Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Paul Angle
Going to the Movies: Wreck It Ralph and The Man with the Iron Fists
In Disney Animation Studios’ latest film Wreck It Ralph, Ralph is the bad guy in a classic video game called “Fix It Felix” that is celebrating its 30th anniversary. After being the bad guy for so long Ralph longs to be a good guy, to be appreciated by the other characters in the game. He wants to earn a medal, just like Felix gets at the end of each game instead of being thrown into the mud. When he hears that the end of the new game in the arcade called “Heroes Duty” ends with the player getting a hero’s medal (overheard at the bar from the classic game “Root Beer Tapper”), he sneaks into the game to take it.
Full disclosure: I am a gamer, and have been since getting my first home console, the Atari 2600, for Christmas in 1980. There are so many Easter eggs in this movie aimed squarely at gamers that I could not help but be completely engrossed. Disney has tapped into the perfect market with Wreck It Ralph: they have made a wonderful family movie that most people of my generation will be rushing out to see, with or without the kids. We gamers who grew up in the age of arcades now have kids of our own to whom we have most likely passed our love of video games. Wreck It Ralph will allow us to share in the joy of their recognition of Bowser from Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sue from Pac Man (voiced by Tim Allen), but will also give us a gateway to introduce them to the classic games we grew up with that are referenced in the movie like Q-Bert, Root Beer Tapper, and Street Fighter.
Nostalgia aside, this is a strong film, made with the heart we have come to expect from Pixar—and this is not a Pixar film. Pixar’s fingerprints are all over this movie. Disney Animation has had some good ideas that misfired in their execution in recent years (Bolt, anyone?). But John Lassiter is teaching the Disney Animation team how to execute a story in the Pixar fashion. Some financial analysts questioned the price tag of Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, feeling that $7 billion was too much, and that Pixar’s track record of producing hits would have to end and the company would not recoup its investment. After watching Wreck It Ralph, I think the analysts have it completely wrong. The guys from Pixar are teaching the Disney animators how to make great animated films again—which they patterned after Walt Disney, ironically enough. If Wreck It Ralph is any indication, this acquisition will be paying dividends for years to come.
I also have to mention the cartoon short in front of the movie called “Paper Man.” It is a sweet love story, well told and beautifully animated. The characters look like they stepped out of the heyday of Disney hand drawn animation, reminding me of the characters in 101 Dalmatians. It is also in black and white, with only one swath of color throughout, the red lipstick of the female protagonist. I am not a student of art, but this is a beautiful looking cartoon.
Finally, I screened the movie in 2D. There is a 3D version available for the additional charge, of course; however, the conversations I have had with people who watched it in 3D said the 3D was good, but nothing spectacular. It sounds like the usual with Disney 3D. Most families I know skip the 3D upcharge because their young kids will not know the difference. If your family enjoys 3D, this is well done; if you usually skip the extra feature, you are not missing out on anything spectacular.
Overall, Wreck It Ralph is well worth your time and money at the movies this weekend, or in the weekends to come.
In a bit of counter-programming (up against Disney’s Wreck It Ralph and Oscar bait Flight starring Denzel Washington) Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth release their production of The Man with the Iron Fists.
The plot is a simple setup: three different parties (a couple of assassins, a group of warriors who have recently killed their old leader, and a rogue British soldier) descend on a corrupt town in feudal China in order to steal a treasure of gold. In the village lives a blacksmith with a hidden past who inevitably leads the defense of his village.
The film—written and directed by, as well as starring The RZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame—is right in the wheelhouse of both Tarantino and Eli Roth. It is evident that RZA is also a fan of 1970s exploitation Kung Fu films. The opening credits set the tone to let you know that this is definitely a love letter to Hong Kong. From the opening sequence we know that the violence is going to be frequent, bloody, and abundant. One of the primary set pieces of the film is the local brothel, run by Lucy Liu, so there is also a good amount of sex and drug use thrown in for good measure.
I won’t waste time trying to describe the plot, because in a film like this it is secondary. While I personally am not a fan of Kung Fu films, the story set up well enough for me to buy into the premise and enjoy the final showdown where the three groups converge on the brothel for a spectacularly bloody finale.
If you are a fan of Tarantino, Roth, or 1970s Kung Fu, you will find The Man with the Iron Fists two hours of fun escapism.