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2012 by Random Movie Club
Your Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: We Were Warned.

PIZZA: Little Toni's


Because I couldn't decide on a headline for this write-up, I'll let you see all the contenders and choose for yourself:







For the 12th anniversary of Random Movie Club, we screened 2012, a big fat stupid effects movie. But that's okay, sometimes we want to see big fat stupid effects movies. But when your big fat stupid effects movie has characters who you have less-than-zero emotional investment in, then you're left with just the effects. And when your effects shots are always moving, like you're on THE SIMPSONS ride at Universal (but without the fun of actually being on the ride), you're in a world of trouble. This movie is an assault on the eyeballs, as we find ourselves constantly dodging falling buildings, lava flows, missiles, airborne trains, and pavement whose cracks follow us like bloodhounds on a scent, no matter which direction we're running in. And therein lies an additional, less visible problem; because this is yet another movie with countless first-person POV shots, we never, not even once, feel that the characters are in any jeopardy. Instead, we feel like we're playing...no...we feel like we are watching someone else play an 80's Atari game.


2012 begins with the (not quite Annette Bening) Columbia Pictures woman holding the torch...whose flame sort of becomes a supernova. So they got me. They played with a studio logo. Somehow they knew that this trick would put me on their side, like it did for RAIDERS, CAT BALLOU, MARS ATTACKS!, SERENITY and so many more. Oh, how I love when they do that. And oh, how I wish I would have shut the movie off when that logo shot ended and instead, nursed a pint of antifreeze.


Chiwetal Ejiofor as Adrian Helmsley
India, 2009, and Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) ("Say, what is a Chiwetel Ejio for, anyway?") a deputy geologist for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (which in real life has no geologists, yes I checked) is visiting astrophysicist Dr. Tsurutani (Jimi Mistry). Tsurutani takes Adrian 11,000 feet down into what used to be the world's deepest copper mine so he could show him...a video on his laptop?? Really? Okay okay, after that, he opens a 6,000 foot deep well to show him that solar flares are mutating the neutrinos (now with less sugar!) to act like microwaves and are heating the earth's core. And that's all the time they spend on the reason why. To be fair, that's probably a good move. We don't want science (especially if it's wrong) in a popcorn movie. We want to see iconic landmarks destroyed.

Oliver Platt as Carl Anheuser
So Adrian travels back to D.C. He hasn't slept in two days (he couldn't sleep on the plane?), yet he is compelled to interrupt Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), a government bigwig whose last name is a veiled Bush reference, during a fundraiser. "You have to read this now!" he yells. Because apparently, after the party will be too late!! That means the world's going to end any second!!! So when this scene is over, we better cut to...six months later? In 2010??? And we're where? In...Tibet? To either relocate people or put them to work on an oppressive government dam project that's not really a dam project? Hmmm.

Later that year, President Wilson (Danny Glover, who really is too old to be doing this shit) informs the other world leaders that the world will end.

President Wilson (Danny Glover)

And now...poof!...it's 2011. Here's where I would have liked to have seen a scene where Adrian is feeling foolish for interrupting Anheuser's fundraiser two years ago with his "you have to read this now!" moment. But instead, we travel to London where a sheik is informed that something he is interested in will cost him one billion Euros per person (and he's got a big family).

France is next, where we witness the heads of the Louvre and some Heritage Organization replace the Mona Lisa and tell us that the original will be placed in a bunker in Switzerland.

See if you can guess what happens next. Go ahead. Try. Nope. Wrong. Try again. Uh uh. Also wrong! Okay, geez, will you calm down? I'll tell you. Next, we cut to...the opening credits. And that should give you some idea on just how much 100% USDA Certified Crap they've crammed into this movie. At best, it's all just silly, but it's rarely at its best. I won't bore you with all the subplots and details. They bored me enough for all of us. But I will tell you a little about the main character, Jackson Curtis, played by John Cusack.

Jackson's a 33 year old limousine driver/struggling author. When we first meet him, he has fallen asleep on the couch, in his clothes, with a laptop and a pad resting on his chest (struggling author, remember?) and the TV on (which happens to be running a breaking news story on a Mayan mass suicide). Jackson's awakened by an earthquake, though I don't think he ever realized it. He's late to pick up his kids, who he somehow lost custody of to his ex, Kate (Amanda Peet). She's got herself a new guy, Gordon (Thomas McCarthy), and he's a plastic surgeon, and...what the hell am I doing? Who cares? The world's going to end!!

Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson)
And since the world is ending, there's really no need to tell you about bloated Russian billionaire Yuri (I bet they had fights whether to name him Yuri or Sergei) with two odd looking kids and his girlfriend, Tamara (more fights over Tamara vs. Svetlana?). Oh, and FYI - Jackson happens to be Yuri's limo driver. And I don't need to mention the cruise ship singing duo of Harry and Tony, played by Blu Mankuma (that's just too close to Blue Man Group) and George Segal. Tony won't speak to his son anymore because he married a Japanese woman, and they have a kid named, I shit you not - Yoko. I also won't tell you about the murders. Or Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a conspiracy theorist who happens to be right...and as cliche-eccentric (he enjoys eating pickles) as possible.

But all that's nothing. Here are the real reasons 2012 sucks.


-Director/writer/producer Roland Emmerich: "We realized there was only one man who could play this part: John Cusack." Well, then how great is it for you that Cusack said yes? Because according to you, if Cusack turned you down, then you would have been forced to cancel your movie, since he was the only one who could play this part. Either that or say: "We realized there was only one man who could play this part - John Cusack. But he turned us down, so we got someone who stinks."

-Emmerich and co-producer Harald Kloser commented that their script was so good that people just signed on immediately. That means it had nothing to do with Emmerich's track record of multi-million dollar blockbusters featuring sky-high salaries. Do they really believe that cool, smart John Cusack would have done this movie for scale?

-Co-producer Marc Weigert: "We tried to do as much research as possible, so we watched the Discovery Channel shows."


-How does a geologist outrank security? Why would Helmsley, (who has the more pressing matter of saving the world) be in charge of someone who trespassed (Jackson)? Shouldn't he be looking at data and lava and a fissure or two? This man is clearly out of his bailiwick! (I finally got to use that word!)

-While the cruise ship is boarding, a large wave violently smashes the behemoth against the docks. Later, the ship is on its cruise. What the H? There was no damage?


-In one of the many getaway scenes, every single building and vehicle on the road is destroyed. Not one remains. Everything is either toppled or crushed. Except for the car that Jackson is driving. And because this is how they set the table, we're now sure that this family will be safe from anything thrown at them, except my pointed ridicule.

-QUESTION: If a 30 mile volcano was erupting, would you...

A) Stand in the danger zone with your family and watch it? or
B) Run the fuck away?
(Correct 2012 answer: A)


-And just how did the L.A. icon Randy's Donut roll 6 miles to El Segundo? That gives me an idea. This movie could have been this generation's AIRPLANE! (It actually did make me laugh a lot, when it wasn't angering me.) They could have used that Randy's Donut as a runner, popping up in China, Africa, wherever our players happened to be, and finally ending up as a giant life preserver that saves the world.

randy donut roll

-I'm no geologist, but the idea of the earth's crust shifting thousands of miles and staying intact seems a bit implausible. But it's a summer movie, so okay. I'll let them have China moving 1500 miles. But how did the people survive? Was it like a giant People Mover? Was it like...land surfing?

-They're on an ark (they actually do call it an ark) at the end! Too on the nose? Well then dig this;

-The son's name is Noah.

-On the way to the arks, we see helicopters dangling giraffes and elephants underneath. Hysterical!!

-An alternate ending provides us with one of the biggest laughs. It turns out that George Segal and Blu Mankuna survived the overturned/sunk cruise ship. At the end, they're on one of the arks. Somehow, someone had spotted these two in the ocean, plucked them, and put them on the ark. And to drive home the extreme peril they were in, Segal's arm is in a sling.



If there's one thing I hate in any movie, it's extraordinary coincidences. You know the kind; people bumping into people in weird places, like other states or countries. Sure, it can happen, so I always try and give a movie one or two passes. In 1985, I saw the movie REVOLUTION starring Al Pacino and Nastassja Kinski. That's the first movie that made me groan because of the coincidences. Pacino and Kinski bumped into each other everywhere, in different states, on battlefields, maybe even on the moon, I can't remember. From that point on, I've used the word "Revolution" to mean "far-fetched, movie-convenient coincidence."

I am here to tell you that 2012 wins for most "Revolutions Per Minute." Here, please sample but a few:

  1. Adrian just happened to have read, and loved, Jackson's book, even though Jackson only sold 422 copies.
  2. And if that's not enough of a coincidence, Adrian meets Jackson, who happened to be trespassing in the government restricted area of Yellowstone Park.
  3. Because they can't make it to China, Jackson and his family (along with Gordon) land in what's left of Vegas. And who happens to be there, standing right on the tarmac? Jackson's boss, Yuri! This is a Double Revolution, because it turns out Yuri's girlfriend Tamara had her boobs done by Gordon.
  4. On the ark, the crew turns on a monitor to check out the hydraulic gear shaft, and when it illuminates, who do they see? Jackson's family. In close up. "I know those kids!", says Adrian.
  5. People on the ark look out the windows to see Air Force One floating by. That seems a little impossible, no? Especially with the earth now covered in more water than before.
  6. With hundreds of thousands of people on the arks, Tamara and Yuri manage to spot each other.
  7. While stopping at a convenience store near Yellowstone Park with his kids, Jackson's daughter sees a TV. Lily: "That's Mrs. Birnbaum, my teacher...on TV!" This is another Double Revolution, because Kate and Gordon were in that very same supermarket at the same time as Mrs. Birnbaum.
  8. In Washington D.C., bodies are everywhere, covered in ash. But one guy manages to not die. He stands up. Hey! It's the President!


-Sample dialogue: "When they tell you not to panic, that's when you run!!!"

-There are so many scenes where people call someone, and while they are on the phone they hear that person die. Then they put on a sour face of disbelief.

  1. Laura (the president's daughter and head of that Heritage Foundation, played by Thandie Newton) talking to French Museum Director. (She gets to hear him die.)
  2. Adrian talking to his friend Tsurutani. (He gets to hear him die)
  3. Tony talking to his son (He hangs up right before he dies, so he doesn't have to hear it.)
-Then there's the hack dialogue-reversals, like:

  1. Person A: "We're taking on an increase of almost .05%." Person B (incredulous): Per day???" Person A: "No. Per hour."
  2. Person A: "One billion dollars is a lot of money." Person B: "I'm afraid the amount is in Euros."
  3. Person A: "You're telling me that the North Pole is now somewhere in Wisconsin?" Person B: "Actually, that's the South Pole now."
-When it's all over, and the arks are floating to the new world (Africa, actually), Laura is in her room reading Jackson's book. Adrian asks her out, and Laura delivers Cliche Movie Line #1: "Are you asking me out on a date, Mr. Helmsley?" Awwww, how adorable. But that's not all. She continues, coyly, "You know, my diary is pretty full." WHAT? What the hell does that even mean? Doesn't she mean her "dance card' is full? Now maybe that's an expression I've never heard in my life (nor has Google), but even if it is, shouldn't they have gone with "dance card?" Did none of the thousand people working on this movie point that out?

-In the beginning of the movie, Jackson is unaware that his daughter still wets her bed at age 7 and that she needs to wear Pull-Ups. So what's the last line of the movie? Lily: "No more Pull-ups." Jackson: "Nice." I suppose one can argue that life will go on as usual. It's also lucky for Lily, as there are no more stores to buy Pull-Ups from.


Out of curiosity (or maybe because of my abundance of masochism), I watched the knock-off movie 2012: ICE AGE. It was made by The Asylum, a production company that is defined by its intentional rip-offs of big budget tentpoles like TITANIC (theirs was TITANIC II) and SNAKES ON A PLANE (SNAKES ON A TRAIN). I'm here to tell you that as preposterous as the Asylum's version is, it's not any worse than the original 2012. It follows just one family (though the daughter is separated from them), instead of dozens of global characters and the attempted saving of the entire human race. We become more invested in this family unit, with one goal (meet up with the daughter and survive). Unfortunately, because of how insouciant the players were during the annihilation of Earth, it fell flat. But 2012: ICE AGE doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is - a low budget outing riding on the coattails of the movie 2012, whereas 2012 thinks it's not only a great movie, but an important one.


On the commentary, director/co-writer Roland Emmerich, no stranger to the disaster movie genre (INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) and co-writer Harald Kloser seem like nice enough guys, though because of their respective German and Austrian accents, it's kinda like listening to Siegfried and Roy tell us about the end of the world. I can't really blame them for saying how great this actor is or that shot is (or even when Kloser, who also co-produced and scored the movie, started a sentence with - "As good producers, we..."). I mean, they did score three-quarters of a billion dollars on the theatrical run. So really, anything I say, and advice I give, would probably lower that number, perhaps by three-quarters of a billion dollars. But I just can't help thinking, What if 2012 wasn't a big stupid movie? What if it was a big smart movie? Or at very least, a big cool movie?


Okay, I know. We all work hard and sometimes when we see a movie, we just want to watch mindless stuff. We just want to see buildings topple, the Earth split, and giraffes dangle from helicopters. So if that's what you want, then that's what you got. But it saddens me that so many talented effects people did some amazing work on 2012, only to have it feel invisible, wasted on a movie where the characters are in the same amount of danger whether they are in the movie or at home watching it. What the filmmakers needed to do was watch some Irwin Allen and learn that putting heart into your movie (and a dash of schmaltz) will make you care about the people. Let them watch con man Fred Astaire get a cat handed to him, signalling the demise of the woman he was falling for in THE TOWERING INFERNO, or Shelley Winters sacrificing herself to save the others in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Siegfried and Roy were absolutely right when they reminded me on the commentary that "when you look through the character's eyes...the action itself becomes emotional." Now if only they'd go out and make a movie that does this. Or they can just make another piece of crap like 2012. And another billion dollars.

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