It's killing season in Washington, and no monument is safe. After a climate scientist loses his funding and then his mind, a senator is in a fight for his life after the jilted whiz creates a device that controls the weather. This 2011 made-for-TV movie is...something, for sure, and I watched it so you don't have to.
[Cinema in Vane is a series aimed at mocking both the best and the hokiest natural disaster movies out there, leading up to the release of Sharknado II on July 30 and storm chasing picture Into the Storm on August 8.]
The (Evil) Plot
The opening credits roll over two men arguing in front of what viewers are led to believe is a crappy rendition of the U.S. Senate chamber. The two men are Senator Jason Aldrich (played by Lance Nichols) and Marcus Grange (Stacy Keach), who are at odds over a mysterious government program called "Project Thunderhead." Regardless of how much Marcus protests, the Senator demands that the project is cancelled.
Fast forward a few months.
"Repent! The end is coming! Repent! The end is nigh! You're all going to fry!" screams a homeless Marcus (Kenny Rogers?) on a Washington D.C. streetcorner after the opening credits. After some filler dialogue, he physically assaults U.S. Senator Jason Aldrich and stumbles down the street singing "yerrr gonna payyyy" while poking at his cheap knockoff iPhone.
We get a good look at the homeless man's state-of-the-art-in-2006-maybe cell phone, and he's aimlessly poking at a series of sine waves. He is obviously calling up the first round of storms. Thunder roars in the distance.
The camera zooms in on homeless Kenny Rogers' sex face (above) while ominous orchestral music wobbles in awkward volume gyrations as bad CGI storms form over Washington D.C.
A strange, muddy rain falls on the District and a confused, attractive young reporter and her really cute cameraman leap out of a news van marked "KATC-TV." KATC is the callsign a local news station in Lafayette, Louisiana which obviously doesn't have a D.C. bureau but whatever, let's not start splitting hairs here.
We smash cut to a police training center where a large gentleman eating a donut tells a very serious officer (David Grange, played by Jason London) about the red lightning over the Capitol. Dudebro David is concerned.
I am eight minutes into this movie and I already want the entire cast of characters to die in a fire.
Dudebro David and his more attractive brother Jacob (Wes Brown) look at each other longingly — I've seen pornos that start this way. They do not engage in pornographic acts. I'm tempted to turn off the movie, but I stick it out. It turns out that their father is Marcus (homeless Kenny Rogers) and he's is indeed the jilted, mad scientist who vowed to get revenge after the federal government cancelled Project Thunderhead.
Meanwhile, the Grange brothers meet up with a woman named Samantha who worked with Marcus before he lost his goddamn mind.
Fifteen minutes in and things start to get a little more interesting. Marcus breaks into a power substation and taps its energy to unleash yet another lightning storm on the D.C. area. Meanwhile back at the Pentagon, Senator Aldrich cements his self-righteous fatcat stereotype by telling leaders of the Defense Department that he's going to pass his bill forcing 100% transparency on their activities, "so you'll just have to get used to it."
The lightning storm pounds the Pentagon with a fury, damaging the building and setting it ablaze much in the same manner that American 77 did on the morning of September 11. A news reporter covering the event said "this is without a doubt one of the most devastating catastrophes the country has ever seen," and they referred to it as "Ground Zero." All humor aside, the parallels to 9/11 are in pretty freakin' poor taste, but hell: in for a penny, in for a pound.
Yada yada yada, a few minutes later even more lightning originates from a "strange orb" that burst forth from a manhole cover. A little more creative. Across town, the FBI attempts (and fails) to apprehend Dudebro David after he tried to warn Senator Aldrich that Marcus is after him.
After the Grange brothers and company elude the FBI, we see that homeless Kenny Rogers figured out how to break into the television airwaves and threaten the Senator personally. "The people of this city will continue to pay for what you've done, and if you're not already dead, the survivors will run you out of this city on a rail."
Marcus goes on to say "just think...if you hadn't cancelled Project Thunderhead, you'd be able to do what I'm doing now — control the weather." Well, hell. We already have a subset of whackos who think the government controls the weather, so they probably think this is a documentary.
Finally, about halfway through the movie we get a disaster that isn't lightning — it's a shelfnado! The disaster is part shelf cloud and part tornado. It's 100% cheesy but I can guarantee you that if you were to post this picture on Twitter the next time it storms in D.C., you'll get at least one news station to believe you.
After the tornado hurls the Washington Monument into the Lincoln Memorial (of course), the characters chase each other around for a few more minutes before Kenny Rogers unleashes the next Lightning Orb of Doom in some government building in which he, the Dudebro Brothers, and the Senator all meet up face-to-face.
I'll be honest with you — this movie is more dialogue than it is disaster. I'm bored out of my mind. This is why Sharknado will remain the ultimate classic; it's all shark, all tornado, and just some dialogue when absolutely necessary (namely: "SHAAARK!").
It's a little after the halfway point and I'm just skipping through the movie to see what else happens.
- In order to defeat rogue Kenny Rogers, the Grange family teams up with the same military folks to whom Aldrich wanted to cut funding. Take THAT, bleeding hearts.
- Samantha strips for no reason.
- Huge hailstorm pelts (really, really cute) cameraman and the reporterlady.
- The Gambler creates a superstorm (snow, hail, wind, tornado, lightning, all that) and asks Jacob to team up so they could rule the world as father and son.
- The military launches a missile to try to stop the final storm; meanwhile, Marcus falls from the girders of a nuclear power plant.
- The missile successfully diverts the storm, and the tornado hits nuclear power plant with Marcus and Jacob inside, killing them dead. RIP.
The final minute of the movie shows Dudebro David and Samantha holding each other while they walk away from Marcus and Jacob's graves. David says that he can't believe that he'll never see Jacob again. BUT WAIT!
The very last shot shows Jacob standing in the cemetery and giving the horizon the stink eye before looking up towards the sky.
1) If you played the cameraman, hi, I'm Dennis. It's a pleasure. Please email me.
2) The director didn't even try to hide that the entire movie was filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana. The reporter (and cameraman — cough cough) were from KATC, a Lafayette news station. The police cars had Louisiana registration stickers in the windshields. Almost all of the driving scenes took place on the major Lafayette thoroughfare West Congress Street. One of the buildings in the background was the recognizable black box owned by Iberia Bank.
3) The tornadoes were spinning clockwise, when only 2% of all tornadoes spin clockwise. But I guess you can defy the odds when you use an iPhone app to create a lightning orb that pops out of a manhole and blows people up. (I want one.)
4) Tornadoes don't form under/near shelf clouds, but again, splitting hairs.
5) The real Project Thunderbird is Mozilla's version of Microsoft Outlook. If you download the program and hit a special key combo, you'll either get a thunderstorm or the NSA will hunt you down. Good luck!
I give Weather Wars two-and-a-half vanes. It would have gotten three if they'd thrown in a polar vortex or two other disasters of equal or lesser value. It really doesn't deserve that half a vane, but the acting wasn't terrible like one usually finds in z-list movies. I was impressed by that, at least.
You can find Weather Wars bundled with five other crappy made-for-TV movies in your local Walmart's $7.88 bin, where I found my copy.
Look out for more installments of Cinema in Vane over the next few weeks as we wait for the summer's two most anticipated cinematic disasters, Sharknado II and Into the Storm.
[All images from the movie]