Wreck-It Ralph

“Wreck-It Ralph” is big fun for gamers of all ages. Gen-Xers, Gen-Y, boomers & little kids will find much to love in this Pixar-like animated feature.

Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, is the guy who wrecks things in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix. After 30 years, he’s tired of being the bad guy. Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer, is the one who gets all the love and, at the end of each successful play of the game, a medal.

Ralph wants a medal and seeks one in a neighboring game in the arcade called Hero’s Duty where he encounters Calhoun, a violent babe with a killer bod, voiced by Jane Lynch. Once he gets the medal he escapes to another game called Sugar Rush, where he meets up with an extremely cute kid, Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman. This is where the film’s plot really takes off.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is inspired by and has references to most of the great video games of the last three decades. Some of the film’s elements call to mind “Monsters, Inc.” Ralph is similar to Sully from that 2001 Pixar classic. Vanellope is not unlike any the three “Powerpuff Girls,” a Cartoon Network hit series from a decade or so ago.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is almost a Pixar film. It looks like a Pixar film. Executive producer is Pixar’s John Lasseter. There’s a memorable short cartoon before the movie. The credits mention help from the “Pixar brain trust.” And, as with Pixar films, the credits contain a list of “production babies.” Really, the only thing that keeps it from being a Pixar film is the absence of the bouncing desk lamp.

As with most Pixar films, the performances of the voice actors are uniformly excellent. The four mentioned previously, along with Alan Tudyk as King Candy, form one of the best voice ensembles in recent memory.

Among my favorite visual jokes in the film: the cops in Sugar Rush (a world populated by sweet treats) are doughnuts.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is both nostalgic and fresh, at the same time. It gets the high score for this weekend.

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Flight

“Flight” features another outstanding performance from Denzel Washington. His character is a complex man with a big problem that leads to an even bigger problem.

Washington plays “Whip” Whittaker, a commercial airline pilot. On a short hop from Orlando to Atlanta, his plane has mechanical trouble. He uses his skill as a pilot to crash land the plane with minimal loss of life and is hailed as a hero.

When the NTSB investigates the crash, evidence shows that he was flying the plane drunk and high on coke. His alcoholism, which has led the to end of his marriage and his estrangement from his teenaged son, is a demon he tries to defeat. After he comes to the rescue of a recovering junkie and she becomes his live-in gal pal, she takes him with her to AA. He walks out of the meeting.

The two questions to be resolved: Will he be prosecuted for flying drunk? And will he be able to stay on the wagon for more than a few days at a time?

The supporting cast is a good one. Bruce Greenwood is the pilot’s union leader who offers solid support after the crash. Don Cheadle plays the pilot’s union attorney who works to get Whip’s evidence suppressed. John Goodman plays Whip’s longtime buddy and booze/drug connection. A woman who looks like she could be Diane Keaton’s daughter, Kelly Reilly, is the ex-junkie girlfriend. Melissa Leo is the NTSB administrator who conducts the climactic hearing.

The film gives us just enough of Whip’s personal struggle without bogging down the plot. Director Robert Zemeckis combines the storytelling and the character study nicely. Zemeckis, who has delivered memorable images in previous hits, also brings to “Flight” a plane crash that looks amazingly real.

It’s my opinion that any movie starring Denzel Washington is worth seeing. This may not be his best movie ever (nor is it the best ever from Zemeckis), but it’s darn good—a solid effort from all concerned. I like it.