So once again we have survived.

2012

tn_2012A bunch of actual good movies came out this week, and I’ll review a couple of them soon. First I have to catch up with this crap I saw last week…

As you know, and as the TV news in this movie will tell you, the Mayans predicted that the world would end on December 21st, 2012. So in this movie it does. Actually, that must be the fictionalized, eclipse-fearing Mayans of APOCALYPTO that predicted that, because the real Mayans didn’t. They just had a calendar which considered somewhere around that date to be the end of an era. They also predicted things that would happen after 2012, so obviously they didn’t expect the world to end. Let’s not hang all this doom and gloom on them. They invented chocolate.

mp_20122012 is the story of a 7-year old girl who faces down the violent destruction of the entire world except for Africa, and learns to stop wetting her bed. Seriously, the last line of the movie is about her not having to wear pull-ups anymore. That’s what Roland Emmerich thought was important to end on.

This is a movie where millions, maybe billions of people die, but it’s rated PG-13 because nobody ever says “two buildings are collapsing and we have to drive between them in order to get to safety, oh fuck!” After the most enjoyable sequence of the movie, in which all of Los Angeles acts like a balsa wood model on top of a water bed with a fat guy jumping up and down on the matress, there’s a closeup of a guy’s arm with a little trickle of blood dripping down it. And I thought that’s weird, how is this the first wound we’ve seen? Everybody else just gets swallowed cleanly into the earth I guess.

The movie opens with my man Chiwetel Eijiofor travelling to India to talk to a guy in a mine deep in the earth. It’s kind of cool to imagine this is the opening of a bigger budget REDBELT 2 and he’s going to visit an old friend to find out something. Maybe the workers in the mines are being harassed by corrupt soldiers, and he has to teach them how to defend themselves, I don’t know. Unfortunately he turns out to be a geologist or a scientist of some kind, not a martial artist.

Danny Glover plays the president, and you can do the same with him. Obviously we want him to be the same character from PREDATOR 2, and his defeat of (and later endorsement by) the Predator must’ve been what made him so popular. Otherwise how would he have unseated Obama? But then I realized wait a minute, he’s already the president before Obama’s term would end, so this is an alternate timeline. At the same time a Schwarzenegger imitator plays the governor of California, so it’s not 100% separate from our world. I bet those Star Trek fuckers screwed something up when they went through that black hole or whatever.

By the way, isn’t it kind of funny that when they had a black president in DEEP IMPACT it was a cool novelty, but in this movie Emmerich had to have a black president or he’d look like an asshole? Our progress as a nation can be measured through our crappy disaster movies.

Most of the movie centers around John Cusack as an obscure writer of self-published Atlantis-related novels with a part time job as a limo driver. He finds out about certain doom from a crazy (but correct) talk radio host (Woody Harrelson) and tries to save his kids, ex-wife and her new boyfriend (the director of THE STATION AGENT) through his connections to a rich boxing family. Goverment officials and the super rich are boarding giant boats ($1 billion per ticket) which will protect them when the entire world floods. There’s alot of debate about letting people die when there’s extra room on the ship, and I guess since Cusack is a limo driver he represents the hired help trying to get a piece in a world controlled by the Man. Chewitel gets on the boat because he works for the White House, but his dad goes out playing jazz for tourists on a cruise ship. That’s how it works.

But everybody who gets to China ends up let onto the boat. It’s only the people with no faith in the system, who try to sneak onto the boat – Cusack and his family, the Russian family – who almost get crushed to death when the gates open. They should’ve had faith that Chewitel would talk some humanity into the world leaders. He’s Redbelt, man! He knows the escape!

And I guess there are some survivors, so it does follow the Mayan calendar after all. Just the end of the era of having multiple continents, not the end of the world. Let’s not blow things out of proportion.

I guess it’s time to stop being surprised that they line up so many good actors for a movie like this. I just hope Ejiofor uses it to fund himself while he does smaller movies, and doesn’t just become a guy wasting his talents playing generic supporting roles in bad studio movies. There’s not much room to do much in any of these roles, except maybe Harrelson’s, but I didn’t think he was very funny, unfortunately. I guess the nicest thing I can say is that Thandie Newton plays the first daughter and this is her first role in years where I didn’t hate her.

I apologize for going to see this. I knew it wouldn’t be good. The only Emmerich movie I ever liked was UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. 10,000 BC was kind of funny, but not that much. This one seemed to take the stupid disaster formula to the limit by not just destroying select landmarks, but pretty much wiping out the entire surface of the earth. Its hero seems to be by far the greatest driver in the history of automobiles considering how he dodged every solid object in the city of Los Angeles, and his ex-wife is also dating the all time best amateur pilot. Those make for two hilarious and cool disaster sequences, and there are other funny parts, like the scene where a plane dumps expensive sports cars all over the Himalayas. And if we’re gonna give Emmerich credit for doing what you’re supposed to do then give him credit for making action scenes where you can tell where the good guys are, which direction they’re moving in and what is happening to them. That’s getting to be a rare skill.

So I think I see what some people enjoyed in this, but I thought it was kind of boring. Most of the movie is pretty weighed down by all the dull drama between characters you couldn’t possibly care about. Then again, I’m not sure I’d want to see the good version of this movie. If the characters seemed real it would just be horrifying and upsetting.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, November 28th, 2009 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

88 Responses to “2012”

  1. Shit, I would like to see Redbelt 2. The first one was a great movie. Chewitel was also a cool bad guy in the Firefly movie.

  2. “He’s Redbelt, man! He knows the escape!” That just made my day.

    The whole time I was watching 2012, I kept thinking there would have been a lot more corny jokes, lame one-liners and an overall lighter tone if Emmerich’s former collaborator Dean Devlin was involved. Surely there’d have been fewer tearful farewell phone calls.

