Let’s Talk About Sharknado 5 (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


I just watched the latest installment in the Sharknado franchise on SyFy and what can I say?  I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet so I’ll just say this:

Sharknado 5 is the best Sharknado yet!

Seriously, it’s amazing when you think about it.  The annual premiere of the latest Sharknado film has literally become a national holiday.  If you were to judge solely by what was happening on twitter tonight, you would be totally justified in thinking that literally everyone in the world was watching Sharknado 5.  Who would have thought that a franchise about sharks in a tornado would become a pop cultural milestone?  At this time, when the country seems so divided, Sharknado 5 brought us all together.  That, in itself, is no small accomplishment.

But beyond that, these film are consistently and surprisingly entertaining.  Considering that it was the fifth film in this particular franchise, Sharknado 5 felt remarkably fresh and creative.  Have no doubt,  Sharknado 5 had everything that you would expect from a Sharknado film.  You had Ian Ziering grimacing as he manfully beat up sharks.  You had Tara Reid acting like a super hero.  To the delight of many on twitter, Cassie Scerbo returned as Nova, who is now the leader of the Sharknado Sisterhood.

(My friend Ian Rice tweeted me, during the movie: “What is that (the Sharknado Sisterhood)?”

“The Sharknado sisterhood follows and monitors sharknados across the world,” I tweeted back.

After a minute or two, Ian replied: “I’m sorry I asked, LMB.”)

Of course, the script was full of one liners and deliberately bad puns, all of which were delivered with a straight face by the dedicated members of the cast.  There were plenty of homages and references to other films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future.  The special effects were cheap in the most likable way imaginable.  And yes, there were celebrity cameos but — as opposed to what happened with Sharknado 4, Sharknado 5 did not allow those camoes to distract from the story being told.  Yes, Abby Lee Miller got eaten by a shark.  Yes, Geraldo Rivera got sucked out of a blimp.  But Sharknado 5 never lost its focus.

And what was that focus?  Well, basically, Finn accidentally created another sharknado.  No big deal, right?  I mean, Finn specializes in destroying those right?  Unfortunately, this time, Finn and April’s son, Gil, got sucked into the sharknado.  So, for most of the film, Finn and April were chasing the Sharknado across the world while Gil spun around inside of it.

Of course, while Finn chased the latest sharknado, the world was being destroyed by flying sharks.  A lot of famous landmarks ended up getting destroyed.  Actually, at the rate that these movies go, I’m shocked that there are any monuments or memorials left.  It was not an easy life for Finn but, fortunately, the Pope showed up and gave him a blessed chainsaw and…

Okay, never mind!  Are you expecting a movie about a tornado full of sharks to make any sense!?  What’s important is that the film is a lot of fun and Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, to their credit, are still going out of their way to make their characters vaguely credible.

What sets Sharknado 5 apart from the other Sharknado films is that, about an hour into the film (80 minutes if you’re watching with commercials), Sharknado 5 takes a very, very dark turn.  People who you don’t expect to die, die.  Places that you don’t expect to see destroyed end up getting destroyed.  It all ends with an homage to one final film and a cliffhanger.  You don’t want to miss it!

And I’m certainly not going to want to miss Sharknado 6.

Shattered Politics #63: Primary Colors (dir by Mike Nichols)


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Jack Stanton (John Travolta) is the charismatic governor of an unnamed Southern state.  After spending his entire life in politics, Jack is finally ready to run for President.  Even more ready is his equally ambitious wife, Susan (Emma Thompson).  Jack proves himself to be a strong candidate, a good speaker who understands the voters and who has the ability to project empathy for almost anyone’s situation. He’s managed to recruit a talented and dedicated campaign staff, including the flamboyant Richard Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton), Daisy Green (Maura Tierney), and journalist Henry Burton (Adrian Lester).  Henry is the son of a civil rights leader and, as soon as they meet, Jack talks about the first time that he ever heard Henry’s father speak.  Within minutes of first meeting him, Henry believes in Jack.

The problem, however, is that there are constant hints that Jack may not be worthy of his admiration.  There’s the fact that he’s a compulsive womanizer who is given to displays of temper and immaturity.  When one of Jack’s old friends reveals that Jack may have impregnated his daughter, Jack and Susan respond with a pragmatic ruthlessness that takes Henry by surprise.

When one of Jack’s mistresses threatens to go public, Henry is partnered up with Libby (Kathy Bates) and sent to dig up dirt on her and her sponsors.  When the former governor of Florida, Freddie Picker (Larry Hagman), emerges as a threat to derail Jack’s quest for the nomination, Henry and Libby are again assigned to research Picker’s background.  Libby is perhaps the film’s most interesting character.  Recovering from a mental breakdown, Libby has no trouble threatening to shoot one political opponent but she’s still vulnerable and idealistic enough that it truly hurts her when Jack and Susan repeatedly fail to live up to her ideals.  As an out lesbian, Libby is perhaps the only character who has no trouble revealing her true self and, because of her honesty, she is the one who suffers the most.

First released in 1998 and based on a novel by Joe Klein, Primary Colors is an entertaining and ultimately rather bittersweet dramedy about the American way of politics.  John Travolta and Emma Thompson may be playing Jack and Susan Stanton but it’s obvious from the start that they’re meant to be Bill and Hillary Clinton.  And while it takes a few minutes to get used to Travolta’s attempt to sound Southern, this is ultimately one of his best performances.  As played by Travolta, Jack Stanton is charming, compassionate, self-centered, and ultimately, incredibly frustrating.  One reason why Primary Colors works is because we, as an audience, come to believe in Jack just as much as Henry does and then we come to be just as disillusioned as Libby.  Emma Thompson’s performance is a little less obviously based on Hillary.  Unlike Travolta, she doesn’t attempt to imitate Hillary’s voice or mannerisms.  But she perfectly captures the steely determination.

Primary Colors captures both the thrill of believing and the inevitability of disillusionment.  It’s definitely a film that I will rewatch in the days leading up to 2016.