Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tron: Legacy

It’s been a while since I reviewed a nice, big, loud, dumb action movie (I think the last I did was Prince of Persia, and that one was far from nice), so it was kind of fun to try to watch Tron and Tron: Legacy back to back earlier today (I say “try”, as I kind of fell asleep halfway through the original -- I don’t get to sleep much during the week). If they aren’t exactly “good” movies, per se, they’re at least modestly entertaining ones, and sometimes, that’s all you really need.

The film, directed by newbie filmmaker Joseph Kosinski, is every bit as video gamey as movies get. It keeps the plot both minimal and incomprehensible, and the action fast-paced and beautifully gaudy. Basically Jeff Bridges (the star of the original film) has been missing for over a decade, and his now-adult son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a sort of directionless youth that indulges in screwing over his dad’s company Encom and parachuting off of skyscrapers. One day, however, he gets a page from his dad back at his abandoned arcade or whatever, and when he goes to investigate he finds a portal that sucks him into the Tron universe. There he quickly discovers the place is ruled by Clu, a program with his father’s face CG’d onto him, who has him fight in the various arena games. Just before he’s killed in one massive group race, however, he’s rescued by a mysterious woman (Olivia Wilde), who takes him to his father’s secret lair, where they can then plan out how to fix everything that’s gone wrong. Or at least on how to escape. Or at least on how one or two of them can escape.

As flimsy action movie plots go, this one is retarded but serviceable, and provides us with several action sequences, the best of which is the group race that I just gave away the ending to. There’s also a big climactic battle with a bunch of planes that starts off rather exciting, but drags on far too long, and has way too many cutaway scenes of Jeff Bridges saying things like “Yeah!” and “All right!”, which reminded me of nothing more than young Anakin during the equally lengthy pod race scene in Phantom Menace. A little goes a long way, people.

I also have to take some issues with the color scheme. It’s become almost a cliché that half the movies now just obsess over showing blue and orange color contrasts since they’re at opposite ends of the color wheel, so did we need an entire movie world that’s solely those two colors? It’s about as lazy a method of visual design as we can get in such a film. Though it is still a great deal better than the “All brown and gold all the time” color scheme used to such fugly effect in Prince of Persia.

I am, of course, being too unkind to the movie. For what it is, and what it tries to be, it succeeds moderately well. There may be no real soul to any of the characters, but you don’t go to a big effects-driven movie like this expecting really memorable characters and stories, do you? No, you go to these expecting some really flashy effects and a few cool action sequences, and that’s exactly what this movie delivers. It goes on a bit too long, and it never really excels at any point, but at least it’s never boring or tedious like so many movies of its kind. It’s a movie that’s just the right amount of idiotic, without making you feel like everyone involved fully believes you are an idiot for watching it, you know?

Rating: **


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jackass 3D

For those wondering why there was no review last week, it's because I had placed the finishing touches on what is now this week's review, only to watch MS Word crash and delete everything when I tried to post it, and it's taken me this long to muster up the energy to rewrite it. Regardless, I should mention that I had originally intended to write a review of the first season of Walking Dead, only to find that I couldn't muster up the energy for it (for the record, it's a solid show so far, but hasn't really developed enough in the first six episodes for me to say for certain of its quality one way or the other), and wound up deciding to review Jackass 3D instead. I'm glad that I did too, because it was the funniest damn movie of last year, with the Jackass guys getting everything right that Todd Phillips got wrong with Due Date.

For those that are much more cultured than I, Jackass began as a show on MTV based around the likes of Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O and friends all getting together to perform a bunch of ridiculous stunts that mainly involved them hurting themselves in stupid, stupid ways. After a few seasons, I suppose they realized that it would be better for their health if they were to end the show and just do everything in movie format once every few years.

I admit, I was a tad bit disappointed with Jackass 2. While it was certainly funny, even just a couple months after watching it, the only bit I could remember was the four-way teeter totter in the middle of the rodeo. With this, however, I can absolutely affirm that the series is back on track, with a great many instances of incredibly stupid and dangerous stunts, such as when they test the theory that music can soothe the savage beast by going into a ram's pen armed with a tuba and trumpet, or when Knoxville decides to go rollerskating in the middle of some charging buffalo, or when they decide to see how well they can withstand the winds created by a jet plane. There's a notice in the end credits about how the ASPCA was around for several scenes to ensure no animals were harmed, though I have to assume they weren't there for the beehive tetherball.

Of course, there's also two segments that are a little more memorable than any in the previous two films. In one, they play a prank on Bam for his fear of snakes by letting him fall into a disguised pit and then dropping dozens of live snakes down in there with him, marking what might be the first time Bam has ever cried on camera. In the second, what's meant to be a bit of a goof involving Knoxville messing around with a bull almost leads to a very uncomfortable end to the series when the bull flips him around so that Knoxville lands hard right on his head, making sure to get in a kick to the head right as he's landing for good measure. It's the sort of fall that's designed to paralyze or kill a person, and while Knoxville was able to get up and awkwardly stagger away to safety, it's pretty telling that, while with most of the painful stunts in the film we get all the non-participants off to the sides laughing at their friends' pain, here they're all just immediately terrified that he might be crippled. It's a rather uncomfortable way to underpin the warnings at the beginning and ending of the film that viewers should never try any of these at home.

Now, having said all of this, should you watch this movie? All I can give you are the facts, and quite simply, I laughed more and harder during this film than at any other movie this past year. It's frequently disgusting and about as horribly offensive as any good-natured movie could be (I feel I have to put that in, because there are movies I find much more offensive in a rather mean-spirited, hateful way -- like Expelled, for a recently watched example), but if you can withstand watching several people vomiting one by one, or a man that goes bungee jumping inside a Port-A-Potty (with all that such a premise implies), then by all means, you should absolutely give this a view. Though please, don't try this at home, at least unless you have some solid friends that are ready to post it on Youtube even when you kill yourself.

Rating: *** 1/2