This low-budget medical thriller marks the directorial debut of Brandon Cronenberg, and is bound to draw comparisons — perhaps unfairly — to the early work of his father, David. There are some stylistic similarities, but the film stands on its own as a modestly chilling and suspenseful look at pharmaceutical experimentation through the story of a clinic employee (Caleb Landry Jones) who must fight for survival after being injected with a virus that killed a celebrity starlet (Sarah Gadon). The script is thin but effectively creepy as it examines contemporary pop culture obsessions while maximizing the queasy close-ups of needles, blood and medical procedures. (Not rated, 108 minutes).
A first-rate cast can’t rescue this earnest yet uneven melodrama from director Henry-Alex Rubin (Murderball) that weaves together three cautionary tales about how technology impacts relationships. It explores topics such as bullying, media ethics, identity theft, contemporary parenting, infidelity and pornography through stories about the perils of online chat rooms, social media and computer addiction. There are some powerful moments, and the film remains edgy and compelling for about an hour before its interlocking structure becomes more constricting and heavy-handed. The result is not as insightful or provocative as intended. The ensemble cast includes Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgard, Max Thieriot and Paula Patton. (Rated R, 115 minutes).
It’s a Disaster
The title does not describe the quality of this low-budget dark comedy about four suburban couples who meet for a Sunday brunch, only to discover that a sudden attack nearby might have apocalyptic consequences, causing each of them to re-examine their relationships. It’s a thin concept (with only one setting) that might work better on stage, but the script by director Todd Berger (The Scenesters) is witty and subversive as it satirizes fear and paranoia. While the sitcom premise becomes wobbly through the second half, an ensemble cast including David Cross, Julia Stiles and America Ferrera generates some big laughs from the most absurd circumstances. (Rated R, 85 minutes).