Dangan Ronpa (2013) Three Episode Review (Redux)

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The original post is located here and was originally published September 6th, 2013.

Just for clarification this is a review of the first three episodes. After approximately an hour of material, the creators should have established story, characters, and style and thus certain, albeit limited, conclusions can be made about the show. Judge the following opinions on this basis, but to continue watching the show past this point is a waste of time.

Visual novels are a common form of entertainment amongst Otaku in Japan, but they rarely make their way over here. The best comparison that can be made is a choose-your-own-adventure book mixed with a video game. You choose paths to follow, but that’s the extent of the interactivity. By having multiple stories, visual novels are inherently tricky to adapt. Several shows have gotten around this, like Steins;Gate and Higurashi: When They Cry, but most shows just opt for one path or a blend of a few notable ones. Theoretically, Dangan Ronpa would be easier to adapt, playing more like an never-ending game of Clue and television is no stranger to murder mysteries.

Dangan Ronpa: The Animation is the story of freshman high school student, Makoto Naegi, who somehow managed to get into Hope Academy, one of the most respected schools in the country. Upon arrival he finds himself and the other students trapped in the mechanizations of a psychotic, reality defying teddy bear named Monokuma that acts as their principal. Instead of math or science, the only taught in this school is survival. In order to “graduate” and thus escape, the student must kill someone, and escape the judgement of their fellow students who are tasked to find the killer. Everyone is reluctant at fist, but things escalate quickly as bodies pile up.

In terms of adaptation, the character models and environment look spot on, in all of its bland and awkward glory. The animation only becomes interesting during the “punishment” scenes, where it into a hyperactive mix of 2D models and 3D environments. It seems this was intended to make the violence on screen seem more tame, but that implies that something horrific would be shown, which never happens.

The pacing of Dangan Ronpa is inconsistent, shifting from boring talking heads to “tense” confrontations between the students and Monokuma. The cinematography and editing can easily be compared in these moments to a bad 90s MTV music video. This falsely “exciting” filmmaking is applied to a basic Battle Royale premise, with one-note characters and dialogue that shifts from dull and pointless to nonsensically revelatory at a moment’s notice.

Watching Dangan Ronpa is very much like watching someone play the visual novel. From an adaptation standpoint they succeeded, but that doesn’t mean that said adaptation is interesting or worth watching. When playing a visual novel you are engaging in the story, but watching anime leaves you a passive observer. Dangan Ronpa doesn’t do anything to overcome this, leaving the core of each episode essentially characters standing around talking and not bothering to actual develop their protagonist, leaving him a bland audience stand-in. It’s only a small comfort to know that at some point a random event will interrupt the repetitive dialogue to move the plot along in a way that might make sense, if you weren’t so bored that you aren’t paying attention. If the premise of Dangan Ronpa seems interesting then just watch a let’s play, don’t bother with this one.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Review

Martin Scorcesse is a legend of the cinema and I am so delighted to have seen one of his movies in theaters, kind of like how I’m excited to see a Was Anderson movie in theaters. Leaving my fanboy love at the door, I must however concede that The Wolf of Wall Street is not his best movie. That being said, it’s still an amazing movie. A little long, but excessively fun nonetheless.

The Wolf of Wall Street is told from the perspective of Jordan Belfort (Leo Dicaprio), a stockbroker who climbs the ladder of success when he starts his own trading company. The not-so-legal hobbies of him and his coworkers, paired with the not-so-legal practices of his company get the attention of the FBI. And so we see the arc of Belfort as he becomes engulfed with money, drugs, and sex leading to his imminent implosion.

TWOWS follows a LOT of Martin Scorcesse’s cliches. A lot. Imagine Goodfellas mixed with… well again Catch Me If You Can (Even though thats Speilberg). Matthew McConaughey acts as the mentor/rule-establisher. He tells the audience the rules and once the main character breaks them, we know his descent will begin a la Goodfellas. We have the New York centered main character and his big-haired brunette sassy wife, as well as the iconic use of narration and the very intentional use of music. Now these are all cliches yes, but they still make a fantastic movie, so no real complaints here.

