short circuits

News and noteworthy experiences among home video, games, gadgets and the Web.


'Wreck-It Ralph' clever, but overly busy

The 3-D animated comedy "Wreck-It Ralph" (PG, 108 minutes, Disney) is the story of a goofy bad guy out of a retro arcade game who "game jumps," leaving his cloistered universe in search of fulfillment in other games. It's a clever and original idea, with lots of cute sight gags. But the narrative itself is overly busy, noisy and unengaging, with little of the heart that charmed "Toy Story" viewers.

The voice casting works well. In the title role of a hulking destroyer who dreams of becoming a hero, John C. Reilly evokes the pathos of an outsider. And Sarah Silverman is pretty perfect as Vanellope von Schweetz, a tomboyish driver in a kiddie drag-racing game. Like Ralph, Vanellope aspires to video-game greatness. Their unexpected friendship is one of the nicest things about the movie. The tangled plot may please gamers who are used to processing complex, seemingly never-ending story lines, but it's needless clutter in a movie geared toward a young audience.

Also out Tuesday

Movies: "Red Dawn," "The Intouchables," "Playing for Keeps," "Lay the Favorite," "The Bay," "Garbage," "California Solo," "A Dark Truth," "Interview With a Hitman," "Midnight Stallion," "Abducted: The Carlina White Story," "Scavenger Hunt," "The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond," "Muay Thai Warrior," "The Seven Year Hitch," "Care Bears: Totally Sweet Adventures," "Collaborator," "The Marine 3: Homefront," "Power Rangers: Clash of the Red Rangers," "Sophia the First: Once Upon a Princess," "Tom and Jerry: Pint-Sized Pals," "Tom and Jerry: Musical Mayhem," "Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Friends Forever" and "Eaters."

TV: "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" (Volume 10), "Duck Dynasty" (Season 2, Volume 1), "Thorne," "Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu" (Season 2), "Murdoch Mysteries" (Seasons 1-4), "Murdoch Mysteries" (Season 5), "H20: Just Add Water" (Seasons 1-3) and "Regular Show: Party Pack."


A fresh start for 'Tomb Raider'

The gaming world has much to say on the idea of reboots and relaunches. They're the best way to keep a series relevant. Or they're the death of all things new and creative. Opinions abound, but when a fresh start to an old series is as engaging and exciting as "Tomb Raider," (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC; Square Enix; rating: M), it's best to just sit back and enjoy a brilliant new release on its own merits.

"Tomb Raider" begins with a focus on narrative and atmosphere, and in a rare feat, maintains that focus for the many subsequent hours. Lara Croft is a young but uncertain adventurer out with a documentary crew searching for a lost island off the coast of Japan. When her ship mysteriously tears itself apart in a storm, she and a small band of survivors are cast away on a dangerous island filled with ritualistic cultists and inexplicable weather events. Whether it's the opening cave sequence, outrunning a crashing airplane, or tumbling down a whitewater river, the cinematic flair excels at engaging players without taking control away. The story takes a few predictable turns, but it's easy to forgive as the tale weaves through exotic locales, fun character interactions, and amazing set-piece moments.

Croft is a great lead. Emotional, nuanced voice acting and stellar animation for the character help make her believable, even if that focus on authenticity is at odds with her seemingly inhuman ability to suffer wounds, falls, stabs and burns and still marshal on. Even so, few games have managed such a likable and relatable protagonist, scaling up from vulnerable ingenue to hardened survivalist.

"Tomb Raider" strikes a near-perfect balance between traversal, exploration and combat, and it does so by letting players set that balance themselves. While the critical path is mostly linear, stages are large and have plenty of options for shaping gameplay.

Game Informer Magazine


Photoshop Touch

Adobe just released its Photoshop Touch app for smartphones ($4.99 in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play). The app has the same basic features as the iPad and Android tablet apps released last year, including layers, fills, selection tools and plenty more. Photoshop Touch works surprisingly well on the smaller touch screen. You can edit photos, crop and retouch. You can also do standard cloning, brush and effects. Unique to the smartphone version is a new "Scribble Selection" tool that lets you quickly combine images together, including a live view using your phone's camera. If you're a desktop and tablet user, Photoshop Touch also syncs with the Adobe Creative Cloud so your work is synced across devices. The iPhone version requires an iPhone 4S or fifth-generation iPod Touch or newer.