Sing 2 (2021): Where Modern Music Meets Overly Goofy Cartoon Gags

“Sing 2” is written and directed by Garth Jennings, who was the writer and one of the two directors behind the original “Sing” as well. This film stars Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar, Serenity), Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies, Wild), Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2, Lucy), Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Rocketman), Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Blue Jasmine), Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, Sausage Party), Pharrell Williams (Black is King, The Grinch), Halsey, Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, TruTV Presents: World’s Dumbest), Letitia Wright (Black Panther, Black Mirror), Eric André (The Eric André Show, The Lion King), Adam Buxton (8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, The Adam and Joe Show), Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead), Jennifer Saunders (Shrek 2, Absolutely Fabulous), Nick Offerman (The Founder, Parks and Recreation), and Bono of U2 fame.

Hey don’t blame me! I cannot leave a single name untouched!

This film is the sequel to the 2016 film “Sing,” which was about Buster Moon trying to save his theater and attempts doing so by creating a singing competition, which provides for some bumps along the way. In this sequel, Buster Moon and his pals are attempting to create a new science fiction live show for a venue in Las Vegas wannabe Redshore City. In doing so, they pitch to Mr. Crystal, a sleazy producer, the idea of getting Clay Calloway, a reclusive lion who used to make music, to be part of the show. And of course, nostalgia being nostalgia (look at “Star Wars” dominating the world), he loves the idea and thinks the group should get him to be in the whole thing. Between the intense mission of convincing this former artist to tag along in addition to nepotism and internal drama, things have only gotten harder for our SINGers.

Is that a proper term? SINGers? Does that work?

“Sing” is the kind of film that you watch, have fun with, and then move onto the next thing. And sadly, despite my slight negative vibe that could be triggered with such a statement, “Sing” was what I considered to be my personal favorite of Illumination’s content. I don’t care for “Despicable Me.” The minions kind of drive me crazy. “The Secret Life of Pets” was an okay watch one time, but never again. The sequel however, is just plain insufferable. “The Grinch” almost made me hate Christmas. And I love Christmas! I think Christmas, in more ways than one, is one of the best times of the year, minus all the blasphemous music. Mariah Carey, all I want for Christmas is for you to go away. It’s like if top 40 started drinking eggnog! And speaking of top 40, “Sing” and its sequel partially rely on their own interpretations of popular songs. In the original film, you had songs from Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Frank Sinatra. I feel like my biggest critique of that first film is the fact that a few of the standout songs come off as processed radio brought into the mix simply for its popularity. And I think the same can be said for “Sing 2.”

I don’t think it’s wrong to put newer songs into a film like this, but doing so also risks the film possibly relying on what’s trendy. This new film has songs like “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” which has been a hit for some time. I really like the scene where it is performed, but I wonder if people will look at it years from now and think of it as a product of its time.

If you want my short, honest opinion of “Sing 2,” I would have to say it is… Fine.

…Just. Fine.

Crap.

I think that is one of the most interesting things one can say about a movie. The fact that a movie can be considered just fine does not mean it’s great nor terrible. However, in the case of “Sing 2,” the film cannot convince me to land on a particular side of the spectrum. In some situations, the movie feels like your typical Illumination fare, because unlike Pixar, which always seems to understand the assignment in creating a FAMILY movie, “Sing 2” occasionally relies on gags that feel as if they’re only aimed at younger viewers. Granted, the film is fun for all ages, but compared to some other films I’ve seen this year, including the recently reviewed “Encanto,” it feels a bit more on the kiddy side.

The thing I appreciate about both “Sing” installments is the idea of not giving up on your dreams. I think both films succeed when trying to convey that message to its viewers. The heroes in this film collectively struggle in their own way when it comes to accomplishing their goals, or in this case, following their dreams. We see Rosita struggling to live up to the pressures and enormity of being in a starring role. We see Buster Moon trying to encourage everyone to stay on their toes and try to fight for another day. We see Clay Calloway deal with the internal battle of his past. He stopped playing his music because it reminded him way too much of his dead wife. WAIT, did Christopher Nolan have some writing credit in this film I’m not aware of? I think an additional takeaway this film can provide is that not only do we see these dreams potentially hit roads that contain possible dead ends, but part of why these dreams hang in the balance is because of entertainment giants. Mr. Crystal, ever since I first saw his character, kind of reminded me of a Simon Cowell-type, and that vibe is significant in terms of where the film goes.

Speaking of Mr. Crystal (left), this film introduces a couple new characters, Mr. Crystal included. Alongside Mr. Crystal is his daughter, Porsha (right). As our heroes enter the urbanized, neon streets of Redshore City, they meet these two characters who become integral to the story. Mr. Crystal is an entertainment mogul who puts his faith in said heroes. You may think someone like him to be a bit of a snobby, almost creepy, egotistical moron who wants things to go his way. If so, you’re right. He’s also well-dressed, and I think when it comes to getting a guy who can sound snarky and snobby at the same time, Bobby Cannavale is a great choice. When I hear his voice, I feel like I’m watching an older mob movie with modern elements infused. But Crystal’s also a family man. …Kind of. That’s because this film contains a subplot involving his daughter, Porsha, potentially taking on the lead role of the space opera everyone’s producing.

