Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: Ninja Assassin

“Trained since childhood to be a lethal killer, Raizo has since turned his back on the Ozunu clan that raised him and now seeks revenge for their heartless murders. Teaming up with Europol investigator Mika, Raizo steadily butchers his enemies while inching ever closer to the long-awaited bloody reunion with his former master.”

That’s how the premise for the movie, Ninja Assassin reads over at IMDB, and really that’s it in a nutshell, and it’s one very entertaining film, especially if you’re a fan of big-ass over-the-top martial arts action- Ninja Assassin ups the ante in a very big way.

It’s the second movie from director James McTiegue (his first was V for Vendetta, who is also well-known for being the Wachowski Brothers Assistant Director on the Matrix movies, and the Wachowskis are certainly connected to this one as well, as film producers, along with long-time genre fan favorite writer J. Michael Straczynski, so this film already has a hell of a pedigree behind it.

And they really deliver the goods, with some very fast paced action and some solid characters that you can get behind. The biggest thing that I think it does though is it really makes a ninja something far more fearsome than what has been shown in film before, at least to me, where the term Ninja seems to have a set meaning but hasn’t really been taken to a full potential in a live action movie.

McTiegue’s influence from the Wachowski’s is certainly present, but in addition, again at least to me, he’s been watching Zack Snyder’s 300 as well, especially around one particular sequence that follows Raizo through a battle with a bunch of different ninjas, but going in different speeds with different camera zooms on the action (much like Leonidas charging into battle in 300)

Another Wachowski alumni appearing here though is Rain as Raizo. Rain was also in the Wachowski’s excellent Speed Racer and here he really gets to make a mark- he’s got a great screen presence, and just looks terrific in all of his action scenes. Also of note though is the legendary Sho Kusugi, who appears here as Ozuno, and is just as commanding as ever.

Really, Ninja Assassin is just a fun and extremely bloody good time, harkening back to a time when these sorts of movies were a little more plentiful, but upping the stakes, by just having a budget to take some of these things way farther than they’ve been taken in the past. I really hope this does well, as I’d certainly like to see a Ninja Assassin 2. Very much recommended…

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: The Road

When I wrote a review for 2012, I made mention of the fact that while it’s special effects were spectacular, there just seemed to be a little something odd that it’s escape-by-the-seat-of your-pants popcorn movie thrill-ride was being viewed as entertainment considering that it’s backdrop was hundreds of thousands of people meeting their certain death…

Well, think of The Road as the story of people who weren’t lucky enough to get to go on that roller coaster.

It’s actually much, much more than that, but that was something that certainly popped into my head after watching it.

The Road from director John Hillcoat adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy tells the story of a father and son trying to survive after a global cataclysm has occurred and it takes the harder and darker path in it’s tale of survival while still trying to maintain their humanity. There’s no explanation for what has occurred and there’s no government team that’s seen as the path of salvation, it’s probably way closer to what you and I would actually face if such things were to really occur.

And it’s a really great little film with a very good performance from it’s lead actor, Viggo Mortenson. But, even though I had criticisms with 2012 one thing that it surely offered up was conversation afterwards of what you’d really do in something like this, and The Road does that as well.

It’s extremely dark stuff, though and that’s certainly not the thing for some in the potential viewing audience out there. There is a subtle message of hope here by the film’s end, but you literally have to go through hell and high water to get there.

Viggo Mortenson plays the father, never called anything other than “Poppa” by his young son. I’ve often said in conversations with some friends that Tom Hanks is the closest thing that we have to a James Stewart today in films, well with that in mind, the more and more that I see of Viggo Mortenson, the more that I’m convinced that he’s the closest to what we have now that’s like Kirk Douglas in his prime. This is really a thoughtful performance from Mortenson, another good mark from him in an ever-increasing amount of good roles that he’s taken on. Kodi Smit-McPhee is the young actor who plays his son, and he’s certainly up to the task of keeping pace with Mortenson, and there is a great chemistry between the two that’s a very natural thing between a father and son. At one point, Poppa says to his son, “You must think I’m from another world.” and the moment he said that, I couldn’t help but think of my own relationship with my father. In addition, Charlize Theron plays the wife and mother, seen only in flashbacks, and there’s some nice walk-ons by both Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce- it’s all good and solid work, with Theron getting the best of it as a mother who’s delivered after the apocalypse has happened and who struggles with the idea of trying to survive with her husband and son during this.

It’s really a terrific movie, but it’s by no means a feel-good movie. It’s very bleak and very dark and from what I understand, very true to it’s source, so if you don’t want to see something this dark, then you probably shouldn’t, but for me, I think it’s right up there with The Hurt Locker as one of the better things that I’ve seen this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Viggo Mortenson get an Oscar nomination for this, his performance is certainly worth it. Without a doubt, highly, highly recommended.

Back Seat Producers Season 04 Shows

BSP Episode 122: Home for the Holidays

This one gets EXPLICIT a little.

Hosts & Drinks for this episode:
Tony – Herencia de Plata, over ice.
Darryl – (No idea, someone ask Darryl)
Sarah – 7 and Pepsi, with straight shots of 7 to supplement
Chris – Pepsi Max
David – Dry as a bone. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Next Week’s Movie:
My Big Fat Greek Wedding

The Hanky Code, as referenced near the end of the episode.


Weekend Box Office: November 20-22

#1 New Moon from Summit debuts at #1 with an opening weekend gross of $142.8 million in 4024 theaters. Budget was $50 million.

#2 The Blind Side from Warner Brothers debuts at #2 with an opening weekend gross of $34.1 million in 3110 theaters. Budget is unknown.

#3 2012 from Sony drops from #1 to #3 with a weekend gross of $26.4 million (-59.5%) in 3408 theaters (+4). Total gross to date is $108.1 million. Budget was $200 million.

#4 Planet 51 from Sony debuts at #4 with an opening weekend gross of $12.2 million in 3035 theaters. Budget is unknown.

#5 A Christmas Carol (2009) from Buena Vista drops from #2 to #5 with a weekend gross of $12.2 million (-45.0%) in 3578 theaters (-105). Total gross to date is $79.8 million. Budget was $200 million.

#6 Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire drops from #3 to #6 with a weekend gross of $10.8 million (+85.2%) in 629 theaters (+455). Total gross to date is $21.2 million. Budget was $10 million.

Rounding out the top 12 are:

#7 The Men Who Stare at Goats drops from #4 to #7 with a weekend gross of $2.8 million (-51.7%) in 2056 theaters (-397). Total gross to date is $27.6 million. Budget was $25 million.

#8 Couples Retreat drops from #7 to #8 with a weekend gross of $1.9 million (-53.3%) in 1712 theaters (-797). Total gross to date is $104.9 million. Budget was $70 million.

#9 The Fourth Kind  drops from #6 to #9 with a weekend gross of $1.7 million (-62.1%) in 1648 theaters (-882). Total gross to date is $23.3 million. Budget is unknown.

#10 Michael Jackson’s This Is It drops from #5 to #10 with a weekend gross of $1.6 million (-68.2%) in 1640 theaters (-1397). Total gross to date is $70.2 million. Budget is unknown.

#11 Law Abiding Citizen drops from #9 to #11 with a weekend gross of $1.6 million (-57.7%) in 1327 theaters (-744). Total gross to date is $70.0 million. Budget was $50 million.

#12 Pirate Radio drops from #11 to #12 with a weekend gross of $1.4 million (-49.7%) in 883 theaters (+1). Total gross to date is $5.1 million. Budget was $50 million.

The combined gross of the top 12 movies this weekend was $250.0 million (+93.1%).

A note on “Gross”: On average, studios will earn approximately 55 percent of the final gross.

Box Office Mojo

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: The Fourth Kind

Taken at face value, The Fourth Kind reports to be about a series of incidents that lead to the idea of alien abduction located around the Nome, Alaska area. A Nome psychiatrist, Dr. Abigail Tyler has found that some of her patients have some commonalities in their lack of sleep and the strange things that they experience through that, and further, before this, her husband had been mysteriously murdered and is now effectively a cold case. Her husband, also a psychiatrist, had been looking into the same matters, that Abigail now continues. This is all told, or rather sold, to you in a manner that basically purports it all to be real and the proof being the use of actual video footage and recordings conducted by Abigail Tyler. this even goes a step further, when at the start of the movie, actress Milla Jovovich steps in front and center, tells you she’s actress Milla Jovovich playing this character with everything else all around it being real…

Now you know what, I could really give a damn if it’s real or not, I knew a little about this going in to see it, but it was very little. Had this really and truly been totally based on “real” events, with “real” audio tapes and video tapes to support what it’s telling you, then wow… it’s an amazing story. If it’s all been cocked-up to sell an entertainment experience, that’s fine too, it’s not the first time something like this has been done in movies and undoubtedly it won’t be the last, what will matter is if you have a good time with it while it’s there, and I did. And for the record, it is all cocked up, just based around a series of disappearances that had happened in Nome throughout a period of time as it’s starting point.

Lots of comparisons have been made with movies like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project though probably a more apt movie to compare it to would be a little seen film called The Last Broadcast which does what this movie does, intermixes it’s “real” audio and footage with filmed stuff that fills in the blanks. This goes a step further, employing lots of split screen tactics with both on-screen at once, the director, Olatunde Osunsanmi being on-screen and conducting his interview with the “real” Abigail Tyler and even pointing out to you through on-screen credits when an actor is portraying a “real” character- not just with Jovovich, but also with Elias Koteas, Will Patton and Hakeem Kae-Kazim, all playing characters that further support the “facts” of this situation.

The Fourth KInd is pretty slow-paced starting off, and then moves into it’s own brand of overdrive about 60% of the way through with a couple of different jump moments. There’s certainly conviction from all of it’s principals, in particularly Jovovich and Patton, and that certainly furthers the salesmanship and basically I found this to be an overall entertaining experience, a nice diversion for a little over 90 minutes. If it matters to you about the “reality” of the situation, then I’d probably say that it’s best to not even bother. I like movies with gimmicks though and this one is about as gimmicked-up as it can get and though it may not be the absolute best as one of these films that blurs the line, I thought it was entertaining and certainly worth a look, if not in the theatre then on home video later, that is as long as you’re willing to be taken for a ride…

DVD Review Text Reviews

DVD Review: Genre TV Movie Classics from The Warner Archives

Awhile back, Warner Brothers announced The Warner Archives, a new division that put a lot of Warners-owned movies out for either download or DVD-on-demand release, basically, you won’t find these in stores and other than through illegal means, the only ways I’ve seen at present to get them are either through Warners themselves or Deep Discount, and you’re best bet is through Warners directly because Deep Discount charges even more for them.

There’s a lot of good stuff available through them, but recently, I saw it pointed out through the Geek Radio Daily messageboards that the original pilot film for NBC’s Man From Atlantis was being offered there. Now I was intrigued, but not quite ready to pull the trigger on that right away, but checking into their selection, I found four things that I just couldn’t say no to… these were all pilot films from the early 70s, all of which were real staples of mine back in the day. I caught them when they were originally aired and re-aired on the networks, and then again when they’d show up on a couple of St. Louis stations which at the time were not affiliated with any networks. These stations used to show things like Abbott & Costello movies, Bowery Boys movies, Tarzan movies and a smorgasbord of various classic horror and science fiction films, all of which seem to be gone now, except for the occasional thing that might show up on either Turner Classic Movies or Fox Movies.

The four movies are:

Genesis II
Planet Earth
Earth II
City Beneath The Sea

Warners offered a deal on buying both Genesis II and Planet Earth together and I managed to find a discount code that got me a further $5.00 off the whole order, so I pulled the trigger. Within a week, everything was delivered, and I had a small thing that happened with my billing in the end. I e-mailed Warners about it, and within the hour, I’d been replied to and everything was taken care of to my satisfaction, so a thumbs up for their service.

Now here’s the deal on the movies:

Genesis II and Planet Earth both come from the fertile mind of Gene Roddenberry who of course will be eternally known for giving the world Star Trek. Genesis II originally aired on CBS back in 1973 as a 90 minute pilot film. At the same time, CBS was enjoying some terrific ratings for showings of the Planet of the Apes movies, and thus this pilot was passed on, with CBS opting for a Planet of the Apes series and using the reasoning that it could only have one sci-fi show on the air at a time. The main protagonist of this is a scientist from the year 1979 named Dylan Hunt (played by Alex Cord, better known for his work on Airwolf) who’s working on a new cryogenics system designed for astronauts in deep space travel. He uses himself as a test subject for the process deep in scientific complex located in Carlsbad Caverns, and of course, an accident happens and Hunt finds himself trapped there, only to be discovered in the year 2133 by a completely new society called Pax. Amongst those of Pax who discover Hunt, is a recent new addition, a mutant female known as Lyra-A (with the last part pronounced Ah) who has her own motives in retrieving Hunt. And of course hijinks ensue. Of note here was the fact that Lyra-A was played by actress Mariette Hartley who turned up all over the place back in the day, but was better known for being James Garner’s “wife” in a series of commercials for Polaroid and Ted Cassidy as the Pax member Isiah, who was better known for playing Lurch on The Addams Family. CBS, as I said above, passed on the pilot, but they aired it at least twice in primetime and again when they had a late night Friday night movie series. I still remember how they promoted it, in particular showing off Lyra-A’s mutation being dual navels! As a kid this was great stuff, and seeing it now again after all these years, it’s still a lot of fun, though it’s certainly stilted in a lot of it’s dialogue, and low budget in it’s look and so ripe in being made fun of, but at the same time pleasing in seeing what we used to get in a simpler time…

