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October 2010 Review Roundup

Slow month without any reviews. Need to figure out why the Let Me In review didn't get posted when it looks pretty done in draft.

Oct. 2 - Let Me In (8.5/10)
Oct. 4 - Iron Man 2 Blu-ray (7/10)
Oct. 11 - Easy A (8/10)
Oct. 17 - After.Life (7/10)
Oct. 18 - Knight and Day (4/10)
Oct. 24 - Hollow Man Director's Cut Blu-ray (7/10)
Oct. 25 - Push Blu-ray/Commentary (?/10)

Month's Movies Watched: 7
Previously Unseen: 4
Theatrical: 2
Home: 5
Year-To-Date: 86
YTD First-Timers: 75
YTD Theatrical: 24
YTD Home: 62

"Tron Legacy" Preview Thoughts

Tonight, Disney held a 23-minute preview for Tron Legacy in order to whip up some interest for the December release. As was done last year for Avatar, it was held at the LieMax pseudo-IMAX theater, but unlike the teaser for James Cameron's Biggest Movie Evar, I came out of this decidedly meh about it.

For starters, the Disney Gestapo wanded the audience and forced us to check our cell phones because they were afraid we'd use them to videotape the 3D IMAX picture and post it online. Morons. But what was more problematic was that after they announced we were the first people ever to see 23 minutes of 3D footage, the actual presentation opened with 8-9 minutes of 2D footage. A title card said the first scene was in 2D, but as it went on and on and on, I realized too much of this "3D" experience wasn't going to be that way.

Quick impressions:
  • The kid playing Sam Flynn (I'm running out the door to a thing and don't have time to look him up; Garrett something) is stiff and not very compelling. The build-up to him being zapped into the Grid was slack and more a nostalgia kick for 40-somethings; I think today's kids are going to be restless waiting for something to happen. Using Journey's "Separate Ways" is a little on the nose.
  • Once in the Grid, the Recognizers and tanks have been updated, but again, it relies on seeing the first one to be appreciated.
  • The scene where four Galtier-looking models/programs slice off his clothes and replace them with GridWear is airless and the choreography distracting.
  • Once outfitted, he's forced to play Killer Frisbees (or whatever) and of course wins because the movie would be over otherwise.
  • The next scene has him escaping the Lightcycle game grid in a Lightcar driven by Olivia Wilde and she's pretty hella hot with a mischievous air. She was the most interesting anything in the whole preview.
  • She takes him to meet his father, Jeff Bridges, and they have a tearful reunion which didn't move the care needle an iota with me. Perhaps there's stuff from the intervening scenes that makes this resonate, but it just plays too slowly and we know from the moment they get there who the man sitting facing away from the camera is, so teasing it out is annoying.
  • Then they had a quick montage of bits that we've seen before in trailers and the recent Daft Punk soundtrack video.
As we left, a girl with a Flip camera asked the crowd if they'd like to tape testimonials. As I passed by I said, "You don't want my testimonial about this." After reclaiming our cell phones - why am I getting texts back from Chris Hansen? - another rep with a notebook asked if we had our comments. This time I shared that "It was underwhelming. For all the talk about 23 minutes of 3D we got a third of that in boring backstory. The kid can't act and the 3D wasn't that impressive. Last year when we saw the Avatar sneak peek, I couldn't wait to see what the rest looked like. This time, I'm thinking I don't need to see it in 3D and I'm not as excited as I was when I went in. Tell your masters that this didn't do them any favors." I'm sure Disney is crapping themselves over my feedback. Psyche! No, they're building another Scrooge McDuck-class vault for all the Gen Xer and their kids chedda they're going to stack when this comes out.

In the haze of nostalgia, people forget that for all the then-groundbreaking visual effects, Tron wasn't a very good movie. It was OK, but cheesy. The new darker look world reminded me of what I pictured the Metaverse in Snow Crash would look like when I read it back in 2000, but now it just seems...there. Why are their clouds over the dark cities in a COMPUTER? The 3D was alright, but after Avatar and even Step Up 3D, it didn't impress me much. They've been working on this for about 3 years and I think the tech has blazed past where they are here. After you've seen photo-realistic Thundersmurfs in a jungle, what's impressive about hard surfaces and neon?

While it remains to be seen how the full Tron Legacy plays out like, the "Tron Night" non-event didn't stoke that much interest in me. I can't declare it DOA (yet), but I'm not setting up a countdown clock here either. And whoever decided to have only one shot of the youthful CGI Bridges as the now-evil Clu - again snipped from the trailers and far less than the trailers show. There were grumbles on teh Intarwebz that it looked fake and this would've been a good means to knock them down. Instead, we're still wondering.

"Let Me In" Review

Film nerds gnashed their teeth in horror when it was announced that the pre-pubescent vampire movie Let The Right One In was being remade. "Stupid Americans won't read Swedish subtitles! Stupid Hollywood is gonna make the kids teenagers and have them be like Twilight! Stupid guy who made Cloverfield is going to film it in ShakyCamVision®! They won't be able to match the swimming pool scene! It's going to suck and be stupid! Waaaaah!!!" The casting of Kick-Ass's Chloe Moretz and footage shown at Comic Con eased some nerd fears, but doubts remained. Now that it's here, while reviews have been kinder, you still see the word "unnecessary" thrown around which is too bad because I found it more enjoyable and more than equal to the original. 

Writer-director Matt Reeves has set Let Me In in 1983 Los Alamos, NM and while there are several visual cues borrowed from the original like a snow-covered jungle gym in the apartment complex courtyard, it's clear that this is less a remake than an alternate take on the source novel. Thanks to Reeve's deliberate, tension-ratcheting direction which uses long lenses with shallow depth of field to isolate the subjects and amp up the isolation, this version feels more immediate without being too "Americanized" as the haters would say. (One notable detail is that we never really get to see Owen's mother - she's always out of focus, decapitated by the frame, or obscured by distance or obstruction.) 

It also helps that his youthful cast - Moretz and Dylan Minnette (who plays the bully and was Jack's son on Lost) are now 13, Kodi Smit-McPhee is 14 - are spot on in their performances with none of the "kiddie actor" tells. Moretz already had a fan club for her awesome turn as Hit Girl, but this cements her place in the Pantheon with freakishly precocious actresses Jodie Foster and Dakota Fanning. A lot of ADULT actors would choke on the subtleties these children portray without a lot of dialogue; very nice work all around. Richard Jenkins as the vampire's caretaker and an unrecognizable Elias Koteas as a police detective investigating the killings are also solid. 

 If there is one knock I can lay against this movie is the use of really bad CGI when Abby is in killing mode. Considering the seamless FX work in Reeves' last film, Cloverfield 

As I'm writing this a couple of days later, the movie has already bombed at the box office, opening 8th with $5.3 million, a shade behind dreck like the Case 39 and You Again. In a time where vampires are hot to the point of overexposed ubiquity, no one went to see the best, creepiest, and smartest take on vampires in ages. Was the movie marketed incorrectly? Did people think it was just another teeny-bopper vamp flick like the execrable (and obscenely lucrative Twilight series) and give it a miss - though how they could get that impression from the trailer escapes me - or did the Internet haters dissuade them from seeing it? (OTOH, Internet fanboyism didn't really put butts in seats for Snakes on a Plane, Serenity, or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so perhaps their influence is greatly overrated.)

 Score: 8.5/10. Catch a matinee. (I'll be buying the Blu-ray when it comes out.) 

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