The East

The East is an uncomfortable little film; it reminded me of the (superior) Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, not quite in the same league, but interesting and creepy nonetheless.

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Brit Marling (who co-wrote the film) plays Sarah, a private security operative who goes underground to spy on an eco-terror group called The East. These guys live communally, completely off the grid, emerging only occasionally for the highly public and edge-of-deadly humiliation of big oil / chemical / pharma executives. So you’re dealing with the “will-she-won’t-she be unmasked”, and “will-they-won’t-they be uncovered”, and “will-they-won’t-they actually kill anyone” trifecta, played out amongst people we’ll never really understand. And thus the movie tracks Sarah’s gradual engagement with the group’s philosophy, if not their motives, and her increasing attachment to the group’s enigmatic leader (Alexander Skarsgard – so kind of understandable.) So, although it’s not a consistently brilliant film, it’s queasy-making throughout and well worth a watch. Set in DC, The East actually filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Disconnect

If you’ve “liked” Louis CK’s rant about smartphones recently, you’ll also enjoy Disconnect. Well, maybe enjoy is a strong word. It’s basically a grim tale about cyber crime and identity theft and online bullying and the tendency these days for us to play out our lives via the internet with no thought to the consequences.

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Jason Bateman plays Rich, the corporate lawyer for a tv station. A station Reporter has been doing an expo-zay of teen hookers, and she crosses some very blurred lines as she pursues one hot young guy for a story. Meanwhile, Rich’s son, a hopeless sad-sack type, is being bullied by some school “chums”, and he attempts suicide. The bully is the son of a cyber-detective who’s helping out a bereaved couple whose identity’s been stolen by a hacker. All of them are screwed; there is, conspicuously, no resolution to any of the dramas the characters face. But the tribulations also bring them closer to their loved ones and that, I think, is probably the message of the piece.

The cast is uniformly good, but the bullying teen Colin Ford stands out, as does designer Marc Jacobs in a nasty little pimp cameo. And it’s atmospheric too; Disconnect filmed in New York and New Jersey. The seedy motel is actually seedy in real life. Early shopping scenes play out at the Mall at Cross County.

Battleship

I was wondering how they’d turn a dodgy board game into a blockbuster aliens-blow-shit-up sci-fi spectacle. I thought they might skip the strategy stuff altogether and I was really pleasantly surprised how they pulled it off (it’s actually pretty inspired, something to do with tsunami buoys – seriously.) And whilst there’s little character development, some truly hokey dialogue, and way not enough time getting Alexander Skarsgard even vaguely naked, it zips along at a cracking pace, to a thunderous soundtrack, in an entirely entertaining way. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Battleship is set in Hawaii, and it largely filmed there, on Maui and Oahu – you’ll expect Jurassic Park dinosaurs to scuttle about in certain locations – although it did also do some stuff in Louisiana. This is a movie that famously pulled its production from Gold Coast Australia because of a lack of incentives; brutal. I’m glad it’s good, though; Taylor Kitsch really didn’t deserve to be poisoned by John Carter.

Melancholia

So I’m sitting here imagining an alternative marketing push for the movie Melancholia…… “It’s about this huge meteor, right, that’s heading straight for earth, right, so it’s a race against time coz its gonna kill, like, everyone, right? And it’s got Kiefer Sutherland from 24 in it, and also that Swedish dude who’s the vampire in True Blood, and it’s got Kirsten Dunst, right? and she gets her whole kit off….”

Oh yes, how easily things can be spun. Melancholia is indeed a film about the end of Planet Earth – and Melancholia is also the huge planet that’s about to slam into our little blue marble. Kirsten Dunst plays a woman suffering from both depression and a truly frazzled and fucked-up family. But the thing about depression is, when shit falls apart, you remain entirely cool and collected, and as Melancholia approaches, Kirsten’s weepy dead-beat becomes the only one in the family who holds it all together.

So the worst thing about the film (aside from director von Trier’s Nazi jokes) is that it is extremely slow. The absolute best thing about Melancholia (aside from KiKiDee, who rocks) is the graceful, atmospheric Swedish estate of Tjoloholm Slott where it was filmed. It’s the kind of elegant place the Vanger’s wished they had the class and refinement to inhabit.