TWOWS has one big thing going against it for me. It’s really fucking long. At 2 hours and 55 minutes, this movie is a real endurance test. Thats not to say it feels overly long, in fact it feels shorter then 3 hours, but after a while you do really feel the length. Scorcesse has this interesting style with these biography movies, in that he structures them to be a collection of vignettes that compound onto each other to create this arc. There are subplots that come in and out, but ultimately we hop from scene to scene like each is it’s own episode of a TV series. This is what really helps the movie along, because it keeps the pace brisk. Theres no need for long connections and establishment we just hop into the middle of the action and let the narrator fill in the rest.

Narrators are rarely used these days, at least not continuously like Scorcesse uses them and I really enjoyed it in this mostly due to the actor behind it: good old Leo Dicaprio. He does a fantastic job in this movie. He really is the character and in fact most of the people in the movie do the same. Jonah Hill is unrecognizable as Jordan’s right-hand man and he definitely deserves the Oscar for his performance.

Speaking of Oscars, let me say that this is definitely a far better competitor for the best picture award then American Hustle. While Hustle had energy, this has energy, and charm, and a sense of uniqueness due to the director at the helm. I still don’t think it will win, partially due to 12 Years a Slave being a thing, as well as the elephant in the room that will put off a mainstream audience and the old, rich, white conservatives running the Academy: It’s excessiveness.

TWOWS is balls to the walls insane. Literally. It has no qualms about what it’s showing, because it all fits perfectly into the world we’re looking at. There are no less then 2 orgies in the movie, copious nudity and sex, drugs, violence, language, offensive language and crude jokes. However… it’s god damn fun to watch. Scorcesse has the amazing ability to seduce us into the crazy backwards worlds of delightful sin he shows us and by god if I wasn’t cheering for the main character all the way. Some people won’t be able to handle it and thats fine, but there may be a few hesitant folks that are swept away by the story and characters and will be able to let it slide.

TWOWS breaks no new ground, does nothing innovative or technically spectacular. It’s just a damn good movie from damn good director and by the gods will I watch it again and again. I’m so excited for the DVD to see all the extra vignettes that Scorcesse couldn’t quite fit into the movie. I have high doubts that it’ll win, but if it does I’ll be one happy fanboy. Check this flick out in case by some small chance you weren’t going to already.

American Hustle (2013) Review

On Friday I saw a Scorcesse double feature, but only one of the films was directed by Martin Scorcesse. The other, American Hustle, was directed by David O Russell, and boy oh boy does he want to be Scorcesse. It’s almost sad really, because maybe if he had taken a few more liberties with this movie, American Hustle could have been something truly great, not just pretty good.

American Hustle is the “true” story of a con man (Christian Bale), his mistress (Amy Adams) and their arrest by the FBI. Rather then go to jail for a long ass time they work with Special Agent Asshole (Bradley Cooper) to ensnare a few people in similar cons. Their first victim is a New Jersey Mayor (Jeremy Reiner) who take a “donation” from their fictional Sheik in order to build up Atlantic City. As their deals go on they realize that they can not only ensnare this mayor, but Congressmen and Mafia bosses too! The game is afoot Watson!

As I stated before, Russell really wants to be Scorcesse, using shots like Scorcesse, characters like Scorcesse, music like Scorcesse, and DeNiro like Scorcesse. Not a bad thing per say, but it’s really noticeable and gives a feeling of unoriginality to the movie that it really shouldn’t have. So while the directing style may be similar to Scorcesse, the story is actually more akin to Catch Me If You Can mixed with Oceans 11. That’s not a bad thing, in fact the movie is fairly well written, with plenty of emotional and intense scenes. The movie doesn’t really get going until about 30 minutes in, but it’s certainly not boring as the charisma of the actors keeps you engaged. What didn’t work for me, and this is something that bothers me about a lot of the twist-ending-con movies, is that the twist at the end isn’t preceded by any indicators whatsoever. It’s like reading a mystery book and the killer is a person we’ve never met before, meaning the audience couldn’t figure it out on their own. American Hustle‘s twist is out of nowhere and it feels like a trick, because you had no clue. It’s a fine line to walk and it’s more a pet peeve then a true criticism of the movie.

This is an Actor/Character driven movie and an effective one at that. The characters are all rather unique and by the end of the movie you’re quite attached to them. Bradley Cooper’s character in particular was rather interesting to watch as his arc led him down a darker and darker path, but not in the stereotypical way. Reiner was a joy to watch, as his mayor was honourable and corrupt all at the same time. Louis CK also has a small role as Cooper’s boss and his is great! It shows that his acting range is a little wider then just a fat comedian dad and I’m excited to see his future film projects. Bale, Adams, and Lawrence are all great of course, but the drama between them was a little eye-rollingly stupid at times and the end was a little too neatly wrapped up for my tastes.

Since this movie is up for some Oscars and that’s pretty much why I saw it I should probably address a few of the categories it’s up for. The production design is absolutely amazing and it definitely should win. It truly feels like the 70s without missing a beat. Christian Bale is pretty good as the lead, but I don’t think he should win over Leo. Amy Adams certainly holds her own in this movie, and pulls off all the emotional twists and turns her character goes through. Jennifer Lawrence was believable in the role despite her age, but her performance was just kinda… meh. It didn’t strike me as particularly oscar worthy, even if it was really good. The editing… is meh for an oscar-nominated movie. There were a few continuity flaws, so hopefully there was a better movie, but I’m just being a prick now.

American Hustle has everything going for it. The budget, the actors, the director, the soundtrack, everything. However, unlike most great films, it fails to become more then the sum of its parts. It’s no Goodfellas, or The Godfather, or even The Sting. It’s a damn good movie, don’t get me wrong and I’ll say right now that everyone should go see it, but it fails to be anything more then just good. Let me emphasize that I’m not criticizing the movie for not being perfect, I’m just stating my reasons for why it shouldn’t win Best Picture.

Enough negativity! American Hustle is a fun movie! It doesn’t take itself too serious and while it is a emotional drama, it’s also a very funny movie. The witty writing and the charismatic acting makes it hard not to enjoy the fun adventure these characters are on. The whole movie has this energy to it thats hard to ignore, and it almost makes up for a lot of the flaws in it… almost. You may not have a best picture winner awaiting you, but you certainly have a film worth the outrageous ticket prices. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I’m probably going to get shit for this but…

In the wake of the Bill Nye/whats-his-face debate I wrote this angry rant and I have the weird indescribable need to publish it so here it goes:
If I’m raised on Cat in the Hat as a religious text that doesn’t mean that my belief that cats can talk is a fact. So don’t try to tell me that your beliefs are facts either. Don’t try to tell me that something must exist because I can’t prove it doesn’t exist. Don’t tell me not to teach evolution because it’s false and tell me to teach creationism instead. Evolution may have it’s faults, but at least it’s based in observational science. It may branch into theoretical science and therefore have potential falsehood, but at least its not a belief based on a book. The only “evidence” used to support creationism are arguments against evolution. But if we assume evolution is wrong, that doesn’t prove that creationism is right. Science can be as much of a religion as religion, but at least it’s based on observations, not parables. And lets assume we teach creationism in schools because it’s as viable a theory as creationism, well in that case we have to every version of creationism. Native American, Norse, Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian. If we tell kids that god created the earth in 7 days then we also have to tell them that it rests on the back of a giant turtle. So pardon me if I choose to teach a scientific THEORY in a science class and leave creationism to the religious leaders.

The Act of Killing (2013) Review

I rarely review documentaries and there’s a very good reason for that. I don’t watch that many documentaries. It takes either a great doc or a topic I’m very interested in to get me to engage in a documentary and those tend to be rare. However, since 4 out of the 5 Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Feature are on Netflix, I thought I’d give them a go. First up is The Act of Killing, a debut film for director Joshua Oppenheimer.

The Act of Killing documents the making of a film about the 1960s hunt for Communists in Indonesia, but what’s intriguing is that it’s made by the gangsters who tortured and killed said Communists. Our main subject is Anwar Congo, a man who undergoes shocking personal growth concerning the atrocities he’s committed as he reenacts them for the film. Thats not all to this film as in the background we see the truth behind the corrupt government, ignorant and afraid populace, and the paramilitary groups that rule the streets.

Let me start off by saying that this is probably the most important documentary to come out this year in terms of its subject matter. It’s a topic not previously sensationalized by the media like The Square, a look at something we already had inklings about like Dirty Wars, and it’s definitely not a small film like Cutie and the Boxer (Keep in mind I haven’t seen these yet, these are just broad statements based on trailers/plot summaries). It provides a shocking look into a topic we in the West know little about and it shows it with honesty and with the consent of the subjects. They offer up this info very willingly and their image is like an afterthought, but the image they want is very much the truth of what they are. It’s a brilliant examination of crimes both past and present and how one society can be so fucked over by itself.

