Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022): Marvel’s Phase 4 Ends with a Fine, But Not Perfect, Sequel

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is directed by Ryan Coogler, who also directed the previous “Black Panther” installment. This film stars Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Mirror), Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 12 Years a Slave), Danai Gurira (Treme, The Walking Dead), Winston Duke (Us, Person of Interest), Florence Kasumba (Wonder Woman, The Lion King) Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Judas and the Black Messiah), Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You, Chewing Gum), Tenoch Huerta (Mozart in the Jungle, Narcos: Mexico), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Sherlock), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Onward), and Angela Basset (Akeelah and the Bee, Soul). This film is the sequel to “Black Panther” and follows Wakanda as its people attempt to defend their home from the king of Talokan, Namor.

I have always wondered what a “Black Panther” sequel could look like, especially given how successful the first film was. If you are Disney and/or Marvel Studios, there is no way you would just sit pretty after earning a billion dollars at the box office. Sure, you might pop a few bottles. But once you are done drinkin’, you must soon be back to grindin’. Although my wonder supposedly peaked towards the end of 2020. For one thing, the predecessor’s lead, Chadwick Boseman, passed away. This brought a gigantic question. What is going to happen to T’Challa?

On December 10, 2020, the world got its answer. During a Walt Disney Company Investor Day event, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that the character of T’Challa would not be recast and the sequel would explore other characters in Wakanda. While I am under the philosophy that actors can be replaced to a degree, I understand the tough decision that had to be made here. Boseman’s character was more than a guy who looked cool on screen, he was a symbol for the black community.

While there have been other black protagonists and superheroes on-screen, very few had the impact that Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther did over recent years. If you ask me, I liked the first “Black Panther,” but I did not love it. That said, I recognize there are plenty of people who do and I nevertheless celebrate how the film remains a symbol for a specific audience. I still remember where I was when Chadwick Boseman died, sitting in my room, browsing on my phone. While this may not be my first idea for a “Black Panther” installment, I like that the film went for an angle where art somewhat imitates life.

This movie dives into how the Wakandans live after the death of T’Challa. The execution of this is brilliantly realized and delivers certain segments of the movie that I consider to be phase 4 highlights. If I were to judge this movie simply as a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, I would give it two thumbs up. Unfortunately, there is also the rest of the movie. Some of which is solid, some of which is not.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is by no means a bad movie, but I think it comes down to the classic saying in regard to sequels. It goes bigger, but it does not make it better. It goes to new places, introduces new characters, but the execution is not as stellar as it could be. The first movie succeeded partially because of how it handled the character of T’Challa as a protagonist. As mentioned, he is not here for obvious reasons. Sadly, while the tribute to Chadwick Boseman delivered the feels, something was missing because T’Challa’s character was not replaced with another actor. What may have been missing is an escape. Because the first film at its core, even in its more dramatic moments, is fun. Kind of like the recent “Thor: Love and Thunder,” there are clashing tones that do not mix together all the time. This tries to be a traditional MCU movie with some of the flair of the original “Black Panther,” but falters because it unsuccessfully mixes this with a grieving process for T’Challa, and the actor who played him. This is not to say all of it did not work. Some happier moments worked. Some sadder moments worked. But I did not feel as happy or sad as this movie maybe wanted me to feel by the end of it.

It is time to talk about the villain, which in regards to MCU movies, are often considered a weakness. Thankfully, for the case of “Wakanda Forever,” Namor is serviceable. Although not perfect. While Namor had his moments, I think if you were to compare “Black Panther” and “Wakanda Forever” side by side, the first film clearly has the superior villain with Killmonger. His fleshing out was better, Michael B. Jordan gives a compelling performance, and I had a bit of an emotional attachment to him by the end of the film. Namor is threatening and there are some highlights with him on screen, but his motivation did not feel as prominent as it could have been. The best thing about Namor is how our heroes deal with him. There is a particular scene past the halfway mark into the film where from the heroes’ perspective, I got a sense of what they must have been thinking, what they were feeling. While 2018’s “Black Panther” did a good job at handling both the perspectives from the protagonist and antagonist, I think the former’s perspective was done better here than the latter’s.

A lot of Marvel movies, including good ones, often fail to deliver on the villain. I was not a huge fan of Ronan in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but the movie nevertheless worked for me. But almost every time the film slips on the villain, I am still onboard when it comes to understanding and rooting for the hero. I feel like I am given enough justification to continue liking them, to keep cheering them on. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” while its villain is not a dumpster fire, is no exception to this rule. That said, when I say that I am siding with the protagonist in this case, the movie comes to a decision as to who “the protagonist” is, but much of it does not resemble a centered story. There are so many things going on in this movie that until the end, it almost feels like there is no main character. There is ultimately a main character, but at times, it feels like there is not. The movie feels overstuffed, which I hate to say, because I liked some of the concepts in it.

For me, the highlight of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is Angela Basset. I liked Angela Basset in the original “Black Panther,” but her portrayal of Ramonda in this sequel is an improvement over the original in every way. Part of it is because the script gives the character a reason to perhaps have a more prominent presence on screen, and when it comes to the Wakandan society grieving over the loss of their king, I often connected with her based on her position in said society, in addition to knowing that her child is gone. Going back to what I said about art imitating life, Basset’s performance, alongside others in this film, came off as more than the characters going through their own reality. At times, Basset seemed to channel herself in regard to her connection to Chadwick Boseman. I bought into Basset’s performance, and as sad as Boseman’s death is, it may have enhanced Basset’s ability to deliver an excellent screen presence, one that could potentially be a talking point this awards season.

This movie is 161 minutes. Just over two and a half hours. At moments, I felt the runtime. Some of the exposition, specifically in regards to Namor, went on for way too long and I almost tuned out. In addition to being a “Black Panther” film, “Wakanda Forever” also somewhat doubles as an ad for Disney+ with the addition of Riri Williams, also known as Ironheart. Other than that, another notable flaw, and maybe this is just the case of my theater, maybe not, the sound mix was not perfect. There were select lines of dialogue that were hard to make out. It is not “Tenet” bad, but as far as the MCU goes, this is probably the first time I can recall having a problem like this during one of the movies in this series. Then again, I just turned 23 a little more than a week ago, therefore this is a possibly a sign that my hearing could be slightly deteriorating. Do not grow up, it is a trap.

If I had to compare “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” to anything else right now, it would have to be, of all things, the television series “Impractical Jokers.” …Hear me out.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” much like the most recent iteration of “Impractical Jokers,” loses one of its core cast members, tries to reinvent itself while also keeping certain elements audiences are familiar with, and fails to recapture some of the magic of what made its previous material great, but through a situation that it cannot fault itself for. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a film that I would have been terrified to be a part of if I were a higher-up at Marvel. I know “Black Panther” is a popular IP and there is no question as to whether or not a sequel should be made. But my question from the beginning was how the heck the story could go on without the title character.

If you look back at films like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” you would notice in the posters and marketing that the subtitle is a tad bigger than the title itself. The same is true for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” One could argue this is coincidental, but I would contend there is a reason why “Black Panther” is tiny and “Wakanda Forever” is enormous. This film, while it is ultimately a “Black Panther” story, is ultimately about the Wakanda community. How they come together. How they deal with grief. How they engage in politics. There is no way this film would not have had “Black Panther” in its title. Because if it did not, it would probably lose money. Although at the end of the day, this is part of what I mean when I say the film is overstuffed. Again, there is almost barely a center character. If anything, Wakanda itself is debatably the central character.

Now that I have seen all of phase 4, one of the commonalities during some of phase 4’s stories is the concept of grief. If you ask me, despite being an example of art imitating life, I think “WandaVision” and weirdly enough, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had better execution when it comes to grief. Maybe it is because of my connection to one specific character either during the story itself or in previous installments and how they end up dealing with it. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” dealing with grief was perhaps unavoidable because of a real life event. There are moments, especially towards the film’s end, where grief comes into play that continue to stick with me. But part of what made “WandaVision” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” more fulfilling is that I knew who to root for. Wanda and Peter Parker. Of course, “Wakanda Forever,” a movie where, again, Wakanda itself may as well be considered the central character, presents a scenario where an entire society is mourning. But because the movie had an overabundance of characters and things going on at times, it becomes less powerful for me.

Although if there is one thing “Wakanda Forever” does well despite its flaws, it would be consistency. “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the previous MCU film, was like a seesaw in terms of tone. At certain points, it is as goofy as can be. At others, it is wildly dramatic. There is almost no in between. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” again, like “Thor: Love and Thunder,” clashes in terms of tone, but it is probably the most somber MCU film to date while also having pinches of much needed fun in between. Much like many other Marvel movies, there are moments of levity, but the film itself is a consistent downer. From scene one, the movie does everything it can to remind its audience that not everything is happy go lucky in Wakanda. Much like “Wakanda Forever,” “Love and Thunder” made grief a paramount topic. The film however goes too extreme on both ends to the point where it fizzles the goldilocks zone. While “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is more depressing than the average MCU film, including other movies that have their downer moments like “Eternals” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” it is at least both steadily, not to mention believably, sad.

Although because this movie is sad, does not mean there are no ounces of joy to be had. In addition to the recently mentioned levity, which is noticeably not as prominent as say “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” I liked the chemistry between Shuri and Okoye. The action, during this film’s collection of sequences, is well-done and kept my attention throughout. There is even a segment where someone catapults into the air via fish. I do not remember if it was a dolphin or a whale. I would have to watch the movie again, but that caught me off guard. This has to be arguably the craziest cool sight I have witnessed in a comic book movie since that one scene in “Aquaman” where an octopus plays the drums.

With all this sadness though, some of you might ask, can you bring your family and children to this movie? After all, Marvel movies, in addition to being box office hits, are also traditionally fine options for large groups like families. Even for children despite the usual PG-13 rating. To answer the question, I would say yes. This may not be as fun as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Although there is nothing absolutely offensive, nothing overly gory, and despite the film’s serious nature, there is nothing in it that I would think would instantly turn off younger viewers or the parents trying to entertain said younger viewers.

Before we move on, without giving a ton of detail, there is a fantastic joke in the movie about MIT. You will know it when you hear it. It got a good laugh out of me, and I think many people reading this will react similarly.

In the end, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” while still a decent movie, is a step down from the original. It is the neither the best or worst film of phase 4. It is somewhere close to the middle. The film is ambitious, but cannot quite fill the massive void that Chadwick Boseman left. I admire that “Wakanda Forever” took the risk of killing off one of its core characters and making that a backbone as to where things go in the film. Unfortunately, it led to a movie of both hits and misses. Is the film worth watching? The answer would be yes. It has its flaws, but in a thumbs up/thumbs down world, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a thumbs up, not to mention a 7/10.

Well, that is the end of phase 4! If I have to be honest, while this is not my favorite phase in the MCU, I will give it credit. Unlike phases 1, 2, and 3, every movie that came out in phase 4, had some semblance of decency at minimum. In phase 1, I was not a fan of “Captain America: The First Avenger.” In phase 2, I did not like “Thor: The Dark World.” In phase 3, I disliked “Captain Marvel.” Phase 4’s movies, from “Black Widow” to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” were all entertaining, fun, and worth watching. They all had flaws, but they were also worth watching. I have no idea what phase 5 is going to be like, but I hope that like phase 4, the movies continue to be solid.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is now playing in theatres everywhere including premium formats like IMAX and Dolby Cinema. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new Searchlight Pictures film “The Banshees of Inisherin.” I just watched the film this weekend, and while I look forward to reviewing just about every movie I see, I mean it with this one. I cannot wait to review “The Banshees of Inisherin,” I hope to drop it soon.

If you want to see more of my thoughts on phase 4 of the MCU, check out my reviews for “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Eternals,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?” What did you think about it? Or, what are your thoughts on Marvel’s phase 4? What is your favorite movie or television show from the timeline? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

DC League of Super-Pets (2022): This Movie’s Biggest Kryptonite? Predictability and Familiar Faces.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine, and stars Dwayne Johnson (Doom, Skyscraper), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Night School), Kate McKinnon (Yesterday, Saturday Night Live), John Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office), Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, Big Mouth), Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Narcos: Mexico), Marc Maron (Maron, GLOW), Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, Sonic the Hedgehog), and Thomas Middleditch (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Silicon Valley). This film follows Krypto the Super-Dog, as he must figure out how to rescue his owner, Superman.

I love comic book movies. And I know I am not alone. If the box office for most of the films within this classification have shown anything, it is that films of this type are hotter than they have ever been. Marvel Studios is on fire right now with the release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in addition to the massively successful “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” both of which ended up in my top 10 best of last year. DC is also doing well for themselves. I enjoyed “The Batman” despite some pacing issues I had with the film, and I thought last year’s “The Suicide Squad” might just be the best movie to ever have the DC logo attached. And in the midst of all of these movies that I either looked forward to or saw and really enjoyed, I never thought “DC League of Super-Pets” would live up to the quality standards that we have seen in other comic book-based works. If anything, I thought it would probably be on the same level as “Morbius,” only slightly more comedic and family-friendly.

I will be real. I cannot remember the last time I asked for a movie about Superman’s dog, but here we are. Why did I see it? Because I have reviews to get done and AMC A-List is a dynamite investment. I love not paying for movies that I feel the need to see to stay in the loop. Although at the same time, if you have names as big as Kevin Hart or Keanu Reeves, that should bring something promising to the table. And this brings me to my first positive, which I will dive more into later, Keanu Reeves was the highlight of the film.

What did I think of “DC League of “Super-Pets?” It’s predictable, mediocre, and I do not think the comedy landed that much. I have heard some differing opinions, but if you ask me, even some of the more clever jokes in this movie did not garner much of a reaction out of me. Some of the comedy attempts either felt tired, forced, or obvious. There is a “Paw Patrol”-related joke that probably would have been funnier if I did not make a “Paw Patrol” comparison before the film came out. Speaking of “Paw Patrol,” one thing about that show is that it is specifically made for kids. That’s the vibes I got from “DC League of Super-Pets’s” marketing campaign. All kiddy, no maturity. Turns out there is some adult humor in this film, but even that did not land. I can only hear the censor bar so many times before the gag becomes tiresome. This is honestly unfortunate considering the film is written by Jared Stern and John Whittington, who previously wrote another animated DC flick, “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Regardless of its comic-based origins and spinoff placement, it is one of the funniest animation scripts done in recent years. That movie had five writers! I hope for the sake of Stern and Whittington that they came up with at least one of the clever jokes that script contained, because “DC League of Super-Pets” feels like a far cry to the 2017 “LEGO Batman” spinoff.

The story of “DC League of Super-Pets” does not reinvent the wheel. I never asked for this movie to begin with, and therefore I never asked it to reinvent the wheel, therefore I did not know what to expect. But the movie itself sort of reminded me of a longer episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, but not necessarily a great one. I also think the script of “DC League of Super-Pets” is probably going to land better with those who are dog or cat people. People who have pets and consider them part of their family. I live in a space where there are pets, but they are not necessarily my pets, so this script did not connect with me maybe in the way the writers hoped it would.

I want to talk about the biggest problem in this movie, and this is the problem that the movie has built up ever since its first teaser. Going back to the big names. Having big names like Dwayne Johnson in your movie always builds intrigue and promise. It’s like when a printer gets endorsed by Shaquille O’Neal, or Mark Cuban becomes a quasi-mascot of a new, innovative product, or when Howie Mandel fist bumps everything in your store for some reason. When this film’s first teaser released, the primary focus was on the stacked cast this movie managed to acquire from Dwayne Johnson to Kevin Hart to Kate McKinnon to John Krasinski and so on. I want to talk about those first two names. Dwayne Johnson is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, and Kevin Hart, in addition to being a relevant comedian, has worked with The Rock in the past on “Central Intelligence” and the “Jumanji” movies. This is their third property together, and I do not mind actors or crew joining forces more than once. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have worked together numerous times in “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Gangster Squad,” and “La La Land.” Their chemistry is undeniable.

I have no idea if this is coincidental or not, but the Gosling/Stone pairing is a match every time. The difference between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone compared to Johnson and Hart is the ability of the former pair to show range. Ryan Gosling can be the sexy boy toy, he can sing, he can be stoic. Emma Stone can be a quirky young woman, she can be an aspiring actress, she can be someone from a couple centuries ago. The two are “actors,” not stars. Johnson and Hart, despite having personality, are not the greatest thespians, and it shows in “DC League of Super-Pets.” When I look at Krypto, I see The Rock. When I look at Ace, I see Kevin Hart. In my imagination, they are just playing versions of themselves in animated dog form. This is why part of me is often worried when I think about the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie because like “DC League of Super-Pets,” I am just worried that Chris Pratt is going to do another version of Emmet from “The LEGO Movie” or something. Chris Pratt, like The Rock, while he is definitely a better actor, is not the greatest of the performers working today. Pratt’s voice is recognizable, and that is part of why it felt weird hearing said voice in Pixar’s “Onward.” I am not saying live-action movie stars should not voice animated characters. Some have as much talent as those who primarily do voice-acting. But these roles show Johnson and Hart’s lack of range as actors. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart always do the same schtick or some variation of it in their movies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Not having a live-action environment hinders that and makes this film the weakest of their collaborations. And the fact that I am looking at these dogs’ faces and seeing nothing but Johnson and Hart makes their performances creepier than they should be.

I said I will get back to Keanu Reeves. A promise is a promise. Reeves is easily this film’s best part. Not just because of his voice, but the character he plays, that being Batman. Much like “The LEGO Batman Movie,” this interpretation of Batman or Bruce Wayne is on the more parodic side, and rightfully so. I said earlier that I was slightly concerned that Jared Stern and John Whittington possibly never came up with any solid jokes in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Although after reminiscing on Batman in this film, part of me has second thoughts. I was not a huge fan of the film’s comedy, but the parts where I was almost rolling on the floor were the scenes where Batman shows up. His screen time in this film is minimal. Think of it as a funny Stan Lee cameo where he plays himself except it happens ten times. Despite this movie’s lighthearted tone, it also pokes fun at the darkness of the Caped Crusader. Everything from his lone wolf mentality to his lack of parents. It’s hilarious, and I might every once in a while look on YouTube for the scenes in this movie containing Batman just to get a laugh.

In the end, “DC League of Super-Pets” is, to my surprise, not the worst comic book movie of the year. Again, “Morbius” exists. You’re welcome, Warner Brothers! You are going to have to settle for the dishonorable mention. Some of the voice acting is hit or miss. When I watch an animated movie, part of me wants to forget that I am watching something that has The Rock in it. I think as far as voice performances go, Johnson’s performance in “Moana,” while not my favorite in history, is slightly better than the one he gives to Krypto. But I also do not know if I can blame it on his ability, because his voice is recognizable. When it comes to Kevin Hart playing a house pet, I’d rather listen to his performance as Snowball the terrier in “The Secret Life of Pets.” I often watch films for an escape. If I want an escape with The Rock and Kevin Hart, I would rather watch “Central Intelligence.” This is not a film that is going to stand the test of time. As far as DC goes, it is surprisingly better than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but unlike “DC League of Super-Pets,” I had higher expectations for that film. I am going to give “DC League of Super-Pets” a 5/10.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the film “Vengeance,” directed by B.J. Novak. Also be on the lookout for my review for “Bullet Train,” the new action flick starring Brad Pitt as he and assassins crowd up a speeding train in Japan. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “DC League of Super-Pets?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast that disappointed you? For me, that big disappointment was 2017’s “The Circle,” starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega, among others. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jungle Cruise (2021): Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt Sail Through a Mediocre Run Through the Amazon

“Jungle Cruise” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, The Shallows) and stars Dwayne Johnson (The Fate of the Furious, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place), Jack Whitehall (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mother’s Day), Edgar Ramírez (Gold, Point Break), with Jesse Plemons (Game Night, Judas and the Black Messiah), and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave, Sideways). This film is based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name and is set during World War I. Throughout the film we see the mysterious ship captain Frank Wolff, who gives cheap tours through the Amazon River, join forces with Lily Houghton as they search for a tree that contains magical healing powers. While their intentions are to use it for good, Germany has other plans to utilize the power of the tree in order to win the war.

I saw “Jungle Cruise” on opening Thursday in the theater and safe to say, I had moderate expectations going in. I was not expecting Shakespeare, in fact most movies starring The Rock, regardless of his acting talent, are not usually taken as seriously as others. The trailers looked okay, they seemed to have promised a generic adventure that is somewhat family friendly despite being PG-13. In fact, the more I think about it, it kind of looked like a better version of “Dolittle,” as the plot of that film also involved finding a specific tree for healing purposes. There were plenty of people at my screening. It was not a sold out show, but it was good to see families returning to the theater. I went by myself, because I’m awesome, I’m important, and goddamnit, I’m the absolute best! But is “Jungle Cruise” worth the trip? In addition, is it worth $30 on Disney+?

“Jungle Cruise” certainly ain’t no “Indiana Jones.” Or “Pirates of the Caribbean” if you want to get into other theme park ride-based films. Well, the first one to be specific. If anything, “Jungle Cruise” is more in line with the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It’s a fun film to watch once and then forget about. I will admit, I had quite a few problems with this film as I sat down trying to take it all in. This is one of those rare times where I watch a film and think that Dwayne Johnson is not exactly likable. I mean, sure, I can probably find one or two other films where that is the case. “Tooth Fairy” is another one that comes to mind. But if I have learned one thing in recent years, it’s that regardless of his acting ability, Dwayne Johnson is one of the most charismatic movie stars out there today. He’s up there with Tom Hanks and Ryan Reynolds. Two actors who I think are more talented than The Rock, but there is no denying that they have delivered dumptrucks of likability over the years just from their personalities and how they present themselves on screen.

I’m not saying The Rock is a dick in this film or anything. I just find the way they wrote his character to be somewhat of a letdown. You know, one of the best things about movies like “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Memento,” and “Parasite,” without getting into detail, are the twists and turns these movies take along the way. “Jungle Cruise” is no stranger to this idea, but there was one subversion of my expectations that happened in the first twenty minutes of the film regarding The Rock’s character that made him go from a badass hunk of a man to… Somebody. I dunno. The point is, right off the bat, the character did not leave me with the best first impression. In fact, one of first scenes in the movie with this character, Frank Wolff, is him giving a tour through the Amazon River. The tour itself is notably cheap and lacks an oomph factor. That was the intention on the script’s part, therefore I am not calling this a critique. But the thing is, the whole scene is just The Rock trying to give a boring tour while delivering so many dad jokes. And that’s a thing throughout the movie. Dad jokes! Dad jokes everywhere! Who wrote this movie? 7 year olds? I have never ridden the ride this movie bases itself upon, but apparently, according to what I’ve heard about the Jungle Cruise ride itself, there’s a tour guide on the ride, and that tour guide will spew out dad jokes here and there. While I appreciate the nods to the source material, I’ll be blunt and say this doesn’t rock.

Goddamnit.

I will say that one of my regrets, despite seeing this in the theater, part of me wishes I saw it in 3D or some large premium format. I ended up seeing the film in regular 2D as that was the most convenient timeslot. But if you want a visual feast, this may be worth the trip. The same cannot be said for the story though, at least from my perspective. Because while it is unpredictable at times, it is surface level and the unpredictability is not precisely impressive.

Although I will say that one of my highlights of the film would be some of the supporting cast. Jesse Plemons has been great in everything I’ve seen him in so far, so naturally he is also great in “Jungle Cruise.” Here he plays Prince Joachim, an over the top German aristocrat who stands in the way of the heroes. Plemons does not even feel like himself in this movie. He feels like he’s playing someone from another world at times. Granted, it is a Disney film, where a little over the top sprinkles are encouraged. I will also note Jack Whitehall as Lily’s brother, MacGregor, who comes along for the cruise. Whitehall comes off as a likable coward who almost tries to be the voice of reason but does so almost poorly. I think he is easily one of the better parts of the film the more I think about it.

Disney has tried time and time again to recreate the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Whether “Jungle Cruise” gets a sequel or not is still somewhat questionable on the surface because of the pandemic. The movie did not do too great thus far theatrically or on Disney+. But when it comes to movies based on Disney’s theme park rides, this feels more focused on gimmicks and immersion compared to story. The story is okay, but it is most certainly not great. If you have a family and are looking for an excuse to leave the house, I’d say see this in the most immersive format you can afford. It may be fun for a couple of hours, but I cannot guarantee you will remember it much after.

In the end, “Jungle Cruise” is mediocrely paced, more focused on style over substance, and MY GOD the dad jokes never end! That’s a weird complaint coming from me, because if you know my family, specifically my father’s side, we get together a lot and we are no strangers to puns. In fact, for those of you who do not know, my last name is Drees, and on my father’s side of the family, we call puns and other related jokes “Drees humor” just because of how commonplace it has become when we are around each other. Either way, they did not work in “Jungle Cruise.” I think Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are a fair pair. Although I wish the script served the actors better, especially Johnson. The film does look nice, but looks are not everything. I want a good story too, but “Jungle Cruise” failed in that regard. I’m going to give “Jungle Cruise” a 5/10.

“Jungle Cruise” is now playing in theaters and it is also available through Disney+ with Premier Access for $29.99 on top of a subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for a film based on a Disney theme park ride, why not read five more?! Be sure to check out my reviews for all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” films including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” “On Stranger Tides,” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” I reviewed all of these films as part of recognizing Scene Before’s 5th anniversary in an exclusive series titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”

Continuing down the road of Scene Before’s 5th anniversary, this Monday I will be unveiling my thoughts on the 1984 sex comedy “Revenge of the Nerds” as a starting point of the upcoming review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” As I’ve said previously, my in-depth thoughts on this film, not to mention franchise, feels like it is long overdue.

Speaking of things we’ve all been waiting for, this weekend we are finally getting to watch “The Suicide Squad!” I have IMAX tickets for Saturday, I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you. James Gunn, I have faith in you, do not let me down. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jungle Cruise?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever go on the Jungle Cruise ride? What was that like? Leave your thoughts and opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006): Jack Sparrow Goes Bigger, and the Rules Get Dumber

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second entry of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” Today, we will be diving into the second film in the franchise, “Dead Man’s Chest.” If you read my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” you’d know that I had a lot of fun with that film. It’s a solid mix of old fashioned Disney vibes mixed in with some darker and more mature elements to create something special. Can this sequel capture the same feeling that I got from the original? Here’s my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. This sequel once again stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood) as Jack Sparrow alongside Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, King Arthur), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Jack Davenport (This Life, Coupling), Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, Conspiracy), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film once again follows Jack Sparrow as he embarks on a quest to find the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving himself to his service. Meanwhile, others are after the heart as well, but for their own reasons.

I really enjoyed the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. It’s pretty to look at, it’s fun to watch, it is overall simply crafted with a sense of sheer magnificence. Gore Verbinski did a good job at not just making a great film that I will likely watch again in the future, but also finding a fine line between genius and stupid. In my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” I pointed out that if anything, the film is essentially a modern day version of “The Princess Bride” because it is a great watch for both kids and adults, it’s got terrific sword fights, and both films seem to place themselves in a position where they can be goofy while also realizing it can be smart. When it comes to Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, I will stand by him being perfectly cast, and his presence in this sequel certainly proves my point. Jack Sparrow feels like a role that only someone like Johnny Depp can play. I cannot imagine anyone else taking on this role after watching these two films.

Unfortunately, this sequel is not as good as the original, as the old saying goes. However, it is not a bad movie. The second half is what kept my attention. This is not to say that the first half was bad, but compared to the second, it is kind of forgettable. On top of that, the one specific part that I remember most from the first half is perhaps the film’s biggest deterrent. In the current post-modern era, there is a tendency from studios, distributors, and producers to constantly create content that lacks originality. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. In case of these first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, I’d say it’s a good thing, but it does not mean it is perfect.

As you may or may not know, this property started out as a theme park ride. A lot of movies these days tend to have a theme park-like experience. The Marvel movies are varying visual feasts for the eyes and ears. The “Fast & Furious” movies are ridiculous in concept and crazy in execution because of their messing with physics and what could be done with supercharged cars. In fact, “F9” honestly took that theme park-esque experience a little too far for me to continually suspend my disbelief. Honestly, I do not know where the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies are going to go, but part of me worries that they’re going to go down the same path that “Fast & Furious” followed since the fourth movie. Now to be clear, I am not saying that every “Fast & Furious” has sucked since the fourth one. The only installment I hated since the fourth one is “F9.” But the reason why I hated “F9” is because each film manages to surpass the last in some degree of absurdity that it is too much for my brain to handle. There’s one or two scenes in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” where Jack Sparrow arguably should have been seriously injured or dead, but he isn’t! He walks off every other incident as if nothing happened! I am keeping an open mind at this point given how this is a fantasy film, but this is nevertheless something that does irk me internally. The first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, even though it was a bit ridiculous, it still felt like there were rules. In “Dead Man’s Chest,” there is less verisimilitude and a greater sense of absurdity.

This complaint does not take anything away from the fun that I had.

Throughout, the film has a lot of the strengths that the first one has. Some great lead characters. No seriously, I love Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom when they’re put together. I think they would make a great pair for a buddy cop movie one day. The visuals are breathtaking and hold up fifteen years later. In fact, I am not totally surprised considering how this film happened to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar for the year it came out. The entire encounter with the kraken is worth the watch alone. Keira Knightley is back as Elizabeth Swann and I really liked seeing her here too. There’s this funny scene towards the end of the film where Sparrow is supposedly flirting with her and her reactions to this are one of the better parts of the movie.

As for new characters, this movie adds Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, and I think she was a perfect addition to this movie. She has this fantastical presence to her that could only work in a movie like this. I’m not gonna lie, by the end of the movie, I almost had a crush on the character. Naomie Harris shines as this mysterious being who used to be a sea goddess, Calypso specifically, and her voice is perfect for someone who helps someone else who happens to be trying to fulfill their destiny. I like this character and of the many supporting characters this franchise has introduced so far, this one was perfectly cast.

Without spoiling anything, I also really like the way they end the film. It is exciting, thrilling, and gets me stoked to see the third movie the more I think about it. I feel like Gore Verbinski is really passionate about everything that he has put to screen in these first two films and he has a serious idea on the direction to take the third film. They got a couple of the writers who worked on the first film to come back as well. Something tells me they all work very well together and love what they do. I am very excited to see where they go from here.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is worth a watch, but compared to “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” it is not exactly as Shakespearean. “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” despite being in the fantasy genre like “Dead Man’s Chest,” seemed to acknowledge that there were some rules that had to be followed. Maybe if I were a young kid watching this I’d let the absurdity of the film fly over my head, but at this point, it didn’t, and it is a reason why the movie lost some points. Nevertheless this is a serviceable sequel with a kick-ass second half. I cannot wait for the third movie, part of me thinks that it will be better than this one. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” a 6/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray, and you can also watch the film on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week we dive into the deep waters of world’s end! My review for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” will be available on Thursday, July 15th! Stay tuned!

This weekend I have a couple new posts coming your way including a brand new installment to the CINEOLOGY podcast, where I am once again joined by my good friend Millie as we talk movies. Also, I will have a review up for one of the biggest movies of the summer, “Black Widow!” The film drops in theaters and on Disney+ this weekend, I’ve already got my tickets, and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this movie that we REALLY should have gotten three or four years ago! I cannot wait to see this! I love Marvel! I love Scarlett Johansson! I love the fact that we are getting big movies again! The experience will hopefully be worth the wait! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before follow either with an email or WordPress account or check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Johnny Depp film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

TENET is Delayed Again: New Release Date: August 12th, 2020

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Hey guys! Welcome to the latest apocalypse-related update of 2020! A year so bad that it made fully regret ever giving “Cats” a negative review. That hour and fifty minute movie which really ended up feeling like an utter eternity was a blessing compared whatever the f*ck is going on right now! Remember how I posted this s*it down below just a couple weeks ago?

TENET Gets Delayed to July 31st, INCEPTION Returns to Theatres July 17th

Guess what? That s*it’s outdated! Welcome to 2020! A one-way ticket to a dark room full of deadly lasers, accompanied with a bloody water tank with a giant shark that is about to eat you whole! WORST! YEAR! EVER! With that being said, I’m going to try my best… My absolute… Best. To avoid going ABSOLUTELY OVER THE TOP WITH THIS POST! Gah! I already failed! Let’s just do this!

