Trashed Movies, Batgirl, A Scoob! Spinoff, DC Restructuring, and Merging Streamers: My Thoughts on the Many Early Shifts at Warner Bros. Discovery

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to talk about! I mean, wow! Before we dive into what has been happening lately at Warner Bros. Discovery, let me give you a recap of some of the events that went down during AT&T’s possession of Warner Bros..

If you asked me what I thought about the state of Warner Bros. a year ago, I would have said I was nervous. Warnermedia’s decision to put all of their big movies on HBO Max hurt most of those movies that already happened to be finished. This ultimately hurt their box office, not to mention potential word of mouth and longevity. Sure, it definitely seemed like a good idea to combat COVID-19 and certain titles like “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune” had a halfway decent performance, but it does not change the fact that for the most part, the performance of most of these films were financially hindered. While some may argue that Warnermedia offered viewers a choice by putting their movies both in theaters and on streaming, they also had a long-term goal on prioritizing content for HBO Max, which was created through said ownership.

For the most part, HBO Max was not a bad idea. It contained a lot of the latest movies from studios like Universal, Fox, and Warner Brothers, the entire DC library, some of the shows from Turner networks like TBS and TNT. They had a good thing going. Then in 2020, it was announced that Warner Brothers’s entire slate of films for the next year would go to HBO Max in addition to theatres, as recently mentioned. This technically started with the 2020 film “Wonder Woman 1984.” The unexpected move led to the film’s star and director, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins respectively, receiving more than $10 million as a result. Alternate stars on the other hand were not favored.

“Representatives for major Warner Bros. stars like Denzel Washington, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves, Hugh Jackman and Angelina Jolie wanted to know why their clients had been treated in a lesser manner than Ms. Gadot. Talk of a Warner Bros. boycott began circulating inside the Directors Guild of America. A partner at one talent agency spent part of the weekend meeting with litigators. Some people started to angrily refer to the studio as Former Bros.” –The New York Times

Legendary Pictures, the production company behind “Godzilla vs. Kong” and “Dune,” noted that they, like others, were not given advance notice on the move. On a nearly dated “Saturday Night Live” episode, host and “Dune” star Timothee Chalamet ended the show by unveiling a Legendary sweatshirt, symbolizing his support for the company.

While one perk of HBO Max is the freedom for viewers to watch the new films as many times as they want for 30 days, the caveat for the studio is that the films are free as long as the viewers subscribe. In addition to hurting the movie theaters that work alongside the studios, movies like “In the Heights,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Reminiscence,” “King Richard,” and “The Matrix Resurrections” did not even make their budgets back.

You could make the argument that HBO Max benefited from this. Sure, they had some subscribers come aboard. In fact the service topped their projections (70 million) by the end of 2021 by earning 73 million paid subscribers. But that is not enough. Warner Bros. lost one of their key filmmakers, specifically Christopher Nolan, and has damaged their trust with others as they felt backstabbed by these recent events. Denis Villeneuve, while he ultimately finished and released “Dune” in October 2021, found out about his movie’s simultaneous HBO Max release on the news long before the film ultimately came out. It is the studio’s project at the end of the day, but it does not mean Warner Bros. and AT&T can ignore common sense and decency with their fellow creators. This was a multi-million dollar collaborative effort, and it is very much Denis Villeneuve’s movie as much as it is Warnermedia’s. When Villeneuve promises he will bring forth a franchise, his mouth cannot be kept shut in situations like this.

Now that David Zaslav is responsible for the position of CEO, a position previously held by Jason Kilar, many big changes have come about in such a short time. As of now, there are no more day and date Warner Bros. movies. “The Batman,” “Elvis,” and “DC League of Super-Pets” all released in theaters exclusively for a period of time. There are still movies that have been released on HBO Max exclusively, like the romantic comedy “Moonshot,” but without the day and date option. But for the most part, the new administration has allowed their few theatrical exclusive films to shine.

Now, as a fan of the moviegoing experience, this is great. I am glad to know these movies are being seen the way the filmmakers intended. I do not know if Warner Bros. is going to restore its relationship with Christopher Nolan, but that is probably going to depend on how well “Oppenheimer” does for Universal. Although as someone who has found streaming convenient and messy, this month has demonstrated the messier elements on the HBO Max side of things.

