Let’s Talk About The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (dir by Anthony C. Ferrante)


Yesterday was Sharknado Day.

What is Sharknado Day?  If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.  Sharknado Day is the day that the latest chapter in The Asylum’s Sharknado franchise premieres on SyFy.  That’s the day when people like me cause twitter to go over capacity tweeting about the film.  That’s the day good people all across America try to count the number of celebrity cameos while also trying to keep track of all of the homages and references to past movies that are always waiting to be found in every Sharknado Film.  Yesterday was the sixth Sharknado Day since 2013 and, if we’re to believe our friends at The Asylum, it was also the last Sharknado Day.

Is it true?  Was The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time truly the final Sharknado?  Perhaps.  But somehow, I have a feeling that the flying sharks will return someday.  Critics have always underestimated the production savvy of The Asylum and I wouldn’t be shocked if, after a year or two of nostalgia, we saw Sharknado 7: A New Beginning.

But if The Last Sharknado was truly the final Sharknado, then it can be said that the franchise truly went out on a high note.

The plot — well, usually, the conventional wisdom is that the plot of a Sharknado movie really doesn’t matter.  Usually, it’s assumed that all a Sharknado film needs is a lot of shark mayhem and snarky humor.  And that’s true, to an extent.  And yet, I still found myself getting caught up in The Last Sharknado‘s storyline.  It all deals with Fin (Ian Ziering), April (Tara Reid), the head of a robot version of April (again, Tara Reid), Nova (Cassandra Scerbo), and Skye (Vivica A. Fox) traveling through time, hopping from period to period.  Fin and April’s goal is to stop the first Sharknado and to save the life of their son, Gil.  Nova wants to save the life of her grandfather, even though that might change history to the extent that she would never become a great shark hunter.  As for the robot head … well, she develops an agenda of her own, one that really has to be seen to be believed.

The film has a lot of time travel and, of course, the journey from period to period allows for several celebrity cameos.  When Fin ends up in Arthurian Britain, Neil deGrasse Tyson pops up as Merlin.  During the Revolutionary War, a somewhat sarcastic General Washington is played by Darrell Hammond.  Dee Snider plays a sheriff in the old west.  Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott show on the beach in the 60s.  Touchingly, the film even finds a way to include the late John Heard in the action.  (Heard played a key supporting role in the first Sharknado.)  I’m a history nerd, so I enjoyed all of the time travel.  I especially enjoyed the film’s portrayal of Benjamin Franklin as a rather bitchy eccentric, largely because it’s often forgotten that Franklin was, in real life, a bit of a bitchy eccentric.

(Add to that, how can you resist a film the features both dinosaurs and flying sharks?)

The film takes a surprisingly dark turn during the second hour, as Fin and Skye spend some time in a dystopian future and Nova tries to change history by saving her grandfather’s life.  When Fin points out that doing so will change history and that, for Nova to become a great shark hunter, her grandfather has to die, Nova calls him out for being self-centered.  To their credit, both Cassie Scerbo and Ian Ziering play the argument totally straight and both give heartfelt performances.  Amid all of the comedy and the shark-related mayhem, the film develops a real heart.

That heart is at the center of The Last Sharknado.  To a large extent, the sharks are superfluous.  They’re carnivorous MacGuffins.  Instead, the film is about celebrating not only the bonds between Fin, April, Nova, and all of their friends but also the bond that’s been developed between the characters and those of us who have watched them over the course of six films.  Towards the end of the film, when Fin talks about what his friends and family mean to him, it’s clear that he’s also speaking for the filmmakers.  Just as Fin thanks his friends for sticking with him, the filmmakers take the time to thank the audience for sticking with them.  It was a heartfelt scene and it was the perfect way to end The Last Sharknado.

To those who do not celebrate Sharknado Day, it may seem strange to say that I got emotional while watching the final scene of The Last Sharknado on Sunday night.  Then again, is it any stranger than the idea of a franchise about a bunch of sharks flying through the air, spinning around in a funnel, becoming a major pop cultural milestone?

It’s a strange world and we’re all the better for it.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #114: The Wrestler (dir by Darren Aronofsky)


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I’m always a little surprised by how much I like the 2008 film The Wrestler.

Actually, to be honest, I’m more than a little surprised.  I’m a lot surprise.  First off, The Wrestler takes place in the world of professional wrestling and that’s a world that I not only know nothing about but which I also have very little interest.  (My cousin Gustavo — Hi, Gus! — loved the Rock.  That’s about the extent of my knowledge.)  Add to that, The Wrestler doesn’t take place in the world of televised pro wrestling.  (I may know nothing about wrestling but I do know a lot about television.)  Instead, this is a world of backroom matches, broken dreams, and fading lives.

Secondly, The Wrestler features, as its hero, a man in his 50s who is still a total and complete fuckup.  The character of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (played, in an Oscar-nominated performance, by Mickey Rourke) is perhaps epitomized by the fact that, after going out of his way to try to reconnect with his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), and setting up a dinner date so that they can finally talk and get to know each other, Randy ends up getting consumed with self-pity, getting drunk, getting high, getting laid, and ultimately standing up his daughter.  And whenever I see that part of the movie, I hate Randy just as much as Stephanie does because I know exactly how she feels.  Stephanie can’t forgive Randy and neither can I.

And yet, oddly enough, I still care what happens to Randy.  Randy is a former wrestling superstar, a guy who was big in the 1980s but now lives in a haze of obscurity and self-pity.  He now wrestles on the weekend, works a demeaning job at a super market deli, and occasionally plays an old video game which features him as a character.  His only real friend (and source of strength) is Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a stripper who knows what its like to get older in a profession dominated by the young.

Randy does have one final chance at a comeback, when he agrees to an exhibition fight against his former nemesis, a  “villainous” wrestler known at The Ayatollah (Ernest Miller).  (It’s interesting to note that, outside of the ring, “bad guy” Ayatollah seems to be everything that “good guy” Randy is not, i.e., responsible, stable, and content with his life.)

However, there’s one problem.  Randy has a heart condition and he has been told that continuing to wrestle could kill him.  Will Randy give up the only thing that he’s ever been good at or will Randy potentially sacrifice his life to have one last chance to hear the cheers of the crowd?

Randy Robinson is another one of director Darren Aronofsky’s obsessive protagonists, a character who is so obsessed with something that he’s sacrificed everything else to pursue it.  Fortunately, Aronofsky is a master of making these type of characters sympathetic.  Over the course of the film, Randy fucks up so much that you really are tempted to just give up on him but Aronofsky directs the film with such compassion and Rourke gives such a vulnerable and emotionally raw performance that you find yourself giving Randy another chance despite your better instincts.  The film’s melancholy ending is effective because you know that it really is the only way that Randy’s story can end.

I’m always surprised to like The Wrestler.

But I do.

10 Reasons Why Sharknado 2 Was Sharktastic!


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Unless you’ve been living in total and complete isolation, you know that Sharknado 2 premiered on SyFy last night.  And of course, I watched and live tweeted it.  Now, when it comes Sharknado 2, it seems like everyone has one question: Was it better than Sharknado?

The answer?

Yes.  Yes, it was.

Here are 10 reasons why Sharknado 2 was sharktastic!

1) Action!  Action!  Action!

Sharknado 2 didn’t waste any time getting to the point.  From the minute the film started with Ian Ziering and Tara Reid sitting in an airplane that’s hit some sharknado-related turbulence, Sharknado 2 was all about sharks falling from the sky.  The film didn’t waste any time revisiting the events of the previous film or trying to explain, for a second time, how a bunch of sharks ended up in a tornado.  And you know what?  If you were worry about the logic of the situation then you really weren’t the right audience for this film.  Sharknado 2 was a movie for those of us seeking nonstop shark mayhem and it delivered!

2) Plenty of New York Attitude

When the first sharknado hit Los Angeles, we were presented with a portrait of a town that deserved to be destroyed.  I mean — really, Los Angeles?  A little bad weather and a few sharks and your entire population is screaming and fleeing?  New York, however, knows how to handle a sharknado.  It didn’t matter how many sharks fell from the sky — the citizens of New York refused to allow it to stop them from enjoying baseball games, visiting the Statue of Liberty, and seeking out a good slice of pizza.  New York, you’re the tops!

3) Tara Reid Showed Us How To Handle Losing A Hand

I don’t know about you but if a shark fell out of the sky and bit off my hand, I would probably freak out.  Having watched Sharknado 2, I can say that I am definitely not as strong as Tara Reid.  Though she may have lost her hand early on in this movie, she never let it slow her down.  Not only did she defiantly walk out of the hospital but she also managed to drive a fire truck with only one hand!  I’ve got two hands and I don’t think I could do that.  Finally, as a perfect example of how to make lemonade out of lemons, she even replaced her missing hand with a radial saw that, as it turns out, was perfect for fighting sharks.  You go, girl!

4) Ian Ziering Gave It All He Could

In the first Sharknado, Ian seemed almost annoyed to be there.  You got the feeling that he felt that somehow, by appearing in a movie about flying sharks, he was somehow damaging his career.  In Sharknado 2, however, Ian brought a lot of conviction to his role.  Though it may be hard to understand if you haven’t seen the actual film, I’ll just say that you looked at and listened to Ian and you believed that this man had indeed been inside of a shark.

IZ in Sharknado 2

 

5) The Statue Of Liberty Lost Her Head

And you better believe that head went rolling down the streets of New York.  I am a little bit disappointed that Ian never found a moment to stare up at headless Lady Liberty and shout, “You blew it up!  Damn you to Hell!” but oh well.

6) Cameos Galore!

Seeing as how the first Sharknado became a bit of a pop cultural phenomena, we should probably not be surprised that a lot of celebrities agreed to do cameos in the sequel.  What should surprise, however, is just how well the cameos were integrated into the film.  Whether it was Kelly Osbourne getting eaten by a shark or Matt Lauer and Al Roker arguing over the proper name for the storm (eventually, Matt did call it a sharknado and you can see just how happy Al was; it was a touching moment), all of the cameos worked brilliantly and, even more importantly, they didn’t distract from all of the shark mayhem.

7) The Live Tweeters Were On Fire Last Night!

Especially me!  Seriously, Sharknado 2 brought out the best in me.

8) Ian Wasn’t The Only Actor Giving It His All

To be honest, the entire cast brought their A game to Sharknado 2.  Everyone from Vivica A. Fox to Mark McGrath to Kari Wuhrer to Tara Reid to Judd Hirsch to well, everyone seemed to understand that for this material to work, they had to be willing to say some of the most ludicrous lines imaginable with a straight face.  If a single member of the cast had tried to wink at the audience or play up the film’s inherent campiness, the entire film would have fallen apart.  Instead, everyone brought a lot of conviction to their roles.  Instead of mocking the film and their dialogue, you could tell that they were instead having fun with it and, as a result, the audience had a lot of fun as well.

9) Kelly Ripa Stamped On The Head Of A Hammerhead Shark

Proof positive that high heels can be a girl’s best friend.

10) Everyone Watched it!

And you know what that means:  SHARKNADO 3!

Sharknado 2