Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Much Ado with Movies

This Veteran's Day, I hit up my favorite thrift store for the 50% off sale and managed to find everything I wanted except what I originally wanted to find, which was some nice button up shirts. Between my shoulders and my chest size, it is hard to find button-ups that will look fitted without looking like they might explode open from my boobs. That is a sentence I never thought I'd write...

Anyways, afterward I headed to the movie theater to finally see Wreck-It Ralph, and also happened to catch Frankenweenie. I went in with high expectations for Wreck-It Ralph, as both my brothers, avid video game fans, and the lovely writers of The Mary Sue site both gave high marks for story and characterization. More on these gems later.

Firstly, previews of movies that are coming out, and what I think of them:

Rise of the Guardians: I am fully behind reimaginings of myths, especially when it comes to Guillermo del Toro's imagination, and Peter Ramsey has more hits than misses when it comes to  movies. However, I am seriously questioning Jack Frost as the protagonist, as the combination of Chris Pine and the pale skater boy look remind me more of someone from the cast of Twilight than something with more substance like this movie is looking to be. His attitude in the trailers isn't helping either: he seems so emo, in an Anakin Skywalker kind of way (meaning terrible). I'm willing to give it a shot, though. If anything, butch Russian Cossack Santa Claus and Australian warrior Easter Bunny will make for an entertaining ride. I have mixed feelings about the tooth fairy, but I've read stranger things, so again, willing to give a bird looking fairy a chance. Sandman is clearly the cute mascot, which seems odd to me when they've got all those elves, and Nightmare King Guy is clearly a recycled villain trope, but maybe they'll do something slightly different with it. I'll wait and see.

Oz, The Great and Powerful: I am loving the effort put into making Oz look awesome, but I am hating the Hollywood need to take classic children's stories and make them more grownup, and therefore sexy (gives stinkeye to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland). I have serious reservations I will enjoy this, as the Wizard has always been an old man for a reason. I also seriously doubt Hollywood will follow the actual story and allow Mr. Wizard to remain a street magician with some seriously good stage skills who clumsily makes his way to power through illusion and trickery. Yet who knows, maybe allowing Harry Osborn free run of Oz will make some amazing entertainment. March 2013 cannot come soon enough.

Smurfs 2: WHY? Live action or 3D imaginings of 2D animated characters only emphasizes how uncanny their anatomy is. CGI smurfs look WEIRD. Plus the first movie wasn't very good from what I've heard of it.

The Croods: I am failing to see this movie having more plot than Dreamworks showing off how pretty they can make computer worlds. The trailer implies little of what will happen beyond trying to survive. Heck, if the family even has character growth I will be amazed, as all the sitcom tropes are present: angry teenage girl, ditzy grandma, controlling dad, other relatives that sometimes have speaking parts...

The Hobbit: Squee! Mostly my gripes at this point are consistent from when I first saw the production photos and heard the confirmation release date: Why do some of the dwarves look human? And how the heck is Peter Jackson stretching this barely over 300 page novel into 3 movies? I have very high hopes, though, and will be going to see it for my birthday.

Despicable Me 2: If this movie addresses my biggest gripe with the first film, which was why they didn't at least hint Gru would raise his daughters to follow in his villainous ways, then I will be a happy fan.

Now for Wreck-It Ralph! Spoilers ahead, and I apologize not at all for going MST3K-style on my review of the film.

I really liked the pre-film short, Paperman. It seemed to capture some of that classic Disney magic. I enjoyed the choice to have the characters not talk, and the driving element was magical paper airplanes! I loved the animation style and the love story was quite cute.

Something that immediately impressed me was the contrast between pixel view and "behind-the-screens" view. The richness of detail put into the video game character's perception of their world was quite amazing. Also, I wonder how many people caught the subtle jab at progress over nature when the premise of Ralph's game is that his forest home was torn up and built over with a high-rise building that he feels he should destroy for wrecking his land.

M. Bison's accusation of Ralph going "Turbo" made me think of Street Fighter II Turbo (spoiler, it's not). Very good work there, Mr. Lasseter... Also awesome is the fact that the pac-man ghost is busy knocking about his "room" when the Bad Guys Anon meeting breaks up.

The cord travel is ingenious, as are the "surge protectors." Poor Q*Bert guys, if anyone in the audience still didn't care about Ralph, his generosity here should drive it home that he is more than his bad guy status.

It is during the first view of Game Central that I made the vow to buy this movie and watch it frame by frame to catch all the video game references. I especially found Sonic the Hedgehog's PSA very funny.

I feel really bad for Ralph during the anniversary party scene. Felix, being a genuine Nice Guy, just can't say no to him not being invited in. I kind of want to punch Gene in the face, though; you'd think after thirty years and Ralph's obvious depression would tip them off to his mental state by this point, but then, the denizens of Niceland seem like typical ignorant suburbanites that way.

I highly suspect somewhere out there is a game based on being a bartender, but hilarious nonetheless for the arcade characters to have a bar called "Tapper." Ralph is clearly not that bright though, as you'd think that a guy in heavy-duty, futuristic armor who freaks out at a cockroach no bigger than his thumb would be some indication of the level of violence his game is capable of. I do thank the writers for thinking of leaving Zangief's underwear in the Lost and Found, as Mr. Soldier would otherwise have to deal with letting people know the awkward fact that men have certain anatomical features between their legs that can be covered by positioning their legs in the proper sitting position. Or maybe Ralph wants to save him some dignity, who knows.

Mr. Lasseter, I salute you for not only having a girl play Hero's Duty, but an obviously shy and geeky glasses-wearing girl play it. By the way, I love Jane Lynch, and Sgt. Calhoun is one tough mamma jamma.

I am literally biting my lip to restrain my raucous laughter at the bug zapper method of clearing the psybugs for new games. I have to admire Ralph's determination to overcome obvious obstacles in his quest for the medal, and silently cheer his brief moment of victory, knowing his innate clumsiness was about to once again make things awful for everyone.

My initial impression of Sugar Rush land is that someone put Dr. Seuss, Candyland, and Strawberry Shortcake in a blender and loaded up on sugar puns.

Sarah Silverman is awesome at anything she does. Being a pint-sized sarcastic little smartass is the perfect foil to big and clumsy Ralph.

King Candy reminds me of a very gay Disney Mad Hatter circa 1951. Sometimes the candy jokes aren't very subtle, I mean the cops are doughnuts!

The explanation of Turbotime now makes all the references to "going turbo" quite different. The fem-dom relationship role for the budding romance with Calhoun and Felix is quite interesting for a Disney movie. Cracking up at the Laffy Taffy vines.

The bakery build-a-kart mini game is not helping me want to play Sugar Rush (please become an actual game!). Ralph is so cute as he breaks everything trying to make something. I'm actually impressed with Vanellope's kart, it's a glittery candy brownie!

At first I thought people avoided Diet Coke mountain because it was sugar-free, but I guess soda lava with the potential damage of Mentos explosion is a good reason...The training montage is really cute. It's at this point I'm realizing these events are all happening in one night...

The terrible thing about tricksters is that they can use the truth to lie. King Candy makes some obvious sense, but you can literally feel each blow to your heart as Ralph wrecks Vanellope's kart and tells her not to race. Again, we are reminded that Ralph isn't that bright, but once he catches on, he is a very bad enemy to have.

The racetracks for Sugar Rush look as challenging as anything Mario Kart has churned out. Besides, I would love to lob ice cream missiles and candy bazookas at other players! I really need to brush up on my narrative structures, as I totally should have guessed King Candy was Turbotime by now. I am also seeing how some people are griping about a gay effeminate character once again being the villain. I mean, there ARE other ways to show someone being a silly nutter without referencing their sexuality. Although the only argument for his status is that he corrects Ralph's evaluation on his love for pink because the color is obviously salmon. Then again, there are very few recognizable tropes who can make that joke work.

The psybugs are clearly a threat, but mostly I kept wondering why they didn't rush Vanellope across the finish line anyway? Maybe it has to be intact for the race to finish? I'd think resetting the game would eliminate the psybugs, but then, we wouldn't get Ralph getting to make a heroic self-sacrifice move. By the way, the combination King Candy/Turbotime/psybug is definitely going in my nightmare material.Yay for Ralph getting a dramatic heroic moment, and Vanellope getting to show off her skillz in the name of friendship!

No one in their right mind would believe Sarah Silverman capable of being a pretty sparkly princess. Luckily, neither did the writers of Vanellope. I am loving the political implications here, though, of presidency over monarchy. That was pretty awesome how she duped the other racers with that "everyone who was ever mean to me will be...executed" line.

So, Ralph has accepted that his label doesn't define him, the denizens of his game have learned to treat him better, Vanellope gets to be a star racer, and the Q*bert family gets a new home! Everyone wins! Also, I would totally love to have the glitching power in any game. Seriously, it would better than god-moding. I would have liked more implication of  Vanellope and Ralph getting to visit more often, although now I'm wondering if the credit montage of the main characters playing around in games is canon.

This movie makes a lot more sense once you realize everyone's actual name, fair warning. I never saw the short this film was based on, but I could tell right away from the trailer it was going to reference or at least parody classic monster films of early cinema. If that wasn't enough, turning Cinderella's castle into something Gothic out of an 18th century story at the title screen would have sold me.

Victor Frankenstein's home monster movie with his dog, Sparky, would have made any monster fan proud. It's actually quite a good attempt for something thrown together with a dog, toys, and cardboard buildings.

I am constantly blown away by the level of detail in this world. The little books and posters, not to mention the textures and classic film black and white make for a very believable world. Sparky is also the cutest dog, I would prefer him to my current one that farts in my room all the time. His interactions with Persephone the poodle are consistently adorable.

So, based on constant frown, overly controlling demeanor, and general unpleasantness, Mayor Uncle Bob Dutch of New Holland is supposed to be our main antagonist.

Mr. Rzykruski is an amazing science teacher. Can we send him back in time to my grade school years? Who else would teach about lightning as if it was immigration, and demonstrate neuromuscular activity with a dead frog and car jumper cables?

It is at this point that I realize Tim Burton went all out with the monster references, as most of the students have a monstery look about them similar to classic monsters. For example, we have Edgar E. Gore, who is a hunchback and missing teeth, looking all weasely and conniving. We also have Elsa Van Helsing, an eerie girl who always looks shocked (reminds me somewhat of Merricat Blackwood), with a creepy kitty named Mr. Whiskers that makes prophecies with his poop...Nassor looks like Frankenstein's monster, and there the similarities end. Unless Bob is supposed to be the Blob or something. Toshiaki, Victor, and Cynthia Dutch actually have the most normal (for Tim Burton) seeming appearances.

Mr. Frankenstein, the travel agent, strikes me as meaning well, but seriously needs to get a clue and encourage his son to pursue what he actually likes, meaning science. Although I'm sure he feels really bad about Sparky getting hurt because of his suggestion to get Victor to try baseball.

The pet graves are hilarious, I mean, Bubbles the fish gets a fishbowl? I can't recall the snake's name, but it was a very tall grave.

Victor needs to learn something important about grave robbing: don't leave evidence there was grave robbing!

So in cartoon Tim Burton world, movies still get to be live action...Also, Victor is a very good ninja.

I am not understanding all the appliances being used as conductor/generators, but then again, this is science fiction for a reason. Sparky LIVES!

Victor's mom seems rather ditzy, I mean a robotic bucket? There aren't any buttons or anything! Victor also shows his youth as he clearly did not think through how to hide his reanimated dog who still likes to bark and explore things. The female dog as bride of frankenstein though was a joke that needed to be done, clearly.

This dog is now a robot, if it can be recharged like a battery, lol. OMG his eyes even glow in the dark!

Edgar may be a manipulative little twit, but he's rather bold and badass about it, I feel. His choice of a dead fish for attempting the experiment again is rather bizarre though. Scary invisible fish is scary.

Toshiaki may be smart, but clearly needs work on the ethics aspect of science if he thinks it's ok for his classmate to test their untested soda bottle rocket pack on the roof of a house.

Teacher Rzykruski is still awesome, but methinks his English and social skills need more work. Telling people intent on firing you they are stupid, ignorant, and that your best bet to improve them is to open their children's heads and get at their brains is not the best way to keep your job. Still, ignorant parents are ignorant if they only just heard Pluto is not a planet anymore (although I agree it was a stupid change). During his leaving, he is clearly very wise, though, as he makes some good points about people liking what science can give, but not the questions that need to be asked to get there. Victor clearly understands the need to have heart in pursuing anything, but the other children are desperately in need of the lesson that science isn't innately good or bad, it is in how it is used.

I feel so bad for Cynthia, she is clearly as isolated as Victor, but for different reasons.

Victor's parents are awesome! I wasn't sure they'd react so well to finding out their son dabbled in reanimation.

I am continually amazed that the other students are still obsessed with winning the science fair trophy after everything that's happened. I changed my mind, Edgar is a weak ass prick. Toshiaki may be the most evil of this group, but clearly all these kids are psycho.

I am confused as to how Sparky's grave got refilled (Victor clearly didn't in his rush to sneak the body back to his house earlier). It is rather ironic that Sparky's grave is the only place he felt safe enough to rest.

I am continuing my sympathy for Cynthia. Not only for having Mayor Bob Dutch as an uncle, but also having to wear that outfit and sing the town anthem, yeesh.

I want to research this later, but it seems that each kid picked an animal according to their personality, or at least their image as presented in the movie. See, Elsa Van Helsing's cat grabbed a bat and turned into a vampire-like bat cat (I will call it hellcat); Edgar E. Gore made a rat monster; Nassor apparently had a hamster named Colossus (weird or else very rich to have such an elaborate tomb); and Toshiaki uses his turtle, Shelley, to make a Godzilla sized monster (rolling my eyes at the obvious jokes here); while Bob somehow makes gremlin/creatures of the black lagoon out of sea monkeys.

Mayor seems like a typical politician and runs away at the first sign of actual crisis, but hiding in a port-o-potty? Very low, but laughing at the attacking sea monkeys.

Epic monster fight! Victor uses BRAINS, it's very effective! (sorry for pokemon joke, actually not really). I am not understanding Toshiaki's OCD need to record everything even in the face of very obvious danger to himself.

Now we have the classic Frankenstein movie mob and chase scene, ending at the classic windmill. Ineffective adults are ineffective.

The hellcat is seriously getting on my nerves, but it gets to die a dramatic vampire death, so ok. Epic scene with Sparky!

Victor's dad redeems himself, it is too true that sometimes adults don't know what they're talking about. What follows though, is something that tends to bug me at times about American films. In any other country, this movie would have ended with Sparky staying dead and Victor learning that some things science shouldn't mess with, but still able to handle his grief in the face of his dog being heroic rather than losing him to accident. The fact that the adults were willing to try to revive Sparky was satisfying enough, I think the audience could have handled Sparky remaining dead. I mean, now that he is "alive" again, how is the rest of the world going to react to a boy who has the means to bring back the dead? Yet, as the end song for the credits says, "love is strange."

This movie is way cuter than the original Frankenstein story, but not nearly as resonant as Tim Burton's last attempt with the same plot, which was Edward Scissorhands. I think I'd still watch it again though.