December 18th, 2010

TRON: LEGACY (2010) * ½

The Short Version:  It’s slightly better than The Matrix Reloaded and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in the Disappointing Sequels Department.


The Long Version:  God, I’d rather be talking about how much I love the original 1982 Tron movie.  I’d rather be talking about how when I was a kid there were only five movies in the Kid’s Section of my local video store and Tron was one of those movies.  I’d rather be talking about how many times I rented Tron.  I’d rather be talking about how I totally geeked out when Flynn (Jeff Bridges) got sucked into the computer, was in awe as he did battle in his trusty Light Cycle, and marveled as he fought alongside his buddy Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) to take down the evil Master Control Program. 


I’d also love to be talking about how much I loved playing the Tron video game in the arcade.  Even though I sucked hard at the Light Cycle game, I kicked major ass on the Spider and MCP portions of the game.  I also liked Maze-A-Tron on the Intellevision.  Again, I sucked major ass on Maze-A-Tron, but I played that game constantly, if only because I thought there was a slim chance of me getting sucked into the game the way that Flynn did. 


I’d also rather be discussing about the endless hours I spent playing with the Tron toys.  The Light Cycle was probably my second favorite toy of all time (next to the AT-AT from Empire Strikes Back).  The action figures themselves were pretty cool too.  I have fond memories of buying Tron in the Disney World gift shop and sleeping with him clutched in my hand at night.


I’d rather tell you all about that shit.  Unfortunately I have the depressing task of letting ya’ll know how supremely shitty this soulless, 28 years too late, greedy 3-D cash-in by Disney to separate a hard-working nostalgic Tron fan from his money is.  Yes folks, sad to say but this newfangled Tron:  Legacy bullshit deserves to be de-resed.


First off though, let me tell you what I did like about the movie.  More than anything the opening twenty minutes or so that take place in “the real world” were perfect.  We see Flynn disappearing and his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) growing up to become a computer hacker that perpetually fucks with his dad’s company, Encom.  And I’ve got to tell ya, I sorta dug the Sam character.  He’s a reckless daredevil who pulls cocky stunts like outrunning cops on a motorcycle and skydiving in the middle of the city.  Because of this, he’s a lot more formidable on the Gaming Grid than his old man was.  Then there’s Alan (also Boxleitner) acting like a total pimp too.  Sadly, he isn’t given a lot to do besides spout exposition.  (More on that later.) 


This portion of the flick is also peppered with little touches and references to the first movie that made the Tron geek in me freak out.  There are references to Dumont, Journey blasting on the soundtrack, and the “really big door” at Encom makes another appearance.  The best thing about the real world sequence (HUGE Spoiler Alert here) was seeing CILLIAN FUCKING MURPHY AS THE FUCKING SON OF DILLINGER!!!  I saw him and I thought, “HOLY SHIT!  This movie is going to rock!”  Sadly, he’s in the flick for about two whole minutes, which is about twice as much face time as Tron himself gets.  (More on that later.)


Once Sam gets sucked into the computer though it’s Game Over.  After that, there are only two things I can count that I liked.  One was the music by Daft Punk.  That was cool, but they didn’t even use any Wendy Carlos themes from the first movie which was a bit disappointing.  The other thing was Olivia Wilde.  She was fucking hot as Hell.  Had the next two hours just been her getting naked in 3-D, Tron:  Legacy would’ve been a good movie.


Now here’s the part where I rip Tron:  Legacy a new one.  In fact, I’m not even going to call it Tron:  Legacy because it has nothing to do with Tron.  (More on that later.)  Instead, I’ll just refer to the “film” as TINO; otherwise known as Tron in Name Only.


Look, I hate to be THAT GUY.  I don’t want to channel that Comic Book Nerd from The Simpsons and whine about every blessed thing that’s wrong with the flick.  But facts are facts.  And the facts are, this thing isn’t Tron.  Not the Tron I know and love.  Here’s a laundry list of reasons why:


The sucking-into-the-computer scene.  Now when I was a kid, the part that really grabbed me in the original Tron was the scene where Flynn gets sucked into the computer.  The laser zaps Flynn a piece at a time inside the computer and then there’s a cool 2001-ish scene of him traveling through the mainframe (or whatever it is).  In TINO, there’s just a quick flash of light and Sam’s automatically in the computer.  At first, I wrote this off.  I said to myself, “Okay, maybe the original film took so long to get him into the computer because they were on a dial-up connection and now Encom’s got broadband”.  I mean, this could’ve been a truly awesome 3-D sequence but they went the stupid route instead.  I let it go though and tried to enjoy the flick.


The look.  The original Tron looked like nothing you’d ever seen before.  The scenes inside the computer had this otherworldly quality to them that was breathtaking to a kid.  It was essentially black and white rotoscoped with blue and red colors mixed in.  Then there were the awesome groundbreaking computer effects.  TINO has none of these things.  Gone is the black and white photography.  Instead every frame of the movie is lit and photographed so that it looks like an Infiniti car commercial.  Then there are the computer graphics.  They are OK maybe at best, but fail to deliver the kick and thrilling sensation the old effects had.


The getting-ready-for-the-games scene.  When Sam is first inside the computer, he has all of his clothes still on.  Now as any Tron fan knows, when you get sucked into the computer, you automatically appear wearing the goofy Tron outfit that consists of glowing Styrofoam armor, goofy bicycle helmet, and Killer Frisbee (and if you have an enormous package like Jeff Bridges, a tunic over your junk to secure the PG rating).  In this abortion, skanky ho bags have to fit you with a wet suit with glowing LED lights bought from Lowe’s.  And instead of the cool Killer Frisbee you get one of those lame-o Frisbees with a hole in the middle.  Again, not very Tron-ish.  Again, I tried to write it off and tried to enjoy the movie.


The games.  You know, I overlooked the first couples minutes of changing all the cool shit from the first movie and replacing it with warm feces.  Then the games began.  The first game was the Frisbee duel and it just wasn’t well choreographed, edited, filmed, or acted.  Even when they put the dudes on the ceiling, it didn’t do much for me. 


Then, the Light Cycle sequence started up and I thought, “THANK GOD.  This is what I’m talking ab… oh, no… wait this isn’t good either.”  The Light Cycle scene is neither good nor bad.  It isn’t exciting or unexciting.  It just sits there.  Kinda like when your friend’s dog pukes on the carpet at his house.  You know it’s not a good thing, but you’re afraid to tell anyone what’s going on because it’s kinda embarrassing.  Then, after awhile you’re pretty sure your buddy’s aware of it too.  But he’s not making any effort to clean it up.  And you start wondering why he’s not bothering to clean it up.  Is it because he A) doesn’t care about his house B) doesn’t care about his dog or C) doesn’t care about hygiene in general? 


Now I can’t speak for everyone in the theater, but that’s how most of the audience felt while watching this scene.  Everyone was kinda silent.  And it wasn’t one of those awed-into-silence types of silence either.  It was a dog-puke-on-the-carpet silence.  We all knew that it stunk but we were afraid to say anything.  But was the reason it stunk because the director A) didn’t care about the scene B) didn’t care about the audience or C) didn’t care about the movie in general?  Which brings me to…


The action.  Well, if you’re the kind of person that hates movies where things happen, then you’re going to love TINO.  After that Light Cycle sequence there is a whole lot of nothing.  Basically, it’s just Sam reconnecting with his pops for a bunch of Lifetime Channel stuff.  They chill out in Flynn’s crib and have dinner and th… 


Yeah, I gotta call this movie out on the dinner sequence.  Seriously, how in the Hell do you get a roasted pig and asparagus when you’re trapped in a computer?  The asparagus I can see.  After all, Mario had his mushrooms, but a fucking pig roast?  What did Flynn have a slaughterhouse behind his Malibu Dream Cave?  Fuck me with a curling iron. 


Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, action.  There’s a could’ve-been-cool-but-they-decided-to-completely-fuck-it-up-with-poor-camerawork-and-editing Light Plane scene, but it’s too little too late.  Then, the big action climax basically comes down to Flynn doing some sort of Zen Buddha/The Force/Harry Wizard energy blast.  Yeah, I didn’t get it either.


The acting.  While Hedlund does a fine job in the opening scene, once he gets sucked into the computer, he becomes totally void of personality.  Then there’s Bridges who just thoroughly embarrasses himself not once but TWICE.  His new take on Flynn is painful to watch, mostly because he doesn’t seem like he’s playing Flynn; he’s more or less just doing The Dude… again.  It’s just lazy and cringe-worthy.  It’s easily his worst performance since The Vanishing.  He’s also his evil program Clu, but they really could’ve gotten anyone to play this role.  Plus, I didn’t like all that CGI shit on his face to make him look younger.  All the FX does is make him look like a refugee from the Polar Express or some shit.  I’m sorry but Polar Express Face Jeff Bridges is just not a credible villain in my book.


The plot.  While we’re on the subject of Clu, let me tell you my second biggest gripe about TINO.  It’s the fact that Clu is the villain.  Why on God’s green Earth would you take such an inconsequential character from the first movie and turn him into the lead villain for the sequel?  That’s like having Lobot be the main villain in Return of the Jedi.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what they did to Tron himself.  Which finally brings me to my biggest gripe about the film…


Tron is only in about a minute of Tron:  Legacy.  Oh sure, he “turned bad” and all, but because he wears a motorcycle helmet over his face the whole time, you can’t be certain it’s really him.  Oh sure, he had that little “T” on his chest, but I never saw his face, so I can’t tell honestly tell ya.  And while he spoke with Tron’s voice, I’m still not convinced it was Tron.  You want to know why, BECAUSE YOU DON’T MAKE A FUCKING MOVIE CALLED TRON:  LEGACY AND ONLY HAVE TRON IN IT FOR A MINUTE OF FACE TIME!!!  That’s why!  Fuck me with a pogo stick. 


Look, fuckers at Disney… It’s simple…. If you want call a movie Tron…. PUT FUCKING TRON IN IT!  Don’t give us a minute of Tron and an hour and fifty nine minutes of Legacy.  Why have Bruce Boxleitner be de-agified with CGI for only one single solitary minute of screen time as Tron (in a stupid flashback no less), then turn him into a bad guy that wears a motorcycle helmet over his face for another minute of screen time?  WHO DOES THAT? 


Seriously, why cover up Tron’s face?  Did they spend too much money on the youthful CGI Jeff Bridges face that they simply ran out of money when it came time to make Tron look young?  IT’S FUCKING DISNEY FOR FUCK’S SAKE.  I THINK THEY HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO MAKE TRON’S FACE YOUNG!  Shit, they could’ve taken all that Tooth Fairy and Game Plan money from The Rock and put it to better use here.  Or maybe Jeff Bridges just said, “Fuck you, Boxleitner!  I control the CGI Botox!” 


In fact, I think TINO would make a great double feature with Game of Death because they both feature stars who are barely in the film whose faces are mostly obscured by a motorcycle helmet.


And these are just the reasons, why the movie isn’t a true sequel to Tron.  I haven’t even started talking about why it stinks yet.  That list would be way too long and I’ve already taken up way too much of your tim.  Here’s just a few reasons why TINO sucks harder than a Tijuana floozy: 


Michael Sheen.  If you don’t know who Michael Sheen is, he’s the dude from Frost/Nixon that didn’t play Nixon.  While he got some acclaim from being in that flick, whatever awards he won for that thing should be immediately revoked, rescinded, and burned.  He gives without a doubt what has to be the single worst performance in a motion picture ever.  (Though to be fair, I haven’t seen Yogi Bear 3-D yet.)  This guy minces around like a decidedly un-hetero albino version of Ziggy Stardust and generally embarrasses everyone in the human race in the process. 


I don’t know quite when history will name the low water mark for acting as a craft, but I’m pretty sure the scene where Sheen air guitars his Light-Up Cane and thrusts his pelvis like a Rocky Horror reject with a case of Palsy has to been considered for the top spot.  Jesus, just thinking about his scenes is about as irritating as case of hemorrhoids…  Someone else’s hemorrhoids…. Being pressed against your face.


Well since I paid an extra $3.50 for the damned 3-D, let’s talk about the 3-D shall we.  Loyal readers know that I like to do a rundown of any and all 3-D effects so they know they’re getting their money’s worth.  In TINO 3-D we have:


  • 3-D Grappling Hook.


And… uh… that’s it.  Yep, you guessed it folks.  Another 3-D rip-off.  Sure, TINO has some moments that look OK in 3-D (like when Clu addresses his massive army), but while SOME of the depth-of-field effects are decent, only one measly thing comes out of the audience.  I was so fucking disgruntled about the lack of 3-D in the flick that before recycling my glasses in the nearest container after the film, I smashed them into about sixteen pieces first.  If that doesn’t send the folks at Real-D a message, I don’t know what will.


When are filmmakers going to learn that for 3-D to work, you have to push the limits of the screen FORWARD, not backward?  Sometimes, the scenery and shit looks cool in 3-D (like in Avatar) but that doesn’t mean you have to solely rely on that one aspect of the 3-D.  When the audience goes see a 3-D movie, we want shit thrown in our laps.  Guys like Alexander Aja and Patrick Lussier knows this too well and toss out tits and gore aplenty at the audience’s eyeballs. 


While I would LOVE to see Olivia Wilde’s bare tits pressed right up against my glasses (as well as watching her naked in a 3-D movie…BAM!  Thank you!), I know it’s a PG Disney movie, so I’m not getting that.  But there’s nothing that flies out into the audience though besides a measly grappling hook.  There’s one Frisbee that sorta/kinda flirts with coming directly out at you but not far enough to really say “Ooh”! 


In fact, the two minute preview for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 had way more 3-D effects than the two hour TINO feature.  (Special Note:  It looks like I will be seeing Pirates 4 now, just because it has Keith Richards in 3-D.)  This isn’t the worst 3-D I’ve seen (that would be My Soul to Take), but it’s definitely up there.  (Though to be fair, I haven’t seen Yogi Bear 3-D yet.)  There’s more, so much more stupid shit in this movie I could tell you about but I’m just too tired and sad. 


You know, at one point in the film, Flynn bemoans, “This isn’t the Tron I know.”  I couldn’t have said it any better myself.  Somewhere, Walt Disney is rolling in his cryogenic freezer. 


End of Line Motherfuckers.

YOUNGBLOOD (1986) ****

Rob Lowe stars as Youngblood, a wet behind the ears rookie playing in the Canadian Junior Hockey League.  Because of his quickness and puck-handling skills, he manages to gain the respect of his teammates, including the team captain Derek (Patrick Swayze).  Youngblood finds that winning his coach (Ed Lauter) over is a tougher task; mostly because he’s also dating his daughter (Cynthia Gibb, from Malone).


Youngblood is a great fucking sports movie.  I loved it because it was all about the characters interacting and not so much about the usual sports clichés.  I particularly liked the fact that the “journey” Youngblood took wasn’t necessarily to become a better player or person, but to basically become a hockey goon that could actually fight.


The film also echoes two of the 80’s best sports movies, Vision Quest (the hero is proving something to himself rather than trying to Win the Big Game) and Days of Thunder (the hero has a major psychological setback when his rival-turned-mentor has a debilitating brain injury).  So, if you’re a fan of those films, you’ll definitely love this flick.  Plus, this movie is just offbeat and weird enough to make it some sort of classic.  It’s the only movie I know of that features a hot MILF boardinghouse lady who goes nympho every time she looks at hockey cards and Patrick Swayze eating flowers.  It’s also funny that Rob Lowe’s opening conversation with his dad about leaving the farm to go play hockey is almost word for word the same conversation Luke Skywalker had with his Uncle Owen when he wanted to leave the farm to go to the Academy.


The performances are really terrific too.  Swayze is excellent as the team captain and has some great moments with Lowe.  They were both in The Outsiders together, so I’m sure their previous working relationship helped give them some added chemistry.  And speaking of other actors with Swayze connections, it was fun seeing young Keanu Reeves paired up with His Swayzeness five years before they teamed up for Point Break.


But the movie belongs to Rob Lowe.  This is far and away his best performance before he became a sexual degenerate.  If only he could have a couple more performances like this one under his belt, he’d be back on top in no time.


AKA:  Bodycheck.