Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ralph Breaks the Internet

The mysteries of the internet await Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman)

When we first met the titular character in 2012’s Wreck-it Ralph, the atmosphere revolved mainly around that of the retro gaming world. Six years later, Ralph Breaks the Internet has jumped into the modern world. Thankfully, Ralph and his friends have remembered to bring along the warmth, charm, pathos, and humor back as well.

Still friends after the events of the first film, Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) have a mishap in Vanellope’s racing game which causes the player to break the wheel. They discover that the owner of the arcade Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) will have to shut the game down since the company of the game shut down and only one wheel is available for sale on Ebay (or the “Eboy”, as Ralph calls it). Thankfully, Litwak has also recently installed the arcade’s new WiFi, so Ralph and Vanellope take it upon themselves to travel to Ebay and get the wheel to save her game.

There are still some wonderful returning characters such as Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his wife Calhoun (Jane Lynch), but plenty of new characters to boot. Knowsmore (Alan Tudyk) is the go to guy for answers (aka the search engine). The two key new standouts are Yess (Taraji P. Henson) and Shank (Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot). Yess is the diva who knows what is what when it comes to popularity on the internet, and Shank may be the only racer who can challenge Vanellope.

One of the best things an animated film can have is what I would call “rewatchability”. As in the first film, there are easter eggs a plenty to discover here. Perhaps the best part of the movie is when Vanellope has to travel to the Disney part of the internet (you will see why), and meets the Disney princesses. It is safe to say you may never look at the idea of a Disney Princess the same ever again.

Parents, if your kids saw the first film, they are fine with this one. The only thing they might feel confused of is about why adults are laughing as well.

Is it better than the first? My first response would be no (I admit it started off a little slow and does not have the freshness of the original), but it should not detract from how good the second film is. As was the case in the first, one of the best things about this film is that it actually has a message for kids. Even if you take away the humor, this is one of the better movies about friendship I have seen in some time, animated or otherwise. Disney has always been the best at bringing out the kid in all of us, and they did it again.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

The Top 20 Movies of 2017

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Even with 20, these films did not make the cut.

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.

 

I went back and forth as to whether make the traditional top ten, or go with twenty. I decided on the latter for a few reasons. First, in a great year for movies, there were too many to ignore (and even at twenty, films such as Wonder Woman, Detroit, Mudbound, and Darkest Hour did not make it). Second, so what if I added more than ten? If you really want see just the top ten, here is a trick: skip down to number ten, and go from there (though you will be missing a lot of great films along the way).

 

20.

The Disaster Artist.JPG

“YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!!!”

 

A passion project for director/actor James Franco, The Disaster Artist tells the tale of another passion project (and cult favorite), The Room. Franco is so wonderful in the role of the aloof Tommy Wiseau that it goes beyond comedy and becomes very human. It truly tears you apart!

 

19.

Molly's Game

Jessica Chastain, fantastic as Molly.

 

Renowned screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game, is full of electricity. As always, his dialogue snaps like fire crackers, no doubt due to the wonderful casting of greats such as Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.

 

18.

Faces Places

JR and Agnes Varda, on a quest you have not seen before.

The most recent film I have seen as of this writing, Faces Places is the unique documentary about legendary french film maker Agnes Varda and her friend JR (whose eyes she has never seen). They go around meeting people as they post big pictures of their subjects on vast walls. As in all great films, it goes far beyond that. It reminded me a lot about Errol Morris’s masterpiece, Gates of Heaven.

 

17.

Logan Lucky

No peaking!

Even with an all-star cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Hillary Swank, Seth Macfarlane, and (especially) Daniel Craig, a film like Logan Lucky could have gone wrong on so many levels. Thankfully, the script is so tight that every moment is real, authentic, and down right ludicrously hilarious.

 

16.

The Last Jedi

Sometimes, questions don’t need concrete answers.

A prime example of a movie you either love or hate, I am on the former when it comes to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. No, we did not get any “answers” to questions we may have had, but so what? It was a Star Wars film that gave us new twists and turns we had not seen before, plus was much better than the overrated Rogue One.

 

15.

Blade Runner 2049

Deckard returns.

From one sci-fi sequel to another, Blade Runner 2049 is full of a lot of questions that are also unanswered. What no one will question is the gorgeous scope of the film, thanks in part to cinematographer Roger Deakins (who may finally get his Oscar now).

 

14.

Logan

Logan and his daughter.

In one of the best years for superhero films, my pick still goes to Logan. A swan song of epic proportions, Hugh Jackman truly goes out swinging. Or clawing.

 

13.

 

The Post

Meryl Streep as Kay Graham, owner of The Post.

 

Even if the film was rushed, Steven Spielberg’s The Post has a fire burning in the soul, which shows in the cast led by Hollywood giants Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It is a movie that, had it not been made, I would not be reminded of the right I have to be typing these words in the first place.

 

12.

I Tonya

Just before the show, Robbie’s Harding is set to go…

How wickedly devilish is the film I, Tonya! So fun, and self-aware of itself, it gives a stellar Margot Robbie performance, and heaven knows how wonderful Allison Janney is as one of the worst mom’s in recent cinema history.

 

11.

Coco

Miguel’s passion for music knows no bounds…

As Miguel tugs at the guitar strings, so does Coco tug at our heart-strings. Which, by now, is totally the standard Disney/Pixar films have set for all animated films (and others in general).

 

10.

Lady Bird

Ronan as the title character.

One of the most original scripts in recent memory, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is full of outstanding wit and charm. It is also more proof why Saoirse Ronan is truly one of the best actors of her generation.

 

9.

Wonder

The Wonder that is Jacob Tremblay.

Of all the movies I saw this year, I fought the hardest (okay, fought myself) for Wonder to be in the top ten. Based of the book of the same name (which I highly recommend), this wonderful fable of why it is important to #choosekind is something I cannot imagine parents not taking their kids to.

 

8.

Dunkirk

Many of the soldiers at Dunkirk

 

Very few, if any, director has a current positive track record than Christopher Nolan, and Dunkirk is no exception. Packed with more than enough tension and grit, it is as fitting a war film as they come.

 

7.

A Ghost Story.JPG

Time moves by in an instant for the ghost

At only around an hour and a half, few films of this (or any) year have given me more questions than that of A Ghost Story. Like a pool, you soak in it, look at the reflection, and see all the questions you want answered. Multiple viewings are needed, and are something I plan to do in the time I have left on earth.

 

6.

TBOEM

Mildred is a role only Frances McDormand could play

Another one of the most original scripts in years, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a tough sit through at many times. Yet it has so much dark peppered humor and spot on performances (mainly McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and especially Sam Rockwell) it is hard to turn away.

 

5.

The Big Sick

A love story unlike any seen before

The true story of how one man met his wife, The Big Sick is still the best rom com I have seen in nearly a decade. All the actors are hilarious and convincing, and the writing is top-notch. I still can’t get over that 9/11 joke.

 

4.

The Florida Project

Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the hotel manager who is tough but kind-hearted.

I had never thought of what could be outside the walls of Disney World before I saw The Florida Project. I doubt I am alone. With some of the best acting from children you will see, and a sublime Willem Dafoe, the movie takes us to a place that has been under the shadows of Disney for far too long.

 

3.

Phantom Thread

DDL, the master at work

Like most, I had to wait nearly a month before I could see Phantom Thread, but it was far worth the wait. Daniel Day-Lewis gives (no surprise) a perfectly majestic performance as a dress-maker in 1950s London, whose new muse (Vicky Krieps) must put up with him. Director Paul Thomas Anderson treats the film as gentle as the fabric that Woodcock works with in his shop.

 

2.

The Shape of Water

Though mute, Eliza (Sally Hawkins) lets herself be heard.

Of all the love stories of this year, my favorite still goes to that of a mute help worker and a sea creature in The Shape of Water. Guillermo Del Toro gives us a world of endless possibilities, filled with memorable characters (don’t get me started on how much we love to hate Michael Shannon here), astounding visuals, and a love that is not easy to forget.

 

1.

IT

“Hello Georgie”

I can imagine a lot of people being surprised at my number one pick, but after more than one viewing, I just could not deny IT. Undoubtably one of the top four or five adaptations of Stephen King, the film is far more than a horror masterpiece. It is also about coming of age (I have yet to meet anyone who though negatively of the kid performances, all of whom are perfect in their roles), young love, bullying, and, of course, clowns.

Floating has never been so terrifying. Or enjoyable.

 

Justice League (2017)

Justice League

Dude, let’s get the band back together!

I had many a doubt going into Justice League.

After all, it is the last superhero movie of 2017, a year that had not really disappointed at all in the genre. It also did not help to see the bad score the film has going for it on rotten tomatoes.

In the end, I liked the film, but barely.

We begin right after the death of Henry Cavill’s Superman (who, lets face it, we know is in this movie, because it would be pointless to not have the world’s numero uno superhero present). Batman (Ben Affleck, who still does a good job in the role) is recruiting certain people with “special abilities”. His first is Diana (aka Wonder Woman, though she is still never called that), still played to perfection by Gal Gadot. From there they try to convince The Flash (a very well cast Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa, who I admit took a little time to get used to), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

The threat comes in the form of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), a God-like being set to collect three cubes that will help him destroy the world. They are spread out: one with the Amazons, one in Atlantis, and the other on Earth. It is not too hard to follow the plot, but here is where I should mention the film’s biggest flaw by far: Steppenwolf. He is one of the least memorable, most boring, and blandest villains we have had in a superhero movie (at least compared to those of the last decade). I understand any villain would have to battle against some of the biggest names in comics in this film, but can he (or she) be at least a little interesting? He is like Ultron (from the second Avengers film), but without any humor, charm, character, or a sense of threat.

Parents, if your kids have seen any film from the DC universe, they are fine here. There is action, mild violence, and some swearing. Ten and above would be fine.

Is this film better than Batman v. Superman? Heck yes. Wonder Woman? Heck no. Still, I am getting a sense that DC is starting to get their footing right when it comes to making movies. They still have a way to go (and are still behind Marvel, in my  opinion), but at least they are on the right track.

Boo-yah.

 

Overall: Three Stars ***

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

 

Blade Runner 2049

One of many images that are entrancing in Blade Runner 2049

Despite some holes and question marks in the screenplay, Blade Runner 2049 still manages to be the best sci-fi sequel since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It is a movie that challenges the mind and brightens your eyes with some of the most gorgeous imagery of recent years. I have only seen the original once, but I know that I have to return to get some answers (though not all the questions will have them).

The plot is a lot harder to follow this time around, but not too terrible. Basically, the new Blade Runner in town is named “K” (Ryan Gosling). After reporting to his boss (Robin Wright, having a very decent year with this film and Wonder Woman) the discovery of a dead replicant who died giving birth to a child, he is sent out to erase the mistake and kill the child. As he digs deeper, he realizes he is more and more in danger. It eventually leads him to the Deckard (Harrison Ford).

I will stop there for two reasons: I don’t wish to ruin any plot points, and I am also afraid that I may have still misunderstood the plot. I can talk about a few other characters, however. Dave Bautista (Drax of Guardians of the Galaxy) is rather surprisingly subtle and reserved as a runaway replicant. The owner of the replicants is played by Jared Leto, proving to be a better villain (or is he?) than he was in Suicide Squad. One of my favorite performances came from Ana de Armas as Joi. Joi is basically Suri, but far more upgraded. She has been with K (who she now names Joe) for so long she is almost like a personal secretary. So lovely and ironic is it that she is one of the most human characters in the film.

Now we get to the visuals. They are, quite simply, marvelous and uncanny. It should come as no surprise, mainly thanks to two men. The first is director Denis Villeneuve (who recently was nominated for 2016’s Arrival). He knows how to pace the film at the right tempo: If you think there is not enough action in the film, you are not paying attention.

The second, and possibly most critical, is cinematographer and legend Roger Deakins. Here is hoping that his losing track record at the Oscars (0-13) might end next February. Watching the movie, I had that same feeling when watching films from Studio Ghibli. You could pause each shot, and look at them for hours. You know what? I take back what I said: Roger Deakins will win the long overdue Oscar, and will get a standing ovation.

Parents, even if you children may have seen the original, you should be warned that his film has a lot more nudity in it than the first one. While the only real sex is through blurry glass, there is still a bit of sound. Add in the swearing and (not so horrible) action/violence, and you have a movie for only High School and above.

I mentioned before that the plot does have some holes: one character clearly betrays another and then shows their utmost loyalty. Even so, this movie is worth seeing just for the visuals alone. They are haunting, spellbinding, breathtaking, cold,…seriously, words don’t do the visuals justice.

On the sights alone, Blade Runner 2049 is a movie that, once seen, is something we people will not believe.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

 

2017: Halftime Report

movie

Every year, the first half is more difficult to find great movies in (since studios put their best in theaters in the last months of the year). As always, I am not able to see all the films (or avoid all of them), but I managed to make a top five of the year that are so far worth remembering the most six months from now.

However, let us first look at the five movies that I are worth forgetting (at least till I make the worst of the year list in six months).

The Worst

 

5.  Split

I am sorry, but the script was not something I could believe, no matter how great James McCovoy.

 

4. Get Out

Ok, I will get a lot of feedback on this, but I still am trying to find out how this movie is so well rated on rottentomatoes. I admit the movie was funny, but scary? Hardly.

 

3.  Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Javier Bardem makes an good villian, but he entered this tired franchise far too late. It has officially sunk.

 

2. Transformers: The Last Knight

Yeah, no real surprise here. Does this franchise still have fans?

 

1. Life

 

Predictible. Unoriginal. Don’t get me started on the ending.

 

 

Ok, now the best of the year so far…

 

5. Okja

Streaming now on Netflix, this story of a little girl on a quest to save her giant pet pig is no kiddie flick. It is strange and weird, but also beautifully original.

 

4. The Lego Batman Movie

Lego strikes again with originality and humor. Stretching even further into the Lego universe, it is got plenty of entertainment for any age.

 

3. Wonder Woman

DC has not had as many solid hits as Marvel, but this was definetly a big one for the company. Gal Gadot gives a solid performance in a movie that will have both genders rooting.

 

2. Baby Driver

With the exception of Mad Max: Fury Road, no movie in the last few years has had as much road raging action and octane. Not to mention the acting and comedy.

 

1. Logan

Hugh Jackman gives a bittersweet performance in his swan song film of the character he brought to life over a decade ago. Add in a tight script with fine supporting acting, and you have a comic book movie for people who don’t like comic book movies.

 

Here is to the second half of the year…

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman, sweeping in to save not only the day, but the DC universe as well..

Perhaps the best way to describe Wonder Woman is to remember her grand entrance toward the end of last year’s disappointing Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck) had finished fighting each other, and were about to be obliterated by Doomsday until Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) swoops in to save the day. Like that scene, the film Wonder Woman has finally given a good movie to let the DC Universe brag about.

Taking place long before the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman tells the story of Diana (Gal Gadot, who proves she is right for the part and not just because she looks like the character). She is raised by the Amazons, a group of women sworn to protect mankind. Her mother , the Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) does not wish to have her train like the others, but her Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) sees it differently and trains Diana. One day there is a stray pilot who crashes in the water and is saved by Diana. This is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, who is able to play second fiddle to Gadot and does a rather great job). He is a british spy who stole plans from the Germans as they are facing the end of the first World War. Diana is convinced it is the return of Ares, the God of War.

The average audience member goes to a superhero flick for the action sequences, and Wonder Woman does not disappoint on that front. Directed by Patty Jenkins (who helped get Charlize Theron an Oscar for her brilliant portrayal in 2003’s Monster), she does not rely on the fact that Wonder Woman is finally on-screen, but that there is a story behind it (and one that is, thankfully, not too hard to follow). Gadot lets us feel every inch of the situations her Diana is in (even if it involves trying on new clothes), and has great chemistry with Chris Pine (who, of course, is no stranger to action pics).

As for the villain, I will not reveal who it is, as it will ruin the surprise (though one of the evil German scientists is very menacingly played by Elena Anaya). I will say that when you find out about the main villain, it was something I personally did not see coming at all.

Parents, despite Wonder Woman wearing kind of revealing clothing (as well as the other Amazons), the only other form of sexual content is a scene where Steve and Diana are talking about the knowledge of sex (which does produce much humor). There is also a brief moment (again, played for laughs) where a male character is naked, covering his crotch. The violence is surprisingly light (I did not see any blood), and I am more than sure there was not a single curse word. Basically, Middle School and above (or if your kids saw any other DC or Marvel movie, they are ok).

The movie is not all great: there are times where the action scenes did drag on a bit (especially at the end). Still, it is very refreshing to know that DC has finally given the world a movie that can rank up with a lot of Marvel’s movies (and is better than a good amount of them).

When Diana is told that the world does not deserve her, I thought “Maybe not, but I am still glad she finally got the screen treatment. It is so worth it”.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****