"GAMER"
BLU-RAY Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: Lionsgate

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the not-too-distant future, the Castle corporation has implanted chips into people’s brains which allow them to be controlled by others in a real-life video game environment. Kable (Gerard Butler) is a convict who is given a chance at freedom if he can survive the bloody and violent military game Slayers for thirty rounds. However, rebel hackers find a way to reach Kable and tell him the frightening truth about the Castle corporation and their ability to control people.

WHAT I LIKED
I’ve tended to like the kind of film that exists in the not-too-distant future, even the stories that are weighed down in a cyberpunk atmosphere. In many ways, “Gamer” has some innovative things to say, and it’s not a coincidence that it deals with themes we’ve seen in other movies like “Surrogates” and even “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Terminator” series.

But beyond being able to make you think (even if you don’t consider the plot to be all that thought-provoking), “Gamer” is a solid action piece. Written and directed by the team that gave us the “Crank” series, this film uses some groundbreaking guerilla filmmaking techniques and helped beta test the Red camera. Regardless of the quality of the film, this makes “Gamer” an interesting footnote in cinema history. In this respect, the film looks fantastic and really shows what can be done on a limited budget.

And finally, the action backdrop is really pretty slick, featuring powerful, in-your-face explosion and excitement. It may not be for everyone, but this represents a step up from Neveldine and Taylor’s overdone “Crank” series.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
While Neveldine and Taylor are experts at putting the audience at ground zero, they really can’t write to save their lives. Like so many movies, the set-up and presentation of “Gamer” is awesome. The story, characters and writing... not so much.

When Neveldine and Taylor try to put a plot into this film, it ultimately breaks down. Stumbling into cliches and moment of insanity, including a pointless and utterly silly song and dance number, the film is like a “Transformers” installment... all flash and effects but vacuous, though not for lack of trying.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
Whether you like this movie or not, this is a fantastic Blu-ray release. Neveldine and Taylor totally get the Blu-ray format, and they offer some spectacular special features, including a branching visual commentary called “I-Con Mode.” There are also special commentary and behind-the-scenes elements throughout the film called “Cheat Codes.”

Standard features include an audio commentary with the cast and filmmakers, a lengthy making-of documentary, a featurette on the Red camera and a slate of trailers, including the unreleased high-octane trailer of the film.

Finally, pitting itself against Universal’s Pocket-Blu iPhone app, this disc comes enabled for the BD-Touch app, which allows the viewer to control the film from their iPhone... which is somewhat ironic considering the film’s subject matter.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of high-octane action from the “Crank” guys.



"WEEDS: SEASON FIVE"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Unrated
    Studio: Lionsgate

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Soccer mom turned drug dealer Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) is back for a fifth season of the edgy and popular Showtime series “Weeds.” In this season, Nancy finds herself pregnant with the child of a Mexican drug lord, which poses some serious relationship problems. Andy continues to pine for Nancy, though he’s just not enough of a bad boy for her (even though he can bring every other woman in town to a quick climax). Silas and Doug try to bring their pot business legit with medical marijuana, and Celia discovers her real worth to her friends when she’s kidnapped by her conniving daughter.

WHAT I LIKED
A decade and more ago, HBO was the place to be for original cable series. That torch has been passed to the folks at Showtime, as they continue to air edgy, dark and innovative series like “Weeds,” “Dexter” and “Californication.” In many ways, “Weeds” has a “Californication” feel to it (or rather, it’s really the other way around, since “Weeds” did come first).

What I find fascinating about the show is that while it’s clear there’s a certain sympathy and support for the marijuana trade by the folks running things, “Weeds” goes farther to show the dangers and complications of selling pot, even on a small scale. Not being one to partake in the bud, I’ve never gotten wrapped up in the fascination with stoner movies and shows, but “Weeds” is a lot more than that.

There’s some classic drama, and like good dark comedies, “Weeds” revels in the unsympathetic characters acting in ways that results in greater problems. Like “Californication,” “Weeds” is at its best when you can watch bad things happen to bad people and get a laugh out of them.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Even amid all the dangers shown of the illegal drug trade, there’s a certain attitude behind the show – especially in the behind-the-scenes features – that champion a legalization issue. Regardless of my thoughts on that particular political issue, I’d prefer not to be preached at via my entertainment. So that was a strike against the series.

The only real drawback of this series is that the characters are so reprehensible and morally challenged that there are times when my apathy for their well-being became too great. In the end, Nancy’s a self-centered drama queen who can’t deal with life, and Andy is a pantywaste who pines for her too much. At least the comedy from Kevin Nealon’s character of Doug saves most of the episodes where the depressing characters rule too much.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
There are some impressive bonus features for a series that is in its fifth season. Several standard features are included, like cast and crew commentaries and bloopers. The “History of Weed” featurette falls too much into the political preaching category as it justifies the existence and use of marijuana over the years, as is “Yes We Cannabis.” But things are saved with the informative “Crazy Love: A Guide to the Dysfunctional Relationships of Weeds” featurette.

Particularly entertaining is the “Little Titles by Jenji Kohan” featurette which highlights the development of the now famous title card moments as well as “Really Backstage with Kevin Nealon” set tour. However, the gem of the Blu-ray set is the “University of Andy” bits, which feature Justin Kirk in character, dispensing awful advice about everything from love to how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of Showtime’s dramas... and probably pot heads.




    

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