Earlier this month the town of Moore, Oklahoma was struck by a mile wide tornado that came roaring across the flat lands of the prairies with almost unimaginable power.
Children hugged each other in bathrooms and prayed for survival while the twister demolished their school, flattened entire neighborhoods and flung cars hundreds of feet in the air. When the chaos finally ended, the town was destroyed and 24 human beings lost their lives, including seven of the youngsters in the school.
Late springtime can be wonderful, with the songs of birds, budding trees and flowers and glorious days of sunshine. Nature can also be a terrible foe, wrecking havoc on the fragile dwellings of humanity with devastating hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. No one is completely safe when disaster strikes, and sometimes, all we can do is pick up the pieces and rebuild.
The major studios of Hollywood have made many exciting disaster movies over the years that portray the incredible power of nature. While some of these films may appear out of date by 2013 standards, they do show what can happen to human beings when Mother Nature decides to exert her strength with such overwhelming fury. We have selected a few of of the best disaster movies for your consideration and review. We would also like to express our deepest sympathies to all the people of Moore, Oklahoma. The author of this article lives 8.5 miles away from Moore and he realizes how lucky he is to be here at all.
Twister is a 1996 American disaster drama film starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as storm chasers researching tornadoes. The plot is a dramatized view of research projects that study tornadoes like VORTEX of the NOAA. The goal of film’s stars is to send a device into the heart of a twister and record the activity inside a tornado for the first time ever. While many people are shocked by the risks taken by real life storm chasers, their research has been invaluable and someday, as a result of their efforts, we may have enough advanced warning to avoid the loss of life we saw in Moore, Oklahoma this week.
Vocano stars veteran actors Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle. Jones is cast as the head of a crisis agency called the Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management which has complete authority in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. His character attempts to divert the path of a dangerous lava flow through the streets of Los Angeles following the formation of a volcano. While the plot is quite improbable, the film does manage to show the incredible danger posed to human life by even a small flow of lava.
3. The Perfect Storm
The Perfect Storm is a dramatic portrayal of a real life storm directed by Wolfgang Petersen. The film stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, Karen Allen and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The film reveals the awesome power of the sea when The F/V Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel, was lost with all hands during the “Perfect Storm” of 1991. After the storm ended, weather buoys in the general vicinity of the vessel’s last known location recorded peak wave action exceeding 60 ft in height from October 28 through 30, 1991. The 72 foot long vessel was no match for waves higher than a six story building.
Titanic is a 1997 American epic romantic disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as members of different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage. While the film focused on the human beings who sailed on the “unsinkable” Titanic, Director Cameron was extremely successful in portraying the incredible dangers posed to human life in the frozen waters of the Arctic.
5. The Day After Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American/Canadian science fiction disaster film co-written, directed, and produced by Roland Emmerich. The film depicts the catastrophic effects of global warming in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and leads to a new Wce age. The debate about global warming may still be raging between scientists and politicians, but one thing is sure; mankind is no match for the forces of Mother Nature.
On a rainy day, when you just don’t feel like leaving the house, there is no better way to enjoy your time indoors than to watch a few good movies.
At times like these, we always try to pick films that are simply entertaining, rather than movies that inspire deep thinking or a long debate about the film’s message.
Among our favorite genres for sheer excitement are science fiction, monster movies and adventure films. These categories offer a high percentage of enjoyable film fare without taxing our nerves or requiring too much intellectual input. They are good movies to watch for a relaxing afternoon or evening on the sofa with lots of popcorn and soda, as we escape to a world of fantasy and imagination.
1. Destroy All Monsters:
Destroy All Monsters is a 1968 Japanese science fiction Kaiju film produced by Toho Studios. The ninth film in the Godzilla series stars Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yukiko Kobayashi and Yoshio Tsuchiya. The evil aliens from Kilaak use a mind control device to force the earth’s monsters to do their bidding and destroy most of world’s major cities. The Kilaak leader then demands the human race surrender, or face total annihilation. In a desperate race for survival, Japanese astronauts are able to destroy the alien’s mind control device, which is located on the moon, and we are treated to a monster battle to end all monster battles. The invaders send King Ghidorah to fight the earth’s unstoppable army of Godzilla, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gorosaurus, Anguirus, Kumonga, Manda, Baragon, and Varan. Godzilla and his friends roar and stomp their way through 90 minutes of delightful monster mayhem and poor King Ghidorah gets beaten to a gigantic, satisfying mass of alien goo.
2. Lord Of The Rings Trilogy Extended Edition:
If the weather outside is miserable and you have ten hours to spare, why not hold a special family event and watch the extended edition of the Lord Of The Rings film trilogy. The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return Of The King are director Peter Jackson’s magnum opus and he has created perfect film versions of J. R. R. Tolkien’s beloved tales of Middle Earth. The acting is exceptional, the special effects and battle scenes are beyond amazing and the script writing is true to the author’s work in every detail. The Lord Of The Rings film trilogy is an epic achievement in movie making and even the most demanding fan of Tolkien’s writing will approve. Jackson brings the world of hobbits, humans, wizards, elves, dwarves, orcs, trolls and evil sorcerers to life and the result is absolute, unadulterated bliss.
3. The Jurassic Park Trilogy:
This three movie journey will only take about seven hours, but it is certainly worth the time and effort. Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III are all from the incredible imagination of producer Steven Spielberg, who also directed the first two films in the series. The CGI dinosaurs are simply stunning and the confrontation between the creatures and modern humans perfectly illustrates the fragility of our species. Spielberg and his team managed to bring the prehistoric world back to life and all three films offer viewers an exciting motion picture adventure. If you are a fan of action movies or a dinosaur lover, these films are the closest thing to stepping into a time machine and travelling back 200 million years to the dawn of time. Just remember not to steal any raptor eggs along the way and you should survive to your motion picture journey.
4. The Fifth Element:
The Fifth Element is a 1997 English-language French science fiction film directed, co-written, and based on a story by Luc Besson. The film stars Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich. The Fifth Element is the story of a perfect being, in the form of the luscious Ms. Jovovich, who is sent to defend the earth from the destructive power of the “Great Evil.” Gary Oldman is over the top terrific as the “Great Evil’s” earthly henchman and Bruce Willis is excellent as the reluctant, lovelorn cab driver who must help the perfect being save the human race. The futuristic sets and special effects are world class and the film is a delightful science fiction romp. Ian Holm joins the fun as a frazzled priest and the scenes on the space going ocean liner are glorious. Every single character, even the most unimportant extra, is sculpted to perfection by the film’s talented creator, Luc Besson, who is also the genius behind LÈon: The Professional.
5. Alice In Wonderland:
Alice in Wonderland is a 2010 American computer-animated and live action fantasy film directed by Tim Burton, written by Linda Woolverton, and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film stars Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh, as well as Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter. Director Burton’s cinematic retelling of the Lewis Carroll classic was one of the motion picture highlights of 2010. Johnny Depp is perfectly cast as the Mad Hatter and newcomer Mia Wasikowska is marvelous as the brave Alice. Alan Rickman voiced Absolem, the Caterpillar with his usual panache and Helena Bonham Carter is superb as the grumpy, terrifying Red Queen. Every frame of the film is filled with wonder and Burton’s “Alice” is simply the best “Alice” ever. By the end of the film, you won’t be able to resist the temptation to shout, “off with their heads!”
Movie lovers who were born in the aftermath of World War Two probably have fond memories of spending Saturday afternoons watching Mr. Universe Steve Reeves as the first Hercules in a series of Italian made action movies. The genre, known as Peplum or Sword and Sandal, was a mainstay of the Italian studio system throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
After Mr. Reeves seriously injured his shoulder doing his own stunts, he grew tired of portraying historical heroes for relatively low pay compared to Hollywood actors and retired from the motion picture industry. He was replaced by a steady stream of muscular actors including another Mr. Universe named Reg Park, Jane Mansfield’s husband Mickey Hargitay, Gordon Scott, Kirk Morris, Mark Forest, Alan Steel, Dan Vadis, Brad Harris and Peter Lupus, who went on to co-star in the Mission: Impossible television series.
In addition to the popular Hercules epics, Sword and Sandal movies also portrayed many other famous heroes of mythology, including Samson, Goliath, Ursus, Italy’s own popular folk hero Maciste and famous historical figures such as Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Hannibal. The screenwriters and directors took extreme liberties with the facts of history, placing their characters in the wrong time periods and creating massive battles with weapons and costumes that were many centuries out of date.
The main focus of Sword and Sandal movies was the constant conflict between good and evil, built around heroic quests and damsels in distress. Some of the great European beauties of the era were featured in Peplum films. Sylva Koscina appeared in two Hercules films opposite Steve Reeves and American sex symbol Jayne Mansfield appeared with husband Hargitay in The Loves of Hercules. Other sultry female leads included Fay Spain, Diana Hyland, Jany Clair and Daniela Rocca.
Eventually, the genre ran out of steam and Sword and Sandal epics were relegated to filling difficult time slots on American television. While many motion picture buffs still enjoy watching Steve Reeves or Reg Park flex their way through one fight scene after the other against legions of enemy soldiers, the films were never intended to be much more than low budget, quickly made romps through pseudo-history. Sword and Sandal films were certainly entertaining and full of great eye candy, but like many other movies from the golden era of Italian Cinema, their time has come and gone. Thank goodness we can still enjoy them on the Internet and cable television.
Many of the reviews of Peter Jackson’s latest Tolkien film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey…
…complained about the length of the movie and accused the director of padding the film with unnecessary scenes. Other writers disliked the new 48 frame per second technology that gave the film its hyper-realistic visuals, claiming it made The Hobbit look so real it was distracting and unnatural.
These complaints are basically nitpicking. Each of the Lord Of The Rings films was longer than The Hobbit and just as packed with detail. After the three previous Tolkien films by Jackson, only a person who lived in a cave in the Arctic wouldn’t know what to expect from the director when he brings Tolkien’s world to life on the silver screen.
As for the complaints about the new 48 FPS technology, the film is also available in a standard 24 FPS version, so anyone who finds the new style uncomfortable has an alternative. All in all, The Hobbit is a delightful motion picture and fans of the Lord Of The Rings film trilogy are thrilled with Jackson latest effort.
Although The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a major success, grossing over one billion dollars at the box office, there is one area of legitimate complaint about the film, and that is the emotional tone. While Jackson remained true to the level of detail found in all of Tolkien’s writing, he occasionally strayed off the path when he set the mood for his movie. In several areas, he simply lost the “Tolkien feeling” that was ever present in Jackson’s previous Tolkien films.
The film drifts between a primer on the lifestyle of dwarves and hobbits and a war movie. Action scenes dominate The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and combat is realized in glorious, gory detail. While the Lord Of The Rings was certainly about a war between two opposing civilizations, Tolkien intended The Hobbit to be a journey of personal discovery. The book was originally written to amuse his children and has a definite tone of innocence.
Many of the critics took major offense to the opening party in Bilbo’s hobbit hole.
Bemoaning the amount of time the movie devotes to these scenes. The real issue is the chaos created by packing 15 characters, all of whom are important to the story, into such a tiny space. It is almost impossible to tell one dwarf from the other, and as a result, the story starts to drag.
Even in these early scenes the tone changes from the novel; Tolkien’s dwarves are kinder and more entertaining; Jackson’s dwarves have an air of desperation and they barge into Bilbo’s life like a pack of bandits. The good dwarves of Tolkien become Jackson’s little band of inconsiderate, troublesome louts.
The scenes in Goblin Town are so overdone they turn the encounter into a super duper roller coaster ride through the greatest amusement park in all creation. Bilbo’s scenes with Gollum are brilliant, but his escape from the fiend, so wonderfully detailed in the novel, is diluted into a 30 second dash up a single tunnel. It would have served the director better if he had shortened the scenes in Bilbo’s home and added more time to the encounter between Bilbo and Gollum. After all, the finding of the ring is the crucial moment for all the adventures to come in the Lord Of The Rings.
For anyone who loves Tolkien, the visit to Rivendell is a major highlight of the story. In Jackson’s film, Bilbo’s meeting with his beloved elves is rewritten into a nasty argument between Saruman and Gandalf with Galadriel as the referee. In the original story, Galadriel and Saruman are nowhere to be found, and Thorin’s group is welcomed with open arms by Elrond and his elves.
Instead of a contentious, almost hostile encounter between angry dwarves and suspicious elves found in the film, the proper visit to Rivendell is a celebration of all the good things left in Middle Earth. The elves sing, dance, feast, and share lore with their guests, then fully equip them for the next stage of their journey. Thorin and company leave Rivendell on Mid-Summer morning basking in the sunshine, not by sneaking off like thieves in the night, with Bilbo racing after them. The film clearly misses the boat in this important area and completely changes the emotional tone of the story.
The race between a pack of Wargs, and the wizard Radagast on a sled pulled by giant rabbits, is so ridiculous and out of place that Jackson should hang his head in shame. This is the one truly awful addition to film that is nowhere to be found in anything Tolkien ever wrote. Why Jackson, who is so devoted to Tolkien’s Legendarium, decided to add this nonsense is truly mystifying. The time wasted making a nature loving wizard look like a total idiot could have been better spent expanding the visit to Rivendell or Bilbo’s escape from Gollum.
While we do understand that the director and his screenwriters…
…must occasionally alter or re-arrange important plot points and story details to create a film that flows and makes sense, it does seem that Jackson changed the overall tone of The Hobbit from a wondrous adventure of discovery and danger into a 169 minute running battle, interspersed with interludes of calm that leave the viewer wondering if they are actually watching two movies.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a good movie, although it is not up to the standard of Jackson’s previous Tolkien films. It is to be hoped that the director will understand the failings of Part One of The Hobbit film trilogy and improve the structure of the next two movies to embrace all the subtlety and wonder that Tolkien instilled in his writing. After all, it took all three films before The Lord Of The Rings was revealed in all its cinematic glory and it is to be hoped this will be the case with Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.
Everyone enjoys a great action movie.
There is no better way to forget your troubles and enjoy a couple of hours of pulse pounding excitement, and a roller coaster ride of thrills, than to watch action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Milla Jovovich, Bruce Willis, and Angelina Jolie go through their paces.
These muscular men and athletic women have all starred in some of the most entertaining and spectacular action films of recent years. What they may lack lack in dramatic skills, they make up with bravado and sheer guts, as they careen across the screen in a hail of bullets. Their ability to defy the logic of physics, and survive against all the odds, allows the rest of us mere mortals to safely imagine the life of a secret agent or super soldier without spilling a drop of our precious blood.
It’s time to get ready to enjoy the adventure as we celebrate some of our favorite action movies. Grab an energy drink, put on your favorite camo, and settle back for the fantasy ride of a lifetime.
1. Die Hard:
What better way to vent your aggression and relieve your stress than to cheer along Bruce Willis as he wages war against a skyscraper full of terrorists in the Nakatomi Tower. Watch Bruce get battered, beaten and cut to ribbons as he singlehandely takes on a small army of Eastern European bad guys out to steal millions in bearer bonds. Alan Rickman join the fun as the head terrorist, complete with impeccably tailored suits and a variety of useful accents.
2. Terminator 2:
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in James Cameron’s ground breaking action thriller. The Austrian Oak is back as the unstoppable killer robot from the future, who destroys his enemies while shouting sarcastic one liners faster than comedian Don Rickles. This time, the terminator has been re-programmed to protect instead of destroy, when he is sent back in time to defend resistance leader John Connor and his slightly paranoid mother against an even more powerful terminator robot, played to perfection by Robert Patrick. Loaded with revolutionary special effects and the most advanced CGI of its time, Terminator 2 is guaranteed to keep you glued to the edge of your seat from start to finish.
3. Resident Evil 1 – 5:
The best zombie movies of the 21st century, these five gems, starring Milla Jovovich as Alice, feature an army of strange and frightening zombies of every imaginable size and shape; all dedicated to the task of killing Alice and feeding on the remains of humanity. Alice is able to bond with the deadly T- Virus that caused the zombie outbreak, which makes her immune to becoming a zombie, and grants her several useful superpowers. Alice battles for survival against endless hordes of zombies, while she tries to save the few remaining human who are still uninfected, and kill Chairman Albert Wesker, the lunatic head of the Umbrella Corporation and the man behind the zombie plague. The Resident Evil movies are the film industry’s most successful series based on a video game, and despite largely negative reviews from the critics, the films have a huge following with the general public.
4. The Expendables:
Written, directed, and starring Sylvester Stallone, this action adventure about a group of well meaning mercenaries who will take on any job, no matter how dangerous, co-stars a virtual who’s who of action heroes, including Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Gary Daniels, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Packed with death defying stunts, bulging muscles, sweat, grime and bloodshed, The Expendables is one of the most epic action movies ever to grace the silver screen.
5. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
There isn’t a video gamer or teenage boy alive who doesn’t know and love Lara Croft, the buxom heroine of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Angelina Jolie stars as Lara, the ultra rich daughter of an eccentric archaeologist and leading member of the Illuminati. Lara is a superb athlete with incredible combat skills, which she puts to good use digging up tombs filled with ancient treasures. After receiving a cryptic message from her long missing father, Lara seeks to resolve his disappearance and recover the two halves of the Triangle of Light, a mysterious device with phenomenal destructive power that grants its user control of time and space. After discovering the first half of the Triangle, Laura is forced into a life or death race to find the second half of the device. Her opponents are powerful members of the Illuminati who want to use the Triangle of Light to control the world. The film takes Lara to a wide variety of exotic locations and we are treated to an amazing array of fantastic stunts and set pieces; all of which show off Ms. Jolie’s ample figure to perfection.
Strange creatures, cattle mutilation, crop circles, men in black, lights in the sky, death rays and screaming crowds of panicked humanity. These are just some of the indicators of a great alien invasion movie. Ever since Kenneth Arnold’s famous Mount Rainier sighting in 1947, flying saucers and alien invasions have been a popular subject for Hollywood.
The 1950′s were a fertile period for space invasion films. Dozens of black and white B movies featuring aging former stars, local beauty queens, and side show freaks were made for less money than a 21st century television commercial. From this treasure trove of mediocrity, one particular film stands out as the all time great B movie classic; Plan Nine From Outer Space.
Directed by Ed Wood, one of Hollywood’s most unusual personalities, and starring Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson and Maila “Vampira” Nurmi, Plan Nine is an endless feast of insanity and cost cutting techniques. Wood even used left over silent footage of recently deceased horror film legend Bela Lugosi to create 79 minutes of absolute mayhem.
The plot, as thin as it was, involved outer space creatures who were seeking to stop mankind from creating a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe. The aliens prowl earth’s graveyards, resurrecting the dead, and causing chaos, as part of their plan to frighten humanity into compliance.
Several of the actors stood out for their unusual demeanor and appearance. Swedish professional wrestler Tor Johnson was cast as Police Inspector Dan Clay. After being killed by a horde of zombies, he was reanimated and used as the alien’s muscleman to kidnap beautiful earth women. Film buffs delight over the scenes with Johnson as a bug eyed, shuffling, 300 pound zombie in a business suit, slowly making his way across the screen with a scantily clad female in his arms.
Bela Lugosi needs little introduction to movie lovers. He was an absolute legend as an actor in some the very best horror movies ever made. His unforgettable performance as Dracula in the 1931 film version of Bram Stoker’s novel is one of the iconic performances in motion picture history. Sadly, Lugosi’s career was in serious decline, and he died before the production on Plan Nine began. Wood was forced to scour his archives for usable footage of the late actor and many of Lugosi’s scenes in Plan Nine were actually from an abandoned project tentatively named Tomb of the Vampire.
Finnish Actress Maila Nurmi was well known in the film and television industry as Vampira; a sexy Morticia Adams clone complete with a skintight long black dress, fright night makeup, and a ghoulish demeanor. Nurmi brought Vampira to life in Plan Nine From Outer Space as a female alien bent on humanity’s destruction.
Plan Nine From Outer Space occupies a unique place in film history as both the worst movie ever made and as the best of the best of campy alien invasion movies. Directed by a man with a penchant for wearing woman’s clothing, and starring a collection of misfits and lunatics, Plan Nine will always be a film lovers first choice for a late night thriller or as a perfect way to kill time on a rainy Saturday afternoon.