R.I.P.D. (2013)

Damn.  I Don’t Know What Eyes to Shoot You Between.

R.I.P.D. (2013)As the end of the year approaches, my standards dip dangerously low as I try to round out my films of 2013.  I could dislocate my shoulder with how hard I shrug in front of a RedBox while saying, “Fuck it!”  I knew about today’s movie while it was in theaters and even considered seeing it there.  Even though the movie looked like crap, it had a bunch of people I liked in it so I figured it was worth a chance.  We’ll find out if it was as I review R.I.P.D., based on the Dark Horse Entertainment comic by Peter M. Lenkov, written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, directed by Robert Schwentke, and starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, and Marisa Miller.

Two Detectives named Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) steal some gold they found during a drug-bust, but Nick is having doubts.  Bobby is not.  So much so that he kills Nick when they go out on a bust to keep him from returning the gold.  Instead of just dying as his face hit the ground from 3 stories up, the world freezes around Nick until he’s sucked up into an anus in the sky.  He wakes up in an interrogation room with Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), who invites Nick to join the Rest In Peace Department, a police force dedicated to the capture of the escaped dead that live among us.  Nick is immediately partnered up with Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges) and sent out to the streets, where he soon finds out that the gold he stole is part of a set that the dead are trying to use to reverse the flow on the giant Sky Anus that swallowed him before.

This movie was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.  It was actually fairly enjoyable.  I don’t feel like any of that really comes from the story as that was pretty basic.  I guess that’s a strange thing to say about a movie with dead policemen and a plot to pink sock a Sky Anus, but I’m sticking with it.  I’m also sticking with my decision to use “pink sock” as a verb.  I guess it’s more how they get there that’s pretty basic.  “We’re new partners and we don’t get along.  We found this gold and there’s something weird about it.  The boss is trying to get in our way, but we’ll go after it anyway.”  There’s really no mystery to it.  They find the gold and turn it in and then the guys upstairs just explain it all.  If it were an action movie, a subpar story would be much more acceptable, but it seemed more this movie’s intention to be a comedy.  It didn’t land the humor nearly as much as it tried.  Most of the successes felt like it were sold much more by the delivery than the joke itself, such as the moment when Proctor bit Roy’s beard and he said, “She billy-goated me!”  If you’re not laughing right now, it’s because it wasn’t that funny of a joke on the page.  It needed Jeff Bridges to pull it off.

The main thing I noticed about this movie visually is that it felt like it really wanted to be Men in Black.  Quasi-dark and quasi-funny.  There was a good amount of action in the movie, but not a whole lot that struck me as particularly cool.  I did really enjoy Roy’s showdown scene, though.  I also laughed really hard when the construction vehicle got stuck in the wall above the Spear of Jericho (or whatever they called it), but not for a reason that was positive for the movie.  It was just so obvious of a setup for how they would eventually defeat the Spear thing that it was laughable.

I think the performances in this movie were what elevated it beyond its station.  I typically like Ryan Reynolds.  He’s usually funny and always easy on the eyes.  I even liked him in Green Lantern.  That movie wasn’t his fault.  Of course, Ryan Reynolds was definitely overshadowed by Jeff Bridges.  If you liked Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, then you’ll find much more of the same in his performance in this movie.  And if you didn’t like his performance in that movie then I request you make sweet love to a rock or something prickly.  Mary-Louise Parker is just great in general.  She’s super cute and super funny.  I should like one day to place a baby inside of her.  And these three actors also had great chemistry between each other.  The new partnership friction between Reynolds and Bridges was well-realized, and the sexual tension between Bridges and Parker was mined for some funny moments.  Enough to make me forgive Bridges for laying his mack down on my woman.  Kevin Bacon was also in this movie!  …That’s all I got about that.

R.I.P.D. was much better than I expected.  It would be difficult for it not to be.  There was nothing special in the writing or the action, but I think the cast made the movie much better than it would be on its own.  Their chemistry and quality made this movie easily watchable, but they could not fix the movie enough for there to really be any reason to watch it.  You can, but you don’t need to.  R.I.P.D. gets “I think you’re smelling what I’m selling” out of “One of them coyotes, he made love to my skull!”

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The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

More of This is True Than You Would Believe.

Today’s movie has been in my Netflix queue for so long that I no longer remember what inspired me to put it there in the first place.  I have a vague recollection of watching part of this movie while in the break room at work and I do so hate to only watch 15 or 30 minutes of a movie and leave without knowing what happened.  Well, however it came to be in my Netflix queue, it arrived recently so I felt I should give it a watch.  That movie is The Men Who Stare at Goats, based on a book by Jon Ronson, written by Peter Straughan, directed by Grant Heslov, and starring Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Stephen Root, Robert Patrick, Rebecca Mader, Nick Offerman, and Glenn Morshower.

Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) has fallen on some hard times after his wife left him for the newspaper’s editor.  Feeling like he needs an escape, and perhaps a chance to prove himself to his ex-wife, he goes to Kuwait to report on the Iraq War.  While waiting to be granted permission to enter, he stumbles across a man named Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a name that Wilton recognizes from a man he interviewed a little earlier that told him about a group of American soldiers being trained to use their psychic abilities for combat, teaching them things like invisibility, remote viewing, and phasing.  It was rumored that Cassady had even been able to stop a goat’s heart with his thoughts.  Wilton gets Cassady to agree to let him tag along on his mission and, while doing so, Cassady tells Wilton about his time with the New Earth Army through flashbacks.

I’ve come to realize that I just don’t like reviewing movies that are just “okay”.  If a movie is awful, I’ll have lots of things to say making fun of it.  If it’s good, I’ll be able to sing its praises.  But if it’s okay, all I really want to say is, “meh.”  I’ll try to use more words – and real ones – to describe my feelings about this movie.  It’s an okay and pretty interesting movie, based mainly on a pretty well-written story.  Even though a bulk of the movie felt like just riding around in a car with Ewan McGregor and George Clooney, the subject matter kept it interesting, especially if you consider that this stuff was apparently mostly based on true stories.  So with the story being so interesting, what was the problem?  I would say the problem is that this movie was a comedy but not really all that funny.  I would say that the goofiness that they introduce us to during the course of the movie is amusing, but they were never able to climb over the hill and actually strike me as funny.  But since the comedy was never really a failure, it wasn’t painful to watch.  Just not funny.

The cast of the movie was all pretty spectacular, but they got some pretty big names to participate.  Ewan McGregor was the main character of the movie, and he did a good job displaying the range of emotions his character went through during the movie.  He starts off depressed and mopey because of his wife leaving him, then he went to being pretty skeptical of the New Earth Army stories, and he was totally on board by the end of the movie.  I liked that he kept talking to Clooney about the “Jedi Warriors”, as they called themselves, like it was such a ridiculous notion, even though he’s the only one in the movie that actually has been a Jedi warrior before.  I liked Clooney in the movie as well.  He seemed to take the ridiculousness very seriously, which is always a good choice.  Jeff Bridges was also very good as the hippie leader of the New Earth Army, Bill Django, but it also seems like a character that was written with Jeff Bridges in mind.  Kevin Spacey also plays a dick very well, and he did that here.

The Men Who Stare at Goats was a decent enough movie because of its wacky and interesting story and top notch performances.  The problem with the movie is that it was a comedy but it just wasn’t funny.  I would say, to its credit, that it was amusing for the greater majority of the movie, but it just couldn’t crest that ridge into funniness.  It’s worth watching if it’s on, but I wouldn’t say you need to go out of your way for it.  The Men Who Stare at Goats gets “Now more than ever we need the Jedi” out of “He was dying of a broken heart.  And maybe the cancer as well.”

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True Grit (2010)

If You Would Like to Sleep in a Coffin, it Would be Alright

Today’s movie was a request by me.  For a while now I’ve talked about Jeff Bridges and how, though I respect him greatly as an actor, the greater majority of the movies I’ve reviewed with him in it seemed very similar in their performances, often resembling his character of The Dude from the Big Lebowski.  But, while I’ve said these things, I’ve usually mentioned them along with a certain movie I’ve seen where his performance had little to nothing in common with The Dude, and that is today’s movie.  It’s also a movie that I believe I originally saw in the theaters and fell completely in love with.  When it came out for purchase, I got it on BluRay and renewed my love for it.  I’ve been putting off my review for no particular reason, but no longer.  The time has come to review the second film adaptation of the novel True Grit, written by Charles Portis, written for the screen and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Elizabeth Marvel, Ed Lee Corbin, Dakin Matthews, Domhnall Gleeson, Leon Russom, and Joe Stevens.

The father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is gunned down by one of his hired hands, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), for two California gold chips and a horse.  Her brother being even younger and her mother being unqualified for the task, it falls on Mattie’s shoulders to arrange for the body to be transported back home.  But, when she gets to the town, she sets about the task of revenge.  Realizing that it’s not a top priority for the law to find Chaney, she decides to hire U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to seek him out.  He refuses her at first, but when she raises enough money, he relents, even though she demands to accompany him on the task.  But, when Mattie shows up to join Rooster, she finds that he’s already left, having had no intention of allowing her to follow.  She races down to the river to find Rooster on the other side of the river with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who is looking for Chaney on another bounty.  Since Rooster has paid the ferryman to keep Mattie on the other side of the river, she hazards the river on horseback to join them.  Rooster and LaBoeuf are not pleased, but the three set off to find Chaney and bring him to justice.

