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Monday, May 26, 2008

Shark Swarm a series of undisclosed events led the Wave-inatrix to plunk herself in front of Hallmark's scintillatingly titled - Shark Swarm. Wavers, there is hope for all of us.

First of all - Armand Assante. Have you seen this guy's IMDB? Has anybody made a living off of the sleazy-mean-looking-guy like Assante?

SPOILER ALERT: If you like, seriously care to know what happens (badly) in Shark Swarm, stop here and go warm your cockles over a cuppa java.


So Shark Swarm is about this Armand Assante who is trying to buy up this tiny town (Mendocino in reality but charmingly and cleverly named Full Moon Bay. Get it? Like Half Moon Bay?! Oh the hilarity!) and ONE guy, the Duke's of Hazzard's John Schneider (the stubborn fisherman married to a very botoxed Daryl Hannah) just won't budge. And the other townsfolk are all for selling but that's because they didn't read their contacts, as John Schneider - who really has aged nicely - points out.

So anyway. Turns out this Assante dude? Yep - he's dumping toxic waste in the bay which is killing the fish, making it a sucky living for the fisherman/townspeople, making the offer to buy their little Mendocino-Morro-Half-Moon-Bay-Town very attractive. Get it?

So nicely-aged John Schneider (flaw: stubborn) consults with his brother - a marine biologist - who used to study sharks! - anyway, they consult about the fishing situation, Assante and, apparently, some kind of great hair texturizer immune to salt spray and together they consult with F. Murray Abraham, the super duper professor of the local University - in this tiny Full Moon Bay community with one main street. So together, Schneider, his brother, the professor, Daryl Hannah and the hot EPA chick who has just come into town and makes major doe-eyes at the brother - well - they realize that because Assante has been dumping waste in the bay which killed the fish - sharks don't have their usual prey, so they are acting erratically because they are starving and swarming in huge, aggressive numbers - just off the coast! And F. Murray Abraham has this like - sonar device on his computer and he can see the shark swarms, represented by a fuzzy green cloud on his computer screen. I'm not sure how the sonar worked, either that the sharks are implanted with something to make that them visible as neon green clouds on sonar - or it's that Abraham might have turned the dial the other way seen only swarms of Marlin. It's Hallmark movie logic. Don't fight it.

And oh yeah - Daryl Hannah and Schneider have this cute, 18 year-old blonde Chelsea Clinton lookalike daughter and I'm watching this movie and I notice the girl wears the same dress during the scenes set to take place over three consecutive days. Hello - WARDROBE!?!

Oh also - yes, you may have been wondering - so the visual on the Impossible-Sonar-Device mentioned earlier is of great swarms of sharks headed RIGHT FOR the blighted Full Moon Bay. Because, as the professor said earlier - the bay has been blighted, so the sharks have been swarming within it to find food because they are confused and starved. And yet the sonar shows sharks arriving from the open ocean to head INTO the blighted area to look for food. Because they can smell the - blight? Lack of food? Also good to note: all the OTHER fish have died because of the toxic waste - but not the sharks. Just FYI. Because sharks have super anti-toxic-waste powers. C'mon you marine biology slackers, get it together.

And - I have to also mention, before the midpoint of this sleeper 3 hour movie, about 8 townsfolk have been picked off by the sharks. And yet no one is ever mentioned missing or, um, washed up missing their left leg. We see it, but the townsfolk do not react. Which causes A LOT of tension when nobody in the movie is scared, let me tell you!

The professor introduces a super-duper-pulsar-stun-gun. When you aim and fire it at sharks? You like fry their electro-sensory hunting skills. And it's a super-secret weapon the Navy (or NASA, can't remember) has developed. But this professor in Full Moon Bay (population 432 by the looks of it) has got some of these stun guns. Because. He needs them. When he lectures about the environment. You - Waver in the back - pipe down already!

But Assante's slimy henchman kidnaps Hannah! And Schneider! And Schneider's crewman, Clint! He puts them all on a boat and races to sea. And the sharks are swarming! They approach another boat -Ha - the bad guy says - ha! It's all over now! I'm going to say you tried to ram my boat with your boat, but then you're so stupid you blew a hole in your boat and drowned and nobody will suspect me and my boss Assante! We will buy your property! We will develop the town! So a struggle ensues and poor Clint gets shot and dies but not before in his dying breath, he wonders if Schneider feels lucky today. Anyway, more struggle then the bad guy suddenly has a new plan - he puts Schneider and Hannah in a shark cage and hoists them over the swarming water. Ha - he says - ha! If you get out of the cage, the sharks will eat you. If you can't get out, the sharks will bust in and eat you! I'll still get away with it! Though now I have two missing persons, a banged up shark cage and an empty, floating boat to explain. Ha- he says - ha! I've seen CSI - they'll never piece it together!

An action scene ensues in which this risky, cinéma vérité is employed:

--Bad guy girlfriend is in the hold of the boat carrying kidnapped passengers to their imminent, unsuspicious deaths. She pours champagne in anticipation of her triumph.

--Schneider and bad guy struggle up on the deck.

--Girlfriend downstairs, champagne glasses in hand, hears the struggle

--Back up on deck, the guys are wrestling for control

--Below decks, the girlfriend puts the champagne glasses on the shelf

--Above decks - the struggle continues

--Suddenly, the girlfriend shows up with a gun

I just think that for me, without seeing the girlfriend put down the glasses, I would not have believed she could have gotten on deck in this like, 26 horsepower boat fast enough. So - good detailed direction there. So. You know.

But - shark cage it is. Champagne glasses are for suckers.

Even though the CGI sharks - what looks to be a mixed school of hammerheads and great whites - are swarming straight for them, Schneider and Hannah bust out of the shark cage, use the stun gun and rise to the surface to take over the boat. But it was a pretty nail-biting sequence. No, I mean really - it was. Yup.

While the denizens of Full Moon Bay are innocently enjoying the ocean's bounty - a GIANT swarm of sharks is headed straight for them! But NO - the swarm splits up into three groups - one headed straight for a group baptism, one headed straight for the opening of the new pier with Assante officiating, and one is headed straight for the beach where Schneider's Chelsea-Clinton-lookalike daughter is swimming!

The swarm is coming, what to do!! The pastor leads the congregation into the water fully clothed. And his dialogue goes something like this: We're all here. Being baptized. As a big-ass group with no actual symbolic reason, anniversary or point that I mention. On the pier slimeball Assante is making a smarmy speech - and the sharks are swarming toward them! At Pigseye Point, the daughter and her new cute boyfriend who supports that she wants to go to college are surfing - and the sharks are racing toward them!

The sharks are swarming on three beaches. And we have three people: Schneider, his marine biologist brother and Hannah (seriously - the botox). Okay - they decide - three beaches, three of us, three coincidental events and - let's GO SAVE THE PEOPLE!! They all start for their respective cars to race to the respective beaches when - hey, Schneider shouts to Hannah - don't forget this! She turns. He holds out a stun-gun-thing - you use this. You point it at the sharks and it stuns them. Oh! Okay! Hannah says and returns to her regularly scheduled heroic race to the beach to do - what? What did she think the plan was before they handed her the super-duper stun gun?

Baaaaaaaarghgh. I think I feel a vein getting ready to burst. And just so you know, happy ending - bad guy gets eaten by a shark, all the happy couples gather on the beach, burp water and pat each other on the backs aaaaaaaaaannnnnnd sky shot.

Oh - what's this - no, we're not done! We cut to another sequence - it's the brother! And his new EPA girlfriend who turned up somewhere in the first act - they are scuba diving. What's that?! Sharks? Nooooo...they're manta rays you silly! The end.

But it wasn't all bad. Remember Clint the incidental crewman who died? In the end - give me a minute - in the end, Schneider and his daughter's new surfer-dude boyfriend are painting a new name on the back of his fishing boat. Clint's Courage. I'm sorry - I'm verklempt.

Oh Wavers. The humanity.

Disclaimer: I don't want to hear from a single Waver that movies like Shark Swarm give bad writing the green light. This is a terrible excuse and a very bad idea. If anything, movies like Shark Swarm raise the bar. Yeah - you heard me right. I used to say to people, when discussing a horrible movie (tv or big screen) that got made - hey, I wish I wrote it! That way I'd have made a sale - who cares about the quality! But you know what, Wavers - no, I do not wish I'd written that movie or any substandard movie - I'd rather write The Savages or Juno or Michael Clayton. And I'd rather wait a good long time to sell something like that than something like Shark Swarm any day of the week. No disrespect to the Shark Swarm writers but you know, I aspire to more and I think that goes for all of us.

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Emily Blake said...

So, I'm confused. Do you recommend this movie or not?

Julie Gray said...

I actually do. Because I hold that one can learn A LOT about how to do it right when you see how to do it wrong. A good many of the problem with this movie could have been avoided with simple dialogue tweaks and fixes.

The continuity/budget/wardrobe problems just were what they were, but if the script had been given one more polish to seek and destroy the many little logic points, it would have worked much better.

PJ McIlvaine said...

I'm surprised this even appeared on Hallmark (it sounds more up Sci-Fi Channel's alley, home of the classic MANSQUITO), but I spoke to a producer who deals with them and she said this was an anamoly.

But as you so perfectly pointed out, Julie, a credit is a credit is a credit.

kahapeterson said...

Reminds me of the moment in "Da Vinci Code" when they jump into a jet plane parked in the back yard of the professor living in the french countryside. All the professors I know ride beat up cars or bicycles.

Julie Gray said...

Well, actually PJ in this case, this is not a credit I would want to have. And I just don't want writers to see this type of stuff and think of it as justification for being lazy. It was fun and it was imaginative and it actually had a few good qualities, it's just that the logic holes were big enough to drive a truck through and that was what grabbed my attention by the throat. This lazy writing and hurried production stands as a great example of what NOT to do.

PJ McIlvaine said...

Well, the duo that wrote this classic, according to IMDB, have two other TV movies to their "credit". But you know, it could also be that the script they originally wrote was attacked by sharks (the creative kind in cheap Armani suits) in the production process.

PJ McIlvaine said...

And lazy writing is lazy writing no matter if it's on the big or little screen. I'm still shaking my head at the logic holes in FLIGHTPLAN.

Jake Hollywood said...

So now instead of going straight to video--like most schlock like this does--it gets a short life on Hallmark. Big deal. At least the writer(s) got paid for their efforts. And given the current status of writing in Hollywood, that's a good thing.

I'm more concerned with FoxTv filming a show set in a hospital in Santa Monica in Bogata. The plan is to cut costs--which of course they'll do since Bogata ain't exactly a union town. They [FoxTv] claim this was all set up long before the WGA strike, but me I'm not so sure and coupled with the many, many film/TV series filmed outside the friendly confines of the good old US of A it's a disturbing trend. Especially if you're trying to earn a living...