Recent events have shown my slight lack of trust from streaming providers. Last week, HBO Max removed six films. It is normal for a streamer to get rid of their film or television content. Maybe the deal has expired and a project needs to move somewhere else, or maybe a property is under new ownership. These are perfectly valid reasons to remove a film from a service, despite disappointing the fans of that movie. What is unusual however is that a set of “Max Originals,” meaning that these projects were exclusive to HBO Max, were removed from the service. I emphasize, not HBO the channel, HBO Max. Despite being intended and marketed as exclusives, they were removed. Although if you look around, they are not QUITE exclusive. This is probably why they were called “Max Originals” and not “Max Exclusives.” These films are available for purchase on platforms like Google Play and Vudu, therefore they are not unwatchable. Well, except “Superintelligence,” you should never ever watch that movie even in your sleep. And there is also good news for physical media collectors. These movies, like the recently mentioned “Superintelligence,” are also available on DVD. So while these films may be gone from HBO Max, you can pay to watch them in other ways.

Nevertheless, an event like this shocks me as the films are technically Warner Brothers movies, which HBO Max would perhaps most likely try to maintain as they are a part of the brand. It is the same reason why you never saw “The Irishman” leave Netflix. It is the same reason why you never saw “Manchester by the Sea” leave Prime Video. It is the same reason why you never saw “LEGO Star Wars: The Holiday Special” leave Disney+. With the exception of that last one, these titles are available elsewhere such as DVD and Blu-ray, but these are ultimately the studio’s and streamer’s projects to control and maintain on their respective services. Or so I thought. They can practically do anything now and it is kind of unreal to think about.

So HBO Max got rid of six “exclusive” films. Fine. They can do that. People can still watch them elsewhere? Okay, that’s wonderful. I think it is a bit weird to not at least leave them on the service for people to at least watch, although at the same time I do not think people subscribe to HBO Max nowadays to watch “The Witches.” These films, or more specifically, where they ended up, are partially the result of the previous administration. “Superintelligence” was once supposed to release theatrically, but it was eventually dropped exclusively on HBO Max through Ben Falcone’s pitch. “The Witches,” directed by Robert Zemeckis, was supposed to be released theatrically, but was ultimately moved to HBO Max. However, it was released theatrically in international markets. I can understand why a move like this was made. In addition to promoting HBO Max, COVID-19 was still somewhat new and prominent in late 2020. But if there is something I can say “The Witches” and “Superintelligence” have in common other than their release, it is their lack of longevity. When you release a movie in theaters, you ultimately do more than simply release it for the big screen. If the movie is successful on the big screen, there is a chance it could also succeed when it comes to VOD and physical media. It already has word of mouth, and if enough people are curious, it could have a second wind. This is a tried and true method that works almost every time.

Despite my confidence, and we will dive more into that, in regard to David Zaslav as CEO, this is perhaps the one big conundrum that has come up during his time as the head of the company. If there is an outside force that is making these movies disappear, I wish I knew about it. But for now, this makes no sense.

Speaking of movies you will not be seeing anymore, let’s talk about “Batgirl.” During Jason Kilar’s run as CEO, it was announced that we would be seeing an HBO Max exclusive “Batgirl” movie set in the DCEU. The film was previously in development, partially under the creative juices of Joss Whedon, but he left the project a year after its 2017 announcement. The film would star Leslie Grace (In the Heights) and similar to “The Flash,” which we will be talking about later, viewers would be treated to Michael Keaton as he returns to play Batman. Before Zaslav became CEO, another DC film once set to hit HBO Max, “Blue Beetle,” was officially no longer an HBO Max exclusive and would instead play in theaters. This is how every other DCEU film, including the day and date-specific “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Suicide Squad,” released.

“Batgirl,” both before and after Zaslav’s beginning as CEO, was never announced to receive the same treatment. In fact, one more announcement in this crazy week is that the release of “Batgirl” would be cancelled. Nobody in the viewing public would ever get to see the movie, no matter what. Not in theatres, not on HBO Max. No bat time, no bat channel.

Obviously this came as a shock given how the film finished shooting and happened to be in post-production. And not to ignore Leslie Grace’s titular character, who wouldn’t want to see Michael Keaton as Batman again? This could have been a good movie. But after seeing more information, I had my doubts as to whether it was actually good to begin with.

“Batgirl” was originally intended for HBO Max, and when you do not have to worry about the stakes of the big screen, there is, theoretically, less of a vision that encapsulates quality. I am not saying straight to streaming movies cannot work, but it comes with a major price tag from a viewer’s perspective as being “inferior.” “Batgirl” had a $90 million budget. In DC speak, this is about the same as 2019’s “Shazam!” although about half as much as Matt Reeves’s “The Batman.” While Leslie Grace may not have carried the star power of Robert Pattinson, the movie had plenty of big names alongside her including J.K. Simmons, Brendan Fraser, and as mentioned before, Michael Keaton. The directing team behind the film, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah had experience with action films before, not to mention 2020’s biggest picture (not that there was much competition), “Bad Boys for Life.” The two even have experience at DC’s competitor, Marvel Studios. While they never made a Marvel film, the duo handled directing duties for two episodes of the Disney+ original series “Ms. Marvel.”

