Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm Gonna Wreck It!!!!!

Wreck-It Ralph.

Sorry I'm so late getting this review in place.  But I didn't actually get to see this movie until this weekend.

And I loved it.

Wreck-It Ralph is the 52st addition to Disney's Animated Canon, and it is a good one.

The story is about the titular "Wreck-It Ralph" an 8-Bit video game 'bad guy' from an arcade game called "Fix-It Felix Jr." (Who is the hero of said game.)

On the 30th anniversary of Ralph's game, Ralph finds himself going through a midlife crisis, and after being berated by the 'Nicelanders' NPCs in his game, departs the game to win himself a medal and hopefully the respect from the other characters in his game.

He enters 'Hero's Duty' a more modern first person shooter game that was just installed at the arcade this week, and hijinks ensue.

On his way back, Ralph accidentally winds up in 'Sugar Rush' a candy-themed racing game (Over by the Whack-A-Mole) ruled by the iron-fisted 'King Candy'.  I won't spoil any more beyond this: King Candy has definitely earned his spot in the Disney Pantheon of Villains.  This guy is seriously evil.

Yeah...This guy.  Evil.  Also voiced by Alan Tudyk.   

Now...I'm not a video game guy.  I wasn't even allowed to play video games growing up.  So...Some of the cameos went over my head.  But that doesn't matter.  I know who Sonic the Hedgehog is, and Bowser, and even I have played Pac-Man.

My point is that the 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' list of video game cameos (which I will not deny is impressive to a major degree.) was mostly lost on me.  But fortunately for me...This movie is not about the cameos.

The Heart of this story is the Characters.  Four Characters.

Wreck-It Ralph himself (voiced by John C. Reilly) :

Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) :

Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch) : 

Yes...Of Glee fame.  But she didn't annoy me as much as I expected her to...

And Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman):

Ditto for Sarah Silverman...Who I am not a big fan of...But she is perfectly cast here.

None of these characters are from a real video game (until the Defictionalization kicks in, anyway.)  So for those of you out there who don't really play video games, (yeah right) like me there is literally nothing stopping you from enjoying this movie, because the Characters and Story are the Heart of this film.

And those of you who know me, know that that's what matters most to me when I watch a movie.  The Cameos are just flavor.  This story Wrecks-It out of the ballpark on it's own.

Seriously go see this movie, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ultimate Spider-man OR Why I Love Sugar Gliders.

I love my sugar glider.

For those of you who don't know; THIS:

Is a Sugar Glider.  They're cute, furry, and they like to climb on you.  It's kind of like having a pet 5 year old.  They're extremely intelligent and curious.

"How intelligent are they?"  You might ask.

Well, the other day, when I watched Ultimate Spider-man for the purposes of this review, mine started crabbing.  Crabbing is a gurgling sound that Sugar Gliders make when they're annoyed or irritated.  It sounds much louder than you'd expect from a creature so small.  It's a defense mechanism that gliders use to make predators go away.

And boy did my little Hypolita want this show to go away.

When Disney Purchased Marvel in 2009, it caused a lot of changes in both companies.

The one that affected me the most, was the cancellation of one of my favorite shows

Which I mentioned before in my "Top 9 favorite Non-Disney Shows."

This was...Disappointing to say the least.  I understand the whole complex story behind what went down, (which I won't get into here, because that's not what this blog is about) but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The simplified version: Once Disney had Marvel in their pocket (much like Warner Brothers has had DC for years) they wanted their own Spider-man show.  So instead of wrestling with Sony to get full control of SpecSpidey...Or Licensing it, they decided to start from scratch.

The result:

Ultimate Spider-Man.

This show sucks big time.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not a comic book fan.  I've approached Young Justice and The Spectacular Spider-man from an outsiders perspective.  But I've enjoyed both so immensely that they--combined with Linkara, one of my favorite internet reviewers--Has definitely intrigued me, and made me consider picking up a few issues of some comics.

Now...I wanted to approach this show with fresh eyes.  I didn't want the fantastic SpecSpidey to color my perceptions about what makes a good Spider-man show.

