Animated Feature Spotlight: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET + Interview with directors Phil Johnston & Rich Moore

Wreck-It Ralph AND Zootopia are two of my favorite recent Disney animated features, so when I got the chance to interview the filmmakers Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, I jumped at the chance!

Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.

Ralph Breaks the Internet welcomes back to the big screen video-game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz. This time, they leave Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and fast-paced world of the internet—which can be both incredibly exciting and overwhelming, depending on who you ask.

What is it about the characters of Ralph and Vanellope that called for an encore? “Ralph and Vanellope are imperfect characters,” says Academy Award-winning director Rich Moore (Zootopia), who directed the original film.

“But we love them because of their flaws. Their friendship is so genuine—the chemistry between them so engaging—that I think we were all anxious to know more about these characters.” – Rich Moore

Phil Johnston (co-writer Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia,” writer of Cedar Rapids) was one of the screenwriters on Wreck-It Ralph and is back as a writer and also a director. “Ralph and Vanellope had only known each other for a short time, yet they became best friends and we love them for that,” says Johnston. “But it didn’t feel like their story was over—there were more adventures to be had. And Vanellope, in particular, was starting to come into her own.”


Ruth Maramis’ review:

I had just seen the movie a couple of days prior and I enjoyed it immensely! Ralph and Vanellope (voiced by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, respectively) are just as adorable and entertaining as ever, and they introduced a new key character Shank (Gal Gadot) a tough and talented driver in an intense online racing game called Slaughter Race. Setting their new adventure inside the crazy world of the Internet is absolutely brilliant. It makes for a surreal, dynamic and funny moments, but also gave the filmmakers opportunity for social commentary (even a satire) of the darker side of online activities and internet addiction, obsession of being the next viral star, and addiction to ‘likes’ on social media.

I love the character Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson, the head algorithm of a trend-making website called BuzzzTube) which is obviously based on YouTube. The adventure really tested Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship, especially as Ralph’s insecurities gets out of control (literally). So yeah, I love that the movie doesn’t shy away from the bad side of the Internet, but still doing it in a non-preachy way. In the end, it’s still a fun family movie with a really good and relatable message about what friendship truly means. Visually it’s absolutely stunning, the colorful world of the Internet universe is mesmerizing, and the way the characters are ‘transported’ from one site to another is so fun and clever!

Oh and if you grew up watching Disney princess movies, you’ll definitely get a kick out of their scenes that turn the Mouse House’s legacy completely on its head! [see my last question about that very scene below] 😀

It was a ton of fun meeting both Phil Johnston and Rich Moore in person for a roundtable interview. They’re both really warm and cordial, and they’re so passionate about their work and the characters they’ve created.

So fun meeting Phil Johnston (left) and Rich Moore (right)

I’m including the Q&A from fellow interviewers Jared (from Man Versus Movie) and Chrysa (from Thrifty Jinxy). They’re clearly marked below as well as color-coded.


1. Jared: Aside from the established characters, there were new characters created specifically for this new universe Ralph and Vanellope are going into. Was there a concerted effort to go beyond the proven formula instead of falling into the trap of treading the same route of the original?

Taraji P. Henson voiced the character Yesss – the head algorithm of a trend-making website called BuzzzTube

2. Chrysa: I love the Internet as a physical place. How did you go about building that place?

3. Ruth: I’m curious about your background as voice actors – how did that experience affect you as writer and director of animated features? I know you worked together before in Zootopia, and I believe you also voiced some characters here in Ralph Breaks the Internet?

Rich: We do all the scratches

Phil: Yeah when we’re making the movie, we did it in storyboard form before things start getting animated so Rich and I do all the male voices and our co-writer Pamela Ribon and head of story Josie Trinidad did all the female voices. So when we showed things to our colleagues in the studio, it’d be just us.

Rich Moore elaborated further on his collaboration with Phil Johnston and why he should get directing credit in this sequel:

Inside the world of Buzzztube

5. Chrysa: I know you started writing this a while ago, after the first one (in 2014 was the first draft). Has there been a ton of changes and evolution to the story since then?

5B. Ruth: In relation to Chrysa’s question, I heard there was a version where Vanellope became a huge star on Buzztube?

6. Ruth: Ok here’s my actual question for you… You’re able to tackle something that dark and deep like racial prejudice, racism in Zootopia but packaging it in something entertaining. The same here with the world of the internet where it can be fun and lively but you also didn’t shy away from exposing the darker side of the internet like the dark web and all that. How did you work on those themes?

Rich elaborated about how that Comment Room scene inside Buzztube is so universally-understood.

The new characters of Slaughter Race

7. Jared: You’ve created these beloved characters in the previous film. What’s the thought process for you when you revisit them for the sequel. Are you nervous you’re going to be doing The Fox and the Hound 2 as opposed to Toy Story 2?

Phil: Rich always say there are more Jaws 2 than Godfather 2.

8. Chrysa: Besides the story being so good but visually it’s also really stunning. Seems that with every new Disney animation it goes up a step. Was there anything you wanted to do that wasn’t done before or was there anything you were inventing that was hard to actually get on to the screen?

9. Ruth: Given that I grew up watching Disney Princesses, I have to ask about that scene where the conventional themes are being turned in on their heads because now the princesses are the ones saving the big strong man. Did that storyline come up organically as you were developing this or did someone specifically say ‘we should comment on that?’

So congrats Phil and Rich! Ralph Breaks The Internet is definitely a great sequel that delivers an astute social commentary in a heartwarming, fun and delightful way!


Hope you enjoyed the interview! Have you seen RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET? If so, I’d love to hear what you think!

 

FlixChatter Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

hiddenfigures

Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 minutes

Hollywood loves BOAT, that is, films Based On a True Story, and few are as overdue yet timely as Hidden Figures. Based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, it tells the story of a team of African-American women who worked at NASA and their integral roles in helping the U.S. advance during the Space Race during the Cold War era. Billed as ‘human computers,’ these women are the quintessential unsung heroes with an inspirational and important story to tell.

hiddenfigures1

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe star as Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson respectively. A trifecta of massively talented Black actresses who brought wit, grace and humor to their roles. The film is at times harrowing to watch and it made me sad and angry at the appalling treatments of Black people, especially women, during a time when racial segregation was still legally enforced in the country. The fact that this happened merely 50 some years ago literally gives me chills. Yet the film never descended into somber or depressing territory, but it was brimming with a defiant but hopeful spirit throughout.

Right from the opening scene when their car broke down and they had to deal with the white cop who arrived to question them instead of offering to help, there’s a lighthearted tone to the film. It’s not that the filmmakers are making light of the situation however, in fact, this is a crowd-pleasing film that’s told with equal amusement and gravitas. Even during a key scene where Katherine had to walk half a mile one way just to go to the colored bathrooms, drink from a separate coffee kettle marked ‘colored’ and endure constant belittlement from her colleagues, the film never felt too heavy-handed or overly-sentimental. There’s also the moment Dorothy was kicked out of the Virginia public library for venturing out of the ‘colored’ section. Spencer’s Dorothy remained dignified and defiant as she rode home on the bus with her young boys.

hiddenfigures3

It’s hard to pick a favorite out of the three female protagonists, as they’re all excellent and given an equally compelling character arc. Henson’s Katharine seemed to have the largest arc of the three and it’s such a joy to watch her in the role. She had to act several scenes writing complex mathematical formula on a board in a single long take, and she managed to do it effortlessly and believably. All three women were convincing in their roles, their portrayals felt real instead of simplistic caricatures. The memorable male characters are Kevin Costner as the director of the Space Task Group, Mahershala Ali as Katharine’s love interest and Glen Powell as John Glenn. None of them ever overshadowed the women, but adds a perspective of the gender/racial issues of the time. On a side note, this movie made me curious to check out The Right Stuff now which chronicles the space race.

hiddenfigures2

I’m glad I waited to do my top 10 list until January as this film merits a spot on there. Boasting beautiful cinematography by Mandy Walker and rousing music by Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer, film also looks AND sounds great. It’s an important film to be sure, but also a well-written and well-acted piece that’s as inspiring as it is entertaining. It made me laugh and cry, with an ending that made me want to get up and cheer. I certainly don’t mind watching this again.

4Reels


Have you seen Hidden Figures? What did you think?

Five for the Fifth: DECEMBER 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. We’re now on the last FFTF edition of 2016, wow! Well, just this past week, Netflix Offline was trending on Twitter and it was the biggest news on Flipboard that week. I actually haven’t been desperately wishing to download Netflix movies as even when I’m on the plane where there are no Internet, I usually just watch what’s available on the airline entertainment channel. But I could see that it’s a dream come true for many of you who’ve been wanting to watch movies anywhere on their smartphone or tablet offline. I’d also think it’d have greater appeal in international markets such as Africa and Asia, where internet service is less ubiquitous than it is in the United States.

netflixipad

Now, not everything on its vast library is available to download, but surely all the Netflix Original series/movies would be available. Just don’t expect any of the Disney stuff to be downloadable anytime soon, or ever.

So which films or TV shows have you downloaded or planning on downloading straight away? 

….
2. Boy, James Gunn has been quite busy lately. On top of working on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, he actually had time to write the script of this action thriller. One commenter on Youtube dubbed ‘Office Space meets The Purge, yikes! The Belko Experiment isn’t exactly my cup of tea, despite the pretty good cast, but surely it’ll find an audience.

….

Now, switching gear to the follow up to yet another reboot of a franchise nobody is really clamoring to see. I gotta admit though, the cast of Tom Cruise AND Russell Crowe, and the fact that Christopher McQuarrie directs it, intrigues me a bit. Behold the first trailer of The Mummy:

It might as well be titled Mission Impossible: Paranormal. Cruise is on the run once again with a pretty girl (half his age) in tow. But is Cruise the mummy?? He’s shown waking up on a morgue after a horrific plane crash with not a scratch on him! That would be a fun twist wouldn’t it? But what is Crowe supposed to be in this story?? Well I’m sure we’ll have more trailers until its June 2017 release.

Anyhoo, thoughts about either one of these trailers?

3. On Saturday mornings my hubby and I usually sleep in a bit and would watch some stuff on our iPad in bed. We ended up watching the entire episode of Variety’s Actors On Actors series featuring Taraji P. Henson and Ryan Reynolds. 

actorsonactors

It was really fun to watch these tête-à-têtes as various actors get candid about their struggles and triumphs in the business. There’s quite a lineup in this year’s series, so I plan on watching a bunch of them later.

Have you watched these? Which episode and/or actor pairings are your fave?
….

4. Ok, for the fourth question, let’s discuss about cinematic discoveries. It’s up for debate whether 2016 has been a good or mediocre year for movies. But every year I’m always grateful for new talent discoveries… actors who either have been acting for a while (Mahershala Ali) or those who’ve made their debut (Julian Dennison).

>>>
As you can see, I’m eternally grateful to Moonlight for introducing me to SO many great talents! I have to mention the trio of actors portraying the protagonist as well. I might do a full post on this topic later, but for now I’d like to know…

Who’s your favorite talent(s) you discovered in 2016?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Cindy from Cindy Bruchman’s Blog! It’s about a show on Netflix I’ve been curious about… and its leading man (Alexander Dreymon) sure looks very crush-worthy 😉

So here’s Cindy’s question:

lastkingdom

While a fan of Game of Thrones, I’m impressed with ‘The Last Kingdom.’ It simulates the historical culture of Britain circa 800 A.D., and I love the authentic touches of the filming, the plot, and the acting. It doesn’t have the magical realism of GoT, but I have to say I prefer it.

So have you seen “The Last Kingdom”? What do you like about and/or who’s your favorite character?


Well, that’s it for the DECEMBER edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

2016 Golden Globes Coverage: Thoughts on the Winners + Best & Worst Moments of the Night

GG2016

Happy Monday everyone! Did you watch the Golden Globes last night? Well it’s tradition that I watch a couple of award seasons per year and GG and Oscar are the only two televised ceremonies.

As host Ricky Gervais put it, “Nobody cares about those awards as much as you do, so don’t get emotional, ok?” Ahah, it’s funny ’cause it’s true!

MEMORABLE TWEETS

Leo_Oscar

Speaking of Oscar Isaac, he said something truly important the press room after he won for his series Show Me A Hero about the lack of diversity in the film biz. Let’s make it happen Hollywood!

OscarIsaac_postGGwin

RED CARPET STUFF

I’ve only started tuning in about a half hour before the show started, but thanks to Twitter, here are some notable dresses of the night:

Best Dressed Ladies:

Now, for some reason there are plenty of white dresses and normally I’m not crazy for that color but I quite like what Lily James, Alicia Vikander & Taraji P. Henson (she wore a cape, nice!)

Most dapper guys:

When a bad dress happens to a good actress

GG2016_Blanchett

I love her but miss Cate, what are you  wearing???
Of ALL the dresses you could have in the world, you picked THAT?

….


Thoughts on Winners/Losers 

But before I get to that…

 

Best Motion Picture – Drama

  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant (WINNER)
  • Room
  • Spotlight

I was rooting for Mad Max: Fury Road and Spotlight, but I kind of have a feeling The Revenant would win. I sure hope Fury Road would get an Oscar nomination though.

