Tron Legacy, The Fighter, Made in Dagenham, Yogi Bear, and three other holiday films
This is the busiest weekend this season for new holiday films. Tron Legacy is the biggest if you’re talking about the money spent to make and promote it. The Fighter is up for awards and Made in Dagenham has crowd appeal. There’s a sugary treat down below them.
Next week by the way, sees the new releases scattered across three days: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. So, I’ll split the difference and post my thoughts on Thursday.
TRON LEGACY: More top-speed rides on the lightcycle and another duel to de-resolution with those memory discs should delight the geek types. And connoisseurs of computer generated special effects. They’re stunning in this very expensive sequel to the now almost 30-year-old cult film and are far advanced beyond anything we saw there. The back-lit characters in deep-perspective vistas make for a dazzling show, all in well-applied 3-D and filmed by the Disney corporation here in Vancouver.
Jeff Bridges is back as a hacker, game designer and computer visionary. In the original film, in a neat metaphor few understood at the time, he was sucked into a parallel universe inside his computer. Since then, he’s been sucked in again and remains trapped as something of a zen rebel. A program that he designed to create a better world has turned into a perfectionist tyrant. Bridges plays him too, although digitally-altered like this, to look younger.
His son (Garrett Hedlund) also comes in, looking for his long-missing dad. That reveals the basic logical flaw which this new film only compounds. In the original, its was a program or maybe an avatar that entered the computer. Now physical characters seem to be able to go in. They eat food. Are there farms in cyberspace? There are clouds in the sky. Another character, a warrior program played by Olivia Wilde, manages to come out and turn into a real person. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief. Is the film addressing how much computers have taken over our lives? Although, one character does muse for a second on what happens when they start thinking on their own, deep thought is muddled at best. It’s the mesmerizing design and the exciting light show you want to see, as well as action and chase scenes and a brief campy top hat and tails routine by Michael Sheen. (Scotiabank, Oakridge, Rio on Broadway and many suburban theatres). 3 out of 5
THE FIGHTER: It doesn’t surprise me that this film got six Golden Globe nominations. including one each for its four lead actors. It’s not your standard boxing picture. It’s entirely engaging about family and the duties and loyalties that bind families together. And sometimes get in the way.
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale play a couple of real-life working class heroes in Lowell, Mass. They’re boxers. The older one (Bale) once fought Sugar Ray Leonard and claims to have knocked him down. He’s now a gaunt crack addict and notoriously unreliable but quick with the advice for his younger brother (Wahlberg) and adamant that he’ll train him. Melissa Leo is a no-nonsense mother with a tight hand over her family, which also includes seven sisters. They have much to natter about when Wahlberg brings home a woman he’s falling in love with, a local bar-maid played sexy and out of her usual well-behaved territory by Amy Adams.
The film by David O. Russell explores these family dynamics, shows the vibrant street life and the adulation the two brothers’ get there and then takes us into the ring for several well-shot fights, including a title bout in England. Apparently it’s not the whole story but it does grab you with its insistent forward momentum and the sometimes gritty, sometimes nice world it portrays. A very good film. (5th Avenue, International Village and many suburban theatres). 4 out of 5
MADE IN DAGENHAM: It’s a fight for equal pay for women and with a large dose of comedy and a gutsy lead agitator it becomes a real crowd pleaser. It’s a true story that happened in 1968 at a Ford auto plant in England. The 187 women who sewed the car seats were re-classified as “unskilled” and had their pay cut. They went on strike, the whole plant idled and company execs at head office in Detroit phoned the British government to threaten reprisals. What they got instead was the world’s first equal pay legislation.
The film charts these landmark events with lots of color and a deceptively light tone. Sally Hawkins plays the modest seamstress who becomes a fighter for gender equality. Bob Hoskins plays her ally against both management and the comfortable union leadership and Miranda Richardson plays her ally in government, Barbara Castle, the labor minister. There’s also plenty of attention paid to the personal struggles, around town and even at home. There’s a bit too much extraneous comedy and no chance is ever passed up to show those small slights that women suffered. There’s even an entire character, an executive wife, written into the story to bring out more gender suppression. That would be annoying if the film weren’t so lively and rousing. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 3 ½ out of 5