The Grey

THAT’S IT ?!?!?!

I literally shouted those words at the screen when it went black after The Grey. In a full theatre, no less. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like an 18-year-old groupie who had been picked up at a night spot by director Joe Carnahan, titillated and swept off my feet with rides in sports cars and parties at private pools, enraptured in building anticipation, only to find out in bed that Carnahan has this … “little problem.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this let down by a movie. Perhaps it is partly my fault for allowing my expectations to get so high. Since our daughter was born, it’s gotten much harder to get to the theater, and last weekend was the first time I had been since the Fourth of July, when I reviewed Green Lantern. But after seeing the trailers, I couldn’t wait to see The Grey. It had all the ingredients for a perfect wilderness adventure:

A group of tough guys who know a thing or two about the out doors (in this case oil-rig workers in Alaska),

A plane crash in a harsh, remote location with little hope of rescue,

A pack of very large, very hungry wolves on the hunt (the trailer made it clear this movie was not afraid of PETA),

and Liam freaking Neeson, who, in the closing seconds of the trailer, is surrounded by wolves. He tapes a bunch of empty bottles to his left hand and smashes them against a rock. Then he tapes a combat knife to his right. The Alpha wolf lunges forward, then Neeson does the same, and we see the title. I was hooked. I knew whatever happened in the moments after Neeson charged that wolf, was going to be AWESOME!

It was the perfect formula: a primal battle! Brain against brawn! Teeth against tools! What could possibly go wrong? I walked into the theatre thinking I might be about to witness the greatest man vs. beast movie since Jaws.

It starts out well enough. The plane goes down in the subarctic tundra, and John Ottway (Neeson) and six other men crawl from the wreckage. Once they pull themselves out of the shock, they begin to build a fire, make a shelter out of the plane and look for food. Their spirits have begun to lift when their dinner around the fire is interrupted by a howl. They stand up to see a huge wolf just inside the campfire light, and a sea of glittering eyes behind it. After a standoff, the wolves retreat into the darkness. A few hours later, a member of the group gets up and actually walks away from the fire to urinate. After what he’s seen, this makes no sense, but whatever; I guess it’s kind of a movie staple. He dies, of course.

The next day, Ottway, the group’s wolf expert , decides that if they can reach a forest some distance away, they could better defend themselves. On the day-long trek through knee-deep snow, they loose one more to the wolves. As night falls, they reach the forest, just as it begins to fill with the dinning and barking of the wolves. They hastily build a fire to keep the wolves at bay, then build four smaller fires to make a perimeter that they can sit inside. Ottway produces five straight branches and five shotgun shells he salvaged from the plane, and begins to instruct the others in making bang sticks to fight the wolves.

Alright. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Out of nowhere, a wolf jumps on John Diaz (Dallas Roberts), despite the fire. There follows a wild flurry of yelling, thrashing, and a couple of loud bangs, presumably bang sticks, and finally, we see Diaz on top of the wolf, thrusting his knife in and out of it. The thing is, we never really saw the fight with the wolf. So far, we’ve had a lot of great buildup and a lot of great suspense. The movie has created an atmosphere where we can never really relax, and the wolves, even when not seen, are always felt. But we really haven’t seen any good action.

But that’s okay, because the climax is going to be awesome.

This is where the movie starts to go downhill. Ottway decides for some reason that they have to move, and they go walking through this forest full of wolves in the dark. For some reason, there is never an attack, and they stop at a place where Ottway decides they will be safe. And they build ONE campfire. We’ve already seen how the wolves have become bold enough to enter the circle of fires they made earlier, but all fear of the wolves seems to have flown away for some reason. Even more strangely, the wolves seem to oblige. The next day, the group reaches a canyon and decides to climb across. They manage to attache a rope to a tree on the other side through means very hard to swallow, but whatever, it’s a movie. As the last member of the group (Durmot Mulroney) climbs across, the rope breaks and he swings across, hitting the tree hard and falling to his death. His body is then immediately pounced upon by the wolves, almost as if they were waiting at the base of the tree! Now, how did that happen? How did the wolves climb down one side of the canyon and then up the other? And even then, how did they know exactly where Mulroney was going to fall? And why hadn’t the rest of the group shouted anything to him about wolves at the base of the tree? Why did the wolves magically disappear the night before when it would’ve made sense for them to be attacking, only to reappear in such a ridiculous way here?

