CATEGORIES DVDsThis week's DVD releases all stretch the imagination in one way or another -- and all take place in unusual worlds. 'The Invention of Lying' takes place in an alternate world where everyone tells the truth; 'Gamer' and 'Pandorum' take place in dystopian futures where humankind needs to be saved by heroes of one sort or another; and 'Whiteout' takes place at the end of the world (Antarctic) with a heroine who would make V.I. Warshowski proud. 'The Invention of Lying'
What It's About: This romantic comedy from writer-actor-comedian Ricky Gervais takes place in an alternate reality where lying -- even the concept of a lie -- just doesn't exist. Everyone is brutally -- too brutally -- honest with their thoughts and feelings -- until pudgy loser Mark (Gervais) suddenly develops the ability to lie and parlays his new found "power" into celebrity, wealth and romance.
It's Kinda Like: 'Liar Liar' meets 'There's Something About Mary" without the crude humor
What We Say: 'The Invention of Lying' starts out with a wonderful premise and then falls flat as the film progresses -- much like Gervais' stint hosting the Golden Globes. Much of the last half of the film revolves around Gervais' riff on religion -- he creates a Man in the Sky who controls everything -- but even that bit, which starts out with Gervais reading 10 propositions written on two pizza cartons, gets belabored and loses its steam before the finale. Thank the Man in the Sky for Jennifer Garner's great role, however; she's the film's saving grace.
What It's About: A sci-fi thriller set in a near future when gaming and entertainment have evolved into a terrifying new hybrid: Humans control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online games. The latest game is "Slayers," a first-person shooter game in which players use real prisoners as avatars in battles to the death. Enter one fighter named Kable (Gerard Butler,) a superstar who decides its time to break out of prison and put an end to the technology and save humankind.
It's Kinda Like: 'Rollerball' meets 'Total Recall' and 'Running Man'
What We Say: Special effects and a lot of noise can't make up for this outing's mess of a story line. We've seen the premise too many times before: big bad entrepreneur/corporation) wants to manipulate the masses with high-tech gadgets and/or games -- and one lone hero stops him/it. This ain't your daddy's 'Tron'
What It's About: Far-future sci-fi horror thriller has two astronauts awakening from hyper-sleep in what seems to be an abandoned, powerless space ship. They have no memory of where they are and how they got there, but it soon becomes apparent that they're all that remains of a crew manning a gigantic ark (with deep-frozen people and plant and animal genetic material) sent to populate a world similar to the Earth. As one of the men explores the craft, he uncovers weird secrets, horrible monsters and insanity.
It's Kinda Like: 'Silent Running' meets 'Resident Evil'
What We Say: This choppy, dark (dark as in no light in many of the scenes) claustrophobic maze of a film jumps right in with the scare tactics but despite its interesting premise (which reminds us somewhat of Brain Aldiss' classic novel 'Starship') the journey from one end of the ship to the other -- to restart a nuclear reactor -- ends up being too pat. We've seen this trip too many times before (all the 'Alien' films) and the monsters and scary situations can't make up for the lax story line and over-acting. Despite a twist ending, we're just kept in the dark too long.
What It's About: Kate Beckinsale plays the only U.S. Marshal stationed at a South Pole research base who's thrust into Antarctica's first murder investigation just days before her tour of duty is over. A body has turned up on the ice near another research outpost and the search for the killer turns up other bodies. Who's killing these men and why? If you paid attention at the beginning of the film you'll know why, so all that remains is who. And the Marshall better hurry, cause the biggest storm of the year -- a whiteout -- is bearing down on them, ushering in six months of darkness.
It's Kinda Like: 'Fargo' meets 'Heist'
What We Say: This mystery-thriller gets snowed down with a weak story line and weak pacing. There's no opportunity to get to know or like the leads (a gratuitous semi-nude shower scene with the always lovely Beckinsale is so out of place we had to laugh) and there's too many false endings to sustain any suspense. Even with the whiteout you can see the ending coming a mile away.
Other New January 18 DVD Releases:
'According to Greta'
'No Impact Man'
'Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball'
Check out additional new January 18 DVD releases at OnVideo.