There are probably better ways to spend Earth Day than lounging on the couch watching movies, but you can't spend the entire 24 hours picking up litter, recycling and attempting to ease the guilt of not biking everywhere every day. Besides, it might rain, so you need a backup plan. Hello DVD collection. And hello to some films about the earth you may have missed, may want to miss or just need to view again. Watching them might do wonders for your sense of self worth. Or not.
To start with, Earth Day marks the DVD release of a small, independent sci-fi art-house film you probably missed called Avatar, directed by newcomer James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver and teeming with environmental allegories from a distant planet called ... oh, never mind. You did see this film. Twice. And yeah, it was good, but the loss of a dimension on the television screen is going to make all those bioluminescent night scenes a lot less trippy.
Speaking of Sigourney Weaver, this isn't her first foray into the environmental-themed feature. If you were unlucky enough to have seen the American version of the BBC's "Planet Earth" in 2007, you know something was missing. That would be legendary British naturalist David Attenborough, who narrated the original with gravitas and whom the Discovery Channel apparently deemed too elitist for a U.S. audience. So they made changes to the script (damn you metric system!) and dubbed Attenborough over with the monotone Weaver, who is not a naturalist, and who will always be remembered for playing the Gatekeeper in Ghostbusters. (Ghostbusters, by the way, is our Earth Day recommendation for the enthusiastic Tea Partiers who rallied downtown last week. What anti-government crusader won't love a movie where the Environmental Protection Agency is nearly responsible for the destruction of humankind?)
"Planet Earth" isn't the only BBC series bastardized with poor narration by Discovery Channel. This time it's the 12-part "Life," and this time they dubbed Attenborough with Oprah Winfrey. It's hard not to feel insulted. I've watched portions of three episodes, each more grating because Oprah's second-grade-level science narration makes me angry that no one at Discovery respects my intelligence. I'll wait until the BBC version is released June 1 to watch the rest.
For dumbed-down Earth Day viewing that won't leave you angry, try Idiocracy, the 2006 Mike Judge film that barely made it into the theaters and failed to gain anything approaching the cult status of his previous classic, Office Space. Here, Luke Wilson plays an army private who volunteers for a new military hibernation program and is subsequently forgotten about for half a millennium. He's awakened by the Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505, only to discover he is now the smartest human on a planet gone to hell. It's not the smoothest of satires, but how can you not appreciate a film that introduces us to a future with Costco University? It's also nice to see Wilson before he let himself go in those ubiquitous AT&T commercials.
To sober up after some sci-fi satire and feel guilty about every bottle of Dasani you've ever purchased, give Tapped a try. You may remember hearing about this one because it screened at the Big Sky Film Festival, where it presented a damning case against the multi-billion dollar bottled water industry. Learn all about the corporations that drain local aquifers in Maine for a nominal fee and the nasty environmental impact of all that plastic now floating in the oceans. And feel uneasy at the fact the government doesn't even have one full time employee to regulate the industry.
The Day After Tomorrow
Depressed yet? Try and cheer yourself out of the Earth Day blues by watching one of the more ludicrous natural disaster flicks of the past 15 years. Say what you will about the questionable science—some ice ages take 10,000 years to form, this one takes a few weeks—but at least the special effects are pretty good. The film also marks the third time that director Roland Emmerich has destroyed all or parts of New York City (Independence Day and Godzilla are the others), but the first using the natural means of ice, snow and water. Though still technically a climate change movie, this one probably didn't make Al Gore's Top 10 in 2004.
Finally, imagine a world 700 years in the future in which environmental degradation and neglect has forced all humans to flee Earth, leaving behind a barren wasteland of trash and pollution. Not exactly a feel good flick, unless that movie is a CGI production featuring anthropomorphized robots who fall in love. Wall-E falls somewhere in the middle of Pixar's extensive resume of hit films over the last 15 years. The silent apocalyptic landscape showcased in the movie's first 20 minutes is stunning. And the obesity epidemic among the remaining humans in outer space seems plausible. The silly robot romance that ensues, however, is harder to believe than the cooking rodent in Ratatouille.