Let’s Talk About Sharknado 4!


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Last Sunday night saw the premiere of Sharknado: The Fourth Awakens!

For the fourth year in a row, SyFy and the Asylum allowed us to take a peak into the shark-filled life of Finn Shepherd (Ian Ziering) and his family.  Also for the fourth year in a row, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film was practically a national holiday.  Long before the film even started, #Sharknado4 was the number one trending topic on twitter.  I actually live tweeted the film twice, once for the east coast and then a second time for my friends on the west coast.  That’s right — I sent out over 300 tweets about Sharknado 4 on Sunday and I’ve never been more proud of myself.  Live tweeting the latest Sharknado is a lot like wishing someone you barely know a happy birthday on Facebook. It’s a part of the ritual of social media.  It’s like the Internet’s version of a Thanksgiving parade or a 4th of July fireworks show.

After four films, it’s easy to forget that Sharknado started out like almost any other SyFy film.  The first Sharknado film featured no celebrity cameos and very little of the self-referential comedy that has come to define the series.  In fact, I didn’t even see Sharknado when it first aired because it premiered, opposite a Big Brother eviction show, on a Thursday.  It was only on Friday morning that I discovered that Sharknado had become a phenomena, largely due to the fact that celebrities like Mia Farrow had decided to live tweet it.

After all this time, it’s easy to forget just how much we veteran live tweeters resented that attention that was paid to celebrities like Farrow, the majority of whom were virgins as far as live tweeting SyFy was concerned.  (The fact that the majority of Farrow’s Sharknado tweets weren’t that good only added insult to injury.)  The media acted as if those celebs had invented live tweeting.  They also acted as if Sharknado was the first entertaining and over-the-top film to ever premiere on SyFy.  Among those of us who had been live tweeting SyFy film long before the premiere of Sharknado and who had loved pre-Sharknado movies like Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Shark Week, there was more than a little resentment.

But you know what?  I watched Sharknado the following Saturday and I had a great time live tweeting it.  The next year, I made sure to watch and live tweet Sharknado 2 the night that it premiered.  The same was true of Sharknado 3 and I even ended up casting a vote on the question of whether or not April should survive that film’s cliffhanger.  With its cheerful absurdity and determination to continually top the glorious absurdity of each previous entry, the Sharknado franchise won me over.  In fact, the franchise won over not only me but hundreds of thousands of other viewers.  Sharknado has become very much a part of our culture.

As I mentioned above, Sharknado 3 ended with a cliffhanger and that alone indicates just how big a deal Sharknado has become.  Sharknado 2 was made because the first Sharknado was an unexpected success.  Sharknado 3 followed because Sharknado 2 had proven that the first one was not a fluke and that there was an audience for these films.  However, by the time 3 was in production, there was never any doubt that there would be a Sharknado 4.  Sharknado 4 also ends with a rather abrupt cliffhanger, leaving little doubt that there will be a Sharknado 5.  At this point, not doing another Sharknado film would be the same as canceling summer all together.

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As for what Sharknado 4 was about … well, does it really matter?  At this point, we know that there’s going to be another sharknado and that Finn is just going to happen to be nearby when it strikes.  We know that landmarks will be destroyed (in this case, Las Vegas is thoroughly ravaged during the film’s first 30 minutes).  We know that Al Roker will show up and say stuff like, “There are reports of a Lightningnado near Kansas…”  (Both Roker and Natalie Morales apparently survived being attacked by sharks during Sharknado 3, though Morales does have an eyepatch in 4.  Matt Lauer is nowhere to be seen so I assume he wasn’t as lucky.)  We know that celebrities will appear in a cameos and that the majority of them will be promptly eaten by a flying shark.  We know that Finn and his family will eventually have to use a chainsaw to battle the sharks and we know that at least one person will be rescued from the inside of a shark’s stomach.

We don’t really watch a movie a like Sharknado 4 for the plot.  We watch it for the communal experience.  Last Sunday was Sharknado Day and it seems like the entire world was on twitter, talking about Sharknado 4.  The majority of us weren’t tweeting about the plot.  Instead, we were acknowledging that we had picked up on the in-jokes and the references to other films.  When April (Tara Reid) showed up alive and was revealed to now by a cyborg, many references were made to the Terminator — both in the film and on twitter.  When we learned that David Hasselhoff has been rescued from the moon, it was time to make jokes about The Martian.  When it was announced that a sharknado was headed towards Kansas, I made a Wizard of Oz joke on twitter.  Three minutes later, in the movie, a house fell on a character who could charitably be called a witch.  We briefly got a shot of her feet sticking out from under the house.

(I should also mention that Gary Busey shows up, playing a mad scientist.  The fact that Sharknado 4 could find prominent roles for both the Hoff and the Busey says a lot about what makes this franchise so endearingly entertaining.  Considering that Penn Jillette was in Sharknado 3, you have to wonder if the franchise will eventually feature every single person who appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice.  Who doesn’t want to see a flying shark bite off Piers Morgan’s head?)

(Actually, as long as I’m mentioning stuff — here’s my favorite inside joke.  Finn and his family are driving through North Texas.  Just judging by the hills and the mountains in the background, this scene was not actually filmed in Texas.  Anyway, they stop off at a general store where Dog Chapman — the bounty hunter — sells them a chainsaw.  When the sharks attack Texas, a chainsaw-wielding army is waiting for them.  Among that army is Caroline Williams, who starred in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  On the one hand, everyone viewing will immediately get the chainsaw joke.  But only the dedicated horror fans will truly understand why it’s so brilliant that Caroline Williams was credited as playing a character named Stretch.)

At this point, the Sharknado franchise is no longer just a series of films.  Instead, it’s a deliriously over-the-top experience.  In these times of partisan rancor, it briefly did not matter if you were a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican.  For two hours on Sunday night, if you were watching and live tweeting Sharkando 4, you were a part of a gigantic family, a community of people with an appreciation for over the top silliness.  Sharknado 4 brought this country together.

That’s not bad for a film about a bunch of flying sharks.

If you missed Sharknado 4 the first time, catch it when it’s shown again.  Just make sure that you watch it with a friend, someone who you can trust to make you laugh.

And, for God’s sake, enjoy yourself!

Life’s too short not to enjoy a Sharknado film!

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Hallmark Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Love (2015, dir. Bradford May)


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Okay, before I review this, I have to point out that this is the second Hallmark movie I’ve reviewed that stars Katie Leclerc which has a lazy title card. At least this one has something going on behind it. Unlike the plain white text on a black background for the movie The Reckoning.

With that out of the way. Let’s talk about this movie. Remember A Gift Of Miracles? Yeah, it’s the same setup here. A girl played by Katie Leclerc needs to get a research fellowship in order to get her PhD. The difference is that it in no way means she needs to believe in an afterlife, and she doesn’t get her pitch from a real world World Wildlife Federation report. So, there’s that going for this movie.

In digital computers there’s no such thing as a curve. Curves are approximated by a series of lines. Use enough of them and you get what looks like a curve. In movies, story arc and character arc are approximated with scenes instead of lines. Use enough of them and you get what looks like an arc. But if you don’t, then you end up with awkward jumps that have your audience asking questions like: “Why are they talking like she’s worked there for months? Didn’t they just hire her?” That’s this movie. It was also clearly done on the cheap, and it shows. Also, for fans of the Mystery Woman Hallmark movies.

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They show establishing exterior shots of the fictional Pacifica University that Leclerc’s character attends over and over and over again. I get it! You came up with a more realistic sounding university than California University from Beverly Hills, 90210, but every time you show it I notice that it says “Library and Learning Resource Center” on the building that also apparently houses this “Meteorology Weather Center”.

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The movie is about Deb, played by Katie Leclerc, who is a doctoral candidate meteorologist that gets called in at the last minute to replace a TV meteorologist. She’s encouraged to do it because it will make her stand out. The movie is about her trying to decide whether she really does want to pursue that research fellowship or if this TV thing is actually something she enjoys. Of course they need to give her a makeover. And who better than fashion victim survivor Stacey Dash. This girl.

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Who 20 years prior in Clueless (1995) was this girl.

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I mentioned this movie was done on the cheap. Here’s an example.

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That’s Leclerc standing in front of a green screen that we are supposed to know is a green screen, but then it cuts to a reporter on the scene.

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Oh, did I say “on the scene”? I meant in front of another green screen.

Also, this is one of those Hallmark movies where we can hear the rain in the scene, but it isn’t actually there. However, this movie does have an excuse for that. For plot convenience so that there’s conflict at the end, Deb’s friend is doing a documentary on the drought in my home state of California. I’m sure that’s why they didn’t use a rain machine. At least the scene is way better than the one I remember from one of the Garage Sale Mystery or Aurora Teagarden movies. In that one they were outside, umbrellas with drops on them, probably in Fall, with puddles around them, and the sound of rain, but there was no rain as noted by the perfectly still puddles.

Jumping ahead to the end. I totally believe this is not a backdrop behind them.

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Also…

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that’s Deb’s competition for the fellowship and that’s almost 100% of everything you see and hear her doing for that fellowship. And yet, the movie will constantly have Deb’s mentor saying that this girl is giving her really stiff competition and that she’s at serious risk for losing the fellowship. The least they could have done was tell us what she’s doing, right? Nope, there’s a speech at the end she gives, but we come in at the very end of it and they just have a generic blue Powerpoint card with the name of the university up throughout the whole scene.

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Does it matter who the guy is? Well, that’s him. That’s the scene where he and Deb talk as if they’ve worked together for months, but for the viewer she just got hired.

It really doesn’t matter what I say about this. It’s not worth watching. Leclerc is fine and the news anchor is a bright point in the movie. However, it’s done so cheaply and jumps so much plot and character wise that while it’s conceivably possible to push past all that, it’s like this actor trying to actually believe he’s outside.

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What Lisa Watched Last Night #133: Patient Killer (dir by Casper Van Dien)


Last night, I watched another Lifetime premiere, Patient Killer!

Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is because it was on Lifetime and, like all good people, I’m kind of obsessed with the movies that they show on Lifetime.  However, I also watched it because it was directed by Casper Van Dien (who has already appeared in two of my favorite films of the year — Avengers Grimm and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf) and it apparently featured Patrick Muldoon playing a stalker.  Patrick Muldoon is always a lot of fun whenever he’s bad.

(Derek Morris, my collaborator over at Primetime Preppie, has never quite forgiven Patrick for breaking up Kelly and Zack on Saved By The Bell.)

What Was It About?

Four years ago, therapist Victoria Wrightmar (Victoria Pratt) got too close to one of her patients and, as a result, Dylan McNalt (David Chokachi) committed suicide.  Despite the fact that Victoria has found success as a hypnotherapist, dream interpreter, and author, she is still haunted by Dylan’s death.

One day, a new patient enters her office.  Blaire Bennett (Barbie Castro) has been having nightmares and, when it turns out that she’s been suppressing memories that are similar to those that afflicted Dylan, Victoria once again starts to get too close to another patient.

However, it’s not just Blaire that Victoria has to deal with.  Her boyfriend, Jason (Casper Van Dien), has anger issues.  Another one of her patients, Derek (Patrick Muldoon), has become dangerously obsessed with her.  Both her mentor (Richard Burgi) and her administrative assistant (Stacey Dash) might have secrets of their own.  And, as strange things start to happen and those around her are threatened, a menacing police detective (Antoni Corone) enters her life as well.

Is Victoria being stalked or is she going crazy herself?  And is this movie called Patient Killer because the killer is a patient or because the killer likes to take his time?  To find out, you’ll have to watch the movie!

What Worked?

On twitter, Patrick Muldoon speculated that he would never get another date after people saw his performance as unstable Derek.  Personally, I think Muldoon was too hard on himself.  He did a really good job, finding the perfect balance between being threatening and being pathetic.  As a result, his character was both scary and sympathetic.  It looked like he had a lot of fun playing Derek and he was a lot of fun to watch.

And really, the same thing can be said about Patient Killer as a film.  It was an entertaining and enjoyably over-the-top thriller.

I loved both Victoria’s office and Blaire’s house.  Both locations were wonderfully decorated and a real delight to look at.  I’ve always said that one of the best thing about Lifetime films is getting to see where everyone works and lives and that was definitely the case with Patient Killer.

Actually, the entire film was a delight to look at.  Bernard Salzmann’s cinematography filled the frame with a combination of vibrant colors and menacing shadows.  This movie featured one of the best sunsets ever to appear on the Lifetime network.

While the film’s deliberate pace may not have been for everyone, I actually rather liked it and I felt it occasionally gave the film a surreal, almost dream-like feel.  In the end, Patient Killer felt like the Lifetime version of a classic David Lynch film noir.  (The score even sounded similar to Angelo Badalamenti’s classic Mulholland Drive score.)

What Did Not Work?

As far as I’m concerned, it all worked!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

As someone has plenty of experience in the administrative assistance field, I totally related to the character played by Stacey Dash.

Lessons Learned

Never go to the office without a taser.  (Watch the movie and it’ll make sense.)

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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