The inane ramblings presented here by Scott Foy (aka The Foywonder) are strictly his own opinions
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MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE PROBLEM CHILD
The last two weeks of May 2006 proved to be a boondoggle for b-movie enthusiasts like myself. It was a virtual avalanche of cinematic schlock. Just on the small screen alone in the course of a week we had everything from DVD release of Uwe Boll's BLOODRAYNE (REVIEW HERE) to The Asylum's C. Thomas Howell-starring THE DA VINCI CODE rip-off THE DA VINCI TREASURE (REVIEW HERE) to The Sci-Fi Channel premiere of Jim Wynorski's epic KOMODO VS. COBRA (REVIEW HERE) to such DTV slasher movie junk like MOTOR HOME MASSACRE (REVIEW HERE). I've watched so much schlock (quite a bit of it with little or no redeeming quality) in the past two weeks that I damn near had a mental breakdown. Hell, by the time I finished KOMODO VS. COBRA I was already so beaten down mentally by the indefensible wretchedness of that film it drove to write a review where I pretty much threatened director Jim Wynorski's life twice in the review. Suffice it to say, I think I need to watch a few genuinely good films and give my brain a break. So much schlock all at once can be a bad thing. But first I still have four more reviews to get out of the way, which is why this month's Foyeurism is devoted to four other films that came along during that same time period. This month you're getting four reviews for the price of one. So let's commence with June's Foyeurism...
The moment I first saw the box art for OZZIE I knew I would have to see this movie. Just look at that. It's supposed to be enticing kids into wanting to see a movie about a talking koala bear but it looks like a horror movie about a Furby from Hell. Oh, yes, I had to see OZZIE. Thus the stage was set for OZZIE to be a supremely entertaining cheesefest. Within the opening minutes we get an ultra cheesy animated opening credits sequence worthy of a mid-80s John Cusak comedy followed by the villainess' bumbling henchmen in the Australian Outback searching for a legendary, nearly impossibly to find Aboriginal village that's said to be home to a mystical talking koala. Despite their conversations about how long they've been searching for the village and how finding this village is equal to a needle in a haystack, when they do indeed locate the village it turns out the place has internet access and many of the villagers dress not like Aborigines but like you and me. We're definitely in b-movieland now.
Evil businesswoman Maxine Happy runs her great grandfather's business, Wonder Toys. Their biggest seller ever was Ozzie, a stuffed koala bear that talked. Being a capitalistic harpy, Maxine bemoans that Ozzie hasn't been a big seller since the Seventies. All she has her eyes on is the toy rights to a popular kiddy comic called Avenger Force that she plans to repackage as a line of gun-toting action figures; this despite the family's toy biz company having a long standing policy against the marketing of violent toys. Things don't work out for her as Avenger Force comic creator Charlie turns down Maxine's offer because she wants creative control and he's afraid they'll give the toys weapons. It's like he knew.
With their toy sales in the toilet and the company's future in jeopardy, Maxine falls back on plan B. You know you've got potential b-movie gold when the villain's back-up plan involves sending two henchmen to find a legendary Aboriginal village in the Australian Outback said to be home to a talking koala bear that they'll then kidnap so that the toy company can clone it and mass market it. Maxine goes down into Wonder Toys' research lab (that looks like a mad scientist's lair) to ask the head research/developer/mad scientist about the logistics of mass producing 10,000 genetically engineered talking koalas in time for Christmas. He says it will take a year; she says they'll have to be on the market by Christmas or the company will be ruined. He says fine, but they'll have to use an electronic brain transference thingamajig he's developed and that would leave the original brain dead. She says fine. She also wants him to genetically alter their lifespan so that the talking koalas only live two years; that way kids will need to go buy a new talking koala every 24 months.
There's a major discrepancy in the film's plot in regards to the existence of the talking koala, how Maxine knows about this, and why this village is so impossible to find. The assumption we're left to make is that Maxine knows about this village from her grandfather as he most likely based the Ozzie the talking koala bear dolls on the tales he heard about the talking koala in this Aboriginal village. The movie's narrator (That Charlie guy for really unnecessary reasons) tells us that the koala was taught to speak by a kid that lives in the village. This kid that lives in the impossible to find Aboriginal village of legend and taught a koala bear to talk like a cartoonish version of the Crocodile Hunter - as if that guy didn't sound cartoonish enough already - is shown doing his homework while surfing online. So right there the whole timeline regarding the existence of the talking koala (who we're told is only four years old) and how Maxine knows about it lacks continuity. Plus, it's hard to believe that her two henchmen have been scouring the Outback for a long time now with no luck finding this village when it has internet access, which hardly makes this place sound as remote as it's made out to be. I know one could argue that I'm putting too much thought into this but come on already... These are some really baffling inconsistencies.
Maxine's two henchmen, one an annoying American (Buzz) and the other (Tank) played by failed Arnold Schwarzenegger successor Ralf Moeller (The German muscleman you might best recognize from his roles as the evil Brakus in BEST OF THE BEST 2 and as Conan the Barbarian in the dreadful, short lived syndicated series from the late 90s), finally find said village and perpetrate a little grand theft koala in the middle of the night. This makes the villagers sad. This makes Maxine happy. This makes the talking koala sleepy.
Meanwhile, Spencer Breslin, the annoying kid from the Bruce Willis Disney movie THE KID, is visiting Down Under thanks to flight attendant-single mom Rachel Hunter (Stacy's mom has got it going on alright!). The bumbling koala-nappers are on same flight back to the States where the marble-mouthed Tank bonds with Justin (The kid, duh!) over their shared passion for Avenger Force comic books, while Buzz macks on Rachel Hunter with no success. Unbeknownst to everyone, Ozzie, the talking koala that turns out to have the same name as the doll that may or may not have been patterned after him, gets out of his carry on bag prison and pulls a switcheroo with the Ozzie doll in Justin's carry-on bag.
More amazing coincidences abound when they get home and it turns out that Avenger Force creator Charlie is Justin's neighbor and sometimes babysitter. More oddness abounds when Mom tells Justin it's time for bed despite it looking to only be five in the afternoon.
While everyone sleeps, Ozzie slips out of Justin's carry-on bag in search of food, goes foraging in the kitchen, and unleashes Hurricane Katrina level mass destruction in the process. All that ruckus and nobody awakened? Mom freaks out the next morning upon seeing what surely had to be hundreds of dollars worth of mess and mayhem and immediately blames Justin, who she orders to clean it all up. "But I was supposed to go fishing with Charlie," he unhappily states. Mom replies, "No, clean up this mess and don't be late for school. I got some errands to run," before stomping away in a huff. Yeah, that's some great parenting there. This results in a long musical montage of young Justin cleaning up the place. Afterwards, he makes the discovery that there's a talking koala bear asleep in his bedroom. It farts. They bond.
Back at Wonder Toys, Maxine flips out upon finding the stuffed koala in the bag. She demands her two goons retrieve the talking koala ASAP. They return to the airport, manage to trace the carry-on bag to Justin's house, and some seriously low rent HOME ALONE style hijinks follows. If seeing a big European muscleman taking pratfalls from high windows and off of ladders makes you laugh then you're in luck.
I must confess that up until this point I was shockingly entertained by OZZIE. I don't even mean that in a "so bad it's good" sort of way. I mean I was genuinely entertained. It was stupid, silly, and goofy even by kiddy flick standards but in a good way. However, once the bumbling henchmen start doing their poor man HOME ALONE crooks shtick, the downward spiral began.
The biggest problem with OZZIE is Ozzie himself. Don't get me wrong; the animatronics and puppetry used to bring Ozzie to life are quite good. Even the voice acting is well done. But I suspect budget limitations limited what Ozzie could and could no do, ultimately diminishing Ozzie's role in his own movie. Ozzie eats. Ozzie sleeps. Ozzie hides. Ozzie doesn't do much else. He barely does any real bonding with the kid, and only once does he talk of missing the village he was taken from or the Aussie kid that taught him to speak. You also get the uneasy feeling at times that Ozzie really cares about no one except Ozzie. He's a pushy little furry bastard that keeps demanding more food and someone to turn down the lights so that he can sleep. Wait... That sounds an awful lot like me. I knew there was a reason I didn't like him!
And despite being called OZZIE, the movie is really more about Justin. Kids watching this movie are going to be watching it for the talking koala and not the chubby kid's relationship with Charlie the comic book guy. I still have yet to figure out why that character is even included. I kept waiting for a romance to bloom between Charlie and Mom but that never happens. Mom believes that her son is having emotional problems because of his attachment to what she believes is the Ozzie doll she gave him and is disturbed by his constant assertions that Ozzie is real. This leads to too much bickering over fantasy vs. reality and a subplot where she forbids Justin from hanging out with Charlie, even blaming Charlie and his world of Avenger Force fantasy for being a bad influence on her son's mental health. Again I ask would it have made any difference to completely ditch this Charlie character altogether and given more time to the damn talking koala that the movie is named after.
Way too much kid and next door neighbor and not nearly enough koala. There's also way too much of the annoying soundtrack. It tries to be quirky and comical but this electronic bubble popping sound the composer used is irritating as hell.
By the time the third act comes around, Ozzie is almost a non-factor being held captive in the toy factory, occasionally yelping, while Justin assembles his taller Jonathan Lipniki look-a-like best friend and the schoolgirl he has a crush on to break into the factory for a rescue mission with Mom & Charlie in pursuit, worried about what mischief Justin may be up to.
I haven't even mentioned the animated sequences that permeate the film. I'd dismiss these animated sequences as the pointless throwaway filler they clearly are but one image from one of these cartoonish interludes made me laugh heartily.
The only time Justin takes Ozzie out of the house is a brief scene where he takes with him to school. Ozzie mostly hides in Justin's book bag saying and doing as little as possible. Instead of wacky talking koala shenanigans, we get a teacher that gives a tacked on speech about the dangers of cloning animals and a confrontation with the school bully. Twelve year olds fighting over a girl? Ick! Ozzie intervenes on Justin's behalf by tying the bully's shoelaces together. A cafeteria food fight breaks out. Correction - A SLOW MOTION FOOD FIGHT!
Tank and Buzz show up at the school and the slow motion food fight suddenly turns into a foot chase that then turns into a bicycle chase. Thankfully, not a slow motion bicycle chase. All of sudden, we're in Hal Needham hell as Justin and Ozzie (his head hanging out of the backpack with a perpetual scream on its face) being pursued by the two goons. Following a painfully predictably gag involving plane of glass being carried across the street and a guy on a ladder, the bicycle chase makes it way to the port where it turns into a jet ski chase. After several repetitive minutes of people on jet skis soaring past one another, it's back to dry land for yet another foot chase. All this eats up somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 minutes. The bad guys finally get Ozzie, Tank starts feeling sorry for both Justin and Ozzie in order to set up his face turn during the finale, and poor Justin is busted for stealing jet skis. That prompts Mom to go all Lifetime Network on him.
Too much adult angst, way too much kid without the koala stuff, and not nearly enough talking koala I wish Ozzie really was as menacing as the box art makes him out to be so that hed eliminate Mom and Charlie from the proceedings.
The big rescue mission finale, during which Ozzie plays virtually no role outside of helpless victim, devolves into shtick involving marbles on the floor making people slip, blinding powder being thrown into bad guys' eyes, and Joan Collins getting her brain fried and sprouting Bride of Frankenstein hair.
I suppose the wee tykes will enjoy OZZIE I was a bit disheartened that it failed to live up to its box art. Then again, how could it? Thanks to the magic of Photoshop and this site's webmaster, a more honest to its box art version has been created. If the film had been more reflective of this then I suspect we'd have had one hell of a movie. We're overdue for a evil satanic killer koala flick.
Ah, THE KARATE DOG, a film thats been sitting around waiting to be unleashed upon mankind for somewhere in the range of 2-3 years. The last Id heard it was supposed to be getting a theatrical release last August. August came and went with no KARATE DOG to be seen. Then, out of the blue, word came that KARATE DOG would make its world premiere on ABCs Family Channel on Memorial Day this year. What better way to honor our nations veterans than with a lousy family comedy about a talking dog that knows kung fu?
THE KARATE DOG is a film conceived by filmmaking veteran Bob Clark. This is the same guy that gave us the all-time holiday classic A CHRISTMAS STORY. This is the guy that gave us the classic horror flick BLACK CHRISTMAS. This is the same guy that gave us the sex comedy classic PORKYS. Heck, hes even the same guy that gave us TURK 182. This is also the same Bob Clark that gave us RHINESTONE, LOOSE CANNONS, and the BABY GENIUSES films. THE KARATE DOG can now take its rightful place on that latter list. Its a dog alright. Its a doggone shame too because this could have been some primo b-movie fodder of the SNAKES ON A PLANE variety. I have a hard time imaging even little kids (the films target audience) being all that entertained by THE KARATE DOG; not when theres much livelier fare out there with talking dogs doing tricks.
I SERVED WITH HONG KONG PHOOEY. HONG KONG PHOOEY WAS A FRIEND OF MINE. KARATE DOG, YOU'RE NO HONG KONG PHOOEY.
San Francisco dog handler and martial arts master Chin Li (the late Pat Morita, the highlight for him comes when his obvious stunt double steps in for some kung fu action) stumbles upon a plot by former student Hamilton Cage (a possibly stoned John Voight), a multimillionaire chemical engineer that has developed a dangerous performance enhancer that hes currently using on race dogs in order to make even more money, and soon plans to market for human consumption. Chin Li plans to expose the truth about the chemicals dangerous properties great at first but eventually leads to dementia and death only to get murdered by some of Cages goons.
The only witness is Chin Lis dog (I have no idea what breed of dog hes supposed to be but the word mutt came to mind) Cho Cho, who Chin Li has not only taught to speak English, but the doggy is also a karate master. Amazingly, there are no doggy style jokes anywhere in the film.
Police computer expert Peter Fowler (a trying but failing Simon Rex) arrives on the crime scene and ends up leaving with Cho Cho, who soon reveals his secret to the dorky cop. Together they bond and join forces to expose Cage and help him score with a hotty patrolwoman while theyre at it.
Thankfully, KARATE DOG does not achieve a BABY GENIUSES level of cinematic atrocity. Unfortunately, anyone looking for either a good film or a so bad its good film are in for a fairly innocuous disappointment. If youve ever seen K-9000, a 1991 TV movie variation on the buddy cop and dog with a talking robotic dog, then youve already seen KARATE DOG done better and K-9000 wasnt even particularly good to begin with.
Forgetting the feeble screenplay for a moment, KARATE DOGs deathblow comes in the form of the actor voicing Cho Cho: Chevy Chase. When was the last time Chevy Chase was funny? 15 years? Longer? Ive read that Chase only did the film as a favor to John Voight. That makes sense because his line delivery sounds like it was done by someone doing someone a favor. Every line is spoken in a flat, matter of fact manner with no punch, zip, or enthusiasm whatsoever. Voicing a dog is something Chase has done before back in 1982s OH HEAVENLY DOG. While Chases droning demeanor was one of the Achilles heels of that film, it sounds like Robin Williams ALLADIN genie by comparison to this. And maybe Im just nitpicking (Who me?) but wouldnt a dog taught to speak by someone with an Asian accent that lives in Chinatown also have something of an Asian accent and not that of a world weary New Yorker?
It also doesnt help that the budget clearly wasnt there to fully animate Cho Cho when he talks. He makes no facial expressions; only his mouth moves in a computerized Mr. Ed meets Clutch Cargo fashion. In a way, Chevy Chases dispirited monotonous voiceover fits the characterless personality of the dog.
But honestly, was this film so strapped for cash that they couldnt find someone with a funny sounding voice or at least an ounce of enthusiasm in it? There had to be somebody, anybody out there that could have done a better job than Chevy Chase does here. He single handedly kills any chance the movie has.
Okay, so the dog is boring, doesnt say anything funny, and is voiced by a boring guy that doesnt even try to say anything in a funny way; but it still does karate right? Yeah, but only in the first five minutes and the last ten; everything in between is a weak retread of previous cop/dog comedies like K-9 and TURNER & HOOCH only with the dog being able to talk. Once youve seen the computerized pooch doing his Jackie Chan routine in the films opening minutes youve seen his whole act. CATS & DOGS did the whole kung fu animal shtick a million times better with the Siamese cat ninjas. The lackluster climactic showdown between Chin Lis former students, one a computerized dog and the other a hammy actor, is little more than a comically inept take on THE MATRIXs Neo and Agent Smith duking it out. Remember when the use of bullet time actually seemed cool? If you thought Uwe Boll killed it dead with HOUSE OF THE DEAD then you should see Bob Clark kick the corpse with THE KARATE DOG.
IN MEMORY OF BULLET TIME: APRIL 1999 - MAY 2006
So what does pass for humor in KARATE DOG? Well, how about doing a bad job ripping off scenes from ROXANNE, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, SHREK, and THE MATRIX? Fowler goes out on a date with lovely policewoman but being a tongue-tied dork he needs Cho Cho to feed him lines through an earpiece. Yeah, just like the scene on the porch in ROXANNE. One problem, the guy Steve Martin fed lines to was supposed to be a blithering idiot. Fowler, on the other hand, is supposed to be a Nervous Ned, not a complete idiot who doesnt realize that ranting about hating cats is something he shouldnt be repeating to his date.
Oh, did I fail to mention another of Cho Chos endearing qualities - his hatred of cats? The very sight of a feline is all it takes to unleash a cat-hating tirade rivaled only by an Aryan Nation member detailing his love for blacks and Jews.
Theres also the incident where Cho Cho flips out in pursuit of one of Chin Lis killers, carjacks Fowlers cherry red convertible, and only succeeds in wrecking the thing.
Like OZZIE, this is another film where the talking animals relationship with the human suffers because the screenwriters have made the titular critter something of an unintended jerk. Cho Cho trashes Fowlers car, trashes Fowlers house during a ridiculous doggy party scene, embarrasses Fowler in front of his police captain during a predictably disastrous doggy interrogation scene, and damn near wrecks Fowlers chance with the girl. There are more reasons given for Fowler to give Cho Cho the Old Yeller treatment than there are the two bonding and becoming best friends.
Cho Chos human counterpart is played by Simon Rex, the vacant hunk that got his start doing solo masturbation scenes in gay porn films like YOUNG, HARD, & SOLO #3 before finding fame as a MTV VJ and actor who gets really pissed off at people that bring up his gay porn past. Hes supposed to be playing a shy dweeb that has trouble attracting the opposite sex despite the fact that he looks like a male model. Unlike Chevy Chase, at least Rex seems to be trying, although many of his attempts at awkward comedy are painfully inept.
THE KARATE DOG also marks another triumphant notch on the filmography of Jaime Pressly. She plays Ashley, Fowlers hotty patrolwoman love interest. At the time the film was made she and Simon Rex were locking loins so I suspect they thought it would be fun to do a movie together. The relationship was about as successful as the movie.
I'LL LEAVE THE CAPTION OF THIS ONE FOR YOUR OWN DIRTY MINDS. I JUST WONDER IF I SQUIRT THE WATER GUN IN HER MOUTH LONG ENOUGH WILL THE BALLOON POP?
Has anyone ever really taken a good hard look at Jaime Presslys acting career? Lets review a few notable career choices.
IVY: THE NEW SEDUCTION
Presslys not even that bad an actress. She just needs to fire (or perhaps murder) her agent. Shes currently finding great success playing a white trash princess on the NBC comedy My Name is Earl. Ive never actually seen the show but I cannot imagine its much of a stretch seeing as how much of her career has consisted of playing white trash babes. Looking at the list of movie titles I strongly suspect Jaime Pressly is going to have her own wing in the b-movie hall of fame in the future. I dont think shed be happy to hear that.
But getting back to KARATE DOG, a film where a fat guy trying to do kung fu and dogs actually playing poker are whats supposed to pass for amusement, there is but one shining beacon of light to be found and his name is John Voight. On the Christopher Walken scale of WTF?!-ness, Voights turn as bad guy Hamilton Cage is quite mesmerizing. Voight spends most of the movie dressed like Steven Seagal in THE GLIMMER MAN, talks in this distorted Southern accent that sounds like Robert Duvall after a stroke, and as the film progresses and the effects of the drug are supposed to be causing him to loose his sanity, Voights mannerisms and behavior bring to mind a Scooby Doo villain on ecstasy. Its quite a sight to behold and the only sight worth looking at in this fiasco.
YES, THIS IS WHERE THE AUDITIONS ARE BEING HELD FOR THE STEVEN SEAGAL BIO FILM. I'M GUESSING YOU'RE HERE FOR THE ROLE OF HIS TEENAGE YEARS?
The film tries to end on a high note by having Cho Cho and some fellow animals perform a musical number ala Eddie Murphys Donkey at the end of SHREK. Even the Chevy Chase of old could never match the manic energy of Eddie Murphy so you can imagine how dead this lethargic musical number is with a disinterested Chevy Chase crooning away. And yet somehow this seems an appropriate capper to such a dead on arrival film.
Watching THE KARATE DOG is like watching a stand up comedian on TV bombing in front of a live audience. You cringe at how bad his material is but mostly find yourself feeling sorry for the poor guy. I felt sorry for everyone involved with THE KARATE DOG both in front of and behind the camera. Well, everyone except for Chevy Chase. Its hard to feel bad for someone that doesnt even try.
HOLLOW MAN 2: THE HOLLOWING
Theres not a whole lot to say about HOLLOW MAN 2. I questioned beforehand whether or not a HOLLOW MAN sequel was warranted. After watching the film I know find myself wondering why they even bothered at all.
In the original HOLLOW MAN, Kevin Bacon created an invisibility formula that ended up adversely affecting his mental state leading him to begin an invisible rapist/murderer. By the end of Paul Verhoevens original, the whole thing had fully devolved into little more than a slasher flick with a lot of high tech trickery. Heck, Bacons character started developing superhuman strength and recooperation powers to boot. It wasnt a terrible flick but one where the only things worth remembering were the special effects, and they were outstanding.
Now comes HOLLOW MAN 2 from the screenwriter of too many other unnecessary DTV sequels to big budget films that dont warrant sequels of any kind but the people at Sony know better than all of us. This time the military is using the invisibility formula is being used to create invisible assassins. One of these assassins (Christian Slater, who is physically on camera for all of 5 minutes) goes into business for himself in seeking out the scientist that can make the serum, or the buffer as it is called, that will prevent the invisibility process from deteriorating his body tissue and organs. Thats the new wrinkle the movie introduces. We even get to see one of these guys so deformed he looks like a STAR WARS cantina alien.
Back when I first reported on HOLLOW MAN 2 for Dread Central I took a picture of Christian Slater and tried to give it the HOLLOW MAN treatment along the lines of invisible Kevin Bacon in that latex skin mask from the original film. I started by giving him those hollow eyes but it just didnt look quite right, so I decided to add some hollow hair, and then, just for the hell of it, a hollow soul patch.
SUFFICE IT TO SAY, I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY SUCK AT USING PHOTOSHOP
Invisible government assassin with the voice of Christian Slater sets out to nab the scientist lady, a cop is assigned to protect her, the military are out to save their own asses, and I grow increasingly bored. Its an above average film from a production standpoint but story-wise is a perfunctory stream of clichés. Car chases, foot chases, and people constantly pretending that theyre getting attacked by someone that is not there is the order of the day. Again, I was bored to tears.
