Movies

Wreck it Ralph 2, The Re-Wreckining..

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Yeah, that’s not the real title. Get over it.
Spoilers within. Click away, if you care.


Wreck it Ralph hit on all cylinders for me as a family film. You’ve got arcade stuff, a heartwarming friendship and a story about finding a way to live in your own skin. Do we like going to work day in and day out? Do we like taking our the trash, cleaning toilets, & the general work of self-maintenance? No. These things are work and can be tedious and feel menial.

This goes for anything you do for 30 years'; even things you love.

The moral of Wreck it Ralph showed us that happiness can be found in sharing these menial moments with people that we love. With friends and family and loved ones that accept us for the people we are and often see us differently, more positively, than we see ourselves.

Wreck it Ralph 2 follows with a narrative about clingy-ness and co-dependency; about lying to friends about and general Pettiness. The movie has its moments but it is also a complete betrayal of the first, which I find unforgivable.

I played The VO1D Ralph Breaks The Internet Experience before seeing the movie and nothing was really spoiled in doing so. The V01D Experience was a 15 minute playable movie trailer for the 2 hr commercial that is Ralph Breaks the Internet. John C. Reilly is charming as Ralph and Sarah Silverman is ever-adorable as Vanellope. Gal Gadot is excellent in a role as Shank, an MMO racer analog to Vanellope.

Vanellope’s game breaks and there’s an ever-relatable scene for Arcade Collectors in that the arcade manufacturer is no longer in business and the replacement part is expensive - and on eBay.

Aside from this chuckle the movie explores Ralph & Vanellope’s relationship as they travel through the internet in search of the arcade part (or funds to buy it.) Ralph’s simpleton tendencies are turned up to 11 and Vanellope’s sweetness is turned down in favor of her own selfish pursuits. Ralph is over-controlling and Vanellope and Ralph are both dishonest to one another.

Logos! So many corporate logos!

Logos! So many corporate logos!

Everyone’s a villain in a plot that mirrors the first in a frustrating way.

Imagine if - after watching Luke Skywalker destroy the death star and save the rebellion, the beginning of ESB showed Luke gassing up Death Star 2 and entering the coordinates for the new rebel base. In Wreck it Ralph 1 the tension is around Ralph leaving his game and the impact to the other characters in his absence that will result in the game being decommissioned. Here, Vanellope decides she is bored with Candy Crush and that it’s okay for her to just leave and be part of an apocalyptic MMO / GTA clone. They hand-waive it off will “they’ll never even miss me.” W. T. F.

The movie has math mistakes (27years vs 30years for Fix it Felix) and plot holes galore.. It’s as if someone at Disney asked Alexa to build them a movie script.

I give it two out of 5 Quarters. I preordered it on Apple TV as a purchase and should have rented, instead..

Bandersnatch

Netflix with short notice dropped Black Mirror: Bandersnatch as a late Christmas or early New Years gift to their subscribers. 

But.. why am I talking about it on an arcade blog? 

It is a movie (which are videos, right?) it is also an on-rails video game of sorts.

Set in 1984 (because, of course: 1984), Bandersnatch is a choose your own adventure-styled interactive film that follows the  journey of a programmer creating a Zork (but with graphics) styled computer game based on a choose-your-own-adventure novel by the same name.

The film is said to have five main endings with many variants on each of the five endings.   The story is recursive and meta at times with plenty of exposition on the nature of free will, the possibility that the characters (and viewer) live in a simulation and Government conspiracy. Also, some pretty cheesy but dark Pac-man references.

Charlie Booker apparently spent extra time pouring over Plato’s The Allegory of The Cave playing text adventure games in a cloud of bong smoke.

I say that more out of jealousy in comparison to how I spent my time in 2018. :)

The movie is so meta at times that it becomes meta about its own meta-ness. One ending includes a cassette tape being played that contains Differential Manchester Encoding audio tones (kinda like Modem noises) that when loaded in a ZX Spectrum emulator take you to a QR code that takes you to a link to download a ZX Spectrum game from the movie.

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Unfortunately, Bandersnatch doesn’t run everywhere that Netflix runs. I was surprised to find the Apple TV 4k was unable to play the film. The latest generation Apple TV plays Angry Birds, Crossy Road and Minion Rush but not.. this. Go figure? It doesn’t play on ChromeCast either so this can’t be blamed solely as an Apple conspiracy. (“It’s a tech conspiracy, man! 1984, free your mind man…”) It does work on many other devices though; including PS4 and XBOne as well as many Smart TV’s. (Which, frankly surprised me because Smart TV’s apps are usually crap.)

Because this is Black Mirror, don’t expect a heart-warming Hallmark tale of family and virtue. I found the main character to be relate-able and as I steered his choices towards those options that I thought may bring him more happiness (or less pain) I was reminded that Black Mirror isn’t likely to reward such behavior.

Black Mirror clearly favors the darker decisions and this makes it more Grand Theft Auto than Zork.

If you are a film nerd like me, The Wikipedia article contains some interesting production notes that are worth a glimpse.  Things like orphaned story branches and challenges in script composition that led the creators to use things like Twine instead of typical Script Treatment packages.

All in all, I don’t think Booker’s Bandersnatch will be to Interactive Storytelling what Cameron’s Avatar was to Real3D. But, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this viewing experience. More will follow, I’m sure..

Ready Player One

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Be thee warned, herein lies light spoilers.

If we were to hop into a flux-capacitor equipped DeLorean DMC-12 and travel back in time to visit my bedroom as a kid, I resembled James Halliday from the book in many ways.  In the back bedroom of a trailer in Indiana, my C64 sits on a rickety table supported by phonebook-thick Visual Basic books connected through atrocious wiring and a 9600 baud modem to the outside world.   

ATN0S37=9 <RETURN> ATDT1812-294-xxxx<RETURN>.   I could turn off error correction and ask for 9600 baud but it would usually negotiate down to 2400 baud instead.

A dot matrix printer sits on the nearby night stand. VHS copies, recorded from broadcast of Star Wars, Weird Science and real VHS without cover of Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom sit scattered around the room. Apparently I kept the Indy rental too long and the late-fees were such that they told us to just "keep it."   My folks were pissed and I recall sweeping and cleaning up in Dad's shop one summer to pay for it.

I had a nice stash of copied games from my uncle.  The parents weren't big on wasting money on computer games, as they saw it, so I spent a fair amount of time coding Zork-like text adventures on that old C64.

So, being the nerd that I am, when I read Ready Player One I enjoyed it and found a kindred spirit in both Wade and Halliday.  When I heard that Spielberg would helm the movie adaptation, I was pretty pumped about the movie.

So, how was it?   Honestly, I left mostly disappointed with the movie version of Ready Player One as compared to the book story.    Don't get me wrong, Cline's book has some cringeworthy lines of prose that might be meta towards the tweenage mindset of the content or might just be bad writing.  But, the universe is interesting and the story has a ton of potential.

My biggest let down on the movie version of the story is that the Tomb of Horrors, Joust match isn't included in any of the challenges.   Being an arcade enthusiast, I thought this was some of the most descriptive writing in the book and I'd have liked to see it come to life on screen.   I can see, how that seen might not have resonated with general audiences.   It is hard to smash-cut / montage clips of people playing video games and continue to be interesting.   

Joust and Acererak being missing isn't the part that I thought was the biggest missed opportunity of the Tomb of Horrors remix, though.  The book places the beginning of the adventure in the school-planet, accessible to all students no matter how underprivileged.  I thought this coupled with Spielberg director-juice might have given Ready Player One the recipe to be a kid-adventure story for a new generation: A Goonies for Gamers.

But, that isn't what we got.  Bummer!

The movie missed plenty of other opportunities including potential for an Epic Soundtrack. Guardians of the Galaxy-level soundtrack integration didn't happen, either.

Some aspects of the movie were better than the book.  Movie Halliday leans away from his book-asshole Steve Jobs tendencies and more into his Asperger's situation.   The result is a much more interesting, likable and maybe pitiable Halliday and delivered through a great performance.

Movie Art3mis is considerably more charming that the often selfish-seeming, prickly femchismo Art3mis from the book.     

Book Ogg is far more interesting and is used in better ways than the movie.

The movie version of Aunt Alice is a step up and adds some depth to the loss in that situation.  Misses Gilmore still gets the firey shaft and doesn’t even get a pleasant exchange with Wade for her troubles.

The visuals are great, especially the Stacks and the intro to the OASIS. Though the movie stacks seem to be a bit more friendly.  Like a nice rv park for gamers.   I like the use of drones in the movie but the IOI hendhwoman is kind of pointless and the IOI infiltration plot is heavily remixed clumsily.

All said I think Ready Player One is a fun spring / early summer flick. It isn’t the epic Goonies-for-gamers story that it could have been but the last scene with Halliday did have some heart. 

I give it 3 out of 5 quarters.