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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of March 23 

Page 6 of 6

TRON: LEGACY If the hype is to be believed, 1982's TRON was the Gone With the Wind of its day, a Citizen Kane for the modern age, a blockbusting, award-winning blah blah blah. No. TRON was a lightly entertaining movie (and box office underachiever) whose sole claim to fame was its groundbreaking, computer-generated effects. So not surprisingly, the focus for the makers of TRON: Legacy was to create visuals that take us to the next level. But did they have to do so at the expense of virtually every other department? Certainly, the effects are sometimes astounding (although the 3-D immersion is less pronounced than in Avatar), and, for a while, the film offers no small measure of fun. As he searches for Kevin Flynn (TRON star Jeff Bridges), the father who disappeared two decades earlier, Sam Flynn (wooden Garrett Hedlund) finds himself whisked into a digital landscape fraught with danger. The setup is sound and the early action sequences are stirring, but then the film settles into a sameness that allows viewers to focus too intently on the feeble plotting, the tired dialogue and the awful use of the character of TRON himself (returning Bruce Boxleitner). By the time this overlong feature arrives at its anticlimactic denouement, most viewers will be wanting their quarters back. **

TRUE GRIT It's been well documented the the Coen Brothers' take on True Grit isn't a remake of the 1969 film that won John Wayne his only Academy Award but rather a more faithful adaptation of Charles Portis' novel. That's all well and good, but when it comes to making that Netflix rental selection, the choice will be between the two film versions. By that token, no one will lose out, as both pictures are of comparable value. Forced to choose, I'd actually go with the Duke's at-bat, although Jeff Bridges is certainly more than capable in taking on the iconic role of boozy Marshall Rooster Cogburn, hired by young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to track down the desperado (Josh Brolin) who murdered her pappy. Sporting a sly sense of humor different than what was brandished in the '69 model, this True Grit mines its colorful characters for off-kilter comedy, from talkative Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) to scraggly outlaw leader Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper, superbly channeling the original's Robert Duvall). Bridges is likewise amusing and might have been even funnier if we could understand his frequently slurred dialogue. As it stands, whenever he's talking, the picture needs English-language subtitles as desperately as Bergman's Persona or Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. ***

UNKNOWN I don't mind that Unknown is utterly ridiculous. Why? Because within the constraints of its absurdity, it always manages to play fair with the audience. This is a radical departure from many contemporary thrillers in which the filmmakers are so focused on the twist ending that they barrel toward that destination with little rhyme or reason. It starts with Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his wife (January Jones) arriving in Berlin to attend a conference. A subsequent accident while riding in a taxi cab leaves him with a moderate case of amnesia, able to recall his identity but not the details surrounding the accident — and utterly unable to explain why his wife insists that another man (Aidan Quinn) is the real Martin Harris. Alone in a foreign land, Martin tries to piece the mystery together with the help of the cab driver (Diane Kruger) and an elderly private detective (international treasure Bruno Ganz). Neeson is as compelling here as he was in his previous Euro-action yarn Taken, and the picture even makes some modest political jabs by presenting Kruger's illegal immigrant as a heroine who's smart, resourceful and tough, an asset to the population of any country. Mostly, though, the film keeps its focus on its central mystery, and when everything is finally explained, we can quietly smile at its outlandishness while simultaneously applauding it for not insulting our intelligence. ***

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