Tuesday, July 28, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2.6.2009)

Director: Ken Kwapis Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Ginnifer Goodwin Co-Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper Watch for: Foreshadowing scenery and storyline crossovers. Editor(s): Cara Silverman Would I Buy It: Just to have an example of what "girly" movies should strive to be. It surprised me. I rented it via Netflix for my girlfriend and I to watch. It was appealing to me for a few simple reasons: Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Anniston in conjunction with Justin Long and Ben Affleck (who did a bit better this time around), though this is not the order in which they are billed. However, the marketing people want you to think this movie is about Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Drew Barrymore. They're in there (Drew least of all), but it's not. It's really about all of them. Not about their specific characters, either, but the character which each of them represent. As it turns out, "Gigi", played by an a previously unbeknown to me Ginnifer Goodwin, leads us through this drama which exemplifies every single way your average "chick flick" could play out. And I say let us be done with the genre forever!! I'm dreaming. However, there were... let me count... five women and four men that this film focused on, however over the course of it we were introduced and walked through several relationships at different phases. Breaking it down, because I was having trouble keeping up at certain points (and my girlfriend would quite frequently point a couple minutes after a scene started and say things like "Oh, he was the guy from the beginning with her!"), let's go one at a time here. Jennifer Connelly (Janine) -> Married to Bradley Cooper (Ben) Jennifer Anniston (Beth) -> 7-year relationship with Ben Affleck (Neil), she wonders if he'll ever pop the question. Ginnifer Goodwin (Gigi) -> Hopeless Perfected. Co-Worker to the Jennifers. Obsessed with every man who talks to her (while at a bar?), and even meets a seemingly wise bartender/manager in Justin Long (Alex). Scarlett Johansson (Anna) -> The temptress. Not sure if she wants Kevin Connolly (Conor) or the stranger she recently met at the checkout (Ben again). Drew Barrymore (Mary) -> The e-Dater. Consumed by electronics, works in advertising. Afraid of the real world aside from her fair allotment of, I apologize if I'm allowed to use this term, fag hags. Although, her story is the one that works into the plot the least. She's an modern-day-commentary-aside, at best. And, just to be clear: Ben and Neil are friends. Alex and Conor are friends (possibly ex-roommates?). Janine, Beth and Gigi all work together, Anna teaches yoga where Gigi takes the occasional class, Mary is Conor's ad rep and just to make sure it feels like a romantic comedy, there's some gay guys that show up here and there for flavor. And I think I'm forgetting some of the connections. So basically, there are maybe 20 people that live in this city. Moving on. If you took any one of these women, you could (or there already has been) a movie made about their love life. However, seeing as this was a 129 minute film (Aha! RomComs are usually close to 90 minutes!), the time was less-than-evenly split between them. There were some warmup scenes in the beginning, but overall we got the juicy bits. All the relationshippy parts of the romcoms engulf the movie, cutting out all the usual crap you see pasted over the TV spots in the Oprah timeslots. And while if you're not prepared for it, which I wasn't, keeping up can be a little bit maddening. The cutest, most endearing moment of the film belongs to (I'll admit it, my favorite actress) Jennifer Connelly. After discovering, for herself and the audience, that her husband is in fact a complete lying sack of shit (he looked her right in the EYES, man), she begins throwing his stuff down the stairs and breaks a mirror. She stares at it in awe and walks out of the room. Then, instead of the scene ending, she returns with a broom and dustpan. If you were watching her character at all, your heart just breaks for her in that moment. Connelly showed us the dramatic couple with the failing marriage. Aniston showed us the couple that "should" (look for the poster) be together for good, but the dude doesn't quite know it yet. Ginifer is the romcom cliche we all paid to see based on their TV spots. Scarlett has actually done this role before, only in Match Point and that one ends quite differently (this is kind of how I knew he was a liar, but that's neither here nor there). She plays the girl who's with a guy but meets another guy but that guy turns out to be a big fat liar so she ends up with nobody. If you haven't seen Match Point, go check out how different a direction they take that story in. I'm still not over it. Ms. Barrymore plays another romcom cliche, basically Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and Hitch all rolled into one. Long distance initiation. And through all of this, along with some cutaways to "interviews", which I at first pegged as a ripoff to the When Harry Met Sally format, but thinking about it later reveals it to be a tool of foreshadowing, as well as some titles which I assume were chapters in a book this was based on (I really have no idea), we somehow got a complete film. My only problem is that I went in thinking it was going to be girl wants a guy, spends the whole movie trying to get to that first kiss. Boy, is that far from it. Ginnifer, yes, but this is a serious drama, with some mild humor that you enjoy but don't need to burst out laughing for, exemplifying what film has shown the modern city girl to expect for every relationship she goes through. It's not a straight road, there's a few different forks you can get off at, but overall the message here is that we are programmed to expect something, but relationships are their own self-fulfilling prophecies. I actually have to watch this again, but this is the general idea they sold me on. So much happens in this film, there's no way I caught it all the first time through. However, it impressed me with it's intelligence, even though at times it does get caught up within the romcom drama/comedic style, but it always brought itself right back to speed. It made me guess as to what would happen next a lot and unlike Will Smith having an allergic reaction or Sandra Bullock falling all over herself again, it kept me guessing. It took wild turns, despite all of it's regular developments that ran along side them in other storylines. And the ending, an ending to contest only with Return of the King for screentime, wraps up all the relationships in just about every way any RomCom date movie ever could. And I've barely even heard a word about this film from anywhere else. Talk to the marketing people.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tron Legacy: Grid Concept Test

This is a teaser trailer more than any sort of effects test. A "proof of concept" probably best describes it. Most effects tests I've seen simply feature the effect. Throwing in the dramatic music and appearance from Jeff Bridges is what makes it a teaser. And I am teased. I've been a Tron fan for about five years now. I caught wind of it in my early college years and decided to buy the 20th Anniversary DVD on a whim and have loved it ever since. Soon after came the Tron 2.0 video game (which I can't get to work on my computer lately, for some reason) and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. It's a great universe and I love that they're bringing it back with all of our modern CGI glory. However, the question remains that since this is a proof of concept, how much of what we saw will actually be in the film? I assume they'll use all of it, or update the scene and do it again. One forum-goer commented on the animation being terrible. If he means in terms of movement from the characters, I guess I could see where he's coming from. It really hasn't bothered me for the year I've been watching this in a grainy, low-res YouTube camcorder version, and getting the high-def version this week has kept pretty much the same feel for it. I think if they kept the rest of the film of this quality, they'd still have a hit on their hands. He's prolly just an animator being picky, lol. Another forum friend commented:
According to the universe of TRON, the lightcycle stuff takes place in an electronic reality, which is what they're trying to get away with here - and in the first TRON, it was so ghetto and ridiculous and groundbreaking that you could buy that. (Plus, that wasn't unlike what video games actually looked like at that point in history.) These days, this doesn't represent what we assume "the inside of a video game" to look like - if anything, it looks like the current trend in cell phone commercials. It might be something you completely forget about in the context of the film (or, you know, not), but as a picture, it's only compelling as an exercise in motion graphics.
One thing I've wondered about in the first Tron is just how this world inside a computer works. Humanoid programs baffles our logical thinking minds, I'm not even sure where exactly this world exists. Within electric signals? Beneath the circuits? Does the world disappear when you shut down your computer for the night? And on that note, would every computer system or network look like this? I like to think the look of Tron as we know it is how the computer world looks in terms of the Encom computer system. Basically, in the Master Control Program's system and everything it has appropriated, this is how things look. Maybe part of the MCP's reason for cracking into all the other networks is to expand his own world. A digital Death Star which, rather than destroying other systems, it conforms it's own format. Now, say you were back in 1982 and were sucked into the computer world of a different company, like Microsoft. I bet you'd still have glowing program people, but since Microsoft hadn't invented Space Paranoids and the like, their system would likely revolve around Windows logos and helpful paper clips. So with that understanding, bring the wayback machine to present day and imagine Encom has kept the rights to Lightcycle and updated the game. If the impact of their work in the real world alters the look/existence of the computer world, then this is probably how it would look, regardless of Lucasarts and Activision's graphics of the day (tho I'd like to get a look at THEIR computer worlds). This is just a theory, but if I'm true and that's how they're explaining it, I think they should spend a little time in the film having a character find him/herself in another system. Anyway, just fan conjecture at this point. The teaser itself has many things worth noting. First off, the updated graphics are amazing. I mean, there's reflections of the lightcycles in the enemy's jetwall. I love that they're taking the black look of the film and turning those surfaces into a glass-like material. That's how Tron 2.0 was, though not nearly as reflective. When you broke things in that game, it was like shattering glass. Actually, I guess that's kind of how it looked in the old movie too, just a much lower res version of it. The one thing I'm not quite keen on is the updated outfits. However, I'm theorizing this is just a lightcycle uniform. My problem is that it just looks like a leather jumpsuit with some tube lights run through it. The outfits in the original really felt like the glow was coming from within the person, rather than just being an accessory on their uniform. However, if this is just sort of a combat armor for lightcycles, then it'll probably be fine. The updated helmet is a pretty neat idea. It looks like they're making it work like a monitor. The way we see it looks like a face inside a helmet, but it looks like they're trying to show that the headpiece is just a really fancy screen. The digital young Jeff Bridges turns his 'monitor face' on and off. Rather than having a face like a human, perhaps it's considered to be more of an interactive display through which they communicate. So, a digital face, but not a face? If you look closely, you can see a bit of pixelation over their faces, which suggests monitor. The really interesting thing is that this same effect seems to have been applied to Jeff Bridges as well. Hmmm. The film's not out yet, so I will put a a SPOILER WARNING here: The action was cool, the sound was excellent (I love the sound of the "tires" landing on the glass) and the teaser did a really good job of showing us what they're selling without really giving away much of anything. I read online that the "evil" Jeff Bridges is likely the de-rezzed CLU program from early in the first film. It'll be fun to see how he got re-rezzed. The part that I'm sure most people are wondering about is Fung Shui Jeff up in his little mountain condo. In the video cam leaked version, I couldn't see most of the details present in the scene. I didn't know he had beads on his hand, nor did I see the decor. It just looked like he was in pajamas in a white room. The theory that popped into my head today is that he's CLU's prisoner. A vengeful/mad program might just take it upon himself to capture his user. Maybe he's trying to become as powerful as Flynn was in the first film, or maybe even escape out into the real world. I'm wondering if the gate the blue program was racing toward was somewhat significant. He shouts "You won, okay? It's just a game!" Perhaps the goal of this game is to reach the palace-looking thing without being stopped by CLU. And many programs try, and Flynn is left in his pseudo real world prison to watch CLU dominate his opponents. Pure speculation, but I'm interested to see just how right I am, if at all. I can't wait for this movie. Just based on this teaser and the snippets of info I've read on the net, this thing is going to be geek-tastic.
For more news on Tron Legacy, I recommend visiting the official site: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/tron/ Just kidding. They'll never tell you much, it'll just be a good place for some desktop wallpapers. I've been going to: http://www.tron-sector.com/ Also, for some quality Tron fanfilm hilarity, check out: http://www.youtube.com/TronReboot