REVIEW: Tron: Legacy

30 12 2010

The so what factor looms large over “Tron: Legacy” as it thrills the eye but leaves the mind way in the dust.  It provides a visual spectacle in an entirely digital world that’s dazzling enough to merit the extra cash for 3D and IMAX.  But even with all of that firepower, when the credits roll, it leaves no sort of statement or impact.  It’s almost as if the movie wants you to leave your experience in the theater and take nothing with you.

The movie features a storyline that can be understood only in its most general sequence of events.  It’s a step up from its predecessor’s plot – which was about as intelligible as binary code – in that it makes sense and has a simple theme at its core.  “Tron: Legacy” deals with perfection and its ultimate subjectivity pretty sloppily; I doubt the writers even know what the words utopia and dystopia mean.  And in a year where “Black Swan” provided an all-encompassing cinematic exploration of similar themes, an ugly stepchild is a generous term of endearment for this movie.

Nearly two decades after the mysterious disappearance of his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) investigates a strange page in the run-down family arcade.  What he doesn’t expect, though, is to get unwittingly swept into the server that his father built where he is ill-prepared to face the hostilities of the computer.

In a world of “programs,” Sam (the 2010 model of Jake Sully) is a rare “user” and thus hunted by the tyrannical power of the server, CLU (also played by Jeff Bridges).  Only thanks to Quorra (Olivia Wilde), the protege of the now Zen Buddhist-like Kevin Flynn, is Sam saved from almost certain death or deresolution.  Kevin has discovered life-changing developments for the real world inside the computer but has been exiled thanks to CLU’s evil bidding and unable to escape with the information.  However, Sam’s arrival opens up a mystical portal to the outside world, and the journey there takes them to the ends of cyberspace, including a stop off at the house of a David Bowie-wannabe (Michael Sheen).

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




SAVE YOURSELF from “Tron”

5 12 2010

Disney has invested quite a bit of money into promoting “Tron: Legacy” – $150 million, to be exact.  I’ve been watching as they’ve hyped this movie for the past three years with a fair bit of skepticism.  I’ve wondered why they need such a massive push for a big-budget visual effects spectacle for quite some time, so over the fall, I decided to look for answer in “Tron,” its 28-year-old predecessor.

I found one pretty good reason to promote “Tron: Legacy” so excessively: the original “Tron” is TERRIBLE!  And not even terrible in the sense that you can step back and laugh at it; it’s just terrible!

Sure, the visual effects are obscenely outdated, and that’s reason for a few giggles.  It’s also dated by kids playing games at an arcade.  I mean, who does THAT anymore?  I guess you could say that watching “Tron” certainly gives you an appreciation for the flawless integration of FX into movies, and it sure makes you want to bow at the feet of “Avatar” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

With its extensive use of computer graphics for visual spectacle, “Tron” is considered by many to be a pioneering film in technological development and a window into the future.  Well, I can tell you know from a 2010 perspective that the future came and left “Tron” in the dust a very long time ago.  Plenty of movies have done similar things, and watching “Tron” is like sending a telegram when you could just send a text message: that’s to say extremely antiquated and a futile waste of time.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something very cool and novel about seeing how things were done in the past and seeing our progress.  But it’s brutal when that movie doesn’t have any value other than its depreciation to offer.  “Tron” has a completely incoherent plot that baffled moviegoers back in 1982 because it dealt so much with the unfamiliar computers.  The filmmakers claimed that it was misunderstood back when the movie came out largely to cover the movie’s lackluster box office receipts.  (To be fair, there was also a little science-fiction movie called “E.T.” dominating the market at the same time.)

Yet even now, in a generation of overexposure to computers, the movie still doesn’t make sense!  All I could discern from that plot was that Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn invented the TRON program, his intellectual property was stolen, and he beams himself inside the program to prove his creation.  From then on, it’s a total mess of seemingly unconnected events inside the computer that have little going for them other than the retro ’80s appeal.

The movie has managed to become a cult hit over the years, and I’m a little flabbergasted that people actually love this movie.  I don’t see anything other than effects that are funny for a few minutes, and then when the novelty wears off, we are left with nothing but a snooze of a movie with a strange plot.

So I’m honestly shocked that Disney would throw so much behind “Tron: Legacy” when the original is so pathetic.  I think they know it and are starting to fret that people like me would see the 1982 movie; according to a report in The Los Angeles Times, the DVD of the original is pretty hard to find since Disney is hardly releasing any new copies to meet the demand.  Most studios release some new edition of a predecessor when a sequel comes out, and a special edition of “Tron” is nowhere to be seen.

“Tron: Legacy” is being built as the cinematic equivalent of Wall Street’s “too big to fail” companies.  The commonly held theory is that if enough money is poured into a production, moviegoers will recognize the investment and go see it on blind faith.  While the fanboy hype is high on this release, reality may be setting in that this might not have been such a smart move (which I could have told you the second I finished the original).  According to The Hollywood Reporter, tracking indicates an opening weekend of a low $35 million, which would mean the movie would probably only net about $150-$175 million in the United States.

Given that the film will cost the studio $320 million by December 17, these numbers would be catastrophic for Disney.  Just as when the “too big to fail” firms sunk led to change on Wall Street, /Film reports that if “Tron: Legacy” were to bomb, the impact on Hollywood could be enormous.  My prediction is that if the sequel is anything like the 1982 “Tron,” the road to failure has already been paved.





What To Look Forward To in … December 2010

15 11 2010

Hard to believe we are rapidly approaching the last month of 2010!  Enjoy the movies now, because soon Hollywood will be offering us its scraps.  We have an interesting December slate peppered with Oscar contenders and blockbusters, so it makes for an interesting mix.  Let’s get started at our look!

December 3

I’ve already seen “Black Swan” (mwahaha), and you need to see it.  Not for the faint at heart, I must warn.

FINALLY opening after being shuffled from preview post to preview post is “I Love You Phillip Morris,” the racy comedy starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers.  It’s changed release dates so many times, in fact, that I’m not going to write anything about it just in case I jinx it.  Also opening is “The Warrior’s Way,” which looks to potentially play “Norbit” for Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar chances.  And “All Good Things” looks like a jumbled mess that might be worth checking out on video if for no other reason than to see Kristen Wiig’s first major dramatic turn.  If you really need a Christmas movie, check out no-name distributor Freestyle’s release of “The Nutcracker” in 3D with Dakota Fanning’s sister and Nathan Lane!

Also in limited release is a documentary on Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former Prime Minister of Pakistan, called “Bhutto.”  I think she would be a fascinating subject, and I sure hope it comes to Houston.

December 10

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” looks to undo the disastrous effects of Disneyfication on C.S. Lewis’ classic series.  After “Prince Caspian,” the series needs a strong recovery.  Here’s to hoping the venture with Fox can do it.

As for “The Tourist,” I like anything with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.  This could be a totally formulaic thriller, but it’s Christmas and I have time to see whatever.

For all those interested in having Julia Taymor’s bad trips mess with their mind, “The Tempest” opens in limited release this Friday.  The weekend also brings us “The Company Men” with Ben Affleck, which tackles the issue of unemployment in America.  Unfortunately, the zeitgeist movie market has pretty much been cornered with “The Social Network,” so it’s going to take a backseat.  “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden” also heads your way in limited release, yet even with the big name expatriate author out in front, this still doesn’t excite me in the slightest.

Oh, and opening limited this weekend and wide December 17 is a little movie called “The Fighter.”  It just stars a few no-names like Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.  It’s kind of got some minor buzz, so it could be worth checking out.  (Note the sarcasm.)

December 17

How Do You Know” is my top mainstream pick for December.  The combination of the light dramedy of James L. Brooks with stars like Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson is just endlessly appealing to me.

I feel like the jury is still out on what will become of “Tron: Legacy.”  It’s sure going to be a visual effects phenomenon worth my IMAX money, but is it going to be any good?  Quality doesn’t seem to shine through the numerous trailers.  Maybe it’s some ’80s child thing I don’t get.

I’ve also seen “Rabbit Hole,” and it is more than worth your time and money in the busy Oscar bait season.  Nicole Kidman is astounding.  Also in the indie spectrum, Kevin Spacey stars in the late George Hickenlooper’s “Casino Jack,” a story of big influence on Capitol Hill.  Expect the two-time Oscar winner to hit out of the park as usual.

In case your family was looking to fill the void that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” left in the holiday season, Warner Bros. has quite a treat in store for you with “Yogi Bear!”

December 22

As for big name, sure-fire Oscar bait, it doesn’t get much better than the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit.”  It’s the perfect holiday movie that is totally not for the holiday season.

For more shoddy kids’ entertainment, you could also check out “Gulliver’s Travels” if you think that a non-animated Jack Black still has the capability to be funny.  I don’t think he does, to be honest.  As for “Little Fockers,” I don’t want to ruin whatever jokes the movie has up its sleeve by watching the trailer.  Who knows, there could be few to be had.

In limited release, moody hipster Sofia Coppola has a new movie, “Somewhere,” to totally disrupt the mood of your holiday season.  There’s also Gwenyth Paltrow in “Crazy Heart” — I mean, “Country Strong.”  More on that when it opens wide in January.

I’ve been hearing good things all year about “The Illusionist,” an animated movie about a magician, NOT the Edward Norton starrer from 2006.  It obviously won’t be making Houston in 2010, but I hope I get to catch it some time before it hits Netflix.

December 29/31

The year closes with three awards-type movies: the depressing “Biutiful,” the Mike Leigh unfunny comedy “Another Year,” and the intense NC-17 “Blue Valentine.”  I’ll see all three, but the only one I’ll be rushing the box office for is the latter, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

So, what are YOU looking forward to in December?  I’m tightening up the poll this month to save some space by eliminating some of the less popular titles that never get votes.






Random Factoid #452

23 10 2010

If you really knew me (to steal a conversation starter from MTV), you’d know that I’m not big on fashion.  Especially at the movies.

Excuse me for not caring what I wear in front of a room full of strangers when we are going to be sitting in the dark for two hours staring at a screen.  I don’t think it’s an uncommon feeling; the only time I’ve ever heard of people dressing up to go see a movie is for “Sex and the City” when the women all get in some snazzy dresses (which is a HUGE waste).

Oakley is apparently convinced that everyone is like the hip “Sex and the City” crowd and has unveiled a special pair of 3D glasses to tie-in with the release of “Tron: Legacy.”  Priced at $150, the glasses are a perfect buy for all those who care about looking fashionable in the dark.  I’m sorry, but I’ll take the free pair of Wayfarers over these overpriced stylish shades any day.  Considering that I paid $50 less for a really nice pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses last year that give me infinitely more utility, there’s no way in hell you would catch me buying these things.

Now, if Oakley came out with 3D glasses that could transport me to Pandora or something for the release of “Avatar 2,” then I’d be more interested…





Random Factoid #401

2 09 2010

I’ll take “Over-The-Top Movie Promotions” for 400.

Question: What’s the most ridiculously extravagant way to promote “Tron: Legacy?”

What is throwing a massive neon dance party at Disney World?

That is correct!

I’m not slamming the idea, just to be clear.  I see nothing wrong with lavish promotion because clearly Disney is trying to have their “Avatar.”  I’ve never been to a big movie promotional event because those don’t usually happen in Houston.  If I lived and blogged in Los Angeles, then maybe I would have.  I certainly like the idea of studios trying to reach an audience in more creative ways that a TV ad or a trailer.

But this, to me, just seems like a huge expenditure.  It will surely be a sight, have no doubt about that.  As for how effective this will be in marketing the movie is more suspect.

If I was headed to the Disney park, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see this.  How about you?