State of Shark

Great White

by George Wolf

Wait, no new scientific term mixing sharks and weather? No genetically modified sharks? Unearthed prehistoric giants? Sharks with lasers on their heads?

Geesh, do these guys even know how to Sharkmovie?

Don’t get me wrong, Shudder’s Great White gives you plenty of opportunity to suspend disbelief, but it’s built on a premise that now seems almost quaint.

People in the water. Sharks in the water. Big sharks.

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies….

Actually these are Australian waters, with Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and Kaz (Katrina Bowden) running the Pearl Air charter service, where they debate getting married and fire up the seaplane to take tourists on excursions to Hell’s Reef.

The business needs some renewed cash flow, so Charlie is only too happy to book a last minute trip for superdouche investment analyst Joji (Tiim Kano) and his wife Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi), who wants to scatter her Grandfather’s ashes in the sea.

But even before cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) can whip them up a delicious lunch on the island, a ridiculous accident puts everyone in a life raft trying to evade some large, hungry predators that supposedly injured some bathers.

Yes, that’s another Jaws reference, which seems appropriate as director Martin Wilson doesn’t shy away from them either, even including a pretty shameless re-working of one of Spielberg’s classic scenes. But Wilson does craft one major jump scare of his own, and adds frequent shots framed right on the waterline to consistently simmer the tension through simultaneous looks at the castaways and what they fear.

Bowden and Jakubenko mine Michael Boughen’s script for enough authenticity to seem like real people who care for each other. Kano and Tsukakoshi aren’t as lucky, with the Joji character painted as such an over the top asshole that it’s clear he’ll be an entree, the only question is how bloody satisfying it will be to watch.

These man-eaters never do get lasers, but there’s still some pretty outlandish shark wrangling before the shoreline comes into view. So while Great White gets some props for not drowning in silliness from the start, that may have been the only way to make it memorable.

Great Is Relative

Great White

by Hope Madden

It’s Shark Week! What’s the best way to celebrate?

Watching Jaws, obviously. But maybe you just did that because of the mandatory 4th of July weekend viewing. Then what?

Well, there’s a new movie for you to consider: Martin Wilson’s Great White.

There are so many shark movies. So, so many. It becomes tough to find something new to say.

Some are better than expected (The Shallows), some so bad they are almost worth watching (Sharknado), some masterpieces (Jaws, Open Water). Great White is none of those.

Michael Boughen’s script follows an Australian charter boat into unfriendly water. Cruisers include a rich coward, a haunted hero, a woman with history, a cook, a girlfriend, and, of course, a great white.

Wilson serves up a beautiful movie, beautiful people, gorgeous scenery, Hallmark-channel writing, and a Hallmark-channel score. The actual undersea footage is very borrowed from stock, although there are some cool looking aerial shots. Plus, a dude rides a shark, which is never not fun.

Katrina Bowden, as captain’s girlfriend and brains of the operation Kaz, poses. She exclusively poses and her emoting is so bereft of emotion that her big crying scene is shot from high above with voiceover wailing. It doesn’t help that so very much of her emoting has to be done underwater.

So much underwater emoting. So much.

Woman with a past Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) fares better. Most—though not all—of her emoting happens above the waterline and she proves to be as competent an actor as this script will allow.

Great White spends most of its time on a life raft with five characters and impending doom. Lifeboat did something similar in 1944—of course that was Alfred Hitchcock directing a script by John Steinbeck, a big vessel to fill.

Wilson fills it with lazy writing, superficial performances, contrivance and conveniences that descend into idiocy, and not the fun Sharknado kind. Just the plain old idiotic kind.

Fin Again Begin Again

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

by George Wolf

Two years ago, Johannes Roberts proved he could craft some fine sharky thrills amid the soggy dialog and questionable logic of 47 Meters Down.

He’s back as director/co-writer for Uncaged, with a bigger budget and a mission to deliver more of whatever you liked the first time. The scares? They’re jumpier! The sharks? They’re scarier! The water? Wetter!

Roberts builds these thrills on an unrelated shark tale. Four high school girls in Mexico go diving where they shouldn’t – an underwater Mayan burial cave. It’s currently being mapped by a team led by one of the girls’ Dad (John Corbett), which makes the cutting edge dive gear more believable than last time.

But all that gear is perfectly form-fitting for a group of teen girls, so…

So, forget it, and appreciate how Roberts borrows elements from the horror gem The Descent to create satisfying waves of claustrophobic, over the top terror.

If you remember the best scene from 47, you’ll see it re-imagined here, along with a very direct homage to Jaws and a nicely twisted and completely ridiculous finale.

Because if you haven’t noticed, Spielberg’s less is more approach to the monster has…say it with me…jumped the shark. For Roberts and Uncaged, more is more, and this film doesn’t stop until you’re shaking your head at the skillful outlandishness of it all.

Man Bites Shark

The Meg

by George Wolf

You didn’t think Great White-invested tornados meant the pool of shark movie premises was running dry, did you? Not so long as someone is just conscious enough to mumble “Statham fights a shark” in a drunken pitch meeting!

The Meg brings that premise to 3-D life, with Statham wet-suitting up as Jonas, the reluctant hero with a haunted past. After a tragic encounter with a giant underwater beast, Jonas hangs up the scuba mask to drink away his days in the bars of Thailand.

But five years later, his ex-wife is part of an undersea research team at the mercy of the legendary Megaladon, a 70-foot long “living fossil” of a shark thought to be extinct for over 200 million years. Jonas, of course, knew it wasn’t, and now he must tell everyone “I told you so” with his most steely glare, go back on his vow to never dive again, and take everything much too seriously.

And that’s the biggest misstep weighing down the entire film. You get the feeling that with a knowing, “Kong: Skull Island” type of monster vibe, this could have been fun, but director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) can’t settle on one charted course.

Turteltaub and his team of writers adapt the first of Steve Allen’s “Meg” novels with a host of changes, presumably meant to bolster Statham’s damaged hero quotient. The dramatics are overdone by nearly all involved (though Rainn Wilson, as the billionaire behind the research, finds a mark), and when a nicely subtle hat-tip to Jaws opens the gates for all out scene stealing, The Meg becomes a water-logged mess.

A Chinese co-production with a clear eye on international markets, the film has moments of promise that are quickly snuffed out by exposition that’s neither needed, wanted or interesting. Where’s the fun, sharky nonsense promised by the trailer? That movie might have been a guilty pleasure.

The Meg is just guilty.

 

 





Farewell and Adieu

47 Meters Down

by Hope Madden

Is it Shark Week?

If it isn’t, why the hell not?

There’s a new shark attack movie in theaters this weekend. It’s no Jaws, but it’s no Sharknado, either. Johannes Roberts’s 47 Meters Down treads some similar waters as last year’s surprise hit The Shallows, with a little less intelligence and a lot more sharks.

Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are sisters on vacation in Mexico. Lisa, the play-it-safe older sister, is nursing a heartbreak, which loose cannon Kate hopes to heal via the worst imaginable decisions. Like a shark cage expedition.

Cage goes in the water.

Sharks in the water.

Our shark.

Because tourists are stupid.

How stupid? Sea Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) has to repeatedly say, “Stay inside the cage.”

But, if you can get past the idiocy – or even embrace it because, if YouTube is to be believed at all, people really are just this moronic – you’ll find some fun jump scares and genuine tension.

Something goes wrong and the girls and their cage drop to the sea floor, a dangerous 47 meters down. They have little oxygen and they’re surrounded by sharks. How will they survive?

The Shallows basically created the Girl Power Shark Movie, and Roberts and co-scripter Ernest Riera end up playing out a far less empowering tale. Roberts’s background is horror, though, so he does know how to deliver some visceral action now and again.

Plus, there is one shot that’s almost worth the price of admission.

Atmosphere is Roberts’s talent, and he creates a good deal of it. Aided by impressive CGI, the sisters’ plight on the ocean floor is often nearly as breathless for the audience as it is for the characters.

Dialog, on the other hand, is definitely a weaker point. Pair the banalities of the conversations with the contrivances that put the characters where they are, then add a first act that’s weighed down with cartoonishly ridiculous choices, and the cool shark sequences have a lot to overcome.

For a mindless, squirmy summer shark fest, though, it’s a fun time-waster.
Verdict-3-0-Stars





Weekend Countdown: It’s Raining Sharks!

 

Still high from Sharknado? Has it opened your eyes to the brilliance of terrible, terrible filmmaking? Are you jonesing for more ineptly crafted, heinously scripted, poorly acted waterborne malevolence? We thought so. Here are five of the best worst water terrors ever made. You’re welcome.

5. Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Michael Caine has argued that this is not his very worst movie. He may be right, but this delusion of a great white shark who figures out the exact flight Ellen Brody is taking to the Bahamas and follows it so it can continue the Sharks’ gang war against the Brodys sure is bad.

4. Piranha (1978)

An absent minded investigator and the town drunk unintentionally unleash mutant piranha just upstream from a water park on the river. Given that it’s all their fault, they’re pretty self righteous about the whole thing. The fish themselves seem to be flat paper cutouts pasted to popsicle sticks, which is just as terrifying as it sounds.

3. Piranha 2: The Spawning (1981)

James Cameron, everybody! That’s right, his first deep sea adventure did not involve a capsized romance, but flying man eating piranha. That’s right – they fly. Sure, it might look like they’ve just been tossed by someone standing just off camera, but no. Cameron regular Lance Hendrickson should be glad he’s not a black man or a topless woman on this island, because those are these fishies’ favorite flavors.

2. Super Shark (2011)

Eventually, the best of the worst mutant animal films made the leap from the big screen to SciFi network, and few things leap as well as a Super Shark! John Schneider tarnishes his reputation (yep, it’s that bad)  that pits a flying, hopping shark against a tank with legs. It kicks the shark. That’s worth seeing.

1.  Sharktopus (2010)

This is the one film on the countdown most likely to quench the thirst left by Sharknado. Roger Corman – the producer responsible for most of the films on this list, most of the films on SciFi, and quite possibly most of the worst films ever made – gave us this epic tale of a killing machine that’s half great white, half giant octopus. It’s enormous, unrealistic, and it brings an unsatisfying hunger for bad actors.

 

Those should keep you busy while you wait for Sharknado 2!