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Tron's a visual feast but the plot is threadba are; What's hot in cinemas and suitable for children this Christmas? Which films are short enough to leave you time to cook a festive dinner? Or long enough to escape your relatives for however long you want to be apart? Mail Film Editor GRAHAM YOUNG guides you through the moral maze and beyond...: OUT TODAY.

Byline: GRAHAM YOUNG

THE original Tron was one of the most far-sighted movies ever made.

Jeff Bridges played computer hacker Kevin Flynn who was sucked into a network.

All this in 1982, just days after the US release of Blade Runner and some 20 years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the internet.

Flynn disappeared in 1989. Now his 27-year-old son Sam is on his own and not very happy that Encom is seeking to profit from the release of its latest operating system.

After a spot of topical corporate subterfuge, Sam is drawn to old Flynn's Arcade by a signal which could only have come from his father. Suddenly, he's transported into the Grid, a world which was invented by Kevin, but which has now taken on a whole new look.

What's more, Clu 2, an updated version of Flynn's original hacking programme, is a younger double for his dad - and just the opposite in personality which will stop at nothing to prevent Flynn and Sam's escape.

Orphan Ali: Christina stars in Burlesque.

Can Sam rescue dad Kevin from Clu 2's clutches? That, in essence, is what Tron: Legacy is all about and its best audience will be curious adults and game-hungry teens.

In truth, it's a threadbare plot that has been stretched and stretched again, with little effort being made to develop this film as an Inceptionstyle rollercoaster or as a potent thriller to match Terminator 2. Visually, Tron: Legacy is a work of art.

Though often steely grey, it's one of the best-looking films I've ever seen and the electronic score by German techno-popsters Daft Punk sounds awesome at IMAX.

There are moments when the music and visuals combine to create cinema perfection, such as Sam's ride through a longer equivalent of Birmingham's Queensway tunnel.

It's in these early stages, when the film is taking it steady, that you have time to sit back just to admire how good this brave new cinematic world looks and sounds.

As a trained architect, director Joseph Koskinski gives the film a stunning sense of perspective, a pretty useful talent when you are also trying to make a state-of-theart 3D movie with a design flair which matches Apple's latest aluminium gadgets.

Disney reckon this film uses even more advanced gear than Avatar and you'd be hard pressed to argue with that when you see some of the results on screen.

If Kosinski is unable to deliver much in the way of real emotion or tension in Tron: Legacy, chameleon actor Michael Sheen leaves Tony Blair and Brian Clough behind to play a truly bizarre cross between Ziggy Aguilera Stardust and Marc Almond.

And newcomer Garrett Hedlund offers shades of David Beckham in the looks department as Sam. Thankfully, he's a much better actor than Becks, too.

BURLESQUE (12A, 119 mins) Verdict: AS A musical for the 21st century, this one comes racing out of the traps.

Not seen in cinemas since Tea With Mussolini in 1999, chart-topping singer and Oscar-winning actress Cher is purring in song: 'Show a little more, show a little less... welcome to Burlesque'.

Despite her stony-cheeked face, the general vibe is so upbeat there are hopes it will become a match for a hit like Chicago.

Or at the very least Eddie Murphy's Dreamgirls.

Long before the end, though, when the creaking plot has already run out of steam and lens seems to have become permanently coated in wrinkle-smoothing Vaseline, you'll be hoping for everyone's sake that it's not all going to fall apart as badly as Mariah Carey's notorious Glitter. Despite Burlesque's 12A certificate and presence of both Cher and Christina Aguilera, the film's watered down sexual themes and crass use of bad language still won't make this a comfortable family day out over Christmas.

It would be better as an adult night out for older viewers who perhaps want a silver screen version of this year's camp carnival at the Birmingham Hippodrome panto Dick Whittington. Tess (Cher) runs the Burlesque Lounge which is claimed to have the 'best view on Sunset Strip with no windows'. The club's future is threatened financially, but with orphan Ali (Christina Aguilera) arriving in a blaze of energy ready to make a name for herself, will her rise help to protect Tess? The story is unbelievably cliched, but Stantley Tucci (who plays Tess's mincing assistant Sean) adds some of the stardust he picked up alongside Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. It just feels like a more expensive, less fun version of StreetDance with the final dance number lacking the energy to send everyone home on a massive high.

FRED: THE MOVIE (12A) Verdict: THE only reason to see this movie would be to catch new British pop senation Pixie Lott making her feature debut.

But I can't imagine many parents being able to suffer this Nickelodeon TV movie for 83 minutes alongside their children as the certificate demands. Fred Figglehorn (Lucas Cruikshank) is an almost unwatchable, hyperactive character.

GRAHAM YOUNG

CAPTION(S):

Orphan Ali: Christina Aguilera stars in Burlesque. Double take: Beau Garrett as Jem, one of four programmes known as Sirens and (inset) Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn and Clu 2 in Tron: Le egacy.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 17, 2010
Words:866
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