Trying to create balance…

Movie Review: “The Pirate Fairy” April 1, 2014

The Pirate Fairy


This latest direct-to-home release from DisneyToon studios takes us back to Pixie Hollow for the first time since Tinkerbell learned of her sister, Periwinkle, in 2012’s “Secret of the Wings”. In “The Pirate Fairy”, Tinkerbell (Mae Whitman of “Secret of the Wings” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is relegated to the ensemble, while a new fairy takes center stage – the adventurous, inquisitive Zarina (Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men”). Zarina is a dustkeeper fairy, entrusted with the production and safekeeping of the pixie dust the fairies use to fly.

We meet Zarina on her way to work at the depot that serves as the dust factory, and she seems distinguished from her fellow Pixie Hollow residents primarily in that she walks rather than flying. There’s teasing along the way about how she’s used up all of her dust (again), suggesting that perhaps she spends a little too much time playing around. As it turns out, she’s using the pixie dust for experiments she’s been conducting – trying to understand the magical properties of pixie dust. Her fellow pixies are more interested in that the pixie dust works and have no desire to understand how or why it works, but Zarina persists, even pestering her foreman, Fairy Gary, while helping him transfer the precious blue dust that serves as a multiplier for the gold dust. Just one speck of blue dust in the gold dust produces prodigious quantities of the latter, as Gary explains.


Tinkerbell and Zarina

Tinkerbell (Whitman) and Zarina (Hendricks) experiment with pixie dust


Zarina is later found in her home, experimenting with chips of blue dust, flower petals, and gold dust. Tinkerbell finds her and lends a helping hand, enabling Zarina to concoct multiple colors of dust in short order. While both pixies are fascinated with the results of the experiments, Zarina’s enthusiasm leads to an unfortunate industrial accident that causes a vine to grow out of control – wreaking havoc everywhere, including the Dust Depot. Fairy Gary strips Zarina of her dustkeeper duties, and she runs away from Pixie Hollow in her despair.

A year later, all of the pixies gather for an annual spectacle that brings together all four seasons’ worth of their clans, and the prodigal pixie returns under the cover of night. She uses some of her homemade dust to grow poppies that emit a powerful sleep pollen; all but Tinkerbell and a small chosen few of her friends remain unscathed and awake. With the majority of the other pixies out cold, Zarina pilfers the entire supply of blue dust and heads for the coast. Tinkerbell and her friends race after her, but Zarina scatters a series of dust colors on them – switching their talents – and heads to a pirate ship under her command.


James and Zarina

Cabin boy James (Hiddleston) and Captain Zarina (Hendricks) lord over their pirate ship


Tinkerbell and her friends, including Silvermist (Lucy Liu of “Elementary” and the “Charlie’s Angels” movies), have to learn how to control their new talents and sneak onto the pirate ship, where they find the spunky Zarina and her shipmates, including her cabin boy, James (Tom Hiddleston of the “Thor” movies and the forthcoming “Only Lovers Left Alive”). Zarina and James hatched the scheme to get the blue pixie dust so they could produce more gold pixie dust from the tree grown by one of Zarina’s special dust batches. The pirates hope to use their private pixie dust supply to make their ship fly through the air, committing acts of pillage and thievery world-wide with their untouchable “flying frigate”.


Tinkerbell and Zarina

Tinkerbell (Whitman) tries to reason with Zarina (Hendricks)


Suffice to say that the twists and turns in this plot are telegraphed nicely, and while kids may miss out on the origin story that emerges – keen-eyed adults will spot it and be pleasantly amused. There’s even a subtle reference to “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, for those keeping an ear open during a scene on the pirate ship. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes of actual movie (and don’t skip the first half of the credits, lest you miss the final BLINKING ARROW that points to exactly whose origin story is being told), “The Pirate Fairy” is a cute, family-friendly visit to Pixie Hollow that shows the value of friendship, persistence, and the scientific method. Hiddleston has a really great singing voice, so chalk one more point up for the young, talented Brit. One can only hope that he’ll continue to participate in future adventures, since James has many more stories yet to be written.


3 stars out of 4

“The Pirate Fairy” is available for sale on DVD and in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack starting April 1, 2014. This movie is rated G for general audiences.


Movie Review: “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” March 21, 2014



As I wrote a few weeks back, in my review of “Jim Henson: The Biography”, I’ve been a huge fan of Henson and The Muppets since I was a wee kidlet. I still remember the first time I saw “The Muppet Movie” and how amazing it was that The Muppets were on the big screen. We even watch “A Muppet Christmas Carol” every Christmas, without fail. So, it was with no small amount of excitement that I brought the family to this screening, planning to introduce the next generation to the wonder of The Muppets writ large.

The plot of this film revolves around The Muppets needing the next thing to do following finishing a movie. They’re slyly coerced into going on a world tour by the smooth operator, Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais of “Extras” and “Derek”). Badguy – who reassures them that the proper pronunciation is “Badge-e” (It’s French,  he coos across the table) – is a tour manager who wants to take The Muppets across the Pond to perform in some of Europe’s most famous cities. Coincident with their agreement, the scene changes to a gulag in frozen Siberia, where an evil character is set to make his escape. Constantine, the world’s most wanted villain, is a dead ringer for Kermit (except for a mole on the right side of his face), and he busts out of the Russian joint courtesy of a stockpile of explosives. Not long after, he connects with Dominic and makes plans to meet up with him in Berlin.


Dominic Badguy and Constantine

Dominic (Gervais) and Constantine blow this pop stand


While the tour spins up and Kermit books them into a series of fleabag, run-down theatres, The Muppets begin to look more and more to Dominic for leadership and a more glamorous experience. Dominic encourages a despondent Kermit to take a calming walk in dense fog (oh, sure), where he’s ambushed by Constantine – who’s armed with a fake mole and some industrial-strength glue. Kermit is immediately nabbed by the German police, who conveniently deliver him directly to the gulag, into the control of Nadya (Tina Fey of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”). And thus, the plot splits in two: one track follows Kermit (who Nadya reluctantly accepts as not Constantine), while he waits patiently for his friends to rescue him from the gulag; one track follows The Muppets, with Constantine and Dominic pulling off heist after heist, as they gather the pieces needed to steal Britain’s Crown Jewels, tucked away in The Tower of London, always one step ahead of the buddy cop pairing of Interpol’s Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”) and the CIA’s Sam the Eagle.

Jean Pierre Napoleon and Sam the Eagle

Napoleon (Burrell) and Sam, on the case


As one comes to expect from Muppet movies, there’s quite a bit of song-and-dance action by both Muppets and humans. These range from the sinister (a gloating Constantine singing “I’m Number One”, accompanied by Dominic glumly agreeing to his “Number Two” status) to the steamy (Constantine soulfully seducing Miss Piggy with “I’ll Get You What You Want”) to the downright silly (the gulag inmates warming up to “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line”, as they audition for the gulag’s annual talent show). The songs are generally okay, but few are memorable enough to make me suggest rushing right out for the soundtrack. For whatever it’s worth, the humans hold up their end of the singing bargain against tough competition; Gervais and Fey show off decent singing chops that nicely complement their well-toned comedic muscles.


Nadya and Kermit in the gulag

Nadya (Fey) introduces Kermit to life in the gulag


In general, I really wanted to love this movie – but I came away with the feeling that it was trying too hard. Clocking in at just under two hours, it runs a good 20 minutes longer than most small kids’ attention spans – and that brings me to my other concern. While Henson apparently struggled against the public perception that The Muppets were just for kids, this movie is clearly being marketed to young children. I took both of my kids – my 7yo daughter and 4-1/2yo son. My daughter generally liked the film, but the explosions and violence were off-putting for her. The reaction from my son was more visceral; by the time the film reached its climactic scene, he was in tears, snuggled up against me for comfort. So, as the question inevitably comes up as to whether “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” is good for kids, my answer would be that it depends greatly upon the age of the child in question and their comfort level with violence or “action”.

This is much the same problem I had with “Cars 2”, which was a spy film disguised as a kiddie film. That’s not to say that “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” was over-the-top with the explosions or the guns from an adult perspective; Henson loved explosions, so there are definitely scenes in this that he surely would have loved. On the other hand, marketing this film to young kids presupposes that it’s okay for them to watch…and that’s really very subjective. It all depends on the particular child’s tolerance for violence/action (which, in my son’s case, is really low).

On the plus side, “MUPPETS MOST WANTED” delivers the requisite cameos (too many to name without ruining the surprise), bad puns, and some really terrific movie tributes – including “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Moonraker”. In many ways, it’s a really cute film, but it runs a bit long in the name of trying to maximize all the usual gags. It’s also a bit unbelievable that The Muppets, who know Kermit so well, would somehow fail to notice that their fearless leader now sports an Eastern European accent and a permanent sneer. But, so what if things aren’t always fully baked? The Muppets continue to entertain, and their human counterparts hold up their end of the bargain. Consider it cute, light entertainment for adults and a mixed bag for kiddos, especially once you get below 8-10yo.


2-1/2 stars out of 4

“MUPPETS MOST WANTED” opens nationwide on March 21, 2014. This movie is rated PG for some mild action.


Movie Review: “Frozen 3D” November 27, 2013



It’s been a long time since I can say I saw a movie that was a home run, and I’m incredibly glad the drought is finally over. “Frozen”, the latest product of Walt Disney Animation, is a delightful musical loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Snow Queen”. The movie opens with ice choppers singing as they hack away at a frozen fjord, while a young boy (Kristoff) does his best to handle pint-sized tongs and his pet reindeer, Sven. In the nearby castle, two young princesses – elder sister Elsa and younger sister Anna – awake in the middle of the night for some mischief. Elsa has the power to create ice and snow at a touch, and the two young girls frolic in the interior winter wonderland. But as the play gets slightly out of hand, Anna is accidentally sideswiped in the head by a touch of ice from Elsa, and their parents (the King and Queen of Arendelle) take Anna to rock trolls to extract the ice before it freezes her forever.

The head troll, Pabbie (voiced by the stoic Ciarán Hinds of “Rome” and “Game of Thrones”), does as they bid, but he warns the King and Queen that he had to remove all of Anna’s memories of magic, and he further cautions them to hide away all evidence of magic. The King counsels Elsa privately: “Conceal it. Don’t feel it. Don’t let it show.” From that point forth, the family is effectively in isolation; they close the window coverings and the castle gates, and the girls are separated for reasons Anna will only learn far later. As the girls grow, Elsa becomes increasingly cold and sad, and Anna becomes eccentric, missing the company of her beloved sibling. Tragedy strikes yet again a few years later, as the King and Queen are lost at sea in a storm, and the girls have to wait in their confinements for enough time to pass before Elsa is due for her coronation as the queen.

The young queen-to-be (voiced by Idina Menzel, a Tony Award winner for “Wicked”) fears accidentally putting her power on display, since her forced isolation and her father’s instructions to hide her gift left her with no practice on how to properly control her chilly creations. Meanwhile, the boisterous Anna (Kristen Bell – of “Burlesque” and the forthcoming “Veronica Mars” movie) explores the town in eager anticipation of the coronation festivities and all the excitement they’ll bring. In her enthusiasm, Anna bumps into Prince Hans (Santino Fontana of “The Importance of Being Earnest”), in a meet-cute involving a horse, a rowboat, and the end of a dock on the fjord. He later sweeps her off her feet during the evening’s amusements, but his whirlwind marriage proposal to Anna is quickly dismissed by the new queen. When Anna challenges Elsa over her decision, emotions flare out of control and Elsa’s powers are revealed to a wide audience, splaying ice spikes and frozen coverings in every direction. Elsa flees, and a distraught Anna heads out after her – leaving Hans in charge.

Hans and Anna

Hans and Anna

As Elsa arrives in the cold mountains, she finally takes the reins off her powers and creates a beautiful castle of ice atop North Mountain, the tallest of the peaks. She casts off every bit of evidence of her prior life, and settles into a blissful exile in her cold fortress. Anna finds herself unable to negotiate the snowy environs on her own, so she enlists the help of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff from “Glee”) and Sven. On their way to Elsa’s new seat of power, Anna and Kristoff bump into an old friend of Anna’s and Elsa’s: Olaf the snowman (voiced by Josh Gad of “1600 Penn” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift”). He is based on the same design Elsa had made for Anna on that fateful night when they were children, and the icy queen’s awakened powers have somehow brought him to life. He tags along, a physical comedian of the highest order. Being blissfully unaware of the limitations of a snowman, he sings a giddy tune about how much he’d love to see summertime that leaves the audience giggling over his naïveté.


