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Disney Doesn’t “Wreck-it” with Wreck-It Ralph

10 Nov

After the more recent disappointments of The Borrower Arrietty and Brave, I was somewhat wary to see Disney’s most recent animated film, Wreck-it Ralph.

The advertisements looked promising, giving me a small hope that this would be the film that once more redeemed Disney’s animated films in my eyes, but I reminded myself that the ads for Brave and Arrietty had looked gorgeous too. So when my boyfriend and I finally made it down to the theater this week, I held my breath as the lights dimmed.

To my great relief, Disney had pulled it off. (Possible Spoiler alert!)

Wreck-it Ralph opens with a pixilated Steam-boat Willie, and then the lead character, Ralph begins to narrate over a close up of what appears to be an old arcade game, complete with 8-bit music, where we see Ralph living his day-to-day.

Ralph is the bad guy–but as all the ads point out (and  out of Street Fighter Zangeef’s mouth)–he isn’t a bad guy. It’s easy to feel badly for Ralph, a character who is programmed to be the villain of his game, wrecking an apartment for the hero, Felix, to fix; however, even after the arcade closes and the characters are allowed to be themselves, Ralph is still rejected by his fellow game characters and lives a lonely life in the dump.

The story takes place on the 30th anniversary of Wreck-it Ralph’s game, Fix-it Felix JR, with Ralph attending what appears to be an Alcoholic’s Anonymous style meeting of game villains where he admits that he wishes he knew what it felt like to be the hero. Here Disney playfully injects bad guys from games as familiar as Bowser from Super Mario, Zangeef from Street Fighter, A Pac man Ghost, and Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog along with characters the younger generation may recognize. (I couldn’t figure them out myself.) Ralph also admits that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy any more–but the group of baddies laugh it off and encourage him to take it, “one game at a time.” and not to “go turbo”.

After returning from his meeting, Ralph realizes that the other characters in his game are celebrating their 30 year anniversary with a party and, a little hurt his invitation never arrived, promptly makes an appearance there. The hero in his game, Felix, is a sweet and utterly loveable little man with a magic hammer is urged by his fellow characters to “get rid” of Ralph. Too nice to tell Ralph to hit the bricks, Felix invites Ralph in for cake instead, where Ralph is egged on by some of the other characters and ultimately he ruins the party. Ralph insists to the disbelieving group that he could earn metals just as easily as the hero, Felix, and is challenged by another character that if he gets a metal he live with them in the apartment instead of in the dump.

Urged on by the idea of living with the other game characters, Ralph embarks on a journey to obtain his own hero metal.

The audience travels with Ralph on his journey to be a hero and to be treated fairly through various games as Ralph “game jumps” to a very Halo-esq game called, Hero’s Duty, a one person shooter where he is faced with massive Bug-monsters that become whatever they eat. With absolutely no finesse, Ralph manages to steal a metal, but in doing so, also launches himself (literally) into another game as he struggles with a Bug that has clung to him in a stolen escape pod. They crash land in a game called, Sugar Rush, which is sort of like a candy-land racing game, where the Bug sinks and disappears in frosting. Here Ralph encounters a little girl called, Vanelope Schweet, who promptly steals his hero metal, thinking it’s a coin.

It turns out that Vanelope is in her own string of trouble,  and like Ralph, facing  isolation from her fellow game characters. The other characters claim Vanelope is a glitch that can’t be allowed to race with the other characters (or compete in the reindeer games!) and feeling badly for the girl, Ralph promises to help her.

Meanwhile, In Ralph’s game, the Arcade is open for business again and Ralph is a no show. Gamers who play notice the missing villain and bring it to the manager’s attention thinking the game is broken. Felix and the other characters finally realize that Ralph is missing and Felix promises to “fix-it” and sets off to find Ralph before the plug on their game is pulled. Felix and the female captain from Hero’s Duty team up, Felix searching for Ralph and the captain seeking out the Bug that escaped her game with Ralph.

Wreck-it Ralph is a movie about not making judgements–but even the villain of this film may surprise you. I think it may have been a first for me since I was young that I didn’t immediately know who the villain was and I loved the surprise. (I won’t spoil it for you.) The film is full of jokes that all ages can enjoy between the obvious “duty” jokes to the more adult themed (over the kids heads) jokes, this film is one I would consider seeing in theaters again.  Disney managed to pull it out of the bag for me on this one. The graphics are smooth and gorgeous and even the music is helplessly catchy. It gets a five our of five cupcakes from the Restless Writer scale.

 

Memories of the Marshfield Fair and a T.K.O’Malley’s Review

26 Aug

My earliest memory of the Marshfield Fair– which has been a tradition in the county since the 1800’s– is a memory that I attach to my great grandmother, Noni. I can’t exactly remember how old I must have been when she first began to take me, but I could guess roughly eight or nine–as I specifically remember not being tall enough to peek into the Clydesdale horse stalls to see them, without help or without pulling myself up by the bars of their stalls. I also remember the Bee keeper stalls, which even now as I am in my twenties continues to fascinate me for reasons that I can’t quite pinpoint. Noni had always been fascinated too. Together we would tromp the Fairgrounds, riding on the rides I was tall enough to squeak on and waving to Noni as I gleefully swung round, and round on them. I even remember that she would pay for me to play at least one game at the Fair to try to win a prize–but I never remember ever winning.

Noni passed roughly three years ago, and she and I hadn’t been to the Fair together for many years before that. For the first time in roughly twelve years last night; I went to the Marshfield Fair. It’s funny how memories come back so quickly and with such force when certain sights, smells and sounds overtake you. It was as if I were small again, and she was leading me around pointing at the prize winning animals, and giving me bites of cotton candy and various tasty fair foods. Her ghost seemed to linger with me for the whole night as I chatted with my friend and his family. I felt a small almost child-like joy as the lights of the Fairgrounds came to life, voices spiraling, laughing and screaming as we passed rides, vendors calling out to people as they passed by to tempt them into winning prizes full of sawdust. One prize I did stop to try my hand at winning–was a live Goldfish. I knew it was a rip-off and that I could buy a goldfish of my own at a pet store if I wanted, probably for less than what it was costing me to try to win one, ($5 for a bucket of ping-pong balls) but it was the excitement of the idea. The sense of old-time charm that drew me to it. And I happily won. Proudly, I displayed my prize–a fat orange Goldfish in a bag, swimming excitedly in a circle–to my friend who snapped a trophy photo of sorts for proof. I knew Noni would have smiled.

My Prize!

Posing with my Goldfish Prize at Marshfield Fair

In entirety, this weekend gave me back a sense of myself that I felt had been missing lately. I woke up this morning to a gorgeous day, and another friend waiting in the wings for an adventure to Scituate. Off we went, stopping only for an ATM, Gas and a quick car wash, we drove into the center of town where the charm of a seaside town has a heavy hold, and people milled about looking pleasant in their Sunday best. It was a sleepy sort of day, and the town moved at a pace that suited this. We wandered past the harbor at first, soaking in the smell of the ocean that I had missed all summer, before heading for lunch at a place called T.K O’Malleys.

T.K O’Malley’s had a typical sort of Irish Pub feel, but with the bonus of having the option of being able sit on the outside patio overlooking the bright, breezy harbor. Entering the restaurant was at first slightly confusing, as there are doorways to the left and right of you when you first walk in–luckily to the left we spotted a cluster of Hostesses sporting blue TKO’Malley’s t-shirts, hovering over the hostess stand and made our way that way. I held my hand up with two fingers, which in any restaurant would generally indicate table for two, but here only got me slightly blank stares, a chomp on what I hoped was gum in one girl’s mouth, and a mumbled, “Inside or out” from one of the hostesses that had her back to us. I looked to my friend for confirmation, and luckily he confirmed we wanted to be outside as I had barely managed to hear what had been asked. The hostesses then handed us a small slip of white paper that read, “Patio Voucher” and told us to head out to the patio. This was somewhat irritating to me. I had worked as a Hostess at Fenway park for a short while,  so I know that  it is the job of a good Hostess to greet customers, direct them to the appropriate table, ask if they need anything else, and alert the waitstaff that they have a new customer. These girls (who were only busy chatting at the hostess stand) did not guide us to the patio door–they only laughed and told us, “Any door out.” and waved us aside. It felt lazy and unwelcoming. Not a good start.

Once we got out to the patio, the confusion continued. More hostesses in blue shirts at another hostess stand clustered, staring blankly at us as we handed them the slip of paper the previous hostesses had handed us inside. The girls asked us how many again, to which we answered two, one scurried around the patio looking at the few vacant tables before coming back looking confused. Then one of them asked us to wait as they went inside, conceivably to interrogate the other hostesses about us. There were just way too many hostesses, and not enough communication. Finally a hostess returned and asked if five or ten minutes would be okay–to which we agreed. By this time we were slightly frustrated. Why had the indoor hostesses not been informed of a wait time for the outside? There appeared to be more than enough of them to run messages, and inside it seemed to be slow.Luckily, it was   only roughly two minutes for a wait and we were promptly seated at a table with an umbrella and menus.

Our waiter was the best service we had received since we entered the restaurant. He arrived straightaway with his clipboard to take our drink orders, (card us for said drinks as I constantly look underage) and scurry off to the bar to bring them back. The beer selection was fair, and my companion and immensely enjoyed sipping them with the cool breeze off of the water and the warm sunlight on our skin as we browsed our menus. The food was mainly a selection of pub foods–and not much to write home about. Though they did appear to have a varied selection of “University” themed burgers. Should I ever return there–I will probably investigate these. The main draw of TKO’ Malley’s has to be it’s prime waterside spot.  As we were waterside, I craved fish and took part in their Cape “COD” Ruben sandwich, which was a cod filet on rye with thousand island dressing, coleslaw and a slice of cheese. The portions were HUGE and I only managed to finish half of the sandwich but it wasn’t bad. The dressing and slaw were tasty, though the fish seemed a little mushy and was probably less fresh than I would have hoped. What the fish lacked–the slightly toasted bread made up for in crunch and flavor. My friend and I also shared a basket of sweet potato fries which were served with Maple syrup–but I wouldn’t recommend having these with the Syrup. The fries are delicious on their own–and unless you’re a big  Maple Syrup person–the Syrup overpowers the fries taste.

Prices were fair when the bill came, and we tipped our friendly and helpful waiter well. We were pointedly ignored by all of the hostesses on our way out. I couldn’t help but think of how easy it would have been to dine and dash had I been that sort of person. They wouldn’t have even noticed us.

All and all, the day was wonderful and easy-paced. Full of winding seaside roads, looming gorgeous houses, and even a stop at a historical lighthouse. I returned home sleepy but full of a bubbling happiness that only a day near the shore can bring.

 

 TKO ‘Malley’s website link in case you would like to check it out for yourself.

More information on the Marshfield Fair.

Brave movie review and JulNoWriMo

2 Jul

So, I know I had mentioned wanted to review Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter the movie–but I haven’t gotten around to see it yet. Instead, my boyfriend was patient enough to sit through Pixar’s latest movie, Brave, with me.

Mainly, I think he was attracted to the fact that it was a Pixar film, because generally, they do not disappoint: but in this case I probably should have waited for it to come out on dvd.

Brave focuses on the Highland princess, Merida, and her thirst for the freedom to be who she is. Little does she know it, but her mother the queen is grooming her for her betrothal to one of the three clans eldest boys who then show up to try and “win” her hand with an archery tournament. Merida, determined to change her mother’s mind, seeks out a witch in the forest who gives her “a spell to change her fate” and “change her mother.” so she doesn’t want to force Merida to marry anymore. However, this crazy witch’s spell backfires, and literally changes her mother into a Bear.

Now, when I saw the trailers for this movie–I had no idea this was the direction this movie would take. And I’m rather disappointed. Though I loved the movie, and it’s message of mother-daughter bond rekindled, I was upset by how generally not creative this concept all was. I mean, all I could think of was another Disney movie called, Brother Bear. Made in 2003, Brother bear focused on the Native American folklore of “Spirit Animals” and involved a boy who kills a mother bear in vengence of his bother, who is then himself transformed into a bear in order to care for the slain mother bear’s son, Koda. The boys bond in bear form, much in the way that Merida bonds with her mother while her mother is in the form of a large black bear.

