Runtime 125 minutes.
OK for children.

Copyright(c) Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise in “Oblivion.”

This is the type of 21st century major studio film I have come to loathe. It’s set in 2077 after Earth has been devastated by a cataclysmic war. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough are apparently the only human beings monitoring Earth as water is being sucked from the surface for a migration to one of the moons of Saturn for the survivors of the war. Tom and Andrea report to a computerized person orbiting the dead and dying earth, played by Melissa Leo. There are some bad creatures still on the planet who occasionally attack Tom, and Tom and Andrea are ordered to keep away from them, as well as to stay out of a zone labeled prohibited because it is highly radioactive.

Although the production notes claim this to be “an original and groundbreaking cinematic event,” they also state that it is based on the “graphic novel created by Joseph Kosinski” (who is the director of the film). However, it seems to me to be clearly based on a radio show that was originally broadcast on November 26, 1950 entitled “Universe,” written by Robert Henlein that told almost the same story. I heard Greg Bell’s 1951 rebroadcast of the show on XM Radio’s Classic Radio channel approximately a month ago. I haven’t seen Kosinski’s graphic novel (a supercilious term for a long comic book), but this story is so shockingly similar to Henlein’s story that it strains credulity to believe that the creators of this film were not greatly influenced or inspired by Henlein’s story.

There are five writing credits, so I won’t bother to mention them here, especially since I suspect that the story was purloined from the aforementioned radio show. Even so, the script is well-written and the story captivating. Although it runs for over two hours, Kosinski keeps the pace moving. The story is told well as at the beginning the tension starts and doesn’t let up until the final scenes.

Surprising for special effects– driven movies like this, the cast is top-flight, including Morgan Freeman, Leo, and Olga Kurylenko, who seems to be making an appearance in almost every movie I see recently.

Like many modern movies, this is clearly aimed at the videogame crowd, because the special effects are straight out of that genre. Normally these kinds of things are a big bore. But here they are essential to the plot and are of high quality so to not overwhelm the movie.

The film is visually stunning; shot with a new Sony F65 digital camera, it has clarity four times a High Def image. There are a lot of stunts in the film and it is claimed that Cruise does them all himself. I’m generally dubious of claims (and it’s almost always that stars claim to perform their own stunts) that a huge star would risk himself on dangerous stunts and that production companies and insurance companies would allow a star upon which the success of the film depends to take such risks, but that’s what they claim. If he did do them, they are impressive.

I came out of this film pleasantly surprised. The less you know about the plot, the more you will enjoy the film. But shame on them for not giving Henlein any credit.

Runtime 115 minutes.
Not for children.

 Image copyright(c) LD Entertainment

From l, Colin Ford and Jason Bateman in “Disconnect.”

Crash (2004) started it all and won an Academy Award for Best Picture with four separate vignettes, all of which came together at the end. This is the same style, telling about an ambitious attorney who spends more time on his cell phone than with his family, a married couple who is the victim of identity theft, a widowed former policeman with an adventurous son who cyber bullies a classmate, and a journalist consumed by ambition who wants to establish a reputation by reporting about a teenager who performs on an adult-only website.

Well directed by Henry-Alex Rubin from a script by Andrew Stern, the ensemble cast is led by Jason Bateman, who forsakes his heretofore comedic reputation to act in a straight drama. He is joined by a good cast of supporting players, like Michael Nyqvist, who played the lead in the Swedish (and better) version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Alexander Skarsgård, and others, all of whom perform at a high standard. Special mention must go to 16-year-old Colin Ford, who plays Grillo’s mischievous son who causes huge problems. He displays admirable range in a difficult role.

This is a movie with mounting tension, not an easy one to watch. Especially difficult is the cyber bullying segment; difficult and very well done. It shows the thoughtlessness of teenagers, how they pick on people who are different with no thought to the consequences, and it shows the consequences. This is the kind of movie that can have a beneficial effect if enough teenagers watch it.

I have to admit, however, that I thought it ended with a thud. Maybe that’s the way life is. Even so, this isn’t life, it’s a movie! Rubin should have worked to get a better ending. Up until the last five minutes, though, this is thoroughly engrossing.

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