Dune (2021): Denis Villeneuve Brings on the Dandy Sandy in This Epic, Beautifully Boisterous Adaptation

“Dune” is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) and stars Timothee Chalamet (Interstellar, Call Me by Your Name), Rebecca Ferguson (Reminiscence, Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina), Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Space Jam: A New Legacy), Josh Brolin (The Goonies, Avengers: Infinity War), Stellan Skarsgård (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Thor), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, My Spy), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Lady Bird, Devs), Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Assassin), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (FIFA 17, Doctor Who), Charlotte Rampling (Stardust Memories, Dexter), Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Game of Thrones), and Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales). This film is an adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel and follows Paul Atreides, a young boy born into a royal, planet-ruling family. Paul is destined to one day take on the role of Kwistaz Haderach, much to the dismay of some, considering how his mother was instructed to bear a daughter. When House Atreides arrives on Arrakis, a sandy planet with worms that pop up out of the ground like geysers, it is up to them and Paul to protect the planet and its valuable resource, spice.

Where do I even start with “Dune?” Unlike “Blade Runner,” when it comes to Denis Villeneuve’s work, I was much less familiar with “Dune’s” source material, especially when compared to Villeneuve himself, because the more I heard about this movie, the more I recognized Herbert’s love for the source material. When I first heard Denis Villeneuve was working on this project, and I think cinematographer Roger Deakins was rumored to be involved as well, I was obviously excited because Villeneuve is one of the best directors working in Hollywood today. I’ve only seen a couple of his films, but I’ve always been curious to go back to “Sicario” and “Enemy” because of how much I have adored his recent work. Both “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049” made it to my Top Movies of the 2010s countdown event as the #10 and #2 spots respectively. I love both films to the moon and beyond, and I cannot tell you how many times I popped in the 4K Blu-ray for “Blade Runner 2049” since I bought it. I have not even read the novel or its follow-ups, and even with that, “Dune” was easily my most anticipated film of 2021. It may have even been my most anticipated for 2020, but COVID-19 ended up killing the hopes of it coming out that year.

Just for the record, I have not seen any of the previous on-screen adaptations of “Dune.” I’ve read a number of pages of “Dune” during a car ride, but I never picked it back up. It’s not that I did not like the book, I just didn’t have time for it. But regardless of what I have not seen, the trailers for this film encapsulated a supposed epic vibe that Villeneuve and crew may have been shooting for. Big scale, massive locations, and we even got a bit of taste of Hans Zimmer’s score long before the film officially released, and when I heard it, it made me more excited for the film because it sounds like what would happen if a madman trapped an orchestra in a chamber and wouldn’t release them until they were dead tired. From the little that I heard, it sounded majestic as hell.

Now that “Dune” is done, what did I think?

In a number of ways, “Dune” met my expectations, but it is not the best movie of the year. I can think of a few movies I liked more. BUT, if you want a great time at the movies that can make you put your thinking cap on, “Dune” may be for you. “Dune” reminded me of a number of films, one of the first being “Blade Runner 2049,” mainly because both have some distinctions that Denis Villeneuve can call his own. Plus, I knew a tad about “Dune” going into it, and one of the things I knew is that it was pretty dense, so it was no surprise to me that the film itself would turn out to be a bit of a slow burn. Slow does not mean bad in this case. You can make a film slow as long as it seems that the pace fits for the subject matter or the film itself. Same goes with quick pace. You can have explosions and bangs and crazy lasers flying in your face every other second as long as the script and direction makes those things add up. This is not to say there are no explosions in “Dune.” There are, just watch the trailers. But don’t go in expecting every other scene to be like a dogfight in “Star Wars.” But on that note, this film also feels rather “Star Wars”-esque. Granted, the book came out before “Star Wars” hit theaters, but my point is, both stories have similar vibes and themes. Both involve young boys who associate with desert planets and must strive to become men greater than themselves. Both in a way have to follow the hero’s journey, a typical story structure that is often followed or slightly altered depending on the story at hand. I will not give any details as to what ways “Dune” follows or does not follow that structure, but the point stands.

I want to talk about some of the characters in this film, and believe me when I say that this film is not short on bringing together a great cast. Between Timothee Chalamet, who I loved since “Interstellar,” to Zendaya who is practically starting to appear in everything now, to Oscar Isaac who has been great in Alex Garland’s work along with the “Star Wars” franchise, even though he was the one who had to say “Somehow Palpatine returned.” The film is not short on A-listers and stars. Overall, the chemistry and acting between everyone was top notch.

Timothee Chalamet appears as if he is going to be the next Oscar great. Maybe not this year, he is still quite young. But throughout his lifetime, I think he’ll be the male equivalent to Meryl Streep. I think one day, we’ll see an Academy Awards ceremony with an opening monologue from whoever is currently hosting a hit talk show on ABC and one of the jokes will poke fun at Chalamet for stealing all the Oscars from all the up and coming talent. I almost think there is no one better to play Paul Atreides because Chalamet not only looks young, but he has this bridge between him that I can sense that he is young enough to be a kid, but mature enough to be liked by the parents of whomever he’s dating. Chalamet has range, and it is shown in this film through his expressiveness and occasional stoic nature. That’s not implying that Paul Atreides, the character himself, is up for question on what kind of character he actually is, but it sort of shows that the character knows how to put himself in a variety of situations, even though he is still learning how to be an adult.

Along with Chalamet for much of the journey is Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica. I will admit, after watching the movie, someone brought up a creepy but true fact. Take this as you will. One of my favorite elements of the movie is the chemistry between Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson. Naturally, it feels the way a mother and son should be. The mother wants what’s best for her kid, and the kid does his best to impress the mother even though he may occasionally lash out or disagree with her. Chemistry-wise, I would love to see more of these two actors together. The thing however, in real life, Chalamet is 25 years old. Rebecca Ferguson is 38 years old. That’s a difference of 13 years! So either teenage reproduction is much more welcomed, accepted, and/or encouraged in the future, or these actors have such great range that age is meaningless, therefore making both individuals more convincing performers. For the sake of sanity and the fact that child labor laws exist, I would much prefer to go with the latter. If anything, I think Rebecca Ferguson may give a better performance than Timothee Chalamet, because there are several scenes and lines of dialogue that I could feel her pain, reflecting a natural instinct that most, if not all mothers, would have.

The main antagonistic side of the film would be the Harkonnens, who ravage the planet of Arrakis for Spice. It is up to our heroes to defend the planet and its precious resource. So in a way, this movie is literally the War on Drugs. This side allows for some more great performances to shine through, including one from Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban Harkonnen. I want to highlight him in this review because I think that a performance like this allows him to sharpen his skills as an actor. I like Dave Bautista as a personality, but I think even he knows that his acting skills are limited. Unlike his role as Drax the Destroyer, where he would either scream, laugh in someone’s face, or give a brooding quote every once in a while, his role in “Dune” is more menacing and takes the brooding nature of his Drax character and intensifies it a bit. I like Drax the Destroyer, but if you watch him in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” the way he’s both written and performed feel slightly one-dimensional, but Bautista did an okay job with the character nevertheless. I think if you put Bautista in front of the right director like James Gunn, again, I like Drax. Or in this case Denis Villeneuve, his talents could be unleashed. I hope that these two continue to collaborate in the future.

As menacing as Bautista may be, he’s got nothing on Baron Harkonnen himself, played by Stellan Skarsgård. HOLY CRAP. Now that’s casting. I also have to give props to the makeup department, because of the work they did on the Harkonnens, making them all look pasty white. As for Stellan Skarsgård, this is no offence to him, because in real life, he may be a nice guy, I would not want to shake Baron Harkonnen’s hand. He looks like what would happen if Wilford Brimley ate a ton of ice cream and endlessly made fun of the children of generations below his, and maybe once in a while, enjoyed those kids’ heads with his ice cream. The dude flat out looks creepy by sci-fi standards. You want my money Warner Bros.? You own both these characters to a degree so make this happen! Get Bill and Stellan Skarsgård together, have them portray their characters of Pennywise and Baron Harkonnen respectively, just have them go around scaring children and other crap like that. I’d watch that.

One character that must also be acknowledged is Duncan Idaho. Aside from the fact that the name is freaking lit, Jason Momoa is perfectly cast as this character, because similar to how he made Aquaman a superhero I would want to have a drink with, Momoa shines because of his enthusiastic, almost reckless nature in this film. He’s in a somewhat serious, deep, intense sci-fi picture that the rest of these characters happen to be in, and he’s the only performer who happens to be taking things not so seriously. His character just screams ridiculous fun at times. He’s expressive, he’s witty, he’s charismatic, and much like Aquaman, I would go to a bar with Idaho if I had the chance.

For those of you who were looking forward to seeing Zendaya in the film for whatever reason, I would not prepare for disappointment, but I would also not prepare for excitement at this point, because her character is written in such a way that she has such a minimal impact and appearance throughout the film. If anything, we’ll probably get more of her in part two. I do think her character was well cast, I just hope the next movie gives us a clear answer as to whether Zendaya was truly a good choice for the role of Chani. But from what I’ve seen so far, she seems promising.

I really want to talk about the ending of this film, without spoilers of course. But most stories you read or watch have a proper ending where something dramatic happens, matters are resolved, maybe there’s a happily ever after, then we cut to “the end,” maybe black or white, or just straight to the credits. “Dune” does not have that kind of ending. I will not say where it ends, but it ends in a particularly interesting place. Let’s just say the ending is not the same as the first book… If you want to put it that way. The film ends on at a place where we see our characters in a particular situation only to have the screen cut to black. I have seen the film twice, and both times, I did not mind the ending. Mainly because I have enjoyed what I have seen so far, and the movie set itself up in a way to make me want more. I left thinking, what’s next? When are we getting the next movie? I want it now! Some would claim that in a way, this story is unfinished. I disagree. While the film is structured in a such a way that could garner such a thought when the ending comes up, I disagree because from start to finish, this movie is about the journey, struggle, and change of Paul Atreides as a character. We see him start at one point. We know his ambition, his flaws, and what others think of him. By the end of the film, he is different from how he is when it starts. I won’t give much detail, but if you pay close attention to the movie, you’ll notice. One journey is over, and another one begins. It is a… Strange ending. But it is also one that happens to be effective. I do not blame the movie for ending where it did.

With that being said, “Dune: Part Two” cannot come fast enough. When it arrives, I will buy my tickets in a heartbeat.

