Monday, November 07, 2005

Tornadoes, Real and Imagined

There was a deadly tornado in Indiana and Kentucky yesterday, and we felt it all the way up here in Pittsburgh. Power was out for a while in the afternoon, coincidentally while I was taking my Sunday nap. A few things were torn and scattered, but nothing nearly as bad as the damage and loss of life in Indiana.

By complete coincidence, I watched part one of a brand-new CBS miniseries last night called "Category 7: The End of the World". I don't pay much attention to network television; this show would have been completely off my radar if not for the ad that assaulted me on some website the other day. It is a sequel to a show from last year called, naturally, "Category 6: Day of Destruction". The sequel has two things in common with its predecessor: Randy Quaid, and a relentless wind force. This time, instead of settling for the midwest, the tornadoes take on the entire world.

These natural disaster movies are usually worthwhile for the special effects, and little else. The plot involves some super-expert scientists who are the only ones who anticipate the coming crisis but whose warnings fall on deaf ears. These scientists have families that include teenage children, and apparently tilt left politically. Where have we heard this before? Both movies even have a Quaid in a starring role. I tried to ignore the silly plot devices and concentrate on the eye candy.

And no, by "eye candy" I don't mean Gina Gershon and Shannen Doherty. Well, not just them, anyway. The best parts of this kind of movie are the scenes of total chaos and destruction. For instance, there was a flying clown head in the commercial. I said out loud, "You know that something is worth watching if it has a flying clown head in it". With God as my witness, I never thought giant clown heads could fly. But there it was, and it was the hook that got me to sit through the whole two hours last night. A flying clown head. I can be so simple at times.

The context made the flying clown head even more delicious: A tornado hit a carnival in Paris near the Eiffel Tower. Two English soccer hooligans got killed in the tower because they chose not to evacuate like the other tourists. The flying clown head was ripped off of...something, I'm not sure what. But it had a maniacal laugh, as though it were some kind of weapon devised by the Joker to fire at Batman. The flying clown head blew away from the carnival and crashed through a window into a room where it squashed several French meteorologists. Immediately, I knew this was going to be a five-star classic. A flying clown head that kills snooty Frenchmen. Wow.

Soon after, we briefly see a tornado wreck the Mall of American in Bloomington, Minnesota. Hey! I was there three months ago! And I am extremely grateful that such a tragedy did not occur when I was inside. I hope Mitch is okay.

Some stupid park ranger gets killed when George Washington's face falls off of Mount Rushmore. You know the park ranger is stupid because he takes his coffee up on top of Mount Rushmore and drinks it from a wide-open cup instead of bringing it in a plastic travel mug. Few things in a movie have ever said "this guy is going to be dead in about sixty seconds" as the stupid ranger's coffee cup.

Florida gets wiped out, but that's to be expected. Ditto for a trailer park in Texas. We also see the pyramids and the Sphinx bite the dust -- sand, actually -- during an Egyptian storm.

James Brolin plays a man who is married to a weird, big-mouthed, creepy woman who likes publicity and money. No research was required for his role. Brolin's character is also a televangelist. He dies during a soundcheck while preparing for a live appearance in the eye of the storm. Struck down by lightning, he was. Jumping Jupiter!

Robert Wagner plays a Senator whose daughter, the new FEMA secretary, is one of the "heroes" of this film. Wagner lost all credibility as a serious actor after the first Austin Powers movie. Plus, he tries so hard to appear younger than he actually is, that he ends up looking like a man in a Robert Wagner mask.

There is a confusing scene near the end of the first part where ambulance-driving terrorists hijack a bus that is carrying families of federal government employees to a safe location in West Virginia. (Which is undoubtedly called The Robert Byrd Federal Government Employee Family Safe Location Center.) They had better come up with a good explanation for this scene; the terrorists weren't even hinted at before this happened.

Part Two is next Sunday. Two storms, one in New York state and one in Miami, are going to come together over Washington DC and form the first ever category seven storm. There had better be something at least as good as a flying clown head to maintain my interest for another two hours.

No comments: