COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

BLACK VENUS, IT, THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY, TIDELAND, THE HOT ROCK, DIAMONDS OF KILAMANDJARO, GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS, THE HIRED HAND, DAY OF THE JACKAL, and DUCKMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

TRON LEGACY: THE MAGIC CONTINUES

In 1982 at the height of the video arcade games popularity a movie came out that fans clamored to see. It was a hit film that year and when released on video and later DVD became a hit as well, even though it hadn’t been available for some time. And now a new generation has access to not only the original film but a sequel that takes us back to the Grid, back to a place no one has ever seen, back to the world of TRON.

TRON LEGACY picks up some years after the original. The opening scenes take place a few years later but soon after the world changes. Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) promised his son he’d be back but for some reason he disappeared. Never seen again the company he began with friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) is different. Encom is now about to go global and rather than become the open and file sharing system Flynn intended it to be, it’s main goal is profits and security.

Security that’s not quite as good as they would hope. For into the secret board meeting sneaks a single minded individual with something on his mind, a way to open up the portals to the net and share the newest version of Encom’s favorite program. That person is Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the major shareholder in the company who yearly stirs the pot and disrupts the aims of the company, aims that he knows his father would not have shared.

After being caught and released from jail, Sam goes home to find Alan waiting for him. They talk, banter back and forth and then Alan tells Sam he received a page from his father’s old storefront, the video arcade he owned where it all began. Passing along a key Flynn left him for safekeeping, he encourages Sam to check it out.

Sam’s curiosity is piqued and he does indeed go to the old battered arcade, game machines draped in plastic that come to life along with the jukebox when he flips the power switch. Noticing the Tron game his father designed and promised to play with him the day before he disappeared, he tries to play it only to have his quarter slip out. It lands on the floor and he notices groves where the machine has moved. Pushing it aside he finds a door that leads to his father’s inner sanctum, where he made everything, where he planned to release the new idea he had that would have changed the world. Touching his computer screen, it comes to life and Sam finds himself digitized just as his father was and tossed into the Grid, the computer world.

First on the agenda is Sam being picked up and sent to the games, a virtual battle of life and death involving the information discs that each player carries on their back. He survives and attempts an escape but not before being captured by the best of the best and taken to the ruler of this world. Once there the ruler is revealed as…Flynn! But not quite. Though he may appear to be Flynn on the surface, in reality this is Clu, the program produced by Flynn years ago to create the perfect world. And Sam isn’t a part of the world Clu sees.

Once again in the games, this time on light cycles, Sam takes on the best team there is and then escapes with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), a program sent to aid him in his escape. They do so and she takes him off the grid to a secret location where he finally meets his father, the real one. They talk and spend a short time together during which Flynn tells Sam that he never sent the page. It has to be something Clu has put together. It ends up being a chance to use the portal to the real world where Clu hopes to take his digital army and make them real in an attempt to control it all. Only Flynn and his son now stand in his way.

The original film was an amazing piece of work filled with special effects that were dazzling at the time. A bit dated by today’s standards, the folks behind LEGACY have taken all of the main ideas, the design of the Grid, the games, the discs and vehicles and updated them for a more digitized world. Effects have grown during the 28 years since the original and it shows in all of the amazing effects seen here. Perhaps the most amazing isn’t the vehicles seen in nearly all commercials for the film but the fact that they make Jeff Bridges look like he did 28 years ago when he appears as Clu.

But without actors, without a heart, what kind of movie would it have made? Here we have a story, seemingly simple, where the efforts of a few dedicated individuals attempt to make things right. Where good guys take on bad guys to save the day. And where a father and son have the opportunity to meet once again after so long apart.

Filled with plenty of action and enough science fiction know how to please fans of the genre, TRON LEGACY lives up to the expectations that many fans will have for the film. I found it to not only live up to the original but to take it into a new dimension as well. It was fun, it was fast and it made me want to watch the old one beside this one and that makes this a legacy fulfilled.

LOVE & OTHER DRUGS: A FILM WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER

I’m not a big fan of movies that just haven’t quite determined what they want to be. They begin one way and then suddenly do a 180 and I find myself watching a movie that is totally unlike the one I started with. Granted there are times this works, most notable in mysteries. But a movie that begins as a romantic comedy that turns into heavy drama is not a combination that works. Thus is the problem with LOVE & OTHER DRUGS.

Jake Gyllenhaall is Jamie Randall, a smooth talking operator with an eye for beautiful women but on the short stack when it comes to handling a successful career or future. His brother Josh (Josh Gand) is a successful investor and his parents are two top people in the medical field. So what is Josh’s problem?

Put in touch by his brother with the folks at Pfizer, Jake takes on the improbably job of pharmaceutical sales man. He goes to classes, beds the instructor and is assigned to another agent (Oliver Platt) to help him along. Jamie applies his own knowledge and skills to get him into the good graces of Dr. Stan Knight (Hank Azaria), a doctor whose approval would result in other doctors following suit and choosing Jamie’s drugs over those of his competitor.

In his attempt to sway the doctor, Jamie passes along cash for the chance of following him through a single day. During that time he sits in on a patient consultation. Her name is Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) and she’s there just to get her prescriptions filled. She knows her problems, symptoms and likelihood of success but has little hope. She has Parkinson’s disease. She’s unusually young for this, but knows what to expect.

When Maggie catches Jamie as a salesman instead of the intern he claimed to be, she gets angry. Then she finds herself attracted to him. And then the pair becomes full time lovers with no attachments. Until Jamie finds himself drawn to Maggie.

The movie to this point has seemed like a combination romantic comedy and straight out romance story with quite a bit of nudity tossed in to appease the guys dragged to the movie so their girlfriends can check out Gyllenhaal’s butt. And then it suddenly changes.

Maggie understands what to expect in the near future but does Jamie? At a pharmaceutical convention, Jamie mingles with the crowd while Maggie finds a meeting of a support group for Parkinson’s patients. The group inspires here, makes her feel alive for the first time in ages and makes her appreciate Jamie for being there for her. Except perhaps he isn’t. At the same meeting he talks to one of the husbands of another patient who tells him if he had to do it all over again he would have run right away. This of course leads to the pair parting ways.

But remember this is movieland. The odds of them getting together again after this are pretty good. Then again the movie changed from what seemed a comedy to a rather intense drama too so it’s anyone’s guess how the story will end.

Is it any good? Not particularly. The lighter moments are tinged with quite a bit of cynicism. For those easily offended there is, as mentioned, plenty of gratuitous nudity and raunchy humor to boot. But the biggest problem is that with the exception of Maggie (due to her gut wrenching disease) there are not many sympathetic characters to be found here. Just single minded self interested people. How entertaining can that be?

The acting is good, the cinematography well done and the general feeling of the film fine. With the exception and a story that feels schizophrenic and that doesn’t involve the viewer as much as it should have.

I will say that one thing that has bothered me in recent years is how women, in particular actresses in film, seem to have to remove their clothing before they will be considered actresses. If you want work, you have to take off your clothes otherwise you’re designated uncompromising. The same doesn’t hold true for male actors (though many are doing more partial nude scenes). So why is it that the value of a female actress is judged by the amount of clothing she’s willing to remove but not men? Especially when actresses seem to be more involved with women’s rights groups? Who knows?

Some will enjoy the film for the sake of the nude scenes. Some will enjoy it because they find the leads attractive. And some will find the romantic storyline just what they’re looking for. It just would have been nice if this movie were more focused on what it wanted to be from beginning to end. The way it stands, it feels more like a jumbled flick than an enjoyable one.

MAN MOVIES: THE GREAT ESCAPE

It seems like the majority of “man movies” were made in the sixties for some reason. I’m still trying to figure out why and have found some made later on but for some reason this seems to have been THE decade for them. So on with the next one. Another amalgamation of stars to fill the screen and inspire a generation. It even inspired a popular poster in the seventies of Steve McQueen riding his motorcycle between barbed wire. The movie is THE GREAT ESCAPE.

Based on the true story of a group of P.O.W.s (Prisoners Of War) in Germany it tells the tale of how they escaped from their concentration camp in an attempt to get back home. These prisoners take the war seriously and decide that they could do some damage to the Nazis if they escape. Not only will the word leak out about what happened do propaganda damage but perhaps they could do some physical damage along the way as well.

The film opens with Capt. Hilts (Steve McQueen) dropped back into “the cooler” after having attempted an unsuccessful escape. With a baseball and mitt, he passes the time until he gets out and will try again. In the meantime other prisoners are planning a more organized escape of their own.

Running the operation is Squadron leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough). He devises the original plan and along with the rest of the group puts it into action. Their first objective is to tunnel under the camp without being noticed. They use the slats in their bunks to build supports in the tunnel and take the dirt out a bit at a time, using bags strapped to their legs that they empty onto the camp grounds while walking. A major portion of the film depicts the tunneling they do and the danger they face there.

While the tunnel is dug, they also need to make sure that they aren’t stopped along the way once they get out. While some soldiers are digging the others are making preparations for their escape creating maps, clothing and documents that should allow them free reign once they’re on the outside.

Once everything is in place, the break happens. A number of the POWs escape but not all. Once free, they scatter like the wind in the hopes of making it back home, making it to freedom.

The movie plays along at a much slower pace than today’s films. But that’s all a part of the story. It unfolds and shows how the process wouldn’t be something that was done overnight but would take time. And through it all we witness something that seems to be common with the “man movies” so far. A bonding between males in the films. Not a romance, but a bond of brotherhood that shows they stand for something together as opposed to going solo. Even later movies in this category that depict a single hero or anti-hero somewhere along the line have them in need of connecting with another human being. And that is evident here as this group of heroic men attempt to win freedom.

The cast was another stellar example of a group that was either top of the line or on their way up. Included were Charles Bronson (who was in both earlier “man movies” THE DIRTY DOZEN and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), James Coburn (who was in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), James Garner, Donald Pleasance and David McCallum.

Parts comedy, part adventure and all true story, this tale is one that needs to be told again for a new generation that forgets what WWII was all about, what their grandfathers and great grandfathers suffered through. It’s a tale of heroism on a grand scale. It’s another forgotten film that needs rediscovered by all.