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!

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Booksmart (2019): Olivia Wilde Rocks Our World

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“Booksmart” is directed by Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) and stars Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing, Justified) and Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as two academic besties who feel the need to let themselves have some fun, which is something that according to them, they have failed to do throughout their four years of high school. And as the movie suggests, the two carry the urge to have such fun in just a day away from their graduation.

I saw a trailer for “Booksmart” back in March. And when I saw it, I got a mixed first impression, because I didn’t become attached to the main duo in the two provided minutes. But the concept became increasingly interesting as the trailer came to a close, and it did have one or two funny lines in it. So yeah, I was kinda onboard. Then as the movie’s release date got closer and closer, I noticed all sorts of press screenings and overwhelmingly positive reactions that the idea of wanting to see this movie only became more front and center. In fact, going into “Booksmart,” it felt like I was going to see “Blockers” mixed with a buddy cop film. Granted, everyone seems to be comparing this movie to Judd Apatow’s “Superbad,” but I haven’t seen “Superbad.” I want to see it, but I just haven’t got around to it. Maybe when I pick up the Blu-ray I’ll give it a go. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t still slightly concerned, because the marketing also gave me an impression that this would be like a propaganda piece because you had all of these female leaders in one clip of the movie. I don’t really have a problem with that, but it also gave me the impression that this movie was just gonna go ahead and say “F*CK MEN!” the entire time. Luckily, that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a joke towards the end of the film about the typical “straight white male” that I thought was utterly hilarious. You’ll know it when you see it. And for those of you who are new around here, this is coming from a straight white male.

I mentioned the hype for this movie, and while I know that the comedy genre tends to put out more disposable movies compared to genres like period pieces and screw it, I’ll be biased, science fiction. There is one thing that got me intrigued, and that is the high Rotten Tomatoes score. From a critical perspective, I recall seeing it at 100% at one point. Right now, it’s at 98%. Then I saw a couple of people in the industry such as Ryan Reynolds reacting to the movie on social media with immensely positive thoughts.

As for my overall impression of the movie itself, it was pretty well done. In fact, from a filmmaking perspective, this is better than I ever could have anticipated. I seriously mean that because there’s this one clip with a long take that as far as straight-up comedies go, can probably qualify as a cinematic achievement. But speaking of comedy, not all the jokes land. There’s a lot that do, but it’s not perfect.

In fact, at the beginning, there’s one joke that not only manages to get a head-raising laugh from me, but I thought it was also an effective way to establish one particular character’s personality. If only more jokes were that funny in the movie. In fact, when it comes to personalities, the main duo has great chemistry together.

Yeah, I could totally buy Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein’s friendship, I can buy that the two are academics that put work before partying. Even when there are instances when they shy away from that connected academic/professional personality, their chemistry still manages to work for the way this movie tends to flow. These two are brainiacs who wouldn’t mind having fun, and manage to have each other’s back. In fact, when it comes to how their relationship plays out, it kind of hit me to the core. There are some ways that I’d say that this movie reminded me of a movie that I did not even think I would compare this to, specifically “Lady Bird.” I won’t give much away for either of these movies, and if you ask me from a critical perspective, I’d say this movie is nowhere near as excellent as “Lady Bird,” but it did remind me of that film.

Why was this movie off and on in terms of humor? Well, there are various moments and utterances of dialogue that had me cracking up, but one example of when the movie would slide down a hill is from a recurring gag. There’s this one character played by Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd (American Horror Story, Scream Queens) who was kind of funny when the movie first started out, but she had this one thing that kept happening in the movie that was part of what made her funny, but the more it happens, the more it feels like I’m being beaten over the head. The ongoing gag did not insult my intelligence, which if anything, since this film is called “BOOKSMART,” I think it would be the most ironic thing in the entire history of the universe if that actually happened, but it was just a slight hindrance to my experience. Lourd played her character with excellence, but the script didn’t always make her presence worthwhile.

But in all honesty, when I first saw the currently incessant TV spots, I was given the impression that while this was definitely going to have elements of a coming of age story, I thought it was going to be a lot goofier than it actually turned out. This felt a lot like “Tag,” where there’s tons of humor intact, but it’s all surrounded by one emotional punch. Maybe it partially has to do with timing because I graduated from high school from last year, and in a way, despite not having that many friends I hang out with, I can kind of relate to the relationship of the two main characters. I’m not saying I’m entirely like them, because I definitely worked hard in high school, but I feel like there are certain points that I felt the need to rebel. Because let’s face it, high school sometimes felt robotic. It felt like what was being taught to me at times was being taught through an assembly line-like process. And when I left high school, I honestly couldn’t be happier. Yes, I’ll miss my friends that I made along the way who I may only talk to through social media in the future. But I won’t miss the times when I went through various obstacles of feeling like I didn’t fit in. I won’t miss the subjects I regretted learning about. I also won’t miss what was quite honestly, a beyond underwhelming senior year. Sure, it had its moments, but as I was becoming an adult, there were times when I felt like I was occasionally getting my own kiddie table. Unlike the main characters of Amy and Molly, I didn’t go to any single party that my classmates flocked to (and yet I somehow won Best Dancer). I don’t regret my choices, but the fact that I’m being treated like an adult in college only makes me appreciate that concept much more.

And speaking of college, I can honestly say that this movie may become increasingly relevant giving what’s happening in the news. Because there’s a segment of the movie where one of the main characters is talking to people who may present themselves as idiots, but somehow managed to get into places like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. This movie premiered at South by Southwest this year, which happened in March, but if this movie had more time to shoot and release perhaps during the holiday season, they could have probably added something to the script about the college admissions scandal that’s been going on. Maybe we’ll save it for a sequel. I would not mind seeing one.

In the end, “Booksmart,” might not be getting an A from me, but it should not frown upon its final, respectable results. I will say that when it comes to the ending of the film, that is one of my core problems that is probably going to stick with me for some time. If it was slightly rewritten, I would have appreciated it more. Because this movie towards the end was going in one direction and I admired it for going in such a direction. However, the last bits of dialogue change that. If you ask me, the exchange was kind of corny and almost left a bad taste in my mouth. It was somewhat out of left field and unexpected. If the movie ended JUST before that, I think the ending would have been solid, and one of the better ones I’ve seen this year. But no! Let’s throw a curveball in there! Wow. Back to back sentences with baseball terms, isn’t that a hoot? Although to be serious, “Booksmart” is funny, charming, and definitely gets me interested for whatever else Olivia Wilde has up her sleeves in terms of her directing career. I’m going to give “Booksmart” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone if you noticed anything different about my blog, you might notice my domain. While I’m still calling this blog Scene Before, if you ever want to tell your friends about it, tell them to go to http://www.flicknerd.com. Why flicknerd.com? Because nerds rule and flicks are sick, that’s why! As for new content, I am steadily approaching post #300. For that post, I will be providing an update on my Blu-ray collection! Be sure to follow Scene Before with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Booksmart?” What did you think about it? Or, since “Aladdin” just came out and I’m willing to bet most of my viewers saw that this weekend as opposed to “Booksmart,” is Will Smith a good genie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fighting with My Family (2019): 2019’s First Truly Lovable Movie Experience

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“Fighting with My Family” is directed by Stephen Merchant (Hello Ladies, Logan) and stars Florence Pugh (Lady MacBeth, The Commuter), Leda Headey (Game of Thrones, 300), Nick Frost (Paul, Into the Badlands), Jack Lowden (Mary Queen of Scots, Dunkirk), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), and Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Rampage). This film is based on the true story of a family who live and breathe wrestling like it is an alternative to oxygen. Two kids who are very passionate about the sport get a chance to try out for the WWE, and this is based on truth so I wouldn’t call this a spoiler, but it is also essentially the origin story of Paige, who becomes the famous wrestler fans have come to know in recent years.

Right off the bat, I will just tell you all something. Wrestling is not my jam. If you know me in real life, this wouldn’t surprise you, sports in general are not usually my goto activity. I say that regardless of whether I am watching a sport or playing a sport. In fact, the reason why I went to see this movie has nothing to do with wrestling. Aside from getting passes to a free screening, I was excited for this movie because it was being helmed by the likable and talented Stephen Merchant. He has this flow when it comes to comedy that ultimately just works. I have seen a lot of his interviews on talk shows or other scenarios over the years and the guy is just freaking funny! Maybe his British accent has something to do with it, but still. Plus, he was the voice of Wheatley in “Portal 2,” which might just be my favorite video game of all time. Granted he was in “Tooth Fairy,” which if you think about it, it’s sad that I still remember that movie, but the guy is talented. And let me just say, he does a hell of a job with this movie! Merchant actually wrote and directed the film, but to add onto what I just said, he actually has a role in it too. Granted, the role isn’t enormous, he plays some random dude named Hugh, but it works. In fact, that is an understatement, because Hugh might just be the best part of the movie!

