Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tron Legacy Review

Hello again Internet!

Tron Legacy is the sequel to the 1982 cult classic, Tron, directed by first-timer Joseph Kosinski, starring relative newcomer Garrett Hedlund, always-amazing Jeff Bridges, and the ever-gorgeous Olivia Wilde.  Reprising his role from the original is Bruce Boxleitner, whose calm and collected nature is oppositely mirrored by Michael Sheen's dividing performance.  The original Tron is known for its then-mind-blowing visuals; it featured more than fifteen minutes of computer-generated images (quite a lot for is time).  The sequel, while not as forward-thinking as its predecessor, features some absolutely incredible and original sets and is an amazing example of how well 3D can work in a film.

The story in Tron Legacy is the first of a triumvirate of excellence that makes it one of my favorite films of the year.  Legacy picks up twenty-plus years after the original, with an M.I.A. Kevin Flynn leaving his son, Sam, to be cared for his grandparents.  Sam grows up without his father, who would tell Sam wondrous stories about the amazing things that he and his digital companions, CLU (played digitally by Bridges as well) and Tron (also played digitally by Bruce Boxleitner) accomplished within the Grid.  We learn that Sam wants little to do with Encom, stopping by once a year to prank the board of directors.  A strange page from Kevin Flynn's office at his abandoned arcade draws Sam in to investigate.  Its at this point that Sam is digitized into the Grid and main thrust of the story ensues.

The plot itself is simple; Kevin is stuck in the Grid and Sam sets out to help him return to reality.  Without giving away too much I felt that there was an very heavy Star Wars vibe throughout the film.  There were shades of various aspects of the saga, from the empire/emperor to the rebel alliance and the force.  Its this simplicity that makes Tron extremely accessible.  Avatar made over one billion dollars by having amazing visuals and a simple story.  While Tron will most likely not make as much money as Avatar, it shares those same qualities that make it quite good.  Good vs. Evil is something that everyone can get behind; there are clear heroes and villains with a very clear end goal for both parties.

The second of the three amazing aspects of Tron Legacy are the visuals.  The vast majority of the film takes place in the wondrous world that is the Grid.  The sun-less Grid is brought to life with the amazing contrast of colors exhibited in the original.  You can always tell who is good and who is evil by the color of their suits and identity discs.  Blue/green/white vs. the evil yellow/orange.  In a film that is quite dark with fast-paced fights and chases its quite easy to tell each faction apart from one another.  The aforementioned light cycle and light jet chases were quite spectacular as was the fight in Castor's (Michael Sheen) night club.  There is never a dull moment in Tron Legacy; even during action-less dialogue scenes there is always something for your eyes to ogle.  Legacy is easily one of the most visually impressive films this year and a definite treat for your eyes.

The final piece of this awesomeness puzzle is the overall sound design of the film.  The soundtrack, produced by the techno duo Daft Punk is absolutely amazing, blending orchestral and electronic together in a symphony of greatness.  The score fits the film perfectly, from Sam's evasion of the police in the beginning to the incredible techno beats thrown at us during the night club fight.  While I absolutely loved the soundtrack, at times it felt a little too Dark Knight/Inception-esque (same as Harry Potter).  Accompanying the soundtrack was the great sound design.  The sound effects throughout the film were quite spectacular, with bass so strong I could feel my pant-legs vibrating.  Major props go to the Skywalker Sound team for creating such strong sound effects to complement the stunning visuals throughout Legacy.

I feel that I must touch on the performance of the cast as well; I loved everyone in this film.  Jeff Bridges was great as the aged Kevin Flynn, with hints of "The Dude" shining through, Olivia Wilde turned a great performance going from confident bad-ass to a doe-eyed girl enamored by Sam exhibiting child-like enthusiasm.  While I quite enjoyed Garrett Hedlund as Kevin's son Sam, I can't help but feel that the effects of the film's conclusion on Sam didn't show through.  He seemed to accept what happened with little emotion.  The two performances most film goers will be discussing are Michael Sheen as Castor and the digital, young Jeff Bridges as Clu.  I personally very much enjoyed Sheen, who provides viewers with an over-the-top character that was in complete contrast to everyone else in the Grid.  Its never revealed what his program was and why he acted and talked the way he did but I loved it nonetheless.  Leading up to the film's release there was much negative buzz surrounding the digital re-creation of the young Jeff Bridges. I'd say that it worked about 90% of the time; there were only a few instances where the effect didn't really seem right.  In a couple of years I can see that technology really coming to the point at which it will be very difficult to distinguish between real and digital humans on screen.

Tron Legacy is a very exciting and stunning film in almost every aspect; your eyes dazzled by the amazing visuals, your ears pounded by the terrific soundtrack, and your mind treated to a simple good versus evil storyline with great camerawork and fast-paced action.  If you haven't seen the original it would be easy to jump in with this sequel and be perfectly fine.  I highly recommend Tron Legacy to anyone who likes fun, action-filled films with interesting characters and impressive visuals.

Tron Legacy: 4.5/5

The Bearded Bullet

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Transformers: Love It or Hate It

Hello Internet!

I figured I'd branch out and start talking about movie-related stuffs rather than relegate myself solely to reviews...and today I came up with a great topic: Transformers.  Today saw the release of the first teaser trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon (set for a July 1st release).  I really dig the trailer; it has an awesome vibe and I'm quite a sucker for alternate-history content in movies.  If you haven't seen it yet, I'd suggest you check it out even if you didn't like Revenge of the Fallen all that much.

And that brings me to the main thrust of this post; despite the let-downs of Revenge of the Fallen, I'm still pretty stoked for the third entry in the series.  The first Transformers was a really fun, dumb action movie with fairly shallow human characters, interacting with their giant, robot counterparts (that were equally shallow).  Despite these under-developed characters I was still able to relate to them, and really enjoyed watching their unfolding journey with the Autobots.

Revenge of the Fallen came two years later and didn't fair as well as the original.  The story was a bit too similar to the first, with a race between the two factions to get to a goal (the all-spark, and an energy-collector thingy in Egypt, respectively).  The acting was on par with the original (not great), but Megan Fox seemed as dull as ever and Sam's new love interest, Alice, was completely wasted as a character.  Add in the racially-stereotyped twin autobots, the complete waste of Arcee, juvenile humor (Wheelie humping Megan's leg and the testicles on Devastator to name two), quick resolution of the story, and a confusing plot and you have a movie that just didn't work all that well.  The only aspect of the movie that I really dug was the action; I will never tire of giant robots smashing each other to bits.  The forest fight with Optimus taking on multiple decepticons is really, really cool.

With the second movie disappointing almost everyone on the planet, I'm sure that more than a few will be quite hesitant when it comes to the final act of the trilogy.  I'm more than willing to give it a shot, not only because of my predisposition to try anything, but because of the promising teaser trailer.  Yes, trailers are and can be deceiving but I'm trying to stay positive with this one.  It seems that Michael Bay has acknowledged the mistakes and missteps that occurred with Revenge and that he has set out to correct them with DotM.  What say you, internet?  Are you willing to give the third one a chance?  Maybe you really enjoyed RotF.  Please feel free to share your opinions below!!

I'll leave you with a parting thought:  Why did Jetfire have a cane and a beard?  Machines don't age..and when he became the SR-71 he would've had to have had a cane then..

The Bearded Bullet

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Next Three Days Review

The Bearded Bullet's Review of The Next Three Days.

The Next Three Days (TNTD) is the latest film from director/writer Paul Haggis (Crash), starring the always-fantastic Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks, with Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, and Brian Dennehy making great appearances as well.  TNTD is an emotional roller coaster of a film, both for the characters and the viewers.  At times I was wholly engaged, sympathetic for the plight of Russell Crowe's John Brennan, while others I was frustrated by almost-always-on-the-trail federal agents.  Despite my frustrations, I had an overall fairly enjoyable time with TNTD.

Russell Crowe's John is a tormented man; his wife, Lara, is serving a life sentence for a murder she may have committed.  John is tasked with taking care of their son, Luke, while trying desperately to prove his wife's innocence and free her from prison.  The film takes place in Pittsburgh, PA, one of my favorite places on earth.  I was immediately drawn in not only by the setting, but by the characters as well.  From the beginning we're introduced to a very much in-love Brennan couple, with a child they love equally as much.  Very early in the film Lara is whisked away by the FBI, with little or no indication as to why.  One of the strengths of TNTD is the beauty of the unfolding plot; throughout the film bits of details surrounding the murder in question are dropped and hinted at.  It isn't until the very final scenes of the film that we fully put the picture together.

The strongest part of The Next Three Days is the plot itself; the story doesn't focus on whether or not Lara killed the woman in question, but rather John's escape plan to break Lara out of prison.  As seen in the trailer, after exhausting the legal system John turns to a more illegal method of freeing his wife.  Its this unwavering devotion to his wife, regardless of her true innocence, that allows the viewers to connect with John and feel that he could really exist, despite the extreme lengths to which he goes.  TNTD is very much the mirror opposite of this year's Conviction (with regards to plot), and is a breath of fresh air into the prison drama scene.

While the plot is the strongest part of TNTD, it is unfortunately also the weakest.  Without giving too much away, by the time the events are going full-throttle, and John is putting his plan into motion, a pesky FBI agent is hot on his heels.  The agent is behind John at EVERY step, figuring out EXACTLY what's going on.  Either he's the greatest detective in the world or just the luckiest.  More probable is that screenwriters Paul Haggis and Fred Cavaye needed to build in more tension than was already present.  I love a good tense action film, with monumental stakes on the line, but in TNTD it seemed that there was tension for tension's sake.  Even if the FBI agent wasn't so close behind John, the mere events of Lara's breakout would have provided enough for the viewers to sink their teeth into.

For the most part I enjoyed TNTD; while highly frustrating during the second half of the film, the conclusion and the events of the escape itself more than make up for the missteps in the plot.  Mix the films Taken, Edge of Darkness, and Conviction into a blender and you'll get The Next Three Days.  If you enjoy great acting, an engaging plot, and a tension-filled escape thriller then you'll most likely enjoy TNTD.

The Next Three Days: 3.5/5