REVIEW: 2012

21 11 2009

Director Roland Emmerich gets a lot of grief for making so many disaster-oriented movies.  I must say I’m glad that he doesn’t listen to these critics because he is the best there is at making these kinds of films.  “2012,” his latest project, is incredibly stimulating to the part of you that loves watching your favorite landmarks get wiped off the face of the planet.  Many claim that it doesn’t offer much that you haven’t seen in Emmerich’s previous movies in the same vain, “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”  However, I thought “2012” was much more audacious, willing to destroy some venerated structures such as St. Peter’s Basilica, Christ the Redeemer, and the White House.  By doing this, Emmerich introduces some apprehension into the moviegoing experience and makes you wonder what the apocalypse would really look like.

The highlight of “2012” is its phenomenal special effects, but Emmerich had the good sense not to let them drive the movie.  He gets two angles on the catastrophe that the Mayans predicted, one from a normal citizens experiencing the disaster and the other from the politicians and scientists trying to save humanity.  The normal citizen is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a sci-fi writer thrown into the situation after consistently being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  With the aid of an eccentric who sees the writing on the walls (Woody Harrelson), he finds a path to save his family from the imminent destruction.  The scientist (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and politician (Oliver Platt) add a moral depth to the the plot as they agonize over who can and should be saved.

What distinguishes “2012” from a movie like “Transformers” is a clear understanding that its audience doesn’t take the movie too seriously.  Thankfully, Emmerich is aware of the regard that people hold his movies in, so he has no qualms with using a formulaic plot and being a tad silly.  He also knows from experience not to try to move the plot significantly while he indulges us with sweeping, gratuitous shots of the Earth getting annihilated by tsunamis and earthquakes.  Emmerich recognizes that it is undeniably fun to watch Pasadena split in two, and he lets us marvel at the work of some dedicated visual effects artists.  “2012” is no masterpiece, but Roland Emmerich gives us an enjoyable cataclysmic romp that excites the lover of destruction that lurks inside all of us.  B /





What To Look Forward To In … November 2009

7 10 2009

The holiday movie season begins to kick into high gear in the month of November, as does exciting Oscar season.  Accordingly, this post is longer than the previous monthly preview posts.  Brace yourself for movie mania coming your way in a few weeks.  Sit back, relax, and let Marshall guide you through the coming attractions.

November 6

From the mainstream movie perspective, the hot movie of this weekend will be Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  Shot with the same motion capture technology that Zemeckis used to make “The Polar Express,” the movie will cash in on premium ticket prices from 3D and IMAX 3D screenings.  My main concern about the quality of the movie itself lies with its principal actor, Jim Carrey, who will act as Scrooge and all three ghosts.  I doubt Zemeckis will permit it, but I fear that Carrey will make a mockery of Dickens’ classic novel much in the fashion of Mike Meyers with “The Cat in the Hat.”  Regardless of what critics say, I will probably end up seeing this with the family for some good old-fashioned family fun at the movies.

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” is the first movie of the holiday season to which George Clooney lends his talents.  Here, he plays a a military man in charge of a secret unit that attempts to use psychic powers for military purpose.  One such activity is to attempt to kill goats just by staring at them.  The movie also stars Ewan MacGregor as the reporter who discovers it all; the cast also includes Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.  The movie is directed and adapted by Grant Heslov, previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.”  The trailer seems to show Heslov’s approach as similar to the Coen Brothers who usually provide a fun-filled romp.  Maybe the film will be a bona-fide indie hit, and Overture Films will be able to claim their first movie to gross over $50 million.  But we’ll have to see.

I’ve already written about the Oscar favorite, “Precious,” in a previous Oscar Moment.  I’ll post the trailer here just for the sake of promoting it, but if you want to hear my thoughts, read the post.

Two thrilling movies also open this week.  First, “The Box” with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, seems to have an intriguing premise: if you push the button on the box, you will get a million dollars, but someone you don’t know will die.  However, it looks to be more interested in cheap thrills than exploring moral issues.  The other, “The Fourth Kind,” looks downright scary.  If horror is your thing, this looks like the movie for you.  I saw the trailer at “District 9,” and even if you don’t want to see it, you have to ponder the validity of the “true story” behind the movie.

November 13

Disaster porn reaches its pinnacle this weekend.  “2012,” Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic film, will have some of the biggest destruction and explosions the world has ever seen.  The trailer was so mind-blowing that I am willing to overlook all vices in the plot to see the world’s greatest landmarks get wiped off the earth.  My only comment is that if John Cusack somehow finds a way to stop the end of the world, I will be enraged.

The other major wide release of the week is “Pirate Radio,” a movie that Focus Features so desperately wants you to see that they changed the title from “The Boat that Rocked” just a few weeks ago to appeal to you. Are you flattered? You shouldn’t be. The movie seems like comedic Oscar Bait, but it didn’t do well Britain, the country of production. Focus scrambled to change their focus from awards movie to popular movie. So whenever this pops into a theater near you, be armed with the knowledge that “Pirate Radio” is merely a washed-up Oscars wannabe. But make the decision to see it for yourself.

New York and Los Angeles get the treat of watching Wes Anderson’s adaptation Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  I have the utmost respect for Anderson for not conforming to the growing trend to do all animation through computers.  Anderson’s film uses the stop motion technique, moving an object gradually to give the illusion that it is moving.  Even more exciting that Anderson’s eccentric style in an eccentric medium is the voice cast.  Clooney voices the titular character, the cunning Mr. Fox.  The cast also features Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.  What’s not to like?  (NOTE: The movie expands on November 20 and enters wide release on November 25.)

For those who like very obscure indies, “That Evening Sun” with 87-year-old Oscar bridesmaid Hal Halbrook has his latest shot at the gold.

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