<p>The Gunstar, the iconic ship from 'The Last Starfighter,' out now in a 25th anniversary BluRay edition from Universal</p>

The Gunstar, the iconic ship from 'The Last Starfighter,' out now in a 25th anniversary BluRay edition from Universal

Credit: Universal Home Video

Film Nerd 2.0: 'The Last Starfighter' on BluRay

Toshi dips a toe into the '80s and likes what he sees

Welcome to Film Nerd 2.0, the first column in an ongoing series about the way I'm experiencing geek media with my oldest son. 

I don't really have an overall agenda with what I will show him or when, and I think that's important.  I've been asked several times if he's seen "Star Wars" yet.  Nope.  Or the "Harry Potter" series.  Or "Lord Of The Rings."  Or "Back To The Future."  Or many things.  He's four, so I don't think those are quite appropriate yet.  Not necessarily because they're more explicit than what he has seen already, but more because they require a level of understanding of narrative I don't think he's got yet.

Right now, he's about big broad strokes.  One of the reasons I think "Star Trek" connected is because it's not afraid to go broad in the way it defines and illustrates the relationships between those characters.  As far as what to show him next, I'm not trying to program him.  I'm trying, instead, to let him tell me what's next, what he's ready for.  A good example is the way we chose this first film.

Universal sent over the BluRay for review, and it was sitting on top of a stack on my desk when Toshi walked in.

He saw the cover of the movie and he immediately grabbed it.  Held it closer for further inspection.

"Daddy... what's this one?"

[more after the jump]

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<p>Gina Carano takes aim at a mainstream Hollywood career with a starring role in Steven Soderbergh's 'Knock Out'</p>

Gina Carano takes aim at a mainstream Hollywood career with a starring role in Steven Soderbergh's 'Knock Out'

Steven Soderbergh goes for the 'Knock Out'

Hires female MMA star... is he making his own 'Bourne' for girls?

This is going to be a heavily trafficked genre next year.

Zack Snyder's gearing up on "Sucker Punch," his crazy all-girl uber-violent "Alice In Wonderland in a mental institution" action film.  And now Steven Soderbergh, making a lovely recovery after the indignity of the public implosion of "Moneyball," is set to make "Knock Out," a film that's being described as a spy film along the lines of "La Femme Nikita" or "The Bourne Identity."  And to star?

He's picked Gina Carano.  Mixed Martial Arts star.  Badass and photogenic as hell.

GOOD CHOICE.

I like Soderbergh's desire to cast untested mainstream leads.  I think especially in an action film, you've got a lot of room to do that.  You're looking for credibility more than you're looking for a movie star just acting like a movie star.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Ricky Gervais laughing, something he almost never does, on-set for 'The Invention Of Lying'</p>

Ricky Gervais laughing, something he almost never does, on-set for 'The Invention Of Lying'

Credit: Giles Keyte/Warner Bros

The Motion/Captured Interview: Ricky Gervais, one on one

In which we finally speak with him on-set for 'The Invention Of Lying'

That picture is appropriate.

I saw Ricky Gervais for the first time as I walked into the living room of the house where they were shooting "The Invention Of Lying," just outside Boston in a fairly upscale neighborhood near a university.

I mean, I'd seen Ricky Gervais before, obviously, in a whole lot of things.  I didn't see "The Office" until it hit American DVD, and then as soon as I saw it and devoured it, I was a fan.  I have seen some backlash set in, particularly among some of the UK film nerds, but I don't buy it.  Ricky Gervais is a funny man.  That's a simple truth.  Consistently, fiendishly funny.

If they were casting Mr. Mxyzptlk, I'd nominate him.  He strikes me as a guy who takes great joy out of the comic torment of others and, without hesitation, himself.  He's precise in the comic persona he's created and how he plays it, and watching him work for a day, in take after take, I have a fair idea of why he has succeeded the way he has so far.  He's got a clear vision of what "Ricky Gervais" is, no doubt from all the years when he was not doing what he wanted to do.  And he's been canny about building "Ricky Gervais," piece by piece.  The live shows while he's doing movies, the successive tours, the way he's managed the "Office" brand with Merchant, their upcoming reuinion project, "Cemetary Junction," which marks their feature film debut together.

And there in the midst of it, "The Invention Of Lying."

[more after the jump]

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<p>A bit of negotiation, German radical militant student style, in 'The Baader-Meinhof Complex,' playing now in select cities</p>

A bit of negotiation, German radical militant student style, in 'The Baader-Meinhof Complex,' playing now in select cities

Credit: Vitagraph Films

The Motion/Captured Review: 'The Baader-Meinhof Complex'

German docudrama about student radicals hits hard, takes no prisoners

It's fitting that I'd review this film on the same day as "Five Minutes Of Heaven," even though I saw them months apart.  I saw the Neeson film at Sundance this year, and I saw "The Baader-Meinhof Complex" here at my house about six days ago.  Aside from thematic similarities, they both spring from the same DNA.  Bernd Eichinger, the producer and screenwriter of this movie, was also the producer of Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall."  Eichinger casts a huge shadow over the German film industry, having worked with basically everyone, so it's little wonder there's some overlap with these two movies.  Coincidence aside, they'd make a great double-feature.

It's hard to imagine growing up in post-Nazi Germany.  It's even harder to imagine how it would feel to see the seeds of that movement continue to thrive, no matter what the country claimed to the world.  The profound anger and moral horror that would awaken in someone goes a long way to explaining the attitudes of the students portrayed in "The Baader-Meinhof Complex," although obviously, this is a film about people driven by righteous impulses to do horrible, misguided things.  It's this environment that gives rise to a culture where a pseudo-revolutionary thug like Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and a theoretical activist like Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) can not only find some common ground to one another, but can also find a willing army of followers, ready to act on the provocations they lay down.

The Red Army Faction, a student militia that was responsible for bombings and bank robberies, is a perfect encapsulation of the way radical '60s politics failed, and director Uli Edel does a spectacular job of capturing the time and the chaos of what was going on.  Because he never comes down on one side or the other, instead simply presenting the events dispassionately, showing how everyone made insane mistakes and how things escalated, leading to some awful, wrenching events.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt on the verge of a moment they've spent their whole lives building towards in 'Five Minutes Of Heaven'</p>

Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt on the verge of a moment they've spent their whole lives building towards in 'Five Minutes Of Heaven'

Credit: IFC Films

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Five Minutes Of Heaven'

Liam Neeson stars in this tense drama about the effects of terrorism

Revenge is probably one of the most common dramatic engines of all time, in all its varied forms.  As such, it would seem like there couldn't be any new stories to tell about revenge no new ideas to contribute to the conversation.

And yet, year after year, season after season, revenge is a subject that filmmakers return to, and it's sort of amazing how it continues to yield results, both dramatically and thematically.  Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose movie "Downfall" gave birth to that Hitler YouTube meme that keeps getting recycled (the joke getting thinner every time), was damn near swallowed by Hollywood when he made "The Invasion" with Nicole Kidman.  Still, his earlier work like "Downfall" or "Das Experiment" proved he was a filmmaker of substance, and I'm glad to see he didn't let himself get sidelined very long.

"Five Minutes Of Heaven" is based on real people and a real situation, but it uses the facts as a jumping-off point in pursuit of (hopefully) a larger truth.  It's an intriguing approach, and the end result is sincere, if a little flat.  The most interesting thing about the film is the way it deals with revenge as a cancer, eating away at anyone infected with it.  When someone does you a wrong as a result of some personal conflict, it's easy to fantasize about doing it back to them, and in some cases, that fantasy becomes reality.  But when you're the victim of a stupid, random, pointless act of terrorism, revenge becomes political as well as personal, and things get complicated.

As a young man, Alistair (Liam Neeson) was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, passionate to the point of violence about "the Irish troubles."  Now, decades later, he travels the world speaking about reconciliation and forgiveness.  He's obviously trying to undo much of what he did as a youth, but there are some things that no amount of good work can undo.  And for Joe (James Nesbitt), it doesn't matter what Alistair does now or what he says or who he helps:  Alistair will always be the man who killed Joe's older brother.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Amber Valetta and Gerard Butler star in 'Gamer,' the sci-fi action film from Nevaldine and Taylor opening today</p>

Amber Valetta and Gerard Butler star in 'Gamer,' the sci-fi action film from Nevaldine and Taylor opening today

Credit: Lionsgate

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Gamer'

If this was a real game, it wouldn't be worth a single quarter

I just realized I've never reviewed anything by Neveldine/Taylor.

Then again, "Crank" and "Crank: High Voltage" weren't the types of films that Lionsgate went out of their way to show to critics ahead of time, and by the time I saw either of them, the moment had passed.  Besides, these don't feel like films where criticism matters one way or another. 

And I'll be honest... walking out of "Gamer" tonight, I considered just skipping this review altogether, even after I paid for a midnight screening just so I could write about it.

My problem is this:  Neveldine/Taylor don't remotely care about filmmaking or storytelling in a conventional sense, and they don't care about niggling details like "character" or "coherence," so reviewing a film of theirs seems like you're trying to explain cell memory in Mandarin Chinese to a chicken:  what's the goddamn point?

In what must be the ten millionth retread of "The Most Dangerous Game," filtered through such pop culture reference points as "The Running Man" and "Death Race 2000," Gerard Butler stars as Kabel, the most popular character of all time in a game called "Slayers."  In the game, real human beings (death row inmates, of course) are used as video game avatars, controlled via a nanotech brain technology by remote players. 

In Kabel's case, his player is a teenage kid named Simon, played by Logan Lerman, who is the title character in next year's "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief," and Simon is the closest thing to an audience surrogate in the film.  I think it's quite revealing that Simon comes across as an annoying, shallow little shit who ultimately has no influence on the plot.  As a character, he makes no impression aside from how venal and hollow he seems to be.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Ben Affleck and Jason Bateman ponder the meaning of it all in Mike Judge's new comedy 'Extract'</p>

Ben Affleck and Jason Bateman ponder the meaning of it all in Mike Judge's new comedy 'Extract'

Credit: Miramax Films

The Motion/Captured Review: 'Extract' is shaggy, silly fun

Mike Judge goes 3 for 3 with his latest workplace comedy

What I like most about Mike Judge as a filmmaker is on full display in "Extract," his latest workplace comedy.  Judge isn't the sort of comic writer or director who cares about the grand gesture, the big set piece, or the precisely phrased banter... no, Judge is more about the loose, the casual, the off-hand.  He makes movies where the big laughs come from the small details, and that's exactly the way I like it.  It helps that he's got a great cast this time, and even if there's a sort of shaggy quality to the storytelling, it's part of the charm.

Jason Bateman anchors the film as Joel Reynold, the founder and owner of a company that manufactures food extracts, nd his misery is what sets the entire thing into motion.  Joel's not happy with his marriage to Suzie (Kristen Wiig), and he's started looking for a buyer to take the company off his hands.  In general, he's feeling blocked, and he's not sure what he's got to do to get back to normal.

He asks his friend Dean (Ben Affleck) for advice, and although Dean's a bartender which should make his advice automatically awesome, Dean is also a Herculean drug user, and his adventures in chemistry have made him less than intellectually reliable.  He gives Joel advice, but it's awful advice, starting with the idea of hiring a male prostitute named Brad (Dustin Milligan) to see if Suzie's being unfaithful to him.  This is a point of particular concern to Joel since the hiring of Cindy (Mila Kunis) as a temp at the factory.  She's got an agenda of her own that Joel doesn't know about, which makes his infatuation even worse for him.  He has no idea how intentionally that bait is being dangled, or why.  He's distracted in part because of an accident at the plant involving Step (Clifton Collins Jr.), one of his factory workers.  That accident could stop a buy-out from happening, and worse than that, it could lead to the closing of the plant altogether if Joel's not careful.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Matthew Robinson listens while Ricky Gervais cackles, which pretty much sums up their partnership while co-writing and co-directing 'The Invention Of Lying'</p>

Matthew Robinson listens while Ricky Gervais cackles, which pretty much sums up their partnership while co-writing and co-directing 'The Invention Of Lying'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Motion/Captured Interview: Lunch with Matt Robinson

The co-writer/co-director of 'Invention Of Lying' explains himself and his movie

Here's something that doesn't happen often:  I forget how I met Matthew Robinson.