This is such a good movie!  I love the hell right out of this movie.  It’s set itself amongst my favorite westerns, and even amongst my favorite movies.  Though I’m not sure where it came from, I’ve had a predisposition for loving westerns for as long as I can remember.  So when a really well-written one comes along (which I find fairly rare nowadays), I love it that much more.  And this movie is, indeed, well-written.  The story is really interesting, often funny, and heavy with some badassdom or, as they would call it, “grit”.  And, in my opinion, the movie dwarfs the original movie in every conceivable way.  I liked this version of True Grit so much that I decided I should buy the original, sight unseen.  You can imagine my disappointment.  The original seemed to have very little respect for the source material (as best I can gather from the source material’s Wikipedia page) and changed parts of the story with great emotional impact at will.  But it seems like this Portis guy knew what he was doing when he put pen to paper, because the much more accurate new movie renders the original movie unwatchable.  The dialogue that the Coen brothers bring to the movie is very endearing, though I did find it to be in poor taste that Mattie decides to name her horse “Little Blackie” right in front of the little blackie stable boy, but perhaps that’s just my racism reading things the wrong way.  The action that they bring to the movie is also very satisfying, and pretty great in a very real way.  They build up a lot of tension in the interrogation scene when Rooster is casually trying to get information out of two guys they come across in a cabin, and the ensuing gun fight was pretty cool and very realistic.  I really liked the courageous ride that Rooster takes against the gang at the end of the movie as well, especially the part where a guy gets shot off his horse and smashes his face on a rock for good measure.  I have conflicted feelings about the ending of the movie though.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  I thought the part of Rooster courageously riding to get Mattie to medical attention was very emotional and fantastic, but the bit after that confuses my feelings.  It was sad that an aged Mattie was trying to reconnect with Rooster but finds him dead by the time she gets to him.  It was nice that she gets his body moved closer to her so she can visit him, but sad again that she lost her arm and never married because she was too business minded.  I thought the ending was great, but a part of me always wants the ending to be a happy one, and you don’t get that here.  The original movie breaks from the book to give the audience the happy ending they usually want, but I don’t like that they did that.  So you can see how conflicted I am about this.  I don’t like them changing the ending to appease me, and the ending was fantastic and emotional, but that nagging part of me always wants that happy ending.  ::END SPOILERS::

Contending admirably with the high quality of the script is the performances in the movie.  Every single one of them is enjoyable.  Hailee Steinfeld is the real breakout performance of this movie, even amongst heavy competition.  No one has seen anything from this girl before this movie which just makes her that much more impressive.  She delivers heavy and complicated dialogue as if she’s smarter than everyone in the room, and in most occasions she is.  Take, for instance, when she’s negotiating over the sale of some horses with Colonel Stonehill (Dakin Matthews) and she completely outwits him.  She also delivers some real emotion to further impress.  And she was not above showing the innocence of youth, like when she tried to break the tension caused by a fight between LaBoeuf and Rooster by offering to tell a story by the campfire.  I envy her for her early showings of talent, but I assume I was not given such ability because of how heavily I would rub it in the faces of all of my peers at school.  “Look what I’ve accomplished while you guys were doing each other’s hair and talking about Justin Bieber!  I was nominated for an Academy Award!”  Although, for some reason she was nominated for supporting actress.  What’s that about?  As awesome as Bridges was in this movie, this wasn’t the Rooster show.  Mattie was the main character of the movie.  And Jeff Bridges was indeed awesome.  John Wayne fans must be pissed ‘cause this guy makes the Duke look like a pile of duke.  He plays Rooster very funny, intelligent even though he’s semi-constantly drunk, absolutely heroic in a part or two but still very flawed in others, and outright awesome.  My favorite thing about the character was that he wasn’t a cliché.  Most heroes in western movies are the best at something.  They’re the best tracker, they’re the toughest, they’re the most heroic, they’re the best shot or the quickest draw.  Rooster was none of these things.  He just had grit, and he was more awesome for it.  Matt Damon was also very good as LaBoeuf.  You dislike him for the bulk of the movie because of his ego and the vague air of pedophilia he gives off in relation to Mattie.  In the middle, he’s more of an amusement because of his nearly severed tongue.  But, by the end, he’s also a very heroic character.  Josh Brolin is also pretty great.  He’s this sinister character throughout the movie, but only in what people are saying about him because you haven’t actually met him yet.  When you meet him, he comes off as an idiot and in no way intimidating.  He’s almost laughable in how put upon he is.  But when he decides it’s in his best interest to rid himself of Mattie, he makes an awesome turn from almost goofy to pretty intimidating.

True Grit is an amazing accomplishment of a movie.  Fantastic story, sharp dialogue, and some amazing performances.  This movie has all of the ingredients to be considered one of the greatest westerns ever, and it’s already become one of my favorite movies ever.  And the original that was already regarded as a classic becomes a mess in comparison.  I don’t only recommend you watch this movie; I want you to watch this movie.  It’s not only worth a rental; it’s worth going out and purchasing it outright.  Go find it and watch it.  You can thank me later.  True Grit gets “Well, if it ain’t loaded and cocked, it don’t shoot” out of “If them men wanted a decent burial, they should have gotten themselves kilt in summer.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Tron: Legacy (2010)

Your Old Man’s About to Knock on the Sky and Listen to the Sound

I’ve been harboring a hankering to watch this movie again for a while.  I believe I initially saw the movie in theaters, and then I purchased the special edition BluRays when they came out, and I’ve probably seen the movie some three times by now.  But I haven’t reviewed it yet.  When I started reviewing movies, this one was in my mind as one I was looking to get to at some point, but it wasn’t until Fabian recommended it that I actually bothered to get around to it.  I felt it necessary to knock out the original movie yesterday, and today we get into Tron: Legacy, written by Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, directed by Joseph Kosinski and John Lasseter, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Anis Cheurfa, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Michael Sheen, Beau Garrett, Cillian Murphy, Jeffrey Nordling, and Daft Punk.

Not too long after the events of the first Tron film, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) goes missing.  His son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), does not take it that well.  20 years later, he’s ENCOM’s primary shareholder, but has no interest in running his father’s company.  He instead prefers to play a prank on the company every year, like releasing their new operating system to the world for free.  His father’s longtime friend, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), comes to him to investigate a mysterious page he’s received from Flynn’s arcade, even though the place has been abandoned and the phone lines shut off for many years.  Sam goes to check it out and finds his father’s hidden office and, while messing around on the computer there, activates the laser that transported his father into the Grid years ago.  Now in the Grid, he’s instantly captured and put into the games, having to fight for his digital life by throwing Frisbee’s at other guys, eventually losing to a program called Rinzler (Anis Cheurfa).  Rinzler takes Sam to someone that appears to be his father, but actually turns out to be a program his father created called CLU (played by Jeff Bridges and computers).  CLU then attempts to kill Sam on the light cycle tracks, but he’s rescued in the nick of time by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who takes Sam to see his real father.  Then shit starts to get hairy.

I really like this movie, and I’m not sure why I’m apparently one of the few.  This movie was poorly received, and I get the feeling like people’s nostalgia and love for the original movie probably hindered their ability to appreciate this movie.  Having no particular affection for the original, I found this to be a pretty great and enjoyable movie.  And I’m not sure why the fans of the original seemed to take so much issue with this when it appeared to me that the writers had a great affection for the original.  They threw a lot of things in the movie that were big nods to the original movie, like repeating the joke about the big door, the look and style of Flynn’s arcade, the little handheld device Flynn was messing with in the first movie, and a couple other hidden Easter eggs.  And, when compared to the original Tron, the story here was much better.  Unlike the first movie, there was actually an emotional connection developed in the story for the characters.  You had Sam’s desertion issues, Flynn regretting what happened himself, Quorra being the last of her kind, etc.  The first movie didn’t even seem to take the idea that they could write interesting and flawed characters into consideration.  And the overall story of the movie has much more on the line than one guy wanting to get his comeuppance by proving that he made the games that made ENCOM famous.  They were saving the world, man!  This is not to say that I found the story of this movie to be perfect, of course.  Just superior to the original.  I admit that I did not understand what they were talking about with the ISO’s.  They were some sort of aberration in the Grid that somehow held the potential to resolve various mysteries in science, religion, and medicine.  …How?  They’re just some kind of randomly occurring program.  Is this the same kind of thing like giving a room full of monkeys some typewriters and waiting for them to write Shakespeare?  My best guess is that the writers wanted to keep up the religious overtones they had laid out in the movie (with things like Flynn coming off as God, but God that loves weed or something) and wanted them to represent miracles, but also not bothering to try to define anything about it because they couldn’t figure it out.  Well, CLU gets all threatened by the chosen people of the Grid and gets his genocide on with them, making him basically bio-digital Hitler, man.  I still wonder what would happen, in the minds of the writers, if someone like Quorra got out into the world.  What would that mean?  Would she still have the potential to inexplicably solve the world’s problems, or would she just be some girl that gets locked up because she’d seem crazy because she grew up in a computer?  Either way, I found the conclusion of this movie much more satisfying, though slightly depressing as well.  Whereas the other Tron movie just ended with a guy landing a helicopter on top of a building, this ending has loss, sacrifice, but also an uplifting and somewhat happy ending.

