“How It Ends” A Netflix Film Reviewed By Case Wright – Some Spoilers


How-it-ends

How It Ends is a horror/thriller from Netflix and if you don’t watch, Netflix will probably make you.  The story begins with Will, an up and coming lawyer who is seeing the ultrasound of his soon to be son with beloved Samantha. Will is sweet, but the least manly man to ever unmanly.  He’s wound tight, nervous, and hyper-insecure.  Will needs to get Sam’s father Tom (Forest Whitaker) to give his blessing so Will and Sam can wed.  Will flies from the greatest city on Earth- Seattle to a totally ok City of Chicago to see Tom.

We meet Tom and his wife.  Tom is everything Sam is not.  Tom was a career Marine, manly, confident, and determined.  During the dinner, Tom does everything, but say to Will- You are a wimpy worthless un-man. Tom’s response is both whiny and defensive.  It’s just all kinds of awful.  Then, the power goes out nationwide with F-22s buzzing around Chicago AND all communications are down as well nationwide.  Tom asks if Will rise to the occasion and road trip to Seattle to find/rescue Sam.

I know, I know… this sounds like Taken et al, but it’s not.  It becomes a Father (in-Law) and Son survival story and we watch Will become a Man.  They leave in Tom’s Cadillac and hit the road to Seattle.  Immediately, they find that they cannot stay on the main roads to get there because rednecks try to steal their car at the first rest stop and then an escaped convict tries to murder them.  This is within the first half hour of this very action packed show and we still don’t know what caused the catastrophe.  We get hints, but it’s not Aliens …. I don’t think.  Frankly, I’m still not totally sure of all of the details of the disaster even now.

They decide to stay off the main roads and team up with a teen who has mechanical skills.  Along the way, people are trying to murder them for gas and supplies.  The teen that goes with them becomes part of Will and Tom tribe for a short time and has to kill to protect her new tribe.  Unfortunately, this is too much for the teenager to accept and she abandons Will and Tom to find her way forward alone.  It’s a very accurate depiction of societal breakdown.  During Katrina, towns setup armed checkpoints to prevent looting and mayhem.  I had friends in Mississippi during Katrina and they did exactly that.  They needed to shut ingress and egress from their communities to survive and they did so.  The communities acted like a tribe would.

Will has to learn how to shoot, drive and shoot, do a chest-tube, read people, give up trust, and murder.  We watch him change from a spineless nerd to a confident leader who will readily kill to protect his tribe.  During Will’s transformation, the tribal bond between Will and Tom becomes as strong as steel.   It’s a story that gets to the very foundation of what family does and what it means to be part of a tribe.  The moment the lights go out, we will go from Facebook likes to being real tribal humans again.

When Will gets to Seattle, it’s heartbreaking.  Seattle is totally destroyed….sniff.  It just gets you. Even the Clink…The Home of my Beloved Seahawks is gone.  THE PAIN, THE PAIN!  It’s like 2015 all over again! Will’s beloved is gone, but she left a note for her coordinates.  Therefore, Will has to go back on the road to find her and save her from whomever. This movie tapped into the essence of family and manliness and what it means to be part of a tribe.

Will finds Sam with a neighbor Randy who is at his mountain lodge getaway.  Randy is the epitome of our current society. He is a wealthy-techie-know-it-all-socially-awkward-creep who thinks that all of his thoughts are facts.  He believes that in this new society he will continue to be on top and he tries to take Sam as his own.  Not so fast, the world has changed- sorry the power was down forever so no more facebook updates for you.  Life has reverted back to a tribe-based system and Randy is left behind literally into dust.

I would recommend this film because it has tremendous suspense and dares to show us what we’ve lost trading our friendships for likes and retweets.  You never really know what caused the disaster because that is not the story.  The story is about the immediate reemergence of tribal life and how it enables people to determine rapidly who is a friend and who is a foe.  In essence, the film challenges us to see a possible positive to this new reality.  People are closer and snakes like Randy are easily identified and remedied for the good of the tribe.  We still survive, but we have to do it as human beings.

 

What Lisa Watched This Morning #189: My Little Girl Is Gone (dir by Ben Meyerson)


Today, I watched My Little Girl Is Gone, which premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network last night.

Why Was I Watching It?

As I stated above, My Little Girl Is Gone actually aired last night.  Usually, I make it a point to watch the latest Lifetime movie as soon as it airs but, last night, I was exhausted.  Seriously, SyFy’s shark week has taken a lot out of me!  So, I set the DVR and I watched it this morning.

Beyond the fact that I’m trying to make room on my DVR (I’ve currently got about 7 hours of recording space still available), I also watched this movie because Lifetime has a history of good kidnapping films.  At its best, Lifetime is about bringing to life everyone’s most basic fears.  I don’t know any mother who wouldn’t be terrified about her child suddenly vanishing.

What Was It About?

It’s about kidnapping and murder and romance and all the rest!

Stephanie (Sarah Lind) is looking forward to a good life.  Not only is she about to make a fortune designing handbags but she’s also engaged to marry the handsome and rich Jameson (Robb Derringer).  Jameson is about to become the stepfather to Stephanie’s daughter, Caitlin (Dylan Raine Woods), and Stephanie is become the stepmother to Jameson’s teenage son, Shane (Braeden Carl).

There’s only a few problems.  For one thing, Stephanie’s ex, Henry (Philip Boyd), doesn’t seem to be too happy about the engagement.  Secondly, Stephanie is getting strange phone calls from someone who is telling her not to marry Jameson and warning that, if she does, her daughter will be abducted.  When Stephanie ignores the caller and marries Jameson, Caitlin promptly vanishes.

Could it be Henry trying to break up Stephanie’s marriage?  Or does Jameson have secrets of his own?

What Worked?

The film’s main mystery was a good one.  Even though the pay-off was a bit disappointing, I was intrigued by who had kidnapped Caitlin and I was also curious about what exactly Jameson was hiding behind his superficial charm.  Dylan Raine Woods and Braeden Carl both gave good and natural performances as the two stepchildren and C.J. Valleroy had some funny moments as Shane’s best friend, Eli.

What Did Not Work?

The mystery was intriguing but the solution sadly wasn’t.  The story’s ultimate villain was a bit too obvious. so it wasn’t really a shock when their true nature was revealed.

As well, it never seemed like there was enough panic when Caitlin disappeared.  Everyone seemed to adjust to her absence pretty easily.  At times, I found myself wondering if the family really wanted her back.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Caitlin handled being kidnapped with cheerfulness and positivity.  If I had been kidnapped at that age, I like to think that I would have handled it as well as Caitlin did.

Lessons Learned

Be careful who you trust.  The handbag business is ruthless af!

Let’s Talk About Nightmare Shark (dir by Griff and Nathan Furst)


Right now, we’re in the middle of SyFy’s Sharknado week.  On Sunday night, SyFy will premiering what they say is going to be The Last Sharknado.  In the days leading up to that moment, they’ve been reshowing all of their classic shark films and premiering a new shark film each night!

Thursday night’s premiere was Nightmare Shark!

Nightmare Shark kind of swam out of nowhere on Thursday and it ended up impressing the Hell out of not only me but almost everyone that I was watching it with.  There’s a neat little twist to Nightmare Shark, one that will be appreciated and loved by anyone who watches SyFy shark films.  In fact, it’s such a wonderful twist that I don’t want to ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet.  At the same time, I really can’t review the movie without revealing the details of the twist.

So, consider this to be your SPOILER WARNING!  If you haven’t seen Nightmare Shark, just take my word for it that it’s a scary and effective SyFy shark film and stop reading.  Because what follows is going to spoil a huge part of the film for you.  Here, I’ll give you a few minutes to navigate away from the page before I continue.

Here’s a picture of a cute kitty that the rest of us can look at while you leave:

Okay, let’s continue.

Shared cinematic universes are all the rage right now.  In fact, SyFy already has one of its own.  Ian Ziering making a cameo appearance in Lavalantula established that both that film and its sequel took place in the same chaotic universe as Sharknado.  Well, Nightmare Shark established a second cinematic universe.

The film itself deals with a group of shark attack survivors who, having been plagued by shark-related nightmares, agree to take part in an experimental drug trial.  What they don’t suspect is that the outwardly benevolent Dr. Novak (Tony Amendola) actually worships a Hawaiian shark god and his plan is to use them and their nightmares as a way to bring the shark out of their dreams and into the real world.  Among the survivors are Jolene (Lulu Jovovich) and Rob (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Gina (Rachele Brooke Smith) and Kaplan (Bobby Campo).  Fans of SyFy shark movies will immediately recognize them as the protagonists of, respectively, Trailer Park Shark and Atomic Shark.

So, there you go.  All three of these films take place in the same universe and personally, I would toss Ghost Shark in there as well.  (The Hawaiian shark god definitely seemed to have a bit in common with the Ghost Shark.)  Just as there’s a Sharknado Cinematic Universe, there’s also a Griff Furst Cinematic Shark Universe.

That was a wonderful Easter egg for all of us longtime fans of SyFy shark week.  Since, with the Sharknado franchise wrapping up, this could be the final shark week, Nightmare Shark also gave us a final chance to spend some time with some of our favorite shark movie protagonists.  Unfortunately, not all of them survive their nightmares.

Compared to the whimsical tone that’s present in most SyFy shark movies, Nightmare Shark was a seriously dark film.  Make no mistake about it, this was definitely a horror film.  In fact, it featured some of the most effective jump scenes that I’ve seen in a SyFy film.  The nightmares were all nicely realized and properly surreal.  The film did a good job of keeping viewers off-balance.  You were never quite sure who was awake or asleep and you spent most of the film looking for little clues at to whether we were seeing the real world or the dream world.  Though the film’s influences were clear — A Nightmare on Elm Street was a big one — Nightmare Shark still did a great job of establishing its own wonderfully twisted identity.  Among the cast, the clear stand-out was Tony Amendola, who was enjoyably sinister as Dr. Novak.

Nightmare Shark was an effective horror film, one that proved that there’s still new twists and scares to found in shark week.

Let’s Talk About Frenzy (dir by Jose Montesinos)


Right now, we’re in the middle of SyFy’s Sharknado week.  On Sunday night, SyFy will premiering what they say is going to be The Last Sharknado.  In the days leading up to that moment, they’ve been reshowing all of their classic shark films and premiering a new shark film each night!

Wednesday night’s premiere was Frenzy.

Frenzy‘s a bit different from some of the other shark films that SyFy’s been showing this week.  Make no mistake, the film did feature sharks.  In fact, there were three very big sharks who swam through the ocean and ate just about anyone or anything that they could sink their teeth into.  Not only did they eat people who were unfortunate enough to be floating out in the water but they also bumped up against boats, the better to knock poachers overboard.  These were some mean sharks!

That said, they weren’t ghost sharks.  They weren’t zombie sharks.  None of them wore a little Santa cap on their fin, like Santa Jaws did.  They weren’t mutated by radiation or a Big Evil Corporation.  And certainly, they weren’t dropped into the ocean by a tornado.  No, these were just normal, very big sharks.

And while the sharks were undoubtedly important to the story that Frenzy was telling, the film really wasn’t about them.  Instead, at its heart, Frenzy is the story of two sisters, Paige (Gina Vitori) and Lindsey (Aubrey Reynolds).  Paige has always been the adventurous one while Lindsey has always been the one who rarely takes risks and who tries to play it safe.  Paige has found fame as a travel vlogger.  Along with Evan (Michael S. New), Kahia (Lanett Tachel) and Seb (Taylor Jorgensen), she travels around the world and she films herself doing dangerous things and having new experiences.  When Lindsey joins Paige for her latest adventure, it seems like a chance for Lindsey to not only break out for her shell but to also find romance with Seb as well…

Of course, things never go quite as smoothly as they’re supposed to.  In this case, things go downhill as soon as Paige, Lindsey, and everyone else gets aboard a less-than-reliable seaplane so that they can go scuba diving.  When the plane crashes into the middle of the ocean, Lindsey and a few survivors are left floating in the water.  There’s an island in the distance but can they reach it before the sharks reach them?

Frenzy was definitely a change-of-pace, as far as SyFy shark movies are concerned.  While I wouldn’t say that you necessarily have to have a sister to truly appreciate Frenzy‘s story, it undoubtedly helps.  The relationship between Paige and Lindsey — made up of equal parts love and rivalry — is at the heart of Frenzy and fortunately, both Aubrey Reynolds and Gina Vitori were totally believable as sisters.  Their relationship, with all of its complications, felt real and, on a personal level, there were many lines of dialogue and little actions to which I related.  For me, as I watched, this film could have just as easily been called “Lisa And Erin Go On Vacation And Try Not To Die.”

I also liked the way that the film used its flashback structure.  With Lindsey continually flashing back between the past and the present, we were kept off-balance as far as Lindsey’s current mental state was concerned.  It’s a structure that required us to consider what was real, what was dreamed, and what was just a hallucination.

Frenzy was a nice change-of-pace for Sharknado week.

Let’s Talk About Santa Jaws (dir by Misty Talley)


Last night, about twenty minutes into the latest SyFy shark movie, I declared the following on twitter:

51 favs and 15 retweets later, I stand by my declaration.  Sorry, Jaws.  Step aside, Deep Blue Sea.  It’s been fun, Sharknado 5.  Santa Jaws is officially the greatest shark movie ever made.

The scene in question took place on Christmas Eve.  Lovable Poppa (Ritchie Montgomery) is fishing out on the bayou and drinking from his thermos of eggnog when, suddenly, a shark jumps out of the water and eats him.  It happens rather suddenly, so suddenly in fact that you only barely notice the fact that the shark has red eyes.  It’s only as the shark is swimming away that we see that Santa’s hat is sitting on its fin.  And, if we listen really carefully, we can hear the sound of jingling bells.

From the minute that people learned that SyFy was going to be broadcasting a movie called Santa Jaws, the question became just how literally we should take the title.  Would Santa actually be a shark?  Or would it just be a shark movie that happened during the Christmas season?  And there was one question in particular that we were all wondering:

Well, the answer is yes.  Santa Jaws does take place during the Christmas season.  While Santa Jaws may not literally be Santa-turned-into-a-shark, he still brings a family together, just like any visit from Santa should.  And yes … the shark wears a Santa hat on his fin.

The film deals with Cody (Reid Miller), a teenage outcast and comic book artist.  Cody is not having a great holiday season.  Not only is there no snow on the ground (the film does take place in Louisiana, after all) but his family seems to be more proud of his athletic older brother, Josh (Arthur Marroquin), than of him.  On top of everything else, he’s been grounded because of a less-than flattering picture that he drew of his school’s principal.  Cody’s mood would probably improve if he knew that his next door neighbor, Jena (Courtney Lauren Collins), is also into comics but Cody can’t even work up the courage to speak to her.

Cody, however, has received one early Christmas present.  Poppa gives him a magic pen, which a frustrated Cody uses to draw a picture of Santa Jaws while complaining about how he wishes his family would just go away.  Cody, of course, doesn’t mean what he says.  Anyone who has ever been a teenager and who has ever had a bad day will immediately understand that.  However, the magic pen doesn’t understand that and soon, Santa Jaws has not only come to life but it’s after Cody’s family!

Now, you may be getting the feeling that Santa Jaws is not meant to be taken too seriously and, in that case, you would be correct.  As far as Misty Talley shark movies are concerned, Santa Jaws has more in common with the cheerful meta comedy of Mississippi River Sharks than the dark horror of Zombie Shark.  With the exception of one unfortunate elf who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, there’s not a lot of blood in Santa Jaws.  However, there are plenty of puns, courtesy of Cody’s best friend, Steve (Hawn Tran).  (My favorite was when Steve said that the shark was “gill-ty.”)  This is the type of film where, when the comic book store owner (Scott Allen Perry), gets his hands on the pen, he promptly draws a Russian girlfriend, a nice car, and several million dollars.  Though a lot of people are eaten over the course of Santa Jaws, neither the film nor the characters lose their sense of humor.

It’s a fun movie and on that delivers exactly what it promises and a whole lot more.  It’s a film that gives you a shark with a Santa hat on its fin but it also delivers clever dialogue and committed performances.  Reid Miller and Courtney Lauren Cummings are likable protagonists and Hawn Tran and Scott Allen Perry provide effective comedic relief.  Arthur Marroquin turns big brother Josh into a nicely rounded character while Jim Klock, Carrie Lazar, Miles Doleac, Haviland Stillwell, and Ritchie Montgomery all have a good moments as the members of Cody’s family.  In the end, you really do hope that the family will still manage to have a merry Christmas.

And, of course, there’s the shark.  The shark loves Christmas, as we all do.  The shark has glowing red eyes, the better to guide your sleigh at night.  And yes, the shark wears a Santa cap on its fin.

Santa Jaws was a lot of fun and I’m hoping SyFy will be smart enough to show it every Christmas.  At the very least, we need a sequel.  Santa Jaws Conquers The Martians, anyone?

Let’s Talk About Megalodon (dir by James Thomas)


Right now, the SyFy channel is counting down the days to the premiere of The Last Sharknado by not only rebroadcasting some classic shark films from the past but by also premiering a new movie each night.  Monday’s premiere was Megalodon and what can I say other than it was one of the most brilliant SyFy films of all time?

Produced by the Asylum (the same company behind the Sharknado franchise), Megalodon takes place out in the middle of the ocean.  An American military vessel is searching for the remains of a mysterious submarine.  In command of the mission is the tough and no-nonsense Captain Streeper (Dominic Pace).  Second-in-command to Streeper is Commander Lynch (Caroline Harris), who is literally fearless.  Observing is Streeper’s mentor, Admiral King and the fact that the Admiral is played by Michael Madsen is just one of the things that makes Megalodon one of the best Asylum films ever!

Anyway, the Americans eventually find the submarine, just to discover that it’s full of Russians!  Ivanov (Dimitry Rozental) and Popov (Aimee Stolte) may claim that they were just doing scientific research on sharks and whales but both Streeper and Lynch know better.  And when the Russians claim that there submarine was attacked by a giant shark, everyone laughs at them.

Until, of course, the giant shark shows up….

Now, you probably think that you know what’s going to happen.  If you think the shark is going to end up attacking the American vessel, you’re right.  If you think that a bunch of random fisherman are going to show up and get promptly swallowed by the shark, you’re right again.  And if you think those dastardly Russians have something up their nefarious sleeves, well again, you’re right…

But then there’s all the things that you don’t expect.  For instance, a good deal of the movie actually takes place inside of the shark as the crew of a diving bell try to figure out how to get back outside of it.  And then there’s the scenes of Streeper and the Russians debating global politics.  And, as I previously stated, there’s Michael Madsen as Admiral King.  Madsen only has a few minutes of screen time but he makes the most of them.  He delivers his lines with a self-mocking gravity, letting us know that he’s as in on the joke as we are.  He even gets a scene where he gets to talk to the shark while smoking a cigar and you better believe that he totally knocks it out of the park.  A lot of people on twitter pointed out that no admiral would have hair as long and unruly as Michael Madsen’s but they’re missing the point.  Michael Madsen’s job isn’t to convince us that he’s a career Naval officer.  In this film, Michael Madsen’s job is to be Michael Madsen and nobody does it better.

In the best tradition of the Asylum, Megalodon is a wonderfully self-aware movie.  It’s cheerfully and unapologetically over-the-top.  The entire cast seems to be having a blast and they’re all a lot of fun to watch.  Dominic Pace gets to deliver the Independence Day “We’ll Never Stop Fighting” speech towards the end of the film and he delivers it with just the right combination of sincerity and humor.  Caroline Harris brings a lot of authority to the role of the determined Lynch and both Dimitry Rozental and Aimee Stolte are wonderfully arrogant and villainous as the Russians.  And then there’s the shark, which is big and intimidating and who attacks boats and eats sailors with a panache all of its own.  Megalodon is pure entertainment and it all works wonderfully well.  Watch it with a group of your snarkiest friends and have a blast!

Megalodon gives us evil Russians, a giant shark, and Michael Madsen.  How can you not enjoy that?

Let’s Talk About Deep Blue Sea 2 (dir by Darin Scott)


So, today was the first day of SyFy’s final Sharknado week.  Leading up to next Sunday’s premiere of The Last Sharknado, SyFy is not only going to be rebroadcasting some of their classic shark films but they’re also going to be premiering a new film every night of the week.

(I’m in Killer Shark Heaven!  Yes, the real one…)

They got things started tonight with Deep Blue Sea 2.

Now, before anything else, I should clarify that Deep Blue Sea 2 made its television premiere tonight but the movie itself has actually been out for a while.  As opposed to the Sharknado films, Deep Blue Sea 2 was not specifically produced for or by the SyFy Network.  Instead, the production honors go to Warner Bros, the same company that distributed the first Deep Blue Sea.  Way back in April, Deep Blue Sea 2 was released on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and VOD and it actually did quite well for a straight-to-video release.  There were enough fans of the original film that the sequel was able to rank in the top 10 of VOD releases for two straight weeks.

So, Deep Blue Sea 2 was not produced by the Asylum.  Perhaps it would have been better if it had been.

Deep Blue Sea 2 retells the basic story of Deep Blue Sea, just on a much smaller level.  Whereas Deep Blue Sea featured an army of big, scary sharks, the sequel features one really big shark and a bunch of baby sharks, all of which are cute but deadly.  Whereas the first film was distinguished by detailed set design that gave the underwater laboratory a lived-in feel, the sequel features a lab that is frequently so dark and underlit that I often had a hard time distinguishing one actor from another.  Whereas the first film features recognizable actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Stellan Skarsgard getting eaten by sharks, the sequel features a cast that, with the exception of Michael Beach, is largely unknown.

And while the entire cast is undeniably talented and does the best that they can with what they’ve been given to work with, everyone in the film is playing a type.  Michael Beach is Durant, the pharmaceutical billionaire who, despite what happened in the first film, is breeding super intelligent sharks and drinking their blood.  (You read that right.)  Danielle Savre is Misty Calhoun, the shark conservationist who thinks that mankind is to blame for all the troubles in the world.  Rob Mayes is Trent Slater, the Navy SEAL who knows how to fight sharks.  Nathan Lynn is Aaron, the nerdy virgin computer guy.  Kim Syster and Jeremy Jess Boado are the obviously doomed married couple.  Darron Myer is the guy who you know is going to die as soon as you notice that he doesn’t take off his tie, even when he’s in an underwater lab.  And then you have Cameron Robertson as the guy who sticks his arm down a shark’s throat and Adrian Collins as the diver who thinks it’s a good idea to taunt sharks that can literally jump out of the water and bite your head off.

Of course, as soon as everyone’s in the lab, the super smart sharks rebel and the majority of the cast ends up getting eaten.  There’s no big shock there.  Some of the gore effects are well-done.  Faces are ripped off with panache and one unfortunate victim falls apart as soon as he’s pulled out of the water.  Michael Beach has a lot of fun with the role of the ranting Durant and it was impossible not to smile whenever he would smirk off Misty’s outrage.  For the most part, though, Deep Blue Sea 2 moved too slowly and didn’t feature enough shark action.  That said, I think this is the first shark film that I’ve ever seen in which the sharks actually growl at people and that’s got to be worth something.