Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: John Cusak, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton
(PG-13, 158 min.)
"This is courage…to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends." Euripides
Even though this was definitely made for the big screen, now you'll have to settle for your own version of home theater. But even a fifty-inch plasma screen will certainly fail to capture the grandeur of this Mayan inspired Apocalypse.
By scale alone, this film outdoes itself. Never have buildings crumbled with such panache, icons tumbled into the sea with greater style, the earth scorched, torn asunder, and split with more symbolic dread. And yet, against all odds, some do survive.
None seem so lucky as failed science fiction writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusak), who now earns his living as a kind of chaffeur/ gofer toting around the spoiled kids of one Zlatko Buric (Yuri Karpov),“a corrupt Russian industrialist whose voice seems to emanate from a vodka-soaked crypt beneath the Kremlin,” as critic Ty Burr so aptly puts it.
The divorced dad happens to be on a camping trip with his two kids at Yellowstone Park where he encounters two very different men who will change his life.
One is a fringe radio host whose wacko end of the world imaginings fit in best on the midnight to five in the morning time slot. Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson reveling in his over the top role) subsists mostly on beer, canned pickles, and tales of hidden government plots. He even has a map showing where the chosen survivors will go when things heat up, which, by the way, is a lot sooner than anyone thinks, including the high ranking US government geologist, Dr. Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Helmsley just happens to be at Yellowstone at the same time as Jackson Curtis – he is checking out the cordoned off dried up lake Curtis and his kids have just been ushered off. Coincidentally, bibliophile Helmsley is one of some 400 or so people who have read Curtis’ Farewll Atlantis, and he’s a real fan, too.
Back in LA, the usual cabinet rattlers are a bit more intense. The first on camera shakeup includes no big name landmarks. Indeed, it is at that most common and humble domain, the grocery store, where thumping the watermelons is the closest thing to violence that ever occurs. Maybe that’s why the aisle splitting open to reveal a ragged, yawning crevasse between the canned goods and the cereal is every bit as scary as the mega disasters that will follow.
Thanks to the tip offs from his encounters at Yellowstone, Jackson Curtis is ready when things start to shake, rattle, and roll. And his escape from LA is one wild ride, the lumbering limo loaded down with his ex-wife, two kids, and her plastic surgeon boyfriend just a breath ahead of a world that opens up and swallows itself in his rear view mirror.
Then there’s the wild ride in the derelict RV that has to outrun a volcano as it races toward a waiting Cessna. Golly, are we lucky that the plastic surgeon boyfriend has had a few flying lessons; he even makes flying through spurting molten lava look like child’s play.
I guess that’s why he promoted to co pilot on the huge Russian cargo plane for the next leg of their journey.
Yes, of course you have to suspend your disbelief here, but that’s a small price to pay for all this diabolical fun. Woody Harrelson’s Charlie Frost glories in the Yellowstone Volcano that is about to devour him with the same cowboy relish as Sterling Hayden’s Major T. J. “King” Kong as he rode the nuclear bomb bronco style in Dr. Strangelove. A Tibetan lama dispenses Zen wisdom just before he hands over the keys to his rusty pickup with some equally savvy words about the eccentricities of the gearshift.
California’s gobernator drones on TV, “Ve zthink ze wurst iss ober,” just before most of LA erupts like microwave popcorn. Even critic Lou Lumenick gladly forks over his $12 “to watch Los Angeles gloriously sliding into the Pacific like so much rubble.”
Yes, we are in for some manipulative melodrama, but that's the mother’s milk of disaster flicks, after all. And speaking of mothers, we have a few saccharin tributes to those of the female persuasion. Ruthless Yuri Karpov looks away from his blond bimbo to steal a tender glance at a photo of his two beefy sons and their equally well-fed mother. President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover managing to get himself away from the embrace of pal Hugo Chavez long enough to learn his lines) sees his dearly departed wife in his daughter’s eyes.
Then there are the tearful goodbyes. Dr. Helmsley calls his dad, an old musician doing a gig on a cruise ship in the Japanese sea, for a heartfelt farewell that manages to tug at the heartstrings, even if we feel the heavy scripted hand behind it. The President, who bravely stays behind to comfort his fellow citizens rather than take the prearranged route to safety, has a similar touching phone call with his daughter.
However the parting between Jackson Curtis and his ex-wife as he risks his life to save the rescue ship, asks a bit much of the audience as well as the thousands on board who are counting the crucial seconds. The reassessment of their failed marriage and the tender kiss that follows is sheer self-indulgence and simultaneously sheer Hollywood as well.
But don’t let those cynical critics keep you away. They never lamented the lack of character depth in the more cynical action flicks that got high praise, such as The Bourne Ultimatum. I think they are disappointed they can’t blame this disaster on mankind’s inherent evil, that a quiet decency overrides the chaos here.
This is a disaster movie with a heart, one that seeks meaning and dignity even in its irrational destruction.
A young Tibetan monk hears of the impending disaster from his older brother who is working on the secret ships that will save a small portion of humanity. The brother has a plan to get his family on board.
While the spirited monk is able to have his leave request granted by his lama, his grandmother is harder to persuade. Grandpa always gets sea sick, she complains. “Well,” she reasons at last, ax poised over the unsuspecting chicken in front of her, “at least let’s have something to eat here first.”
I’ve made a dish that is at least Indian in its origins, if not Tibetan. Well, some even dispute that, saying this curry dish is most popular in the UK. But seeing as we are trying to save a portion of all humanity, perhaps this melting pot Chicken Tikka Masala is appropriate due to its very eclectic nature.
Chicken Tikka Masala
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
- 4 long skewers
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat a grill for high heat.
- Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.
- Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Recipe Source: allrecipes.com