I thought to myself upon leaving the theater that while “Dune” was not my favorite film of this year, there is a lot that will it do to aspire future filmmakers and storytellers. I have a feeling that this “Dune” movie is going to have a similar impact on part of the current generation that “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” did on their generations. If anything, even though there were some imperfections when it comes “Dune,” I think it has a shot at being the next “Lord of the Rings.” Between the modern visuals, the epic scope, the dense storytelling with enormous potential, this is absolute franchise material. In fact, as of writing this, not only is “Dune: Part Two” greenlit, but there’s also going to be a TV show set in the “Dune” universe coming to HBO Max at some point. This could be big.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JANUARY 16: Composer Hans Zimmer arrives at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

As for Hans Zimmer’s score, OH MY GOD. If you go see this in theaters, and I highly recommend you do so, prepare to have the room shake like a fish out of water. It is some of his best work to date and I would put it up there with, interestingly enough, another score he did for a Denis Villeneuve film, “Blade Runner 2049,” which he did with Benjamin Wallfisch.

In the end, “Dune,” or “Dune: Part One,” depending on your preference, is a great adaptation of the iconic sci-fi novel. It’s dense and occasionally hard to get through if you are in a certain mindset, but this film successfully created an epic atmosphere and introduced a whole new world of lore and possibilities. Well, kinda. This is another retelling of a classic story. Denis Villeneuve is up there with some of my favorite directors and this movie ended in such a way where I enjoyed the journey so far, but I also left with curiosity as to where they’d take the story. As of now, “Dune: Part Two” is my most anticipated film of 2023. The film can occasionally feel dense and strenuous. The ending, even though it did fulfill the arch of Paul Atreides, comes at a satisfying point, but also feels particularly emptier compared to other portions of the film. So for what I said, I massively enjoyed “Dune,” and I have a feeling that it could be something that will increase in enjoyment through repeat viewings. I’m going to give “Dune” an 8/10.

“Dune” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is streaming for a limited time on the ad-free tier of HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! If you are worried that I am going to be short on upcoming content. Trust me, I’m not. I want you all to know that I have reviews coming for “The French Dispatch,” “Last Night in Soho,” “Eternals,” and “Ron’s Gone Wrong.” There’s plenty of content to come but so little time! If you want to read this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dune?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever read any of the “Dune” books? Which is your favorite? And did you see any of the other “Dune” adaptations? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Malignant (2021): Lifetime Movie: The Horror Show!

“Malignant” is directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Aquaman) and stars Annabelle Wallis (The Mummy, Annabelle), Maddie Hasson (The Finder, Impulse), George Young (Containment, Home), Jacqueline McKenzie (The Water Diviner, The 4400), and Michole Briana White (Reed Between the Lines, Muscle) in a film about a woman who goes through an abusive relationship, has a history of miscarriages, and in this… movie… I guess… She has visions of terrifying murders, only to realize these visions trace to her reality.

This film is directed by James Wan. I have seen a few of his films including “Aquaman,” which deservedly became the biggest DC movie at the box office. I’ve also watched “Furious 7” which may be my favorite “Fast & Furious” installment to date. But a lot of film fans know James Wan for his horror work. He’s done “Saw” and “Insidious,” two movies which despite being staples to modern horror, I have not seen. But he’s also done “The Conjuring,” which I did see. I thought it was a dark and fascinating attempt at showing off a couple paranormal investigators. I thought the film overall was decently scary. They clearly fictionalized my hometown of Wakefield, Massachusetts to make it something it is clearly not, but I don’t care. As for all the other “Conjuring” universe titles including the two mainline sequels, I have not seen any of them. I’ve heard good things about “The Conjuring 2,” I hear “Annabelle: Creation” is pretty good. I’ll check them out when I can, but for now, let’s focus on James Wan’s latest directorial effort, “Malignant.”

“Malignant” is a film that I’ve seen bits and pieces of when it comes to advertising. But it is not one that has caught my attention like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Although to be fair, I am fairly weak when it comes to horror and I am also somewhat predisposed to liking the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nevertheless, as I was briefly vacationing in Florida, I chose to visit a mall forty minutes away and at the last minute, I decided to go see a movie, there was a theater attached, and I purchased a ticket for “Malignant.” I love supporting theaters, but part of me regrets supporting “Malignant” because that film leaves a lot to be desired.

If James Wan were not directing this film, in fact, he even has a “story by” credit, I have a strong feeling that this film would have ended up on cable television. There’s a scene about ten minutes in that feels like it is straight out of a Lifetime movie between the horrendous acting and arguably even more cringeworthy writing. There is a line where my brain practically just took a 9mm pistol and shot itself in the prefrontal cortex just because of how obscene it came off. And the more I think about it, it literally sounds like a line you could only hear on a screen. If I saw that written on a page, I would have torn out my hair. I have heard from others that “Malignant” sort of falls into that throwback category of horror. Sometimes it would associate with some titles that have provided a lot of “camp” over the years. If you enjoy that kind of thing, good for you. I think you’re crazy, but good for you.

As for me, I do not think I could watch “Malignant” ever again. Let’s face it, there is a day that this film, like all others, is going to end up on cable television. Let’s say I find this film on TNT, and I had no knowledge of this film whatsoever, I would be confused. Because the film at times looks like one of the more artistic products in terms of visuals I’ve seen this year, but then we get back to the sometimes stiff acting and I wonder what the heck it is I’m watching.

You know how there are some movies that people look back on years to come because of their epic twist? Movies like “The Sixth Sense?” Well, if things shape up a certain way, “Malignant” may receive similar treatment. This movie is twisty, but part of that twistiness rubbed me the wrong way. Because I think there is a fine line between twists that are so unbelievable that they’re exciting and twists that are so impractical that you wonder how it even made it past the first draft. I don’t think every part of this movie’s twist is insane in the worst possible way, but there is one specific portion of it that made me question humanity. I should point out that this specific portion of the movie I’m referring to was in the trailer, so I wonder if one could call it part of the twist to begin with. But I should point out, I did not have much memory of the full trailer of this film before it came out. Nevertheless, this portion of the movie made me wonder if the main character once suffered from traumatic memory loss.

Amongst all the bad in “Malignant,” I would have to say that the best part of the film itself, aside from when it was over, is the decent camerawork and lighting. There are some shots in this movie, despite me criticizing it for its overly-campy feel that sort of takes away from scenes with serious drama, that had my eyes pleased. There’s one shot from the marketing, the one where the main character’s face is on the left side of the camera, lying on a pillow with some red light on it, which I consider to be one of my favorite shots of the year.

Annabelle Wallis is not an actress whose work I’ve seen much of. I’ve seen her in “Tag,” which is ridiculously funny by the way. But that was not a true reveal of her acting chops. She was in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which was forgettable, I don’t even remember her part in it. If I have never seen Wallis act before and I had to cast someone to nail the look of her character in this film, I think Wallis is an easy ticket. But as for the actual results in terms of how such a character is presented, they were disappointing, because Wallis is acting on a level that feels reflective of a lead star on a Lifetime movie! You ever see one of those Lifetime movies, not that I watch them, but I’ve heard them in background because my mother would watch them, where someone starts crying, and crying, and they keep crying? It doesn’t even feel like real crying, it feels like that awful episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” where SpongeBob literally cries over everything and it is up to Squidward to keep him from bawling his eyes out. Wallis’s performance at times felt like a cartoon. I don’t know if she had a lot of things in mind for the character that could line up with an artistic vision or if this was truly what James Wan was going for. Yes, she’s had a lot of pain, but this feels exaggerated. And I almost sometimes think the film does not know what it wants to be. Is it a soap opera? A horror show? A throwback? I literally don’t know! All I know is that I walked out of this movie happy to leave.

In the end, I thought up to this point that James Wan could become one of my favorite directors working today given his balance of artistry between big and small budgets, but “Malignant” makes me think otherwise. Here’s hoping “Malignant” is just his bad day at the office. I am always for the director carrying out their vision and seeing their film come to screen with as little studio interference as possible, but “Malignant” feels like a pretty sloppy vision in terms of tone and overall execution. This movie did not excite me, the twist did not help, and by the end, I was just unamused. “Malignant” is easily one of the worst movies I have seen all year and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Malignant” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available for a limited time on the ad-free tier of HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next review as I will be talking about “Copshop,” which I just saw over a week ago. I’ve got some thoughts on the movie and I cannot wait to share them. Also, in the near future, be sure to look forward to my review of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the all new movie based on the hit musical. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Malignant?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite film directed by James Wan? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Reminiscence (2021): Inception for People Who Like Being Bored

“Reminiscence” is written and directed by Lisa Joy (Westworld, Burn Notice) and stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Greatest Showman), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The White Queen), Thandiwe Newton (Mission: Impossible II, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Cliff Curtis (Missing, Fear the Walking Dead), Marina de Tavira (Roma, Ana and Bruno), Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands, Tomb Raider) and this film is set in the future when climate change has severely affected Miami. During this time, Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is part of a business responsible for a machine called the tank, which allows people to go back in time and see older memories. One day, a client named Mae comes in looking for her missing keys. Shortly after, Nick and Mae become romantically involved, although Nick’s co-worker, Emily “Watts” Sanders does not trust Mae and wants to do anything she can to keep Nick from seeing her. In addition, Nick spends time revisiting past memories in the tank involving his love interest, which could trap him forever.

Well, that took some time to explain now didn’t it… I’ve been looking forward to “Reminiscence” for a number of reasons. It’s from my favorite studio, Warner Brothers, despite how they’ve stabbed the backs of theater owners this year. It’s got a decent cast with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in starring roles. But I also really like the concept this movie tries to deliver. Sometimes going into this movie, it would remind me and a few other people of a Christopher Nolan flick. In fact on the surface, it really does feel like that. The color grading and sets feel like something out of “Inception” or “Tenet,” and much like those two movies, this film has a concept that mixes action, romance, and transportation to another reality. The trailer for this film was not too bad, although I have seen better. The way they edited it though made it feel like it was somewhere outside our world even though it really was in our not so far future, and the action did look pretty sick.

Another reason why this looks like a Christopher Nolan movie… Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan’s brother, was one of the film’s producers. And this should not be surprising, after all, he is the director’s wife! Hollywood, everybody! It’s about WHO you know! Not always what ya know! Granted, Jonathan Nolan had no writing or directing credits by the end of the product, Lisa Joy wrote and directed this film on her own, but it would not surprise me if some of his touch made it into the final product.

But going back to what I said about “Inception” and “Tenet,” as much as I like both movies. And I do. …Very much. I would say that “Inception” is clearly the better film because at the end of “Tenet,” I’m left amazed, but also wondering how certain things came about in that film because it is one of the most beautifully confusing things I ever watched.

“Reminiscence,” to me, even though the concept was somewhat, well, reminiscent, of “Inception,” kind of felt like it belonged in the same category as “Tenet.” As a high-concept sci-fi film, it is nice to observe, but there were still some loose ends that needed tying.

