It's the end of the world as we know it this week, with three films examining various scenarios for destruction. First up is the ultimate disaster film, '2012,' Roland Emmerich's treatise on end time via earthquakes and tidal waves. Next comes 'Ponyo,' an animated family fantasy about a little fish who turns into a little girl and threatens the balance of nature. And, finally, there's 'Where the Wild Things Are,' a live-action-puppetry-CGI version of the children's book about a strange land where rampage reigns. '2012'
What It's About: The end of the world. And it's not a mystical or religious end -- simply put, giant solar storms have caused the Earth's core to heat up, unbalancing the planet and causing massive earthquakes and tidal waves. Writer John Cusack finds out about the imminent doom, and makes a gigantic effort -- staying one step ahead of various disasters -- to save his loved ones from destruction.
It's Kinda Like: 'When Worlds Collide' meets 'Independence Day' and 'Earthquake' and 'Deep Impact' and ... well, you get the picture
What We Say: Breathtaking visuals of the destruction of Los Angeles, Paris and the rest of the world overshadows a weak story line about Cusack trying to get his family to China, where the world governments have prepared several Arks -- populated with the best and the brightness of the human race to restart civilization -- to ride out the tidal waves engulfing the planet. Don't think about logic here -- four stars for great fun.
What It's About: A five-year old boy named Sosuke finds a beautiful fish trapped in a bottle, releases the tiny creature and, sure that she is no ordinary fish, names her Ponyo. Ponyo, it turns out, is the daughter of a powerful wizard and a sea goddess, and transforms herself into a human girl, unfortunately creating a dangerous imbalance in nature. The two children must then figure out a way to avert disaster and save the world.
It's Kinda Like: 'The Little Mermaid' meets 'My Neighbor Totoro'
What We Say: No one in the world can do animation like the Japanese Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki. The best of their previous works -- 'My Neighbor Totoro,' 'Kiki's Delivery Service' and 'Spirited Away' -- puts to shame in sheer breadth of imagination and execution almost anything created recently on this side of the Pacific (only 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'The Lion King' and 'Toy Story' come close). This outing -- though a tad watered down in it's story line -- is a visual and visceral delight. Watch it with someone you love.
'Where the Wild Things Are'
What It's About: Maurice Sendak's classic book comes to the big screen in a very unusual adaptation by director Spike Jonze. The film follows the adventures of Max, a mischievous young boy who gets himself in trouble with his mother and, in a fit of anger, runs away. He finds himself in a boat on a stormy sea, transported to an island inhabited by a group of giant Wild Things, where mischief and destruction reign and Max gets to be in charge.
It's Kinda Like: 'Sesame Street' meets 'Lord of the Flies'
What We Say: Although Sendak's 1963 children's book had 10 sentences, 37 pages and 338 words, it beautifully captured the innocence and imagination (and, yes, anger) of childhood, and though Jonze expands on the story by keying in on further issues of rebellion, forgiveness, violence and identity (and uses puppeteers inside nine-foot creature costumes for the astounding Wild Things), we found it difficult to get involved in the story. And, to top it off, no one here is very likeable; not Max, his mom or any of the creatures. Nice try, but no cigar.
Other New March 2 DVD Releases:
'The Private Lives of Pippa Lee'
'We Live in Public'
Check out other new March 2 DVD releases at OnVideo.