Archive for the Sharks Category

SHARKNADO (2013)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, CGI, Garrett Cook Articles, Sea Creatures, Sharks, SyFy Channel Movies, TV-Movies, Visions of Hell with tags , , , , , on July 28, 2013 by knifefighter

SHARKNADO
Movie Review by Garrett Cook

PHvf6lEANnmQyD_3_mThe lifeblood of any narrative is conflict. Without conflict, you have a bunch of people standing around staring into space, waiting. When they start waiting, conflict occurs. The conflict being, uninteresting as it is, that what needs to happen hasn’t happened yet. Good conflicts make good stories. The more you throw at your hero and the hero has to get out of, the better and more exciting their situation. But what do you do when competing with the Hollywood event picture and Sundance Channel juvenile delinquency/Palm D’0r-grubbing adversity porn, who have cherry picked the worst things to happen to everyone? WAGES OF FEAR (1953) . SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982). FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (1987). THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (2004). Those are big, juicy conflicts.

SyFy’s solution? Revive the giant bug/giant shark/giant alligator/giant problem movie. Sharktopi, Dinocrocs and Supergators have a way of knocking the wind out of a crying Meryl Streep for an hour and a half or so, and, if you’re looking to unwind after work, they’re generally more fun. They are by no means good by any conventional standard, but at least they have that going on.

Recent SyFy spectacle SHARKNADO took this principle and really ran with it. A hurricane off the coast of LA picks up 20,000 sharks. JAWS (1975)? One huge shark. OPEN WATER (2003)? A few sharks. These situations presented gigantic problems for the heroes who had to make it out of them alive. But 20,000 sharks? That’s a real problem. Not just for the heroes, but for you, the reader/potential SHARKNADO viewer. 20,000 sharks are dangerous enough to kill 90210’s Ian Ziering…oh, 20,000 times and enough of a spectacle that they leave you, potential SHARKNADO viewer, in danger of making what might be a terrible decision.

Is it a terrible decision? That’s what you’ve probably clicked on this article to find out. You want to know if it’s worth trading 100 minutes of your time for the experience of Ian Ziering and Tara Reid having to deal with sharks falling from the sky. Some of you, having seen the premise of the film restated will now stop sitting on the fence and decide to go watch SHARKNADO. Good. SHARKNADO was unequivocably made for you, thesis statement/pitch line enthusiast. But you might need actual info. Person who keeps reading to gather more data, SHARKNADO might be a little more challenging for you.

SHARKNADO begins with a corrupt sea captain, who you will never see again, brokering a deal with a shady Asian man to sell him 20,000 sharks. Does this deal precipitate the sharknado (no very dry pun intended)? No. Maybe. The shady Asian man and the captain are killed, the Asian man by the captain, the captain by the very sharks he sought to sell. Which actually makes you wonder if Anthony Ferrante and Thunder Levin (the director and writer of the film, respectively) stopped to make a sanctimonious finger wag at the practice of eating shark fin soup. Because right after we see mankind treating sharks badly, the sharks get caught up in a hurricane and start to be blown around, as if God himself were an angry shark.

This scene leaves you wondering whether SHARKNADO believes that the sharks are justified in their attacks because of our consumption of shark fin soup, whether the director has some sort of divine justice in mind, and whether this movie was made by poets or naifs. It is hard to tell. This is not the only time this occurs and of course, it’s a common phenomenon in really awful movies, like SHARKNADO, which is a movie that sucks.

This intro transitions into scenes introducing our hero, surfing bartender Fin (groan), played by 90210 non-favorite Ian Ziering (the blonde guy who looked like he’d been held back seven grades). He bartends, and he surfs. His Australian friend Baz (played by Jaason Simmons, whose name’s extra A stands for Awesome, because he is, in spite of this material) surfs with him but does not do much bartending. Possibly none. Adorable waitress Nova (the wooden, but sublimely hot, Cassie Scerbo) pours drinks for non-hot but adorable drunk, George (played by John Heard, from HOME ALONE (1990), C.H.U.D. (1984) and serious films from the early 80s), and life looks good, save for Fin’s estrangement from ex wife April (Tara Reid). I say good riddance, but as Flaubert writes, “the heart wants what it wants”. Fin and Baz go surfing, Baz is bitten by a shark and Fin sees signs that there is a hardcore hurricane on the way and he should get his daughter and son to high ground. He returns to the bar, calls up April, who says not to bother and that her slimy new boyfriend takes care of the family now. Fin decides maybe he’d better go save his daughter.

His intuition proves right when he sees that the hurricane is getting stronger, picking up sharks and dropping them on people. Which is a tremendous problem. It’s a big, juicy conflict that does not involve cancer, drug addiction, Nazis or Kryptonians. At least give it that much. George, the loveable drunk, is killed, Nova reveals that she is skilled with a shotgun and Fin and Baz kill many sharks. It’s a pretty intense scene, the sharks are pretty well rendered and it establishes a sense of urgency. It also begins to wag its finger at the harshness and lack of consideration that LA can have.

Arriving at his ex wife’s place of residence with her slimy L.A. boyfriend, Fin is reprimanded by her, her boyfriend and his sullen daughter, Claudia (Aubrey Peebles), who is sullen because she’s a teenager and it’s a liability. Due to a prodigious flood, the problem quickly swims up and bites the boyfriend in the ass for being an LA phony. It is hard to tell whether the writer and director believe that Hollywood is unsympathetic or think that America believes that Hollywood is unsympathetic. This question might seem moot, but is actually very important in determining whether SHARKNADO has shades of GLEN OR GLENDA (1953) bad- film-with-a-heart brilliance or whether it is actually pandering just as badly as one would have to assume it is.

Either way, Los Angeles is facing sharky judgment and Ian Ziering needs to find his son, who it turns out is in flight school. This initiates the film’s second act, which is weirder and more judgmental of Los Angeles culture and by extension, the film industry. In an abandoned flooded cityscape full of sharks, the movie takes on an air of “MULHOLLAND DRIVE meets BIRDEMIC” that might make this movie worth watching for curious film geeks and Bizarro fans. You see a bus driver who has come to town to be an actor and ends up being eaten for it, and hear a weird rant from a paranoid shopkeeper. There is something off kilter about these scenes in a way that transcends bad dialogue. Are these weird grains of sincerity shining through?

During these scenes, you get to experience the thing I really like about SHARKNADO, or just the idea of SHARKNADO. Tornados of sharks are spinning around Los Angeles eating people and a man has taken it upon himself to resolve this. The biggest, most senseless conflict imaginable and Ian Ziering will brave it to reach his son and save a city that the movie implies might not be worth saving. SHARKNADO parallels the experience of being a small budget filmmaker, a person dealing with a ubiquitous shitstorm using only courage and ingenuity and sometimes chainsaws. Saddled with a less than stellar premise, a talentless cast and a sub blockbuster budget, these filmmakers had to create something people would enjoy. Does Fin do a better job of it than the directors, writers and cast of SHARKNADO? Yeah. But that’s why we create heroes.

Somehow in quixotic combat with hopelessness, the hero wins the day, making this the most recklessly optimistic film ever made. “Will people watch a film called SHARKNADO with the least popular 90210 actor at the helm? YES!” “Can a man take on a Sharknado? YES!” “Can a coherent film be made about a Sharknado?” “YES!” These guys do Ed Wood proud. With the negativity, the cynicism and the constant barrage of bad news around us, a little optimism is a good thing. Sometimes too much optimism is a good thing. If enthusiasm is more important to you than success, you ought to watch SHARKNADO.

But you probably shouldn’t, anyway. SHARKNADO sucks.

© Copyright 2013 by Garrett Cook

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DON’T FEED THE……SHARKS in BAIT (2012)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2013, 3-D, Animals Attack, Australian Horror, B-Movies, Bad Acting, Bad Situations, Daniel I. Russell Columns, DON'T FEED THE..., Guest Columnists, Shark Attacks, Sharks with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by knifefighter

DON’T FEED THE….SHARKS

BAIT (2012)
Movie Review by Daniel I. Russell
(Special Overseas Correspondent)

bait

I have always had a crippling shark phobia. I used to have a toy boat in the bath with a hole in the deck, and for some reason, I imagined sharks inside it, gliding through the dark waters. If you put your eye up to the hole you could… almost…see them…

So yes. Sharks. Terrifying things.

As I grew older, my thoughts matured, and I knew that the odds of being eaten by a shark in England are slim to none. I would never be eaten by a shark. Preposterous! I don’t live anywhere near them!

I sit and write this by the beach in Western Australia, the very same beach where, just this week and the day before Australia Day, great whites were spotted just 30 metres out. On Saturday, the water was thick with boats, surfers, swimmers, pets and children playing. It was my own Amity Island, and I was vigilant.

So what better time to spend the evening watching the latest in a long line of shark movies: BAIT. Plus it’s Australian (well, half-Australian. It’s a joint venture with Singapore).

BAIT puts a spin on a traditional formula. You won’t find survivors on a boat (JAWS, JAWS 2), stranded in the ocean (DEEP WATER, THE REEF) or any other completely ludicrous set up (2011’s SHARK NIGHT). During a robbery at a supermarket, a tsunami hits, flooding the shopping area and underground car park. Most shoppers drown or are pulverised by shelves and the like, leaving a band of merry survivors trapped in cars or perched atop the supermarket shelves.

Oh, and there’s a 12-foot great white shark in there doing its Friday big shop.

Without spoiling much, and this has been mentioned in plenty of other reviews so I’m guilt free here, there are actually two sharks. This isn’t done as a twist or anything, it’s just like, hey, there’s two sharks: one for the supermarket, one for the car park.

How terribly convenient.

So plenty of carnage with twice the shark then, eh?

Let’s sink our teeth into this and say that straight off the bat, you know what you’re in for. The first half an hour introduces the viewer to our soon-to-be survivors. In any survival movie, you must want the survivors to…well, survive. Or is that cliché? Oh, how this might have been achieved with some fleshed out characters and good acting. Despite the numerous signs that this is an Australian movie (Look! The hero eats Milo! The villain drives a Ute! I was expecting a kangaroo in a corked hat riding on the back of a shark to be honest…) accents are mixed, which ruins the set up a little. Dialogue is flat and lazy, as are the stock characters. The haunted hero is boring, his love interest does nothing throughout the movie, as does the stereotypical cop. Out of the dozen or so characters, more than half could have been dropped from the movie with the slightest of impacts. Perhaps this freeing up of screen time might make us care about the few survivors, giving them the room to breathe and be more rounded out. As it stands, I had as much empathy for the characters as I do for Idol contestants.

And let’s get this out there. One of the bad guys is played by Julian McMahon (aka, Dr. Doom in the FANTASTIC FOUR movies). I’ve had people complain that as a villain, he isn’t menacing enough and is as bland as beige wallpaper. After ruining one of Marvel’s greatest super villains (for some), here  he is with his brush and paste, beiging it up once more. Plus, isn’t he Australian? An Australian in an Australian movie…that doesn’t sound Australian. Hmm.

But the sharks, yeah! The sharks!

Remember DEEP BLUE SEA? I actually quite like that movie. But that came out in…1999? One of the first uses of CGI for shark effects in a major movie. I can also remember Casper Van Dien appearing in a straight-to-DVD feature called SHARK ATTACK. The cover for the sequel contained a shark that looked like it has been made out of a washing-up bottle on a kids’ TV show.

We’re now in 2013, and from this movie, it appears shark special effects have gone nowhere in the last 15 or so years.

The CGI is horrific, evening cartoonish at times. This was obviously designed with the 3D at the forefront of their designs (I watched it in 2D) but even then, the makers seemed to have this in mind for the first five minutes and then forget about the 3D until the finale. It’s as obvious as rewatching JAWS 3-D (1983).

But none of these issues can compete with the sloppy writing. Bad, bad dialogue. Twists that are so obvious they don’t actually qualify as twists. Shotguns that sit in water for hours and still work. And then can shoot underwater. I’m no gun expert, but this feels a tad off.

(Actually, after writing this I went and did some research. Shotguns can fire underwater—so that’s today’s something new learned out of the way. Thanks BAIT! —but lose momentum almost instantly by the drag of the water. You can shoot a paddling pool through the water and it won’t pop. YouTube it.)

In summary, BAIT is a bad, bad movie, and this is from someone who loves shark movies.

A movie like this isn’t supposed to be an Oscar winner, but if you want some good old fashioned shark-munching fun, there’s better out there. There’s also worse. Let’s separate the great whites from the cookie cutters.

SOME OF THE BEST (AND WORST)  SHARK ATTACK MOVIES

JAWS_Movie_poster

JAWS (1975)
My own greatest movie ever made that stands up to repeated viewings. Forever. The shark is out of sight for the most part, jump scenes are textbook and wonders are done with the score. An immortal movie that will never truly go away. Plus, characterisation is second to none with our favourite three men and a boat. That’s some bad hat, Harry.

220px-Jaws2_poster

JAWS 2 (1978)
I also like JAWS 2 very much. Things get straight into it in comparison with the first as the mystery was given away with the first movie. Great performances all round. I can remember watching this one over and over as a kid.

deepblueseaDEEP BLUE SEA (1999)
Was it makos here instead of great whites? I can’t remember. Been that long since I’ve seen this one. Sharks are genetically modified to give them bigger brains so scientists can extract more of the ick that can cure Alzheimer’s. What can go wrong? More action than horror (think DEEP RISING and ALIEN RESURECTION from around the same time), this still has some great moments. And Samuel L. Jackson. How can you forget the woman who is bitten in half and still keeps swimming for a few more seconds? Lovely. I’ll have to watch this again to see how it’s aged.

thereefTHE REEF (2010)
A fairly recent Australian movie in the lines of DEEP WATER (2006), based on a true story and an absolute corker. A fella who delivers boats for a living takes a few friends and family out, but the boat hits a reef and starts to sink. The solution? Swim for an island a few kilometres away. The problem? A shark takes a liking to the group of swimmers. Fantastically shot and heart wrenchingly realistic, this has one of the most upsetting scenes (for me) I’ve seen in a horror movie in a good few years. Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t have much in the way of blood and guts. It doesn’t need it.

The creature from "Peter Benchley's CREATURE"

The creature from “Peter Benchley’s CREATURE”

PETER BENCHLEY’S CREATURE (1998)
Benchley! The master! The brain behind JAWS! The man behind…this piece of crap? What could be worse than a shark eating people? How about a man-shark that looks like something the Power Rangers forgot to fight? A mess.

redwaterRED WATER  (2003)
Rapper Coolio (remember him?) was nominated for an Academy Award in this big budget thriller about a bull shark terrorising a river community. Actually, he wasn’t. He was poop in this, and everything about the movie is poop. I would go into more constructive feedback, but I already spent 90 minutes watching this that I’m not getting back and don’t want to waste any more.

SharkAttack_Cover-265x393SHARK ATTACK (1999)
Title needs an exclamation mark, in my opinion. Casper Van Dien was in STARSHIP TROOPERS and nothing good since. Poor bloke. He’d make a great John Sheppard in the MASS EFFECT movie. Anyhoo, here he stars with GHOSTBUSTERS’ Ernie Hudson (why Ernie? Why?). I won’t sum up the plot, or acting, or effects. Just watch the trailer. It basically shows the complete movie in about three minutes.

sharkattack2SHARK ATTACK 2 (2000)
Better? I think this is better than the first one despite the aforementioned atrocious DVD cover. This one scores points for having a very well done non-CGI man bitten in half. I think he waves to some kids on his way down. Nice. Title definitely needs an exclamation mark.

megsharkMEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS (2009)
The movie that started so many pub-based arguments. Not the discussion over which hideous CGI creature would win (and to be honest, who gives a toss?) but the immortal question: can a shark jump out of the sea high enough to eat a plane? The answer, it appears, is hell yes. Discovery Channel: pull your socks up. I want less ecological studies and more plane-munching.

A film that is so unbelievably bad…it’s worth a watch. Get some friends, get some drinks, and prepare to experience a master class in floating turdology. Ladies and gentlemen, MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS.

© Copyright 2013 by David I. Russell

(For more ruminations by Mr. Russell, you can check out his blog here).

“MY BOTTOM FIVE” BEST OF 2011 By L.L. Soares

Posted in 2011, Best Of Lists, Dark Comedies, Fantasy, Fast Cars, LL Soares Reviews, Nicolas Cage Movies, Sharks with tags , , , , , , , on January 2, 2012 by knifefighter

As I have done in previous years, I wrote up a Top 10 List of the Best Movies of the Year, but we only touched on the first five in our big end of the year CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT BEST OF THE YEAR column. So Here are the rest of the movies that filled out my Top 10.

To recap, here are my Top 5 films as mentioned in the regular column:

L.L. Soares’s BEST OF 2011

  1. THE WOMAN (directed by Lucky McKee)
  2. HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (FULL SEQUENCE) (directed by Tom Six)
  3. THE SKIN I LIVE IN (directed by Pedro Almodovar)
  4. MELONCHOLIA (directed by Lars von Trier) and DRIVE (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn) (TIE)
  5. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (directed by David Fincher)

And now on to the Bottom Five of my Top 10 List:

My Number 6 choice for best movie of 2011 is TROLL HUNTER, a little horror/fantasy flick from Norway about a guy who goes around killing giant trolls for a living. Light hurts them and can turn them to stone, but the guy starts to question just why he’s doing this, and he considers retiring from the job when he’s harassed a little too much by superiors. Filmed in a fake documentary style, it features reporters traveling around with the troll hunter, as he reveals his secrets to a nation that had no idea that trolls were real, and that someone was keeping them in check. (Directed by Andre Ovredal)

My Number 7 choice is a  tie between two superhero blockbuster films. First off, in a summer full of supherheroes on the big screen, THOR stood out from the pack. Not only is THOR a great character to begin with, but the story takes us from Asgard, the world of the Norse gods, to Earth, as a banished Thor has to earn his way back to Viking Heaven. With Chris Hemsworth in a star-making performance as the god of thunder.  (Directed by Kenneth Branagh)

Close on its heels, was X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, where it’s explained how rival mutant leaders Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) first met, first assembled their mutant teams, and how all this ties in with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I wasn’t expecting much with this one, especially since the last X-Men movie, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, was a big disappointment for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by FIRST CLASS. It was an above-average superhero origin story and easily as good, in its own way, as THOR. (Directed by Matthew Vaughn).

My Number 8 choice is Jason Reitman’s YOUNG ADULT, a movie that I didn’t review for this site. It was reviewed here not too long ago by staff member Kelly Laymon, who didn’t mince words about how much she hated it. While I liked Kelly’s review, I had the complete opposite reaction to this one. Not only is it the best script Diablo Cody has written so far (she’s best know for writing JUNO, in 2007), but I think it took  real balls for her and director Jason Reitman to make a movie where the lead character is such an unlikable, delusional, destructive personality as is Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary. But, this being Theron, she barrels through the movie like a guided missile, and it’s just fascinating to see her attempt to destroy the lives of everyone around her. In the end,  I thought it was a brave performance, and a satisfying one. Patton Oswalt also turns in a terrific performance as the disabled guy who’s had a crush on her since high school, and who finally gets to hang out with the most popular girl in school (even if she is now completely bonkers!). (Directed by Jason Reitman)

My Number 9 choice is RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, which was another surprise. After Tim Burton pretty much single-handedly killed off the APES franchise with his 2001 remake of PLANET OF THE APES, I figured the series was not going to continue, but luckily I was wrong. Pretending as if the Burton remake never happened, RISE goes back to the origins of the talking, thinking apes who would later become the dominant species on Earth. The origin story is clever, revolving around an anti-Alzheimer’s drug gone wrong, and while the movie goes really heavy on the CGI effects (there are tons of CGI apes and chimps in this one), and I normally hate CGI, this time it actually worked for me. Not only was RISE an unexpected treat, but it hopefully resuscitated the entire series. This isn’t the best APES movie ever – it has its flaws, too – but it’s definitely a big step in the right direction. (Directed by Rupert Wyatt).

And my Number 10 choice is another tie. SEASON OF THE WITCH and DRIVE ANGRY 3DTwo really fun movies starring Nicolas Cage. I enjoyed both of them for different reasons, but the one common factor is that Cage, even when he is in less than Oscar-worthy films, is just very entertaining to watch. In WITCH, he plays a knight who agrees to accompany a suspected witch to her trial in Medieval times (along with his war-hardened buddy, Ron Perlman). In DRIVE ANGRY, Cage is an escapee from Hell driving a fast car and trying to save his baby grandson from devil-worshippers. Both movies are entertaining as hell and deserve a look see. (SEASON OF THE WITCH was directed by Dominic Sena/DRIVE ANGRY was directed by Patrick Lussier).

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

While the Korean film, I SAW THE DEVIL, technically came out in 2010, most people here didn’t see it until 2011, so I’ll include it here. It easily could have made my top 5, though. An amazing movie about a violent killer of women (Min-sik Choi, probably best known as the star of 2003’s OLDBOY) who murders the pregnant wife of a police detective (Byung-hun Lee). The detective then makes it his mission to track the killer down and administer a vicious and prolonged vengeance.  By doing this, the man of law becomes as insane and sadistic as his quarry. Not for the squeamish. A terrific, satisfying movie by director Jee-woon Kim, who also gave us 2003’s A TALE OF TWO SISTERS and 2008’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD. I can’t praise this one enough. (Directed by Jee-woon Kim)

13 ASSASSINS – Takashi Miike is one of the most fascinating directors around today, mostly because he’s so unpredictable. He makes a lot of movies, but they’re all so different. He’s done everything from horror, to surrealism, to children’s movies, to yakuza (gangster) films. His 2011 offering was an amazing samurai flick that started out a bit slow, but by mid-way evolved into a breath-taking bloodbath. The sword-fighting lasts a long time, but it rarely gets boring.  And some parts are downright beautiful. (Directed by Takashi Miike)

LIMITLESS – Bradley Cooper showed us that does indeed have a future as a leading man apart from the HANGOVER films, in this story about a man down on his luck, who takes the ultimate smart drug, and becomes a genius. His life changes completely, and he even draws the attention of a business giant played by Robert DeNiro, and everything is great, until the pills start to run out. A solid little film that could have been a throwaway, but stays with you.

TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL – a wickedly funny indie gem, where two rednecks are mistaken forhomicidal hillbillies by a group of traveling college kids. In reality, Tucker and Dale are the good guys, and the kids are the ones doing all the violence, with often slapstick-funny results. (Directed by Eli Craig)

SHARK NIGHT 3D – Another movie where I went into it with zero expectations. A PG-13, CGI-heavy killer shark movie in 3D? I wasn’t expecting the second coming of JAWS here. However, as it unfolded, I found myself being very entertained by the various characters and their revelations. Not a great movie by any stretch, but a lot of fun. (Directed by David R. Ellis)

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 – The latest installment in the franchise that won’t die (now that Lions Gate has retired the SAW movies) is just as good as the first two, and continues with the fake survelliance video footage storyline – a formula that continues to work for some reason. Sure, some of it is just cheap scares, but it works, and I enjoyed how the ending of this one played out. (Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman)

KABOOM – I’ve been a fan of director Greg Araki since I first saw THE LIVING END back in 1992. He has a style all his own, and I can see how a lot of people would hate his movies, but I personally love them and look forward to each new release. Involving dopplegangers, menacing men in animal masks and the end of the world, KABOOM is a wild and often funny ride through Araki’s demented brain. (Directed by Greg Araki)

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – Woody Allen’s latest film, a breezy light comedy starring Owen Wilson as a modern-day writer in Paris, magically transported each night at midnight to Paris in the 1920s, where he gets to hang out withe luminaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, is not exactly the kind of movie we normally review here at Cinema Knife Fight, but I enjoyed it so much, I really wanted to mention it here. It is a fantasy film, after all. And possibly Woody’s best movie in a decade or two. (Directed by Woody Allen).

HUGO – Martin Scorcese’s new film is a visual smorgasbord of imagery, and the first movie since AVATAR to do justice to 3D effects, HUGO would have scored higher for me if not for Sasha Baron Cohen’s complete caricature of a Station Inspector in a big Parisian train station (everyone else in the movie is so well developed, he seems out of step here), but, even more so, because this movie, despite being a beautiful love letter to the pioneers of silent cinema, just failed to really connect with me fully on an emotional level. It was great to look at, and any movie where early filmmaker Georges Melies is a main character is bound to capture my imagination. But I never really felt that it grabbed me on a most basic level. I really wished I liked this movie more, but it was still a technical achievement, and one of my favorite Scorcese movies in a long time. Definitely worth seeing on the big screen. (Directed by Martin Scorcese)

I guess this all means that 2011 was a pretty good year for going to the movies. Here’s hoping that 2012 is even better!

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares


Pickin’ The Carcass: THE REEF (2010)

Posted in 2011, Animals Attack, Australian Horror, Michael Arruda Reviews, Pickin' the Carcass, Sharks with tags , , , , on September 23, 2011 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: THE REEF (2010)
DVD Review By Michael Arruda

 

I know, it’s September, and summer is over, so who’s really in the mood for a shark movie right now? Hmm, well SHARK NIGHT 3D (2011) was just released in theaters, so someone must be! Anyway, today on PICKIN’ THE CARCASS we have a shark movie, THE REEF (2010).

The plot is simple enough. A group of friends, Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), Matt (Gyton Grantley), Suzie (Adrienne Pickering), and Kate (Zoe Naylor) get together for a sailing trip on the waters off Australia, along the Great Barrier Reef. Their boat strikes an underwater rock, and it capsizes, and the four friends find themselves stranded.

Luke points out that the current is taking them further out to sea, and they’re in waters where few people travel and where few planes fly overhead. If they leave the boat and swim, they could reach nearby Turtle Island, which Luke believes is about 10 miles from them. The others aren’t keen on this idea, as they know sharks are in the water, plus Matt and Suzie admit that they’re not strong swimmers. Luke argues that the boat will eventually sink, and when it does, they will be that much further from land, and so they really should start swimming as soon as possible. The friends eventually agree, and grabbing some floats to help them along, they leave their capsized boat and begin swimming towards Turtle Island.

Of course, since this is a horror movie, before they even see Turtle Island, they spot a shark in the water, and sure enough, it’s a great white shark with an appetite. Since they are in the wide open ocean, they don’t have too many escape options, and they become terrified real quick. As the shark hunts them, they find there is little they can do other than to keep swimming in the hope that shark will leave them alone and they can reach Turtle Island.

I have to admit, THE REEF was a pleasant surprise. It gets off to a quick start—the boat crashes within the first 15 minutes of the movie— and stays strong throughout.

Now, THE REEF is not an action-oriented horror movie, so don’t expect JAWS (1975) or a CGI extravaganza. In fact, in terms of pacing, THE REEF is actually a bit slow, but when you’re terrified, slow only makes things scarier, so the pace works to the movie’s advantage. Where THE REEF excels is in delivering a sense of fear and foreboding that gets more intense at the movie goes on. As such, THE REEF is a study in fear, examining what it’s like to defenseless and vulnerable in an open ocean with a great white shark on the prowl. I was very uncomfortable while watching this movie, and this was a good thing.

THE REEF is a serious production, well-handled by everyone involved. The acting is decent, and while none of the four players completely blew me away, none of them stood out like a sore thumb either. They were sufficiently terrified throughout the movie, and better yet, they were thoroughly believable.

Andrew Traucki wrote and directed this movie, and he wrote and directed a similar movie called BLACK WATER (2007) which featured almost the same exact plot. In BLACK WATER, a group of friends go on a boating trip and end up being hunted by a monstrous crocodile. Both these films were Australian productions, and while the plots of both were nearly the same, I liked THE REEF much better than BLACK WATER. In BLACK WATER, the characters end up being stuck in a tree, while the crocodile waits for them below, which I found less suspenseful than the situation in THE REEF, where the folks are actually in the same ocean water as the shark, and they’re completely defenseless. I also remember the crocodile looking a little fake, whereas the shark in THE REEF looks real.

The shark looks real because for the most part Traucki used a real shark. CGI effects were used sparingly. Now, this being said, because real shark footage was used, don’t expect exciting scenes of shark maulings. They don’t happen here, and so THE REEF, in spite of its R rating, isn’t really all that graphic. The shark attacks, for the most part, occur off camera. However, this doesn’t hurt the film. The kill scenes are scary and sad. You get to know these four folks, and you don’t want them to become shark food. Traucki does a really fine job editing these attack scenes, making them quite effective.

There’s also a nice music score by Rafael May. No, it’s not John Williams’ JAWS score or even on that level, but it’s a very haunting score that adds to the fear induced by this movie. It’s more than just generic scary music.

By far, my favorite part of THE REEF is the fear the film generates. I really believed these folks were in the open ocean being preyed upon by a great white shark, not some cartoonish looking CGI shark that will swallow them in one bite and eat entire boats, etc. No, this shark nibbles, bites, tears, and ultimately eats.

It also works because it keeps things simple. There aren’t many questions about character motivations or plot points. These people are in the ocean and all they want to do is get out of the ocean before they become shark food.

I really liked THE REEF and highly recommend it. Sure, summer is over, but if you like shark movies, if you like to be scared and made to feel uncomfortable, then you should check this one out. THE REEF is very good at what it does.

Wanna go for one last swim before autumn arrives? Then jump into THE REEF. Just pray that you make it back out alive.

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© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda