Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore

Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill

Screenplay: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon

112 mins. Rated PG for some action and rude humor.

 

I was not the biggest fan of Wreck-It Ralph. I had a number of different reasons for my opinion, but I will also say that, at the time, I was carrying a bias about Disney films. After all, Disney is a machine, and like any machine, it has to function similarly at all times. I found the first film to be overly reliant upon video game and arcade nostalgia that bogged it down. I was also much more interested in Ralph’s (John C. Reilly, Chicago, Holmes & Watson) journey and felt it was less interesting when he got involved with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman, Battle of the Sexes, TV’s The Sarah Silverman Program). Wreck-It Ralph was a hit, though (everyone I knew loved it), and while it took six years for a sequel, I was still excited for the wild ride that is Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Ralph and Vanellope are celebrating six awesome years as best friends, and while Ralph is fine with the way his days go, Vanellope wants more. She is tired of the predictability of her game, so Ralph sets out to help her. When his plan fails spectacularly, causing Sugar Rush to break down, it seems like as though Ralph may have inadvertently doomed Vanellope. Fortunately, they find that the replacement part for Sugar Rush is available on the internet, and the two set out to bring it back. Through their adventure, Ralph is forced to face his greatest fear: change.

There’s good and bad to the direction of this Wreck-It Ralph follow-up. It’s similar at times to the story of the first film with video game nostalgia traded out for social media addiction. That being said, the way the social media and internet references work in the film is to force Ralph and Vanellope to examine their lives and change, for good or bad. I think the sequel is more successful in creating real relationships amongst these arcade characters. There’s also a tendency to fall back on Disney properties in the film, a decision opposite to Spielberg’s choice in Ready Player One to seemingly eliminate as many references as possible to his films. Again, though, the Disney Princess scene is absolutely worth the price of admission. As I said, good and bad to these creative choices.

Ralph is a more interesting character this time out. His internal conflict with himself and Vanellope’s choices are so strong and real and accessible. It’s really powerful character direction, something for its viewers to register with as they grow older. I also like how Vanellope is struggling in the sequel, knowing she has a good life but wanting more than that. It makes her more than a cutesy sidekick.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a good outing from Disney, though not their best. I think it’s a better film than Wreck-It Ralph, and I think the conflict in the film resonates rather nicely. The film falls back on Disney wanting to sell toys, but there’s some good in there too made by strong characters and a strong story arc. It just gets muddled sometimes.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Rich Moore, Byron Howard, and Jared Bush’s Zootopia, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Kyle’s Top Ten Films of 2016

 

Hey folks, sorry this is coming in a bit late but I’ve not been feeling well and it’s given me the opportunity to catch some of the films I’d missed in 2016 and I wanted to see as much as I could before delivering this list to you.

Just a couple notes before we get into all this:

  • These are my personal top ten films of the year from the many I have seen. Not all of them are Oscar-y in nature because I still haven’t gotten the chance to see a lot of the late releases of the year. On that note…
  • I haven’t seen all the movies released in 2016. If you read this list and find that something is missing, let me know, drop a comment, and I’ll get to it.
  • This is a tentative listing of the films. I tend to do a final ranking after the Academy Awards every year, but enjoy what I have so far.
  • Lastly, this isn’t a ranking of my best reviewed films of the year. These are the films that, to me, were exactly what they were supposed to be. SO here we go…

I present to you, my Top Ten Films of 2016.

 

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  1. 10 Cloverfield Lane

-When the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane dropped just weeks before it’s theatrical release, it blew me away. How was this film connected to Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield? What’s John Goodman doing in this? Why isn’t it found-footage? After seeing the film, I still don’t really have answers, but one thing I do know is that 10 Cloverfield Lane was one of the most tense and shocking thrillers in recent memory. Carried by strong performances from its leads and the standout chilling work from Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane does a lot with a little, adding to this unique franchise and making me look forward to God Particle, the next film in the Clover-verse coming later this year.

 

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  1. Captain America: Civil War

-This is the kind of film that shouldn’t work. A big budget superhero blockbuster based around themes that are so important today. With the cast of somewhere 124 leads comes a showdown between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark over the damage that superheroes do just to save lives. It is full of rich fully-realized character development and action scenes so insanely busy but perfectly captured that it seems an impossible feat and yet, the Russo brothers made one of the best superhero movies of all time with the odds so dangerously stacked against them.

 

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  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

-When Disney purchased the Lucasfilm brand and immediately started work on a new Star Wars film, I was hesitant, but here we are with the second film released since the acquisition, and it is even more impressive than The Force Awakens. How director Gareth Edwards wrote a love letter to the Star Wars saga and turned it into one of the best films in the entire series is beyond me. Rogue One seamlessly blends with A New Hope and creates such an amazing story out of one paragraph of the opening crawl from the original movie. Great work from Ben Mendelsohn, Felicity Jones, and Alan Tudyk carry this incredible story that is really for the fans who have been there since the very beginning, Rogue One is much more than just a Thank You.

 

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  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

-I actually came across this film because it was a 99 cent rental on Amazon, and I’m so thankful I did. Hunt for the Wilderpeople didn’t really get me with its trailers, I probably would’ve passed it by, but since I have now seen it, all I can say is, why haven’t you? This was a gorgeously shot and humorously-injected coming-of-age story with the two most unlikely heroes this year. The story of Ricky Baker, a foul-mouthed troublemaker, and his “Uncle” Hector as they get lost and get wild in the Bush of New Zealand is fun and heartwarming. The two are hunted by authorities after Hector is seen as possibly unfit to raise Ricky. The movie is equal parts fun and touching. See it.

 

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  1. Green Room

-I was blessed to be able to see Green Room before its initial release and I was blown away by the visceral survival thriller featuring the late Anton Yelchin. My skin crawled and I leapt out of my chair more than once in the painfully captivating tale of a rock band attempting to escape a Neo-Nazi bar after witnessing a murder. Green Room isn’t a film for anyone (and I don’t say that often, but this is often very difficult to watch) but it’s also one of the most fun experiences I had in a theater all year.

 

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  1. The Conjuring 2

-Another shockingly great movie from 2016 was the hotly-anticipated sequel to the classified horror classic from 2013, The Conjuring. Director James Wan returned to helm the sequel which hopped across the pond to Enfield to see Ed and Lorraine Warren face their most difficult case to date. This movie is a rare horror film with as much heart as horrors, and I was absolutely floored by both the creepy and inventive techniques behind the camera and also the emotionally-charged beats in front of it. For me, this is the rare horror sequel that actually surpasses the original.

 

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  1. Kubo and the Two Strings

-Why? Why haven’t you seen this film? Kubo and the Two Strings, the newest film from Laika, virtually disappeared from theaters after kind of dudding upon release. It’s tragic, as the film is their best stop-motion film to date. An animated film that is just as much for adults as for children, Kubo and the Two Strings takes on strikingly adult subject matter in this beautifully crafted journey of a boy’s journey to defeat the terrifying Moon King using his magical shamisen. Influences from classic Kurosawa and spaghetti westerns infused with intelligent characters are what makes Kubo and the Two Strings an instant classic.

 

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  1. Don’t Breathe

-Wow, I did not see this coming. Don’t Breathe, from director Fede Alvarez, is another exemplary horror film from a terrific year for the genre.  In it, three thieves break into a blind war vet’s home to claim his fortune for themselves when they discover their victim has skills and secrets that none of them expected, and they may not survive the heist. Don’t Breathe played a surrealist approach to the escape room subgenre in a different way that Green Room did earlier in the year. Instead, it made us fear for our antiheroes and dread the terrifying Blind Man, played excellently by Stephen Lang. Don’t Breathe is visually stunning as well relentlessly disturbing, and it’s a must-see for fans of the genre.

 

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  1. Arrival

Arrival is just proof that Denis Villeneuve can do whatever he damn well pleases. You want a sequel to Blade Runner? Sure, whatever you want! After Prisoners and Sicario and Enemy, to hit it out of the park yet again with Arrival is almost unprecedented. Villeneuve is quickly becoming a household name, even if most Americans butcher the pronunciation. Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, accomplishes the rare task of being a genre film that isn’t really about aliens. Sure, that’s been said a lot, and if you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean. But in all fairness, it’s just really nice to see a complex and interesting story that isn’t dumbed down to suit audiences.

 

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  1. The Nice Guys

-Another sad bomb from this past year, I saw The Nice Guys while waiting to board my plane leaving Hawaii. I had just gotten engaged, so you might play off my enjoyment with the film to that, but I revisited the film a few times since then, and I love it more and more each time. A sendup to 70s cinema and hard-boiled detective stories as well the classic buddy-cop subgenre that director Shane Black continues to wring perfection from (I’m talking to you Lethal Weapon), The Nice Guys is just a perfect damn movie that excites and entertains and makes the unlovable people the most fun to spend time with.

 

Honorable Mentions: Swiss Army Man, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Deadpool.

 

Well, there you have it. These are my favorite films of the year. I’m excited for #2017oscardeathrace to begin, and I may see a few favorites get knocked off, but overall, 2016 was a great year for movies, just not a great year for most anything else. Well see you in 2017 (which is kind of now).

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 3 – Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

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Director: Eli Craig

Cast: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Chelan Simmons

Screenplay: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson

89 mins. Rated R for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity.

 

There are a lot of misconceptions about horror and comedy. They are similar in a lot of ways but in order to meld the two, you don’t just make fun of horror elements. That isn’t how it works. Effective horror comedy comes from playing the comedic moments as seriously as possible, as if the characters are just in a regular horror film. Few films are able to master the art. One that does is 2010’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

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Tucker (Alan Tudyk, TV’s Con Man, I, Robot) and Dale (Tyler Labine, TV’s Deadbeat, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) have one goal in mind: to enjoy their new vacation home, an aesthetically unpleasant cabin in the woods. But when a group of foolish college students mistakes them for monstrous murdering hillbillies, this tale of mistaken identity is about to go off the rails. Dale comes across injured swimmer Allison (Katrina Bowden, TV’s 30 Rock, Nurse) and rescues her. Chad (Jesse Moss, Final Destination 3, Extraterrestrial), who wants Allison for himself, believes them to be kidnapping her for their twisted pleasures and mounts a rescue mission, but these college students are rather clumsy, and as they accidentally die, Tucker and Dale seem to be at fault. This tale of judgment and mistaken assumption culminates in one of the more interesting horror comedies in recent years.

Gosh, not enough people have seen Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and that’s a damn shame. Folks, this movie is on Netflix. You’re already paying to watch it. First of all, our two leads are terrific. Tudyk and Labine play off each other so well. Add in Katrina Bowden, who does a fairly convincing performance as the attractive Allison, a woman who would never have anything in common with our Reddest-of-Neck leads. The other cliche college brats are worthy enough but don’t really get enough time to conjure up a real character. That being said, this movie isn’t really about them. It’s about Dale and Tucker and their quest to enjoy their lovely vacation home.

Director Eli Craig gave his actors free range to build their characters, and it’s one of the reasons that they are as enjoyable as they seem. His focus on turning the genre on its head works to wonders here, even if the ending falls apart a bit. Altogether, though, Craig does great work playing each scene for all its worth. He holds his camera on Tudyk and Labine to get the best reaction to each horrendous “accident” and pulls the uncomfortably tense moments to full effect.

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As I said before, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts, but all in all, this is one of the more enjoyable takes on the horror genre. Similar to Cabin in the Woods, this movie is more of a love letter to the genre as opposed to a slap in the face that some spoofs end up being. This is a worthy collection to your Halloween marathons.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Zootopia (2016)

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Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrance, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira

Screenplay: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston

108 mins. Rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature of the Year [Pending]

IMDb Top 250: #183 (as of 8/6/2016)

 

You want proof that miracles can happen? Look no further than this year’s Zootopia.

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Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin, TV’s Big Love, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never Beast) grew up being told by just about everyone that she wasn’t fit to be who she wanted to be: a police officer in the big city of Zootopia. But she proves them all wrong. When she gets to Zootopia, however, she discovers that it’s going to take a lot of hard work to prove herself. Then, she comes across a dangerous mystery involving animal members of the society going stark-raving mad, so Judy enlists the help of con-fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses, Central Intelligence) to help her discover who or what is responsible.

Let’s just discuss the problems that Zootopia faced. After Disney/Pixar faced issues with both Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur as far as production went, they immediately went into a film like Zootopia that faced major backlash after the initial test screenings. The original version focused almost entirely on Nick Wilde, who became downright unlikable. The entire film was overhauled in favor of Judy Hopps. Then, the decision to bring in so many heavy issues like Race and Class discrimination. Zootopia should’ve failed.

But it didn’t. Zootopia is a rare animated film that has major appeal for both children and parents (and no, I’m not just referring to the strange Breaking Bad reference). It puts together an interesting case for the heroes to solve, but Zootopia also faces issues like racial discrimination and class treatment head-on, as well as issues of assumed gender roles. In the film, Judy experiences discrimination from Chief Bogo (Idris Elba, Pacific Rim, Star Trek Beyond) over her appearance. The world treats Judy that she was born a bunny, so her place is on the farm. The major themes of Zootopia may be simple (Don’t judge a book by its cover), but its underlying subtext is real heavy.

And that’s fine. The adult material is easily related to viewers of all ages. And the kids get something out of all this too. They see a funny little scene involving sloths. We as adults see a hilarious satire of the DMV (you know the scene). It works so well on multiple levels.

Now, Zootopia isn’t perfect. It runs on a little too long and doesn’t have all that rewatchability that most Disney films have, but these are minor issues overall.

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The fact of the matter is that Zootopia is a gorgeously animated film that surpassed all of my expectations. It will easily be on the roster of best animated films for this year. If you haven’t seen it yet, this film comes highly recommended.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

102 mins. Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

After tragedy strikes and takes everything Hiro (Ryan Potter) thought he’d never lose, he befriends Baymax (Scott Adsit, TV’s 30 Rock, St. Vincent), a robotic caregiver built by his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Last Stand), and the two set out to find an invention of Hiro’s that has been stolen to be used for evil. Along the way, Hiro gets help from a ragtag group of nerdy geniuses that would soon come to be known as Big Hero 6 in the newest Disney animated feature from directors Don Hall and Chris Williams.

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Baymax is 2014’s answer to Frozen’s Olaf. He is a lovable and sweet companion who is challenged in his quest to heal others by Hiro’s wanting of vengeance against those who wronged him. Young Ryan Potter does great work as Hiro, and he gets great help from veteran voice workers like T.J. Miller (How to Train Your Dragon, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Alan Tudyk (TV’s Suburgatory, I,Robot). I do wish the supporting characters weren’t just relegated to minimal development based around the tech they are currently working on, and I hope that if this becomes the first Marvel-Disney franchise that these superheroes are further developed. The world of San Fransokyo is pretty cool though, taking cues from anime masterpieces like Akira.

Big Hero 6 isn’t Frozen even at its best, though I am happy to see a Disney film willing to deal with death. Although I don’t think they should’ve danced around the subject so much, always referring to the deceased as “gone” when they should take the high route and understand that kids can handle it.

The visual style is neat and it presents a pretty great number of action set pieces for our heroes to defend their beloved city, and it just looks good.

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Big Hero 6 is one of the more enjoyable films of 2014, but it has a lull to it around the second act. Even though it is a Marvel property, it tends to borrow a bit too much from previous Marvel fare like Iron Man instead of drudging a new route. There is a fun post-credits scene, so wait around for that. Big Hero 6 should satisfy parental units as well as kids thought, which is a tough feat to make.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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