The Tender Bar (2021): A Sweet, Sentimental, Long Island-ISH Coming of Age Story

“The Tender Bar” is directed by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Midnight Sky) and stars Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Accountant), Tye Sheridan (Voyagers, Ready Player One), Lily Rabe (Miss Stevens, No Reservations), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Nobody), and Daniel Ranieri. This film is based on a memoir of the same name and is set in 1970s Long Island and follows JR as he grows up, does some usual coming of age things during said process, while also trying to seek out a father figure after his dad disappeared.

If you know who I am and where I live, you’d know this film one of the most personal I’ve seen to date. “The Tender Bar” was not my most anticipated film at the start of the year, mainly because I barely knew it existed. I liked George Clooney’s recent outing with Netflix’s “The Midnight Sky.” I thought it was visually stunning and was able to balance two adventures and perspectives that seemed to differ in scale. So knowing Clooney had at least one success as a director definitely helps. Although I want to introduce a little potential bias into this review. One of my favorite memories as a moviegoer is going to see “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” for the first time. Why? I live 20 to 40 minutes from both malls where the movie was shot, and I saw the film at a theater across the street from one of those malls.

For “The Tender Bar,” I did something similar. I happened to see this film at The Cabot in Beverly, Massachusetts, where a majority of the film was shot. There are a few locations that people of that city would instantly recognize. But if I told you that was the icing on the cake, I’d be lying.

I live a few towns away from Beverly, Wakefield to be specific. It’s… Got good pizza delivery places. A few good places to get breakfast. And we have… What am I kidding? WHAT DO WE HAVE?! A lake?! It’s a polluted pool that gives you a nice view of the Reading Jordan’s Furniture every now and again! What else do we have? But playing into this bias marathon, this film has a scene that was shot at the Wakefield Bowladrome, which has candlepin bowling, or as New Englanders, or anyone else with common sense calls it, bowling. I was at this location while they were shooting. They did not let anyone inside, for good reason, but I had the chance to witness filmmaking history as it happened in my own town.

Despite this connection that makes me giddy, I will note that this is a logical flaw in the film because as I mentioned, candlepin bowling is a New England sport, along with Canada as well. There are other areas where it is found, but New England and Canada are the two mainstays. Candlepin bowling has never had a history on Long Island. Logically, it would have been better to find a place that does tenpin bowling, or regular bowling as most call it, or INFERIOR bowling as I call it. Apparently the crew shot around various communities in Massachusetts, and the state does have its fair share of tenpin alleys. A lot of them have glow lighting at certain times, but there’s also some that don’t. Although the automatic scoring systems could feel out of place. I’ll give some credit though. I’ve been in that alley numerous times, and it has rarely changed in terms of the decor and condition. It kind of feels like a time capsule, so if they were going for an old timey vibe, they’ve kinda nailed it. A lot of the candlepin alleys that exist in New England look as if they’ve barely changed in decades.

The film itself, is nostalgic in a sense that it makes you feel like you are instantly transported to a 1970s where one could see said time as “glory days,” and has a fun soundtrack to evoke such a feeling. Songs from artists including Paul Simon and the Isley Brothers liven up the movie from one scene to another.

Now Ben Affleck (left) is likely going to be the most recognizable star in this film. He plays his part well, but I honestly think he’s had better performances. Just look at his 2020 outing with Gavin O’Connor, “The Way Back.” While his performance here is charming as Uncle Charlie, I don’t think the biggest standout in the film, despite being likable. Although I will note one thing… Before this film came out, I thought Ben Affleck would be the character everything in this film centered around. Well, I never knew about the book… In fact, if you look at the casting list for this film on IMDb or Wikipedia or wherever you find it, Ben Affleck has top billing. Because… Of course he does. He’s not the main character.

But the story itself centers around Tye Sheridan’s (right) character of JR. JR makes quite a progression throughout his life. He’s a promising young man who goes to Yale, meets a woman, makes some choices that decide the course of where he ends up. I’ve seen Tye Sheridan on screen before in “Ready Player One.” I liked him in “Ready Player One.” I love him in “The Tender Bar.” As for his younger interpretation, that is played by Daniel Ranieri, who I discovered last year courtesy of the Internet. He was in a video referencing people going outside in the pandemic and he goes on and on, cursing them out. It is ridiculously funny. Despite some of the filthy things he says in that video, I think he was properly cast as a sweet young boy who wanted nothing more than a father. I believe the transition from him to Sheridan, and both play their parts well.

Upon leaving this film, I felt happier walking out of this than I did watching most of the films I’ve watched in recent memory. If I had a word to describe “The Tender Bar” it would be “sweet.” Now, this is a drama, meaning that not everything goes everyone’s way, but this movie honestly has one of my favorite endings of any film I’ve seen that came out in 2021. It’s the kind of ending that sort of reminds me of one of the supposedly essential aspects of the parent-child relationship. The acceptance and realization that someone is an adult while also recognizing a tradition that maybe they have both honored since childhood. When someone prominent in my family died, I had a particular object passed down to me, which I still have in my room today. The scene in the movie that I’m referring to, as a reminder of this real life occurrence, differs significantly, but it kind of reminded me of that.

If I had any other comments, it would be that my one other flaw would have to be Christopher Lloyd’s character. I’m not saying Lloyd does not do a good job in the movie. He’s a great actor, and he proves that in this movie, but this harkens back to the old saying that first impressions matter. One of the first scenes of the film where we see Lloyd in action, or lack thereof, is him sitting in a chair farting. This gag goes on for about a minute. What is this a kids movie? This freaking thing’s rated R! We’re resorting to cheap PG comedy gags now?

In the end, I liked “The Tender Bar.” Despite coming out during the holiday season, having high profile names, and not belonging in any extended cinematic universes, I don’t think “The Tender Bar” is going to win any awards. But similar to how “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” recently harkened back to the 1960s with success, “The Tender Bar” is a delightful throwback to the 1970s in Long Island, even if the entire movie was shot in the state of Massachusetts. I feel like I’m not judging this film fairly, because I think the average viewer of this movie who ends up seeing the film in say Los Angeles will barely notice a difference in a couple key aspects. Either way, the film is worth a watch if you want something sweet with some drama mixed in. I’m going to give “The Tender Bar” a 7/10.

“The Tender Bar” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Prime Video for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! This week is a big one for Scene Before, because on Tuesday, January 11th and Wednesday, January 12th, it is time to recap my BEST and WORST movies of the year. On January 11th I’ll be talking about the Top 10 BEST movies of 2021 and on January 12th I’ll be talking about the Top 10 WORST Movies of 2021. I cannot wait, I always enjoy doing these lists, and I equally hope you all enjoy reading them! 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 Tender Bar?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever gone candlepin bowling? And if so, WHY IS IT THE ONLY BOWLING?! Leave your comments down below, hopefully like all that dead wood you knocked down that’s still on the plate!

…Candlepin bowling joke. I do not apologize.

Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ready Player One (2018): Pop Culture’s Ultimate Birthchild

*SPONSORSHIP ALERT* (although nobody’s payin’ me)

Before we dive into my review for one of my most anticipated movies of 2018, let me just have you know that this review is being called “Pop Culture’s Ultimate Birthchild.” If you watch “Ready Player One” and/or read the book, you’d know precisely what I’m talking about. And speaking of birthchildren, there’s one couple out there in California who are currently expecting a birthchild. The couple contains souls by the names of Genevieve and Paul, and they are going to giving birth to a child sometime in the future. You can find out the true story of this babymaking journey in “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF?” documents the seemingly endless but also effort-filled journey of having a child. What’s so hard about it? Watching over them? Finding a babysitter? Trying to get them to fall asleep? No, you fools! The hard part is making them! Watch as Genevieve and Paul do something that will change humanity. By, you know, trying to increase its overall population by 1. But the process of doing that isn’t easy! The couple suffer through troublesome situations in regards to sex, math, testing, costs, and because they TOTALLY asked for them, infinite needles! If you want to watch the fifth episode to this series, it’s listed up above. This time, Genevieve and Paul’s marriage might be going down the toilet! Not to mention, nothing seems all that pleasant at this point. Watch the episode, comment, subscribe, hit the notification bell, share with your friends, enemies, frenemies, whoever they may be. Also check out the “WTIVF” website, and their other forms of presence on social media, all of which is listed down below! Oh yeah, and tell them Jack Drees sent ya! I’m sure they’ll appreciate it!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

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“Ready Player One” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Lincoln) and stars Tye Sheridan (X-Men Apocalypse, Mud), Olivia Cooke (Ouija, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Dark Knight Rises) and is based on the pop culture extravaganza of a book written by Ernest Cline, who by the way, is one of the film’s screenwriters alongside Zak Penn (The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk).

Much like the book, this movie centers around the character of Wade Owen Watts, a teenage boy who is currently living in the 2040s. Oh yeah, and just like every other movie that takes place in the future that seems to have something depressing, Earth is dying, who’d a thunk it? Nowadays he basically spends his time on the virtual reality headset universe known as the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where you can literally live your reality meeting other avatars who go by nicknames. For example, Wade’s avatar name in the game is known as Parzival. Another example would be for a different character in the movie, Samantha, which is the name she goes by in real life, but in the OASIS, she’s known as Art3mis. There’s not just that, you can do just about anything you can think of! You want to drive a DeLorean? You’ve got yourself a DeLorean! You want an Iron Giant to hang out with? Of course you do, and you’ve got one! You want to ride the bike from “Akira?” Bingo! This is basically a future, where there’s nowhere left to go. And I’ve seen a lot of media will give this dystopian landscape where everything looks all depressing, but one thing I’ve never noticed is a hint of pop culture in there. And I feel this movie, the more I think about it, is kind of relevant. Not just for the environmental message that you’d find in films like “Wall-E” or “Interstellar,” but the fact that maybe we’re running out of ideas in terms of what could be the next big franchise or the next big movie or the next big TV show. The movie doesn’t really dive into that, but this is an unoriginal movie which centers around unoriginality and it’s all the better for it!

This was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Most of the promotional material had me nerdgasming! The visuals looked astounding! The music, like, oh my gosh! The teaser trailer for “Ready Player One” which was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, went on to become one of my favorite trailers of 2017, and the movie had a couple more trailers that went on to become instant favorites of mine for this current year. I went to see the movie in 70mm film! A lot of people see “Avengers: Infinity War” as their most anticipated movie of the year, and I totally get why, but when it comes to both movies, I can’t help but hype both up like the Soup Nazi when his place was in business on “Seinfeld.” I even did something that I never do before going to see a movie. I actually read the book. Let me just pull up a quote that I left in my review for “The Firm.”

“…movies are more fun! Sorry, books!”

Part of my reading of the book has to do with a challenge I gave to some friends, but still.

After reading the book and seeing the promotional material of the movie, I felt like this was a fictionalized “King of the Nerds.” If you have seen “King of the Nerds,” you’d probably know it as a part competition and part nerd culture extravaganza. This show is actually quite possibly my favorite of all time, making me even gladder to have read the book to capture the feeling of the show inside me once more after it was canceled by TBS in 2015. And speaking of “King of the Nerds,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” the movie which the show is sort of based on, is referenced in the book. In fact, there’s one part where the main character of Wade Watts goes searching for something important to the plot, and he tries going into a recreation of the house that the nerds rent and fix in the movie! If you know me in real life, if something receives a comparison to “King of the Nerds,” you know that I am jumping up and down.

Unfortunately, there’s no “Revenge of the Nerds” references in the movie. However, when you take the rest of the movie for what it is, you might as well refer to it by one word: Amazing. Am I fanboying? Sort of. I’m only fanboying because this film met, and in ways, exceeded my expectations. I am not one of those people who says this:

“This is a great book! Terrific! Unbelievable! If you change an ounce of this book, I will find you studio freaks at your filthy houses and slaughter every last one of you!”

Yes, there are changes from the book, and personally, I can understand the changes, and based on what we’ve gotten out of this movie, I don’t care! This movie itself, was probably one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had in a theater. If the 70mm show wasn’t enough to please, some of the scenes which have now become new personal faves of mine certainly were!

Steven Spielberg directed this film, and when I first heard about him taking on this project, I was like, “cool.” As I read the book though, I thought to myself, there is NO OTHER MAN ON THIS EARTH that should direct this movie! Well, it was mainly because Spielberg was referenced in the book and it was done in a form of appreciation. Now that I’ve seen the film from start to finish, I can’t say anything else except, THERE’S STILL NO F*CKING WAY ANOTHER PERSON COULD HAVE DIRECTED THIS FILM! Steven Spielberg’s hayday was blockbusters galore, not to mention he’s a master of putting you into the action. Just watch “Saving Private Ryan” or “Jurassic Park!” The film’s opening contains this big and important race, and I guarantee you that at some point, you’ll feel like you’re in it.

Speaking of action, “Ready Player One” also contains one of the best mega-battles I’ve seen in a movie, and one of the best chases I’ve seen in a movie. There’s this big climactic battle that decides the future of both sides, and as I watched, I felt like I was back the early 2000s, going to the theater, and watching “Lord of the Rings.” I ate it up and I wanted more! Now I know that I talked about the race during the film’s starting point, and it’s sort of chase-like, but we cut to the real chase towards the end of the film. Literally. This final chase, may be one of the very best I’ve ever seen in a movie. The climactic chase of the movie almost feels like a mix of “Inception” and “The Lego Movie.” In other words, it was a mix of a heartfelt moment and the dropping of my jaw. I don’t even want to go into it, because I want you as a viewer to be surprised.

Now I mention that this movie, like the book, is really freaking good! But if there’s one thing that the book does better, it’s character development. I’m not saying that the characters in this movie sucked, in fact I really liked all of them. But in comparison to the book, the book did it better.

Let’s talk about the main character of Wade Watts, otherwise known as Parzival. In some ways, much like the book, I resemble this character. We both want to do something that will prevent our governments from harming us personally, we’re both uber nerds, and we both know a lot about a variety of popular culture. Although then again, that’s what pretty much a majority of the movie’s characters know about. In the book, Watts was actually fat in real life. I can kind of understand why they would cast a guy like Tye Sheridan for the role of Watts even though he’s not fat, but they could have paid homage to the book and done that. If they did cast someone fat, it would have increased the chance of seeing a key character moment from the book. I’m not saying I’m unsatisfied with what we got, but still, the book did it better.

Although one thing that may rival the book entirely in my opinion was the depiction of Samantha, or Art3mis. When I read the book, I always thought of the interactions in the OASIS between Parzival and Art3mis as cutesy, and as something that just developed over time. The movie feels faster, and it almost makes Samantha’s avatar look like someone a boy would usually be attracted to. Well, to me anyway, looks are subjective. Sure, in the book I can kind of buy Parzival’s infatuation towards Art3mis, but it didn’t have a raw feeling, like this movie did, and I personally thought it worked. Cooke as an actress pretty much nailed what this character needed, and I admired her performance.

Now let’s get into one of my favorite parts of the movie, and that is the character of Nolan Sorrento played by Ben Mendelsohn. Having seen him play Krennic in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” it should be proof at this point that Mendelsohn can play one awesome villain! Here, he does that too! He’s basically this corporate baddie that oversees all the operations of IOI (Innovative Online Industries) and he wants to change the OASIS to make it more like what can be translated as something like Net Neutrality or EA shoving micro-transactions down your throat. As if his representation of evil was good enough, his character has one of the major highlights of the movie for me. There’s a point where he’s talking with Wade and he’s trying to act consumer-friendly, attractive, and telling Wade what he would probably want to hear, and someone is on the other end, speaking into his ear without Wade’s knowledge. Trust me, it’s kind of funny.

Now let’s state another highlight performance of the movie, and that is the character of James Halliday, played by Mark Rylance. This is Rylance’s third performance with Steven Speilberg, and he was cast perfectly in regards to this character. Halliday was charming, somewhat funny, and a mix between Willy Wonka and Steve Jobs. You’ve got the one side that seems to scream charisma and wonder and you have another that represents brains and sometimes over-stressed. I will say though, I was doing research on this movie, and while I think Rylance’s performance is terrific, there is someone I would have loved to see bring their skills to the table.

Rylance’s character is once again, comparable to Willy Wonka, and thus it kind of makes sense where Steven Spielberg’s mind would be going at one point. One idea he had for the character of Halliday before Rylance ultimately took over is to get Gene Wilder back on screen. According to the movie’s trivia page on IMDb, “Wilder respectfully declined.” Mark Rylance was cast in 2016 some time before Gene Wilder’s death. But what if Wilder were in the movie? I imagine the movie would make a hell lot more money than it already did, it would have a stronger opening weekend, and based on recent events, it might actually bring something emotional to the movie. Although then again, I wonder if they still would have been filming the scenes for Halliday at the time of Wilder’s death, so it probably wouldn’t have even mattered. Nevertheless, Wilder as Halliday would have been PERFECT, A+, 10/10 casting. However, Rylance, based on his portrayal, is just as solid.

Moving onto one thing that I heard a number of people complain about, let’s talk about references. People were nervous about this movie because they figured the only thing that it stands for is to make references down your throat. Personally, I did not have that complaint going in. I thought the movie was gonna have a fine number of references that didn’t feel bloated. Besides, references are awesome! As far as this movie goes none of the references forced (for what I remember), they were charming, and they were even sometimes hysterical! One of the biggest standouts is a moment where the main characters are going into the world of a classic movie. No, seriously, they go in, and several events from that movie play out in this one! I didn’t have too too many people in my theater, so I can’t say much noise was made, but I heard there were some presentations that people attended where audience members collectively gasped. The most references come in during the commencement of the movie and the climax, and while the middle definitely has some, it seems to come off as more story-oriented. And that’s not to say that the beginning and end aren’t story oriented. I’d say the references used at the start and finish were properly utilized while still maintaining an interesting story, thus making the movie better. You know, unlike “The Emoji Movie,” which story-wise and reference wise, is nothing but trash buried beneath the ground after being lit on fire. That movie was nothing but a complete waste of the talent from minds like Patrick Stewart, Anna Faris, and TJ Miller.

Fortunately, TJ Miller’s talent is not wasted here! If you don’t already know, TJ Miller plays the character of I-R0k, and let’s just get serious for a moment. TJ Miller’s voice, IS ASTOUNDING. If Morgan Freeman is the king of narrating serious pieces of work, then TJ Miller is the king of narrating anything that sounds hilarious. Just watch “Silicon Valley,” “Deadpool,” heck, I’ll say “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” HELL! I’d say even watch “The Emoji Movie!” Even though the movie sucks, you still get to hear the killer voice of TJ f*cking Miller. TJ Miller was TOP-NOTCH CASTING for I-R0k, and after seeing Miller play him, I probably can’t imagine anyone else taking on the role! If the remake and reboot craze continues and “Ready Player One” is the next in line, I quadruple dog dare those behind the project to find a better I-R0k.

In the end, “Ready Player One,” was a f*cking blast! I had very high expectations for the movie, and I certainly was not let down. This is also personally, almost a #1 favorite of mine for Steven Spielberg. I saw this movie on a Tuesday night, and this review was finished on a Friday. On this day, I’m still thinking to myself, “I want to see this again.” Have I seen it again? No I have not, but I’d literally cut through traffic and smash cars to pieces just to go to the theater for a second time and catch the experience once more. So with that being said, “Ready Player One” is yet another win for Spielberg and I’m going to give it a 10/10!

Thanks for reading this review! Fun fact about my experience watching this in the theater, I mentioned I went to see this in 70mm, and it actually was in this quaint theater near Boston, and they played a trailer for “2001: A Space Odyssey” since the theater was bringing it back in the 70mm format for its 50th anniversary. Just… One of the best things I’ve witnessed in my entire life. I might do something soon for “2001” if possible, maybe a movie review, maybe dissect it, or something else along those lines. As far as other content goes, I have a few ideas lined up. Maybe I’ll go see “Blockers,” “A Quiet Place,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” or maybe I’ll wind up seeing “Ready Player One” again. Who knows? Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Ready Player One?” What did you think about it? Did you read the book? What did you think about that? I personally love it, and comparing both the movie and the book side by side, they both make themselves great in their own ways. Also, if you were going to make a book or movie full of references, what would the references be and how would the movie play out? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!