For all I know, these people gave 110% to every part of the production. Leslie Grace could have given the performance of the year. Michael Keaton could have given his best portrayal of Batman yet. And this would be a movie that could establish Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah as future in-house names at DC kind of like the Russo Brothers were to Marvel for some time. But given how “Batgirl,” is cancelled as a tax write-off as of last week, I, and the viewing public as a whole, will never know for sure.

There is a saying that actions speak louder than words, but given how I have never seen “Batgirl,” I unfortunately can only rely on words at this point. However, other people have seen the movie through test screenings, and the results are reportedly not great. While the movie is said to have scored similarly to “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” which is still set to release this December, one source says the consensus led to a verdict that indicated “Batgirl” is not big enough for theaters, nor appropriate enough for a platform like HBO Max, as revealed by Hollywood insider Matthew Belloni on an episode of his podcast, “The Town.”

“This is someone who was in the test screening a couple months ago where they were trying to figure out what to do with this movie and I called him and we chatted and he said that after the screening, the executives Walter Hamada of DC and some of the others there ask the audience, “Did this feel big?” and clearly they were trying to figure out whether it felt like it deserved a theatrical release and the consensus was absolutely not. He said it played like a TV pilot, the stakes were very small… He said it felt a little like Dark Phoenix.” -Matthew Belloni

Why are they releasing “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and not “Batgirl?” That is a great question. If you ask me, I think it is a somewhat marketable film that could do well around the holiday season, or in this case, well enough to compete with “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but nevertheless. Although “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” was planned as a theatrical release this whole time, and may have been executed as such during the production. And the first trailer of the film promises some neat treats for those looking for a big screen experience. I reiterate, I have not seen “Batgirl,” but I think there is a reason why I am seeing material for “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” and nothing for “Batgirl.” While I genuinely feel terrible for everyone behind the film, I stand by David Zaslav’s decision to cancel “Batgirl.” I would rather have a genuinely great movie that will win over audiences as opposed to a terrible movie that could cause people to compare it to “Batman & Robin.” People are going to literally have to say that the best Batgirl movie is somehow “The LEGO Batman Movie!” Who thought we’d be saying that in this day and age?! And Zaslav cancelled the film for this reason. During a recent conference call, Zaslav was asked about the cancelation of “Batgirl,” which he stated was part of a restructuring of DC through a 10-year plan. This plan would be similar to what Alan Horn and Bob Iger established with producer Kevin Feige over at Disney’s Marvel Studios. In addition to that, Zaslav wants to make sure that audiences are not only getting good movies, but happen to be getting their money’s worth at the cinema similar to the studio itself through the box office as it releases its newer content.

“We’ve seen luckily by having access now to all the data, how direct-to-streaming movies perform. And our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform, how often people go there or buy it or buy a service for it and how it gets nourished over time is no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the motion – in the theaters. And so this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it.” –David Zaslav

However, I am not saying the axing of “Batgirl” is not unfortunate for the audience. I was looking forward to potentially seeing the movie. This is also an unfortunate cancelation in terms of diversity. Because Leslie Grace is Afro-Latina, giving a fresh look to the DCEU’s main heroes. This means that most of the studio’s upcoming lineup, like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash” will continue to center around white male characters. While these films are likely to be successful, it avoids giving a particular audience a film they can call their own. While “Wonder Woman” and its vastly inferior sequel obviously happen to be anthems for women, it does not change the fact that there are still some audiences who probably have not seen themselves in the heroes DC is providing. Sure, the “Suicide Squad” movies feature two different African-American leads, but as far as non-team movies go, diversity has some ways to go. Superman is a white male. Shazam is a white male. The Flash, while played by an actor who currently identifies as non-binary, is as far as we know, a white male. Harley Quinn, while not a male, is more of an anti-hero as seen in projects like “Birds of Prey.” This could have been DC’s chance to give the audience a different kind of hero. And while this may be towards the villain or anti-hero route, DC is lucky that the Dwayne Johnson-starring “Black Adam” is set to come out as the iconic movie star happens to be Black and Samoan.