It was via e-mail, I know, but I forget why or what the first communication was.  It was well before I was asked to fly to Boston to visit the set of "The Invention Of Lying," so by the time I did leave for that trip, I was already comfortable enough to e-mail Matthew the night before to tell him I'd see him there.

I figured he'd be the conduit between me and Ricky Gervais, who I found myself intimidated to meet.  It's not every day you meet one of the masterminds behind a global comedy phenomenon, after all.

What surprised me is just how open both Matthew and Ricky were once I arrived.  Linda Obst, the film's producer, was the first person to greet me when we arrived at the McMansion where the sequences were being shot.  This is the house Ricky gets after his lying starts to really take off, and it's a pretty big scene in the film, made up of several mini-scenes.  I was warned by Linda that there were actually two separate video villages on the set.  If you don't know the term, "video village" refers to the area where the monitors are set up for the director to sit and watch during each take.  Normally, there's just one, but evidently, Ricky and Matthew and director of photography Tim Suhrstedt had their own small video village, and then there was one for "everybody else."  Considering these two guys who had never met before this film are co-directing, I expect that wee bit of privacy is required when they're debating creative choices, and I was more than happy to give them the space.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Lobo, one of the weirdest characters in the DC Universe, may be headed to the bigscreen in a film by Guy Ritchie</p>

Lobo, one of the weirdest characters in the DC Universe, may be headed to the bigscreen in a film by Guy Ritchie

Credit: DC Comics

Guy Ritchie signs to direct 'Lobo' for Warner Bros.

Crazy DC Comics character poses unique challenges and potential rewards

Guy Ritchie and Joel Silver... they've got a love thang goin' on.

Little surprise.  When I was on-set for "Sherlock Holmes" last year, Guy seemed absolutely delighted by the process and the experience, and Susan Downey, who was there for Silver Films, seemed quite pleased with Guy in return.  Early word on "Sherlock Holmes" is strong, and I suspect the film's going to be huge this Christmas.

So this puts Ritchie in the enviable position of having bounced back.  Not every filmmaker who suffers through a "Swept Away" or a "Revolver" or, god forbid, both in a row, ever gets the opportunity to jump back into the studio game.  Ritchie's earned himself a second chance here, and he appears to be serious about making it work.

When we spoke in December, "Sgt. Rock" was still very much a possibility for Ritchie and Silver to make together, and if I was a betting man, I'd say there's still a chance we'll see that happen at some point.  It just appears that it's going to be after they make "Lobo" together for Warner Bros., adapting one of the craziest characters in all of DC Comics history into a PG-13 action movie that the studio hopes will kickstart a new franchise.

Good luck with that.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Mike Judge at the Los Angeles premiere of his latest comedy, 'Extract'</p>

Mike Judge at the Los Angeles premiere of his latest comedy, 'Extract'

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

The Motion/Captured Interview: Mike Judge, writer/director of 'Extract'

We get serious about comedy with the creator of 'King of the Hill' and 'Office Space'

Of all of the Austin filmmakers, Mike Judge seems to be the guy who (A) keeps the lowest profile and (B) gets the least respect.

I know he's got fans, and he's had some success with things like the long-running "King Of The Hill," just wrapping up its life on Fox right now, but Judge has always been an underdog, and it seems like he's always had a hard time getting his finished work in front of people.

"Office Space" seemed like it was mishandled by Fox when it came out, but that's only by comparison to the way they treated "Idiocracy," which basically got tied in a sack and thrown in a river.  Both films have built their audiences on home video, and it seems like Judge makes movies with a long fuse on them.  Even if they don't blow up into giant blockbusters right away when they're released, they eventually reach the people they were intended to reach.

I'll give Miramax credit for this:  they have actually spent some money and some effort trying to get "Extract" into theaters this coming weekend, and I'm glad there's a chance here for a wide audience to actually see one of his films in the theater during its initial run.

[more after the jump]

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