Film Review: The Day After (dir by Nicholas Meyer)

“This is Lawrence. This is Lawrence, Kansas. Is anybody there? Anybody at all?”

The words of Joe Huxley (John Lithgow) hang over the ending of The Day After, a 1983 film that imagines what the aftermath of a nuclear war would be like not on the East or the West Coasts but instead in the rural heartland of America.  Huxley is a professor at the University of Kansas and, as he explains early on in the film, Kansas would be an automatic target in any nuclear war because it houses a number of missile silos.  When he explains that, it’s in an almost joking tone, largely because the missiles haven’t been launched yet.  Instead, the only thing we’ve heard are a few barely noticed news stories about growing tensions between America and Russia.  About halfway through The Day After, the bombs go off and there are suddenly no more jokes to be made.

When the bombs drop over Kansas, we watch as cities and field and people burst into flames.  In a matter of minutes, several thousands are killed.  I’m almost ashamed to admit that I was probably more upset by the image of a horse being vaporized than I was by the death of poor Bruce Gallatin (Jeff East), the college student who was planning on marrying Denise Dahlberg (Lori Lethin).  I guess it’s because horses — really, all animals — have nothing to do with the conflicts between nations.  Humans are the ones who take the time to build bigger and better weapons and The Day After is one of the few films about war that’s willing to acknowledge that, when humans fight, it’s not just humans that die.

The bombing sequence is lengthy and I have to admit that I was a bit distracted by the fact that I recognized some of the footage from other movies.  A scene of panicked people running through a building was taken from Two-Minute Warning.  A scene of a building exploding and a construction worker being consumed by flames was lifted from Meteor.  As well, there’s some stock footage which should be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a documentary about the early days of the Cold War.  Still, despite that, it’s an effective sequence simply because it’s so relentless.  Some of the film’s most likable characters are vaporized before our eyes.  Steve Guttenberg, of all people, is seen ducking into a store.

Guttenberg plays Stephen Klein, a pre-med student who manages to survive the initial attack and takes shelter with the Dahlberg family at their ranch.  At first, it’s a bit distracting to see Steve Guttenberg in a very serious and very grim film about the nuclear apocalypse but he does a good job.  The sight of him losing both his teeth and his hair carries a punch precisely because he is reliably goofy Steve Guttenberg.

If the film has a star, it’s probably Jason Robards, the doctor who witnesses the initial blast from the safety of his car and then treats the dying in Lawrence, Kansas.  He does so, despite the fact that he doesn’t know if his wife, son, and daughter are even still alive.  He continues to do so until he also falls ill with radiation poisoning.  Knowing that he’s dying, he heads home just to discover that there is no home to return to.

Home is reccuring theme throughout The Day After.  Everyone wants to return to their home but everyone’s home has been wiped out.  “This is my home,” Jim Dahlberg (John Cullum) tries to explain before he’s attacked by a group of feral nomads.  Home no longer exists and trying to pretend like life can go back to the way it once was is an often fatal mistake.

Real happy film, right?  Yeah, this isn’t exactly a film that you watch for fun.  I have to admit that I made a joke about how I wouldn’t want to die while wearing the unfortunate blue jumpsuit that Jason Robards’s daughter chooses to wear on the day of the nuclear attack and I felt guilty immediately.  (Well, not that guilty.  Seriously, it was a terrible fashion choice.)  The Day After is a film that gives audiences zero hope by design.  It was made at a time when it was generally assumed that nuclear was inevitable and it was designed to scare the Hell out of everyone watching.  And while I can’t attest to how audience may have reacted in 1983, I can say that, in 2020, it’s still a powerful and disturbing film.

“Is anybody there? Anybody at all?” Joe Huxley asks and by the end of the film, the answer doesn’t matter.  The damage has already been done.

Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987, directed by Jim Drake)

Long before the end credits of 22 Jump Street imagined Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum going to culinary school, the flight academy, and into outer space, the Police Academy films bravely tested just how far one already thin premise could already be stretched.

In Police Academy 4, Commandant Eric Lassard (George Gaynes) comes up with another plan to make the city safer.  (Since Lassard has been coming up with plans for three years without any success, it may be time to let the old man retire peacefully.)  This time, he wants to institute Citizens on Patrol, which would mean training citizens to act like cops.  It sounds like the type of terrible idea that could get a city sued into bankruptcy but considering that this is a city where a human sound effects machine and the former head of the 16 precinct’s biggest gang can become decorated police officers, I guess it’s as good an idea as any.

As usual, Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) and the gang are ready to help Lassard.  Bruce Mahler’s Fackler is no longer a part of the ensemble but Bubba Smith, Bobcat Goldthwait, Michael Winslow, David Graf, Tim Kazurinsky, Marion Ramsey, and Brian Toschi are all back.  Also returning, after skipping out on the first two sequels, is Capt. Harris (G.W. Bailey).  Harris wants to see Lassard fail so that he can take over the police academy.  It’s the same thing as the first three films.  As in previous Police Academy films, there’s a visit to the Blue Oyster leather bar and a last minute crime wave to give the Citizens on Patrol a chance to prove they belong in the program.  The Citizens on Patrol include Billie Bird, Brian Backer, David Spade, wrestler Tab Thacker, and Corrine Bohrer as a love interest for Bobcat Goldthwait.  Sharon Stone also makes an appearance, playing a journalist and improbably falling for Steve Guttenberg.  Watching the film, it is obvious that the idea was that, in future Police Academy films, the Citizens on Patrol could replace any of the regular cast members who wanted too much money to return.  As a result, almost every veteran of the cast has a doppelganger in the Citizens on Patrol.  Brian Backer could replace Steve Guttenberg.  Tab Thacker is there to put Bubba Smith on notice that no one is irreplaceable.  Is Bobcat Goldthwait being difficult?  Just remind him that David Spade can play a crazy eccentric too.

Police Academy 4 is the most crowded of the Police Academy films and, even by the franchise’s undemanding standards, most of the jokes fall flat.  Jim Drake took over as director after the director of the previous two films, Jerry Paris, died of a brain tumor and Drake struggles to balance low comedy with police action.  Guttenberg and company don’t have the same energy in this installment as they had in the previous three and the new cast members all feel as if they’re out place sharing scenes with the veterans, like a group of underclassmen who have been invited on the senior trip.

This would be the final Police Academy film for Steve Guttenberg.  Would the franchise be able to survive without him?  Check here tomorrow to find out with my review of Police Academy 5!

Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986, directed by Jerry Paris)

Police Academy 3 opens with a state in the middle of a fiscal crisis.  Money has to be saved somewhere and the governor (Ed Nelson) has decided that it’s not necessary for the state to have two police academies.  I am not sure why the governor would be the one to make that determination since the previous two Police Academy films established that the academies are run by the city but I guess I should remember that I’m watching a Police Academy film and not ask too many questions.

Which academy is going to be closed down?  Will it be the academy run by Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes) or the one run by Commandant Mauser (Art Metrano, returning from the second film)?  Mauser is willing to use any dirty, under-handed trick to keep his academy open.  Meanwhile, Lassard has his most recent graduating class returning to instruct his latest batch of recruits.  Can Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) and Michael Winslow’s human sound effects machine save the academy?

When I watched Police Academy 3 this weekend, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  Maybe it’s because I watched it immediately after the first two films and my senses were dulled but Police Academy 3 turned out to be an amiable and enjoyably stupid comedy. It helped that two of the new recruits were played by Tim Kazurinsky and Bobcat Goldthwait.  Returning to the roles that they first played in the second movie, Kazurinsky and Goldthwait make for a good comedic team.  As for the rest of the Police Academy regulars, they all do their usual comedy bits like pros and without any fuss.  It’s predictable and sometimes, funny.

Police Academy 3 was the first Police Academy film to have a PG-rating and, as a result, the jokes were still as juvenile and crude as the first two movies but, at the same time, Police Academy 3 seems to have made peace with the fact that it’s target audience was a bunch of adolescent boys dropped off at the theater by their mothers.  Mauser is still regularly humiliated but no one gets a blow job while standing in front of a podium.  This is a Police Academy for the entire family, assuming that your family is easily amused and not too demanding.

Police Academy 3 is a dumb movie and the recurring joke about policemen accidentally entering the Blue Oyster Bar is even less funny the third time that it’s used.  There’s also a Japanese recruit who only seems to be included because, back in the 80s, American films were obsessed with making fun of Japan.  Despite all that, Police Academy 3 is still not as bad as the usual Police Academy sequel.

