I've been a film buff since childhood, and I love writing about and reviewing my favorites.
"Storm Tracker" (aka "Storm," 1999)
Starring: Luke Perry, Martin Sheen, Marc McClure
Directed by: Harris Done
When I got my first DVD player back in the late '90s, the Dollar DVD rack of my local Wal-Mart quickly became my favorite place to shop for movies. The ultra-cheap selections of long forgotten B-Movies, cartoons, old black and white TV shows, and plain ol' weird video junk were irresistible to me.
Most of my one-buck wonders have been lost to the ages but the tragic recent passing of actor Luke Perry, best known as the star of TV's Beverly Hills 90210 and Riverdale, prompted me to go digging into the remnants of my collection to revisit this enjoyably silly 1999 made-for-TV disaster flick, in which he starred opposite film and TV legend Martin Sheen.
IMDb says this movie's title was simply Storm, but the front cover of my Digiview Productions DVD calls it Storm Tracker, so that's the title I'm going to go with, since it's slightly less generic. (Speaking of generic, check out that cover artwork. Wow, Photoshop has come a looong way since the late '90s!)
When I first sat down to watch Storm Tracker years ago, the idea of former teen heart throb Luke Perry sharing the screen with a legendary scenery chewer like Martin Sheen struck me funny for some reason, i.e. "Wow, what a dream team!" Storm Tracker was clearly inspired by the box-office smash Twister, which had been released just a few years before, though obviously Storm Tracker doesn't come anywhere close to matching the look of that blockbuster, due to its cheese-and-crackers TV movie budget. However, it turned out to be cheap fun, and was better than I remembered.
Trailer (En Espanol!)
Perry plays meteorology professor Dr. Ron Young, whose unorthodox experiments with storm-prediction technology are deemed too dangerous by his university and result in him losing his job. Fortunately for him, just as he's packing up his office, he's approached by a government representative who offers him a job working on a hush-hush military project headed by an General James Roberts (Sheen), whose end objective is to actually be able to control the direction of powerful storms. Sheen had been playing blustering, obsessed military types in B-Movies like this for much of the previous decade, but he was only a few months away from a career resurgence at this time thanks to TV's The West Wing.. .
Anyway, the optimistic Dr. Young joins the General's project immediately, under the impression that he'll be working on technology that will be used to save lives. The storm-control device could divert dangerous weather away from populated areas, or bring much needed rain to drought stricken parts of the world. Of course, it doesn't take him long to figure out that the true aim of the project is something far more sinister, and that Sheen's character intends to use the storm control tech as a defensive weapon.
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The last half of the film descends into predictable disaster-movie chaos when the research team tries to steer a hurricane into Mexico, but loses control of it so that it heads directly into downtown Los Angeles. Perry is forced to try and re-gain control of the storm from inside an airplane flying over it, otherwise L.A. will be flattened (and his girlfriend, a local TV news reporter out in the thick of the chaos, will be doomed).
Most of the L.A.-set disaster scenes are underwhelming stuff due to the obvious made-for-TV budget restraints (most of it seems to be cobbled together out of old Weather Channel stock footage) but there is one funny bit in which a wind-blown hunk of the Hollywood sign flattens a TV news crew. The climactic battle royale between Perry and a government goon in front of the open airplane cargo door (while the hurricane rages right outside) is downright silly, especially when Perry leaps OUT of the plane and ONTO the storm controlling device (!!) in order to re-program it and divert the storm away from Los Angeles. Yeah, okay, suuuuuuuure, that MIGHT happen...if you completely disregard the laws of physics!
Summing It Up
Aside from the occasionally hilarious lapses in logic and cheap looking special effects, Storm Tracker was a solid, fast-paced little B-movie with strong performances by its stars. Though I was expecting a "so bad it's good" kind of movie, it turned out to be a pretty cool little action melodrama, well worth the buck I paid for it. R.I.P. Mr. Perry, and thanks for the entertainment!
© 2019 Keith Abt
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 18, 2019:
Hey Heidi - I miss the ol' Dollar DVD displays, I guess they went the way of the dodo when everybody started streaming movies instead of buying them. It's a shame because I was always discovering cool forgotten junk like this movie back then, and you couldn't beat the price!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 18, 2019:
Yes, it was sad to hear that Luke Perry left this world at such a young age. Yikes! We hope he'll be remembered for his work outside of this gem.
And what happened to all the made for TV movies? I guess they're now binge-able series on Netflix. Yeah, things have really changed in 20 years.
If you hadn't snapped this up at the Wal-Mart back in the day, I'm sure you could've dug up a copy at the Goodwill... along with all the other vintage music you seem to find and share with us.
Thanks for sharing this memory!