Disconnect Review (Dustin SanVido)

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

Disconnect (2012)

Starring Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Frank Grillo, Hope Davis, Max Theriot, Alexander Skarsgard, Michael Nyqvist, Colin Ford, Andrea Riseborough and Jonah Bobo

Written by Andrew Stern

Directed by Henry Alex Rubin

The subject of social media and its positive and negative effects have never been explored successfully on film with the exception of The Social Network presenting a more focused and loosely based biography of Mark Zuckerberg. While I did enjoy The Social Network for its decision to tell the story of the creation of Facebook as a pseudo-super-villain’s rise to power, 2010’s lackluster Catfish is the only other ‘social-network’ film that comes to mind. Like Catfish, Disconnect is a story of the negative effects and darker side of social media, told through the course of three separate storylines that begin to intersect in a similar mold and structure of the Academy Award winning Crash. I did like Disconnect for its message, acting, and most of the story, but an underwhelming climax stopped all forward momentum which had been building rather splendidly for the majority of the film.

The three stories in Disconnect are that of a still-grieving couple (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard) who must deal with online identity-theft, a news journalist (Andrea Riseborough) writing a story involving the online sexual exploitation of a group of youths, and a high-school outcast (Jonah Bobo) who is cyber-bullied and the severe ramifications that echo through the family of the victim (Jason Bateman and Hope Davis) and that of the bully’s (Frank Grillo). These three storylines are so well-crafted and spend ample time developing so many characters, one might presume the story could feel a bit bloated. Thankfully that’s not the case, as Rubin shifts seamlessly from thread to thread allowing all of the actors’ individual moments to really get the point of the film across: as technology advances more and more our lives become more online-dependent and thus, some of our humanity is lost in the process and the growing isolation we feel in today’s society leaves us disconnected from one another.

The acting is the real standout of Disconnect. All of the actors give fantastic performances that help drive the narrative and really pull you into the turmoil, sadness, frustration and anger that permeates throughout the script. Frank Grillo and Paula Patton are the best of the bunch, turning in career best performances as struggling parents, broken in their own individual ways, and are by far the standouts of the film. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Alexander Skarsgard has also delivered a career performance here, much like his memorable turn as Model #3 from Zoolander. All joking aside, there are zero weak points to this film from an acting stand-point, and one can’t help but be fully invested in the well-being of every character represented, good or bad. I applaud Rubin for getting the most out of his actors and delivering a technically proficient look into unexplored subject matter, albeit with one small caveat.

Photo from http://www.tiff.net

So much of Disconnect hinges on the climax where all of the interwoven stories CRASH into one another, and this is where the film regrettably comes up short. Due to the emotional moments that escalate toward the third act of the film, unlike Crash, the end resolutions just can’t deliver on the strong buildup that preceded it. I won’t spoil any of them, but they’re just so pedestrian and safe that the tension and suspense drawing out lands with a thud. This may have been a decision by the writers to keep the film from becoming a bleak and depressing vantage point from which to view the social media world, but if you’re going to send a bus full of children careening off a cliff-side with no hope of survival, I’d rather the bus hit the ground and explode than become caught in a large tree leaving the children to look at one another and think “aw shucks”. A poor choice of analogy, perhaps. But in the case of Disconnect, I’d say a poor choice of ending.

I still enjoyed the film quite a bit, but I would’ve lauded the filmmaker if he had been daring enough to go all the way with what his script was driving towards. In the end we’re left with an almost-great and very insightful look into the darker side of social media that stumbles slightly at the end, and as a result is ultimately satisfying.

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Battleship Review (Kirk Haviland)

Battleship (2012)

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Tadanobu Asano and Liam Neeson

Written by Erich and Jon Hoeber

Directed by Peter Berg

After a brief hiatus I have returned with a review that has had my head spinning. How do I talk about Battleship? Quite possibly the loudest and most annoyingly inconsequential film of the last decade, Battleship makes no apologies for its “script” which is a collage of the worst film clichés. But did we really expect anything else from a movie based on a board game?

Battleship starts with the brothers Hopper, Alex (Kitsch) and Stone (Skarsgard), in a bar while Stone laments the fact that Alex is a screw up who can’t stay employed. In walks Samantha Shane (Decker), whose request for a chicken burrito leads to Alex breaking into a closed convenience store for one to give her (yes, you read that right). Of course Alex is chased by the police and tased, but magically ends up waking up at home and not in a jail cell.  Stone decides it’s time for Alex to join the Navy with him. We jump forward six years to find that Stone, now in his early 30’s, has become a Commander of a Naval Destroyer (!!) and Alex is now a Lieutenant and 3rd in command of another Destroyer (in only 6 years and despite his criminal past!). Sam, as it turns out is the daughter of Admiral Shane (Neeson), who doesn’t like Alex at all and may make Alex’s plans for marriage more complicated. During the setup for Rimpack, a joint Naval games exercise with Naval outfits from across the globe (so we can sell to those overseas markets!), we are introduced to many more characters, including Petty Officer Raikes (Rihanna in her theatrical debut) and a rival Japanese Captian, Nagata (Asano). During the games aliens crash-land in the ocean and construct a barrier cutting off three ships from the rest of the fleets. They proceed to destroy them with propelled charges that look exactly like the pegs from the Battleship Board Game! Of course somehow Alex becomes a commanding officer and it’s up to him to save the day.

Sorry for the extraneous use of punctuation during my synopsis, but the preposterousness of it all had to be emphasized. I didn’t even get to the scene where they commandeer a decommissioned Battleship that they have no idea how to operate, only to spark an ACDC accompanied montage where veterans magically appear on the boat and fire up the engines! The biggest issue with Battleship is despite all its goofiness and explosions galore, it’s actually really boring. Neeson is a footnote in the story, written out of over half the film due to the barrier supplied by the Aliens. While I found Kitsch quite enjoyable in the overstuffed John Carter from earlier this year (review here), he does not come off as well here. Spouting terribly clichéd dialogue and blankly starring at green screened alien foes, his Alex never seems credible at any moment of time during the proceedings. Decker’s Sam, while engaging in an utterly inconceivable side plot, is mainly eye candy for the teenaged boys this film is clearly targeted at. Rihanna, the only non-actor in the main cast, actually manages some charisma onscreen, even if her acting chops are obviously shown to be very limited.

As stated earlier, Battleship commits the cardinal sin of any action film – it’s boring as hell. Even pulling out the go to for action montages, ACDC (not once but twice), cannot make the film feel any more interesting. The good folks at Universal had high hopes for this becoming their Transformers franchise, but even they couldn’t have predicted how bad would turn out. Director Berg has made some fun stuff in the past, but seems to have left all the fun out his latest. Save yourself the hassle and go see Avengers again. Battleship is a Strong Non-Recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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