Monday, June 29, 2015

Sharknado, the review

"Hi Bob, what's your script pitch this time?" "This a real winner Joe. I've given it the working title Wolfnado. It has everything you need to make a true Blockbuster. Vicious hungry wolves fall out right out of the sky and rip apart anything they see. It's got skimpy bikini shots for the teenagers, lots of guns, chainsaws, blood, fangs and no big words. I'm telling you right now Joe, this is really high concept stuff."

"Bob, that sounds great but how are you going to get it to rain wolves?"

"Joe, this is the high concept stuff I was talking about. There will be a huge storm that develops over Florida. Tornadoes will suck up thousands of hungry raging wolves. The storm then dumps them all over Miami Beach. There's plenty of cheap stock beach footage we can buy that will keep production costs way down."

"Bob, I don't want to rain on your wolf parade, but there aren't very many wolves in Florida if any at all, and the effects people are going to scream about the costs. Those fur computer graphics stuff ain't cheap and all those hemp wearing environmentalists will be on our asses also."

"How about sharks Bob? I mean who loves man eating sharks? Florida has tons of them swimming around and biting people? I don't even go to the beach because I saw that Jaws movie as a kid. We can make them out of rubber cheap, they can be reused and we can put fins on weighted skateboards and pull them around in shallow water." I'm thinking big. Big like "Sharknado." I bet you could write a script in about a week, and we could make it for chump change. Maybe around a fat million dollars. Hmmm... who could we sell it to? The Scfy channel maybe?"


Let's give shark movies credit where credit is due. It all starts with the line "I think we need a bigger boat." Jaws, adapted from Peter Benchley's book by Steven Spielberg in 1975 insured a generation of movie goers would only wade, maybe if that at all in the ocean.

Shark awareness is increased again with the Discovery Channel's creation of "Shark Week" in 1988. This is now the longest running cable TV annual event. It started with a serious and realistic look at sharks, but has slowly evolved into a less than 100 percent scientific outlook with it's docu-fiction features to attract ratings. Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives is a good example of fiction looking real, at least to the mentally deficient, aka the average TV viewer.

In an effort to increase viewership the Scfy channel is now in it's second year of "Sharknado Week." Yep folks it's now raining sharks annually. Add in during the week a mix of other movies built around mad scientists creating shark mutant variants such as the Sharktopus, a shark with tentacles, and even a cross between a whale and wolf named less than creatively. Are you ready? "Whalewolf "

The "B" movie has been with us for a long time. Those of a certain age know them well. They were originally that low budget 2nd feature at the theater designed to hold you in your seat longer with the hope you will buy more popcorn, soft drinks and candy. This is how the theaters make their real money.

"Mockbusters" are one of the things they're called today. Less glamorously stated they are films that just go straight to digital media bypassing the movie theater all together.

The Asylum is the creator of the Sharknado movies. They are successful and agile producers of low budget films that can be cranked out in a few months to meet the perceived needs of any almost movie market niche.

This is all possible because of digital technology. "We don't need no stinking film anymore." A script gets quickly written. Actors are hired. Subcontractors do the digital camera and sound work. Free locations are used where ever possible. Extra film footage is purchased to fill in holes if needed. Do the digital editing and sound work. Upload to Netflixs or cable channel. Get a check.

So how good was the first Sharknado movie. It was god awful, but this is what made it huge fun to watch. You see scene of surfers riding 10' waves. The next shot is two surfers sitting on a flat ocean devoid of any waves talking. People drive to a home and run inside. Within minutes it's flooded with sharks coursing through the living room gnashing their teeth.

The "High Concept" is basic. A waterspout sucks up a few thousand migrating sharks and rains them down on a hapless populous during a huge storm. The rest is chomping teeth and use of chain saws, guns, and other immediately available implements of destruction.

There is an appropriate amount of removed limbs, heroic actions (sort of), a touch of romance or least some quick face sucking, the obligatory skimpy bikinis in beach shots, and lots of expendable cast members. An added bonus is that not all of the sharks land safely in the water resulting in lot of satisfying gory splats as sharks hit hard objects like pavement, occasionally with pedestrians in their trajectory.

You also can't beat the riveting screen play and less than scintillating dialog like: Oh my god! The Shark! The Shark! - Watch out! Watch out! - Get off me Get off me!  You would think the writers are being paid by the word. So did it make money. Yes a whole lot of money.

Sharknado two "The Second One" is technically a much better production but its lost some of the cool schlock and camp factor of the original. That "Plan 9 From Outer Space" production feel is now missing.

It's apparent the budget is much larger, and there are cameos galore. Judd Hirsch is a taxi driver, Al Roker and Matt Lauer are reporting on the Sharnado and Matt kills one with an umbrella. So it's good in a popcorn sort of way and who doesn't like it when it rains sharks, again.

The best Sharknado two film moment is the homage to Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead character who after his hand is chomped off attaches a chainsaw to the stump. Tara Reid does a take off on this theme by attaching a circular saw to her stump. Don't worry, (SPOILER ALERT) the ring from her eaten hand is recovered from inside a shark later giving true love another chance. See, "B" films can be sensitive and deal with feelings. This is what those Hallmark movies are about. Simple plots, without it raining ex-boyfriends.

So what about Sharknado three? I don't know yet but I'll find out shortly. This new one has bumped up the cameo factor by an order of magnitude. Being in a Sharknado movie is approaching the level of being a character on the Simpsons.

The list goes on and on. Mark Cuban as the US President, Anne Coulter as Vice President, Michele Bachman, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb and author Jackie Collins appear as themselves. Throw in Robert Klein, Jerry Springer, ESPN, NFL, and NASCAR celebrities. Penn and Teller appear as NASA officers, and seemingly every other currently unemployed actor you might know is in it.

It's set in Washington DC and I'm expecting to see sharks splatting all over the capitol. Eating tourists in the reflecting pool, squashing lobbyists on K street, sharks impaled on the Washington monument, and maybe even eating a congressman cavorting with a stripper in the tidal basin. Sigh, I should have written this script.

They have an experienced Sharknado cast and the maximum number of cameos allowed by law, I just hope they don't take themselves seriously and have a script that's fun and goes beyond a big storm raining sharks, and dump truck loads of shark ichor. Don't worry, I'll probably like it anyway. I'm inherently prone towards the willing suspension of disbelief for movies at any rate. This is why I watched Jurassic World a couple of days ago.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: "Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um... screaming."

1 comment:

  1. I force my wife to watch the Sharknado movies. There's usually a lot of groaning coming from her side of the room. She's not too thrilled when I tell her it's her duty aboard the boat to dive in and scrape the barnacles off. :-) Always better to test the waters with a crew member before jumping in yourself I always say!

    Carry on.....

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