Sharknado Sucks: a review

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 16th July 2013.

Last week, the latest internet sensation set the social media world abuzz. And hopefully, just like planking and South Korean one hit wonders, Sharknado will be long forgotten in a couple of days. However, in the interest of your sanity, I have bravely watched the horrible pile of cinematic poop that is Sharknado so that you don’t have to. No thank you cards or flowers are necessary. It’s my job.

Sharknado comes to us thanks to production house, The Asylum, and US cable channel SyFy.  The Asylum is responsible for the vast array of mockbusters, cheap knockoffs of major film releases, which litter video store shelves everywhere. Transmorphers, Paranormal Entity or Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies anyone? SyFy is renowned for its low budget Saturday night creature features. Put these two cinematic behemoths together and what do you get? The answer is Tara Reid being attacked by flying sharks.

Our hero is Finlay “The Fin” Shepherd, played by Ian Ziering, of original 90210 fame. He’s a former surfing champion who now owns a bar on the Californian shoreline. The movie opens with him catching a wave, accompanied by his best friend, Baz, portrayed by Australian “actor” and ex-Baywatch star Jaason Simmons. For some reason known only to the screenwriters, a freak hurricane strikes Los Angeles, resulting in tornados infested with airborne sharks. Why are sharks only affected by this phenomenon? I guess flying killer whitebait is not very interesting.

Within minutes, a sharknado strikes, innocent limbs are ripped off and Baz is viciously bitten by a shark. After being rescued by Shepherd, Baz is soon back at the bar showing no signs of injury except a small dressing on his leg. Despite the chaos and death around them, the patrons of this seaside establishment happily continue drinking and playing pool until sharks start throwing themselves through the windows, literally.

With further sharknados approaching, Shepherd must save his estranged wife, played by a disappointingly non-nubile Tara Reid, and daughter, who live 6 miles inland. Yep, inland. The guy in the bar literally on the water’s edge during a hurricane must rescue the people 6 miles inland.

Strangely, there is no official government or military response to this bizarre catastrophe and only Shepherd and his company of idiots can save Los Angeles, by dropping bombs via helicopter into the sharknados. How can a bomb stop a tornado? Why are there more sharks in the tornados the further they move inland? How does a shark biting into the roof of a SUV cause it to explode? How can a shark climb a rope? Why do the sharks drop out of the sky when they are shot? Are they actually magic flying sharks? Why am I watching this garbage?

I don’t know which is worst: the incredibly low budget production of this film or the logic of the premise.

Scenes have been edited together with no regard to continuity. A close up of an actor sitting on a surfboard on flat ocean is followed by a wide shot of the same character with huge waves around them. In the middle of a hurricane, we cut to an actor backed by blue sky. Sharks are swimming through muddy floodwaters, but then the stock footage close up shows a creature swimming in crystal clear water. To save money, there are plenty of close ups featuring actors reacting to stuff, and there are CGI wide shots showing tornados and sharks, but no footage with both in the same frame.

Imagine being sucked deep into the sea and despite not being able to breathe, the the first thing you think about is lunch. That’s the equivalent to the weird premise of Sharknado. Wherever there is water, sharks can somehow attack: drainpipes, manholes, toilets, bubblers…nowhere is safe.

It’s not all bad. No wait, it is all bad, but the bit I hated the least was a laughable tribute to Quint’s famous Indianapolis shark attack speech from Jaws, delivered by an actor who has no right to call herself that.

The film’s climax features Ian Ziering leaping into a flying shark’s mouth, chainsaw first, only to cut himself out, dragging his son’s presumed dead girlfriend with him. How did she get there? Wasn’t she gobbled by a shark earlier in the movie? You know, of all the sharks, in all of the sharknados, in all the world, she’s eaten by mine. Not breathing, she requires CPR and then does the movie coughing up water revival schtick. Why was she drowning inside a flying shark?

Sharknado is not the worst film I have ever seen, but it is the worst “bad” film I’ve seen. I don’t mind a “so bad, it’s good” movie, but this is just bad. I sure hope the actors had fun making it, because I certainly wasn’t having any.

The film’s only chance of salvation comes from the metaphysical. The slim budget meant that the only people seemingly affected by the shark attacks are our lead characters. What if the sharknado is only happening in their minds?

Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 17:53  Leave a Comment  
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New TV Reviews: Defiance, Da Vinci’s Demons, Hannibal

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd April 2013.

A fresh batch of episodic TV series has hit our screens, fast tracked from the USA within a few days or weeks of their original airdate. This strategy was tried by the Australian free-to-air networks a few years ago in a bid to curb illegal downloading, with mixed results. Ratings didn’t rise proportionately compared to the known downloading figures, and it left the local networks vulnerable when a series was abruptly cancelled. This is less of a problem for the pay TV broadcasters because they are less at the mercy of ratings and advertisers, and have a tendency to run a show in a particular day and timeslot for its entire season run.  Regardless, it is pretty hard to compete with illegal downloading, which allows fans to view a program within minutes of its US broadcast, ad-free, without the need for a recording device.

Defiance is the latest big budget series from the US Syfy Channel. Starring Australia’s own Grant Bowler (he’s actually a Kiwi) and Julie Benz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame, the show is set in the near future following the arrival of the Votanis Collective, an alliance of five alien races. In the movie length pilot, Joshua Nolan (Bowler) and his adopted alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) arrive in the outpost town of Defiance and soon become embroiled in a murder investigation which will jeopardise the entire population.

This show has been developed in conjunction with a multiplayer online game of the same name. Allegedly, both the game and series will influence each other, whatever that means. A large cast featuring multiple alien characters may turn off some but I think this show will reward dedicated viewers. Think of it as Babylon 5 meets Firefly via Eureka.

Da Vinci’s Demons is the latest series from David S. Goyer, the writer of Batman Begins and the new Superman movie, The Man of Steel. A fictional take on Leonardo Da Vinci’s early life, the show stars Tom Riley as the genius inventor, artist and intellectual. The first episode features flying machines, conspiracies, cults, opium smoking, a gay Pope and plenty of nudity. Fun for the whole family!

I’m sure this show is wildly inaccurate historically but for fans of Rome, The Tudors and The Borgias, you could do much worse. I’m going to give it a couple more episodes but I have a feeling I’ll eventually lose interest in this one.

Hannibal is my pick for best new show, although it is definitely not for the faint hearted. The series is based on Thomas Harris’ book Red Dragon, which has been produced as a feature film twice: Manhunter (1986) and Red Dragon (2002), the latter a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Troubled FBI investigator Will Graham, (Hugh Dancy) is sent by his boss Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) for counselling with forensic psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). The two strike up a working relationship, although viewers are well aware that sooner or later, Lecter will become Graham’s greatest adversary.

For a mainstream network show, this is pretty gruesome stuff. Death is depicted explicitly and you might find yourself watching through your fingers. Despite the gore, the most compelling component of Hannibal is the characters. Graham and Lecter make a great team, and it will be interesting to see just how long the producers can draw the story arc out before the inevitable climax. Suggestions of Lecter’s culinary preferences are made in this first episode, although methinks this may be a red herring. Dancy and Mikkelsen are both excellent, with the latter wisely avoiding any attempt to impersonate Anthony Hopkins’ chilling portrayal of Hannibal the cannibal.

Defiance airs on SCI FI Thursdays at 9:30pm.

Da Vinci’s Demons airs on FX Tuesdays at 7:30pm.

Hannibal airs on Prime Wednesdays at 9:45pm.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 17:41  Leave a Comment  
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