Picofarad #3 Movie reviews

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Director: Garth Jennings
Running time: 109 minutes

Let us admit first that I, being a huge Hitchhiker's fan, and you, if you are one too, have probably both read the review on Planet Magrathea, and decided nevertheless that we were going to see this movie. In knowing it was going to be bad to begin with, we give up some of our right to complain.

But actually, it's not quite that bad. Okay, so the new animation is a poor substitute for the TV Guide, and Zaphod (Sam Rockwell)'s extra head looks as fake as the one that rode on Mark Wing-Davey's shoulder, but there are distinct, undeniable signs that someone really, truly cared about getting it right. The only problem is that this person did not have enough authority to control the final edit. It's like they did make a decent adaptation, but then cut every other minute out to make room for all the tedious mucking about on Vogsphere and Viltvoodle Six.

And there are good points. The factory floor on Magrathea takes moden special effects to do right, and Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman are just as good as the respective voices of the Guide and Marvin as in the TV version.

So go, because you know you will, secure in the knowledge that some of the good bits survived, that Douglas Adams's vision does shine though, and that if you find yourself boiling with rage afterward at the clueless people around you who never knew the other versions and think that that was a pretty good movie, you can always say to them, "Hey, did you know Amazon already has the DVD in stock?"

Tron 20th anniversary edition (2002)

Director: Steven Lisberger
Running time: 96 minutes

Most sf movies, viewed 20 years after the fact, turn out to have been laughably wrong about the future. Tron has succeeded where many more serious attempts at science fiction failed, in becoming more relevant than ever.

How many people, in 1983, really understood how a malevolent program could take over the computers of an entire company, and then reach out to invade the Pentagon? Now the average moviegoer can mentally fill in the early Internet, and, for the Master Control Program itself, spyware, viruses, worms, and all the like.

Tron also made the unique insight of pairing its computerized characters and their human creators. Thus the program Tron, created to stop the MCP, takes on the look and personality of its programmer (Bruce Boxleitner). The man who built the company (Barnard Hughes) and was shoved aside reappears in the digital world as a priest figure, and, in a particularly nice touch, the usurper of the company and creator of the Master Control Program (David Warner) shows up, not as the MCP itself, but rather its hapless henchman, just as in the real world the MCP is now calling the shots, not him.

Add in the distinctive look of the world inside the computer, created from a mix of black-and-white filming, hand rotoscoping, and you have a movie that really stands apart from anything created before or since, that hardly looks dated, that truly stands the test of time.

Here we are in the 21st century, and nearly everyone has been wrong about it-- we have no flying cars, no interplanetary colonies, and why is it no one figured out that by now computers would be small enough to carry around? But with Tron, you can believe that that world still exists, and look into its black sky, and wonder what strange new realms are visible there now.

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