Friday, November 13, 2009

2012 (2009)

I was going to try and make this a spoiler-free review. Then I realized that the title of the movie pretty much gives away what's going to happen. Roland Emmerich (Independence Day / The Day After Tomorrow) has decided to bring the disaster movie of all disaster movies to the screen. Based around more goofy beliefs that a typical day of 24 hour cable newscasts... 2012 takes all of these end of the world beliefs, and combines them into an epically bad day for the Earth.


Basically, the Mayans were right, and a cosmic line dance (filmed almost in a 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque manner) combined with a massive amount of neutrinos from the largest solar flare... EVER are raising the core of the Earth's temperature so much, that the whole place is just going to throw it's hands in the air and give up on 12-21-12.

We get to follow failed writer, husband, and father Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) in his valiant attempt to save his family from said impending doom. Oh yeah, how did he figure out the world was going to end before most people? While camping with his kids in Yellowstone Park, a crazy AM radio jockey named Charlie (played wonderfully by Woody Harrelson) told him it would. Oh yeah, and there's that one guy from the government (played by Chewetl Ejiofor) who kind of helps Jackson connect the dots. Why? He liked Jackson's book (one of about 500 in the world), naturally.

Meanwhile, on a more global scale President Wilson (Danny Glover) and other world leaders have decided to build arks to save "the best and brightest" (I'm not going into this later, but you can imagine that great disaster cliche... basic human greed comes into play) to try and keep the human race going. Also, certain important cultural items and animals are placed on board the arks to help keep some sort of normalcy. The rest of the people? Well, good luck to ya!


It's not a good movie. The dialog is beyond cheesy (just try to get through the final speech without cringing...I dare you), the situations are straight out of every disaster movie ever'll figure almost everything out before the title card of the movie even pops on screen. If you go in expecting anything of any real substance, you will be disappointed. Don't even try to apply logic to certain will just make your hair fall out.


This is Citizen Kane. If Citizen Kane involved crushing the White House with an aircraft carrier. Roland Emmerich and the hundreds, if not thousands of people who worked on this film, have made quite possibly the definitive disaster movie. There were moments when I actually found myself squeezing the armrest because the situation and chaos was so overwhelming...I seriously was unsure if they would pull through. It was made THAT well. One touch I really appreciated was the use of miniatures at certain points. It's a small thing, but the use of miniatures instead of CGI just made certain scenes look so much more convincing. It's something that I feel has become a lost art with the advances of CGI effects. There weren't many miniatures scenes, but the ones I noticed were quite effective.


As you may be able to tell, I loved this movie. It was not perfect. I wish somebody could write a disaster movie today with half the quality script-wise of The Poseidon Adventure. There were maybe 2-3 lines in this movie that were memorable. Also, 2012 runs 2 hours 38 minutes. I understand the epic nature of the film, but there were some places where a little more tightening would have been helpful. 20 minutes taken out of the film would have been about perfect. If you want a truly good mindless popcorn film, go see 2012. You will not be disappointed. A solid A grade in my book.

Heck, after this movie, I have no idea what I want to write about next. Oh yeah I do... I found this glorious "Disaster Collector's Set" at Best Buy a while back. 4 movies for $5. You know that will be of the utmost quality. I'll review the entire set next time (which may be a while since I have to get around to watching 4 movies). Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tornado! (1996)

Now, one could say that Tornado! is just a made for tv cash in movie, trying to piggyback on the success of the box office smash Twister. And largely, you'd be correct. Tornado! (it's important to keep the exclamation point in there) came out the same year as Twister, shares several plot points with Twister, but does diverge in one key aspect. It is nowhere near as fun a movie as Twister is.


Jake Thorne (interestingly misspelled without the E on the case), played by Bruce Campbell (now I should just stop there and declare the movie amazing, but I must continue) is a stormchaser living in northern Texas on a farm. Dr. Branson, played by Ernie Hudson, is a meteorologist from Missouri who has come to Texas to get Jake's help finding storms for his machine that is supposed to help detect tornadoes earlier (just like Dorothy in Twister). Samantha Callen (Shannon Sturges) is an auditor from Washington D.C. who has come to shut off the funding the government has been giving Dr. Branson for six years (despite no results).

Basically what unfolds is a bland and watered down version of Twister. Jake and Samantha kinda get to like each other. Hotshot TV meteorologist Richie (Jake's lifelong rival) tries to horn in on Samantha by showing her his shiny studio and his perfect hair. (Sounds like the Cary Elwes character in Twister). Dr. Branson's machine P.A.T.T.I. - the Portable Analyzer of Technical Tornado Information... which I deem the worst acronym EVER - needs to be placed directly in the path of a tornado, but they never quite make it... until the very last storm (sound familiar?).

Jake and his crew rely a lot on computers to try and tell them where a storm is going to hit, and throughout the movie they never quite make it. It takes the cornball wisdom of random cranky old guy (possibly Jake's dad? It's never made clear in the movie) Ephram to tell them where the storms are going to hit. Fortunately for everybody, one ends up right on their doorstep. And everyone lives happily ever after (except Ephram, but we'll get to that later).


There are only three actual storms, and one false alarm in this movie. The first tornado is never seen on screen, and takes place before the opening credits. The second storm scene is a false alarm. The third storm is called a monster storm several times, and is the first time we ever see a tornado on the ground. I have to state right here that I understand tv movies have small budgets. But there is a difference between the look of a tornado, and an ink stain made by a leaking Sharpie... and the tornadoes in this movie look way more like the latter. If the third storm was a monster, then the fourth and final storm was Godzilla standing on top of the Cloverfield Monster. It's a massive storm that bears down right on the Thorne ranch.

So we have 3 tornadoes in just under 90 minutes. Or one every 30 minutes. There is a lot of down time in this movie.


Only 3 storms, but a fair amount of damage is shown.

The first storm again, happens almost immediately as the movie starts. It's short, but it all but levels a house. The people inside are all safe, because they went to their basement in a quick manner (I'll say more on this later).

The second tornado we see at first does no damage. Unfortunately, it takes an unexpected turn, and absolutely levels the town of Roseville, Texas (which seems to have not existed since the school closed in 1950, and is on the wrong end of the state from where the movie takes place). They bring you into the town, and show a lot of the destruction caused by the storm. It's a very believable scene, although it is almost identical to the scene in Twister that takes place in Wakita, Oklahoma after that town gets leveled.

The third storm only actually flips over a truck and knocks down an old rickety barn (as far as we see). Despite being three times the size of the last one. It does, however, lead to THE ONLY DEATH IN THE MOVIE. Ephram, the weird old guy, does not believe computers can help at all in finding storms. Yet, when P.A.T.T.I.'s fourth leg (predictably) fails to deploy, leaving it unstable, it is Ephram who stays out, and drives a stake into the ground just far enough before he is whisked up into the storm (offscreen).


During the final storm, the wind is enough to knock down a building, yet Dr. Branson's floppy hat stays on until Jake comes and pulls him into the storm shelter.


It's just not a good movie. There is thankfully, a lack of science in this movie. Unlike Twister which made up a bunch of stuff that isn't true... the few times anything scientific is brought up it sounds like it came straight out of a textbook. While not interesting, at least it's mostly right. Except for one glaring example. During the final storm the tornado has a completely silent core that allows everyone to stand around and talk for about a minute before running for cover. It's the most unintentionally hilarious scene in the movie. But the dialog is clunky, the relationships are barely believable, and the special effects are just flat out hideous.

I was hoping, with Bruce Campbell involved, to see at least a fun movie, but it's just lifeless. I can't really recommend Tornado! especially when compared to Twister.

Next time will likely be tomorrow. The disaster movie of all disaster movies comes out tomorrow, and I will be there with bells on (not really, that would be distracting). Tomorrow night though, I should have a review of 2012. See you later.