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The Empire Strikes Back
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Singin' in the Rain
The Wizard of Oz
Lawrence of Arabia
TRON: Legacy (2010)
The Next Step
Tron Legacy must be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in movie magic. It is the next step. Open your eyes and ears; the mind will follow.
Open your eyes: see breathtaking visuals that aren't just there for the purpose of action. At times, they're digital paintings in motion. Crystal blue visions of the future. Art direction, digital effects and costumes converge to form an almost overpowering whole. Visually, this is the 21st century's answer to Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
Open your ears: hear Daft Punks rapturous score that blends electronic bleeps with orchestra to create a warm kiss to the 1980s- and an invitation to a sparkling future. Of mainstream films from the last five years, few boast music that is so organic and married to the story. And, its not just the music. The sound design is stellar.
Now let your mind follow some rather intriguing themes that seem to hint at a cyber-spiritualism. The first Tron did this. Legacy goes even further. Big issues here that go beyond the standard plot mechanizations. Some viewers may be so focused on either the visuals or the sound, that they lose focus of the whole. It is when the viewer, to quote something Kevin Flynn might say, finds his Zen between the two that he really will understand what Tron Legacy is all about.
The Genesis of the Cinematic Digital Revolution
I love Tron. I thought it was great when I was kid. And, I still think it's great. I've never understood the hate it gets from so many. I can understand some people's issues with the world outside of the computer in the film. But once Flynn is sucked inside the supercomputer, Tron is magic.
This has a lot to do with the groundbreaking look of the film: the mix of black and white film stock with neon computer generated imagery. There hasn't been anything quiet like it since, but it's influenced the look of countless movies AND video games. One would think a film with such a groundbreaking look would be critically hailed, but Tron still remains mostly ignored in cinematic circles. It's knocked down for it's story, character development, etc; I personally find the story inspiring.
The sound of Tron is almost as great as the look. Wendy Carlos' score takes electronic synthesizer music to a sublime and other-worldly high.
Cinephiles praise Fritz Lang's Metropolis for its groundbreaking look(as they should.) But, please note: they're not praising Metropolis for its story, characters or acting; it's all about the cinematic vision. Isn't Tron basically a digital age reboot of Metropolis? Metropolis ushered in the age of early sci-fi; Tron ushered in the DIGITAL age of sci-fi cinema. It's time Tron got the respect it deserves.
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Disney Animated Neorealism?
Okay, so placing The Fox and the Hound into the same category as The Bicycle Thief may be a stretch, but there is something about this movie that sets it apart from all other Disney animated films. Fox, along with Bambi and Lady and the Tramp, are the only Disney animated films that portray a reality without fairy dust, animals wearing clothes or lions that have formed alliances with hyenas to overthrow an animalistic royal lineage. True- the animals do talk and occasionally sing, but for the most part, they do stay true to the nature of their existence. But, Bambi, with its characters reacting against and to nature, borders on being an animated nature documentary (if such a thing is possible.) And, Lady and the Tramp has far too cheery of a Hollywood ending to be accepted as neorealism. Which leaves Fox and the Hound: the tale of young pup Copper and fox Tod who become childhood friends and are then forced to turn on each other by the demands of society. Not exactly your standard Disney fare. And, most importantly, it has a true, realistic, bittersweet ending. It's only been attempted once by Disney and probably never again. Which is a shame because Fox and the Hound has some of the most sincere and heartbreaking moments ever brought to animation. It isn't a perfect film, but its intentions are honorable and that makes The Fox and the Hound a true animated classic.
**Note- the current 25th Anniversary DVD does not do justice to this film. It is not presented in the correct aspect ratio. The image has been cleaned to a degree, but there is too much digitization. Considering the significance of Fox and the Hound in the history of Disney animation, it deserves a two disc, widescreen DVD release.
A Time To Celebrate Star Wars!
Ignore the cynics. Forget about the nit-picky fan boys. If you LOVE Star Wars, this is your movie. It is reason to celebrate. When I say love Star Wars, I mean if you love what Star Wars is really about- The Force, tragedy, hope, the Jedi, family, revenge, redemption- then this is your movie. If you like Star Wars because you got a kick out of Han Solo's bad ass attitude, then this may not be your glass of blue milk. You're not so much a Star Wars fan, as you are a fan of Harrison Ford. But, for the rest of us, this is our movie. It's epic. It's tragic. It's thrilling. It's even terrifying at times. It's also not perfect. But, to be honest, none of the Star Wars films have been. However, as a whole, all six films create a perfect saga. It can be argued that the Star Wars series has been the most ambitious film project ever undertaken. Spanning six films and thirty years, does anything else even come close? George Lucas should be praised for his vision. He has given us a cinematic saga that will stand the test of time. Celebrate Star Wars because it's over, folks. But, in a way, Star Wars will never be over; its legacy is just beginning.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The greatest live action family movie EVER.
But, It's more than just that. Spielberg perfectly combined the magic of childhood with the magic of 70's/80's science fiction. The result: pure 80's pop poetry. Perhaps like no other film, this film completely captures what it was like to be a child in 1980's American Suburbia; I should know- being the same age as Drew Barrymore. For many, it's too sentimental (as if that was a deadly sin.) Maybe that's why ET gets no respect in the 21st century. Spielberg's other magic sci-fi masterpiece from the period(Close Encounters) receives the same lack of respect. It's also a hopeful film that is meant to awe, not scare or depress. Have we become so cynical in the last twenty years that we seriously consider movies(as good as they may be) like Trainspotting and Heat to be superior to two of Spielberg's best? I hope it hasn't come to that.
The Big Parade (1925)
Silent But Not Muted In Its Power.
King Vidor was the greatest American director of the 1920's. The Crowd and the Big Parade are both technically advanced (for the time) and emotionally moving. But, when it comes to the 1920's film auteurs, everyone always focuses their attention on the German expressionists Murnau and Lang. Sure, they were wonderful and the images they created will never be forgotten. But, there is a lack of true emotion in their works. In contrast, Vidor's films are emotional powerhouses that focus on the characters. This is most evident in the WW1 epic Big Parade. The departure scene as John Gilbert's french love Melisande hangs on to the Army truck as it pulls away is one of the top five scenes of the silent era. And, the reunion at the end, well, you can understand why this was the biggest hit of the roaring 20's. It's even a better film than the big talkie WW1 classic All Quiet on the Western Front. That movie IS available on DVD; Big Parade is not. It should be. Perhaps if Vidor had been German, his two greatest films would now be on DVD, as almost practically every expressionist German film you can imagine is. There needs to be a greater appreciation of the silent American auteurs, esp. in America!
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Good script and Generic direction
Why do so many people love this movie? Yeah, Kevin Spacey is great. The script is original and clever. But, Bryan Singer's direction is completely generic. It also feels quite sexless. By this, I don't mean the movie needed a hot and heavy sex scene. It just needed ... well ... at least one believable female character in the plot; the Suzie Amis character is dull and without any personality. If this were a military or prison movie I would understand the lack of female characters, but this is supposed to be FILM NOIR! The great film noirs of the Hollywood golden age almost always had a great femme fatale in them (Double Indemnity, Big Sleep, etc.) Having gotten that out of my system, I will say this is a good movie, but will never be great movie.
Light years ahead of its time.
To have watched a brand new, tinted print of Intolerance in 1916 must have been an amazing experience. The film is a grand artistic statement and technical breakthrough. Seeing it in 1916 would've shown you all the possibilities the motion picture experience could offer- the tight, meaningful editing, the multiple story lines set over vast periods of time, the amazing sets which really look like the real thing, etc, etc. Birth of a Nation shares many of these traits, but Intolerance pushed D.W. Griffith's artistic experimentation into the stratosphere. It's understandable why it was a commercial failure. It was just too much advancement in the film language for the general audience; it would take a couple decades for the audience to catch up. Ninety years later, it's not only a wonderful historical piece, but still a poignant and often gripping cinematic experience. Question: without Griffith, would film be what it is today?
Stop the insanity!
The bashing of Attack of the Clones in the popular media and especially on this website must stop! People are not reviewing the movie; they are maliciosly attacking it with their bias and ignorance. In case you haven't noticed- Clones is very much like a modern American, sci-fi take on a Kurosawa film- see Ran. This film is NOT Hollywood product; that's why the pacing seems awkward to some. It is the most expensive INDEPENDENT movie ever made. Their is a method to George Lucas's madness. Stop second guessing him. The so called plot holes actually are part of the grand scheme of the prequel trilogy. Stop focusing on the negatives and ripping everything to shreds. Stop obsessing over dialogue; there's more to movies that dialogue, after all the CINEMA began as a silent experience. 1 out of 10?! Anyone that really believes that is either extremely ignorant about film or a vicious hater of Star Wars now that it doesn't fit their preconceived notions of what the prequels should be. Attack of the Clones, after all is said and done, will be remembered as a great chapter in the greatest film series ever. And, anyone who says otherwise, I'll argue with you till the death.
Great Entertainment, BUT ...
Last Crusade is great entertainment and a rousing adventure, but for it to be ranked above E.T. is blasphemy. I'm sure Spielberg would testify to that. Last Crusade really tackles no new ground that the first two Indy pics didn't cover- aside from the whole Indy's father thing. Even Temple of Doom is better. Doom is a more original film because it tries new things and helped bring about the PG-13 rating. It's also more true to the Indy films inspiration- adventure movies of the 30's and 40's- like Gunga Din. Crusade feels more like a very well done reunion pic. If you seek entertainment and a very solid closing to the trilogy, then Last Crusade fits the bill. Just don't proclaim it one of Spielberg's best. It ain't even close.