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Part of me is wondering if Merchant (left) wanted to do this role simply because out of everything he’s written, he thought it was the most humorous part, but nevertheless. Hugh is comedy gold. And when it comes to a lot of comedy that I am exposed to, most of what I consider to be “good” comedy is actually through written lines. Physical comedy usually takes a backseat for me nowadays. Not everyone can be “The Three Stooges.” When it comes to Hugh, it’s all non-verbal comedy. And f*cking brilliant non-verbal comedy when all is said and done! Also, one of the standout traits that I personally gathered from Hugh is not only that he acts funny, but he also looks funny. I’ve seen images of Stephen Merchant (in fact I just provided one), and the way he transforms himself into this character just takes him from a lanky British dude to a guy whose house your kid might not bother visiting on Halloween night. And this was actually a surprise to me because I saw marketing for the film and I see Stephen Merchant in it for a brief second, but it almost looks like he’s doing OK comedy. This was better than I anticipated!

One of the best parts of “Fighting with My Family” is that you don’t have to like wrestling to watch it. Because ultimately it is not about wrestling, it’s about family, it’s about striving to accomplish your goals, and the complication of social interaction. There was a part of the film where I compared it to a reality competition, especially when you consider there’s a scene where chicks hate each other over word choice. In fact, this comes partially as a surprise considering how the opening titles state that this is from WWE Studios. When was the last time I saw that for a motion picture release like this? Admittedly, there are times when this kind of feels as if it commercializes WWE, especially considering the cameos from professional wrestlers that are present in this film including John Cena, the Big Show, and Sheamus. Plus there is one scene where the brother is saying that he is imagining 20,000 people cheering him on as he stands in an empty stadium that has graphics moving around. It’s almost like “The LEGO Movie,” which may technically be commercial but it tries to sneak things in along the way.

Now as far as Paige goes, I do like her portrayal in this film. I like how they made Paige out to be a shy, timid, and goth looking girl in front of these stereotypical chicks who show off their bodies the whole time. It sort of reminds me of that Planet Fitness commercial where the girls keep talking about how “hot” everything is and there’s also another girl who finds the whole situation awkward. Another thing I like about her character, without diving too deep into spoilers, is the message that people can sometimes pressure you into being somebody just for shiggles or for the sake of fitting in. Maybe you ultimately don’t want to be that person, but the way things go in life, you are automatically triggered into thinking you need to change your ways. I thought that was very well done.

Also, I will say, I saw this going in, but I went to see this film with my mother, and she was somewhat looking forward to seeing Dwayne Johnson appear on screen. Without spoiling anything, he’s only in a couple of scenes. He’s not the star of this film. But for the scenes he’s in, it makes me wonder how he is in real life. I’ve always pictured The Rock to be a nice guy, and this movie makes a convincing case that maybe he is supportive of his fans. This is a guy who gets in a car accident with someone who happens to be a fan, keeps his cool, and shakes it all off like it is no big deal. By the way, that’s a true story, there is a link below the paragraph for further proof.

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Before I give the final verdict, I’ll talk for a sec about Paige’s brother, Zak. One of the complaints that my mother gave toward the film is Zak’s appearance, saying he didn’t look like a wrestler. Having seen him in the movie, I would agree. If this were fiction, there’s a high chance that I’d automatically be on her side, but this is based on true events, so I decided to close my mouth on that subject for a period of time. With that in mind, I decided to do some brief research on Zak, and I found a couple of images where his body looks similar to his actor counterpart. The body thing is something I can actually avoid calling a mistake, but what is a mistake is Zak’s characterization. While his motivations seemed to be clear, I kind of pictured a guy who would get mad for no reason. Granted, the reasoning for his anger seemed understandable, but there are not many characters I would prefer to remember just for mainly being angry.

In the end, “Fighting with My Family” was actually pretty fun. It’s intense, humorous, and kind of heartwarming. Again, I am not a fan of wrestling, and I don’t follow organizations like the WWE, but I enjoyed this movie. “Fighting with My Family” shows what happens when you pit people against each other in a heated, dramatic competition, and also what happens when you aspire to be the very best you can be. I’m going to give “Fighting with My Family” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I’ve got some more content coming soon, including another review which will be in the works soon, specifically for the new DreamWorks animation, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Also, I just watched the Academy Awards this previous Sunday, so stay tuned for future content related to that. Some of you might wonder why I didn’t do a prediction post this year like I’ve done in the past couple of years, and the reason is simple. Life is short, and college cares more about me killing my brain cells with endless work as opposed to balancing my life with brief periods of relaxation. I would have loved to have done a prediction post, in fact, I would have loved to have posted this review earlier, but the fact is, my brain was fried. There were points where I almost couldn’t help but crawl into the fetal position. So that’s the story of my life for the last few days, how about you tell me yours? Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Fighting with My Family?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where a celebrity plays him or herself? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!