On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 17, 2013

I read about one hundred pages of Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) novel on which this latest Brad Pitt film is based but was never really able to dig into it. I hoped to finish it before seeing the resulting film, but upon consistently hearing the movie would be nothing like the book and after witnessing the format and technique with which the book was constructed it was clear the only way to make a movie that strictly adhered to that same format would have been to make a documentary-like film. As it was clear this was not the route taken by director Marc Forster and producer/star Pitt I gave up on the book with optimistic thoughts of returning to it at some point. It was clear the main concept the film had taken away from the novel was the idea of a global crisis, but that displaying the crisis on a global scale through a leading man was more attractive than jumping from perspective to perspective with multiple characters. There is no problem with this approach except for the fact that the only thing the novel and the actual film share is now the title. I can understand why this might have caused Brooks to speak negatively about the film, but even this isn't the worst thing this movie had going against it before its release. That would be the on-set tension between Forster and Pitt as well as the issues with the ending of the film. That there were $20 million worth of re-shoots done and last minute re-writes to the script would all point towards the final product being a complete mess. Turns out, we should have simply had faith in Pitt all along as World War Z turns out to be an extremely tense, well-paced action movie that doesn't solely depend on that action to give it a pulse. This is a smart, surprisingly well-thought out film that is up front about its zombie problem and deals with it in a way that is terrifying due to the fact it is likely how things would actually happen were there to be some kind of infection turning your friends, family and fellow citizens into undead sprinters that bite and move on with their victims becoming the same frightening zombies in a matter of seconds. B+

Brit Marling is officially three for three in my book. After first seeing the actress and writer in director Mike Cahill's 2011 film Another Earth it was not necessarily her acting skill that was intriguing, but the way in which she gravitated towards projects. Yes, she was good at playing guarded and mysterious, but she was also able to invoke a sense of real intensity that continues to carry through not only the characters she plays, but the films she has a hand in making. Last years Sound of My Voice paired her with friend and director Zal Batmanglij to produce one of my favorite films of 2012 while reassuring me and everyone else that science fiction didn't have to necessarily be big, bold new worlds and fantastic technology to be engaging, but it simply had to have a precise goal and Sound of My Voice was a film very specific in what it wanted to accomplish and did so with a perfect balance of mystery and intrigue. while I completely adore that film and was happy to see Marling re-team with Batmanglij again this year I was thankful they weren't treading the same ground, but were instead moving on to different subject matter completely while still looking to strike up a conversation. With The East these two young, but equally wise artists bring our attention to moral dilemmas. Though the film will grab you in advertisements by purporting to be a slick espionage thriller that follows a rookie agent on her first assignment there is so much more to the film than this generic sounding synopsis. The film is ultimately about deciding what is worth doing that many see as wrong for the greater good of what you believe is right. That is the purpose of the titular-named group that Marling's protagonist Sarah is pulled into and while we certainly expect her to make some type of connection with these people who genuinely feel they have to do these wrong things for the right reasons it comes as a surprise where Sarah ends up going on the arc this movie gives her. There is a balance here that doesn't lean too far in one direction so as to present a slanted view, but in all earnestness wants to create a big picture while getting the small details right in order to make it feel as honest as possible. A-

Based on the article, "The Suspects Wore Louboutins," by Nancy Jo Sales of Vanity Fair (which Emma Watson's Nicki views only as flattering when the interview takes place in the movie) Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring tells the real-life story of a group of fame-obsessed Los Angeles kids who managed to break into the mansions of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, and Audrina Patridge among many others and come away with an estimated $3 million in clothes, jewelry, and countless other valuables. Naturally, once this group of spoiled valley kids were caught and taken to court for the charges brought against them they only turned into what they desired most. It is in these sequences near the end of the film that display the level of self-importance these kids reserve for themselves and how the people surrounding them only enable it. Up until this point though the movie falls surprisingly flat. If it is any justification to the fact these kids didn't receive all they wanted from their punishment (I had not heard of the case prior to the film and only just skimmed the Sales article to get a sense of what the movie might be). Sales also published a book that shares the title of the film adaptation and despite having not read it I can very much imagine how the written word could make this subject seem perfect for lending itself to cinema. Not only is the material timely, but it has the capability of digging into the psychology of the shift in how kids act now and why those actions have changed while not necessarily evolving but instead, as in this case, becoming stagnant. Even more interesting is that these events took place at the time when the country was in a questionable place financially. In these times when many people were/are being laid off and the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck these already rich kids are sneaking into houses to make themselves all the more rich and glamorous. There might have been some kind of empathy for these characters were they feeling the effects of the recession and stealing from the over-privileged to help their own families, but there is no such selflessness involved. Instead, it is all for the sake of luxury and that all encompassing, lifestyle addiction that is the fame monster. D

Crash dealing with technology. This simple four word description is what I believed Disconnect to be before sitting down and giving it a shot. I liked Crash when it arrived back in 2005. Do I agree with it winning best picture? No, not necessarily, but it was a solid movie nonetheless and it elicited some genuine emotion from me and clearly other audience members throughout the film going community. This piece isn't about Crash though, but what I thought about that film likely informs how I feel about Disconnect because though it is not the carbon copy my expectations believed it to be it certainly has many of the same intentions and goes about accomplishing them in somewhat similar ways. In all honesty, I was engaged in this film from very early on. There are some films in which you embark on and immediately know you aren't ever going to really get into the material this visual interpretation is exploring and yet there is the other end of the spectrum where you become so wrapped up in the events of what is happening to the characters on screen that you hate to see the signals that the film will soon be coming to an end. That latter reaction is what happened with Disconnect. It was a very interesting play because it opens with the storyline that ends up becoming the least resolved, but is the most immediately shocking and gets your attention only to segway into the main title sequence that introduces us to our second set of characters against the backdrop of Awolnation's "Sail". Whether it was due to the use of this familiar yet still powerfully resonant song or simply to the supreme confidence director Henry Alex Rubin (Murderball) and writer Andrew Stern seem to have had in their material there was something immediately gripping and slightly epic about the way the film presented itself and to say the least, I was intrigued. Disconnect is a sprawling film that never loses its footing and digs deep into the human psyche and past the technology that its title suggests is the main cause of the rifts in the relationships documented here. That not only are these tools that are intended to keep us all connected separating actual human contact further, but allowing us to take advantage of one another in the least humane of ways. A-

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