Welcome to the BURN CENTER!

Hey folks, Jonny Napalm here welcoming you to my charred little corner of the sky. Here I will be sharing views on all the things I love and adore and loathe with the burning passion of a thousand suns. Be aware.. my views tend to the nerdtastic, so... you are warned.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Looming Legacy

Tron: Legacy has been out for a while now,  I'm finally comfortable in my thoughts about it to put them up online.  The movie has received the massive power of the Disney Hype machine to get people behind it and talking about it and from MY perspective... It deserves it.  The film is gorgeous in oh so many ways.  The design aesthetic feels right and just different enough from Syd Mead's original for the 'System' to feel like a slightly different evolution of the computer universe the original TRON introduced us to. If you've been looking around online for any kind of cohesive statement about this film... the single greatest one you'll find (even in the harshest reviews) is of the quality of the design.  And while that aspect of the film is important... The score at times manages to overshadow it... and not in a bad way.  Daft Punk's orchestral/digital fusion gives the 'System' a heartbeat and soul.. creating incredible moments that took my breath away to experience in the theater.   
I'm not going to talk about the plot much cause I'm sure most folks have, A. seen it or B. read a review... and most of those are giving away major plot pieces left and right.  The story is really a great little allegory on order and chaos, planning and intuition, and not just a standard Good vs. Evil trope.  Kevin Flynn sells the greatest of these points when he tells his son of the remarkable evolution he encounters within this system.  A thing that one would think static and unchanging, suddenly encounters something remarkable and new which forever alters it's Architects worldview.  
For my part... I loved the layered story.  The son's search for his father and finding an entirely new world to build, in combination with the fun action sequences, exceptional performances, and beautiful design work, along with the subtext of the allegory; created a great piece that I will enjoy for years to come.  

This isn't to say that the film doesn't have flaws.  While I applaud the use of the tech behind de-aging Jeff Bridges to play his own nemesis is fantastic and cool, and necessary for this film... It still hasn't reached the point where the face don't feel unreal in comparison too the others on screen.  The primary example of this that I can recall is in an opening scene where Flynn tells his young son of his adventures in the 'System' controlled by the MCP. The younger Jeff Bridges face doesn't quit reflect the light of the room right giving his features a slightly unreal cast (though considering they are... that's not too bad).
I'm sure that I went into the movie better informed than most... partly because I'm a more than a bit obsessive about the things in media that capture my attention, so I look for additional bits of story.  Which is how I found Tron: Betrayal... a great little 2 book comic series built to tell the story of Kevin Flynn world and the days of it's creation and it's subjugation.  It served as a tool to tell of how Flynn found an entire world, but couldn't find enough time to live in them both... and how he eventually got lost in one.  Yeah.... tell me that doesn't sound familiar all you folks who just shelled out cash for more World of Warcraft.  

So... while the "critical viewing" community seems to be easily split down the center line on this one.. I happily remain optimistic about more Tron productions and hopeful to see more creative work to come.  My thoughts to those who haven't had a chance to see it... I suggest you give it a try.  You might be surprised.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Prophets in Programming...

I'm a bit of a sucker for series that get lost by the wayside... Over the past couple weeks I have got a little bit lost in nostalgia and reviewing some great programming that falls away or gets left behind, when it doesn't manage to lock onto an audience.  Three series in particular come to mind just because of a similar thought-thread through them, those being Kings (a great program I reviewed earlier), Kyle XY, and Eli Stone.  The interesting thing about all these programs is that they've got a prophet involved.  It's an odd concept to get thrown up on television... especially with as much fear networks have talking about God and religion in their medium.  With Kings we get David and Samuel both guided by signs and portents... a subtle approach done mostly with intriguing camera shots, music and slightly out of place events.  Kings has the strongest and most vocal use of "god" and the divine.. it's an intriguing thing to note that this is the shortest lasting of the three series with a single season with 13 episodes.

Eli Stone on the other hand managed 2 seasons of 13 episodes each (only 23 of which actually aired in proper sequence) which were fun and compelling drama with great eccentricities.  I loved this series and was a little bit heart-broken when it ended so abruptly (without even airing it's final 3 episodes that wrapped up the series).  This series had some REALLY great acting in it.  With Johnny Lee Miller as Eli, a lawyer who becomes entangled in visions of life and events beyond his ken, that he slowly begins using to produce social changes around him... with supporting cast including Natasha Henstridge, Victor Garber, Julie Gonzalo, and Loretta Devine the show included musical numbers and some great visuals, along with some truly spectacular guest performances.  The show is visible as a Berlanti production, having a great many similarities to Everwood, and to his current show No Ordinary Family.  The final episodes, that became viewable overseas first, and later with the DVD release were absolutely essential to drawing the series to a close, which actually REALLY does finish.  Which is much better than the final "prophet" series managed.

Kyle XY was something else though... A Sci-fi family show that originally aired on ABC Family of all places.  Our final "prophet" is an intriguing character who acquires the name Kyle from the first people who get to know him, and basically learns how to be human from the outside in.. becoming a gentle young man with extraordinary gifts who wants to find out where exactly where he fits in the world.  While this show got 3 seasons (the longest running of the 3 series mentioned herein), sadly this is the least cohesive of them... With the show-runners and writers formatting their seasons in half season segments all ending in cliffhangers.  While its a common enough practice on episodic television,  I find myself more drawn to series that actually tell cohesive stories over the course of a season.  Still, this show has one thing that made it TRULY remarkable... one of the most genuine and evocative depictions of a family that I ever saw on television.  The Tragers of Kyle XY are a loving, a very real family that still have their rebellions, conflicts, and troubles that still manage to converse about those problems, and it was the family that brought the series from just a good little scifi show to a great little drama.

The thing that got me the most about these three series... and that I think would have spoke deeply to many people who could have seen them, was the Idea of committing to making your social environment better.  While there's great drama in and around the series, and the character interactions...the true stories are the ones where we see our hero making changes in the world around them... those were the remarkable ones.