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Snow Angels

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Sharknado

Sharknado

(2013)
7 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I'm not sure how one goes about reviewing a film like Sharknado, except to say that it blew up social media upon both its trailer release and television premiere, and I can't really think of the reason why. There are dozens of similar films that have been released by companies like Syfy and The Asylum, and simply having a ridiculous premise like this one really shouldn't be enough to garner this sort of attention, especially when the result is as bad as Sharknado wound up being.

The basic premise here is that a huge storm is approaching Los Angeles, and with it come tornadoes which have picked up sharks. They rain down from the sky, sometimes, at least. Mostly they just swim in the streets, because the storm is so bad that pretty much every street is flood, if only intermittently. See, either logic wasn't used or the budget wasn't high enough to render the water for the film's entirety, so there are times when water is up to the actors' waists, and others when it's not even there -- and yes, this can sometimes happen in simultaneous shots.

I suppose that's some of the charm in watching a film such as this one. You look for inconsistencies, you search for poor filmmaking, you hope for bad special effects. It's supposed to be funny, right? Poking fun at incompetence is a joy. I get it. These are the types of "so bad it's good" movies that a lot of people ironically watch. I'm sometimes among them. But with Sharknado, I don't really get the appeal. It's a terrible disaster movie about a group of people wandering through Los Angeles and occasionally doing something to avoid or kill the sharks, which don't factor in as much as one would hope.

The characters: A professional surfer and bar-owner, Fin (Ian Ziering); his ex-wife, April (Tara Reid -- no, seriously); their son, Matt (Chck Hittinger); their daughter, Claudia (Aubrey Peeples); Fin's friend, Baz (Jaason Simmons); and a waitress at Fin's bar, Nova (Cassie Scerbo). There are actually too many people in this film, and this isn't even including the ones who initially seem important and are then killed shortly their introductions.

Throughout Sharknado's first half, it didn't seem like we were going to do too much character building. Fin is looking for his family, sure, but that's understandable considering the intensity of the storm. But there are more relationships on the film's mind than just Fin and his family's (possible, but probable given the movie) reconciliation. It's like the filmmakers once saw a whole movie and realized that character growth is generally beneficial to one's film.

It doesn't work to Sharknado's benefit, however. We don't want to see forced character beats or "drama"; we want to see people fighting sharks which have been thrown down from the sky by tornadoes. We only truly get that in the last few minutes. Most of the film involves the water posing more of a threat than the sharks. Water levels of varying height, because why would we have consistency in a made-for-TV movie about sharks and tornadoes, and the combination of the two?

There are, admittedly, a few funny moments in Sharknado. As the film progresses, it gets funnier and funnier. It starts off dreadfully slow, actually, and it's only after the entire cast has gotten together (about an hour into the hour-and-a-half movie) that Sharknado really finds itself. And by "finds itself," I mean "finally gives us the C-grade entertainment we want." One particular reference to Jaws made me chuckle, and seeing almost no character other than Nova do something of value for 90% of the picture might be humorous to some. And seeing once-popular Tara Reid in this type of drivel might be inherently funny, if not sad.

It all looks awful, with poor shot composition, special effects, lighting, and so on. I don't know why these films have to look as bad as they do. I get that the good filmmakers won't spend time making tripe like this, but surely the ones doing the filming would have watched some films in their life and know, at a base level, how some shots should look. You can't help the bad special effects, but you can fix those other things.

I suppose the acting isn't terrible, which might mean that Sharknado has one category in which it is above similar films. The leading cast is all likable and you can believe them when they're fighting the sharks or acting scared, and that's about all that's required. The drama scenes fail, but they were going to fail anyway because of the poor writing. At least most of the lines weren't delivered in a cringe-worthy fashion. I'll take that.

Sharknado is a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad film. It's occasionally fun and interesting, but mostly it's just another atrocity made to get views simply because of a silly premise. "A tornado with sharks? Of course we have to watch and tweet about this." No, you don't. In fact, please stop talking about it. Don't see Sharknado -- there are better films of the same ilk that you'd be better off watching, if you really need a film to watch ironically. Snakes on a Plane still exists, doesn't it?

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

(2008)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Do they? Do they, really? Does it ever get finished, or does the rom-com story get in the way? It certainly takes away the attention from the aforementioned making of the porno. I think that if this is the question I have after seeing the comedy, I probably wasn't entertained enough as it was playing. I got tired of what it had to offer, which I found odd considering I generally like Kevin Smith and his movies. Perhaps by trying to copy Judd Apatow, Smith forgot what he was doing.

I don't say that in jest, either. Zack and Miri tries desperately to be the "new" breed of rom-com, popularized years earlier by Apatow. We have the profanity and gross-out humor for the guys, and the sweet, sensitive side for the girls. At least, that's what the film wants to do and, yes, those are stereotypes. It blends those two elements, attempting to appeal to everyone. An offensive comedy having a heart is fine, but when it detracts from the jokes, I'm not sure if I can approve. When Zack and Miri verges into this territory, the laughs get thrown out the window.

The film stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as friends-for-life and roommates living together in a strictly platonic arrangement. They're also flat broke. Once the water and heat go out after they neglect to pay the bills for a few months, they come to the only logical conclusion: they're going to finance, shoot, and distribute a pornographic film. It'll be easy, they think, and the only reason most people don't do it is because (1) they're too proud and (2) they have families. Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Banks) don't have any of that, so they begin production shortly after.

Nothing goes wrong when people -- especially amateurs -- try to make a movie, right? Of course not! You get to experience all of the pitfalls that people fall into when making a movie, porn or not, during this film. In fact, remove the pornographic element from Zack and Miri, and you've probably got a decent account of what went on when Smith was making Clerks, his first feature. This is likely a lot more autobiographical than is initially let on.

Little about what follows is surprising. You know early on how it has to progress. Do the two leads actually have feelings for one another? What do you think? The real questions are whether or not these feelings will (1) get in the way of the production and (2) be realized by the end of the film. It's a rom-com, so you've probably got a good idea about the answer to the second point. How about the first one? Well, I'm not entirely sure. It doesn't wind up mattering.

Zack and Miri is a very crude movie. It's a Kevin Smith film, so you can expect a lot of four-letter words, often strung in such a way that if you played this film on television, entire scenes would have to be re-recorded or else you wouldn't be able to hear a word that is said. That's kind of charming, isn't it? That a grown man can love profanity this much? I don't know, I think it is. It makes the dialogue, at times, insufferable -- when it goes too far over the top, anyway -- but for the most part it's ... "enjoyable" isn't the right word, but it's something similar.

You'll probably be offended by parts of Zack and Miri. That's fine, and in many cases, the intent. You'll also laugh a bunch, assuming this is the type of comedy you like. I found myself giggling a bit at the juvenility of the whole exercise, as well as some of the situations. It wasn't really a laugh-out-loud experience for me, but I'm sure other people are going to be laughing for its entirety.

However, when Smith tries to make the romance, and the feelings of the two leads, the central focus of the movie, it almost completely falls apart. You know it's coming, and you hope it'll try to do something different with a worn-out concept, but all it does is fall into cliché. That would almost be fine if the laughs didn't dry up, but they get almost completely removed for a good 15-20 minutes, which is too long a drought for Zack and Miri to overcome.

Some of the reason that I didn't like Zack and Miri as much as I might have is because one of the leading characters is played by Seth Rogen, whom I rarely enjoy. Elizabeth Banks is more my taste, and she brings a much needed energy to the pairing, as Rogen is generally more lethargic. The supporting cast is funnier than either lead, however, with fairly large roles going to Craig Robinson (the porno's "producer") Jason Mewes (one of the lead actors) and Justin Long (as someone who meets Zack at a high school reunion and steals the show in what seemed like an ad-libbing battle between the two actors). There are more, too, but those are the most memorable ones.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is certainly an apt title, as that's what happens for the majority of the film. They try to make a pornographic film. They also go through a weak rom-com storyline that takes away significantly from the rest of the film. Is the movie still funny? Sure, I suppose, if you like this kind of crude, juvenile, profane humor. If you don't, you'll come away from the movie feeling as if DIRTY WORDS GO HERE.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 3D

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ...

(2005)
8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

At last, the saga is complete. Everything has come full circle, and we can finally understand exactly how everything in the very first Star Wars movie came into being. Well, sort of. There are still some gaps, most of which don't matter, but for the main characters, it all makes sense. I am content with this. This film makes up for the blunder that was Attack of the Clones. Not entirely, mind you, but I thought that maybe the inspiration was gone from George Lucas' mind. That's not the case; this is the best of the Star Wars prequels.

It's not really that the movie itself was anything special. It's mostly just a whiz-bang effort of action scenes and special effects. But that we have everything pieced together now brings new understanding to the war that didn't seem to matter in the, by release date, first three films. It lets us understand why the bad guys are the bad guys -- it seemed beforehand that they were evil just because the series needed villains -- and how they came to be that way. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Revenge of the Sith makes the earlier films better, but it certainly helped in comprehending them.

The Star Wars universe is so big, and it's easy to feel lost within it. This film brings it all together, at least, as far as the movies are concerned. It answered pretty much all of the questions that I had, and did so in an entertaining and effective manner that (mostly) made sense. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, but I found myself more forgiving than I have been since the very first installment.

This is the climax you've been waiting for. Teased for the last couple of films, this is when Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) finally becomes the villain we knew him as in the original trilogy. That transformation occurs at the midway point of this film, for reasons that I will not spoil. This isn't a "destination" film; it's one about the journey. You know how it has to end, for the most part, and you're here to see the small events and to further understand the why behind these moments in time. You get all that here.

You also get a great deal of action scenes, filled with some very impressive special effects. Revenge of the Sith comes three years after Attack of the Clones, and the CGI has improved since then. The earlier film often felt fake, while this one is more believable. Sure, it's still a flurry of special effects in a lot of the scenes, but at least it's eye-candy this time around and not eye-vegetables. The film returns to the franchise roots of looking visually outstanding.

You get some very fun lightsaber duels, force powers being taken to their extremes, some ship battles, and even another jungle type area where we get a Chubacca cameo. Sure, the last one seemed really forced in there -- we don't get to see Han Solo, by the way, so don't even ask -- but it's a nice surprise and I have to admit that I smiled. The film is entertaining for its entirety, which was the biggest problem that the last one had. It was dull, and not a whole lot happened. This one has seemingly everything happen and you always have something to admire.

The only real character growth comes from Anakin, which turns him from a bratty teenager into the lord of darkness. This would have worked better had Hayden Christensen not played the role. I don't generally think he's a bad actor -- see some of his non-Star Wars roles for examples of that -- but him playing the dark and sinister type is just way too tough a sell. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt here, but I couldn't stop seeing him as the small kid trying to make himself look big and tough and scary. Maybe giving him the helmet right after the turn instead of at the very end would have helped this.

There's a lot of gravitas to this film. Like the conclusion to the first trilogy, there's a sense of danger at every moment. People could easily, and will, die in this movie. You know the primary players survive, but who won't? And how will they be killed? You want the answers to these questions, even if you don't necessarily want to see a beloved side character get the ax.

Most of the actors still aren't very good here, save for Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi who actually gets more than one character moment. Natalie Portman's Padmé gets absolutely nothing to do with herself, and the same is true of both of the droids. It's not actors that make this movie a success. It's the payoff from all of the world building that had been done in each of the previous installments, and the payoff you have in your mind when you piece everything together. That it looks incredible is a bonus.

Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith is a very fine conclusion to the second Star Wars trilogy. As a standalone film, it's a decent spectacle. As the conclusion to a mediocre trilogy tasked with setting up a fantastic one? I thought it did a really solid job. It helps in understanding the films that, chronologically speaking, come afterward, and it's the payoff from all of the universe building and exploration that we've done over the course of the previous films. The saga is at an end, and it's worth it.

Matthew's Badges

Intel Hollywood Star Program (July 2012 - December 2012)
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