At the same time though, while this is unfortunate, I will reiterate, I agree with Zaslav’s decision to cancel the film. It is not a pleasant decision to make, but as a business move, it makes sense. I am not saying people are not interested in seeing a Latina superhero, but I think that if people want a character like Batgirl, such a character should receive better treatment than what she is getting at the moment. I have to remind everyone reading this that I am a straight white male, therefore it is my responsibility to acknowledge that a lot of the movies that have come out in the superhero genre revolves around people like me. Some are great like “Iron Man” while others are not so great like “Morbius.” This is the same thing I have said about “Ghostbusters” since I watched the 2016 Paul Feig-directed reboot. You cannot just remake the movie with women and call it a day. You have to have a good script, great chemistry amongst the cast, and solid humor. Now obviously every movie has its fans, but I saw the movie and felt that it failed on those recently mentioned objectives. Pitching and selling a “Batgirl” film to the audience is half the battle. The other half is delivering a great story or experience that will stand the test of time, and I can only assume that “Batgirl” did not meet certain standards to make that happen.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cancelation of “Batgirl” has more to do with the reset plan in regard to DC and not as much to do with the talent behind the film like Leslie Grace.

“Leslie Grace is an incredibly talented actor and this decision is not a reflection of her performance. We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers of “Batgirl” and “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” and their respective casts and we hope to collaborate with everyone again in the near future.” -WB Insider (The Hollywood Reporter)

On that note, I will remind you that “Batgirl” is not the only upcoming Warner Bros. film that was announced to be cancelled last week, as the quote suggests that “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt,” a Christmas-themed “Scooby-Doo” film, was also part of the chopping block. The film was set to come out on HBO Max this year, which does not surprise me as 2020’s “Scoob!” skipped theatres and went straight to VOD due to COVID-19. While I watched “Scoob!” a couple years ago and thought it was a trainwreck, I will note one thing that was not a problem was the look of the film or the animation style. Overall, it looked very polished. Once again, I can only use assumptions here, but I would not be surprised if this streaming-mindset affected production in terms of how polished the film could turn out. Once again, I feel bad for the crew, but I think that this is a proper business decision.

Although if I must be real, I find it shocking that “Batgirl” was cancelled at the time it was. I am less shocked after finding out that it probably was not that good. Although what I am saying is that there is another DC film that based on public outcry, probably should have been cancelled first. In fact, recent events further indicate the complications behind this film’s existence. That film being… “The Flash.”

The Flash is one of the more well-known DC superheroes, and the hero’s popularity has only jumped due to the success of CW’s original series that is soon to enter its final season. Although on the movie side, there has been extensive development in regard to bringing the red speedster to the big screen but for several reasons, they could not quite get it out before the end of the previous decade. Having seen both “Justice League” and its eventual “Snyder Cut” on HBO Max, I think Ezra Miller did a fine job bringing Barry Allen to life and I would not mind seeing more of the character. Unfortunately, if Miller continues to play the character, I may have second thoughts.

After seeing Ezra Miller’s shenanigans of choking a woman in a bar, assault, restraining orders, harrassing a woman in her own apartment, and most recently, burglary, this only makes Zaslav’s final decision on “The Flash” that much harder to make. You could say that releasing “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is also hard because Amber Heard is in it, but that’s a cakewalk compared to this. For one thing, the public is divided on whether Heard is innocent or guilty after her recent trial with Johnny Depp. And not to undermine the events prior to or of said trial, many of Ezra Miller’s crimes or arrests have happened after they finished shooting “The Flash.” As time has shown, I believe in redemption. Since joining Marvel, James Gunn held back on making inappropriate jokes over the Internet, and even after his firing and rehiring, he kept his cool. But at this point, when Ezra Miller has already been cast, the movie is shot, and it is set to release next year. This is a dilemma if there ever was one. As a viewer who is not in charge of a substantial company or its products, it is easy for me to say that they should cancel the movie or recast Ezra Miller and reshoot every scene with the character of Barry Allen. But the film already has a budget of $200 million, and this requires a massive return of the crew, the actors, everybody.

…But in my own little fantasyland, I also think it is worth it. …Kind of. It’s not my money, and if it were, for all I know, I might not have said this.

