Waiting for Armageddon (2009)
★ / ★★★★
I may never accept the radical beliefs of Christian Evangelicals regarding Armageddon or any of their methods but I hoped that I would learn something slightly profound from this documentary. Kate Davis, David Heilbroner and Franco Sacchi, the directors, didn’t have laser-like focus in the way they presented the arguments from the big picture so I was periodically left confused. Since the movie was only about an hour and ten minutes long, it constantly jumped from one issue to another such as how religious extremists were committing self-fulfilling prophecies, concerns about what would happen to Israel once God returned, and the tension between Israel and the Muslim world. It gave me the feeling that perhaps the movie was more designed toward people who didn’t know much about Evangelicals and their beliefs, not toward people who wanted grasp at information beyond the obvious. The film didn’t go into too much depth so it became redundant in terms of the individuals being interviewed essentially saying the same thing but with differing words. However, I felt a certain sadness in a few scenes such as when some of the teenagers interviewed who believed that the end of the world was coming expressed how they wished they could live full lives without having to worry about the end of the world and how it’s not fair that the end will pretty much happen in their lifetime. It also made me feel angry because I couldn’t help but think they were simply being brain-washed and all their worrying would pretty much amount to nothing. In a way, I thought their wasted youth was something to almost mourn about. Worse, they could pass on the paranoia to their own children and then their children will go through the same fears. Although I thought the movie was difficult to watch because of the opinions being expressed, I found it more frustrating that the movie didn’t have a natural flow so that it would be easy to follow. It certainly had potential to be really engaging because of such a controversial topic but it really needed to work on its pacing and the order it presented its ideas. Still, “Waiting for Armageddon” surprised me because I initially thought that the goal of the picture was to support the radical beliefs of its subjects. It wasn’t the case. It may seem like it does support its subjects’ radical beliefs in the first few minutes because the directors allowed the Evangelicals to really speak at the camera without holding back, but it ultimately allowed us to form our own opinions in the matter.
★ / ★★★★
I was excited to see “Legion” because the trailer took ahold of my interest, but unfortunately, it was one of those movies that mistakenly put all the good parts in the trailer. Paul Bettany stars as an angel who decided to descend from heaven to protect a pregnant woman (Adrianne Palicki) whose child was supposed to be the Messiah. A group of characters (Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson, Percy Walker, Dennis Quaid, Jon Tenney, Willa Holland, Kate Walsh and Palicki) were stuck in a diner in the middle of nowhere as humans with weak wills were possessed by angels and tried to kill them. Basically, God lost faith in humanity so he wanted to eradicate everyone. I don’t even know where to start with this movie. While the acting was subpar at best, the writing was even worse because not only did the premise not make sense but it also failed to come together in the end. Aside from the scene with the old lady visiting the diner, there was a strange lack of tension or excitement especially for a movie about the end of the world. The experience would probably have been more bearable if there were more likable characters. All of them complained so much to the point where I just didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t believe that their very first scenes were full of whining. They expressed so much self-pity; instead of wanting to root for them to survive against all odds, I just wanted them to die because I didn’t see another dimension to them. To me, they were just weak individuals and I had a difficult time accepting the fact that they managed to survive for so long. As for the action, I don’t know whether to laugh or feel sad with the idea that bullets could stop angels (using humans as vessel) from the job they were assigned to do. I constantly wondered why the angels just didn’t descend from the heavens like Bettany’s character and finish the job themselves? I was so confused for the longest time and it was really painful to sit through. Action sequences were happening on screen but I just didn’t care because I wasn’t invested in the premise despite the fantastic elements. Talents of essentially good actors like Bettany, Quaid and Gibson were wasted in this piece of silliness. Thankfully, I saw this movie on DVD. If I had paid $10 to see this in the cinema, I think I would have demanded my money back. “Legion,” directed by Scott Stewart, didn’t have a defined identity (perhaps it can pass as a really bad zombie picture?) and a genuine driving force to keep the momentum going so it didn’t know what to do with itself. But I know what I wanted to do: I wanted to turn the movie off. The only reason why I didn’t is because one of my rules is to give each movie equal opportunity from start to finish.
★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by a disaster movie aficionado Roland Emmerich (“The Day After Tomorrow,” “Godzilla,” “Independence Day”), “2012” was about a writer (John Cusack) who stumbled upon information about government operatives preparing for the end of the world and decided to take his wife (Amanda Peet) and children (Liam James, Morgan Lily) to safety. Meanwhile, scientists, humanitarians and politicians all over the world (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover) scramble to plan on what to do when the major disasters finally strike while at the same time try to contain the information from the public. I thought “2012” was not as bad as critics claimed to be. I was entertained from beginning to end because when I decide to watch a disaster flick, I’m not concerned so much about the story and character development. I’m more focused with the special and visual effects of destruction and mayhem. On that level, I think “2012” delivered. Unfortunately, I felt like this picture had too many characters and it essentially had trouble juggling each of them. In addition, I felt like the storyline regarding Cusack and Peet’s characters have been done before: how the man and the woman of the family rediscover their passion for each other after years of disagreements and workaholism. In fact, there were times when I thought it tried to inject too much story when it really did not need to. After all, when disasters happen, finding refuge should be a good enough incentive to work together. Reigniting any sort of passion should be left in the back burner. It quickly became repetitive and I constantly wondered how many more minutes until the next natural disaster. I did like some of the supporting actors in this film because they provided a nice breather from the typicality of it all: Thandie Newton as the daughter of the president of the United States and Johann Urb as the Russian pilot. Granted, they did not get to do much but I was actually interested in their back stories. I definitely wondered how the movie would have been different if the focus was on them instead of the family. Personally, as far as disaster features go, I prefer “The Day After Tomorrow” because I thought it was a little more intimate and it was not as all over the place. But I can see why a lot of people, such as my mom who doesn’t really care about the story as long as there are explosions, think this one is very enjoyable because of the many intense action sequences. My advice is too see it for the fluff, not for its emotional core.
★★ / ★★★★
“Knowing,” directed by Alex Proyas, was about a man who stumbled upon a message from a time capsule written by a strange girl fifty years ago. The message consisted of seemingly random numbers but if one decided to look closer, one would find out that it recorded the events of major disasters that were to transpire in the future. Because of all the negative reviews, I had low expectations coming into it. However, the first third was so effective so I naturally thought that the rest of the picture would be as smart and suspenseful. I couldn’t be any more wrong. Nicolas Cage tends to overact in most of his movies and this one is no exception. To me, he was most effective when he first figured out what all the numbers meant. He was able to balance fear, anxiety and excitement while still being that intellectual that he was presented as in the beginning of the film. But the moment Rose Byrne entered the movie, everything started to feel so unbelievable to point where I lost interest. I can’t believe I’m saying this but she actually upstaged Cage when it came to overacting. I actually said, “Just shut up” during one of the scenes because she interpreted her character in such an irksome manner. As for its special and visual effects, sometimes they looked like scenes from video games but sometimes they impressed me. I particularly liked those plane and subway scenes. They looked really haunting and it was very difficult to dispel the images from my head. If such disasters happened, I was convinced that it would look like that. The last third of the movie felt like a completely different movie altogether. I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to that patient and sometimes creepy style of storytelling that pervaded the first third. The third act felt like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (the most recent version), which is not a good thing. Everything felt forced and I had to wonder why the writers felt like they had to do something grand for the sake of being grand. Ultimately, “Knowing” drowned in its own mediocrity. However, I did appreciate its efforts to want to be something more than typical despite its unfortunate yet inevitable outcome.