Film Reviews: IMAX Great White Shark 3D and Hidden Universe 3D

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st January 2014.

The IMAX format continues to grow in popularity with filmmakers. More and more mainstream features are being presented on the eye popping huge screen, including the latest chapter of The Hobbit trilogy. Darling Harbour is the home to the world’s largest IMAX screen and whilst the evening is saved for the blockbusters, by day it remains the domain of tourists and school groups, drawn to the gargantuan cinema and its short form documentaries.

Mostly focusing on nature and history, these cinematic attractions pose a problems for a film reviewer. They are definitely well crafted movies but are they the drawcard or simply fodder to present to tourists so they can experience IMAX on the hour? I checked out the latest two IMAX documentaries and the good news is that they both offer considerable bang for your buck. Or if you are taking your whole family, quite a few bucks.

From the marketing material, I fully expected Great White Shark 3D to be a gorefest of huge teeth and helpless sea lions. Now I realise that you are more likely to be killed reading this review than eaten by a shark but that didn’t stop me from feeling a little anxious about man eaters on the big screen in 3D. Damn you Steven Spielberg.

Narrated by the incomparable Bill Nighy, GWS3D is an entertaining and beautifully shot doco which sets out to change our attitudes towards the great white shark. Jumping across numerous locations which are home to our fishy friends, the film features scientists and activists who are working to ensure that the shark stays off the endangered species list (and out of shark fin soup).

From tour operators in South Africa who attract them to their boats so tourists can have close encounters in steel cages (dubious in my books – surely this is only teaching the great white that humans equal dinner) to free divers who simply tag the predators in the open water off the Mexican coast (OK, so the cage people have a point), we get a glimpse into the lives of those dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the great white shark.

GWS3D was surprisingly bloodless with a cute sea lion becoming a buffet lunch scene only being hinted at. Instead, the money shot was footage of a wooden sea lion lure being attacked from below by a gigantic shark leaping out of the water. In slow motion, the perfect killing machine soars through the air. Perhaps the makers of Sharknado were onto something.


Hidden Universe 3D, an Australian production, is a much drier feature (pardon the pun). The film focuses on deep space astronomers who venture out to the Atacama desert in Chile to peer into the universe using the European Southern Observatory’s VLT (that’s the Very Large Telescope for the non-astronomers out there).

Narrated by actress Miranda Richardson, I could take or leave the human storyline component. Instead, I would have been more than happy to just sit back and enjoy 45 minutes of the beautifully 3D rendered pictures of planets, nebulas, moons and super luchadore midgets (I may have made that last one up). Those scenes are fantastic. It’s like being immersed in the opening credit sequence of Star Trek, which in my book is not a bad thing.

Great White Shark 3D and Hidden Universe 3D are now playing at IMAX Darling Harbour.

Movie Stingers and Credit Cookies

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th May 2011.

Projectionists must hate me. I’m the sucker that stays in the cinema until the very end of the credits. I know they want to get in there and clean up but watching every name involved in making the film is my way of saying thank you. I also like to check out which countries and locations were used as shooting locations. And I feel so much better knowing that no animals were harmed in the making of the picture.

I’m kidding. I’m actually on the lookout for what is known as a movie stinger, tag, credit cookie or movie coda. That is, an extra little scene at the end of the credits.

Current superhero movie factory, Marvel Studios, has been adding a stinger to its recent crop of pictures, each one slowly building towards The Avengers movie which will unite Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor. At the end of Iron Man (2008), Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Tony Stark then makes a cameo at the end of The Incredible Hulk (2008), although this is just before the credits. The credits of Iron Man 2 (2010) conclude with Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. discovering Thor’s hammer in the desert. I won’t spoil the tag at the end of Thor but it is certainly worth waiting for.

Each entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise also features a stinger. The original, released in 2003, ends with Jack the Monkey stealing an Aztec medallion and becoming a cursed undead primate. Dead Man’s Chest (2006) concludes with the island dog being worshipped by the natives as a god. At World’s End (2007) features a stinger which shows Will being united with Elizabeth and his son, ten years into the future. The latest, On Stranger Tides (2011), also has a tag, but after a whopping 141 minutes of Piratey goodness or tosh (depending on your taste) you’ll need to sit out a bum numbing 8 minutes of credits to get to the good stuff.

The recent A-Team movie (2010) hilariously brings together the new Face and Murdock (Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley) with their original TV series counterparts, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz in a post-credit stinger. I had to leave the cinema in a hurry for that one to return the large frozen coke I borrowed but I did catch the tag on blu-ray.

This year’s Fast and Furious 5, or Fast 5, also features a post-credit sequence which hints that there will another sequel. I don’t need a stinger to tell me that. $23 million at the Australian box office is a pretty good indication that another instalment is in the works. As a kid, I loved the Famous 5. I don’t remember them having cars though…

Stingers are by no means a new thing. My favourite stingers are from eighties flops. The Super Mario Bros. disaster from 1993 features two Japanese businessmen discussing a video game starring Mario’s enemies, Iggy and Spike. OK, so that’s not very funny but it’s Flying High compared to the rest of the film. The Masters of the Universe (1987) feature film stars renown Shakespearean actor Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. Post-credits, a defeated Skeletor (Frank Langella) pops out of the waters surrounding Castle Numbskull to declare, “I’ll be back.” I’m still waiting.

So stick around after the credits have rolled. You never know what extra morsel the filmmakers may have left for you.

 

 

 


The Sixth Sense (1999) features a creepy repeat of the spooky voice on tape saying, “I don’t wanna die” right at the end of the credits to scare anyone left in the cinema.