Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sharknado (2013)


Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 81%
Rotten Tomatoes Average Score: 6.1/10
IMDb User Review Score: 3.3/10

Acting: 4/10

Special Effects: 4/10

Coherence: 5.5/10

Fun: 6/10

Humor: 6/10

Introduction


Sharknado is a SyFy original movie released in 2013 that initially had nothing special going for it. This is, of course, until Twitter got involved. Word of the movie's existence circulated though Twitter, even ending up in the Tweets of some celebrities, and the movie's popularity spread. The original release on the SyFy channel had a fairly average number of viewers, but it's increasing popularity caused SyFy to show it an additional two times during the month of its release.


Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)


Think you're safe out of the water? Think again. No place is safe in Southern California when a hurricane comes along that, along with flooding, is capable of launching sharks anywhere. When this happens, Fin, a surfer and bar owner, gathers his loved ones and makes for safety. However, once the storm spawns tornadoes that pick up sharks (hence Sharknado), conditions become even more deadly, and Fin, his family, and his friends must now stop running and find a way to stop these sharknadoes before everyone is devoured by ridiculousness.

Character Summaries (Minor Spoilers)


Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering)

Fin is the protagonist of Sharknado and pretty much fits the mold for a stereotypical SyFy movie leading man. He is extremely resourceful and has excellent survival instincts. Also, Fin is heroic. Super heroic. Pathologically heroic. Fin is so goddamn heroic that midway through the movie, his ex wife April literally asks him to stop being heroic. Fin owns a bar (creatively named “Fin”) by the beach and seemingly only has one bartender, Nova. Also, Fin has two children with April, Matt and Claudia, and he seems to be a little bit estranged from them, enough so that Claudia is perpetually pissed at him.

April Wexler (Tara Reid)

Considering that April is played by Tara Reid (read: the only cast member we’ve ever heard of before), I was very surprised that April literally doesn’t do a damn thing in the whole movie beside be kind of a bitch to Fin until her new boyfriend meets his demise (at which point she starts being nicer). April is Fin’s ex wife and they have two children together, Matt and Claudia. 

Nova Clarke (Cassie Scerbo)

Nova is Fin’s bartender (possibly his only bartender). She has an attitude and proves to be the only woman in this movie that is not a complete waste of oxygen. She has a scar on her leg that she refuses to talk about, and is extremely handy with a shotgun. Nova definite has a thing for Fin, which is kind of weird because 1) there is quite an age gap, 2) he’s her boss, and 3) he absolutely is not interested in her in the slightest. George sort of has a thing for her, but it is more in an older man, not-serious/playful kind of way.

Baz Hogan (Jaason Simmons)

Baz is Fin’s best friend, and the only likable character besides George. Baz is extremely loyal, but typically just follows Fin’s lead. That being said, he does have one or two good ideas of his own. Baz also tends to lighten the mood, making wisecracks at almost every opportunity.

Claudia (Aubrey Peeples)

Claudia doesn’t do shit in this entire movie; I’m actually not entirely sure why I am writing about her. She is Fin’s and April’s daughter, and she has major daddy issues because of the divorce. That’s pretty much all there is to say. She is either being moody to Fin or telling other people not to trust Fin. That’s her whole purpose in this movie.

Matt (Chuck Hittinger)

Matt is Fin’s and April’s son. Currently in flight school, he is very similar to his father in that he is a resourceful problem solver and very heroic. Unfortunately, his high pitched voice and extremely goofy face make him very difficult to take seriously. He will also end up concocting what must be one of the dumbest plans in the history of the human race.


George (John Heard)

George is a frequent patron of Fin’s bar, and frequently hits on Nova (but playfully). While he does almost all of his drinking at the bar, he nevertheless comes off as kind of a drunk. However, he is by most measures, the most likable person in this movie.

Saving Graces

Self-Awareness
Many of the movies in this blog will have some degree of self-awareness, but I'll wager that none have it to the degree that Sharknado does. By self-awareness, I mean that the makers and stars of the movie all know exactly what this movie is: a B-grade SyFy original movie. 

It can be easily seen just in the premise of the movie. It deals in the absurd. There are an infinite number of topics that could qualify as science fiction, but SyFy chose to make a movie about tornadoes... in Southern California... that picks up sharks... and launches them everywhere. It's just ridiculous. Given this preposterous scenario, the characters in the movie don't seem at all, which creates an additional level of humor.

The special effects also help to keep us aware that this movie is ridiculous. The special effects are not awful, but they also are not particularly good for this day and age. Now this is obviously the result of the movie's budget, which IMDB estimates at $1,000,000, a very modest budget for a full-length movie. However, a side effect of the special effects being less than stellar is that it prevents us from being too absorbed in the movie and thus allows us to keep our distance and appreciate the goofy premise of the movie. I mean really, could you ever take this sharknado seriously?

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Sins (Spoilers)


Misleading Premise 
Now this may just be a personal misinterpretation, but when I hear the work “Sharknado” I picture more of a tornado that just tears one’s ass apart once it takes you in. This notion is furthered by a moment in the opening scene:

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I guess what I was envisioning was closer to a piranhanado because this type of thing never happens again. The sharknado serves more as a shark-missile launcher, and the hurricane that spawns the sharknado serves as a method to flood the coast so that sharks can access places they could not before. Like I said earlier, you may disagree with the movie being misleading, but this was just a pet peeve of mine.

Science
Here is the movie’s real sin. I know that the SyFy channel has a very loose definition of science, but I still think it needs to step up its game a bit. There are several issues that are probably just oversights. For example, the sharknado is present for pretty much the final act of the entire movie. Even if we go by real time, which would put the shaknado’s duration at about thirty-five minutes (movie time would be a few hours), the sharks would still asphyxiate from being out of the water for so long. That doesn’t make a several hundred pound shark-missile any less damaging, but the movie literally forgot that sharks live in the water. Regardless, like I said this was probably an oversight. No big deal.

The movie’s knowledge of hurricanes and tornadoes is a little more troubling. First of all, this movie is set in Southern California. Here are two direct quotes from Wikipedia: “Since 1900, two tropical storms have hit California, one by direct landfall from offshore, another after making landfall in Mexico” and “Since 1900, only four tropical cyclones have brought gale-force winds to the Southwestern United States”. Basically, hurricanes and tornadoes don’t happen in Southern California. The filmmakers literally picked one of very few places where hurricanes don’t happen. Their understanding of hurricanes is also suspect with quotes such as “the eye is pounding the shore”. As anyone who has had 8th grade science knows, the eye is the one part of the hurricane that doesn’t pound anything.

However, nothing else in this movie compares to what I am about to show you. This is Matt’s ingenious plan to get rid of the tornadoes.

video


If you don’t feel like watching the video, I’ll give you the general rundown of the plan: Matt tells Nova he is going to throw bombs into the tornadoes to destroy them. When Nova questions his logic, Baz comes literally from out of nowhere like a ninja schoolteacher to give us a brief science lesson, namely that tornadoes are created when cold and warm air meet. He then claims that a bomb might equalize it but that if they miss, they’re screwed.

Now here are some issues with the clip besides that fact that anyone who views it is that much closer to having an aneurism. First, throwing a bomb into a tornado wouldn't do shit. The tornado would just pick it up, it would explode, and the tornado would be baffled by the pitiful attempt on its life. What’s worse is that Baz tries to justify this plan with science. He does, however, have a minor point. Let’s say you detonated a nuclear weapon near a tornado, the shockwave plus all of the debris being incinerated might disrupt the tornado (keep in mind, this is a guess; I am not a physicist). However, Matt is making gasoline IEDs.

There is also another issue that Baz manages to almost hit on but doesn’t quite get there when he mentions, “if you miss”. Matt and Nova are literally about to pilot a helicopter over a populated city and throw bombs at it. Most people know that to be terrorism.

Lastly, all things considered, watch Matt’s face. Look how pleased he is with himself when he reveals his plan.

Overall, this plan is so unbelievably stupid, it hurts the rest of the movie because there really is just no way to suspend your disbelief. It’s also just lazy. I can just imagine the writers thinking this through: “Well fuck it, I can’t think of any way to fight a tornado. Let’s just bomb it and call it a day”. 


Play-By-Play Summary (Complete Spoilers)

Sharknado begins by having a tornado picking up a bunch of sharks from the ocean… … … that was fast.

We are then taken to a boat 20 miles off the coast of Mexico, where a stereotypical boat captain (for shark catching, of course) and a stereotypical shady Asian businessman are negotiating a price for the catch. Our Asian friend suggests $100,000 while the captain suggests $1,000,000, indicating that one of these two men is an idiot.  After the captain forces a deal at gunpoint, the Asian man flees and we have quite possibly one of the worst standoffs ever.


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They are all promptly eaten by sharks from the sharknado. Now while dropped plot points are not as common in Sharknado as they are in some of the other movies I will cover, it is worth mentioning that none of what just happened ever gets mentioned again.

Now we are in Southern California, where people are doing beach stuff like surfing, volley ball, tanning, and being attractive. We are introduced to Fin, a bar owner who was some kind of big deal in the surfing world, and Baz, a wisecracking Tasmanian. We are also introduced to Nova, a bartender (Fin’s only one, I guess) with attitude who for some reason does not like to have her ass grabbed by old men, namely George, the movies token likable drunk. We also learn that Hurricane David is coming and that it is driving the sharks away, which doesn’t make any goddamn sense at all since we know full well it is doing the exact opposite.

Fin tries to save a woman from the sharks because despite her flailing and cries for help, no one seems to give a shit. I am not making this up:


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Sharks then start attacking everybody near the shore and ignore Fin and Baz in the middle of the ocean. The eventually attack Fin and Baz (I guess when all other options were exhausted), but the two escape. Back at the bar, Nova makes a move on Fin, which is gross. Fin then calls his obviously-ex wife, April, and she’s a total bitch to him.

All of the sudden, sharks come crashing through the windows of the bar, and after everyone leaves the bar, the hurricane immediately decides to demolish the entire beachfront in a matter of seconds because that’s how hurricanes behave. This includes people being chased by a rogue Ferris wheel.

Fin, Nova, George, and Baz try to make their way to April’s house, but the entirety of Southern California is under water, and the sharks are swimming around everywhere. Fin also has this weird disease where he is absolutely compelled to be heroic, so he goes and helps some people. George also tries to be heroic, but God doesn’t like George, so his heroics are rewarded by being hit by a monster wave and devoured by sharks. They finally arrive at April’s house, which Fin notes is “in the hills” and therefore they should have time to get everyone, which we know is bullshit.

At the house, we meet April, Claudia (Fin’s and April’s daughter), and April’s boyfriend, who is a total doucheface and who fortunately exists in the movie for all of one minute and twenty-three seconds (exact time) before he is eaten. Once the shark has consumed all but his legs, everyone then decides to try and save him, which surprisingly doesn’t work. Nova then shoots the shark in the head with a shotgun several times because she is thus far the only woman in this movie who isn’t fucking useless. We then find out that Fin also has a son, Matt, who is in flight school, which is news to Fin. At this point we begin to wonder how many kids he has not mentioned yet. Next, Fin “distracts” (his words) another shark by singlehandedly impaling its brain with a rod of some sort, and they all escape just before the entire house collapses for no reason.

On their way to Matt, Fin notices a bus stranded in the road (partially under water of course) under the bridge that they’re on (read: they’ll need to RAPPEL down). There’s no explanation as to how he saw the bus, but who cares? Fin claims that they must help them without even knowing if anyone is on the bus (of course there is but he doesn’t know that). April very correctly scolds him for choosing to ensure the safety of others before his own family. Fin promptly ignores this and proves April absolutely correct by going to the rescue. Using an extremely convenient set of professional rock climbing equipment, Fin rappels down has every individual in the bus (twenty or so kids and a fat aging hippie) pulled up to the bridge. He accomplishes this task, which should take hours, in a matter of minutes because this is a movie. I can’t believe I am about to say this, but on Fin’s ascent, a shark jumps at least fifty feet (no joke) in the air and (no joke) grabs hold of the rope because gravity is for pussies. Seriously, look:

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The hurricane instantly stops, as hurricanes are wont to do after someone saves lots of people. But then some tornados form in the distance and kill the bus driver with debris because he was totally asking for it. The wind also destroys the “Hollywood” sign because that is a clause in the “Hollywood” sign’s contract for starring in movies. As they drive away, a shark lands on the roof of their car and bites through it despite having absolutely no leverage with which to do so. Nova takes care of it via shotgun, and they get out of the car when they smell gas, which makes absolutely no sense because the shark was on the roof. As any of you readers who have ever had a gas leak know, cars explode shortly after having a gas leak.

They stock up on supplies, and in the store, Claudia warns Nova not to go after Fin because Claudia thinks her dad sucks. They steal a car and blow through a police checkpoint because they just have no restraint whatsoever. The cops actually give chase because I guess they have nothing better to do during the storm of the century.

At the flight school place thing, Baz looks outside to see that a sharknado is headed their way, and they find Matt shortly after. When they tell him what’s been going on, he has what is definitely that only reaction in this movie that could’ve happened in the real world:


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They debate for a minute as to whether or not it is possible that sharks could have made this far inland, with Fin saying it’s “entirely possible”, which is ridiculous, but this is Sharknado after all. After an expendable unnamed colleague of Matt’s is taken by the sharknado, it promptly vanishes, presumably because it’s had its fill for the day.

