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Monday, November 25, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph

Can I just state how excited I am to be presenting this week's edition of the Monday Matinee?  For one, I'm doing a movie that actually came out within the past year!  For another, the movie deals with a couple of subjects that I have extensive knowledge in.  And, the third and best reason of all?  It happens to be a movie that I got on sale!

And as we all know, I love getting a good bargain!

Okay, so you all know how insanely expensive movies with the Walt Disney logo can be, right?  I mean, when "The Little Mermaid" was re-released on Blu-Ray a few weeks ago, the cost of the movie was a stunning thirty bucks.  I mean, seriously?  Who the heck would pay thirty bucks for a movie that is almost a quarter-century old.  I mean, compare that with "Turner and Hooch" which came out the same year.  You can get that movie for less than five bucks in some retail outlets.

What, does the name Disney mean that the movie automatically gets jacked up in price?  I mean, yes, I have to admit that there are a ton of Disney classics that are worth owning on DVD or Blu-Ray, but I also have the opinion that Disney films (and all kids films for that matter) should be more affordable, so that more children can have the opportunity to watch them whenever they want.

So, imagine my surprise when I was at work today and I happened to come across a display of Disney movies where they were bundled up into two packs.  Keep in mind that most of the movies that were featured were Disney films released over the last five years, such as "Bolt", "The Incredibles", "Cars 2", and "Mater's Tall Tales".  The point is that paying twenty-five bucks for two Disney movies is an incredible deal.  Why would you pay $24.97 for one film, when you could pay $12.50 instead?  I call it a no-brainer.

Now, one of the films that was included was "Toy Story 3", which is fine.  Although I have already seen it, it's nice to have a copy of it on hand if I feel a need to watch it.

The other movie?  Today's blog topic.

Truth be told, I had been looking for an excuse to do a blog entry on "Wreck-It Ralph" for quite some time.  The movie was only released in theatres a year ago this month, and released on DVD shortly before I began working in the electronics department, so it's probably one of the more recent movies that I've ever done in this space.

It's also a movie that combines two of my favourite games and underdogs.

Now, I have to admit that when I was a young kid, I got hooked on video games quite early.  I think like most people my age, their first introduction to video games was at a video arcade or a convenience store.  I know that when I was a kid, I always wanted to go with my mom to the nearest Quickie store, because at that time, there were always three or four video arcade games that were just waiting for me to insert a quarter into.  Super Mario Brothers was always a favourite as was Pac-Man.  And, I may have told the story before about how I embarrassed the hell out of a couple of high school students when I kicked their butts in a rousing game of "Bubble Bobble".

(At the time, I was only in the third grade!)

And, like most people who played video games, they were made all that much harder when you had to battle the game with a mean, dastardly antagonist.  Whether it was a barrel-throwing monkey, a fire-breathing turtle, or gigantic hamburger buns falling down on top of you, it certainly made your adrenaline rush as you tried to make every minute of that game count!  I mean, I can't even begin to tell you exactly how many lives I've made Mario and Luigi lose while trying to save Princess Toadstool in Super Mario Brothers, or how many rings I've lost along the way while navigating Sonic the Hedgehog through all those wacky courses!  It's just one of the challenges of any video game.  And, you all have to agree that if you play a lot of video games, it is ever so satisfying to finally complete that one challenge that plagued you.

Even if it meant...cheating...just a smidgen.

Come on.  I know you all did it.  I know some of you had the "Game Genie" in which you could enter codes in that could amp up your game and make it a lot easier to complete.  Whether it was the infinite lives glitch, or the make your opponents slower glitch, or starting the game at level 72 glitch, the Game Genie helped out in a big way.  And, I'm all for the glitches that actually help your game, such as magically transporting from an unsafe area to a safe area, for instance.

It's when the glitches end up completely wrecking your whole game that cause frustration.  After all, I speak as someone who had the experience of losing an entire save file of Final Fantasy VI because I wasn't aware of Relm's Sketch Bug.

NOTE:  Only hardcore gamers will know what I just talked about above.

As a result, glitches in games get a really bad rap.  Now, if you're playing a home console game, your choice is easy.  You either buy another copy of the game, or you never exploit glitches in your current game.  But if glitches occur in arcade games, they are almost always put out to pasture, collecting dust in landfills all over the world.

Well, Wreck-It Ralph combines all those things into one movie.  It has an antagonist who really wants to be a hero, and a glitch who is shunned by all of video gaming society.

I mean, you have to feel for Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly).  All he ever wanted was to be liked by everyone, and all he ever wanted to do was be seen as a hero.  Of course, it's kind of hard to feel that way when you're the primary antagonist in a video game known as "Fix-it Felix Jr.".

You see, the game is sort of like a combination of "Rampage" and "Donkey Kong".  Fix-it Felix (Jack McBrayer) uses his magic hammer to fix the damage to the building caused by Wreck-it Ralph, who breaks windows, smashes doors, and uses his enormous fists to smash holes in the wall.  Throughout the course of the game, Felix has to repair all the damage, getting power-ups in the form of pies baked by the building's residents, while dodging the debris that Ralph rains down from above.  After Felix successfully completes each level, the people in the building throw Ralph off the roof.

Now, an interesting take on this video game is that when the arcade lights dim, Felix and Ralph actually get along great.  After all, they have worked together for thirty years.  But Ralph is always the outsider looking in from his garbage dump home fashioned out of broken bricks and dirt.  Although Ralph likes Felix, he is very jealous of the fact that the people in the building shower him with praise, riches, and hero medals, while all Ralph ever gets is constantly thrown off of a building.

Ralph has the idea that if he can somehow get a medal just like the ones that Felix collects, then he will be able to finally gain acceptance from the people in his own video game.  And as it so happens, there's another game in the arcade that can help him do that.

You see, when the arcade closes, the video game characters are free to visit other video games in the arcade.  The connecting spot is a place known as "Game Central Station".  And, as luck would have it, the "Hero's Duty" game is just a stone's throw away.  In that game - a first-person army shoot 'em up - anyone who passes all the tests will get a medal.  Of course, seeing Ralph try to navigate his way through a "Call of Duty" knockoff game is quite hysterical.

This is all fine and good.  But what Ralph had forgotten was that if a video game character stays away from his home game too long, it can cause games to not function properly.  And when games don't function properly, they become shrouded in an orange-red glow (caused by an Out of Order sign).  And if the orange-red glow remains too long, the game could be unplugged, and everyone residing in the video game will become homeless.  Just ask the poor Q-bert character who hangs around Game Central Station on any given day.

Needless to say, Felix decides to save the day, and sets out towards the Hero's Duty game in hopes of bringing Ralph back to restore the game back to its former glory.  On the way, he encounters and falls in love with one of the main characters of Hero's Duty - Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) - a tough as nails female soldier whose tragic backstory explains her hard exterior (as well as her conflicting feelings for Felix).  And Felix and Calhoun team up to try and find Ralph, who went missing shortly after Ralph earned his medal.

Meanwhile, Ralph finds himself in the video game "Sugar Rush", a game that could best be described as a hybrid of "Gran Turismo" and "Candy Crush".  It's a game in which sixteen competitors could race against each other around a series of sugary sweet tracks that put a Katy Perry video to shame.  The game is ruled by King Candy (Alan Tudyk), and the racers all race together in perfect harmony.

Well, all except one, that is.

Ralph ends up getting his medal stolen by a girl named Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), and the reason why Vanellope stole the medal was so she could use it to enter the race.  All Vanellope wanted to do was drive a sweet covered car and compete against everybody else.  The only problem was that Vanellope was a glitch.  Every few seconds, she would turn blue and randomly appear in pixellated format.  And every time she glitched, she would transport from one area of the game to another.  None of the other racers wanted to race with a glitch, and they bullied her endlessly - even going as far as destroying the car that she built herself with her own bare hands.  And, if you thought that King Candy would be sympathetic, think again.  He refuses to let Vanellope race under any circumstances.  What his motivations are behind it...well, I won't say.

Of course, Ralph witnesses the sour patch kid racers destroying Vanellope's car and he uses his huge size and powerful fists to scare them away.  Ralph then decides to become an ally to Vanellope, and together the two design and build a brand new race car for Vanellope to use in the race.

Of course, Vanellope has never driven a real car before, so Ralph attempts to teach her how in a rather...humourous manner.

Of course, when King Candy hears the news that Vanellope has built another car and plans on entering the race, he freaks out, and decides that she has to be stopped.  And in order to do this, he feels the need to manipulate Vanellope's biggest supporter by promising him the one thing he wanted the most.

I won't go into too much detail with the plot after this point.  I hate spoiling movies.  But I can offer you these clues if you haven't seen this film yet.

Clue #1 - Apparently the key to winning the final race is the combination of Diet Coke and Mentos.

Clue #2 - King Candy isn't the benevolent ruler you might expect him to be.  Instead, he's got a thirty year grudge to settle.

Clue #3 - It's funny how Vanellope is constantly made to feel as though she is not supposed to be a part of "Sugar Rush" when her image appears on the outside of the game.

Clue #4 - When Ralph appeared in the game "Sugar Rush", he brought along a companion with him...and that companion causes "Sugar Rush" to become a glitch filled mess!

Clue #5 - Glitches cannot leave games.  And when Ralph discovers this fact, he is forced to make a decision which could spell doom for both Sugar Rush and Fix-it Felix Jr.

And, here's some interesting facts about the movie as well.

Fact #1 - Did you know that there are some actual Fix-it-Felix Jr. games in existence?  They can be found at Disneyland!

Fact #2 - All the main characters of the film were animated to look exactly like the voice actors playing them.

Fact #3 - You know how video games show the high scores of the players playing them?  Notice how the top scorer of the game received a score of 120,501 points?  Written out as 12/05/01, you have the date of birth of Walt Disney (December 5, 1901).

Fact #4 - Several video game characters appear from the games "Tapper", "Q-bert", "Sonic the Hedgehog", "Super Mario Brothers", and "Pac-Man", amongst others.

Fact #5 - Anyone else find it amusing that the donut cops in the game are named after two donut chains in the United States?  I suppose Sgt. Tim Horton was working as a traffic cop in "Frogger" while Winchell and Duncan were getting all the glory in Wreck-it-Ralph.

Fact #6 - Look closely at the graffiti written all over Game Central Station.  There are references to "Zero Wing" and "Final Fantasy VII" hidden among the paint blotches.

Fact #7 - Mario was supposed to be included in the movie, but production couldn't figure out how to add him into the film.  It is rumoured that if there is a sequel, Mario will be included.

Fact #8 - There are at least three hidden references to Mickey Mouse scattered throughout the film.  See if you can spot them all!

Fact #9 - Did you spot the Contra code being used in the movie?  You know, the UP UP DOWN DOWN LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT B A START code?  I laughed my head off when that scene came up in the film!

Fact #10 - The closing song of this movie charted at #78 on the Canadian charts!

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