Ralph Breaks the Internet


Viewed – 31 August 2019. DVD

I remember enjoying the first movie. Wreck It Ralph was a great idea, borrowing it must be said, from Pixar’s Monsters Inc yet not quite reaching the potential of its rather brilliant concept. However it delivered first-rate turns from John C Reilly as Donkey Kong inspired video game villain ‘Ralph’ and Sarah Silverman as cute kart racer girl ‘Venelope’. So yeah, I was keen to see what (mis)adventured this likeable duo would get up to next. This brings forth the arrival of wi-fi connectivity to the little arcade that’s home to Ralph, Venelope amongst others (including Pacman, various Street Fighter characters and several more recognisable faces), and after an over-zealous gamer breaks Venelope’s arcade machine steering wheel, a quest to get a new one (from eBay no doubt) is undertaken, with the world wide web ripe for exploration.

I found this built perfectly on the foundations set up in the first movie and delivered exactly what a sequel should … bigger and better. The animation is top-notch and I’ll go as far as to say its sone of the most lush, imaginative and personality-filled CGI I’ve ever witnessed. With the looming shadow of Pixar’s Toy Story 4, any hype for this seemed to get brushed under that carpet at time of release, which is a travesty as in many ways this is the superior movie. Ralph & Venelope are a great double-act and although the story is mostly focused on the plucky racer-girl’s journey of self discovery, Ralph still gets many of the best gags and a brilliant final act (hint…one Ralph is never enough!). The clever mickey-takes and references of the internet and especially of Disney themselves are also well-observed and often laugh out loud funny. The Disney Princesses scene is pure gold.

However the story isn’t exactly all that on paper, but its exploration of a developing friendship is poignantly observed none the less. Yet Disney’s obsession with forcing feminist propaganda into every movie these days raises its head again in the closing moments, but it’s at least more subtle than Avengers: Endgame. Tiny gripes aside though, this was great fun and one of the best animated movies of the year.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Stan & Ollie


Viewed – 16 January 2019  Cinema

It seems long overdue a movie being done of the classic comedy duo Laurel & Hardy.  I vaguely recall catching either old movies or shorts on TV as a kid and loving their rather innocent and charming approach to often slapstick humour.  Both of them had a great personality that worked well together, and seeing anything they did even now still raises more than a few chuckles.  There is something timeless about them that I think unlike many other acts like Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges, hasn’t aged all that badly.

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This movie follows the comedy duo as they reunite after a period of retirement to do a tour around England and Ireland in an attempt to finance a new movie.  However following an incident during the height of their career, it soon becomes obvious there’s some bad blood between them.  Steve Coogan and John C Reilly take on the rather intimidating task of bringing such figures to life and I am both happy and amazed to say they achieve it to an incredibly uncanny level.  Coogan nails the expressions, the mannerism and even the walk of Stan Laurel and Reilly is just perfect as Hardy despite some prosthetic make up effects (which are done brilliantly).  The relationship between the two is perfectly observed, touching, a little sad but also amiable and funny.  You get a good idea who these guys really were and how they both respected each other, at times loathed each other but ultimately loved each other.  Set mostly in England you get none of the Hollywood glamour and more so the has-been stage of their lives, of two stars struggling to hold onto the magic and keep themselves relevant.  A squabbling duo of wives adds some fun personality, a money hungry agent also adds flavour and overall this is a charming and fascinating movie.

As a Laurel & Hardy fan I would have appreciated more of a glimpse into how they came to be, or just a snap shot of their fame.  The focus on the later part of their career makes for a good story that granted, tugs at the heart strings … but as much as I really enjoyed this, I came away feeling it wasn’t the full  package – especially for those unfamiliar with their legacy  Otherwise a heart-warming, funny and brilliantly acted look at two comedy legends.

Verdict:  4 /5

Kong: Skull Island


Viewed – 14 March 2017  Cinema

I can’t say I was all that hyped for this but some friends were wanting to see it so I thought I’d tag along.  This latest exploration of the legendary franchise about a massive, mythical ape follows a group of geologists and a band of fresh outta ‘Nam marines as they travel to a newly discovered, unexplored island.  John Goodman leads the scientists, whilst Samuel L. Jackson leads the marines and along the way they bring in Tom Hiddleston’s tracker.

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This began promising … a dramatic prologue set the stage and when introduced to Goodman, Jackson etc but for a slightly larger-than-life aesthetic, it seemed I was in for a good time.  Sad then, that not long after the team arrive at the island did it dawn on this viewer that there was something worryingly cartoonish to the performances and action, and despite some epic monster smack downs once Kong gets screen time and is punching helicopters out of the air etc … what initial potential any of these characters had is rapidly replaced with cheesy, clichéd caricatures displaying over the top attempts at drama, melo-drama and awkward-comedy, most of which miss their target.  When it’s trying to be serious it comes off as amusing (sometimes hilarious) and when it’s trying to be exciting it comes off as slow-motion Michael Bay dialled up to ten.  This caused me to gradually zone out as any character moments or parts where you’re meant to route for anyone except Kong, fell flat.  Even seasoned veterans like Goodman and Jackson came off hammy, especially Jackson who has a silly amount of lingering stares, complete with that bulging left eye, and Hiddleston is woefully miss-cast, struggling as the rugged hero-type despite (fake)tanned good looks and perfect hair.  Add to this Brie Larson who initially appeared as a ballsy photographer, but half way through descended into just another objectified pair of boobs.  Sigh.

Thankfully we do get some reprieve from the mediocrity and cheese in a wonderfully dead-pan John C Reilly, and the effects and the locations are decent (bar some obvious green screen segments), which means it isn’t a total shot in the foot.  However like initial expectations, there’s very little to warrant this one existing in an industry that’s previously given us so much better.

Verdict:  2 /5

Wreck-It Ralph


Viewed – 20 June 2013  Blu-ray

CGI has pretty much taken over traditional hand drawn cell animation, and where it hasn’t (such as the movies of Studio Ghibli) it is still used to enhance the art.  Simply put animated movies look stunning.  So these days, they have to bring something to the table new and exciting to stand out in a crowded genre.  Does this one have what it takes?

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Ralph is a video-game villain, modeled it seems on the classic Donkey Kong game he plays the wrecking giant who destroys a tower block, until Fix It Felix (see: Jump Man, aka Mario) comes to the rescue, and ‘fixes’ the tower block until the occupants toss Ralph from the top … game over.  But Ralph is tired of being the villain, and feels he has what it take to be that hero and claim his golden medal so everyone will appreciate him.  This pretty and energetic movie has a feel of Monsters Inc. with a world going on that we are not aware of as human beings, this time an arcade where behind the scenes in ‘game central station’ video-game characters hang out at bars, visit support groups and act like every day folk outside of their respective games.  It’s a very cool idea that I think is only marginally successful.  The many video-game references are more the style of spot the famous and not so famous character, than clever actual jokes of video-game culture.  Yes the writing for such a subject could have been sharper, but relies a little too much on the viewer having a long memory of video-games.  So therefore this slightly alienates those who may not have such a history.

On a plus, we get a likable, adorable little girl (Sarah Silverman) who befriends Ralph in his quest and she’s a great creation, and an Alice In Wonderland inspired King proves an interesting villain.  Animation throughout is slick, with plenty of well-observed gaming detail, even if the more famous faces are disappointingly under-used – licensing perhaps?  Ralph himself, beyond a good performance by John C. Reilly, is also rather forgettable.  That being said what happens and some of the ideas (the Gears of War-like space marines section) and situations are still enjoyable (the final Mario Kart inspired race) and even for a lesser entry in Disney’s cannon – this was difficult not to enjoy.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Carnage


Viewed – 04 February 2013 Blu-ray

As far as my knowledge of Roman Polanski stretches, several memorable films (Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby) and something about him being banned from the United States is all that comes to mind.  However, let us not forget that first and foremost he is a director and so we come to his latest offering, that is based on the play by Yasmina Reza.

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Two slightly upper class couples come together one day to discuss what should be done following an incident where one of their children has hit the other in a near by park after a disagreement.  This highly believable and surprisingly engrossing premise brings together four acclaimed actors, namely Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as the one couple and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as the other … all big personalities where it’s our job to sit back and watch the fire works.

On a whole this felt very Woody Allen-esque in it’s comically tense and accurate observations.  I found myself laughing, gasping and grinning throughout like that person at a party, not knowing where to look as others argue – a perversely entertaining experience aided by four decent performances by some of my favorites.  OK, Foster goes a bit into overdrive after a while, and an increasingly manish Winslet fairs little better.  Both however are over shadowed by the utterly wonderful Waltz and Reilly who prove a lot more interesting.  At under 80 minutes this flies by, doesn’t outstay its welcome and is very well written … even if, perhaps like real life it doesn’t really get anywhere.

Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5