Olaf dreams of summer

The quartet manages to reach Elsa’s castle, but she’s in no mood to return to Arendelle with Anna, even upon hearing that she has frozen the town in the middle of the summer. She simply doesn’t have the ability or understanding of how to control her powers. The sisters quarrel again, this time with Elsa accidentally throwing a spike of her ice into Anna’s heart. The effect is insidious: Anna is mortally wounded but doesn’t yet realize it. Only after the foursome have escaped the castle do they realize something is horribly wrong, and Kristoff takes the princess to his friends – the same band of rock trolls – to be healed. Only an act of the truest love will save her and warm her heart again, and Kristoff rushes Anna back to Arendelle in the hope that she will find there what she needs to heal the wound to her heart.

Kristoff and Sven rush to Arendelle

Kristoff and Sven rush to Arendelle

The climax of “Frozen” seals it an excellent addition to the growing catalogue of Disney movies featuring women who come by their strength on their own, rather than only through the love of a man. The songs are crisp and effective, and small details in them show the excessive (and occasionally modern) humor threaded throughout this movie. Additionally, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ technology and artistry are clearly improving by leaps and bounds; Sven’s fur and the texture on the snowflakes exemplify the lessening distance between Disney’s internal animation studio and Disney-owned Pixar.

“Frozen” is either a movie for kids that grown ups would enjoy or it’s a movie for grown ups that kids would enjoy. Either way, it’s really a fantastic effort from Team Disney. The songs, written by the husband-and-wife team of Robert Lopez (“The Book of Mormon”) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (“Winnie the Pooh”), are sure to have the kids clamoring for the motion picture soundtrack in no time.

Anna and Elsa, in Elsa's icy fortress

Anna and Elsa, in Elsa’s icy fortress

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the 3D used in the movie. In some films, when I see the 3D version, I end up shrugging about how it’s okay but it didn’t really need the 3D or it didn’t lose much if you watched it in 2D. This is a movie that really begs to be seen in 3D, and it’s the first case in a long time – perhaps since I saw “Avatar” – when 3D  was used properly. Sure, there are a couple of early cases where the 3D leaps off the screen in almost gratuitous fashion, but that’s some of the joy in playing with this technology. Why should all the depth only be leading away from you? If it’s possible to see this one in 3D, I strongly recommend doing so.

There are a couple of scary scenes – but they’re really brief and things move on immediately.  For a movie that runs 1hr 48mins long, you’d think it would drag for the kiddos, but the constant nature of the action and the storyline keeps things moving apace from start to finish. The opening credits are a thing of beauty unto themselves, so moviegoers should be in their seats on-time, and they should stay put through the end credits – to catch a small extra scene at the very end of the credit roll.

“Frozen” is also preceded by a lovely short film, “Get a Horse”, a marvel of 3D animation that should win an Oscar on technical merit alone. The short showcases Mickey and Minnie Mouse in both 2D and 3D, literally giving a chase scene all new dimensions. I’m sure Walt Disney would be weeping tears of joy if he saw it, since both pieces together really show just how far his team’s animation has come.

4 stars out of 4

“Frozen 3D” opens nationwide on November 27, 2013. This movie is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.


Decisions, decisions…for a night “at the Opera” October 15, 2013

Filed under: movie reviews — crunchymetromom @ 7:38 am
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Realizing, of course, that I’m typically posting or commenting about how much I love alternative music, a-la RadioBDC, I suppose now’s as good a time as any to ‘splain that I also grew up with classical music…and loving it. As a matter of fact, the secular manner in which my family routinely completed the last few hours of the Yom Kippur fast was with a countdown using the movie “Amadeus” as our timekeeper. By the time {spoiler alert!} Wolfie was dead and Salieri was hyena-laughing in his wheelchair down the hallway, we knew it was sundown and time to start getting our chow back on.

My father also LURVES the opera in ways that really rival my love of alt music, except that he managed to tuck away the cash for season tickets to the Kennedy Center for several years. Growing up in the DC area, this was definitely one of the best places to catch the opera; there’s also something really impressive about going to a cultural mecca like that and having that as the place where your school field trips go. Really, growing up in DC just isn’t like growing up anywhere else, and I have such an appreciation for that. I think my awareness of this privilege grew exponentially once I moved to New England and I saw that you had to (gasp!) pay to get into museums! THE HORROR…

Anyhoo, here I am staring down a wonderful proposition and I’m looking for some suggestions on what I should do. I have been offered the tremendous opportunity to see operas performed by The Metropolitan Opera (OMG THE MET…!!!). Now, I wouldn’t be heading to NYC, since there’s just no time in my schedule, but I would still get to see Met performances live.

Through the miracle of modern filmmaking, rather than watching their performances on my local PBS station (who I do love and support and highly recommend everyone else support, since they make NOVA, Curious George, Arthur, and all kinds of wonderful things), The Met is bringing their operas to moviehouses around the country as The Met: Live in HD. Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily have my reviews up in time for others to go and see these (the way I can with most movie screenings), since I can’t go to the opening night performances of them all. But, what I’d like is to hear from you – dear readers – is which operas you’d want to see yourself and/or you’d like reviewed on my blog.


Here’s the rundown:

10/26 Live, 10/30 Encore        Shostakovich’s The Nose

11/9 Live, 11/13 Encore          Puccini’s Tosca

12/14 Live, 12/18 Encore        Verdi’s Falstaff

2/8 Live, 2/12 Encore               Dvořák’s Rusalka

3/1 Live, 3/5 Encore                 Borodin’s Prince Igor

3/15 Live, 3/19 Encore            Massenet’s Werther

4/5 Live, 4/9 Encore                Puccini’s La Bohème

4/26 Live, 4/30 Encore           Mozart’s Così fan tutte

5/10 Live, 5/14 Encore           Rossini’s La Cenerentola


I’ve bolded the ones that I’m really seriously considering because WOW opera and OMG The Met and holy cow what a great opportunity.

Any other operas fans out there…? Any suggestions? What would YOU like to see reviewed, or which of these would you most love to see?

Also, having had Boston Symphony Orchestra season tickets for many years (pre-kiddos), I know that not everything is always universally loved. So, if anybody has any suggestions of what they DON’T like, please do let me know. DH still laughs at the idea of my cringing whenever atonal classical pieces come on…to this day, I think I get mild PTSD if I hear a concertina.

