TRON: Legacy

As many of you faithful readers know, my love of movies was developed by my mom, with my dad making the occasional contribution.  With as many movies as Mom took me to growing up,  there were some that she would not go to.  Dad took care of this oversight with Star Wars and James Bond, but even he missed a couple.  I hate that I missed seeing Superman on the big-screen, and that I did not get to see Star Trek either.  Years later, Mom would admit that she thought I was too wrapped up in sic-fi, superheroes, and fantasy, so she thought it best to not encourage those interests any more than necessary.  So I did not get to see TRON when it came out; instead, Mom let me read the book since she always loved me reading books.  So I grew up with images of TRON coming only from the 8 pages of set shots in the book, the arcade game, and my imagination.  As a matter of fact, it was not until this year that I sat down and actually watched the original.  I know that seems sacrilege to some of you, particularly as I reveal having owned the DVD since it came out.  I have no excuse other than I never got around to it.  I enjoyed it, but it didn’t affect me the way it might have when I was 12.

Fast forward to this weekend.  My friend, Ken, and his wife, Amy, invited me to join them for the ETX/3D showing of Legacy at AMC Pleasure Island.  Let’s think about this for a sec: good company, one of my favorite theaters, and a movie I was interested in seeing – no brainer that I said yes.   Ken and Amy beat me to the theater, and thanks to Amy, we got some pretty good seats.  If you have not been to the AMC Pleasure Island lately, they have made some changes.  Stadium 1 (where we were) is now an ETX environment; while not IMAX-certified, certainly a better screen than at the other fake IMAXes and the sound system is very impressive.  Outside of Pointe Orlando’s true IMAX, this is probably the best screen in Central Florida to pay extra for on your ticket price.

Legacy is the continuation of the story of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges).  We find out that he has taken over ENCOM and has led it to major success until he disappears sometime in the 88/89 time period.  His son, Sam, is left orphaned and alone and resentful.  Of course, he chooses to rebel the way all stereotypical movie teenagers rebel: pranking his dad’s company.  What follows is a journey that reunites Sam with his dad while introducing him to the world of the Grid.

What was Good:

  • Effects – This is a visually stunning movie.  Disney managed to keep the look of the original movie without making the effects appear dated.  Everything felt more fluid with more options in this movie than the first – which is a comparison for computers today versus 1982.
  • Legacy – Legacy acknowledges its roots without necessarily being completely trapped by them.  The modification of the original movie poster and the appearance of The Black Hole movie poster were smart nods.

What was not so Good:

  • Story – The story felt weak to me and left me at times with a lack of wanting to root for the main character.  This is because the “why” of the story seemed muddled, lost, or non-existent.
  • Reliance on Previous Movie – Part of the story issues dealt with a bad assumption that everyone seeing this movie will have seen the first one.  While that may be true for some of the viewers, I have a feeling that a lot of people are going into this one cold.  With all of the action sequences, there is not enough space to get out the current story, much less a mini-summary of what happened in the first.  I have a feeling that there are going to be some scratching heads on this one.
  • Lack of Fulfillment – Everything that appears onscreen in any movie can be construed as a promise of its importance.  Cillian Murphy is introduced as the son of the bad guy from the first movie, but is not heard of or seen again.  What a waste of a possible plot-line and actor.

My advice: Boy this is a tough one – it is worth the 3D surcharge; I would say matinee price in general.  It is one to see on the big screen once.  But definitely watch the first one before seeing this one…


The Fighter

It amazes me at times when I reflect on what propels certain people on the path to fame and fortune.  Of particular interest to me is when I find out how an actor/actress got there start (and in some cases, witnessed it).  Most people know Adam Sandler as one of those guys who made the leap from SNL to movies; however, few remember his time on MTV as a bit player on the game show, Remote Control.  Even more famously, how many saw Tom Hanks on Happy Days prior to his Bosom Buddy days and thought to themselves, “that guy is going to win back-to-back Oscars in 20 years” ?

Which brings us to Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg started off as a young kid trying to hop on the fame train his older brother was riding with New Kids on the Block.  Of course, back then he was Marky Mark, leader of the Funky Bunch.  Then Wahlberg got smart.  He dropped the Marky and started focusing on acting.  A few forgettable roles, and then, WHAM, he connects with George Clooney for Three Kings.  For a few years, the two were inseparable and Wahlberg’s star continued to rise.  Boogie Nights helped establish him as someone with skills.  The Italian Job showed that he didn’t need Clooney to help nail a movie.  The Departed cemented his acting credibility.

According to many stories, The Fighter has been a personal project of Wahlberg’s for many years.  He finally got casting and studio support after proving himself.  And when I say he got casting support, he got it like Hanks collects Oscars.

Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a boxer trying to make it; the movie is based on a true story.  Christian Bale plays Micky’s brother, Dicky, who had a shot and failed.  When the movie opens, we see the brothers working on boxing with a film crew following them.  The audience is led to believe that they are making a documentary on Dicky’s comeback as he trains his little brother.  What we soon find out is that they are doing a documentary on the effects of crack cocaine.  What follows is deep, raw look into the Ward family dynamic as Micky fights in and out of the ring to survive and succeed.  The language is not for the faint of heart, but none of it is gratuitous.  The entire feel of the movie is that it is real life.  Amy Adams turns in an extraordinary performance as a barmaid who falls in love with Micky and helps him to find his inner strength.  If you think they made a mistake in casting the “princess from enchanted,” then you are blind to what you see on-screen.  Even the small parts, like the Ward sisters, were well-played and genuine-feeling.

I grew up in the time of Rocky – I never saw Raging Bull or On The Waterfront.  Stallone tried to create some of this drama, but it still always felt slightly fake.  The Fighter achieves what Stallone couldn’t with Rocky.  I now must make it a point to watch Raging Bull and On The Waterfront to see how they compare with The Fighter.

My advice: see it at full price – easily one of the top 10 movies of 2010…

The Fighter

Odds and Ends

Cheer up, faithful readers, I have not disappeared again.  I have been out gathering nuggets of movie goodness to last you through the holidays.  Over the next couple of days, I will be working on the following projects:

  • Movie Reviews for Tangled, The Fighter, and Tron: Legacy
  • DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews for Grindhouse and The A-Team
  • Obituaries for Irvin Kershner and Blake Edwards

One thing I did want to point out is a slight change to the site.  I reordered a couple of the items found in the right-hand column to make navigation easier.  I also added a new category of links: Charities.  The charities that I have linked to are ones that garner a lot of support from the film and television industry.  When I have been able to, I have given to both charities.  As you gather gifts for your loved ones, consider making a donation to either or both of the following:

  • The Will Rogers Institute — To perpetuate the memory of Will Rogers by promoting and engaging in medical research pertaining to cardio-pulmonary diseases and educating the general public on topics of health and fitness.
  • St Jude Children’s Research Hospital — St. Jude helps kids in communities everywhere. Children from across the country and around the world have come to St. Jude for treatment. Their stories reflect hope and courage.  No child is ever turned away because they can not afford treatment.