REVIEW: CONTAGION (2011)

CAST

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man)
Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal TV)
Kate Winslet (Divergent)
Marion Cotillrd (La Vie En Rose)
Jude Law (Spy)
Matt Damon (Jason Bourne)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lie to Me)
Jennifer Ehle (The Ides of March)
Elliott Gould (OCean’s Eleven)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Bryan Cranston (Godzilla)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Sanaa Lathan (Blade)
Kara Zediker (Rock Star)
Jim Ortlieb (Roswell)

Returning from a Hong Kong business trip, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) has a layover in Chicago to have sex with a former lover before returning to her family in suburban Minneapolis. She appears to have contracted a cold during her trip. Her six-year-old son from a previous marriage, Clark, also becomes symptomatic and is sent home from school. Beth’s condition worsens and two days later she collapses with severe seizures. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), rushes her to the hospital, but she dies of an unknown cause.

Mitch returns home and finds that Clark has also died from a similar infection. Mitch is put in isolation but seems to be immune to the disease. He is released and returns home to his teenaged daughter Jory, who had been living with Mitch’s former wife and her husband and has decided to stay with Mitch since he’s now all alone. They face decaying social order and rampant looting of stores and homes. Mitch is unsure if Jory has inherited his immunity and he struggles with the frustration of quarantine, his desire to protect his daughter and learning that his wife was cheating on him immediately prior to both her death and that of his stepson.

In Atlanta, representatives of the Department of Homeland Security meet with Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC and express fears that the disease is a bio weapon intended to cause terror over the Thanksgiving weekend. Dr. Cheever dispatches Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, to Minneapolis to begin investigating. Mears traces the outbreak back to Emhoff while negotiating with local bureaucrats initially reluctant to commit resources for a proper public health response to the virus. Dr. Mears later becomes infected and dies.

At the CDC, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) determines the virus is a mix of genetic material from pig and bat viruses. Work on a cure stalls because scientists cannot discover a cell culture within which to grow the newly identified Meningoencephalitis Virus One (MEV-1). UCSF professor Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliott Gould) violates orders from Cheever (relayed through Hextall) to destroy his samples, and identifies a usable MEV-1 cell culture using bat cells. Hextall uses the breakthrough to work on a vaccine. Other scientists determine the virus is spread by fomites, with a basic reproduction number of four when the virus mutates, with projections of one in twelve of the population being infected, and a 25-30% mortality rate.

Conspiracy theorist Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) posts videos about the virus on his popular blog. In one video, he shows himself sick and later claims he recovered using a homeopathic cure derived from forsythia. In a panic, people seeking forsythia overwhelm pharmacies, spreading and accelerating the contagion as the infected come into contact with healthy people. Krumwiede’s claims attract national attention. During a television interview he discloses that Dr. Cheever had secretly informed friends and family to leave Chicago just before the city was quarantined. Cheever is then informed the government will investigate and may charge him for leaking information. Later it is revealed Krumwiede had faked being infected by the virus in an attempt to increase profits for shareholders in companies producing and selling forsythia. Krumwiede is arrested for conspiracy and securities fraud, only to walk free when his many supporters successfully raise funds to provide for his bail.

Using an attenuated virus Dr. Hextall identifies a possible vaccine. To cut out the lengthy time it would take to obtain informed consent from infected patients, Dr. Hextall inoculates herself with the experimental vaccine and immediately visits her gravely ill father, who has been infected with MEV-1. The doctor does not contract MEV-1 and the vaccine is declared a success. The vaccine’s production is rapidly increased, but due to limited production, the CDC awards vaccinations by lottery based on birth date. Inoculations take place for one full year until every survivor is vaccinated. First responders, doctors and others designated by the government are declared exempt from the lottery. Dr. Cheever gives his fast-tracked MEV-1 vaccination to the son of Roger (John Hawkes), a CDC janitor who had overheard Dr. Cheever’s phone call warning his girlfriend to leave Chicago.

Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard), a WHO epidemiologist, travels to Hong Kong to follow the Beth Emhoff lead. She collaborates with Sun Feng (Chin Han) and other local epidemiologists and public health officials; they identify Emhoff as patient zero. As the virus spreads, Feng kidnaps Orantes to use her as leverage to obtain MEV-1 vaccine doses for his village. Orantes spends months living with the villagers until the vaccine is announced. Feng exchanges Orantes for the vaccine doses. Her colleague mentions that the exchanged doses were placebos and Orantes rushes away to warn them. The death toll reached 2.5 million in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide. Dr. Hextall places samples of MEV-1 in cryogenic storage, alongside samples of H1N1 and SARS.

The source of the virus is revealed to viewers. A bulldozer (coincidently, operating for the company Emhoff works for) knocks down a palm tree disturbing some bats, with one finding shelter and food in a banana tree. That bat then flies over a pig pen, dropping a chunk of banana from its mouth, which was then eaten by a piglet. Chinese chefs later collected pigs from the pen and took them to a casino where one chef was called away from his preparations of the piglet, casually wiping his hands on his apron. The chef then shook hands with Beth Emhoff, giving her the mix of bat and pig viruses that makes her patient zero and the origin of the MEV-1 virus.

This was an interesting film. It is very realistic and while there is no major action plot, the realism keeps you hooked.

 

REVIEW: ROCK STAR

CAST

Mark Wahlberg (Transformers 4)
Jennifer Aniston (Rumor Has It..)
Dominic West (Punisher: Warzone)
Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd)
Timothy Olyphant (Hitman)
Matthew Glave (Stargate SG.1)
Michael Shamus Wiles (Fight Club)
Beth Grant (Donnie Darko)
Jason Flemyng (Kick-Ass)
Kristin Richardson (Lost)
Kara Zediker (Hercules: TLJ)
Carrie Stevens (Black Scorpion)
Amy Rolle (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)

Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is a Pittsburgh fanatical admirer of a 1980s heavy metal band called Steel Dragon. By day, Chris is a photocopier technician and by night, he is the lead singer of a Steel Dragon tribute band called Blood Pollution (the name is taken from a Steel Dragon song).

Internal struggles among the actual Steel Dragon band members culminate with the firing of their lead singer, Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng), and the starting of recruitment sessions to find a new vocalist. Chris experiences his own strife with his Blood Pollution bandmates, particularly guitarist Rob Malcolm (Timothy Olyphant). During a live performance, Rob’s playing fails to live up to Chris’ over-demanding standards regarding note-for-note accuracy to the original Steel Dragon recordings, and Chris sabotages Rob’s amplifier mid-song – a fight breaks out between the two onstage. The next day, Chris arrives at Blood Pollution’s rehearsal space (the basement of an X-rated theater) to find that he’s been fired and replaced with his arch-rival, the (now former) lead singer of another Steel Dragon tribute band. Rob also cites Chris’ inability to create his own musical style, preferring to remain the singer in a tribute band.

One day in 1984, Chris receives an unexpected phone call from Steel Dragon’s founder and rhythm guitarist, Kirk Cuddy (Dominic West), and is offered an audition for the band (thanks to two of Blood Pollution’s groupies, who showed Kirk a videotape of one of Blood Pollution’s concerts). After hanging up on Kirk once, thinking he’s being made fun of, Chris ecstatically agrees. At the studio, he meets the band, as well as learning that Bobby Beers was fired because he was a closeted gay, and gives an outstanding performance of “We All Die Young” (a Steel Dragon song in the movie, but it is actually a song by Steelheart, whose lead vocalist Miljenko Matijevic provides Cole’s singing voice for the film). Chris joins the band as their new singer, adopting the stage name “Izzy”. Following a successful debut concert with Steel Dragon, Izzy must come to grips with the pressures of his new-found fame and success. The band embarks on a lengthy tour and Izzy experiences the excesses of the lifestyle, with the group’s manager, Mats (Timothy Spall), serving as a sympathetic mentor to Izzy.MV5BMjE5MzA5Mzk4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTcxMjIyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1397,1000_AL_His new lifestyle impacts his life both for better and worse, particularly with his relationship with his supportive girlfriend, Emily Poule (Jennifer Aniston), when she decides not to continue with him throughout the remainder of the tour as a rock star girlfriend, though Emily and Izzy agree to get back together when the tour reaches Seattle. Eventually, Steel Dragon stops in Seattle for a show, and Emily arrives at his hotel room as they had previously arranged, although Izzy had become so inebriated while on tour he forgot about the arrangement and did not even know what city he was in. Although taken aback by all the groupies, Emily still tries to reconnect with him, reminding him of their plans to meet up once he got to Seattle, however he is too intoxicated to really understand what she is saying, eventually suggesting they go to Seattle together. Heartbroken with his inconsiderate behavior, intoxication and the fact that he is sleeping with so many groupies, Emily leaves him.

After the end of the tour, Izzy reports to the next series of Steel Dragon recording sessions with song concepts for the band’s next album. The rest of the band rejects Izzy’s ideas, with Kirk explaining that the band has to stay true to the “Steel Dragon thing” to fulfill fan expectations. Izzy is angered upon realizing that he was only recruited for his vocal abilities. After a heartfelt conversation with Mats about how he feared he had no control over the direction life has taken him, Izzy begins to reconsider his rock star lifestyle. On the next tour, in a scene directly paralleling one near the beginning of the film with their roles reversed, Izzy hears a fan (Myles Kennedy) singing along with him toward the end of a live concert. Impressed, Izzy pulls the fan, who introduces himself as Mike, onstage and hands him the microphone to finish the concert. Backstage, Izzy realizes that what he wanted for so long was not what he thought, and he says goodbye to Mats, departing from the band while doing so.

Upon ditching his stage name, Izzy, Chris makes his way to Seattle and starts a new band with his old friend and former bandmate Rob. At the same time Steel Dragon, failing to evolve to changing tastes and styles, has its fame fizzle out. Chris finds Emily working in the coffee shop she and her roommate purchased a few years earlier, but is initially too ashamed to speak to her. While walking one evening, Emily sees a flyer for his band posted on the wall and takes it down. In the final scene, Chris is singing with his band in a bar and Emily walks in. Chris leaves the stage and speaks to her. They reconcile, ending the film with a kiss and the final note of Chris’ first original song “Colorful”.

After reading previews for this movie I thought it would be a let down, however after I got my dvd  I was pleasantly surprised, strong performances from all cast members make this a very enjoyable movie.