Category 7 – The End is Really Nigh! week

Category 7: The End of the World, a sequel to Category 6: Day of Destruction, is also currently available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: A sequel that ups the ante in special effects, hires a few more guest stars, and gets an even sillier script.

Category 7: The End of the World (2005) – Rated TV-PG

“In this gripping follow-up to the made-for-television movie Category 6: Day of Destruction, Gina Gershon stars as beleaguered FEMA director Judith Carr, whose worst nightmares play out when severe “superstorms” envelop the planet. Millions of people need her organization’s help, and she’s assisted by outcast scientist Faith (Shannen Doherty) and storm chaser Tommy (Randy Quaid) in trying to learn how and why the destruction is happening.”

“Now that look tells me you think I just chucked a great opportunity to get heard, get funding, stop being the weatherman in the iron mask.”

“It’s worse than Chicago!”

How do you top the two-hour destruction of Chicago from Category 6? How about destroying Paris in the first three minutes? Apparently Category 6 did so well that not only was Category 7 greenlit but the effects budget was upped and there are a lot more ‘stars’ here.

Destruction here visits, to varying degrees, Paris, The Mall of the Americas (reused footage from Category 6 – common in this miniseries), Mount Rushmore, the Pyramids at Khufu, Miami, Hong Kong, and, as usual, New York. We also get the biblical plagues of frogs and flies.

Brian Dennehy was apparently no longer available to sit in his chair so our wise yet embattled leader is newly appointed FEMA Director Judith Carr, played by an earnest Gina Gershon. Brigid (Lindy Booth of Cry Wolf and Dawn of the Dead) is the stereotypical intrepid under-appreciated reporter.

Randy Quaid is the only member of the original cast to return, which doesn’t make sense on more than one level. His storm-chasing Tornado Tommy somehow gets an upgrade here. Also even though he is in a body cast, traction and separate casts for each limb, he just removes all of those when the call of duty comes in. He still has a neck brace that he loses the first chance he gets and is apparently none the worse for wear. He also takes the time to chide a trailer resident who won’t take shelter from a twister when he took a joyride in one in category 6.

James Brolin and Swoosie Kurtz play Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker clones Donny and Penny Hall. Nicholas (Alex Krycek of The X-Files) Lea plays Monty, a loyal follower of the Halls. Kenneth Welsh, who played Vice President Becker in the previous year’s The Day After Tomorrow, gets downgraded here to Chief of Staff Alan Horst (although his character serves essentially the same purpose). We also get appearances from Robert Wagner, Shannon Doherty and Tom Skerritt.

Tom Skerritt plays Colonel Mike Davis, a government weather pilot. Now obviously with a problem of this magnitude, you don’t want a namby-pamby weather plane. Colonel Davis gets an SR-71 that he performs some incredible maneuvers with – not great, simply not credible! Not only that but they are maneuvers, heck almost an entire scene, lifted from X-Men.

The one thing I really don’t understand is why they can’t get the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale right. It would seem to be Ecological Disaster 101 and would cost them nothing. That and the chief scientist constantly mispronouncing the word Mesosphere were the most irritating things in the series.

Sadly this was filmed fairly early in 2005 and released in November 2005. I say sadly because between those two points Hurricane Katrina hit. The government here is just about as effective though FEMA is considerably more effective on television. As with Category 6, we are also saddled with a number of irrelevant subplots to put the teenaged children in danger.

 

The Concorde: Airport 79 – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. The Concorde: Airport 79 is currently available on instant Netflix.

AVOID: The Concorde: Airport 79 – Rated PG.

“In the fourth installment of the air-disaster series, a ruthless businessman (Robert Wagner) tries to destroy the Concorde and kill a corporate spy, forcing the flight crew to contend with an errant missile, the French air force and a midair explosion. George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni — now piloting the hypersonic jet — alongside a bevy of 1970s stars, including Charo and Jimmie Walker”

“My boy is starting college, my wife has been dead for about a year.” – Said with no emotion at all by Patroni (George Kennedy).

Last night I woke up in a cold sweat. I dreamt I was being chased by a giant banana.” (No I am not making that up)

To paraphrase Thumper, “If you do not have anything nice to say then say nothing at all”. Well that will not make for good reading so let me think a moment.

I have it – the good part about this movie is that it is broadcast in high definition for those with set top boxes. that is pretty much it.

In 1979, we are a half decade away from the height of the disaster genre, The Towering Inferno (pun intended). While Robert Wagner does appear in both of them, Inferno stars Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway and William Holden. Airport 79 stars Alain Delon, Eddie Albert, Susan Blakely, and George Kennedy.

George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni from the previous three Airport movies. Apparently when asked to appear, he must have told them “only if I get to fly the Concorde and have sex with a hooker this time “. Thus, inexplicably, he is now a pilot.

After treating the Concorde like the jet in the arcade game Afterburner, he dazzles the passengers with a story about what a minor problem it was. They proceed to give him a standing ovation (seriously).

What this movie lacks in star power, it makes up for in sheer mind-boggling quantity of low-tier celebrities.

Apparently the European nature of the Concorde inspired them to hire some international actors. My guess is that they were able to acquire them on the cheap. Alain Delon, Bibi Andersson, and Sylvia (Emmanuelle) Kristel all appear here.

For old TV and movie fans we have Mercedes McCambridge and Eddie Albert. For genre fans we have David (Time after Time) Warner and Sybil (Chained Heat) Danning.

Martha Raye makes her final appearance here as a bladder-challenged passenger. Jimmie (Dyn-O-Mite!) Walker appears as a dope-smoking, jive-talking musician (way to fight those stereotypes!). Charo (coochie coochie) is Margarita.

What are the odds that not one, not two but three consecutive news stories would all relate to our plot? Admittedly the first two are related to each other but seriously how often do we have news stories on state-of-the-art military hardware? I wonder if those drones will show up later in the film.

Since the sick kid ploy worked so well in Airport 75, here we have a 7-year old boy who needs a heart-transplant. Apparently they could not find a cute boy so they are transporting the heart to the boy. Do not worry though we have Cicely Tyson talking incessantly about it.

If that is not treacly enough for you, we also have a little deaf girl on the plane. Avery Scheiber plays her Russian coach father.

I have to say that I really do not understand why we do not have Concordes in the military. In this film the most sophisticated drone ever made (news story) is unable to shoot down the Concorde and neither is a jet armed with missiles and machine guns.

Of course, and I assure you that I am not making this up, when you have a missile locked onto you the obvious answer is to open the window and fire a flare gun. If this does not work, you can always turn the Concorde upside down for a second shot.

You would think all of those would be spoilers but they actually occur in the first half of the movie. I thought it was utterly ridiculous before they land in Paris but then they up the ante.

Really the only people I can imagine this appealing to are Concorde fetishists and train-wreck aficionados. This movie is just awful.

People Watch: Ed Begley Jr. has an early role here as the aptly named, Rescuer #1.

Titanic (1953) – Don’t Get on That Boat! week

This is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. Titanic is currently available on instant Netflix.

Titanic

WATCH: Titanic (1953) – NR – Not rated

“An unhappily married couple, Julia and Richard Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb), board the Titanic, while one of their daughters falls in love with a boy from the underclass. Once they set sail, Richard never allows Julia out of his sight, and unsuccessfully begs for reconciliation. But when the iceberg looms and disaster strikes, the Sturges must set their differences aside … for themselves and for the sake of their children.”

“May I bone your kipper, Mademoiselle?”

Okay wait – that quote makes the film seem like a sex comedy. Let me try again.

“If you get a good omelette, who cares whether the chicken likes you or not?”

Hrrrm. That’s not much better. One last try:

“Twenty years ago I made the unpardonable error of thinking I could civilize a girl who bought her hats out of a Sears-Roebuck catalog.”

The story of the Titanic is almost perfect. It contains pride, hubris, tragedy, cowardice and heroism by its very nature. It is also easy to serve as a backdrop for romance and/or an examination of our class system. A bygone way of life can also be researched and examined.

James Cameron successfully did all of this in the first half of his epic version of Titanic (1997). He then grafted an entire action film into the second half. His meticulous research helped make every detail of the film authentic. This is not that film.

This version of Titanic is still quite good for its time. It won an Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay. It has strong dialogue in a number of places as witnessed by the final two quotes. The first quote is not an innuendo – it is literal. Titanic was also nominated for Best Art Direction – Set Direction, Blank and White.

Factually it is a mixed bag. As noted in the beginning of the film, “All navigational details of this film – conversations, incidents and general data – are taken verbatim from the published reports of inquiries held in 1912 by the Congress of the United States and the British Board of Trade.” The lack of a traditional music score also lends some authenticity to the proceedings.

On the other hand, there are innumerable factual mistakes regarding the ship and incident. These range from inconsequential things (no shuffleboard on Titanic) to oddities such as the ship being sold out and the White Star chairman indicating that he wouldn’t be going with them on the voyage. The central characters are fictional as well.

Jean Negulesco directed this film and did a very good job. There is one wonderful foreshadowing shot where a character tosses his hat overboard. The hat is followed into the ocean where it lands next to some ice.

Acting is quite good. Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck play our central couple, the Sturges. The Sturges used to be in love but now a vast emotional chasm exists between them. Their daughter Annette (Audrey Dalton) is pursued by a very young and energetic Robert Wagner as Gifford Rogers.

One of the highlights of the Titanic story is of course ‘Unsinkable’ Molly Brown. Here, apparently due to legal issues, her name is changed to Maude Young. Thankfully her character is as brash as ever and is played very well by Thelma Ritter.

This is a very good film and well worth a watch recommendation. On the other hand if you have watched James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) or Roy Ward Baker’s A Night to Remember (1958) then there isn’t much here that you haven’t already seen.

People Watch: Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still) is the narrator at the end of the film. Richard Basehart (ironically best known as Admiral Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) plays a defrocked priest in a minor subplot.

Prince Valiant

In 1954, Hal Foster’s comic Prince Valiant was adapted into a movie. This feature by Henry Hathaway is currently available on Netflix instant play.

Prince Valiant

WATCH: Prince Valiant (1954) – Rated PG

“The tale from the Sunday comics about a Viking prince under the reign of King Arthur is brought to life with Robert Wagner in the title role. A mentor to young Valiant is Sir Gawain (Sterling Hayden), who has trained the young warrior for the Round Table. Also coloring the screen are Princess Aleta (Janet Leigh), Valiant’s love, and Sir Brack (James Mason), the ominous villain.”

First let me state that I’m not qualified to judge whether this is a faithful adaptation of Hal Foster’s iconic strip. It is fun to watch a very young Robert Wagner as Valiant, especially in his cute pageboy haircut. James Mason is wonderfully villainous as Sir Brack but Sterling Hayden is quite upright and stilted as the stalwart Sir Gawain. Janet Leigh and Debra Paget are equally lovely as Aleta and Ilene though clearly Gawain is bewitched by blond hair as he doesn’t even notice that Debra Paget is throwing herself at him.

The sets are quite colorful and design makes good use of the Cinemascope process. The castle shots are wonderful using both Alnwick and Warwick castles. There’s a wonderful shot as Valiant looks up from his bed at Aleta whose head is framed halo-like by the chandelier. Having listed all of that, the rest of the cast and production seem lifeless so I’m recommending this as a Watch but with reservations.

People Watch: Michael Rennie does the narration, Neville Brand plays a viking chief, and boxer Primo Carnera plays Sligon though none are listed in the credits.