Category Archives: syfy

Sharknado!

Sharknado ~ It’s a tornado. Made of sharks. Sometimes when I hear the concept of a movie, I can’t help but think what the pitch for it was like. I see a boardroom sometimes, filled with executives in suits. And in this case, one stands up, clears his throat, and says… “It’s a tornado, made of sharks.”

The Syfy Channel has made The Asylum’s movies famous. Whereas the company used to make its money making rip-offs of major blockbusters, now they are chiefly known for their giant reptile epics starring washed up 1980s and 90s stars. Syfy Saturday nights have made things like Dinocroc, Supergator, and Megashark the stuff of legend. Sharknado, on a Thursday night, is an epic landmark.

If you were paying attention to the Twitter and the Facebook the night it was airing, you would think the entire world had divided up between folks who were watching it, and folks who were refusing to watch it – but everyone was aware of it. I had to watch it. How could I resist what very well be the worst film ever made?

Did I mention it’s a tornado? Made. Of. Sharks. Might as well be made of awesome. If you didn’t see it, you surely missed something.

Tara Reid was supposed to be in this but I couldn’t find her, or maybe I just couldn’t recognize her after all that plastic surgery. But yes, yes, that is cousin Oliver himself, Robbie Rist, as the heroic bus driver. No, Ray, it was not me.

Did they really steal the Ferris wheel scene from 1941? And a bit of the drive-in scene from Twister? And even a twisted hybrid of Phoebe Cates from Gremlins and Robert Shaw from Jaws… wow. Cool bit with the Hollywood sign though. I gotta say though, the shot continuity (day to night, sunny to rainy to overcast, all randomly) was driving me a bit nutty.

Okay, reality check, there is a plot. A freak hurricane has brought sharks in droves up onto the now flooded land. There are sharks in the streets, sharks in the sewers, and yes, it’s even raining sharks.

An hour into this flick, The Bride commented, “They must have spent five, ten minutes, working on this script…” That genius screenwriter is Thunder Levin, who was also responsible for the Battleship clone, American Warships, and some flick called… sigh… Atlantic Rim.
Yes, folks, it’s true, global warming causes sharknadoes. And you can stop a tornado with a bomb. Riiiight.

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Nuclear Family

I know I am late to the party on this one as it was made two years ago. But let’s be honest, how often does anyone peruse the Syfy website or phone app? Unless they’re looking for the next giant crocodile movie starring Debbie Gibson – nobody. Nobody but me, I suppose.

“Nuclear Family” stars Corin Nemec as the dad, who along with his wife are searching for their son in a post nuclear apocalypse world. They were on the brink of divorce as they see the mushroom cloud, the ties that bind, eh?

However, nothing is ever as it seems in this terrific plot-twisting mini-mini-series. Ray Wise, who previously and delightfully played The Devil in “Reaper,” is the prime bad guy here as well. His evil is delicious and Emmy worthy.

Like the other SyFy online mini I loved, “The Mercury Men,” I wish they would make more programming like this, and actually broadcast it.

Quickies 2-10-2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ~ I really liked this a lot. It was clever, and owed more than a lot stylistically to both “Psych” and “The Mentalist” in the way they showed how Holmes’ intellect works. Whereas the first movie worked very hard to pull in new and old fans with its new twist on the characters, this sequel played it closer to the source material. Great ending in tribute to the old stories as well. If you’re a reader, you’ll see it coming a mile away. Loved it, and can’t wait for the next one.

Three Inches ~ This SyFy pilot doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, a serious concept or a sitcom filmed like a drama. A teenaged boy discovers that he’s telekinetic, but can only move objects a distance of three inches. Superhero antics without costumes that comic book fans will hate. It might as well be “Alphas” meets Mystery Men, but with a hesitant sense of humor. Me, I hope it doesn’t become a series, but it’s always nice to see Andrea Martin, and she’s great here.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol ~ Now I slept through a lot of this apparently. That seems to be a problem because to me, it didn’t seem like I missed much. Tom Cruise didn’t talk much, and it felt like wall-to-wall action. Cruise hanging off the building, which I did see, is do not miss. The problem is that I only really saw an intermittent half-hour of this flick, and it’s really almost two and a half hours long. Judge as you see fit.

Jazz Boat ~ Screenwriter Ken Hughes directed this 1960 pseudo gangster musical that was apparently supposed to be Britain’s answer to Guys and Dolls. It’s all youth gangs in London tussling over girls and money in a confrontation that finally takes place on a riverboat on the Thames, with musical interludes along the way. Much more entertaining than it sounds, we get to see what kind of star Anthony Newley could have been. I liked this a lot, serious guilty pleasure.

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The Death of the Soap Opera?

“One Life to Live,” after an over forty-year run on ABC-TV, ended last week. That leaves only four traditional daytime soap operas still on the air in 2012. Among the survivors is “General Hospital,” the only one of its ilk that I followed regularly for a time. I discount “Dark Shadows” as I only vaguely remember it when it was on, and mostly watched it in rerun on local Channel 48 and SyFy when it was just starting out.

The award-winning “One Life to Live” was part of the ABC daytime soap opera programming shared universe of Agnes Nixon, of which “General Hospital” is currently the only survivor. “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless” on CBS and “Days of our Lives” on NBC are the other three. On a sidenote, I gotta ask – am I the only one who thought “The Doctors” was still the soap opera of the same name? Weird. “OLTL” had some highlights in its run, Emmys aplenty, groundbreaking storylines dealing with rape and drugs, and even some time traveling a la “Dark Shadows,” exciting stuff.

“One Life to Live” also actually had some fun with its last days. Residents of the fictional city of Llanview watched on their sets the final episode of an equally fictional TV soap created by Agnes Nixon, who was interviewed. Angels abounded, played by cast members whose characters who had died. There’s even a cliffhanger, and a broken fourth wall, good stuff. But now it’s over, with some characters moving on to “General Hospital,” and the time slot filled by “The Revolution,” another boring health and lifestyle show.

Anyway it seems the soap opera is dead as a television genre, but is it? It may be well on its way out as a genre unto itself, but let’s face it, everything is soap opera now. I have always said that soap opera is at the core of comic books (any serial fiction really) and that as wrestling is the bastard stepchild of comics, soap opera and comics are the bastard stepchildren of mythology – but that’s another story.

Soap opera as storytelling is everywhere, and I’m not just talking about prime time dramas either. The concept of main story with several subplots underlying that soon become the new main story in an unending cycle is how television works now. There’s no more status quo, where the whole world resets when the credits of a given TV show roll. The characters evolve and change as time goes by.

That’s soap opera, and even if the TV series we normally think of when we think of the term are gone, soap opera still lives, in every other television series.

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Quickies 10-4-2011

Harper ~ Although it looks and feels as dated as it is, this quirky Paul Newman detective thriller is still entertaining because of Newman’s charm, and the source material. It’s based on John MacDonald’s 1949 novel The Moving Target featuring Lew Archer. The story was updated to 1966 standards and Newman changed the name of his character because he thought his films that started with an H (Hud, The Hustler, Hombre) did better in the theatres. Wonderful detective flick, great William Goldman script, and an all-star cast of the time. Recommended.

Table for Three ~ The more I see Brandon Routh in movies, the more I think he’s better suited for comedy than he ever was as Superman. Yeah, Superman was definitely a mistake. This flick however, a screwball comedy about a lonely guy with commitment issues who becomes involved with his two married roommates who may or may not be psychotic, is beautifully suited to Routh. Good for a laugh.

The Guard ~ We walked into this film blind after missing a showing of Columbiana by just a few minutes. I still haven’t seen Columbiana, and I think we made a good choice. This comedy thriller from writer/director John Michael McDonagh was a pleasant surprise. The odd combination of small town Irish police officer Brendan Gleeson and FBI agent Don Cheadle in this offbeat buddy cop flick is highly entertaining in the spirit of the Irish comic cinema. Fun flick, recommended.

Unknown ~ This Liam Nielson starring thriller portrays a man with memory loss who may or may not be who he thinks he is. It’s slow and predictable with a much too underrated score for a supposed action flick. And January Jones offers another wooden performance that cements her title as the worst actress working in movies and television today. Wait for free TV for this one.

Almighty Thor ~ This is the official copycat rip-off of Thor by The Asylum. You know The Asylum, they make movies that seem like real blockbusters but are simply designed to cash in on the original movie’s name. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they’re not half-bad, and most Saturday nights they run on the SyFy Channel. This one’s not really that bad. Thor and Loki tussle on Earth and in Asgard, and the god of thunder wins in the end. Decent but cheesy story and special effects, but an enjoyable watch.

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The Mercury Men

Aside from the occasional mini-series, a Saturday night Asylum movie just for laughs, and of course, “Warehouse 13,” I don’t watch all that much Syfy Network anymore. I gave “Alphas” a momentary spin but it just didn’t keep my interest.

I do however have the Syfy app on my iPhone and there were some very cool previews on there. The one I was most excited about was a black and white movie serial-ish thing called “The Mercury Men.” I couldn’t wait for this thing to air, as I would be riveted in front of my TV. Sadly as the airdate got closer, I discovered it was a webseries, not for TV. Disappointed a little, I was still excited.

So when the day came I watched each five to ten-minute installment with anticipation. It was everything I thought it would be – black and white movie serial goodness. The brainchild of writer/director Chris Preksta, The Mercury Men is a wonderful sci-fi adventure in the style of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers or any of the rayguns and rocketships serials back in the day.

When a off hours office worker is attacked by glowing men who shoot lightning from their hands and is turn saved by a cross between Indiana Jones, Buck Rogers and Airboy – the rollercoaster of action and suspense begins and doesn’t stop. Have I mentioned how much I love this?

Right now, you can see “The Mercury Men” here, or OnDemand, although I wish Syfy would just put it on the air, or better yet, make it a regular series. How about it? In the meantime, everyone else check out this great web series.

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Quickies 9-15-2010

Drag Me To Hell ~ A young loan officer arbitrarily refuses to extend an old gypsy woman’s mortgage and is cursed, hilarity ensues, as they say. As the lamia, a goat-like demon from Hell, pursues the young woman, she tries desperately to break the curse. This is a fairly scary new entry from writer/director Sam Raimi finally getting back to his horror roots. Except for the casting of Justin Long and a couple painfully cartoony moments, this is an excellent scare-fest, worth seeing, but keep the lights on.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ~ The first filmed part of the Millenium Trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson is much more streamlined and exciting than its literary counterpart, no slow or dense parts like the book. Good mystery, good action, well cast with great soundtrack – recommended. It’s so perfect, I am almost dreading the American version coming next year.

Nanny McPhee Returns ~ Also known as Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang overseas, this family film sequel, based on the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand, is a bit formulaic, but still a lot of fun.

Jennifer’s Body ~ Taken as a black comedy, this one is actually rather good. It has a very Kevin Williamson tongue-in-cheek feel to it, but is actually written by the infamous Diablo Cody, who brings her own unique sensibility to it. Quirky and more real than a lot of horror of this kind, this was a lot better than I thought it would be. Check it out.

61* ~ I’m not a big baseball fan, and I’m even less of a Billy Crystal fan, so I was surprised I liked this baseball flick directed by Crystal. The HBO movie recounts the summer of 1961 as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle both strive to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Thomas Jane is terrific as Mantle. Recommended.

Komodo Vs. Cobra ~ This low budget SyFy special features bad writing, bad CGI effects and bad acting that would make porn actors blush. It stars, along with badly realized giant reptiles, Michael Pare from the decades ago Eddie and the Cruisers and reality TV star Jerry Manthey from “Survivor” who seems to want to prove she’s a better actress without a script. Miss this one.

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The Syfy Phantom

We’ve talked about this before. About how I did not want to like Syfy’s new version of the Phantom, and why tradition and source material is important. When the four-hour mini-series aired a few weeks back I was fully prepared to hate it, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t love it, and it wasn’t really the Phantom I wanted to see, but it really wasn’t bad either.

This was not a reboot, or a re-imagining, it was the real thing, and a modern continuation of the Phantom we all know and loved. The only drawback is that it’s a new Phantom, and one for the 21st century. Everything is still there, the Phantom legacy, the Singh Brotherhood, all that. The history is intact, it’s the present and the future that diverge from tradition.

There are changes however, unnecessary changes in my opinion. Bengalla is now an Indonesian island nation of much lighter skinned folk than those of the comic strips. And of course there is the hideous Paladin rip-off costume and the over-reliance on technology – but let’s keep in mind these are the trappings of the new Phantom.

And I can’t even bust on the quality. Even though it’s on Syfy, it’s done well and nothing at all like that tripe they usually show on Saturday nights. The lead, the twenty-second Kit Walker, is played by Justin Hartley look-a-like Ryan Carnes. He’s charming and convincing and I found myself rooting for him.

So, yeah, I liked it quite a bit. Granted, I would rather have seen a more Billy Zane or Tom Tyler, or especially a Lee Falk version of the classic hero, this was a fun diversion.

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Mandrake the Magician

Mandrake the Magician is perhaps one of the first of the comic strip superheroes. Created by Lee Falk (who also created the Phantom) in 1934 and based on a real life stage magician of the same name, Mandrake was the template for the comic book magicians that proliferated in the comic books of the 1930s and 40s. Mandrake and his faithful companion Lothar adventured for decades in the comic strips, books, stage and screen. The year 1939 brought the Magician to the silver screen in a twelve-part movie serial from Columbia.

Warren Hull was a veteran of the hero business in the movie serials having also played the Green Hornet and the Spider. His Mandrake unfortunately comes off as the most dull of the three. Al Kikume, who played Lothar, is also no stranger to the heroic serials, having parts in the Captain Marvel and Nyoka ones respectively and later appearing on Superman on television. It’s kind of odd though that Lothar who was probably the first non-stereotyped African-American in comics is portrayed here by a Hawaiian. Their chemistry when it happens is a highlight, but a rare one indeed.

The plot of this serial is an old one and has been quite recycled in the genre. Scientist builds a device to benefit mankind and villain steals it to use as a weapon against the world. In this case, the villain is the Wasp, and in another old serial cliché, we have to guess from episode to episode which of our cast is really the Wasp in disguise. It has some good action and suspense, but suffers in comparison to today’s offerings and even to its contemporaries – Adventures of Captain Marvel being the best of the genre.

Much like the Phantom on Syfy, and Flash Gordon recently before that, Hollywood will soon be raping, um, sorry, I mean ‘re-imagining’ Mandrake for an upcoming production starring Hayden Christensen and Djimon Hounsou, possibly for the big screen. Yep, I’m already cringing. Should make this movie serial seem like gold though.

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What’s So Wrong with Tradition?

As Syfy readies its newest TV mini-series/pilot based on Lee Falk’s classic Phantom, all I can think of are two questions. What’s so wrong with tradition? And if it ain’t broke, why ‘fix’ it?

There is a reason that properties that have been around for decades are so successful in their original source material. They work. And if they aren’t broke, why does Hollywood always have to ‘fix’ them? Batman doesn’t need an army surplus vehicle for a Batmobile. The X-Men don’t need black leather outfits. Flash Gordon shouldn’t be a teenager. Superman isn’t a stalker, or a deadbeat dad.

And the Phantom isn’t some kid who refuses to wear the uniform everyone before him has worn. If he doesn’t, he’s not the Phantom. If the folks at Syfy insist on doing this, why don’t they just come up with their own heroic adventure series, cuz this ain’t the Phantom.

This ‘re-imagining’ of Lee Falk’s classic Phantom comes to Syfy in 2010.

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