Archive for the SyFy Channel Movies 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

Remote Outpost Takes Us on a Journey Down THE RIVER!

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, Bruce Campbell, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Supernatural, SyFy Channel Movies, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST
Up THE RIVER without a you-know-what…
By Mark Onspaugh

Rivers make swell metaphors. Whether one is journeying through the life of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) in Life on the Mississippi (1883) or into hearts of darkness and minds of madness with Colonel Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW (1979), a river can provide all sorts of archetypes and enough nifty symbols for Carl Jung and John Campbell to go mano-a-mano, with Terrence Malick refereeing, and Freud and Fellini cheering them on.

THE RIVER is an ABC mid-season replacement series starring Bruce Greenwood (of NOWHERE MAN, 1995-96, BELOW, 2002, JOHN FROM CINCINNATI, 2007 and STAR TREK 2009). Greenwood is Dr. Emmet Cole, the much-beloved host and star of the nature series “The Undiscovered Country.” America and much of the world has grown up with the series, armchair crew members as Cole journeys across the globe with his wife Tess (Leslie Hope of 24, 2001-2002 and FAUX BABY 2008) and his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson of THE RUINS, 2008, THE CRAZIES, 2010 and THE GREY, 2012). The Coles are the perfect family, traveling to exotic places and teaching their audience about nature and ecology. The show seems very much modeled on the late Steve Irwin’s CROCODILE HUNTER (1997-2004), although silverbacks like me will recall the 60s travelogue series, THREE PASSPORTS TO ADVENTURE, with the Linker family (Hal, Halla and son David). Dr. Cole’s signature line is “There’s magic out there!”

Now son Lincoln Cole is all grown up and in med school, both worshipping his father and hating him for making their lives a televised fishbowl. His father disappeared some six months ago in the Amazon and is presumed dead, but suddenly a signal is received from a rescue beacon. An expedition to find Cole and his ship, The Magus, is put together by Tess and Emmet’s producer and friend Clark Quietly (Paul Blackthorne from one of my past favorites: THE DRESDEN FILES, 2007-2008, and THE GATES, 2010). Also aboard are son Lincoln; lovely Lena Landry, daughter of a missing cameraman (Eloise Mumford from CRASH, 2008 and LONE STAR, 2010); mechanic Emilio Valenzuela (Daniel Zacapa of SE7EN, 1995, FALLEN ANGELS , 2006 and FLASHFORWARD, 2009); his daughter Jahel (Paulina Gaitan), cameraman AJ Poulain (Shaun Parkes of the 2006 season of DR. WHO and the short-lived show, NO ORDINARY FAMILY, 2011) and Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann, who was previously in RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, 2004, KING KONG, 2005, GRIMM LOVE, 2006 and FLASHFORWARD, 2009), whose job it is to protect everyone.

The Magus is found, seemingly empty… But a locked room is found, and inside are bloodstains and a curious carved wood artifact, which is a sort of soul catcher. After accidentally freeing and contending with a malevolent poltergeist, Lincoln recreates the ceremony his father used to trap the entity… But who or what have they caught? Is it Emmet Cole? Lena’s father? Something wholly inhuman?

In the control room are dozens of tapes with hours and hours of footage to review. For the series the Magus has been outfitted with cameras in every room and a diligent cameraman documented everything else—things on shore, in the water, in the sky, etc. Many of the tapes are unlabeled, but Lena recalls Emmet contacting her about a nasty bug bite on his hand—they use the progress of the infection to put the latest tapes in chronological order. It’s a nifty bit of detective work, but also makes us wonder why Emmet was contacting Lena instead of his wife or his son who is in medical school.

As you have surmised, THE RIVER is very much a “found footage” sort of program, the sub-genre (usually of horror) first popularized by THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). Sometimes we see film footage as the crew reviews tapes or the cameraman is at work, other times we are privy to what the camera is filming while everyone is asleep or occupied elsewhere. If this seems familiar, one of the creators of THE RIVER is Oren Peli, director and creator of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise (2007, 2010, 2011, 2012) and Michael R. Perry, a writer of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (also a producer on MILLENNIUM, 1996-1999 and a writer on the DEAD ZONE TV series from 2002 to 2007). Some familiar gags from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are seen in THE RIVER: shadowy presences, things amiss that are barely glimpsed (though a DVR offers some chance for review a movie does not) and a signature effect where the video counter moves forward very quickly, and we see something transpiring over long period in just seconds. (This was especially eerie in the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, where the sleepwalking wife stood over her husband for something like an hour as he slept.)

Oren Peli, director of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is one of the creators of the new ABC show THE RIVER.

In the second episode, Jahel swallowed a dragonfly which was either Emmet Cole’s soul or astral body… He warned his family to turn back, but Tess took this as proof he is alive and in need of their help. We also learned that Emmet was/is searching for the “source of real magic” somewhere far upriver, and Captain Brynildson is working for some person or group back on land who does not want that source found.

(This “source” keeps reminding me of the “golden light in a cave” from LOST, that was apparently where baby Smoke Monsters come from.)

The third episode was especially eerie. The crew is going through the jungle and discovers an ancient cemetery of European settlers/missionaries from the 1700’s. A local legend has it that a child was lost from this group, and now her ghost plagues the natives in the area. To appease her, they hang dozens of dolls in a tree… Seeing lots of creepy dolls in the jungle is bad enough, but one is the teddy bear Lincoln threw into the Indian Ocean when he felt he had outgrown it… Years ago… In an ocean which is something like 10,000 miles away at the little ghost flies. Lincoln, perhaps feeling insecure, takes the bear, which ticks the ghost girl off… So said ghost (never seen) kidnaps Tess to be her new mommy. When returning the bear doesn’t work, Lincoln finds the grave of the child’s mother and reunites the two and his mother is returned unharmed. (Why a ghost who can make dolls fall out of a tree could not find her own mother’s grave is something for Peter Venkman to discuss in a panel with Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddmore.)

Jonas "The Hanging Man" from THE RIVER.

Each episode takes us further upriver, and presumably the laws of physics and normal, everyday life will begin to break down more and more. Each episode also presents the crew dealing with a local legend or curse. I especially liked “A Better Man”, where the cameraman from Emmet’s crew is found hanged in a tree – but still alive and delirious from malaria… Turns out this fellow, named Jonas, courted some bad juju by photographing a native funeral. He did this despite Emmet telling him such things were not to be filmed, and thus ended up stealing the soul of an elder… Branded a thief by The Powers That Be, he was then doomed to become The Hanged Man, ever suffering but never dying. The legend tied in nicely with a tarot deck Jahel carries, as well as a scary folk tale Captain Brynildson’s granny used to tell him. (It also riffs on the story of Jonah and the Whale, especially when the elements threaten to tear the ship apart if Jonas isn’t given up.) The final resolution is organic and makes sense… It also presents the possibility of a romantic triangle between Lena, Lincoln and Jonas.

Show creators Peli and Perry were initially going to make THE RIVER another low-budget horror film in the vein of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, but felt they had enough ideas for a series. Steven Spielberg agreed and is exec producing. The initial order was for eight episodes, and we will be halfway through this first string with the airing of “Peaches” this week.

This certainly is the year for the supernatural on television, and more shows are on the way. But two water-based shows in the past did not fare very well, SURFACE (2005-2006) and INVASION (2005-2006). True, those shows were both science fiction, but their respective storylines were fantastic enough to reach that gray and sparkly area where SF and fantasy collide (as they did so alarmingly in KRULL, 1983). Whether THE RIVER continues beyond its initial order depends a great deal on the cast of characters. So far, the most likeable character for my money is Dr. Emmet Cole, who is only seen in flashbacks and found footage (or as a dragonfly). All of the cast are good actors, and there is good writing and direction, but I haven’t felt compelled to watch—I am more curious than caring. I know I keep touting LOST, but I would add THE X-FILES and FRINGE, as TV shows where the characters and their chemistry are a real joy to witness. People who are fully fleshed out that you care about. Part of the joy of watching a series is having a favorite character, and we who love genre TV often have a list of standouts from shows going back to childhood. It isn’t enough to be mildly curious—I can wait and read a summary on Wikipedia or ask a diehard friend. These have to be people that have an integrity, a life beyond the dimensions of the screen. For me, THE RIVER is intriguing but not yet must-viewing. I’ll definitely stay for the full eight, but beyond that… there’d better be some real magic in there.

##

UPDATE: ALCATRAZ has almost lost me. Again I am curious, but even the awesome Jorge Garcia is not enough to make me want to tune in… I will probably give them one more episode (maybe two) and then I may make my escape.

Two new shows I very much enjoy are GRIMM (Silas Weir Mitchell as a reformed “blut bador Big Bad Wolf is hilarious—he was also the crazy inmate who escaped with the rest in the first season of PRISON BREAK, 2005-2009), and LOST GIRL, which is sort of “Succubus in the City” without being annoying… Well, it can be a little annoying, but it’s also clever and sexy. Both shows have inventive new riffs on fairy tales and legends. Grimm goes into BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER territory but makes it its own, and LOST GIRL is sassy and erotic – definitely a show that many women I know like… It may be a show you can share with your significant other.

##

This week’s GUILTY PLEASURE: we all have them, songs, stories and television we are embarrassed to share, often disavowing them or hiding those incriminating CD’s, books and DVD’s when friends or family come to call… Then again, such fare is great if it’s just you and some friends who love cinematic cheese to go with beer, pizza and other forms of contraband.

I recently watched ALIEN APOCALYPSE (2005), an original SyFy movie made when the cable network was still Sci-Fi. Besides the title, the film stars Bruce Campbell, who is known to all genre geeks as Ash in THE EVIL DEAD (1981) and its sequels. Bruce Campbell fighting aliens? I’m in.

This is a movie Campbell pitched to Sci-Fi with buddy Josh Becker, who wrote and directed this… um, film. Campbell and his fellow astronauts have been away for forty years, and return to find the Earth overrun with insect overlords who use remaining humans as slaves and (sometimes) gourmet treats—they are especially fond of biting off a live human’s head.

So, it’s basically PLANET OF THE APES (1968) with bugs, yes? Well… not quite. Our first sign of trouble (and a low budget) is that we never see the probe Campbell and pals return to Earth in… We see something like a meteor that crashes behind a mountain and explodes. Later, Bruce, his captain and two women astronauts are making their way toward the city. (By the way, Campbell’s character is named Ivan Hood, but I will just call him Bruce – he’s freakin’ Bruce Campbell, after all.) Bruce would seem to be the ship’s doctor, but he is actually an osteopath. Why an osteopath is sent on a forty-year mission gives us a clue that this movie will be tongue-in-cheek.

If that weren’t a tip-off, then the aliens’ mission is. The aliens – bipedal insects who are as big as people – are rendered with pretty good CGI, and have green, goopy blood. Why are they here? They want Earth’s wood, which they eat (along with humans). (Need a moment to stop giggling? Okay…) They traveled here in vast ships and command energy weapons and high-tech tanks, but they have humans harvesting their tasty lumber with equipment from the turn of the century. Humans spend a lot of time loading planks onto horse-drawn wagons, all the while gagged. I thought at first the aliens were sensitive to our voices, but no explanation for the gags is given… They are not high-tech gags, just cloth affairs that would not seem out of place in the Middle Ages. Also on the cheap is the alien headquarters, which is a (bad) CGI hive made of highly flammable wood and (one supposes) bug saliva… maybe some human lymph, what do I know?

Bruce learns the President and the entire Congress is hiding in the hills, and manages to escape from the work camp. He gathers a small army and finds the President, who is too disillusioned to fight. Bruce shames him verbally and then heads back to the camp where his fellow astronaut (and love interest) Kelly awaits.

Though the aliens command a vastly superior technology, they seem perpetually surprised when attacked, standing patiently as primitive bow and arrows pierce their exoskeletons and they fall like mandibled bowling pins. In case you were worried, the President and his aged cronies show up like the Calvary at the last minute, but later all agree that Bruce is the real hero—this is confirmed by the THE ROAD WARRIOR-esque narrator who lets us know that even a lantern-jawed osteopath can sometimes fill Charlton Heston’s shoes.

It’s beyond low budget and silly, but it’s still a hoot. Some say Bruce is channeling Ash here, but he seems to me more like Sam Axe, his great character from the current series  BURN NOTICE. There’s a weariness to his character that was missing from Ash, and Ash would never have become an osteopath. Plus, he never says “boomstick” or “screw-heads” – not even once.

ALIEN APOCALYPSE is touted as the highest-rated premier of a Sci-Fi movie – I am not sure if the Debbie Gibson/Tiffany P.O.S. MEGA PYTHON VS GATOROID (2011) beat that, but I’d like to think that the record of “The Chin that Saved Hollywood” is secure. It’s available on DVD and is your duty to rent, in case those cursed xylophagic xenomorphs show up!

That’s all from the Outpost this week… Next time we may finally attend SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, perhaps comparing and contrasting the hellish campuses from 1978 with those of 2000…

Outpost… out.

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

Remote Outpost: ALPHAS

Posted in 2011, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Mutants!, Remote Outpost, SyFy Channel Movies, TV Shows with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2011 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST
ALPHAS: X-Friends
TV Review by Mark Onspaugh

Since you’ve made the trip all the way out here and it will be a few minutes before your O2 tanks are replenished and your fuel cells are replaced, let me give you a friendly tip:

If you are not watching ALPHAS on Syfy, you should give it a try. The first season just concluded and all episodes are now available for download.

ALPHAS is another “costume-less” superhero show. David Strathairn (THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES (2009) and COLD SOULS (2009)] is Dr. Lee Rosen, a psychiatrist charged with finding people who have extraordinary abilities due to genetic mutation, some natural and some not. “Good” Alphas become part of the team or are put to work protecting the nation, while “bad” Alphas are shipped off to Binghampton, a hospital-cum-gulag where those mutants are kept isolated and studied. A terrorist group known as Red Flag is pro-mutant and feels they are the next step in the evolution of humanity. Some Red Flaggers just want to be accepted, but others have a more sinister agenda, as evil mutants often do.

Dr. Rosen is not an Alpha, but he does have a special tie to the group. And his team has some pretty cool powers:

New guy Cameron Hicks has hyperkinethesia, which allows him to process motion and velocity much faster than normal. This gives him unerring aim and allows him to shoot a target via a complex series of ricochets. Hicks is played by Warren Christie [APOLLO 18 (2011) and HAPPY TOWN (2010)].

Nina Theroux is the glamor girl – both literally and in a “magical” sense (although her power is not magic-based). She can “push” people to do whatever she wants. If she tells them to sleep, they pass out immediately. She has been living rent and expense free for years, using her ability to get whatever she wants. Some Alphas are immune to her ability. Nina is played by Laura Mennell [WATCHMEN (2009), THIR13EN GHOSTS (2001)].

Rachel Pirzad has heightened senses, and is also able to heighten one sense at a time to superhuman levels (while her other senses become virtually dormant). This enables her to determine the blood type of a bloodstain just by looking at it or smell the remnants of a chemical agent hours after it has been dispersed. Rachel is played by Azita Ghanizada [BLOOD SHOT (2012) and Xs & Os (2007)].

Bill Harken was a field agent with the FBI. Bill can activate his adrenal system and give himself super-strength and stamina, but can only do so for a short period of time, after which he must recover. He supplements his power with a knowledge of police work and investigative techniques. Bill is played by Malik Yoba [THIEF (2006)].

Gary Bell is my favorite member of the team. A young man with autism who lives with his mother, Gary can see streams of data flowing through the air (one of the show’s most interesting graphics). Not only can he see them, he can access them and process the information at incredible speed, turning himself into a sort of super-computer (one who would work well in PERSON OF INTEREST). Gary is loyal and extremely blunt, and often contributes inappropriate outbursts. Of a dive hotel where he found one of their quarry: “It’s a no-star hotel with one recommendation: don’t stay there.” Now that the team has become part of the NCIS (National Criminal Investigative Service, the investigative arm of the Department of Defense), Gary will often tell onlookers to “Respect the badge!” Gary is played by Ryan Cartwright [MAD MEN (2009-Present)].

Guests on the show have included genre favorites like Summer Glau [FIREFLY (2002-2003), THE 4400 (2004-2007) and TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (2008-2009)]. Glau’s character Skylar can take random tech and combine them into new and revolutionary devices, and Brent Spiner [Data on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-1994) and was also in INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996)], portrayed an Alpha who was blind but could “see” via sonar, an ability he could manipulate to create damaging vibrations in walls and other surfaces.

The team is constantly bickering and at odds with Dr. Rosen, but always intensely loyal to one another when facing a threat. If this reminds you of Marvel teams like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, it may be because ALPHAS was co-created by Zak Penn, who gave us X-MEN: LAST STAND (2006), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008) and also worked on the screenplay for the upcoming AVENGERS film. His co-creator is Michael Karnow, who was a writer on the cult favorite, TIME SQUAD (2001).

The show is inventive, well-written, well-acted and usually has a surprise or two as well as several ultra-cool moments—what more could you ask for?

ALPHAS shares a common universe with the SyFy shows EUREKA and WAREHOUSE 13. Although I gave up on WAREHOUSE 13 in the first season and never felt compelled to watch EUREKA, I do enjoy ALPHAS and think there is a good chance you will, too.

Your transport is ready… Safe journey back to the domes.

Remote Outpost… out.

© Copyright 2011 by Mark Onspaugh

MEGAPIRANHA!

Posted in 2011, Animals Attack, Giant Monsters, Monsters, Mutants!, Pickin' the Carcass, SyFy Channel Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: MEGAPIRANHA (2010)
By Michael Arruda


It’s just not a good time to be a piranha.

After PIRANHA 3D (2010) topped my list as the worst theatrical horror release of 2010, here comes MEGAPIRANHA (2010) courtesy of the SyFy Channel which, by all accounts, is—even worse. How can you get lower than zero? We’re into negative numbers, I guess.

First of all, I already know what you’re thinking: why in the world would you bother with an original SyFy movie? Good question, and I don’t really have a good answer, except that this one starred Barry Williams from “The Brady Bunch!” I know, that’s really not such a good reason. My only other defense is that I’m a sucker for giant monster movies, and so I continue the elusive search for a good giant monster movie. After watching MEGAPIRANHA on DVD, the search goes on.

The movie opens in Venezuela with a boatload of people meeting their gruesome deaths at the teeth of vicious piranha in a scene that is about as dull and unexciting as a death scene featuring hungry piranha can be. Turns out that one of the victims was a U.S. ambassador, and the reports coming out of Venezuela are that the ambassador was assassinated.

Enter Secretary of State Bob Grady (Barry Williams) (who knew that Greg Brady would grow up to become Secretary of State!) who vows to get to the bottom of this mystery. He sends in military man Jason Fitch (Paul Logan) to find out just exactly what happened in Venezuela. Fitch looks like he was kicked out of Sylvester Stallone’s THE EXPENDABLES for being too nice!

Fitch hooks up with beautiful scientist Sarah Monroe (former pop star Tiffany) and they promptly fall in love (gee, that’s believable!). Monroe informs Fitch that she and her buddy scientists had been in the process of experimenting with genetic mutations in order to help the food supply for the world’s hungry— ah, such noble scientists— when they accidentally created a genetically mutated piranha— ah, such careless scientists. Not to worry, Sarah and her buddies destroyed the monster piranha, or so they thought. Turns out their deadly creations are on the loose and doubling in size ever few hours. Not only that, but they’re heading for Florida— mega piranhas’ destination of choice for Spring Break— unless Sarah and Fitch can stop them.

And it won’t be easy, because there’s a disgruntled South American Colonel (David Labiosa) who’s out to stop our heroes at every turn, because it seems, that’s what disgruntled South American colonels do.

What I want to know is, if the scientists were working on improving the food supply, what the heck were they doing experimenting on piranhas? I mean, who the hell eats piranhas? — ah, stupid, stupid scientists.

So, that’s the plot. The piranhas get bigger and keep attacking people, Fitch and Sarah invent ways to stop the piranhas from reaching Florida, ways that continually fail because the piranhas do reach Florida, and the evil colonel and his soldiers invent ways to stop Fitch and Sarah, ways that also continually fail, as Fitch and Sarah also make it to Florida.

From start to finish, MEGAPIRANHA is a mega mess.

The acting is horrible. Paul Logan as Jason Fitch looks like he should be playing a spoof of his character. He looks like he signed up to star in SCARY MOVIE 23 or something, as if he’s waiting for the script to be funny. As Sarah Monroe, Tiffany is pretty much awful.

Then there’s Barry Williams, Greg Brady himself, as the Secretary of State. Williams isn’t half bad, and he’s actually one of the better actors in the movie. Too bad I don’t believe he’s Secretary of State. That I never bought. Had he been some businessman interested in purchasing giant piranha, yeah, that I could have believed, but Secretary of State? Nope.

And his performance as the Secretary of State isn’t helped by the fact that nearly every time we see him, he’s alone. He’s talking to Fitch on his cell phone in his car; he’s alone. He’s walking along the street talking to Fitch on his cell phone; he’s alone. He’s the friggin Secretary of State! Where’s his entourage? Security personnel? Aides? The press?

That’s really the biggest problem with MEGAPIRANHA. It’s not believable in the least. Sure, I suppose you could argue that a movie about giant piranhas is not supposed to be believable, but it’s no secret, that the best horror films, regardless of their plot, are the ones that make the audience believe in what’s going on. To do that, you need convincing acting, which this movie doesn’t have, good writing, and creative directing, two other things this movie doesn’t have.

MEGAPIRANHA was written and directed by Eric Forsberg, so he gets to take the heat for both the lousy script and weak direction. The screenplay is plain awful, sorry to say. The dialogue is phony and the story just as bad.

Direction? Not very much. There’s not a memorable scene to be found, and the pacing is horrible. It just moves from one scene to another without any sense of dramatic build-up. I thought I was watching a bunch of commercials strewn together. I wasn’t drawn into this story at all.

I hate to be so critical, but in this business I have to call it like I see it, and in this one, I didn’t see much. Maybe Forsberg needs to do more rewrites before he films his next movie.

The CGI special effects are as fake-looking as you would expect in a SyFy movie. I’ve seen better visuals on my screen saver.

Skip MEGAPIRANHA. There’s nothing of value here.

About the only thing this flick is good for is fish bait.

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© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda