Archive for the ‘movie’ Category

TRON: Legacy – Despite Some Hang-ups, I GOT IN

December 17, 2010

Wow, been a while since I talked about a movie. Good thing it’s a movie about video games.

The original Tron was a slow, plodding sort of Star Wars rip-off with a few interesting concepts and a light performance from Jeff Bridges. Though it lacked in entertainment value, it provided the first foray into cyberspace on film, something that the sci-fi and cyberpunk subgenre would build upon for 27 odd years since. The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell and, if anyone remembers them, cartoons Reboot and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest all used variations of the Grid, designs that relied on neon and skintight leather, and rogue hackers who changed the system and fought soulless corporations and/or machines. Tron helped pave the way for all that. It showed that past the monitor there’s a whole other universe inside the computer. Alice in Wonderland for the digital age — “a digital frontier.”

It was also among the first movies to portray video games in a positive, interesting way. Bridges’ character, Kevin Flynn, was an arcade hero who used his video game prowess to survive the disc and cycle games in the gladiatorial world of The Grid. And games have come a long, long way since Flynn’s Arcade. They’re the most innovative, lucrative entertainment medium there is today, and everyone plays them from Angry Birds to Plants vs. Zombies, to titles like Heavy Rain and Call of Duty that arguably push and blur the boundaries of what a game could be, making billions of dollars in the process.

Movies have responded in kind. Inception, Speed Racer, Avatar, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — not to mention those unmentionables based on actual video game franchises — all emulate the kinetic imagery, rhythms and instant gratification video games provide, and most prominently, Tron‘s pioneering use of CG. Today, CG is so common that special effects are hardly special anymore. In a strange turnabout, practical effects like puppetry, prosthetics and — gasp — actual sets are novel once more.

So, with the history lesson out of the way, and a TRON: Legacy review to get into I have to reveal something first.

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The Expendables – Expendably Delicious

August 18, 2010

Terry Crews, eyes shimmering with the intensity of a thousand nuclear detonations, throws a warhead up in the air to have Sylvester Stallone shoot it so it could explode a helicopter.

Besides Mickey Rourke’s teary, natural monologue about regret that was the best, most surprising thing about The Expendables. It’s exactly what you expect it to be. Not exactly the Commando 2.0 it should be, not as shocking as Rambo 4, but still a fun, stupid, homoerotic manly time at the movies.

And that’s the tooth!

hard-hitting film analysis

Notes From a Review That Never Was: Terminator Salvation

August 5, 2010

Duhhh

What a mixed bag. In some ways better than the jokey third movie, in other ways, worse. It’s all pointless of course, a cash-in,  begins nice and bleak with a man’s execution.

clumsy. intro with worthington and carter…. drrrr. then thrown into the future.

bale grunts and screams.

worthington stumbles out of the wreckage ALIVE!! and screaming. who could he beeeee?

jumps off a chopper into the ocean – why?? oh to rendevous with a submarine somehow. meets his superiors.

MICHAEL FUCKIN’ IRONSIDE shows up and brings some 80s sci-fi credibility.

finds out he’s gonna meet Kyle Reese – “a civilian.” meets his fellow soldiers. and Bryce Dallas lookin’ chunky.

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Predators – Homages! Homages Everywhere!

July 13, 2010

Predators does exactly what we want it to. Nearly every beat, character moment and action-packed set piece arrives how we want it to, when we want it to, sometimes even executed the way we want it to. In that way Predators fulfills 23 years of waiting for the sequel the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic always deserved. In another way, doing exactly what’s expected makes Predators a predictable, even staid, entertainment experience.  But still entertaining!

So let’s do the review thing and talk about what works and what doesn’t.

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Toy Story 3: Sobbing Man-Children

July 8, 2010

It’s difficult to remember what theatrical animation was like before Pixar. I remember that a Disney movie would come out every year or so and I’d beg my parents to take me and that’d be about it. I wasn’t stupid enough to go see a Don Bluth movie in the theater, at least. And pretty much all the animation was 2D! I remember when it was a giant fucking deal that Aladdin had 3D CG mixed in. I remember when people’s jaws were dropping during the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast. You’d occasionally see a 3D CG animated short on Nickelodeon (especially on Thanksgiving), but other than those, that was about it. Computer graphics were a delicacy, like caviar for the developing eyes of a cartoon-addled child. This was back when 3D viewing was still considered retro and gimmicky, too!

But then it was 1995. Disney was quickly losing their shit (Pocahontas? HUNCHBACK?) and no one was stepping up to take the doddering king’s place. Except for one studio who dared to look toward the future, and saw the potential in the shiny, plastic-looking aesthetic of computer animation. And Disney still had enough sense left in them to see the potential, as well, and released Pixar’s film Toy Story into theaters. And it was a success! The rare non-Disney animated feature to garner universal acclaim and commercial success! Combining heartfelt storytelling with sly, inventive humor, Pixar created a franchise.

A franchise that’s never quite sat well with me.

I mean, I liked Toy Story well enough. I could appreciate it for the way it pioneered a whole new medium and for the relative sophistication it had compared to other offerings. Even as a child, it seemed a bit sharper than the competition. But the movie’s aesthetic just didn’t age very well (see: any human in the film) and then there was John Lasseter’s unhealthy taste in Randy Newman. It just didn’t resonate with me the same way Aladdin or other films did. And seeing Toy Story 2 years later, when it was rereleased in 3D, I can see why people consider it a marked improvement. The added characters actually ADD to the proceedings rather than detract and it explored some interesting aspects of toy culture. But it still wasn’t yanking me like I wanted it to. Was it the indifference to stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen?  The still-uncanny-valley human characters? The seemingly recycled bit where the gang has to deal with another fresh-out-of-the-box Buzz Lightyear? The world may never know.

So it was with some chagrin that I learned that Pixar was going back to the well again with Toy Story 3. I mean, I’m not surprised. Aside from Cars, it’s probably their most profitable property. It also has that nostalgic glimmer of being their first feature animation, and enough time has gone by that super-fans of the original might have kids of their own to take to a sequel. Canny Disney thinking at work, there. So after enduring months of breathless Toy Story fans spazzing out over the idea of a threequel and the outpouring of praise from the rest of the press, I decided to go see it to give it a fair shake. If anything, I probably wouldn’t hate it.

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Splice – Sugar, Spice and Everything …

June 13, 2010

… Everything awful! Jeez! What a movie Splice turned out to be.

Scientists/lovers, Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrian Brody, in the first movie I ever liked him in), break laws and bends morals to create the Ultimate Being, Dren, a cocktail creature consisting of various animal DNA including human. A modern day Frankenstein’s monster born of hubris and just plain craziness (science? feh!) , Elsa asks of its birth — frequently — “What’s the worst that could happen?”

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Favorite Films and Video Games of 2009

June 7, 2010

We’re halfway through 2010! You know what that means!

Time for another shitty overdue list!

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