Saturday, October 1, 2016

It's the End of the World As We Know It

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Michael Clarke Duncan, Owen Wilson
Released: July 1, 1998

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to Saving Private Ryan)
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Saving Private Ryan)
Best Visual Effects (lost to What Dreams May Come)
Best Song - Dianne Warren for "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (lost to Stephen Schwartz for "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt)

Deep Impact
Director: Mimi Leder
Cast: Tea Leoni, Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Elijah Wood, Leelee Sobieski, Vanessa Redgrave, James Cromwell, Maximilian Schell
Released: May 8, 1998

Spoilers, obviously!

Remember in 1998 when two movies about asteroids hurtling towards Earth to destroy all mankind were released within months of each other? Those movies were Armageddon and Deep Impact and I'm going to review them both because it just makes sense to do them at the same time! I'm not going to make you wait with bated breath and I'll just come out and say it now: I don't really care for either one. If I had to recommend one, I'd probably say Deep Impact, but ONLY because it's half an hour shorter (but still long....Armageddon is TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG (but yet feels longer!)) and at least I didn't get sick watching Deep Impact as the cuts in Armageddon only last about a second. In fact, I read the IMDb trivia for that movie and they said the average cut lasted about 1.5 seconds! It was like, Cut to Bruce Willis! Now to Ben Affleck! Now to Liv Tyler! Now back to Willis! Oh, we need to see Tyler again! Oh, wait, don't forget Affleck! This was pretty much the entire movie (with the other actors throw in, too of course). I felt like this movie was made by someone with ADD! However, I would recommend this one over Deep Impact if someone was looking for something to watch with friends and just get drunk and made fun of something because this movie is absolutely ridiculous (another piece of trivia I learned via IMDb is that (and I hope this is true!) NASA shows this movie as part of their management training program and asks new managers to spot as many mistakes as they can and the most number spotted has been 168!) and has more funnier moments than Deep Impact (mostly unintentionally!), which is the more serious film. While I immensely disliked Armageddon, I don't think it's Michael Bay's worst movie, which is saying something! That's when you know I really hate other movies of his! 

The premise of Armageddon is that an asteroid, the size of Texas, is hurtling towards Earth and there is only eighteen days to stop it. (There's even an ominous countdown clock!) If it hits, all life on Earth, as we know it, will be wiped out. There's only one man for the job and his name is Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis). Is Harry the best NASA has ever seen? No, because his field of expertise isn't even in astronomy. He's an oil driller. Yep. You heard me. But he's just not any oil driller, he's the BEST deep-sea oil driller in the world! Six billion people on the planet and he was the one they called. NASA scientist Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) wants to split the asteroid in two (so then we'll have two asteroids the size of Colorado?) and divert them away from Earth.

"Mr. Wizard". Heh!
Truman introduces Stamper to his team of eight astronauts who have been learning to drill for the past eight months in preparation for the mission. Stamper is not impressed with them or the "piss poor" production of his rig they put together. Jason Isaacs plays another NASA scientist who helped put the rig together and Stamper calls him "Mr. Wizard". Um, hello! He is a wizard! He's purebred wizard, Lucius Malfoy! That made me LOL when he said that. Stamper claims he's the best driller in the world (just because you say it over and over doesn't mean it's true!) because he WORKS with the best and he wants his own men up there with him. Haha, I read on the IMDb trivia that Ben Affleck told Michael Bay, "Wouldn't it be easier for NASA to train astronauts to drill rather than training drillers to be astronauts?" and Bay told him to shut up. But he's right! It makes so much more sense that way! If this is true (and I'm sure it is), I bet Bay put in that line where Stamper asks Truman, "All they gotta do is drill? No spacewalking? No crazy astronaut stuff?" after he had that conversation with Affleck just so the audience wouldn't be thinking the same thing he did cuz he knew they would!

