Critics Consensus: 2012 Isn't Quite Earth-Shaking
Plus, Pirate Radio gently rocks, and Fantastic Mr. Fox is Certified Fresh.
Nobody goes to a Roland Emmerich picture expecting art or realism; they go for sheer spectacle. On that level, critics say, 2012 largely delivers. However, they also note that if you enjoy character development, witty dialogue, remotely plausible science, and brevity, you're out of luck. John Cusack stars as a sci-fi writer desperately trying to save his family from global calamity, while Chiwetel Ejiofor is the top government scientist who learns the earth is on a fast track to total destruction -- just like the Mayans predicted. The pundits give Emmerich some credit: the man's been destroying the world's landmarks onscreen since Independence Day, and on that point, he's still visually inventive on a grand scale. But they also say the movie's way too long, and its characters too shallow, and its scenarios so ludicrous that it ultimately becomes overbearing. (Check out Emmerich's Five Favorite Films, as well as this week's Total Recall, in which we count down John Cusack's best-reviewed movies.)
It's an understatement to say that the mid-to-late-1960s was a revolutionary period for British rock music, and Pirate Radio is a fond, celebratory comedy about those heady times. Critics say it may not rock quite hard enough, but it's got enough infectious good humor -- and hummable tunes - to drown out objections. Loosely based upon the wacky story of the pirate station Radio Caroline, the movie tells the story of an American DJ (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who, on a boat in the North Atlantic, plays rock records all day and all of the night, much to the consternation of the staid BBC. The pundits say Pirate Radio often plays more like a collection of scenes rather than a full narrative, and the film lacks the gonzo sensibility -- or the danger -- of the era. Still, they also note the film works as a better-than-average nostalgia trip, with some big laughs and a fantastic soundtrack -- that is, if you happen to like bands like the Who, Cream, and the Kinks. (Check out the RT staff's favorite rock 'n' roll movies here.)
Also opening this week in limited release:
- Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's story, is Certified Fresh at 91 percent.
- The Messenger, starring Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster in a drama about a soldier returning to normal life after a stint in Iraq, is at 87 percent.
- Four Seasons Lodge, a doc about a summer resort for Holocaust survivors, is at 78 percent.
- The Good Soldier, a doc about five veterans who reflect on their efforts and the nature of combat, is at 71 percent.
- William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, a profile of the controversial radical civil rights attorney, is at 71 percent.
- The End of Poverty?, a doc about the causes of global inequity, is at 56 percent.
- Uncertainty, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the tale of a young couple whose lives inhabit two alternate realities, is at 50 percent.
- Women in Trouble, starring Carla Gugino and Emmanuelle Chriqui in a multi-stranded comedy about a day in the life of 10 seemingly dissimilar ladies, is at 30 percent.
- Dare, starring Emmy Rossum in a coming-of age tale about an unlikely high school love triangle, is at 29 percent.
- Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon, a documentary about a business competition among inner city teens, is at 29 percent.
- Oh My God, featuring the musings of religious leaders and celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Ringo Starr on the nature of the almighty, is at zero percent.