Music Video of the Day: Deepest Bluest (Shark Fin) by LL Cool J (1999, dir by Renny Harlin)


Seeing as how this is shark week on the SyFy network and I reviewed both Deep Blue Sea and Deep Blue Sea 2 on Sunday, it seems appropriate that today’s music video of the day should feature LL Cool J turning into a shark.

I mean, doesn’t it!?

Anyway, this is one of the songs that plays over the end credits of Deep Blue Sea.  The video was directed by Renny Harlin and features several clips from the film.  And, of course, LL Cool J turns into a shark.

Enjoy!

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.

Film Review: Deep Blue Sea (1999, dir by Renny Harlin)


Since I’m going to be watching Deep Blue Sea 2 on the SyFy network later tonight, I figured that I should rewatch the first Deep Blue Sea beforehand.

This 1999 shark attack film takes place on a laboratory that’s floating out in the middle of the ocean.  It’s the weekend so the majority of the people who work at the lab are gone.  Only a skeleton crew, made up of recognizable actors, remains.  There’s Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) and Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgard), two brilliant scientists.  (Susan is passionate and committed.  Jim is drunk and cynical.)  There’s a marine biologist named Jan (Jacqueline McKenzie), who is such a positive presence that, from the minute she first shows up, you know that there’s no way she’s going to be alive at the end of the movie.  Tom (Michael Rapaport) is an engineer.  Brenda (Aida Turturro) is in charge of communicating with the outside world.  Preacher (LL Cool J) is a chef who acts a lot like LL Cool J.  And then there’s Carter Blake (Thomas Jane), the shark wrangler with a past.  Carter is obviously going to be our hero because, with a name like Carter Blake, there’s no way that he couldn’t be.

Finally, there’s Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson).  Russell is the businessman who has been funding all of the research at the lab.  Even though he doesn’t quite understand what Susan and Jim are doing, he’s been very generous.  However, after a shark escapes and nearly eats four generic teens, Russell decides that he better find out what exactly is being done with his money.

Jim and Susan are trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s.  Susan says that, if their experiments are successful, one pill will be able to reverse the disease.  They’ve been running tests on sharks and … well, let’s just say that Susan and Jim haven’t exactly been honest or ethical about their experiments.  (Movie scientists always cut corners, don’t they?)  Basically, they’ve been genetically engineering the sharks to increase the size of their brain.

The end result?

SUPER SHARKS!

To paraphrase the film’s poster, these sharks are big, fast, smart, and mean!  And needless to say, they’re sick of being held captive.  Soon, the lab is besieged by angry sharks and no one is safe!

That includes Samuel L. Jackson.  Deep Blue Sea is best known for the scene where Samuel L. Jackson gives a rousing speech, in which he exhorts everyone to keep fighting and not give up, right before a shark jumps out of the water and eats him.  It’s a great scene, one that makes brilliant use of Samuel L. Jackson.  I mean, let’s be honest.  You don’t expect Samuel L. Jackson to get eaten by a shark and, as soon as he’s gone, you look at the survivors and you think to yourself, “So, now you’re depending on LL Cool J and Thomas Jane to save you?  Y’all are so screwed…”

And yet, it’s also significant that the only scene from Deep Blue Sea that people really remember is that shark eating Samuel L. Jackson.  With the exception of the one moment, Deep Blue Sea is an incredibly predictable movie.  From the minute you see that Jim is played by Stellan Skarsgard, you know that he’s doing something wrong with the sharks.  The dialogue is often cringe-worthy and the characters are all thinly drawn.  The sharks are occasionally impressive but the movie doesn’t really do enough with the idea of them of being super smart.  Was I hoping for scenes of the sharks talking to each other?  I guess I was.

That said, as I watched Deep Blue Sea, I was surprised to discover that I had forgotten just how likable and efficient the movie was.  Director Renny Harlin doesn’t waste any time trying to convince us that we’re watching anything more than just a slightly silly shark movie.  Wisely, Harlin unapologetically embraces Deep Blue Sea’s B-movie roots and, with the help of a game cast, the end result is a film that is enjoyably unpretentious and straight forward.  Samuel L. Jackson was not devoured in vain.

Guilty Pleasure No. 37: Death Wish (dir by Eli Roth)


Is it finally safe to honestly review Death Wish?

You may remember that this film, a remake of the 70s vigilante classic, came out last March and critics literally went insane attacking it.  That it got negative reviews wasn’t necessarily a shock because the movie was directed by Eli Roth and he’s never been a favorite of mainstream critics.  Still, it was hard not to be taken aback but just how enraged the majority of the critics appeared to be.  Seriously, from the reviews, you would have thought that Death Wish was not just a bad movie but a crime against nature.

