Friday, September 3, 2010

My 2010 Movie Odyssey - Part II

Ultraviolet (2006)
This movie is an absolute mess. It strings one violent action scene after another, held loosely together by something masquerading as a plot involving vampires, a golden child that may save the world, evil government, and a cure or something of some sort. I’m not really sure, since most of the plot made absolutely no sense to go along with zero character development. This is a very disappointing followup for director Kurt Wimmer after the underrated Equilibrium.

Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
This is a fun screwball comedy featuring the always wonderful Myrna Loy as a woman who reasonably (though ultimately falsely) suspects her husband (Clark Gable) of having an affair with his secretary (Jean Harlow).

Paint Your Wagon (1969)
This is an odd film. It’s a western starring Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, so there is plenty testosterone to spare. But it is also a musical. There are a couple good musical numbers (specifically Lee Marvin’s rendition of “I Was Born Under a Wandrin’ Star”) but it just does not seem right most of the time seeing Eastwood and Marvin singing their thoughts to the audience.

Wonder Man (1945)
Danny Kaye gets to play two roles: a slick nightclub entertainer and his bumbling bookworm twin brother. Both are very funny and they each get a couple fun musical numbers, giving Kaye the opportunity to play both suave and neurotic to the hilt (both of which he does excellently). Wonder Man stands proudly beside The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Court Jester as one of Kaye’s most entertaining roles.

2012 (2009)
I went into this movie ready to nurture some deep hate towards this movie (after all, my opinions of Roland Emmerich’s other “masterpieces,” The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 B.C. are well documented here) and right off the bat the movie delivered. I was treated to a series of disjointed scenes that are supposed to give the audience a sense of dread, but instead left me silently screaming at the screen, “Just get on with it!” The worst scenes involve respected scientists telling high ranking officials that something really bad is about to happen, but the screenwriters goes out of their way to make sure they don’t tell the audience what the really bad thing is, making some extra awkward and klunky dialog. Then, fifteen minutes into the movie, we are finally introduced to our main character played by John Cusack, who just happens to be a limo driver. After it is firmly established (and then some) that he is a bad father and estranged from his kids, he learns that the world is going to end, but that there is a secret government conspiracy that is planning to keep humanity alive. Then we get far too many contrived scenes of driving really fast while being chased by a crack opening up in the earth. Then, once Emmerich decides that driving away from a crack in the ground isn’t good enough, they graduate to a plane, and they have daring escapes flying through toppling buildings while the earth disintegrates. (Though, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t airplanes fly high in the sky? So shouldn’t they have been able to just fly over the tops of the crumbling buildings without a care in the world?) Then it just happens that John Cusack is a chauffeur for a rich guy who has a “get out of the end of the world free” card, so Cusack & Co. join up with him and they get in an even bigger plane and fly this one through an even bigger crack in the ground. Interspersed throughout all this thrilling stuff are scenes of characters around the world who pop in and out of the movie at random, and I think we are supposed to care about them, especially the ones who die horribly at the hands of Mother Nature. But since Emmerich decided not to invest anything in these characters, neither does the audience, and these scenes are far more likely to induce yawns than tears. After dozens more scenes of improbable coincidences and contrived tension (due mostly to the scientists saying, “Oops, we miscalculated, and the world will end tomorrow instead of a week from now; actually, cancel that, the end of the world is six hours away; no, wait, it’s more like thirty minutes”), Cusack & Co. finally make it aboard a giant ark that is designed to weather the storm and save humanity (after all the expendable characters are killed off in various gruesome ways, of course). But then something horrible happened. I thought about the ark, and it actually seemed like a good idea (after all, it worked for Noah) and the production designers and art department put some serious work into making the ark believable. I couldn’t believe it, there was something cool to end the movie with. I don’t know which is harder to forgive Emmerich for: the travesty against humanity that is The Day After Tomorrow, or making a movie that is almost as bad as The Day After Tomorrow but giving it an ending that I kind of liked. Ultimately, 2012 wishes it was Deep Impact with a heavy dose of The Day After Tomorrow, sprinkled with a spoonful of Titanic, but The Day After Tomorrow is the only movie it managed to not be vastly inferior to.

Coming up next: getting caught up on some of the movies from last year.

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