Sunday, December 8, 2013

December Beach Party: Stonados (2013)

The agents of M.O.S.S. (yes, we still kind of exist in our own, half-assed manner) are nothing if not timely - or secret sympathizers of the Southern hemisphere - so December seems just like the right time to get down to the beach and find out what we find there.

There's trouble brewing for the people of Boston, British Columbia. Huge, water-y tornados are hitting the city's coastline, but these aren't your grandpa's tornados. Unless your grandpa's tornados spat more rocks than a disaster movie meteor shower (an early victim is the Plymouth Rock, and I'm not talking about the chicken breed), squashing people left and right. And even then, I suspect the rocks of Grandpa's tornados never exploded as the ones in Stonados like to do because of SCIENCE!

Fortunately for Boston, former volcanologist and storm chaser turned science teacher Joe (Paul Johansson), his former storm chasing buddy turned weekend replacement TV weather forecaster Lee (Sebastian Spence), and Joe's cop sister Maddy (Miranda Frigon) are there to help. Unfortunately, The Authorities represented by the Oceanic Blah-Blah Agency of Tara Laykin (Thea Gill) don't think a series of absurd tornados building over the open see and spitting exploding rocks are anything more than "freak weather", and want to see proof. No idea proof of what, really, but there you have it.

So, before the Government will provide our heroes with the bomb they'll need to blow the bad weather up - a time-honoured SyFy Channel way to get rid of all kinds of bad weather be it Ston- or Shark-nado - there's an ill-fated regatta to save and some sort of sports game (taking place in "the stadium", so the kind of sport is anyone's guess, though I suspect a film this pretend all-American will mean baseball) ending in catastrophe. Of course widower Joe's not quite happy kids need saving, of course Lee and Maddy will finally get around to doing something about their twenty years of affection disguised as bickering, and of course Laykin will die right when she's making her "oh Doctor Joe, you were so right and I'm so sorry" speech.

Obviously, and not surprisingly, there's nothing new going on in SyFy Channel disaster movie land, though Jason Bourque's film goes through the usual motions with enough élan to keep simple-minded folks like me entertained throughout. The film's tone, mostly treating the ridiculous bomb-throwing storm idea it has been cursed with by a marketing department in desperate search of stupid movie titles seriously but not treating it too po-faced either, works pretty well for the material, helping to distinguish it from Sharknado whose very American ideas about getting rid of tornados it shares.

The special effects aren't half bad this time around either, and they are surprisingly numerous too. I suspect it helps that the effects houses working on SyFy's projects have by now made so many films with giant tornadoes in them the people involved probably do tornados (particularly exploding tornados) in their sleep.

On the acting and characterization front this is perfectly decent though I couldn't escape the impression Bourque races through the character bits to get to the next piece of destruction, which, to be perfectly honest, is a bit more interesting than watching another US white core family get together again. I'd rather love to see a film showing one of these core families growing quickly apart again after the chupacabras are dead, the storms are gone, and the ice age prevented, but then I might be a mite cynical about these things.

Stonados earns itself bonus points by including a handful of scenes featuring William B. Davis as Boston's lighthouse keeper, having a chat with his bird, talking on the radio with the film's actual protagonists, and in the end getting crushed by his lighthouse.

So Stonados is a fun enough time at the beach, if you don't mind the exploding rocks.

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