Hold on there, internet. The SHARKNADO orgy of love isn’t over yet. Not only do I look at the latest dose of craziness from the Asylum, I also check out five other recent films in today’s Journal. It’s going to be epic, people. No, it’s going to be Sharknado epic.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 55
DESPICABLE ME 2 (2013) – In this sequel to the 2010 film, Gru (Steve Carrell) has retired from supervillainy and is happily raising his three adopted daughters. He is restless, but not willing to return to a life of crime. The Anti-Villain League abducts him and enlists him to help find the person responsible for stealing a dangerous chemical. This puts Gru undercover at the local mall as he scopes out potential bad guys. For this mission, he is also paired with an overzealous partner (Kristin Wiig) that he develops feelings for.
The first DESPICABLE ME was a mammoth hit, and one I initially didn’t care but gradually grew to enjoy. The sequel is actually a huge improvement. The best part of the original was the relationship Gru has to his little girls, and that is also the case here. It’s just funny to see them all interact and these also wind up being the gosh darn sweetest parts of the flick. DESPICABLE ME 2 also winds up being a lot funnier than its predecessor and all the cast members do great jobs. Yes, even my Kristin Wiig annoyance was satiated by her strong performance here.
I would have liked to see more actually, which is my main complaint. They do next to nothing with Gru’s cover as the owner of a cupcake place at the shopping mall. Also, they still need to better explain Dr. Nefario’s allegiances, a holdover from the previous film that they tried but didn’t succeed in conveying here. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
If you stayed midway through the credits of FAST FIVE, you got a big shocker (And you should probably skip this review if you haven’t seen that film. You’ve been warned.). Sure enough, there is a crew of very dangerous international criminals and it looks at though Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who was supposed to have been killed in the fourth film, is alive and working for them. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) enlists Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his crew to investigate, on the basis that family is most important.
The FAST AND FURIOUS franchise represents something I had never experienced before. You see, unlike many others, I did not like the first three installments. I wouldn’t have even bothered with the fourth one if I wasn’t doing the original Film Geek Central podcast with Austin at the time. But I did see it, and I surprisingly enjoyed it. So much that I voluntarily saw FAST FIVE a couple years later and declared it one of the best films of that summer. This is a series that for me started getting good, right at the time when most franchises should have hung it up.
This sixth installment isn’t quite as good as the fifth. The main reason for this is the Letty storyline. I really like Rodriguez and it was nice seeing her on screen. But the way they explain her reappearance was clichéd and ridiculous, even for a film that features a car launching itself through a burning airplane. The ending also wasn’t so hot as an attempt to bring things full circle actually left me feeling unfulfilled. Still, FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (or FURIOUS 6, as it’s called on screen) offers plenty of action and fun for those who have stuck with this series for so long. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
THE HEAT (2013) – An uptight FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) is looking for a promotion, despite her inability to get alone with anyone else in the Bureau. She gets a lead on a connection to a major drug trafficker, and winds up butting heads with an acerbic, slobbish Boston cop (Melissa McCarthy). Naturally, the two don’t get along but eventually learn to work with and depend on each other while bringing the kingpin down.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there were so many buddy cop movies that it was considered the ultimate cliché. We started rolling our eyes when they came out. Now, since we haven’t had a real buddy cop movie in some time (I’m not counting THE OTHER GUYS because… well, because it’s obnoxious and horrible), the arrival of a traditional buddy copy movie seems refreshing and new.
THE HEAT reunites Melissa McCarthy with her BRIDESMAIDS director, Paul Feig. I didn’t care for BRIDESMAIDS, mainly because the film should have more accurately been called KRISTIN WIIG WHINES ABOUT HER LIFE FOR OVER TWO HOURS. This follow-up is actually quite enjoyable when McCarthy reins in the improv a bit. When she doesn’t, she just keeps going until she runs out of steam and instead of ending the scene on an earlier, higher note, Feig tends to keep filming until she’s done.
Otherwise, Bullock and McCarthy work well together. I’ve always liked Sandy B., and it’s nice to see her let loose in a comedy again after a few dramatic roles (It’s also a much better film than MISS CONGENIALITY 2, so there’s that). McCarthy actually develops a character underneath all the layers of grime as well. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
NOTE: Trailer is NSFW.
JACK REACHER (2012) – A sniper kills five people, seemingly at random. Police are led to an Iraq War vet who had previously committed crimes while overseas. Before being assaulted in transit, the vet asks for Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former military investigator who now seems to go from town to town solving crimes. Reacher is convinced the vet is guilty and doesn’t know why he would ask for him. But eventually, a bigger conspiracy emerges.
JACK REACHER is a film that’s pretty good while you’re watching it and increasingly average the more you think about it. Only the main villain, a cinematic figure I will not spoil here, really elevates this past its standard action movie trappings. Cruise tries in his role as Reacher, but he just doesn’t seem to be the right body type for the part and it’s hard to be convinced otherwise. This is a different character than his Ethan Hunt from the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series and requires the character to have certain attributes that Cruise just doesn’t possess. There’s also some far too convenient set-pieces, such as when Cruise is able to repeatedly escape gunfire in a quarry by hiding by some perfectly sized and strategically placed rocks.
By the way, do any of you studio lackeys at the MPAA want to tell me how this got a “PG-13” rating? ★★ (out of ★★★★)
PARKER (2013) – Statham time again as everyone’s famous Transporter steps into the shoes of Donald Westlake’s anti-hero. Parker is a thief with a set of ethics and standards. When he is betrayed by his crew and left for dead, he recovers and impersonates a Texas oil tycoon in order to get his revenge.
Did you catch where that whole scenario fell apart? Yes, it’s when Jason Statham is forced to impersonate a Texas. Statham has a lot of attributes. Versatility is not one of them. Hence, he winds up spouting off one of the worst accents in recent memory and is shocked when anyone sees through the facade. The one person who does see through it is a financially challenged realtor, played by a truly slumming Jennifer Lopez. What Lopez is doing in this film is anyone’s guess. Her character doesn’t do anything except serve as someone for Parker to rescue and Lopez is a better actress than this. Anyone who looks at her pop and TV career and sneers at that might want to revisit OUT OF SIGHT and then come back and apologize. Speaking of slumming, Taylor Hackford directed this and you’d never know it from the lackadaisical work on display. This guy has done films like AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, RAY… and now this? The whole film just feels painfully routine. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
SHARKNADO (2013) – Hurricane David is set to be the first hurricane to hit the California coast, because of course it is. However, because of climate change causing all the sharks to congregate in the area, that also means that the hurricane winds up plucking the sharks from the water and spinning them around in its cyclone. Now, you’d think that the sharks would just be torn apart or suffocate. But that’s because you’re not thinking in Bad Movie Logic. No, what it really means is that when Hurricane David hits Los Angeles, it floods the streets and also launches sharks like projectiles at people. These sharks, which roar like lions, either wind up taking people out like a missile with teeth, or they wind up swimming in the streets and eating stranded motorists. Worse yet, there’s blood in the water which is going down the sewers and thus attracting the sharks all around the area. Which means that writer Thunder Levin has put a lot of thought into something truly stupid. And God bless him for it.
The main action follows a group of people led by Ian Zierling, a.k.a. “the other other guy from 90210,” as he tries to rescue his family. That includes his wife (Tara Reid) and bitchy daughter, but honestly they don’t really do anything in this flick. Most of the action is handled by Zierling, a Waitress with a Past (Cassie Scerbo) and Zierling’s son.
We are living in a golden age of aquatic monster movies, thanks to an insane game of one-upmanship that is being played between the Asylum and Roger Corman’s New Horizons studio. Because of this, we’ve gotten such gems as MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, 2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK and the gloriously titled SHARKTOPUS. And it’s not stopping either. Not only have they just announced a SHARKNADO sequel, we’re also getting a SHARKTOPUS follow-up (a Godzilla-like battle to boot!), but MEGA SHARK VS. MECHA SHARK is currently in the works, scripted by the great Jose Prendes.
You may look at this glowing review and be pretty dumbfounded by it. First of all, you have to realize that I live for this stuff. But also I ask you, when a film promises you something good and then not only exceeds expectations but blows them out of the water, doesn’t that deserve the highest of praise? SHARKNADO unapologetically promised a Schlock Movie Event. Not only did it deliver, it raised the bar considerably with more gutbusting moments of laughter and surprise twists then I honestly saw coming. A nonsensical ending that would have to be placed on a shortlist of the most ridiculous and unlikely conclusions in recent film history just put the cherry on the sundae. I had more fun with SHARKNADO than I have at any movie for weeks. ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 250
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