The Call Up (2016): Universally Hated (Review)

Still from The Call UP

Written and directed by Charles Barker (His second time in the big chair and his first feature length film.) The Call Up stars a number of relatively unknown Brit actors and a plot that is three parts CoD and one part Existenz. For whatever reason, this film is almost universally hated by gamers and film audiences alike. 

In a many ways The Call Up is also reminiscent of Gantz, a 2004 Japanese anime where players enter a virtual reality world to battle creatures and monsters. These gamers also died, but to gain entrance, the player had to have died in real life first.

Unlike Gantz, this film’s plot is quite straight forward.

A group of seven online gamers have been recruited to take part in a virtual reality trial run of a new gaming experience.  The participants don special suits and gear to play.

As the game progresses, the volunteers learn that this virtual reality game play  can be deadly. The players love the experience initially but as the game progresses and they begin to die, the whole experience becomes a fight for survival.

Part of the problem may have something to do with the film’s faint resemblance to the Ubisoft video game Haze.  The 2008 video game was roundly panned by critics on both sides of the pond.

The Call Up is not that bad, it may rely on stereotypes to a certain degree but to be fair, the film is not a Shakespearean tragedy. The premise is that the players who enter the game via the virtual reality helmets and gear will die if not given  a media-pen injection in time.

Complaints include the musical score of the film and the acting, which is actually pretty decent considering the actors are all British and affecting American accents.

Critics have been more accepting of the film while gamers, on sites like IMDb, have almost unanimously panned the movie full stop. UK newspaper The Guardian actually quite liked the film, calling it cheap and cheerful.

All the action takes place in one location and if there could be any complaints at all it would be with the A. I. sergeant who barks orders at the players. (The thing actually interacts physically with the gamers as well, beating one and breaking the leg of another.)

The sergeant has a slightly robotic sound as it directs and instructs the gamers on what they should do. It an annoyance to have that sort of character in the game. First person shooters (FPS) have characters which sound quire realistic, actors like Tony Todd, for example, have lent their talents to games like Call of Duty (CoD).

CG in The Call Up is good enough that it carries the storyline well and provides enough believability that the viewer can get caught up in the action. The players who enter this virtual reality world may seem a tad two dimensional but once again this is an action/adventure FPS film, not high art.

There are no “names” in the film and this adds to the action.  The director does a good job carrying the film’s momentum forward and there are no bits that drag.  The Call Up runs for 90 minutes and not once does the film get off track.

In terms of endings the final few moments of the film can be termed an anticlimax.  The Call Up  is a solid 3.5 star film. The concept is entertaining as is the film itself. Streaming on Netflix at the moment the film  is definitely worth a look or two.

Jarhead 3: The Siege (2016) Feels Like a CoD Movie (Review)

Charlie Weber as Albright in Jarhead 3

Jarhead 3: The Siege feels like a  CoD (Call of Duty) movie minus the first person shooter perspective.  The third in a short trio of films that started with the 2005 “biopic” Jarhead with Jake Gyllenhaal, this one leaves the subject of sniping and Desert Storm behind, as did Jarhead 2.

Set in the American Embassy  in Afghanistan Marine Corporal Evan Albright (Charlie Weber)  arrives  full of enthusiasm and an urge to excel. He manages to annoy  Gunny Raines (Scott Adkins) and Ambassador Cahill (Stephen Hogan) as well as head of security Kraus.

The Marine is keen and observant and he spies a familiar face in the crowds outside the Embassy. Evan does not follow the chain of command and his forewarning is disregarded. The building comes under siege from a known ISIS terrorist, believed to be dead from a drone attack and it is Albright who must save the day.

Directed by William Kaufman (The Hit List, Sinners and Saints) and written by Chad Law and Michael D. Weiss Jarhead 3: The Siege is pretty straight forward and does feel a lot like video game film.  (It does, in fact feel a lot like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 4 although there is  no embassy in the game…) 

There are no real “Hoorah” moments and overall the Marines are not doing this for the corp, it is about being overrun by the bad guy and trying to survive.  The embassy staff have an obligatory “spook” in the form of Brit actress Sasha Jackson  (who plays Olivia Winston).

There is one major annoyance in the film, meant as comic relief   but it is so intrusive and so manufactured that it is  more distracting and not amusing at all. The character of Blake (played by Dante Basco) is a pencil pushing member of the embassy staff who films everything for the “Embassy blog.”

Apart from being a nuisance, it is like Blake wandered onto the set from another film by mistake. Why the character is included in the movie is a mystery. His antics are not funny  and one  truly feels that Blake should have been taken out early on in the proceedings.

Another instance where the script wanders from the CoD formula is the apparent nod and wink to An Officer and a Gentleman. At one point Gunny Raines hands Albright his “marching orders” and the younger Marine tells his superior he has “no place else to go.”

For those who like action films with plenty of fire fights and terrorists being eliminated with extreme prejudice this will be a winner.  There is a subplot of CIA money being the real reason there is peace in the area and a predictable ending.

It is interesting to note that the character of Olivia Watson gathers new weapons and more ammunition throughout the running firefight. No one else does however as apparently the Marine’s have a never ending supply of ammo and guns that do not need reloading.

Despite the annoyance of Blake and the inclusion of the naughty CIA Jarhead 3: The Siege is entertaining.  Not in the sense of being intricate or making one think deep thoughts but in terms of action it is quite satisfying.

This is a 3.5 star film that could have stretched to 4 without the character of Blake. It is streaming on Netflix and worth watching. Be prepared to fight the urge to shoot the annoying arsehat with the  video camera yourself.

COD

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve got to admit it. I’m addicted to the Call of Duty games. Most specifically Modern Warfare 3. There! I’ve said it. I feel much better now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved all the “new” COD games since they changed things up with Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare. I like the characters, the story, and the game play. I just never bothered to play the multi-player part until recently.

What?? I hear you gasp. You never played the multi-player??  Are you crazy or what? Well, in my defence, I didn’t have the time before and on-line gaming was just something I couldn’t get my head around. Until Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.

Assassin’s Creed’s multi-player sounded very different from all the “Shoot and Kill” games out there. I thought I might as well “break-my-cherry” on something that wasn’t just S & K. Okay admittedly AC’s multi-player is still based on the S & K philosophy (albeit with a few modifications – stabbing with an assassins blade being just one), but it looked fun.  So I gave it a go. I had so much fun that I then decided to try playing COD on-line.

That first “battle”  and the total feeling of  ”wow, I can’t believe I haven’t done this before,” made me start looking at the COD multi-player with fresh eyes.  Of course, my first time playing on-line was abysmal to say the least. I died…a lot. I killed very few other players. I didn’t know what the best weapons were or what perks gave me the edge I needed to do well. I found that talking with guys at work helped sort those problems out and my game began to improve. I was in a kind of heaven.

My daughter thinks I am slightly nuts about the game. She also thinks I’m addicted to this franchise that banks on  it’s audience becoming so addicted to the game that they will continually pay out money for new DLC content. New DLC that is just new maps…of the same game! Guilty as charged.

I love mastering the weapons and getting better perks as my kill count goes up. I love listening to people from literally all over the world playing together. These COD players: talk, join up with mates – I play with a chum from work, gossip, argue, rant, scream, cry-out-in-anguish, and have temper tantrums. I mean really, who wouldn’t find that entertaining? But apart from all that entertainment, it is the game play itself that keeps luring me back.

I keep playing for the challenge. And for the chance to improve my game scores and performance. These can vary wildly. Today, for example, I played a Death Match with my mate from work. Not only did I have the game high-score, but, I also got the winning kill. Over the moon. Then right after that brilliant match, I joined another group and spent most of my time being killed. Instead of feeling over the moon, I felt ready to shoot anything that moved, this included fellow team members.

*On a side note, I just re-read the above paragraph and realised that it makes me sound very cold blooded and violent. I am, but only in the game verse of COD.

This game has frustrated me, enraged me, and exhilarated me. Sometimes all in the same match. When I do well, I get a sense of accomplishment that puts me on a high for hours. I also finish each session (these can go on for hours) with eyes that feel like they are bleeding and ears that ache and throb from the headphones. Despite these quite negative results from playing, I play as often as I can.

So, like I said, I’m addicted to COD and especially Modern Warfare 3. I would like to actually write some more about the game, but I really must go and play it again.