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! In case you’re reading this, I have somehow survived being disintegrated by tons of deadly lasers and a giant shark that was about to eat me. For all I know, maybe the shark thought I was pitching a terrible product, and said “I’m out.”

…Which reminds me, I gotta cross that shark-raid whistle thingy off the pitch list. Here we go.

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A couple weeks back, we have had an announcement that “Tenet” was getting a pushback, which I think at the time, could have arguably been the most shocking pushback for a film we’ve seen all year. “Tenet” was one of the few pictures to not move a muscle so far in 2020, so to see it gravitate towards a later, granted two weeks later, but later nevertheless, release date on the calendar is a little shocking. However, in my post talking about it, I mentioned there was probably a good reason, one of the notable pieces of news sticking out to me being the plan to rerelease 2010’s “Inception,” allowing for a perfect reason to recognize the film’s 10th anniversary. Not to mention, I thought it was just a damn fine consolation prize. “Inception” will be brought back to theaters around the same exact time it came out, it would be a good way to get audiences back into the theater, see how many people are willing to go to the theater, and as for me, I get to see one of my favorite movies on the big screen, which I did not get to do when I was younger. However, this week, it was announced that “Tenet” has been delayed once more. Time runs out? More like, we need more time to put out our movie.

Before we go any further, “Tenet” is not the only film moving in this case. “Inception” is in on this as well. “Inception” is now going to be taking up the July 31st release slot previously held by “Tenet.” As for “Tenet,” that film will be taking a spot in the middle of the second week of August, allowing it to come out on August 12th.

Let’s start with the good news. The good news, I can’t believe there is good news available in 2020… It’s not that big of a delay. That can be a sign of pure optimism from Warner Bros., Christopher Nolan, or both. While we don’t know where we’ll be in days or weeks from now, it does show that somebody somewhere is sticking to a commitment to put the movie out in theaters. Let’s face it. If I were to shoot a movie on the largest format possible, which Christopher Nolan did. Release it on the largest format possible, which is currently planned. You bet I, as a studio executive, would surely keep a promise to put this damn movie in the theater. I saw previews for this film on my TV, and it looks good on my TV. But why does it look so good? Because it gave me the urge to get off my ass, into my onmyassmobile, and head to a freaking movie theater to enjoy myself for hours!

Wait, that sounds very familiar…

“This film (Dunkirk) is what actually going to the theater is all about. Not renting a movie on DVD, not streaming it on Netflix, but getting off your ass, getting in your onmyassmobile, and heading straight to the movie theater.” –Top 10 BEST Movies of 2017

Nolan is all about the “get off your ass” mentality when it comes to releasing films, and that is part of why I will remain committed to checking out his work. I am all about the experience when it comes to moviegoing. There are very few feelings like entering a movie theater and seeing a movie in general, but when Nolan makes a movie, it’s almost guaranteed to be a ride. To see at the very least, the notion regarding this movie not losing sight of the theater experience delights me to no end.

Now, for the bad news… What if this is not the last delay? Because I feel like the factors determining whether or not we will get to see this movie in theaters as soon as possible have little to do with whether or not theaters are ready. In fact, the major chains including AMC, Regal, and Alamo Drafthouse, have all announced plans to open in July, with precautions in mind. Some of these include deep sanitizing of the auditoriums and often-touched spaces through advanced equipment and materials, allowing extra time to clean auditoriums, reduced capacities and spaced seating to encourage social distancing, and enforcing the use of masks. And yes, I’ll wear a mask, because I’ll happily allow my mask to possibly smell like popcorn. Just because they’re ready does not automatically equate to the public being ready. Am I ready to head back to the movie theater? I’ve been motivated to go pretty much as soon as everything shut down. Granted, knowing myself, I am a little biased. I would have risked my life during the pandemic to go see new movies because this was the routine for my blog. Go to the movies. See a new release. Review said new release. Repeat. Instead, I had to take a break, report whatever fresh hell was happening during the apocalypse to point where I wanted to smash my F*CKING BRAIN INTO SPIKES! Save myself some money so my family and I don’t go broke. Occasionally review a new movie if possible, and so on. I would not deny that there is at least some sort of craving from various demographics to live in some sense of normalcy at this point. Movie theaters are a part of that normalcy. But would the public automatically leap themselves back into theaters? That’s going to depend on who you ask. Some would definitely go back in a heartbeat, but if you scour social media, there are some that are hoping for more at-home releases and those sorts of things.

Not only that, but let’s also look at statistics. One of the biggest catalysts that likely caused this delay in the first place is the notion that New York had no plans to reopen theaters in phase 4, which supposedly starts in a couple weeks for a great portion of the state. New York is one of the biggest movie theater markets out there. They have a large moviegoing population and a ton of theaters to back them up. New York City has also been home to many big film events, including premieres. Although if I’m not mistaken, if “Tenet” releases on time, if Manhattan remains closed, the run could still work if many other theaters in the state as long they remain open in other areas. Speaking of which, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, are trending pretty positive right now when it comes to handling the virus overall. This is as opposed to states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California, where the virus is proving to be a little more effective and deadly. Hospitals are filling up by the second, states are seeing record cases, and if they keep going up, who knows what’s gonna happen next? And besides, I just mentioned California, like New York, it is one of the biggest movie markets in the world. It’s where many red carpet events occur, the culture in various cities revolve around film, and it’s home to many historic venues. Plus, Los Angeles county is currently the most populous of the U.S. counties, if you don’t let them for example go see a movie in their local area, that’s potentially a lot of lost customers.

Not to get sidetracked, but I wonder if this means anything for the other big movies coming out soon like “Unhinged” and “Mulan.” Will they bump their dates somewhere else as well? Although Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain in the United States, is supposed to reopen the day that movie comes out, so I doubt they want to move as they have a sweet spot. As for “Mulan,” I feel like Disney could move it, but they also have a good spot should things turn around. They don’t have to worry much about what could be opening the week after, and a lot can happen in a month from now. As much as I would not be TOTALLY surprised if they put the movie on VOD eventually, I feel like from an executive standpoint, this is a movie that like “Tenet” is specifically made to be seen in a theater. Putting the film on VOD would be a sacrifice from one kind of perspective. Plus, based on what I’m hearing from people who have already seen the movie, it may have solid enough verdicts to avoid getting dumped onto Disney+ like “Artemis Fowl” did, which currently has a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.

One thing I will point out, when it comes to this new release date, it presents a fairly interesting idea given by a Warner Bros. spokesperson.

“In this moment what we need to be is flexible, and we are not treating this as a traditional movie release. We are choosing to open the movie mid-week to allow audiences to discover the film in their own time, and we plan to play longer, over an extended play period far beyond the norm, to develop a very different yet successful release strategy.”

Before this delay, in fact, even before the first delay, what I thought was going to happen was that Warner Bros. was going to attempt to pull the throttle as far ahead as possible. What could have been done is that they’d release the movie, allowing it to play on virtually every available screen in the facility, say this is all happening in a multiplex, allowing for everybody to go see this one movie at practically anytime, with an outright guarantee for social distancing. Granted, with the current plans to bring throwback releases into the mix, that would now be impossible, but again, I’m talking about the past. Now I’m noticing a fairly slow approach that Warner Bros. seems to be taking. I don’t know how well it’ll work out. But if they keep it in theaters for a long enough time, there’s a solid chance that it could be profitable. It’s likely going to depend on word of mouth, positive reviews, and maybe even some hint of rewatchability. For all I know, it could also depend on cases. But this blog is being documented by someone who lives in the United States of America, where we are perhaps all brainwashed into thinking the economy is more “essential” than lives. Am I sick of staying home for the longest time? You betcha. I have gone through several periods of not even exiting my house doors. In fact, this entire post pretty much sums up my distaste with the fact that I’ve had to stay home. But if we all really get back outside, we need to understand that the world is not going to be pretty. We need masks (which I detest, but I understand why we need them). We need clean hands. We need to do our best to stay apart. If we want to have what we love in front of us at some point during 2020, we need to understand the meaning of sacrifice amongst ourselves. And how this even became a political issue here in the United States, I will never understand! Apparently in this country, science equals politics! It’s global warming all over again!

Just so you all know, if you didn’t already, I hate needles with a burning passion. This is the one time, I repeat, the one time in my life, where I want a vaccine for something! I don’t care if it kills me quicker than the virus, but I just want to have a sense of normalcy at this point. I’ve had it with all this! I just want to go see a movie! It’s the one place where I can feel like I’m at home, because I’ve been at my house for so long that it doesn’t even feel like a home anymore! I love my house, but with isolation and everything! It has basically become a prison with people who love and care about you, not to mention better food options! I need to get out at least once to cleanse my brain from whatever spasms it has at this point! Walking won’t do the trick! Am I overreacting? Most likely! But this is my life! Art is the quintessential element that makes me whole, and now I feel like that has been snatched away. I turn 21 in November, so I think I have picked the wrong time to supposedly “build my life.” I want safety for all. But I want to do things.

“Tenet,” please help me. I’m more excited for “Dune” to come out in December, but as of now, I don’t know if there has ever been a movie I wanted to see succeed more than “Tenet.” It’s from my favorite studio, my favorite director, and will be shown in my favorite format. And I surely hope this delay is the last one we get. For all I know, should things continue to trend positively in certain states, I can almost see Warner Bros. releasing the movie in states that are trending positive, then adding a phase 2 to areas that trend positive later. It’s like the government, but it’s all about a $200 million+ movie. “Tenet” HOPEFULLY, and I cannot stress that enough, releases in theaters August 12th, 2020. The film will be available in digital, various large formats including IMAX, 35mm, 70mm, and IMAX 70mm. And you bet I will be striving to catch an IMAX 70mm presentation should one pop up in my area, and given how I don’t live far from Providence, RI, and I do expect the movie to end up playing at their IMAX venue, I will probably make it to one of these shows whatever it takes.

Thanks for reading this incredibly emotional post! And by incredibly emotional, I mean a post where I turn into an absolute brat who simultaneously wants what’s best for society. How did we get here?! Do we even deserve to live at this point? Bring on the alien invasion! Bring on dinosaurs! Bring on giant asteroids! Bring on dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria! What are we still doing here anywhere? It’s not like we’re… DOING ANYTHING! By the way, right now on Scene Before I am focusing on Tom Cruise Month here in June, which will conclude next week with my review for “Minority Report!” Until then, check out my review for “Top Gun,” a movie which had a sequel that was supposed to come out this exact week, but of course, COVID sucks. It really does. July is coming up, and I’m hoping for my sake at this point that I get to talk about at least one new movie. I’ve spent so much time talking about the past that the future looks mighty fine right now. This universe is punching me in the gut every day. Be sure to follow Scene Before if you want to see new content, and check out the blog’s official Facebook page! I want to know, what are your thoughts on the “Tenet” delay? Personally, I kinda saw it coming, but unlike the last one, this one hurt me a little more. I am more than likely overreacting, but as a guy who doesn’t really care if sports come back at this point, I at least want a movie. Or, here’s another question. Do you plan on going back to the movies anytime soon? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Oblivion (2013): Non-Cyberpunk 2077

TOM CRUISE MONTH POSTER

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Fun fact, ever since I have started my journey here on Scene Before since 2016, I have talked about 10 Tom Cruise movies. Granted, 60% of those films happen to be in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, but still. I have talked about “The Last Samurai,” “Risky Business,” “The Firm,” “American Made,” and as recently suggested, all six of his “Mission: Impossible” movies. Over the years I have missed a few new releases of his that I had a chance to review while it was in the theater such as “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and “The Mummy,” but between life, a lack of motivation, and those kinds of weird-ass excuses, I have not gotten around to them.

So the question is, after all this time, will I finally get to these movies?! No! I will not!

Instead, I’m gonna focus on some other Tom Cruise films, one of which includes the 2013 post-apocalyptic science fiction flick “Oblivion.” This film, along with a few others are going to be reviewed in place of what could have been reviewed in June, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which was supposed to release at the end of the month. But, you know, coronavirus. It’s the talk of the town. While Tom Cruise felt the need for speed in 1986, things must have slowed down in 2020, which at this point is asking 2016 to hold a crapton of beers. Nevertheless, let’s stop dilly-dallying and start diving into the first review of…

*LIGHTNING CRACK*

TOM CRUISE MONTH

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“Oblivion” is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who coincidentally is also helming the upcoming film “Top Gun: Maverick,” which like this movie, stars Tom Cruise. Aside from Tom Cruise, this movie stars Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight, The Shawshank Redemption), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, To the Wonder), Andrea Riseborough (Welcome to the Punch, Disconnect), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones, Mama), and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter). This film takes place during post-apocalyptic times in the year 2077 and it follows Tom Cruise’s character of Jack Harper, who currently lives on Earth as a technician who is responsible for maintaining drones as remaining resources are extracted in order to complete a five-year mission. Once this mission is completed, Jack and his partner will join the rest of humanity on their new home, Titan, a moon near Saturn.

Going into “Oblivion” for this review, it was my first time watching it and I was relatively curious as to what it would contain. I figured from the title and Tom Cruise being put in the center that it would be somewhat blockbuster-esque. When it comes to Tom Cruise movies, it kind of sounded like an “Edge of Tomorrow” type of deal. After all that film is sci-fi and action based. Much like “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Oblivion” does have its moments of action, but it does not seem to commit as heavily to it. From what I remember of “Edge of Tomorrow,” the action in that film is almost nonstop. After all, the concept of “Edge of Tomorrow” completely warrants it. It’s “Groundhog Day,” but the same day over and over is in the middle of futuristic battle. “Edge of Tomorrow,” even though there are other things to like about it, shines mostly from its concept.

Similarly, the writing and story for “Oblivion” is not all that bad, but it is two of the main characters, at least to me, that give this movie its overall watchability. And even though Morgan Freeman is the second actor I mentioned when introducing this film, he is not the highlight, even though his voice is worthy enough of its own relaxation album. In fact, his character, is probably one of the few that I’ll probably forget as time goes on. But from the very beginning, Jack and his communications partner have terrific chemistry. This movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2077 and not only do the characters played by Cruise and Riseborough match the vibe of the time, but I was able to buy into the stakes regarding their partnership. Together, their goal as partners is to be an “effective team,” which plays heavily into how the movie unfolds. One of the things that I notice a lot about futuristic sci-fi, or maybe just sci-fi in general for some cases, is that compared to the world we live in today, there is some lack of emotion in certain spots. Even with the lack of emotion in place, there is still a sense of realized chemistry between Cruise and Riseborough. And when the dramatic moments do hit, I feel it. This movie is a post-apocalypse story first, but if I were to judge it as a relationship drama, I’d give it a thumbs up. Also, sidenote, I like how at the beginning of the film he travels in his ship with his personal bobblehead to keep him company. It’s like his own little hula girl you put on the dashboard of your car or something.

“Oblivion” came out in 2013, and when it comes to the effects in this film, they feel pretty clean despite being in this rather depressing environment, but that’s not a bad thing. It does add a little glamour to something that doesn’t have much life in it. Specifically, I’m talking about the world, not the movie. This is not me bashing on the movie. I mean, the drones look very well put together and even though we just saw a new “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie that came out this year, the drones in this movie look twice as detailed and polished. I like the drones from a sound perspective as well.

I will say, having watched this movie in 2020, it does feel a bit weird, because even though we are living in a time where things are getting back to normal, one of the major plot points of the movie involves Tom Cruise’s past. Without really diving into spoiler territory, the way “Oblivion” handles this is likable, and as of now, kind of relatable. The movie starts out with Tom Cruise in an industrialized New York City, and it goes into his emotions in terms of how much he longs for the good days of old to return. Back when we had toilet paper and less masks and gather–wait, I think this is the wrong timeline! From this moment, and a few others during the movie, I got a sense of who the character of Jack Harper really was. A guy who went about his daily life with his partner, appreciating one moment after the next, but he also wanted the past to return, back when the Earth had numerous fun activities.

And even though Jack Harper is… (sigh) a Yankees fan, I understood his character because he wanted activities like sports and those sorts of things to return. Although given the circumstances, bringing those back would be a near impossible task.

I also really like the character of Julia, played by Olga Kurylenko. As mentioned, this movie focuses a lot on Jack Harper’s past, and the same can be said for this character. The way this was handled was very well done and made for one of the better parts of the movie. If I am not mistaken, “Oblivion” is my introduction to Olga Kurylenko, so I would like to see what else is put on her resume in the future.

Now onto the negatives, the film honestly starts much better than it concludes. I think the best parts of the movie take place through exposition and buildup. Even though the climax is somewhat entertaining, it misses an oomph factor to take it up a couple notches. Once again, I will mention, as much I like Morgan Freeman, this is probably one of his roles that I will end up forgetting. Granted, per usual, he is charismatic, but compared to other characters in the film, he does not climb up the ladder for me.

In the end, I went into “Oblivion” thinking it was kind of going to start off as this big action extravaganza, like “Edge of Tomorrow,” but it turned out to be something somewhat smaller in scale, which I am fine with. The shots in this movie are very well done, I admire most of the characters, and when it comes to Joseph Kosinski as a director, seeing this film makes me somewhat faithful that he can pull off a “Top Gun” sequel. Although when it comes to his past work, “Tron: Legacy” is definitely worth your time. Would I watch “Oblivion” again? Sure I would. In fact, this might be one of those movies that might be better the second time. It may have one or two moments or things that I missed that could make for a relatively fun second go. As far as Tom Cruise movies go, not bad. I’m going to give “Oblivion” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! This is the first installment to my Tom Cruise Month review series, I hope you enjoyed it, because I want to remind you that this is just the beginning. My next film in the series is going to be the 1983 flick “All the Right Moves…” I wish I’m doing something else, but here we are. That review is probably going to be up on Monday or Tuesday, depends on when I watch the movie. But next Friday is my current deadline. I wanted to get the post I’m doing right now up by this previous Tuesday, but between everything going on in the world, and I will admit, laziness, I was a little late on this. By the way, if you are reading this, happy June! …Or whatever time in the world it is, I lost track I don’t know how many centuries ago. If you want to see more content like this, please consider following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, head on over to my Facebook page! WE HAVE TOILET PAPER! That’ll get everyone in, right? I want to know, did you see “Oblivion?” What did you think about it? Or, do you have any bobbleheads? List em’ down in the comments, I want to hear about them! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Scoob! (2020): Scooby-Don’t See This Movie

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“Scoob!” is directed by Tony Cervone (Back at the Barnyard, The Looney Tunes Show) and stars Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth, The LEGO Movie), Mark Wahlberg (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Ted), Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery, Star Wars: Rebels), Gina Rodriguez (Annihilation, Carmen Sandiego), Zac Efron (Neighbors, High School Musical), Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, First Reformed), Kiersey Clemons (Angie Tribeca, Transparent), Ken Jeong (The Masked Singer, The Hangover), Tracy Morgan (The Last O.G., Rio), Simon Cowell (The X Factor, America’s Got Talent), and Frank Welker (The Smurfs, DuckTales). This film is yet another addition to the “Scooby-Doo” franchise created by Hanna-Barbera, but this was a rare case for the franchise in which this was supposed to be a big theatrical movie.

…If only more theaters were open…

Now, it has premiered on streaming services and On Demand. Nevertheless, the film’s ideas themselves remain the same. “Scoob!” centers around the popularized gang of characters who split up as the vicious Dick Dastardly plans to unleash a “dogpocalypse” to the world and its people.

I saw the main trailer for this film and I was pretty indifferent about it. I had no strong feelings of excitement towards the movie itself, nor was I thinking it would be the worst thing I’d ever see. When it comes to children’s content, I was pretty sure that “Sonic the Hedgehog” was going to get on my nerves more, which didn’t turn out to be the case whatsoever as it might be my favorite movie of the year so far. But, judging this year’s resume of films, that really doesn’t say much as the highest score I have given to a film so far this year remains at a 7/10. Speaking of things that get on my nerves, “Scoob!” is a crime against humanity that has officially engulfed my brain in flames.

Let’s start out with the positives, and I’m not saying there are positives because I’m a nice guy, in fact, isolation is probably turning me into an entitled asshole, but nevertheless. The film is decently animated. A lot of the images are shiny and vibrant. Then again, it is 2020, and at this time, good animation is a requirement. Plus, I did rent the movie in 4K. The other thing I liked about the film, and while I wouldn’t call it some of the best material I have ever seen, are the introductory scenes. The way that Shaggy and Scooby-Doo meet is kind of nice to see. Granted, I saw it in the trailer, but the way it plays out in the movie makes for a somewhat entertaining scene. However, there is one moment in the scene that I probably consider to be a little too far-fetched. Even so, it’s still a delightful scene. I will also add that getting Iain Armitage to voice young Shaggy is a perfect casting choice. The first scenes of the film where Shaggy and Scooby grow up together make for good buildup while also focusing on the mysterious and spooky elements of the “Scooby-Doo” franchise. The way the gang meets and sticks together makes for a fun scene and montage and even though it did not seem to promise an absolute masterpiece, I did at least expect to be somewhat amused throughout the hour and a half runtime of this movie.

As soon as we get around the first scene with Simon Cowell playing himself, I lost any and all interest I could have possibly had with this film. Because as soon as the main course starts, this movie basically becomes the latest incarnation of *insert superhero title here*. “Scoob!” is essentially an attempt to turn the “Scooby-Doo” franchise into a superhero movie. Everyone at Warner Bros. must have been thinking, “Marvel’s popular. Our very own DC is popular. Scooby-Doo? Not cool enough.” I guess this is one reason why Warner Bros. thought it was okay to release this film in May and not October. The movie takes place during Halloween, geniuses!

As for the heroes in this movie, both super like Blue Falcon and Dee Dee Sykes and less than super such as Scooby and Shaggy, I basically rooted for none of them. Everybody felt stupid, underwhelming, and even though Scooby and Shaggy have probably never been a part of a superhero mission in their lives as this movie likely suggests, some of the things that go on in this movie make me think that they need to look The Official Encyclopedia of Predictable Superhero Movie Actions. That sort of thing does not exist, but goddammit I would buy it if it were out there! There are one or two moments in this movie that drove me so mad, both as a fan of superhero movies and as someone who wants the characters in “Scoob!” to be competently written. Now I do not mind predictable movies as long as the people behind the project can make it fun. I just talked about “Onward,” which I could think through, but the overall fun and emotion provided within the movie makes up for its predictability. But “Scoob!” reached a level of predictability that I did not only avoid expecting to see, but as far as how the characters handled it, it angered me to the moon and back. When a decent amount of your movie’s characters are morons, why should I root for them?!

As for the villain, Dick Dastardly, he kind of feels like a D-list Thanos. He’s heavy, he’s got kind of a punch-able face, and he might honestly be the best character in the movie. Keep in mind, compared to Thanos, he’s nothing. But I liked the way they handled his character because there was some depth to him. Granted, they tried to dive deep into some secondary superheroes who play a role in the plot, but I couldn’t even come close to rooting for them. There is a saying that a movie is only as good as its villain, but when the heroes turn me into a villain, then it probably doesn’t matter how much I liked the antagonist of “Scoob!.”

May I just remind everyone that four people are credited for the screenplay for “Scoob!?” How did we get here?! Also, three people worked on the story. When it comes to these bloody genius writers, some of their previous credits include “Playing with Fire,” “Norm of the North,” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” just to name a few.

I’m not lying when I suggest that this movie is basically trying to copy the success of a superhero film. There’s a big team trying to stop the bad guy, there’s a couple scenes with hi-tech gadgets and techno wizardry that develop the plot, and you know how I mentioned that Dick Dastardly is basically Thanos in this movie? Guess what his plot is? Trying to find a series of bones to complete his collection! We get it! “Avengers: Infinity War” is one of the most successful movies of all time! It happened! Just be “Scoob!!” Actually, you know what? I take that back. Don’t be “Scoob!,” “Scoob!” is terrible. Be a better movie.

To add on to the superhero craze, you know what Warner Bros. is planning on doing in the future? Well, if you look at the Wikipedia page for “Scoob!,” it suggests that “Scoob!” “is intended to be the first installment in a series of films set within a Hanna-Barbera shared cinematic universe.” F*cking hell.

If you have ever been remotely interested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you should be thankful that critics gave “Iron Man” positive reviews, otherwise the MCU probably wouldn’t even exist today. As far as I am aware, “Scoob!” is getting mixed verdicts across the board. Who knows what’ll happen there? But nevertheless, if I have to sit through a cinematic universe full of material as bad as this, I am officially no longer a movie person.

In a world full of superhero and comic book movies, “Scoob!” is like that kid trying to join the cool kids table saying, “Hey, I like Fortnite,” but everyone else thinks the kid is just trying to get attention. I will give a ton of credit to the animators behind “Scoob!,” because the film does look nice on a screen. Again, I watched it in 4K, the colors really stood out to me. The one thing I wish I could do right now as a movie-watcher is declare whether or not something is worth checking out in theaters. But, I can’t do that. So instead, I shall pose the question, is “Scoob!” worth renting for $19.99? As far as I’m concerned, that question earns a strong “no.” This film feels like a Marvel flick that doesn’t even know who its audience truly is. The film tries its hardest to “modernize” the “Scooby-Doo” property, which I honestly think was a big mistake. Well, at least they got Frank Welker to voice Scooby. There’s even a joke regarding the character of Fred Jones that involves him being compared to one of the Hemsworths! This film is infuriating and unbelievably forgettable! In the end, “Scoob!” is ninety-something minutes of “what the f*ck just happened?” and I’m going to give it a 3/10.

Thanks for reading this review! I usually don’t talk about movies that avoid a theatrical release, but as long as movies are not hitting theaters or as long as there are no theaters open to play them, I will be talking about movies that hit streaming or DVD early. There will likely have to be some sort of previous intention to have the film theatrically released, but that’s just what I currently have in mind. I just want to watch movies that are better than “Scoob!” at this point, that’s all I care about. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, be sure to check out my Facebook page, which will hopefully be updated with content involving much better movies in the future.

Also, movie theaters, PLEASE COME BACK.

I want to know, did you see “Scoob!?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Hanna-Barbera property? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Onward (2020): Peter Parker and Peter Quill Cast Spells

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“Onward” is directed by Dan Scanlon and stars Tom Holland (Captain America: Civil War, Spies In Disguise) alongside Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as two brothers. These two brothers live together in a magical realm, or more specifically, a magical realm that has increasingly evolved over the years due to advances in convenience and technology. Now that both brothers are of appropriate age, they are able to execute a magical spell that can help them bring back their father for one day. When they are only able to bring part of their father back to reality, the two brothers go on a quest together to figure out how they can get the rest of him back.

First and foremost. It’s good to be back. While we are not back to normal yet, and yes, NORMAL, I’m tired of whatever the “new normal” is supposed to be! It is still nice to talk about a movie that has come out this year without as much distraction towards the greater pain of reality. “Onward” was one of the last movies I saw in a theater before everything ground to a halt. The film started off with a somewhat underwhelming box office performance, perhaps likely due to COVID-19 taking effect, but I did see it opening weekend, so I feel glad to be one of the chosen people. While there were other movies I was looking forward to this year more, many of which I won’t get to see for awhile, “Onward” was definitely one that had my attention. For starters, it’s a Pixar movie. And Pixar, kind of like Marvel Studios or A24, is one of those distributors that always delivers a midas touch. Heck, I even like all the “Cars” movies! I’ll go as far to say that I really enjoyed “Cars 2!” If you want action, that’s a Pixar movie I’d recommend. So even though “Onward” was not my most anticipated film of 2020, it was one that I thought would be at the very least, solid. And that’s what it was. A solid movie. As much as I make fun of Disney for their business practices, which work for them even though I don’t fully support them, I will forever love Pixar, which might be the mega-corporation’s greatest asset in terms of quality. Over the years, a lot of their films have been well-written, conceptually creative, and of course, beautifully animated. Especially over recent years, even if one of their films was never in my top 5 from them, I would not deny the amount of work that must have been put into those films to make them family-friendly, while also trying to keep not just kids, but adults interested. Even though I was, and I hate to say it, disappointed, with their late 2017 film, “Coco,” it is some of the studio’s finer work in terms of color and animation detail. Even though “Toy Story 4” is probably the worst movie in the series, there is a shot of a cat in that movie that looked like something out of real life. For the record, I saw “Cats” later in the year that “Toy Story 4” came out and none of the cats from “Cats” hold a candle to that digitally animated feline! That’s how much I appreciate Pixar as a studio.

Once again, Pixar does not let me down from an animation standpoint. Everything fits its respective environment, it’s crisp, and the attention to detail is spot on. I saw this film in IMAX and the animated shots of this movie shine on the big screen. I cannot say that it is Pixar’s best technical work, but it is absolutely superb nevertheless. The film is now on Disney+, and I imagine that the film does look pretty good on Disney+, but since movie theaters are starting to reopen, if “Onward” is playing near you, take the opportunity to see it! Because even if the movie is not that great for you story-wise I imagine it will still be fun to look at. It is a film, kind of like recent Pixar entries, that I see holding up for years if you want a tech demo.

As for the screenplay, I think it is at times predictable, but that is also what makes it work in certain moments to deliver a satisfying story. There is conflict in just about every single moment, there’s a good amount of setup and payoff that is done effectively. The playaround and mashup between this fantastical, dungeons and dragons-like sort of environment and our modern lives is undoubtedly entertaining and creative. It makes for some fun scenes and ideas. In a way, it almost reminded me of Disney’s “Zootopia” which came out four years ago. That’s a really good movie by the way! Because that movie took a bunch of talking animals, put them in a world like ours, and while that film more or less was a satire on modern society, it was cool to see a blend of fantasy and reality put together to deliver a fun time.

As for Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, I think both characters are well-written, but when it comes to casting. That is where things begin to become questionable. Now, I will say, Tom Holland as the younger brother is definitely worth keeping. But when it comes to Chris Pratt, I like him as an actor, but I feel like he’s more closer to a father figure than an older brother in this film. That’s just the first impression I got from him. After all in real life, Tom Holland is 23 right now. As for Chris Pratt, he’s 40! Now I know you can get away with a lot more in animation in terms of details, actions, voices, personalities, but hearing Chris Pratt’s voice attached to someone perhaps close to my age is a little bit weird. I’m not saying it’s off-putting, it’s just weird. Both characters are great, serve the movie well, and have likable chemistry, but I just don’t think Chris Pratt was the right choice for the character of Barley Lightfoot. Nothing against him, I respect Pratt as an actor, he’s got decent talent, but I think he was a little bit miscast.

As for Tom Holland, I think his casting was perfect. He plays a teenage boy, and I am willing to bet that due to his marvelous (no pun intended) performance as Peter Parker, that there may be some worries down the road that he may be typecast. Because Holland’s still in his early twenties, and he has tons of charisma that can convince somebody he’s likely able to play an older teen for a while. But nevertheless, when it comes to this animated role, his voice completely fits the character. It’s in this tone that is almost in what I would call a “downer” mood, I just made that up on the spot! I don’t even know what I’d call it! But Holland’s pitch matches his lanky character to a high degree. I will also give props to Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Ma) who also stood out for their fine performances, plus the solid casting on someone else’s part.

Funny thing is, going back to Pixar’s quality, I will admit that I have not checked out all their films yet. I own “The Good Dinosaur,” but I have yet to watch it. I also still need sit through “Monsters University” and “Brave.” When I was at university this semester, I had a screenwriting professor who saw “Onward” and he pointed out that when it comes to Pixar, it’s one of their inferior movies. He also went on to suggest that bad Pixar is better than a lot of movies. He’s got a point. From an animation standpoint, “Onward” is pristine. Story-wise, everything adds up, makes sense from beginning to end. Compared to some other notable animations or family movies that completely rely on immature fart jokes, “Onward” just tries to tell a needed story from beginning to end, which is usually what I go to movies for. And yes, the occasional visual spectacle of “Onward” is a much-desired and satisfying cherry on top of the sundae, but story must come first, which Pixar typically succeeds with, even in cases like this when it is not their finest work. Pixar was supposed to come out with another movie in June, specifically by the name of “Soul,” but that unfortunately has been delayed. Much like “Onward,” “Soul” is an idea that has not been tested out before by the studio. Going into these movies, I am always looking forward to where Pixar takes their characters and its creative concepts. When “Soul” comes out later this year, I will continue to anticipate attention to detail, but at the center, a dang good story.

