Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Movie Review: Magma - Volcanic Disaster (2006)

Magma: Volcanic Disaster (2006) - USA - Sci-Fi/Disaster Movie - PG-13
Directed by Ian Gilmore
Starring Xander Berkeley, Amy Jo Johnson, David O'Donnell, George R. Sheffey, Michael Durrell, Reiko Aylesworth, Valentin Ganev

An average disaster movie with a not too original plot brought up a level by a really good cast.

A volcanologist is convinced that an increase in volcano activity is an indication of a global catastrophe. It is up to a professor of volcanology and his students to investigate this possibility and come up with a way to avert this potential tragedy, and an even tougher task of convincing the government.

The basic plot of this movie is pretty much by the book disaster movie plot. Take out volcano and insert any other disaster in the above summarization and you have the plot of any of dozens of other disaster movies. What separates this from a lot of the others are excellent performances by Xander Berkeley, Amy Jo Johnson and the rest of the cast.

Xander Berkeley brings his all to this role as he does with any role. Amy Jo Johnson is refreshing in her role of an eager student whose drive and enthusiasm helps to get things moving forward. Reiko Aylesworth as the semi-estranged wife of Xander Berkeley's character brings empathy to the story. Additionally there is conflict such as a sleazy government scientist who does not take the threat seriously and sets up a verbal smackdown by Amy Jo Johnson's character which is probably the best line in the movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Magma: Volcanic Disaster is available on DVD.

For more volcano disaster movies check out Super Eruption and Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, February 27, 2017

Movie Review: Octopus (2000)

Octopus (2000) - USA - Sci-Fi/Adventure - PG-13
Directed by John Eryes
Starring Jay Harrington, David Beecroft, Carolyn Lowery, Ravil Isyanov, Ricco Ross

An at times silly movie with some chaotic camerawork is ultimately entertaining by moving at a good pace and maintaining a tongue-in-cheek attitude despite all the death and carnage taking place.

During the Cuban missile crisis a Russian sub carrying an unknown but highly questionable cargo is sunk to the bottom of the ocean spilling its contents onto the ocean floor. 38 years later in Bulgaria an international terrorist bombs a U.S. embassy. Having been caught by an analyst working for the CIA, the U.S. wants him badly and has to work quickly to transport him to avoid his escape. The only means of transport available is by a submarine with a rather unorthodox commander and an attractive female scientist on board to explore a region known for many ships disappearing. As a terrorist plot unfolds to free the bomber, something else is lurking in the ocean depths neither side anticipates.

From a rather somber beginning, this movie picks up quickly once aboard the submarine. Even though death and destruction is the order of the day, our three protagonists, a ridiculously gun-shy CIA analyst, a ridiculously macho sub commander and a sultry female scientist who ends up out of her clothes ridiculously easily (just to her underwear), can't help slinging sarcastic quips of humor whenever at least two of them are in the same scene.

The main downside to this movie is the chaotic camerawork, though effective in creating a sense of chaos and claustrophobia, at times is too much to tell what is happening in a scene. The other downside for some might be picking this movie apart for its lack of realism concerning submarines. With regard to the latter, this is a giant creature movie, do you really expect it to be realistic?

Overall the movie is well paced and has enjoyable characters as the leads and ultimately is entertaining if you're not like an expert on things like submarines and marine life.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Octopus is available on DVD. So is its in name only sequel Octopus 2.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Movie Review: Without Warning (1994)

Without Warning (1994) - USA - Sci-Fi/Breaking News Drama - TV Movie
Directed by Robert Iscove
Starring Sander Vanocur, Jane Kaczmarek, Bree Walker, Dwier Brown, Brian McNamara, James Morrison, James Handy, Kario Salem, Spencer Garrett, Gina Hecht, Dennis Lipscomb, John de Lancie, Patty Toy, Ashley Peldon

An excellent presentation in a breaking news format marred by occasional irrelevancies and a confused message.

A murder mystery movie is playing only to be interrupted by breaking news. Three locations around the world in the northern hemisphere have been struck by meteorites simultaneously; one in the United States, one in Europe and one in Asia. It seems an asteroid entering into Earth's orbit broke apart into three pieces, hurtling three meteors into Earth's atmosphere. As the night progresses questions arise about the equidistant spacing of the hits, and that they all struck on the same parallel. With the seemingly systematic meteorite strikes, two survivors having been found both speaking incoherently in tongues, and a prominent SETI scientist being rushed to NASA, the question arises if this has some alien intelligence behind it. More after we break for station identification.

If it weren't for this having been made 23 years ago, my first thought was this would be a great prank to pull on unsuspecting friends or guests; leaving this playing on the TV when they come over to visit and telling them it's an actual newscast. Other than the opening mystery movie sequence, solely for the purpose of having programming to break into with the newscast, this is entirely a mock newscast with only a 'we will return after this from our local affiliates' thrown in for commercial breaks. Of course, at the time it was originally broadcast there would also be a disclaimer that this was not real, both as a crawl (text on the bottom of the screen) and at commercial breaks (not included in the DVD version). Unfortunately with an actual retired newsman leading the cast, Sander Vanocur, and the very convincing presentation, this movie did cause some concern among viewers watching it if they didn't tune in from the start because it looked so real.

The presentation is excellent. What takes it down a notch for me is contrivances within the broadcast used for heightening the tension, or storytelling, but with no conclusion or necessarily much if any rationality. Although sparse in this regard, what happens in the town of Grover's Mill, without giving anything away, doesn't fit with the rest of the story, other than heightening the mystery, irrelevantly, and lacks much sense with regard to the rest of the story. And good luck with figuring out the message this movie is trying to make; it just seems like blaming people for trying to defend themselves.

Despite my reservations about contrivances within the story and a confused message, overall it is an excellent and entertaining presentation that is overall a good movie.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

You can get it on DVD though the price seems high. I found it on YouTube myself.

Check out the Sci-Fi Collector's Set on DVD with Final Days of Planet Earth and Supernova.

Toxic Fletch

Monday, February 20, 2017

Movie Review: Ice (1998)

Ice (1998) - USA - Adventure/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Jean de Segonzac
Starring Grant Show, Eva LaRue, Audie England, Udo Kier, Flex Alexander, Michael Riley, Kyle Fairlie, Kristin Booth, Diego Fuentes, Art Hindle

Though watchable, a better element of believability and sympathetic characters would have made it a better movie.

Increased sunspot activity reducing the effect of the Sun warming the Earth is going to plunge the temperatures globally well below freezing. In the Los Angeles area where this story takes place, temperatures will drop to 80-100 degrees below 0 fahrenheit. A group of characters composed of a family, a cop and his girlfriend, a criminal and the scientist who predicted this disaster are trying to make their way to a promised boat that will take them to the equator where it will at least be survivable.

My biggest problem with this movie is in believing how cold it is suppose to be with characters wearing nothing more than simple coats, most not even wearing headgear or gloves; and yet it is suppose to be well below zero. I don't think the writers or makers of this movie have ever been out of the L.A. area. Even at 0 degrees someone would have severe frostbites just with a few minutes of exposure being dressed the way these people are. Perhaps it is a minor quibble, but living in an area that has a winter, and can get very cold, I just found it difficult to believe the story.

The other problem is these characters are constantly fighting with each other. I'm thinking it's probably not a good idea for them to get to safety for the simple fact they could possibly breed in the future and there would be a world with more of them.

The movie is watchable. It moves at a good pace. It also has Audie England and Eva LaRue in it, so for us guys at least the eye candy factor is there.

My Rating: 2 Fingers

It is not available on DVD but can be found on YouTube.

You can see more, and I mean a lot more, of Audie England in Zalman King's Delta of Venus.

Toxic Fletch

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Movie Review: Inferno (1998)

Inferno (1998) - USA - Action/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Ian Barry
Starring James Remar, Stephanie Niznik, Anthony Starke, Daniel von Bargen, Jonathan LaPaglia, Kathryn Morris, Fredric Lehne, Frank Birney

An entertaining enough TV movie that takes more than a few lessons from the 70s disaster movie formula.

An unprecedented solar flare, for our time anyway, is going to impact the earth. The result will be an increase in temperatures on a global scale with some places reaching upwards of 145 degrees fahrenheit or more. This will only last for a few days before the temperatures return to normal, but who will survive this extreme heat wave? The focus of this movie is on Los Angeles and the individual and interconnected stories of various characters including a doctor, a lifeguard, her stalking ex-boyfriend, a teacher who is also a reservist, a would-be bank robber, and a general tasked with dealing with this disaster.

Inferno takes a lesson from 70s disaster movies (e.g. Earthquake 1974) and runs with it. We are introduced to the threat at the start, then the characters and their individual stories. These different characters will cross paths at some point, either cooperatively or as a disruption. It worked well enough for disaster movies of the 70s and it works in this movie as well.

The main thing that was working against the movie for me was believing that these people were dealing with 130 degree plus temperatures and not collapsing, dying, and still having vehicles running. I just had to increase my suspension of disbelief.

My Rating: 3 Fingers

Though not available on DVD you can get a copy on VHS or you can find it on YouTube.

You can get a 6 Movie DVD Disaster Pack including the movies Scorcher and Miami Magma.

Toxic Fletch

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ticking The Clock With Disaster Movies

#TickingTheClock is my movie review theme/hashtag for the next month or two. It seems fitting in these turbulent times with an utterly moronic, barbaric bigot in the White House ticking the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. Somehow I am just inspired to watch disaster movies by this. Maybe just for the simple reason that disaster movies represent a more pleasant end to us than what this country will suffer under an incompetent president and republican led congress followed by their army of bigots across this country who dream of a scorched earth America occupied by white supremacists.

But enough about the unfortunate comedy of errors taking place daily in Washington.

Disaster movies have a particular charm to them. They are often simple, well-paced, and provide entertainment for the 90+ minutes long they are. Certainly Syfy has had a successful run for years with cookie cutter low budget movies filling their schedule; and if there is nothing else to watch on TV, most people, whether they admit it or not, can fill the void with a cheesy disaster movie and enjoy it.

Tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or the world facing an eminent ice age, these are things that would frighten us in reality, but somehow watching it on TV entertains us, even puts us at ease. Maybe the reason for that is that we are insulated from a world of make-believe on the screen, and mentally overcome something that if it were real, well we probably wouldn't. Much is the same reason behind enjoying horror movies, and especially slasher flicks, where we imagine we would fare better against the source of the horror better than the characters onscreen.

One element of like 80% or better of disaster movies that has really caught my attention as of late is that at some point the president is contacted. Usually the president is represented as thoughtful, capable, and most of all concerned about the public at large. Could you just imagine, however, if the current president and his clown posse had to deal with such a disaster?


Well, rather than think too long on that I would rather be entertained to the point of numbness by these disaster movies and will be providing reviews for your entertainment as well.

Toxic Fletch