That’s what I would say if “Reminiscence” weren’t so goddamn forgettable! I would have reviewed this earlier if I had the motivation and time, because I did watch this film days after it came out, but I waited until this point because this is just the way things lined up. And now that I’ve had as much time as I did to think about this film, I think I may have spent more time thinking about the film I watched before this one, “Don’t Breathe 2.”

I really like the concept of “Reminiscence.” To have people go back and revisit their favorite memories, especially in a future where it seems that there are no positive memories left to create, is fascinating. I honestly wish a machine like this existed because it does seem to be safer than time travel and there are fun memories that I would love to revisit for one reason or another. I would love to go back to my first visit to New York City or one of my flocks to Salisbury Beach. Those were fun times and I would love to relive those. In fact, the more I think about what this movie is trying to do, it kind of succeeds at communicating that people do not see rainbows and unicorns in the future and would do anything to revisit their past. I just wish the story involving all of these elements happened to be more attractive. You know, kind of like Rebecca Ferguson in this movie. Props to the costume design on this film, a couple of her looked legit.

“Reminiscence” does not have the best screenplay of the year. At least in terms of visual execution. But there is one line that is repeated throughout the film that I found intriguing.

“No such thing as a happy ending. All endings are sad. Especially if the story was happy.”

Believe it or not, there is some truth to that. This is perhaps a slightly more artistic way of saying “Nothing lasts forever,” or “We all die at some point,” or “There will come a day where you will hate something that ‘Star Wars’ puts out.” I think this is a great quote, even if the script leaves a bit to be desired.

Technically speaking, this is not a bad looking film. Some of the shots are majestic, and kind of have a feel that harkened back to not just the couple of Nolan films I mentioned, but I’d even bring up “Blade Runner” and “The Shape of Water” as goto comparisons.

If anything, “Reminiscence” was an idea that had wasted potential. Aside from the concept, which I mentioned earlier, the film comes in with a stacked cast from Hugh Jackman to Thandiwe Newton. These are all-stars, and they’re working on one of the most uninteresting sci-fi flicks of the past few years.. The one thing that I wonder is that even though Lisa Joy has been in the visual entertainment industry for some time, is if she was truly ready to take on a movie like this. Because most of her work has been through television. I’m not saying that Lisa Joy should be forbidden from directing, writing, or working on a film if she so desired, but I wondered how out of her comfort zone something like this could have been for her. What else has she directed? One episode of “Westworld?” Okay… I mean, I’ll say in her defense, HBO programming usually has a higher price tag, standard, and more cinematic feel compared to most television shows. I’ll give her that. But I think if you were to direct a film like this, which is not the most expensive thing in the world, but it is by no means cheap, I think you would want someone with more experience in the director’s chair to pull this off. I am glad that women are getting more opportunities to direct, but I wonder if Lisa Joy should have just stuck to the screenplay and let someone else bring her vision to life. Because despite my complaints about the screenplay, the original script for this film was on the 2013 Black List of most-liked unmade screenplays. This film had a lot going for it. I’m glad Lisa Joy could get her movie out there, but my god I wish it were better.

In the end, “Reminiscence” by no means the worst movie of the year. In fact, I think at this point I’d rather watch this again as opposed to some other recent Warner Brothers titles like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Tom & Jerry.” Then again, this may come with a bias towards sci-fi. I had very little connection to the other two projects going into them with the exception of liking one of the trailers for the former. As for “Reminiscence,” it had plenty going for it from the marketing (even though they did not spend much money on it), the people in it, and the concept. But in the end, it all feels like a waste. I’m going to give “Reminiscence” a 4/10.

“Reminiscence” is now playing in theaters and it is also on the ad-free tier of HBO Max for a limited time.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for “Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.” I wanted to get this out a bit earlier, but life has been busy, so I’ve been holding this review off for some time. I do want to let everyone know that I already did see the movie, AND I am seeing it again tonight, which unfortunately may spoil part of my thoughts regarding the film itself, but either way, look forward to my review when it drops! Also, be sure to check out my review for “Malignant,” whenever that drops as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Reminiscence?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a film that you think has a great concept with terrible execution? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Suicide Squad (2021): The Best DC Movie Ever

“The Suicide Squad” is written and directed by James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) and stars Idris Elba (Thor, Pacific Rim), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), John Cena (Blockers, Wipeout), Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, For All Mankind), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Over the Top), Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder, Fences), Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher, Divergent), Peter Capaldi (Paddington, Doctor Who), Daniela Melchior (The Black Book, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and David Dastmalchian (MacGyver, Ant-Man). This film is a sequel, well kind of, to 2016’s “Suicide Squad” and is the latest film set in the Detective Comics Extended Universe. The film is about a bunch of vigilantes, some of whom we’ve seen before like Harley Quinn and Rick Flag, in addition to newbies like Peacemaker and King Shark who are put on a mission to destroy all traces of Project Starfish.

When I saw “Suicide Squad” five years ago at the theater, I enjoyed it. Safe to say, my opinion quickly changed as soon as the home video release period came up because I got the movie as a Christmas gift, I popped it in, specifically the extended edition, and found myself displeased with what was in front of me. Harley Quinn was great, but the way they handled certain plot points and some of the editing was not up to my standards. Looking back, it looked like an effective ad campaign for Hot Topic without even mentioning the brand’s name once. Therefore, I was a tad weary going into “The Suicide Squad,” because prior to “Wonder Woman 1984” which came out last December, “Suicide Squad” has long stood as my least favorite DCEU film. So it has an offputting stain of displeasure. But there were also a few attractive factors brought to table that made me feel the need to see this film as soon as possible.

First, the film is rated R. While we have gotten some comic book movies over the past few years with said rating, including “Birds of Prey” which is also set in the DCEU, this did intrigue me as the previous “Suicide Squad” was PG-13 and I was curious to know how this film could be taken in a darker direction. Plus, if the “Deadpool” movies have proven anything, it’s that there is some REAL fun to be had with R rated comic book films.

Second, James Gunn. In case it matters, this guy is responsible for my senior quote in high school. This is a true story by the way, for my senior quote, I did some searching and came across one in particular from James Gunn’s IMDb page that stood out to me.

“I have a very strong imagination and have since I was a little kid. That is where a lot of my world comes from. It’s like I’m off somewhere else. And I can have a problem in life because of that, because I’m always off in some other world thinking about something else. It’s constant.” -James Gunn

I chose this quote because of how much I relate to it. I too consider myself to be imaginative, and in addition to that, I cannot say how much this ties to Gunn himself, but I have ADHD, therefore I am constantly wandering off from my own reality to somewhere else in my head. Here’s the thing, I graduated high school in 2018. That same summer, Gunn was fired by Disney due to old, offensive tweets being resurfaced. Gotta say, on the topic of my choice of senior quote, AWK-WAAAARRD. Keep in mind, Gunn notes that he is not the same man he was when he was younger. He has matured, he has evolved. But for those of you who know the story, he eventually was hired by Warner Bros. and DC. Of all the projects that Gunn could have chosen for DC, he ended up doing what we now know as “The Suicide Squad.” I have heard a number of stories on this film’s production. But one of the things that I have heard, at least on James Gunn’s part, is that the studio basically gave Gunn complete freedom to make whatever the hell he wanted.

Also, I’m not gonna lie, I really liked the trailers for this film. John Cena looked like he was gonna be a riot. Margot Robbie, per usual has a fine balance of mystery and humor within her Harley Quinn persona, and right off the bat, this actually did feel like a James Gunn film with the songs they chose for each trailer. In the end, this was easily my most anticipated film of the summer. And I thought that BEFORE the film had a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score for a period of time. But the past has proven that hype can kill a film. It’s happened to me with “Midsommar,” and in the case of James Gunn, I’ll even add that this happened with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which was my #2 most anticipated film of 2017, but I do not remember it fondly. I had a freight train of thoughts going into this film. What are my thoughts leaving the film?

It’s the best DC film ever.

Not just DCEU, I mean DC period. Like… Better than “The Dark Knight.” Better than “Wonder Woman.” Better than “V For Vendetta.” THIS FILM SLAPS!

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is what happens when you let a director make their movie! James Gunn is outright unhinged with this film. He’s the sole writer and director, and he has pretty much made every decision possible regarding the product. Not once did I feel like I was watching something that was done by a studio head at Warner Brothers. I think it is hilarious how in just less than a month, we get “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” arguably the most corporate, commercialized film Warner Bros. has put out to date, and then we get this masterpiece from James Gunn. Unbelievable!

When 2016’s “Suicide Squad” came out, I said that it felt very much like another version of “Guardians of the Galaxy.” After all, you have all these criminals coming together for the same purpose, but despite them being bad, they join forces to save the world. Plus both films sort of relied on rock heavy soundtracks, which looking back, “Guardians” did A LOT better than “Suicide Squad.” “Suicide Squad” felt as if it was trying to copy the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” but the former attempted to in a way that was inferior to the latter. I am glad to note that we got the ACTUAL director of that “latter” to come in and make something great out of a franchise that provided one of the worst comic book films of the last five years. And much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” part of the success is achieved from taking lesser known, or less appreciated comic book characters and putting them into scenarios that can turn them into gold. In MCU speak, I bet a lot of people knew who The Incredible Hulk was before his movie came out. Same can be said for Thor. The same cannot be said for the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the DCEU, we’ve already had a movie with the Suicide Squad, but unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, it changes out a lot of the main characters in the first film like Deadshot and Killer Croc and replaces them with other characters in the second film. Yes, Harley Quinn is back. But I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that most people watching this movie amongst the general audience would care to know who Polka Dot Man is in the comics. I’ve heard of Polka Dot Man before, he made an appearance in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” But I cannot say I was all that familiar with his history as a character.

I never thought I’d say this. “The Suicide Squad” made me care about a superbeing who spews… POLKA DOTS! I mean, WHAT?! Who ever thought this could be possible? Again, this goes to show the master class of James Gunn. He got me to care about a talking tree in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” When you can get me to care about a costumed man who throws magical polka dots at people, he’s not just a good director, he’s a flat out genius. Seriously! You wanna know how much I cared about Polka Dot Man? I literally picked up his Funko Pop the day after my screening! I love this guy! They gave him the social awkwardness of a geek combined with the hyper mania fuel of a kid who just discovered Red Bull. I do not want to give much away about this movie, but by the end of “The Suicide Squad,” there is a visual that references a tactic Polka Dot Man often follows, and it may be one of the single funniest shots I have seen in a movie in years.

Speaking of characters, let’s talk about Harley Quinn. Right now I am personally having trouble deciding whether I prefer the Margot Robbie Harley Quinn or the Kaley Cuoco Harley Quinn in terms of their personality, but one thing I cannot deny is that Margot Robbie has aced her role in “The Suicide Squad,” providing her most insane portrayal of the character yet. I’ve always admired this iteration of Harley Quinn since 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” I always thought that she could take any scene she’s in and automatically become the star of the show. But the thing that I think makes Harley Quinn better in this movie compared to her last two outings is that Robbie channeled Harley’s inner madness to her full potential. There is a scene in the second act where she just spews tons of dialogue towards someone in particular, filling in all sorts of potential blanks. Quinn has gone from being a hilarious scene stealer to the psychotic lovable moron that she is now.

I also love King Shark. For a lot of people who turn on this movie, I think this portrayal of King Shark is going to be their first introduction to the character. I personally have been watching him through DC’s “Harley Quinn” show, so this is not my first rodeo with him. I like King Shark in “Harley Quinn,” but I LOOOOOVE him in “The Suicide Squad.” Basically, King Shark in this film is a funnier, raunchier version of Lennie from “Of Mice and Men,” a simple minded, CGI, walking, talking, briefs-wearing shark who will tear you to shreds if you so much as even get close to screwing around with him. At the same time though, James Gunn managed to write this character in such a way that effectively personifies him and makes him relatable. We see throughout the film that yes, he is a man-eating shark that can walk on land for some reason, but he has a rather subversively cute motivation that is nicely explored from start to finish. Also, Sylvester Stallone, you are a god. James Gunn picked you for a reason and you knocked this out of the park.

I also want to talk about John Cena as Peacemaker. I think out of all the characters in the movie, he was the one who I think Gunn did the best job at fleshing out in terms of complexity. Having seen Peacemaker’s costume in the marketing, I was a tad skeptical. Would Cena be too goofy? Would I take him seriously? Not gonna lie, as goofy as the costume looks, it really pops and I was able to take Cena seriously in the film. I sometimes talk about “Blockers” and how much I like that movie. Although one fair critique of that film is that John Cena, as funny and likable as he is, does not have the best range as an actor. I like him in the movie, but I think that is a fair critique. Here, I think James Gunn and John Cena are a perfect match for each other. I mean, look back at “Guardians of the Galaxy” and look at Dave Bautista. Sure, he gave a good performance in the film. It does not mean he’s the best actor. I feel like Bautista and Cena are the muscle of their movies. Their performances in their individual movies differ in ways, but that’s who their well-built characters are at their core. During the film, Cena delivered a lot of funny one liners, including some of the more memorable ones.

“It’s not a toilet seat, it’s a beacon of freedom!”

However, by the end of the film, without going into spoilers, there’s a moment where I could tell that John Cena has some legit acting skills. I felt the exact emotions his character was going through. What emotions exactly? I cannot say. But if you watch this film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

I will also note for all the parents who want to take their kiddies to the brand new superhero movie that some call “The Suicide Squad,” you may want to think twice, because your kids have probably seen flashy violence in movies like “Batman v. Superman,” painful moments in movies like “Avengers: Infinity War,” but I could only wonder what would prepare your kids for the ultra-gorey and visceral madness that “The Suicide Squad” has to offer. This film is not just violent, it goes over the top in more ways than one. Let me just put it this way. The first act had me laughing and slapping my knees at all the crazy violence going on. That’s the result of a great movie. But the REAL craziness doesn’t even stop there. There’s some real s*it that happens towards the end of the film that no PG-13 film could get away with. It’s basically “Mortal Kombat” in the DC universe!

In fact, one of my critiques for “Birds of Prey,” the DCEU’s first R-rated outing, is that the film, while serviceable, NOT GREAT, but serviceable, has an R-rating attached to it, but I feel like by the end of the film, it does not do much to satisfy its R-rating. “The Suicide Squad” is so mature that it might as well tear the audience to shreds when presented in 3D! So immersive!

Did I mention the soundtrack? Oh yeah, this movie has a good soundtrack! It’s probably just as good as John Murphy’s score! Seriously, by the end, there was a song that gave me goosebumps that I was not expecting from a movie like this! James Gunn chose some songs that not only fit the scenes they were in, but I even think I like this one better than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Granted, I still think the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” has a better soundtrack than “The Suicide Squad,” but my point stands. The music in this film may as well have been put together by a mastermind!

Supporting the notion that no movie is perfect, let’s talk about one thing that I could consider to be wrong in “The Suicide Squad,” and by wrong, I do not mean that in a huge way, it’s just a slight nitpick. I am not going to get into full details, as this would involve spoilers, but there is a shot in the movie that if you really know how shots and visual effects mix together, it would make *spoiler* feel a bit more predictable. That’s the one nitpick I can come up with aside from one more thing, and again, this is not something that is a turnoff, it’s just something that is noticeable and needs to be addressed.

In 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” which stars Will Smith as Deadshot, that character was a tall, rather hunky dude who wants to reunite with his kid. In 2021’s “The Suicide Squad,” which stars Idris Elba as Bloodsport, that character was a tall, rather hunky dude who wants to reunite with his kid. I know Will Smith was not in this movie for a reason, but still, it’s interesting how they barely changed certain traits about the main character. I mean if it ain’t broke don’t fi– Actually, I take that back, the 2016 “Suicide Squad” was pretty broke to begin with.

There’s not really anything else I can think of that turned me off in this film. Every joke landed. Every kill was satisfying. Every character was likable, and by the end of the film, I feel like everyone earned their destiny. James Gunn has a pure talent for making a film completely action packed and bonkers but also leaving enough room to have heart and soul in it. I started watching “The Suicide Squad” grinning ear to ear and laughing my ass off like a maniac, but by the end of it, I was simply in awe and I felt for all the characters. “Suicide Squad” from five years ago had me walking out saying I want to see more of Harley Quinn. “The Suicide Squad” had me walking out saying I want to see more of not just Harley Quinn, but King Shark, Ratcatcher, Peacemaker, EVEN POLKA DOT MAN… among other characters!

In the end, “The Suicide Squad,” I don’t want to sell it short. It’s the best freaking movie Warner Bros. has put out with a DC logo on it. Simply put, Marvel and Disney firing James Gunn is probably the best thing that ever happened to DC. And as a result, it may be one of the best things to happen in James Gunn’s career as “The Suicide Squad” has now become one of my favorite comic book movies of all time. Guys, I urge you to check this movie out. It is the literal definition of bonkers. It is something so violent, so funny, and yet so heartwarming. I almost wonder if we’ll get another DCEU movie like this again. I am looking forward to what’s coming up in the DCEU between “The Flash,” “Aquaman 2,” and “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods.” But they are following in the footsteps of something completely unique and mind-boggling that I almost wonder what it’s gonna take to top it. James Gunn, you have made a masterpiece, and I am glad to know that my senior quote that I mentioned earlier has been redeemed! I’m going to give “The Suicide Squad” a 10/10!

“The Suicide Squad” is now playing in theaters everywhere, including IMAX, and you can also watch it for free on top of your subscription on HBO Max until early September.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that at the moment I am currently trying to review all four “Revenge of the Nerds” movies in a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This Monday, August 16th, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” Stay tuned for that as we celebrate Scene Before’s fifth anniversary! Also, I want to remind you all that this weekend, “Free Guy” hits the big screen, but I will probably waiting until sometime next week, maybe even next weekend, perhaps later, to share my thoughts on it. Life’s been crazy and busy, it is what it is. But, I will see it, I will review it, I am looking forward to it. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Suicide Squad?” What did you think about it? Or, what do you prefer? 2016’s “Suicide Squad?” Or 2021’s “The Suicide Squad?” My answer is pretty obvious, but I’ll let you share your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

In the Heights (2021): Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Latest Musical to Film Adaptation Heightens Its Way to the Big Screen

“In the Heights” is directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians, Now You See Me 2) and stars Anthony Ramos (Trolls World Tour, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island), Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera (Vida, Tanto amor), Olga Merediz (Shades of Blue, Orange Is the New Black), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Katy Keene, Smash), Gregory Diaz IV (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, New Amsterdam), and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Son of Anarchy). This film is based on a stageplay by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a book by Quiara Algeria Hudes and is set in the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights. The story follows said neighborhood as they imagine and desire a better life.

I saw this film early. And by early I mean the Sunday before it came out. There were a plethora of special screenings so I thought I’d take the opportunity to attend one of them with my grandma because who does not like free stuff? Part of me was hesitant towards paying to see this film because I am not a musical guy even though I have enjoyed stuff here and there like “La La Land.” Maybe I would have used my AMC A-List, but still. Sticking with the facts, I have been reviewing movies for a long time, I am completely focused on the movies that are coming out as audiences continue to return to the theater (even though apparently “In the Heights” could have done better at the box office) so for those reasons, I decided to check out “In the Heights” for myself. I do not know if I would have seen this film during its actual release (or even on HBO Max), so I figured I’d watch it now just to say “Hey! I saw this!” And I did see it, so let’s talk about it.

I just want to iterate a couple things. First, I have heard nothing but praise for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I have not seen any of his Broadway work. Yes, I have not seen “Hamilton.” I’m sorry. I know it is popular, I know there’s a filmed version on Disney+, but I still have not seen it. I’ve heard a few songs from the musical because my sister was with me in the same place and she was playing them, but I was not the one in control of these songs. With that being said, this movie is my first exposure to ANYTHING related to “In the Heights.” Did it give me a good first impression? Well, I certainly did not hate it. I will start off by saying that the film is fun. There are some good songs, although there are a few that are admittedly forgettable despite maybe some solid execution in the actual film. The opening number set the tone well, a lot of the ones that came later seemed to match that original tone and occasionally, its catchiness. The main jingle of the film still lingers in my head from time to time.

The foundation of the film is not exactly one specific character, although the movie is mainly told from the perspective of Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) who did do a good job by the way. Instead, the foundation is this collection of people who belong to one region of New York City. We see all these people sing about the life they prefer to live over their own. And a couple of the songs in the film captured the emotions of these characters’ wishes. Granted, I cannot quote them. It has been a couple weeks and I do not think I’ll be watching “In the Heights” again anytime soon. But when it comes to pure fun, this film has the proper ingredients from time to time and part of it is because of the soundtrack. Will I remember the characters as some of my favorites by the end of the year? Not really. But the movie does an okay job at making Washington Heights itself feel like its own character per se.

I do want to bring up the pacing though. Now obviously, this is a lively, bombastic musical. So obviously, there will be some quick pace and non-stop music action. There is no doubt about that. I think at times the movie does a really good job at matching the songs to the emotions, thoughts, and actions of certain characters. There is one song towards the end mainly revolving around Olga Merediz’s character that I think was done particularly well and it continues to stick with me. Although there are not as many other songs in the movie, as well put together as they are, that have such staying power. Speaking of staying, I feel like I stayed at this movie a little longer than I had to. I felt like the stereotypical dad who goes to his daughter’s dance recital and constantly begs to himself to just stand up and leave because it is going on for such a long time. Although in my case, I think I am displaying less impatience, even though there was some to display, and more curiosity as to when the lights would turn back on. I say that because there is a lot that happens in “In the Heights” which is amazing to me because I talked to a friend who calls herself “that snob” because she liked the stage version much better than the film. I have not seen anything except the film, so more power to her. She told me they made some changes, and they took some things out. That last statement floored me because this film feels packed to the brim with material. Song after song. Character after character. By the end of the film, when it feels like it has hit its climax, there’s actually like ten, twenty minutes of main material left. And I say ten to twenty minutes because I apparently found out that there is an end credits scene in the film that I did not watch.

There are a lot of good things about “In the Heights.” The cast is likable and talented (although somewhat controversial), the film looks very pretty, the cinematography is some of the absolute best I have seen this year and could arguably receive a few nominations during awards season. No, seriously. There is a sequence by the end of this film that I would buy the Blu-ray just to see if they explain how it was done in the bonus features. Additionally, Jon M. Chu did a pretty good job at bringing his vision to reality. It feels lively, fun, spirited, hyperactive from beginning to end. So even though I was kind of begging for the movie to end as it hit what I was its second or third climax, I was still having fun. I’ll even say there are a couple chuckleworthy lines in it. Granted, it’s not like I’m watching Kevin Hart or something, but there are still some funny lines here and there.

In the end, “In the Heights” has good things in it, but I do not think this film will get any replay from me except for maybe once or twice. If I did not review movies, I would probably not go see this by myself. Once again I will say, I did see this with my grandma just for clarification, but if I were in a situation where I did not review movies and I saw the list of movies playing at the theater, I would probably skip “In the Heights” unless I was with someone who really wanted to see it or if I just wanted a spectacle, which this movie did provide from start to finish. When I talk to a friend who says they took some things out of a movie that I still think is too long… That is not a positive. Granted, I did have fun with “In the Heights” and I do recommend it. But the movie feels like “Return of the King” by the end of it. It feels like it could end, but it’s like a party and there’s that one guest that won’t leave no matter how hard you try to shove them out the door. “In the Heights,” I like you, but you can’t stay here. I’m going to give “In the Heights” a 6/10.

Technically speaking, I would give “In the Heights” a tad higher grade than a 6/10, maybe at least a 7, because it does look beautiful. But when you add in the fact that some of the songs did not stick with me, the characters themselves not all sticking with me either, and a runtime that feels like a turtle occasionally wrote this film despite everything feeling fast, that’s a problem. This is why the film gets positive marks from me, even though I would not consider it to be my favorite of the year. I think there will be an audience for it. It started off getting great reviews and I notice the ads seemed to highlight a bunch of celebrities promoting it because apparently some people trust them more than Variety and The New York Times, so I could see “In the Heights” maintaining a cult status. I do recommend if you are to see this film, maybe go with a couple friends to the theater because one of the big positives of the film that I will mention is that it is best viewed on a big screen. As much as I like HBO Max, this movie is bigger than a streaming service.

Speaking of which, “In the Heights” is now playing in theaters everywhere and is currently available for a limited time exclusively on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Coming soon, I will have my review for “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the brand new sequel starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek. That review will be up soon, that is if I survive long enough to actually post it. Also, this Thursday I will be going to see “F9: The Fast Saga.” It comes out in theaters that day, so I will attempt to have my review up for the film as soon as possible. I will also be reviewing the new Disney+ exclusive Pixar movie, “Luca,” which did come out in one theater in California, so without giving anything away, it will qualify towards my future yearly posts including The Jackoff Awards and my top 10 lists. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “In the Heights?” What did you about it? Did you see the stage version? What are your thoughts on that edition of “In the Heights?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Mortal Kombat (2021): You May Want to Get Over Here For Some Things, But Not Everything

“Mortal Kombat” is directed by Simon McQuoid and stars Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Into the Badlands), Jessica McNamee (Sirens, Battle of the Sexes), Josh Lawson (Superstore House of Lies), Tadanobu Asono (Thor, 47 Ronin), Mehcad Brooks (Desperate Housewives, Supergirl), Ludi Lin (Aquaman, Power Rangers), Chin Han (The Dark Knight, Skyscraper), Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek: Beyond), and Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Ship, The Wolverine). This film is based on the iconic video game franchise of the same name and is another attempt at possibly kickstarting a big screen “Mortal Kombat” movie franchise.

This film centers around an MMA fighter named Cole Young who seeks out Earth’s greatest fighters to defeat the enemies of Outworld with the fate of universe potentially at stake.

As I mentioned in my reviews for prior “Mortal Kombat” movies, I am familiar with the “Mortal Kombat” games even though I have barely played them. I know about the bloody nature and vibe, the rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion, and the fact that it has spawned a couple of the more iconic utterances in video game history. Having seen the prior “Mortal Kombat” movies and having known what I know about the games, there was potential for this movie to be really good.

Buuuuut… One thing stood in the way. Actually two things. A first time writer and a first time director.

Now, the first time writer, otherwise known as Greg Russo, is technically accompanied by other experienced people who have writing credits, but still, it is a cause for concern. But the director of this film, Simon McQuoid, has literally nobody else by his side, nor does he have any credits for prior extended content.

“Mortal Kombat” is according to IMDb, Simon McQuoid’s (left) feature-length debut. The only other credit he has is for the video short titled “The Night-time Economy.” I’d be less concerned if the film I am talking about was less expensive or not based on any iconic property, but here we are. This is a reimagining of a popular video game intellectual property and it is being done by a couple of people who may clearly be passionate about what they’re doing, but with fewer credits to their name than I would desire.

Having seen “Mortal Kombat,” let me just start off by saying that I really enjoyed the movie. BUT… My concerns were met. In fact that’s not all! Not only are the directorial and written efforts for this film a cause for concern, but I will also add the editing is mediocre at best!

I have not seen all the “Bourne” movies. I have watched the first two from start to finish, started three, never finished it. Anyway, having seen those first two, I just remember both of those happen to be one of those action flicks that occasionally thinks fast pace can sometimes be taken too literally. Every other second, there is a cut during an action scene that shows us one thing, part of that thing happening again from a different angle, maybe some shaky cam is inserted here and there, and it does not give the viewer as much time to breathe. Do not get me wrong. Fast pace is everything to me. But if you watch movies in recent years like “John Wick,” you’d notice that they sometimes avoid reliance on quick cutting for the sake of showing an overload of information at once. They let a certain shot play out for a decent amount of time, that way the viewer can determine what is going on without needing to go somewhere else in terms of an angle. In “Mortal Kombat,” while I will say, I do not find the editing *as bad* as other people have confirmed it to be, it is still sometimes distracting and despite this being a fast-paced movie, there could have been a greater effort at cutting it together. At least those are my two cents.

For all I know, this may be on the director, because again, Simon McQuoid has not had much experience when it comes to filmmaking compared to other people. He has done this film, one short, and that is about it. In fact the editors on this film are experienced. Scott Gray has credits going back to the 1990s and Dan Lebental has done a ton of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films ranging from “Iron Man” to “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” So if anything, I do not know how much blame I can put towards them. I think Simon McQuoid, who I imagine is a nice guy, may have something to do with how the film turned out in the edit.

Despite the technical difficulties, I will point out, as a 21-year-old, who really has he mind of a 12-year-old sometimes, I enjoyed myself immensely watching this movie. It is not Shakespeare, the only Academy Award I could see this film going for is for visual effects, maybe costume design, but this is a vastly entertaining adaptation of “Mortal Kombat” and frankly better than the 1995 version. It is not much better for some reasons I already stated, but better nevertheless.

When it comes to recent movies based on video games, I do think it is slightly better than “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” but not as fun as “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I will say though, it may end up being almost as rewatchable as the latter. Simply because of the fun this film provides as it goes for the edge, kind of like the games. Seeing gross, bloody finishers are sometimes simply satisfying. If I want eye candy, I would definitely watch this movie again.

But what about characterization? Would that make me watch the movie again? Hard to say. Yes, the movie does have a ton of the iconic characters from the games and gives a lot of promising details in terms of world-building and establishing identities, but sometimes the characters themselves are somewhat forgettable as someone who has barely played the games.

The main character of Cole Young is not that bad. He serves his purpose in the film. There is nothing that I can really say about him that is negative, but to call him the most memorable character of all time would be a lie. I understand the need of changing or adding something to material that already exists, but at the same time, Cole Young is not the holy grail of characters. I did not go see “Mortal Kombat” strictly for Cole Young, and as I stayed in my chair, I was interested in his journey, but his charisma was not as high as I would have wanted it to be. Although I do like one moment where he is learning about Mortal Kombat and points out that the word “Kombat” is not even spelled right. I don’t know, it got a laugh out of me.

Although the real scene stealer in this film is Kano.

Kano. Kano. Kano.

Kano is played by Josh Lawson, who owns his particular role because of his rugged voice, Australian accent that shines all the way through, and how his character is basically written to be the wise-cracking nutjob of the bunch. He’s almost got the personality of Deadpool or a Disney sidekick comic relief if such a character took a few drugs and enjoyed the ride. Safe to say, he is easily my favorite character of the movie and I would watch a film specifically centered around him as long as Josh Lawson is playing the role! He is well-written and realized perfectly for this bloody extravaganza!

In the end, “Mortal Kombat” is not a bad film, but it is also sadly, another example of why video game movies have yet to break this rock solid barrier. The film does a good job at establishing the world in which our characters roam. Unfortunately, characterization and filmmaking techniques leave a little to be desired. Again, this is Simon McQuoid’s feature-length directorial debut and it shows. It is also Greg Russo’s writing debut, and that shows as well. I can tell that there are elements of this movie that feel like they come from people who have played the games, which is one of the major strengths that comes with it. But passion is not enough. There also has to be talent, and there is unfortunately not enough brought to the table. Maybe if they got different people or a co-director with some experience, things could have worked out. But I don’t know. I am just hoping McQuoid and Russo move up from here. I am rooting for them. Until then, I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat” a positive grade of 6/10.

I decided to give it this grade because despite not being the best film in terms of craftsmanship, even though there are various shots, effects, and costumes that looked pretty neat, it is also one of the more entertaining films I have seen in some time. If you are at the movies and are looking for something to watch, give this film a chance. You may enjoy it. I also want to see a sequel. Although if that’s the case, maybe a different directorial or writing crew would make the film better. At least that is my assumption. Again, I am rooting for McQuoid and Russo in their careers, but they personally were not off to the best of starts. But hey, we all get our starts somewhere!

“Mortal Kombat” is now playing in theaters and is also currently available for a limited time on HBO Max for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Four Good Days” starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis as a mother/daughter duo. The mother in particular tries to help the daughter escape her drug addiction and turn her life around. Stay tuned for that review and more great content on Scene Before! Follow either with an email or WordPress account, and also like the Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie is better? 1995 “Mortal Kombat” or 2021 “Mortal Kombat?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Godzilla vs. Kong: Maximized Monsters, Minimized Story, Balls Out Time

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is directed by Adam Wingard and stars Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Little Lies), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things, Enola Holmes), Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Prestige), Brian Tyree Henry (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Joker), Shun Oguri, Eiza González (Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2, The Christmas Chronicles 2), Lance Reddick (John Wick, Oz), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, The Wolf of Wall Street), and Demián Bichir (The Midnight Sky, The Hateful Eight). Without going into much detail, “Godzilla vs. Kong” follows the two titular titans as they duke it out with humanity watching closely. Throughout we also get to see humanity attempt to understand why these two are fighting, their origin stories, all the while trying to live to fight another day themselves.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

So far in the current Warner Bros. MonsterVerse, we have had three movies: “Godzilla,” which I thought was average, but watchable. “Kong: Skull Island,” which is fun at times but somewhat disposable. But I should also not forget the last one, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” given how it is the only one I reviewed of the bunch. Let’s take a look back on my thoughts on that movie, specifically stated in my review titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): For Godzilla’s Sake, Please Stop!.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

“Upon watching ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters,’ I wanted to perhaps die. In fact, as I write this, I almost don’t have words that I could possibly put into a sentence to describe this movie.”

“I can imagine myself finding this movie on TV one day, perhaps on HBO or something, maybe watching it if I want to destroy my brain cells, clicking the info button and the description would be ‘Time to die.'”

“Somehow, these characters are more forgettable than most of Apple’s terms & services agreement!”

“Surprisingly, there’s not a moment where I can remember conceptualizing a personal need for Anger Management classes. But based on this movie’s script and my memory of said script, I almost can’t remember feeling any emotion whatsoever, which may almost be worse than getting angry about a movie or its characters.”

“Yes, there are positives, but again, they are heavily outweighed by tons of crap, and the fact that my brain literally could not function upon leaving the theater.”

That film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” ended up as my #2 worst film of 2019, my #12 worst film of the 2010s, and my #1 most disappointing film of the 2010s. Safe to say, I’d rather watch my future children, should I ever have them, play with knives. I ended my review saying that when it comes to the MonsterVerse, I practically lost any and all hope I could have had for “Godzilla vs. Kong” because I felt like they were going into a direction that I would not find pleasing. Three of the big problems I had with “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was putting too much attention on human characters, the clashing tones between seriousness and silliness, and not putting enough attention on the script. I know some people will come out and say that these monster movies don’t NEED good scripts, because big action and fight sequences matter more. I would go back and watch the 2014 “Godzilla” again. I would go back and watch “Kong: Skull Island” again. If I were in a situation where I had to watch “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” again, chances are I’d bang my head into whatever device is playing the movie.

Let’s mention those problems I had with “King of the Monsters” once again. Bad human characters who overstay their welcome, clashing tones, and a lazy script. Two of those three critiques have returned to “Godzilla vs. Kong.” The film, despite being a massively entertaining titan on titan showdown, is not too too much more than that. I will say one thing though, WITHOUT SPOILERS OR MUCH DETAIL, this script *is* an improvement over what “King of the Monsters” provided.

There are plenty of human characters in this movie, and there are a majority that you could perhaps take out and have the results of the film be no different, and there are some who sort of do matter that are barely interesting. Some of them feel like they were processed in a factory and just say words every now and then to have the movie trail along as smooth as it can. The film not only has Godzilla and King Kong fighting each other, but it has two different sides of human characters. You have the ones who observe Godzilla, and you have the ones who observe King Kong. And there are quite a few of the Godzilla-centric characters who make an appearance in this movie who also showed up earlier in the franchise. Millie Bobby Brown is back, her dad played by Kyle Chandler also makes a return, but that side for the most part had a script that would probably work more for a theme park ride as opposed to a movie. Again, you could remove a ton of the characters on that side and have the film feel like it has not changed much. Also, I feel like the Godzilla side also has more questionable absurdities in the movie compared to the Kong side.

For me, the difference between effort of putting together characters on one side as opposed to the other is night and day. I mean, look at the characters on Kong’s side! Some have distinct characteristics that individualize them, I think they did a better job at moving the plot and story along, and this is especially noticeable when you bring the young girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) into the equation. For the record, she is deaf, which is kind of refreshing for a film like this because throughout the three MonsterVerse films, the big expectation is loud, obnoxious noise, and you do get that here as well, but we get to occasionally see things from this character’s perspective and it makes the world feel quieter, smaller, more intimate despite having giant monsters in it. Her relationship with Kong and Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) were some personal highlights of the film for me. Another thing about this side, when it comes to Kong himself, seeing the humans journey with him to explore his world occasionally had me escaping from my chair into the screen. It felt like a pure fantasy at times, and I give the film props for that.

So far, the script is a mixed bag. It improves characterization, but it also stays pretty on laziness. The film is not going to win any screenplay awards. But the film did win me over on one thing. MONSTERS.

I said in my review for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” that the monsters look cool and there are some halfway decent fights, but there is too much going on in the movie that I could not fully appreciate them. I almost ended up with a headache leaving the theater. In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” some of the compliments I gave for the previous MonsterVerse entry stand once more. The monsters look visually appealing. They look polished and wonderfully textured. But also, having watched this film, I think the lighting is also significantly better. I did not think about this, but “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” almost felt like the MonsterVerse version of “Batman v. Superman” because almost every other fight that I could think of took place either in the dark or with at the very least, a semi-depressing color palette. One of the better things I can say about “Godzilla vs. Kong” compared to “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is that my eyes can do a better job at interpreting what is going on. Maybe it is partially because Hong Kong in this movie is lit so brightly with neon at night, but nevertheless. This is not a diss on the Detective Comics Extended Universe, because there are movies in that universe that I genuinely enjoy, but the fights in “Godzilla vs. Kong” felt more like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie because it is brighter and easier to see what is going on. Looking back at the fight in Boston at the end of “King of the Monsters,” it felt like there was an endless parade of blue, and maybe some orange. “Godzilla vs. Kong,” even in its darker scenes such as the first appearance from Godzilla, felt ten times as vibrant.

As I said, the film won me over on monsters, so let me just say, THE MONSTER FIGHTS IN THIS MOVIE ARE EVERYTHING I WANTED TO SEE! They were gigantic! Epic! They felt like something mattered at every twist and turn! There was a fine mix of brains and brawn! The trailer for this film, when I first saw it, surprisingly sold me for the action that would be in this film, and it did not disappoint! If you want to watch any of these MonsterVerse films for action, this is the one! Yes, there are a ton of human characters as well that could bog your experience, but when the film is available for home viewing, this is where fast forward and rewind come into play. When it comes to monsters fighting in this film, I do not think I could name a single problem. And you know what? Let’s talk about tone. But before we do that, just remember, when discussing my problems for the previous MonsterVerse film, remember that one of them is the lack of a consistent tone. “King of the Monsters” went in two directions, serious and silly, without being able to decide on one that defines the movie. While there are moments of slight seriousness in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it almost had the tone of a “Fast & Furious” movie if the whole time it were a WrestleMania event. The opening titles for this movie delivered the most excitement I have gotten out of an opening title sequence I can think of in years. It is up there with the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies, Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Blade Runner 2049” as one of my all time favorite film opening credits sequences.

Why do I love the opening credits in this film so much? Because in addition to the other ones I mentioned, “Godzilla vs. Kong” teased something cool or epic and kept its promise. It promised a big blockbuster adventure from the very beginning and that is exactly what it delivered. The music, which was marvelously done by Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, was booming and dominant of my attention. The film is also, from what I gathered, not afraid to dive into shark-jumping. There are a lot of fantastical elements in this movie, which should not be a surprise as there happens to be a universe with giant titans that could appear at any moment. Some of the fantasy elements worked, most notably on the Kong side. We got to see Kong’s origins and history regarding his species in battle. Seeing that was not only an effective breather as an audience member, but it was also somewhat effective world-building. There are some fun fantasy elements in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” but not every impractical situation stuck the landing. Without spoilers, Millie Bobby Brown’s character spends the climax of the film talking on the phone and there is something that she says that does not really have the impact to one character that I would have probably anticipated them to have. Again, no spoilers, the film is not out on DVD yet.

At the end of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” I lost much of my hope for this universe, I thought it would be short-lived. As of now, I do hope this universe continues. I would not mind seeing Kong and Godzilla do a round 2 or we see more of these monsters individually. Although I am hearing reports that Adam Wingard may return to direct another MonsterVerse movie, which does excite me. I am also hearing it may be a “Son of Kong” story, but no matter what it is, I will remain curious and excited. Bring on the titans!

In the end, I went from having little interest in “Godzilla vs. Kong” for two years leading up to it, seeing the trailer and watching it a bunch of times, to flat out recommending that you go watch it on the biggest screen you can. I saw the film twice in the theater, and aside from the obvious notions, specifically that there are not too many other big movies out and the giant monster situation, I went a second time because it is honestly a significant dose of pure entertainment. If the film is still playing near you and you have not watched it, give a chance, you may have fun. I sure did! Is it stupid entertainment? You could make that argument, but it simultaneously builds a fascinating history and I feel like there is a promise of an intriguing future. I want to see more of this world, and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe is great for how well it intertwines a bunch of different characters together at once, I think it would be refreshing to see a universe like this one take it self perhaps a little less seriously. With that being said, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is a killer time at the movies and most certainly, big screen material. I am going to give “Godzilla vs. Kong” a 7/10.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is now playing in theaters, get your tickets today. The film is no longer on HBO Max as of writing this, considering how it has finished its 31 day run on the service.

Mortal Kombat (2021) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Thanks for reading this review! Apologies for yet another late review, I have been preoccupied with other things. But I want to let everyone know that I will soon have a review for the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” remake. That will be released by sometime next week. Also, I want to remind everyone that this week is the week of Star Wars Day. This is the week that I originally intended to release my reviews for the first seven “Star Wars” episodes. I wanted to do a “7 Days of Star Wars” series, where I review a different “Star Wars” movie every day for an entire week, but I had so many other things going on that I pushed it back to the week of May 23rd to May 29th. No guarantees, but DO NOT BE SURPRISED if it gets pushed back another time. However, if you want to be prepared for the epic run of reviews, I should note that I plan to release another trailer advertising what will HOPEFULLY be a finalized release date. I do want to get these done before my “Pirates of the Caribbean” reviews which will be finished in July. So many things to do, but not much time to do them all. We shall see how things shape up in the future. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Godzilla vs. Kong?” What did you think about it? Or, who do you prefer? Godzilla or King Kong? Let the fight begin in the comments section! Civilly, of course. We don’t want anyone losing an eye. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Tom & Jerry (2021): Who Shamed Roger Rabbit?

“Tom & Jerry” is directed by Tim Story and stars Chloë Grace Moretz (If I Stay, The Fifth Wave), Michael Peña (Ant-Man, Jexi), Colin Jost (Saturday Night Live, How to be Single), Rob Delaney (Catastrophe, Deadpool 2), and Ken Jeong (The Hangover, The Masked Singer). This film places the iconic cartoon cat and mouse duo in a live-action environment, specifically in New York City. Simultaneously, we follow the character of Kayla, who acquires a job at a fancy hotel, occasionally runs into the two cartoons, and needs to accompany guests for a balls out wedding.

I have never watched the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons as a kid, except maybe once or twice. Therefore, like some other things that have been adapted into live-action like “The Smurfs,” I had little to no connection to it as a child. I know the titular duo always find themselves trying to take each other down, and conceptually, it sounds entertaining. If I were six years old, I could find it to be a solid time-waster. But there’s no real story or plot to it that I can come up with other than the fact that the two creatures do not like each other, as cats and mice probably shouldn’t and they always end up in shambles against one another. This leads me to my first positive of the film, there are a couple entertaining fight sequences. They’re not all memorable or fascinating, but they have glimmers of entertainment throughout. Unfortunately, that is where all the positivity stops.

After all, even though this movie is about two animated rascals trying to beat each other up, that’s not even the whole story. Instead, it is another lame, copypaste, live-action snoozefest that has no substance. I just want to say to everyone reading this who has kids, if you are planning on taking your kid to the theater this weekend, do not watch “Tom & Jerry.” Save yourself from going inside. The kids might have fun, although I will admit, since seeing the movie, I talked with someone I know who has kids and they were apparently bored instantly by the film upon first watching it. Go watch “Raya and the Last Dragon” instead! That film has substance, great characters, laughs, and even though one of the core elements of “Tom & Jerry” are the action sequences, that film manages to have better action! Both in terms of style and story! I have not seen many movies in 2021 so far, but this is currently the worst one of the year for me.

Now, let’s talk about some characters. That’s always a great place to start in a review, right? Well, the movie’s called “Tom & Jerry” so it would only be appropriate to talk about Tom & Jerry first, right?

Nope! This is not their movie! They’re on the title because you know, franchises make money!

Instead, let’s talk about Kayla for a second. How is she a positive role model for children? Sure, maybe throughout the movie she’s taming a cat and mouse, which might translate to some kids being good with pets, but as a person, she is not exactly fine and dandy. She starts off the film by quitting her job, going to a hotel where she runs into a woman trying to apply for another job, manipulates her into not applying, and tries to acquire the job for herself. How is this a teaching moment for children? How do you get to the top? Lying! Unfortunately, Moretz is not the only hairball in this mess. This movie comes with a sadly obnoxious Michael Peña, who very much reminded me of his character in the piece of crap people call “Jexi.” Colin Jost and Pallati Sharva play a rather entitled celebrity couple I almost did not even come close to caring about. Ken Jeong is a chef who is weirdly dynamic and I don’t really remember anything else about him or almost anyone in this movie. Granted, it has been a few weeks since I saw “Tom & Jerry,” but it really goes to show how disposable it is.

Let me just be clear. The cast of this movie has talent. I admittedly have not watched a lot of Chloe Grace Moretz’s work, but I can tell she always commits to her craft. And given the little substance this movie offers, she does her best. Michael Peña unfortunately has followed a trend lately where some of the movies he’s been in that I’ve personally seen are not some of his best, and this is one of them. Colin Jost is consistently funny on “Saturday Night Live,” keeping up with the genius of Weekend Update from one episode to the next. Rob Delaney is an actor whose work I need to follow more often, but he was one of the highlights for me in “Deadpool 2” as the powerless Peter. Ken Jeong is a dynamic personality that will take any project that he is in and improve it by just a sliver, even if it is already great! In fact he was in “Over the Moon,” one of the best animations I have ever seen and my favorite film of last year. While these actors have had better days in terms of performances, much of it has to do with bad writing and perhaps just as awful directing. This movie consistently feels like it is doing the bare minimum to keep kids entertained, but not enough for grown-ups to keep themselves from cringing.

Also I want to address a problem with this film that has been bugging me. I say this as someone who has never had a childhood attachment to “Tom & Jerry.” But this film is not about “Tom & Jerry.” If you take “Tom & Jerry” out, you have a slightly different film with more realistic drama and it is completely centered around the human characters, many of whom I did not give a s*it about. My point is, “Tom & Jerry” comes packed in with a couple of the same problems viewers had with the live-action “Transformers” movies, all of which, and this maybe even includes “The Last Knight,” are more entertaining than whatever this piece of crap happens to be! The film centers around “Tom & Jerry,” the iconic duo known from your childhood days watching cartoons, but they shove in all these forced human storylines just for the sake of going, “Bippity boppity boo! Here’s a movie! It’s not completely in shambles!” And those are not the only flaws this movie comes with, because remember, this is a live-action adaptation of a cartoon. Remember “The Smurfs?” This is basically the exact same thing, only it does not go into multiverse bulls*it and transport Tom & Jerry to earth! Now to be fair, unlike the Smurfs, who hail from their own fantastical village, Tom & Jerry come from more realistic environments, so you can say that they’ve always been on earth. But given how the older material usually strays away from complete realism, the comparison is close enough. You have these two imbeciles, they have their life of brawling each other, and to be fair, that part of the source material seems faithful enough. But they are not the center of the story, it’s f*cking Kayla! Whenever Tom & Jerry show up, they cause trouble, create shenanigans, and show that they really don’t like each other, which given things going on in the movie, is kind of a problem. However, they are not the main characters. Sure, their actions occasionally link to one’s successes or downfalls, but the direction they decided to take this movie in not only feels boring, but also repetitive. We’ve seen this weird creature/human interaction thing done before, but not always to positive results. Although I will admit, last year’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” is one of the delightfully positive exceptions.

Movies like this show that not everything translates to film. “Tom & Jerry” works as a series of animated shorts, not as a big blockbuster epic. And I will admit one of the positives of this film is that it actually is somewhat faithful to its source material. The duo come off like their hand-drawn counterparts, and unlike the live-action “Smurfs” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies, they are in 2D and not CGIed to another dimension. And while this is faithful, Tom and Jerry do not talk. I bet this is part of why they put all of these human characters in the film as an attempt to relate to its audience. While there may have been good intentions, they proceeded to bad results. I bring up Tom & Jerry not being able to talk because in a lot of these family movies, you have these characters that are expressive and excited or upbeat. At least communication was not a problem in those other movies. Here, the solution makes for something that lessens a problem, but it still creates another one by making me want to rip my ears and throw them into a trash compactor! Just because this movie comes off looking like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” does not mean it is the next “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.”

In the end, this movie feels like a lazy cash grab, and based on the box office, they certainly happen to be grabbing that cash! “Tom & Jerry” opened to over $14 million domestically, which would be a disappointment by pre-coronavirus standards. But with the current pandemic and Warner Bros. simultaneously releasing new films on HBO Max, that is actually not a bad result. I’m glad the studio is making money, I’m glad the theatres are making money. But I felt like I wasted my money watching this. I felt like I was in a giant mousetrap for the entire runtime! This is a ridiculous, lazy, and uninspired film with some of the worst writing and direction I have seen in recent memory. Some of the fight scenes were entertaining though and I will also leave you with this, there are a couple genuinely funny lines in the film, but sadly I do not even remember them. Save your money, go see “Raya” instead, or find something else to watch on HBO Max. I’m going to give “Tom & Jerry” a 3/10.

I said this to myself before going into “Tom & Jerry,” and that thought has not changed since. I’ve been looking forward a big event featuring two classic characters in the ultimate fight for society. And that fight will be settled… IN “GODZILLA VS. KONG!”

“Tom & Jerry?” I’m sorry, what are you talking about? It was a pass from me before watching the movie, and it is still a pass from me after watching the movie. Although I did see the movie with a friend who admittedly enjoyed himself, so good for him.

“Tom & Jerry” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open and is currently available to watch if you are subscribed to HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.” I saw the film in IMAX a couple weeks ago, but I have not gotten around to review it, kind of like “Tom & Jerry” due to my commitments with the Jackoff Awards. Also coming soon, I will have my thoughts on “Chaos Walking” starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, so look forward to that!

One more thing, awards season is in full swing, and if you have not done so yet, check out the 3rd Annual Jackoff Awards, where one moron awards a ton of movies! Be sure to follow Scene Before with email or WordPress account, also check out the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Tom & Jerry?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons? What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021): A Fine Black Panther Film

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is directed by Shaka King (Newlyweeds, Mulignans) and stars Daniel Kaluuya (Queen & Slim, Black Panther), LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You), Jesse Plemons (Game Night, The Irishman), Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, Project Power), Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Captive State), Darrell Britt-Gibson (20th Century Women, Barry), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Uncle Drew), Algee Smith (Detroit, Earth to Echo), and Martin Sheen (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Departed). This film centers around a time where the Black Panther Party increasingly rose to prominence. When Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) becomes chairman of the organization’s Illinois Chapter, criminal Bill O’Neal, who meets FBI Special Director Roy Mitchell, is assigned to infiltrate the group.

This film is based on true events that took place in the late 1960s. About thirty years before I was even born. Therefore, I have zero recollection on these events other than maybe hearing about them through school and perhaps the Internet. I’ve seen trailers for “Judas and the Black Messiah” multiple times, given how it is a Warner Bros. property and when I went to see films like “Tenet” and “The Little Things” in the theater, this film would be one that comes up. Each and every time I thought a couple things. The cast looked phenomenal, the performances might strike the heart, it might have a couple moments that sound great in a cinema, some of the camerawork looks really good, but as for whether the film would be for me, that was a big question. I say this because even do I do stand by events including the Black Lives Matter movement and many of the positive stories that have been spawned from Black History, I wondered if I, a straight white male, would connect with this film as much as someone who happened to be black. “BlacKkKlansman” was really good, I enjoyed that film quite a bit. And I am not saying I went in expecting to hate the film, because again, I had a relatively positive reaction to the trailers, I just went in wondering what exactly to expect, because not every film is made for the same individual. I mean, when it comes to expectations, I had ideas, but they were almost all over the place.

I walked out of “Judas and the Black Messiah” with some expectations met. The film looks and sounds like the revolutions themselves. Wide, loud, and clear. “Judas and the Black Messiah” has moments of excitement, intensity, and power. Experience-wise, I saw the film in Dolby Cinema, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend you go there, because I do not think it is playing in Dolby Cinema as of now with films like “Tom & Jerry” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” coming out after it. But there is a speech scene in this film, and I think those of you who have seen the film will know precisely what I am talking about, that pulled me into the scene and made me a part of the revolution. It was like I went back into the 1960s.

The absolute highlight of the film is the cast. Between Jesse Plemons, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominque Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah” does not fail to deliver the goods in terms of performances. In fact, the man who may be the highlight of the film, Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Fred Hampton, is wonderfully obnoxious and has one of the most powerful voices I have heard in recent cinema. In fact, in between me watching and reviewing this film, Kaluuya won a Golden Globe for his performance, which I’d say was deserved.

Despite seeing trailers for this film, a small part of me felt like I was going into “Judas and the Black Messiah” rather blind, and I would not say I was disappointed with the film from a story perspective. They took a mighty revolution, made it theatrical, while at the same time, taking a fascinating detective story associated with it and having both elements be executed to a satisfying watch.

By the end of the film, I was on the edge of my seat. Now, I have touched upon various points of Black History in school, but keep in mind, if you have not guessed by now, I have gone to a school with mostly white kids, lived in a town with mostly white people, and mostly learned about white history under the direction of a public education system. So part of me did not really know what was coming at times, and when the movie came to an end, I was rather invested in what was going on.

One problem I had with the film, and this problem has admittedly become a Jack Drees trademark over the past couple years, is the pacing. The pacing is not horrible, but there are certain moments that feel slower than others. Let me just be clear, when it comes to the simultaneous theatrical/HBO Max debuts that have been coming out recently, if you watched “The Little Things” about a month ago and nearly fell asleep, I do not blame you, although I think “Judas and the Black Messiah” is more likely to keep you awake. Let’s move onto my next trademark problem, replay value. One of the advantages for having “Judas and the Black Messiah” on HBO Max while it is also in theaters is that you do not just have the option to watch it from home, but if you watch it at home, you can do so as many times as you want as long as you pay a monthly subscription. I saw the film in the theater, but if I watched it at home, it would be one of those films that I would turn on once, perhaps enjoy while it is on, until the point where I move onto the next thing. Maybe I’ll turn off HBO Max until “Tom & Jerry” pops up.

Nevertheless, these negatives do not imply that “Judas and the Black Messiah” was a waste of time, it just means that there are perhaps other priorities I would make before turning it on again. The performances, the atmosphere, the technical aspects, the direction, all of it is done with precise skill, but I would not watch “Judas and the Black Messiah” strictly for entertainment. Granted, the film is based on a true story, which in itself was not adapted solely for the sake of entertaining people, but telling a relevant piece of history for those who may or may not know about the subject matter.

In the end, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is one of those weird movies that I am into as I’m watching it, but as soon as I leave, part of me forgets just a tad of it every single day. I am not saying it is bad, but there are other films that I would watch first. If I had to compare it to another recent film experience, I’d go with “Dark Waters.” Remember that film from 2019 on the DuPont Scandal? It’s a good film, but it is one I do not think I recall all the way through. “Judas and the Black Messiah” may be worth a second watch, but part of it is because I may want to refresh my memory on what might have faded from the first experience. Do I recommend the film? You betcha. Can I tell you every single thing about it? No. Partially because it has been almost a few weeks since I saw it, and it is one film that I saw and happened to forget about the longer it’s been since watching it. Great performances, stunning vision, I just wish I liked it a little better. I’m going to give “Judas and the Black Messiah” a 7/10.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open, and for the next few days, keep in mind, it is going away soon, you can catch the film exclusively on HBO Max at no extra cost as long as you are subscribed.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the 3rd edition of the most important movie blogging awards ceremony in history, The Jackoff Awards! I am hard at work, making sure all the touches are finished, and much of that hard work will carry over into the next few days, but on Sunday March 14th, it is finally here! You’ll get an all new awards show with nominees, winners, a new edition of Film Improvements, a COVID-themed intro, a monologue, and a big announcement as to where Flicknerd.com will be headed in the future. Stay tuned! Speaking of staying tuned, keep up with my content by following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and liking the official Facebook page! Also, speaking of the Jackoffs, there is STILL TIME if you want to, that you can vote for Best Picture! I selected 10 films to be nominated, only one will win! CLICK RIGHT HERE to make your pick! I want to know, did you see “Judas and the Black Messiah?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch the Golden Globes this past Sunday? Tell me your thoughts on those! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Little Things (2021): Jared Leto Steals the Show and Warner Bros. Almost Steals My Money

“The Little Things” is directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Rookie) and stars Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Night at the Museum), Jared Leto (Blade Runner 2049, Suicide Squad), and Natalie Morales (The Grinder, Dead to Me). This film is about two cops who try to track down a serial killer.

“The Little Things” is the latest film from Warner Bros., the studio that was supposedly set to save theatrical exhibition this summer with “Tenet,” only to have it underperform in various markets and have them simultaneously release a ton of movies, including this one on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. What do I think about that? Well, if things went right, which I will tell you as one who often backs filmmakers, things did not go right, I think this is not only a blow to the movie theater industry, which has already suffered enough over the past year, but also shows that an entire studio can kind of get away with avoiding contractual obligations (like the fact that “Dune” was supposed to be a theatrical exclusive) and go behind clients’ backs. Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins get a ton of money for this deal? What about all those other people responsible? I am not going to deny that there are perks in case you live in a state where theaters are closed, in which case, I am happy you can have the opportunity to watch these movies, but this is one giant double edged sword as an avid supporter of theatrical exhibition.

To avoid making a tangent longer than it needs to be, I will say off the bat, having seen “The Little Things,” this does feel like a film that would have gotten away with being a streaming premiere. Whether it ends up in some theaters or not, it kind of has that “watch at home” feel. This is not an enormous mockery on the film by any means. It’s sort of a mockery, but it is not to say it is entirely terrible, but there are times where it kind of has a television feel. In fact, one of the film’s actors, Jared Leto, happens to agree.

“They think they can just make so much more money with the bigger event movies. They found that for television, if they can do something that’s episodic, then people still enjoy those kinds of stories. I’m not saying they should stop making movies like ‘The Little Things,’ but I do think if you talk about like ‘The Undoing,’ people like to spend more time with those characters. And there’s less stigma going back and forth from television to film.”

While I cannot say I have seen “The Undoing,” Leto seems to have a point.

Although if you want me to be real, “The Little Things” is not that great. Let me start off with the positives however. “The Little Things” is a well-directed and well-cast film. The feel is borderline expansive yet intimate, and it flows all the way through. In fact, all the lead cast members portray their roles with proficiency. However, this film has problems and they too need to be addressed.

People say that art is subjective, therefore film is subjective. Those people are not wrong. My subjective opinion, “The Little Things” is a little boring. I was able to keep my chin up all the way through, but for all I know it may just be my luck. “The Little Things” is one of those films that starts off slow and stays that way for the entire movie. I feel as if I am starting to say this more often than I should but it bears repeating. Slow does not equal bad. Slow is great if it is executed well. Anything can be great if it is executed well. Whoever thought “The LEGO Movie” would work? Not everyone, that is for sure. Guess what? It is my favorite animated film of the 2010s. Anything can work if you know how to deliver on the concept. Sadly for “The Little Things,” the almost snooze-worthy first half allows the movie to fizzle. It does pick up however, and the second half is worth the price of admission. Without going into detail, my favorite parts of the movie is when situations get heavy and we see characters interact with each other in scenarios that could become more tense by the second. The film also kind of gets twisty, and I dig it.

I will state once again, one thing that truly sells “The Little Things” are the performances. Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto are all likable in this film. Denzel Washington has this sort of mellow feel to him. Rami Malek plays a suave-looking detective and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. Malek’s performance here allows him to continue to define himself as an admirable actor. He already has an Academy Award on his shelf for his role in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and while I do not think he will get as much recognition for this performance, Malek’s portrayal tends to reveal that he will continue to commit to his craft.

As much as I like Washington and Malek, who are both talented and reveal themselves as competent in their own rights, the star of the show is Jared Leto. Jared Leto has honestly been a controversial name for me over the past few years, and not necessarily because I hate him, but because his roles have gone from somewhat underwhelming to unbelievably great. He basically went from playing the worst live-action Joker in “Suicide Squad” to encapsulating something beautiful with Niander Wallace in “Blade Runner 2049.” Keeping the latter in mind, I liked Jared Leto in “Blade Runner 2049.” In “The Little Things,” he is another animal. Because this movie presents itself as an opportunity where he can just let himself loose. And it is not like a live-action cartoon or another Jim Carrey or anything, although I do think Carrey would have done the role properly if it were in his hands, it’s just a crazy guy who occasionally says some kooky lines and has these oddball mannerisms. Some of the stuff he says just flies off the tongue and it intrigues me every time. If you plan to watch “The Little Things” this weekend, I will say that if you watch for Rami Malek or Denzel Washington, you might not be disappointed with either of those two, but I think you may want to *stay* for Jared Leto. After seeing his performance here, I am now more curious about “Morbius.” I did not think I would say that. Well done, movie!

In the end, “The Little Things” is solid in some parts, but noticeably dull. There are probably more positives than negatives, and I would not refrain from watching it a second time, but if I had to predict which movie I would be talking about in the most positive light by the end of the year, it would not be this one. There are still reasons to watch it, and it is from a likable director, specifically John Lee Hancock. Have you seen “Saving Mr. Banks?” Watch it! Now! Although it does have a plethora of personal issues to keep me from calling it the next big thing. Just because this is entertaining, does not mean it cannot make you nearly want to fall asleep. I am going to give “The Little Things” a 6/10.

Minor sidenote, the movie also comes with a brand new Warner Bros. logo. We’ve kind of seen teases of it during films like “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984,” but if I am not wrong, “The Little Things” is the first film where we get to see the new standard edition of the revamped logo, and it does not seem to disappoint.

“The Little Things” is available now in theaters and on HBO Max for all subscribers at no extra cost. Get your tickets or subscribe to HBO Max now to enjoy your experience.

Thanks for reading this review! If you are a movie fan like me, you may follow the awards circuit. And now as the Movie Reviewing Moron, I am here to remind you that the circuit is not complete without me throwing my hat into the ring. This March I will be doing my 3rd edition of the Jackoff Awards, this time focusing on 2020 in film. If you want to watch the trailer promoting it, scroll to the end of this post. Speaking of 2020 in film, one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, “Nomadland,” is FINALLY coming to theaters. It was supposed to be in theaters this December, only to get pushed back due to COVID-19, and while it is not going to be fully released until its simultaneous theatrical and Hulu debut on February 19th, “Nomadland” is now playing in select IMAX theaters. And next weekend, one of my local spots is going to be getting this movie. I already got my tickets, and I cannot be more excited. Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account, and check out the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Little Things?” What did you think about it? Or, are you planning to watch the movie in the theater or on HBO Max? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!