Archive for July, 2013

Wow. Just wow. I’m still in shock. Earlier today I saw what was arguably the best ‘worst’ film I have ever seen. And it was bloody brilliant.

Sharknado is a TV movie made specially for the SyFy channel, from the popular mockbuster studio The Asylum – the guys responsible for Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. It was written by Thunder Levin (I really hope that’s his actual name) and stars Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and a whole heap of other C-list actors.

Now for the plot. Brace yourselves, everyone.
Hurricane David is tearing its way up the west coast of America. By the time it gets to California, it has driven heaps and heaps of sharks up the coast. These sharks are then ‘sucked up’ into the tornados which begin to devastate Los Angeles. It’s up to Finn – yes, that’s genuinely the main character’s name in a movie about sharks – (Ziering) and his estranged wife April (Reid) to somehow save the day. What ensues for the next 85 minutes is pure shark-related fun.

The CGI is what one might expect from an Asylum movie and the one-liners are fantastic. Before the storm hits the Californian coast, two surfers are walking down the beach, one says to the other ‘Killer waves, man. There’s something unnatural about them.’ Now if that isn’t the worst bit of foreshadowing then I don’t know what is.

Ignoring the whole ‘flying sharks’ part, the plot itself is wonderfully ridiculous. Just take this example, for instance. When the characters are stuck in downtown Los Angeles they decide they need to stop the tornados that are ‘devastating’ the city, and the only way they can do this is by throwing homemade bombs into each tornado from a helicopter that, luckily, Finn’s son can pilot. Erm, what?

The film is filled with stock footage of storms, cities and actual sharks – however, the way these are spliced into the film is such that it’s blatantly obvious the footage was filmed in an entirely different location to where the story is set. For example, a shark ends up in a swimming pool (just go with it); we see an above-water shot of the shark swimming in the pool; then we are treated to a piece of stock footage of a shark swimming in water that is blatantly too deep and too blue to be the pool water we have just seen. It’s little gems like this that just make this film more fantastic.

This is an actual screencap from the film.

Let’s get down to the sharks themselves – beautifully rendered in CGI, they do things in this film that I previously thought sharks couldn’t do: climb up ropes with their teeth, jump out of the water and launch themselves at people, swallow people whole. Let me expand on that last one. In the film’s nail-biting finale, the final tornado has been blown up (again, just go with it) causing sharks to rain down from the sky on our gang of heroes. Finn picks up a chainsaw, ready to tear apart any flying sharks, when suddenly he spots his daughter about to be eaten by a falling shark. He pushes her out of the way and, in a split-second decision, starts up his chainsaw as he is swallowed whole by the shark. The rest of the gang look in horror as they think poor old Finn is dead – Tara Reid gives us her best ‘shocked’ impression, when all of a sudden they notice movement coming from within the shark. Could it be? Yes, it’s Finn, chainsawing his way out of the shark – from the inside! Not only does he save himself, but he manages to save his girlfriend who got eaten about ten minutes ago, and by an amazing coincidence, they were both swallowed whole by the same shark. Words cannot describe my face whilst watching this madness unfold in front of me.

There were many, many inconsistencies in the film, to name but a few – the constant changing of the weather and depth of the water everywhere; the lack of emotion on the part of the extras who were supposed to be running from flying sharks; the fact that the directors forgot to add in the CGI devastation that the tornados have done to Los Angeles; the fact that emphasis was put on Finn’s legendary surfing abilities at the start of the film and then it’s never referenced again in the film (like an anti-Chekov’s gun); and, the fact that a helicopter to get within throwing distance of a tornado. But these are why the film is so brilliant – it knows it’s ridiculous and doesn’t try and hide that fact.

What did make me laugh was, as it was rated ‘TV-14’, no one was allowed to swear – so cue people screaming ‘Oh my gosh!’ and ‘Oh darn!’ when in reality they’d be screaming ‘Holy f***ing sh*t! F***ing sharks are raining down from the mother-f***ing sky!’

If you can get a copy of Sharknado, then I urge you to watch it – it’ll be the best 85 minutes of your day.

Tom.

Oh, and they made a ‘period’ joke. Yup, an actual joke about menstruation. When looking into a room filled with blood-red water, someone shouts ‘Looks like it’s their (the sharks’) time of the month.’ For shame…

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There are many films widely considered as ‘cinematic gems’: Goodfellas, The Godfather, Shawshank, Citizen Kane, Psycho, the list goes on. These are the films that have evoked feelings of fear, joy, sadness and many others from their audiences. Which is why, I believe, that Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus belongs in the list of these cinematic greats. Allow me to explain:

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Debbie Gibson…check! Bridge…check! Fight…check!

First, a little background info on the film. Mega Shark was made in 2009 by popular ‘mockbuster’ company The Asylum (of Transmorphers fame) written and directed by Ace Hannah (sadly, this is not his real name – his real name is Jack Perez). It tells the story of two epic creatures (a ‘mega’ shark and a ‘giant’ octopus), unfrozen from their glacial prison, who wreak havoc on the world (by ‘the world’ I mean ‘a bridge, a ship, an oil rig and a few planes’). Meanwhile it is up to the spunky Emma MacNeil (played beautifully by 80s popstar Debbie Gibson) and her, for some reason, Asian love interest Dr. Seiji Shimada (played by Vic Chao – whose only film role has been this one…) to try and stop these two creatures from tearing apart the world (again, by ‘the world’ I mean ‘a bridge, a ship, an oil rig and a few planes’). Oh, and there’s some racist Army guy played by Lorenzo Lamas.

Mega Shark has it all: action, intrigue, suspense, romance and, as the back of the DVD cover promises, Debbie Gibson, bridge and fight! But for the purposes of this blog post, I will be focusing on two scenes in particular. I believe that these scenes prove that Mega Shark is one of cinema’s greatest triumphs.

I will never fly again…

1. The Plane Scene

Now, if you’ve read my earlier post Planes in Films you’ll know that I have a ‘thing’ for plane scenes in films and television. Whilst those scenes are all excellent, I think this one tops them all – which is why I’m devoting an entire post to the film it originated from. The scene in question is this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I16_8l0yS-g in which mega shark takes down a plane. Yup, you read that right, he literally jumps into the air and takes down a freaking plane!

What really makes me laugh though, is not the crappy special effects or the premise itself; it’s the man who stands up and says,  for absolutely no reason whatsoever, “I’m getting married in two days.” It’s as though the writer panicked and thought ‘Shit, I need to make the audience care for these passengers – that way the scene will seem less ridiculous. I know! I’ll make one of them engaged to be married in two days! Hmm, how to do this subtly? Nah, fuck it, I’ll just make him stand up and say it.’

Something that amazes me more, is that one die-hard Mega Shark fan has even put together an infographic explaining the necessary physics required for mega shark to take down a plane out of the sky. It’s well worth a look: http://flowingdata.com/2010/02/19/how-a-giant-shark-took-down-an-airplane/ – it calculates that in order for the shark to take down a plane 2,000m above sea level it needed to launch out of the water at a speed of 709.2km/h. That’s around 440mph. That’s pretty freaking fast.

2. The Lab Scene

I’m so glad they finally got the colour they were looking for…neon green.

Lab sequences are a good way to show that the characters are working on a problem for a period of time: they’re usually a couple of minutes long with clips of various ‘science-y’ stuff and shots of computers, set to some music. A good example of how a lab scene should be done is from CSI which can be found on YouTube here. It shows the progression of the experiments, which the audience can follow, and finally concluding what the evidence shows.

And here’s the lab scene from Mega Shark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRqQ4mOmXVk

Powerful, wasn’t it? You can feel the tension building up with every shake of Debbie Gibson’s head. I have been assured by actual scientists that all experiments everywhere happen exactly like this one does. By that I mean, to solve any problem ever, you just need to mix various liquids together and get a neon green solution. Oh, and briefly glance into a microscope then shake your head.

If you haven’t seen Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus yet, then I strongly encourage you to do so – you will not regret it. Also, if you own the DVD then why not check out some of the special features available. The bloopers mainly feature Mark Hengst (who plays Debbie Gibson’s boss) screwing up his lines then swearing profusely. The ‘Making of Mega Shark’ segment features Lorenzo Lamas (the racist douchebag in the film) talking about his ‘character arc’. Now I’m sorry, but someone who utters the line “Now if we don’t find the bible means of stopping this fucker, sharkzilla is gonna own the seas”  is NOT allowed to talk about their character ‘arc’. You’re not Daniel Day-Lewis.

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These are but some of the reasons Mega Shark is Oscar-worthy. If you have seen this film, then I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s one of cinema’s most overlooked gems.
The next film I’ll be watching and reviewing is Atlantic Rim, The Asylum’s mockbuster based on the upcoming film Pacific Rim. The trailer is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVpQmZmKNmo

Plagiarism at its finest!

Till next time,
Tom

Planes in Films

Posted: July 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

I watched World War Z the other day and I really enjoyed it. In particular I enjoyed the scene on the plane, and that got me thinking about other films that involve planes. I don’t know what it is about them, but I am a big fan of ‘plane bits’ in films. So here is a list, from the top of my head, of other plane scenes in films that I particularly like. Enjoy.

1. Knowing 

Now I know a lot of people hated Knowing, and I admit I didn’t think much of the ending, but there is one particular shot that has always stayed in my head. I think what really impresses me about this scene is that it’s filmed as one continuous take (a ‘tracking shot’) and it just looks awesome. Say what you want about the film, but this scene is freaking cool.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPdwCnwuZ8w

2. Iron Man 3

I enjoyed the third instalment to the Iron Man franchise, it was a lot better than the second – as much as I loved Mickey Rourke with some kind of electric whip. This clip isn’t so much about the plane itself, rather Iron Man saving the falling passengers.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4RLU1jnZ9M

3. LOST

I know, I know, technically LOST isn’t a film, but it still centres around a plane crash so I’m including it anyway. LOST was, and probably will always be, one of my favourite TV shows ever. The basic premise, for those of you who have been living under a rock the past 9 years, centres around the survivors of Oceanic 815 – which has crashed onto a mysterious island…and then the madness ensues. Throughout the whole series, audiences were treated to many different viewpoints of the plane crash – but the one that remains my favourite is that which served as the opening to season 3. For those who have watched the show, you’ll understand why this scene was important in terms of the audience’s understanding of the show.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBCvryIc4Wc

What some avid fan of LOST has done, is put all the different viewpoints of 815’s crash together and made a video of the whole crash in ‘real-time’. If you haven’t watched the show then some of these scenes will make absolutely no sense, but you can still appreciate the crash itself.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKcKtjrL5bc

4. Fringe

Fringe is a fantastic show – another brainchild of J.J. Abrams – which combines time travel, weird science and John Noble. For about the first 2 seasons, each episode followed the same structure – there is some kind of weird ‘event’; the Fringe team investigate it; we as the audience are left with more questions than we started. One of my favourite ‘events’ that was on the show was in the first season. It features a plane (surprise, surprise) and…well, you’ll see.

See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fRQ4aODF44

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There are probably many many more plane scenes in films that are out there, but these are the ones that stick in my mind. Oh, and if you want to see the plane bit from World War Z, it’s available here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4tRW6k4sos .

If you have any particular favourite plane scenes from films/tv shows you have seen, then why not leave a comment!

Till next time,

Tom