Posts Tagged ‘Disaster’

MOVIE: Snowpiercer (2013)

July 15, 2014

snowpiercerIn 2014, we’re told during the opening frames of this post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, mankind finally figured out a way to stop the progression of global warming. A chemical, found to lower the temperature of the atmosphere by a few degrees, was released into the sky by dozens of countries at the same time, then everybody sat back and relaxed, anticipating the glorious need for socks and sweaters once again at last.

Great idea; one small problem:  Mother Nature rarely appreciates being monkeyed with, and instead of cooperating by chilling out ever so gently slightly, she opened up a can of Ice Age on their ass.

Cut to 17 years later and a train.  It’s called the Snowpiercer, and it’s the largest train ever built.  On board are the last survivors of the planet Earth. The train uses a perpetual motion engine, we’re told in an educational video, and travels along a huge, globe-spanning track, cycling once around the planet every year (try not to wonder how this magical track never needs repairs; it won’t do you any good).

When the Snowpiercer was first unveiled as the last stop for man, it was boarded using a class system — essentially to establish a class system, really, since the money was immediately useless the second it was spent. You either paid for a first- or second-class ticket, or you ended up jammed in the tail of the train with 1000 other poor people, where there was no food, no water, no windows, and no hope.  For 17 years, the tailies have struggled to survive, and while eventually, the owner/conductor of the train, “Wilford the Benevolent,” stepped in to provide them with just enough water and gelatinous “protein bars” to survive, the conditions began horrific and pretty much stayed that way.

As the story opens, a young tailie named Curtis (played by Captain America) and the tail’s elderly leader Gilliam (John Hurt) are planning a rebellion, the first in years. The conditions they’ve been forced to endure and the terrible abuses they’ve been increasingly subjected to have finally become intolerable, and the group intends to turn this train around once and for all, so to speak.

The plan?  To bust through the length of the Snowpiercer and get to the engine — the ultimate seat of control. Though they have almost no weapons whatsoever, and face a force of guards armed to the teeth (or are they? rumor has it they actually ran out of bullets years ago. . .), the proletariat is, as always, a class to be reckoned with, because the “have-nots” are fueled by something the “haves” simply ceased to  possess: the ardor of want.

As they make their way from car to car, through battle after battle, Curtis and his team (including the ever-wonderful Octavia Spencer) encounter one astonishing sight after the next, beginning with their first look out a window in 17 years, and followed quickly by cars filled with living, growing fruits and vegetables; frozen slabs of beef and whole chickens (try not to wonder where this magical meat comes from; it won’t do you any good); and a tunnel through a car surrounded on all sides by a glassed-in aquarium loaded to the gills (pun) with fish.

While the poor have been barely subsisting on those disgusting “protein bars,” the rich have been feasting on what appears to be an endless supply of sushi and steak. Every injustice fuels the tailies’ fervor further until, finally, the last survivors of the team break their way into the engine, finding there the biggest shock of all.

Now, there are a WHOLE HOST of things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever in this film, which is typically something that drives me pretty bananas.  Here, though, while I noted each one in turn, and rolled my eyes at more than a few (including everybody’s horror at finding out what the protein bars are made of, which: who cares? Plenty of people eat that right now by choice all over the world already, you wimps), the movie is so damned entertaining, being annoyed seemed like a waste of a perfectly good time. This is pure summer popcorn fun, with some extra-delightful elements on board as well, including and especially the magnificent Tilda Swinton, virtually unrecognizable as the cruel, bug-eyed, buck-toothed spokesperson for the Wilford of Oz, coincidentally wearing not only my haircut from the 3rd grade, but my glasses as well.

While Snowpiercer thinks itself more clever than it actually is (for all its earnest “analysis” of the ramifications of a class system where the rich have so MUCH more than the poor, it actually has nothing new or interesting to add), this is easily the most thoroughly entertaining sci-fi flick I’ve seen all year. Great production values, good storytelling, engaging character dynamics. Plus, if you’re in the middle of a heat wave like we are in Seattle right now, spending two hours with a movie set in a world where your arm can freeze solid in 7 minutes makes for some pretty nice daydreaming.

Not that I’m complaining about the heat, Mother Nature. NOT ONE TINY BIT (please don’t hurt me).


[Rent on Amazon streaming | Prequeue at Netflix]

Genre: Science Fiction, Disaster
Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Alison Pill, Ed Harris, Kang-ho Song, Ewen Bremner


MOVIE: Metal Tornado (2011)

December 31, 2012

Oh, MAN, am I ever behind on book and film reviews for 2012!  I’m going to try to crank out as many as I can this week to get caught up, and then will post my annual “Best Of” lists as soon as that’s taken care of!

And then, come hell or high water, the Boyfriend of the Week write-ups, after a year-long unofficial hiatus, should be returning!  I quit writing them last January so I could focus on some personal projects, and I think I’m finally ready to get back to work, with tons of Boyfriends parked on my to-do list, waiting to be exposed to the world (in a PG-13 kind of way, though calling it a “to do” list and threatening to “expose” them may make it sound slightly more X than I intend.  Hi, Mom!).

THIS movie, though, is one I saw a couple of months ago with my mom (obviously!), and of all the movies on my list to review, it was the first one I wanted to work on for you guys because, as always, the good-bad movies are the most fun to write about.

Metal Tornado, as insanely dumb as its title makes it sounds, is actually an awesomely bad sci-fi disaster flick that follows all the rules for awesomely bad sci-fi disaster flicks.  To wit:

  • Corporation trying to profit off something the world desperately needs?  Check!
  • Scientist who realizes something’s not quite right with the project and warns the Mayor of Amity character a deadly disaster is nigh?  Check!  (For those not paying attention, “Mayor of Amity” is a reference to Jaws and is our shorthand for referring to the ubiquitous character in disaster movies who ignores the scientists and nearly causes the end of the world as we know it.)
  • Mayor of Amity too focused on profit to care what the scientist says?  Check!
  • Mayor of Amity begs for help from other scientist now that he’s in deep doo-doo?  Check!
  • Earth saved by SCIENCE (bitches!) at last possible moment?  CHECK!  Woo!  Whew!

This time, the project is called “Helios,” and it’s been designed to harness, store, and distribute energy from solar flares.  Hmm, interesting idea, no?  The problem is the containment system doesn’t appear to work quite right, and when the inventor tries to tell the Helios CEO he’s found a dangerous flaw — the day before the project’s big launch party — he’s ignored and then killed by his little mini-version of the project.  Which he’s been working on in his garage, of course, because that’s such a great place to hang out monkeying around with THE SUN.  (??!)

Anyway, even after the scientist’s wife tells the CEO his mini-Helios doohickey (technical term) killed him, the CEO refuses to give a hoot, launch day arrives, disaster strikes, and the next thing the Mayor of Amity knows, he’s unleashed a huge magnetic vortex, attracting metal from everywhere in the vicinity, ripping apart cars, silos, buildings, and anything else in its path.  People are being crushed. People are being chopped up by chainsaws sucked in and whooshed around.  IT’S A METAL TORNADO, PEOPLE!

Luckily, another scientist on the project, Michael Edwards (Lou Diamond Phillips!), has a theory on how to stop the tornado — and fix the design flaw.  The only problem?  Paris has just launched Helios Part Deux, and if Dr. Edwards doesn’t figure out what to do fast, most of Europe AND the US could be destroyed!

Heavens to Murgatroid!

I know, I know, it SOUNDS terrible.  But I never get tired of these kinds of movies.  The only time they’re completely unwatchable (for me and my mom, anyway) is when the science is beyond hokey and the acting is insufferably bad.  The science here, while not all that solid, at least made a noble attempt at a new idea (first metal tornado movie I’ve ever seen, anyway!).  And Lou Diamond Phillips and co-star Nicole de Boer both do a solid job with their roles.

Fans of good-bad disaster flicks?   This one’s kid-tested, mother-approved.  Litrilly!

[Buy it | Netflix it (available for Watch Now)]

Genre: Disaster!
Cast:  Lou Diamond Phillips, Nicole de Boer, Stephen Macdonald, Greg Evigan

MOVIE: Arctic Blast (2010)

May 13, 2012

So, I recently saw both The Descendants with George Clooney and The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep.  They were both pretty much exactly what I was expecting (brilliant and quirky for the first, fascinating and somewhat morally complicated for the second).  For some reason, though, possibly that I feel they’ve already been reviewed half to death, I just haven’t felt like writing about either of them.  Suffice it to say, what you’ve already heard:  very true.  Whatever it was.

THIS movie, on the other hand, warrants the full treatment.  Why?  Because it’s SO much more fun to review good-bad movies than it is to review good-good ones.  So much more to mock!  So much more to dissect!  So much more incredibly crappy CGI to marvel over!

Now, obviously, I recently spent some time with my mother — long-time readers of this site will recognize Arctic Blast as a hallmark Meg + Mom movie.  She was down for the weekend a week ago and we found this gem on Netflix streaming and sat down to give it a shot.

As you may be aware, disaster movies always follow the same format, and this one is no exception to the rules.  What makes a disaster movie good-bad versus bad-bad though, is what the writer and director do with the characters, how tolerable the acting is, and whether the science makes ANY sense whatsoever (we will often settle for the science ATTEMPTING to make any sense whatsoever, though).

First: the formula.

Disaster movies usually have the same set two primary characters:  a very smart scientist coupled with either a political or military official. As each film opens, the scientist discovers an impending disaster of some sort and tries to report it, only to be foiled by the official, a character my Mom and I simply refer to as “The Mayor of Amity” character (Jaws fans know what I’m talking about here), who will refuse to accept whatever the scientist has said and claim said scientist is either incompetent or trying to make trouble.

Then, of course, the disaster will strike, the scientist will offer to assist, the Mayor of Amity will tell him they already have it under control, the Mayor’s plan will fail miserably, the Mayor will beg the scientist for help at the last minute, the scientist will put his plan into action, and the world will be saved.

In the case of Arctic Blast, the disaster is a sudden disintegration of the protective ozone layer over Australia, caused by a solar eclipse (which, what??).  The hole lets escape a blast of sub-zero temperatures from the atmospheric level just above it, striking the Earth and flash-freezing anything in its path. When the scientist, Jack Tate (played by Michael Shanks), tries to warn Australian officials, the dude in charge, Winslaw (Bruce Davison from the X-Men movies) tells him what he’s saying is absolutely ridiculous and makes no sense whatsoever (I would tend to agree, but that’s beside the point here).

Then the arctic blast kills two teenagers on a beach, nearly taking Jack’s daughter along with them and making it impossible for Mayor of Amity Winslaw to continue to ignore the impending doom.  As the hole begins to widen and more and more of Australia freezes to death, Winslaw finally tells the public to brace themselves for a devastating “cold snap” (putting it mildly) and has his people draw up a plan involving a multi-rocket strike to close the hole.

WHICH, fails miserably, of course, WHICH leads him to beg Jack to come up with a better plan.  WHICH he does.  WHICH works.  WHICH saves the planet.  Roll credits.

Though it may SOUND like a bad-bad movie, Mom and I rated this one as undeniably good-bad instead.  The acting is passable (Shanks and Davison are both talented dudes, and, of course, Shanks is an Ex-Boyfriend of the Week to boot) and the writer put in just enough science to make it all seem moderately well thought-out, but not so much we were sitting there rolling our eyes and/or pausing the movie periodically to look at each other and go, “HUH?”

All in all, this was an entertaining addition to the ever-growing, never-ceasing, always-popular disaster genre. (“Always popular?” you ask. Yes! A Hollywood Video manager once told us these types of low-budget disaster films were among the most-rented flicks in her store!) And old fans of Stargate SG-1 will enjoy seeing Shanks in a similar role — the gentle, passionate nerd.  Thumbs up!

[Netflix it (available on Watch Now only)]

Cast:  Michael Shanks, Alexandra Davies, Bruce Davison, Indiana Evans

MOVIE: Toxic Skies (2009)

September 12, 2010

By now, you have likely figured out that whenever movies with names like Toxic Skies start showing up in my review list, I’ve been down south to hang out with my parents, and my mom and I have rented up a big pile of silliness with which to entertain ourselves. Yep, you betcha, that’s what’s happened here, and you can expect a few more reviews like this one coming down the line shortly.  Hurrah!

Holy Moses, I love my mother.

This one we picked up for obvious reasons.  First of all, virus movies are irresistible to science geeks — at least to science geeks like us.  And even more importantly, we both have a serious thing for Ol’ Crinkly Eyes, better known to the world at large as James Tupper.  Nom nom, YUM!

Unfortunately, while this movie started off sort of intriguing, its attempt at being a bit unique (for a virus movie, anyway) eventually ended up getting in its way, culminating in a storyline about a jet fuel/governmental conspiracy that made little sense and an outbreak of the plague we mostly just found dull.