On the other hand… this is really slow. It’s very slow for the purposes of letting it’s images sink in, but for me at least the themes and ideas were very basic and didn’t need the considerable time given to them. What really dragged the film down from a story perspective is the plight of the subjects and the making of their film. Watching these blundering fools stumble through filmmaking just isn’t that interesting to watch and only occasionally are important monologues with interesting stories placed over them. These people just didn’t engage me as interesting subjects. Anwar’s growth as a person was still amazing to watch and especially towards the end of the movie do we get a real resolution and feeling of accomplishment, but the whole “second act” is a drag to watch. For me at least.

I would be absolutely fine with this winning Best Documentary, but I think it’s appeal to a mainstream audience is limited. Despite the paradox, I must conceit that you should absolutely watch this movie, even though you won’t really enjoy it. It’s a shocking examination of cruelty and self-proclaimed sadism in the real world. This isn’t a horror movie, or a mob movie, this is real life and I think everyone should see this to understand the kind of dark things that are actually out there. As stated before The Act of Killing is on Netflix Instant.

The Host (2013) Review

The Host is the 2013 teenage sci-fi drama based on the book from the brilliant mind of none other then the one and only Stephanie Meyer. While I’m sure no one expected The Host to be a good movie, since the book apparently is an improvement over Twilight it seems the same could be expected from the film adaptations. Shockingly enough I find myself far more willing to make cracks at the laughably bad Twilight then rage over the boring and story-handicapped The Host.

The Host is the tale of a neutered post-Body Snatchers world where an alien race has taken over most of the human populace creating what could be interpreted as utopia. Enter Melanie the rebel human who gets captured by the nameless aliens and has her body taken over by one such alien named The Wanderer. However instead of going quietly into the night, Melanie decides to serve as a screaming whining Jimminy Cricket for The Wanderer. With the use of horny memories Melanie essentially seduces the wanderer into sympathizing with her and thus they return to the human colony, with the Seekers (Alien Police) following behind. Enter mistrust between The Wanderer (dubbed Wanda) and the humans, a love triangle/square, and some feel-good peace bullshit that’s ultimately anti-climatic.

The characters of The Host are not neatly fit into cliche categories, but they are simplistic at best. This unfortunately also applies to our lead characters: Melanie and Wanda. In fact I found them not only incredibly bland like Bella, but also generally unlikeable for the majority of the movie. Melanie especially was quite the bitch, but Wanda had her fair share of dumbass moments as well. The side characters are there… that’s all. Actually no there’s more. Every character in the movie that has more then 5 lines is extremely inconsistent in their behaviour. Everyone changes their attitudes with very little to no motivation and what could be considered character arcs for the leads are patchy and confusing. Towards the end of the movie especially, I practically got whiplash from the various turnarounds the characters had.

The actual acting ranges from mediocre to wooden, with some of the side characters being more intriguing to watch then the leads. Particularly Uncle Whatshisface played by William Hurt who’s probably the most likeable character, since he’s not a raging asshole. The actual actress (Saoirse Ronan) who plays Melanie/Wanda is pretty wooden and doesn’t have enough screen presence to pull off the dual-narration as I call it. This idea of the dual-narration worked fine in the book I’m sure, but like with a lot of internal dialogue/monologue heavy writing it doesn’t translate to screen, because it’s just not visually interesting. An actress like Bullock or even Kidman could pull it off, but she just can’t and I don’t really blame her. I blame the director Andrew Niccol who hasn’t directed anything I’ve particularly liked so far, and while he made a very technically sound film here (excluding the blue/orange colour scheme) he can’t seem to get his actors to emote properly, especially inexperienced ones.

The story of The Host is… fairly aimless I guess is the best way to put it. There’s no ultimate ending goal or big bad to beat per say. Well there is a big bad in the head Scanner, but the film dedicates far too little time for me to say that fighting her was the climax of the film. It just has the melodramatic plot/subplots of what to do about Melanie and what to do about the love triangle. Oh and the whole taking aliens out of humans thing that was introduced in the last 45 minutes of the 2 hour 20 minute movie. Did I mention that this movie was overly long? It’s slow pacing and lack of anything going on really drags that 2 hours out where another movie like The Hobbit can make that breeze by. Sitting through all that is really quite wasted when you realize that the movie’s climax is… practically non-existent. Yes you can probably place it, but it’s in as low-key of a scene as one in the middle of the second act. Then of course there’s the ending about which I had this to say when I first started typing:

OF ALL THE STUPID FUCKING PLOT CONTRIVED MELODRAMATIC STUPID FUCKING ENDINGS!!!!!! GOD DAMN IT! LIKE THE REST OF THE FUCKING MOVIE WASN’T A SLOW-AS-MOLASSES MELODRAMATIC WASTE OF FUCKING TIME AND OFFENCE TO EYES, EARS, AND BRAIN THAT GOD DAMN ENDING IS LIKE ONE FINAL FUCK YOU AND A KICK TO THE FUCKING NUTS. MONTHS LATER MY GODDAMN ASS.

The plot wraps up in an extremely convenient way, utilizing the plot conveniences and holes that have plagued the movie more then your average action film. Then to top it all off, the film flashes forward to “Months Later” where our two couples are driving for no reason in the city and they’re pulled over (of fucking course), but just as you think it’s sequel bait, it’s revealed that the scanners are also a rebel group with their own mix of aliens and humans. What a fucking coincidence. Ignoring the 7000 plot holes I can come up with, this ending is entirely unnecessary and sums up essentially what this movie is. An intriguing concept destroyed by a series of plot contrivances and conveniences all for the sake of a stupid love and peace message.

The themes of The Host have been done before and in better movies but they would have been interesting to explore in this context. Especially the idea of a host fighting it’s parasite and the moral quandary of what to do with that parasite if it has loved ones too and no convenient body to jump into. If you liked the sci-fi side of the alien invasion check out either the 1950s or 70s incarnation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If you liked the arc of the head Scanner check out Pleasantville as there are some striking similarities in a few scenes. And if you liked Wanda trying to live Melanie’s life then check out the show Quantum Leap. But whatever you do stay away from this piece of shit. I’m not commenting on the book, just the movie and it’s an utter waste of time and filmmaking that is just a cash-in on Twilight with little else behind it. While it does have it’s laughably bad moments like Twilight, for the most part it will just infuriate and bore you. And boredom, as any moviegoer knows, is the ultimate sin of the cinema.
The Host is available places, but I’ll be damned if I help you find it.

100 Questions: A Study in Procrastination

HOW TO PROCRASTINATE 101

1: Is there a boy/girl in your life?
Quite a few, at least 70
2: Think of the last person who hurt you; do you forgive them?
Eh sure, i don’t even remember it
3: What do you think of when you hear the word “meow?”
The Holocaust
4: What’s something you really want right now?
Gloves for lighting
5: Are you afraid of falling in love?
Psh, no
6: Do you like the beach?
Meh, on occasionally
7: Have you ever slept on a couch with someone else?
Why yes, many a naps on the couch
8: What’s the background on your cell?
The camera pushed up against my knee in total dark
9: Name the last four beds you were sat on?
Steve, Kirk, Bogey, Frannie
10: Do you like your phone?
Meh, sure why not
11: Honestly, are things going the way you planned?
Technically yes, but they could be going better
12: Who was the last person whose phone number you added to your contacts?
ummmmmm Great Clips?
13: Would you rather have a poodle or a Rottweiler?
Rottweiler, because they’re delicious
14: Which hurts the most, physical or emotional pain?
Emotional pain
15: Would you rather visit a zoo or an art museum?
An Art Museum
16: Are you tired?
Yeah
17: How long have you known your 1st phone contact?
Ummm I assume my whole life
18: Are they a relative?
Yes
19: Would you ever consider getting back together with any of your exes?
Yes all of them
20: When did you last talk to the last person you shared a kiss with?
idk… 5 min ago unless you mean actual talking then… Tuesday I think
21: If you knew you had the right person, would you marry them today?
Umm no because that’s not financially smart
22: Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?
Oh sure I suppose
23: How many bracelets do you have on your wrists right now?
1
24: Is there a certain quote you live by?
“Insert quote here”
25: What’s on your mind?
These bloody questions
26: Do you have any tattoos?
no
27: What is your favorite color?
Red or Black
28: Next time you will kiss someone on the lips?
ummm Wednesday probably?
29: Who are you texting?
Kelly
30: Think to the last person you kissed, have you ever kissed them on a couch?
Yes
31: Have you ever had the feeling something bad was going to happen and you were right?
Umm probably because I get that feeling a lot
32: Do you have a friend of the opposite sex you can talk to?
yes a few
33: Do you think anyone has feelings for you?
I’m fairly certain, yes
34: Has anyone ever told you you have pretty eyes?
Only after I told them
35: Say the last person you kissed was kissing someone right in front of you?
Well it depends on the person, the kiss and the situation
36: Were you single on Valentines Day?
Nope
37: Are you friends with the last person you kissed?
Yes
38: What do your friends call you?
Justino
39: Has anyone upset you in the last week?
Yes
40: Have you ever cried over a text?
Ummm probably
41: Where’s your last bruise located?
Fuck if I know
42: What is it from?
ummm the aliens
43: Last time you wanted to be away from somewhere really bad?
Today in class
44: Who was the last person you were on the phone with?
My paterfamilias
45: Do you have a favourite pair of shoes?
No
46: Do you wear hats if your having a bad hair day?
No
47: Would you ever go bald if it was the style?
No
48: Do you make supper for your family?
No
49: Does your bedroom have a door?
Yes
50: Top 3 web-pages?
thatguywiththeglasses.com, achievementhunter.com, 1201beyond.com
51: Do you know anyone who hates shopping?
yes, myself
52: Does anything on your body hurt?
my ear
53: Are goodbyes hard for you?
Only because I’m Minnesotan
54: What was the last beverage you spilled on yourself?
Water
55: How is your hair?
Red
56: What do you usually do first in the morning?
Wake up
57: Do you think two people can last forever?
No, because they’ll eventually die
58: Think back to January 2007, were you single?
Yes
59: Green or purple grapes?
Green!
60: When’s the next time you will give someone a BIG hug?
Prolly Wednesday
61: Do you wish you were somewhere else right now?
Yes
62: When will be the next time you text someone?
Ummm soon
63: Where will you be 5 hours from now?
Probably in a warm soundproof room
64: What were you doing at 8 this morning?
Getting ready for class
65: This time last year, can you remember who you liked?
Yes, fondly
66: Is there one person in your life that can always make you smile?
Always is a strong word, but mostly yes
67: Did you kiss or hug anyone today?
No
68: What was your last thought before you went to bed last night?
Oh shit I left the stove o….
69: Have you ever tried your hardest and then gotten disappointed in the end?
Yeah I think so
70: How many windows are open on your computer?
4
71: How many fingers do you have?
10
72: What is your ringtone?
a buzzing sound
73: How old will you be in 5 months?
5 months older
74: Where is your Mum right now?
In Minnesota
75: Why aren’t you with the person you were first in love with or almost in love?
Because career paths are a thing
76: Have you held hands with somebody in the past three days?
nope
77: Are you friends with the people you were friends with two years ago?
yes, quite a few
78: Do you remember who you had a crush on in year 7?
Umm if that was kindergarten then that would be Madison (I think)
79: Is there anyone you know with the name Mike?
Yeah! The Blaze-man!
80: Have you ever fallen asleep in someones arms?
no, but viceversa
81: How many people have you liked in the past three months?
I’m sure a few. I don’t hate everyone
82: Has anyone seen you in your underwear in the last 3 days?
no
83: Will you talk to the person you like tonight?
Sure
84: You’re drunk and yelling at hot guys/girls out of your car window, you’re with?
Probably Sinatra since it’s a dream
85: If your BF/GF was into drugs would you care?
Yes
86: What was the most eventful thing that happened last time you went to see a movie?
I got some twizzlers
87: Who was your last received call from?
Kiera from CA Ventures
88: If someone gave you $1,000 to burn a butterfly over a candle, would you?
Yes
89: What is something you wish you had more of?
Money
90: Have you ever trusted someone too much?
Probably
91: Do you sleep with your window open?
No
92: Do you get along with girls?
Yes
93: Are you keeping a secret from someone who needs to know the truth?
Needs to know? No
94: Does sex mean love?
No
95: You’re locked in a room with the last person you kissed, is that a problem?
Well no, I think we’d have our fair share of entertainment
96: Have you ever kissed anyone with a lip ring?
No
97: Did you sleep alone this week?
Yes, unfortunately
98: Everybody has somebody that makes them happy, do you?
Yep, lots of things
99: Do you believe in love at first sight?
Nope, I believe in lust at first sight though
100: Who was the last person that you pinky promised?
Ummm my sister?

These were dumb questions with way too much of an emphasis on snogging

Sharknado (2013) Review

Sharknado. The title is a genius move on its own. It makes the movie everything stand out amongst all the crap coming out these days. It’s so grand of a name that it pushed the movie into the eye of pop culture, making it a social media phenomenon. While this cultural anomaly is worth examining, that’s not what I’ll be talking about. Instead I’ll be making the case that Sharknado is a good movie. Well, a good bad movie.

Every film has its purpose. Has its goals. Has a reaction it’s trying to illicit from an audience. A comedy wants to make you laugh, a drama wants to get you invested, a documentary wants to make you informed. And when one judges and critiques these films there is rarely a cross-breeding of expectations. You don’t criticize the documentary for not being funny enough and you don’t criticize the comedy for its lack of effective scares. However there is one thing all these movies have in common: they are trying to be good. Judging whether something’s good or not is the foundation of movie criticism and it really only in the past decade has started being challenged on that.* The idea of the so-bad-it’s-good movie has been around for awhile, but now quite a few filmmakers are striving to achieve that status. To make a movie so bad that it’s good.

This is where Sharknado comes in. Now right off the bat we can pass off the idea of the filmmakers unintentionally making their movie as bad as it is. When you sign on to a movie called Sharknado you know exactly what you’re getting into. There is no way you’ll make a movie called Sharknado the horror drama of the year because audiences can’t take it seriously. So why not just go balls to the wall? Make it a piece of shit, but an entertaining piece of shit. So with us throwing out the standard of examining if it’s good, we now have to examine if its bad qualities make it entertaining. And holy shit is Sharknado entertaining.

The story of Sharknado is that of bar owner Fin, who embarks on a quest to save his ex-wife (Tara Reid) and kids when a hurricane/water funnel/tornado full of sharks hits LA. Along with him for the ride is his Tasmanian best buddy Baz, his waitress/love interest(ish) Nova and frequent bar attendant George (John Heard). It’s obviously not the greatest of stories and the pacing can be uneven, but for the most part it is a non-stop thrill ride of shark attacks. What is important is that it’s rarely boring. You never have long 25 minute stretches like in other asylum movies where you want to tear your eyes out, which is really a mark of how good this bad movie actually is because it avoids the ultimate sin of filmmaking: boredom.

The acting is, of course, really bad. However, even if you got George Clooney and Meryl Streep to star in this movie no one would buy their performance as soon as they uttered the word “Sharknado.” So the acting is appropriate, with just enough cheese from some actors to balance out the woodenness of others. Tara Reid stands out as the complete brick wall of the movie and her asshole boyfriend gets the overacting award. The dialogue is really cheesy (of course), but it does attempt a little character development and is never confusing or misleading like in other films.

The actual directing and other camera work is adequate to sub-par with most of the movie being average and certain scenes so clumsily shot that it’s painful to watch, but you still get a sense of what’s going on. The continuity is a nightmare, with the either cloudy or sunny background being humorously swapped back and forth and especially with the copious amounts of stock footage.

The effects are hilariously bad, being the bastard child of a malfunctioning CGI computer. I don’t want to give away too much, but they are used effectively in the death scenes to create a mixture of awesomeness and cheesiness. They may be run of the mill for The Asylum, but a fresh audience will be taken aback by how blatantly bad a lot of the sharks look and how obvious the money shots of the movie are.

Sharknado is probably one of the most fun and entertaining recent movies to watch, especially with a group of friends. Not because it’s got the suspense of Jaws, but rather the opposite. It hits all the right notes of a bad b-movie without breaching into boredom or (on the other end of the spectrum) being too over the top. It does exactly what it intends to do and because of that I stand by my statement that Sharknado is a good (bad) movie. You know what you’re expecting if you want to see this and Sharknado delivers on those expectations. Sharknado recently became available on Netflix instant, and Amazon prime, as well as an upcoming DVD release from The Asylum.

*I’m aware that plenty of intentionally cheesy movies have existed before the 2000s, but with the internet and the independent movement, these films have exploded in number and popularity.