Film Friday: ‘2012’ & ‘Pirate Radio’

by W. Andrew Powell

John Cusack and Woody Harrelson in '2012'

John Cusack and Woody Harrelson in '2012'

Opening this week in a theatre near you: Roland Emmerich directs the epic disaster, 2012; Philip S. Hoffman stars in the music comedy, Pirate Radio; plus a look at Prom Night In Mississippi, and The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

Starring: John Cusack, Chjwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson
Director: Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich is the king of the modern disaster movie. The writer/director has given us such disaster epics as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, but that wasn’t enough. Now, Emmerich is back for 2012, a film riddled with explosions, massive destruction, and terrible, terrible dialogue, as well as one of the worst “end of the world” concepts I could ever imagine.

Don’t worry though, it’s still fun.

John Cusack plays Jackson Curtis, a one-time sci-fi writer who is trying to spend some quality time with his kids, who now live with his ex-wife. Taking the kids to Yellowstone park, Jackson happens upon the crazed radio host Charlie Frost, played by Woody Harrelson, who explains to him that the Earth is about to have a serious disaster.

Jackson of course shrugs this off, but it’s not long before he realizes the truth and rushes to save his kids and former wife, with only one hope: find the arks that are meant to save a portion of humanity from the coming worldwide disaster.

Co-starring Amanda Peet as Jackson’s ex-wife, Kate, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Adrian Helmsley, a scientific advisor to the United States, 2012 has a string of diligent actors who obviously worked hard to bring some depth to this popcorn disaster-adventure. Emmerich gives them some fluffy dialogue to play with, as well as jokes aplenty scattered throughout the story, but he also seems happy to pull the rug out from under his actors, making their efforts to be serious seem like a joke.

When it comes down to it though, few people are going to see 2012 because of the actors. The reason it’s a real big screen film is because the effects in 2012 are made for a massive theatre screen. Even today, when anything is possible, there are moments in the film that actually deserve to be called “eye popping”. That won’t save the sometimes lame storyline, but it does make the film go down nice and easy with a bag of popcorn.

The stupidity of the film is hard to ignore though. While I was happy to swallow the ridiculous plot in The Day After Tomorrow, which at least bordered on some kind of quasi-science, 2012 requires anyone with a smidgeon of common sense to zone out for a few moments as a character explains how harmless particles are suddenly acting like microwaves. They aren’t frying people. They have no effect on the Earth’s surface, but somehow they’re melting the Earth’s core.

Lastly, I’ll admit my other big problem with the movie is the way every major event in the film is a massive chase scene, with the cast rushing at the last possible moment to save themselves. It happens so often it gets to be laughable near the end. There is also something deeply disturbing, and not in an eerie way that benefits the movie, about the wholesale destruction of humanity and the emotional void that seems to exist within these scenes. A good director would make me care about these lost souls, but even when a main character dies it’s simply a throwaway because they are all written so paper-thin.

So, is it a great movie? Not really. It’s certainly no Independence Day, but it is a great popcorn adventure, even at its excessive length of 158 minutes. Emmerich just got a little too jokey in this one for my tastes, and maybe made some of the more excessive humanity-goes-bye-bye moments a little too cheap.

Also opening this week…

Pirate Radio
Starring: Philip S. Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost
Director: Richard Curtis

Set in the 1960s, Pirate Radio is about a group of disc jockeys operating an illegal radio station onboard a ship off the coast of England. Led by The Count, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, the collection of oddball DJs will do anything to keep playing the music they love, for all of the listeners who keep tuning in.

Loaded with rock classics from the era, Pirate Radio is a comedy with some heart, and lots of rock, but it’s maybe not what you might expect. Although the trailers make the film sound like a true story, the truth is that it’s anything but. The film was previously released in the United Kingdom under the name The Boat That Rocked, but it didn’t do very well. For it’s North American release, the director cut twenty minutes of film, which may address one of the chief complaints that the film was simply too long.

Still, the reviews are definitely mixed. As Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Pirate Radio is, in the end, about as rock-revolutionary as a tea break. But the choppy production floats on a great soundtrack (the real pirates are the Rolling Stones) and is buoyed by an inviting cast…”

Prom Night In Mississippi
Director: Paul Saltzman

Prom Night In Mississippi is a documentary about the town of Charleston, Mississippi which, until 2008, held two separate proms – one for white students, and one for black students. Following former Charleston resident Morgan Freeman, who offered to pay for a joint prom in 1997, the documentary by Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman shows all of the problems in making the first prom, nearly a decade later, come to be.

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins
Director: Troy Duffy

Also opening, Troy Duffy directs the sequel to his cult-favorite crime thriller about a pair of brothers acting as vigilantes.

The film is not getting much positive buzz though. As Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News wrote, “The only truly ugly side to this self-consciously grimy movie is the streak of Neanderthal humor. Operatic overacting is funny. Racist and homophobic jokes? Not so much.”

Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get weekly updates on our latest contests, interviews, and reviews.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Read More