Trailer – Top Gun: Maverick


Maverick is back in the skies in Top Gun: Maverick. In the newly released trailer, it looks like Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is still flying after all these years, which explains why he isn’t an Admiral by now. He still has that old motorcycle, though it looks like he rides a newer one and we’re seeing F-18 Hornets in combat, which should be cool. Tomcats are also still in flight, bless the angels.

Not much is known about Top Gun: Maverick save that Christopher McQuarrie (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible: Fallout) has the writing duties here along with a few others. The directing duties are tied to Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy). Kosinski and Cruise also worked together on Oblivion.

Top Gun: Maverick also stars Academy Award Winner Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris and Val Kilmer.

The movie will be released in theatres next Summer.

Enjoy.

Review: Oblivion (dir. by Joseph Kosinski)


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Good science-fiction films tend to be far and few between. Most of the time the ideas and ambition to make a good or great science-fiction film are right there on paper, but loses much once people actually have to create it for others to see. This puts the latest sci-fi film from Tron: Legacy filmmaker Joseph Kosinski in a weird position. His follow-up to the underwhelming sequel to the classic sci-fi film Tron is called Oblivion and it manages to be thought-provoking and entertaining, yet also have a sense of a been there and done that to the whole proceeding.

Oblivion quickly gets the introductions to the film’s backstory out of the way. Earth was attacked 60 years ago by aliens who were called “Scavengers” (Scavs for short) who destroyed the moon thus causing massive tectonic upheaval and gigantic tsunamis to ravage the planet. Humanity in its desperation would fight back with the only weapons it had left once the aliens began landing troops and that would be the nuclear kind. The planet is now devastated with the surviving population leaving Earth for a new colony on Saturn’s moon of Titan and in a massive tetrahedron space station orbiting Earth simply called “The Tet”.

It’s the story of the technician pair left behind to provide support for the array of armed drones who patrol Earth for any remaining Scavs and protect the reclamation factories that has been removing the remaining resources that the planet has to be used as an energy source for the Titan colony. This pair of technician are Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) who live in a towering base above the clouds. Jack does the dirty work by flying patrols in the area that encompasses what used to be the East Coast of the United States while Victoria (who also happens to be Jack’s lover) provides comm and technical support back at their base.

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Victoria can’t wait to finish their five-year stint on Earth and with two weeks left before they can rejoin the rest of humanity on Titan her dream is coming closer. Yet, Jack doesn’t seem to want to leave Earth behind. He has begun to dream about Earth before the war that he should have no memory of. First they’re dreams while he’s asleep but as the film shows it soon begins to invade and distract his waking hours as well.

It’s during one such mission where he comes across the a sudden arrival of a human spacecraft with surviving humans aboard that his dreams become reality. A woman he has dreamed off that he’s never met is one of the survivors (played by Olga Kurylenko) and she becomes the key to unlocking the secret that’s been kept from him about the true nature of the war that devastated Earth sixty years past and why he continues to have flashes of memories that he should never have had.

Oblivion sounds like it’s original at first glance, but as the story moves along we begin to see influences (at times outright plot point lifts) from past innovative sci-fi films such as Moon and The Matrix. While Kosinski (who co-wrote the film as well as directed it) does put his own spin on these ideas it’s not enough to fully distinguish the film from past sci-fi films which did them better. Oblivion is not bad by any means, but it fails to stretch beyond it’s influences that would’ve made it a great film instead of just being a good one. It doesn’t help that the script lags behind Kosinski’s talent for creating some beautiful images and vistas. The world-building he does with art director Kevin Ishioka manages to make a devastated Earth look serenely beautiful which when paired with cinematographer Claudio Miranda’s panoramic sweeps of the Icelandic location shoot make Oblivion one of the best looking film of 2013.

Yet, the script tries too hard to explore some heavy themes such as the nature of memory and identity. The film doesn’t explore them enough to make this film come off as something heavy sci-fi like Solaris. It just teases the audience enough to start a spark that could lead to conversations afterwards. The action that does punctuate the more introspective sections of the film does come off quite well despite coming only few at a time and not for any extended length.

