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TRON was a revolutionary film for its time. One of the first films to use CGI, and it was actually the theme of the film. Which was pretty daring back in 1982.

A science fiction film through and through it managed to scare off some people. Something I don’t fully understand.

TRON was a box office bomb which I find wholly disappointing, and so did many others.

The late Roger Ebert raved about the original, giving it a rare perfect score, despite, and possibly because of, its lack of human characters. He also thought of it as a highly underrated film, featuring it on his show, Siskel and Ebert and the Movies, a decade later; And closing his first ever Overlooked Film Festival with a screening of it in 1999.

And if Roger Ebert loved TRON, who the fuck are you to argue!?

But over the next several years it went on to earn back double its initial budget. Eventually justifying the release of a sequel. Several sequels as a matter of fact. And how do they stack up?

Sigh… Where to begin?

Why not start with the first attempt? In 2003, twenty-one years after the release of the first film, the first sequel to TRON saw the light of day. And it was appropriately titled: TRON 2.0.

It was a fantastic follow-up to the first film, primarily because it wasn’t a film, but a game. Continue reading

Inside the Computer

To many, computers are an enigma.

The average computer user doesn’t understand the first thing about what goes on behind the screen.

They know how to do what they need to do. They know how to play games, browse the web, check email, use a word processor; but everything else is a mystery. And if something goes wrong, or things get complicated, they wouldn’t even know where to start. In those cases, they might call their friend or acquaintance who once used the word ‘processor’ and ask them for help.

It’s much like my relationship with cars. And as one of those ‘processor’ people, I should tell you, it can get annoying. Especially when you’re asked to do mundane stuff that a trained monkey could pull off.

However, these days, if you don’t use a computer, you’re either Amish or trapped in an underground cave. So people do have a general idea of what they do. But back in the 80s, this was not the case.

Most people didn’t use them at all, or at least, they didn’t recognize them as computers. The closest the average person might get to an electronic computer system was in an arcade, or through the Atari 2600, if they were lucky and rich.

Even their use in business was extremely rare. They were a brand new technology, that not everyone saw the purpose of, or potential in. Even the idea of a computer as a consumer device was received with skepticism, since few understood what a computer could actually do.

It was mysterious, and confusing; and as always, such mystery and confusion allows science fiction writers to do what they do best: make stuff up, and not get questioned on it.

You all remember the series, Reboot? Canadian-made by the way. It starred Bob, a sprite in the city of Mainframe, and his friends, Dot and Enzo. Ostensibly, Mainframe was actually the hard drive of a computer system, or something. Our characters were essentially packets of data… I think. It’s actually a little confusing at times, but the show was generally entertaining, and the computer nerds had a laugh with all the puns and inside jokes.

The series sort of took a turn for the dark in season three, which I kinda liked. But in season four, it just got weird. And there was never any need for Dot and Bob to get married, especially since they never actually dated or anything before then.

But, that was the 90s. We’re talking about the 80s, when this idea, of a story starring characters that were merely several ones and zeros strung together, first got traction.

It all started, with TRON. Continue reading

Batman Retires

The first two films in Nolan’s Batman trilogy were bizarre, dark, and fun. We got to see some interesting villains, some fantastic set-design, some exciting fight sequences, some compelling storytelling, and some fascinating ideas.

Why would someone dress as a bat, and beat up street thugs? What kind of training would he need? What kind of equipment would he need? How could he do it?

These are all easily addressed in the films. And thanks to Nolan’s commitment to realism, the entire idea of Batman seems much more plausible, and in turn, much more compelling.

Sadly, by the time the third film rolled around, it seems the well ran dry for interesting villains, fantastic set-design, exciting fight sequences, compelling storytelling, and fascinating ideas. Because while the third film does maintain the realism, themes, and characters of its predecessors. It’s boring as hell. Continue reading

Batman Resurges

Batman, as a concept, isn’t very realistic. But in 2005, Christopher Nolan tried to change that with Batman Begins. He gave the character a logical origin story, and even explained where all of his gear comes from. A man, trained in ninjutsu, inspired by the death of his parents, and with billions of dollars at his disposal, takes down criminals with a persona mirroring his greatest fear: Bats.

It’s a little ridiculous, granted. But it’s a nice attempt. And while the whole thing seems unlikely, it’s also plausible.

The first film had a bit of a sci-fi element, with the introduction of the Fear Gas, and some of Batman’s gear. I’m pretty sure memory cloth doesn’t actually exist. But nonetheless these elements didn’t seem too ridiculous, or too far outside the realm of possibility. Unlike the Burton series, with the magic automated homing Batarang.

Okay, now you're just fucking with us.

In fact, you know what this reminds me of? James Bond. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t seen every film, because… fuck that. But every film I saw always had the scene in the MI-6 headquarters, where Q introduces 007 to all his gadgets. These were always great scenes. He not only introduces all the gadgets and show what they do, but often explains how they work. Like the invisible car; it has a camera on one side, and the image is projected on the other. It’s pretty cool, even though we actually know that it wouldn’t work since people have tried that and it didn’t. But it’s still pretty cool.

Anyway, in the new Batman films, Morgan Freeman is basically Batman’s Q. And that’s the greatest thing about these films; The fact that even though the gadgets are a bit fantastic, they still feel real, or at least on the cutting-edge. And it’s all thanks to Morgan Freeman, as he gives James Bat his load out. Only instead of a BMW, he gets a tank.

The sci-fi elements in Batman Begins even carried over into the design of Gotham city. Specifically, the designs of the Narrows, the monorail, and Wayne Tower.

I touched on this last time.

They make me think of the classic German expressionist film, Metropolis. (Admittedly, I still have to see that film.) It gives a bit of a how-the-past-thought-the-future-would-look feel. But this film takes place in the present day (I think), and we don’t design buildings like that. Though I wish we did.

Nonetheless, as amazing as the designs are in Batman Begins. For the sequel, Christopher Nolan decided to scrap all of that. Wayne Tower is redesigned into a generic skyscraper, and the monorail is gone. And I think, because of this, the first film had a much better aesthetic. However, that doesn’t really matter, because the second film had a much better everything else. Continue reading

Batman Reboots

The biggest, and most interesting thing about Batman is that despite his ‘superhero’ label; he has no superpowers. He’s just a guy with a lot of gear, fighting criminals. Because of this, he is also one of the most iconic superheroes in history.

I’ve talked about his history before. How his properties have fluctuated in tone, between comic and cheesy, to dark and bitter, and how I approve of both. However, it seems Batman’s most popular portrayals have taken the latter tone over the former.

For some bizarre reason, people, particularly Batman’s most vocal fans, have this knee-jerk desire to insist that Batman be taken seriously. See, they’re forgetting that he’s a superhero, a fantasy character. His closest allies include an Amazon with magical powers, an invincible alien with super strength and x-ray vision, and a fighter pilot with a ring that can conjure any object he wants. His most prevalent enemies include a woman who’s half plant, a seven-hundred-year-old immortal, and a man who can only survive at sub-zero temperatures. Yes, this is a franchise that is begging to be taken seriously.

The first four Batman films did fluctuate in tone, but even the dark and ‘serious’ ones floated on the border near fantasy and absurdity. After all, we have Catwoman coming back from the dead, and the Joker managing to create a toxin that makes people laugh to death.

Anyone who tries to take Batman seriously is obviously fighting a losing battle. Or at least they were, until 2005, when the Batman film franchise was given a fresh coat of paint under the direction of legendary filmmaker, Christopher Nolan. But this time, things were different. This time, Nolan got the franchise to strive for realism… and oddly enough, it worked. Continue reading

Purell: the Movie

Bacteria, viruses, microbes, parasites, allergens, heavy metals, toxins. All things that can make you sick and/or kill you.

But thankfully, for those of us born in the more modern nations, we are pretty safe from those things. Despite what the goddamn media and the goddamn pseudoscientists tell us. But it doesn’t stop some people from being paranoid as shit regarding these kinds of things. They’ll wash their hands twenty times a day, or refuse to shake anyone’s hand or open any door knob. People like me.

I have OCD, and I am extremely paranoid about this kinda thing, even though I know there’s no reason to be. So you know I’m the perfect person to do a review of Contagion. The movie about a virus that causes a proper pandemic and leaves the world in a near post-apocalypse. This is going to be fun. Continue reading

Burton and Robin

Batman is an unusual character…literally.

He’s a superhero with no superpowers other than being a badass and rich, yet he is one the most popular…ever! Everyone knows who Batman is! He’s just as popular as Superman, Spider-man, or any of the X-men, yet power-wise, he doesn’t even compare. Honestly, put Batman up against Superman, and it’s almost guaranteed that Batman would end up as a red stain on a brick wall.

Part of the reason for this is because most of his success has come from outside the realm of comic books. It all started in 1966, with the Batman television series. You all remember this show, right? Adam West and Burt Ward star as Batman and Robin, two masked vigilantes who fight crazed lunatics in Gotham City. Not exactly high-minded.

The show was well known for its camp. Which I’m pretty sure means cheesiness and overall poor quality. The writing was ridiculous, formulaic and contrived; and that’s why so many people love it…yeah, I’m not sure either.

Eventually, the show was cancelled, but not before a motion picture came out of it with the same cast and the same campy style. I never saw it and I honestly have no desire to. But after the show, and motion picture, Batman’s popularity began to wane. It took 20 years before he rose to prominence again, when director Tim Burton showed the world a darker view of the Caped Crusader, in the 1989 film, simply titled, Batman. Continue reading

If Jesus Were an Alien

The phrase “troubled production” is one that’s hard to quantify. One could simply say a small casting or directing change early in a film’s production could fit the bill, or that it would require several script changes and plot ideas before the phrase could become apt.

Alien3 certainly fit the bill. Having several ideas tossed around before they wound up with a film that was basically five or six different concepts thrown into a smoothie maker; and an end result that, while good, could have been a lot better.

There are several people we could blame for these kinds of things. But I’d like to blame Hollywood producers. They tend not to see the bigger picture in these kinds of things and instead just look at how much money it could make at the box office.

Not a bad way to do business, but it results in some really stupid shit happening in the film industry. Like franchises coming back after they most certainly ended. After all, if you were a film exec, would you really let a popular money spinner die just because the plot of the last film required it?

Of course not, which brings us to: Alien Resurrection. Oh, by the way: Spoilers Ho! Continue reading