Friday, November 16, 2012

Moonlight Movie Reviews - They're not always timely, but in the age of DVDs and Blu-Rays, they can still be useful... Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, and Sinister

As the title says, folks, I don't always get to these in a timely fashion. The films below aren't exactly new, though a couple of them aren't exactly OLD either. None of them are on home video yet though, so I'm sure some folks will still find online reviews useful. With that in mind, here are three quick ones.

I'll start with the most recent, and a film I've been waiting to see for a while. As you may or may not know, I'm a Disney fanatic. I haven't been overly impressed by their non-PIXAR, CGI offerings (I'd like to see them put their focus back on hand-drawn features), though they HAVE gotten progressively better, and I admit that Rapunzel immediately gained a position among my tippy-top favorite animated dreamgirls. Anyway, their latest is a video-game themed film called "Wreck-It Ralph". It's one of those "from the villain's perspective" type films, though in this case, Ralph isn't REALLY a villain, he just plays one in a video game. It's sort of a video-game version of Toy Story, in that the game characters lead their own lives when the arcade closes up for the day, within their digital worlds, all connected by Game Central Station. Just like in Toy Story, a lot of retro faves are mixed in with the new characters here, but their roles aren't as pivotal. Of the three complaints you might hear about "Wreck-It Ralph", one of them IS the fact that the movie's game-hopping, classic game character showcasing trailers are a bit deceptive.

As it turns out, that stuff is mostly early in the film. It is little more than a quick look at what life is like for a video game character in their digital, after work world. Ralph stops into Pac-Man's game to pick up some dinner, shares some with a homeless Q-Bert, and goes back home to the dump he lives in within his own game. Ralph is tired of being treated like a bad guy when he is just doing his job, which is really just a performance for the gamers in this case. His "co-workers" don't appreciate him and people in general are afraid of him, even though he's really a nice guy when not playing his role. Anyway, things happen, and Ralph soon finds himself on a mission to earn a hero's medal to prove he isn't a real "bad guy". This leads him into an alien-themed action game, and later into a girly, candyland racing game called "Sugar Rush", which is actually where the movie plays out for the majority of its screen-time. As it turns out, most of this movie is about a relationship Ralph builds with an obnoxious little girl named Vanellope who has been rejected in her world due to having a glitch. This does play into Ralph's plot, but it is easy to sometimes get the feeling the film becomes more of Vanellope's movie shortly after she is introduced. This is a complaint I've heard from other reviewers, but frankly, I think it still serves Ralph's story well. The only real problem here was in the advertising. It's not exactly the movie it's marketed as. But, my personal opinion is that it's still a great movie.

My date didn't quite agree with that though. She was hoping for something with the maturity of PIXAR and deemed it more on the level of Dreamworks (which she doesn't care for and I usually can take or leave). Personally, I think it is somewhere inbetween. I liked it a lot better than most Dreamworks films I've seen. I felt it was close to PIXAR in a lot of ways, even if it wasn't anywhere near as mature as PIXAR often gets in its overall themes. She suggested it would have been better if Ralph had died in the end. I... don't think it needed to go that far. I liked it a lot as it was, but I admittedly have no problem enjoying movies that are cute and fluffy, and this is still better than most of the non-PIXAR CGI I've seen. As I said, I think Disney's CGI stuff is progressing. Though, I still would like them to focus more on 2D.

So, yeah, that was the second thing you could nit-pick on "Wreck-It Ralph" for. What's the third I was going to mention? Well, this is open to individual opinion, but some folks find the kid, Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman, to be super annoying. After hearing this, I went in worried this movie would be tough to watch. Honestly, she wasn't that bad. She's a little annoying, but I still thought she was cute enough to balance it, since I thought she was going to be waaay worse. Incidentally, the characters in this film were something I really liked. Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, was my fave. Even if you're not usually a Reilly fan, you might like him as Ralph. It seems most comedians have as many people who hate them as who love them. I enjoy Reilly's work, personally. Jack McBrayer plays the part of Fix-It Felix, the hero of the game Ralph works in, and he is really hilarious in this role. The animation for all these characters was fantastic, and it really helped the humor work a lot! Another hilarious performer, Jane Lynch, played a key space soldier commander role and was every bit as enjoyable as the other characters. Then, there was Alan Tudyk in the role of the king of Sugar Rush. This guy is priceless. With the performances alone, I'm not sure how anyone could not enjoy this film, even if the advertising was sort of misleading and the overall piece wasn't quite at PIXAR level. 

Oh, and before I forget to mention it, "Wreck-It Ralph" was released with an all-new Disney short called "Paperman"...

"Paperman" was talked about a lot on Disney forums before it was released. I wish I'd read more about it. All I remember is that it was supposed to be this amazing blend of CGI and traditional animation. Well, it is just that! In fact, I have no idea what was traditional and what was CGI in this short, but it is a beautiful sight, and so is the female lead on the right in the image above! As for overall story, it is a cute, boy meets girl thing that would be rather appropriate for Valentine's Day. However, I do feel it could have been better. It maybe was a bit overly cute and hokey in the way things played out, and I feel like it would have been a better short if things had happened a little more realistically (I don't want to give too much away), but it was cute anyway and visually gorgeous. I'll be really disappointed if it is not on the "Wreck-It Ralph" Blu-ray release when that comes around, though you never know with Disney. Oh, and yeah, I WILL be picking up "Wreck-It Ralph" as soon as I can once it's released!

And now, Double-O Seven...

Okay, I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest James Bond fan. It's a very cool concept and he's a cool character in a lot of ways. You gotta love the codename 007. However, I have hardly seen any of these movies so far. Maybe it's because, when I was a kid, Roger Moore was 007, and I just didn't like that version. But, overall, just not that into it. I'm an Indiana Jones man, ya know? Bond is just too cold and emotionless, and, well, TOO cool. I don't find him all that interesting, and he's a womanizing jerk too, ha. Anyway, I was treated to this one by a family member who was blown away by the film, and far be it from me to turn down a free movie, especially at the Alamo Drafthouse (best pizza ever). 

I'm not going to go heavy into the plot, but here's the gist. Her Majesty's Secret Service is on the verge of being deemed irrelevant in this day and age and being shut down. A bad guy blows it up, and Bond has to find out who it is and why, simultaneously proving the importance of himself and the organization for which he works. That doesn't sound too interesting, but I gotta say, it's a pretty good movie for a Bond film. I think it's the 50th Anniversary or something, and they made this film very retro with a lot of nods to the previous films. The opening is the coolest one I've ever seen (no, I haven't watched many of these movies all the way through, but I've seen bits of them). The story reveals some of Bond's history too, and this film is a lot about his personal relationships with co-workers and his family. It is actually pretty interesting, and it's very well acted. On the down-side, Bond isn't very fun in this, since he's pretty brooding in this film. And, it's pretty obvious the film was heavily influenced by Nolan's Batman films. It's also still got one of those scenes that reminds me why I prefer Indiana Jones, but I don't want to give too much away. Overall, I'd say for Bond films, this one is pretty good. It's still not exactly my cup of tea, but it was entertaining. Oh, but the weird thing was, it seems to be a reboot. I didn't realize that, but I guess the Daniel Craig films are supposed to be reboots? Well, that's the impression I got from the ending and a cute character's name reveal. 

And now, a film I greatly anticipated seeing, yet didn't see till it was nearly out of theaters...

Okay, I had a lot to say about this one, but I didn't exactly see it yesterday, so let's see what I can remember...

First, let me say why I was dying to see "Sinister". Bottom line, I LOVED "Insidious". This was advertised to give you the impression it was the next "Insidious". It even mentioned "Insidious" on the poster. It also starred Ethan Hawke, an INCREDIBLE actor. Besides that stuff, it wasn't all that long ago that I discovered the story of "The Slender Man", an internet hoax about a very creepy character that I found quite fascinating and great material for a film. Though the Photoshopped Slender Man pictures all over the internet depict a much creepier character than the ghoul in THIS film, the trailers gave the impression they were very similar. In other words, it seemed like this was an unofficial Slender Man movie, even if the guy looked nothing like Slender-Man. He was still an extra-dimensional being who was here for the purpose of haunting and eventually snatching children.

Quick run through the plot, now. "Sinister" is about a true crime writer (Ethan Hawke), who moves to a small town to work on his next big book; one that he hopes will salvage his sinking career and keep him from having to become a writer of school textbooks. He's on a hot story of a missing child whose family was found murdered, hung from a tree in his new backyard. Of course, he hasn't told his wife and kids that they have moved into the very house in which the crime took place. Anyway, as the film moves along, the writer discovers a collection of film reels in the attic that reveal a sinister, supernatural side to what happened in the house, linking it to many other murder/disappearances and a mysterious, ancient god called Bughuul who lives in the images and eats children's souls. 

I've gotta wrap this up quick now, so let's get into the good and the bad of "Sinister". Bottom-line, it is not the great horror film I was hoping for. As some others have said, Ethan Hawke's performance as the gradually breaking down writer is worth the ticket price alone. This is true. Sadly, the film he is in is not all that it could and should have been. For one thing, the creepy Bughuul character, who would have been much creepier if they just made him look like Slender Man, really wasn't in the film much (nor very effectively). It focused more on the creepy little ghost kids. Problem with that? Well, they weren't all that creepy. Honestly, they were hammy actors. They were shown waaay too much and they acted more like child models than good child actors. It was, well, dumb and disappointing most of the time they'd show these kids. Even when they'd seem to do something right, they'd over do it, like one scene when Hawke's character was searching through the house as the ghost kids ran about behind him. This and many other scenes that were meant to be creepy simply were not, and this is what really ruined the film. Another big flub was the climax/ending of the film. It was completely anticlimactic. It is hard not to get into this without spoilers, but let's just say that they could have done so much more with the ending and made it so much more satisfying, but they just went for the very lazy choice. I could describe a better ending they could have done, but it would force me to say too much for those who haven't seen it. Anyway, the point is, they botched this one. Check it out once for Ethan Hawke's phenomenal performance, but don't expect to be too impressed with much else in the film. They blew it with hokey scare/creepout attempts that don't work and an ending that was just lazy and did nothing to make the story of Hawke's character worth telling. But, I still have faith that more great horror will come in the future. Anyone who says they don't make good, original horror movies these days hasn't seen "Insidious" or "Cabin in the Woods" yet.

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