Monday, March 1, 2010

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix theater

Moon (2009)
Would you enjoy hanging out with yourself? I probably wouldn't. (I'm offering a spoiler alert here, though this review wont spoil the ending, or reveal anything not available in the trailer. But the film's twist about 25 minutes in is also its premise, and makes it nearly impossible to write about without being revealing. You're better off seeing Moon without seeing the trailer, or knowing too much about it. I'll the save you the trouble of reading an entire review here: it gets an A-. Go see it.)
Moon starts out with Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), eking out the final two weeks of a three-year contract alone on a corporate moon space station. So Sam is on the moon, all alone, starting to lose it a bit, his only companion a H.A.L.-like assistance robot named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Sam starts seeing things, burns his hand, gets clumsy, and after he awakes in the medical bay after crashing a harvester, Sam's corporate parents suddenly lock the doors. Sam doesn't remember the accident. So he tricks GERTY into letting him out of the base, where he finds his own body still sitting in the harvester. Turns out that one, or both, of the Sams is a clone ... or then again maybe Sam's totally lost it. The remaining hour finds the two fighting, eventually coming to terms with their predicament, and then trying to find a way to the truth of their origins and maybe away off the moon before the "rescue team" arrives. Moon is infinitely clever, and as with the best indies, a low budget forces film makers to cut fat and make a movie worth seeing. A-

The Hurt Locker (2009)
The Hurt Locker removes politics, and ... makes the first decent Iraq war film. But The Hurt Locker is more than decent, it is masterful suspense film making, rendering the soldiers as soldiers and not political mouthpieces. It makes the Iraq War into Everywar, with soldiers dedicated to their country, each other, but still honestly miserable — war is hell, whether its an urban environment or a beachhead. Not every soldier is miserable, though. Jeremy Renner plays SSG William James, an adrenaline-junkie bomb defuser who's dismantled hundred of IEDs without losing a finger. It's the one thing he loves, and when you see him in a supermarket between deployments, it's a terrifying out-of-place surreal moment akin to seeing Ray Liotta in Goodfellas picking up the newspaper in suburbia thanks to the witness protection program. A

Gamer (2009)
The Running Man-meets-Avatar premise held promise to provide the genre thrills every sci-fi nerd craves. Dystopian future? Check. Evil technology/Luddite pandering? Check. Inmates killing for redemption? Check. 'splosions? Check. Repugnant, insulting-on-several-levels, pilfering unoriginality, feeds-off-the-same-ills-it-criticizes mess? Check. Gamer is a repulsive film.

Gerard Butler stars in the Schwarzenegger role, a military man (presumably) falsely imprisoned for 1st degree murder. He must make it through 30 rounds of a real life first-person-shooter video game named "Slayer," where he is controlled by a gamer sitting at home. Through some pseudo-science jabber (always my favorite part), we are told how villain Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall from Dexter) created a kind of microbiological computer processor that's implanted into the inmates brain's cells, allowing players at home to control their every action in the "game." Inmates use real bullets. Heads explode, bodies are ripped apart. Through interviews and media clips, we learn how Castle became both famous and beloved and the richest man on the planet after he invented "Society," a Sims-like video game using the same technology as "Slayer," in which gamers at home inhabit the bodies of actors in various settings. "Society" allows its players (shown as morbidly obese sweat-sacks dipping finger-food in syrup) to act out their most heinous and carnal fantasies —blood, sex and ugly behavior being the main attraction. Gamer uses "Society" as its excuse to parade ugliness on the screen, criticizing our internet age with one side of it's mouth while titillating the audience with the other. These are the kind of titties you do not enjoy.

Back to the action, co-directors Neveldine and Taylor take the chopped-and-screwed approach to editing — fast-motion cuts to slow-mo — before the screen distorts and flashes static to remind audiences that it's watching a video game. The effect is epileptic at best. The shaky camera and bazillion cuts per second make it impossible to enjoy the giant action set pieces. Not that the action follows any sort of logic. JUST GIVE ME A GODDAMN ENJOYABLE POPCORN FLICK. Why is this so hard? Also, Ludacris plays the film's desperate attempt at a cyber-punk, leading the future's hacker elite resistance to Castle and his dehumanizing virtual-reality empire. And, of course, the evil secret from Castle's past that could end the whole nightmare resides in Butler's skull. Luda wants it, and his best hacker has dreadlocks, etc.  F


The Juice Box said...

OK. HURT LOCKER -- I am finally getting around to this.

I loved the Hurt Locker. We own it on Blu-Ray, and it's effing fantastic. I am also double-glad that it beat James Cameron's lovefest for Best Picture and Directing.

Jeremy Renner is great in this film, and I'm really glad it consisted of basically nobody really famous. I.E. - Can you imagine Toby MacGuire being cast as his character instead of the one he played in Brothers? If you've seen Brothers, it's kind of interesting to compare the two as war films. Hurt Locker blows Brothers out of the water.

Anyway, I was glad Kate from Lost wasn't in it as much as I expected. Really only two glimpses of her and the kid, but I did enjoy that scene in the supermarket where they are shopping separately. Awkward.

Warped Coasters said...

i have no problem with Evangeline Lilly, Kate the character just sucks on LOST.