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MGM

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Stuart Gillard
Cast:
Matt Lanter, Chuck Shamata, Maxim Roy, Nicolas Wright, Claudia Ferri
Writing Credits:
Rob Kerchner (story), Randall M. Badat (and story), Lawrence Lasker (characters), Walter F. Parkes (characters)

Tagline:
Are you ready to play?

Synopsis:
A brilliant computer hacker must race against time and away from the FBI as he inadvertently begins World War III in this thrilling sequel to the smash hit WarGames!

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 7/29/2008

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gillard and Actor Matt Lanter
• ďThe Making of WarGames: The Dead CodeĒ Featurette
• Production Stills Gallery
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


War Games: The Dead Code (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 29, 2008)

For a long-overdue sequel to 1983ís WarGames, we head to 2008ís direct-to-video WarGames: The Dead Code. The film introduces us to a sophisticated US defense system called RIPLEY. On the surface, it exists as a game site, but it keeps tabs on potential terrorists and nails them via remote attacks.

Teenager Will Farmer (Matt Lanter) possesses great computer skills and sometimes gets into trouble due to hacking. He stumbles onto the RIPLEY games and becomes a top-flight player in no time. That ainít good, for RIPLEY targets the best gamers as probable terrorists, which turns Matt into a suspect. Matt struggles to clear his name and stay alive.

When I recently viewed the original WarGames, I was surprised to see how well it held up over the last 25 years. Sure, the technology dates it, but the premise remains realistic and the film provides a solid piece of dramatic entertainment.

Since the idea of threats from computer hacking has become even more believable and scary since 1983, WarGames boasted a premise well suited for an update. That meant Code had the potential to become something more than a cheap direct-to-video knockoff made long after its predecessor.

Unfortunately, Code lives down to those low expectations. Other than its name and computer connection, it bears little connection to its predecessor. That couldíve been good, as I wouldnít want Code to simply remake WarGames, but the lack of real link to the first flick doesnít work out in a positive way.

Indeed, other than as a brand name, it seems really tough to figure out why they bothered to call this a WarGames movie. Yes, it does throw out a clumsy connection between the two, but they donít feel linked in an honest way. In reality, Code comes across more like a low-rent version of Enemy of the State instead of a sequel to WarGames. Code offers a pretty stiff and transparent thriller without much to make it stand out from the crowd.

Back in 1998, the super-surveillance theme of Enemy seemed chilling and clever, but 10 years later, it comes across as old hat. Perhaps if Code boasted the talented cast/crew and solid production values of Enemy, it could overcome the fact it feels like a tired retread of that flick.

But it doesnít, especially in terms of the actors. Lanter leaves a hole at the center of the movie. Not only is he no Will Smith, but also heís not even remotely as talented as Matthew Broderick, the first flickís protagonist. Lanter provides a relentlessly dull presence, one who lacks charisma or anything more than a handsome face. Broderick managed to create a believable character, but Lanter just wanders through the role and brings nothing to the table.

It doesnít help that he and his co-stars make for wholly unrealistic teenagers. I liked the fact that Broderick and Ally Sheedy felt like real high school students, but that sense of verisimilitude doesnít reappear here. Lanter and his peers all feel significantly too old for the parts.

Ordinarily I could overlook that flaw, but given all the other problems with Code, the casting concerns become more glaring. To call this a braindead story would be a compliment. It provides frequent lapses and leaps in logic as it shows a nearly total lack of intelligence. The basic concept makes little sense - theyíre using computer games to track terrorist cells? Ė and matters never improve from there. The way the film puts the government on Willís case seems idiotic, and all subsequent developments vary from moderately insulting to downright absurd. The movie sets up an illogical world and canít even be bothered to maintain any internal consistency.

To be honest, it feels like the screenwriters penned the script to Code over drinks Ė and scribbled it on a bar napkin. The lack of depth, believability or even basic common sense seems amazing. How did this thing get made?

I donít know, but I can say that The Dead Code provides a serious disappointment. Even though I went into it with low expectations, the end product is so stupid, predictable and charmless that it canít live up to even minor goals. This direct-to-video dreck poops on the original filmís legacy.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

WarGames: The Dead Code appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Despite the limited bits available for the film, the transfer usually looked good.

Compression did create a few concerns, though. Some artifacts occasionally appeared, and I thought wide shots could become a bit soft. Those instances occurred infrequently, however, as the majority of the movie displayed good clarity and delineation. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering cropped up, and only light edge enhancement marred the presentation. In addition, no source flaws caused distractions in this clean transfer.

Colors varied dependent on the desired palette. The movie went with pretty natural tones early in the story, but these became more desaturated as the tale progressed and became more serious; it tended toward a chilly blue tint for those segments. The hues seemed well-rendered within the stylistic choices and showed nice reproduction. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows looked smooth and clear. The light artifacts and softness dropped this to a ďBĒ transfer, but it usually satisfied.

I also found a lot to like from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dead Code. The thriller/high-tech sides of things allowed the mix to shine in a number of ways. Various action scenes used the spectrum in a lively way, and some computer bits also brought out vivid material from the rears to put us ďinsideĒ RIPLEY. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the whole thing blended together in an involving manner.

Audio quality also pleased. Speech came across as concise and natural, without edginess or other problems. Music was lively and full, while effects appeared accurate and dynamic. Bass response consistently came across as deep and rich. Not much about the soundtrack dazzled, but it was plenty good enough for a ďB+Ē.

A few extras round out the set. We find an audio commentary from director Stuart Gillard and actor Matt Lanter, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts and effects, story issues and challenges connected to making a sequel.

Occasionally we learn decent nuggets about Dead Code, but donít expect much. Instead, we find a rather dull, banal conversation. A lot of dead air appears, and the remarks veer in the direction of bland praise much of the time. I couldnít find much of value in this largely uninformative piece.

The Making of Wargames: The Dead Code runs 14 minutes, 46 seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Gillard, Lanter, executive producer Hudson Hickman, screenwriter Randall Badat, director of photography Bruce Chun, visual effects supervisor Mario Rachiele, visual effects artist Alain Omer Duranceau, and actors Amanda Walsh and Colm Feore. The program looks at the story/script and creating a sequel to the 1983 film, cast, characters and performances, cinematography, and visual effects.

Donít expect much depth here. Like the commentary, the featurette maintains a fluffy tone and fails to deliver much concrete info. The notes about effects are pretty good, but most of the remaining footage sticks with promotional happy talk.

Next we get a Production Stills Gallery. It presents 25 shots from the set and from publicity sessions. None of them seem particularly interesting.

Some ads open the disc. We get promos for Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum and Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia. The DVD also provides a Trailers domain with ads for The Onion Movie and In the Name of the King.

It took 25 years for us to get a sequel to WarGames and I expect itíll be another quarter of a century before we find another one. Thatís because itíll take a long time to erase the taint of this stinker. The movie proves idiotic, illogical and without a shred of entertainment value. The DVD offers pretty good picture and audio as well as a few minor supplements. Although I have no significant complaints about the DVD, the movie itself is far too poor for me to recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7317 Stars Number of Votes: 41
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