So, apart from working on my portfolio, I have also been hard at work in the world of Minecraft. Behold the fruits of my labor!
So, apart from working on my portfolio, I have also been hard at work in the world of Minecraft. Behold the fruits of my labor!
Let’s see what’s been happening in Baconia this week!
Titan’s Well descends all the way to the bedrock.
We have plans to install a rail line to the bottom of the well from the surface: “Cactus Johnson’s Cave Tours.”
Have you been creating any cool things in Minecraft lately?
The 1980s were the Decade of the Arcade. Propelled by the success of such classics as Pac-Man, Galaga, and the original Super Mario Bros., the video arcade became a fixture of modern culture. However, as home consoles and personal computing technology became more powerful, at-home gaming began to eclipse the shared experience of the coin-op. By the late 90s, the arcade was on the decline.
But somehow, in the world of Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, Litwak’s Arcade has managed to stay open for over 30 years, and this venue provides the setting for the titular hero’s adventures.
Wreck-It Ralph is a career bad guy in the game Fix-It Felix Jr.. Every day he smashes up Niceland’s apartments, gets thrown off the roof after Felix repairs the damage, and repeats the process level after level until the arcade closes. As the game’s hero, Felix gets pies, parties, medals, and the approbation of the Nicelanders; Ralph gets to go home to the dump. After 30 years of the gig, he’s had enough.
So Ralph heads to Game Central Station, goes AWOL from his game, and sets out in search of an opportunity to prove he can be a hero. He manages to earn a medal in the arcade’s new Halo-esque shooter “Hero’s Duty,” but in the process he ends up cross-contaminating the candy-themed go-kart racer “Sugar Rush” with a robotic insect enemy. It’s up to Ralph to fix the wreck he’s made before the arcade’s game machines start going haywire and getting unplugged.
Ralph’s relatability is among the film’s strongest points. Audience members can easily find something to identify with in his questions about his role and identity as the low guy on the totem pole; he’s stuck, frustrated, and grappling with a quarter-life crisis. The movie opens with Ralph voicing his dissatisfaction at a support group for game villains, and it’s no mistake that the scene featured prominently in the trailers. When Ralph befriends a sharp-tongued outcast Sugar Rush racer named Vanellope von Schweetz, their rapport drives the second half of the movie as they team up to get Vanellope a slot in the game’s daily roster—and later to save the game itself.
Another of Wreck-It Ralph‘s strengths is how it brings video games to life on the big screen. A la Toy Story, it’s a look into the secret lives of video game characters: how they feel about their roles, what they do in their off-hours, what they want and what they fear. At its best moments, it captures what makes us want to step into these characters’ shoes and interact with their digital worlds. The voice cast is well-selected and plays their roles to the hilt—Jack McBrayer in particular was born to play the gung-ho, squeaky-clean Fix-It Felix. The characters have an iconic appeal and a lot of heart. When Ralph smashes up Vanellope’s kart to keep her out of the qualifying race, insisting that it’s for her own good, the scene hit me in the chest, and I cheered for him as he raced toward the film’s climax to set right the wreckage from all his mistakes.
The classic cameos and gaming gags make the whole show tons of fun, as well. The punster in me loved the wordplay such as King Candy’s “fungeon” and Vanellope’s glitchy “pixlexia.” The 3D-rendered characters and environments are well-animated, but they’re also complemented by pixelated, sprite-based graphics, another nice touch. When the Bad-Anon meeting concludes, it’s revealed that it occurred in the central box of a Pac-Man level, and 16×16 sprites of Ralph, Bowser, M.Bison, and others leave for Game Central Station via the level’s side-tunnel. The action in the modern FPS Hero’s Duty is dark and frenetic, and the Sugar Rush “set design” packs its tracks with giant gumball boulders, cherry bombs, and crazy ramps over milk chocolate rivers. The “kart baking” mini-game sequence by which Ralph and Vanellope construct a racing vehicle is fantastically fun, and the scene where the two of them learn how to drive the kart is the most successful training montage I’ve ever seen. Video games are incredibly weird—the best-selling game franchise of all time features a plumber who increases in size by grabbing mushrooms and jumps on other, evil mushrooms. When Ralph grapples with a robotic bug in a sci-fi escape pod crashing through cotton-candy clouds into a candy cane forest, it’s one of many moments that capture that manic video-game surreality.
The film is not without its warts, though. The script is generally on-target, occasionally sharpens its wit for a pointed one-liner, but at points turns obnoxious or dull. There’s a surfeit of hit-or-miss lowest-common-denominator gags, e.g. a stream of “Hero’s Doody” jokes from Vanellope which is only partially redeemed from unfunniness by its machine-gun relentlessness. The film’s potty humor is more potty than humorous, with frequent references to biological and excretory functions (“go[ing] pee-pee in your big boy pants,” “It’ll make Felix’s medals wet their pants,” etc.), and the concept of “vurping” (vomiting while burping) is not nearly as entertaining as Vanellope thinks it is. At such points, the script is lackluster where it ought to bristle with wit; the slapstick, while still occasionally obnoxious, is generally more successful.
Ultimately, Wreck-It Ralph has a lot in common with its protagonist: amiable, funny, a little foul-smelling at times, but willing to put its heart into it when the chips are down. Die-hard video game enthusiasts of all ages will easily find it worth the full price of a ticket. More casual gamers or animation fans may want to catch a matinee or wait for its release in dollar theaters or on DVD. It’s a solid video game movie—and while video game movies have fallen flat more often than not, Ralph is a film that can stand on its own two feet.
I’ve got something to share with you. Plan X Media (of which Sketch Comedy is an affiliate) recently launched its website and has since updated with several new movie reviews–most notably its review of The Hunger Games. Plan X prez Ash Green takes a critical look at the popular movie, and his review is an interesting read whether you’ve seen the movie yet or not. Check it out, and if you’ve got any points to disagree with or thoughts to add, swing by the thread I started in the Plan X Forum and drop a post. We’re looking forward to talkin’ Hunger Games with you!
This comic, inspired by a suggestion from my friend Dave Johnson, is a sort of tribute to the mockumentary Troll Hunter. In the film, a group of students filming an independent documentary about bear poachings begins following an enigmatic trapper, only to discover that he is a troll hunter.
Troll Hunter is not for the kids–it earns its PG-13 rating with foul Norwegian language (subtitled) and troll attacks violent and frightening enough to give the elementary school set nightmares. For an adult or responsible teenage viewer, however, the movie provides a creative and hilarious twist on the “found footage” format, deriving additional humor from its deconstruction of Norse troll mythology and the protagonists’ questionable decisions. Despite their shortcomings, though, you can’t help pulling for the overconfident student filmmakers, and the movie musters considerable intensity for its climactic scenes. It’s clever and entertaining, and I would recommend it to teens and adults who enjoy bizarre cinema.
Over Thanksgiving weekend I saw The Muppets with my family. I did not stop smiling through the film; Kermit and crew are as ridiculously charming as ever.
The plot is simple: while touring the run-down Muppet Studios with his brother Gary (Jason Segal) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), an enthusiastic muppet fan named Walter (himself also a brightly-colored puppet with no nose) discovers an oil magnate’s scheme to raze the Muppet Theater and start drilling on its grounds. Much of the movie’s charm comes from its self-aware cheese. Walter tries to convince Kermit the Frog to reunite the Muppets for a fund-raising show to save the theater, and when Kermit seems hesitant, Mary remarks with a worried frown: “This is going to be a very short movie!” As Kermit tracks down the rest of the team, they decide to speed up the process with a musical montage, and when they discover that Miss Piggy currently resides as a fashion mogul in Paris, Fozzie suggests that they travel “by map.” Cut away to a red line tracing its way across the Atlantic, and a shot of the car driving up on a crowded European beach.
Propelling the plot is the question of whether the muppets are still relevant to the present generation. The silver screen hasn’t seen a new muppet film in some ten years, and the brand has dropped out of the limelight since Disney acquired it in 2004. Contemporary culture is more cynical, with fewer taboos about potentially offensive material: how could the family-friendly slapstick of the muppets speak to the Judd Apatow generation? This movie is a rather daring answer to that question, that with humor for humans of all ages, the muppets can bring us “the third-best thing of all–laughter.” And it succeeds, with rambunctious slapstick, self-aware schtick, and just a hint of an edge for flavor. I’m not sure whether to give it a 3 or a 4, but I certainly enjoyed it, as will any other metahumor junkie. (And aren’t you, a reader of Sketch Comedy, also a metahumor junkie?)
That’s my take on it, anyway. The following links may also be of interest to you:
Tom Brazelton from the webcomic Theater Hopper has been celebrating Muppet Fever for the past two weeks, and his accompanying blog entries have some salient reflections for long-time muppet fans.
Plugged In Magazine also has an interview with Kermit the Frog about his past body of work, maintaining the integrity of the Muppet brand, and what to call him and Miss Piggy as a showbiz couple.
Have you seen The Muppets yet? What did you think?
Welcome to the second installment of the Friday Five. Begun by Brian Russell, the Friday Five are the top five webcomic strips from the past week–only when we at Sketch Comedy do a Friday Five, we do it on other days of the week because we are contumacious and recalcitrant. Also we like to use big words. So without further ado: the Friday Five, on Monday!
DISCLAIMER: Although all of the following links are appropriate for all ages, some of these strips may not come from all-ages webcomics. Please use discretion in browsing.
And that wraps up the Friday Five. Just a reminder: the original art from Friday’s comic is still up for auction on Ebay. I’ll see you tomorrow with a brand new strip in the storyline!
Brian Russell has started a cool thing: The Friday Five! Every Friday, he posts links to his favorite five webcomic posts that he’s read that past week. It’s like Wes Molebash’s Friday Faves but for webcomics!
We at Sketch Comedy think this is such a great practice that we are going to adopt it ourselves. Far be it from us, however, to steal a good idea wholesale without adding something of our own! No: our Friday Fives are going to post on other days of the week besides Friday. For example, this week they post on Monday. Some weeks we may not post any Friday Fives at all!
All of the following links are appropriate for all ages, although some of these strips do not come from all-ages webcomics. Sketch Comedy would like to remind you: please use discretion in browsing!
Captain America is the best superhero movie I have seen this summer.
I’m not planning to do a formal review here. Those things take like three hours to do and end up sounding like a college essay, not that that’s a bad thing. But I thoroughly enjoyed the flick and thought it got a number of things right. First, the cast delivers a solid performance all around; Hugo Weaving is a standout as the villain Red Skull, and everyone brings their A-game. Second, Captain America puts a 1940’s war-movie twist on the superhero movie, with a bit of pulp-adventure sensibility for flavor. It’s a welcome bit of variety to shake up the superhero formula that Thor so thoroughly relied on. Third, it’s uncompromisingly uncynical. The Captain has just enough flaws to make him believably human, but more than enough virtue to paint the picture of a hero; as Dr. Abraham Erskine says, the Captain is “not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, it delivers the action. Captain America pulls off all the sweet shield stunts you’d expect; the pacing of the build to the climax is excellent; each challenge leaves you wondering how Cap will overcome it and then going “Dude, that was awesome!” when he does.
At the end of the day, I’d give it a 4/5. Looking back over my past reviews, I note that it is the first movie covered on SC to not receive a 3.5/5. I would even go so far as to say it is almost as good as Iron Man, which is the only superhero movie at which I have cried.
You can’t go wrong with Captain America.