movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] A reality show where contestants play russian roulette? Bring it on!

PEOPLE: Directed by Bill Guttentag, a documentary filmmaker trying his hand at fiction. The style is mockumentary — it feels like watching The Office. People acknowledge the camera, and the filmmaker is one of the characters in the movie. Starring Eva Mendes (Training Day, Urban Legends, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and David Krumholtz (aka Goldstein from Harold & Kumar, Schwartzberg from Walk Hard:The Dewey Cox Story, also in other movies like How To Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog, Addams Family Values, 10 Things I Hate About You, Serenity, as well as 2 episodes of Undeclared). With Rob Brown (get a less generic name, dude!), Katie Cassidy (who will be in the new Melrose Place), Jay Hernandez (Quarantine (2008), Hostel 1, Hostel 2), Eric Lively (24: Redemption, The L Word), Monet Mazur (Blow, Addams Family Values), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy, Weeds), and Danny Comden (Urban Legend).

HAIKU REVIEW BY CAROLYN: Russian Roulette game
shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Oh, he’s dead! I WON!

QUIRKS: This is a mockumentary about the development of a reality show where 6 contestants play Russian Roulette. The ones who don’t die get $5M each. The one who does die — gets nothing. Not even his family gets a cent.

MORALS: Network executives and the media have no morals. They are duty-bound to air whatever programming garners the most ratings. This leads us in a predictable direction; Most futuristic cyberpunk science fiction shows incredibly brutal shows on television — a social commentary about television’s ultimate fate. But this movie doesn’t happen in the future; it happens in the present. And it happens in a pretty realistic way. Network executive backstabbing, FCC interference, media hype, emergency Supreme Court rulings, Freedom Of Speech issues, how to choose contestants that interest The People — everything is covered.

POLITICS: They made some good points about the First Amendment. Ultimately I was convinced that if this idea was proposed in real life, that a network should air live Russian Roulette — even if the idea is despicable to everyone (including me). The FCC and authorities should allow this, even if this would take us back to the Gladiator Days of the Roman empire. Freedom of speech is about allowing unpopular speech, and freedom in general is about allowing unpopular activities.

Furthermore, suicide should be legal, as should gambling. And it’s questionable as to whether it really counts as committing suicide anyway — if you have a 1 in 6 chance of dying, is pulling the trigger really attempted suicide? Or is it simply a risk, like parachuting or driving recklessly? Sticky issues…

BAD STUFF: This movie is extremely unsettling. Traditional horror movies (Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, zombie movies) are “scary”, but in a completely unrealistic way. They startle you, they gross you out — but you don’t typically need to text your friend to see if zombies are actually outside after watching them. You know it can’t happen.

This movie? This is something that could happen. The outcry would probably stop it in real life, but the fact of the matter is — it would definitely be one of the highest-rated television events in history. And that’s what Live! is about — making television history by broadcasting the first-ever live game of Russian Roulette. (The FCC makes them air it at 1AM EST (10PM PST) so that children aren’t watching it.)

And unsettling it is. Carolyn was freaked out during this. To compare, we watched Friday The 13th (2009) immediately afterward, and there was no freaking out at all. It was tame compared to Live. Live is not a horror, but it’s horrific. They go into great detail telling you about all 6 of the people’s lives, and their motivations. Sure, this is an easy way to pull on our emotional strings — but it works!

As we got to the reality show part — “Live!” (as in “live on tv” and also as in “live! try to live!”), the special — Carolyn became very freaked out. She told me that she would have changed the channel. Then I told her, “I wouldn’t have let you!”

Later, some crazy stuff happens. Carolyn then exclaims, “If I’d had my way, I would have missed this part! Thank you for not letting me change the channel!”

Hypothetical situations are fun :)

So yes… This got a reaction out of us, provided some social commentary, and was in general an intense movie with a good gimmick that pushed many boundaries.

CONCLUSION: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.

This would probably get a 9/10 if it weren’t for the fact that it takes awhile to pick up and get super-intense. Mockumentaries often feel boring — and this one does, but only at the beginning. Then it just keeps getting better and better and better — until the ending gunshot.

Then there is a small “one year later” epilogue that serves to further disturb the viewer because [highlight for spoilers] the networks have now decided to air live Russian roulette once a year as a special.

RECOMMENDATION: Intense! Boundary-pushing! I hate reality TV, but I absolutely love this movie! See it!

SIMILAR MOVIES: The Running Man explores a similar premise, but in a way that doesn’t relate to our current culture nearly as well, as it is a sensational game show in the future. In this movie, it’s a sensational reality show in the present.

MOVIE QUOTE: (paraphrased; no quotes in IMDB) Journalist: “Which contestant are you rooting for?”
Woman on the street: “None! I think the whole concept is disgusting and despicable!”
Journalist: “So you wont be watching, then?”
Woman on the street: “I didn’t say I wouldn’t be watching.”

That quote pretty much captures how I feel about this. Something like this airing would indeed be a moment in human history; one of the defining television moments of our generation. Even though it’s a disgusting and morally reprehensible idea, I would totally tune in just to see someone die.

Mood: ready for ninja attack
Music: Nine Inch Nails – Survivalism