Well, I fear that I failed in that regard.  Because...I really wanted SpecSpidey back after this...


Imagine for a moment, that someone decided that Spider-man should be more like Family Guy.

Let me repeat that because it bears repeating.

Imagine for a moment that someone decided that Spider-man should be more like Family Guy.

"With Great Power comes Great Responsibility" and Family Guy.  Let it sink in...

I've given the briefest hints on how I feel about Family Guy in a previous post...But for those of you too lazy to go back and look it up...The answer is "Not favorably".   Perhaps I'd be a lot more forgiving of Family Guy, if people of my generation didn't use it as their ONLY source of information about politics, religion, history, etc...You know...Important stuff.  (I am not joking, I know at least two people who have openly admitted that they rely on Family Guy for their opinions on politics...We live in this world people)

Family Guy (For those geckos in my audience who have decided to peek out from underneath their rocks) basically runs like a ADHD kid, jumping randomly to cutaway gags.

And...That's what Ultimate Spider-man does.  That's EXACTLY what it does.

There is no Fourth Wall.  Spider-man addresses the audience all the time.  Often to get people up to speed on what's happening in the episode.  

Yes...It IS a bad sign.

The words "Show Don't Tell" are utterly lost on the writers of this show.   Every thirty seconds Spider-man (or Peter Parker) turns to the audience to explain something that could just have easily been shown to us.

But by far, the WORST example was when the Frightful Four was attacking his school cafeteria.

Spider-man begins explaining who each member was...And this quote happened:  "And Thundra, Genetically altered human from an alternate future timeline.  Don' ask".


NO.  NO YOU DON'T GET TO DO THAT!!!  I am NOT a comic fan, and I don't understand these backstories.  You CANNOT MAKE A NON-SEQUITUR STATEMENT LIKE THAT, and NOT EXPLAIN IT!!!!

I'm just appalled that he said something like that, and then went "Don't ask"  You CANNOT do that to a NON-COMIC geek in the FIRST EPISODE!!!

And she's from the future, then why the HELL is she (SPOILER ALERT) working with Norman Osborn? She has FUTURE technology and knowledge.  Why would she use that to be a super-villain?  Why not, oh I don't know, exploit that knowledge and get rich that way?  Maybe I'm just too used to SpecSpidey and their logical progression of events that even explained how something as ridiculous as the super-criminal even came into existence.

But damn it, things like that RAISE so many questions and give us NO goddamn answers.  It's like watching Lost or Alcatraz.  On the surface, the writers look like they know what they're doing.  But they're really just making crap up as they go along.

But I am digressing as much as an episode of Family Guy.

Episode One was appalling enough...

But then...

Then there was episode two...And the BAD just got worse.

(Yes, this actually happened in the episode...And yes, the Emperor's New Groove Jokes are impossible to resist)

Nick Fury (Voiced by Chi McBride an actor I'm actually quite fond of from his "Pushing Daisies" days) informs Spider-man that he's putting together a group of young Super-Heroes his own age.

AFTER meeting a two-armed Dr. Connors (even a non-comic guy like ME knows THAT'S WRONG) and being presented with his own "Spider-Cycle".

Ah...The first of what I can only assume will be many Toys that USM tries to shill.

After Fury stupidly allows Spider-man to try out the cycle (Seriously, he figured out that Spider-man was Peter Parker, but he didn't know that he didn't have a driver's license?)

We are introduced to the other four heroes Nova (Or as I shall now call him "Nova Creep" the ONE joke in 44 minutes of USM that made me laugh) Power-man, Iron Fist (Oh Voice Actor of Caleb of W.I.T.C.H. how the mighty have FALLEN) and White Tiger.

Being a non-comic guy, I didn't know who any of those characters were.

Okay, that's not true.

I did know who White Tiger was.

Sort of.

A random googling I did a while ago (for reasons I shan't explain here) brought up White Tiger.  And...I was intrigued.  This character--Or at least what I read--Interested me.  There have been four--apparently--The version of White Tiger that I was interested in was an actual White Tiger that was transformed (BY SCIENCE!!!) into an indian woman.

In a serious show, (Like say...The Spectacular Spider-man or Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes) this could be very interesting, a simple animal having to learn to deal with complex human emotions.  Something that I believe was a big part of her comic persona.

But this is Ultimate Spider-man.

If this version of White Tiger is the one that was once a big cat, then it will be played as a gag, undoubtably.

Or perhaps not...

The biggest problem I have with this show is that it doesn't know what it wants to be.  At times it's played Ultra-Serious.  Like Spider-man should be.  (Yes, I know the irony of playing a ridiculous concept like super-heroes as serious, but the thing is, the source material is often quite serious.  Spider-man is who he is because he made a mistake that cost his Uncle's (father-figure) life.)  But at other times, it is played exactly like an episode of Family Guy.  Complete with cutaway gags and asides to the audience.

There is a fight sequence in the second episode.  It's a pretty good fight sequence too.  I was actually getting into it.  Then, about four minutes into the fight--BAM-Another Family Guy cutaway.  It was so jarring, that it took me completely out of the moment.  I couldn't suspend any disbelief after that.

Now, before I finish up.

Let's take a brief look at Spider-man's supporting cast.  The people who surround his life.  They were the important part of his life in the Spectacular Spider-man, so I want to do a little comparison to see how they hold up.

First up:  Aunt May

She's apparently very busy, and out most of the time, allowing Spider-man the ability to come and go from the house as he pleases.

This actually made me cry...Because Spider-man himself said this.

A far cry from the responsible Aunt May from SpecSpidey who wanted her teenage nephew to be home by 9:00pm.  Note that neither one knows that Peter is Spider-man.

J. Jonah Jameson.

You'd think that J.J. would be a fairly one dimensional character.   And in most versions that's true.  Most writers simply don't have the chops to give him MORE than just his "I hate Spider-man" rants.  SpecSpidey did.  Ultimate...

Well we've only seen him on gigantic jumbotrons throughout the city, so that's a "Time will tell" type of deal.  But SpecSpidey actually built J.J. UP into hating Spider-man, instead of just starting there.

Mary Jane Watson.

Let me be clear.

Mary Jane Watson has only appeared in ONE medium outside of the comics.

The Spectacular Spider-man.

All other versions of MJ have been the soft-spoken quiet, girl-next door type of Mary Jane.

Only that's NOT who MJ actually IS.

That's Gwen Stacy.  Peter Parker's first love.  MJ's name and body.  But Gwen's personality.

And...Ultimate Spider-man is no different.

Only USMMJ is interested in being a photographer (Instead of an actress) and is a Journalism student.  But this doesn't stop her from being Gwen Stacy.  She is.  Exactly Gwen's personality.

The other members of the supporting cast are Nick Fury (as I previously mentioned) and the Super-hero team that Spider-man is being placed on.  As well as Agent Coulson (Of the Marvel Cinematic Universe fame) as Spider-man's principal.  Since there has never been a team up like this before, time will only tell what that lead to, but, odds are, I won't be watching.  These first two episodes were so bad, and so jarring, that I have lost any desire at all to continue watching.

The end of the second episode (where Peter goes into the principal's office to ask for a transfer away from the school--Because Fury's super-hero team has shown up there as students) was...Actually kind of amusing.  But it was far too late to really make me chuckle.  And far, far, too little in the grand scheme of things.  Too, little, too late.

So next time, folks, if a Sugar Glider tries to warn you that a show isn't worth watching, listen to her will you?  The sanity you save, could be your own.

This is the Disney Wizard,
Signing off.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Home On the Range

I was going to write a gag-April Fools day article about Disney's Home On the Range movie.

It would have been a positive glowing, April Fools day review...

Couldn't do it.

It made me gag.

I HATE this movie that much.

So...I'm going to go eat some hamburgers.

Enjoy your April Fools day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mars Needs Movie Go-ers.



Just this...

Was quite disappointed to find out that Disney declared "John Carter" to be an official "flop".

Which means that the odds of it getting a sequel, let alone the sequel it deserved, are very slim indeed.

Tars Tarkas is confused...Why didn't you like his movie?

I know that the critics hated it, to my confusion.  Doug Walker, a critic I have a great deal of respect for even compared it to "Stargate".  (A movie I hated)  Which confused the heck out of me, because I really didn't see the connection.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I loved this, and I will be buying the DVD.  Perhaps a familiarity with the books was required for enjoyment, I don't know.

(Although my sister hasn't read them and she liked it...)

But, 200 Million dollars pretty much speaks for itself.

Disney hopes to make up the difference with The Avengers and Brave, later this year, both movies I am looking forward to, even with this looming over my head.

I just felt like sharing my sad feelings...

Nothing I can do but vent.

Friday, March 9, 2012

John Carter of Mars

By Issus, I was not expecting to like this movie.

Here's the deal.  I have been a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter of Mars" series since I was a kid.  So when they announced a few years back that they were going to be doing a live action movie of one of my favorite childhood book series...I was...Dubious.  Then I heard that Disney was doing it, and that Pixar was going to be doing the effects...And...I was still dubious, but I thought "Well, it IS the best possible hands to be handling this..."  So I resolved that when it came out, I would see it.

And tonight, not three hours ago, I did.

And I am speechless.

I have four categories when judging an adaptation of anything.  I call it the SpecSpidey formula.  Classic, Contemporary, Iconic, and Cohesive.  This is the formula that Greg Weisman and Victor Cook used to create "The Spectacular Spider-man".  This was their rules for adapting it, and it's a big part of what made SpecSpidey work.

Most adaptations only get the "Contemporary".  But John Carter...It NAILED them.  All four categories.

I'll try to limit my spoilers as much as possible, because well, I want you to go see this yourself. It is very hard to maintain a balance that is true to the books, and yet has contemporary sensibilities, and is entertaining as well.  But by God, they did it.

I went into the theater and expected very much to be disappointed. Seriously.  I wasn't expecting more than a fun little popcorn fest with my family (All of whom went with me, my dad, an even BIGGER John Carter fan than I am, also loved this film.  His big complaint...He felt the swords weren't like the ones from the book.  If the biggest John Carter fan I know only has a problem with the swords...Then you know that this was a damn good adaptation of the books.)

I'm not saying I didn't have nitpicky problems.  My biggest issue with the movie was that they gave John Carter a tragic backstory involving a dead wife and child.  I felt that was unnecessary, but in the grand scheme of this fantastic movie, it is a VERY minor footnote.

I had heard ahead of time, that the Pixar Animators actually went to the Burroughs estate, and poured over Burroughs notes on Barsoom and the Martian series...and BY GOD does it show.  Not once did I ever think that any of the CGI animals were ANYTHING but the creatures described in the books.

When I saw Woola, I said "Yep, that's a Calot.  That's always been a Calot, and that will never be anything but a Calot."

When I saw the Great White Apes, I said "Yep those are the Great White Apes of Mars."

And when I saw the Green Martians,

Yes, BY GOD those were Green Martians.

Oh, and can I just take a moment to praise Willem Defoe for his Tars Tarkas?

In my head, for YEARS, Tars Tarkas was voiced by the incomparable Keith David, a man I have met on more than one occasion and is most notable in recent years for Doctor Facilier of "The Princess and the Frog".

But Willem...He just took that role, and OWNED it.

One day, I'll get to voicing my complaints about famous actors being picked over professional Voice Actors...But not in this movie.

Willem Defoe was perfectly cast.  Perfectly.  

I know I'm gushing here...I was expecting this review to be a lot more negative...But I can't help it, I am just thrilled that I got to see something that really wasn't expecting.  A good John Carter of Mars movie.

I guess I should nitpick at a few of the little things that did irk me, for a more entertaining review...But...Really, between John's backstory being tweaked a bit, and...the fact that they made his learning the language of Barsoom into a mystical experience...I can't fault this movie for any of the changes that they made.  (In the books, John learned the Barsoomian tongue like a normal person learns a language.  ie. Over time.)

I think that the man they cast as John himself was a bit weak, but ultimately, he was more than adequate.

Their Dejah Thoris, simply was Dejah Thoris.  She tackled the role by the horns and made it hers, and I never doubted for a moment she was Dejah.

Now the movie was definitely an adaptation of the first book in the series "A Princess of Mars", though a LOT of elements from latter books were thrown in.  Including the Therns or "White Martians" from the Second and Third books.  And I think the movie was better for it.  You'll understand when you see it.

I truly hope that they make a sequel, because it's rare when a movie leaves me craving more, as this one did.  I went and saw it in IMAX 3D.  And normally, I don't care for 3D. (in fact, I hate it!)   I saw "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in 3D, and didn't care for it.  But it really did work for John Carter, and while I don't insist, I actually do think that it was worth it this time.

And because I went to see it in IMAX 3D on Opening Night, I got this nifty poster that now hangs on my wall (PROUDLY--No small thing, since the other posters on my wall are for "Gargoyles" and "The Chronicles of Narnia", and if you know me--You know what a big deal that is.)

See, nifty poster

So, in a very good mood, the Disney Wizard signs off.  

Dejah Thoris

Sunday, March 4, 2012




Recently this Disney Wizard got himself a wakeup call.  I was a self-proclaimed Greg Weisman fanboy...And I hadn't seen season 2 of W.I.T.C.H.

Yeah...I'm kind of embarrassed here...

I suppose that I could make the excuse that "it's too girly"...But that wouldn't be true, because I DID see season 1 on ABC.  I just...Never made the effort to look it up.  Eventually, some friends metaphorically smacked me in the head and I got to watching.

Okay, for those of you who don't know W.I.T.C.H. is an italian comic series about five girls Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia, and Hay Lin (get it?)  who learn that they are the "Guardians of the Veil" between the worlds of Metamoor and Earth.   For this purpose, powers over the five elements have been given to them (And eventually more worlds get thrown in) It was created by Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa.

Well, Disney, in it's infinite wisdom, decided that it needed an animated series as well.  An American one...Okay...

The comics were always owned by Disney, so they could do that.  The set the creative team up with the premise.  Middle school/High School girls with a bit of magic tied in.  Only...Halfway through season 1, they decided to make it an action-adventure series and move it Disney's (now defunct) Jetix block.  Despite the premise that it starred 5 female protagonists, and Jetix was aimed at 6-11 year old boys.  One might like to think that the Disney Execs were simply being enlightened...But I really doubt it.

Yeah...I don't get executive mentality.

But the genre shift, caused problems for the folks in charge of season 1 and they ended getting fired and a whole new team was brought in to replace them.  And that new team included Greg Weisman as Head Writer and Story Editor.  In other words, he was in charge of Season Two.

And...I never saw it.

So, realizing at once the absolute error of my ways, I set for the watch the entire series season 1 and 2 (there was no season three--Why does Greg Weisman never get a third season?!?  WHY?!?)

Season One...I tried to rewatch in one sitting...But it was a chore...  An absolute chore.  They DRAGGED the over arching plot out over way more episodes than necessary.  Elyon's stupidity got bothered the hell out of me (in the comics Phobos's deceptions of Elyon were a lot more elaborate), Phobos and Cedric were annoying villains, and the girls--That's W.I.T.C.H. themselves the lead characters--were SO bland and boring.  There most interesting moments where when Cornelia was insisting that they tell Elyon the truth, and Will was against--though Will never could give a reasonable explanation why she was against.

That being said...There IS a highlight of season one that I enjoyed very much.

This is Blunk.  And I love him.

A character and species exclusive to the TV show, Blunk is a Passling.  A small toad-like goblin adverse to bathing and capable of smelling portals between Meridian (Metamoor in the comics, Meridian was merely the capital city, but Metamoor was never named in the show) and Earth.

Blunk was a smuggler (or "Value Wholesaler" as he puts it) and not really interested in anything but himself.  He was created to be a comic relief character.  But I call him the hero of season 1.  He's literally the only character who changes or develops (okay, MAYBE Elyon does too, but her blindness to what her friends and the rebellion were trying to tell her really irked me.  Partially because they dragged it out so long)

Blunk starts out as a smuggler and is tossed into a cell with Caleb--the leader of Meridian's resistance against Prince Phobos, the villain.  When Caleb is rescued, Blunk get's dragged along with him and ends up in Heatherfield. (Earth) There, he becomes a reluctant ally to Caleb (helping him track down portals back and forth between Earth and Meridian) and to the girls.  Over the course of the 26 episodes, Blunk goes from a reluctant ally, to a more willing ally, to an actual friend--he goes out of his way to get the Heart of Kandrakar back when he's framed for it's theft--to an actual full-on hero when he attacks Cedric in the season finale.  (He did this to save Elyon's life) For reference, Blunk is 3 feet tall and has no powers whatsoever.

And Cedric is a giant snake.

And that is why I love Blunk.

And then came season 2.

I have, in the past, gushed a little about my love of Greg Weisman's shows (I've mentioned Gargoyles of course, and The Spectacular Spider-man and Young Justice are on my list of Fav non-Disney shows) And of course my friends kept telling me how good Season 2 of W.I.T.C.H. was compared to season one.

I was a afraid that they had oversold it...

They hadn't...

Season 2 was ADDICTIVELY good.  How good you ask?  Well, the five girls SUDDENLY developed distinctive personalities, and their backstories and family lives became clearer.    I went for not caring for them at all--except Irma's occasional snark--To LOVING these girls.  Rooting for them in both their personal lives...And their lives as Guardians of Infinity (yeah, they went from the Veil to Infinity and that's just ONE of their major developments)

To me, Will Vandom--their leader--became a breakout character.  I fell hard for her.

It's hard to talk about her growth in Season 2 without spoilers...But...She has to deal with A LOT this season, and you can't help but want to hug her.

And I love that cute "blow her bangs out of her face static-hair" thing she does in this season.  It's a very nice touch.

And that's not to say the others don't develop either, because they most certainly do.  Will was just my favorite.

But Irma learns a lesson on the power of words (not in a cheesy way either)

Taranee and her mother start fighting about Taranee's boyfriend.

Hay Lin deals with her Grandmother going to the Dark Side (Long story--some of it even true, check out the season and you'll see what I mean)

And Cornelia learns that her little sister may just be the Heart of Earth.

On that note: U is for Undivided may just be one of the best episodes of anything I've ever seen...SO GOOD.  No spoilers on that one.  (Keeping to a minimum for S2 anyway, go watch it yourself)

That being said...Season 2 is SO much better if you've taken the time (as I did) to watch season one.  It builds on top of what was already established, and makes it better.

And then there's the villains...

While Phobos and Cedric got old really quick in Season one, Nerissa the ex-Guardian of Quintessence (Will's element, thus her counterpart from the previous team) is a cold, calculating, and extremely competent villain.  With a huge amount of personal angst, and an inability to take responsibility for her actions.  Oh yeah...And a HUGE Ego.  She's a lot like a cross between Demona and Xanatos from Gargoyles.  ie...Scary good at what she does.

AND...If you watch Season 1...She's been there the whole time...Manipulating the girls and the resistance.

And there were two more 'breakout' (bad puns!) villains in season two.  Phobos and Cedric.

Yeah...You read that right...

While I got SO sick of Phobos and Cedric in S1...S2 Phobos and Cedric are...Well, I'm going to cop out and say "watch it yourself" and then you go ahead and get back to me.  Let me know what YOU think about Phobos and Cedric in S2 compared to what they did in S1.

                                             PHOBOS: "Am I not down with my bad self?"

I think that it's a credit to Greg Weisman (and the talented people he often associates/surrounds himself with) that he can take two villains I hated in season one...and make them...

Into something that I adored in S2.  As I say far, FAR too often with Greg's shows "It's a pity there was no season three."