For the role of Porsha, they managed to get Halsey to lend her voice. Halsey is not known for having an acting career as much she is known for singing. I think this is a somewhat fascinating, yet practical choice, because I have rarely seen Halsey on screen. Apparently she had a small role in “A Star is Born” a few years back but I would not be able to remember when she was on screen. I barely even know anything about Halsey. But having seen her IMDb, most of her work has been music related, so seeing her cast in this role makes sense. It is a movie about music, about singing. Why not have her? And I would say given her material, she was well directed on Garth Jennings’s part. Going back to what I said about her not being in many pieces of film or television, one of the driving aspects of her character was that she was a terrible actress. Halsey, who does a good job acting in this film, managed to convince me that her character in particular was the worst actor of all time.

Ladies and gentlemen, acting!

There are also a couple new characters who I was not particularly fond of. There’s a monkey named Klaus that instructs Johnny and others through an intense dance routine. I think in terms of the script and story, he served his role adequately. But he kind of felt one-dimensional. The same can be said for Darius, an actor who wants nothing other than fame, fortune, more fame, and more fortune. When Darius is on screen, he’s occasionally entertaining, but he lacks depth. He lacks dimension. He almost feels like a throwaway character despite being part of the film. Although it was fun to see Meena the elephant try to accustom herself to being romantic despite not having much experience in such a thing.

In the end, “Sing 2” is a step down from the original, and frankly, just proves once again that when it comes to animated studios, I still prefer DreamWorks and Pixar. If you asked me years ago if a “Sing 2” was a good idea, I’d say yes. It would not be the first thing I’d see, but it is worth at least a glance. I’d say the studio and crew should give it a shot. The first one was good. And having rewatched the first one recently before going to the cinema to see this, it’s still good. I just wish “Sing 2” lived up to its predecessor. I’m going to give “Sing 2” a 6/10. This is a positive grade despite some negative things I have previously stated. But I think if anything, the positives will not be enough to get me to watch this film again anytime soon.

“Sing 2” is now playing in theaters and is available to buy now on streaming platforms.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be a for a film that is somewhat personal to me. And if you know where I reside, you’ll get where I’m coming from. Some of you reading this may feel the same way. That film in particular is Amazon’s new feature, “The Tender Bar!” This film just released over the holiday season, it just dropped on Prime Video, and now it is a good time to talk about it. I cannot wait to discuss this film. It’s going to be a ball. If you want to see this and 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 “Sing 2?” What did you think about it? Or, which is better? “Sing” or “Sing 2?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes Part 3

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 3 of the all new Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The spread continues! The United States is still the most affected country by this virus and one can only wonder when collective optimism will set in. What is happening? Masks weren’t safe then but they’re safe now? The New England Patriots sent protective equipment to New York? Speaking of New York, apparently it is just recently reported that the state has suffered its highest death toll yet. Although at the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo feels that the decrease in hospitalizations could bring hope. Speaking of hope, the death toll in Italy and Spain seem to be falling.

There’s also continuous talk about about a drug. President Trump is suggesting to use hydroxychloroquine in order to stop the virus. For the record, this is a drug that is used to cure malaria and mosquito bites. Trump has a financial interest in Sanofi, which is a French drugmaker that makes a brand-name edition of the drug. He also suggested that if the drug is combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic, it could be “a game-changer.” However, not everyone is onboard, including expert Anthony Fauci, who has stood alongside Trump from day to day during this crisis. Fauci suggests that there is only “anecdotal evidence” of the drug helping people.

Also, Easter is this Sunday, and given how there are strong recommendations for people to stay home nowadays, there is a high likelihood that family gatherings will be avoided. I often visit relatives out of town on Easter Sunday, but given the current situation, that does not seem to be happening. But, if you live in New Zealand and you have kids that are feeling down, feel free to cheer them up by letting them know that the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, considers the Easter Bunny an essential worker.

As stated in the video, it may be tough for the bunny to get everywhere, but if you want to spread some positivity to your children, here you go. Also, remind them that the Tooth Fairy is essential as well. Although if that Tooth Fairy shows up as The Rock, then reconsider what I just said.

Once again, this has been a rather uneventful weekend for the box office, and one of the biggest concerns as far as box office goes has to do with AMC Theatres, which I’ll get to eventually. But as a continual substitute to the theater, many movies are constantly being dropped onto VOD services early. Some recent highlights include “Bad Boys For Life,” the highest grossing January film of all time, and “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” which appropriately dropped on April Fools Day. But with physical life in abandonment for the time being, there may be some concerns about big festivals. San Diego Comic-Con, arguably the most important comic convention in relation to film, is still on. However, weeks ago, Cannes, the annual festival held in France, has been postponed from May to sometime in June or July. And it was just announced from festival director Thierry Fremaux that there are no plans to digitally transform the event, suggesting that “it’s a model that won’t work.” And this doesn’t even cover all of the festival news that is relevant for this post. Here’s more!

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST IS BACK ON (Sort of)

SXSW Conference & Festivals | March 13-22, 2020

One of the benefits of a large gathering like South by Southwest is the ability to mix the intention of interacting with other people, networking, while also putting the idea of entertainment into the mix. In fact, I was going to go to South by Southwest this year, but unfortunately, it got canceled the week I was supposed to depart. I also highly detest the recent actions of South by Southwest, because even though they are allowing people to move their purchased tickets to an alternate date in an upcoming year (which my mother did do for 2021), there is no option for a refund. While I am all for making money, SXSW is the kind of organization to me that purely resembles greed. In fact, they didn’t even cancel their event, the city of Austin did!  However, they do seem to be somewhat sympathetic to their vendors. According to various sources, Amazon Prime Video is going to be digitally showcasing various projects that were supposed to play at the festival last month. All the people behind the projects need to present a fee in order to let their work shine. Keep in mind that the revealing of work that was supposed to be presented in person in front of the masses on Prime is optional, so if you were expecting to see something in particular at the festival, maybe it won’t make it to Amazon’s service. Also keep in mind, if you are planning seeing on these pieces of work, you do not need to pay for Amazon Prime, but you do need an Amazon account. As long as you have that, you’re good to go.

