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The Meg (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

The Meg

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writers: Dean Georgaris (screenplay by), Jon Hoeber (screenplay by)
Stars: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson

Right, I’ve got a couple of small admissions to make here before I start delving into my review of The Meg. Firstly, I’m not a big Jason Statham fan. He’s been doing practically the same stuff for nearly twenty years now and it usually bores me to tears. I don’t hate the guy or anything, but he doesn’t draw me to the mundane like a Dwayne Johnson might. Secondly, I’m a closet fan of the shark horror sub-genre. It’s for the latter reason that I’ve seen this film twice in the cinema following it’s release. 

In all honesty, you’ll probably already know the general plot if you’ve ever seen anything resembling a shark film before. That’s not a negative either, it’s just a fact. I’ve seen people using this as a giant stick to beat The Meg with, but I’m genuinely perplexed as to what it is they were expecting. It’s going to be set in a large body of water, with humans in constant peril of being eaten alive. Unless the shark is the hero then what else can possibly happen in these films? That’s how Stephen put it on Box Office Chat this week and he’s right. 

There’s a brief rescue mission takes place at the beginning, with Jonas (Jason Statham), a rescue diver, attempting to rescue scientists from a nuclear submarine. Things go a little pear shaped in the midst of said rescue and he has to bail with two still left inside after seeing the shape of a massive creature, bashing in the side of the vessel. This has ramifications for poor Jonas, of course, especially when the submarine explodes moments later and he’s accused of suffering from pressure-induced psychosis.

The film then jumps five years and changes perspective to a state of the art, underwater facility called Mana One. There’s a whole host of scientists and experts stationed there, with the intention of studying what may be a deeper section of the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on Earth. There’s Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), the man financing the operation; Dr. Zhang (Winston Zhao); Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor); Suyin (Li BingBing) and few others that may or may not get a mention. Needless to say, they send a small submersible craft down for a look, not long after Morris arrives at the facility. 

And what they discover is both wondrous and rather terrifying in equal measures. There is indeed a further depth below a thermal, gaseous layer and the crew, led by Tori (Jessica McNamee), Jonas’ ex, find a host of exotic sea creatures beneath, including a 75ft, prehistoric shark with anger management issues and an insatiable desire to feed on human flesh. It attacks them immediately, leaving them stricken alone in the dark, and setting up a grand entrance for Jonas of the present day to come in to save the day. Zhang and ‘Mac’ (Cliff Curtis) are sent to persuade him and despite an apparent drinking problem, he’s in damn fine spirits. 

It’s after the easy enough rescue of the majority of crew in the small craft that things truly kick off however. The Megalodon manages to burst through a thermal eruption into the colder waters above and sets off on a path of utter carnage. This pits the action hero that is Jason Statham, arguably this generations Sly Stallone against the prehistoric Jaws. I’ll spare a word for word plot synopsis, because nobody wants to read that, but needless to say, the other seventy odd minutes of running time is full to the brim with toe curling, moments of panic, action and lots of near misses.

There’s a few moments where the Meg doesn’t miss and they may be my most enjoyable bits of the film. The barging of half a dozen beach goers off a large wooden platform and the eating of a smug, gonk of a man in one of those stupid inflatable balls, being the highlights. I can’t lie though, despite it being a fierce and menacing presence of an antagonist, I never at any point felt the main protagonists, Jonas and Suyin were in real danger. I said it previously, these films all play out the same. The shark will always bite the dust. It’s just how enjoyable they make the experience in between that decides whether the film is a flop or not. 

I think Jon Turteltaub managed to make it a very enjoyable ride. It was visually spectacular, the actions sequences were pretty cool in the main. I’ve spoke about this film before on a couple of our shows and consistently highlighted the ending with the two submersible vehicles as a standout moment for me. They were almost like underwater Star Wars space scenes, the way they zipped around at speed. The multiple helicopter crash scene, the take down of the Meg itself and even the aforementioned beach scene were all moments that made this film an enjoyable ride, despite the inevitability of the ending. They tried their hand at a double bluff twist, incidentally, but it fell flat on its face.

Performance wise, I’m not going to lie, there’s not much to go by. It’s very much the Jason Statham show. He’s been cast in this role for a reason. He excels at this leading man, action stuff, whilst adding a touch of humour at times. He was perfect for the role of Jonas. Li BingBing was probably second in terms of screen time and outwith the odd cringeworthy, broken English moment, she did fine. There was little chemistry between her and Statham despite the forced attempts at romance. Her daughter in the film played by the young Shuya Sophie Cai was surprisingly entertaining with her extroverted, gallus personality. The periphery players did fine without excelling. 

This film isn’t going to be winning anything come awards season. It’s an entertaining, summer blockbuster. The kind you go in to see with the biggest damn bag of popcorn available. It’s escapism, full to the brim with cheese, and thankfully, it knows it too. It never takes itself serious and that’s key here. There’s been many a shark movie tried too hard to be serious and that can’t be done now. Jaws has a monopoly on that particular breed. This is lighter in tone, makes jokes at its own expense, and listen, it ain’t that bad. It’s more than watchable and it’s a decent addition to a sub-genre that hasn’t exactly set the bar high. 

Rating: 3/5

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Cooties (2014) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Cooties

Directors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Writers: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan
Stars: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill

Plot:  A mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages. An unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers in the fight of their lives.
Running Time: 88 Minutes
IMDB Score: 5.7

Why I Watched it: I’ll be honest here itunes at it on for .99 cents, so I gave it a try.

