Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 11: Twister (1996)


There is nothing scarier in this world (well, apart from some of our fellow human beings)than seeing mother nature turn against us. When nature goes berserk it serves as a lesson to us to remember that we are not the masters of this planet. We stand helpless and in awe in the face of destruction caused by natural disasters.

Twister lets us experience the terror and the unstoppable force that is nature from a safe distance. The film is also one hell of a thrill ride.

One of the worst series of tornados in over fifty years strikes Oklahoma. They leave a trail of destruction in their wake. A team of storm chasers led by Jo Harding (Helen Hunt)pursue these twisters in the hopes of being able to get close enough to one and launch an advanced weather sensor into the funnel.

They hope that the sensor can gain enough data from inside the twisters to be able to create an advanced weather warning system, which will give people more chance to be able to get to safety when a twister strikes.

Jo’s estranged husband Bill (Bill Paxton)comes to her group asking her for a divorce so he can marry his fiancé Melissa( Jami Gertz). Before Jo can sign the divorce papers a storm starts to develop and the team are off to try and launch their sensors. Bill and Melissa tag along for the ride.

As the film goes on, the twisters increase in size and destructive capability. These sequences are terrifying to witness, and the special effects used within them stand up pretty well when viewed today.

I first saw this when I around 11 years old and it really freaked me out. I remember watching at night with my parents and we were sharing a box of Dairy Box chocolates (umm, delicious).  When it got to the part at the drive in movie theatre I lost my nerve and couldn’t watch any more. I carried on with it a few days later though. I think I got unnerved because of how well the film captures how scary those situations are, and also how powerless we are if we are caught up in them.

Hunt and Paxton are both excellent as the dedicated scientists who also realise they still have feelings for one another. A scene stealing Philip Seymour Hoffman is hysterical as Dusty, an outgoing, loud music loving member of the team. Cary Elwes pops up in villain mode, as a rival storm chaser.

The film is directed by Jan De Bont, who gave us another thrill ride a couple of years before this with Speed.

I don’t eat meat, but this film features a dinner scene which has me craving a steak, fried eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy so bad. I am of course referring to Aunt Meg’s famous dinner scene. It makes me hungry every time I watch the film. That food looks so good!

Good fun, likable characters and some good special effects all combine to make this one well worth your time. Perfect weekend viewing I’d say. Best not viewed when it looks a bit windy outside though.

My favourite scenes are the following. Dinner at Aunt Meg’s. The scene where young Jo and her family run from a twister. The water twisters. The “you’ve never seen it miss this house, and miss that house, and come after you” scene.

Any other fans?




On The Beach (1959)


What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end? How would you react to such news, and how would you cope with having this new fact in your life?Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film tackles all these questions and more. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 novel of the same name, written by Nevil Shute.

At the time of the films release there was great public fear of Atomic and Nuclear weapons. I’m sure this film chilled many viewers to the bone at the time, particularly due to its unflinching look at the aftermath of one of these weapons being used.

I like how the film captures how many different reactions various people have to the news of the end of mankind. Some people escape into booze, some go to extremes to feel and experience life while it still exists, and some simply refuse to accept that there is no hope of survival. It always makes me think how I would react in such a situation.

The film is set in Australia. The entire worlds population(apart from those in Australia)have died due to radiation sickness following a Nuclear war. The radiation is being spread on the winds, and it is estimated to arrive in Australia in around five months time. The citizens there are trying to come to terms with the war, and with the fact of their own impending fate.

An American submarine, the U.S.S. Sawfish, surfaces in Australia. It was submerged when the war began and therefore the crew haven’t been exposed to the radiation. The submarine has been travelling around surfacing at various countries, only to find no sign of life. Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck)and his crew dock in Australia and come ashore. Despite Dwight’s wife and children being killed in the war, he just cannot accept that painful fact.

Whilst ashore, Dwight befriends Moira (Ava Gardner), and the two slowly fall in love with one another. Dwight however cannot permit himself to act on his feelings though because he still considers himself married.

Dwight and his men take to sea again after a Morse signal is picked up coming from a city in America. The crew must try and find out if anyone has somehow managed to survive.

This is a bleak film and is not an easy watch at all. The performances of the cast make it a must see. I find it to be extremely moving and it captures so well the horror and tragedy such an event would bring about.

Gregory Peck is completely heartbreaking as a man trying to appear in control, but who inside is consumed with grief that he cannot display publically. Gregory shows us the tough façade cracking a few times. Thanks to his performance we see Dwight really struggling to stay in control, and wrestling with his conscience in regards to his undeniable feelings for Moira.

Fred Astaire is best remembered today for his incredible dancing skills, but he was also a fine dramatic actor. His performance here as Julian Osborn is one of the best he ever gave. Julian was a Nuclear scientist and feels guilt that something he helped to build destroyed humanity. Fred steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he is in the background but you keep your focus on him to see how he is reacting at certain moments.

Ava Gardner touches my heart as the boozy Moira. She has so much love to give, and she wants to spend her final days with Dwight. Ava perfectly conveys this woman’s inner turmoil, as she struggles to blot out the pain of the present and at the same time finds in Dwight a reason to stay alive.

Anthony Perkins is excellent as the young Lt. Peter Holmes. Peter and his wife have recently had a baby, and his wife is struggling to accept the truth of what is about to happen to everyone. Anthony perfectly captures the emotional and moral distress Peter is in, when he has to decide if he and his young family will take the government issued suicide pills or not.

It is the kind of decision that nobody should ever have to make, but the film forces you to think what you would do in his place. Would you accept the slow, painful and deeply unpleasant death caused by radiation? Or would you have one last beautiful day surrounded by those you love, still being healthy and in control of your life, and then peacefully slip away?

Donna Anderson breaks my heart every time I watch this. Donna plays Peter’s wife, Mary. This woman is terrified of the truth, but she won’t accept or even talk about it. She too must decide how to meet her end. I think many people would react like Mary, still holding out for hope even when faced with the opposite reality. Donna portrays Mary’s hysteria and terror very well indeed.

John Tate is Admiral Bridie. John only appears in a few scenes, but he is excellent when he does. I really like how he subtly conveys his love for his much younger secretary, Lt. Hosgood (Lola Brooks). It’s there in the way he looks at her. I love their final scene together where they share a drink together, that scene moves me each time I watch and is beautifully played by both actors.

If you are among the few people on the planet who actually believe we should have Nuclear weapons; then I would hope that this film (particularly the final ten minutes, and especially the final shot)would make you change your opinion. I would also recommend you watch the TV miniseries Threads and The Day After.  Just one of these weapons is one too many and these films show what will happen if we ever use them.

It annoys me so much that some members of our species are intent on creating ways of bringing about our destruction. We should learn to love each other, because at the end of the day we are all the same, we are all human and will all die one day. Why can’t our time on earth be filled with happiness instead of war and hate? This film focuses on the good points about humanity – love, compassion, friendship and kindness. It makes you think that you should value life, as you could lose it at any time.

My favourite scenes are the following. Julian and Peter’s conversation on the submarine. Dwight trying to explain to Moira at the train station how he feels about his dead family. The young sailor leaving the submarine and going ashore in San Francisco, he chooses to die there (his home city)but he will do so alone. Bridie and Hosgood sharing a drink and an important  conversation. The scene during the boat race between Dwight and Moira. Moira watching the submarine submerge. Moira and Julian’s conversation in his garage. The final scene.

A powerful film, with an equally powerful message to deliver. Strong performances from all the cast and a beautiful score. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray to see it looking its best.

I highly recommend the novel too. It goes into more detail about how the war started. It also graphically describes the symptoms of radiation sickness, while the film only hints at those horrors.

Any other fans of this one? Please leave your thoughts below.




The Towering Inferno(1974) vs. The Poseidon Adventure(1972)


Two of the greatest disaster films ever made. Both featuring all star casts, two terrifying situations to be trapped in(death by drowning or death by burning, suffocation or jumping),a mix of heroic and selfish characters, epic scores and both films were produced by disaster film legend, Irwin Allen. Which of these films is your favourite?

I love both and recommend them to fans of the disaster genre, but my favourite is The Towering Inferno. For me everything about this film is on such a big scale, the sets, the cast(surely the most star studded cast ever assembled?)and the idea of being trapped in a burning skyscraper is terrifying to me, it is also a much more realistic scenario than a ship flipping over. Trapped in a sinking ship and facing the strong possibility of drowning is terrifying too; but at least in that situation, there is always the chance that not all decks get consumed by water, you could find a way out, swim to the surface or be rescued by passing ships/coastguard.

If you’re on the upper floors of a burning building and are trapped, there is really no way out; you’re left facing three horrendous ways to die, burning, suffocating or jumping to escape the first two, which obviously leads to certain death from such height. The scene of the secretary(Susan Flannery) trapped in the apartment facing those very things has always stayed with me. That scene shows just how horrific such a situation is.

We follow the film from two perspectives, firstly the guests and residents trapped in the building, and secondly the firemen who try and save them. This film really highlights the bravery of the men and women of the fire service, who risk their lives to  get others out of the flames. I like that there is a dedication to the fire service during the opening credits.

I also think this film could serve as a warning/wake up call to builders and architects regarding the safety of such tall buildings;  as McQueen’s fire chief says “you know there’s no sure way for us to fight a fire in anything over the seventh floor, but you guys just keep building ’em higher and higher”. Sadly that speech could still be delivered today, as buildings keep getting higher and higher.

I’ve always found this film fascinating due to McQueen and Newman apparently having the same number of lines in the film. I’ve only ever heard of such a thing done in this film, has it been done elsewhere? I think that is a very good way of ensuring that big stars receive equal screen time.

There are some stunning special effects and stunt work in this, that still hold up extremely well by todays standards. The scenic lift explosion(causing the tragic death of a much beloved character)is extremely impressive and always has me watching through my fingers because I know what’s coming. I don’t like heights so that whole sequence makes me squirm.

Featuring a great cast, and this will have you playing the usual guessing game in such films as to who will survive and who will perish.I would love to see this one on the big screen as it was intended to be viewed.

The 70’s disaster films really show you how it’s done, all star casts, epic running time(which gives you more opportunity to connect with characters, thus meaning you are impacted if they die)and nightmare scenarios to be trapped in. I consider The Towering Inferno to be the best and most entertaining of the lot.

I’d love to hear your views on these flicks, and get your opinions on the disaster genre in general.