DID YOU READ

The 10 best Earth in distress movies (with video)

042412-earth-movies

Posted by on

What chance does our poor planet have against nature and aliens? Here are ten films featuring the Earth taking a licking (and sometimes not continuing with the ticking).


“Armageddon” (1998)

“Bad Boys” was great, but Michael Bay really got to flaunt his genius in what would be the first of his many large-scale sci-fi action adventures. No giant robots in this one, though; here it’s a giant hunk of space rock that’s threatening to collide with the planet, leaving it up to Bruce Willis and his crack team of oil drillers (including Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi and Michael Clarke Duncan) to hop on the next shuttle and blast the Texas-sized thing into a bunch of much less-threatening smaller chunks. It’s the kind of life-or-death situation and seemingly insurmountable task that calls for at least one Aerosmith song on the soundtrack and a few tears from the lead singer’s daughter as she prays for Affleck’s safe return; luckily, the Ground Control to Willis’ Major Tom is played by Billy Bob Thornton, a fella you’d definitely want to have your back if this kind of crazy shit actually happened. And to think, first contact with the asteroid was established by Eddie Griffin and his dog.


“The Core” (2003)

A bunch of disturbances in the Earth’s electromagnetic field are making birds drop dead and random lightning storms wreck havoc; a geology professor (Aaron Eckhart) concludes it’s because the planet’s core has stopped turning, which launches a top-secret mission to drill into the center of the Earth and blow it to kingdom come, which will (in theory) jump-start its rotation. Stop your own brain’s rotation for 135 minutes and “The Core” is actually a lot of fun, thanks mostly to an enthusiastic cast (including Hilary Swank, Delroy Lindo, Tcheky Karyo, Stanley Tucci and the skinny kid from “Road Trip”) that seems totally game for any kind of preposterous sci-fi nonsense. It’s really too bad about the birds — that little tourist kid is probably going to have nightmares about Trafalgar Square for the rest of his damn life.


“The Day After Tomorrow” (2004)

Al Gore finally gets to say “I told you so” before freezing to death in this environmental disaster flick. Some (okay, everyone) may have quibbled about the non-realism of the ultra-speedy climate apocalypse presented in “The Day After Tomorrow,” but scenes of Mother Nature laying waste to some of the world’s great cities are admittedly simply awesome to watch thanks to the film’s cutting-edge special effects (the initial flood that takes out NYC is especially awe-inspiring). “Day” is also commendable for its rather somber and downbeat tone, a far cry from the rah-rah patriotism of Roland Emmerich’s previous planet-in-jeopardy outing, “Independence Day”; after all, Jeff Goldblum’s laptop — or anything else, for that matter — probably isn’t going to be of much help in fighting extreme climate change. This is the middle — and definitely the darkest — installment in Emmerich’s unofficial “Destroy the Earth” trilogy, between “ID4” and “2012.”


“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008)

It isn’t the threat of nuclear warfare but rather our own carelessness with the environment that prompts an alien race to threaten us with extermination in this tree-hugging update of the 1951 sci-fi film. Keanu Reeves is actually quite good as Klaatu, the extraterrestrial ambassador who comes to Earth with the imposing GORT, here a much more organic (and shape-shifting) menace than the clunky robot of the original; Jennifer Connelly works her two expressions (wide-eyed, vaguely erotic confusion and wide-eyed, vaguely erotic confusion) as the Princeton professor who tries to talk the handsome visitor out of pulling the trigger. Director Scott Derrickson’s big-budget remake never quite comes together, but it’s not without its apocalyptic pleasures, including a GORT (here an acronym for Genetically Organized Robotic Technology) who turns into a swarm of nanomachines that devours everything in its path — especially Giants Stadium.


“Deep Impact” (1998)

1998’s much more serious and somber disaster movie chronicles the attempts to destroy a seven-mile-wide comet (discovered by a teenage amateur astronomer played by Elijah Wood) that’s set to collide with the Earth and cause mass extinction; unfortunately, the nuclear bomb planted on the thing by the spacecraft “Messiah” (a join venture between the U.S. and Russia, notch) only succeeds in splitting it in two, which means there’s now a pair of 3.5-mile-wide comets en route to kill us all. “Deep Impact” was released in May and received praise for its (relative) scientific credibility; however, “Armageddon” had Bruce Willis, Aerosmith on the soundtrack and a Fourth of July weekend release date, so it ultimately made more money. Directed by Mimi Leder, a protege of Steven Spielberg’s; oddly enough, she’s barely been heard from since.

