BARE BONES: GREAT WHITE (2021)

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GREAT WHITE (2021)

Australian shark flick finds a couple of seaplane owners, Kaz (Katrina Bowden) and her boyfriend Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko), taking another couple, Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) and her husband Joji (Tim Kano) on a tour of an area known as Hell’s Reef. Aptly named, as a pair of large great white sharks prowl the waters. While investigating the origins of a body they’ve found, an earlier meal of said sharks, the two couples and their cook Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) soon find themselves stranded in a lifeboat, miles from land and now prey to the predatory duo.

Routine shark movie is competently directed by Martin Wilson from a script by Michael Boughen. It’s run of the mill as these flicks go, with nothing new to offer, though what it does present is entertaining enough for those who like everything shark. There is some moderate bloodshed, as these flicks go and the characters are fairly stereotypical, as is the soap opera level drama between them—did Kaz really need to announce she’s pregnant before their perilous adventure begins? There is some sub-par CGI to bring the effectiveness down a few notches, but the last act is fairly intense and suspenseful, even if we have to sit through some ho-hum shark melodrama to get there. The cast are al fine, with Bowden being a solid heroine, and the Australian locations are nice to look at and a bit refreshing to the eye.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: THE MEG (2018)

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THE MEG (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Flick is based on Steve Alten’s book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (review HERE) about a giant prehistoric shark discovered deep below the ocean depths. The film starts out with Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) on a deep sea rescue mission, when something huge attacks his sub. He is forced to leave two comrades behind, though saves the eleven survivors. Five years later he is a guilt-ridden drunk on a beach in Tailand when his ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee)…who was a reporter named Maggie in the book…becomes trapped in a sub investigating a warm water system underneath a silt cloud, deep at the bottom of the sea. He joins the rescue team at the Mana One research platform and soon discovers the cause of the accident is an enormous prehistoric shark…a Megalodon. The survivors are rescued, but now the Megalodon has followed them up to the surface and Jonas and the Mana One team must battle a predator that hasn’t inhabited these oceans in millions of years.

Jon Turteltaub directs this adaptation after schlockmeister Eli Roth left the project. The script is by Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber and not only takes considerable liberties with Alten’s original story, but also dumbs down science that was already presented in a digestible manner. It also changes everything Japanese to Chinese to please Chinese co-producers, such as turning Jonas’ future wife Terry Tanaka into Chinese divorcée and single mom Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing). It now almost seems like an Asian production with a lot of dialogue coming with subtitles. Changes aside, there are a number of things that keep The Meg from having real bite. One is Turteltaub’s by-the-numbers direction which does not have nearly enough fun with the scenario. It’s Jason Statham vs a giant prehistoric shark, take the ball and run with it. The film should have been a lot more fun…or at least far more suspenseful. Turteltaub doesn’t exactly build much suspense either. Another thing is that the monster shark isn’t really given much of a threat factor, as the film’s PG-13 rating neuters most of her carnage…though Jaws did a lot with a PG rating, so it’s not just the lack of gore…and she only briefly encounters civilization and population. There is also no sense of wonder given to her or the underwater lost world she comes from. We don’t get a sense that this is a creature that time forgot. She’s just a big shark. The book took more time in her original surroundings so we understood her existence as a dinosaur more clearly. Finally, the script has some very dumb dialogue and is as cliché as a nature run amok movie can get. It’s no better than any of the SYFY channel shark themed movies that have been cranked out like cheap cars over the last few years. For this to stand above, it should have followed the book a bit more closely, as it streamlines the story too much. It’s also confusing that they left out a major plot point which easily set up a sequel…and we know Hollywood loves a sequel, especially if this makes money. What does save this a bit is that there is an action-packed last act and weak script and lackluster direction aside, it still entertains and it is still Jason Statham vs a giant prehistoric shark, after all. It also successfully restructured an ending that worked on paper, but would have been very difficult to film. What they came up with keeps the essence, but works much better for film. On a technical side, the flick is well made and the CGI shark is serviceable, though never really as frightening as she should be.

The cast are fine. Statham works well as Jonas Taylor, though his whole guilt issue gets abandoned pretty quick and he sobers up just as fast. He is a reliable action hero and if anyone can battle a massive sea predator, Statham is at the top of the list. He’s charming and handles the physicality of the role well. Li Bingbing is a solid love interest/heroine and gets to shuffle back and forth here from damsel in distress to action hero and does so, well. English is not her first language so some of her line delivery is a bit awkward, but she does well enough to be likable as Suyin…and looks damn fine in a wet-suit, too. Rainn Wilson is OK as Billionaire Jack Morris who was not in the book. It’s a very stereotypical and cliché character that appears clueless, but turns into a real douche just when you expect him to. Rounding out the leads is Winston Chao as Suyin’s father Dr. Minway Zhang, who was Masao Tanaka in the book, and cute little Shuya Sophia Cai as Suyin’s daughter, Meiying. As the “precocious child” she could have been far more annoying.

Overall, this novel adaptation was entertaining, but could have been a real blast with a director who appreciated the scenario and a script that kept the book’s sense of wonder and the savage aggressiveness of it’s title creature. The film is cliché and turns what could have been a real nail-biter into a routine creature run amok movie. There is plenty of action, the second half livens up quite a bit and Statham works as the flawed hero and that keeps us from getting bored. The most puzzling thing about the film is that it leaves out a major plot point from the book that easily sets up a sequel…as book writer Steven Alten has fully taken advantage of. Fans of the book will probably be disappointed, but as a bargain matinee it entertains well enough.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) megalodon teeth for an action filled second half and Li Bingbing looking mighty fine in her wet-suit.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SHALLOWS (2016)

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THE SHALLOWS (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Jaume Collet-Serra (House Of Wax, Non-Stop) directs this tale of pretty, Texas surfer-girl Nancy Adams (Blake Lively), who is searching for a remote and secluded Mexican beach that her mother once visited. It has sentimental value as her mother is now gone and Nancy locates the beach to spend some soul-searching time there. What Nancy doesn’t know is that a massive great white shark has staked out the bay as a hunting ground and soon Nancy finds herself stranded, alone and wounded as she clings to dear life on a small cluster of rocks. As the sun beats down on her and she slowly bleeds to death, the predator circles her small safe haven waiting for an opportunity to finish it’s meal.

Jaume Collet-Serra directs from Anthony Jaswinski’s script and despite a premise ripe for it, doesn’t really generate much suspense till the last act confrontation between Lively’s surfer and the big fish. Till the buoy set finale, what does keeps us involved is watching Nancy’s tenacious will to live and her ingenuity in trying to keep her bite wound from bleeding out and staying alive in general. Other than that, the film gives us a few victims in the form of some surfer dudes and a drunk local to illustrate that our seafaring predator means business, though the demises are fairly tame and lack impact with adhering to the PG-13 rating. Basically, it’s not until the last ten minutes, or so, that we get the intensity and action we came for. The film isn’t boring or badly directed, but maybe it’s just that the whole shark theme is as played out as zombie apocalypses as to why Collet-Serra really can’t turn up the screws till the final moments. He’s a competent director, but the film seems a little laid back for a movie about a woman fighting for her life against time, the elements and one big ass shark. There are also a few lines of clumsy dialog, as Nancy vocalizes her inner monologue and an annoying use of the new trend of displaying smart phone communication and texts on-screen that thankfully ends quickly once Nancy is separated from her phone. If anything, it’s our leading lady and her portrayal of the gutsy surfer-girl/med student that keeps us with the flick till she and Jaws Jr. go mono-a-mono.

It’s basically a one woman show and Blake Lively carries the flick well on her shapely shoulders. She gives Nancy some nice depth as a woman who is dealing with the loss of her mother and trying to also settle some issues in her own life. She creates a feeling that this place is important to her, which resonates when it becomes a place not of solace, but where death awaits her one way or another. She gives us a tenacious and resourceful woman who refuses to give up and all she has to do is outsmart and overcome one of the most aggressive predators on earth. If Collet-Serra wasn’t completely successful in keeping an atmosphere of intensity, at least his leading lady kept us engaged with a very endearing and strong-willed heroine. A good job by Lively.

Overall the film is moderately entertaining, but is a bit too laid back despite the urgency of it’s premise. Jaume Collet-Serra doesn’t direct badly, though he doesn’t really turn the screws till the last act. What keeps us involved, in a what is now a familiar shark tale, is strong work by Blake Lively, who proves she is more than a pretty face and body as the strong-willed and three dimensional Nancy. The shark FX are just fine and maybe Collet-Serra was paddling upstream with a type of film that has basically lost it’s effectiveness due to dozens of campy shark-themed SYFY flicks and The Asylum’s Sharknado series. After seeing sharks battle David Hasselhoff in space, it is kind of hard to take them seriously again.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 hungry great whites.

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY, JAWS!

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The film classic Jaws, based on Peter Benchley’s best seller, was released on June 20th, 1975 and not only scared people right out of the water but, changed movie going forever. It was the first Summer blockbuster in what now has become a Hollywood tradition of big Summer popcorn movies. It introduced the world to Steven Spielberg and made stars out of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. It also spawned three sequels and countless imitations. We wouldn’t have Sharknado without it. Happy Anniversary to a horror movie classic.

On a more personal note…I saw it that Summer as a ten year old kid and it scared the heck out of me. The scene with Quint especially shocking my young mind, though it never made me afraid of the water. I actually went as Quint for Halloween that year!

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: MonsterZero NJ

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