Category Archives: tron

Wreck-It Ralph

This review, in a slightly altered form, has already appeared on my pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell. Since it’s videogame topical, I figured I’d share it here too. Enjoy.

First things first, Wreck-It Ralph being a Disney/Pixar flick, we get a Pixar cartoon before the main feature. “Paperman” was a sweet short utilizing different animation than usual for Pixar, and it also had a bit of a Japanese anime vibe to it. I liked it a lot, a big reason to see this movie is to see “Paperman” first.

Wreck-It Ralph, the newest from Disney/Pixar, is loosely at first glance a cross between Toy Story and Tron. Like the first movie we discover that the entities in our videogames actually live, especially when we’re not looking, and like the second flick we discover that they live in their own little universe with its own physical and moral laws, all within the confines of one arcade.

Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., essentially close to Donkey Kong in many ways. Ralph, shunned by the other denizens of his game, determines to leave his game and make good. He goes off to Hero’s Duty, a hybrid of Halo and Starship Troopers, to win a medal, and recognition. When things go awry, he becomes stranded in Sugar Rush, a mix of Mario Kart and Candyland. There, Ralph must decide if truly is the bad guy, or a hero.

It’s a complex plot that is quite dark in places, but for the most part, it’s an enjoyable journey through 1980s videogame nostalgia. It has a sharp sense of humor, great characters, and the voice work of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and especially Jane Lynch is first class. There are also many cameos of classic videogame characters that make the flick a real treat.

An added trivia bonus for old school videogamers is the song that plays over the closing credits, “Wreck It, Wreck-It Ralph” by Jerry Buckner, formerly of Buckner & Garcia of “Pac-Man Fever” fame.

I liked Wreck-It Ralph quite a bit, and while I wonder if this might be over or under the heads of some folks who weren’t into, or alive for, 1980s arcade games, I highly recommend it. Great flick.

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Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph ~ After helping friend Marni celebrate her birthday at Red Lobster, The Bride and I decided to continue the evening as a date night, despite the raging rainsnowstorm outside. We hadn’t been able to see Wreck-It Ralph since it’s been out so we trekked across Route 38 to my least favorite theater to see it.

It was a rainy/snowy Wednesday night, and that may have something to do with it, but I was pleased to see the place nearly empty and doing very little business. I couldn’t wish it on a nastier movie theater. That said, to be fair, we had no problems on this trip. As a matter of fact, the young man who took our tickets was very helpful. But you know, too little, too late. Gonna take a lot to change my mind about this place.

First things first, Wreck-It Ralph being a Disney/Pixar flick, we get a Pixar cartoon before the main feature. “Paperman” was a sweet short utilizing different animation than usual for Pixar, and it also had a bit of a Japanese anime vibe to it. I liked it a lot, a big reason to see this movie is to see “Paperman” first.

Wreck-It Ralph, the newest from Disney/Pixar, is loosely at first glance a cross between Toy Story and Tron. Like the first movie we discover that the entities in our videogames actually live, especially when we’re not looking, and like the second flick we discover that they live in their own little universe with its own physical and moral laws, all within the confines of one arcade.

Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., essentially close to Donkey Kong in many ways. Ralph, shunned by the other denizens of his game, determines to leave his game and make good. He goes off to Hero’s Duty, a hybrid of Halo and Starship Troopers, to win a medal, and recognition. When things go awry, he becomes stranded in Sugar Rush, a mix of Mario Kart and Candyland. There, Ralph must decide if truly is the bad guy, or a hero.

It’s a complex plot that is quite dark in places, but for the most part, it’s an enjoyable journey through 1980s videogame nostalgia. It has a sharp sense of humor, great characters, and the voice work of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and especially Jane Lynch is first class. There are also many cameos of classic videogame characters that make the flick a real treat.

An added trivia bonus for old school videogamers is the song that plays over the closing credits, “Wreck It, Wreck-It Ralph” by Jerry Buckner, formerly of Buckner & Garcia of “Pac-Man Fever” fame.

I liked Wreck-It Ralph quite a bit, and while I wonder if this might be over or under the heads of some folks who weren’t into, or alive for, 1980s arcade games, I highly recommend it. Great flick.

A Tale of Two Trons

I was never that big of a fan of the original Tron, yeah, I know, blasphemy, and I have to turn in my nerd license. Other than the cool (at the time) effects and the arcade game “Discs of Tron,” which I enjoyed on an almost daily basis for hours on just a few quarters, it never really did much for me.

The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it’s an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of ‘the grid’ is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me – Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way – it’s just harder to do these days.

What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That’s a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.

I also remember the music, a Journey song “Only Solutions,” that I liked – at a time when I wasn’t all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics – the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.

If 1982’s Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.

Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad’s arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film’s predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today’s CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it’s just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.

As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney’s Return to Oz was to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it’s not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn’s evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.

Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It’s been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better – and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This ‘effect’ is both stunning and disturbing.

Cast-wise, it’s fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn’t belong in Tron.

Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible – maybe we’ll see more of Dillinger’s kid, which I’m sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don’t forget to check out the original too, first if possible.

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Tron Legacy – Sneak Peek


Yeah, baby!

Tron Legacy, the much-anticipated sequel to 1982’s Tron, will be released some time in 2010.

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Zatanna in Smallville

The title says Zatanna in Smallville, but really now, when was the last time anything in the “Smallville” TV series actually happened in Smallville? Just get it over with and rename the series “Metropolis.” Or better yet, “Superman.” This whole Superman without actually having Superman is wearing on me, but I digress.

This week’s episode “Hex” featured the live-action debut of a fan favorite character from the comics, Zatanna Zatara. And we got the classic version, complete with top hat and fishnets. Filling those fishnets more than adequately is the sexy Serinda Swan, whose rumors indicate will also be starring in the much-anticipated Tron 2.0.

As much as can be expected in the ersatz version of the DCU presented in “Smallville,” Zatanna is presented rather close to the original. There is a father quest involved, she actually does speak her spells backward and daddy is even mentioned by name as the world’s greatest magician – proof positive of a Golden Age in this continuity. Other Easter eggs in “Hex” include cameos of the Justice League, as well as the regularly scheduled soap opera stuff.

And when are they going to give Justin Hartley his own Green Arrow spin-off? He’s the best part of this show as long as Clark’s not putting on a costume…