Hiya, what we have today is another made-for-TV disaster epic, a two-night CBS miniseries with a fairly solid cast and some pretty good production values. It is, however, high on the campiness and pegs the Blind Eye to Science Meter like nothing since The Day After Tomorrow. This review is of 2005's Category 7: The End of the World, which is a direct sequel to 2004's Category 6: The Day of Destruction. I have not, nor intend to watch the first movie, so this is essentially a review of a stand-alone film. And yes, I just did this same thing with 10.5 Apocalypse, but I'm nothing if not consistent in my weirdness.
Dick Lowry was the director, as well as of 2004's Category 6, and he seems to think he's helming a video for Nickelback half the time, with pounding music cuts and blatant overuse of zooming close-ups and jittery hand-held cameras. His other directoral credits include Smokey and the Bandit 3 and Project: ALF, so, well, you know.
Let's get it on...
Let me recap the first movie. A sudden BigAss Storm system moved across America, smashing Seattle, Vegas, Saint Louis, and Chicago with massive tornadoes and crushing rain. This was a "Category 6" storm, bigger than anything seen on our planet in our species' lifetime. No one knows why the storm appeared, or what is making it so severe, but it's still out there and going just as strong. Our movie opens apparently just a few days or so after the first one ended, with the storm still menacing the upper Midwest and the government going crazy.
Many, many of these flashbacky sort of helpful news reports in the beginning to get us up to speed.
But first, we open in Paris, France on a cloudy summer night. An apocalyptic windstorm hits the city, tearing down the iconic Eiffel Tower, twisting it like a soggy pretzel and smashing it down onto the Champ de Mars, crushing portly Flemish tourists and government-subsidized street mimes alike in a hammer of steel and iron. What this proves to the world is that the BigAss Storm phenomena is not just confined to America, but has now become a global weather pattern of Four Horsemen intensity.
Paris isn't going to be the City of Lights anymore.
Poor France, ever since the Iraq War started they've been thrashed on purpose in every movie ever made. Seriously, you can't blame them for being such virulent pacifists, in the last hundred years they've been owned by the Kaiser, the Fuehrer, the Viet Cong, and the Algerians, not to mention the bitchslap of Zidane throwing the Cup with that head butt. It's been a bad century for the French, let's cut them some slack.
The chick on the right is French, so that's a plus.
On to Washington DC now to meet our movie's main protagonist. She's Judith Carr, played by 43-year old character actress Gina Gershon, a career disaster management expert who has been working for the US government for some time. She's ambitious, capable and determined, qualities that will either get you promoted or reassigned to Greenland, depending on which party is in office at the moment.
As our movie opens, Judith has just been promoted to Interim Head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If there was ever a time that FEMA was needed, it's now, as half the nation is trying to recover from the BigAss Storm. It's a rotten time to be promoted, however, as the Fat Rich Old White Guys in power just want a figurehead, someone who can do a good public job and at the same time fall on the sword (willingly or unwillingly) if things go too bad.
Fat Rich Old White Guys (well, two of them, but the other guy is growing to be one).
Judith is at wit's end when one of her staff (a pretty Korean girl named Melody, who will have a greater role in the climax than I suspected) gives her a report. This is a report on future bad weather projections done by some super-smart meteorologist named Ross Duffy, which eerily predicts some of the same things that America has suffered in the last two weeks (storm hits on cities, including Chicago, even Paris). The report is several years old, and the version that Judith read a while back was apparently the "edited version". Melody has the original, which is even more ominous than the edited version in its dire predictions of super-mega-ultra storms. The government buried the report as it was highly critical of the administration's energy policy (Bush is bad!).
That report, note the casting agency headshot there, very professional for a scholarly paper.
Let's meet Ross Duffy, shall we? He's played by 40-year old Cameron Daddo, whose ultra-hep-cat-cool name belies a fairly weak resume of television guest spots and forgettable art films. He will prove to be the continuation of the know-it-all, super-brainy, deeply-sensitive, overly-concerned, inexplicably-hunky Heroic Scientist character that all these sorts of movies have to feature.
Duffy, sporting his perpetual two-day growth to go with his tweed blazer.
As it turns out (and this movie is full of these sorts of infuriating Love, Actually-type coincidences) Duffy and Judith were once college lovers! Oh, and Judith's dorky emo teenage son and Duffy's cheerleader-hot underage daughter are currently dating! IMAGINE THE FREAKING ODDS! What a small world.
Duffy's daughter, surely about to post her latest racy video on youtube (please).