Much like the original, the look of this movie elevates it above its own station.  At least SOME parts of it do.  The movie captures the style of the first movie, but advances it to fit the world as it is today.  With today’s technology, it would’ve been really easy to have the look of the game simply duplicate the original Tron, but that wouldn’t make sense.  The look of that movie was made to look like the video games available at the time, most of which are just slightly more graphically advanced that Pong.  With the state of video games today, this movie needed to look much better, and it does.  It also reflects the change in the system since CLU took over, coming off a lot darker in tone while still being cool and stylized, just as it was in the original.  It’s probably slightly less stylized because it didn’t originate a lot of the look, but it’s cooler because it’s dark and metal.  Like Mastodon.  Of course, there is a problem with the look and it’s one that was talked about frequently when the movie came out: young Jeff Bridges.  You could tell that they tried really hard to make that work.  They did facial captures from Bridges so that the computer could replicate the performance, they used facial captures from Bridges in Against All Odds to get the look and the age right, and they had a stunt double duplicate Bridges’ performance so that nothing was left out.  And it looks like young Jeff Bridges … kinda.  It suffers from the Uncanny Valley thing that the Polar Express suffers from.  It’s so close to being human, but still obviously not, and comes off as a little unsettling.  You know what doesn’t?  The four Siren cyber broads!  But one could argue that they were just four hot chicks in skintight clothes.  The action in this movie was far superior to the stuff in Tron.  The memory disk battles were exciting and well-choreographed.  The light cycles looked awesome and the animation of the light cycle battle was exciting and cool, and they no longer had to travel in straight lines.  There’s even an awesome airship battle.  So much better than Jai A-Die that they played in the first movie.  And the thing I respected most about the movie is how they handled the fact that things were going to die in this but it’s a Disney movie.  Instead of blood, the characters bled bits and disintegrated, leaving some crushed up glass in a pile on the floor.  This looked cool and allowed them to do badass things like shooting a character through the face, leaving a big gaping hole, but as something that kids could watch.  Another thing worth mentioning about this is the music by Daft Punk.  I’m typically the exact opposite of a techno fan, and that doesn’t usually change very much for the typical DJ music, but I enjoyed the score that they put together for this movie.  It elevated the feeling of the scene, and techno was really the only kind of music you could use in this setting.

I don’t have a problem with any of the performances in this movie.  I feel sorry to say that Jeff Bridges gives another performance that’s very similar to The Dude in this movie.  Flynn was vaguely Dude-esque in the original Tron, but in this one – with all the talk about bio-digital jazz and knocking on the sky to see how well it held the room together or some shit – he really reminded me of the Jeff Bridges performances I’ve seen before, or sometimes a Ninja Turtle.  His performance of CLU wasn’t particularly Dude-esque, but I’m beginning to feel bad about this.  I really like Jeff Bridges as an actor, but I just keep reviewing movies that he chose to act Dude-y in.  Because of that, I’m going to review True Grit tomorrow.  There’s no way I could call Rooster Cogburn similar to the Dude.  Garrett Hedlund didn’t really impress or disappoint.  I really liked Olivia Wilde’s Quorra character though.  It’s not the most revolutionary character for a girl to be cute, innocent, and naïve, but it’s a likeable character type.  And she’s hot, so she’s got that going for her.  I had thought myself so clever for saying that Michael Sheen’s Zuse character reminded me of David Bowie, but Wikipedia tells me that he based his performance on him.  Well fuck you too, Wikipedia!  I also really liked Anis Cheurfa as Rinzler.  His face was never seen and he didn’t need to act, but the capoeira fighting style was pretty awesome to watch.

Tron: Legacy is a really cool movie, and far superior to the original as far as I’m concerned.  Unlike the original, there is actual depth in the story, some emotional impact, and the action is much more interesting.  The original Tron only had the looking going for it, and this movie keeps that going and looks much better, though perhaps slightly less of an accomplishment in the style category.  I definitely recommend watching Tron: Legacy, and I think the only reason you might want to bother watching the original is because it helps you understand this movie.  Tron: Legacy gets “Bio-digital jazz, man” out of “You’re messing with my Zen thing, man.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Tron (1982)

Old Enough to Remember When the MCP Was Just a Chess Program

Fabio recommended that I review two movies today at work.  The first movie (today’s movie) is a science fiction classic from the early 80’s that I had never bothered to see until they released a sequel in 2010.  I felt like it was necessary to see the original before watching the sequel that had piqued my interest with its cool, stylish graphics.  And, since the first movie was known for its own cool, stylish graphics, I figured I’d be right on board with it.  As with most movies, before I review the sequel, I feel it’s necessary to review the original.  So here comes my review of the first Tron, written and directed by Steven Lisberger, and starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Dan Shor, Barnard Hughes, and Peter Jurasik.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been repeatedly trying to hack into the software of his former employer, ENCOM, looking for files that would prove that the current chairman of ENCOM, Ed Dillinger (David Warner), plagiarized several video games that Flynn created in order to rise to power in the company.  Flynn’s numerous attempts have failed so far, having been prevented by the artificial intelligence program that controls ENCOM’s mainframes, the Master Control Program.  Hearing about the attempted hacks, ENCOM employees Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora Baines (Cindy Morgan) go and see what Flynn is up to and agree to help him get what he needs.  Alan tells Flynn he needs to get his security program, Tron, away from the MCP and allow him to do his job.  While trying to forge higher clearance for himself, the MCP activates an experimental laser that turns Flynn into data and puts him into the ENCOM mainframe.  Now inside, he must meet up with the manifestation of Tron (Boxleitner) and take down the MCP so that he can make lots and lots of money.

