Friday, June 17, 2011

PCP on DVD - Apocalyptic 6-pack film reviews.

Time for your next hit of PCP:  Pop Culture Panorama.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have developed about a 60 movie backlog of films to review, of films I’ve watched over the past couple months.  I’ve had enough time to watch the movies and jot down some observations, but not enough time until now to actually write the reviews.  So, I will be doing shorter than normal reviews of these films until I am caught back up, in convenient multi-packs of movies by genre.  In honor of the failed May 21st apocalypse that didn’t happen, today I’ll be tackling 6 movies that deal with an apocalypse in progress or on a post-apocalypse world.

2012 – 2009, Rated PG-13.  158 minutes.  Starring:  John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, & Danny Glover.  My rating:  5 out of 10.

Director Roland Emmerich is great at making things go boom on the big screen with stunning visuals and scenes of destruction.  In Independence Day he blows up New York, DC, and LA.  In The Day After Tomorrow, a tidal wave floods New York.  Here in 2012, he goes even bigger, with tidal waves cresting over the Himalayas, Los Angeles disintegrating under a massive earthquake, and the dormant volcano under Yellowstone going boom with a massive fury.  Despite its entire visual spectacle, the film itself isn’t particularly that good, just like most of his other films.  He gets decent performances out of the cast, with Woody Harrelson in particular standing out as a crazy conspiracy theorist who is actually way more right than anyone else around him.  Oliver Platt is also great as the slimy political operative doing his best to survive the disaster.  Danny Glover is stoic as the Black President doomed to have an apocalypse happen during his term.  Ever notice that in Hollywood, whenever there’s a Black President of the U.S. bad things happen?  Whether it’s Deep Impact, 24, The Event, or 2012, it seems Hollywood likes to really hose Black Presidents with misfortune during their fictional terms.  But back to the film, 2012 is great at showing off cool visual tricks, but in the end is rather dull because the visual tricks are so over the top that they move into the realm of complete implausibility, with things happening that the characters would never actually survive if it occurred in real life.  Worth watching if you have a huge hi-def screen, a blu-ray player, and a good surround sound system, but otherwise you can pretty much skip this one.  Go watch Independence Day again instead, its much more fun than this one.

Read the other 5 reviews after the jump!

The Road – 2009, Rated R.  111 minutes.  Starring Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Charlize Theron.  My rating:  8 out of 10.

Although the cause of the apocalypse is never clearly stated in this film (it’s either nuclear war or an asteroid impact, either one powerful enough to throw enough dust into the air to blot out the sun and kill much of the life on earth), this film takes place in a world devoid of color, life, and happiness.  This is one of the bleaker films I’ve ever seen.  A pervasive air of melancholy surrounds this entire movie.  This comic strip from one of my favorite webcomics, Multiplex, sums up how you feel when you are done watching the film:  The film is well made and well acted, especially by the great Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings) as the father protecting his son, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), and it will spark some interesting conversations about what you would do if you ever found yourself in the bleak world the two of them find themselves in.  It’s a great, underappreciated movie, but it is very depressing, especially the ending.  Worth watching though, but be prepared for it to totally be a buzzkill.  It’s probably not a movie I’ll ever want to watch a second time, but I’m glad I watched it once.

The Book of Eli – 2010, Rated R.  118 minutes.  Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, & Mila Kunis.  My rating:  7 out of 10. 

Compared to the Debbie Downer that is The Road, The Book of Eli is almost uplifting and upbeat, despite the fact that humanity has been reduced to cannibalism and mob violence in the wake of a nuclear war.  At least everything isn’t gray, instead there’s actually a decent amount of color in this world, but everything is just very dirty and gritty.  Denzel Washington stars as the enigmatic Eli, a man traveling the nuclear wasteland on a mission from God.  He states his mission is to deliver one of the few remaining copies of a bible to a place of refuge and safekeeping.  It is a cool premise, because others want to obtain the bible from him because they know the power of the words in it and they want to use it to exploit and oppress others, ruling over them in this messy future world.  One thing I find hard to believe however is that the bible that Eli has is one of the few remaining in existence, from the way the characters talk about it.  There’s a copy in every hotel room in the country, are you really telling me that all of those copies were destroyed?  That part of the film is kind of hard to believe, as it just stretches way too far for me to buy it.  Aside from that though, the film is decent.  Gary Oldman is great as yet another lunatic power hungry guy.  He does that role so well that I’ll watch any movie he’s in where he plays that type of character.  The movie has some moments of greatness, including Denzel laying waste to a group of bad guys a few minutes into the movie, and a cool ending as well that will make you go back and re-watch the film to see if the ending was true and that the character actually acted the way he should based on what we learned about him (I won’t spoil that here, but there are some subtle things that happen throughout the movie that clue in an informed observer that I missed until I watched it the second time).  All in all, a decent film, worth checking out if you like Denzel movies.

