In Brief: More fun and more movies about the end of the world but, hey, what else do we have to do but watch TV?
The COVID-19 virus has us all more or less staying home. More more than less. None of us have pandemic experience so the situation is almost like an out-of-body experience. This has a lot in common with what we often see in end of the world movies.
As I noted a week or so ago, I love end of the world movies. They’ve been a favorite since I was a kid and spent Friday nights and Saturday afternoons watching them at theaters in my hometown.
Since we’re all trapped at home, can’t go to theaters to see movies and we are forced to watch a lot of TV. I’ve probably watched more television in the last three weeks than I’ve watched in the last three-years.
There are what seems like a zillion streaming services so finding things to watch isn’t all that hard. Do a little digging and you can find some of my end of the world favorites. Last week’s column is online and I looked at films from the 1950s through the year 2000. Lots and lots of good choices. This week I’m looking at the last 20 years from 2000 to the present time.
Again, lots of good end of the world films to be had and many of these will be easier to find than those from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even the 1980s. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bad ones.
Zombie movies were released in bunches during the 2000s. The Resident Evil series began in 2002 and the final chapter popped into theaters in 2016. They call it the final chapter but — as you know — with movies done in a series format, and that are financially successful, never, quite end.
Star Wars anyone?
I didn’t particularly care for the Resident Evil series nor the last batch of Terminator movies. After a long rest, the Terminator came back in 2003. The last one — maybe — was last year. I say maybe because they tend to keep making them. Terminator: Dark Fate left an opening for a sequel. However, other than the first two, the rest of them haven’t been all that good but they have been enormously popular.
Dark Fate was not. It tanked at the box office and lost so much money that you might be able to accurately say that the Terminator series has been terminated.
You can, however, easily find most of the films in the series.
As noted last week, I loved the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. The sequels sucked. The Andy Serkis version started in 2011. Those films rock and I highly recommend them for your end of the world viewing pleasure. The 2001 stand alone Planet of the Apes flick done by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg bombed.
Back to zombie movies. Many of the films based on the George Romero original have been pretty good. Not great but not bad. Two movies not based on Romero’s vision are among my all-time favorite horror films. One of the things that makes horror work is humor.
When it comes to horror, serious works but humor works better. For some reason laughs cement the horror and make it — for lack of a better way to put it — more believable.
Shaun of the Dead in 2004 and Zombieland in 2009 are two of the funniest horror movies ever done. That said, skip last year’s Zombieland sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap. It is as bad as the original is good.
The most disappointing zombie movie of the two decades of the 2000s and the 2010s, is The Dead Don’t Die. It stars Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloe Sevigny and a bunch of other very good actors. The film should have been one of the best horror movies ever but ended up proving while the dead may not die, some movies do.
In 2002 the end of the world via virus flick, 28 Days Later was released. A virus turns people into zombies that kill people. People also kill people. Not bad. It got followed by the not-as-good 28 Weeks Later and an equally not-so-good 28 years after the pandemic movie.
Roland Emmerich — who specializes in destroying the planet and has done so in a bunch of movies — did the apocalyptic, global warming catastrophe The Day After Tomorrow in 2004. He also gave us 2012 in 2009. It’s based on the Mayan calendar that predicts the end of the world that year.
In case you weren’t paying attention the world didn’t end in 2012 and most of us did note that the movie was awful. The Day After Tomorrow — however — isn’t bad.
Remakes of classic world-ending movies made their way into theaters during the 2000s. They aren’t awful but none of them came close to topping the original films. Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise tried to make their War of the Worlds redo relevant. Spielberg’s specialty is sci-fi flicks and using effects that make what’s happening on the screen seem real. Cruise provides star power.
Neither helped. The film isn’t close to as good as the 1953 original. It will — however — be easier to find in your TV streaming service search.
The same criticism can be made for Will Smith and I Am Legend in 2007 and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still in 2008. The former is an awful remake of The Omega Man and isn’t worth watching. When it comes to acting energy, Reeves generally doesn’t have much and wasn’t able to provide all that much energy in the redo of the latter.
But it is — at least — worth a whirl.
Onto a movie I can recommend, Clive Owen starred in Children of Men in 2006. Women can’t get pregnant. Owen is charged with getting one who happens to be pregnant to safety. It’s a dark and very well-done piece of science fiction.
The year 2008 did manage to have one cheerful end of the world flick. Humans left the planet because of a trashed environment and the Earth had become a trash heap. They are now obese and living in space. They left a poor little robot WALL-E to continue to clean things up. This Pixar/Disney feature is one of my all-time favorite animated movies and the wonder of WALL-E comes from the beauty of two robots falling in love.
This is proof that humans don’t have the corner on love stories.
Ending the decade are two pretty good flicks. Daybreakers is a vampire corporation involved in farming humans for food and the other is The Road. It’s a film based on Cormac McCarthy’s popular dystopian book.
Both are depressing but not bad and a movie road well taken should you choose to go there.
Dystopian dominated the next decade with four very popular series. Three are based on books aimed at teens and young adults and the fourth on The Planet of the Apes. All can easily be found in streaming services.
Most popular of all is The Hunger Games group of movies. Jennifer Lawrence cemented her trip to superstardom in the lead role. Not close to as good and coming in a distant second and third are The Maze Runner films and the Divergent series that included Divergent, Allegiant and Resurgent, and they all regurgitated themes from the other — better — films.
I’m probably alone in my view of Hunger Games. It’s awful. We may not agree on that but we probably do on the other two.
The second Planet of the Apes series started in 2011. It is very, very good. So were the two world-ending Marvel movies Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. And if you’re looking for humor help for an end of the world flick, Thor: Ragnarok is a good pick. It cracked me up.
Another pretty good Mad-maxy kind of movie is The Book of Eli. It didn’t hurt that it starred Denzel Washington.
A more real-life kind of movie is Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. It is an intense thriller that deals with real life scientists desperately trying to find the cause of, and a cure for, a pandemic that’s killing millions of people.
It hits pretty close to home for most of us today, and if you’re really freaked out by what’s happening now, then this might not be the best possible stuck-at-home movie. For the rest of us, if you can find it, Contagion is a terrific thriller.
Moving to the end of the world. Melancholia is a long, drawn-out, but very well done end of the world film that got limited release at the end of 2011. A rogue planet is going to kill everyone on this one. Depressing but good.
But if you want end of the world done creatively, and intelligently, try to find Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley star. An asteroid is going to wipe out all life on Earth and it sets up a really beautiful and intelligent romantic comedy.
The movie was released in 2012 and didn’t get a lot of play. Too bad. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a great movie done with wit, charm and intelligence.
Just the opposite of that intelligence is This is the End. It’s a Seth Rogen directed and co-written flick about the apocalypse and how it affects the movie star friends Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and a few others.
I normally really love Rogen and the other actors in this film However, this is pure self indulgence and it’s a really stupid concept that reminds me of something 10-year old boys would dream up while playing together on a Saturday afternoon. That said, millennials love these guys and loved this movie. It made big bucks at the box office and if you’re in that age group or younger, or if you like dumb movies, this is the one for you.
By the way, the bazillion f-bombs and the drug use and the hard R-rating means most 10-year olds — who I assume would find this kind of funny — can’t see it.
As for comedies that I liked. Warm Bodies in 2013 is one of those fun zombie movies that works. It’s clever and funny and is also based on a pretty good book. The year 2013 also saw the now Brad Pitt classic World War Z.
More zombies. More fun.
You may have noticed, I have a lot of all-time favorite end of the world movies. The list probably numbers around 20. Edge of Tomorrow from 2014 is one of them. It has a theme very similar to 2011’s Source Code.
By the way, Source Code is not an end of the world flick but it’s a really good piece of sci-fi done by Duncan Jones. He’s rocker David Bowie’s son and also did another great space flick called Moon. If you can find them, both are brilliant and a very entertaining way to spend some of your quarantine time.
Back to Edge of Tomorrow. It stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Aliens have invaded and Cruise is killed but something in an alien’s blood sticks to him and sends him in a time loop. It is his ability to come back to life again and again at the same spot in time that drives the movie and his and Blunt’s quest to quell the invasion.
Mad Max got a reboot in 2015 with Tom Hardy and Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a blast and no one who saw it could help but wish they could have been involved in the filming and swung on the poles hanging from the trucks of the bad guys.
The most clever of all the end of the world flicks from the 2010s is 10 Cloverfield Lane. Is there an alien invasion or isn’t there? John Goodman plays a guy who is the loosest of cannons and — if up to me — he’d have gotten a best supporting actor nomination for his performance. He’s that good and so is this movie.
Stephen King’s so-so book Cell got made into a so-so horror movie that’s pretty easy to find. We also got the Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049. It has phenomenal effects but — unlike the original film — ended up a total yawner.
Another one that will pop up on your radar is Bird Box. It’s a Netflix original based on a book. Sandra Bullock stars. I didn’t see the movie so I can’t critique it but I did read Josh Malerman’s book. The book isn’t bad and I heard good things about the film from some people and not so good things from others.
You’ll have to decide on that one.
The last film on my trip through end of the world flicks is A Quiet Place. It hit theaters in 2018 and the sequel was supposed to be released a couple of weeks ago. A hold has been placed and no release date has been set.
The original is a brilliant film that stars John Krasinksi and Emily Blunt and is directed and co-written by Krasinski. This is one of the best horror movies of all-time. Make a sound and you die. The premise — like Alien and a lot of other very good horror flicks — makes you more frightened by what you don’t seen that what you do.
I held my breath through the whole movie. I wasn’t alone. So did most of you. Movies rarely do that to me. If you haven’t seen this one and if your heart can handle the stress, this is an exceptionally good end of the world horror movie.
And that ends my trip through apocalyptic movies.
As I noted last week, do you agree with any of this or not? Do you have favorites I didn’t think about? If so, find me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what you think.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.