Scene Stealers: Enough with 'Sharknado' already!

This may come off as hypocritical because it’s breaking the very request that I’m laying out here, but can the press please stop talking about “Sharknado”?

I suppose it’s my duty since this low-budget made-for-TV cultural phenomenon is — believe it or not — actually showing in theaters this Friday night at midnight (in Lawrence at Southwind 12), and that’s my beat. But in the name of having so many better filmic options and interesting things to talk about, can we finally put “Sharknado” to rest?

I was just like the average movie fan/obsessive Twitter user and I got caught up in the hype last month when “Sharknado” — the movie about tornadoes that pick up sharks and deposit them violently all over Los Angeles — was trending everywhere. I couldn’t escape talk of it in my Twitter news feed, and one morning when I went to KCTV5 to review “Pacific Rim”—a legitimately fun and exciting action movie, unlike “Sharknado” — it was all anyone wanted to talk about.

Infamous “mockbuster” film studio The Asylum is probably hoping that this helps launch their ugly, joyless movie into midnight cult-film status. But the best midnight movies were never calculated to be one. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was made in all seriousness. It found an audience two years after its dismal original run in 1975 when audiences starting embracing its weirdness and dressing up as characters from the film organically.

“Troll 2” — widely considered to be the worst film of all-time — attained its cult classic status after being discovered on VHS. But its intentions were serious as well. An Italian director wanted to make a horror movie that warned of the dangers of vegetarianism. Naturally, he headed to Utah, cast a bunch of amateur Mormon actors and produced the most unintentionally hilarious movie ever.

Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, and acted in “The Room,” a self-financed drama that gained notoriety among Hollywood insiders for its stiff acting, ridiculous situations and pretentiousness after showing locally in 2003. Ten years later, it already feels like an established cult classic and is a perennial favorite on the midnight circuit.

What “Sharknado” lacks is anything redeemable beyond its ridiculous (and admittedly hilarious) premise. It might have made a great fake movie trailer, but this calculated approach to camp never translates. Campy films work because they fail so miserably at their original intentions. “Sharknado” is a brilliant marketing campaign, but like its 2006 theatrical predecessor “Snakes on a Plane,” it’s not that entertaining beyond its big, dumb concept.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur studied the buddy movie classics before he got behind the wheel of “2 Guns,” starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. He cites “Midnight Run” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” as high points of a film genre that lives and dies by the witty banter and easy chemistry of its two lead actors.

Luckily, Washington and Wahlberg have that even when the plot gets needlessly complicated — an attribute of virtually every crime movie these days. In fact, it’s the casting of “2 Guns,” which sports as familiar a formula as can be, that keeps it breezy and fun for most of its 105-minute running time.

Washington has his usual swagger and toothy grin, while Wahlberg is in his hyperactive and confident mode, but behind it all are two guys desperate for a win. It’s eventually discovered that neither are the petty criminal they’ve led the other to believe they are, and “2 Guns” gets a lot of mileage out of forcing them apart, knowing the audience wants them back together again as soon as possible.

Bill Paxton and Edward James Olmos, two actors who know how to ham it up when the movie calls for it, are great fun as two of the multiple heavies that are after our scrappy heroes, and James Marsden is perfectly smarmy as a Navy SEAL commander with a big plan.

The screenplay, written by Blake Masters and based on the graphic novel from Steven Grant, uses its flashbacks strategically and metes out it suspense just enough to keep people on their toes. By the end of the movie, though, it’s almost as if even he has given up trying to keep track of everybody’s loyalties and understands that it’s time to give the bad guys their just deserts.

“2 Guns” certainly doesn’t reinvent the buddy-cop genre, but it does play to its strengths without taking itself too seriously, which is where many of its brethren get tripped up.

A nominee for last year’s best foreign language film Oscar, “Kon-Tiki” tells the true story of a Norwegian adventurer who sailed 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean on a primitive, self-made raft in 1947. “Kon-Tiki” is the highest-grossing film of 2012 in its home country of Norway, and the movie opens Sunday at Liberty Hall. Ironically, the version released theatrically in America this spring wasn’t filmed in its native language.

Directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning filmed identical scenes in both languages while on the set, and have edited together two different versions of the same film. Where their real-life English-speaking characters spoke English, the actors do too, but for 60 percent of the film, its Norwegian actors also speaking English.

Although it may seem like a new idea, it’s a practice that was common back in the 1920s and '30s. (The Spanish version of “Dracula” is particularly good, although it was different actors on the same sets, shooting during off hours at night.) It’s also infinitely better than dubbing a movie, which wipes out half of the original soundtrack for any given film.

There also seems to be a discrepancy in the length of the film, with the Norwegian version coming in at around 118 minutes, while the English version is 96 minutes. What will be interesting is to be able to compare the versions once they come out together on DVD and Blu-ray on Aug 27.


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