Archive for the ‘Disaster Films’ Category

Cloverfield

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

cloverfield-movie_poster.jpg
A movie with this much hype is almost destined to be awful, so in this respect, Cloverfield didn’t disappoint that much. The whole premise was kind of an interesting idea– a monster movie told in real-time filmed completely by the people experiencing the movie. However, “real time” can be a bitch, complete with the camera dropping, and multiple shoutings of “OH SHIT!” in every scene. It’s a cool idea, but do we really need to set the story up by having 1/2 hour of the characters having a party and talking about their personal lives and stuff? I wanted every single one of those annoying yuppies to get eaten by Godzilla after seeing about 5 minutes of them.

What’s most annoying about this movie is that it’s basically a love story. Underlying the motive of the main character is to save the chick he loves who is trapped in her apartment and other sappy shit. Come on, when I want to see Manhattan get destroyed by a Brooklyn-Bridge-eating reptile or alien or whatever, I don’t want to have to stop to think about how Love May Conquer All. oh yeah, also, the cast members who get injured along the way seem to make miraculous recoveries a lot. That’s the Second Most Annoying Thing in Cloverfield. When I want to see hipster 20-somethings getting mauled by giant spiders and crashing in helicopters, I don’t want to see them running away from danger at top speeds in the next scene.

What I do want is to find out what kind of camera they had, because it had a spotlight, night-vision, a battery that lasts at least 7 hours, can withstand being dropped multiple times, being in a helicopter crash, nearly being eaten by a giant monster, an explosion, and being buried in rubble. I am so buying stock in whatever company made that!

Snakes on a Plane

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

snakes_200.jpgI’ve HAD IT with these MOTHERFUCKIN’ SNAKES on this MOTHERFUCKIN’ PLANE!

It was an experience. It was an atmospheric happening. It was more than simply a movie; it was a collective adventure in cinematic exploration. The barriers between artist and viewer were smashed to a pulp from the moment we entered the theater, as the audience chanted “SNAKES! SNAKES! SNAKES!” over the pre-movie ads for washed up tv shows now running on TBS. The lights dimmed, people cheered. Previews for lame movies dragged on and on, prompting the snake-lovers to hiss, snake-like. When Samuel L.’s name appeared in the titles, joyous hissing, shouting of “SNAKES!” thundrous applause echoed through the cineplex. People cheered at everything cheer-worthy, even when the co-star pulled out a can of Red Bull someone yelled “YEAH PRODUCT PLACEMENT!” and everyone laughed and cheered. At the point in the movie where the snake containment door is counting down to when the snakes are released on the plane, the audience shouted “4… 3… 2… 1… SNAAAAAAAKES!!!” and the cheers were deafening. …And this was all waaaaaaay before Sam even got to his famous line.
The movie itself bucked most disaster movie traditions– there was no smack-worthy hysterical bitch, the old sage person was pretty funny in addition to being heroic and wise, and minimal ethnic people died, if any. It was disastrous, and yet almost parodied the genre, but without havint to resort to guitar-playing nuns and old lady Jive Translators. It was action-packed without being a soulless instant-gratification Stuff Blowing Up movie.

For the unforgettable imagery, there were gratuitous shots of nekkid boobies being attacked by snakes, a snake-on-wang induced death, snakes eating peoples’ eyes out, and even a WARNING: SPOILER small dog became a boa constrictor snack. Basically, a cinematic apex has been reached: this movie has everything. Snakes on a Plane managed to combine the most amusing, tense, and interesting formulas from both slasher movies and disaster flicks– it made you tense wondering who was going to die next (you were pretty much rooting for everyone). However, just when you were pondering the futility of humanity, and thinking about the beauty of simple survival, snakes would jump out and start maiming people and the blood would being to spatter. People don’t usually die Freddy Krueger style in disaster flicks, probably because filmmakers want to be sympathetic to the people in peril (except the obvious baddies who you know will die). Hey, the marrying of two cinematic traditions works for me!snakesoncrack.jpeg

This movie will totally be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show. People already showed up to this one with stuffed snakes, ready to cheer, boo and of course hiss at opportune moments. Coming to a small college auditorium nowhere near you in 20 years– Snakes on a Plane – the Total experience. Forget the wax lips– airline hostess costumes and leis are where it’s at for the reptilian cult of the future! Take note, future Newbury Comics merchandise buyers.

snakesplanefakead.jpg

Poseidon

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

That people had learned their lesson and not named a ship The Poseidon. Besides, aren’t ships supposed to be given girls’ names?

Don’t get your hopes up– this is not the made-for-TV remake of The Poseidon Adventure that starred Steve Guttenberg, Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, and that chick who was Dr. Corday on E.R. I was really excited about that one, but alas, missed it when it aired– perhaps someday people will find it in their heart to put it out on DVD.

Poseidon is the new new remake of The Poseidon Adventure (and possibly Beyond the Poseidon Adventure) that stars Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss. Unlike it’s made-for-tv predecessor, this one didn’t feature terrorists blowing anything up. This version sticks pretty close to the original Poseidon Adventure’s plot line– a rogue wave smacks a cruise liner and before anyone can develop a character or a decent back-story, all hell breaks loose!

