Film Review: Jaws 2 (dir by Jeannot Szwarc)


The 1978 film Jaws 2 poses a question that has been asked many times under many different circumstances:

When will people learn?

Seriously, you would think that after everything that happened during the first Jaws, the people of Amity Island would be a little bit smarter when it comes to sharks.  I mean, did Ben Gardner, the Kintner Boy, Quint, and Chrissie Watkins all die in vain?  If I lived on Amity Island, I would be so paranoid about another shark attack that I would probably move to Manitoba.  At the very least, I would demand that the beach be closed if there was even the slightest chance that another great white shark was somewhere out there, eating anyone foolish enough to get back in the water.

It’s just common sense!

But no.  In Jaws 2, when another shark shows up and eats two divers and a water skier before blowing up a motor boat, no one is even willing to consider shutting down the beach.  Even after Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) insists that another shark has shown up, no one is willing to listen to him.  “I know something about sharks!” Brody insists but the town council just shrugs him off.  Maybe they think that Quint and Hooper did all the work the last time and that Brody was just along for the ride.

Of course, Brody does bring some of his problems on himself.  Brody spends a lot of this film sitting in the dark, brooding about sharks.  When he sees a shadow in the ocean, he runs down to the beach and starts shooting at it.  “It’s just blue fish!” someone yells while Brody looks a little confused.  How shocked can we really be when the town council fires Brody?  He was a loose cannon.

Before he gets fired, Brody orders his teenage son, Mike (Mark Gruner) to stay out of the water.  Of course, Mike doesn’t listen.  He goes sailing with his friends and his younger brother, Sean (Marc Gilpin).  That’s a big mistake, of course.  As soon as Mike and company are a good distance away from Amity Island, the shark attacks and leaves them all stranded at sea.  Mike is knocked unconscious.  Sean is trapped on a boat all by himself.  One of the teenage girls, Jackie Peters (Donna Wilkes), totally freaks out while her older sister, Brooke (Gigi Voran), suggests that they all play charades to pass the time.  Everyone dismisses her idea but you know what?  I have it on very good authority that sharks love charades.  I think Brooke was on to something…

Jaws 2 is a strange, strange movie.  It’s really two films in one.  Jaws 2 starts out as an almost by-the-book remake of Jaws.  True, Quint’s dead.  And Richard Dreyfuss had just won an Oscar so there’s no way Hooper was going to come back.  But Brody’s back and he’s once again an island police chief who is afraid of the water and who can’t get anyone to listen to him.  Just as Jaws started out as almost a small town comedy, Jaws 2 has an early scene where Brody has to deal with the quirky citizens of Amity Island. (Unfortunately, Harry and his really bad hat don’t make a return appearance.)  A scene where a dead killer whale washes up on the beach is shot to remind us of the scene in the first in which Hooper and Brody examine a dead shark.

But then, halfway through, Jaws 2 turns into a totally different movie.  Suddenly, the teenagers are trapped out in the middle of the ocean and the shark is circling them and Brody is searching from them and the whole movie just goes insane.  Roy Scheider abandons any attempt at subtlety as he becomes as obsessed with shark as Donald Pleasence was with Michael Myers in Halloween.  The shark turns out to be incredibly sneaky.  He’s never around until you stick your hand in the water and then suddenly — SHARK!

How powerful is this shark?  He’s so powerful that he eats a freaking a helicopter!  Seriously, a coast guard helicopter tries to rescue the kids and ends up getting eaten by the shark!  That scene alone is worth whatever’s led up to it.  (I think Jaws 2 might be the first film to feature a shark eating a helicopter.)  The film only gets crazier from there, with Brody eventually reduced to verbally taunting the shark while clutching onto a power cable.

Now, admittedly, those stranded teenagers aren’t the most developed characters in the world.  There’s a lot of them and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who is who.  Fortunately, this is a 70s films and that means that Jaws 2 is all about the hair.  You may not know their names but you’ll never forget their hair:

Check out some of the members of the Jaws 2 hair club:

Jaws, come out to play…

(Okay, Luther wasn’t actually in the movie but just imagine if he had been!)

Anyway, Jaws 2 cannot begin to hold a candle to the original Jaws but it’s still a lot of fun.  Admittedly, there are a few parts, especially during the first hour, that drag in a way that Spielberg, the consummate story teller, would not have allowed.  I could have done without some of the lengthy scenes where Brody tries to convince the city council that there’s another shark in the water, if just because we already know that the shark’s there and we can guess that the beach isn’t going to be closed.  (After all, if the beach was closed, there wouldn’t be a movie…)

But once the teenagers are stranded in the ocean and the shark is eating the helicopter and Brody is calling it a bastard while hanging onto a power cable, there’s no way that you can resist the charms of this sequel.  Jaws 2 isn’t exactly good but it’s just so entertaining!

Jaws 2 frequently shows up on AMC so keep an eye out for it!

And, for the love of God — stay out of the water!

A Movie A Day #329: The Fourth War (1990, directed by John Frankenheimer)


The year is 1989 and the Cold War is coming to an end.  Colonel Jack Knowles (Roy Scheider) was a hero in Vietnam but now, years later, his eagerness to fight has made him an outsider in the U.S. Army.  Most people would rather that Knowles simply retire but, as long as there are wars to be fought, Knowles will be there.  His only friend, General Hackworth (Harry Dean Stanton), arranges for Knowles to be assigned to an outpost on the  West German-Czechoslovakia border.  As soon as he arrives, Knowles starts to annoy his superior officer, Lt. Col. Clark (Tim Reid).  When Knowles sees a Czech refugee gunned down by the Soviets while making a run for the border, he unleashes his frustration by throwing a snowball at his Russian counterpart.  Like Knowles, Col. Valachev (Jurgen Prochnow) is a decorated veteran who feels lost without a war to fight.  Knowles and Valachev are soon fighting their own personal war, even at the risk of starting a full-scale conflict between their two nations.

The Fourth War was one of the handful of films that John Frankenheimer directed for Cannon Films.  Much as he did with The Manchurian Candidate, Frankenheimer mixes serious thrills with dark satire in The Fourth War.  Frankenheimer gets good performances from the entire cast, especially Scheider and Prochnow.  The real star of the movie is the snow-covered landscape, which Frankenheimer turns into a metaphor for the entire Cold War.  When Knowles and Valachev end up throwing punches on a frozen lake that’s breaking apart underneath their feet, it is not hard to see what Frankenheimer’s going for with this film.  Released shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Fourth War is an underrated thriller that deserves to be rediscovered.

A Movie A Day #316: 52 Pick-Up (1986, directed by John Frankenheimer)


Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) is a businessman who has money, a beautiful wife named Barbara (Ann-Margaret), a sexy mistress named Cini (Kelly Preston), and a shitload of trouble.  He is approached by Alan Raimey (John Glover) and informed that there is a sex tape of him and his mistress.  Alan demands $105,000 to destroy the tape.  When Harry refuses to pay, Alan and his partners (Clarence Williams III and Robert Trebor) show up with a new tape, this one framing Harry for the murder of Cini.  They also make a new demand: $105,000 a year or else they will release the tape.  Can Harry beat Alan at his own game without harming his wife’s political ambitions?

Based on a novel by the great Elmore Leonard and directed by John Frankenheimer, 52 Pick-Up is one of the best films to ever come out of the Cannon Film Group.  Though it may not be as well-known as some of his other films (like The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds, Black Sunday, and Ronin), 52 Pick-Up shows why Frankenheimer was considered to be one of the masters of the thriller genre.  52 Pick-Up is a stylish, fast-paced, and violent thriller.  John Glover is memorably sleazy as the repellent Alan and the often underrated Roy Scheider does an excellent job of portraying Harry as a man who starts out smugly complacent and then becomes increasingly desperate as the story play out.

One final note: This movie was actually Cannon’s second attempt to turn Elmore Leonard’s novel to the big screen.  The first attempt was The Ambassador, which ultimately had little to do with Leonard’s original story.  Avoid The Ambassador but see 52 Pick-Up.

A Suspenseful Insomnia File #30: Still Of The Night (dir by Robert Benton)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If last night, at 1:30 in the morning, you were having trouble getting to sleep, you could have turned on the TV, changed the channel to your local This TV station, and watched 1982’s Still Of The Night.

Still of the Night actually tells two stories.  The first story  deals with Dr. Sam Rice (Roy Scheider), a psychiatrist who is living a perfectly nice, mild-mannered, upper class existence in Manhattan.  His patients are rich and powerful and his sessions with them provide him with a view of the secrets of high society.

One of Sam’s main patients is George Bynum (Josef Sommer), who owns an auction house and who is a compulsive cheater.  George tells Sam that he’s haunted by strange nightmares and that he is also worried about a friend of his.  George says that this friend has murdered in the past and George fears that it’s going to happen again.  When George is murdered, Sam wonders if the murder was committed by that friend.  He also wonders if that friend could possibly have been one of George’s mistresses, the icy Brooke Reynolds (Meryl Streep).

The second story that Still of the Night tells is about our endless fascination with the films of Alfred Hitchcock.  Still of the Night is such an obvious homage to Hitchcock that it actually starts to get a little bit silly at times.  Almost every scene in the film feels like it was lifted from a previous Hitchcock film.  At one point, there’s even a bird attack!  (Add to that, Scheider’s mother is played by Jessica Tandy, who previously played Rod Taylor’s mother in The Birds.)  Meryl Streep is specifically costumed and made up to remind viewers of previous Hitchcock heroines, like Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint, and Tippi Hedren.

Unfortunately, considering the talent involved, Still of the Night never really works as well as it should.  Both Scheider and Streep seem to be miscast in the lead roles.  If Still of the Night had been made in the 50s, one could easily imagine James Stewart and Grace Kelly playing Sam and Brooke and managing to make it all work through screen presence along.  However, Scheider and Streep both act up a storm in the lead roles, attacking their parts with the type of Actor Studios-gusto that seems totally out-of-place in an homage to Hitchcock.  Scheider is too aggressive an actor to play such a mild character.  As for Streep, she’s miscast as a noir-style femme fatale.  Streep’s acting technique is always too obviously calculated for her to be believable as an enigma.

That said, there were still some effective moments in Still of the Night.  The majority of the dream sequences were surprisingly well-done and effectively visualized.  I actually gasped with shock while watching one of the dreams, that’s how much I was drawn into those scenes.

According to Wikipedia, Meryl Streep has described Still of the Night as being her worst film.  I think she’s being way too hard on the movie.  It’s nothing special but it is an adequate way to kill some time.  Certainly, I’d rather watch Still of the Night than sit through Florence Foster Jenkins.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals

A Big Screen, Some Popcorn, and JAWS (Universal 1975)


cracked rear viewer

Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun…..

This past Wednesday night, I went out to New Bedford’s Zeiterion Theater to watch a screening of the summertime classic JAWS. The Z, as we locals call it, began life as a vaudeville palace in 1923, and five months later changed its name to The State and ran the latest silent movies. The State operated as a movie house until the late 70’s, with the historic building refurbished in 1982 and retro rebranded as the Zeiterion, hosting concerts, plays, dance, and other performing arts. The city (which now owns and operates the Z) recently purchased a state-of-the-art high-definition digital projector and, after an absence of almost a year,  movies are back in New Bedford! They kicked off a “summer series” of films with Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster scarefest, filmed not far from here (just a fast ferry ride away aboard the Sea Streak) on Martha’s Vineyard.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

And…

View original post 330 more words

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Night Game (dir by Peter Masterson)


Apparently, today is the opening day of the 2017 baseball season.  The only reason that I know that is because of my sister Erin.  I don’t know much about baseball, to be honest.  I know that my city’s team is the Texas Rangers and they were once owned by George W. Bush.  I know that Houston has a team called the Astros.  But, really, the main thing that I know about baseball is that my sister absolutely loves it.

So, when Erin asked me to review a baseball movie today, how could I say no?  I mean, I may know next to nothing about baseball but I certainly know something about movies!

