies of the past few years. And both Brian and Mark wrote “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which may be my least favorite movie with The Rock in it.

But with all of the creative forces combining together for “Brightburn,” how did they all add up? O-K? I guess? This was not my most anticipated film of 2019, but it was up there in terms of films I was looking forward to. In fact, of all the films that came out during its particular opening weekend, it was probably the one I wanted to see the most. Granted, I ended up seeing “Booksmart,” which ended up being good. I still have no interest in seeing “Aladdin,” but I finally got around to seeing “Brightburn” only to have numerous less than positive things to say about it. I mean, it’s not all bad. But it seriously could have been a lot better.

As a concept, it is certainly intriguing, and there are a lot of ideas that go into the concept that are executed fairly well. That being said however, this almost seems like a pitch movie.

“It’s gonna be Superman, but evil! Comic book movies are the thing right now! Let’s see what we can do with one of the most iconic comic stories of all time, but with a sinister twist! It’s gonna be great!”

This movie ultimately reminds me of a movie like “Lucy.” Remember “Lucy” from 2014? If you haven’t seen “Lucy,” Scarlett Johansson plays this girl who gets drugged by some less than friendly people, all the while discovering how to use more than 10% of her brain. It seems like a good movie to write with a couple of people around you, discussing ideas of how to use one’s brain at a greater level than what mankind is traditionally capable of. But it doesn’t mean anything for the movie in terms of how watchable or compelling it will turn out in the end, it’s just a collection of seemingly rad ideas.

If there were an evil Superman per se, this movie would be a good example of how such a character would work. In fact, I literally do mean evil Superman because the movie starts off with a crash on a farm, and the crash involves a baby boy. This baby grows up, we see him seemingly hitting puberty, and he becomes a stalker, an aggressive talker, and a violent maniac.

I also gotta give props to everybody acting in this movie, and this even includes our lead kid actor, Jackson A. Dunn. He owns the part as Brandon. He’s almost a perfect embodiment for a child of his age in terms of how he presents himself (despite being more aggressive than the average person). When he would cover up truths or lie, I felt like that would usually be how a kid of his age would do such a thing. And he, thankfully, did not overplay his character in any scenes involving dark violence, gore, etc. I guess in that sense, I might as well give props to the director for properly handling this film’s scenes.

But sticking to acting, the two standout performances in the movie have to be from the parents played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman. The best part about their characters to me really sticks out like a sore thumb during the halfway point, specifically how they view the main situation of the whole movie. And it just goes to show how far Elizabeth Banks’ character would go to unconditionally love her kid. Granted, there are slight hints of wanting what’s best for him. But at the same time, she comes off as one of those mothers who will put her kid before anyone else regardless of how they behave or what they tend to do in their daily life. This sort of reminds me of those situations where a parent will endlessly defend their child or deny any of their faults. Her character’s thoughts and actions are completely different compared to those of David Denman’s character, who thinks the kid is up to no good, he’s violent, and he’s showing no signs of being a sane person.

My last compliment I can really give to this movie is that it does look really nice. The cinematography kind of made me feel like taking several deep breaths of fresh air. Granted, I did watch the movie through a 4K Blu-ray, but still. I also dig the farm location, I think overall, it suits the movie very well.

In the end, “Brightburn” is a movie with an interesting twist on a well-known concept, but I don’t know if I’d ever watch it again. Comic book movies are currently more popular than they’ve ever been. This is not based on a comic book, but if you told me it was, I wouldn’t be surprised. One trend I’m seeing now is the rise of comic book villain stories on film. We just saw it in “Venom” last year, which sucked hard. And we’re seeing it again this October with “Joker.” Thankfully, this is not anywhere near as unwatchable as “Venom.” But this movie doesn’t add anything big or bold to the type of genre with which it is trying to associate. “Brightburn” is a tad scary, it is somewhat entertaining, it is well-acted, but it doesn’t have an enormous “oomph” factor to it. I’m going to give “Brightburn” a 6/10. Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is the release of Brad Pitt’s “Ad Astra,” which I hear is getting great reviews so far, and I cannot wait to check it out whenever I can! I’m hoping to go see it Friday, because I do have Fridays off from school, so it would be good timing on my part. Plus, I am busy Sunday evening, so I can’t go see it then. Also, while not completely official, I wanted to touch upon another recent trend in the movie world, specifically “alternate programming at the movies.” If you have been following the news lately, sporting events and TV shows are making their way to cinema screens, and I want to talk about that! Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want hear me talk about this, or other movie-related topics! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Brightburn?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Superman” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CON ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m Going to Terrificon 2019!

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! If you have followed my blog over the past couple of years, you’d know that I occasionally cover my experiences at conventions, and the first one I ever did was the annual Terrificon. Therefore, it should perhaps be no surprise that I am returning to the con for the third time in a row! If you have read my recent “halftime” post, you’d notice that one of my announcements for August is my return to this con. But for the sake of tradition, I thought I would provide a preview to this event in depth.

For those who don’t know about Terrificon, it is an annual event held every year in the state of Connecticut. In recent years, the event has taken place at the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, 15 minutes away from its main competitor, Foxwoods. This year, the event returns in Mohegan Sun’s Earth Expo & Convention Center, a venue where the convention happened to be held for the first time ever in 2018, making it one of the earliest events to have occurred in said spot. The con primarily focuses on comic books, comic artists, gaming, cosplay, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, and more. It is organized by Big Fedora Marketing, LLC and Mitch Hallock, who has spent years in design and marketing. They are also responsible for another Connecticut-based convention, CTGamerCon. I have never been, but I have been curious about it for awhile. Per usual, this convention is being held this August, but due to the actions one of the convention’s competitors, they have decided to hold this year’s con on the second weekend of August (9-11) as opposed to the third weekend of August (16-18). Why? Another New England con, specifically Fan Expo Boston, is being held on August’s third weekend instead of their usual spot, which is the second weekend.

Regardless of whatever time it is held, the organizers are definitely promising a fun time. There are multiple recognizable celebrity guests, a number of big comic artists, and tons of shops to visit for all your nerdy needs.

One notable celebrity crew uniting for Terrificon comes from the show “Animaniacs.” This con is said to have Rob Paulsen (Yakko), Jess Harnell (Wakko), and Maurice LaMarche (Ralph the Guard). All three guests will be showing up, signing autographs, and doing photo ops. They’ll also have the option to voice record for a certain price. I cannot say whether or not I’ll be meeting all three of these people, but Jess Harnell has recently gotten me curious because I just found out that he did the voice of Crash Bandicoot, the iconic video game character from the 1990s.

Other voiceover related guests include Larry Kenney (SilverHawks, ThunderCats), Tony Todd (Transformers, Justice League), Maile Flanagan (Ice Age, Naruto), and Phil LaMarr (Family Guy, Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Of all these voice actors, I’d be very likely to meet Phil LaMarr, for one thing, he plays Ollie on “Family Guy” and I would love to hear his character “see how things are looking” at the con. But he also played a smaller role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” which I just watched for the first time and reviewed here on Scene Before. I would probably bring my “Pulp Fiction” Blu-ray for him to sign, maybe chat with him for at least a few minutes, because why not? Depends on the line though…

Although, if I had speculate from here, I am willing to bet LaMarr’s line will be considerably short compared to a guest like Val Kilmer. As some of you may know, he played Batman back in the 1990s when Joel Schumacher’s “Batman Forever” came out. So I am expecting at least one “Bat Nipple” Batman cosplay at this convention. It has to happen. Granted, George Clooney could have shown up and this would probably be much more likely, but Kilmer had the nips as well! But I am somewhat excited for him to be here, that way I have the opportunity to possibly ask some things about “Top Gun: Maverick,” a movie coming out next year that I am really excited for. Unfortunately however, I don’t know if I am going to get to do that, because I have no desire to get an autograph or photo op with Kilmer, especially when looking at the prices that he asks for. But I also looked at the panel schedule for this year and it appears, unless there is not enough specification or I am just completely missing something, there is going to be no panel for Kilmer.

Speaking of “Batman,” another guest related to the franchise, Robert Wuhl, AKA Alexander Knox in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” movie, will also be showing up. However, even though I imagine a lot of people are desiring to stand near Wuhl, I think there is one guest I have yet to mention that will knock some people’s socks off.

BILLY.

DEE.

WILLIAMS.

That’s right, Harvey Dent himself, but much more importantly, LANDO F*CKING CALRISSIAN from the “Star Wars” franchise will be showing up to Terrificon. I would probably bet $1,000, and appropriately so since the con is taking place in a casino, that Billy Dee Williams will have the biggest line for all the con’s guests. He has set himself up as a geek icon! These two franchises are enough to get him some attention at this con. Plus, he is going to be in the upcoming “Star Wars” film, “The Rise of Skywalker,” which will easily generate some attention. I will definitely be going to Williams’ panel, which is being held on Saturday at 1PM. However, I do not think I’ll be getting a signature or photo op. Why? Just look at the prices! For personal items, a signature is $100. For an item at the table that happens to be 8 x 10 inches, it’s $105. For an item at the table that happens to be 11 x 17 inches, it’s $110! Granted, it would be nice to stand in line and make a commitment for Billy Dee Williams, but based on statistics, not only are the autographs expensive, but the website suggests that selfies at the table are not happening, and if you get an autograph, you cannot get a selfie with the purchase.

Plus… I already met him, so I’m good.

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Yeah, we talked back in 2016 when I stood in line for him at Rhode Island Comic Con. I asked how he was doing, he said he had a decent lobster meal recently, I got his autograph, and I showed him something that I thought he might appreciate. Before getting into Billy Dee Williams’ line, I ran into a shop at the con that sold drones. Believe it or not, it’s called Cloud City Drones, which if you know your “Star Wars” lore, Cloud City is the city where the climax of “The Empire Strikes Back” basically unfolds. I’m not sure if he heard what I said, because I showed him a piece of paper that was essentially an advertisement for the place. But the way he responded, and I’m not saying he’s a jerk, because I’ve seen him, I can say he’s calm and well-mannered, but he said “That’s… Star Wars.” The way I thought he said that almost made it sound like that maybe he thought I wanted to know what Cloud City was, but I got what I wanted so I was satisfied. But that’s not why I am not meeting him again, I just mentioned the whole overpriced autograph thingy. If anything, I’d enjoy talking to him for a second, ask how he’s doing, and maybe remind him that we have met once in the past. But when I already have an autograph from Williams, not to mention one that cost $50 for the signature, plus $8 more for a protector, I just gotta say, “Eh, I’m good.” There are certain celebrities that I wouldn’t mind having multiple autographs from, in fact, there has been a case where that has happened for me, but if Williams’ signature were cheaper, chances are I’d jump in line and pay up.

I will say however, when it comes to lesser known guests, there is one that I plan on interacting with at some point. I already met this guy at New York Comic Con last year by coincidence, but I barely got to talk with him. Although since he is on a list to visit Terrificon this year, I am putting out all the stops to meet Robert Franzese, AKA “Real Life Peter Griffin.” If I can’t meet Seth MacFarlane, this is the next best thing! I am subscribed to this guy’s YouTube channel, he’s hilarious, and I love how implements the “Grinds My Gears” gag into his videos. In fact, when he announced that he was coming to Terrificon, he implemented that very gag! Check out this video below!

I mean, the resemblance is uncanny! I will say, if they are serious about that live-action hybrid “Family Guy” movie and they want a realistic looking guy for Peter Griffin, we have your actor!

One of the things that I have personally noticed about Terrificon is that it is a good con for families, because if you have a child that wants to meet their favorite celebrities, and they are eight years of age or younger, they get free admission! That however only includes admission to the con itself and does not apply to any after con activities. But there is a thing that has been around last year called the Aw Yeah Comics Fun Zone. They have numerous guests music artists providing family friendly entertainment, various activities, magic shows, tons of things for kids to enjoy. So if you have a kid and you want to come to this con, why not bring them along? Just make sure you are an adult paying for your own ticket!

But what do kids also like? Games of course! Granted, this is also adult friendly too. This year Terrificon has a list of games lined up for everyone to enjoy. One game that I have noticed was there last year, but I did not play, was “Rock Band 4.” I enjoy “Rock Band” even though I don’t play it as often as I used to, but I’m still questioning whether or not I’d give this game a shot. But one game I will inevitably be playing at the con is “The Jackbox Party Pack.” When I was at this con last year, there was a session on Friday as the con was coming to a close where a bunch of people gathered in a room to play “Jackbox” games. For those who don’t know about “The Jackbox Party Pack,” it is a series of games meant to be played with friends or at parties, and they all have this humorous flair attached to them. Some of my favorite games from the packs include “Fibbage,” “Guesspionage,” and “Trivia Murder Party.” There is a good chance that there will be a decent crowd joining in to play these games, which will definitely make the experience all the more lively. This is all going down on Friday at 7PM, but that is not the only gaming-related event I’m planning to observe, because there are a couple of sessions dedicated to “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” which are being held on Saturday. I’d probably be interested in the second session (singles) because the doubles match is being held at 12PM, which depending on how long it should go on, could interfere with me seeing Billy Dee Williams’ panel.

But for those who also like tabletop gaming, they shouldn’t have to worry about missing out, because there are plenty of sessions involving “Magic: The Gathering.” These are all happening every day at various times. Other games that are to be seen include “Transformers: Turbo Sealed,” “Star Wars: X-Wing,” and “Warhammer: Underworlds.”

Another thing this convention has is after con events. One example is happening at Mohegan Sun’s Cabaret Theatre, where you can see John Barrowman (Arrow, Doctor Who) onstage. According to Terrificon’s site, the event is said to be “filled with spontaneous stories, music, and fabulous fun.” Tickets are on sale at prices ranging from $60 to $100 depending on which tier you select.

If you ever wanted to have dinner with a celebrity, now’s your chance! Because you can sit down with a man who has undoubtedly established himself. He’s a male model, art director, historian, magician, escape artist, musician, illustrator, pop-culture lecturer, publisher, designer, and sideshow fire-eater. I’m talking about Jim Steranko, or as my words probably suggest, the coolest person EVER. Except when he’s eating fire, then he’s flamin’ hot! In the realm of comics, he’s known as an artist-writer behind “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Captain America,” and “X-Men.” And that doesn’t even cover all of what he has done! The dinner will be held in the Passamaquiddy/Brothertown room in the Sky Convention Center and will conclude with a conversation about Steranko’s life and career. However, tickets are limited and they are $125 a pop. I probably won’t be going because it will coincide with the “Jackbox” gaming session. After all, the event is from 8-12 on Friday.

One thing I must point out in case certain people don’t know, George Perez was scheduled to appear at this convention at a certain point as part of his ongoing retirement tour. He has announced his retirement back in January and soon thereafter, it was leaked that he would be appearing at Terrificon during said tour. However, fairly recently, it was announced that he couldn’t make it and he couldn’t cancel. But fear not, because there are still items up for grabs from Perez. This is suggested on a page from Terrificon’s website announcing Perez’s cancellation.

“We are working with Mr. Pérez to obtain 275 (the same amount of autograph tickets he was going to hand out at the show) limited edition prints that he will sign and ship to TERRIFICON to be handed out to fans on a first come, first serve basis.”

So while there certainly are people, who in my opinion may be understandably upset or disappointed to know that George Perez isn’t showing up, it is also worth noting that the con is still trying to pay respect to the artist as much as they can. While I’m not particularly interested in getting a signed print from him, I do recognize Perez’s importance in the comics industry. He has been involved with both Marvel and DC, he penciled Marvel’s “The Infinity Gauntlet,” he’s responsible for DC’s 50th anniversary event, “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” he rebooted “Wonder Woman” in 1987, and he has worked on several issues for Marvel’s “The Avengers.” He has done more than enough to solidify himself as a comic book icon. I almost wouldn’t be surprised if he starts taking notes from Stan Lee and begins appearing in more comic book movies during his free time. He’s had proper relationships with the big two, Marvel and DC, so it is possible that such a thing could happen. After all, with Stan Lee gone, we need new cameos! Plus, Perez is 65, he’s got a good portion of his life let from the way things seem, and despite how retirement can be fun, maybe he’ll eventually get tired of golfing.

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One last important thing. This is a reminder that the con is occurring at the Mohegan Sun casino, and with that in mind, I am willing to bet a number of guests will be spending time doing much more than going to the con. They may want to shop, stay in the hotel, and grab a bite to eat, so if you want to save some money for activities, I’d recommend taking a gander at this link down below that will provide a bunch of deals for con goers. Keep in mind that certain deals will apply to certain days and some of these won’t even be available on any day of the con. But a deal is a deal, so click the link below to keep things real!

DEALS FOR MOHEGAN SUN ATTENDEES

I am pretty excited to appear at this year’s Terrificon, and I am going to be heading down there with a friend of mine. She got her own tickets, and we are ready to go into the con with the intention of making all other activities look dumb. If anyone knows me, happens to be reading this post, and will be either at Mohegan Sun or the con this weekend, feel free to say hi, but don’t go looking in one of the casino areas because I am not gambling this weekend. The con will most likely be my “money-waster” for these few days.

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Thanks for reading this post! I hope to see you all at Terrificon, and I would like to just remind everyone that days before I go to Connecticut, I am hoping to go see at least one movie. I’m going to be without family for a few days before heading out, I’ll have some free time on my hands, so I may want to kill some of that time by going to see at least one movie. I’m not sure what I am going to see yet, but if things work out, I might do a double feature at an AMC because they have the $5 Tuesdays deal which I often like to take advantage of. After all, there are a decent number of movies that’ll be out that I want to see such as “Hobbs and Shaw,” “Midsommar,” “Crawl,” and “The Farewell.” I also have a couple 2019 movies that I just purchased on Blu-ray that I have yet to watch. Those include “Missing Link” and “Alita: Battle Angel,” so maybe I’ll shoehorn in a review of at least one of those films. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go check out “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” again! By the way, if you have yet to read my review of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” feel free to click the link at the end of the post to expose yourself to the latest piece of work Tarantino has to offer. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, do you have tickets to 2019’s Terrificon? What kind of tickets did you get? What days are you going? Or, since it’s on topic, who is one celebrity that you wouldn’t mind paying a lot of money for more than one autograph or photo op? I’ll go with one I haven’t met yet, so I guess I’ll say Ana de Armas. I loved her in “Blade Runner 2049” and yeah, she’s good looking. I could brag to my pals back at home that she’s my new girlfriend.

I mean, look at her! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD REVIEW

AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019): Highest Grossing Box Office Movie Ever (My Thoughts)

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! I’d like to start off this post by saying, I’m sorry if this post seems as if it is being put up late. I’ve been busy, I’ve had other posts that got in the way, and I had to (or should I say got to) go see a movie for a post I wanted to get up by the end of this weekend. I have so little time, so much to do! But with that aside, let’s stay on topic! If you have been living under a rock for the past few days, let me just say, 1: I hope you’re enjoying that rock. And 2: Chances are that at least SOME of you may have heard the big news coming out of the movie industry recently. As many may know, Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” has hit many milestones during its theatrical run, but most recently, it hit the milestone to end all milestones (at least in theaters). As of now, “Avengers: Endgame” has dethroned James Cameron’s “Avatar” as the highest-grossing film at the box office of all time. The movie has been in theaters for just about three months, and over the weekend where it was just days away from approaching its three month mark, it made “Avatar” feel blue.

Anybody? I officially quit comedy.

Nevertheless, before “Avengers: Endgame” swooped in, “Avatar,” which in my opinion is a good movie for its visual effects, not to mention a thrilling experience, but a little lackluster on some script elements, had the all-time box office record of $2,789,679,794. As of now, “Avengers: Endgame” is sitting at $2.79 billion! And I knew, from the start, that the record was bound to be broken. Let me just give a list of some records “Endgame” broke before this all happened!

  • HIGHEST GROSSING OPENING WEEKEND WORLDWIDE
  • HIGHEST GROSSING OPENING WEEKEND IN AMERICA
  • FIRST MOVIE TO PASS $300 MILLION ON OPENING WEEKEND IN AMERICA
  • FASTEST MOVIE IN ADVANCE TICKET SALES
  • FASTEST MOVIE TO $1 BILLION (5 DAYS)
  • FASTEST MOVIE TO $1.5 BILLION (8 DAYS)
  • FASTEST MOVIE TO $2 BILLION (11 DAYS, WHICH IS THE TIME IT TOOK INFINITY WAR TO REACH $1 BILLION)
  • BEST THURSDAY PREVIEW
  • BEST OPENING DAY

To me, this record shatter was inevitable as soon as the opening weekend totals were revealed. It might have been inevitable since the tickets went on sale. Remember that virtual line from Fandango? Remember AMC’s site crashing? Never forget… 4/2/2019. This movie not only had legs, but it had a sense of being this big event. After all, this is why I wanted to see the film as early as possible. This is why I bought tickets for opening Thursday! I treated my adventure to “Avengers: Endgame” as if it were an official holiday. You know how some kids count down to Christmas? That was me with “Avengers: Endgame.” Its predecessor, “Infinity War,” impressed me to no end, I declared it to be my 2nd favorite film of 2018, and this made me realize that while it is a cinematic event, it is practically something that I felt was generational. I got into the MCU when I was thirteen years old, back when I started watching the first two “Iron Man” films after recording them and watching them through my DVR. Technically speaking, I watched the original “Avengers” movie back when I was twelve, but I still had little to no realization of what the MCU actually was. I eventually got the concept, and started watching more movies that took place in this cinematic universe that I cannot even believe still exists. It felt like something my entire life has been leading up to. Yes, “The Force Awakens” was a resurrection of a property I have loved for years. Yes, I have been excited for several films from worlds I have never been exposed to before such as “Interstellar.” But as soon as the release date of “Avengers: Endgame” hit, nothing else mattered. Even though I had to go to school and do a final presentation, that was secondary to me. “Endgame” mattered. Although this does bring up one thing. We live in a society where everything feels as if it is supposed to be done in a nanosecond.

We have tiny computers that fit in a pocket. These things have a free dictionary, encyclopedia, and study book all in one! We can preorder whatever the heck we want at Dunkin’ through an app on our phone! We have streaming services that drops an entire season of a brand new show for everyone to watch so they don’t have to wait for the next episode! While I thought it was unavoidable that we would see this film become the biggest in history, there was a point where I thought I should take that statement back because of how many people went to see it when it first came out. Some people went back, but not everybody did. To this day, I have only seen the film in theaters once. As a film critic who needs to review a diverse selection of content, I need to save my money! If I had AMC Stubs A-List maybe I’d go see it again, but I am still debating on whether or not I should get it.

Although there are factors on this film getting people in the theater for a repeat viewing. For one thing, critical reviews helped. Many people related to the film industry praised the film for many aspects, not to mention the reviews that come from the fan side of things. The film received an A from CinemaScore, a 91% audience rating from Rotten Tomatoes, which is 3% less than the combined critic rating, and the film has a spot on the IMDb top 250! The public response to this film is enough to warrant a repeat viewing in some way.

But I do have one question: Did the folks behind this movie use bad marketing to get people in the theater towards the end?

As some of you may know, Marvel and crew put out another version of “Avengers: Endgame” in theaters about a month ago. This was marketed as a “rerelease.” What did this rerelease contain? No additional footage for the movie, but a tribute to Stan Lee, some cut out footage featuring the Hulk, and a preview for what audiences were going to get in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” If anything, this is almost deceptive because while I was not exactly expecting much out of this rerelease, this brings nothing new to the table. As suggested by Box Office Mojo, the rerelease brought an increase in the movie’s domestic box office totals by 207%. I’m not calling the folks at Marvel Studios frauds. There is new stuff in the rerelease, but… barely. It’s just marketing that feels cheap, instead of calling it a “rerelease,” call it the “After Credits Special” or something.

Although this does bring up something interesting. “Avatar” had a rerelease as well. While not done in the same fashion as “Endgame” since their rerelease happened about 8 months after the film’s original release, it was little less… I guess I can say deceptive. The new cut featured extended footage of the film despite how it was already shown on home video. Nevertheless, it felt like there was a reason for the rerelease to happen based on timing and new content. Plus, let’s bring this up. “Avatar” beat “Titanic,” which is now third place in all-time box office totals, in just a month. Granted, “Endgame” beat “Titanic” faster, but that’s irrelevant. “Avatar” still remained the same film the entire time. The release an of an alternate edition didn’t happen until months later.

And I will still say, “Endgame” is better than “Avatar.” While “Avatar” is a visual spectacle, “Endgame” is that with story. Granted, if you are not familiar with the MCU, I’d say wait to watch this film until you maybe watch some other films in this universe. You would probably still have fun watching this movie, but there’s a good chance that you’d be asking some questions as to what might be happening. I know there are a lot of people, based on discoveries through the past number of years who like to point to “Avatar” as overhyped (which it kinda is), but much like “Endgame,” “Avatar” is a cinematic achievement. Granted, I don’t like how it is one of the major contributors to how we present movies in theaters (digitally). Although it helped bring the 3D craze, which isn’t a complete success, as some of you would also suggest, but there have been a number of movies that I feel have personally been enhanced through 3D technology. Movies like the “Hobbit” trilogy, “Gravity,” and “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

If I had to make a comparison, “Endgame” might start a revolution. Granted, it is a continuation of the superhero/comic book movie craze that has been going on for years now, but it could have sprung something new. And it reminds me of how much credit I also gave to the preceding installment, “Infinity War.” Why? Because that movie was essentially a culmination of a ten year span. While I do think “Infinity War” is the superior film, “Endgame” is not just a culmination, it’s the perfect capper for the MCU itself. Then again, “Far From Home” just came out and we seem to be getting at least two more phases so we’ll see what happens. The revolution I think it could start is the successes of multiple cinematic universes, if not successes, I’m at least expecting a number of attempts to be remembered through the years. However, that is not a guarantee because everyone is flocking to Marvel, but it makes me optimistic about the storylines and quality that could possibly go into future cinematic universes. DC has their own universe that seems to have gotten off to a rough start, but I think it recently turned itself around if you ask me with films like “Aquaman” and “Shazam.” Although I do think “Wonder Woman” is better than most Marvel movies so there is that. Warner Bros. seems to be having some success with their “Conjuring” universe that is quite honestly bigger than I ever thought it would be. And while there was a big bump in the road when it comes to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” I am still curious to see what else is in store regarding the MonsterVerse.

And I am willing to bet, despite how “Avengers: Endgame” comes out on digital in just a few days, there will still be room for it in theaters. After all, it’s one of those films that kind of resembles why movie theaters were built in the first place. It’s epic, it’s boisterous, it’s glorious, it’s built up for periods of time, and the potential audiences that could show up are immense. And despite the flak that I’m probably going to continue giving the marketing team behind this film for that “rerelease” fiasco, I don’t care because this movie deserves just about every penny it earned so far (despite being released by Disney) just for its quality and ability to entertain.

Nevertheless, I am thrilled to see this in my lifetime because I think “Avengers: Endgame” is an excellent film that deserves tons of praise. I gave the film an 8/10, which still stands to this day. In fact, it’s not even the best comic book movie of the year, that honor belongs to “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Even with that being said, “Endgame” is a game-changing movie. It feels like the cinematic events to end all cinematic events. Not only was it successful, but quite damn good. I was not alive to see this, but remember “The Phantom Menace?” At the time, that might have been the biggest cinematic event of all time. While there is still a debate on what might be the biggest of all time, “Endgame” is definitely a contender and I am happy to have this film be a part of my life.

Thanks for reading this post, I am sorry if this information appears to be irrelevant at this point, but I’m better late than never. I have a ton of things to do this week related to Scene Before, I was planning on doing this earlier but my review for “Yesterday” got in the way because… well, I had to talk about it. It was too bad to be ignored. Anyway, speaking of reviews, my next post is going to be for my review of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” I just got back from seeing it in the theater, and I cannot wait to talk about it. It is one of those movies that is gonna be fun to describe to those who haven’t seen it yet. And for those of you who are still thinking about “Endgame” at this point for whatever reason, be sure to check out my review for “Avengers: Endgame,” which I originally posted back in April. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! And while we are on the subject of breaking records. You know what isn’t breaking records? The likes on my Facebook page! Please like my page so you can be on the lookout for Scene Before news, recent content, and maybe I’ll throw in a random thought every once in a while! I want to know, what are your thoughts on “Avengers: Endgame” breaking the all-time box office record? Also, would you say it doesn’t count? Maybe for inflation? The rerelease factor? Something else? Or, how many times did you see “Endgame” in the theater? As for myself, I only saw it once, but once that 4K disc drops, perhaps the exclusive version from Target if you want to be totally specific, I am definitely picking it up! Let me know how insane you are down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Avengers: Endgame (2019) REVIEW

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019): The Truth Is… I Am Spider-Man

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Well, I waited over two weeks, I finally get to say it. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car, The Onion News Network), who also was the director and one of the writers behind the preceding film in this franchise, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” This film stars Tom Holland (The Lost City of Z, In the Heart of the Sea), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane), Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Shake It Up), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother, Safe Haven), Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Chef), Jacob Batalon (Blood Fest, Every Day), Martin Starr (Silicon Valley, Knocked Up), J.B. Smoove (Uncle Drew, Hall Pass) with Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, Chaplin) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Stronger). This is the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the second Spider-Man film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the eighth big screen “Spider-Man” film of the 21st century. So much for originality! Yay! This film continues the adventures of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in a post universe-wide snappening setting. As everyone adapts to a world that has changed forever, Peter Parker and his classmates are going on a field trip to Europe, only to run into chaos through unexpected encounters including Mysterio, and Nick Fury himself.

When it comes to Spider-Man, he is by far my favorite superhero of all time. Spider-Man is the perfect embodiment of your average teenager trying to live a normal life, but various struggles and obstacles beyond their control manage to get in their way. As for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, my love for him is unbelievable. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of “Homecoming,” I really enjoyed him in other films including “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” If I had to a superhero to relate to more than any other, Spider-Man is definitely number one. This is a reason why I really enjoyed a movie like Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2,” because it emphasizes the internal conflict of what Peter wants vs. what he needs. That film by the way, is my favorite comic book flick of all time. And in some ways, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sort of takes me back to the time frame of Sam Raimi’s films.

Mary Jane has a screen presence in this film that I personally did not expect.

This movie has the result of Sandman getting a makeover due to incoming tides.

Not to mention, the film is freaking awesome!

In fact, you know how “Avengers: Endgame” perhaps stands as the most anticipated film? Like, ever? As the release for “Endgame” got closer and closer, my hype levels increased. Can’t say that for “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” I saw the first trailer, thought it sucked, and while going into the film, I appreciated this film’s efforts to try reminding everyone of the effects of “Endgame,” I was still somewhat nervous. Then I came out of the film, got home, and made the following tweet.

For all I know, this could be due to just seeing the film, my opinion could change, but I felt a bigger impact through the smaller and slightly more individualistic story of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” than I did for perhaps what has been marketed as the biggest geekfest in history. But much like that giant nerdgasm-inducing experience, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is not perfect.

Much like “Avengers: Endgame,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home” suffers from minor pacing issues, but similar to “Endgame,” “Far From Home” has pacing issues which I can live with simply because of everything else that is happening. And this is not an issue in every sense of the word, but this movie has a lot of moments in its script that are incredibly convenient to what is happening on screen. But at the same time, I feel like that is one of the big improvements I can give to “Far From Home” when comparing it to “Homecoming.” Why? One of my biggest issues with “Homecoming” had to do with the script in a crapton of ways, one of which included the unbelievable amount of comedy inserted. And honestly, there was not a lot that landed. When it comes to Spidey’s quips and one-liners in “Homecoming,” they don’t feel as hysterical as they could be. I could tell that Tom Holland was trying his hardest with the material that may have sounded great on paper, but for one reason or another, the jokes just didn’t stick the landing for me. Here however, there seems to be a lot less comedy, and the bits of comedy they have in this film, when present, completely works. Because let’s face it, this movie is the first installment in the MCU that has to reflect on the past couple of “Avengers” flicks, which honestly would present the need for a slightly more serious script. Plus, Sony’s distributing this film instead of Disney. When the mouse is away, the spiders will play!

Also, while I keep talking about “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as if it happens to be the last “Spider-Man” film to be released, keep in mind that we just got “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which many consider to be the best “Spider-Man” film to date. While I don’t know whether or not I enjoyed this film or “Spider-Verse” more, I can confirm that when I saw “Spider-Verse,” it was perhaps the biggest acid trip of a superhero film I have ever watched. Guess what? I might need to rethink that statement, and I won’t go into why, BUT LET ME HAVE YOU KNOW THAT “SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME” IS ONE HELL OF A DRUG! If you drop acid before this movie, I wish you luck on getting out of the movie theater when the film ends because there are a couple of head-spinning moments that kind of left me speechless.

And you know something? Another shocker for this film to me is MJ, because when I saw her in “Homecoming,” I did not like her, I thought she some clowny individual who barely had a personality. This time there is depth to her, and even though I was nervous back in 2016 when they announced who was playing MJ, specifically Zendaya, she pulled it off in this movie! Mainly because she had a take on it that made the character her own. After all, her name isn’t really Mary Jane, it’s actually Michelle. If she was a redhead, I’d want the character a certain way. But I appreciate Zendaya’s take not only because her character was well written, not just because she did her part with excellence, but because it did not feel like the type of MJ I thought she would be, which would be a black person trying to playing the typical white Mary Jane, almost as if it were a s*itty impression. Zendaya has her individual flair which brought some pizzazz to the final product. Rock on! Granted, seeing her in the beginning of the film was a little sloppy, in fact, that’s not the only issue I have with the start of the film (there are a couple minor moments leaning towards cringe), but as it went on, I began to admire her.

And the surprises don’t even end there, because this time around I actually liked Ned! If you don’t remember my “Homecoming” review, this is what I said about Ned.

“One character in this movie goes by the name of Ned Leeds, he was played by Jacob Batalon, and there was a point in this movie where I wanted some sort of technology that existed which could allow me to jump into a movie’s universe. I could go into this one, find Ned, and give him the finger!”

You know what? Forget about that statement, f*ck it! Because in this movie, Ned is the opposite of annoying. In fact, he’s pretty charming at certain times. There’s this portion of the film dedicated to this relationship he has with this one girl, which honestly, had its ups and downs, but there are moments when I can approve of it.

Also, if anything, it reminded me of the Schmoopie relationship from “Seinfeld.”

And while I won’t dive too deep into this, another problem I had with “Homecoming” that somehow gets fixed here is my displeasure with the AI from that film. Remember Karen? I do. And I don’t like her. While she could have been charming in that film, she had a few quirks that did not sit well with me. Karen does not make a return here and I won’t go into detail, but there’s an AI here that is honestly charming, and even sets up an entertaining and thrilling sequence on a bus.

Moving onto our main character, Peter Parker is back and now the important question is this: What would be a bigger feat for him than going to space? Europe? That’s nothing! Any idiot can fly a plane to Europe! But nevertheless, Parker is vacationing in Europe, and now he has to deal with a side mission, which takes away from whatever relaxation he can get. This is why I really enjoy the character of Spider-Man, because other heroes, specifcally in the MCU, always seem to be built with this sort of drive to save the world. Granted, with an interpretation such as Tony Stark, maybe he’d get a little drained from it and prefer to lay low for awhile like he did in “Iron Man 3,” but there are not many moments where I have seen an MCU hero flat out refuse to do hero work. When the Avengers got together, just about everyone showed up. Thor always seemed to have a knack for defending Asgard with a hammer by his side. Captain America would always be willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. But Spider-Man… Needs his alone time. While in some instances, I imagine this would make a hero look like a dick or a coward, it works for Peter Parker because he’s just a normal, likable, not to mention, relatable kid. He just wants a normal life despite various perks of being a superhero. In fact, Peter’s story and actions in this film kind of remind me of what is like to be me when I was younger. I had my crushes, perhaps constantly imagined plans to get together with said crushes, and if you know me, they did not work out, and I’m fine with that. By the way ladies, I’m single! Plus, Peter in this film has to deal with following in the footsteps of those above him, which is something that I did think about out sometimes when I was younger. Granted, probably not a lot, but the thought definitely did come up in my head once or twice.

I also really liked Mysterio in this film, they managed to go in a direction with the character that I for one personally did not expect, and as for Jake Gyllenhaal, he was basically perfect casting for this role. I remember back in the day I wanted him to be the next Batman if Affleck were to leave. Granted, he’s not, but still. But even though I never imagined Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, I cannot help but dig him. He did a really good job, and I love his costume! It’s amazing!

Now despite what the box office can make me think, there are still people out there who have yet to see “Avengers: Endgame.” But in “Endgame,” there is a lot that happens that leads to this film’s events. In fact, the beginning of this film is a tribute to a couple of major characters who have encountered a common barrier in “Endgame.” And this movie, while I won’t go into context, shows off perhaps the most heart-wrenching footage of the snappening I’ll ever see in my life. If you thought that collection of deaths on Wakanda was disturbing, I’ll remind you, the effects to me were personally diminished (although still slightly powerful) because going into “Infinity War,” I kinda knew we were going to see people die. Granted, I didn’t know who, how, or when, but I knew something was coming. What made it really disturbing is that it was just a bunch of innocent people going through their everyday lives. Granted, that was sort of already shown during “Infinity War’s” end credits, but this movie did it better because for all I know it was shot on somebody’s phone or some other everyday camera. It almost reminds me of the found footage movie “Cloverfield” the more I think about it, because in a way, I felt immersed into such a disturbing situation, not to mention from a rather shaky first person perspective.

In the end, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” can be summed up in one word. Fun. It has a vibe that is almost reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films while also managing to be a product of its own. The movie, in more ways than one, made me feel young again. I talked to death about the relatable teen year experiences this film provided, but I grew up watching Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films and in some ways, this film managed to take me back to when I was somewhere between 6 to 14 years old. “Spider-Man 2” still stands as my favorite comic book movie ever, but I cannot deny that this is definitely another solid second “Spider-Man” movie. As I was writing this review, I’ve been having a constant debate in my head on whether or not this is better than “Spider-Verse,” and this debate is far from over. I’m willing to bet that this won’t end for awhile. I’d probably have to rewatch both films to know for sure. But if I had to make my thoughts on this film as finalized as possible, I’d say that unlike “Spider-Verse,” I felt that “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” while just as entertaining, if not more, had a greater quantity of issues that stood out to me. So with that being said, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” despite “Endgame” being a more conclusive chapter to the entire three phase saga of the MCU, is a damn fine way for Marvel to cap off their third phase. I’m going to give “Spider-Man: Far From Home” a high 8/10. I love the constant joke about how we are getting too many “Spider-Man” movies or movies that have Spidey in them. Well, if we’re getting films that are this good, why should they stop making them? I’ll wait for the next “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and then we’ll revisit this topic later. And I also will say, I almost forgot to consider this about “Spider-Verse,” it basically was a game-changer for the comic book genre in cinema. The animation style was unlike anything I have seen on the big screen up until that point. How many live-action “Spider-Man” films do we have right now? I don’t care about real numbers at this point. Let’s just go with umpteen because it sounds kind of fun. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that next Monday, July 22nd, will be the release date for my final Quentin Tarantino review series installment, specifically, “The Hateful Eight.” I’ll be reviewing this film just in time for Tarantino’s new film coming out next week, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Stay tuned!

Also, if you love “Spider-Man” like I do, or if you simply want to know more of my thoughts on the “Spider-Man” movies, I posted a review for every big screen “Spider-Man” film since the original Sam Raimi flick from 2002. If you want to check these out, click the links down below! Be sure to follow Scene Before through a WordPress account or email so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, I have a Facebook page, if you could do me a favor and give it a like or follow it would be very much appreciated! I want to know, did you see “Spider-Man: Far From Home?” What did you think about it? Or, as painful of a reminder as it may be, this is the first MCU film without a Stan Lee cameo. RIP, by the way. So with that being said, what is your personal favorite Stan Lee cameo? If you ask me, I’d go with the one where he tries to get into Reed and Susan’s wedding in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” Tony Stank from “Captain America: Civil War,” the bus driving scene from “Avengers: Infinity War,” or even though it’s not Marvel, “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies,” which basically takes the Stan Lee cameo and manages fetishize it to the core. Nevertheless, let me know your pick, that way your name will make a random appearance as a cameo in this post! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Will STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Be Shown On IMAX 70mm Film?

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last year, I created a post asking the following question. Will “First Man” be shown on IMAX 70mm film? The answer, no. This year, there is another movie that I have followed for some time that is making me ask the same question. Specifically, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Why? Because despite a majority of this decade’s “Star Wars” films getting 70mm IMAX releases, there are reasons to believe that “The Rise of Skywalker,” the final film in The Skywalker Saga, will miss the mark.

When J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” came out in December 2015, that released in a number of IMAX 70mm locations, along with standard 35mm and 70mm theaters. It also was projected on IMAX’s then new laser technology in other locations. While that’s not film based, it is a digital response to IMAX’s film projection. When it comes to being projected in IMAX 70mm, the following locations took action.

US/CANADA

Alabama
McWane Center IMAX Dome Theatre – Birmingham
IMAX, U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville

California
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum – San Jose

Canada
Kramer IMAX, Saskatchewan Science Centre – Regina

Florida
Museum of Discovery & Science AutoNation IMAX – Ft. Lauderdale
IMAX Dome, Museum of Science & Industry – Tampa

Indiana
IMAX, Indiana State Museum – Indianapolis

Iowa
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center of Iowa – Des Moines

Missouri
Branson’s IMAX, Entertainment Complex – Branson
St. Louis Science Center OMNIMAX Theatre – St. Louis

Pennsylvania
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute– Philadelphia

Washington, DC
Lockheed Martin IMAX, National Air & Space Museum

Texas
Omni, Fort Worth Museum of Science & History – Fort Worth

INTERNATIONAL
LG IMAX, Darling Harbour – Sydney, Australia
The Science Museum – London, England

That’s 15 locations. That is less than the number of seasons of “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “NCIS,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Judge Judy,” “Dr. Phil,” “South Park,” “The Bachelor,” and the combined seasons for “Star Trek: The Original Series,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” also came out in certain IMAX 70mm locations, but the difference between that and “The Force Awakens,” aside from being a spinoff, is that the film was not shot specifically for 70mm IMAX projection. “The Force Awakens” was shot using IMAX branded cameras, and when a number of films were shot using that, IMAX presented the movie having those scenes fill the entire screen. This is true for many of their digital-based locations, as well as those running film. In fact, the film was shot completely in digital using an ARRI Alexa 65. Nevertheless, it still managed to hit 13 IMAX 70mm screens.

Alabama
IMAX, US Space & Rocket Center
IMAX Dome, McWane Center

California
AMC Universal CityWalk Stadium 19 & IMAX – Universal City
Esquire IMAX – Sacramento
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum

Canada
Kramer IMAX, Saskatchewan Science Centre

Florida
IMAX Dome, Museum of Science & Industry

Iowa
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center Iowa

Indiana
IMAX, Indiana Stare Museum

Minnesota
IMAX Theatre, Minnesota Zoo

Missouri
OMNIMAX, St. Louis Science Center

Pennsylvania
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute

Texas
Omni Theatre Fort Worth Museum of Science & History

Granted, this was a starting list. I say so because “Rogue One” was shown in more IMAX 70mm theaters after its initial release, including one in Connecticut’s Maritime Aquarium, which is one of the closest venues of its kind to where I live. When it comes to this specific theater, they managed to do the same for “The Force Awakens.”

Then came “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” directed by Rian Johsnon. Much like its chronological predecessor, “The Force Awakens,” this was partially shot using IMAX cameras. I will say though, personally, I missed out on the IMAX experience for this film when it came out. But based on research, I did not miss much. Why? Multiple sources suggest that the film never had any scenes projected from top to bottom on IMAX 70mm screens. The entire movie was projected in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, which is conventional in the movie industry. The original IMAX-specific aspect ratio is 1.43:1. “The Force Awakens” had 5 minutes of IMAX footage intact. All five minutes was blown up to fill the brand’s screens. But for those who went to see “The Last Jedi” in IMAX, they may have gotten crystal clear images, but black bars up the wazoo. Turns out, as a matter of fact, IMAX was the only film format in which this movie happened to be presented. No standard 35mm or standard 70mm was available. And if viewers did manage to check out these types of IMAX screenings, chances are they flocked to one of these places.

US/CANADA

Alabama
IMAX Dome, McWane Center – Birmingham
IMAX, U.S. Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville

California
Hackworth IMAX Dome, The Tech Museum – San Jose

Canada
Kramer IMAX, Saskatchewan Science Centre – Regina

Connecticut
IMAX, The Maritime Aquarium – Norwalk

Indiana
IMAX, Indiana State Museum – Indianapolis

Iowa
Blank IMAX Dome, Science Center of Iowa – Des Moines

Missouri
OMNIMAX, St. Louis Science Center – St. Louis

North Carolina
The Charlotte Observer IMAX Dome, Discovery Place – Charlotte

Pennsylvania
Tuttleman IMAX, The Franklin Institute– Philadelphia

Texas
Omnitheatre, Fort Worth Museum of Science & History – Fort Worth

UK
London Science Museum – London

That’s 11 locations. That is less than the number of seasons of “The Big Bang Theory,” “Supernatural,” “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” “Criminal Minds,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Ridiculousness,” “Bones,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Face Off,” “The Bachelorette,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Dallas,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Love Connection.”

As for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” which released almost half a year after “The Last Jedi,” that was not filmed with any IMAX technology. It still released in the IMAX format however, going through a traditional DMR (Digital Media Remastering) process. Here are the theaters that presented “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in IMAX 70mm.

There aren’t any, the film was entirely released in digital formats.

That’s 0 locations. That is less than the number of seasons of “Freaks and Geeks,” “Firefly,” “Clone High,” “Swamp Thing,” “Whiskey Cavalier,” “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “Bam’s Bad Ass Game Show,” “Son of Zorn,” “Bordertown,” “Inhumans,” “Selfie,” “Heroes: Reborn,” “Ghosted,” “America’s Next Best Weatherman,” and “State of Georgia.” FYI, ALL OF THESE got cancelled after one season.

To be honest though, I can’t complain too much because the entire movie was shot digitally on ARRI Alexa cameras.

And when it comes to a good portion of the locations that have played a few of these recent “Star Wars” movies in 70mm, not only are they few and far between, but many of them rarely play Hollywood features. Many of these theaters simply show IMAX-distributed documentaries that are either new or cater to a theme that would associate with a venue. Not to mention, a glaring fraction of these are domes, and while I will say I rarely go to domed IMAX theaters, one thing to point out about them is the 180° style of the screen. With a number of cinema screens, it is sometimes easy to notice a slight curve they can provide, and traditional IMAX screens are no exception. Forget about a curve with an IMAX Dome, it’s practically a boulder sliced in half. Not only do they rarely show Hollywood features, but they also can have a quirky looking image when there are black bars involved. Granted, I have yet to see something like this for myself in person, but from what I’ve seen online, it’s almost weird looking. I almost wonder if it would turn off a good portion of general audience members.

History aside, let’s move onto the present and the future. Despite IMDb’s current claims that this film will be shot with IMAX cameras, no word of mouth from Disney, J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, etc., has said anything related to such a claim (except this one, based on brief research). After all, I don’t know for sure, it could have been inserted long before, or maybe just as soon as the film happened to be starting production. However, IMDb is also claiming that the movie will be presented in multiple film formats. These include 35mm, 70mm, and IMAX 70mm. By the way, they are also suggesting these were also formats used for shooting.

“Shot on 35mm, 70mm, and 70mm IMAX, this is the third Star Wars film to be shot in the IMAX format, the first film in the franchise to be shot on 70mm film, and the first Star Wars film since Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) to be shot entirely on celluloid.”

OK, I can buy this movie entirely being shot on film. After all, one of the things that J.J. Abrams wanted out of “Episode VII” was the nostalgia factor, which was partially brought to the table through filming the movie in celluloid, an action that the prequels neglected for the most part. But to be fair, “new technology” sometimes has a ring to it.

As for what technology was used specifically, I think we still need updated information on it. Because when it comes to technical specifications, that is still a mystery kept by those who made this film. Yes, there are articles suggesting a mixture of 35mm and 70mm cinematography in the movie, but many of them are from the end of 2016, a month before “Rogue One” came out. However, perhaps the most credible information I came across was this occasionally updated article as seen on fromthegrapevine.com. For those who are lazy, there is a suggestion via an image that this next “Star Wars” film will be shot in 70mm.

Granted, I highly doubt that this movie will be mostly shot in digital. The past two films in the trilogy have been shot using film for a good portion of the runtime, therefore to maintain a similar feel, Abrams must have said film was the way to go.

And with this information in mind, I will point out that IMAX has a vast history of showcasing movies that were not shot through their technology on their true projection format. The thing is however, that time happened back when the DMR process was starting to get into full swing. With IMAX’s jump into digital projection in 2008, it wasn’t too long before IMAX started getting picky with what films would be shown in their original format. “Rogue One” was a rare exception back when it came out in 2016.

In fact, let’s look at IMAX in 2018 and what they have done with this technology. Unfortunately, IMAX missed the opportunity to put “First Man,” their only new release that year shot with IMAX 70mm tech, in theaters catering to that format. They were shown in IMAX Laser theaters, which is a nice consolation, but having been in both venues for different movies, it’s not the same. The only “new” 70mm experience that came out was a limited 50th anniversary engagement of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Aside from that, there was a 10th anniversary limited engagement of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” which played around the same time period. There was another movie released in IMAX shot with their technology (Avengers: Infinity War), but that film was shot completely in digital. This allowed a complete fill of the screen in many, smaller, digital venues, but not for the venues IMAX was originally known for.

If you think I am pulling these facts out of my butt, let me just point out to you, I am not. There is a Wikipedia page that lists every single IMAX film that has gone through a DMR process. Yes, Wikipedia is not the most scholarly source of all time, but over the years, this has been pretty reliable for this subject matter.

List of IMAX DMR Films

In fact, if you scour the list, go to the section labeled “2019,” and scroll down to “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” you’ll notice it does not suggest there will be any IMAX 70mm screenings, nor does it say anything about the cinematic equipment. Granted, a lot of the information related to this does not exactly need to be displayed now, the movie does not even release until December. Even with that in mind however, it is slightly concerning. I can live with a lack of IMAX 70mm screenings if it wasn’t shot in that exact format, but if it was, I feel like we are gonna be in a “First Man” situation all over again. Although that movie flopped as far as I am aware so, who knows? It might have been for the best. I enjoyed the movie, in fact it was one of my favorites of the year, but regardless, it didn’t have proper financial legs.

It is perhaps slightly inevitable that “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be a financial success. I say SLIGHTLY inevitable, because while a number of recent Disney “Star Wars” flicks made over $1 billion at the box office, the most recent one, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” did not meet the financial standards of films that came prior to it, including the spinoff “Rogue One.” At the same time, it has things going for it. For one thing, it’s the conclusive chapter to The Skywalker Saga, it involves characters we have known for the past two films and even further into the past, Lando is back, and Palpatine seems to be making an appearance as well. It has the potential to win audiences and a portion of the fanbase overall. Well, that depends on how divided said fanbase is by the time this movie comes out, because it’s pretty ugly right now. And even though that ugliness is a thing, there are enough fans in the “Star Wars” community that could potentially show up for a new flick in the franchise.

If you ask me, I think Disney, Lucasfilm, Bob Iger, IMAX, among others would not have minded the idea of releasing the film in IMAX 70mm. Sure, “Solo” didn’t do as well as they would have hoped, but based on how that is a film that not many audiences asked for in the first place, added onto the prior success of films that came before it, they wouldn’t mind releasing the film in an IMAX 70mm format. They’re making more money with the Skywalker films compared to the spinoffs, and let’s face it, audiences care about Rey, they care about Kylo, they care about Chewie, they care about Lando, they care about BB-8. The praise is there, the studio just has to make a decision. Another factor to consider is the transition to go back to how Disney originally released these types of films. Specifically, by doing so in December. This is a good strategy because people are home for the holidays, kids are on break, and with a bunch of Oscar-bait films competing against each other, this blockbuster has a significant chance of standing out.

Do I want to see a reality where we get the opportunity to go check out “The Rise of Skywalker” in IMAX 70mm? I would, but I know it’s not certain. Given my clustered knowledge of how this movie is being shot, I don’t know if it is being shot in the IMAX format, but even if it isn’t, I would be willing to show up for an IMAX 70mm presentation simply because it is the clearest picture in existence. And… Disney, if you are planning on releasing this in IMAX 70mm… PLEASE… Consider releasing it at the Providence Place IMAX. It’s one of the closest true IMAX venues to my house, and one of the best theaters I have ever been to. I will flock there immediately if you release your film there in this specified format.

Am I being an obsessive nerd about this? Probably. Do I care? Hell no! In fact, with all statistics being considered, it makes me worried for the future of how IMAX movies are presented. Yes, we are likely getting Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” in IMAX 70mm next year, but are we simply doing so because it’s a Christopher Nolan film? Is it because of the director’s power in the industry? He’s my favorite director working today, but it’s still a question I can’t help but ask! “Star Wars” is a big franchise. And this latest film is seemingly shot in a big resolution. So why not let us as an audience look at the big picture?

YUP. PUN ABSOLUTELY INTENDED.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” hits theaters December 20th, 2019. I am looking forward (although I am also slightly apprehensive) to seeing how this sequel trilogy will conclude. I do have faith in J.J. Abrams, especially after the excellent job he did with “The Force Awakens.” It also seems inevitable that I am going to see the movie on opening night, even if I get access to a press screening before the movie hits theaters everywhere. As for IMAX, I don’t care what you do with this movie. If it is shot in your format, release it in 70mm. But based on the popularity of this franchise, consider that sort of release even if this movie was shot in a smaller format. What will happen? I don’t know, only time will tell! Thanks for reading this post! I just want to remind everyone that next week starts the second half of 2019, so I will be creating a mega-post containing a halftime report and a glimpse into the future of Scene Before. Be sure to look forward to that! Also, stay tuned for my second trailer of “Project 2020.” If you have seen one of my posts back in April, you know what I am talking about. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, do you have any thoughts on this “Rise of Skywalker” in IMAX 70mm matter? Or am I just batcrap crazy? Also, are you looking forward to “The Rise of Skywalker?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Replicas (2018): Keanu Reeves’ Latest Glitch In the Matrix

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“Replicas” is directed by Jeffery Nachmanoff (Legends, Traitor) and stars Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, Point Break), Alice Eve (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Iron Fist), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie), and John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island, Silver Linings Playbook). This film is about a man who works for a scientific organization and despite some downs here and there, his life is good. That is until he gets into a traffic accident alongside his family. He’s the only one in the car to survive. From this moment, his primary focus is on resurrecting said family through means of science.

Keanu Reeves is one of the best actors working today. He is one of those actors who has allowed me to change my perception towards them in regards to range and talent. I am not saying I hated Keanu Reeves back in the day or anything, but having seen him in “The Matrix,” it was almost hard for me to think of Keanu as anyone else but Neo for a period of time. An occasionally emotionless being who might as well be the heroic equivalent of an Amazon Echo.

USER: Alexa, try to make the first jump.

ALEXA: Whoa.

Then I saw him in “John Wick,” and holy hell that was sick! And at this point, in 2019, I feel like not just myself, but the world, is having Keanu fever. Keanu… Reever? Keanu Feever? Whatever. The point is, Keanu Reeves is arguably more popular and hip than he’s ever been. If you told me back in the day that Keanu Reeves could make another popular trilogy after “The Matrix,” I’d laugh in your face, call you a dirty rotten liar, and steal your most valuable possessions at night.

But today, we are not talking about “John Wick,” partially because I just saw the third movie and reviewed it about a month ago, and the fact that I purchased a Blu-ray from Best Buy of a movie that I for one am well aware, did not get good reviews. But for the sake of reviewing more relevant movies (as in, ones that recently came out) on this blog, I figured I’d buy it and watch it. And unfortunately, it is just about as bad as I heard. Like, what the f*ck?! Why did Keanu Reeves do this? Did he lose a bet or something? Granted, all of the actors in this movie, at least from my perspective, did well with what lackluster material was provided. But this movie felt like it should have gone straight to Syfy or something. I have a feeling that the studio behind “Replicas,” probably would have wanted to put this out on DVD or something, maybe sell the rights to Netflix. But they had Keanu Reeves, who as suggested, is probably a bigger phenomenon right now than the “Baby Shark” song. Maybe Alice Eve had something to do with it, but yeeeaah… Keanu Reeves is the bomb right now.

And sadly, the movie WASTES him! When he’s at work, he’s this serious guy who is insanely focused and has a bond with Thomas Middleditch. In fact, this is shown during one of the first scenes where Keanu is testing out a robot. And when it comes to this robot, he kind of represents the upright position of a homo-sapien, which isn’t a bad design. Granted, some of it looks cliche, maybe a little boring, but it’s at most, serviceable. Although at the same time, maybe even that is a little too generous! Partially because I then saw this robot move, it did not look real! I did not buy it! When it’s trying to gain control, it felt like the movie was losing frames. Movies are traditionally shot in 24 frames per second, when this robot moved, it felt like 12. What is this? Is this a movie? Or is it an online video game on a slightly tolerable PC?

You know what? It’s neither! You know what it is? S*IT!

In fact, that’s not all! Keanu has to figure out a way to revive his family, without getting into certain major consequences. This leads to an enormously off-putting scene where we have to watch him impersonate his family and make up lies. He tells the school his children go to that the kids are now being home-schooled, he’s texting with his daughters’ friends, some of these things just feel like they could work on an “SNL” sketch if the vibe was appropriate, but in a movie that I guess I’m supposed to take somewhat seriously, it just didn’t work for me. I could tell that Keanu really loves his family in this film, but holy crap, some of the things he does is just out of left field.

In fact, as a story, the concept could have potential, but at times it felt awkward, maddening, and sadly, BOOORING. I’d rather watch a YouTube video of some guy in a hotel counting all of the bedbugs in all of the guestrooms! You’ve got uninteresting characters, barely passable pacing, moments that make me as a viewer angry, and a cliche corporate guy who loves money.

It’s really sad how generic some of things in this movie happen to be. Sure, the story is kind of an interesting concept, but you’ve got a standard looking robot that does not come off as great, you’ve got the definition of a “suburban family,” and a lot of the dialogue feels bland and wooden. The testing in this movie kind of reminded me of “Fant4stic” from 2015, BUT WORSE! Granted, I wouldn’t say “Fant4stic” is AS bad as other people say, in my opinion, but knowing some things about this movie and that movie, that is a good comparison. You’ve got your randomly placed together characters, cliche writing, and a couple moments that made me as an audience member feel dumber.

In fact, there is a point where this movie’s “main plot” if you can call it that, gets into full swing, and I think the only interesting thing that happened is when Keanu is with his kids. It’s a warm morning and the kids at one point want one particular breakfast portion and once they’re finished with that, they want another decent breakfast portion. That’s kind of fun and quirky, give me more of that! But no, this movie wants to be boring, and as I write this review, I’m almost having trouble figuring out what to say. Out of all the characters in this movie, barely any of them have a personality. As for those who do have a personality, they are either less than fascinating or ordinary. I think a ragdoll from “Garry’s Mod,” simply lying on the ground on a map could potentially be more compelling of a character than some of these people!

Does the movie know what it wants it be? Probably so. It probably wanted to be this compelling sci-fi flick that could show the power of family and connections. That’s probably what I wanted it to be. But it was nothing except garbage to me, just the honest truth! When the climax arrived, I practically checked out. I didn’t care what would happen to anyone! Everyone could die and I wouldn’t care! The world could mutate or something and everybody would turn into banana splits! I wouldn’t give a damn! For all I know we get a plot twist that the big corporate dude from the beginning of the movie was Jesus Christ in disguise! Why should I even pay attention?! It doesn’t matter! Just let the movie end!

In the end, “Replicas,” which came out in theaters, feels like a carbon copy of a flick that went straight to Syfy. Keanu Reeves, seriously! Are you poor? If you are, I apologize, I’ll send you a Nintendo Switch to keep you entertained, I’ll bring some food, and I’ll organize a GoFundMe page! But why did anyone agree to do this movie? All the actors must have been “Alright, *double clap* paycheck time.” Because this movie is not just the epitome of bad sci-fi, but also a January movie. It bombed at the box office, and it did so for good reason! If you want a good Keanu Reeves movie from this year, go see “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.” I’m just glad I could actually say that since I waited until June to check this film out. But no matter what month you check “Replicas” out, you will wish you could die. Given how I would be fine going through the rest of my life not watching this movie again, and finding perhaps one or two minor positives overall, I am gonna give “Replicas” a 1/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that this upcoming weekend is the opening for “Toy Story 4.” I don’t know if I’ll be catching it this weekend, but it is on my to do list for sure. “Toy Story” is one of the best animated franchises out there, and even though I have been petrified for a long time on the thought of “Toy Story 4,” I kind of want to see it the more I hear about it. I don’t have my tickets yet, but I want to get them as soon as possible, so we’ll see what happens. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Replicas?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your least favorite Keanu Reeves film? I have not seen em’ all, so I cannot really say “Johnny Mnemonic.” This one is certainly a contender for me. My gosh, my brain cells are literally exiting my body! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Men In Black: International (2019): Thor and Valkyrie Play with Toys

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“Men In Black: International” is directed by F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Friday) and stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Girl On the Train), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Silicon Valley), Rafe Spall (The Big Short, Life of Pi), Les Twins, Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Love Actually), Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, Cold Pursuit), and Tim Blaney (Muppets Tonight, Guild Wars 2). This film is a spinoff that takes place in the popular “Men In Black” franchise, which would traditionally star Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but this time, as you can assume by the recently mentioned word “spinoff,” the story is diverging away from its usual storytelling methods. Although Frank the Pug is back, which is awesome. This spinoff revolves around agents H and M (coincidence?) as they save the planet from alien-related attacks.

Going into this movie, I had my expectations set somewhere around the middle. I enjoy the “Men In Black” movies. I own the first one on DVD, and I have seen the second and third films as well. When it comes to the second film, I thought it was decent. Just another case of the sequel not surpassing the original, but still a good time. Surprisingly, probably not just for me, but this might surprise a lot of you, of Will Smith’s trilogy, my favorite of them all is “Men In Black 3.” There was one point where I would watch Starz all the time, and throughout the year of 2013, “Men In Black 3” was probably the thing I rewatched the most on that channel. I admired the film for its use of time travel, some of the dialogue, and the surprisingly emotional ending. When I first heard they were doing a “Men In Black” spinoff, I didn’t particularly know what to think. I also remember there once being an idea for a crossover between “21 Jump Street” and “Men In Black.” I have not seen “21 Jump Street,” so I can’t fully give my thoughts on how much sense this idea would make. However, despite my slight apprehensions, which I still had after witnessing the first trailer for “Men In Black: International,” I still went in with some hopes that this movie would be worthy of the franchise name. I will say though, the final trailer, is actually a pretty good piece of marketing. It got me a bit more interested in the movie than I was before.

So, how was the movie? It’s the best “Men In Black” spinoff ever!

It’s also the only one.

Seriously though, how was the movie? It was pretty good. If you ask me, I think “Men In Black: International” has all the ingredients for a cliche, but effective, summer blockbuster. Cool action, witty dialogue, charming characters, neat effects (for the most part), and some nifty concepts here and there. It’s good enough for you to go with a few friends and forget about reality for a couple hours, and then, I dunno, maybe catch on cable one day. And I say that with all seriousness, because it is probably the most “fun” I’ve had in a theater this year. It’s not the best movie of 2019. In fact, there are other “fun” movies that I saw that I would technically consider better than this, but if you if you ask me which movie made me grin like an idiot for most of the runtime in 2019, “Men In Black: International” is certainly a contender.

The “Men In Black” franchise has always seemed to have mastered the art of comedy, and “Men In Black: International” is no exception to this rule. Unfortunately, while Frank the Pug does make a brief appearance in this film, he’s not a critical character. But we do manage to get an equally as awesome comic relief character by the name of Pawny, played by the likable and talented Kumail Nanjiani. His backstory, which is explained during the film, made me care for him, and he had a number of gutbusting lines here and there. Speaking of gutbusters, Pawny’s charisma does suggest that all the other characters are less funny or less interesting, because Chris Hemsworth is the bomb.

My respect for Chris Hemsworth has grown so much over the past few years, even though I hated “Ghostbusters,” even though “Thor: Ragnarok” was not what I wanted it to be, I still had respect for Chris Hemsworth because in general, he makes the idea of being charming the exact opposite of a chore. And when it comes to “Men In Black: International,” I think Hemsworth was one word: charismatic. He had fantastic lines, he truly feels like an expert in his field, maybe a bit of a goofy smart-ass who simultaneously takes his job seriously, and a guy who I would not mind having lunch with. Also, I mentioned the excellence of this film’s comedic elements, and I will certainly link an inside joke involving Hemsworth’s character. If you have ever heard of Marvel or Thor, there is a shot that will have you dying. Prepare for it if you ever see this movie.

Speaking of Hemsworth, I’d say he also had great chemistry with the film’s other lead, Tessa Thompson, but then again, that should not be too surprising since they have worked together before in multiple Marvel films, most notably “Thor: Ragnarok.” In fact, if I had to be honest, I think the duo’s chemistry here in “Men In Black: International” is better than it was in “Thor: Ragnarok,” because I feel the actors’ personalities meshed together when it comes to collective line delivery and interactions. I was able to buy into their partnership, and they worked together quite well.

I also really liked the big gun the marketing revealed at one point. If you remember the final trailer where our main characters test a gun in a desert, that makes for a couple highlights in the film. The gun does not get heavy usage, but it is probably the most admirable weapon in the film, which is saying a lot.

However, like most movies, “Men In Black: International” comes with its imperfections. Like a number of films I have seen recently, this movie suffers from some minor pacing issues, which almost made me lose interest in the story. Also, compared to a couple other “Men In Black” films, this installment feels a tad disposable. I’d watch it again, but I would not call it the holy grail of summer blockbusters. And as mentioned earlier in the post, a lot of the effects worked, but it doesn’t mean all of them did. When the movie started, I got a glimpse at a creature who was in front of young Agent M. It looked like something out of a B-rate “Avatar” film or perhaps live-action “Sonic the Hedgehog,” although, probably much more competent than that. It didn’t look revolting, but absolutely artificial. There was also almost no real threat. While various baddies appear throughout the film, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the most threatening of them all, at least for a period of time, and it almost took me out of the movie. Another aspect I didn’t like is the Lexus product placement, but at the same time, compared to “Hitman: Agent 47” and that film’s relationship with Audi, I can tolerate Lexus in this film by MILES. Pun most certainly intended. Then again, this film had a decent amount of positives to which point, the negatives almost don’t even matter. I had enough fun with “Men In Black: International” that I felt in the zone. Do I want to see another story with Chris Hemsworth or Tessa Thompson? That’s still up for debate from my perspective, but I still managed to enjoy what I saw.

In the end, “Men In Black: International” had me smiling, laughing, and immersed. If there is one aspect of movies that I personally felt has improved since I first started Scene Before in 2016, it is comedy, and movies like “Men In Black: International” support that sentiment. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson make a good team, I enjoyed the humor, and it made me, surprisingly, appreciate a “Men In Black” story that didn’t have Will Smith in it. Although technically speaking, he does appear at one point, I won’t say how. Also, part of me may be wondering however if my positive, “smile on my face” thoughts related to this film, may be due to the collective atmosphere in the theater. Because just about everyone was laughing from one point to the next and the cinema was nearly full. Then again, I saw “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” in a full cinema where everyone was laughing and I hated that piece of crap. Part of me wonders if my thoughts as of now, are simply fueled by what the collective vibe must have been. Maybe if I watch the film again, said thoughts could end up changing. But I don’t care, because I’m going to give “Men In Black: International” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that I just recently reached my 300 post mark on Scene Before, so if you want to check it out, click this link! The post involves me going over my complete Blu-ray collection, which features a video I uploaded to YouTube, partially because WordPress would not let me upload it directly. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Men In Black: International?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Men In Black” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Gravity (2013): Life in Space Is Impossible

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Some of you may be aware that I am currently doing a series of reviews which involve space movies. Last week I did my review for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I’m pretty sure I HAVE NOT talked about the movie before. LOL. Now it is time for my second entry in the series. After this week, I will be tackling another space movie, which is all being done in preparation for the upcoming Damien Chazelle directed “First Man.” This movie is going to release on October 12th everywhere in 2D and IMAX so look around for your local showtimes regarding the film. As for the movie we’re going to be talking about today, that is going to be the 2013 flick “Gravity.” In fact, coincidentally, this review is being brought to you EXACTLY FIVE YEARS AFTER “GRAVITY” CAME OUT IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE. Therefore, this review feels very fitting. Without further ado, let’s blast off, and get going with the review!

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“Gravity” was directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men), stars Sandra Bullock (The Proposal, The Heat) alongside George Clooney (The American, Batman & Robin) and revolves around a girl by the name of Ryan Stone (Bullock). She is in space working with Matt Kowalski (Clooney) when all of sudden their mission doesn’t go according to plan. A bunch of debris coming towards them causes a separation in crew members, and now it is up to Kowalski and Stone to survive together in space.

Now this is the start of the review so I might as well set the mood.

AT 600KM ABOVE PLANET EARTH THE TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATES BETWEEN +258 AND -148 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT

THERE IS NOTHING TO CARRY SOUND
NO AIR PRESSURE
NO OXYGEN

LIFE IN SPACE IS IMPOSSIBLE

Aside from the Warner Brothers logo which happens to introduce the movie, this is the first thing that can be seen on screen regarding “Gravity.” There are many introductions to a movie that can either remind you what you’re in for or get you excited for what’s to come. This one succeeds at both tasks. The rise in the music, the black screen, and the fades of the text. All of these remind you that you’re in for a ride. You have to strap yourself in. Many bumps are ahead. There’s even some sounds in the background that might as well associate with what a disaster in space would end up being.

Then… you cut to…

SPACE.

Much like the space shots in the last movie I reviewed, specifically “2001: A Space Odyssey,” pretty much all of them are insanely gorgeous. I will probably give the 1 up to “2001” over “Gravity” when it comes to space shots based on what it is shot on and how they actually crafted everything in space as supposed to using CGI (you can’t really do that in 1968), but given how realistic the CGI looks in this movie, I am almost convinced at times that this actually is space. I had a conversation with a companion months after this movie came out where she uttered this movie is basically “all visual effects.” She’s right. The amount of effective green screen used in “Gravity” actually blows my mind. It’s almost like we’re witnessing “Jurassic Park” in space. I say that because “Gravity,” like “Jurassic Park” relies heavily on CGI and the way they’ve executed visual effects in both movies just feel like they can blow your mind out of the water.

Speaking of shots, this movie came out in 2013, and as far as movies released that year go, this one won Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards. And holy crap this movie deserves it. Let’s talk about some of the unique shots in “Gravity.” When it comes to “Gravity,” the first shot I think of is actually the earliest one we see in the film. We see Earth, and a spacecraft is coming in. We also get to see our characters. If you have never seen this movie, this is probably gonna get you to want to check this movie out. That shot goes on for somewhere around ten minutes! Can you imagine how much rehearsing went into that shot? Can you imagine how much preparation the director and people behind the camera had to go through? I wonder what the storyboards must have been like!

Another cool shot is one that is pretty much reminiscent of a first-person game. And I mean that literally, they have FIRST-PERSON shots in this movie. There’s one in the middle of the film that has Ryan Stone trying to get into the International Space Station and as she opens the door to get inside, you can get a view into her helmet just before the door flies as she tugs onto it.

Take that, “Hardcore Henry!” You stole “Gravity’s” idea! I’ve seen this movie in IMAX, and as I reflect on what this movie has, it just makes me want to create a petition to rerelease this film in the format so I can experience shots like the ones I mentioned in such an immersive way.

Going back to visual effects, we need to talk about 3D. There are VERY few movies that I think have been worth the extra money for 3D. Some include “The Hobbit” trilogy, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and f*ck it, even the stupid “Ghostbusters” remake. Gotta give it credit for something, ya know. “Gravity” is also in such a category. You have many scenes where debris and characters are flying everywhere and it’s all just a visual spectacle to the face. It’s like you’re in space and you’re constantly getting hit in the head with debris! Only thing is you’re much more likely to survive because in all practicality you might as well be Dominic Toretto from “Fast & Furious.”

I can’t wait for “Fast & Furious” in space. It’s gonna be great.

One of the most immersive scenes in the movie comes from when Ryan Stone changes spacesuits and is outside the ISS. More debris is incoming, and all of a sudden, the ISS is doomed. You’re seeing bits and pieces flying everywhere and it is just like going on a ride at Universal. While Ryan Stone is certainly in danger, you feel like you’re in danger as well. I also love the line given by Ryan after she is free from any more suffering in this incident.

“I hate space.”

One of the main characters in “Gravity” is played by George Clooney. His name is Matt Kowalski, and he seems to have a knack for telling stories. As I watched this movie, I noticed that when the mood seems to be light, he would tell a story, maybe it is one the characters have heard before. If not, he tells one that has a similar vibe or structure to it.

Another main character, and I’m talking about someone who is technically THE main character is Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone. Talk about one of the best established characters of the decade. She starts off this movie as a seemingly normal character and then you get into her backstory. It’s almost like watching a Pixar movie that doesn’t really gear itself towards children. I mean, HER KID DIED. All she does when she isn’t in space, is go to work and drive. That’s gotta be the most boring life imaginable. I mean, she doesn’t clean McDonald’s restrooms, but even so. Given her backstory and the fact that she is TRULY pulling through, it just makes you root for the character that much more.

I gotta say though, when it comes to the end, that’s where this movie falls flat. This film is an hour and thirty-one minutes, but I don’t know how to feel about the ending. Without going into spoilers, it’s not an out of place ending, but I don’t know, I kind of wanted to see more than just what we got. Also, speaking of out of place, there’s a song that you can hear at the end of the movie and the credits, one of the weirdest song choices in movie history.

Also, regarding out of place stuff that I won’t really spoil, George Clooney’s character does something towards the end of the movie that really, honestly, makes zero sense. If you want to get technical with me, I might even say there are two things. I don’t even know, it just feels out of place. If anything, I could say it might be associated with an illusion or some sort of vision, maybe symbolism, it just makes the movie feel very strange and I just don’t understand why he would be doing what he’s doing.

Now it is time to get…

NITPICKY!

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t do work with rockets, I have no scientific background in anything related to space, I don’t work for NASA. My friend does, but she’s busy doing her own thing, so no, I didn’t ask her to help me out with this post. And you know what? I’d probably do a fine job noting some inaccuracies that can be seen in “Gravity,” but the fact is, I’d really be taking the words out of someone’s mouth. To be specific, the words of Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Some of you might remember the pointing out of scientific inaccuracies since early on in this movie’s release. But one of the more notable bits when it comes to that is from Tyson. He went on Twitter and had a few things to say.

Again, it’s nitpicky, it’s not like we have everybody in the world going around saying the same thing as this guy. Maybe some people would complain about the single-dimension of George Clooney or the cheesy lines that occasionally pop up. But at the same time, science is something that I’m willing to bet a number of filmmakers want to get right in their movies. If your movie has something that maybe in the screenplay was written to be completely compelling, but on screen has the most glaring scientific flaw, some people might point out the scientific flaw as opposed to what makes the scene a thing of beauty. In fact, you know that friend at NASA I was talking about? Even she sometimes says that Hollywood and science don’t always mix and she is not into that sort of thing.

And for those of you who think Dr. Tyson hated “Gravity…”

And this is something that can be taken seriously. While you can certainly enjoy a movie for what it is, there is certainly no shame in pointing out problems, even if they are nitpicky. After all, the more accurate the science is in the movie, the more I might end up enjoying it. “Gravity,” according to my memory, might as well be the first movie where I didn’t exactly question the science on screen, but it had me realizing that when it comes to science, not everything was perfect. In that sort of way, this movie is kind of special to me. How often can you say you remember a movie for its flaws? OK, well, more than you think, I still remember “The Emoji Movie.” But at least these flaws aren’t game-breaking.

In the end, “Gravity” is scary, it’s suspenseful, it’s what you can totally ask for in a space disaster film. To this day it is by far one of the most immersive movies I’ve ever seen. Some of the camerawork is not only masterful, but just so brilliant that it basically changes the game of how future movies could be made. And it did in a way if you think about it given how “Hardcore Henry” took the first-person concept and made an entire movie out of it. I could be wrong. Maybe video games were a bigger inspiration, I don’t know for sure. But if “Gravity” was bigger, cool. Not to mention, “Hardcore Henry” uses GoPro as its source of cinematography whereas this movie’s main source happens to be Arri Alexas. Like Dr. Tyson, I enjoyed this movie very much and I’m going to give “Gravity” an 8/10. While this movie does have some problems, what really gives “Gravity” the 8 mark for me is the journey of watching this film. Our main hero who is just trying to survive is definitely one of the more compelling characters I’ve come across over the past few years. The sound work done in this film is scary as s*it. The visual effects feel like in a way that they may be somewhat groundbreaking, or in some cases, International Space Station breaking. And the cinematography is just so brilliantly done.

*IF YOU LIKE RAMBLING OR BEING INFORMED ABOUT THINGS, READ ON FROM HERE*

Thanks for reading this review! Next week will be my final installment in my space movie review series in preparation for “First Man.” Just a reminder, “First Man” is in theaters everywhere on October 12th, but the day before I will have my review up for “Apollo 13.” I’ll be honest with you, and I’ll let you guys know in advance, I’m not sure how this review will turn out. I’m not saying it’s gonna suck. In fact, if I knew it was gonna suck, I’d scrap the review altogether. But compared to this movie and the other one I’ve reviewed in this series, “2001,” “Apollo 13” just happens to be a film I don’t have as much experience with. I will say one thing I’ve noticed with reviews for older movies is if I know the movie, I put more detail into the review. In my Tom Cruise series, I barely put anything into my review for “The Firm” because my review for it was composed after my first viewing whereas “Risky Business” was something I not only seen before but also happened to have a deep passion towards. My “Firm” review ended up at over 1800 words and my “Risky Business” review ended up at over 3400 words. Then again, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And I may be underestimating myself. I have seen “Apollo 13,” but it’s been years and I only deeply remember various parts. Plus I’m going to New York this weekend and I haven’t even watched the movie yet. Maybe I’ll watch it, go to sleep, wake up, and start my review on the train ride to New York, I dunno.

Speaking of New York, be sure to stay tuned for my thoughts on this year’s New York Comic Con! I will be going to the con on Friday and Sunday. I do have Columbus Day off, so if I have time, maybe I’ll use it reviewing the con and telling you what I purchased there. For those of you who want to see more of my work, be sure to follow Scene Before with a WordPress account or an email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Gravity?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your personal worst scientific inaccuracy you’ve ever seen in a movie? Doesn’t even have to be scientific, maybe history-related. Your choice. You have the power.

Only you can control your future. -Dr. Seuss

Scene Before is your click to the flicks!