Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Gamer

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Gamer


    2-Disc Special Edition with Digital Copy
     
    Studio: Lionsgate
    Year: 2009
    US Rating: R – Frenetic Sequences of Strong Brutal Violence Throughout, Sexual Content, Nudity, And Language
    Film Length: 95 Minutes
    Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.85:1
    Audio: English 7.1 DTS Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
    Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
     
    “Yeah, Kable's the perfect soldier. He's a tactical killing computer. His only vulnerability is the nanex itself; the *ping*, the delay between Simon's commands and Kable's ability to execute.”
     
    The Film: 3 out of 5
     
    The list of films featuring concepts of humanity reaching deep into high-tech, low-brow ventures for entertainment can add another to its library. Gamer follows in the well-worn footsteps of actions movies like The Running Man, Death Race 2000 (and its more recent remake), and The Condemned – each telling tales of a future so off its moral compass that the most popular form of entertainment comes from prison inmates fighting to the death (by car, by gun, on an Island, etc) in a quest for victory which equals freedom.
     
    As in each of the former incarnations of this particular premise, Gamer follows a wrongfully convicted man fighting to earn his freedom in the bloody confines of a globally televised sport called Slayers. Here, the man is Kable (Gerard Bulter), and he, like all his fellow gamers, is mind-controlled by game players – serving as an avatars in a war game, armed with machine guns, knives, and explosives, and at the mercy of civilians who have paid for the ability to control a flesh and blood death-row inmate in an effort to survive 30 battles. The creator of Slayers is Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall), who became the globes wealthiest man after creating a real-life version of Sims called ‘Society’, where people strapped for cash allow themselves to be controlled by people with obviously too much, granting strangers permission (an obese, greasy pervert is one such individual) to move, contort, smack, and sexualize them any way they see fit.
     
    The future where Slayers is the popular entertainment form is presented as a tech-perverse world where many live-out fantasies controlling the body of another; the corporation which runs the popular games is nefarious and greedy, and the masses chant and cheer for the unlikely hero of a gruesome blood sport which plays out weekly. And again, as with former incarnations of this story, the protagonist successfully nearing completion of his televised ordeal faces a corporation that was never really willing to grant the earned freedom, and so our hero must face yet another challenge in the form of a player-less killer, Hackman (Terry Crews).
     
    Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, Gamer contains a surprisingly rich cast, with Gerard Butler (300, The Ugly Truth) playing the requisite gruff and grit role of the soldier well enough to counter an unfortunately weak script. In the role of corporate computer genius is Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), playing the young, handsome, cocky multi-billionaire with a barrelful of charisma (perhaps too much). You’ll also find Kyra Sedgwick (TNT’s The Closer) as a perky talk show host, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges as the leader of the antagonistic anti-Slayer group, Humanz, and a never-more-built Terry Crews (Everybody Hates Chris) as the unleashed killer sent to end Kables life. A slew of guest appearances by the likes of John De Lancie (Star Trek TNG’s Q), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), John Leguizamo (Spawn), Keith David (Pitch Black), and two stars of USA’s Psych, Maggie Lawson and James Roday, continue to surprise as the film unfolds. But much of this quality cast is wasted. Terry Crews especially is unleashed merely as a growling, muscle-flexing machine of a man from left-field to serve as a spoiler to Kable’s success, but isn’t really developed in that capacity nor used congruously. Despite the pleasure of seeing these, and other, faces through the short running time of this actioner, Gamer ends up being somewhat disappointing.
     
    The action sequences are satisfactorily handled; there’s a kinetic frenzied feel to them, especially the grab-your-attention opening sequence, which include some intriguing camera movements. But the terrible script detracts from the gains made by the visuals. The violence is very bloody, the language low-class, and the infatuation with erotica, while all mainstays of teenager boy fantasies, offers little by way of freshness to the concept. Gamer certainly handles its explosions, warfare and fistfights well enough to satiate the likely target crowd, but the sum of all its parts is lacking proper cohesion, and the ‘showdown’ and nefarious evil plot revelation are too absurd even for this film.
     
    This concoction of well-worn concepts of technology perverted by the morally demented for the entertainment of the equally morally questionable masses has its hits and misses. Knowing what this film is and intends to be mollifies the reaction to the faults, but does not entirely excuse them. More misses than hits, Gamer certainly doesn’t win the game, but it isn’t quite last place either.
     
     
     
    The Video: 4.5 out of 5
     
    Gamer is presented by Lionsgate in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p High definition, 16X9 Widescreen. The level of detail, especially facial and skin details, is exquisite at times. The game play sequences are tinted in a gray, brown wash (almost metallic), while the real-life SIMS game has a bright and vibrantly colorful look. The darker scenes, with pronounced shadows do quite well in this HD transfer.  Shot on what was a brand new type of HD camera (Red), the results are incredible life-like, with tangible depth and an utterly revealing clarity.
     
     
     
    The Sound: 4.5 out of 5
     
    The bombastic DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound packs quite a wallop. From the explosive opening through the rock infused soundtrack, Gamer pulsates and vibrates with great energy. Explosions and high velocity bullets fill the surrounds, directional audio is clear and the audio is active and full and more than enough to engage an enthusiastic audience. The center channel handling the dialogue is flawless, and overall, this impressive audio is very nicely handled.
     
     
    The Extras: 3.5 out of 5
     
    I-Con Mode (Expanded Visual Commentary): This ‘expanded’ commentary gives the directors control over the film watching experience, as they appear, from time to time, to divert into behind the scenes footage, and provide a great deal of production information. They discuss the chaos of shooting on the first day, not knowing what they were doing with the Redcams, and acting almost like war correspondents within the choreographed sequences – which certainly achieved the goals for those scenes. Overall, a good way to watch the film and linearly appreciated how the film was made.
     
    Gamer Cheat Codes (Specialized Commentary/Making Of Pods Accessible Through the Film: Watch the movie and when the icon appears on screen, you can select a crew member from the movie for a ‘specialized commentary about that scene”.
     
    Audio Commentary with Filmmakers and Cast members: Directors Neveldine / Taylor, directors of Crank (which Gamer is stylistically a close relation, though more matured) and select cast members have fun and discuss the use of in-camera effects and stunt performers, mainly from a lack of funds for C.G.I, and how their fluid (read: frantic) approach produced much of what worked (and most of what did not) that landed in frame. I am not sure the ‘fun’ approach taken here serves the interest of the listener, and if you must be selective in your extra features watching, I recommend the I-Con mode.
     
    “Inside the Game” – Controlling Gamer (Making Of Documentary) (80:42): Surprisingly detailed and comprehensive making of documentary; the kind rarely provided for a film of this caliber. From the script stage for final production and post-production, a variety of people from the film is interviewed and enthusiastically discusses their involvement on the film. It’s a little infectious to be honest, and certainly worth watching.
     
    “First-Person Shooter: The Evolution of Red” Featurette (16:45): The writer/directors discuss how they have shot each of their movies with different cameras, and the choice of shooting with Red One Digital Camera, a small camera which uses 35MM lenses and shoots 4k – quite the camera and, as it turns out, quite the star of the film. This is a valuable mini-doc on the image capture process used for Gamer.
     
    Theatrical Trailer
     
    Never-Before-Seen-Trailer (2:43): This unseen trailer is called the ‘Doobie-ness Cut’.
     
    Lionsgate Live ™: Access exclusive content, special offers, ringtones and more.

    2nd Disc: Digital Copy of the Film
     
     
    Final Thoughts
     
    Gamer isn’t anything more than what it promises – but the fixation on stylizing to the nth degree almost every minute of the running time, and the ridiculous script, which actually had the film open with the text “Some years from this exact moment”, can make even that a little less than an acceptable understanding between you and the movie. The movie is enjoyable for what it was always intended to be, and the in-house nods to sci-fi classics, such as Blade Runner, from time to time, are appreciated, but it comes with some script and film execution glitches.
     
    Overall 3 out of 5
     
    Neil Middlemiss
    Kernersville, NC

     
  2. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    It's a mindless popcorn film, bent on nothing but entertaining, and it exceeds at that. I gave it a rent last night and had a blast watching it, very fun action packed movie...and it's nice to see a rated 'R' movie have some "infatuation with erotica, while all mainstays of teenager boy fantasies" thrown in, something rated "R" films have lost over the years...sadly.

    As for your comments on a script, when it comes to films like these, I don't even bother looking for one, if you do, you won't find it, so why even bother looking?

    This one is on my to buy list, very enjoyable.
     
  3. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    This one is definitely a movie I've been wanting to see, but haven't had time to rent it yet. As whacked out as they are, I liked both Crank movies and since this is made by the same guys I have a feeling I'll like this too. Just wondering though, is it as whacked?

    It'll be nice to have something new to give my system a workout. :)
     
  4. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Yes and no. 'Yes' in the way they move the camera and some of the silliness they slide in, and 'no' in that its more serious in tone...

     
  5. David Deeb

    David Deeb Supporting Actor

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    Have mercy if you don't have yet one more firmware update. I suppose that's what it takes. I thought I was up to date, but maybe not.

    I had to restart my BD player 3 times before I could finally get the thing to show me the "buttons" on the main menu. All this needless Java and fancy effects. I just want to watch the damn movie.
    And of course each time you restart your BD player, you have to suffer through the endless loading & gazillion trailers Lionsgate puts on their BDs.

    Finally - I got it to play. Then at the 45:00 or 50:00 minute mark, it simply freezes up the entire BD player. Turn it off. Another 10 minutes of loading, more wrangling with the main menu. But can't get it to start playing the movie at all!

    The hell with it. I turned it off. I have hundreds of BDs and hundreds of DVDs that do work.
     
  6. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Bad disc maybe?

    I have a PS3 (and while those stand alone Blu-ray player guys may cringe and laugh) I have yet to put disc in that machine and have a problem.
     
  7. Martin Henry

    Martin Henry Stunt Coordinator

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    I found Gamer to be anything but a dumb action movie, but rather a delicious satire on online gaming and online societies in general. Taken at face value, it's easy to be turned off by it, but it's a hell of a lot cleverer than most people give it credit for.
     
  8. Holer

    Holer Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree! I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and thought it was a nifty little sci-fi flick. They definitely dialed back the relentless craziness of the Crank movies, but they're still pushing the envelope in the way they use HD to tell their stories visually. These guys are way out of the box and I really hope they keep their edge. Props to Lionsgate for cutting them loose and letting them do their thing.
     
  9. EricW

    EricW Cinematographer

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    i would have to disagree. what's so clever about it? that a fat slob is controlling a hot girl in a pseudo-virtual reality? that the avatars are death-row inmates playing a dangerous game? that there's a live-action PS3-Home like environment? name-dropping Bill Gates as being toppled by the antagonist, wealth-wise? like that's all something only a brilliant writer would think of? the movie makes no sense, but i guess it doesn't have to. what were those floating orb things, cameras? they were shown in only like 2 minutes out of the entire movie (there were about 4 previous in-game battle scenes where they were nowhere to be seen). they were there only to lead up to Gerard Butler shooting one.

    still, the PQ and AQ were very nice. and the battles scenes were pretty good.
     
  10. David Deeb

    David Deeb Supporting Actor

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    Agreed with you on those 2 points. Above, I mentioned problems I had w/ playing this movie and it would crash halfway each time.

    To be fair, I did (yet) another firmware update and it played fine.

    I'm glad I did the firmware update. But I'm not glad I finished watching this movie. It was very bad. Juvenile writing is the biggest problem. Lots of gutter language used by every single character. If I was in 7th grade, I still wouldn't have enjoyed it. The writing is terrible.

    Characters all had the same sneering, tick-offed attitude which somehow is supposed to be seen as cool. I think it's fairly pathetic.

    Every scene and shot if effected and stylized so much, it just becomes ridiculous and tiresome. Nothing can simply "be". It has to jiggle or vibrate or rotate or something. It's like every button was available in post, so every button was pushed.

    But one good thing: this BD looks & sounds great though.
     
  11. Brent M

    Brent M Producer

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    I can't believe the sound didn't get a perfect 5 out of 5. This might be the most dynamic audio track I've heard on Blu-Ray yet and that's saying something with the great lossless tracks out there. This is pure reference material and probably my demo disc for a very long time.
     
  12. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Just rented this, and would have sworn it was a direct-to-video feature. It has all the hallmarks -- mediocre action sequences, half-baked anti-establishment rhetoric, a vast conspiracy that serves as a metaphor for the way we live our lives, etc. I happen to be a fan of that particular flavor of crap, so that was fine by me. What surprised me was the vast assemblage of b-list talent they brought together for this picture. Usually you might get one or two names of has-beens that need the paycheck, but a staggering number were willing to slum it for this. Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, Ludacris and John Leguizamo -- Wow! Not to mention fun appearances by Keith David, Maggie Lawson, James Roday, Michael Weston, Milo Ventimiglia and John de Lancie.
     
  13. Todd smith

    Todd smith Supporting Actor

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    Best audio track of 2010 so far..........amazing!
     

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