Disaster Du Jour #4: Deep Impact
Posted on May 17th, 2013 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Heaven and Earth are about to collide
The summer of 1998 was a particularly good one when it came to movies. I remember looking forward to Saving Private Ryan and The X Files and Godzilla to name just a few. But the movie I was looking forward to most that year was the disaster film Deep Impact.
Deep Impact was the first of two comet/asteroid disaster films that summer with Armageddon arriving (he-he) a few months later. While Armageddon was a super-charged more action than disaster flick, Deep Impact was sold as the thinking person’s end of the world film. Even the taglines for the two movies played these differences. Armageddon ran “Earth, it was fun while it lasted” while Deep Impact had a level of seriousness with, “Heaven and Earth are about to collide.”
Morgan Freeman as President Beck
But don’t let the marketing fool you. While Deep Impact might be a bit more cerebral than Armageddon, it’s a traditional disaster film at its core with a little more emotion and pathos thrown in for flavor.
Deep Impact follows several groups of characters all living under the shadow of a comet on its way to smash into the Earth and wipe out all life on the planet. The first group are astronauts on a mission to destroy the comet before it gets here. The second is of the teen discoverer of the comet Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) and his friends and family as they prepare for the disaster. The final set of characters is of a MSNBC news team, them covering the immanent disaster and everyone coming to terms with living in the end times.
Astronauts lead head off to the comet
For a while I was seriously devoted to this film. I downloaded every movie trailer I could find for it on a pre-pubescent Internet. I saw Deep Impact in the theater, the first DVD I ever bought was of Deep Impact, I developed micro-websites devoted to Deep Impact, I collected Deep Impact memorabilia and on and on. But honestly, it’s been some time since the last time I watched the film and I have to say that while it’s not as good as I remember, the movie mostly works.
Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski
I found the story interesting and the characters of Deep Impact well drawn. Two characters are particularly memorabilia; retired astronaut returned to the fray because of his experience on a Moon landing Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall) and the first African American President of the United States Beck (Morgan Freeman). I remember at the time how unique it was to have a movie with an African American as the President. Who could have guessed that a decade later there really would be a person of color on the White House?
Where Deep Impact falls flat is when the creators of the movie try a bit too hard to be serious and mine for serious emotions from the story and character. There’s the dad trying to reconnect with his adult daughter, the astronauts on the mission missing their families, Biederman trying to use his fame to get his girlfriend and her family into a government shelter, the single mom not sure what to do as the comet approaches…And this list goes on and on. It’s like the creators of Deep Impact were embarrassed that people might call their film a disaster movie and tried everything they could think of from separating their film from other disaster films.
Doom from the skies!
However, no matter how many sappy speeches, hugs or crying that might accompany the first two-thirds of Deep Impact, there’s a lot to be said for the last third of the movie when a piece of the comet does hit the Earth. The special effects in the movie of the ocean swelling to engulf the east coast of the US and the astronauts fighting to stop a bigger piece from impacting were amazing and stand up even today.
When I first saw Deep Impact in the theater back in ’98 I remember getting a little choked up in the theater at the end of the movie, and it got me again watching it a few weeks back. Sniff. I need a tissue. Grade B-.
Is it time to cut the cable TV cord?
Posted on May 3rd, 2013 | By: Bert Ehrmann
A few months back I received an e-mail from my satellite TV service. What it essentially said was that my cost for their service would be going up this year like it has almost every other year. And while they’re sorry about that, they also wanted me to know that they’re dedicated to providing me the best programming content they can.
This e-mail got me thinking; what exactly am I paying for? As I flipped randomly around the TV dial I saw that mostly it seems as if I’m paying for lots of sports channels and loads of awful reality series neither of which I really watch. In fact, I figured that last winter I might have only watched a few hours of new TV series each week.
So I wondered, could Bert Ehrmann, a bonafide TV junkie “curt the cord,” cancel my satellite service and being using legal web TV services only like Netflix, Hulu and iTunes instead?
I started by doing the math. Last year I watched around 15 non-network series from The Walking Dead to Veep to Doctor Who. While I watch other shows like How It’s Made and Wheeler Dealers, I figured I could probably live without knowing how cheese is made or how to fix a busted ’86 Plymouth Turismo.
I calculated that it if I bought these 15 shows via iTunes and subscribed to Hulu+ to watch network series and other odds and ends it would cost me around $430 per year to do so. Now, let’s assume that I’ve forgotten to include a bunch of shows on my list, so for safety’s sake let’s double that number and figure on Internet only TV costing me $860 per year.
Admittedly, that number sounds insane – $860 per year for zombies and a time traveling doctor?! But what’s absolutely insane is that this number still less than what I pay each year for the mid-level satellite programming package plus HBO! And at least if I ever went to cord-cutting route I’d only be paying for what I actually watch and most of the shows would be mine to keep afterwards.
One reason I like having a satellite TV service is that old shows I used to dig and still enjoy watching on occasion like The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek turns up from time to time on various channels. But The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek are all available on the Netflix instant service that I also pay for, so why watch them on some random TV channel when I can call them up online whenever I want?
Now I understand the realities of TV and that most channels aren’t designed to appeal to me. However, one would think that in the 210+ channels I get there would be something I’d be interested in watching each night of the week. But this TV season there’s been long stretches of me not watching all that much at all.
In the previous years during these dry spells of TV I used to be able to watch interesting series on channels like Discovery, TLC, Syfy and A&E. But I can’t say that I’ve watched much of these networks over the last few years as each and every one of them have turned to airing an almost constant stream of “reality” TV series. Honey Boo Boo has taken over TLC, Syfy dedicates nights to Ghost Hunters, Discovery loves it’s faux men shows like Deadliest Catch and A&E seems to have Duck Dynasty on infinite repeat.*
Now if you’re into Amish Mafia, Next Great Baker, Face Off of Storage Wars then more power to you. But I find those shows repugnant and everytime I see an ad for one of them it makes me question why TV keeps getting more and more expensive when reality shows like those flood the channels and are so cheep to produce?
Honestly, though I’m having a hard time justifying my cable bill I still don’t think I’m ready to cut the cord yet. While I probably will go to a lower/cheaper channel package in the near future, I enjoy watching movies on the service and don’t think that I’d be capable of waiting for HBO shows like Game of Thrones to eventually be released on iTunes or Blu-ray months after they air on the channel. However, if the current trends of TV continue with low-brow reality series becoming the norm and less and less interesting dramas and comedies being released cutting the cord for me could happen.
Are you listening Comcast, Dish and DirecTV? Are you listening network and cable channels? I’m your biggest fan, your online ally and if I’m considering “cutting the cord” you’ve got serious troubles in your future.
* What I find most humorous is that one of the most popular reality shows is Honey Boo Boo which received around 3 million viewers each episode. Which is great until you take into consideration that 3 million viewers is just .009% of the population of the US. That’s right, .009% now makes a hit series.
Marvel Movie Madness Starring Iron Man
Posted on April 19th, 2013 | By: Bert Ehrmann
Marvel Entertainment is a studio accustomed to making hit movies. Last summer they released The Avengers that raked in $1.5 billion in ticket sales, the year before that Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor $359 million, the summer before that Iron Man 2 $312 million… And this summer brings Marvel’s Iron Man 3.
Robert Downey Jr. & Gwyneth Paltrow
in Iron Man 3
Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, so far the previous two Iron Man films have found Stark developing the Iron Man technology then doing his best to make sure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. This third installment features Stark doing battle with the evil Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Iron Man’s fiercest foe yet who will stop at nothing to destroy Stark and Iron Man along with him.
Directed and co-written by Shane Black, writer/director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and writer of The Monster Squad, Iron Man 3 is the seventh film in this ultra-successful series of Marvel universe movies.
Honestly, I have no doubt that Iron Man 3 will only add to Marvel’s success and that the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier out in 2014 and Thor: The Dark World out this winter won’t top the first ones in that series as well or that The Avengers 2 won’t smash the records that were originally set by the first The Avengers.
I think Marvel’s real problem moving forward is that they’ve run out of new top tier characters like Iron Man, Captain America or Thor to build film franchises around.
What many might not know is that Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to The Fantastic Four, X-Men or Spider-Man – other movie studios do. So don’t expect to see Reed Richards helping Tony Stark or Wolverine battling Sentinels along with the Incredible Hulk anytime soon. And what the lack of new top tier characters means for Marvel is that they’re going to start building new film franchises around secondary teams and characters that the general public has probably never heard of.
The Guardians of the Galaxy
Out next year is a movie based on the cosmic book Guardians of the Galaxy. What, you’ve never heard of the Guardians before? They’re a team of space-based superheroes including Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, the living tree Groot and the aptly named Rocket Raccoon.
In addition to the Guardians, there’s also an Ant Man movie in the works. Ant Man was an original Avenger who has the power to grow very big or very small and has the ability to control ants with his mind too.
And the literal billion dollar question with teams like the Guardians or characters like Ant Man is if the characters seem outwardly goofy like “living tree” or “controls ants with his mind” and if they don’t star people most are already familiar with, namely Robert Downy Jr., will anyone other than the comic book geeks go see it?
The 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy Team
Part of me thinks that with the success of The Avengers the movie going public will at least try any upcoming Marvel movie, especially how Marvel does such a good job of tying their films together. Iron Man tied to The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk tied to Iron Man 2, Iron Man 2 tied to Captain America, Captain America tied to The Avengers. And The Avengers introduced a whole plethora of cosmic characters to the Marvel movie universe that would logically include the Guardians too. And Ant Man is already a Avenger so there’s a familiarity there already with him. So, as long as Marvel keeps doing what they’re doing they should be fine.
But another part of me worries about the future of the Marvel movies. The Iron Man and The Avengers movies were a hits at the box office and the first Captain America, Thor and The Incredible Hulk movies were successful too, but only just. It seems that if any of the upcoming sequels like Iron Man 3 or second Captain America or Thor movies stumble at the box office or if movies like The Guardians of the Galaxy fail to connect with an audience Thanos might be the least of the Marvel movie universe’s worries.
The Best Movie and TV Posters of 2011
Posted on December 1st, 2011 | By:
I’ve been picking what I think are the best movie posters of the year each year since 2006. And while I’ve always been able to find many interesting movie posters, it wasn’t until recently that posters for TV series started catching my attention. So, this year, I’ve decided to include TV posters in this “best of” list. Goodbye “The Best Movie Posters of the Year” and hello to “The Best Movie and TV Posters of the Year.”
The best poster of the year is actually a series of posters for the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Mini-series to Movie Magic
Posted on November 17th, 2011 | By:
There’s been a bit of a trend over the last decade of short-run British TV mini-series being turned into feature films. One of the early of these British mini-series to be turned to feature film was the six episode series Traffik (1989) that was adapted as the film Traffic (2000).
Traffik presents a global heroin trade that starts in places like Pakistan, winds its way up through Europe and finally ends in the streets of Great Britain.