Strange World (2022): No Awe, No Wonder, Just Boredom.

“Strange World” is directed by Don Hall and co-directed by Qui Nguyen. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Spider-Man: Far from Home), Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story), Jaboukie Young-White (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Only Murders in the Building), Gabrielle Union (America’s Got Talent, Think Like a Man), and Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu Panda). This film follows the Clades, a family who must overcome each other’s differences in order to successfully navigate themselves in a space off the map.

Thus far, animation has not been perfect this year. The only real highlight in regard to 2022 animation for me would have to be “Turning Red,” which I watched back in March and enjoyed immensely. In fact, my favorite animation I watched that came out this year is one that technically came out last year, specifically “Belle,” as it released in Japan in July 2021. That movie was so nice that I had to post about it twice. Therefore, I was hoping that “Strange World” could join the ranks of “Turning Red,” or surpass it, and give the genre a boost. “The Bad Guys” was okay. “Lightyear” was fun but it is no “Toy Story.” “Luck” was not perfect. Let’s not even talk about “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank.” I wanted something that could potentially be a medium-defining movie. We had a couple of those last year with “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” the recently mentioned “Belle,” and Disney’s own “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The good news for those movies, depending on how you slice it, is if they wanted to remain superior, then this is a good day for them. “Strange World” is a movie that should have dazzled me. Unfortunately, I was bored.

Now let me be clear, for the people who ask why I do not like this movie, please note that this has nothing to do with a certain character having feelings for another specific character. If you are looking for another review where the writer disses on the movie because it is “woke,” go someplace else, arrogant scumbags. Scene Before is not the place for that. That said, it is time to talk about why “Strange World” is one of the most underwhelming and snore-inducing animations of the decade.

However, before we get there, I do want to drop some positives. Because the movie does have its moments. The first act, while not flawless, introduces the characters at a quick pace and provides some fascinating setup for what is to come. There is a particular event towards the end of the movie that caught me off guard, but in a good way. The opening song, while short, is kind of a banger. Oddly enough, this does not go for that traditional Disney movie soundtrack extravaganza where every other scene becomes a musical all of a sudden. There is no equivalent to Let It Go in “Strange World.” If you are seeking a musical, look elsewhere. If you are instead seeking a mediocre adventure in unfamiliar territory, look no further.

When your movie is called “Strange World,” that should be code to make a world that looked kooky and fun. However, I had my arms crossed for a good portion of the runtime. “Strange World” had scenes that looked like an escape from reality, but it is not just a matter of how the movie looks, but how it feels. Despite being taken on an adventure to somewhere unfamiliar, I never felt immersed into this world. Part of the reason is because this movie feels like it spends more time building its vast environments as opposed to the characters who are surrounded by said environments. Sure, we get moments where we get to know the characters, but it sometimes comes off as the bare minimum. In addition, the characters themselves are annoying.

Now the characters, for the most part, are well voiced. Dennis Quaid and Lucy Liu are particular standouts as Jaeger Clade (top right) and Callisto Mal (top left) respectively. The voice performances serve their purpose and are in no way problematic. However, I was annoyed by a character that should have been a lovable sidekick, Splat.

I found out that nobody voices Splat (right), so the voice actors are safe in this instance. However, the sounds that Splat makes, while somewhat appropriate, are honestly more headache-inducing than trying to find a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday. I can say this is based on true events. Both as someone who just wanted cheap Blu-rays the other day, and as someone who wanted to have a good time watching “Strange World,” but failed miserably.

Like most animated fare, there is a lesson intertwined that the crew perhaps aspire to deliver towards the children watching the movie. As an adult, I took away a particular lesson that sounded halfway decent. But at the same time, the lesson made for an atrocious story. It is predictable, dull, and worst of all, the three main characters all made me roll my eyes. Whether it was cheap dialogue, selfish motives, or overembellishing what could easily be shown instead of told. There are scenes where the main characters argue, and it had dialogue that should have been compelling, it should have gotten me invested in the scene and where things could go from here. All it did was made me put my hand on my head, begging for the movie to move along.

I watched “Strange World” in a theater that had some people. It was nowhere near its total capacity, but there were some families and kids. Despite the various attempts at comedy in “Strange World,” no one uttered a sound. I could barely hear children chuckling. For all I knew, the children at this screening had a good time. But when your family movie fails to get the family to emote, that is a problem. Although when the movie was over, people did clap. So there is that.

Watching and/or reviewing a Disney movie sometimes has its complexities. Because Disney is not just movies. That is just a small aspect of how they entertain the masses. What goes into their movies often factors into their merchandising, their parks, and so on. While “Strange World” is not a good movie, it was the kind of movie that despite its failed attempts to immerse me, made me think there could be a chance that this would make for a decent theme park ride. I can imagine this universe as a motion simulator in Disney World because it is so otherworldly. Kind of like some of Disney’s other rides such as Star Tours or Pirates of the Caribbean, it feels like going somewhere else. It does not feel like Florida. It does not feel like California. You’re either in space or some vast environment far from home. Unfortunately, I am not reviewing a theme park ride. I am reviewing a story. And despite one or two okay scenes, there was not enough to make me root for the characters or care about what was going on. As a story, this is dull. This is forgettable. This is uninteresting. I wanted it to end. Thankfully the movie not that long, but despite time flying by, I was not having fun.

In the end, “Strange World” is a bit of a letdown. I did not think this movie looked like the next big thing, but it also looked fun. Disney movies, even ones that are lower tier, seem to have glimmers of fun on a consistent basis. When I fail to walk out of a Disney movie, or any movie for that matter, with a smile on my face, that is not a good sign. Let me just put it this way. I had more fun with another Disney film, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and that is despite the film saying goodbye to a major character (in addition to the actor who plays him) and having a few downer scenes. “Strange World” occasionally made me angry because it looked fun, but it did not feel fun. There is a difference between designing something pretty, and doing something with it that is interesting. This movie felt like a first date with the most attractive woman alive, only to find out she has zero personality whatsoever. “Strange World” is a waste of time and I am going to give it a 3/10.

“Strange World” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you liked this review, check out some of my other ones! If you want to see more animated movie reviews, check out the review I did for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.” If you want to see more family movie reviews, check out my thoughts on the brand new Netflix film, “Slumberland.” I am planning on seeing a movie this weekend, I am not sure which one specifically, so as to whether “Violent Night” or “Spoiler Alert” is going to be my next review is a total mystery. You will have to find out for yourselves. 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 “Strange World?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an animation that you saw recently that disappointed you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Slumberland (2022): Willy Wonka Meets Inception In This Fun But Disposable Family Adventure

“Slumberland” is directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Red Sparrow) and stars Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Dune), Marlow Barkley (Spirited, Single Parents), Chris O’Dowd (Big Mouth, Bridesmaids), Kyle Chandler (Game Night, Godzilla: King of the Monsters), and Weruche Opia (Sliced, I May Destroy You) in a film where a young girl finds herself in the fantastical, larger than life dreamscape of Slumberland, where everyone’s dreams and nightmares are literally brought to life. With the help of Flip, a dazzlingly dressed outlaw, she attempts to navigate through a world beyond one’s wildest dreams with the hope to reunite with her recently deceased father.

This is one of the latest movies to come from the popular streaming service Netflix. Right now, the film is currently playing in California and I had the privilege of getting to see a screening of the film at a local theater for free. Despite the film mostly being targeted for streaming exclusivity, the budget is comparable to many theatrical features. “Slumberland” was made for $150 million. This is less than the studio’s recent feature, “The Gray Man,” which cost $200 million. Despite a scene stealing performance from Chris Evans, “The Gray Man” had a script that did not do it any favors. For the record, “Dune,” which Jason Momoa is also in, cost $165 million to make.

Unfortunately, this begs a question. Why does this film look occasionally off-putting? I know that one defense that could be made is that since the film is a streaming-centric release, it is inevitably not going to look as polished as a film that primarily releases in theaters. But as I was watching this movie, some of the green screen looked rather unfinished. Certain areas of the dreamscape feel dazzingly fantastical, but there are also moments that lacked verisimilitude even for something imaginary. It is as if this movie were helmed by Robert Zemeckis, he had limited tools, but still managed to create something with his trademarks. There is a segment in the movie with a ton of vending machines that is perhaps manufactured simply to advertise Twinkies, it kind of turned me off. Not only because it is forced product placement, but because of how artificial it looked. I know this is a movie about dreams, but I can tell you that in my dreams, even if what I am imagining has sparks of fantasy, the backdrop often delivers a hint of realism. It still feels lifelike when I am in it. Then again, what do I know? I am not in other people’s dreams. What can I say? Maybe Francis Lawrence dreams differently than me. Maybe he dreams about people taking 15 minutes to save 15 percent or more on their car insurance.

“Slumberland” is based on the comic strip series “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Except in this case, the title is changed to match the dream fantasyland, and the main character is a girl. I am not familiar with the comic series, therefore I will not be comparing two and two together. That said, I do like the idea this movie is going for. When I saw the trailer for “Slumberland,” I thought, “Oh, so it is ‘Inception,’ but for kids.” It kind of is that, but there is a little more to it. I am not saying “Slumberland” is as complex or thought-provoking as “Inception” but much like “Inception,” I was intrigued by how “Slumberland” managed to imagine what happens when we dream. One of the things I remember most from “Inception” is when Cobb shows Ariadne the inner workings of dreams and reminds her to never imagine things exactly as they are in real life and instead imagine new places. It reminded me of dreams I remember from my childhood where I visualized going through a local mall. Much of the structure was the same except for the floor tiles, the elevators, and there was a weird-looking McDonald’s nearby. Similar to that, “Slumberland” plays around with dreams that are quite literally what they are. Imaginative. There is an entertaining sequence in the middle of the movie where we see a young woman dreaming she is dancing around all these people with leaves around them. I would never expect that to happen in real life, but when it comes to wild, crazy dreams, this checks some boxes.

I keep going on about the aesthetic of the film, which is sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss. But what about the story? Is that any good? Again, I like the concept. While it does blend some familiar hero’s journey elements, it does manage to at the very least, emit a vibe that could technically qualify as entertainment. Despite my gripes with the design of the movie, it is fun. I think if you have children, this might be an okay watch with them. There are other family friendly stories that came out this year I would flock to first. For example, “Lightyear,” which if we are doing Christopher Nolan comparisons, where in this case “Slumberland” is “Inception” for younger audiences, then “Lightyear” is “Interstellar” for younger audiences.

The highlight in “Slumberland” is the chemistry between the two stars. While this is not my favorite movie or performance from Jason Momoa, I must admit he looks like he a had a ton of fun on set and this gave him a chance to let loose. While “Aquaman” is a film that could easily be described as crazy stupid fun, his character never goes too off the rails. Here, Momoa is occasionally a lovable goofball to the point where I am surprised Dave Bautista or John Cena did not end up taking this role. Meanwhile Marlow Barkley shines as Nemo. She is charismatic, dynamic, and every scene between her and Momoa, and even Chris O’Dowd, had my attention partially because of how she played off of Francis Lawrence’s direction.

“Slumberland” is like a Roald Dahl story, or more specifically, a 99 cent Roald Dahl story. Momoa plays a Willy Wonka-esque character, both in terms of appearance and emotional delivery. Seeing how Nemo found herself in Slumberland and the journey she took throughout the world reminded me of “The BFG,” because you have this young girl discovering this strange place and her new best friend appears just as otherworldly but there is more than meets the eye. Unfortunately, unlike “The BFG” and some of Dahl’s other work, I do not know if “Slumberland” will be worthy enough to have staying power in children’s imaginations. This might be a movie that will remain relevant on Netflix for a short time. Although much like the many dreams we have during sleeps of our own, “Slumberland” will assumingly be forgotten as children and families move onto the next thing. Whether that next thing is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Strange World,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” or their holiday movie traditions this year. Maybe this will be the year the kids finally get to watch “Die Hard.”

In the end, “Slumberland” is not offensive, but not a masterpiece either. But if you want me to be real, despite its flaws, I had some fun. There are a lot of cool concepts in the movie, but with slight flimsiness in terms of execution. If I had to compare to this film to any other I saw this year, it reminded of Apple TV+’s recent animation “Luck,” which also follows a girl traveling through an unfamiliar world alongside someone she does not know. When it comes to these kinds of films, “Slumberland” is the better iteration of the two, but it is not saying much. Although when it comes to fantasylands, I would much rather immerse myself in the universe of “Slumberland” as opposed to the universe of “Luck.” The manufacturing of dreams is more palatable than the manufacturing of luck. The actors are serviceable in the movie, with Momoa being the standout. There are some occasionally neat sequences, but given that this movie is made for streaming, there are also sequences that highlight its lessened polish. Would I recommend the movie? Barely. I think if you go in with the right mindset, you could have some fun. This movie is not playing in many theaters, but if I were paying above matinee price to watch the movie, it would not be worth it. At the discount price, it might make for an okay experience with some popcorn by your side. I am going to give “Slumberland” a 6/10.

“Slumberland” is now playing in one theater in California, but if you are not in California or would prefer another option, the film is available on Netflix for all subscribers.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for another brand new movie, “The Menu!” I got the chance to watch “The Menu” at a press event the other day, and I cannot stop thinking about it. I will reveal my thoughts on the film in the next couple days. 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 “Slumberland? What did you think about it? Or, tell me about the craziest dream you remember having. Leave your comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

Even if its video game adaptation is cringe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021): Even the Most Hyper-Masculine Will Buy the Adorableness This Movie Shells

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, and this is his feature-length debut. This film stars Jenny Slate (Parks and Recreation, Bob’s Burgers), Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Alita: Battle Angel), Thomas Mann (Kong: Skull Island, Halloween Kills), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Crime of the Century), Dean Fleischer Camp, and Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes). The film is based on a short and book series of the same name. In this feature-length take on a preestablished character, the story centers around Marcel, who spends his days with his grandmother, Connie. Throughout the film Marcel is interviewed as he unveils everything about being an anthropomorphic shell in a big house.

I have seen the trailer for “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” during my couple ventures to see “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” After all, it only makes sense as both films are from A24. I know a bit about A24 as a distributor. They have marvelous originals like “Eighth Grade,” some wonderful adaptations like “Room,” and even when a film from them is bad, they still have my respect. Because I always get the sense that an A24 film is typically bad in a way that makes me think, “Maybe that was not for me.” This is especially true with a movie like “Midsommar.” I appreciated “Midsommar” from a visual standpoint, but felt genuinely annoyed whenever it attempted anything along the lines of horror.

“Marcel the Shell” is a complete drift from “Midsommar.” There were families at my screening for crying out loud. If I were given the option to pick out a movie without having seen it, kind of in the sense that I am doing a blind buy, and those were my options, I’d lean towards “Midsommar.” On the surface, it would seem like my kind of movie. I was sold on “Marcel the Shell” when seeing the trailer, but between Ari Aster’s name being attached in addition to the concept, “Midsommar” would have sold me harder.

Now that I have seen both movies, I can confirm that both tell oddball, offbeat stories. “Marcel the Shell” personally tells its story to a greater ability.

Between “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Marcel the Shell,” A24 is having a heck of a year, and I hope they continue to flourish.

“Marcel the Shell” has origins that go back some years ago. While Jenny Slate may also be known for her work on mainstream concepts like “Parks and Recreation,” she has dedicated her time, alongside other people, to creating “Marcel the Shell.” If her passion for the property has not been erased all these years later, Slate excels in revealing such a notion, because she gives it her all to deliver possibly the cutest voicework I have heard since maybe Young Dory in “Finding Dory.”

Although I cannot give Slate’s voice all the credit, because part of what makes “Marcel the Shell” so clever and palpable is how child-like the character is written. I do not mean immature. This movie has the maturity of a great Pixar story if you ask me. However, some of the lines in this film, not to mention the overall vibes, very much felt like watching a child grow up. I do not have kids, so this may not be the best analogy, but as someone who was a kid and as someone who knows parents, I imagine this is a good comparison.

One thing I remember from my childhood, either through growing up or seeing my sister grow up, is how often children mix up their words to say something that sounds similar to what they are trying to say. There is a great line in the film given by Marcel. He gives the famous quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” which traces back to the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky. But after acing this quote, Marcel is taking all the time in the world to come up with a ton of similar sounding names, but none of them are Wayne Gretzky.

The closest he comes to being right is Whale Jetski. …This is the most adorable movie ever created.

Not only is Whale Jetski a cute-sounding name, but it goes to show how hilarious the movie is. This film is presented in a mockumentary style, which was never my thing. While a lot of my friends tend to enjoy “The Office,” and as much as I think some of the people behind the show are talented, the show’s mockumentary format never sat well with me. That is not the case with “Marcel the Shell,” as the mockumentary format not only lends to some unique concepts, neat editing tricks, and kneeslap-worthy jokes, but some occasional great fourth wall breaks, if you can call them that, from the character of Dean. His main purpose is to videograph the goings on of Marcel, which fits into the mockumentary aspect of the film. After all, it is revealed that he is filming a documentary, which Marcel and his shell community happen to be in on.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” proves that the creative floodgates have a wider opening than some might think. In a world where we are inundated with sequels, reboots, comic book movies, or flashy action adventures, we still have a desire for telling and seeing stories like this. “Marcel the Shell” has the simplicity of a show like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and the creativity of a movie like “Toy Story.” I have truly never seen anything like “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” It is not the first story with the character, but it feels new to me.

For a movie that truly is small, much like its titular character, it packs such a raw punch when delivering emotion at times. I already talked about the humor, but I can guarantee you that this movie will make New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick smile. Maybe he’ll shed a tear, who knows? I am not saying that everyone will walk out of this movie with a tear out of their eye, happy or sad. But I am saying that if you do not walk out of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” with a smile, I would argue that you hate all things awesome. Things like swimming pools, or French fries, or redwood trees, or space. How the hell can one hate SPACE?!

There is not much I find wrong with “Marcel the Shell.” I do think I became more invested in the shell community as opposed to the humans they expose through flashbacks, which is not a terrible thing, because the movie knows what it is about. Other than that, I think “Marcel the Shell” is one of the best films of the year, and if you miss it, then you are skipping possibly one of the most adorable films in cinematic history. I mean it.

In the end, “Marcel the Shell” lacks the grand scale many movies tend to have nowadays, but that is also what makes it a unique and entertaining production. This is a movie about a shell who spends his days with his grandma and happens to bond over things like “60 Minutes.” Yes, THAT “60 Minutes.” The one on CBS every Sunday. It sounds weird. And in ways, it is. But that is also why you should give it a chance. This is great for adults, this is great for kids, therefore it is great for everybody. I guarantee that you will grin at least once by the time those end credits show up. If you don’t, then color me shocked. I am going to give “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” a 9/10.

“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I want to apologize for not getting this out earlier. I have been somewhat busy recently and I am happy to announce that I am likely going to be taking on more movie-related writing outside of Scene Before. Those of you who have been here since the start would know that Scene Before, AKA Flicknerd.com, is independently operated by me, Jack Drees. But if all aligns properly, I will be writing for a particular outlet that some of you might know. I am not going to say which one as I am not officially onboard, but if I have more information, I will share it with you.

That said, if you like this review, be on the lookout for more coming soon! This week I will be sharing my thoughts on “Nope,” the new Jordan Peele film where a brother-sister duo confront a strange event around their horse ranch. Also, stay tuned for my thoughts on “DC League of Super Pets,” the new animated superhero film that focuses on Superman’s dog, Krypto, and a set of other superpowered animals. 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 “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could make a documentary on something, what it be about, and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Witches (2020): Witch Imperfect

“The Witches” is directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, The Walk) and stars Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Gifted), and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Transformers: Age of Extinction). This film is based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name and follows a young boy and his mother as they stay in a hotel together. One thing leads to another, and the boy finds out the witches’ plan to turn children into mice. From here, we have the main groundwork to let the rest of the movie unfold.

Not only is this movie based on a classic children’s book from Roald Dahl, but to my lack of knowledge, “The Witches” was made into a movie once before. I had no idea that this was true, but there was a 1990 adaptation of the film directed by Nicolas Roeg. I had no idea this movie existed, but here we are. But growing up with Roald Dahl, I cannot say that I am all that surprised. “The Witches” was never a book I was particularly interested in. I imagine I picked it up once or twice for a couple quick glances, but not once have I read it all the way through. Books like “The BFG” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were of higher interest to me when I was younger. Unlike when I watched the 2005 “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for the first time, where I had the original book and 1971 adaptation in my memory, I don’t really have anything to compare “The Witches” to. I cannot say the book’s better, because I have not read it. I cannot say the 1990 adaptation was better, because I have not seen it. But what can I say about the 2020 adaptation of “The Witches?”

It’s not great. Really not that great.

This movie, particularly in the United States, was supposed to hit theaters, but due to a change of plans, it became a direct to HBO Max exclusive. Other than a few scenes that are visually wild, I can see why this went straight to streaming. Because the reality is that the script for this film is kind of bland. At times it’s a little stiff. I know that one major audience for “The Witches” happens to be children, and I will say that in this movie’s favor, there are some scenes that would give me heebie-jeebies at a younger age. That’s not the problem, because this movie is occasionally suspenseful and haunting. The problem is that this movie feels like it occasionally talks down to them. I’ve seen it done worse in a few other movies, but nevertheless. I don’t know who to blame here. Again, I have not read the book. Maybe this script was incredibly faithful to the source material, which can work as a compliment in many instances, but books are books, and movies are movies. They’re different mediums and sometimes everything in a book does not always translate to film.

One of my other big complaints about this film regards its pacing. I often talk about pacing as a complaint because when a movie moves too slow, it occasionally bores me. Thankfully, this movie is not as boring as some others I have seen. Boredom was not achieved. My problem, and this may be seen as a compliment by some people, is that this movie moves very fast. This film wastes no time whatsoever in getting from point A to point B, but I really would have preferred one or two moments where I could breathe. But that’s also probably because of the earlier complaint where this film overembellishes everything for the audience. There’s a whole elongated scene where Anne Hathaway’s character is exposes her plan to turn children into mice and squash them. It takes forever, but somehow it feels like by the end of the scene, only a few moments have passed. It almost feels like that if the movie did not extend itself unnecessarily, it could have been five to ten minutes shorter, maybe even fifteen. I could be wrong. This is arguably the weirdest complaint I’ve had for a film all year, but it stands. Runtime does not always matter, it’s what you do with it. And here, I think they’ve just wasted some of my time.