The conspiracy theory part involved the government’s attempts to get rid of nasty chemicals by putting them in jet fuel and letting airplanes burn them off high up in the skies.  Seems like a solid plan, except for the part where gravity brings the heavier-than-air fuel gases raining down on everyone below, wiping their immune systems out almost completely.

Tupper’s character, the one who brings the conspiracy to light for the doctor played by Anne Heche, says this is what explains the increases in autism, cancer, and other awful illnesses across the country over the last ten years.  And it’s why, all of a sudden, the city of Spokane, Washington, where the story is set, is suddenly dying from the plague, a disease that is completely treatable these days under normal circumstances.

The problem with this theory is that if the jet fuel were having this effect on the entire country, as Tupper suggests, wouldn’t there be gazillions of deadly outbreaks all the time?   Or at least at roughly the same time?  And wouldn’t it be far more likely that, if the chemicals were wiping people’s immune systems out, they’d all be dying of the flu/pneumonia long before anything as obscure as the Black Death got them?

Oh, heavens to Murgatroyd, it was just kind of dumb.  I’m sure you’re catching onto that.

Nevertheless, James Tupper is one helluva good-looking fella’ and even though he’s not, unfortunately, nearly as good at acting as he is at looking delicious, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for it.  Or for this stinker either.

I do miss Men in Trees, though.  Sigh.

[Netflix it (including Watch Now) | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre:  Disaster, Virus
Cast:  Anne Heche, James Tupper, Daniel Bacon, Barclay Hope

MOVIE: 2012 (2009)

March 23, 2010

It’s. . . well, you know. . . TERRIBLE.

(Not in a good way.)

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Disaster
Cast:  John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover

MOVIE: Smoke Jumper (2008)

March 26, 2009

[Note:  The blog’s been quiet this week because I’m out of town for a meeting.  But I’m taking a few minutes to post this movie review because the reviews are starting to really pile up!  New Boyfriend write-up should be up mid-week next week, by the way.  Yay!]

I love cheesy disaster movies — flicks about twisters, tsunamis, earthquakes, and, of course, BIG FIRES.  And you know what?  So does my mom.  Man, I totally scored on the Mom Front, right?  Anyway, a couple of weekends ago, I was down hanging with my ‘Rents and this was one of the movies Mom and I picked up. (Incidentally, this movie is in the IMDb under the title Trial by Fire, even though it was clearly released on DVD under this other title.  That happens sometimes.  Not sure why.)

Surprisingly enough, it’s actually pretty good (by which I mean, “good” for a made-for-TV disaster movie — let’s keep this in perspective. . .).  It’s about a young woman firefighter who is blamed by her squad when she’s the last person to see her firefighter-father alive in a burning building.  Of course, it wasn’t actually her fault he got killed, but the rest of the squad is made up of stupid misogynists, and they’ve been looking for a reason to push her out pretty much since her first day.  This excuse works great, and the next thing she knows, she’s grieving for the loss of her dad AND the loss of her career.

When she learns that the local smoke jumpers group is hiring (those are the firefighters who parachute in to fight forest fires), she decides to try out.  And from here forward, you can pretty much substitute the storyline from G.I. Jane to get the gist of the story (except plus fires and minus Viggo Mortensen in short-shorts, more’s the pity).   Woman defies odds, trains hard, kicks the physical requirement’s hiney, gets the job, meets resistance, saves someone’s ass to prove she’s worthy, is finally accepted.

So, yeah, the story isn’t all that original, really, but overall, the movie is pretty entertaining and well-acted.  Plus:  cute firefighters in uniform.  Bonus!

Anyway, if you like the cheap thrills a disaster movie provides, you might consider checking this one out.  I’ve seen worse forest fire movies, that’s for sure.  In fact, I remember one in which one character broke their leg in one scene and was shown walking normally — not even a limp! — in the next.   Oh yeah, and in that same movie, the bad guy caught on fire and then was later shown wearing the same clothes, completely unscathed.  Nice trick, bad guy!  This one at least scores points for continuity, even though that also makes it a bit short on unintentional laughs (which, obviously, is something I thoroughly enjoy).  But yeah, if you like these kinds of things, you’ll probably like this one too.  Check it out.

[View trailer | Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Adventure, Disaster
Cast:  Brooke Burns, Rick Ravanello, Robert Moloney