Gamer arrived in theaters on Friday after a, literally, explosive rush of trailers. However, those trailers inaccurately reported that Gerard Butler hadn’t kicked this much butt in 300 years. The quote was taken from 300, the Frank Miller movie. Actually, the battle of Thermopylae took place over 2000 years ago.

Once upon a time, I was a diehard gamer. Lately, my 11 year old son is the diehard gamer in the house. He has more time to play than I do, but I keep him stocked in all the latest game systems and games. He’s leading the life I would want if I had more time.

Both of us were excited about seeing Gamer. The whole idea of controlling a flesh and blood avatar during a real battle just sounded cool. Neither of us would really want to do that, but we couldn’t wait to see it played out on the big screen.

The movie is written and directed by Neveldine/Taylor, the duo that gave us Crank and Crank 2. Gamer possesses the same frantic pacing of the writer/directors’ first two movies. In fact, if you have seen the Crank franchise, you will have seen much of the style and visual effects of this movie. Gamer just seems too familiar visually.

Another too familiar aspect is the lack of character development throughout the movie. Gerard Butler is posited as the hero, Kable, and Michael C. Hall (TV’s Dexter) is the bad guy. The history of each, and of the shared moments between them, come too late in the movie. There’s no investment on part of the viewer, and by that point the clash is coming to a head, so all attention is given to the climax.

Gerard Butler is definitely action hero material and his physical performance is good. After seeing the film, I’d believe that Butler can walk into a room full of bad guys and take them all out.

Michael C. Hall as Castle, the man who invented the games Society and Slayers where flesh and blood avatars are mind controlled by other people, delivers a stunning bit of acting. He was a wicked combination of cool, competent, and cruel. The singing bit at the end totally blew my mind. I kept wishing I had a DVR controller so I could rewind that scene and watch it again. I’ll be buying the DVD primarily to watch Hall in action. I just wish there had been more of him in the film.

Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) and Ludacris were virtually wasted as cardboard characters. And I didn’t see anything of Logan Lerman’s character Simon that I could buy into, except for that really cool computer room he seems to live in.

I did enjoy the concepts that were explored in the film. The Society game was much like Second Life, only with graphic sex thrown into the mix. I found the scenes of the people playing the avatars in Society more disturbing than those who played in Slayers. If I don’t know if the filmmakers intended this kind of reaction on part of the viewer, but it’s strange how controlling someone in a twisted version of everyday life is somehow more perverted than controlling someone on a deadly battlefield.

Granted, the film had to straddle a thin line between action fans and, perhaps, science fiction fans, but I wish more attention would have been paid to the what-if scenario played out in the movie. The deeper issues of the questions raised were skimmed over in favor of blood and gore.

Gamer is a fun film for action junkies, but definitely lighter fare for someone interested in dealing with the intriguing possibility of the future.



Wall-E hit theaters today and packed the seats a noon at my local movie house. I’ve enjoyed every Pixar movie that’s come out, and this one is no exception. However, I have to admit that after the deluge of trailers that have haunted the television set later I was expecting to be blown away.

I wasn’t blown away, but don’t misunderstand. The movie was a good romp that kept all the tykes in the audience on the edge of their seats throughout, and there were quite a few giggles for the adults too, but the movie just hit all the expected twists and turns without becoming anything more than an adventurous love story mixed with ecological and physical health issues.

The movie takes place about eight hundred years in the future. Message #1 comes about when all the viewer can see is endless mounds of compacted refuse stand as towering high-rises. Wall-E, our everyman hero, toils alone in the garbage heap that used to be our planet. Well, there’s no denying that axe because everyone in the film grinds that one home. When there was nowhere left to stack refuse, humanity abandoned the world and went out into space.

That’s a sour but realistic take on the world’s current population, but I have to wonder if a spaceship would actually launch into space with no destination. According to the story, the people aboard the Axiom have been in space for 700 years. How was population growth maintained? How about food sources? If the ship was capable of regenerating food and water every day, why wasn’t that done on earth? But I digress. In my defense, Pixar writers and developers generally do a much cleaner job of world-building.

Wall-E is an adorable character. The thought and care that went into his construction is immediately evident. In a way, he reminded me of Johnny Five from the movie Short Circuit, but that was good because Johnny Five was a kid-friendly character and movie as well.

I loved Wall-E’s mannerisms and the motions he was capable of as he went about his daily job of crushing trash. His home was a delight and many of the kids, including mine, laughed and enjoyed everything. Pixar is so good at details in these movies that I’m constantly surprised at the depth to which they think about everything. Having Wall-E visit the graveyard of his fellow robots was a great touch. It introduced the pathos of his loneliness, pointed out his eventual future, and explained how he kept working away after wearing out parts. The bit with him hanging his treads up as he entered his home was terrific.

Eve is a robot of a different sort. She’s sleeker and more powerful, and definitely quicker on the trigger. I didn’t quite warm up to her as much as Wall-E, though she is our heroine and female romantic lead, but the expressions they were able to create with her eyes alone were fantastic.

Wall-E continues showing up for work every day even though the rest of the world has bailed on him or become totally dysfunctional. That was incredibly touching, though no explanation is given for why he developed a personality. Eve’s arrival to search for plant life (though we don’t know that for a long time, and there’s not really any reason given for why the Axiom couldn’t simply have gone on to another planet) changes Wall-E’s existence forever.

The fact that he was able to fall in love with her was great and served the story, but Eve is portrayed as having no personality. I had to let that go because part of me wanted to be an adult and learn how the AIs had progressed that far. See? I struggled with technology versus fantasy throughout the film, but that may have just been men.

When I looked at the movie through a child’s eyes, I was kept happy. The characters are cool. The visual aspects are beautiful. And the pacing is thrilling.

I was impressed by how much could be done with the computer “voices” of the characters. The feeling and emotions I projected on them were as much from the situations they were in as from the tonal quality.

I also especially liked Auto, the robotic second-in-command of the Axiom, because he was so nasty. His design as a ship’s wheel was awesome, and the holes in the ceiling that allowed him to pop out anywhere was exciting and made for tense moments.

The plot is simple and straight-forward, but the Pixar people obviously had a blast putting this one together. It runs like a Swiss watch and hits all the emotional triggers for the audience as plucky Wall-E and Eve take on Auto to bring the earth back to the people lost in space.

Wall-E is definitely going to be another hit masterminded by the Pixar people. One of the best treats is the short cartoon feature before the movie. Don’t get to the theater late and take a chance on missing it. This one left me laughing out loud because it was so inventive and wildly funny. Take the kids out to this one. And if you don’t have any kids, take yourself out and be a kid for a couple of hours. You’ll have great time.