Category Archives: entertainment

Strong Women

I love Disney’s Mulan. In addition to being entertaining with a non-annoying and actually quite hilarious sidekick in Mushu, it holds forth several great character traits, such as the selflessness and loyalty of Mulan’s desire to save her father’s life and Mulan’s determination in her insistence. Furthermore, I think there’s an unintentional anti-feminist, pro-realist proposal in depicting Mulan’s physical progress in “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Many people are probably aware that the U.S. Armed Forces has a different set of standards for women than for men because most women can’t meet the male standards, and so the Armed Forces would appear sexist if the only thing reported was the proportion of women disqualified versus the proportion of men disqualified. Unfortunately, while it seems like kind of a “duh” moment that women might have a different set of physical standards, given that most women in the Armed Forces have non-combat roles such as desk jobs, it is nevertheless true that women in the Armed Forces do occasionally take on combat roles and having a physically sub-standard soldier in such a role can prove dangerous for her fellow soldiers. Mulan, however, by virtue of pretending to be male, is held to the same physical standards as the other men; knowing that having a physically sub-standard man in the Army endangers the other warriors, she is treated fairly—that is, when she fails to meet male standards, she’s kicked out. Nevertheless, as yet another evidence of her determination, she works harder in order to meet the standard and is only readmitted into the Army when she succeeds.

However, I have one big problem with the movie: it pictures a woman’s power as being solely related to her physical prowess, her similarity to men. There are valid arguments against this thesis statement—for example, people might argue that it’s not her fault none of the men will listen to her when she looks like a woman and, furthermore, she did use her feminine characteristics to get close to the villain. However, she then defeated the bulky, physically powerful villain who’s at least twice her size in the most unrealistic way possible: physically.

This sort of characterization of women is common in post-feminism Disney films. Early films created prior to feminism’s attaining a strong foothold in American society depict strong women as being feminine. Think about it…

Snow White (1937) carves out a comfortable life in awful circumstances by caring (cooking, cleaning, etc.) for the dwarves—very strong, but very traditionally feminine. Perhaps if created today, Snow White would have devised a plan to reenter the palace and take away her stepmother the queen’s power (though not by killing her directly, since that also seems to be forbidden in Disney movies post-feminism). Bambi’s mother (1942) saves her son by sacrificing herself—very strong, but very feminine—while Bambi saves Faline twice by attacking first Ronno and then the dogs—very strong, and very masculine. Perhaps if created today, Bambi’s mother would have saved him by attacking the hunter. Cinderella (1950) also carves out a comfortable life in awful circumstances by caring for her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and then exits the awful circumstances by marriage, which itself was a feat involving determination not to be beaten down by her stepmother—very strong but very feminine. Perhaps if created today, the story would have involved Cinderella rebelling against and defeating her stepmother without resorting to marriage. Briar Rose/Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, 1959) did, in my opinion, nothing particularly remarkable. She was the traditional damsel in distress rescued by a dragon-slaying prince. Perhaps if created today, Briar Rose would have been the one to slay the dragon.

Fast forward. Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991) physically attacks Gaston and physically rescues the Beast, though she is feminine in other ways. Pocahontas (1995) demonstrates physical prowess superior to that of John Smith (interestingly, he was a perfect climber on the ship, but he suddenly becomes an utterly incompetent climber when facing off against Pocahontas in a tree) and her greatest strengths are shown in rescuing him by running to his aid and facing off against her father, who was armed with a club, though she is feminine in other ways. Ariel (The Little Mermaid, 1989) physically attacked Ursula and several times physically rescued Prince Eric, though she is feminine in other ways. What’s interesting about these women is that they are feminine in many ways, but when they face off against the villains or against difficult situations, they do so in very physical ways.

Fast forward even further. Although Megara (Hercules, 1997) fulfills the required role of damsel in distress, Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996), Mulan (1998), to some degree, Jane (Tarzan, 1999), Kida (Atlantis, 2001), and Nani (Lilo & Stitch, 2002) are more physical than feminine.

So what does strength look like in modern Disney women? In their most tense moments requiring a display of strength, most female characters who play major roles do so in masculine ways. I’m not saying that a strong woman who is genuinely feminine shouldn’t physically stop a wicked sea-witch from shooting their beloved with magic underwater lightning bolts… I know I would… I’m just saying that women in traditional Disney movies were strong while being genuinely feminine whereas modern Disney women seem unable to rely on anything genuinely feminine—that is, that they need to be masculine in order to be strong. There are some notable exceptions, but my point is that there has been a huge shift from feminine-strong women to masculine-strong women. In some ways, it may just be a lazy shortcut. We all recognize masculine strength as strength and so it’s much easier than trying to display feminine strength, which is more often quiet and unobtrusive or calm and collected and coolly reasoning, as opposed to hastily swinging a sword around and drawing blood. However, I can’t help but think feminism has something to do with it, too. If we’re just like men, we have to erase the gender differences. In so many ways today, it’s considered offensive to suggest that males and females are inherently different in any area other than the anatomical. So to show a woman in a traditional role can often be considered offensive, like she’s not fulfilling her true purpose in life if she doesn’t try to be more like a man.

It got me to thinking: “What is a strong woman supposed to look like?” I love Disney and watch it frequently… consequently, I’ve been brainwashed with images of Disney women’s strength. I don’t trust myself to know what’s truly strong in a woman and what’s a lazy shortcut to masculine strength. So I turned to the Bible. I’m only going to look at three women, though, the three I consider the most unusual: Ruth, Deborah, and the Proverbs 31 Woman.

I consider Ruth unusual partly because she’s a Gentile who’s praised in Jewish Scripture. Furthermore, in spite of being a Gentile who married a Jew in the land of the Gentiles (and therefore spending her whole life outside of Israel/Judea), she was already apparently quite well-versed in Jewish law by the time she came to the land of her late husband. She could easily have left her mother-in-law and returned to her family—nothing was stopping her—but she chose to do the hard thing and followed Naomi to a strange land where she, Ruth, would not only be a stranger but would also potentially be ostracized as the only non-Jew in a Jewish land. To me, the most interesting part of her story is how Boaz describes her. In Ruth 3:11, he says (KJV), “…all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” In some other versions, it’s rendered “excellent.” The same word was also used to describe Boaz in Ruth 2:1 as (KJV) “a mighty man of wealth,” again rendered “excellent” in some other versions. The Hebrew is chayil, and this word, oddly enough, refers to strength, usually physical strength, and is used to describe an army or warriors in about two-thirds of its appearances in the Old Testament. Is Ruth really chayil? Perhaps not at first glance, being a penniless Gentile widow living in a patriarchal Jewish society. But her character gave her power, a fact which Boaz recognized. If we are to take her example, a strong woman is selfless, righteous (sexually and otherwise), diligent, not manipulative, caring, hard-working, and more. But she definitely did not take on any traditionally masculine roles.

Deborah is exceptionally odd, in my opinion. As told in Judges 4-5, she was a prophetess and a judge over Israel—and she was married! A Jewish version of Queen Elizabeth, she was not! The prophetess told Barak that God wanted him to take 10,000 men to battle and he accepted the role but insisted that she go with them. The interesting part is that Deborah agreed and went to war, but the Bible doesn’t indicate that she fought. (Interestingly, the Bible also doesn’t say whether her husband went to war or remained home.) I suppose you could say she led from behind. I’m especially intrigued by her case because she obviously had the blessing of God; she was married, and so had a husband “over” her and yet still served as a judge when there is no indication that her husband did, too (in fact, the only mention of him is in Judges 4:4, where he is identified as her husband, which is very unusual in itself). There is no indication as to whether she had children and no references to her outside of Judges 4-5. I’ve wondered in the past whether women ought not take leadership roles in politics, but Deborah seems to indicate quite clearly that women may do so with the full blessing of God. If we are to take her example at face value, a strong woman may judge men and women alike and co-lead men, even to war, but not fight.

Finally, I’m especially intrigued by the Proverbs 31 Woman because King Lemuel describes her as being so much more than a housewife. She’s hard-working, willing to get dirty (literally speaking, not metaphorically speaking, that is, not in an unrighteous way), industrious, wise, not lazy or idle, charitable. She considers carefully before passing a judgment or making a decision, engages in commerce with or without her husband (even purchases land with no indication that she first consulted her husband), speaks wisely and kindly, takes care of her family and household. Her husband is well-known, and though the passage doesn’t explain why, I like to think it’s because of her influence. “Strength and honor are her clothing…” (Prov. 31:25)

So while it’s possible for a woman to be strong in leadership over men and even to go to war with God’s blessing, that’s certainly the exception to the rule and a woman is not Biblically considered strong due to physical prowess over others (a distinctly masculine trait), but due to diligence, wisdom, and a willingness to work hard.

Coincidentally, right after writing this post, I came across this listicle <http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/times-tumblr-made-harry-potter-fans-cry-all-over-again&gt; of Tumblr Harry Potter moments that make fans cry, and number 7 specifically addresses exactly what I discussed here. In part, it states, “So often, female characters are allowed to be aggressive or rebellious, but in exchange are stripped of any traditionally feminine qualities and instead are forced to pick up traditionally masculine traits. However, Hermione is never made to do that. Most notably, she is written to be highly logical and emotionally expressive, a combination not commonly afforded to most of today’s leading ladies.”

I have nothing against women enjoying physical activities traditionally meant for men. In fact, I personally enjoyed Tae Kwon Do (a type of martial arts) and archery as a young person. However, I think we do ourselves and our daughters a disservice by portraying only women with male characteristics as strong (setting male-based standards such as physical strength which the vast majority of women cannot attain) and ignoring the possibility of feminine strength (which does not rely on impossible-to-attain male-based standards).

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

じゃあまたね!

Free Natural Disaster Films: 03: Supervolcano

As I said before, I started watching movies that are available for free online since I have little access otherwise. Previously, I reviewed Absolute Zero (*1.5) and Night of the Twisters (*2.5). I’m rating these free films based on Believability, Graphics, Story, and Acting. The latter three—Graphics, Story, and Acting—are judged simply:

* Poor

** Below Average

*** Average

**** Above Average

***** Excellent

Believability is based both on the scientific principles presented in the film and on the activities of the actors within the movie. There may be times when scientists generally agree with the basic concept, but the details of how it is accomplished in the movie may make it unbelievable.

* Completely unbelievable

** Mostly unbelievable

*** Moderately believable

**** Mostly believable

***** Completely believable

Supervolcano

Supervolcano (2005, BBC) *4.5

Warnings: TV PG, primarily due to thematic elements. Blood/Gore—none. Violence—none. Language—none. Sexuality—none.

Summary: The story is told in docufiction format, similar to Europa (an excellent film I highly recommend, but which is not available for free online to my knowledge). I very much enjoy this format, but not all people do, so if you didn’t like Europa for that reason, neither will you enjoy Supervolcano. Rick (the main character), a geologist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and his team take note of new earthquake and other unusual geological and wildlife activity in Yellowstone and use their new holographic computer program Virgil to predict what would happen should seismic activity occur in the area of a certain geyser. According to Virgil, in the worst-case scenario, such activity would set off a moderate eruption, which would in turn set off a chain reaction causing a supereruption of globally catastrophic proportions. Though they keep this to themselves to prevent widespread panic as they conduct more research, unfavorable media coverage leads the director of FEMA to pay Rick an unexpected visit. Rick explains to the director what would happen in the worst-case scenario, and further explains that FEMA could do nothing in such a situation. Rick’s team sets up camp in the area of the troublesome geyser and detects harmonic tremor, which indicates an impending eruption. Rick flies to Washington D.C. to brief the leadership of FEMA and, against Rick’s advice, FEMA chooses to keep this quiet in order to prevent widespread panic. Nevertheless, panic, looting, other crime, and massive traffic jams do occur as thousands either stock up on supplies or flee the area. Rick flies back toward Yellowstone, but the eruption occurs before he can arrive and the plane makes an emergency landing in Colorado. Rick’s team is also caught by the eruption while attempting to flee Yellowstone. (Who lives and who dies among Rick and his team is a major part of the suspense and plot of the film, so I won’t reveal that here.) Rick and his brother-in-law seek shelter in a military installation while his team attempts to flee Yellowstone. As predicted in the worst-case scenario, multiple vents (grey eruptions) open, spewing tons of ash into the air and trapping millions of Americans in their homes. As the days pass and the vents show no sign of slowing their activity, FEMA struggles with knowing what to tell people to do and how to rescue millions of Americans. How it all resolves and specifically how FEMA goes about rescuing people is also a significant part of the plot, so I won’t reveal that, either.

Believability:  *****  The movie is based on known scientific fact and on the worst-case scenario for Yellowstone Supervolcano’s next eruption. In essence, there is a massive chamber of magma beneath Yellowstone Park (the largest volcano in the world), which is the source of Yellowstone’s hydrovolcanic features and which experiences a major eruption approximately every 600,000 years. To our knowledge, the last major eruption occurred approximately 640,000 years ago. The next eruption is believed to be unlikely for at least another thousand years. At the least, an eruption would be very minor. At the worst, due to the massive size of the magma chamber, there would be a supereruption. There are two kinds of eruptions: red (involving primarily lava) and grey (involving primarily or solely ash). Red eruptions are the least frightening because lava moves very slowly. However, grey eruptions (the kind predicted for Yellowstone) can be catastrophic because the ash is composed of microscopic particles of rock, which create slush in rain or in the moist environment of a human’s lungs, can become so heavy as to collapse a roof, and may result in a pyroclastic flow (a current of hot gas and rock that moves away from the volcano at up to 450 mph and was responsible for the death and destruction in the Pompeii and Mt. St. Helens eruptions). The worst case scenario of a Yellowstone eruption would involve such numerous and/or large grey eruption(s) as to cover the entire United States in ash (possibly 3 ft deep at the source, though historical record suggests a previous Yellowstone eruption caused ash 6 ft deep at the source), severely drop global temperatures, and kill crops and herds across the globe, resulting in worldwide unending winter, famine, and disease, similar to but on a worse scale than the effects of the eruption of Tambora in 1815, which triggered major snowstorms as late as June on the east coast of the U.S. In essence, the entire movie is based on scientific fact regarding the worst-case scenario and is completely believable. In the film, roofs do collapse under the weight of the ash, killing at least one member of Rick’s team; people find it difficult to breathe due to ash in the air and in their lungs (though the movie doesn’t progress far enough to depict anyone getting pneumonia, it’s suggested as a risk toward the beginning of the film); other members of Rick’s team are unable to outrun a pyroclastic cloud (in Dante’s Peak, for example, the heroes manage to outrun such a cloud, but if you’ve ever taken a geology course, you know it’s impossible to do); crops and herds die worldwide; and the U.S. is depicted as being in a state of unending winter five years after the event.

Graphics:  *****  What can I say? The graphics were top-notch. If it weren’t for the frequent references to “kilometers,” I would have thought this was a Hollywood production. As it is, it’s a Hollywood-quality British film and, quite honestly, far better than any American-made volcano movie I’ve ever seen.

Story:  ****  Initially, I thought it was an American-made production, but their frequent references to “kilometers” instead of “miles” confused me enough to make me look up the production company (in this case, BBC). They also make a reference to the ash cloud causing a “30 degree drop in temperature,” but don’t specify whether that’s Celsius or Fahrenheit. Since it’s a British production, I assume that means 30° Celsius, which is 86° Fahrenheit. It was made for TV, so there are occasional breaks that don’t quite flow with the film, but if you view it as a series of TV episodes, it’s excellent. I fault it only because they don’t spend enough time helping the viewer get to know the characters, and so much of their activity and many of their reactions are not as easy for the viewer to understand or empathize with. I’m not sure how that could have been helped, though, because the docufiction format means that it goes back and forth between simulated interviews with survivors and depictions of the actual events, but since whether Rick lives or dies is a significant part of the plot, they couldn’t depict any interview scenes with Rick. Unfortunately, however, the interview scenes are where you learn the most about how the characters feel, think, and react. I didn’t personally feel connected to any of the characters except, ironically, the FEMA director, who appeared far less frequently than did Rick but who had more interview scenes than any other character, including Rick’s wife.

Acting:  ****  The acting was generally very good, but there were a couple areas where emotion was slightly overacted or underacted, primarily by Rick and by his brother-in-law.

Overall: Excellent. Highly recommend. I’ve watched it two or three times now and I’ve known about it for less than a year and a half.

Free Natural Disaster Films: 02: Night of the Twisters

As I said before, I started watching movies that are available for free online since I have little access otherwise. Previously, I reviewed Absolute Zero, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I’m rating these free films based on Believability, Graphics, Story, and Acting. The latter three—Graphics, Story, and Acting—are judged simply:

* Poor

** Below Average

*** Average

**** Above Average

***** Excellent

Believability is based both on the scientific principles presented in the film and on the activities of the actors within the movie. There may be times when scientists generally agree with the basic concept, but the details of how it is accomplished in the movie may make it unbelievable.

* Completely unbelievable

** Mostly unbelievable

*** Moderately believable

**** Mostly believable

***** Completely believable

night of the twisters

Night of the Twisters (1996, MTM Enterprises, Atlantis Communications, and PorchLight Entertainment)  *2.5

Warnings: Not Rated (but I would call it PG primarily for suspense and thematic elements). Blood/Gore—one instance of a tiny spot of blood on a bandaged head; although the characters also come across a dead body, the body is intact with no apparent trauma so not gory, just a thematic element source for caution if viewed by young children. Language—none. Violence—none. Sexuality—none.

Summary: This movie is based on a novel by the same name, which was based on an actual event. In the movie, a tornado touches down in Nebraska and the weather unpredictably moves southeast and multiple tornadoes hit Blainsworth, the home of the main characters in the film. Although a storm chaser employed by a weather center follows the storm to Blainsworth and arrives ahead of the tornadoes, he does not attempt to predict what will happen, admitting that this storm has not followed the usual patterns and that he therefore cannot predict what patterns it will follow. The mother of the family is working at a diner while her sister is on the way to pick her up, the father leaves home to check on the grandmother, and the teenaged son Dan (the main character of the film), Dan’s infant brother, and Dan’s teenaged friend remain at Dan’s house. The storm hits before the father makes it to the grandmother’s house. Dan’s house collapses with him, his baby brother, and his friend in the cellar, but they survive and escape, pick up his friend’s sisters (the oldest of whom is named Stacey), hijack a car from the deceased driver, and head toward the grandmother’s house. When they discover the road to the grandmother’s house is blocked, Dan and Stacey break through the barrier while the others stay behind with law enforcement, who take them to a shelter in town. They pick up the grandmother and, with help from firemen, rescue Dan’s father from where he is trapped under his overturned truck. Dan and his father go with the sheriff to the diner and find it destroyed and all survivors already evacuated, then head toward the shelter where they hope to find the mother. Meanwhile, the mother and aunt are at the shelter with the storm chaser and worried about their family, who haven’t arrived yet. The storm chaser offers to take them to their house to check on their loved ones. Therefore, when Dan, his father, and Dan’s infant brother arrive at the shelter, they cannot find the mother or aunt, but another survivor informs them they went home in search of family. Finally, the whole family plus the storm chaser reunite at the rubble that was their house, then look up to see several tornadoes heading their way. The storm chaser comments that there is nowhere to take shelter and advises trying to outrun the tornado by car. They manage to make it to shelter beneath an overpass and survive the storm, then walk out arm-in-arm into the sunrise.

Believability:  ****  I gave it so many stars on believability primarily because it’s based on a true story. In reality, the storm did behave unpredictably, did involve multiple tornadoes, and did occur in Nebraska (though in Grand Island rather than in Blainsworth), as depicted in the film. However, they occurred in the spring in reality versus the fall in the film (but both spring and fall are tornado season, so both are believable); all stayed within Grand Island city limits and moved only 8 mph in reality versus first touching ground far away from Blainsworth and moving quickly toward the town in the film; and numbered seven in reality versus 10-15 in the film. Nevertheless, it seems the filmmakers primarily just upped the ante rather than creating something that is genuinely unbelievable. However, the one issue of believability that I have with the film is the very end, when at the storm chaser’s recommendation they try to outrun the tornado by car in spite of the storm chaser admitting in the middle of the film that most people who die in tornadoes do so in their cars (in fact, when threatened with a tornado while in your car, it’s recommended you get out of your car and lie down in a ditch beside the road because it’s very unlikely that you can outrun a tornado); they take shelter beneath an overpass (in reality, tornadic winds move at over 200 and up to 300 mph and wind moves far more quickly under a bridge than over it due to the wind tunnel effect, putting you at far greater risk of injury or of being blown/sucked up into the tornado, so it’s recommended that you avoid bridges or overpasses when there’s a tornado); and the back window shatters and Dan is almost sucked out of the car (in spite of some research, I’m still not sure how believable that is with only the back window and not the front windshield shattered). One of the characters states incorrectly that tornadoes only move northeast; in reality, they usually move northeast or east but can actually move in any direction, even completely backtracking. But perhaps this statement was correct based on the most current knowledge at the time the film was made. Midway through the film, before the tornado hits Dan’s house, he opens all the windows. This was once thought to be an appropriate step to take because it allegedly equalizes the air pressures and reduces the risk of damage to the house. In reality, if a tornado is close enough to damage your house, opening the windows won’t do jack squat. Furthermore, taking the time to open the windows puts you at further risk of injury. Nevertheless, because it was believed appropriate at the time the movie was made, Dan’s actions were scientifically sound and believable. If you survive a disaster such as a tornado, the best way to be reunited with your family is to stay put and wait for rescue workers rather than to go wandering around. In contrast, the family in the film goes gallivanting all over the area looking for each other. However, it’s not uncommon for people to do this, even though it’s not recommended, so their doing so was certainly believable.

Graphics:  **  The graphics were surprisingly good for such a low-budget film, though that may be because the tornadoes occurred primarily at night and so were shrouded in darkness. Even so, they could have been much better than they were. The low-budget quality of the graphics was most noticeable in the prologue, when a tornado is seen in the daytime. The low quality of the graphics might not have been noticeable at all had all the tornadoes in the film occurred at night.

Story:  **  The story was very predictable, very much a Hallmark Family type of film. There’s a conflict between the kid and a parent, primarily due to the kid not realizing how much the parent loves him. Ho hum. It’s also typical Hollywood in that the kid is practically perfect and the parent is in the wrong. A lot of the kids’ interactions with each other was unrealistic, the result of very flat writing. Furthermore, I felt the epilogue where Dan explains what happened to each character in the movie was entirely unnecessary, but since this is a book adaptation, perhaps it was included in the movie because it was in the book. There was one glaring issue with the story: In the end, as the family is walking away into the sunrise after the last tornado disappeared, Dan comments that the tornadoes occurred over three hours… but it’s sunrise, which occurs at about 7:50 am in Nebraska in the Fall, implying that the whole thing started at 4:50 am—while the mother was at work in the diner, the father was checking on the grandmother, and Dan and his friend had just finished eating dinner.

Acting:  **  The father is unrealistically harsh on Dan, which in this case I felt was more acting than writing. The remainder of the acting was average (for example, the mother, the aunt, and the storm chaser) or sub-par (for example, all of the kids in the movie). Some of the acting was downright wooden.

Overall: Worth seeing once if you’re willing to watch low-budget films. Very similar to Hallmark family films. Very much a family-friendly film, though all disaster films will have some suspense and thematic elements not suitable for young children.

Free Natural Disaster Films: 01: Absolute Zero

Free Natural Disaster Films: 01: Absolute Zero

Not having brought any DVDs with us to Japan, having only put a few on our external hard drive, and not being able to access services such as Netflix from outside of the U.S., I began searching for movies available free online. I found a few disaster films on YouTube that I wanted to share with y’all here. I’ve rated them based on Believability, Graphics, Story, and Acting. The latter three—Graphics, Story, and Acting—are judged simply:

* Poor

** Below Average

*** Average

**** Above Average

***** Excellent

Believability is based both on the scientific principles presented in the film and on the activities of the actors within the movie. There may be times when scientists generally agree with the basic concept, but the details of how it is accomplished in the movie may make it unbelievable.

* Completely unbelievable

** Mostly unbelievable

*** Moderately believable

**** Mostly believable

***** Completely believable

I decided to start with the worst. I promise it gets better!

absolute zero

Absolute Zero (2006, Marvista Entertainment) *1.5

Warnings: Not Rated (but I would call it PG). Blood/Gore—there are two instances of slight blood and gore, not appropriate for young children. Language—none. Violence—none. Sexuality—none. Also not suitable for young children due to suspense.

Summary: This is essentially a lower-budget, crappy version of The Day After Tomorrow. The basic concept of both films is that increasing temperatures results in an ice age. In both films, some underappreciated climatologist (the main character) predicts in shocking detail exactly how global warming will cause catastrophic climate change, resulting in a new ice age. In the beginning, scientists in Antarctica record measurements and discoveries that give weight to the impending changes predicted by the underappreciated climatologist, partly due to some of their buddies falling down a huge crack that appears unpredictably in the ice. Later, back in the U.S., the underappreciated climatologist risks his life to save certain people and he and his group survive only because of his intelligence and/or knowledge of the climate. In The Day After Tomorrow, people evacuate south (in essence, the whole planet’s temperatures drastically decrease, so the equator is still the warmest location); in Absolute Zero, they flee north (in essence, the poles completely shift so the equator is the coldest). In the end, people who survived the cold are rescued by helicopter. The main differences between The Day After Tomorrow and Absolute Zero are that the story, acting, and graphics are decent in the former and completely suck in the latter. The Day After Tomorrow is also far more believable than Absolute Zero. Furthermore, The Day After Tomorrow came first by two years, so the incredible similarities lead me to call Absolute Zero a copycat of The Day After Tomorrow, not the reverse.

Believability:  *  I went back and forth between one star and two because the basic premise that human-caused global warming may result in severe climate change is accepted by, at most, a slight majority of climatologists. However, I finally settled on one star because of the manner in which they suggested it would occur. Basically, the magnetic north and south poles migrate to the middle latitude of the earth (known as cataclysmic pole shift hypothesis), which may or may not actually be possible; but if it is possible, it would happen over a much slower timescale than that depicted in the film (in fact, a 90° shift occurs in just a few days in the film but it’s believed to occur at a rate of 1° per million years at the most if it occurs at all). Because weather is partially controlled by the poles, the theory presented in the film is that the new north and south poles, now along the equator, would be frozen. However, the earth’s weather is not entirely controlled by the magnetic poles; it’s also controlled by the tilt of the earth’s axis, the moon, the sun, etc. Finally, there’s no explanation of how global warming itself caused the magnetic poles to shift. Furthermore, the climatologist predicts down to the second when Miami (the primary location of the film) will reach absolute zero temperatures. Seriously? To the second? Oh, yeah, also… absolute zero temperature is impossible to attain. In the beginning of the film, he escapes absolute zero temperatures in Antarctica by diving into a cave, and somehow the completely open and unblocked mouth of the cave stops absolute zero temperatures—that is, stops the air itself—from reaching him inside the cave. Uh… huh??? Later, in Miami, he escapes absolute zero temperatures by… running really fast. Except he doesn’t run really fast. So not only does he once again outrun the air itself, he even does it by pausing for dramatic effect to express sorrow over the death of a complete jerk. *sigh* The more I think about this movie, the more depressed I get. There’s more on the completely unbelievable scale, including the ability of grad students to determine the polarity of the earth 10,000 years ago based on a paint sample from a cave in Antarctica (why has no one else—particularly a well-funded PhD—done that before?), but I don’t have the time. These were just some of the worst.

Graphics:  **  Initially, I was somewhat impressed with the graphics… and then the car sequence. First, a poorly rendered palm tree flies through the windshield and skewers a guy, then an even more poorly rendered funnel of absolute zero air comes down out of the sky and blows over the car with even more poorly rendered bursts of absolute zero clouds. But aside from the car sequence, the graphics were pretty good—in fact, minus the stupid car sequence, I would have given it four stars.

Story:  *  Aside from being a poor copycat of The Day After Tomorrow, the story sucks in many ways. The main character is unlikeable—in fact, only one or two characters are particularly likeable in my opinion. A newly widowed woman acts like her husband’s death is no big deal, then seems to remember she’s supposed to be sad about it and yells at someone, then goes right back to not caring. Similarly, a newly orphaned grade schooler’s only reaction is to pull a pouty face and comment, “I miss him.” Really? Two good guys die (too often in disaster films, all the good guys make it), but that’s about the only redeeming quality in the story. The story is painfully predictable. Furthermore, the villain is completely unrealistic. He also predicts the exact second at which Miami will reach absolute zero, but convinces the government that it won’t happen for another 200 years so that he can get money out of them. Seriously, it never occurred to him that such money, if he could cash it in the next few hours before Miami froze over, would do him no good in what is essentially a post-apocalyptic U.S.? I’m sorry, that’s absolutely unbelievable. Equally unbelievable is that, after commenting that the government probably won’t honor their contract when they look outside (at which point, absolute zero is about 1 minute away, so Miami is completely frozen over already), the villain ultimately dies because he’s trying to save the paper contracts that he dropped on the floor. Seriously? There were other unrealistic issues, such as the villain refusing to allow the scientists in Antarctica to move or leave with their very expensive equipment when the weather turned and they felt they and their equipment would be destroyed. Even if you’re so callous as not to care about your scientists, you’d surely not be stupid enough to risk your very expensive equipment!

Acting:  **  There were about two or three good actors among those playing significant roles—the only reason this movie gets two stars here. Otherwise, most of the acting involved overacting or underacting. Again, the lack of apparent emotion in the widow and orphan following the death of their husband/father was especially shocking, and part of that is due to the writing, which the actors can’t control, but much of it is directly due to the acting. As I said before, the main character is not likeable, and again, that’s partly due to the writing and partly due to the acting. The villain is overly villainous, if that’s possible, and unbelievably stupid. And again, the car sequence… after being skewered through the chest, the victim repeatedly yells full-throated at his daughter to get out of the car, run for shelter, stay put, etc. I’m sorry, as an ER nurse, I think that if I had a tree trunk in my chest, I wouldn’t be yelling like a soccer coach. I think at most I’d be offering weak coughs, gurgles, and whispers.

Overall: Don’t waste your time. One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, even worse than Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie. Coincidentally, there is no score for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes, but only 23% of viewers liked it. The average audience score is 2.6/5 (higher than I gave it). I decided to leave a review as well, so you might see it on the site if you look.