Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016) Film Review

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens cover“Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” had me wondering how it was possible to top sharks in space being sliced in half by laser swords. The answer is to provide ninety minutes of nonstop action. Despite the Star Wars pun in the title, the latest entry in the Sharknado franchise still takes place on Earth. There are still new ways that sharks can wreak havoc and even more absurd ways to kill sharks. Did you know it is possible to blow up the Grand Canyon? This movie gets crazy in a fun and cheesy way. Prior viewings of the other three Sharknado movies are required to get the most enjoyment out of “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” as there is continuity between the movies that will make the plot easier to follow. Fans of Sharknado will find a lot to like here.

This movie takes place five years after the events of “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!”. A company has developed a way to stop all forms of tornadoes. I was worried when the camera panned to a research facility as it is always a boring plot device in Asylum movies. Luckily, not a lot of screen time is spent on the research facility. What we do get to see is some Iron Man-like propulsion devices and mech suits that foreshadow some of the crazy weapons that will be seen later in the movie.  The movie wastes no time getting to the action, even using a Star Wars crawl at the beginning as exposition.  The protagonist is still Finn Shepherd who just seems to have no luck with experiencing good weather conditions. While he is at a Shark themed hotel in Las Vegas a tornado forms. All of the technology developed to stop tornadoes cannot prevent this one. The tornado reaches the hotel and creates a sharknado. This happens about five minutes into the movie and the action does not stop from there.

If there is one complaint I have about the beginning of the movie, it is the opening credits. “Sharknado 3” ended on a cliffhanger that left the fate of one character in jeopardy. The name appears in the opening credits, sort of ruining the mystery. Also, this character was featured in the trailer. It could have possibly been a clone as cloning people does not seem like a far-off reality in these movies, but after watching this movie, I can confirm that it is not a clone. I get why the name has to be included, but considering that continuity is something Sharknado movies try to focus on, I would have thought there would be more secrecy about this character’s outcome.

Once again, there are plenty of celebrity cameos. A quick Google search will bring up a complete and in-depth list, but one cameo that sticks out is Steve Guttenberg. He makes a reference to “Lavalantula” which confirms my suspicion that the universes of Lavalantula and Sharkndo are connected. Ian Ziering’s cameo in “Lavalantula” was not enough proof for me at the time. While on the subject on cameos, it is baffling that Alfonso Ribeiro did not make an appearance. Maybe what I should be wondering is why Alfonso Ribeiro keeps appearing in commercials as a stunt driver for the movie.

Anyways, “Sharkndo: The 4th Awakens” delivers on what makes the other Sharknado movies entertaining to watch, absurd action. Can the magic be repeated with the next installment? I hope so.

Shark Night (2011) Film Review

“Shark Night” sure does sound like the title of a SyFy channel movie. This movie was actually released in theaters as “Shark Night 3D”. So there must be a lot of blood spewing action if “3D” was added to the title, right? Not with a PG-13 rating. The action is toned down to the point that there is hardly any to watch. “Shark Night” attempts to have a compelling story, but it just doesn’t work that well. If you want a good shark movie, look somewhere else.

This movie starts off with a scene that shows some college-aged people getting attacked by a shark at a lake. This looks promising, but it is just a ploy to get some sharks on the screen. It has no impact on the story at all. It takes a solid thirty minutes before anything remotely exciting happens.

“Shark Night” follows a group of Tulane University students that go for a trip to a girl’s house on a lake. There is a driving montage, a trip to a store and and a boating montage. Not a lot happens. This would be slightly more acceptable if the characters were likable, but they are just annoying stereotypical college students. When a shark finally appears at the lake, instead of there being a sense of peril, I thought to myself good riddance.

After the shark attack, the story takes a turn when the ex-boyfriend of one of the girls shows up. It becomes apparent that he cannot be trusted and is out for revenge. Also, there is a sheriff that wants to make shark snuff films. This detail is revealed just as abruptly in the movie. The intricate plot that this movie is trying to establish could have worked if the characters were stronger. It still would not have been very good, but it would have been better.

“Shark Night” is a bad movie. There should be a movie called “Shark Knight”. Imagine how fun that movie would be. A shark with a suit of armor!

Ozark Sharks (2016) Film Review

The best SyFy channel movies are the ones that do not take themselves seriously. “Ozark Sharks” is an over the top movie that tells the simple story of a family camping trip to a lake gone horribly wrong. There is hardly a break from the action. Every scene is moving the plot forward to finish the task at hand which is to kill all of the sharks at this particular lake. “Ozark Sharks” may not be an amazing name for a movie, but it is a SyFy channel movie that should not be missed.

Surprisingly, the strongest aspect about this movie is its characters which actually have identifiable personalities. Their personalities may not be particularly original, but they help keep the movie engaging when there are not sharks on the screen. The family consists of a father, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter and a son. The standout character in this family is the teenage daughter who behaves like Daria Morgendorffer, a bookworm that plans on reading throughout the entire family vacation. She goes from being unenthusiastic about the trip to a shark killing machine. She is played by Allisyn Ashley Arm who is apparently a former Disney Channel star that appeared in “So Random!” and “Sonny with a Chance”. Maybe “Ozark Sharks” just has better actors/actresses in comparison to the other movies featured during Sharknado Week. I mean, the mother, played by Laura Cayouette, appeared in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” and “Django Unchained”.

The family is assisted by a crazy, old shopkeeper that is over-prepared for everything. His solution to keep mosquitoes away is to shoot them with a shotgun before they have the chance to touch his skin. He has a warehouse filled with weapons that might as well be for the zombie apocalypse. There are massive shotguns, pitchforks made from machetes and a ninja sword with two blades just to name a few of his weapons. This family is going to need them all because killing sharks isn’t easy. The variety in weapons makes the shark kills unpredictable. Sharks are killed with flare guns, fireworks and even a wood chipper. It is a lot of fun to watch.

“Ozark Sharks” is a fun movie. The tone of the movie is generally lighthearted, well as lighthearted as you can get for a movie where sharks tear people’s limbs off. This is how SyFy channel movies should be. You would think at this point these movies would have taken a message from the success of “Sharknado” and just be as crazy as possible and deliver as much action as possible. This movie certainly took that message.

Planet of the Sharks (2016) Film Review

My imagination went wild when I heard the title “Planet of the Sharks”. Was there going to be talking sharks? Was there going to be sharks that live on land? That seems like it would require more production values than SyFy channel movies are capable of. With that title, I surely would have expected sharks. “Planet of the Sharks” is a contender for the SyFy channel shark movie with the least amount of sharks.

“Planet of the Sharks” takes place on an Earth that is entirely covered by water. Villages have somehow been constructed on top of the ocean using wood. Where did the supplies come from? After seeing a village get destroyed by sharks, we are introduced to a research facility crew that will be the main focus of the movie. Even in a reality where everything is destroyed, the Asylum just had to include a research facility. Ugh.

So these researchers are developing a laser to shoot that will fix the Earth’s weather conditions and create land masses. The crew needs a few more supplies to finish the laser and seeks help at a village called Salvation. This village is led by a woman that follows tribal rituals. She offers supplies on the condition that the four hundred people living there are escorted somewhere safer. A deal is made and she gets a couple of villagers together so that they can play music and dance. The village is then attacked by sharks and destroyed. I guess everyone living there is now dead.

At this point, the movie becomes difficult to understand. The research crew wants to blow up a volcano so they send someone in a helicopter to get to an underwater volcano. The helicopter is destroyed in the air by a shark. So now they have to find a way to bomb a volcano and fire a laser and everything will be saved. Does that sound exciting? It isn’t. Eventually things got so boring, I began wondering when the last time I saw a shark was. This is inexcusable for a shark movie, especially one called “Planet of the Sharks”.

It is said in the movie that the sharks can communicate electromagnetically. The sharks, or maybe just one shark, it is not really clear, have blue lines across their faces that are reminiscent of the box art of “System Shock 2”. This is an aspect that I wish “Planet of the Sharks” had focused more on. Then it would really seem like sharks have taken over the world.

The plot of this movie is difficult to follow, the acting is terrible and the action scenes are not exciting. There are no redeeming qualities to “Planet of the Sharks”. Avoid this movie.

Ice Sharks (2016) Film Review

“Ice Sharks”. What happens on that one? Sharks swim through ice. It’s a shame that there are only three scenes where that actually happens. When sharks cut a circle in the ice that sends a research facility one hundred feet deep into the ocean, “Ice Sharks” becomes a movie about escaping and getting to safety. The sharks still pose a threat, but there is nothing special about them. There is nothing special about this movie.

When Asylum movies incorporate a research facility into the plot, you should be mentally preparing yourself for boring dialog. “Ice Sharks” is no exception. The first half of the movie, the half before the research facility sinks, is mostly dialog. There are a couple of action scenes outdoors, but they go by way too quickly. Going outdoors does very little to alleviate the boredom. The harsh weather conditions of the Arctic results in having to stare at a lot of gray. The sterile research facility has more color.

This movie has a logic flaw with regards to swimming in the Arctic Ocean. Near the start of the movie, a researcher is attacked by a shark and falls into the water. He makes it out and is rushed back to the research facility to prevent hypothermia. Further into the movie, once the facility is underwater, hypothermia appears to no longer be an issue. The researchers swim in the ocean with only one worry, sharks.

“Ice Sharks” should have focused more on sharks that can swim through ice. The movie starts off boring and gets slightly less boring. It is not the worst Asylum/SyFy channel movie I have watched, but I would not recommend watching it.

Dam Sharks! (2016) Film Review

The creators of “Airplane vs. Volcano” are back with a movie for Sharknado Week. “Dam Sharks!”, or according to IMDB, “Dam Sharks”, is a SyFy channel movie about sharks that use human bodies to build dams. This sounds like a crazy idea and would be even crazier if it was not revealed that the dams are mostly constructed with wood with human remains stuffed between the gaps. Still, there are dams and there are sharks. That’s all that the movie really needs. There is no need for unnecessary dialog. As far as SyFy movies go, you can do much worse.

“Dam Sharks” feels like two movies that are awkwardly joined together. Half of the time is spent focusing on a park ranger who is trying to get rid of sharks inhabiting a river after seeing a scuba diver get torn to shreds. The other half of the movie is about employees from a company taking a day off of work to do some team building exercises in the wild. These scenes are campy which makes them easier to watch, but I do not want to watch employees shoot paintballs at each other, I want to get to the shark action. The characters are forgettable except for one guy that is so cool that he has to take off his sunglasses to reveal his sunglasses. Eventually, the plots cross paths once the employees decide to go rafting.

The shark action in “Dam Sharks” is absurd and that is the way it should be. Sharks routinely appear to jump twenty feet into the air to kill people at the water’s surface. The plan to get rid of the sharks is to destroy the dams. I don’t quite understand how destroying the dams will kill the sharks, but it’s probably best not to question it. Also, the park ranger must be terrible at her job. How can so many people be killed in that river without her or anyone else noticing? Anyways, the plan to destroy the dams is to do it Sharknado style and blow them up. That sounds like a great plan. Taking a boat in shark infested waters to get to the dams, not so much.

This may be the first movie to use the term “Sharknado Week”. While I would prefer not to hear the term in any of these movies again, I enjoy that it is self-aware and does not try to take itself too seriously. In the end, “Dam Sharks” does not live up to the legacy of “Airplane vs. Volcano”, but it is still more entertaining than most SyFy channel movies.

Share Music from Spotify using Facebook Messenger…Again!

Multiple sources earlier today were reporting on a new Facebook Meesenger feature that allows users to easily share songs and playlists from Spotify.  This is a new feature?  I have conversations in Facebook Messenger from four years ago that are integrated with Spotify’s messaging features.

Okay, so maybe it is a new feature for the Facebook Messenger mobile apps, but why is it executed so poorly?  The feature is buried within a menu to view more options in a conversation.  How often do people bother to look at those options?  Sending music is straightforward which is great.  Just type what you are looking for and hit send.  Opening the messages is trickier than it needs to be however.

Spotify on Facebook Messenger

Album artwork is on full display when a message is sent.  It looks nice, but it is just an image.  Tapping on the artwork enlarges it instead of launching the Spotify app.  Users need to press the button that says open to listen to the song.  I guess that makes sense, but it is such a small area to tap.  Good luck trying to listen to music on your computer, that button is missing entirely.

Sptofy messages on a desktop
Spotify is just text, the album artwork is just an image. How do I listen to it?

What happened?  It seems like a glaring oversight to reduce functionality in a desktop browser.  The messages I sent from Spotify four years ago have the songs sent as links in my Facebook inbox and can be opened on just about any device.  This should be the case with the feature that just rolled out.

I shared a song to someone on my Facebook friend list using the Spotify desktop client tonight.  The song did not appear in his Facebook inbox.  Maybe that functionality was removed like most of the other Spotify related features on Facebook.  What happened to the music notes next to names on Facebook Messenger to let you know when they were listening to music?  How about that Open Graph app that tracked listening activity?  Actually, that doesn’t matter since it was an inferior version of Last.fm.

Le Grand Amour (1969) Film Review

Le Grand AmourLe Grand Amour is a French comedy that reminds me of Amélie.  Like Amélie, Le Grand Amour uses a fair share of surreal imagery.  These surreal scenes are the most memorable, for fairly obvious reasons.  Who wouldn’t remember a scene where people are driving beds?  Yeah, beds on a road.  I wonder if there is snooze control.  Le Grand Amour is a great film.  I enjoyed watching it.  As I was watching the film however, I felt like I should have been enjoying it more than I actually was.  This is mainly due to some scenes going on for longer than they have to.

The movie is about a married man who is attracted to his new secretary.  It is a relatively low-stakes premise for a movie title that translates to “The Great Love”, but it is a fitting title given how the protagonist fantasizes about his secretary.

One of the highlights of the film aside from the bed driving scene is a scene where the man images what would happen if his wife finds out about his feelings towards his secretary.  All he can think of is an impending divorce and in a day dream, he begins to cut everything in his home in half.  The TV, the books, the dog, nothing is safe.  It is over-the-top and unexpected.  Most of the attempts of humor in this film are unexpected.

The gags hardly ever feel out of place, but they occasionally drag on.  Had some of the scenes been shorter, it would have been an even more enjoyable movie.  An example of this is when the man finds a strand of the secretary’s hair in his office.  He smells the hair and puts it away in his desk and then decides to throw it away.  He then decides that he wants to keep the hair and begins to sift through the trash.  I get it.  He is obsessed with her.  It just goes from being awkwardly funny to creepy.

Clocking in at around 90 minutes, Le Grand Amour is an easy watch.  If you enjoyed Amélie, chances are you will find enjoyment in this movie.  I find it surprising that this film want missing and only resurfaced with the help of the Criterion Collection.

Song of the Sea (2014) Film Review

Song of the SeaSong of the Sea is an animated film directed by Tomm Moore, the director of The Secret of Kells.  I really need to get around to watching that movie after having watched Song of the Sea.  I was blown away by this movie.  One could say that my expectations were blown out of the water.  For a movie titled Song of the Sea, there really is not a lot of singing.  Instead, we are treated to a touching story that is made more emotional with a beautiful animation style that looks like a children’s book came to life.

At the start of the movie the protagonist appears to be a young boy named Ben who lives with his parents next to a lighthouse.  That is until his mother unexpectedly dies giving birth to his sister.  Time passes and his sister is seen celebrating her sixth birthday.  Ben’s sister, Saoirse (pronounced like Sir-cha) is mute.  Ben likes to rub it in her face that she is not normal.  He doesn’t seem too fond of her because he thinks she is responsible for the death of their mother.  His attitude towards his sister was understandable, but annoying.  Luckily his attitude changes and improves through the course of the movie.

One night, Saoirse puts on a white coat she finds in a closet and goes for a swim.  The coat looks like something Maggie Simpson would wear except with a hood.  This is a magical coat that turns her into a seal, at least while she is in the water anyways.  Night time swimming is viewed as irresponsible parenting by their visiting grandmother and the kids are taken away to go live with her in the city.

The rest of the movie is about the kids running away trying to figure out how to get back home.  The journey isn’t easy when it is discovered that Saoirse is a Selkie, a term straight out of Irish folklore.  Reality starts to become twisted with surreal surroundings that are just a pleasure to watch.

One thing that caught my attention in Song of the Sea that multiple times the movie pans to a shot with a door that has suggestive writing on it.  There are heavy Irish influences in this movie so I checked to see if the writing meant something else in Irish compared to English.  It more or less has the same implied meaning that one would think.  This was a little odd for a PG movie.

Keep out
Keep out

Song of the Sea did not see a wide theatrical release in the US.  This is unfortunate as it deserves to be seen.  The movie is available on Blu-ray, but is currently on the more expensive side of releases.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, put that membership to use and stream it.

The Kid (1921) Film Review

The KidThe Kid, the classic Charlie Chaplin film, not the Disney movie starring Bruce Willis or any of the other movies that share the same name.  It is a silent film that is primarily a comedy filled with slapstick humor, but there are some dramatic moments that make the film slightly darker than I expected it to be.

The movie starts off with a woman carrying a newborn baby.  Well, it’s implied that it is a newborn since she is walking out of a hospital with him, but the baby is huge.  I guess using a fake baby was out of the question.  The movie then pans to another scene where an artist is standing in front of a fireplace.  On top of the fireplace is a picture of the woman seen earlier.  The picture falls and the artist just tosses it into the fire.  It is harsh, but it is great way of letting the audience know that the woman is a single mother.

Much like the father wanting nothing to do with the mother, the mother wants nothing to do with the newborn.  She places the baby in a stranger’s car and walks away.  This is a shocking and irresponsible move.  If only there was some way to get rid of an unwanted baby.  The situation gets even worse when the car gets stolen by a pair of thieves.  The thieves notice the baby and just leave it in an alleyway to presumably let it die.  Then Charlie Chaplin’s character, the Tramp, appears and everything is hilarious.

The movie jumps ahead five years.  The kid becomes a pawn in a shady business scheme and breaks windows for a window repair business.  He seems too young to be working, but I guess cultural expectations back then were slightly different.  Also, life at home seems a bit rough.  The Tramp can barely support himself let alone a kid.

The majority of the scenes with the Tramp and the kid are played for laughs.  The movie also jumps away to scenes of the kid’s mother and how her life has turned out.  While the scenes with the mother are not funny, it adds an interesting dynamic to the story as we discover whether or not she regrets her decision to leave her child.

Ultimately, there are some heavy-handed themes that I just was not expecting from The Kid.  Although the film was released in 1921, the themes regarding being a single parent still make The Kid relevant in today’s society.  These themes along with the previously unheard-of blend of comedy and drama is probably why The Kid is considered one of the best silent films of all time.  Clocking in at a little over an hour, The Kid is an easy silent film to get through and is worth watching.