Title: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Release Date: November 21, 2018
Director: Rich Moore | Phil Johnston
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
The sequel to Wreck-It Ralph picks up the story 6 years later with Ralph content living his days predictably with his friend Vanellope, while Vanellope yearns to break the routine. When the steering wheel breaks on the Sugar Rush machine and the arcade owner decides that its too expensive to replace because the company that made it is defunct. So Ralph and Vanellope head into the newly installed wifi router to purchase a replacement wheel on eBay. That is the first of many prominent product placements in the movie.
In order to pay for the new wheel, they take up jobs from spammers and Ralph becomes an online influencer by making lots of meme videos for likes. Vanellope also spends sometime at the Disney social media website, visiting with her fellow Disney Princesses, a hillarious bit of self-satire. The pair also enter a Grand Theft Auto-type game which terrifies Ralph but excites Vanellope with its unpredictable driving. Vanellope wishes to stay leading Ralph to be insecure and possessive, and ultimate manifest as a Ralph-virus that is the nightmare fodder for the film. Obviously, they work things out by the end, with some important messages about friendship.
A lot of the gags and satire of the internet are funny, but this movie is not going to make much sense outside of historical research in a few years. Even a year after release, a lot of the gags seem dated. The focus of the film isn’t very strong either as it seems mostly a plot to link together the various internet-related gags. It’s entertaining but I don’t think it stands up as well as its predecessor.
Title: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Director: David Yates
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures | Heyday Films
This sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reunites Newt Scamander with his friends Tina, Queenie, and Jacob for a new adventure largely based in Paris. While the first movie was mostly a romp with unsettling danger bubbling in the background of the wizarding world, this movie foregrounds the growing conflict of Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) and the wizards who wish to stop him. A young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits Newt (Eddie Redmayne) to go to Paris to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler) join in to catch up with Tina (Katherine Waterston) who is already in Paris looking for Creedence.
What follows is a jumbled mess. The storytelling is very poor here, as the film throws in some interesting fan service (an appearance by the 600-year-old Nicolas Flamel, a flashback to Newt’s days at Hogwarts), but really makes no effort to tie it into a sensible plot. Depp mails it in as a boring Grindelwald, Zoe Kravitz is wasted in an underdeveloped role as Leta Lestrange, and worst of all the returning characters are poorly used. Tina and Jacob are minimized in their roles, and Queenie – one of the most delightful and loving characters in the first film – becomes evil? Early in the movie she puts a love charm on Jacob and later she joins Grindelwald, all so that she can marry a No-Maj, even though Grindelwald is vehemently racist against non-magical peoples. I get the point is that good people support autocracy when they’re desperate, but her motivations here are nonsensical.
There are some big twists at the end of the movie that don’t help make this mess of a movie any better. There are more Fantastic Beasts movies to come, but I’m not looking forward to them.