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February, 2009:

Disaster Movie Review

Disaster Movie… where do I start?

IMDB is a good place. There, it has a rating of 1.5 and it is #2 in the all time BOTTOM 100! And that’s with 24,000 votes (only Battlefield Earth and Epic Movie have more).

So – universally hated, then.

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. IMDB votes generally work well as part of a grand social experiment, but you do find a lot of the “herd mentality” working there. And as most voters and commenter’s are wannabe film critics their views are often clouded. Sorry IMDB!

Then again, Rotten Tomatoes works on critics scores, and it has 2% there – so perhaps they are right. In either case here’s one of the few “it’s not all that bad” reviews of Disaster Movie.

So let’s take a look at the movie, and forget about the rating for a moment.

Firstly, this is from Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who are responsible for many parody movies, starting with Spy Hard (which isn’t too bad) then working through Scary Movies (ok), Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and now this.

They’re not great movies – but they are entertaining in their own limited way.

Disaster Movie is pretty hit and miss. The plot, as it is, concerns a disaster hitting the city and then it follows a group of friends as they try to escape. Along the way, Will (Matt Lanter) discovers his on/off girlfriend Amy (Vanessa Minillo) is trapped in the museum, so they detour to save her.

So far so good. Unfortunately, Disaster Movie doesn’t parody a lot of disaster movies. The first scenes are reminiscent of the start of Cloverfield, where a party is interrupted, and there is a freaky weather system (The Day After Tomorrow) and a tornado (Twister), but that’s about all the “disaster movie” links I could notice.

It does start with a nightmare where Will is at “10,001 BC” and discovers he needs a Crystal Skull to save the world. But those aren’t exactly disaster movies, either.

Instead, like the previous films, it’s more of mixed bag of parodying pop culture icons, such as Hannah Montana, Amy Winehouse, Gladiator (Wolf), Justin Timberlake, Javier Bardem, Superheros (Hellboy, Rocket Man, Hulk), Prince Caspian, Speed Racer, Dr. Phil, The Love Guru, Flava Flav, Sex and the City, The Princess from Enchanted, Juno, Hancock, Kung Fu Panda,.

I’ve probably missed a few but you get the idea.

Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. I won’t bother listing all the skits but there is a fight with a naked Beowulf, a dance off for the princess’s heart, a fight with the Chipmunks, a fight with the Kung Fu Panda, a Hannah Montanna who refuses to die, Superheros killed by flying cows, a big High School Music song-and-dance routine (and a big song to finish the film off) and an extended Night At The Museum skit, an encounter with the Sex and the City girls (with Carrie played by a man) including a fight, Zohan style … and much more. There’s even a sub plot about Will’s inability to show his love for his girlfriend, but that’s best ignored.

So – is it worth 1.5 as IMDB seems to think?

Well, perhaps I was just in a good mood when I watched it but I’d say NO. It’s entertaining in it’s own way, and while by no means a classic or even average film it’s certainly watchable. I passed a hour and half with this film amicably enough.

There’s no real comedy as such, since it relies on lookalikes and parodies of famous people for it’s laughs, and the plot is laughable, but as a string of simplistic visual gags it works, in a brain dead kind of way. If you’ve seen Epic Movie etc you’ll know what to expect, and since the film makers keep making these they obviously make a profit, and people must go to see them.

There’s not that many films in the parody genre – only really those by these guys and those by Jim Abrahams and David Zuker (Airplane!, Police Squad). The latter are superior, but it’s interesting to note they have a “SciFi Movie” slated for 2009 and were responsible for “Superhero Movie”…

Rating: 5 / 10 – not great, but it IS watchable.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Watch Online Streaming TV In The UK

Here in the UK there are a few good sources of online TV, mainly the BBC iPlayer (excellent), Channel 4 On Demand (4OD, works well), and now the ITV Player. All give you a selection of catch-up TV (usually a week or 30 days depending on the program) as well as older, archived programs and series (more so with 4OD).

iPlayer : No Ads. Streaming and Expiring Downloads supported. Resume feature let’s you continue a program from where you left off. New Higher Quality setting if you have the bandwidth. Great selection of the weeks programs from across the BBC TV and Radio network.

4OD : Sometimes, a small ad break but nothing to worry about. Supports Streaming and Downloads (which expire). Excellent selection of the weeks programs and a massive archive of such classics as Shameless, Skins, Derren Brown, Documentaries, Peep Show, Black Books, etc. It also uses a propriatry interface, not a web page. 4OD also sells movies and certain programs, and you can pre-book downloads in advance.

ITV Online : This is the new baby on the block, seems rather more limited that the other two since it is Streaming only, and plenty of ad breaks. These ads will also show if you try to jump through a program, making it harder to continue where you left off. It also has some great archive content, such as Ruth Rendell mysteries, Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Cracker etc.

Demand 5 : This is Channel 5’s online offering. Here you can watch C5 programs, on demand, but Streaming only.  You can also buy or rent programs for download, which requires special software to be installed. This means there’s only usually a weeks worth of telly to watch for free. Don’t forget, Five is home to some great US imports such as CSI, NCIS and Numb3rs.

There’s also a Sky Player but unless you’re already a Sky TV subscriber you won’t get in without paying a £15 a month subscription!

You also have the choice of watching some TV from around the world, using Joost and Miro . Joost is full of everything from TV series, to Shorts, to Music Videos. It’s now web based, though I liked the original flash download version better. It’s full of channels you can watch and fully supports favourites, voting, queues and much more. Miro is more patchy, less premium content and more in the way of obscure niche programs but it is open source and continuously updated.

But, the granddaddy of all online TV sites is Hulu . You get to watch the latest Simpsons, Battlestar Galactica, etc at that site as well as full movies and entire series of some US gems. Unfortunately, Hulu is locked to the USA and won’t display content to anyone outside there.

In fact, a lot of US TV stations have their own online TV sections, allowing you to watch everything from Lost to Prison Break and beyond. Stations such as Fox (24, American Idol, Prison Break), ABC (Lost, Greys Anatomy), CBS (CSI) and many more, including some familiar to UK Cable and Sattelite users such as SciFi Channel , Discovery, History Channel, etc.

The only way these sites now that you are not from the USA is because of your IP Address. So if you can mask, or hide, your IP address you are good to go.

There are many solutions to this. One way is to use a proxy based in the US and altering your browser manually, though it can be slow and hard to find these proxies. Luckily there is an easy way…

Download and install Hotspot Shield . This is a security application designed to hide your IP by connecting your PC via a Virtual Private Network to the Hotspot network. You will see a speed hit, but it depends on your broadband connection whether or not it will affect you too much. And you do see ads on top of webpages (or should, they just seem to leave a blank space on mine!) but they can be closed.

But the best thing about Hotspot Shield is it’s easy to activate and deactivate whenever you wish, and if you want to browse all the great US TV content – you can! Simple 🙂

Choke Review

Choke is a film based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club among many others. So already, you know you’re in for a weird ride.

Directed by first-timer Clark Gregg you could call it a dark comedy, but I found it far more dramatic than comedic. It’s the story of sex-addict Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell – excellent in the role) and his relationship with his mother (Anjelica Huston).

Mancini attends AA-like meetings for his condition, yet seems to rarely get through the door, more often than not getting off with a fellow attendee. He works as a tour guide at a 1800’s theme park with his best friend Denny (a compulsive masturbator), and in his spare time he goes to restaurants, deliberately chokes on his food, then fleeces the person who saves him since they feel responsible for his life.

Most of this money he uses to care for his mother, in an expensive private care home. This is the most re-visited scene in the movie, since the patients there come to adore him while he has slept with most of the nurses. His mother never seems to know who he is – and again, this mother/son relationship is an important theme.

I don’t want to spoil any of the delightful twists in this story. There are many flashbacks of the young Victor growing up with his increasingly demented mother and this includes a very weird tale of his upbringing. Each of these flashbacks add a little more to the tale.

But above all this is the story of Victors descent into the depths of his sex-addiction and his search for his sense of worth and self. It’s a mad, mad film with a few cool story twists, and it hurtles along at a fair old pace.

Keep an eye out at the end of the movie, the author, Chuck Palahniuk, is sitting next to Victor 🙂

Rating: 8.5 / 10 — Excellent Palanhiuk translation to the big screen.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

W. Review

W. Is a biopic of George W. Bush, directed by Oliver Stone. Right away you’d expect some harsh treatment of the subject because Stone is not known for his soft touch on his other projects (such as JFK and Nixon). But, surprisingly, the movie treats Bush quite respectably.

Stone reputably rushed this film on a budget to get it out before the election last year, and it shows.

I have nothing bad to say about the cast or direction, all are top notch, it’s just the film itself feels rather limited and even short, though it runs at over 2 hrs. A lot happened during Bush’s administration, including 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, The War On Terror, The Florida Recount, Guantanamo Bay and the rest. But the film focuses on just some of Bush’s past and on the original decision to invade Iraq. It doesn’t criticize or use controversial material and seems rather meek for a Stone pic!

Bush is shown to be a man dominated by his father and his advisers such as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. He is initially in the shadow of his his brother Jeb, whom his father favours, and his childhood is mostly a drunken mess where he fails to hold a job yet still manages to graduate from Yale with his fathers influence.

After his father becomes President, Bush cleans up his act at AA meetings and becomes a born again Christian. He helps his father win his first term, but is unhappy about his lack of ambition to go after Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the original Operation Desert Storm. His father loses office after just that first term to Clinton, and Bush Jr. decides to run for the Senator of Texas.

George Sr. is unhappy about this decision, as his other son Jeb is also running for Florida, but George Jr. goes ahead anyway – and with a lot of help from Rove and his wife Laura wins the seat.

Most of the political intrigue of his time in office as President is reduced to showing the discussions of the invasion of Iraq. Mainly, whether or not there are WMD’s there. Bush is shown to be conflicted on the issue, as he wants to invade (partly due to his fathers failure), but he doesn’t want to invade without good reason. Eventually, he is pushed into attacking, along with his “allies” (mainly smaller countries with no armies of their own, and of course Great Britain).

The problem with this film is we all know the story, as it’s very recent material. You expect a biopic to delve into the character and past of the man, but it doesn’t do this in any great detail. We already know he had an alcoholic past, and a privileged upbringing, so there’s nothing new there.

Still, this is a watchable movie and Josh Brolin is excellent as Bush. Richard Dreyfuss plays a domineering Cheney, and James Cromwell plays the father, George H Bush, around whose relationship with his son the movie is centered. Ioan Gruffyd pops up as Tony Blair in one scene, where is shown urging restraint and UN help on the Iraq situation. I guess Michael Sheen was unavailable!

Some scenes strive to show the “inner man”, such as a nightmare where his father attacks him, a discussion with Rove where he is told that he “has to do something with his life”, and a question at a press conference where is he is lost for words when asked what his legacy will be.

As mentioned in other reviews, a movie or mini series about Bush might be more powerful in another ten years where extra time can be used to show his entire two terms as President. But for now, Stones treatment will do. I’ve always been ambivalent about Bush, neither hated or loved the man, and the movie hasn’t really changed my views in any way.

7/10 – Entertaining, but limited, treatment of George Dubya Bush.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes