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“Tron: Legacy,” reviewed

“Tron: Legacy,” reviewed (photo)

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In 1982, Tron captivated a small, devoted following of tech nerds, video game players and young viewers with a vision of a day-glo cyberworld. Computer programmer and game designer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gets zapped into his own video game where he must fight for his life and then return to reality to claim the rightful credit for his work.

Garret Hedlund’s Sam Flynn stands in for the acolytes who’ve been awaiting their return to “Tron”‘s Game Grid universe. He’s a brash, cocky conscientious objector from the corporate rat race, despite being an heir to the Encom empire that his father built. Kevin Flynn’s been missing for more than two decades and his open-source, change-the-world mentality’s been turned into another profit mill by the company’s taskmasters.

A plot contrivance brings Sam to his dad’s old arcade where he gets zapped into the digital world of the Game Grid. After a high-octane disc deathmatch , he awkwardly reunites with his dad, who’s been trapped in the world of his own creation by evil digital doppelganger Clu. Clu wants to claim the real world as his own and has lured Sam to the Grid to force open the portal that connects the physical and digital worlds.

As has been famously hyped, Jeff Bridges pulls double duty as both Kevin Flynn and his CGI avatar Clu. Digi-Bridges looks impressive throughout the movie, except for the climactic scene where he looks fake and emotionally hollow. It’s the worse place for the technology to break down, even if the movie’s emotional notes are unavoidably broad. But, overall, Bridges plays Flynn as a techno-hippie and the Cyber-Dude abides. It’s really his movie and he steals most of the scenes he’s in. Hedlund, however, just delivers a hunky Australian blandness that you could call Sam Worthington 2.0. Olivia Wilde’s comely wide-eyed AI naïf embodies a weird streak of digital nativism about spontaneously generated, self-aware programs. Sadly, that intriguing idea–complete with a cyber version of the Trail of Tears–withers on the vine.

As a grown-up gamer, that’s where “Legacy” most disappoints me. It gestures at some really interesting ideas, but leaves them all woefully underdeveloped. We first see Flynn as a reclusive demi-god and later learn about the ISOs—those self-aware programs–and how special they were going to be. But we’re never shown that specialness. There’s hints of a tension between human and programs–lines about the “Tyranny of the User” and scenes of seething virtual personas angry at their abandonment–but, again, that stuff is left to the viewer to wonder about.

Where the new “Tron” stumbles most noticeably is ironically in the legacy department. The movie works heavy-handedly as a take absentee parenthood, re-purposed creativity or a postponed coming-of-age. But it doesn’t feel digital. Rather, it feels like a walled-off understanding of what the last 28 years of digital advancements means and how they’ve changed our lives. The movie spends a lot of time telling us how gifted Sam and Flynn are, but offers up nothing more than glimpses of said power. Flynn does the occasional trick of virtual hoodoo in the Grid but it mostly feels like weaksauce since he’s the guy who built the place. There’s no hyper-connectivity, no meta-awareness in either Sam or Flynn yet anyone who’s on Twitter or Foursquare knows what it’s like to get a constant feed of info about the world you’re in. That’s the reality we live in now, and as a gamer and a nerd, I wanted Tron to address that more directly. In fact, I kept comparing t to “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” and how Edgar Wright wove in a sort of meme-hungry digital intuition into his adaptation of the video game love story from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels. “SPVTW” pulsed and throbbed and morphed with all the ease of a virtual world, even though it was set in Toronto.

Maybe this is all too much to expect from a Disney holiday blockbuster. Indeed, if you leave aside all the metaphorical hopes and long-brewing anticipation, Tron: Legacy’s perfectly enjoyable as a visually stunning spectacle. The effects and aesthetic dazzle, especially when game objects coalesce from the ether for battle or chase sequences. Those sequences make the movie, especially the set pieces that present game competition as a digital bloodsport NASCAR. Yet, even those scenes frustrate because they don’t feel video game enough. “Tron: Legacy” feels obsolete, even as it’s still uploading into theaters.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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