Similar to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” where there were three Spider-Men on the lineup, “The Flash” is a movie where we are seeing the return of Michael Keaton as Batman, making “Batgirl” one of the two films where the iconic actor dons his cowl. That, alongside another Batman appearance from Ben Affleck, will obviously get butts in seats. This is certainly a film that people will want to see in theaters before streaming, making HBO Max a concept that must be left out of the equation. But this involves potential delays, recasting, and so on. The other alternative I can get behind at this point is releasing the film as is and announcing Ezra Miller’s firing beforehand. I could almost see there being a disclaimer before the film starts stating the wrongdoings of Ezra Miller and a note that Warner Bros. does not condone or approve of his actions. While it may not be comfortable to provide in a public setting, it is better to condemn this consistently inappropriate or incorrect behavior rather than continue to enable it. There is a good chance Ezra Miller is already canned and such a thing has not been announced, but I think this is a message that should be announced before the public starts a trend claiming Warner Bros. “defends assaulters” or something along those lines. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this is exhibit A as to why that is not true. On the bright side, reports have surfaced that “The Flash” is apparently a good movie. Obviously, film is subjective, so if it comes out, we will see if that statement holds true. But it is nice to hear Warner Bros. Discovery has confidence in the film’s quality, unlike “Batgirl.” Some of the general audience more than likely will not care about what Ezra Miller has done in the past, but it does not change the fact that word gets around. Plus Miller is getting into trouble on a consistent basis. They have already been the subject of multiple negative events as of this year. My confidence in Miller or their image’s ability to change by next year, or even 2024, is quite low. What if they end up in prison for a year? What is Warner Bros. Discovery going to do then? Imagine if Ezra Miller shows up at the premiere and how awkward that could be given everything they have done. This is not exactly my idea, but one alternative is finding a way to remarket the film as a “Batman” movie. I do not know how much the script would warrant such a thing, but given the marketability of the “Batman” IP and the fact that there are two Batmen in the movie, it theoretically makes sense.

Until then, there is no easy answer to this ongoing problem. “Batgirl” may have had its reasons to be cancelled, but this only makes me wonder what is going to happen with “The Flash.” If the movie gets cancelled because of Ezra Miller, it is a solid publicity move in the short term, but this also ends up being a disservice to the rest of the people behind the film who had nothing to do with Ezra Miller other than working with them. But at the end of the day, filmmaking is a business. And if Ezra Miller keeps doing what they’re doing, or worse, the business of the film is only going to trickle bit by bit. “The Flash” is still set to come out, and I am glad to hear it is good. But is it worth it? Much like “Batgirl,” but for completely different reasons, “The Flash” at this stage is probably going to hit some landmines if the studio wants it to be released theatrically. But at the same time, the movie is too big, not to mention too expensive, for HBO Max.

Sticking with HBO Max, let’s ask a question… WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO HBO MAX?!

Remember how HBO Max was supposed to be Warnermedia’s big streaming service? It was the thing that was going to make HBO Now look like HBO Then. Some not so surprising news that came out of last week’s events was the merging of HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming service. Now, that has not happened yet. You will not find “Property Brothers” on HBO Max, nor will you find “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on Discovery+.

This is not the first time in recent years that Warner had one of its streaming services fold into another one, as DC Universe gradually dissolved in 2020 and all of its film and television content like “Titans” and “Harley Quinn” ended up on HBO Max, with the latter now airing its third season.

Now if you ask me, I like the fact that all of this content is merging. I am probably not going to watch all of it. But it is nice to know that the options are there. For all I know, there could be a new show that I could put on in the background one day. I think one big problem consumers face is that there are too many streaming services out there. I do not have Discovery+, as it is one of the few services I do not consider a priority. Slimming two services into one is not necessarily a bad concept. My one concern is how much more I’d be paying, that is if there is a price hike. I will revisit this issue later, because I need to talk about one of the most poorly guided comparisons I have seen in this day and age.

Remember how I said actions speak louder than words? Well, words are pretty powerful. Some people tend to take them seriously.

I understand that this may be an exaggeration, but it still must be pointed out. When talking about the differences between HBO Max and Discovery+, this was done through a side-by-side chart indicating that HBO Max’s content was male-skew and Discovery+’s content was female-skew. Now to be fair, I am a man and I have never watched Discovery+ on my own time. I rarely turn on any of Discovery’s channels. But this is a loose and stereotypical assumption to make in this day and age. Because this declares that gendered content is put into boxes. HBO is one of the most sought-after cable networks of all time by all genders. “Game of Thrones” was a huge hit over recent years. Recent series like “Scenes From a Marriage” have been met with acclaim. And APPARENTLY, women don’t watch “EUPHORIA?!” If anything, they’re the target audience! Literally every woman on this planet wants to be Zendaya! She is good-looking, she has an Emmy, and she is dating Spider-Man! You think women do not watch “Euphoria?”

I am not saying that some of these classifications do not make sense. HBO has a lot of scripted content, and that is their forte. Although HBO Max has plenty of unscripted or reality content like the original show “Legendary,” truTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” and the TBS reboot of “Wipeout.” It is very much a service for everyone in same way that Netflix or Prime Video is. Discovery+ is very much a comfort food network. Most of their content is within the reality genre like “90 Day Fiancé,” “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” and “Chopped.” Again, I am a man, and I do not know of many men, but I know they are out there, who lean into Discovery’s content more than they do with the type of content HBO provides, so Zaslav and the infographic are technically onto something. But it does not mean that this is the best analogy to give to the public.

Also, you are telling me “The Bachelor” is a male-skewed show?! Again, I imagine there are some men who watch. Although if you want to talk about HBO Max strictly having male-skewed content, I raise you “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “The Bachelor: Winter Games” and “Bachelor Pad!” The only guys watching these shows are those who are trying to impress their significant other that this show specifically targets! Obviously, there are others, but you get my point! What man turns on the television, looks at that night’s lineup, and thinks, I’m gonna pour myself some wine, and watch young women fight over a guy?! The majority would flip the channel in a heartbeat.

There are also plenty of HBO or HBO Max scripted shows that do not mainly target men. In addition to the recently mentioned “Euphoria,” look at shows like “Big Little Lies,” “Gossip Girl,” “Insecure,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” “Love Life,” and let me just remind you that HBO has a show literally called “Girls.” HBO and HBO Max apparently suggests that women do not watch shows like “Succession,” “Silicon Valley,” “Divorce,” “The White Lotus,” or “Mare of Easttown.”

The men/women analogy would have probably worked in the 1920s. More so in the 1820s. But definitely not in the 2020s. This was probably delivered with the best intention in mind, but it does not change the fact that the delivery was terrible. The infographic itself is helpful and for the most part, an accurate representation of both streaming services. HBO Max is definitely more lean in and Discovery+ is certainly more lean back. Those are good comparisons. Plus, while I did address that HBO Max is not short on unscripted content, it is no doubt that scripted content is their bread and butter in the same way that unscripted content is to Discovery+.

Now let’s go back to the price concern. While it is nice to know that I would not be paying for two different streaming services at the same time, one of the nice things about HBO Max is that while it is not the cheapest service out there, it offers a lot of great, sometimes award-winning content, for a reasonable price. HBO Max has two tiers, an ad-included tier at $9.99 and an ad-free tier at $14.99. Discovery+ also offers two tiers. An ad-included tier at $4.99 and an ad-free tier at $6.99. These prices make some sense given how Discovery+ is more of a niche service in the same way that the horror-based Shudder would be to a certain degree. Should we see these two services combine, I think it is perhaps likely that the service to be offered will have an increased price from HBO Max’s current price. If it increases by $1, I do not see much of a problem. $2? Okay, whatever. $3? Now you are pushing it. I understand that adding more content can justify a price increase, but there comes a tipping point. If I find out that this new streaming service costs $19.99/month or more, which is the current price for Netflix’s top tier, I would have to debate on ignoring the service and worry about my other subscriptions for the time being. There is plenty of great content being offered through services like Hulu and Prime Video that I’d rather flock to for a better value. I especially worry for those who have Discovery+ and not HBO Max, because their increase could be worse.

There is no official word as to what the name of the combined service is, and this presents a problem if they come up with a new name. The beauty of HBO Max is that the name HBO is one of the most coveted television brands ever conceived. No offense to Discovery, but when most people think of “television,” HBO is often seen as the gold standard nowadays. They could come up with a new name, let’s just use Warner Discovery as an example, but this could result in brand confusion. This could be HBO’s most bewildering matter since trying to explain the difference between HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. What makes HBO Max different? I don’t know, it’s purple! This could be a short term confusion once the audience collectively realizes where their preferred content ended up, but nevertheless.

Phew. We made it to the end. Just to recap, I still use and enjoy HBO Max. The third season of “Harley Quinn” is great fun and I cannot wait to see the rest of it. I am excited to see where David Zaslav takes the Warner Bros. brand in the future. I am curious about movies like Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which looks like a trip if there ever was one. I just hope that Zaslav realizes within the mistakes that have been made recently, that this Warner Bros. Discovery ship remains as tight as possible. While I remain saddened for the crews behind the films, I think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” were the right moves. If the movies were not up to a certain standard, then why should they be put out to begin with? The main basis of the movie business is profit. This is part of why “Batgirl” was cancelled, but I am also glad to know that we will not potentially be seeing the next “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” or the next “Catwoman” or the next “Morbius.” It is still NOT Morbin’ time! I don’t care who says it! Why is “The Flash” not cancelled? Sure, I hear it is a good movie, but the closer we get to its release, the more I worry about the film itself in addition to its star’s ability to not cause chaos. Is there a weird move will we see next from Zaslav and crew? Who knows? Until then, all I can do is sit back and wait for movies like “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” and go back and watch the many hit movies and television shows on HBO Max like “Peacemaker,” “The Carbonaro Effect,” and “The Bachel–” Hahaha, never mind that last one.

Thanks for reading this post! If you liked this post and want to see more, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! If you are interested in more of my long-form content, check out my five-thousand word analysis as to why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the recent anime from Mamoru Hosoda. This is a movie which is by the way, as of this post’s debut, NOW STREAMING ON HBO MAX! Until then, I want to know your thoughts! What do you think about the recent events at Warner Bros. Discovery? Do you think the brand is in a good direction? Do you think cancelling “Batgirl” and “Scoob!: Holiday Haunt” was a wise decision? What do you think they should do with “The Flash” at this point? Also, about those six movies that were taken off HBO Max, did you watch any of them? Tell me your thoughts. If you ask me, I think “An American Pickle” is one of the most overlooked comedies in recent times and a hilarious parody on modern society. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Matrix Reloaded (2003): Digitize Harder

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for part 2 of the ongoing review series, “The Matrix Reviewed!” Last week we discussed my thoughts on “The Matrix,” and my opinions for the most part appear to be the same as a lot of other people’s, it is easily one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever told. Like many great stories, this one happened to get a sequel. Or in the case of “The Matrix,” two in one year. Don’t usually see that play out much. Today we’re gonna be talking about the first of those two sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded!” Are we able to load some digital goodness on the screen with this film? Here are my two cents!

“The Matrix Reloaded” is directed by the Wachowskis and stars Keanu Reeves (Point Break, Johnny Mnemonic), Carrie-Anne Moss (Models Inc., Memento), Laurence Fishburne (Event Horizon, What’s Love Got to Do with It), Hugo Weaving (Babe, The Interview), Jada Pinkett Smith (Scream 2, A Different World), and Gloria Foster (Law & Order, Leonard Part 6). This film is the sequel to the 1999 box office smash “The Matrix,” one of the biggest R rated films of all time. This sequel follows Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus as they continue their fight against a machine army. This time, the agents are bigger, stronger, and upgraded. SEQUEL S*IT!

You know that sequel advertsing bulls*it? You know what I’m talking about! BIGGER IS BETTER! Forget the first movie! This second movie is gonna make the first movie look like the zeroth movie! I’ll admit, I was three when this film came out, therefore I never had a chance to watch it in the theater, nor did I get to see the trailers. But even I know that this is one of those films that became a literal phenomenon. Heck, this first film became so big, yeah I know it is a franchise now, but that first film is the one everyone talks about, that they apparently took time to reference it in kids’ movies, despite the R rating! Just look at “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” Both films are from Warner Animation Group, and even though that first film has blood, language, and tons of violence, they still found a way to put it in a Looney Tunes story! The first film was respected, it won an Oscar, it kind of set a standard for visual effects and sci-fi. If you ask me, I think Keanu Reeves has been directed better in other projects, but that’s just a me problem, and it’s one that would be difficult to turn into a me solution. Time travel doesn’t exist, and I don’t work for Warner Brothers.

I want to talk about some things I like about “The Matrix Reloaded.” The action is great, and in some cases, I think it may almost be better here than in the original. The highway chase was epic, the fight in the courtyard with all the Smiths was wildly entertaining (I’ll get into a problem about it in a second), and there was some pretty badass stuff in the beginning and end of the film with Trinity. The visuals of the film still hold up today. I would not say they’re maybe as good as the visuals from 1999, but they’re still worthy of falling into the “eye candy” classification. I also really like, going back to the bigger is better idea, the expanding of Zion. The first movie teased it, but now we get to see more of it here. It’s not the highlight of the film, but I didn’t hate it. There’s one montage that goes on for a bit too long, but nevertheless.

This idea of “bigger is better” is not just something that one would put in the marketing for a sequel, but something you’d actually see QUOTED in a sequel like this one! There’s a scene where Neo is fighting an Agent and he’s trying to kick his ass. When he thinks he’s got it, he senses the agent’s increased in strength, so we get to hear Neo utter “Upgrades.” I like how this film gives our heroes some tougher competition. But it’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. I think the best example of this is during the fight where we see Neo all by himself in a courtyard after talking to the Oracle. So all these Agents come out and take on Neo altogether. Look, the scene between Neo and all these agents is one of the most exciting, thrilling, and perhaps badass things I have witnessed in a sci-fi movie, but by the end of it, the more I think about it, it almost feels like the stakes have been minimized. We get to see fiveish minutes of Neo fending off all these agents like they’re flying stormtroopers.

“Ah! The agents! They fly now!” I don’t know where that came from. Just go with it.

While it’s totally badass, it also makes the recently exposed “upgrades” feel like nothing. Look, they’re obviously referencing these “upgrades” in the sense that the Agents have gotten stronger. In the quality/quantity expression, the upgrades would more likely link to quality. So when we get to the quantity portion about fifty minutes into the film, the upgrades seem to lessen their meaning.

The great thing about the first “Matrix” is that we see Neo kind of go through a transition from ordinary person to hero. Yes, the hero’s journey trope been done numerous times. But it is often a successful route to take a story. Who doesn’t love a hero? While there is some struggle or newfound obstacles in this sequel, Neo doesn’t come off as someone who is trying to make a massive change amongst himself. Much of the struggle that we see from Neo as a character comes at the end of the film, which is not a terrible thing. That’s kind of the moment where you want a character to fall to their lowest point. It’s the whole thing about getting back on the horse. You may be down but you can get back up.

Now I’m not asking for every movie to be the hero’s journey. That would therefore make every movie the same as the next. I’m just saying that I prefer seeing a Neo find his way through the Matrix and learn about its roots. I feel like the first film gave us a better opportunity to unravel Neo’s personality. Now he’s kind of a robotic god.

You know what’s also bigger in this movie? The slow motion! But it ain’t better! If we learned anything from the “Sharknado” franchise, it’s that too much of something can make that something become worse. I’ve heard this statement through the walls of the Internet before, but I’ll say it because it is kind of true. This movie could have been trimmed in half in terms of the runtime… Okay, maybe not that much, but the trimming would be significant, if the slow motion was not a thing. This film is two hours and eighteen minutes long. Granted, I don’t have a huge problem with the runtime. The pacing was okay. It could have been worse, but if you take out the slow motion, I think you could have trimmed down that runtime quite a bit. Maybe I’m imagining things, I don’t know. But in that first movie, the slow-motion felt like it meant something. But similar to the “Star Wars” prequels where nearly every scene had a lightsaber (not that I’M complaining), it felt like every other moment of the film had some semblance of slow motion. It was kinda ridiculous. Slow motion is cool! But you know what’s also cool? Ice! And if you touch it for too long your hands are gonna go numb so let’s cool down the slow motion a bit!

KEANU REEVES in Warner Bros. PicturesÕ and Village Roadshow PicturesÕ provocative futuristic action thriller “The Matrix Reloaded,” also starring Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. ©2003 WARNER BROS. – U.S., CANADA, BAHAMAS & BERMUDA. ©2003 VILLAGE ROADSHOW FILMS (BVI) LTD – ALL OTHER TERRITORIES (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED USED BY PERMISSION). PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION

I also really didn’t like the end of the film. I think part of the climax had some cool action, and seeing Neo fly through the city is something that will forever be in my memory. I love seeing that on screen where he’s flying and all these cars are continuously piling up behind him. It’s iconic. But for those who have not seen this movie before, there are a couple key moments after that which I liked less. One involves a character I mentioned already and a situation that feels totally impractical, and the other one involves something that I feel didn’t have the impact I thought it was trying to go for. I don’t know, this movie goes bigger, but really minimizes the oomph in the final moments. Strange.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) - IMDb

In the end, “The Matrix Reloaded” had some glitches. While it is not the worst sci-fi film ever, it is a massive step down from the original. I talked about how my one big con from the original film is the way Neo was portrayed, which I assume mostly had to do with directing. Even though I think he could have been portrayed better in the original, I still think was written better in the original. He’s written worse in this film, but Keanu Reeves’s performance here, in his defense, matches the slightly more lackluster writing. Again, the like bigger is better thing, it’s a blessing and a curse. I’ll always remember the first “Matrix” as one of my favorite sci-fi films. The second film, not so much. I’m going to give “The Matrix Reloaded” a 5/10.

“The Matrix Reloaded” is available on VHS, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray, and is also available to watch on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Be sure to stay tuned for next week, December 19th to be specific, because I will be reviewing “The Matrix Revolutions,” capping the ongoing “The Matrix Reviewed” review series and ending the ongoing trend of reviewing older movies in 2021. Until my top 10 best and worst of the year, which may end up coming out late, just so you’re aware, I will solely focus on reviewing films released in 2021 including “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “West Side Story,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” just to name a few examples. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Matrix Reloaded?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite slow-motion scene in film history? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although the real scene stealer in this film is Kano.

Kano. Kano. Kano.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mortal Kombat (2021) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins Return to the Big (and Small) Screen

“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.

Warner Bros.’ Entire 2021 Lineup Going to HBO Max: My Thoughts

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.

…Then we got “The Witches.”

And “Superintelligence.” Oh, please die.

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.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 04: Gal Gadot attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

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.

Homer At The Movies GIF - Movie MovieTheater Sexting - Discover & Share GIFs

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!

The Witches (2020): Witch Imperfect

“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!