April 19, 2013, - 6:42 pm

Wknd Box Office: Oblivion, Disconnect

By Debbie Schlussel

I didn’t hate the two new movies at theaters, this weekend, but I didn’t love ’em either. Mixed feelings in both cases.


* “Oblivion“: I liked this movie more for its style than its substance. It was high on the former. As for the latter, I felt like I was watching a remix of “2001: A Space Odyssey” meets “Moon” (read my review) meets “Silent Running”. There is even a smidge of a reminder of one of my favorite movies, “Blade Runner,” in it. I liked all of those movies, but I felt like this didn’t give us anything new beyond that. Still, I found it somewhat entertaining and engaging, if very, very slow, especially for the first half of it. I tend to like futuristic, apocalyptic, and/or high-styled science fiction movies, especially if they have a “Twilight Zone” flavor to them as this does.

The story: the earth is now a wasteland, after it has mostly been destroyed in a war with aliens who tried to overtake it. Humans won the war, but had to move to another planet. The special effects of this movie show us an Empire State Building that is covered with earth up to the observation deck. We’re told the last Superbowl was in 2017. Tom cruise and a woman have been teamed together to return to earth and fix drones that have stalled on earth and need to be restored. At the same time, he and the drones must stave off and kill what he believes are the leftover aliens on earth. But Cruise constantly dreams of the days when earth was still inhabited by humans and he sees a woman he cannot remember. Soon, a spaceship crashes, and he saves one of the inhabitants. It prompts him to start to remember things he could not figure out and to discover that nothing is as it seems.

I liked the man-versus-machine theme of it and the post-modern high style look of it, too. I love modern synthesizer music like the Vangelis soundtrack of “Blade Runner.” But they overdid it–way overdid it–in this movie. The loud, booming music over almost every scene is off-putting and distracting. And annoying. A little goes a long way. Less is more. This movie probably has one of the longest soundtracks ever, other than “Lawrence of Arabia.” And I did not care for what I detected was a political statement against the use of drones against the enemies of America. Yup, the nuts in Hollywood stand with the equally nutty and dangerous Rand (Paul) on this one (and far too many more dangerous things than Paul’s blind, gushing fans on the right care to admit).

Morgan Freeman co-stars. I saw this in IMAX (once you go IMAX, you never go BAX?), but it’s just fine to see on a regular screen.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Disconnect“: I found this movie entertaining, but highly predictable and very cold. It’s one of those didactic “Crash”-style movies that thinks it’s teaching us something (and, yet, that something is the obvious). The stories are interconnected and all about what can happen in our mobile, 24-7, anonymous, Internet world when we are disconnected and/or distracted from those closest to us in our lives. Not that any of this should be news.

The plots: A teen or 20-something is a male prostitute online who gets paid to perform sexual acts. A manipulative, self-righteous reporter tries to get him to give her an interview. A high school kid who has no friends and a distant lawyer father (Jason Bateman is the dad) is taken advantage of by two bullies at his school who pretend to be an online girlfriend. They set him up, and you can very easily predict what happens. A couple who keep having miscarriages get their bank account and all their savings raided by an online scammer, who they believe is the guy the wife has been confiding in about her distant, online-gambling husband.

On the one hand, there are important lessons for kids that they’ll never learn: what you post on the net is forever. And bullying can drive people to do tragic things. And so on. But I don’t think I’d want my kid to see this explicit, highly-charged, overwrought movie. And, yet, I liked when the prostitute tells the TV reporter that she exploits the subjects of her stories more than his pimp exploits him. Yup, that’s the media in a nutshell.

Entertaining enough. But a liberal cornucopia of blatant moralizing and non-stop melodramatic angst without much real useful purpose despite its pretense otherwise. Pretentious. Oh, and by the way, the one guy who was a Marine in the Middle East is portrayed is off-kilter and easily provoked to violence.


Watch the trailer . . .

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9 Responses

Once again, thanks for the reviews. Was hoping to read your review of The Croods a few weeks ago when it came out. Was wondering what your take was on that one.

Rick on April 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I really like the plot line of “Oblivion” and could take it if it has a lot of style. I’ll be able to take a movie I would normally hate if the style is good. It sounded so creepy and I am always up for creepy!

I, too, love “Blade Runner”. Got my Dad to love it too. I love the two director cuts over the original BUT I did like the narration of the original. It filled in the confusing bits. Last spring I watched all 3 over and over and worked out the perfect amalgamation in my mind. It’s just in my top 10 list. Just love it. Harrison Ford was so handsome then but the performance of Rutger Hauer is what I can appreciate now. My second Daryl Hannah performance after her awesome take on “Elle Driver”. If I had to do a movie monologue, I’d do her ‘Elle Driver’ speech to Michael Madison as he is dying from the viperous snake bite. Too good!

I recently saw “Prometheus” and your review (which I re-read after) was spot on! It wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t tight. And like you I was underwhelmed with Noomi Rapace! I like those “Alien” movies. Too bad it couldn’t be more tight and they had a better actress for the lead.

I also saw “Man On The Ledge”. I really hated that. The ending was annoying and insulting and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was fun to listen to Sam Worthington lose his accent more than Cary Elwes. So many Aussies make it look easy but it clearly isn’t. He’s no Ben Mendelsohn or Guy Pearce (who, I was so excited to see was in Prometheus but forgot about him and at the credits I almost died when it said he played the old man! It was a shocker!!)

It’s great to read a reviewer who has my taste in movies over 90% because I am picky! I’m gonna try the Tom Cruise one because I liked the style you described.

Skunky on April 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Oblivion, what a title

Frankz on April 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Excellent review of “Oblivion,” Debbie. Right on target.

As you say, this wasn’t exactly a bad movie, but it wasn’t a good one either. I did give it some points for style, a deafening score that made the theater shake, and a couple of mildly novel sci-fi concepts. I also liked the military drones, mainly because drones have become of interest in our brave new world.

Also, I give the film some credit because it shows a future earth that is poor and devastated, yet the damage isn’t due to global warming, man’s greed or a power-mad arms race. (!) In other words, there was no hackneyed, steam-punk liberal agenda to ruin the mood.

Still, there were a lot of serious weaknesses–especially the excruciatingly boring story, which despite some thrown-in jazzy bits about cloning, artificial intelligence and a surprise about the aliens, was generally cliché-filled and predictable. Even worse than the story, though, were the flat, dull characters. Let’s see, there were the Rebels (boring and predictable), the Oppressors (boring and predictable), the Hero (earnest, intense and humorless as played by Cruz), the conservative wife (predictable) and the supposedly intriguing brave freedom fighter who is a possible alternate love interest for Cruz. That’s about it. And, oh, yes, Morgan Freeman reprises his wise leader role for the four millionth time.

Burke on April 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Tom Cruz–more commonly known, maybe, as Tom Cruise.

    Burke on April 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

OK Deb –

I saw ‘Moon’ only because of your review back then; you were (of course) correct on its quality.

SO… ‘Oblivion’ was not nearly as good as ‘Moon’… my thoughts:

‘Oblivion’ was ‘Moon’ with the addition of the ED-209 enforcement drones (only flying here) from the original ‘Robocop’, with a liberal sprinkling of generic ‘Star Wars’ canyon-flying CGI, and wrapped up in a ripped off ‘Independence Day’ alien-mothership-suicide-mission…

P.S. I heard Medved gushing about the supposedly amazing ‘Oblivion’ FX….. I seem to remember more compelling FX on cable’s old ‘Stargate SG-1’….

Nick Fury on April 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm

“… Empire State Building that is covered with earth up to the observation deck.”

The writers must have seen “Planet of the Apes” when they were younger.

ZZMike on April 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm

ZZMike is totally right….. I forgot to mention the “Heston-Statue-of-Liberty” ‘reveal’….

Nick Fury on April 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm

OK popcorn time.

Finally got half way through ‘Oblivion’ so I can actually talk about a film I bothered semi watching for a change.
Quasi futuristic post apocalypse/Mad Max/Matrix retread plot.

5 minutes in I worked out the big reveal (How much do those idiots get paid?).
Promoted like a Modern version of 2001 a space odyssey.
It’s not even on the same planet as that although you do wish HAL 2000 would switch off their life support at some stage.
You can almost feel your strings being pulled as you try to sit through it.
It feels manufactured because it is manufactured.

It’s amazing to me that they can cobble together a movie this anti American and the only eyebrows that get raised are for the drone references.

Yes they hate drones but mostly they hate you silly.
Sorry, I mean they would hate you if you weren’t supposedly brainwashed like the protagonist.

Anyways, they should have called this movie ‘how to lose the fight you didn’t even know you were in’.

2 Reagans? No.
5 Stalins? Yes.

Forget about it.

Jesus Quintana on May 16, 2013 at 6:43 am

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