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The disaster film to end disaster films

Film<br /><strong>2012</strong><br />Cert: 12A<br />BYTHETIME you come blinking out of the cinema, you&rsquo;d be forgiven for thinking it is 2012, so long and exhausting is the latest film from large-scale disaster specialist Roland Emmerich. In Independence Day he had aliens lay waste to the planet until Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum fought back; in Godzilla the giant dinosaur smashed New York to bits, and in The Day After Tomorrow the world froze over. In 2012 Emmerich takes his obsession to something like its natural conclusion, with a film about the extinction of life on planet Earth, in all its fire and brimstone, CGI-powered glory. <br /><br />Brit actor Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a scientist trying to save mankind, John Cusack is the everyman trying to save his family, and Woody Harrelson hams it up as a nutcase conspiracy theorist who saw it all coming. But this isn&rsquo;t about the characters &ndash; if it were, someone would&rsquo;ve bothered to write a script that made us at least half-interested in them. <br /><br />No, this is about grand destruction. Vast chasms swallow up whole cities; mega-volcanoes pop up out of nowhere; huge walls of water cascade through the Himalayas or deposit warships on the White House; and everywhere tiny figures run around before getting flattened in the chaos. <br /><br />It all sounds like a lot of fun, but it isn&rsquo;t. While Independence Day was a light-hearted romp, and the Day After Tomorrow at least was exciting, 2012 is remorselessly morbid and after a while, just boring. And images of skyscrapers toppling to dust while people cling on or leap to their deaths play on contemporary nightmares in a particularly distasteful way. <br /><br />The science is entirely duff, too &ndash; some gubbins to do with a planetary alignment predicted by the ancient Mayan civilisation. Rather than try to make any sense of this gobbledegook, Emmerich just keep destroying things. Whether you enjoy it will depend on how much death and destruction you can take.<br />Timothy Barber <br /><br /><strong>HARRY BROWN</strong><br />Cert: 18<br />Michael Caine returns to his tough geezer routes in this vigilante flick set on some of London&rsquo;s meaner streets. Caine plays the titular character, a pensioner and widower living out a sad existence on a dilapidated housing estate. His one mate, fellow army veteran Leonard (David Bradley) gets done in by a gang of horrible hoodies and after the local coppers fail to successfully prosecute the little rotters, Harry decides he&rsquo;s going to get even himself.<br /><br />This is not a nice film. Under the mask of grainy social realism, it conjures a paranoid vision of modern Britain in which old ladies get shot by feral youths and violence of the most grotesque kind lurks around every corner. Social decay seeps out of every surface, but this is not about revealing the disturbing reality of urban life, so much as creating an exaggerated version of it. To that end, the violence is regular, horrific, and indulgent.<br /><br />Michael Caine puts in a reliably sturdy performance &ndash; what little dignity there is to the film is all bound up in his craggy features. First-time director Daniel Barber clearly has flare, but Harry Brown is a sensationalist movie that doesn&rsquo;t deserve its leading man. <br />TB<br /><br />Theatre<br /><strong>DUKE BLUEBEARD&rsquo;S CASTLE AND THE RITE OF SPRING</strong><br />Eno<br />THE ENO&rsquo;s latest foray into the unconventional won&rsquo;t be for everyone, but it&rsquo;s certainly a gripping spectacle, brimming with unsettling, evocative imagery and numerous exposed private parts. The programme is an unusual pairing of Bartok&rsquo;s Bluebeard&rsquo;s Castle, based on the legend of a Fritzl-style serial killer living in a castle full of corpses and torture chambers, and Stravinsky&rsquo;s Rite of Spring, performed by the celebrated Fabulous Beast dance company. <br /><br />Bartok&rsquo;s music is sinister and expressive, the perfect backdrop for a dark tale of obsession and murder. Judith, Bluebeard&rsquo;s lover, demands access to the inner chambers of the castle and finds bloodied jewels, lakes of tears and worse. She is a bold siren, in good hands with the buxom Michaela Martens, while Bluebeard is played as strangely camp by Clive Bayley. Fabulous Beast unleash a frenetic spectacle in which young women are vastly outnumbered by virile males who dance naked before donning bright dresses &ndash; a splendid version of the Rite of Spring myth in which a young woman dances herself to death before a group of old men. It&rsquo;s a good evening out.<br />Zoe Strimpel