A glossy sci-fi sequel with few thrills

Film
TRON: LEGACY
Cert: 12A

ALMOST three decades after he first got sucked inside a luminescent software programme to do battle with some evil artificial intelligence, Jeff Bridges is back – and this time there’s three of him. His character from the 1982 original film, genius hacker Flynn, has been trapped inside the computer programme for years, taken prisoner by his virtual equivalent self Clu. Bridges plays both – as a grizzled, long-haired cyber hippie for Flynn, while his handsome younger features are recreated in CGI for Clu.

His CGI younger self also appears in flashback as recalled by his grown-up son Sam, who starts out the film still dismayed by his dad’s long-ago disappearance. After a mysterious message leads him to a disused games arcade once belonging to his father, he finds himself zapped inside The Grid, where he must prevent Clu’s ambitions to take over the real world as well as the virtual one, as he and pop attempt to get home.

As in the first film, you need a Phd in computer science to keep on top of the plot – the easiest thing is to just let it wash over you and not to worry. Unlike the first film, in which the special effects were already looking clunky when it was released, the sequel looks glossily magnificent. It’s only when Sam enters the virtual world that things flip into 3D – a nice trick that gives the lightbike chases and electro-charged action sequences a sensational sheen. French techno robots Daft Punk were surely put on this Earth to soundtrack this film, and they rise to the occasion magnificently.

Eventually, though, the complicated plot and tortuous levels of exposition weigh things down and the fun quickly seeps out of the movie. Despite the likeable charisma of Bridges, things get awfully po-faced and, in the end – despite a bizarre cameo from a Bowie-like Michael Sheen – become flat-out tedious.
Timothy Barber

Film
CATFISH
Cert: 12A

This thrilling documentary is either an incredibly opportune piece of filmmaking or an impressively executed hoax, depending on your level on cynicism. Either way, it should give millions of social networkers pause for thought.

The popular adage: “on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog” is put to the world of Facebook, YouTube and MySpace. Two Brooklyn-based filmmakers decide to document the developing relationship between their friend, Nev, a twenty-something New York hipster, and the various members of a family living in rural Michigan. The less you know about this, the better, but needless to say as the relationship intensifies, suspicions that not everyone’s being entirely truthful begin to surface, resulting in a denouement that sees the trio make a trip to the great lake state for an illuminating showdown.

Whether the guys behind this are playing entirely straight – and it’s hard not to be cynical considering just how conveniently everything falls into place – is almost irrelevant given how easily everything here could happen. This is compelling and white-knuckle thrilling at times, packed with suspense – but also touching in a way you might not expect. This is must-see cinema that leaves you with much to ponder on, and might prompt one to tighten up those privacy settings.
Rhys Griffiths

Theatre
A FLEA IN HER EAR
The Old Vic

Staging a farce at Christmas is always going to draw comparisons with panto, but you’ll find more belly laughs in an end-of-the-pier Cinderella than in Richard Eyre’s revival of Feydeau’s 1907 romp around the mores of the bourgeoisie.

Maybe it’s lost in John Mortimer’s translation, but the script just isn’t that funny: the suggestive name of a hotel, for instance (Le Coq d’Or) is wrung dry through lame repetition.

That said, the central performance of Tom Hollander enlivens what would otherwise be an oddly archaic production at the Old Vic. Hollander, who plays the dual roles of upstanding bourgeois Monsieur Chandebise and put-upon porter Poche, injects manic energy into a production that, half-way through act one, is otherwise too shrill and hammy to be either funny or engaging. The relief from the audience is almost audible as Hollander bounds on, making great comic use of his diminutive size as he throws himself across tables and out of windows.

Bookended by wearily expository first and final acts, the second act, set in a gaudily belle époque hotel, is where the production comes alive, with deceived husbands and wives and a horny Hun hurtling onstage and off in the best farcical tradition.

There are some joyously silly moments, usually revolving around Hollander or the also good John Marquez, as a wildly exaggerated Spanish cuckold. But for those used to seeing razor-sharp farce in TV shows like Frasier, this production won’t raise much more than a smile, and maybe an eyebrow.
Benjamin Street