Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Tron: Legacy

Today I'm stuck in Jury Duty, so I might as well use the "90 minutes of quota time" alloted to me for certain web sites like blogspot (others are allowed and anything fun or interesting is just flat out blocked). I'll be reviewing the last big blockbuster film of 2010, Tron: Legacy. First some backstory.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never seen the original Tron. It's when I tried to finally see it that I realized why that is: it's incredibly hard to find. It's not readily available on DVD or home video for that matter and is pretty much never on TV, not even the Disney channel, the company that made it. It came out before I was born and it took heading to a Blockbuster Video Store to rent a copy on DVD, no small feat as most didn't have it and trying to buy it was not a viable option (it sells on eBay for about $80, yikes!). Needless to say I finally saw it and wasn't overly blown away by it. Yes comparing Tron today's films is an impossible task, it doesn't hold up one bit but it was so cool to see a young Jeff Bridges act and realize how great an actor he's become. Those special effects though, what can you say, I knew to take it stride and enjoy it for what it was while my wife likened it to something akin to a cartoon and I can see that.

The story of Tron is irrelevant because it was an experiment that didn't exactly succeed. Worse, the film leaves us on a terrible cliffhanger with little to no resolution. This is where Tron: Legacy picks up and gives us a little more backstory on what the heck happened over 20 years ago after Tron.

So this much needs to be said, Tron: Legacy, like Tron, isn't going to blow you away with brilliant writing or smart dialogue, but it's also not a dumb film. This thing knows its audience and the audience isn't mindless; they want to see an amazing world but also have an understanding of computers to an extent and aren't around to just see stuff blow up, anyone can do that. Let's see someone make a whole new world instead and build something on that.

Legacy tells the story of Sam Flynn, the son of Jeff Bridges' character Kevin Flynn, who after all these years has been stuck in the Grid, the virtual world he helped create. There's a good amount of early story here about what happened to them and their company, Encom, which is now in a Microsoft style control of releasing rehashed versions of the same programs with a new number on it. We even get a cameo from the great Cillian Murphy but that's all it is, a cameo. Bruce Boxlightner (the original Tron) gets a bigger role which is understandable and yet sad, Murphy was wasted likely to be brought back for another sequel (considering he's the son of the first film's antagonist).

Eventually, Sam reenters the Grid and that's when things turn awesome, it's what we paid to see. Personally I paid to see it in glorious IMAX 3D and recommend seeing it this way. Not all films deserve the treatment but this movie is all about the visuals and sounds so it's worth it. The world created in this movie is nothing short of staggering and a bit awe-inspiring. It has to be seen in motion and the play of colors vs darkness is a beautiful sight. Bridges finally enters the fray in the film here but as two different characters, and this is where the film really starts to divide people.

You either go with the fact that C.L.U., the villain of this piece, is believable as a computer-enhanced younger Jeff Bridges or not. There are times he looks real and others where it pulls you out of the film. As much hard work went into this effect, it's still no Gollum, which is sad considering that we last saw that character over 5 years ago.

C.L.U. is however an excellent foil for our heroes, because he isn't "evil" in the traditional sense, not even like the MCP was in Tron. He isn't after control, he's after perfection and building the perfect system. Of course like the MCP he was built by humans (in this case by Bridges himself) and has since come to haunt them. That same lesson looms but is taught quite different and more effectively. I found this conflict far more engaging because C.L.U. believes he is doing what he has to, what he was designed to do and believes he is right.

Sam and Kevin's reconnection isn't as strong as one would want but then, Kevin's been stuck here for too long and has started going loopy from what things seem (and apparently he also becomes Big Lebowski's The Dude from time to time, don't ask why, Digital Jazz, really?). The standout is Olivia Wilde as Quorra, who helps our heroes and is a free thinking creation of this world.

Needless the say the film has enough in it to engage and impress, and I feel it really shouldn't be missed if only for the fantastic effects and fun ride. It asks only slightly more of you than your average blockbuster film but is wrapped up in a tighter package better than most from this past year. There's definitely a few hindrances to get past, dialogue, potential confusion if you haven't seen Tron (though I think they did a fine job of recapping things) and the difficult effect of buying into the young Bridges face. All that said, I give the film the Silver Medal of End of Line. See it in IMAX 3D if you can but enjoy it either way.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The 2010 Gonch Awards

Here we go, without any further ado to those fools who still follow such a dead, dead blog which I wish I would keep up more but goddammit I'm lazy and video games don't play themselves...THE 2010 GONCH AWARDS!!!!

Best Movie - Inception, this amazing tale of dream entering and mesmerizing scenes takes you hostage until implants a single idea in your head: this movie rules and Christopher Nolan is still brilliant.

Best Special Effects - Tron: Legacy, yes the questionable digitized villain of C.L.U. aka young Jeff Bridges is at times hard to believe, but who cares? The whiz-bang beauty of this film lies in the amazing visuals, the jaw dropping look of blue and yellow playing against the dark backdrop of a place you wish your computer was cool enough to house.

Biggest Disappointment - Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, a greatly fun video game that actually did have a story in it was poised to become one of the best video game adaptations of all time. And it was...except that's not saying much. It barely rose above the levels of a standard action film and perhaps I shouldn't have expected more, but I had hoped.

Biggest Surprise (Positive That Is) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt, oh crap he can act. Sure it happened to be a year where I saw 500 Days of Summer on DVD for the first time, but forget that. He was great in Inception and almost overshadowed Dicaprio. He's come a long way from 3rd Rock From The Sun.

Worst Film - Killers, awful from top to bottom. Katherine Heigl is unbearable, Ashton Kutcher doesn't flat out suck but he's not exactly good either and the plot and "twists" if you will, holy crap don't watch this movie. I haven't seen Knight and Day yet but it HAS to be better than this. Or just see Date Night, I'm sure that's the best version of this story.

Best Use of 3D - Tron: Legacy, the overused aspect of 3D has gotten out of control, I mean Green Hornet got the treatment, why exactly? Well, this movie got it and it made sense and was done wonderfully. I actually saw this in IMAX 3D and the scenes outside the grid were in 2D, while those inside were in 3D (clever eh?) to show the differences between the worlds, as if there weren't enough.

Best Superhero Film - Iron Man 2, the easy answer by default because of the few I saw, it was the best. Wait did I even see another superhero film? I'm not sure I did, either way let's just give it to this, Mickey Rourke was cool and while it wasn't everything you could have wanted, it was still a good time.

Best Animated Film - Toy Story 3, the 4th Shrek film wasn't awful but it doesn't come close to a Pixar film. This particular installment wasn't my favorite of the bunch, I'd have to give that to Toy Story 2, but it was still a good movie and a bit dark to boot.

Most Anticipated Film of 2011 - Thor/Green Lantern/Captain America, a three way tie between the superhero films. There's a serious glut of these coming but they mostly look good, though I have serious fears about Green Lantern succeeding. DC needs something besides Batman to live off of and if this fails, we can only hope Zack Snyder's Superman film can save it. Marvel however looks poised for another great year and push to Joss Whedon's (oh god it feels good to say that) Avengers movie.

Best Villain - C.L.U. from Tron: Legacy, this is tough one to choose but I choose young Bridges for a good reason, I love a villain with an interesting motivation whether it be chaos like the Joker or making "super" into normalcy like Syndrome. C.L.U. wasn't truly evil, he was corrupt and confused, perhaps jealous of Flynn's friendship with Tron and determined to "create the perfect system". This drove him to genocide and gives the film it's most important message (yes it DOES have one), that the pursuit of perfection is imperfect in itself and can only lead down a dark path. Sometimes imperfect is perfect.

Best Returning Show - Lost and Smallville, it was hard to pick one so I take both. Lost had its final season and it was a doozy, though the finale was bittersweet in that while it was enjoyable, it didn't quite give us what we expected or hoped for. Smallville began its final season as well in 2010 and it has pulled out ALL the stops. Darkseid, Supergirl, Justice League/Society, Suicide Squad, the suit...oh and he pretty much flew. Got all that? Yeah, it's shaping up to be a great final season...too bad it took this long to get this much out of the show cause it's shining.

Best New Show - No Ordinary Family, no this show isn't going to blow you away or do anything you haven't ever seen before. C'mon, it's about a family of superheros on ABC, the company owned by Disney who also owns Pixar who already made their Fantastic Four ripoff (and frankly better) The Incredibles. No this show isn't anywhere as good as The Incredibles, but it's still lighthearted fun fair, even if it feels like it barely made it over from ABC Family.

Best Comedy - Modern Family, oh god I hadn't seen this show before this year and it is the new Arrested Development, god bless it. A great cast and smart writing make a brilliantly entertaining show.

Best Drama - Lost, you have to hand it to these guys, they could never live up to their expectations and while we still had issue, they did an amazing job wrapping it up.

Best Film Score - Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk, it's unlike any other film score you'll hear this year, it's mostly electronic yet orchestrated score evokes the computer world and the impressiveness of how to make a different kind of movie score.

Honestly, no major album or song springs to mind when I think of 2010.

So that's all I got, did I miss stuff? Am I an idiot? (Don't answer that one). Let me know. Welcome to 2011!