Up From the Depths (Jaws, 1975)

Jaws_posterIn 1975, Steven Spielberg created “The Summer Blockbuster”.  Based on the book by Peter Benchley Jaws tells the story of police chief Martin Brody, who must deal with an aggressive great white shark that has invaded the beaches of his island community.

The film opens on a beach party, a young woman named Chrissie runs off with Cassidy for a late night skinny dipping session.  While Chrissie swims, Cassidy passes out on the beach.  Suddenly, Chrissie is jerked under water…she surfaces, now frightened, then she thrashes violently.  We never see her attacker as she disappears below the water.

Chief Brody is a man frightened of water, yet lives on an island (He tells Matt Hooper that it is only an island if you are looking at it from the water).  When the coroner suggests Chrissie was the victim of a shark attack, he leaps into action, only to be shut down by the Mayor, who does not want to close the beaches during tourist season.  Only after a very public series of attacks do they allow Brody to take measures to destroy the shark.  He is joined by marine biologist Matt Hooper and the gruff Quint.

Jaws may have kicked off the concept of a Summer Tentpole film, but that does not mean it is light fare.  While there are plenty of thrills, Spielberg is focused on the characters and their stories.  Brody loves his family and becomes worried for their safety.  His wife Ellen is constantly trying to fight his obsession with the danger of the shark.  But even she finds it hard not to give in.  In one scene, Brody tells his son to get out of his small boat.  Ellen tries to convince him not to worry…until she sees a picture in a book that Brody is holding showing a shark tearing through a boat.

The film has many great character moments, such as when Martin and his oldest son are sitting at the table and the son starts to imitate his father.  It is a touching moment showing the connection Broody has with his family.  Then there is a moment between Hooper and Quint on Quint’s boat where they compare scars.

The performances in the film are compelling.  Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss have a terrific chemistry.

The shark (nicknamed Bruce) tends to look pretty fake, and due to limitations of the time, Spielberg chose to cut the movie in a way that would hide these issues.  And it is a wise move that builds suspense effectively.

In later years, Benchley became an advocate for sharks, feeling both his book and the film created an irrational fear of sharks that resulted in people slaughtering them.  But still, Jaws is an effective classic, worth watching.

Fishies Pt 4 (Piranha 3D, 2010)

piranha_2010_posterIt is spring break in Lake Victoria and the kids are hear to party…get drunk, flash people, have sex…you know regular spring breakin’.  The local sheriff (Elizabeth Shue)is trying to keep things in control, and needs her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to watch his younger brother and sister.  Except he has been hired by Derrick (Jerry O’Connell) to take him and his crew around to the best Spring Break Locations.  Derrick runs a website called Wild Wild Girls* and wants to take advantage of the crowds at Lake Victoria.  Jake schemes, leaving his sibling home alone so he can hang out with Derrick and his group (including two Wild Wild Girls).  Unexpectedly, the girl he has a crush on, Kelly, gets brought on to the boat.

A research team headed by Novak (Parks and Rec’s Adam Scott) arrives to investigate a recent earthquake.  With the help of the Sheriff, they discover the earthquake opened an underground lake and has freed carnivorous fish.  And then the race is on to find the fish and stop them.

Of course, you know they will not succeed and spring break is an all you can eat buffet.  The fish work their way through the winding lake until they get to gorge themselves on swimmers.   In spite of not being shown for critics, the critics were pretty generous with this film.

The reason is, the film does not take itself seriously.  It is gleefully trashy and has fun with that.  There is no message about ecology or anything.  It is just about big and hungry fish.  And people in swimsuits.  The big sequence is a ridiculously over the top gore sequences as the Sheriff and Novak work alongside the deputies trying to save the Spring Breakers.  The effects are largely very good (though some digital moments are pretty obvious) and the film is carnage candy.

The movie has a very firm tongue in cheek attitude.  This is shown in it’s cameos, which are pitch perfect.  Eli Roth is an obnoxious Wet T-Shirt Contest Host.  Christopher Lloyd is a Doc Brown styled ichthyologist and the film opens Richard Dreyfuss slyly portraying his Matt Hooper character from Jaws.

The performances are really fun.  Ving Rhames is enjoyable Shue’s right hand man Deputy Fallon.  Paul Sheer is a goofy crony of of Derrick’s.  And Derrick?  O’Connell has one of the best lines of the entire film.  He plays Joe Franc-uh Derrick with no fear of the edge of the ledge.  I am a big fan of Adam Scott, and he is a lot of fun…it is kind of like he is playing a Action Ben Wyatt.  Kelly Brook’s performance is no major star turn, but her character Danni is likeable and seems keen on getting Jake and Kelly together as a couple.   Jessica Szohr is a lot of fun as Kelly, who is the kind of person to step up to the plate when challenged and when it is suggested she is maybe a bit uptight, shows Jake she is more than willing to cut loose.  Probably the supporting cast member to get the short end of the stick is Crystal, played by Riley Steel.  She has very little personality and pretty much is there to look good in a bikini.

This film should fall squarely into terrible, yet it has a lot of personality and makes for a real fun “Guilty Pleasure” movie.

 

 

 

*Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis wrote an angry letter to the producers and Jerry O’Connell repeatedly said he was playing Francis…upon threat of a lawsuit, O’Connell changed it to “For Legal reasons I play someone loosely based on Joe Francis”.

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