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A guide to Roland Emmerich’s early work.

A guide to Roland Emmerich’s early work. (photo)

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I’ve had so much fun writing about “2012,” I’m almost sad it’ll actually be coming out next Friday. Almost. In a fairly amazing recent interview with Roland Emmerich, the schlock auteur explains he could get away with casting John Cusack because “I make movies where the movie itself is the star” and says it’s totally cool that “2012” is a whopping 158 minutes because “The ten most successful movies of all time are all around three hours long. My favourite movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ is four hours. So there!” Same thing!

But what really caught my eye was an allusion to one of his earlier films, “The Noah’s Ark Principle,” which Emmerich says “was also about morality and what you can and can’t do in these situations.” Earlier film? I thought he hit the ground running with “Universal Soldier” and “Stargate.” How wrong I was. Here, for your edification and mine, is a guide to the early work of Roland Emmerich:

The Noah’s Ark Principle (1984)
After 1979’s short “Franzmann” (set in 1937, about a young German lad who has to figure out whether to go study in France or stay and join the army), Emmerich’s first feature was a class project, made for one million deutschmarks, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Really! It’s about an international space station named FLORIDA ARKLAB that, in the words of DVD Verdict‘s Michael Rankins,”becomes a pawn in an international chess game involving American hostages in Riyadh. The suits on the ground have stumbled on the notion of employing the space station’s radiation blasters as weapons of mass destruction (funny how no one thought about that before the thing went up). Will Billy and Max carry out their new orders to wreak havoc on behalf of the American government, or will they remain true to their peaceful humanitarian mission?” Here’s a clip from the opening, nicely highlighting Emmerich’s shameless steals from “Alien” (that crawl of the space station across space’s inky black) and “2001” (a computer named H.A.R.V.E.Y.):

Joey (1985)
Emmerich followed up “Ark” with “Joey,” aka “Making Contact.” Despite have studied several plot summaries, the movie still doesn’t make any sense to me, but as far as I can tell it’s basically about a boy who discovers he has telekinetic powers, which brings him into contact with an evil ventriloquist’s dummy that lives in his closet and opens another world there. Here’s a trailer that does not clarify anything, but does seem to indicate several “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” likenesses:

Ghost Chase (1987)
Also known as “Hollywood-Monster,” this was the first Emmerich film to be shot at least partially in the US. As with “Joey,” it appears to be difficult to summarize, but it’s essentially about three guys who unleash a ghost that comes out of an old clock and leads three aspiring filmmakers to a lot of money they can use to finance their movie. If you watch only one of these clips, let it be this superbly hacky one, replete with campy ’80s, a ghost that looks like “E.T.” (or maybe just “E.T.” rip-off “Mac and Me”), a sword-fight with a spectral knight against a strobe light, and a narrator who insists on making bad puns: “They may not have a ghost of a chance, but they’re gonna have the time of their lives!” Amazingly, this saw the light of theatrical projection in the US, a first for Emmerich.

Moon 44 (1990)
The last Emmerich film to go direct-to-video in the US, “Moon 44” is closest in spirit to where Emmerich would end up in his career. “The year 2038,” the narrator intones in the trailer, “a world of intergalactic corporations locked in ruthless rivalry.” According to IMDb commenter junk-monkey — who deems it “testosterone driven pile of pseudo homo-erotic horse cookies masquerading as an SF movie” — this standard-issue robots-vs-humans on a outer-space mining station movie has some truly memorable characters: “these guys ARE as thick as two short planks because, having been told that their lives are in the hands of their teenage navigators they seem to think it’s a good idea to anally rape one of them in the shower.” Also, at some point someone says “I got fed up with talking to my French fries.” And after this project, well, it was on to “Universal Soldier” and glory!

[Photo: “Moon 44,” Lions Gate, 1990]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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