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    Alternate Disc-Tractions: Gamer on Blu-ray (with digital copy)

    by PJ Hruschak on Jan 16, 2010 at 01:23 AM

    Title: Gamer (aka Game, The Game, The Gamer, Gamer: The Movie)
    Release Date: January 19, 2010
    Format: DVD, *Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Download
    Company: Lionsgate (Lakeshore Entertainment)
    Rating: “R” for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content and language.
    Length: 95 min. (1 hour,  35 minutes)
    Pros: A very unique visual style, decent story, plenty of nods to gaming culture, great acting by a surprising lineup of recognizable actors.
    Cons: Might be a bit dizzying, too gruesome and overly explicit for some viewers.
    Overall Score: Two thumbs Up; 90/100; A-; * * * * out of five.

    Gamer isn’t quite what you’d expect from the title. Sure, it has a fair share of gaming cliches but it tempers them with just the right mix of seriousness and humor and then wraps it all in an interestingly gritty cinematic style.

    Don’t be mistaken. Little about this movie is subtle.

    A Game by Any Name

    Set in the not-to-distant future, massive multiplayer online games have evolved so that you no longer play digital avatars but, instead, control actual people. The mastermind behind the people-playing-people genre is Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) whose brain tissue replacing tech has resulted in two popular two games: A free sex The Sims-style game called Society and an uber bloody shooter named Slayer.

    The latter puts death row inmates and helpless drug addicts in the game literally controlled as puppets or as dimwitted non-player background characters. If anyone can survive 30 rounds, he or she goes free. Only one has come close, tagged Kable (Gerard Butler) within the game, who is controlled by an arrogant, rich teen (Logan Lerman). Both player and avatar have become internationally famous, helping to make Castle even more rich.

    Of course there are complications including the protest group called “Humanz,” a nosey and seemingly shallow reporter (Kyra Sedgwick) and Kable’s wife (Amber Valletta), who is working as an “actress” in Society and has to deal with her husband’s face constantly plastered across skyscrapers.

    The Blu-ray disc comes with several making-of featurettes, in-movie visual commentaries and video “pods” and a never-before seen trailer. It also comes with a second disc that includes a downloadable version that works with iTunes, PCs (Windows and Mac) and several portable video players (must be compatible with “PlayForSure”).

    It’s also been tweaked to work with PS3 Bluetooth remote-specific buttons and the menu pulls in real-time online content.

    Caveat Lector

    The action in this movie is vivid, dizzying and rarely slows down. If you are prone to seizures, don’t even put in the disc. Also, there are some pretty wacky moments, glimpses of kookie sex and a lot of blood and body parts. If you thought Moral Kombat was bloody or think Resident Evil games has too many flying body parts, forget it. You simply will not be able to watch a large percentage of this movie. Those disappearing blood, guts and body parts in games don’t just meld into the pavement in the real (or movie real) world.

    If you are still reading, excellent. This movie is very likely right up your ally.

    To Play

    The hyper-realistic look of Gamers does justice to the story, helping to exude the pain of a real-life avatar (or even an active wartime soldier). Unlike the Halo movie, which did a crappy job of conveying first-person shooters on screen, this instead shows you the delicate interplay of gamer and avatar and the deadly importance of understanding the tiny delay between command and response, called the “ping.” Even the premise, which seems very Running Man, has little comical cheese and much more grit.

    They’ve even done a decent – and sometimes appropriately humorous – job overlaying in-game HUDs into the movie without ever becoming overwhelming. Mods, hacks and even some silly gamer moves also get fair play.

    Although this is a rather bloody and explicit depiction of what you might see on screen when playing a game, the gore is given plot purpose instead of gag (or gag reflex) appeal. The mass death of avatars adds to Kable’s plight and mounting feeling of helplessness and more than conveys an important sense or urgency.

    There is also a surprisingly top-notch lineup of actors in this movie including Alison Lohman who admits in a featurette that she didn’t really did not want to be involved with the movie.

    Butler turns Kable into the forced warrior that you still somehow want to love, Hall is the perfect swarmy, care-less, tech-head gajillionaire who can even throw down a dance move or two when needed and Terry Crews creates one of the best brutish bad guys around. There’s hardly a bad performance in the group including the smaller roles and cameos galore (John Leguizamo, James Roday, Maggie Lawson and a super creepy appearance by Milo Ventimiglia).

    The interviews with the directors, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, offered in the disc’s extra features may seem a little long but they really do help make this movie even more interesting. They offer a glimpse into the effort they put into this as a small budget movie (only $50 million) and the cobbling together of this unexpectedly A-list cast. (BTW: The secret to getting those amazing over-the-shoulder shots? In-line skates.)

    Game(r) On

    Gamer is certainly not for the weak of stomach and the film’s many creepy moments may be more indicative of a foreign horror film than an action flick (and seeing it in Blu-ray high def makes it so vivid you may feel like your eye balls are going to bleed). Also don’t mistake this as a love letter to gamers or glorification of video games. If anything the story is a highly pessimistic view of the possible evolution of video games (especially MMOGs and full-body controls) that simultaneously mocks and embraces without being cliche.

    Put your preconceptions about a movie about video games aside for this one. There are so many surprisingly decent elements pieced together and wrapped in an interesting, even if sometimes dizzying visual style that I recommend this to every Mature-rated game lovin’ gamer out there.

    Site [Gamer]

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