Planet Earth was aired by ABC in 1974 and it was Roddenberry selling Genesis II all over again- it’s the same premise but with some significant changes, I’m figuring that ABC wanted the show to more resemble Star Trek. John Saxon was cast as Dylan Hunt, and I always figured that if William Shatner never played James T. Kirk, John Saxon was probably the guy next in line to play him (Saxon was in all sorts of movies, but in my estimation is probably best known for co-starring with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon). Two of the other planned recurring characters were also re-cast (though Ted Cassidy was retained). In Genesis II, Pax was a society based underground, but the setting was changed for ABC. And more sci-fi-type of uniforms were given to the Pax team. The story here actually grew sort of from a throwaway bit in Genesis II involving another society on this future earth in which women were overtly dominant over their men. Basically a member of Pax is shot on a mission and the only person who can immediately save him is another Pax member who was last seen infiltrating this female society- now Dylan Hunt and his team have to find this guy, and in the process bring a different sort of “enlightenment” to this female society, headed up by actress Diana Muldaur. These series probably represent Roddenberry at his free-wheeling horniest, though he was always trying to be a little on the saucy side with the original Star Trek as well. Again, like Genesis II I thought this was and still is some great fun, though some of that fun now can also be had playing with this in an MST3K style. ABC passed on this and went with The Six Million Dollar Man instead…

Earth II was originally broadcast by ABC in 1971 and was very much influenced in a small screen way by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Earth II tells the story of a multinational space station, called appropriately enough Earth II, that is it’s own sovereign nation in respect to the other nations of Earth. As this starts, the three astronauts who are in charge of Earth II are beginning their first steps in it’s construction, being launched in space and flying over the United States and by scanning the lights left on at night, determining if the nation favors Earth II becoming it’s own sovereign nation. Well, of course they get the green light, and so our scene shifts to the constructed Earth II, and how one man Frank Karger who helped with those opening steps is now bringing his family to live to Earth II. Frank has his own ideas about what they should be doing there and can’t wait to get cracking, though he’s meeting with some resistance from the original founders. This all gets accelerated though when Red China launches it’s own orbital nuclear missile launch platform, threatening the entire world with World War III. Earth II was proudly stating how scientifically accurate they were trying to be at the start of the show and I do believe they were trying their level best. Again, lots of 70s mainstays in this, Gary Lockwood (from 2001), Scott Hylands, Hari Rhodes and Gary Merrill serve as some main principals with Tony Franciosa playing Frank Karger and Mariette Hartley (yet again- see you couldn’t trip over anything in TV in the 70s without coming across Mariette Hartley) as his wife. Fun stuff and probably the best story of the four that I ordered.

City Beneath The Sea aired in 1971 on NBC and was from another icon in science fiction and disaster movies, Irwin Allen. Out of the four of these, visually, this was the most ambitious at least to me. It’s 2053, and Admiral Michael Matthews has been ordered by the President of the United States to re-assume his old job as the leader of the underwater city of Pacifica for a couple of different reasons and in addition a meteorite is headed straight to Pacifica’s location and threatens it’s destruction unless drastic action is taken! This is pure Irwin Allen schlock but also a lot of fun- lots of things come in from other Allen series, including the flying sub from Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, actor Richard Basehart (also from Voyage) and actors Robert Colbert and James Darren from The Time Tunnel. Stuart Whitman stars as Matthews, and he’s rock-solid here, and the cast also includes Robert Wagner, Rosemary Forsyth and Joseph Cotten. probably the coolest part though was a character named Aguila, played by actor Burr DeBenning. Aguila was a mutant who could breathe and speak underwater, and DeBenning actually plays him with quite a bit of conviction. Fun stuff all around…

Now I don’t necessarily think these would fly with an audience that’s more weened on movie and TV after 1980, but for those that do remember these, it’s at least good to know that they’re still out there, and it certainly gives me hope that a few other things from the day might manage to make it out someday, in particular for me, two of Gene Roddenberry’s other failed pilots The Questor Tapes and Spectre.

As to the physical releases themselves, well the picture quality is actually pretty good here, probably the best that these have ever seen. Genesis II, Planet Earth and Earth II are all full frame, but City Beneath The Sea is in anamorphic widescreen. Both Earth II and City got international theatrical release, and near as I can tell, those are the versions shown here. In addition for both Earth II and City the disks also carry theatrical trailers for both movies.

For my first experience with the Warners Archives, this was a pretty good one, so for those that have been interested in trying them out, they certainly get a big thumbs up here.

Back Seat Producers Season 04 Shows

BSP Episode 121: Red Dawn


Hosts & Drinks for this episode:
Tony – the remnants of a bottle of Maker’s Mark (FROM THE BOTTLE)
Chris – Pepsi Max
Darrell –

Drinks: |||F|||||

1:15 Epic nipple.
2:00 Business: Contest on the website; two episodes in the can; Chris jacked up an episode; do our work for us using Google Wave.
5:25 Darrell puts it out into the world.
5:50 That’s a terrible segue, man.
6:00 High level thoughts.
7:00 Ooooo! Navy Seals!
8:30 Subtelty? We don’ need no stinkin’ subtlety!
10:00 Darrell mixes it up by being the one to disagree with the rest of the hosts.
12:10 Rundown of the actors, starting with Patrick Swayze.
16:15 G.I. Joe (the 80’s cartoon version) is held up as better than parts of this movie.
16:45 Chris and Tony have different ideas about what qualifies a spider as “giant.”
17:00 Moving on to Emilio Estevez’s brother.
19:10 The DM says, “Take a drink!”
20:00 The hosts veer drunkenly into plot synopsis.
24:05 Chat room corrects the hosts.
29:15 That teacher in the front of the classroom over there says that Ghengis Khan ruled the Mongols….
30:15 It is implied that David would have nothing to contribute to this conversation.
30:25 Chris’s sister doesn’t get Top Gun.
33:55 The older generation just doesn’t understand us.
39:10 “When you’re older, you’ll know it works.”
40:10 The movie is a series of TUBES! I mean, vignettes.
41:00 Babysitting techniques in the 80’s: not so smart.
45:30 Tony does some Fan Boy Smack Down reminiscing. 5!
45:50 Darrell may or may not have briefly swallowed the microphone at this point.
47:30 Tony uses the night’s movie to talk about Star Wars.
50:00 Chris gets really, really worked up.
53:00 Chris fears Sarah. As should you.
54:30 Suck grenade, douchenozzle!
56:20 Egg Shen almost shows up.
58:00 Keeps me warm.
1:01:45 Anything can be converted into a locator device.
1:02:30 Chris blames the French. Tony blames Gaius Baltar.
1:08:00 Tony kills the whiskey. Keeps him warm.
1:10:15 Feminism doesn’t apply to teenagers; thus, Twilight.
1:13:20 Chris has a dirty mind–can’t accept a platonic relationship.
1:15:50 Tony has controlled his drunkenness very well through this episode. At this point, all control is gone.
1:16:10 The lines between reality and fiction get blurred.
1:17:15 The creepiness overwhelms Chris.
1:18:15 Chris summarizes the big, dramatic, soul-searching character moment: Blah, blah.
1:20:40 He looks at his hands. HE LOOKS AT HIS HANDS!
1:25:00 Chris has motivation to swallow the mic this time.
1:26:25 Star Trek was a longer episode.
1:26:45 Darrell wants to get political. Tony wants more whiskey.
1:28:00 Chris proves himself on par with David in missing the great movies of the era.
1:32:45 Chris is weird…
1:33:05 …and a parent.
1:35:00 Chris commits to his role as David.
1:35:55 Red Dawn’s teat has been milked!

(We’ll add to the show notes as they are populated on the Wave for this episode.) If you need an invite, shoot an email to Tony.


Weekend Box Office: November 13-15

#1 2012 from Sony debuts at #1 with an opening weekend gross of $65.2 million in 3404 theaters. Budget was $200 million.

#2 A Christmas Carol (2009) from Buena Vista drops from #1 to #2 with a weekend gross of $22.3 million (-25.8%) in 3683 theaters (no change). Total gross to date is $63.2 million. Budget was $200 million.

#3 Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire jumps from #12 to #3 with a weekend gross of $5.8 million (+213.7%) in 174 theaters (+156). Total gross to date is $8.6 million. Budget was $10 million.

#4 The Men Who Stare at Goats from Overture drops from #3 to #4 with a weekend gross of $5.8 million (-53.9%) in 2453 theaters (+10). Total gross to date is $23.0 million. Budget was $25 million.

#5 Michael Jackson’s This Is It from Sony drops from #2 to #5 with a weekend gross of $5.0 million (-61.4%) in 3037 theaters (-444). Total gross to date is $67.1 million. Budget is unknown.

#6 The Fourth Kind from Universal drops from #4 to #6 with a weekend gross of $4.6 million (-62.3%) in 2530 theaters (+3). Total gross to date is $20.4 million. Budget is unknown.

Rounding out the top 12 are:

#7 Couples Retreat holds at #7 with a weekend gross of $4.1 million (-32.0%) in 2509 theaters (-348). Total gross to date is $102.0 million. Budget was $70 million.

#8 Paranormal Activity drops from #5 to #8 with a weekend gross of $4.0 million (-51.2%) in 2712 theaters (+154). Total gross to date is $103.6 million. Budget was $0.015 million.

#9 Law Abiding Citizen drops from #8 to #9 with a weekend gross of $3.7 million (-36.8%) in 2071 (-403) theaters. Total gross to date is $67.1 million. Budget was $50 million.

#10 The Box drops from #6 to #10 with a weekend gross of $3.1 million (-58.3%) in 2635 theaters (no change). Total gross to date is $13.1 million. Budget was $30 million.

#11 Pirate Radio debuts at #11 with an opening weekend gross of $2.9 million in 882 theaters. Budget was $50 million.

#12 Where the Wild Things Are drops from #9 to #12 with a weekend gross of $2.4 million (-42.1%) in 2090 theaters (-666). Total gross to date is $73.4 million. Budget was $100 million.

The combined gross of the top 12 movies this weekend was $130.3 million (+22.0%).

A note on “Gross”: On average, studios will earn approximately 55 percent of the final gross.

Box Office Mojo


Contest: Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars is filled with tips, techniques, practice space, and translucent overlays to make you a master of drawing. Start with stick figures, move onto basic shapes, and finish up with the details. Use the included double-tipped metallic-colored pencils and black marker to make 20 Clone Wars characters come to life.

Five (5) winners will receive:

  • a copy of Draw Star Wars: Clone Wars
  • *one of the 5 winners will receive an autographed copy, signed by Bonnie Burton

Books’s are valued at $16.95 each.

Shipping Guidelines:

The Draw Star Wars: Clone Wars book giveaway is open to participants with a United States mailing address only (international readers can enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail.)

This contest is closed.

Thanks for entering.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: 2012

Sometimes, I gotta wonder what it’s like to hang out with director Roland Emmerich, especially when he’s planning the destruction of either American or religious icons in some of his big budget blockbusters, like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow or currently in the new movie, 2012. I mean is there a childish glee, of a social/political motivation or does he just think it looks plain cool? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s all of the above, only Emmerich knows for sure… but it’s all on display in 2012.

2012 uses the ancient Mayan prophecy of the expiration of the Earth as it’s core. In 2009, an Indian scientist discovers that scientific pieces are falling together that precipitate a global cataclysm that will reach it’s zenith in the year 2012. He warns a US colleague, a lower level White House scientific consultant named Adrian Helmsley, and from there a process begins to preserve our current culture in the world that will come after this happens. As 2012 comes we primarily see what happens through the eyes of Helmsley and an American would-be writer and divorced father struggling to support his family named Jackson Curtis. Curtis discovers more of what’s happening on his own, as he’s taking his kids on a weekend getaway to Yellowstone National Park and comes into contact with Charlie, the broadcaster of a pirate radio station that has put all the pieces together and is there to see what’s about to happen. Once the destruction starts, it’s a race against time for all the principals to get to their goal, which is whatever means that has been designed to preserve what will be left of humanity in the end.

Pretty heady stuff, especially as its all being packaged as your literal big-ass popcorn movie, the result of which, I thought was an overall enjoyable mixed bag. There’s obviously a plethora of spectacular visual effects here, sometimes too many for the film’s own good, there’s a few holes here and there, some good characters, some weak characters, some absolute groaner moments and even in the midst of all of the popcorn action, a few moments of genuine poignancy that unfortunately gets swallowed up more by the spectacle of it all.

It’s obvious that Emmerich loves his big scenes of mass destruction, and visually they do look spectacular, though the action that they’re placed on sometimes feels more detached than anything else. There’s a couple of big scenes in particular which are these escape-by-the-edge-of-your-seat scenes, that happen a little too close together and a little too conveniently- showing reaction shots of Jackson Curtis and his family while all of this mass destruction is going on that sort of left me a little detached from the immediacy of it all. I know that sounds a little odd, but while your focused on this one group of people, there are literally thousands being killed in the scenes in the process, with just the idea that they’re cannon fodder for the big effect. Now I know you can’t necessarily get into everyone’s situation in something like this, even in a 2 hour and 40 minute movie, but still the end result, as it’s handled here, feels more like a Universal Pictures thrill ride rather than something that has real life and death at stake- again, I understand that, but considering a few of the other ideas at work here, some of this just isn’t as genuine as it could be.

Most of those bigger ideas come into the back third of the film, once the destruction has started and the process begins to find what will be the salvation at the end. And there is indeed a plan there, that had it’s own process at work. One of the things that’s tossed off as a throwaway line is that people were selected for this based on a computer program that found those that were most apt to contribute and rebuild. The line is just tossed out, but it would’ve actually been cool to have seen that at work here- this event being kept secret from the mass population until it was already upon us, but yet several hundred thousand were selected for this salvation, what happens there? We do see that of sorts through one person, but that person wasn’t part of the selection, instead he was one who buys his way in, literally helping to fund this big project, but I think it would’ve been cool to have seen this from someone else’s POV. Another point happens when the end events are really accelerated into happening and all of a sudden, thousands are facing the possibility of not getting in on this salvation. Helmsley pleads the case that every effort must be done to save the people that at that moment can’t be saved, with all of the world leaders going along with it, except for the man who is currently in charge of the Americans, who is not the President (our President here is played by Danny Glover, and seeing how the winds of politics blow for Emmerich, this President is displayed in a very sympathetic way and makes the ultimate sacrifice in helping his fellow Americans). This character, Helmsley’s boss, played by Oliver Platt, makes what should be the all too real pragmatic arguments in not taking the time to save all of these people and of course, he could just as well be Snidely Whiplash at that point, serving as the “evil” American for the movie. But further… as the carnage around that scene starts, and human lives are threatened, all attention is turned to a small dog who does manage to get to it’s owner in the end, giving this scene it’s biggest groaner moment…

Now I know this probably sounds like I’m going to trash this in the end, and yet I can’t, I do think it’s worth seeing, especially on a big screen. At 2 hours and 40 minutes, I thought this moved very quickly and that’s always a plus for something like this. And it does have it’s genuine good moments, but further it just spurred some great conversation at the end, whether it came at the expense of some of the weaker parts or through some of it’s good ideas, and certainly presents some food for thought, but I won’t guarantee that it will work for everyone in the same way.

The film’s lead characters of Helmsley and Curtis are played by Chiwetel Ejifor and John Cusack. Ejifor, for my money, is one of the best actors working today and he does a good job here, though a scene could be added when he reaches his epiphany near the film’s end, basically telling you how he got there. As the film started, I thought Cusack’s character was going to be more of the one-note smart-assed variety, but he grew on me as the film went on, and even though this film won’t be at the top of anyone’s list for how good he can be, I still think he’s solid here.

Reportedly, Emmerich wants to continue this story on television and go further into what has to happen to rebuild a new world from all of this. I kind of hope he gets his chance, but at the same time, can it be handled in such a way in which the gravity of the situation can be preserved? Well, it probably can, but would viewers necessarily want that? These days, I figure the answer to that is “no” especially on the scale that this is built on, and if one was to truly go into what it would take to rebuild a society after this, I’d expect that we’d see a lot of messageboard responses of being consistently bored week to week (just based already on things that I’m seeing around for new TV shows like FlashForward and V and the already canceled Dollhouse), but I digress…

In the end, though I give it it’s lumps, I do think 2012 is worth seeing, but I expect I’m probably going to be a minority on this one…