This is bound to cause some waves with her bosses (though you'd like to think that the needs of the nation outweigh such pettiness). Duffy's original report took shots at the environmental and energy policies of the administration, and his name is mud in Washington power circles (the report was "hidden in plain site" by them publishing a heavily sanitized version). We get more thinly-veiled pokes at Dubya Bush (and the general disconnect between the leaders and the led) here and in other places, and the political opinions of this film's production staff are clearly evident (though in a more subtle way than any of the Michael Moore films that were out at the same time).
Judith talks to her boss about that report, but he's got no bars in here so he's not going to get that call about those Motorhead tickets.
Judith has to work under the radar, so to speak, to get the job done. She first sends Melody in the rain to talk to Duffy, but he rebuffs her. Judith then goes in person to see Duffy, which she probably should have done in the first place (she's the head of FEMA, for pity's sake, she should have the authority and the self-esteem to handle these sorts of issues on her own). Duffy is working at the "Extreme Weather Lab", which is his low-profile, high-tech start-up business, set up in an old rented movie theater in Washington DC. The Weather Lab, maybe because Duffy's a heretic to the Establishment and maybe because he just didn't turn in that grant application on time, is chronically under-funded and he's losing his grad students soon. It's from this command post of sorts that Duffy will run his campaign against Mother Nature for the rest of the movie.
The Weather Lab.
Duffy takes some convincing to come onboard, as he's been burned by "The Man" before and has a healthy disrespect and disregard for the Guv'ment. But he takes the blue pill eventually, surely helped both by a strong sense of his responsibility to help the world understand and survive weather forces that only he can comprehend, and also by Judith's low-cut revealing outfit. Are there sparks of that old college love glimmering in the night? Maybe, but not yet.
Judith and Duffy talking, I think she's looking at his ass.
Duffy is further encouraged to help by events on the other side of the world. In Egypt, a super-cell storm brews up over the Giza Plain, spawning mile-wide tornadoes and hurricane winds. The ancient Pyramids are destroyed, brick by brick, multi-ton hunks of stone tosses about like lego blocks in a three-year old's temper tantrum. It took the Reptilians from the planet Hoodoosia six months to build these monuments with their lasers and anti-gravity waves, but it only took thirty seconds for Mother Nature to tear them down.
Egypt after the storm, note the Sphinx's head over there.
Duffy needs a team to help him out, people who he can send out into the field to gather real-time data and eye-ball observations so he and his people can crunch the numbers back in the warm safety of the Weather Lab. First he needs a ground team, and calls in his old storm chasing buddy Tornado Tommy. Played by a probably stoned 55-year old Randy Quaid, Tommy is our film's (horribly unnecessary) Comic Relief. He is also the only character returning from 2004's Category 6, in which he survived a lift-off from a tornado in Chicago.
Duffy also enlists a former co-worker in the extreme weather business, a chick named Faith, played by 34-year old Shannen Doherty, who committed career suicide by bailing on Charmed before it took off (guilty pleasure of mine, that show). Since she's trying oh so hard not to be Helen Hunt from Twister, I'll call her Helen Hunt.
They will ride in a modified 2005 F-150 crewcab pickup truck with the FX4 off-road package (I assume Ford MoCo paid a nice fee to have their new-model truck so prominently featured). Helen Hunt is a rocketry wizard and has brought along a number of small atmospheric test rockets (yes, she's a techno-geek's sheet-soaking glasses-fogging dream).
Their truck, available in dealer showrooms near you.
Duffy then needs an air team. For this he and Judith go to the US Air Force, as they seem to have all the planes in America. They recruit Colonel Mike Davis, played by 72-year old Tom Skerritt (who I will forever remember for his sudden encounter with a pissed off drone deep in the darkened bowels of the Nostromo), a widely-acclaimed "hurricane hunter" with an easy smile and the weathered skin of someone who spends a lot of time in the sun.
The Colonel's normal storm-chasing ride is a modified C-130, a slow and fragile cargo plane, but that's just not going to cut it for our BigAss Storm. What they need is the fastest plane around, a sweet Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a blazing quick high-altitude recon plane with a sci-fi Naboo cruiser-cool look. There happens to be one out in Arizona, being modified as a testbed for scientific research missions. Judith throws her weight around as FEMA head and gets the plane requisitioned.
The SR-71, all CGI in this film, tricked out in snazzy reflective paint.
I hope the Colonel has some hours in the SR-71, because she's bitch to fly I hear. This might be one of those movies where a hero can fly, drive, shoot, screw anything on the planet with equal skill and ability. Of course, the Colonel is helped by his backseat guy being Delko from CSI: Miami.
I'd feel safer (and 75% sexier) with him sitting behind me.
All this in place, they set in motion their plan to get under/in front of the BigAss Storm system and see what is going on. They head to Michigan, ahead of the storm's slowly, almost leisurely eastward track.
We join up with Tommy and Helen Hunt south of Detroit, out in the open fields north of the Indiana border. There's a skuzzy trailer park here, prime tornado bait, and they are sure a mega-storm is going to be coming through here. They try and warn the six-tooth residents of the trailer court, but to limited success as the people are slow to listen and believe (and most of them are drunk). When the tornados do come, and they are huge and ugly, and there is great destruction and loss of life. Tommy and Helen Hunt survive, of course, though there are some tense moments as trailers and bodies swirl all around them in a blender-orgy of death.
See that? That's a woman cooling herself off with a bottle of wine between her breasts. I cannot make this stuff up.
The data, sadly, is inconclusive, due to some fault in the rocket's sensors or something. Helen Hunt feels rotten, blaming herself for her rocket's failure, though the wicked-ass storm might have had something to do with it. The storm is now headed east again across the Great Lakes towards Buffalo, New York.
Eeek, house trailer on a roll!
Back in Washington, Judith is facing criticism about her handling of the crisis and her relationship with Duffy. Her boss at Homeland Security, sort of a Fat Rich Old White Guy, but with a bit more compassion and smarts, comes to see her and relay the concerns of his own bosses. Judith assures him that everything is up to snuff, and with the planet in peril, what do they have to lose anyway? I agree, what does Judith's past relationship with Duffy, who might have the answer to the dilemma facing them all, have to do with anything?
Judith talks to her boss, notice that she has on a different outfit in every scene, her wardrobe budget must be enormous, probably funneling funds from FEMA accounts into her TJ Maxx credit card.
This unwarranted publicity is also causing problems in both Judith's and Duffy's once-rock solid home lives. Duffy's wife is a bit peeved at the amount of time he's spending with his old college flame (a woman much more successful and attractive than she, no less, thus unleashing the dogs of war that are female jealousy and snarkiness). Judith's son isn't happy that his mom is tabloid fodder, as it's (somehow) affecting his underage love-fest with Duffy's daughter (who in one scene actually takes a cellphone picture of her boobs for him). Judith is less than concerned about his angst-ridden teenage mood swings, she's got a planet to save. By the way, what the heck is everyone on the internet's fascination with Gina Gershon macking on Jennifer Tilly in Bound? Here, do this, run a google image search on "Gina Gershon Jennifer Tilly" with the filter off. Wall to wall boobs. Haven't any of you ever seen two topless women making out before? No? You haven't? Seriously, put down your Watchmen action figures, scrape the Cheetos sludge off your shirt, get out of your parent's basement, and go down to any bar on a Saturday night and you will see girls making out in person (I'm partial to Eskimo Joe's at Okie State, but your mileage may vary).
Duffy has issues at home with his wife, and they need a better decorator.
Back to the movie, the BigAss Storm is now nearing Buffalo, New York (the last place you'd expect to see in a b-movie disaster epic, so kudos to them for tossing in a third-tier city), and as before, it's packing a wallop like the residents of Buffalo have never seen the likes of. Racing ahead of the storm, Tommy and Helen Hunt give collecting telemetry data another go. They reach a lake or a river (the Niagara, I presume) as panicked citizens rush to board floatplanes to escape anyway they can. They set up their rocket along the waterfront as the storm begins to lay waste to Buffalo.
Nice matte shot of the twisters coming down from on high like the fingers of God.
Just as they are ready to shoot off the rocket, a wind-blown chunk of canoe smacks into it, destroying the nosecone. Without the ground team, it's up to the air team to get data, but their sensors are also damaged by the storm. Thus, they get nothing out of the Buffalo event worth recording. The BigAss Storm smashes Buffalo and heads southeast towards New York City (of course).
I spent a week in Buffalo one night.
Back in Washington, Judith is told by her bosses to divert FEMA resources to assuring survivability of local, state and federal government in areas hit by the storms. Judith is suitably huffy over this, and the movie really wants us to think of this policy as mean and evil, but I have to agree with it. If you don't have law and order, if you don't have someone in charge on the ground, if you don't have some framework of control, how can you expect to rebuild anything? And, not to be total off-target again, but Gina Gershon has done a lot of other good stuff other than Bound. She was in Cocktail, that was watchable, and she was awesome in Face/Off, even if that movie is on my Top Ten Most Overrated Films of the Century list. And, I think she got a little naked in both of those, that's a plus.
Judith with her staff.
Anyway, the BigAss Storm wades across the Catskills and swamps New York City with predictable results. Panic grips the city, people run every which way, and hookers scamper around collecting dollar bills. The storm surge comes rolling in, sloshing the streets with a flood of freezing sea water, tossing cars around like toys as people flee. Lady Liberty is demolished by the winds and water, her iconic torch broken off and tossed into the streets of Manhattan.
NYC skyline, you can just see the twisters coming down in the background (over Queens it looks like).
