A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Jaws 2

placeholderAugust 4, 2011

Jaws 2

“Just when you thought it was safe to do a shark week project for your movie blog…”

For the last three days of shark week Amanda and I are going to watch all three of the completely unnecessary sequels to the granddaddy of all shark attack movies: Jaws. I’ve seen Jaws 3 before, and I’ve seen the laughable end of Jaws: The Revenge before, but I’ve never seen this movie. I kind of think that most people haven’t. It’s an unnecessary sequel that was inevitable after the blockbuster success of the first movie.

I was amused because right at the very beginning of the movie I thought the girl playing Tina Wilcox – “Miss Amity Island” looked extremely familiar to me. I just couldn’t figure out where I knew her from. I thought it was something less than great – maybe a MST movie. I just couldn’t place it, so I checked IMDB, and damned if it wasn’t Ann Dusenberry – the star of Lies, which was a very cool psychological thriller my uncles made in the mid Eighties. It blows my mind that after all these years I recognised her even if I couldn’t place her.

This movie is mired in the seventies. Far more so than the first Jaws film. For some reason, even though the first film takes place in 1975 and features all of the fashions thereof during the segments that take place on land once the three lead characters take to the sea to hunt down the shark it becomes fairly timeless. This movie stays closer to shore – pretty much reprising the first half of Jaws but with more kids in peril. And oh, are the fashions displayed by this cast of teenage characters heavily dated, from hair to clothes. It’s impressive.

Amanda complained as we watched this, and I have to agree, that it brings nothing fresh to the Jaws world. Indeed this film is almost a re-make of the first movie except that it doesn’t feature the male bonding and adventure of the second half. Instead it concentrates on Police Chief Brodie and his attempts to convince the recalcitrant officials of Amity Island that there is a giant shark threatening the beaches. You may recall in the first movie the scene where Brodie’s son is riding a little boat in an estuary away from the beach and the shark threatens him? Well expand that single scene into a full length movie and you have this film.

Roy Scheider returns as Martin Brodie and his primary rival continues to be Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn. When vacationers start to disappear and a killer whale with big chunks taken out of it washes up on a beach Brodie instantly knows what’s up: there’s another big shark out there. But there’s a big hotel development going up on the island and the pressure is on to show the place in the best possible light so naturally Mayor Vaughn resists any attempts to close the beaches. It ends up being a big show down and when Brodie causes a panic on the beach after thinking he’s spotted the shark (this scene was much cooler in the original Jaws with very cool cuts between Brodie’s POV and the dawning horror on his face – but what do you want with a lazy sequel like this) the local council fire Brodie for disturbing the peace.

Meanwhile all of the local teens are spending the summer taking day trips out in a variety of little boats and generally acting like teens (making out and stealing their fathers’ beer and such) so when everybody finally does become convinced that the new shark is real all the children are far away from the island and isolated on their little craft. Naturally it is up to Brodie, all alone with a little launch that somehow in the five years of being police chief for an isolated island town he has never learned how to drive, to defeat the monster and save any surviving children.

This was not directed by Stephen Spielberg, and it shows. Spielberg, in the first Jaws movie, very wisely gave as little screen time to the rubber shark as possible. This time around it is shown rather too much, and it is not at all convincing or horrifying. In an attempt (I assume) to make the monster more frightening or to give it character or something this shark becomes scarred and burned during one of its attacks, but the end result is that it looks even more fake than before. The “burned flesh” of the shark looks more rubbery and silly than ever before. It’s like people are being attacked by a poorly articulated singed muppet.

I said that this sequel was lazy and I meant it. It has nothing whatsoever new to contribute to the first film and re-treads the more tiresome parts of that movie. The first Jaws doesn’t really come to life until Quint, Brodie and Hooper set out to hunt the monster down – and this movie doesn’t seem to understand that at all. It’s more about the shark attacks than about the pitting of man against an unstoppable force of nature. Also, I have to say as a viewer jaded by years and years of monster attack movies the ending feels flimsy and unsatisfying. Perhaps in the day it worked, but now I am distinctly left wanting more.

