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Wreck-It Ralph: When Video Games Come Alive
The fifty second titles made by Walt Disney Animation Studios – recent title releases include Bolt (2008) and Tangled (2010) – Wreck-It Ralph steps up to the plate by paying homage to old school arcade games. This immensely layered and imaginative universe of video-gaming delivers nothing but sweet goodness.
Endlessly colourful and charming, Wreck-it Ralph tells a story of a villain Ralph, (voiced splendidly by Reilly) who is one of the leading characters in the coin-op game 'Fix-it-Felix Jr.' Always being labelled as 'the bad guy', even though his character is programmed that way, Ralph is tired and wants out. Not only is he constantly overshadowed by the hero of the game Fix-it-Felix Jr. (McBrayer) – who fixes everything that Ralph destroys with the help of his magic hammer – Ralph is also shunned by the rest of the characters who live in the building that Wreck-It Ralph demolishes.
Considered an outsider, Ralph's strong fists are neither welcome nor appreciated.
Desperate for some love and admiration, Ralph goes on a game-hopping quest and fiddles his way into a first-person shooter game 'Hero's Duty', where that gold medal can be attained – a prize that Ralph believes will put his 'bad-boy' rep to sleep. The ferocious game is led by hard-hitting Commander Calhoun (Lynch) who runs a very tight ship, but fails to notice that an outsider has stepped into the game. Ralph is completely oblivious to the fact that his actions carry some heavy consequences and will soon open the doors of hell to the world of video-gaming.
Director Rich Moore, together with the astounding writing of Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, has managed to create a remarkable alternate universe of game characters living in a the video-game arcade; a space where all of the characters – including real-life gaming icons from Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter and Pac-man, amongst others – have a purpose and a place to call home.
Nothing seems over-the-top and it's easy to keep up with the story, even when it does decide to go slightly more erratic. The attention to detail is one of the film’s most notable attributes when it comes to bringing this fictional universe to life.
Moore, who made his name with The Simpsons (1989-present), made sure that Wreck-it-Ralph amuses and considers all types of viewers. Whether you're a child, a nostalgic arcade-gamer or just a kid at heart, there is plenty to go around.
From beginning to finish, all of the performances are top-notch. Leading character Ralph is voiced beautifully by O'Reilly, giving the character a soul. Lynch, known for her tough and domineering nature à la Glee, shines as Commander Calhoun; while Silverman – as the voice of the feisty Venellope Von Schweetz from another video game – takes away the most notable performance award. Her crackly, diminutive voice suits the cheeky girl's character and wins the most laughs.
Super-smart and funny, Wreck-It Ralph's journey is both creative and inviting.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Returning to the world of wizards and all things magic, J.K Rowling’s screenwriting debut in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has produced mixed results. Following the massive and the enduring success of the Harry Potter film franchise, the story is both magical and visually arresting. However, although definitely entertaining, the fun factor seems to have been squeezed out of the proceedings.
The plot follows ‘magizoologist’, Newt (Redmayne), who travels the world in search of magical animals in order to learn more about their powers. During his travels to New York City in 1926, Newt ends up losing his magical suitcase – a portable zoo of sorts which accidentally finds itself in the hands of an aspiring baker, Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) – setting off a chain of chaos.
The incident soon attracts the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston); a federal agent working for the Magical Congress of the United States of America who, after some persuading, reluctantly joins our hero on his quest along with her mind-reading sister, Queenie (Sudol).
Working from an original screenplay penned by J.K Rowling herself and directed by David Yates – filmmaker who helmed previous Harry Potter films – it would be easy to assume Fantastic Beasts to be nothing more than a blatant cash-grab which hopes to profit from long-time Harry Potter fans. However, although not as developed or as absorbing as one might have hoped, Fantastic Beasts proves to be a worthy addition to the fantasy arena which delivers an enchanting premise of eccentricity and magic.
Set seventy years before a boy named Harry Potter first walked the halls of Hogwarths, the film benefits from a degree of creative freedom to expand on its premise, introducing new stories, characters and an array of magical beasts along the way. However, there seems to be too much going on and the film struggles to keep up with the sheer amount of characters and sub-plots, failing to offer any substantial back stories or weight support them. The performances are relatively likable, with Redmayne embracing Newt’s love for magic with an gawky energy, though the rest of the cast – including Collin Farrell and Jon Voight - fail to make a similar impact.
Fantastic Beasts is an entertaining piece of cinema which will more than likely please die-hard fans that have been waiting to return to the world of wizards and magic. However, it’s not exactly what you might call an exciting movie or even a fully developed one; while it has sown the seeds for the films to come, as a standalone piece, it fails to really wow.