Only occasionally does Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story stretch credibility. Its problems aren’t its claims to truth so much as its letdowns of genre. The sentiment in a story of friendship between a girl and a horse is so expected it needs ways to hook the audience. Writer-director John Gatins is left keeping his characters at a distance. Kurt Russell is the strict father figure and Dakota Fanning is his optimistic daughter. They fit in nicely with Dreamer’s passionless, static visualization of rural Kentucky. It’s a movie that thinks it needs to pretend to be a movie.
Trainer Ben Crane (Russell) acquires an unfit racehorse who becomes a close friend to his daughter Cale. The dynamic of Cale emulating her father (she takes after him in adjusting her ball cap) while witnessing his professional disgrace doesn’t result in a substantial growth. The rich understanding that came about in Because of Winn-Dixie is snubbed by Dreamer’s self-interest. Trying to keep her pet, Cale learns the ropes of horse trade negotiations — a young girl’s indoctrination into capitalism. Fanning is such an extraordinary talent that Gatins falls into the trap of most filmmakers, who pitch her as precociously wise. This goes furthest as Ben reads one of Cale’s school compositions where the flow and grammatical perfection are such that it’s unlikely even he could write it.
As the title Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story would have it, life’s too short for movies about things that didn’t happen. Especially if they’re based on video games. But since I spent many school nights putting off homework with the game on which Doom is based, there’s a personally complicated level of “true story” to Doom: Inspired by a Video Game that Dreamer doesn’t possess. And since all stories are truly stories, this marketing trend is absurd.
As for the movie Doom, it’s a loyal screen version of the game. That’s to say it fulfills expectations without actually being good. It’s yet another movie to flaunt obvious comparisons to Aliens, but that’s not really a detriment. Imagination just isn’t its thing. Doom indulges in machismo to a self-consciously funny degree. When characters find new guns they get a quiet moment to stare at them in awe, like they just picked up The Holy Grail. The movie gets sillier, more gruesome and more entertaining as it progresses. By the time it develops something resembling a soul, director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Cradle 2 the Grave) has to apologize for wussing out. He then delivers what fans really want: First-person video game action of monsters being exploded by really big guns. It’s garbage, but skillfully catered to an audience that should have given up on the prospect of ever being satisfied by a video game movie. Those who think they’ll hate it probably will.
Defending the horror genre from its stigma as porn is an ongoing battle. Saw II sets the cause back to the dark ages — real porn is more dignified than this. Without the energized filmmaking style that made the first Saw bearable, the rushed, ineptly directed sequel reserves its pleasures for sadists and morons. The evil mastermind Jigsaw has locked a group of people in a shelter. Their chances to escape mostly involve severe self-inflicted torture. Tension is non-existent since survival isn’t a concern; director Darren Lynn Bousman is set to prove how tough he is. The only payoff is blood. As each of these prisoners has committed some kind of sin in the outside world, the shelter becomes a tyrannical reform school. That this also substitutes for Saw II’s moral compass is information enough, but then it’s not my place to criticize anyone who may also find huffing diarrhea and being barfed on for 90 minutes enjoyable. The righteous pleasures include a suicidal living through an impaling, a junkie put on bloody display and a cancer victim getting beaten to a pulp. “Those who do not appreciate life, do not deserve life,” Jigsaw professes. But do those who appreciate life make movies like Saw II?
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