Tommy and Helen Hunt are in the city, still trying to get some storm data in the midst of the chaos. We get a little Spiderman action/adventure moment as they have to leap from fire escape to fire escape to avoid being washed out to sea by the storm surge. On a rickety landing, they set up their last sensor rocket and let it fly.
Back at the lab the data streams come pouring in.
As soon as it's away, they have to duck as the Statue of Liberty's torch narrowly misses squashing them. This is a two-part miniseries remember, and part one ends with this cliffhanger (and the eye-searing image of Shannen Doherty and Randy Quaid in an embrace, something that even the internet, in all its goat-sex depravity, wouldn't dare replicate without a federal mandate).
Couldn't get a cap of them hugging, so here they are just standing close together, and that's bad enough. Stop that.
After going all Cloverfield on New York for a few hours, the BigAss Storm then (for some inexplicable, plot-driven reason), instead of logically heading off to sea, turns south and westwards, moving inland again. No explanation of how it's bucking prevailing wind patterns is given and none is expected really. This is the sort of movie where everything happens so fast that you really don't have time to stop and question every little quirk.
Radar plot/3-D display of the storm, lots of cool computer visuals in this movie, I wonder what the film's budget was?
Ok, meanwhile a new weather problem has arisen. A sudden BigAss Hurricane ("Eduardo") has appeared in the Caribbean, a Category 5 monster that's headed towards South Florida. It thumps into the Miami area, bringing torrential rains and a wall of water to rival Doomsday. Surely left devastated in its wake are South Beach, Biscayne Bay, Little Havana, even the Mahogany Grille on 183rd Street (try the sweet potato fries!).
I used to know an Eduardo, he worked the drive-through window at a Jack in the Box in Phoenix, always shafted me on my drink.
Duffy and his team need data from the hurricane also, so they task the Colonel to fly there and get some pictures and sensor readings. In the air over the raging storm, the SR-71 does an impossible aerial maneuver, as the Colonel yanks the airbrakes up, cuts the throttle, and stands her on her nose to allow the sensors a wider angle view of the storm. This is preposterous in every meaning of the word, violating every known law of aerodynamics and physics (but it does look damn cool).
Planes don't fly like this, spaceships in crappy sci-fi movies fly like this.
The BigAss Hurricane is then projected to head north up the East Coast, towards Washington DC. The very real fear is that the BigAss Hurricane will collide with the BigAss Storm and create a HugeAss Storm of apocalyptic proportions, right over the top of our nation's capital. This will be the titular Category 7 storm. Duffy has a theory of why the super storms are happening and it's all thanks to an overheating tea kettle. Seriously. Why would I lie to you? Global Warming, heat waves, SUV sales, and energy overloads, all are combining to make "thermal heat columns" rise up from cities. The mesosphere is already weakened by Global Warming and "chunks of it are falling" down when the heat columns reach it. This causes freezing mesospheric air to come into contact with the boiling hot heat column air coming up from cities and bam, you have Category 6 storms.
A teakettle provides Duffy with his apple-on-the-head Newtonian moment of inspiration.
The powers that be decide that the BigAss Hurricane is a serious threat to DC and the families of the Fat Rich Old White Guys have to be evacuated to a safe spot in West Virginia. This seems logical, I guess, and it provides some more "drama" as the whiney, pampered, privileged, bratty, prep-school kids of politicians and their whip-cracking lobbyist masters are told to pack a bag.
Judith tells her son about it, he looks like a Jonas brother.
The kids get on a big white charter bus and head out of the city. But before they get very far, the bus is hijacked! Some stolen ambulances force the bus into a warehouse and a group of armed and masked men jump aboard. They are grabbing specific kids, hauling them out and into the ambulances, pistol-whipping and menacing the rest of them. As they leave they toss in a knock-out gas grenade to cover their escape. Amongst the eleven kids kidnapped are Judith's son and Duffy's daughter.
Bus hijack, dude in ski mask with a pistol takes charge.
Ok, let's grind this thing to a halt right here. All along there has been a second plotline running parallel with the main one I've been telling you about. It has been interwoven fairly well with Judith, Duffy and the BigAss Storms, usually coming back just before or after commercial breaks, but I decided to separate the two plotlines until now (for ease of reading, because I care about you, my loyal reader). The secondary plotline concerns the actions of a televanglist named Donny Hall (played by an excellently-cast James Brolin), a flame-throwing bible-thumping Oral Roberts sort of man with enormous hair and a collection of fine Armani suits. His televised fire-and-brimstone sermons are watched by millions of the faithful, who give generously to his DC-based church and the good reverend's bank account. He is also, surprisingly, actually a pretty devout and sincere man, truly believing he is God's instrument.
