Ralph Breaks the Internet

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/26/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $199.89 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some action and rude humor.
Voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Flula Borg.

The original Wreck-In Ralph from 2012 got a lot of mileage from the nostalgia its audience would have for classic video games, as it told the story of video game characters wanting to be more than the parameters of their programming.

In particular, Ralph (voiced John C. Reilly), hated his reputation as a video game villain, but eventually came to accept his role in the game as the other characters realized that they couldn’t exist either without him.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, it’s six years later and Ralph has settled into a content life alongside his new best friend Vanellope from the Sugar Rush racing game, whom he helped save in the first movie, embracing his day job smashing buildings while spending nights hanging out at other games in the arcade.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Vanellope, on the other hand, has grown bored with her racing game and longs for new tracks and hidden levels. She gets her opportunity for a new adventure when the steering wheel on her game breaks and, when the arcade owner balks at the cost of replacing it, she and Ralph head to the Internet to see if they can find the means to replace it themselves.

After a quick trip through eBay, the pair find themselves in an online game called Slaughter Race that offers new driving challenges that excite Vanellope. As she contemplates staying there, Ralph worries about losing his best friend and schemes to convince her to return to the arcade.

Ralph Breaks the Internet does for the World Wide Web what the first film did for video games, offering a steady stream of nostalgia, deep-cut references and sharp observational humor.

The film even gives Disney a chance to engage in some self-parody, as Vanellope visits a Disney website and meets all the Disney Princesses, allowing the filmmakers to poke fun at the tropes of a typical Disney film. They instruct Vanellope, who is technically a princess herself according to her Sugar Rush bio, that when the time is right, she’ll learn about her heart’s true desire through a song — leading to an off-kilter take on the traditional Disney musical number (and, taking the gag further, the Blu-ray includes a music video for a bubblegum pop version of the song, which has to do with Vanellope’s desire to play the aforementioned game with “slaughter” in its title).

On the other hand, the various references to mega-successful Disney properties such as the Princesses, Pixar, “Star Wars” and Marvel Comics could be seen as the studio basking a bit in its own dominance at the moment. (Perhaps we should be grateful they didn’t cram in a preview for the pending Disney+ streaming service). But, such meta-humor is the kind of thing the “Ralph” movies are in a unique position to get away with, as it practically comes with the premise (an early reference to Tron is particularly apt, all things considered).

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In all, though, the film delivers with some exciting action sequences that build on the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope, and a sentimental story about the evolving nature of friendship.

The making of the film is the subject of the Blu-ray’s 33-minute “How We Broke the Internet” featurette, which is segmented into the development of various story points and characters. A separate 10-minute featurette focuses on the film’s music.

The three-and-a-half-minute “Surfing for Easter Eggs” talks about some of the film’s hidden references, but seems more interested in providing cutesy narration than loading up on interesting information.

A two-minute “Baby Drivers — Slaughter Racing School” featurette is offered as a digital exclusive, available with purchases of the digital edition of the film or through redeeming the digital code included with the Blu-ray.

The disc also includes the two-minute “BuzzTube Cats,” a montage of animated cat videos of the type used to populate background sites in the film.

There are five deleted scenes that total about 19 minutes, most of which are remnants of an earlier draft of the story but which reflect plot elements that did evolve into the final film.

Finally, in addition to the pop version of the Slaughter House song, there’s a trippy music video for the end-credits song “Zero” by Imagine Dragons.

The Front Runner

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/12/19;
Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $2 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language including some sexual references.
Stars Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Mamoudou Athie, Spencer Garrett, Ari Graynor, Kaitlyn Dever, Steve Zissis, Bill Burr, Mike Judge, Kevin Pollak, Tommy Dewey, Molly Ephraim, Josh Brener.

The bright future of a rising political star runs smack into the maxim that “a lot can happen in three weeks” in director Jason Reitman’s exploration of the relationship between politics and media.

The Front Runner isn’t much of a political movie, in that it doesn’t overtly deviate into policy debates. Nor does it lay out any easy answers or preach to the audience what to think.

The docudrama relates the brief campaign of former Colorado senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) for the presidential election of 1988, when he was considered the most likely nominee upon entering the race in April 1987.

Hart had come close to becoming the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 1984 and was considered a favorite for securing the spot for 1988. However, dogged by rumors of womanizing, Hart challenged a Washington Post reporter to follow him around, claiming anyone who did so would be “very bored.” Subsequently, a team from the Miami Herald decided to do just that after receiving an anonymous tip that Hart was having an affair was planning to host the girl in Washington, D.C.

When the Herald reported that Hart had been seen at his home with a potential campaign worker named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), the story exploded, though Hart denied having any inappropriate relationship.

Hart bristled at the notion that the public and the media should have any interest in a politician’s private life, but the exposure took a toll on his family, and within a week his political career was over (save for a brief return to the presidential race in December 1987, which the movie doesn’t get into, and some appointments during the Obama administration).

Reitman, who co-wrote the screenplay with journalist Matt Bai and political operative Jay Carson, describes the event as a defining moment of tabloid journalism swerving into politics, fueled by the expansion of telecommunications technology and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle.

In the past, members of the media had made an almost tacit agreement to ignore the infidelities of the politicians they covered. But at some point, notions of character and morality began to intertwine with notions of policy and perceptions of leadership, shining an ever-wider spotlight on the personal lives of those seeking the public trust.

The Front Runner

As relayed in the bonus materials, in Reitman’s eyes, the Hart incident serves to presage a modern media environment in which every scrap of social media will be scoured, every statement dredged up and over-analyzed, and every stone unturned in an effort to extract a partisan toll.

In terms of framing the story, then, Reitman asks two competing questions: “what is important?” versus “what is entertaining?” Accordingly, he constructs almost every scene to give the audience more than one thing to focus on, putting it on the viewer to decide what is more important to the story, and how it reflects the overall message of the film.

But in leaving so much for the audience to decide, The Front Runner ends up as more of a conversation starter than a definitive statement on the issue.

Fortunately, the regular trappings of cinema on hand make for an otherwise entertaining movie. The performances are spot on, and Reitman does a nice job handling an all-star cast whose orbs of influence only occasionally intersect.

Likewise, Reitman deftly captures the feel of the 1980s with some subtle camerawork that reinforces the costumes and set design in evoking the mood of the period. In particular, Reitman notes, is his insistence on letting the rawness of the film as a medium speak for itself, and not to clean up the image using modern computer editing.

The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with Reitman, producer Helen Estabrook, production designer Steve Saklad, costume designer Danny Glocker and cinematographer Eric Steelberg, in which they delve into all the techniques and artistic touches they layered into the film.

There’s also a 15-minute featurette called “The Unmaking of a Candidate” that touches on the making of the film and the themes it’s exploring.

There are also three deleted scenes, including a slightly alternate opening sequence, that run about four-and-a-half minutes.