Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea

Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea is about as loud, silly, gory and hilarious as you’d expect a ‘killer smart shark’ flick to be and is for the most part a lot of fun, even if it sometimes dissolves into eyeball melting pandemonium. The premise is actually a good one: a brilliant and obligatorily sexy scientist (the lovely Saffron Burrows) has developed a potential formula to treat Alzheimer’s using genetic material from shark brains, and she’s gotten a high level executive (Samuel L. Jackson) to convince his CEO boss (a brief, contemplative cameo from Ronny Cox) to sign off on funding, pending an inspection visit to her test facility out in the ocean. There we meet others including shark hunting guru Thomas Jane, gruff scientist Stellan Skarsgard, oddball cook LL Cool J and grunt Michael Rapaport, all who make great cannon fodder for the marauding sharks once they decide they’re too smart to be lab rats for these people anymore. There are some great gory kills here and the timing of them is sometimes genuinely shocking and inspired, including one death scene that is straight out of the book of nihilism and dark humour 101 and had me laughing hard. It’s basically a decent B movie souped up with Hollywood effects, tons of explosions and while it has the misfortune of being released when CGI wasn’t too great (it shows), it also has the advantage of being made at a time when shark horror films weren’t over saturated and done to death like they are these days and as such feels somewhat fresh, especially given its additional premise of sentient sharks. It’s fun, engaging and a bit cacophonous in some instances where it could have employed more stealth and suspense, but overall a good example of the shark sub genre.

-Nate Hill

Jon Turtletaub’s The Meg

For a movie about a giant shark, given a giant budget, Jon Turtletaub’s The Meg is just kinda underwhelming. First off it’s PG-13, which is just not gonna do your shark attack flick any favours, I mean people wanna see sharks fucking people up and rating constraints will put a damper on that. Secondly, they just don’t do much with the infamous prehistoric megalodon other than have it jump around a bit, swallow a few people whole and arrive at a densely populated beach that looks like it was conceived by Wes Anderson’s production designer. What does work? Much of the interaction between some engaging human characters is funny, genuine and likeable. Jason Statham is great as a legendary deep sea diver who would rather just crush beers in his Thailand shanty. Robert ‘Longmire’ Taylor, Olafur Darri Olafsson, stoic Cliff Curtis, unbelievably sexy Ruby Rose, Bingbing Li and a smarmy Rainn Wilson are fun. There’s a welcome tribal feel to the group dynamic and enthusiastic cheesiness that somehow reminded me of Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising, a much more fun ocean set creature feature. But the shark action is lifeless and just not exciting, and if the lynchpin of your film doesn’t hold the thing together all you have is what works, in this case a fun group of folks played by varied actors running around impressive sets. The rest? Boring as hell dude. There’s one cool moment when a little girl sees The Meg slowly swim up to a giant glass window underwater and lunge for her but Netflix put that as the little teaser video on the film’s main menu so it’s spoiled before you even start the thing. I’ll still take Deep Blue Sea over this tide-pool detritus any day.

-Nate Hill

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was my first theatrical viewing in a while this past weekend and damn it’s great to be back in the cinema!!What impressed me most about the film (and trust me, there wasn’t a second I *wasnt* impressed) is that despite a generous two hour runtime and a steady, slow build to the bulk of the action/horror there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel taut, efficient and streamlined, even in scenes meant only to build character. The east coast town of Amity feels cozy, lived in and primed for summer as the film starts off, elegiac and wistful in that small town way that Spielberg seems to be so specific at nailing. The rest and relaxation is of course literally cut short by the arrival of a nasty great white shark with notions on gustation rather than relaxation for the duration of it’s summer, which it plans to spend devouring anyone who wades out too far from the shoreline and spewing their mangled remains all over the Cape Cod Coast. The holy trinity of shark hunting badasses slowly comes together in the form of jumpy local police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), wiry marine biologist Hooper and crusty old sea captain Quint (Robert Shaw). The film feels so damn organic from scene to scene, and the multiple nail biting shark attack sequences are laced together with genuinely touching moments of family life, charmingly benign comic relief and swashbuckling bravery in the face of both menace from the Great White and ineptitude from the dumb-tit town mayor (Murray Hamilton) and his increasingly ludicrous wardrobe. John Williams’s iconic score does it’s creepy, crawly trademark thing but also gets really classically orchestral in other sweeping vista scenes and even hits some delightfully quirky notes later on. The shark effects are never anything short of breathtaking from POV to real life footage to animatronic and whatever else Spielberg employed, I believed that thing was there for real. The three main performances are excellent with Shaw stealing the show as he often did in a playful, cantankerous and eventually quite touching portrayal of the ‘mad seaman hunter’ archetype. I especially loved a monologue he delivered with uncanny charisma about his character being aboard the ill fated USS Indianapolis back in the war, it’s a sobering (literally) piece of dialogue that simultaneously develops all three characters as one talks and two listen, strengthens their bond right before throwing them into dangerous waters and is my favourite scene of the film. I can’t think of much wrong with this picture, it’s one hundred percent effective summer blockbuster action/horror/adventure entertainment and I can see why it has become a solid gold classic. Excellent film.

-Nate Hill