This week at the movies, we’ve got a global catastrophe (2012, starring John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and some rock ‘n’ roll rebellion (Pirate Radio, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy). What do the critics have to say?
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: