What’s new on what used to be called “home video?” If you were in the theater in, say, November, you already know. A bunch of this week’s releases didn’t do as well critically as I think they deserved to – let’s see if there’s any hidden gems, shall we?
The Invention Of Lying – Good timing on this one, following Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes last night. The Office mastermind just hasn’t seemed to be able to make the next step in his career since leaving the BBC, as his big-screen ventures haven’t panned out to expectations. This one probably came the closest, as he teamed with Matt Robinson to create a high-concept fable (what if nobody knew how to lie) that delivered some solid laughs before turning into a very odd take on organized religion. It’s definitely one that tickles the brain more than the ribs, but it’s certainly worth seeing.
Gamer – This got delayed so many times that it was basically dead on arrival, which is too bad. A 21st century update of The Running Man, it’s a great showcase for Gerard Butler as a convict who is essentially “piloted” by a player in a very dangerous video game. Shades of Avatar, huh? The real standout is Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall as Ken Castle, the designer of the game – few people can do unsettling menace like he can. Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the geniuses who brought us the Crank franchise.
Pandorum – This claustrophobic sci-fi thriller also didn’t get much of a fair shake. Sure, it has some faults – the plot isn’t anywhere near original, for one – but the lead performances by Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster help sell the story. When the two men wake up from cryogenic slumber to find themselves in the far corner of the universe, they have no clue why they’re there or what the hell the merciless albino ghosts that are overrunning the ship are doing. Or is it all in their minds?
Whiteout – Based on an excellent comic book by Batman writer Greg Rucka, this polar thriller takes place at McMurdo Station, the most remote scientific research station on the planet. It stars Kate Beckinsale, which is a definite plus, but since the flick is mostly set in sub-zero temperatures, she doesn’t show all that much skin. If you get this, get it for the incredible environmental photography, which really sells the hostile atmosphere of the Arctic in a way that no film since The Thing has.
No Impact Man – This perplexing eco-documentary follows the travails of Colin Beavan, a writer who makes a pledge to try to reduce his environmental footprint to zero in the space of the year. What starts out as veggie burritos and a smug sense of self-satisfaction quickly snowballs into giving up electricity and toilet paper.