Thursday, December 23, 2010

Terrifying Family Films - A Christmas Story

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d discuss my favorite Christmas movie ever: A Christmas Story. When I started outlining this piece, I realized something. This movie, while it’s amazing and hilarious, is kind of scary. I’ve unintentionally dug up some repressed feelings and am therefore dusting off a series I call Terrifying Family Films. Here are the top five real reasons your kids will be up all night Christmas Eve.

1.) I think we can all agree that the pivotal moment when Ralphie tells Santa his wish, and is subsequently pushed down the slide, is pretty freaky. The elves are mean and Santa looks like the devil. The thing that really gave me nightmares was that slide. I don’t know why; maybe because it was bright red or because it was monstrously huge and out of place. I had night terrors as a kid and the majority of them were about plummeting to my death on a long slide like that. Usually there was no end to the slide, but every so often I fell into the Sarlac pit from Return of the Jedi.

2.) At one point in the film, Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields and his mom are dressed as a witch and a harlequin and proceed to make fun of him. I hated this scene. If you can’t trust your mom or your teacher, who can you trust?

3.) If you can watch A Christmas Story without feeling a little anxiety when Scut Farkus comes around, you probably are Scut Farkus. If so, stay far away from me because you are absolutely grotesque. The braces, freckles, and yellow eyes - yikes! And you’re so mean. Making kids cry, shame on you. As horrible as you are, Ralphie’s final battle with you is glorious.

4.) Some of you may not recall this absolutely terrifying scene, however, I can quote every line. After Ralphie say’s “Fudge” (And by the way, did any kid understand this joke? I did not. For many years I thought Fudge was a swear word.) Anyway, his mother puts soap in his mouth and then asks where he heard the particular word. Ralphie totally narks on his buddy Schwartz. Mrs. Parker calls Schwartz’s mom. Mrs. Schwartz freaks the fudge out, and we listen as she beats him. "Ahhh what'd I do mom!? What'd I do!?"

5.) Finally, and the most horrible of all, the tongue on the frosty pole scene. The lead up to this scene is tense, but it’s not scary. The triple-dog-dare is mean, but not scary. The fact that all Flick’s friends leave him stuck to the pole and not inform anyone of his predicament is sick, but not scary. The scary part, the scariest part of the whole movie, is when they bring Flick back inside and he’s got gauze on his tongue. However, as a kid, I was convinced that the firemen had ripped off half his tongue, and the white stuff was the inside of his tongue. What a great Christmas movie mom and dad!

All kidding aside, I love this movie. A Christmas Story is one of America’s most cherished films and I watch it all day on Christmas just like the rest of you. The bunny pajamas, Randy in his huge coat, the crummy commercial for Ovaltine, and of course the leg lamp are all iconic film moments all surprisingly found in the same movie. How can one movie have so many great scenes? I think we've all seen this movie so many times we forget how truly great it is. I wish I could go back and watch it for the first time all over again.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tron: Legacy

What was the most common thing heard at the movie theater this weekend? “One ticket for Tron, please.” Tron: Legacy is a movie with a very specific audience and though it’s very good, I’m not sure it will achieve the box office numbers Disney was hoping for. It opened at number one, but I don’t think it will last. I could be wrong here, but Tron: Legacy might only appeal to men my age. We remember the original Tron from when we were kids and want to relive it the same way we lined up for The Phantom Menace. I’m pretty sure the dinner-and-movie date demographic skipped this one. That's unfortunate.

Tron: Legacy is definitely worth seeing in theaters, even if you aren’t familiar with the original. I passed on the 3D as I usually do for review purposes. (I’m always afraid I’m going to miss something important when I’m trying to grab the 3D effects.) The visuals were still impressive and nice to look at. However, it didn’t really look all that much like Tron. That’s due in part to the plot which is set up something like this:

Kevin Flynn, the man behind the Tron game has been living inside the grid for 20 something years. His son Sam receives a message from the grid so Sam goes to find him. The grid has changed a lot because Kevin, along with his “program” Clu, have been making nice alterations. So the flat geometric shapes and monotone color scheme have been updated, which is a clever tie in to modern day computer graphic capabilities. And speaking of modern day capabilities, the animators actually make Jeff Bridges look 20 years younger as he did in the first movie. Pretty snazzy. Everything looks amazing, but it doesn’t really feel like a video game anymore. I suppose video games really don’t look like video games anymore either.

Tron: Legacy is also an interesting story, and it held my attention. There’s a new twist to the grid which I found intriguing. The whole idea behind this new character Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde, is clever and thought-provoking. Plus she’s really hot. There are some pretty decent action sequences as well, all using the classic Tron games. Light Cycles, which have been updated, are totally awesome.

The film is very entertaining but you walk away with some questions that can’t really be answered because in no way is this story possible. So you have to suspend your disbelief a great deal and ignore any holes. However, I still have questions. For example, how does one manage to find food and eat it in the grid? Is the roasted pig on the dinner table just a program? If so, does that make it vegetarian?

Tron: Legacy is a great tribute to the original. It’s fun if you don’t think too much about the science behind everything. You also have to appreciate that everything has been upgraded. The suits, the vehicles, and the city itself have all been improved and rendered intricately. The futuristic theme music from the original has also been upgraded… by Daft Punk. So if you’re expecting the Tron you remember, go watch that. This isn’t it. This is better! So see it, and bring a friend!

4 arcade classics


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