Tron Legacy (2010) Mini-Review

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In 1982, Kevin Flynn succeeded in creating a virtual computer world which he could physically enter. In 1989, Flynn disappeared, leaving his 8 year old son, Sam Flynn, heir of his Encom computer empire. As adult Sam inadvertantently gets digitized into Flynn’s “digital frontier”, he finds things are no longer quite as rosy as the childhood stories he was told of The Grid.

Tron Legacy is a visual and musical get-together in your prefrontal lobe. Within the first five minutes, the remarkable Daft Punk soundtrack will be blasting at you as Sam rides his Ducati through the city. This is the soundtrack Daft Punk were born to make, and this is the perfect movie to go with it. Just a few days ago, I finished re-re-watching Interstella 5555, the Daft Punk anime musical that accompanied their fantastic Discovery record; I kept thinking I wanted another Daft Punk musical. As it turns out, you can consider Tron Legacy to be such a musical — a visual interpretation of the dark house tones of the tunes.

A nice point of note on the 3D — this is the best use of 3D I’ve seen; because most scenes aren’t in 3D — it even says so before the movie.

While the music propels this movie to greatness, the film itself is a delight. Jeff Bridges is great as usual, and the director understands his mannerisms. There’s even the occasional trademark Bridges “man” uttering thrown in for good measure, and it’s all such a perfect fit. Jeff Bridges, gorgeous techno-world designs, booming sound-design. Light-cycles. Olivia Wilde. A reference to “Sweet dreams” by Eurythmics.  Daft Punk in soundtrack and canonized in situ. This film has got it going. I was absolutely and exhileratingly entertained for two hours, more than I’ve been in years. I completely love this film.

Okay, so the story isn’t over the top great. There are moments — most of them — when Clu, a.k.a. digital Flynn, looks mostly rubber. At a couple of points, the pace of the film grinds just a little bit, and let’s face it the concept itself isn’t terribly deep. In fact, if you didn’t enjoy video games in the eighties or early nineties, you’re probably — most likely — going to find Tron Legacy to be confusing.

If you did enjoy videogames in the eighties or early nineties — even if you just like Daft Punk — Tron Legacy is absolutely something you should watch.

Inception (2010) Mini-Review

Cobb is a master dream extractor. His job, for years, has been to steal innermost secrets, corporate or otherwise, by entering the target persons dreams.

Cobb, unable to be with his kids, gets one final chance to return to them as the reward for doing inception, which — as opposed to extraction — means planting an idea, instead of stealing one.

Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins), has made an extremely interesting movie worth discussing. Which I can’t do without spoiling it. Which is why you should stop reading, if you haven’t already seen the film.

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Avatar (2009) Review

The mystical planet of Pandora holds a very special type of iron ore so valuable that a permanent human settlement has been made just to extract the precious substance. As the mining operations delve deeper into the native lands of the local population, Jake Sully — a paralyzed space marine — is given a second chance in a cloned Na’vi body, so he can infiltrate the locals and help them relocate from an especially rich ore deposit.

The Look

Avatar is absolutely, gorgeously visually arresting. Watching Pandoras underbrush and floating mountains is like watching a Myst age come to life. The graphics by Weta are so well done that you completely forget (or consciously block out because you want to believe) that you’re looking at something that doesn’t actually exist.

James Cameron has clearly taken his inspiration from the backlit waterfall-and-scenery masterpieces found at your local pizzeria, not to mention classic rock cover-artwork. Which is great, because I totally love those things:

Yes_01 Yes_02 Yes_03 Yes_04 Yes_05 Yes_06 Yes_07 Yes_08 Yes_09 Yes_10 Yes_11 Yes_12 Yes_13 Yes_14 Yes_15 Yes_16 Yes_17 Yes_18 Yes_19 Yes_20 Yes_21 Yes_22 Yes_23 Yes_24 Yes_25 Yes_26 Yes_27 Yes_28

Images courtesy of io9 and the band Yes’ cover artist.