Random Thoughts: This is kind of an odd movie, when it was first coming out I heard a buzz in the horror world and the fact that Leigh Whannell had co-wrote it there was hope this would be one of those rare horror/comedies that would work then it kind of came out and just went and most reviews were negative.  It’s got a good cast but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it gain the horror black comedy is the hardest sub-genre to pull off, you’re almost better to go hard in one direction, just make it a horror that has some humor or do a comedy that has splashes of horror.

What I Liked: I’ll be real honest here for the first third I really didn’t like this film, the jokes didn’t land and it was just bad but to it’s credit it did pick up and things did begin to roll close to the second act and then the third act was fine, once they embraced the horror element(zombie kids) the film found it’s feet.
The cast is good but mostly miscast, the standout is Wood, he’s a genre vet and he makes his very thin character work and once the action starts he’s very good.
The script is a mixed bag, it doesn’t work as a comedy but the action and zombie stuff was pretty well done for of course kind of being a PG-13 horror film, they didn’t have the balls to go all out. The best thing I can say about the film is that it got better and you can’t say that for many genre films, it did improve and everyone was at least trying.

What I Didn’t Like: The script is the weak link here, the characters just don’t work, outside the three main characters no one has more than one character trait, he’s the weird one, poor Jack McBrayer only has that his character is in the closet to play with, I didn’t even know what he taught.  That is why the first half of the film was bad, we didn’t know these characters and really no one was that likable.  The Rainn Wilson was cliched but man he was miscast, didn’t buy him as a former jock at all.  Alison Pill was just bland and really the love triangle thing was the only thing she had going as a character.

The film failed on all levels to be funny and the first 3rd was really not funny, the jokes just did not land.  So has a comedy it was bad, as a horror film it hurt itself trying to be funny.  The directors just didn’t have a handle on the script or what they wanted to do unless they wanted to make an unfunny horror comedy.
Some people might thing it was because it was kids being used as the zombies but I don’t buy it, anything can work this didn’t not because of the source material, zombie can be funny these just weren’t.

Final Thoughts: I made it through it which at points I didn’t think would happen and by the end I kind of not hated it, it was just short of fine.

Rating: 4/10

Shimmer Lake (2017) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

SHIMMER LAKE

Director: Oren Uziel
Writer: Oren Uziel
Stars: Benjamin Walker,  Wyatt Russell,  Rainn Wilson, Ron Livingston

Shimmer Lake is the latest offering from film and television streaming service Netflix. The movie is written and directed by Oren Uziel and the story begins on a Friday morning. Andy (Rainn Wilson) is on the run with a bag of money hiding in his basement .

He’s being pursued by two police officers Zeke Sikes (Benjamin Walker) who is also Andy’s brother and Reed Ethington (Adam Pally) and two FBI agents (played by Rob Corddry as Agent Kurt Biltmoreand and Ron Livingston as Agent Kyle Walker)

The sequence of events are very much in the style of films like Pulp Fiction or more closely Christopher Nolan’s Memento in which we begin with Friday and work our way back through the sequence of events to get to the truth.

The audience are fed fragments of the story between Andy and Zeke but also supporting characters in Judge Brad Dawkins  (John Michael Higgins) who owns the bank, Ed Burton (Wyatt Russell) and wife Steph Burton (Stephanie Sigman) looking for a better life and accomplice Chris Morrow (Mark Rendall) who portrays a mixed up loser.

All but the Judge were pretty close friends growing up and obviously all went in different directions as time went by. The only connection they group all have now is the tragedy of Ed and Steph’s five-year-old son who died in an accidental meth lab explosion with most of the blame pointing at Ed for the tragedy.

The style of this film cannot be knocked as it is interesting on how each day we witness the characters build new relationships and get a little more back story (or should that be front story) as the story unfolds (backwards) now in filming terms it could be that this film was shot in sequence and then presented to the audience in this manner.

Nothing wrong with that and perhaps a clever way to keep a very simple and straight storyline interesting. Oren Uziel style is one thing and although character development is a little scarce, you understand the relationship between all of them by the end of the movie.

One thing I felt it was lacking was comedic value, yes this movie is supposed to have a dark humour about it and although there are a couple of laugh out loud moments I felt the movie just lacked that element of comedy. Having said that I’m glad it wasn’t forced. Recently a few of the Netflix “comedy” films have come off a little desperate and appear to be trying too hard to “split the audiences sides”

The casting for this movie is a decent one. Having Rainn Wilson and Ron Livingston in this movie should have made this movie more funny but Wilson’s Andy is too much in a difficult and serious situation as a desperate man to really go anywhere with apart from a few funny outbursts. On the other hand Livingston is just underused and I was a little disappointed with lack of screen time for the “Office Space” star.

Possibly the most predictable character is Steph played by Stephanie Sigman. Steph although is the quiet wife of Ed and portrays a woman and a mother tortured and haunted by the death of her son, you can see early on she is manipulating the whole scenario and I’ll leave it at that without spoiling too much. Characters Ed and Chris although are supposed to be different in the sense of the hierarchy of the group aren’t much that different to me.

Both appear to be not very bright and gave short tempers that makes them appear to be never in control. This came as a disappointment as we aren’t introduced to Ed in person until a good hour into the movie and although mentioned appeared to be the brains behind the robbery.

I have to admit that although there are flaws within this movie and I did at first, I thought this was going to be just another bank robbery movie. I was wrong in the sense of it’s style and presentation which I think saved it.

The movie had suspense, a decent written plot, and a few twists on the way that viewing the movie in backwards made the stolen money a secondary storyline and the real story was about revenge and justice.

It’s an okay film and for a duration of 83 minutes you won’t feel you have wasted your time. If anything it’s a one time viewing kind of a film.