Sharks In Venice (2008)

Our mission to watch and review every single SyFy Channel original movie, long-dormant, returns! I saw a trailer for this, almost by accident, on Youtube one evening and decided to track it down, so delightful was it. Stephen “The Usual Suspects Was So Long Ago” Baldwin! Sharks! Bad Venice effects!

My first thought while watching was “I bet Venice’s waters aren’t that clean”, as we see a diving expedition beneath the city. Running things topside is a fellow who sort of looks like a cross between your typical Eurotrash and a caveman – in fact, let me see if I can find a picture of the fellow:

They’re after treasure left there by Marco Polo, I think? Anyway, everyone gets eaten by sharks, because of course, and if you’re wondering, there is an explanation as to why Venice has sharks. It is, however, so stupid and self-defeating that you’d rather wish there wasn’t; but before you’ve got time to enjoy the rather decent shark effects, we’re in academia and being introduced to Mr Baldwin, aka Professor David Franks. Baldwin wins the non-coveted “Brooke Hogan Award” for unconvincing scientists in movies – he looks vaguely miserable, like he realises this is as good as it’s ever going to get for him. One of the divers was his father, and for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the University offers to pay all his travelling expenses, as well as those of his assistant / fiancee Laura (Vanessa “sister of Scarlett” Johansson), so off we go to Europe!

While meeting the local cops and visiting the corpses in the local morgue (none of which are his father, a dropped plot thread like they were going to bring him back at the end and then just forgot to do so…or I wasn’t paying attention when they did), is when I began to wonder if this was a comedy, perhaps at the expense of its star. The line “then…this was a shark”, delivered with that sort of camera angle like Hercule Poirot fingering a murderer, was hilarious – it’s possible Baldwin was in on it, but I’m really not sure.

This satire continues when there’s a chase through the streets of Venice, and every thirty seconds or so it cuts from the stunt double (who’s taller, slimmer and has different hair to our star) to an extreme closeup of Baldwin’s face, trying to look heroic. He’s either posing like that or wearing diving equipment from the company “Aqua Lung” (who paid a pretty penny for all that product placement) for most of the movie…well, that or getting beaten in fights. He’s pretty pathetic all round, if truth be told, but hating on him is like hating on a lame dog.

So, there’s a cave full of treasure, sort of protected by the hordes of sharks and sub-sub-Indiana Jones traps; the Mafia guy who I mentioned above, who wants to pay Baldwin a big stack of cash in order to find it; the occasional scene where a pitifully dubbed foreign actor gets eaten; lots of awful fight scenes; lots of awful stock footage; and a weird subplot with the obviously suspicious as hell Italian cop. The only way to get much enjoyment out of this one is to pretend it’s making fun of Baldwin, that he’s shown to be a pompous ass with every inappropriate camera angle and fight he loses. It probably isn’t, because I’m not sure anyone involved in it gave enough of a damn.

Thoroughly underwhelming movie from Nu Image (I’m sure there’s a DVD somewhere which says “from the producers of The Expendables”); it seems director Danny Lerner had a thing for sharks, having also directed “Shark Zone” and “Raging Sharks” – great title, and it’s got Corin Nemec and Corbin Bernsen in it, so expect a review soon – and produced parts 2 and 3 of the “Shark Attack” franchise.

I think there’s too much entertaining garbage in the world to ever complete our SyFy mission, but we’ll keep trying to entertain you with our words even if we’re not entertained with the movies, as often as possible.

Rating: thumbs down

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Super Shark (2011)

Super Shark

The producers of “Super Shark” clearly didn’t think the title alone would be enough to hold you past the opening credits, so this film stars nine-tenths of the way in, then cuts to “1 week earlier”. If only it started with a shark jumping around the beach and a tank on legs, then went on from there!

If you’ve seen one of the shark films that we’ve reviewed, then you’ll know how they work, the beats they tend to cover, and luckily, this one is no different. A deep sea oil drilling platform uses some chemical to dissolve some super-hard stone (I have no idea) and this releases a shark of truly staggering size – although its size see-saws at times, early in the film it’s big enough to tear down an entire oil rig.

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After a funk theme song and formerly famous US TV actor / standup Jimmy “JJ” Walker giving us his catchphrase “Dyn-O-Mite” and telling us about a Queen Of The Beach bikini contest coming up later that day, we meet our stars. First up is John Scheider (Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville), head of the drilling company and seemingly nice guy; then we get Sarah Lieving (lots of really bad movies) as a federal agent. If I had to join any fed group, it would definitely be the Oceanic Investigation Bureau (OIB).

If news of a bikini contest wasn’t enough to set alarms off, then the next scene will tell you just what director Fred Olen Ray thinks his audience wants. Lieving hires a boat to go and see the site where the oil rig was, and she hires lovable sea captain Tim Abell (another man who appears to have written his own IMDB bio). So, she’s wearing a very flattering trouser-suit, he’s in palm-tree shirt and baggy shorts. Then, for absolutely no reason, she take off her top to reveal the bikini underneath. Hot day, maybe? Guess how many layers of clothing the boat captain removes?

I’ve not even mentioned the B story! Two beautiful young women go to the beach to become lifeguards for the season, and there’s a bit of a love triangle with a male lifeguard. Tension abounds, but if you guessed the resolution to this story would come in form of them all being eaten by the shark about halfway into the movie, then hats off to you! it’s like they’d already filmed a bit of that, then decided it wasn’t going to work so goodbye. Well, they needed to get rid of one story to give the bikini plot developments room to breathe, inclusing a seemingly endless competition in the bar, then the two winners going to shoot a calendar on the beach the next day.

Regular readers may remember my “rules of shark movies”, and this film fulfils all four!

Rule 1: ‘there must be a shot where the heroes are on a speedboat looking ahead with determination’
Rule 2: ‘ there must be a large seafront entertainment event that can’t be cancelled, for some reason’
Rule 3: ‘at least one character must behave in a brain-buggeringly stupid way, to drive the plot along’
Rule 4: ‘sharks be super-powered’

Rule 3 is my favourite. The shark is, for some reason, attracted to radio waves, so Lieving demands the captain turn off the boat’s radio…even though it’s only a receiving one. She does know that your average living-room radio doesn’t actually broadcast a signal, right?

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I enjoyed this. By now, low-budget shark movies are like slipping on a pair of comfortable slippers, with their plots that all follow the same path, the same relationships forming, the same hail-mary pass at the end which saves the day. So really all we viewers should be looking for is that they do them right. There were times when watching this that I was convinced I’d seen it before, but as we’re not here for originality that’s okay.

You’ll struggle to remember a thing about it the day after you saw it, but you’ll enjoy it while it’s on. Just that puts it in the upper half of the films we’ve reviewed here.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

Avalanche Sharks (2013)

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If it weren’t for the owners of holiday resorts needing to keep things open on the biggest weekend of the year, this site would have no films to review. Well, that and companies drilling where they shouldn’t. Never change, guys!

This is, amazingly, the second film about snow sharks that we’ve reviewed here, after the truly abysmal “Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast”. It’s safe to say that home movies of your second cousin’s christening would be more entertaining than that, so “Avalanche Sharks” clears that comfortably. But it’s also from the producers of “Sand Sharks”, one of my favourite recent films, so on the other hand it’s got a lot to live up to; although they hired director Scott Wheeler, previously known for the godawful “Transmorphers” sequel, so…anyway, time to get on with the film. Also, I suppose, given there’s no avalanches in this film, you could add it to our “misleading titles” series, but it’s not as bad as some.

There are way too many people in this film. I tried to make notes about them, but I just got bored of writing them after a while, so I assume you’d get bored reading them. It’s a ski resort, that looks like an actual ski resort that gave them permission to film; some sort of weekend bikini skiing contest, so tons of hot women with an aversion to dressing correctly for the temperature; the Sheriff, the lazy ski patrol guy and the sleazy owner; and several groups of friends up for Spring Break. It’s one of those films where I think people must have paid to be in it, or something, because otherwise they spend a lot of time building up cannon fodder.

“Sand Sharks” had a great central performance from Corin Nemec, and someone like him is what this film sorely needed. It’s got hints of the comedy that made that film so enjoyable, but in the end they can’t make a break from the “blood, boobs and beast” convention. Aside from a brilliantly unexpected ending, you could plan the beats of this film even if you’ve not seen as many of them as I have (almost 200 reviews, and that’s just since this site started).

There is no escape. Apart from going somewhere there's no snow

There is no escape. Apart from going somewhere there’s no snow

There is a drinking game for this film – every time they show stock footage of people skiing or snowboarding, take a shot. You will unfortunately be dead before the halfway mark, though. Also, if you want to make some sort of game for “every time someone is far too excited about a mundane holiday activity like going in a hot tub, take a shot” then that would probably just get you comatose.

Everyone who deserves to die, does so, there’s bits and pieces of fun, but ultimately you’ll be checking the clock before it ends, willing the snow shark to kill them all. For a film, also set in a ski resort, also about unlikely snow-based monsters, which will keep you entertained all the way through, I recommend “Ice Spiders” from 2007, starring oughta-have-been-bigger Patrick Muldoon.

Rating: thumbs down