Friday, October 21, 2011


Year 3, Day 293 - 10/20/11 - Movie #1,000

BEFORE: In order to bring this baby in on schedule, I had to jettison a couple films from the chain - namely "The Road" and "The Book of Eli". In the end, I determined they were POST-apocalyptic movies, and I'd have to get to them, well, after the (movie) apocalypse.

It wasn't my original intention, but taking a few days off for NY Comic-Con made the last film of the year fall (semi-)squarely on my birthday. It was another nice little bit of confluence I decided to take advantage of. I blew the candles out on a pumpkin pie this morning (long story) and managed to avoid the traditional office "kidnapping" to a far-off local restaurant, which usually knocks the middle out of the workday. Instead I celebrated with a triple-decker NY deli sandwich (corned beef, tongue and chopped liver, with cole slaw + Russian dressing) and a few beers while I worked and caught up on some episodes of "Top Chef: Just Desserts". Other than that, I spent the day in quiet contemplation. (Yeah, right...)

Once again, it's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel - well, maybe not fine. Tired, a bit rundown perhaps. I've got to try and use the next 2 months to get back on a better sleeping schedule, one that actually sets aside time to sleep.

Linking from "Knowing", Nicolas Cage was in "Con Air" with John Cusack (last seen in "Sixteen Candles", I think)

THE PLOT: An epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.

AFTER: So Movie 1,000 is "2012" on 10/20/2011, and it takes place on 12/21/2012. It's like some weird binary code that only means something to me.

I've seen the world end a number of different ways now - this one suggests that the Mayans got the date right, and also like "Knowing" features a solar flare. Here the flare creates some new neutrinos that somehow overheat the Earth's core, and as a result, Earth gets a new lighter and flakier crust. You know what, before it gets too technical, here's some footage of stuff being blowed up!

Not only does the science seem out of whack, the plotline constantly pushes the boundaries of believability. What are the chances that our protagonists can JUST outrun the destruction in each city as they make their way across the globe? I realize, for every person that makes it, millions don't - but still, how many times are they going to take off in a plane AS the runway is collapsing? We get it, just stop taking that same shot...

It's sort of a shame, we finally get the technology to create any dazzling movie effects we want, and it's just in time to document the end of all that is...

We also get a look at how governments would react to the end of the world - Step 1 - don't tell the public or you'll start a panic. Step 2 - umm, can we get back to you on this? Step 3 - save the Mona Lisa and other works of art, we'll need them later. (Really?) Step 4 - figure out a way to save the rich people and the beautiful people, which is the fairest way to re-populate the planet. OK, not by a longshot, but it represents the kind of committee-based thinking that the top brass might follow.

The special effects here were just stunning - if you like watching cities crumble, that is. Face it, when are you going to see this kind of destruction happen in real-life, and not be doomed along with it? I'm deducting a point for the madness running long, and being overly repetitive.

For a while there I thought they were going to launch the lucky connected people into space, which would have made even less sense - where would the space-ark go? Even if we knew of another habitable planet, how many generations would it take to get there?

But this is a textbook example of a screenplay that figuratively paints itself into a corner - OK, we accept the world's collapsing, and escaping the destruction is quite thrilling, but even if you accept that there IS a safe place left on the globe, what happens when people get there? In this case, the last hour is full of stalling, because no one really was able to think up much of a resolution. I'm reminded of the end of "The Day After Tomorrow", where everybody just went to get Mexican take-out.

So that's 1,000 films down, with 247 left on the list - I'd hope to get that down closer to 200, but c'est la vie. I'm hoping that number won't creep up too high by Jan. 1, but you never know - I could still be at this by the time 12/21/2012 rolls around.

For the immediate future, I've got a Weird Al concert coming up (the "Alpocalypse" tour, nice tie-in!), I've got to start working on my Christmas CD, my comic-book collection is in desperate need of some organization, and I've got a stack of books to start reading. Jeez, I should try and make a list of the things I want to do before I start up with movies again in January. Assuming I don't get raptured before then...

Also starring Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor (last seen in "Salt"), Oliver Platt (last seen in "Kinsey"), Thandie Newton (last seen in "Run Fatboy Run"), Danny Glover (last seen in "Lethal Weapon 4"), Woody Harrelson (last seen in "Anger Management"), Thomas McCarthy.

RATING: 7 out of 10 Vegas casinos

SPOOK-O-METER: 8 out of 10. Watching the world end, especially in such vivid detail, does have a rather chilling effect.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Year 3, Day 292 - 10/19/11 - Movie #999

BEFORE: I'm back after 4 days of New York Comic-Con - I didn't have to travel there, except on the subway, but I had to be there early and man the booth until the closing bell, plus I'd go out to dinner after with friends, so really it took up quite a bit of my time, not to mention catching up on TV afterwards so my DVRs wouldn't fill up. I also had time to read a book, a real one with words and everything. OK, so it was a paperback - that still counts. I've got a bunch of books to read while I'm on break from the movie project.

Continuing with the end-of-the-world topic - and linking from "Legion", Dennis Quaid was also in "Undercover Blues" with Kathleen Turner, who of course was in "Peggy Sue Got Married" with Nicolas Cage (last seen in "The Cotton Club").

THE PLOT: A teacher opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son's elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events that are about to unfold.

AFTER: Numbers are funny - I initially thought I should watch "Legion" here, since 999 upside-down is 666, the devil's number. But I thought that was a bit corny, and I wanted to maintain the chain thematically.

So, it's weird how things worked out - all I knew about this film was that the numbers on a piece of paper corresponded to the dates of predicted disasters. And what's the last date on the page, the one corresponding to the end of everything? Why, it's October 19! That's an odd bit of creepy, that I was watching the film in the early morning hours of that same date. I swear I didn't know the date featured in the film. Sure, it's 10/19/2009, but still...

OK, so there's this list of numbers - fine. And it corresponds to a list of human disasters - got it. But it's HOW Cage's character figures it out that bothered me. To be able to look at a page full of (seemingly) random numbers and pick out something akin to a pattern - well, how did he even KNOW there was a pattern? As a scientist, I would have expected him to use an approach that was more methodical or at least logical. First step might have been to count up the totals on each number, check the frequency of each digit, or look for some kind of substitution cipher. Or references to some document with words, like that number code that referenced the Declaration of Independence.

Cage's character, after all, is a scientist - an astrophysicist at MIT, no less. Yeah, chew on that one. Who better to decipher the numbers than a scientist, one who's not sure whether there's a plan for the universe or not? On one hand, what are the chances of the earth being JUST the right distance from the sun to support life - but on the other hand, there are 9 (whoops, 8) planets in the system, so chances are good that one will land in the "butter zone", right?

Essentially, that's what the film seems to be about - the argument between random chance and pre-determination. Can numbers be scribbled down quickly, and then used to predict the future? Someone did that "Bible Code" thing a few years ago, which was unique since Hebrew letters could also be words or numbers, making a giant word search out of the Old Testament - but it's funny how they could only find past events hidden in the matrix, and couldn't find anything concrete about the future. Ditto for Nostra-Dumbass, who history should regard as a bad poet and nothing else.

But why alert people about the end of the world, if it's pre-determined? Would you want to know the end is coming, if you couldn't change it? And shouldn't the message about destruction be delivered by someone with a better acting ability, who can project some measure of concern? Cage's acting method seems to consist of holding the same sad expression for the whole film, and trying to talk without moving his lips. He gets a little heated and emotional late in the film, but it's too little, too late.

The film attempts to take religion, science, and conspiracy theory and mash them all together - but they don't quite reconcile, do they? This one amounts to a split decision, because I dig apocalyptic stuff and puzzles, but this one left a lot of loose ends. What were those shiny stones? Who, exactly, was behind it all? And why send us warnings exactly 50 years before the date in question, what's the significance of that? Why make the warning so obtuse that only 1 in 5 billion people can understand it?

Again, as in "Needful Things" and "Legion", we see that humans are all fairly close to the edge of madness. It doesn't take much, here it's just some scribbled numbers and some scratches on a wall that send humanity reeling into chaos. I approve.

NITPICK POINT: Among the predicted disasters is the Blizzard of 1978? I remember that one, and while it was very inconvenient, I don't know if I'd put it on a par with a bombing or a chemical leak. Besides, all of the other disasters were location specific, and that one covered like the whole East Coast. Shenanigans!

Also starring Rose Byrne, Chandler Canterbury.

RATING: 6 out of 10 newspaper clippings

SPOOK-O-METER: 7 out of 10. Depending on how you feel about seeing accidents, disasters and large-scale destruction. And the creepy people who don't blink.