But what about Police Academy 4?  Check in tomorrow to find out if it’s also better than I initially remembered.

(It’s not.)

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985, directed by Jerry Paris)

In an unnamed city that is probably meant to be Los Angeles but which looks like Toronto, a criminal gang known as the Scullions have taken over the 16th precinct.  Led by the loud, marble-mouthed Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait), the Scullions are terrorizing the citizens and harassing one shop owner, Carl Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky), in particular.  The captain of the 16th precinct, Pete Lassard (Howard Hesseman), calls his brother, Eric Lassard (George Gaynes), and asks for the best cadets to have recently graduated from the police academy.

Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) and a few other of the cadets from the first Police Academy movie end up in the 16th.  Tackleberry (David Graf) is there and so is accident-prone Douglas Fackler (Bruce Mahler).  Bubba Smith is back as Hightower and so is Michael Winslow, the human sound effects machine.  They’re determined to help Lassard’s brother but it’s not going to be easy because they have to work with Lt. Mauser (Art Metrano) who is basically a dick who wants to be captain.  Mauser is exactly like Harris from the first film, except his name is Mauser and, instead of getting his head stuck up a horse’s ass, he gets his hands super-glued to his head.

Police Academy 2 is less raunchy than the first film but still not quite as family friendly as the films that would follow.  There’s still one f-bomb dropped and a few adult jokes, as if the film wasn’t fully ready to admit that it was destined to become associated with juvenile viewers who would laugh at almost anything involving a bodily function.  There is one funny moment where Steve Guttenberg goes undercover to join Zed’s gang, mostly because he’s Steve Guttenberg and he’s even less believable as a gang member than he was as a cop.  The closest thing that movie has to a highlight is Bobcat Goldthwait’s manic turn as Zed and Tim Kazurinsky’s desperation as he watches his store get repeatedly destroyed.  Tackleberry also gets an amusing romantic subplot, where he meets a police woman (Colleen Camp) who loves guns almost as much he does.  Unfortunately, Tackleberry’s romance gets pushed to the side by all of the gang activity.

Police Academy 2 is stupid but, depending on how much tolerance you have for Bobcat Goldthwait, sometimes funny.  It’s not as “good” as the first film but it’s still better than most of what would follow.  Speaking of which, tomorrow, I will be reviewing the first Police Academy film to get a PG-rating, Police Academy 3: Back in Training.

Police Academy (1984, directed by Hugh Wilson)

God help us, it has come to this.  After a month and a half being locked down, Lisa and I watched the first two Police Academy movies last night.

The first Police Academy takes place in an unnamed city that appears to be in California.  Due to a shortage of officers, the mayor has announced that the police academy will now accept anyone who wants to apply, regardless of their physical or mental condition.  Naturally, this leads to a collection of misfits applying.  Martinet Lt. Harris (G.W. Bailey) is determined to force all of them to drop out of the academy and he has a point because I wouldn’t trust Michael Winslow’s human sound effects guy to investigate any crimes that were committed in my neighborhood.  What’s he going to do?  Make silly noises while I’m trying to figure out who stole my car?

The leader of the recruits is Carey Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg).  Mahoney is being forced to attend the academy because otherwise, he’ll have to go to jail for disturbing the peace.  Police Academy is a film that asks you to believe that a character played by Steve Guttenberg has not only frequently been in trouble with the law but would also make a good cop. Guttenberg doesn’t really do a bad job as Mahoney.  He’s a likable actor, even if his filmography has more duds than hits.  But he’s still miscast in a role that demands someone like Bill Murray, who could be both tough and funny.

The other recruits include Bubba Smith as Hightower and David Graf as the insane gun nut, Tackleberry.  Kim Cattrall is the rich girl who wants to be a cop and who falls in love with Mahoney.  George Gaynes is Commandant Lassard, who is out-of-it but not as out-of-it as he would be in the sequels.

You have to wonder how many parents, in the late 80s and early 90s, allowed their children to rent the R-rated Police Academy from the local video store without realizing the the first Police Academy is considerably more raunchy than the later sequels.  How did mom and dad react when they walked into the room and discovered their children watching Georgina Spelvin giving George Gaynes a blow job from underneath a podium?  Or how about the scene where recruit George Martin (Andrew Rubin) is spied having a threesome in the girl’s dorm?  The first Police Academy film is definitely made from the same mold as Animal House, Caddyshack, and Stripes.  It’s just not as funny as any of those films.

However, it is funnier than every Police Academy film that followed it.  There’s enough solid laughs to make the first Police Academy fun in a stupid way.  For instance, just about every scene involving accident-prone Cadet Fackler (Bruce Mahler) was funny.  Bubba Smith gets a lot of laughs just by being Bubba Smith in a stupid movie.  It’s also hard not to love it when Cadet Hooks (Marion Ramsey) yelled, “Don’t move, Dirtbag!”  Hell, I even laughed at the sound effects guy once or twice.

All of the Police Academy films are now on Netflix.  Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment.

A Movie A Day #349: The Bedroom Window (1987, directed by Curtis Hanson)

The Bedroom Window opens with quite a quandary.  Sylvia (Isabelle Huppert) has just witnessed a woman named Denise (Elizabeth McGovern) being attacked by a serial rapist/killer named Carl (Brad Greenquist).  The problem is that the window that Sylvia’s standing at is located in the bedroom of Terry Lambert (Steve Guttenberg).  Sylvia is having an extramarital affair with Terry and she knows that there’s no way to tell the police what she saw without also exposing the affair.  Terry decides that he’ll go to the police and tell them what Sylvia witnessed but he will claim to have seen it himself.

Terry does well enough with the police that Carl gets arrested but, at Carl’s trial, Terry’s testimony falls apart when he is revealed to be so near-sighted that there was no way he could have seen what happened from his bedroom window.  Carl is not only acquitted but has now figured out that Sylvia was the one who witnessed him attacking Denise.  When the killings start up again, Terry becomes the number one suspect.

An underrated and overlooked thriller, The Bedroom Window was directed by the late and missed Curtis Hanson.  It’s not a perfect film.  Terry does an excessive amount of stupid things over the course of the movie.  But Hanson did a good job creating suspense and he got good performances from his entire cast.  Steve Guttenberg may seem like a strange choice to play the lead in a Hitchcockian thriller but he actually gives a credible performance and the fact that he is not a traditional hero creates some suspense.  Brad Greenquist is chilling as the killer and keep an eye out for the great Wallace Shawn in the role of Carl’s weaselly attorney.

A Movie A Day #86: Don’t Tell Her It’s Me (1990, directed by Malcolm Mowbray)

This month, since the site is currently reviewing each episode of Twin Peaks, every entry in Move A Day is going to have a Twin Peaks connection.  I am going to start things with Don’t Tell Her It’s Me, a movie that I normally would never think of as having anything to do with Twin Peaks or anything else that David Lynch has ever been associated with.

In this very minor romantic comedy, Gus (Steven Guttenberg) is a cartoonist who has just recently beaten cancer.  The treatment has left him bald, overweight, and lonely.  His sister, a popular romance novelist named Lizzie (Shelley Long), sets hm up with her friend, a journalist named Emily (Jami Gertz).  When Emily does not return Gus’s affection, Lizzie decides to transform Gus into every woman’s dream, which in this movie is a rebel named Lobo who comes from New Zealand and rides a motorcycle.  Gus spends a month working out, growing his hair long, and learning how to speak with a New Zealand accent.  Emily falls in love with Lobo, never realizing that he is actually Gus but what will happen when Gus has to finally tell her the truth?  Despite good performances (especially from Shelley Long), Don’t Tell Her It’s Me it too formulaic and predictable to be memorable.  Even if he does have a mullet and is speaking with a different accent, Steve Guttenberg is always going to be Steve Guttenberg and it’s hard to believe that Emily would not be able to see through his act.

Don’t Tell Her It’s Me actually has two Twin Peaks connections.  Kyle MacLachlan, the one and only Dale Cooper himself, plays Trout, who is both Emily’s editor and her cad of a boyfriend.  It’s a nothing role but fans of Twin Peaks will be interested to know that, when Trout is inevitably revealed to be cheating on Emily, the woman that he’s cheating with is played by MacLachlan’s Twin Peaks co-star, Madchen Amick.

If only the Log Lady had been around, Don’t Tell Her It’s Me could have been a much different picture.

2016 In Review: The Best of SyFy

Well, here we are!  We have reached the end of the first week of January, 2017 and that means that it is time for me to start listing my favorite movies, books, songs, and TV shows of the previous year!  Let’s start things off by taking a look at the best that the SyFy network had to offer in 2016!

Below, you will find my nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of the previous year.  The winners are listed in bold and starred.  As you’ll quickly notice, it was a good year for films about zombies, spiders, and sharks!

(Please note: When it comes to determining the nominees, I have used the credits for each film as listed on the Internet Movie Database.  If anyone feels that they have been miscredited, feel free to let me know and I’ll correct the mistake.  Thanks!)


Best Picture

2 Lava 2 Lantula, produced by Neil Elman, Anthony Frankhauser, Lisa M. Hansen, Paul Hertzber

Atomic Shark, produced by Tanya Bellamy, Diane Boone, Matt Chiasson, Angela Meredith Furst, Griff Furst, Stephen Furst, M. Juan Gonzalez, Ross Herbert, Howie Klein, Som Kohanzadeh, Yoram Kohanzadeh, Isiah LaBorde, Kevin Lamb, Daniel March, Will Matherne, David Poughatsch, Lee C. Rogers, Miguel Sandoval, Arthur Scanlan, Ben Yimlimai

Dead 7, produced by Paul Bales, Nick Carter, David L. Garber, David Michael Latt, David Rimawi, Micho Rutare, Dylan Vox

Isle of the Dead, produced by Paul Bales, Lauren Elizabeth Hood, David Michael Latt, David Rimawi

*The Night Before Halloween, produced by Blake Corbet, Priscilla Galvez, Christina O’Shea-Daly, Marek Povisal, Lance Samuels, Mary Anne Waterhouse

Ozark Sharks, produced by Kenneth M. Badish, Sam Claitor, Eric Davies, Daniel Lewis, Jordan Lewis, Pierre-Andre Rochat, Tommy Talley

Best Director

Nick Lyons for Isle of the Dead

Nick Simon for 2 Lava 2 Lantula

Misty Talley for Ozark Sharks

*Sheldon Wilson for The Night Before Halloween


Best Actor

*Nick Carter in Dead 7

Steve Guttenberg in 2 Lava 2 Lantula

Justin Kelly in The Night Before Halloween

Michael Papajohn in Ozark Sharks


Best Actress

Jessica Blackmore in Dam Sharks

Laura Cayouette in Ozark Sharks

*Bailee Madison in The Night Before Halloween

Maryse Mizanin in Isle of the Dead


Best Supporting Actor

Raymond J. Barry in Day of Reckoning

*D.C. Douglas in Isle of the Dead

Alex Harrouch in The Night Before Halloween

Thomas Francis Murphy in Ozark Sharks


Best Supporting Actress

*Allisyn Ashley Arm in Ozark Sharks

Barbara Crampton in Day of Reckoning

Kristina Hughes in Stakeland 2: The Stakelander

Kiana Madiera in The Night Before Halloween


Best Screenplay

*2 Lava 2 Lantula, Neil Elman, Ashley O’Neil

Isle of the DeadJacob Cooney, Brandon Trenz

The Night Before HalloweenSheldon Wilson

Ozark Sharks, Marcy Holland, Greg Mitchell

Best Cinematography

Atomic Shark, Don E. FauntLeRoy

*The Night Before Halloween, Daniel Grant

Planet of the Sharks, Mark Atkins

Stakeland 2: The Stakelander, Matt Mitchell

Best Costumes

*Dead 7Sarah Sharp

Isle of the Dead, Cailan Calandro

Planet of the Sharks, Mary-Sue Morris

Stakeland 2: The Stakelander, Brenda Shenher


Best Editing

Atomic Shark, Stephen Pfeil

Isle of the Dead, Rob Pallatina

The Night Before Halloween

*Ozark SharksMisty Talley

Best Makeup

The Crooked Man, Laurie Hallack, Laura Morton, Hannah Schenck, Eric S. Wilson

*Isle of the Dead, Leslie Burdick, Dennis M. Chavez, Michael Robert Cypher, Lleva Radina

Sharknado 4Krystal Bagorio, Stacy Bisel, Haley Coats, Rebeca Ovadia, Magali Serrano, Melissa K. Webb

Stakeland 2: The Stakelander, Raven Dee, Jill Demaer, Lindi Edge, Pete Gerner, Nina McArthur, Brian Spears, Krista Stevenson

Best Score

*Dead 7Drew Lerdal, Bryan Shackle

Isle of the Dead, Chris Cano, Chris Ridenhour

Ozark SharksAndrew Morgan Smith

Sharknado 4Christopher Cano, Chris Ridenhour


Best Production Design

2 Lava 2 Lantula, Yana Veselova, Megan Sunzeri

Dead 7, Caitlin Langen, Mikki Mamaril

*Isle of the Dead, Kalise Wallace, Taylor Jean

Sharknado 4Kalise Wallace

Best Sound

Atomic Shark

Isle of the Dead

The Night Before Halloween

*Sharknado 4


Best Visual Effects

Atomic Shark

*2 Lava 2 Lantula

The Night Before Halloween

Shadows of the Dead


Congratulations to all the nominees!  Thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for last year?  Click here!

Click here for my picks from 2014!

And here for my picks from 2013!

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the best from Lifetime!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016


Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #5: 2 Lava 2 Lantula (dir by Nick Simon)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Thanksgiving, November 24th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


I recorded 2 Lava 2 Lantula off of the SyFy Network on August 6th.

A sequel to last year’s sleeper hit, Lavalantula, 2 Lava 2 Lantula aired shortly after SyFy’s 2016 Shark Week.  Naturally, I watched and live tweeted it.  I have to admit that my 2 Lava 2 Lantula live tweet was probably one of my weaker live tweets of the summer.  For whatever reason, my naturally brilliant wit failed me on that night.  That’s not the fault of the film, which is wonderfully snark-worthy and was obviously made to appeal to live tweeters like me.  Maybe I was just tired.  After all, I was still recovering from the epic Sharknado 4 live tweet.

It’s pretty much impossible to talk about the Lavalantula films without also talking about the Sharknado franchise.  Even more so than the first film, 2 Lava 2 Lantula is, for all intents and purposes, a Sharknado film, with the sharks replaced by giant spiders and Steve Guttenberg playing the Ian Ziering role.  Otherwise, both franchises feature the same campy sense of humor and over the top sensibility.  Both franchises share a love for (deliberately) cartoonish CGI and callbacks to other cult films.  These are films that wink at the audience and say, “We’re in on the joke … are you?”  It’s easy to imagine that, if Ian Ziering and Tara Reid ever start demanding too much money to appear in another Sharknado, Steve Guttenberg and the Lavalantula crew could step in and take their place without missing a beat.

(Ian Ziering even made a cameo appearance in the first Lavalantula, establishing that both franchises take place in the same cinematic universe.)

Wisely, 2 Lava 2 Lantula doesn’t waste any time getting started.  The film opens with fire-breathing spiders suddenly showing up in Florida and it doesn’t devote much time to worrying about how they showed up.  The important thing is that they’re there, they’re breathing fire, and somebody has to save the world.  Luckily, film star Colton West (Guttenberg, of course) is in Florida, shooting a cop movie.  He and his friend, Marty (Michael Winslow), saved Los Angeles in the first film.  Now, they’re going to save Florida!

They’re also going to have to save his daughter, Raya (Michele Weaver), who is fleeing through a burning Miami with her friend, Daniella (Lorynn York).  Daniella has a nasty lavalantula burn on her shoulder and, if you’re familiar with SyFy films, you can already guess what’s going to eventually burst out of Daniella’s back.  That’s one thing about 2 Lava 2 Lantula: it knows, understands, and respects the rules of SyFy.

There’s a scene where Colton is confronted by some soldiers who refuses to let him drive into a restricted zone.  Colton tells them, “My name is Colton West, authorized movie star.”  That really tells you everything that you need to know about 2 Lava 2 Lantula.  It’s a film that refuses to apologize for being ludicrous.  Instead, it embraces the silliness of it all.  Not only does it feature giant, fire-breathing spiders and Steve Guttenberg as a badass action hero but it also finds the time to throw in homages to everything from Dr. Strangelove to Independence Day.  Colton’s speech on why Florida is the best should do a lot to help that beleaguered state feel better about itself.

Whether you’ll like 2 Lava 2 Lantula depends on whether or not you like SyFy films in general.  If you’re not a fan of SyFy’s aesthetic style … well, then you probably wouldn’t be watching a film called 2 Lava 2 Lantula in the first place.  But, for the rest of us, this is a fun little movie that promises fire-breathing spiders and delivers.

Who can’t get into that?

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 4!


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.


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!