It's his wife Penny who is the problem. Just as vocal and charismatic as her husband, Penny Hall has very different views on the right and wrong way to gain more followers (re: money) for the church. Penny is played by Swoosie Kurtz, who has been killing me in Pushing Daisies this year (please watch this show, otherwise it will be cancelled and replaced with America's Dumbest Rednecks or something).
Penny has hooked up with the church's music director, a younger man named Monty with an almost insane devotion to the Lord's work. Monty is also an End Times Prophet of sorts, convinced that the Day of Judgment is upon us and these killer storms are a clear sign of this. Whatever Monty's past was, it scared him to the point where he's all twitchy and dangerous when he's not being charming and sweet (you ladies know the type).
Monty, played by Alex Krycek himself!
Monty believes that the storms are a sign, but not too clear a sign yet. He believes that people need some extra encouragement to understand that the End is Nigh and they better repent now to save their mortal souls (and send more money because the first thing Jesus is going to want to do when returns is to visit the Lexus dealership down on Westwood. You don't want Jesus to be driving a Buick, do you?). To this end, he has devised an epically vile and deceptive plan. Taking a page, literally, from the book of Exodus, he has decided to inflict the Twelve Plagues on the nation, to get the faithful to believe that Armageddon is here. The BigAss Storms that have laid waste to the planet have got people jittery enough, but now, once they see that Biblical prophesy is coming true, they will Heed the Call.
Monty consults his guidebook.
We see Monty create his own Plague of Frogs and Plague of Flies, in the first case unleashing a hoard of poisonous African tree frogs in a banquet room full of congressional bigwigs (including Judith and her dad, who is a senator), just like in Exodus chapter 8. Several people actually die here, which is not good. He then (with Penny's help, as she's now complicit with him) releases a swarm of horse flies in the US Capital building.
Where is BatBoy?! Probably show up in the sequel.
Now, all this does, indeed, whip up a frenzy in the faithful and bring in even more converts (and their money). But, Reverend Donny himself is flatly appalled when he learns his wife has been dabbling in falsifying Biblical prophesy for worldly gain. He's a bit kowtowed by her, however, and lets her off with a less-than-strongly worded reprimand. He's also not so happy with Monty, who he sees as a bad influence, despite his piety.
The couple fighting.
About this time, the BigAss Storm is nearing Buffalo. Reverend Donny, out of a sincere desire to change hearts, decides to broadcast a live sermon from that city as the storm hits it, in a way of showing people how the Lord provides and protects. His wife is understandably against this (she is more a believer in science than he) but he's not to be dissuaded. And so they go, bringing along a huge entourage to a local Buffalo baseball stadium where he will have his show. Unfortunately, during sound checks, a lightning bolt fries Reverend Donny extra crispy.
I like my fried preachers with honey mustard dipping sauce.
At the subsequent funeral, Penny's impassioned eulogy/pep talk makes it crystal clear that she's going to take over the church, bending it to her will by the sheer force of her personality and pedigree. After the service, she talks with Monty, and happens to mention off-hand how maybe only the "death of the first borns" would cause people to change their ways in this country. At this, Monty's crazyass-antenna start twitching and he goes off to pray to his God (his version is a heck of a lot more violent and bloodthirsty than the God I know).
Penny is in the house.
And that brings us full circle to the kidnapping of the First Borns from the bus, engineered, of course by Monty. He must be using church funds, because all those armed men don't come cheap. The kids are taken to a an abandoned industrial facility in the city and locked in a room.
For some reason, the director chose to film all the scenes in this facility with the kids in a harsh green filter (he's in love with filters anyway, we've seen several more cases of this before). It's not long before the authorities find the bus and the word is out. The Fat Rich Old White Men don't want to tell Judith her son was kidnapped because she can't be distracted.
Why the green filter again?
And there is a lot on Judith's mind right now. The storms are coming, mere hours away, and confusion is the keyword for everyone. Communications are spotty, the National Weather Service can't give her any good real-time info, and evacuation plans for DC are all set up for old school Cold War nuke attacks. To send the citizens out of the city would be sending them to their deaths on the flat floodplains of the Potomac. The only solution she can see is to try and keep everyone in the city and in shelters, but there aren't enough and the storm may be too big for that anyway. Glad I don't have her job.
Grrr...she makes me horny.
Meanwhile, Tommy and Helen Hunt (who survived the NYC event) are driving south. Whoa, whoa, whoa! How the heck did they get their truck out of Manhattan? We clearly saw the island swamped over by millions of tons of seawater, as well as the whole city wracked with tornadoes and hurricane-force winds. We saw them park the truck near where they set up their rocket, which was in Manhattan, so it's inconceivable to me that the vehicle survived. And even if it did by some miracle, it would take weeks to get through the ruins to the outside. I don't know why I care anymore.
This movie is full of on-screen cards to keep us all aware of the setting.
Judith goes to Duffy (again, she spends a lot of time at his lab when she should probably be at her office trying to keep the country from unraveling).
Duffy tries to tell her about imminent Category 7 city-killer on the way, but she's hesitant to order a total evacuation. Duffy intones gravely that Washington DC is "going to look like it got hit by a nuclear weapon". Hey remember Gina Gershon in Showgirls? Yes, you do, don't lie to me. When she jumped out of that cake in a g-string? You know you are picturing it right now, boys. That was hot.
Duffy helpfully points out the epicenter, which seems a bit more west-ish than all the other computer maps show us later.
Anyway, at the...you know, now that I think of it, Gina Gershon is a skank. Alright, enough of her. Back at the church, Penny finally realizes that Monty is out of control (and straight-jacket insane). He's sure the End Times are coming and she's sure he's been doing some really bad things. At the same time, there's a spunky young reporter at Penny's church named Brigid. She's snooping for a story and realizes the kidnapping of the First Borns are the work of someone in the church. Brigid is an interesting person, maybe one of the better-realized characters in the movie, a complex woman whose own wavering beliefs and private ideals end up playing a vital role in the film's climax.
Brigid (and she's cute).
Brigid knows about the kids because she gets a call from her boyfriend who happens to be a Secret Service agent working the case (that's got to be some sort of violation of company rules). She puts two and two together and realizes that Monty is the culprit. Oh, and that Secret Service agent is also (holy fuck!) Judith's brother! Is everyone related in this movie?!?
Back now to the BigAss Storm heading south from New York towards DC.
The Blackbird and the ground team converge in rural Pennsylvania, where the storm is nearing a nuclear reactor (shades of the last movie I reviewed). Tommy and Helen Hunt rush to order the reactor crew to shut it down, and they do so, despite seemingly not having any sort of authorization other than two wild-haired people in a pickup truck skidding up to the front gate and telling them to. I assume that other nuclear reactors across the nation have had similar experiences with the storms (there are a few near Buffalo, for example), as we've not heard of any Cherynobl-type accidents.
Tommy and Helen Hunt bring some bad news, that orange cones can't stop a three ton truck.
The SR-71 is on the scene now, this time sporting a modification. A "data sled" is to be towed behind the plane, an instrument package to get better readings on the storm's innards. It's exact usage is described as "get it up to Mach 2.5" and then pull a "real quick high speed turn" in order to "whip the sled into the storm". I'm a plane-nut, as I've mentioned before, so I can tell you that trying a turn like that at over twice the speed of sound will only result in the plane's airframe instantly shattering into a million shards of flaming wreckage. High speeds like that are for straight and level flight, not for barnstorming acrobatics. Besides, towing anything at that speed would create enough vibration to pull the wings off the plane.
Oh hell no.
Anyway, science be damned, the Colonel deploys the sled and enters the storm, which is huge and black. He slaloms around the legs of huge columns of tornado air like he's a snow-speeder at the Battle of Hoth, before whipping the sled into the teeth of the storm. Sadly, or perhaps predictably, the raging winds mangle the sled before any meaningful data can be transmitted. The Colonel radios back, "if this hits DC, were going to need to find a new capital".
Aim for the legs with your tow cables!
Duffy's on a mission now. He's sure that if they turn off the heat, the storm won't go supernova. They will still get hit, just not as bad, and the BigAss portion of the storm shouldn't be able to form if the heat is low enough. Goes and tells Judith, who is trying to evacuate the city, that she now needs to turn off every electrical source in the district immediately. But she needs proof to convince the politicians (what?).
Duffy is a bit frustrated with Judith, but it's not totally her fault.
The kidnappers now release a video of kids. The video has some snazzy production values, with scripture superimposed over their anxious faces. The gist is that God wants them to die at midnight for the sins of man (ok, sure), there is no talk of ransom or reprieve. Judith and Duffy are understandably pissed they weren't told sooner, but they have job to do.
Video of kids, with the ominous message.
Back at the church, Brigid the reporter confronts Penny, who is slowly melting down as she realizes what Monty has done in the name of her church (this got way out of hand in a hurry). Penny goes to confront Monty in his room in the church, and discovers that he has a shrine to her! Pictures of her and letters from her are plastered all over his wall and it's clear he's nuts! Penny holds her ground, they fight over doctrine, they fight over scripture, she tries to talk him down with tough love. She finally resorts to trying to seduce him into giving himself up (it's clear he's wanted this for some time). But Monty is too far gone for any of this and he pulls a .357 pistol out and shoots Penny dead!
Penny and Monty argue, this is not going to end well for either of them.
