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‘Tron’: THR’s 1982 Review

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‘Tron’: THR’s 1982 Review

On July 9, 1982, Disney unveiled the sci-fi actioner Tron in theaters, where it would gross $33 million and, decades later, get a sequel in Tron: Legacy. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below: 

It would be all too easy to describe the Disney Studios’ Tron as yet another special effects movie in a year that has seen special effects achieve unprecedented heights of sophistication and technical virtuosity. It is that, of course, and it probably relies more heavily on computer-generated animations than any other movie yet produced. Both the eye and the mind are continually boggled by a bombardment of images that quite literally defy description. Who could hope to describe the electronically produced transformations that take place at faster-than-lightning speeds in the complex circuitry of a computer? They must be seen to be believed and even then you’re not quite sure.

But young Steven Lisberger, who both wrote and directed Tron, never lets the gadgetry make you for get that, primarily, he’s telling a story, and that it’s essentially a people movie. Of course, his people, living a couple of generations from now, are more conversant with computers than we are. In fact, for most of them, their very lives are controlled by a Master Computer and the man who controls the Master Computer controls the world. And the man who hopes to achieve that enviable position is David Warner.

Somewhere in the heart of the Master Computer, however, is the uncomfortable information that Warner actually stole some of the key technology from Jeff Bridges, a “user” (someone who knows how to command a computer to function). To ensure his position of power, Warner plots to eliminate the “users” by miniaturizing them into passengers (or drivers) of those cars, planes and rocket ships that disintegrate in a flash of light in today’s popular video arcades. Why, the victims are so tiny that it’s almost a victimless crime! Others are disposed of in a deadly game that seems to be a cross between handball and jai alai, with just a touch of ancient gladiatorial shields thrown in to ward off the deadly fireballs used in the contest.

I deem it an act of creative imagination, if not pure genius, that Lisberger could look at our arcade machines and envision a time in the future when man would be entrapped in his own amusements. It’s a bit like Through the Looking Glass combined with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — a skilled commingling of wonder and adventure. Nor does Lisberger mar his film made, as they say, for children of all ages with nightmarish images. There are chases by cars and flying objects (planes would be inaccurate; they look more like flying Arches of Triumph) that set the pulses racing; but even the electronic tortures that Warner devises seem relatively benign. Certainly, the survival rate of his victims is surprisingly high.

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All of the main characters have dual identities, that of the real world and of the computer world. Bruce Boxleitner is Tron (or Alan Bradley), a computer expert who finds his work inexplicably blocked by Warner, his boss (Ed Dillinger or Sark). Jeff Bridges is in fine shape as the happy-go-lucky Flynn (or Clu), who is content to run an arcade until persuaded by Boxleitner to help block Warner’s villainous schemes. And Cindy Morgan isn’t in bad shape either as his spunky lab assistant (Lora/Yuri) who once had an affair with Bridges. Barnard Hughes is particularly impressive as an elderly scientist who, miniaturized, looks like Humpty Dumpty defending the Master Computer. All the live performers, incidentally, were shot in black and white, the colors of their costumes being added later (by computer, naturally), giving their faces a strangely appealing, almost masklike quality.

And Lisberger’s script is studded with amusing, tongue-in-cheek anachronisms. “They’ve never built a circuit that could hold him,” a “program” remarks admiringly of Tron (Boxleitner) attempting an escape. He’s not yet as easy with his comic touches as Lucas or Spielberg, but it’s always nice to find a young film maker who doesn’t take himself, or his screenplay, too seriously.

Even so, one keeps coming back to those eye-filling (and ear-filling) special effects emphasized by the staggering credit roll at the end, which includes credits to its Taiwan animators written in Chinese script. It’s a far cry from the old days, when everything from Disney was strictly Disney-based. Although Tron was produced by Donald Kushner, of the Disney organization, much of the work was farmed out to firms like Magi Synthavision, Information International, Robert Abel and Associates, and WallaWorks (sound). Even the music, by Wendy Carlos, was composed in New York (via synthesizer) and quite literally phoned in.

And yet I regard Tron as one more important feather in Disney’s chapeau (and also executive producer Ron Miller’s), right up there with Snow White and Fantasia. Both of those films brought animation into a new era, establishing new standards of excellence and new boundaries for experiment. I think it’s marvelous that a studio as staid as Disney would give this much leeway to a new director, and would have the generosity to recognize that new ideas demand new techniques, techniques that could not necessarily be best handled by the “in house” staff. But the public will still view Tron as a Disney movie, and realize that Disney is once more out there in the forefront of creative animation. — Arthur Knight, originally published on July 8, 1982.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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