Sunday, September 27, 2009


Year: 2009
Director: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Cast: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Amber Valletta, Kyra Sedgwick, Ludacris, Logan Lerman

Video games have evolved, from those addictive, coin operated space invader type machines to the realistic, online based battle types where you play a soldier in a first person shoot 'em up situation. I personally never understood those online games, I'm too primitive.

In Gamer, our film review for the week, it is the not too distant future, and technology has evolved up to a point where games can be more real than ever. We're not just online controlling characters on a program, now the characters are in the real world itself. For instance, in this world there is a more realistic version of The Sims called Society, where real people can be controlled by online players to become anyone they choose.

But the real focus here is Society's more violent brother, Slayers. Slayers is a game where players control other people in a full scale realistic combat situation. The controlled ones are death row convicts, who are promised freedom if they survive 30 sessions. So their lives are literally in the hands of the one pulling their strings.

The top character in Slayers is Kable (Gerard Butler), a man wrongfully convicted for murder. His real name is Tillman, and so far he has survived 27 sessions of the game, thanks to his player, a young boy named Simon (Logan Lerman). However, there is word going around that the owner of Slayers, Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) will not allow Kable to survive the aforementioned 30 sessions and thus not granting him his freedom. Why? Well, there is something about Kable. He's a special man, who is motivated by his need to see his wife and daughter again, and he will do anything to see things through. Castle knows this, and thus makes it difficult for him.

Kable is not without allies though. He receives help from Humanz, an underground group who knows about Castle. Castle has implemented a special kind of technology that allows his games to work, and Humanz believes there is more to it than meets the eye, and that same technology will allow him to take over the country. Can Kable stop him before it's too late?

Directors Neveldine and Taylor have created a gritty sci-fi action film that pulls no punches with the stark violence and sex on display. Too bad the local censors removed most of it. But what's left is still a visible message on how the world would look like if technology became too advanced and people become much too reliant on it.

Unfortunately, this film suffers from bad editing and jerky camerawork, which made it difficult to follow at times. One moment you'll see Kable getting blown up, the next he's tumbling all over the place and not aware who's he shooting at. The pace keeps getting uneven and you'll get irritated trying to make sense of it all.

Butler succeeds once again becoming the action hero that you'll be rooting for, but not to be outdone is Hall, who brings his deadpan Dexter persona to the big screen as the villain. He's cool, charming and especially funny when he engages in a musical number during a confrontation with Butler. Well put by the directors. Ludacris and Sedgwick are wasted in their roles though. But do look out for minor appearances by Alison Lohman, Keith David, John Leguizamo, Zoe Bell and a very hilarious Milo Ventimiglia.

It's a film that was almost entertaining. The key word is 'almost'. (3/5)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Perfect Getaway

Year: 2009
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Kiele Sanchez, Chris Hemsworth, Marley Shelton

It's been a while since I've watched a whodunit type thriller at the movies. And this one I saw yesterday was quite entertaining.

Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich play newlyweds Cliff and Cydney, who are enjoying their honeymoon hiking in the remote islands of Hawaii. While there, they run into another couple, Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton), who seem intimidating and dangerous. Cliff and Cydney almost get into a confrontation with them after they refuse giving them a ride in their jeep, and proceed to their destination.

Later, C & C meet another couple, Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), who are interesting but downright weird. Nick for one, claims to have been in the military, and has several outstanding stories to tell, the kind that'll make you wonder if he's trustworthy or not. It doesn't help matters that there were reports of a couple being found murdered just the day before, and that authorities are looking for the suspects, a man and a woman. Cliff and Cydney tread carefully with their new friends, and then notice Kale and Cleo following them on their path too. So who can they trust?

David Twohy made one of the best remembered B-grade films ever: Pitch Black. It cemented Vin Diesel's action hero persona and the film became a cult classic. Now Twohy makes another B-grader, a suspense thriller, and it delivers more often than not. There are no A listers in this film, but the cast are on par with their performances. Twohy also paces the film well, and he does a brilliant job in getting the most out of his scenery.

Out of the cast, Zahn and Olyphant stand out best. Zahn is a tour de force, especially in the third act, when he stops being the weasel type guy he has perfected in so many of his other roles. Olyphant is also, as his character likes to say, outstanding, as Nick. I hated his performance as the villain in Die Hard 4, and I had trouble taking him seriously in any other role besides Seth Bullock in Deadwood. But here, he redeems himself as the eccentric Nick, and his continuous banter with Zahn about movie screenwriting will keep you in stitches. Sanchez also impresses as Gina, which is a step up from her shortlived role on TV's Lost.

Now, this movie, being a whodunit thriller, has to have a twist. And it is a brilliant one too. I saw it coming though, because I keep reading reviews and such. But it didn't ruin my enjoyment in any way. However, I didn't like how Hemsworth and Shelton were quite underused here.

Anyway, you ought to go see this. It's a nice way to spend two hours. (3.5/5)

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Year: 2009
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Aryana Engineer

Kids. You know how scary they can be. In real life, they can be real monsters, the way they run up and down public walkways screaming at the top of their lungs, or cry uncontrollably when they don't get what they want. In the movies however, most kids are portrayed either bratty or devilish.

In Orphan, we're definitely not talking about Kevin McAllister type kids. We're talking about the kind that are capable of hurting and killing people. The kind that you know would spell trouble the moment you see that cold emotionless stare coming from their eyes.

Orphan focuses on a couple, John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga). They have two children, son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and daughter Maxine (Aryana Engineer). Maxine happens to be hearing impaired. Recently, Kate had a stillborn child, and is still recovering from that loss. On top of that, she is a recovering alcoholic, and John himself has infidelity issues. The couple decide to adopt a child to help bring some positive vibes into their fragile family. And with that in mind, they adopt Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a well-mannered, bright and mature 9 year old girl from the orphanage.

At first, Esther fits in well, as she bonds with Max and despite having issues with Daniel, gets along generally well with her new family. However, it doesn't take long for everyone to realise that Esther isn't as perfect as she initially seems. She wears old fashioned dresses that make her the target of ridicule at school, and she responds violently towards her tormentors. She is cunning enough to manipulate John and Kate against each other, and slowly shows her true colours when she resorts to brutal violence to protect herself, like threatening her siblings and committing murder.

Kate notices how dastardly Esther can be and tries to prove it, but her problems with John hamper her efforts. When Esther puts Daniel and Max in danger and frames Kate for it, Kate has to pull out all the stops to save her family.

Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed House Of Wax, does a decent job in fleshing out his characters. Every member of the Coleman family has a role to play, and they all deliver. Jaume could have improved the pacing a little though, but overall the film doesn't suffer too much from it.

Farmiga and Sarsgaard acquit themselves splendidly as the troubled couple, but it is 12 year old Isabelle Fuhrman who steals the show as the evil Esther. When you first meet her, you'd be so convinced that she is such a sweet girl, and then she totally turns to the dark side, and you find yourself wondering where that sweet girl went to. Fuhrman is excellent, and depending on the roles she will get after this, will go a long way in Hollywood. I must also give credit to young Aryana Engineer, who plays Maxine. This little girl knows how to show fear, and her eventual emergence of courage towards the end of the film.

But Orphan isn't without its flaws. It has several plotholes, the most obvious being why nobody in the family ever keeps a close eye on Esther, which allows her to scheme and carry out her evil plans smoothly. And the climax of the film seems a tad overdone.

Oh, and you'd be wondering how a little girl like Esther can do all this stuff, right? Well, that's the secret the film's tagline is implying. The revelation on Esther's background is the film's trump card, and it will tie up all the loose ends you'll be having before you get to the third act. It's not as good a twist as other films I've seen, but at the same time it's not entirely implausible.

A decent thriller, which just might make you think twice about adopting innocent looking kids. (3.5/5)


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