“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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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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