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Don’t be fooled. This isn’t a remake of “The Matrix” but the rightful heir to the virtual reality throne. The original “TRON” is as old as me (1982), and “Legacy” is an overdue second edition to the first major film to use computer animation. The sequel takes its turn at graphics and definitely moves the franchise in a technological direction that matches the pure vision of Steven Lisberger’s characters. Even though the plotline is as unique as L.A. traffic, the acting is decent, adding a dose of humor absent in the original, and the visual effects are truly amazing.
Ever wonder what computer programs think of their users? Well according to “Legacy”, they’re quite mad and don’t enjoy being (you guessed it) used. Prepare yourself for a visual wonderland where all your cell phone apps just might decide they’ve had enough.
Jeff Bridges returns as Kevin Flynn, the innovative software programmer. But he’s been missing for almost 30 years (coincidence?) and his son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), hasn’t quite been able to move on. Bruce Boxleitner is also back as Alan Bradley, trying to help Sam make sense of life. But sadly his role as Tron remains in the background (a rather odd and very obnoxious choice considering his name is in the title of the film). After Alan receives a page from a number that’s been out of service for more than 20 years, Sam locates his father’s old office and finds out just how real the world of a computer grid can be.
Like his father, Sam ends up in another digital computer grid, but this time the gladiator computer games (in the form of humans) are controlled by a tyrannical ruler, Clue (who sure looks like Jeff Bridges with about 30 years airbrushed off his face). With a little help from Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam escapes and finds his father, who’s been stuck in the grid since his disappearance. Set to a musical score by Daft Punk, “Legacy” is the most fun at the movies right now.
While the graphics are splendid and the new vision for the classic film is fitting (for the most part), the airbrushed face of Jeff Bridges as Clue is a little distracting at times. Close ups on the big screen in 3-D are not kind to the CGI Bridges, who looks like a digital character from “Beowulf” or “A Christmas Carol”. Airbrushing might be effective at making swimsuit models in Sports Illustrated look ageless and plastic, but it’s a different story for a moving object, even if the background is largely digitized as well.
On the other side of the movie spectrum, the psychological thriller, “Black Swan”, is finally at more theatres after making almost $2 million at 20 theatres nationwide. From the mind that brought us “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Fountain” and “The Wrestler” comes a magnificent story that’s ripe for the Best Picture Oscar win, proving that a small budget ($13 million as opposed to “TRON: Legacy” at $170 million) can still produce amazing performances and stunning visuals.
Much like “The Wrestler”, director Darren Aronofsky constructs a disconcerting tale about one individual’s dark journey toward a live goal. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) finally scores the lead role in her dance company as The Swan Queen in the classic ballet, “Swan Lake”. While she understands how to play the White Swan through innocence and perfection, company director, Thomas Leroy, is worried about the timid woman’s ability to become the Black Swan. With an overbearing mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), and a lack of confidence that often leads her to tears, she’s ripe for seductive fellow dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), to show her just how far she needs to go to embrace the Black Swan.
Aronofsky does his homework, exposing a world unbeknownst to everyone else: bulimic dancers, bruised feet, petty squabbles between performers and mothers living vicariously through their daughters. But “Black Swan” is more than just an exposé of ballet culture, it’s a study of fiction’s role in real life. Portman delivers a disturbing performance that truly takes us into the mind of someone who desperately wants to become more than she is, but can’t seem to decide what she, herself, wants.
Prepare yourself. This one won’t give you easy answers, but don’t dismiss it outright. Like most Aronofsky films, it requires time to process. If you’re willing, it can be a magnificent experience that transcends normal conventions, and leaves you aching for more films that have substance during the holiday movie season.
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