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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Movies for the Apocalypse

Written by Kirk Baird

The End is Nigh.

At least, that’s what some believe the Mayans gloomily forecast for us 1,300 years ago by having their ancient calendar end at Dec. 21, 2012.

Experts, of course, tell us otherwise. But since when did facts get in the way of a good story? Certainly it’s never stopped Hollywood and its ability to find creative ways to demolish humankind and our precious planet.

We’ve been smashed by asteroids and other planets, wiped out by global floods, and killed by strains of mutant viruses. Oh, and in one strange twist, our species faced extinction because we were no longer able to reproduce.

To celebrate our impending demise, here are several ways the movies have tried to wipe us out.

Melancholia (2011): Lars von Trier’s moody and disturbing end-of-the-world drama features what should have been an Oscar-nominated performance by Kirsten Dunst in a beautifully shot film that, in typical von Trier fashion, polarized audiences and critics.

The Last Wave (1977): Richard Chamberlin stars in Peter Weir’s strange tale of an Australian attorney plagued by end-of-the-world visions after he takes on the case of defending five Aborigines on trial for a ritual murder.

Take Shelter (2011): Michael Shannon’s gripping performance as a husband and father increasingly obsessed with prophetic visions of a coming apocalyptic storm anchors this brilliant film with a much-discussed ending.

2012 (2009): Director and co-writer Roland Emmerich throws out all the CGI stops in this ultimate big-budget Earth snuff film starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover as the president, and Woody Harrelson as — wait for it — a paranoid hippie.

Deep Impact (1998): This loose remake of 1951’s When Worlds Collide features an all-star cast led by Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave, Elijah Wood, and Morgan Freeman struggling to survive the horrific impact of an asteroid and plan for the future.

Twelve Monkeys (1995): Terry Gilliam’s mind-twisting sci-fi posits a doomed future Earth that sends a convict (Bruce Willis) into the past for clues to save humanity from near extinction by a mysterious virus. But is it all in the mind?

Children of Men (2006): In Alfonso Cuaron’s beautiful drama, the end of the world comes not through the violence of humanity or nature, but in our inability to reproduce, with a pregnant woman named Kee as our one hope, and Clive Owen as the man who must protect her.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012): Strong performances by Steve Carell and Keira Knightley elevate this comic and dramatic story, as a husband loses his wife but gains a friend and much more in the final days before a giant asteroid collides with Earth.

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