“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!
“Wonder Woman 1984” is directed by Patty Jenkins, who also directed the first “Wonder Woman” film starring Gal Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Fast Five) back in 2017. Gadot returns to play the iconic heroine alongside a cast including Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones), Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters), Robin Wright (House of Cards, Forrest Gump), and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, One Hour Photo). This film takes place many years after the original, which was set in World War I. This time, we journey to 1984, where Wonder Woman has to take on two new foes, Max Lord and the Cheetah. Also, Steve Trevor, reprised by Chris Pine, comes along for the ride.
It has been three and a half years since I first watched “Wonder Woman,” which I originally gave a 10/10. By the way, that 10/10 still stands. The film is somewhat cliché. It contains things that have been done before, there is no denying that. But it does so with excellence and in a way that feels fresh and exciting. Plus, you can also add on that we have not had many successes with comic book movies specifically centered around characters portrayed by women. This felt like not just a proper, but a *massive* step in the right direction. It was also my favorite film in the DCEU at the time. In my review for the original film, I go onto mention that when it comes to “origin stories,” “Wonder Woman” may be my all time favorite in regards to movies. Part of it has to do with the singular and stellar vision provided by director Patty Jenkins and all the performances from cast members including Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. The villians were… okay. However, each action sequence, even those that others say are heavy in CGI, are exciting and heart-pumping. I know some people find the final act to be clunky, I had a great time with it. Plus, Wonder Woman’s theme music, which was first introduced in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is arguably my favorite superhero theme of all time. Maybe except the one created for Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man.
Going into “Wonder Woman 1984,” it was hard to imagine that such a movie could surpass the original. However, based on early reviews, it seemed as if such a thing would be possible. After all, we’ve already gotten the been there done that origin story out of the way, if you want to call it that. It was time for something new, innovative. Going in, I already had my expectations blown away. I did not expect Chris Pine to return. Like, literally. At all. Then again, this takes place in a comic book universe where anything is possible. There were also some new things in regards to tech. Not that they haven’t been done before, just not in the original “Wonder Woman,” because this new flick was partially shot on IMAX film. And if you have read a number of my posts, you know I rave about IMAX film. By the way, while the movie is shot in the heavy duty format, there is barely any footage that will expand the frame in IMAX. However, it may be worth the extra few bucks if those theaters are open near you.
But is “Wonder Woman 1984” worth the hype? Absolutely not.
Well! Well! Well! 2020 strikes again! “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a massive disappointment to one of the most anticipated films of the year. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only a step down from the original 2017 film. “Wonder Woman 1984” is not only the worst comic book movie of the year. Yes, more than “Bloodshot” for crying out loud! But it is also the worst entry to DCEU thus far.
Now, let me just get one thing out of the way. I am a straight white male in his early twenties. I am not one of those people that is trying cancel Gal Gadot. After all, I met her in person, I have her autograph, and she is a decent actress. I am also not trying to cancel Patty Jenkins, which the Internet seems to be doing according to many people. If they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3” with these two at the front lines, I am there. Their work on the original film justifies such a thing, and Jenkins is a director that is completely capable of making something magical. In fact, most of the problems of the film do not have to do with how the movie is made. It instead has to do with the pacing, the editing, the way everything plays out, the characters, and the writing. Admittedly, Jenkins is responsible for that last mistake, given how she has a screenplay credit. I don’t know if I should blame her entirely given how she wrote the script with a couple other people, but I should also point out that she did not have a screenplay credit for the previous “Wonder Woman” installment. This time around, Jenkins collaborates with Dave Callaham, who wrote the script for one of last year’s best comedies, “Zombieland: Double Tap.” Also along for the ride is Geoff Johns who has plenty of experience of creating DC content. So, what went wrong? Was there not enough time to draft everything out? Were there so many ideas colliding from three different minds? I don’t know. Patty Jenkins seems very passionate about the Wonder Woman character. In fact, throughout the movie, Jenkins properly visualizes the character as a beacon of hope and inspiration for people, especially women.
This movie starts off pretty great. By the way, for those who want to see the film in IMAX, this is one of the two scenes that were actually filmed in the IMAX format. The scene not only looked articulate and felt immersive, but it may have ended up being the best part of the movie. It is action-packed, exciting, and lets you escape into the world Themyscira. Sadly, the movie kind of blows its load in the first ten minutes. Because it spends time showing you young Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell), progresses to a time where we see a matured Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), and in these initial scenes, the action never stops whether Diana is trying to win an athletic event for herself, or she saves the lives of others. Even so, it does kind of feel like action that does belong in the beginning of a superhero sequel. The main character kicks ass while you get reintroduced to them, and the movie sets a footprint for where the story is going to go. “Wonder Woman 1984” sets up a vibe that fits the title. You see people walking around in eccentric clothing, there’s record stores, CRT television sets, and a multi-story colorful mall. When it comes to the first hour of “Wonder Woman 1984,” these scenes were fine. What wasn’t fine in the first hour is perhaps just about everything else.
What do I mean? Let’s take a moment to talk about the worst “Lord of the Rings” film. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” I’ll be fair. I did have fun with the movie, but one of the worst things about “An Unexpected Journey” was the pacing. This may partially be due to the need to adapt one book into three parts, but the evidence comes in towards the beginning where we see the 13 dwarves coming into Bilbo Baggins’s home. A lot of the screentime almost feels extended and nearly tiresome. There are some decent moments, but it does not always make for a good time. It takes like 45 minutes to an hour to actually get the movie going. With “Wonder Woman 1984,” I got the same feeling. It just took forever to actually get into gear. Mainly because this film feels like a stockpile of exposition. “Batman v. Superman” sort of felt the same way, but I think I had more fun watching that, exposition included, than I did sitting through whatever the hell “Wonder Woman 1984” turned out to be. To add onto that, you have some cringe-worthy lines, less than stellar characters, and a surprisingly boring storyline, part of which includes a role reversal.
Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor in this movie. I will not go into detail of his return, but this was heavily marketed, so if you’re considering this a spoiler, I’m sorry. In the 2017 “Wonder Woman” film, Gal Gadot’s character has to deal with the new sights of earth and learn the normalcies within. To do so, she had the assistance of Steve Trevor along the way. Diana Prince came off occasionally as eccentric, she said certain things that maybe would be better left unsaid, and there’s a montage where she’s trying on unfamiliar apparel. This time around, Diana assists Steve in 1984, because now he’s the fish out of water. Much like the last movie, there is a reversal where Steve is trying on different clothes that defined the 1980s. He occasionally had a fanny pack, “parachute pants,” and so on. That scene kind of entertained me. However, the rest of this storyline was mostly either boring or impractical. There is a scene where Diana and Steve are flying through the sky looking at fireworks. And sure, fireworks are a sight to be seen. There is reason why Disney World charges you your entire blood supply to see them up close. But this movie made me ask if Steve has never actually seen fireworks in his life. The way I viewed the scene made me wonder why he was actually as amazed as he was in those exact moments. Fireworks have been around for a long time. Many years, centuries even! Why is Chris Pine acting like he’s never seen fireworks before?
This movie features a couple respectable actors, you have Pedro Pascal who I liked in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” he’s also in hit TV shows including “Game of Thrones” and “The Mandalorian.” The guy has been certain cores of nerd culture over the years. You also have Kristen Wiig, who I have rather mixed feelings on. I was not a fan of her in the 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot. I don’t think I find her as funny as other people do. But I also am a fan her in other regards. I think she did a fine job in “The Martian” and her voiceover work in projects like “Sausage Party” and the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise are highlights in her career. Sadly, their performances are very on and off here. I would not ease myself into saying that the actors themselves are specifically at fault, but these two portray their characters to a degree that feels cartoony and off-putting. “Wonder Woman 1984” gets into the problem that people have criticized movies like “Batman & Robin,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for realizing. MULTIPLE MAJOR THREATS.
I am not saying you cannot make a movie with more than one villain. It has been done before with “Return of the Jedi,” “The Dark Knight,” and if you really think this counts, “Back to the Future Part II.” But the beauty of having one major threat in your movie is that you get to make them the source of everyone’s struggle. Time is taken to specifically focus on that one character and why they must stopped. We somewhat get that in “Wonder Woman 1984” with Max Lord (Pascal), but when it comes to Barbara Minerva (Wiig), the way she is handled is sort of similar to how they handled Eddie Brock in “Spider-Man 3.” Only thing is, I was actually entertained whenever Eddie Brock had a scene in “Spider-Man 3.” Topher Grace played the part well, even during lines that were not up to par. Wiig tries, but the problem is that some of the writing in “Wonder Woman 1984” makes some of the writing in “Spider-Man 3” look like Shakespeare. Maybe that’s not the best comparison, mainly because I am one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed “Spider-Man 3.” However, there are a few lines and storytelling methods in that film that do not fall into place.
But if you want me to compare “Wonder Woman 1984” to another film I did not enjoy, let’s use “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” In that film, you have Electro and the Green Goblin. There’s also the Rhino, but we’re gonna leave him out for this. The two major threats in “Wonder Woman 1984” are basically just like Electro and the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but instead of being exact carbon copies, they take various qualities of each character, but they are switched around to make something new. Like Electro, Barbara is eccentric, kind of shy, almost a nobody. But kind of like the Green Goblin, she barely has any screentime as Cheetah. And whatever screentime there is almost feels forced or nearly unmemorable. As for Max Lord, he’s got funky hair like Harry Osborn, he’s affiliated with a big company. And like Electro, he has a more significant screen presence when it comes to dealing with our main hero. This all adds up to an underwhelming evil duo in an underwhelming movie. But I do have to say one thing about Max Lord, and it kind of turned me off. He’s basically Donald Trump.
Think about it! This movie is painting a picture of an obsessive, failed businessman and kinda sorta television personality who has little time for their kids. In fact, my first impression of his son was that he was sort of a spoiled brat, which does not always seem to stick for the rest of the movie. Again, the hairstyle feels like something out of a meme. There is even a scene, and you saw this in the main trailer for this film, where he stands in front of a background representing the White House Press Room! Granted, having compared Pedro Pascal to his comic book counterpart, the casting and makeup departments did a good job at being faithful to the source material. But knowing that this was made in the late 2010s, and originally supposed to release in 2019, I could not help but make this comparison. And part of why I did not like this is because, and this may be a personal thing, it slightly ruined the escapism factor of the film. I’m not going to say whether I like Donald Trump, whether I dislike him. I am not here to get into politics. But Max Lord in “Wonder Woman 1984” feels like a Trump parody. The makeup department could have easily sprayed orange spray paint onto Pascal’s face and boom! Donald Trump impersonation!
I will say, there is one thing about “Wonder Woman 1984” that could be an improvement over the first one, and that is Gal Gadot’s performance. Gal Gadot, as much as I adore her as a person, as good-looking as she is, is not Meryl Streep. When it comes to “Wonder Woman,” she’s always looked the part, and she’s had good moments since her inception. Even though her character was the best part of “Batman v. Superman” for me, her acting ability was a far cry from what I saw out of Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill or Laurence Fishburne. When she shows up alongside the two titular characters in “Batman v. Superman,” she comes off as a badass, but there’s a line that she releases out of her mouth that feels like a first take. In “Wonder Woman 1984,” Gal Gadot has a commanding presence, she is charismatic, she is emotional, and occasionally witty. I liked Gadot’s performance in the original “Wonder Woman” because she did a good job at interpreting a goddess who has to adapt to a new normal, embracing the ups and downs along the way. But there were also signs that Gadot needed to work more on her craft and do a little more than be a pretty face in armor who can say words here and there. I will admit, her acting towards the end of “Wonder Woman” occasionally gave me chills, but I could tell that there was still work that needed to be done. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a sign that Gal Gadot is getting better, she deals with dialogue better than she used to, and her range is improving. I am looking forward to seeing Gal Gadot in “Death on the Nile” and if they come out with a “Wonder Woman 3,” count me in.
Gal Gadot’s performance is not the only positive here, because I will admit, even though I think Patty Jenkins and the other writers could have done a better job with the screenplay, she did alright with crafting the film. When it comes to her vision, I do not think it was as well represented as the original, but a crappy script can make that happen. Some of the cinematography is marvelous to look at. The visuals are just as good as the original film. Many scenes felt big and grand, and while I imagine some people will stick to watching “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max for now, if you feel safe going to a theater right now, do not rule that option out. There are some cool scenes that look great on the big screen. Speaking of things that feel grand, they got Hans Zimmer to do the score, which I was onboard with from the beginning. I saw the first few minutes of “Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, and from that moment, I was excited to hear the rest of the score, and it is really good. There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman has one of the best themes for an on-screen superhero, and I am glad that Zimmer got to work his magic to carry out his singular vision regarding it. I will likely listen to the soundtrack sometime in the future. The film had a passable ending. Granted there was some cringe surrounding it, but it good parts.
Too bad the movie’s boring, forgettable, and another big blow in 2020. F*ck. This. Year.
In the end, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a visually grand mess. Am I looking forward to what Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot have in store in the future? Yes. But does my anticipation take away from my thoughts on “Wonder Woman 1984?” No. I think “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic misstep of a film. And the worst part is that it was not worth all the waits from the delays. I’ll be honest, and some of you may find this surprising, I would rather watch the live-action version of Disney’s “Mulan” again! Just to paint a picture of how much I did not like this film, let me just boil it down to a simple sentence. I did not have fun. Ironically, 2017’s “Wonder Woman” took place in World War I, where people are fighting, people are dying, times are desperate, but I managed to have fun. This sequel takes place in 1984. In real life, that year was much more lighthearted, at least from the perspective of the United States. Yes, there was the War on Drugs. AIDS broke out. Indira Gandhi was murdered. But there were plenty of big songs and movies that came out like “Jump” by Van Halen or “Ghostbusters.” People were having fun! “Wonder Woman 1984” manages to take a time that is significantly more fun than World War I, and makes it the most boring thing imaginable. The action sequences don’t save this movie. Gal Gadot’s improved performance doesn’t save this movie. A couple new and talented faces do not even save this travesty. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a gigantic disappointment, the worst film in the Detective Comics Extended Universe, and I am going to give it a 3/10.
“Wonder Woman 1984” is now playing in theaters wherever they are open. Due to the lockdown in the United Kingdom, the movie will debut on January 13th, 2021 on PVOD. If you live in the United States, you can also watch the film right now on HBO Max if you are a subscriber and it is available at no extra cost until the near end of January 2021, where it will finish it’s theatrical release, go to PVOD for a price, likely hit store shelves through DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually return to HBO and HBO Max sometime next year.
Thanks for reading this review! Who knew that in the SAME WEEKEND, we would get my least favorite Pixar film, and now, and perhaps on a more significant scale, my least favorite DCEU film! This year has kicked my ass, called me names, and made me eat dirt. We are approaching the end of 2020, THANK HEAVENS. So it is almost time for me to post my top 10 BEST movies of 2020 and my top 10 WORST movies of 2020. That will be up sometime early next year and I may have one or two more reviews coming your way if I can fit them in. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Wonder Woman 1984?” What did you think about it? Also, did you watch the movie in the theater? At home? Or both? Tell me about your experience! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
CORRECTION: When I said, “There was a scene where I was completely taken out of the movie and I almost did not care about what would happen, but the one saving grace in that moment was the music composed by Hans Zimmer,” I was wrong. Turns out the music in that scene was Adagio in D Minor, originally composed by John Murphy for the film “Sunshine,” which has been used in several marketing pieces for “Ready Player One,” the “2010 Winter Olympics,” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” I will not spoil where it plays for those who have not seen the movie.
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! As of right now, I am working on a couple reviews for Scene Before, but I had to make this because it is too important of a topic to ignore. But before we get on with this, I have two new reviews coming soon. My first review will be for “The Last Vermeer,” starring Guy Pearce which is in theaters now. Also, I will be reviewing “Half Brothers,” which opens this weekend. I saw the film early, so look forward to my reviews on those two films.
One of the few streaming services I have chosen to invest time and money into is AT&T’s HBO Max. Said investment has been… okay. Despite a decent lineup, things did not get off to a great start. But when I saw one of the service’s first exclusive films, “An American Pickle,” I could tell that movie-wise, this service had potential.
Although one hint of news that shocked the world back in November is that “Wonder Woman 1984” would come out this Christmas both in theaters and HBO Max at no additional cost to subscribers. While I would have loved for this film to get a traditional theatrical run, where it joins HBO Max a little less than a year after its release, I am personally glad we are getting the film to begin with, and that it is going to theaters at all. In a year where every other blockbuster aside from “Tenet” got delayed, it is nice to see a true experiential film come to the big screen wherever these screens are open. I was fine with this, because a lot of people are going to stay home for Christmas because they might think it is safe from bad weather and conditions, not to mention COVID-19, but you also have families and individuals who may want an excuse to leave the house. In fact, I’m a part of one of those families, because I already scored IMAX tickets to see “Wonder Woman 1984” with my father and sister on December 27th, two days after Christmas. There is no way that this new technique will stop me from going to the theater.
But now… We have an expansion of this idea.
What was going to be a one-time thing, is now going to be a repeated effort. Because throughout 2021, the entire Warner Brothers lineup will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day. Now, keep in mind, if you plan to watch these movies on HBO Max, read the fine print.
These films, and this also includes “Wonder Woman 1984,” will stream on HBO Max for 31 days after its debut, at which point it disappears, finishes its run in theaters, goes to PVOD and physical media, and eventually returns to HBO Max and related channels. So just because these movies will come to HBO Max, does not automatically mean they will stay on HBO Max. Also, like “Wonder Woman 1984,” the Warner Bros. 2021 films will not supply an additional charge. If you are a subscriber, you do not have to pay extra.
Again, this is for the entire 2021 lineup, so this is a lot of films. Part of the list includes “Tom & Jerry,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Matrix 4,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune.”
A lot of people who follow the industry claim that this is the nail in the coffin for movie theaters. As one who unapologetically loves the movie theater industry, that is a sentiment I have never wanted to hear. It is still only hours after this news, it is not even a full day yet, but I have had some time to gather my thoughts on this.
There is a part of me that absolutely loves this idea, and there’s a part of me that absolutely hates this idea. But just like certain events in “Tenet,” this full love or hate has not happened yet. Right now, my mind is MOST LIKELY somewhere in the middle.
For starters, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Whether you believe it or not, it is the truth. Yes, I continue to go to the movie theater during a pandemic. Some people may question why I do that. That is a personal choice, and I will say that if I were not doing this blog, I may not stop going, but I’d probably go less. But for those people who want to stay home, they have likely been in front of their television for extended periods watching content like “Tiger King,” “The Boys,” “Raised by Wolves,” “The Mandalorian,” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” There have been several television programs watched throughout this pandemic, because people have been stuck at home in need of something to do. There has been plenty of television, but the same cannot be said for movies. Early on we got animations like “Trolls: World Tour” and “Scoob!” on premium video on demand services. These were serviceable options for families. And yes, we’ve gotten more options like “The Witches” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” but if you looked at the 2020 cinematic calendar pre-pandemic, you’d know that these two films probably would not crack the top 10 biggest films of 2020 list. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a perfect example of a big movie that will reach a wide audience. Comic book fans, families, women, and people who want to gaze at Gal Gadot for a couple hours. Admit it, come on.
You know you love her.
It’s Christmastime, families are together, even if it is in smaller groups, and they might want something to do. This is a great idea for consumer choice. If you want to stay home, or if regulations require you to remain at home, HBO Max is a great idea. Otherwise, it would not be a bad idea to experience “Wonder Woman 1984” the way in which director Patty Jenkins likely intended.
One reality that is becoming increasingly likely is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding COVID-19. The answer as to when precisely the COVID-19 pandemic will end is a different story. We already have multiple vaccine candidates from outlets including Pfizer and Moderna. As to when they will be distributed to everyone, that is a mystery. Cases around the world are spiraling out of control, and humanity’s habits over the winter will likely determine whether we see a sharp increase or decrease in cases and deaths. So in a way, I understand Warner Brothers for wanting to cater to all markets at this time. But at this point, I think they are putting a lot of eggs into the HBO Max basket, and I honestly wonder if their investment will pay off. Having “Wonder Woman 1984” on the HBO Max service is a great way to get a bunch of new subscribers, and having new big movies every other week will only keep said subscriber base growing. However, this is only me theorizing at this point, because we have not seen how “Wonder Woman 1984” has done yet. Because I believe it is inevitable that “Wonder Woman 1984” will make less money at the box office than its predecessor. But how much less is another question. I do believe it will make at least $100 million worldwide. There are enough theaters open to warrant such returns, even with major areas such as Los Angeles county in California unlikely to fully reopen anytime soon. Despite how some will claim that “Tenet” is a movie *made for theaters*, which having seen it, it definitely is, “Wonder Woman 1984” is likely going to reach a wider demographic.
I should also point out, that even if the movie does not do well in the United States for whatever reason, not every country has HBO Max, so that might prompt more people to go the theater. But let’s talk about that. Because when this unprecedented release idea was announced solely for “Wonder Woman 1984,” chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark announced they were onboard. This is despite some outrage at a deal made earlier this year between AMC and Universal Pictures that allow their movies to play within a shortened theatrical window, at which point they make an early streaming debut.
Guess what? AMC does not approve. Here’s some words from the current CEO of AMC Theatres, Adam Aron.
“These coronavirus-impacted times are uncharted waters for all of us, which is why AMC signed on to an HBO Max exception to customary practices for one film only, Wonder Woman 1984, being released by Warner Brothers at Christmas when the pandemic appears that it will be at its height. However, Warner now hopes to do this for all their 2021 theatrical movies, despite the likelihood that with vaccines right around the corner the theatre business is expected to recover. Clearly, Warner Media intends to sacrifice a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division, and that of its production partners and filmmakers, to subsidize its HBO Max start up. As for AMC, we will do all in our power to ensure that Warner does not do so at our expense. We will aggressively pursue economic terms that preserve our business.
We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialogue with the leadership of Warner on this subject. As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand. So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theatres without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.“
Just to remind you, this is the same company that less than half a year ago made an asinine deal allowing Universal to avoid following the 90 day theatrical window. And sure, this deal may work right now with everything going on, but if we are to return to normalcy, this may not be finest policy to put in place. At this point I applaud AMC because not only does this go against the terms of the deal they made, but this new deal could take away a lot of money that could potentially go towards ticket sales that benefit both the studio and the theater to a degree. This will take away sales on concessions like popcorn and soda, which is where cinemas typically make their profits. In a way, I am a bit infuriated that despite Warnermedia’s previously announced commitment to theaters, they are more concerned about getting numbers on HBO Max.
And I get it, HBO Max, while its launch was not a complete failure, said launch was not necessarily a success either. The service was a bit laggy, they could not get the “Friends” reunion going, in fact they still have not been able to. I’ll also mention that it started off without being available on two of the main platforms, Amazon Fire and Roku, which by the way, IT IS STILL NOT AVAILABLE ON ROKU! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! GET A DEAL STRAIGHTENED OUT! I do not use Roku that much, but a lot of people do! Do the deal for them!
Right now, HBO Max has 38 million subscribers. While that is more than Hulu and Peacock, it is significantly less than Disney+, which honestly shocks me to no end. Because all Disney+ has done for main content since launch is “The Mandalorian” and almost nothing else! Right now, Disney+, which has turned a year old recently, has 73.7 million subscribers. One thing HBO Max has been doing right is delivering a bunch of new content both from the HBO channel and Max’s personal library. Apparently that might not be enough. Maybe bringing big movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” is going to help the service get a boost. Plus, unlike Disney’s previous effort with “Mulan,” HBO Max will not charge $29.99 to watch the film.
In the short term, increased subscriptions sound amazing. Bigger followings are always better. And while it is highly unlikely that “Wonder Woman 1984” will make $1 billion at the box office, imagine if this sticks around. Do you think we will ever see a billion dollar film ever again? I almost wonder if we’ll even see a film make half as much as that. This may start a slippery slope where movies are cheapened and less experiential. In a way, they become more like television. In this supposed future, movies are not made for theaters, they’re made for home. To me, movies are experiences. Some of my most iconic memories have been through watching movies at the theater, and even though I can have fun watching a movie at home, the experience of doing so will likely fail to have a lasting impact. I may have dreaded every moment of watching “The Emoji Movie” in a theater, but at least some of the other people’s reactions were something to remember it by. I now get to remember just how much I hated that movie. Another good example, “Ghostbusters” 2016. I despise that film. More than most films if I have to be quite honest. But the 3D was incredible and even though the film itself was terrible, I at least still have the memory of going. If we have a future where all Warner Bros. movies go to HBO Max, we may simultaneously have a future where we watch one movie, digest it, then forget about it until we move onto the next thing.
So now I ask the big question, does this equate to the death of movie theaters? I cannot say yes. But I also cannot say no. I’ll bring in the overused phrase, it’s 2020, anything can happen. But more importantly, I do not know whether Warner Bros. is going to stick to this plan. After all, when the biggest movie theater chain in the United States arrogantly refuses these terms, that may be a sign that Warner Bros. may want to reconsider their actions.
Also, let me just say on a personal note, that one of my biggest aspirations in my life is to make a film for everyone to see together on the big screen. Either as a writer, director, producer, or a combination of those things. With an uncertain future ahead, if more people continue to stay home, and there is a greater studio effort to do duel releases or skip theaters, my dream may be dead. This is a personal aspiration, but I thought I would let you all know. The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled a lot. But I outright refuse to let it cancel my dreams.
But hey, if this new deal potentially means less people in theaters… That means less morons on their phones! There’s a silver lining to everything!
Let me be frank here, of all the studios operating today, Warner Brothers is arguably my favorite. When it comes to their older content, their library is enormous, while also maintaining a sense of quality. They have a steady relationship with some talented directors including Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins, Zack Snyder, and Todd Phillips. They own some of my favorite properties such as the DC Comics library, the LEGO movies, the “Lord of the Rings” saga, and “The Matrix.” Another reason why I love them is because they have shown they are committed to the theatrical experience, and when this pandemic started, I got a sense that they wanted to keep things the way they were when we had a return to normal, or at least a semblance of that.
Just because I unapologetically adore Warner Brothers, does not mean I cannot be honest. This HBO Max move is kind of scary. Movie theaters have shown they have taken enough pain in the last number of months. I see a recovery in 2021, but there is also a chance that the results of this deal, if it continues, could be cataclysmic for the exhibition industry. This eliminates many jobs, ends livelihoods, and destroys the fabric of many communities. I would love to see a future where moviegoing returns and we can enjoy it the way we did in 2019, but I do not think we can get there if we put a bunch of big movies onto streaming, even if they are in theaters. Admittedly, this is better than what Disney+ is doing with “Soul,” which is making it an exclusive on their service and nowhere else, but it is still kind of frightening as one who hopes to make movies one day.
Movies are not dead, nor are cinemas. But we live in a world where people are itching to get back to concerts, comedy clubs, and sporting events. If we can get those back with enough positive progress, I hope we can do the same for the moviegoing experience. When I saw “Wonder Woman” at a local AMC cinema back on opening Thursday in 2017, I was floored by the fact that Gal Gadot was able to carry such a big, epic, and most importantly, theatrical adventure from start to finish. That memory will stay with me until the end of time, and as we approach “Wonder Woman 1984,” I hope I will have an experience similar to three years ago, and I hope other viewers will get a significant feeling out of their experience as well.
Thanks for reading this post! By the way, just a reminder that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be available on HBO Max for free as long as you’re subscribed starting Christmas Day. However, if you want to leave the house, the film will be available wherever theaters are open. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, what are your thoughts on the HBO Max and theatrical duel release idea for the entirety of Warner Brothers’ 2021 lineup? Mine are quite mixed, but I am also curious to see how “Wonder Woman 1984” will do on HBO Max and the box office, as it may play a factor into making up my mind. Are you planning to watch “Wonder Woman 1984?” If so, where? At home? At the cinema? If you are watching at the cinema, which one are you going to? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Superintelligence” is directed by Ben Falcone (Life of the Party, Tammy) and stars Melissa McCarthy (Ghostbusters, The Kitchen), Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire, Will & Grace), Brian Tyree Henry (Vice Principals, Atlanta), and James Corden (The Emoji Movie, The Late Late Show with James Corden). This film centers around a former corporate executive named Carol Peters, who is chosen to be studied by a Superintelligence. When this Superintelligence conflicts itself over whether it should enslave, destroy, or save humanity, Carol must convince the A.I. that people are worth saving.
“Superintelligence” comes from the same husband and wife team that brought us 2018’s s*itshow, “Life of the Party.” That ended up receiving a 1/10 from me, ended up being my #1 worst film of 2018, and officially earned the #10 spot on my Worst 25 list on my Top Movies of the 2010s countdown event. Safe to say, when I heard these two were going to collaborate on another movie, I think many of my brain cells began a civil battle to see which ones would survive by the time this movie comes out.
Another stinger, and part of this is due to the pandemic, but I will address it anyway, is that “Superintelligence” is skipping theaters and going straight to HBO Max. Before COVID-19 hit, when a movie typically chooses to ditch theaters and go straight to streaming such as “The Cloverfield Paradox” and “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle,” the results have not always been positive. Thankfully, due to the pandemic, we have seen some distributors sell rights of their movies to streamers and it has occasionally worked out. Some are calling “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” which was sold by Paramount to Prime Video, one of the funniest movies of the year. Sony sold “An American Pickle” to HBO Max, which ended up receiving positive reviews.
The unfortunate thing however when it comes to this HBO Max deal is that the distributor of the movie is owned by the same conglomerate who has their hands tied to HBO Max, AT&T, which owns Warnermedia, which oversees Warner Brothers. So far, Warner Brothers already has dumped one of their movies onto HBO Max, “The Witches,” which ended up being one of the worst films directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Now who knows what would have happened? If “Superintelligence” was in theaters, chances are it would have made nowhere near enough money to turn a profit. But I imagine part of why Warner Bros. is putting “Superintelligence” on HBO Max is because it is being dumped on there. While Melissa McCarthy is a big name, Ben Falcone has never made a critically positive film when he sat in the director’s chair.
All of this just so happens to be my thoughts before the movie. So, what are my thoughts after the movie?
I would have probably have gotten ten times the satisfaction out of eating paper instead of watching “Superintelligence!” I cannot even fathom how this movie came to be. In my imagination, I feel like the only reasons why this movie exists to begin with is because it allows Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone to spend more time together. Plus, Falcone has already directed a few movies for Warner Brothers, so why not let him whip up another piece of s*it?!
I almost have no words.
Every time I write a sentence to give a description on what I thought about this movie, my brain just switches off! I cannot remember the last time I was this infuriated about a film. This is honestly just as bad as any of the “Sharknado” movies. Who do I blame here? The director? The producers? Maybe 2020? This is honestly the movie equivalent to finding out your computer has been smashed, the enter key is broken, and all your data has been wiped! Oh, and top of that, your computer has a f*cking virus! Time to call tech support.
I think my previous analogy fits quite well here, specifically the one about my brain cells fighting a civil war. It’s almost as if throughout the runtime of the movie, my brain cells engaged in a fight to the death, all until one cell remained, and now my brain cannot do anything about it!
I don’t even know where to start with this thing! There are some movies that I have reviewed that are bad to the point where I cannot stand them. This is one that I would never be able to watch again even if James Corden popped through the screen, came out, reached into his pockets, and slapped me in the face with a ton of cash shouting, “Jack! I will give you $100 million! All you have to do is watch ‘Superintelligence’ from start to finish.”
Speaking of James Corden, I have to ask, WHO APPROVES OF HIS FILM CHOICES? Does he have an agent? Does he get to pick the roles himself? Because in recent years he’s been in “Norm of the North,” “The Emoji Movie,” “Yesterday,” and f*cking “Cats!” WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Was John Oliver unavailable? Was Conan O’Brien too expensive? Was Seth Meyers too busy hanging with writers coming up with creative ideas for Donald Trump jokes?
For the record, James Corden plays the Super Intelligence, the A.I. that chooses to study Carol of all people. Conceptually, his link with Carol brought some good ideas to the table. Unfortunately, they were brought into to shoddy-ass wreck of a time that I will never be able to get back. The A.I. manages to allow Carol to live her wildest dreams, and in a way, this movie sort of resembles that be careful what you wish for type of story. Except that instead of wishing, everything is just given to Carol. This may be the biggest weakness of the film, and that’s because it goes against the traditional storytelling idea that the protagonist is the center of the story.
Now I know that the film is called “Superintelligence,” and it is partially about an A.I.’s indecision on what to do with humanity. However, a good portion of the movie dedicates itself to our protagonist barely earning anything. If anything, Carol is forced to go through with protocol after protocol, whether she likes it or not. Of all the protagonists I have seen in 2020’s cinematic calendar, I could make a convincing argument that Carol Peters may be the worst of the bunch.
And this would be fine if the movie were funny, or at least convincing! But it’s neither of those things. It is anger-inducing and awkward! That is all! Oddly enough, even though Ben Falcone wrote the other Melissa McCarthy-centric films he directed, he did not write “Superintelligence.” Instead, that dishonor goes to Steve Mallory, who co-wrote “The Boss” with Falcone. “Superintelligence” is the first feature Mallory wrote without assistance, so I will do my best to acknowledge Mallory could have a bright future ahead. But this script belongs in one place. Inside the software waiting for further edits. That’s it.
Not all movies are created equal, but this movie really needed some preplanning. Maybe there was plenty of preplanning that did not work out, but this movie felt rushed while also being lazy. Carol is uninteresting, awkward, and unfortunately for the audience, not funny. In fact, part of what makes this a reality is that a good portion of the comedy is boring Melissa McCarthy schtick. She might get angry on one occasion or another, she’ll go on with something for a long time, and of course, she falls.
Over the history of storytelling, I cared about protagonists not only because of their desires, which Carol has plenty of, but their willingness to take steps to their goal. Romeo Montague immediately went up to Juliet Capulet to express how he feels about her. Charlie Bucket bought a chocolate bar for a chance at a golden ticket. Luke Skywalker joined Obi-Wan to learn the ways of the force. The problem with Carol Peters is that so much is handed to her in the early stages of the film. She gets a lot of money, a penthouse, a Tesla, and she does end up doing things here and there to move the plot along. But the film burns out as it progresses, kind of like my single-cell brain. AGH! WHAT IS GOING ON WITH MY BRAIN?!
Did I mention that almost every joke in this film failed to impress me? In fact, there were one or two moments where a character would do something, and someone else makes a remark signifying they find the moment funny. Guys! Your universe sucks! What do these people find to be the funniest show on television? Static? Because I can assure that the first genuine laugh of any kind that I had during “Superintelligence” came in around the 44 minute mark.
If I had to compare “Superintelligence” to any other movie, it would have to be “Jexi” starring Adam DeVine. For those of you who have not seen “Jexi,” it follows a man who works for a Buzzfeed-like company. He’s obsessed with his phone, and when he gets a new phone, it basically takes over all aspects of his life. Aside from being a journey through his life, love, and so on, the center of it all is a rivalry between the main character and his phone, or more specifically, the virtual assistant on his phone. Much like this movie, it has a script that makes me want to shove needles in my eyes! It’s an abomination! However, the romance in that movie is handled much better compared to “Superintelligence.”
If this movie tried harder to formulate a more likable protagonist, maybe center the story around what SHE does a little more than the supercomputer’s motives, if possible, this could be slightly more tolerable. For all I know, this movie also could have worked better as a drama, because one of the worst parts of the movie are the attempts at humor. They’re either forced, awkward, or both at once! I screamed at my television countless times whenever someone did something dumb, someone said something dumb, or the movie treated me like I was dumb. That’s what this movie should be called! Not “Superintelligence,” but “Super Dumb!”
Maybe if “Superintelligence” were written as a drama, it could be the next “Terminator” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Maybe even if it had a different director, or lead actor, maybe even a new writer. This is an idea that could work if it were massively revamped. Instead, we get whatever the f*ck “Jexi” is! I’m surprised I still remember that movie existed!
When I stop caring before the halfway point of the film, that is an enormously epic fail. I don’t know what else I can say except that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone need to get their s*it together. I have “Tammy” and “The Boss” on Blu-ray. I have not seen either of them. But after watching “Life of the Party” and “Superintelligence,” I think I might have to consider passing on those two movies.
There are several movies that I have watched over the years that are unashamedly goofy. Movies like “Anchorman,” “Elf,” or “Game Night.” But these movies are consistent with their vibe and translate to an instant good time. “Superintelligence” hurdles with world-ending events, serious government s*it, romance, and goofiness. Sadly, it cannot even get a single aspect down to a science.
In the end, “Superintelligence” is arguably in my top 10, maybe even top 5 worst comedies ever made. Throughout a great portion of this review, I had trouble formulating even a single sentence. Some movies are too good for words, others are so bad you do not have any words. This movie was so intolerable I lost my brain to process whether I could come up with words. Since I cannot come up with words, I’ll use numbers. If this movie were to associate with any number in the world, it would be the number 2. And speaking of numbers, I am going to give “Superintelligence” a 1/10.
Fun fact, there is only one other movie that I have seen this year that I have officially given a 1/10 to, and that is “The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.” That film is directed by Daniel Farrands, who also directed “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.” That ended up being my worst film of 2019. In 2018, I saw “Life of the Party,” which became the worst film of that year. Guess who directed that film? Ben Falcone! So far, the only 1/10 movies in 2020 are from directors who held projects that went on to be the worst movies of their particular year on Scene Before. That is honestly heartbreaking! Not just for the crew who made those movies, but as a viewer, I do my best to have even the slightest of optimism for a movie. So what should I expect? Are these two going to improve their craft anytime soon?
I am almost curious to watch “Tammy” and “The Boss” to see what else Falcone has up his sleeve. But at the same time, 2020 has taken so much of my sanity that I do not know how much more I am willing to sacrifice. This has easily been the worst year for movies. While there have been plenty of decent titles, the bad ones TRULY stood out. I cannot wait for this year to be over, and last but not least, avoid “Superintelligence” at all costs!
“Superintelligence” is now available on HBO Max. Watch it if you dare, but if you want my recommendation for something to watch on HBO Max, just watch “Harley Quinn” instead. That show kicks butt!
Thanks for reading this review! I would love to tell you what my next review is, but this current review has hurt my head so much that I cannot even think about what I will have for dinner tonight. So my next post is… Something. We’ll just have to find out what exactly that something is. I… Can’t even believe I survived to watch this movie. F*ck 2020, f*ck it to Hell and back! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Superintelligence?” What did you think about it? Or, of the Ben Falcone-directed movies starring Melissa McCarthy, which is your favorite? Given the track record between these two, I doubt this question is a reflection of quality. But I figured I’d ask it anyway. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Witches” is directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, The Walk) and stars Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Gifted), and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Transformers: Age of Extinction). This film is based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name and follows a young boy and his mother as they stay in a hotel together. One thing leads to another, and the boy finds out the witches’ plan to turn children into mice. From here, we have the main groundwork to let the rest of the movie unfold.
Not only is this movie based on a classic children’s book from Roald Dahl, but to my lack of knowledge, “The Witches” was made into a movie once before. I had no idea that this was true, but there was a 1990 adaptation of the film directed by Nicolas Roeg. I had no idea this movie existed, but here we are. But growing up with Roald Dahl, I cannot say that I am all that surprised. “The Witches” was never a book I was particularly interested in. I imagine I picked it up once or twice for a couple quick glances, but not once have I read it all the way through. Books like “The BFG” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were of higher interest to me when I was younger. Unlike when I watched the 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for the first time, where I had the original book and 1971 adaptation in my memory, I don’t really have anything to compare “The Witches” to. I cannot say the book’s better, because I have not read it. I cannot say the 1990 adaptation was better, because I have not seen it. But what can I say about the 2020 adaptation of “The Witches?”
It’s not great. Really not that great.
This movie, particularly in the United States, was supposed to hit theaters, but due to a change of plans, it became a direct to HBO Max exclusive. Other than a few scenes that are visually wild, I can see why this went straight to streaming. Because the reality is that the script for this film is kind of bland. At times it’s a little stiff. I know that one major audience for “The Witches” happens to be children, and I will say that in this movie’s favor, there are some scenes that would give me heebie-jeebies at a younger age. That’s not the problem, because this movie is occasionally suspenseful and haunting. The problem is that this movie feels like it occasionally talks down to them. I’ve seen it done worse in a few other movies, but nevertheless. I don’t know who to blame here. Again, I have not read the book. Maybe this script was incredibly faithful to the source material, which can work as a compliment in many instances, but books are books, and movies are movies. They’re different mediums and sometimes everything in a book does not always translate to film.
One of my other big complaints about this film regards its pacing. I often talk about pacing as a complaint because when a movie moves too slow, it occasionally bores me. Thankfully, this movie is not as boring as some others I have seen. Boredom was not achieved. My problem, and this may be seen as a compliment by some people, is that this movie moves very fast. This film wastes no time whatsoever in getting from point A to point B, but I really would have preferred one or two moments where I could breathe. But that’s also probably because of the earlier complaint where this film overembellishes everything for the audience. There’s a whole elongated scene where Anne Hathaway’s character is exposes her plan to turn children into mice and squash them. It takes forever, but somehow it feels like by the end of the scene, only a few moments have passed. It almost feels like that if the movie did not extend itself unnecessarily, it could have been five to ten minutes shorter, maybe even fifteen. I could be wrong. This is arguably the weirdest complaint I’ve had for a film all year, but it stands. Runtime does not always matter, it’s what you do with it. And here, I think they’ve just wasted some of my time.
This is not to say the film’s all bad. I will say that one of the advantages of this film, especially compared to almost everything else in 2020’s slate, is that it looks quite attractive to the eye. The production design is quirky, and much like some other Dahl adaptations, this movie occasionally felt larger than life. For the record, this movie did release in theaters internationally, so they get the benefit of the theatrical experience. If you live in the United States, watch on the biggest home screen you can. For a movie aimed at families and children, this does look like something that would fit in that realm. This is live-action, but it’s colorful and poppy at the same time. Some of the effects, specifically where we see one of the witches sniffing like a maniac, is a little over the top, but other than that, they fit the movie in terms of tone.
One area where I am continuously conflicted is Anne Hathaway. Now, I adore Anne Hathaway. She’s in some of my favorite movies, she has talent, and I will point out that I can tell she gave it her all here. But the way her character is presented is very hit and miss. Again, this is part of the overembellishing problem with this film. I get she’s a witch, I get she’s evil. But at times, she reminded me of a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from 1997’s “Batman & Robin.”
“What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!”
I will say that per usual, Octavia Spencer is quite charming. She was a good fit for her role, and while I will probably not remember the movie all that much, her chemistry with her son was decent. Not the best I have seen, but decent. Speaking of which, the son character is played by Jahzir Bruno. The cast lists his character’s name as “Hero Boy.” What a name… Is this… A long lost relative of “Protagonist” from “Tenet?”
By the way, watch “Tenet.” Just my recommendation.
I will say, when it comes to Jahzir Bruno, he probably has a bright future ahead. Who knows what’ll happen in regard to his acting career? But his character, while likable, is just a small increment of why this movie is poorly written. One of the things I HATED about this movie, is how far-fetched it is at times.
Now, you might be thinking, that’s what it is supposed to be! It’s a movie where witches can turn humans into mice with a magic potion! You’re not wrong. I don’t mind that at all. What I do mind is that the movie has a scene that throws everything you know about hearing out the window. I do not know how good the witches can hear in this universe, maybe the book explains it more, but there is a scene where Hero Boy lays under a stage where Anne Hathaway’s character gives a speech. From what I can tell, he’s trying to hide, be secretive. When he takes in a certain piece of information, he speaks to himself almost like he’s having a casual conversation. I do not know if that is his fault, or the director’s fault. I hope not, because Robert Zemeckis has been in the business for years. And evidence sometimes shows that it is not always easy to work with child actors. I do not know if Bruno was following a specific order from the script, a last minute adjustment from Zemeckis, or what. I do have faith that Bruno will be in more palatable movies as time goes on, and he is still young, so he can improve his craft a just a hair. I just wish this project was better.
One of the big advantages though of watching this on HBO Max is that other than the subscription, this is practically a free movie. It was not like I was robbed of $12 at the theater, or in the case of the pandemic, $19.99 on Prime Video or Google Play. Even so, I can see why this was dumped to a streaming service. As cool as it would have looked in a theater, it does not have the writing and excitement to back it up.
In the end, “The Witches” could not quite deliver the cheese. I will point out. I’ve seen a lot of movies directed by Robert Zemeckis. All the “Back to the Future” films, “Allied,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “The Polar Express.” I’ve enjoyed most of the films I’ve seen from him. Even ones I did not enjoy like “Flight” and “Cast Way” still had elements which I was able to appreciate. “The Witches” fits in the same category as those previously mentioned films, it is one of Zemeckis’s inferior days at the office. And as far as Roald Dahl adaptations go, this one is probably my least favorite. Much like’s Zemeckis’s cinematic library, I can not pinpoint one particular Roald Dahl adaptation I’ve seen that I legitimately hated. But this one was not a golden ticket. I’m going to give “The Witches” a 5/10.
If anything else, one of the best parts of this movie is the score. Unsurprisingly, considering how this movie is directed by Robert Zemeckis, Alan Silvestri did all the composition work. Time will tell, but it is hard to say whether “The Witches” will become a popular Halloween tradition for some. It wouldn’t for me, but who knows? This movie just felt rushed, but by being rushed, it did so by elongating, talking down to its audience. It does a lot by doing very little, if that makes any sense. This is the “Ludicrous Speed” of movies.
Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is one of the bigger ones in regard to movies this year. “The Witches” just hit HBO Max, Prime Video now has “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Empty Man,” even though it looks terrible, just hit theaters, and one of my favorite movies of the year BY STORM just hit Netflix and is still playing in some theaters. That movie by the way is the new animated musical “Over the Moon,” which centers around a young girl who longs to find an ancient Moon Goddess. I cannot recommend this movie enough, even though I know a few people who may want to skip certain parts of it. By the way, if you want to read my review for “Over the Moon,” click right here! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Witches?” What did you think about it? Have you read the book? Have you seen the 1990 film? Which version of the story do you like best? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! During the second half of 2020, I have been to the movies 13 times so far. In a normal year, this would be a pretty decent number, especially when the second half is only halfway through. During a pandemic like the one we are going through today, some might question why I go to the movies. SPOILER: It’s not just for fun, although that is part of it, but I need to make content, and much of it is brought to you courtesy of the theatrical experience. Now, as one of the first penguins to dive into the water, I wanted to take this moment to go over some of the things I like about what the theaters have been doing during the pandemic, and some things they should improve on. And I think a lot of people who read my stuff and know me in real life think I’m some evangelical for movie theatres, which… I wouldn’t say you’re wrong. But I consider myself a brainy evangelical as I am willing to recognize their flaws. So let’s dive in, here are my pros and cons regarding cinemas during the COVID-19 pandemic!
PRO #1: Cheaper tickets
You may have noticed that there are not many new movies coming out. So with that in mind, theaters have to get creative. They started showing throwback movies like “Back to the Future,” “The Goonies,” and “The Dark Knight.” For shows like these, tickets are often discounted, usually around the $5 range. Now you can watch an old film at home on a service such as HBO Max, Prime Video, or Disney+ for free on top of your subscription. But if you went to throw a few bucks out the window, you can see these movies with surround sound and a bucket of fresh popcorn. Sure, those costs can add up depending on where you go, but movie theaters provide one thing that streamers and “at home” methods of viewing content cannot, an experience. When I saw “Back to the Future” in a cinema, I felt things there that I am not able to feel while watching it in my room. I think I even laughed harder too. Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to AMC for their reopening deal, where they sold tickets for fifteen cents! This was done in honor of the chain’s 100th anniversary, but it is nevertheless a grand way to welcome patrons back to the theater. I also noticed that for regular shows, AMC’s afternoon prices were also a little cheaper than usual. Pre-pandemic, there was one theater near me that had tickets for a price a little over $10 until 4PM, now, the prices are under that mark until 5PM! Good job, AMC! Now don’t be jerk about those prices down the road… I’M WATCHING YOU.
Pro #2: Cleanliness
Keep in mind, this could change depending on how things go from here on out, in fact in the state of Massachusetts, the governor required that ALL indoor gatherings must have a maximum of 25 people. However, that has recently been altered, and the indoor max capacity for places such the cinema has since been increased. I should also note for a period of time, said state did not allow food in theaters. But every time I went to a theater during the pandemic, everything is spotless! Who’s running this place, Howie Mandel? Everything is very well kept, and I feel incredibly safe. The major chains like AMC and Cinemark have implemented new cleaning protocols, part of which includes new electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, HEPA filter vacuums, and proper air filters. Theaters also give a longer break between each showtime, which can allow for a greater cleaning process. They even encourage guests to stay clean themselves by providing hand sanitizing stations! Bravo! Personally, I’m more of a wash your hands guy, but I like the commitment!
Pro #3: Mask requirement
Now, this next part is going to be agreed upon by half of my readers, and probably get hammered by the other half. But I don’t care! Many theaters require masks in their policies. They must be worn in the auditorium, the lobby, the restroom, pretty much anywhere you can imagine. The only time you can take it off is when you are enjoying food or drinks. Kind of like when you’re at a restaurant, you have to wear a mask once you walk in, but you’re all good when you get to your table. Although, difference is, in a theater, if you’re not having food, you must keep it on. Given how masks are required everywhere else, it makes sense that theaters would jump on the train. I should also note that I’ve been to AMC a lot and they’ve added a new video to their preshow stating that masks are required at all times. So I hope that other theaters are focusing their efforts on reminding their customers to obey safety precautions not only enforced by the theaters themselves, but the areas in which they reside. Also, Regal Cinemas posted something that I honestly admire, because it speaks to much of the American audience on both sides of the mask debate.
Do I like wearing a mask? Of course not! I barely know one person who does! But we might as well suffer together! I do want to say one thing though, even though I am often focused on a film at the cinema, I sometimes get a little concerned that someone fails to abide by the mask policy. Of course, that’s not what I want to focus on, as I have no desire to confront anybody. I don’t want to be one of those people… But this brings me to my next point…
Con #1: More in-person monitoring needed
I will be completely honest with you. I don’t like being watched. It gets me a little anxious. But in a theater, it may be necessary at this time. One thing I think theaters need to do right now is have someone either monitor an auditorium for an entire screening, or occasionally check in on screenings to see what’s going on. Honestly, there are times I wish they had this BEFORE the pandemic, given how the big concern back then was about whoever would be the butthead fiddling with their phone. I get it, we’re attached to our phones. But we paid for AN ESCAPE. I went to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood one time and they have a great warning for using your cell phone. There’s a guy who comes out, introduces the show, reminds you not to use your cell phone, and he adds on that the images up on the big IMAX screen are going to be much more magnificent than what’s on the phone. Thankfully, I have not noticed as much cell phone use in a cinema, allowing for quieter experiences. However, it is still something to be concerned about, and with masks being enforced due to a health crisis, it gives an even greater reason to make sure everyone is following the rules. Such monitoring could also prevent people bringing in outside food and drinks, and piracy, which is of greater concern now in areas where theaters remain closed.
Con #2: Minimal Marketing
This is partially a con for the theaters, but also a con for the flicks. And honestly, I think it is part of why “Tenet” could not make as much money as Warner Brothers would have wanted. It did fine given the circumstances, but still. I’m noticing that a lot of the advertising for theaters coming back and “Tenet” comes my way through the Internet. Granted, a lot of people use the Internet nowadays, but I also think television would be a very effective tool. As for movie theaters themselves, this topic could be somewhat debatable, but when a company like Lord & Taylor has recently decided to promote their going out of business campaign on television, I think theaters and “Tenet” need to step up. I’ve seen more TV ads for “Bill and Ted Face the Music” than “Tenet” for crying out loud! The only TV ads I remember seeing for “Tenet” since its theatrical debut were during a golf tournament and during the recent “Saturday Night Live” premiere. If “Tenet” wanted to save theaters, they should have advertised on television, which many people resorted to in some way during the pandemic as it was the go to option for watchable new entertainment. If “Tenet” ads got more airtime on television than I’m pointing out, let me know, but I’ve watched a lot of television during the pandemic, and I can’t say “Tenet” was in my circles that much. If you want customers back, get their attention. Sure, it might cost some money, but if you spend enough money, you’ll make some money!
Con #3: AMC and Universal are crazy
This last con has less to do with theaters being open, and more to do with theaters existing, and what can happen to them in the future. Movie theaters and studios have maintained a 90 day theatrical window. Granted there are some smaller movies that have a shorter run before it hits streaming or DVD, some movies might even debut at home and theaters at the same time. But for a studio like Universal to come in and suggest that they can play some movies in theaters for a reduced theatrical window, it’s just a little preposterous to say the least, especially during a time where theaters are struggling as it is. In a recent deal negotiated by AMC and Universal, the studio is now allowed to release movies at home as early as 17 days after its theatrical release. I get it, studios have nothing to put out, and them putting movies on VOD early is a good way to get the film out there. However, 17 days is not a long time for a movie to be in theaters. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of movies would be lucky to play in a theater for one week! But Universal is one of the richest and most valuable movie studios out there. They’ve got tons of intellectual properties, a couple big animation studios, and they have a rich history when it comes to film. They’ve been around for over a hundred years and many of their films have been critically acclaimed throughout. I don’t just blame Universal here, but I also blame AMC for giving into this. Originally they were flat out against Universal’s shortening terms, thus leading them to ban their movies from playing at their locations. In fact, the day afterwards, Regal alleged themselves on the side of AMC by initiating their own Universal ban. Thankfully, studios like Warner Brothers, and filmmakers attached to them like Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins have expressed the importance of theaters. Sure, the option of the movie coming home early will be convenient for the consumer, but it’s lost money for the theaters. These are community businesses, and it’s hard to tell where things will go from here, but local jobs could be lost if this is taken to heart.
Universal, let me ask you this… Why would I want to watch the new “Fast & Furious” movie for the first time at home? I’d literally lose much of the excitement, exhilaration, and maybe even some laughter. Remember how “F9” was supposed to come out in MAY?! REMEMBER MOVIES COMING OUT?! THAT WAS AWESOME! I bought tickets for that film as early as February! I was outright convinced it would be the highest-grossing movie of the year. “Fast & Furious,” even though it is not my favorite movie franchise, is made for the same format that we get to experience a new “Spider-Man” movie every year. Not the same format where I can watch two old guys “debate” for U.S. presidency and hopefully not pass out. I don’t talk politics, but you cannot help but be concerned for both candidates while standing on stage.
Speaking of AMC being a little crazy, one of the big concerns many people had before AMC’s reopening was that they were not going to enforce masks. The company’s CEO Adam Aaron suggested that he did not want to get involved in a political debate. I can’t believe I have to say this. CORONAVIRUS IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE (unless you bring someone like Facui into this). CORONAVIRUS IS A HUMAN ISSUE. CORONAVIRUS IS A HEALTH ISSUE. MASKS ARE NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE. IT’S A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. And trust me, I would love it if I were told that masks are not allowed, because if you want my honest opinion, they are uncomfortable and they make me look like an out of shape “Mortal Kombat” character. But if everyone else has to deal with it, I do too. Thankfully, they reversed course on this. But even so, it reveals how the United States treats this pandemic. They say we’re all in this together, but our mask-wearing views may suggest otherwise.
In the end, I have enjoyed my ventures at the movies since times changed, and I think there’s a lot that they’ve gotten right. In fact, I’ll be honest, I had an easier time coming up with things I think they’ve gotten right than things I think they’ve gotten wrong. If I had to add a few more things, I think the seat distancing protocols are effective, I like how some theaters have been doing curbside popcorn, and speaking of popcorn, to celebrate Massachusetts bringing back theater concessions, Showcase Cinemas gave out popcorn for free on Monday, October 5th at all Massachusetts locations. I think that’s a sweet deal, and I’m somewhat sorry for myself for missing out on it. I think the theaters are getting things right, both in terms of value and safety. I would love to see more theaters open. But it’s 2020, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. WHERE ARE THE MURDER HORNETS?!
Thanks for reading this post! Just this past Tuesday, I watched the new Amazon documentary “Time,” which is about a woman whose husband was sent to prison for a 60 year sentence. The film hits theaters October 9th, and will stream on Prime Video the following week, starting October 16th. I will have my review up as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, have you been back to the movies yet during these times? If you have, tell me about your experience! If not, what have you been doing instead? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Before we dive into this review, I just want to remind everyone that this is spoiler free. “Tenet” is one of the biggest movies of 2020 for a lot of reasons. There are not only a lot of people waiting desperately to see this movie, like myself, but there are also many people who might want to wait to see this movie depending on how safe it is to do such a thing. There’s also some areas like New York, California, the country of Japan that for the most part, cannot obtain access to this movie yet. With this in mind, I am going to attempt to be as vague as possible with my thoughts on “Tenet.” Kind of like its own trailers. What did we learn? Not much, which I don’t mind because I’d rather go into a movie knowing as little as possible. What’s the point of a trailer if it’s going to simply show the entire movie? I do go into detail on one or two things, but the things I take the deepest dives into don’t have much to do with plot, story, or characterization. Without further ado, it is time to start my review for “Tenet,” otherwise known as the movie I have waited since the Jurassic era to witness on the big screen.
The day we’ve waited for has arrived…
“Tenet” is written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Dunkirk) and stars John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Ballers), Robert Pattinson (Good Time, The Lighthouse), Elizabeth Debicki (The Burnt Orange Heresy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Dimple Kapadia (Bobby, Fearless), Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules, Interstellar), and Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Hamlet) in a film involving NOT time travel, but time INVERSION, which makes time move backward. John David Washington plays The Protagonist (yes, that’s his actual name) who journeys through a twilight world and faces a mission that could mean the difference between peace… or World War III.
It’s finally here! “Tenet” is arguably my most anticipated movie of 2020, not to mention of all time. For the record, I keep saying “Dune” is my most anticipated film of the year, but given how “Tenet” is supposedly the movie that will “save cinema,” that’s an added bonus for me. I’ve talked about this movie long before it came out. I reviewed one of the trailers, I did a couple posts on what we knew about the movie at the time, and I even brought it up a couple times during my temporary “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes” series. I don’t think I’ll be updating that anytime soon, because I can only take so much talk about COVID-19 at this point. “Tenet” is also directed by Christopher Nolan, my favorite director working today. “Dunkirk” ended up being one of my favorite movies of 2017, taking my #4 spot at my end of the year countdown series. Two of his movies showed up in my “Top Movies of the 2010s (THE BEST 25)” countdown, which by the way, one of them ended up being my #1 pick! That movie by the way is “Interstellar,” which is one of my favorite movies of all time! Christopher Nolan is a director who individualizes his work in the industry, partially because he’s developed a distinctive style himself, but also because a studio as big as Warner Bros. trusts him at this point to make “his movie.” Plus, this movie was shot entirely in 65mm film, much of which was through IMAX. I’m a sucker for large format filmmaking, and I knew that this movie was gonna look CRISP.
To this day, Christopher Nolan has not made a bad film. Keep in mind, I still have not watched “Following,” but I’ve seen every other film from him. I really enjoyed “Memento” and I thought its storytelling methods were pretty solid. His “Dark Knight” trilogy is not only fun, but kind of refreshing in a world full of big CGI comic book movies. “Interstellar” is incredibly rewatchable and I stand by it being arguably my most cherished movie experience. “The Prestige,” while I don’t recall much about it, was fairly enjoyable. “Insomnia” is an entertainingly gritty thriller and features a fine performance from Al Pacino. “Dunkirk” is proof that you don’t always need a centralized character to tell a story, and I kind of like that. As if “Inception” wasn’t already cool enough, I rewatched it four times this year! Two of those times were in IMAX! It’s that good! So, is this the movie we’ve been waiting for? Is this the savior of cinema? Is “Tenet” 2020’s goldmine? Is it worth the hype?
Honestly, I’d say yes. The best way I can describe “Tenet” is this. If you’ve never been to Fenway Park in Boston before, they have this one section where all the seats happen to be green, except for one. Why? Because former Red Sox player Ted Williams hit a 502 ft home run towards that seat, and even though all the other seats remain green to this day, that one seat, which is 502 ft from home plate, is red. I feel like in my imagination, all the other movies that I’ve seen this year, all possess the typical green seats, but “Tenet,” because of how much I enjoyed it, gets the special spot. I say that because as I’ve discussed on here before, 2020 sucks, not just in general, but in the case of what I focus on regarding Scene Before, our cinematic calendar is pretty much a waste.
We’ve barely had any animated features this year, and while they are not my goto genre, I’ve watched at least five per year in the past couple years. It’s something I miss, and I really hope more can come out because Best Animated Feature is a category I do during my awards show that I put on here. There’s one movie that I have lost all motivation to review partially because of the pandemic, and partially because I’ve pretty much put it out of my mind upon leaving the theatre (That movie is “Bloodshot,” by the way.) All the big blockbusters like “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “F9,” “Morbius,” “Eternals,” and “Top Gun: Maverick” have all been pushed back about a year. “Tenet” is not only a movie that, unexpectedly, would supposedly “save cinema,” but it was one that was made to specifically show off the power of cinema.
I saw “Tenet” at a regular 2D screening at an AMC, and it felt like I was at an RPX or something. It really felt like the audio was cranked up beyond the maximum limit. This movie has some of the most immersive, and all time best sound editing I’ve heard in my life. Everything from the opening scene to the grand climax is magic for the ears. As for sound MIXING… That’s a different story, and quite honestly, it’s my biggest problem of the film.
I’ve witnessed a few reviews before going to see “Tenet,” not mainly because I wanted to know how the movie was, but because I want to support the content from those who created it. Anyway, they seem to be having the same issue as me. “Tenet” is an audible, earth-shattering movie. Christopher Nolan is no stranger to this description. Have you guys seen “Dunkirk?” That’s gotta be one of the loudest movies I’ve heard in my life! Nolan is my favorite director of all time, but if there is one valid critique I will give to him, and this even stands true for “Interstellar,” my favorite movie of his. Christopher Nolan seems to be hyper-obsessed with having the sound mix be as obnoxious as possible, allowing sounds in the background like shotgun blasts, explosions, even music to take over the ears, thus making us lose some of what could be important dialogue. This wasn’t a huge dealbreaker because as someone who is an aspiring screenwriter, I know that words are not always necessary. Film is a visual medium. As long as I can see what’s going on and do so coherently, everything seems to be fine. Granted, I will always take good dialogue whenever possible, but what’s the point of making a movie when you can’t see or hear what people are “doing?”
I will also say, this movie has a lovable ensemble. Everyone from John David Washington to Elizabeth Debicki to Kenneth Branagh all happen to be great in the film. I enjoyed the presence of all their characters. I will point out though, once again, John David Washington plays a character whose name happens to be “The Protagonist.” I won’t say much about it, but I like the direction in which the movie took that meaning. I’ve read some things about “Tenet” before seeing it and I had no idea what that name could have to do with the movie, but the way they handled it was surprisingly pleasant, so kudos!
Speaking of “Tenet’s” ensemble, I will also bring up Michael Caine. For those of you who don’t follow Christopher Nolan, I should have you know that Michael Caine has been in every one of his movies since “Batman Begins.” He even had an uncredited role in “Dunkirk!” I’ve read about this before the film, and this is not spoiler, but Michael Caine’s character in the movie… is named Michael. Because, he’s already played everybody else in Nolan’s imagination, right? I won’t say much about Caine’s appearance in this film, but there’s a moment in the movie where The Protagonist ends a chat with him and my brain clicked as soon as I heard The Protagonist refer to Caine’s character as “Sir Michael.” Did Christopher Nolan originally write this movie with himself in mind for the lead role? I seriously want to know at this point!
I have already raved about this movie from an audio perspective, calling it one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had all year. I’ll also point out, I have never seen a movie “live in concert” before, but if they ever get to a point where they do such a thing for “Tenet,” I will IMMEDIATELY buy a ticket! Because let me just tell you one thing right now. “Tenet” may just have my favorite film score that I have heard in years!
One thing I’ve gathered about Christopher Nolan as a director is his tendency to work with people he’s worked with in the past. I recently mentioned Michael Caine. Nolan’s worked with Tom Hardy a couple times. Same goes with Anne Hathaway. He brought back Kenneth Branagh for this film. Hoyte Van Hoytema is the cinematographer for this movie, making this his third collaboration with Nolan. And if you ask me, this is another solid entry to his resume and I cannot wait to see how they used the IMAX cameras for this film. But I will point out one collaboration that I was shocked to see missing once I heard about it.
No Hans Zimmer.
Why is he not here? He’s busy. He’s been doing “Wonder Woman 1984,” “No Time to Die,” “Hillbilly Elegy,” and perhaps the biggest reason why he couldn’t fit “Tenet” into his schedule, “Dune.” Hans Zimmer said “no” to doing the score for “Tenet” because he wanted to fit “Dune” into his busy calendar. There’s no beef between him and Christopher Nolan, but he just wants to do “Dune” so bad to the point where he had to give up doing the score for “Tenet.” I was a bit disappointed considering how Zimmer and Nolan are one of the best duos in Hollywood history. The score for “Interstellar” is one I listen to quite often. However, the movie ended up getting Ludwig Göransson (The Mandalorian, Black Panther) who I will point out, may have made my favorite main theme for all the characters in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically for Black Panther.
RIP Chadwick Boseman and Wakanda forever.
I must say… This score very much reminded me of a few movies. It felt like something out of the “James Bond” franchise, which does make sense as this is a spy movie. But it also reminded me of the “Blade Runner” franchise, especially “Blade Runner 2049,” and I say that because, and pardon my unprofessional-sounding diction here, the score sounded “boomy” at times. That’s the best way I can describe it. There’s this occasional drum pattern of some sort that comes and goes, I cannot get it out of my head at this point. In fact, when I got home, I did something regarding this movie that I have never done before. I went online, and tried to see where I could buy a physical copy of the CD. There are a few movies like “Knives Out” or “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” where I would watch it, enjoy the soundtrack, and maybe a couple days or a week later find the soundtrack on YouTube and listen to it. This is one of those rare times where I wanted to pay money for a physical copy.
Going with a different than usual composer for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” sounded like a rather bold, not to mention somewhat peculiar move when it comes to my first impression, but this may have been the best thing that could have happened to “Tenet” overall. Honestly, looking back, I don’t mind this change. Let me just say, the last film that Nolan did before “Tenet,” specifically “Dunkirk,” was undoubtedly amazing. And if you ask me, a couple parts of the score were worthy of a thumbs up. However, if I had compare that to many of the other entries to Hans Zimmer’s resume, not just the projects he’s done with Nolan, but even projects like “Man of Steel,” “The Lion King,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the “Dunkirk” score felt kind of underwhelming.
The thing I really enjoyed about Ludwig Göransson’s score is that it really emphasized the scale of the movie. The entire time I felt like I was on an action-packed theme park ride that specifically caters to adults. Aside from that, it’s fast-paced, and I would not mind listening to it every single day for the rest of my life. I know funerals are supposed to be sad and that sort of thing, and honestly, the last thing I want to do is know that I will make everyone cry at my funeral, no matter what I bring to society. So, if anyone wants some epic music for my funeral that way not many people cry but it’ll still tie into a “Jack Drees” theme, download the “Tenet” soundtrack on your preferred service! Then again, when I die, why should I care? I can’t plan a funeral when I’m dead! It’s for the living to remember the dead as they choose! I can’t interfere! It’s improper!
Would I like to see Ludwig Göransson collaborate with Christopher Nolan again in the future? Yes and no. Let’s say they do a “Tenet 2.” I’m not implying I want a sequel. I’m not implying the movie ends highlighting plans to do a sequel. I’m just saying IF they do a “Tenet 2,” that’s an obvious yes from me. I cannot imagine anybody else handling this IP from a musical perspective at this point.However, I would either like to see Hans Zimmer come back because he and Nolan go together like bread and butter, or they get some other composer to come in like Danny Elfman or Alan Silvestri. It would also have to depend on the type of movie they do. I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I think Ludwig Göransson smashed this score so hard, that if he does another one, I will probably end up looking forward to it so much that I will just end up feeling underwhelmed upon hearing it no matter what happens. In addition, I don’t know how Göransson could top this score in another Nolan project. To be fair, he’s a musical genius and one of the more unique film composers I’ve heard, so he could find a way, but I also have my doubts. It’s kind of like when I watch “America’s Got Talent” sometimes during the quarterfinals or semifinals and there’s one act that does something so amazing that even though I WANT to see more from that act and I want them to succeed, I don’t see them topping what they just did, so it would be hard to tell if they could do something nearly as cool if they advance. It’s a compliment, but also kind of a curse.
“Tenet,” to be quite honest, is not my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. Nor is it my least favorite. As of right now, when it comes to my rankings, it ends up somewhere in the middle for me. I enjoyed it more than all the films in the “Dark Knight” trilogy, but I’d say that I enjoyed films like “Dunkirk” and “Inception” more. But as a filmmaker, Nolan is like Pixar. Bad Pixar is still better than a lot of movies. Remember “Onward?” I gave that movie a 7/10. That’s a low grade for Pixar, but a lot of filmmakers would kill to have their movie receive that positive of a review. But I will say that when it comes to “Tenet,” this movie has something going for it. Rewatchability.
Now, I already bought tickets for a second “Tenet” screening BEFORE going to my first one. The main reason is because I bought a ticket for myself, but I wanted to see the film in IMAX, but I didn’t buy an IMAX ticket, plus I figured it would make for a good outing with my father. So my second outing is so he could see the movie as well.
Not gonna lie, I’m already thinking of buying tickets to a third screening. Maybe I’ll do Dolby Cinema this time. I gotta check all the boxes for different formats I can see this movie in. In all seriousness, not only is this film rewatchable for entertainment purposes, but like some other Nolan flicks, I feel like I missed some things the first time around that could be picked up on a second, third, maybe even fourth viewing. And I’m not saying that as someone who feels like they HAVE to watch “Tenet” again, I’m saying that as someone who wants to. I don’t think I’ve wanted to go back to the movies to rewatch something this much since… I don’t know… Maybe ever. This film has some problems. The sound mixing is the most obvious and I think going forward, I’m not sure how much control Nolan has over the sound mixing process, I think that could be something that he needs to either stay away from, or something he should leave to others. Either that or just make a silent film. Nice little throw back. It could be shot in 4:3 on 8mm film. AMC could bring in special projectors for select screenings. It’s event cinema! Come on, Nolan! I’m writing your ideas for you! Use them! Although between the likable performances, the dazzling camerawork, the unreal use of practical effects, one of the most heart-pumping opening scenes I’ve witnessed in recent memory, one of the craziest climaxes I’ve witnessed in recent memory, and THAT. FREAKING. SCORE. “Tenet” is a good time at the movies. I repeat, AT THE MOVIES.
I cannot thank Warner Bros. enough to sticking to a theatrical release for this film. This is a movie that is literally MADE for the big screen, perhaps more so than any other this year. I’ll be honest, if this went straight to HBO Max… I don’t know if I would have watched it. Maybe I would have since I paid for the service and I want to get my money’s worth, but I would have been missing a lot of what I’ve gotten from my recent experience. Thank you, Warner Brothers, and I’m hoping you stick to your guns for films including “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune.” Cannot wait for those movies!
In the end, “Tenet” is exactly as it was advertised, an “event” film. It has the best and worst of Christopher Nolan’s cliches. Massive scale, but sometimes it’s too massive when it comes to the sound mix. Even so, it does not take away from this film’s long list of positives. Is “Tenet” my favorite movie of the year? No. I still think “Summerland” is my #1, and for all I know, it could stay at my #1 spot for some time. But again, “Tenet” comes off as an incredibly rewatchable film. If this film warrants enough repeat viewings, and maybe some more aspects regarding it stand out with greater positivity, “Tenet” could become my favorite film of 2020, but for now I’m going to give “Tenet” an 8/10!
“Tenet” warrants a viewing on the biggest screen possible. And I know that not everyone feels comfortable being inside a movie theater right now. But, if there is a drive-in open near you and it happens to be playing “Tenet,” it could make for a fun night out with an easier chance to remain socially distant. Otherwise, the film will probably be out on Blu-ray sometime in the future, but I really don’t know when. Because if I’m not mistaken, “Tenet” is supposed to be in cinemas for a long time, and if Warner Bros. wants to keep that promise alive, I would imagine that they’d go on long past the traditional theatrical window to keep exhibitors happy. I don’t know what’ll happen, but I highly recommend “Tenet” if you feel safe enough to get out of the house. Go see this damn thing! It’s freaking sweet!
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that “Tenet” is playing in several different formats to choose from. Many of the screenings perhaps near you happen to be in digital projection, but if you want other options, read this handy guide! I’m not sure what my next post is going to be as I am getting ready for my next year of college and I have a rather important family birthday coming up that requires major prioritization. But we’ll see what happens! Maybe it’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” maybe it’s “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” maybe it’s “Tesla,” who knows? Maybe I’ll cave in and get Disney+ so I can review “Mulan.” I really don’t want to, I think this is incredibly greedy, but who knows? I know you have seen more great content from Scene Before, it just hasn’t happened yet! With that in mind, do yourself a favor and follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Tenet?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite film director of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! I cannot believe I’m saying this, but for real this time, “Tenet” is almost here! The signs have been lighting up! Marketing has been increasing! Theaters have been opening! Sure, there are some key areas that may miss out on “Tenet” for now, but who’s to say markets like those can’t get the movie down the road? Nevertheless, this is something I have been looking forward to since last year, and it is finally here! I feel like a kid on Christmas!
For those of you who know anything about cinemas, there are some basic facts that can easily be picked up. For example, no matter what you are watching, it is usually on a big screen with high tech surround sound, but today, we are going to talk about one of the biggest movies of the year, and while we are not that far into the 2020s yet, I’ll go as far as to say it’s probably going to end up being one of the biggest and possibly defining films of the entire decade. That film my friends, is Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which I have discussed on Scene Before in the past. In fact, I cannot think of many other movies that I have discussed more before it came out aside from a few “Star Wars” flicks. In the trailers for “Tenet,” there’s a lot that can be picked up. For example, it is shot on IMAX film, which is often claimed to be the highest quality shooting format in existence, which also happens to be the highest quality projection format in existence. We’ll talk more about that in just a sec…
You may be thinking, is “Tenet” worth seeing in a theater? Now, don’t take my word for it, because I myself have not sat down in a theater to watch “Tenet.” And thanks to the spreading of COVID-19, almost nobody else in the world has gotten the opportunity to do such a thing either. This movie was originally supposed to release on July 17th of this year! What is that that ten eras ago or something? I think dinosaurs were still around when “Tenet” was supposed to come out! But, keeping that in mind, there are a couple things that you should know about “Tenet.”
This film is directed by Christopher Nolan, who typically goes all out and advocates for the theatrical experience. If Warner Bros. were to kick “Tenet” away from its current release date, there is one thing that they WOULDN’T do, which is put the movie directly to home-based platforms. Nolan does not make his movies to be viewed at home. After all, when you spend over $200 million on this movie, putting all the biggest tech into it, why would you not put it into theaters?
“Tenet” is being shot entirely through old-fashioned, heavy-duty 65mm film, some vertical and some horizontal. Again, I mentioned how this film was shot with IMAX, that is part of the 65mm process. The rest of the movie is shot on Panavision cameras which support the same format just in a vertical direction as opposed to IMAX’s unusual horizontal film stock. The film used to shoot “Tenet” is high quality and will look detailed on a big screen.
Aside from high tech, “Tenet” also packs in a high concept. While much of the plot to “Tenet” currently remains secret, it involves time inversion (not to be confused with time travel), meaning that the movie will contain scenes where characters have to go backwards in time. There is also an international espionage plot moving everything along. Speaking of big, this movie was shot in seven countries.
As I’ve stated on this blog in the past, my most “anticipated” film of 2020 is “Dune,” which may be subject to change if it gets pushed back and that sort of thing, but who knows? Although, if there is currently a film that I want to see come out and succeed right now, “Tenet” would be my #1 answer. “Tenet” has a lot going for it both from tech and story. And I encourage you all to see it (that is, if you feel safe going out in August or September depending on where you live). But if you were to see it, you may overlook something… Where do you go see it? Well, here’s some options…
Digital (Resolution: Varies, typically 2K, 4K)
If you have been to one to ten movie theater experiences in the past decade, there is a good chance that at least one of them, if not a majority, have been in digital. This is the industry standard as the equipment used is light, environmentally friendly, and maybe also because James Cameron wanted this to be the big projection standard for 2009’s “Avatar.” 3D is much more common on modern digital projection. Just for the record, “Tenet” is shot entirely in 2D, and will not be converted to 3D. To this day, all of Nolan’s films had no relation to 3D shooting or 3D projection. But this projection is basically what you’d be able to find your local multiplex like an AMC or Regal. This is not to say that mom and pop theaters don’t have it, but if you walk into a big chain theater, this is what you would find in almost every auditorium. It’s clear, bright (except when someone doesn’t know what to do when changing the filter for 3D), and like everything else in this 21st century society, computerized. Unlike film, this will allow for no scratched, tampered, or deteriorated images. If you want to go see “Tenet” and get a bang for your buck, see it in a digital theater. Keep in mind, the projection equipment may vary and the resolution may be better in some places than others. This is a very broad category, so be wise with your theater decision.
35mm (Digital equivalent: Approx. 6K)
Before digital projection of all kinds took over, the main source for projection during moviegoing happened to be 35mm. While many theaters have gotten rid of it for the digital projection you see today, many arthouse style theaters tend to have this format. In fact, I’ve seen two presentations in 35mm within the past year or so. To specify, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Little Women.” While I will admit one movie happened to be significantly more entertaining than the other, both looked crisp on the big screen. Given how 35mm is nearly equal to digital’s 6K, it is clearer than a vast majority of digital options on the cinema market today. Given how Nolan’s film was shot on 70mm however, some detail will be lost when projected. Which leads me to…
70mm (Digital equivalent: Approx. 12K)
Back in the day, 65mm stock was used to shoot a number of big films that try encapsulate a large scope. After all, 70mm is such a large resolution and a feast for the eyes, which is why there’s a lot to love about it. And I can confirm that as I have seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the format twice. Pictures like the recently mentioned “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” and “Ben-Hur” were all shot with 65mm, making them worth projecting in 70mm to see in their full glory. Christopher Nolan is no stranger to this format. As mentioned, he’s shooting “Tenet” entirely in 65mm, but this is not his first time doing so. The same can be said for his previous movie, “Dunkirk,” which like “Tenet” was also shot using IMAX footage. As for the scenes shot in traditional 65mm, those were shot to be presented in a 2.20:1 aspect ratio, same thing can be said for “Tenet.” This format was also what exactly was used for when the film was projected. This allows for no cropping or adjustments during various scenes that were NOT shot in IMAX. Given how the IMAX scenes are taller, those are cropped. Note for all the other non-IMAX 1.43:1 formats, they feature cropped pictures as well.
IMAX Digital (Resolution: 2K)
Sticking with IMAX, the most mind-blowing thing about the brand for me is how much it has expanded over the years to the point where its multiplex-style theaters outrank what made them famous, their 1.43:1 aspect ratio screens (more on those later). One reason for this, easy digital projection and for the most part, retrofitting. IMAX Digital is typically projected onto screens with a 1.90:1 aspect ratio (kind of like the one above). But they are also used on the older style screens depending on the theater, and in some cases, what movie is playing. The screens these are normally used on are traditionally larger than the average movie screen and are comparable to RPX or Cinemark XD. They are also in theaters usually packed in with IMAX’s traditional 6 channel surround sound system, offering around 12,000 watts of power. While the image is not exactly the highest quality you’d get in a theater, the IMAX scenes do expand in this format and get rid of the black bars that are visible in other scenes. It is a good step up compared to most digital screens, which are smaller in size. As for the sound, that can also be a step up too in a lot of cases.
IMAX Laser (Resolution: 4K)
Here we have the biggest digital offering yet. A typical setup containing 12 channel surround sound, bright colors, and full support for screens that are anywhere between five to eight stories high. This takes what IMAX was built upon and digitalizes it. While the IMAX brand started with their spankin’ clear 70mm projection, they are modernizing their brand while also recognizing their tradition. Large format technology that literally aims high. This is true with their IMAX Laser technology, which began rolling out in 2014. IMAX Laser presents movies in vivid 4K images and supports the traditional IMAX 1.43:1 aspect ratio used to shoot several of Nolan’s films including “The Dark Knight,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Interstellar,” and “Dunkirk.” This means once “Tenet” enters theaters, the IMAX Laser experience will allow for not just crystal clear images, but for several scenes to lack the black bars no matter what screen it is on. Keep in mind, if you have an IMAX Laser projector in your theater, it won’t always show the movie in 1.43:1 as the results will vary based on the screen’s dimensions. Some, like the very famous TCL Chinese Theatre in California, will show the movie in 1.90:1, much like the regular IMAX digital projectors in their specific theaters. Once again, if you are seeing the movie in 1.43:1, you are paying for the TALLEST picture possible. This is one of the best digital formats out there but keep in mind, like IMAX digital, some of the movie will have black bars, and if changing aspect ratios happen to be distracting to you, there’s a chance you may want to look at a different format. The same can be said for the next format, IMAX 70mm.
IMAX 15/70mm (Digital equivalent: 18K)
And now, onto the clearest format on the planet, IMAX’s 70mm technology. For those unfamiliar with the technology, IMAX started their company by using very large 70mm film that goes horizontal. As previously mentioned, it is used in their flagship 2D cameras, which were used during “Tenet’s” filming. Until sometime in the 2000s, it was the norm for IMAX to install theaters that have unheard of dimensions, installing screens that can rise up to a hundred feet. Once finished, they would have the IMAX GT (Grand Theatre) or IMAX SR (Small Rotor) projection systems along with 12,000 watts of surround sound, including speakers from the walls and behind the screen, which is a norm for IMAX. Although with IMAX’s newer 12 channel system, they have speakers on the ceiling. This system is meant to go with theaters that are converted or prepackaged with the Laser system, but are also used in several theaters that have BOTH the IMAX Laser and IMAX film projection models. Either way, you are getting the best the brand has to offer. Wall to wall, ceiling to floor picture. The clearest images of all time, many of which are shot to match the projector’s intentions. If you shell out the money to buy a ticket for an IMAX 70mm show, you are paying for the viewing experience Christopher Nolan literally intended for his viewers to get. One thing to note about both the IMAX Laser and IMAX film shows… Good news, they are presented the way in which the film was perhaps meant to be. Bad news, the theaters with the proper equipment for this are not dime a dozen, they are quite rare in fact. Not all of them will be used for “Tenet” for one reason or another. But, IMAX has a selection of theaters that are playing “Tenet” in the uncropped, true IMAX formats if you are curious to know more about them.
Now, I could go over other theatrical formats such as Dolby Cinema (includes dual 4K projection, DOLBY ATMOS, DOLBY VISION), AMC Prime (responsive subwoofer seats, enhanced sound and projection), RPX (large auditorium, large screen, high quality sound, exclusive to Regal-branded theatres), Cinemark XD (large auditorium, high quality sound, exclusive to Cinemark-branded theatres), and so on, but the reason why I am specifying on the formats above is because they are the basic projection features running today for this film. While formats like those are unique and specifically branded, they either offer something with “Tenet” that is very similar to what they’ve done before or it is too similar to other formats to go in depth about it. The reason why I included the three IMAX formats above is because Christopher Nolan treasures the IMAX experience and suggests that it is one of the best ways to see a movie, but the brand offers three somewhat distinctly different experiences today. As for 35mm and 70mm, these are classic formats that are not often used today and can enhance the movie experience for some. Plus, “Tenet” was shot in 70mm, so that’s another reason to bring the format into the discussion. I even brought up and broadened the digital category because chances are that if you have a movie theater near you, it is likely going to have that style of projection, but it can vary depending on where you go. Some of these experiences are rarely used for new releases and depending on which one you pick, you will achieve bragging rights, suggesting that you saw “Tenet” in a higher quality than the way your friends managed to.
By the way, if you are scrolling down because you hate reading, watch the very informative video listed above published by Slate (feel free to read more from their site) explaining some of the ways you can see this movie and how these formats work. NOTE: This is an explanation for “Dunkirk,” not “Tenet,” but the two are shot very similarly, so the information provided here can apply to both films.
“Tenet” is currently scheduled to release September 4th, 2020. Unless of you course you count early screenings starting August 31st. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, select states including New York, California, and Arizona are keeping their theaters closed for the time being. Please note: This is the release date for the United States. My international friends in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Ireland, and so on will be getting the movie as early as August 26th. You lucky ducks… Should coronavirus not continue to spiral out of control, the movie will likely release on time. Movie theaters have been closed since March due to COVID-19, but more are opening as areas continue to loosen restrictions and move along their calendar of phases. Whether or not they’ll remain open, is a mystery. Given how some theaters are already open and some will be opening soon, if said theaters open and operate without many issues, expect “Tenet” to come out on time.
Thanks for reading this post! If your movie theater is open and you do decide to go, please do yourself a favor. Respect their policies, don’t harass their employees, and be sure to distance yourself from other people. Remember, they’re a place of business, so even though the customer’s always right, there needs to be a collective effort from everyone to make sure the moviegoing experience is alive and well. When “Tenet” comes out, I’ll very likely see it whenever possible. I hope there’s an IMAX 70mm show near me, and if not, screw this world because Rhode Island and Connecticut have working projectors for this sort of thing. Just saying. My home state of Massachusetts does too but they’re not normally used for big Hollywood blockbusters. If you want to see more from Scene Before, be sure to follow this blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I know you already liked it… It just hasn’t happened yet. I want to know, are you seeing “Tenet?” And where do you plan on seeing it? If not, do you plan on staying home and watching something instead? What is that you’re watching? Coincidentally, “Mulan” drops on Disney+ the same day that “Tenet” hits theaters in the United States, so I’m gonna be interested to see which movie ends up doing better on its first weekend. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“An American Pickle” is directed by Brandon Trost (The Disaster Artist, This Is the End) and stars Seth Rogen (Neighbors, Sausage Party) and Sarah Snook (Predestination, Steve Jobs) in a film that takes place over a span of a century. We start off by seeing a character by the name of Herschel Greenbaum. He’s immigrating to the United States, he’s got a wife, but when a factory gets condemned, Greenbaum falls into a vat of pickles and stays there for a hundred years. After escaping, he meets up with his only remaining descendant, Ben Greenbaum, also played by Seth Rogen. From here on out, the two get to know each other and slowly reveal their notable differences of how they go about daily life.
This movie was originally supposed to come out in theaters. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sony, who produced the movie, gave the distribution rights to Warner Bros., which lead to the film going straight to HBO Max, the new streaming service that has been around since May. “An American Pickle” is the first original movie to hit the service, although the film has been theatrically released in countries outside the United States.
The concept of “An American Pickle” honestly intrigues me, partially because I admire Seth Rogen as an entertainer. Whether he’s doing voices, maybe working behind the camera or in front of it, Seth Rogen can do no wrong. So getting to see two characters played by Seth Rogen was an oddly charming idea to say the least. Granted, the world has seen two Adam Sandlers on screen before in 2011’s “Jack and Jill,” which ended up being one of the most critically panned films of the past decade. Let me just say, I have not seen “Jack and Jill,” although I’ve heard enough about it to know that I should never witness it. But I am glad I saw “An American Pickle.” From the very first scene, this movie has this weird charm to it. It’s almost as if Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, and the directors behind “The Wizard of Oz” had a lovechild of some sorts. Of course you get some of the modern comedy flair in “An American Pickle” as well, but as I watched the movie, I felt like I was watching something that I couldn’t really get anywhere else. There seems to be an odd, but interesting blend of satire, heart, and informative messages about the importance of family and modern culture.
I got to admit, for a film that has Seth Rogen involved in one way or another, this is surprisingly light and sweet. It has its moments of commentary and controversial humor here and there, but nevertheless. Having seen some of Seth Rogen’s other work (for the most part), there doesn’t really seem to be much that warms the heart if you will. Not really much that feels calming. “Long Shot” comes close to being in that category though. In fact, a lot of Seth’s films seem to have a quick and snappy pace to them. And this one is no exception. Maybe that’s a Seth Rogen trademark, and I kinda like it. Although when it comes to “An American Pickle” I should not have been too surprised given how the film clocks in at around 89 minutes.
They say that if you talk to yourself, that is perhaps a sign that you’re crazy, right? Well, if Seth Rogen happens to fall into a pit of craziness, I’d say it’s worth it because he gives not one, but two likable performances. The two characters he plays can easily be differentiated even though they come from the same bloodline. They also feel like they have easily detectable individual personalities. I will say, Seth Rogen’s voice that he does for Herschel, the older character he plays, is almost on the goofy side, but it works for what it is. It’s like the rest of the movie, simply charming. It’s not supposed to be real, it embraces the fantasy factor, even though it does involve some things that are happening in our world right now. Such as our attachment to technology, vlogging, political controversy, and so on.
This movie is directed by Brandon Trost, who is a name that I am sort of surprised I have not heard so much about. Trost has worked with Seth Rogen for some time because he is a cinematographer on a lot of his movies including “Neighbors,” “The Interview,” and one of my all time favorite comedies, “The Disaster Artist.” However, “An American Pickle” is Trost’s feature-length solo debut. For the record, he has a brother by the name of Jason Trost who co-directed 2011’s “The FP” alongside him. “An American Pickle” on the other hand is a solo project. I really like Trost’s vision of this film. It’s incredibly wacky, super fast-paced, and it almost feels like a live-action cartoon, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I say that because if turn on something like “Bob’s Burgers” or “Family Guy,” there’s a good chance that they don’t waste a second using dead air. This may be a huge exaggeration, but “An American Pickle” almost feels like it belongs in that category when it comes to how it is paced. Granted, given how this is live-action, there’s a lot of time spent where dead air or beats are perhaps used, but once the movie starts, it feels like it refuses to stop. In fact, there are various portions of the score, composed by the legendary Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) that accompany this movie’s quick pace.
Looking back on this movie though, I will admit, I don’t know if all the commentary portions of the film will sit in my memory forever. I’m probably going to remember “An American Pickle” more for how good of a production it was despite being done by a first time director doing a movie without somebody else, and Seth Rogen doing two likable performances. Even though this movie does touch upon a lot of commentary that I liked in the moment, I don’t know if it will be something to be permanently implanted in my memory. I will also say though, even though the movie itself is fast-paced, and I kind of like that, there’s a lot that happens in a certain twenty minute period that feels like we’re getting to the end of the film’s second act lickety split. It’s almost as if the movie wants to end without diving into what could possibly be a moment to breathe. Although in all seriousness, I definitely recommend an “An American Pickle” and if you like Seth Rogen, you’ll like this movie. If you have a Roku or Amazon Fire player, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to get HBO Max, but it is available on other platforms including cable, Android TV, Samsung Smart TVs, Apple TV, and game consoles. There are ways to watch this movie, but because society is insane, we can’t have all of them.
In the end, “An American Pickle” is ridiculous fun, but it’s hard to tell at this point if I will remember it by the end of the year. Granted, it has the benefit of being the only original film on HBO Max right now, but still. I really liked Brandon Trost’s vision, and if he has any more solo projects he wants to tackle as a director, sign me up! Seth Rogen, per usual, is really good here. He’s a delight on screen as not just one, but two characters. Bravo! I’m going to give “An American Pickle” a 7/10.
Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I will be reviewing the movie “Summerland,” which I just saw in the theater. It is playing in some places, but it is also available on VOD if you want to give it a rent. I can’t say much about this movie, but something interesting might happen in my review. Just letting ya know… Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, if you are interested, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “An American Pickle?” What did you think about it? Or, did you get HBO Max? What are your thoughts on the service so far? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“The Way Back” is directed by Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant, Jane Got a Gun) and stars Ben Affleck (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Town), Al Madrigal (Night School, About a Boy), Michaela Watkins (Big Mouth, The Unicorn), and Janina Gavankar (Arrow, True Blood). This film is about Jack Cunningham, a man who grew up to reign as one of the finest players on the basketball team within the high school he went to. However, he did not really associate much with the game from that point forward. Now, he is given an opportunity to coach a younger generation of players, which could lead to redemption. Only thing is, the combined skills or legacy of the team was never as prominent as it was since Jack played.
Well, if I had a couple words to give right now, it would be a phrase that begins with “holy” and ends with “crap.” For context, I originally saw “The Way Back” in March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take a massive effect here in the United States. However, if you want me to be quite honest with you, even though I do my best to give a boisterous commitment to Scene Before, I saw no real rhyme or reason to review the film at the time. For the record, I saw the movie when I was staying in Los Angeles, so I was sort of in vacation mode. I was busy at Universal, trying new restaurants, checking out the scene in Burbank and Santa Monica, I was having too much of a blast to have anything else interfere. But… Another factor to consider is that when it comes to content on my blog, movie reviews didn’t really matter much for a long time. I felt that I needed to make a temporary shift to discuss the goings on of the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to stay relevant while also preserving the content I already have. I had to get a little conservative. So let me just start off by saying, this movie was good the first time I watched it in the theater. Remember the theater? Such a fun place. But, for all I know, things could change, so I bought the film on Blu-ray to see what I would think of it now.
To be completely truthful, it might be slightly better the second time. But you also have to consider something, I was in a MUCH BETTER mood. The day of my initial viewing had a ton of conflict. Everything started closing. The audience for the “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” taping I was set to go ended up getting cancelled. I had to deal with the fact that a relatively new virus could possibly kill me at any instant. If you’re wondering, I’m fine, I have never experienced any full-on symptoms of the virus as of yet. And now, with a great mood, comes a great responsibility. “The Way Back” is one of my favorite films of the year. To finish this familiar phrase, I’m gonna remind you that this year is 2020 and that REALLY does not say much.
This film is directed by Gavin O’Connor, who also directed “The Accountant” back in 2016, a superb action film that I related to at the time, and I still look back on today. Mainly because of its gritty and admirable portrayal of a man who happens to be on the autism spectrum. The film also has some cool action scenes and I really liked Anna Kendrick in the film as well, she was very charming. Here, this film is a little less action packed, but given how much of the film revolves around basketball, they did make the atmosphere around that sport feel like it could pack a punch or two here and there. The games were relatively fun to watch regardless of the scenario or matchup and the tone felt simple, but pure. That’s what the film as a whole kind of feels like. The movie, throughout, feels kind of gloomy, but I don’t mind that, it works. If you look at some of the marketing or the IMDb description of the film, you might think for a second that it is about a basketball team or a guy trying to coach the team to victory. It’s not, really.
The film centers around Ben Affleck’s character of Jack Cunningham, and the movie does dive deep into his contributions to the high school’s legacy, his heavy relation to the sport of basketball, and how much of an impact he made in terms of those two things. But this movie also feels like an allegory on why you shouldn’t drink.
Here’s the thing about men… They like their alcohol… But, here in “The Way Back” it is a case as to why you should be cautious with alcohol. “The Way Back” handles this sideplot very well. So well in fact that “The Way Back” really feels like two really good movies in one package. One of which is about the basketball side of things and the attempt to make a struggling team as relevant as it once was, and the other being the alcoholism allegory. When it comes to Ben Affleck in this film, I cannot imagine him taking his particular role in the film just so happening to be a coincidence. The movie represents a side of Ben Affleck that believe it or not appears to exist in real life. For those of you have followed Ben Affleck in recent years, you’d know that he plays the DCEU’s Batman, or more accurately, he used to. He quit the role due to fear that he’d drink himself to death. Knowing this prior to going into “The Way Back,” it makes Ben Affleck a stellar casting choice and therefore a seemingly personal film on his part. It doesn’t feel like a guy losing control over his life because of a drinking problem. It feels like Ben Affleck reenacting events from his life or providing a look into what he feels his future could have been or could end up being depending on the way time flows.
This movie is shot, graded, and compiled beautifully. As if the audio for the film made me feel like I was a part of it already based on the basketball scenes, the camerawork and other technical aspects made me want to jump in further. It matches well with the movie’s vibe, even though there are probably other movies I will go back to for their technical aspects first. However, I do need to say one thing, and I will need to revisit this topic at some point to see where I officially rank it, but “The Way Back” may have one of my single favorite final shots from a movie I have ever seen. The only other movies that may compete with this for me are “Blade Runner 2049,” “The Third Man,” “Roma,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Inception,” and “The Dark Knight.” “Spider-Man 2” might be somewhere up there too… Without going into much detail, the final shot not only looks crisp and beautiful, but when combined with the dramatic score, it seemed to symbolize everything that this movie was all about and gave a sense of satisfaction. I could not take my eyes off it!
There’s not many issues I have with “The Way Back.” I think if you are going to go into this movie expecting a coach trying to get through a basketball season and lead a team to victory, you’re going to get that. But it’s not necessarily that kind of movie when the puzzle is fully assembled. It’s about why drinking can be dangerous and what it can do to people. I enjoyed the basketball aspect, but I stayed for the drinking aspect.
In the end, “The Way Back” is a really good movie and one of the finest of the year so far. Ben Affleck gives a stellar performance that, once again, feels personal. It feels like he really wanted to do this movie based on the effort he put in alone. I’m starting to like Gavin O’Connor as a director, and who knows? Maybe he and Affleck will continue to be a winning duo. Kind of like Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan. “The Way Back” was worth a rewatch specifically for this review, and will probably be worth more viewings in the future. I’m going to give “The Way Back” an 8/10.
Thanks for reading this review! Just want to remind everyone that I recently went to the movie theater for the first time since March! For those of you who don’t know, phase 3 was put into place in Massachusetts as of July 6th. As a result, a very limited number of theaters opened, and I went to see “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band.” That movie will be the subject of a future review. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Way Back?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie involving basketball? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!