This film is in the true spirit of Irwin Allen. Irwin would be proud. Directed by Wolfgang “Das Boot” Petersen, (also responsible for Troy and Enemy Mine) it is the story of 8 Empty Symbols representing different strata of the human condition who are forced to put their differences aside and work together to survive without uttering any swear words.

There’s the Rich but Down-Home ex firefighter turned mayor of NYC (Russell), the overprotective father of a daughter whose main function is to supply some boobs and pout a lot while Daddy disapproves of her spending so much time with her boyfriend. There’s The Boyfriend who is just… well… another guy. He gets his legs pinned under some falling scaffolding that takes the massive strength of 3 people and a lever to extract, yet he barely even limps afterwards. There’s the Nice Young Mom and her young son Conor. The mom spends a lot of time screaming “CONNNNNNNNNORRRRR!” And the son has some “so cute because they sound mature” lines, as well as getting to scream “MOMMMMMMMYYYYYYY!!!!” a lot. There’s a middle aged gay guy who’s about to commit suicide when the wave hits (Dreyfuss), and causes him to find new meaning in life by saving the ass of the hot Latina stowaway chick numerous times (she supplies more boobs and an amusingly obvious underwear shot). who am I forgetting? Oh yeah, the “badass” loner guy. He’s a loner, and a badass. There are also the requisite minor disposable characters who we meet long enough to maybe feel slightly chagrined when they meet their tragic demises.

Unfortunately, although there was plenty of screaming and freaking out, nobody got slapped, in true Irwin Allen tradition. Oh well. Basically, this movie WAS AWESOME! We all know that I love cheesy disaster flicks. The cheesier, and the bigger the budget, the better. This one didn’t scrimp in either category, either. The big budget supplied mangled corpses in nearly every scene, and lots and lots of stuff impressively blowing up. The cheese was supplied by the ragtag band of survivors who had to perform many scary and dangerous tricks to cross gaping precipices, waterlogged airways, narrow tunnels, and fire-filled halls. Though they cry a lot and almost lose hope, only 4 of them end up dying (and two were only minor characters).

Disaster movies are awesome, because you always know *someone* is gonna die. In this movie, it is never completely obvious who is about to kick off. You think, “well, they wouldn’t kill the kid, right?” or WOULD THEY? “They wouldn’t kill the hero, right?” OR WOULD THEY? “They wouldn’t dare off the hot chick…” WOULD THEY!? It will leave you guessing, right until the characters exhale their last breaths.

If you are a fan of movies with brilliant, witty dialogue, fascinating character development, unexpected plot twists and philosophical undertones… stay far away from your local cineplex. However, if you enjoy stuff blowing up and watching people almost drown a lot, head to your nearest movie theater!

Flightplan

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

flightplan.jpg

Jodie Foster is the least sexy person on the planet. It’s a role she plays well; possibly even better now that she had some surgery or something that makes her face permanently grimace a la the Joker. Maybe it’s just her normal sour expression; she’s very good at being dour and businesslike. Normally, I am totally behind any chick who gets to be in movies and not bare her boobs or cleavage once. However, Jodie Foster has always gotten on my nerves for some reason. I think the last movie I liked her in was Freaky Friday.

Ms. Foster plays Kyle, a woman who was living in Germany with her husband and daughter. Her husband inexplicably jumped off a roof, and now his distrought widow is taking their daughter Julia along with his corpse back to the USA.
Conveniently, Kyle is an airplane engine designer, and just happened to have built the engines that are flying the super-duper double-decker jumbo jet that she, Julia, Julia’s touchingly one-armed teddy bear, and a host of random stereotypical characters are flying in. Once aboard the plane, Kyle and Julia change to some empty seats at the back of the plane, where they can stretch out better. When Kyle awakens from her nap… her daughter is GONE!

Frantically, Kyle searches the plane for her, enlisting the help of reluctant flight attendants and even the captain. This is where she starts flipping her shit and you just want to smack her, as does the rest of the flight crew.This is where the movie gets good– it becomes both a disaster film AND a made-for-Lifetime-Channel ovaries-in-peril flick of the “OH GOD, WHERE’S MY BABY!!?!” variety. Watch as Kyle goes more and more nuts looking for her daughter. She even goes so far as to accost some Arab-looking guys whom she claimed were spying on her back in Germany.

The more Kyle flips out, the more information we get from the flight attendants as their exchanged eyerolls turn to concern for their safety from this freaky woman: that nobody was assigned to her daughter’s seat. Nobody with her daughter’s name was on the passenger roster. Then it is revealed… her daughter died in the hospital with her husband; he dragged her with him when he jumped.

Or *did* she? This is where the plot thickens a lot. I won’t ruin it for you, but gallons of cheese drips off of the screen from here on out. Of course there’s a bad guy who confesses his entire plot to her along the way to enlighten the audience (do bad guys really spew monologues at their enemies in times of peril letting them know how they pulled off the heinous deeds they did? If so, why don’t we just carry around more video cameras to tape a confession?). The predictably lame dialog and cheesily sarcastic bad guy only serve to add more cheese to this Jodie Foster fondue.

This movie could have been good. It was vaguely hitchcockian at times, even. I think it was a combination of Kyle’s massive freaking out and the unbelievableness of the badguy and his inside henchman that made this flick too cheesy for words. To be fair, the Bad Guy did get some lame-yet-good sarcastic bad guy lines, like “Hey! Your husband didn’t jump off that roof! He flew!” Jodie also gets some Schwarzeneggerian one-liners like when she discovers the requisite bomb on the plane and detonation device, the Bad Guy says, “What are you going to do? Blow us both up? ” to which she eloquently replies, “No, just you.”

To sum up, this movie will fill a portion of that hole in your heart that hasn’t been satisfied since Passenger 57 (this hole will be completely filled with the forthcoming Snakes On A Plane, out this summer). If you like cheesy disaster movies, and acting so understated it’s overdone (as Jodie Foster has perfected), this may be the one for you.

Armageddon

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Bruce Willis

I thought this would be another run-of-the-mill Forces of Nature Blowing Up NYC movie, but alas, it was not. After NY was blown up, the only other explosion was when Paris was destroyed. Oh well.

Armageddon was another sappy predictable about the near destruction of the world. Most of it looked like a giant Sprint commercial- lots of ethnically dressed people all listening to radios in fields and by Taj Mahal-like structures. The US citizens were represented by children who looked like they just stepped out of a 1950s Disney science film playing on dusty midwestern streets.

At least I’ve discovered my new calling in life- I want to be the person who decides how much time is left in movies. In this one, time was always running out. I can picture the committee deciding on the screenplay- “I think there should be 3.5 minutes left before the asteroid blows up.” “No, I think 7 minutes would make the audience feel more of a sense of hope” “You’re wrong. 2.9 minutes would drive home the concept of pathos” Look for me in the next major big budget Hollywood disaster movie credits!

The Cassandra Crossing

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Richard Harris, OJ Simpson, Sophia Loren

A train is speeding towards the famed Cassandra Crossing. This is the train trestle that people won’t live under for fear of its imminent collapse. This is the last bridge that many concentration camp victims saw in their lives. This is the bridge that we see in many 2 second close-ups of its rusting beams and creaking stock footage. So why is the train speeding towards it? The filmmakers thought perhaps it would speed up the plot. They were wrong.

So now enter a guy in an Aran sweater, who has just introduced the “Mnemonic Plague” (it helps you remember where you left your car keys) to the train. Although he may look like just another harmless Clancy Brother, the Swedish Terrorist enjoys touching and sneezing upon every baby and child he meets, thus infecting the entire train. The Plague causes welts and sweating, and eventually a quick, albeit painful death at the hands of the make-up artists.

It’s now up to OJ Simpson (the undercover priest) and Richard Harris to get the cake out of the rain and stop the train! Will they make it? Who’s at the heart of this international conspiracy? This is a disaster flick and spy movie all rolled into one!

Con Air

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Nicholas Cage, John Malkovich, Colm Meaney, John Cusack

What happens when a bunch of convicted criminals hijack the plane they’re being transferred on? Lots of people get shot, and a lot of stuff blows up. People are forced to use catchy one-line threats such as “put… the… bunny… in… the… box!” before shooting other people.

Nicholas Cage plays the guy who saves the day (but not after crashing the plane into downtown Las Vegas, causing half of the known universe to explode). This movie should simply have been called “Stuff Blowing Up.” John Malkovich co-stars as- guess what? A psycho killer! No way! Did I mention that there are lots of explosions? A truly great one for those who love action/adventure cheese involving bad plot devices and Chief O’Brien. John Cusack plays a good guy who wears Birkenstocks. Don’t miss the gratuitous scene where the psycho cross dresser rocks out to Lynard Skynard. It’s a bonding moment for all the convicted criminals.

Airport ’77

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
SOS! The plane is sinking and we’re out of Vodka!
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Christopher Lee, Gil Gerard, Maidie Norman, Jimmy Stewart

A 747 full of drunken 1970’s movie stars is sure to crash somewhere, so why not the Bermuda Triangle? This particular Jumbo Jet is carrying priceless works of art, as well as millionaire Philip Stevens’ (Jimmy Stewart) daughter, grandson, and twenty of his nearest and dearest. Unfortunately, however, the co-pilot and flight steward are really international art thieves! They install cartridges of nerve gas before take off, so that, at the right moment, they can drug the entire crew and passengers, and fly to plane to Haiti, where they’ll escape with the artwork.

So far, so good. Meanwhile, the passengers are mingling. This plane has it all! There’s a wet bar, replete with Token Black Guy as bartender. There’s Karen Wallace (Grant,) an alcoholic society lady who just wants to tank up on Vodka Tonics, and her husband Martin, who hates her. There’s the blind musician (remember the signing nun in Airport 1975? I guess every Airport movie has to have a musical number) and the girl who loves him. There’s the cute kid, and there’s the token Sweet Old Lady, who happens to be black. Hm, the bartender and Dorothy (Maidie Norman, who played the housekeeper in Baby Jane) are the only two people of color on board the plane. I wonder who’s gonna make it off this wreck and who’s not gonna survive?

Anyway, at the appointed hour, the smugglers take over and everyone on the plane is drugged. Unfortunately, since this is a luxury plane, there are a lot of armchairs and coffee tables, but no seatbelts. In fact, nothing on this plane is bolted down, which pretty much seems like a good idea on a jet. So everyone collapses right where they’re standing, spilling their cocktails and banging their heads on the furniture.

Now the Evil Co-Pilot takes over the plane, flying it low to avoid radar detection. This is important, because five minutes later he encounters dense fog and hits an oil rig. I didn’t know there were oil rigs in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, but maybe that’s where the kids get their patchouli oil from. Anyway, the plane goes down… way down, beneath the waves. Amazingly, the plane is still in one piece! Yes, no water actually enters the passenger areas until much later! This gives the rich people plenty of time to wake up and start panicking.

Luckily for us, Jack Lemmon is the pilot on board this plane. I love Jack Lemmon. He’s so good at playing stressed-out authority figures (see The China Syndrome for an example of this.) Jack runs around taking care of the injured and slapping people out of hysterical shrieking fits. Then he and Martin (the guy who can’t stand his alkie wife) concoct a plan to escape using the plane’s air masks as scuba equipment. Eventually the Navy comes and tries to bail them out. Will they make it? I won’t ruin the thrilling climax!

This is a disaster movie in the grand old tradition, featuring pathos-ridden death scenes and lots a hysterical escape hijinx. Don’t miss the spectacular reunion scene involving a rickety Jimmy Stewart and a nearly-comatose child star!

Cube

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Nicole deBoer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Maurice Dean Wint

Our story opens with a guy waking up in a strange room… He opens a hatch and goes into another room just like the one he was in… then he gets sliced up like a hard-boiled egg in one of those wire egg slicers, and in a fit of bad computer graphics turns into a bunch of little chunks. I had a hard time deciding what category to put this film in. It defies category. Or, rather, it’s so vague it can fit into just about any category.

It starts out with your basic disaster film formula. A motley crew of Canadians are dumped without rhyme or reason into a large structure that looks like it could have been built by Rubik after he was assimilated by the Borg. It is a collection of rooms, identical except for they are different colors. I think the main reason the rooms are different colors is so that it looks like the filmmakers didn’t have to built just one set.

Anyway, we have the basic disaster film characters: the whiny girl who panics a lot, the guy who takes charge, the silent cynical one, the pessimistic guy who spreads panic, and the good doctor. Later on we learn, through minimal plot development, that one Canadian is a policeman, another, an escape artist (but he gets his face eaten off by acid early on), one is a mathematician, and another designed the outer shell of the cube. Later on they are joined by whom everyone thinks is your average retard, but he turns out to be an idiot savant who saves the day. Unfortunately, there’s no real disaster to put this movie on the level with, say, The Towering Inferno.

Some of the rooms are booby-trapped, but Math Girl discovers that the rooms are numbered in a certain way. Only the rooms that are labeled with prime numbers are booby trapped. Sounds like a math nightmare, right? It gets worse. The math starts out sounding relatively plausible, but then goes off into concepts my 500-on- the-math-portion-of-the-SAT- achieving brain can’t comprehend. However, I do know that a number that ends in 5 can never be prime (except for 5), a fact that takes Math Girl several seconds of hardcore brain-wracking to figure out.

I was tempted to label this film a futuristic dystopia, but one of the main points is that it’s taking place today. Yes, even today mild-mannered Canadians can be snatched from their beds and dumped into a big cubical math camp. Of course many bumper stickers have reminded me that The Future Is Now, so maybe this could be futuristic dystopia after all.

Cube is not really a ‘monsters- human and otherwise’ film , because there are no real tangible monsters. I gathered that Cube was supposed to be a psychological thriller, owing to the fact that no enemy is visible. The threat is perceived, and the Canadians turn on each other. The scary part of this movie is supposed to be that there is no real threat.. Who built the cube? “Like Scaramanga- from The Man With the Golden Gun, some rich psycho” is one suggestion. Doctor Lady says “Only the government could have built something this ugly…”

But the scary thing is there is no big conspiracy going on. Whoever built this made a big mistake- each part was designed by a different person who didn’t know what anyone else was doing. The result was a big accident, or rather, “It’s a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan.” So why kidnap innocent people and dump them into the big accident in nothing but underwear and army jackets with their names stenciled on the pockets? “Because they had to do something with it.” Was the answer. I didn’t buy it. Whatever.

One of the most annoying things about this movie is that the characters are constantly chewing on the buttons from their jackets. They do this to stimulate their salivary glands so they don’t dehydrate. As a result, they are always chewing, and the buttons make little clicking sounds against their teeth when they talk. This is really distracting. The buttons come in handy, however, when Math Girl has to figure math problems,. She scratches them out with the button against the metal wall. These must be no ordinary plastic buttons! They can scratch metal as if they were as sharp as nails!

This film has plenty of speeches on morality, pep speeches, as well as other speeches (another convincing argument to place it firmly within the Disaster category). However, the dialogue is totally cheesy, the characters undergo rapid personality transplants, and the plot has many little holes in it, thus meriting it many a Swiss cheese. Did I mention the irritating music? It was a loop of a woman whispering over ethereally synthesized music with what sounded like teeth chattering in the background. Basically, stick Enya in a freezer with a Casio and you’ll come out with this soundtrack. But all in all, this was a very nice cheesy low budget flick!

Noah’s Ark

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: John Voight, Mary Steenburgen

After staring open-mouthed at the TV screen for 2 and a half hours, I finally came to a conclusion as to why it was created. It was actually an insidious plot to get us to read the Bible. Why else would they take the story of Noah’s Ark and totally change it? It causes you to question every detail of the story. Well it worked. I read the Bible section devoted to Noah and his aforementioned boat, and I was amazed at exactly how short it was. I mean, the whole Noah episode takes up exactly 1 and 1/2 pages in my Bible (3 paragraphs in my illustrated children’s Bible). I guess that’s why the filmmakers felt the need to throw in a little Sodom & Gomorrah being destroyed, some townspeople rioting, and plenty of potty-humor.

Ah yes, the potty humor. Shem and Japheth (Noah’s sons) keep mentioning the poop. Who’s going to clean up all of the animals’ poop? Japheth even manages a nice, clean, made-for-TV “shhhhh…” as he slips on the animal poop. Hardy har har!

There’s lots of boozing and lust as well. Noah is quite the lush, always with his bottle of wine. But then, he was a bit of a boozer in the Bible, but not until after the whole ark episode. As for the lust, well…Noah’s sons and their fiancees (in the Bible they were actually married, but this makes for more lewd jokes) throw lots of innuendoes around. Ham is really intent on slipping Ruth, his intended, the sausage, for example! Shem’s girlfriend keeps mentioning how it would be nice to be naked. Another hearty har har har!

There is also the disaster element. In the beginning, Noah is actually a citizen of Gomorrah. God tells Noah of his destructive intentions, and proves it by making some stock footage of Mt. St. Helen’s explode. Noah must then lightly hop over streams of rapidly flowing computer animation, er, lava in order to get home. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed with another rain of computer animation fire balls from heaven. Even the rats catch on fire and neglect to stop, drop, and roll, as they run around with flaming fur (does PETA know about this?)

Also in the destructive vein, watch the Ark crash into Mt. Ararat with a loud, splintering bang. We watch with anticipation as the Crew of Noah’s Ark prepare to smash to their deaths in a Titanic-esque collision. Never mind the fact that giant animal-laden boats don’t generally drift around at high speeds, a disastrous crash was in order. All in all, this movie merits the highest cheese rating a film can possibly earn! It annoyed both movie connoisseurs and fundamentalist Christians! What more could you want? Oh yeah-you could want the salesman. The other survivor of the flood besides Noah & Co. was a traveling salesman on a funky homemade barge. This allowed Noah and family the opportunity to shop while floating through the sea of God’s destruction. See, God is benevolent after all! He wouldn’t deprive his favorite human of the opportunity to shop, even after He destroyed the greed and avarice-filled human race. Alert the philosophers!

S.O.S. Titanic

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Helen Mirren, Susan St. James, Cloris Leachman

What was life like aboard the Titanic? Well, if you think it was like it was in the movie S.O.S. Titanic, then it was a lot like a very friendly singles’ bar. Yes, this fabled unsinkable ship was basically a big meat market. People spent an awful lot of time falling in love, and we see the development of many different relationships, budding and old, as we jump from romantic sub plot to romantic sub plot.

Aside from all of the people who find each other and fall in love, everyone else is so darn nice! Even as the ship is sinking, people are offering their coveted spaces aboard crowded life boats to old ladies and children. And everything turns out just dandy in the end. The guards who are preventing the steerage class passengers onto the boats, eventually let them break through the gates and into freedom. Even the rich lady ends up bonding with her Irish maid. none of our protagonists die, except for the Irish Guy. But that’s Ok, because he died nobly. All is very hunky dory.

Unfortunately, the fact that they’re all on the Titanic is not really that big a deal. I mean, you could have taken all of these people, given them bikinis and just as easily have put them the Love Boat.

Daylight

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Sylvester Stallone

Some crazy punks smash their car in the Lincoln Tunnel, causing mighty explosions at both ends, killing most people. The ragged diverse band of survivors are now trapped inside with water seeping in. Who will save them? Sylvester Stallone, a cop who was fired for some long drawn-out plot point reason!

The movie then turns into The Poseidon Adventure as they make their escape. You know the formula- hysterical panic… inspirational speech… somebody dies… more inspirational speeches and hysteria… and it goes on until they finally are thrown to the surface of the Hudson River by (yet another) explosion.

This movie has it all! The Lincoln Tunnel has jets of explosive gas that run along its walls. The flames shoot higher and higher as more water gushes in. An A- for cheese!

Atomic Train

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Columbine? JonBenet Ramsey? Ha! Colorado’s ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Starring: Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, Esai Morales, Sean Smith

We open on gratuitous shots of smoldering train wrecks, complete with fake TV coverage of them. Then we see a school bus that just happens to stall out on a railroad track survive a near-miss with a train whose brakes are fried. What does this have to do with Atomic Trains? I think it’s setting up the fact that all the trains in this movie are in crappy condition. This is central to the first 2/3 of the plot.

The first 2/3 of the plot begins when the bad (you can tell by his trench coat and goatee) money-grubbing head of a shipping company puts an ancient (and armed) Russian nuclear bomb aboard a train headed for Denver. He lists the package as being “caviar” in order to avoid having to have it properly shipped and insured. He makes sure it’s cozily packed among crates of sodium and other highly volatile chemicals, on the car adjoining a flatbed loaded with barrels of nuclear waste and other explosive chemicals (as well as crates ominously marked “zirconium.”) Uh-oh! The brakes on the train are gone! It’s going to crash, with all of its crew aboard, and detonate the bomb! What are we going to do? Well for starters, we can learn the histories of everyone involved, and play “Guess the Goner:” The Token Black Guy on the way to his wedding is going to get it for sure {Rule of Movie Making #213: Token Black Guys are always among the first to go}. The guy with the grandkids might make it, but the red-haired rookie is definitely dead meat.

Meanwhile, John Seger (Lowe) Our Protagonist, an agent for the NTSB (we don’t learn what this is an acronym for until the film is almost over. I think it’s National Train Safety Board or something) is having domestic troubles. His wife’s ex-husband (Morales) is a pain in the butt, his attempts at bonding with his step son (the revoltingly angelic Sean Smith) are not flying too well, and he can’t pry his attitude-laden teenage daughter loose from her Aryan Hanson-esque boyfriend. Things couldn’t get any worse– until he gets recruited to help stop the Atomic Train.

John must then perform all sorts of death-defying feats in order to try to prevent nuclear devastation. He climbs down a rope ladder from a helicopter onto a speeding train. He leaps from one speeding train to another. Unfortunately, no matter how many times he defies the laws of gravity, John can’t make the train stop. The train speeds along unfettered, causing the rest of the train crew members to seriously injure themselves by doing dangerous things like falling off chairs.

The President of the US (Edward Herrmann, who had lots of leadership experience playing FDR in Annie), gets involved in this crisis. Tense scenes between the Leader of the Free World and his aging staff erupt as Mr. Pres. tries to act in the best interest of his people in the face of adversity. Will derailing the train save the city? Will he have the Air Force shoot missiles at the train to save it? If the president had only listened to me shouting at the screen, he could have solved the problem in the first 15 minutes of the movie. Of course, if he had been smart enough to prevent unstable armed nuclear warheads from being transported on old defective trains, we could have spent 2 1/2 hours doing something more constructive. but such was not the case.

The president orders the train derailed, where the toxic and volatile chemicals ignite, threatening to detonate the nuclear bomb. Luckily, the chief of police, Token Black guy #2, is an expert at diffusing aged Russian atomic bombs. Can he save Denver in time? Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Ok, I’m going to spoil the next part. It’s fairly obvious, though, because we’re only up to the first 2/3 of the movie now. As the Laws of Moviemaking are strictly adhered to, Token Black Guy #2 is blown to smithereens. Had he been a white woman, he probably would have de-fused the bomb in time and saved the town, the universe, and his dog. Unfortunately, he couldn’t overcome the Plight Of the Token Movie Black Guy, and, along with the city of Denver, in a blinding explosion of stock footage proportions, was annihilated.

This brings us to the last third of the film– the Aftermath of Destruction. John must now reunite his family and save all from the strips of newspaper falling from the sky– I mean fallout. Luckily, John and his family have survived the nuclear blast by hiding out in a stack of cement culverts that were able to block the nuclear wind. They must now get to a refugee camp. But how? all of the vehicles built after 1979 are useless due to their now fried computer chips! They must now split up– Bratty Teen girl and Angelic Boy go with John’s wife’s ex-husband on a hotwired vintage Harley. Teenage Girl’s wimpy dying boyfriend and John’s wife go with a priest in a school bus full of refugees. Conveniently, the driver of a nice old MG dies at the wheel right in front of John. He jumps in the car and races to catch up with the kids & ex-husband, as they head for a shortcut through the Abandoned Mine.

Luckily, the electricity is still on at the abandoned mine, so the lights are all on. They allow everyone to happily bond before the Ex-husband falls into a mine shaft and die while saving his son. More perilous stuff happens, everyone is reunited, the dying boyfriend snaps out of his coma, and everyone participates in a barn raising. The End.

Wow. That’s all I can say. This was 2 disaster movies in one! This is a pure, unadulterated 2 1/2 hours of low budget made-for-TV cheese. It’s brilliant! You’ll stare in wonderment when the Ex-husband has a showdown with some mean militia members! You’ll be at the edge of your seat as Token Black Guy #2 races to de-fuse the atomic bomb while his feet are aflame! You’ll ask yourself “what were the filmmakers thinking? Why weren’t they working on a sequel to the Nancy Kerrigan Story?”

The China Syndrome

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Nuclear engineers aren’t “Fonda” Jane!
Starring: Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas, Jack Lemmon

This is the story of Kimberly Wells, a plucky young reporter who wants to break out of the community bulletin beat and into “hard news.” While on assignment at a nuclear power facility, Kimberly and her crew steal some footage of what appears to be a critical situation in the control room. They try to put it on the air, get in trouble with their bosses, uncover secrets, and… stuff.

Maybe I’ve lost my ability to take movies seriously, but I was really hoping this would be a disaster movie in the grand tradition of The Towering Inferno. Alas, aside from the quasi-exciting beginning, and the tension-filled ending, most of the middle of this movie was pretty boring. It turns out that the contractors who built the power plant, as well as the people who run it, customarily skimp on safety checks, rendering the plant as unstable as a wino on Mass. Ave. It’s only a matter of time before the whole thing blows, and the molten nuclear core bores a hole straight through the earth, all the way to… China! The dreaded China Syndrome! However, before this happens, it’s much more likely that the core would simply hit ground water and cause a major steam eruption, completely vaporizing all of Southern California. Sounds pretty good to me!

Kimberly meets Jack Godell, (Lemmon) a senior engineer at the plant, who slowly uncovers the mystery. Jack knows that the plant is a ticking time bomb, ready to go off like a drag queen in K-Mart, yet nobody seems to give a shit what he thinks. Therefore, his only option is to go insane, eventually holding the control room hostage. Kimberly’s there, of course, because it’s the scoop of a lifetime. Watch for the pathos-filled surprise ending!

That’s about all I can say about this movie. It was actually pretty good, but somehow I find myself strangely at a lack of anything to say about it. Probably this movie was way more exciting in 1979, before armed stand-offs became a staple of the high school experience. Today, a crazed gunman in a nuclear power facility seems, well, a little banal. However, this shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment of the many twirling, spinning, and blinking “enunciator” lights in the control room set. This movie was kind of like “Space 1999” meets “This Old House.”

Irwin Allen’s Hamlet

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Charo, Christopher Lee, Molly Ringwald

It seems like everyone’s re-doing Shakespeare these days. Irwin Allen jumps on the Postmodern bandwagon in this rendition of the Bard’s best-known work. Of course, Allen, the Disaster Movie King, couldn’t resist throwing in what he does best. So Good Ole Bill probably didn’t forsee a big shipwreck scene when Rosekrantz (Damon Wayans) and Guildenstern (Martin Lawrence) take Hamlet to England. Little known is the scene that Shakeaspeare actually cut out, involving a big fire in Elsinore. Originally, Shakespeare thought it might be too hard for Elizabethan producers to stage. However, Allen stages this scene from the newly restored version with remarkable respect for the time period. In this original version, Ophelia (Molly Ringwald) hurls herself from the window of the burning castle (in this case it’s the Elsinore Hotel in Vegas) to commit suicide. Are you reading this review in manic anticipation? Are you drooling at the prospect of such a thing? Well, sorry, this movie doesn’t actually exist. It should, but doesn’t. If it ever gets made, I will keel over and die a happy camper.

Air Speed

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Joe Mantegna

This is a heart warming tale of how the threat of a plane crash can bring a family closer together. It’s also a study in bad wig design. Every single person in this film wears a bad wig, except perhaps the daughter. This could have been a great film, had they spent as much money on screen writers as they did on bad wigs!

Anyway, our story begins with Nicole, the angsty often-ignored 13 year old daughter of a Computer tycoon. She has been kicked out of her 3rd boarding school, and is on her dad’s private jet on her way home to see the Family. She has stolen her dad’s most prized possession, a baseball bat belonging to some famous baseball player. “He loves it more than he loves me” she whines piteously to her dad’s personal secretary (sob sob).

Nicole, Andrea (dad’s secretary) and Frank (a fat guy who also works for Dad) are in for the ride of their lives. They’re flying right into a storm. Lightning strikes the plane and almost kills the pilot and copilot. Nicole must fly the plane by herself, with only the aid of a hip young flight controller who has the worst wig in the entire film.

Can the endangered flight be rescued in time? Can Nicole stop whining long enough to save the day? Several botched attempts are made to unload the passengers from the plane before Nicole makes a prefect landing with it. This landing was perfect! I’ve never been in a plane that landed so well! It didn’t even bounce! Perhaps the next time I fly in a plane, I should get a bratty teen in peril to land it. Anyway, if there’s one thing that will make a pouty adolescent grow up, and make a distanced Dad realize how much he loves his little girl, it’s the threat of aviation catastrophe. Perhaps you should keep this in mind the next time you’re in the middle of a family argument. “See you later, Dad! I’m off to fly a 727 in the rain!” It could work!

Hard Rain

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Minnie Driver

This film is about people who are incredibly bad shots. There are good guys, and bad guys, and guys who you think are good until they undergo rapid personality transplants and turn out to be bad. There is also the bad guy who turns out to not be so bad after all too. Whatever their differences in moral fortitude, however, all characters are united by the fact that they are all incapable of hitting their targets with firearms. The result is endless shootout scenes.

I almost forget the main point of the film- it’s raining really hard and the dam is about to burst in this small midwestern town. The drivers of an armored car carrying lots of money become stranded in this town. Tom the driver (Christian Slater) decides that he’s going to defend the money with all his might. Some bad guys decide they’re going to steal the money. Luckily, all the citizens who have not been evacuated keep boats floating outside of their windows, which results in many boat chases, and lots of wasted ammunition. Tom meets Karen, (Minnie Driver) an art restorer, and they of course hit it off, each rescuing the other from drowning. This always makes sparks fly in movies.

This combines many cheesy elements- Good vs. Bad, Natural Disasters, Triumph over Adversity- the works.

Airport 1975

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
An all-star cast plunge to their deaths!
Starring: Karen Black, Charlton Heston

Is it just me, or is Auto Pilot the most amazing invention ever devised by mankind? I only ask, because even when a small private plane crashes head-first into a 747, the autopilot nonetheless manages to keep the plane aloft for hours without so much as beeping. It’s too bad they don’t build cars the way they build autopilots! Ever notice that any time a car so much as runs over a squirrel in a major motion picture, it instantly bursts into flame?

Anyway, the above scenario (the one with the airplanes, not the one with the squirrel) is the basis for Airport 1975. Nancy (Black) is a plucky, cross-eyed flight attendant who’s dating a pilot, Murdock (Heston.) Since they both have crappy jobs, they don’t get to see each other much, and the film opens on them having a minor tiff. Poor Nancy! She’s so high-maintenance! Anyway, Murdock has to fly somewhere, and Nancy has a 747 full of cameo stars (like Linda Blair, Jerry Stiller and Gloria Swanson) to flight-attend to. But they’ll see each other in LA, and work out their differences there.

Unfortunately, no! There’s a few boring expository scenes of this other guy (I forget his name, we know he’s gonna get it, so it’s not important) flying his twin-prop home from somewhere or other, and he doesn’t feel well, yadda yadda yadda… so get on with it and crash already! Everything’s going fine until the two planes approach the airport… suddenly, the guy in the Cessna has a heart attack and dies! The tiny plane spins out of control, and manages to head straight for the 747!

The Cessna rips a hole in the co-pilot’s side of the cockpit, which manages not to damage anything necessary for flying the plane. It does, however, suck the co-pilot right out of his seat! Nancy’s there, and she gets to scream a lot. The Captain’s suffering from a nasty concussion, and has to be moved to the lounge area. Meanwhile, the passengers thrash from left to right in their seats as the camera pans back and forth!

Even though there’s a huge, gaping hole in the cockpit, Nancy somehow manages to breathe while piloting the plane. Lots of things malfunction, and Nancy gets to cry and hyperventilate in a cute way. Eventually, her boyfriend Captain Murdock tries to board the plane through the hole, while hanging from a rope off a helicopter. Will he make it?! Nancy sticks her tongue out at him encouragingly (we didn’t understand this; but watch and see.)

There’s even a special guest appearance by Helen Reddy as a Singing Nun, who entertains a poor girl dying of kidney failure (Linda Blair) as the Airplane cruises to disaster! The cheese doesn’t get any thicker than this!

Virus

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland, one of those Baldwins

A Russian communications ship is in the middle of the ocean communicating with the Mir Space Station. Suddenly, something attacks the space station and blows everything up on earth and in space. What was that? Cut to a small tugboat staffed by an international crew led by an Ahab-esque megalomaniacal captain (Sutherland), and Kit, the moral, independent navigator (Curtis.) During the eye of a typhoon, they come upon the abandoned Soviet ship and Captain Everton decides to claim salvage rights. He and Steve, another crew member (Baldwin), get to parry all sorts of rules of maritime law between them at this point, debating the legality of running into an oddly abandoned multi-million dollar ship in the middle of the sea and just claiming it. In an accent that I think was supposed to be Irish, Captain Everton gets more and more insane and greedy as he thinks about all of his potential riches.

However, Virus transcends the barriers of a mere greedy-person-trying-to-keep-all-the-money-at-all-costs flick, it also functions as a disaster movie (the impending typhoon) and a monster/sci-fi movie. The sci-fi element was by far the cheesiest. The sci-fi element takes over when we discover that an alien force has beamed itself aboard the Russian ship and taken control of the mainframes. from there, it took control of the “state of the art robotic lab” that just happened to be on board, and started building robots. Not content with mere robots, the alien force started killing off Russian crew members to turn them into more robots. It’s definitely cool in a Borg-like sort of way when the alien-possessed robots start attaching robotic limbs to the corpses. The most advanced robot has 6 arms, and the only visible human part remaining is its teeth. After all, human teeth are much more effective than, say, metal spikes or other robotic devices they could have built.

The crew members decide that the best way to solve their differences and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, is to try to communicate with the aliens through a computer terminal. Luckily, the Russian ship’s mainframes contained useful information on how to speak, read, and write in English, allowing the Alien Force is able to tell the crew members to basically bugger-off, because they’re about to be turned into spare parts factories anyway. Ooh- the irony!! The aliens consider the humans to be a “virus!” The Captain, in his ever-fluctuating accent, tries to form an alliance with the aliens by typing “Everton is the dominant life form,” thinking it will earn the aliens’ respect. It doesn’t, as is fairly predictable. Donald Sutherland makes a mighty good alien- possessed half robotic corpse, though!

The end, like all good monster flicks, is left wide open for a sequel, which is usually the scariest part. When will we have to subject ourselves to Virus II? And we know we will, because of the pleasantly high cheese factor!

The Poseidon Adventure

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

I must admit it, I think Irwin Allen is a genius! I LOVE disaster flicks, and I can’t get Airport ’77 anywhere in my town!

Anyway, the Poseidon Adventure happens when the crew of the Poseidon stare at the radar screen of the ship saying things like “There’s a wall of water coming towards us!” “It must be huge!” Then, without warning, a giant wave smashes the ship, causing it to flip over.

A band of ragged survivors (as any good movie will have) then alternately argues and pep-talks its way to survival. There’s the wimpy girl, Nonie, who squeals and cries, and hysterically shrieks “I can’t go on!” a lot. There’s Ernest Borgnine, the cop who marries a former hooker. There are others too, the usual stereotypes who come together and forget their differences to argue, die and offer words of encouragement in an effort to reach a common goal. I’m sniffing already.