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Haylie Duff Lifetime movies are almost impossible to resist. So when I flopped down on the coach after yoga and saw this:

I knew my Sunday was basically shot.

Looking at the description, I had questions…

It’s a supernatural one? And is that really NOT a Duff?

Calm down, gentle readers. It’s totally a Duff — Comcast is just doing its usual bang up-job and displaying the description from the wrong movie. There’s no lame ghost crap, either. No, this Sunday treasure is classic Lifetime to its core: Haylie Duff, a simple evil husband plot, waste-no-time foreshadowing… it’s all here, people.

We open with a wedding, and we know this because we read it off a black and white title card like the ones on Frasier.

Okay, strange choice but I can accept it. The marrying couple is Haylie Duff and Evil Husbear.

A beard IS pretty unusual for a Lifetime villain. They usually go for the Michael Douglas clean-shaven-MBA-douche look.

There are a couple of notable things about the wedding scene: 1) They find a new way to ruin the pretty-but-ALWAYS-used-in-tacky-weddings Bach Air on a G String. This time we get an all-synthesizer version for no reason. Isn’t real classical music super cheap to use? And 2) The bride/groom wedding dance segues from semi-classy slow dance to weird 80’s rock out with awkward seizure movements.

I chuckled at this because in another life Mr. Max and I lived in a rental facility that did weddings, and this is pretty accurate bad middle aged person dancing. Also that wedding dress is ugly (sorry, Haylie).


Another title card!

Apparently our newlyweds have moved into their dream home. The house is a bad modern House Hunters style house with weird cement crap on the outside and a big double vanity bathroom. Side note: why are ALL people on House Hunters obsessed with double vanities? It’s just a sink, call a plumber you can basically put that crap anywhere. Ahem.

Husbear comes over and says, “Hi I missed you” and gives Haylie a kiss that’s golden-retriever level sloppy. He’s basically drooling on her chin, it’s bad. This is the moment when I knew I would watch this movie in its entirety.


I had to.

Haylie is surprised to learn that there’s a live-in gardener on the property. So am I – way to create a relatable protagonist, Lifetime. Gardener says “Have we met before” with a suspicious look, which is the Chekhov’s Gun of all Lifetime movies.

Now Husbear and Duff are unpacking, and Husbear unpacks his most prized possession… and it’s… it’s…


The craziest painting ever. Mr. Max was half asleep and asked if they had unwrapped a pizza from a box. On the Pizza to Artwork Likert scale, I would pick ‘strongly agree it looks like a pizza.’

Husbear babbles a bunch of arty bullshit about color and meaning – I don’t know, I kind of zoned out here.

Next title card. I should note that we’ve had 3 title cards in the space of about five minutes. This movie is 60% paper.

Finally the real creepiness begins: Haylie Duff wakes up with a nightmare and Husbear puts an oxygen mask up to her face. Huh. That probably won’t be important later.

Another title card!!! Amazing.

Production Note: In the scene where Duff starts work as a substitute teacher, there’s no fade out between when she arrives at school and the next scene with her on the playground at the end of the day. It’s like they quantum leaped in time (using the power of sloppy editing).

There’s a young male teacher with a moustache who insists on giving her a lift home. He’s pushy but he’s probably just a red herring baddie.

Another Title card: TUESDAY (I guess we ran out of card ideas? I have a new appreciation for the Frasier writers.)

Now Haylie’s outside having an overshare with the live-in gardener. She says, “We got married so soon after we met, there’s a lot I’m still learning” Folksy gardener replies back about how he likes plants because “Plants don’t talk back to you.” Charming!

Next we get a flashbacky scene of Haylie taking some pills for a heart condition. Okay, the oxygen thing is starting to make more sense.

DEFINITELY out of title card ideas.

Evil Husbear meets Moustache Teacher and starts acting all jealous and controlling. Husbear’s Goth (why? We are never told) sister starts hanging out at the house too much and giving off incesty vibes. The Moustache teacher gets falsely accused of child molestation. Guys, guys – the gardener can’t find his dog. Shit’s about to get real.


Seriously, why is the sister a goth?

THE PARTY: We haven’t had a title card for like 20 scenes but sure why not.

Husbear and Duff host a party but spend the whole time fighting over the first world problem of who’s in control of the patio renovation. For some reason the housewarming party playlist is all loud club music. Sister is wearing a straight up dominatrix getup. Does someone involved in the production have an S&M fetish that they’re shoehorning into every scene? Please don’t answer that.

Fashion Corner: Duff wears the fancy dress Husbear bought her. It’s supposed to be super sexy but it kinda looks like a bathrobe.

A nice bathrobe…

The plot moves pretty quickly from here. Gardener gets murdered for asking too many questions and Evil Husbear uses the old ‘your mom was bipolar’ trick to gaslight Haylie. After a visit to some unhelpful cops, Duff morphs into a self-investigating Lifetime heroine. There’s a scene where she Googles the logo on her “heart medication” and we’re supposed to be impressed by her craftiness.

As a person with mild anxiety I use this skill all the time to make sure it’s ‘really Tylenol in that bottle’ so I thought of it in the first scene, but okay. Go Duff!

Now she’s hacking into Husbear’s computer. She finds webcam footage that proves that the gardener was killed, and copies it onto a flash drive. Smart. She yanks the flash drive while the file is totally still downloading. Ummm…

Now, the big reveal: Duff visits the address of the family of Evil Husbear’s secret dead wife. Turns out Duff is the spitting image of dead wife! Where the spitting image = an exact picture of Haylie Duff.

Eagle-eyed viewers will remember this turning your new wife into your old wife trope from one of my earliest reviews, of A Face to Die For.

Finally she gets caught snooping around for evidence by Evil Husbear and sister.

It’s two against one, but she gets in a direct punch to the balls before the cops show up. Sister aims a knife at Haylie, but hits Husbear instead. The cops arrest sister and escort Duff away from the crime scene. She looks longingly one last time at the hideous House Hunters house.

Aw man, who’s gonna design the patio now?

Overall Rating: Choice. Best laundry folding and/or drifting in and out of consciousness movie of 2016.

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Film is dead. Okay, well maybe not dead. But it’s near death. Like a circa 2006 Blockbuster Video, the film industry is in the phase of downfall where it still technically exists but no one remembers that it’s there. Until the Academy Awards roll around and everyone’s like huh right, yeah. And then we all forget again.

My nostalgia for the golden age of mainstream cinema is probably what compelled us to go see Jupiter Ascending. And there is no more perfect analogy for the fall of the film industry than this movie! The once proud Wachowski’s — architects of the first Matrix movie (the others don’t exist to me) — have been reduced to making an extra long episode of Stargate:SG1. This, combined with the fact that Hollywood just made a Hot Tub Time Machine 2 means art is officially dead. But here’s the good news: movies are now so bad that they’ve circled back on themselves and become great again! You know, ironically.

The first thing you need to know about Jupiter Ascending is that it is a “splice” (to use the movie’s own goofy jargon for genetic hybrid) of every space, sci-fi, and fantasy movie you have ever seen — ESPECIALLY bad, recent ones.

A scene from the actual movie. I know!

This is actually a remarkable creative achievement. They’ve managed to make a single (somewhat cohesive) film just by combining elements from the more recent Star Wars movies, Guardians of the Galaxy, Twilight, that bad Matt Damon movie with the thing orbiting over earth, that bad Tom Cruise movie with the clones, and the other bad Johnny Depp clone movie. Except everything is a little bit dumber. To give you a sci-fi analogy, if those other movies are Star Trek, this movie is Star Trek: Voyager (burn).

Some important plot details: Mila Kunis is a secret space princess. Channing Tatum has magic flying space boots. There’s throwaway dialogue about Channing Tatum being a wolf hybrid that reminded me a lot of the scene in Dark Shadows where the daughter says “I’m a werewolf, deal with it” and they don’t mention it again for the rest of the movie. For no reason, some of the aliens look like crocodiles. I could go on and on. The plot is like a never-ending clown car where every clown that comes out is a ridiculous idea.

There’s also a crazy, yet somewhat fabulous, space wedding.

The second thing you need to know about this movie is that you really should see it. This is not a depressing bad movie (e.g., Snowpiercer) — it’s dumb, entertaining, fun, harmless… did I mention how dumb it is? You will love it . Trust me: I was in the theater for The Wicker Man — probably the best bad movie since Troll 2 — and it was glorious. It was opening weekend so everyone went in expecting a spooky thriller. Within the first ten minutes, the audience course-corrected and began openly mocking the dialogue and laughing at facial expressions and music cues. For a brief moment, I imagined a future where mankind could work together in harmony. You do not want to miss an experience like that.

If you’re on the fence about forking over $15 to see this in theaters, please PLEASE check out The Mary Sue’s amazing and inspiring review of this wonderful, terrible movie.

I’m going to be upfront here and disclose that I drank two pints of theater beer during this movie and although these were not potent drinks I may have blacked out for the last 20 minutes. It reminds me of the time I nibbled on a xanax before taking the GRE subject test in biochemistry and molecular biology. By the end I was just filling in random scantron bubbles and giving zero shits.

Clocking in at 3 hours– about as long as it takes one to complete the GRE subject test– Interstellar became as trying an ordeal for me as it was for Matthew McAstronaughey and the rest of the mission crew. What I’m trying to get at here is that it simply wasn’t very good– certainly not as gush-worthy as so many seem to think. It was an extended remix of Gravity, Contact, 2001, Apollo 13, Moon, and maybe even a little Powder and E.T. sprinkled in there too. The only thing that was able to hold my attention after a certain point was McConaughey’s complete and utter hotness. Like most people with a brain and two eyes, I have been reveling in the so-called McConaissance ever since “True Detective.” In Interstellar he’s both a rugged Carhart-wearing farmer AND a sexy astronaut– SPLOOSH.

Ahem. Anyway, if you want pith, I’ll give you a one-word review: Intersmellar. But, because I had to sit through 3 hours of it, I’m going to bloviate.

Hour one:

Everyone on Earth wants to pack up and head to another habitable planet because they are forced to reenact Ken Burns’ “The Dust Bowl,” which, as we know, is super boring. Old people are interviewed, black and white photographs are slowly zoomed in on– all that’s missing is a mournful violin whimpering out Ashokan Farewell.

We meet the family McConaughey (Cooper and his kids Murphy and Tom) and boy do they love Science. Mom is out of the picture for whatever reason, and Cooper takes the kids on irresponsible adventures like plowing through a cornfield in his pickup truck to fly the family drone around a quarry. Murphy, affectionately “Murph,” is a tomboy and very obviously Cooper’s favorite of the two kids.

Hey kids, let’s play a game called “foreshadowing”

Murph (very unscientifically) thinks that there is a ghost in her bedroom because books keep falling off her shelf. Cooper calls her out on her illogical thinking, but Murph has been taking careful Rainman-like notes documenting the patterns of which books fall. When she leaves her window open during a dust storm and sees some perfectly normal looking lines on the dusty floor she and dad make a giant conceptual leap that “it’s gravity!” I’m all “whuhh?” Wikipedia helps me not feel so dumb by describing this part of the plot thusly: they discover the “ghost” is an unknown intelligence sending coded messages using gravitational waves, leaving binary coordinates in the dust that direct them to a secret NASA installation led by Professor John Brand (Michael Caine).

Oh.

It’s like they wadded up a bunch of sci-fi and threw it at my face. It was jarring and felt unfair.

Hour two:

Michael Caine is in charge of Secret NASA and his most memorable (and irksome) character trait is that he quotes “Do not go gentle into that good night” FIVE TIMES throughout the movie. I guess we can add The Cider House Rules to the movie melange.

“Goodnight you prince of Space, you king of the Universe”

He’s also dying, like the old guy with cancer who funds the space travel machine in Contact. His daughter, Anne Hathaway (Amelia), is a biologist (a nice “soft science” for a pretty lady). Cooper makes a shitty remark about her looking too good to be a scientist and I hate McConaughey for about a second– until I see his glistening cheekbones and degrade him in my mind– he’s too pretty to be a scientist.

Toss in a couple sarcastic robots and some expendable crew members, and they’re ready to boldly go explore habitable planets. Murph is heartbroken and extremely pissed that dad is going to space and literally leaving her in the dust, and she has decoded some more book patterns into a message reading “stay.” He doesn’t. He gives her his watch. We’re supposed to cry now.

Sadsville: population Murph

The all-star crew is whisked off to space towards some planets scattered around near a black hole that have been identified as potentially life supporting. I don’t know what these people were smoking when they decided this, because the first planet is just a planet-wide ocean with giant killer waves. Water only equals life when it’s not drowing you. Amelia tries to haul some data storage machine that’s floating around back into their spacecraft but is doing a real bad job so Expendable Crew Member (ECM) slogs out to try and help. Amelia makes it back to the craft, but the other guy does not. Then everyone is mean to Amelia because she sucked. And is a woman.

We definitely need this wet machine that will probably contain data telling us NOT to try and establish civilization here

Cooper’s all pissed off because on this planet for every one hour spent on the surface, years pass on Earth. This is because it is too close to the black hole, and is yet another reason this planet sucks. He is concerned about Murph growing old without him (still couldn’t give two shits about whatever the son’s name is) and she’s indeed now 20-something years older. She’s followed in dad’s footsteps (but is still super pissed at him for leaving) and is now working with Michael Caine to solve the money equation that will let them harness gravity to launch humanity into space. But after Michael Caine wheezes out a few more do-not-go-gentles, he admits that he made everything up and there is no way to get everyone up into space. It’s a lot like grad school. He packed a bunch fertilized embryos from god knows who and figured we’d just begin anew. Murph is, like, WAY pissed and also assumes that dad knew this all along.

“Shut the flux up.”

Hour three:

Up in space, they try for a second planet inhabited by Matt Damon– always a bad idea. Matt Damon is stationed on an ice planet– again NOT habitable; someone seriously needs to get fired– and lures the crew so he can try to get the fuck out of there. He’s gone crazy in the hostile and isolating environment and tries to kill Cooper when they arrive by smashing his helmet. Lots of explody stuff happens and we lose another ECM and Matt Damon. Amelia does something right for once and rescues Cooper, swooping him up like a Rescue Ranger.

Now we get into the hot and heavy screamy-fake-science-word-commands time, followed by wormhole visions (a la Contact). This is where I start to black out. Again, I defer to Wikipedia’s total WTF-inducing plot summary:

Nearly out of fuel, Cooper and Amelia plan to slingshot Endurance around Gargantua on a course toward [the third “habitable” planet]. [Snarky robots] detach into the black hole, sacrificing themselves to collect data on the singularity and to propel Amelia by dropping the ship’s mass. They emerge in an extra-dimensional “tesseract“, where time appears as a spatial dimension and portals show glimpses of Murphy’s childhood bedroom at various times. Cooper realizes the alien beings have constructed this space so he can communicate with Murphy and save humanity. Using gravitational waves, Cooper encodes [robot’s] data on the singularity into the adult Murphy’s watch, allowing her to solve Brand’s equation and evacuate Earth. Cooper awakens years later aboard a NASA space station and reunites with the now elderly Murphy, who has led humanity’s exodus. Murphy advises Cooper and [robot] to search for Amelia, who has begun preparations on [the third] planet.

The “slingshot” move has totally been used in another space movie, maybe Apollo 13 or Gravity. Using gravitational waves to encode the singularity onto a wristwatch has not been used in any other movies because it is stupid. Anyway, Anne Hathaway ends up stuck on the third planet, doomed to toil away raising the embryos in another kind of dystopian grad school scenario, while Cooper’s snug as a bug in a space station. I’m sure he’ll get around to finding her sometime.

And then Neil deGrasse Tyson says “for every hour you spent watching this movie, you aged 20 years!”

SURPRIIIISE you are almost dead!

I’ve had 2 glasses of wine, Mr. Max is trying to synthesize a Halloween costume out of household items, and there are 3 loads of urgently-needed dirty laundry congealing in the basement. Despite these facts, I’m honoring my commitment to Lena Webb to post a brief write-up on The Purge 2: Electric Boogaloo Anarchy. If that isn’t deep friendship, I dunno what is.

We (Me, Lena, and Mr. Max) watched this “movie” during a weekend getaway at my parent’s cabin in rural New York. The purpose of rural vacations is to do as little as possible, and pay-per-viewing a bad sequel to a bad movie I never saw (and don’t plan on ever seeing) embodies the best kind of lazy hedonism.

How was it? It was $6.00 well spent. Despite being a cheese-fest, The Purge 2 did not disappoint. The basic premise — continued from the first movie — is that the government allows one Murder Day per year where people can legally go open season on each other. Apparently this is supposed to make the world better or end poverty or something?

There’s a mom and daughter, who we call Not Rosario Dawson (AKA Rosario Dawson, but cheaper) and a… well, the daughter character wasn’t memorable enough to give a funny name.

Despite the whole murder-is-legal today thing, NRD and daughter don’t act very worried. As the sun sets, Mom is making a salad and I think the daughter is doing homework? I feel like I’d be, like, huddling or something. Or at least listening to The Smiths.

Then we meet this indie divorcing couple, who make NRD and daughter look super prepared…  by going grocery shopping at DUSK (!) on All Murder’s Eve. We call the girl Etsy and the guy Gluten Allergy because you know why. They get hassled by some street hooligans who sabotage their car so they have to escape on foot.

You just HAD to go to Trader Joe’s.

Last but not least we meet our rough-around-the-edges hero: Sean Penntel.

He’s angry and broken, but he’s got a gun and a car so everybody hangs around him for protection. Then they lose the car for a reason I can’t remember and have to scamper around the city on foot avoiding roving bands of gangs and stuff. They go to NRD’s friend’s house but the people there are having affairs with each other and start legal murderin’ so they leave. (Mr. Max pointed out that they probably could’ve hid in a dumpster all night and been fine. But they don’t do that because MOVIE.)

Eventually they all get captured by some bounty hunters and auctioned off to rich socialites for, NOT JOKING, an indoor human hunt. The whole thing becomes super derivative of The Hunger Games. Then Sean Penntel fights back and some resistance group that was only mentioned incidentally comes and rescues them all, well except for Gluten Allergy who was killed for being too big of a wuss. Then Sean goes to finish his secret mission, which was to kill the drunk driver who killed his son. He decides not to do it because ETHICS and then a government guy comes to kill him because he’s too anti-purge. The credits roll over some heavy-handed images of American flags and stuff and it’s supposed to be deep and message-y.

And then we all went home.

It’s an understatement to say that Behind The Candelabra is a Lifetime Movie. It’s more than that. It’s a Lifetime Movie as produced by HBO and directed by Steven Soderbergh. It’s a Lifetime Movie that dreams of being the cinematic cousin of Boogie Nights or, at least, Gia. And it almost succeeds, owing mainly to heavy mood lighting and the generous use of silent steady-cam shots. But when that quiet breaks with a line of dialogue like this:

Liberace: I have an eye for new and refreshing talent.
Scott (bitterly): You have an eye for new and refreshing dick.

BOOM – it’s like someone blew a fart in an empty room.

Behind The Candelabra is, in the words of Mr. Max, a bizarre, inexplicable movie. Instead of treading the standard biopic territory of fame/career arc, it focuses mainly on the creepy courtship of Liberace and his employee manservant child stand-in lover paid gigolo boyfriend significant other, Scott.

Their relationship begins when Liberace hires the foster teen — played with cornfed simplicity by Matt Damon – to be his “personal secretary” and chauffeur his enormous fur performance coat (which sounds like a double entendre, but actually isn’t).

Also, to look like a lost member of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Scott moves into the big mansion with Liberace and the rest of his Entourage of Insanity and assumes the role of head-of-household boyfriend prized Pomeranian. He spends his days poolside, making use of his new collection of bedazzled speedos.

Guess what’s also part of Scott’s job description? SEX.

Good thing Scott’s easygoing because it turns out that Liberace has a yen for some pretty freaky stuff. Because it’s HBO and they can’t help themselves, we get lots of scenes involving the singer’s porn addiction, patronage of sex clubs, and penis implants. Mom, if you’re reading this feel free to stop any time.

It’s not all about sex – there’s shopping and jewelry, too (thanks, montage). Liberace even promises to eventually adopt parent-less Scott, which is wrong on too many levels to explain.

Fretting about his aging face, Liberace decides it’s time for a consult with his personal plastic surgeon (played by Rob Lowe wearing a Kato Kaelin mask).


I bet Kato would have been in this if someone had asked.

Scott tags along for moral support and Liberace decides he’d like to front the cash for a new face for him, too. And guess what it should resemble?

A YOUNG LIBERACE, OF COURSE.

I think we can all agree that surgically twinning your romantic partner is unacceptably creepy. Scott recognizes this but is unable to say no to his powerful sugar daddy, so they both go under the knife.

At this point, Mr. Max said, “I think I need a ‘making of’ featurette on the prosthetics used in the making of this film.”.

However, even new faces can’t save the relationship. Horndog Liberace gets a case of the wandering eye and gives Scott the bogus “our relationship is strong enough for us to see other people” chat. They fight a lot, mostly over jealousy and Scott’s addiction to the cocaine “energy pills” the plastic surgeon prescribed for weight loss.

During an argument, Scott voices regret over giving up his dream of being a veterinarian to become Liberace’s kept boy, to which Liberace replies,

“Want to help animals? Clean up some of this dog shit.”

I don’t know about the real Liberace, but as played by Michael Douglas he seems more than a little sociopathic. “Hiring” a boyfriend and forcing him to have plastic surgery to look like you? Taking advantage of troubled youth?

Pretty cold, bro.

Liberace eventually finds other guys to hang with and kicks Scott to the curb. Scott refuses to vacate their palatial home, threatening first to call the police and then the mafia (!) before he’s dragged out of the house by Liberace’s goons.

TIL Liberace had goons. Who knew?

After that, they lose touch, reuniting only briefly before Liberace’s death from AIDS complications.

Serious aside: This part made me think maybe it’s gross to be exploiting a real person’s life story for campy TV schlock? Just maybe?

The final scene takes place at Liberace’s funeral, which dissolves into fantasy when the casket flies away to reveal a ghost Liberace talk-singing “The Impossible Dream.”

REALLY.

I waited until I finished writing this recap/review before I did any googling because I didn’t want to be influenced by (what I assumed would be) a flood of joke reviews and hate tweets. I was stunned to learn that a lot of people think this movie is actually really good. It even won the audience award at Cannes. Huh?

Well, I’m sticking with my story. After all, I predicted that Black Swan would end up on Lifetime even after it won an Academy Award and I WAS RIGHT. It’s only a matter of time for this one.

I imagine that the following scene takes place whenever a science fiction movie is being developed in Hollywood.

Young, energetic screenwriter: I have a great idea for a sci-fi movie. It takes place in a really interesting world, there’s a cool protagonist, and the plot is really riveting.
Movie Producer: Great! It’s been awhile since we had a Star Trek movie. Let’s do that.
Young, energetic screenwriter: Oh, it’s not a Star Trek story. It’s totally new-
Movie Producer: Well, we only do these kinds of movies as Star Wars, Star Trek, or Starship Troopers movies. You’ll have to pick one of those. But don’t worry – you can basically write whatever you want. Just make sure the character is Kirk’s great great-uncle twice removed and that we have a scene of some guys working on the design of the enterprise. Oh, and one of the old-timer actors will have to have a cameo as a time-traveling version of themselves.
Young, energetic screenwriter: Uh…
Movie Producer: Great!

The good thing about Oblivion is that it is not:

1) A Star Wars sequel or prequel
2) A Star Trek reboot
3) A Starship Troopers movie
4) Related at all to any movie in The Planet of the Apes series

And even though it might be Scientology propaganda, there were a few things about this movie that I liked. Namely,

#1 It was based on an unpublished graphic novel, which is the closest thing to an original script we’re ever going to get
#2 The 80s-style synthesizer score
#3 It initiated a hearty game of science fiction movie cliché bingo:

Brainwashed sexy girl

Alien harvesting pod

Morpheus-like wise man

Evil robots

Deepfreeze space travel

Memory wipes

Other than that, it was mediocre. But we left the house. And had popcorn!

And that’s everything I hoped for.

Last week at 2AM, when most of the country was snug in bed, Mr. Max and I were watching the dreadful John Cusack disaster movie 2012 on TV. By choice.

How did we find ourselves enjoying (?) a midnight screening of a third-rate disaster movie? Was it…too much coffee? Misplaced nostalgia for 90s-era end of the world movies? Short-term insanity?

Actually, it was pretty fun in a “Dude this movie is awful” kind of way. Perhaps movie is the wrong term; movie insinuates plot and story, and what we’re really talking about here is a continuous stream of CGI animations of exploding monuments.

I guess they were pretty clear about it, at least.

But I should start at the beginning.

The movie opens up with John Cusack going on a camping trip to Yellowstone Park with some child actors from a cereal commercial, er, I mean his loving children.

Doesn’t it look like this kid is about to eat, or already ate, some Cheerios?

John’s an unhappily divorced author (read: a Gary Stu for the screenwriter) who wrote one unsuccessful novel and now works as a limo driver for obnoxious rich California people.

(I theorize that people who pissed off the screenwriter when he was a waiter in Hollywood likely make cameos as jerky clients.)

Amanda Peet plays the ex-wife who, natch, John Cusack still loves. She’s got a new boyfriend and the minute the guy hits the screen YOU KNOW there’s no way he’s getting anywhere near the closing credits. Why?

1) He interferes with the main love story.

2) Look at his hair.

3) He’s a successful L.A. plastic surgeon and the protagonist is a struggling writer. Boo! Hiss!

Given that this is a cheesy disaster movie, this also means that Douchy Stepdad is fated to nobly sacrifice himself at some point, probably somewhere in the last twenty minutes.

At Yellowstone, Cusack meets Woody Harrelson, a stereotypical conspiracy nut who lives in a trailer broadcasting his own radio station.

TROPE ALERT!!!

I’m a little surprised that they didn’t even attempt to update this tired old stereotype. Do people even broadcast paranoid rantings by radio anymore? Wouldn’t he have a blog or something? Jump into the 21st century, screenwriters!

Woody starts rambling on with the usual crazy-guy-on-a-bus shtick about the end of the world, this time centering on the reversal of the earth’s poles, which apparently will cause all kinds of disaster movie clichés (earthquakes, floods, and even a supervolcano). And, we learn, there’s nothing the scientists can do to stop it. It’s just gonna happen.

So, the 99% are basically screwed. The 1%, however, have an alternate plan: a pass on an exclusive getaway ship.

John heads back to his campsite with eyes a-rolling.

Meanwhile, LA starts feeling the effects of the impending disaster(s). Ex-wife and Douchy Stepdad are in a supermarket when a giant earthquake starts causing completely unrealistic cartoon devastation.

John hears about this and realizes that crazy guy’s predictions are TOTALLY COMING TRUE. Coincidentally (and super helpful to the plot!), one of the rich clients he’s ferrying around is actually on his way to the 99%’s getaway ship.

The rest of the movie is basically the increasingly implausible adventures of this motley crew — unlikely hero John Cusack, spunky child actors, Douchy Stepdad, Ex-wife, and Richie Client and his entourage — as they try to hitch a ride with the billionaires.

Which, as a plan — I gotta say — makes almost no sense. Are they all just going to show up, hoping that the heads of state and CEOs that paid bazillions of dollars for their tickets will just pull out a couch bed and let them crash? Threaten them with…nothing? Bribe them with…nothing?

Yellowstone also starts being attacked by what looks like a screensaver, but is actually part of the same end-of-the-world mega disaster:

Oh no! An animation is after us!

Up until this point, I assumed that the “ships” were spaceships, but it turns out they’re actually beefed up carnival cruise liners designed to float atop the devastation until the end of the world you know…blows over.

Mr. Max and I had been holding regular sidebars during the commercial breaks around the issues related to going into space (radiation, food, and uh WHERE THEY WOULD GO), so I’m glad the screenwriters sidestepped that with a different idea. It’s a dumb idea, but at least it’s a different dumb idea.

The group continue to inch towards China, the secret location of the 1%’s ships (according to Richie Client). Douchy Stepdad is still alive at this point, mainly because the plot needs him to co-pilot the plane (like all lame stepdads, he’s also an amateur pilot). They crash-land and run out of gas.

Now that they’re through using the plane, it’s safe to kill off the unmemorable pilot guy from Richie Client’s entourage. So that happens.

At this point it’s clear that the Director is out back doing some lines, and has placed the entire movie in the hands of overzealous CGI animators. Check it:

I haven’t laughed so hard at a single image since the ridiculous swinging monkeys in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

Oh, man. Gets me every time.

Eventually, after a billion near misses, they stow away on the boats. Then there’s a little bit of a crisis over getting the doors of the boat closed, leading (finally!) to the noble death of Douchy Stepdad.

John Cusack then manages to save everybody and be the hero of everything. In a move designed to create false hope for children of divorce the world over, ex-wife and John Cusack decide to get back together.

(This happens via a sloppy kiss about 3 minutes after Douchy Stepdad’s death. Respectful!)

After a time-elapsing fade-in, we get to the happy ending. It’s months later and the ships have made it through. They set their course for the dry land of Africa, which we’re told has weathered Armageddon surprisingly well. Our reaction follows:

Me: The music is swelling. Is this supposed to be a happy ending?

Mr. Max: I think so. They’re all going back to birthplace of humanity, I guess.

Me: Uh, but everyone on earth aside from a few thousand people just died horribly. And the ships contain, what, the top 400 most cutthroat Western billionaires? Are they going to pull up to the African coast and say, “Hey, it’s cool if we come and take a bunch of your resources, right?” Since when is the re-colonization of Africa a happy ending?

Top 3 Cringe-Inducing Bad Science Moments

There were many more, but here are three notable examples.

1) Even though the machinery on the ship couldn’t unjam the thing keeping the door from closing, superhero Cusack is able to pull it out with his bare hands. He must have built up his superhero muscles holding that boombox over his head.

2) I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you can’t outrun an earthquake fault in a camper van. You just can’t.

Nope.

3) They depict the earthquake disaster model being accurate down to the last second, like a countdown clock. I’m not an engineer or scientist, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how models work.

In Summary:

Pretty bad, but probably a classic. I’m considering making it our Thanksgiving tradition. Also, it gave me the idea to write a funk song and call it “Bluescreen Paradise.”

Bow-chicka-wow-wow.