So – there you have it…what should I go see?? I’d love to hear from fellow opera/classical music fans. And, if you’re interested in catching one of these shows yourself, check your local movie theaters for the dates above. Best as I can tell, they appear to be playing at Showcase Theaters in my area, but for best ticket info, go to Fathom Events and they’ll help you find a theater near you.



Non-disclaimery disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, although I was really offered free tickets to any opera I want to see, in exchange for a review (which is the same deal that I get for movie reviews). As usual, all opinions, snark, musings and whimsical thoughts are ALL MINE; the only thing I included from the outreach I received was the calendar of events and the link to Fathom. So, that’s as much disclaimer as I need to give. I DO, in fact, like opera and The Metropolitan Opera is, in fact, one of the best opera companies/houses in the world. Ask anybody who knows anything about opera. Really. I can wait. {tap. tap. tap.}


Movie Review: “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2 3D” September 27, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

It’s been four years since we last saw Swallow Falls, the little town hidden just below the “A” in “Atlantic” on the world map. At that time, the island was recovering from the aftermath of local crackpot inventor Flint Lockwood’s overtaxed “Flint Lockwood’s Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator” (FLDSMDFR for short). The wacky food machine had created rains of food for the town so sick of nothing but sardines, but a malfunction caused on by the local gourmands brought food hurricanes and spaghetti tornadoes to the island, among other oversized food-based calamities. Flint (Bill Hader of “Turbo” and “Monsters University”) shut down his machine just in time to save the island, and “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2” opens in the moments just following the climax of the first film, when Flint and his band of friends are celebrating their amazing survival.

This delightful sequel is one of the rare times where a second film keeps pace with the high quality of the original; as someone who hadn’t seen the original before I caught the sequel, I was pleased that the opening brings viewers up to speed without any loss of quality in storytelling. (I managed to watch the original the day following the screening, so I am now fully up to speed!)

At the start of the film, Flint and the gang –  best friend and girlfriend Sam Sparks (Anna Faris of “Movie 43” and “Yogi Bear”), father Tim (James Caan – who needs NO introduction), clueless Brent (Andy Samberg of “SNL”), jack-of-all-trades Manny (Benjamin Bratt of “Private Practice” and “Law & Order”), earnest policeman Earl (voiced this time by Terry Crews of “Arrested Development” and “The Newsroom”), and talking monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris of “The Smurfs” and “How I Met Your Mother”) – are sketching their design for their own company: SPARKSWOOD. Each of the group claims a place in their new venture, giving the sense that they will stay together forever. Their happy plans are immediately interrupted by the arrival of a helicopter from LIVE Corp, the primary venture of Flint’s childhood hero: inventor Chester V (Will Forte of “SNL” and “The Cleveland Show”). A holographic Chester V emerges from the copter and explains to the townspeople that LIVE Corp has been contracted to clean up the entire island, and all they have to do is evacuate to San Franjose, where housing and jobs await them for the short period of their displacement.

Steve and Flint tour LIVE Corp headquarters with Barb

Steve and Flint tour LIVE Corp headquarters with Barb

The residents decamp for the mainland – some more grudging than others – and Flint is immediately taken under the wing of Chester V, who brings him on staff at LIVE Corp and challenges him to earn one of the coveted “Thinkquanaut” orange vests by having the best invention of all company employees. Flint throws himself into the challenge with gusto, continuing to invent silly idea after silly idea, including a day-glow, confetti laden party in a box that seems to be an IED from Party City. When Flint isn’t chosen at the “vesting” ceremony and instead accidentally detonates one of his parties in a box, Chester V realizes the time is ripe for the picking.

On the pleasant island of Swallow Falls, Chester V’s Thinkquanauts have been working hard to pick apart and find the coveted FLDSMDFR, and they’ve been having poor luck. Chester V seizes the opportunity to recruit the down-and-out Flint to find the machine himself, selling Flint on the idea that the FLDSMDFR has reactivated and has created monster cheeseburgers with french fry legs that are sure to leave the island any minute now and destroy the Statue of Liberty. Although Flint is charged with handling the task alone, Sam and his other friends – even his father – all bundle together on a boat and head out for Swallow Falls to save the world.

Steve, Flint and Sam

Steve, Flint and Sam

When they arrive, they find “foodimals”, animals derived from food in rather hilarious ways. Some are merely cute, such as the massively adorable strawberry Sam immediately names “Barry”, and others are built for easy laughs, such as the pickles that are reminiscent of South Park’s Terence and Philip. Plays on words, such as “shrimpanzees”, “susheep” and “watermelephants” provide clever visuals and excellent puns. These jokes may mostly go over kids’ heads, but playing to the entire audience is a really good thing.

Steve vs a shrimpanzee

Steve vs a shrimpanzee

Flint and co. explore the island and use varied means to locate the FLDSMDFR; Swallow Falls has turned into a foodimal Lost World with more cute than danger – but the number of pitfalls, detours and distractions is by no means small. When Chester V and his second-in-command, the unflappable chimpanzee-turned-scientist Barb (Kristen Schaal of “The Daily Show” and “30 Rock”), head out to the island to intercept and motivate Flint, cracks form in Flint’s fellowship. In the end, it’s up to more than just Flint to find a way to save Swallow Falls and his search party, and this sweet, cute film finds a way to wrap things up without putting little kids on the receiving end of too many scares.

Chester V and Flint lead the search for the FLDSMDFR

Chester V and Flint lead the search for the FLDSMDFR

I brought both of my kids to this screening, so I can say that little kiddos don’t appear to have too much to worry about from this film; there’s little frightening in it and the jokes are aimed more at adults than at kids (sailing well over the heads of my 4yo ds and 6yo dd). As to the question of whether this is a movie that should be seen in 3D, I can say that the 3D is nice but not required. The bright visuals would look just as good in 2D, and the added depth of the 3D is attractive but not necessarily worth the additional cost, if you’re not typically inclined to paying for 3D movies.

3-1/2 out of 4 stars

“Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 3D” opens nationwide on September 27, 2013. This movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance suggested) for mild rude humor.


Movie Review: “Planes 3D” August 9, 2013



“From above the world of Cars…” is the teaser from the promos, intended to remind potential viewers that “Planes” is another view into a beloved universe created by the folks at Pixar. This teaser ends up being rather unnecessary – since everything about the movie, from the cow-tractor cameos to the underpinnings of the storyline cherry-picks liberally from the “Cars” franchise. As it happens, while the world was created by Pixar, the movie was created by DisneyToon – originally intended as a direct-to-DVD production and then shifted to a theater release.

The movie centers on Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook of “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Good Luck Chuck”), a crop duster with dreams of becoming a racer. Dusty wants to compete in the “Wings Around the World Rally”, an around-the-globe challenge that would pit him against the world’s fastest planes. It’s a 7-leg challenge, stretching from New York City to Iceland, Germany, India, Nepal, China, and Mexico, before finishing back at the starting line in New York. In desperate need of a real trainer, Dusty and his trusty sidekick, the gasoline tanker Chug (“Everybody Loves Raymond” actor Brad Garrett), enlist war hero Skipper (Stacy Keach, a TV/movie veteran of everything from “Mistral’s Daughter” to “The Bourne Legacy”). The cranky Skipper is highly dubious that Dusty has what it takes to win, especially when it’s revealed that Dusty is terrified of heights and will only fly less than one thousand feet off the ground.


Dusty Crophopper

Dusty Crophopper


Nevertheless, Skipper trains him – and then off goes Dusty for a Rally qualifier. He manages to hold his own but initially fails to make the cut-off; however, thanks to the aerial equivalent of doping discovered in another racer, Dusty squeaks into the qualifying group and heads off for the Rally. It’s there that he meets a suite of racers from around the world – including the refined and sarcastic Bulldog (“Monty Python” icon John Cleese), the amusing and sweet El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui of “Reno 911!”), and the dastardly and arrogant Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith of “Wreck-it Ralph” and “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”).


Dusty and Ripslinger

Dusty and Ripslinger


Dusty squares off against a field of talented and much faster planes, trying to prove to himself – and to others – that a simple crop duster can manage to be something more. As Dusty explains while wistfully examining the Rally’s course on a world map, “I’ve flown thousands of miles and never been anywhere.” He struggles with his own limitations as much as others struggle with them, but the more he competes the more he’s able to stretch even his own idea of what he can and can’t do.

The only problem with “Planes” is that, as much as it’s a new production, there’s little about it that’s truly original. The concept of a young hotshot in need of guidance from someone more seasoned is territory well-mined in the relationship between Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson in the first “Cars” film. Keach’s gravelly voice makes the cantankerous Skipper a gray, aerial Doc, and the green villain, Ripslinger, was very much Chick Hicks with a propeller. Even the idea of a multi-leg, around-the-world race between a mouthy, arrogant nemesis and the good guy was well-covered in “Cars 2”.


Chug and Dottie

Chug and Dottie


The only real original bits came with El Chupacabra, especially around his romantic intentions towards Rochelle, a French Canadian plane voiced by the ever-talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Seinfeld” and “Veep”, among many others). The rest of the movie seemed very much a recycling of “Cars”-world motifs and storylines, sometimes with the roles reversed, but ultimately so similar that this wasn’t so much “from above the world of Cars” as it was just “from Cars”.

A cute tale with only a small amount of scary bits in it, “Planes” is a perfectly fine film for kids. The run time is just about 90 minutes, so it’s a quick enough film for viewers of all ages. Also, I saw this movie in 3D and while I’m sure it’ll be available in 2D, there’s something to be said for seeing this with the additional depth that 3D brings.

While this movie used some of the same technologies routinely employed by Pixar and even had some Pixar heavyweights in lead positions (like Executive Producer John Lasseter), this was a Disney-made movie. Clearly, the cross-over worked well from a technical execution standpoint; the renderings were nicely done, with good texture on the trees, grass and other items that have variable surfaces. The smooth surfaces of cars and airplanes tended to look too shiny and unreal – but this is how things looked in “Cars”, as well, so I’m less likely to think that a limitation of the DisneyToon team. As an approximation of a Pixar flick not from Pixar itself, this is very decent work.

For fans of “Cars” and that universe, this is a fun, brief diversion. If you’re looking for something original and breathtakingly new from Disney, this won’t really get you there…but maybe the upcoming sequel (“Planes: Fire & Rescue” – advertised at the end of the credits) will provide something new for Dusty and Co.


2 out of 4 stars


“Planes 3D” opens nationwide on August 9, 2013. This movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance suggested) for some mild action and rude humor.


Movie Review: “Monsters University 3D” June 21, 2013

Filed under: movie reviews — crunchymetromom @ 7:49 am
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Monsters University


In a time when sequels and reboots abound, Pixar decided to breathe a little new air into the “Monsters, Inc.” universe with a prequel to explore how Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) became friends. When we first saw Mike and Sulley in “Monsters, Inc.”, they were an unbeatable “Scare Team” at Monsters, Inc.: a company that harnessed frightened children’s screams to generate power. “Monsters University” opens with a fresh-faced Mike as an elementary school student on a field trip to Monsters, Inc. It’s on this trip that Mike falls in love with the idea of being a “Scarer”, and he’s encouraged by one of the hot-shot scarers to go to his alma mater: Monsters U.


Mike Wazowski arriving at MU


Fast-forward a few years, and Mike is now a retainer-mouthed freshman at Monsters University, majoring in Scaring. His roommate is the terribly insecure Randy (the character of Randall, reprised by the remarkable Steve Buscemi), whose chameleonic powers are exceeded only by his creepiness. As Mike attends his first scaring class, he’s introduced to the most powerful person on campus: Dean Hardscrabble (played delightfully by Helen Mirren). The Dean has a warning for all potential scarers: failure to pass the semester final exam will result in expulsion from the Scaring program.


Mike Wazowski vs Dean Hardscrabble


Mike hits the books, while classmate Sulley spends all of his time partying with the alpha fraternity, RΩR (pronounced “Roar Omega Roar”), led by BMoC Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion). Come the final, Mike knows all the theory forwards, backwards, sideways and down but lacks the technique to pull off a true scare. Sulley, riding the coattails of his father’s legacy, has the roar without any of the book-smarts. It’s easy to see where “Animal House” provided ample material for Pixar; there’s even an (accidental) guitar-smashing moment that’s vaguely reminiscent of Bluto’s run-in with a guitar during the Delta House’s toga party.


Oozma Kappa Fraternity


When the two are dropped from the Scaring program, Mike blames Sulley and charges out on his own to win back his shot at being scary through the “Scare Games” – an inter-fraternity scaring challenge that’s some kind of Pan-Hellenic nightmare tour. Requiring a Greek sponsor, Mike and Sulley join up with OK – Oozma Kappa – the misfit fraternity that’s clearly chronically under-recruited and undesirable. This is where the movie mines the “Revenge of the Nerds” oeuvre rather liberally, with results as satisfying as those when Lambda Lambda Lambda went up against the Alpha Betas in the Greek Games.


Roar Omega Roar


There are still challenges left for Mike and Sulley, but most of those revolve around the pair’s complex relationship: built first on mutual dislike that eventually turns into respect and true collegiality. You see the delicate machine of their Scaring Team come together brilliantly by the end of the film, and the pair really learn how to leverage each others’ strengths to win – together.


Scare Games


While Mike and Sulley’s story is satisfying from a perspective of “Ah, this explains everything“, it’s not exactly original – and that’s really the only issue I have with the film. I came out of it having definitely enjoyed myself, but it was all too easy to see where the filmmakers had taken a bit too much inspiration from teen/college/coming of age movies that came before – “Animal House”, “Revenge of the Nerds”…even “Carrie”. At least Dean Hardscrabble wasn’t the fool Dean Wormer was, but it’s impossible to imagine Helen Mirren ever playing the fool. “Monsters University” was an enjoyable and amusing film, but it lacked the originality and spark that so many prior Pixar films showed (including the original “Monsters, Inc.”).


From a technical perspective, I have to say that this was a delightful view in 3D. I’m sure that it’s fine in 2D, but the depth and scale of both the characters and the Monsters University campus really stand out far more with the very well-done 3D. The voicework is fantastic, with the reprising actors (including Crystal, Goodman, and Buscemi) all turning in great performances.


The movie is rated G – raising the natural question: “Should I take my kids to see Monsters University?” I can’t speak for all kids, but for little ones that had no trouble dealing with the scare factor in “Monsters, Inc.”, “Monsters University” should be fine. I actually found this movie less scary than the first movie in the franchise, so I’d say this movie should appeal well to little ones and grown-ups alike. “Monsters University” is preceded by a really fantastic short film – “The Blue Umbrella” – providing ample reason to make it to the seats on-time.


3 out of 4 stars

“Monsters University 3D” opens nationwide on June 21, 2013. This movie is rated G (General Audiences).


Movie Review: “The Blue Umbrella” (Short) June 19, 2013

Filed under: movie reviews — crunchymetromom @ 7:16 am
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The Blue Umbrella


Last year, I extolled the virtues of Disney returning animation to its true form with “Paperman”, a short I was sure would win an Oscar (and it did). This year, Pixar’s short “The Blue Umbrella” presents yet another wonderfully done sweet tale of love – albeit with a twist.

As the scene opens, a city starts to experience the first few fat drops of rain from an oncoming shower. Inanimate objects on the city streets begin reacting to the rain with muted joy and subtle smiles as they soak it in. Umbrellas soon emerge as the protectors of the various passers-by, mostly the generic, stalwart black umbrellas sported in every city. There’s one standout, though: a blue umbrella. This bright blue umbrella revels in the rain, clearly enjoying the shower as much, if not more so, than the other supposedly lifeless characters on the street.

Waiting at a light, the blue umbrella spots another colorful protector in the crowd; a lovely red umbrella shares a shy, coy moment with the blue umbrella until they’re cruelly separated by their owners heading in opposite directions. The two umbrellas are heartbroken, and the blue umbrella does his best to make his way back to his beloved – to sometimes jarring consequences. In the end, love does conquer all, even the rain, providing a wholly satisfying ending for the adorable pair.


Blue and Red Umbrellas


The more I think on “The Blue Umbrella”, the more I think it certainly has a decent shot at winning the Oscar this year. It’s a sheer joy to watch, and the computer graphics feel and look so real as to be wholly believable. Well, if you believe that umbrellas can fall in love…and really: why not?


4 out of 4 stars

“The Blue Umbrella” will be shown in theatres prior to viewing of “Monsters University”, which opens nationwide on June 21, 2013.




Movie Review: “Oz the Great and Powerful 3D” March 6, 2013

Filed under: movie reviews — crunchymetromom @ 7:25 am
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Oz the Great and Powerful

I’ll admit it: I came into this movie with expectations deeply tempered by all of the CGI-backlash fueled by recent big-budget box office flops. I’ve also seen prequels that couldn’t match up to the movie they were attempting to lead in, after the fact (I’m looking at you, George Lucas). Detractors beware: this movie actually really IS worth seeing. It’s also worth pointing out that, although this film will also be shown in 2D and IMAX, I really enjoyed seeing it in 3D. Sure, some of the 3D usage is a bit gratuitous (c’mon, they spent $200 million on the CGI!), but much of it is just so well done that I found myself marveling at it and really enjoying the added depth it gave to the picture rather than finding it distracting or overwhelming.

The movie opens in a boxed format and black-and-white tone that suggests you’re seeing something limited, something from the past that doesn’t quite meet current supersize, full color expectations. It’s the early 20th century, and dusty Kansas is receiving a visit from a traveling circus that’s home to a young con man named Oscar Diggs (James Franco – “Spiderman”, “Eat, Pray, Love”), who bills himself as Oz – a magnificent wizard extraordinaire whose powers require only that you believe (a constant thread in L. Frank Baum’s original story). As part of the early prequel setup, a sweet visitor from Diggs’ past runs through town, Annie (Michelle Williams – “Dawson’s Creek” and “My Week With Marilyn”), tries to goad him into committing by notifying him that she’s been offered the hand of Frank Gale. Diggs decides to let Annie go to a better future with a better man, but before he can truly finish saying goodbye he finds himself chased out by the circus’ strongman, intent on punishing him for taking advantage of a female member of the troupe. Diggs seeks shelter in a hot air balloon, taking with him only a few key belongings tossed up by his faithful assistant, Frank (Zack Braff – “Scrubs” and “Garden State”).

A tornado soon enters the picture, pulling Diggs seemingly to his doom. It’s here that the 3D effects start to pour in; the twister is far more terrifying than the one in the 1939 “The Wizard of Oz” based on Baum’s tale (which I still find frightening to this day), with projectiles coming at Diggs from nearly every possible angle. His trip finally ends as the twister spits him out the top of the funnel and down he descends into a technicolor world that suddenly expands the picture to fill the entire screen: the land of Oz. The landscapes unfold in blistering bursts of color and sound that are lushly beautiful in a way that down-on-its-luck early century Kansas can’t match. He soon meets Theodora (Mila Kunis – “That 70’s Show” and “Black Swan”) and works his charms on her as she explains that he must be the one who will fulfill the prophecy that looms large over the kingdom: the wizard who comes to Oz bearing the very same name will be the one who frees it from the tyranny of the Wicked Witch. As they begin traveling together, they come across Finley, a small flying monkey of the variant from the “The Wizard of Oz”, voiced by Braff in one of several multi-role turns evocative of the 1939 film.

Diggs and Theodora approach the Emerald City

Diggs and Theodora approach the Emerald City

Theodora brings Diggs to the Emerald City and introduces him to her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz – “The Mummy” and “The Bourne Legacy”), the King’s advisor. Evanora wastes little time in trying to drive a wedge between Theodora and Diggs, while she seduces him with the idea of wealth beyond his wildest dreams. All he has to do is go to the Dark Forest and kill the Wicked Witch. Diggs resists, but ultimately his greed wins out and he heads out on his quest. On the way to the Dark Forest, Diggs and Finley find Chinatown and rescue a young China Girl (Joey King – “Ramona and Beezus” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”) who joins them on their quest. The witch Diggs has been sent to kill turns out to be none other than Glinda (also played by Williams), the Good Witch of the South.

Diggs and Glinda

Diggs and Glinda

At this point, Diggs’ life takes a serious left turn. What he thought was up turns out to be down, and what he believed to be true turns out to be completely otherwise. The various characters sprinkled throughout played by the same actors (such as Braff’s Frank and Finley, or Williams’ Annie and Glinda) serve much the same purpose as those from the 1939 film, providing the same measure of support and guidance in each of the worlds without the protagonist really understanding why. Of course, knowing that Diggs remains in Oz until Dorothy’s arrival, you don’t expect him to wake and find them all standing above him. So, to that end, this movie serves as a point for you to search for the clues – how will they make the origin story?

Diggs and Finley

Diggs and Finley

Much to my enjoyment, several pieces from the original book live on in the movie: Chinatown existed in the book but never made it to the 1939 film, and Glinda is restored to her role as the Good Witch of the South (instead of the North). The Quadlings, who had little billing before, took center stage for the latter third of the film. The silver slippers (turned ruby for the 1939 film to help showcase the advance in color film technology) did not appear, that I was able to discern, but the measure of Diggs’ ingenuity in setting up the mechanisms to allow him to appear omnipotent to his subjects is explored well enough that you get the sense that he really is the savvy con man seen both in the book and the 1939 film.

Evanora and Theodora

Evanora and Theodora

So, what does the movie do well? The CGI and 3D are really the stars of the show. Oz is gorgeous, otherworldly and magical, just as you would expect if you’d read Baum’s work. King is lovely as the China Girl and Williams is as sweet and gentle as Billie Burke had been in 1939. Kunis and Weisz give decent performances, although some of the contrivances added to Kunis’ performance in the latter quarter of the film seem a bit forced and unnatural. Still, it all comes together quite nicely. The beauty of “Oz the Great and Powerful” isn’t the attempt to get the Oscar – it’s the aim to tell a part of a story we never really heard before in such a way as to fascinate and excite us. It’s escapism at its height, pulling us so far our of our reality that we fall into another world entirely, just like Diggs.

If the movie suffers from one down side, it’s a bit too much James Franco. He’s one of these incredibly frustrating actors who may have potential but seems to spend a bit too much time not feeling comfortable in his character’s skin. I had a hard time finding myself convinced that he was a slick con-man. It’s only towards the very end of the movie that he seems to be fully in command of Diggs, and perhaps that’s just because it’s only then that Diggs really sees how he himself is able to do what must be done. Still, it leaves too much of the film with Franco putting in a performance that doesn’t match quite as well as those of sweet, earnest King or the amusingly eager Braff. Keep an eye out for a late appearance by Bruce Campbell (“Evil Dead”); he’s a staple of director Sam Raimi (the “Spiderman” trilogy) and one of my favorite easter eggs in any Raimi production.

As for the question of whether this movie is appropriate for young kids, I’d have to say that it’s not really one I’d recommend for those under the age of 8. There are some scary scenes, especially towards the end of the film, and the Wicked Witch’s flying baboons might be enough to send a Kindergartner into a crying jag. Add the extra punch of really well-done 3D (which this really was) and it might be a bit much for the truly younger set.

Having years ago read the presumptive (and completely unrelated) literary prequel, “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire, and having walked out during the intermission of the eponymous musical (which I couldn’t have loathed more if I tried), I can say this is a decent enough take on the prequel concept without the political intrigue built into Maguire’s book. There’s plenty of setup without it all being over-the-top, and you could follow from this right into the 1939 movie without all of the drama and nerdy shouts of “CONTINUITY ERROR!” that occurred when Lucas decided to make prequels for the “Star Wars” trilogy.

Lastly, make sure you’re there for the start of the film. The opening credits take full advantage of the 3D in a way that’s just utterly lovely, and they’re not to be missed.

3-1/2 out of 4 stars

“Oz the Great and Powerful 3D” opens nationwide on March 8, 2013. This movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.


Movie Review: “Wreck-It Ralph 3D” November 2, 2012

Filed under: movie reviews — crunchymetromom @ 5:48 am
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Wreck-It Ralph

For those of us who spent good portions of our youth feeding quarters into arcade games, “Wreck-It Ralph 3D” is a sweet return to long-lost friends, like Q*bert and Pac-Man. And, of course, it’s our introduction to a supposed game from the same time period, “Fix-It Felix, Jr”, the home for the eponymous good-guy foil for the movie’s namesake. As the story goes (illustrated in a song run over the end credits), Ralph (John C. Reilly – “Talladega Nights” and “Boogie Nights”) was living well enough on his own until his land was taken by eminent domain and had a high-rise apartment building put on it. As his revenge on the interlopers, he takes took his huge hands and starts bashing in windows, all the while spouting his tag line: “I’M GONNA WRECK IT!” Enter Fix-It Felix (played by Jack Brayer, well-known for his work on “30 Rock”), who uses his magical fixing hammer to reset everything back to normal. As Felix undoes all of the wrecking wrought by Ralph, he climbs the high-rise and is presented with a medal by the apartment building’s residents, the Nicelanders.

Wreck-It Ralph: Felix is presented with his medal

Felix is presented with his medal

Once the arcade closes for the night, you see an arcade version of what happens to the toys in “Toy Story” when no one is around: they play, they eat, they hang out with each other, and they even travel between each other’s games via a conduit system known as “Game Central Station” – a vast transfer point embedded within the power plugs and power strips that feed electricity to the machines. As “Fix-It Felix” reaches its 30th anniversary, Ralph finds himself in a support group for bad guys, trying to understand why he doesn’t ever get to be presented with a medal, why he’s never the hero. His fellow baddies assure him that this is never meant to be – that he should accept being the bad guy – and they try to make him take it “One Game At A Time”. When Ralph returns to his game, he finds the denizens of the apartment building lighting it up (literally), celebrating the game’s anniversary with dancing, fireworks, and even a cake…but not with him. Since he considers himself an integral part of the game’s success, he tries to insinuate himself into the party. But, in the end, it all falls apart on him – leaving him frustrated and vowing to return with his own shiny medal to rival the ones won by Felix at the end of every successful game.

Wreck-It Ralph: Bad Anon meeting

BAD-ANON: One Game At A Time

As he broods in the “Tapper” barkeep game, Ralph comes across a soldier from a first-person shooter game fighting “cy-bugs”, evil, fast-breeding bugs that destroy or eat everything in their path. He learns that the soldier’s game, “Hero’s Duty”, ends with the surviving soldier getting a medal, and he immediately sets off to join the unit. At this point, Ralph meets up with Sergeant Calhoun (voiced wonderfully by the incredible Jane Lynch – “Glee” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, among others). She tries to lead him into battle but he manages to make his way through on his own, eventually reaching his coveted medal and then immediately making a complete mess of everything. Ralph ends up in an escape capsule with a cy-bug and mistakenly trespasses on yet another game: the deceptively sweet, candy coated go-kart game, “Sugar Rush”. His game-jumping creates a problem in “Fix-It Felix, Jr.”, since the villain isn’t there to create any wreckage for the hero to fix, and the game is labeled “Out of Order” – a literal sign that it will be turned off and put on the scrap heap without Ralph’s return. A distraught Felix decides he needs to go in search of Ralph to set things right and bring him home.

Wreck-It Ralph: Sergeant Calhoun

Calhoun is locked-and-loaded

It’s at this point that Ralph makes the acquaintance of Vanellope von Schweetz, a pint-sized antagonist played to bratty perfection by Sarah Silverman (“The Sarah Silverman Show” and “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic”). Vanellope gets her hands on Ralph’s medal and uses it as her entry fee to the road race to determine the nine top avatars that will be offered in the next day’s go-kart races. As Ralph soon discovers, Vanellope is as much of an outcast as he is, and he agrees to help her in her quest to compete in the race. Unfortunately for Vanellope and Ralph, it seems as though all of the other citizens of “Sugar Rush” are out to stop them, especially King Candy – a Mad Hatter-looking figure voiced by the wonderful Alan Tudyk (“Firefly”, “A.I” and – for those, like me, who saw him on Broadway – “Spamalot”).

Wreck-It Ralph: Vanellope

Vanellope – the sugary thorn in Ralph’s side

Meanwhile, Sergeant Calhoun and Fix-It Felix, Jr. have teamed up, Felix aiming to find Ralph and bring him back before his disappearance spells the end for the game, and Sergeant Calhoun hoping to destroy the cy-bug that hitched a ride in Ralph’s escape pod. As she describes it, the cy-bug will eventually take over and completely obliterate all the games, and Calhoun is the last line of defense. The latter third of the movie is action on top of action – Vanellope and Ralph clashing and colliding with King Candy and his loyal subjects across the sugary landscape while Calhoun and Felix work feverishly to chase down the deadly cy-bug that threatens the survival of all of the games.

Wreck-It Ralph: King Candy

King Candy tries to reason with Ralph

While many gamer jokes are hidden within the earlier scenes, it’s the time spent in the land of “Sugar Rush” where all the candy jokes come into play, some of which are incredibly silly (yet wholly amusing) puns. As you would expect, there are a number of cameos from real-world video game characters, like Clyde from Pac-Man and Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog. Q*bert probably has the best (and largest) cameo of the bunch. This is a cute, sweet film that uses the gamer (and candy) in-jokes as seasoning, rather than as the main meal. “Wreck-It Ralph 3D” is, at its core, a movie about what it means to be a hero.

It’s worth sticking around through the credits (more gamer jokes), including a small scene at the very end of the credits. The 3D in this movie is fairly well done, although I found that I had trouble with fuzziness at times. I’m not sure how much of that was the placement of the glasses with respect to my eyes, but some shots just seemed crisper than others. It is worth noting, however, that the animators clearly took great pains to make certain levels of graphics or certain movements by characters matched the quality and style of their time. The characters in “Sugar Rush” are much more like what you’d expect to see today – slick movements and glossy graphics, while the choppy movements of the “Fix-It Felix, Jr.” characters is clearly fitting for a 30-year-old game.

“Wreck-It Ralph 3D” is a clever film, answering a question I don’t know that we could have imagined without “Toy Story”, and it’s really very nicely executed by the team at Disney. (Pixar had a hand to play, as well, as John Lasseter executive produced.) Some of the early time spent in “Sugar Rush” is a bit lengthy, and I wonder if the 3D was really necessary for many of the shots, but overall I think it was a really cute and often amusing film.

Also worth noting: “Wreck-It Ralph 3D” is preceded by the 3D version of “Paperman”, which I saw earlier this year just prior to a special screening of “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”. “Paperman” was just as sweet and wonderful in 3D, although I don’t even think it needed to be presented in 3D. It didn’t gain a ton other than a slight amount of visual depth by pulling the characters forward and making the backgrounds more clearly backgrounds. The heart and soul of the story is still the same, and I still think it’s Oscar-level material.

Lastly, while there were plenty of kids in the audience at the screening I attended, “Wreck-It Ralph” does have a couple of scenes that some small children may find scary, particularly the ones with the cy-bugs and the final showdown at the end of the film. Kids unfamiliar with shooter games may also find the gunplay overwhelming for the handful of scenes where guns are used.

3 out of 4 stars

“Wreck-It Ralph 3D” opens nationwide on November 2, 2012. This movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) for some rude humor and several scenes of action/violence.


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