The 3D

Avatar has been hailed and promoted as a cinematic game-changer; a paradigm shift in how we watch movies. Based on my single experience with 3D, it’s not. At this point, it’s important to note that the cinema where we saw Avatar seemed to have some old-fashioned tech-trouble; the curtains didn’t retract to cinemascope size until 5 minutes into the movie and the pre-movie-adverts were unfocused. That said, the 3D in the Pixar movie trailers prior to the movie were absolutely superb. Which leads me to believe the 3D in Avatar had its share of issues which I’ll try to deal with here.

First of all, it’s all very dark. You’re essentially wearing sun-glasses; which means for you to get a fully lit experience, the theatre needs to increase the brightness.

Secondly, there’s an issue of focus — not the camera-specific focus, but directorial focus. Take the jungle-scenes, for instance. Cameron clearly wants us to be looking at the main protagonists, so he keeps them in focus while any foreground leaves are focus-blurred. We’ve seen this in countless movies, but when suddenly those leaves are also projected into z-space, your brain tells you those leaves are right there, so if you — voluntarily or involuntarily — want to focus on said leaf, you’ll either be annoyed that you can’t unblur them by concentrating really hard; or you’ll get a headache. Because you see, that focus is not real, it’s burnt-in. Which presents something of a problem, because the film is the film and it can’t satisfy any angle or focus you — the viewer — wants satisfied.

Another oddity is the subtitles. By definition, these should be in front. So they’re given 3D depth. Which completely messes with your mind at the odd times when something in the movie, a character for instance, is placed closer to you in z-space than the subtitles, yet the subtitles are still “in front” at their lower z-depth. Some may not notice it, but my sensitive can’t-play-3d-games motion sick brain vomits at this logical conflict.

I’m sure these are tech issues. I’m sure that in a properly set-up, well-lit cinema the 3D is great. I’m sure that once projectors can churn up the framerate, camera panning won’t turn your brain into goo. I do, however, think that directors who decide to 3D their movies need to make difficult choices as to when and when not to use the z-space, meaning only when it adds to the film and not simply all the time. For now, I prefer gloriously flat.

The Overall Serving

Avatar is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. Like all other epics out there, it’s a bit too long. It’s predictable and filled to the brink with stereotypical villains and clichés (I wonder why the planet is named “Pandora”, could it be because it unleashes hell when opened, like the box?). Cameron even copies himself on more than one occasion, mixing the story from Titanic with elements from Aliens. Add to that a lot of silly things, such as subtitles set the Papyrus font when natives speak to each-other, a design decision so excruciatingly dumb that the mind boggles.

But these are all trivial issues compared to all the other levels on which Avatar works. The story gets under your skin. Within long, the smurf-like natives stop looking goofy, their odd names, behavior and peculiar language starts to seem real and before you know it, you’re enveloped in a classic love-story despite it being set in a supremely alien world. Avatar brings sci-fi to the masses, and for that reason more than anything, I completely love it.

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Ford On Indy 5

The story for the new Indiana Jones is in the process of taking form. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and myself are agreed on what the fifth adventure will concern, and George is actively at work. If the script is good, I’ll be very happy to put the costume on again.

Source

Unlike all you other connoisseurs, I will be genuinely looking forward to another one. I kinda liked the 4th one, even though it was mostly formulaic.

District 9 (2009) Mini-Review

While a mysterious alien spacecraft is stranded above Johannesburg for two decades, its seemingly clueless inhabitants form a slum beneath it. As tensions mount in the human population of the city, an eviction plan is set in motion. As the government agent, Wikus Van De Merwe, enters District 9 to inform the alien inhabitants of the eviction plans, odd things happen.

District 9 is a very original film. It combines really well done CGI effects with a hand-held documentary style, superb sci-fi designs and unknown actors that deliver top performances. The result is quite good, and will work well both the big and the small screen. I’m already looking forward to the sequel.

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Rating (not an average):

Other movies I’ve rated 4 (beta):

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