In the end, “Onward” is a fun ride from start to finish. It is a movie that you can watch with your kids without really feeling the need to tune much of anything out. Pixar’s always had that intention and plan of execution in mind. I remember the first time I saw “Up” in the theater, and years later, my dad and I still remember the movie, and if I’m not mistaken, he’d probably watch it again if it were in front of him. Would I watch “Onward” again? Probably. Maybe not right away, but I can see the effort put into this film and that is something I totally respect. I’m going to give “Onward” a 7/10. Fun fact, a 7/10 is honestly a low score for the Pixar brand given their resume. So even though this is one of, and as weird as it is to say, Pixar’s worst movies, I think it is still worth your time. I’d probably rather watch this again than “Coco,” which, was good! But I expected a lot more from it. Maybe one of the downsides of that film is waiting until 2019 to watch this, whereas I watched “Onward” right away. But I could be sticking my feet into hazardous mud here.

Thanks for reading this review! Once again, it’s finally nice to talk about something that is not specifically about COVID-19! I wish I could do this more often. I don’t know if I’ll be doing a part 8 next week to my Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes series, but I’ll have to find out what I’m doing, what kind of mood I’m in, and so on. But if I were to review a new movie, my next one is likely going to be for “The Way Back” starring Ben Affleck. I will say, given how it has been a couple months since I’ve seen that movie, I wonder how much of a challenge it’ll be for me to talk about the film in detail, but that question shall be answered as we cross that bridge. Maybe I’ll rent the movie if I need to watch it again, but I also don’t to waste $5 or $6 for the sake of wasting $5 or $6. These reviews typically regard my first impressions, and I had little intention on changing anything in regards to how I do my blog, but this pandemic did it for me. It took some control away from how I operate everything I do at Scene Before. Or, maybe I’ll soon do my review for “My Spy” which is about to debut on Prime Video. I am officially one of the few that has ever seen “My Spy” in a theater, which I feel pretty lucky for doing. But as of recently, the film changed plans, and instead of getting STX to release it in theaters, the plan is to get the film on Prime Video as an exclusive. Given how very few, if any, sources in the U.S. have even talked about or reviewed the film at this point, it might be necessary to hold that review off for a little bit longer. It’s a truth that is difficult to handle at this point, but what isn’t difficult to handle during a pandemic? If you want to see more great content from Scene Before, give the blog a follow either through an email or WordPress account! Like this post, share it with your friends, show some appreciation for the Movie Reviewing Moron! Also, instead of scrolling across some clickbait articles with misleading information about COVID-19, check out the Scene Before Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Onward?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your LEAST favorite Pixar movie? Why? Would you still consider it to be “enjoyable?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020): Goes Fast, Does Not Crash

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“Sonic the Hedgehog” is the feature-length debut of director Jeff Fowler and stars Ben Schwartz (DuckTales, Parks and Recreation), James Marsden (Westworld, X-Men), Jim Carrey (Batman Forever, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), and Tika Sumpter (One Life to Live, Ride Along). This movie is based on the hit SEGA video game franchise of the same name, which has officially become one of the biggest titles in the industry. The film follows Sonic, who is sent to Earth from his home world, and eventually adapts to his current lifestyle. But when one thing leads to another, he needs to go to San Francisco all the while keeping the evil Dr. Robotnik from conquering the universe. So Sonic teams up with Tom Wachowski, AKA “Donut Lord,” in order to get to his destination.

I have never dove deep into the realm of “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I know about the games and its characters, but I have barely played them. Although, if “Super Smash Bros.” counts, I have played a lot of that. But I do know a bit about the film’s source material. Sonic is a witty, upbeat character that likes to go fast, because let’s face it. If he were slow, this movie might go on longer than “The Irishman.” But one I thing I think many people going into this movie knew about waaas…

This.

This f*cking face right here graced the Internet with all the memes possible! People thought it looked creepy, revolting, and an insult to humanity! Now I’m going to be completely honest with you. I do not create content to please people, I create it to enforce my personal asshat opinions. Speaking of asshat opinions, I did not think the original design was all that bad. Now, is it great? Maybe not. But it’s not like it is the end of the world! The reality is that this is a live-action movie, and you have this cartoony character in the middle of all of it. There are a number of possibilities they could have gone with. Hell, I would have been fine if they went down the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” route and made Sonic 2D. Would it have been weird? Sure! But again, this is an over the top animated hedgehog! I will say when I saw the first trailer, I was not as skeptical about the film as most people. It’s just a design. There have been plenty of good movies with lackluster visual effects. Look at “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” they CGIed Tarkin’s face, and it was choppy at times, but it didn’t take me out of the movie. In fact that movie’s GREAT. And say what you want about removing Henry Cavill’s mustache in “Justice League,” I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun. It felt rushed, it sorta clashed in tones, but it was still a fun ride.

Now to be fair, it is refreshing to have a film’s crew and the parties alongside them to respond to the fan backlash, because let’s face it. Fans can be rowdy. And the newer design that unfortunately shut down the visual effects company who worked on it, paid off. For putting in the effort and doing whatever’s possible to make the best movie you can, thank you. Movies are hard to make, I get it.

To be honest though, this does bring up something very important. I saw the first trailer and ended up feeling somewhat confident that this movie COULD work. It had the essentials for a solid story of its kind. Then I saw the second trailer with the design. Sonic looked dope, but the movie itself looked like s*it. There’s a saying that looks aren’t everything, and that is the truth about the second “Sonic the Hedgehog” trailer. A lot of comedy gags looked cheesy and weird, Sonic almost sounded kind of annoying, and it kind of had a similar vibe to “The Smurfs.” I mean what do you expect when you have a blue, animated creature from the middle of nowhere transporting themselves to our planet, uniting with a newfound human acquaintance, and unraveling a plot that affects both sides?

Cannot believe I’m saying this. Sonic freaking rocks! In fact, DARE I SAY IT. I want a sequel! This is the best video game-based film I have seen to date. Granted, I am missing a couple core titles like “Mortal Kombat” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” but still, this is the best video game movie I have ever seen not counting specific partially unrelated titles like “Tron,” “Ready Player One,” or “Wreck-it Ralph,” a movie which Sonic actually happened to be in.

Is it the best movie I have ever seen? Absolutely not. It doesn’t even come close, but it has pretty much what it needs to fulfill the requirements of a film of its kind. This film is for kids, there is no hiding that. But the thing I noticed is that for the most part, it doesn’t feel like it is treating kids like morons. Granted, it is not Pixar quality, but it doesn’t spend every other minute trying to make Sonic fart in Dr. Robotnik’s face. This movie has some nice nods to Sonic’s power, specifically super speed. There’s an occurrence where Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” is playing, Sonic has a comic book collection and pretty much every copy in said collection is from “The Flash,” and they even make a joke about “The Fast and the Furious.” More speed jokes, less fart jokes, I know I’m happy! My one complaint here though is that the baseball scene that is shown in the trailers is a little far-fetched, but it’s not a terrible scene, so I can kind of live with it.

Let’s be real, the Sonic character in this film is pretty much what I would want him to be. He is upbeat, he is lively, he is wild, he is fast, he is Sonic. Part of me thought that his constant hyperactivity would be a detractor of the film, and I will say that there are a couple moments where that does not help the product. There’s a moment in the trailer that is just as flat in the movie as it is there, specifically where Sonic and his newfound human acquaintance, Tom Wachowski, are passing by a sign that is advertising the world’s largest rubber band ball. It’s gags like that which don’t work. But the Sonic character is a ball of fun. He’s cute, but occasionally not cuddly. He’s almost one-dimensional, but one thing I will say about that is that the recent games from what I have seen, pretty much portray Sonic in a similar manner. He feels like a brother somebody has and they’re often annoyed by, but everyone else who knows the guy loves this brother. Sonic is my annoying brother, and I love him. Great job, Ben Schwartz!

Speaking of annoyance, Sonic is definitely annoying somebody, and that somebody is the recently mentioned Tom Wachowski who is wonderfully played by James Marsden. James Marsden is the main human character in the film, he is a cop in rural Montana, and the movie partially focuses on Wachowski’s acceptance to the police department in San Francisco, California. This partially plays into the hedgehog’s overall story, where they have to travel to San Francisco to avoid a deadly situation. The chemistry between the two here is surprisingly decent, I was never turned off. I also enjoyed his cop sideplot a little bit, but going back to unfunny jokes, there was one joke that I was able to predict pretty much what was happening right off the bat. Granted, if a kid sees it, it might be pretty funny, but not for me. I won’t go much into it, but it involves a tiny donut. Although, Tom Wachowski does earn a rather slick nickname from Sonic, specifically “Donut Lord.” Technically speaking that’s wrong, Homer Simpson is the REAL donut lord, but it is nevertheless a cool nickname.

But let’s talk about the best character in this movie, and I think a lot of people will agree with me on this, Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. When I saw the first trailer for this film, Robotnik almost felt like a flat, beyond cartoony, madman. Having seen the film, just remove the word flat, and you get Robotnik. I watched that recently mentioned trailer thinking Robotnik could be the worst character in this movie, turns out he is probably one of the best villains I have seen in a film made for children and families! Seriously! Carrey’s portrayal is incredibly zany and electric! And this partially has to do with how well written Robotnik is. He has the stereotypical villain mindset where he thinks he is better than anybody else, but that’s what makes him so great. There’s a moment where he delivers a line to another character having to do with him being the smartest man in the world, therefore everybody else is stupid. It is one of the best executed villain lines I have ever seen! Robotnik is such a great over the top villain that he has a lightshow dance party in his lab as he does his evil deeds. There’s a screen that allows him to simulate getting his head chopped off by a dinosaur! It’s bonkers! This feels like something Robotnik would do every day after smoking a couple joints! Robotnik had the finest lines, he was in on the best jokes, and as of right now, I don’t know if anybody else could play him.

HOW AM I– WHAT IS HAPPENING?! This was supposed to suck!

Now, this movie is a surprise if there ever was one. It’s a video game movie, meaning that it is filed under a kind of movie that does not usually do well critically or financially. Time will tell how much of a financial success “Sonic the Hedgehog” will be, but I did not expect so much positivity with this film. It sort of reminds me of what people must have thought before seeing “The LEGO Movie.” But, I will admit, unlike “The LEGO Movie,” “Sonic” is not flawless.