Overall, the film Brave is  beautifully animated, the details especially on the animals are amazing–but the plot itself leaves something to be desired.

To address that odd title of JulNoWriMo, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this: it stands for July Novel Writing Month, and I will be participating. The goal: 50.000 words by month’s end. I will be using the plot for the novel I’ve been planning. I’m rather excited, but also already tired. Wish me luck–and sorry if due to the novel I do not post as much here.

An Outing for the History Books

13 Mar

Lame as it might sound, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Boston?

It might be the Commons:the expansive tree-lined gardens smack-dab in the heart of the city, or it might be the trains that run like a heartbeat beneath the streets–but for me–Harvard always comes to mind. That’s right. Harvard. The beautiful, old brick-lined hallowed halls of learning. I mean, they don’t ask Bostonians to say “Harvard yard” for nothing

Even though I know I’m nowhere near  a Harvard-level of schooling, there is something refreshing about strolling the school grounds this time of year. People mill about as a jumble of students, tourists and oddballs like me who just seem lost through the slowly greening yards. Professors looking scattered and hurried storm through crowds like angry rhinos, scattering people like terrified birds.

Harvard is a rare stop for me, making yesterday a particularly rare treat. An invitation from my boyfriend and his friend, Steve, to the Harvard Museum of Natural History was intriguing enough to draw me past my usual Park Street Station stop right after work. In the confusing rabble of Harvard station, they awaited me, and together we traveled through Harvard Square and into the inner courtyards of Harvard College.  Steve led the way, having visited this place before, and we were quickly at our destination.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is at 26 Oxford Street in Cambridge. It is a tall, pointed brick building (though short in comparison to most other buildings around it) with bold brass letters stating “Harvard Museum”. Upon entering, you are first greeted by two fossilized skeletons on either side in the foyer. Straight ahead are the desks to get in, and after paying $7 with our student Id’s: we were on our way to the third floor. A freakishly tall skeleton, bird in appearance ( reminding me immediately of Kevin from Up ) greets visitors as they reach the landing.The bird from Pixar's Up You appear to be in the gift shop first, making things feel a little backward. As the boys had a mission for their Bio class, I was given free reign to explore as I saw fit while they furiously scribbled answers on question sheets.

If you’re like me, and you’re fascinated by animals (living or dead) then this place is for you. If not, well–don’t bother.I was amazed at the range of animal specimens on display. Extinct and living, big and small–all were presented in tasteful and informative displays throughout the many halls.

If you are an animal rights activist–please do not visit this museum. It will horrify you.

Frankly, I was surprised by how not-bothered I was by the countless numbers of taxidermy and pickled animals on display once curiosity set in. Bats in all arrays of size and characteristics were pinned up to display species variations. Beside them, beautiful and colorful insects, jarred lizards and brightly colored birds. One entire room seemed to be more like a large hunting trophy room, filled with animals that almost still felt alive as their plastic eyes followed your from their glass cases. Their sizes ranged from sparrows and mice to elephants and even a towering male giraffe.

My favorite hall by far though, was filled with bones. Fossils to be exact. Not just of dinosaurs (though there were a few) as is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of fossils, but also of former mammals. A particularly large extinct sloth skeleton gave me chills, just from the sheer size of the creature. And I was in awe at their nearly complete skeleton of Kronosaurous, a whale-like dinosaur-ish creature. I was disappointed that we had come so late in the day, and I couldn’t take more time to go through the place. But all and all, I was pleased with the visit.

If you’re looking for a cheap, brain-building, quiet day out: I would definitely recommend the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It’s to die for! (har-har)

My Grandfather’s Chicken Farm (A story passed down for the next generation)

31 Jan

Last night, after I had already informed you all about the Irish Green Pants, my father had a sudden urge to talk to me.

Now, generally, I do not enjoy the conversations that pass between my father and I. Too often they tend to lead to unpleasant conversation; usually directed at my lack of a steady job, my inability to drive or some other shortcoming that he decides to pick at that day. Mind you,I don’t hate my father. But sometimes, I can’t stand him. (Isn’t that just human though?)Anyway, keeping this in mind, I wasn’t too thrilled to suddenly have him full of energy and ready to chat. Luckily, last night would be different.

My mother crunched absently on popcorn at the kitchen table, mainly keeping my father company as he ate his dinner. Dad works late on most nights, and isn’t usually around to have dinner with the rest of the family. I could hear them talking about their day from my room down the hall–and being forever unable to control my curiosity–I wandered out to join them.

I suppose they really didn’t expect me, because I interrupted a conversation they appeared to having about weight loss and gain, and what effects each scenario tends to have on my mother’s breasts. My father’s head swiveled around as I entered, and between bites of chicken he asked,

“Does losing weight effect your boobs like it does your mother’s? You know, losing them?”

These sorts of comments tend to be more normal coming out of my father’s mouth as he and I get older. But they don’t make me cringe any less.

“No, not really.” I answered mildly.

This then branched out into a long conversation about my mother’s breasts when she was pregnant, versus when she wasn’t. My mother adding to me that she had never really had a behind or boobs to begin with, and that she was jealous of mine.

I could see, as I bet you can as well, where this conversation was going to keep going. I considered leaving the room again, but before I could, my father pipped up jokingly about getting a well endowed female roommate–to which my mother quipped that she hadn’t approved. They shared a laugh at my look of horror.

“Dirty old man.” I finally managed to stammer at my father. At this point, he had finished his meal and was cleaning his hands in the sink. He chuckled in his raspy way, his glasses glinting in the low kitchen light. Something devious was about to happen.

“Speaking of dirty old man,” my father started, “I have a story to tell you.”

“Oh no,” I groaned, “Should I get the cheese grater to scrap my brain clean afterwards?”

“Nahh,” he replied with a sniffle, rifling his dish into the dishwasher. My mother continued to crunch her popcorn, one leg tucked under her as she sat at the table. “This is a funny story.” He confirmed, then paused. “Well, if you can look at it as just a story, and not as someone you know and love.”

Had my father just put a disclaimer on his story? He didn’t wait for me to agree, but plowed on.

“It’s a story about your grandfather. Something you’re going to want to tell to your kids, if you have them, or nieces and nephews. Something that will need to be passed down.” He said, trying to impress the importance of it on me before he told it.

I nodded, giving in. His heavy shoes clomped across the wood floors, the chair groaned softly as he sat back at the table again. I leaned against the counter tops–just in case I might need to make a quick escape.

“When you were little,” my father said,

“Are you sure it was her?” My mother interjected curiously. “Could it have been her cousins?”

“No, it was her.” My father confirmed. “When you were little, your grandfather took you out for a drive. He liked taking you kids places with him. And when you got back, you got out of the truck and came over.” My dad paused, smiling at the memory. “I said, ‘Did you have fun with Grampa?’ And you shook your head and told me yes, but looked a little puzzled.”

My father mimed talking to a smaller me, and I tried to imagine him younger, tried to imagine what he had looked like when he spoke to me then, “What’s wrong? I asked you. And you said, ‘Grampa is going to open a chicken farm.” My father crinkled his face in confusion to replay the event for my mother and I. My mother said rapt, listening and remembering. “So I looked to my father, and my father just,” Dad shrugged his shoulders, playing at being my grandfather here, “So I asked you to explain.”

A younger me looked at my father and told this story: my grandfather was driving along the road, looking all around. When I asked him what he was looking at he told me he was looking for chickens.

My father went on to tell me that later, my grandfather took him aside and told him what the real story was. The real story–my grandfather has wandering eyes. He has a ‘type’ as my father put it–particularly, young women. And on this drive he was apparently staring at women’s behinds as we drove along. Being small and curious, I spotted him looking all around, but wasn’t sure what he was looking at. When I asked him what he was doing,my grandfather; embarrassed to be caught gawking by his granddaughter and knowing he couldn’t admit to his dirty deed, told me he was looking for chickens. In my mind, this gives “spring chickens” a whole new meaning. I apparently spent the rest of the ride looking for these imaginary fowl. Off and on my Grandfather would point and shout–“Look! Did you see that chicken?” And in my innocence I would reply, “No! All I saw were those people!”