Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gamer: A review, of sorts

I just watched Gamer. It was… good for what it is. Of course, I enjoyed it more, and cut it much more slack than I would have otherwise, because Gerard Butler kind of makes my ovaries stand and yell “Hooray!!” Add to that my fetish for dirty men with shotguns... But I digress.

The movie is, essentially, the bastard love child of a raunchy, possibly drug-fueled threesome between The Fugitive, The Running Man, and The Matrix which Hackers had a grand old time videotaping and posting to It is fast, and dark, gritty imagery, spliced together with super shiny Sims eye candy. The games themselves, and the society in which the film is grounded, are very tongue in cheek send-ups of our contemporary culture. Really, the games are just the Sims, and every 1st person shooter EVER, writ large. There are a lot of relatively big names in this (in addition to the scrumptious Mr. Butler): Kyra Sedgwick, Ludacris, John Leguizamo*, Keith David**, Michael C. Hall***, and Amber Valletta. That, my friends, is, how you say… a big old waste of casting budget. Seriously. Too many familiar faces with too little character development.

In the film, the conceit is that Butler, death row inmate John “Kable” Tilman, whom we know from the beginning probably is innocent of, or justified in, the killing for which he was imprisoned****, is a Real Life video game character, being controlled by a 17 year old rich kid, in a Real Life shooter game. Like gladiators, these characters, “Kable” and his fellow inmates, are fighting to the death, hoping to win their release by surviving 30 battles in the “Slayers” videogame. A familiar concept, acceptably executed. A bunch of nonsense neurological hackers vamping commences, Butler makes an improbable escape using regurgitated liquor and piss, and reunites with Amber Valletta, who plays his vacant, uninteresting, and one dimensional wifey. Yawn. Butler and Valletta have zero chemistry, and her character is so underdeveloped she’s a nonentity, even AFTER Butler’s Tilman gets her brain hacked to free her from the Big Bad’s programming. Blank. Fucking. Slate.

One final thought on casting: the little girl playing Tilman’s daughter? Even blanker than Valletta. She’s a cipher. I kept thinking they were setting up a twist ending, and she was going to murder her parents as they drove off into HEA, but no. Just a really, really bad child actor. Check. Cute, but about as engaging and emotive as a box of rocks. And because both of Tilman’s family members were completely uninteresting, I was not particularly invested in, or interested by, their inevitable happy family reunion. “Yawn. Is Gerry ever going to be taking off his shirt?”

(mmm. I needed that...)

The final scenes of the film occur in the mansion of digital puppet master Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) and include an actual honest to god song-and-dance number performed by Castle and his burly murdering man puppets. I laughed. So fucking hard. The number has no place in the movie (or at least, is MUCH too long), but it’s funny. Really, the tone of the entire movie undergoes a major shift at this point, and one can almost see the writer, crew and director just collectively throwing up their hands and yelling “bugger it, how much sense does any of this actually have to make?”

My biggest problem with the movie comes at the end. It’s the final showdown and Castle has reactivated Tilman’s puppet programming. Again, a really common movie trope, hero against baddie against self. Can the big mean crazy Castle force Tilman to kill his own daughter? Himself? Well, of course not. The predictability isn’t what bothered me. I don’t expect a lot of originality in shoot ‘em up action films. What pissed me off is that in the final showdown, Tilman succeeds ONLY because he has been taken over again by the 17 year old gamer, who, through his shiny new Tilman puppet, foils Castle’s plans and knifes the madman in the gut. Tilman loses all autonomy and personal utility, and it pisses me off, and robs the hero of his victory. It cheapens the whole thing that the ultimate world-saving gesture isn’t actually Tilman’s, but the gamer brat’s, through Tilman. Unsatisfying. Deeply unsatisfying, and unnecessary.

*who is WASTED in this. I kept waiting for his character to do something important or interesting, or at least for his arc to be completed or explained, but… no. Wasted.

**as a… lawyer? Maybe? He’s not really a big name, but I’ve loved him since "Gargoyles", so he’s a “big” name to me.

***is he ever cast as anything other than a total psychotic? No? Carrying on then...

****the heroes in these kind of films are never guilty. They are ALWAYS wrongly accused. This is such a common trope that any suspense or question on this score is completely dispelled without any work or craft on the part of writers. We expect it, and it barely need ever be explained in these kind of films.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Because je meurs d'ennui

1.What was the last thing you put in your mouth? Pepperjack cheese on toast

2.Where was your profile picture taken? Zuma Beach

3.Can you play Guitar Hero? Never tried, but if I had to guess? No.

4.Name someone who made you laugh today? Evanie at the grocery store. (the cashier, seeing the kid's Bumblebee action figure, asks if Ev can make him a car. Ev says "Yes!" BEAT. Hands mom the toy "Mom, can you make him a car?")

5.How late did you stay up last night and why? 5 AM. I was reading and lost track of time. This is not an uncommon occurrence...

6. If you could move somewhere else, would you? I would kill to be in my own place again...

7. Ever been kissed under fireworks? Fireworks do not make me feel particularly amorous. So, no.

8. Which of your friends lives closest to you on facebook? Camilo (actually, it's Beth at the moment, as she is currently "living" on an air mattress in the living room, but as this is a temporary living arrangement, I will stick with Camilo)

9. Do you believe ex's can be friends? Yes. I do not myself generally remain friends with exes, but I am aware that it is POSSIBLE. (Sidenote: I am tempted to ask who is ex, and what of his/hers are we talking about. Learn the proper punctuation of the possessive v. plural, people)

10. How do you feel about Dr Pepper? I don't drink brown sodas anymore, but when I did, the Dr. was my favorite.

11. When was the last time you cried really hard? Dr. Who marathon on BBC America last weekend. Damn you, David Tennant!! The show is cheesy and ridiculous, and yet it nails me in the tear ducts on a regular basis.

12. Who took your profile picture? Camilo.

13. Who was the last person you took a picture of? Most likely Ev or Beth during the holidays.

14. Was yesterday better than today? Meh.

15. Can you live a day without TV? Of course. I am a little concerned for the sanity of the creator of this questionaire that this question is even on here...

16. Are you upset about anything? I'm kind of pissed that CSUN hasn't sent me my money yet...

17. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it? Yes.

18. Are you a bad influence? That depends.

19. Night out or night in? Both in moderation.

20. What items could you not go without during the day? ... this is a stupid question. Pass.

21. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital? I don't really do the hospital visit thing... so the last time was probably in the 8th grade, when Bridget passed away. :(

22. What does the last text message in your inbox say? Fucked if I know, and I can't be arsed to go dig out the phone to check. I don't text frequently.

23. How do you feel about your life right now? I feel a bit stuck and directionless, actually.

24. Do you hate anyone? Not really. Although there are certainly people I could do without, hate implies a much stronger emotional investment than I'm prepared to apply to any of them.

25. If we were to look in your facebook inbox, what would we find? A couple messages I forgot to reply to. I am absolute shyt at replying ...

26. Say you were given a drug test right now, would you pass? Probably. I haven't actually taken anything myself, but I have been in proximity to others while they were smoking out in the last 3 months...

28. What song is stuck in your head? The answer to this question is always "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something. It is an earworm of staggering longevity.

29. Someone knocks on your window at 2:00 a.m., who do you want it to be? Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Naked. With booze.

30.Wanna have grandkids before you’re 50? Ev will be 30 then, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility. I wouldn't say I'm terribly concerned about it right now, although I would like a grandkid or two eventually.

31. Name something you have to do tomorrow? Strongarm Ev into finishing his leftover homework.

32. Do you think too much or too little? A little of both, from time to time.