Archive for Tara Reid

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

AMERICAN REUNION (2012)

Posted in 2012, Comedies, LL Soares Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Sequels, Sex Comedies with tags , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by knifefighter

AMERICAN REUNION (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

There were times when I was sitting in the audience, watching AMERICAN REUNION, and wondering, “What’s the point?” Is there really a need for a new sequel to AMERICAN PIE? Are these characters even relevant anymore?

If I have to be honest, the answer is no. I really don’t know why AMERICAN REUNION was made. But I did laugh a few times, and there were moments when I felt a twinge of nostalgia. And hell, there’s a lot worse stuff out there getting made every year. So why not?

This time around, the gang from the original AMERICAN PIE (1999)  are either in or approaching their early 30s, and things just aren’t the same. The series’ hero, Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) has married his high school sweetheart, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) and they have a new baby. But they haven’t been intimate in months and are starting to worry that their marriage might be falling apart. So what will rejuvenate them? A trip back home for their high school reunion!

The rest of the gang is here, too. Including Chris Klein as Oz, now a celebrity anchor on a sports channel (and a competitor on a “Dancing with the Stars” type show), and he’s got a hot but promiscuous bimbo wife, Mia (Katrina Bowden); Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is married with a baby of his own; Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) has traveled the world on his motorcycle; and Stifler (Seann William Scott) lives with his mother and is still the same moronic prankster he always was. Except now he works as a temp at a big corporation, where he acts as if he’s one of the bosses.

And of course there’s Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad, and Jennifer Coolidge as Stifler’s mom.

There are a lot of regrets in this movie. Coming back to their hometown, Oz immediately bumps into his high school girlfriend, Heather (Mena Suvari), and realizes he’s made a big mistake by not marrying the girl he really loved. And Kevin has similar feelings when he’s reunited with old girlfriend, Vicky (Tara Reid). Jim also meets up with old next-door neighbor, Ellie (Charlene Amoia), who he used to babysit. She’s now a sexy 18 year old, who wants to lose her virginity to him. Jim is tempted, but he also wants to save his marriage. Having sex with a high school girl probably isn’t going to help that much.

There are lots of bittersweet subplots here, and it’s funny how, despite the laughs, there is a fair share of sadness in AMERICAN REUNION, as these characters grow up and find that they’re not always happy with the way their lives turned out.

Jason Biggs is still very likable as everyman Jim. I’ve always liked him, and he’s the heart of the series, and isn’t afraid to completely embarrass himself when the script calls for it. I always wished he would have had more of a movie career after AMERICAN PIE made him a star.

Chris Klein as Oz is actually kind of interesting now that his character is a semi-celebrity and people recognize him everywhere he goes. Klein is the kind of actor who looks like a leading man, but just hasn’t made the transition to anything big, for some reason. (Maybe because he’s just not that good an actor? Although that hasn’t stopped some other people from becoming stars).

I still have no clue what Thomas Ian Nicholas and Eddie Kaye Thomas are doing here (and what’s with all the three word names?). Nicholas is kind of a nice, earnest guy, but that role is already covered by Jim, so his existence in these movies seems redundant. His character Kevin just adds nothing to the proceedings and I didn’t care about him or his love issues at all. He’s like a generic buddy who has no depth and is easily forgettable.

As for Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch, the guy hasn’t changed since the first movie, and still has the personality of a block of wood. What do these other guys see in Finch? He’s a blank slate who comes off as a robotic dork, yet everyone else acts like he’s the coolest guy on the planet. I just don’t get it. And I don’t understand why Kevin and Finch couldn’t be replaced by two more interesting, dynamic characters. But I guess it’s too late for that.

Seann William Scott is just as annoying as ever as Stifler, but I have to admit that, aside from Jim, he’s the best character here. Stifler fluctuates from being funny to being borderline psychotic, to being just plain irritating, all in the course of the same movie. When he ties some kids’ jet skis to his truck and destroys them, or takes a dump in their beer cooler, he really seems to be a complete sociopath, and is kind of creepy. Other times he just seems like a case of arrested development and you almost feel sorry for his child-like antics. And other times he is laugh-out-loud funny. But the fact that he’s the main one here who makes any effort to be funny at all makes him stand out from the pack. And no matter what the script gives him to work with, you can tell Scott gives it his all, even when it sucks.

Speaking of creepy, I still have no idea what to make of SCTV alumni Eugene Levy again reprising his role as Jim’s dad. There are times when he’s likable enough, and others when he is talking explicitly about sex to his son in such a skin-crawling way that I felt like I needed a shower afterwards. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but Levy’s character now, after all this time, just seems like a weird old guy who’s obsessed with sex, even though he pretends to treat it clinically. I found this shtick kind of funny in the first movie, but most of the time here, it kind of weirded me out. But it is funny when Stifler takes Jim’s Dad under his wing and gets him drunk at a party – and tries to get him laid as well (Jim’s mother has been dead for a few years when AMERICAN REUNION opens), and the relationship that develops between Jim’s Dad and Stifler’s slutty mother is actually pretty funny.

The women in these movies always seem to have less developed roles, and this time is no exception. Mena Suvari spends most of the movie just looking sad, even though she’s on the arm of a new boyfriend (Jay Harrington), who’s a cardiologist. Tara Reid stands around looking pretty (she still looks great), but really has nothing to do. Alyson Hannigan – who, along with Seann William Scott, are the only two cast members who have had any kind of real career after the AMERICAN PIE movies – is okay here, but spends most of the time looking flustered over Jim’s bad behavior. And Dania Ramirez is a welcome addition as Selena, and old high school friend of Michelle’s who has bloomed from an ugly duckling to a hot bartender, who takes a liking to Finch.

There are a few good moments, most of them revolving around that 18-year-old girl who wants to have sex with Jim – leading to lots of funny, awkward moments as he tries to resist temptation, despite her coming on strong. A scene where Jim tries to sneak the drunk (and naked) Ellie back into her parents’ house after a party is especially funny. And some of Stifler’s antics, including a scene where he finally stands up to his abusive boss, are pretty hilarious. Oh, and Stifler finally gets revenge on Finch for sleeping with his mother, in a very cool scene involving Rebecca De Mornay from another R-rated sex comedy classic, RISKY BUSINESS (1983).

AMERICAN REUNION  took two people to direct it! Jon Hurtwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (who helped write all of the HAROLD AND KUMAR movies and who also directed 2008’s HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANTAMO BAY together). Seriously, did it really need two directors?

But as the closing credits rolled, I still found myself wondering who this movie was made for. Most of the people who were fans of the first movie probably are in similar situations as the characters in AMERICAN REUNION, but they also probably don’t go to the theater to see movies very often. I know that me and one other older guy in the audience were the only ones laughing at some of the references characters made to the first movie.

Younger kids who like R-rated sex comedies might find this one a bit too sentimental and nostalgic at times (and they probably won’t have any idea who these characters are!).

AMERICAN REUNION is being promoted as the “last piece of pie” in the AMERICAN PIE franchise. I think that might be a good thing, because this series really feels like it might have run its course. It might be time to try a different dessert.

I give AMERICAN REUNION ~ two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives AMERICAN REUNION ~ two and a half knives!