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Couch Trip

2012 crackpot theories and Jarmusch tests our limits (surprised?); plus, Anvil thuds in the living room and a hot Madonna

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Published 12/16/2009

Doomsday 2012 
A&E Home Video 

Plucked from the History Channel's Decoding the Past series and repackaged to coincide with the release of Roland Emmerich's 2012 blockbuster, Doomsday 2012 is a compelling compendium of apocalyptic prophesies foreseeing the world's end, coming in three short years. The doc explores the Mayan Long Count calendar at length to make its points, but it also looks to Roman, Greek and British oracles such as Sybil, Merlin and Mother Shipton, monumental texts such as the Book of Revelation and the I-Ching, rare cosmic phenomena, and such technological advances as Internet Web bots, citing a confluence of disparate sources all eyeing the same thing at around the same time. But few of them suggest any specificity regarding the date in question, and their supposedly impressive prophetic track records consist of vague blanket statements. ("There will be deceptive government!") Nevertheless, leave it up to the History Channel to stage dramatic re-enactments and simulated armageddons scored to doom-laden music. Doomsday skeptics are barely given a platform, their views expressed at the very end of the program as a kind of disclaimer, lest anybody really takes this stuff seriously and engages in a post-viewing session of panicky Googling. It's all enormously entertaining stuff, and Emmerich has it right — these are crackpot theories best expressed in the lowbrow milieu of the action movie. —John Thomason

The Limits of Control

In Jim Jarmusch's latest piece of modern art rendered on celluloid, Isaach de Bankole plays a "lone man" (his official credit) noodling around Madrid, wordlessly traveling on a surreal scavenger hunt wherein he exchanges matchboxes with pedantic strangers who riff on film, music, art and scientific theory before passing him tiny papers of obscure symbols which he then swallows before moving on to the next task. More European than most European movies, The Limits of Control is the most patience-testing picture Jarmusch has made since Permanent Vacation, his film-school thesis. Some might consider it the "purest" Jarmusch film ever, whatever that means: bereft of plot, clarity of substance and character identification or motivation. It simply flounders, rudderless, like the Rimbaud quote that opens the movie (you can't say you weren't warned). It's a film so esoteric, so detrimentally personal, that it's shocking Jarmusch ever got funding for it. To the movie's credit, magical cinematographer Christopher Doyle at least makes this thing look great. —John Thomason

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

This funny, poignant and occasionally rocking movie tells the story of a real-life Spinal Tap — old-school Canadian metalheads who never quite hit the big time. Fans such as Lars Ulrich and Slash talk up the band's influence (Anvil's best-known album is Metal on Metal), but it's the guys' own stories that'll leave you cheering. —Michael Gallucci

Celebration: The Video Collection
Warner Bros.

Two things dawned on us while watching this two-disc, 47-song compilation of Madonna's music videos: 1) She was totally hot during her slutty period. 2) She was a star from her very first video, "Burning Up." Madonna may have gotten more annoying and careerist as she got more famous, but her music and provocative videos remain revolutionary. —Michael Gallucci

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