Empire of Light (2022): A Cinematic Projection of Why Community and Connections Matter

“Empire of Light” is directed by Sam Mendes (1917, Spectre) and stars Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown), Michael Ward (The A List, The Old Guard), Monica Dolan (A Very English Scandal, Appropriate Adult), Tom Brooke (Preacher, Game of Thrones), Tanya Moodie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, A Discovery of Witches), Hannah Onslow (This Is Going to Hurt, Ridley Road), Crystal Clarke (Sanditon, Ordeal by Innocence), Toby Jones (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Hunger Games), and Colin Firth (1917, Kingsman: The Secret Service). This film is about a group of people living in 1980s England who work together at a cinema. Two of these people, specifically Hilary, the manager, and Stephen, a recent hire, develop a bond and take their connection to the point of a committed relationship.

There is a saying that Hollywood loves itself. Movies like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” highlight such a point. But while those movies are their calendar year’s shining example of “movie about movies” storytelling, 2022 is not short on these kinds of stories. “The Fabelmans,” which is based on Steven Spielberg’s youth, highlights the power of making movies. “Clerks III” doubles as a homage to Kevin Smith’s previous creations while also paying tribute to people want to create a film. I think it also shows how difficult such a process can be, both in front of and behind the camera. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” which stars Nicholas Cage as himself, pays tribute to various movies he made (and some he did not) while also poking fun at the way certain cinematic stories are told. “See How They Run” features a storyline where people want to turn a play into a motion picture. Later this month, “Babylon,” which is set in old Hollywood, will hit theatres. Some may call it self-indulgent, self-absorbed, or self-obsessed. Based on how I liked all these movies, minus “Babylon,” which I have yet to see, I would call it “writing what you know.” One thing is for sure, Hollywood knows movies.

While “Empire of Light” does not entirely highlight people making movies, it does highlight another important aspect of the filmmaking process, selling the movies. Most of this film takes place at a movie theatre. Not a modern day multiplex like AMC or Regal, but a small venue with a couple screens. The building itself looked beautiful. Similar to how “The Fabelmans” emits a certain magical feeling in regard to filmmaking itself, the cinema here emits an alike feeling to the point where just being inside it feels like an escape from your problems.

Despite being in a digital age where everything is at our fingertips, I am glad we still have movie theaters. In fact, I had the chance to watch “Empire of Light” at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, which if you are not from the Boston area, is a cinema in Brookline, Massachusetts that has some killer Art Deco vibes and a lot of history. It is a great place to see a movie. Watching a movie like this in a theater of that nature, the kind where they open and close the curtains before and after the movie, felt beautifully trippy. The best movies are those that take you to another world, and despite being in an older movie auditorium, I felt like I escaped into another auditorium somewhere else.

Joined by other casting standouts like Michael Ward, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth, “Empire of Light” is led by Olivia Colman, a talented actress who can do no wrong here. Unsurprisingly, she breaks both of her legs in this movie and maybe even a shoulder. I would not be surprised if she receives some chatter this awards season. She portrays Hilary, a cinema manager. From a written perspective, I would say Hilary is a kind of manager I would love to work for. She is competent, occasionally tough, but also fair. In short, she appears to want the best for everyone. Above all, she seems to be in her mojo whenever she happens to be at the cinema. I am kind of jealous of everyone who got to work at the cinema before the 21st century, partially because of what they seemed to provide. Cinemas nowadays still provide a wonderful experience. Also, large formats like Dolby Cinema and IMAX are great ways to enhance blockbuster presentations for example. But there is something about the cinema now, as magical as it is, and yet it seems that some of the magic might have been more evident in a time before Nicole Kidman tried to tell me that heartbreak feels good in a place like this. If I could transport myself to the cinema in this film, I would take the opportunity if it were presented to me.

This leads me to my next ounce of praise, the locations and overall look of the film. Again, the movie theater itself is lovely. It felt massive and at the same time, intimate. The rooftop, especially at night, is ingrained in my memory. There are also some beach scenes that looked crispy. Why should I be surprised? This is from the same director/cinematographer duo who also worked on “1917,” which looked gorgeous in its own right. Now, comparing the two films on a technical level seems unfair as “1917” was designed to look like most of it was done in a single take. But I would say “Empire of Light” is a solid follow-up.

Before I address my problems with the film, another compliment I must give to “Empire of Light” is the sound mix. Following what I said about the magic of the movies, the sound in this movie, is best heard in a theater. The levels could not be better or more immersive. That said, there is one sound I found particularly annoying. Partially because I heard it so many times in other content, but it makes at least seven appearances in this one movie. Do not take my word for it, but gosh does it feel like seven… I do not mind hearing seagulls, but hearing the same seagull sound effect after the fifth time took me out of the film, which is unfortunate considering how immersive the rest of the movie is. I will also address the story. It is not a bad story by any means, but it feels like all sparkle with very little shine. The performances are great, but the writing to support said performances lacks flair at times. I cared for the characters, but I cannot say I was as invested in them as other movies I saw recently.

I often make the assessment that every movie, even unforgivable garbage such as “Morbius,” will always be better in a theater. I will also note there are moments, like certain portions of the score, or one particular repeated sound effect during a scene three quarters of the way through the runtime, that are marvelously hard on the ears and build tension just by becoming the elephant in the room. This film is not as complicated as “Top Gun: Maverick,” but whoever did the sound mixing should be happy with how it came out. If you look at the box office nowadays, you may notice that films that partially rely on spectacle like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Jurassic World: Dominion” are usually the box office kings. Films that are of a tinier caliber like “Vengeance” or “The Fabelmans,” even though they might have have notable people in front of or behind the camera, do not do as well. I am part of the audience who goes to see spectacle fare like “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” because the odds are that the big screen experience will be the ultimate way to experience those movies. If you are thinking of waiting to watch “Empire of Light” at home, there is no one stopping you. However, few movies have sounded or looked as good this year given the scale for which this movie aims. There is a reason why Roger Deakins, this film’s director of photography, has 15 Academy Award nominations attached to his name. I would not be surprised, depending on how well this movie does, if he gets nomination 16.

In the end, “Empire of Light” is not my favorite tribute to movies this year, but it is one of the more palatable ones. This has a look to it as attractive as “The Fabelmans,” and as weird as this may be to clarify, not as heartwarming or emotionally charging as “Clerks III.” Despite my slight negatives, I recommend this film. If you have a chance to see “Empire of Light” this weekend, take it. Go out and support this film. Sam Mendes gets a thumbs up from me on his first film after “1917.” I am going to give “Empire of Light” a very high 7/10.

“Empire of Light” is now playing in select theaters. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for the upcoming week, because “Avatar: The Way of Water,” finally hits theaters after 13 years of waiting. I already have my tickets for Thursday and I will share my thoughts on the film as soon as possible. These are words part of me never thought I’d say, but here we are. Here is hoping the film is worth the wait, and that it actually has a decent, memorable script this time around. Speaking of “films…” My next review is going to be for a film called “The Mean One.” For those who are not in the know, this is basically a gorier version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.” Is this film going to pack in all tons of Christmas spirit? Or did it make me green and icky? Find out in the next review! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Empire of Light?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your movie theater of choice? I am an AMC A-List member, so there are a few AMC locations I usually go to, but one of my favorite places to see a movie is the Sunbrella IMAX at Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts. It is THE place for a big-budget film, and it is also where I will be watching “Avatar: The Way of Water” this Thursday. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Menu (2022): Phenomenally Mouthwatering and Jaw-Dropping

“The Menu” is directed by Mark Mylod (Succession, Game of Thrones) and stars Ralph Fiennes (The LEGO Batman Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma., The Queen’s Gambit), Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Mad Max: Fury Road), Hong Chau (Downsizing, Big Little Lies), Janet McTeer (Jessica Jones, Ozark), Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?, Dallas), and John Leguizamo (Super Mario Bros., Ice Age). This film follows a young couple, who are just two of the many people who partake in an expensive outing at Hawthorne, where food meets art. What is supposed to be an extravagant dining experience turns into a night of mayhem where the tension never ends.

If I had a dollar for how many times I ended up seeing a trailer for “The Menu” during a screening at the theater, I could probably at minimum, pay to see this movie at matinee price when it came out. Although I did not mind seeing this movie advertised a whole ton. Because it had a lot of things going for it. You have a stacked cast including Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. The concept, while it reminded me of other stories, came off as one of the more original ideas of 2022, and it looked like an okay mix of comedy and scares, kind of like one of my favorite movies of the past five years, “Ready or Not.” At the same time though, while the trailers do show a bit in regard to what the movie’s about, one of the first positives I can give to the movie, in addition to the marketing, is that despite being hammered with the trailers, there were plenty of surprises to be had. I had the privilege of getting to see this film with a big crowd the day before public release, and I had no regrets going.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can easily say “The Menu” is one of my favorite movies of the year. And in a year that has been chock full of fantastic horror, this may be my favorite film in its genre. More than “Smile.” More than “Barbarian.” I reviewed both of those movies about a month ago, and I said the exact same thing when talking about those. If there is any genre that I think is the clear winner this year in regards to film, horror takes the cake. Much like cake, “The Menu” is a deliciously attractive and satisfying time.

“The Menu” cements why I go to the movies. This movie is dark, twisted, yet fun. I had the time of my life laughing and gagging with a couple hundred other people.

Speaking of communal events, this movie showcases a group of people who are supposedly loaded with money. One of the best parts about this movie is that even though Hawthorne is full of… let’s just say snobby guests, the snobby characters never managed to once get on my nerves. In fact, seeing of some of these people on screen for whatever length of time they happened to be on provided for decent entertainment. Even though this movie has characters who went to an Ivy League school without financial troubles and business partners for example, all of them were fun to watch.

This movie jokes about the rich, the food service industry, and how artists endlessly strive to be perfect. With an endless spree of gags on these topics among others, this leads to brilliant exchanges and side-splitting moments. I cannot think of a movie this year, even in the pure comedy genre like “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” that is as funny as “The Menu.” I cannot remember the last time I have gone to a movie and laughed so hard that after seconds of chuckling, I felt a particular numbness running through my body for a split second. If I got any dizzier, I would have arguably needed a medical professional. This happened more than once during my experience.

All of the characters in “The Menu” serve their purpose and bring something to the table. While this movie’s batch of supporting characters are exactly what they are, minor, their respective actors all do a great job. Everyone from Judith Light as Anne, Janet McTeer as Lillian, and Rob Yang as Bryce delivered performances that arguably satisfied my cravings. One of my favorite members of the supporting cast however is John Leguizamo, who plays a Movie Star (Yes, that is the character’s credited name). Without giving much detail, we get some hints of his history as an actor that allow for some of the movie’s most entertaining and laugh-inducing moments.

Although I cannot forget about the two leads, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult. These characters, as we learn early on, are a couple. We see from the beginning that of the two, Tyler (Hoult) is the one who is clearly more invested in the dining experience whereas Margot (Taylor-Joy) is more or less just coming along for the ride. Many of Tyler’s lines are him either trying to get Margot to “blend in” or showcasing his worship for the establishment and its head chef. I thought having a character like one of Tyler’s personality made for added tension in a movie that already had plenty of thrills and chills. Margot, who was more than unfamiliar with Hawthorne, was likely in for some culture shock. And that was only the start of her journey.

Anya Taylor-Joy is not only great in “The Menu,” but it is the kind of great that makes me think she is easily in the conversation to become the next “it” actor of her generation. Not only is she mega-talented as she has shown from one role to the next, but she always manages to choose interesting projects. Even ones I do not particularly like such as Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” at least has some notable quirks. As much as the cast of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has me weary because of how many big stars are onboard instead of professional voiceover artists (although Jack Black seems to be perfectly cast), Anya Taylor-Joy’s presence gives me hope because of her current resume. “The Menu” is another solid addition to her ongoing list of wins. This movie involves a multitude of characters at once, but if this story belongs to anyone, it is Anya Taylor-Joy’s character of Margot. Therefore, I am delighted, although not surprised, that she killed it in this movie.

Again, the trailers for “The Menu” made it look like another “Ready or Not.” This makes sense given the film’s success and it also being under the Searchlight Pictures library. If I had to give a proper description to “The Menu” for those who have not seen it, I would describe “The Menu” as “Ready or Not” meets “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” You have an eccentric genius who is often the elephant in the room. There is a group of people who all gather to experience a literal food fantasy. And much like “Ready or Not,” the main character is a young woman who is different from everybody else despite attempts to fit in. Much like both movies, there is plenty of comedy (and horror if you count the tunnel scene in “Willy Wonka”) to take in. The film is a must see, especially with a big crowd in a theater. While this probably will not make “Wakanda Forever” bank, this film is worth watching and supporting. It is a definite must see.

In the end, “The Menu” is a phenomenal moviegoing experience and a hysterical ride from start to finish. The cast is great, the mix of horror and comedy is perfectly balanced, and overall, this is also well done from a technical standpoint. A lot of the food, even though it did not look like the first thing I would put in my mouth if I saw it in person, had an Insta-worthy feel to it. The shots and sets look as clean as can be. Some of the editing, without going into specifics, is perfectly timed with how the script plays out. I can only name one particular problem I have with this movie, but I am not going to go into it as it would dive into spoiler territory. This movie is only days old and I want the people reading this who have not seen this movie to go in as blind as they can. That said, “The Menu” is yet another win for Searchlight Pictures. You may remember I recently reviewed “The Banshees of Inisherin,” another Searchlight production. That is a movie I honored with high marks. I think “The Menu” is on the same level. Therefore, this is another win for Searchlight, and as far as I can see, moviegoing audiences. I am going to give “The Menu” a 9/10.

“The Menu” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, please check out some of my other ones! For example, if you want to see more comedy reviews, check out my thoughts on “Ticket to Paradise,” the recent romcom starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. If you are looking for more horror, go ahead and read my thoughts on “Halloween Ends,” the conclusion to the David Gordon Green series of “Halloween” flicks. Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Fabelmans.” That review should be posted later this week. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Menu?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the hardest you laughed at a movie this year? For me, while “The Menu” comes close, the definitive answer might be “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The shocks I experienced during that movie are on another level. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Two Thumbs Up, with All Fingers Intact

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and stars Colin Farrell (The Batman, Voyagers), Brendan Gleeson (The Tragedy of MacBeth, Assassin’s Creed), Kerry Condon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Better Call Saul), and Barry Keoghan (Eternals, Dunkirk) in a film where Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty, two men connected through lifelong friendship, face individual consequences through ending said bond.

I did not see a ton of marketing for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but I have been interested in the film since last month, when I started hearing about its many positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is currently holding a 98% critic score. Thus far, this is higher than McDonagh’s previous outings like “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” both of which also starred Colin Farrell. It is not surprising to see the actor come back to work alongside a director he has become close with. But it would help if the script he was given is strong. Thankfully, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a script that belongs on the cover of a health magazine. This is one of my favorite movies of the year and another win for Colin Farrell just after he killed it in this year’s “The Batman.”

The concept of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” specifically the dissolving of a lifelong friendship, is intriguing. This is especially true considering that it is the backbone of its story. The ending of a relationship comes off more like side consequence a protagonist goes through somewhere past the halfway point in numerous stories. It is the classic case of taking a protagonist and having them fall to their lowest point. Only that is not the case with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” because as we see, the protagonist, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) in this case, makes such a big deal out of it that the point practically flies over his head. It is like going to a restaurant, ordering a small pizza, being told that they do not have the ingredients to make pizza, but then going ahead and asking for a large pizza.

Despite this movie being a tale of loss in more ways than one, it is surprisingly funny. There are a number of great lines from multiple characters. Early on in the movie we get one of Colm’s few reasons why he does not find his friendship with Pádraic stable and he references the time Pádraic was talking about what he found in his donkey’s fecal matter. Colm may be onto something, except Pádraic was not talking about that. Pádraic says he was talking about his pony’s fecal matter, which as he puts it, shows how little Colm was listening. One particular confession scene past the halfway mark is also comedic gold. Little things like those make this movie worth the price of admission.

There is more to this simple concept than meets the eye. Because if this movie were about two former friends with differing perspectives as to where their relationship should go, it is possible that the story could get boring fast. Instead, the movie adds a complexity to the breakup that only makes things harder for the individual who declared the friendship was over. For each time Pádraic bothers Colm, he cuts off one of his fingers. Because that is what normal human beings do. This brings stakes to a fairly minimalistic and intimate story that already happens to succeed as both a drama and a comedy. For one thing, nobody wants to lose their fingers. Another thing to consider, nobody wants to see a chopped finger. Therefore, this is a tough situation on both sides. How realistic is Colm’s finger-cutting situation? Hard to say. Plus if I had to give my biggest problem with this movie, why did Colm actually go through with this?

Let’s put it this way. One of the reasons why Colm cut Pádraic from his life is to focus on interests like playing the violin. Last time I checked, unless you live in that hot dog finger universe in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you might want your fingers for playing musical instruments such as the violin. Sure, this eventually brings a particularly compelling scene during the second half of the movie where Colm utilizes said instrument, but as far as getting the point across to Pádraic, I would imagine the point may have been just as clear had he cut off his toes. It would have been just as gross, and arguably less painful on Colm’s end depending on how you slice it.

..Ignore that last statement, no pun intended, let’s move on.

That said, the movie delivers a fantastic story with the use of chopped fingers so I can forgive this based on how well executed everything happens to be.

One of the great things about “The Banshees of Inisherin” is that even though the protagonist in this case is the one who is dumped, I see both sides in regards to the feelings of the dumper and the dumpee. Pádraic may consider Colm to be an important part of his life, but Colm equally as much shows reasons why he must cut Pádraic from his life. A good movie can get you to root for the protagonist to the end, but there is also a saying that a story is only as good as its villain. While Colm is not a villain, he definitely is not the hero. Given the story and circumstances, Colm is a fantastic antithesis to Pádraic. Yes, Colm has his various reasons why he does not want to be friends with Pádraic, but as the movie reveals, he wants to drift away to focus on certain interests. It reminds me of the scene in “Whiplash” where Andrew dumps his love interest to focus on drumming, except in this case that moment is expanded into a whole movie. It is one’s basic drive to follow their passion, and to do that, they have to trim out certain people from their life.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” reminded me of “The Lighthouse” if the main characters were SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward Tentacles. In this case, Pádraic is SpongeBob. He is a hyperactive, larger than life individual who always seems to be in the moment. Colm on the other hand, is Squidward. He seems to want more out of life than what he has, and much like Squidward, he is musically talented. While this film has a higher count of locations and characters than “The Lighthouse,” I cannot recall a time I have seen two men descend into madness like the main duo in that film. The chemistry between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson is some of the finest I have watched in recent memory. This should not be surprising given how the two previously worked together as the stars of another Martin McDonagh movie, “In Bruges.” Never would I have expected to enjoy two people who have such a disconnect spending an abundance of screen time together. Safe to say, I can put a finger as to why “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a great movie.

In the end, while I have seen movies where the main story pulls itself forward by the two main characters not always bonding with each other, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of the best stories I have seen in regards to such endless disconnection. It made me happy, sad, and everything in between. “The Banshees of Inisherin” goes to show that sometimes the simplest stories are the most effective. The film is also beautifully shot and has some of the most gorgeous-looking locations of any movie to come out in 2022. Awards season, during which this movie may be a talking point, is getting into swing. And speaking of swings, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a home run, and a 9/10.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the Netflix feature “Slumberland.” I went to a recent press screening for the all new movie which is playing in California, but also set to release on the Netflix platform on November 18th. Stay tuned for my thoughts. Also, once I am done with that review, I will be talking about another Searchlight Pictures production, “The Menu.” Almost every movie I have gone to recently, I saw the trailer for this film. Whether the spree of marketing paid off, is a question that will be answered in the review. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Banshees of Inisherin?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you are looking forward to that you think could be a talking point during the current awards season? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

See How They Run (2022): An Admirably Staged Whodunnit with a Lesser Known, But Solid Cast

“See How They Run” is directed by Tom George (Defending the Guilty, This Country) and stars Sam Rockwell (Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Little Women), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong), Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, The Affair), Reece Shearsmith (Spaced, The World’s End), Harris Dickinson (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, The King’s Man), and David Oyelowo (Selma, Gringo). This film is set in 1950s London, where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which has become a popular play in the West End, is set to become a film. Unfortunately, when one crucial member of the film’s eventual production has been murdered, plans halt and it is now up to Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker to find out more about what happened.

While I have not watched a good amount of them, I do love a good murder mystery. In fact, my favorite television episode of all time, specifically And Then There Were Fewer from “Family Guy,” is a murder mystery.

“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin

Simply put, iconic.

In fact, one of my favorite movies of the past few years happens to be “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson. All the actors play their part well, especially Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, and it was one of the funniest movies of its year. In fact, while both movies have notable differences, I got “Knives Out” vibes from watching “See How They Run,” partially because both have some association with Agatha Christie works. For “Knives Out,” Rian Johnson once went on to reference several of Agatha Christie’s tales as inspiration for his film. As far as “See How They Run” goes, the movie literally uses an Agatha Christie work as a significant part of its story. “The Mousetrap,” which started off as a play, and as this movie reveals, is going to be turned into a film adaptation. As far as play to movie adaptations go, this definitely sounds better than “Cats.”

“See How They Run” is neither the biggest, nor most recognizable movie out right now. Heck, even “Avatar,” a thirteen year old film, beat it at the box office over the past few weekends. But to be fair, “See How They Run” did not release in 3D. Although unlike some of the alternatives out right now such as “Don’t Worry Darling,” “See How They Run” is definitely worth watching.

When I say this movie is not the most recognizable, I mean it. I live in the United States, and there are few big stars in this movie I can pinpoint like Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, David Oyelowo, and Adrien Brody. And that’s if you can actually call some of these people “stars.” That said, much like the recently mentioned “Knives Out,” every actor in this movie fits their part and feels like they belong in their environment. I have no problem with the casting whatsoever. The same goes with the characters. Everyone brought their A-game and while it may not have as star-studded of an ensemble as say the recent Kenneth Branagh-directed “Death on the Nile,” I would argue that the performances in “See How They Run” are just as, if not more compelling when combined together.

My favorite performances in the film come from the two most prominent characters, Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker, played by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan respectively. Rockwell transforms into this experienced, determined detective who has some noticeable quirks. I cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. The same assessment would have to be given to Saoirse Ronan, who is not only great in the movie, but based on her resume in recent years, this is a different performance than I am used to seeing from her.

Obviously, Sam Rockwell has been acting for years, therefore he has had the opportunity here and there to diversify his performances. From the little that I have seen from Saoirse Ronan, specifically through her work with Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” she has a knack for playing outspoken characters, and the character of Constable Stalker feels comparatively quiet. She is never shy, not necessarily nervous, but compared to her work as say Jo March in “Little Women,” Ronan plays a character who, based on what the story provides, is not the elephant in the room. Granted, Constable Stalker is not the main character of the film, therefore that also comes into play. Although she had some of my favorite moments in the movie. She had this recurring gag where she would often jump to conclusions that got an occasional laugh out of me.

My other hint of enormous praise of the film is the look of everything in it. Everything from the locations to the cinematography by Jamie Ramsay to the costumes by previous Jackoffs winner Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Last Night in Soho, Chernobyl). I felt like I was in the 1950s the entire time. I wanted to leave my world and enter this one. Kind of like last year’s “Last Night in Soho,” this movie sets up a spookily enchanting environment that is as beautiful as it is rugged. Being set in London is a wonderful coincidence if there ever was one.

This film packs a lot in its fairly short runtime. Unfortunately, I feel like I am not going to remember many of the supporting characters within the next month. I will likely remember Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker for their fabulous chemistry, but there are a good number of people that we meet by the film’s climax that I think I will disregard in comparison when talking about the movie to other people.

“See How They Run” may not be as smart or fun as say “Knives Out,” but it is worth a watch. The best way I can describe “See How They Run” to someone who hasn’t watched it is by referring to it as a Wes Anderson-style film if had some of the tones of “Knives Out.” I think both of those aspects could provide for a promising time. But this is no “Knives Out,” and if you want me to go by Wes Anderson terms, this is no “Rushmore.” Although if you are looking for something fun, something that could be an escape from reality, this is a quick, easy option. And I can honestly see myself watching it a second time if it ever comes around.

In the end, “See How They Run” is not my favorite movie of year, it is not the best murder mystery, but it is a quirky, delightful time. I do mean it when I say quirky. The movie even takes time to make fun of particular storytelling methods. A specific instance of this in particular had me dying. One character noted how cliché or predictable some murder mysteries are to some people, which I thought added for a nice touch for a story like this. I like the two main characters, they were played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. The overall aesthetic of the film is pleasing. My flaws with “See How They Run” do not detract from the delight this film is. I think you should see it if given the chance. I am going to give “See How They Run” a 7/10.

“See How They Run” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this, you might want to stay tuned for another review I have coming up. Specifically, for the new movie “Amsterdam.” I had a chance to see it, perhaps unfortunately. Therefore, I will be talking about it soon! Also, stay tuned for tomorrow, because I will be unveiling my thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s classic film, “E.T. the Extra-terrestrial.” I am reviewing the film as part of an ongoing Steven Spielberg Month and in honor of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “The Fabelmans,” which is set to release November 11th. Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you watch “See How They Run?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite murder mystery? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The French Dispatch (2021): Wes Anderson Spreads the News

Characters! Characters everywhere!

“The French Dispatch” is directed by Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore) and stars Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Usual Suspects), Adrien Brody (King Kong, Predators), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, The Deep End), Léa Seydoux (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Spectre), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Fargo), Timothee Chalamet (Interstellar, Little Women), Lyna Khoudri (Papicha, The Specials), Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, What If…?), Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, Sound of Metal), Steve Park (Do the Right Thing, Warrior), Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Stripes), and Owen Wilson (Loki, Cars). This film is a compilation of a few different written stories brought to life, all of which are told in The French Dispatch.

It’s been nearly a month since I watched this film, but before I went in, I’ve seen a number of Wes Anderson’s flicks. Much like Quentin Tarantino, Anderson has a distinct directorial style that I have not seen from anyone else. He shoots a number of his films with shots containing vibrant colors up the wazoo. One of his more recent pictures, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which I enjoyed, shows a mix of aspect ratios from 4:3 to traditional scope widescreen. He has a flair to his work that if I were a director I almost want to resist at the risk of being deemed a copycat. But just because his quirks are obviously present in his directorial style, does not mean that the story in his films are sacrificed. Months ago, I put on “Moonrise Kingdom” for the first time and safe to say, I really enjoyed the connection the two main kids had with one another. The writing had this feel to it that explained everything you needed to know, but felt satisfyingly minimalistic. I don’t really have another way to describe it.

I was rather excited for “The French Dispatch.” I thought the marketing was decent, and hopefully it would be worth the wait after COVID-19 pushed this film back, just like everything else. Having seen it, I honestly think it is on the lower tier of Wes Anderson’s library. This does not say much however, because much like Christopher Nolan and Pixar, an inferior movie from Wes Anderson is still a movie many would kill to make. “The French Dispatch” is interestingly told because it’s not exactly one story, it’s a story that influenced the display of other stories. It kind of reminded me of the “Treehouse of Horror” specials that “The Simpsons” do every Halloween, although in this case it’s not the same characters in each story. I say that because the film is essentially a few different stories all told in the same newspaper. Each one has its set of main subjects, and they’re all after different goals. I kind of like this style of storytelling because there are a lot of movies that I watch nowadays where you have one character and their goals, everything feels very important. This feels lighthearted and fun, but it’s also not over the top. At the end of the day, the movie’s goal is to make the viewer have fun, which I did. Although that also brings in a minor complaint, even though there are characters that sew all the stories together, “The French Dispatch” does not have a specific character that I can look back on and remember as the center of the story, at least one that is particularly interesting when it comes to those at the French Dispatch. And frankly, even though these characters have their quirks, some of which may be due to Wes Anderson’s directing style, there is not one I can say I loved more than any other. This movie has so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. It especially does not help when you’re reviewing the movie nearly a month after seeing it.

Although just because there are so many characters that it makes the cast for a “Lord of the Rings” movie look small, does not mean that I did not enjoy any of the three stories. All of them were in fact, very good. I was delighted by all of them. The Concrete Masterpiece, which is a pretty creative title, is an interesting look at an artist who has to do time while also focusing on his work. Although of the few main stories, it was probably my least favorite. Revision to a Manifesto was wonderfully quirky, very Wes Anderson-esque. I loved the idea of a chessboard revolution, I would have never thought of that. Then again, I never play chess. If you put me in front of a chess board and it was my turn, I’d just slap the opponent’s pieces off the board and shout “Yay! I win!”

I would never fare well in a chess tournament.

The Private Dining Room with the Police Commissioner, which was the final story told of the bunch, was also a ridiculously entertaining piece of writing brought to life (even if it is fiction). I also think they did a good job at segmenting these stories in a certain way, because if you watch the movie, the real thing that connects all these stories together is the fact that they are presented in the same news outlet and are set in similar spots. There is not one specific story that has a main character that is directly tied to another, so they could have played around with all of them in whatever order they choose, but I think in terms of giving this film a satisfying conclusion, this final story was the best one, because not only is it, for what I recall, probably the most action-packed of all the stories presented, but it ends in such a way that is fitting for a finale. Not the story itself, but the aftermath of it where the people are talking about it. I will not go into detail about it, because I would rather have you see the movie yourself and be entertained by it.

If I had anything else to say about the film, I do think it did a good job with both the costuming and makeup. For the record, this film came out in a limited number of theaters the same weekend “Dune” had its wide release, so I got to see Timothee Chalamet (right) in two films on the same weekend. I could tell who Timothee Chalamet was on screen, but at times, at least from my eyes, he did not look like his real self. He looked like he could actually age a bit. But at times he’d also revert back to someone younger. It’s hard to describe. His outfit felt distinguished and he looked like he had his hair done a bit. His outlook was striking, and maybe having “Dune” come out at the same time had something to do with it, but it caught my attention nevertheless.

In the end, “The French Dispatch” is a delightful film that even though it is not Wes Anderson’s best work, is one I am looking back on with a smile. To be frank, as I wrote this review, I thought it would be fun to maybe watch it a second time. Maybe not in a theater, unless nothing else was out and I wanted to use my A-List for a free film. Either way, Wes Anderson made a delightful movie. The cast is incredible, although I wish I remembered all the characters. Although maybe that’s the advantage of a repeat viewing in this case. There’s so many characters, that they can only be appreciated in multiple viewings. I’m going to give “The French Dispatch” a 7/10.

“The French Dispatch” is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to look forward to my reviews for “Last Night in Soho,” “Eternals,” “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” and “King Richard.” I cannot wait to get these reviews out for you all. I was gonna go see “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” this weekend, although I don’t know if I have the time. I was planning on seeing it with a couple other people, but it’s more or less a matter of what time works for them, as opposed to me. So a review may be coming, but I won’t be seeing it right now. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The French Dispatch?” What did you think about it? Or, since I brought it up… What is your favorite “Treehouse of Horror” segment from “The Simpsons?” My favorite would probably have to be “Citizen Kang,” the one that coincided with the 1996 U.S. Presidential Election. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019): A Well-Adapted, Modern Take on a Dickens Story

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” is directed by Armando Iannucchi (The Death of Stalin, Veep) and stars Dev Petel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Anuerin Bernard (War & Peace, Dunkirk), Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, Paddington), Morfydd Clark (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Crawl), Daisy May Cooper (This Country, Avenue 5), Rosalind Eleazer (Howards End, Death in Paradise), Hugh Laurie (Stuart Little, Tomorrowland), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, We Need to Talk About Kevin), and Ben Whislaw (Skyfall, Paddington).

This film is based on the similarly titled book written by Charles Dickens and follows David Copperfield, an orphan who finds himself needing to get through a series of obstacles.

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” already released in several film festivals last year, which eventually led to the film being nominated for a Best Casting BAFTA. The movie has not hit the United States until this past March, specifically at a festival, and has gotten a full fledged release in August. In my view, that officially makes this a 2020 movie. IMDb says this is a 2019 film, but it has not had an official theatrical release until this year, so I rest my case for now. As of late August, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” has hit several theaters in the United States, and so far has earned over a million dollars. Now, that’s a great total if I went on NBC’s “The Wall,” but the film’s budget is $15.6 million. The collective total at the box office worldwide is $11.6 million. That’s not entirely pleasing so far, but given how movie theaters are coming back to life at this point, it should not be too surprising. Nevertheless, I used one of my A-List tickets to see this movie last Sunday, and having never once read the “David Copperfield” book, I did not really know what to expect. I will have you all know, when movie theaters were allowed to reopen in my state, the first screening I attended contained one trailer, which was for this exact movie. That’s all. I could tell you I really enjoyed the trailer, but the reality was that I was more focused on the notion that a movie theater was actually open.

Even so, this movie had an advantage, because it was *that first trailer* I’ve seen in a while, it stuck in my mind like a catchy tune. So was this movie worth my time when I finally saw it? I’d say so.

Going into “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” I did not entirely know what to expect. Keep in mind that this review is written by someone who never read the book. I walked out of the movie fairly delighted. There was a series of well-directed, marvelously written scenes. I could thank the writers for this film, but maybe I should thank Charles Dickens considering how he wrote the material. It also goes to show how timeless this movie feels, and how one can possibly connect to some guy living in the 19th century. All the factory scenes from this film are incredible. Not only are they atmospheric, but they allow for this movie’s writing to shine. I felt for Dev Patel’s character of David Copperfield several steps of the way.

This movie manages to maintain its own vision from beginning to end, and I was massively entertained by said vision. While “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is not my favorite movie of the year, I will not deny that this movie manages to maintain its own flair every step of the way. I do not feel like I will end up remembering every character’s name, although I do imagine if I read the book maybe I will. Speaking of which, this brings up another point.

A lot of people tend a read a book, watch a movie, compare the two side by side. Personally, I see books and movies as two separate entities and I don’t always think they should be compared just to be one thing since they are two different mediums. However, let’s reverse what I just brought up for a moment. I watch a ton more movies than I read books, but if I were to take this movie, “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” I would definitely read the book that inspired it because I enjoyed the end product of the film. I don’t know when I’ll dedicate time to it, but it is a thought that I am intrigued by.

In terms of performances, I think everyone across the board did a great job from Dev Patel to Hugh Laurie to Peter Capaldi and Benedict Wong. Their performances help provide a refreshing take on what must be a classic. One of my favorite performances in this movie however comes from Darren Boyd, who plays Mr. Murdstone, who marries Copperfield’s once widowed mother. In addition to that, Copperfield has to work for Murdstone in his factory, which as previously suggested, makes for some of the finest scenes in the movie. This movie is PG, so according to the MPAA, kids can watch this and feel fine. There are some notable scenes where that PG rating shows, but at the same time, as I watched those scenes, I got the feeling I was watching somebody who was pushing the barrier a little higher. They say a movie is only as good as its villain, and “The Personal History of David Copperfield” utilizes that saying to full potential.

There are few other antagonists from movies this year that I can think of that I will remember for years to come. Maybe Dr. Robotnik from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” perhaps Sator from “Tenet,” and this might shock you, Paula Abdul from “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” Just being honest. Murdstone is up there with the greats for me. I really hope we get a couple more comic book movies this year, because I am curious to see Taskmaster in “Black Widow” and see how he ranks against the rest of the Marvel villain crew. IF “BLACK WIDOW” MOVES AGAIN OR GOES STRAIGHT TO DISNEY+ I MIGHT BE DONE WITH MOVIES. Nevertheless, Murdstone is one of my favorite characters in this movie and his attitude says a lot about who he is.

If I have anything else to say, I also enjoyed the score in this film. I don’t know if I’ll end up listening to it during free time later, but hearing it in the theater was most certainly atmospheric and occasionally gave a larger than life vibe. The score is done by Christopher Willis, who has also done work for a couple Disney television shows and HBO’s “Veep.”

In the end, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is a fine adaptation of the well-known Charles Dickens novel. I have never read the book, but after seeing this movie, who knows? Maybe I’ll give it a shot. I imagine it is better than the movie, given how Dickens is a household name. Even so, I found myself delighted with “The Personal History of David Copperfield” and I am going to give it a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Becky,” which stars Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, and Kevin James. I just got the Blu-ray recently, watched it, and I want to say some things about it. I’m not sure what my next review after that is going to be. I’m thinking either “Bill & Ted Face the Music” or there is also this one movie that has supposedly been out for a month called “Tesla.” I saw trailers for it at one theater, it never showed up, but it is also available On Demand for a cheap price. Maybe I’ll watch that. Although one of my local theaters, the Lexington Venue, just recently opened once more, so maybe I’ll check something out there if I have time. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Personal History of David Copperfield?” What did you think about it? Or, did you read the original “David Copperfield” book? Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes Part 3

29080_grand_rapids18

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 3 of the all new Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The spread continues! The United States is still the most affected country by this virus and one can only wonder when collective optimism will set in. What is happening? Masks weren’t safe then but they’re safe now? The New England Patriots sent protective equipment to New York? Speaking of New York, apparently it is just recently reported that the state has suffered its highest death toll yet. Although at the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo feels that the decrease in hospitalizations could bring hope. Speaking of hope, the death toll in Italy and Spain seem to be falling.

There’s also continuous talk about about a drug. President Trump is suggesting to use hydroxychloroquine in order to stop the virus. For the record, this is a drug that is used to cure malaria and mosquito bites. Trump has a financial interest in Sanofi, which is a French drugmaker that makes a brand-name edition of the drug. He also suggested that if the drug is combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic, it could be “a game-changer.” However, not everyone is onboard, including expert Anthony Fauci, who has stood alongside Trump from day to day during this crisis. Fauci suggests that there is only “anecdotal evidence” of the drug helping people.

Also, Easter is this Sunday, and given how there are strong recommendations for people to stay home nowadays, there is a high likelihood that family gatherings will be avoided. I often visit relatives out of town on Easter Sunday, but given the current situation, that does not seem to be happening. But, if you live in New Zealand and you have kids that are feeling down, feel free to cheer them up by letting them know that the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, considers the Easter Bunny an essential worker.

As stated in the video, it may be tough for the bunny to get everywhere, but if you want to spread some positivity to your children, here you go. Also, remind them that the Tooth Fairy is essential as well. Although if that Tooth Fairy shows up as The Rock, then reconsider what I just said.

Once again, this has been a rather uneventful weekend for the box office, and one of the biggest concerns as far as box office goes has to do with AMC Theatres, which I’ll get to eventually. But as a continual substitute to the theater, many movies are constantly being dropped onto VOD services early. Some recent highlights include “Bad Boys For Life,” the highest grossing January film of all time, and “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” which appropriately dropped on April Fools Day. But with physical life in abandonment for the time being, there may be some concerns about big festivals. San Diego Comic-Con, arguably the most important comic convention in relation to film, is still on. However, weeks ago, Cannes, the annual festival held in France, has been postponed from May to sometime in June or July. And it was just announced from festival director Thierry Fremaux that there are no plans to digitally transform the event, suggesting that “it’s a model that won’t work.” And this doesn’t even cover all of the festival news that is relevant for this post. Here’s more!

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST IS BACK ON (Sort of)

SXSW Conference & Festivals | March 13-22, 2020

One of the benefits of a large gathering like South by Southwest is the ability to mix the intention of interacting with other people, networking, while also putting the idea of entertainment into the mix. In fact, I was going to go to South by Southwest this year, but unfortunately, it got canceled the week I was supposed to depart. I also highly detest the recent actions of South by Southwest, because even though they are allowing people to move their purchased tickets to an alternate date in an upcoming year (which my mother did do for 2021), there is no option for a refund. While I am all for making money, SXSW is the kind of organization to me that purely resembles greed. In fact, they didn’t even cancel their event, the city of Austin did!  However, they do seem to be somewhat sympathetic to their vendors. According to various sources, Amazon Prime Video is going to be digitally showcasing various projects that were supposed to play at the festival last month. All the people behind the projects need to present a fee in order to let their work shine. Keep in mind that the revealing of work that was supposed to be presented in person in front of the masses on Prime is optional, so if you were expecting to see something in particular at the festival, maybe it won’t make it to Amazon’s service. Also keep in mind, if you are planning seeing on these pieces of work, you do not need to pay for Amazon Prime, but you do need an Amazon account. As long as you have that, you’re good to go.

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL DENIES GOING DIGITAL

Last year, the Venice Film Festival honored Todd Phillips’ “Joker” with the Golden Lion, which is the festival’s highest honor. This year, there is perhaps some wonder if it would be a joke to keep the festival running in September. Keep in mind that Italy has the second highest count of COVID-19 cases to date and who knows about a second wave and if that’s a possibility? However, according to Variety, a Venice spokesperson reported “The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event.” This is in response to a recent interview between festival director Alberto Barbera and Italian news agency ANSA who said he is not weighing digital options. That by the way, is in response to what is happening with the Toronto International Film Festival, where there is consideration for both physical and digital aspects. At this point, it may be too early to tell given how the festival is about five months into the future. We’ll have to see if Italy is stable by then, and if there is enough reason to keep the festival on in person.

DELAYED MOVIES AND NEW RELEASE DATES

Well, it appears that COVID-19 is doing its own stunts now. “Top Gun: Maverick” has officially been delayed, which honestly disappoints me because it was one of my most anticipated films of the summer. It looked like another one of those films, kind of like the recent “Mission: Impossible” movies, where Tom Cruise does everything he can to nearly kill himself. Instead, the film is now coming out in December, which really has me scared, because this puts my most anticipated film of the year, “Dune” in a tough position. While I have no real idea how much money “Dune” will make, this is giving me the creeps because while I cannot exactly anticipate how well of a marketing campaign “Dune” is going to have, if it weren’t for a nostalgic, somewhat recognizable property stepping in, I figured “Dune” would have a massive chance at succeeding. Plus, I recall early reports of one person suggesting that the footage that has already been seen of “Dune” is on the level that matches “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Can the praise get any better than that?! The 2020 adaptation of “Dune” could arguably be the greatest story ever told if the movie matches this previous word of mouth! Although at the same time, I’ll mention it again, as far as this summer goes, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of my most anticipated films. Don’t think I’m trying to take it out behind the barn and shoot it. If anything, I want the movie to succeed, but I also want “Dune” to succeed. Maybe this could be a case where “Dune” heavily succeeds, thus leaving “Top Gun: Maverick” in the dust, which would also be disappointing. It feels like there’s no winning in this case. Speaking of Paramount films, they are also delaying “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the third “SpongeBob SquarePants” idea that will ultimately be brought to the big screen. The movie will follow the titular sponge as he goes on a quest with Patrick Star to find his missing snail, Gary. Also in Paramount movie news, “A Quiet Place Part II” has a new release date, specifically September 4th, giving it a Labor Day weekend slot. For the record, the movie has already been delayed as of March 12th from its original release date, March 20th, but has not received a new date until now. I am beyond thankful that “A Quiet Place Part II” is not considering the streaming route, because having seen the original installment, it is one of those movies that you have to be in the theater to truly feel its impact. At least that’s what I got with the first one. When I saw “A Quiet Place” a couple years back, it was a highlight in my movie experience journey because it was one of the few movies that FORCED me to be quiet to fully enjoy the product. I could barely chew my popcorn, I almost couldn’t even take as big of sips of my drink as I usually would, it was a one of a kind time at the movies. I’m willing to bet that John Krasinski made “A Quiet Place Part II” with the same thoughts in mind that he had for the first one. SILENCE THE AUDITORIUM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I’m looking forward to September, let’s just hope that there are enough reasons to go to the movies by then.

While “A Quiet Place Part II” is sticking to a theatrical release, one movie that I was kind of looking forward to seeing in theaters is no longer going to be there, and will end up heading straight to that tenth streaming service you guys have, Disney+. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about “Artemis Fowl.” For those of you who don’t know, “Artemis Fowl” is based on a book about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind who must find his father while facing underground fairies. I was kind of looking forward to seeing “Artemis Fowl” even though I have not read the book personally. The movie sort of looked like a visual trip, and if successful, could have spawned the next big fantasy franchise. I wonder if this is a sign that Disney may end up throwing in the towel on the franchise before it even starts. After all, the film was made on a $125 million budget, so I guess they were expecting a return of hundreds of millions. The real question is, could the film have broken even? Who knows? I have not heard much word of mouth about “Artemis Fowl” from anybody else, but the trailers do intrigue me. It at least had my attention.

Speaking of Disney+, one of the suggestions people happened to make is to release “Black Widow” early on the service. Quite honestly, I think that is a ridiculous idea that could cost Disney a lot of money, and it seems that we are sharing a thinking cap because Disney has officially pushed back the MCU timeline, and placed “Black Widow” on the November 6 release slot. When I say the MCU timeline, I mean it almost 100%. Every movie that is supposed to eventually come out in the MCU has been delayed except “Black Panther 2.” Even “Captain Marvel 2,” originally set to release in June 2022, is moving up a couple weeks for a new July 8th release during the year. For those who don’t know, “Eternals” was originally supposed to come out November of this year, but having two MCU films come out at once is a little extreme, so now it is coming out February 12th, 2021. At this point, November is looking like a respectable month for popular nerd culture. Between “Black Widow,” a movie that Marvel fans are FINALLY getting to see. “No Time to Die,” the 25th Bond film that is supposed to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as the character. Plus, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I am curious to hear more about. I think one of these is going to get bumped to a different release date to guarantee avoidance of being a box office bomb, because November is a pretty big month for movies, and even though there are blockbusters at the time, a lot of focus from those who are heavily invested is going to be leaning towards the Oscar bait films.

As far Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake goes, that is now coming out on July 24th. Should it get delayed again, I think that is another film that Disney is going to keep in theaters with all their might, because part of the marketing emphasizes the big battles of the film, and those could be stellar to see on the silver screen. The one thing that I think will be diminished though is its IMAX run. Because unless Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” gets delayed and “Mulan” still comes out, “Tenet” is going to have a long run in many IMAX theaters. It was shot on IMAX cameras after all! “Mulan” now takes the place of theme park ride-inspired “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, which has now been pushed back to July 30th, 2021. Another big pushback comes from the Lucasfilm side of things, specifically for “Indiana Jones 5,” which is kind of unfortunate because Harrison Ford ain’t getting any younger. At this point with a film like “Indiana Jones 5,” I will believe it when I see it.

Remember how Disney bought Fox? Guess what? Their slate is getting kicked in the ass too! Wes Anderson was supposed to come out with “The French Dispatch” on July 24th, but now it is being pushed back to October. This could be some good news for Wes Anderson as the director behind the film has a history of being acclaimed, and having a unique style to his films. This unique style can be reinserted into everyone’s heads and perhaps bring up a reason for this film to contend for awards. If this came out in the summer, maybe it would have as much of a chance, but keep in mind. Award season pretty much gets into full swing in the fall. Summer is mainly for blockbusters and popcorn movies. Those movies don’t usually rack up the Oscars.

Universal is also in the news, because they recently pushed back Illumination Entertainment’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” That film was supposed to come out July 3rd this year, but it has been pushed back to July 2nd of next year. In addition, “Sing 2,” which is a sequel to a well-liked film starring Matthew McConaughey as a mouse who runs a theater, is also getting pushed back. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is currently sitting where “Sing 2” was originally going to be, but much like the situation I mentioned earlier with Marvel, it could be weird to have two of the same types of movies releasing at once. Therefore, “Sing 2” will be coming out December 22nd, 2021. Keep in mind, the film was supposed to come out this year in December, but was delayed to its previous July spot. Honestly, this delay is not that bad, because the original “Sing” came out in December 2016, and ended up being a hit for Illumination. Maybe this sequel will do the same. Speaking of keeping things in mind, Universal was making a movie based on the popular play “Wicked,” which was set to release in the current spot where “Sing 2” resides. Due to “Sing 2’s” recent pushback, it could be possible that “Wicked” will be out in 2022. By the way, not steering away from animated features, this week is interesting for film, because remember “Trolls: World Tour?” It’s in the middle of its marketing campaign and if you are a parent who wants to torture yourself in order to please your kids, it comes out digitally this Friday, April 10th. Advertisements have suggested that the movie will also be playing in theaters. But the real question is, what theater in the United States is still open at this point? When you are increasingly going to get shamed for not wearing a mask outside, what theater is open?

AMC MAY NOT SURVIVE

05040_assembly_row_desktop

Now I understand that there are more important things in life than film. There’s health, happiness, and safety. Unfortunately, the news makes me feel ill, unhappy, and like I’ll never ever be safe again. If you all know me, you’d be aware that my safe place in life is the movie theater, and one of my regular stops for my experiences happen to be AMC locations. It’s where I often go for my press screenings, as an excuse to use Stubs points, and on occasion, for Dolby and IMAX. Depending on where you live in the United States, there is a solid chance that you have at least one AMC location near you. In fact, I recently went to downtown Burbank, California and they have three locations within minutes of each other, and this is walking distance I’m talking about! Even though AMC technically is a large chain that owns a lot of theaters, they do a good job at giving a sense of prioritization on the moviegoing experience. In fact, in recent years, they’ve been expanding their fleet, renovating theaters, putting in new seats (which admittedly, sometimes underwhelmed me), implementing reserved seating options, and one of their most notable innovations to the American movie market was their Stubs A-List program, which is basically their response to MoviePass as it began to die down. They even have an On Demand service now! In fact, even though I am a physical media junkie, that is probably a place where I’ll consider renting a movie one night (as long as Sony Android TVs) can get it. AMC just recently used to be the biggest chain in North America, but has recently been dethroned since Europe’s Cineworld bought the Canadian chain Cineplex. Now that Cineworld owns both Cineplex and Regal Entertainment Group, they are now the largest theater chain in regards to the continent.

Having said that, AMC Theatres is a pretty big chain. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. AMC Theatres has spent a lot of money on changes in recent years, recently laid off a ton of employees, and is currently in debt. To make matters worse, S&P Global has recently downgraded AMC Theatres to a CCC-. The association to insert here is “Default imminent, with little prospect for recovery.” Keep in mind, that if you live in the United States, that means if AMC Theatres closes down for good, you are likely to lose a country-wide total of over six hundred cinemas. Just a couple weeks ago, I was reminding people that the smaller, indie theaters might be in a bit of trouble right now. They’re making AMC look like RadioShack! In fact, one of the cool ideas I have been seeing recently is that theaters are doing pop-up sales, where they are selling popcorn to paying customers even though there are no movies going on. This has happened at a couple locations near my house, specifically the Somerville Theatre and Capitol Theatre, both of which are in Massachusetts and owned by Frame One Theatres. I don’t know if a chain like AMC would do that, because I think they are more concerned about protecting what they have by letting people go than continuing operations and getting mocked. But, again, if any theater wants to take up my suggestion on a popcorn or candy delivery service, be my guest! I’ll probably order from it twice a day just to provide some support. That, and I love my movie theater popcorn. It could be through the organization itself, maybe through Uber Eats, maybe Grubhub could be a good idea. After all, pretty much the only thing I can do in life right now is stay inside and put on a movie. I need decent popcorn to go with it! But sticking with the main idea, the loss of AMC, can bring a tremendously dark impact to the industry. Because that means no more Prime Theatres, no more specifically branded Dolby Cinema, and no more A-List. But also, keep in mind the large theater count the chain has and how much of a reduction this truly can provide. There will be significantly less places to go to watch a movie. If you’re lucky enough to have somewhere like a Regal or Cinemark nearby, then you’re probably in luck. I’ve got Showcase Cinemas. Even though I’ve been to their theaters a number of times, I really think they are overhyped and their setup is occasionally bonkers (although their Providence location might have my favorite IMAX theater). And I don’t know if another chain is going to swoop in and take all the AMC locations that could die as a result of this. AMC is not the only chain hurting here. For all I know, maybe one of the big toilet paper companies can come in and start something new. Come on in to “Angel Soft Theater!” Your ass is safe on both our toilets and our auditorium chairs!

One YouTuber I regularly watch goes by the name of John Campea (Collider Movie Talk, The John Campea Show) and he suggested that studios should step in and help AMC financially during this dire time. If the studios have enough money, this is a swell idea. After all, there is a strong bond between movie theaters and studios. One cannot essentially exist without the other. And given how studios are perhaps likely to lose money should they rely on digital sales for their films, they are probably well off giving some of what they have to a chain that has given them tons of strength over the years. I often make fun of how much money Disney has, but wouldn’t it be a great story if Disney gave some money to AMC? I’d dig it. Time will tell when it comes determining the fate of AMC Theatres, but that is largely going to depend on when this crisis diminishes or ends, if people are not too scared to go out into the masses again, and if movies are even going to release by the time this ends. Again, if “Tenet” is not in theaters this July, I think I can officially call it quits on this year for film. Because that news will break me. Pixar’s “Soul” hasn’t been delayed yet. Maybe that will come out in June. Again, it’s hard to tell at this point given how confusing this virus really is.

NEW RELEASES GOING ON DEMAND

I did do this last week, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll continue this trend, but given how On Demand is becoming more of a core element to the movie-viewing experience given the current situation, I figured I’d share some new releases that are out On Demand this week. First off is “Ip Man 4: The Finale.” I have not seen any of these movies, but one things that intrigues me is that it stars Donnie Yen, who has been brought to my attention in recent years. The actor is probably one of the more badass men I have seen in an action film as far as newer material goes. While I will declare that “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is not exactly the “Citizen Kane” of action, Donnie Yen may have been the best part of the movie. Up next is “Like a Boss,” which came out in January. This does not look or feel like my type of movie, but I believe I almost went to a press screening for it. Not sure though. The film stars Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, alongside Salma Hayek and it is about friends who are trying to start a beauty company. The film clocks in with a total of an hour and twenty-three minutes. Did the editor want to finish their job as soon as possible or something? By the way, for those of you who prefer buying the physical copy, both films are scheduled to come out on DVD and Blu-ray on April 21st. If you have Disney+, there is heavy promotion going on right now to get people to watch Pixar’s “Onward,” and if you have the service, it is now watchable any time you want.

Thanks for reading the third part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” As long as this crisis is unfortunately still with us, this series is going to continue, and maybe even get me to delay my scheduled film reviews. Although, for all I know, my review of “My Spy” might not even come out until next year given how I would probably be shoved into an abyss by STX executives if I open my mouth about it right now. As for myself, I have not left my house in awhile, and I continue to remain healthy. If you want to use your time wisely, be sure to follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Since we’re all online right now, why not take a break from learning how to use Zoom for a quick second and check out the Scene Before Facebook page! You won’t regret it! I want to know, is there any COVID-19 movie news that happens to be significant that I missed? What have you been doing during this crazy time? Any movies you want to recommend? TV shows maybe? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!