So there's no question that Emmerich's newest disaster film is a huge waste of money, talent, and time (158 minutes worth), but once you get past all that...is it possible to have fun watching 2012?
Sort of. Yes, the impressive action scenes get repetitive pretty quickly, but they are least impressively staged (except for a few shots where things are shaking and the whole thing looks a little like a Cecil B. Demille picture where big columns are about to collapse). I'll personally take this film over most of the summer's action flicks such as Wolverine, GI Joe, and (especially) Transformers II, which I think was described best by a critic who likened it to watching a kid playing with toys and making explosion noises. Emmerich, at least, follows two pretty standard formulas, and there's some pleasure in that if you're a fan of the formulas. The first, of course, is the disaster picture (a large cast of famous faces runs around yelling "Holy shit" and either dying or narrowly escaping from ridiculously improbable situations) and the other is the apocalypse picture (who deserves to be saved and where/how can the world start over?). Aside from Woody Harrelson (who seems to be having a great time as a grizzled mountain man DJ who drinks PBR and knows the truth about all government conspiracies) the cast is pretty much standard cardboard caricatures, which doesn't matter much if you're content with seeing California topple into the ocean and a tidal wave sweep over the Himalayas and a cruise ship rise up and slam into the White House. And most audiences are obviously plenty content, judging from the box-office numbers.
And here's one for Matthew and Beth (pretty much the only readers, anyway!):
Lynn Shelton's Humpday is a clever indie-world response to the "bromance" genre. While Apatow and company's mainstream comedies aren't free to do much with whatever homosexual subtext they may possess for fear of alienating their often-fratty audiences, Shelton's festival-favorite can dig a little deeper. We see in the opening scene that Ben (Mark Duplass, of the Duplass Brothers, favorites of the "mumblecore" genre of films) is growing a little weary of married life: he and his wife consider having sex and then decide they're completely uninterested. When Ben's old friend Andrew, a wandering free-spirit artist, arrives in the middle of the night after a long absence, the old friends reconnect, and Shelton is interested in the sort of easy physical camaraderie (wrestling and hugs) that bond them together. Andrew invites Ben to a party full of artists (most of them bisexual) who mention an annual "art" contest sponsored by a local underground magazine that invites contestants to send in amateur pornographic videos of themselves. Drunk and stoned, Ben and Andrew decide that the idea of two straight guys boning would be amazing art. Once sober, they are leery but still determined to go through with it, and the film is probably at its best in this middle section where we begin to understand the characters, who have a surprising amount of depth. It's actually Andrew, the free spirit, who is the most uncomfortable with the idea. He's always wished he was "more gay," he explains. Ben sets out to convince his wife of the project's worth, and there's a sharply written scene between them where he accuses her of stifling "other aspects of his personality," assuming that she herself lacks similar desires for freedom, at which point she surprises him with her own complexity. Ben later confesses to Andrew a moment of homosexual longing in his youth (a very funny monologue involving a video clerk and a ten-part series on Frank Lloyd Wright). Many will argue that the film loses its nerve in the final third--once the art project is set to commence--and that the ending is a cop-out, but I'm not sure that's the case. It's pretty true to what we've learned about the characters by that point, which is quite a lot. Unlike the mainstream bromances, Shelton isn't going for easy punch lines. Though the film is often very funny, the humor grows out of the characters more than the situations, and the film is ultimately less interested in the project itself than in the reasoning behind it. Final verdict: Humpday is at least a dozen times better than Zach and Miri Make a Porno.