Daybreakers – 2010, Rated R.  98 minutes.  Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, & Sam Neill.  My rating:  6 out of 10.

Set in a near future where Vampirism spread out of control and infected 95% of the world’s population, Daybreakers is the story of a vampire scientist, Ethan Hawke, who is trying to create a blood substitute that the vampires can live on, as human supply has nearly been exhausted.  The majority of the remaining living humans are tapped for their blood in industrial harvesting farms, similar to how that is depicted in Blade Trinity.  Instead of finding a viable substitute, he discovers that there can be a cure for vampirism, restoring the vampire back to their old human self.  He has to team up with some humans, including the former vampire Willem Dafoe, who is the source of the cure, to try to get the word of the cure out before the humans are captured and harvested.  It is an interesting concept for a film, one that sat on the shelf in development hades for a few years (the movie was filmed in 2007 but not released until 2010) and it makes for an interesting, albeit average, film.  Some of the gore scenes are cool though, including what happens to a poor test subject for the synthetic blood Hawke is trying to create that unfortunately doesn’t work very well.  It’s worth seeing if you like vampire movies, but otherwise take a pass, because it’s only an average film.

Resident Evil:  Afterlife – 2010, Rated R.  97 minutes.  Starring Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Boris Kodjoe, & Wentworth Miller.  My rating:  3 out of 10. 

In videogame form, the Resident Evil series is one of my favorite series, with each game being a solid, enjoyable experience.  In films, it started decent and went downhill, culminating in this pile of dreck.  Yes there are some cool action pieces in this film, but there are so many other zombie movies out there that are far better than this that it’s not worth watching this one.  Loyalists of the game franchise will recognize some of the characters, including the return of Jill Valentine during the end credits, but unless you’re a hardcore fan of the games or the movie franchise, this movie is a pass, not a watch.  There are a number of things that don’t make sense if you haven’t seen the prequels or played the games, so definitely don’t jump in to the franchise and start with this movie, if you are going to watch them go back to the beginning.  The movie ends on an open note leaving room for yet another sequel, and since the movie worldwide pulled in more than 5 times its budget at the box office, another sequel seems inevitable.  Hopefully it’ll be better than this one was, it’ll be hard pressed to be much worse.

Pandorum – 2009, rated R.  108 minutes.  Starring Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, and Cam Gigandet.  My rating:  6 out of 10.

Set hundreds of years in the future after humanity has been forced to abandon Earth due to wars and devastation, Pandorum takes place on a sleeper ship heading towards a distant Earth-like planet to be the new home of the human race.  The film is dark and creepy, a decent space horror film kind of similar to Event Horizon.  Ben Foster wakes up from deep sleep to find a ghost ship with almost no one still alive that is out of stasis, and has to get the ship powered up again so that the remaining survivors can make it to the safe haven planet of Tanis.  It is a cool movie with some good kill scenes and some good violence, although it has a couple of plot holes – the biggest is that the origin of the aliens on the ship is never sufficiently explained.  Aside from that though, the film isn’t too bad, but it could have been a lot better also.  It feels like more than one film was spliced together to make this one, which apparently is what happened when the director and writer each spliced together ideas they had had for similar movies into this one.  The ending does leave the film open to a sequel, and it was actually planned to be the start of a trilogy, but unfortunately since it bombed at the box office, that sequel will be unlikely to ever arrive.  If you like space horror, check this film out, otherwise give it a pass.

That wraps up Pop Culture Panorama for today, thanks for stopping by!

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