Review done by:  Fatally Yours
Genres: Sci-Fi

Rated: PG-13

Country: USA

Year: 2004

Runtime: 83 minutes

Studio: Lions Gate

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Online since: February 20th, 2006
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Starring: Nate Richert, Danielle Fishel, Patrick Kilpatrick, Patrick Cavanaugh,
Robert Tena

Directed by: David Hillenbrand, Scott Hillenbrand

Story: Charlie Nash is an expert video game tester whose life has become
unbearable after the tragic shooting of his girlfriend Kate. Finding no comfort in
his friends or in his job, Charlie loses himself in video games. After receiving a
mysterious test game in the mail, he immerses himself in its amazingly realistic,
3-D fantasy universe. However, Charlie soon learns this virtual world is totally
real as he's plunged into a perilous, life-and-death battle against the game from
which there is little chance of escape.


Review:

When I received Gamebox 1.0 for review, the first thing I thought was "Stay
Alive rip-off…"
but who in their right mind would rip-off that crappy movie?
Nonetheless, I begrudgingly popped in the disc, thinking the next hour and a
half would be a pretty painful one. Instead, I found Gamebox 1.0 to be an
entertaining and fun movie and a far cry from the stinky mess that was Stay
Alive. Charlie (Nat Richert) is a sad and lonely guy who lost his beloved girlfriend
Kate (Danielle Fishel) after a cop accidentally shot and killed her. He can't seem
to let Kate go – he watches old home movies of her and sits at "their" table at
his favorite restaurant. Neither his friends nor his work buddies can seem to
get him out of his deep funk. Charlie works as a video game developer, and
when he is not moping over Kate he's testing and playing video games both at
work and at home. One day, he receives an unmarked package that contains a
beta version of a new virtual reality gaming system called Gamebox 1.0, that's
been sent to him to try out.

First things first, the instructions say to take pictures of people Charlie wants
to appear as characters in the game with a handy camera included, so he snaps
some photos of his friends and these get uploaded into the game. For the
villain, he chooses the crooked cop who shot his girlfriend. Charlie then puts on
the game's head gear and is warned once the game starts, he won't be able to
stop. Once in the game, Charlie cannot believe how realistic it is. He can interact
with anything he sees and everything feels real. He has three levels to get
through, Crime Spree (which looks very much like Grand Theft Auto), Zombie
World (mimicking certain plot points of Resident Evil) and Alien Planet (which
I'm told is like Halo) and he must learn his objective from other characters as
he progresses through the game. He finds his friends all playing cameos in the
game (just like the instructions told him) and he also faces his girlfriend's killer,
the cop, as the villain.

Charlie realizes this is no ordinary video game when he gets hurt and actually
feels real pain (not to mention the fact that he only has three lives). He is also
stunned to find that one of the characters, named Princess and whom he must
protect, looks exactly like Kate. After the game becomes too much, Charlie tries
to leave the game, but he starts seeing things in real life from the game and
realizes he cannot leave. The game has now fused itself into his subconscious
and can make him play at any time. After an incident that leaves him into a
coma, Charlie finds there is no escape from the game. He now must play the
game and triumph over it or his life will be Game Over! Gamebox 1.0 wasn't a
bad movie at all, and despite its obvious flaws, I found myself enjoying it and
I'm not even into video games. The strong character development that went
into Charlie is what makes this movie so enjoyable.

You just feel so bad for the poor guy. Nat Richert does a great job playing
Charlie, both as the real-world, sad 'n' mopey Charlie as well as his slick video
game counterpart. Though the concept of being stuck in a virtual reality game
is nothing new, the story still felt pretty cool and was kept interesting with
twists and turns. I was impressed with the first level of the game, Crime Spree,
and how well it mimicked the look of Grand Theft Auto. It really did look like
Charlie was in a video game! I also dug the weapon commands and the heath
boosters that popped up periodically through the game. These touches added
to the virtual reality feel of the game. Thankfully there was no attempt to make
the game look "real" with CGI or silly sets. The other two games were a
different story, though. My main complaint with this movie was how crappy the
other two levels in the game, Zombie World and Alien Planet, looked.

The movie loses a lot of steam when Charlie enters Zombie World. The setting,
which moves from a barren, dead-tree filled wasteland to a forest (that the
characters call a "jungle," much to my confusion), looks horrible! The worst
thing about this level, though, was the look of the "zombies." There is no way
that black blobs that resemble ninjas and move like monkeys ready to fling poo
should be called "zombies." This is by far the worst representation of zombies
I've ever seen in a film (and I've seen the utter ineptitude that is Ulli Lommel's
Zombie Nation!!). Alien Planet didn't look as bad, and at least had a realistic
Mars-like landscape to it, but again, the aliens just looked all blobby. I'm
wondering if all the production's money got spent on the cool-looking Crime
Spree or if someone seriously dropped the ball with the other levels'
environments.

Despite these heinous flaws, I couldn't help myself from enjoying the rest of
the film. If you can forgive the film for the ninja/monkey hybrid, there is a lot to
enjoy. The budget was obviously low on the film, but the characters and story
were so much fun that I'm willing to forgive its flaws. An interesting note is that
it was made well before Stay Alive, so the whole copycat thing doesn't even
apply here, not to mention that it's vastly superior to that flick (though monkey
poo is superior to that movie). Gamebox 1.0 does not feature gratuitous
nudity or gore and kinda feels like a made-for-teens flick (complete with cheesy
romantic scenes and music), so it's not recommended if you are looking for
something a little more horrifying. Still, it is a fun sci-fi flick that I recommend
for at least a rental.


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Overall: 6/10
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