Of course, a lot of that was due to the timing of the film’s release.  The film was released less than a month after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  At the time the film first came out, the country was in the midst of a daily diet of anti-second amendment rallies and David Hogg.  Many critics accused Death Wish of being a commercial for the NRA.  Others branded the film as being right-wing propaganda.  In fact, the criticism was so harsh that it was hard not to feel that the critics were essentially taking Death Wish far more seriously than it took itself.

If anything, Death Wish is a big, glossy, and rather silly movie.  Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey.  Paul is a peace-loving man.  We know this because he refuses to get into a fight with a belligerent parent at a soccer game.  He’s also an emergency room doctor, the type who pronounces a policeman dead and then rushes off to try to save the life of whoever shot him.  No one in the movie suspects that Paul would ever become a vigilante but we know that there’s no way he can’t eventually end up walking the streets with a loaded gun because he’s played by Bruce Willis.  When Paul backs down from the fight at the soccer game, Willis delivers his dialogue with so much self-loathing that we just know that, once Paul gets back home, he’s going to lock himself in the basement and start yelling at the walls, Stepfather-style.

Eventually, criminals break into Paul’s house and shoot both his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and his daughter (Camila Morrone).  His wife dies.  His daughter ends up in a coma.  Paul spends a day or two in shock and then he promptly gets a gun and starts shooting criminals.  Eventually, this brings him into conflict with the same criminals who attacked his family!  Meanwhile, two detectives (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise) look at all the dead bodies piling up around them and just shrug it off.  At one crime scene, Norris is happy to grab a slice of pizza.

And really, that’s it.  It sounds simple because it is simple.  There is absolutely no narrative complexity to be found in Death Wish, which is why, in its own cheerfully crude way, the film totally works.  In real life, of course, vigilante justice is not the solution and the death penalty is often unfairly applied but, from the moment the opening titles splash across the screen, Death Wish makes clear that it has no interest in real-life and, throughout its brisk running time, it literally seems to be ridiculing anyone in the audience who might be worried about the moral ramifications of a citizen gunning down a drug dealer.

Death Wish is a big extravagant comic book.  It takes Paul one scene to go from being a meek doctor to being an expert marksman and, when Paul dispatches one criminal by dropping a car on him, Roth lays on the gore so thick that he almost seems to be daring us to take his film seriously.  By that same token, Paul kills a lot of people but at least they’re all really, really bad.  In fact, the criminals are so evil that you can’t help but suspect that Roth is poking a little bit of fun at the conventions of the vigilante genre.  Even the fact that Willis wanders through the entire film with the same grim expression on his face feels like an inside joke between the director and his audience.

The critics were right when they called Death Wish a fantasy but they were wrong to frame that as somehow being a flaw.  It’s a cartoonishly violent and deeply silly film and yet, at the same time it’s impossible not to cheer a little when Paul reveals that he’s been hiding a machine gun under his coffee table.  It’s an effective film.  Eli Roth delivers exactly what you would expect from a film about Bruce Willis killing criminals in Chicago.  It may not be a great film but it works.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean

What Lisa Watched Last Night #188: Killer Twin (dir by David Langlois)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Killer Twin!

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, it was on Lifetime, of course.

Plus, I love movies about evil twins!

What Was It About?

As babies, twin sisters Amber and Kendra were both abandoned at the same orphanage.  The head of the orphanage, Eunice (Bronwen Smith), took an instant dislike to Amber but always liked Kendra.  When it looked like the sisters had a chance to be adopted, Eunice arranged for Kendra to go off with new parents while Amber remained at the orphanage.

30 years later and Kendra doesn’t even remember that she had a sister.  However, Amber remembers.  Kendra has a great life, with a good job and a nice husband (Jason Cermak) and a big house.  Amber has … well, Amber has a lot of bitterness.  When Amber manages to track down Kendra, she sets out to make her sister’s life a living Hell.  That means breaking into her house, ruining her credit, lusting after her husband, and … even murder!

(They couldn’t call it Killer Twin if one of the twins wasn’t a killer!)

What Worked?

Occasionally, a supporting character will pop up in one of these movies and, despite having limited screen time, they’ll become something of a cause célèbre  for those of us watching.  In Killer Twin, that character was Marvin (Nelson Wong).  Marvin was a totally nice, friendly, and professional guy who worked at a bank.  When he suspected that Amber might be imitating her sister, Amber reacted by hitting him in the head with a safe deposit box and then running out of the bank.

Now, here’s the thing.  Amber hit Marvin pretty hard.  A lot of us were convinced that Marvin was dead.  BUT NO!  Marvin not only lived but he went back to his desk and called the police!  YAY MARVIN!  After that happened, I think we all definitely wanted Justice for Marvin.

As for the rest of this film, it was a good and entertaining Lifetime movie.  It was totally over-the-top, melodramatic, and fun.  Lindsay Hartley was obviously having a ball getting to play two totally opposite characters and director David Langlois and cinematography Jan Klompje brought some visual flair to the story.  There was one shot in particular, in which Amber seemed to literally emerge from the Seattle fog, that was especially impressive.  Visually, Lifetime films have come a long way.

What Didn’t Work?

It all worked!  If you can’t enjoy a good killer twin movie, I worry about you.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

You know, at the start of the movie, I was pretty much Team Amber.  I mean, I went through a whole period of time when I only wore black and I refused to smile and I’m actually kind of amazed that people put up with me while all that was going on.  I knew that Amber was serious about her scheme when she removed her nose ring because seriously, nose rings are almost as painful to take out as they are to put in!  I speak from personal experience.

But then, of course, Amber hit Marvin and I lost sympathy for her.  Leave Marvin alone!

Lessons Learned

Marvin is indestructible and evil twin movies are always fun!

Cleaning Out The DVR: Cheerleader Nightmare (dir by Danny J. Boyle)


I recorded Cheerleader Nightmare off of Lifetime on July 29th, 2018.

According to the imdb, Cheerleader Nightmare was originally titled Teen Drone Stalker.  Lifetime often changes the title of the movies that it acquires so I guess it’s not a shock that Teen Drone Stalker became Cheerleader Nightmare.  And I guess I can understand the reasoning behind the title change.  Teen Drone Stalker is a bit of an unwieldy title while Cheerleader Nightmare rolls right off the tongue.  Add to that, as a title, Cheerleader Nightmare promises both cheerleaders and nightmares, which has been a successful Lifetime formula in the past.

That said, Teen Drone Stalker is actually a far more accurate title.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are cheerleaders in this film and one of them does get murdered.  So, it’s not as if the new title is deceptive or anything.  But, in the end, it’s the teen drone stalkers who are far more important to the story than the dead cheerleaders.

(Add to that, Teen Drone Stalker is a great name for a band. I’d probably call them TDS for short, however.)

Anyway, the story centers around Sophie (Taylor Murphy), who is her high school’s official photographer.  She and her friend Mickey (Johnny Vistocky) use a drone to capture exciting action shots of the school’s football team and the cheerleaders.  Sophia has a complicated history with cheerleading.  On the one hand, her mother (Melissa Ponzio) is the cheerleading coach and never makes a secret of the fact that she wishes Sophie was on the team.  On the other hand, Sophie wants to find her own identity and maintain her independence.  Meanwhile, Sophie’s former best friend, Leah (Mia Stallard) is the head cheerleader and Sophie’s boyfriend, Tyler (Jeremy Shada), is on the football team.  You would think that Sophie’s mother would be happy that Sophie’s dating a football player but, instead, she’s concerned because Tyler used to be a juvenile delinquent.

Got all that?

Good, because things are about to get complicated.

While using Mickey’s drone to spy on a party being given at the football coach’s house, Sophie catches Tyler making out with Leah!  Then, someone murders Leah!  Was it Tyler?  Was it one of the other cheerleaders?  Was it Mickey, who seems to have issues with popular students?  Or …. could it have been Sophie!?  Seriously, Sophie seems to have a lot of unresolved issues towards cheerleaders.

I’ll be honest.  I spent the first 45 minutes or so convinced that Sophie would be revealed to be the murderer.  I had it all worked out in my mind.  I was convinced that Sophie suffered from blackouts, during which time she became a murderous named Sofia.  Was I right?  Was I wrong?  I guess you’ll have to watch the film to find out.

That said, I did relate to the character of Sophie.  When I was in high school, I was frequently told that I should I be a cheerleader but I never tried out because my sister was a cheerleader and I was all like, “I have to have my own identity!”  Looking back, it seems like kind of a silly thing to worry about but, at the time, it was like my declaration of principles.  Needless to say, I made my sister watch Cheerleader Nightmare with me so that I could get her opinion.  Erin says that it was an okay movie but she also pointed out that, if the cheerleaders had done a better job, everyone would have been too full of school spirit to commit any murders.  I have to agree with her on that.

Cheerleader Nightmare got off to a good start but it lost its way about halfway through.  I did enjoy counting up all of the red herrings that the film introduced before revealing the identity of the killer but there’s only so much you can really do with a red herring.  In the end, the identity of the murderer was not a big shock and it was hard not to feel that the murder would have been solved a lot earlier if Sophie and her mom had just stayed out of everyone’s way.   Unfortunately, Cheerleader Nightmare was no The Cheerleader Murders.