June 27, 2017

Fire From Below

No, not Fire Down Below. That one is lunkheaded action movie has-been-who-never-shoulda-been pompous religious nutjob Steven Seagal's brain-dead pseudo-environmentalist film. This one is lunkheaded action movie has-been-who-never-shoulda-been pompous religious nutjob Kevin Sorbo's brain-dead pseudo-environmentalist film. Put these two knuckleheads together and the gravity well of anti-acting will warp the very fabric of spacetime.

I recommend Fire From Below for anyone who needs to recalibrate her brain's logic circuits by watching something so preposterous it forces a master reset. This is a Siffy movie about sentient fire that's attracted to water and stalks and murders people like a flying snake monster. Yes, fire. Attracted to water.

Four words that are the harbingers of your doom: directed by Jim Wynorski. The man is such a titanic asshole that he slags people on the Internet who praise his films and is truly one of the world's lamest directors, because he always sucks in the same way and has none of the charming dedication to making artistic films despite an utter lack of artistic talent: your Ed Woods, your Bruno Matteis, your Neil Breens. Still, Sorbo's acting as executive producer makes the film even shittier. Is there nothing this man can't ruin? And since he's executive producer, how the hell did he allow himself to go on camera with his hair like that?

The credits hold moar terrors. Apparently two different people play "the sheriff", as displayed on screen. Either that, or the people who made this movie don't know how credits work. Then we get "Burton Gilliam as 'Bubba'". Yes, "Bubba" is in quotation marks. Now first, there's never been a good movie with a character named Bubba, nor shall there ever be. Second, who the fuck is Burton Gilliam? Or is the character and not the actor being spotlighted? The character with a stupid name, a dirty hat, and a face like a road accident, who exists solely to sexual harass a woman and then take a piss on camera before being blowed up real gud.

So the bad guy in the movie is a sleazy corporate executive type, who develops fire that zeros in on moisture because that somehow makes it specifically target people. Which are the only things you typically encounter that have any moisture in them. We're introduced to him walking up and down the same hallway since dressing a set costs money, along with the worst actor in the movie, and that's saying something. Your old pal Carl Eusebius was genuinely shocked to find that this woman--one Alex Meneses--had been acting for 15 years before this movie and had 47 credits on the IMdb. It must be some kind of achievement to do something professionally for that damn long and still be so fucking bad at it. She can barely recite Wynorski's ridiculous pseudoscientific gobbledygook in her remarkably robotic fashion. She only appears as a human being in scenes where she's being sexually harassed by Bubba or very obviously emoting that she still has a thing for old flame Sorbo, because if there are two attractive women in a Kevin Sorbo movie they both have to be his love interest, even if he never gives Meneses the time of day. I'm sure she pulls off the former because she doesn't have to act, per se; a woman who looks like Meneses undoubtedly has to fend off unwanted come-ons from cretinous lechers all the time. But my God, I hope that's not the same reason she pulls off the latter......

The fire kills a bunch of expendable meat in scenes we don't give a fuck about, including a hilarious attack on a boat in the middle of the lake that has the boat mostly, but in the end not quite, outrunning the fire. One woman in the boat, seeing the fire advancing menacingly on them, asks, "What's that?" What's that? It's fire, you silly bitch! I know the CGI in this movie is fucking awful, but Jesus, it's orange and crackling and hot. I'm glad they establish the fire is attracted to moisture, that way we get why it's going after the people. Who are currently on a lake. Then everyone in the town dies because of, uh, poison gas or something, so I'm glad we were introduced to a few of the townspeople in one scene. That way, the next scene in which they appear (you know, the one where they're all dead), we like care and stuff. Pathos, etc. Then the military shows up, and boy your old pal Carl Eusebius starts to get mad.

See, I really hate it when films and television get the military wrong. I don't know why that's one of my beefs, but it is. When they have military characters say and do things no one in the military would ever say or do, at least not without consequences. It takes me out of the film's world immediately. And it's usually laaaaaaazzzzzzzyyyyyyyy. It's not that hard to get this shit right, if you care. But if there's one thing Jim Wynorski doesn't care about, it's logic, coherence, pacing, tone, artistic integrity, consistency, drama, emotional resonance, avoidance of cliche, and attention to detail.

I have to go back to Battlestar Galactica again, because it fucking owns. That's getting the military right. One of my favorite scenes has Lee Adama, a member of Galactica's crew, being told by a member of the Pegasus crew that Galactica must follow one of Pegasus's policies. Lee responds that Galactica its own commander and that that is who he takes his orders from. This is an excellent example of something called "chain of command", which the military takes very fucking seriously. It means that even though Pegasus's commander is an admiral, and thus outranks Galactica's commander, the Pegasus commander can't give orders directly to the crew of Galactica. What she could do is order Galactica's commander to tell his crew to do what she wants, but she can't issue those orders directly to them, despite her superior rank. Having a high rank doesn't automatically give you authority over everyone you encounter. The military has spent a very long time figuring out why chain of command is a good idea, which is why pretty much every large organization has adopted it.

Incidentally, it's one thing that bugged the shit out of me on Star Trek. Despite the fact that the original show was made by veterans and portrayed an essentially military organization, it ignored military policies that would prevent some of the absurd situations the crew of the Enterprise found themselves in. An even better example is The Next Generation episode "Disaster", in which there are only 3 people on the bridge at the time the titular catastrophe shuts down all communication and nearly all movement on the ship. Those 3 people? The navigation officer, the psychotherapist, and a high ranking enlisted man. Much is made of the fact that, because of this emergency, the psychotherapist is now in command of the ship, despite her having absolutely no experience or training of any kind that is any way relevant, simply because her rank is higher than the navigation officer's. This is stupid, of course, because in any 20th century military, the navigator would be in charge, because she's what's known as a line officer (as in, in line to command) and so has (get this) training in how to command. It's almost as if the military considered, or has even experienced, such situations and formulated specific policies to prevent such a ludicrous situation as the goddamned shrink being in charge of the ship.

This movie? This movie has a general (that's a high rank, folks, meaning he's been in the Army a long time) walking around outside without his cover on. ("Cover" is military-speak for "hat".) It has a colonel meeting the general and not saluting him (no) or even greeting him at all (no no no) and immediately walking next to him to his right (no no no no no no no, inferiors walk on their superiors' left). It has an army major wearing a mustache (no, only the Air Force allows mustaches, and by tradition officers don't wear them anyway), and he looks like he's 70 years old, which puts him a good 20 years older than any major could still be in the Army. And he's supposed to be some kind of bigwig power player who gets calls from US senators. (Major is way too low a rank to be chatting up people in Congress.) At one point the general orders his man to "Call the Navy". Call the Navy! Yeah, just phone "the Navy" right up. The Navy, you know, that tiny office of the American government consisting of some 320,000 people. And the guy replies, "Done." Done? Who the fuck are you gonna call? This isn't the Ghostbusters office, son. The US Navy is just a tad bigger. You might want to narrow that down a bit.

God, I wished they'd filmed that scene: "Hello and thank you for calling the Navy. If you need the services of an aircraft carrier, please press 1. If your nuclear ballistic missile submarine is defective, press 2...."

Then the colonel introduces to world-renowned geologist Seagal Sorbo two majors...who are both wearing lieutenant colonel's insignia you dickheads, you horrible dickheads! And these lieutenant colonels majors keep calling Sorbo "Sir!" like they're just out of boot. Sorbo's all, "Just call me whatever the hell my name is in this movie" and they're all, "Yessir! I mean....whatever your name is." Haha, I get it, it's cute, army guys are dumb and can't stop calling people sir. Fuck you, Wynorski. Look, enlisted guys wouldn't do that anyway, because the people we trust to go to the desert and shoot brown people in the name of freedom normally have a few brain cells to rub together and so actually know who is to be addressed as "sir" and who isn't. But these guys are officers. That means they graduated from college. In fact they're lieutenant colonels majors, meaning most of the people they meet in their professional lives call them sir. And Sorbo isn't even in the military. Our fine Imperial stormtroopers are perfectly capable of applying military ways of doing things to military people and not applying those ways to people who aren't. Please stop portraying them as so dumb and single-minded that they can't tell the difference, Jim Wynorski, you fucking wanker.

So the colonel, Sorbo, Love Interest, Cranky White Dude, and Black Guy Who Will Die First find the source of the sentient fire. There's an explosion, killing Black Guy Who Dies First before he even gets any lines, while the palefaces run away. Blah blah stuff happens, then it's time to go back to the source of the fire and blow it up real gud. Yes, you defeat the fire by blowing it up with bombs, very scienmatifical. This is where the two lieutenant colonels majors show up, and so they and Sorbo head down into the caves to do what men do. Love Interest demands to accompany Sorbo to make sure he doesn't cock up the whole business, but he talks her down: "Honey, which one of us is the man, here? I do the hero stuff, you stand around looking concerned." Cranky White Dude dies entirely due to his own idiocy, but everyone else makes it out just in time, roll credits, I hate this movie.