Fin then baffles the hell out of the entire audience by claiming they need to stand and fight, as if you can fight a tornado. Matt directs them to a hardware store, which considering it was a decision made on the spot, is the smartest thing anyone has suggested thus far into the movie. However, our praise for Matt instantly ceases when he proposes that they throw a bomb into the tornado to destroy it. This scene is so colossally stupid that I already dedicated an entire section to it, so I won’t show it here. Seriously though, it is an assault on the brain. Baz also separately starts building a bomb because I don’t know why. That’s why.

At this point, Claudia starts bitching to Fin about how he has never been there for her despite being there for her this entire movie. He reminds her of that and she tries to process it. While making the bombs, Nova tells Matt about when she was a child and sharks ate pretty much her entire family when her grandfather’s fishing boat went down on a fishing trip, and that’s why she hates sharks. This is Matt’s reaction.

Durrrrrrr...

Before Nova and Matt take off in the helicopter, Baz drives up in the Hummer and reveals his bold Plan B. If Matt and Nova’s plan doesn’t work, he’s going to drive the Hummer, with a bomb in it, into the tornado. So to recap: if the bombs being thrown into the tornado are ineffective, he’s going to suicide bomb the tornado. It’s bulletproof.

So Matt and Nova fly to the sharknado (helicopters are awesome near tornados) and Fin shoots one of the sharks headed for them with a pistol. Once the shark is dead, the tornado no longer feels compelled to hold onto it so it just drops out of the sky. Nova throws a bomb into the tornado and it totally works! This victory is soon eclipsed by the best scene part of the movie. I’m not even going to try and describe it.


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Shortly after, Baz and some random people we’ve never met before who are helping him are injured by shark-missiles and, Baz is taken up into the sharknado, effectively knocking off the only remaining character we liked (the other being George (and I guess we care a little about Nova (maybe(?)))). Nova and Matt destroy the second tornado, and the falling sharks lead to one of the most hilarious deaths ever:

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Afterward, Fin rescues some elderly people and blows up a now shark-filled pool. He does this even though the sharks can’t hurt anyone as long as they’re in the pool. Nova bombs the third sharknado but SURPRISE: it doesn’t work. Then a shark from the sharknado grabs hold of the helicopter and while trying to stab it repeatedly, Nova is killed preposterously. Matt’s reaction is pure gold.


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Matt has a rocky landing but is okay, and then Fin, with his hero disease, decides to drive the Hummer into the tornado to, as he puts it, “finish this”. At this point I’ll remind you that there is no reason that this should work. Fin drives the car up to the sharknado but jumps out at the last moment (which is something Baz never thought of). After the last tornado is destroyed, hundreds of sharks start falling from the sky, and one of them heads straight for Claudia. Fin pushes her out of the way and then literally jumps into the shark’s mouth. Why he couldn’t just also move out of the way is a mystery.

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Fin chainsaws his way out of the shark’s belly and guess who’s inside as well: Nova! (who was swallowed… whole… wholly whole). Probability can suck a dick. After Matt revives her, Nova tells him that her real name is Jenny Lynn. She then leans into him, indicating she totally into him now. I guess since she couldn’t have Fin, hey a silver medal’s not so bad, right? Lastly April and Fin make out. This is completely out of left field being that (next to) nothing in this movie indicated they were becoming closer as a couple. They all then stare into the sunset and Fin says, “Hell of a day”. Well said, Fin. Well said.


THE END

Friday, December 27, 2013

Welcome!

Welcome to Scraping the Barrel!

I've been watching good movies my whole life. In my opinion, good ones are easy to pick out, and through my many years of watching movies, I've been very successful at finding good movies. However, as rewarding as a good movie is to watch, sometimes a change of scenery is needed. After all, it's is a lot easier to appreciate a really great movie after you've been exposed to the truly awful ones. That is what first got me into the business of scraping the barrel, that is, watching terrible movies.

However, while my original intentions may have been to give me a greater appreciation of the cinema's finest, there was an unexpected side effect. Namely, some of these awful movies are actually a lot of fun to watch. Now I am by no means the first person to realize this. Keep in mind, not all bad movies are fit for this blog; some movies really are just unenjoyable, and I am sure I will run into some of those on this blog as well. So what sort of movie belongs on this blog? These are movies whose:

bad acting,

OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

dropped plot points,

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I'm sure the future novelization reads: "'I definite have breast cancer', said Claudette with the utmost indifference."

awful special effects,

I officially declare that when someone says "grab any weapons that you can", coat hangers no longer count.

general ridiculousness,

That is always how I imagined the Devil would behave.

cluelessly and grossly insensitive or offensive material

I think that speaks for itself.


or any combination of these make watching them an absolute pleasure. Whether you just find them funny or just love to hate, there is something about the bottom of the barrel that can really be worth you one or two hours of your attention.

