Film Review: Countdown: The Sky’s on Fire

countdown1

Mmm… classy font shows class

Capitalising on the late 90’s disaster movie surge, The Sky’s On Fire was a TV Movie released in 1999 which manages to make itself relatively respectable with a competent cast, direction and a distinct lack of sham effects. This TV Movie opts for the less is more approach and gets away with it, although once again as the disaster never really happens, some movie goers will be left feeling short changed here.

Release Date : 1999

Running Time : 89 minutes

The Premise

In a moral club round the head story, the O-Zone has thinned to a point where radiation and extreme heat is now pouring through and the effects make for a nice cooked planet underneath! Yum!

The Disasters Faced

Heatwaves, radiation, blindness, animal attacks, beached whales and plenty of rioting! Quick – get the TV!

The Execution

As stated above, Countdown strives for respectivity and pretty much gets it. The concept isn’t as far fetched as I’m sure many will feel, the actors all do a decent job and the production is kept on rails. Thankfully this TV Movie fits the 90 minute slot, not the three hour megathons that need to draw everything out, most of the time just to fill the TV companies schedule for two nights. Here everything runs on rails. If there is one thing that the film does lack its urgency. Everything feels too laid back and calm. This combined with the lack of general disasters (animal attacks aside) means that for the most part of the film, you could be forgiven for thinking the disaster will happen in part 7 of the series! Those gripes aside, the looting is genuinely quite fun to watch, more so because people are stealing the most random of things possible and while you never see a red sky like that on the box art (foiled again) because its quite focused, things are never boring even if they aren’t urgent.

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I am surprised. This is my surprised face.

The Effects

Aside from cutting to a view of the sun at any given opportunity, the best effects come from the bird attack where they start crashing into a window and then smash through. A bee swarm is equally as fun although the plane effects at the end are quite poor. However they’re barely on screen more than a couple of seconds so you don’t get to take them in. Instead the effects money went on shop windows to smash to grab the loot and building up traffic jams with lots of yelling extras!

Why It’s Worth Watching

It’s a nice 90 minute “don’t use CFC’s” message but much more entertaining than writing it in chalk on a board. Aside from that, its interesting to see how the characters that are extras are moulded into really stereotypical cutouts. All black men and middle aged women do the raiding. All the main cast women get into trouble. Funnily enough all the white American men save the day. *sigh*. Also worth a look if you want to see the disaster movie with the most maggots in…

Drinking Game

Botox faces.

Best Death

Only one of the main cast dies so she gets the award – however its also one of the most dumbest ever. During the bee attack, Elizabeth (Jo Andersen) decides to drive like a maniac down a dead end street and while you can quite clearly see that there’s a massive truck in her way, she drives straight into it anyway and instead of braking takes her hands off the wheel and covers her eyes. You deserve all you get if you act like that love…

Favourite Character

No one is really offensive, nor is anyway massively likeable but John Billingsley’s Dr Pike character is just made for a scientists role and he ramps up the ham in each scene he’s in until you get the “May God be with that man” moment. Laugh out loud moment!

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We may all be about to die but I got plenty of time to flirt between commercials

Weirdest Moment

I have two here. The first is Jen (Josie Bisset) and her maggot and spider dilemma. Instead of locking yourself in bedroom when your house has all kinds of creepy crawlers falling out the air-con, why not turn back round and go out the front door you just walked in. I had no patience for her after that silliness. The other is more humorous  In every hospital scene, watch the same extras wander round. One extra, a man with a long face, dark hair and pronounced chin is firstly sitting, the walking around and in his last scene being scooted down the same corridor in the same direction in a wheelchair. The poor guy, give him a cuddly toy!

Conclusion

The Sky doesn’t really catch fire, it doesn’t even have a warm glow. That doesn’t stop the film from being relatively tight for a TV Movie. While it gets a bit silly in the last few minutes, its actually quite well done for the first hour and shows that sometimes just throwing everything together in 90 minutes makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

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