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.

If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now seems like a good time to indulge in something I like to call “If Lisa Marie Had All The Power.”  Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the majority of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

Best Picture

Animal Kingdom

Black Swan

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Fish Tank

Inception

The King’s Speech

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

Somewhere

Winter’s Bone

Best Actor

Patrick Fabian in The Last Exorcism

Colin Firth in The King’s Speech

James Franco in 127 Hours

Andy Garcia in City Island

Ben Stiller in Greenberg

Best Actress

Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Noomi Rapace in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Emma Stone in Easy A

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale in The Fighter

Aaron Eckhardt in Rabbit Hole

Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go

John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone

Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom



Best Supporting Actress

Elle Fanning in Somewhere

Rebecca Hall in Please Give

Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass

Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

(That’s right, everyone.  It’s a tie between the youngest nominee and the oldest nominee.  Don’t you just love the Oscars?)

Best Director

Andrea Arnold for Fish Tank

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan

Danny Boyle for 127 Hours

Sofia Coppola for Somewhere

Christopher Nolan for Inception

Best Original Screenplay

Animal Kingdom

Black Swan

Fish Tank

Inception

The King’s Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

Rabbit Hole

Toy Story 3

Winter’s Bone

Best Editing

Black Swan

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Inception

127 Hours

Somewhere

Best Cinematography

Black Swan

Somewhere

True Grit

Twelve

Winter’s Bone

Best Art Direction

Black Swan

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Inception

The King’s Speech

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Best Sound Mixing

Black Swan

Inception

Secretariat

Stone

Toy Story 3

Best Sound Editing

The Expendables

Inception

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Secretariat

Toy Story 3

Best Costume Design

Black Swan

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Robin Hood

The Wolf Man

Best Original Score

Black Swan

Inception

Machete

127 Hours

Tron: Legacy

(Yes, I know that the Academy has ruled that the original score for Black Swan is not eligible to be nominated.  However, these are my nominations and I make the rules.)

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Inception

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Splice

Tron: Legacy

Best Makeup

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Let Me In

127 Hours

Splice

The Wolf Man

Best Song 

“Better Days” from Eat Pray Love

“Bound Together” from Burlesque

“Dear Laughing Doubters” from Dinner For Schmucks

“Sticks and Stones” from How To Train Your Dragon

“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” from Burlesque

Best Documentary Feature

Best Worst Movie

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Restrepo

Winnebago Man

Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon

A Town Called Panic

Toy Story 3

(Again, I am aware that the Academy ruled that A Town Called Panic isn’t eligible and again, I don’t care.)

Best Foreign Language Film

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sweden)

Mother (South Korea)

OSS 117 – Lost in Rio (France)

Police, Adjective (Romania)

A Prophet (France)

(While the Academy considers one submission per country for this award, I’m simply using it to recognize the best foreign language film released in the U.S. last year.  Or, at least, the best one that I got a chance to see.)

So, since I love lists, here’s a final tally of films by nominations:

10 Nominations — Black Swan

9 Nominations — Inception

7 Nominations — 127 Hours

5 Nominations — Somewhere, Winter’s Bone

4 Nominations — Animal Kingdom, Fish Tank, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3

3 Nominations — Exit Through The Gift Shop, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Never Let Me Go, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

2 Nominations — Burlesque, How To Train Your Dragon, Rabbit Hole, Secretariat, Splice, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, The Wolf Man

1 Nomination — Best Worst Movie, City Island, Dinner For Schmucks, Easy A, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, The Fighter, Greenberg, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Kick-Ass, The Last Exorcism, Machete, Mother, OSS 117 — Lost in Rio, Please Give, Police, Adjective, A Prophet, Restrepo, Robin Hood, Stone, A Town Called Panic, Twelve, Winnebago Man

0 Nominations — The Social Network

And lastly, here’s a tally by imaginary Oscars won:

5 Oscars — Black Swan

2 Oscars — Toy Story 3

1 Oscar — Animal Kingdom, Burlesque, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Fish Tank, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Inception, Never Let Me Go, 127 Hours, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Somewhere, Tron: Legacy, Twelve, Winter’s Bone, The Wolf Man

0 Oscars — The Social Network

(One final note: A big thank you to my sister, Erin Nicole Bowman, who created the banners used in this post.)

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.

The Oscars: The Visual Effects SemiFinalists


The Visual Branch Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Scienes (yes, you can say it five times fast but can you say it five times fast while eating a pop tart — I think not!) has released a list of the 15 semifinalists for the 2010 Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

And here they are:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Last Airbender
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Shutter Island
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Unstoppable

This list will be narrowed down again to 7 semifinalists and then in February, the actual nominees will be announced.

Looking over this list, there’s a few bright spots.  I don’t think anyone’s surprised that Inception made the cut but it’s still good to see it there.  I’m also happy to see that there’s at least a chance that Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World might get some love.  Same thing with Shutter Island.

As for the rest of the list — well, it’s pretty much what you would expect to see, isn’t it?  Clash of the Titans?  Really?  I have to admit that I don’t remember the film all that well but didn’t the special effects kinda look like …. well, crap?  I can only assume that the voters were overwhelmed by the raw charisma of Sam Worthington.  Prince of Persia was a little better but still, for the most part, the effects were routine, dull, and predictable.  Hereafter featured an impressive tsunami but otherwise, the visual effects were pretty much limited to making the afterlife resemble a poorly lit office of the DMV.

As usual, I guess what’s really interesting about this list isn’t what’s listed as much as what’s not.  I would happily replace both Clash of the Titans and Price of Persia with Splice and Skyline, two mediocre films that were distinguished by impressive f/x work.

For that matter, even the Social Network featured Armie Hammer acting opposite himself.

I’m also disappointed to see that Black Swan was left off the list.  In typical Darren Aronofsky fashion, they did indeed come close to going over the top.  The fact that they didn’t is exactly why they deserve to be honored.

(I found this list of semifinalists on AwardsDaily.com but I’m not including a link because the site is run by an elitist dumbfug who apparently thinks that she’s the end-all/be-all of Oscar commentators.  Yes, she’s a commentator and not just some grubby little blogger like the rest of us.  Or, as she once put it — “I know the game.  Hell, I am the game…”  When I call someone a toadsucker, that’s the type of person I’m talking about.)