Let it go. The climax is going to be awesome.

Neeson poses and never delivers in “The Grey.”

The group presses on, as their number continues to dwindle. Strangely, we never hear a word about the bang sticks after that first campfire in the woods. It sounded like they used one or two during the attack at that point, but they have to have some left. The other reason this doesn’t add up is that, shortly after the plane crash, there is a scene where Ottway is attacked by a wolf. It latches onto his leg, and two other survivors run up and apparently beat the wolf to death with bits of the plane. This confirmed my impression from the trailer and set a good tone for the movie: these are tough guys. Some of them have been in prison; all of them have spent months working an oil rig in Alaska. They’re used to these elements. Even in a situation this bad, they would have a fighting chance. But now, every time the wolves show up, all they can think of to do is run. And as anyone who has spent time around dogs knows, as slim as your odds might be fighting a wolf pack, they’re going to be even slimmer running. When am I going to get what I paid for?

That’s okay. The climax is going to be awesome.

As predicted, Ottway is the last one left alive. Trudging through a clearing with most of his equipment gone, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by wolves. The Alpha advances from the pack. The excitement builds as he empties the contents of a back pack. He kisses a picture of his wife, tapes a bunch of empty bottles to his left hand and smashes them against a rock. Then he tapes a combat knife to his right.

Oh, boy, this is it!

Ottway reaches inside himself and recites a short poem composed by his father. Then we see his eyes, now devoid of fear. The Alpha lunges forward, Ottway does the same, and …

THAT’S IT?!?!?!

I couldn’t believe it, but that was the end. There was nothing of that scene in the movie that wasn’t in the trailer. If fact, I got online when we got home and checked out the trailer again. They actually show you a little bit more in the trailer than they do in the film! Talk about false advertising! Where was my glorious man-wolf battle?? CARNAHAN! You lied to me!

A few hours later, I read that there was one more scene after the credits, in which we see Ottway and the Alpha, both on the ground. The Alpha is apparently dying; Ottway’s condition is harder to determine. Even if I had stayed for this scene, it would have been small consolation. That only means that Carnahan didn’t consider it a forgone conclusion that Ottway had no chance. So why didn’t I get to see him fight?

Anyway, for those of you that are complaining “you spoiled the ending,” I did so because, really, there was no ending. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the ending. All of it. I did you a favor, saving you time and money. And for those of you saying “you missed the point. The wolves are a metaphor for death and the story is really about being brave when death is coming for you …” I can understand that. But this is a movie. It’s based in the visual. What is the point of having a story of internal struggle leading up to a physical confrontation, if you’re not going to show the confrontation — especially when it would have been so simple to do! In Jaws, for example, we still have most of the same themes — over coming your fear, a bond that developes between three very different men when they face death together, etc. But we get the pay-off at the end. We get to see what happens. We get to see the symbol of fear and death destroyed. And even if said symbol had won, it would have been a more satisfying ending than that of The Grey.  And in any case, if all the movie was trying to do was tell a story about philosophical ideals, why was it sold to me as an action/adventure picture?

I can contemplate the meaning of life without buying a ticket, thank you.

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Van Helsing

Yeah, that’s right. I like Van Helsing (2004), one of the most hated movies of the last 20 years. I have seen so many reviews, blogs and videos trashing this movie, that I felt I had to speak up to defend it. So before you blow me off as an idiot, hear me out.

There’s no denying that Van Helsing is stupid, but it’s no stupider than a lot of movies out there. In fact, Van Helsing is probably the magnum opus of its director, considering that its director is Steven Sommers, one of the most bubble-headed directors of all time. To put Van Helsing in the proper context, it’s necessary to take a brief look at Sommers’ filmography.

Sommers’ first box office hit was The Mummy (1999), which I’ve already reviewed, a brain-dead piece of clap-trap that existed soley for the sake of mindless violence and spectacle. Some people read from a book, which brings the Mummy back from the dead, he kills half the world, and then the same people are supposed to be heroes just for cleaning up their own mess. For reasons I’ve never understood, The Mummy continues to be a favorite movie of many people. Next, Sommers vomited out The Mummy Returns (2001), a fairly standard sequel with a lot more horrific deaths, and even more ridiculous plot points. The herione of the first movie (Rachel Weiss) is suddenly declared to be a reincarnation of Egyptian princess Nephretiri. Don’t ask me how that works, as reincarnation was never discussed in the first movie, or in Egyptian mythology for that matter. Then, Sommers took a minor character from Returns, the Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. “The Rock”), and stretched his back story into a full length movie. The Scorpion King was yet another mental death-trap for teens, given a mild-souding PG-13 rating and yet loaded with violence and near-nudity. The story was little more than an excuse for the Rock to show off.

And after all this, we got Van Helsing. Apparently bored with making three movies out of one Universal Studios moster, Sommers decided to make one movie and include three Universal mosters — Dracula (Richard Roxburg), The Wolfman (Will Kemp), and Frankenstien’s Moster (Schuler Hensley). While I can understand why some people hate Van Helsing, I cannot understand why some people lapped up The Mummy and then hated Van Helsing.

Why is Van Helsing awesome? Here's why.

First, vampires and werewolves are way cooler than mummies. Second, our hero, Van Helsing, is played by Hugh freaking Jackman, probably the greatest specimen of manliness since Harisson Ford (okay, so I’m not imune to man-crushes. Sue me). The Mummy has Brendan Frasier. This is the guy who played Dudley Do Right and George of the Jungle, and then got beat up by cartoons in Looney Tunes, Back in Action. And third, Van Helsing has a collection of gadgets that would make James Bond jealous. He fights monsters with buzz saws, crossbows that launch silver arrows, a shotgun, a pop-out silver stake, pop out crosses, grapling hooks, and thats just to name a few!

The action sequences in this movie define the word epic, involving huge sets, hundreds of extras (monster fodder) and dazling special effects. Every detail of them was meticulously planned out (too bad you can’t say the same for the plot). Moments that I initially dismissed as rediculous (e.g. the roof of a carriage catching fire durring a werewolf attack) actually do happen for an (admittedly implausible) reason (e.g. the werewolf crashing against a lantern on the side of the carraige and sliding across the roof). This movie has more effective jump-scares than many other movies combined, and even pulls off a number of really difficult delayed-jump-scares (the kind where you sort-of see it coming, but that only increases its effect on you). On top of all this, it still manages to slip in quite a few funny moments.

Jackman is, of course, dashing as a younger version of Bram Stoker’s hero, but Aussie star Richard Roxberg is equally great as the Lord of Evil himself, Count Dracula. There’s a little bit of Bella Lugosi in his performance, a little of Gary Oldman, and a little of the historical Dracula, but it’s mostly his own creation. It ranges from quiet, brooding moments to wild rage, and manages to make it all quite sinister and intimidating. In any case, it’s much more interesting than watching Arnold Vosloo make faces like he needs to blow his nose. This is a major strength of the movie that compensates for lack of a coherent plot: you have these epic characters that are so vividly realized, and they’re played off eachother so powerfully that you almost don’t need a story. Leading Lady Kate Beckinsale (as Transylvanian she-warior Anna Valerious) looks great in her slinky outfits and also pulls of the action side of the roll. It’s hard to believe she once had this roll. A word also needs to be said about David Wenham, who, prior to this roll, had been voted “Australia’s Sexiest Man Alive.” However, for this movie, he put tack behind his ears to make himself look like Dumbo, donned a friar’s outfit, and speant the movie jabbering and bumbling around, just so we could have a laugh. Thanks, David.

Finally, there are the special effects. I know, I know. Just like all of you, I’ve talked a lot about how I’m tired of special effects, and they don’t impress me anymore. But any honest viewer has to admit that, even by 2011 standards, Van Helsing’s special effects truly are incredible. Most of it is C.G.I. However, if you watch the making-of features, there are some surprises. For example, when Dracula’s brides transform and take flight, the bodies are C.G.I., but their faces are still their own, covered in makeup. Rather than rely on C.G.I., Sommers used it to enhance the sets and props, which look good of their own accord.

When it comes to special effects, even today, movies tend to cheat. Forexample, if someone is going to transform (e.g. into a werewolf) we usually see the beginning of the transformation, then they fall below the camera, or stumble behind something, then we see the finall result, and the producer saves $50,000. Not in Van Helsing. It helps that “subtlety” is not in Sommers’ vocabulary. We see everything every time, and everything looks absulutely real. The werewolves, in particular, look amazing; you can actually see individual hairs blowing in the wind. In one scene, it’s raining, and the hair gets matted down, but still looks natural. There are all kinds of little touches throughout the movie. For example, in one scene, a vampiress (Elena Anaya) takes a stake in the heart. She then explodes into slime. Animating liquid is hard enough, but they didn’t stop there. They actually kept the shape of her screaming face in the slime as it flies at the camera. I didn’t even notice this until the third or fourth time I watched it. From the first scene to the last, you see proof that the post-production team worked tremendously hard on this one.

Is Van Helsing destined for a spot in the anals of great movies? Psh. Heck, no. But is it the steaming turd so many make it out to be? Not at all. What is it? A roaring good time that cast and crew put a lot of sweat into, and a sign that Sommers can make a decent movie, if he really tries. And there’s hope for more, because he still hasn’t done the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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Flyboys

World War I rocked. It’s not like the population of Europe was actually decimated, or the world thrown into political upheaval that it’s never fully recovered from. Millions of men didn’t really claw through the rest of their lives, battling the scars left by poison gas and shell shock. No, the real story of WWI is one of teenage heartthrobs strutting around in designer-made period costumes, and flying brightly decorated airplanes through dazzling explosions that don’t hurt main characters. Or at least that’s the impression you get from Flyboys.

Actually, if you were to watch films made during WWI, you might think the same thing. WWI fighter pilots were made celebrities and national heroes. In reality, the airplane contributed precious little to the outcome of the war, which was won on the ground. But there’s nothing entertaining about watching a man starve and freeze in a mud-hole until he’s blown to bits by a shell fired by unseen enemies. So let’s crank the propellers and fire up Flyboys!

For all my cynicism, this is a genuinely entertaining movie. The story of Americans who volunteered for the French military, it has every cliché in the book. James Franco stars as Cocky Young Guy who joins up because he thinks it would be fun to fly airplanes. Martin Henderson plays Grizzled Veteran. “Let me guess: you’re here because you thought it’d be fun to fly airplanes.” They have all the standard dialogue.

Veteran: You realize if you die here, your family name dies with you.

Yes, Franco's plane is mostly canvass, and yes, he flew through that blaze, and yes, he's fine.

Young Guy: Psh. I don’t plan on dyin’.

Veteran: None of the guys in the squadron cemetery did either.

Young Guy: Psh.

The two then fly deadly missions together. In between them, Young Guy woos Indigenous Girl (Jennifer Decker) while he should be training. She starts counting the planes every time his squadron flies out and flies back. Eventually, he has to save her from some German foot soldiers. To do this, he steals a plane from the squadron hanger. He is therefore sent up for military discipline, until his French commanding officer (ever notice how there’s never a French guy in a movie that’s not played by Jean Reno?) conveniently looses the paper work and slips him a medal.

Meanwhile, Veteran, an aviation progeny with over 20 kills, is driven to fly extra missions to hunt down the Germans that killed all of his friends. He is haunted by the specter of his last remaining adversary, Smirking Face with no Dialogue (Gunnar Winberg). In their eventual confrontation, the Face kills him, so who goes toe-to-toe with the Face at the climax? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count.

The cast of war movie cut-outs is rounded out by Philip Winchester as War Hero’s Son Who Can’t Fill the Shoes (from Lincoln Nebraska, I might add), Abdul Salis as Angry Black Guy, Tyler Labine as Racist Guy, and Michael Jibson as Religious Guy. Together they fly through all the standard scenarios, involving daring dogfights, civilians in need of rescue, and eeeeevil Germans. The fuselage of this movie is riddled with clichés from nose to tail, but it’s one of those movies that show you why the clichés exist – because they work! It’s easy to thrill to the dogfights and lose yourself in this one until you forget your troubles. Yes, you’ll predict everything that happens in the movie, but you’ll still care about the characters (even if you forget their names). I could say that this film is an insult to the millions who suffered and sacrificed during the Great War, but that would be a cliché in itself. Rent it tonight, make some pop corn, and see what you’ve been missing out on.

 

 

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The Mummy

Several people commented during our Avatar contest that they would like to see us  review The Mummy (1999). I happen to have a unique perspective on this movie, as it has somehow wormed its way into an odd place in my life. I first saw it in college, and while I didn’t hate it, I felt no interest in sitting through it ever again. Steven Sommers’ obsession with mindless spectacle and pointless deaths was enough to ruffle even my then-adolescent feathers.  I put The Mummy from my mind, and didn’t even bother to check out the over-hyped sequel in the summer of 2001.

Seven years later, I got married, and I learned that The Mummy was one of my wife’s all-time favorite movies. Since it had been so long, and out of affection for her, I gladly endured one more screening. The problem is, one was not enough for her. For the last two years of my life, every time there’s laundry to fold or iron, The Mummy goes in the VCR. I usually try to busy myself in some other room, balancing the checkbook or something, whenever she watches The Mummy. Despite this, I can still hear it, and have learned all the screams of the movie by heart.

So, what’s in The Mummy? We start around 1200 B.C. when Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), high priest of Pharaoh Sethi I, and Ank Su Namun, the Paraoh’s concubine (Patricia Velasquez, above) conspire to murder Sethi. They take turns hacking him with swords, causing him to go “Aaaggh!” “Eeee!”  “Aaaaa!” Ank Su Namun then kills herself to avoid punishment for the murder. Imhotep later tries to resurrect her, but Sethi’s guards stop him. He is sentenced to be mummified alive for his crimes. (Just for the record, that’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. In real life, you’d be dead halfway through step one.) Some priests cut off his tongue, resulting in a scream that is really more of gasp. Imhotep is then buried alive, and placed under a curse that says, should he be resurrected, he would return as a pestilence to destroy the earth.

Before Scott Evil can jump up and say “Why don’t you just kill him and be done with it?” we are transported to the 1920s. We meet Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), a British librarian and Egyptologist, who emits an “Eeeek!” when her brother, Jonathon (John Hannah), makes a mummy pop out of a sarcophagus, startling her. Jonathon has found an artifact that intrigues Evie, and she begins assembling a team to travel deep into Egypt to find the lost city of Hamunaptra. They are joined by Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), an adventurer from the States, and four treasure hunters, along with many other nameless pieces of monster fodder, destined to emit screams.

On the journey, their ship is attacked by fighters who protect Imhotep’s tomb called the Medjai. O’Connell sets one on fire, who jumps off the boat, screaming “Hoo, hoo, hoo-aaaaah!” (splash) Once they arrive at Hamunaptra, three Arabic-speaking guides are melted by acid in a booby trap,

Aaagh!

Aaagh!

Owwie!

A warden has a golden beetle come to life, burrow into his foot, then up his body and into his brain, causing him to go mad and run screaming down a corridor into a wall

Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Smack

And finally, Evie reads from the Book of the Dead, bringing Imhotep back to life. “Noo! You must not read from the book!” As soon as she does, a storm of locust comes up, forcing the adventurers inside the ancient temple that is now stalked by Imhotep. One by one, all the extras are killed either by Imhotep, the beetles, or booby traps, resulting in screams to numerous to transcribe.

They return to Cairo but the Mummy follows them. Four treasure hunters are under a special curse for opening Imhotep’s organ chest, and he kills each of them before moving on to the rest of the world. While the first one dies screaming “No! Please, please, please …” the rest of them go out with more of an “Aaaeeeiiieck*” as Imhotep drains them of their life. Each time he does so, he partially regenerates, until he looks like a living man. Which raises some questions: what would he have done if fewer than four had opened the chest? If no one had opened the chest, but Evie had read from the book, would he have just destroyed the world as a walking corpse? For that matter, since he plans on destroying the world anyway, why bother with these guys?

The Mummy; half-way through his curse victims, so ... 50% regenerated?

The answer is, you have to think like Steven Sommers. For Sommers, making sense is nothing; spectacle is everything. Nothing goes into the “plot” of this movie unless it will lead to either a fight scene or a horrific, screaming death (although the deaths involve an implausible omission of red liquid to keep that all-important PG-13 rating). The curse on Imhotep’s organ chest is nothing more than an aside, crammed into the movie to give Sommers an excuse to kill four more guys.

Frankly, the rest of the movie is pretty much the same thing. More screams, people dying by the hundred, and inane scripture quotations with no meaning. Beth eventually showed me the sequel, and I actually liked it a little better, though I think it was mostly because I had lower expectations. If you’re interested in Sommer’s work, or in Universal Studios monsters, your time would be better spent checking out Van Helsing (2004). It has all the same stupidities as The Mummy, but at least has cooler characters, awesome action scenes, and some really wicked gadgets.

To summarize my impression of The Mummy:

Sitting through it once: “Eh.” (In other words, )

Being subjected to it over and over:

“Aaaggh!” “Eeee!”  “Aaaaa!”

“Hoo, hoo, hoo-aaaaah!” (splash)

Aaagh!

Aaagh!

Owwie!

Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Smack

“No! Please, please, please …”

“Aaaeeeiiieck*”

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Megalodon (times 2)

In the summer of 1975, people crowded into movie theatres to see the work of a young genius named Steven Spielberg. They watched as a young woman, drunkenly laughing, led her boyfriend to the water’s edge, then began swimming out to sea. She was having a great time – and then suddenly, she disappeared. A few seconds later she reappeared, screaming, gasping and trying to fight, and then she was gone again. The whole thing took maybe ten seconds.

Movie goers sat transfixed, still feeling the terror that woman felt in her final moments. For years afterwards, millions refused to go into the water. And they never saw a thing. Oh, sure, for the next two hours (and then for three inferior sequels) Jaws turned the sea white with thrashing and red with blood, but no one has forgotten that first scene to this day.

Naturally, a classic will have imitators, and shark films have abounded ever since, but none have ever figured out what it was that made Jaws great. Most have clung to the belief that “bigger is better.” This is probably why there is a whole subgenre of “Megalodon” films.

Carcharodon Megalodon is the designation given by many scientists to a number of poorly-preserved fossils. These fossils seem to be essentially identical to those of the Great White Shark – except much larger. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carcharodon_megalodon)

Megalodon, lovingly termed “Meg” by paleontolgists, is thought to have grown to 60 or 70 feet, and to have been extinct for 2.5 million years (Although a 60-foot Great White was reported around 500 years ago). So if a 25-foot Great White in Jaws was scary, a 70-foot Great White is even scarier, right? Sigh.

A meg mouth reconstructed in 1909.

I decided to get my feet wet in this world of the Hollywood Meg last night and came away with all my toes still attached. I first watched Megalodon, Dir. Pat Corbit, 2004 (hereafter Meg) and then Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Dir. David Worth, 2002 (hereafter SA3).

Meg is actually not too bad. You kind of have to get past the fact that they used prehistoric CGI to go with their prehistoric monster, and the fact that the editing is never quite right for building suspense, but the plot is straightforward and not too implausible. Two journalists arrive at a new multi-billion dollar oil rig to cover its first bite into the floor of the north Atlantic. But of course (say it with me now) Something Goes Wrong and the drill sinks into a previously undiscovered subterranean ocean. A few hours later, the rig begins to shake as something big swims out of the hole. Several people go down to check it out and they don’t all make it back up.

Painting by Csotonyi of a meg attacking a mosasaur.

If Meg has a strength, it’s its simplicity. In a 90-minute film, no time is wasted on character development. They give us just enough scenes to understand the general situation and what equipment the characters have to work with before introducing the threat. We are then treated to shots of the shark swimming around, crashing into steel girders and ramming it’s head through ice caps, trying to get at the people on top. These scenes are kind of cool, and in an undersea story, it only makes sense that we see the shark. All this might sound like damning with faint praise, but Corbit does deserve a nod for not trying to do more than he could.

The biggest problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any miniature work in Meg. This can be a good thing only if the CGI is flawless, and this CGI is … not. Still, it’s fun watching a giant shark chase a submersible through a maze of I-beams.

If there is anything good about SA3, it’s that the overall plot is very well put together. The action centers around a seaside resort in Mexico. It’s not surprising that a millionaire communications CEO (George Stanchev) is staying at this resort. It’s also not surprising that the area happens to be the crossroads for his company’s trans-pacific cable. And it’s not too surprising that the cable’s electro-magnetic pulses have lured a prehistoric shark out of the Challenger Deep, which has followed the cable to this very spot. As parts of large marine animals, and then people, begin to wash ashore at the resort, Ben Carpenter (John Barrowman), a life guard, begins to worry about the safety of vacationers. When he finds a strange tooth in the cable, he sends the picture over the internet. A paleontologist in San Diego, Catlin Stone (Jenny McShane), recognizes the species and travels to the resort to study the meg. Thus it makes sense that all these characters are in the same place because they’ve all been drawn her by the effects of the cable. There’s plenty of conflict between them, too. Carpenter is intent on killing the shark, Stone wants to study it, and the rich guy just wants his system to get up and running.

Sadly, this movie has too many millstones around its neck to keep it’s head above water. It’s got the worst acting I’ve seen this side of grade school pageants. It’s downright painful to sit through scene after scene of cheesy dialogue, where you actually see actors turning their heads away from the camera right before they break out laughing (did they not have time for second takes, or what?). The low production values are also something to behold. If it hadn’t been for repeated references to the internet and cell phones, I would have sworn this was filmed in the ‘70s.

If you think this is real, you'll be terrified by "Shark Attack 3."

And of course, we have the token lack of subtly. Right in the first scene, we see a shot of the shark’s face rushing at the camera, and then chomping down on a welder. Later, a couple starts to make out on a water slide, which drops them into the ocean, and they are instantly attacked. No circling to be realistic or build suspense. We see the shark through the whole movie, and – get this – it actually growls! None of it is remotely plausible or scary, unless you’re the sort who has nightmares about being photographed and superimposed over a shark’s mouth.

The most pathetic thing about SA3 is that it tries so hard to be Jaws. The main characters go out on a boat and shoot guns and harpoons at the shark, the shark eventually sticks its head into the boat as in Jaws; the movie even copies Jaws 3, when the first meg is killed and then a bigger meg (possibly mom?) appears in the last 15 minutes to attack a cruise ship and swallow motorboats whole. It seems Worth was making it easy on himself with this one, counting on the principle that a movie doesn’t have to be good, as long as there are plenty of scenes of girls taking their bathing suits off.

Incidentally, don’t ask me what SA3 is a sequel to. A search of IMDB for “Shark Attack” turned up more movies than I could shake a stick at. Doubtless, the future will bring many more. Other marine monsters have made it to the movies from time to time (e.g. The Beast, Lake Placid), but none of them capture our imaginations the way sharks do. As the mayor explained in Jaws, “You yell ‘barracuda,’ everybody says ‘Huh? What?’ You yell ‘shark,’…”

Panic scene from "Jaws."

Megalodon

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

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