Best Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy

  • The Big Short
  • Joy
  • The Martian (WINNER)
  • Spy
  • Trainwreck

Ok so I’m over the fact that this musical/comedy category is just hilarious but it’s funny that even Matt Damon & Ridley Scott who won for acting and directing are obviously amused by it.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (WINNER)
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
  • Will Smith, Concussion

GG2016_Leo

I haven’t seen The Revenant yet but seems that Leo did an amazing performance. Will that elusive Oscar is finally within reach for him? I guess we’ll see this Thursday when Oscar nominations are announced.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Brie Larson, Room (WINNER)
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

I was rooting for Saoirse but really, Brie was terrific in a difficult role in Room, so yeah I’m happy for her that she won!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical/ Comedy

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Steve Carell, The Big Short
  • Matt Damon, The Martian (WINNER)
  • Al Pacino, Danny Collins
  • Mark Ruffalo, Infinitely Polar Bear

I predicted Damon to win and I think he did a good job here, so no complaints from moi on this one.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical/ Comedy

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy (WINNER)
  • Melissa McCarthy, Spy
  • Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
  • Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van
  • Lily Tomlin, Grandma

Ok, I’ve only seen one performance here (McCarthy in Spy) but is Lawrence really the best of this category??

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

  • Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
  • Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon, 99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed (WINNER)

GG2016_SlyStallone

2016 must be the COME BACK year. Christian Slater had won earlier for Mr. Robot, then Stallone won for Creed, yes!! Oh, even Mel Gibson is presenting the Golden Globes.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (WINNER)
  • Jane Fonda, Youth
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Helen Mirren, Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

I was rooting for Vikander here as she was excellent as the robot in Ex Machina, but Winslet was a pleasant surprise in Steve Jobs.

Best Director

  • Todd Haynes, Carol
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, The Revenant (WINNER)
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian

I was soooo rooting for George Miller! I mean, in a year of comebacks, it’d be lovely to see him win this thing. Seems that Fury Road and The Revenant had incredibly grueling shoots.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

  • Emma Donoghue, Room
  • Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, Spotlight
  • Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, The Big Short
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs (WINNER)
  • Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Interesting that Steve Jobs bombed at the box office but was a pretty big winner tonight. I do think Sorkin’s script was fantastic, the dialog was so absorbing, that is if you’re willing to overlook the fact that um, most of the events never took place in real life.

Best Animated Feature Film

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out (WINNER)
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie

I really like Inside Out but I didn’t love it the way I loved other Pixar movies like the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Brave, etc. but I’m still glad a Pixar movie won. I for one am not enamored w/ Anomalisa as most people are.

I barely watch any TV so not much commentary on the TV front, but LOVE seeing Oscar Isaac won for Show Me A Hero.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television

OscarIsaacGG2016


Random Commentaries

Ok so I’m not the best Gervais’ fan but there were a few that did make me LOL!

“GG doesn’t have an In Memoriam segment to depress you all, that’s why we have the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press for that.”

When introducing Matt Damon…

“He’s also the only person that Ben Affleck hasn’t been unfaithful to…”

When introducing Ken Jeong and Kevin Hart…

“When Brad and Angelina see Kevin Hart and Ken Jeong, they’re gonna want to adopt them.”

Most Worthy Award of the Night

Denzel_GG2016

Amazing body of work this man had… and he’s one of the classiest actors in Hollywood.

BEST MOMENTS

Leo vs Gaga

leovsgaga

Leo’s expression just cracks me up every time!

Taraji P. Henson winning Best Actress in a Drama Series in Empire

….

WTF MOMENTS

TheBear_GG2016

As if Channing Tatum’s horrifying hairdo wasn’t enough, Jonah Hill was poking fun at the bear in The Revenant.

“I’m a two-year-old bear from the Sierra Mountains, and you took a chance on me”

Jane Fonda was NOT impressed.
///

Quentin Tarantino was elated when Ennio Morricone won Best Score for The Hateful 8, but in comparing him to Mozart, Beethoven, and other classical composers, he pretty much said he doesn’t deserve to be stuck in the “ghetto” of film scorers. WOW!

GoslingPitt

When Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling tried to be funny whilst introducing The Big Short. Meh.

Same with these guys. Their schtick just falls flat.

GG2016_FerrellWahlberg


Gender inequality is no laughing matter, and Gervais poking fun at the huge pay gap between men & women in Hollywood is such poor taste. “I’m being paid the same as Tina and Amy last year. It’s not my fault if there’s two of them, and they want to share the money!” Oh and that jab about the Ghostbusters’ all-female remake isn’t funny either.

But nothing is more cringe-worthy than the whole exchange between Gervais and Mel Gibson. The whole thing just reeks of mean-spiritedness, ugh.

///

In any case, now we’ve got the Oscar nominations coming Thursday. All I’m hoping for is for Fury Road and Spotlight to get their chance to shine this time!

 


So, what are YOUR thoughts on the 2016 winners & best/worst moments of the night?