Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Narnia" and "TRON"

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - At the end of "Prince Caspian," the second film in the "Narnia" series, lion king Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) informed the two oldest Pevensie children Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) that they would not be returning to Narnia. According to Aslan they had learned all the lessons they could from that world. As for the two younger Pevensies, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) they would return at the appropriate time, whenever that may be. Edmund and Lucy have clearly grown to be much more mature than Peter which seems to suggest that the oldest Pevensie just wasn't wanted there anymore.
A few years later with World War II in full swing, Edmund is still not old enough to enlist in the British army. With Peter and Susan off in America, Edmund and Lucy are staying with their aunt, uncle, and their insufferable young cousin Eustace (Will Poulter, "Son of Rambow"). Annoyed with the constant talk of "imaginary places," Eustace sees himself as far more serious and grown up than his cousins. During an argument with them in a guest bedroom a painting on the wall begins to move and within seconds the room is full of water and all three kids are sucked into Narnia and aboard a vessel named the Dawn Treader.
Edmund and Lucy couldn't be happier to see old friends such as King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and the brave little mouse Reepicheep (voice of Simon Pegg). Eustace meanwhile is less than thrilled to be aboard a ship with talking animals and obviously has some difficulty adjusting to it. More important than Eustace's feelings however is Caspian's mission. He is on a search for the Swords of the Seven Lost Lords of Narnia and is all too happy to have Edmund and Lucy to assist him. Finding them will be of paramount importance to defeating evil in Narnia.
The previous two "Narnia" films directed by Andrew Adamson were highly enjoyable if not earth shattering. "Dawn Treader," directed by Michael Apted, falls into the same category. Despite the change it maintains the feel of the first two movies. With Peter and Susan only making very brief appearances, Edmund and Lucy are developed much more here than before, which was fine by me as they were my two favorites from the beginning anyway. Keynes and Henley deliver solid performances as we see their two characters deal with their greatest fears. Poulter's performance is more difficult to judge. Eustace is an irritating character so whether Poulter did a good job or not he was going to be an annoying presence on screen. I think it works because (without giving any major plot or character points away) by the end I found myself liking Eustace and clearly we are meant to.
The effects work is quite good here as well. It's not easy to make humans interacting with talking animals work but it's pulled off nicely here. The CGI characters still look like CGI characters but they do come to life and we come to care about them as much as anyone else in the film. Pegg gives a fine vocal performance as Reepicheep though I'm not sure why he was cast in place of Eddie Izzard, who voiced the character in "Prince Caspian." They're equally good so it doesn't really matter in the end.
The Christian allegorical elements of the earlier stories are more evident here than before but they are there if you want them and easy enough to ignore if you don't. Either way what the three children learn along the way are good lessons for kids who incidentally, should enjoy this movie quite a bit. So will anyone who enjoyed "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian." I hope this one does well enough to encourage Fox to make more. 7/10.

P.S.: I challenge any fan of "Ghostbusters" to not start chuckling at a certain rather serious moment in this movie. You'll know it when you see it.

TRON: Legacy - It's been 28 years since Disney released a fairly well-reviewed science fiction movie that was unfairly deemed a box-office failure (it earned almost twice what it cost to make). It seems hard to believe then that a 1982 sci-fi cult classic would end up with a sequel in 2010. Adding to the improbability, the studio trusted a first time director (Joseph Kosinski) with the sequel and its $170 million budget. So it may come as a surprise to some then that the result is an incredibly entertaining film.
In 1989, seven years after the events of "TRON," Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a single father to a young boy named Sam and the highly successful CEO of ENCOM. Flynn's mysterious disappearance leaves ENCOM in the hands of greedy, lazy businessmen who his old partner Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) has little power to fight. Twenty years later though Alan gets a page from Flynn, leading Alan to convince Sam (Garrett Hedlund) to take a look at Flynn's old arcade for answers. The set up is entertaining enough but when Sam finds himself inside the Grid, "TRON: Legacy" becomes the movie I had hoped for.
Disc matches, light cycle races, Michael Sheen playing the love child of David Bowie and Gozer. It's all here. The story isn't as mindblowing as the look of the film, but the movie never felt like it existed solely to be an effects demonstration. Unlike a certain 3D megahit from this time last year or a certain prequel trilogy, I actually cared about the characters and didn't cringe whenever someone spoke. The screenplay and performances won't win any awards but they absolutely get the job done.
With so many movies being released in 3D now it's nice to see a film where it isn't an afterthought dealt with in a rush during post-production. Intended to be a 3D movie all along, the sequences where it's employed are immersive and exciting to watch. What's more, you want to be on the Grid playing the games (thanks to Wii, you can!). We don't simply have objects thrown at us as is typically the case when a filmmaker doesn't know what to do with the technology. Kosinski knows what he's doing with it and more importantly he knows how to make an entertaining movie. I look forward to more from him.
The only real problem I had with the film was the look of Clu, a program also played by Bridges. Flynn created Clu in his own image during the late '80s and unlike Flynn, he has not aged. There's something disconcerting about the very "Polar Express-y" look of Clu's face against everything else we see. This aside, "TRON: Legacy" is the sort of movie that shows what technology can do but remembers that the audience needs more than that. What we get is a movie that is just an incredible amount of fun. "TRON: Legacy" is a blast. 8/10.


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