This is not to say the film’s all bad. I will say that one of the advantages of this film, especially compared to almost everything else in 2020’s slate, is that it looks quite attractive to the eye. The production design is quirky, and much like some other Dahl adaptations, this movie occasionally felt larger than life. For the record, this movie did release in theaters internationally, so they get the benefit of the theatrical experience. If you live in the United States, watch on the biggest home screen you can. For a movie aimed at families and children, this does look like something that would fit in that realm. This is live-action, but it’s colorful and poppy at the same time. Some of the effects, specifically where we see one of the witches sniffing like a maniac, is a little over the top, but other than that, they fit the movie in terms of tone.

One area where I am continuously conflicted is Anne Hathaway. Now, I adore Anne Hathaway. She’s in some of my favorite movies, she has talent, and I will point out that I can tell she gave it her all here. But the way her character is presented is very hit and miss. Again, this is part of the overembellishing problem with this film. I get she’s a witch, I get she’s evil. But at times, she reminded me of a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from 1997’s “Batman & Robin.”

“What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!”

I will say that per usual, Octavia Spencer is quite charming. She was a good fit for her role, and while I will probably not remember the movie all that much, her chemistry with her son was decent. Not the best I have seen, but decent. Speaking of which, the son character is played by Jahzir Bruno. The cast lists his character’s name as “Hero Boy.” What a name… Is this… A long lost relative of “Protagonist” from “Tenet?”

By the way, watch “Tenet.” Just my recommendation.

I will say, when it comes to Jahzir Bruno, he probably has a bright future ahead. Who knows what’ll happen in regard to his acting career? But his character, while likable, is just a small increment of why this movie is poorly written. One of the things I HATED about this movie, is how far-fetched it is at times.

Now, you might be thinking, that’s what it is supposed to be! It’s a movie where witches can turn humans into mice with a magic potion! You’re not wrong. I don’t mind that at all. What I do mind is that the movie has a scene that throws everything you know about hearing out the window. I do not know how good the witches can hear in this universe, maybe the book explains it more, but there is a scene where Hero Boy lays under a stage where Anne Hathaway’s character gives a speech. From what I can tell, he’s trying to hide, be secretive. When he takes in a certain piece of information, he speaks to himself almost like he’s having a casual conversation. I do not know if that is his fault, or the director’s fault. I hope not, because Robert Zemeckis has been in the business for years. And evidence sometimes shows that it is not always easy to work with child actors. I do not know if Bruno was following a specific order from the script, a last minute adjustment from Zemeckis, or what. I do have faith that Bruno will be in more palatable movies as time goes on, and he is still young, so he can improve his craft a just a hair. I just wish this project was better.

One of the big advantages though of watching this on HBO Max is that other than the subscription, this is practically a free movie. It was not like I was robbed of $12 at the theater, or in the case of the pandemic, $19.99 on Prime Video or Google Play. Even so, I can see why this was dumped to a streaming service. As cool as it would have looked in a theater, it does not have the writing and excitement to back it up.

In the end, “The Witches” could not quite deliver the cheese. I will point out. I’ve seen a lot of movies directed by Robert Zemeckis. All the “Back to the Future” films, “Allied,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” “The Polar Express.” I’ve enjoyed most of the films I’ve seen from him. Even ones I did not enjoy like “Flight” and “Cast Way” still had elements which I was able to appreciate. “The Witches” fits in the same category as those previously mentioned films, it is one of Zemeckis’s inferior days at the office. And as far as Roald Dahl adaptations go, this one is probably my least favorite. Much like’s Zemeckis’s cinematic library, I can not pinpoint one particular Roald Dahl adaptation I’ve seen that I legitimately hated. But this one was not a golden ticket. I’m going to give “The Witches” a 5/10.

If anything else, one of the best parts of this movie is the score. Unsurprisingly, considering how this movie is directed by Robert Zemeckis, Alan Silvestri did all the composition work. Time will tell, but it is hard to say whether “The Witches” will become a popular Halloween tradition for some. It wouldn’t for me, but who knows? This movie just felt rushed, but by being rushed, it did so by elongating, talking down to its audience. It does a lot by doing very little, if that makes any sense. This is the “Ludicrous Speed” of movies.

Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is one of the bigger ones in regard to movies this year. “The Witches” just hit HBO Max, Prime Video now has “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Empty Man,” even though it looks terrible, just hit theaters, and one of my favorite movies of the year BY STORM just hit Netflix and is still playing in some theaters. That movie by the way is the new animated musical “Over the Moon,” which centers around a young girl who longs to find an ancient Moon Goddess. I cannot recommend this movie enough, even though I know a few people who may want to skip certain parts of it. By the way, if you want to read my review for “Over the Moon,” click right here! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Witches?” What did you think about it? Have you read the book? Have you seen the 1990 film? Which version of the story do you like best? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

My Spy (2020): Dumped Onto Amazon? No Kidding.

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“My Spy…” That is a name I have been waiting to say for the LONGEST TIME. Nevertheless, “My Spy” is directed by Peter Segal (Grudge Match, 50 First Dates) and stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Stuber), Chloe Coleman (Big Little Lies, Transparent), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers, Gravity Falls), Ken Jeong (The Masked Singer, The Hangover), and Parisa Fitz-Henley (Jessica Jones, Midnight, Texas). This film is about a CIA operative who is on a mission alongside a fanatic/newbie in Chicago, who is supposed watch over a particular family’s apartment, only to run into a nine year old girl who lives in said apartment. As this happens, the CIA operative is now at the mercy of this nine year old who can potentially affect the entire mission.

If you wonder why I started this review the way I just did, here’s some context. I have waited FOREVER to talk about “My Spy.” Not because I knew about it for a long time and was finally getting to see it. Not because I was looking forward to it. Hey, this is no “Star Wars.” Before the COVID-19 craze happened, prior to when it was announced that this film would be going straight to Amazon’s Prime Video after multiple delays in the United States, I was invited by STX Screenings, which is an outlet based on the studio responsible for this film, to see “My Spy” a couple towns away from me. So I got on a train. Remember trains? Those were so much fun. I headed on over, saw the movie, but I knew one thing was for sure. I could not talk about it. That is unless I turned Scene Before into an Australian outlet, because this film already released in Australia months ago. Without saying much about the film, I did not hate myself, but it didn’t feel buzzworthy.

By the way, THIS WAS IN JANUARY. And it’s not like I went to a big festival or something or a test screening. No! This was a finished product! This was a screening meant to promote the film, get people to think about it, and that sort of thing! It was a simple free screening that just so happened to take place on a Saturday in January at 10AM! They really wanted families for this thing, didn’t they?

But guess what? I’m a Prime member, so I took the opportunity to watch this film again. After all, a lot can change on a second viewing, and I did forgot a lot about this movie over the last five months.

Once again, I did not completely hate myself for watching “My Spy.” But to call it Shakespeare is laughable.

Oooh! Here’s a hashtag! #ThisAgedWell.

Now don’t think I’m nagging on Dave Bautista, I love his work and he often comes off as one of the most down to earth celebrities working today. He doesn’t let the attention and fame get to his head, and he seems like an all around fun guy. I also love his passion for the film industry, those involved in said industry, and unlike some people, he is not afraid to project his opinion beyond the stratosphere (even if sometimes it might not work out in his favor). And I’ve seen him do good work. I think Bautista was a good pick to play Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He had a solid screen presence during the beginning of “Blade Runner 2049” as Sapper. I even liked “Stuber!” It’s not a masterpiece, but… It has its moments. Well, Bautista’s performance in “Stuber” wasn’t his finest, but I liked the movie nevertheless. Here in “My Spy,” he looks the part from a physical standpoint, but the way the script translates onto the screen is weird at particular points where Bautista happens to speak.

Continuing on with what I just said, Dave Bautista DOES NOT give a career-damaging performance. At this point, I’m still excited to see him if there is a “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which is seemingly in development at this point, so I can’t wait to see where that goes. However, when it comes to how his character is written. It’s very hit or miss. And the same can be said for some other moments of the screenplay as well.

While I did end up buying the mother/daughter relationship between Parisa Fitz-Henley and Chloe Coleman, there are a couple utterances of their lines and interactions where they didn’t feel like real people. Yes, one of the core objectives of a film is to stretch the truth and reality to a certain point, but there are one or two moments where it breaks the barrier and goes a little too far. I bought into the characters, but this is nevertheless how I felt as I witnessed said characters on screen. I also think the chemistry between Dave Bautista and Chloe Coleman is admirable, which does kind of end up being the heart of the film, so I gotta give credit to the casting department where it is due. Although, it is not like I haven’t seen this type of chemistry done better in the past. This film kind of reminded me of “The Game Plan” starring Dwayne Johnson. You know, that movie where he unexpectedly meets his own daughter. Although, that movie handles something better that this seems confused with, its identity.

While I often criticize Disney for its unwillingness in regards to pushing boundaries, their movie, “The Game Plan,” at least feels consistent. It always feels family-friendly, it always comes off as somewhat warm yet exciting, it projects a sense of clean fun throughout. Here, it feels kind of weird. Did they make this movie for young teenagers who wanna hear people drop a couple bombs? Did they make this for kids? Families? The movie starts off with a strategically laid out action scene that almost glorifies violence, but later on we get this family drama that turns out to be the heart of the movie. It feels like a PG-13 action movie in one moment, but for almost the full remainder of the runtime, it feels PG at best. I am willing to bet, that if this movie was PG, it MAYBE could have gotten away with as much violence as there is. Maybe if it was just toned down or edited with slight differences, it would have gotten the PG rating. If they took out a few naughty words, it would have gotten a PG rating. Do I want this movie to be PG? No. If you ask me, I am always for the dark route whenever possible. But I want this movie to have a tone that works, but it almost fails when it comes to having its own identity. It feels like a conglomeration of ideas that are randomly placed together to waste a little more than an hour and a half.

“My Spy” is a technically competent film. When it comes to aspects like editing, camerawork, and music, “My Spy” works. It’s not the greatest movie ever made. Far from it in fact, but it is confusingly laid out and doesn’t feel like it really knows what it is. The movie also tries to be a comedy, and there are moments where the comedy does land, but it also comes off as a little traditional, like I’ve seen it before. Bautista has a couple well-executed comedic moments as the movie goes on, but if you have seen a lot of movies, it is probably not going to stick the landing as perfectly as one would hope.

For those of you who don’t watch a lot of animated movies, one of the cliches from that realm of film is that there is a dance sequence of some sort. Now, “My Spy” is not animated, but this does honestly nearly, not COMPLETELY, but nearly come off, as a movie meant for kids. Much like the typical animated fare, “My Spy” has a dance sequence, but I will say the way they handled it here was not exactly annoying. It wasn’t completely exciting or exhilarating, but it felt like it had a noticeable purpose compared to some other movies (I’m looking at YOU, “Uncle Drew”). For a movie like this, seeing a dance sequence that actually worked and didn’t make me want to rip my hair off was sort of delightful.

In all seriousness though, “My Spy” is probably going to end up being one of the more forgettable movies of 2020. How do I know that? Because as I mentioned, I already saw the film in January and a lot of it already faded. It feels disposable, slightly typical, and doesn’t really offer anything spicy to the table. I think Chloe Coleman, who plays the young girl in this film, has a bright future ahead of her, but if she becomes successful, I don’t think “My Spy” will be the film I will end up remembering her for most.

In the end, “My Spy” is probably going to be watched once and then quickly left in the dust. The only thing I can say at this point is that if you are bored and you pay for Amazon Prime, watching this movie won’t exactly kill you. If it’s a family movie night, you can do better, but you can also do a lot worse. Now I saw this movie twice, and that’s because I wanted to refresh my memory on what happened in the film and how it presents itself. Was it worth the second watch for those reasons? Sure. But if we’re talking about entertainment value, there are superior options out there. I like the people in the movie, but the movie itself, not as great. I’m going to give “My Spy” a 5/10.

Thanks for reading this review! It is almost the end of June, so that means that we are getting closer to the day I release my review for Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report.” This is the conclusion to Scene Before’s Tom Cruise Month, which has been fun for me personally, as I do enjoy Tom Cruise as a professional. I have not seen “Minority Report” yet, but I assure you that I do have even just the slightest anticipation to talk about it. If you want to see more great content like this from Scene Before, please give the blog a follow! If you have proper account credentials, give this post a like! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “My Spy?” What did you think about it? Or, since it’s relevant… Did you ever see the 2007 movie “The Game Plan?” Tell me your thoughts on that! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

CHECK OUT MY TOM CRUISE MONTH REVIEWS SO FAR:

OBLIVION (2013)

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES (1983)

DAYS OF THUNDER (1990)

TOP GUN (1986)

Cats (2019): Kitty Litter

EVERYBODY:
Go see “Richard Jewell!” Clint Eastwood has done it again!
Check out “1917!” It’s heart-stopping!
Watch “The Irishman” on Netflix! It’s worth the three and a half hour runtime! It’s REAL cinema!
Hey! “Queen & Slim” is getting positive reviews!
GO SEE “STAR WARS!”
“Bombshell’s” the movie we need right now!
“Frozen II” is a great Disney sequel!
“The Two Popes!” Check it out!
Hey Jack, have you seen Amazon’s “The Aeronauts?”
“MARRRRRRIAGE STOOOOOORRRRRY!”

ME:
Hey guys, I’m going to review “Cats!”

*Beat*

…Awkward. No matter what happens, this will unite us all. It’s time to review the NON-“Star Wars” movie coming out this weekend, because this is what I was able to see early on this week. Let’s get this s*itshow overwith.

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“Cats” is directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, The Danish Girl) and stars James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Emoji Movie), Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love, Philomena), Jason Derulo (Everybody Dance Now, Drop the Mic), Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor), Jennifer Hudson (The Voice, Dreamgirls), Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Good Liar), Taylor Swift (The Lorax, The Giver), Rebel Wilson (Jojo Rabbit, Pitch Perfect), and Francesca Hayward. The plot of “Cats,” if there is one in this damn thing, is that a bunch of cats that look and walk like humans compete against each other to be the one to earn another life… That’s the best way I can describe this movie without cringing. Because holy s*it. THIS IS PUTRID.

Going into “Cats” on Tuesday night, I had two screenings to choose from. “Cats” being one of them, obviously. The other one happened to be “Bombshell,” which I said to you all that I would review. Well, expect a delay on that, when I finally got my RSVP for “Cats,” I could not pass it up, and by that I mean I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” with somebody else, because as far as I know, there is probably not one person that would want to see “Cats” with me. Did I have any plans to watch “Cats” originally? Absolutely not. In fact, if you follow the Scene Before Facebook page, and if you aren’t following it, CLICK THIS LINK and give it a like! Anyway, if you have kept track of recent happenings there, you may have noticed this recent post…

Well guess what? I ended up dragging myself on the underfunded transportation system in the Boston, Massachusetts area, put my ass in a cinema seat, and here we are. But let me just say, I did not go into “Cats” blind. I went in having seen bunches of the marketing, including the main trailers, which honestly just creeps me out the more I think about it! I had little to no real anticipation of this movie, even though I was expecting some decent numbers and neat visuals at times. Did I get those in the end? Kind of. The visuals were nifty, but the numbers are honestly forgettable. I have never seen any other related “Cats” material, not the play, nor any other adaptation. So this movie ultimately took my “Cats” virginity. As someone who has had their first “Cats” experience of any kind, I cannot imagine myself returning to this franchise in the near future. This movie BROKE me to no end. It’s honestly up there with some of the most anger-inducing content I have seen all year. In fact, I am honestly kind of glad I went to see the movie as early as I did. I love the moviegoing experience, and going to see a movie early, depending on the film is honestly kind of thrilling. I was in a theater containing some people who were enthusiastic. One person had cat ears on, some were Taylor Swift fans, and I think the best part about this movie is that the occasional reactions from people that were given with a hint of sarcasm. There was this one moment around the first act where this guy just belted out a snarky laugh and a bunch of us played along because I think a surprising number of attendees thought this movie was going to suck balls and we had almost no expectations for it. Maybe we collectively thought this movie was cheesy or a waste of time. Who knows? The point is, if I went to see this movie in perhaps January during a dead afternoon, it probably wouldn’t be as fun or lively. The only thing I probably would have felt at that time is pure anger. Being in the environment of a free screening before a movie opens definitely helps.

BUT IT DOES NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE CRAP I SUFFERED THROUGH!

I have been noticing something about our current moviegoing audience. We seem to enjoy two things nowadays. Granted, that’s an understatement, we seem to enjoy lots of things in reality, but the two of the commonalities I’m seeing from the general moviegoing audience is spectacle and nostalgia. There’s definitely an argument to make about “Cats” being one of the more nostalgic movies of the year. It’s based on a hit musical from the late 20th century, which was inspired by poetry from T.S. Eliot. I think a lot of older audiences will gravitate towards this film, plus younger theater admirers. And I will point out one thing that I think could have ended up being a positive about this film, specifically the prettiness that’s intact. From the marketing, there have been a lot of shots that looked nice, the neon signage everywhere kind of adds a nice touch, the film is visually appealing on the surface. And throughout, at times, I dug it for its visuals. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give.

Earlier this year, I reviewed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” which is one of the worst blockbusters I have witnessed in recent memory, especially when considering how FANTASTIC the trailers were leading up to its release. To this day, the only compliments I can give the film are some of the shot choices and the appealing visual effects. That’s it. “Cats” is kind of like that. Granted, I did not like the “Cats” trailers, but you probably get my point. However, the good news is, and it honestly PAINS me in the ass to say this… I’d rather watch “Cats” again. As a movie, it is technically competent. Not to mention, competently… BOOOOORRRRRRRING!

This movie technically has a plot, but when it’s presented on screen, it’s an utter mess! It’s a nice looking mess, but a mess nevertheless! I guess we’ll call it a hot mess! The movie undoubtedly is trying to rely on the spectacle provided from each number. I didn’t expect this movie to lack singing, but the singing in this movie is ENDLESS. OH MY FREAKING LORD! A good portion of the numbers are… borderline OK? I guess? But I don’t feel like I will end up remembering them. The only numbers that truly stood out to me was the one where Taylor Swift’s character was introduced, most likely because there were a few people in the crowd who were ecstatic over seeing her on screen and one heavily revolving around Laurie Davidson’s character of Mr. Mistoffelees, which I won’t go into. Again, I went into the movie not knowing much about “Cats,” so I’m gonna be somewhat vague with the material.

I am not even in the mood to go into the characters, because for one thing, there are a lot of them. It’s overwhelming. I am willing to bet that if there were fewer characters, this movie could be a tad more interesting. I will say though, even though “Cats” itself is somewhat visually attrractive, it is simultaneously off-putting. I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t ask for a movie where Ian McKellan plays a live-action, human-like cat that is licking a plate. It’s something so unimportant, yet so horrifying. Much like the numbers, there is perhaps not even a single character that ended up standing out. Many of the characters feel like they have little to no layers, and the only thing that could end up being memorable is all of the “digital fur technology” that went into this pile of crap they call a movie.

I do not seek out musicals that often. I don’t usually watch all that many films that are heavy on musical numbers, but if I had to compare “Cats” to any other film, I’d say one of the closest examples I can give is Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” For the record, they are COMPLETELY different on almost every single level in terms of plot, genre, and character motivations. But one of the biggest compliments I can give to “Transformers” is the visuals. The effects are nothing short of amazing. I think even people who don’t like the newer “Transformers” movies can probably agree that the visual effects are nice to look at. Now, I personally enjoyed the first “Transformers.” It’s a fine action movie if you ask me, but I know the franchise is not always the most pleasing to everyone. The story is basic, repetitive from one film to the next, and some would say it almost doesn’t even matter when there are tons of explosions and American flags everywhere.

This movie doesn’t really shy away from comedy. I mean, what do you expect when there’s a seemingly sarcastic laugh during my screening? Only thing is, the comedy just doesn’t work. In fact, the jokes I remember are random cat puns. They might have been the only jokes in the movie, and they sully the experience entirely.

Why did I go see “Cats?” Well, I wanted to wait to see “Bombshell” for one thing, but I thought this would be a fun film to review. It’s one of those one of a kind, crazy experiences that I will end up remembering, but not for the right reasons. Personally, I don’t ever see myself watching “Cats” again, and I had no plans to get a cat in the near future, but this movie has officially eliminated any possibility of me wanting a cat, because if I am ever presented with an opportunity to get a cat, part of me would not stop thinking of this piece of trash. And in other news, Taylor Swift is in this movie, that picture above is of her. And SPOILER, the movie DOES NOT go into how many cats she broke up with.

In fact, let me specify about my experience of watching this film. This was a film that felt embarrassing to say the least. It’s well-crafted, but embarrassing nonetheless. Whenever I go see a film, I usually order myself a popcorn and soda to keep myself up. I didn’t do that this time. I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it. Maybe it’s because I was busy talking to a friend I ran into, but that’s not the point. The overall experience of seeing “Cats” feels like a dream. Because I became increasingly sleepy, increasingly bored, and the movie itself became more irrelevant than the door close button on modern elevators! There is a part of me that wanted to laugh, but it felt really hard, because at the same time, what I really wanted to do was leave. This movie overstays its welcome, even giving itself an opportunity to hammer in one final number that is so bad that it’s good. And when those stinking credits FINALLY came on screen, I let out a bellowing “THANK GAAAWWSH!” Because again, the movie broke me to shreds. You know how I said I didn’t get any popcorn or soda for this movie? Upon the leaving the film I had one thought in mind. I need popcorn, because I felt like I dredged through this movie in the same way that Bart Simpson would dredge through homework. I felt like part of my well-being has been erased. This was a well-earned treat for myself. By the way, the popcorn was f*cking satisfying. It made my cat nips go hard.

In the end, “Cats” is perhaps the most competent borefest of the year, and that really says something because… “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was a thing. And that’s the absolute worst thing about “Cats.” It looks charming, it looks presentable, it looks nifty. Some of the camerawork is nice. But between some of the questionable editing, lame-ass script, and nearly nonexistent plot, this movie made me angrier than that kid from “Looper” whenever something goes wrong for him. I would rather poke my own eyes out with my own two hands than go see this movie again. The ensemble has a lot of big names including Idris Elba, Ian McKellan, and James Corden, but not even that could save the movie. In a way, the more I think about it, it almost makes the movie worse. Remember that movie, “The Circle” that came out a couple years ago? It’s like that. It had a list of respectable actors including Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, TOM FREAKING HANKS! To know that these people took on this film specifically, makes my brain leak a little bit. Again, visually appealing, but it’s not enough. I’m going to give “Cats” a 2/10. Part of me wants to give this movie a 3/10, I really do. But now that I’ve had a little bit of time to marinate, this is up there with some of the most frustrating, not to mention forgettable, movies I have EVER seen during my time on this blog. Did the crowd reactions add something? Kind of. But not entirely. To me this was just a waste of time. The only ways that this movie could end up as a 1 is if it didn’t look pretty, if the acting was the worst I’ve ever seen, or it weren’t for a couple of halfway decent moments. Nevertheless, this was an insufferable experience, and I know “Star Wars” is not getting the best reviews right now, but this is actually making me excited for “Star Wars.” I think the only way I could have ended up enjoying “Cats” is if I was perhaps very young and this was one of the first movies I have watched. Maybe one of the first in the theater. Because as long as there are cats doing things on screen, why should I care about anything else? How am I still alive? I don’t know! It’s amazing! Even so, I’m done talking about this garbage, let’s move on!

Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned guys, because I am going to have my review up for the next film that will inevitably make a billion dollars, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I’m going to my local IMAX theater on opening Thursday, I cannot wait! How will the film turn out? I do not know for sure, but I am endlessly curious, so let’s do this! May the force be with us! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the blog, and be sure to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Cats?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie that is cat-related? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019): Dumb Dora Is So Dumb…

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“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is directed by James Bobin (The Muppets, Alice Through the Looking Glass) and stars Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight, Instant Family), Eugenio Derbez (How to Be a Latin Lover, Overboard), Michael Peña (Ant-Man, End of Watch), Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives, The Sentinel), and Danny Trejo (Machete, Spy Kids). This film is based on the Nickelodeon cartoon “Dora the Explorer,” where a young girl and her monkey companion, Boots, go on adventures together, sing, encounter obstacles, including a fox named Swiper (played here by Benicio Del Toro). All the while, there are fourth wall breaks that involve encouraging children to talk to the screen, occasionally in Spanish. In this film, we get to know Dora as a teenager who lives in the jungle, but she recently learns she has to adapt to a more urbanized lifestyle and go to high school. This eventually leads to an adventure with her newfound friends and her cousin, Diego.

I was born at the tail end of the 1990s, I was raised through the 2000s. It was perhaps inevitable that “Dora the Explorer” would be a part of my childhood in some way, shape, or form. Granted, it was not my goto program at the time. That was more of my sister’s thing, but I did have some interest here and there at the very least. Therefore, I would say, while not calling it the epitome of my nostalgic roots, it did sort of fit somewhere into some of my more prominent childhood memories and experiences. So when I saw the trailers for this film, and granted, even before that, when I was hearing news about this film’s production, part of me was even wondering how it was getting made. Yes, “Dora” is an iconic IP and it does well with children, but I honestly wondered how this could even work as a film. Granted, upon seeing updates, I would say the crew got some things right. They did cast an OK Dora and she looked pretty similar to her cartoon counterpart. But I gotta be honest, the trailers did nothing for me. It all felt like a warning sign for the death of my childhood. And ultimately, that’s what this movie kind of is. It took something I knew from my childhood and split its head open.

Remember “Transformers?” Remember “The Smurfs?” Remember “Alvin and the Chipmunks?” None of those IPs were ever a part of my life before I watched their live-action film adaptations. Therefore when I first checked them out, I never had a part of my life affected. I never felt offended through a link to nostalgia by these types of films. I did however feel offended as to how bad “The Smurfs” turned out, but still. “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” was a movie where I knew the source material behind it, so basically I was taking a trip back in time. And this is sort of what the movie felt like at times. There are tons of homages to the original material, there are a couple fourth wall breaks, and some of the songs that they use in the movie are from the TV show. But let me just say this, there are certain parts of the show, core elements in fact, where I look back on them, I somehow cringe. The theme song is fitting, but catchy to the point that I would rather listen to “Baby Shark” or some other crap. As an adult, it is somewhat weird to go back to such a phase of my childhood where I was learning Spanish from a girl who doesn’t even use a map by herself. This is why when Dora would break the fourth wall, I would cringe and put my head in my large popcorn bucket! Granted, this is somewhat more adult-friendly than the cartoon, but nevertheless, the movie’s pretty stinkin’ cringeworthy!

It’s almost like “Batman & Robin” merged together with a Michael Bay movie. Between the stale humor and one-dimensional characters, that sort of statement makes sense. In fact, what adds even more sense into the mix is that when this movie was in development, news sites have reported about Michael Bay’s involvement.

None of this is true, by the way.

However, this film was directed by James Bobin, who has some other family-oriented entertainment on his resume including 2011’s “The Muppets,” its 2014 sequel, “Muppets: Most Wanted,” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Now collective reactions would suggest that Bobin didn’t stick the landing 100% of the time, but nevertheless, he’s at least had experience. And to be fair, I saw “Muppets: Most Wanted” back in 2014, directed by Bobin, and I was impressed with what I saw. It was wacky, hilarious, and fun. I’ll give credit to Bobin because I think he did the best he could with the directing job. The movie is upbeat, has a quick pace, and it never feels like anyone has an off performance. Sadly, when you put the script into play, that’s a different story. While the film is a homage to the source material, it doesn’t mean it comes off as compelling or interesting. I will say, the script does have some excellent lines from Dora’s character that make her look like an absolute savage. Dora in this movie at times is almost like a female Sheldon Cooper, it’s bonkers! But aside from a few funny lines here and there, the script does nothing to justify its existence. I buy into the plot for the most part, I think as far as the story itself goes, there are barely any problematic complaints I could make. But various characters we get to know throughout the film feel like they have no chemistry. I’ll also mention that some characters have unearned moments I won’t get into.

Sure, I just mentioned the movie can be funny. But it doesn’t mean it’s always funny, in some cases, it’s really freaking annoying! There’s this one joke where Michael Peña talks to Dora about city life, which leads him to bringing up the concept of dancing. This leads to an explanation of the music they play during community dances where a DJ tends to get involved, and the joke becomes as old as dirt because Peña’s character won’t stop rambling about the subject matter! We get it! Move on! Stop torturing me!

By the way, this movie establishes that Dora likes to sing. Ultimately, this isn’t surprising. After all, there’s a ton of singing in the cartoon. In this movie, Dora sings… A LOT, and it gets annoying. Not only does she take part in singing songs from the cartoon that certain frequent viewers have come to recognize over the years, but there is also this one song that is shown in the movie. Guess what it’s about? Well, what do kids think is the ultimate joke in comedy? Poop jokes of course! There is a song in this movie about taking dumps! Holy s*it! No pun intended! This… I want to–My brain–…Just freaking kill me! This movie sucks! OK? This takes a lack of intelligence to a whole new level! GAH!

And this brings me to something that this movie has in common with a movie like “The Smurfs.” “Dora the Explorer” has always taken place in a somewhat fantastical setting, but we never really see her in a world that comes off as realistic. The original source material for “The Smurfs” has been the same way, but in the live-action movie Sony made in 2011, it was decided that they would come to our world, making New York City the epicenter of the entire film. Seeing “The Smurfs” interact with normal people in New York, including Neil Patrick Harris, was off-putting to say the least. In this movie, I kind of got a similar vibe. Dora states she’s from “the jungle,” a jungle which according to this movie, is still on Earth. But her interactions with fellow high schoolers and others are kind of weird and full of cringe at times. But hey! If the kids like it, why change it?

Because then the movie will be smart? Bah! Screw that!

Although I will say, there was one interesting moment of the movie that was sort of a homage to the original material that I dug. It was kind of weird, but also intriguing. I won’t go into it, but if you have seen the movie “Booksmart” and know about the scene where the two main girls have to climb a bureau, this reminded me a little bit of that. It’s wacky, but it’s also a tribute to what “Dora” followers have come to recognize over the years. It doesn’t make up for the rest of crap this movie makes me go through, but it’s there.

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There’s a scene where Swiper’s pretty badass. The movie’s got that going for it. But what else? What have we done to deserve this filth?!

In the end, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” put me in what I like to call a “torture chamber of my childhood.” “Dora the Explorer” was not my goto show as a child, but this movie did take me back to my childhood. Doesn’t mean it didn’t sully my childhood at times! I think the cast did the best they could, I think the direction was somewhat tolerable, but the screenplay is less than satisfactory, the singing got on my nerves at times, and there are a couple of moments where I almost dozed off due to near boredom. I may not be in the right demographic for a film like this, but it doesn’t mean I cannot judge the film the way I see it. And the way I see it, would not happen to be through the best lens. I’m going to give “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! This weekend is the release of “It: Chapter Two,” I’m hoping to see it before the end of Sunday, but only time will tell as to whether or not I get around to such a thing. If you want to see more of my content, consider following Scene Before through an email or WordPress account, or even checking out the Scene Before Facebook page! Or, just browse for free! I don’t care, it’s your life. You do you. I want to know, did you see “Dora and the Lost City of Gold?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever watch “Dora the Explorer?” Were you a young child? A parent? A critic? Whoever you may be, tell me your thoughts on the series! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Missing Link (2019): Good Animation Is Not Endangered

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“Missing Link” is directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings) and stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Greatest Showman), Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, Avatar), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Love Actually), Stephen Fry (V For Vendetta, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), David Walliams (Britain’s Got Talent, Pudsey: The Movie), Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet, Live Free or Die Hard), Matt Lucas (Doctor Who, Alice in Wonderland), Amrita Acharia (Game of Thrones, The Good Karma Hospital), and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover, Due Date) in a film about an explorer who comes across a rare creature who we as an audience come to know as Mr. Link. It is eventually revealed that this creature has others of his kind and he calls upon the explorer who found him to help bring him to said others.

“Missing Link” comes from the brilliant folks at Laika, known for films like “Coraline,” “ParaNorman,” “The Boxtrolls,” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.” Granted, of the four films I just mentioned, I personally have witnessed two of them. But it does not change the fact that my experiences of watching those films were exhilarating and worth just about every second of my time. “Coraline” is just a blast! It’s a creative, slightly disturbing, and compelling animation from 2009 that I honestly question myself as to why I haven’t gone back to watch it just a few more times. And I’ll even say that “Kubo and the Two Strings” is even better! That film for now stands as a 10/10 in my book, and it’s up there with films like “Arrival” and “Captain America: Civil War” as one of my favorite films from 2016. As an aspiring screenwriter, it spoke to me. And wow! What Laika can do with stop motion animation is purely groundbreaking! As for “Missing Link,” it is not as good as those two films, but it’s still good enough to say it is worth a watch.

This film shines mostly for its upbeat and quick pace, and the film’s dialogue seems to fit the pace and vibe with ease. I really like the chemistry between all of the characters and there is a lot of humor in the film that didn’t feel immature. I look at particular animated films every now and then and see where they are going in terms of humor, they are CLEARLY trying to just get the attention of young children. Granted, that’s the typical stereotype when it comes to animated movies. Dancing! Fart jokes! Just write the script for the kids whose brains haven’t fully developed yet! Who cares if it’s s*it? Does Laika do that! Hell no! Instead, they are keeping all ages in mind while also trying to be smart, which is something I enjoy seeing from animated films or other movies that could probably cater towards families.

Although speaking of these films, “Missing Link” reminded me of a DreamWorks animated film that came out in 2009, specifically “Monsters vs. Aliens.” Granted, the storyline, not to mention animation style, is completely different, the ideas behind both films don’t really connect with each other. But I have a question.

Chris Butler, is “Monsters vs. Aliens” your favorite movie?

I mean, seriously! This film is called “Missing Link,” which is a decent title for a number of conceptual projects, but that’s not the point. If you have seen “Monsters vs. Aliens,” you may be aware that one of the monsters is a long-living fishman by the name of THE MISSING LINK! In fact, in the image above, he can be seen on the left! Now some of you may be thinking, “This is only a coincidence, how could this apply to what this jackass is saying?” Well, Mr. Link in this film also goes by the name “Susan.” If you are not familiar with “Monsters vs. Aliens,” Susan is the name of the main character of the film, who also goes by Ginormica, played by Reese Witherspoon. Is this film a secret tribute to a 2009 DreamWorks movie that played a part in my childhood? I ask because if that’s the case, holy s*it!

I also really like one thing the movie did towards the end, because it almost felt like a little trip into reality. It kind of reminded me of certain human issues that trace back to years before this film came out, and issues we continue to have today. It’s one reason why I really liked the character of Mr. Link so much, since I had the ability to sympathize with him. But it wasn’t like his character was a downer throughout the film. Much like some other characters, he was charismatic and had fitting dialogue to make me give him two thumbs up. In fact, compared to other animations I’ve seen, and this may be a bit of a stretch, the characters and vibe add up to be completely quirky. Granted, it makes sense as this is not entirely done on computers, unlike most modern day animated films and instead done through stop motion work. But the film felt like it could only come from one particular place. I will say, in terms of quirky animations, it’s got nothing on Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs,” but this is still worth pointing out.

I will say though, adding onto something I mentioned earlier, the one major disappointment I have regarding “Missing Link” is that other than the appreciation for its likable characters, quirky vibe, and compelling screenplay, it didn’t have the oomph factor that I would want out of a lot of movies. I may sound like a spoiled brat, but it felt like something was left out. There was a part of the movie during one of the first scenes that I thought was incredibly symbolic, but I won’t go into because it’s in none of the movie’s trailers. Simply put, despite my positive thoughts on the film, there was nothing to make me want to play the Blu-ray again right after watching it. Comparing the film to “Coraline” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” I feel like those two films left a bigger impact on me. “Coraline” was probably an easy oomph for me because I was 9 and I wasn’t really familiar with too many films with this sort of style. But when I saw “Kubo and the Two Strings,” it felt like it was everything an animated adventure film should have been. Good balance between humor and seriousness, fantastic cast of characters, and a neat concept. Maybe I’m biased there too because that film sort of pays tribute to storytellers, which is a way I sort of see myself.

Although, if you do want to be wowed in some way by this film, I will say, stick around for the credits, because it actually shows part of the process that goes into filming a stop motion scene. It’s really a sight for the eyes.

In the end, I really do recommend “Missing Link,” but it is also the weakest of the Laika films I have witnessed thus far. It’s kind of like Christopher Nolan. My least favorite film of his is “Insomnia,” but it doesn’t mean I am going to avoid recommending it, because there are qualities that make it watchable. Plus, I like it better than some of the other animated films we have gotten so far this year, specifically “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” and the abomination against humanity known as “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” Laika is continuing to deliver original and exciting content, and while this film did not make much through its box office totals, I really hope it picks up on home video, especially in the family demographic. I’m going to give “Missing Link” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I have couple more movies to review, I’m not sure I will be getting both out by the end of the week. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I’ll even be getting the first one out until next week because this weekend…

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I’m going to Terrificon! Terrificon is a three day event held at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT! It’s a convention that caters to fans of comics, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, and gaming! If you are at Terrificon this weekend, know who I am, or even if you don’t know who I am, feel free to shout my name from the rooftops! I will be walking around the convention center and various areas of the casino (although I am not gambling), so feel free to give me a hello at any time! If you want to keep yourself updated with everything I do here, I have a Facebook page that gives automated posts every time I upload something new on here, and speaking of things that are on here, give this post a like! Give this blog a follow either with your email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Missing Link?” What did you think about it? And this question is for everybody, but if someone named Susan replies to this, I will give it a like. What are y’all’s thoughts on DreamWorks’ “Monsters vs. Aliens?” Personally, it’s not their best animation but it’s better than some of the “Shrek” sequels and it’s nice to see Stephen Colbert playing the President of the United States, especially since every other day he makes fun of the President of the United States. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!