A few things before we begin:

Frequency of Posts:


These posts take a long time to do. I have a full time job and a two hour commute each way. In order to do these I have to watch the movies twice (once a straight through, and the second while taking notes). I also have to get a digital copy of the movie so I can extract clips from it. As of right now, I literally haven't the slightest clue of how frequently I will be able to make new posts.

My Writing Skill:


My education is in civil engineering, and I currently work in construction management. I am not a writer, and I will not pretend to be. If occasional instances of improper grammar, punctuation, word use, or the abundance of plain language offends you: sorry.

Profanity:


My philosophy toward swearing is this: sometimes nothing really says it quite like the f-word. To translate: yes, I am going to swear. I don't intend for foul language to be the staple of this blog, but yes I am going to swear.

Sources:


IMDb's Bottom 100

This will be my primary source. IMDb's ratings are, as far as I can tell, purely user based. This is good for this blog because the public rates movies in a different way than critics do, and frankly there are a lot more users than there are critics, so IMDb gives me a much clearer picture on what the average person think of a movie.

Examples: Birdemic: Shock and Terror, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Titanic: The Legend Goes On... (yes, you read that correctly) (Also known as Titanic - The Animated Movie), Troll 2

Hands: The Hands of Fate

SyFy Channel Original Movies

The SyFy Channel is a treasure trove of killer animal movies featuring animals that don't actually exist. They are usually hybrids of two deadly animals, cyborg animals, or real animals that do things that either animal alone shouldn't be able to. Now I know what you're thinking: "But Dan, it's science fiction. Why can't they just do what they want?" I counter with Sand Sharks; there is no science in that. Besides killer animals, SyFy does have a few other staples to their repertoire, such as killer animals mixed with weather or natural disasters.

Examples: Sharktopus, Sharknado, Arachnoquake (because I guess those two things are even remotely mixable), Robocroc

They actually took my punchline.

Friend Recommendations

Self explanatory.

Examples: Grabbers (pending verification of its awfulness). That's it so far. Your move, friends.

Hollywood Flops

These are a little more interesting because you have possibly seen some of these and can therefore commiserate with me.

Example: The Wicker Man, Battlefield Earth, Jack and Jill

Test case for the much anticipated Winnie the Pooh: The Live Action Movie.

Layout


The layout of each post is obviously going to vary with each post. However, I do intend for the general set up to be the same. Ideally, the layout will be divided into a few parts:

Ratings

First I will provide you with scores from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb.

Then the ratings will be based on an absolute scale, not a relative one (read: on a scale of 1 to 10, most movies probably won't break 5 in any category). Some of the categories are listed below, but it really varies from post to post:

Acting (or Voice Acting where applicable)

Visuals (Special Effects, Animation, Etc. where applicable)

Coherence 

Fun

Humor (Intentional or Unintentional)

Introduction

Self explanatory

Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)

This is exactly what it sounds like: a basic plot outline that reveal no significant plot points. It should just give you an overview to see if this is something you are interested in watching or reading about without ruining it for you.

Character Summaries (Minor Spoilers)

This is where I let you know who the major players are, what they're like, relationship to other characters, etc. I will try my best to avoid spoilers in this section, but I am afraid that I may slip at some point (hence the "minor spoilers" label).

Saving Graces (Spoilers)

This is a summary of the things that make this movie enjoyable. After all, the movie cannot really qualify for this blog if it isn't enjoyable to watch. Like the "Sins" sectional below, these are qualities that are present for large portions of, if not the whole movie.

Sins (Spoilers)

One of my favorite sections, this is where I outline some of the major failures of the movie. Usually, this is not just a one-scene error; this is an overall or thematic failure that persists throughout the movie. For instance, a movie might have a really bad dropped plot point, but I really would not include that in this section unless the movie as a whole was also completely laced with plot points.

Play-By-Play Summary (Complete Spoilers)

In this section, I will literally take you through the entire movie, pointing out all of the minor details that allowed this movie to make it to my blog. In case you couldn't tell by the title of this section, this is a spoiler-intensive section and if you do not want anything ruined for you, do not read it.

That's about it; I hope you enjoy the blog.

My first victim: Sharknado.