August 4, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Shrek the Third

March 17, 2011

Shrek the Third

Let me be perfectly frank. This movie is a turd. A big messy ugly turd of a movie. There are several things that can go wrong with a sequel, and this movie exemplifies just about every one of them. It tries too darned hard to bring the laughs. It tries to do too much at once with multiple plots and multiple emotional centres. It has sort of sad callbacks to the earlier films that act to highlight just how insipid this one is. Several times it feels like it is amateurishly trying to do again what the earlier movies did well – as if it were made by an enthusiastic fan of the first tow films who had some idea of what should be in a Shrek film but didn’t understand how to infuse it with genuine emotion. Worst of all it has, at its climactic moment, a character flat out telling us what the message of the movie is supposed to be. That goes beyond sledgehammer storytelling and right to the pile driver.

One of the biggest problems this movie has is that it’s so fractured. At the start of the film Shrek is upset because he has been saddled with the task of ruling the kingdom of Far Far Away and he doesn’t do too good a job of it. His oafish ways lead to carnage whenever he tries to perform any of the ceremonies that a king is expected to do. He’s unhappy being in a position of power too and just wants to go back to his swamp. So when he discovers that there’s some long-lost heir to the kingdom he goes off on a quest to fetch this young prince Arthur and bring him back to be king. That’s plot number one.

Just as he’s about to leave, however, Fiona reveals that she’s pregnant and Shrek will be a father soon. Now he has to deal with issues surrounding this sense of impending doom that fatherhood represents for him. (In one of the most terrifying nightmare sequences ever filmed he dreams of hordes of baby ogres invading his swamp home.) At first the movie plays this fear of fatherhood as a dread of losing his carefree Independence, but it soon abandons that in favor of Shrek’s dread that he’s going to be an inadequate father. (At least that’s what he says – the nightmare sequence doesn’t really have that vibe.) So Shrek has to come to grips with the notion that he’s going to be a father – that’s plot number two.

Meanwhile Prince Charming has rallied all the fairy-tale villains he can find to take over the kingdom of Far Far Away so that he can declare himself king and force the populace of the kingdom to watch some lame play he wants to put on. If that sounds oddly irritating and not particularly menacing it’s because it is. His plan to put on a big musical production makes no sense whatsoever and isn’t particularly sinister. The result is that the rousing climax of the film, when all our heroes show up to save Shrek and stop the play, lacks impact. I suppose this would be plot number three.

There are some attempts to wedge the three plots together – having Shrek’s paternal instincts come out in defense of Arthur for example – but the movie never quite gels. It’s too full of inanity and clumsy awful writing. It feels like a big room full of writers brainstormed as many ideas as they could to wedge into the Shrek world and then just threw them all together without any attempt to unify them. Like the side plot about Donkey and Puss switching bodies which, eh, has no particular purpose, no bearing on the movie, and just feels forced.

There’s an extended scene where Shrek and company arrive at Worcester High School to pick up Arthur that is meant to be some kind of hilarious spoof of High School as seen through the lens of the Shrek universe but instead is an agonising parade of tired jokes about High School with not a single original idea for about fifteen minutes. It’s so unbearably painful! Oh, look, there’s jocks and nerds and gum popping popular girls. There’s disinterested teenagers who say “like” a lot. Like, you know, whatever. At one point, in a very Dr. Evil inspired Mike Myers riff, Shrek attempts to talk teenaged lingo to Arthur to show how hip he is. That segment is SUPPOSED to feel out of touch and lame – but for me it just cemented how out of touch and lame the entire school sequence was from start to finish.

There are a couple bright spots in the movie. I really enjoyed Eric Idle’s performance as Rincewind the Wizzard. I mean, Mr. Merlin, the exiled magic teacher from the school. He’s so delightfully clueless and spacey and he completely steals the movie. I want more of him an less of just about everything else. I also really enjoyed the brief moment when the princesses band together and decide to stop waiting to be rescued and take care of things themselves. Sadly that only lasts a couple minutes because the writers seem to quickly run out of ways for them to use their princess shtick in battle. Snow white summons woodland creatures, Sleeping beauty trips up soldiers by falling asleep in front of them and Cinderella throws her glass slipper. (Who throws a shoe? Honestly?) And then? Well it’s over already.

There are so many moments in this movie that feel like they’re attempts to make a Shrek movie by somebody who just doesn’t get it. There are pop song covers. There is Shrek driving people away by being an ogre at them. There are references to the other films like Puss making doe eyes and Shrek saying his classic “Better out than in, I always say.” Ultimately I have to conclude that this isn’t a Shrek movie, really, it’s just a sad attempt to wring some money from the franchise. I’ve ordered a copy of the fourth film and I’m kind of dreading it now. Just how low can this franchise sink I wonder.

March 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment