Ralph Breaks the Internet


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(2018) Animated Feature (Disney) Starring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Sean Giambrone, Flula Borg, Timothy Simons, Ali Wong, Hamish Blake, GloZell Green, Horatio Sanz, Rebecca Wisocky, Sam Richardson, Jaboukie Young-White, Maurice LeMarche, Melissa Villaseñor. Directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore

 

When last we saw video game bad guy Wreck-It Ralph (Reilly) in the movie of the same name, he had reformed and become a good guy. He had also found a new bestie, Princess Vanellope van Schweetz (Silverman). Life for the 8-bit games in Litvak’s arcade is good.

Then Vanellope’s game breaks down and they need to find the spare part it needs or else Litvak (O’Neill) will pull the plug on the game permanently. Ralph and Vanellope utilize a new Wi-Fi connection to access the Internet and what a world wide web it is! They are like a couple of kids from a rural small town in West Virginia who had never left town their entire lives suddenly waking up in Tokyo.

The details of the plot really don’t matter here; this is actually a more visually brilliant film than the predecessor, and in many ways much more fun. Whereas adults were largely the only ones in on the jokes in the first film, much of the content here will sail over the heads of parents but Internet-savvy kids will get it.

One of the most fun things about the film is how it portrays the Disney princesses, nearly all of whom make at least an appearance. They’re bad to the bone and the kind of role models that are more fitting for modern girls than perhaps Snow White or Aurora might have been back in the day. They are absolutely delightful and to my surprise the best part of the movies. I had always seen them as the epitome of spoiled little girls – ask me about my “Eff you, I’m a Princess” story sometime – but when you really think about it, Princesses should be all about empowering little girls and here, they are.

While the movie at right about two hours drags quite a bit in the middle and Ralph typically makes a mess of things despite his best intentions but while maybe not quite as subversive as the first movie was, it retains much of its heart. This is definitely a bit of an improvement and is likely to be a staple of any video game-obsessed kid for the foreseeable future.

REASONS TO SEE: A unique and wonderful environment is created. The Disney Princesses are Da Bomb!!!
REASONS TO AVOID: The movie drags a bit in the middle with a few holes in logic confounding things.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of cartoon action as well as some rude humor.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  The only Princess not voiced by her original actress other than those that had passed away was Cinderella; Mary Costa was 88 years old and her voice not suitable to play a 16-year-old girl.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC On Demand,  AppleTV, Disney+, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Movies Anywhere, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/7/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 88% positive reviews, Metacritic: 71/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Tron
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Agatha and the Truth of Murder

Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind


Angels and aliens.

(2020) Documentary (1091) Dr. Steven M. Greer, Jeremy Piven (narrator), Daniel Sheehan, Adam Michael Curry, Stephen Tyler, Tom DeLonge, Joe Martino, Dr. Russell Torg, Jan Harzan, Jim Martin, Marcel Vidovic, Richard Doty, Dr. Edgar Mitchell, David Marconi, Ignacio Mollere, Marian Kramer, Raven Nabulsi. Directed by Michael Mazzola

 

Steven M. Greer has made a name for himself as a proponent for the idea that UFOs are real and aliens are visiting the Earth. Now, mind you, I don’t particularly find the idea all that far-fetched; after all, the odds are in a universe the size and age of ours that there are going to be life on other planets, perhaps far more advanced from a technological standpoint than our own.

Certainly, according to Greer, the government has been taking the idea very seriously. According to his new documentary, a sequel (of sorts) to his previous works Sirius and Unacknowledged there has been a conspiracy of disinformation by the government, aided and abetted by the mass media, to whip up fear that the aliens are out to get us. He links President Trump’s call for a “space force” to this mindset, arguing that the motivation for this is to create a one-world hegemony whose purpose is to go to war with extraterrestrials.

He constantly uses the term “national security state” to describe this government-media collusion. Greer, a former physician, has given up medicine to take up this crusade. He has a fairly large group of followers, including noted constitutional lawyer Daniel Sheehan, Aerosmith’s Stephen Tyler  and former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge in his corner. He does show a lot of grainy clips of lights moving about in the sky which are not unlike the UFO clips of 50 years ago.

Greer and his supporters make some compelling arguments, but as the film progresses it becomes more of a paranoid conspiracy theory shitshow. There’s also a good deal of mystical content, talking about contacting aliens through meditation and using a sort of telepathy to “call” the aliens to our spot in the galaxy. It’s at points like that in which I find my eyes beginning to roll uncontrollably.

I am an open-minded skeptic when it comes to paranormal phenomenon, up to and including ghosts, life after death, UFOs and so on. I have no illusions that we as humans know everything there is to know about the universe and I will grant that it’s possible that these things exist. HOWEVER, if you want to convince someone like me, you have to at least come off sounding reasonable and logical. Sheehan manages to do so, but the longer the film goes, the more Greer – who seems to be an intelligent and reasonable guy when this begins – starts to sound like he’s gone a little further around the bend than he should.

I have a streak of Missourian in me. Show me the facts. Don’t try to dazzle me with lofty and unprovable theories. Greer claims he has directly communicated with alien lifeforms. I am willing to believe him…if only he didn’t end up sounding like a cross between a new age hippie and a paranoid militia member.

The title refers to the series of protocols that were partially explained in Steven Spielberg’s classic movie. Close encounters of the first kind are a sighting of an extraterrestrial object within 500 feet. Close encounters of the second kind are physical evidence left by one of these objects. Close encounters of the third kind are the sighting of an extraterrestrial being. A close encounter of the fourth kind is a human being taken aboard an alien spacecraft. Finally, a close encounter of the fifth kind is human-initiated contact. That is what Greer’s organization is attempting, and I think it’s truly a laudable goal. At times, he (and especially Sheehan) make their case well. I just wish they would have presented themselves with a little less hysteria.

REASONS TO SEE: Greer comes off as very intelligent.
REASONS TO AVOID: Loses credibility.
FAMILY VALUES: There is occasional profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Greer got involved in the alien intelligence/UFO community after a near-death experience in his teen years.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/6/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Love and Saucers
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet