THE MEG (2018) – Giant Shark Tale Ridiculous But Fun

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THE MEG (2018) is often ridiculous and about as scary as a Scooby-Doo cartoon, but this mega shark adventure is also something else: fun.

THE MEG opens with a deep-sea rescue mission gone wrong.  Rescuer Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is in the midst of leading a rescue team to save folks trapped in a damaged nuclear submarine, but when something seems to attack the sub, Jonas makes the executive decision to leave some of his team behind in order to rescue the few lives he has with him. It’s a decision that does not bode well with others on his team, as later no proof of a powerful sea creature which Jonas said was attacking the sub is ever found.

In terms of opening sequences, it’s not all that memorable and sounds more exciting than it actually is.

The action picks up five years later at a deep-sea station off the coast of China where a scientist named Zhang (Winston Chao) is leading an expedition to travel to the very depths of the ocean, and beyond.  See, Zhang believes that at the bottom of what is considered to be one of the deepest parts of the ocean floor, lies a gaseous barrier rather than a solid bottom, and he believes beneath that barrier is another world. And faster than you can say Jules Verne, a mini sub is launched from the station to prove just that.

The sub breaks through the barrier, but before anyone can celebrate, it’s attacked by a mysterious unseen creature. And of course, Zhang and company turn to the one man who has ever attempted a rescue that deep in the ocean, Jonas Taylor. Jonas, of course, says he’s done with all that, wants no part of it, and nothing they can say will change his mind. His resolve lasts all of two seconds before he learns that the woman commanding the sub and one of the people trapped inside is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee).

And so Jonas packs his bags and is off to the rescue, where of course he will come face to face with a massive prehistoric shark which may or may be the same creature which he encountered five years before. The film doesn’t really make that clear.

And this is only the beginning, because once the rescue is done, the mammoth shark decides he’s had enough of living so far below the ocean and comes up for a visit.

One of the main reasons THE MEG is so much fun is its story keeps evolving. It’s not just one long rescue mission tale.  Things continually change. As a result, the movie remains exciting throughout, and with some brisk pacing, there are very few slow parts here.

The screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, and Erich Hoeber, based on the novel Meg by Steve Alten, also contains lots of lively dialogue which is sure to be a crowd pleaser. It also does a really good job developing its characters, which for a movie like this, is a pleasant surprise. In fact, that was one of my favorite parts of this movie, that its characters were all so likable.

But the story is not without flaws. A lot of things aren’t explained all that well. For instance, once the giant shark makes its presence known, everyone who doubted Jonas apologizes to him. Yet, at one point in the story, Jonas says the creature outside the sub in his doomed mission was destroyed in the subsequent explosion, so, just how the appearance of this prehistoric shark acquits Jonas is unclear to me. Just because there’s a huge shark around now doesn’t mean there was one that day Jonas left those people behind to die.

For such a deep-sea expedition, it seems to take only seconds for everyone to get down to the ocean floor and then back up again. And some of the later shark scenes are flat-out ludicrous but somehow don’t deteriorate into laughable material.

And while the story scores high on the adventure meter, it scores less so when it comes to conflict.  Nearly every plan our heroes suggest works.

Director Jon Turteltaub plays things safe. THE MEG is rated PG-13, so there’s not a drop of blood to be found. Yet, somehow, the movie doesn’t suffer for it.

The shark itself is okay.  CGI sharks just don’t cut it for me.  This one works best when we see it only partially, like shots from above where we see its massive form swimming beneath the waves. Those scenes are ominous, but seen up close, it’s nothing more than a frightening cartoon.

One of the strongest parts of THE MEG is its cast. Pretty much everyone in the movie is very good, and so that goes a long way towards making this film as enjoyable as it is.

Director Jon  Turtelbaub deserves some credit here for getting so much out of his actors in this one.

We’ll start at the top with Jason Statham, who’s been one of my favorite action movie stars over the past ten years or so. As he almost always is, he’s excellent here. He’s extremely believable in the part, except of course when he dives into the water for a hand to hand combat session with the supersized shark. Perhaps he should apply to become a Marvel superhero?

Even so, Statham does a good job making the ludicrous situations he finds himself in believable. His scenes with the little girl at the station, Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cal) are precious, and Shuya Sophia Cal is adorable and entertaining in the role.

Li Bingbing plays Suyin, Zhang’s daughter and Meiying’s mother.  She’s pretty much the lead scientist on the expedition, and she is definitely not a heroine in need of saving. She pretty much goes toe to toe with Statham’s Jonas Taylor, and the two of them lead the charge against the shark. She’s also very sexy.

Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight on THE OFFICE (2005-2013) plays the wealthy businessman who finances the expedition. He’s the guy you love to hate.

Cliff Curtis, who played Travis on FEAR THE WALKING DEAD (2015-17), is very good here as Jonas’ friend Mac. Likewise, Winston Chao is convincing as Zhang, as is Ruby Rose as the sexy engineer Jaxx who designed the deep-sea station.

Robert Taylor stands out as Heller, the doctor at the station who was there that fateful day when Jonas failed to rescue everyone from the nuclear sub, and for the past five years he had blamed Jonas for their deaths, claiming he had become unhinged. When the mega shark appears, Heller is quick to apologize to Jonas. Taylor, who plays Sheriff Walt Longmire on the TV show LONGMIRE (2012-2017), probably gives the best performance in the movie.

Olafur Darri Olafsson and Masi Oka are also very good as a couple of scientists, and likewise Jessica McNamee is memorable as Jonas’ ex-wife Lori.

Only Page Kennedy doesn’t  fare as well, as scientist DJ. He’s the one black character on the crew, and he’s also supposed to be the film’s comic relief, but a lot of the jokes I thought were cliché, and I think the one person of color in the movie deserved a better written role.

As shark movies go, THE MEG is one of the better ones. It’s a much stronger film than the recent 47 METERS DOWN (2017), and more fun than  THE SHALLOWS (2016).

That being said, it still pales in comparison to the Holy Grail of shark movies, JAWS (1975). It’s not intense like JAWS, and it’s certainly not realistic like JAWS. However, during the film’s third act, there are several nods to the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic.

THE MEG is a lot of fun, and as such, for a summer time popcorn movie, it comes highly recommended.

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MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: JAWS (1975)

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Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss in need of a bigger boat in JAWS (1975)

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss in need of a bigger boat in JAWS (1975)

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  JAWS (1975)

By

Michael Arruda

 

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of summer, the perfect time to check out some memorable lines from the ultimate summer movie, JAWS (1975).

There are an incredible amount of memorable lines in JAWS, some now regarded as the most famous in film history.

The biggie, the most famous, occurs when Brody (Roy Scheider) sees the shark up close while on the Orca, and he tells Quint (Robert Shaw), “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

That line, improvised by Scheider, has become one of the most recognizable lines in film history.

But Roy Scheider also has plenty of other notable lines in the film, as do fellow actors Robert Shaw as Quint and Richard Dreyfuss as  Hooper.  Here are just a few of them, from JAWS, screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on Benchley’s novel.

Moments before Brody utters his celebrated line about the bigger boat, he’s ordered by Quint to toss fish guts into the water in order to attract the shark, a job he’s none too happy about, especially since Hooper has been given what in Brody’s eyes is the easier task, driving the boat.

Quint tells Hooper to take the boat slow ahead, to which Brody comments:

BRODY:  Slow ahead.  I can go slow ahead.  Why don’t you come down here and chum some of this shit.”

At which point the shark erupts from the water, giving Brody an up front and personal view, causing him to back up and utter his now famous line to Quint about needing a bigger boat.

Brody also has the now classic line at the end, as he’s firing his rifle at the shark.

BRODY:  Smile, you son of a bitch!

Quint (Robert Shaw) gets some of the best lines in the movie.  Who can forget these classics:

QUINT:  Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

And then there are these ditties:

QUINT:  Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged women!

and

QUINT:  Here lies the body of Mary Lee; died at the age of a hundred and three.  For fifteen years she kept her virginity.  Not a bad record for this vicinity.

But his most memorable lines come from his best scene when he recounts to Brody and Hooper the story of his experience on the U.S.S Indianapolis during World War II.  It’s one of the highlights of the movie, and is one of Shaw’s best moments on film, period!  It’s an amazing soliloquy.  Here it is:

QUINT:  Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte… just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn’t know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named “The Battle of Waterloo” and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark will go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper also has his share of classic lines in this one, like when he’s examining the dead remains of the first shark attack victim, young Chrissie, who shouldn’t have gone for that moonlight swim:

HOOPER: The height and weight of the victim can only be estimated from the partial remains. The torso has been severed in mid-thorax; there are no major organs remaining.  The right arm has been severed above the elbow with massive tissue loss in the upper musculature… partially denuded bone remaining…this was no boat accident.  Did you notify the Coast Guard about this?

BRODY: No. It was only local jurisdiction.

HOOPER: The left arm, head, shoulders, sternum and portions of the rib cage are intact—do not smoke in here, thank you very much.  (Lifts up the severed arm) This is what happens. It indicates the non-frenzied feeding of a large squalus – possibly Longimanus or Isurus glauca. Now… the enormous amount of tissue loss prevents any detailed analysis; however the attacking squalus must be considerably larger than any normal squalus found in these waters. Didn’t you get on a boat and check out these waters?

BRODY: No.

HOOPER: Well, this was not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.

Or this exchange with Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton):

MAYOR VAUGHN: I don’t think either of one you are familiar with our problems.

HOOPER: I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass!

And who can forget the moment when he spots the shark swimming towards their boat, and he has to interrupt the argument between Brody and Quint:

HOOPER:  Boys, oh boys… I think he’s come back for his noon feeding.

There are so many more unforgettable lines from JAWS, enough to fill several more columns.

My personal favorite is one brief two word utterance by Brody, and this goes back to the first time I saw JAWS, at the movies, when I was just 11 years old.  Yikes!

I remember sitting there in the theater, nodding my head, agreeing with Brody, thinking, “Yes, thank you!  Thank you!  Go back to the land.  Get me out of this misery!”  You see, it’s the point in the film where after essentially getting their butts kicked by the shark, Quint tells Brody and Hooper that he’s taking the boat, the Orca, back in to shore.  Brody reacts with this emotional two word exclamation that gave me so much relief at the time.  The line?

BRODY:  Thank, Christ!

 

But of course the shark had something to say about this, and the Orca never did make it back to shore.

Well, that’s it for now.  Thanks for joining me today on MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES.  I’ll be back again next time with notable lines from another great movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

Classic horror movies to get you in the mood for summer

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Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss in JAWS (1975)

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss in JAWS (1975)

It’s the Fourth of July Weekend, the holiday where we in the United States celebrate Independence Day.  It’s a time for barbecues, beaches, and fireworks, swimming pools, sun tan lotion, hot dogs, hamburgers, and outdoor concerts.

It’s also a time for great summer movies, especially horror movies.  If you’re like me, who watches horror movies year round, there are a host of classic horror films that fit in quite nicely with the summer season.

The ultimate July 4th horror movie, without question, is JAWS (1975).  Heck, a key sequence in the film take place on the 4th of July weekend.  But there are other horror movies as well that will put you in the summer holiday mood.

Here’s a brief partial list of some classic summer horror movies:

JAWS (1975) – The biggie, the ultimate man vs. fish story.  This one’s so much fun you’ll need a bigger boat to enjoy it.

JAWS 2 (1978) – Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water—.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) – This classic 50s monster flick from Universal Studios about a group of scientists trapped and terrorized in an Amazonian lagoon by the titled Creature who only wants to ask beautiful scientist Julia Adams on a date will have you itching for that next boat trip in no time.  The Gill Man—aka The Creature— remains one of the most iconic movie monsters ever.

REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) – Likable sequel pulls the Creature out of the Amazon and puts him inside a Sea World-like amusement park, where there’s plenty of victims— er, patrons abound.  Hey, it stars John Agar!  Pack up the car and head off to your local aquarium!

THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956) – Yup, there were just too many mad scientists around in the 1950s.  The guys in this flick try to turn the Creature into an air breather.  Settle for a summer haircut instead.

PIRANHA (1978) – Joe Dante’s fun flick from the 70s still has plenty of bite!  Last one in the water still has skin!

THEM! (1954) – Clean up after you eat.  The ants in this one are huge!  One of the scarier films from the 1950s, certainly one of the best “giant bug” movies ever made.

TARANTULA (1955) – Ants don’t scare you?  What about spiders?  How about a tarantula that can sit on your house?  John Agar’s back, this time battling an overgrown spider in this Universal monster classic.  Look fast for Clint Eastwood flying a fighter plane in the film’s conclusion.

THE SPIDER  (aka EARTH VS. THE SPIDER) (1958) – A giant spider again, this time out to eat 1950s teenagers.  Crank up the rock music.

HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980) –Doug McClure stars in this silly flick about sea monster mutants who kill men and rape women.  Not the best date movie.

THE DEEP (1977) – JAWS author Peter Benchley wrote this tale (both the novel and the screenplay) starring Robert Shaw, Nick Nolte, and Jacqueline Bisset about underwater treasure and a very scary eel.  Beautifully shot but ultimately not all that exciting.  Definitely for those of you who like quiet horror.

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) – Ray Harryhausen special effects are the highlight of this giant octopus tale.

And on and on I could go.  There are so many.  But we’ll save those for another time.

What are some of your favorite summer movies?

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

—Michael