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL DENIES GOING DIGITAL

Last year, the Venice Film Festival honored Todd Phillips’ “Joker” with the Golden Lion, which is the festival’s highest honor. This year, there is perhaps some wonder if it would be a joke to keep the festival running in September. Keep in mind that Italy has the second highest count of COVID-19 cases to date and who knows about a second wave and if that’s a possibility? However, according to Variety, a Venice spokesperson reported “The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event.” This is in response to a recent interview between festival director Alberto Barbera and Italian news agency ANSA who said he is not weighing digital options. That by the way, is in response to what is happening with the Toronto International Film Festival, where there is consideration for both physical and digital aspects. At this point, it may be too early to tell given how the festival is about five months into the future. We’ll have to see if Italy is stable by then, and if there is enough reason to keep the festival on in person.

DELAYED MOVIES AND NEW RELEASE DATES

Well, it appears that COVID-19 is doing its own stunts now. “Top Gun: Maverick” has officially been delayed, which honestly disappoints me because it was one of my most anticipated films of the summer. It looked like another one of those films, kind of like the recent “Mission: Impossible” movies, where Tom Cruise does everything he can to nearly kill himself. Instead, the film is now coming out in December, which really has me scared, because this puts my most anticipated film of the year, “Dune” in a tough position. While I have no real idea how much money “Dune” will make, this is giving me the creeps because while I cannot exactly anticipate how well of a marketing campaign “Dune” is going to have, if it weren’t for a nostalgic, somewhat recognizable property stepping in, I figured “Dune” would have a massive chance at succeeding. Plus, I recall early reports of one person suggesting that the footage that has already been seen of “Dune” is on the level that matches “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Can the praise get any better than that?! The 2020 adaptation of “Dune” could arguably be the greatest story ever told if the movie matches this previous word of mouth! Although at the same time, I’ll mention it again, as far as this summer goes, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of my most anticipated films. Don’t think I’m trying to take it out behind the barn and shoot it. If anything, I want the movie to succeed, but I also want “Dune” to succeed. Maybe this could be a case where “Dune” heavily succeeds, thus leaving “Top Gun: Maverick” in the dust, which would also be disappointing. It feels like there’s no winning in this case. Speaking of Paramount films, they are also delaying “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the third “SpongeBob SquarePants” idea that will ultimately be brought to the big screen. The movie will follow the titular sponge as he goes on a quest with Patrick Star to find his missing snail, Gary. Also in Paramount movie news, “A Quiet Place Part II” has a new release date, specifically September 4th, giving it a Labor Day weekend slot. For the record, the movie has already been delayed as of March 12th from its original release date, March 20th, but has not received a new date until now. I am beyond thankful that “A Quiet Place Part II” is not considering the streaming route, because having seen the original installment, it is one of those movies that you have to be in the theater to truly feel its impact. At least that’s what I got with the first one. When I saw “A Quiet Place” a couple years back, it was a highlight in my movie experience journey because it was one of the few movies that FORCED me to be quiet to fully enjoy the product. I could barely chew my popcorn, I almost couldn’t even take as big of sips of my drink as I usually would, it was a one of a kind time at the movies. I’m willing to bet that John Krasinski made “A Quiet Place Part II” with the same thoughts in mind that he had for the first one. SILENCE THE AUDITORIUM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I’m looking forward to September, let’s just hope that there are enough reasons to go to the movies by then.

While “A Quiet Place Part II” is sticking to a theatrical release, one movie that I was kind of looking forward to seeing in theaters is no longer going to be there, and will end up heading straight to that tenth streaming service you guys have, Disney+. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about “Artemis Fowl.” For those of you who don’t know, “Artemis Fowl” is based on a book about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind who must find his father while facing underground fairies. I was kind of looking forward to seeing “Artemis Fowl” even though I have not read the book personally. The movie sort of looked like a visual trip, and if successful, could have spawned the next big fantasy franchise. I wonder if this is a sign that Disney may end up throwing in the towel on the franchise before it even starts. After all, the film was made on a $125 million budget, so I guess they were expecting a return of hundreds of millions. The real question is, could the film have broken even? Who knows? I have not heard much word of mouth about “Artemis Fowl” from anybody else, but the trailers do intrigue me. It at least had my attention.

Speaking of Disney+, one of the suggestions people happened to make is to release “Black Widow” early on the service. Quite honestly, I think that is a ridiculous idea that could cost Disney a lot of money, and it seems that we are sharing a thinking cap because Disney has officially pushed back the MCU timeline, and placed “Black Widow” on the November 6 release slot. When I say the MCU timeline, I mean it almost 100%. Every movie that is supposed to eventually come out in the MCU has been delayed except “Black Panther 2.” Even “Captain Marvel 2,” originally set to release in June 2022, is moving up a couple weeks for a new July 8th release during the year. For those who don’t know, “Eternals” was originally supposed to come out November of this year, but having two MCU films come out at once is a little extreme, so now it is coming out February 12th, 2021. At this point, November is looking like a respectable month for popular nerd culture. Between “Black Widow,” a movie that Marvel fans are FINALLY getting to see. “No Time to Die,” the 25th Bond film that is supposed to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as the character. Plus, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I am curious to hear more about. I think one of these is going to get bumped to a different release date to guarantee avoidance of being a box office bomb, because November is a pretty big month for movies, and even though there are blockbusters at the time, a lot of focus from those who are heavily invested is going to be leaning towards the Oscar bait films.

As far Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake goes, that is now coming out on July 24th. Should it get delayed again, I think that is another film that Disney is going to keep in theaters with all their might, because part of the marketing emphasizes the big battles of the film, and those could be stellar to see on the silver screen. The one thing that I think will be diminished though is its IMAX run. Because unless Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” gets delayed and “Mulan” still comes out, “Tenet” is going to have a long run in many IMAX theaters. It was shot on IMAX cameras after all! “Mulan” now takes the place of theme park ride-inspired “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, which has now been pushed back to July 30th, 2021. Another big pushback comes from the Lucasfilm side of things, specifically for “Indiana Jones 5,” which is kind of unfortunate because Harrison Ford ain’t getting any younger. At this point with a film like “Indiana Jones 5,” I will believe it when I see it.

Remember how Disney bought Fox? Guess what? Their slate is getting kicked in the ass too! Wes Anderson was supposed to come out with “The French Dispatch” on July 24th, but now it is being pushed back to October. This could be some good news for Wes Anderson as the director behind the film has a history of being acclaimed, and having a unique style to his films. This unique style can be reinserted into everyone’s heads and perhaps bring up a reason for this film to contend for awards. If this came out in the summer, maybe it would have as much of a chance, but keep in mind. Award season pretty much gets into full swing in the fall. Summer is mainly for blockbusters and popcorn movies. Those movies don’t usually rack up the Oscars.

Universal is also in the news, because they recently pushed back Illumination Entertainment’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” That film was supposed to come out July 3rd this year, but it has been pushed back to July 2nd of next year. In addition, “Sing 2,” which is a sequel to a well-liked film starring Matthew McConaughey as a mouse who runs a theater, is also getting pushed back. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is currently sitting where “Sing 2” was originally going to be, but much like the situation I mentioned earlier with Marvel, it could be weird to have two of the same types of movies releasing at once. Therefore, “Sing 2” will be coming out December 22nd, 2021. Keep in mind, the film was supposed to come out this year in December, but was delayed to its previous July spot. Honestly, this delay is not that bad, because the original “Sing” came out in December 2016, and ended up being a hit for Illumination. Maybe this sequel will do the same. Speaking of keeping things in mind, Universal was making a movie based on the popular play “Wicked,” which was set to release in the current spot where “Sing 2” resides. Due to “Sing 2’s” recent pushback, it could be possible that “Wicked” will be out in 2022. By the way, not steering away from animated features, this week is interesting for film, because remember “Trolls: World Tour?” It’s in the middle of its marketing campaign and if you are a parent who wants to torture yourself in order to please your kids, it comes out digitally this Friday, April 10th. Advertisements have suggested that the movie will also be playing in theaters. But the real question is, what theater in the United States is still open at this point? When you are increasingly going to get shamed for not wearing a mask outside, what theater is open?

AMC MAY NOT SURVIVE

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Now I understand that there are more important things in life than film. There’s health, happiness, and safety. Unfortunately, the news makes me feel ill, unhappy, and like I’ll never ever be safe again. If you all know me, you’d be aware that my safe place in life is the movie theater, and one of my regular stops for my experiences happen to be AMC locations. It’s where I often go for my press screenings, as an excuse to use Stubs points, and on occasion, for Dolby and IMAX. Depending on where you live in the United States, there is a solid chance that you have at least one AMC location near you. In fact, I recently went to downtown Burbank, California and they have three locations within minutes of each other, and this is walking distance I’m talking about! Even though AMC technically is a large chain that owns a lot of theaters, they do a good job at giving a sense of prioritization on the moviegoing experience. In fact, in recent years, they’ve been expanding their fleet, renovating theaters, putting in new seats (which admittedly, sometimes underwhelmed me), implementing reserved seating options, and one of their most notable innovations to the American movie market was their Stubs A-List program, which is basically their response to MoviePass as it began to die down. They even have an On Demand service now! In fact, even though I am a physical media junkie, that is probably a place where I’ll consider renting a movie one night (as long as Sony Android TVs) can get it. AMC just recently used to be the biggest chain in North America, but has recently been dethroned since Europe’s Cineworld bought the Canadian chain Cineplex. Now that Cineworld owns both Cineplex and Regal Entertainment Group, they are now the largest theater chain in regards to the continent.

Having said that, AMC Theatres is a pretty big chain. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. AMC Theatres has spent a lot of money on changes in recent years, recently laid off a ton of employees, and is currently in debt. To make matters worse, S&P Global has recently downgraded AMC Theatres to a CCC-. The association to insert here is “Default imminent, with little prospect for recovery.” Keep in mind, that if you live in the United States, that means if AMC Theatres closes down for good, you are likely to lose a country-wide total of over six hundred cinemas. Just a couple weeks ago, I was reminding people that the smaller, indie theaters might be in a bit of trouble right now. They’re making AMC look like RadioShack! In fact, one of the cool ideas I have been seeing recently is that theaters are doing pop-up sales, where they are selling popcorn to paying customers even though there are no movies going on. This has happened at a couple locations near my house, specifically the Somerville Theatre and Capitol Theatre, both of which are in Massachusetts and owned by Frame One Theatres. I don’t know if a chain like AMC would do that, because I think they are more concerned about protecting what they have by letting people go than continuing operations and getting mocked. But, again, if any theater wants to take up my suggestion on a popcorn or candy delivery service, be my guest! I’ll probably order from it twice a day just to provide some support. That, and I love my movie theater popcorn. It could be through the organization itself, maybe through Uber Eats, maybe Grubhub could be a good idea. After all, pretty much the only thing I can do in life right now is stay inside and put on a movie. I need decent popcorn to go with it! But sticking with the main idea, the loss of AMC, can bring a tremendously dark impact to the industry. Because that means no more Prime Theatres, no more specifically branded Dolby Cinema, and no more A-List. But also, keep in mind the large theater count the chain has and how much of a reduction this truly can provide. There will be significantly less places to go to watch a movie. If you’re lucky enough to have somewhere like a Regal or Cinemark nearby, then you’re probably in luck. I’ve got Showcase Cinemas. Even though I’ve been to their theaters a number of times, I really think they are overhyped and their setup is occasionally bonkers (although their Providence location might have my favorite IMAX theater). And I don’t know if another chain is going to swoop in and take all the AMC locations that could die as a result of this. AMC is not the only chain hurting here. For all I know, maybe one of the big toilet paper companies can come in and start something new. Come on in to “Angel Soft Theater!” Your ass is safe on both our toilets and our auditorium chairs!

One YouTuber I regularly watch goes by the name of John Campea (Collider Movie Talk, The John Campea Show) and he suggested that studios should step in and help AMC financially during this dire time. If the studios have enough money, this is a swell idea. After all, there is a strong bond between movie theaters and studios. One cannot essentially exist without the other. And given how studios are perhaps likely to lose money should they rely on digital sales for their films, they are probably well off giving some of what they have to a chain that has given them tons of strength over the years. I often make fun of how much money Disney has, but wouldn’t it be a great story if Disney gave some money to AMC? I’d dig it. Time will tell when it comes determining the fate of AMC Theatres, but that is largely going to depend on when this crisis diminishes or ends, if people are not too scared to go out into the masses again, and if movies are even going to release by the time this ends. Again, if “Tenet” is not in theaters this July, I think I can officially call it quits on this year for film. Because that news will break me. Pixar’s “Soul” hasn’t been delayed yet. Maybe that will come out in June. Again, it’s hard to tell at this point given how confusing this virus really is.

NEW RELEASES GOING ON DEMAND

I did do this last week, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll continue this trend, but given how On Demand is becoming more of a core element to the movie-viewing experience given the current situation, I figured I’d share some new releases that are out On Demand this week. First off is “Ip Man 4: The Finale.” I have not seen any of these movies, but one things that intrigues me is that it stars Donnie Yen, who has been brought to my attention in recent years. The actor is probably one of the more badass men I have seen in an action film as far as newer material goes. While I will declare that “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is not exactly the “Citizen Kane” of action, Donnie Yen may have been the best part of the movie. Up next is “Like a Boss,” which came out in January. This does not look or feel like my type of movie, but I believe I almost went to a press screening for it. Not sure though. The film stars Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, alongside Salma Hayek and it is about friends who are trying to start a beauty company. The film clocks in with a total of an hour and twenty-three minutes. Did the editor want to finish their job as soon as possible or something? By the way, for those of you who prefer buying the physical copy, both films are scheduled to come out on DVD and Blu-ray on April 21st. If you have Disney+, there is heavy promotion going on right now to get people to watch Pixar’s “Onward,” and if you have the service, it is now watchable any time you want.

Thanks for reading the third part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” As long as this crisis is unfortunately still with us, this series is going to continue, and maybe even get me to delay my scheduled film reviews. Although, for all I know, my review of “My Spy” might not even come out until next year given how I would probably be shoved into an abyss by STX executives if I open my mouth about it right now. As for myself, I have not left my house in awhile, and I continue to remain healthy. If you want to use your time wisely, be sure to follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Since we’re all online right now, why not take a break from learning how to use Zoom for a quick second and check out the Scene Before Facebook page! You won’t regret it! I want to know, is there any COVID-19 movie news that happens to be significant that I missed? What have you been doing during this crazy time? Any movies you want to recommend? TV shows maybe? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019): The Secret’s Out: This Movie’s As Lifeless As A Pet Rock

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” is directed by Chris Renaud, who directed the previous installment to this specific franchise. He also has a voice role as multiple characters. Renaud is directing alongside Jonathan del Val, whose work has mainly been in the animation department for other Illumination titles such as “The Grinch” and “The Lorax,” which makes this his directorial debut. This film stars Patton Oswalt (King of Queens, Ratatouille) as the character of Max, a dog who has many pet pals in his vicinity around the city of New York. What’s interesting about that is the first movie had Max be voiced by Louis C.K., but based on eventually surfaced controversy, C.K. was replaced by Oswalt. Alongside Oswalt, we have Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family, Identity Thief), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Central Intelligence), Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, The LEGO Batman Movie), Tiffany Haddish (Night School, Uncle Drew), Lake Bell (BoJack Horseman, Childrens Hospital), Nick Kroll (Operation Finale, Sing), Hannibal Buress (The Eric Andre Show, Neighbors), Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live, Me, Myself, & I), and Harrison Ford (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark).

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” follows the story of the recently mentioned Max as he adapts to having a human child by his side, only to eventually become protective of said child, not to mention, his own self. Meanwhile we get side stories involving the bunny Snowball as a superhero and the dog Gidget guarding a toy as she tries to learn the traditions of being a cat.

I saw the original “Secret Life of Pets” back when it came out, and it was also one of my first reviews I have ever done (view my continuously developing content here). When I did that review, I managed to view the movie as decent, and I managed to address a complaint that I imagine a decent number of people had while watching the film. Specifically, the notion that “The Secret Life of Pets” is too similar to “Toy Story.” Yes, there are similarities, but “The Secret Life of Pets” is fine enough to stand on its own if you ask me.

Oh, by the way! Check out my review for “Toy Story 4!”

That first movie managed to make $800 million more than its original budget of $75 million. Regardless of the movie’s quality, that is something both Universal and Illumination should celebrate. So naturally, a sequel seemed to be inevitable.

Well, here we are. And honestly, while I imagine some people like Chris Renaud may be doing this as a passion project, this almost feels like one of those movies that only exists just to make money. I could just say that just from viewing the movie on paper, but I viewed it on a screen. Guess what? I still feel that way! “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is the worst animation of the year so far! If I had to be honest, this just makes me feel bad for Illumination. I know the studio is pretty popular right now, especially with the following of “Despicable Me,” a trilogy I still have yet to see from start to finish. I saw part of the second film, and that is it. No, I have not seen “Minions.” But even though I enjoyed “Sing” and sort of enjoyed “The Secret Life of Pets,” I have yet to see that one film which defines the studio. To add onto this, I watched last year’s “The Grinch” and it was freaking awful. My gosh golly! That movie was a mean one for sure! Sadly, I think this movie’s worse. Because for starters, much like “The Grinch,” there is some occasional nice looking animation in this, but I think “The Grinch” slightly edges out its competitor because “The Grinch” was colorful and zazzy. There was nothing in this film that had a real wow factor. In fact, most of the film is cringe if you ask me!

Seriously! The writing is terrible! The plot is nearly convoluted! Not to mention, the movie almost has this rushed feeling to it. And if you look at the runtime, this statement would not surprise you. I say that because the runtime is 1 hour and 26 minutes. Coincidentally, that is also the runtime of what may be the worst animated film of all time, “The Emoji Movie,” another rushed disaster that might as well exist because, well, the thing it is about is trendy! “The Secret Life of Pets” was a success, why not make another one? We’ll make it the s*ittiest waste of time and money imaginable, and everyone will go see it. The script will be so lazy that it will eventually spend lots of time in one of the crew members’ junk drawers! Granted, “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” admittedly, is much better than “The Emoji Movie,” so this does not say much.

I felt like I already gave a teaser to how chaotic this movie is in terms of building blocks, because it didn’t feel like a movie. Instead, it felt more like a bad situation comedy episode with pets as the main cast. There are multiple plot lines for individual characters, which is fine for a number of films, but the execution was poor in this one. There are cheap jokes that don’t land, and there are anger-inducing moments that make playing a game of pinball where the flipper buttons shock you with each press look fun!

As for Max himself, there is one question I want to ask to the general audience going to this film. Do you care about the replacement voice actor? I could tell the voice difference betweent Oswalt and C.K., but I understand why the replacement happened so it’s not like I entirely give damn. Oswalt did a fine job with the voice, but as an avid moviegoer, I am gonna inevitably notice things, and Oswalt’s voice is not the same as C.K.’s. If you ask me, I would have probably done an audition process to see if someone could be a good match to Louis C.K.’s voice for the movie. Then again, I imagine some people don’t want to think about that guy so that could backfire. In terms of characterization, I understand the purpose of his character throughout the film and how he was written, but Max’s main problem in the movie in terms of how it was executed, nearly made me roll my eyes. Did I feel bad for him at times? Sure. But I still hated myself throughout the experience.

But as he tries to cope with this we get to meet the absolute best character in the movie, Rooster. For one thing, he’s voiced by Harrison Ford, who definitely brings a likable screen presence into a lot of projects, perhaps even if he sleepwalks. He has a couple of funny moments during the film, sadly I saw the characters’s main highlights prior to going into the auditorium. I guess this is what you get for watching promotional material and talk shows. Although unfortunately, because this movie quite literally cannot get any shorter, the amount of screentime Rooster manages to have is slightly underwhelming. I could tell that Harrison Ford was likely trying, but I would almost bet that this was a paycheck movie as far as Ford was concerned. As soon as I saw what I then gathered would be Ford’s final scene in the film, I almost wanted to turn off my brain. And I don’t mean turn off my brain and shove popcorn in my month as I stare at the screen. I mean lose all processes of thinking, knowing, and realizing. Because while I’m not psychic, I imagined that whatever would come next in the film, would be nowhere near as fun or entertaining as the scenes with Ford’s character. And of course, this super genius of film is right once again! Boom! Although I will say one thing about Harrison Ford’s character that is kind of interesting, I guess Han Solo got to play Chewbacca for once!

*Cricket noises*

Chewbacca derives from a Russian word for dog.

There is a lot of crap that happens in this movie to the point where I don’t even have the time to hit all of it (and some hinges into spoiler territory). Some of it includes a scene where Chloe (Lake Bell) is slowly taking in the effects of cat nip as if it was some sort of illegal drug, which might qualify to be one of the most unintentionally disturbing scenes in animation history. The ending is kind of absurd that it almost feels like it is too much for a cartoon, but there is one thing I have yet to cover regarding this film that I absolutely hate as a viewer.

They say a story is only as good as its villain. If that’s the case, THEN THIS STORY IS BULLCRAP! “The Secret Life of Pets 2” has a villain that even makes a good portion of the underwhelming MCU villains come off as menacing and watchable. Specifically, a character by the name of Sergei. The lackluster Sergei is partially responsible for running a circus. His latest addition to the crew is a wild tiger named Hu. Maybe I could appreciate the villain if he wasn’t so over-embellished, but crew went ahead and uttered “F*ck that! Quality? Who cares about quality? Let’s make him talk deep, with a unique yet cliche voice, give him the most boring lines imaginable, give him less personality than a bowling pin, and possibly make him more evil than he should be!” It would be fine if Sergei were some alien from another world or if he… I dunno, just didn’t happen to be human, but behind his black clothing and sidekick wolves, he is very likely just a regular guy. I imagine he would do other things in life aside from his dayjob at the circus. Once he gets home, I imagine he turns on the TV, watches the news, heats up a microwavable pizza, drinks a glass water, takes a shower, lives a normal life. I don’t mind ordinary people becoming extremely villainous for one reason or another, but in this case, it just didn’t work. If this is supposed to be propaganda against the circus or keeping wild animals where they don’t belong, maybe I could appreciate the movie for the direction it decided to take. But I’m sorry, it is overshadowed by cringe, insanity, stupidity, and a villain who makes this movie even more of a waste of my time than I ever imagined it would be. Remember the movie “Up” where the main villain is basically an elderly man who just loved to explore and hunt? He was not a maniac for the sake of being a maniac! Much like this film’s villain, he’s got a pack of animal sidekicks, but they have more dimension than chasing after potential victims. Then again, that’s because in this movie, the wolves are loyal to their one-dimensional owner whereas in “Up” the owner of the mob of dogs managed to have a personality. Man, this movie sucks!

In the end, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” is more intolerable than a bite from a vicious dog. I cannot even believe I am still talking about this movie! But in all seriousness, this movie could have been a lesson to children to make them realize they may have to face their fears, but sadly, I’m a teenager, and now I have self-diagnosed disease of TheSecretLifeofPets2phobia. Maybe it could be a lesson for adults and parents to not to make their children too soft, but even with a lesson like that intact, I learned a different lesson from “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” That lesson by the way is that I don’t ever want to watch this film again! This movie is a bad boy! Bad boy! Or… girl??? Is it a boy or girl? I dunno, who cares? The jokes don’t the work, the screenplay doesn’t work, and everything feels as rushed as math homework done by a student who answered each problem with the phrase “I dunno.” The first movie was OK, and now I am starting to wonder if someone put heavy drugs in my body because maybe if I watch that original film now it could suck. You know, kind of like this movie did. I’m going to give “The Secret Life of Pets 2” a 2/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that next week I am going to releasing a giant post related to my Scene Before experience so far this year, which will also include a preview for what I’ll be doing for the rest of the year. Stay tuned for that! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with a WordPress account or email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Secret Life of Pets 2?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the worst animated movie of the year for you? I did not see “Wonder Park,” but if I did see it, I imagine that would be in the conversation for sure. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

New Animated Super Mario Bros. Movie in the Works and Why I Have Mixed Thoughts On It

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! A couple weeks back, I found out that Illumination Entertainment is working on a new “Super Mario Bros.” movie and there was a part of me that thought that was cool. Another part of me however, was trying to set my body on fire. Part of me wanted to make a “Mario” movie at an older age, but that’s not the main reason I’m worried.

Let’s remain rather positive for now and talk about what I think might as well be considered “the good.” The best thing about this new “Mario” project is that it might turn out fine. I know, this sounds VERY LIMITED, but you have to realize the history moviegoers have with video game movies and how much of a tragedy it has been in said genre for the most part. Sure, there are a number of people who say they enjoyed movies such as “Mortal Kombat,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” and even “Warcraft.” I’m willing to bet that last one may be due to its faithfulness towards the game, but people enjoyed it nonetheless. As for “Super Mario Bros.,” if you weren’t aware already, there already has been two movies based on the games. Yes, two. If you know about only one of them or even none for that matter, I wouldn’t be that surprised considering the earlier one only released in Japan in 1986 and it was called “Super Mario Brothers: Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach.” The American version, released in 1993, known as “Super Mario Bros.,” was met with negative reception once it came out and is still remembered as an abomination. As for my reaction towards the film, I completely concur with the enormous number of people who were enslaved by a couple of plumbers for over an hour and a half. I even consider that garbage pile of a film to be my least favorite film of all time. I didn’t know it when watching it in 2013, but as time marched on, I began to realize, the complete and utter bullcrap shoved in front of me. I saw news of this film happening and I thought, filmmakers can only go up from here.

The 1993 s*itshow known as “Super Mario Bros.” was made in live-action, and while I have not much of a problem with a “Mario” movie being in live-action, “Mario’s” universe comes off as this magical place that would make as much sense as defying gravity. This brings in some news that the new “Mario” movie will be in animation form as opposed to live-action. Given what I just stated about logic and “Mario,” I’m not opposed to this. In fact, based on results I saw from IMDb, the Japanese “Mario” movie from 1986 was actually an anime and that got mostly positive verdicts, giving it a barely passable rating. I’ll remind you though, not many people rated the film. I’ll also remind you that this barely passable rating of 6.0 is greater than the failure of a rating that the American “Mario” film has, which is a 4.0. Most of the verdicts for the Japanese film came in around the 6 and 7 spots and the American flick has ratings mostly ending up as a 4. Try playing one of the newer “Super Mario” games. Try playing “Super Mario Galaxy” or “Super Mario 3D World” and tell me the textures in those games won’t work well in an animated movie. Or at the very least, a live-action movie with tons of CGI.

Now with the news I just stated, some of you “Mario” fans might be thinking, this might turn out well. Let me just remind you that one studio stands in the way of this movie’s ultimate fate. And that studio, as mentioned, is Illumination Entertainment, or as I like to call them, Making Minion Cash-Ins Forever Entertainment.

I’ve seen a few pieces of Illumination’s work, and while I will say, they are well animated, they can’t even compete with works from other animated studios. I give a lot of flak for Disney making repetitive content based on some works they’ve done in recent years along with works that will be out in years to come, but at least they’ve done glimmers of brilliance in the animation department recently! Have you seen “Wreck-it Ralph?” If you haven’t, go out and buy it right now on Blu-ray if you don’t have it! Have you seen “Zootopia?” If you haven’t, stop wasting time and find a copy! Don’t get me wrong, I do think they’ve done terribly overrated pieces of dogs*it in the animation department in recent times as well. If you like “Frozen,” that’s fine, but I’m glad that I’m not a father, because if I was, I probably would have been dragged by the ear to that film if I had a daughter instantly. I haven’t watched the film in its entirety, but based on what I’ve seen, I don’t want to. Speaking of that, I haven’t seen all of “Moana,” but I’ve seen enough to say, despite the stellar animation, I can’t say I can get past an annoying chicken and brain damaging musical numbers. As for Illumination, I’ve seen a portion of “Despicable Me 2,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Sing.” The portion I saw of “Despicable Me 2” didn’t please me, and as for the other two films, they were passable, but not that memorable. To me, Illumination is just that animated studio that tries to make serviceable content that could potentially entertain kids, and maybe some adults, but mainly kids. Yes, kids are a target demographic in animations, but to say that the animations are just for the kids is baloney. Think about what adults want, mature stories with proper life lessons, something that the kids can think about in order to be a good person. And while I have seen films from Illumination that showcase those things, it must be kept in mind that those are probably films that are only good for one watch. I know a friend who reads this blog who has watched “Despicable Me 3” and she says its awesome, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t make any judgment of it whatsoever.

The more I think about it, the more I want this to be perhaps a Dreamworks movie, maybe a Blue Sky movie even. Both of those studios have created GREAT animations I have watched over and over again. “Kung Fu Panda” is one of my favorite animations of all time. Not just the first one, but all three to me, qualify as animated tour de forces. Blue Sky’s first two “Ice Age” films are terrific in my personal book. Yeah, the franchise has declined to a point of utter insanity at this point, but it doesn’t mean Blue Sky hasn’t made other enjoyable pieces of work such as “Epic.”

I mean, the more I think about those things, the more worried I get because those studios have been around for awhile. Sure, they’ve both had their share of original and unoriginal ideas that have been effective films, there are points where people run out of ideas and thus start creating whatever cash-in is necessary. Have you guys seen “Ice Age: Collision Course?” If you haven’t, LUCKY YOU! If anything, this Mario movie can only work if people tried to make an effective product. By that I mean, instead of thinking of it as something based off of something that people like that you have to make, think of it as something that has been loved by many for years, and go on to create something those people will either love equally or perhaps more than the original product. Given their track record, I wouldn’t mind seeing Laika taking on this project. I saw two Laika films and both of them were absolute pieces of genius! I still remember going to see “Coraline” in the theater, and the animation not only looked amazing, but it was well written, well voiced, and it had a terrific story. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is another film I saw from Laika, and that somehow managed to be better than “Coraline!” Laika is well known for its stop-motion work, so it would be rather interesting to see what they can do with “Mario.” Although this might bring some problems given the traditional design of “Mario’s” world. If gravity could be defied, this might work 100%.

Sticking with Illumination, I’m also worried about one other thing, marketing and handling of the product. Are they gonna use an unoriginal character or create some new character that might as well be an excuse to stock toy shelves? That’s basically what they did with the Minions in “Despicable Me,” so that wouldn’t be surprising here. This also makes me think if they will just make “Mario” less like “Mario” and more like a cliche animation. If they don’t take time to actually have Mario do several missions like he does in the games, I will rage. “Mario” is famous for its missions where you either have to touch a flag or collect a star. If they don’t pay much respect to the game in that regard, perhaps numerous times, I might be disappointed. I don’t want the characters taking too many breaks to sit around and have a conversation. I don’t mind conversations being in there, but they can’t be in there the entire time. Also, PLEASE, don’t make the missions have a popular song with lyrics, and don’t do another version of “Happy.” Either take the music from the games or establish your own score and keep it that way. You can make the movie feel like a movie, but also blend in a high number of elements from the video game, I imagine some people will go nuts.

At this point, I’m just rambling. I wouldn’t doubt that this would be a step up from “Super Mario Bros.” released in 1993, but the question is, how much of a step up can it be? Video game movies in general are not that great, but if this were under a different studio such as DreamWorks or an independent studio, I’d have more faith in it. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to face that boss when we get to it.

Thanks for reading this post! This weekend, “Black Panther” is out, meaning I’ll definitely have a review up sometime soon because I do have intentions to see it. You know, unlike “Fifty Shades Freed.” I probably won’t be seeing that unless I manage to find a date in a matter of days and they end up dragging me to it. As for other movies, I want to go see “Game Night,” a comedy starring Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons, and Jason Bateman. That movie comes out February 23rd, so maybe I’ll catch that a little later. Speaking of films coming out that day, I’m also going to try and catch “Annihilation,” which is directed by Alex Garland and that name alone is enough to get me in the theater because he directed “Ex Machina,” and that movie is, well, “Ex Machina.” Stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, do you have any thoughts on the upcoming “Mario” movie? Also, did you see “Super Mario Bros.” from 1993? If you haven’t, chances are you haven’t been locked in the closet for a period of time by a couple plumbers. Let me know your responses! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!