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.

Back to School #50: Clueless (dir by Amy Heckerling)


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By their very nature, teen films tend to get dated very quickly.  Fashions, music, and cultural references — all of these serve to make a film popular when it’s first released and occasionally laughable just a few years later.  Take 1995’s Clueless for instance.  Watching it now, it’s impossible not to get a little snarky when Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) refers to a hot guy as being a “Baldwin.”  When heard today, it’s hard not to wonder if Cher is thinking of beefy rageaholic Alec or ultra-religious realty TV mainstay Stephen.  (Personally, I prefer to think that she was thinking of Adam Baldwin.)

Clueless is one of those films that I always remember watching on TV and loving when I was little but, whenever I watch it now, I always find myself feeling slightly disappointed in it.  It’s never quite as good as I remember and, with each viewing, I’m just a little bit more aware that, while both were very well-cast in their respect roles, Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash weren’t exactly the most versatile actresses of their generation.  There’s a reason why Dash is now a political commentator and Silverstone is best known for that video of her spitting food into her baby’s mouth.  As well, watching the film now, it’s hard not to think about how the talented Brittany Murphy would tragically pass away 14 years after its initial release.

And yet, I can’t help it.  I still enjoy Clueless.  I could spend hours nitpicking it apart and pointing out what parts of it don’t quite work as well as they should but ultimately, Clueless is a fun movie that features and celebrates three strong female characters, which is more than you can say for most teen films.

Directed and written by Amy Heckerling (who earlier directed the classic Fast Times At Ridgemont High), Clueless is based (quite directly) on Jane Austen’s Emma.  In this version, Emma is Cher, the spoiled 16 year-old daughter of a lawyer (played, very well, by Dan Hedaya), who lives in Beverly Hills and who is happy being superficial, vain, and popular.  In fact, the only person who ever criticizes Cher is her stepbrother, Josh (Paul Rudd), who is studying to be an environmental lawyer and is visiting during a break from college.

When Cher plays matchmaker and deftly manages to pair up two of her teachers (played by Wallace Shawn and Twink Caplan), she realizes that she enjoys helping people.  (Though, it must be said, the only reason she helped her two teachers wass because they were both taking out the misery of being single on her…)  So, Cher and her best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) decide to help another student, new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy), become popular.  After giving Tai a makeover, forbidding her to date skater Travis (Breckin Meyer, who is adorable), and trying to set Tai up with rich snob Elton (Jeremy Sisto), Cher is shocked to discover that Tai has become so popular that she is now challenging Cher’s social status.  Even worse, Tai decides that she has a crush on Josh right around the same time that Cher realizes the same thing.

Plus, Cher still has to pass her driving test…

As I said before, Clueless is hardly a perfect film but it is a very likable movie.  Director Amy Heckerling creates such a vivid and colorful alternate teenage universe and the script is full of so many quotable lines that you can forgive the fact that the story sometimes runs the risk of getting almost as superficial of Cher.  It may never be quite as good as I remembered it being but Clueless is still an entertaining and fun movie.

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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!

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