Brigid overheard all this, and when Monty sees her, he chases her through the empty church. Alone for a second, she frantically calls her boyfriend. He comes running to save her in a Chevy Suburban through the height of the storm! Brigid (who apparently sucked at hide-and-seek as a kid) is soon cornered by Monty. They talk, she learns his story, that he was in love with Penny, and it consumed him. Brigid tries to talk him down, but he's insane with religious furor, he's not worried about repentance or redemption, he's sure the Rapture is upon them.
We have a red filter for the chase scene.
While she keeps him talking, her boyfriend shows up and sneaks up on them. There is a showdown with guns drawn and words yelled, but in the end it's Brigid who ends it. She uses some nifty reverse psychology tricks to get Monty to see the error of his ways (the actress is awesome in this scene, maybe the best performance in the entire movie) and he ends up shooting himself (!). Before he dies, however, he tells them where the kids are being held and off the run, Brigid to a shelter the boyfriend to contact his sister and save the children.
Lindy Booth is her name.
Back to the storm now. Judith's dad the senator is weathering the storm in the capital bunker, hoping to score some reelection juice by staying aboard the sinking ship while all the other rats jump. Judith needs to get the information about heat equaling death to her father, just in case they don't make it. Judith hopes that no matter what happens to them, other cities and states will know how to save themselves. The data is run to the senator by a very brave college student from the Weather Lab (who might be the most important person in the entire world at that moment). Hey. did you know Gina Gershon once dated Beck? I love Beck (who else could come up with the lyric "you get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve"?).
"They're mutated sea bass, very ill tempered..."
The Colonel needs to go back into the storm to get data to prove to everyone that Duffy's theory is correct (don't ask, just go with it). It's going to be a suicide mission as he has to fly directly into the storm and nothing build by human hands can survive in that environment. At his Air Force Base, the Colonel's daughter and grandkid come to visit, and he says his good-byes without letting on. Sadly, this poignant character moment is ruined by the casting of a kid who simply cannot act to save his soul.
The Colonel's daughter seems to know something's up (and she's real purdy).
Leaving his backseater behind, and apparently operating on his own against orders, the Colonel flies solo into the gathering storm, now just 40 miles from DC. He gets the data stream they need, but his Blackbird can't take the enormous strain and blows up. Due to his sacrifice, the "puzzle is complete" and they have the info and proof they need. Turning off the heat in DC is the only answer.
The computers show that the plane went ka-blooey (it also show that it was blasting along at nearly Mach 3).
Judith's bosses freak out at this suggestion, despite coming from reputable sources and with the city in dire peril no matter what happens. They won't do it because they will loose all governmental services with the power down and if the storm does pass, they will have a lot of explaining (and grenade-jumping) to do and they are politically savvy enough not to take that risk with their careers. "I'll take it under advisement" is what the Man in Charge says, followed by the slamming of phones. The Secretary of Homeland Security (who has come to his senses) then tries a coup, but the President fires him via his Chief of Staff Horst, the worst of the Fat Rich Old White Guys. Clearly, there are some issues at the top of the chain of command.
All important decisions take place in rooms like this one.
Back now to the green-lit facility where the eleven kidnapped First Born kids are being held. Scared that they are going to die either by the kidnappers or the coming storm, the kids plan an escape. One kid named Peter (a popped-collar and designer-jeans pretty boy) tries to ambush the guard with the old "sick prisoner trick". The attempt fails (duh, that trick hasn't worked since Hogan's Heroes) but they see one of their captor's face, which, if you have seen any action movie in the last fifty years, seals their fate.
The kids vote on who wants pizza and who wants burgers.
Meanwhile, Tommy and Helen Hunt are now in DC, their job done but still wanting to be in on the action. Tommy gets all philosophical (he already survived one tornado ride in the last movie and it "changed" him) and walks off to meet his maker. Helen Hunt goes after him and talks him down, maybe even getting through to his heart, and he escorts her to a shelter to ride out the storm. Both of those characters were pointless deadweight to the story in my opinion, two too many faces in a sea of people and a unhelpful reminder of how much better Twister really was.
Tommy is a bit of a hopeless romantic at times, but usually just a fat slob jerk.
Ok, the End is upon Washington DC and all hell breaks loose. The BigAss Hurricane is the first to hit the city, coming up from the south with 150 mile an hour winds and jet-black skies. We see very little of the actual destruction it brings, other than a fairly quick shot of the White House crumbling as everyone runs for basement shelter. In a moment of irony, curmudgeonly old Horst, who was the biggest naysayer of them all, is sucked up and out of the ruins like Dorothy.
The White House gone.
Wow, that's over quickly. DC is now in the "eye of the storm", and in the pause anyone still alive gets up and runs. We hear of the damage more than see it (kudos, leave some to our imagination), a shelter was hit by a tornado, many government buildings are destroyed, and there are not enough safe places for everyone else. They have about an hour in the eye and then the second eye-wall will them. And if they survive that, the BigAss Storm is still looming to the north, threatening to merge with the BigAss Hurricane to create the Category 7 Godzilla of Storms. Hey, where is the President? Hiding in his bunker, no doubt, with Laura and the twins.
A firefighter picks up a frightened boy, that's cinema gold.
They need to black out the city now, it's the only way to save what's left. Judith calls her dad the senator, who calls a guy who tells her about a key point ("Anacosta Junction") where they can shut off the power themselves. So, Judith, Duffy and Duffy's wife (who just-so-happens to be an electrical engineer and a college roommate of Judith's) jump in Duffy's crappy '86 Volvo 240 station wagon and zoom off into the teeth of the storm. As they reach the power station the call comes from Judith's brother about where the kids are (at an old water treatment facility down by the river). Instead of contacting backup from some professionals, they decide to go Rambo on the kidnappers themselves. Duffy's wife stays to shut down the power while Duffy and Judith roar off to save their kids (arranging to meet her brother there beforehand).
Rolling in the Volvo. Hey, I can't get reception inside Home Depot half the time, how is it all these people can have long cellphone conversations in the teeth of a hurricane? I need a better network.
Back to the kidnapped kids (and this subplot is really trying my patience, not the least of which because all these actors and actresses have been watching too many episodes of Melrose Place for their Method Acting inspiration). After putting their heads together, they find a way out of the locked room via an air duct, and are now out and running around the facility. They are chased by the bad guys, who can't seem to find eleven noisy, whiney kids running around like chickens. The kids eventually get separated, Duffy's daughter gets recaptured, but her boyfriend (Judith's son) goes all Action Hero to save her. Grabbing a dropped shotgun (which he holds like he's never even touched a firearm before in his life) the boy ducks and dodges his way through the facility, chasing after the men who have his future teenage bride.
Dude, you Rawk!
By now, Duffy, Judith and her brother have reached plant (after a slight detour when Duffy crashes his car). All they have his the brother's Glock 45 and Judith's bouncy breasts, but they still manage to kill a couple of kidnappers and save all the kids (I admit I fast-forwarded through a lot of this, it was killing me).
Working through the complex.
Now, before, back at the Weather Lab, Duffy told his grad students to evacuate while they still could. One kid named Billy and Judith's cute Asian assistant Melody stay to monitor the data streams and temperature changes as the power is turned off. They will send updated number to Duffy's pager, letting him know when they have turned off enough power to kill the storm. An amazing amount of screen time is spent with these two youngsters, even though they were really nothing more than background extras up until this point (though they both had a fair amount of dialogue, especially towards the end).
Billy, typical Nerd Boy.
Melody, sure, he has no shot at that.
There's some drama as the satellite uplink goes down and Billy has to go up to reattach the cables while the building shakes and creaks. His arm gets stuck and Melody has to come to his rescue in a very well done Scooby Doo scene. They almost kiss, but she ducks him at the last second (tease!). I actually didn't mind that they snuck this cutesy Gilmore Girls subplot into the mix, both these people do a pretty good job of being believable as characters and the director wisely kept the swoony sappy music in the box.
Back at the power plant, Duffy's wife and the plaid-shirt wearing plant manager start shutting down the city's power grid, district by district. 79.2 degrees is what they are trying to get to, the Magic Number that Duffy's projections say will cause the storm to collapse. As the temperature is dropping too slowly, and the storm is trashing the city as they speak, they decide to flip the master switches and shut everything down at once.
The ultimate flip of the lightswitch.
The Magic Number is reached and the storm looses power and almost instantly dissipates. Wow, just like that? All that destructive physics-driven wind and energy gone with just a puff? What about the BigAss Hurricane, didn't it have less to do with the thermal heat column thingie than the BigAss Storm? I should also note that despite the film's title, we never actually have a Category 7 storm appear. All the other storm events were Category 6's (including these), it was only the dreaded merger of the storm and hurricane that would have received the 7 mark of the beast.
Blue skies and sunlight bathe the shattered DC area in an almost unearthly light, it's like the end of Warning From Space!
All's well that ends well, sorta. Except if you live in any of a half-dozen demolished cities across America. Was this a FEMA propaganda film?
Final shot of DC, nicely done.
The world saved, we can get down to some long simmering romantic subplots. Nerd Boy Billy and Blinding Hot Melody finally realize they're on a very special episode of The Big Bang Theory and share a sloppy first kiss and a twirly hug. Tommy and Helen Hunt give in to their inner desires to recreate Entrapment and share their own I-need-bleach-for-mouthwash lip lock, though it's one of those lean-in kisses, with no actual body contact (but still, ick).
Tommy and Helen Hunt kiss, thankfully in a darkened room.