Posts Tagged ‘Deadly Virus’

MOVIE: Virus X (2010)

October 23, 2011

Mom and I rented this movie last weekend expecting it to be so terrible we’d have to give up on it.  For one thing, the DVD box’s graphics made it look like a bloody horror flick — not Mom’s thing — and for another, it was only 85 minutes long, thus violating our B-Movie Law of 90, a law we developed after years and years of careful experimentation which states that B-movies tend to become exponentially less good-bad and more bad-bad for every minute under 90 they are in length.  At 85, therefore, we knew this one had a five-times-greater likelihood of being utter bollocks.

BUT, the title and description intrigued us enough to want to give it a shot — we’re suckers for movies about deadly viruses, you see.  Sometimes when we take a risk like this, we don’t last ten minutes.  Other times, though, we end up having a ball.

And hey, if you’re not living on the good-bad movie edge, you’re taking up too much space, right?  Um, or something.

Happily, Virus X, though flawed, turned out to be a BALL kind of movie, not a BOLLOCKS one.  Oh, frabjous day!

It’s about a team of scientists in a lab hidden away in an industrial building somewhere, working, or so they think, on a cure for H1N1 (swine flu).  As part of their plan to eradicate the disease completely, they’ve begun genetically altering the virus, developing vaccines for each new strain they create.

Things seem to be going well until the day the scientists are all sitting around eating lunch (in the near-dark, by the way — after spending all their funding on equipment, they apparently did not have enough money over for lamps. I would imagine this might make science rather tricky, though it never seems to stop CSI:NY), when a young woman with a needle sticking out of her arm bursts in, followed quickly by a weird-looking dude dressed in head-to-toe black leather and equipped with a very large handgun.  Which he promptly uses to shoot the girl in the head, her blood spattering all over the scientists sitting, agape, right behind her.

Weird Dude in Black turns and leaves just as the lab’s exposure alarm goes off, locking all the doors and sealing the gang in.  They’ve been contained.  Quarantined.  And it doesn’t take long for Malcolm to figure out why: they’ve all been exposed to the newest strain of H1N1 he’d discovered, a particularly aggressive and thus-far incurable strain called “H1N1 X.”

Now, here’s where it gets a little silly(er).  They’re a group of scientists specializing in H1N1 vaccines, so you’d think their next move would be to get to work on a cure for themselves, right?  But no, instead, they mostly just yell a lot and start making out with each other. Which, granted, is probably what I’d do myself if I knew I only had three days to live.  But then, I am not a virologist.  I think this movie would’ve been far more interesting had they started making love to SCIENCE instead of to each other, but, you know, que sera, etc.

In between ranting and smooching, however, the group slowly begins to discover the truth about their work.  Dr. Gravamen, it turns out, has been hired by a nasty old biddy who wants him to create the perfect deadly bug so that she can wait for panic to break out, and then release a vaccine, raking in gazillions of dollars from the terrified masses. The young woman was a prostitute — one of several victims kidnapped by  Weird Dude in Black to serve as test subjects for Nasty Old Biddy’s killer bug.  When the team of scientists were infected, Nasty Old Biddy told Gravamen to let them die — six test subjects for the price of one!  But what she and Weird Dude in Black didn’t count on was Gravamen having a conscience.  Can he help the team before it’s too late?  And stop Nasty Old Lady’s nefarious plan?  And possibly, for kicks, blow Weird Dude in Black’s creepy head off?

Don’t you wish you knew?!

Definitely a lot more fun than the box makes it look, and well worth a rental for fans of the good-bad deadly virus flick genre.  (Which, granted, is probably is a fan club consisting of about three members:  me, Mom, and the mother of whoever wrote the screenplay for Virus X, who will watch it just to support her son, cringing all the while.  But still.  Not bad for 99 cents, is what I’m saying.)

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Science Fiction, Deadly Virus
Cast:  Jai Day, Domiziano Arcangeli, Joe Zaso, Dylan Vox, Sybil Danning, Sasha Formoso

MOVIE: Contagion (2011)

September 22, 2011

I love virus movies.  Always have.  I’m a bit of an armchair science nerd, see, and have long found viruses incredibly fascinating — the way they can so rapidly adapt or mutate to thrive in new sets of circumstances or hosts has always made them seem almost intelligent to me, even though we know they are not sentient beings (OR ARE THEY, MUA HA HA HA!).  Of course, the very thing that makes them so interesting is also what makes them so deadly; viruses are hard to kill and often impossible to predict.  As fast as we can come up with a way to fight them, they can shift behavior, making our cures useless against them.  And this, my friends, is what makes virus movies so goddamn thrilling.  It’s always about working against the clock — beat it before it beats you.

That said, virus movies are also pretty much the same when it comes to overall story trajectory — someone gets sick, they get others sick, the infection spread exponentially (usually illustrated by a PowerPoint slide featuring a map of the world and gasps from the crowd), someone finds a cure, the world is saved.  Occasionally, there are zombies (though, alas, not here).  But essentially: same same same.  What makes each film unique are the characters, their relationships, and the situations in which they find themselves.

While Contagion has all the usual suspects there too (for example, it seems we must always have one primary medical character come down with the virus him/herself, as well as at least one evil politician who makes the whole mess worse — I always refer to that character as “the mayor of Amity,” for reasons Jaws fans will understand), what I liked about this one is the way it is less the usual nasty-bug thriller and more a character study of sorts.  Instead of primarily focusing on the race for the cure, this film tells the closer-up stories of a wide variety of players.

For example, there’s the husband (Matt Damon) of Patient Zero (Gwyneth Paltrow, who really ought to cover her mouth when she coughs), who loses her and his stepson all in one day.  Then there’s the WHO worker (the insanely gorgeous Marion Cotillard) who is sent to Hong Kong to investigate the source of the infection only to find herself kidnapped by a group who wants to ransom her for first dibs on the vaccine.

The dangers of believing everything you read/hear online is a major theme as well: a conspiracy-theorist blogger (Jude Law) convinces thousands of followers he was cured by an herbal remedy called Forsythia and that the government’s vaccine is a hoax, resulting in a violent rush on drug stores for the herb, as well as a whole host of ignoramuses (ignorami?) refusing the vaccine once it’s made available (I wish this had gotten slightly more focus, in fact, because it’s so relevant to current events).  Plus, there’s a CDC doctor who violates protocol by calling his girlfriend and telling her to get out of Chicago before the city’s locked down in quarantine.  She immediately tells her BFF, and the next thing the CDC knows, the news is all over Facebook and Chicago is in a panic.

FACEBOOK!  *shakes fist*

In other words, as times change, so too do the ways in which we get ourselves into more and more trouble.  Oddly, though, I would’ve expected this focus on the more personal, every-man sorts of stories to make the film feel even more emotionally compelling.  It definitely makes the plot move much more slowly than, say, Outbreak, something I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about (though, dudes, this is a Soderbergh film, not a Spielberg one — what were you expecting?), but even slowed down and more intimately focused, it still didn’t make the story any more wrenching than usual to watch unfold.  That is, it’s never easy to look at bodies being thrown into mass graves, but with each sub-plot giving us a close-up view of one person’s struggle in time of strife, you’d think this would be a highly emotional film.  And yet, it isn’t.  This is a good movie, I would say — I enjoyed it while I was watching it.  But I never really connected with any of the characters, and after I left the theater and the buzz from the science high wore off, I realized I found this movie more interesting than engaging.  I liked the characters, but I didn’t really FEEL them.  Hard to say just why, though my theory is that it’s at least partly because there were simply too many of these storylines, making it impossible to connect deeply with any of them.  I think the film would’ve been more powerful had it tried to cover fewer bases, though I’d be hard pressed to tell you which character I would’ve cut out and which stories I would’ve beefed up.

All in all, I’d say this is a flick well worth the price of admission, but you should go into it ready to think, more than to grip the edge of your seat.  The virus certainly takes off with lightning speed, but the movie?  Eh, not so much.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Science Fiction, Deadly Virus
Cast:  Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle

MOVIE: Carriers (2009)

January 31, 2010

This flick, about a group of four young adults driving around aimlessly after a pandemic has wiped out most of the world’s  population, is pretty much exactly like every other post-pandemic road-trip movie you’ve ever seen.  If you’re not a fan of the genre, there won’t be anything in this one for you (except possibly the pleasure of seeing Captain Kirk again — as it turns out, Chris Pine is always Captain Kirk even when he’s not).  If you ARE a fan of the genre, on the other hand, this movie will be somewhat disappointingly familiar, but you won’t really mind.  Because, well. . . because you’re a fan of the genre.  What more do you want, after all?  It’s a post-pandemic road-trip movie, dude.  *shrug*

The four main characters are two brothers, Danny and Brian (Pucci and Pine), Brian’s girlfriend Bobby (Perabo), and Danny’s friend Kate (VanCamp).  As the story opens, they’re their town’s last survivors of a worldwide viral pandemic, and they’ve decided to embark on a road trip with no clear destination in mind.  There’s some talk of a set of “rules” (ala Zombieland, but not nearly as clever), rules they promptly break when they encounter a father (ex-Boyfriend Christopher Meloni) and his obviously infected little girl.  The father tells them he’s heard of a school a day’s drive away that has a cure, and since each of their two cars has a problem only the other car can resolve, the two groups have to team up to survive.

Of course, in reality, they have to team up because you can’t have  a post-pandemic road-trip movie without some kind of Hope Mecca to journey to, and so, Hope Mecca: check.

What happens next?  Oh, you know what happens next, don’t be silly.  It all goes wrong, people die, we’re reminded again of the terrible things humans will do to keep themselves (and only themselves) alive, there’s some shootin’, there are a few scenes of gross looking dead or near-dead people, someone in the gang of four gets sick and has to be left behind, some militant survivors hassle them for a while, someone else gets sick and has to be taken out, the movie ends fairly lacking in hope.  Like I said: you’ve seen this before.

But hey, credit where credit is due:  at least this one doesn’t involve zombies, which I’d say is probably its one and only original idea (at least, it felt original in this day and age, when it seems like every disease-based disaster movie is really just a zombie movie in disguise).  Instead, it involves something far scarier in practical terms — a virus that is highly contagious through air or contact, has an incubation period during which people are infected but not symptomatic, and takes over a week to kill:  a long, long week of pain, sickness, misery, and isolation.

The thing is, despite what it lacks in the originality department (third floor, ding!), I still found this one thoroughly watchable.  The acting is believable, the story is tolerable, and I appreciated the filmmakers’ attempt to make a scary disease movie that would actually feel somewhat plausible.   If you like any of the actors, or you’re a fan of virus disaster flicks in general, this one is probably worth a rental.  If not, well, hey, why’d you read down this far?  Thanks for doing that.  That was sweet.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Deadly Virus
Cast:  Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, Lou Taylor Pucci, Emily VanCamp, Christopher Meloni

MOVIE: Killing Moon (2001)

November 29, 2007

Hey, everybody!  As evidenced by the fact I finally got that Michael Clayton review posted, I’m back from vacation.  The first week back after a week off is always crazy, though, which is why it took me this long to start working on reviews from the movies I saw last week.  Mom and I watched NINE of ’em, believe it or not, and that isn’t even a record for us (I think the record is thirteen)!  I’ll be putting up reviews of all nine over the next 2-3 days, if all goes as planned.  They won’t be in any particular order, but I’ll be ranking them in order from best (1) to worst (9) just for fun.  Incidentally, just in case you like to get a heads-up about the super-dogs, there was actually a tenth movie (Solar Attack), but it was so bad even we — WE!! — couldn’t sit through it.  Now THAT’S bad, people!

This movie was also pretty bad — with a title like Killing Moon, could there really be any doubt? — but it was still watchable.  Though it’s a fairly standard virus movie, at least they took the time to try to come up with an interesting killer bug.  Points for that.  Though, not many.

It starts out with two bad dudes in an airport, one of whom is coughing when the scene opens, and dead with blood running out of his eyes by the time the scene concludes.  The other, freaked out by his partner’s untimely demise, stuffs his pal’s body into a bathroom stall and boards his plane, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible.  But it’s only a matter of minutes after the flight is in the air before he too begins to shake and cough — and then bleed.  Before he dies, he manages to hack out some final words:  “A vial . . . *cough*. . . we stole it . . . *hack* . . .” Hey, at least now the passengers don’t have to waste any time wondering if the guy merely died of something pedestrian, like the flu or TB.  Instead, they can skip right over that step and go straaaaaaight to panic.

On the plane are all the usual suspects — the characters you typically find in a bad virus movie and/or an airplane disaster flick.  You have Irrational Anger Man, Unaccompanied Minor, Guy in Uniform, Cute Doctor, Sweet Married Couple, and Just Tried to Commit Suicide But Now Really Really Wants to Live Dude.  Blah blah, virus starts making them all sick, blah blah.  Down on the ground, the NSA has sent an agent (Baldwin) who has reluctantly teamed up with a scientist from the CDC (Miller).  The CDC lady is hard at work trying to save the passengers, while the NSA guy is hard at work trying to figure out if it’s a new virus he can steal for the government.   Just in case we still don’t get that he’s part of a huge government conspiracy, in comes his partner, played by Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files.  Check!

The rest of the movie is pretty much what you’d expect, though there is a nice twist at the end when Just Following Orders Guy decides to get a pair and save the day.  But for the most part, the only reason to watch this movie is to mock it, which is, of course, exactly what we did.  It started with Guy in Uniform, who was clearly wearing a set of wings on his military jacket and yet didn’t seem to actually BE a pilot (we decided to call them jump wings and pretend he was in the Airborne instead, for the sake of our own sanity).  And then there’s the virus itself, which involves a genetic mutation that somehow manages to cause radiation sickness at the cellular level.  It’s a unique idea, I guess, but we spent at least ten minutes trying to figure out how that might work, and only got as far as deciding it would have to somehow disconnect or destroy hydrogen atoms in the body.   We even called in Dad, Retired Science Teacher, all to no avail.  And while the science in bad movies doesn’t HAVE to be completely plausible for us to play along, we do really prefer it when they at least make an effort to insert some sense. 

Nevertheless, despite it’s badness, it could’ve been a whole lot worse, and of the nine we watched last week, this one ranks at number 6.   Not too shabby.  Stay tuned for reviews of the other 8 — I promise, they weren’t ALL crap!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Sci-fi/virus
Cast:  Penelope Ann Miller, Daniel Baldwin, Cigarette Smoking Man, Kim Coates, Dennis Akayama

MOVIE: Pandemic (2007)

October 30, 2007

This is a made-for-television movie my Mom taped off the Hallmark Channel several months ago and we only just now got around to watching (we often will record movies like this and then wait to watch them until we’re together — by the way, Mom, I have a sci-fi disaster one with Dale Midkiff waiting for the next time you come to MY house!).

Anyway, we didn’t have super-high hopes for it — deadly virus movies are a dime a dozen, after all, and we’ve seen them all, I’m sure. But, despite its numerous problems (for one, it’s three hours long and really needed to only be two), we found it surprisingly watchable.

The movie opens with a pair of surfers on a beach in Australia, one of whom covers his mouth with his hand to cough, and then uses the same hand to pat his pal on the back and say goodbye. The pal heads to the airport and gets on a plane, where he too begins to cough, sending infected droplets plane-wide. And then he begins to bleed from the mouth. And then he dies. Man, I hate it when that happens.

The CDC is called in to quarantine the passengers on the plane, but, of course, you can’t have a virus movie called Pandemic that’s about a successful quarantine, so instead, one arrogant butthead sneaks out and hails a cab, spreading the germ to the cabbie, who spreads it to his next passenger, who spreads it to, etc. etc. etc.

This storyline alone would’ve been enough to make a relatively solid, if unoriginal, movie, but because they needed to fill that third hour, the writers decided to add in an extra twist: one of the airplane passengers also just so happens to be a Dastardly Villain in federal custody. He and the cop he’s cuffed to both get taken to quarantine, where the cop promptly becomes sick and has to be isolated. Meanwhile, Dastardly Villain’s pals begin working on a plot to bust him out, which we viewers know will mean even more spread of the germ. See above, re: Hate it when that happens.

Despite the fact it had too many superfluous subplots and not enough science, this movie was still what I would describe as “entertaining enough.” The mysterious bug is a derivative of H5N1, the infamous “bird flu,” so that lent it an air of timely paranoia, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Tiffani Thiessen, who I mostly know as “Moonface” (as my sister and I called her) from Beverly Hills 90210. She carries the movie quite well, supported as she is by Faye Dunaway, playing the governor of California, and Eric Roberts as the mayor of Los Angeles. All in all, we were entertained. Enough, anyway.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: TV movie / killer virus

Cast: Tiffani Thiessen, Michael Massee, Faye Dunaway, Bruce Boxleitner, Eric Roberts, Vincent Spano