Reel Critics:

Tales of monumental destruction are the specialty of director Roland Emmerich. He stomped us flat with “Godzilla.” He destroyed the White House with relish in “Independence Day.” And the whole city of New York took a mighty big hit in “The Day After Tomorrow.”

In “2012” he takes two hours and 40 minutes to offer his vision of our planet’s total devastation. A shower storm of solar radiation overheats the Earth’s core. The complete cracking of the outer crust causes gigantic earthquakes. Shifting tectonic plates suddenly make Wisconsin our new North Pole.

Tidal waves 1,500 feet high lay waste to every continent. Of course the special effects are state-of-the-art and provide the heart pounding thrill ride that sells tickets. Entire cities tumble into the abyss in minutes. Millions of people die in the blink of an eye, with little emotion created.

John Cusack plays a father trying to keep his family one step ahead of Armageddon. They uncover a modern turn on Noah’s Ark.

Wealthy people and politicians prepared giant ships in China to ride out the flood waters. The race to get a place on the arks drives the human story. But a lot of this plot borders on the ridiculous. The epic length of the film leaves plenty of room to wish more time was given to the great special effects and less to the lame dialogue.

Hope tempers wrenching heartache in ‘Precious’

Seldom have I been as stunned into silence by a film as “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” It is agonizingly intense yet heartfelt and hopeful, thanks to performances that jump off the screen.

Claireece “Precious” Jones is a poor, overweight 16-year-old from Harlem who is pregnant for the second time by her father. Her mother (a fearsome, fearless Mo’Nique) makes no secret of her hatred for Precious because she has “stolen” her man. The verbal and physical abuse heaped upon this family is almost too much to witness.

Precious is given an opportunity to attend an alternative school and, without even knowing what it is, she grabs at this chance for a life outside her dismal existence.

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is riveting in the title role. Her stone face is her defense against the emotions raging within her and against her, but when she lets her guard down, the emotional outpouring is indelible. Through her voice-overs and fantasies we see that she is quite pretty with a droll sense of humor.

This is not an easy film to watch, and nothing gets wrapped up in a tidy package at the end.

It’s a sad truth that there are many like Precious in the world, and what a reminder to the rest of us to count our blessings.

JOHN DEPKO is a Costa Mesa resident and a senior investigator for the Orange County public defender’s office. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

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