By Steve Mesa
“The Artist” made it cool again to make in a silent black-and-white movie in the 21st Century. However, the Oscar-winning film feels more like gimmick compare to how the format is used in “Blancanieves,” which is set in 1920s Spain. The film is also serviceable as a fantastic and imaginative retelling of the Snow White story compared to the abysmal “Snow White and the Huntsman” and the over-the-top ridiculousness that is “Mirror, Mirror.” While it keeps some of the iconography and characters from “Snow White” like the dwarves and the poison apple, director/writer Pablo Berger avoids using the fantastical elements of the fable in order to ground his film in reality. Continue Reading
By Steve Mesa
The natural assumption when one hears that a beloved horror classic is going to be remade is that it is going to be terrible just like “The Wicker Man” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” When it was announced that Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic “The Evil Dead” was going to be remade, fans of the movie and its sequels feared for the worse. With the original creators of the “Evil Dead” trilogy including Raimi and Bruce Campbell as producers and a relatively new filmmaker in the form of Fede Alvaraz, they have crafted a blood-soaked and relentless movie in the form of “Evil Dead.”
Instead of rehashing the original plot which involved young adults spending the weekend at an isolated cabin so they can party, “Evil Dead” has a more reality-based plot as five twenty-something friends who gather in a cabin in the woods in order to help Mia (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy), a recovering drug addict go cold turkey. The stuff really hits the fan when David and Eric make a grisly discovery in the cabin’s basement. Among the items found in the basement is an ancient book that is bound in human flesh and inked in human blood. Wrapped in a trash bag and barbed wire, Eric reads the words from the books that unwittingly unleashed an evil force upon his friends.
I had the opportunity to speak with Alvarez a couple of weeks ago when he was in town promoting his feature-length debut as we talked about tackling an already-established horror franchise, working with its creators and coming up with the look of the possessed. Continue Reading
By Steve Mesa
Sometimes, it does not feel good being bad. In “Wreck-It Ralph,” there is a sequence where classic video game villains like Zangief from “Street Fighter” and Bowser from “Super Mario Bros” attend a support group for bad guys and accept their roles as “villains” in their respective video game worlds.
However, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reily), the bad guy in a Donkey Kong-like arcade game titled “Fix-It Felix,” is tired of being overshadowed by the “good guy” in his game, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). His daily routine is wrecking the high-rise apartment with his massive hands and feet while Felix saves the day with his trusty golden hammer. The game is won when Felix fixes all the damages that have Ralph has done and Ralph is thrown off the roof of the building into a puddle of mud by the building residents, the Nicelanders. He is not even invited to the game’s 30th anniversary party that is being thrown by the Nicelanders. Determined to prove he can channel his inner-hero, Ralph leaves his game world in order to pursue heroic recognition in another game.
Disney pays tribute to both old and new video games by creating a unique and wonderful world where all the game personas know each other and congregate at Game Grand Central from Sonic the Hedgehog to Q*bert. The voice cast for “Wreck-It Ralph” is top-notch as each actor embodies their on-screen characters led by a terrific voice performance by John C. Reily in his first animated film as the angst-ridden, but lovable Ralph. Disney takes the safe route with a predictable and formulaic story laced with messages for their demographic like staying true to who they are and such. It also comes with a third act that is a little predictable as it does not take a rocket scientist to figure that all will be good by the time the end credits roll.
“Wreck It Ralph” comes to Blu-ray with a flawless video presentation, making one of the most pristine and cleanest-looking animated movies available on Blu-ray now. The video quality showcases the film’s dazzling and incredibly detailed animation as you the ability to pause the movie allow you to spot the film’s countless references and sight gags if you turn off the Disney Intermission. The vast colors displayed in the film are short of eye-popping, especially when it comes to the other video games worlds that Ralph visits whether it’s “Hero’s Duty,” a sci-fi first-person shooter that is a cross between “Call of Duty” and “Starship Troopers” or the land of “Sugar Rush,” a racing game that is reminiscent of “Mario Kart.”
Though I wish there were more special features that go more in-depth to the making of the film, the extras on “Wreck-It Ralph” are still a fascinating bunch. “Disney Intermission: The Gamer’s Guide to ‘Wreck-It Ralph’” is a cool little feature that appears whenever you the movie is paused. Hosted by Chris Hardwicke, the host of “The Talking Dead,” he discusses and unravels some of the subtle and hidden video game references featured in the movie. “Bit by Bit: Creating the Worlds of ‘Wreck-It Ralph’” is as close to a behind-the-scenes featurette you can get on this Blu-ray as director Rich Moore discuss how the different world of the film were created. There are four deleted and alternate scenes with each of the scene being introduced by Moore and there is the option to hear Moore via commentary explaining why the scenes were not used. There are some faux and amusing commercials for the video games in the movie like “Sugar Rush” with “Fix-It Felix Jr,” looking something that was recorded on VCR in the 1980s complete with discoloring and static issues. Last but not least, the Blu-ray also features the Oscar-winning animated short, “Paperman,” a splendid blend of 2D and CG animation about a young businessman who uses paper planes to get the attention of a girl he only met once on the way to work.
“Wreck-It Ralph” is an enjoyable love letter for video gamers that will also entertain the very young and the young-at-heart old who may not be a fan of video games. Although this could have benefitted from more special features, “Wreck-It Ralph” is must-own for Disney fans especially if they want to see one of the most an amazing and pristine video presentation to be featured on Blu-ray.
By Reuben Pereira
There’s been a lot of fanfare over The Last Stand being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big comeback. After all, it is his first starring role in a decade. But in the kinetic, razor cut age of Bourne, CGI superheroes and a revitalized 007, is there still room for the old-school meathead action hero? Based on the film’s toxic box office weekend numbers, it’s unlikely! But if the commercial failure of The Last Standmarks the last action hero’s last hurrah, at least he’ll have gone out guns blazing, in style.
After being delayed by four months and re-edited in light of the tragedy at Aurora last summer, Ruben Fleischer’s much anticipated Gangster Squad finally hits screens. The result is a disappointment. More L.A. Noire than L.A. Confidential, this is a kind of movie that the term “All style, no substance” was created for. It’s a picture that has more in common with the pulpy detective comics you’d find nurturing cobwebs at a neighborhood comic book store than the hard-boiled works of James Elroy. In other words, it’s a live-action cartoon: Stylish, soulless, cliché-ridden and woefully predictable. Despite its problems, which includes wasting a colossally talented cast including Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Gangster Squad never overstays its welcome and never takes itself too seriously, which makes it an easy-to-digest bauble, which is, frankly, a relief.