So Stamper rounds up his rag tag team of oil drillers. Even though they're the best team of oil drillers a man could have, they're all pretty much a bunch of imbeciles and dopes. I honestly don't remember any of the characters' name and even when I looked them up online, they still didn't register with me, so I'll just call them by their actors' names. Steve Buscemi plays a horny guy; Michael Clark Duncan's character is a big, burly guy who looks intimidating, but deep down, he's really sensitive and just a big teddy bear; Owen Wilson plays a dim-witted rancher who's also a geologist. Will Patton plays a gambler who lost his wife (or girlfriend?) because of that and never got to have a relationship with his son. (Spoiler alert: he will at the end of the movie). And there's other characters played by not as famous people.

Also on Harry's team is AJ (Ben Affleck) who happens to be dating Harry's daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler) and this does not please Harry. Harry raised his daughter her whole life and she grew up on the oil rig with him and the other men that work for him. She calls her father by his first name and it's so blatant how they shove it down your throat because, literally, in every line Grace speaks to her father, she ends it with his name. Such as, "I've been seeing AJ for five months, HARRY." Or "What about having a life, HARRY." Or "Who is the hypocrite here, HARRY?" Or "You listen to me, HARRY!" It's like, we get it, Michael Bay, she doesn't call her father "Dad" and they don't have a close relationship. Her mother left when she was really young and she was raised by a bunch of "roughnecks". A couple of the guys even tell Harry, THEIR BOSS, about what a "hottie" and a "babe" Grace has grown into. Really, what kind of moron would you have to be to speak that way about your boss's daughter? So stupid. And what makes it even grosser is that the comment is made that they all helped raise her, so they're all, in a way, father figures to Grace. So, eww. (To be fair, it was only Buscemi, Wilson, and the fat guy commenting on how hot she is, but still...)

This movie has probably what is the worst scene ever in the history of cinema. It is so bad and cringe- worthy. If you've seen this movie, you know what I'm talking about, don't you. I just have two words for you: Animal. Crackers. OMG, that scene is SOOOOOOOO bad! SO, SO, SO BAD! As if that scene isn't bad enough, Grace then asks AJ, "Do you think it's possible somebody else is doing the same exact thing somewhere else right now?" No, Liv Tyler, I really doubt nobody else is playing with animal crackers on their significant other's body right now! Aurgh, that scene is so stupid!!

The men agree to destroy the asteroid because they can't say no to their boss who tells them they can't refuse the U.S. Government in asking for their help to save the planet. There is an amusing scene where Stamper reads a list of requests from his employees to Truman about what they want if they complete and accomplish their mission. This includes having speeding tickets wiped from their record, being able to stay at the White House, and never having to paying taxes again. I mean, who can blame them? If you were tasked with having to save the world, you would want something out of it too! I would certainly be expected to be owed big time!

They have about fifteen days to train to go into space. William Fichtner plays one of the people who is in charge of training them and when we get a shot of the crew walking in slow motion, he exclaims, "Talk about the wrong stuff!" which made me groan. This includes getting physical exams, getting psych evaluations, flying in fighter jets to get used to traveling at fast speeds, training to know what it's like to be in space. They keep the fact that a huge asteroid is about to strike Earth a secret because they don't want mass hysteria and panic to ensue, which I understand. But about six days before the mission, a chunk of the asteroid hits East Asia and kills 50,000 people in Shanghai with a huge tidal wave. Then Paris gets hits soon after and now the entire world knows what's going on and about the mission. There is an unsettling scene at the beginning of the movie when New York is hit and you see one of the World Trade Center buildings with a gaping hole through it...a little too real to life.

The men go up in space and there's lots of action and quick jump cuts. A few of them die. But then we get to the point where one of them has to sacrifice themselves and AJ draws the short end of the stick for that (literally). However, Harry tricks him and takes his place, telling him to take care of his daughter. By this time he has approved of Grace and AJ being together. This makes AJ upset. I can understand he doesn't want Harry sacrificing his life because he is his fiancee's father (oh, did I mention AJ asked Grace to marry him and she said yes?), but did he really want to sacrifice his own life when he had a fiancee waiting for him? Dumbass. And let's be honest, Grace would much rather have him come back than her father. Okay, maybe that's a little cold-hearted to say. There was a scene that got me a little teary-eyed when Harry is saying goodbye to his daughter who can see and talk to him via a screen at NASA headquarters.

Harry sacrifices himself to save humanity, so he really should have a planet named after him. In fact, they should have just renamed Earth "Stamper". I mean, the dude scarified himself to save not only the entire human race, but the entire ecosystem on earth. If anyone should not have to pay taxes for the rest of their lives, it's Grace...and AJ since he is getting married to her. The movie ends with their wedding. Cue the Aerosmith know the one!

Armageddon was the bigger success at the box office between the two movies which isn't a surprise because it did have the bigger stars and had more of a budget so it was more glossier. The first hour of Deep Impact is really boring, but the second hour gets more interesting with its premise, although I don't think they executed it as well as they could have. I think Deep Impact would have been better as a mini series than a two hour movie. With this movie, you're getting four different perspectives from four different characters. The character we get the most focus on is an MSNBC journalist Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni - yes, I know there's an accent over the "e" and her name is "Tay-a" and not "tea", but I don't know how to add on the accent!) This is a woman in her mid-30s who is acting like a petulant child because her parents (Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell) are divorced. To make matters worse, her father is getting married to a woman only two years older than Jenny herself. Jenny is investigating what she thinks is an affair the Secretary of Treasury (James Cromwell) is having with a woman when he suddenly resigns. But after doing some research, she realizes she mistook what she heard as a woman's name, "Ellie" for "E.L.E." which stands for "Extinction Level Event." Morgan Freeman plays the President and he is way more presidential than the President in Armageddon. After Jenny finds out there's an asteroid (and this one is only the size of NYC, so it has nothing on the Armageddon asteroid! Cuz Bay does it bigger and better!), the President tells the American public that it is projected to hit the earth within a year and that he has assembled a team of astronauts (this time the are fully prepared astronauts and not just oil drillers!) to stop the comet. Even though it is significantly smaller than the asteroid in Armageddon, it is still big enough to cause extinction. For the past eight months, the United States and Russia have been building the largest spaceship ever constructed. It's called the Messiah and is being built in orbit around the Earth. Robert Duvall plays the veteran astronaut in charge of the crew, Captain Tanner. His crew also includes Jon Favreau and Blair Underwood. This movie has a lot of "Hey, it's that guy!" moments. (Or, "Hey, it's that woman!") Other people of note in this movie are Kurtwood Smith (the dad from That '70s Show), Laura Innes (Dr. Weaver from ER), Dougray Scott, Mike O'Malley (Kurt's dad from Glee), and Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler from The West Wing).

Also in this movie are Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski who play a high school couple named Leo and Sarah. Their story never links with any of the other characters in this movie which is really weird because you would think all the stories would link together. I know Jenny and the President meet and Captain Tanner and the President meet, but I can't remember if Jenny and Tanner are ever in a scene together. But the high schoolers and their families are never in any scenes with the other main characters of the movie. So their role is that they discovered the asteroid. This happens two years before it actually hits. They're with their astronomy professor and he is looking up something on his computer and discovers the asteroid, but as he's going to tell someone, he gets hit by a truck and his car explodes in a fiery ball. We then get text on the screen that reads "One year later".  I guess even though he died, the U.S. government knew about it since they were already preparing for the mission to divert the comet. Since Leo and his teacher discovered it, they name the asteroid after them. Like would you really want a killing machine named after you? While watching this, I couldn't help noticing that Elijah Wood will play the exact same character again later in the same year in The Faculty. He discovers the asteroid (well, with help) in this movie and he's the one to discover the aliens in that movie and both are from outer space and he gets on the cover of a news magazine in both films. The only difference is he's the main character in that movie and he's more ancillary in this.

Okay, let's get to the part when it starts to get interesting. The first hour is just setting everything up and meeting the characters, and, like I said, it's boring. But I started to pay more attention again when President Morgan Freeman came on TV and announced that while they were able to detonate the asteroid with the Messiah, it did not succeed in destroying it and instead it has broken into two pieces: one is six miles wide, and the other about a mile and both are still heading towards Earth. He tells the American audience that while they've been "hoping and working for the best", they've also been "preparing for the worst." Working with the Russians, they have another plan to divert the two large comets away from Earth. However, their plan can only happen when they are only hours from striking the planet. But in case that fails too and the asteroids do hit, he tells his audience that they have been preparing in case they need to repopulate the Earth again and that an underground bunker has been being built in the limestone caves of Missouri. There is a network of caves that will allow one million people to live there for two years (the time it will take for the sky to clear of dust). Not only will there be people, but also seeds, plants and animals, "enough to start over". A computer will randomly select 800,000 Americans to join the 200,000 scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, soldiers, artists that have already been selected. (I guess they already had their ow lottery - but, wait! What if you were a doctor and weren't one of the 200,000 selected, but would you be able to go if you were one of the 800,000 "normal" people selected? Do the non-selected scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, soldiers, and artists get a second chance when they draw for the general public or was that their only chance? I'm so confused!) Basically what President Morgan Freeman is telling the American audience is, "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'!" I guess if you were getting this bad news delivered to you, you'd want it to be from the soothing voice of Morgan Freeman.

Jenny delivers the details of the lottery on the news. The biggest kicker is that nobody over the age of 50 will be selected (the exception being if they are one of the 200,000 pre-selected who have knowledge in a certain field). While she says this, they show her mother watching the news and I felt so bad for her. (She later kills herself, good job stupid lottery people who make these stupid rules). I can understand if they wouldn't allow anyone over 80, even over 70, but I still feel like people in their 50s and 60s are not THAT old. And if there's going to be an age limit, why stop at 50? You only have 800,000 spots for the entire country which was what back in '98? 250 million people? Why have anyone over the age of 30? Why don't they just have the age range be 12-30? That way you don't have to worry about baby-sitting annoying little kids and people are still young enough they can repopulate the world. Seriously, if they're not going to let people over 50, they might as well do it that way! Maybe I'm over thinking this way too much. I think this whole concept is a great social experiment, but they don't really delve into it that much. Like I said, this movie would have been better served as a mini series.

A few special snowflakes have been pre-selected. This includes Jenny because she's an MSNBC reporter? And Leo and his family because he discovered the comet that's going to kill everyone. Sarah's family, however, is not selected (awkward!) So even though they're only 17, Leo decides he's going to marry her and basically green card her so she can get in the shelter. (They missed a golden opportunity not casting a Hispanic actress!) Sarah agrees to do it if it also means her parents and baby brother get space in the caves too. They seem to get the ok, however on the day when they are picked up by the military who is driving them to the caves, Sarah's parents and brother are denied access and she refuses to leave them, which I don't blame her. They're from Richmond, Virginia, and when Leo and his family get to the bunker caves in Missouri, Leo decides he needs to go all the way back to Richmond to get Sarah. Virginia and Missouri are not that close! Why didn't he think of this sooner? His parents (his dad is played by Schiff) are reluctant about him going back, for, like, half a second, then they're like, "Yeah, you better go and get her."

Oh, yeah, they're also letting two of each animal into the bunkers ala Noah's Ark and we see people with their young children who didn't get in, protesting. I love animals, but it is ridiculous they're giving up space that could have been used to save PEOPLE'S LIVES for baby elephants and giraffes (no matter how cute they are).

So the asteroid is getting closer and closer. Jenny gives her spot of safety up to Dr. Weaver and her young daughter. She goes to make amends with her father because they had a huge fight and they embrace as a huge tidal wave comes for them. The crew on the space shuttle sacrifice themselves to destroy the other comet. Leo gets Sarah and her parents tell her to go with him and take the baby.  I don't understand how all these people outran a tsunami...., but they just climb up a mountain and they're fine.

President Morgan Freeman is also alive and tells everyone that pretty much the entire U.S. from the East Coast to Ohio and Tennessee has been wiped out, but that they will prevail as a nation. I remember watching this movie when it first came out and thinking, "Oh, good I would have survived because that terrifying 1,000 foot wave wouldn't have reached me!"

Okay, that's it for now. I'm a gettin' the hell outta here!  

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