The Forsaken and The Lookout

This week we're going to take a look at a couple of films, one called The Lookout and one called The Forsaken (but not one called The Forsaken Lookout) and I have an important announcement about this column. We also have a fantastic one paragraph review of a popular game for the Nintendo DS.

The Lookout
The Lookout was described by my local cable station as a film about a brain damaged man and a blind man who get mixed up with a bank robbery. That description could actually be almost any type of movie; mystery, comedy, romance, thriller, action or even science fiction if you set it on the right planet. It turned out to have some elements of most of those genres but could also end up being billed as a drama. The story takes place four years after local hockey star Chris Pratt, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is involved in a terrible car accident. He's now working in a tiny bank as a janitor and attending classes designed to help him cope with his brain injury. He lives with a roommate, a blind man called Lewis, played by Jeff Daniels, who is particularly good at dealing with the rages that may afflict those who have had a traumatic brain injury.

Chris wants to get into a program at his bank that will give him an opportunity for advancement, but the first step is to work as a teller for x many hours. Chris' boss is incapable of seeing Chris as more than someone with short term memory loss and won't even consider the idea, leaving Chris frustrated and invalidated. Enter a gang of thieves who plan to rob the bank during harvest season, while it is filled with cash earmarked for farmers to pay their workers. The thieves begin a complicated dance of seduction designed to make Chris so unhappy with his lot that he will help them with the robbery.

There is much to enjoy about this film. The plot worked very well for me, with plenty of tension and a story I couldn't figure out in advance. The acting is spot on with over all terrific performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is particularly good, extremely natural in a difficult role. He reminded me eerily of Heath Ledger, with that quality of acting that makes everything look effortless. I'm not sure why I didn't hear about this movie when it came out, but I'm glad I caught it this time around.

The Forsaken
It's hard to do vampires well because so much has been written about them, much of it conflicting, and sadly, much of it bad. Even in the nineteenth century, when this genre really began, we had a wide range of choices, including Dr. Polidori's novel The Vampyre, begun the night Mary Shelley began Frankenstein, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, which was about a lady vampire with a love for other lady vampires, making this story doubly shocking for the times. We also had Varney the Vampyre, or The Feast of Blood, a Penny Dreadful, deliberately "dumbed down" for the masses, and Bram Stoker writing Dracula, the book that would become the foundation of modern vampire storytelling. Nowadays we have dozens of paranormal romances featuring vampires, as well as a continuing stream of horror movies focusing on the undead.

The Forsaken is somewhat unusual in that it's a vampire film combined with a road trip film. It starts with a fellow called Sean, played by Kerr Smith, taking a job delivering a quite nice, very expensive car, in Florida. He's starting from Arizona, doesn't have insurance and will be in very large trouble if he delivers the goods with even one scratch. He runs into trouble almost right away when he loses his wallet. Luckily for him he's squirreled away some cash he had planned to use to buy his sister's wedding present (the whole reason he is delivering this car I think, to get free transport to the wedding) and can use that to buy some gas. Despite being specifically warned not to pick up hitchhikers, he does, giving a lift to Nick, played by Brendan Fehr, who offers to chip in for gas. They haven't gone far when they run into a menacing group of strangers driving a beaten up car, who ask for a jump. Naturally the strangers are vampires who have just killed a bunch of people who were having a party in the desert.

Having successfully escaped after helping with the broken down car, Nick and Sean go to a hotel where they discover a beautiful blond bombshell, who appears to be bombed out of her mind. But wait, she's not on drugs, she's a vampire victim and the vamps with the bad car are after her, which means the bloodsuckers will be after our heroes if they help her. But how can they not? She's a gorgeous damsel in distress and they are the good guys, of course they have to risk everything for her. What follows is a cat and mouse game complete with car chases, secrets revealed, and armed feisty old women.

The Forsaken reminded me somewhat of another vampire film, one of my favorites and probably a classic by now, Lost Boys. The vamps had the same element of chaotic destruction, mixed with a complete lack of empathy. These are not the angst ridden vampires you hear so much about, instead they revel in their lawlessness and bloodlust. While there were a few times my ability to believe in the story was strained, overall it's a solid, satisfying film. I was particularly pleased by the inclusion of the requirement that the car Sean is driving be delivered on time and in mint condition. With most of these films it's enough to get out alive and I always wonder how in the world the protagonists explain all the bloodshed and explosions away afterwards. This movie makes it clear that Sean also needs to protect the car, which adds another layer of suspense.

This is the last week new Quality Time columns will appear on BrokerUniverse. You can find future columns at the dedicated site, http://qualitytimeweekly.com, where our slogan is "We have fun so you don't have to." Any Quality Time correspondence can be sent to feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's review comes from Brandon Shipe, who has some excellent comments. "The World Ends with You is a video game for the Nintendo DS. It takes place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan. You play as Neku, a boy stuck in the UG. The UG is a game by the Composer, where those who have died get a chance to come back to life, but in order to do that you have to survive 7 days of challenges while fighting off "The Noise". The unique battle system utilizes both DS screens; your partner will fight on the top screen while you fight on the bottom, and while it is possible to control your partner's actions, you're probably better off just letting them do their own little thing. The attacks your character can use in battle are dependent upon which pins you have equipped, each pin allows you to use a specific "Psych". Each Psych does something different, some let you cause Earthquakes, some let you lift objects with your mind, and others give you the ability to just outright punch your opponent. In addition to your pins, you will also having clothing equipped. Each piece of clothing has a different brand, and different brands are popular in different areas of Shibuya. If your clothes are in style then you'll receive an attack bonus in battle, if they're very out of style your attack will be reduced instead. What clothes you're able to wear is dependent upon one thing and one thing only; your bravery. It doesn't matter that you're a boy, if you want to you can wear a purple bikini, if you're brave enough to be seen in public with a bikini on that is. All in all the game is a lot of fun, and the multiplayer mode and all the unlockables ensure that you'll get your money's worth out of this game." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com, our new email address.