The only thing I had to look forward to was the finale where the heroic cop trying to protect the lady scientist injects himself with the invisibility formula in order to slip past the military types in pursuit and take on Christian Slater, who spend much of the films finale chasing the scientist through a hospital dressed like a surgical-themed Mexican wrestler. They should have called it HOLLOW MAN 2: EL MEDICO DIABLO and just had him spend the whole movie running around killing people like this. The two eventually duke it out in a battle of the invisible men but instead of it being what appears to be an empty room getting torn asunder by two unseen forces with stuff flying all over the place and the sound of things breaking and guys you cant see grunting, we get two semi-invisible men slugging it out in the rain. This way you can barely see their outline from the water raining down on them. Neat in theory except the special effects arent up to snuff. Its straining on the eyes trying to make these two out while all this goes down. It does make for a perfect exclamation point for the film in the sense that you wonder why anyone bothered to make this most unwarranted sequel.
Treat HOLLOW MAN 2 like its title character and dont see it.
BREAKING NEWS... GIANT PLOTHOLES CONTINUE TO COLLAPSE IN ON THEMSELVES... 10.5 EARTHQUAKE OFFICIALLY UPGRADED TO A FULL SCALE APOCALYPSE... NBC SWEEPS RATINGS ALSO OFFICIALLY DOWNGRADED TO AN APOCALYPSE... BEAU BRIDGES EYEBROWS REACH A CAT 5 LEVEL OF BUSHINESS...
10.5 is back and this time it's an Apocalypse!
Originally scheduled to air this past November, NBC decided that a catastrophic disaster miniseries so close after Hurricane Katrina wouldn't be appropriate at the time. CBS, on the other hand, didn't share the same sentiment and went full steam ahead with the November sweeps premiere of their disaster miniseries sequel CATEGORY 7: THE END OF THE WORLD. So in terms of hyperbolic subtitles, which would you say is more alarmist: THE END OF THE WORLD or the APOCALYPSE? Tough call. More importantly, which disaster sequel would suck least?
For that question there is a definitive answer. The winner is 10.5: APOCALYPSE. Vastly superior to its predecessor and completely blowing CBS' CATEGORY (numeral) flicks out of the water, had 10.5: APOCALYPSE had excised a couple pointless subplots to tighten things up we'd have a near perfect piece of disaster movie overkill. If you intentionally tried to make a parody of a disaster miniseries like this you'd be hard pressed to make things more over the top than this. Earthquakes, tsunamis, sinkholes, flash floods, volcanic eruptions... Only thing missing was Megalon or the Inhumanoids exploding forth from the ground to begin laying waste to major American cities. And you'll hear more talk of subterranean temperatures in the first two hours of this film then you'll ever want to hear in your life.
BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI - AUGUST 29, 2005
10.5: APOCALYPSE isn't just an overblown disaster epic; it's also love letter to the telecommunications industry. I'd dare say that at least 60% (probably higher) of the miniseries involves characters communicating with one another by telephone, speakerphone, cellular phone, Bluetooth phone, headsets, walkie talkies, CB radio, etc. There was a scene involving a Native American out in the desert that I halfway expected to end with him warning others with smoke signals. God bless the telecommunications industry. The makers of 10.5: APOCALYPSE salute you. We salute you!
Whereas the first 10.5 went overboard with the 24-style multiscreen technique, 10.5: APOCALYPSE was directed by a guy that wanted to make damn sure viewers developed motion sickness from all the camera sweeps and zooms. You'd swear there were moments where the camera lens seemed like it was targeting Kim Delaney's face intent on ramming it full speed ahead.
10.5: APOCALYPSE opens with a montage of money shots from the first film's finale. For those that don't remember how the original ended or didn't see it; simply put, getting to Los Angeles is now going to require a chunnel. If you've never seen the original 10.5, never read my Foyeurism on the miniseries, or just feel like you need a refresher, then you should probably CLICK HERE and check out that original Foyeurism from May/June two years ago. For those that are familiar with the first 10.5 you'll be shocked to hear that nuclear weapons do not turn out to be the solution to man's problems with Mother Earth. In fact, nuclear energy ends up becoming a plot complication.
Amazingly, 10.5: APOCALYPSE picks up right where the original left off, not a moment to breath, not a moment to mourn the death of Fred Ward's character. Just as everyone is taken aback by the realization that a sizeable chunk of California is now an off-shore island, more problems erupt - literally. A massive tsunami wipes out Waikiki. Earthquakes continuing across the West Coast. Mount St Helens starts to erupt, then it calms down, and a previously dormant volcano in Idaho suddenly goes all Dante's Peak. Underground water in Monument Valley is forced to the surface causing massive flooding. Something is definitely up. President Beau Bridges contacts seismologist superwoman Dana Delaney and asks her to continue to help figure out just what in the Sam Hill is going on beneath North America.
AT THIS POINT DOES IT REALLY EVEN MATTER IF YOU DROP?
If there's one thing that b-level disaster movies have taught me in recent years it would be that the wackiest, most idiotic scientific theories are always correct, and the person that came up with this loony scientific hypothesis is always someone wrongly shunned by the mainstream scientists because of their crackpot yet soon-to-be-proven-right theory. If a character in a movie like this has ever said something that culminates in a "listen to me or you'll be sorry" or "you may not believe me right now but I'll be proven right soon enough" then you better believe we'll be sorry and they'll be proven right.
In the original 10.5, that honor fell upon the shoulders of Dr. Samantha Hill (a puffy-faced Kim Delaney; she's not looking good this time around). Nobody wanted to take her seriously when she proposed that a mega earthquake would one day cause part of California to break off from the continental United States until it became quite apparent that scenario was playing out. This time it turns out that loopy geological theories of imminent doom run in the Hill family. The scenario that played out in the original 10.5 was just the opening act of a much grander symphony of destruction; one which has already been laid out by her father, Dr. Earl Hill. He got tired of being right all the time even when he had no supporting evidence, could no longer stand be mocked my the mental midgets that couldn't wrap their pathetic little brains around such a daffy thesis' of tectonic terror, and so he quit his gig as head of the US Geologic Survey and took up the life of a professional poker player. They should have hired Gabe Kaplan for the part, instead they brought in Frank Langella to play Kim Delaney's daddy. On the plus side, Langella is one you can always count on to make for an entertaining performance regardless of how mediocre the role.
And what is this goofball scientific nightmare scenario at the heart of 10.5: APOCALYPSE? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dr. Earl Hill's Accelerated Plate Movement theory. No, it does not have anything to do with those plate spinners you see at the circus, although I assure this theory is most definitely a clown act. You're all familiar with Pangea, the giant super continent from Earth's early days that split apart to form all the continents of the world? It seems the band is getting back together. According to the Accelerated Plate Movement theory, the tectonic plates will eventually achieve a maximum distance apart from one another. Once they reach this point they'll reverse direction and do so at a faster rate of speed than the eons it took for the continents to originally form. Get ready Earth because it's time for the Pangaea Reunion Tour 2006. Oddly enough, only North America seems to be getting affected by this; only the United States portion of North America to be exact. Canada who?
Look; I'm no scientist. I'm certainly no geologist. I don't know enough about the subject matter to debunk this Accelerated Plate Movement theory. However, I do know bullshit when I smell it and the science presented in the 10.5 films give off the definite aroma of a compost heap.
Could you imagine if logic in the real world worked like it does in the world of modern disaster films? The Bush administration's Iraq policy, the one that they say history will prove them right but many today call a bungled disaster, would instantly be proven a perfectly strategized success that leads to peace in the Middle East, and critics like Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan would be the arrogant obstructionists that gets their comeuppance in a big way. On the other hand, all those crackpots with conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 being an inside job by the US gov't would also be prove unequivocally right leading to the Presidency going down in flames. Quite the dilemma... And that crazy homeless guy on the corner screaming about the CIA, the militia groups warning about the UN and the New World Order, Christian fundamentalists screaming about the Antichrist and Al Gore's giant supercomputer called The Beast, and the shape-shifting lizard people in charge of the Illuminati currently controlling the world with a shadow government - all true!
WHEN THE MEDIA RESORTS TO USING THE JEOPARDY CATEGORY FONT TO TRY AND CALM THE PUBLIC'S NERVES DURING A TIME OF CRISIS IT REALLY IS TIME TO PANIC
Sam calls Super Science Poker Challenge Daddy for help regarding his theory; seems it's a bit too out there even for her mind to fully comprehend. Her call interrupts his Las Vegas casino celebration after winning a big bucks poker match. Rather than help her, dear old dad tells her not to destroy her career by going down the same path he did. But as he hangs up his cell phone, the look on his face tells you that he knows he was right and the world needs him - but first a martini. It'll be awhile before we see him again. But as the first two-hours of 10.5: APOCALYPSE draw to a close, his "seismic sense" begins kicking in.
Folks, there's something you need to understand about Dr. Earl Hill. The man is no ordinary geologist/seismologist/whatever. Dr. Earl Hill is a what I dubbed a "quake whisperer." You've heard of the Horse Whisperer, Dog Whisperer, and Ghost Whisperer? Sam's dad is a quake whisperer. The man literally has a sixth sense when it comes to subterranean movements. Frank Langella gets to spend much of the last 20 minutes of Part 1 wandering through the underbelly of the Las Vegas casino where he'll wander around with that "My Spider-Sense is tingling and I don't know why" look on his face as he stares at the pipes and checks the water for traces of sulfur with a perpetual look of "I don't know what it is but it's not good" look on his face. The sequence goes on so long it reaches comic proportions yet Frank Langella plays the scene with a gravitas that only heightens the laughability. You're not really sure what he's thinking or what exactly he's looking for but, by god, he's does so with grim urgency.
As ridiculously entertaining as much of this is, the writers' saddled it with some subplots that serve no purpose but stretch out the proceedings to four hours of television. These subplots are absolute death.
SUBPLOT #1: The daughter of the head of FEMA has been a desk jockey ever since an unfortunate incident involving a mine rescue gone tragically wrong that she was in charge of. With FEMA stretched to the limit... Oh, in this miniseries the Federal Emergency Management Agency is portrayed as a valiant, well organized, competent government entity thus proving that this miniseries was made prior to Hurricane Katrina last August. With FEMA stretched to the limit, she requests to be put back into the field. My mother the FEMA Director sends her off to take charge of one of the major disaster zones. Now the storyline that they seem to be trying to tell with this one is that she needs to get her confidence back but she's having trouble with the guy that had been in charge of the search & rescue operations in the area she's been sent. It turns out that the guy's brother was a FEMA rescuer that perished in that mine accident she was in charge of. She finds this out after she calls mommy and complains about the mean man that keeps making her look back in front of the troops.
Two problems with this:
1) I don't recall his character ever confronting her about this; the only thing he does give her grief about is being a gov't suit that doesn't know the area or the situation enough to be in charge and she's only going to hamper relief & rescue operations of which time is the essence.
2) She comes across as a gov't suit that doesn't know the area or the situation enough to be in charge and looks to only hamper relief & rescue operations of which time is the essence. The most negative thing about this guy is that he does have a temper but even that isn't shown as being out of control. After all this, the storyline does not get advanced or resolved. Her wanting to prove herself and him possibly harboring a grudge against her for his brother's death is never dealt with. By part 2, they just end up being two more people yelling into headsets while the film's director goes all shaky cam crazy.
SUBPLOT #2: Meet the Rescue Brothers: Caution and Hotshot. That's what I call them. They're fireman turned FEMA emergency workers. Hotshot is played by Dean Cain, a nothing supporting role that really should have him talking to his agent as to why he took this role. Hotshot likes to hotdog, even willing to risk his own life to save someone. Taking too many unnecessary risks is the biggest gripe against him. Caution, on the other hand, likes to play it safe and follow the rules. You can pretty much figure that one of these two is going to get killed in the line of duty before it's all said and done. Considering that Caution is married to Nurse Preggers and he doesn't even know that she's pregnant due to being interrupted by the apocalypse, you know that Caution will not be the one to buy it. The drama of their family dynamic is dullsville and way too much time is devoted to the two of them rescuing a random stranger buried under a dangerously unstable debris pile.
SUBPLOT #3A: The President's daughter is a Red Cross volunteer. I hereby declare this to be the single most worthless subplot in disaster movie history. She's never put in harm's way or plays any sort of significant part in, well, anything. Her big scene comes when she spots a child's foot from under a pile of debris and begins screaming for some big strong man to come help her free the kid. When nobody responds to her cries for assistance, she casually picks up two or three big pieces of trash and pulls the kid out. Boy wasn't that harrowing! The pay-off for her character is that she learns how to handle the more squeamish aspects of working in an ER so that she may one day decide to go to medical school and become a doctor herself, or some crap like that.
SUBPLOT #3B: The President's daughter spends much of her time glued to the hip of Dr. Miguel (24's Carlos Bernard minus his soul patch and a role with a purpose). Dr. Miguel's storyline is almost as worthless since there was never even any real set-up other than constantly having to deal with the President's daughter repeatedly telling him some version of "I don't want any special treatment just because I'm the President of the United States' daughter" to the point that I'm amazed he didn't finally smack her one across the face and yell at her, "Yes, you're the President's daughter and you just want to be treated like everyone else; I get it already!" His big moment comes in Part 2 when he calls his elderly parents in the soon-to-be-doomed Houston begging them to evacuate. 24 did this exact same thing with one of his co-stars; a storyline involving a CTU computer tech whose elderly mom refused to evacuate the area after a nearby nuclear plant was sabotaged by terrorists. There was just something about Dr. Miguel's reaction to his parents choosing to die that seemed way off. I got the feeling that even he couldn't believe he'd signed on to appear in this thing only to end up with such a nothing role. Heck, his relationship with "don't treat me like" the President's daughter doesn't even result in any romantic sparks.
We also get to meet the First Lady this time out but she's such a worthless addition to the cast that she doesn't even get her own subplot. She's there for to give Beau Bridges a pep talk during a critical moment and to join him in a "Honey, be safe" teleconference pep talk with their daughter in the field.
When it's focusing on focusing on Dr. Hill, her seismologist boyfriend held over from the first one, her co-workers, her dad the quake whisperer, and the President of the United States dealing with the crisis at hand, 10.5: APOCALYPSE is the best kind of hammy disaster. Whenever it leaves them and the immediate threat behind in favor of the subplots involving the Rescue Brothers, Little Miss FEMA Thang's "Respect my authoritay!" issues, and the President's "I'm a volunteer here to help just like the rest of you so don't treat me any differently than you would anybody else" daughter, 10.5: APOCALYPSE giddy energy comes to a screeching halt. It's like the dismal John Schneider and the 8 Simple Rules... chick as estranged father and daughter in peril subplot from the first miniseries times three and with an added coat of suck painted on it.
But it's all worth it for moments like the death of Dr. Samantha Hill's boyfriend; a death of such forehead-slapping idiocy it borders on genius. Disaster movies usually feature at least one character that looses their life due to their own stupidity but what happens here enters a whole new stratosphere of stupidity. The water under Lake Mead is superheated and rising. It's spilling over the top of Hoover Dam like a waterfall. The boyfriend has flown there in a helicopter to take some readings. Much talk of water temperature ensues. As Hoover Dam begins turning into Hoover Falls, he decides that he just has to get a better look in order to determine how much more the dam can take. For some reason this requires him to fly down low enough and close enough to the bulging, water-spilling dam so that when it begins to break the helicopter will be within range to get destroyed by flying debris and a barrage of water as the dam shatters and the valley is flooded with boiling water. Imagine what he'd have done if he'd been flying a helicopter close to that erupting volcano.
"THE WATER IS OVERTAKING HOOVER DAM! I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH MORE IT CAN TAKE! WE'RE GOING TO FLY IN FOR A CLOSER LOOK JUST TO MAKE SURE..."
IF THIS WERE FOR REAL IT WOULD WIN A DARWIN AWARD
This brings about the first "Oh my God!" of the miniseries, as is legally required by the law of disaster films. She's devastated. Thankfully, the President gives her a "Rah Rah! American needs you!" pep talk and she's back on duty yelling into headsets in no time flat.
Part 1 ends with a double whammy. First, Sam reveals to the President that what's happening is an ancient seaway is going to open and split the United States in two. While this sounds unpleasant, it hardly sounds apocalyptic. It also makes me wonder what this has to do with that whole Accelerated Plate Movement theory that made things like a global catastrophe was at hand. For those of you living within the central portion of the United States wondering if you need to learn to swim, here's the computer graphic we're shown.
"THE RED STATE SEA"
And then a massive earthquake strikes Las Vegan and heart of the city collapses into one gigantic sinkhole. END OF PART ONE.
So how do you top that? What if I told you that virtually the entire first hour of part two is essentially a bizarro re-working of THE POSIEDON ADVENTURE only instead of the capsized boat rolled over by a tidal wave - something that we already saw happen in the first three minutes of Part 1 - we have people trapped in a hotel-casino buried in a sinkhole? Do the survivors in the gaming area stay put and await rescue or follow Dr. Earl Hill after he tells everyone that staying put is certain death? What do you think?
The only way to survive the casino eventually collapsing in on itself is to head up to one of the higher floors that's still above ground. Aside from the needless destruction of Mount Rushmore and the unwelcome intrusion of random subplots, a full hour is devoted to them making their way up to safety and the rescue workers (Caution & Hotshot? What an amazing coincidence!) making their way down looking for survivors. Unbeknownst to Caution, his pregnant wife just happened to have stopped off at that very casino when she was on her way to find a relief station in need of a registered nurse. Just when you think things can't get any wackier, a guy gets killed when he opens the wrong door and is killed instantly by the pent up for of compressed dirt. Who knew? This is almost as tragic as the showgirl that falls to her death and everyone mourns like we have a freaking girl who this chick was.
WE BRIEFLY PAUSE TO SALUTE THE AMAZING STARING PROWESS OF BEAU BRIDGES
The President has ordered the evacuation of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas. I might have missed a state or two in there. Basically, if you live in a Red State anywhere within the Central United States then get your ass east. You could go west but that part keeps sinking into the ground and falling off the continental shelf.
It gets even better when we see the fautline that's forming down the middle of the United States is quite literally a giant fissure in the earth's surface that's shown racing due south, devastating everything in its path. Helicopters are literally shown pursuing it in scenes like the cops chasing OJ Simpson in the White Ford Bronco.
The reason FEMA is putting all of their resources into this one particular hotel-casino is because they've been ordered to rescue Dr. Earl Hill and get him back to wherever the hell his daughter has set up a command center. Remember, A.P.M. is too complex for ever she to fully comprehend so daddy's expertise is badly needed. And he better hurry because the filmmakers have tossed in yet another problem. That racing faultline is racing towards the nuclear reactors of Red Plains, Texas. It isn't bad enough that the nation is about to get split in half by a burgeoning seaway, now there's the threat of nuclear devastation. Okay, this somewhat justifies the "Apocalypse" subtitle.
DAMMIT! IF THAT FAULTLINE REACHES MEXICO BEFORE WE CAN ARREST IT...
Sam is actually trying to devise a way to stop rampaging faultline. Yeah, because we've done such a great job in the past using mankind's know-how to thwart natural disasters. Oh, I forgot about the setting off of strategically placed nukes stopping California from falling off the continent in the first 10.5 miniseries. Wait a minute... THAT DIDN'T WORK!
The Rescue Brothers make contact with the survivors including geologist, quake whisperer, and poker champion Dr. Earl Hill, who seemingly teleports over to his daughter's command center judging by how fast he arrives. But Nurse Preggers is still trapped in the rubble. Here Caution finds out he's going to be a dad and the brothers set out to do what they do best. Everyone except for Hotshot manages to get out in time. Dean Cain's demise is a million shades of funny because not only was it obviously not Dean Cain's voice you heard letting out one last scream, it was the sort of yelp you'd expect to hear from somebody that slipped on a banana peel and fell down a flight of stair, not someone's last gasp before being buried alive in a cave in.
As the fault tears through Houston, which the filmmakers clearly couldn't afford to show, we get to see Dr. Miguel's elderly parents embracing one another as their house collapses and crushes them to death. Another "Must See TV" moment from NBC, the current #4 television network.
But enough about the crappy subplots, what's the plan, Dr. Hill? No, not you Samantha. Dr. Earl Hill, you got anything? What's that? You might be able to deviate the faultline from taking out the nuclear power plant and possibly even halt its progress all together by creating your own fault to stop its progress and you want to do this by blowing up all the underground gas lines in Southeast Texas? Yeah, whatever. I got a better idea. How about putting a giant mirror in the ground so that when the faultline approaches it will see its own reflection and die? Does my idea really sound any goofier?
They teleport down to Texas for a game of intercept the cataclysmic faultline. Boom goes the gas lines. Rumble goes the fault as its drawn parallel to the power plants and comes to a grinding halt. Hooray goes the President. Commerical break goes the network.
Back from the final commercial break just in time for the quake whisperer's seismic sense to go off again. Sure enough, the fault line is on the move again and this time there isn't a damn thing anyone can do about it. It reaches the Gulf of Mexico and a new giant river forms down the center of the US. Odd, it doesn't look quite like the enormous all-encompassing super seaway from the graphic earlier.
HEY, THAT DOESN'T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE THE SEAWAY VISUALIZED IN THE GRAPHIC EARLIER. IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH AN APOCALYPSE EITHER. BOOOOO!!!!
10.5: APOCALYPSE ends not with an apocalypse but with a whole hell of a lot of blubbering. We're talking about a Thirtysomething level of high impact crying. Sam and her father tearfully embrace in a helicopter above the new giant American river/fault while President Beau Bridges headlocks the First Lady and begins sobbing in a manner more embarrassing than any sitting President ever should. You're the President of the United States of America; show some damn dignity. Suddenly, his sobfest turns into an impassioned speech about how we will remain one nation, together and strong, despite being a nation divided, geographically speaking, although an argument could be made these days politically as well. Everything that happens in this last five minute segment occurred at such a rapid fire pace that I wonder if the miniseries had an appointment it needed to get to. They should have called it 10.5: TELEVISION TIME REMAINING because this is one hell of an abrupt finale.
there you have it. 10.5: APOCALYPSE - an unintentional laugh
riot of epic proportions that could be the most howlingly funny disaster
flick ever. If you missed it on NBC then I highly recommend checking
it out on DVD on August 1st when it will be unedited, commercial-free,
and you can fast forward past all those pointless subplots.
"OH GOD... I'M SORRY. I DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT. I WAS CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED TO RETURN FOR THE SEQUEL BUT I DIDN'T WANT TO. I GOT RENT TO PAY... KIDS IN COLLEGE... WE GOTTA EAT... I DIDN'T THINK IT WOULD BE THIS BAD. OH, GOD!!!!"
Now all I can say is thank goodness May 2006 is over. Too much schlock for one person to have to endure in such a short amount of time. I need a vacation.
MY NAME IS SCOTT FOY AND I PAID TO SEE PROBLEM CHILD 2
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