It’s a little sad to say this, but this movie is more than a little overrated.  My opinion is not hindered by nostalgia as I didn’t see this movie in its entirety until 2010, but I feel sad about not liking it because it seems exactly like the type of movie I should like.  It’s science fiction and it’s set inside a video game.  What’s not to like?  The lackluster story, that’s what.  It’s just not very interesting.  The story has an interesting premise, but not an interesting story.  I like the idea of someone being turned into a computer program, but you then should have something happen.  You get a couple repeated scenes of a tank shooting at a flying upper-case M, then some people play Jai Alai to the death, some light cycle chasing, but none of it is particularly gripping.  I can’t really recall a time in the movie when I felt like Flynn was in danger, and without that it’s just a process of waiting for the hero to inevitably win.  The biggest issue with pacing I had was the moment when Yori, the female program, died … for 2 seconds.  What the hell is that, man?  She’s just standing in a room, the lights turn off, she swoons, but then Flynn catches her and she’s alive again.  My brain didn’t even have time to say, “What the hell just killed her?” before she was alive again.  The outcome of the movie also didn’t make any sense to me.  ::SPOILER ALERT::  Once the MCP is destroyed, Flynn returns to the real world and gets a printout that says Dillinger stole the program to the video games from Flynn, which he apparently uses to take control of the company again.  The problem with this is that I don’t know how a couple of words printed out on a dot matrix printer is proof.  I could print out a statement on a piece of paper that would look way more professional that could say, “Idea for the iPod.  Created by Robert Bicket.  Appropriated by Steve Jobs.  Give Robert lots and lots of money.”  I don’t feel entirely confident that this would convince anyone.  I’ll let you know what the outcome is.  After that, the full ending of the movie is completely lackluster as well.  Alan and Lora are waiting on the top of the ENCOM tower, Flynn arrives in a helicopter showing that he’s in control of the company (the piece of paper works!), and that’s it.  I suppose it’s a happy ending, but it’s entirely blasé.  ::END SPOILERS::

Some people actually find the story of this movie super amazing, but to me the only thing noteworthy about this movie is the look, and it is still very noteworthy.  By today’s standards, it’s not the most impressive thing in the world, but this movie was made in 1982.  At the time, this movie would’ve been mind-blowing.  I respect the movie for its visual accomplishments.  Though it’s something that I’m sure would not be hard to accomplish with today’s technology, it’s still awesome to look at and very stylized.  I’m sure the younger audience wouldn’t understand it, but I remember full well when video games looked like this, and they captured the video game feel very well.  I’ve played those little tank games, and I’ve played games like the light cycle battle, where you created a wall and tried to make your opponent crash into it before you did.  I remember it as a snake that kept getting larger, but it’s the same principle.

All of the performances in the movie were fine, but none of them really impressed either.  As it seems like the movie was more geared towards the younger audiences (and because it was a Disney movie) they never went for anything super heavy in the story, so the characters never really required any stretching of their acting chops.  Because of this, the only thing I could think to say about anyone in the cast was that Cindy Morgan looks like a nerdy Michelle Pfeiffer.  …That is all.

I found myself somewhat disappointed by the original Tron movie.  The premise of the movie is great, but problems with pacing and a misunderstanding of how to make scenes have impact made the movie somewhat boring and monotonous.  I would definitely agree that the look of the movie deserves all the praise in the world, pulling off a very cool and very stylish look with technology far inferior to that which is available today.  It’s cool enough, but nothing special beyond something cool to look at.  It’s a movie worth seeing once, but not worthy of that much acclaim.  Tron gets “If the Users can no longer help us, we’re lost” out of “End of line.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Iron Man (2008)

The Truth is … I Am Iron Man.

Avengers is still on the way, peoples, and I still have Avenger movies to review.  Having already completed Cap, Thor, and Hulk, I’ve already done three of the biggest names amongst the team, leaving one more to tie it all up.  But since the Hulk and the star of today’s movie both have sequels already, I still have three more movies to review.  Maybe four, since Wolverine was an Avenger, though he’s not a star of the movie that’s coming out.  But if I run out, that one will do.  Before I must resort to that, I still have two movies starring one of the biggest names in the Avengers, and both of those movies are WAY better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Today’s movie is Iron Man, written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matthew Holloway, directed by Jon Favreau, and starring Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jon Favreau, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg, Leslie Bibb, and Bill Smitrovich.

Wealthy philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gets himself caught in a bad situation when a group of bad guys attack a convoy he’s in.  One of his company’s own bombs goes off right in front of him, sending shrapnel into his chest.  He’s taken in by the bad guys and saved by another captive, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), by having a magnet installed in his chest to keep the shrapnel from reaching his heart.  The leader of the bad guys, Raza (Faran Tahir), tells Stark that he wants him to make one of his new Jericho missiles for them.  He agrees, but instead uses the parts they give him to make a giant, metal suit.  He uses this suit to escape, but Yinsen dies in the escape.  Stark is rescued shortly after his escape by his friend Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), and returned to the states.  He joins up with his assistant, Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his chauffeur, Hogan (Jon Favreau), and goes to a press conference with the guy that runs his company, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges).  Here, he shocks the press by announcing that his company is going to stop producing weapons.  Stark goes into seclusion and builds a much better version of the armor he used to escape, deciding that he’s going to use this armor to right the wrongs his weapons created.

Hooray for Iron Man!  This is a really fun movie, especially for a dedicated Marvel nerd such as myself.  I had never been that big of a fan of Iron Man in comic book form, but I was on board for this flick.  The story was great, but mainly just taken from the comic book, with only minor changes.  The dialogue in the movie was mostly pretty clever, and the action was pretty great, but I did have some complaints.  They changed the story of Iron Man, but only enough to make it more topical for the audience of today.  If I recall correctly, Tony Stark was taken in by terrorist type people to have him make them a weapon and he escaped using the Mark 1 Iron Man armor, but it was originally the Mandarin that took him and not some vaguely-Taliban group, but it worked and made it more relevant today.  The scene where he gets captured is a pretty awesome way to start the movie off (in no small part due to the fact that they used AC/DC’s Back in Black), but it did kind of make the military look a little inept.  I know they were ambushed, but those army dudes got walked right over.  You should at least let them put up a bit of a fight first.  The build up to, and use of, the Mark 1 armor was pretty awesome as well.  But once Stark gets the kinks ironed (PUN!) out of his armor, the debut performance of it made me blow such the nerd-load.  It also is the first (but smaller) example of my problem with the action scenes: I wanted more!  Iron Man goes in and whoops ass too quickly for my taste.  I liked it so much, but I could’ve done with some more.  The bigger problem is the final battle.  I won’t go too far into it, but Iron Man goes into the battle with a bigger robot armor, but he goes in at less than half power, so he didn’t throw down as hard as he could have.  I wanted the final battle to be an epic throwdown with two fully armed and operational suits.  I didn’t want Iron Man’s biggest enemy to be his Duracells.  The action scenes still retained a great deal of awesome, I just wanted a little more.  I really dug the greater majority of the dialogue in the movie as well.  It felt at least somewhat improvised, but sometimes too clever to actually be improvised.  Robert Downey Jr.’s first interaction with Leslie Bibb, for example.  I really liked the way he deflected every question she tried to ask him into a proposal for sex.  I liked better that it payed off.  Then I liked when Gwyn lays the total burn on Bibb the morning after.  I also liked when RDJ called his car the “Funvee” and Terrence Howard’s the “Humdrumvee”.  I would’ve liked when Howard eventually rescues Stark and says “How was the funvee?”, but I ended up thinking to myself “How many weeks were you holding on to that joke, Rhodes?”  The graphics in this movie were great, with nice explosions and what not, and Iron Man looked amazing.  But in the part where RDJ has Gwyn play a real life version of Operation on him, that prosthetic chest was not believable at all.  On the other hand, I was very pleased with Stark’s computer generated holograms that he could interact with, Minority Report style.  Especially when he was working on the hand of Iron Man and put his hand in the hologram to try it out.

I can scarcely think of complaints about the cast of this movie.  Almost everyone rocked.  I love Robert Downey Jr..  That dude’s amazing.  When I first heard he was going to do Iron Man, I thought to myself “That guy is way too good of an actor to be in a comic book movie … but I sure as hell hope no one tells him that.”  I loved him throughout the movie when he was all snarky to everyone and perhaps a little spoiled, and I also liked it when he toned that stuff down and got serious.  Jeff Bridges is also great in the movie.  He may have been too likeable as Stane at first, but when he turns at the end that’s what makes it even worse, but in a great way.  When I heard Gwyneth Paltrow was also going to be in this movie, I thought “What the hell is going on here?  Doesn’t Marvel mainly like throwing some Afflecks and Garnets at their movies, and just throw in a Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen for flavor?”  She was also great.  She had a good deal of quiet attitude and sass to her.  That compounded with her hotness made me fall in love; a step up from when I fell in lust with her.  Can’t say I dug on Terrence Howard, though.  I’m not sure if it’s just because he wasn’t in the sequel (and was replaced by a far superior actor, in my opinion), but he just didn’t do much for me in this movie.  The best performance in the movie, hands down, was the fire extinguisher robot.  That thing was adorable and, even though RDJ was shitting on him for the entire movie, saved his life in the end.  Also, why would Stark program his AI butler, Jarvis, to be such a dick?

Iron Man is pretty awesome, but I would’ve liked it to be a little more awesome.  Great story, fantastic performances (especially by fire extinguisher robot), great dialogue, great graphics, and awesome action that I would’ve liked to see amped up just a little.  Still, fantastic and very fun movie.  You must see this movie if you haven’t yet.  I’ve purchased it twice because I had to switch over to BluRay, so the least you can do is buy it once.  The review for the sequel is comin’, so we’ll see how that one goes, but we’ve already seen how this one goes, and it goes good.  Iron Man gets “The Funvee” out of “I’m prepared to lose a few hours of sleep with you.”

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Surf’s Up (2007)

A real man is strong enough to admit when he’s wrong. Now, I don’t know if I’d say I was wrong, per se, but … oh wait. Never mind, I was totally wrong. So, in my previous review I revealed that I had rented 2 computer animated movies about birds, and that I had decided one would be crap and the other one would be alright (which was revealed yesterday to be Rio). What I was wrong about was that today’s movie, Surf’s Up (with the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Jon Heder, Diedrich Bader, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, and Brian Posehn), would be crap.

Cody Maverick (okay, we can knock a few points off for giving TheBeef that name) is an aspiring surfing penguin living in Antarctica with his mother and his brother (Brian Posehn). A bird of some kind rides a whale up to Antarctica looking for surfer’s for a yearly contest held in tribute to Big Z, a famous surfing penguin who died some years back while surfing, and also happens to be TheBeef’s inspiration. Cody begs his way onto the whale and catches a trip down to … wherever the Hell it took place. It’s not important, okay?! On the whale, he meets a surfing chicken, name Chicken Joe (voiced by Napoleon Dynamite himself, Jon Heder) who is on his way to the competition and seems to be either constantly stoned or brain damaged. They reach the contest and meet the douchey contest manager, Reggie Belafonte (James Woods), the much more douchey previous year’s champion, Tank Evans (the amazing Deidrich Bader, who had never let me down in a movie until I sat through Meet the Spartans), and the love interest, Lani (Zooey Deschanel, whose name I really resent having to type). Anyway, TheBeef challenges Tank because Tank was douching it up to Chicken Joe, but TheBeef is not that good of a surfer and crashes, gets pummeled by waves, and inevitably gets knocked out by hitting his head against a rock. Lani rescues him and takes him back to her house for treatment from her uncle, Geek (The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges). Can TheBeef learn to surf and win the competition? Tune in to the movie to find out! Same Bat time, same Bat channel!

I completely went in to this movie with low expectations and this movie was able to blow those expectations out of the water (pun intended). The voice acting really suited their parts. You need a kind of annoying teenage sounding person? TheBeef! You need three people that can act (?) stoned and loopy? Bridges, Heder, and Zooey! I mean, with a name like Zooey, how can you not be interested in mind-altering substances? Need two douchebags? Woods and Bader can play that! And you need a sarcastic older brother type? Well I WISH Posehn was my older brother! Completely perfect cast. Although this movie does make me wonder about Bridges in a way I may have mentioned on my review of the Big Lebowski. Had I not seen True Grit, I would think Bridges is a fantastic actor … while playing characters that are basically The Dude. Both Tron’s, Surf’s Up, and of course Big Lebowski; all of them The Dude. Thankfully I have seen True Grit so I know the man has range. I need to see more Jeff Bridges movies to either solidify or destroy the idea that he can only do one character really well. I don’t want to start thinking he’s Danny McBride or something. OH! Low blow?

Anyway, just like Rio and completely opposite Alpha and Omega, this movie is really well animated. Just having seen the few trailers I had, I also would not have realized that the movie was meant to look like someone was filming a documentary, but it was and this was used well in the movie. Not too much so that it’d be annoying, but also using that to comic effect in itself. The animation was also great. The animation gave a lot of personality to the characters and, most importantly, had really beautiful and realistic water effects. Non-gamers may not realize how important water effects can be. When you see a game whose animation cannot pull off water, it’s bothersome, but if it does it right, you notice it. I feel like I pay attention to water in video games a lot because it can be quite the sign of the dedication of the programmers. One problem with the animation is that sometimes you’d lose track of the characters because there’s not a whole lot you can do with penguins to individualize them.

The story was fine, but as is pretty usual in movies, it’s not entirely original. I guess you could say it’s original in that it’s a competition where the main character learns how to win and also learns about himself, but then make them penguins. And I wouldn’t say that the movie is laugh out loud funny either, as I don’t recall laughing myself. The jokes and comedy of the movie were just kind of there. I noticed them, they waved, but they never ran over and raped me into laughter. Wow that’s an awful metaphor. One thing I did think about the story is that, being animated, it seemed more for kids, but I don’t know that a kid would enjoy this beyond seeing penguins. So, whereas Rio was probably more enjoyable to kids than adults, I would say this one would be more for adults but the kids probably wouldn’t think much of it. Maybe I just don’t know what kids think. If I did, I probably wouldn’t hate them so much.

So there you have it, I sometimes assume incorrectly. But, I may also have been thinking this was Happy Feet when I rented it. Thankfully, it wasn’t. But when I eventually see Happy Feet, we shall see if that movie can overcome my pessimism as Surf’s Up did. I give this movie “Give it a look-see” out of “TACOS!!”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.