Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shark Island (2012)

As you know, most shark movies are bad. Shark Island is bad even among other shark movies. It was originally titled Shark Week, and was released on DVD under that title too. Apparently it was also released as Shark Assault. But whatever they call it, this movie is a piece of crap.

At the beginning, a man throws a key into his pool and tells another man he has fifteen seconds. That second man is bound in chains, so apparently the first man means he has fifteen seconds to retrieve the key and unlock his chains. Now it’s not clear when those fifteen seconds start, because the second guy dawdles at the edge of the pool for a while. But let’s say the time starts the moment he gets in the water. Okay? When he has nine seconds left, the man says, “Twelve seconds” (not that the guy can hear him at the bottom of the pool anyway). Then when he has negative four seconds left, the man says, “Seven seconds.” And when he has negative twelve seconds, the man tells him, “Five seconds.” At negative twenty-one seconds, the man says, “Three.” When he says “One,” the guy triumphantly raises the key out of the water, but the first man says he’s too late, and releases a shark into the pool. No kidding, he was twenty-three seconds late. And I’m not sure how the man released the shark into the pool anyway. We don’t see him pull a lever or anything. Maybe the shark just knew that whenever the man said “One” that he should go into the pool and eat whoever happened to be in there. Maybe it’s a routine the man and the shark worked out ahead of time. Who knows? Anyway, that’s the opening scene of Shark Island.

Then several people from various parts of Los Angeles are kidnaped by two men and brought to this man’s swimming pool. The man then tells them, “None of you are here by chance.” No kidding. He then tells them they’re going to play a game, and he pushes one of the people into the pool. Oh yeah, I’ve played this game. There are a lot of sharks in the pool. This is a magic pool, by the way. From above, it looks like an average-size pool, not very big, but when you’re under the water, it’s huge. Look at all those sharks. The host’s girlfriend tells the other people that sharks are gods and “They should be revered.” That’s why she has them in her swimming pool. The man says the pool is a gateway to a path taking them to the other side of the island. Each day they’ll encounter a new type of shark and have to kill it. Why does he want these people to kill his girlfriend’s deities? They have an interesting relationship. Later, when they’re alone, he yells at her, “This is not a game!” In her defense, it is difficult to know just what constitutes a game for this guy.

The people don’t bother to use the key to unlock their chains until the next day. Not too bright, these folks. Nor do they try to figure out the situation until the next day, and when they do, they discover that their host is some kind of drug trafficker, and they have each had a hand somehow in the death of the guy’s son. Rather than go back and kill him and his girlfriend, this group wanders around the island, where apparently there are cameras attached to every tree and rock and blade of grass, because the drug trafficker is able to watch them and hear them wherever they are. They are somehow aware of the cameras, though they don’t think to smash them, and that might be because we never actually see any cameras.

This is yet one more movie where the sharks growl. And watch out for the CG mine field! Apparently this man has cameras and speakers attached to the waves in the ocean too, for he’s able to communicate with the people while in they’re in the water. Amazingly, this man has control of the sharks in the ocean. This is a pretty elaborate revenge scenario, but he often looks quite bored while watching the people on his monitor. Yes, just one monitor. And I am quite bored watching him be quite bored watching them. But my third beer helps do the trick.

Hey, this movie was directed by the same guy that directed 2-Headed Shark Attack, 3 Headed Shark Attack and Mega Shark Vs. Kolossus. Wow! And guess what? This one is the worst of the bunch.

same movie (don't be fooled)

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Breaking Point (2014)

The Breaking Point is a crime drama about three guys who shoot a woman in a convenience store, the detectives who are investigating the murder, and a woman who is eager to be district attorney. It is a mess. It opens with the woman who wishes to be the next DA telling a friend that she is working on something special in order to get that job. He asks her about Assistant DA Thomas who is next in line, and she tells him, “I’ll give Thomas an offer than he cannot refuse.” Here are some other clich├ęs from that first scene: “Everything worth having is worth fighting for,” “If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you,” and “Word on the street.” The whole script is like that. (Later we have lines like “It’s like taking candy from a baby” and “Let’s just say a little birdie told me.”) It’s pretty bad. It feels like a first draft. And we have to suffer through some awful and completely useless narration by a character named Shawn (played by Erik Grey).

Shawn, his brother Mike and his friend TJ enter a convenience store, and TJ decides to rob a woman in there, and ends up shooting and killing her. Another bullet injures Mike. Shawn, in his narration, tells us that this “set off a chain of events that we would all later regret.” (That’s not even true, by the way; it doesn’t seem that TJ regrets anything. And come to think of it, it doesn’t seem like Shawn or Mike regrets it either. None of them expresses any remorse. Neither Shawn nor Mike ever turns TJ in. But then again, the line is that they would regret the chain of events, not the actual murder. So whatever. Though after Mike is shot, he does say he should have stayed in school, so there’s that.)

The lighting is also a major problem in this film. The actors are often in shadow, and it doesn’t seem like it’s by choice, but rather by lack of proper lighting.  When Li Ling, the Asian cashier at the store, tells the detectives, “I no see face,” it doesn’t seem like she’s lying, like she’s saying that because she’s scared to testify. I couldn’t see his face either, due to poor lighting. And this is in a convenience store, for fuck’s sake.

The narrator introduces every character. “That’s Captain Harry Sawyer. He retired from the police department after thirty-two years. A real law and order type of dude.” Yes, that’s the kind of dialogue we have to listen to throughout the film. Ouch. And watch Harry’s insane reaction when he learns his wife has been killed. And one of the other cops tells him, “Everything happens for a reason.” I personally like to punch people who say that, but Harry doesn’t hit him. Soon Harry’s granddaughters arrive (cue the terrible emotional music – the score is yet one more major problem), and one of them says, “We’ll get through this together, the way Grandma would have wanted it.” Have I mentioned how bad the dialogue is? And they don’t get through this together anyway. After this scene, the granddaughters disappear.

This movie also has several pointless flashbacks. In one of them, we see the chick that wants to be DA as a child. One of her friends says, “Come on, girls, we need to start working on our realistic career aspirations.” Are you fucking kidding me? Another long, fruitless flashback involves an aborted oil change. The flashbacks become more and more risible. Check out the one after a little girl begs Harry, “Please don’t kill my mommy.” Oh, that reminds me: Harry of course starts investigating on his own, since he was a cop and it was his wife that was killed. But nothing ever comes of that. Nothing. That’s the way this movie is.

The movie keeps introducing people, and you wonder briefly if they might have anything to do with the plot, if perhaps they’ll help get it going. But in most cases, no, they don’t. And I should mention that these are all despicable losers, so who gives a shit what happens to any of them? Are we supposed to side with Shawn? After all, he provides the voice of the film. But why would we care about this guy? He is a thug. Sure, he didn’t pull the trigger, but he is an accessory to murder. And then in an effort to avoid jail, he commits another crime – he breaks into the store that night in order to steal the surveillance tapes. But he can’t find them. Do the cops have them? No, apparently no one has them. It’s another element that never pays off. Why didn’t the cops ask about the tapes when they arrived on the crime scene? I don’t think it’s that the detectives are lazy; I think it’s the writers who are lazy. Yes, writers. It took two people to write this script. Wow.

Out of nowhere there is a slow motion close-up shot of a girl’s ass as she walks away. This movie is amateur hour through and through. It seems like there was no storyboarding or planning of any kind. I mean, who are the main characters? What is the film’s point of view? What is it trying to say? This movie pretends to be about an innocent man wrongly accused of murder. On the DVD cover it says, “Sometimes the innocent have to go beyond… The Breaking Point.” But again, Shawn is far from being innocent.

After Shawn is arrested, he tells the detective, “I’ve seen tougher dudes than you in dresses round my way.” Well, let’s see them in this film! We’ve seen every other person in the neighborhood. Bring on the transvestites!

Suddenly the film jumps to ten months later and Shawn is on trial. But wait a minute. The Asian chick told the cops that three black men were involved. Did the cops ever look into the identities of the other two? What the hell? And the end is totally stupid. Shawn narrates the whole ending, explaining what happened. But who cares? Shawn and Mike, who were accessories to murder, are shown in a college classroom. Are we supposed to think that’s a good thing?

So, what’s good about this movie? In the middle of all this, there is a wonderful scene with two women named Bernadette and Yvette, who are questioned by the detectives. They are the only believable characters, and their scene is by far the most enjoyable. Bernadette is playing by Shellita Boxie, who turns in a really good performance. These two women are so good that it feels for a moment like we’re in a completely different movie, a better movie.

The Breaking Point was directed by James Hunter.

(Note: I posted a shorter version of this review on Pop Culture Beast.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

I have been a Star Wars fan since 1977 (seeing the ad for Star Wars is my earliest memory), and collected the toys until the end of 2005. Yet I was not all that excited to see the new film, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, mainly because I detest Disney. But I finally saw it. I did enjoy parts of it. But I felt that the movie overall was unnecessary and rather pointless. Also, it seemed to basically want to redo much of the original trilogy, just with different characters (but without character development). A secret map is hidden in a droid, who then ends up in the desert. A young character with inherent force ability must leave the desert planet. We even get a variation of the cantina scene from A New Hope. (Note: As always, there are spoilers in this Good Things About Bad Movies review.)

One of the main weaknesses of Return Of The Jedi was the rehashing of the Death Star, and so I was seriously surprised that The Force Awakens decided to do it yet again. Not only that, but it also uses the whole going-down-to-the-planet-to-destroy-the-shield-generator plot point from Return Of The Jedi. It took a lot of work to accomplish that in Jedi (and yes, they had to get the help of the beloved Ewoks), but in this one everything is pretty easy. I was never anxious for any of the characters at any point in the movie.

Finn’s character is one that I find particularly questionable. I do love the idea of delving into the lives of stormtroopers, but it’s just not handled or developed all that well. He was a stormtrooper all his life, completely indoctrinated, yet he’s aware of Han Solo and other elements that I can’t believe stormtroopers would be taught. Also, he says he worked in sanitation. So why was he there on that raid to capture the map to Luke Skywalker’s location?

Why does that map even exist? Maybe that was explained and I just missed it, but seriously, who created the map, and to what purpose? And why was it divided into two pieces – one very large, and one small? And if R2-D2 had the main section of the map, why did he wait so long to offer it up? And why wouldn’t R2 have the complete map?

Back to Finn: Why did the First Order kidnap children and spend decades indoctrinating them only to make them work in sanitation anyway? And how is he able to use the lightsaber so well? And of course that leads us to Rey’s character. She has apparently never used the force, has had no training, and then suddenly is some kind of expert. What gives? How did she even get the idea that she could use the force to control the weak-minded stormtrooper in that one scene? And, outside of the whole force issue, what led her to rescue BB8 in the first place? Why did she care about a droid she had never seen before? (One more thing about Finn: the bloody handprint on his helmet is ridiculous. I know it’s there so that we can tell him apart from the other stormtroopers, but really, how did the blood get on that guy’s gloves in the first place? He still had his armor on, so wouldn’t the blood be under it?)

The main villain in this movie is lame. It’s a whiny, rebellious, nervous teenager who likes to dress in black and wear a mask. He reminds me of those assholes who take guns to their schools. Like all kids, he wants to distance himself from his parents. But in doing so, this little shit decides to be like his grandparent. He just needs a good spanking. And yet he (big spoiler here) is the one to dispatch one of the original trilogy’s main characters. So sad. So pathetic. (The real villain here is Disney.)

And actually the way the characters of Han, Leia and Luke are handled here is infuriating. After thirty years, Han is back to smuggling? And someone stole the Falcon from him? Come on! That’s fucking stupid. And Leia is back to leading the resistance? What’s going on with the New Republic? And Luke had trouble with his first group of students, and so gave up the whole idea of teaching Jedi? So he just figured, what, there would no longer be Jedi in the galaxy? That’s kind of a huge decision. Leia, Han, and Luke all basically gave up their lives because of one bratty kid? Again, give that little shit a spanking and move on.

I know this question is asked (and not answered) in the film, but seriously, how did that lightsaber end up in that box? The last we saw, it was falling out of Cloud City. And speaking of relics from the original trilogy which miraculously show up in this film, how did the bratty kid end up with Vader’s helmet? Years later, he went to Endor and found it? Had Luke buried it, or just left it smoldering? Did he make a map for that too? And why would the kid want it? And why does he talk to it? This kid is fucked up. He needs therapy.

But the Nazi scene where the crazy Hitler character addresses all the stormtroopers is maybe the worst scene in the film. When the stormtroopers all give the Nazi salute, I burst out laughing.  And again, what is going on with the New Republic? Where is its army? And this new Death Star is able to shoot its beam out across entire star systems and destroy several planets at once? So the entire New Republic was on three nearby planets? That’s so convenient. And unbelievable.

You know what else is unbelievable? The music isn’t good. There are no new memorable themes here. That might be the saddest and most surprising thing about this movie.

Like I said, I did enjoy chunks of this film (and I do really like BB8). But it’s really only enjoyable until you think about it for like three minutes. (By the way, there were like seven or eight trailers in front of this film, and none of them looked the least bit interesting. Is this the way movies are going? Who the fuck was asking for a sequel to Independence Day?)