  3. Hollywood has been using black presidents for years, and I really thought now that was a reality they would move on to some new fantasy president scenario – flamboyantly gay president or midget president or maybe some kind of hyper-intelligent giraffe president – but they stuck with the black guy. Maybe next time.

    I thought this one was just barely worth seeing for the effects, but the rest of it was pretty dull and trite. That whole storyline of the deadbeat dad who needs to reconnect with his family really needs to be crossed of the list in the big book of movie ideas. Enough of that already.

  4. Don’t forget putting a black woman in the film to give the brother some romance before going colonizing Africa again :) And having a few Chinese people survive so it’s not just Americans.

  5. The thought of a Redbelt 2 just made me want to watch 2012.

    One day many years from now

  6. Has there ever been a really good disaster movie where you cared about all the characters? The only one I can think of that kind of did that was Deep Impact, but I saw that movie over ten years ago and barely remember it.

  7. So is there a scene where the leaders of America humbly beg the leaders of Africa to grant them refugee status?

    Or do they just, you know, waltz on in there..?

  8. I’m just not interested in this , and that’s the weird thing. I usually like total city destruction , or any kind of destruction really , in a giant monster movie . But the latest big studio offerings are absolutely boring . Independence Day , The Core , Deep Impact ….I find all of them bland . The only one I think is a little fun for all the wrong reasons is I-Day , and that’s full of aliens , at least satisfying my love for all kinds of plastic puppets. Dear Hollywood , the next time someone digs up a new disaster prophecy or the last scraps from Nostradamus , try something new . In this movies we usually follow some kind of “family” or group of friends with little problems , and by the end most of the problems are resolved , like the marriage issue in I-Day and the piss issue in this one . See the problem ? You’re running out of ideas , going from marriage to piss means that all the options are almost already used . What’s next , a guy shitting himself during the apocalypse?
    Also , this movies are almost always more than 2 hours long , so there’s plenty of time to try something new . What do you think of this, half movie about the disaster and the second half about people dealing with the day after , a disaster/post-apocalyptic movie ? We usually see the survivors surviving , but that’s it , we immediately forget about half characters defined by piss problems and racial stereotypes . In a disaster/post-apocalyptic movie we have more time for character development and shit . I really want to see something like that .

  9. Is Sunshine a disaster movie? I liked that one a lot.

    I also liked 2012 (I’m not proud of it but I did) but I saw it again and it had the same impact that Johnny Mneumonic had on me where I liked it the first time but not so much the second. I did watch Johnny Mneumonic again a few years ago and liked it as a campy movie so I’ll probably check 2012 out again in a few years.

    I should also point out that I saw Mutant Chronicles before 2012 and I’m positive that Mutant Chronicles severely lowered the bar for me to enjoy 2012. I recommend anyone watch Mutant Chronicles before watching 2012 but for the love of Christ don’t watch Mutant Chronicles for any other reason. It’s crap.

  10. Great review Vern. There’s 2 things I want to address though
    1. it’s Chiwetel not Chewitel.
    2. “But then I realized wait a minute, he’s already the president before Obama’s term would end, so this is an alternate timeline. At the same time a Schwarzenegger imitator plays the governor of California, so it’s not 100% separate from our world. I bet those Star Trek fuckers screwed something up when they went through that black hole or whatever.”
    Obama HAS to exist seperate from the Star Trek universe, because:
    “actress Jeri Ryan divorced her husband to play Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager (he refused to move to Hollywood with her). The divorce was contentious, and a lot of salacious dirt was spilled. When Jack Ryan ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, the release of the documents forced him to withdraw, allowing his challenger to win in a landslide against a last-ditch replacement. The landslide victory propelled the challenger, Barack Obama, to a position from which he could then launch a campaign for President, and… well, you know the rest.” So if Star Trek wasn’t fictional, Obama might not be president.

  11. “Hollywood has been using black presidents for years, and I really thought now that was a reality they would move on to some new fantasy president scenario – flamboyantly gay president or midget president or maybe some kind of hyper-intelligent giraffe president – but they stuck with the black guy. Maybe next time.”

    I’ve always wanted to see a comedy movie starring Robin Williams where he plays the President of the USA who gets taken over by a wacky alien shapeshifter who comes down to earth as an invader but grows to learn the values of friendship and family. (Actually, scratch that – I’ve NEVER wanted to see that movie. But I’m genuinely surprised it hasn’t been made yet.)

  12. If only the Apocalypse sneered and claimed Diplomatic Immunity then Danny Glover would have that shit handled.

  13. “So I think I see what some people enjoyed in this, but I thought it was kind of boring. Most of the movie is pretty weighed down by all the dull drama between characters you couldn’t possibly care about.”

    So it’s business as usual for Emmerich then?

  14. Thandie Newton: I know she’s kind of a babe (bit skinny for me though), but she has grated on me for years, too. She seems like a borderline non-actress sometimes – it’s incredible to me how many big directors have hired her over the years. Her Condi in W was just bizarre to behold. I tried to watch RocknRolla last night (sorry to come off so negative, I’m not usually) and she was terrible in that too – although, to be fair, it isn’t a good film and Ritchie doesn’t seem to be an actor’s director.

    I think i’ll wait to see 2012 on DVD, so I can zone out during all the “talking” and “story-telling”. I really wish Emmerich would just do a straight action thriller. He’s actually pretty great at set-pieces and visual story-telling. His stuff is just so bloated and over-wrought story-wise. Wouldn’t it be great if he took that visual flair and applied it to a Vin Diesel or Bruce Willis vehicle?

  15. I gotta say I liked her in Rocknrolla. I liked Rocknrolla. It’s an easy role, the self-satisfied femme fatale that cockteases men into doing her bidding. It works for that movie. I’ve hated her in a lot of movies though, she ruined Riddick and she helped sink M:I 2. Not a good actress at all, but she can at least attain passability.

  16. Coming up, I sense a Vern review of The Road. Just sayin’.

  17. Brendan: The film LAST NIGHT is technically a disaster movie, though probably not the kind you are referring to in your post. Good character work in that film, especially by Cronenberg and Sandra Oh.

    And THE ROAD, obviously, is character-driven.

    Is MARS ATTACKS a disaster movie?

    Also: would a giraffe necessarily have to be hyper-intelligent in order to beat Sarah Palin in a presidential candidate’s debate?

  18. I’m still holding out for a President Trejo.

  19. Love Mars Attacks. Jack Black biting it on national television while his parents watch is one of the great splatstick moments. That movie is simply completely insane and subversive, and is it weird that I actually was kind of moved when the boxer guy showed up alive at the end? Shit, that guy’s arc had more heart then all of Emmerich’s movies straight-faced movies together.

    I’ll answer my own earlier question and say that that old movie The Poseidon Adventure had solid and well-acted characters, and when they died I felt sad. Especially the old lady who drowned and Gene Hackman died to save everybody. That was harsh. For the most part, no, most of these movies are soulless bullshit.

  20. Agree about the MARS ATTACKS boxer story. Remember when Pam Grier’s character leaves the bus she is driving in order to drag her truant kids home? I found that part strangely moving too.

    Neat thing about MARS ATTACKS: even if one plot strand doesn’t do anything for you (in my case the Nicholson casino thing did nothing) there were plenty others to chose from.

    I like how Burton populated that film with so many disagreeable characters. At a certain point you wonder if the heroic efforts are worth it.

  21. Waitwaitwaitwait….That was PAM GRIER as the Mom? Holy shit I had no idea, OK Mars Attacks just went up three notches on my personal cool scale. Congratulations M(r)s. Grier, you’ve struggled for decades but your journey for validation has come to a close. Take a bow.

    The thing I liked about Mars Attacks (haven’t seen it in a couple years so stay with me) is the ‘higher ups’ like the President and the casino bosses and army guys are shown to be complete cartoons, a lot of the ‘down to earth’ people have problems and goals that are located somwhere in the real world. They struggle with stuff like “I was a bad husband and now I’m trying to redeem myself” and “My parents treat me like shit and no one listens.” So half the time you’re laughing at all the different ways Burton can vaporize human beings and then use the remains as sight gags, while the other half you are actually rooting for people you like and hoping they pull through.

    “Thank you for defeating the aliens and saving the world.”
    “You’re welcome young lady. But don’t let it happen again.”

    “We will rebuild. But this time I was thinking, maybe we should make teepees instead of buildings. Because its better…in a lot of ways.”

  22. I saw 2012 too. I survived.

    You know you’re in trouble when Emmerich is greatly derivative of his own DAY AFTER TOMORROW.

    That’s fucking pathetic.

  23. Any movie with Pam Grier in it benefits from her participation, even ESCAPE FROM LA. Hell, she kicked cancer’s ass. She can do anything.

    And the “higher ups” in MARS ATTACKS are cartoons in the best sense of the word: the Michael J. Fox/Sarah Jessica Parker/Pierce Brosnan characters, and their bizarre love triangle, are scathingly written and so well performed.

    It’s a hell of a cast. I can only imagine the conversations Burton must have had with the various actors when he pitched this film to them. “Yes, your head will be sewn onto the body of a small dog … and you’ll still be a self-obsessed twit.”

  24. Mars Attacks is awesome . Of all the cool little things in that movie , the one I prefer are by far the aliens themselves . They’re incredibly funny in a completely evil Gremlins kind of way . I’ve seen another alien parody , Evil Aliens , and that movie is gross and aware of all the stereotypes of the aliens , like the anal probe and crop circles. I don’t think there’s an anal probe in Mars Attacks , but the movie is respectful of the old classics like the Harryhausen and ( of course) Ed Wood ufo-movies .It’s also a pretty disgusting movie , but never gross.

  25. Mars Attacks is a great movie. One of Burton’s best. (Although he barely made a bad movie yet. Even his highly studio interferred Batman and Planet Of The Apes have enough re-watch value for me.)

    Anyway, what I really hate about these disaster movies, that they are always about a group of good guys, who try to save their families and/or are even willing to give their live for complete strangers! It’s weird that during the last few years, where Hollywood was aiming for (pseudo-)realism, nobody made a disaster movie about a selfish asshole who would do everything to save his own life. I even got a tagline for this:

    “When the world ends…how far would you go…to save your own ass?”

  26. I thought War of the Worlds was a pretty good movie, despite being in the “family fighting against the worldwide disaster” genre. It’s pretty sad that all Spielberg had to do to innovate was focus the entire movie on the family.

    About 2012:SPOILERS…………… Emmerich REALLY thinks bigger is better. It can’t just be any mountain they crash into, it’s Mt. Everest. It’s not just a tsunami that destroys the White House, but an aircraft carrier in said tsunami. It’s not just any aircraft carrier but the USS John F Kennedy. It’s not any generic cruise ship that the geologist’s father works on but Carnival Cruises.

  27. CJ Holden-hey man you’re right about that. Anyone with any degree of a survival instinct is shown to be a horrible monster deserving to be crushed to death. You’re either a selfless martyr for the human spirit or a Brundlechamber combination of Hitler and the Grinch. No inbetween.

  28. Also, in the disaster movie scenario, men are typically the expendable ones expected to sacrifice themselves or put themselves in danger on the behalf of women, while the reverse isn’t true. Women will happily let men sacrifice themselves and leave them behind.

  29. THE FIFTH ELEMENT trumps all black movie presidents by having Tiny Lister as president of the entire universe. However, I think a Master Blaster-style midget president would be a little bit more awesome, maybe. Or a super-intelligent shade of the color blue.

  30. What about IDIOCRACY, which has the unfortunate implications of humanity being at it’s dumbest and electing a black president?

  31. FIFTH ELEMENT! YEAH! What’s weird is, as much as I like that movie, I feel like it is a precursor to the modern, bad, blockbluster summer movie. Most of the stuff people were complaining about in stuff like Transformers 2 have some heritage in Fifth, like the constant unending stream of wacky jokes, broad ethnic stereotypes, an incredibly convulted and confused plot, an opening prologue showing aliens hanging around Earth long before one would imagine aliens would be around Earth, and a useless, “comic-relief” sidekick who prances around screaming and making jokes and making sure there isn’t a moment of genuine tension. Now, remove all of Fifth’s style, imagination and Besson’s natural-born filmmaker’s ability to knock you on your ass with his technique, and you have Transformers 2.

  32. CJ Holden: When I left THE ROAD I asked the person I saw the film with if she thought they’d ever make a disaster movie where the site of integrity and all that is worth saving in the world would be a group of atheist anarchists who valued miscegenation and opposed capitalism, rather than the tried-and-tested Christian-valued family unit that we see valued in so many of these films. Her response: “not bloody likely.”

    Another post-apocalyptic movie I like: DELICATESSEN.

  33. The Fifth Element – one of the most frustrating films I own, because it has bits and pieces of utter genius, but lots and lots of generic filler stuff in between. So while you get the alien-going-through-the-body-scanner scene, the opera-singer’s death and Mila Jovovich or however it’s spelt discovering what War is – all insanely good and, to me, genuinely affecting scenes – you also get Bruce Willis jumping from flying car to flying car like it’s “Minority Report” or one of the Star Wars prequels.

    (Incidentally, I recently wrote a massive and utterly drunk post blaming all of you guys for those. While I think the subject of my drunken rantings was not entirely delusional, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for insulting you wholesale. Please note that I am not in any way retracting my stated opinion that with the exception of one five-minute scene in “Attack of the Clones” the prequels are irredeemably awful shit with no believable human characters, terrible CGI and action sequences, and the most pointless story in movie history [newsflash: we all knew how it ended twenty years ago]. But I don’t necessarily blame all of you for this any more. I will doubtless reconsider this when my mind has next been affected by copious amounts of alcoholic beverage, but for now I think you are safe.)

    Also, going back to the Fifth Element – I might be the only person ever to like Chris Tucker in that movie.

    I think “Mars Attacks” would be another “The Abyss” for me, because you all seem to love it and it bored me silly.

    And as for Thandie Newton… the last film I saw with her in it was “W”, which was another let-down. It was like live-action “Spitting Image” with actors who were clearly much younger than their real-life counterparts playing bizarre characatures of said counterparts. I didn’t believe any of the acting or the dialogue and I couldn’t make it past the first forty minutes or so. None of it ever felt real.

    Having said that, I never saw Paul Haggis’ “Crash”, but I did think she was one of the best things about “Mission Impossible: 2”, a film that I actually enjoyed more than its sequel; because MI:3 had pretensions to being a good character-based thriller, but it wasn’t, whereas MI:2 had pretensions to being one of the most ridiculously dumb action movies the writers could think of, and it was. Can’t think of anything else I’ve seen her in but if I do, I’ll give y’all a holler.

    After 2008, where just about every film I saw was better than I expected, 2009 has been a huge disappointment, with all these films that people have said are really good that I’ve watched with an open mind, an accepting heart and a strong stomach. And then I’ve just disliked them. I don’t think there’s been anything I’ve really hated (obviously, since I didn’t go and see “Transformers”), but it’s not been a great year. Uh… I really enjoyed “Zombieland”, so I guess if that’s the last film I see at the cinema this year it’ll end on a high. I’ve also not had a chance to see some of the stuff people have been recommending, so hopefully when that comes out on DVD it’ll be better. I’ve not seen “The Informant”, “Paranormal Activity” or “Where the WIld Things Are” so maybe they’ll be better.

  34. Paul, you are not the only one who likes Tucker in The 5th Element! He was never been funnier than in that movie. He made me laugh everytime he was on screen. Even when he does nothing else but scream like a girl during the big shootout near the end, I couldn’t stop laughing. Each one of his screams is so perfectly timed. He steals the movie! If besson ever makes is proposed sequel, I hope that a.) Tucker will be back and b.)he gives another inspired performance like this.

  35. Thandie Newton wasn’t that bad in Run, Fatboy Run, though she was playing the typical “Main male character’s ex with his child who’s in danger of moving to another country with her new man” character who is hard to like from that perspective.
    One of my least favourite roles of hers though is in GRIDLOCK’D, where despite spending most of the film unconscious in hospital, she manages to overwhelmingly annoy the fuck out of me with the end credits being dedicated to her weird spoken word jazz slam-poetry sessions.

  36. Stu – fair enough (totally agree on Gridlock’d – that might have been the genesis of my Newton issues). Very unlike me to go off on an actor or actress (I understand so much of it is down to personal taste) – it was just interesting to me that Vern had singled her out. However it does seem that most of her defenders here have done so on the grounds of basic competency, not a ringing endorsement of her artistic contributions.

  37. There were two funny parts of 2012 I forgot to mention. One is when Christians are gathered in the Sistine Chapel to pray and suddenly a crack forms in the ceiling and goes right between the fingers of Adam and God, as if to say “Your puny God can’t save you! I AM 2012!”

    The other was when Cusack was running at the airport as everything behind him exploded into fire. I heard somebody outruns cold in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and I felt that in that scene he was outrunning the apocalypse.

  38. Yes, Jake Ghyllenhall outruns cold in Day After Tomorrow. It is hilarious.

  39. Couple of things about this shitty movie:

    I saw this at a screening from one of the SFX company and they talked a lot about the software they used for pre-visualising all the SFX sequences (for creating animatic storyboards). They said Emmerich asked for 80 different angles for one particular shot in the first limo escape sequence. In my mind this makes him either a Kubrick style Auteur/perfectionist, or an incompetent hack (I’m leaning a little towards the latter).

    -A lot of the Chinese are angry about the “Only China could do this” line which is perceived as a slight not a compliment. The pandering to the Chinese paid of as its the first Hollywood film to be released uncut in China.

    -When the ark door wouldn’t shut and Airforce One was bobbing around in the sea outside breaking things, I really, really hoped that it would crash into the ark and shut the door with its nose, like MechaFlipper. Alas it didn’t.

  40. What I find strange about the could outrunning in Day After Tomorrow, is that I heard nobody complaining about it until they used it in a South Park episode. They were complaining about the bad CGI wolves and the movie overall, but nobody singled the scene with cold out. It’s like everybody was watching it, thinking “Yeah, okay, why not?”, then South Park came and everybody was like “Oh, when they say it, it’s shit.”
    To be honest, I even came to the point where I doubt that this scene even exists in the way South Park told us about it. It’s been a few years since I saw Day After Tomorrow and i only watched it with one eye on TV, but I can’t remember the scene, but on the other hand think that over the last few years the South Park guys became more and more full of shit.

  41. CJ, some films truly only warrant the one eye…

  42. Man, I appreciate the great discussions on this sight, but I re-watched MARS ATTACKS because of you guys hoping that it had some GREMLINS 2 level wackiness that I had missed the first time, only to discover it’s a bigger mess than I remembered. There are a handful of great jokes, and Jim Brown’s story of getting back to his wife is solid, but mostly it’s cheap gags and dead ends.

  43. I heard Arnold outruns a gun that shoots at the speed of light in Eraser.

    However, I’m not going to watch Eraser to confirm this.

  44. CJ- In South Park Global Warming is shown as an Evil Dead style POV shot chasing peopel around, but in the Day After Tomorrow, it shows Jake and his buddies running through a building while the ceiling, then the walls, then the floor RIGHT BEHIND TEM OMHYGOD! froze and got covered in ice. Not the same thing, but really, really close.

  45. ChopperSullivan – MARS ATTACKS is a total mess. But it has some charming moments. And the sensibility behind the script is enjoyably naughty. Personally, I think the film is worth watching just for the aliens’ facial expressions, but I can understand someone being disappointed in it.

    I saw DAY AFTER TOMORROW on an airplane. I think it’s amusing that Emmerich’s grand vision of disaster was reduced to a screen the size of a postage stamp.

  46. Uh oh guys, one of the Vern Comment Sections recommendations didn’t satisfy someone. I think we all realize what we must do to return honor to this place: seppuku.

  47. I still love Mars Attacks. It has such a child-like joy in slaughtering famous movie stars. I can’t think of any other movie who has that. It’s definitely not the smartest parody of star-filled desaster movies, but it’s the funniest.

  48. Cusack wears the same fucking black suit in every film now.

    It was nice to see Danny Glover in Predator 2 whiteface.

  49. I know that John Cusack is a highly regarded actor, and I’m probably missing something crucial about the fine art of acting, but I’ve never much cared for his performances. All I get from him is this petulant expression, sometimes punctuated by a sad sack or hangdog expression.

    I guess he’s a good enough Everyman in a mainstream vehicle, but when called upon to actually perform, especially alongside real talent like Angelica Huston and Annette Benning in THE GRIFTERS, I’ve always found that he falls far short of what the role needs.

  50. I love shit blowing up so I’m looking forward to this on Blu-ray. Given Vern’s irrational hatred for Independence Day I doubt Emmerich will ever get a fair shake here. Emmerich has two good movies (Universal Soldier and Stargate) and two great movies (Independence Day and The Patriot) under his belt so I’m always willing to give him a chance. As to whether Dean Devlin’s absence is part of the problem, remember he was around for Godzilla so I don’t know how much help he is in the end (though obviously he was a big part of a number of the movies I mentioned).

    ChopperSullivan, I think you’ll find Mars Attack is quite the divisive film. Personally I find it an unwatchable bore, but have friends who think it’s hilarious and inventive, and no amount of bashing from me will change their minds. As Burton has never shown much of a flair for comedy (despite occasional funny bits or characters often propped up by the actor’s performance, i.e. Michael Keaton) I find it easy to seem him fall flat in a mostly comic (intended) film like Mars Attacks.

    Andrew, Arnold doesn’t outrun any guns in Eraser, but he does dodge blasts from the film’s “Rail” guns. It’s a good dumb fun movie that I can re-watch any time, though the villains don’t get the deaths they deserve like in most Arnie flicks.

  51. I’m honestly surprised to hear that people like MARS ATTACKS. I’ve hardly ever met anyone who had anything but a deep, simmering rage directed at it. I don’t hate it but I feel like it was a an almost complete waste.

    It has a nicely campy vibe to it and a great cast, but honestly to me it just feels like it’s trying way too hard to convince you that its cheeky when the simple fact is there are no jokes in the script. It’s almost like it was some sort of weird Gus Van Sant style experiement to see if it’s possible to make a comedy without any jokes at all. Its frantic and abrasive in a kind of Robin-Williamish way which just makes me tired and annoyed.Its true that Pam Grier and Jim Brown ingratiate themselves by being a little less shrill than eveyone else (except, oddly, Pierce Brosnan who seems to be channeling rather than parodying and as such is one of the few bright spots) but that’s a long way from saying I cared about their story in the slightest.

    And because its so clear that Burton knows how campy he’s being, it’s not all that funny to me. It’s like NAPOLEON DYNAMITE; if it were real, it might be funny, but instead its someone pretending to be ridiculous. So no matter how over-the-top it is, its just hard to enjoy because there’s nothing spontantious or genuine about it. It’s a calculated effort to seem outrageous, rather than legitimate, earned idiocy like my darling I KNOW WHO KILLED ME.

    But, I’m glad you guys dug it. I really wanted to, but even now I just find it tedious. Sorry to be a hater. Maybe I’m just missing something, but then again, I also find Chris Tucker in The FIFTH ELEMENT borderline unwatchable, so maybe its something about my sense of humor. MARS ATTACKS is like the movie version of Tucker’s performance.

  52. I really liked the part about funding the arks by selling tickets to rich assholes. You know that would happen, even though nobody should give a shit about a few (more) billion dollars of debt with the apocalypse looming.

    I must have missed this, but did the non-US arks get destroyed? I thought it was pretty amusing that America got their own ark while all the other countries had to share. I mean, at least take Canada you assholes. What was it, France, Germany and the UK sharing an ark? Yeah, that’s going to work out GREAT. I also thought it was pretty funny that Cusack and family are hailed as heroes after fixing some damage to the ark that THEY caused, killing a lot of innocent people in the process. Also that everyone was swimming around in freezing arctic waters apparently to no effect (their breath wasn’t even condensing). When Cusack fails to resurface after making the repairs I thought that they might be doing something mildly original by killing off the main character, but I guess I was giving Emmerich too much credit. Then there’s the hilarious cop-out of an ending. Whoops, we forgot about Africa. Plus the waters are receding, I suppose the Earth’s crust being liquified by neutrino beams (or whatever the fuck) was just a temporary problem. S’all good.

  53. Mr. S. – But that’s kind of Burton’s thing, isn’t it? ED WOOD isn’t really a biography, SLEEPY HOLLOW isn’t really horror, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS isn’t a monster movie, BEETLE JUICE isn’t full of jokes OR scares. It’s all about the visuals with Burton, and, I assume, the creation of a fairly tale that reflects his own fetishes.

    If MARS ATTACKS fails, and ultimately I think it does, I’d say it’s more because his visuals are a bit flat and his setting is too banal to intoxicate his viewers the way his best movies do. And I’d venture to say that he is ultimately a romantic at heart, or at least his best moments strive to touch his viewers in an almost childlike, lovable misfit way. You could probably see BIG FISH as his statement of purpose in that regard.

  54. Agree completely with Mr. Subtlety. In a way, Mars Attacks was the ultimate Burton film – all art direction with nothing inside.

    I do agree with whoever said that the martians themselves were funny. As was Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on a tiny dog’s body, and Burton’s girlfriend as a gliding, beehived alien. It’s a movie with funny special effects and unfunny people, which is unforgivable considering the cast. May as well have filled it with nobodies and saved a fortune.

    (And Slim Whitman jokes? In 1996?)

  55. Jareth — well, I guess that’s why I’m not the biggest Tim Burton fan in the world. The guy’s got a decent enough eye for art direction, but then again, most of his best stuff is a bigger-budget homage to older movies if not directly cribbed from them. If you’ve already seen those movies, its kind of hard to be too impressed, let alone laude the guy’s “visual imagination.” Geez, who cares if the guy’s seen a few German Expressionist films? His films can be fun to look at, but then, so’s 2012. Different gimmick, same final effect – like frankbooth says, a pretty hallow shell which is sometimes filled in by other people and sometimes not.

    When given a great script with the right actors, Burton usually delivers the goods, though; ED WOOD is fantastic, BEETLEJUICE, the BATMANS, and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS are pretty fun, BIG FISH has its moments, and, inexplicably, SWEENY TODD is fucking fantastic. But then again, the meat of those is in the writing and acting. Burton’s got a profitable track record for macabre whimsy that I think hooks him up pretty often with some people who have some of the talents I’m a little more interested in, and who consistently deliver some great work (Johnny Depp, Danny Elfman, Henry Selick, or some of his regular writers).

    He certainly does have a talent for self-promotion and branding, though; I’ll never really forgive him for taking so much credit on NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHIRSTMAS for which he wrote the “Story” (whatever that means. Halloweentown takes over Christmas and it doesn’t work? Nice job.) and produced but for which he ended up taking the lion’s share of the artistic credit for (go ahead, ask someone who directed NIGHTMARE… see what they say). So basically I see him as a guy who got called a genius for recycling other people’s greatness is a less interesting bu more commercially palatable way, while coasting on the talents of other folk who gravitate towards him because his brand allows him to get some more off-beat ideas into production. Not necessarily a hack or anyway (hey, he picks interesting projects and hires people with great talent — thats nothing to sneeze at), but also not someone whose “vision” I particularly care about, not to put too fine a point on it.

    I’ll have to give him credit though for surprising me with SWEENY TODD, which has a genuine, visceral intensity to it. I know he’s adapting someone else’s material, but that one felt alive in a way which nothing else which came before it did, so maybe he’s finally remembering that things need a heart more than they need fancy backdrops. That one’s got a pitch-black heart, but a fierce one. We’ll see. But yeah, rant summary – you’re right, Jareth, that MARS ATTACKS is kind of the ultimate Burton film; I guess how it sits with you depends on how appealing that sounds.

    But here’s the weird thing — I’m not nearly so hostile to Roland Emmerich. In fact, I sort of enjoy him and even kind of root for him. Does that make me Armond White?

  56. Wait a second. I can’t remember that Burton walked around and told everybody that he alone was responsible for Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s definitely not his fault that Selick directed a movie that looked more Burtonesque like everything else that Burton himself made AND that Disney decided to sell the movie as “Tim Burton’s Nightmare…” Shit like that happens. Just think about “From Dusk Till Dawn”. Everybody thinks Tarantino directed it. I even know people who think the same about “Sin City”, “Four Rooms” and “Hostel”. And as much as I would love to blame Tarantino for this, it’s definitely not his fault that some people can’t read credits.
    And one more thing about Burton: that “his best stuff is a bigger-budget homage to older movies if not directly cribbed from them” is only true to a certain degree. I mean, yes, he has an undeniable love for German Expressionism, but I think there is enough of his own style in all of his movies. Even in “Sleepy Hollow”, which was the ultimate Mario Bava- and Hammer-hommage!
    I think there are two big categories of “stealing” directors (and several sub-categories, which I won’t discuss now). There are the ones, who love to sprinkle their work with references to their favourite work, without letting them become the star of the movie. I would put people like Burton or Joe Dante into this category. And then there are the shameless ones, who just reproduce what they saw in another movie and don’t care for anything else. Tarantino is without a doubt the posterboy of this category, considering how much he loves to say stuff like “This scene in my movie is exactly like in the movie that I love so much” and sometimes even goes so far to lift complete lines of dialogue or even storyparts from other movies.
    Of course is Burton definitely a director who often prefers style over substance, but I think he doesn’t make movies to “show off”. He is just a guy with a visual talent. Give him a script about two men in a lonely room and he will do something interesting looking with it, but he wouldn’t think “I got a cool idea how to show two people in a room. Let’s make a movie about this idea.” And I think this is also what distinguishes him from people like Roland Emmerich, who probably first sees the picture of a giant starship over New York or a giant tsunami rolling over the white house and then builds his script around this.

  57. Considering the fact that Burton’s masterpiece is a black-and-white film about a bunch of losers hanging around making crappy movies, I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss him as simply a visual style without a brain. There’s a a beating heart to all of his movies (well, not Planet, but I’ll let that slide) that gives his menagerie of freaks and weirdos and spirals more weight then they would if anyone else directed.

    Exhibit A: Cat in the Hat

  58. MARS ATTACKS features Tom Jones as a savior-type.

    And that ain’t bad.

    (we should live in tepees…)

  59. Most of Mars Attacks doesn’t really click for me, but I think the Martians themselves are hilarious. The way they talk cracks me up every time. Apparently, the only word in their language is “ack.” It must be a tonal language like Thai.

    Also, the sound their helmets make when Jim Brown punches them is awesome. It sounds like someone kicked an empty water cooler jug.

  60. Their heads popping inside their helmets cracks me up.

  61. Carlos? That’s my name, dammit! Give my name back, man!

  62. C.J. – Well, maybe its a bit unfair to hold Burton completely accountable for the association people have with him on NIGHTMARE, but you have to admit he certainly didn’t do much to correct that misperception; if anything, he played it up. Come on, watch an interview with him about the film — the guy cultivates it as part of his filmography in a way which he doesn’t with most of his other producer credits (for the record, I know he was instrumental in getting the film made, and passionate about it, and present for a good deal of its making. But considering he didn’t write or direct, considering him the motivating artistic force seems pretty disingenuous.

    But I know, that’s Hollywood for ya — I don’t exactly blame him for it but it does support my theory that he’s a guy who knows how to pick great talents and associate himself with them, rather than a great artistic talent himself. Likewise, I don’t mean to say that everything he does is a ripoff, but then again, you can so clearly see the roots of most of his visual fetishes in other things that it just seems neat to me in the same way destroying the world in 2012 looks neat. Fun to look at, but nothing revolutionary. And that seems to be mostly what he’s interested in, for better or for worse — I think we’re generally in agreement on that.

    Brendan — I’m not so conviced that Burton is responsible for the heart of his best films, just because there are plenty in his filmography that seem pretty vacous to me. ED WOOD is an absolute masterpiece, but then again, it has a great script and a gaggle of teriffic performances which I think give it most of the heart. That’s kinda my issue with the guy. He puts up pretty pictures but it seems like he leaves it up to other people to fill them with substance. And when they don’t… well, you get APES or CHOCOLATE FACTORY or CORPSE BRIDE or MARS ATTACKS or SLEEPY HALLOW. All movies with a little bits of cool stuff in them that in no way makes up for their indifferent, listless narratives. I mean, I know some people like one or the other of those movies, but I’m betting for most people there’s more than one on that list that feels too shallow and frantic to get into beyond the meanest superficial level.

    But again, maybe it’s just me. Armond White.

    But, at least I like DARK KNIGHT. That counts!

  63. Fuck Tim Burton. No, really, fuck him. I’m fucking tired of that guy. What a fucking betrayal that guy became. I’m so ashamed for the support i used to have of him in the past. The Emperor’s New Cloths aplies to him to a Tee. I’m not planning in watching his new movie, and not even the hottie that plays Alice his making me change my mind, and i really like that hootie!

  64. “Fuck Tim Burton.”

    You and Kevin Smith too, Asimovlives.

  65. I do have to admit I love the story Smith tells in AN EVENING WITH… about Burton and the end of PLANET OF THE APES.

    I will watch his ALICE in all probability, even though I’m very concerned about it for obvious reasons. I love reading the books, but as everyone else who has attempted to film them before has discovered, they don’t really lend themselves all that well to easy adaptation. Depp’s creepy nightmare geisha Mad Hatter looks cool but we’ll have to see what the actual substance of the film looks like, or if it has any. As I said, Burton’s burned me before but SWEENY TODD was great enough to convince me to approach this new one with an opened mind. I do find it extremely creepy that they made Alice older and sexier, though. WTF guys?

  66. His Jon Peters story cracks me up every time. Required viewing.

  67. Everytime SWEENY TODD won and oscar, i got futher proof that god doesn’t exist.

  68. The “and” is supposed to be an “an”, of course.

  69. Aparently, Jon Peters anted to jump from a window when the box office results from Superman Returns were far inferior to the WB projections. Sadly, some fool prevented him from eating concrete.

  70. anted = wanted.

    On topic, i finally saw 2012 though some unsavory means (coughcough), and it’s as bad as they say it is, if not worst. I have been moaning, pissing and shitting on Terminator 4 and Shit Trek for months now, but i have finally seen two movies which are even worst then those two travestries. I had to scrap the bottom of the barrel, but i found them. And those are, of course, Transformers 2 and 2012. The irony is that, in terms of filmmaking at it’s most liberal, 2012 is a better made movie then any of the 3 i mentioned above. The only one that doesn’t have a misplaced, misguided “hip” shaky-cam short, because the mvie has none whatsoever. Kudos for Emmerich for still sticking with a certain classical style of filmmaking. but in terms of story and his idea of the audience’s intelligence level, he can go fuck himself in his fucking ass. He, McG, Jar Jar Abrams, Sir Michael Of Bay and Robert Zemeckis too, they can all go fuck themselves in their fucking asses, those fucking hacks.

  71. I suddenly have a burning desire to watch Stargate Universe online. Where did that come from??

  72. I don’t know. But I wish I could do anything against my acne and my depressions.

  73. I just talked myself into revisiting Emmerichs’s GODZILLA ’98. I had some vague memory of it being pretty awful and I must be honest and report that it still sucks. Sorry. I tried excusing it by saying that SFX in the 90’s weren’t as great as they are now, but Spielberg did JURASSIC five years before this green turkey, and I remember that one having awesome SFX.

    On the positive side I’m looking forward to Gareth Edwards reboot. I liked his MONSTERS a lot. It’s so called ‘lack’ of the titular monsters that some complained about(not me) and it’s emphasis on good acting and story and landscape were what made it a great film. It would be cool to see that translated into the blockbuster sized GODZILLA.

  74. I haven´t seen a single GODZILLA-film. What have I missed?

  75. I saw maybe two of the old 50’s-60’s Japanese Godzilla’s when I was a young tellytubby. I never kept up with them but they’re still making new Godzilla movies I hear. I think the GZ character came out of the ashes of WW2 Tokyo and the atom bomb. I suppose they can make the new ones relevant to the times we live in. For example they could have done a GODZILLA vs BIN LADEN. I might have paid to see that.

  76. Or Godzilla as a terrorist and Jack Bauer is sent to stop him.

  77. GODZILLA AND MOTHRA BATTLE FOR EARTH is pretty good. The ones from the 70s tend to be pretty silly but fun, like GODZILLA VS MEGALON. Though EBIRAH HORROR OF THE DEEP reminds me more of a boring KING KONG remake.
    I thought the Emmerich version wasn’t all that awful when I saw it in 1998. Then I watched it again recently and had to admit that it was, indeed, pretty crappy. The special effects are ok but the rest is typical Emmerich bullshit: it’s mostly about a couple getting back together, with some natural disaster as a nonsensical side plot, and nobody but some asshole secondary characters and a handful of heroic, nameless soldiers getting hurt/killed/ridiculed while the world is destroyed. There’s also a boring JURASSIC PARK knockoff in the middle because obviously when you watch a movie called GODZILLA, all you want to see other than Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo’s constant bickering is definitely not a gigantic lizard destroying buildings, but a bunch of velociraptors chasing extras.

  78. Outside of the original movie DESTROY ALL MONSTERS and MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA is where it’s at for me.

    The 1998 movie is one of the most disappointing things I ever sat through. I cut class to see that thing and by the end wish I had just stayed in school. Haven’t seen that turkey since but honestly the only redeemable thing is seeing SIMPSONS cast members.

  79. Darren – “I never kept up with them but they’re still making new Godzilla movies I hear.”

    No. There hasn’t been a new Godzilla movie since FINAL WARS and that was released a decade ago.

  80. I always thought that the Emmerich Godzilla wa a pretty accurate adaptation of the Japanese godzilla movies: Lots of entertaining desctruction, intercut with way too many scenes about humans that nobody cares about.

  81. None of the destruction in Emmerich’s Godzilla was actually entertaining though. Godzilla was too small to even be a real chaos factor. It’s not GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH that’s for sure.

  82. I kind of hated FINAL WARS. Too goofy and suffused with that candy colored boy band sense of Tokyo cool I find so embarrassing. For my money, the best of the recent-ish ones was the awesomely and expansively titled GODZILLA MOTHRA & KING GHIDIRAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, from the guy who did the GAMERA reboot. It was still a guy in a goofy rubber suit but there was some real hardcore carnage going on. The best of both worlds.

  83. Mr Majestyk, what Godzilla movie isn’t goofy?

  84. It’s just the wrong kind of goofy. It’s not good old fashioned silly; it’s actually trying to be hip, which is one thing a Godzilla movie should never try to be, especially since its sense of cool already felt dated by like five years when it came out. It’s feels like 1999 TRL’s idea of cool. A Godzilla movie with floppy hair and cargo pants.

  85. Darren, I thought that Godzilla was about the nuclear testing that was done in the pacific, more than the actual bombing in WWII. I kept trying to figure out a way I could make a Godzilla joke when the tsunami hit Japan and the nuclear reactor without looking like a total and complete asshole. I couldn’t figure one out.

  86. Maggie – Emmerich’s version does attest to that by showing nuclear testing in the pacific at the start of his film. However I enter an RE joint with the foreknowledge that the movie won’t have a brain, so I can’t take his word for it. But you’re probly right. Any Godzillaphiles out there that can shed some light on this?

  87. The nuclear testing was the in-story reason for Godzilla’s awakening from his ancient slumber, but he was still clearly a metaphor for the devastation of the two atomic bombs.

  88. And Shoot – good call on Jack Bauer. It’s more appropriate that Godzilla be the terrorist considering his history of city destruction.

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