Continue to next page >>
Watch More
Jurassic Park Cast

Park Rules

5 Lessons Modern Blockbusters Could Learn From Jurassic Park

Catch the Jurassic Park movies this month on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Jurassic Park wasn’t the first blockbuster that set out to appeal to everyone, but it is arguably the most successful of its kind. Adults, kids, boys, girls, nerds, jocks, and lawyers love it. (Okay, maybe not lawyers). With a script from David Koepp, direction by Steven Spielberg (who also had the Oscar winning Schindler’s List the same year) and groundbreaking special effects that still thrill modern CGI-addled viewers, Jurassic Park was the most ambitious film project of its time. And as we see with dreadful early-’90s megaflops like Waterworld and Showgirls, the bigger they were, the harder they were apt to fall.

Jurassic Park faced the impossible scenario of having to appeal to everyone, and the end result is one of the very few examples that actually succeeded. So what lessons can we take from the shining beacon of both mass appeal and being smarter than the competition?

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Source Material

Nedry

An adaptation of Michael Crichton’s hit novel, Jurassic Park changes a lot from page to screen, but the most significant changes are in the characters, in that they actually exist. Crichton’s primary interests were scientific morals and philosophy, not character and story, so the characters end up more as vessels for the action and ideas rather than, well, characters. Adding dimension to the characters changed a great deal of the material, since the material flowed more organically not just from ideas and philosophy, but character action.

Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the well-meaning, impassioned lover of science and possibilities, is a much more compelling character in the film than the corporate, grandchild-hating jerk who is poetically eaten by dinos in the book. Nedry (Wayne Knight) isn’t just in the story for some corporate espionage — there’s a genuine “daddy issue” undercurrent in his relationship with Hammond, and his desire to subvert his father figure goes horribly awry.

Tim and Lex (played by Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards) aren’t just whiny nuisances who are kids for kids’ sake, but are given interests and agencies that pay off later in the film — Lex with her computer skills, and Tim with his basic dinosaur knowledge. The movie gives Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) a character arc by getting him to connect with children, whom initially make him uncomfortable, which helps solidify his relationship to Ellie Satler (Laura Dern).


2. Avoid useless characters.

Jurassic World

Often in movies we see half-baked young characters (kids, teenagers) who get jammed into the film for no other reason than to appeal to a wider demographic. For example, the child characters in Independence Day are borderline comical both in their narrative non-purpose and how much they don’t act like children.

Last summer’s mega-blockbuster/franchise extender Jurassic World was guilty of this, too. Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) have no skill, except for (apparently) some world experience from That One Time They Fixed A Car, a skill which was not set up nor ever referred to again. After the kids are rescued, they’re basically fleshy backpacks for Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard to foist around for the rest of the movie.

Lex and Tim not only aid in Grant’s growth, but also use their skills to further the plot. Sure, it’s a little goofy how Lex uses her knowledge to save the day, but this was 1993. Nowadays people know a bit more about UNIX systems (and, let’s face it, most people learned about UNIX systems from other people joking about how Jurassic Park got it oh-so-wrong).


3. You can include complex concepts…but keep it simple.

Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum

Part of the brilliance of Jurassic Park isn’t that it involves complex philosophical concepts, but all of the different ways it disseminates complex information. It’s like a sampler platter of ways to both world-build and sew in theme.

Jurassic Park grazes over complex concepts like Chaos Theory, but that is not to say that it only pays them lip service, and moreover, the characters don’t just stop the action to explain things to the audience in an inorganic way. As a writer of prose, Crichton is guilty of this. These ideas are present in the original novel, but in the film, they are distilled, focused and sharpened to a fine point. The theme of chaos in an unpredictable environment is shown both implicitly (after Nedry’s meddling throws the trip into chaos) and explicitly, where Malcolm exposits repeatedly, betwixt a uniquely suave mix of “ums” and “uhs” and other Goldblum-isms.

The overarching theme of the movie is not so much that man should not play God (as Malcolm argues), but that man cannot, with perfect accuracy, predict all outcomes. That is a much more complex and satisfying conclusion to come to than simply “man play God, man go too far!”. The “don’t play God” aspect is certainly there, but it doesn’t end there. There is a genius simplicity in Jurassic Park‘s complexity.


4. Exposition should be actually motivated!

Jurassic Park Chaos

Since all of our main characters are experts in different fields, talking to each other about their respective fields is a great and easy way to let the audience in on things the characters already know in a natural way. Some of the scientific concepts are imparted by way of a cartoon in the Jurassic Park visitor center, because it is a theme park, and it is an educational “ride,” as Hammond says.

My favorite example of this is the scene where Malcolm gives Ellie a primer on Chaos Theory in a discussion which could’ve be really pretentious and boring. He gives the elevator pitch in the form of trying to describe the Butterfly Effect, but she doesn’t get it, leading to a more practical (and flirtatious) lesson that she can actually follow. Whereas in old sci-fi B-movies of yore it would have been just a bunch of guys standing in labs, explaining things to each other, here it is motivated.

Ellie and Malcolm didn’t have any kind of a “thing” in the book, but adding this now famous moment to the film not only gives us a little philosophical discussion, it allows for integral character development as well — Ellie egging on Alan by being receptive to Ian’s flirting, and Alan showing his difficulty committing to her by not engaging. It’s subtle, but all of these character traits come in and are built upon later.

Finally, if you learn nothing else from Jurassic Park, remember:


5. Dinosaurs Eat Man, Woman Inherits the Earth.

Jurassic Park Women Inherit

Just sayin’.

Watch More
Weird Al Hidden America

Keep America Weird

Watch “Weird Al” in the Trailer for Hidden America With Jonah Ray

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: SeeSo

Jonah Ray, Nerdist podcaster and future resident of the Satellite of Love on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot, is motoring across the country as part of a new travel parody show on SeeSo. And “Weird Al” is coming along for the journey.

Hidden America with Jonah Ray takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to tourism travel logs as the comedian visits and fumbles through cities like Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Denver, and Austin. Along the way, Ray will meet up with Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader “Weird Al” Yankovic, Randall Park, David Koechner, and more.

Check out the trailer below. For more “Weird Al,” be sure to catch the premiere of Comedy Bang! Bang! season five on June 3rd at 11P.

Watch More
Back to the Future Jaws Parody

Swimming with Sharks

10 Hilarious Jaws Spoofs

Catch the Jaws movies during IFC's Memorial Day Shark Half-A-Day Marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

How much is Jaws a part of our culture? Over 40 years after its release, it’s still prompting parodies that get laughs. To get you ready for IFC’s Memorial Day Shark Half-A-Day Marathon, check out our favorite spoofs of Jaws from across pop culture. Want more? You’re gonna need a bigger list…

1. “Mr. Jaws,” Dickie Goodman

Released just a few months after the movie’s debut on June 20th, 1975, this novelty record spent ten weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #4. In one of the earliest examples of sampling, comedian Dickie Goodman spliced in snippets of pop songs to answer interview questions with the Great White himself.


2. Jaws II (Land Shark), Saturday Night Live

It took only the fourth episode ever of SNL to establish one of its iconic recurring bits and play into the hysterical fear of sharks that Jaws prompted. A big punchline of this sketch: A sequel to Jaws! Who in 1975 could imagine such a thing??


3. “Jowls,” The Carol Burnett Show

Exactly one week after SNL spoofed Jaws, Carol Burnett and company did their take. Looking back now, what’s most amazing is that network TV allowed a sketch to go on for eleven minutes.


4. Mad Magazine

Mad Magazine Jaws
Mad Magazine/DC Comics

Even Jaws wouldn’t want to take a bite of Alfred E. Neuman in this issue from 1976. The comic inside spoofed the movie with a musical version -– an idea that took off over 30 years later.


5. 1941

How many times has this happened to you? You make a legendary movie, you see people parody it, and you want in! That’s the unlikely scenario that led to Jaws director Steven Spielberg making his own spoof as part of his 1979 war comedy 1941. How authentic did Spielberg get? Yes, that’s Susan Backlinie, the original lady in the water from Jaws, meeting up with trouble in the moonlight yet again.


6. Airplane!

One of the greatest disaster comedies of all time sets the tone for hilarity with its opening sequence. Even before the title appears, you know you’re in for a movie that winks at its place in film history.


7. Back to the Future Part II

1989 brought us this blockbuster sequel making fun of blockbuster sequels, as Marty McFly finds himself in a futuristic 2015 showing Jaws 19. While the actual 2015 came and went with Jaws only having three sequels, Universal treated fans of both movies to a trailer for the film that might have been…


8. Clerks

Kevin Smith was one of a generation of filmmakers influenced by Jaws. Many of his films contain references to his love of the original film, but only Clerks has the salsa shark.


9. Giant Killer Shark: The Musical

Mad Magazine Jaws

Why should live theater be without a spoof of Jaws? Just because of the risk of a massive lawsuit over intellectual property infringement? That may help explain the please-don’t-sue-us title of Giant Killer Shark: The Musical, which debuted in 2006. Just to drive the point home: the action takes place on and around Copyright-Protected Island. Scary!


10. Bill Murray’s Jaws Love Theme, SNL 40

The star-studded SNL 40th anniversary special marked four decades since the debut of SNL and of Jaws. It featured not one but two references to the movie, with Bill Murray as lounge singer Nick Ocean singing the love theme from Jaws we never knew we were missing. (He reprised the song at the event above.) Later, the Land Shark himself appeared on “Weekend Update.” Jaws: The gift that keeps on giving laughs.

Spend Memorial Day with IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Marathon featuring “fin facts” from “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander!

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet