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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Two Disaster Movies

40 Days and Nights (2012), directed by Peter Geiger

I've always thought -- or at least this has been my opinion for a very long time -- that if you're a new filmmaker, you ought to do a small story, one that allows you to spend your money on the best actors you can afford, the most talented crew, and the very best script. Like John Carpenter did with Assault on Precinct 13. Maybe the result won't be great, but it might be good enough to get you noticed. Peter Geiger's thought might have been, If I want to get noticed, I better make the biggest movie I can. Which meant spending lots of money on special effects and fudging on all the rest. It's a dumb idea to begin with, since these kinds of special effects are often pretty iffy in the best of movies and downright laughable in a movie like this.

40 Days and Nights is an amateurish take on Noah and the flood, brought into modern times, about a Naval engineer and his wife, a microbiologist, trying desperately on the one hand to build the ship that will save them and thousands of others and on the other to procure samples of "essential" flora and fauna to rebuild the ecosystem. (Evidently, the human race cannot possibly survive unless she can lay hands on a few honeybees.) The wife is assisted by a female Navy SEAL.

Everything about this movie is bad, but if I had to pick a bright spot, it would be the SEAL, played by Christianna Carmine (I think; I'd have to go back to the source to check and I don't have the energy for that). And it's not that she's good, just that she isn't as stupid or dull as everyone else. One particularly silly bit involves one of the engineers working with the hero and his wife or girlfriend. He breaks orders to direct her to the site of one of the other arks being built. She gets there just as a massive wave comes barreling down on them. The ark is lost, and somehow it's her fault. Just for showing up. The engineer pays for this by being thrown out of his own base.

I know one thing: if the arks are to be populated by essential personnel, there isn't anyone involved in making this movie that would make the cut.

Category 6: Day of Destruction (2004), directed by Dick Lowry

This 4-hour mini-series was roundly panned by the critics, but since I watched it right after 40 Days and because it is so far superior to that film, my own judgment might be skewed. I enjoyed it.

It's about what happens when two gigantic storms, one dropping down from the north, one rising from the south converge just over Chicago. It follows a number of different characters whose emotional storms are only aggravated by power loss, tornadoes, and drenching rain.

There's a lot not to like here, I'll give the critics that. Like a selfish reporter whose unconscionable irresponsibility is passed off as heroism. Like the idea that if TVs and phones go out, people suddenly lose the ability to communicate. Like an Energy Secretary (and her sycophantic assistant) who exist primarily to preach to the audience. But this movie is mostly about the individual stories of the characters and the special effects, with the former being just compelling enough to get you to another instance of the latter.

It helps, of course, to have Brian Dennehy anchoring the story out of the National Weather Administration in Oklahoma. And to have Randy Quaid providing comic relief as a crazy storm-chaser who has turned his vocation into a tourist business. Dianne Wiest, unfortunately, is wasted as the aforementioned Secretary of Energy.

It's bubblegum entertainment, but speaking as someone who has given up chewing the real thing, this works nicely as a replacement.