M3GAN (2022): Come For the Dancing Robot, Stay for the Commentary

“M3GAN” is directed by Gerard Johnstone (The New Legends of Monkey, Terry Teo) and stars Allison Williams (Get Out, Girls), Jenna Davis (Maggie, Raven’s Home), and Violet McGraw (The Haunting of Hill House, Jett). This film centers around a young girl named Cady who loses her parents, is put under the custody of her aunt, but despite finding herself under said guardianship, she does not feel the same as she once did. Not to mention, said aunt is having trouble filling the shoes of her new, unexpected role. That is where M3GAN, an advanced toy doll prototype designed to practically be a child’s best friend, comes in.

When I think about the movie “M3GAN,” it would not be surprising for me to easily jump to conclusions and suggest that this is a gender-swapped version of “Child’s Play.” In some ways, it is. Although as I have said many times on Scene Before, horror is not my strongest genre, therefore I am not entirely familiar with “Child’s Play” and am purely going off of things I have heard. This time, the Chucky doll is a girl, and the child this movie revolves around is a girl as well. The trailer emitted these vibes from the moment I first witnessed it. Sure, there is that one dance routine that M3GAN does that makes her stand out, but I was not sure how a horror movie released in January could not only make its presence known, but worth appreciating. Sure, statistically, horror has been on a roll in recent months, at least for me. But now that we are in January, we are in the time where without exaggeration, movies go to die. If you are not going back to see “Avatar: The Way of Water” or “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” for the first, second, or third time, you are probably going to be watching something that is either deemed less favorable, or something that is still pulling in people for an Oscar nod that came out during the fall.

Thankfully for “M3GAN,” this movie is a delightful surprise. Yes, the trailers make it look like January trash, but it does have some genuine charm throughout that makes it worth the watch. I was shocked and delighted to find out how layered this movie ended up being. From scene one, I ended up caring about the young Cady. I felt terrible for both Cady and her aunt, Gemma, as the two tried to get better acquainted. I have not lost my parents at a young age. I know people who have, and it must be a pain I could never fathom. Nevertheless, this movie manages to capture such a pain with excellence. As for Gemma, a lot of pressure was put on her in a split second. She does not have much experience with children, despite working at a toy company. I not only sympathized with the main character, but the supporting character who is supposed to look after said main character.

As mentioned before, regarding “M3GAN,” an obvious similarity would be “Child’s Play.” But I would also say that another film prominently featuring a technologically advanced toy, “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” would also make for a good comparison. These films have their vast differences. For example, I would not outright recommend “M3GAN” for children, but I think “M3GAN” does a good job at doing something “Ron’s Gone Wrong” tried to do, but in the case of “M3GAN,” the results were more pleasing. To be specific, this film dives into commentary about technology, the toy industry, and how these things can affect one’s social behavior. Children often form attachments to various possessions, and sometimes that can define their life around a certain age. I played a lot of video games when I was younger, so I had an attachment to my various consoles. I would go on vacations and literally take my Xbox 360 with me. This movie reminded me that children will inevitably have obsessions. Heck, every other time I am in a store like GameStop or Target, I will see a child and parent together, and every other time I would hear the child calling out for a toy or something of a similar nature and beg their parent to buy it for them. M3GAN comes off as a toy that could make such a thing happen if it were on display.

In addition to attachment, this movie does a great job at showing how technology tends to replace guardians in many cases. Technology is often used as an escape no matter what age somebody is. However, there comes a point where this movie is a reminder to monitor how often your child is in front of a screen. In M3GAN’s case, it is perhaps a bit more daunting than say my recent Xbox 360 example. Because an Xbox 360 is replaceable. Whether we are talking about more advanced consoles like the Xbox One, or whichever other Xbox 360 already in existence has yet to crap out because of the red ring of death. This movie advertises M3GAN as the one toy a child could ever want for the rest of their life. As a result, it is the one friend they could want too. M3GAN is equipped to do what other people Cady’s age can do and possibly more. Whereas the option is always there to play video games with my friends, M3GAN has the ability to take the actual social component out of anything.

To call “M3GAN” the scariest movie of all time would be a hyperbole beyond hyperboles. I should note, the movie is PG-13, but nevertheless, rather effective. However, I would say the scariest thing about “M3GAN” is something that happens in the movie, and what it made me think about upon leaving it. The most haunting thing about movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” from 1968, “The Terminator” from 1984, or even more recent films like “Wall-E” from 2008 is that those stories are representative of realities where we could lead ourselves if we are not careful. “M3GAN” is not the scariest horror movie within the past year. The actual scares in the movie are kind of tame compared to say “Smile,” where I was shivering on a regular basis.

That said, the scariest thing about “M3GAN” is that the movie is perhaps representative of not our future, but where we are today. This movie starts off with an advertisement about a toy that is wholly reminiscent of the typical formula of almost any ad found during the daytime on Nickelodeon. If anything, M3GAN is what happens when you put Siri or Alexa inside of an American Girl doll. Heck, the doll even has singing capabilities. What if there is a point where this becomes a franchise and these dolls sell out concerts at Madison Square Garden? M3GAN is literally a smartphone with legs. It presents information in full detail when the moment seems most convenient. It is customized to cater to its primary user. And Cady is endlessly attached to it. Who is not attached to their phone these days?

To give an example of how “M3GAN” is not necessarily representative of our future, but today, let me give you a picture of my screening. This was nowhere near a full house. But the film brought in plenty of people into its small auditorium of ages varying from somewhere in the teens, possibly tweens, to that of a fully grown adult. Almost everyone had their phone out. Some had it out for a second. Some longer. There were moments where people were using their phone while losing focus on the movie. There were also moments where I saw a sea of four, five phones on at a time. In fact, since I do not carry a watch, I checked my phone, which I left in my pocket while doing so, to see the time after the trailers ended because AMC loves advertising everything under the sun. First off, if you are going to go the movies, the only screen that matters is the one the largest one in the room. Be respectful. Second, there is a scene in “M3GAN” that does not specifically target the people doing what they were doing in this theater, but the more I think about my experience, the more I connect it to Cady’s connection to M3GAN in that moment. She loves M3GAN so much that she is unwilling to give it up for even a couple hours for any other activity presented in front of her.

M3GAN is probably not going to end up in my favorite movies of the year list once we arrive at the end, but it probably is going to be one I will think about regularly because of how many connections I can make between the story and my life experiences. I went into M3GAN to see some silly robot take over the lives of a household. I definitely acquired more than that, and for such a reason, this movie was worth the watch.

In the end, “M3GAN” is honestly better than I expected going in. It is a fine mix of drama, comedy, horror, and social commentary. It does a bunch of things at once, and manages to do them well. In addition, it reaffirmed not only why I should be worrisome in regards to the future and how technology could affect it, but also how technology can affect people right now. I left this film worried, and honestly, that is what makes “M3GAN” as effective as it is. I am going to give “M3GAN” a 7/10.

“M3GAN” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “M3GAN.” Check out some of my other reviews for recent horror titles like “Halloween Ends,” “Barbarian,” and “The Mean One.” Also, stay tuned because I will be dropping my thoughts on “Missing,” which I saw before “M3GAN,” but due to being under embargo, I decided to review “M3GAN” first. Stay tuned for my thoughts coming soon! If you want to see all of 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 “M3GAN?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a toy or piece of technology you found yourself attached to at some point in your life? Are you still attached today? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022): Animated Purr-fection

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by Januel Mercado. This film stars Antonio Banderas (The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Uncharted), Salma Hayek (Grown Ups, Eternals), Harvey Guillén (What We Do in the Shadows, The Magicians), Florence Pugh (Black Widow, Don’t Worry Darling), Olivia Colman (The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Empire of Light), Ray Winstone (Point Break, Beowulf), Samson Kayo (Our Flag Means Death, Famalam), John Mulaney (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers), Wagner Moura (Brazil, Narcos), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Selfie, People of Earth), and Anthony Mendez (Jane the Virgin, Foodtastic). In this sequel to the 2011 spinoff film “Puss in Boots,” the title character is down to his ninth and last life. Carrying his hopes to recover his past lives, Puss sets out on a journey to find a Wishing Star.

2011’s “Puss in Boots” is a surprisingly good movie. I think it is a bit rushed, but it has its pros. The characters are likable. The voice performances are solid. The music is catchy as well. I did not think it was as memorable as say “Shrek” and “Shrek 2,” the latter of which introduced Puss to the iconic DreamWorks franchise. Nevertheless, the movie was solid despite being a quick ride. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a follow-up part of me never thought we would get. The spinoff seemed like a one-off. But, someone, somewhere wanted to make this sequel. After all, in an age where “Star Wars” is still relevant, it is evident that nostalgia sells. The last major “Shrek”-related project to release in theaters was in fact the 2011 “Puss in Boots” movie. As to whether this would be a great sequel or a cheap nostalgia bomb was a mystery. The trailers looked good, but so did the trailers to “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which did not mean much when I saw the movie.

Ladies and gentlemen, if there is any indication that you should see this movie, here are some bold statements. First off, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is better than the original. Not bold enough? Okay, let me take it a step further. Not only is it better than its 11-year-old predecessor, I would say it is superior to all of the “Shrek” installments. This includes the original, and my personal favorite, “Shrek 2.” Is this a case of recency bias? Possibly. It has been awhile since I have seen the “Shrek” films. But it does not change the fact that I was smiling the entire time this movie was playing. And when I was not smiling, I was either laughing or dropping my jaw.

The first ten minutes of this movie is some of the most bonkers, ridiculous, unhinged stuff I have witnessed on a screen this year. There is a moment where Puss is taking down a beast and goes towards it by catapulting himself into the air via a stringed instrument. How cool is that?! Meanwhile he has time to sing a song and brag about himself. This is not only a fitting introduction to this movie and the character, it is some of the most fun I had at the movies this year. I have not felt this giddy at the start of an animation since maybe “The LEGO Batman Movie.”

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” blends 2D and 3D animation elements to make a movie that is wonderfully stylized and perfectly realized. Few movies released in 2022 look as visually striking as this one. At times, this movie has the tone of previous material featuring the Puss character, including the “Shrek” installments, while also inserting a style that reminded me of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Select scenes felt like a graphic novel coming to life. To say I was struck with awe might be an understatement. And when I say awe, I am not just talking about big eyes. Although those do, coincidentally, make an appearance in the movie.

Puss in Boots is a role Antonio Banderas is practically born to play. His voice is absolutely perfect as the iconic feline and I was somewhat worried after all these years it might not be the same. Nope, he still has the goods! There is a certain hyperactivity Banderas commits to with the role that I think few actors would be able to encapsulate. There is a saying that actors are replaceable, and I would agree with this philosophy. However, I think if somebody else were to play the Puss in Boots role in the future, they have massive shoes, or boots in this case, to fill.

The film has multiple threats including Goldi and the Three Bears, Jack Horner, and a wolf bounty hunter. Having seen a couple “Spider-Man” films butcher themselves by poorly utilizing multiple threats at once, it might as well be easy to worry that this movie could lose control. Thankfully, it does not. Each antagonist has a purpose and place in the story. In addition to all of these antagonists opposing themselves to Puss and his crew, some want to use the Wishing Star to fulfill their own desires. This adds threats not only to Puss’s life, but his past lives as well. Without giving much away, one of these mentioned antagonists might be the creepiest DreamWorks animation villain ever put to screen. Both in terms of looks and motivation. If I were a young child watching this movie, I would quiver upon first sight of this fiend.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a quickly paced, action-packed thrill ride of a film that while I will say is okay for children to watch, impressed me because of its tendency to go full throttle with certain action elements. This movie even has blood in it, which I do not often see in PG films. The action sequences in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” are my favorite DreamWorks action scenes since “Kung Fu Panda 3.” There is little shortage of color, wacky effects, and pizazz. Again, it was like watching a graphic novel come to life. It almost felt like a flashy video game. I would go see this movie a second time for the action alone. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” has action that reminds me of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which this movie nearly rivals in terms of flashiness. Another movie the action reminds me of is “Bullet Train,” which has a series of creative sequences and fights with impressive choreography. Simply put, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” contains my favorite action sequences from any movie released this year.

If I had any flaws with “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” they would be hard to come by. Although if I had to come up with one it would be that while the humor is solid for the most part, there are one or two jokes that fall flat, including one that was probably just inserted to get a laugh out of the younger audiences. This may be a personal thing, but for those who remember the 2011 “Puss in Boots,” there is an oohing cat that is constantly used as a gag during the film. I did not find it funny the first time, nor did I find it funny the third or fourth time. But for some reason the cat finds his way back to this sequel. Thankfully it was only in one scene, but still.

In the end, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a great spinoff, a stellar sequel, and a smile-inducing time at the movies. This movie was so good that I am surprised to say that I want a third installment. This movie is up there with “Turning Red” and “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” as one of the best animations of 2022. Packed with ridiculously enthralling action sequences, unbelievably eye-popping animation, and a shockingly emotional ending, this film is perfect for all audiences. Take it from someone who is not much of a cat person. Or even a pet person in general. I loved “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and I am going to give it a 9/10.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” releases in theaters everywhere Wednesday, December 21st. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming soon! The 2022 reviews are likely coming to an end, but I do plan to see another movie this week. My next review is likely going to either be for “Babylon” or “The Whale.” I have not decided yet. That said, if you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out my thoughts on “Strange World,” “DC League of Super-Pets,” and “Luck!” 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 “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish?” What did you think about it? Or, now that we have four “Shrek” movies and a couple of “Puss in Boots” spinoff titles, which movie in the “Shrek” universe would you say is the best one? Honestly, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” might take the cake. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Violent Night (2022): A Movie So Naughty It Deserves to be On This Season’s Nice List

“Violent Night” is directed by Tommy Wirkola (What Happened to Monday, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and stars David Harbour (Black Widow, Hellboy), John Leguizamo (Ice Age, The Menu), Alex Hassell (The Boys, Cowboy Bebop), Alexis Louder (Copshop, The Tomorrow War), Edi Patterson (Plan B, Vice Principals), Cam Gigandet (The O.C., Reckless), Leah Brady (The Umbrella Academy, Erin’s Guide to Kissing Girls), and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation, American History X). This film is set during Christmastime, and when a family gets together at a large house to celebrate the holiday, a group of mercenaries attempt to infiltrate the property. With the family in trouble, it is up to Santa Claus to save this family from harm by stopping the infiltrators in their tracks.

Ah… The holidays… The most wonderful time of the year. Full of joy, happiness, and all the pretty things. Plus, you know, materialism. It is the that time of the year to beat up some bad guys!!! In this season where everyone is inevitably going to be rewatching a bunch of comforting holiday classics like “Elf” or “The Polar Express,” “Violent Night” presents itself as an antithesis to the familiar “Christmas movie.” Yes, it is Christmastime. Yes, there is Santa Claus. Yes, there are Christmas songs playing in the background. But instead of watching the next “Fred Claus,” there is a chance that with “Violent Night,” I have just tuned into the next “Die Hard.”

For those of you who have seen “Die Hard” and defend it as part of the many Christmas movies out there, you might say that it is not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. Similarly, I think Christmas came early this year when Santa bashed a bunch of mercenaries and put them in their place. Now am I going to put “Violent Night” on in front of my family while opening Christmas presents? Maybe not. However, once all the unwrapping is done and I find some privacy, I might put it on because this film is beautifully gory and as the name suggests, violent. It knows how to have fun from scene one to the climax.

David Harbour is excellent as Santa Claus, and part of it is because of the script. When I usually think of Santa I usually think of a jolly old man who can do no wrong. This film showcases a Santa who has grown tired of his job, he is sick of delivering the same trendy gifts to children, but he also seems to have a soft spot for the children that stand out on his nice list. Now, if I had one minor complaint, it is that the film occasionally resorts to kids’ animation humor where Santa calls out one of his reindeer for taking a dump on a roof, but that would be a small script flaw in an otherwise entertaining flick. Harbour carries this film as Santa Claus and I would not mind seeing more of him as the character.

Although speaking of the script, it is not the most verisimilitude-filled story of the year. Although to be fair, when you have a Santa Claus that beats up bad guys Deadpool style, that does not exactly call for the most realistic story of all time. In fact, there are certain conveniences and happenings in the movie that occur and the excuse that gets brought up in those moments is that it is “Christmas magic.” As someone who has seen and reviewed a ton of movies, it has become notoriously difficult to “turn off my brain.” But sometimes, the best thing to do in a movie like this is to follow this saying uttered by Barbara from “Tenet,” specifically… “Don’t try to understand it, feel it.”

And I can tell you how I felt after watching this movie. In a word, incredible.

I also like the scenes when the family happen to all be together. For the record, this movie takes place in an extravagant household and the people inside are all wealthy or notable. A couple standouts include Alex Hassell as Jason Lightstone, the favorite son. Gertrude Lightstone, who leads the family corporation. Also, Alexander Elliot as Bert, a young man who will do anything to get attention on social media. For the most part, the main group sounds like a bunch of entitled people. And in some ways, that is as accurate of a description as I could give them. But much like “The Menu,” which I reviewed last month, it was difficult for me to find any of these privileged individuals annoying or obnoxious. Credit where credit is due.

Although when it comes to the mercenaries, they are equally as entertaining. Most notably, John Leguizamo as “Scrooge.” (center) While I think there are more memorable antagonists in other movies, few have made me go through such an immediate transition to make me literally despise them (in a good way) like the one in this flick did. There is a moment where the stakes transition from the fates of one household to every kid on earth, and it is because of this guy. Leguizamo sells the part like hotcakes and I certainly bought it.

Before going into “Violent Night,” I heard this movie is similar to “Die Hard” and “Home Alone” and in some ways, that is an accurate description of what this film is in essence. There are unused elements brought to the table. For instance a deadly Santa Claus, and the idea of Christmas itself being saved, but if you like “Home Alone” and “Die Hard,” there is a good chance you might enjoy “Violent Night.” This is likely a coincidence, and also not the most cinematic example, but I would say there is a pinch of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” sprinkled here too because the bad guys all have code names that are Christmassy.

As I have said, this film is violent, brutal, and not the most happy go lucky depiction of the holidays. It is cute, but not cuddly. But one thing this film gets right is that it does not simply resort to being a full-fledged slaughterhouse of a time and instead balances its brutality with some earned heart. Santa Claus and Trudy’s connection powers the film into the night sky and blasts it away full throttle. Seeing a somewhat broken Santa enjoy a conversation with a girl who evidently fulfills many qualifications on the nice list is heartwarming. “Violent Night” does for Christmas movies what “The Suicide Squad” did for comic book movies. It gave a satisfying journey that perfectly balances rambunctiousness with sweetness. It is not all rainbows and unicorns, but the rainbows and unicorns that do exist are not out of place.

“Violent Night” brings on the true meaning of Christmas. Watching Santa Claus give some old jolly saint nicks, red noses, and 12 days of pain. Watch it if you have a chance.

In the end, “Violent Night” does not sell itself short, it is beautifully naughty but to the point where it feels nice watching it. If you are looking for action, look no further. If you are looking for gore, look no further. You might not be looking for comfort and joy, but you may be delighted to find it here. David Harbour plays a great Santa Claus and I would not mind seeing another movie where he returns to play the character. Whether it means he deals with a different family or group of people like Benoit Blanc in “Knives Out” or we return to see another adventure with him and the Lightstones. I want more of this character, give it to me now. I am going to give “Violent Night” a 7/10.

“Violent Night” is now playing in theatres everywhere, including large formats like Dolby Cinema and Cinemark XD. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have another one coming soon! Tonight I will be seeing “Empire of Light,” directed by Sam Mendes. The film hits select theaters starting tomorrow night so I hope to have a review up by the middle of next 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 “Violent Night?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite on-screen Santa Claus? I’ll even count the fake ones like the department store Santa from “A Christmas Story.” List your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Fabelmans (2022): Why I Do What I Do

“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.

I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.

“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.

Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.

Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.

Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.

Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.

For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.

Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.

In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.

Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.

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

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. 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 Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Ticket to Paradise (2022): An Un-Bali-vably Okay Time

“Ticket to Paradise” is directed by Ol Parker (Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again, Now Is Good) and stars George Clooney (Money Monster, Gravity), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Wonder), Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Dear Evan Hansen), Billie Lourd (Booksmart, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Maxime Bouttier, and Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris). This film follows a divorced couple who fly together to Bali to stop their daughter from marrying someone she just met.

I went to go see this movie last Friday with mom and grandma. If I had the chance to go see this movie alone, I probably would have passed on it. While I like comedies, “Ticket to Paradise” is not my type of movie. I like the people in it. George Clooney is a great actor, and in recent years he has developed a knack for directing through films like “The Midnight Sky” and “The Tender Bar.” I enjoyed both of those films. Clooney is a multitalented personality. Even the younger actors in this film are likable. Kaitlyn Dever has proven to be a force in the acting industry in recent years. I enjoyed her in “Booksmart” and she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her role in “Unbelievable.” Long story short, this film has talent of all ages. Although as I have shown in my recent review for “Amsterdam,” you can have all the talent in your movie that you could beg for and still fail to make something entertaining. So, how was “Ticket to Paradise?”

Well, for starters, staying slightly on topic, it is better than “Amsterdam.” I was not remotely bored. There were select moments where I was more entertained than others, but nevertheless.

“Ticket to Paradise” is a movie I am probably not going to watch a second time. In fact, there are moments during the movie, where I found my hand touching my face. Not because I was scared or shocked, but because I found various segments or lines in the film cringeworthy. Then again, given the type of film that this is, I should not be surprised. It is helmed by the “Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again” director after all.

When you go to watch a comedy, which “Ticket to Paradise” is to some degree, you would expect it to be funny. Nothing is worse than a comedy that does not make you laugh. I would rather die than watch “Jack and Jill” and the 2016 “Ghostbusters” a second time. As far as “Ticket to Paradise” goes, it is down the middle in terms of humor. It has its ups and downs. Some of it is ridiculously far-fetched and plays out like an episode of a network sitcom that is probably going to be canceled in three months. I remember laughing at select moments of this movie, but I think my experience overall highlights how disposable this movie will end up being. Despite my occasional laughter, I cannot exactly paint a picture of everything that made me laugh.

George Clooney and Julia Roberts, who have previously worked together on the “Ocean’s” franchise, make for a fine pair here. I bought into these two being married and having it not work out in the end. The two have decent chemistry. Unfortunately, some of the writing does not serve their characters justice. I get that this movie involves the obstacle of a divorced couple having to come back together to save their daughter from possibly living a life they previously had. However, I think the amount of “I hate you” or “I wish we were never together” or “marriage sucks” jokes this movie had were enough to fill the Chrysler Building. You can only do so many variations of the same joke and have a select few stick to the wall. Honestly, if I wanted to see a comedy where two people who are no longer married have to stick together to overcome an obstacle, I would rather watch the pilot episode of “The Orville.”

Now there are select comedy gags that are genuinely funny. There is a great hotel room layout bit that had me chuckling. Even though the “I hated our marriage” jokes are a dime a dozen, there is an occasional diamond in the rough. That said, there are funnier movies that you could watch that came out this year. If you want a better comedy with big stars, check out “The Lost City” with Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock. I watched that on a plane this year and had a great time. If you have the chance to check it out, do it. I recommend it over “Ticket to Paradise.”

Although going back to good chemistry, I thought the connection between Kaitlyn Dever and Maxime Bouttier was charming. While the connection between Clooney and Roberts may have overdone it on the comedy at times, I think the cuteness between these two was right in the goldilocks zone. Given the context of the story, I bought into Lily and Gede as a couple from the moment they were together.

Romcoms are not my genre. Although I have seen ones I liked. In fact, I recently watched the 2013 film “Enough Said” and I would recommend it. However, there is a problem I have with this romcom in particular. Based on the way everything is laid out, the movie is somewhat predictable. There is nothing wrong with a predictable storyline if you can make me like the characters or the way said storyline is done. I have said this with “Wonder Woman,” and I have recently said this with “CODA.” I do not think the writing or the characters in “Ticket to Paradise” are admirable enough to justify said predictability.

For certain audiences, I could see this maintaining a status as a comfort movie. I could see this being a movie certain individuals will find on television or a streaming service and watch on a rainy day when there is nothing else to do. As for me, I do not think it will be something I would end up watching again. Although if you want me to be real, when I left the movie, I said parts of it were good. Despite the talent in this film, “Ticket to Paradise” is not going to be nominated for any Oscars. However, I think everyone did their best with the material given to them and managed to make something that I found at the very least… Fine.

In the end, “Ticket to Paradise” is not quite the best comedy of the year, but the best way to describe this movie is to say that it is a halfway decent one time watch for me. If I bought this film on Blu-ray, I might watch it once, say it was okay, but I might end up trading it at whatever store still takes Blu-rays. Much like “Amsterdam,” the big stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts may have been a selling point for “Ticket to Paradise.” They are likable together despite the occasionally bad line here and there. Although if you ask me, “Ticket to Paradise” perhaps accomplished its goals to a greater degree than “Amsterdam” despite the latter being a movie I would watch if I knew nothing about either title. I did not think I would love this movie. And honestly, I do not love it. But I have to be real. There is some fun to be had, so I would have to give “Ticket to Paradise” a 6/10.

“Ticket to Paradise” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I will have a review for the all new DC film “Black Adam!” It has been years since this film has been announced. Is it worth the wait? We’ll see when the review drops.

Also, this Friday, October 28th, I will be concluding my official Steven Spielberg Month with my thoughts on his 2021 adaptation of “West Side Story.” I had the opportunity to rewatch the film last week so it is fresh in my memory, so I will be sharing my two cents soon! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ticket to Paradise?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite comedy of 2022 so far? For me, when it comes to pure comedy, it feels weird to say, but “Clerks III” might be my pick. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Halloween Ends (2022): Film Dies Tonight

“Halloween Ends” is directed by David Gordon Green. This film is the conclusion to his “Halloween” legacy sequel/reboot/whatever you want to call it series. And yeah. We know it’s not over. It ain’t over until there’s no more money to be made. This movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Knives Out), Andi Matichak (Orange is the New Black, Blue Bloods), James Jude Courtney (Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Will Patton (Falling Skies, Swamp Thing), Rohan Campbell (Mech-X4, The Hardy Boys), and Kyle Richards (Little House on the Prairie, ER). “Halloween Ends” is set between the years 2019 and 2022. Simply put, the town of Haddonfield, Illinois is still not over the last attacking spree from Michael Myers. Laurie Strode, who is now enjoying a somewhat normal life, is set to do whatever she can to kill Michael Myers once and for all. Oh, and there is a subplot about her daughter and a child-killing babysitter.

Trailers are perhaps my favorite form of marketing. They can easily make something more epic than it has to be in just a span of a couple of minutes. The trailers for “Halloween Ends” promise one thing in particular, the showdown between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. The good news is, the promise is kept during the movie. But that is not the movie itself. One of my biggest critiques for trailers is that they often show the best parts of the movie or they flat out just spoil the entire movie from start to finish. I have seen both trailers for “Halloween Ends.” This is where I remain conflicted. They did a great job at not showing the entire movie, but they also show something that I never thought we’d see. In addition, the things that I imagine a majority of the people would come to the movie for, barely shows up in the movie at all.

Thus far, David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” trilogy has been all right. I liked the first movie he did, his follow-up, “Halloween Kills” had its moments of entertainment, but with this conclusion, it could not quite stick the landing.

Last year, when I reviewed “Halloween Kills,” my biggest problem with the movie was that Jamie Lee Curtis was barely in it. Also, for the moments where she happened to be present, there was little entertainment value through it all. It felt odd for a movie where she had top billing. In “Halloween Ends,” Curtis once again has top billing, and her presence in the movie is less of a problem. She is in the film for an adequate amount of time. Whenever she was on screen, she was charming to watch.

At the same time, one of the previous movie’s successes is its use of Michael Myers. I saw the movie in a crowded theater, and we all enjoyed the moments Myers happened to be on screen. It literally puts the “kills” in “Halloween Kills.” If you were to watch the movie to see Michael Myers do his thing, you came to the right place. Last time around Jamie Lee Curtis was barely in the movie, but for the case of “Halloween Ends,” Michael Myers ends up being shadowed amongst the cast. He barely does anything in the movie, and unfortunately, the little we get of Michael Myers did not make the price of admission feel like it was worth it. The final fight between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers is somewhat thrilling. But I do not know if it was worth an hour and a half of everything else the story provides. If anything, I do not see myself watching “Halloween Ends” again. Instead, what I see myself doing is if I need a fix, I am going to go on YouTube and search the end of the movie to just watch Laurie and Michael duke it out. The fight was fun, but it is surrounded by an average movie that does not feel like it belongs in the “Halloween” universe.

I like what the movie was going for. Some of the movie’s plot plays around with certain characters’ perceptions. I thought it was somewhat well utilized. Seeing Laurie have relations, of sorts, with someone who the world finds to be as crazy as her sounds great on paper. Although I cannot say the same for the execution. The story that built up to the Laurie vs. Michael finale that the trailers promise has glimmers of fun, but it also has cheesy dialogue and over the top moments that took away from some of the entertainment. I am not going into “Halloween Ends” expecting the next “Parasite,” but like every movie I go into, I am expecting something of quality. I want to watch something that feels like the crew is trying, and in this case I did not get that.

If anything, “Halloween Ends” reminds me of what people say about the Michael Bay “Transformers” movies. It is not about what’s in the title, because they spend all this time sneaking a forced human drama about characters that the audience has little reason to care about. To be fair, Laurie has established herself as a fixture in the franchise. Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson, has her moments. Andi Matichak does her best with the material given to her.

The movie at the very least, looks and sounds competent on a $20 million budget. I had no problems with the way the movie was shot. The action sequences, for the most part, looked good. The score, which emits the classic “Halloween” tunes horror fans have come to know over the years, is booming. I watched this film in the theater, specifically in IMAX, and was worried that I was going to go deaf by the end. It might have been the loudest score I heard in a movie since Ludwig Goransson’s series of music from “Tenet.” Sadly though, despite being a horror movie, it is not that scary. Despite being a slasher film, the slasher elements did not add any highlights. Nothing stood out. Again, when Michael Myers is sidelined in a film franchise that made the character famous, that can be problematic. The movie has some occasional jumpscares, and they were not that terrifying. Honestly, if you are reading this and need a movie to watch this spooky season in the theater, just go watch “Smile.” Or, if you browsing around Peacock, where this movie debuted simultaneously, just turn on “The Black Phone!” If you are looking for scares, there are better options than “Halloween Ends.” This movie is a stab in the back if there ever was one.

In the end, “Halloween Ends” is the worst installment to David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” sequel trilogy. I have not seen too many of the “Halloween” movies. Other than David Gordon Green’s films, I have seen the original “Halloween” and “Halloween II.” I enjoyed both of those films for what they were. Of the “Halloween” films I have watched, this is my least favorite. The kills are not entertaining. Michael Myers is barely in the movie. As for the movie’s screenplay, it has an identity crisis. The marketing makes this look like a “Halloween” movie, but as for the product itself, it felt like a straight to Lifetime drama with better framing and more recognizable actors. I am going to give “Halloween Ends” a 4/10.

“Halloween Ends” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is also available to stream on Peacock.

Thanks for reading this review! Speaking of horror, I just saw “Barbarian” at the movies recently. Therefore, I will have a review for the flick coming soon. Also coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Ticket to Paradise,” the brand new comedy starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Following that, I will be unveiling my feelings about the latest entry to the DCEU, “Black Adam.” Is the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe really about to change? That question will be answered soon. If you want to see more of my reviews, check out my thoughts on “Medieval” and “See How They Run.” 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 installment in David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” trilogy? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): An Emotionally Thrilling, High-Flying, Down to Earth Tale

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last September, I made a promise to those who follow me on social media that I would do a Steven Spielberg Month! And with that promise comes a review of one of his most famous works, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” I mean, how can I not review this movie? Look at my last minute Photoshopped poster! I am committing to this movie no matter what! That said, “E.T.” is one of the films most people think of when they hear the words Steven Spielberg. It might shock you to know that despite this film coming out before I was born and having such longevity, this is my second time in my entire life watching this film. Is the rewatch worth it? Let’s find out.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and stars Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, and Drew Barrymore. This film centers around a young boy who finds an alien life form. Despite the foreign nature of this being, the boy befriends and communicates with the alien all the while trying to send him back to his planet of origin.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s most influential works, there’s often a debate as to what that film might actually be. “Jaws” essentially invented the modern blockbuster. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” spawned an iconic franchise that other exploration and adventure stories often get compared to. “Jurassic Park” is not only often considered to be the best dinosaur movie, but paved the way for CGI heavy cinema as we know it. However, “E.T.” should also be in the conversation. Even though “E.T.” is a story that brings our world together with foreign territory, it is a film that works because of how tiny it feels. And that is despite the occasional scene where things happen away from home. That is despite an iconic moment where we see our heroes fly by the moon. That is despite the punch-packing score by John Williams. This movie is like being promised a small, delicious pizza, but getting a large at no extra charge.

Safe to say, I had a ridiculously fun time watching “E.T.,” and it is easy to see why people are still celebrating it forty years later.

Even if its video game adaptation is cringe.

I only saw “E.T.” once when I was younger, and while I remember various things about it, this viewing truly felt like an initial watch. Like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” I had the chance to watch “E.T.” at home on 4K Blu-ray. Speaking of similarities to “Close Encounters,” “E.T.” looks surprisingly practical, and that practicality adds a hint of charm to the film itself. If E.T. himself were CGIed, part of me would wonder how off-putting or pixelated that could come off. Thankfully, such an idea remains a mystery.

Speaking of practical, one of the most believable things in the movie is how they handled the connection between Eliott and E.T.. Whether you believe a kid like Eliott would actually take an alien into his home is one thing. As for how they handled the taking of an alien into Eliott’s home makes the journey worthwhile. Seeing their differences in communication provided for glimmers of entertainment. This also goes to show the magic of minimal dialogue, notably on E.T.’s part. E.T. has very few lines in the movie, but each one emits a particular positive emotion that stands out. This is perhaps the film’s biggest strength. The story is simple, but the way it is executed allowed for a great balance of happiness, sadness, and everything in between.

When I look back on my experience of watching “E.T.,” I anticipate to remember select moments where my eyes lit up, and others where my eyes almost watered. And this movie is not short on these. While “Blade Runner” may still be my favorite movie from 1982, I can confirm that “E.T.” is more effective when it comes to inducing character attachments and emotions for everything that is happening.

When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s science fiction slate, I think this is a better movie overall than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The biggest strength of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is not the main character of Roy Neary, as likable as he is. Instead, that honor belongs to the curiosity of Barry, a three-year-old boy. Spielberg is consistent from one film to another in suggesting that children are likely to take steps to determine what strange happenings are going on outside. This consistency is effective because naturally, children are curious. Although for “E.T.,” the child of focus here, specifically Eliott, is the protagonist. His mother, Mary (Dee Wallace) plays a prominent role in the film. However, when it comes to “Close Encounters” comparisons, Mary emits more of the characteristics of Ronnie, who is noticeably less open-minded towards the ongoing alien plot.

If I had to give any problems to “E.T.,” it would have nothing to do with the story. In fact, it is as perfect as can be. I would barely change a single thing about it. That dishonor, instead, belongs to the technical aspects of the film. The film has its highlights from various night shots that look beautiful, a nicely edited action sequence towards the end, and of course, one of the best, not to mention catchiest, scores John Williams has ever done.

“E.T.” came out in 1982. Therefore, after the film’s release, many improvements have been made to how green screen is done. Although you cannot have the improvements seen in movies like “Avengers: Endgame” without the mistakes made in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” There are a couple flying sequences in this film. At times, they come off as beautiful. John Williams’s score accompanies both of these scenes and allow him to deliver the best music in the movie. However, the green screen, or blue screen in this case, looks obvious. It looks kind of fake. If anything, it makes the shark in “Jaws” look real. I was fully immersed in this flying sequence and nevertheless continue to reflect on it after the movie with positive thoughts. But seeing the landscape move around in the background the way it does is kind of distracting. That said, as far as I know, there is no such thing as a flying bike. Therefore I respect Spielberg and crew for trying to imagine how such a thing could look. The result, per my born in 1999 and viewing in 2022 eyes, is mostly positive.

If I had any other problems with the movie, it would be the first scene between Eliott and E.T. from either an editing or directorial perspective. When E.T. is revealed, we see Eliott react to the sight of the foreign creature. Obviously, he is terrified. I have no problem with the way this is written, but the way it was assembled was a bit jumpy. There are only so many cuts you can do of one person’s face screaming in fear. I think that was a bit overdone.

That said, these are small problems within a film of wonder. The cast is great, the characters are well-written, and the shots are some of the most gorgeous of 1980s cinema. As far as science fiction and alien-based films go, I think Spielberg stepped it up from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” As much as I enjoyed “Close Encounters,” I think I would rather watch “E.T.” again in the near future.

Also, I cannot go on without acknowledging this iconic moon shot. There are few instances in cinema that are as eye-popping as this. There is a reason why this became part of the Amblin logo.

In the end, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is some of the most fun I have had watching a movie recently. They say that moviemaking is a business, which comes with a double-edged sword. The studios always try to follow the money, and therefore quality is sometimes neglected. Not with “E.T.,” because the movie is the highest-grossing project of 1982 by a long shot. It is one thing to be successful, but to be successful and career-defining is another. This film was a win for Steven Spielberg back in the 1980s, and it is a still a winner today. This is a great film for all ages, and I would not mind putting it on again sometime. I am going to give “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.” an 8/10.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is now available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy digitally, and you can also stream it on Peacock.

Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see another review from this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month event, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!”

My next review in the Steven Spielberg Month series is a 35 year jump in time! This is a film I have not seen yet, I am watching it for the first time for this review, “The Post.” I have heard decent things about this movie. In fact it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Here is hoping it is good! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my reviews for “Amsterdam,” “Smile,” and “Halloween Ends.” 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 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial?” What did you think about it? Or, this might be a dumb question, but it is about something stupid so it comes full circle. Have you ever had the chance to play “E.T.” on the Atari 2600? If so, tell me about your experience. I want to know everything. Scene Before is your click to the flicks.

Beast (2022): Idris Elba Fights His Way Through a Disposable Safari Adventure

“Beast” is directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Everest) and stars Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, The Suicide Squad), Iyana Halley (Abbott Elementary, This is Us), Leah Jeffries (Rel, Empire), and Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District 9). This film follows a father his two teenage daughters who spend time together in the Savanna. Unfortunately, their explorative adventure becomes a survival mission when they come to face with a killer lion who will stop at nothing to hunt them down.

I have seen the trailer for “Beast” numerous times in the theater, part of which is due to Comcast’s outright domination in the theatrical market right now. After all, their primary film distribution outlet, Universal, is responsible for some of the more attractive films of the summer like “The Black Phone” and “Nope.” Despite seeing the trailer, I cannot claim that I was particularly stoked for the film. Granted I was not dreading it, I would say I was just indifferent. For the record, I like Idris Elba. He has evidently been on fire recently. Elba starred in my favorite live-action film of the last year, “The Suicide Squad.” He also recently voiced Knuckles in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” which is not quite as good as its predecessor. Despite what I just said, Elba was the highlight of that film to me. His voice was perfect for the character. Elba is full of charisma in almost anything he does, so while “Beast” was never at the top my list of films to see, I went in with some positive curiosity.

What did I think of “Beast?” Well, I would not say it has replay value, but it is also certainly not the worst man vs. nature film of the year. “Beast” is the kind of film I would probably watch in a hotel room when I have trouble deciding what to watch and need to put something on so I can fall asleep at night. It is entertaining, but it comes with its flaws, most notably the characters.

There are worse characters in other movies, and the ones in “Beast” are not exactly insufferable. But the roster of characters in this film feel like a roster conceived by Michael Bay in some summer blockbuster that has forced corny humor. I imagine on paper, these characters were well written, if I read their dialogue or motivations on a page, I would buy into them and appreciate what I see. But when it comes to the screen, not everything translated properly.

While this movie does not shine in terms of characterization, the same cannot be said for the way this film looks and sounds. Some of the shots of the Savanna landscape do look presentable. And every time the lion roars in the film, it does feel rather terrifying. It is weird to think, but as far as creature-based films go, this movie is perhaps scarier than the last couple “Jurassic World” installments. I think this is because “Beast,” while its primary focus is on a lion, not dinosaurs, has more in common with the “Jurassic Park” movies at the franchise’s inception, when it was more about making the creatures a specialty. They were a threat, and like other threats, they showed their true colors, but they were not overexposed. Unlike most of the “Jurassic Park” movies, “Beast” focuses on one lion the entire time and lets its human characters, who are unfortunately not that interesting, but still more interesting than Owen and Claire in “Jurassic World,” take as much of the spotlight as they can muster.

It is crazy to think that this movie is from Universal Pictures, because they also released the “Jurassic Park” movies. And based on “Beast” being better than the most recent “Jurassic Park” installment, I would not mind seeing a “Beast” simulator ride at Universal Studios in the future.

There really is not much to this movie other than the fact that the main family has to find a way to survive to the end. That’s really it. If you are coming into “Beast” and expect a Shakespearean drama where a family deals with conflict amongst themselves that will resonate for the ages, then look elsewhere. If anything, “Beast” reminded me of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I admittedly enjoyed to a greater capacity and would actually watch a couple more times, but still.

The reason “Beast” reminded me of “Godzilla vs. Kong” is because if you are looking for epic creatures doing epic creature stuff, then that is an A+ movie. The characters, while not horribly offensive, are kind of dumb, unmemorable, and despite their quirks, they do not steal the spotlight from the from the monsters themselves. Yes, the star power of Idris Elba was definitely evident. Kind of like the star power of Millie Bobby Brown in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but Elba’s star power did not erase the attention I had for the lion. Partially because despite the limited characterization, Elba was competently directed and he played his part well. He is not going to win an Oscar for this movie, and as far as summer movies go, he churned out a better performance in “Pacific Rim,” but he gave a good encapsulation.

I have a strong feeling that if Idris Elba were not the star of this film, “Beast” would have probably never gone to theaters. Maybe it could play for a limited run in Los Angeles or something, but on paper, “Beast” comes off as a movie I would find on television. It feels weird to say because Baltasar Kormákur is not a name I would think of when it comes to that comparison, as he previously directed “Everest,” which despite its disposability, looked pristine in almost every shot.

Going back to my hotel room comparison, I would probably watch this film, in the background that is, if I randomly found it while flipping through channels. If I had to write a review like this and I needed background noise, there are worse options out there in terms of finding something to help me concentrate on my work. But in all seriousness, if Idris Elba were not the star, I could see this movie having gone straight to Syfy or even direct to DVD. Remember that? It’s still a thing! Have you ever been to a Walmart and seen all these crappy looking, ripoff movies? Yeah, this would randomly blend in with the three thousand direct to DVD shark movies that have come out over the past few years. No offense to Amber Midthunder, but I assume if “Prey,” the new “Predator” movie, starred someone who has evidently been a box office draw, that movie would have went theatrical instead of straight to Hulu. I have not seen the movie, so I cannot comment on how good it is. But I can say that if they had Margot Robbie or Jennifer Garner for example, 20th Century Studios would have probably leant towards putting the movie in theaters. Before I saw “Beast,” I asked my friend if he wanted to go, and when I described the movie, before I even said the title, I mentioned Idris Elba’s name. That goes to show how much of a selling point he is. Even a movie with this low brow of a plot could be sellable with a star like Elba attached. I was sold at the door. Too bad I probably will not watch the movie again anytime soon.

In the end, “Beast” is a movie with a straight to DVD vibe that went theatrical due to its polish and bankable lead. As of writing, “Beast” barely past its budget of $36 million at the box office, so Idris Elba-wise, this could wind up being less of a “Pacific Rim” and more of a “Cats.” Only time will tell, but the latter seems likely at this point. “Beast” is arguably the most positively middle of the road film of the year so far. It is not good enough for an instant rewatch, but it is also not terrible enough to say that my time was wasted. It is only 93 minutes long, and the runtime is suitable enough for the limited story at hand. I am going to give “Beast” a 6/10.

“Beast” is now playing in theatres everywhere, tickets are available now!

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones. Just recently I shared my thoughts on the Jordan Peele-directed blockbuster “Nope,” which yes, I think you should read. Also, if you want more star power, check out my review for “DC League of Super-Pets,” the all new animated movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Speaking of Beasts, I think it is time to once again promote a recent post I did that I am unbelievably proud of, my extended thoughts as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” which has now become not only one of my favorite movies, but my gateway drug into anime. Also stay tuned for more reviews coming soon because I will be sharing my thoughts on the musical biopic “Elvis” and the brand new anime film “Inu-Oh.” 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 “Beast?” What did you think about it? Or, out of curiosity, for those of who have seen both movies… Did you enjoy “Beast” or “Jurassic World: Dominion” more? I am genuinely curious and given how both films are from the same distribution company, I figured this would be an appropriate question to ask. Let me know 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!