For that reason, I’m going to take a few minutes to tell you about a 1989 film called Night Game.  Night Game is many things.  It’s a movies that features a lot of baseball, even though it’s not really a sports film per se.  It’s a police procedural, though the film itself suggests that the police often don’t have the slightest idea what they’re actually doing.  It’s a serial killer film, though its killer is never quite as loquacious as we’ve come to expect in this age of Hannibal Lecter and Dexter Morgan.  At times, it’s a slasher film, though it’s never particularly graphic.  Mostly, Night Game is a Texas film.

Directed by native Texan Peter Masterson, Night Game is like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in that it is one of those rare films that not only takes place in Texas but was actually filmed on location.  To be exact, Night Game was filmed in both Galveston and Houston.  The entire film has a friendly and quirky Texas feel to it.  Masterson may not have been a great visual director (If not for some language and nudity, Night Game could pass for a TV movie) but Night Game is a movie where the plot is less important than capturing the little details of a time. a location, and the people who lived there.  Though Night Game is 28 years old, it’s portrait of my home state still seemed very contemporary to me.  I guess Texas hasn’t really changed that much over the past few decades.

As for the film’s plot, someone is murdering young women in Galveston and leaving their bodies on the boardwalk.  Obviously, that’s not going to be good for attracting Spring Break revelers.  The film doesn’t make any effort to keep the murderer’s identity a secret.  We see his face fairly early on.  We also see that he has a hook for a hand.  Eventually, we do learn the murderer’s motives.  They’re pretty silly but then again, individual motives rarely make sense to anyone other than the guy with the hook for a hand.

Detective Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider) has been assigned to solve the case.  One thing that I really liked about Night Game was that Mike was pretty much just a normal guy with a job to do.  He wasn’t self-destructive.  He wasn’t always drunk.  He wasn’t suicidal.  He wasn’t always lighting a cigarette and staring at the world through bloodshot eyes while the lighting reflected off of his artful stubble.  He was just a detective trying to do his job and get home on time.  After sitting through countless films about self-destructive cops and criminal profilers, the normalcy of Mike was a nice change of pace.

Mike does have a backstory.  He used to play baseball and he still loves the game.  He goes to every Astros home game in Houston.  He’s in love with Roxy (Karen Young), who works at the stadium.  Things are only slightly complicated by the fact that Mike had a previous relationship with Roxy’s mother (Carlin Glynn).  Don’t worry, Mike’s not secretly Roxy’s father or anything like that.  It’s not that type of movie.

Anyway, Mike is such a fan of baseball that he realizes something.  The killer only strikes on nights that the Astros win a game.  And he only strikes if a certain pitcher was throwing the ball.  The obvious solution would be to shoot the pitcher in the arm and end his athletic career.  However, Mike’s too nice a guy to do that.  Instead, he just tries to track down the killer…

And, as I said, Night Game actually isn’t a bad little movie.  Make no mistake, it’s a very slight movie.  At no point are you going to say, “I’m going to remember that scene for the rest of my life!”  That said, it’s a surprisingly good-natured film and Roy Scheider’s performance is likable and unexpectedly warm.  With all that in mind, Night Game is an entertaining and (mildly) bloody valentine to my home state.

Plus, it’s a baseball movie!  I don’t know much about baseball but, if my sister loves it, it has to be a good thing!

Soda Pop Cops: THE SEVEN-UPS (20th Century Fox 1973)


cracked rear viewer

su1

Theater screens of the 70’s were awash in blue as the “tough guy cop” film put a chokehold on Hollywood. DIRTY HARRY Callahan took on punks in a series of action flicks, SERPICO took down corruption in New York, and L.A. detective Joseph Wambaugh’s novels were adapted into big (and small) screen features.  Producer Philip D’Antoni helped usher in this modern take on film noir with 1968’s BULLITT starring Steve McQueen, followed by the Oscar-winning THE FRENCH CONNECTION , with Gene Hackman as brutal cop Popeye Doyle.

su2

D’Antoni decided to direct his next effort, 1973’s THE SEVEN-UPS. CONNECTION costar Roy Scheider gets his first top-billed role as Buddy Manucci, head of an elite “dirty tricks” squad that takes down perps whose felonies will land them seven years and up in jail (hence the title; it has nothing to do with the lemon-lime soda!). Manucci’s childhood pal Vito Lucia (Tony LoBianco) is…

View original post 369 more words