I’m pretty sure some of you reading this know that one of the staples of filmmaking is product placement. Some movies like to fill themselves up to the brim with an effort to make commercials within the film. The “Transformers” movies are an obvious example. 2017’s “Power Rangers” wanted to remind its audience that when they think “Power Rangers,” they also think Krispy Kreme! You also have movies like “Uncle Drew” that is literally produced by Pepsi! Honestly, product placement is one of the most annoying necessities in a film. When it’s obvious, it is sometimes cringeworthy. When it’s bloated, it’s embarrassing. The reality is that I came to watch a movie, not a commercial. If I wanted commercials, I’d just watch the Super Bowl.

But hey! After watching “Sonic the Hedgehog,” why don’t you take your family to Olive Garden and get a taste of their neverending pasta bowl? IT NEVER ENDS! Maybe afterwards, you guys can look at houses on Zillow and never buy anything because your kids will miss their friends in school! Seriously! There’s like, two or three mentions of Olive Garden in this film at different times! And each time feels as commercialized as the next. I remember seeing “Blockers” a couple years ago where the main girls are making a sex pact and they reference Olive Garden, say what you want about that in terms of how obvious it is that such a mention is there to be product placement, it nevertheless feels more natural than what this movie provides!

Also, as well done as the movie is from a visual perspective, even if a little extra complaining was needed to put in more effort, there are a couple of scenes in the film where I am looking at the laser sensors from Robotnik’s minion machines where they did come off a little more cartoon-like than I would have preferred. It could have been worse, but still. There are also a couple of moments where the effects looked a little TOO GOOD, as if they were too clean and glossy. Maybe it’s just me, but a LITTLE grit could have gone a long way.

But this does not take away from “Sonic the Hedgehog’s” positives. It pays tribute to the games, while also realizing that in order to stand out, it needs to be its own thing. The performances are good and fit the characters well. Robotnik is one of the most well-written villains I have ever seen, at least in a movie for families. There is a chase towards the end that is up there with some of my favorites I have seen on screen. I am not going to go into much detail, but one more notion I want to provide about “Sonic the Hedgehog,” I THINK the writers behind “Sonic the Hedgehog” took a moment to make fun of alternate video icon, “Super Mario,” OR… THEY TEASED A VIDEO GAME CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. Overall, this kind of makes sense, Mario has crossed over with Sonic in the past, Nintendo has put Sonic in a number of games also featuring Mario characters like “Super Smash Brothers” and “Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.” Why not bring that crossover to the realm of film? As far as I know, that might not be happening because Universal and Illumination are seemingly working on an animated “Super Mario” film and that would probably interfere with “Sonic the Hedgehog’s” universe, because it is live-action. Plus, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is under the Paramount name, so the two characters are probably under exclusive maintenance from different studios. But, you never know! Disney owns Marvel and yet they’re letting Sony collaborate with them on “Spider-Man.” Plus, Universal also has the Hulk, and yet he’s been in several of Disney’s MCU films. Anything’s possible in the money-grabbing, magical, bonkers wonderland of Hollywood! Don’t take this as news, the movie has been out for two weeks and I am not confirming anything about this.

In the end, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is fast, vast, and an utter blast! This feels like a movie that if I were a kid, it would get me more into movies, potentially even into how they’re made. Maybe it would even get me into gaming a little bit more if I were not already into that. Then again, what young boy doesn’t like a good video game? Depending on how 2020 pans out, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is highly unlikely to reach the top 10 movies of the year for me, but for now, it is easily one I’d go back and watch. While this does not say much, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is the best video game movie I have seen in my life. The competition against it is not really that stiff, but it’s the truth! With that being said, I’m going to give “Sonic the Hedgehog” a 7/10!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review I am going to be doing is for the all-new film based on truTV’s biggest show currently on the air, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” I love the “Impractical Jokers” TV show, so naturally I just had to check this movie out and see what it is all about. Does the show translate well to film? You’ll find out in my review! I just want to take an opportunity to wish everyone who was born on Leap Year Day a very happy birthday! It must feel great next year, for those of you who have just turned 5, to finally drink at the legal age of 5 and a fourth! In other words, happy birthday on this rare occurrence of a day! Happy Leap Year! If you want to follow Scene Before and see more great content, do so using an email or WordPress account! If you want to go all the way and support Mark Zuckerberg’s mission for social media domination, check out my Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Sonic the Hedgehog?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played any “Sonic” games? What was that like for you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dolittle (2020): Why, Downey? Why?

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“Dolittle” is directed by Stephen Gaghan (Gold, Syriana) and stars Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Chaplin), Antonio Banderas (Interview with the Vampire, Shrek 2), Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Masters of Sex), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Late Night), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Night at the Museum), John Cena (Trainwreck, Playing with Fire), Kumail Nanjiani (Men in Black: International, Silicon Valley), Octavia Spencer (Gifted, Hidden Figures), Tom Holland (Spies in Disguise, Captain America: Civil War), Craig Robinson (Last Comic Standing, Knocked Up), Ralph Fiennes (The LEGO Batman Movie, Skyfall), Selena Gomez (Monte Carlo, Wizards of Waverly Place), and Marion Cotillard (Allied, Inception).

This film is the latest reboot to the “Doctor Dolittle” intellectual property. This time around, Robert Downey Jr. plays the man who can talk to animals and it follows him in a story where a Queen is dying and the only way to save her is to go on a journey to find a healing tree. On said journey, he is joined by his fellow animal friends and a new human apprentice (Harry Collett).

I have no memory of watching any previous material from the “Doctor Dolittle” franchise from beginning to end, so this was sort of my introduction to this world on film. Granted, I knew about about the character, I knew the whole thing about how the character can talk to animals and said animals do not spend too little time making a presence for themselves. I had the basics down, but for this movie, I was getting a new experience, one I never really had before.

But just because my experience was new, does not mean it was enjoyable. If “Cats” made me never want to ever interact with a feline ever again, then “Dolittle” has officially destroyed any chance I previously had of wanting to so much as think about any animal in existence. Thankfully, unlike “Cats,” which I praised for the CGI *at times*, the effects in “Dolittle” are a lot less unsettling, and a bit more satisfying to look at. But if Robert Downey Jr. is going to continue doing films like this after throwing in the towel with the MCU, movie audiences everywhere are in for a world of pain.

Granted, I will say, one of the interesting things about this film is that Robert Downey Jr.’s wife, Susan Downey, is a producer on the film. Plus, the two have kids, and it was just revealed on a clip of “Today” that this was the first premiere that they were taken to. After all, unlike most of the movies that Downey Jr. has done recently, which have been PG-13, “Dolittle” is PG. If “Dolittle” was a chance for two related people to work together, it may sound sweet, but quality should ALWAYS come first. This is why I get worried whenever Melissa McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, are doing a project together, because statistically speaking, they are not usually that well-received. Granted, maybe I am getting a little bit more apprehensive than I really should because the Downey team are also working on a film together to be directed by Richard Linklater, who also directed “Boyhood,” which even though I have not seen the film itself, I know enough about it to realize how innovative and groundbreaking of a film it really is.

As for Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, I could tell that maybe there was some effort put into it, but holy mackerel, that accent sounds like crap! It almost sounds as if Downey was doing a really bad impression of Bilbo Baggins from “The Hobbit!” It’s overemphasizing in how bold it is supposed to come off and unfortunately, it makes me think Robert Downey Jr. at one point must have gotten acting lessons from a ship-sailing pirate.

Speaking of Robert Downey Jr., there is a point in this movie where he says a line where he basically invaded my mind and snatched an idea out of it. Now I know this is a kids movie, I know it is a family movie, some people will tend to say that these types of movies can get away with a few things here and there, cause ya know, kids just want to be entertained. I think that is a cop out of an excuse for a least a good portion of how many times such a thought is uttered. But what I find hilarious about this movie’s script is that there is a point where a bunch of characters are in a room together and Dolittle is basically providing a blueprint of his plan to save the Queen, and there is a point where he has to point out how preposterous his plan sounds.

Shut up, movie. Shut up.

The CGI in this film is not half bad, but that’s something I’d come to expect at this point, I’m willing to bet that maybe if this came out in the past decade or maybe sometime prior to say 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” this could be like another “Avatar.” Granted, if it came out in 2009, which is when “Avatar” came out, it probably would be just another movie, but this feels like a movie that would have probably worked as an experiential technological achievement from the 2000s, but since it came out in 2020, it needed something more.

I do not want to provide too many spoilers for this film, for one thing it just came out, and I imagine there are some people, not everybody, but some, who may have sort of a nostalgic attachment to the “Doctor Dolittle” IP. Out of respect for those people, this review is as spoiler-free as I could possibly make it. With that being said, the climax of this movie delivers one of the most infuriatingly off-putting gags ever put in a kids movie. There is a scene that I imagine young kids will probably get a kick out of, but I thought was the dumbest thing on the face of the earth. It involves farting. That is all I will say. Oh, and speaking of which, the humor in this film is as stale as whatever the latest pop song that always plays radio happens to be! Not all the jokes stood out, but when a joke did, it made me hate my life and everything in it. I am a bit young to have kids, but if I ever did have kids, this movie would probably be banned from movie night. If a find a DVD copy of this thing in the house, chances are I’m going to throw it through the window and break the glass. Any movie that has a scene containing a barely understandable human being playing chess with a gorilla who shows his ass as a way of insulting his opponent is officially on my eradication list.

Ironically, there is a song at the end of the film by Sia. I do not have all that much to say about the song itself, but apparently, in this attempt to recreate “Doctor Dolittle,” the song that plays is called “Original.” This world is becoming increasingly dumber, and there needs to be a cure for this combined dumbassery.

In the end, “Dolittle” just… did little to leave me happy. Will kids like it? Probably if they’re under maybe 10 years old. But I don’t think that this will be a film that families will go to and endlessly remember and quote for the rest of their lives. If anything, this is going to be a film that kids will watch, enjoy, and either move onto the next thing or continue watching until they grow out of it. “Dolittle” as a whole is just boring, formulaic, and none of the iconic names in the cast can save this mess! Robert Downey Jr. in this movie may not be a people person, but now after coming out of “Dolittle,” I have reevaluate my respect for the art of film and ask myself whether or not I am a movie person at this point. I am going to give “Dolittle” a 2/10. Now while I don’t see Universal Pictures dying a horrible death these next few months or anything, this is not the best of times for them. They just did “Cats,” which was awful, and apparently this is one of their next big releases! As one who enjoys Universal’s movies, I wish them luck during this dire time.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want everyone to know that my next review is going to be for Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen,” which I just saw at an advance screening aaaaaaannnnnd… There’s too much to talk about. I’ll save my thoughts for the review. That’s all I’ll say. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! If you want to leave a like or comment, make sure you have the proper account credentials, and speaking of liking, why not hop over to my Facebook page and give that a like too? I don’t see any reason not to! I want to know, did you see “Dolittle?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Doctor Dolittle” movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!