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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.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.