Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Red Dawn 2": North Korea uses EMP against us -- but it couldn't happen this way

The remake of “Red Dawn” starts innocently enough at a high school football game in Spokane, WA, where the Wolverines hold off a field goal attempt and win.  There is a curious confrontation between the coach and a filmmaker wanting to put the game on his website. 

While everybody celebrates, the power suddenly goes out. They’re outside when it happens.  The next morning, some of the teammates and older brothers (One returned from the Army, played by Chris Hemsworth) awaken to sights and sounds of paratroopers dropped from fixed wing planes landing on their town, shooing up civilians, and quickly setting up a military government.

The 1984 film had started with soldiers dropping into a Colorado high school field from choppers with no warning. In that film, the enemy was communists from Central America, under Soviet aegis. This time, it’s North Korea.

As for the rest of the film, you could say it’s an imitation of Beirut or the West Bank, how local resistance can turn back and invader with scorched earth.  Actually, the kids run to the hills, and the enemy has to take some effort to find them (shooting them with tagged bullets).  All of it is pretty much popcorn stuff, none of it believable.  There’s no away a guerilla Army could move around this way if something like this could happen.

There is a lot written about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  Back in 2002, George Tenet of the CIA said that North Korea could lob a missile with a nuke as far as Alaska or even the US Pacific Northwest.  But there’s no way North Korea could ever on its own arrange a ground parachute attack and control large amounts of US territory.  Presumably, it conquered South Korea first – that idea is never mentioned.  The film does say that North Korea has help from the Russians, but, oddly, not the Chinese (enemies).  Iran would make a more credible “ally” for the DNR.

Even so, back in the 1990s, North Korea had been considered our most dangerous potential enemy; few people understood Al Qaeda yet.

Late in the film, the kids encounter some Marines ready to join their “militia”. The Marine officer says that both US coasts were hit by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) blast, knocking out the power, followed by multiple ground detonations of either dirty bombs or neutron bombs – that wasn’t clear.  The latter possibility was actually feared for a while after 9/11 especially by doomsday speakers like Charles Krauthammer. It doesn’t sound credible now.  But it is possible that North Korea or Iran (or both) could route nuclear materials to terrorists who could launch moderate to high altitude nuclear blasts with scuds from cargo ships offshore. That’s the pretext of the 2009 novel “One Second After” (Book reviews July 20, 2012), which ought to become a movie.

One problem with using the EMP idea here is that ordinary electronics and automobiles aren’t knocked out in the film.  They probably would be.  An invading Army would not be easily able to restore power even for itself.

It is possible that the radical left could embark on terrorism, just as radical Islam did.  Back in the 1980s, I developed some novel  manuscripts based on that idea.  The basic idea was that big cities could be attacked with radioactive contamination (essentially “dirty bombs”), and that disorder in an area around the city would occur, and law would break down, and locally a “revolution” could happen.  In the novels, generally a character like me gradually encounters a charismatic figure who knows about the plot. After job loss (prepared with a series of episodes), the character based on me lives in an academy, intended to train civilian defense “reservists”, where he is when chaos breaks out.  But I had imagined all this before Communism fell. 

There are a few scenes where the North Koreas display their ideology, and the militia display their own, based on family values that set in well before men have children.

So, this implausible action film, directed by Dan Bradley, is indeed a bit of a right wing fantasy.  Maybe Newt Gingrich would like it.

It is distributed by Film District and United Artists (MGM).  The official site is here

The film was actually shot in Michigan.  The city scenes actually appear to come from Detroit. 

I think we need a modern documentary about the EMP and solar storm threats to the power grids.  Is Morgan Spurlock game?  Maybe I can push this myself. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

NatGeo airs TWC film "Seal Team 6: The Raid on Osama bin Laden"

The Weinstein Company, with director John Stockwell, has made a 90 minute (2 hours with commercials) docudrama film to be aired on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday night Nov. 4, “Seal Team  6: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden”. 

The film provided a rather straightforward look at the “behind the scenes” world leading up to the raid, starting with the interception of a Kuwaiti courier, Abu Ahmad.

Later it’s somewhat interesting to see the brainstorming sessions at the CIA on how to verify that the “pacer” at the compound in Abbottabad really is Osama bin Laden.  Kathleen Robertson plays the female CIA analyst (Vivian Hollins) identified as “Jen” in Mark Owen’s book “No Easy Day” (Books blog Oct. 9).  They come up with a plan to “vaccinate” people in the area.

The last half hour recreates what must have happened, with the helicopter crash and then in the house, rather literally, but without all the interpretation possible in Owen’s book.

The Weinstein brothers deny that the showing of the film two days before the general election is intended to affect the results in favor of the president.  The timing is related to a deadline set by Netflix, which supposedly will release the film for instant play fairly soon.  But there is no question that when the raid was announced, it initially made the president look very effective.

A commander says “Al Qaeda: they are not afraid to die. Neither are we.  We are fighting for something greater than ourselves.”

The official site from TWC is here

The NatGeo link is here

The film seems a bit more mechanical than a couple of one-hour documentaries that aired on CNN and ABC two weeks after the raid (reviewed here in May 2011).  I also didn't find it as compelling as the film by Peter Bergen aired on NatGeo on Nov. 6, 2011.

My review of Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" is on my Movies Blog, Jan. 11, 2013.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Teen filmmakers capture the horror of trees toppling during Sandy without special effects

Two teen filmmakers captured horrifying footage of threes falling during Hurricane Sandy. Both sequences seem to come from communities on Long Island (or at least New York State).
John Mateer filmed three trees near the family house, one hitting a car, the dog barking, and then a fire breaking out nearby.  If this wasn’t real, it would look like a scene from a typical Hollywood “B movie”.
John starts with “This Is the Apocalypse”. 

Matthew Weinschreider showed a free falling away from the family house gradually.  First the ground heaves, almost like in special effects, and then the tree roots are lifted out by the leverage of the entire free by 60 mph winds.  The saturated soil, even with a grassy covering, cannot hold the tree.

Matt’s link is here.

John and Matt  appear on Katie Couric here.

Other people have done a lot of mashups with these two videos.

There are some other original videos of trees falling (mostly from Long Island, some in New Jersey) and one comment is that “we’re nowhere near the eye”.   In some of them, houses are damaged.  A massive tree can cut through a frame house and destroy it. 

Indeed, winds were stronger along southern New England, 150 miles from the center than they were in Washington DC.  That’s partly because they are coming just off the water, and partly because winds are usually strongest northeast of the center of a cyclone. 

The “kids” (Mateer and Weinschreider)  ought to collaborate, edit the two sequences (Mateer’s is mostly “vertical” in aspect), and submit the material to short film festivals.  I guess they can  both say “I am Rogue” (the legal wordmark for Rogue Pictures, part of Universal and Relativity Media, focusing often on horror films).  Maybe Hollywood could use this footage in a commercial horror film (and pay for it).   
Should building codes for new homes in wooded areas include strength (such as metal framing) requirements to resist tree damage?  Metal framing is said to make houses tornado resistant.  Given climate change, we have to think carefully about making new requirements for more robust construction.

Pictures: Roots on an old, massive swamp maple near my house; upper branches show severe damage from previous storms (especially a microburst in November 2010), shortening the tree and preventing any liontailing.  The previous damage, ironically, probably prevented the tree from toppling during Sandy, but it looks precarious to me.  Trees whose branches break during brief but strong thunderstorms, however, may be less likely to fall over completely later after prolonged  “soil saturation” events like tropical storms or strong “noreasters”.  No cairns here.