Category 6 – The End is Nigh! Week

I am a complete sucker for disaster movies. I grew up during their heyday in the 70s and my mom took me to many of them (Airport 75, Airport 77, The Towering Inferno, etc.). The genre pretty much died until CGI revived it recently and raised the ante.

One-Line Review: Umm, it’s better than Category 7.

The television miniseries Category 6: Day of Destruction is currently available on instant Netflix.

Category 6: Day of Destruction (2004) – Rated TV-PG

“In this miniseries, meteorologist Andy Goodman (Brian Dennehy) begins tracking a trio of nasty storms brewing in the United States. Meanwhile, Chicago is battling a record heat wave, but residents have no idea the worst storm in history is about to pummel them as the three weather systems collide over the area. This sets off a deadly chain of events leading to the national power grid’s collapse and potentially massive damage.”

 “No I should’ve listened to my gut.”

Well perhaps I should have listened to my gut as well. Category 6 is not good but is a passable few hours if you are desperate for disaster.

The special effects range from really awful to pretty decent for an eight-year-old made-for-TV miniseries. Strangely nature’s (or space aliens’) destruction of landmarks is highly enjoyable but mankind’s destruction of them is still horrifying (9/11 being the most obvious example). The miniseries uses a lot of stock footage to good effect but then they’ll throw in loopy stuff like hurricane footage from Florida complete with palm trees and tell you it’s in the midwest.

Performances are just okay. Since disaster movies typically feature well-known movie actors, this disaster miniseries throws in a number of TV and movie stalwarts.If you ever wonder what happened to Jo from The Facts of Life, Nancy McKeon stars here as a self-doubting reporter.

The lead male role goes to Thomas Gibson (Greg of Dharma & Greg) who shows almost no signs of life here. The miniseries’ big catch is Brian Dennehy as the wise weather know-it-all Andy Goodman. Sadly, while I like Dennehy, here he just sits in a chair and reads his lines. Check, please!

Also along for the ride on name recognition are Dianne Wiest as the most independent Secretary of Energy ever, Shirley Abbott and Randy Quaid as Tornado Tommy Dixon. I’, normally not a fan of Quaid but he seems to be the only actor with some energy in this miniseries. Yes Quaid is normally manic but given how snooze-inducing the rest of the cast is, manic works.

There are a huge number of errors in Category 6. From the aforementioned hurricane footage to an inability to understand how cellphones work, the gaffes are fast and furious. Chicago residents will be howling at Nancy Mckeon’s pronunciation of landmarks to Old Town precinct (not only is there no Old Town but they don’t use precincts) to Buckingham Fountain being identified as City Hall to Canadian storefronts. Apparently many of the locations didn’t get the notice that there was a blackout as signs are lit up.

The real gaffe award should go to the scriptwriter for writing major plotlines that have nothing to do with the approaching (ugh) perfect storm and rather lame dialogue for all concerned. Do people watching a miniseries entitled Category 6: Day of Destruction care about energy profiteers and a possible Chicago blackout? Can people keep track of the three converging fronts? No wait make that two – no wait it’s three – oops now two again? Did anyone read the script?

People Watch: Look for Dean Norris (Hank from Breaking Bad) and Glenn Morshower (Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce on 24) in brief roles as 747 pilots.

Shakespeare week – Romeo + Juliet

This is Shakespeare week. One of the things I most enjoy about our local Shakespeare company is the unique spin they put on his plays. One of the more unique movie adaptations of Shakespeare is Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann.

WATCH: Romeo + Juliet (1996) – Rated PG-13 for scenes of contemporary violence and some sensuality.

“In director Baz Luhrmanns contemporary take on William Shakespeares classic tragedy, the Montagues and Capulets have moved their ongoing feud to the sweltering suburb of Verona Beach, where Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) fall in love and secretly wed. Though the film is visually modern, the bards dialogue remains intact as the feuding families children pay a disastrous cost for their mutual affection.”

“The hurt cannot be much” – “Twill serve – ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”

Right off the bat there is no mistaking Romeo + Juliet for the stately Franco Zeffirelli version (the previous gold standard for Romeo & Juliet adaptations – currently also available on instant Netflix). Romeo + Juliet opens with a TV newscaster reading from the prologue and quickly segues into a helicopter overview of Fair Verona Beach.

The hyper-kinetic stylings of Baz Luhrmann would seem to be antithetical to a proper rendition of Romeo & Juliet yet it works. The entire film can be watched just for the visuals as each scene is filled with explosions of color and music. There are many inventive modern updatings such as guns named “sword” and “rapier” and the truck called “Post Haste Delivery”.

Baz Luhrmann is clearly fond of male pecs – not only do all the young men appear partially or entirely shirtless but even Pete Postlethwaite as Father Laurence, a character one would imagine clothed in a particular fashion, is seen instructing young boys while half-naked. I will go ahead and guess that this movie predates the massive Catholic priest scandals. Juliet is also topless in a scene but only hr back is shown.

The performances are all over the map. Thankfully, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are wonderfully fresh faced and intense as the doomed couple. Diane Venora plays mother to Juliet quite well but her accent slips terribly from scene to scene, even from line to line. Brian Dennehy is wasted as Ted Montague but Paul Sorvino is surprisingly restrained as Fulgencio Capulet.

Many of the other actors have their performances turned up to 11. Harold Perrineau (Michael from the TV series Lost, also available on instant Netflix) does a delightful job of playing a deliriously over-the-top and seriously deranged Mercutio. John Leguizamo is filled with bitterest gall as Tybalt. Jaime Kennedy is his usual screwball self as Sampson, a “Montague boy”.

Afterthought: while I highly recommend this film, Romeo is hardly a sympathetic character. He mopes around coveting Rosaline, drops a tab of Ecstasy, crashes a party, and promptly forgets all about Rosaline when he spies Juliet. He then inadvertently causes the death of his friend, guns down an unarmed cousin of his wife, and performs a few more heinous acts on his way to the tragic finale.

People Watch: Look for currently popular comedian Paul Rudd as Dave Paris and noted character actor M. Emmet Walsh as the apothecary.

 

Righteous Kill – Al Pacino week

This is the end of Robert De Niro week. As next week is Al Pacino week, a good segue would be The Godfather: Part II. Unfortunately that film is not available on instant Netflix but Righteous Kill is currently available on instant Netflix and it’s probably just as good since it has both of them in it.

Righteous Kill

AVOID: Righteous Kill (2008) – Rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality, and brief drug use.

“Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Al Pacino drive this taut thriller as New York City detectives tasked with investigating a rash of vigilante killings that are linked to an old case, suggesting they might have put an innocent man behind bars. John Leguizamo, Carla Gugino, Brian Dennehy, Donnie Wahlberg and rapper-turned-actor 50 Cent also star in director Jon Avnet’s crime drama, penned by Russel Gerwitz (Inside Man).”

“You sort of get numb to it.”

Ah if only one could get numb to this. Just because you have two Oscar-winning actors starring in your movie doesn’t automatically make it good. Even a fine supporting cast can’t save this film.

Al Pacino plays a character nicknamed Rooster. This is appropriate as he struts all over the movie. He also crows many of his lines. It really appears as though the director just told him, “go for it!” instead of actually directing. The other actors just seem to walk through their performances.

The script is dreadful. It thinks it is witty and urbane and admittedly there are a few good lines in it. Overall the script doesn’t appear to have been written as a whole. It appears to have been written as a series of “ooh that’s a good line” moments, regardless of whether it makes sense for any particular character to be delivering that particular line.

Although women don’t feature prominently in this film, the movie comes across as terribly misogynistic. This is not unusual for a cop story as it is one of the last bastions of the good ole boy network. Unfortunately here it is not an extension of the job.

The main female character, Karen (Carla Gugino), is Turk’s (Robert De Niro) girlfriend and a crime scene technician. Gugino was 37 and De Niro was 65. This is annoyingly standard for Hollywood. Yes it is a common male fantasy for older men to want a much younger woman and of course it does occur. The problem is that Hollywood portrays the old enough to be your father or even grandfather relationship as the norm.

*SPOILER*

Karen makes fun of Turk because the most violent he gets in bed is pulling her hair. She also gets very turned on by a description of Turk beating someone up. She happily puts up with sexual harassment at work. Clearly she is ‘asking for it’ so you can imagine what happens to her late in the film.

There are only two other female characters in the movie (other than sexy dancers and a nude woman in bed). The first is a completely moronic drug-using attorney who also appear to be attracted to Turk in one scene (she appears to be younger than Karen). The second is an alcoholic who provided the alibi for her boyfriend while he killed and raped a 10-year old.

Obviously I can’t recommend this film. Seriously just AVOID this piece of cinematic garbage and place the blame squarely on director Jon Avnet.

People Watch: It really says something when the most restrained performance is given by John Leguizamo.