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!

Barbarian (2022): The Best Horror Movie of 2022 So Far

“Barbarian” is directed by Zach Cregger, who you may know from playing Owen on the TBS comedy series “Wrecked.” This film stars Georgina Campbell (Murdered by My Boyfriend, Krypton), Bill Skarsgård (It, Deadpool 2), and Justin Long (Alvin and the Chipmunks, Live Free or Die Hard). This film follows a woman who books a stay at an Airbnb only to find another person already staying in the property. Despite the unexpected encounter, the two end up staying together only to discover the house is haunted.

I went into “Barbarian” doing something that I do not typically do when it comes to movies I see. Specifically, unless there was one playing at a screening and I do not remember, I went into “Barbarian” having seen no trailers. My earliest memory of this film was hearing about it from someone I follow on Twitter who saw the movie and had a good time. I checked out “Barbarian” for a couple reasons. First off, and least importantly, apparently there is going to be no physical media release, so I wanted to watch the film in a theater before it goes to streaming, and I inevitably forget about it. Streaming is temporary, physical media is forever. Second, I have heard nothing but good things about “Barbarian.” People I know who have seen it, liked it. The critics are eating it up too. “Barbarian” has a whopping 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I saw the movie, and the first thing I must say is that this is the best horror movie of 2022 so far. I am happy to say that because not only is this a great movie, but this shows how spectacular of a year the horror genre is having. I am happy for a lot of people working in horror right now. I hope everyone is proud of themselves. I just saw “Smile,” which was fantastic and I literally claimed a week or two ago to be my favorite horror film of the year. “The Black Phone” is really good and had plenty of creepy moments. Even though it is not pure horror, “Nope” was also quite entertaining. I also really liked “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” This movie surpasses all of them.

Before I continue my thoughts, I must state that this review is going to be vague. This is a movie that not only do I recommend, it is one that would recommend with providing as little detail as possible as to why it works so well. The trailer for this film, which I did see while doing this review, perfectly details my sentiments. Whoever worked on that trailer is a legend.

The best part of “Barbarian” is its simplicity. You start off by seeing two characters who immediately develop an inciting incident over who can stay at a house they are renting. This simple bump in the road causes them to get to know each other and deliver some of my favorite chemistry between a duo I have seen this year. In the first ten minutes, I found myself buying into every single one of these two’s interactions. Campbell shines as Tess and Skarsgård is perfectly cast as Keith. The two are great together. I also like how this movie is told from Tess’s perspective instead of Keith because in addition to all the traditional horror elements, there is also another sense of danger I did not initially think about, specifically stranger danger.

Now, if I, a straight white male, showed up at the door of the rental house and I saw Keith staying inside, I would be confused. But if I had nowhere to go, it was raining, I were low on money, and a bunch of hotels were booked, I might walk it off if we agree to spend the night together. Perhaps if neither of us were forced to sleep on the floor. Meanwhile, there is a scene that stood out to me where Tess secretly takes a picture of Keith’s driver’s license. Little things like that reveal the creeps Tess is experiencing.

Some of this movie’s more tense moments are more or less linked to basic, everyday thoughts that runs through one’s mind if they are somewhere unfamiliar or far from home. I tried to get inside Tess’s head for a second. What is she thinking? She must have been asking questions such as… What if this guy drugs me? What if this guy is not what he says he is? How safe is this part of town? The key word here is tense, not scary. The scary shenanigans do not come until maybe a half hour into the movie. If you are looking for scares, they are there, and they are terrifying. You will get them eventually, and the wait is worth it.

This movie is 102 minutes long. As far as I am concerned, that is a perfect runtime. Pacing-wise, this movie could not be better. Despite the kind of short runtime, the pacing is not balls to the wall. It is not quite a slow burn either, at least to me, but everything that happens during the runtime feels either minimalistic or quiet. Even a simple conversation kept my attention, partially because of the conflict in every scene, even if it did not involve something horrifying.

Even when a movie of this sort is not good. I always enjoy a project that challenges its audience. “Barbarian” takes a big swing and it is undeniably a grand slam. I do think the climax is less entertaining than the first two acts. Not that I did not enjoy it, but if I had to name which part of the film I thought was the weakest, that would have to be the one. That said, everything that builds up to the climax from the relationship between Tess and Keith, to the scary shenanigans, to even simple interactions that could backfire, make the ride worth it.

I always make an effort when I show a movie to a family member or a friend to let them go in the way I often did. I want that individual to experience the movie firsthand as blind as a bat. Thankfully, this movie has a great trailer that I would not mind showing to someone who has not watched the movie. But this movie is a perfect encapsulation as to why I keep my mouth shut on all the details as to why I like certain movies when showing them to other people. Maybe if I show my friends “Barbarian” one day, they will disagree with me as to why I like this movie so much. But it does not change the fact in this solid year of horror, “Barbarian” is the genre’s biggest swing and mightiest payoff yet.

In the end, “Barbarian” is a fantastic movie that I would watch again some year on Halloween if given the chance. It is crazy, mind-boggling, yet simple. It is a movie that even though it belongs in the horror genre, can also qualify as a simple human drama. The cast is great, the script is phenomenal, and Zach Cregger’s direction is perfect. The movie’s final moments, while fun, are not as hypnotizing as its initial moments. Even so, this movie is, as I said, the best horror movie of 2022. I am going to give “Barbarian” an 8/10.

This movie is not coming to physical media and instead, only getting a Digital HD release for home viewing, which I think is a shame. This is a movie, if I bought it on Blu-ray, would probably go in my player every other October. Although if you have the chance to check out “Barbarian,” just do it.

“Barbarian” is now playing in theaters and will be available on Digital HD tomorrow, October 25th. The film will also soon be available to stream on HBO Max and Hulu.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new romcom “Ticket to Paradise.” The film just hit theaters this weekend, I had the chance to see it with my family, and I will have my thoughts very soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Barbarian?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite horror movie of the year? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Don’t Worry Darling (2022): Olivia Wilde Delivers a Dose of Harry Styles Over Any and All Substance

“Don’t Worry Darling” is directed by Olivia Wilde (Booksmart, Tron: Legacy), who also stars in the film as Bunny. This film also stars Florence Pugh (Midsommar, Black Widow), Harry Styles (Dunkirk, Eternals), Gemma Chan (Eternals, Raya and the Last Dragon), KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, The Old Guard), Nick Kroll (Big Mouth, Sausage Party), and Chris Pine (Wonder Woman, Star Trek). “Don’t Worry Darling” follows a 1950s housewife who becomes worried about her loving husband, or more specifically, his company, that could hiding disturbing secrets.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is Olivia Wilde’s sophomore outing as a feature director. Wilde previously directed “Booksmart,” which in addition to receiving positive feedback from moviegoers and critics, did a fine job at the box office with a $25 million return against a $6 million budget. Wilde showcased her ability to make a laugh-inducing comedy while not breaking the bank. As for my thoughts on the movie, I liked it. I do not think it is the funniest movie of its respective year, but it gave me some decent laughs. Based on her experience of making a funny movie, it made me curious as to what she could do next.

Now that the next thing is here, I cannot stop thinking about it. It bogs my mind like I would not believe!

No, not the movie! The press for the movie! Why is everyone so hyped up about it? Well, everyone likes drama. If reality television and gossip has continued to prove it over the years, people like drama. And the buildup to “Don’t Worry Darling” has provided plenty of it. Between Shia LeBeouf once being attached to the movie, Florence Pugh not promoting the film, and a whole charade between Harry Styles and Chris Pine over spit, “Don’t Worry Darling” was shaping up to be this year’s most entertaining story. Except it was not the story written for the screen. Regardless, I planned on seeing this movie. The marketing was creepy yet interesting enough to keep my attention. The cinematography looked really good. And for the most part, the cast was good. Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Nick Kroll. There are some good names in here.

As for my thoughts on “Don’t Worry Darling,” the first two acts are delightfully charming and kept me intrigued throughout. Harry Styles has a ways to go as an actor, but it is a great setup for this movie’s world.

Then the turd– Sorry, THIRD act happened.

I cannot fully go into why I despise the third act and how this movie concludes because I would ultimately be spoiling the movie. That said, how these things go down are ridiculous to say the least. Does it involve something that could potentially be out of left field? You could say that. Was that the point? Perhaps. Does it change the fact that what happened felt ridiculous? Absolutely not. I do not mind out of left field scenarios if said scenario is executed well. This one is the exact opposite. Around the 60 to 90 minute mark, this movie went in one direction, and that is down.

This movie is like ordering a pizza that you will never eat. The first act is like opening up Uber Eats and getting excited over the pizza you want for dinner. Solid setup, this may be going somewhere swell… The second act is the equivalent of placing your order. You’re intrigued, you’re excited, what could go wrong? Except for absolutely everything! Because we get to the third act, where something completely unexpected happens! The restaurant blew up, and now you have no pizza! Only disappointment and frustration.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is certainly one of the better looking films of the year. The color palette of the 1950s suburban setting is poppy and felt like a pure escape. I thought the cinematography would look good based on the trailer and I would say I was not disappointed. Matthew Libatique deserves a pat on the back at the least. Everything from the costumes to the sets to the overall aesthetic of the film is top notch. It felt like another world at times. While this movie nails its looks, its story leaves much to be desired.

The cast of “Don’t Worry Darling” all deliver solid performances. This should not come as a surprise as the movie contains a fair number of big name actors, and Olivia Wilde even does a good job as her respective character. The only actor who I think struggled in terms of how seriously I could take him is Harry Styles (left). Maybe it is because of his recognizability in pop culture, regardless of how little I care for his music. Styles is not the worst actor of all time. If last year’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases anything, he is better than LeBron James. Plus he once had a supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” that served its purpose. Although every scene he is in, I would hear a line out of someone like Florence Pugh or Chris Pine, I feel like they are in the moment, whereas Styles is trying to keep up but he does not quite have it. When it comes to recognizable actors giving corny performances, Styles is thankfully less infuriating than say Tom Hanks as Tom Parker in “Elvis,” a laughable, yet terrifyingly annoying performance I have still yet to get out of my head. Speaking of “Elvis,” “Don’t Worry Darling” feels like another version of that film. Both are from Warner Bros., both are released in 2022, and both have a lead actor that could almost be considered the saving grace.

Whereas Harry Styles may not be the hot ticket this awards season, Florence Pugh is certainly a contender for the upcoming mounds of gold. Given this movie’s controversy, who knows what will happen? But if the Oscars were tomorrow, I would debatably cast a vote for Pugh. I liked her previously in movies like “Black Widow,” “Little Women,” and the significantly underappreciated “Fighting with My Family,” but “Don’t Worry Darling” may be the best performance of Pugh’s career so far. Pugh is still young, so there is a good chance she could eventually deliver an even better performance than this one, but to have this great of a performance now is incredible, especially when I am thinking about it more than almost any other one I have seen this year.

“Don’t Worry Darling” comes with a fairly unique setting and cast of characters, and its concept is certainly one of the quirkier I have seen in a movie this year. Although as I watched this movie and heard certain lines and witnessed particular happenings, it weirdly, of all things, reminded me of Disney+’s “WandaVision.” This feels weird to say, but when it comes to this type of plot, a Marvel miniseries somehow did this better. It had its flaws, but unlike “Don’t Worry Darling,” the positives outweighed the negatives.

Much like “Morbius,” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” if you go on the Rotten Tomatoes page for “Don’t Worry Darling,” you will notice a humungous divide between the critic and audience scores. Also much like “Morbius” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” as I watched “Don’t Worry Darling,” I felt myself leaning towards the side of the critics. But unlike those other two films, I felt like there was a recipe for something grand when the movie started. Again, if Harry Styles were not in this movie, I would have taken it a tad more seriously. Although when the movie started, I reminisced over the low Rotten Tomatoes score I recall this movie having, and I thought, “Are these critics on drugs?!”. Despite everything I said about Harry Styles, I should not underestimate his fanbase, because my theater had plenty of young women inside. Unfortunately though, this movie is not that great, and by the third act, it is ultimately a case of Harry Styles over substance.

In the end, “Don’t Worry Darling” is quite worrisome. For those of you who have not seen “Booksmart,” I do recommend you give it a watch at some point. It is funny, raunchy, but also heartfelt. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play a likable duo. If you want a showcase of what Olivia Wilde could bring to the table as a filmmaker, “Booksmart” is a better case of her talent. I do not have plans to watch “Don’t Worry Darling” a second time. This movie is like a slot machine. Two reels spin and land on the bonus symbol, there’s a big tease for the third reel to land a bonus, only to land on a 7. Florence Pugh gives an Oscar-worthy performance that made me look forward to her future roles as an actress. The film looks pretty and there clever concepts in it, but they were not well executed. For these reasons, in addition to having the one of the most jaw-droppingly bewildering and unsatisfying endings of the year, I am going to give “Don’t Worry Darling” a 4/10.

Although before we move on, the public drama behind “Don’t Worry Darling” and its crew seems to work in the film’s favor, whether Warner Bros. or Olivia Wilde chooses to admit it or not. Because at my screening, I sat next to two older women. When the movie ended, the woman next to me said she came to this movie with someone else because of the drama surrounding it. The drama had her curiosity, and now the movie had her attention. So, for Warner Bros., this could be a happy accident. It is unfortunate that this movie, at least when it first releases, will likely be associated with said drama regardless of its quality. The question is, how will it be viewed years from now? That remains a mystery.

“Don’t Worry Darling” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, stay tuned because I have more coming! Pretty soon I will be sharing my thoughts on the brand new murder mystery, “See How They Run!” Stay tuned for that, and also stay tuned for the movies I will be reviewing for my official Steven Spielberg Month! This week we will be talking about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!” 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 “Don’t Worry Darling?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Booksmart?” Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Bullet Train (2022): A Rambunctious, Wild Ride That Lives Up To Its Transportive Name

DISCLAIMER: Before this review had been published, reports suggest Angelina Jolie had been revealed as a plantiff in recent assault allegations against her former partner, Brad Pitt. Scene Before (flicknerd.com) is a film review-centered website and will review “Bullet Train” in the same way it reviews any other movie regardless of who its crew happens to be and what their past actions are. Scene Before and its owner, Jack Drees, does not condone actions of assault.

“Bullet Train” is directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) and stars Brad Pitt (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, World War Z), Joey King (Ramona and Beezus, The Kissing Booth), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Eternals), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Snake Eyes), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, Mortal Kombat), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, Nocturnal Animals), Bad Bunny, and Sandra Bullock (Gravity, The Lost City). This film centers around a former assassin, known by the name Ladybug, who is tasked with acquiring a briefcase on a bullet train, all the while encountering other deadly assassins.

Brad Pitt has been on fire in recent years with the success of Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Not only did he receive critical acclaim for the role, but he went on to win the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the SAG, and the Oscar for his work. After adding all of these awards to his Tinder profile and wiping off his sweat from the forgettable “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt is back to work releasing another cornerstone of the summer. Albeit this one definitely fits the definition of “summer movie” compared to his outing with Tarantino.

Not only is Pitt the big star this time around in this movie, because joining him you have cast members including Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry, both of whom are likely the best part of the entire story. Their chemistry is undeniable. Some of the major awards ceremonies like the Oscars do not rank on-screen couples or duos, but one awards show that does is the Razzies. If the Razzies decided to give a Worst On-Screen Couple nomination to Tangerine and Lemon, then I think they are high. Their awards body would need to seek a medical professional.

But behind the camera, you have an action director who has been making the rounds in recent years in David Leitch. He is a legend in regards to stuntwork, which he has been credited for in films like “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Matrix Revolutions,” “300,” “TRON: Legacy,” and even though I do not look back at “Jupiter Ascending” as the best sci-fi film ever, its stunts were never the problem. As a director, his work on “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” are thrilling to say the least. Therefore, it is nice to see him have another go at an action flick. Overall, I had a ball with Leitch’s latest attempt at delivering some fast-paced glory.

The biggest positive I can give to “Bullet Train” is that the action, per usual, is ridiculously entertaining. While somewhat similar, this outing seems to have a different flair compared to say “Deadpool 2” in terms of how the action is delivered. Let’s imagine… You sat me down to watch this film, and I went in blind. If you told me that this film were directed by Guy Ritchie, I would believe you. It kind of had that same pace that films like “Snatch” and “The Gentlemen” delivered. If anything, “Bullet Train” comes off as what would happen if Guy Ritchie were given some of the tools to direct a “John Wick” movie. Now, “John Wick” is obviously in a different universe, but the action in this movie felt somewhat reminiscent of something I’d see in a more modern, stylized action film such as John Wick. There is a great sequence between Ladybug and Wolf (Bad Bunny) where the latter goes all Jason Voorhees on him and the former’s main defense is a briefcase. It’s ridiculous, but as the review’s title suggests, this ridiculousness lives up to the name. The movie is over two hours and not nearly a minute of the movie feels wasted.

This film is based on a book which I have never read. Therefore, I cannot tell you the differences between the two stories. But what I can tell you is that at times, “Bullet Train,” the movie, feels like a graphic novel or a comic book. There are several shots and sequences that leap off the screen and made me feel like I was in the moment, perhaps in a hyperactive way.

Going back to Tangerine and Lemon, one of my favorite moments in the movie is where we get into this flashback sequence where we reveal how many people they killed. That is the spice this movie needed to individualize itself. It kind of had a “Deadpool” flair, which should not be surprising considering the director’s previous work. And again, it also kind of had the pace of a Guy Ritchie movie. I would love to see more stories told in this style, from this universe. It does not even have to be on the same characters. But if we could get a similarly set story from David Leitch’s mind perhaps, I would want to check it out.

But at the same time, if you ask me, I would rather go back and watch one of David Leitch’s previously mentioned movies. This is not a complete diss on “Bullet Train” because I had a GREAT time with “Bullet Train,” I just think “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Hobbs & Shaw” offer a smidge more of entertainment than “Bullet Train.” Just a smidge. The one thing I can say is that the competition for which David Leitch movie I randomly put on the TV on a Friday night just got a lot harder, because these are all entertaining flicks in their own way. “Atomic Blonde” feels grounded yet fun. “Deadpool 2” is silly yet gory. “Hobbs & Shaw” is absurd yet delightful. “Bullet Train,” if you ask me, is obnoxious yet hilarious. It has the right amount of ridiculous, but it does not go too over the top in an annoying way. Kind of like “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It is a movie that knows what it is from starts to finish. It starts as a nonsensical spy movie, and ends as an even more nonsensical, but also satisfying spy movie.

Also, I must say, that as someone who grew up with “Thomas the Tank Engine,” this movie is a wonderful tribute to my childhood. You would have to see the movie to understand.

If I had any other comments in regard to “Bullet Train,” the main one that comes to mind, sticking with the ridiculousness, is that the ending is probably some of the most stupid fun I have ever had during any of my recent moviegoing experiences. “Bullet Train” is willing to embrace its ridiculous nature and the ending is just the cherry on top. If you like big, loud action movies, this could be for you. I’d rather watch “John Wick,” but when it comes to being a supposed “John Wick” wannabe, this is a fun ride that you might want to buckle up for.

In the end, “Bullet Train” is probably some of the most fun I have had at the movies this summer. All the actors do their best with the material. And while Brad Pitt does a good job in the movie as Ladybug, the whole story eventually becomes the Tangerine and Lemon show. I would love to see another story with these two as the leads. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry play their parts with excellence. This is a slow month for movies, but if you are looking for something to watch, I would buy a ticket to ride what I would call a fast-paced thrill. I am going to give “Bullet Train” a 7/10.

“Bullet Train” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the all new A24 film “Bodies Bodies Bodies!” Stay tuned! Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Beast!” 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 “Bullet Train?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite of David Leitch’s films? For me, I gotta say of the ones he’s directed, “Deadpool 2” stands out the most. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Vengeance (2022): B.J. Novak Directs and Stars in A Texas-Sized Slice of Mediocrity

“Vengeance” is directed by and stars B.J. Novak (The Office, Saving Mr. Banks). Joining him is a cast consisting of Boyd Holbrook (Logan, The Predator), Dove Cameron (Descendants, Liv and Maddie), Issa Rae (Little, The Lovebirds), and Ashton Kutcher (That 70s Show, Two and Half Men). The film is about a writer who travels to rural Texas and attempts to figure out the happenings behind the murder of a girl he previously hooked up with.

I live in Massachusetts, and as someone who lives in Massachusetts, I often get excited to hear that particular people from my state like Elizabeth Banks or Ben Affleck get involved in a project or do a project of their own. I feel a sense of pride as a “wicked smaht” Bay Stater who occasionally stops by a Dunkin’. The U.S. version of “The Office,” despite being a sitcom I could never get into, has a few Bay Staters in the main cast including Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and the one we are going to focus on for this review, B.J. Novak.

Unfortunately for Novak, of the three stars of “The Office” I previously mentioned, he is the one I know the least about. I am more likely to acknowledge Carell or Krasinski. Steve Carell has terrific range from doing voiceovers in projects like the “Despicable Me” franchise, slapstick comedy through movies like “Anchorman,” and even drama flicks such as “Beautiful Boy.” John Krasinski is obviously known for his acting career, but I have grown fond of him for his directorial efforts in “A Quiet Place” and its sequel. But, this year, Novak is the new Krasinski. Not only is he directing a movie, he is starring in that same movie.

Although Krasinski has the upper hand if you ask me, because the concept of his movie felt more marketable. It felt more attractive. Novak’s new film, “Vengeance,” like any movie, could be good. But the trailer, if I had anything positive to say, barely sold me. Then I saw the movie… What did I think?

In theory, I like the messages this movie tries to convey. It dives into a number of a conversation-starting topics and ideas. Do we stereotype people too much or do stereotypes continue to have a place in our society? Is humanity, from a general perspective, too full of itself? Are we too attached to our electronics and is it heavily affecting what we could be experiencing in the real world? I like these concepts and questions. But it pains me to say that these are all presented in a script that could have been better.

Speaking of which, not only did Novak direct and star in the film, he wrote it too. This was undoubtedly a personal project, which only makes me feel worse that I have to describe why it did not work for me.

You want to know what sucks? Vacuums. You want to know what blows? Protagonists who you do not particularly like from the first scene. I wanted to relate to the character of Ben Manalowitz (right), and while I was able to find charm from the character here and there, I do not think the character was written in a way that sat well with me. The movie sells this character as a writer who has very much adapted to the northern city life. But in addition to that, he often came off as moody, or unlikable on the outside. I do not know what it is, but I feel like every scene he was in, he did not want to be doing what he was doing. I like the concept of his character, and he does his best to enforce the conceptual messages which I did enjoy, but the execution could have been better.

As I watched this movie, I got the sense that it was trying to present itself, maybe to an audience like mine, as a cultural shock. You know how you enter a country you’ve read a ton about but you have never been to? This is what I felt as a Bay Stater watching this movie about rural Texas. It is a movie that maybe is supposed to induce feelings of discomfort or unfamiliarity, and I think it did its job. But at the same time, I felt like some of the stuff that happens in Texas, at least in this movie, were a bit over the top. I was looking at the New York or more urban scenes and felt a contrast between that and the rural scenes. The rural scenes, or their centered characters, felt more exaggerated, more like cartoons at times. According to Wikipedia, B.J. Novak traveled to Texas to do research on the area and hoped that would translate into the movie’s concept or story. I do not know how over the top rural Texas is as I have never been, but I need to know how Novak came up with these specific Texan characters.

If I had to declare my favorite part of “Vengeance,” it would be one clip where Ben interviews the family and asks them some questions. In one scene, he asks what makes the family’s area so great. It only takes a second for the young boy, known by the nickname “El Stupido,” to shout “WHATABURGER!” Other than spending an hour or two at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to catch a connecting flight, I have never been to Texas. But even as someone from the north, the moment I heard the word “Whataburger,” I knew that this would be a somewhat accurate description of certain parts of Texas. We do not get Whataburger in Massachusetts, but it is everywhere in Texas. I know people who have been, and they say it is quite good. And besides, I go back to what I say in the beginning of the post and that random Dunkin’ comment. Like Whataburger, I can say that Dunkin’ is sort of a cornerstone to the lives of New Englanders. Obviously, Dunkin’ can be seen on the west coast. But there is a reason why Whataburger has such an association with Texas, and New England sports stars like David Ortiz and Rob Gronkowski have done commercialized material together for Dunkin’. So, good job on the inside humor.

Before we close off this review, I have to say the flaw that stuck with me the most is the way the film ended. I do not want to give any spoilers as this movie is only a few weeks old, but I will remind everyone reading this that the film is called “Vengeance” for a reason. Part of that reason is shown in the film’s climax. This allows us to see our protagonist do something, I will not say what, that felt completely out of character for them. Some may argue that this is “character development,” but as someone who saw the film, I would say that this was tacked on. Yes, in screenwriting, and therefore, in movies, there are “rules.” They do not always have to be followed, art and filmmaking are subjective after all, but nevertheless. One of the cliches of a protagonist is that they have to change throughout the film. And we see that here. Doesn’t mean the change is good. Once again, the concept is there, but the execution is not.

In the end, “Vengeance” could have been better. This is not the worst movie of the year, but if you are looking for something to watch at this point, there are better options out there. Unfortunately this August is a slow month for movies, especially more mainstream titles. But I would nevertheless recommend you even go see “Top Gun: Maverick” a third time at this point. I went into “Vengeance” not knowing what to expect and I left feeling unsatisfied. I wish B.J. Novak the best in his future works,. If he decides to direct more movies, I hope they are better than this forgettable outing. I am going to give “Vengeance” a 5/10.

“Vengeance” is now playing in theaters and is also available to watch on VOD platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Brad Pitt-starring action flick “Bullet Train.” I will not say much about it other than the fact that it literally lives up to its name. If you want to know my thoughts, stay tuned for the review. Also coming up, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Bodies Bodies Bodies” and “Beast.” 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 “Vengeance?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite project involving B.J. Novak? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Nope (2022): YEP.

“Nope” is directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), Keke Palmer (Lightyear, Ice Age: Continental Drift), Steven Yeun (Minari, The Walking Dead), Michael Wincott (The Crow, Alien: Resurrection), Brandon Perea (The OA, Doom Patrol), Wrenn Schmidt (Outcast, For All Mankind), Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria, Unpregnant), and Keith David (The Thing, Pitch Black). This film is about a brother and sister who live on a ranch and witness an unusual, shocking event that changes everything.

So far, when it comes to Jordan Peele’s filmography, he has proven himself as legit horror storyteller. “Get Out” is unsettling and perfectly paced from start to finish. “Us” has charismatic characters and is a fine balance between subtle and trippy. “Nope” contains some of the horror elements that audiences may have grown accustomed to over the past couple films Peele directed. There are jumpscares, strange happenings, and much like “Us,” there is an intentionally placed scene in the beginning that in most cases would almost feel kind of out of place.

However, the biggest difference between “Nope” and Peele’s previous work is the scope. It would be easy for me to say that “Nope” is the biggest film Peele’s made so far, but I can back that up by saying “Nope” cost $68 million to make. That is more than “Us,” which cost $20 million, and “Get Out,” which cost $4.5 million. But there are reasons beyond the numbers as to why it is so big. The film is entirely shot on 65mm film, including select sequences which were shot in IMAX. Yes, Peele went full Nolan on this movie. Although unlike Christopher Nolan with some of his recent fare like “Tenet,” I could actually hear what the actors were trying to say. You see what happens when booming music is used sparingly? Out of all the films Peele has done so far, this is the one that most closely resembles that summer blockbuster vibe.

This is probably the closest I think a director has come in some time to providing a Spielberg-like experience without the use of the actual Steven Spielberg. Now, Spielberg has done a lot of movies, but he is most well known for his blockbusters like “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” This leads me to my biggest praise for “Nope,” and that is that this movie does for UFOs what Steven Spielberg and crew did for the original “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” movies. What do I mean? There is a UFO in the movie, but much like the shark in “Jaws,” the UFO is used sparingly. Much like that iconic shark some call Bruce, the UFO felt special. And kind of like in “Jurassic Park,” which took its time to establish the gargantuan nature of its dinosaurs, the UFO is not only menacing when it appears, but it made me as a viewer feel small. I am very likely going to buy “Nope” on physical media as it is that good of a film. I am quite curious to know how that effect is going to come off on my television screen. But I can say as someone who has seen “Nope” twice in the theater, each scene where the UFO played a crucial role made it feel like the literal elephant in the room.

Speaking of elephants in the room, let’s talk about my favorite performance in the film. Keke Palmer gives it her all in “Nope.” Emerald Haywood (right) is exactly the type of character this movie needed. Compared to “Get Out,” which at times dives into the divide between class and race, “Nope” feels more like an escape. And Palmer does her absolute best to give an escape. Her dynamic voice and personality are that of an auctioneer on Adderall. If the character of Emerald Haywood were not in the horse-training business, she has the perfect skill set to sell cars. Her energy and physicality grabbed my attention from scene one. Keke Palmer is set to host the upcoming NBC reboot of “Password.” After seeing what she could do in this film, they made a great choice for the upcoming host.

Now on the other hand, the main character of the film, OJ Haywood (left), has less physicality, not to mention personality. And things seem to be that way on purpose. Daniel Kaluuya does a solid job playing a stoic character who seems to be going through the motions. I think that if the film had OJ be a ball of energy like Emerald, that could create for a problem. In a film as big as this, there needs to be at least one dose of reality or silence within all the noise. If “Nope” were an Amtrak train, OJ would be the quiet car. But this also leads me to say that I like the other main characters in “Nope” more than OJ because their energy therefore made me feel more energetic myself throughout the runtime. Not only did Keke Palmer succeed in this mission with Emerald, but Steven Yeun deserves some credit too for his upbeat portrayal of Ricky “Jupe” Park.

Although I should not say that the reality in this movie is a waste, because one of the characters in this film reminded me of my time when I worked at Staples in the tech department. That character is Angel Torres, who works at Fry’s Electronics, a now defunct electronics store chain. The first scene between him and the brother-sister duo felt reminiscent of my tactics when checking people out, not to mention some of the customer’s reactions when I would pop a certain question. While Angel may seem like an everyday electronics store employee, or at least he was, until Fry’s closed with the rest of their locations, he ended up being a delightfully charming part of the film.

If I had any negatives with the film, the biggest standout would be that given how Jordan Peele has leaned into this blockbuster route, this makes the film feel less substantial compared to his others. Do not get me wrong, it is a great movie. But what I mean is that compared to “Get Out,” I did not think as much about deeper meanings. “Nope” tries to play around with something of this nature involving a sitcom and a monkey, but I honestly do not think it did much other than give one character some backstory. You know that saying about how when you get to certain age in your life, presumably somewhere in your young adulthood, and you realize that maybe you are not as smart as you once thought you might be? If “Nope” were a real person, it would not have reached that stage just yet. The movie chooses to open a certain way and continue a certain way with this ideology that I will not spoil, but did not particularly sit with me the way I think Peele would have wanted it to. It felt like a move that was trying to be pretentious, but only ended up feeling meaningless. I wish I could give more detail.

One final positive before we move on. Over the years, many movies have used their title through the script in such a way that stands out. In “Back to the Future,” there is a scene where Doc exclaims he will send Marty back to the future. In “Better Off Dead,” there is a literally a song with the lyrics “better off dead” that plays a prominent role. I will also go back to “Jurassic Park” and the massive scale it provides. One scene where that tactic comes into play has the character of John Hammond magnificently say “Welcome to Jurassic Park.” I think “Nope” officially takes the crown for best use of a movie title in its own movie. I think that as long as I shall live, there will NEVER be a better use of this concept. The moment one particular character says “Nope,” the entire auditorium cackled like hyenas, and for good reason.

In the end, “Nope” gets a yep from me. This is not Jordan Peele’s best film. In fact, in some ways, it might be his worst, but it is also the most fun of the ones he has made. It is definitely one I would watch on a Friday night if I want to look at something massive. The cinematography, which is done by the great Hoyte van Hoytema, is some of the best of the year. The night shots look beautiful, the climax looks incredible, and there is one particular money shot I would love to have as a desktop photo if I were more willing to customize my setup. “Nope” is a good time and it is fun to look at. But unlike “Get Out,” this is perhaps less likely to be nominated for Best Picture. Although if the Academy Awards took place right now, Keke Palmer should get an acting nomination per my opinion. I am going to give “Nope” a 7/10.

“Nope” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my thoughts on “Nope,” be on the lookout for more reviews! Pretty soon I will share my thoughts on “DC League of Super-Pets” and “Vengeance.” 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 “Nope?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite summer blockbuster of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Gray Man (2022): Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, and Chris Evans Team Up to Deliver Some Expensive Mediocrity

“The Gray Man” is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree, Avengers: Endgame) and stars Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, First Man), Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Knives Out) Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out), Jessica Henwick (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Matrix Resurrections), Regé-Jean Page (For the People, Bridgerton), Wagner Moura (Elysium, Narcos), Julia Butters (American Housewife, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Dhanush (3, Vada Chennai), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives, St. Elsewhere), and Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Goliath). Based on a 2009 Mark Greaney book of the same name, this film is about a man who goes by the name of Six. Years after Six is let out of prison under the condition that he works for the CIA, he uncovers dark secrets. This results in a former colleague putting a bounty on his head and an international manhunt.

“The Gray Man” is the latest film from the Russo Brothers, These two are in-house Marvel directors known for their work on the latest “Captain America” and “Avengers” titles. In addition to Joe Russo’s respective screenplay credit, the film also happens to be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. These two have handled writing duties for tons of Marvel fare including “Thor: The Dark World,” “Agent Carter,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and the “Captain America” trilogy. It is nice to see these two join forces to write one of the most expensive Netflix movies ever made. It feels weird to say that in a circumstance like this because when I think Netflix, I think of television, and I think of movies that are more likely to be seen on the smaller screen. But this film is not cheap, as it did cost $200 million to make. This is $50 million less than “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Disney and Marvel’s latest blockbuster movie to hit the big screen. This leads me to my first compliment. As weird as it is to confirm, I think “The Gray Man” looks better visually than “Thor: Love and Thunder” does at times.

But believe it or not, Netflix has put out a decent amount of big budget movies over recent years. Some have been good, like “The Irishman.” Some have been bad, like “Red Notice.” I’ll get straight to the point. “The Gray Man” is in between.

I went to go see “The Gray Man” in a movie theatre. The best thing I can say about “The Gray Man” is that it uses every bit of its big budget wisely to deliver one of the best-looking films of the year. There is a scene where people are ringing in the new year that totally popped. Despite having some occasional vivid and eye-dilating images, it is all given within a script that tends to rely on clichés.

“The Gray Man” is a marketable film for sure. Big action, big stars, and for some, it comes with the perk that you can pause and go to the bathroom without missing anything. I was sold with the campaign because the stars of the film are bankable. I dig Ryan Gosling, I love Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas may be on track to be one of the greatest thespians of her generation. It should not surprise me that this trio has solid chemistry all around. Because De Armas worked with both of these actors in the past. Therefore, not only are we getting a reunion behind the camera between the directors and writers, but in front of the camera as well with the leads.

Essentially, “The Gray Man” is this year’s “Red Notice,” because it is another action film that has notable clichés and a globe-trotting plot. Both even star a sexy Canadian Ryan! But the difference between “The Gray Man” and “Red Notice” is that I would rather watch “The Gray Man” a second time. …Barely. “The Gray Man” is “Red Notice,” except in this case, “The Gray Man” does more than get big names. They utilize those big names to greater potential.

Ryan Gosling is well-directed by the Russos and happens to be given plenty to do in the film to make it as watchable as it can be. But his character of Six does not have much dimension to him. He feels like a less suave, perhaps less emotional Ethan Hunt. Gosling is a great actor who has done a fantastic series of roles in recent years in movies like “La La Land” and “Blade Runner 2049.” He has a knack for picking well-developed, enchanting, defining scripts. What got him into this movie? Who knows? Everyone probably needs a paycheck every now and then. When it comes to Gosling’s library, this is probably on the same level of quality as the kind of forgettable “Gangster Squad.”

The scene stealer award in this case goes to Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. Chris Evans gives one of my favorite performances in a recent action film. He continues to demonstrate his range as a performer. He not only can vary up his performance style, but do it well. Whether it means being patriotic and kind-hearted as Steve Rogers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or a complete moron as Ransom Drysdale in “Knives Out.” Here, he unsurprisingly channels more of the latter’s traits. Out of everyone in the film, Evans brings an energy to his performance that every other actor can only hope to evoke out of their own.

Even though I say there are clichés, it does not mean that there is no entertainment to be had in the movie whatsoever. As I have said in the past, clichés can be good if they are done effectively. Why do you think the “hero’s journey” structure gets repeated time and time again? In this story of familiar happenings, there is a slight glimmer of fun or emotional weight here and there. One of the best story elements of the film is between Ryan Gosling’s character, Six, and a kid played by the young and talented Julia Butters, Claire. Not only do both actors play off each other brilliantly, but they are given some of the film’s best exchanges of dialogue. By the end of the film, Claire became one of my favorite characters and her story wrapped up satisfyingly.

Also, random fact I found out as I was doing this review. Apparently this film was in development hell for years. The earliest this project was announced happens to be 2011, with James Gray once set to direct. Between swapped actors, swapped studios, and so on, the project never found its footing until now. Was it worth the wait? Hard to tell. It’s a cliché film with familiar storylines, so it does not add much to the table. Although it could get some watches on both big and small screens for now. As for how well it will age, that is for the audience to decide.

In the end, “The Gray Man” is in a word, fine. The star-studded cast got me in the door. Not only are they capable of bringing charisma, but delivering on talent. They do their best with the ordinary writing. Ryan Gosling delivers the goods in the acting department, but I will not remember his character as much as say K in “Blade Runner 2049.” I would love to see Ana de Armas in more thrillers and action fare as I think she has done a good job not only in this film, but also “No Time to Die.” She is attractive, joy-inducing, and skilled at her craft. She is everything you can want in an actress. Chris Evans continues to show his range as a performer, but if I had to rank his filmography for the year, I would prefer “Lightyear.” It is a completely different movie for another audience perhaps, but if you want to know which movie does a better job at accomplishing its goals, “Lightyear” is that movie. “The Gray Man” is fun to look at, but does not deliver much that is new. I am going to give “The Gray Man” a 5/10.

“The Gray Man” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Netflix to all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, why not check out some of my other ones? If you are in the Netflix mood, check out my review for another recent Netflix movie, “Hustle!” Want something more recent? Feel free to take a glance at my thoughts on Scott Derrickson’s new horror film, “The Black Phone!” Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” and “Nope!” If you want to see 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 Gray Man?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put three actors in one action movie together, who would they be and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Black Phone (2022): Scott Derrickson Dials Up a Terrifying Ride

“The Black Phone” is directed by Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange, Sinister) and stars Mason Thames (For All Mankind, Walker), Madeleine McGraw (Bones, American Sniper), Jeremy Davies (Lost, Justified), James Ransone (The Wire, Generation Kill), and Ethan Hawke (Moon Knight, First Reformed) in a film that follows a 13 year old boy who is trapped in a killer’s basement. While trying to escape, the boy receives calls from said killer’s victims.

Scott Derrickson is known for his work on multiple horror titles including “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “Deliver Us from Evil,” and “Sinister.” His most recent work however was through the lens of Marvel via “Doctor Strange,” which I found to be incredibly entertaining despite being out of Derrickson’s comfort zone. It also features what I contend to be some of the best 3D ever put to film. Much like the “Sinister” followup, Derrickson did not return to Marvel Studios to helm the recent “Doctor Strange” sequel, giving him more time to go a genre that defines him as a director.

Speaking of horror and “Doctor Strange,” Sam Raimi of “Evil Dead” fame ended up helming the new “Doctor Strange” film in Derrickson’s place. When Derrickson was asked about his thoughts on a trailer for the then upcoming “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” he said, in admiration of Raimi, that he was excited for the movie. But the trailer also affirms that “The Black Phone” was the right film for him to make at the time.

Having seen “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Derrickson is right. Sam Raimi was the right director for that film, as I did have a good time with it. He is also right about himself because Derrickson made an epic horror that is better than some of the other recent entries to the genre. I mean, personally, it is not hard to provide me with more entertainment than what I got with “Malignant.” I make no apologies.

Part of what makes “The Black Phone” so good could be mostly attributed to its youngest cast members. The two main siblings in this film, wonderfully portrayed by Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, have a connection that feels evident from scene one and sticks in your head the moment the lights come back on.

Mason Thames, who is not of adult age yet, is given a lot to do in a matter of just over an hour and a half, and he carries this film like a champ. His portrayal of Finney does not feel like a “child actor” performance. The same can be said to other actors of similar age who happen to be in the film. If anything, Mason Thames is perhaps almost on par with the character viewers will likely remember the most from this film, The Grabber, played by Ethan Hawke.

Ethan Hawke is having a heck of year so far between “Moon Knight,” “The Northman,” and now this movie. This is truly Hawke’s world and we are just living in it. Although while “Moon Knight” and “The Northman” have gotten plenty of attention, part of me is not too crazy about those two projects despite Hawke’s undoubtable commitment to them. This time, I recognized Hawke’s commitment to his craft while also admiring the story at hand. Hawke is genuinely terrifying at times as The Grabber. Major props have to be given to the costume design and makeup department because not only does Hawke emit serial killer vibes through his motions and voice, but also through his looks. If I were a studio executive working today, I could see The Grabber as the next Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers or Pennywise where he becomes this generation’s big horror mascot. He has the looks for it, I could almost see the collector’s toys for it, but the problem is figuring out another story to bring Ethan Hawke back.

On paper, “The Black Phone” keeps things simple and effective. It combines a crazy, Michael Myers wannabe killer, a story that is mostly spent in a creepy basement, and also one that centers around a singular kid. Although this does not mean that there is no depth to the film whatsoever because there is also an intriguing story on the side related to the lead kid’s connection to his father. If anything, this movie reminded me of “10 Cloverfield Lane” except that the star of the show is much younger, and we spend more time focusing on one particular space than anywhere else.

“The Black Phone” is not only scary, but also somewhat disturbing. If you are easily triggered by particular topics, this movie may not the first one I recommend. Why? Because this film has a subplot dedicated to Gwen, Finney’s sister, and her psychic dreams related to The Grabber. This unhinges a rivalry of sorts between her and her father (Jeremy Davies), who happens to be an alcoholic. “The Black Phone” manages to evoke fear in its own right in terms of developing a story where a kidnapper keeps someone in his basement, which streamlines itself more to fantasy than anything else. But it is also down to earth by supplementing that story with a triggering subplot that allows us to receive more depth about the film’s events. For me, this worked, but if you are looking for “an escape,” this movie could be a slight question mark compared to say “A Quiet Place.” Speaking of “A Quiet Place,” I want to bring up that movie for a second.

The biggest compliment I can give to “The Black Phone” is one that is perhaps as massive as what I gave to “A Quiet Place” when I saw that movie. My usual routine when I go to the movies is to get a large popcorn and soda. Normally, I will leave the theater having consumed most of my food and drink. But during “A Quiet Place,” I noticed that every moment I had popcorn in my mouth, I found myself dissolving it as opposed to chewing it. I left the theater with a lot of popcorn that day. While I cannot say I left with as much popcorn for “The Black Phone,” after all, I do not think I intentionally dissolved any of it, I did end up leaving the theater taking home more popcorn than usual. Based on that alone, this shows how scary good this movie is.

In the end, “The Black Phone” is worth watching, but if you get scared or triggered easily by realistic or fantastic concepts, I would recommend straying away from this film. Despite what I said about Ethan Hawke, I do not think a sequel to “The Black Phone” would be warranted, I think it would campify The Grabber if he were revisited in the near future. Although I do admire this film for having many genuine scares and minimal cheap tricks. I really enjoyed the mystery of the film, some of the characters stand out, and I would watch it again on a Friday night with the lights out. I am going to give “The Black Phone” a 7/10.

“The Black Phone” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “The Black Phone,” I have another review coming soon, this time for a comic book movie! That’s right! My next review is for the brand new MCU installment “Thor: Love and Thunder!” 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 see “The Black Phone?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite horror villain? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Death on the Nile (2022): Kenneth Branagh Brings a River of Intrigue in This Engaging Murder Mystery

“Death on the Nile” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Belfast, Thor), who also stars in the film as Hercule Poirot. Joining him in this Agatha Christie novel adaptation is Tom Bateman (Demons, Murder on the Orient Express), Annette Bening (American Beauty, Captain Marvel), Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Arthur), Ali Fazal (Mirzapur, Furious 7), Dawn French (French and Saunders, Coraline), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Criminal), Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., On the Basis of Sex), Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones), Emma Mackey (Sex Education, Eiffel), Sophie Okonedo (After Earth, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), Jennifer Saunders (Sing, Shrek 2), and Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Panther). In this film, Hercule Poirot finds himself on a voyage, set on the Nile River, and ultimately has to investigate the behind the scenes shenanigans of a murder during said voyage.

I want to make a couple things clear. I have never read any Agatha Christie works, therefore I have nothing to compare this movie to as far as her material goes. I also will note that this could technically qualify as a sequel. “Death on the Nile” revolves around a group of people under the eye of Hercule Poirot, who was also portrayed by Kenneth Branagh in 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” He directed the film as well. I have never seen the film, so I cannot tell you anything in regards to Branagh’s previous efforts, whether they are in front of or behind the camera in said film. I was not particularly interested in it at the time, and my lack of interest unfortunately contributed to what I call a lack of knowledge in this circumstance. Nevertheless, the trailers intrigued me enough, Kenneth Branagh is on fire right now with “Belfast” having just come out, and the cast is stacked to the brim.

Well, there’s also Armie Hammer, I should also mention that.

With that being said, I kind of saw “Death on the Nile” on a whim, I bought a ticket less than an hour before the show because I was in the area, although I did intend to see it by the end of the weekend, and I have to say the movie in some ways pleased me in the ways I expected it to. Although it does have a double-edged sword.

One of the best things about “Death on the Nile” is the feud between the newlywed couple, the Doyles, and this one woman, Jackie, played marvelously by Emma Mackey, or as I call her, Samara Weaving’s lookalike. Prior to Simon Doyle’s connection with his new wife, Linnet, he used to be in love with Jackie, who just so happens to be following everyone else. I loved getting to know these characters and every scene Mackey is in is one that had my attention, partially because of how well she played the character. But this also brings me to my main con with the film, and it is that it takes a bit longer than I expected to actually see the murder shenanigans go down. Now don’t get me wrong, the film is entertaining from start to finish. I was invested in most of the scenes that were written, but that would have to be my big pacing issue of the film. For a film that calls itself “Death on the Nile,” the “death” is not exactly much of a standout until the film’s second half. Is the book the same way? Again, I do not know. I do not plan on reading it anytime soon, so frankly I do not care to know.

Although if I had to bring another positive to the table, it is that the film is easy on the eyes. The film is as exotic as it is suspenseful. The color palette throughout feels like an old-timey flick but with a modern twist. It is a film that feels like it simmers itself in tradition, but infuses some sugar and spice to make it more attractive.

The performers all do a great job at bringing their own flair to the mix in “Death on the Nile,” I cannot recall one performance that either underwhelmed or annoyed me. Well, kind of…

Going back to Emma Mackey’s character of Jackie, I want to focus on her for a bit because I admired Mackey’s performance, but I did so with the acknowledgement of how much I disliked her character. Let me just be clear, I watch a lot of movies, and usually when I watch one I like, I usually like all the characters because they make the movie fun and enjoyable to watch. This one is different. I can only recall a few movies I watched in my life where I hated a character who was in it, and used that hate to remind myself of how effective the movie was at doing its job. “Whiplash” and “The Lion King” are the first two titles that come to mind. Mackey’s behavior in the film made me feel like I was part of the film, and films are always better when they can immerse you into the frame. Mackey did so in a way that made me want to punch her in the face, and all respect to the actress. Emma Mackey, if you read this, I think you have an amazing future ahead of you. I would totally cast you in a film if I find the right role, but I will not lie when I say, your character should have been thrown into the Nile to sleep with the fishes.

I like you, I hate your character. And for that, the movie did its job.

I also want to talk about Gal Gadot. She is an actress I have admired ever since I saw her in “Batman v. Superman,” because while that film showed a weakness from her as a performer, specifically on some line delivery, I saw enormous potential in her, because she carried the action sequences like a champ. I probably said this a couple times in my life. In “Batman v. Superman,” the real winner is Wonder Woman. And I think in just about every movie that has come out since, she has at least improved in some way. In “Death on the Nile,” I think casting Gadot as Mrs. Doyle is appropriate, partially because Gadot looks like someone who can symbolize beauty and wealth at the same time (also, she statistically is very wealthy), but this film shows that she has improved as an actress. She is more able to carry a film now than she has ever been, and there are a couple of scenes where I was able to feel the weight of some of her lines.

And of course, I cannot ignore Kenneth Branagh, who not only makes this film look as pretty as it is, but he carries his weight to bring a lively performance to the table. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Kenneth Branagh rock a mustache? If they’re making a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” adaptation set in Northern Ireland, I think Branagh would slay as Willy Wonka, and it would be better if the mustache stays. I think Branagh flat out just looks like someone who would be a detective in his spare time, so the fact that he’s cast as Poirot is undeniable. It’s perfect. Again, I have not seen “Murder on the Orient Express,” so I have nothing to compare this performance to franchise-wise. Having said that, “Death on the Nile” is good enough to the point that I want to go back at some point and give “Murder on the Orient Express” a try. Maybe compare the two and see which one’s better.

In the end, “Death on the Nile” is intriguing from beginning to end and offers an ensemble that gives you all the feelings from grace to anger to sadness. This may not end up being the best film of 2022, after all, the year is only beginning, but as far as this year’s fare, I recommend “Death on the Nile.” It has one or two pacing issues, but I feel like that could be a fairly subjective notion on my part. I probably won’t remember every single character, but there are quite a few that stand out to make this film one of the more entertaining experiences of the past number of months. I’m going to give “Death on the Nile” a 7/10.

“Death on the Nile” is now playing in theaters everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! My next review is going to be for the movie “Uncharted,” which just hit the big screen over a week and a half ago. Also coming up, I will be tackling my thoughts on “The Batman,” which hits theaters everywhere this week. 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 “Death on the Nile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Agatha Christie book? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Red Notice (2021): The Three Biggest Movie Stars Join Forces to Torture Movie Watchers Everywhere

“Red Notice” is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, ), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Free Guy), and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Criminal), Ritu Arya (Doctors, The Umbrella Academy), Chris Diamantopoulos (Up All Night, The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse), and this film centers around two agents who are assigned to track down the world’s most wanted art thief.

Netflix is the epitome of watching a movie or TV show from home today. You can go to your microwave, whip up some popcorn, turn on your smart television, open the app, and let those images fly. Granted there are other options like Hulu or Prime or HBO, but only one has earned the identity of being the place where can watch your stuff and “chill.” Although in recent years, Netflix has taken the movie theater business rather seriously. They’ve released great, emotional titles like “Roma” and “Marriage Story,” and they’ve racked up some Oscars here and there. They even released my favorite film of 2020, “Over the Moon,” which I’m sure is an opinion that others don’t typically share, but knowing myself, I really could have used that film at a certain time in my life, hence why I loved it so much. Netflix’s bread and butter is obviously streaming, but they’ll occasionally try their hardest on a movie when the moment allows. Extreme emphasis on when the moment allows. Because not all of their stuff is theatrical, and a straight to streaming movie is today’s equivalent of a straight to cable movie. Everything looks a bit less polished and they don’t always showcase high quality. But for “Red Notice,” this is an interesting case. This was released theatrically, so it has that going for it. But also, the film had not just one, but three of the highest paid actors working today.

You have Deadpool and Blue Shirt Guy himself, Ryan Reynolds. One of the sexy Canadian Ryans out there. Yes we Canada! I know, he’s not in “Toy Story,” just go with it!

You also have Dwayne Johnson, who if you ask me, is probably today’s biggest stereotype when it comes to being a movie star. He’s not the ultimate chameleon, but he has his fans and knows his audience.

Lastly, there’s Gal Gadot, who I have fallen in love with for awhile given her portrayal as Wonder Woman. I think when she first started in that role, granted that was not her first gig, I think her line delivery could have been improved, but I saw potential in her, and she has been growing since then. And one of the first positives I can give to this film in terms of Gal Gadot being in it is that this is one of the better performances I’ve seen from her. The reason is because the way her character is written and directed unleashes the thought I have held for her for a long time. Gadot is probably one of the most beautiful women acting right now. Whether it is of highest intentions or not, which it probably is, she spends much of the movie coming off as almost semi-seductive in every scene. She has a couple lines in this film that feel like they come out of an action-packed porno.

I will also give the movie another thing. When it comes to the costumes, again as an example, I’ll mention Gal Gadot’s red outfit that is almost intentionally meant to put her perverted enemies at bay, they’re very well done. Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson look like they’re going to be the highlights of spy prom. I think many of the costumes in “Red Notice” are dazzling to say the least. I will also say that some of the sets are well put together and they occasionally make me want to travel the world. But I also want to note that nearly every positive I have given so far is either something based on looks, or how attractive the cast is. As the old saying goes, looks aren’t everything. How is the actual movie in terms of substance?

It’s pure crap. Honestly, this looks like a cheap “Fast & Furious” ripoff that is not quite bad enough to be in the Walmart $5 bin, but that kind of makes it worse because looks can be incredibly deceiving. It has the looks of a modern blockbuster, but it has a script that was created by a 12 year old! This film cost $200 million to make. I bet the three leads received an enormous portion of that pile of cash. I mean, what does Ryan Reynolds need all that money for? Is he gonna try to buy Canada or something?!

This is one of those scripts that if you are specifically writing it with the actors who ended up in this movie in mind, it would sound great in a pitch, but from my perspective, it’s also kind of a long shot considering some of these actors having busy schedules. Given the final results, I think these actors should have stayed busy.

Look, I love Ryan Reynolds as much as the next guy. I think he is one of the most hilarious dudes, and possibly my favorite movie star on the market today, but I have to admit, I don’t think I laughed once when this character was on screen. Part of his role in this film is the typical Ryan Reynolds schtick where he’s almost got traits of a lovable idiot but in actuality he’s not that much of a dumbass, but every line out of his mouth is ridiculously flat and I don’t even know if he was just off while filming or if Rawson Marshall Thurber is not as good at directing as I would like him to be. I liked “Central Intelligence.” I just wish “Red Notice” was as entertaining as that. This film is edited and written as an action-packed thrill ride. Why doesn’t the acting match the feel of a thrill instead of coming off as slightly robotic?

In fact when I watch this movie and I look at Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, the first thing I’m reminded of is “Hobbs & Shaw.” Only it’s ten times worse… Because between the characters of Hobbs and Shaw, you had chemistry. One of the best things about the film “Hobbs & Shaw” for me was the chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. They hated each other, and they took every other moment to acknowledge their displeasure. Sometimes it was really funny. Whenever I look at, again, Dwayne Johnson, shows you the kinds of roles he’s taken in recent years, alongside Ryan Reynolds, I feel like I’m watching a watered down version of that pair. Even though the “Fast & Furious” franchise has never made a single masterpiece, the one thing it often gets right is the chemistry between certain characters, Hobbs and Shaw being one notable example.

Also, this film has one of the lamest and most forced examples of Coca-Cola product placement in recent memory. It felt like something out of an “SNL” sketch that made fun of an action movie as opposed to an actual action movie.

In the end, when it comes to “Red Notice,” there is not much to say except that it is one of the most forgettable landfills of a film I have watched in some time. Again, the stars look cool, the sets look cool, but I feel like more time was spent on developing the style of the movie to the point where Rawson Marshall Thurber and others involved literally forgot substance. I thought it would be tough for Dwayne Johnson to release a film that is worse than “Jungle Cruise” this year. Well, here we are. I also thought it was gonna be tough for Ryan Reynolds to crap out something worse than “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” this year. Mission accomplished, I guess! Gal Gadot looks stunning in a red dress. Okay. Let’s make a good script with that concept in it! How bout that? I’m going to give “Red Notice” a 2/10.

“Red Notice” is now available on Netflix for all subscribers. The film also released in theaters, but it has been a month since it came out, so I would not count on going to the theater to see this film at this point.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I just want to let you know that I have more coming. I have reviews coming for “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “King Richard,” “Tick, Tick…BOOM!,” “Encanto,” “Sing 2,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” and “West Side Story.” I’m also going to be seeing “Spider-Man: No Way Home” soon, so I will have a review for that as well.

Also, tomorrow, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Matrix Reloaded” as part of the ongoing review series “The Matrix Reviewed!” Stay tuned!

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 “Red Notice?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most disappointing movie you’ve seen with a great cast? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!