Posts tagged “Jeff Bridges

King Kong (2005)

king-kong-2005Over the past day or so I have watched 2 films that have caught my attention in terms of special effects. The first being Clash of the Titans (1981) which was primarily a revisit for myself, however I couldn’t compel myself on New Years Eve to write a review. I needed something more to get me writing today. That was King Kong (2005) itself a remake, released five years before Titans was pointlessly remade – I have still avoided it at all costs. For a few reasons, it’s a blatant cash-in for those who hold the rights to the original film and also the special effects which completely remove any charm or magic the film might have. Sure they are more slick and even bigger mythical creatures to slay, however it’s a lot more than how much money you can throw at something.

You could say I’ve made a rod for my own back, trying to compare two completely different films, one, an original and another, a remake of another classic film. However its the relationship they share between them which binds them closer than you think. Going back to the original King Kong (1933) it was the first of its kind, a disaster film that created spectacle for an audience who not yet been exposed to what both soundtrack and special effects could do. The puppet for King Kong was animated by Willis O’Brien who created a character that transcended film to become part of popular culture. It signified the depression, those who had been affected by it, made to live in the Hooverville’s, not unlike the jungle of Skull Island. Originally intended to be part of a fame hungry director Carl Denham’s (Robert Armstrong) next big film, a make it or break it for him, taking with him the unknown actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray,) one of cinema’s greatest screamers) on a boat into uncharted waters. Not really knowing what he was letting him or his film crew or that of the boat in for. The rest is history really. Taking back the giant ape back to New York, to be unveiled as the latest attraction to depression laden New York. The captured beast breaks free of his chains to go on a rampage, finding the one he fell in love with back on the island. Darrow then didn’t reciprocate those feelings, instead she carried on screaming as the beast treated her like his most prized possession. He loved her, even if she didn’t it.

All of that wouldn’t have been possible without O’Brien who in-turn inspired Ray Harryhausen who made the technique all of his own, known as Dynamation. First working for hire creating the stop-frame animation monsters for B-movie Science fiction, a genre that never fails to excite me. His creatures/creations really did come to life, on a bigger screen they would’ve the ability to wonder children, even inspiring a few including Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. He had a clear language that worked from film to film, OK they are a few blips along the way – The Valley of Gwangi (1969), placing beasts, dinosaurs, monsters and aliens alongside humans, fighting off each one.

Admittedly you can see the seems in his work, animating against the film being rear projected, and capturing the action in his studio. As much as you see those lines you soon forget all of that which in other films could pull you out. Each creatures worked because they have a personality, the human touch of a man moving them for each frame. You can tell they are sharing the screen (as much as technology would allow) as they fight and kill the humans who are trying to get past them. They take you into another world, one that CGI is very accomplished at yet lacks the tactile nature of the puppets. Ultimately they have stood the test of time, Harryhausen’s last and most complex film Clash of the Titans called upon him to create mythical creatures that were filled with warmth, others that threatened Perseus (Harry Hamlin) and his young bride Andromeda (Judi Bowker) who he wants to be saved from the hands of the Cracken.

Bringing me back to King Kong a film that has a strong place in Hollywood history, it was a monster hit, pardon the pun. There was a remake (1976) which updated the idea with the help of Jeff Bridges and a change in locations. Not a film I’m in a rush to revisit. Jackson has decided to pay closer attention to the original, a longer running time, more money and more special effects. I admire the return to the era of the original and expanding it however there are more negatives than positives, which I’ll get to later on. First the casting is pretty decent, a strong performance by Jack Black using his comic timing to create a far darker Denham who will stop at nothing to get his film before plan B becomes more exciting. Naomi Watts as Darrow is a very modern take on the role, you could say inspired by King Homer – part of Treehouse of Horror III (1992) which sees Marge falling for her captor, well how could she not fall for an ape version of her husband. Watts sees the inner beauty in the beast that is Kong who is the result of motion capture AKA Andy Serkis who has given us a more human and emotive Kong. I have to give Jackson that one.

The look of the film is very stylised, in terms of the creating the 1930’s setting, the digital photography allowed for more obvious tonal changes, relying heavily on browns to create that depression era look. Then as soon as we reach Skull Island the CGI really comes into its own. Making Willis O’Brien’s effects looks like a practice run, there are far more dinosaurs and oversized creatures which show how much money and time was spent on this act of the film. For me it felt like “let’s make it bigger, have more of everything” losing sight of the plot at times. Yes we get it, it’s an island unaffected by time and evolution, an ecosystem all of its own. Seeing all those dinosaurs running away from Velociraptors I was no longer lost in the film that had made the past incarnations look tame.

It’s more cinematic yet at the times it’s bloated with effects, nothing or very little seems real in this film besides the actors and some of the sets. I know that Jackson does utilises model miniatures where he can, I felt none of that here, the computer has sucked a lot out of the is remake which is grand in terms of the plot, held together by the acting which saves it from being another blockbuster that is soon forgotten. I’m not writing the film off completely, I just wish there wasn’t such a reliance on C.G.I, something which is becoming more lifeless the more sophisticated it becomes, the easier it becomes to make these worlds a reality on the screen, the more we understand and switch off. They have lost the human touch at times. I long for films like Clash of the Titans the acting at times was nothing special, held together with a loose plot that made sense, the air of grandeur and a heap of fun, plus some interesting casting choices that make this a film a classic. It may have lost its seems but not the charm and strength of plot which is as fun as the special effects. Ultimately its a more balanced film, not trying to be more than it is.

R.I.P.D (2013)

R.I.P.D. (2013)I can’t believe I actually wanted to catch R.I.P.D. (2013) at the time of its release. Thankfully I saved my money on that occasion after reading a few the consensus was. I thought it would be a cross between Men in Black (1997) and Dead Like Me (2003-4). Crossing a lot of fingers for something good to happen here. The concept of an afterlife police force does sounds like an interesting on the face of it. To consider that the best of the dead police officers are out there ensure the streets are clear of dead who don’t want to face judgement at the pearly gates. Probably because they are more than likely as they know they are going straight to hell. That was my thinking anyway.

On the other side seeing the film I feel I’m glad I caught it recorded from TV, no money lost, just my time. This was one of a run of bad films that Ryan Reynolds was stuck in until Deadpool (2016) came along and saved him. Jeff Bridges on the other hand, this turkey did him no harm. If anything it was as rehashing of his Rooster Cogburn out of his own time. It’s a really odd pairing really.

So why is R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Dept.) so bad? For me its the whole execution of the material that comes from a comic book source has been badly translated. With no prior knowledge of the material I can see that the concepts been played with fast and loose with. First the persona’s that two cops Roy and Nick (Bridges and Reynolds) have in the living world is a one hit joke that is lost once you see it in the trailer, which we see through out the film. It becomes offensive after a while to see an attractive blonde and an elderly Chinese man is really tasteless and should’ve been left in the 1980’s. I was thinking something more along the lines of Dead Like Me which I can barely remember but when the grim-reapers were in our world, their own image was distorted to present a distorted different face. It was a way to walking in the living world more conspicuously than a busty blonde and Chinese man.

You can see the writers are not really caring when they call the deceased who are not willing to see judgement are known as “deado’s”. Which is just silly to say and sounds even worse to say. These are the dead that are trying to live among us, until they’re interrogated, usually followed by weird questions and Indian food. It doesn’t make sense even as a joke, let alone as part of the world we are supposed to believe in. That’s before break out into a weird monster that looks like some ogre out of a fairy-tale – Shrek with a hang-over. These are the living corpses who we are unwittingly living with. These deado’s aren’t even scary once you know whats going to happen after seeing a few.

Moving on I was constantly trying to work-out what Kevin Bacon‘s role in all of this was, knowing he never plays the good guy, it was just a matter of time and type casting which to be fair works to Bacon’s strengths. Here it took just a bit longer to figure out as we are lead to believe he is after Nick’s wife, again not out of character.

Nick and Roy are thrown together as partners, you could say that Roy’s supposed to be a Dirty Harry type of the West, which really doesn’t suit Bridges yet allows him to test Nick in his new enforcement role post-living. That’s probably the only plus side, the relationship between the rookie and the veteran cop. Otherwise it just a sequence of events that could easily be ignored. We see Nick trying to connect with his living wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak) much like Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) and Dorinda (Holly Hunter) in Always (1989) but not half as effectively. It’s a lot colder, Nick has to let go for them both to move on. The only human element in this otherwise waste of a film.

Its one of those films that suffers also from the weightlessness of too much CGI which creates a world that I don’t really care for. It’s no longer believable a spectacle or awe, its more what we can do because we can which lets the story down. They were just showing off in a film where the plot gets as carried away with things as the Deado’s try to reconstruct and gold structure to return the dead to earth, altering the order of things on earth, or something like that. It just doesn’t make any sense. Ultimately this film doesn’t really do anyone any harm as it’s just as its not funny enough to reach an audience to try and offend them.


Starman (1984)

Starman (1984)I was kicking myself when I first missed a chance to catch Starman (1984) which was just another chance to see Jeff Bridges, who lets me honest can’t really make a bad film. Last seeing him in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) even with the melancholic ending that really hits home. Like man others he will always have a place in my heart as The Dude which was really just the personification of who he has come to be on-screen, ensuring that The Big Lebowski (1998) became a classic (eventually).

What else drew me to Starman was the director  John Carpenter whose films I have seen intermittently. I’m working myself up to catching The Thing (1982), with the original by Howard Hawks to watch soon first. Also it’s a piece of forgotten 1980’s science fiction that has to be seen really, even just for that innocent charm that it produces. You could say its an adult version of E.T. The Extra-Terrestial (1982) that’s made from the child’s perspective on finding an alien in the forest, befriending them as he helps him go home. Two years later we have pretty much the same story, throw in a bit of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) in terms of the recent NASA satellite launches, the search for life has produced a result only a few years after it’s launch. Again there is a sense if hope in science fiction with a nice mix of comedy and drama thrown in.

I’m not even bothered by the special effects that actually are special even if dated, if anything they are more charming, made with really love and craft. They don’t rely on even early C.G.I heavily, allowing you to focus on the human drama that we find ourselves following which is more important which is more engaging than any of the special effects that define this as a Science Fiction film. You believe the blue lights that hover into Jenny Hayden‘s (Karen Allen‘s) house and turn her life upside down. That’s how we first meet Starman who assumes the form of her husband in one of the most disturbing pre-C.G.I. sequences. Yet we buy into it as its looks real, the pain that this creature is going through at accelerated growth to become the man who Jenny knows as Scott, or to us as Bridges, the audience soon accepts him, imposter or not.

You could say that what Jenny experience all bereaved people hope for, at least for a time, to have their loved ones back if only for just a few days to say and do what you didn’t have time for. A theme that us explored in again in AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) when David’s mother’s brought back to life through alien technology and his own memories. We don’t have it that complicated, all the basic ingredients for life are a the disposal of Starman as he assumes human form. His first steps and moments are comical, Bridges is a prefect fit that would have been far different in the hands of Carpenter regular Kurt Russell who would have brought a harder edge to a sensitive subject of bereavement.

What follows is one of the most human and fundamental needs, the need to go home. Its been explored to death in Sci fi and other genres, because it works and can take many form. Leaving from Wisconsin to Winslow, Arizona where we eventually arrive. On the journey he develops from a curious child into a man, without all the messy of growth spurts in-between. Karen believes she’s being kidnapped for a time, as he takes her car, she acts as his guide before they both fall for each other. Of course you have that idea planted in the back of your mind from the beginning, can she fall for an imposter. Yet she falls for another man who looks and imitates him which she accepts. She brings out his humanity that others would otherwise be afraid to see, those weird moments that are just his way of showing his kindness and alien version of humanity.

He carries with him and uses 6 silver balls, each of them allow him to carry out a miracle or act, the first for defence before learning how best to use them. They are like those pieces of cake that Alice has when she enters Wonderland she has to use them wisely. Or on another level they are games tokens that should be used to progress to the next level, but sometimes you don’t need them at all.

In pursuit as always is the U.S. government who have tracked this U.F.O. landing and want to find this new life form. Much like E.T. and Short Circuit (1986). Wanting to kill the unknown without trying to really understand it by just talking or just reaching out to the strange visitor who just wants to get back. These visitors always come with a message or want to get away quickly because they are on tight schedule. Just a quirk of the genre, stopping only long enough to learn, return and report to their own people, a long-range reconnoissance you could say. We are too primitive to really make friends with even in the 1980’s.

So after kicking myself the first time I was pleasantly surprised by the much over-looked gem of a film that explores bereavement through science fiction, tied in with some really obvious references to earlier films, its far lighter than the predecessors. Focused more on a telling a story that resonates with you. However I did want to know more about those silver balls, which could have been explored in a sequel which would work naturally as the ending tells us. Its not always necessary to have all the special effects and use them, when you have a story that could be told on a shoe-string budget.


Bad Company (1972)

Bad Company (1972)It wasn’t long before I saw this as the teenage answer to The Cowboys (1972), released  the same year as Bad Company (1972) both going for very different audiences as the Western has to compete with more cynical cinema, Watergate and the aftermath of Vietnam. Both depict young men/boys asserting themselves as men. The more fondly remembered The Cowboys has The Duke for starters in one of his later films leading young boys around the ages of 10-13 on a cattle drive. Where as the maturer Bad Company is giving prospective young talent centre stage in their own western. Namely The Dude Jeff Bridges.

Bad Company is a more romantic western that attempts to breathe new life into a genre that is beginning to lose its purpose. With new blood at the reins. It also has a more realistic look to the film, none of those hats and checkered shirts and waistcoats we usually find. Set during the Civil War we see young boys being rounded up, who have tried to avoid the call to war, to fight and be a man, when they don’t really know themselves. A reflection of the recent conflict that was winding down overseas. We see a young man of about 16 Drew Dixon (Barry Brown) being smuggled out of the state, the only surviving brother of his family, given enough money and a chance to make it West, hoping to have his own American dream.

It’s not long until we meet wannabe thief Jake Rumsey (Bridges) who mugs him on the god-fearing god natured Dixon. Reality is starting to hit home for him, his first experience of crime, the reality of life away from the bosom of his family starting to hit home for him. It’s obvious that he will join up with these young men, all runaways, needing to survive on the open road. All more prepared but him for what lays ahead. This is what the film is a rare coming of age western of the decade that shows even hoe harsh the West is to them.

It does have its funny moments, its a gentle film that has its jolts of reality as the boys try to act like men. Waking the audience up to find that even boys are not safe from the shot of a gun, bullets don’t discriminate. It’s all the worse when we see a kid fall to the ground, the violence of an untamed land will attack anyone who can’t defend themselves. Their main enemy is a band of men lead by Big Joe (David Huddleston) whose men are not much better than the boys they are after.

There’s a beautiful gunfight scene among this much forgotten classic (if you can call it that) when the tables have turned, with only Jake and Drew left alive we go back in time to silent cinema as the men that have pursued them are now on the run. The music takes the edge off all the violence that allows you to enjoy the scene on another level as for the first time the boys become men. The relationship they both have is based on lies which cannot last forever as they discover. As they come rely on each other producing a little bit of comedy between them and even some unlikely loyalty. Bad Company is trying to revitalise the genre and give a new generation of actors a chance to flex their acting muscles. It does have some nice moments which are bitter sweet, a reflection of the time the film was made. When you hold it up to the more well-known The Cowboys which has more in it’s favor (and the John Wayne), a sense of nostalgia which is more tangible. Where as Bad Company seems to have been lost with time, maybe circulation or that we have moved on from that era of films.

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The Last Picture Show (1971)

The Last Picture Show (1971)This came as a real surprise to me in the listings. In recent weeks I have changed my mind regarding Peter Bogdanovich the once hot 70’s director has become stuck in the past. Ok that’s harsh, he more nostalgic for an era in cinema which you can only get if you watch the classics at home or at your local indie cinema when they find a 35mm print or a film season on TV. Looking at the trailer for his most recent film She’s Funny That Way (2014) which judging by the trailer is just not funny. When I saw What’s Up Doc? (1972) It felt fresh, of its time and relevant for it’s time. Which is what She’s Funny that Way there’s nothing new, an old idea in a different guise. Maybe it’s just me being critical and not up for a modern-day screwball comedy which are dated, yet still work because we love them for their zaniness and moment in time when that comedy worked, the on-screen chemistry.

When I look at The Last Picture Show (1971) I saw all that nostalgia for a time in the directors youth, taking most of that all out and making it relevant to a modern audience. It’s not your classic fifties drama, certainly not a Nicholas Ray film which cranked up the emotion and colour. Here it’s all taken out, softened the image and removing all the happy families leaving you with real-life of a group of kids trying to make sense of adult life in a run-down Texas town that has long seen better days. Bogdanovich wasn’t the only director in a nostalgic mood in the early part of the decade, George Lucas gave us the gem of American Graffiti (1973), focusing on the last night with a group of friends, driving around all day. It was about the cars, the antics, the last moments of freedom.

The earlier film takes place over a longer period of time, high-school life is coming to an end and adult life is heavy on the horizon, they want to be seen as adults by the town. Looking up to Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) the old-timer who delivers words of wisdom and stories that they eat up. Especially Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) two young men who are more than willing to explore. They are just knocking about town in their cars, this is a taste of what life was really like and to be honest still is. Bogdanovich is saying you think life was simple and carefree in the movies he grew up with, well thats just not true. There was all the angst, the peer-pressure and sexual frustration, it was simply ignored unless you were James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) when it was in the air.

What could easily be mistaken for a mid-fifties teen film becomes more adult pretty early on with the kids exploring each other. Looking beyond the soft cinematography to find there’s no boundary between what is adult and child in this film, it’s about crossing that line and trying to stay over it without loosing your head, which is pretty hard to do even for a 25-year old sometimes so you never really know for sure. For these young actors who have varying levels of success, none more so than the dude Jeff Bridges. It’s not really about him it’s about his friend Sonny who begins with his one year anniversary with his then girlfriend, splitting up when he can’t sleep with her, naturally frustrated he figures a way to get his cake and eat it. Which takes the form of the coaches wife Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman) who has her own problems to deal with, which we are left to figure out for ourselves.

Whilst Duane has similar issues with his girl Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) who has pressures at home to go out with the right kind of guy, whilst in the process she grows up to be just like her mum. A woman with all the looks and traits that lead her to where she is now, in a marriage of good position but no real love. Sexual politics between men and women hasn’t changed much either, something that she learns later on. The realities of life are not hidden in this film. Marked over the course of a few years with the run-down cinema which we first see showing Father of the Bride (1950), the ideal of cinema really aren’t being reflected in average American life. An image that the rest of the world was being fed, whilst over the in the UK the social realism films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). An interesting reflection of the images that both film industries wanted to project of their respective countries. With the first generation of school taught film-makers coming-out new radical films changed all of that. Producing some of the most exciting films ever made in America. 

With all these adult events going on in the film, it moves along at a gentle pace, it feels almost normal and part of everyday film-life which makes it so easy to watch until you get hit with teenage sex, death and other shenanigans that would otherwise be censored about 15 years before. It wasn’t what I expected really coming from Bogdanovich, the ultimate film sentimentalist who has tonnes of love letters to cinema made up and ready to deliver.

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Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Heaven's Gate (1980)Due to the sheer length of Hevean’s Gate (1980) I have decided to watch it in two parts, just over the hour mark tonight (8/11/14) and I feel that I should hold back until I have seen beyond the Johnson County War horses ride off into town. My initial thoughts are that Michael Cimino for all he is now known for, almost bankrupting a studio by blowing his budget, his film truncated for theatrical release he has produced (only looking at the first half of the directors cut) a masterpiece that is the scale of a David Leancover vast stretches of even just one state, the emotional depth of a George Stevens and the romanticism of Robert Altman‘s McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971).  If that is even possible for a man who only a few years before caused uproar with The Deer Hunter (1978) has taken on a dark page in his countries own past, as it turned on the immigrants who tried to make a life for themselves, as the Americans years before once did. I can’t wait to see how the  town react to the state and even country whose middle class army turn on the people who make the country so rich.

I could only wait a single night to complete this epic of a film, putting the label to shame when applied to The Big Country (1958) somewhat. I could see the length issue, needing to bring it in to theatrical release friendly length, which would only hinder the film. Noticing scenes which could be cut back, none entirely removed. Everything is in there for a purpose, prolonged to enjoy the spectacle of their integration with American’s who here are living alongside one another in peace. An issue that has become a hot topic in the UK with the borders within the EU for free movement the influx of people from all over Europe, which is having an effect on the fabric of the nation, its politics and infrastructure. I’m just glad we have moved on even from the 1950’s and the comments of Enoch Powell wanting to pay each immigrant to leave. That’s was progress when compared to the extremes which the US government went to in Johnson County, Wyoming in 1890 with immigrant causing “near anarchy”. This conflict between the towns people enabled by the President versus the immigrants is the backdrop for this dusty dramatic epic.

Beginning in 1870 when two friends are graduating from university it seems that the possibilities are endless for James Averill (Kris Kristofferson) and Englishman Billy Irvine (John Hurt) in a sequence that is full of great promise for all the young men and the adoring women who join them in dance and celebration. We can see the beginning of something special for James and Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert) which’s brought to an abrupt close with cut to twenty years later and the shooting of an immigrant from a shadowy figure from behind a sheet, the figure – Nathan D. Champion (Christopher Walken), of authority  is looming in, wanting to control if not quell the bubbling situation of fear that is brewing out in Johnson County 1890.

We can see the speed of development in the country, as we cut to not a boom town, but a booming metropolis of a busy main street, horses pulling trailers, men in shops kitting themselves out in the latest suits and guns. It’s still very much a mans world. It doesn’t quite fit for James/Jim who quickly leaves for his homestead where we find Ella waiting for him. He has all he needs, a sheriffs job and a woman who makes him happy, what more does he want. The fear of a list of 125 names made up by cattle men who fear the influx of new Europeans. His friend Billy‘s revealed to be a weak man of only clever words and ideals that get him nowhere in the West kept alive only by his class that.

Before the conflict begins we’re treated to over an hour getting to know the people of the county that have shaped it, reminding us of the fabric the growing country then and now. Something that is the foundation of most countries that is sometimes forgotten. It’s a rich tapestry of scenes that are woven together to give us an image of a cohesive community that ultimately stand-up and fight the cattle men. Ignoring the law that was behind this influx of men is long coasts riding over the countryside with guns in hand, ready to deliver justice.

With all the grand imagery that is the overwhelming factor that makes this film so enjoyable and rewarding. We see a lot of dust in the air, brought up by the wheels on the ground, the sub seeping through the windows. Visually its splendid to watch, taking us to a dirty rough and ready. It falls down on the characterisation, the old friends only have a few scenes together. Cimino is doing what I do when documenting my work, he “milks it” squeezing everything out of his scenes, allowing them to play out. A lot is going on, it’s hard to see where any cuts were made for this final directors cut. We could easily have a documentary cut of the film seeing a historical account of the conflict rather than that characters. The only characters that are really focused is within the love triangle which’s tolerated and not tested. Jeff Bridges is given a few scenes as John L. Bridges who protects Ella more than anything. The ending is probably my only major fault that never really says anything, asking more questions, whose the girl who sits before a very much hurt James who cannot seem to move on. Maybe this ambiguity that has allowed such respect to build up around this film that is unique from any other in the Western genre.

If we take only one thing away from this controversial landmark film it is the visual detail, the love devotion that goes into every scene, every frame even. We should forget about the controversy behind the film, the massive budget, the incredible number of takes. However it does mark the end of an era in Hollywood film-making, the loss of directorial control, the creative reins have been now pulled in considerably. We still get the rare film that from Terrence Mallick and   Scorsese which has their stamp all over it. Now we have films that are generated out of successful franchises, reboots and superhero universes that are proven to make a massive box-office return. The studio has won out, thank god for the indie film.

Tron (1982) & Tron: Legacy (2010)

Tron (1982)My first encounter with this sci-fi classic and cinematic innovation Tron (1982) was when Homer Simpson found himself in a computer generated universe, a early treehouse of horror which has never left me, due in part due to the big departure and experimentation made from the traditional hand drawn animation of The Simpsons to C.G.I. was incredible, the same year as Toy Story (1995). I always wondered what Homer was going on about, something that only Chief Wiggum did too.

I next encountered Tron whilst watching a Pixar documentary which saw the progression of the small start-up company right through to Wall-E (2009). A small mention was made of this film from the eighties, my attention was reignited my interest in this film which I have finally caught. I knew already that both the dude Jeff Bridges and David Warner were somehow involved in this C.G.I. world that turned out to be a gaming universe created by Encom, with Ed Dillinger (Warner ) sitting at the top complete with a powerful computer system that responds to his voice. For the 1980’s this is impressive and as I realised quite prophetic in some-ways too. Learning that the Master Computer (Warner also) wants total control, especially when an independent program is being developed and a hacker/ex employee Flynn (Bridges) is trying to get hold of his files. You can already sense that a powerful man-made force is trying take over the company, something that even Dillinger is unsure of this move by a program that believes its experience alone makes it more powerful.

To stop the number one hacker getting into the system all level 7 people are locked out of the system, unable to develop games and programs, such as Alan Bradley’s (Bruce Boxleitner) new program Tron which runs independent of the master computer, an wanted threat. Whilst down below in the development centre we find Dr Walter Gibbs (Barnard Hughes) and Lora (Cindy Morgan) working on something that is out of this world, pure science fiction, transporting matter to replicate it in the digital world of the computer. I already was starting to put two and two together, but wasn’t sure how it would work out. Needing to get Flynn back into the building to take down the master computer. Now spending his time as one of the best players of computer games, wowing kids at his skills.

Once breaking into Encom with Lora and Alan the fun really begins for our heroes as soon enough we are transported into the world of video games. Having already had a few tasters of this world that looks dated to a modern audience, still having the power to spark the imagination even now at the possibilities of this world that sees humans in a virtual world for the first time. It does look clunky now, with the occasional Mickey Mouse moniker thrown in. We see our heroes move from the trials of the game, as a man who helped create this world turns against it to ensure it’s very freedom from the powerful Master Computer, who wants total control of it and players who have a belief system of the user.

A man made program fights for supremacy with figures from the outside world who gave it the power in the first place, and populating it. There is so much to consider in the new world that sees a milestone in film-making, made possible by Disney who have been known for pushing the visual boundaries for entertainment, making us wonder what if. Maintaining that we, the players of the games and in life are in control, not a higher power who wants our obedience. Leaning towards being agnostic at times, trying more to install a sense of self-assurance in ourselves to determine our destiny, be it in the real world of virtual.

Tron Legacy (2010)Then what seems to come out of nowhere is a sequel, moving and updating the action to the 21st century. It wouldn’t have been Tron Legacy (2010) without Jeff Bridges returning as Kevin Flynn the first of many, many nods to the classic which are there in an updated more stunning form. It seems C.G.I. has caught up with the concept of Tron.

With the loss of the master computer in the original a new foe is needed for Kevin who we catch up with after first meeting his 27 year old son Sam (Garret Hedlund) who we learn was left in the care of his grandparents after Kevin left and never came back one night. There are many rumours to where he went, even suicide. Something that Alan Bradley never believed. Who after receiving a page, yes a page, he tell the son and head of Encom now releasing new software in a direction far from what Flynn ever dreamed of. Younger Flynn has gone of the rails in the years after loosing his father and eventually grandparents, living alone. Not the life we expected for the boy who was the son of a CEO of a tech company.

After some convincing and a bike rider later, Sam finds his dads old arcade which leads him to a world that is even beyond the imagination of the audience who remember the clunky C.G.I. of the early eighties. To find a polished world that could have easily come out of a PS3 game. This is one of the few films where I feel that C.G.I. is warranted free rein, being a computer game that has become so much more, steeped in history as we learn. Once again a Flynn is thrown into the arena of gaming, fighting for his life, which doesn’t last long once he meets Clu (Bridges) a younger version of Sam’s dad, having never aged. Something that visually doesn’t gel when we meet the real Kevin who lives off the grid, away from the world he created years ago.

With father and son reunited it’s time to understand the world we are in and its history, the whys and hows that make the film so deeply rooted with the original and not just a reboot, which it could easily have been, looking at the time gap between this and the original. Filling in the gap between where we left off and pick-up this film. It doesn’t feel like an excuse to make money (which is probably was) but as return to something that is loved and respected, and that’s what I get from this film, with all the flashy special effects, even the scary young Bridges who was shaved and made younger on the computer. With a funky techno soundtrack courtesy of Daft Punk who also put in an appearance as d.j.s fitting right into this ultra modern world. They have embraced Bridges persona into the film, with all the things that worked, updating others for a new audience who may have never seen the original, there is enough to enjoy just here.

King Kong (1976)

King Kong (1976)I wanted to watch this merely out of interest to see how the classic ape of Hollywood translated to a mid 1970’s audience, made just over 40 years since the original hit the big screen, it was in need of being updated for a more sophisticated audience. Even the basic plot of King Kong (1976) is different from the original, instead of a director wanting to make his next epic adventure on skull island, it’s now all about oil with tycoon Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), far more plausible than the now farcical idea which has heavily dated and shows a lack of original thinking on the film-makers part.

The biggest change is modern man that stows-away on the ship that is in search of the oil, in the form of Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott who slows everyone down and bringing them back to reality, grounding everyone, a professor who looks beyond the scent of greed to see the bigger picture.

The most important role to fill – the girl, a role made famous by Fay Wray, now in the hands of Jessica Lange as Dwan the classic role that helped define an era in film. It seems not much has changed in 40 odd years since when you look at both Wrays and Langes roles, both scream their lungs out. However there is more heart in Lange who overtime forms an emotional connection to the beast that is Kong.

There just was no time to really explore such themes in the original, with a running time of around 90mins that focused more on the pacing of events that lead up to the iconic finale. Here we have issues surrounding the culture that is on the island, whose religion is questioned and shook up by the invasion of the foreigners who capture the beast.

The once monster ridden island is now reduced to just a laughable giant snake which shows how much of the budget was spent on special effects. Which focused on Kong who was more of a man in a complex costume and a mechanical arm. It seems that stop-motion animation was either too expensive or seen to not be in tone with the film. We do have a more human Kong instead of the meticulously animated beast of Willis O’Brien. There is still a great amount of time devoted to Kongs soften over the duration of the film, expanded more so even.

The key events are still there, just changing locations to make is look fresh and more exciting. Of course it’s a remake, which is concious of what it’s doing, wanting to preserve the original, taking it’s own spin on events for a new generation who may not have seen the classic film that created it’s own genre. It’s not a better film, it’s different, nothing can take away from the original, not that it ever wanted to. I wonder now, looking on to Peter Jackson’s take on the classic is like?