Directed by Jeff Shepphird
None of the characters in Jersey Shore Shark Attack based on real “Jersey Shore” TV show personalities get eaten by sharks. This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of why many people would want to watch a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack. It makes even less sense in hindsight given how completely expendable all of the “Jersey Shore” inspired characters are except for the film’s versions of Snooki and The Situation. Would it have killed the filmmakers to allow “Paulie Balzac” or “J-Moni” to get smushed by an albino bull shark?
When I took part in a Syfy conference call with the producers and cast the week leading up to the film’s premiere, this question was brought up by someone who had already seen the movie. The argument the two producers made was that nobody out there really hates Snooki or The Situation or the rest of the “Jersey Shore” cast; it’s more of a people we love to hate but we don’t really hate them or the show kind of deal. They explained that the reason none of them die in the film is that the “Jersey Shore” cast are such “dynamic personalities” that the audience would be unhappy even to see their fictional counterparts die on film.
Oh, really? I know I hate that damn show and cannot figure out why anyone watches it even ironically. I also know I’m not alone on that one. The cast of “Jersey Shore” are in that same stratosphere of soul-sucking pop culture parasitism as Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. I remember a packed theater erupting in applause when Paris Hilton got killed in House of Wax, and that was actually her, not just an actress playing a part based on her. The Situation practically got booed off-stage a Comedy Central roast. For crying out loud, when “South Park” parodied “Jersey Shore” Snooki was portrayed as a whorish, chain-smoking, rat-like creature whose fame could not be explained by anyone and America turned to Osama Bin Laden to help save us from the Jersey scourge. Regardless of whether it’s out of genuine disdain or merely people we “love to hate” as they argue, if we’re laughing at Al Qaida crashing passenger planes into the “Jersey Shore” cast on “South Park”, imagine how hard we’d laugh seeing fictional versions of them devoured by ravenous sharks.
The producers’ logic makes even less sense given the movie’s highlight is Joey Fatone appearing as himself just long enough to get eaten by a shark. Using their argument, shouldn’t the audience be unhappy to see Joey Fatone die on film? Mr. Fatone is going to be so disappointed to learn the makers of a movie called Jersey Shore Shark Attack must not consider him nearly the unkillable “dynamic personality” that Sammi Sweetheart is.
So, yeah, I can’t help but be let down that all of the “Jersey Shore” characters not only live, they prove themselves to be the heroes when it comes time to kill the sharks. It does goes down a little easier given the movie’s version of the “Jersey Shore” personalities are far less contemptible than their real-life counterparts. None of them made me want to instantly change the channel so that has to count for something. Even as intentionally dumb as they’re portrayed they still seem much smarter than the real thing, too.
Our main guido hero is TC “The Complication” (Because when the ladies see his washboard abs things get complicated). He’s such a lunkhead he’s really more a mamaluke than a guido. He’s at odds with his on-again/off-again girlfriend Nooki, played by actress Melissa Molinaro, who is not a short orange troll and is thus far too attractive to be playing a character based on Snooki. I have a hard time believing the real-life Snooki would denounce materialism like her movie version does, though I do believe the real Snooki would wear Wonder Woman’s bracelets for earrings like Nooki does.
Illegal underwater drilling from a Seaside Heights pier arouses the attention of a school of albino bull sharks that waste no times making chum out of anyone in the water. The Complication and his brotherhood of spray tans and steroids are the only witnesses to the pigment-deprived bull shark invasion but getting anyone to believe them proves difficult what with them being a bunch of dimwitted guidos. Being dimwitted guidos means their idea of hunting sharks initially consists of shooting fireworks at them and trying to bait them with protein bars. “Nothing’s going to resist 25 grams of power-packed peanut butter crunch!”
Yeah, I’m still rooting for the sharks in this one.
But Jersey Shore Shark Attack isn’t just about riffing on Jaws “Jersey Shore” style. A good deal of the plot has the guidos and guidettes clashing with rich preppy snobs thumbing their nose at them. Just to show you how much times have changed, the actors playing the rich snobs, despite their emo Donald Trump hairdos, look more like the guys that would get cast as the bullied slackers in an 80s movie and the guido actors look like the guys who’d be playing the jocks bullying them in that same 80s movie. The world has clearly left me behind.
For a network that I know to be vehemently opposed to allowing the makers of their original movies to produce campy creature features that lean more on the comedic side it makes me wonder how Jersey Shore Shark Attack got past their anti-comedy stance. It is the most intentionally comedic Syfy original movie I can recall. The parody caricatures of “Jersey Shore”, exaggerated performances straight out of the Eddie Deezan school of overacting, the corny dialogue peppered with all manner of Jersey-ese, the tongue-in-cheek catchphrase slates that pop up between scenes, the whole slobs vs. snobs subplot, the blatant silliness of it all: this is less a Syfy movie than a genre comedy made in the same vein as the sort of flicks that used to air on USA Network’s “Up All Night”. It’s because of that Jersey Shore Shark Attack goes down easier than so many other Syfy movies that aren’t allowed to be intentionally funny and just end up being stupid. Not to say Jersey Shore Shark Attack isn’t stupid because, well, it is, very much so. It just happens to be the rare Syfy movie you can actually with as well as at.
The late Joey Fatone won’t be the only familiar Italian-American face to make an appearance. The Complication’s police chief dad is played admirably by Jack Scalia. I’ve seen Scalia in enough b-movies to know he’s a consummate pro that never phones it in even regardless of how corny the film may be.
The great Paul Sorvino, on the other hand, does appear to phone in his cameo as the Mayor. To be fair, it’s not like he has much to do during his screen time other than exactly what you expect Mayor’s to do in shark attack movies. Is it wrong of me that the whole time Sorvino was on screen I couldn’t help but notice how much he now facially resembles Droopy Dog?
Tony Sirico (AKA “The Sopranos” own Paulie Walnuts) appears briefly as the proprietor of the boardwalk bar who gets to go all Robert Shaw telling the guidos the true story of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attack. I learned that if you want to kill a shark be sure to shoot it through its left eye because that’s the eye of the devil. Okay, then.
William Atherton, in one of his all-too-rare roles as a self-centered jerk, turns up for a few scenes as the father of one of the rich snobs, an Italian-hating real estate developer responsible for the illegal drilling that is part of his plan to transform Seaside Heights into a golf course resort for the super rich that will rival the Hamptons.
Actual “Jersey Shore” cast member Vinny Guadagnino appears periodically as the world’s most excitable TV reporter. If I was him I wouldn’t expect much future work as either an actor or a news reporter when “Jersey Shore” gets cancelled. The way he would constantly lean forward and jitter about antsy as he delivered the latest on-the-scene report, he looked like a cokehead sprinter overanxiously awaiting the sound of the starter pistol to begin a race.
Fairing less favorably were the albino bull sharks, some of the phoniest visual creature effects seen in a Syfy movie of late. I can only assume they blew most of the effects budget getting Paul Sorvino and Joey Fatone to show up for a day’s work. Too many of the shark attacks for the first half tend to be pretty uninspired and poorly staged, but I will say by the time Joey Fatone bites it – literally – the sharks may as well have been explained to be part frog they do so much jumping around. Wasn’t aware you could kill a shark by shooting its fin, either. Must be like driving a stake through a vampire’s heart.
In good conscience I could never tell you to spend money buying or renting this film. I will say I was amused enough that if you happen upon it on Syfy, you’ve got two hours to kill, and you know what you’re getting into, you might have some fun. If you want to see Snooki get eaten by a shark, I’m afraid you’ll still have to use your imagination.
3 out of 5
DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!
Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon
Directed by Adrian Corona
I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.
Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.
Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.
Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.
If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.
Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form
Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes
Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace
“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.
That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.
Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?
At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play
second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?
These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.
Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?
It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.
If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.
The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.
The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.
The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.
Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.
The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.
While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.
Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.
The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.
The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.
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