DVD Tuesday: ‘Invention Of Lying’ and ’50 Dead Men Walking’

by W. Andrew Powell

Jennifer Garner and Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying

Jennifer Garner and Ricky Gervais in The Invention of Lying

New this week on DVD and Blu-ray, Ricky Gervais stars in the comedy The Invention Of Lying, Jim Sturgess plays a double-agent in the drama 50 Dead Men Walking, plus a look at Gamer, starring Gerard Butler, and Whiteout with Kate Beckinsale.

The Invention Of Lying
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, Louis C.K.
Director: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson

What if you lived in a world where no one lied, and suddenly realized you didn’t always have to tell the truth? More importantly, since no one lies in this world, what if you could essentially get away with anything?

Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, The Invention Of Lying is a clever concept comedy that stars Gervais as Mark, the lucky guy who figures he can do anything if says the right thing. Paying off with benefits around every corner, the only problem is that, well, people are actually believing him. He also can’t seem to win the heart of the woman he loves with any of these lies since she sees him as a pudgy man who will therefore give her pudgy little children.

Co-starring Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, and Rob Lowe, the story is a fun commentary on the nature of lies, and why we tell them in our day-to-day lives. It’s also really funny, usually because the people in this world bereft of lies also have to say everything that’s on their minds.

Gervais is once again a likeable, funny, and genuinely interesting star, and he has surrounded himself with a cast of people who also look like regular people, which is frankly wonderful. It is also wonderfully refreshing to see a character who goes out and makes himself rich, does his best to make himself a somebody, but really doesn’t do any harm. There is no point in the film where he has to redeem himself, like a lot of these types of comedies, because Mark has been himself all along, and he’s simply a nice guy.

The only downside of the film is that Garner, while she is quite funny as Anna, plays a somewhat repulsive dream girl who fixates rather grossly on Mark’s lesser qualities. The story arc does make sense, but it also makes her the kind of character you kind of just want to go away at times so Mark can find someone a lot less shallow.

The Invention Of Lying could have been tightened up a bit, maybe even edited a bit more, but it is also refreshingly unique, from the small town setting, all the way to the concept. It’s perhaps not as funny as it could have been, but it’s well worth a watch.

Looking at the Blu-ray package, there are a couple of good features, but they could have been better. The “Corpsing and Outtakes” feature is funny, as is the “Honest” making-of featurette, but most of the other add-ons are either dull or just plain embarrassing to watch. The mini-prequel, The Dawn of Lying, is perhaps one of the worst examples of that, even if it does feature a voiceover by Patrick Stewart.

50 Dead Men Walking
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley, Kevin Zegers, Rose McGowan
Director: Kari Skogland

In this story, based on the life of an Irish Republican Army volunteer, Jim Sturgess stars as Martin McGartland, a 22-year-old living in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s. Hustling merchandise to make a living, Marty gets entangled in a frightening political battle when he is approached by the IRA to become a recruit. At the same time the British police want Marty to work for them, tipping them off whenever he has information that could save lives or bring down key members of the IRA.

Grudgingly accepting the roles he’s offered, Marty starts to lead a double life, with secrets that he can’t even share with his family, for fear of what might happen. The only person who really knows what he’s up to is Fergus, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, a Special Branch officer who becomes a sort of father figure to Marty.

Marty walks that fine line between these two lives he leads, but eventually there is only so far he can go before his secret could cost him his life, and the lives of his family. His secret may also face its hardest scrutiny from his best friend, Sean, played by Canadian actor Kevin Zegers.

Played as a dramatic thriller, director Kari Skogland’s mesmerizing film has more than enough grit and mood to keep the story intense, and real. Sturgess plays Marty effectively, with loads of charm and bravado, but it’s safe to say his performance doesn’t stray too far from what we would expect of him either.

Sir Kingsley is otherwise almost invisible in this role, for both the good and the bad. He is far more restrained here than usual, which suites the role well, but it also feels like he deserved more from the script.

Shot on location in Ireland, 50 Dead Men Walking hits all the right notes, and builds itself to a pitched finale that brings everything together. It feels right, but it’s also a fairly predictable story with a polished script that could have used a bit more meat.

From the start, you know how the story will play out, and that’s fairly intentional, but it feels like Skogland didn’t take quite enough risks.

Skogland wrings wonderful drama from the story though, pacing the film well, and finding a clever middle-ground to this bloody tale. I would still highly recommend the film, based on all the elements that work perfectly, including the great cast, which also includes Rose McGowan as a fiery IRA big shot. The fault I have a hard time with though is simply that the film feels far too careful about walking the line between these two sides, which ultimately lessens some of the impact of this remarkable story.

Starring: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Kyra Sedgwick, Alison Lohman, John Leguizamo
Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

Taking the first-person shooter concept to new heights, Gamer is set in a futuristic America where mind-control technology has made it possible for players to fight battles as other people, with real weapons. Set on a massive scale, with multi-player games, the system is populated by prisoners who have no choice but to play along, as an audience around the world watches.

Greatest among the “slayers” is the cult hero known as Kable (Gerard Butler), who is controlled by Simon (Logan Lerman), a young guy who is considered a super star among gamers. Each week Simon gets all the glory as he pushes Kable to win time and again.

For Kable, the entire “game” is a torment, of course, but on top of playing for his life, he is also playing for his family, who have been taken from him. Fighting to free himself so he can prove who he really is once more, Kable also plans to take down the man behind the vicious game.

Starring Michael C. Hall as the freakishly twisted billionaire Ken Castle, the creator of the game, the film is a high-octane actioner from directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the guys who also brought the two Crank movies to screen.

Running with that same style, Gamer is clearly the product of Neveldine and Taylor’s twisted imaginations, filled to overflowing with nudity, blood, sweat, and yes, even tears. It’s also brimming with some of last year’s worst dialogue, which is frankly giggle-inducing near the end. (And I’m not even complaining about the song and dance routine that Hall puts on to the tune of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” which was honestly kind of awesome.)

With an actor like Butler in the lead, and most of the cast putting on their most serious faces, the antics of the film also get lost most of the time. Amid the blood and gore, which doesn’t feel quite as cartoonish as it did in Crank, the lame dialogue just seems, well, lame. That was enough to take me out of the action and wonder why anyone let such a sloppy film see the light of day.

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Tom Skerritt, Columbus Short
Director: Dominic Sena

Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as a U.S. Marshal stuck in the wastes of Antarctica where a killer is on the loose. With only a few days left before winter begins, which will seal off contact from the outside world, our heroic marshal needs to get to the bottom of this icy case, or risk being stuck with the killer over the next six months of darkness.

Stuck within a block of clichés at least as think as the remaining ice in Antarctica, Whiteout is nothing more than a sub-par studio-made cheesy thriller with zero originality. It’s actually kind of hard watching Beckinsale, who I frankly adore, act her way through this tepid, uninspired film.

Included in the Blu-ray are two meagre features, “The Coldest Thriller Ever” making-of featurette, which goes behind the scenes during production, and a second featurette on turning the graphic novel into a film. Neither feature is very entertaining, but there are a few moments with Beckinsale and the cast that makes “The Coldest Thriller Ever” at least somewhat engaging, perhaps more than the film itself.

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