The inane ramblings presented here by Scott Foy (aka The Foywonder) are strictly his own opinions
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MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE LADY IN THE WATER
The subject of my November 2005 Foyeurism was HAMMERHEAD JONES, an entertaining "lost" pro wrestling movie from 1986 starring Ted Vernon as a world champion wrestling superstar being forced by a crooked weasely promoter to compete in a violent "death match" against a hulking opponent (the plot is in many ways similar to Hulk Hogan's epic fiasco NO HOLDS BARRED even though HAMMERHEAD JONES predated it by at least 2 years). Nearly forgotten about and almost impossible to find since it was never released on VHS let alone DVD, HAMMERHEAD JONES did play on Cinemax back in the late-Eighties and was released on PAL home video in England a long time ago. I decided to bust out my old VHS copy and put together a montage of amusing movie highlights. Odds are this is the only footage of HAMMERHEAD JONES you'll be seeing anytime soon unless someone smartens up and gives this fun little piece of pro wrestling schlock cinema a much overdue DVD release.
When I first learned of NBC's four-hour miniseries THE STORM my immediate notion was to mock it for the mere fact that the only person capable of saving the world from weather-controlling technology run amok is James Van Der Beek. DAWSONS' STORM is what I dubbed it. I had to eat a bit of crow afterwards because not only was Van Der Beek believable as the bespectacled scientist partially responsible for the creation of the weather-manipulating technology, gone are his pretty boy looks in favor of a slightly grizzled nerd look that could also pass for a serial killer, he was the best thing THE STORM has going for it.
The first two-hours of THE STORM proved surprisingly light on catastrophe. A single homeless person getting swept up by a freak tornado in downtown Los Angeles was the biggest moment of calamity not visualized in the form of stock footage of a real-life natural disaster. The first half delivered more assassinations and shirtless Treat Williams than it did calamity, not that shirtless Treat Williams these days doesn't qualify as a calamity in its own right.
Treat Williams is a heartless CEO (Is there any other kind in movies these days?) whose corporation has developed a system that can potentially control the weather. "Control the weather, control the world," is the mantra we're treated to repeatedly. Hard to believe that such technology needs only James Van Der Beek and a guy that looks like a tubbier version of Neville Longbottom from the HARRY POTTER movies to operate it. Van Der Beek is the smart one, which is why he is constantly telling Williams that they need to proceed with caution. Williams, naturally, will hear none of it, turning to Jack, the chubby brown-nosing partner in crimes against meteorology, who does whatever he's told like a good toady.
Williams has a good reason to keep ordering tests even after a malfunction causes a freak storm right over their very building leading to multiple serious injuries - military contracting. "Control the weather, control the world", remember? And nobody wants to control the world more than the Pentagon, right?
A month before THE STORM premiered on NBC I was watching David James Elliot as a scientist trying to save the world from a crashing moon in ABC's four-hour miniseries IMPACT. Now here I found myself watching the ex-"J.A.G." star play something of a jag-off as a General championing the weather-altering system as a crucial piece of battlefield technology in this four-hour NBC miniseries. Too bad CBS didn't churn out a disaster miniseries for him to appear in as a tie-breaker. The script has a hard time deciding if Elliot's character is a villain or merely misguided. At times cautious, though what looks to be caution is really more of a "prove to me that this works before we put the country a few more trillions of dollars in debt buying it from you".
Williams proceeds to throw caution to the wind even if it runs the risk of causing the wind to kill us all. Van Der Beek resists and is fired. Like all super rich government contractor douchebags Williams has a hit squad always on standby just waiting for the call to do some dirty work. When Van Der Beek blabs to Cable News Service reporter Teri Polo about the dangers of this new technology, a story that becomes even more relevant after the tubby toady screws the pooch trying to defuse a tropical storm and instead turns it into a Cat 5 Hell Storm~! (Copyright: The Drudge Report) that destroys Miami, the hit men PSYCHO Polo as she takes a shower and frames Van Der Beek for her murder. Just shooting them both was out of the question for the sake of prolonging the miniseries another three hours.
Polo's death probably could have been avoided had she not worked for the worst 24-hour news channel on the planet, which is saying something in a world in which Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN exist. She records Van Der Beek's entire confession in her apartment and then takes him to CSN headquarters to tell his story to her boss, John Larroquette. Does he put this astonishing story on the air immediately? Of course not. He sends Van Der Beek home with her with plans to hold off on this headline making news until the next day and then specifically, emphatically, tells Polo not to lose that tape she recorded. Why give a crap about that tape if you have the flesh and blood person? Why wait a day with news this pertinent? CSN's slogan must be "We report. When we decide".
Polo gets knifed in the shower and Van Der Beek framed for it so he can start playing THE FUGITIVE, and then Larroquette and Polo's personal assistant get machine gunned to death by the hit squad outside the CNS parking garage. Killing a reporter and framing someone else for her death is one thing; assassinating the head of a major cable news network in a way that would make Al Capone proud is going to raise some serious questions in the long run. Why not just machine gun everybody?
Justice might have to wait since there only appears to be one policewoman on duty in all of Los Angeles. The freak weather accident at William's research facility out in the valley - she's on the case. The homeless man killed by the freak tornado in the L.A. park - she's on the case. The murders of Polo and Larroquette - she's on the case. The arrest and interrogation of Van Der Beek - she's on the case. And when she gets taken off the case, she thumbs her nose to her superiors and stays on the case.
Federal agents arrive to take Van Der Beek into custody thanks to Williams pulling some law enforcement strings. Then the uzi-toting hitmen intercept the vehicle, gun down the feds, and abduct him. Now Van Der Beek finds himself in the custody of Luke Perry playing - I kid you not - a military black ops weatherman. I may be crazy for saying this but that sounds like the coolest job in the world, like Jim Cantore and Jason Bourne all rolled into one.
Perry understands the dangers of weather-altering technology and has a computerized command post set up for Van Der Beek to use his know-how to counteract the mess Jack and red-headed intern Carly are making back at William's compound. They may have successfully created a sandstorm that helped the military eliminate some terrorists in the Middle East and steered another hurricane back out into the Pacific but what they don't realize is that every single time they fire up their stuff global weather patterns go even more kabloohey.
The weather control system requires an array of satellite dishes that shoot laser beams into the stratosphere that then bounce off a special satellite in orbit which then relays it back down to the atmospheric target. The producers clearly decided that invisible streams of energy and data were not visible enough so now they shoot beams of energy that bring to mind those huge crackling lightning ray gun vehicles from old Godzilla movies. Nobody ever witnesses these lasers being beamed into space and all around the globe, not even on atmospheric radar, not even when we are shown orbital POV of these massive beams of light creating massive holes in the ionosphere. Nobody takes notice of the ever-growing ominous dark PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT whirlpool in the sky hovering right above the satellite dishes that fire the beams either. Nobody notices a tornado in downtown Los Angeles. The movie BLINDNESS had more observant characters.
You would think all this alone would be more than enough to eat up time. You would be wrong. Other subplots have been crammed in. Constant cutaways to some non-descript characters working for the National Weather Bureau; their job to look at monitors and detail freak weather occurrences happening all around the world that the filmmakers couldn't afford to show us. The black meteorologist really wants to get back together with his bartending ex, too. Better believe she's going to wind up in mortal danger before its all over.
Test audiences must have decided that they did not want to see more scenes of a shirtless doughy Treat Williams getting a massage and the director must have realized you can only stretch out scenes of armed henchmen walking down long corridors for so long. Thus, this left the writers with no alternative but toss in the subplot that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything else involving a young pregnant Latino woman having a difficult pregnancy and an even more difficult time as her paramedic boyfriend is stuck out in the bad weather unable to get back home to rescue her from possibly getting electrocuted by the short-circuiting circuit breaker in the flooding basement. A potential weather apocalypse is at hand but heaven forbid something terrible happen to this random citizen. She's pregnant, dammit! Circle of life, people!
NEXT WEEK ON THE STORM... An actual storm, perhaps?
Did I hear someone say they want more conversations between Treat Williams and David James Elliot? You are in luck. Reluctant General JAG wants the project shutdown because of the meteorological holocaust occurring worldwide: snow in Hawaii, tornadoes in Alaska, instant hurricanes popping up right and left, monstrous lightning strikes hitting with Zeus-like accuracy, random downbursts of tornadic dust storms dealing with California's illegal orange-picking alien problem. Treat Williams calmly tells him everything is going to be hunky dory; just be patient because they have too much money invested in this project and eventually they'll need this technology to knock Iranian nukes out of American airspace. The Secretary of Defense does not agree and threatens General JAG with Senate investigations and imprisonment for his part in the biggest government program debacle since health savings accounts.
A scenic shot of the Washington D.C. skyline shows us a bright sunny day without a cloud in the beautiful blue sky. Cut inside to David James Elliot's gloomy Pentagon office that frequently flickers with light from the flashes of lightning coming through his window. Either this was a major continuity error or every office in D.C. has a Dick Cheney ambiance setting.
How exactly does JAG guy or Treat Williams, whichever one it was that miraculously flew across country and back in record time just to have a 90-second conversation and continues getting back and forth between Washington D.C. and Los Angeles when all flights have been grounded due to stratospheric holocaust knocking planes out of the sky? Why ask why when there are better questions to be asked.
"How about this weather?"
"What's up with this weather?"
You'll hear those two questions asked a half dozen times by various characters not in the know long past the point when it makes any sense to rhetorically ask even in a curious manner.
"Is this the end of the world?"
"Am I going to die?"
Those are the appropriate questions they should have been asking by this point.
Luke Perry's wetworks weatherman turns out to work for Treat Williams. Agent 90210's assignment being to get Van Der Beek to come up with a means of reversing the atmospheric chaos (Hint: it will involve shooting a ton of death rays at the very atmospheric hole the death rays created in the first place) and then make sure Dawson's Creek sleeps with the fishes. Van Der Beek succeeds on his end, Perry's execution goes afoul and he ends up being the one to take the Nestea Death Plunge off a very high point. In the ultimate battle of teen show super hunks, let the record show that Dawson Leery laid the smack down on Dylan McKay. Someone call in Mark-Paul Gosselaar for round two.
Van Der Beek does his FUGITIVE routine (again), eventually hooking up (again) with that female detective just in time for them to get chased around by those uzi-toting henchmen. Action scenes in the rain set to metal music with "24"-style split screening for extra effect fail to distract me from the sheer lack of cataclysmic disaster scenes I expected when tuning in to watch a miniseries called THE STORM. Chase scenes get more screen time than scenes of weather-related destruction by a 10-1 margin.
Van Der Beek saves the day. Uzi-toting henchmen get blown up. A dirty cop gets arrested. David James Elliot commits suicide. A baby is born. A marriage is saved. Jack narrowly avoids a nervous breakdown. Treat Williams gets gunned down. Carly gets shot in the arm for the heck of it. A four-hour disaster miniseries ends with a gun stand-off in a room filled with computers. I want my 240-minutes back.
When THE STORM was over one nagging question I wanted answered continued to nag at me. Where the hell did that lady cop get that cup of brand name espresso she was drinking in the last scene? Los Angeles has been devastated by a storm the media described as being of "biblical proportions", everything is shutdown or devastated, life is at a complete stand still, and somehow this female cop has a fresh cup of coffee in her hands. What coffee shop remained open amid this meteorlogical holocaust is what I want to know? Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor gloom of doom will stop Starbucks from brewing you a cup of joe.
I read the other day that 2012 was a huge hit in China. The positive portrayal of China (i.e. building the arks that save what little of mankind remains, coldly leaving John Cusack and his family behind to die on an icy plain because they dont have a ticket to get aboard the arks) left many Chinese moviegoers feeling a sense of pride in seeing their countrys role in the film. I can only imagine what they must have felt this past year watching the first disaster movie ever produced by mainland China, SUPER TYPHOON, the cornball (Or would that be rice ball in this case?) tale of a major Chinese city in the crosshairs of a satellite photo of a giant hurricane referred to as "Blue Whale. A big hit in its native country, although SUPER TYPHOON is less a cheesy disaster epic than it is a cheesy Chinese civics lesson.
You know how old Godzilla movies always included those scenes of government leaders, military officials, and scientists huddled together in a war room to discuss monster fighting strategy? Most of SUPER TYPHOON's running time is devoted to scene after scene after scene after scene after scene after scene of precisely that, always culminating with someone giving a heavy-handed speech about the need for steadfast readiness. Under normal circumstances such scenes would have bored the daylights out of me fast but I sat riveted by their every overly analytical word because, blame it on the poorly translated subtitles or maybe the writing was just awful to begin with or a combination of both, what they say much of the time borders on complete gibberish. One scene has the meteorologist comparing the unpredictable nature of this enormous cyclone to that of a frog a pupil once used to play a practical joke on her. I kept waiting for someone, anyone, in the room to ask her what the hell she was babbling about, but I knew such a moment would never come because by this time it had been well established that the filmmakers intended for every line of dialogue that comes out of the mouth of the person addressing this room to either be well-reasoned or profound. Why else would every speech be accompanied by the most dramatic orchestral music possible?
SUPER TYPHOON can be broken down into two parts: the first part a testament to Chinese efficiency in planning for the storms arrival and the second half sees the storm strike so that we can then experience that Chinese efficiency in action. Not a single person dies in SUPER TYPHOON and the storm damage, while catastrophic, is still less than it should have been thanks to successful city planning and unified storm preparation.
Kind of tricky to make disaster flick in a Communist country when the ruling political party is so determined to portray their society as a model of civic perfection that showing any semblance of failure of any part of their well-oiled machine is tantamount to treason. You know why North Korea has yet to make a disaster movie such as this? Because even they realize nobody wants to watch Kim Jong Il single-handedly steer a cataclysmic super storm in an opposite direction with the wind generated by him performing an erotic fan dance.
Right from the start, China is portrayed as a pristine place of idyllic scenery and peaceful tranquility where everyone exists in a state of bliss and children with big smiles on their faces frolic in gumdrop waterfalls as cotton candy grows on trees. Its a paradise that would make even Glen Campbell want to defect. When there is a portrayal of some element of society that is less than an unrealistic ideal, such as a pickpocket, the Mayor is standing right behind him decked out in his finest track suit ready to give the nerdowell a good throttling.
The Mayor - he doesn't even need a name. He just needs to say "This is the Mayor" and everyone within the sound of his voice hangs onto his every word like Jesus speaking on the mound. He doesn't even have to say a word; his very appearance before a rowdy crowd brings about a hushed awe. The Mayor is a man of such compassion, keen intellect, iron will, and stalwart leadership he is like Superman, Mr. Spock, George Washington, and Moses all rolled into one. So doggedly resilient in the face of impending catastrophe he makes Rudolph Giuliani on 9/11 look like Ike Clanton in TOMBSTONE. So cool under pressure he makes origami pinwheels during meetings updating the progress of monster storm threatening his city. Arguing rescue workers on the verge of a full-scale riot; the Mayor arrives and gives a sternly worded yet heartfelt speech about how their dereliction of duty endangers all making one of the rabble rousers weep with shame. And that guy won't be the only person brought to tears upon hearing the sound of his voice. I don't won't to say the Mayor is treated with a near messianic quality but if Jesus showed up he would drop to his knees and begin washing the Mayor's feet.
It sounds like parody yet SUPER TYPHOON takes itself as serious as serious as a movie can SCHLINDLERS LIST serious. It doesn't have an ironic bone in its body even as the Mayor runs towards the camera in slow motion through the pounding rain racing to save a man pinned beneath a leaking gas tanker truck or a the Mayor is forced to pick up a piece of wood, leap into the rising flood waters, and beat back a rubber shark threatening another injured man. It sounds like high comedy. It is high comedy. It was not meant to be high comedy.
Every last drop of SUPER TYPHOON's overstated melodrama is punctuated by an ostentatious score in a constant state of swelling. The flood waters don't swell as much as the music does. If someone says anything with even a hint of conviction in their voice or even the slightest act of diligence is performed you better believe it will be set to the sort of triumphant score usually reserved for the climactic moment of an overwrought melodrama when the handicapped person makes the game-winning score. I don't exaggerate when I tell you we hear this swelling music roughly every 90 seconds during the second half of the film, as if the director couldnt help himself and decided every little moment from the second the storm hit was a triumph of the human spirit.
If the Mayor isn't giving the speech then the leading meteorologist gets the honor. She turns out to be the Mayors old school teacher, another moment the director decided warranted that swelling score. Should I find it puzzling that the Mayor and his old teacher look to be nearly the same age?
A crazy American storm chaser determined to get footage from inside the eye of Blue Whale is the only non-Chinese character. He does not make any stoic speeches because, after all, he's an American and Americans behave like thrill-seeking yahoos. Given what a straight face SUPER TYPHOON maintains I honestly cannot determine if he was meant to be comic relief or if the Chinese just assume all Americans act nuttier than Gary Busey on a cocaine binge.
It takes nearly an hour for the film to stop showing us a still satellite photo of Blue Whale and actually get down to showing us some storm damage. Real rushing water sweeps away toy vehicles and swamps model buildings; how rare is it to see special effects of this caliber not followed up by a guy in a rubber monster costume coming ashore? Slightly better than Syfy quality computer effects bring to life a skyscraper-esque waterspout that appears just long enough to send a full-sized fishing boat and a LITTLE DOGGY~! zipping past the camera. Not to worry; the dog somehow survives for an emotional reuniting with its owner at the end; man and dog run towards one another across a beach in slow motion as that infernally triumphant music swells once more.
And let the record show that even in a Chinese disaster movie you can count on a subplot about a pregnant woman going into labor and her husband desperately trying to reach her amid the bedlam. Her rescue becomes the focal point of the final 20-minutes with the Mayor and the military all going above and beyond to rescue this one woman as she gives birth. The sound of a baby crying on an iPhone prompts a round of applause from the command center. They dont even care that she gave birth to an inferior girl. Oh, how times have changed in China.
Being this is a Commie pinko left-leaning piece of propaganda, the weather lady ends the movie with a warning that unless we do something about the "Greenhouse Effect" (How very 90's of her) there will be more storms like Blue Whale in the future. Why not just have the Mayor fart rainbows of carbon offsets? He successfully saves everything else in the movie; surely he possesses the means by which to end global warming with the sound of his voice and a wiggle of his sphincter.
MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE POSEIDON
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