Thursday, January 7, 2010

Disaster Collector's Set (2009)

When you're out shopping, and you see "Disaster Collector's Set: 4 Movies - $4.99" and you are a disaster movie fan... it's nearly impossible to resist that amount of temptation. Still, I knew as I was walking to the counter that I was most likely buying four really REALLY bad movies. This set collects three movies from a common series called the "Nature Unleashed" series. Avalanche, Earthquake, and Fire to be specific. Also included is "Crash Landing" which "stars" Antonio Sabato Jr. and Michael Pare. Today I'm going to review Disc 1 of this set... which inclused Nature Unleashed: Earthquake and Nature Unleashed: Avalanche

Nature Unleashed: Earthquake

The story:

A Russian nuclear plant is behind schedule in opening. Josh (Fintan McKeown), is sent to the plant to get it up and running ASAP. When he arrives, he finds that his ex-wife Rachel (Jacinta Mulcahey) is fighting with the owner of the plant as to how safe it is to start up after a recent tremor has damaged part of the plant. Of course, soon after, the earth starts to rumble, and the greedy Russian owner Emilio (Patrick Monckton...I'll stop naming the stars now, because this is seriously the best they could get) has decided that it's perfectly safe to start the reactor up anyway... massive earthquake.

Meanwhile, Josh's estranged kids are caught at school during the quake...well, one of them is. As the daughter (Cherie or Raven, depending on who you want to listen to) skips school in order to try and see her father, and of course she gets caught in the subway by the earthquake. As the older child, Dylan, has been charged with keeping the girl safe...he sets off into the collapsed tunnels to try and find his sister.

So there you have it, the story of an overheating nuclear Russian power plant, children trapped in the subway, and a reservoir that can save everyone from getting nuked...that can only get to the nuclear power plant by flooding the subway tunnels. Oh, I left the last part out? Yeah, so there's that as well.

The movie:

It's an obvious low-budget movie. I believe there are scenes from other movies included...and a quick check of IMDB suggests that yes, scenes were directly lifted from "Dante's Peak". The subway crash set is fairly impressive (although I'll bet the actual crash was lifted from another movie as well), but at the cost of other things. Computer effects are laughable, such as the early night scene of the cooling towers... it literally looks like someone drew 2 grey shapes in MS Paint, and put a couple blinking lights on top. You also have some places where solid objects seem to pass through each other, and items (such as the one smokestack) manage to fall faster than gravity could ever pull them down.

The earthquake scenes were all very short. They showed various bits of destruction, but none of it looked very convincing. And like I said earlier, the primitive CGI effects and a seeming lack of understanding of basic physics didn't help these scenes much at all.

Almost all of the dialog seemed to be over-dubbed, as everything felt just a little too "clean" sounding in certain situations. And voices did not seem to match up with mouth movements at times. I also have to give mad props to the character Viktor. I don't even think he pretended to have a Russian accent, but was speaking in hilariously broken English. I can recommend the movie just on that point. Also, why did Cherie / Raven have a British accent...sometimes? As far as I can tell, everyone in that family is as American as they come.

Having said all that, the movie isn't all that bad. There's a fair amount of tension during the rescue scene at the end. You can see how the movie is going to play out 10 minutes in, but it's not a completely unwatchable ride.

Bad guy comeuppance (aka Best death of the movie):

The evil Russian greedy guy, Emilio, is trying to escape the plant before it goes nuclear, as he is running out... bits and pieces of the ceiling begin falling on him, and only him. At least three times things hit him, and only him in a scene. Finally, he gets to his car, takes one last look at the plant, and THWOONK! Giant power pole crushes his car. I busted out laughing at this scene. It was almost Monty Python-esque how this pole fell onto the car.

Russia must have horrible police (aka Final random thought):

No fewer than four times, Dylan and / or Dylan and his father break through police barricades to get down into the subway area. And yet, only once do they even get chased a little bit. What kind of police do they have there anyway?

Nature Unleashed: Avalanche

The story:

A glacier in the Urals (what is it with Russia and natural disasters???) filled with a tiny village, and several ski resorts is the home for this movie. You have two brothers, Jock and Thom Cussler (Jock?), broke snowmobile tour guides, who bring some Russian daredevils up to an area of the mountain with some soft snow. Of course, the Russians cause a massive avalanche that completely swallows the town.

Katya, scientist, believes that global warming is going to bring a SUPER AVALANCHE (yes, it needs to be said in such a dramatic manner) to the area unless measures are taken to stop it. What those measures are? Close the mountain during the upcoming tourist season. Unfortunately, Mr. Elkin and his partner Rogov has a massive new hotel that needs to open on time so Rogov can begin paying the money back on their venture. The money he got from the Russian mafia, of course. And if it isn't paid back in time, the mafia takes Mr. Elkin's daughter, naturally.

Move every zig (aka unusual twists):

For appearing to be a formulaic disaster movie, this movie actually throws a couple of very interesting and unusual twists in. First off, hunky snowmobile tour guide Thom, falls for nerdy scientist with only two toes on her left foot (yeah, you heard me) Katya...not the veritable cavalcade of blonde snow bunnies that frolic around the mountain. Also, Mr. Elkin, throws his support in with the science...forsaking untold amounts of money, and possibly the safety of his daughter, in order to keep the mountain from devouring everything else in sight. Sadly, our heroes are too late...

The white death:

Remember our Russian daredevils from earlier in the movie? Well, they pay off an employee of the resort town to take them to a restricted area of the mountain...and guess what? They set off THE SUPER AVALANCHE! (Or so we are led to believe) What follows is a litany of scenes of chaos, panic, disorder, scenes from other movies, scenes from other mountain ranges (I think Mount Everest even makes an appearance) and... lots of people quietly watching the avalanche coming right at them (I guess avalanches affect people in different ways).

The rest of the movie is both a fight for survival for the few, such as Jock, and Mr. Elkin's daughter, trapped in the ski lodge's bar (ironically called the Ice Cave), and a struggle by Jock's brother and Mr. Elkin to dig to them before they lose all their air.

You know that giant avalanche we just got through? It was just a wee little baby. That's right, it was not THE SUPER AVALANCHE that's still to come... in the last 9 minutes of the movie. Seriously? You spent 20 minutes on the last avalanche, but the big one gets relegated to the last 9 minutes of the movie? That's just horrible planning. So yeah, the SUPER AVALANCHE ends up being a huge letdown, and an anti-climactic finale to this film.

Bad guy comeuppance:

Rogov, the financier that got his funds from the Russian mafia, thinks it's a great idea to get in a gondola to hide from the SUPER AVALANCHE. Unfortunately for him, the gondola gets stuck halfway up the mountain. Instead of patiently waiting for say, help, he climbs out of his gondola. Climbs down the support beam. And steps right into the path of the real SUPER AVALANCHE!
Random thoughts:

This movie is just lame. From the bad overdubbing, to the global warming side story that goes nowhere, the Russian mafia side story that goes nowhere...pretty much everything in this movie goes nowhere. Actually, those story twists I went into earlier even took away most of the drama this movie could have had. I can't really recommend this movie at all.

Did I hear what I thought I heard? (aka Final thought):

Early in the movie, you go inside an avalanche, and the snow roars like a dinosaur from Jurassic Park. Just plain odd.

So that's disc one. We've got one movie I'd probably rate a C, and another that's close to an F. Next time, I'll hit up the two movies of disc 2, and see if I actually got my $5 worth.