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What seems to hold the film together outside of it’s visuals would be the performance of the cast which sees Tom Cruise doing a very workman-like performance as Jack. We’ve seen him do this sort of performance time and time again that it seems to be second-nature to him by now and something audiences come to expect now. Even Morgan Freeman as an aged resistance fighter lends a bit of serious gravitas to the film whenever he’s on-screen. But it’s the performances of the two female leads that sells the film despite it’s flaws. Olga Kurylenko has less to work with in the role of Jack’s mystery woman Julia. What she does get she does so with a level of empathy that instantly sells the notion that Jack and her were destined to be together despite the vast gulf of time and space.

The stand-out performance comes from Andrea Riseborough as Jack’s lover and partner Victoria. Where Jack comes off as restrained chaotic glee who marvels at the sight he sees every day he’s out on patrol the opposite is Victoria. Her organized and reserved demeanor comes off as sexy in a cold and calculated way, yet just behind that British reserve we see glimpses of her hanging on by a thread at the chaos she sees in Jack. Andrea Riseborough plays Victoria so well that every scene she’s in she steals it from Cruise. Her performance was all about slight changes to her body movement, a quick glance that speaks volumes of what she’s thinking. While this film may not make Riseborough an outright star it will get her noticed by other filmmakers soon enough.

With the summer blockbuster season of 2013 coming closer like a freight train with the approach of Iron Man 3 it’s a good thing that Oblivion was released weeks before this hectic season. For despite it’s flaws in it’s script and the lack of originality in it’s premise the film does succeed in being entertaining and thought-provoking enough that people should see it on the big-screen. Plus, nothing but the massive screen (especially IMAX) does full justice to some of the vistas shot of Iceland that doubles as devastated Earth. So, while Oblivion may not be the slam-dunk hit for Kosinki after failing with Tron: Legacy it is still a film worth checking out.

Trailer: Oblivion (Official)


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Every year always has a couple of big genre films that seem to continually fly under the radar. This is surprising since people tend to think that films with huge budgets and a cast headlined by one of the biggest names in Hollywood tend to be overhyped before they even reached the big-screen. While I’ve heard of the upcoming scifi and post-apocalyptic film Oblivion for almost two years now it’s still a film that doesn’t generate much talk.

We know several things about Oblivion that came out before the release of the film’s first trailer: 1. it stars Tom Cruise and 2. it’s the follow-up film for Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. The second part may be one thing that has kept this film from being one of the biggest anticipated films of 2013. Kosinski’s underwhelming sequel to Tron didn’t make many genre fans excited as to what he might come up with next.

The trailer looks to erase some of those doubts as we get to see Oblivion as a very beautifully-shot film. We get see some great looking art direction for the film if the trailer show’s us anything about Oblivion. Plus, it has Morgan Freeman all decked out like one of David Lynch’s Fremen from Dune.

Oblivion is set for an April 12, 2013 release date.

Source: Apple

A Guilty Pleasure – Tron:Legacy


For January, one of the themes for this month were “Guilty Pleasures”- those films that you simply can’t get enough of, despite how good or bad they may actually be. My first contribution for this is 2010’s Tron: Legacy.

When I look at Tron:Legacy, I see two things. I see a missed opportunity in trying to break new ground for the story, and a hint of promise from it’s director, Joseph Kosinski. I attended the premiere for the movie at the IMAX with a friend and his son, and was totally with it for the first half of the film. However, in it’s second half, it slowed down just like the film before it and admittedly, I almost fell asleep. Let’s face it, Tron as an overall universe was never really that strong.

And yet, I watch it just about every time it’s on, if only for the Lightcycle Race and Clu’s speech. Seeing the grid in an updated view and the new look of the light cycles always brings a smile to my face. Granted, it could be listed just as a Scene I Love, but I find I can tolerate most of the film.

Let’s go with the Missed Opportunities first.

Tron: Legacy’s biggest problem is it really only gave the audience a rehash of the original tale. While the angle with Sam and Kevin Flynn were interesting, along with Clu being a villain this time around, I feel the writers really could have taken the story places. Instead, they went the lazy route and decided to go with what anyone who saw the original film could remember – a problem that I feel plagues many sequels / remakes of old films. I figure if you’re going to do a sequel to film that’s more than 5 years old, be seriously prepared to throw something (at least one thing) new on the table.

When James Cameron made Aliens back in 1986, he took Ridley Scott’s tale and built on it, expanding on the Aliens universe with the addition of the Colonial Marines and the Alien Queen, giving the creatures themselves a sense of heirarchy. For Tron: Legacy, the only real new element would be the ISO’s, but then we’re never really shown just what they’re capable of, within or outside of the grid. It’s an empty element that only serves the purpose for bring Sam and Kevin together.

Tron: Legacy also suffers from a Video Game Tie-In Syndrome, something I’ve hated ever since The Matrix Reloaded. Back when that movie was due to come out, Warner Bros. And Atari came up with the idea of making a Video Game that would bridge the gap between certain elements in the story. If you play Enter the Matrix, you’ll actually have a slightly more complete story than you would by just seeing the film. That robs the audience of content. Granted, they don’t need to know everything, but Tron: Legacy has a few elements that are only really understood in the story for it’s video game, Tron: Evolution.

Then there’s the sense of promise.

Joseph Kosinski was originally a commercial director, his most famous being one for the game Gears of War that featured the Gary Jules version of “Mad World”. Between this and his Halo commercials, it made sense that for the visual style that Tron: Legacy needed, he’d make a perfect fit. Tron needed something new, wasn’t that critical of a franchise to play with and gave Kosinski the freedom to take it wherever he wanted to go (within the constraints of what the writers gave him, of course). For a first time film director, I think he did very well, but that’s just me. It should also be noted that it was his idea to bring on Daft Punk for the soundtrack. If the movie is remembered for anything over time, it’ll be for the music, because that score is just cool.

Tron:Legacy on a visual scale is really beautiful, and it’s cool to see the design updates in the machines, by way of Digital Domain and other F/X companies. That alone is enough for me to watch this repeatedly (it’s on as I’m writing this). I haven’t found myself compelled to pick up the Blu-Ray, but Starz and Netflix have it available to watch.

If he’s lucky, Kosinski may end up getting a project that he’ll really take off with. Maybe it’ll be something of his own making or another remake, but for me it’ll be interesting to see where he goes.

Film Review: Tron: Legacy (directed by Joseph Kosinski)


As we were sitting in one of the theaters at the AMC Valley View, waiting for Tron: Legacy, I leaned over to Jeff, placed my head on his shoulder, and told him that he should feel very special.

“Why’s that?” he asked.

“Because there’s like a hundred guys in this theater and you’re the only one here with a girl.”

And it was true!  The theater was full of guys who all looked like Jesse Eisenberg but there were literally only three or four other girls in the audience and I think they were all together.

Now, one thing I’ve always wondered — why are guys so scared to sit next to each other in the movies?  Seriously, there were all these little Jesse Eisenberg-looking guys out in the audience but each one had to have an empty seat on either side of him.  Yet, it was obvious that they all knew each other because they were loudly shouting comments to each other through the entire film and, once the movie was over, they all left together.  So, guys, sorry but it was a group date regardless of how many empty seats there were between you.

So, that’s one of two things I learned from seeing Tron: Legacy: boys who look like Jesse Eisenberg are homophobic.

What else did I learn?  Well, whenever the hero of Tron: Legacy started fighting or talking about fighting or driving too fast, Jeff would go, “Let’s do this — LEROY JENKINS!”  And I was like, “Who the frickin frack is Leroy Jenkins!?”  Anyway, after the movie, Jeff showed me this video on Youtube.  So, now I kinda know who Leroy Jenkins is.

Anyway, if I seem like I’m talking about everything but Tron: Legacy that’s because Tron: Legacy really didn’t make much of an impression on me. 

Tron: Legacy is a sequel.  The original film was called Tron and I’ve never seen it but I have seen the You Have 0 Friends episode of South Park and Jeff says that’s close enough. 

Tron: Legacy is one of those movies that are mostly made to show off what can be done with CGI and the CGI is impressive in this film for about fifteen minutes.  Then, after those 15 minutes, the CGI starts to get repetitive (I mean, there’s only so many times I can be impressed by the big orange space ships coming up over the horizon) and now you’re going to have to pay attention to things like plot and acting and that’s when everything pretty much falls apart.

Anyway, the plot of Tron: Legacy goes something like this: Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is the son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is apparently some sort of video game guru who vanishes when Sam is 7.  20 years later, Sam is an angry young man who rides a motorcycle and posts silly Youtube videos of his dog and somehow he ends up getting sucked into a really old computer where he discovers the Matrix.

And wow, is the Matrix boring.  There’s like these gladiator style games going on and all the citizens are actually computer programs and they’re ruled over by CLU (also played by Jeff Bridges) and everyone keeps calling Sam a “user” and then there’s this club that’s ruled over by a Castor (Michael Sheen) who is portrayed as being extremely fey and treacherous which I guess is meant to show that even computer programs can be homophobic. 

Anyway, Sam is tossed into one of the gladiator games and then he’s rescued by a program named Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and it turns out that Quorra lives offgrid with Sam’s father!  It seems that Kevin has been trapped in this world for the past 20 years and now Sam only has a few hours left to get out and Kevin wants to make sure Quorra gets out as well and this is important because Quorra has some sort of digital DNA that’ll end all world suffering but CLU wants to kills Quorra because she’s “an imperfection” and…

Oh, who cares?  Well, the filmmakers apparently because this is an amazingly talky film.  For all the emphasis put on the CGI and the endless stream of action sequences (Sam gets into either a fight or a chase every 10 minutes or so), this is a really verbose film.  Once Sam finds his father, all of the action suddenly halts as the audience is subjected to a seemingly endless monologue that is designed to explain how CLU was created, why CLU looks like a young, sexy Jeff Bridges, and how Quorra can synthesize religion and science and philosophy.  The dialogue brings up all these intellectual and philosophical questions but why?  It’s all very shallow, like listening to someone who just finished an Intro. To Philosophy class trying to explain the work of Jean-Paul Sartre.  (“Hell is other people!  Shit, man…”)  I mean, the explanations make little to no sense yet they keep going on and on!  It’s one thing to make a movie with a nonsensical plot.  It’s another thing to not only continually call attention to that fact but do so in a way that is so humorless and so lacking in any self-awareness that the plot goes from being silly to stupid to borderline offensive.

Anyway, I know this review has been pretty negative so far so instead of dwelling on everything that didn’t work in this movie, I’m going to mention some good things about Tron: Legacy.

Let’s see — well,  I think I may have a girlcrush on Olivia Wilde now.  She kicks ass with style and bring a sly sense of humor to her role.  Unfortunately, she has next to no chemistry with either Bridges or Hedlund.

As CLU, Jeff Bridges is made up to look young and sexy and is obviously being filmed through a lens that has been coated with vaseline.

It’s always nice to see one of my favorite actors, Michael Sheen.  Even though his role here is kind of a waste of his talents, at least he’s not playing Tony Blair again.

Speaking of Michael Sheen, Tron: Legacy might not be a good film but it’s still more entertaining than Frost/Nixon.

Some of the CGI is cool in a “Hey!  Look!  CGI!” sorta way.

However, the best thing about Tron: Legacy is the original score by Daft Punk.  Seriously, this might be the best film score of the year.  The score is a mixture of electronic and orchestral music and it has a perfect sort of other worldliness to it.  To a large extent, the music provides the emotional highs and lows that the rest of the film fails to supply. 

My final verdict on Tron: Legacy: Skip the film, buy the soundtrack.