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December 20th, 2010 , AARON MESH, KELLY CLARKE, CASEY JARMAN | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Christmas Comes Early

Hollywood stuffs your stocking with gifts. you’ll want to return some.

Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy
73 Video games have come a long way since Tron hit screens in 1982, and Tron: Legacy has evolved with them. It’s eye-poppingly gorgeous, ludicrous and swollen with enough pure adrenaline to make Raoul Duke trip balls for decades.

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Legacy finds computer wunderkind Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) sucked into a digitized world of violent Ultimate Frisbee and glow sticks to retrieve his long-lost father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). The fallen Apollo of the neon realm, Kevin’s now hiding from the maniacally dictatorial Clu (Bridges again, age digitally reduced 30 years to resemble Patrick Swayze by way of The Polar Express). They must escape with the world’s hottest computer program (Olivia Wilde) in order to save the Tron world and our own.

Aesthetically, Tron is a wonder, maybe the best use of 3-D to date. Set to a pulsing Daft Punk score, action scenes sear the retina, from gladiatorial battles to a kung-fu melee in a Eurotrash bar and the requisite Light Cycle throwdown. Neon dominates the film, with glowing lights augmenting women’s curves and men’s muscles with ample ooh-la-la and phosphorescence permeating each shot. With so much style, who gives a shit about substance?

Director Joseph Kosinski, for one. The film is packed with enough broody exposition and religious allegory to give both Wachowskis migraines. Too much time is spent on a story that should be relegated to second-player status. Tron: Legacy misses only one thing that gives video games endless replay value: When Call of Duty gets dull, at least you can press a button to skip the plot and jump right to blowing shit up. PG. AP KRYZA. Opens Friday in 3-D at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Cinema 99, Cinetopia, City Center, Cornelius, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Pioneer Place, Roseway, Sandy, Sherwood, Tigard and Wilsonville. Opens in 2-D at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Cornelius, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Oak Grove and St. Johns Twin Cinema-Pub.

The Fighter
89 The true story of Lowell, Mass., boxing half brothers Micky and Dicky, played by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale—no, no, c’mon, pick the paper back up! The Fighter deserves its shot: Director David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) announces his intention from the opening bell to out-Scorsese Scorsese with sprinting cameras, Stones songs and charismatic fuck-ups. But the movie is noteworthy for the between-the-ropes relatives it doesn’t ape: There’s none of the Irish sentimentality of Million Dollar Baby, and none of The Wrestler’s langourous self-pity. Fleeing formula like Bale’s Dicky runs from cops, the movie is messy and darting and alive. In a film of gorgeously composed shots, Russell’s best trick is to make the fight scenes look exactly like HBO broadcasts—every DV shot halogen-bleached and chaotic. For once, boxing looks like an ugly, painful sport.

Wahlberg plays Micky intriguingly passive and speechless—though it’s hard to imagine any man getting a word in around this bevy of chain-smoking sisters and an exploitative-manager mother played by Melissa Leo. (As his girlfriend, Amy Adams goes downmarket and fierce—and somehow manages to emerge even more adorable.) But the movie belongs to Bale: I had come to suspect he could no longer attempt any role without the Batman scowl as a crutch, but as The Fighter’s drug-addict older sibling, he hops like a wallaby, breaks into off-key crooning, and generally suggests Anthony Perkins on crack. In the movie’s singular scene, he serenades his disappointed mother with the Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke,” and, as she begins to sing along, the duet is a reminder that family so often endures on the reassuring lies we tell each other.

The Fighter doesn’t steal the championship belt from Raging Bull: It’s a hair too neat, and doesn’t fully explore its darkest implications. But at least it belongs in the same ring. R. AARON MESH. Opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Cinema 99, CineMagic, Cinetopia, City Center, Cornelius, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV, Oak Grove, Sandy, Sherwood, Tigard and Wilsonville.

How Do You Know
34 The real question, properly punctuated: How did Bill Murray know to flee this train wreck before it started shooting? Chalk it up as another lucky dodge in a charmed life. Or maybe he just read the script.

Cut from USA Softball, Reese Witherspoon goes to a shrink (Tony Shalhoub), who advises: “Figure out what you want, and learn how to ask for it.” James L. Brooks wants to remake his Broadcast News without the pesky workplace, and after you win enough Oscars, you always get what you ask for. It really is the same love triangle, but disastrous: Witherspoon has been instructed to impersonate Holly Hunter, Owen Wilson is humiliated in the dimwit beefcake role given poignancy by William Hurt, and Paul Rudd gets drunk on cocktails and sings to his furniture. Rudd really could be the handsome son of Albert Brooks—that would have been fun casting; instead, the devious-pop role intended for Murray goes to a miserable Jack Nicholson. At any rate, Rudd is the most ill-used: He’s a moony milquetoast, because James L. Brooks can’t imagine nice guys with the potential for dignity.

How Do You Know is jammed with big, unformed ideas—it concludes with a speech about putty, which is inadvertently telling—and there are bits of good movie sticking out of a lot of very bad movie. But it goes on forever, like some form of romantic purgatory: There’s actually a scene where a man gives a mildly touching marriage proposal, and then somebody realizes they should have videotaped it, so everyone in the room recites the speech a second time. Not since Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown has a respected director floundered so publicly, and at such length. PG-13. AARON MESH. Opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Cinema 99, City Center, Cornelius, Division, Evergreen, Lake Twin, Lloyd Center, Movies on TV,

The Tempest
65 Stage and opera staple Julie Taymor, creator of Broadway’s The Lion King and the new Spider-Man musical, has always been an insanely talented costume designer and art director with delusions of directing grandeur. In the past, she’s managed to balance her inventive visions with solid plotting on film, especially in her vivid, fantastical biopic of Frida Kahlo, Frida, but often her work ends up more like the off-key Beatles massacre Across the Universe.

The Tempest, which sets Shakespeare’s tale of shipwrecks and double-crossing nobles on a volcanic isle lorded over by a gender-bending, magic-staff-wielding Prospero (Helen Mirren as “Prospera”), falls somewhere in between. The Tempest is neither the Bard’s most affecting nor action-packed tale (three bands of travelers stumble around while Prospera plays puppetmaster). Taymor ups the interest with a panoply of amazing creatures, from fiery-eyed lava dogs and a naked, androgynous butoh sprite to a goo-mouthed harpy that bedevils Prospera’s evil brother and his compatriots, looking like the world’s most terrifying seagull after an oil spill disaster. But while the visuals sing, and the zipper-and-leather outfits dazzle, the emotional content lags. For a lover, Prospera’s daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones) must make do with a simpering American Apparel ad that croons folk tunes, and you’d be forgiven for focusing on the rugged scenery, all razor-sharp rocks and gnarled trees, while drunken shipmates Alfred Molina and Russell Brand trade barbs.

Like most Taymor productions, The Tempest is truly amazing eye candy. But despite a powerful performance from Mirren herself, these stormy waters don’t run nearly deep enough. PG-13. KELLY CLARKE. Opens Friday at Cinema 21.

I Love You Phillip Morris
69 Jim Carrey is at his most interesting when he explores a worrisome cavity inside his mania—think of his everyman in The Truman Show suspecting his entire life was as empty as his good-morning waves—so he’s very good as the compulsively recidivist Texas con man Steven Russell, who romances (and tries to spring) a fellow prison inmate. I Love You Phillip Morris (no relation to the coffin-nail manufacturer; the beloved’s name is actually Phillip Morris, true story) could be a sequel to Catch Me If You Can called Please, Somebody Catch Me Already—it’s the tale of a man who comes out of the closet, only to discover he’s only functional in confined spaces he can escape from. He is born to jailbreak.

With scenes like Carrey emerging from a car wreck with the bloodied cry, “I’m going to be a fag!” it’s hard to say who the picture can play to: The square community will be appalled, and the movie goes out of its way to piss on gay sensitivities. (Russell’s climactic getaway tactic is spectacularly offensive.) The satire, written and directed by the team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, is brittle and toxic, like poisoned candy. But a lot of it tastes sweet—check out a montage of Carrey committing insurance fraud by flinging himself down escalators—and as Morris, Ewan McGregor provides a sensitive center. His performance radiates heartbroken sincerity, but it’s impossible to say if Carrey (or the rest of the movie) ever really feels the pledge of the title, or anything at all. R. AARON MESH. Opens Friday at Fox Tower.

Yogi Bear
32 Torture is a relative term. I’ve not been waterboarded or stripped naked and thrown in a pyramid of other naked men. Still, watching Yogi Bear was a humiliating experience, from sliding a pair of 3-D glasses awkwardly on top of my existing glasses to seeing Yogi—one of my closest childhood friends—stripped of his stylized ’50s dignity and forced to repeat a single catchphrase ad nauseam: “I’m smarter than the average bear!”

I should not be surprised at this kind of strip-mining. The corpses of Yogi and Boo Boo have been reanimated many times. This time out, the talking bears—the film’s human characters seem underwhelmed by the prospect of bears who speak English; they are, however, impressed by bears who can water ski—are voiced ably enough by Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake and forced to amble through adventure after joylessly clichéd adventure with nary a nod to the cartoon’s heritage. There’s no angular Hanna-Barbera design aesthetic, no Huckleberry Hound cameo and no endless loop of repeating background scenery during chase scenes. Just bad casting (Tom Cavanagh is a cardboard cutout with nice hair as Ranger Smith), predictable plot twists and a couple of fart jokes.

If there’s any style to be salvaged from this wreck—and its lack of style is what hurts this movie most—it’s in the inspired design of Yogi’s various pic-a-nic basket-snatching devices (the airborne “Baskit Snatcher 2000” is downright Da Vinci-esque) and the animated closing credits, both of which look pretty sweet in 3-D. Please don’t mistake that for a recommendation. PG. CASEY JARMAN. Opens Friday in 3-D at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Cinema 99, Cinetopia, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Sandy and Sherwood. Opens in 2-D at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, City Center, Cornelius, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd Mall, Movies on TV, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard and Wilsonville.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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