Wreck-It Ralph Blu-ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Wreck it Ralph Blu-ray

Wreck-It Ralph Blu-Ray Review

Starring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Denis Haysbert, Skylar Astin and Ed O`Niell

Written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee based on a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon

Directed by Rich Moore

New to DVD and Blu-Ray from Disney Home Entertainment is the Oscar nominated animated feature film Wreck-It Ralph. The classic 8-bit video game inspired film was a smash hit when it was released in theaters last year and proved to be one of the front runners in one of the best years for animated feature films in a long time. Featuring a smorgasbord of cameos from famous classic video game characters and the newest and possibly most adorable ‘Disney Princess’ to date, the only question that remains is how awesome will the film transfer to home video.

For decades, Ralph (Reilly) has played the bad guy in his popular video game. The main villain in the game ‘Fix-It Felix’, Ralph has been thrown off the top of a building into a puddle of mud more times than he can count. But in a bold move Ralph embarks on an action-packed adventure and sets out to prove to everyone that he is a true hero with a big heart. As he explores exciting new worlds, he teams up with some unlikely new friends including feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman). But Ralph’s actions carry consequences dire for the Fix-It Felix (McBrayer) crew and Felix himself, who with the aid of Sgt. Calhoun (Lynch) must go after Ralph and try to bring him home.

Wreck-It Ralph is a sweet and endearing story that will delight gamers and non-gamers alike. The story and script are unique and smart, incorporating games and electronic accessories like a simple power bar in ways that have never been seen before onscreen. By allowing characters to go between games as well the filmmakers incorporate things into other games you would never see. Like Pac-Man ghost Clyde hosting a ‘Bad-Anon’ meeting inside the center box of the Pac-Man board with participants like Street Fighter’s Zangief and M. Bison, Dr. Eggman and Mario’s longstanding nemesis Bowser. The concept behind game central station is inspired and leads to some of the best cameos in the film.

Reilly is pitch perfect as the voice of Ralph. His work brings an earnestness and charm to Ralph that undermines any harshness that Ralph may carry. Even when Ralph is mad and does bad things we are still cheering for him. Silverman’s Venellope is the true heart of the story, a loveable and pesky runt known as ‘the glitch’ because of her unstable properties that cause her to occasionally scramble to code with unpredictable side effects. Add in McBrayer as the love-struck Felix and the object of his desire the scrappy Sgt. Calhoun, who has been ‘programmed with the worst back story ever’, pairing up to track down Ralph. And Tudyk as the irrepressible and maniacal King Candy, sounding very much like Roger Rabbit on a permanent sugar high, gives a great performance filled with underlying menace.

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The environments and backgrounds in Wreck-It Ralph are brilliantly rendered and executed. From Fix-It Felix’s delightful throwback style, clearly inspired by Donkey Kong, to the hyper realistic Hero’s Duty. Sugar Rush may be the most visually impressive with everything involved in the world being candy and edible meaning sweet treat hounds will be salivating. And the aforementioned Game Central Station which looks much like New York’s Grand Central Station but with power outlets instead of terminals. Of course there is also Litwick’s Arcade, where all the games exist, which looks exactly like the many arcades that were wildly popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Over an hour of all-new bonus material is featured on the Blu-ray combo pack, including deleted and alternate scenes, a behind the scene featurette about the environments of Wreck-It Ralph plus the Oscar winning animated short Paperman and fake commercials made for each of the three games in the movie. Paperman is an exceptionally cute and well-crafted short that was well deserving of its Oscar win and the fake commercials are fun to watch. The best special feature though is the Disney Intermission feature that when activated kicks in whenever you pause the Blu-ray. Hosted by Stand-Up comedian and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick, The Gamer’s Guide to Wreck-It Ralph takes the viewers through the hidden Easter eggs and cameos that are present throughout the movie. The amount of information and fun stuff unveiled here make it by far the most fun 10 minutes of special features on the disc.

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Wreck-It Ralph makes a brilliant transition to the home screen as the film actually looks more like a game than before on a television screen where most games nowadays are played. The transfer looks excellent and the special features shine, Wreck-It Ralph is a must own on Blu-ray and DVD.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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21 & Over Review (Kirk Haviland)

21 and Over Banner

21 & Over (2013)

Starring Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, Justin Chon, Sarah Wright, Jonathan Keltz and Francois Chau

Written and Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

From the writers of the original Hangover, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, comes their debut directorial effort, the raunchy and lewd 21 & Over. The collage based comedy stars some of the biggest young names out there right now, including Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin, Project X’s Miles Teller and the Twilight Saga’s Justin Chon. The comedy looks to follow in the footsteps of Lucas and Moore’s Hangover and last year’s surprise hit Project X, but does it manage to succeed?

College student Jeff Chang (Chon) has always done what’s expected of him, but when his two best friends Casey (Astin) and Miller (Teller) surprise him with a visit for his 21st birthday, he decides to do what’s unexpected for a change. But when what was supposed to be one beer becomes a night of chaos, over indulgence and utter debauchery, Jeff Chang starts blacking out. Knowing it’s time to take Jeff home, Casey and Miller stumble out of the final bar of the evening, one issue though, they have no idea where Jeff Chang lives. To make matters worse Jeff Chang’s overbearing Doctor-father (Chau) has a Med School interview scheduled for 8AM the next morning, and he’s determined his son follows in his footsteps as a physician. With the hours until Jeff Chang’s crucial interview ticking away, Casey and Miller embark on an epic quest to put their drunken friend to bed. Along their journey, they draw the ire of a Latina sorority, an angry buffalo, and Randy (Keltz), the boyfriend of Nicole (Wright), the girl who Casey has been after all night.

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21 & Over starts well. The setup is pretty basic, opening with Teller and Astin walking along campus wearing only a cock sock then flashing to a “24 hours earlier” scenario, so we are already told where the film is going. And of course we start with the setup of the overbearing father and Chon, the son afraid to rebel. After a slew of racist verbiage from Teller, yes he gets the annoying character here (more on that later), the trio heads out for an epic night on the town. Even at this point you are still with the story, it’s not bad and already has been slightly un-PC with some hits and misses. The turning point hits with a terribly cliche and awful invasion of a sorority house and the film spirals out of control and gets worse from there. The pranks become predictable and even lazy up to an ending that is awful and will have you leaving the theater shaking your head. And the running gag of always calling Chon’s character by his full name Jeff Chang, instead of just Jeff, gets old quick and is overused to death.

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Astin and Chon are actually pretty likable as they manage to bring enough goofy charm to keep you engaged with their characters throughout the film. Wright plays the gorgeous girl that for some reason falls for one of these goofs and  has the textbook “bad guy” boyfriend that “has a really sweet side” though he is never played as anything other than a prick until the very end. But even she manages to perform above the script provided here. The main issue is Teller. While his work in Project X and 2010’s Rabbit Hole is quite admirable, somewhere along the line he decided that he was going to play Miller as the most unlikable prick, but without any charm or shred of likability  The character gets to be very grating and the audience ends up hoping for the next sequence when we get only Nicole and Casey, or to see more of Chon’s antics without Miller taking the lead.

21 and Over

The film does manage to pack in a few laughs along the way, one sequence involving a co-ed (Samantha Futerman) living in Jeff’s old dorm room stands out as particularly funny, but spends more time on cliched and overused scenarios and punch lines. Animal House or Van Wilder this is not. Ultimately the film does not hit the mark, but rather falls well short of it. 21 & Over is a non-recommend.

Movie Junkie TO

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Pitch Perfect Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Pitch Perfect Hits the High Notes

Starring Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and Rebel Wilson

Directed by Jason Moore

Pitch Perfect is what I expected Rock of Ages to be… FUN!  All caps!  This was particularly surprising to me since Glee is not historically a television show that I can stand – I don’t pine for ‘90s RnB, and no one has ever accused me of enjoying a capella anything (aca-anything?).

Anna Kendrick plays against quirky type as Beca, an aspiring music producer who has reluctantly agreed to give University life the old college try after her father promises a fully paid trip to LA if she still feels school life isn’t for her at the end of the year. She volunteers at the campus radio station and makes awesome mash-up after mash-up in the hopes of getting airplay. When prodded by her father to try harder Beca decides to be social by joining The Bellas, a hitherto comely competitive a capella team that was decimated by the shame of their ill fated finals appearance last spring. Enter a motley crew of second tier selections lead by Aubrey, the obligatory uptight senior looking for redemption (a perfectly cast and aptly named Anna Camp), and we’re off.

Pitch Perfect doesn’t take itself too seriously, perhaps a symptom of not being set in high school, and while most of the team is composed of caricatures they are remarkably consistent in their motivations. For the most part the audience buys what the actors are selling.  I do however need to ask why we required so very many reaction shots from designated “lewd yet funny fat girl” Rebel Wilson.  I didn’t make it past the 15-minute mark in Bridesmaids, but apparently it is to that cinematic triumph that I owe this complaint.  While mildly amusing when used sparingly, Chris Farley she is not, and a little less Rebel Wilson would have gone a long way.

Moving on to love. The romantic subplot eschews the tired old love triangle and our love interest Jesse isn’t a nebbish dweeb, nor is he the captain of the football team. Refreshingly, the obstacle to true love is also the most authentic part of the story, with our heroine’s conflicted emotions and frustrations preventing her from seeing the light.

I am going to go ahead and hazard that it isn’t a spoiler to reveal that Beca gets the guy in the end.  Kudos to director Jason Moore and screenwriter Kay Cannon for not falling back into cliché and relying on an overt public spectacle in order to patch our lovers up.  Instead it is a well chosen song and an inside joke that seals the deal… at the finals of course. I will not lie, I melted at that moment and as a result actor Skylar Astin suddenly seemed more subjectively appealing than he had just moments before.

Lest this review become too positive I do have a serious complaint, but it centres on the film going experience rather than the film itself. Film is a visual medium but the sound design is equally important, and my experience at the multiplex really underscored the growing problem of inadequate quality control that has arisen as a result of unqualified staffers replacing professional projectionists.  The bass was non-existent and I’m pretty sure the surround was not even on! I found myself repeatedly thinking a) where can I get Beca’s tracks and b) I need to play this at Projection Booth to hear it in all its surround sound glory.  This of course lead to another epiphany- theatre proprietorship is spoiling me rotten.

Expect more comments about the exhibition of films as the fall progresses – a move to digital exhibition is no excuse for substandard projection.  Bullshit like this at a time when ticket and concession prices have never been higher only serves to drive people out of the cinemas, and no one should want that because film, unlike television, is made to be enjoyed with an audience.

If you haven’t already, get your friends together to see Pitch Perfect and then go for cocktails and maybe even some dancing after! I know I’m headed back for a second go.

BONUS SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

Where are Beca‘s mashups? The production obviously shilled out some serious coin for them and frankly I want them more than the catchy a capellas. Any leads are appreciated.

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